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Current Affairs

National Policy on Biofuels – 2018-

The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister  has approved National Policy on Biofuels – 2018. The Policy categorizes  biofuels –

First Generation (1G)-bioethanol & biodiesel.

Second Generation (2G) Advanced Biofuels” – Ethanol, Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) to drop-in fuels .

Third Generation (3G) biofuels– Bio-CNG etc. to enable extension of appropriate financial and fiscal incentives under each category.

The Policy expands the scope of raw material for ethanol production by allowing use of Sugarcane Juice, Sugar containing materials like Sugar Beet, Sweet Sorghum, Starch containing materials like Corn, Cassava, Damaged food grains like wheat, broken rice, Rotten Potatoes, unfit for human consumption for ethanol production.

Farmers are at a risk of not getting appropriate price for their produce during the surplus production phase. Taking this into account, the Policy allows use of surplus food grains for production of ethanol for blending with petrol with the approval of National Biofuel Coordination Committee.

With a thrust on Advanced Biofuels, the Policy indicates a viability gap funding scheme for 2G ethanol Bio refineries of Rs.5000 crore in 6 years in addition to additional tax incentives, higher purchase price as compared to 1G biofuels.

The Policy encourages setting up of supply chain mechanisms for biodiesel production from non-edible oilseeds, Used Cooking Oil, short gestation crops.

The Policy will have fallowing benefits-

Reduce Import Dependency: One crore lit of E10 saves Rs.28 crore of forex at current rates. The ethanol supply year 2017-18 is likely to see a supply of around 150 crore litres of ethanol which will result in savings of over Rs.4000 crore of forex.

Cleaner Environment: One crore lit of E-10 saves around 20,000 ton of CO2 emissions. For the ethanol supply year 2017-18, there will be lesser emissions of CO2 to the tune of 30 lakh ton. By reducing crop burning & conversion of agricultural residues/wastes to biofuels there will be further reduction in Green House Gas emissions.

Health benefits: Prolonged reuse of Cooking Oil for preparing food, particularly in deep-frying is a potential health hazard and can lead to many diseases. Used Cooking Oil is a potential feedstock for biodiesel and its use for making biodiesel will prevent diversion of used cooking oil in the food industry.

MSW Management: It is estimated that, annually 62 MMT of Municipal Solid Waste gets generated in India. There are technologies available which can convert waste/plastic, MSW to drop in fuels. One ton of such waste has the potential to provide around 20% of drop in fuels.

Additional Income to Farmers: By adopting 2G technologies, agricultural residues/waste which otherwise are burnt by the farmers can be converted to ethanol and can fetch a price for these waste if a market is developed for the same. Also, farmers are at a risk of not getting appropriate price for their produce during the surplus production phase. Thus conversion of surplus grains and agricultural biomass can help in price stabilization.

National Policy on Biofuels was made by Ministry of New and Renewable Energy during the year 2009. Biofuels in India are of strategic importance as it augers well with the ongoing initiatives of the Government such as Make in India, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Skill Development and offers great opportunity to integrate with the ambitious targets of doubling of Farmers Income, Import Reduction, Employment Generation, Waste to Wealth Creation.

Network For Spectrum (NFS) project

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by the Prime Minister has given its approval for enhancement of budget by Rs.11,330 crore for Network For Spectrum (NFS) project for laying of alternate communication network for Defence Services for release of spectrum over and above Rs.13,334 crore already approved by Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure in July, 2012.

 The project, being implemented by Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL),  will be completed in a period of 24 months. 

The NFS project will boost the communication capabilities of the Defence Forces in a major way leading to enhanced national operational preparedness.  The project will also have forward linkages to other related industries such as telecom equipment manufacturing and other telecommunication related services.

Micro Irrigation Fund with NABARD

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by the Prime Minister has approved an initial Corpus of Rs.5,000 crore for setting up of a dedicated “Micro Irrigation Fund” (MIF) with NABARD under Pradhan Mantri Krishi SinchayeeYojana (PMKSY). 

 The allocation of Rs. 2,000 crore and Rs. 3,000 crore will be utilised during 2018-19 and 2019-20 respectively. NABARD will extend the loan to State Governments during this period.  Borrowings from NABARD shall be paid back in 7 years including the grace period of two years.

The lending rate under MIF has been proposed at 3% lower than the cost of raising the fund by NABARD. The total financial implication on interest subvention comes to about Rs 750 crore.

The dedicated Micro Irrigation Fund would supplement the efforts of Per Drop More Crop Component (PDMC) of Pradhan MantriKrishiSinchayeeYojana in an effective and timely manner.

 Cabinet approves setting up of a new AIIMS in Deoghar, Jharkhand 

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister has approved setting up of a new All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Deoghar, Jharkhand. A provision of funds worth Rs. 1103 crore has been approved for the project and the said AIIMS will be set up under the Pradhan MantriSwasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY). 

The AIIMS at Deoghar will consist of: 

  • A hospital with a capacity of 750 beds, trauma center facilities
  • A medical college with an in-take of 100 MBBS students per year
  • A nursing college with an int-ake of 60 B.Sc.(Nursing) students per year, residential complexes and allied facilities / services, broadly on the pattern of AIIMS, New Delhi.
  • 20 Speciality/Super Speciality Departments including 15 Operation Theatres.
  • An Ayush Department with 30 beds for providing treatment facilities in the traditional system of medicine.

          Under the PMSSY, AIIMS have been established in Bhubaneswar, Bhopal, Raipur, Jodhpur, Rishikesh and Patna. Work of AIIMS Rae Bareli (U.P.), Nagpur (Maharashtra), Kalyani (West Bengal) and Mangalagiri in Guntur (A.P.) is in progress. Construction work has also been awarded for AIIMS, Gorakhpur (U.P.). 

   Further, following AIIMS have also been sanctioned: 

  • Bathinda, Punjab in July 2016
  • Guwahati (Assam), May 2017
  • Bilaspur (Himachal Pradesh) in January 2018

Mechanism for resolution of commercial disputes

The Union Cabinet Chaired by Prime Minister  has approved the strengthening of the mechanism for resolution of commercial disputes of Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs) inter se and also between CPSEs and other Government Departments/Organizations without the matter being referred to the Courts of law.

 The Cabinet decision is based on recommendations of the Committee of Secretaries (CoS). Details:

A new two-tier mechanism will be put in place of the existing Permanent Machinery of Arbitration (PMA) mechanism to resolve commercial disputes (excluding disputes concerning the Railways, Income Tax, Custom & Excise Departments) between CPSEs inter se and CPSEs and Government Departments/Organizations, outside the Courts of law.

At the First level (tier), such commercial disputes will be referred to a Committee comprising of Secretaries of the administrative Ministries/Departments to which the disputing CPSEs/Parties belong and Secretary-Deptt. of Legal Affairs. The Financial Advisors (FAs) of the two concerned administrative Ministries/Departments will represent the issues related to the dispute in question before the above Committee. In case the two disputing parties belong to the same Ministry/Department, the Committee will comprise Secretary of the administrative Ministry/Department concerned, Secretary-D/o Legal Affairs and Secretary-Department of Public Enterprises.

Further, in case of a dispute between CPSE and State Government’s Department/Organization, the Committee will be comprised the Secretary of the Ministry/Department of the Union to which the CPSE belongs and Secretary-D/o Legal Affairs and a senior officer nominated by the Chief Secretary of the State concerned. In such a case, the matter may be represented before the Committee by concerned Principal Secretary of the State Government’s Department/ Organization.

At the Second level (tier), in case the dispute remains unresolved, even after consideration by the above Committee, the same will be referred to the Cabinet Secretary, whose decision will be final and binding on all concerned.

For the prompt disposal of disputes, a time schedule of 3 months at the first level has been prescribed.

The new mechanism will promote equity through mutual/collective efforts to resolve commercial disputes thereby reducing the number of litigations regarding commercial disputes in Court of Law and also avoid wastage of public money.

NIMHR-

  National Institute of Mental Health Rehabilitation (NIMHR )will be established in Bhopal  to provide rehabilitation services to the persons with mental illness, capacity development in the area of mental health rehabilitation, policy framing and advanced research in mental health rehabilitation.

The Institute will have nine Departments/Centres and will conduct 12 courses to offer diploma, certificate, graduate, post graduate, M.Phil degrees in the area of mental health rehabilitation. Within a span of 5 years, the student intake of the institute in various courses is expected to be over 400.

Government of Madhya Pradesh has allocated 5 acres of land in Bhopal for setting up of this Institute. The Institute will be established in three years in two phases. Within two years, the civil and electrical work of the institute will be completed.

Simultaneously, during the construction of building, the Institute will run in a suitable rented building in Bhopal to conduct certificate/diploma courses and also OPD services. Subsequently, the Institute will provide complete set of rehabilitation services for persons with mental illness and conduct courses upto Master’s degree and M.Phil.

NIMHR will be the first of its kind in the country in the area of mental health rehabilitation.  It will serve as an institution of excellence to develop capacity building in the area of mental health rehabilitation and also help the Government to develop models for effective rehabilitation of persons with mental illness.

 

REPLACE-

WHO has released REPLACE, a step-by-step guide for the elimination of industrially-produced trans-fatty acids from the global food supply.

Industrially-produced trans fats are contained in hardened vegetable fats, such as margarine and ghee, and are often present in snack food, baked foods, and fried foods. Manufacturers  often use them as they have a longer shelf life than other fats. But healthier alternatives can be used that would not affect taste or cost of food.

“WHO calls on governments to use the REPLACE action package to eliminate industrially-produced trans-fatty acids from the food supply,”said WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Implementing the six strategic actions in the REPLACE package will help  achieve the elimination of trans fat, and represent a major victory in  the  global  fight against cardiovascular disease.”

REPLACE provides six strategic actions to ensure the prompt, complete, and sustained elimination of industrially-produced trans fats from the food supply:

REview dietary sources of industrially-produced trans fats and the landscape for required policy change.

Promote the replacement of industrially-produced trans fats with healthier fats and oils.

Legislate or enact regulatory actions to eliminate industrially-produced trans fats.

Assess and monitor trans fats content in the food supply and changes in trans fat consumption in the population.

Create awareness of the negative health impact of trans fats among policy makers, producers, suppliers, and the public.

Enforce compliance of policies and regulations.

Several high-income countries have virtually eliminated industrially-produced trans fats through legally imposed limits on the amount that can be contained in packaged food. In Denmark, the first country to mandate restrictions on industrially-produced trans fats, the trans fat content of food products declined dramatically and cardiovascular disease deaths declined more quickly than in comparable OECD countries.

ICCM-

An integrated centre for crisis management (ICCM) will be set up at the iconic Bhabha Atomic Research Centre  that will help the nation respond more effectively to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear emergencies.

The new facility will monitor radiological data from a network of 504 radiation sensors across the country. A metal fuel pin fabrication facility jointly developed by BARC and the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research at Kalpakkam, near Chennai has been also addedd that can increase plutonium production in fast breeder reactors.

 

India emerged as the third largest solar market 

India emerged as the third largest solar market in the world in 2017 behind China and the US, Mercom Communications India said in a report. As per the report, India set a new record with 9.6 GW of solar installations in 2017, which was more than double the 4.3 GW installed in 2016.

Green Skill Development Programme(GSDP)-

Green Skill Development Programme(GSDP) have been inaugurated  to train over 5.5 lakh workers in environment and forest sectors in the country through 30 courses by 2021.

The GSDP was launched in 2017 as a pilot project in 10 districts of the country wherein 154 youths (mainly school dropouts) were trained as parataxonomists and biodiversity conservationists.

After the pilot project GSPD has been launched at a  large scale and 80,000 youths in the country will be trained at 80 institutions in next one year. The number will be raised to over 2 lakh in the following year and by 2021 a total over 5.5 lakh youths will be trained as green skilled workers.

The ministry through its Environment Information System(ENVIS) hubs and resource partners as well as other institutions across the country, will take up skill development of youth in the environment and forest sectors through 30 courses.

The certificate courses, having duration of 80 hours to 560 hours, will be open for admission from July. The app can be used for more information and applying to the courses.

Many of these course are open for admission to 10th and 12th dropouts. The bouquet of courses include some interesting ones like- river Dolphin conservator, water budgeting and auditing, forest fire management, management of small botanical gardens, propagation and management of bamboo, bird identification and basic ornithology, city environment surveyors among others.

 National Wind-Solar Hybrid Policy

New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has announced a new National Wind-Solar Hybrid Policy that provides a framework for the promotion of large grid-connected wind-solar Photovoltaics (PV) hybrid systems for efficient utilization of transmission infrastructure and land.

The policy also aims at reducing the variability in renewable power generation and achieving better grid stability. A scheme for new hybrid projects under the policy is also expected shortly, the ministry said. 

On technology front, the policy provides for the integration of both the energy sources i.e. wind and solar at Alternating Current (AC) as well as Direct Current (DC) level. The Policy also provides for flexibility in the share of wind and solar components in the hybrid project.

This is subject to the condition that rated power capacity of one resource should be at least 25 per cent of the rated power capacity of other resource for it to be recognised hybrid project. 

The Policy seeks to promote new hybrid projects as well as hybridisation of existing wind or solar projects. The existing wind and solar projects can be hybridised with higher transmission capacity than the sanctioned one, subject to availability of margin in the existing transmission capacity. 

The Policy also provides for procurement of power from a hybrid project on tariff-based transparent bidding process for which government entities may invite bids. The new policy permits the use of battery storage in hybrid projects for optimizing the output and further reduce variability.

Online trading platform eNAM

The Government will link additional 200 wholesale mandis to the online trading platform eNAM  and also encourage inter-mandi transactions .At present, 585 regulated mandis in 14 States are linked with the electronic National Agriculture Market (eNAM) launched in April 2016.

Skill development centre at ‘Bharosa

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) will soon set up a skill development centre at ‘Bharosa,’ an integrated support centre for distressed women and children . Aimed at empowering vulnerable and marginalised women by imparting skills training .

The Hyderabad Police had signed an agreement with UNDP under the ‘Disha’ project to build capacities and skills of women affected by violence to help make them economically self-sufficient.

Bogibeel Bridge

India’s longest road and railway bridge connecting Dibrugarh in Assam to Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh is likely to be completed  by end of this year. Bogibeel Bridge, in India’s North-East, is the country’s longest rail-cum-road bridge and second longest in Asia, with three lane roads on top and double line rail below.

Bogibeel is part of infrastructure projects planned by India to improve logistics along the China border in Arunachal Pradesh.

Nepal to hold BIMSTEC 2018

Nepal will host the 2018 Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) Summit. The BIMSTEC is an international organisation of seven nations of South Asia and South East Asia, including Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan, and Nepa

HAN-

 

Scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) have reported progress in the development of an environment-friendly propellant to power satellites and spacecraft.The effort is to replace the conventional hydrazine rocket fuel, a highly toxic and carcinogenic chemical, with a greener propellant for future missions.

Initial tests by a research team at the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) here have shown promising results in the formulation and associated tests of a propellant blend based on hydroxylammonium nitrate (HAN).

Rythu Bandhu

Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao launched ‘Rythu Bandhu’ (friend of farmers), an investment support scheme for farmers, claimed to be the first such initiative in the country.Under the scheme Rs 8,000 per acre per year will be given to all farmers who own land.

A budgetary allocation of Rs 12,000 crore has been made for the scheme in 2018-19. The Pattadar (title holder) passbooks along with crop investment support (cheques) to 58 lakh farmers all over the state .The scheme shall not be extended to tenent farmers.

Operation Insaniyat

India has sent Bangladesh its second relief consignment under Operation Insaniyat to help tens of thousands of displaced Rohingya Muslims who fled Myanmar into Bangladesh following military crackdown in the country.

Lepu Medical Technology (Beijing) Co. to enter the Indian market

Chinese medical device maker Lepu Medical Technology (Beijing) Co. has entered the Indian market through a subsidiary and is keen to explore opportunities for local manufacturing as well as collaborations.

The Chinese firm, whose turnover last year was a little more than $700 million, is engaged in development, manufacturing and distribution of high-tech medical devices, equipment, mobile medical service and pharmaceuticals.

Walmart to pay $16 billion in Flipkart

Walmart had agreed to pay $16 billion for about 77% stake in Flipkart, a deal that will pitch the world’s largest retailer in direct competition with its U.S. rival Amazon.com in a battle for dominance of India’s online marketplace.
It will be the biggest ever acquisition in India by a foreign firm surpassing the about $13 billion Vodafone spent in 2007 for buying Hutchison’s Indian business.
“India is one of the most attractive retail markets in the world, given its size and growth rate,” Walmart’s investment in Flipkart would benefit India by providing “quality, affordable goods for customers while creating new skilled jobs and fresh opportunities for small suppliers, farmers and women entrepreneurs,” he said.
Indian e-commerce start-up Flipcart, which was founded in 2007 by two former Amazon employees Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal.

Unwashed socks & algae turn the Taj Mahal to yellow

Unwashed socks worn by visitors and rampant algae seem to turn the Taj Mahal from its natural white to yellow, brown and green, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), charged with the maintenance of the historic monument, told the Supreme Court .

But a Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta was not convinced, asking the ASI how algae managed to reach the top parts of the mausoleum where patches of discolouration were seen.
The court said the problem was not with algae but the fact that the ASI was unwilling to accept that they were not doing enough to conserve the monument.

Digital India Internship Scheme’

The Ministry of Electronics and Information technology (MeitY) has launched the ‘Digital India Internship Scheme’ which will offer 10,000 per month as stipend to interns.
The MeitY’s internship scheme will offer 25 slots in each session – summer and winter .The portal will facilitate students to apply online for internship and its aim is to provide an opportunity to secure first hand and practical work experience under the guidance of a mentor.
“The internship scheme will enable the young students to learn closely about the initiative of Digital India. It will also give exposure to the students about technology policy and decision making of government of India.
The two-month internship (extendable to three months) will start shortly and a certificate will be awarded to the students on completion of the internship and submission of report.
Students with minimum 60 per cent marks in the last degree or certificate examination and students who are pursuing B.E./ B.tech (second/ third year) or integrated degree course/ dual degree (B.E/ B. Tech, M.E./ M. Tech) can apply for the programme.
The proposed areas of internship include Research and Development in Electronics and IT, Cyber Law/ IT Act, Digital Forensics, Malware Analysis, Mobile Governance, Cloud Computing, Digital Literacy, Software/ Hardware Industry Promotion and Digital Payments.

Green licence plates

To promote electric vehicles and encourage people to use environment friendly electric vehicles in India, the government has approved green license plates bearing numbers in white fonts for private e-vehicles and yellow for taxis .

The government also plans to allow youth in the age bracket of 16-18 years to drive electric scooters, besides mandating taxi aggregators to have a certain percentage of e-vehicle fleet.
The purpose behind distinctive number plates is their easy identification for preferential treatment in parking, free entry in congested zones besides other proposed benefits like concessional toll, the road transport .

It is anticipated that the Exemption from permit will be a game changer as restricted permit regime is a major concern. E-rickshaw growth is attributable to the permit exemption and there is scope to extend the exemption to the e-buses, e-taxis, e-autos and e-bikes. E-auto and e-buses may have a big impact since getting a new permit is extremely difficult,.
Similarly, e-bikes also should see a considerable impact since it is a new area.
The government is also contemplating to ask taxi aggregators to have an incremental share of electric vehicles from 2020 onwards, which could be 1 per cent of the fleet every year,.

United States pulled out of the Iran Deal

The United States pulled out of the Iran Deal known as Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and described the move as a “withdrawal”, a technically incorrect term; the agreement is not a treaty and the U.S. can abide by or violate the terms of the deal.

The Iran Deal is an international agreement on the nuclear program of Iran reached in July 2015 between Iran, the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council—China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States—plus Germany) and the European Union.
In a joint statement responding to the U.S. withdrawal, the leaders of France, Germany and Britain highlighted that United Nations Security Council resolution endorsing the nuclear deal remained the “binding international legal framework for the resolution of the dispute,” raising the possibility the United States will be found in violation of the agreement by the Security Council.

Council to “advise and assist” the F.C.

The15th Finance Commission (FC) sought to reduce a controversy over the strong opposition from some states to its terms of reference (ToR) that allegedly militate against those that have performed well on population control, by setting up a six-member council to “advise and assist” it on the ToR and “help in broadening the commission’s ambit and understanding”.


The council comprises Arvind Virmani, former chief economic advisor in the finance ministry; Surjit S Bhalla, part-time member of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council; Sajjid Chinoy, chief India economist at JP Morgan and others .

Laparascope-assisted insemination technique for sheep

Scientists at the Central Sheep and Wool Research Institute (CSWRI), Avikanagar, (Rajasthan)have come up with a new laparascope-assisted insemination technique for sheep, which has resolved the difficulties involved in freezing of semen and inability to transit the tortuous reproductive tract .
The minor invasive laparascopic technique involves passing a rigid fibre-optic laparoscope into the abdomen through a small incision. The reproductive tract is located through camera and the frozen semen is deposited into the uterus.


New technique would help achieve up to 60% survival in the birth of lambs and would have an immense potential for rapid multiplication of elite germplasm. As many as 40 females can be inseminated from a single ejaculate using the technique.

NITI &Google

NITI Aayog will collabrate with Google to foster growth in India’s artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning ecosystem by working together. Under the aegis of the programme, Google will train and incubate Indian AI startups in an accelerator programme. These startups will be mentored and coached by Google and its affiliates to enable them to better leverage AI in their respective business models .
Google will also bring its online training courses on AI to students, graduates and engineers to numerous cities across India in the form of study groups and developer-run courses.

The partnership will unlock massive training initiatives, support startups and encourage AI research through Ph.D scholarships, “all of which contributes to the larger idea of a technologically-empowered new India”.

Under the programme, NITI Aayog and Google will organise an AI and machine learning hackathon focused on solving key challenges within agriculture, education, healthcare, financial inclusion, transportation and mobility.

InSight mission

NASA’s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission to study the deep interior of Mars is targeting a new launch window that begins May 5, 2018, with a Mars landing scheduled for Nov. 26, 2018.

InSight’s primary goal is to help us understand how rocky planets – including Earth – formed and evolved. The spacecraft had been on track to launch this month until a vacuum leak in its prime science instrument prompted NASA in December to suspend preparations for launch.

 

President for a fourth term-

Vladimir Putin was sworn in as Russia’s President for a fourth term  extending his almost two-decade rule by another six years at a time of high tension with his Western rivals.

Vladimir is in power since 1999, is on course to become the longest-serving Russian leader since Joseph Stalin after his victory in March’s elections.

Mr. Putin won nearly 77% of the vote in polls in which his most vocal opponent was banned from running. He has promised to use his fourth term to revitalise the country’s economy. But he also faces a host of delicate international disputes.

He arrived for the swearing-in ceremony in the ornate Andreyev Hall, part of the Kremlin palace complex.

 

Proposed acquisition of Flipkart by U.S.-based Walmart

The Confederation of All India Traders or CAIT has sought “immediate intervention” by the government in the proposed acquisition of Flipkart by U.S.-based Walmart, claiming that the deal would encourage predatory pricing (The pricing of goods or services at such a low level that other firms cannot compete and are forced to leave the market.)and malpractices in the e-commerce sector.

In a letter to Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu, the industry body said that the deal should not be allowed till India finalises a policy for the e-commerce sector.

Crop yield prediction model

NITI Aayog and IBM signed a Statement of Intent (SoI- A formal statement that the author has a serious intention of doing something under specified conditions, and at a specified time)  to develop a crop yield prediction model using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to provide real time advisory to farmers in Aspirational Districts. 

The SoI was signed in the presence of Shri Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog and Shri Karan Bajwa, MD, IBM India. 

The partnership aims to work together towards use of technology to provide insights to farmers to improve crop productivity, soil yield, control agricultural inputs with the overarching goal of improving farmers’ incomes. 

Bringing in future technologies like Artificial Intelligence into practical use will have tremendous benefits for the practice of agriculture in the country, improving efficiency in resource-use, crop yields and scientific farming.

First phase of the project will focus on developing the model for 10 Aspirational Districts across the States of Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

The scope of this project is to introduce and make available climate-aware cognitive farming techniques and identifying systems of crop monitoring, early warning on pest/disease outbreak based on advanced AI innovations. 

 GSTN a government entity

 The GST Council has approved making GST Network (GSTN) a government entity by taking over stakes held by private entities, in the 27th meeting of the council.

The GST Network or GSTN currently is 24.5 per cent owned by the central government and a similar percentage is held by state governments collectively. The remaining 51 per cent is with five private financial institutions — HDFC Ltd, HDFC Bank Ltd, ICICI Bank Ltd, NSE Strategic Investment Co and LIC Housing Finance Ltd.

The council has agreed to a proposal of buying out the stake of private entities to make GSTN a government-owned entity, he said adding the central government will own 50 per cent and the remaining would be collectively held by state governments.

Varuna naval exercise

The Indian and French navies have begun the final phase of the Varuna naval exercise near Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean region with an aim to enhancing their operational coordination.

Both navies will simulate different possible scenarios such as asymmetric warfare, and test their air defence capabilities during the seven-day-long exercise which began yesterday.

“This exercise illustrates the strong interest France and India share concerning maritime security issues in this region.

The third session of the Varuna exercise is being held after two successive phases. “The Indian and French navies are conducting the last phase of the 2018 Varuna naval exercise, from 1st to 7th of May, in the vicinity of Reunion Island,” the French embassy said.

Reunion Island is a French island in the Indian Ocean. Around 8,50,000 French citizens reside there.

Law for faster disposal of commercial disputes

 The Union Cabinet approved an Ordinance to amend the Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts Act.

According to the bill which is pending in Parliament, the specified value of a commercial dispute will be brought down to Rs 3 lakh from the present Rs 1 crore. The proposed ordinance will replace the pending bill. It would bring down the time taken from the present 1,445 days in resolution of commercial disputes of lesser value.

Ease of doing business is an index of World Bank, which refers to the dispute resolution environment in a country, which facilitates investors in deciding for setting up of and operation of a business.

20 All India Institute of Medical Sciences

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi  approved a plan to set up 20 All India Institute of Medical Sciences or AIIMS across the country, six of which have already been established, and to upgrade 73 medical colleges.

The decisions are part of the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY), which has been extended by two years till 2020, with a financial outlay of Rs. 14,832 crore, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters while briefing on the cabinet decisions.

“Setting up of new AIIMS would not only transform health education and training but also address the shortfall of healthcare professionals in the region… Setting up of new AIIMS in various states will lead to employment generation for nearly 3,000 people in various faculty and non-faculty posts in each of the AIIMS,” said an official statement.

The construction of new AIIMS will be fully funded by the central government. It will also bear the operations and maintenance expenses of these facilities.

The upgradation programme broadly envisages improving health infrastructure through construction of super specialty blocks, trauma centres .

Supreme Court on child sexual assault cases

The Supreme Court directed High Courts to set up panels of its judges to regulate and monitor trials under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

The Supreme Court, which had ordered a review of the backlog under POCSO, found that States such as Uttar Pradesh have over 30,000 cases pending despite the child protection law coming into existence as early as 2012.

Many States have not yet even set up Special Courts to try POCSO cases as mandated by the law.

The PIL petition filed by Alakh Alok Srivastava said child rapists should be awarded the death penalty.

20 most polluted cities

Delhi and Varanasi are among the 14 Indian cities that figured in a list of 20 most polluted cities in the world in terms of PM2.5 levels (atmospheric particulate matter (PM) that have a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers, 3% of human hair ) in 2016, data released by the WHO .

The WHO data also said that nine out of 10 people in the world breathe air containing high levels of pollutants.

Other Indian cities that registered very high levels of PM2.5 pollutants were Kanpur, Faridabad, Gaya, Patna, Agra, Muzaffarpur, Srinagar, Gurgaon, Jaipur, Patiala and Jodhpur followed by Ali Subah Al-Salem in Kuwait and a few cities in China and Mongolia.

 

In terms of PM10 levels, 13 cities in India figured among the 20 most-polluted cities of the world in 2016.

The World Health Organisation has called upon member-countries in its Southeast Asia region to aggressively address the double burden of household and ambient (outdoor) air pollution, saying the region, which comprises India, accounts for 34% or 2.4 million of the seven million premature deaths caused by household and ambient air pollution together globally every year.

GOBAR (Galvanizing Organic Bio-Agro Resources )- DHAN

Union Ministery for Drinking Water and Sanitation has launched the GOBAR (Galvanizing Organic Bio-Agro Resources – DHAN scheme at the National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI) Auditorium, Karnal .

The scheme aims to positively impact village cleanliness and generate wealth and energy from cattle and organic waste. The scheme also aims at creating new rural livelihood opportunities and enhancing income for farmers and other rural people.

The Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) comprises two main components for creating clean villages – creating open defecation free (ODF) villages and managing solid and liquid waste in villages.

With over 3.5 lakh villages, 374 districts and 16 States/UTsof the country being declared ODF, the stage is set for ODF-plus activities, including measures to enhance solid and liquid waste management. The GOBAR-DHAN scheme, with its focus on keeping villages clean, increasing the income of rural households, and generation of energy from cattle waste, is an important element of this ODF-plus strategy.

Exercise Harimau Shakti 2018

The troops of the Indian and Malaysian armies  kickstarted ‘Exercise Harimau Shakti 2018‘ in Kaula Lumpur .This is the first-ever joint Army exercise between the armies of India and Malaysia

The first phase of the two-week long exercise began with the formal handing over of the Regimental Flag to the Malaysian Army, signifying merging of the two contingents under one commander. 

Next Pravasi Bharatiya Divas
The next Pravasi Bharatiya Divas will be held in the holy city of Varanasi in January -2019with the Indian diaspora having an option to participate in Kumbha Snan and attend the Republic Day parade in New Delhi .

Addressing a gathering of eminent Indian-American community leaders from in and around Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia, MEA official Anurag Kumar said the details of the event were being worked out to facilitate greater participation of the diaspora community from across the world.

Pawan Chamling

 Sikkim’s Pawan Chamling has set a new record in the country by becoming the longest serving chief minister of a state, a title that Jyoti Basu, the former CPI(M) patriarch of West Bengal, had held so far. 

The founding president of the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) completed 23 years, four months and 17 days of uninterrupted service in office yesterday, exceeding Basu’s tenure. 

Counter-terror exercise

In a first, arch rivals India and Pakistan will be part of a multi-nation counter-terror exercise in Russia in September -2018 which will also be joined by China and several other countries.

The military exercise will take place under the framework of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a China-dominated security grouping which is increasingly seen as a counterweight to NATO, officials said.

They said the military drill will be held in the Ural mountains of Russia and almost all SCO member countries will be part of it.

Beyond visual (BVR) range missile-

 In a major milestone, indigenously developed Light Combat Aircraft Tejas has successfully fired an air-to-air beyond visual (BVR) range missile, demonstrating its overall capability as an effective combat jet, and inched closer to receiving final operational clearance.

Defence Ministry officials said the test firing of the missile from a Tejas jet was carried out off the Goa coast and it met all operational requirements.
Earlier, Tejas was given clearance for deployment of armaments and other missiles.

The Indian Air Force had ordered 40 Tejas Mark-1 version and a request for proposal was issued to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited in December for procurement of another batch of 83 Tejas at a cost of around Rs. 50,000 crore.

Officials said the successful launch of the BVR missile will expedite issuance of the Final Operational Clearance to the aircraft developed by state-run aerospace behemoth HAL and Aeronautical Development Agency of Defence Research and Development Organisation.

External Commercial Borrowings

In a bid to facilitate cheaper access of overseas funds Reserve Bank of India (RBI) further liberalised External Commercial Borrowings (ECB) Policy by including more sectors in the window.

“It has been decided to increase the ECB Liability to Equity Ratio (Debt ;Equity ratio)for ECB raised from direct foreign equity holder under the automatic route to 7:1. This ratio will not be applicable if total of all ECBs raised by an entity is up to USD 5 million or equivalent,” RBI said in a late night notification.

“The benchmark rate will be 6 month USD LIBOR (London interbank offered rate. The interest rate at which banks offer to lend funds (wholesale money) to one another in the international interbank market (or applicable benchmark for respective currency) for Track I and Track II, while it will be prevailing yield of the Government of India securities of corresponding maturity for Track III (Rupee ECBs) and RDBs,” it said.

Track I : Medium term foreign currency denominated ECB with Minimum Average Maturity (MAM) of 3/5 years.
Track II : Long term foreign currency denominated ECB with MAM of 10 years.
Track III : Indian Rupee denominated ECB with MAM of 3/5 years.

It has been decided to permit Housing Finance Companies and port trust can avail of ECBs under all tracks.

The India-China relationship-‘heart-to-heart-

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping  held “extensive and fruitful” meetings in an  unprecedented two-day informal summit to “solidify” the India-China relationship and exchanged views on how the two countries can work together for the benefit of their people and the world.

The ‘heart-to-heart’ summit in Wuhan – the favourite holiday spot of revolutionary Chinese leader Mao Zedong – is being seen as an effort by India and China to rebuild trust and improve ties that were hit by the 73-day-long Dokalam standoff last year.

Modi who arrived in the central Chinese city early today for the summit began talks soon after Xi received him with a warm shake hand and hosted a grand welcoming ceremony for him at the Hubei Provincial Museum here.

Asia Pacific Regional Workshop-

The four-day Asia Pacific Regional Workshop of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), jointly hosted by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and UNCCD Secretariat, to build the capacity of the Asia-Pacific Region to monitor and report on land degradation, concluded .

The workshop will enable country Parties to participate effectively and efficiently in the UNCCD reporting process, to submit the national report in time and in particular for Target 15.3 on Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN).  

The workshop has not only provided a diverse and multi-disciplinary knowledge sharing platform addressing desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD) issues, but also provided an opportunity to bring all key stakeholders from Asia to India and discuss key aspects of Reporting, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN).

Fitch  India’s sovereign rating-

Fitch  affirmed India’s sovereign rating at ‘BBB-’ with ‘stable’ outlook, saying that the country’s medium-term growth potential is strong. ‘BBB-’ rating indicates lowest investment grade.

“India’s rating balances a strong medium-term growth outlook and favourable external balances with weak fiscal finances and some lagging structural factors, including governance standards and a still-difficult, but improving, business environment,” Fitch said.

It projected India’s growth at 7.3 per cent in current the fiscal and further to 7.5 per cent in 2019-20. Growth is projected to be 6.7 per cent in the last fiscal, ended March 31. “The Stable Outlook reflects Fitch’s assessment that upside and downside risks to the ratings are broadly balanced.

Saraswati Samman-2017

Gujarati poet, playwright and academic Sitanshu Yashaschandra has been selected for the 2017 Saraswati Samman for his collection of verses titled Vakhar.

The award, now in its 27th year, is presented by the KK Birla Foundation, a literary and cultural organisation that also gives the Vyas Samman for Hindi, and Bihari Puraskar for Hindi and Rajasthani writers of Rajasthan.

Sitanshu Yashaschandra  is also a recipient of the Padma Shri and the Sahitya Akademi Award.

Bulletproof jackets- Bhabha Kavach

In a first, the Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC) has developed bulletproof jackets which have been made from advanced ceramics and advanced nanocomposites and weigh lighter than the bulletproof vests currently used by the Indian Armed Forces. The Mumbai-made ballistic body armour will protect jawans in Jammu and Kashmir and is currently being tried by the northern command of the Indian Army.

The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the Ministry of Home Affairs had approached BARC to develop bulletproof vests of higher quality at low cost. The five-member research team of BARC scientists developed the bulletproof vests in a span of one year between 2015 and 2016.

Bhabha Kavach, which weighs 6.6 kg, provides protection from AK-47 (hard steel core bullets), Self Loading Rifle and INSAS rifle. While a standalone Bhabha Kavach weighs 3.5kg.

BIS granted First Licence

Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) granted First Licence to M/s Gujarat Alkalies and Chemicals Ltd for Liquid Chlorine on All India basis to M/s Gujarat Alkalies and Chemicals Ltd for the product Liquid Chlorine, Technical as per IS 646:1986.

This is the First Licence granted on All India basis. The licence has been made operative with effect from 12th April, 2018 for a period of one year. The Indian Standard 646:1986 for Liquid Chlorine, Technical, prescribes the requirements and the methods of sampling and test for liquid chlorine, technical.

New species of frog

In the highland plateaus of the Western Ghats parts of Goa, scientists have identified a new species of frog called Fejervarya  goemchi.

The new species is named after the historical name of the state of Goa where the species is discovered  .Most Fejervarya species in South and South-East Asia are difficult to identify on the basis of morphology alone.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

Is an American immigration policy that allows some individuals who were brought to the United States illegally as children to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and become eligible for a work permit in the U.S.

 DACA does not provide a path to citizenship for recipients.  The policy was announced by President Barack Obama on June 15, 2012, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began accepting applications for the program on August 15, 2012.

June 16, 2017, while continuing to review the existence of the DACA program as a whole Plans to phase out DACA were initiated by the Trump Administration on September 5, 2017 .

Research has shown that DACA increased the wages and labor force participation of DACA-eligible immigrants  and reduced the number of unauthorized immigrant households living in poverty.  Studies have also shown that DACA increased the mental health outcomes for DACA-eligible immigrants and their children.

In the latest setback to President Donald Trump’s push to unwind the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, a third federal judge  rejected his administration’s justification for the efforts.A U.S. District Court called the Department of Homeland Security’s legal explanation for the decision to shutter the initiative “arbitrary and capricious.”

White House recently said that a judge’s ruling that the federal government must continue to extend protections to some young undocumented immigrants was “good news for smuggling organizations” but “horrible news for our national security.”

Remove the chief justice of India (CJI)

Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu  rejected the Congress-led opposition parties’ notice to remove the chief justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra saying it lacked substantial merit.

Article 124(4) of Constitution of India lays down the procedure for removal of a Judge of Supreme Court which is applicable to Chief Justice as well. Once appointed, the Chief Justice remains in the office until the age of 65 years. He can be removed only through a process of removal by Parliament as follows:

A Judge of the Supreme Court shall not be removed from his office except by an order of the President passed after an address by each House of Parliament supported by a majority of the total membership of that House and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of that House present and voting has been presented to the President in the same session for such removal on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity.

Inter country removal & retention of children

The Ministry of Women and Child Development had appointed the Committee headed by Justice Rajesh Bindal, Judge, High Court of Punjab & Haryana, Chandigarh, submitted its report  on legal issues related to inter country removal & retention of children, and recommends on addressing the problems of parents and children involved in such issues.

Stressing upon the need for mediation as the first step, the Committee has recommended that the Government may establish an ‘Inter Country Parental Child Removal Disputes Resolution Authority’. The authority has been envisaged to provide a one window solution in cases of inter country removal and retention of Children.

The Authority may be chaired by a retired High Court Judge, with Members from Legal and Social sector background along with representatives from key Ministries.

The Committee has recommended that the Authority may examine the inter country cases of removal and retention of children vis-a-vis the cultural context, merit of the case, and the best interest of the Child. Along with its recommendation, the Committee has also submitted a draft legislation to the Government. The Committee was also requested to study the draft of the International Child Abduction bill, prepared by the Law Commission.

The WCD Ministry will be sharing the report with Ministry of External Affairs, Law Ministry and Ministry of Home Affairs for their comments and inputs.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction or Hague Abduction Convention is a multilateral treaty developed by the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) that provides an expeditious method to return a child internationally abducted by a parent from one member country to another.

The Convention was concluded 25 October 1980 and entered into force between the signatories on 1 December 1983. The Convention was drafted to ensure the prompt return of children who have been abducted from their country of habitual residence or wrongfully retained in a contracting state not their country of habitual residence.

Convention on the civil Aspects of International Child Abduction
State parties to the convention

  states that signed and ratified the convention)

  states that acceded to the convention

  state that ratified, but convention has not entered into force

Signed 25 October 1980

As of September 2017, 98 states are party to the convention. In 2016, Philippines and Pakistan acceded to the convention . In a decision made by the Women and Child Development (WCD) Minister, Maneka Gandhi in jan 2017  and agreed to by the Ministry of External Affairs, the government of India had decided not to ratify the Hague Convention on Child Abduction. 

Remittances with its diaspora

India retained the top position as a recipient of remittances with its diaspora sending about $69 billion back home last year, the World Bank said on Monday.

Remittances to India picked up sharply by 9.9%, reversing the previous year’s dip, but were still short of $70.4 billion received in 2014. In its latest Migration and Development Brief, the World Bank estimated that officially recorded remittances to low-and middle-income countries reached $466 billion in 2017. This was an increase of 8.5% over $429 billion in 2016.

Global remittances, which include flows to high-income countries, grew 7 per cent to USD 613 billion last year, from USD 573 billion in 2016, the bank said. The stronger-than-expected recovery in remittances was driven by growth in Europe, Russia and the U.S. The rebound in remittances, when valued in U.S. dollars, was helped by higher oil prices and a strengthening of the Euro and the Ruble.

Diu Smart City

The Diu Smart City has become the first city in India that runs on 100 per cent renewable energy during the daytime, setting a bench-mark for other cities to follow, an official release said today. 

Diu had been importing 73 per cent of its power from Gujarat till last year, it added. 

The city has developed a 9-MW solar park spread over 50 hectares rocky barren land, besides installing solar panels on the rooftops on 79 government buildings, generating 1.3 MW annually, the Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry‘s release said. 

On other smart cities, the release said Bengaluru Smart City is working on implementation of solution to improve traffic management, while Jaipur Smart City Ltd (JSCL) has planned to develop night bazaar at Chaura Rasta, in the heart of Pink city. 
The JSCL would register up to 700 vendors who will be allowed to set up stalls, including eateries, between 9 pm and 1 am, it said, adding the project will provide entertainment, culture and shopping to citizens after office hours.

First ever Indian company to reach the $100 billion

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), India’s largest IT outsourcing company created history by becoming the first ever Indian company to reach the $100 billion market capitalization mark. The shares of the IT giant were trading 4 percent above previous closing mark at Rs 3,545 on the BSE at 10.30 am, thus hitting an all-time high.

In simple words, market capitalization is the value of a company that is traded on the stock market, calculated by multiplying the total number of shares by the present share price.

Currently, the market value of the company stood at $102 billion.

Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance-2018

In context with recent cases of rapes in Kathua and Unnao the Union Cabinet has approved the promulgation of an ordinance to provide death penalty for rapists of girls below 12 years.

Amendments would be made to the Indian Penal Code, the Criminal Procedure Code, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and the Indian Evidence Act.

As per the ordinance, for the crime of rape of a girl under 16 years, minimum punishment has been increased from 10 years to 20 years, which can be extended to imprisonment for the rest of life.

Minimum punishment for rape of women has also been increased from rigorous imprisonment of 7 years to 10 years, which can be extended to life imprisonment.

It provides for speedy investigation and trial, which must be completed in two months. There will be no provision for anticipatory bail for a person accused of rape or gang rape of a girl under 16 years.

The Sunderban Reserve Forest-

The Indian Sunderbans, with 2,114 sq. km. of mangrove forests, comprise almost 43% of the mangrove cover in the country according to a 2017 Forest Survey of India report. Other than the forests, home to about 100 Royal Bengal tigers, the creeks and river systems of the Sunderbans are also part of the reserve forest and once conferred a Ramsar site status, it will be the largest protected wetland in the country.

The Sunderban Reserve Forest, is likely to be declared a Ramsar Site soon. Earlier this week, the West Bengal government gave its approval to the State Forest Department to apply for recognition under the Ramsar Convention.

“There are currently 26 sites in India recognised as Ramsar wetland sites of international importance, including the East Kolkata Wetlands also in West Bengal.

India and Finland -MAP

Have reached an agreement on the tax dispute with Nokia under Mutual Agreement Procedure (MAP) system  paving the way for the company to sell its plant shuttered for long in Chennai.

Other officials in the Revenue Department of the Finance Ministry, confirming this development,said Nokia India had agreed to pay the ₹1,600 crore tax demand made by the Income Tax Department.

 CHOGM 2018

The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2018, also known as CHOGM 2018, was the 25th meeting of the heads of government of the Commonwealth of Nations. It was held in the United Kingdom. The meeting had been planned to have been held by Vanuatu at the end of 2017, but was moved to the United Kingdom after the impact of Cyclone Pamon the infrastructure of Vanuatu.

The position of Commonwealth Chair-in-Office, held by the government leader of the CHOGM host country, was transferred at the summit from the Prime Minister of Malta to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, who will hold the post until the 26th CHOGM (expected in 2020).

The theme of the summit was “Towards a Common Future“. The British hosts set out four main goals for the summit.

  • prosperity: boosting intra-Commonwealth trade and investment
  • security: increasing cooperation across security challenges including global terrorism, organised crime and cyber attacks
  • fairness: promoting democracy, fundamental freedoms and good governance across the Commonwealth
  • sustainability: building the resilience of small and vulnerable states to deal with the effects of climate changeand other global crises

Under consideration were: A Commonwealth Blue Charter on ocean governance, a Commonwealth connectivity agenda for trade and investment, a declaration on cybercrime, and revised Commonwealth guidelines on election observation in member countries.

This was the first CHOGM held following the United Kingdom‘s decision to withdraw from the European Union, a decision which has resulted in calls for Britain to strengthen its economic ties with and play a greater role in the Commonwealth.The Commonwealth, as of 2018, was responsible for one-tenth of British trade compare to the EU with which the UK currently conducts half of its trade. Intra-Commonwealth trade, overall, is expected to increase by at least 17% to around US$700 billion by 2020

The UK promised to spend £61m to combat the pollution of the world’s oceans by plastics and announced that it would ban plastic straws, microbeads, and other waste and to help developing countries curb plastics and other environmental pollutants from contaminating the oceans, and urged other Commonwealth countries to do the same. Five countries have joined the Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance: the UK, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Vanuatu and Ghana.

World’s sixth largest economy

India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the worth of the economy, clocked in at $2.6 trillion for 2017, according to the database of the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook (WEO) for April 2018.That is well over the $2.5 trillion milestone that supposedly separates big economies from pretenders.

India is now the world’s sixth largest economy, displacing France. The five economies ahead are the United States, China, Japan, Germany and United Kingdom.

High Security Registration Plates (HSRP)

From January 1, 2019, all classes of motor vehicles will come fitted with tamper-proof High Security Registration Plates (HSRP) that have a host of in-built security features.

They are expected to offer increased protection against theft.

The HSRP was made mandatory in some States 13 years ago but failed to take off. The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) last week published new draft rules that make it mandatory for automobile manufacturers to provide, and dealers to affix, the “security licence plate, including the third registration mark” for all new vehicles manufactured on or after January 1 next year.

The HSRPs will come with a 15-year guarantee. They will have in-built security features such as a self-destructive sticker with the engine and chassis number of the vehicle. The plates will be fitted on the front and rear of the vehicles and windscreens will have a number plate tag with hologram.

A chromium-based hologram will be applied by hot stamping on the top left corner of the number plates both at the front and back. A permanent identification number with a minimum of 10 digits will be laser-branded into the reflective sheeting on the bottom left of the registration plate. The permanent number will be preceded by two alphabets indicating the name of the vendor, manufacturer, or supplier, for whom the Type approval certificate was issued by the testing agencies.

Holding  simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and the Assemblies

A draft white paper released by the Law Commission of India  recommends holding of simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and the Assemblies, possibly in 2019. The commission was headed by former Supreme Court judge Justice B.S. Chauhan .

It suggests amending the Constitution to realise this objective.

 Joint action plan (JAP)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Swedish counterpart, Stefan Löfven, agreed upon a joint action plan (JAP) for both countries to take forward a wide range of initiatives in defence, trade and investment, counterterrorism, renewable energy, smart cities, women’s skill development, space and science and healthcare.

 “Sweden has been partner of India in the defence sector for a long time. I am confident that new opportunities for cooperation in this sector will arise in the future, especially in defence production,” says Indian PM.

The bilateral summit here was additionally significant for the opportunity it afforded both sides to discuss Sweden’s interest in proposing the Saab Group’s Gripen-E single-engine jet fighter for the Indian Air Force .

2018 Pulitzer Prizes

Were awarded by the Pulitzer Prize Board for work during the 2017 calendar year. Prize winners and nominated finalists were announced on April 16, 2018.

The New York Times won the most awards of any newspaper, with three, bringing its totalto one hundred and twenty-five Pulitzer Prizes.

 The Washington Post won Investigative Reporting and National Reporting, the latter of which was shared with the New York Times.

 The New York Times and The New Yorker won the prize in public service, bringing their totals to 125 and five, respectively.

 The Press-Democrat won Breaking News Reporting, bringing its total to two prizes.

The Commonwealth Games (XXI Commonwealth Games)- (April 2018).

The Commonwealth Games are an international multi-sport event involving athletes from the Commonwealth of Nations. The event was first held in 1930, and has taken place every four years since then (with the exception of 1942 and 1946, which were cancelled due to the Second World War).The most recent Commonwealth Games were held on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia from 4 to 15 April 2018

Australia, serving as the host nation, dominated the games with 80 gold, 59 silver and 59 bronze, for a total of 198 medals.

India finished third in the medals tally at the Commonwealth Games 2018 with 66 medals (26 Gold, 20 Silver and 20 Bronze). Only Australia with 198 medals and England with 136 were ahead.

India’s combined 66 medals is its third best showing in the history of the Games. India’s best remains 101 in New Delhi (2010), followed by 69 in Manchester (2002).

In table tennis, it was a memorable Games for Manika Batra as she picked up medals in all events she competed in — Singles Gold, Women’s Doubles Gold, Women’s Team Gold and rounding off the Games with Mixed Doubles Bronze. Batra made history by becoming the first Indian woman to win an individual table tennis Gold at the Games.

India’s maximum medals came from shooting (16), followed by wrestling (12) and weightlifting (9).

Indian shooter Anish Bhanwala, aged 15, created history by becoming the country’s youngest ever Gold medal winner in the Commonwealth Games, in the men’s 25m rapid fire pistol.

Neeraj Chopra from Haryana became the first Indian javelin thrower to claim a Gold medal at the Games. His medal is only the fifth track-and-field Gold for India at the Commonwealth Games — the other four being Milkha Singh (1958), discus thrower Krishna Poonia (2010), the women’s 4x400m relay quartet of Manjeet Kaur, Sini Jose, Ashwini Akkunji and Mandeep Kaur (2010) and shot-putter Vikas Gowda (2014).

The Gold medal won by India’s mixed badminton team is the country’s first in that category at the Games.

Saina Nehwal became the first Indian to win two singles Golds at the Games after defeating PV Sindhu. Saina had also won the title in 2010 in New Delhi.

The Indian badminton contingent’s total of seven medals (2 Gold, 3 Silver and 2 Bronze) turned out to be the best performance by any Indian badminton team at the Games.

Weightlifter Mirabai Chanu, who claimed India’s first Gold, in the Women’s 48 kg, broke three Games records in the ‘snatch’ section, the ‘clean and jerk’ and the overall Games record.

Dadasaheb Phalke Award-

Veteran Hindi film actor Vinod Khanna was  named 2017 year’s Dadasaheb Phalke Award winner in a befitting homage to the legend whose first death anniversary is barely a fortnight away.

Khanna is the 49th recipient of Dadasaheb Phalke Award, Indian cinema’s highest honour. He is probably the second personality after Prithviraj Kapoor to get the honour posthumously.

65th National Film Awards-

The 65th National Film Awards ceremony is an upcoming event during which the Directorate of Film Festivals presents its annual National Film Awards to honour the best films of 2017 in the Indian cinema. The awards announced on 13 April 2018. The awards ceremony will be held on 3 May 2018.

65th National Film Awards
Awarded for Best of Indian cinema in 2017
Awarded by Directorate of Film Festivals
Presented by Directorate of Film Festivals
Announced on 13 April 2018
Presented on 3 May 2018
Official website dff.nic.in
Highlights
Best Feature Film Village Rockstars
Best Book Matmagi Manipur: The first Manipuri Feature Film
Best Film Critic Giridhar Jha
Dadasaheb Phalke Award Vinod Khanna
   
 

 

 CJI at the helm of affairs-

The Chief Justice of India (CJI) is the “first among equals” and occupies a unique position having the “exclusive prerogative” to allocate cases and set up benches to hear cases, the Supreme Court ruled .

The verdict assumed significance as it came in the backdrop of the January 12 unprecedented press conference of senior-most judges including Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph raising the issue of improper allocation of cases.

Significantly, senior advocate and former law minister Shanti Bhushan has also recently filed a PIL seeking clarification on the administrative authority of the CJI as the ‘master of roster’ and laying down of principles in preparing the roster for allocation of cases to different benches.

 

INRSS-1I-

The Indian Space Research Organisation’s navigation satellite INRSS-1I was launched by PSLV-C41 from the spaceport here and successfully placed in the designated orbit. PSLV-C41/IRNSS-1I Mission blasted off at 4.04 am from the first launchpad at the Sathish Dhawan Space Centre. It was a normal lift-off, ISRO officials said.

The workhorse, PSLV, injected the satellite into orbit 19 minutes after lift-off from the Sathish Dhawan Space Centre here.

Project Dhoop’

Micronutrients including vitamins are needed by people in only very small amounts, but these are the “magic wands” that enable the body to produce enzymes, hormones and other substances essential for proper growth and development. As tiny as the amounts are, the consequences of their absence are severe.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) launched ‘Project Dhoop’ to address rising incidence of Vitamin D deficiencies… 

In order to address rising incidence of Vitamin ‘D’ Deficiencies (VDD), particularly amongst the young people, FSSAI has launched a unique initiative, ‘Project Dhoop’ in association with NCERT, NDMC and North MCD Schools.

The initiative urges schools to shift their morning assembly to noon time mainly between 11 am and 1 pm to ensure maximum absorption of Vitamin D in students through natural sunlight.
Digitally signed QR code on e-Aadhaar

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has brought in secure digitally signed QR code on e-Aadhaar that will now contain the photograph of the Aadhaar holder too, in addition to demographic details, to facilitate better offline verification of an individual.

“The UIDAI has recently replaced the existing QR code on e-Aadhaar having resident’s demographic details now with a secured digitally-signed QR code, which contains demographics along with photograph of the Aadhaar holder,” a UIDAI source said.

 A QR code is a form of barcode label, which contains machine-readable information, while e-Aadhaar is the electronic version of Aadhaar that can be downloaded from the UIDAI website.

Prompt Corrective Action (PCA) framework

PCA, which stands for Prompt Corrective Action, generally restricts lending activities of the banks  .Eleven public sector banks are under the radar of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) over the issue of non-performing assets.

The 11 banks on the RBI’s watch-list include Allahabad Bank, United Bank of India, Corporation Bank, IDBI Bank, UCO Bank, Bank of India, Central Bank of India, Indian Overseas Bank, Oriental Bank of Commerce, Dena Bank, Bank of Maharashtra. Five banks which could be brought under the PCA are Andhra Bank, Punjab National Bank, Canara Bank, Union Bank and Punjab & Sind Bank.

Small and medium enterprises will have to bear the brunt due to this move by RBI. The PCA framework restricts the amount of loans banks can extend, this will definitely put pressure on credit being made available to companies especially the MSMEs.

Large companies have access to the corporate bond market so they may not be impacted immediately .

 Section 51 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act

Salman has faced  charges under Section 51 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act of the Indian Penal Code. Maximum punishment under Section 51 is six years.In a major setback to actor Salman Khan, a Jodhpur trial court  sentenced him to 5 years in jail in the 1998 blackbuck poaching case . Other accused in the case were acquitted.
Jodhpur District Presiding Officer Devkumar Khatri pronounced Salman guilty of killing two blackbucks, which are an endangered species, on October 1, 1998 during a hunting expedition near Jodhpur, Rajasthan. A penalty of Rs 10,000 has also been levied on him.

Salman, 52, had earlier pleaded innocence in the case, claiming before the court that the blackbuck died of “natural causes” and he was being “framed”.
Beijing’s retaliation with U.S. products

Close on the heels of the U.S. announcing a 25% levy on a long list of Chinese goods, China retaliated in quick time by imposing a 25% import tariff on 106 products from the U.S., which made world markets jittery with fears of a full-blown trade war.

Fresh concerns over a trade war between the U.S. and China pushed world markets in a tailspin  with the Indian benchmark indices shedding more than 1% each even after opening on a strong note.

The 30-share Sensex, which touched a high of 33,505.53 during the day, ended at 33019.07, down 351.56 points or 1.05%. The broader Nifty closed 116.60 points or 1.14% lower at 10,128.40.

SC/ST Act judgement

The Supreme Court said that, banning immediate arrest of a person accused of insulting or injuring a Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe member, is meant to protect innocents from arbitrary arrest and not an affront to Dalit rights.

The judgment directs a “preliminary enquiry” to be conducted on whether a complaint filed by a Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe member is frivolous or not. An FIR would be registered only after the probe officer, Deputy Superintendent of Police, authenticates the complaint of casteist slur or crime.

The government, despite an urgent and open court hearing of its review petition, failed to convince a Bench of Justices A.K. Goel and U.U. Lalit  to stay its direction, considering the massive protests across the country which claimed nine lives on April 2.

Donate floral offerings to destitute women and widows-

The Supreme Court has urged temple towns across the country to emulate the Uttar Pradesh Women Welfare department’s initiative to donate “huge” floral offerings received at temples to destitute women and widows’ shelter homes.

The U.P. Women Welfare department began the initiative in Vrindavan and Mathura. The inmates of these shelters use the flowers to make eco-friendly products like Sugandh essence, Sugandh Jal, Gulal, Dhoop batti, agarbatti, etc., with the technical support of Floral and Fragrance Development Centre, Kannauj under the Union Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Ministry.

Global startup ecosystem map

 In its report, Startupblink included a global ranking index of 125 countries and 900 cities, measuring their startup ecosystem strength and activity. Their mission began in early 2014  to map and rank startup ecosystems across the globe.  Their rankings stem from thousands of data points gathered from various sources, such as incubators and accelerators that appear on the StartupBlink global ecosystem map.  

startup incubator is a collaborative program designed to help new startupssucceed. … The sole purpose of a startup incubator is to help entrepreneurs grow their business. Startup incubators are usually non-profit organizations, which are usually run by both public and private entities.  accelerators can guide entrepreneurs from “adolescence to adulthood.

According to a report released by Startupblink, a global startup ecosystem map with tens of thousands of registered startups, coworking spaces, and accelerators, the Indian startup ecosystem is ranked at number 37 and the global ranking of its top three cities are Bengaluru, New Delhi, and Mumbai.

Top 5 Countries in Global startup ecosystem in 2017 are

United States (1st), United Kingdom (2nd), Canada (3rd), Israel (4th) and Germany (5th). Small… Small nations of less than 10 million inhabitants like Sweden (6th), Denmark (7th), Switzerland (8th), and Singapore (10th) . 
 India ranks below Latin American countries Mexico (30th) and Chile (33rd). Its neighbours, China (12th), Singapore (10th), South Korea (17th), and Japan (20th), are in the top 20 list.

Clearly, India has a long distance to cover whether it is in terms of ease of doing business, startup policies, and complicated tax compliance (the angel tax is becoming draconian for Indian startups). The Indian startup ecosystem is also yet to see major exits – an important measure to gauge the maturity of a startup ecosystem.

APAs

The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has signed 14 unilateral advance pricing agreements (APAs) with Indian taxpayers in March 2018 as it looks to reduce litigation by providing certainty in transfer pricing. An advance pricing agreement (APA) is an ahead-of-time agreement between a taxpayer and a tax authority on an appropriate transfer pricing methodology (TPM) for a set of transactions at issue over a fixed period of time

Besides, it has signed two bilateral APAs with the US during the month. With the signing of these agreements, the total number of APAs entered into by CBDT has gone up to 219. This includes 199 unilateral APAs and 20 bilateral APAs.

The 16 APAs during March pertain to sectors like telecom, IT, automobile, pharmaceutical, beverage, banking and insurance.

The international transactions covered in these agreements include payment of royalty fee, provisions of business support services, marketing support services, engineering design services, engineering support services, among others.

While unilateral pacts involve only the taxpayer and the tax authority of the country where the taxpayer is located, bilateral agreements involve the taxpayer, associated enterprise of the taxpayer in the foreign country, the tax authority of the country where the taxpayer is located and the foreign tax authority.

The progress of the APA scheme strengthens the government’s resolve of fostering a non-adversarial tax regime, the statement added.

The APA scheme was introduced in the Income-Tax Act in 2012 and the ‘Rollback’ provisions were introduced in 2014.

The scheme endeavours to provide certainty to taxpayers in the domain of transfer pricing by specifying the methods of pricing and setting the prices of international transactions in advance.

 New plant species from the Western Ghats

Researchers  have reported the discovery of a new plant species from the Western Ghats biodiversity hotspot. Classified as a sedge, the grass-like plant has been named Fimbristylis agasthyamalaensis, after the locality from which it was found.

The researchers came across the species during an expedition to the marshy grasslands in the Ponmudi hills within the Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve. The survey was part of a project funded by the Women Scientists Division of the Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment (KSCSTE). The finding has been published in Phytotaxa, an international journal of botanical systematics and biodiversity.

 Out-of-control Tiangong-1 space lab
China’s out-of-control Tiangong-1 space lab has re-entered Earth’s atmosphere, landing in middle of the South Pacific Ocean near world’s ‘spacecraft cemetery also known as Point Nemo — considered the most remote place on Earth (at about 2400 km from any spot of land). It often used to. used to crash-land defunct satellites. Between 1971 and mid-2016, space agencies all over the world have dumped between 260 and 300 spacecraft .

… China’s Tiangong-1 space station re-entered the earth’s atmosphere and burnt up over the middle of the South Pacific .


Ultra-clean Euro-VI grade petrol

Ultra-clean Euro-VI grade petrol and diesel, at no additional price, will be supplied in the national capital from today in a bid to combat alarming levels of air pollution.

Delhi will be the first city in the country to leapfrog from Euro-IV grade petrol and diesel to Euro-VI. Cities in the national capital region like Noida, Ghaziabad, Gurugram and Faridabad as well as 13 major cities including Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Pune will switch over to cleaner Euro-VI grade fuel from January 1 next year. Rest of the country will follow suit from April 2020.

Euro-VI fuel and lesser grade cars and two-wheelers, which are presently available in the country, would result in 10-20 per cent reduction in particulate emission but for full benefits, the vehicles too need to have Euro-VI engines.

ISRO launches GSAT-6A
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) successfully placed a communication satellite GSAT-6A in a geosynchronous transfer orbit. It was carried on board the GSLV F-08 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre.

The GSAT-6A is a communication satellite that incorporates the high-thrust Vikas engine. It will complement the GSAT-6, which is already in orbit.
The satellite will be placed at a height of 36,000 km in a geostationary orbit, and the antenna will be unfurled in the coming days.

A day after GSAT-6A, the country’s newest communication satellite, went incommunicado in space, officials of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said on Sunday that they were working to restore the link with it.
The silence is initially believed to have been caused by a power glitch or a short circuit on the satellite.

Reforms for school education
The Cabinet has approved a slew of reforms for school education in the country, in what could be considered as the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan-2 project.
The SSA, the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan and teacher training would be integrated into a single scheme from Classes 1 to 12. The integrated scheme will be in place from April 1, 2018, to March 31, 2020, with an estimated allocation of Rs. 75,000 crore over the period, a 20% increase over the current allocation.
It aims to support the States in universalising access to school education from pre-nursery to Class 12 across the country. Mr. Javadekar said the government would focus on educationally backward districts, disabled students and women.
There would be a shift to digital blackboards from Class 9 to college education in the next five years. The government will provide a 20% incentive to the States for a learning-outcome based education.
Skill courses — which are now functional from Class 9 to Class 12 — would begin from Class 6 in future. This was aimed at enhancing the employability of students.
The Centre has also approved an increase in the outlay for making educational loans interest-free for students with modest financial means for studying in universities and colleges charging high fees. The interest subsidy will last till one year of their passing out of college.

Strained relations Russia -US
The Kremlin(“government of the U.S.S.R.) decided to hit back at Western expulsion of its diplomats, worsening the already strained relations. Sixty U.S. diplomats will be expelled from Russia — the same as the number of Russian diplomats whom Washington has expelled and the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg .
Strained relations over Moscow’s roles in the wars in Syria and Ukraine, its forcible annexation of Crimea, its meddling in elections in the U.S. and elsewhere, the assassination of Kremlin foes in Russia and abroad, cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns against other countries and what Western officials have described as a broad, largely covert effort to destabilize and discredit liberal democracies.
Mr. Putin and his government have denied any involvement in the March 4 attack on Sergei V. Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, and have tried to cast blame on Britain, the U.S., Ukraine, the Czech Republic and others.
More than 20 other countries, primarily European, also announced expulsions and a few more join, as did NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Honour killing guillotines liberty
The Supreme Court upheld the choice of consenting adults to love and marry as a part of their fundamental rights.The apex court said, “Honour killing guillotines individual liberty, freedom of choice and one’s own perception of choice (under Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution).”
It issued a set of guidelines for authorities to safeguard young couples under threat for marrying outside their caste or religion. It ridiculed the “elevated sense of honour” of elders, the collective and khap panchayats who rain horror on couples for choosing to marry outside their caste, clan or religion.
It termed the elders, presiding over murder in broad daylight, as “patriarchal monarchs” who believe they are the descendants of Caesar or Louis XIV.
The court held that the consent of the family, community or clan is not necessary.
The court also directed that all the cases involving honour killings or violence “shall be tried by the designated Court/Fast Track Court earmarked for that purpose” and the trial would proceed on day to day basis and be concluded “preferably within six months from the date of taking cognizance of the offence”.
The court said that this direction will apply to “pending cases” as well. As part of preventive measures, it said that where the states have knowledge of a proposed khap meet, the police must try to prevent them and if such meetings are held, must dissuade it from taking any decision causing harm to any couple or their family.

The police should file an FIR if any such meeting passes any diktat against any couple which does not meet their acceptance, or their families, the court said, and called upon states to “consider..establishing a safe house at each District Headquarter” where couples facing threats can be lodged.
It asked state governments to create special cells in every District “comprising of the SP, the District Social Welfare Officer and District Adi-Dravidar Welfare Officer to receive petitions/complaints of harassment of and threat to couples of inter-caste marriage.”
The court directed that trial in all cases of honour killing be fast-tracked and the cases disposed of in six months from date of taking cognizance. It gave states six weeks’ time to comply with its directions.
The steps directed by the apex court include identification of the districts where such incidents occur, increased vigilance in those areas, preventing illegal assembly of such khap panchayats by interacting with them or by using force, video recording of the meetings (if held), invoking prohibitory orders and arresting the participants.
The top court said that if in spite of the preventive steps, an illegal assembly is held and a diktat is issued by the ‘khap’, then the remedial measures would into effect.
It said that the remedial steps would include providing security to those whose lives are under threat, lodging of an FIR, investigation of the crime with promptitude, ascertaining authenticity and gravity of the couple’s complaint of the threat as well as booking all the persons concerned, including participants of the assembly, without any exception.

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite(TESS)
Is a planned space telescope for NASA’s Explorers program, designed to search for exoplanets using the transit method. It is planned for launch in April 2018.

The primary mission objective for TESS is to survey the brightest stars near the Earth for transiting exoplanets over a two-year period.
The TESS project will use an array of wide-field cameras to perform an all-sky survey. With TESS, it will be possible to study the mass, size, density and orbit of a large cohort of small planets, including a sample of rocky worlds in the habitable zones of their host stars. TESS will provide prime targets for further characterization by the James Webb Space Telescope, as well as other large ground-based and space-based telescopes of the future

Defence Ministry draft policy
The Defence Ministry has come out with a draft policy which envisages achieving a turnover of Rs 1,70,000 crore in military goods and services by 2025 by promoting the domestic defence industry.
The policy says the aim is to make India one of the top five manufacturers of defence platforms with active participation of public and private sectors.
The policy lists as a major aim achieving export of Rs 35,000 crore in military equipment and services by 2025 by promoting the domestic industries . The policy says the licensing process for defence industries will be liberalised and the list of items requiring licences will be reviewed and pruned.
“Except a small negative list, other items will be taken out of purview of licensing,” it says, adding all applications for licences will be disposed off in 30 days.
It says ‘no-objection certificates’ and comments from all agencies must necessarily be received within two weeks of filing of the applications by the companies.

Earth Hour-
Earth Hour, which started in Australia in 2007, is being observed on 25 th March 2018 by millions of supporters in 187 countries, who are turning off their lights at 8.30pm local time in what organisers describe as the world’s “largest grass roots movement for climate change”.
“It aims to raise awareness about the importance of protecting the environment and wildlife,” Earth Hour organiser WWF Australia .
In Paris, the Eiffel Tower plunged into darkness as President Emmanuel Macron urged people to join in and “show you are willing to join the fight for nature”.Moscow’s Red Square also fell dark and the Russian section of the International Space Station dipped its lights .

Tensions between Russia and America
Mutual retaliatory measures have spiralling escalation of tensions between Russia and America through last year, after American intelligence agencies hinted that Kremlin ran a digital influence campaign during the 2016 presidential election, to help D. Trump.
Soon after the President congratulated Russian President Vladimir Putin for his reelection , information leaked that he did so ignoring the notes before him that specifically advised him not to congratulate.
On March 16,2018 the U.S. had imposed sanctions against 19 Russian individuals and five entities for interfering in the 2016 election and for other cyberintrusions.

20 AAP MLAs
The Delhi government, led by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, appointed the parliamentary secretaries attached to government ministries after coming to power in March 2015.
However, a constitutional clause prohibits legislators or parliamentarians from holding any position with monetary or other benefits. Known as ‘office of profit’, the clause is aimed at reducing conflict of interest situations for public representatives.The government had claimed that the appointments would facilitate a smooth functioning.
The Delhi High Court in march 2018 quashed a notification issued by President Ram Nath Kovind disqualifying 20 AAP MLAs for holding offices of profit as Parliamentary Secretaries.
A Bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Chander Shekhar reinstated all 20 MLAs, holding that the opinion of the Election Commission of India to the President to disqualify the legislators was “vitiated and bad in law for failure to comply with the principles of natural justice”.
The High Court noted that the poll panel failed to give oral hearing and opportunity to address arguments on merits to the AAP MLAs before arriving at its opinion that they held ‘office of profit’.
The MLAs had told the court that EC’s order disqualifying them for allegedly holding office of profit was passed in “complete violation of natural justice” as they were not given the opportunity to explain their stand before the poll panel.

Eradicate tuberculosis (TB)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a campaign to eradicate tuberculosis (TB) from India by 2025, five years ahead of the globally-set deadline. After inaugurating the Delhi End-TB Summit Modi launched the TB-free India Campaign to take the activities under the National Strategic Plan for TB Elimination forward in a mission mode for ending the epidemic by 2025. A target has been set to end TB globally by 2030.
Amalgamation of Allhabad Bank with All Bank Finance Ltd (ABFL)-
According to the officials of Allahabad Bank, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs has allowed the amalgamation of its wholly own subsidiary – All Bank Finance Ltd (ABFL)-with the lender. The bank’s board had approved the proposed merger in December 2016. The ABFL offers a basket of fee-based financial services such as trusteeship services, investment advisory and portfolio management services, distribution of Mutual Funds schemes and other corporate services including valuation of security and so on.

‘National Year of Millets
The union government decided to declare 2018 as ‘National Year of Millets to boost the cultivation of millets like ragi and jowar on a mission mode to achieve nutritional security. This was stated by Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh while addressing MPs in a consultative committee meeting in New Delhi .
The Minister said millet cultivation has declined due to change in dietary habits and unavailability of millets. As a result of this, level of nutrients like proteins, Vitamin-A, iron, and iodine fell in women and children. This led to a special focus on millets, which are being promoted under the National Food Security Mission (NFSM). The push will promote cultivation of jowar, bajra, ragi. Under NFSM, maize and jau are also promoted separately.

Cambridge Analytica
British data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica is at the centre of controversy in the US and UK after two newspapers reported the company harvested personal data about Facebook users beginning in 2014.
Best known for assisting the 2016 presidential campaign of US President Donald Trump, Cambridge Analytica is now facing a government search of its London office, questions from US state authorities, and a demand by Facebook that it submit to a forensic audit.
The UK’s Information Commissioner has announced she is seeking a warrant to probe the company’s servers – and also that she was forced to tell Facebook to “stand down” its own enquiries after its auditors and lawyers visited Cambridge Analytica’s offices.
Supreme Court of India
Expressing concern over rampant misuse of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act-1989, the Supreme Court introduced the provision of anticipatory bail while also directing that there would be no automatic arrest on any complaint filed under the law and a preliminary inquiry must be conducted by police within seven days before taking any action.

A bench of Justices A K Goel and U U Lalit introduced the provision of anticipatory bail despite Section 18 of the act denying pre-arrest bail. Such a protective provision was required to safeguard the interest and dignity of innocents and prevent the misuse of the act as an instrument to blackmail or wreak personal vengeance.
To avoid false implication of an innocent, a preliminary inquiry may be conducted by the DSP concerned to find out whether the allegations make out a case under the act and that the allegations are not frivolous or motivated.
North East Industrial Development Scheme (NEIDS), 2017
The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the North East Industrial Development Scheme (NEIDS), 2017 with financial outlay of Rs.3000 crores upto March, 2020. Government will provide necessary allocations for remaining period of scheme after assessment before March 2020. NEIDS is a combination of the incentives covered under the earlier two schemes with a much larger outlay.
In order to promote employment in the North East States, Government is incentivizing primarily the MSME Sector through this scheme. Government is also providing specific incentive through the scheme to generate employment.
All eligible industrial units, which are getting benefits of one or more components of other schemes of the Government of India, will also be considered for benefits of other components of this scheme.

Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill
The Cabinet gave its approval for moving official amendments in a bill which aims at banning commercial surrogacy, allowing altruistic surrogacy to needy infertile couples and its effective regulation in the country.
The ‘Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016’ proposes to regulate surrogacy by establishing appropriate authorities at the central level and in states and Union Territories .
Once the bill is enacted by the Parliament, the National Surrogacy Board will be constituted and the states and UTs will have to constitute the State Surrogacy Board and State Appropriate Authorities within three months of the notification by the central government.
“Once in effect, the Act will regulate the surrogacy services in the country and will control the unethical practices in surrogacy, prevent commercialisation of surrogacy and will prohibit potential exploitation of surrogate mothers and children born through surrogacy,” the statement said.
While commercial surrogacy will be prohibited including sale and purchase of human embryo and gametes, ethical surrogacy to the needy infertile couples will be allowed on fulfilment of certain conditions and for specific purposes, it said.
Infertile married couples who want to avail ethical surrogacy will be benefitted, the rights of surrogate mother and children born out of surrogacy will also be protected.
The bill shall apply to all the states, except for Jammu and Kashmir, the official statement said.
Noting that India is emerging as a “surrogacy hub” for couples from different countries, it said there have been reported incidents concerning unethical practices, exploitation of surrogate mothers, abandonment of children born out of surrogacy and rackets of intermediaries importing human embryos and gametes.
The 228th report of the Law Commission had recommended prohibiting commercial surrogacy and allowing ethical altruistic surrogacy by enacting a suitable legislation.
18 new Indian Missions in Africa
The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved the opening of 18 new Indian Missions in Africa over a four year period from 2018-2021. The 18 new Indian Missions in Africa will be opened in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mauritania, Rwanda, Sao Tome& Principe, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Swaziland and Togo over a four year period from 2018-2021 thereby increasing the number of Resident Indian Missions in Africa from 29 to 47.
The decision will enhance India’s diplomatic outreach in the African continent and allow India to engage with Indian diaspora in African countries. Opening of new Missions is also a step towards implementing the vision of enhanced co-operation and engagement with Africa.

Double taxation avoidance agreement (DTAA)
India and Hong Kong signed a double taxation avoidance agreement (DTAA) that seeks to improve transparency in tax matters and help curb tax evasion and avoidance.

The agreement between India and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) of the People’s Republic of China was signed by Indian Ambassador to China Gautam Bambawale and Hong Kong Finance Secretary Paul Chan Mo-Po in Hong Kong
Indian Science Congress
The 106th edition of the Indian Science Congress will be held in January 2019 at Barkatullah University Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. The theme for 2019 ISC will be “Future India: Science & Technology”.

Plastic Park
The Government of India approved the setting up of a Plastic Park in Deoghar District, Jharkhand. The project would be set up at a cost of Rs. 120 crores in an area of 150 acres. Mr. Ananthkumar also announced the setting up of Rs. 3.5 crore Plastic Recycling unit at Deoghar to tackle the menace of plastic waste being generated due to the place being a tourist attraction.

Exchange-traded currency
Capital markets regulator SEBI raised the exposure limit under exchange-traded currency derivatives trading for residents and FPIs(Foreign Portfolio Investor) to USD 100 million across all currency pairs involving the Indian rupee. The move will help entities engaged in forex transactions to maintain their currency risks in a better manner.

“Varuna-18”,
The Indo-French joint naval exercise, “Varuna-18”, started in the Arabian Sea off the Goa coast. It includes anti-submarine, air defence and asymmetric engagement exercises, a Navy official said.

The French Navy’s anti-submarine frigate, Jean de Vienne, the Indian Navy’s destroyer, INS Mumbai, and frigate INS Trikand are among the vessels participating in the exercise.

The Indian Navy’s submarine, Kalvari, P8-1 and Dornier maritime patrol aircraft and MiG 29K fighter aircraft are also participating. The first phase of the exercise will end on March 24.
The second phase will be held off the Chennai coast in April and the third near La Reunion Island in May.

Lord Jagannath’s Nabakalebara festival
President Ram Nath Kovind released coins in denominations of Rs 10 and Rs 1,000 commemorating Lord Jagannath’s Nabakalebara festival observed in July 2015. He unveiled the coins at the centenary celebration of Rashtriya Saskrit Sansthan in Puri.

The coins had been slated for release during the mega festival, celebrated once every 12 to 19 years, but the Union finance ministry had rejected a design sent by the state government as it featured the deities’ feet. The Centre had then said this was in opposition to the limbless idols worshipped in Puri. The state government had distanced itself from the row, saying the expert panel that sent the design had been selected by the Centre.

 Gratuity Amendment bill

Lok Sabha passed Gratuity Amendment bill. The Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill, 2017 aims at increasing the upper ceiling of the gratuity from the present 10 lakh rupees to 20 lakh rupees for employees in the private sector and in Public Sector Undertakings at par with Central Government employees.

Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin stormed to victory in presidential election, giving him another six years in power. Putin, who has ruled Russia for almost two decades, won more than 75% of the vote according to preliminary results.  He is well ahead of his nearest rival Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin at 13.2%. About 107 million Russians were eligible to cast ballots and turnout was 60% before polls closed in Moscow.

India’s first cloned  buffalo

The Central Institute for Research on Buffaloes (CIRB) claimed that India’s first cloned Assamese buffalo male calf named Sach-Gaurav was born in Hisar, Haryana. It was born to Murrah buffalo, at Hi-Tech Sach Dairy Farm, 100 km from cloning laboratory, making it first buffalo calf to be born.

SATH-E

NITI Aayog released comprehensive roadmaps and detailed timelines for its initiative ‘Sustainable Action for Transforming Human Capital in Education (SATH-E)’ project. Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog released the forward-looking blueprints. These roadmaps, which operate between 2018 to 2020, lay out detailed interventions which will be taken by the three participating States- Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha – aiming to become ‘Role Model States’ in school education.

 Violent Public demonstrations not a Fundamental Rights

Public demonstrations resorting to violence, including stone-throwing, are not protected by the fundamental right to free speech and expression, the Supreme Court has held.

A Bench of Justices A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan observed that the reason for the demonstration might be genuine, but this did not give agitators the licence to resort to violence, destroying property and, at times, lives of citizens.

The judgment came on a plea by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha leader Bimal Gurung for protection against arrest in several cases filed against him by the West Bengal government for violent unrest in the Darjeeling Hills.

Demonstrations, whether political, religious or social or other demonstrations, which create public disturbances or operate as nuisances or create or manifestly threaten some tangible public or private mischief are not covered by protection under Article 19(1) (free speech),” the court held. A demonstration was meant to convey a feeling of disillusionment to those in authority.

New species of water strider

Scientists from the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) have discovered a new species of water strider from Nagaland. The species, named Ptilomera nagalanda Jehamalar and Chandra, was found in the river Intanki, Peren district.

Water striders are a group of insects adapted to life on the surface of water, using surface tension to their advantage.

Scientists working on the water striders say that their presence serves as an indicator water of water quality and they are found on water surface.

“Orange with black stripes on the dorsal side and a pale yellowish brown ventral part of the body, this particular species has long slender legs .

Syria’s Afrin

Turkey’s flag was flying in Syria’s Afrin  after Turkish troops and Ankara-backed rebels chased out Kurdish militia forces to seize control of the city.

In a major victory for Ankara’s two-month operation against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria, Turkey-led forces pushed into Afrin apparently unopposed, taking up positions across the city.

Emergency lifted in SriLanka

 Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena  lifted the island-wide state of emergency that he imposed on March 6 to contain spiralling anti-Muslim violence in the central highlands.

Earlier  Sinhalese groups carried out a series of targeted attacks against the Muslim-owned mosques, shops and homes in Kandy located in the Central Province.

Xi Jinping as President

China’s Parliament on Saturday unanimously elected Xi Jinping as President for a second consecutive term, paving the way for a new leadership line-up that includes his trusted ally Wang Qishan as Vice-President.

All the 2,970 delegates of the National People’s Congress (NPC) voted for Mr. Xi as President and Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC). Mr. Xi is already the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

In an unprecedented move, President Xi took a public oath of allegiance to the Constitution in Beijing at the Great Hall of the People.

 

Supreme Court on Aadhaar

 The Supreme Court  extended the deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar to avail various services till a Constitution Bench rules on a batch of petitions challenging the validity of the Aadhaar Act.

March 31,2018 was the  deadline for Aadhaar linkage, but the five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra had on March 7 said it may not be possible to decide by then the clutch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the biometric scheme and the enabling law. 

The government had made it mandatory to link Aadhaar with welfare schemes, as well as essential services like banking and phone, insisting that it was necessary to weed out benami deals and black money. The Centre was also planning to make it mandatory to link Aadhaar card with driving licence and voter ID cards, among other things. 

On December 15 last year, the apex court had extended till March 31 the deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar with various services and welfare schemes.

Earlier, the top court had observed that the alleged defect of citizens’ biometric details under the Aadhaar scheme being collected without any law could be cured by subsequently bringing in a statute.

It had said that the Centre came out with the law in 2016 to negate the objection that it was collecting data since 2009 without any authorisation, but the issue which needed consideration was what would happen if the data collected earlier, had been compromise.

AYUSH QOL-2C

Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences (CCRAS) has undertaken development of a coded drug AYUSH QOL-2C for improving the quality of life in cancer patients. The clinical studies were conducted at St. John’s Medical College, Bengaluru and AIIMS, New Delhi in breast cancer patients and at Bhagwan Mahaveer Cancer Hospital and Research Centre, Jaipur in lung cancer patients.

Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells anywhere in a body. These abnormal cells are termed cancer cells. These cells can infiltrate normal body tissues. Deaths from cancer worldwide are projected to continue rising, with an estimated 13.1 million deaths in 2030

It is not possible to compare the expenditure on research on cancer in Ayurveda viz-à-viz Allopathy as it depends upon variables like methodology, parameters etc. adopted for research.

Foreign law firms cannot set up offices in India

The Supreme court said that foreign law firms cannot set up offices in India but their lawyers could give legal advise on foreign laws.

However, the bench headed by Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit said that foreign lawyers could come to the country and participate in international commercial arbitration.

Justice Goel, while pronouncing the judgement, said that even for the limited purposes they would be subject to the Bar Council of India’s Code of Conduct.

The court also said that BPO companies engaged in rendering legal services did not come within the ambit of the Advocate Act and thus they can operate in India.

The court verdict came on pleas challenging judgements by the Bombay and Madras High Courts.

Madras High court had said that foreign lawyers can fly in and fly out for tendering legal advice on foreign laws.

 

 

Passive euthanasia

On 7 March 2011 the Supreme Court of India legalised passive euthanasia by means of the withdrawal of life support to patients in a permanent vegetative state(wakeful unconscious state that lasts longer than a few weeks 3 in the US and 6 in the Uk ,is referred to as a persisten). The decision was made as part of the verdict in a case involving Aruna Shanbaug, who had been in a Persistent Vegetative State (PVS) until her death in 2015.

Since March 2018, passive euthanasia is legal in India under strict guidelines. Patients must consent through a living will, and must be either terminally ill or in a vegetative state.

The Supreme Court specified two irreversible conditions to permit Passive Euthanasia Law in its 2011 Law:

(I) The brain-dead for whom the ventilator can be switched off

(II) Those in a Persistent Vegetative State (PVS) for whom the feed can be tapered out and pain-managing palliatives be added, according to laid-down international specifications.

The same judgement-law also asked for the scrapping of 309, the code which penalises those who survive suicide-attempts. In December 2014, government of India declared its intention to do so.

However, on 25 February 2014, a three-judge bench of Supreme Court of India had termed the judgment in the Aruna Shanbaug case to be ‘inconsistent in itself’ and has referred the issue of euthanasia to its five-judge Constitution bench.

The high court rejected active euthanasia by means of lethal injection. In the absence of a law regulating euthanasia in India, the court stated that its decision becomes the law of the land until the Indian parliament enacts a suitable law. Active euthanasia, including the administration of lethal compounds for the purpose of ending life, is still illegal in India, and in most countries.

 Forms of active euthanasia, including the administration of lethal compounds, legal in a number of nations and jurisdictions including LuxemburgBelgium and the Netherlands, as well as the US states of Washington and Oregon, are still illegal in India.

 The legal status of passive euthanasia, on the other hand, including the withdrawal of nutrition or water, varies across the nations of the world.

 

State flag

The Karnataka government unveiled the State flag (nada dhwaja ) for the state. If approved by the Centre, Karnataka will be the second State to have a flag after Jammu and Kashmir. The yellow-white-red flag has the State emblem at the center. The proposal will be now sent to the Union Home Ministry for approval since a State has no powers to announce its own flag.

World’s largest investment plans in solar energy

India  announced one of the world’s largest investment plans in solar energy at the Founding Conference of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) New Delhi. The $1.4 billion line of credit will cover 27 projects in 15 countries and boost the much-required financial power to the solar sector.

This initiative was launched at the India Africa Summit and a meeting was held among them before the conclave of 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris on November 2015. The Headquarters is in India with its Interim Secretariat being setup in Gurgaon.

The ISA gives India an opportunity to take global leadership in the fight against climate change.

The secretariat of the ISA is to be located in India. It will also host a meeting of ISA assembly every year.

India has promised to contribute $27 million for creating building infrastructure and recurring expenditure for five years, till 2020-21.

The Founding Conference was co-chaired by Mr. Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron. Mr. Modi presented a 10-point action plan aimed at making solar power more affordable while raising the share of power generated. “We have to increase the share of solar in the energy mix,” Mr. Modi said.

The solar energy sector, facing a challenge of funding, received considerable support at the conference. Mr. Macron, while pointing to the withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris Agreement on climate change, praised those who stayed the course to support the solar power on a global scale. France was committed to providing an additional €700 million in loans and support by 2022 to emerging economies for solar energy projects .

New biofuel policy 2018
Ministery of Petroleum & Natural Gas will soon introduce a new biofuel policy . In the policy-making, generation of 2G ethanol (Second Generation (2G) Ethanol from agricultural residues)from non-sugar resource will be the key factor. The government is committed towards green energy and has stressed on Govardhan Yojna, for generation of Bio-CNG.
The country will witness a new economy of waste to wealth worth one lakh crore in coming years.

Forbes Magazine list of billionaires
With a fortune worth $110 billion, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is the world’s richest man and tops a 2018 Forbes Magazine list of billionaires. According to the Forbes, Bezos is the first person to top $100 billion as number one on the Forbes list of the World’s Billionaires. Microsoft founder Bill Gates is second ($90 billion), investment guru Warren Buffet third ($84 billion), Bernard Arnault and family fourth ($72 billion), and Facebook founder-CEO Mark Zuckerberg fifth ($71 billion). Indian industry titan Mukesh Ambani, the chairman of Reliance Industries Limited, is 19th on the list. He’s valued at $40.1 billion.

Animal Welfare Board of India

The Government shifted headquarters of Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) to Ballabhgarh in Faridabad District of Haryana from Chennai, Tamil Nadu. It was shifted after consultation with AWBI for better coordination between the Environment Ministry and AWBI for carrying out the animal welfare act.
AWBI is a statutory advisory body established in 1962 under Section 4 of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. It frames a range of rules on how animals ought to be humanely treated everywhere. It has also frequently litigated to have stricter laws.

International Yoga Festival (IYF)
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat inaugurated the week-long 29th annual, world-famous International Yoga Festival (IYF) in Rishikesh’s Parmarth Niketan. The IYF offers daily classes from 4 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. with more than 80 revered saints, Yogacharya, presenters and experts from nearly 20 countries around the world.
Indias biggest Oil Supplier

Iraq overtook Saudi Arabia to become India’s top crude oil supplier by supplying 38.9 million tonnes (MT) crude oil in the current financial year. It was fifth of India’s oil needs. India is 80% dependent on imports to meet its oil needs. India had imported 184.4 MT of crude oil during April. Saudi Arabia traditionally has been India’s top oil source but Iraq dethroned it. Saudi Arabia supplied 30.9 MT of crude oil in first 10 months.

Global Firepower index 2017

This is a list of countries by Military Strength Index based on the Credit Suisse . The rankings for the index are based on 50 parameters, including military resources, natural resources, industry and geographical features and available manpower. The large number of military personnel with India and China are an important factor in the higher rankings of these countries.

According to GFP’s assessment, India leads China in terms of total armed personnel with India’s 4,207,250 personnel against China’s 3,712,500. China, however, leads in terms of active personnel with 2,260,000 troops compared to India’s 1,362,500. India’s reserve components were assessed to be 2,844,750 while China’s were estimated to be 1,452,500.

The index didn’t count nuclear stockpiles for the ranking but gave points for nuclear capability, whether recognised or suspected.

The Military Strength Indicator introduced by Credit Suisse includes only the 20 strongest militaries and does not account for the actual training that the militaries may have.
Out of 133 countries, India is ranked fourth on a global index for its military strength, only the United States, Russia and China are ranked above India on the list, according to the latest report of the Global Firepower index 2017. Neighbouring Pakistan is ranked 13th. India maintained its position above France in the top five military powers in the world. The Indian Army is equipped with 4,426 combat tanks, 6,704 armored fighting vehicles, and 7,414 towed artillery guns, as per the list. The Top 5 countries in the list are- 1. The USA, 2. Russia, 3. China, 4. India, 5. France.

The Marshall Islands
The Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean is set to become the first country in the world to recognize cryptocurrency as its legal tender and adopt transparent cryptocurrency as its legal tender and adopt the transparent crypto monetary system. The parliament of the island has passed a law to create the digital currency call called “Sovereign” with symbol SOV to raise some hard cash to pay bills and boost the economy.

The Marshall Islands is partnering with Israeli fintech startup Neema to launch its SOV. It will have equal status with US dollar as a form of payment. SOV issued by the Marshall Islands will be different from other cryptocurrencies including bitcoin because it will be officially recognized by law as legal documents.

IBSF Snooker Team World Cup
India won the inaugural IBSF Snooker Team World Cup in Doha, Qatar. India beat Pakistan by 3-2 in the best-of-five final. In the finals, Indian duo of Pankaj Advani and Manan Chandra staged a remarkable recovery after being 0-2 down.

Annual Academy Awards

The 90th Annual Academy Awards (also known as Oscar Awards) were held at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, the USA. The Shape Of Water won the top prize of the t – Best Picture. 1. Best Picture The Shape Of Water 2. Best Director Guillermo del Toro, The Shape Of Water 3. Best Actress Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 4. Best Actor Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour 5. Best Supporting Actress Allison Janney, I, Tonya 6. Best Supporting Actor Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 7. Best Original Screenplay Get Out 8. Best Adapted Screenplay Call Me By Your Name

solar park
The Karnataka government inaugurated the first phase of a 2,000 megawatts (MW) solar park in the drought-prone district, Tumkur. The first phase of the Rs16,500 crore park called “Shakti Sthala” will generate 600MW, while the balance 1,400MW is expected to be commissioned by the end of 2018. The solar project is the largest in the world, is spread over 13,000 acres and five villages. It is part of the “Karnataka Solar Policy 2014-2021” which aims to decrease dependence on traditional power sources and move to environmentally friendly ones to meet the growing power needs of the state. The park ties in with the center’s scheme to generate 100 gigawatts (GW) of solar power by 2020.

Rooppur nuclear power
Indian companies can now participate in construction and installation works in the “non-critical” category for the Rooppur nuclear power plant in Bangladesh, according to the Russian atomic energy agency Rosatom. The Rooppur project is the first initiative under an Indo-Russian deal to undertake atomic energy projects in third countries. This will also be the first time Indian companies will be able to participate in a nuclear power project abroad. India, Bangladesh, and Russia signed an agreement in this regard in Moscow, Russia.

Elections in NE
The three north east states – Nagaland, Meghalaya and Tripura. In TripuraThe BJP under its state chief Biplab Kumar Deb and along with its ally Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura won 43 seats. CPI(M) leader and Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, who has been in power for 20 years, has reached the end, with the party getting 16 seats.

In Nagaland, Neiphiu Rio’s Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party, which has partnered with the BJP, won a total of 29 seats. The Naga People’s Front of TR Zeliang and its allies also got 29 seats.
Nagaland Governor PB Acharya appointed Neiphiu Rio as the new Chief Minister of the state. Mr. Rio will replace TR Zeliang.
In Meghalaya, Chief Minister Mukul Sangma has won in both the constituencies from where he fought the assembly election. But the results appear to headed for a hung house. Conrad Sangma will be the next chief minister .

Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill-2018
The Union Cabinet approved the introduction of the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018, in Parliament which would allow the government to seize all domestic assets of a person deemed to be a fugitive economic offender.
The cases where the total value involved in such offences is Rs.100 crore or more, will come under the purview of this Bill.

Salient features of the Bill:
i. Application before the Special Court for a declaration that an individual is a fugitive economic offender.
ii. Attachment of the property of a fugitive economic offender;
iii. Issue of a notice by the Special Court to the individual alleged to be a fugitive economic offender;
iv. Confiscation of the property of an individual declared as a fugitive economic offender resulting from the proceeds of crime;
v. Confiscation of other property belonging to such offender in India and abroad, including benami property;
vi. Disentitlement of the fugitive economic offender from defending any civil claim; and
vii. An Administrator will be appointed to manage and dispose of the confiscated property under the Act.
If at any point of time in the course of the proceeding prior to the declaration, however, the alleged Fugitive Economic Offender returns to India and submits to the appropriate jurisdictional Court, proceedings under the proposed Act would cease by law.
All necessary constitutional safeguards in terms of providing hearing to the person through counsel, allowing him time to file a reply, serving notice of summons to him, whether in India or abroad and appeal to the High Court have been provided for.
Further, provision has been made for appointment of an Administrator to manage and dispose of the property in compliance with the provisions of law.
The Bill makes provisions for a Court (‘Special Court'(Courts of Session) under the Prevention of Money-laundering Act, 2002) to declare a person as a Fugitive Economic Offender.
A Fugitive Economic Offender is a person against whom an arrest warrant has been issued in respect of a scheduled offence and who has left India so as to avoid criminal prosecution, or being abroad, refuses to return to India to face criminal prosecution.
A scheduled offence refers to a list of economic offences contained in the Schedule to this Bill.
Such a law assumes significance as major bank frauds have come to light in quick succession of late such as Nirav Modi, Rs. 11,400-crore Punjab National Bank case , Vijay Mallya, who owed more than Rs. 9,000 crore to the public sector banks,
A draft of the Bill, which is in consonance with similar legislation in several countries, was circulated last May seeking comments from all stakeholders.
• As proposed, the Enforcement Directorate will be empowered under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) to initiate the proceedings.

National Financial Reporting Authority
The Cabinet also approved the creation of a National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA), the posts of a Chairperson, three full-time members, and one Secretary for the proposed authority.
Jurisdiction:
The jurisdiction of NFRA for investigation of Chartered Accountants and their firms under section 132 of the Act would also extend to listed companies and large unlisted public companies, the thresholds for which shall be prescribed in the Rules. The Central Government can also refer such other entities for investigation where public interest would be involved.
The inherent regulatory role of ICAI as provided for in the Chartered Accountants Act, 1949 shall continue in respect of its members in general and specifically with respect to audits pertaining to private limited companies, and public unlisted companies below the threshold limit to be notified in the rules.
The Quality Review Board (QRB) will also continue quality audit in respect of private limited companies, public unlisted companies below prescribed threshold and also with respect to audit of those companies that may be delegated to QRB by NFRA.
ICAI shall continue to play its advisory role with respect to accounting and auditing standards and policies by making its recommendations to NFRA.
NFRA has a larger remit than NACAS (The current regulator National Advisory Committee on Accounting Standards), which it is meant to replace. NACAS only recommends accounting standards. NFRA will set accounting and auditing standards, monitor and enforce compliance with the standards, and oversee the accounting profession’s record of ensuring compliance.
The authority will also have the power to investigate misconduct committed by any member or firm of chartered accountants.
It will take away significant regulatory powers from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI). What has worried the CA community the most is the fact that in cases where the NFRA initiates the investigation, no other institute or body can initiate or continue any proceedings.
Why self-regulation is detrimental
• Self-regulation works only up to a point. Society expects that the professions will police themselves effectively as a deviant conduct damages the reputation of an entire community, so there is incentive for them to punish the bad guys.
• But there is a lot to commend in this market-based argument. Unfortunately, the market fails quickly in a self-regulatory mechanism. An individual member engaging in aberrant conduct is unlikely to be deterred unless the punishment is swift and appropriate.
• Neither is probable because the members elect representatives who decide whom to punish and what the punishment should be.
• It is no longer the well-intentioned mechanism at work. The political process takes over and there will inevitably be compromises.
• More importantly, self-regulation hurts those outside the accounting community. Investors and lenders are often victims of dodgy accounting and incompetent auditing.
• They would have no confidence in the fairness of the process when their complaints are heard by other accountants. For this reason, many who have suffered at the hands of accountants are unlikely to have even complained to the ICAI. This is the reason for a relatively low number of complaints.
Why new regulator is desirable?
• That is why in most countries outsiders oversee the work of accountants. The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) in the US and the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) in the UK are examples of effective outside regulation.
• The ICAI and its members will be the biggest beneficiaries of external regulation. When there is greater assurance that improper conduct will be punished, the value of the ICAI’s franchise will go up.
• They don’t have to fear losing clientele. They can expect to be paid more for being strict. They can invest more in training and technology and pay their employees better. Eventually, inferior firms will drop out of the audit market.
• NFRA can enhance investor protection by effective oversight of accounting and auditing. It will fill a critical gap in the current arrangements by enforcing compliance with standards. Dumping NFRA will be a clear case of regulatory capture by the accounting industry.
• Accounting is one of the professions most threatened by automation. The Bank of England’s chief economist said that chances of accountants being replaced are “a whopping 95 per cent”.
Impact:
• The decision is expected to result in improved foreign/domestic investments, enhancement of economic growth, supporting the globalisation of business by meeting international practices, and assist in further development of audit profession.

Quarantine facilities at major seaports, airports
The National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) has urged the government to come up with quarantine facilities at major seaports and airports.
“The government of India has only approved the import of 92 species of ornamental fish but the number of ornamental fish species being imported and in trade is somewhere between 200-300. The huge market for Invasive Alien Species (IAS) is turning out to be major threat to India’s aquatic biodiversity.
States can relax Highway liquor ban: SC
The Supreme Court gave the State governments the discretion to decide, on facts, whether areas covered by local self-governing bodies or areas proximate to municipal pockets should be exempted from the court’s nationwide prohibition on sale of liquor within 500 metres along the highways.
On July 11, 2017, the court exempted municipal areas from the prohibition. It said the ban mainly targeted busy national and State highways inter-connecting cities, towns and villages along.
The purpose of the ban, imposed in a December, 2016 judgment, was to prevent drunken driving along these busy thoroughfares.

National Conference

The 21st national conference on e-Governance was held in Hyderabad. The government of India and Telangana Administrative Reforms department jointly organized the conference with the main theme around- technology for accelerating development.
The two-day conference deliberate on several aspects of the e-governance including its universalization and replication, governing e-governance, best practices, emerging technologies and synergizing role of national and state government.
Rustom-2 Drone

Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully flown it’s Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle RUSTOM 2 in Karnataka. The flight assumes significance as this is the first flight in user configuration with higher power engine.
India at present depends on America and Israel for such predator drones. DRDO is developing within India a medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle RUSTOM 2. It has the capability to fly for 24 hours at a stretch at over 200 km/hr speed, and can, not only conduct sustained surveillance but will be able to destroy enemy targets.
Austrian Open

Reigning Commonwealth Games champion Parupalli Kashyap overcame Malaysia’s June Wei Cheam in straight games in the men’s singles final to clinch the Austrian Open International Challenge, his first international title in over three years.

Khajuraho Dance Festival

The 44th edition of Khajuraho Dance Festival 2018 was held at Khajuraho temple, a UNESCO world heritage site in Madhya Pradesh .Khajuraho Dance Festival is an annual cultural festival that highlights the richness of various Indian classical dance styles. The 6-day festival showcased classical dances including Kathak, Odissi, Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathakali, and Mohiniattam.
Aditya Birla Idea Payments Bank

Aditya Birla Idea Payments Bank Limited (ABIPBL) started operations, making it the fifth payments bank to roll out operations. The Reserve Bank has issued a license to the bank under Section 22 (1) of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949 to carry on the business of payments bank in India.
The roll-out comes at a time when the regulator has issued fresh know your customer norms for payments banks that are likely to increase operational costs for these banks.
5G Trial Successful

Chinese technology giant Huawei and telecom services provider Bharti Airtel announced to have successfully conducted 5G network trial under a test set-up in India. The trial was conducted at Airtel’s Network Experience Centre in Manesar (Gurugram). During the test trial, the speed of more than 3Gbps was achieved. This is the highest measured throughput for a mobile network in 3.5 GHz band with 100MHz bandwidth and end-to-end network latency of approximately 1 msec.
MaldivesPresidential elections

Despite facing these worse situations, Maldives started doing preparations for the upcoming Presidential elections to be held this year. The first round of the elections is to be held in early September 2018. It is mentioned that the authorities welcome the election body to start the preparations for the elections. The Government took note of its announcement to hold the first round of Presidential elections during early September and encouraged all relevant stakeholders to offer the Commission their full, unreserved support for the conduct of their work.
1st International Solar Alliance

India will host the first International Solar Alliance (ISA) summit on 11th March 2018. It will be attended by French President Emmanuel Macron and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. The summit will be held in Delhi. The ISA aims to launch 121 projects during the summit.
During the summit, two new programmes will be inaugurated on- Scaling Solar E-Mobility and Storage, and Rooftop Solar.
Ombudsman For NBFCs

The Reserve Bank of India has launched Ombudsman Scheme for non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) for redressal of complaints against them. The scheme will provide a cost-free and expeditious complaint redressal mechanism relating to deficiency in the services by NBFCs covered under the scheme.
The scheme will cover all deposit-taking NBFCs, and based on the experience gained. The offices of the NBFC ombudsmen will function at four metro centers – New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai.
Dhanush Missile

India successfully test-fired the nuclear-capable surface-to-surface Dhanush ballistic missile with a strike range of 350 km from a naval ship off Odisha coast. This naval variant of the indigenously-developed Prithvi-II missile was test-fired from the ship positioned near Paradip in the Bay of Bengal. It was developed bt the Defence Research and Development Organisation. ‘Dhanush’ missile is is capable of carrying a payload of 500 kg and hitting both land and sea-based targets.
YH Malegam To Monitor Bad Loans

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) constituted an expert committee under the chairmanship of YH Malegam (former member of the Central Board of Directors of RBI.)to look into a range of issues relating to classification of bad loans, rising incidents of frauds and effectiveness of audits.

Paytm Launches Insurance Companies

Digital payments startup Paytm launched two insurance companies, Paytm Life Insurance and Paytm General Insurance. Paytm Founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma, CFO Madhur Deora, and Shankar Prasad Nath are the three signatory stakeholders in both the companies.
National Agriculture Market

Agriculture Minister affairs Radha Mohan Singh launched six new features in the National Agriculture Market (e-NAM) platform to make it more user-friendly. The six new features of e-NAM platform includes-
1. MIS dashboard for better analysis, 2. BHIM payment facility by traders, 3. Mobile payment facility by traders, 4. Enhanced features on mobile app such as gate entry and payment through mobile, 5. Integration of farmer’s database, and 6. e-Learning module. e-NAM was launched in 2016 with the objective of providing competitive and remunerative price to farmers for their products through an online competitive bidding process. Currently, 479 mandis across 14 states and 01 union territory are covered under it.
Pact With Amazon India

Uttar Pradesh’s Khadi and Village Industries Board signed a pact with Amazon India to facilitate online selling of Khadi products. As part of a MoU, Amazon India will educate, train and enable rural khadi artisans to directly sell their products to Amazon.in customers across the country under the brand of UP Khadi.
Chandrayaan-2

According to the Union Minister of State of the Atomic Energy and Space, Dr. Jitendra Singh, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is planning to launch Chandrayan-2 Mission around April 2018. It is the country’s second mission to the moon. Chandraayan-2 is a challenging mission as for the first time we will carry an orbiter, a lander and a rover to the moon. Chairman of Isro K Sivan stated that the total cost of the Chandrayaan 2 mission will be about Rs 8 billion. The window for launch is open until October 2018.
Sanjiv Bajaj

Business consultancy firm EY named Bajaj Finserv’s Sanjiv Bajaj as the entrepreneur for 2017. Sanjiv Bajaj will now represent India at the EY World Entrepreneur of the Year award (WEOY) in Monte Carlo. The company also conferred E. Sreedharan, who spearheaded metro projects in Delhi, Kolkata, Kochi, and Lucknow, with the lifetime achievement award. The awardees were selected by a nine-member jury led by Sun Pharmaceuticals’ managing director Dilip Shanghvi.
Artificial Intelligence Centre

In a first in the country, the Maharashtra government will be setting up an institute for artificial intelligence (AI) in Mumbai. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis will unveil the plan for the institute during the Magnetic Maharashtra Summit and at the Global Economic Conference in Canada in March 2018.
Women to start business without permission

Women in Saudi Arabia can now open their own businesses without the consent of a husband or male relative. The policy change, announced by the Saudi government also marks a major step away from the strict guardianship system that has ruled the country for decades. The Country’s Ministry of Commerce and investment said on its website that women can now launch their own businesses and benefit from governmental e-services without having to prove consent from a guardian.

Virgin Hyperloop-
The hyperloop system will also have the potential for the rapid movement of palletized freight and light cargo between the Port of Mumbai and Pune, creating a robust backbone for on-demand deliveries, supply chains, and next-generation logistics.
Hyperloop One can help India become a global transportation pioneer and forge a new world-changing industry.”
The hyperloop route will link central Pune, Navi Mumbai International Airport, and Mumbai in 25-minutes, connecting 26 million people and creating a thriving, competitive megaregion. The high-capacity passenger and cargo hyperloop route eventually will support 150 million passenger trips annually, saving more than 90 million hours of travel time, and providing citizens with greater opportunities and social and economic mobility.

The Pune-Mumbai route could result in USD $55 billion (INR 350,000 crores) in socio-economic benefits (time savings, emissions and accident reduction, operational cost savings, etc.) over 30 years of operation, according to an initial pre-feasibility study completed by Virgin Hyperloop One. The 100% electric, efficient hyperloop system will ease severe expressway congestion and could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 150,000 tons annually.
“With Virgin Hyperloop One, we can create a sustainable infrastructure that will enhance the State of Maharashtra’s competitiveness and attract new investment and businesses
Atal Bhoojal Yojana.
The Government of India is going to launch a Water Conservation scheme- Atal Bhoojal Yojana. The government has the plan to boost conservation of ground water with a fund of Rs.6,000 crores. By the implementation of this scheme ground water will recharge consequently increasing the level of ground water. The fund for this project will be raised by the Ministry of Finance and the World Bank.

Under this scheme, ground water will recharge and hence it will provide sufficient water for the use of agriculture purposes because in the past several years the ground water has decreased to a great extent. This scheme will also revive the water bodies like rivers so that the level of ground water can be increased especially in the rural areas.
The water available in the Ganga River will be used under this scheme “Atal Bhoojal Yojana” to increase the ground. The Ministry of Water resource is eagerlessly working on it, once done the Ministry of finance will approve the funds for the scheme. The scheme will be implemented all over the India. . The cabinet committee has set a fund of Rs.6,000 crore for this scheme but yet to get the approval from the ministry of Finance. Government of India has not announced any official date for the launch of this scheme.

As we know that our farmers are facing acute shortage of ground water for the past several years this scheme “Atal Bhoojal Yojana” will surely help those who are in the need of pure ground water. The Government of India will launch the scheme once funds are approved by the Ministry of Finance.
World Sustainable Development Summit 2018

Prime Minister Narendra Modi formally inaugurated the World Sustainable Development Summit 2018 in New Delhi’s Vigyan Bhawan. Organised by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), the three-day summit saw participation from over 41 countries, bringing together different stakeholders in the fields of sustainable development, energy and environment sectors.
At the G-20 Summit in Germany last year, PM Modi had stressed on the need to be forthcoming on climate change action adding that developing countries must have enough room to grow.
1. 11:28AM
16 Feb, 18

New class of antibiotics
Scientists trawling through thousands of soil samples have discovered a whole new class of antibiotics(new class of antibiotics called malacidins) capable of killing drug-resistant bacteria.
The chemical, which has been called malacidin, appears to be non-toxic in humans and effective in tackling the hospital superbug MRSA, raising hopes that it could be used to develop a new treatment.
Scientists say antimicrobial resistance – the ability of diseases to fight back against and ultimately become immune to known treatments – represents one of the greatest threats to humanity.
Finding new antibiotics is key to staying one step ahead of bacteria threats, but only one new class – teixobactin – has been discovered in the last 33 years.
KP Sharma Oli
KP Sharma Oli was sworn in as Nepal’s prime minister for the second time, weeks after his Left alliance with former Maoist rebels swept the historic parliamentary polls, kindling hopes for much-needed political stability in the Himalayan nation.
President Bidya Devi Bhandari administered the oath of office and secrecy to 65-year-old Oli at a function held at President’s Office, Shital Niwas, in Maharajgunj. He is the 41st prime minister of Nepal.

Known for his pro-China stance, Oli had served as the country’s prime minister from October 11, 2015 to August 3, 2016.

His PM candidacy was supported by the UCPN-Maoists, Rastriya Prajatantra Party Nepal, and Madhesi Rights Forum-Democratic along with 13 other small parties.

Earlier, former prime minister and Nepali Congress president Sher Bahadur Deuba had addressed the nation and submitted his resignation to the president.
Cyril Ramaphosa,
Head of ruling African National Congress (ANC) has sworn in as new President of South Africa. Ramaphosa, 65, was formerly Zuma’s deputy president. He was elected leader of the ruling ANC in December, narrowly defeating Zuma’s chosen candidate, his ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
• The new president’s resume includes both politics and business. Ramaphosa is one of South Africa’s richest men, with an estimated net worth of $450 million.


Illicit trafficking in drugs

The ‘Assistance to States and UTs for Narcotics Control’ scheme has been extended for a further period of 3 years–from 2017-18 to 2019-20–with an estimated budget of Rs 21 crore .
The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) being the national nodal agency for drug administration will process the requests from state governments and UTs for financial assistance for improving their enforcement capabilities in dealing with the supply side of the drug menace .
There are approximately 40 lakh drug addicts in India but the actual figure may be still higher, a Home Ministry official said.The most common drugs of abuse are ‘ganja’, ‘hashish’, ‘opium’ and ‘heroin.
Qingdao City
East China’s Qingdao City will host the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit in June 2018 .
The summit has China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan as full members.

World Government Summit 2018-
The World Government Summit 2018 at Dubai, acknowledged government technology pioneers for providing global solutions to global challenges. The initiatives are focused on creating positive competition to improve and innovate emerging technologies, and the awards are focused on showcasing extraordinary individuals. In this perspective, India showcasing its digital talent won the best emerging technology award was accredited to Aadhaar.

The initiative was achieved through the role played by the government partner, the Indian Identity Authority (UIDAI) of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. The Aadhaar project gave 1.2 billion citizens unique identification card with fingerprint, eye-print and other vital data.

India also won another award for Umang App. India’s Umang was named winner of the Best M-Government Service Award for the Accessible Government category. The application provides users a unified platform that combines government departments and services, facilitating transactions for citizens.

Suspension of Venezuela and Libya
Venezuela and Libya have been suspended from voting in the U.N. General Assembly for the third time in three years because of millions of dollars in unpaid dues to the world body.
According to a letter from Guterres to the Assembly president, Venezuela must pay a minimum of $25,200,296 to restore its voting rights, and Libya must pay at least $6,594,842.
Ranking system for National Sports Federations (NSFs)
The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports is planning a ranking system for National Sports Federations (NSFs). Aimed at inculcating healthy competition between sports bodies, the rankings will be based on the federations’ administrative capability, transparency, talent-spotting ability, and medal count of athletes.
The implementation of the sports code — which, among other things, bars officials over 70 years old — will also be an important yardstick. “

Progress ship

The Soyuz rocket carrying the Progress ship took off from the snow-covered Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan reached its designated orbit several minutes .

The cargo ship is carrying dry cargo, fuel, water, oxygen and air to the crew of the ISS.
It is also carrying equipment for the experimental ICARUS project, an animal tracking system that will be installed on the outer surface of the station.
The launch of the Progress was initially scheduled for Sunday but was postponed at the last minute until Tuesday due to an unspecified problem.
Space industry sources told Russian news agencies that the onboard computer of the Soyuz rocket had to be replaced.

Stubble burning
In an attempt to check the dangerous trend of stubble burning, the Punjab government has decided to make use of Super Straw Management System while using the combine harvester machines mandatory for harvesting the paddy (rice) crop. Super SMS be attached to combine harvesters which cuts the paddy straw into small pieces and spreads the same. Therefore farmers are not required to burn the paddy straw before sowing the next crop.

“These instructions are aimed at saving the environment from air pollution caused by stubble burning,”
The India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2017
India’s tree and forest cover has registered an increase of 1% or 8,021 sq. km in two years since 2015, according to the latest assessment by the government.The India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2017 was released by Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan .
According to the report, the total forest cover is 7,08,273 sq. km, which is 21.54% of the total geographical area of the country. Forest and tree cover combined is 8,02,088 sq. km or 24.39% of the total geographical area.
The Environment Ministry said in the latest assessment that very dense forest in India has also increased by 1.36% as compared to 2015. ISFR is released every two years.

The Madhya Pradesh (77,414 sq. km) has the largest forest cover in the country in terms of area, followed by Arunachal Pradesh (66,964 sq. km) and Chhattisgarh (55,547 sq. km).
In terms of percentage of forest cover with respect to the total geographical area, Lakshadweep with (90.33%) has the highest forest cover, followed by Mizoram (86.27%) and Andaman and Nicobar Island (81.73%) .
The top five States where maximum forest cover has increased are Andhra Pradesh (2,141 sq. km), Karnataka (1,101 sq. km), Kerala (1,043 sq. km), Odisha (885 sq. km) and Telangana (565 sq. km).
The survey, which has for the first time assessed water bodies, said that these bodies inside forest cover have increased by 2,647 sq. km during last decade.
It said Maharashtra (432 sq. km), Gujarat (428 sq. km), Madhya Pradesh (389 sq. km) are top three states showing increase in water bodies within forest areas.
The five States where forest cover has decreased most are Mizoram (531 sq. km), Nagaland (450 sq. km), Arunachal Pradesh (190 sq. km), Tripura (164 sq. km) and Meghalaya (116 sq. km).
Ministry officials said that these States are in the Northeast where the total forest cover is very high — more than 70% in each State.
The main reasons for the decrease are shifting cultivation, other biotic pressures, rotational felling, diversion of forest lands for developmental activities, submergence of forest cover, agriculture expansion and natural disasters, they said.
The present assessment also reveals that 15 States and Union Territories (UTs) have above 33% of the geographical area under forest cover.
Out of these States and UTs, Mizoram, Lakshadweep, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Manipur have more than 75% forest cover, while eight — Tripura, Goa, Sikkim, Kerala, Uttarakhand, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Chhattisgarh and Assam have forest cover between 33% and 75%.

Various Key Terms:
Canopy and Canopy Density
The branches cover and foliage formed by the crown of trees is called Canopy. The percentage area of land covered by the canopy of trees is called Canopy Density.
Recorded Forest Area and Forest Blank
The region recorded as ‘forest’ in the Government document/report (Legal Forest) is called Forest Area or Recorded Forest Area. The empty spaces or the patches within the forest area with little or no trees are called Forest Blank.
Forest Cover:
All the land area more than one (1) hectare and with canopy density of more than 10% (both under the government and private) is called Forest Cover.
Types of Forest Cover:

Scrubs: The degraded forest land with canopy density of less than 10% is called scrubs.
Open Forest: The lands with canopy density of 10-40% are called open forest.
Moderately Dense Forest (MDF): The lands with canopy density of 40- 70% are called MDF.
Very dense Forest (VDF): The lands with canopy density of 70% and above are called VDF.

Carbon Sink: It is defined as the carbon stored in the ecosystem of the forest especially in living biomass and soil.

Wealthiest cities globally

Major industries in the city include financial services, real estate and media. The list was topped by New York, with a total wealth of $3 trillion, which is home to the two largest stock exchanges in the world.
Areas around New York such as Connecticut and Long Island also contain a large amount of wealth that is not included in this figure, the report said.

London ranked second in the list with $2.7 trillion, followed by Tokyo ($2.5 trillion), and San Francisco Bay area ($2.3 trillion). Others in the list include Beijing ($2.2 trillion), Shanghai ($2 trillion), Los Angeles ($1.4 trillion), Hong Kong ($1.3 trillion), Sydney ($1 trillion), Singapore ($1 trillion) and Chicago ($988 billion).
India was followed by Toronto at the 13th spot with a total wealth of $944 billion, Frankfurt (14th, $912 billion) and Paris (15th, $860 billion).

With a total wealth of $950 billion, the country’s financial capital Mumbai overtook Toronto, Frankfurt and Paris to notch up a 12th position in New World Wealth’s list of top 15 wealthiest cities globally.

India and Oman signed eight Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs)
India and Oman signed eight Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs), including pacts on tourism and military cooperation.
On Prime Minister Narendra Modi`s last destination of his four-nation tour, the MoUs signed during the visit to Oman`s Muscat were:
1) Agreement on legal and judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters.
2) Agreement on mutual visa exemption for holders of diplomatic, special, service and official passports.
3) MoU on cooperation in the field of Health.
4) MoU for cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.
5) MoU on cooperation between Foreign Service Institute, Ministry of External Affairs, India and Oman Diplomatic Institute.
6) MoU on academic and scholarly cooperation sectors between National Defence College, Sultanate of Oman and the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.
7) MoU in the field of Tourism Cooperation between India and Oman.
8) Annexure to the MoU on Military Cooperation.
Independent debt management office
NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Rajiv Kumar has made a strong case for setting up an independent debt management office for better servicing of loans could lead to substantial reduction in India’s interest payments.

At present, government debt is managed by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). However, for better management of India’s debt servicing obligations, an independent debt management office must be set up. Interest payment is such a large part of the revenue expenditure that better management of debt servicing could substantially reduce interest payment.
A separate agency, which assigns specific responsibilities and is accountable on its own, will lead to a more transparent and efficient system. This is also seen as a necessary step towards deepening of the bond market.

The merits of setting up an independent Debt Management office has been adequately debated for more than two decades now and there is very little scope left for any new deliberations on this. Many developed countries have shifted to independent agencies over the years. And the fact that none of these countries have revisited their decision or have asked central banks to reassume the responsibilities of debt management further reinforces the sustainable advantages of such a transition.

MoUs India-Pallestine
In keeping with India’s role as a major development aid partner for Palestine, the two sides signed six memorandums of understanding, including in the areas of health and education, following a bilateral meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas .
An MoU was signed for setting up of an India-Palestine super-specialty hospital at Beit Sahour in Bethelhem governorate at a cost of $30 million.
A second MoU was signed for construction of the India-Palestine centre for empowering women called “Turathi” at a cost of $5 million.
Another MoU was signed for setting up of a new National Printing Press at Ramallah at a cost of $5 million.
Two MoUs worth $1.1 million and $1 million envisage construction of two schools at Tamoon village in Tubas governorate and Muthalth Al Shuhada village respectively.
A sixth MoU was signed for the construction of an additional floor at Jawahar Lal Nehru School for Boys at Abu Dees.
President Mahmoud Abbas has conferred ‘Grand Collar of the State of Palestine’ on Prime Minister Narendra for his key contribution to promote relations between India and Palestine. PM Modi is the first Indian Prime Minister to make an official visit to Palestine. The Grand Collar is the highest order given to foreign dignitaries – Kings, Heads of State/Government and persons of similar rank. It has in the past been awarded to King Salman of Saudi Arabia, King Hamad of Bahrain, President Xi Jinping of China, amongst others.

National Deworming Day

National Deworming Day The National Deworming Day is observed every year across India on Feb 10 to combat parasitic worm infections among preschool and school-age children across India. This year is the fourth edition of the observance of this day after it was launched in 2015 by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW).
The major goal of the campaign is to deworm all the school going children (preschool and school) between the ages of 1-19 years in order to improve their overall health, cognitive development, nutritional status and quality of life. On this day, Albendazole tablets are given to all targeted children.
Dosage of half tablet to 1-2 years children and one full tablet for 2-19 years is given. Govt to establish National Women Entrepreneurship Council (NWEC) The Union Ministry of Women and Child Development is planing to establish National Women Entrepreneurship Council (NWEC). NWEC will be umbrella organization for socio-economic gender parity, financial inclusion and economic empowerment of women in India and to promote entrepreneurship among women.

Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana
With a firm focus of completing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream project “Housing for All by 2022”, the Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs has sanctioned the construction of 1,86,777 houses. was introduced by Narendra Modi in 2015, with the aim of providing affordable houses to urban poor population in India.
The total investment outlay for this project is Rs 111.69 billion, with central assistance of Rs 27.97 billion. Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand and Orissa are some of the states that will be benefitted under this scheme.
National Heritage and Culture Festival ‘Janadriyah’
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj met Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz, who inaugurated the prestigious National Heritage and Culture Festival ‘Janadriyah’ at which India is the guest of honour country.
Swaraj added that the festival provides an opportunity to showcase and further build upon this relationship, the statement said.
Investment to ‘annual turnover
The Union Cabinet has approved change in the basis of classifying Micro, Small and Medium enterprises from ‘investment in plant & machinery/equipment’ to ‘annual turnover’.
This will encourage ease of doing business, make the norms of classification growth oriented and align them to the new tax regime revolving around GST (Goods & Services Tax).
Section 7 of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development (MSMED) Act, 2006 will accordingly be amended to define units producing goods and rendering services in terms of annual turnover as follows:
• A micro enterprise will be defined as a unit where the annual turnover does not exceed five crore rupees;
• A small enterprise will be defined as a unit where the annual turnover is more than five crore rupees but does not exceed Rs 75 crore;
• A medium enterprise will be defined as a unit where the annual turnover is more than seventy five crore rupees but does not exceed Rs 250 crore.
• Additionally, the Central Government may, by notification, vary turnover limits, which shall not exceed thrice the limits specified in Section 7 of the MSMED Act.
At present the MSMED Act (Section 7) classifies the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) on the basis of investment in plant and machinery for manufacturing units, and investment in equipment for service enterprises.
Taking turnover as a criterion can be pegged with reliable figures available e.g. in GST Network and other methods of ascertaining which will help in having a non discretionary, transparent and objective criteria and will eliminate the need for inspections, make the classification system progressive and evolutionary, help in overcoming the uncertainties associated with the classification based on investment in plant & machinery/equipment and employment, and improve the ease of doing business.

Vinay Sheel Oberoi Committee
The Union Ministry of Defence (MoD) has constituted 13-member Raksha Mantri Advisory Committee on Ministry of Defence Capital Projects (RMCOMP). It will be headed by former secretary Vinay Sheel Oberoi. The committee will monitor and expedite capital acquisition projects for modernisation of armed forces and bolster armed forces preparedness.
Transgender Welfare Board:
Maharashtra state will be the first state to have Transgender Welfare Board.The state government will construct TWB within one month and a provision of Rs. 5 crores for the welfare of the transgender community.The board for transgenders will be working for welfare for transgenders in various areas like education, employment, housing, and health scheme. It will also take care of Constitutional and human rights of transgenders.
Rhododendron Park:

Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prema Khandu laid the foundation stone for Rhododendron Park in Tawang.He also carried out plantation drive of different varieties of Rhodos. Tawang is home to 50+ different varieties of Rhodos.
First Hawk-i Flight:
The Hindustan Aeronautics Limited has developed the first flight of Hawk-i with indigenous Real Time Operating System (RTOS).Hawk-i is the first indigenous RTOS developed in India from scratch and certified by Center for Military Airworthiness and Certification (CEMILAC).The RTOS is the system software which provides a standard run-time environment for real-time applications execution in a safe and reliable manner.

World’s Busiest International Airport
Dubai International Airport has held on to its No 1 ranking as the world’s busiest airport for international travel, after seeing around 88.2 million passengers in 2017.Dubai International Airport first surpassed London Heathrow as the world’s busiest airport for international traffic in 2014.
Same-Sex Marriage:
Bermuda has abolished same-sex marriage less than a year after it was legalized, replacing same-sex unions with domestic partnerships & became the first country to abolish same-sex marriage.Bermuda’s governor John Rankin approved a bill reversing the right of gay couples to marry, despite a supreme court ruling last year authorising same-sex marriage.
Link Base Rate with MCLR:
The Reserve Bank of India will link the base rate with the MCLR from 1st of April 2018 to ensure expeditious transmission of its policy rate to borrowers.The RBI had introduced the Marginal Cost of Funds based Lending Rates (MCLR) system with effect from 1st April 2016, the Central bank observed that a large proportion of bank loans continue to be linked to Base Rate.
The marginal cost of funds based lending rate (MCLR) refers to the minimum interest rate of a bank below which it cannot lend, except in some cases allowed by the RBI. It is an internal benchmark or reference rate for the bank. MCLR actually describes the method by which the minimum interest rate for loans is determined by a bank – on the basis of marginal cost or the additional or incremental cost of arranging one more rupee to the prospective borrower.
Ombudsman for Non-Banking Finance Companies:
The Reserve Bank of India announced setting up ombudsman for addressing customer grievances in the non-banking finance companies. The rules will be laid out by the end of February 2018.RBI will start with deposit-taking NBFCs and widen the scope to cover NBFCs with asset size of Rs 100 crore. There are around 20 banking ombudsmen have been appointed with offices mostly in state capitals.

‘Prime Minister’s Research Fellows
The Union Cabinet has approved implementation of ‘Prime Minister’s Research Fellows (PMRF)’ scheme at a total cost of Rs.1650 crore for a period of seven years beginning 2018-19.
The Prime Minister has emphasized the importance of innovation and technology for the progress and development of the nation. This fellowship scheme is key to realizing his vision of development through innovation. The scheme has been announced in the Budget Speech 2018-19.
Under this scheme, the best students who have completed or are in the final year of B. Tech or Integrated M.Tech or M.Sc. in Science and Technology streams from IISc/IITs/NITs/IISERs/IIITs will be offered direct admission in PhD programme in the IITs/IISc. Such students, who fulfill the eligibility criteria, and shortlisted through a selection process, as laid down in the PMRF Guidelines, will be offered a fellowship of Rs.70,000/- per month for the first two years, Rs.75,000/- per month for the 3rd year, and Rs.80,000/- per month in the 4th and 5th years. Apart from this, a research grant of Rs.2.00 lakh will be provided to each of the Fellows for a period of 5 years to cover their foreign travel expenses for presenting research papers in international conferences and seminars. A maximum of 3000 Fellows would be selected in a three year period, beginning 2018-19.
The scheme will go a long way in tapping the talent pool of the country for carrying out research indigenously in cutting edge science and technology domains. The research under the Scheme will address our national priorities at the one hand and shortage of quality faculty in the premier educational institutions of the country, on the other.

Minamata Convention on Mercury-Effective -16 Aug-2017
The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister has approved the proposal for ratification of Minamata Convention on Mercury and depositing the instrument of ratification enabling India to become a Party of the Convention.
The Minamata Convention on Mercury is an international treaty designed to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercuryand mercury compounds. This Convention was a result of three years of meeting and negotiating, after which the text of the Convention was approved by delegates representing close to 140 countries on 19 January 2013 in Geneva and adopted and signed later that year on 10 October 2013 at a Diplomatic Conference held in Kumamoto, Japan. The Convention is named after the Japanese city Minamata.
This naming is of symbolic importance as the city went through a devastating incident of mercury poisoning. It is expected that over the next few decades, this international agreement will enhance the reduction of mercury pollution from the targeted activities responsible for the major release of mercury to the immediate environment.
The approval entails Ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury along with flexibility for continued use of mercury-based products and processes involving mercury compound up to 2025.
The Minamata Convention on Mercury will be implemented in the context of sustainable development with the objective to protect human health and environment from the anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds.
The Convention protects the most vulnerable from the harmful effects of mercury and also protects the developmental space of developing countries. Therefore, the interest of the poor and vulnerable groups will be protected.
The Minamata Convention on Mercury will further urge enterprises to move to mercury-free alternatives in products and non-mercury technologies in manufacturing processes. This will drive research & development, and promote innovation.

India and China for the Avoidance of Double Taxation
The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval for signing and ratification of protocol amending the Agreement between India and China for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to taxes on income.
Besides other changes, the Protocol updates the existing provisions for exchange of information to the latest international standards. Further the Protocol will incorporate changes required to implement treaty related minimum standards under the Action reports of Base Erosion & Profit shifting (BEPS) Project, in which India had participated on an equal footing. Besides minimum standards, the Protocol will also bring in changes as per BEPS Action reports as agreed upon by two sides.

Separate flag for the state-

The Karnataka government, on July 18, had constituted a nine-member committee asking it to submit a report on the possibility of designing a separate flag for the state.
“We have formed a committee to decide on the state flag. It’ll decide if the same flag should continue or if changes are required. They will submit a report on the same and then we will take the final call,” Siddaramaiah said.
The nine-member committee was constituted after a group of people including Journalist-writer and president of Karnataka Vidyavardhaka Sangha, Dharward, Patil Puttappa and social worker Bheemappa Gundappa Gadada made a representation in this regard to the state government.
Earlier in the day, Siddaramaiah also participated in the 62nd Karnataka Rajyotsava celebrations in Bengaluru’s Kanteerava stadium.

Development of Solar Cities”

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy under its scheme “Development of Solar Cities” has approved/sanctioned 60 Cities including 13 Pilot and 5 Model Cities up to 12th Five-year Plan period.

“pay as you use

With the aim to execute “pay as you use” tolling in India, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) will start a pilot project on the Delhi-Mumbai Highway to study and implement the ability of the system in the country.

The project to be run for one year involves implementing a satellite-based electronic toll collection system running on GPS/GSM technology for around 500 commercial vehicles on the Delhi-Mumbai National Highway.

“Working on a combination of mobile telecommunication technology (GSM) and the satellite-based Global Positioning System, the proposed tolling system would be able to deduct money from a vehicle account, credit the money to the concessionaire within one day and open the toll gate,” according to the Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways.

Pelican Festival
State government has decided to hold the first-of-its kind, one-day Pelican Festival at the Atapaka Bird Sanctuary on Kolleru, one of the largest freshwater lakes in the country, on Feb 4. Officials are making elaborate arrangements to attract tourists for the ‘Pakshula Panduga’
ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup 2018

India defeated Australia by eight wickets to win the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup 2018 title in Bay Oval, Tauranga Nuzealand , lifting the trophy for a record fourth time. Manjot Kalra scored an unbeaten 101 to guide India to victory.

With the win, India end the tournament as the only unbeaten side. They had previously won the title in 2000, 2008 and 2012.

CriSidEx-

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has launched CriSidEx, India’s first sentiment index for micro and small enterprises (MSEs) developed jointly by credit rating body CRISIL and Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) .

CriSidEx is a composite index based on a diffusion index of eight parameters and measures MSE business sentiment on a scale of zero (extremely negative) to 200 (extremely positive).

Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahaabhiyan (KUSUM) scheme-

The Centre has announced a 1.4 lakh-crore scheme for promoting decentralised solar power production of up to 28,250 MW to help farmers .

The Centre will spend 48,000 crore on the ten-year scheme which was announced in the Union Budget 2018-19. Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahaabhiyan or KUSUM scheme would provide extra income to farmers, by giving them an option to sell additional power to the grid through solar power projects set up on their barren lands .It would help in de-dieselising the sector as also the DISCOMS .India had about 30 million farm pumps that include 10 million pumps running.

MRT

The first British baby made with the DNA of three people could be born next year after the UK’s fertility regulator gave the green light for clinics to seek licences for the procedure.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) announced  that it would accept applications from clinics wanting to offer the controversial therapy after it met to consider the latest scientific evidence for the safety of the procedure.

MRT was developed to help women with mutations in the DNA of their mitochondria to have healthy babies. Mitochondria are tiny battery-like structures that sit inside cells and provide energy for the tissues. Cells can have hundreds of mitochondria which are passed on solely from mother to child.

About one in 10,000 newborns are affected by mitochondrial disease. Many of these children die young, as the mutations cause the brain, heart, muscles and other energy-demanding tissues to fail.

Task force for artificial intelligence (AI)

The Department of Defence Production  constituted a task force headed by Tata Sons Chairman N Chandrasekaran to study use of artificial intelligence to provide military superiority apart from driving technology-driven economic growth.

Experts believe that future progress of artificial intelligence (AI) has potential to have transformative impact on national security. It is also seen that AI is essentially a dual use technology. While it can fuel technology driven economic growth, it also has potential to provide military superiority. India has a strong talent pool of engineers which are advantages which need to be leveraged

Global Democracy Index

The Democracy Index is an index compiled by the UK-based company the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) .The index ranks 165 independent states and two territories on the basis of five categories: electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, the functioning of government, political participation and political culture. The list has been divided into four broad categories—full democracy, flawed democracy, hybrid regime and authoritarian regime.

India has slipped to 32nd place on an annual Global Democracy Index-2017 amid “rise of conservative religious ideologies” and increase in vigilantism and violence against minorities as well as other dissenting voices.

While Norway has again topped the list, followed by Iceland and Sweden, compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), India has moved down from 32nd place last year and remains classified among “flawed democracies”.

The US (ranked 21), Japan, Italy, France, Israel, Singapore, and Hong Kong have also been named among ‘flawed democracies’. The EIU is the research and analysis division of the UK- based media behemoth The Economist Group. Created in 1946, the EIU describes itself as having over 70 years of experience “in helping businesses, financial firms and governments to understand how the world is changing and how that creates opportunities to be seized and risks to be managed”.

The top three positions on the list are occupied by Nordic countries—Norway, Iceland and Sweden. New Zealand is at fourth and Denmark at fifth place, while others in top ten include Ireland, Canada, Australia, Finland and Switzerland.

Only top 19 countries have been classified as ‘full democracies’, while the hybrid regimes include Pakistan (110th), Bangladesh (92nd), Nepal (94th) and Bhutan (99th). Those named as ‘authoritarian regimes’ include China (139th), Myanmar (120th), Russia (135th) and Vietnam (140th). North Korea is ranked the lowest at 167th, while Syria is a notch better at 166th place.

Coach factory in Maharashtra’s Latur district

The Indian Railways  announced the setting up of a coach factory in Maharashtra’s Latur district to manufacture EMUs (electric multiple units) for suburban trains and coaches for metros.

The decision was taken  a day before the Union Budget 2018-19 is to be presented in Parliament, during a meeting between union railways minister Piyush Goyal and Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis in Mumbai .

Scorpene class submarine Karanj

The Indian Navy today launched the third Scorpene class submarine Karanj which has been constructed by shipbuilder Mazagon Dock Limited .

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has last month commissioned the first of the six Scorpene-class submarine Kalvari into the Indian Navy and said its induction was a big step in the country’s defence preparedness. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had then said that submarine building is a sophisticated and exacting craft which very few countries possess in their industrial capacity.

 

The GeM 2.0

   Government e Marketplace (GeM), has been envisaged by Government of India as the National Procurement Portal of India. GeM strives to keep pace with ever-evolving technological challenges and stake holder aspirations and in line with this endeavour, GeM is coming up with a scaled up third version. 

The GeM 2.0 was launched as a pilot in August 2016 and its success led to this massive transformation program – GeM 3.0 which would offer standardised and enriched catalogue management, powerful search engine, real time price comparison, template-based Bid and RA creation, demand aggregation, e-EMD, e-PBG, user rating, advanced MIS and analytics and more.

Some of the notable enhancements in the 3.0 version:

  • Market Based generic requirements across all government agencies
  • Standardisation of specifications of both products and services enabling empirical price comparability
  • Completely transparent transactions across all ranges
  • Generic standards established through universal service levels and cost comparison enabled
  • Open and dynamic market place with rating based on performance of user on website

Mihir’

The High Performance Computer (HPC) System named Mihir ‘ (meaning ‘Sun’)has been inaugurated at the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF)  Noida  .

 The HPC facility will be India’s largest HPC facility in terms of peak capacity and performance and will propel India’s ranking from the 368th position to around the top 30 in the Top 500 list of HPC facilities in the world.

The new HPC facility is expected to improve the following services:

  • Weather forecasts at block level over India which can predict extreme weather events.
  • High resolution seasonal/extended range forecasts of active/break spells of Monsoon.
  • Very high resolution coupled models for prediction of cyclones with more accuracy and lead time.
  • Ocean state forecasts including marine water quality forecasts at very high resolution.
  • Tsunami forecasts with greater lead time.
  • Air quality forecasts for various cities

Legion of Honour

Veteran Bengali actor Soumitra Chatterjee received the highest French civilian award, the Legion of Honour, in a ceremony in Kolkata . The insignia of Knight of the Legion of Honour (Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur) was conferred on the actor by Alexandre Ziegler, France’s Ambassador to India.

Acclaimed filmmaker and Chatterjee’s mentor Satyajit Ray had received this honour in 1987 from Francois Mitterrand, the President of France at the time.

Zero Budget Natural Farming project

The state of Himachal Pradesh launched the Zero Budget Natural Farming project  with the motive that farmers of the state would adopt organic farming.

Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF), which is a set of farming methods, and also a grassroots peasant movement, has spread to various states in India. It has attained wide success in southern India, especially the southern Indian state of Karnataka where it first evolved.

 

Zero budget’ farming promises to end a reliance on loans and drastically cut production costs, ending the debt cycle for desperate farmers. The word ‘budget’ refers to credit and expenses, thus the phrase ‘Zero Budget’ means without using any credit, and without spending any

 

Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C),

 To deal with cyber crimes such as financial frauds, circulation of communal…, the Union Home Ministry is planning to set up an apex coordination centre , has asked states to establish a similar mechanism in every district.

It has also released Rs 83 crore for setting up of a cyber forensic training laboratory-cum-training centre for police officials in each state. The funds were given under the Cyber Crime Prevention against Women and Children Scheme, a Home ministry .

The apex Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C) would be set up in Delhi.

It would coordinate with state governments and union territories, and closely monitor the cyber space and social media with due emphasis on vernacular content.

The centre would also block those websites which flout Indias laws and circulate child porn, and communally and racially sensitive content.

The official, requesting anonymity, said that the centre would maintain a list of suspects and the leads generated during investigations in cyber crime cases would be shared with law enforcement agencies through a “secured internal network”.

 

The 2018 Australian Open

 Australian Open is the first Grand Slam tournament of the 2018 season. Roger Federer was the defending champion in the men’s singles event and successfully retained his title, defeating Marin Čilić in the final

 Caroline Wozniacki won the women’s title, defeating Simona Halep in the final.

 

Quota in  government jobs

People with autism, mental illnesses, intellectual disability and victims of acid attacks will now get 4% quota in central government jobs .

One per cent posts each shall be also reserved for people suffering from autism, intellectual disability, specific learning disability and mental illness . 

In case of direct recruitment, four per cent of the total number of vacancies, up from the existing three per cent, in groups A, B and C shall be reserved for people with benchmark disabilities .
Benchmark disability means a person with not less than forty per cent of a specified disability. 
Intellectual disability is a condition characterised by significant limitations both in intellectual functioning such as reasoning, learning and problem solving, and in adaptive behaviour that covers a range of everyday skills .

Stree“Swabhimaan”

  • The project focuses on training and establishing a sanitary napkin unit for women and girls to promote menstrual hygiene and to support village level entrepreneurs and SHG groups.
  • The intervention proposes to create ongoing livelihood options for 35000 women who will be engaged in the manufacturing process by developing their own entrepreneurial ventures at their CSC Centre.
  • The product (sanitary napkin) will be sold under the “Swabhimaan” brand name and the Organization with the help of VLEs will obtain the trade license for marketing the sanitary napkins at a subsidized rate.
  • The project also has a menstrual hygiene related awareness generation component and aims to increase usage of sanitary napkins among rural girls in schools and colleges by making the napkins available at the schools.

 

The Padma Awards 

A total of 85 people belonging to various disciplines have been named for the highest civilian awards of the country – the Padma Awards in three categories — Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri — on the eve of Republic Day. Music director Ilaiyaraaja and cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni are among the 85 personalities named for the 2018 Padma Awards by the Home Ministry .

Padma Vibhushan awardees

  • Illaiyaraja -Art (Music)
  • Ghulam Mustafa Khan- Art (Music)
  • P Parameswaran- Literature and Education

The Padma Bhushan is the third-highest civilian award for distinguished service of high order. Nine people have been named for the award.

Padma Bhushan awardees

  • Pankaj Advani- Sports (Billiards/Snooker)
  • Philipose Mar Chrysostom – Spiritualism
  • Mahendra Singh Dhoni- Sports (Cricket)
  • Alexander Kadakin (Foreigner/Posthumous) – Public Affairs
  • Ramachandran Nagaswamy – Archaeology
  • Ved Prakash Nanda (OCI) – Literature and Education
  • Laxman Pai – Art (Painting)
  • Arvind Parikh – Art (Music)
  • Sharda Sinha – Art (Music)

The Padma Shri, which is the fourth highest award, is conferred for distinguished service in any field.

Padma Shri awardees

  • Abhay Bang and Rani Bang – Medicine
  • Damodar Ganesh Bapat – Social Work
  • Prafulla Govinda Baruah – Literature and Education (Journalism)
  • Mohan Swaroop Bhatia – Art (Folk Music)
  • Sudhanshu Biswas – Social Work
  • Saikhom Mirabai Chanu – Sports (Weightlifting)
  • Pandit Shyamlal Chaturvedi – Literature and Education (Journalism)
  • Jose Ma Joey Concepcion III (Foreigner) – Trade & Industry
  • Langpoklakpam Subadani Devi – Art (Weaving)
  • Somdev Devvarman – Sports (Tennis)
  • Yeshi Dhoden – Medicine
  • Arup Kumar Dutta – Literature and Education
  • Doddarange Gowda – Art (Lyrics)
  • Arvind Gupta – Literature and Education

SARAS

The new upgraded version of SARAS, the indigenous transport aircraft developed by National Aeronautics Laboratory, “successfully” made its maiden flight in Bengaluru  .

SARAS PT1N, a 14-seater passenger aircraft, is an upgraded version of the plane, after the second prototype of SARAS had crashed during a test flight killing all the three crew members on board, on the outskirts of the city near Bidadi in March 2009.                                      

       Budget 2018-19

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley presents general Budget 2018-19 in Parliament.
 
Budget guided by mission to strengthen agriculture, rural development, health, education, employment, MSME and infrastructure sectors
 
Government says, a series of structural reforms will propel India among the fastest growing economies of the world. Country firmly on course to achieve over 8 % growth as manufacturing, services and exports back on good growth path.
 
MSP for all unannounced kharif crops will be one and half times of their production cost like majority of rabi crops: Institutional Farm Credit raised to 11 lakh crore in 2018-19 from 8.5 lakh crore in 2014-15.
 
22,000 rural haats to be developed and upgraded into Gramin Agricultural Markets to protect the interests of 86% small and marginal farmers. 
 
Operation Greens” launched to address price fluctuations in potato, tomato and onion for benefit of farmers and consumers.
 
Two New Funds of Rs10,000 crore announced for Fisheries and Animal Husbandary sectors;   Re-structured National Bamboo Mission gets  Rs.1290 crore.
 
Loans to Women Self Help Groups will increase to Rs.75,000 crore in 2019 from 42,500 crore last year.
  
Outlay on health, education and social protection  will be 1.38 lakh crore. Tribal students to get Ekalavya Residential School in each tribal block by 2022. Welfare fund for SCs gets a boost.
 
World’s largest Health Protection Scheme covering over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families launched with a family limit upto 5 lakh rupees for secondary and tertiary treatment.
 
Fiscal Deficit pegged at 3.5 %, projected at 3.3 % for 2018-19.
 
Rs. 5.97 lakh crore allocation for infrastructure
 
Ten prominent sites to be developed as Iconic tourist destinations
 
NITI Aayog to initiate a national programme on Artificial Intelligence(AI)
 
Centres of excellence to be set up on robotics, AI, Internet of things etc
 
Disinvestment crossed target of Rs 72,500 crore to reach Rs 1,00,000 crore
 
100 percent deduction proposed to companies registered as Farmer Producer Companies with an annual turnover upto Rs. 100 crore on profit derived from such activities, for five years from 2018-19. 
  
Standard Deduction of Rs. 40,000 in place of present exemption for transport allowance and reimbursement of miscellaneous medical expenses. 2.5 crore salaried employees and pensioners to benefit.
 
Relief to Senior Citizens  proposed:-
 
Exemption of interest income on deposits with banks and post offices to be increased from Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 50,000.
  
Proposed to extend Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana up to March, 2020. Current investment limit  proposed to be increased to Rs. 15 lakh from the existing limit of Rs. 7.5 lakh per senior citizen.
 
More concessions for International Financial Services Centre (IFSC),  to promote trade in stock exchanges located in IFSC. 
 
To control cash economy, payments exceeding Rs. 10,000  in  cash made by trusts and institutions to be disallowed and would be subject to tax. 
 
Tax on Long Term Capital Gains exceeding Rs. 1 lakh at the rate of 10 percent, without allowing any indexation benefit. However, all gains up to 31st January, 2018 will be grandfathered.
 
 Proposal to introduce tax on distributed income by equity oriented mutual funds at the rate of 10 percent.

* National Heritage City Development Augmentation Scheme has been undertaken to preserve and protect heritage cities in the country, announces the Finance Minister.

* Government to contribute 12 per cent of EPF contribution for new employees in all sectors: FM.
* Target of 3 lakh crore for lending under PM Mudra Yojana: FM

*  Govt will launch health scheme to cover 10 crore poor families,
* The Government is slowly but steadily progressing towards universal health coverage:

* Government aims to bring 60 crore bank accounts under the Jan Dhan Yojana.

* To tackle brain drain, Jaitley announces scheme to identify bright students pursuing B Tech in premiere engineering institutes, and providing them higher-education opportunities in the IITs and IISc. These students will receive handsome fellowships, and will be expected to dedicate a few hours to teach in higher education institutions weekly.

* Specialised railway university to be set up at Vadodara.

* Integrated BEd programme for teachers: “training of teachers during service is essential.” Technology will be the biggest driver in improving the quality of education.

* Budget allocates money for social security and protection programme for all widows and orphaned children.

* Target to provide all Indians with their own homes by 2022

* Ujjwala scheme to amplify targets, will now provide 8 crore rural women free LPG connections.

* Air pollution in Delhi-NCR has been a cause of concern, govt has proposed subsidised machinery for in-situ management of crop residue in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and NCT Delhi.

* Arun Jaitley proposes a sum of Rs 500 crore for ‘Operation Green’ on the lines of ‘Operation Flood’.

* Food processing sector is going at an average of 8 per cent per annum.

* Arun Jaitley on Minimum Support Price of agricultural products: Only increasing the MSP is not enough, the government will fix the MSP of agricultural products at 1.5 times the market rate.

The Economic Survey-

Gross Domestic Product (GDP): The Central Statistics Office (CSO) has estimated the GDP growth to be 6.5% in 2017-18 as compared to 7% in 2016-17. 

  • Gross Value Added (GVA): The GVA (at constant prices) is estimated at 6.1% in 2017-18 as compared to 6.6% in 2016-17.  The agriculture and industry sectors are expected to grow at 2.1% and 4.4% respectively, while the service sector is estimated to grow at 8.3%. 
  • Inflation: The Consumer Price Index (CPI) based inflation was 3.3% in 2017-18 (April- December).  The average food inflation was 1.2% for the same period.  CPI inflation was below 3% in the first quarter of 2017-18, because of low food inflation, and marginally rose to 3% in the second quarter. 
  •  The fiscal deficit is 3.2% (budget estimate) of GDP in 2017-18 as compared to 3.5% of GDP in 2016-17. 
  • Increase in taxpayers: Under GST, the number of unique indirect taxpayers increased by over 50% (3.4 million).  Voluntary compliance also increased under GST, with 1.7 million voluntary registrants.  13% of the estimated 71 million non-agriculture enterprises were registered under the GST network.
  • GST and states: The distribution of GST base among states is linked to their GSDP, with Maharashtra (16%), Tamil Nadu (10%), Karnataka (9%) having the highest share.  GST data shows that a state’s GSDP per capita has a high correlation with its export share in the GSDP.  Five states account for 70% of India’s exports – Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Telangana.
  • India jumped 30 places and was ranked overall 100 in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report 2018.  However, on contract enforcement it was ranked at 164.  Although the government has taken steps to improve contract enforcement, economic activity is getting affected by high pendency and delays across the legal system.
  • Growth rates of agriculture and allied sectors have been fluctuating: 1.5% in 2012-13, 5.6% in 2013-14, -0.2% in 2014-15, 0.7% in 2015-16, and 4.9% in 2016-17.  The uncertainty in growth in agriculture is because 50% of agriculture is dependent on rainfall. 
  • On account of good monsoon rainfall in 2016-17, there was a rise in food grains and other crops production.  As per the fourth advance estimates for 2016-17, production of food grains is estimated at 275.7 million tonnes, higher by 10.6 million tonnes as compared to 2013-14.
  • Industrial growth: The overall industrial sector growth was 5.8% in the second quarter of 2017-18 as compared to 1.6% in the first quarter.  As per the estimate of national income 2017-18, industrial sector grew at 4.4% and the manufacturing sector grew at 4.6%.  The eight core industries (coal, crude oil, natural gas, petroleum refinery products, fertilizers, steel, cement, and electricity) grew by 4.8% in 2016-17 as compared to 3% in 2015-16.
  • Infrastructure: India requires around USD 4.5 trillion worth of investments till 2040 to develop infrastructure.  As per the current trend, India can raise around USD 3.9 trillion.  The under investment in the infrastructure sector has been due to: (i) collapse of Public Private Partnerships, (ii) stressed balance sheets of private companies, and, (iii) delays in acquisition of land and forest clearances. 

      Services Sector

  • The services sector contributed 55.2% to India’s GVA in 2017-18.  As per the CSO the growth of the services sector is expected to be 8.3% in 2017-18 as compared to 7.7% in 2016-17.  In 15 states, services contribute to more than half of the gross state value added (GSVA).  With a share of 3.4%, India is the eighth largest exporter of commercial services. 

Pink-Color Economic Survey 2017-18 Highlights Gender Issues Against Backdrop of Development Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao; Sukanya Samridhi Yojana and Mandatory Maternity Leave are all Steps in Right Direction, Acknowledges 

 

shutdown of the United States federal government

shutdown of the United States federal government began at midnight EST on Saturday, January 20, 2018, after a failure to pass a relevant legislation funding bill for government operations and agencies.

This stemmed from disputes over the extension of status of persons affected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration policy, and therefore whether those covered under the program should face deportation. There was also a dispute over whether funding should be allocated towards building a Mexico–United States border wall, a keystone policy during Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

This is the first shutdown in United States history to occur while both chambers of Congress as well as the White House are controlled by the same party (in this case the Republicans). The 2018 shutdown began when the Senate failed to approve a House-passed bill to keep the government open. The shutdown began on the first anniversary of Donald Trump taking office.

The U.S. government’s 2018 fiscal year began on October 1, 2017. Because regular appropriations bills to fund the government had not been passed, Congress funded the government through a series of three temporary continuing resolutions. These extended government funding respectively through December 8, 2017, December 22, 2017, and January 19, 2018.

The negotiations on a permanent appropriations bill had become entangled with disputes over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals(DACA) immigration policy. DACA is a U.S. immigration policy that allowed some individuals who entered the country as minors, and had either entered or remained in the country illegally, to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and to be eligible for a work permit. As of 2017, approximately 800,000 individuals were enrolled in the program created by DACA. The policy was established by the Obama Administration through executive action in June 2012 in response to Congress’ failure to pass the DREAM Act. The Trump Administration rescinded DACA in September 2017, setting an expiration date of March 2018, with the stated preference that Congress adopt a legislative solution

he Trump administration announced its intention to minimize the impact of the shutdown. National Park Service (NPS) facilities will generally remain open, although staff will still be furloughed and some areas of parks may be closed if the lack of staff requires it .National monuments in Washington, D.C. will remain open.

 Some agencies may stay open for a limited time by using unspent funds from sources other than annual appropriations, or using fee revenue ., the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it could stay open for a week, and workers from the Department of Energy (DOE) and Department of State (DOS) were told to report to work on Monday.[21]

Unlike in previous shutdowns, the local government in Washington, D.C. will continue operating through the shutdown, due to a provision enacted in the previous

Vessel ‘Vijaya’

The second offshore patrol vessel (OPV) built by the Larsen and Toubro Shipyard near for the Indian Coast Guard is launched recently .The indigenously built vessel ‘Vijaya’, equipped with state-of art radar, navigational and communication system, will be utilised for day and night patrol and surveillance, anti-terrorist, anti-smuggling operations and coastal security, the Coast Guard said.

According to a Rs 1,432 crore contract signed with the Defence Ministry, the L&T Shipyard at Kattupalli, about 45 km from here, would indigenously design and build seven OPVs. The first OPV, the country’s first-ever such defence craft to be built in a private shipyard, was launched in October 2017.

Om Prakash Rawat Appointed New Chief Election Commissioner

 Om Prakash Rawat has been appointed as the next Chief Election CommissionerMr Rawat, who is currently an Election Commissioner, will succeed the outgoing Achal Kumar Joti .Ashok Lavasa, a former finance secretary and an Indian Administrative Service officer of the 1980 batch, has been appointed as an Election Commissioner, to fill up the vacancy left behind by Mr Rawat in the three-member poll panel.

 

Liveability Index

The MoHUA has developed a set of Liveability Standards relevant to Indian cities to generate a Liveability Index and rate cities. The framework has its genesis in the 24 Smart City features contained in the Smart City Proposals and includes 79 indicators (57 core indicators and 22 supporting indicators). These indicators are organised in 15 distinct categories, designed for measuring various institutional, social, economic and physical aspects that affect the quality of life of citizens and determine the liveability of a city, a ministry note said.

The 43rd member of the Australia Group

India  admitted as the 43rd member of the Australia Group, an informal bloc of countries that keeps a tight control over exports of substances used in the making of chemical weapons.

With its admission into the Australia Group, India is now part of three of the four key export control groups in the world. This includes the Missile Technology Control Regime—an informal and voluntary partnership among 35 countries that regulates trade in sensitive equipment and technologies to ensure there is no proliferation of missile and unmanned aerial vehicle technology capable of carrying payloads above 500kg for more than 300km.

 India joined the Wassenaar Arrangement, which is also an informal grouping of 42 countries, exercising control over the export of dual-use goods and technologies.

The only export control group that India is not a part of is the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which controls the export of sensitive nuclear technologies and equipment, with the aim of preventing nuclear weapons’ proliferation.India’s entry into this grouping is blocked by China, which opposes the country’s admission on the grounds that it is not a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Anandiben Patel

“The President of India is pleased to appoint Smt. Anandiben Patel to be the Governor of Madhya Pradesh, with effect from the date she assumes charge of her office,” the Rashtrapati Bhavan announced  .

She has replaced Gujarat governor Om Prakash Kohli, who currently holds additional charge of the office of Governor of Madhya Pradesh.

Disqualification 20 Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLAs

The Election Commission recommened the disqualification 20 Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLAs from Delhi, citing that they held offices of profit. In 2016, the EC had issued show cause notices to 27 AAP MLAs who held offices as parliamentary secretaries, after a petition was filed seeking their disqualification.

President Ram Nath Kovind on Sunday accepted the recommendation of the Election Commission to disqualify 20 MLAs of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the ruling party in the national capital, for holding offices of profit.

Office of profit  is a position in the government which cannot be held by an MLA or an MP. The post can yield salaries, perquisites and other benefits. The origin of this term can be found in the English Act of Settlement, 1701. Under this law, “no person who has an office or place of profit under the King, or receives a pension from the Crown, shall be capable of serving as a member of the House of Commons.” This was instituted so that there wouldn’t be any undue influence from the royal household in administrative affairs.

A  parliamentary secretary is a Member of Parliament who assists a Minister in their duties. Prime Ministers and Chief Ministers usually appoint parliamentary secretaries from their own parties.

According to Articles 102(1)(a) and 191(1)(a) of the Constitution, an MP or MLA is barred from holding an office of profit as it can put them in a position to gain a financial benefit. “A person shall be disqualified for being chosen as, and for being, a member of either House of Parliament, (a) if he holds any office of profit under the Government of India or the Government of any State, other than an office declared by Parliament by law not to disqualify its holder,” says the law.

Under the Representation of People Act too, holding an office of profit is grounds for disqualification.

West Bengal, Karnataka, Telangana, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Punjab, Mizoram and Manipur have had similar incidents. In West Bengal, Telangana and Punjab, the respective High Courts called the appointments “unconstitutional” and struck down the appointments.

The case regarding appointment of parliamentary secretaries is pending in the Karnataka High Court. In Rajasthan, the State passes a Bill in October 2017 to make the posts constitutional, but the validity of this law has been challenged.

Odisha too has appointed MLAs as chairpersons of district planning committees by amending an Act. The Supreme Court struck down The Assam Parliamentary Secretaries (Appointment, Salaries, Allowances and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2004 in July 2017 leading to a wave of resignations in Northeastern states.

 

Digital divide

Digital divide describes the discrepancy between people who have access to and the resources to use new information and communication tools, such as the Internet, and people who do not have the resources and access to the technology.

The term also describes the discrepancy between those who have the skills, knowledge and abilities to use the technologies and those who do not.

There is huge gap of digital divide between rural and urban India where growth is biased in favour of urban areas; according to statistics, more than 75 per cent of the broadband connections in the country are in the top 30 cities

 Knowledge  divide is directly related with digital divide.Internet use is primarily associated with a large section of the English-knowing urban population.

Added to these, the growing population, insufficient funds, affordability, and delays in implementation of government policies and programmes have been some of the challenges that have led to unequal development in the society, which is responsible for digital divide.

 

The southern State of Kerala seems far ahead of all Indian States in breaching the digital divide, if the data generated by Pratham’s Annual Status of Education Report, 2017.

Significantly, 69.8% of the rural youth surveyed in Kerala’s Ernakulam district had used the Internet in the week before the survey. Similarly, 92% had used mobile phones and 60% had used computers in the week leading to the survey. It was also the only district among those surveyed across India where a third of the rural youth had used an ATM.

The surveyed districts of Amritsar and Bhatinda and Maharashtra’s Satara and Ahmednagar also showed decent digital access, though well below Kerala.

West Bengal lay at the other end of the spectrum, faring worst in breaching the digital divide.

Just 17.1% of the rural youth between 14 and 18 in West Bengal’s South 24 Parganas district had used the Internet in the week leading to the survey. Just 21.2% had used a computer and 65.5% had used a mobile phone.

 

GSTCouncil  reduced the rates on 29 goods and 53 categories of services

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council has reduced the rates on 29 goods and 53 categories of services . Some of the services for which the rates have been cut include tailoring (18% to 5%), admission to theme parks (28% to 18%), and petroleum and natural gas mining and exploration (18% to 12%).

 The goods on which the rates have been reduced include biodiesel buses used for public transport (28% to 18%), sugar boiled confectionery, biodiesel, drinking water packed in 20 litre containers (all from 18% to 12%), and LPG supplied to domestic consumers by private distributors (18% to 5%). The new rates would come into effect on January 25.

Regarding easing the compliance burden, Mr. Jaitley said that the Council was considering systems where the invoices of the buyers and sellers could be matched easily.

Cyber Warrior Police Force

The government has decided to set up a Cyber Warrior Police Force (CWPF) to tackle internet-related crimes such as cyber threats, child pornography and online stalking. The CWPF is likely to operate under the National Information Security Policy and Guidelines wing of the Union home ministry’s Cyber and Information Security (CIS) division

It is proposed to be raised on the lines of the Central Armed Police Force. The other two wings under the CIS division are cyber crime and internal security.“It’s a policy decision, and the process has already begun.

Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR)

 Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) is an inclusive global mechanism enabling all those concerned with the future of agriculture and its role in development around the world to come together and address key global needs. GFAR provides an open forum for stakeholders across the agricultural spectrum—from researchers and organizations to farmers—to participate in collaborative discussion and action around the current and future state of agriculture.

Established in 1996, GFAR was formed as a project for resource sharing—a commitment that remains the essential purpose of the Forum. Its headquarters is in Rome, Italy, where it is hosted by FAO. The current Chair of GFAR is Ms. Bongiwe N. Njobe, from South Africa.

The 10th edition of Global Forum for Food & Agriculture was held in Berlin, Germany from 18th -20th January 2018. The theme of this year’s event is “Shaping the future of livestock – sustainably, responsibly, efficiently”. Indian delegation to the event is led by Union Minister of State (MoS) for Agriculture & Farmers Welfare Gajendra Singh Shekhawat.

Cloud computing-

Coud computing is a general term for the delivery of hosted services over the internet . Cloud computing enables companies to consume a compute resource, such as a virtual machine (VM), storage or an application, as a utility — just like electricity — rather than having to build and maintain computing infrastructures in house. Cloud computing boasts several attractive benefits for businesses and end users. Main benefits of cloud computing are:

  • Self-service provisioning:End users can spin up compute resources for almost any type of workload on demand. This eliminates the traditional need for IT administrators to provision and manage compute resources.
  • Elasticity:Companies can scale up as computing needs increase and scale down again as demands decrease. This eliminates the need for massive investments in local infrastructure, which may or may not remain active.
  • Pay per use:Compute resources are measured at a granular level, enabling users to pay only for the reso

 

Maharashtra has come out with a public cloud policy virtually mandating its departments to shift their data storage onto the cloud, creating a USD 2- billion opportunity for the industry. 
Government departments currently have their own data storage facilities, which can be done better and cheaper by private sector vendors, the official said. 

 iCreate centre in Ahmedabad

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu  inaugurated the iCreate centre in Ahmedabad. Called as the International Centre for Entrepreneurship and Technology (iCreate), the venture has been started to promote and nurture entrepreneurs by providing them finance, mentors and technology.

 

 iCreate is a joint venture between Gujarat Mineral Development Corporation Limited (GMDC) and Gujarat Entrepreneurship and Venture Promotion Foundation (GEVPF), iCreate is an independent centre to promote Narendra Modi’s ‘Start-up India’ scheme. The centre aims to provide technology and assistance to “the innovative and imaginative minds in their entrepreneurial journey.”

 

Abolish Haj subsidy

 

A constitutional bench of the Supreme Court had, during the Congress regime in 2012, directed that the Haj subsidy be done away with”. The centre has abolished the Haj subsidy and will instead use the agenda of empowerment of minorities without appeasement. After the expenditure increased, the government will now give the option of the sea route to the passengers along with the air route.

 

The Muslim pilgrims going on Haj from India used to fly at cheaper rates on Air India and the government also provided help to the pilgrims to reach specially designed Haj terminals at the airport along with food and medical care. The announcement was made by Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on 16 January 2018.

 

“The second part of the Supreme Court verdict was that the fund should be utilised for the welfare and education of minorities and I am sure that the government will adhere to this part of the verdict as well”, the Rajya Sabha MP said. “Hence, in the new policy, as per the recommendations of a committee, we have chose to do away with the Haj subsidy gradually”, he addressed the media about the decision to abolish the subsidy.

GIAN course on Sustainable Urban planning

The First Global Initiative on Academic Network GIAN course on Sustainable Urban planning using remote sensing and Geographic Information System, GIS has been launched at Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur’s outreach center in NOIDA.

This course is being conducted under the Global Initiative on Academic Network (GIAN) Program of the Ministry of Human Resource Development and actively supported by NITI Aayog and Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.

This course aims to give participants state-of-the-art remote sensing and GIS skills which will allow them to rise to the challenge of managing the rapidly changing urban environment of Indian cities. Focus will be on issues such as water resource management, water pollution and strategic emplacements for water treatment facilities.

Rajasthan Refinery at Pachpadra in Barmer district

Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the commencement of work for the Rajasthan Refinery at Pachpadra in Barmer district. The Rajasthan Refinery will be the first and one of a kind in the state. The refinery is envisaged as a nine million metric tonnes per annum (MMTA) refinery-cum-petrochemical complex. The estimated cost of the project is said to be over Rs 43,000 crore.

The Raisina Dialogue-

The RD. is a multilateral conference held annually in New Delhi. Since its inception in 2016, the conference has emerged as India’s flagship conference on geopolitics and geo-economics. The conference is hosted by the Observer Research Foundation, an independent think tank, in collaboration with the Ministry of External Affairs of India.

The name “Raisina Dialogue” comes from Raisina Hill, an elevation in New Delhi that is home to the Government of India, as well as the Presidential Palace of India, Rashtrapati Bhava .

The conference is structured as a multi-stakeholder, cross-sectoral discussion, involving a variety of global policymakers including heads of state, cabinet ministers and local government officials. In addition, The Dialogue also welcomes major private sector executives, as well as members of the media and academia. It is designed on the lines of Singapore’s Shangri-La Dialogue.[1]

The third edition of The Raisina Dialogue was held at the Taj Diplomatic Enclave from January 16-18. 

The theme for the 2018 Conference is “Managing Disruptive Transitions: Ideas, Institutions and Idioms”. This theme is designed to explore the shifting dynamics within the global order; where old relationships need new directions, emerging partnerships face unprecedented constraints and the notions of power and sovereignty are challenged. Raisina Dialogue 2018 was attended by following scholars

Name Designation Country
Benjamin Netanyahu Prime Minister of Israel Israel
Narendra Modi Prime Minister of India India
Sushma Swaraj Foreign Minister of India India
S Jaishankar Foreign Secretary (India) India

Vajra Prahar

The joint military exercise ‘Vajra Prahar’ to be held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) in Seattle, in which a 45-member Special Forces team from Indian Army’s Southern Command will train alongside US soldiers in the third week of January.

‘Vajra Prahar’ is a Indo-US Special Forces joint training exercise conducted alternately in India and the US. Though the exercise began in 2010, there was a gap of three years between 2012 and 2015. The last edition was held in Jodhpur in March 2017. This edition’s Indian Army team is from the Pune-headquartered Southern Command.

India, Israel sign 9 agreements-2018

India and Israel signed nine agreements to boost cooperation in the areas of space, cyber security and oil and gas between both countries. The agreements were signed between Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu in New Delhi.

 Netanyahu is the first Israeli Prime Minister to visit India in span of last 15 years and second one overall. Ariel Sharon was first and only Israeli Prime Minister to visit India in 2003. 

Agreement on Film-co-production

MoU on Cyber Security Cooperation between India and Israel

Cooperation in field of Research in Homeopathic Medicine

Cooperation in Oil and Gas Sector 

cooperation in field of space 

7th Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav 2018

7th Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav 2018 held in Karnataka 2018 Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav (RSM) under the Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat programme was inaugurated by Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ananth Kumar in Bengaluru, Karnataka from January 14-20, 2018.   This is 7th edition of event and organised by Union Ministry of Culture.

 2018 RSM aims to celebrate national integration and idea of unity in diversity of country. It celebrates rich culture and heritage of India. It aims to provide platform to bring together artists from each corner of country.

Ek Bharat-Shreshtha Bharat Programme was launched by PM Narendra Modi on Ekta Diwas (Oct 31, 2015) on the occasion of birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel.

WEF’s Global Manufacturing Index

 India ranked 30th position among 100 countries on Global Manufacturing Index (GMI), released by the World Economic Forum (WEF). The index was released as part of WEF’s first Readiness for the future of production Report which analysed development of modern industrial strategies and urges collaborative action. 

 The report was developed by WEF in collaboration with A.T. Kearney. Japan topped the index followed by South Korea and Germany.

IRFC green bonds 1st debt security

 IRFC green bonds became first debt security to be listed on exchange at International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) in Gujarat’s GIFT city. It was listed by the India International Exchange (India INX) on its debt listing platform-Global Securities Market (GSM). India INX’s GSM platform is India’s first debt listing platform. It allows raising funds in any currency of choice by both foreign and Indian issuers from investors across the globe. In 2017, IRFC had raised $500 million from 10-year green bond from investors.

‘Happy Nari’

Bhopal Railway Station Gets Sanitary Napkin Vending Machine Bhopal railway station becomes the India’s first railway station to have a sanitary napkin vending machine named as ‘Happy Nari’. The machine dispenses two sanitary napkins at the cost of Rs 5 only and accepts Rs 5 coins. The sanitary pads vending machine has been installed at platform No1.
New moth species- Apatani Glory

In Arunachal Pradesh Researchers from Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) discovered a new species of moth, scientifically named Elcysma Ziroensis from Talley Wildlife Sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh. The discovery was published in the Journal of Threatened Taxa, an international journal on conservation and taxonomy.  Elcysma Ziroensis is commonly called Apatani Glory, named after a local tribe called Apatani.  

First Agri-commodity Options Guar Seed

The country’s First Agri-commodity Options in Guar Seed was launched at Makarsankranti. NCDEX Guar seed options is an important hedging tool(an investment to reduce the risk of adverse price movements in an asset. Normally, a hedge consists of taking an offsetting position in a related security, such as a futures contract.).

The instrument, which is uniquely designed by NCDEX and approved by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), is expected to deepen trade in that commodity and will benefit farmers in reaping improved price realizations for their produce, with limited downside risk.

This launch is largely inspired by the fact that Guar Seed is one of the most liquid contracts on the NCDEX platform and a large number of informal trading Centres in some communities of Rajasthan are already involved in some form of informal options trading.

Teen Murti-Haifa Chowk

Teen Murti Chowk in central Delhi will be known as Teen Murti-Haifa Chowk in a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu .

Haifa  is the third-largest city in the State of Israel after Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. It is also home to the Bahá’í World Centre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a destination for Bahá’í pilgrims .

In the visitor’s book, Modi wrote that he saluted the “great Indian traditions of selfless sacrifice and penance” of Indian soldiers, who laid down their lives during the liberation of the city of Haifa and World War I.

North Koel reservoir project

A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Government of India, State of Bihar and State of Jharkhand for completion of balance works of North Koel reservoir project at an estimated cost of Rs. 1622.27 crore.

The construction of North Koel project was started in 1972 but was later halted in 1993. The project situated on North Koel river, a tributary of Sone river will provide irrigation to 1,11,521 hectares of land annually in the most backward and drought prone areas of Palamu and Garhwa districts in Jharkhand and Aurangabad  and Gaya districts in Bihar.

Out of the estimated cost of balance works of Rs. 1622.27 crores, the common component amounting to Rs. 1013.11 crores shall be borne by the Govt. of India as a grant from LTIF under Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY).

Foreign direct investment norms

The Centre  eased several foreign direct investment norms, including allowing overseas airlines to own up to 49% of Air India and permitting 100% FDI in single brand retail and construction development under the automatic route.

The government  has permitted 100 per cent FDI under automatic route for single brand retail trading. Under the existing policy, this limit was 49 per cent and for 100 per cent FDI, the government approval was required. After the amendments, no government approval is required for 100 per cent investment.

The Cabinet also clarified that “real-estate broking service does not amount to real estate business and is therefore, eligible for 100 per cent FDI under automatic route.

The Union Cabinet allowed foreign airlines to invest up to 49% under the approval route in Air India, “subject to the conditions that: (i) foreign investment(s) in Air India, including that of foreign airline(s), shall not exceed 49% either directly or indirectly and (ii) substantial ownership and effective control of Air India shall continue to be vested in an Indian national.”

The move comes close on the heels of Singapore Airlines and Tata Group evincing interest in bidding for the debt-laden national carrier.

As per the present policy, foreign airlines are allowed to invest under the government approval route in the capital of Indian companies operating scheduled and non-scheduled air transport services, up to the limit of 49% of their paid-up capital.

However, this provision was not applicable to Air India. The government, therefore, decided to do away with this restriction.

Indu Malhotra

Senior advocate Indu Malhotra a judge of the Supreme Court, becoming the first woman lawyer to be directly appointed to the top court.The decisions were made at a meeting of the Supreme Court collegium on January 10 .The appointments, which will have to be cleared by the central government .

 JioCoin

Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd plans to create its own cyptocurrency, JioCoin. Akash Ambani leading the JioCoin project, Reliance Jio plans to build a 50-member team of young professionals to work on blockchain technology, which can also be used to develop applications such as smart contracts and supply chain management logistics.

There are multiple applications of blockchain (for the company). The team would work on various blockchain products,” a person familiar with the development said on condition of anonymity.

Blockchain is a digital ledger for storing data including, but not limited to, financial transactions. In simple terms, blockchain decentralizes information without it being copied. The information is held on blockchain through a shared database which can be accessed on a real-time basis. This database is not stored on physical servers but on the cloud, which makes it easy to store unlimited data.

The most popular application of the technology has undoubtedly been cryptocurrency, and Reliance Jio also plans to create its own version called JioCoin.

 “Reliance Jio also aspires to get into Internet of Things (IoT). Blockchain technology would come in handy there,” the person said.

IoT is a network of devices such as smartphones, wearable devices, home appliances and vehicles, connected to the internet, which enables these objects to connect and exchange data. Experts have also pointed out that blockchain could potentially address security risks to IoT as it provides a shield against data tampering by labelling each block of data.

Significantly, the Indian government has cautioned against cryptocurrencies, stating that virtual currencies were not backed by assets and posed risks such as money laundering.

 

The Supreme Court  stayed a Karnataka High Court order

The Supreme Court  stayed a Karnataka High Court order reducing the size of pictorial warnings on packages of tobacco products to 40% of the package space.

The court foregrounded the health of citizens over the concerns of the tobacco industry and favoured a government regulation requiring packets of tobacco products to sport pictorial warnings covering 85% of their packaging space.

A Bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said it is mild to say that tobacco consumption and use causes “deterioration of health”. The apex court said “destruction of health” is a more appropriate phrase to explain the harm caused by tobacco.

The court was hearing several petitions against the High Court decision, including one filed by NGO Health for Millions Trust.

Chief Guest at the 14th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas

 António Costa, Prime Minister of the Republic of Portugal is the Chief Guest at the 14th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Convention  held from 7 to 9 January, 2017 at Bengaluru in Karnataka.

Mr. Michael Ashwin Satyandre Adhin (36 years), Vice President of the Republic of Suriname was the Special Guest at the Youth Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) held on 7 January, 2017 in Bengaluru. He  addressed the young overseas Indian delegates at the inaugural session of the Youth PBD, along with Minister of External Affairs Smt Sushma Swaraj and Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports Shri Vijay Goel.

 

Composite Ecological Task Force (CETF)

This battalion will be raised in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh,in feb 2018 as a Composite Ecological Task Force (CETF) battalion of TA for National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG).

The government has allocated Rs 167 crore for the battalion under NMCG, the nodal agency for cleaning the Ganga. The battalion will work on a book debit system with funding provided from the budget of the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.

Due to the slow pace of progress, it is feared that the government may miss its deadline of making the Ganga clean by 2020. This was noted by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Water Resources last year.

 

India’s fastest and first “multi-petaflops” supercomputer

 Union Minister for Science and Technology Harsh Vardhan Monday dedicated India’s fastest and first “multi-petaflops” supercomputer to the nation in Pune.Petaflops is a measure of a computer’s processing speed.

Christened “Pratyush”, meaning the sun, the High Performance Computing (HPC) facility has been established at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune, and will be a national facility for improving weather and climate forecasts, an IITM release said.

e-Sansad and e-Vidhan

Union Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Shri Ananthkumar has inaugurated Two-day Conference on January 8, 2018 in Udaipur, Rajasthan. In the conference rolling out of e-Sansad and e-Vidhan in Parliament and State Legislatures to digitize and make their functioning paperless. This Conference is being organized by the Union Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs

 

Foreign exchange reserves

Scaling new peaks for the second consecutive week, the country’s foreign exchange reserves surged by a whopping $4.444 billion to touch a new life- time high of $409.366 billion in the week to December 29, Reserve Bank data showed today.

In the previous week, foreign exchange reserves had spurted by $3.53 billion to reach $404.921 billion.

GOLD and ICON

NASA has announced that it would launch two missions to explore a little-understood area 96 km above Earth’s surface. The Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk (GOLD) mission will be launched aboard a commercial communications satellite in January 2018, and the designed spacecraft Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) will be launched later this year, the US space agency said .

GOLD and ICON will team up to explore the ionosphere, a boundary area between Earth and the space where particles have been cooked into a sea of electrically-charged electrons and ions by the Sun’s radiation, reports Xinhua news agency. These layers of near-Earth space are increasingly becoming a part of human domain as it is home to radio signals used to guide airplanes, ships and Global Positioning System satellites.

Hike of salaries of judges of the S. C. & H. C.

The Lok Sabha  passed a Bill to hike the salaries of judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts. The Bill proposes to hike the salary of the Chief Justice of India to Rs. 2.80 lakh a month, and that of judges of the Supreme Court and Chief Justices of High Courts to Rs. 2.5 lakh a month. Judges of High Courts will draw a salary of Rs. 2.25 lakh a month once this Bill becomes law.

The salary hike, in line with the recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission for officers of all-India services, will come into force with effect from January 1, 2016.

 New savings bonds scheme

 The new savings bonds scheme will be open from January 10, 2018. The scheme will enable resident citizens and HUF to invest in a taxable bond, without any monetary ceiling, the Finance Ministry said.

 The Bonds are open to investment by individuals (including Joint Holdings) and Hindu Undivided Families. NRIs are not eligible for making investments in these Bonds.

Subscription: Applications for the Bonds in the form of Bond Ledger Account will be received in the designated branches of agency banks and SHCIL in all numbering about 1600.

Issue Price: The Bonds will be issued at par i.e. at Rs 100

The Bonds will be issued for a minimum amount of Rs 1,000 (face value) and in multiples thereof. Accordingly, the issue price, will be Rs 1,000 for every Rs 1,000 (Nominal).

The Bonds will be issued in demat form (Bond Ledger Account) only.

Period: The Bonds will be on tap till further notice and issued in cumulative and non-cumulative forms.

Limit of investment:
 There will be no maximum limit for investment in the Bonds.

Tax treatment: Income-tax: Interest on the Bonds will be taxable under the Income-tax Act, 1961 as applicable according to the relevant tax status of the bond holder.

Wealth tax: The Bonds will be exempt from Wealth-tax under the Wealth Tax Act, 1957.

Maturity and rate of interest: The Bonds will have a maturity of 7 years carrying interest at 7.75 per cent per annum payable half- yearly. The cumulative value of Rs. 1,000 at the end of seven years will be Rs 1,703.

Transferability:
 The Bonds are not transferable.

The Bonds are not tradeable in the Secondary market and are not eligible as collateral for loans from banking institutions, non-banking financial companies or financial institutions.

 

Mandatory packaging of foodgrains and sugar products in jute bags

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA)  extended the mandatory packaging of foodgrains and sugar products in jute bags for the year ending June 2018.

The move will help sustain the core demand for the jute sector and support the livelihood of the workers and farmers dependent on the sector in eastern and north-eastern regions of the country particularly in West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Meghalaya and Tripura.

As per the norms, it is compulsory to pack 90 per cent of foodgrains and 20 per cent of sugar products in jute bags.

Four new balsam species

 Scientists have discovered four new balsam species from various locations in Eastern Himalayas in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh.They are Impatiens haridasanii, Impatiens pseudocitrina, Impatiens nilalohitae and Impatiens roingensis.

It was discovered in Pongchan. The species is characterized by small yellow flowers and hairy leaves.

Zojila Tunnel 

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has given its approval to the construction, operation and maintenance of 2-lane bi-directional Zojila Tunnel with Parallel Escape (Egress) Tunnel excluding approaches on Srinagar-Leh section connecting NH-1A at Km 95.00 and at Km 118.00 in Jammu & Kashmir on Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) mode.

The construction of this tunnel will provide all weather connectivity between Srinagar, Kargil and Leh and will bring about all round economic and socio-cultural integration of these regions. The project has strategic and socio-economic importance and shall be an instrument for the development of the economically backward districts in Jammu & Kashmir.

The construction period of the project is seven years which shall be reckoned from the date of commencement of construction.

The civil construction cost of the project is Rs 4899.42 crore.

The total capital cost of the project is Rs 6808.69 crore. It includes the cost towards Land Acquisition, Resettlement & Rehabilitation and other pre-construction activities as well as Maintenance and Operation cost of tunnel for four years.

 

 

 

 

VAT in Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) introduced value-added tax from 1st jan 2018, a first for the Gulf which has long prided itself on its tax-free, cradle-to-grave welfare system.

The five-percent tax will apply to a wide range of items, including: food; clothes; electronics; petrol; phone, water and electricity bills; and hotel reservations.

Saudi Arabia compounded the New Year blow for motorists with an unannounced hike of up to 127 percent in petrol prices with immediate effect from midnight.

They are the latest in series of measures introduced by Gulf oil producers over the past two years to boost revenues and cut spending as a persistent slump in world prices has led to ballooning budget deficits.

Analysts project that the two governments could raise as much as $21 billion in 2018, equivalent to 2.0 percent of GDP.

But it marks a major change for two super-rich countries where the mall is king. Dubai has long held an annual shopping festival to draw bargain hunters from around the world to its glitzy retail palaces.

Saudi Arabia has deposited billions of dollars in special accounts to help needy citizens face the resulting rise in retail prices.

Last year, the two countries said they would implement the VAT as of 2018, in line with an earlier decision by the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

The other four Gulf states — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar — are also committed to introducing VAT but have decided to delay the move until early in 2019.

The hike in fuel duty in Saudi Arabia was the second in two years.

But it still leaves petrol prices as some of the lowest in the world.

High-grade petrol rose 127 percent from 24 cents a liter ($1.09 a gallon) to 54 ($2.46), while low-grade petrol rose 83 percent from 20 cents a liter (91 cents a gallon) to 36.5 ($1.66).

Duty on diesel and kerosene remained unchanged.

Saudi Arabia has introduced a raft of measures to raise revenue and cut spending as it bids to balance its books.

Last month, it slashed the government subsidy on electricity supply, leading to a sharp rise in bills.

Riyadh posted budget deficits totaling $260 billion over the past four fiscal years and does not expect to balance its books before 2023.

To finance its mounting public debt, the kingdom has withdrawn around $250 billion from its reserves over the past four years, reducing them to $490 billion.It has also borrowed around $100 billion from the international and domestic markets.

Parker Solar Probe

previously Solar ProbeSolar Probe Plus, or Solar Probe+ is a planned NASA robotic spacecraft to probe the outer corona of the Sun. It will approach to within 8.5 solar radii (5.9 million kilometers or 3.67 million miles) to the ‘surface’ (photosphere) of the Sun. The project was announced as a new mission start in the fiscal 2009 budget year. On May 1, 2008 Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory announced it will design and build the spacecraft, originally scheduled to launch in 2015. The launch date has since been pushed back to summer of 2018. A Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle will enable the mission to become the fastest spacecraft to date. On May 31, 2017 the probe was renamed after solar astrophysicist Eugene Parker. This was the first time a NASA spacecraft was named after a living person.
New night frog Nyctibatrachus mewasinghi 

A new frog from Kerala is the latest contribution to the spurt in amphibian discoveries across India: scientists have just discovered the Mewa Singh’s Night frog, belonging to a genus endemic to the Western Ghats, from Kozhikode’s Malabar Wildlife Sanctuary.

According to a scientific paper published on December 26 in The Journal of Threatened Taxa (an international journal on conservation and taxonomy), the new night frog Nyctibatrachus mewasinghi is light brown in colour with an off-white underside, and sports faintly wrinkled skin with prominent granular projections.

Since many frogs in the genus Nyctibatrachus look similar, scientists from institutes, including the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (Pune, Maharashtra) and the Zoo Outreach Organisation (ZOO, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu) used both physical characteristics as well as genetic methods to confirm the frog as a new species. Using tissue samples of 10 collected specimens, the scientists analysed portions of two genes and found that it varied enough from other closely-related species to make the Mewa Singh’s night frog a different species.

Two new species of ginger

Botanical Survey of India (BSI) scientists have discovered two new species of ginger named Hedychium chingmeianum and Caulokaempferia dinabandhuensis in easternmost districts of northeast India. Both the plants belong to the family of Zingiberaceae, to which the commonly found ginger (Zingiber officinale) belongs.

Hedychium chingmeianum: It was discovered in Tuensang district in Nagaland, both bordering Myanmar. It is an epiphytic plant and grows on trunks of tall trees. It has reddish stems and creamy white flowers.

Caulokaempferia dinabandhuensis: It was found growing in rock crevices, boulders and humus rich soil in the Shirui Hills in Ukhrul in Manipur. It has beautiful oval-shaped pink flowers which appear in June-July. It has been named after Mr. Dinabandhu Sahoo.

Vidarbha claimed  Ranji Trophy

 Vidarbha claimed their maiden Ranji Trophy after beating Delhi by nine wickets in the final of India’s premier domestic tournament .s

 

ISRO to launch 31 satellites

ISRO on  announced that it would launch 31 satellites, including India’s Cartosat-2 series earth observation space craft, in a single mission onboard its Polar rocket on January 10.

The mission will be the first Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) mission after the  The mission would be a combination of 28 nano satellites from foreign countries, including Finland and the US, one micro and nano satellite from India along with one Cartosat satellite, the official said.

First photovoltaic highway

China successfully tested its first photovoltaic highway based on home-grown technology in the country’s eastern Shandong province . The road has wireless charging systems for electric vehicles.

The road is constructed using solar panels which have a thin sheet of clear concrete on top of them, protecting the surface.The panels were built to transfer energy to electric vehicles passing on top of them.


Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Bill 2017

 The Lok Sabha  passed the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Bill 2017, paving the way for tightening loopholes in the existing code and making the resolution process more effective.

The bill replaces an ordinance that was brought in last month seeking to bar wilful defaulters, defaulters whose dues had been classified as non-performing assets (NPAs) for more than a year, and all related entities of these firms from participating in the resolution process.

The bill has diluted some of the stringent provisions of the ordinance and seeks to strike a balance in the trade-off between punishing wilful defaulters and ensuring a more effective insolvency process.

The bill allows defaulting promoters to be part of the debt resolution process, provided they repay the dues in a month to make their loan account operational and the resolution happens within the overall time frame specified in the code.

This will help promoters who had submitted resolution plans before the ordinance barred them from taking part in the resolution process of companies.The bill also allows asset reconstruction companies, alternative investment funds (AIFs) such as private equity funds and banks to participate in the bidding process. the Lok Sabha has passed the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Bill 2017 to pave the way for tightening loopholes in existing code and to make… 

World rapid chess championship

Viswanathan Anand  age  48,  lifted the World rapid chess championship in Riyadh .The genial genius from Chennai, who defeated Magnus Carlsen of Norway earlier in the tournament, went on to finish on top with 10.5 points at the end of the 15th and final roun

Regional project to tackle stubble burning

Delhi-NCR and other northern states facing severe pollution, the environment ministry approved a regional project to tackle stubble burning, one of the major contributors to air pollution.

Awareness generation and capacity building activities for farmers to adopt alternative practices and a slew of technological interventions for management of crop residue along with existing machineries will be part of the project.

The ministry approved a regional project on ‘Climate Resilience Building among Farmers through Crop Residue Management’ under the National Adaptation Fund for Climate Change (NAFCC).

The project was approved at the meeting of the National Steering Committee on Climate Change

WHO is set to classify gaming disorder

With more and more youngsters getting hooked on video games, both online and offline, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is set to classify gaming disorder as a mental health condition next year.

In the beta draft of its forthcoming 11th International Classification of Diseases, WHO has included gaming disorder in its list of mental health conditions. Mental health experts and psychiatrists said this is the need of the hour as nearly 7% of population studied for gaming and internet addiction exhibited symptoms of depression and anxiety, and somatisation, including behavioural changes and sleep disturbances.

Muslim Women (Protection of Marriage) Bill, 2017,

Under the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights of Marriage) Bill, 2017, a Muslim man who resorts to Talaq-e-Biddat or instant talaq would be jailed for three years and custody of any minor children would be granted to the affected woman.

The proposed bill has made instant divorce a non-bailable offence which can lead to an imprisonment of up to three years upon conviction. It also makes it mandatory for the husband to pay maintenance to his wife and child support towards any children. 
Previously in a historic verdict  delivered by a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court, declaring the practice of unilateral divorce (also known as triple talaq or talaq-e-biddat) unconstitutional. It held that instant talaq had no place in Islam and declared it a void form of divorce which would not result in severance of ties between husband and wife.

The court, which did not touch upon the validity of personal laws, held that instant talaq was a violation of gender justice and equality. The Supreme Court, for the first time, made Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India “absolute”, despite these being subjected to restrictions.

However, the verdict did not rule that the man could be tried under a penal provision for resorting to the practice. However, there are laws present in the country that help a woman seeks justice against cruelty, adultery or desertion. 

Advanced Air Defence-

India has successfully test-fired an indigenously developed supersonic interceptor missile. It has the capability of destroying incoming enemy ballistic missile at low altitudes.

This Advanced Air Defence (AAD) missile, which was tested for the second time in less than a month, is part of an effort to put in place a multilayer missile defence system.

” The interceptor was engaged against a Prithvi missile fired from launch complex 3 of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) in Chandipur which took the trajectory of a hostile ballistic missile.

In about four minutes, the interceptor positioned at Abdul Kalam Island in the Bay of Bengal roared through its trajectory to destroy the incoming hostile missile mid-air in an endoatmospheric altitude .

Wakaleo schouteni

It’s a new species of marsupial lion discovered in Australia which has been extinct for at least 19 million years. The discoverers found fossilised remains of the animal’s skull, teeth, and humerus (upper arm bone) in the Riversleigh World Heritage Area of remote north-western Queensland. Named in honour of palaeo-artist Peter Schouten, Wakaleo schouteni was a predator that stalked Australia’s abundant rainforests some 18 to 26 million years ago in the late Oligocene to early Miocene era. This meat-eating marsupial is estimated to have been about the size of a dog and weighed around 23 kilograms.

  Fibre Grid project

President Ram Nath Kovind inaugurated Andhra Pradesh Fibre Grid project to facilitate availability of high-speed internet for all in the state at a nominal rate and said governments always have to be “online, on-time and on the ball” using technology as the enabler.

 The  fibre grid connections would be available to around one lakh households with 100 per cent connectivity in 55 villages.

Unde  Andhra government’s ‘Real-Time Governance’ initiative , Government is determined to incorporate Information & Communication Technologies (ICT), not only as effective instruments to foster economic development, but more importantly improve governance and ensure that benefits of ICT percolate to citizens on the ground. Over the past few years,  many robust and innovative initiatives across integrated citizen services, agriculture, natural resource management, social sector, health, revenue, energy, industry, urban development, amongst many others.

  Core Dashboard provides an integrated interface to monitor category-wise key performance indicators of various departments/schemes on real-time basis. ICT solutions ensure better targeting of government programs and improving transparency in the functioning of the Government. Andhra Pradesh is also committed to provide gigabit connectivity to all villages and deliver affordable broadband to everyone by 2018.

With e-Pragati, Andhra Pradesh will become the first state in India to conceive and execute a state-wide enterprise architecture, and bring all Government services under one roof.

Goods and Services Tax (Compensation to States) Act, 2017.

The Bill will replace Ordinance which was promulgated in September 2017 . It amends the Goods and Services Tax (Compensation to States) Act, 2017. The Act allows the central government to notify the rate of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Compensation Cess on items such as pan masala, coal, aerated drinks, and tobacco, subject to certain caps.

The amount received by levying the GST Compensation Cess is used to compensate states for any loss in revenue following the implementation of GST.

The bill will enhance the cess from 15 percent to 25 percent. This hike in cess was necessitated to match the loss arising due to GST rate cuts on different items.

Indian Institute of Petroleum and Energy (IIPE)

The Lok Sabha today passed a Bill for establishing the Indian Institute of Petroleum and Energy (IIPE) in Andhra Pradesh that will impart high quality education and conduct advance research in all aspects relating to the conventional hydrocarbons.

The IIPE is being set up in Visakhapatnam at a cost of 650 crore as part of a package promised by the Centre to Andhra Pradesh after Telangana was carved out of it. The batch of students were admitted last year and the institute is currently functioning out of the Andhra University campus in Visakhapatnam.

India’s first pod taxi project

The much-awaited India’s first pod taxi project has moved a step closer to reality after a high-level panel recommended inviting fresh bids for the same conforming to the strictest safety standards on the lines of those prescribed by an American body.

The projected Rs. 4,000-crore pod taxi scheme — also known as Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) — is a dream project of Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari, and the NHAI has been mandated to execute it on Delhi-Gurgaon pilot corridor (12.3 km) from Delhi-Haryana border to Rajiv Chowk in Gurgaon on a PPP (public-private partnership) basis.

“The committee recommends issuance of a fresh EOI (expression of interest) incorporating (automated people movers) APM standards and specifications, 

Blue Flag Pilot Project

Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in India has launched Blue Flag Pilot Project.
The ‘Blue Flag’ is a certification by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) that a beach, marina or sustainable boating tourism operator, meets its stringent standards.
The ministry has launched the project with an aim to enhance standards of cleanliness and development of beaches in India. For this, each state or union territory has been asked to nominate a beach which will be funded through the ongoing Integrated Coastal Management Programme. Except for Daman and Diu, all the states have nominated pilot beaches in their receptive territories including Goa.

NGO to open accounts with PFMS banks

The Home Ministry has directed all NGOs, business entities and individuals who receive funds from abroad to open accounts in any of the 32 designated banks, including one foreign, within a month for higher level of transparency. It also asked them to ensure that such funds are not utilised for activities detrimental to the national interest.

The directive to the NGOs, companies and individuals to open foreign contribution accounts in banks, which are integrated with the central government’s Public Financial Management System (PFMS), came for providing a higher level of transparency and hassle-free reporting compliance, according to the ministry order, accessed by the PTI.

The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act 2010 provides for the regulation of acceptance of the foreign funds or foreign hospitality by certain individuals, associations, organisations and companies “to ensure that such contributions or hospitality is not being utilised for the activities detrimental to the national interest”, it said.

e-HRMS

The Union Minister of State Dr Jitendra Singh launched the electronic-Human Resource Management System (e-HRMS. He launched it during the observance of Good Governance Day on 25 December by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions. The Minister launched the 25 applications of 5 modules of the system.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Jitendra Singh said that Good Governance Day is observed to mark the birth anniversary of former Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee. e-HRMS is also a step towards the ‘ease of governance’.

Dr Jitendra Singh  spoke on various other initiatives taken by the Government such as launch of  PRAGATI, self-attestation, discontinuation of interviews  for lower level posts, ‘Anubhav’ initiative, digital life certificate (Jeevan Pramaan), abolition of obsolete rules, online RTI portal, etc among others.

 

With launch of e-HRMS, employees will be able to not only see all their details w.r.t service book, leave, GPF, Salary etc., but also apply for different kind of claims/reimbursements, loan/advances, leave, leave encashment, LTC advances, Tour etc. on a single platform.

This is a step in the direction of fully automated Human Resource Management System with a target to bring all employees of Government of India on employee portal so that all processes of personnel management from hiring to retiring will be on digital platform and manual system of handling personnel management will be dispensed with.

 

With launch of the website ehrms.gov.in, five bigger modules covering 25 applications have been launched. These are:

 

  1. Personnel Information System– which has functionalities of self-updating by employees.
  2. Leave- Leave of all kind may be claimed and sanctioned through website that will become part of service book.
  3. LTC- All function related to LTC application, Eligibility Check, Sanction, Advance claim, Final reimbursements, Leave encashment.
  4. Loan/Advances– All kind of loan and advances can be claimed, sanctioned and paid through it.
  5. Tour:– All tour applications to be submitted through system and TA advance may also be claimed.

 

E-service book– Already launched on 30.03.2017, will also be integrated.

 

Bharatiya Nirdeshak Dravya (BND-4201) 

India’s first home-grown high purity gold reference standard – the Bharatiya Nirdeshak Dravya (BND-4201) – was launched  at the India Government Mint, Mumbai. BND-4201, which is the reference material for gold of ‘9999’ fineness (gold that is 99.99 per cent pure), will be beneficial to the consumers and public at large to ensure purity of gold.

 BND’s of other purity gold are made available in the market, jewellers will move towards more instrumental methods rather than the conventional fire assay methods for testing, which are not only time consuming but also not environment friendly as poisonous gases are released.

Gold reference standard is indispensable in gold and jewellery hall marking. This will also be useful for Collection and Purity Testing Centres to certify the purity of gold deposits under the gold monetisation scheme.

The high purity gold reference standard has been developed through a collaboration between IGM, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre — National Centre for Compositional Characterisation of Materials (Hyderabad), and Council of Scientific & Industrial Research-National Physical Laboratory (New Delhi).

“The measurement of the high purity BND-4201 is traceable to SI units (International System of Units)….Therefore, the possibilities of exporting to other economies are very high.

Schaller’s wood scorpion 

India’s scorpions are in the limelight now thanks to the addition of a new species — the Schaller’s wood scorpion from Tripura’s Trishna Wildlife Sanctuary. Wood scorpions are only about three cm long and live in small burrows on the ground, making them very difficult to spot.

A study published in Zootaxa, an international journal devoted to new species descriptions, details the discovery of the eleventh wood scorpion species from India by scientist Zeeshan Mirza (National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore). Also called dwarf scorpions, wood scorpions are unlike the large scorpions we commonly see

Mr. Mirza named the new species Liocheles schalleri in honour of celebrated wildlife biologist George Schaller who has studied wildlife across the world, including the snow leopards of the Himalayas and central India’s tigers. Schaller’s wood scorpions are found in low elevations in parts of Tripura, including Trishna and Bison National Park, and is likely to be found in Bangladesh too, which is three km away.

Design university

India’s first and only design university, World University of Design opened it campus at Sonipat, Haryana.
Promoted by Om Parkash Bansal Educational and Social Welfare Trust of Mandi Gobindgarh, Punjab, the university is currently located in a sprawling lush green picturesque campus with the state-of-the-art infrastructure and world class facilities. 

U N G A resolution

A United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for the U.S. to withdraw its decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital passed overwhelmingly  despite threats from the Trump administration to cut funding to U.S. aid recipients who voted in favor.

One hundred and twenty-eight countries voted for the resolution. Nine countries voted against and thirty-five countries abstained. This included India, which voted against the United States and carried forward New Delhi’s principled position on the issue – a month before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s scheduled visit to India.

DARPAN

.. The Minister of Communications Shri Manoj Sinha  launched DARPAN – “Digital Advancement of Rural Post Office for A New India” Project to improve the quality of service, add value to services and achieve “financial inclusion” of un-banked rural population. This IT modernization project with an outlay of Rs. 1400 Crore is to provide a low power technology solution to each Branch Postmaster (BPM) which will enable each of approximately 1.29 Lakhs Branch Post Offices (BOs) to improve the level of services being offered to rural customers across all the states. Shri Sinha said that as on date, 43,171 Branch Post Offices have migrated under the “DARPAN”projectwith the aim of financial inclusion to rural population and it is targeted to complete the project by March, 2018.

The Project shall increase the rural reach of the Department of Posts and enable BOs to increase traffic of all financial remittances, savings accounts, Rural Postal Life Insurance, and Cash Certificates; improve mail operations processes by allowing for automated booking and delivery of accountable article; increase revenue using retail post business; provide third party applications; and make disbursements for social security schemes such as MGNREGS.

Odorrana arunachalensis 

Scientists from Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) have discovered new frog species in the fast flowing streams in Talle Valley Wildlife Sanctuary (WLS)  Arunachal Pradesh. It is among  the five frog species discovered in India in recent times and the 59th in the world.is a species of frog in the Ranidae family that is found in streams of Lower Subansiri districtArunachal PradeshIndia. The presence of black mark between this frog’s eyes separate it from other frog species in this genus.

 SAMEEP

The foreign office is on an “outreach” mission as a new programme, SAMEEP, aims to take Indian foreign policy and its global engagements to students across the country.
The ministry of external affairs has asked all its officers on leave to travel to their hometowns and particularly their alma mater. Their job would be to engage students in the schools and colleges in the jobs that the ministry is engaged in, so as to give them a fair idea of how India engages with the world, what are its foreign policy priorities and how diplomacy is actually conducted. The programme is voluntary and gives officials the option of going back to their alma mater or to any school or college in their hometown.

The ministry would give them a standardized presentation and officials would be free to improvise and add their personal experiences. The idea is not only to get the ordinary student to take an interest in India’s place in the world and its global ambitions, but also to look at diplomacy as a career option. A similar programme has had IAS officers also going back to the place of their first posting to assess its development and make recommendations.

The Immovable Property (Amendment) Bill-2017
 A bill to amend the regulations governing compensation payable for acquisition of immovable property by the Centre for defence and security purposes, was passed by the Lok Sabha .

The bill seeks to amend a provision to allow the Centre to re-issue the notice of acquisition in order to ensure that the property’s owner gets an opportunity to be heard.

Putting at rest the apprehensions of the members of the house, the minister said the compensation was meant for an interim period and solely for the purpose of determining the date of compensation to be computed.

Naseem Al Bahr’

Indian Naval Ships Trikand and Teg are deployed to Oman for bilateral exercise ‘Naseem Al Bahr’ or ‘Sea Breeze’. This exercise is the 11th edition and has been a biennial feature since 1993. The Indian ships entered Muscat on 16 December 2017 for the harbour phase. A Pre-sail conference for the exercise chaired by Executive Officer of the base, Capt Aqeed Rukn Barry, was held at Said Bin Sultan Naval Base, Wudam on 17 December 2017.

 

Bamboo a tree /Not a tree

The Parliament  passed a Bill in 2017 to exclude bamboo from the definition of tree under the Indian Forest Act, claiming it would improve the earnings of tribals and dwellers living around forests.

The opposition parties protested its passage saying the Bill was being passed in a hurry without proper consultations with stakeholders and the states. Besides, they alleged it would favour the industrialists.

National Rail and Transport University (NRTU) 

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the Ministry of Railways’ transformative initiative to set up the first ever National Rail and Transport University (NRTU) in Vadodara to skill its human resources and build capability. This innovative idea, inspired by the Prime Minister, will be a catalyst for transformation of rail and transport sector towards New India. 

Commission to examine sub-categorisation of Other Backward Classes (OBCs).

The Union Cabinet, at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, approved an extension till April 2, 2018 for a commission set up to examine sub-categorisation of Other Backward Classes (OBCs).

” The commission was constituted under article 340 of the Constitution was supposed to submit its report within 12 weeks from the assumption of charge by the Chairperson.

The commission, headed by Justice G. Rohini (retd), commenced functioning on October 11 and has since interacted with all the states and Union Territories having reservation for OBCs, and the state backward classes commissions.

Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2017-

The Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2017 was passed in Lok Sabha on July 27, 2017. Now, on December 19, 2017, the Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2017 was passed by voice vote in Rajya Sabha.  The provisions in the Amendment Bill will have an impact on the group company structure and compliance procedures, as the definitions relating to ‘holding company’, ‘subsidiary company’, ‘associate company’ are undergoing a change. At the same time, the Amendment Bill will also have an impact on the compliance procedures and approval mechanism of Related Party Transactions, as the scope of related parties will be significantly enhanced.

The major amendments proposed include simplification of the private placement process, rationalization of provisions related to loan to directors, omission of provisions relating to forward dealing and insider trading, doing away with the requirement of approval of the Central Government for managerial remuneration above prescribed limits, aligning disclosure requirements in the prospectus with the regulations to be made by SEBI, providing for maintenance of register of significant beneficial owners and filing of returns in this regard to the ROC and removal of requirement for annual ratification of appointment or continuance of auditor.

Methanol Economy Fund-

The think-tank Niti Aayog is considering a proposal for suggesting the creation of a Methanol Economy Fund with a corpus of ₹4000-₹5000 crore for developing Methanol as a fuel in India. The Niti Aayog is going to propose a road map to achieve its target of increasing the penetration of Methanol as an alternative fuel to petrol and diesel  .The roadmap should be applicable from January 2018.”

Under the roadmap, the Aayog proposes ramping up facilities to convert Coal, Stranded Gas and Biomass to Methanol. The current installed capacity of Methanol production of the country is 0.47 million tonne and the total production of the Methanol in the country is 0.2 million tonne. But the total Methanol consumption of the country in 2016 is 1.8 million tonne.”

Zika vaccine

The Drugs Controller General of India has granted permission to an Indian firm to conduct Phase-I clinical trials for a Zika vaccine. Zika is an infection spread by the Aedes egypti mosquito. Infections in pregnant women can cause children to be born with brain deficiencies.

Invasive animal species
While invasive plant species have been written about widely, thanks to their economic impact, little is known about the prevalence of invasive fauna in India. Now the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) has for the first time compiled a list of alien invasive animal species, totalling 157.Out of 157 species, 58 are found on land and in freshwater habitats, while 99 are in the marine ecosystem.

The Indian diaspora is the world’s largest
The Indian diaspora is the world’s largest, with slightly more than 15.6 million people from India living overseas. The Indian diaspora constitutes 6% of the total number of international migrants (people living outside the country of their birth), which was estimated at 243 million in 2015. The global figure has risen by 10% over that recorded in 2010, a recently released United Nations report said.
In other words, out of a global population of 7.3 billion, one of every 30 people was a migrant in 2015. However, if computed as a percentage of the world’s population, the growth of thediaspora has been largely static, from 3.2% in 2010 to 3.3% in 2015, according to the ‘World Migration Report (2018)’, published by the International Organisation for Migration, a UN agency.

 

According to the report, nearly half of all the international migrants worldwide in 2015 were born in Asia, primarily originating from India, China and other South Asian countries. After India, Mexico has the second largest diaspora. Russia, China, Bangladesh and Pakistan follow (see graphic).

 Notably, people in the working age group, between 20 to 64 years, account for a significant chunk of the international migrant population, nearly 72%. Since 1970, the US has been the main destination for international migrants.

 

Struck down the 2014 amendment-

The Karnataka High Court today struck down the 2014 amendment rules that mandated pictorial health warnings to cover 85 per cent of tobacco product packaging space, holding that they violated Constitutional norms.

However, the court made it clear that the 40 per cent pictorial health warning rule, which existed prior to the amendment rules, would remain in force.

 

North East Special Infrastructure Development Scheme” (NESIDS)

The Union Cabinet also approved the introduction of new Central Sector Scheme of “North East Special Infrastructure Development Scheme” (NESIDS) from 2017-18 with 100% funding from the Central Government to fill up the gaps in creation of infrastructure in specified sectors till March, 2020. 

The new scheme will broadly cover creation of infrastructure under following sectors:- 

a) Physical infrastructure relating to water supply, power, connectivity and specially the projects promoting tourism; 

b) Infrastructure of social sectors of education and health. 

The assets to be created under the new scheme of NESIDS will not only strengthen health care and education facilities in the region but will also encourage tourism thereby the employment opportunities for local youth. The scheme will act as a catalyst in overall development of the region in the years to come. 

Merchant discount rate

In a major push towards making India a less-cash economy, the union cabinet on Friday decided to bear the merchant discount rate (MDR) applicable on digital payments via debit cards, etc., up to Rs2,000.

The MDR applicable on transactions made through debit cards, the unified payments interface (UPI) and Aadhaar-enabled payments system (AEPS) up to and including a value of Rs2,000 will be borne by the government for a period of two years with effect from 1 January, said Ravi Shankar Prasad, information technology and law minister, while announcing the cabinet decision.

MDR is the charge paid by a merchant to a bank for accepting payment from customers via credit or debit cards. It is expressed as a percentage of the transaction amount.

It is estimated that the MDR to be reimbursed to banks in respect of transactions less than Rs2,000 in value will be Rs1,050 crore in FY 2018-19 and Rs1,462 crore in FY 2019-20, a government statement said.

“As a result of this approval, for all transactions less than Rs2,000 in value, the consumer and the merchant will not suffer any additional burden in the form of MDR, thereby leading to greater adoption of digital payment modes for such transactions,” the statement added.

International Training Centre for Operational Oceanography

he Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the establishment of International Training Centre for Operational Oceanography, as a Category-2 Centre (C2C) of UNESCO, in Hyderabad. 

The purpose of this Agreement is to establish a training centre towards development of capacity for the countries on the Indian Ocean Rim (IOR), African countries bordering the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, small island countries under the framework of UNESCO. The operational oceanography is an activity of conducting systematic oceanographic studies towards providing information services to various sectors viz. fisherman, disaster management, shipping, ports, coastal states, navy, coast guard, environment, offshore industries for conducting their day-to- day operations.

The Centre will provide assistance in areas of capacity building and training, knowledge sharing and exchange of information, and hence could represent a valuable resource for UNESCO and its Intergovernmental Oceanography Commission (IOC) by enhancing the impact and visibility of UNESCO’s action.

The establishment of UNESCO Category-2 Centre will provide an opportunity for India to emerge as a leading country in the Indian Ocean. This will also help India to forge cooperation and improve engagement among the counties of the Indian Ocean, including South Asian and African states bordering the Indian Ocean.

National medical commission

 A bill to replace the Medical Council of India (MCI) with a national medical commission was cleared by the Union Cabinet .

“The MCI will be replaced, and a National Medical Commission bill has been brought. This is to correct the whole medical ecosystem,” Law and Justice Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said.

The MCI is a statutory body for establishing uniform and high standards of medical education in India. NMC will become the main regulatory body and will take over all roles and responsibilities of the MCI.

A high-level committee headed by Niti Aayog vice chairman Arvind Panagariya proposed the scrapping of MCI. Besides Panagariya, the panel, looking into the issue of poor regulation of medical education by MCI, includes Prime Ministers Additional Principal Secretary PK Mishra, Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant and Health Secretary Bhahanu Pratap Sharma, reports said.

World Bank loan for “Skills in India

A Financing Agreement for IBRD loan of USD 250 million (equivalent) for the “Skills Acquisition and Knowledge Awareness for Livelihood Promotion (SANKALP) Project” .

The Objective of the project is to enhance institutional mechanisms for skills development and increase access to quality and market-relevant training for the work force. 
The Key result areas for the project include Institutional Strengthening at the National and State Levels for Planning, Delivering, and Monitoring High-Quality Market-Relevant Training; Improved Quality and Market Relevance of Skills Development Programs; Improved access to and completion of skills training for female trainees and other disadvantaged groups; and Expanding skills training through private-public partnerships (PPPs). The closing date for the project is 31st March, 2023. 

Unitech Ltd,

The Supreme Court   stayed the National Company Law Tribunal order allowing the Centre to take over the management of embattled realty firm Unitech Ltd, while acknowledging Attorney-General K.K.

The NCLT had on December 8 suspended all the eight directors of the realty firm over allegations of mismanagement and siphoning off funds and had authorised the Centre to appoint its 10 nominees on the board. The order came after the Centre had moved it to protect the interest of nearly 20,000 home buyers. The court asked Sanjay Chandra, head of the real estate group, on October 30 to deposit Rs. 750 crore with it by December-end for the sake of the home buyers.

 MoU  between DCI and NHAI

An MoU was signed  between Dredging Corporation of India (DCI) and National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) for facilitating the supply of sand for highways construction work. Concessionaires working on highways projects have been facing a shortage of sand at many sites. The MoU aims to fill this gap by facilitating the availability of sand for these concessionaires. 

DCI intends to do dredging operations at locations in South East Asia, generating large volumes of sand. This dredging will be done for the purpose of obtaining sand. As per the MoU, business intermediaries will ship and store this sand at various ports in India and market it in India. NHAI will facilitate the process by displaying the availability of sand at various stockyards at the ports. 

Safe City Surveillance” scheme –

ihar state government has approved a “Safe City Surveillance” scheme aimed at putting a check on eve-teasing and other crimes against women at public places across the state.

 

  • The scheme will bring all major public places under the watch of close-circuit television (CCTV) cameras and improve the overall crime control in the state.
  • This scheme is especially being launched for checking crime against women, such as eve-teasing and molestation, harassment, snatching incidents and roadside scuffles etc. It will also help in keeping a track of miscreants.
  • The scheme, which will be launched in a phase-wise manner, will commence from capital Patna.
  • The Bihar home department will be the nodal agency for implementation of the safe-city surveillance schem

India’s first EMC

The Government of India, through the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeiTY), had announced(in 2012 )about setting up an EMC in India, with grant-in-aid for establishing such clusters.

An EMC is designed and developed for providing facilities and amenities for manufacturing mobiles and allied products. In 2015, the Andhra Pradesh government announced the first exclusive mobile and electronic manufacturing cluster in the new capital, Amaravati.

A Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) called Sri Venkateswara Mobiles and Electronics Manufacturing Hub Private Limited was formed. The foundation stone was laid by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the same year.

Three major Indian mobile manufacturers – Celkon, Karbonn and Lava have come forward to establish their units in the EMC.

 

NIC-CERT

Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad, Hon’ble Minister of Law & Justice and Electronics & Information Technology inaugurated the “NIC-CERT”, a setup of National Informatics Centre, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on 11thDecember 2017. NIC-CERT has been setup with the objective of creating a comprehensive framework that integrates world class security components and inbuilt threat intelligence for detection, prevention and incident response.

NIC has been doing remarkable job of securing the Government cyberspace for a long time and by setting up this centre they have taken their experience and expertise to the next level.

In the recent past there has been an exponential growth in cyber attacks leading to concerns of data theft which led to the Government drafting the Data protection Act. As Internet with its ever expanding canvas of opportunities is touching the life’s of people, it necessitates the requirement to upscale the existing security infrastructure. NIC-CERT will operate in close coordination and collaboration with sectoral CERT’s and more so with Cert-in.

LaQshya|

The Union Health Minister and MoS (Finance) launched “LaQshya| लक्ष्य’’ – Labour Room Quality Improvement Initiative, a Safe Delivery Mobile Application for health workers who manage normal and complicated deliveries in the peripheral areas, and also released the Operational Guidelines for Obstetric High Dependency Units (HDUs) and Intensive Care Units (ICUs).

The National Health Policy 2017 has been approved which envisages the attainment of the highest possible level of health without anyone having to face financial hardship as a consequence. Mission Indradhanush, one of the largest global public health initiatives was launced in 2014.

Khelo India programme

 Union Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore said the government will launch a Khelo India programme at a cost of Rs 1,756 crore for the period 2017-18 to 2019-20.

The initiative would impact the entire sports ecosystem, including infrastructure, community sports, talent identification, coaching for excellence, competition structure and sports economy.The Khelo India campaign aims to promote 150 select schools in as many districts, and 20 universities across the country, as hubs of sporting excellence, which would enable talented sports persons to pursue the dual pathway of education and competitive sports.The programme would cover about 200 million children in the age group of 10-18 under a massive national physical fitness drive .Under the scheme, a campaign will be launched from January 31, 2018 to February 8, 2018 to spot sports talents under 17 years in schools, which will be telecast live.Likewise, another programme will be launched for under-21 college students.

A new Pan Indian Sports Scholarship scheme, which would cover 1,000 most talented young athletes each year across select sports disciplines will be introduced.Each athlete selected under the scheme will receive an annual scholarship worth Rs 5 lakh for 8 years, The year 2018 will be celebrated as Year of Sports .

 

 Asean-India Connectivity Summit (AICS)

 Keeping with Indias initiative of connectivity with southeast Asia under its Act East Policy, New Delhi has hosted an Asean-India Connectivity Summit (AICS) on December 11-12 on the theme “Powering Digital and Physical Linkages for Asia in the 21st Century

The event comes ahead of the visit of the leaders of the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) here next month for the commemorative summit of 25 years of the India-Asean dialogue partnership.In a historic first, the 10 leaders will collectively be the chief guests at next year’s Republic Day celebrations here. 

Lalji Singh

Eminent scientist and ‘father of DNA fingerprinting in India’ Lalji Singh died following a heart attack on Sunday. He was 70.Dr. Singh was one of the leaders instrumental in making DNA fingerprinting mainstream in India, both at the level of research as well as for forensic applications.This was after techniques advanced by him led to DNA profiling being used to establish parentage as well as solve some high profile crime cases in India.

Based on his work he was tasked by the government — in the late 1990s — to establish the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics (CDFD) with a mandate of making it a nodal centre for DNA fingerprinting and diagnostics for all species and several diseases.He also set up a slew of dedicated labs that worked on several aspects of genetics such as population biology, structural biology and transgenic research.

2017 Nobel Peace Prize
The 2017 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), a coalition of non-governmental organisations from over 100 countries around the globe.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee honoured the Geneva-based group “for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons.”

‘first’ mobile food testing laboratory

India’s ‘first’ mobile food testing laboratory, which will enable on-the-spot food safety tests is launched in Goa,
“This is the first ever ‘Food Safety on Wheel’ mobile laboratory in the country. The vehicle is equipped to conduct on-the-spot tests to check the food quality. It will also check the hygiene level of water, the results can be received within 15 minutes. 

Vyas Samman

Renowned Hindi scholar and writer Mamta Kalia has been chosen for this year’s Vyas Samman for her novel “Dukkham Sukkham” . 

According to the KK Birla Foundation, which instituted the award in 1991, Vyas Samman is given annually to an outstanding work of Hindi literature by an Indian citizen published in the last 10 years. The award includes a cash prize of Rs 3.50 lakh. “Dukkham Sukkham by Mamta Kalia, a well-known Hindi scholar and writer, has been selected for Vyas Samman 2017,” the foundation said in a statement. 

First energy-efficient ‘A1 Category’ railway

Kacheguda has earned the distinction of being the first energy-efficient ‘A1 Category’ railway station in the country. Kacheguda railway station in Hyderabad division of the SCR, has achieved 100 per cent energy efficiency by replacing 1,312 conventional lights with light-emitting diode (LED) lighting, 370 ceiling fans with Brushless DC Electrical (BLDC) motors energy-efficient fans and 12 air conditioners with energy efficient inverter type .

Wassenaar Arrangement (WA) decided to admit India

In a significant development, elite export control regime Wassenaar Arrangement (WA) decided to admit India as its new member, which is expected to raise New Delhi’s stature in the field of non-proliferation besides helping it acquire critical technologies.

The decision was taken at the two-day plenary meeting of the grouping in Vienna in Dec-2017

“Wassenaar Arrangement participating states reviewed the progress of a number of current membership applications and agreed at the plenary meeting to admit India which will become the Arrangement’s 42nd participating state as soon as the necessary procedural arrangements for joining the WA are completed,” the grouping said in a statement.

India’s entry into the export control regime would enhance its credentials in the field of non-proliferation despite not being a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The WA membership is also expected to build up a strong case for India’s entry into the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

Significantly, China, which stonewalled India’s entry into the 48-nation NSG, is not a member of the Wassenaar Arrangement.

 

The Wassenaar Arrangement plays a significant role in promoting transparency and greater responsibility in transfers of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies.

In June 2016 year, India joined the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), another key export control regime, as a full member.

Since its civil nuclear deal with the U.S., India has been trying to get into export control regimes such as the NSG, the MTCR, the Australia Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement that regulate the conventional, nuclear, biological and chemicals weapons and technologies.

The next regular plenary meeting of WA will be held in Vienna in Austria in December 2018, it was announced.

Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance (FRDI) Bill

The government is considering to raise the protection on bank deposits from the current Rs 1 lakh when the Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance (FRDI) Bill is taken up for final drafting.
At present, each depositor is protected only up to a limit of Rs 1 lakh by the guarantee of the Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation (DICGC). Deposit beyond Rs 1 lakh does not have any protection guarantee and is treated at par with claim of unsecured creditor as of now.

 There have been no instances of banks failing in recent years as RBI has stepped in to work out a resolution plan, without creating any risk for depositors.

#MeToo social media hashtag

Time magazine has named the social movement aimed at raising awareness about sexual harassment and assault, epitomised by the #MeToo social media hashtag, as the most influential “person” of 2017.

  • The cover features women who say they have been harassed
  • The two runners-up are Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump

“This is the fastest-moving social change we’ve seen in decades, and it began with individual acts of courage by hundreds of women — and some men, too

Kumbh Mela/ KumbhMela- December 2017

 The Kumbh Mela/ KumbhMela, the largest congregation of pilgrims on the planet, has been listed as an Intangible Cultural Heritage under UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation).

 “The Intergovernment Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage under UNESCO has inscribed ‘Kumbh Mela’ on the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity during its 12th session held at Jeju, South Korea from 4-9.

This inscription is the third in two years following the inscriptions of ‘Yoga’ and ‘Norouz’ on 1st December 2016,” said the Ministry of External Affairs in a press statement.

Joint cooperation committee

The United Arab Emirates announced to form a new economic and partnership group with Saudi Arabia, separate from the Gulf Cooperation Council, a move that could undermine the council amid a diplomatic crisis with member state Qatar.

It wasn’t immediately clear how the development could affect the six-member GCC meeting, which is expected to focus on the Qatar issue. Half of the GCC members are boycotting Doha in a dispute that’s cleaved the Arabian Peninsula.

The 2017 Qatar diplomatic crisis began when several countries abruptly cut off diplomatic relations with Qatar in June 2017. These countries included Saudi ArabiaUnited Arab EmiratesBahrain, and Egypt. The severing of relations included withdrawing ambassadors, and imposing trade and travel bans.

The crisis is an escalation of the Qatar–Saudi Arabia proxy conflict. The Saudi-led coalition cited Qatar’s alleged support for terrorism as the main reason for their actions, insisting Qatar has violated a 2014 agreement with members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Saudi Arabia and other countries have criticized Al Jazeera and Qatar’s relations with Iran. Qatar claims that it has assisted the United States in the War on Terror and the ongoing military intervention against ISIL.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia have cultivated even-closer ties in recent years. Emirati troops are deeply involved in the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

Abu Dhabi’s powerful crown prince, Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nayhan, also is believed to have a closer relationship with Saudi Arabia’s young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Rapists of girls 12 years or below will be hanged till death.

The Madhya Pradesh assembly  passed a bill that will see rapists of girls 12 years or below being hanged till death. Called Dand Vidhi (Madhya Pradesh Sanshodhan) Vidheyak, 2017, the bill will be sent to the Centre and will need the assent of the President to become a law.

The development comes after the latest NCRB report revealed that Madhya Pradesh recorded the highest number of rape cases in the country. The bill proposes death penalty or a minimum term of 14-year rigorous imprisonment or life imprisonment till death for raping girls aged 12 or less. The minimum punishment increases to 20 years rigorous imprisonment for gang rape of girls aged 12 or less.

The bill also proposes punishment for disrobing, stalking or sex on the pretext of marriage. The jail term increases for second or subsequent offences.

International conference on “Resilient Hindu Kush Himalaya

The Ministry of Population and Environment (MOPE), Government of Nepal and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) are co-hosting the international conference on “Resilient Hindu Kush Himalaya: Developing Solutions towards a Sustainable Future for Asia”, in Kathmandu, Nepal. The conference is being held from December 3-6, focusing on ideas and solutions to create effective and sustainable changes to improve mountain livelihoods.

 Four hundred experts from around the world are taking part in the conference. During the four day event, the expert group will be discussing on ideas for strengthening the fragile environments and communities of the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH), a mountain range that spans from Afghanistan to Myanmar.

 Global Compact on Migration
The US said it has pulled out of Global Compact on Migration, arguing that the Obama-era negotiated UN deal contains numerous provisions that are “inconsistent” with its immigration and refugee policies and the Trump Administration’s immigration principles. “President Trump determined that the US would end its participation in the Compact process that aims to reach international consensus at the UN in 2018,”

Earlier, the mission informed the UN Secretary-General about the US decision to end its participation in the Global Compact on Migration.

US participation in the Compact process began in 2016, following the Obama Administration’s decision to join the UN’s New York Declaration on migration. “The New York Declaration contains numerous provisions that are inconsistent with US immigration and refugee policies and the Trump Administration’s immigration principles,” it said.Under the Trump administration, the US has pulled out of several global commitments including the UN culture and education body, UNESCO, and the Paris climate change agreement.


petro

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro lunched  “petro” backed by oil reserves to shore up a collapsed economy. The leftist leader offered few specifics about the currency launch or how the struggling OPEC member would pull off such a feat, but he declared to cheers that “the 21st century has arrived!”“The Petro will be a cryptocurrency,” backed by oil, gas, gold and diamond reserves .

The petro, would help Venezuela “advance in issues of monetary sovereignty, to make financial transactions and overcome the financial blockade by USA.”

Opposition leaders derided the announcement, which they said needed congressional approval, and some cast doubt on whether the digital currency would ever see the light of day in the midst of turmoil. The real currency, the bolivar, is in freefall, and the country is sorely lacking in basic needs like food and medicine.

Noxeno

Government has launched Noxeno, a nasal foreign body removal device developed by start-up InnAccel Technologies Private Limited, Bangalore. It was developed by fellow trained under Biodesign program. Noxeno is It is first dedicated tool for anterior nasal foreign body (NFB) removal that allows doctors in any setting to quickly and safely remove objects that people (mostly children aged 2 to 10 years) put into their noses.

Information technology campus for persons with disabilities

The Telangana government , announced that it will set up an information technology campus for persons with disabilities, claiming this will be the world’s first such facility.

On the eve of World Disability Day, the government entered into an agreement with Vindhya E-Infomedia Private Limited to set up the IT campus, which will focus on creating employment opportunity for persons with disabilities.

Vindhya E-Infomedia, which is a pioneer in creating inclusive workspace, employs persons with disabilities as its major workforce. It currently has over 1,600 employees working out of Hyderabad and Bengaluru. Majority of their workforce comprises of physically challenged, hearing impaired, and visually impaired persons.

 

5% reservation for the Kapus

The Andhra Pradesh Assembly unanimously passed the A.P. Kapu (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutions and of Appointments or Posts in Services under the State) Bill on the last day of its winter session.

The Bill would now be sent to the Governor, who would refer it to the Central government for inclusion in the Schedule IX of the Constitution as the total reservations for the Backward Classes (BCs), the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and the Scheduled Tribes (STs) had crossed the cap of 50% stipulated by the Supreme Court and reached 55%.

With the Assembly passing this long-pending piece of legislation, the Kapu, Telaga, Balija and Ontari communities would get the quota under the new category ‘F’ in government jobs and seats in educational institutions, which would take the total reservation for six categories of the BCs to 34% (A-7%, B-10%, C-1%, D-7%, E-4% and F-5%). The SCs and the STs have 15% and 6% reservations respectively.

The Bill left no scope for political quota by clearly mentioning that it was confined to admission to educational institutions and in the State services but that it should not be construed as giving reservation in political positions or posts.

India  re-elected
India has been re-elected to the Council of the International Maritime Organisation under under Category Bthat represents nations with the largest interests in international sea borne trade. 

Indian High Commissioner to the UK Y K Sinha represented India at the assembly where India secured the second-highest number of votes (144) from member-countries, just after Germany’s 146 and ahead of Australia’s 143. 

The other countries to make the cut included France (140), Canada (138), Spain (137), Brazil (131), Sweden (129), The Netherlands (124) and the UAE (115). 

Hornbill Festival

The President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, inaugurated the Hornbill Festival and State Formation Day celebrations of Nagaland today (December 1, 2017) in Kisama.

The Hornbill Festival is the perfect showcase of rich Naga culture and traditions, preserved over the years in the form of music, dance and food. The Hornbill Festival at Kisama and the International Music Festival represent the diversity of Naga society.

“SAMPARK

 On the occasion of World AIDS Day, Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Anupriya Patel  launched the National Strategic Plan 2017-24 and Mission “SAMPARK”, to trace those who are Left to Follow Up and needed to be brought under ART services.
”The National Strategic Plan 2017-24 will pave a roadmap not only for achieving the target of 90:90:90 but also strive along with partners towards fast track strategy of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030,” she said while addressing a function to mark World AIDS Day, 2017 organised by the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

By 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status. By 2020, 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy. By 2020, 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.

National Nutrition Mission

The Union Cabinet  approved the National Nutrition Mission to ensure holistic development and adequate nutrition for adolescent girls, pregnant women, mothers and children.

The Ministry said it had actively leveraged on technology to address malnutrition, including development of software and its implementation in 50,000 anganwadis. 

The Ministry has designed a real-time monitoring system ‘ICDS-CAS’ to track nutrition goals and anganwadi functionality.  The Union Cabinet has approved setting up of National Nutrition Mission (NNM) with a three year budget of Rs.9046.17 crore commencing from 2017-18.

 The NNM, as an apex body, will monitor, supervise, fix targets and guide the nutrition related interventions across the Ministries. There will be ICT based Real Time Monitoring system.There will be incentivizing Anganwadi Workers (AWWs) for using IT based tools

NNM will be rolled out in three phases from 2017-18 to 2019-20. NNM targets to reduce stunting, under-nutrition, anaemia (among young children, women and adolescent girls) and reduce low birth weight by 2%, 2%, 3% and 2% per annum respectively. Although the target to reduce Stunting is atleast 2% p.a., Mission would strive to achieve reduction in Stunting from 38.4% (NFHS-4) to 25% by 2022 (Mission 25 by 2022).

‘Kathakar

The 7th edition of three day ‘Kathakar: International Storytellers Festival’ is organized in Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts ( IGNCA), New Delhi. Kathakar is the only oral storytelling festival in India and is a part of Ghummakkad Narain- the Travelling Literature Festival which was started under the aegis of UNESCO in 2010. Kathakar is an attempt to not just preserve the art form but also create new audiences for the same.

Ajeya Warrior- 2017’ 

The Combined Military exercise ‘Ajeya Warrior- 2017’ between India and the UK was held at Mahajan Field Firing Range near Bikaner of Rajasthan.
It was third joint military exercise between India and UK. The first exercise was conducted in 2013 at Belgaum, Karnataka and second exercise was held in and the second exercise was held in 2015 in the UK.The main objective of this exercise is to increase mutual cooperation.
Saikhom Mirabai Chanu

Saikhom Mirabai Chanu  became the first Indian in over two decades to claim a gold medal at the World weightlifting championship, exorcising the ghosts of her forgettable outing at the Rio Olympics.

Chanu lifted 85kg in snatch and 109kg in clean and jerk to total an impressive 194kg in the 48kg category and in the process set a new National record in clean and jerk. Her own previous record was 108kg in June this year.Olympic bronze medallist Karnam Malleswari had won the top prize in the Worlds twice — in 1994 and 1995.

Software-defined-radio

The Defence Ministry  approved purchasing of naval communication software worth over Rs. 490 crore.

 Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) approved procurement of over 260 software-defined-radio (naval communication) sets under the category of buy (India Designed Developed & Manufactured) at a cost of over Rs 490 crore.Software-defined radio (SDR) is a radio communication system where components that have been traditionally implemented in hardware are instead implemented by means of software on a personal computer or embedded system. While the concept of SDR is not new, the rapidly evolving capabilities of digital electronics render practical many processes which used to be only theoretically possible.

TRAI recommendations on net neutrality 

On Nov. 28, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) released its recommendations on net neutrality that make it mandatory for telecom companies to treat the internet—declared a basic human rightby the United Nations—as a public utility and not a luxury.

 Telecom companies cannot control the content people access or the speed at which all online traffic flows, TRAI said, nor can they create “fast lanes” with priority content delivery for higher-paying customers. Violators may be fined up to Rs50 lakh ($77,621).

There are, however, some exceptions, including unforeseeable transitory congestion, specific security threats, or prioritisation for stipulated emergency services.

“TRAI chairman RS Sharma told . “Therefore, it is important that this platform be kept open and free and not cannibalised.”

Last February, TRAI shut out Facebook’s Free Basics program after a prolonged debate, ending the social media giant’s efforts to offer free access to a limited web in India. “While formulating the regulations, the authority has largely been guided by the principles of net neutrality .

The reaffirmation of net neutrality will be a shot in the arm for the country’s digital economy, India’s IT industry lobby NASSCOM said in a statement. “It would ensure a level playing field for IT and OTT (over-the-top) services providers to innovate and customise in India and provide a constantly expanding range of new services relevant to every individual,” it added.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), an independent agency of the US government that oversees all radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable communication, recently announced a decision to repeal net neutrality rules, giving internet service providers (ISPs) the freedom to experiment with new pricing models and content prioritisation.

Badri Narain Sharma
Senior bureaucrat Badri Narain Sharma has been appointed as the chairman of the national anti-profiteering authority under the GST regime, according to an official order.

Sharma, a 1985 batch IAS officer of Rajasthan cadre, is at present additional secretary in the department of revenue.

The Union Cabinet had on November 16 approved setting up of the five-member authority, mandated to ensure that the benefits of GST rate reduction is passed on to consumers.

As per the structure of the anti-profiteering mechanism in the GST regime, complaints of local nature will be first sent to the state-level screening committee, while those of national level will be marked for the standing committee.

 

Tripartite MoU

A tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed  between National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) and Tourism and Hospitality Sector Skill Council (THSC) with Airbnb, the world’s leading community-driven hospitality company.  

 The MoU will provide hospitality skills training to hospitality micro-entrepreneurs in India.   Speaking on the occasion, Union Minister for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Shri  Dharmendra Pradhan said, “We believe that this partnership will help to augment Skill India Mission by bringing in global best practices for the training of small hospitality entrepreneurs. The domestic tourism has immense potential in India and this partnership will benefit the ecosystem by creating opportunities for women and youth.  We will extend all possible cooperation to make India a tourism hotspot.”  

Under the terms of the MoU, the parties agree to:

  • ESTABLISH occupation standards and competency matrices for job roles and develop the courses for hospitality entrepreneurs offering homestay and facilities, other unique accommodations and local experiences for travellers;
  • CREATE standards for certification and accreditation as per the requirements and global benchmarks of Tourism and Hospitality industry for hospitality entrepreneurs offering homestay facilities, other unique accommodations and local experiences for travellers;
  • SET the framework for long-term Council-Industry partnership;

Russia to assist India in national crisis management

Russia will assist India to set up a national crisis management centre in the country to handle disaster and other emergency situations. This was agreed during a meeting between Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Russian Minister for Emergency Situations Vladimir Puchkov in Moscow today.
Both sides agreed that EMERCOM of Russia would cooperate with India in the establishment of the National Crisis Management Centre (NCMC) in India, an official statement said.
48th International Film Festival of India (IFFI)

The 48th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) came to an end at Panaji in Goa . The closing ceremony was held at Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Stadium in Bambolim. Bollywood Superstar Akshay Kumar was the guest of honour at the closing ceremony and the event saw the likes of various celebrities including Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif, Sidharth Malhotra and many more. Sidharth Malhotra performed at the closing ceremony and Amitabh Bachchan was honoured with personality of the year award

Ivanka Trump

Ivanka Trump, daughter and adviser to US President Donald Trumphas arrived in Hyderabad for the annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit co-hosted by India and the US. For the first time, the GES is being held in South Asia. The three-day summit, from November 28-30, is being held at the Hyderabad International Convention Centre (HICC) and Hyderabad International Trade Expositions (Hitex).

Ms Trump is leading a delegation of senior White House officials as well as American entrepreneurs. The theme of this year’s summit is ‘Women First, Prosperity for All’ and  includes 1,200 young entrepreneurs, and most of them are women.

N.K. Singh

Former Planning Commission member N.K. Singh was  appointed chairman of the 15th Finance Commission, which, among other things, has been asked to look into the impact of the goods and services tax (GST) on finances of both the centre and states.

 

First artificial intelligence politician

Scientists have developed first artificial intelligence politician, that can answer queries on local issues such as policies around housing, education and immigration.

The virtual politician, called SAM, was created by Nick Gerritsen, a 49-year-old entrepreneur in New Zealand. “There is a lot of bias in the ‘analogue’ practice of politics right now.

 

Aditya-L1 mission

The India Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has set its sights on the sun with the Aditya-L1 mission.

“Aditya-L1, India’s maiden mission to the Sun, will be launched in 2019,” (ISRO) chairman A.S. Kiran Kumar  told  on the sidelines of the ‘International Seminar on Indian Space Programme’ organised by ISRO in partnership with Antrix, the commercial arm of ISRO, and industry group FICCI, to woo Indian industry to partner in space operations.

The main aim of the solar mission is to improve our understanding of “dynamical processes of the sun,” and help resolve some outstanding questions in solar physics.

This orbit has the advantage of allowing continuous monitoring of the sun.The second edition of India’s moon mission, Chandrayaan II is scheduled for launch in March 2018. The space agency is aiming to double its satellite launches next year from the current eight to nine annually to 20 every year

Gopi Thonakal-

Gopi Thonakal became the first India man to win Asian Marathon Championship after he achieved the feat in the 16th edition of the prestigious event, in Dongguan .

Gopi clocked 2 hours 15 minutes and 48 seconds to clinch the gold. Andrey Petrov of Uzbekistan bagged the silver with a timing of 2:15:51s while Byambalev Tseveenravdan of Mongolia won bronze by clocking 2:16:14s.Gopi, thus, became the first Indian man to win the title after the formation of separate Asian Marathon championships. Earlier Asha Agarwal won the women’s title when it was part of the biennial Asian Track & Field Championships.

The International Gita Mahotsav
 

The International Gita Mahotsava is organized from November 17–December 3,2017, at Kurukshetra.The event will be organised in partnership with Mauritius. Uttar Pradesh will be also associated with it.

Bacterial immune system into a microscopic data recorder

Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center have converted a natural bacterial immune system into a microscopic data recorder, laying the groundwork for a new class of technologies that use bacterial cells for everything from disease diagnosis to environmental monitoring.The researchers modified an ordinary laboratory strain of the ubiquitous human gut microbe Escherichia coli, enabling the bacteria to not only record their interactions with the environment but also time-stamp the events. Such bacteria, swallowed by a patient, might be able to record the changes they experience through the whole digestive tract, yielding an unprecedented view of previously inaccessible phenomena.

NPPA  has capped prices of 51 essential formulations-

The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) is a government regulatory agency that controls the prices of pharmaceutical drugs in India. It was formed on 29 August 1997.National drug pricing regulator NPPA  has capped prices of 51 essential formulations, including those used for the treatment of cancer, pain, heart conditions and skin problems. The prices have been slashed in the range of 6 to 53 per cent.
Moreover, retail prices of 23 essential formulations have also been notified,
A new species of gecko

A new species of gecko was found in the Eastern Ghats in northern Andhra Pradesh. The reptile, which is endemic to the area, was identified as a different species after a five-year study.Named after eminent herpetologist Sushil Kumar Dutta from Odisha, Hemidactylus sushilduttai or Dutta’s Mahendragiri gecko is the 32nd species of house geckos (Hemidactylus) from India, and among the largest in its genus. The genus has around 90 species across the world.

“The new species was earlier misidentified as the spotted rock gecko (Hemidactylus maculatus) – a large-bodied lizard, endemic to the northern Western Ghats in Maharashtra.

YONO,

 State Bank of India (SBI) launched India’s first comprehensive digital service platform YONO, acronym for ‘You Only Need One’, an official handout read.
Integrated omni-channel digital platform  offers just about everything related to financial services and lifestyle products /services.
In addition to an array of banking & financial services, YONO will also allow customers to meet their lifestyle needs across 14 categories including booking & renting cabs, entertainment, dining experience, travel & stay, medical needs and so on.
The bank has partnered with over 60 e-commerce players to provide customised offers and discounts to customers. Some of the key e-commerce partners include Amazon, Uber, Ola, Myntra, Jabong, Shoppers Stop, Cox & Kings, Thomas Cook, Yatra, Airbnb, Swiggy and Byjus, among others.

Amendment in Indian Forest Act, 1927

President promulgated an Ordinance, amending the Indian Forest Act, 1927 which with immediate effect exempts bamboo grown in non-forest areas from the requirement of felling/transit permit. The move will encourage bamboo plantation by farmers and help enhance their income.

The Indian Forest (Amendment) Ordinance, 2017 comes a day after the Union cabinet approved the amendment. A bill to replace the Ordinance is most likely to be introduced in the Parliament during its forthcoming winter session next month.

“Government wanted to provide relief to farmers, who have grown bamboo on their private land, with immediate effect and that’s why it opted for the Ordinance route.The bamboo grown in forest areas will, however, continue to be protected under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980. The exemption will be meant only for those grown on non-forest land.

 

Global Conference on Cyber Space or GCCS

The fifth edition of the Global Conference on Cyber Space or GCCS is organised in Delhi. GCCS is one of the worlds largest conferences on cyber space.
The theme of the two-day conference is Cyber4All: A Secure and Inclusive Cyberspace for Sustainable Development.

 GCCS 2017 will give the world’s cyber community a unique opportunity to learn from global experience and expert insight, and discover more about the technology led transformation being engineered in India,” he added.

MOU On Rohingya people

Bangladesh and Myanmar have signed a memorandum of understanding  on the return of Rohingya people who fled the Rakhine state in the wake of a military crackdown.

The deal was signed by Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmud Ali and Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw. At least 600,000 Rohingya people have fled Myanmar to the neighbouring Bangladesh since the army started an operation in August following an attack by Rohingya militants.

Under the deal, the repatriation process is expected to begin in two months.

 

Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC)

President Ram Nath Kovind  gave his assent to the ordinance approved by the Union Cabinet to amend the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) to strengthen the regime.

The ordinance aims at putting in place safeguards by prohibiting wilful defaulters, those associated with non-performing assets (NPAs), and the habitually non-compliant, from regaining control of the defaulting company or stressed assets through the back door in the garb of being a ‘resolution applicant’.

“The sale of property to a person who is ineligible to be a resolution applicant … has been barred,” . Significantly, the amendments also provide for fine ranging from Rs. 1 lakh to Rs. 2 crore for those violating these norms.

A new section has been introduced in the IBC that makes certain persons ineligible to be a ‘resolution applicant’. Those being made ineligible include “wilful defaulters, those who have their accounts classified as NPAs for one year or more and are unable to settle their overdue amounts including interest thereon.”

Fifteenth Finance Commission –

The Cabinet  set the ball rolling for the constitution of the Fifteenth Finance Commission, which will decide the devolution formula for revenue-sharing between the Centre and States from the year 2020 till 2025.

The Commission, whose members and terms of reference will be notified soon, will have to grapple with the significant changes in the taxation framework, such as the Goods and Services Tax, which has replaced the earlier indirect taxation system.

The Fourteenth Finance Commission, whose recommendations were accepted by the government and are effective till March 31, 2020, had mooted a ten percentage points jump in States’ share of the central pool of taxes from 32% earlier to 42%.

 “The Fifteenth Finance Commission’s recommendations have to be in place before April 1, 2020. The normal experience is that a Finance Comission takes about two years to undertake consultations and finalise its report,” said Mr. Jaitley, explaining the timing of the Cabinet decision.

Panel to review IT Act 1961

With the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in place, the government has now turned its attention towards improving India’s direct tax regime by constituting a task force to review the country’s 56-year old Income Tax law and suggest a new law to replace it.

The Finance Ministry formed a task force led by Central Board of Direct Taxes Member Arbind Modi to review the Income Tax Act, 1961 and draft a new direct tax law in consonance with economic needs of the country.

 “The terms of reference of the task force is to draft an appropriate direct tax legislation keeping in view the direct tax system prevalent in various countries, international best practices, the economic needs of the country and any other matter connected thereto,” the Ministry said in a statement.

 The task force had been given six months to submit its report to the Centre. Hence, a decision on the tax law overhaul is unlikely in the 2018-19 Union Budget.

Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian will be a permanent special invitee in the task force that also includes academics, private sector tax experts and a retired Indian Revenue Service officer.

 

IMD Talent Rankings

India was ranked at the 51st spot among 63 countries on the IMD Talent Rankings in terms of ability to attract, develop and retain talent. In the previous rankings, India was ranked at the 54th spot. However, according to the rank list by IMD, it ranked among the bottom five countries in the world in terms of investment in education as a percentage of GDP.

 In the ranking, Switzerland has topped the list, closely followed by Denmark, Belgium, Austria, Finland, Netherlands, Norway, Germany, Sweden and Luxembourg in top 10 while India was at 51

  • India was ranked 62nd (on investment and development), 43rd (appeal) and 29th (readiness) in the three main categories
  • The rankings are based on a country’s performance in three main categories — investment and development, appeal, and readiness which assess how countries perform in a wide range of areas which include education, apprenticeships, workplace training, language skills, cost of living, quality of life, remuneration and tax rates
  • Globally, Europe continues to dominate rankings being most competitive countries and leading Asian economies in rankings are Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan. They have cemented their global status as hubs of attracting and retaining highly-skilled workers though they trail Europe in this regard
  • Many of our neighbours have fared far better on the World Talent Ranking. Republic of Korea ranked 39 followed by China, and Thailand came in at the 42nd place. Philippines, which jumped up 10 ranks, has overtaken India too. In the BRICS bloc, only Brazil trailed India and by one rank only  .Major  ranks are-
  • Switzerland: 100.0,Denmark: 89.4,Belgium: 83.8,Austria: 83.6,Finland: 83.2

India on the other hand got a score of only 42.2.

Logistics Sector  granted Infrastructure status

 The Logistics Sector has been granted Infrastructure status. The need for integrated Logistics sector development has been felt for quite some time in view of the fact that the logistics cost in India is very high compared to developed countries.

 High logistics cost reduces the competitiveness of Indian goods both in domestic as well as export market. Development of logistics would give a boost to both domestic and external demand thereby encouraging manufacturing and ‘job creation’. This will in turn be instrumental in improving country’s GDP.

The inclusion of “Logistics Sector” in the Harmonized Master List of Infrastructure Sub-sectors was considered in the 14th Institutional Mechanism (IM) Meeting held on 10th November, 2017.

It was recommended by the Institutional Mechanism and subsequently approved by the Union Finance Minister, Shri Arun Jaitley. “Logistics Infrastructure” is included by insertion of a new item in the renamed category of ‘Transport and Logistics’, with a footnote stating that “Logistics Infrastructure” means and includes Multi-modal Logistics Park comprising Inland Container Depot (ICD) with minimum investment of Rs. 50 crore and minimum area of 10 acre, Cold Chain Facility with minimum investment of Rs.15 crore and minimum area of 20,000 sq. ft, and/or Warehousing Facility with investment of minimum Rs. 25 crore and minimum area of 1 lakh sq ft.

It will enable the Logistics Sector to avail infrastructure lending at easier terms with enhanced limits, access to larger amounts of funds as External Commercial Borrowings (ECB), access to longer tenor funds from insurance companies and pension funds and be eligible to borrow from India Infrastructure Financing Company Limited .

 

Dalveer Bhandari

An acrimonious competition”,  between India and the United Kingdom (UK) for the 15th and final place on the Bench of the International Court of Justice (ICJ),which was won by the former’s candidate, Dalveer Bhandari, after the UK withdrew its candidate from the election. 

 

As reported earlier, Bhandari received 183-193 votes in the United Nations General Assembly and secured all the 15 votes in the Security Council after separate and simultaneous elections were held at the UNheadquarters in New York.

 

 permanent members of the UN Security Council were ‘unnerved’ by the  India’s nominee winning against Britain’s candidate in the election to the last seat of the World Court as it would set a precedent that might challenge their power in the future. 
The Giving Pledge-

Infosys co-founder and tech billionaire Nandan Nilekani and his wife Rohini Nilekani have joined ‘The Giving Pledge’, an elite network of the world’s wealthiest individuals committing half their wealth to philanthropy.

The Giving Pledge website uploaded Nilekanis’ letter signing up for the cause.The letter said, “We thank Bill and Melinda for creating this unique opportunity to realise a moral aspiration inspired by the Bhagwad Gita – ‘Karmanye Va dhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana, Ma karma phalaheturbhurma Te Sangostvakarmani’.”

 

 

 

IMBAX – 2017

The first India Myanmar Bilateral Military Exercise 2017(IMBAX – 2017) is scheduled to be conducted in India from November 20 -25, the Shillong  .The joint exercise is the first of its kind military training exercise on United Nations Peacekeeping Operations (UNPKO) between India & Myanmar.

Gleadovia konyakianorum

Scientists have discovered a new species of parasitic flowering plant that has no chlorophyll, and survives by feeding on another species of plant that does (chlorophyll helps a plant make its own food using sunlight).

The species, named Gleadovia konyakianorum, in honour of the Konyak tribe of Nagas, was identified during a botanical exploration .

 

Indira Gandhi Prize for peace-2017

Former prime minister Manmohan Singh will receive the Indira Gandhi Prize for peace, disarmament and development this year for his leadership of the country between 2004 and 2014 and for enhancing India’s stature globally.

According to a statement from the Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust, Singh was unanimously chosen for the award by an international jury chaired by ex-president Pranab Mukherjee.

PDF 470 KB-Moscow

… The first World Health Organization (WHO) Global Ministerial Conference on Ending TB in the Sustainable Development Era saw ministers from around the world reaffirm their commitment to end the tuberculosis (TB) epidemic by 2030. 

A Ministerial Declaration (PDF 470 KB) was signed containing commitments by countries to accelerate action to end TB and reach the milestones on the road towards the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This will inform the UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on TB in 2018.

The Union urged those attending to take a broad approach at the highest level to tackle TB and to urgently support TB research and development (R&D) if we are to beat the epidemic.

Namami Barak festival-Nov 2017

 

 Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal inaugurated the Namami Barak festival  and said that Barak and Brahmaputra rivers have the same language, that is of brotherhood, unity and harmony.

Sonowal said the Namami Barak is not only a festival but it is a new journey to explore these parts of Assam. Saying this festival is organised to revive humanistic values, to discover resources and possibilities of the land.

 

 

Manushi Chhillar

 India’s Manushi Chhillar has won the Miss World beauty pageant for the year 2017. The win comes 17 years after Priyanka Chopra brought home the coveted title in the year 2000. Andrea Meza, who is Miss Mexico was the first runner up and Stephanie Hill from England was second runner up. Around 108 women from across the world participated in the beauty pageant.
Bonn Summit- UN climate conference- COP23

Delegates from over 190 countries agreed to a 12-month engagement focusing on ‘Where are we, where do we want to go and how do we get there?’The ‘Talanoa Dialogue’, inspired by the Pacific concept of constructive discussion, debate and story-telling, will set the stage in Poland in 2018 for the revising upwards of national climate action plans needed to put the world on track to meet pre-2020 ambition and the long-term goals of the two-year old Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement’s central goal is keep the global average temperature rise below 2 Celsius and as close as possible to 1.5—the lower limit is deemed crucial for survival by many small islands and vulnerable countries.

Over one degree of this rise has already occurred since pre-industrial times. The current set of national climate action plans, known as NDCs, are still heading for a path towards 3 Celsius, possibly more.

Moody’s Investors Services raised India’s sovereign rating

Global credit rating agency Moody’s Investors Services raised India’s sovereign rating for the first time in 13 years  citing the country’s high growth potential in the years to come, thanks to economic and institutional reforms.

“The decision to upgrade the ratings is underpinned by Moody’s expectation that continued progress on economic and institutional reforms will, over time, enhance India’s high growth potential and its large and stable financing base for government debt, and will likely contribute to a gradual decline in the general government debt burden over the medium term,” the rating agency said, upgrading the Indian government’s rating as a local and foreign currency issuer from Baa3 with a positive outlook to Baa2 with a stable outlook. Obligations rated Baa2 are subject to moderate credit risk.

They are considered medium grade and as such may possess certain speculative characteristics. Baa3, by contrast, was the lowest investment grade rating.

For the government, the upgrade serves as a strong rebuttal for critics who have panned its handling of the economy — coming on the back of India’s rise in the World Bank’s ease of doing business index, and as a culmination of persistent efforts to get rating agencies to acknowledge India’s improved macroeconomic situation.

Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana –

Ministery for Power and New & Renewable Energy, launched the Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana – ‘Saubhagya’ Web Portal here today. The portal can be accessed

Saubhagya Dashboard is a platform for monitoring household electrification progress, which would disseminate information on Household Electrification Status (State, District, village-wise), Household Progress on live basis, State-wise Target vs Achievement, Monthly Electrification Progress, etc.

 

The Minister said that achieving electrification of 4 crore households is a big challenge, nevertheless the Government is committed to achieve this target by December 2018, with the cooperation of all the States. This would, in turn, bring about a huge improvement in the Quality of Life of the Citizens of India. 

The Government is bringing a change in the Power ecosystem in the Country by pushing towards mandatory metering of all new electrical connections through pre-paid or smart meters. This would make paying of electricity bills viable for the poor, reduce power losses and increase compliance in paying electricity bills, Shri Singh said.

 

 

National Anti-profiteering Authority

 The Union Cabinet has approved the creation of the National Anti-profiteering Authority to ensure that businesses pass on the benefits of GST to consumers.

The decision to set up the enforcement body marks the government’s resolve to ensure that the latest tax rate reductions approved by the GST Council on more than 200 items are implemented immediately by businesses. Crucially, the authority has been granted wide-ranging powers, including to cancel the registration of offending firms in extreme cases.

 “This paves the way for the immediate establishment of this apex body, which is mandated to ensure that the benefits of the reduction in GST rates on goods or services are passed on to the ultimate consumers by way of a reduction in prices.”

Zimbabwe’s military seized power

Zimbabwe’s military seized power saying it was targeting “criminals” around President Robert Mugabe, the only ruler the country has known in its 37 years of independence.

Soldiers seized the state broadcaster. Armoured vehicles blocked roads to the main government offices, Parliament and the courts in central Harare, while taxis ferried commuters to work nearby. The atmosphere in the capital remained calm.

The military said Mr. Mugabe and his family were safe. Mr. Mugabe himself spoke on the telephone to the President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, and told him he was confined to his home but fine, the South African Presidency said in a statement.

It was not clear whether the apparent military coup would bring a formal end to Mr. Mugabe’s rule; the main goal of the generals appears to be preventing Mr. Mugabe’s 52-year-old wife Grace from succeeding him.

Mr. Mugabe plunged Zimbabwe into a fresh political crisis last week by firing his Vice-President and presumed successor.

The generals believed that the move was aimed at clearing a path for Ms. Grace Mugabe to take over and announced on Monday that they were prepared to “step in” if the purges of their allies did not end.

 Ek Bharat-Shreshtha Bharat Yojana 

17 November 2017 Current Affairs: Madhya Pradesh partnered with Nagaland and Manipur under Ek Bharat-Shreshtha Bharat Yojana to strengthen cultural relations between them.
The  Government has made its Higher Education Department as a nodal department to execute the scheme.

They will participate in Sangai Mahotsav which is being organized in Manipur.

Ek Bharat-Shreshtha Bharat Yojana launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Ekta Diwas (31st October 2015) on the occasion of birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel.
India’s first mega coastal economic zone

The Union Government has given go-ahead for setting up India’s first mega coastal economic zone (CEZ) at Jawaharlal Nehru Port (JNPT) in Maharashtra.

The first of its kind mega CEZ will stretch along north Konkan region spread across Mumbai, Thane, Pune, Nashik and Raigarh. 

About 45 companies across auto, telecom and IT sectors will soon bid for 200 hectares of land to set up manufacturing units in zone.

JNPT: Know More

  • The Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) at Navi Mumbai (formerly known as the Nhava Sheva Port) located within the Mumbai harbour on the west coast of India, was commissioned on 26th May 1989.
  • It occupies a place of prominence among the major Indian ports.
  • It is the second youngest and one of the most modern major ports of the country. Though it was initially planned to be a “satellite port” to the Mumbai Port with the purpose of decongesting traffic at the latter, eventually it was developed as an independent port on its own right and it became the country’s largest container port.
  • Being one of the oldest ports in India, the Mumbai port was proving to be structurally inadequate to meet the requirements of modern cargo handling.
  • There was an urgent need for a new port in the Mumbai region, which eventually led to the birth of JNPT in 1989.

 

SAMPRITI 2017

Joint Indo-Bangladesh Training Exercise SAMPRITI 2017, which is being conducted at Counter Insurgency & Jungle Warfare School, Vairengte in Mizoram culminated today with a validation exercise.  

It is the seventh such exercise in the SAMPRITI series.  The exercise has been aimed to strengthen and broaden the aspects of interoperability and cooperation between the Indian and Bangladesh Armies. The 13-day long field training exercise commenced on 06 November 2017, which was culminated with a validation exercise on November 15-16. It was conducted in a progressive manner wherein the participants initially familiarised themselves with each other’s organisational structure and tactical drills. Subsequently, the training advanced to various joint tactical exercises by the two Armies. 

Bharat Stage-VI grade fuel           

The Delhi ‘smog’ seems to have ended the ongoing feud between car manufacturers and petroleum retailers on the rollout of Bharat Stage-VI grade fuel. Both have expressed their preparedness to meet the Petroleum and Natural Gas Ministry’s proposal to advance the higher-grade fuel supplies by two years to April 1, 2018.

As three State governments — Delhi, Punjab, and Haryana — struggle to find a solution to the air pollution, an official statement from the Ministry said that considering the “serious pollution levels” in Delhi and adjoining areas, the Ministry had decided in consultation with public sector Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) to advance the timeline for the rollout of BS-VI grade fuel in the National Capital Territory to April 1, 2018 from April 1, 2020.

“The PSU OMCs have also been asked to examine the possibility of introduction of BS-VI auto fuel in the whole of NCR area from April 1, 2019,” the statement added.

The government had earlier decided to leapfrog from BS-IV to BS-VI grade by April 1, 2020, skipping BS-V.
The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) said BS-VI fuel will cut sulphur emissions by five times from the current BS-IV level, a whopping 80 per cent reduction.

Besides, according to the CSE, this will improve emisisons from the existing fleet, even from the older vehicles on road, while allowing more advance emisisons control systems to be fitted in

 “Delhi is a small market compared to the entire country. If push comes to shove, both HPCL and BPCL can purchase fuel from IndianOil and private refiners to meet the requirements,” said an oil company excutive.

Financial Stability Institute Advisory Board

RBI Governor Urjit Patel  appointed to the Financial Stability Institute Advisory Board or the Bank of International Settlement (BIS), a global financial organisation owned by major central banks from across the world. The Financial Stability Institute (FSI) of the BIS assists financial sector authorities worldwide in strengthening their financial systems.

Since the beginning of 2017, the FSI has been implementing a new strategy that includes achieving closer interaction with central banks and financial supervisory agencies, which are its main stakeholders. As part of these efforts, the BIS has decided to reactivate the FSI Advisory Board that was originally created in 1998 and ceased to operate some time later, Switzerland-based BIS said in a statement.

 

Information Utility (IU)

As part of its attempts to further strengthen bankruptcy regulations, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) plans to amend listing norms to make it mandatory for companies to disclose all data on debt to the newly-formed Information Utility (IU) — a central database for loans taken by firms from banks and financial institutions.

SEBI is discussing the modalities with various stakeholders like IBBI (Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India), banks, lawyers and industry experts,” said a person, who did not wish to be named. “An amendment in the listing regulations to make companies directly report to an IU seem to be the best way ahead.” The move, once implemented, will tighten the regulatory framework for disclosure of debt and also give lenders access to a central database that has the borrower’s credit history, including defaults if any.

 

BHARAT-22 Exchange Traded Fund (ETF)

The Government of India launched today the BHARAT-22 Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) managed by ICICI Prudential Mutual Fund targeting an initial amount of about ₹ 8,000 crore. This New Fund Offer is open till November 17, 2017. The Units of the Scheme will be allotted 25% to each category of investors. In this ETF, the Retirement Fund has been made separate category of Investors. In case of spill-over, additional portion will be allocated giving preference to retail and retirement funds. There is a 3% discount across the board.

The strength of this ETF lies in the specially created Index S&P BSE BHARAT-22 INDEX. This Index is a unique blend of shares of key CPSEs,Public Sector Banks (PSBs) and also the Government owned shares in blue chip private companies like Larsen & Tubro (L&T), Axis Bank and ITC. The shares of the Government companies represent 6 core sectors of the economy – Finance, Industry, Energy, Utilities, Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) and Basic Materials. This combination makes the Index broad-based and diversified. The Sector and Stock exposure limits help in risk management and reduction of concentration, providing stability to the Index. The strength of the Index has been demonstrated in its performance from the time of its launch in August 2017 wherein it has out-performed the NIFTY-50 and Sensex.

The Index constituents include leading Maharatanas and Navratanas such as Coal India, GAIL, Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd. (PGCIL), National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), Indian Oil Corporation Ltd., Oil & Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), Bharat Petroleum, and National Aluminum Company (NALCO), three Public Sector Banks such as SBI, Bank of Baroda apart from the 3 private sector companies mentioned earlier.

The Government of India is undertaking a number of Key Economic Reforms which is driving growth in these sectors of economy. 

India’s first Tribal Entrepreneurship Summit
With the motive to inspire, nurture and promote the spirit of entrepreneurship in tribal youth, the NITI Aayog in partnership with the US government has organized India’s first Tribal Entrepreneurship Summit on Tuesday. The summit is inaugurated by MoS Science and Technology YS Chowdhary held at Dantewada in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh. his event is an 8th Global Entrepreneurship Summit, being held in India which ensures yet another step towards tribal-centric sustainable and inclusive development. Addressing the issues faced by the tribal community in pragmatic and progressive ways the summit also allows a stage to the tribal youths.
India -PhilippinesAgeement

India today signed four agreements, including one to step up cooperation in the defence sector, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi held talks with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte here to boost bilateral ties.

Modi, the first Indian prime minister to visit the Philippines in 36 years, had a very warm and cordial meeting with president Duterte, Secretary East, Ministry of External Affairs, Preeti Saran said.

She said the two countries signed an agreement to boost bilateral cooperation in defence and logistics.

The two sides also signed an agreement on enhancing cooperation in agriculture, small and medium enterprises and Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) and the Philippines Foreign Service Institute, Saran said.

Duterte expressed interest in acquiring fast offshore patrol vessels and welcomed Indian pharmaceutical companies to invest in his country to make good quality and cheaper drugs.

He also said Indian infrastructure companies could explore opportunities in his country.

Prime Minister Modi expressed interest in expanding cooperation with the Philippines in the renewable energy sector and welcomed the country to join the Solar Alliance.

He also invited Duterte to visit India to take part in the 25th anniversary of India-ASEAN relations which will be celebrated next year. PTI MRJ AKJ MRJ

 

Youth Development Index (IYDI)

ndia Youth Development Index (IYDI) and Report 2017 was released by the Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports to track the trends in Youth Development across the States. The India Youth Development Index will enable to recognize high and low performing states, identify weak domains and inform the policy makers the priority areas of intervention for youth development in the states. The Index has been developed by Rajiv Gandhi National Institute of Youth Development (RGNIYD), Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu.

 

  • Project Saksham’
  • ….. Project Saksham’ willbegin in January 2018 and will continue till September 2018. This project comprises training courses and specially designed skill-upgrade modules.
  • Every employee of Indian Railways, from the rank of a peon to the Railway Board Members, will have to undergo training under ‘Project Saksham’.
  • Nature of training will depend on the work profile of the employee. This may range from a refresher course to gain information about global best practices in respective work areas or upgrading the skills for those involved in technical work.
  • Mode of training may either be a five-day on-the-job training, or classroom sessions in Railway Training Centres.
  • Railway General Managers have been directed to identify training needs, divide their subordinates into small groups and communicate the entire training plan to Union Railway Ministry by December 31, 2017.
  • The project will be launched on January 12, 2017 (tentative date).This date coincides with the 155th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda.
  • Post completion of training, the reporting managers will have to ensure that the newly acquired skills are easily integrated into the regular jobs.

The APEC summit-2017

APEC Vietnam 2017(Vietnamese: APEC Việt Nam 2017) is the year-long hosting of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings in Vietnam, which will culminate with the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Đà Nẵng [4]to be hosted at InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort[5]. It marks the second time Vietnam was playing host to the APEC, having hosted the event previously in 2006

Leaders of 21 Pacific Rim countries attended this meeting. This was the first APEC meeting for several leaders including United States President Donald Trump, South Korean President Moon Jae-in  and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. The APEC summit for 2018 will be held in Papua New Guinea.


News In-a-Line:

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting 2017- held in Vietnam- under theme- ‘Creating New Dynamism, Fostering a Shared Future’.

Economic Leaders’ Meeting[edit]

Attendees

This was the first APEC meeting for United States President Donald Trump,South Korean President Moon Jae-inHong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, since their inaugurations on 20 January 2017, 10 May 2017, 1 July 2017 and 26 October 2017, respectively.

 

Second official language in Telangana

 declare Urdu as the second official language in Telangana.” This statement by Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao on the floor of the Telangana Assembly has kicked up a language war in the state, with the BJP coming out to ask why Hindi or English are not being considered for the same.

Accusing the Chief Minister of playing vote bank politics, Krishna Sagar Rao, BJP spokesperson told CNN-News18, “We strongly condemn this Muslim appeasement move by the Chief Minister. First, he announced a special IT corridor for Muslims, which was bizarre and now this impractical move of making Urdu the second official language. People prefer English or Hindi, as it does value addition and help them with jobs, etc. We completely reject this move as it will lead to splurging of public money and nothing else.”
In this latest move, Chief Minister KCR has asked all government offices starting from the Chief Minister’s Office to District Collectorate, to receive all petitions in Urdu as well. 
All competitive examinations will also be conducted in Urdu.

Not just making Urdu an official language, earlier the CM had announced that minorities’ development and welfare will be among the top priority programmes being implemented by the state government.

However, the most controversial move was to develop an exclusive industrial estate and IT Corridor for Muslims.

Showering the minorities with several such schemes, he has also asked his officers to work with more dedication towards the minorities, who are, like the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, living in poverty.
The Telangana government had even passed a Bill to secure 12 percent reservation for the Muslims, which will ultimately increase their reservation in jobs and educational institutions. The Bill is yet to be approved by the Centre. 

 

 

National Testing Agency (NTA).

 Union Cabinet approved the setting up of National Testing Agency (NTA). The agency would be responsible for conducting entrance examinations in the country thus relieving educational bodies like CBSE, AICTE etc. of their exam conducting duties. The agency would begin its operation with taking over examinations which are currently being conducted by CBSE and eventually cover other entrance examinations. The setting up of NTA would allow students to have access to one standardized test and will also curb allegation of uneven difficulty level in various sittings in an exam. 

 The Finance Minister in the budget speech of 2017-18 had announced that a national body will be set up, with an allocation 0f 25 cr which will be responsible for conducting entrance examinations for higher education. 
 Some of the exams which would be conducted by NTA will be JEE Main, NEET UG, UGC NET, CTET, etc. The exams will be conducted online and will likely be conducted twice a year. So far entrance exams like JEE Main or NEET UG are conducted only once a year. UGC NET used to be conducted twice a year but from this year, CBSE announced that NET will also be conducted once a year.

Second National Judicial Pay Commission (SNJPC)

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved appointment of Second National Judicial Pay Commission (SNJPC) for Subordinate Judiciary in the country.

The Commission is to be headed by Shri Justice (Retd.J P.Venkatrama Reddi, former Judge of Supreme Court of India. Shri R. Basant, a former Judge of the Kerala High Court is the Member of the Commission.

The Commission will make its recommendations to the State Governments preferably within a period of 18 months.

It will examine the present structure of emoluments and conditions of service of Judicial Officers in the States and UTs

The recommendations of the Commission will help in promoting efficiency in Judicial Administration, optimizing the size of judiciary etc. and to remove anomalies created in implementation of earlier recommendations.*

Debjani Ghosh

The National Association of Software and Services Companies – better known as Nasscom – is set to have its first female president. The trade body named Debjani Ghosh its president-designate to succeed R Chandrashekhar after his tenure ends in March.

Prerogative of the Chief Justice

Disapproving of a judicial order that had decided the composition of a Bench for hearing a corruption case, a five-judge Constitution Bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra,  ruled that it is the prerogative of the Chief Justice to decide what matter is heard by which judge.

The ruling effectively nullifies an order passed by a two-judge Bench a day earlier, directing that the case be posted before a Bench comprising the five senior-most judges on November 13.

In his order, the CJI asserted his role as “the master of the roster” in order to protect the Supreme Court from “anarchy”,

A Constitution Bench-on corruption case

A Constitution Bench of the “first five judges of the Supreme Court in the order of seniority” will hear on November 13 a petition seeking an independent investigation by a special team, supervised by a former Chief Justice of India (CJI), into a corruption case involving a former Orissa High Court judge.

The judge allegedly conspired with a “hawala dealer” to influence the outcome of a case pending in the Supreme Court in favour of a debarred private medical college.

The medical college case in question was heard by a Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, in August-September 2017 .

Washington and Beijing  main pillars-Nov2017

The United States  highlighted its special ties with China in managing global problems, including nuclear tensions in North Korea, instability in Afghanistan and tackling the scourge of international terrorism.

“The United States working with China and other regional partners have an incredible opportunity to advance the cause of peace, security and prosperity all across the world. It is a very special time and we do indeed have that very special opportunity,” said Mr. Trump.

The remarks by the two leaders were preceded by a ceremony, where massive deals worth $253 billion dollars, focussed on shale energy, aviation, and computer chips were signed. State-owned China Petroleum and Chemical Corp signed a $43-billion joint natural gas exploration contract in Alaska. China National Petroleum Corporation inked an initial agreement with Cheniere Energy, specialising in shale gas, for long-term supplies of liquefied natural gas. China’s cellphone giants Xiaomi, OPPO and Vivo also signed deals with U.S. telecom mobile chip-maker Qualcomm.

Significantly, China’s Silk Road Fund, a unit under the People’s Bank of China promoting the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), will set up a joint fund with the U.S. During his remarks, President Xi also invited American firms to participate in the BRI. In other contracts, China will buy Tesla electric cars and Boeing aircraft from the U.S.

Facebook  ‘Disaster Maps’

In a bid to help communities recover and rebuild faster in the aftermath of natural disasters in India, Facebook  introduced new measures, including its ‘Disaster Maps’ feature in the country. As part of the effort, Facebook will make data from ‘Disaster Maps’ available to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and the Sustainable Environment and Ecological Development Society (SEEDS), a non-profit organisation working on disaster resilience.

‘Disaster Maps’, which was introduced globally in June, uses aggregated, de-identified Facebook data to help organisations address the critical gap in information they often face when responding to natural disasters. Facebool enables letting your friends and family know you are safe with ‘Safety Check’ feature or using Facebook to raise donations for relief efforts,”

Airport at Minicoy Island

The Island Development Agency (IDA) decided today to develop an airport(public-private partnership (PPP) package) at Minicoy Island to boost tourism and promote tuna fishing industry for improving livelihoods in Lakshadweep.

The IDA was set up on June 1 ,2017 following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s review meeting for the holistic development of islands.Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh chaired the second meeting of the IDA .

It was noted that site development potential reports have clearly mapped and delineated environmentally—sensitive zones in the project islands, and considering the unique maritime and territorial bio-diversity of the islands, enhanced connectivity has been recommended as one of the key priorities, according to a press release issued by the home ministry.

New Delhi bench had stayed Kaleshwaram work

A division bench of Hyderabad High Court comprising Acting Chief Justice Ramesh Ranganathan and Justice Uma Devi  set aside the order of National Green Tribunal, New Delhi, which stayed work of Kaleshwaram project. The bench remanded the case back to the tribunal, but imposed stringent conditions upon the Telangana government, even in taking up drinking water component.

M.C. Mary Kom

Indian sporting legend M.C. Mary Kom (48kg) clinched an unprecedented fifth gold medal but Sonia Lather (57kg) settled for silver at the ASBC Asian Confederation women’s boxing championships here on Wednesday.

Up against North Korea’s Kim Hyang Mi, the five-time World champion and Olympic bronze-medallist prevailed in a unanimous 5-0 verdict to add another medal to her already crowded cabinet.

The India Post Payments Bank (IPPB)

The India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) has been recently incorporated as a public sector company under the Department of Posts with 100% GOI equity.

IPPB will offer demand deposits such as savings and current accounts up to a balance of Rs 1 Lac, digitally enabled payments and remittance services of all kinds between entities and individuals and also provide access to third-party financial services such as insurance, mutual funds, pension, credit products, forex, and more, in partnership with insurance companies, mutual fund houses, pension providers, banks, international money transfer organisations, etc. The government is gearing to open 650 branches ofIndia Post Payments Bank (IPPB) by April-May next year as it looks to facilitate financial inclusion across the country, primarily in rural areas.

The branches are likely to be functional in all the 650 districts of the country by April-May next year and all the rural post offices will be connected to these branches.

Senior National Badminton Championship
 Saina Nehwal dug deep into her experience and upstaged fancied PV Sindhu, quite incredibly, in straight games to clinch the women’s singles title in the Senior National Badminton Championship .

Second seed HS Prannoy, who achieved a career-best World No. 11 ranking last week, saw off top seed World No 2 Kidambi Srikanth 21-15, 16-21, 21-7 in a 49-minute battle to win the men’s singles title in the 82nd edition of the tournament.
SHe-Box

WCD Minister Smt Maneka Sanjay Gandhi has launched a comprehensive SHe-Box online complaint Management System for women working in both public and private organizations to lodge complaints of sexual harassment at workplace. TheSHe-Box was launched in New Delhi  to ensure the effective implementation of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act (the SH Act), 2013.

The new SHe-Box portal offers the facility of making online complaints of sexual harassment at workplace to all women employees in the country including government and private employees. Those who have already filed a written complaint with the concerned Internal Complaint Committee (ICC) or Local Complaint Committee (LCC) constituted under the SH Act are also eligible to file their complaint through this portal.

Musa paramjitiana

Botanists in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands have discovered a species of wild banana named Musa paramjitiana, in honour of Paramjit Singh, who happens to be the director of the Botanical Survey of India (BSI). The species was found in North Andaman’s Krishnapuri forest, 6 kilometres from any human habitation.

The plant grows to a height of nine metres and bears an edible, sweet-and-sour tasting fruit that is boat-shaped and has numerous bulb-shaped seeds. Its conservation status has been declared as ‘Critically Endangered’ as it has so far been spotted in only two locations on the islands, each with 6 to 18 plants in a clump.

 Tyrannomyrmex alii
Researchers have discovered a new species of ant Tyrannomyrmex alii  in the Western Ghats, recognised as one of the world’s ‘hottest hotspots’ of biological diversity.

The new species was found in the Periyar Tiger Reserve.

Paying tribute to their mentor and eminent myrmecologist Musthak Ali, who is regarded as the country’s ‘ant man’, the authors of the study have named the new species Tyrannomyrmex alii (or T. alii)
‘Nirbhay’
India successfully conducted a flight test of its state-of-the-art sleek cruise missile ‘Nirbhay’, which is capable of carrying warheads of up to 300 kg. The indigenously designed and developed long-range sub-sonic cruise missile was launched from a test range at Chandipur along the Odisha coast. Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) sources told PTI that the missile was launched from a specially designed launcher from the launch complex-3 of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur in Odisha’s ,Balasore. This was the fifth experimental test of the homegrown missile system..

Seven commodities  Geographical Indications

A Geographical Indication (GI) is primarily an agricultural, natural or a manufactured product (handicrafts and industrial goods) originating from a definite geographical territory.

Typically, such a name conveys an assurance of quality and distinctiveness, which is essentially attributable to the place of its origin.

Famous Banaganapalle mangoes of Andhra Pradesh and Tulapanji rice of West Bengal are among the seven commodities that have been granted Geographical Indications this fiscal year by the Indian patent office.

The other five products which have received this tag this year include Pochampally Ikat(saree) of Telangana; Gobindobhog Rice of West Bengal; Durgi Stone Carvings and Etikoppaka Toys of Andhra Pradesh; and Chakshesang Shawl of Nagaland, according to the Indian patent office website.

Darjeeling Tea, Tirupathi Laddu, Kangra Paintings, Nagpur Orange and Kashmir Pashmina are among the registered GIs in India.
Paradise Papers

The financial data on how big corporatess and ultra-rich individuals moved money to and from 19 tax havens to evade taxes. Paradise Papers, contains 13.4 million documents from two leading firms in offshore finance. Most of the data leak came from Appleby, a Bermuda-based legal services provider, that facilitated setting up of offshore firms with low or zero tax rates. Singapore-based Asiaciti was the other firm that helped wealthy to move money to tax havens.

A Multi-Agency Group (MAG) will investigate the Paradise Papers on offshore financial holdings, including a list 714 Indian individuals and entities, the government said .

 “The government has directed that investigations in cases of Paradise Papers will be monitored through a reconstituted Multi-Agency Group, headed by CBDT Chairman and including representatives from the Central Board of Direct Taxes, ED (Enforcement Directorate), RBI (Reserve Bank of India) and FIU (Financial Intelligence Unit),” a Finance Ministry release said here.

EMALS

The Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System(EMALS), is a type of aircraft launching system currently under development by the General Atomics for United States Navy. EMALS launchescarrier-based aircraft from an aircraft catapult using a linear motor drive instead of the conventionalsteam piston drive. EMALS was developed for the Navy’s Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers .India is likely to get this system from US

India won the Asia Cup-2017

 India won the Womens Asia Cup to secure qualification in next year’s hockey World Cup following a nerve-wracking win over China in the final here on Sunday.

The team broke a 13-year-old jinx when skipper Rani scored the final goal and Savita foiled an attempt from the rivals to ensure a 5-4 win.

Article 35A-

Jammu and Kashmir Advocate-General Jehangir Iqbal Ganai  said Article 35A, which is being contested in the Supreme Court through a number of petitions, “is not part of the Indian Constitution”.

“There is an argument projected that the President has no powers to amend the Constitution. The fact of the matter is Article 35A is not part of the Constitution of India. It’s a part of the Constitution only applicable to J&K. There is a difference. So there is no requirement of Parliament amending it,

UNESCO Asia Pacific Award of Merit 2017

Following the massive renovation and restoration work which was carried out at the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple in Srirangam, the sacred shrine temple has won the UNESCO Asia Pacific Award of Merit 2017 for cultural heritage conservation.

It has become the first temple in Tamil Nadu to be given the prestigious award from the UN body .

The other monuments which received the award in India are Mumbai’s Christ Church and Royal Bombay Opera House under Award of Merit category, reported

Smart Anti-Airfield Weapon (SAAW)

 Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Indian Air Force (IAF successfully tested an indigenously-built lightweight ‘glide bomb’ at the Integrated Test Range in Odisha’s Chandipur.

Designated as the Smart Anti-Airfield Weapon (SAAW), the bomb(targets at greater than 70 km range, with high accuracies) released from the IAF aircraft was guided through precision navigation system.

Deen Dayal SPARSH Yojana

Minister of Communications Shri Manoj Sinha has launched a Pan India scholarship program for school children called Deen Dayal SPARSH Yojana to increase the reach of Philately. Under the scheme of SPARSH (Scholarship for Promotion of Aptitude & Research in Stamps as a Hobby), it is proposed to award annual scholarships to children of Standard VI to IX having good academic record and also pursuing Philately as a hobby through a competitive selection process in all postal circles.

53rd Jnanpith Award

Eminent Hindi Litterateur Krishna Sobti has been awarded the 53rd Jnanpith Award for the year 2017 for her path-breaking contribution to Indian literature. Jnanpith is the highest literary award of the country.

Born in 1925 iin Gujrat in Pakistan’s Punjab Province, Sobti (92) is known for experimenting with new writing styles and creating “bold” and “daring” characters in her stories who were ready to accept all challenges. Her language was highly influenced by the intermingling of Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi cultures.

GI tag – Etikoppaka toys

The mood is upbeat in Etikoppaka village located on the banks of the river Varaha in Visakhapatnam district, as the Geographical Indication Registry has given the Geographical Indication (GI) tag to the traditional toys made by the artisans in the village.

The GI is a name or sign used on certain products which correspond to a specific geographical location or origin.

The Etikoppaka toys now join the elite products from Andhra Pradesh such as Kondapalli toys, Bobbili Veena, Tirupati laddu, Srikalahasthi Kalamkari, Uppada Jamdani sarees and Shadow puppets.

Kanchipuram Silk Saree, Alphanso Mango, Nagpur Orange, Kolhapuri Chappal, Bikaneri Bhujia, Agra Petha ..are the other significant GI from India.

Government of India enacted Geographical Indications of Goods  (Registration and Protection) Act in 1999. (Came into force in 2003). As per this act:

  1. Registrar of Geographical Indications (Chennai)an application has to be given.
  2. Intellectual Property Appellate Board to hear appeals over the decisions of the Registrar of Geographical Indications.
  3. GI can be given to agricultural, natural or manufactured goods originating in the said area.
  4. Registration of a geographical indication is valid for a period of 10 years (can be renewed.)

Global Gender Gap Index: India Ranks 108

India ranked 108 of 144 countries on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index 2017–slipping 21 places from 87 in 2016.India’s gender gap score of 0.669 out of 1 (where 1 means parity) is lower than the global average of 0.680. In 2016, India had scored 0.683.

The report benchmarks 144 countries on their progress towards gender parity across four thematic dimensions–economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival and political empowerment.

Source: World Economic Forum

India’s decline in the global gender gap index is attributable to “a widening of its gender gaps in political empowerment as well as in healthy life expectancy and basic literacy”, said the report.

Another area where India needs to improve is political empowerment–both in terms of presence of women in Parliament and women in ministerial positions–where it scores 0.406 out of 1 and was ranked 15 in the world.

The gap between men and women widened for the first time since 2006 when the index was first published. It would take 100 years to close the gap between the genders compared to the estimated 83 years last year, the report said.

 

 LEI compulsory

 Legal Entity Identifier (LEI) mandatory for transactions in interest rate, forex and credit derivative market, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has made LEI compulsory for companies having aggregate fund-based and non-fund based exposure over Rs 5 crore.

 

LEI is a unique 20 digit alphanumeric code that will be assigned to corporate borrowers. Banks will be required to capture this number in the Central Repository of Information on Large Credits (CRILC) database that captures details of loan above Rs 5 crore.

The LEI number will help banks in monitoring the aggregate exposure of corporate borrowers.

It would also enable banks in preventing multiple loans to companies against the same collateral. While the requirement for obtaining LEI will be rolled out in phases, the RBI will issue detailed instructions by the month-end detailing time lines for different set of companies depending upon their s

 
Wildlife conservation reserve for blackbucks

A wildlife conservation reserve dedicated exclusively to the blackbuck is coming up over 126 hectares in the trans-Yamuna region of Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh.

The State cabinet has approved a Blackbuck Conservation Reserve in the Meja forest division that is known for its rocky, undulating and arid terrain.

There are a few national parks and sanctuaries inhabited by blackbuck in the country, like the Velavadar Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat and the Ranibennur Blackbuck Sanctuary in Karnataka. However, there are not many conservation reserves exclusively dedicated to the antelope.

Creating and Sustaining Markets for Energy Efficiency

Recognizing India’s efforts towards a low emission-economy and focusing on energy efficiency programmes, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) has now partnered with Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), under Ministry of Power, for the project ‘Creating and Sustaining Markets for Energy Efficiency’. 

The project will receive a composite funding of $454 million comprised of the GEF grant of $20 million and co-financing of $434 million in the form of loans and equity, including a $200 million loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB). 

EESL further proposes Energy Efficiency Revolving Fund (EERF) for sustainable funding mechanism of energy efficiency projects in the country.

The EERF mechanism will support the ‘proof of concept’ investments for the new technologies of super-efficient ceiling fans, tri-generation technologies & smart grid-applications and ultimately scaling up energy efficiency financing and programme development.

Tri-generation is the production of electricity, heat and cooling in the one process. Typically this means a gas fired generator producing electricity and heat with the exhaust heat going to an absorption chiller which produces chilled water and hot water for air conditioning or alternatively the heat is used to heat a swimming pool .

This will help cover initial investment costs of identified energy efficiency programmes like street lighting, domestic lighting, five-star rated ceiling fans and agricultural pumps, in the country. 

This unique model will help in addressing the upfront risks of new technologies.

Further, the accrued savings from these technologies can then be used to finance additional projects, which would allow capital to revolve as a sustainable funding mechanism.

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) was established on the eve of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit to help tackle our planet’s most pressing environmental problems.   Today, the GEF is an international partnership of 183 countries, international institutions, civil society organizations and the private sector that addresses global environmental issues.

The GEF is…

A FINANCIAL MECHANISM for 5 major international environmental conventions: the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD), the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), and the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

 

Bill to regularise guest teachers in Delhi.

Arvind Kejriwal dramatically hitting out at Lt Governor Anil Baijal for “opposing” a Bill to regularise guest teachers in Delhi.

Kejriwal was taking part in a discussion on a Bill introduced in the Assembly to regularise the employment of around 15,000 guest teachers (working on contractual basis) in Delhi government-run schools. The Bill was later passed by the House through voice vote.Registering his objection, Baijal had said that matters relating to ‘services’ fall beyond the legislative competence of the Legislative Assembly of the National Capital Territory of Delhi and that the proposed legislation was not in accordance with the Constitutional scheme.

Ajay Bisaria

India has appointed Ajay Bisaria, its current ambassador to Poland, as the next high commissioner to Pakistan .Bisaria takes over from Gautam Bambawale, who was last month appointed India’s ambassador to China.

PRABAL DOSTYK – 2017

 fourteen day joint training exercise “PRABAL DOSTYK – 2017” between the Indian Army and the Kazakhstan Army commenced with the Opening Ceremony at Bakloh, Himachal Pradesh. The joint exercise is aimed at enhancing the military ties between the two countries as also at achieving interoperability between the two armies. The training contingents comprise of platoon strength from the 11th Gorkha Rifles of the Indian Army and a similar strength of the Kazakhstan Army.

RKVY-RAFTAAR 

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has approved the continuation of Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) as Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana- Remunerative Approaches for Agriculture and Allied sector Rejuvenation (RKVY-RAFTAAR) for three years i.e. 2017-18 to 2019-20.  The financial allocation of the scheme will be Rs. 15,722 crore with the objective of making farming as a remunerative economic activity through strengthening the farmer’s effort, risk mitigation and promoting agri¬business entrepreneurship.

RKVY-RAFTAAR funds would be provided to the States as 60:40 grants between Centre and States (90:10 for North Eastern States and Himalayan States) through the following streams:

 Doing Business 2018 report

World Bank, in its Doing Business 2018 report has been  released. The report ranks India at 100 among 190 countries. Last year, India was ranked 130.GST would be accounted for only in next year’s report, and the report’s methodology does not capture the impact of demonetisation on ease of doing business.

The report measures aspects of regulation affecting 11 areas of the life of a business. India made eight reforms across these areas last year, the highest for the country in a single year. India is one of the three countries last year that undertook reforms in as many as eight areas.The report is above all, a benchmark study of regulation. The survey consists of a questionnaire designed by the Doing Business team with the assistance of academic advisers. The questionnaire centers on a simple business case that ensures comparability across economies and over time. The survey also bases assumptions on the legal form of the business, size, location, and nature of its operations. The ease of doing business index is meant to measure regulations directly affecting businesses and does not directly measure more general conditions such as a nation’s proximity to large markets, quality of infrastructure, inflation, or crime.

 

Bitcoins

With a 300 per cent increase in its value in just one year, Bitcoins could well be the kind of investment one may be looking for. The rising popularity of crypto currencies and the increasing number of entities looking at raising funds through Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) has caught the attention of the capital market regulator()SEBI, which is evaluating whether such instruments and offerings can be brought under its regulatory purview.

 

 In India, one can purchase Bitcoin from Zebpay exchange,Unicoin . Zebpay has Android and iPhone app which lets you link your bank account for quick transfers.One can buy Bitcoins by making a payment to Zebpay’s bank account. You can also withdraw the money to your bank account, and track data on Bitcoin valuation in the country.As per a recent CNBC India report, a committee of finance ministry officials, IT ministry officials, NITI Aayog, and Reserve Bank officials, may be inching closer to legalizing virtual currencies in India.

The Inter-Disciplinary Committee’s report is expected to be announced by the end of July, after which the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) may be asked to step in to regulate transactions.

So, if Bitcoins are legalised in India, the following would happen:

  • Bitcoins would fall under the purview of RBI’s 1934 Act.
  • Bitcoin investors would be taxed.
  • RBI would issue guidelines regarding investment and purchase of Bitcoins.
  • If any foreign payment is made through Bitcoins, it would fall under the purview of FEMA Act.
  • Returns from investment in Bitcoins would be taxed.

Interestingly, the news comes around the same time when the Bitcoin trade analyst, Chris Burniske, highlighted that trades from India accounted for 10% of global cryptocurrency trade, in May.

He tweeted a chart tracking cryptocurrency trades that show India accounted for 16,754.76 coins by trade volume. It has also been ranked fourth on the Bitcoin cryptocurrency trading market.

 

The rising popularity of crypto currencies and the increasing number of entities looking at raising funds through Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) has caught the attention of the capital market regulator, which is evaluating whether such instruments and offerings can be brought under its regulatory purview.According to persons familiar with the development, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) is mulling whether an ICO can be regulated under the existing legal framework or certain amendments would be required in case the government wants the capital market watchdog to be the regulatory authority for such issuances. Incidentally, crypto currencies like bitcoin, ethereum and such offerings have been under government radar for long and discussions have been held between various bodies, including SEBI and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), on the possible ways in which this segment can be regulated. The central bank is of the view that these instruments are securities and so SEBI should be the regulating body.

‘Concrete presentation’

“While it is a bit early to say that SEBI wants to regulate crypto currencies and ICOs, it is true that work is being done in this subject so that it has something concrete and specific to present to the government,” said a person familiar with the development. The regulator is evaluating whether these instruments can be regulated under the current SEBI Act or if there is a need for the government to give additional powers or amend the existing law, he added.An ICO, like an equity initial public offer (IPO), is an issuance of digital tokens that can be converted into crypto currencies and are mostly used to raise funds by start-up firms dealing in blockchain technology and virtual currencies like bitcoins and ethereum.

Unlike an IPO, which is governed by SEBI regulations, there is no regulatory body for ICOs in India.

According to data from UK-based CoinDesk, nearly $2.7 billion has been raised globally through ICOs since 2014. Concerns related to ICOs can be gauged from the fact that China recently banned such offerings after its central bank said that ICOs are “illegal public finance” mechanism used for issue of securities and money laundering.According to a recent study, more than 2,500 Indians invest in bitcoin daily. Start-ups like Zebpay, Unocoin, Coinsecure, Searchtrade, Belfrics and Bitxoxo are some of the well-known players in the bitcoin and blockchain segment in India. Sumit Agrawal, partner, Suvan Law Advisors, and a former SEBI law officer, is of the view that while crypto currencies and ICOs have risks and involve pooling of money, it cannot be regulated by SEBI unless it is relatable to the securities market. “Bitcoins are neither ‘commodities derivatives’ nor ‘securities’ under Securities Contracts (Regulation) Act, 1956. Amending definition of ‘securities’ alone may not resolve the issue of bitcoin regulation as there are numerous issues revolving around,” said Mr. Agrawal. Bitcoin players, meanwhile, feel that instead of a regulator, the industry is in more urgent need of a self-regulatory organisation (SRO) that could formally lay down principles to take care of concerns like money laundering and other possible misuse. “The industry is at an initial stage and an SRO would not hinder innovation and, at the same time, allow the industry to scale in a responsible manner,” said Sandeep Goenka, co-founder, ZebPay.

ement prices are set to rise in north India in the wake of a Supreme Court ban on the use of petroleum coke (petcoke), a vital component used in the making of cement.

Early last week, the apex court had ordered a ban on the industrial use of petcoke and furnace oil in the National Capital Region (NCR) from November 1.

Sequel to EPCA ban

The order is a sequel to the recommendation of the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) to ban the sale, distribution and use of furnace oil and pet coke in the NCR. Their use is already prohibited in Delhi.

According to India Ratings and Research (Ind-Ra), cement prices in northern India could go up from November 1. “There will be intermittent headwinds as cement manufacturers could have some inventories of petcoke in place and the court has not clarified on the use of this stock, post ban,” the agency said.

The development was credit-neutral for Ind-Ra-rated cement manufacturers, it added. “Cement manufacturers in the northern region, particularly from Rajasthan (where most of the clinker plants are situated), will have to use either domestic coal or imported coal from November 1.

he Union Cabinet has approved the framework for merging state-owned banks. Plans are to consolidate a total of 21 public sector banks, with the details of these banks still awaited. The mergers will be to bring the number of public sector banks from 21 down to somewhere between 10 and 15.

An alternative mechanism will be brought up to give in-principle approval to the proposals of banks to prepare schemes of amalgamation, statement Ministry of Finance. A panel of ministers will look after the entire process of merger of PSU banks, said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

 

Following this, banks will prepare their merger schemes in accordance to legal boundaries and SEBI regulations. The final scheme will be notified by the Central Government as consulted with Reserve Bankk of India.

The motive behind the decision is to modify public sector banks according to suit the credit needs of the growing economy that is India, Also, the entities formed after merging PSU banks will be able to absorb shocks and can generate capital without depending on the state exchequer.

 

SC bench for validity of the Aadhaar

 Supreme Court has decided to constitute a five-judge Constitution Bench to hear petitions from November-1017  against the validity of the Aadhaar scheme.A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra took the step after Attorney General K.K. Venugopal said falsehoods had been spread about Aadhaar linking.A separate Bench of Justices A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, meanwhile, issued notice to the government on a petition filed by an advocate , challenging the mandatory linking of Aadhaar with mobile numbers as a violation of the fundamental right to privacy.

Centre convinced SC on J&K

The Centre convinced the Supreme Court  to defer hearing on petitions challenging the special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir, saying it has appointed an interlocutor to commence talks with stakeholders in the State.

Appearing before a Bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal said the court should adjourn the hearing on the petitions against Article 35A of the Constitution for six months. The court, however, settled for 12 weeks in its order.

‘Will affect process’

Article 35A is a provision incorporated in the Indian Constitution giving the Jammu and Kashmir State Legislature a carte blanche to decide who are the ‘permanent residents’ of the State and grant them special right and privileges in State public sector jobs, acquisition of property within the State, scholarships and other public aid and welfare programmes.

UN global wildlife conservation and international species protection conference – 2020,

India will host the next UN global wildlife conservation and international species protection conference in 2020, it was announced on Saturday in the Philippine capital.An announcement in this regard was made in the12th session of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals or CMS COP12, the only international treaty devoted exclusively to migratory animal species.The CMS COP12 in Manila has been the largest-ever meeting in the 38-year history of the convention, which is also known as the ‘Bonn Convention’ after the German city in which it was signed.The summit saw some notable outcomes, including a vulture multi-species action plan to better protect 15 species of Old World Vulture in more than 120 countries, comprising four that are critically endangered in India.

 

World Bank’s Doing Business Report

The ease of doing business index is an index created by the World Bank Group. Higher rankings (a low numerical value) indicate better, usually simpler, regulations for businesses and stronger protections of property rights. A nation’s ranking on the index is based on the average of 10 subindices:

  • Starting a business– Procedures, time, cost and minimum capital to open a new business
  • Dealing with construction permits– Procedures, time and cost to build a warehouse
  • Getting electricity– procedures, time and cost required for a business to obtain a permanent electricity connection for a newly constructed warehouse
  • Registering property– Procedures, time and cost to register commercial real estate
  • Getting credit– Strength of legal rights index, depth of credit information index
  • Protecting investors– Indices on the extent of disclosure, extent of director liability and ease of shareholder suits
  • Paying taxes– Number of taxes paid, hours per year spent preparing tax returns and total tax payable as share of gross profit
  • Trading across borders– Number of documents, cost and time necessary to export and import

Enforcing contracts – Procedures, time and cost to enforce a debt contract                                                    Resolving insolvency – The time, cost and recovery rate (%) under bankruptcy proceeding India has secured 100th position out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s Doing Business   

Finalisation of MoP

A Bench of  SC.Justices A.K. Goel and U.U. Lalit issued notice to the Attorney-General of India K.K. Venugopal, the Centre’s top law officer, to explain why the finalisation of the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) for appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and the high courts continues to “linger”.Six of the 24 high courts have been without regular Chief Justices for months.The Bench posted the hearing for November 14 while appointing senior advocate K.V. Vishwanathan as amicus curiae(an impartial adviser to a court of law). It recorded in a written order that it has been about two years since a five-judge Constitution Bench, in December 2015, tasked the Centre with the drafting and finalisation of the MoP.The decision to give the job to the government was an aftermath of the same Constitution Bench’s historic decision, in October 2015, to strike down the government’s National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) law. The NJAC law had given politicians an equal say in judicial appointments to constitutional courts. Justice Goel was one of the five judges on the Constitution Bench.

Catalonia 

 Is a region in the northeastern extremity of  Spain .Its constitutional status is the subject of a dispute between the Kingdom of Spain, which views it as an autonomous community within Spain, and the Generalitat de Catalunya, which views it as an independent republic following a unilateral declaration of independence from Spain on 27 October 2017. Under the Spanish constitution, it is an autonomous community with the designation of a nationality by its Statute of Autonomy.

Acinda Kate Laurell Ardern

Is a New Zealand politican who has been the 40th Prime Minister of New Zealand since 26 October 2017. She is also Leader of the Labour Party, having taken office on 1 August 2017, and has been theMember of Parliament (MP) for the Mount Albert electorate since 8 March 2017. She was first elected to parliament as a list MP at the 2008 general electionShe is the world’s youngest female leader, taking office at age 37.

 

OBC reservation from 21% to 26%.

The Rajasthan Assembly has passed a Bill which has increased reservation for Other Backward Classes in government jobs and educational institutions from 21% to 26%. The Bill created a new “most backward” category within the OBCs for providing the quota benefit to Gujjars and four other nomadic communities.

The Backward Classes (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutions in the State and of Appointment and Posts in Services under the State) Bill, 2017, has provided 5% reservation to the Gujjar, Banjara, Gadia-Lohar, Raika and Gadariya communities. With the Bill’s passage, reservation in Rajasthan now stands at 54%, exceeding the 50% ceiling mandated by the Supreme Court.

Gujjars and others were earlier roped in as a special backward class community and the State government had tried thrice to grant 5% reservation to them. However, the legislation was struck down every time by the Rajasthan High Court, which ruled that the quota had not only exceeded the 50% limit, but was also not supported by quantifiable data supporting the claim of Gujjars’ backwardness.

 

Revised  framework for ‘block deals’

Markets regulator SEBI  revised the framework for ‘block deals’ by providing two separate trading windows of 15 minutes each and increasing the minimum order size to Rs. 10 crore.The move is aimed at ensuring confidentiality of the large trades and stable prices for such transactions.The block deal window is provided for buyers and sellers to execute trades for a large number of shares. Such deals are usually negotiated before their execution.Under the new rules, SEBI would provide two block deal windows — morning and afternoon — of 15 minutes duration each.Besides, the regulator has increased the minimum order size for execution of trades in the block deal window to Rs. 10 crore. Presently, block deal for shares worth Rs. 5 crore through a single transaction is allowed.The final norms have been put in place after taking into consideration views of market participants and Secondary Market Advisory Committee (SMAC).The morning window would operate from 8:45 a.m. to 9 a.m. and the reference price for execution of block deals in this window would be the previous day’s closing price of the stock.With regard to afternoon window, the regulator said it would operate from 2:05 pm to 2:20 pm.The pricing would be based on the volume weighted average market price (VWAP) of the trades executed in the stock in the cash segment between 1:45 p.m. to 2 p.m.

 

Bharatmala

Is the name given to a centrally-sponsored and funded road and highways project of the Government of India. The total investment for this plan is estimated at  5.35 trillion (US$83 billion), making it the single largest outlay for a government road construction scheme.The ambitious umbrella programme will subsume all existing highway projects including the flagship National Highways Development Project (NHDP), launched by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 1998.According to government officials working out the details of the scheme, the total road length to be developed as expressways under this plan will be around 51,000 km (32,000 mi). In the first phase, 29,000 km (18,000 mi) will be developed with an outlay of ₹5.5 trillion (US$86 billion).Bharatmala Project, which was cleared by the Union Cabinet on October 25, is the second largest highways construction project in the country since NHDP, under which almost 50,000 km or highway roads were targeted across the country. Bharatmala will look to improve connectivity particularly on economic corridors, border areas and far flung areas with an aim of quicker movement of cargo and boosting exports.The project will start from Gujarat and Rajasthan, move to Punjab and then cover the entire string of Himalayan states – Jammu and KashmirHimachal PradeshUttarakhand – and then portions of borders of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar alongside Terai, and move to West Bengal , SikkimAssamArunachal Pradesh, and right up to the Indo-Myanmar border in Manipur and Mizoram.  Special emphasis will be given on providing connectivity to far-flung rural areas including the tribal and backward areas.The project is expected to create nearly 100 million man days of jobs during the road construction and subsequently 22 million jobs as a result of the increased economic activity across the country. The construction will be billed via several routes including debt funds, budgetary allocation, private investment, toll operator transfer model etc.Bharatmala includes economic corridors of around 9,000 km, inter-corridor and feeder routes of around 6,000 km, 5,000 km roads under the National Corridors Efficiency Program, border and international connectivity roads of around 2,000 km, coastal and port connectivity roads of around 2,000 km, expressways of around 800 km and 10,000 km of NHDP roads. The total length in phase 1 comes to around 34,800 km.The main agencies tasked with the construction are the National Highways Authority of India, National Highway and Industrial Development Corporation and state public works departments.

 

Integrity Index

In line with the broader strategy and emphasis on preventive vigilance, the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) believes that the next level of systemic change can be through the tool of Integrity Index. The CVC has therefore decided to go in for development of the Integrity Index-based on bench-marking of internal processes and controls within an organisation as well as management of relationships and expectations of outside stakeholders.The Integrity Index will bring out annual scores/rankings of Public Sector Undertakings/Public Sector Banks and Financial Institutions/Departments/Ministries of Government of India by linking the essential drivers of vigilance with long term efficiency, profitability and sustainability of public organizations and create an internal and external ecosystem that promotes working with Integrity in public organizations.CVC has adopted a research-based approach for creating an integrity index that various organizations can use to measure themselves and which will evolve with changing needs and with this view IIM-Ahmedabad has been engaged to develop the Integrity Index. Being a new initiative, initially 25 organizations have been selected for development of the Integrity Index (as per list attached). Subsequently, it is proposed to extend the Integrity Index concept to all other CPSUs and organizations of Government of India. The management of all 25 organizations have been involved in the development of Integrity Index.

The main objectives for which the Integrity Index is to be established are:

  1. Define what constitutes Integrity of Public Organizations
  2. Identify the different factors of Integrity and their inter-linkages
  3. Create an objective and reliable tool that can measure the performance of organizations along these above factors
  4. Validate the findings over a period of time to improve upon the robustness of the tool that measures Integrity
  5. Create an internal and external ecosystem that promotes working with Integrity where public organizations lead the way.


 

World’s most powerful passport

Passport Index ranks passports worldwide based on the cross-border access a holder has. It was developed by Canada-based global consultancy Arton Capital.“For the first time ever, an Asian country has the most powerful passport .The city-state Singapore now has the world’s most powerful passport, according to a new ranking, with its citizens able to travel to the greatest number of countries visa free.Passport Index, which keeps track of how usable such documents are, said grabbed the top spot after Paraguay removed restrictions for Singaporeans.That means the approximately 3.4 million holders of Singaporean passports can now travel to 159 countries either without a visa at all, or can have one issued on arrival. Germany came in second place, with its citizens able to visit 158 countries without a visa, while Sweden and South Korea tied for third.The U.S. passport was in sixth place, alongside Malaysia, Ireland and Canada.India, which was listed 78th last year, has improved its ranking, figuring at 75th position with a visa-free score of 51. Afghanistan came bottom of the list with visa-free access to just 22 countries.Passport Index said the U.S. passport’s usefulness has fallen since President Donald Trump took office, with Turkey and the Central African Republic becoming the most recent countries to revoke their visa-free entry for holders.

RCom has decided to close down its 2G wireless business

Debt-laden Reliance Communications (RCom) has decided to close down its 2G wireless business due to mounting losses. RCom will ask  2G and 3G customers to upgrade to 4G network . Recent entrant Jio had introduced free offers on both data and voice plans, disrupting the market.

 

Rs 2.11 lakh crore capital infusion

 Govt has announced Rs 2.11 lakh crore capital infusion for the NPA hit public sector banks over a period of two years.Out of this, Rs 1.35 lakh crore will be through the recapitalisation bonds(injection of capital), while remaining Rs 76,000 crore from the budgetary support .The capital infusion would be done over the next two fiscal years.Non-performing assets of banks have increased from Rs 2.75 lakh crore in March 2015 to Rs 7.33 lakh crore as on June 2017.The finance minister said banks would get Rs 18,000 crore under the Indradhanush plan.Under Indradhanush roadmap introduced in 2015, the government had announced to infuse Rs 70,000 crore in state-run banks over four years to meet their capital requirement in line with global risk norms, known as Basel-III.In line with the plan, public sector banks were given Rs 25,000 crore in 2015-16, and similar amount has been earmarked for the following years. Besides, Rs 10,000 crore each would be infused in 2017-18 and 2018-19.

Two-stage plan in China

Chinese President Xi Jinping  unveiled a new five-year leadership line-up, geared towards implementing a two-stage plan that aims to make China a leading developed country by the middle of the 21st century.a moderately prosperous society by 2021 and an advanced socialist country by 2050 — would guide policy and political conduct in the coming decades.

Girija Devi (8 May 1929 – 24 October 2017)

 was an Indian classical singer of the Seniya and Banarasgharanas. She performed classical and light classical music and helped elevate the profile of thumri. She died on 24 October 2017.

The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China

Opened in BeijingChina on 18 October 2017. The congress is closely watched mostly due to a far-reaching change in the makeup of the top leadership of theCommunist Party of China.Xi Jinping was elected general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee for the second term at the first plenary(( one at which all the members ofgroup ororganization are present) session of the 19th CPC Central Committee on Wednesday.Later Xi Jinping was named chairman of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Military Commission (CMC) at the first plenary session of the 19th CPC Central Committee.The plenum elected members of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and its Standing Committee.China has elevated the stature of President Xi Jinping and cemented his grip on power by including his name and political ideology in the Communist Party constitution.The move puts Xi on par with Chairman Mao Zedong who founded the People’s Republic of China in 1949 and paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, who oversaw China’s opening up to the world.Socialism with Chinese Characteristics has long been used to describe how Marxism has been adapted for China. The term was closely associated with Deng Xiaoping as a way to promote economic development.Globally, the world will now likely see China continue to step into a global leadership vacuum as the US turns inward under President Donald Trump.

The 48th general election of House of Representatives in Japan 

The general elections took place on 22 October 2017. Voting took place in all Representatives constituencies of Japan – 289 single-member districts and eleven proportional blocks – in order to appoint all 465 members (down from 475) of the House of Representatives, the lower house of the then 707-member bicameral National Diet of Japan. Incumbent Prime Minister Shinzō Abe‘s governing coalition of theLiberal Democratic Party(LDP) and Komeito gained a landslide victory in light of the weak oppositions, winning his fourth term in office and retaining the two-thirds super majority in order to revise the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution.

High Level Task Force on Public Credit Registry (PCR)

The Reserve Bank of India has constituted a 10-member ‘High Level Task Force on Public Credit Registry (PCR) for India’, which will, among other things, suggest a roadmap for developing a transparent, comprehensive and near-real-time PCR for India.Headed by YM Deosthalee, ex-CMD, L&T Finance Holdings,the terms of reference of the task force include reviewing the current availability of information on credit in India, assessing the gaps in India that could be filled by a comprehensive PCR, and study the best international practices on PCR.Envisaged as an extensive database of credit information for India that is accessible to all stakeholders, PCR is expected to enhance efficiency of the credit market, increase financial inclusion, improve ease of doing business and help control delinquencies.

Dineshwar Sharma

 Union home minister Rajnath Singh,  appointed former Intelligence Bureau (IB) Director Dineshwar Sharma to be the Centre’s “special representative” in Jammu and Kashmir. With this sustained dialogue process will be started in Kashmir

Reduction in carbon emissions by the telecommunication
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has recommended to set the target for reduction in carbon emissions by the telecommunication sector as 30 per cent by 2019-20 and 40 per cent by 2022-23, taking the base year as 2011-12.

The targets should be reviewed in 2022-23 and telecom service providers (TSPs) should evolve a ‘Carbon Credit Policy’ in line with carbon credit norms, with the objective of achieving the reduction in carbon footprints, TRAI said in its recommendations on ‘Approach towards Sustainable Telecommunications’.

The accuracy level of the carbon footprint should be taken as adequate, based on self-certification by TSPs. No independent third-party audit of the carbon footprints is recommended in the current scenario, it said.

The telecom authority said the approach already adopted for calculating carbon footprints, including scope 1 and scope 2 emissions, should be continued.

‘Paika Bidroha’

 Union Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Prakash Javadekar  said that the 1817 ‘Paika Bidroha’ or rebellion would find a place in history books as the First War of Indian Independence.

“Odisha’s Paika rebellion will find a place as the First War of Independence in the 2018 history books and include details of the rebellion against the then British rule. Because, the country should learn factual history,” the Minister told a function held here to commemorate 200 years of the rebellion.

The 1817 Paika rebellion took place four decades prior to the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny. 

As the British began to tinker with the revenue system at the start of the 17th century, the farming community of Odisha rose up in rebellion. Bakshi Jagabandhu Bidyadhar, military chief of the then King of Khurda, led a motley army of Paikas and forced the British East India Company’s forces to retreat. The rebellion came to be known as the Paika ‘Bidroha’. 

India’s first Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Kendra (PMKK)
To bring momentum in skilling through collaborative efforts, the Union Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singh along with Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas and Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Shri Dharmendra Pradhan  inaugurated India’s first Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Kendra (PMKK) for Skilling in New Delhi, in collaboration with New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC). The ministers also laid the foundation for a Skill Development Centre at Moti Bagh and a Centre of Excellence at Dharam Marg, New Delhi.

‘Roll-on-roll-off’ (Ro-Ro) ferry service
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has inaugurated the first phase of the ₹615 crore ‘roll-on-roll-off’ (Ro-Ro) ferry service between Ghogha in Saurashtra and Dahej in south Gujarat.He launched the first phase at a rally in Ghogha in the presence of Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel.This is the first of its kind project not only in India but also in South-East Asia,” Mr. Modi said at the rally which comes ahead of the Assembly polls in the State.

Denmark Open Super Series Premier

India’s shuttler Kidambi Srikanth clinches top honours in the Denmark Open Super Series Premier . The Indian dished out a flawless performance in his 21-10, 21-5 win against Korean veteran Lee Hyun Il in what turned out to be a one-sided .

Amendment to the Prevention of Money-laundering (Maintenance of Records) Rules

The government has made it mandatory for banks and financial institutions to check the original identification documents of individuals dealing in cash above the prescribed threshold, to weed out the use of forged or fake copies.

The new rule now requires the reporting entity to compare “the copy of officially valid (identification) document so produced by the client with the original and recording the same on the copy”.

As per Rule 9, every reporting entity will have to, at the time of commencement of an account-based relationship, identify its clients, verify their identity and obtain information on the purpose and intended nature of the business relationship.

Biometric identification number Aadhaar and other official documents are required to be obtained by the reporting entities from anyone opening a bank account as well as for any financial transaction of Rs 50,000 and above.

The same is also required for all cash dealing of more than Rs 10 lakh or its equivalent in foreign currency, cash transactions where forged or counterfeit currency notes have been used and all suspicious transactions.

All cross border wire transfers of more than Rs 5 lakh in foreign currency and purchase and sale of immovable property valued at Rs 50 lakh or more also fall under this category, according to the reporting rules.

Dawn mission

NASA has authorized a second extension of the Dawn mission at Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. During this extension, the spacecraft will descend to lower altitudes than ever before at the dwarf planet, which it has been orbiting since March 2015. The spacecraft will continue at Ceres for the remainder of its science investigation and will remain in a stable orbit indefinitely after its hydrazine fuel runs out.

Legalization of  the medicinal use of marijuana

The Peruvian Congress has approved a bill that authorises the medicinal and therapeutic use of cannabis and its derivatives in the country.The bill will legalise the medicinal use of marijuana and its derivatives, such as cannabis oil, to alleviate the symptoms of diseases such as cancer, epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease.

GSTR-3B forms

The Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN) has released an offline facility that will allow taxpayers to finalise their GSTR-3B forms on their own computers before uploading it onto the portal.

The deadline for the filing of the GSTR-3B form for September was October 20. Taxpayers have to file the summary GSTR-3B forms each month till January.

“This facility will provide an opportunity to the taxpayer to verify the details of GSTR 3B before filing and minimise chances of error,”

The National Investment and Infrastructure Fund

The National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) of India  has signed an investment agreement worth $1 billion with Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA).The government has set up NIIF with the aim to attract investments from both domestic and international sources for infrastructure development in commercially viable projects.“As part of the comprehensive partnership agreement, ADIA will become the first institutional investor in NIIF’s Master Fund and a shareholder in National Investment and Infrastructure Limited.The corpus of the NIIF is proposed to be ₹40,000 crore ($6 billion) wherein the government will invest 49 per cent.

INS Kiltan

The Indian Navy  commissioned the indigenously built INS Kiltan into the navy at the Naval Dockyard at Visakhapatnam in the presence of navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba.INS Kiltan is the third of the four ASW corvettes to be built under the Rs 7,800-crore Project 28. Its sister ships INS Kamorta and INS Kadmatt have already been commissioned into the navy.

The world’s largest combustion research center 

 The world’s largest combustion research center was inaugurated at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-M) in Tamil Nadu. The National Centre for Combustion Research and Development (NCCRD) was inaugurated by NITI Aayog member VK Saraswat.

The establishment of the center will give a major boost to the Indian scientific community and will provide an impetus to research in ‘Alternative Energy and Environmental Protection’ by focusing on effective utilization of combustion as a means of thermochemical energy conversion.

Country’s first commodity options trading

India’s first commodity options trading in gold has started in the Multi Commodity Exchange (MCX).Given that Indians were big buyers of gold, this is expected that the new product would be extremely successful will help to formalize the gold trade. “The “options give buyers the right to buy or sell the underlying asset but no obligation, at a specified price at the expiry. Thus, for buyers, the risk is limited only to the premium paid to the option seller (that is, option writer),” the MCX explained.

“By hedging risk of rise in gold prices using ‘Gold Call Options Contract,’ a jeweller would not only be protected against price rise, but also would benefit from fall in gold prices…

 Naresh kumar gupta

Justice (retired) Naresh Kumar Gupta as Lokayukta after keeping the post vacant for over an year.
This decision, orders to which were issued late , has raised several eyebrows since Justice Gupta is six years junior to the deputy Lokayukta Justice UC Maheshwari going by the recruitment batch year.
Justice Gupta, who has served the state government as a legal advisor, was appointed high court judge in 2010. He retired on June 30, 2017.

Nobel Economics Prize

Richard Thaler, a professor at the University of Chicago, won the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences or the Nobel Economics Prize for his contributions in the field of behavioural economics.

US-based economist has a pioneering work to bridge the gap between economics and psychology .

Thaler was one of the founders of the field of behavioural finance, which studies how cognitive limitations influence financial markets.

Intensified Mission Indradhanush (IMI) 

Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has launched the Intensified Mission Indradhanush (IMI) at Vadnagar in Gujarat, Oct-2017 with an aim of  let no child suffer from any vaccine-preventable disease”.

Through this programme, Government of India aims to reach each and every child under two years of age and all those pregnant women who have been left uncovered under the routine immunisation programme.

 The special drive will focus on improving immunization coverage in select districts and cities to ensure full immunization to more than 90% by December 2018. The achievement of full immunisation under Mission Indradhanush to at least 90% coverage was to be achieved by 2020 earlier. With the launch of IMI, achievement of the target has now been advanced. 
Visiting Advanced Joint Research (VAJRA)

India ambitious scheme to attract top international talent in the countrys research and development ecosystem has received an enthusiastic response with nearly 260 global scientists filing applications, of whom 70 would be shortlisted .

It is a pilot project and the DST eventually intends to select 1,000 scientists every year, he said.

The government announced the Visiting Advanced Joint Research (VAJRA) Faculty scheme in May for inviting foreign scientists in Indian research and development ecosystem.

Scientists from diverse backgrounds have applied for this project.

 Next tranche of sovereign gold bond (SGB) scheme

The government will launch the next tranche of sovereign gold bond (SGB) scheme, the second in 2017-18, on 9 October to cash in on festive fever.

The bonds will be sold through banks, Stock Holding Corp. of India Ltd (SHCIL), designated post offices and recognised stock exchanges namely the NSE and BSE .

The sovereign gold bond scheme was launched in November 2015 with an objective to reduce the demand for physical gold and shift a part of the domestic savings, used for purchase of gold, into financial savings.

“Government of India, in consultation with the Reserve Bank of India, has decided to issue sovereign gold bonds 2017-18—Series-III. Applications for the bond will be accepted from 09 October 2017 to 27 December 2017,”

Minimum investment in the bonds is one gram with a maximum limit of subscription of 500 grams per person per fiscal year (April–March). The maximum limit of subscribed would be 4kg for individual and HUF and 20kg for trusts and similar entities per fiscal (April-March)

Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan (PMGDISHA)

 Prime Minister Narendra Modi will launch the Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan (PMGDISHA)  at Gandhinagar in Gujarat.  PMGDISHA is government initiative with an objective to impart digital literacy among the people residing in rural areas. It is an important initiative under Modi’s vision of ‘Digital India’ that intends at making one person in every family digitally literate.

This scheme will focus on making at last six crore people in rural areas (across States/UTs) digitally literate. By March 31, 2019, it is expected to reach around 40 per cent rural households in the country.

Under free of cost PMGDISHA scheme, people in the rural area will be trained to operate a computer, tablet, smartphones, etc. They will be taught how to access the Internet, government services, undertake digital payment, compose e-mails, etc.

The citizens of rural India will be taught to use applications related to digital payments so they can participate in the process of nation-building. This scheme will help to connect the digital divide.

The marginalised sections of society like Scheduled Castes (SC)/Scheduled Tribes (ST), Minorities, Below Poverty Line (BPL), differently-abled, all will be a part of this scheme. The scheme aims to empower women in the rural India.

Illiterate people between the age group 14-60 years, nominated from every eligible rural household, are qualified for the scheme.

 Nuclear disarmament campaign

Nuclear disarmament campaign group the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) won the Nobel Peace Prize 2017 for its efforts to rid the world of the atomic bomb, warning that Donald Trump’s presidency showed how dangerous the weapons of mass destruction truly are.

More than 70 years since atomic bombs were used on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Nobel committee sought to highlight ICAN’s tireless non-proliferation efforts as nuclear-related crises swirl around North Korea and Iran.

   SC lifts veil on Collegium 

In a historic move to usher in transparency, the Supreme Court Collegium, headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, has resolved to go public with all its recommendations to the government on judicial appointments, transfers and elevations to the High Courts and the Supreme Court.

The recommendations will be uploaded on the Supreme Court’s official website.

The Collegium will further “indicate” the reasons for which it has decided to recommend or reject names for appointment, transfer or elevation to the High Courts and the Supreme Court.

The secretive nature of the functioning of the Collegium continued through the tenures of 20 Chief Justices of India.

 

 

2017 Nobel prize in literature

The British author Kazuo Ishiguro was named this year’s winner of the 2017 Nobel prize in literature . Ishiguro, author of novels including The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go, was praised by the Swedish Academy for novels which “uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world” and were driven by a “great emotional force”.

India and Ethiopia 

 India and Ethiopia  signed agreements on trade, communication and media to boost bilateral ties as President Ram Nath Kovind held talks with his Ethiopian counterpart Mulatu Teshome.

India also thanked Ethiopia for its participation in the International Solar Alliance (ISA), established in 2015.

The aim of the ISA is to provide a dedicated platform for cooperation among solar resource rich countries and promote the use of solar energy.

New Governers

Former Navy Chief Admiral DK Joshi the next Lieutenant Governor (L-G) of the strategic Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Senior BJP leader Satya Pal Malik will be the new Bihar Governor. Former member of the Bihar Legislative Council Ganga Prasad has been appointed Meghalaya Governor. He will take over from Purohit, who till now was the Governor of Assam and was holding additional charge.

BJP leader Jagdish Mukhi has been shifted to Assam.

 Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2017

Jacques DubochetJoachim Frank and Richard Henderson

“for developing cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution”

Rajnish Kumar

Rajnish Kumar has been appointed chairman of the largest public sector bank, the State Bank of India (SBI), replacing Arundhati Bhattacharya, who completes her one-year extended term on Friday.

Mr. Kumar, who is now the managing director of the SBI, faces the daunting task of addressing the issue of huge non-performing assets (NPA) of the bank.

 

Turtle sanctuary in Allahabad

The Centre has approved setting up a turtle sanctuary in Allahabad and a river bio-diversity park at Sangam in the city. 
The project, approved by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) under its ‘Namami Gange’ (Ganga rejuvenation) programme last week, includes a turtle rearing centre (permanent nursery at Triveni Pushp and makeshift annual hatcheries). 
Idea of this project is to protect rich aquatic biodiversity of the rivers Ganga and Yamuna and preserve all  .. 
Dr Soumya Swaminathan

Dr Soumya Swaminathan, director general of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), has been appointed the deputy director general for programmes (DDP) of World Health Organisation (WHO).WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made the announcement on Tuesday, while declaring the senior leadership team at the apex health agency.She also holds a key position as secretary in the department of health research, ministry of health and family welfare.Dr Swaminathan, a pediatrician by speciality, has more than 30 years of experience in clinical care,

The Nobel Prize in Physics 2017

  Rainer WeissBarry C. Barish and Kip S. Thorne

“for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves”

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2017

Jeffrey C. HallMichael Rosbash and Michael W. Young

“for their discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm”

Sub categorization of OBCs

President Ram Nath Kovind  has appointed a five-member Commission headed by Delhi High Court’s former Chief Justice G. Rohini to examine sub categorization of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) under Article 340 of the Constitution , an official statement said.

This decision has been taken to ensure more backward among the OBC communities to avail the benefits of reservation.It will examine the extent of inequitable distribution of benefits of reservation among the castes or communities included in the broad category of OBCs with reference to such classes included in the Central List.

It will also work out the mechanism, criteria, norms and parameters in a scientific approach for sub-categorisation within such OBCs and will take up the exercise of identifying the respective castes or communities or sub-castes or synonyms in the Central List of OBCs and classifying them into their respective sub-categories.

The Commission has been asked to submit its report to the President within a period of twelve weeks of assumption of charge by the chairperson.

 Draft Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules 2017

Details of the event

  1. As per the new draft Rules, state governments and union territories would now have to form a wetland authority comprising of top secretaries from various departments such as environment, urban development, rural development, water resources, fisheries, irrigation, tourism along with experts from each field. 
  2. The state wetlands authority will be responsible for identifying wetlands to be notified which would then be forwarded to Centre.
  3. The move is part of the ministry’s efforts to decentralize decision-making to states. The step would give more powers to states to protect and regulate wetlands.
  4. The previous rule called for creation of a Central Wetlands Regulatory Authority (CWRA) while 2016 draft says all state governments shall set up a state level wetlands authority entrusted with affairs related to wetland conservation, regulation and management.

Analysis

Criticism of the Guidelines

  1. The new draft has omitted some types of wetlands that were protected in the 2010 version. Wetlands located within a UNESCO world heritage sites such the mountain chain of Western Ghats and high altitude wetlands that were protected under 2010 Rules find no mention in the new draft.
  2. Unlike the 2010 rules, which specified that activities such as solid waste dumping, storing of hazardous material, setting up of new industries, discharge of untreated waste and effluents is prohibited in wetlands the new draft rules do not spell out the list of activities prohibited. 
  3. While retaining the prohibition on reclamation of wetlands, the 2016 draft states that only those activities “likely to have an adverse impact on ecological character of the wetland” would be prohibited, leaving the scope of protection ambiguous.
  • K. Viswanathan

The committee, headed by T.K. Viswanathan who served as director of ADR, ICADR and as Secretary General of the Lok Sabha, submitted its report to the Union Home Ministry recently .The committee was formed after the Supreme Court struck down section 66A of the Information Technology (IT) Act.The committee has recommended that each state should have a State Cyber Crime Coordinator which should be an officer not below the rank of Inspector General of Police.The committee has also suggested that each district to have a District Cyber Crime Cell headed by an officer not below the rank of Sub-Inspector of Police.

Transparency in electoral funding

Electoral bonds  

In Union budget 2017-18, under a section titled “Transparency in electoral funding” introduce two measures: reduction in the limit for cash donations to Rs.2000 from Rs.20000 and issuance of electoral bonds  and the amendment to the RBI Act to enable this.

  • The bonds, which will resemble apromissory note and not an interest-paying debt instrument, will be sold by authorized banks and can be deposited in authorized accounts of political organization within the duration of their validity.
  • So, every political party recognized by the Election Commission will have to notify one account in advance to the EC and bonds can be encased and redeemed in that one account only.
  • To ensure secrecy of the electoral bond buyers, the government will amend the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and soon notify the banks that will be eligible for issuing such bonds, besides coming out with guidelines for the same by March.
  • Allocation of electoral bonds would make certain that onlylegitimate, tax paid, accounted money comes into the political system.
    Electoral Bonds Scheme Under the scheme, proposed electoral bonds will resemble promissory note and not an interest-paying debt instrument. These bonds will only be issued by notified authorised bank and can only be bought using cheques or digital payments. These bonds purchased by donor will be given to political party for fixed period of time.

New species of  aquatic snake

A new species of non-venomous aquatic snake – Aquatic Rhabdops, which was misidentified since 1863, has finally been described and identified as a new species from the northern Western Ghats.
The snakes belonging to the genus Rhabdops, are endemic to India and two species namely the Olive Forest Snake and bi-coloured Forest Snake were previously known. While the Olive Forest snake is endemic to the Western Ghats, the bi-coloured Forest Snake is known to a few localities in the northeasters parts of India.

Enhancement of age of superannuation of doctors

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister has approved the enhancement of age of superannuation of doctors other than Central Health Service (CHS) doctors to 65.The decision would help in better patient care, proper academic activities in Medical colleges as also in effective implementation of National Health Programmes for delivery of health care services. The decision will not have much financial implications as large number of posts are lying vacant and the present incumbents would continue to work in their existing capacity against sanctioned posts.

Global competitiveness ranking

 India remains the most competitive country in South Asia, appearing at No. 40 in the global competitiveness ranking of 137 countries by the World Economic Forum (WEF). The ranking is one lower than last year’s, but the two rankings are not comparable because of a change in the methodology, WEF said.

WEF said India’s score is its highest ever according to the current methodology, which ranked Switzerland as the world’s most competitive economy. India’s competitiveness has improved, the report said. “Among the emerging markets seen as having great potential in the early 2000s, Brazil and Turkey have now lost much of the ground they gained before 2013, but China, India and Indonesia continue to improve.”

 Kandla Port  renamed

 Kandla Port has been renamed as Deendayal Port, the Ministry of Shipping  has issued a notification renaming Kandla Port Trust as Deendayal Port Trust with effect from September 25. 
Kandla Port, located on the Gulf of Kutch in Gujarat, is one of the 12 major ports in the country, the Ministry said in a statement. 

INS Tarasa

INS Tarasa, a Water Jet Fast Attack Craft was commissioned into the Indian Navy . Vice Admiral Luthra expressed confidence that the new INS Tarasa will discharge her duties with élan and resolve, and bring laurels to the Western Naval Command and the Nation.

SATH

Furthering the agenda for cooperative federalism, NITI Aayog has launched SATH, a program providing ‘Sustainable Action for Transforming Human capital’ with the State Governments. The vision of the program is to initiate transformation in the education and health sectors. The program addresses the need expressed by many states for technical support from NITI .

SATH aims to identify and build three future ‘role model’ states for health systems. The program will be implemented by NITI along with McKinsey & Company and IPE Global consortium, who were selected through a competitive bidding process.

Metrics such as MMR, IMR, incidence of malaria and others have been considered for determining potential impact while density of doctors and nurses, compliance to IPHS norms are some of the metrics used to determine likelihood of success. The program will be launched in the three selected states after the signing of MoUs. 

Masala bonds

 Reserve Bank of India (RBI)  increased the corporate bond investment limit for foreign investors by taking off rupee denominated bonds, or Masala bonds, from the ambit of total investment limit. The outstanding Masala bonds of Rs 44,000 crore would now be allocated for re-investment in the corporate bond segment in two quarters

Masala bonds are bonds issued outside India but denominated in Indian Rupees, rather than the local currency. Masala is an indian word and it means spices. The term was used by IFC to evoke the culture and cuisine of India. Unlike dollar bonds, where the borrower takes the currency risk, masala bond makes the investors bear the risk.

The first Masala bond was issued by the World Bank backedI nternational Finance Corporation in November 2014 when it raised 1,000 crore bond to fund infrastructure projects in India. Later in August 2015 International Financial Corporation for the first time issued green masala bonds and raised Rupees 3.15 Billion to be used for private sector investments that address climate change in India.

In July 2016 HDFC raised 3,000 crore rupees from Masala bonds and thereby became the first Indian company to issue masala bonds. In the month of August 2016 public sector unit NTPC issued first corporate green masala bonds worth 2,000 crore rupees.

Currently, the limit for investment by foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) in corporate bonds is Rs 2,44,323 crore, including in masala bonds. The FPIs have exhausted 99.07 per cent of their corporate bond investment limit. With US yields rising, India’s debt market has also come under some pressure. 

FTSE SBI Bond Index series

The State Bank of India has introduced the FTSE SBI Bond Index series in partnership with the global index provider FTSE 100, which the bank hopes would give investors from India, U.K. and globally, tools to analyse India’s government bond market, and drive growth in this market.

Newton

Hindi film “Newton”, a black comedy on the foibles of democracy, has been chosen to represent India in the Best Foreign Language category at the 90th Academy Awards next year, the Film Federation of India announced today.

The movie, which released commercially across the country today, is Amit Masurkar’s second directorial venture and features Rajkummar Rao, Pankaj Tripathi, Raghubir Yadav, Anjali Patil and Sanjay Mishra.

Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS).  

The National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog) and the International Road Federation, Geneva (IRF Geneva) have, signed a Statement of Intent (SoI)  to cooperate in the field of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS).  

The objective of the SoI is to create a national platform, involving all relevant Government of India stakeholders, Indian and foreign companies active in the sector, and relevant technical experts for the purpose of developing a National ITS Policy covering: 

1) Traffic Management, 

2) Parking Management, 

3) Electronic Enforcement of Traffic Rules and Regulations, 

4) Fleet Management and Monitoring, 

5) Innovation in the field of ITS, and 

6) Education in the field of ITS.  

The objectives of this national ITS Policy will be to contribute to reducing urban traffic congestion, improving the situation around parking of vehicles in cities, improving road safety, and improving the security of passenger and goods traffic. The work of this National Platform will provide a coherent and consistent National ITS Policy covering domains such as traffic and parking management, enforcement, and security.

INS Kalavari

India’s first indigenously built conventional submarine is finally a part of Indian Navy. The order was procured by state-owned Mazagon Dock Limited in Mumbai, Maharashtra. With global situation a little tense, the induction of this submarine will be a landmark milestone in India’s bid to build its underwater warfare capabilities. 

  • INS Kalavari is first of six Scorpene-class submarines built in India under Project-75
  • It is a diesel electric attack submarine named after tiger shark
  • The submarine is stealth which makes it difficult to detect under various conditions by the enemy
  • It weighs 1,550 tonnes and is equipped with six 533-millimeter torpedo tubes for launching anti-ship torpedoes, anti-ship missiles, and sea mines as part of its ammunition.

 Rooppur nuclear power plant  Bangladesh,

India  is collaborating with Russia to build the Rooppur nuclear power plant in Bangladesh, the first initiative under an Indo-Russia deal to undertake atomic energy projects in third countries. This will also be India’s first atomic energy venture abroad.

Peer-to-peer lending (P2P)

Peer-to-peer lending (P2P) is a method of debt financing that enables individuals to borrow and lend money – without the use of an official financial institution as an intermediary. Peer-to-peer lending removes the middleman from the process, but it also involves more time, effort and risk than the general brick-and-mortar lending scenarios.

P2P platforms will be regulated by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) .All the P2P loan platforms will be treated as non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) and will be brought under the ambit of the banking regulator.

Online social lending

This is also known as peer-to-peer online lending.  This occurs on web platforms operated by different companies and acts as a direct transaction between a lender and a borrower, without the intermediation of a financial institution.

Borrowers and lenders normally have to register on the platform. Potential borrowers post their requests and indicate the amount of money they wish to borrow and they give out other  information that allows potential lenders to assess their creditworthiness.

Potential lenders can then decide whether to supply money or not.  In the case of a successful loan, a fee is paid to the platform provider.   

Example
A borrower, who might not want to use traditional financial intermediaries such as banks, could try to find potential lenders among people who share a similar characteristic such as religion, geography, hobbies or education.  This allows the lender to get a  better assessment of the borrower and develop the trust that is needed to lend money to the borrower, even without carrying out a formal creditworthiness assessment.

Significant oil discovery

New Delhi, Sep 20 () State-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) has made a significant oil discovery to the west of its prime Mumbai High fields in the Arabian sea .The discovery in the well WO-24-3 is estimated to hold an in-place reserve of about 20 million tonnes,

‘Khelo India-National Programmer

The Union Cabinet  has approved the revamped ‘Khelo India-National Programmer for Development of Sports’ scheme. The twin goals of this plan involve Sports for all and Sports for excellence. The plan also aims at impacting the entire sporting ecosystem, with wide-ranging interventions

The program also aims at mainstreaming sport as a tool for individual development and community development.

Further, each athlete selected under the scheme shall receive an annual scholarship of 5 lakh rupees for 8 consecutive years. 20 universities across the country to be promoted as hubs of sporting excellence.

The program also aims to cover about 200 million children in the age group of 10-18 under a massive national physical fitness drive. Apart from this, the program will cover 20 universities across the country to promote as hubs of sporting excellence. Furthermore, it will aim at creating an active population with a healthy lifestyle.

 

Zero Hunger Programme

India’s ambitious Zero Hunger Programme is all set for a launch on the occasion of World Food Day. The stage has been set for October 16, 2017, with a focus on agriculture, nutrition and health sector and how they can better the farming sector by working in sync with each other. 

The Zero Hunger Programme includes many farming organisations that will be focusing on nutrition, setting up genetic gardens for biofortified plants and initiation of ‘Zero Hunger’ training

The genetic garden will help grow biofortified plants containing germplasm of naturally biofortified crops through plant breeding with extra nutrional values

These crops and plants will be vital for India to supplement micro-nutrient deficiencies, including iron, zinc, vitamin A and iodine among many others

This programme is in support with India’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end hunger by the year 2030 and also the government’s plan to deal with issue of malnutrition through various other initiatives under its goal to make India malnutrition free by the year 2022.

New digitalpayments app ‘Tez’

Technology giant Google launched a new digitalpayments app ‘Tez’ — meaning fast in Hindi — for the Indian market that aims to make e- transactions simple and secure. 
The app has been designed for the Indian market and is powered by the government’s Unified Payments Interface (UPI). Available for both Android and iOS (Apple phone) users, it allows users to make payments straight from their bank accounts. 

 Sardar Sarovar Dam

 Prime Minister  Modi  dedicated the Sardar Sarovar Dam to the country. He inaugurated the dam in Kevadia, Gujarat. It is a concrete gravity dam built on river Narmada. The height of the dam is 163 m and the length is 1,210 m. Its surface area is 375.55 square kilometres and the maximum capacity of its reservoir is  9,500,000,000 m3 (7,701,775 acre·ft). It is called the second largest dam in the world. But it is neither the highest or largest in terms of the area. Then why is it hailed as the second largest?

The Sardar Sarovar Dam is the second largest in terms of the volume of concrete used in building the dam that took three decades to be constructed and cost Rs 65,000 crore. The largest dam in the world in terms of volume of concrete is the Grand Coulee Dam of the United States (across River Columbia in the state of Washington)  .The highest dam in the world is the Jinping-I Dam. It is 305 m high and is a concrete arch dam. It is situated in China’s Yalong and was constructed in 2013.

Korean Open Superseries

PV Sindhu won the BWF Korean Open Superseries in sep.2017. Sindhu defeated Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara to become the first Indian shuttler to bag the Korean Superseries. As per reports, Sindhu bagged victory in the longest ever match played in the final of the Korean championship which 

Arjan Singh

Marshal of the Indian Air Force  passed away ,he was 98.He was the first and only officer of the Indian Air Force to be promoted to five-star rank as Marshal of the Indian Air Force, equal to the army rank of Field Marshal. He was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 1965. An officer who shaped the IAF in its early years as well as during some of its most difficult junctures, Arjan Singh had the honour of leading the fly-past of more than a hundred IAF aircraft over the Red Fort on India’s first Independence Day, August 15, 1947.

In 2002, on the occasion of Republic Day, he was granted the honorary rank of Marshal, the highest military rank attainable, which before him only two Army chiefs, K M Carriappa and Sam Manekshaw, had achieved.

The highlights of his early career were the two operational tenures on the Burma Front during the Second World War, first as a Pilot Officer with Tigers Squadron and subsequently as the Commander of the same Squadron. As a consummate Squadron Commander, flying Hurricane fighters in defence of Imphal in 1944, beseiged by the Japanese, he had displayed masterly leadership. In an unprecedented step, the then Supreme Allied Commander of the South East Asian Command, Lord Mountbatten, had personally awarded him the Distinguished Flying Cross on the battlefield for his leadership and performance in defeating the Japanese.

India’s foreign exchange

India’s foreign exchange reserves crossed the $400-billion mark .Most of the reserves are held in foreign currency assets such as the US dollar, euro, pound sterling, Japanese yen, etc, and is valued in terms of the American greenback. 

While the RBI does not provide a break-up of its foreign currency assets, analysts peg the share of the dollar to be between 60 per cent and 70 per cent of the total foreign currency assets. 

The value of gold in the total reserves was about $20.7 billion, while the Special Drawing Rights (SDR) of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) stood at $1.5 billion. The reserve position in the IMF, which is the quota allotted to India minus the IMF’s rupee holding, was $2.3 billion. 

Snow leopard

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which assesses the conservation status of wildlife, downgraded the feline from endangered to vulnerable. The species has been listed as endangered ever since it was first assessed by the group more than two decades ago. The last time the snow leopard was assessed in 2008, there were fewer than 2,500 animals and they were experiencing a high rate of decline.

Now, there are several population estimates for snow leopards, and there are believed to be at least 4,000 of the big cats living in the Himalayans. Although the population increase is positive, there are still risks to the species.

ATAGS

An indigenous artillery gun, Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS), being jointly developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the private sector has set a new world record in range by hitting targets at a distance of 48 km.

The development is being done through a consortium based model, similar to that adopted for the Pinaka multi-barrel rocket launch system

 

The advanced towed artillery gun system (ATAGS) has set a world record in terms of range by hitting targets at distance of 48 km during trial firings .

Grant citizenship to Chakmas and Hajongs

Chakmas and Hajongs were originally residents of Chittagong Hill Tracts in the erstwhile East Pakistan. They left their homeland when it was submerged by the Kaptai dam project in the 1960s. The Chakmas, who are Buddhists, and the Hajongs, who are Hindus, also allegedly faced religious persecution and entered India through the then Lushai Hills district of Assam (now Mizoram).

The Centre will soon grant citizenship to nearly one lakh Chakma and Hajong refugees, who came from the erstwhile East Pakistan five decades ago and are living in camps in the Northeast.

In 2015, the Supreme Court had directed the Central government to grant citizenship to the Chakma and Hajong refugees, mostly staying in Arunachal Pradesh. Now MOH need to implement the order as early as possible .
Several organisations and civil society in Arunachal Pradesh have been opposing citizenship to the refugees saying it would change the demography of the state. The Centre is trying to find a workable solution to the issue by proposing that Chakma and Hajong refugees will not be given rights, including ownership of land, enjoyed by Scheduled Tribes in Arunachal Pradesh.

However, they may be given Inner Line permits, required for non-locals in Arunachal Pradesh to travel and work. 

India and Japan  15 agreements

India and Japan on Thursday signed 15 agreements, including one to give a fillip to India’s Act East policy by enhancing connectivity and developmental projects in India’s northeast, and for more flights between the two countries.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe  laid the foundation stone in Ahmedabad for the country’s first Rs. 1,10,000 crore, 508 km high-speed rail project between Mumbai and Ahmedabad. The ambitious project is being implemented with nearly 90% financial support and technology from Japan.

To be built on elevated corridor with a seven-km undersea tunnel in Mumbai, the project will be based on the famed Japanese Shinkansen high-speed railway system with a record of zero casualties in its 50 years of operation.

The Narendra Modi government has set an ambitious deadline to complete the project on August 15, 2022 when India marks 75 years of Independence. The project will be executed through a special purpose vehicle, the National High Speed Rail Corporation Ltd.

“The bullet train project will take care of high speed, high growth and high-end technology,” Mr. Modi said, describing it as “a symbol of New India” that his government wants to build by 2022

 

 

S. No. Memorandums Description
A. Disaster Risk Management
1 MOC between the Ministry of Home Affairs, of the Government of the Republic of India and the Cabinet Office of the Government of Japan Aims to cooperate and collaborate in the field of disaster risk reduction and to share the experiences, knowledge and policies on disaster prevention.
C. Skills Development
2 MoC in the field of Japanese Language Education in India between MEA and MOFA, Japan To further strengthen bilateral relations and cooperation in the field of Japanese language education in India
D. Connectivity
3 India Japan Act East Forum To enhance connectivity and promote developmental projects in the North Eastern Region of India in an efficient and effective manner
E. Economic & Commercial
4 Arrangement between India Post and Japan Post on Administrative Instruction for the Implementation of Cool EMS service Aims at implementing the commercial arrangement of “Cool EMS” service between the Japan Post and India Post through which fresh food can be sent from Japan to India in cool boxes to facilitate for the Japanese expatriates in India
F. Investment (Gujarat)
5 India-Japan Investment Promotion Road map between DIPP and METI To facilitate and accelerate the Japanese investments in India
6 MOC between METI and the State of Gujarat on ‘Japan-India special programme for Make In India’ in Mandal Bechraj-Khoraj in Gujarat To Cooperate in infrastructure development programmes in theMandal Bechraj-Khorajregion
G. Civil Aviation
7 Exchange of RoD on Civil Aviation Cooperation (Open Sky) It opens skies between India and Japan i.e. Indian and Japanese carriers can mount now unlimited number of flights to the selected cities of each other’s countries.
H. Science & Technology
8 Agreement for International joint exchange programme between interdisciplinary theoretical and mathematical sciences programme (iTHEMS), RIKEN and National Centres for Biological Sciences (Simons-NCBS) To establish a Joint Exchange Program to identify and foster talented young scientists from both the countriesto collaborate in the field of theoretical biology
9 Joint Research Contract between National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science & Technology (AIST), Japan and Department of Biotechnology (DBT) To conduct joint research and to establish an International Center named as “DBT-AISTInternational CENter for Translational & Environmental Research (DAICENTER)” at AIST, Japan in order to promote science and technology in both the institutions and countries.
10 MOU Between DBT and National Institute of Advanced Science & Technology (AIST) To promote research collaboration between DBT Research Institutes and AIST in the field of Life Science and Biotechnology
I. Sports
11 MoU on International Academic and Sports Exchange between Lakshmibai National Institute of Physical Education (LNIPE)and Nippon Sports Science University, Japan (NSSU) To facilitate and deepen international education cooperation and exchanges betweenLakshmibai National Institute of Physical Education, India and Nippon Sport Science University, Japan
12 MoU on International Academic and Sports Exchange between Sports Authority of India and Nippon Sports Science University, Japan (NSSU) To facilitate and deepen international education cooperation and exchanges between both Sports Authority of India and Nippon Sport Science University , Japan
13 LETTER OF INTENT between Lakshmibai National Institute of Physical Education (LNIPE) and University of Tsukuba, Japan To strengthen strategic collaboration, joint research programme and exchanges betweenLakshmibai National Institute of Physical Education, India and University of Tsukuba, Japan
14 LETTER OF INTENT between Sports Authority of India and University of Tsukuba, Japan To strengthen strategic collaboration, joint research programme and exchanges between University of Tsukuba, Japan and Sports Authority of India
J. Academics/Think Tank
15 MoU between RIS and IDE-JETRO for promotion of Cooperation in Research Related Activities To promote institutional cooperation between RIS and IDE-JETRO to strengthen the capacity of researchand effectiveness of dissemination of research findings

Operation Insaniyat                                

In response to the humanitarian crisis being faced on account of the large influx of refugees into Bangladesh, Government of India has decided to extend assistance to Bangladesh. The relief material consists of items required urgently by the affected people, namely rice, pulses, sugar, salt, cooking oil, tea, ready to eat noodles, biscuits, mosquito nets etc.
The relief material will be delivered in multiple consignments, the first tranche of which will be brought to Chittagong by an Indian Air Force plane on 14th September 2017.

Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill, 2017
The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval for introduction of the Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill, 2017 in the Parliament.
The Amendment will increase the maximum limit of gratuity of employees, in the private sector and in Public Sector Undertakings/ Autonomous Organizations under Government who are not covered under CCS (Pension) Rules, at par with Central Government employees.
Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972 is an important social security legislation to wage earning population in industries, factories and establishments.The Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972 applies to establishments employing 10 or more persons. The main purpose for enacting this Act is to provide social security to workmen after retirement, whether retirement is a result of the rules of superannuation, or physical disablement or impairment of vital part of the body.
Therefore, the The present upper ceiling on gratuity amount under the Act is Rs. 10 Lakh. The provisions for Central Government employees under Central Civil Services (Pension) Rules, 1972 with regard to gratuity are also similar. Before implementation of 7th Central Pay Commission, the ceiling under CCS (Pension) Rules, 1972 was Rs. 10 Lakh. However, with implementation of 7th Central Pay Commission, in case of Government servants, the ceiling now is Rs. 20 Lakhs effective from 1.1.2016.
Therefore, considering the inflation and wage increase even in case of employees engaged in private sector, the Government is of the view that the entitlement of gratuity should be revised for employees who are covered under the Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972. Accordingly, the Government initiated the process for amendment to Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972.

Indian sedimentary basins
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, today gave its approval for a significant project to acquire 48,243 Line Kilometer (LKM) 2D seismic data for appraisal of Indian sedimentary basins where limited data is available.
The project will help in increasing the investments in domestic production of oil and gas. The project will be implemented by NOC(National Oil Companies(), i.e. Oil India Limited (OIL) and Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC). OIL will conduct survey in North – Eastern States while remaining area will be covered by ONGC. Survey work will be carried out in 24 States.
Total estimated cost of the entire project is Rs. 2932.99 crore spread over five years. Initially National Oil Companies (NOCs) are meeting the fund requirement from their own sources, which will be reimbursed by the Government.
Entire project is likely to be completed by 2019-20. Directorate General of Hydrocarbons is monitoring the project and reviewing the progress on monthly basis.
Project involves engagement of large number of workers at local level where work is to be executed. This is likely to generate direct as well as indirect employment for about 11,000 people in the form of skilled and unskilled workers and suppliers for support services. After the appraisal of these basins, and based on the prospectivity of the area, blocks will be offered for further exploration & production activities which will further generate employment.

Background:
India has 26 sedimentary basins covering an area of 3.14 Million Sq Km spread over onland, shallow water and deep water. An area of about 1.502 Million Sq. Km i.e. 48% of total sedimentary basin area does not have adequate geo-scientific data. As a base to launch future Exploration and Production (E&P) activities, appraisal of all unappraised areas has been considered an important task. The preparatory work started in 2015-16 and actual survey work started in 2016-17 and more than 9100 LKM 2D seismic data has been acquired till July, 2017.

Sanctions against North Korea
The United Nations Security Council unanimously stepped up sanctions against North Korea over the country’s sixth and most powerful nuclear test conducted on Sept. 3, imposing a ban on the country’s textile exports and capping imports of crude oil.
It was the ninth sanctions resolution unanimously adopted by the 15-member council since 2006 over North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs. A tougher initial U.S. draft was weakened to win the support of Pyongyang ally China and Russia.

US Open singles title
Rafael Nadal(Spain) has won his third US Open singles title, besting Kevin Anderson in the final on Sunday, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4. In addition to his third US Open title, it’s his second Major win of the year, and his 16th Grand Slam title overall. Sloane Stephens (USA)has won the US Open, beating Madison Keys in the final on Saturday, 6-3, 6-0. It’s Stephens’ first ever Major title, and she earned it in dominant fashion.
New species of fish
Researchers exploring the waters of the Pampa river in Pathanamthitta have chanced upon a new species of edible freshwater fish that could possibly be farmed on a commercial scale.
The new species that belongs to the Labeo genus is only the second one to be reported from Kerala. Named Labeo filiferus, it has been collected from the stretch of the Pampa running through Edakadathy in Pathanamthitta.

No-Fly list
Gvernment has released a set of rules consisting three levels of punishment for unruly passenger in flights –
There are different punishments depending on the severity of the offence.
Level 1 – Unruly physical gestures, verbal harassment and unruly inebriation fall under this category. The punishment for offenders will be a ban up to 3 months.
2. Level 2 – Physically abusive behaviour (pushing, kicking, hitting or inappropriate touching)fall under this category. The punishment for offenders will be a ban of up to 6 months.
3. Level 3 – Life threatening (assaults, damage to aircraft systems etc) fall under this category. The punishment for offenders will be a ban of minimum 2 years.
The punishment to offenders will be decided by an independent committee under a retired District Judge within a period of 30 days of alleged offence.

BPCL is all set to become a Maharatna company
State-run Bharat Petroleum Corporation(BPCL) is all set to become a Maharatna company. The oil marketing company is at present a Navratna firm. The decision to elevate BPCL to Maharatna status was taken by a panel headed by the Cabinet

Extension of FAME
The Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles scheme’s phase-I was introduced from April 1, 2015, to March 31, 2017.
“Most likley, Minister of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises is considering the extension of a scheme to promote electric and hybrid vehicles by another six months.
Under the scheme, a total of 150,550 electric and hybrid vehicles were extended the incentive till July 26, 2017.

India dissociated itself from the ‘Bali Declaration-Sep-2017
The Bali declaration went on to “call on all parties to contribute to the restoration of stability and security, exercise maximum self-restraint from using violent means. It claimed to respect the human rights of all people in Rakhine State regardless of their faith and ethnicity, as well as facilitate safe access for humanitarian assistance.
The declaration adopted carried “inappropriate” reference to the violence in Rakhine State from where 1,25,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh.
The proposed reference to the violence in Rakhine State in the declaration was considered as not consensus-based and inappropriate.India senses that the conclusion of the Forum, was not in line with the agreed global principles of ‘sustainable development.
India objected spoke of the forum expressing deep concern on the ongoing violence in the Rakhine State of Myanmar.Never before country specific issues have been included in the declaration as these dilute the objective of these forums.

HTT-Vijayawada and Amaravati-
An hour-long journey between Vijayawada and Amaravati, could soon be a 5-minute ride, with Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) signing an agreement with the Andhra Pradesh government to build a connecting road between the two cities.

BRICS summit –Sep 2017
India and China decided to open a new “forward looking” round of engagement, to ensure peace at the borders.The focus of the bilateral dialogue was on border Confidence Building Measures (CBMs .
BRICS named Pakistan-based groups — Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) — as terror organisations, A joint communiqué released at the BRICS summit expressed concern about the regional security situation and listed the Taliban, IS/Daesh, Al-Qaeda and its affiliates, including the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, TTP and Hizb-ut-Tahrir as sources of violence.

UN designation
UN ban on Masood Azhar as an international terrorist, Priti Saran, Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs, said, “The declaration has been endorsed by all the BRICS leaders, so obviously it has the approval and endorsement of all the countries.
North Korea tested a ‘hydrogen’ bomb
North Korea said on Sunday that it tested a ‘hydrogen’ bomb which it can mount on a missile, declaring its biggest-ever nuclear detonation a “perfect success.” This sparked a strong rebuke from U.S. President Donald Trump who slammed the act “dangerous.”
China rebuked its ally and began emergency monitoring for radiation at its border with the North.

Rajiv Mehrishi
The outgoing Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi was appointed Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), while former Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Secretary Sunil Arora was appointed Election Commissioner to fill the vacancy in the three-member Election Commission. Both are former IAS officers of the Rajasthan cadre.
99% of the withdrawn currency
The Reserve Bank of India’s annual report has finally revealed that as much as Rs. 15.28 lakh crore of the high-value currency that was demonetised in November returned to the central bank.
The latest RBI data showed that 98.96% of the withdrawn currency — at the time of demonetisation the value of old Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes in circulation was Rs. 15.44 lakh crore — was deposited with the banks. Separately, the data showed that the share of newly introduced Rs. 2,000 banknotes in the total value of currency in circulation was 50.2% at end-March 2017.

Raised of creamy layer ceiling
The government has raised the creamy layer ceiling by Rs 2 lakh as it announced setting up of a commission to work out sub-categorisation within Other Backward Classes (OBCs) for a “more equitable distribution of reservation benefits”.

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced that OBC families earning up to Rs 8 lakh per annum will not be considered in the creamy layer. Earlier, this ceiling was Rs 6 lakh per annum.
Sub-categorisation implies splitting the groups classified as Other Backward Classes in two or three categories. Each of these groups will then be apportioned a percentage of the 27% reservation. Thus, for instance, the Other Backward Classes can be divided into Extremely Backward Classes (Group A), More Backward Classes (Group B), and Backward Classes (Group C). The 27% can then be split into, say, 12% for Group A, 8% for Group B, and 6% for Group C.
Sub-categorisation is seen as sharing more equitably the pie reserved for the Other Backward Classes. (This term connotes a conglomeration of castes between the higher castes and Dalits.) Without it, the relatively better-off castes among the Other Backward Classes are said to corner the bulk of the 27% reservation set aside for them.
The Minister said 11 states have already implemented the sub-categorisation for state level services. These are Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Bihar, Jharkhand, Puducherry, Haryana, Karnataka, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Jammu and Kashmir (for Jammu region only).

Doklam Issue
Doklam or Zhoglam (in Standard Tibetan), known as Dong Lang in China is an area with a plateau and a valley, lying between Tibet’s Bhutan’s and India’s Sikkim state to the west.
It has been depicted as part of Bhutan in the Bhutanese maps since 1961, but it is also claimed by China. To date, the dispute has not been resolved despite several rounds of border negotiations between Bhutan and China. The area is of strategic importance to all three countries
In June 2017 a military standoff occurred between China and India as China attempted to extend a road on the Doklam plateau southwards near theDoka La pass and Indian troops moved in to prevent the Chinese. India claimed to have acted on behalf of Bhutan, with which it has a ‘special relationship’. Bhutan has formally objected to China’s road construction in the disputed area
India said that it had agreed with China to pull back troops to end a months-long face-off along a disputed Himalayan regionit, with reports from Doklam suggesting Beijing has halted work on a road that triggered the row. It came days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi travels to China to attend a summit of BRICS, a grouping that also includes Brazil, Russia and South Africa.

Two new species of earthworms
Scientists have discovered two new species of earthworms of the primitiveDrawida genus from the southern Western Ghats.One of the new species, Drawida polydiverticulata, is widespread in the shola grasslands of Idukki district, including the Eravikulam National Park, Pampadum Shola National Park, and Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary.
The second new species, Drawida thomasi , collected at the Kozhippara waterfalls in Malappuram district, is approximately 5 cm long and bluish in colour. It is named in honour of A.P. Thomas, director of Mahatma Gandhi University’s Advanced Centre of Environmental Studies and Sustainable Development, “for initiating taxonomic studies on earthworms of Kerala.”

CBI books Dera chief
A special CBI court on Monday sentenced Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh ‘Insan’ to 20 years in prison after his conviction in rape cases.
The sequence of events are as fallows-
• April 2002: An anonymous complaint of a woman follower alleging sexual exploitation by Dera Sacha Sauda chief reaches Punjab and Haryana high court
• May 2002: HC directs Sirsa district and sessions judge to conduct an inquiry
• September 2002: HC hands over the case to the CBI when the district and sessions judge report indicates possibility of sexual exploitation
• December 2002: CBI books dera chief under sections of rape, criminal intimidation and acts intended to insult modesty of a woman
• July 2007: Chargesheet filed against dera head
• August 2008: Trial starts after framing of charges
• August 17 2017: Arguments closed and At least 30 people were killed and over 250 injured in widespread violence that erupted soon after godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim was convicted of rape by CBI court in Panchkula
Privacy core of human dignity-
In a unanimous verdict, a nine-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday declared that privacy is intrinsic to life and liberty and an inherent part of the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution.
The court held that privacy is a natural right that inheres in human beings because they are human. The state does not bestow natural rights on citizens. Natural rights like privacy exist equally in all individuals, irrespective of class, strata, gender or orientation.
“Privacy is the constitutional core of human dignity. Privacy ensures the fulfilment of dignity,” Justice D.Y. Chandrachud wrote.
“It is privacy, as an intrinsic and core feature of life and personal liberty, which enables individuals to stand up against a programme of forced sterilisation. It is the right to question, scrutinise, dissent which enables an informed citizenry to scrutinise the actions of government,” Justice Chandrachud said, addressing Mr. Venugopal’s arguments.
However, the court held that privacy is not an absolute right. The government can introduce a law which “intrudes” into privacy for public and legitimate state reasons. But a person can challenge this law in any of the constitutional courts of the land — the Supreme Court or the State High Courts — for violation of his fundamental right to privacy.

Rohingya
Rohinggya are indigenous to Rakhine State inMayyar . The official stance of the Myanmar government, however, has been that the Rohingyas are mainly illegal immigrants who migrated into Arakan following Burmese independence in 1948 or after the Bangladesh liberation war in 1971
Thousands of Rohingya have crossed into Bangladesh since Myanmar announced a military build-up in Rakhine State earlier
That sparked a bloody military crackdown that the UN believes may amount to ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya.
Talaq as a “manifestly arbitrary-
There are three forms of talaq (divorce): Ahsan, Hasan and Talaq-e-Biddat (triple or instant talaq). Ahsan and Hasan are revocable. Biddat — pronouncing divorce in one go by the husband — is irrevocable.
Biddat is considered ‘sinful,’ but permissible in Islamic law.
A historic 3:2 majority judgment, delivered by a multi-faith Constitution Bench, set aside instant talaq as a “manifestly arbitrary” practice not protected by Article 25 (freedom of religion) of the Constitution.
The triumvirate of Justices Kurian, Nariman and Lalit overwhelmed the minority verdict pronounced by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar and endorsed by Justice S. Abdul Nazeer, the juniormost judge on the Bench.
Chief Justice J.S. Khehar held that talaq-e-biddat , as a personal law practice, was an integral part of Article 25 (freedom of religion). Ninety per cent of Muslims in India follow the practice. It was constitutionally protected as a fundamental right, he said.
The Chief Justice reasoned that talaq-e-biddat was in vogue for over 1,400 years, and this made instant talaq a “matter of religious faith,” which cannot be tested on the touchstone of Article 14. He held that personal laws like instant talaq were an ‘exception’ to the Constitution’s avowed aim to protect gender equality.

Ashwani Lohani
The Union Government has appointed Ashwani Lohani as the new Chairman of the Railway Board (Ministry of Railways). urrently, Ashwani Lohani is the Chairman and Managing Director of Air India Limited since September 3, 2015.
– He has done his primary education in Kanpur. Lohani studied engineering at Indian Railways Institute of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, Jamalpur. He is an officer with the Indian Railway Service of Mechanical Engineers (IRSME).

Bridge over Mechi River
The Union Cabinet has approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Nepal for starting construction of a new Bridge over Mechi River . The estimated cost of construction of the bridge is Rs. 158.65 crore, which would be funded by Government of India through ADB loan.
The new bridge is part of up-gradation of the Kakarvitta (Nepal) to Panitanki Bypass (India) on NH 327B covering a length of 1500 meters including a 6 lane approach road of 825 meters. Mechi Bridge is the ending point of Asian Highway 02 in India leading to Nepal and provides critical connectivity to Nepal, read the government statement.
The construction of the bridge will improve regional connectivity and has potential to strengthen cross border trade between both the countries and cementing ties by strengthening industrial, social and cultural exchanges.
National Highway and Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDCL) under Ministry of Road Transport & Highways has been designated as the implementing agency for this project. DPR for this project has been

BWEL
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has approved the proposal of Ministry of Railways to close the Bharat Wagon and Engineering Company Limited (BWEL) – a Central Public Sector Enterprise (CPSE) under Ministry of Railways.

626 employees of BWEL will be benefitted from the voluntary retirement scheme to be offered at 2007 pay scale. The Government will have to provide one time grant off 151.18 crore towards severance package and for clearing the current liabilities of the company.

This measure will stop flow of financial support from public funds for carrying on the operations of sick/loss making BWEL resulting in savings for the Government.

Mentor India
The National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog has launched Mentor India Campaign, a strategic nation building initiative to engage lead… Niti Aayog’s Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), the government’s flagship programme to promote innovation and entrepreneurship, is inviting applications for ‘Mentor India’ initiative.

Mentor India is as a strategic nation building initiative to engage leaders who can guide and mentor schools students in 900+ Atal Tinkering Labs (ATL) established by AIM in schools across India.

Through Mentor India, AIM is looking to engage leaders who can dedicate 1-2 hours every week in one or more such labs and enable school students to experience, learn and practice future skills such as design and computational thinking.

Commenting on the Mentor India initiative, Founder & CEO of Practo Shashank ND said he is thrilled to support Atal Tinkering Labs and ‘Mentor India’ initiatives and he is looking forward to spending time with the participants and imbibing their enthusiasm and fresh thinking as well.

Bhupathi, a new species of frog
Indian scientists have discovered Nasikabatrachus bhupathi, a new species of frog that has a snout-shaped nose, just like a pig in West Ghats. It has … Scientists have discovered a new and unusual species of frog in the Western Ghats mountain range in India. The frog has shiny, purple skin, a light blue ring around its eyes, and a pointy pig-nose. The scientists have called the new species Bhupathy’s purple frog (Nasikabatrachus bhupathi), in honor of their colleague, Dr. Subramaniam Bhupathy, a respected herpetologist who lost his life in the Western Ghats in 2014.

National Sports Awards
The Union Government bestows National Sports Awards every year to recognize and reward excellence in sports in India. These awards include Rajiv Gandh… National Sports Awards are given every year to recognize and reward excellence in sports. Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award is given for the spectacular and most outstanding performance in the field of sports by a sportsperson over a period of four year, Arjuna Award is given for consistency outstanding performance for four years, Dronacharya Award for coaches for producing medal winners at prestigious International sports events, Dhyan Chand Award for life time contribution to sports development.

(i) Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna 2017

S. No. Name of the Awardee discipline
1. Shri Devendra Para Athlete
2. Shri Sardar Singh Hockey

(ii) Dronacharya Awards 2017

S. No. Name of the Awardee Discipline
1. Late Dr. R. Gandhi Athletics
2. Mr. Heera Nand Kataria Kabaddi
3. Mr. G.S.S.V. Prasad Badminton (Lifetime)
4. Mr. Brij Bhushan Mohanty Boxing (Lifetime)
5. Mr. P.A. Raphel Hockey (Lifetime)
6. Mr. Sanjoy Chakraverthy Shooting (Lifetime)
7. Mr. Roshan Lal Wrestling (Lifetime)

(iii) Arjuna Awards 2017

S. No. Name of the Awardees Discipline
1. Ms. V.J. Surekha Archery
2. Ms. Khushbir Kaur Athletics
3. Mr. Arokia Rajiv Athletics
4. Ms. Prasanthi Singh Basketball
5. Sub. LaishramDebendro Singh Boxing
6. Mr. CheteshwarPujara Cricket
7. Ms. Harmanpreet Kaur Cricket
8. Ms. OinamBembem Devi Football
9. Mr. S.S.P. Chawrasia Golf
10. Mr. S.V. Sunil Hockey
11. Mr. Jasvir Singh Kabaddi
12. Mr. P. N. Prakash Shooting
13. Mr. A. Amalraj Table Tennis
14. Mr. SakethMyneni Tennis
15. Mr. SatyawartKadian Wrestling
16. Mr. Mariyappan Para-Athlete
17. Mr. Varun Singh Bhati Para-Athlete

(iv) Dhyan Chand Award

S. No. Name (S/Shri) Discipline
1 . Mr. Bhupender Singh Athletics
2. Mr. Syed Shahid Hakim Football
3. Ms. Sumarai Tete Hockey

The awardees will received their awards from the President of India at a specially organized function at the Rashtrapati Bhawan on August 29, 2017.
Apart from a medal and a citation, Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Awardee will receive a cash prize of Rs. 7.5 lakh. Arjuna, Dronacharya and Dhyan Chand Awardees will received statuettes, certificates and cash prize of Rs. 5 lakh each.

Hizbul Mujahideen

The United States has named Pakistan based Kashmiri terrorist outfit Hizbul Mujahideen as a “Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO)”. The development comes nearly a month after the terrorist outfit’s chief Syed Salahuddin was labeled a specially designated global terrorist. Established in 1989, the Hizbul Mujahideen is one of the oldest and the largest militant groups operating in Jammu and Kashmir.
According to a statement from the US Department of State released on Wednesday evening: “The designations seek to deny HM the resources it needs to carry out terrorist attacks. Among other consequences, all of HM’s property and interests in property subject to US jurisdiction are blocked, and US persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with the group.

Not an ‘isolated incident’, says NIA

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) told the Supreme Court that the alleged conversion of a Hindu girl and her marriage to a Muslim man in Kerala was not an ‘isolated incident’ and it detected a ‘pattern’ emerging in the southern State.
The Supreme Court promptly ordered the NIA to start its investigation even as the Kerala police said it would bow out of the ongoing probe in the case.

Lebanon scraps controversial rape law

Lebanon’s Parliament has scrapped a controversial law allowing rapists who marry their victims to go free, official media and activists said, after a high-profile campaign for its repeal. A proposal to repeal Article 522 of the penal code was introduced last year and approved by a parliamentary committee in February.
Referendum in Kurdistan
Independence referendum for Iraqi Kurdistan has been scheduled to be held on 25 September 2017 . The referendum is not equivalent of a declaration of independence. Nor will it trigger any immediate change to the nature of Kurdish sovereignty in northern Iraq, as the vote has neither a legal framework to empower the referendum as a binding measure, nor support from the international community.
The referendum will simply ask voters if they want an independent Kurdish state. However, the referendum is a way for Iraqi Kurds to signal their intention to pursue independence more aggressively in a post-Islamic State Iraq, and the vote will likely give Kurds more leverage in that process.
Turkey warned that plans by the leadership in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region to hold a referendum on independence could lead to civil war, in Ankara’s strongest warning yet against next month’s poll.
Turkey has a substantial Kurdish minority which is sometimes estimated as making up around a quarter of its total population of just under 80 million.

AFSPA in Assam &Manipore

The Union Home Ministry is set to give up its power to impose the ‘disturbed areas’ tag on Assam and Manipur, both ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party. The move effectively means that it will be the States’ decision to either continue the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) or revoke it.
The AFSPA empowers the Army and Central forces deployed in “disturbed areas” to kill anyone breaking the law and arrest and search any premises without warrantand shield the forces from prosecution.

Sanctions against North Korea

China will halt iron ore and seafood imports from North Korea starting following through UN sanctions after U.S. pressure over its ally’s nuclear programme.
The United Nations Security Council, including permanent member Beijing, approved tough sanctions against Pyongyang on August 6 ,2017that could cost the country $1 billion a year.

Crises in Venezuala

Venezuela depends heavily on its oil. It has the largest oil reserves in the world which, in 2014, had 298 billion barrels of proved oil reserves.
Oil revenue has sustained Venezuela’s economy for years. During the presidency of Hugo Chavez, the price of oil reached a historic high of $100 a barrel.
The billions of dollars in revenue were used to finance social programmes and food subsidies.
But when the price of oil fell, those programmes and subsidies became unsustainable.
The country sits on the world’s largest oil reserves, but, over the past decade, it has been the region’s poorest performer in terms of growth of GDP per capita.
Since 2014 the government has not made any economic data available making it difficult to track.
Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ) of Venezuelatook over legislative powers of the National Assembly. The Tribunal, mainly supporters of President Nicolás Maduro, also restricted the immunity granted to the Assembly’s members, who mostly belonged to the opposition.
The dissolution was termed as a “coup” by the opposition while the Organization of American States (OAS) termed the action a “self-coup”.

United States President Donald Trump said on Friday he was considering military options as a response to the escalating crisis in Venezuela, a move the South American country quickly shot down as “craziness.”

Women safer laws in Nepal

Nepal’s Parliament has passed a Bill toward making women safer by strengthening laws against acid attacks along with the ancient Hindu customs of demanding dowry payments for marriage and exiling women who are menstruating.
The new law goes into effect in August 2018, with violators who force women into exile facing punishments of up to three months in jail or a fine of 3,000 Nepalese rupees, or about Rs. 1,875. Many menstruating women are still forced to leave their homes and take shelter in insecure huts or cow sheds until their cycle ends, though the practice called Chhaupadi was actually outlawed a decade ago.
India-ASEAN Youth Summit
The India-ASEAN Youth Summit began in Bhopal Aug-2017, Madhya Pradesh to commemorate 25th anniversary of Association of Southeast Asian Nations

Shaurya

Indian Coast Guard ship “Shaurya”, the fifth in the series of six 105-metre offshore patrol vessels (OPVs), was on Saturday commissioned in Goa by Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas DharmendraPradhan.
The OPV, which draws 2,350 tonne and is propelled by 9100 kilowatt diesel engine, has been designed and built indigenously by Goa Shipyard Ltd .

15th Vice-President of India

Former Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu has been elected as the 15th Vice-President of India. Naidu will be administered the oath of office by President Ram Nath Kovind.
The election for the Vice President is conducted through a secret ballot where the members of Electoral College consisting of Members of the both Houses of Parliament including, the nominated members of Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha vote.

Sprites

Sprite spacecrafts are built on a single 3.5*3.5 centimeter circuit board. They weigh just four grams each. They are equipped with tiny solar panels and two antennas, plus a tiny radio, computer, magnetometer (to orient to Earth’s magnetic field) and gyroscope (to move and stabilize the craft). World’s smallest spacecrafts  Sprites ever launched are successfully travelling in low Earth orbit and communicating with systems on Earth.  The six prototypes of Sprites were launched in June 2017 as part of the Breakthrough Starshot project designed to test technologies that would eventually be used for interstellar missions.

The program aims to demonstrate proof of concept for light-propelled spacecraft that could fly at 20 per cent of light speed. Its main objective is to send one-gram chips to star systems beyond the solar system in search of extraterrestrial intelligence.

Bio-glue

The bio-glue is double-layered hydrogel consisting of an alginate-polyacrylamide matrix . This super strong, flexible Bio-glue will be sued for wound healing without causing toxicity. It is the combination of a very strong adhesive force and has ability to transfer and dissipate stress. It can bind to tissues with strength comparable to the body’s own resilient cartilage.

 The bio-glue has numerous potential applications in the medical field, either as a patch that can be cut to desired sizes and applied to tissue surfaces or can be also used as an injectable solution for deeper injuries

Hambantota deep-sea port

Hambantota port is a deep-water port in the southern tip of Sri Lanka  .Sri Lanka has signed a US $1.1 billion deal to sell a 70% stake of the strategic Hambantota deep-sea port to China.

 The port will play a key role in China’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI), which will link ports and roads between China and Europe. India’s Concern India is apprehensive that the port is part of Chinese ‘string of pearls’ with an objective to surround India and dock its military vessels.

Muntra

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has rolled out Muntra, India’s first unmanned, remotely operated tank at its Chennai lab. It has been launched in three variants Muntra-S, Muntra-M and Muntra-N for surveillance, mine detection and reconnaissance in areas with nuclear and biological threats.  

It is also likely to be used in Naxal-hit areas. Key Facts Muntra-S is the country’s first tracked unmanned ground vehicle (tank) developed for unmanned surveillance missions. Muntra-M is for detecting mines and Muntra-N is for operation in areas where there is nuclear radiation or biological weapon risk.

World’s first completely ‘green’ Metro system

The Delhi Metro Railway Corporation (DMRC) has become the world’s first completely ‘green’ Metro system for adhering to green building norms for its residential colonies. In this regard, Delhi Metro has secured the platinum rating for adherence to green building norms for its 10 residential colonies from the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC).

The International Tiger Day

 The International Tiger Day was founded in 2010 at the St. Petersburg Tiger Summit. The summit had issued St. Petersburg Declaration on Tiger Conservation with an aim to double the big cat population by 2022.

The Global Tiger Day is celebrated every year on 29 July to raise awareness for tiger conservation. Programmes are being organized all over the globe by many international organisations including the WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature), the IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) etc.

 The tiger is the largest of the world’s big cats with its distinctive orange and black stripes and beautifully marked face. It is has been founded that in the last century 97% of all wild tigers had disappeared due to many factors including habitat loss, hunting and poaching, climate change. According to WWF, only 3,890 tigers are left in the world, of them, India with more than 2500 tigers has the highest number.

BBPS

The BBPS initiative aims to provide a major push to digital payments as it is a big step forward in formalizing the bill payment system in the country.
The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) has received final clearance  from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to function as the Bharat Bill Payment Central Unit (BBPCU) and operate the Bharat Bill Payment System (BBPS).

The total number of Bharat Bill Payment Operating Units certified by NPCI now stands at 24. The certified units include 10 private sector banks, 3 public sector banks (Bank of Baroda, Union Bank of India and Indian Overseas Bank), five cooperative banks and six non-bank biller aggregators. About Bharat Bill Payment System (BBPS) BBPS is an integrated bill payment system offering interoperable and accessible bill payment service to customers through a network of agents, enabling multiple payment modes and providing instant confirmation of payment. 

Sagar Vani

Union Ministry of Earth Science has launched Sagar Vani,as an integrated information dissemination system on the occasion of its foundation Day. This system that will serve the coastal community, especially the fishermen community with the advisories and alerts towards their livelihood as well as their safety at Sea.

It includes Multi Lingual SMS, Voice Call/Audio Advisory, Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), Mobile Apps (User/Admin modules), email, Fax, GTS, Digital Display Boards, IVRS, Radio/Television broadcast units, Cloud Channels, etc. The system also has facility to provide access to various stakeholders (State Fishery Departments, Disaster Management Authorities, NGOs etc.) so that they will be able to further disseminate these ocean information and alerts to the user community.

This ‘Sagar Vani’ system compares with the most advanced countries’ services in terms of speed of delivery, diverseness of services and omni channel capabilities. It can disseminate services in local languages using advanced artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning capabilities.

IIM Bill, 2017

India has 20 IIMs ,which are separate autonomous bodies registered under the Societies Act. Earlier they were not authorized to award degrees. These awards were treated as equivalent to MBAs and Ph.D, respectively, but their equivalence was not universally acceptable, especially for the Fellow Programme.
The Lok Sabha passed the Indian Institutes of Management (IIM) Bill, 2017. The Bill declares the IIMs as institutions of national importance , to empower these institutions to attain standards of global excellence in management, management research and allied areas of knowledge.

Nawaz Sharif  resigned

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has resigned from his post after the Supreme Court disqualified him in the Panama Papers case. This is the third time Nawaz Sharif has been unable to complete his term in the chief executive’s office.

In a landmark judgment, a five Judge bench of Pakistan Supreme Court unanimously ruled to register a case against Nawaz Sharif and his family guilty of money laundering. The Panama Papers are an unprecedented leak of 11.5 million files from the database of the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca based in Panama. No democratically-elected Prime Minister of Pakistan has managed to complete a full term in office in the nation’s 70-year history. Only one Pakistani government has completed its full term, but it had two prime ministers. 

Successfully editing of genes of human embryos

Scientists from Oregon Health and Science University, US for first time have successfully edited genes of human embryos to correct defective DNA that cause inherited diseases. They had used the CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technology to alter human DNA in single-cell embryos, which allows specific sections of DNA to be altered or replaced.

 In this experiment, scientists had used sperm donated from men who carried inherited disease mutations to demonstrate that the genes can be corrected. The one-celled embryos were created in the experiment, were never intended to be implanted into a womb and were only allowed to develop for a few days. They had used a process called “germline engineering” in which genetically modified organisms pass changes to their offspring to eradicate inherited disease. It allowed so-called permanent germline changes to pass down to any offspring.

Section 498A

The Supreme Court has ruled that the police cannot arrest the accused without conducting a preliminary inquiry under dowry harassment cases. The ruling was made by a SC bench of Justices A K Goel and UU Lalit. With this, apex court put an end to immediate arrest of the husband and his family members in the dowry harassment cases filed under Section 498A of Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Now cases under Section 498A of IPC will be referred to Family Welfare Committees (FWC) must be constituted at every district and no arrest will be effected till the committee’s report is received. Such report may be then considered by the investigating officer or the magistrate on its own merit.

FWC must comprise 3 members who may be social workers, retired persons, para-legal volunteers, wives of working officers and other citizens who are found suitable and willing. However, these committee members will not be considered as witnesses.

SurfNet-

Scientists including one of Indian origin have developed new artificial intelligence (AI) software called SurfNet that can create three dimensional (3D) models from 2D photographs. When fully developed SurfNet could have significant applications in the fields of 3D searches on the internet researchers. In an advance version it can allow future robots to navigate in the real world. SurfNet software using hundreds of thousands of 2D shapes of objects can reconstruct it model in 3D. It utilizes machine learning to analyze 2D shapes and convert them into projected

Codex standards for black, white and green pepper-

The adoption of Codex standards paves the way for universal agreement on identifying quality spices in various countries. It also set reference points and benchmarks for member-nations to align their national standards for spices with Codex .The Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) has adopted three Codex standards for black, white and green pepper, cumin and thyme. It is for first time pepper, cumin and thyme, spices will have such universal standards. These standards were adopted at 40th session of CAC held in Geneva.

The Codex Alimentarius (Food Code) is a collection of standards, guidelines and codes of practice adopted by the CAC. The Commission is the central part of the joint FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations)/WHO (World Health Organisation) Food Standards Programme. Its mandate is to prepare an international codex alimentations, based on principles outlined by itself.

 The Codex alimentarius is a collection of internationally adopted food standards presented in a uniform manner. These food standards aim at protecting consumer’s health and ensuring fair practices in the food trade. It includes standards for all the principal foods, whether processed, semi-processed or raw for distribution to the consumer. It is also include standardised provisions in respect of food additives, contaminants, pesticides residues, labelling and presentation, methods of analysis and sampling.

GCCS

The GCCS is a prestigious international conference that aims at encouraging dialogue among stakeholders of cyberspace. India will host Global Conference on Cyber Space (GCCS) 2017, in November 2017 . The theme for the GCCS 2017 is ‘Cyber4All , An Inclusive, Sustainable, Developmental, Safe and Secure Cyberspace. This will be world’s largest conference on cyber space and related issues in New Delhi.

 Plants that can absorb toxic heavy metals from soil

Castor seed plants (‘Arandi ka tel)are generally known to be one of the sturdiest plants that can grow in areas where the soil is highly polluted, including in areas where mining is carried out. As per  the University of Hyderabad, Castor bean plants can prove useful in fighting soil pollution. It was found that these plants can absorb toxic heavy metals from soil from these polluted areas due to industrial pollution.

The roots, leaves and stem of these plants from the polluted areas contain heavy metals such as lead. It was also observed that these plants accelerate the remediation of polluted soils due to presence of some chemicals in them known as chelators which enhances the capability of the plant to accumulate heavy metals

2017 ICC World Cup-

The Women’s Cricket World Cup is the oldest and most prestigious international women’s cricket tournament currently organised by the International Cricket Council (ICC). England’s women’s cricket team won 2017 ICC World Cup title by defeating India by 9 runs at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London. It was England’s fourth Women’s World Cup title .In this edition of World Cup, Tammy Beaumont of England was awarded Player of the Series title. The first edition was held in England in 1973. 

Birth Certificate no longer a must for passport-

The government informed the Parliament that it has done away with the mandatory furnishing of birth certificate to get a passport. The Ministry of External Affairs clarified last week that Aadhaar or PAN card besides other documents can also be used to establish proof of birth. 

Project-75

India has finally kick-started its  Project 75″mother of all underwater defence deals” after an excruciating 10-year delay, with France, Germany, Russia, Sweden, Spain and Japan being in the fray to build six advanced stealth submarines for an estimated Rs 70,000 crore ($10.9 billion) in collaboration with an Indian  .

The Navy will then formulate the NSQRs (naval staff qualitative requirements) before the formal RFP (request for proposal) is issued to the six for submitting their technical and commercial bids for evaluation. The Indian shipyard for the strategic partnership with the selected foreign collaborator will be chosen in a parallel process.

 Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill, 2017.

The Lok Sabha has passed The above Bill  recently in July 2017. The Bill amends the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE), 2009 to extend the deadline for teachers to acquire the prescribed minimum qualifications for appointment.

Through the amending measure inadequately qualified teachers as on March 31, 2015, working after enactment of the RTE Act, 2009 are being given last chance to acquire minimum qualifications within a period of four years i.e. by March 31, 2019 to hold their jobs as teachers.  It will ultimately result in improvement in overall quality of teachers, teaching processes and learning outcomes of children.

 PMVVY-2017

The Union Finance Ministry has launched Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana (PMVVY), a pension scheme exclusively for senior citizens aged 60 years and above. Under this scheme, senior citizens will get a guaranteed interest of 8% for 10 years depending upon the investment made by them.

This scheme will be available from May 4, 2017 to May 3, 2018. Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) has been given the sole privilege to operate the scheme. It can be purchased offline as well as online through LIC. Premium ranging from Rs. 150000 (minimum) to Rs.750000 (maximum). Pension (minimum: Rs.1000/ month; maximum: Rs.5000) will be payable at the end of each period, during the policy term of 10 years, as per the frequency of monthly, quarterly, half-yearly, yearly as chosen by the pensioner at the time of purchase. It is exempted from goods and services (GST) tax.

Bicentenary celebration of Paika Rebellion

Indian President has inaugurated the bicentenary (200th) celebration of Paika Rebellion (1817) of Odisha organised by the Union Ministry of Culture in New Delhi.  Some scholars, researchers and historians have opined that the Paika Rebellion of 1817 was India’s first organized armed rebellion against British Raj (then British East India Company rule).

 Paiks were the traditional landed militia of Odisha, used to perform policing functions. They owned rent-free land that was given to them for their military service to Kingdom of Khurda. However they were forcefully usurped their land rendering them landless by the policies of British East India Company.

MRSAM

The MRSAM is an advanced, all weather, mobile, land-based air defence system. It can shoot down enemy ballistic missiles, aircraft, helicopters, drones, surveillance aircraft and AWACS aircraft.  It is capable of engaging multiple aerial targets at ranges of more than 50 km.

The Indian Army has signed MoU with DRDO to raise one regiment of the advanced Medium Range Surface to Air Missiles (MRSAM) defence system.  The Indian Army is planning to have a total of five regiments of MRSAM defence system, which will be deployed opposite to China and Pakistan. Each regiment consists of four launchers with three missiles each. So five regiments will have total 60 missiles.

MRSAM is a land-based variant of the long-range surface-to-air missile (LRSAM) or Barak-8 naval air defence system, which is designed to operate from naval vessels.

India’s 14th President

Shree Ram Nath Kovind was elected as India’s 14th President. In the final vote count, NDA nominee Kovind received 65.6% votes translating into 702,044 electoral college votes, while UPA candidate Meira Kumar managed to get 34.35% (367,314 votes). 522 MPs voted for Kovind, while 225 parliamentarians voted for Meira Kumar.

He is only the second Dalit leader after K R Narayanan.He had cleared Civil Services Examination in third attempt but did not join as he was selected for allied services. He had entered in active politics in 1994 when he became member of Rajya Sabha from Uttar Pradesh. He was also former President of the BJP Dalit Morcha (1998-2002) and also President of the All-India Koli Samaj as well as the SC/ST representative at IIM-Calcutta.. In August 2015, he was appointed governor of Bihar.

BharatNet project-second phase

The Bharat Net Project is the new brand name of National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) which was launched in October, 2011 to provide broadband connectivity to all 2.5 Lakh gram panchayats (GPs) through optical fibre. It was renamed Bharatnet in 2015.

The Union Cabinet has extended the second phase of the BharatNet project that forms the backbone for the Union government’s Digital India initiative. The second phase aims at covering the remaining 1.50 lakh Gram Panchayats (GPS).

BharatNet project will enable effective and faster implementation of various mission mode e-governance projects of the Union and state governments. It will facilitate electronic delivery of services to citizens of various e-commerce, e-governance, e-health services and e-education etc. thereby facilitating inclusive growth

IIIT-PPP Bill, 2017

The Lok Sabha passed the Indian Institute of Information Technology Public Private Partnership (IIIT-PPP) Bill, 2017 to allow 15 IIITs established on a PPP model to grant degrees and get statutory status. It seeks to grant institute of national importance status to IIITs on the lines of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and National Institutes of Technology (NITs).

The Union Government had initiated the opening of 20 IIITs with private partnership of which 15 are already operational. These engineering and tech schools were established at a cost of Rs. 128 crore each. The centre had contributed 50% of the amount, states 35% and private partners remaining 15% (i.e. 50:35:15 ratio). However, these institutes were not been eligible to grant degrees.
Silicone heart

A  soft silicone3D-printed heart  has been seveloped by Scientists from ETH Zurich ,Switzerland The heart closely resembles and functions like the human organ. 3D Printing Technology is a process of making 3-D (three dimensional) solid objects from a digital file with extreme precision.It is not exact biological replica of the actual, but can help to save lives of people who suffer from cardiac failure. It can be also used as an artificial heart in cases when patient is awaiting a heart transplant.

It is made of silicone using a 3D printed mold. It represents one of the most advanced replicas yet created of one of human’s most important organs. This technology is also termed additive manufacturing as the 3D printed object is created us additive processes i.e. by laying down successive layers of manufacturing material on each other until the entire object is created. This technology has limitless possibilities and can create almost anything with just raw material and a computer generated model.

RIL to cross 5 lakh in M-Cap

Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) for the first time has crossed Rs 5 lakh crore in market capitalization(India’s first firm to do so wasTata Consultancy Service). The market cap of RIL stood at Rs 5,04,458.09 on BSE (Bombay Stock Exchange.

 RIL is an Indian conglomerate engaged in energy, petrochemicals, textiles, natural resources, retail, and telecommunications. It is the third most profitable company in India. It is the second largest company in India in terms of revenue after the government-controlled Indian Oil Corporation (IOC). It was ranked 215th on the Fortune Global 500 list of the world’s biggest corporations as of 2016.
 National Strategic Plan (NSP) for Malaria Elimination

According to the World Malaria Report 2016, India accounts for 89% of the incidence of malaria in the South-East Asia region.The Union Health Ministry and Family Welfare for first time has unveiled the above plan for 2017-22. It has set malaria elimination deadline as 2027, three years ahead of the global deadline.

The NSP is a year-wise roadmap,universal case detection and treatment services in malaria endemic districts to ensure 100% diagnosis of all suspected cases, and full treatment of all confirmed cases. It seeks to maintain a malaria-free status for areas where transmission has been interrupted.

The plan divides country into four categories, from 0 to 3 based on their annual parasite incidence (API).

The first category, Zero has 75 districts having of API of malaria for the last three years

The Category 1 covers 448 districts, in which the API is less than 1 per 1,000 population.

 The Category 2 covers 48 districts, in which API is one and above, but less than 2 per 1,000 population.

The Category 3 covers 107 districts, in which API of two and above per 1,000 population.

Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code

IBBI is the regulator for overseeing insolvency proceedings of service providers like Insolvency Professional Agencies (IPA), Insolvency Professionals (IP) and Information Utilities (IU) in India.

It was given statutory powers through the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code. It functions under Ministry of Commerce. The Code provides for a market-determined and time-bound resolution of insolvency proceedings. It became operational in December 2016. It covers Individuals, Companies, Limited Liability Partnerships and Partnership firms. It attempts to simplify the process of insolvency and bankruptcy proceedings and speed up the resolution process for stressed assets in the country.
The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) has notified regulations for inspection and investigation of service providers registered with it. Under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) implemented by IBBI, service providers are insolvency professional agencies, entities, professionals and information utilities. The investigation authority has to serve a notice intimating the entity concerned about the probe at least 10 days in advance. However, this requirement can be done away with on grounds such as apprehensions that the records of the particular service provider might have been destroyed before the probe starts.

 
2017 Wimbledon title

Switzerland’s Roger Federer won 2017 Wimbledon title in the men’s single category. In the final match he defeated Marin Cilic of Croatia by 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 score. It was Federer’s record eighth Wimbledon title and overall 19th Grand Slam. With this victory, 36-year old Federer also became Wimbledon’s oldest champion, succeeding Arthur Ashe, who was 32 when he won in 1976.

Women’s single Garbiñe Muguruza (Spain) defeated Venus Williams (United States) by 7–5, 6–0 score to win her first Wimbledon title in the women’s single category. Men’s Doubles Łukasz Kubot (Poland) and Marcelo Melo (Brazil) pair defeated Oliver Marach (Austria) and Mate Pavić (Croatia) pair to win 2017 Wimbledon title in Men’s Doubles category.

SDG Index

The SDGs are the set of 17 non-binding goals featuring 169 targets to be implemented from 2015 to 2030. They were adopted by member countries of United Nations at the 2015 UN Sustainable Development Summit held in New York.

India has been ranked low 116 out of 157 nations on the 2017 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Index and Dashboard report released by Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and Bertelsmann Stiftung. The index assesses the performance of countries towards achieving the ambitious SDGs.

 It ranks countries based on their performance across the 17 SDGs.

Top Countries in 2017 SDG Index:

Sweden (1st), Denmark (2nd), Finland (3rd), Norway (4th), Czech Republic (5th), Germany (6th), Austria (7th), Switzerland (8th) and Slovenia (9th).United States was ranked 42nd on the Index, Russia and China ranked 62nd and 71st respectively.

It shows that the countries which are closest to fulfilling the objectives of the goals are not the biggest economies but comparably small, developed countries. India’s performance: India with a score of 58.1 was ranked 116th on the index, behind countries such as Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and China. Pakistan was ranked 122. In 2016, India was ranked 110thThe SDGs are the set of 17 non-binding goals featuring 169 targets to be implemented from 2015 to 2030. They were adopted by member countries of United Nations at the 2015 UN Sustainable Development Summit held in New York.

Supercluster of galaxies

 Indian astronomers have identified , extremely large supercluster of galaxies located in the direction of constellation Pisces and named it “Saraswati”. It was discovered by astronomers from Inter University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA) and Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), both in Pune, Maharashtra.

A supercluster is a chain of galaxies and galaxy clusters. It bound by gravity consisting of tens of thousands of galaxies. It often stretches several hundred times the size of clusters of galaxies. Thus, it can be said, galaxies are made of billions of stars and planets and grouped into clusters. These clusters of galaxies, in turn, are grouped together to form superclusters.

Liu Xiaobo

The Nobel laureate and democracy icon Liu Xiaobo passed away in custody in China following a battle with cancer. Liu was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.

 Liu was a Chinese literary critic, writer, human rights activist who called for political reforms and end of communist single-party rule. He is also known for his role in 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing.

DGARM

 Directorate General of Analytics and Risk Management (DGARM) is a new wing (set up on 1 July 2017)to provide intelligence inputs taking action against tax evaders. It has been has been set up will be under the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC). It will also do big data analytics for taxmen for better policy formulation. The DGARM was, coinciding with rollout of Goods and Services Tax (GST). It will function as an apex body of CBEC for data analytics and risk management and will report to the chairman of CBEC.

 It will utilize internal and external data sources for detailed data mining and analysis to generate outputs for focused and targeted action by field formations and investigation wings of the CBEC. The field formations of CBEC are also expected to gainfully and effectively utilise the data and other inputs shared by the DGARM.

TISC

The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) will establish India’s first Technology and Innovation Support Center (TISC) at Patent Information Centre, Punjab. The TISC will be set up under the World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) TISC program. These program will Stimulate a dynamic, vibrant and balanced Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) system in India to foster creativity and innovation.

No-Development Zone’

National Green Tribunal (NGT) has declared ‘No-Development Zone’ along an area of 100 metres from the edge of the river in the stretch between Haridwar in Uttarakhand and Unnao in Uttar Pradesh. This zone must be turned into green belts. The NGT also directed Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh governments to formulate guidelines for regulating religious activities on the ghats of Ganga River or its tributaries. It also ordered to stop indiscriminate extraction of groundwater from all industrial units falling in the catchment area of Ganga River.

  • The project corridor is also a part of the Asian Highway No. 01 (AH01) and acts as India’s Gateway to the East. Thus trade, commerce and tourism in the region will get a boost.

JIN

The Union Cabinet has given its approval for  Joint Interpretative Notes (JIN) on the agreement between India and Bangladesh for the promotion and protection of investments between the two countries.

  • The JIN includesinterpretative notes to be jointly adopted for many clauses, including, the definition of investor and investment, exclusion of taxation measures, Fair and Equitable Treatment (FET), National Treatment (NT) and Most Favoured Nation (MFN) treatment, expropriation, essential security interests and settlement of disputes between an investor and a contracting party.
  • Joint Interpretative Statements play an important supplementary role in strengthening the investment treaty regime. With increasing Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) disputes, issuance of such statements was likely to have strong persuasive value before tribunals.

 

Regulatory regime for virtual or crypto currencies 

The government is considering the introduction of a regulatory regime for virtual or crypto currencies, such as Bitcoin, that would enable the levy of the Goods and Services Tax on their sale.

  • The new regime may possibly bring their trading under the oversight of the stock market regulator, Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).

Benefits of regulation of these currencies:

Proper regulation of these currencies will “promote” a formal tax base, while keeping a tab on their use for illegal activities such as money laundering, terror funding and drug trafficking. 

Crypto-currency that is planned to be brought under the regulatory regime is a digital currency which allows transacting parties to remain anonymous while confirming that the transaction is a valid one. It is not owned or controlled by any institution – governments or private.

There are multiple such currencies — bitcoin, ethereum, ripple are some of the popular ones. Currently, they are neither illegal nor legal in India.

Cryptocurrencies have gained popularity in the last few years. Currently, they are neither illegal nor legal in many countries including India. The market cap for all crypto-currencies has just crossed $100 billion, with most of the increase coming in the past few months. On April 1, 2017, the total market cap was just over $25 billion, representing a 300% rise in just over 60 days. One bitcoin today is worth as much as 60 grams of gold. 

Banning will give a clear message that all related activities are illegal and will disincetivise those interested in taking speculative risks. It will also impede tax collection on gains made in such activities and that regulating the currency instead would signal a boost to blockchain technology, encourage the development of a supervision ecosystem (that tracks legal activities and may also assist in tracking illegal activities) and promote a formal tax base. 

However, the government is wary that regulation will provide legitimacy to “what is currently ambiguous,” and may lead to further rise in its valuation and end up contributing “to the investment bubble”.

DWR

A state-of-the-art by Bharat Electronics Limited (BHEL) developed S-band doppler weather radar (DWR) of India Meteorological Department (IMD) was commissioned at Palluruthy in West Kochi, Kerala. Doppler effect is an increase(or decrease in the frequency of sound, light, or other waves as the source and observer move towards (or away from) each other.
The S-band DWR is capable of predicting weather events such as storms and cyclones, other severe weather conditions occurring in 500-km radius from Kochi with increased accuracy. Doppler weather radar Doppler weather radar is an observational tool for monitoring and predicting severe weather events such as hailstorms, thunder storms, cyclones and tornados. It uses the Doppler effect by bouncing a microwave signal off a desired target to produce velocity data. This data helps in analyzing object’s motion by altered the frequency of the returned signal. It mainly gives information about wind velocity and also about precipitation .

 Imphal-Moreh Section

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has given its approval for upgradation and widening of 65 kms of Imphal-Moreh Section of NH-39 in Manipur. This will  boost trade, commerce and tourism in the region  .

 IRRI South Asia Regional Centre

The  Cabinet has approved establishment of International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) set up a regional centre International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), a global rice research institute. It will be named as IRRI South Asia Regional Centre (ISARC) and will be set up at campus of National Seed Research and Training Centre (NSRTC) in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.

Great Red Spot

NASA’s unmanned spacecraft Juno has became first space to flyby Jupiter’s giant storm known as the Great Red Spot. The Great Red Spot on Jupiter is a massive storm (cyclone) measuring about 16,000 km in diameter. It is largest known storm in the solar system.  
Ban on manja

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has imposed nationwide ban on manja made of nylon or any synthetic material on the grounds that it poses a threat to animals and humans. The judgement came on a plea filed by animal rights body People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and othersof   Sometimes these strings coated with sharp metals, traps and kill migratory birds. It also claimed that minor children were engaged by the cottage industry for the manufacture of ‘manja’, which caused respiratory problems as they inhaled harmful substances which were detrimental to their health.

Minimum educational qualifications for contesting elections

Rajasthan has become the first State in India  to lay down the minimum educational qualifications for contesting elections to village cooperative societies and various other cooperative bodies by amending the State Cooperative Societies Rules, 2003.

The required educational qualifications will range from Class V to Class VIII for election as members of governing boards of various cooperative societies. The minimum qualifications for the primary committee members will be class VIII, for district-level committees, it will be class X and graduation for the state level committee.

 
New chief coach of the Indian cricket

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has finalised former Indian all-rounder and captain Ravi Shastri as the new chief coach of the Indian cricket team till ICC World Cup 2019. Besides, BCCI also appointed former fast bowler Zaheer Khan as bowling coach for a period of two years. Former Indian Captain Rahul Dravid was also appointed as batting consultant for specific overseas tours.

Men-only island

Okinoshima Island, Japan’s men-only island was declared as a UNESCO world heritage site. It is located in south-west Japan between the main island of Kyushu and the Korean Peninsula in the Sea of Japan (East Sea). It still follow strict taboos from ancient times, including the controversial ban on women from entering the island Okinoshima Island Okinoshima Island is an ancient religious site in Japan that is considered sacred by the local Munakata Taisha. Even male visitors need to take off their clothes and take a naked bath (purifying bath) before visiting the shrine.
World Heritage City
The Walled City of Ahmedabad (600 years old)has been declared World Heritage City by the World Heritage Committee (WHC) of UNESCO . It is first Indian city get the honour. It will be third city from the Indian subcontinent to enjoy this status along with Bhaktapur in Nepal and

The Walled City of Ahmedabad was founded by Sultan Ahmed Shah I of Gujarat Sultanate in in 1411. It remained the capital of the Gujarat Sultanate and later important political and commercial centre of Gujarat.

Merger of the Ministries

The Union Government has merged the Ministries of Urban Development and Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation to form the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. With this merger, the Union Government now has 51 ministries. In 2004, there were total 42 ministries. The first government in independent India had just 17 ministries.

Hamburg Action Plan.
Hamburg Action Plan is adopted in 12th G-20 SUMMIT . It sets out the group’s strategy for achieving strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth. The action plan aims to address major global challenges, including climate change, harnessing digitalisation, and to contribute to prosperity and well-being.

Hamburg Action Plan Tackle common challenges: G20 members resolved to tackle common challenges to the global community, including terrorism, displacement, hunger, poverty and health threats, job creation, climate change, energy security and inequality including gender inequality, as a basis for sustainable development and stability. Trade and globalisation:. They also underlined importance to boost employment by improving sustainable global supply chains .

G-20 members are committed to increase innovation on sustainable and clean energies and energy efficiency, work towards low greenhouse-gas emission energy systems and harness digitalisation to achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Global Health systems:

G-20 members called for strengthening health systems and safeguarding against health crises. The leaders called on the UN to keep global health high on the political agenda and strive for cooperative action to strengthen health systems worldwide, including through developing the health workforce.

 

India to join GFXC

India will soon join Global Foreign Exchange Committee (GFXC), a newly-constituted forum of central bankers and experts working towards promotion of a robust and transparent foreign exchange (Forex) market. The committee has been set up under guidance of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), an international financial organisation

Major digital initiatives

On the occasion of Guru Purnima four major digital initiatives in to push e-education. They are Swayam, Swayam Prabha, National Academic Depository and National Digital Library. These digital initiatives are operational under Union Ministry of Human Resource and Development

 Swayam: It an indigenously designed massive open online course (MOOC), It will host all the courses, taught in classrooms from 9th class till post-graduation and can be accessed by anyone, anywhere at any time. It aims to bridge the digital divide for students in e-education.

Swayam Prabha: It will provide high quality educational contents, developed by experts, through 32 DTH (direct to home) Television Channels with an aim to bring uniformity in standards of education. It will cover diverse disciplines of all levels of education in various languages. It will be available to all and will be having new content of 4 hours to be telecasted 6 times a day.

 National Academic Depository: It is a digital depository of academic awards for authenticating all certificates issued by institutions. NAD will directly integrate with Boards/Universities which issue Certificates which will be verified, authenticated, accessed and retrieved in a digital depository for purpose of employment, higher education, and loans.

National Digital Library: It is a large online library containing 6.5 million books. It provides free access to many books in English and the Indian languages.

Global treaty banning nuclear weapons

The United Nations has adopted a historic global treaty banning nuclear weapons by a vote of 122 members in favour. The Netherlands was the only country who voted against the treaty. Singapore abstained from voting.

The treaty would be opened for signature on September 20. It will enter into force once 50 countries ratified it. All of the ratifying countries should never under any circumstances develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. The treaty also bans any transfer or use of nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices.

 The nine nuclear powers, namely, the United States, Russia, Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel neither took part in the negotiations nor cast their vote. Even Japan the sole sufferer of atomic attack refrained from taking part in the negotiations. Most of the NATO countries too boycotted the negotiations.

 The nuclear powers view the treaty as unrealistic and argue that it will not have any impact on reducing the global stockpile of 15000 atomic weapons.

JIGYASA 

Jigyasa is  a student- scientist connect programme classroom learning to a very well-planned research laboratory based learning launched by the government in New Delhi would be implemented by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research in collaboration with Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS). The main focus of the programme is to connect school students and scientists as well as to extend student’s.

GCI

India has been ranked 23rd out of 165 nations in the second Global Cybersecurity Index (GCI) by the UN telecommunications agency International Telecommunication Union (ITU)  .The index  measures the commitment of nations across the world to cyber security. India has been listed in the “maturing category” of the index with a score of 0.683.

Around 77 countries have been placed in the maturing category as they have developed complex commitments to cyber security and engage in cybersecurity programmes and initiatives. Singapore has topped the index with a score of 0.925. Singapore is followed by United States (2nd), Malaysia (3rd), Oman (4th), Estonia (5th), Mauritius (6th), Australia (7th), Georgia (8th), France (9th), Canada (10th) and Russia (11th). China has been placed at 34th. Equatorial Guinea is the worst performer among all nations with a score of zero.

ITU has ranked the countries based on the countries’ legal, technical and organisational institutions, educational and research capabilities, as well as their cooperation in information-sharing networks.

Special Rhino Protection Force

The greater one-horned rhinoceros is the largest of the Asian Rhinos. Its preferred habitat is alluvial flood plains and areas containing tall grasslands along the foothills of the Himalayas. They have been listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Indian Rhino Vision (IRV) 2020 It is a partnership the Assam Forest Department, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Bodoland Territorial Council, International Rhino Foundation (IRF) and US Fish and Wildlife Service. Its goal is to attain a wild rhino population of at least 3,000 in the Indian state of Assam by the year 2020.

The Assam government is to raise a new Special Rhino Protection Force (SRPF) for better protection of the one-horned rhinos in Assam. State government has already started the process of recruitment for the proposed force.

FIFA Confederation Cup Football title
The FIFA Confederations Cup is an international association football tournament for national teams. It is currently held every four years by FIFA. It is contested by the holders of each of the six regional championships (UEFA, CONCACAF, CONMEBOL, CAF, AFC, OFC), along with the current FIFA World Cup holder and the host nation
Four-time FIFA World Cup winner Germany won maiden FIFA Confederation Cup Football title by defeating Copa America Champion Chile by 1-0 goals in the final match held at St Petersburg, Russia . 

National Biopharma Mission

National Biopharma Mission The mission aims to enable and nurture an ecosystem for preparing India’s technological and product development capabilities in biopharmaceuticals to be globally competitive level over the next decade. It will also strive to transform the health standards of India’s population through affordable product development The mission will be implemented by Biotechnology

Innovate in India (i3)  is a flagship program of the Government of India in collaboration with World Bank. It is committed to make India a hub for design and development of novel, affordable and effective biopharmaceutical products and solutions

The Union Ministry of Science & Technology has launched National Biopharma Mission, a first ever Industry-Academia mission to accelerate biopharmaceutical development in India. Under this mission, the ministry also launched Innovate in India (i3) program to create an enabling ecosystem to promote entrepreneurship and indigenous manufacturing in the sector.

Indian biopharmaceutical industry is still 10-15 years behind their counterparts in the developed countries and faces stiff competition from Korea, China and others. The lacuna primarily exists due to disconnected centers of excellence, less focus on translational research and uncertain funding. So there was an immediate need to consolidated efforts to promote product discovery, translational research and early stage manufacturing in the country to ensure inclusive innovation.

KK Venugopal

 President Pranab Mukherjee has appointed senior advocate and constitutional expert K K Venugopal (86) as the new Attorney General of India. He will be 15th Attorney General of India. He succeeds Mukul Rohatgi as the country’s top law officer. He also had represented senior BJP leader L K Advani in the Babri Masjid demolition case. He is the recipient of Padma Vibhushan and Padma Bhushan.

DART

NASA is developing Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), the first-ever mission that will deflect a near-Earth asteroid. The mission will help to test the systems that will allow mankind to protect the planet from potential cosmic body impacts in the future.

 The DART will be built and managed by the John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL). It will be NASA’s first mission to demonstrate kinetic impactor technique. 

The target for DART is an asteroid called Didymos t A that will have a distant approach to Earth in October 2022 and then again in 2024. binary system that consists of two bodies: Didymos A (about 780 metres in size), and Didymos B (about 160 metres in size), smaller asteroid orbiting Didymos A. This is done well before the predicted impact so that this small velocity adds up over time to a big shift of the asteroid’s path away from Earth.

Asia-Africa-Europe (AAE-1) submarine cable system

Mukesh Ambani led Reliance Jio Infocomm has launched the Asia-Africa-Europe (AAE-1) submarine cable system. It is claimed to be world’s longest 100Gbps technology-based submarine system. It stretches for over 25,000km from Marseille, France to Hong Kong.

The AAE-1 project is a combination of leading telecom service providers from Europe, the Middle East and Asia. It will seamlessly link with other cable systems and fibre networks to deliver direct access to all global markets. It will feature diversified Points of Presence (PoP) in Asia (Hong Kong and Singapore), with three onward connectivity options in Europe (France, Italy and Greece). The cable system will pass through critical hubs, serving the demand for video centric data bandwidth that supports all types of communications, applications and content within India and beyond. Its Network Operations Center (NOC) will use a state of the art facility in Navi Mumbai.
Same-sex marriage

Germany has legalised same-sex marriage in line with a host of other European countries. German lawmakers had voted 393 for- and 226 against legalising same-sex marriage.  Since 2001 Germany permits same-sex couples to enter into civil partnerships but do not grant them full marital rights which include the possibility to jointly adopt children.

COMMIT

A new training programme Comprehensive Online Modified Modules on Induction Training (COMMIT) for State Government officials has been launched. The objective of this training programme is to improve the public service delivery mechanism and provide citizen centric administration through capacity building of officials who interact with the citizens on day-to-day basis.

The COMMIT programme, developed by DoPT in collaboration with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), will supplement the existing 12-Day ITP launched in 2014-15 for newly recruited state Government officials to develop in them Generic & Domain specific competencies.

About plastic rice 

Agricultural and Processed Foods Export Development Agency (APEDA) has refuted rumours about plastic rice, attributing the videos on social media showing bouncing rice balls to a natural property of rice.

 According to APEDA, the buoyancy of rice balls dropping on a hard surface is its natural property and it depends on the amylose content.

The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) was established by the Government of India under the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority Act 1985. The Authority replaced the Processed Food Export Promotion Council (PFEPC).

GSAT-17

ISRO on June 28 2017  successfully launched GSAT-17 communication Satellite onboard the Ariane-5 launch vehicle from the Guiana Space Center at French Guiana. The 3,477-kg GSAT 17 communication satellite will be placed in the geostationary orbit and will have a mission life of 15 years.

 The satellite will be an addition to the current fleet of 17 Indian communication satellites that are already providing services from space. The satellite will provide meteorological and satellite-based data to help rescue services which were earlier provided by geostationary satellites called Indian National Satellite System (INSAT).

Blood bank for cattle

Odisha is  to become the first state in the country to open a blood bank for cattle. The blood bank for cattle would be set up on the premises of the Odisha University of Agriculture and Technology (OUAT) at an estimated cost of Rs. 3.25 crore. The proposal has received the nod from the National Agriculture Development Programme (NADP)  .Under this initiative, the blood would be procured voluntarily from the cattle farmers. The blood bank will also have blood transfusion facility for cattle blood.

India  Netherlands  MOUs 

India and the Netherlands have signed three MOUs . The Netherlands has backed India’s entry into Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and other multilateral export control regimes. The Netherlands also supported India’s bid for a permanent UN Security Council seat. For its part, India has thanked the Netherlands for its role in India’s accession to the Missile Technology Control Regime in June 2016. Also, Prime Minister Modi invited the Netherlands to join the International Solar Alliance. In addition, both the countries have reaffirmed their commitment towards Paris climate deal. Agreements In total three agreements were signed:

MOU on Cultural Cooperation, MOU on Water Cooperation Agreement on Amending Social Security Arrangement

Draft regulations for organic food products

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has come out with draft regulations for organic food products to ensure the authenticity of organic foods . Organic foods will have to comply with the government’s provisions under the National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP) or the Participatory Guarantee System for India (PGS-India) run by the Agriculture Ministry or any other standards notified by FSSAI.

The draft regulations have come up with the following definitions:

 Organic agriculture has been defined as a system of farm design and management that creates an eco-system of agriculture production without the use of synthetic external inputs such as chemicals, fertilisers, pesticides and synthetic hormones or genetically modified organisms.

The organic farm is defined as the product obtained from organic agriculture. Organic foods are defined as those food products that are produced in accordance with specified standards for organic production. Organic farm produce means the product obtained from organic agriculture, while organic food means food products that have been produced in accordance with specified standards for organic production.

India –US recent pact –June 2017

  India and the US have asked Pakistan to make sure that its soil is not used for cross-border terror strikes. Both the countries have asked Pakistan to expeditiously bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai and Pathankot attackers to justice.

  The US has cleared the sale of Guadian Unmanned Aerial Systems to India. The drones would help India to keep a closer watch over the strategically important Indian Ocean. The US has designated Hizbul Mujahideen Chief Syed Salahuddin as a global terrorist .

  Donald Trump has asked India to maintain a fair and reciprocal trade relationship and has called for the removal of barriers for the export of US goods into Indian markets. GST  Donald Trump has given a thumbs up to India’s GST that will come into effect on July 1.

  Donald Trump has said that India and the US would join Japan to conduct the largest maritime war game ever conducted in the Indian Ocean. Afghanistan   India and the US have expressed concern over the rising instability in Afghanistan and vowed to strengthen cooperation for establishing peace in the war-torn country.

  Trump and Modi have labelled the missile programs of North Korea as a grave threat to global peace.

New National Education Policy

The HRD ministry has constituted a new nine-member panel headed by space scientist K Kasturirangan to frame a new National Education Policy (NEP). The panel members belong to different sections and regions of the country reflecting the diversity of the country.

Kaushik Basu

The Finance Ministry’s former Chief Economic Advisor Kaushik Basu has taken over as President of the International Economic Association (IEA). He will hold the office for a term of three years.

The IEA was founded in 1950 as a Non-Governmental Organization, at the instigation of the Social Sciences Department of UNESCO. It has since its creation maintained information and consultative relations with UNESCO and is since 1973 a federated member of the International Social Science Council.

 Operation Swarn

Indian Railways have decided to launch “Operation Swarn (‘gold’)“. The operation is aimed at improving the services in  premium trains(Rajdhani  ,Shatabdi Express,). The Railways have decided to launch this operation after it received complaints from passengers regarding the sanitation, food quality and delay in train arrivals etc.

ROSA

ROSA (Roll-Out Solar Array)is a NASA technology  to provide power for  future spacecraft and satellites . The ROSA is very much flexible so that it can be adapted to different sizes including very large arrays.. ROSA will be an asset for satellite radio and television, weather forecasting, GPS and other services used on the Earth. ROSA is smaller and lighter than the traditional panels and has a centre wing build of a flexible material containing photovoltaic cells to convert light into electricity. 

Image trademark

Mumbai’s Taj Mahal Palace hotel has acquired an ‘image trademark‘ under the Trademark Act of 1999, making it  the first building in the country to get intellectual property rights protection. Now the image of Taj Mahal Palace hotel’s dome and exterior can be used only with the consent of Taj Hotels Palaces Resorts Safaris.

United Nations TIR

India has become the 71st nation to join the United Nations TIR (Transports Internationaux Routiers) Convention. It aims at integrating Indian economy with global and regional production networks through better connectivity.

The TIR is managed and developed by International Road Transport Union (IRU) which is the world road transport organisation. The TIR procedure facilitates movement of goods under customs control across international borders without the payment of the duties and taxes. It provides a robust guarantee mechanism facilitating the higher growth of Intra-regional trade. Significance Accession to TIR will help India in implementing the World Trade

 At present, there are 70 parties to the convention including the European Union. Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement which it has already entered into this year. India has  joined TIR to counter  China’s ambitious ‘One Belt One Road’ (OBOR) project . China is already a TIR member.

National Mission on Cultural Mapping of India

The mission aims at converting the vast and widespread cultural canvas of India into an objective cultural map, designing a mechanism to fulfil the aspirations of the whole artist community of the nation and preserving the rich cultural heritage of this country in the form of a cultural repository of artists and art forms.

  • This Mission encompasses data mapping, demography building formalising the processes and bringing all the cultural activities under one web based umbrella for better results.
  • The Mission also seeks to open a direct channel of communication of artists with the Government and peer to peer communication among artists for talent honing and handholding of each other.

Anti-profiteering authority

The GST Council has approved the anti-profiteering rules. As per this, a five-member anti-profiteering authority will be set up to decide on levying penalty if businesses do not pass on the benefit of price reduction to consumers under the goods and services tax regime.

The authority will be headed by a retired secretary-level officer.

The complaints of profiteering would first come to the Standing Committee comprising tax officials from states and the Centre. It would forward the complaint to the Directorate of Safeguards (DGS) for investigation, which is likely to take about 2-3 months to complete the inquiry. On completion of investigation, the report would be submitted to the anti-profiteering authority which would decide on the penalty.    

Indian F-16 fighter planes

Lockheed Martin and India’s Tata Advanced Systems have signed a pact to produce F-16 fighter planes in India. Lockheed Martin is one of the largest aerospace, defense, security, and advanced technologies  companies having worldwide interests. It will promote Make-in-India initiative require the foreign suppliers to forge partnership with a local partner to make planes and build a domestic industrial base in India. This is aimed at cutting outright imports.

Kidambi Srikanth

India’s Kidambi Srikanth has lifted the Indonesia Open Super Series badminton title at Jakarta by defeating Japan’s Kazumasa Sakai in straight sets 21-11, 21-19.  Srikanth who is currently World No. 22 this is a big title win.

Know India Programme

External Affairs Ministery has inaugurated Know India Programme (KIP) for NRI and PIO youth with a view to provide them with an exposure to the country of their origin so that they can understand India better and more closely. It’s  a three-week orientation programme which is aimed at promoting awareness on different facets of life in India as well as the progress made by the country in fields such as economic and education( between the age group of 18 to 30 years)

External Affairs Minister has also launched a portal for the Know India Programme (KIP). The government has also announced the openings of 149 new post office passport seva kendras in the country (POPSK).

The Ministry has announced that it is taking measures to open more passport seva kendras so that a person need not travel more than 50 kilometeres to get his/her passport. POPSKs is an initiative undertaken jointly by the MEA and the Department of Post.

Aadhaar mandatory

The government has made Aadhaar mandatory for opening bank accounts as well as for carrying out financial transactions above of Rs 50,000. In addition, the government has asked all the existing account holders to link Aadhaar numbers to their bank accounts by December 31, 2017. Failure to comply with this guideline will make the account invalid.

Global Innovation Index 2017

In the Global Innovation Index 2017, co-authored by Cornell University, INSEAD and World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) .It is based on  Five input pillars capture elements of the national economy that enable innovative activities:

(1) Institutions,

(2) Human capital and research,

3) Infrastructure,

(4) Market sophistication, and

 (5) Business sophistication. Each pillar is divided into sub-pillars and each sub-pillar is composed of individual indicators (81 in total in 2017). 

 India has moved up 6 places to reach 60th place among 130 countries emerging as the top-ranked economy in Central and South Asia. This is the 10th edition of the Global Innovation Index 2017 (GII).

 Top 10 most Innovative countries: Switzerland, Sweden, the Netherlands, the US, the UK, Denmark, Singapore, Finland, Germany and Ireland. Switzerland leads the rankings for the 7th consecutive year. The index is dominated by high-income economies which took 24 of the top 25 spots except for China which is ranked at 22nd spot.

Among India’s neighbours, Sri Lanka has managed to bag 90th spot and Nepal stood at 109th place. Pakistan has been ranked as 113th followed by Bangladesh at 114. BRICS countries: Brazil (69), Russia (45), China (22), South Africa (57).

Interest Subvention Scheme (ISS)

The government has approved the Interest Subvention Scheme (ISS) for farmers for the year 2017-18. This will help farmers getting short term crop loan up to Rs. 3 lakh payable within one year at only 4% per annum.  The Government has earmarked a sum of Rs. 20,339 crore for this purpose.

The scheme has been running since 2006-07. Under this, the farmers can avail concessional crop loans of upto Rs.3 lakh at 7% rate of interest.  The Interest Subvention Scheme will continue for one year and it will be implemented by NABARD and RBI.

  • The objective of the scheme is to make available at ground level, agricultural credit for Short Term crop loans at an affordable rate to give a boost to agricultural productivity and production in the country.
  • The interest subvention will be given to Public Sector Banks (PSBs), Private Sector Banks, Cooperative Banks and Regional Rural Banks (RRBs) on use of own funds and to NABARD for refinance to RRBs and Cooperative Banks.

Change in the colour of the Bosphorus Strait

A sudden change in the colour of the Bosphorus Strait (It is a natural strait connecting the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara)that divides the continents of Europe and Asia in Turkey’s largest city Istanbul since the weekend has alarmed some residents. The cause was a surge in numbers of the micro-organism Emiliania huxleyi. One of the most successful life-forms on the planet, Emiliania huxleyi is a single-celled organism visible only under a microscope.

Bosphorus strait separates the European part from the Asian part of Istanbul

CRY Report on child labour

According to CRY Report on child labour, more than 8 lakh children between the age group of 5 and 6 years in India are engaged in child labour. Child Rights and You (CRY) is an NGO working towards the upliftment of underprivileged children got established in 1979 .

As per the report, over 5 lakh children in India do not attend school. A majority of them are involved in family based employments. Uttar Pradesh ranks first in the number of child labourers (2,50,672 children) in the country followed by Bihar (1,28,087 children) and Maharashtra (82,847 children). The report cites that the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) suffers many limitations and is now covering only 50% of the child labourers.

Gold medal in mixed team 10m air pistol

Indian shooters Jitu Rai and Heena Sidhu have clinched the gold medal in mixed team 10m air pistol event of the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup held at Gabala, Azerbaijan.Mixed team events have been approved as medal events for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. This win is the Indian pair’s second World Cup gold together.

Separate time zone for the northeastern

A study carried out by Bengaluru-based National Institute of Advanced Studies had concluded that separate time zone for the northeastern region could help in saving 2.7 billion units of electricity every year .Arunachal Pradesh C.M. Pema Khandu has demand for a separate time zone for the northeastern states to improve work efficiency and save electricity in the region. Several daylight hours are getting wasted as government offices opens only at Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi had suggested that northeastern region should follow chai bagan (tea garden) time.  and is one hour ahead of the Indian Standard Time (IST). In North East, the day starts getting brighter by 4 AM and darker by 5 PM. The adoption of separate time zone would allow people of North East to begin early and use the time which is currently wasted.

 The chaibagan time was introduced by the British over 150 years ago. It was set one hour ahead of the Indian Standard Time (IST) for tea estates, collieries and oil industry of Assam.

French Open title

Spain’s Rafael Nadal has defeated Swiss third-seeded Stan Wawrinka 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 to win his record 10th French Open title. This will be his fifteenth major title win. With this victory, Rafael Nadal has become the first man or woman in the Open era to clinch a Grand Slam tournament 10 times. 

Tele-Law’

The Government of India has launched the ‘Tele- Law which will make legal aid easily accessible to the marginalized communities and citizens living in rural areas, Under the scheme, a portal called ‘Tele-Law’ will be launched, which will be available across the Common Service Centre (CSC) network. This will connect the citizens to legal service providers with the help of technology enabled platforms.

  • ‘Tele-Law’ will enable people to seek legal advice from lawyers through video conferencing available at the Common Service Centres (CSC). Additionally, law school clinics, District Legal Service Authorities, voluntary service providers and Non-Government Organisations working on legal aid and empowerment can also be connected through the CSCs.
  • The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) will provide a panel of lawyers from State capitals, who will be available through video conferencing to provide legal advice and counselling to the applicants, across the 1000 Common Service Centres (CSC).

Every Common Service Centre (CSC) will engage a Para Legal Volunteer (PLV), who will be the first point of contact for the rural citizens and will help them in understanding the legal issues, explain the advice given by lawyers and assist in further action required in cases as per the advice of the lawyer.

  • Women PLVs will be encouraged and trained under the Scheme. One thousand women PLVs will work for mainstreaming legal aid services through the CSCs. The aim is to promote women entrepreneurship and empowerment and ensure women participation. The selected PLVs will also be provided with relevant training to fulfil their responsibilities effectively.
  • A trained PLV will be available in a CSC for ten days in a month under the Scheme. These PLVs will help the applicant connect with a lawyer through the video conferencing facility at the CSC and will keep a track of the progress of the applicants’ cases and grievances and maintain a record.

SATH

  • NITI Aayog has launched SATH, a program providing ‘Sustainable Action for Transforming Human capital’ with the State Governments. The vision of the program isto initiate transformation in the education and health sectors. The program addresses the need expressed by many states for technical support from NITI. The program will be implemented by NITI along with McKinsey & Company and IPE Global consortium, who were selected through a competitive bidding process.
  • NITI will work in close collaboration with their state machinery to design a roadmap of intervention, develop a program governance structure, set up monitoring and tracking mechanisms, hand-hold state institutions through the execution stage and provide support on a range of institutional measures to achieve the end objectives.

To select the three model states, NITI defined a three-stage process – expression of interest, presentations by the states and assessment of commitment to health sector reforms.

States will be selected on the basis of evaluations and objective assessment of criteria affecting the potential for impact and likelihood of success. Metrics such as MMR, IMR, incidence of malaria and others have been considered for determining potential impact while density of doctors and nurses .

 Sahithi Pingali

Sahithi Pingali, a twelfth grader from Bengaluru will get a minor planet in Milky Way named after her as a reward for developing an integrated mobile phone app and lake monitoring kit to monitor pollution in water bodies.

French Open mixed doubles

Rohan Bopanna has won his maiden Grand Slam title along with his Canadian partner Gabriela Dabrowski by winning the French Open mixed doubles trophy.

legalising kambala

In November 2016, the Karnataka high court had banned the kambala along with bull-cart race in the state while hearing a case filed by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) citing animal cruelty. The high court had stayed these traditional sports in view of the Supreme Court’s ban on jallikattu, a traditional bull taming sport of Tamil Nadu.

The Union Ministry of Law and Justice has recently cleared the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Karnataka Amendment) Bill 2017, and thus legalising kambala. The bill will now be sent to the President for getting his assent.

protocol for antibiotics

With an aim to curb antibiotic resistance, the World Health Organization (WHO) has revised the protocol for antibiotics. WHO has divided the drugs into three categories — access, watch and reserve.

Access’ category be made available at all times as a treatment for a wide range of common infections. The drugs that fall under this category includes drugs such as amoxicillin which is widely-used for treating infections such as pneumonia.

Watch‘ category be prescribed less to avoid further development of resistance. Example of drug that falls under this category is Ciprofloxacin, which is used to treat cystitis and upper respiratory tract infections like bacterial sinusitis and bacterial bronchitis.

Reserve’ category  drugs be used only when all other alternatives failed such as life-threatening infections caused by multidrug-resistant bacteriaIt is a member of the United Nations Development Group and its headquarters is located at Geneva. WHO flag features the Rod of Asclepius as a symbol for healing.

Hottest known exoplanet

Scientists have discovered the hottest known exoplanet, designated KELT-9b which is warmer than most stars in the universe. Exoplanet is a planet that does not orbit the Sun and instead orbits a different star, stellar remnant, or brown dwarf. They are also called as extrasolar planet. The planet’s day-side temperature is 4,326 degree Celsius and is only 926 degree Celsius cooler than the Sun. The planet is located 650 light years from Earth and sports a giant, glowing gas tail like a comet.

Bimonthly monetary policy

The monetary policy decision has been taken by the six-member monetary policy committee (MPC). The Reserve Bank of India has kept it as fallows-

Repo rate unchanged at 6.25% in.

Reverse Repo rate has been kept unchanged at 6%.

Statutory Liquidity Ratio (SLR) cut the by 50 basis points to 20 .

Gross value added (GVA) The RBI has also revised its target for gross value added (GVA) by 10 basis points to 7.3%. Background

Sher Bahadur Deuba

Sher Bahadur Deuba,70, has been elected as Nepal’s Prime Minister for the fourth time. He was the only candidate who contested in the election as the main opposition party UML decided to end the obstruction of parliament and did not register its candidates for the election.

 

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