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Current Affairs

The Dassault-Reliance facility

The Dassault-Reliance facility in Nagpur has kick started production, with the delivery of major components for the Falcon 2000 LX executive jets that are currently being assembled in France. 

Internal calculations claim that the Make in India project can give a $5 million cost advantage due to lower labour and production costs at Nagpur as compared to the current facility in France. 

Supreme Court gives Clean Chit to NDA Government over Rafale Deal

Supreme Court has given clean chit to Modi government for purchase of 36 Rafale fighter Jets. The three Judge bench headed by Ranjan Gogoi, find nothing wrong on the purchase of 36 fighter jet instead of 126 from France.  The court gave …..clean chit on three aspects

– Purchasing of 36 Rafale jets …….instead of 126.

– Pricing of Rafale jets and

-Selection of Indian offset partners.

The litigation had questioned the deal on the ground of pricing mechanism, commercial favoritism and procurement of less number of fighter jets. The petition was first filed by Advocate M L Sharma. The petitioners demanded CBI to register a FIR for the said irregularities in deal.  The apex court rule has two main points – (1) It finds no evidence of commercial favoritism (2) It is not the job of court to deal with comparative pricing mechanism.

Rafale Deal- Dassault Rafale won the MMRCA competition in January 2012 to supply 126 Jet aircraft with additional 63 aircraft to Indian Air Force.

 First 18 aircrafts were to be supplied by Dassault and remaining were to be manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. Dassault refused to ensure the quality of aircraft produced by HAL. In 2014 the price of deal increased to $30 billion. This created the price issue on the deal and deal couldn’t be signed.

Then after Modi government the deal was confirmed with the 36 multirole fighter aircraft of Rs. 58000 crores from France’s Dassault Aviation. The deal has been in controversy since its inception and supreme finally gave clean chit to government.

Cut the policy repo rate

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI)  has cut the policy repo rate by 25 basis points to…. 6.25% in a bid to …………..revive economic growth as it projected retail inflation to remain below its target of 4% for the next 12 months. The rate reduction was the first since August 2017.

The RBI also simultaneously changed the stance of the policy to …….‘neutral’ ..from ‘calibrated tightening’, which indicates that the central bank remains………. ready to move in either direction based on incoming data.

Intra-Afghan dialogue-Mascow

Members of the …..Taliban and key Afghan power brokers, including former president Hamid Karzai, discussed their vision for the future of Afghanistan in  feb 2019  meeting in Moscow for talks aimed at ending the war. 

The meeting shifted the fragile peace process from the United States, whose special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad declared a potential breakthrough with the Taliban just days ago. Moscow seeks to reassert its influence in the region and probably would want a role in shaping any possible peace plan.

But the talks, being held over two days in a hotel maintained by the Russian government, included ..no representatives of President Ashraf Ghani’s government, inviting ….fierce criticism from the U.S.-backed Afghan leader. 

“A peace deal with the Taliban will not be implemented unless there is a nationwide consensus,” Ghani said, adding that any agreements made without the Afghan government were meaningless. “Let hundreds of such meetings be held.” 

India gains little by engaging the Taliban directly at this stage, says Amar Sinha , former Ambassador to Afghanistan and member of the National Security Advisory Board, countering Army chief General B.P. Rawat’s call for India to ‘join the bandwagon’ in talks.

In feb 2019  a two-day ‘intra-Afghan’ dialogue of ….Afghan leaders and the Taliban, which did not include the …..Ghani government, ended in Moscow.

India has taken a position on standing with the government in Kabul and ……not engaging the Taliban directly … has it been left out of the Taliban process as a result?

 The United States is hoping Afghanistan can strike a peace agreement including the Taliban before elections scheduled for July,2019 .

Ashraf Ghani, who was elected in a fraud-tainted poll in 2014, is seeking a second term in conflict-riven Afghanistan’s delayed presidential ballot.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)-30 th member

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) said  that its 29 members will  be Macedonia which will become  alliance’s 30th member, following its historic name change.

Last month’s accord with Greece to change the name of the former Yugoslav republic to ‘Republic of North Macedonia’ ended one of the world’s longest diplomatic disputes, paving the way for Skopje to join NATO and the European Union.

Supreme Court  on 103rd Amendment Act-

The Supreme Court in Feb 2019  declined to stay operation of ..the Constitution.. (103rd Amendment) Act, 2019, which provides ….10% reservation in government jobs and educational institutions for the economically backward in the unreserved category, but agreed to an early hearing of the challenge to the law .

‘Pink revolution’

A ‘pink revolution’ is quietly taking shape in Maharashtra. The objective is to breed imported pigs to address the problem of protein deficiency in a sizeable section of the population that has been deprived of access to affordable meat besides providing livelihood to farmers.

Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade

The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) has been renamed as the …Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade with a mandate to deal with matters related to start-ups, facilitating ease of doing business among others, an official order said. 
The newly-named department under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry will look into matters related to promotion of internal trade, including retail trade, welfare of traders and their employees, facilitating ease of doing  and start-ups, the order approved by President 

CBI   Vs Kolcutta police

Kolkata Police  detained ….CBI officials in feb 2019 , who had arrived at Kolkata Police commissioner Rajeev Kumar’s home to quiz him in connection with the …Saradha chit fund case.

  

Later on officials were released .

What’s the issue here?

The issue is whether CBI needed to take the West Bengal government’s permission before launching its operation.

In normal circumstances, police and public order are state subjects. But in this case, the probe was handed over by the top court to CBI, a central agency under the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946.

 The ….state government withdrew general authorization to CBI in November-2018, which may mean …..it was expected to take the state’s permission, as this is required on a case-to-case basis.

Section 6 of the Act……. that requires ..CBI to take the state’s consent ……….doesn’t apply as the top court had ordered the probe.

The Delhi Special Police Establishment Act was therefore brought into force in 1946. The CBI’s power to investigate cases is derived from this Act.

 

The state government may rely on this once it comes up in court.

 CBI had issued a notice under section 160 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC), against which the state government moved the Calcutta high court.

The high court stayed the notice.

CBI may need to prove its case falls under section 165 of CrPC, which lays down conditions under which a probe officer can proceed without a warrant.

On 9 May 2014, the ……Supreme Court ordered CBI to investigate the operations of deposit-taking firms in West Bengal and Odisha, including the Saradha Group, and asked the state government to extend cooperation.

Hours after the ……Supreme Court ordered ……in feb 2019  

–Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar to make himself “available” to the CBI for questioning in the chit fund scam cases .

-SC. barred the CBI from taking any coercive steps, including arrest, against Mr. Kumar.

The National Register of Citizens (NRC) 

The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a register containing names of all genuine Indian citizens residing in Assam. The register was first prepared after the 1951.

The NRC is now being updated in Assam to include the names of those persons (or their descendants) who appear in the NRC, 1951, or in any of the Electoral Rolls up to the midnight of 24 March 1971 or in any one of the other admissible documents issued up to mid-night of 24 March 1971, which would prove their presence in Assam or in any part of India on or before 24 March 1971.

The update process of NRC started in the year 2013 under the strict monitoring of Supreme Court of India. On the midnight of 31 December 2017, Part Draft NRC was released and subsequently on 30 July 2018, the Complete Draft NRC was released .

The Supreme Court on  lashed out at the Centre ….after Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal urged the court to allow the …..NRC work to be kept in abeyance during the Lok Sabha election, observing that the ….Ministry of Home Affairs had been attempting to undermine “the Assam NRC process from the very beginning.”

The Bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Rohinton Nariman reacted angrily after Mr. Venugopal sought to impress on the court the requirement for …..redeploying 167 companies of Central armed police forces, currently engaged in the NRC work, to other parts of the country during the general election

Home Minister Rajnath Singh said  that the government was committed to completing the process of National Register of Citizenship update in Assam within the stipulated time and would ensure that no foreigner was included or any Indian citizen excluded.

The court reiterated that the… July 31 -2019 …deadline for the completion of NRC exercise will not be extended.

In a statement, Mr. Singh said the government had taken forward the NRC process. After the signing of the Assam Accord in 1985, he said, the Centre and the State government had completed the NRC work that remained pending for more than 30 years and took it to the final stage.

Extradition of liquor baron Vijay Mallya-

British Home Secretary Sajid Javid has signed the order for the extradition of liquor baron Vijay Mallya to India.

The businessman — whose legal team had previously indicated their intention to appeal the extradition — will now have…. two weeks to lodge an appeal.

In making extradition decisions, the …..Minister has to consider issues including whether the death penalty would be involved or the person be extradited to a third country (neither of which would apply in this case).

An appeal can only be lodged after the signing of the order by the minister. 

Kingfisher Airlines owes over Rs9,000 crore ($1.25 billion) to a clutch of banks led by India’s largest lender, the State Bank of India (SBI). The creditors have labelled the 63-year-old businessman a “wilful defaulter” and taken legal recourse over non-payment of loans.

Apart from banks’ dues, Kingfisher Airlines, which never made any profit during the seven years when it was flying, also owes Rs300 crore in salaries to around 3,000 employees.

India and the UK had signed an extradition treaty in 1993, which hasn’t been used often

Vnezuela’s interim President 

Mr Maduro was re-elected to a ….second six-year term in highly controversial elections in May 2018, which…..most opposition parties boycotted.

Many ……opposition candidates had been barred from running while others had been jailed or had fled the country for fear of being imprisoned and the opposition parties argued that the poll would be neither free nor fair.

Mr Maduro’s…. re-election was ….not recognised by …..Venezuela’s opposition-controlled… National Assembly.

The National Assembly argues that because the …election was not fair, Mr Maduro is a “usurper” and the presidency is vacant.

This is a line that is being pushed in particular by the new president of the National Assembly, 35-year-old Juan Guaidó.

Citing articles 233 and 333 of Venezuela’s constitution, the legislature says that in such cases, the head of the National Assembly takes over as acting president.

That is why Mr Guaidó declared himself acting president on 23 January,2019 .

Eleven European nations joined the U.S. in recognising opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim President  heightening a global showdown over…… Nicolas Maduro’s socialist rule.

What has the reaction been?

US President Donald Trump officially recognised Juan Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela just minutes after the latter had said he would take over the executive powers.

The EU members’ coordinated move followed the expiry of an ultimatum for Mr. Maduro to call a new election and aligned them with Washington against Russia and China.

Mr. Guaido, who leads the ….National Assembly, declared himself caretaker leader .

 “Imposing some kind of decisions or trying to legitimise an attempt to usurp power is both direct and indirect interference,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Interim Budget 2019

Union Finance Minister Piyush Goyal presented an Interim Budget for 2019 in Parliament on 1st Feb 2019.

An ..Interim Budget usually doesn’t list out new schemes or doesn’t unveil any policy measures.

The government will present the vote on account for the next four-to-five months.

A full-fledged Budget will be presented after the House reassembles after the general election.

Here are the highlights from Mr. Goyal’s budget speech:

  • No income tax for earnings up to ₹5 lakh
  • Individuals with gross income of up to ₹6.5 lakh need not pay any tax if they make investments in provident funds and prescribed equities
  • Standard tax deduction for salaried persons raised from ₹40,000 to ₹50,000
  • TDS threshold on ….interest on bank and post office deposits raised from ₹10,000 to ₹40,000
  • TDS threshold on… rental income increased from ₹1.8 lakh to ₹2.4 lakh
  • I-T processing of returns to be done in ….24 hours
  • Within the next 2 years, all verification of tax returns to be done electronically …without any interface with the taxpayer
  • Package of ₹6000 per annum for farmers with less than ..2 hectares of land. Scheme to be called Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi.
  • Vande Bharat Express, an indigenously developed semi high-speed train, to be launched
  • One lakh digital villages planned in the …..next five years .

What exactly is a Digital Village? How does it benefit the villagers and the country? How can it be setup in a cost-effective manner, in a short time frame?

A Digital Village is often seen as an idea that can help remove the Digital Divide, enabling development to reach underdeveloped regions, and the country to leapfrog.

In physical terms, a ‘Digital Village’ generally refers to a village that has voice as well as data connectivity. Though not specified, the assumption is that both are of sufficiently high quality, with bandwidth available for most commonly used Internet applications to work on computers, tablets and mobile phones.

  • Fund allocation for the Northeast region increased to ₹ 58,166 crore, a 21% rise over last year for infrastructure development .
  • Anti-camcord regulations to be introduced in the Indian Cinematograph Act to prevent piracy and contact theft of Bollywood films.
  • Single window clearance for ….Indian filmmakers.
  • 25 per cent of sourcing for government projects will be from the MSMEs, of which three per cent will be from women entrepreneurs.
  • National Artificial Intelligence portal ……..to be developed soon
  • ESI cover limit increased to ₹ 21,000. Minimum pension also increased to ₹ 1000.
  • Mega pension scheme for workers in the organised sector with an income of less than ₹15,000.

They will be able to earn ₹ 3000 after the age of 60. The scheme will be called Pradhan Mantri Shramyogi Maan Dhan Yojana.

  • 2% interest subvention for farmers pursuing animal husbandry.
  • All farmers affected by severe natural calamities to get 2% interest subvention and additional 3% interest subvention upon timely repayment
  • Decision taken to increase MSP (minimum support price) by 1.5 times the production cost for all 22 crops
  • The 22nd AIIMS to come up in Haryana .

Martyrs Day

January 30 is celebrated as Martyrs Day to honour the brave martyrs of India who have sacrificed their lives for the country.

Why January 30 is celebrated as Martyrs Day?

January 30 marks the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. On January 30, 1948, at the age of 78, Mahatma Gandhiji, Father of the Nation was assassinated by Nathuram Godse. Godse held that Gandhiji favoured the political demands of India’s Muslims during the partition of India.

There were warnings about life threats to Gandhiji, Gandhiji refused to toe the government’s stand that he required security. Gandhiji threatened to leave Delhi if protection was thrust upon him. His associates cite that had he accepted security his assassination could have been averted.

How it is celebrated?

On the occasion of Martyrs Day, the President, the Vice President, the Prime Minister, the Defence Minister, and the three Service Chiefs gather at the Gandhiji’s samadhi at Raj Ghat memorial and lay wreaths. Bugles are blown sounding the Last Post.

A two-minute silence in memory of Indian martyrs is observed across the country at 11 AM and participants hold all-religion prayers and sing tributes in the honour of Martyrs.

March 23 which is the death anniversary of Bhagat Singh, Shivaram Rajguru and Sukhdev Thapar is also celebrated as Martyrs Day in the State of Punjab.

International Year of the Period Table of Chemical Elements.

UNESCO has declared …2019 as the International Year of the Period Table of Chemical Elements to commemorate the 150th birthday of the periodic table of chemical elements. The Periodic table of the Chemical elements was first published by Russian scientist Dmitry Mendeleev in the year 1869.

What is this Periodic Table of Chemical Elements?

The Periodic Table of Chemical Elements is the tabular arrangement of the chemical elements, arranged by atomic number, electron configuration, and recurring chemical properties. The important features of the periodic table are:

  • The seven rows of the table are called as periods and generally accommodate metals on the left and non-metals on the right.
  • The columns of the table are called groups and contain elements with similar chemical behaviours.
  • The elements from atomic numbers 1 (hydrogen) to 118 (oganesson) have been discovered in nature or synthesized in laboratories.
  • The first 98 elements listed in the periodic table occur naturally, though some are found only in trace amounts and a few were discovered in nature only after having first been synthesized.
  • Elements from 99 to 118 have only been synthesized in laboratories or nuclear reactors.
  • Efforts are on to elements having higher atomic numbers these elements would begin the eighth row, and theoretical work has been done to suggest possible candidates for this extension.

To celebrate the International Year of the Period Table of Chemical Elements the UNESCO would be organising events like online competition to test high school students’ knowledge of the table, and scientific experiments brought to schools around the world.

Impact of global warming on El-Nino

El-Nino disturbs the atmospheric conditions across the world. El-Nino occurs every two-to-seven years with very strong El Niño’s occurring about every 15 years results in droughts, floods, wildfires, dust and snow storms, fish kill, and even elevated risks of civil conflicts.

The El-Nino is measured by studying the averages sea surface temperature anomalies over the central-eastern tropical Pacific. A study which analyses the impact of global warming on El-Nino has been published in the journal Nature in December 2018.

The important findings of the study are:

  • The study serves a warning to the countries on all continents that suffer from these extreme weather events during strong El Niño events such as the ones during 1982-83, 1997-98 and 2015-16.
  • The study notes that eagerly-awaited winter rain and snow storms over California did not occur during the latest extreme El Nino. Hence it is unclear whether global warming is already affecting El Nino and its remote impacts.
  • The study argues that it is unclear if the impact of global warming on El Nino can easily be extracted considering its intrinsic tendencies and its dependency on so many factors that are not easily predictable.

The study concludes that various models to study El-Nino deliver a slightly different rendition of El Niño compared to nature. Hence it is imperative that models be held to very stringent standards on their performance of El Niño behaviour during historic periods, especially the 20th century, as a test of their reliability for future projections. As a result it is difficult to conclude how reliably the models can project El Niño response to global warming in addition to how the models perform in reproducing floods and droughts of 20th century.

New chairman of BARC India

The Broadcast Audience Research Council of India (BARC India) has elected Punit Goenka MD and CEO of Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited (ZEEL) as the Chairman. Punit Goenka as a founder Chairman of BARC had played a key role in institutionalizing BARC.

Broadcast Audience Research Council of India (BARC India)

Broadcast Audience Research Council of India (BARC India) is a collaborative Industry Company founded in 2010 by…. stakeholder bodies that represent Broadcasters, Advertisers, and Advertising and Media Agencies.

The promoters of BARC India are Indian Broadcasting Foundation, Indian Society of Advertisers and Advertising Agencies Association of India. BARC India was set up as per guidelines of the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India.

BARC India has evolved a transparent, accurate, and inclusive TV audience measurement system on the foundation of robust and future-ready technology backbone. Together with the audience measurement system, BARC India provides a suite of Insight products designed for Broadcasters, Advertisers and Agencies.

National Statistical Commission

National Statistical Commission was established in 2005 based on the recommendations of the Rangarajan Commission. The commission was established through an executive order and it works under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.’

The Rangarajan Commission recommended the establishment of a permanent National Commission on Statistics to serve as a nodal and empowered body for all core statistical activities of the country, evolve, monitor and enforce statistical priorities and standards and to ensure statistical co-ordination among the different agencies involved.

Composition of the Commission

The Commission consists of a part-time Chairperson, four part-time Members, an ex-officio Member and a secretary. The Chief Statistician of India who is the Head of the National Statistical Office is the Secretary of the Commission and the Chief Executive Officer of the NITI Aayog is the ex-officio Member of the commission.

Mandate of the Commission

The mandate of the National Statistical commission include:

  • To identify the core statistics, which are of national importance and are critical to the development of the economy.
  • To constitute professional committees or working groups to assist the Commission on various technical issues.
  • To evolve national policies and priorities relating to the statistical system.
  • To evolve standard statistical concepts, definitions, classifications and methodologies in different areas in statistics and lay down national quality standards on core statistics.
  • To evolve national strategies for the collection, tabulation and dissemination of core statistics, including the release calendar for various datasets.
  • To evolve national strategies for human resource development on official statistics including information technology and communication needs of the statistical system.
  • To evolve measures for improving public trust in official statistics.

The commission has also been entrusted with the functions of the Governing Council of the National Sample Survey Office which include overseeing the conduct of National Sample Surveys (NSS) on various socioeconomic subjects through the NSSO and the State Directorate of Economics and Statistics.

Saudi Arabia, UAE to Launch First Common Digital Currency ‘Aber’ 

The central banks of the UAE and Saudi Arabia will launch a common digital currency called Aber. Aber will be used for …financial settlements between the two countries through Blockchains and Distributed Ledgers technologies.

Benefits of the Digital Currency

The digital currency would be launched to explore the following benefits:

  • The digital currency would aid in studying the impact on the improvement and reduction of remittance costs and the assessments of risks.
  • Aber will establish an additional means for the central financial transfer systems of the two countries and enable banks to directly deal with each other in conducting financial remittances.

Initially, the use of the digital currency will be restricted to a limited number of banks. By studying the various technical, economic and legal requirements, the use of the digital currency would be expanded.

Digital Currency Aber relies on the use of a distributed database between the central banks and the participating banks from both sides. Digital Currency is part of the efforts to adopt new technologies like Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, etc., in line with the Fourth Industrial Revolution that is reshaping governments and corporates around the world.

Beating Retreat Ceremony

The Beating Retreat Ceremony marks the conclusion of Republic Day celebrations. Through this ceremony, the defence forces which had come to the national capital to be a part of Republic Day celebrations are sent back to their barracks by the President.

The Beating Retreat Ceremony is held every year on January 29th  at Vijay Chowk. Traditionally the bands of the three wings of the military, the Indian Army, Indian Navy and Indian Air Force, and pipe bands from the Army participated in the Beating retreat ceremony.

A popular western tune ”Abide with me” would also be played by the bands. The ceremony comes to a conclusion with the popular tune ”Sare Jahan se Acha”. Once the bands conclude ”Sare Jahan se Acha”, the Raisina Hill complex would be lit up in the riot of colours.

Genesis in India

Beating Retreat is a centuries-old military tradition, at the sounding of retreat, the troops ceased fighting, sheathed their arms and withdrew from the battlefield, returning to their camps at sunset.

The Beating Retreat Ceremony was started in the early 1950s when the government had asked Indian army to design a ceremony for the display by the massed bands.

Africa Centre for Climate and Sustainable Development

The Africa Centre for Climate and Sustainable Development was inaugurated by the Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte at Rome. The centre has been opened by the Italian government in association with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).

About the Centre

The important aspects of the Africa Centre for Climate and Sustainable Development are:

  • The centre’s origin can be traced to a declaration endorsed by the G7 meeting of the Environment Ministers in 2017. The centre would facilitate coordination among the G7 and African countries on common initiatives in Africa to achieve the goals set by the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda.
  • The Centre would contribute towards addressing the needs of Africa by providing a platform for G7 countries to steer their cooperation to contrast environmental degradation and promote sustainable economic growth in the region.
  • The centre will provide a fast-track, demand-driven mechanism for African countries to access grant resources that support policies, initiatives, and best practices on climate change, food security, access to water, clean energy, and accelerating progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Africa.

The centre would be hosted by UNDP which would utilise its extensive country office network and programmatic hubs, and global expertise and knowledge, to enable the African countries to access the resources available through it.

Attaining the Sustainable Development Goals

Africa referred to as Dark Continent still has up to 330 million of its population living in poverty and up to 60% of unemployed Africans are young people. The centre will help to speed up progress and quickly resource national development priorities in the African countries to address these challenges and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Corruption Perception Index 2018-

Corruption Perceptions Index of Transparency International ranks countries and territories based on how corrupt a country’s public sector and judiciary are perceived to be by experts and business executives.

It is the most widely used indicator of corruption worldwide and it does not consider corruption in the business sector. The corruption perception index draws on 13 surveys and expert assessments to measure public sector corruption in 180 countries and territories.

The Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index make the following observations:

  • Denmark is the world least corrupt country scoring 88 out of 100 points. Denmark is followed by…… New Zealand and Finland.
  • Somalia has been ranked last with a score of 10 behind South Sudan and Syria.
  • More than two-thirds of evaluated countries scored below 50 points, while the average score remained at last year’s level of only 43 points.
  • Estonia, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal and Guyana demonstrated most improvements since 2012.
  • The 2018 rankings showed an increase in the perceived corruption in Australia, Chile and Malta.
  • For the first time since the United States dropped out of the top 20 and it was ranked at 22nd rank.
  • Along with Brazil, US was placed in the watch list by Transparency International.

Top and Bottom Countries

Region Wise Performance

 

The report highlights a connection between healthy democracies and successfully fighting corruption in the public sector and notes that corruption is much more likely to flourish where democratic foundations are weak.

The scores indicate the perceived level of public sector corruption on a scale of 0-100. A score of 0 points that a country is perceived as highly corrupt and a 100 points that a country has sound integrity systems.

Where does India stand?

The Corruption perception index makes the following observations about India:

  • India’s ranking increased from 81st in 2017 to 78 in 2018.( While China ranked 87 and Pakistan 117 in 2018) India had slid from 79th rank in 2016.
  • The report cities countries like India along with Malaysia, Maldives and Pakistan will be important to watch moving forward.
  • The report notes that all these countries mentioned above have witnessed massive public mobilisation against corruption coupled with significant political participation and voter turnout resulting in new governments that promised extensive anti-corruption reforms.
  • The report mentions that these encouraging developments are yet to show some tangible solid action, especially when it comes to combating elusive forms of grand corruption.
  • The report noted that since India gears up for general elections, there was a little significant movement in its CPI score, which moved from 40 in 2017 to 41 in 2018.
  • The report notes that in spite of spectacular public mobilisation in 2011, where citizens demanded the government to take action against corruption and advocated for the passage of the comprehensive Jan Lokpal bill, the efforts ultimately fizzled and fell flat, with little to no movement on the ground to build the specialist anti-corruption infrastructure required.

These findings gain importance at the time Supreme Court has set the ball rolling for the appointment of Lokpal by setting a deadline for the search committee to recommend names for selection committee headed by Prime Minister

Survey of Elephants in Captivity

The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has submitted the affidavit with the findings of the first Survey of Elephants in Captivity to the Supreme Court.

Findings of the Survey

The Survey was undertaken after the order of the Supreme Court which had asked the Union Government to identify elephants in captivity and whether their owners have an ownership certificate while hearing a writ petition filed by Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre. The findings of the Survey are:

  • There are 2,454 elephants in captivity across the country of which 560 are in possession with forest departments and 1,687 with private individuals.
  • 664 of the total captive elephants in the country are without ownership certificate while there are 85 in zoos, 26 in circuses and 96 in temples.
  • 58 per cent of all captive elephants is concentrated in two states: 905 in Assam and 518 in Kerala.
  • The affidavit also points at some discrepancies in data especially from the State of Bihar.

The Survey was ordered after the Animal Welfare Board of India failed to produce data on the number of elephants held captive.

Animal Welfare Board of India was established under the Provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act,1960 to oversee the implementation of the animal welfare laws in the country.

The Board consists of 28 Members including 6 MPs (4 from Lok Sabha and 2 from Rajya Sabha). Previously based in Chennai, it is now headquartered at Ballabhgarh in Haryana.

 Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana

The Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM JAY)  proposes …three models through which the states can implement the scheme. They are

Insurance Model

Under this Model, the premiums are paid to the insurance company, which administers and pays the claim.

Trust-based model

Under this Model, each State forms its own trust to manage the scheme and claims will be disbursed from a corpus created from central and State government contributions.

Hybrid model

Under this Model, a part of the claim comes under the insurance model while the balance gets processed under the trust.

Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM JAY) is a scheme of the government under Ayushman Bharat which aims to reduce the financial burden on poor and vulnerable groups arising out of catastrophic hospital episodes and ensure their access to quality health services was conceived.

Under the PM-JAY scheme about 10.74 crore poor, deprived rural families and identified occupational categories of urban workers’ families as per the latest Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) data (approx. 50 crore beneficiaries) will have health benefit cover of Rs Five Lakhs per family per year at free of cost.

World’s longest expressway –

The government of Uttar Pradesh has approved the construction of the Ganga Expressway. The government has said that it would be the longest expressway in the world. The expressway will provide for better connectivity of the Prayagraj (Allahabad) to Western Pradesh.

Expressway

Expressways are the highest class of roads in the road network in India. National Expressways Authority of India under the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways is responsible for the construction and maintenance of expressways.

Expressways are controlled-access highway, the highest-grade type of highway with access ramps, lane dividers, etc., for high-speed traffic.

This 600km Ganga Expressway would be constructed at an approximate cost of Rs 36,000 crores over 6,556 hectares of land. The expressway starting from Meerut will pass through Amroha, Bulandshahr, Badaun, Shahjahanpur, Farrukhabad, Hardoi, Kannauj, Unnao, Rae Bareli, Pratapgarh before reaching Prayagraj.

Amendments to Representation of People’s Act 1951

The Election Commission of India has sought an amendment to the Representation of People Act 1951 ………..to prevent print media, social media and other digital platforms from…. carrying political advertisements in ….the last 48 hours before the polling begins.

Why the amendment is necessary?

Section 126 of the Representation of People Act 1951 prevents electronic media from airing any political advertisements in the silent period (48 hours before polling begins),

The Election Commission has also made it mandatory to seek pre-certification of the campaign material to be published in newspapers during the 48 hours.

But the Social media platforms which are have gained huge prominence for their ability to influence election outcomes, are completely out of the purview of the pre-screening and prohibition rules.

What are the amendments sought?

The Election Commission of India has written to the Union Ministry of Law suggesting to extend the provisions under Section 126 to digital and print media as well. The Commission has sought inclusion of ‘print media’ and ‘other entities’ within the ambit of Section 126 (1) (b). The other entities would refer to all social media formats.

Pariksha Pe Charcha 2.0

The second edition Pariksha Pe Charcha 2.0 was held on January 29. On this occasion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi  interacted with several students, parents and teachers from across the country and shared his personal experiences with the young audience.

During the interaction, Prime Minister interacted with students, parents and teachers and responded to their queries on a host of subjects related to examinations particularly, dealing with exam-centric anxiety.

The event was held at Talkatora Stadium in Delhi where 2000 students, teachers and parents will gathered to interact with the Prime Minister. They were selected through the competitive route out of 1 lakh applicants.

Not just students from India, Indian students residing in Russia, Nigeria, Iran, Nepal, Doha, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Singapore also participated in the event.

Fastest Indian to reach 100 ODI wickets

Fast Bowler Mohammed Shami has become the fastest Indian to claim 100 wickets in One-day Internationals. Mohammed Shami achieved this feat in his 56th ODI game. Mohammed Shami’s wicket number 100 was New Zealand opener, Martin Guptill.

Iran Trade Promotion Plan

Three European Powers U.K., France and Germany are set to announce a plan to help companies trading to Iran to defy the sanctions on Iran.

US sanctions on Iran

US President Trump had unilaterally walked out of the Joint comprehensive plan of action (JCPOA) agreement and reimposed the sanctions on Iran. Under the JCPOA agreement, Iran had agreed to curb its nuclear activities in return for the lifting of sanctions that had been imposed by the UN, US and EU.

This unilateral action of US created a lot of resentment and other parties to agreement China, Russia, U.K., France and Germany reiterated their commitment to the deal. The sanctions would bar the companies with a presence in Iran to use the dollar as a medium of exchange.

Iran trade promotion plan –Iran trade promotion plan has been proposed by the U.K., France and Germany as part of their commitment to save the nuclear deal with Iran.

This plan proposes a special purpose vehicle to accept payments from companies that want to trade with Iran, either by receiving waivers for oil imports or permissible trade in goods like food and medicine. With no direct transfer of funds between Iran and European companies, it would theoretically insulate firms from U.S. penalties.

This plan would shield European companies keen to do business with Iran from U.S. sanctions that could result from dollar-based transactions.

Indonesia Masters Badminton Tournament 2019

The Indonesian Masters Badminton Tournament 2019 is organized by the Badminton Association of Indonesia. It was the third tournament of the 2019 BWF World Tour. The winners under the various categories are listed below:

  • Women’s Singles:  Saina Nehwal (India).
  • Men’s Singles: Anders Antonsen (Denmark).
  • Women’s Doubles: Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi (Japan).
  • Men’s Doubles: Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo (Indonesia).
  • Mixed Doubles: Zheng Siwei and Huang Yaqiong (China).

The tournament was held at the Istora Gelora Bung Karno in Jakarta, Indonesia. from 22 to 27 January 2019 offered a total purse of $350,000.

Vande Bharat Express

India’s fastest indigenous train –Maximum speed -160 km/h , Train 18 named as Vande Bharat Express will ply between Delhi and Varanasi. Train 18 is an indigenously developed world-class train under Make in India.

The 16-coach train has been built completely in India by Indian engineers….. in a span of 18 months at the Integral Coach Factory, Chennai.

Features of the Vande Bharat Express

Vande Bharat Express is the energy efficient and the first locomotive-less train in the country and will be fully air-conditioned.  These trains run on electric traction like Metro trains and will start replacing the Shatabdi Express fleet from next year.

The fares in these world-class trains are 40-50 per cent higher than the Shatabdi Express. The train will cover 755 km distance in eight hours with stoppages at Kanpur and Prayagraj. It would be the fastest train on the route.

The new train provides number of features to enhance passenger comfort which include inter-connected fully sealed gangways, automatic doors with retractable footsteps, onboard Wi-Fi and infotainment, GPS-based passenger information system, modular toilets with bio-vacuum systems, rotational seats which can be aligned in the direction of travel (available only in the executive class), roller blinds and diffused LED lighting and disabled-friendly toil.

Navy Commissions INS Kohassa

Naval Air Station (NAS) Shibpur has been commissioned as INS Kohassa. It is a step forward in enhancing the operational capability of Andaman and Nicobar Command. NAS Shibpur was commissioned as INS Kohassa by Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sunil Lanba.

  

INS Kohassa will be India’s …….fourth air base and the third naval air facility in the Andaman and Nicobar region that overlooks key sea lanes of communication and strategic points with more than 60,000 commercial vessels passing through each year.

The other two     Naval Air Bases in the Andaman and Nicobar region are …..INS Utkrosh at Port Blair and INS Baaz at Campbell Bay. INS Kohassa is named after White-Bellied Sea Eagle, which is a large bird of prey endemic to Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

INS Kohassa will also function as a base for joint operation of both military and civil aircraft in keeping with the UDAN scheme of the government. The airbase will be able to handle Helicopter and Dornier Aircraft at present and after expansion the facility would enable the operation of bigger civil and defence aircraft

President confers Ashoka Chakra –

Ashoka Chakra is ..India’s highest peacetime military decoration awarded for valour, courageous action or self-sacrifice away from the battlefield and it is peacetime …….equivalent of  Param Vir Chakra which is awarded for the most conspicuous bravery or some daring or pre-eminent valour or self-sacrifice in the battlefield.

India’s highest peacetime gallantry honour, Ashoka Chakra was awarded to Lance Naik Nazir Wani posthumously.

The award was presented by President Ram Nath Kovind was received by Wani’s wife and mother at the Republic Day celebrations held at Rajpath. Lance Naik Nazir Wani also holds the distinction of being the first Kashmiri to be conferred the Ashoka Chakra.

Lance Naik Nazir Wani sacrificed his life fighting the terrorists

Lance Naik Nazir Wani single-handedly killed two terrorists during the Shopian operation and injured a third one despite receiving serious injuries.

Lance Naik Nazir Wani prevented the escape of the terrorists from the target house. He made a huge contribution in neutralising six hardcore terrorists. In the process, he sacrificed his life.

UP Divas: 24th January

The government of Uttar Pradesh celebrated UP Divas for the first time on 24th January 2019. The proposal was floated by Governor Ram Naik to celebrate the UP Divas on the lines of Maharashtra Day so that people know the history and culture of the state.

History of Uttar Pradesh: Biggest State of India

The state of Uttar Pradesh was called the Brahmrishi Desh or the Madhya Desh during the Vedic period. During the Mughal period, its territory was divided under governors.

The state was under the Bengal Presidency till 1834. After the Agra Presidency was created under a Governor, the state was brought under its control. In 1858, the North Western Province was created and the seat of power was transferred from Agra to Allahabad.

In 1877 the Awadh was merged with North Western Province. In 1902 the entire province was named as ‘United Provinces of Agra and Oudh’.

The legislative council was constituted in Lucknow in 1921 and the seat of power again was transferred from Allahabad to Lucknow. In 1935 Lucknow was designated as the capital of the United Province.

On January 24, 1950, the governor-general of India passed the United Provinces (Alteration of Name) Order 1950, renaming United Provinces as Uttar Pradesh.

PM inaugurates Four museums in Red Fort Complex

Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Museum, Yaad-e-Jallian Museum (museum on the Jallianwala Bagh and World War I), the Museum on 1857- India’s first war of Independence, and Drishyakala-Museum on Indian Art within the Red Fort complex.

Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Museum

The museum at Red Fort was inaugurated to mark the Netaji’s 122nd birth anniversary. This Museum on Subhash Chandra Bose and the Indian National Army showcases different artifacts related to Netaji and Indian National Army which includes a wooden chair and sword used by the Netaji, medals, badges and uniforms. The museum in the Red Fort complex is also important for the fact that INA trails were held within the Red Fort complex.

Yaad-e-Jallian Museum

The Yaad-e-Jallian Museum provides an authentic account of Jallianwala Bagh massacre happened on April 13, 1919. The Yaad-e-Jallian Museum will also showcase the heroism, valor and sacrifices made by Indian soldiers during World War-1.

Museum on 1857- India’s first war of Independence

The Museum on 1857- India’s first war of Independence portrays the historical narrative of 1857 war of independence, showcasing the valor and sacrifices made by Indians during the period.

Drishyakala-Museum on Indian Art

The Drishyakala-Museum on Indian Art showcases Indian art works from 16th century till India’s independence.

Bharat Ratna 2019 –Total Awardee 48

The 2019 Bharat Ratna award has been bestowed upon former President Pranab Mukherjee, Nanaji Deshmukh and singer Bhupen Hazarika.

Nanaji Deshmukh and singer Bhupen Hazarika were awarded Bharat Ratna posthumously.

Pranab Mukherjee

Pranab Mukherjee served as the 13th President of India from 2012 until 2017. A veteran congressman, Pranab Mukherjee had held various key portfolios like Finance, Defence and External Affairs as Union Minister. He is the outstanding statesman of the present time.

Pranab Mukherjee was born in a Bengali family. Pranab Mukherjee earned an MA degree in Political Science and History and LL.B. from the University of Calcutta. He has also served as a professor of Political Science at Vidyanagar College in West Bengal. Before entering Politics, he was working as a journalist with ‘Desher Dak’.

Nanaji Deshmukh

Nanaji Deshmukh laid great emphasis on education as a social worker. The first Saraswati Shishu Mandir was established by him at Gorakhpur in 1950. He was a member of RSS and also served as general secretary of Bharatiya Jana Sangh.

Nanaji Deshmukh took part in Jai Prakash Narayan movement during the Emergency. He got elected as a member of Lok Sabha from Balrampur in 1977. He has also served as a nominated member of Rajya Sabha. Nanaji was awarded Padma Vibhushan in 1999.

Bhupen Hazarika

Bhupen Hazarika was a playback singer, lyricist, musician, singer, poet and film-maker from Assam, widely known as Sudhakantha. He mainly wrote and sang in the Assamese language. His works were marked by humanity and universal brotherhood and have been translated and sung in many languages. He also served as a channel to introduce the culture and folk music of Assam and Northeast India to Hindi cinema at the national level.

Padma Awards 2019

The government of India has announced the Padma Awards 2019. The 112 prominent personalities honoured with the Padma Awards include comprises 4 Padma Vibhushan, 14 Padma Bhushan and 94 Padma Shri Awards.

    

Padma Awards

Padma Awards are given in various disciplines or fields of activities: social work, public affairs, science and engineering, trade and industry, medicine, literature and education, sports, civil service, etc. The three categories of awards:

  • Padma Vibhushan is awarded for exceptional and distinguished service.
  • Padma Bhushan is awarded for distinguished service of high order.
  • Padma Shri is awarded for distinguished service in any field.

Padma Awards were instituted by the government of India in 1954 to be awarded to citizens of India in recognition of distinguished contribution in the sphere of activities such as industry, literature, science, sports, medicine, social service, education and public affairs.  The awards are announced on the eve of Republic Day. The recipients of these awards can also include foreigners who have contributed in various ways to India.

The recommendations for Padma Awards are submitted to the Padma Awards Committee, constituted by the Prime Minister of India The committee submits their recommendations to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister further forwards the list to the President of India for further approval.

Sustainable Catchment Forest Management launched

Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb launched the Sustainable Catchment Forest Management (SCATFORM) project which is undertaken with the assistance of …JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency).

The SCATFORM project aims to …..address issues such as……… forest cover loss and….. forest degradation have been mainly caused by …..shifting cultivation, which increases ….soil erosion risks on hill slopes especially in upper catchment areas.

The activities undertaken under the project involves ………promotion of bamboo plantation, ….agroforestry based livelihood, ……eco-tourism development, development of value addition for bamboo and other Non-Timber Forest Product (NTFP) in order to create alternate livelihood opportunities for local communities.

The 80 per cent of the cost is contributed by JICA and the rest would be funded by the state and central governments.

Japan International Cooperation Agency aims to promote international cooperation as the Japanese governmental agency in charge of official development assistance implementation. JICA which is an incorporated administrative institution under the Government of Japan is the world’s largest bilateral donor agency.

Numaligarh refinery

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has given its approval for the capacity expansion project of Numaligarh Refinery from 3 MMTPA (Million Metric Tonne Per Annum) to 9 MMTPA.

The expansion project involves setting up a …..crude oil pipeline from Paradip in Odisha to Numaligarh and product pipeline from Numaligarh to Siliguri in West Bengal. The expansion is expected to be completed by within a period of 48 months, after approval and receipt of statutory clearances.

Funding the Project

The estimated cost of the project is Rs. 22,594 crore. The Numaligarh Refinery will raise a debt of Rs.15,102 crore and would contribute Rs.2,307 crore from its internal accrual. The promoters of NRL, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd, Oil India Ltd & Government of Assam (GoA) will contribute to equity and the government of India would provide a Viability Gap Funding of Rs.1,020 crore.

Numaligarh Refinery Limited (NRL)was set up at Numaligarh in the district of Golaghat (Assam) in accordance with the provisions made in the historic Assam Accord. The NRL was conceived as a vehicle for speedy industrial and economic development of the region.

The promoters of the NRL are Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd, Oil India Ltd & Government of Assam (GoA).

The expansion of the NRL will aid in meeting the deficit of petroleum products in the North East and also sustain the operations of all North East refineries by augmenting their crude availability. Together with generating direct and indirect employment in Assam and it is the driver of Government’s Hydrocarbon Vision 2030 for the North East.

Infosys to develop advance Tax filing System

The Union government has approved ….Integrated E-filing and Centralised Processing Center 2.0 Project of the Income Tax Department to enhance the efficiency of income tax administration system in the country.

Integrated E-filing and Centralised Processing Center 2.0 Project

The objectives of the Integrated E-filing and Centralised Processing Center 2.0 Project are:

  • Faster and accurate outcomes for taxpayer.
  • First time right approach.
  • Enhancing user experience at all stages.
  • Improving taxpayer awareness and education through continuous engagement.
  • Promoting voluntary tax compliance.
  • Managing outstanding demand.

The project would aid in reducing the time it takes the department for processing returns to just 24 hours from 63 days. The project is also expected to reduce the rectification requests from the current 2% to 0.1% together with reducing the time taken to process rectification requests.

The decision to implement the advance tax filing system was taken to bring transparency and accountability besides faster processing of returns and issue of refunds to the taxpayers’ bank account directly without any interface with the Income Tax Department. As an added advantage the system can aid in promoting voluntary tax compliance and managing outstanding demand due to automation.

Sanrakshan Kshmata Mahotsav

Sanrakshan Kshmata Mahotsav (SAKSHAM) Vans was flagged off by Union Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan to promote and create awareness among people on the need of…………. oil and gas conservation for the future and the methods to do it.

To spread the awareness about energy conservation for better future these vans will travel to 30 districts. As part of the awareness drive, Petroleum Conservation Research Association (PCRA) will also run people-centric drives throughout the country between January 16 to February 15 under SAKSHAM.

Sanrakshan Kshmata Mahotsav (SAKSHAM)

Sanrakshan Kshmata Mahotsav (SAKSHAM) is an annual flagship event of Petroleum Conservation Research Association (PCRA) under the aegis of Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas, Govt. of India.

PCRA undertakes this awareness programme in collaboration with Oil & Gas PSUs along with other stakeholders like State Governments, for creating focused attention on fuel conservation through people-centric activities and to sensitize the masses about the conservation and efficient use of petroleum products leading to better health and environment.

Petroleum Conservation Research Association (PCRA) is a non-profit organization registered society set up under the aegis of Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas, Government of India.

PCRA is the principal national government agency engaged in promoting energy efficiency in various sectors of the economy. It undertakes studies to identify the potential and to make recommendations for achieving conservation of petroleum products in various sectors of the economy and sponsors R&D activities for the development of fuel-efficient equipment/devices.

Delhi HC stays fine on HUL for GST profiteering

On the plea by Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) against the order given by the National Anti-profiteering Authority (NAA), the ……….Delhi High Court has stayed the fine imposed on HUL.

Why the HUL has sought a review?

The HUL has sought the review of the order of NAA before the Delhi High Court based on the following reasons:

  • NAA has made a narrow interpretation of the law and did not take into account the well-established industry practice backed by law.
  • NAA order is arbitrary since no methodology has been determined by the NAA as required under law to determine if the benefit has been passed or not.
  • Absence of any prescribed method in the GST law to calculate the undue profit earned.

HUL case is one among the others

The various decisions of the NAA are now questioned in the various High Courts.  Even the real estate firm Pyramid Infratech has moved the high court against the order of NAA.

Why the issue ?

Section 171 of the CGST act deals with profiteering. It aims to ensure that reductions in the rate of tax on any supply of goods or services or the benefit of the input tax credit are passed on to consumers and empowers the central government to constitute authority for that purpose. The National Anti-profiteering Authority (NAA) was established by the central government under this provision.

But the absence of a clearly defined method to calculate the undue profit earned has become the bone of contention. The absence of rules has created a vacuum and resulting in ambiguity in dealing with anti-profiteering measures.

Satyarup Siddhanta

Satyarup Siddhanta, 35-year-old Kolkata mountaineer has set the world record of youngest to climb 7 highest volcanoes, 7 highest mountains in 7 continents in 7 years. He is also the first Indian to conquer the seven mountain peaks and seven volcanic summits.

Brexit vote: British Parliament rejects Theresa May’s Brexit deal

 The British Parliament has rejected the Brexit deal proposed by the Prime Minister Theresa May. The British House of Commons voted 432 -202 against the deal struck between Britain’s government and the EU in November.

Backstop provisions

The conservative objectors who were supporters of Brexit have also voted against the deal fearful of the “backstop” provisions. As per the …….Backstop provisions, ……Britain would leave the EU in March 2019, ……….single market in December 2020, but ……….stay in the customs union for longer.

The Backstop provisions would keep …….trade rules between the world’s fifth-biggest economy and its largest export market almost unchanged for a transition period running to the end of 2020.

The conservatives fear that these provisions would keep the UK too closely bound by EU regulations.

What’s next?

The UK has now three options to choose from since UK is bound to leave EU by March. The options are:

The best possible practical option which is now doing rounds in Britain is to extend Britain’s departure date. But the EU diplomats warn that extension would only be for a few months.

Palestine takes over chairmanship of G77

Palestine has taken over the chairmanship of G77 from Egypt. Palestine will be formally elected chair at the annual G77 ministerial meeting, scheduled to take place in mid-September.

The chairmanship of the G77 is based on the system of geographical rotation. 2019 was Asia’s turn and the Asian group had unanimously endorsed Palestine. Egypt was representing the African Group of countries.

Palestine’s chairmanship of G77 which is the biggest UN block assumes great significance at a time it is being increasingly blacklisted by the Trump administration of US. Even though Palestine is not the member-state of UN, Palestine has been recognised by 136 UN members and has the status of non-member observer state similar to Holy city of Vatican.

G77 is a coalition of 134 developing nations (including China) at the United Nations. Traditionally G77 speaks with a single voice before the 193-member General Assembly and also at all UN committee meetings and at international conferences.

G77 was formed on 15 June 1964 by the “Joint Declaration of the Seventy-Seven Countries” issued at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The group was credited with a common stance against apartheid and for supporting global disarmament.

G77 and China –G77 grouping considers China as the member state. China is providing consistent political support to the G77 and even makes financial contributions. But it doesn’t consider itself as the member of the group. Hence official statements of the G77 are delivered in the name of the Group of 77 and China.

Kerala High Court disqualifies MLA Karat Razack for Defaming Rival Leader

The High Court of Kerala had disqualified an independent MLA Karat Razack from the Koduvally Assembly constituency for his defamatory campaign against the rival candidate during the 2016 Assembly polls.

Why the disqualification?

The election of the independent MLA Karat Razack was declared void by the Kerala High Court since it found that he was involved in corrupt practices.

The High Court found that Razack and his agents had screened a 20-minute video across Koduvally Assembly constituency during the 2016 election campaign to tarnish the image of the rival candidate.

The disqualification has been stayed by the High Court to provide an opportunity to appeal against the verdict.

Legal Provisions for the disqualification

The disqualification was as per the provisions of the Representation of the Peoples Act 1951. The Representation of the Peoples act defines the corrupt practices for the disqualification of the elected representative.

IIT Hyderabad launches B.Tech course in Artificial Intelligence

IIT Hyderabad has announced the launch of a full-fledged bachelor’s programme in Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology. IIT Hyderabad has become the first institute in the country to launch full-fledged Bachelor’s programme in AI technology. IIT Hyderabad will be the third institute to globally to offer the B.Tech course in AI.

Other institutes providing similar courses in AI are US-based Carnegie Mellon University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Artificial Intelligence refers to the process of making a computer, a computer-controlled robot or a software think intelligently, in a similar manner the intelligent humans think.

Artificial Intelligence is designed by studying how human brain thinks, and how humans learn, decide, and work while trying to solve a problem, and then using the outcomes of this study as a basis of developing intelligent software and systems.

About the Course

The Bachelor’s course in AI would fill the demand gap which far exceeds the current supply. The Bachelor’s course in AI will train students in the fundamentals of computer science, AI and Machine Learning, in addition to sensitising them to the ethical issues in deploying AI-based solutions. The course would focus on application verticals such as healthcare, agriculture, smart mobility, among many others.

IAF AN-32 lands in Pakyong Airport of Sikkim

For the first time, Antonov-32 AN-32 transport aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) carried out a successful landing at ……….Sikkim’s Pakyong, one of the highest airfields in the country.

The successful landing has assumed great importance due to its strategic location of 60 km from the India-China border and it is located 4,500 feet above sea level. The successful landing is a booster for the Indian efforts which is aggressively overhauling the infrastructure, particularly in the North-Eastern region, following the Doklam standoff in 2017.

Pakyong Airport  is a Greenfield airport near Gangtok, the capital of the state of Sikkim. It is the first greenfield airport to be constructed in the Northeastern Region of India.

The airport is strategically important and the Indian Air Force is also building on the ability to land certain military aircraft at the Pakyong Airport.

Prior to the inauguration of the Pakyong Airport by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 24th September 2018, Sikkim was the sole state in India without a functional airport and Sikkim was dependent on the airport at  Bagdogra in the neighbouring state of West Bengal, and Paro Airport in Bhutan.

Light Combat Helicopter Completes Weapon Trials

The indigenously designed and developed Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) of India has successfully carried out air-to-air missile firing. It was for the first time in India that a helicopter had carried out air to air missile engagement.

The LCH developed by HAL has completed all weapon integration tests and is ready for operational induction. The operational trails of LCH with 20 mm Turret gun and 70 mm rockets had been completed last year itself.

Features of the LCH  -LCH is the only attack helicopter in the world which is capable of operating at altitudes as high as the location of Siachen glacier.

The LCH is mounted with a helmet mounted sight and a forward-looking infrared sighting system. This enables the pilots to detect and destroy any target on the ground or in the air.

This advance sighting system will enable the pilot to launch a missile onto any target without having to turn the helicopter. The trails showed that the fire and forget missile was effective against all types of aerial threat, including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and microlight aircraft.

The LCH is capable of operating from dispersed locations and flying at ultra-low levels. This provides for a protective umbrella from all aerial threats.

Diffo Bridge of Arunachal Pradesh Inaugurated

The Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman inaugurated the 426.60 m long Pre Stressed Concrete Box Girder type Diffo bridge over Diffo river on Roing – Koronu- Paya road in Arunachal Pradesh.

 

The Diffo bridge will provide for uninterrupted access between Dibang Valley and Lohit valley region of Eastern Arunachal Pradesh together with providing an all-weather road to our troops deployed on the China border.

The construction of the Bridge was undertaken by the ….Project Udayak of the Border Roads Organisation.

Project Udayank

Project Udayank of the Border Roads Organisation was raised on June 1990 at Doomdooma Assam. The name of the project Udayank is synonymous to the land of rising sun which fits appropriately to the area it operates. It consists of two border road taskforces undertaking construction activities in the northeastern region.

Women to get 20% jobs in Military Police

The Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has announced the decision to induct women in Personnel Below Officer Rank, PBOR, role in Corps of Military Police.

The women will be inducted in a graded manner to eventually comprise 20% of total Corps of Military Police. Accordingly, the Army chalked out induction of approximately 800 women in military police with a yearly intake of 52 personnel per year.

Military Police

Military Police are the corps responsible for the enforcing discipline and the maintenance of law and order in the military environment and for military purposes.

The functions of the Military Police includes policing cantonments and Army establishments, preventing a breach of rules and regulations by soldiers, maintaining movement of soldiers as well as logistics during peace and war, handling prisoners of war and extending aid to civil police whenever required.

Role of Women in Military Police

The announcement is seen as a precursor for allowing the women in combat roles. Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat had earlier said that the process to allow women in a combat role, currently, an exclusive domain of men was moving fast and initially, women will be recruited for positions in the military police.

Methanol Blending to cut Carbon-di-oxide Emissions

Biofuels are being considered an alternative to reduce the country’s crude oil imports worth Rs7 lakh crore. They can also be a potential weapon to fight increasing pollution. The findings of the research by the Pune-based Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) have substantiated the potential reduction in the emissions of the carbon-di-oxide by the adoption of methanol blending.

Pune-based Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) conducted a study using 15% M-15 methanol blend in vehicles and tested them for 3,000km to evaluate emissions in real-world conditions as well as check the performance of the vehicles.

The outcomes of the study showed that methanol blending with petrol in the existing BS-IV standard cars resulted in the reduction of the carbon-di-oxide emissions substantially.

The study also found that hydrocarbon emission reduced marginally, with a slight increase in the levels of nitrogen oxides.

The findings of the research were submitted to Union Minister of  Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari. The Minister assured full support for ARAI in furthering the methanol blending programme, reiterating the government’s commitment to increase the methanol blending to 20% by the year 2030.

The Global Risks Report 2019

The Global Risks Report 2019 of the ……World Economic Forum (WEF) describes changes occurring in the global risks landscape from year to year and identifies global catastrophic risks.

The report also examines the interconnectedness of risks and considers how the strategies for the mitigation of global risks might be structured.

Findings of the Report

The Global Risks Report 2019 was prepared based on the survey of nearly 1,000 experts and decision-makers from across the world. The findings of the Global Risks Report 2019 are:

  • The top-five risk trends identified by the Survey are……. changing climate;… rising cyber dependency; ……increasing polarisation of societies; ……rising income and wealth disparity; and …….increasing national sentiment.
  • The list of biggest risks to likelihood is topped by ……extreme weather events such as floods and storms, followed by …failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation, major natural disasters like earthquake, tsunami, volcanic eruption and geomagnetic storms; the massive incident of data fraud/theft; and large-scale cyber attacks.
  • The top-five risks by impact, facing the world are weapons of mass destruction; failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation; extreme weather events; water crises; and major natural disasters.
  • Rising geopolitical and geo-economic tensions are the most urgent risk in 2019.
  • A darkening economic outlook partly due to geopolitical tensions would further reduce the potential for international cooperation in 2019.
  • Environmental degradation is the long-term risk that defines the present age and four of the top five most impactful global risks in 2019 being related to climate.
  • Rapidly evolving cyber and technological threats are the most significant potential blind spots. The world is still not fully appreciating the vulnerability of networked societies.
  • The report warns about growth in 2019 getting held back by continuing geo-economic tensions, with 88 per cent of respondents expecting further erosion of multilateral trading rules and agreements.

The report calls to renew the architecture of international cooperation for tackling the global trade and economic growth risks. The report presses on the need of coordinated, concerted action to sustain growth and to tackle the grave threats facing the world today.

Know  your  Budget series

The Union Finance Ministry has started the Know Your Budget series on Twitter to educate the general public about the budgetary process. It is a fortnight series which explains the importance of Union Budget and its making.

With the government set to present the interim Budget for 2019-20, the Know Your Budget series of the Finance Ministry in Twitter aims to increase the general awareness of the public regarding the budgetary process.

Explains Union Budget and Vote on Account

In the first series of tweets under the Know Your Budget fort-night series, the Ministry has made tweets to explain the Union Budget and Vote on Account as:

  • Budget is the most comprehensive report of the government’s finances in which revenues from all sources and outlays for all activities are consolidated. The Budget also contains estimates of the government’s accounts for the next fiscal year called Budget estimates.
  • Vote on Account is explained as a grant made in advance by Parliament for expenditure for a part of the next financial year.

Since the Parliament elections are due, the government would be presenting interim Budget. The Budget for the financial year 2019-20 would be presented by the new government.

Capital  infusion to the Exim Bank

The Union Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved a capital infusion of Rs 6,000 crore in state-owned Export-Import Bank of India (Exim) to expand its business.

How the capital infusion would be made?

Key facts about the capital infusion proposal are:

  • The government would issue …recapitalisation bonds to the tune of Rs 6,000 crore for capital infusion of Exim Bank.
  • The capital infusion would take place in two tranches of Rs 4,500 crore in 2018-19 and Rs 1,500 crore in 2019-20 respectively.
  • The government has also approved an increase in the bank’s authorised capital from Rs 10,000 crore to Rs 20,000 crore.

Authorised capital refers to the maximum amount of capital for which shares can be issued by a company. The Authorised capital would be mentioned in the Memorandum of Association of the Company and can be increased at any time in future.

The capital infusion and increase in authorised capital give an impetus to new initiatives such as supporting Indian textile industries, likely changes in the Concessional Finance Scheme, likelihood of new letters of credit in future in view of the country’s active foreign policy and strategic intent. This will have a positive impact on increasing the exports of India.

Export-Import Bank of India (Exim Bank)

Exim Bank is a premier export finance institution of India. It was established in 1982 under the Export-Import Bank of India Act to promote the Indian exports. Exim Bank assists the Industries across wide avenues like import of technology, export product development, export production, export marketing, pre-shipment and post-shipment and overseas investment.

Advocates Sanjay Jain , K M Natraj

President Ram Nath Kovind has appointed senior advocates Sanjay Jain and K M Nataraj as Additional Solicitor Generals of India. The appointments were made by the President as per the recommendations of the Appointments Committee of the cabinet.

Appointments Committee of the Cabinet is headed by Prime Minister and the Home Minister is the member of the committee. The Appointments Committee of the cabinet is responsible for making recommendations for the several important positions under the Government of India.

Additional Solicitor General is the third important law office of the country in the hierarchy. The post of ASG is neither constitutional nor statutory. The post of ASG is governed by Law Officers (Conditions of Service) Rules, 1987.

Gandhi Peace Prize

The Union government has announced the winners for International Gandhi Peace Prize. The awards were announced for the years 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 after the gap of four years.

The government has announced the names of ……….Vivekananda Kendra in Kanyakumari (2015), AkshayaPatra Foundation and  Sulabh International  (2016),……… EkalAbhiyan Trust (2017) and ………..Yohei Sasakawa (2018) for the …International Gandhi Peace Prize.

The Vivekananda Kendra in Kanyakumari was awarded for its contribution to rural development, education, and development of natural resources.

The Akshaya Patra Foundation was awarded for its work towards providing midday meals to children across India.

The Sulabh International was awarded for its contribution towards the improvement of sanitation facilities in India and the emancipation of manual scavengers.

The EkalAbhiyan Trust was awarded for its work in the field of education for rural and tribal children, rural empowerment and gender and social equality.

Yohei Sasakawa, chairperson of Nippon Foundation and World Health Organization goodwill ambassador was awarded for his contribution towards eradicating leprosy.

About International Gandhi Peace Prize

International Gandhi Peace Prize was constituted by the government of India in 1995 as a tribute to the ideals espoused by Mahatma Gandhiji, father of the Nation.

The winners are selected by a jury headed by Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Chief Justice of India and two other eminent persons. The winners would receive a cash prize of Rs 1 crore, a citation in a scroll, a plaque and a traditional handicraft/handloom item

IMD :Indian Meteorological Department

The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has released a bulletin highlighting the important features about the climatic conditions of 2018:

  • India’s average mean monthly temperatures were “warmer than the normal” during all the months of the year except December.
  • This more than normal mean monthly temperature is attributed to global warming.
  • The annual mean surface air temperature averaged over the country in 2018 was +0.41 degree Celsius above (1981-2010 period) average.
  • The year 2018 was the sixth warmest year on record since nationwide records commenced in 1901.

The other warmest years on record are 016 (+0.72 degree Celsius), 2009 (+0.56 degree Celsius), 2017 (+0.55 degree Celsius), 2010 (+0.54 degree Celsius) and 2015 (+0.42 degree Celsius), which are all recent years.

  • The worrying factor is, 11 out of 15 warmest years were during the recent past 15 years (2004-2018) and overall 2018 was the sixth warmest year on record since nationwide records commenced in 1901.
  • India recorded 1,428 deaths in 2018 due to extreme weather events and heavy rains and subsequent flooding, dust storms, thunderstorms and lightning claimed half the lives.
  • Cyclones Titli and Gaja killed almost 122 people.

India Meteorological Department (IMD)

India Meteorological Department (IMD) is the chief government agency for meteorological services in the country. Formed in 1875, IMD functions under Ministry of Earth Sciences and is headquartered in New Delhi. It deals with everything related to meteorology, seismology and associated subjects like

  • Undertaking meteorological observations and provide current information and forecasting information for most favourable operation of weather-dependent activities such as irrigation, agriculture, aviation, shipping etc.
  • Offering warnings against severe weather phenomenon such as tropical cyclones, norwesters, dust storms, heat waves, cold waves, heavy rains, heavy snow, etc.
  • Providing met-related statistics needed for agriculture, industries, water resources management, oil exploration, and any other strategically important activities for the country.
  • Engaging in research in meteorology and allied subjects.
  • Detecting and locating earthquakes and evaluate seismicity in various parts of the country for developmental projects.

From a modest beginning in 1875, IMD has progressively expanded its infrastructure for meteorological observations, forecasting and weather services. IMD was the first organisation in India to adopt a message switching computer to support its global data exchange.

A Government shutdown In USA

A government shutdown is when non-essential discretionary federal programs close. It occurs when ……..Congress fails to appropriate funds.

In the normal budget process, Congress appropriates funds by September 30 for the following fiscal year

When that doesn’t happen, it enacts a continuing funding resolution. If Congress can’t even agree on that, it forces a shutdown. That signals a complete breakdown in the budget process.

Current Shutdown

The current shutdown began on ….December 21, 2018. It became the longest shutdown in U.S. history on January 12, 2019, when it surpassed 22 days.

About 3,80,000 non-critical employees of nine agencies were sent home without pay. On January 15, 2019, the Trump administration called 50,000 of them back to work without pay.

As the shutdown stretches on, many are looking for part-time work to pay bills.

There are 420,000 critical employees who have been reporting to work without pay from the beginning. On January 11, Congress passed a bill to reimburse federal exempt employees for lost wages once the shutdown ends. Contract workers won’t be reimbursed.

On January 8, 2019, the president addressed the nation. He said a $5.7 billion wall on the border with Mexico is the only solution for a growing crisis at the border. The wall is a key piece of Trump’s immigration policy.

The House had approved a bill on January 3, that …..would fund all departments except Homeland Security. It would fund that department through February 8, 2019. The Senate won’t vote on the bill because Trump opposes it.

 That’s ironic because the Senate already approved such a bill on December 19, 2018.

On January 4, 2019, President Trump announced he would continue the shutdown until Congress included $5.7 billion for the wall.

He threatened to declare a …….national emergency.

Trump could then………. repurpose military spending to build the wall without Congressional approval.

The administration is also exploring whether it could……… repurpose funds from the Army Core of Engineers ….designated for hurricane disaster relief.

The Democrat-controlled House will vote by January 25, 2019 to add $1 billion in additional border security funding. It targets ports of entry, advanced technology for scanning vehicles for drugs, and more immigration judges.

The Republican-controlled Senate is submitting a budget that contains wall funding. It adds $7.3 billion for additional border patrol and increased detention facilities. It adds $12.7 billion in disaster aid.

The …Senate could end the impasse by approving the House bill.

 Many Republicans are seriously considering it.

Even if the …….president didn’t sign it, a ……bill approved by both houses of Congress …becomes law after 10 days.

 If the president vetoed it, ….Congress could override the…. veto with a two-thirds majority vote in both houses.

What Led to the Shutdown?

On August 23, 2018, the U.S. Senate approved an….. $850 billion spending bill for Fiscal Year 2019 that funded the departments of Defense, Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services. On September 18, it passed a short-term spending billthat funded the other departments until December 7. It included $1.6 billion for the border wall. Congress then extended funding until December 21.

On December 11, 2018, Congressional Democrats met with the president. Trump threatened to shut down the government if they didn’t include $5 billion to build the wall. But Democrats said it would be ineffective. They offered $1.3 billion to continue current border-security funding. It includes border fencing, levee walls, and technology but not a steel barrier wall. 

On December 18, Trump said he would compromise. On December 19, 2018, the Senate approved an extension of current spending until February 8, 2019.

But then Trump changed course, saying he wouldn’t sign it. On December 20, 2018, the House of Representatives passed a bill that included funding to maintain existing barriers. Senate leaders tried to renegotiate and pass a new spending bill. At 7 p.m. eastern time it became clear that was not going to happen, and the government shut down.

Pros and Cons of the Wall

The U.S. border with Mexico is 2,000 miles long. A third of it already has a wall or fence.

 Much of that was built thanks to the Secure Fence Act of 2006. It cost $2.3 billion to expand barriers and checkpoints. It reduced immigration by 83,000. The reduced competition increased low-skilled workers’ pay by $0.36 a year.

Erecting a wall on the rest of the border would stop 144,000 immigrants. It would raise incomes of low-skilled workers by 58 cents a year. It would cost $15 per American to build the wall.

Chardham Project 

The Supreme Court has given its nod to Chardham Development Plan which connects the holy places of Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath by all-weather roads.

The issue?

The construction of all weather roads in the environmentally critical zone of Himalayas was questioned in the National Green Tribunal (NGT). The National Green Tribunal had cleared the Chardham Project and had formed an oversight committee to monitor the environmental safeguards during the construction of the project.

This order was questioned in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court refused to stay the order of NGT and had asked the Centre to file its affidavit on a plea seeking a stay on the order of the NGT.

Significance of Chardham Yatra

As per Hindu traditions, Char Dham Yatra opens the gates of salvation by washing away all the sins. The term Chardham is believed to be coined by Shri Adi Shankaracharya, which means four abodes of God or Holy Destinations.

The Yatra begins from Yamunotri, then the pilgrims head to Gangotri, thereafter to Kedarnath and finally to Badrinath to complete the Chardham Yatra.

Yamunotri is the source of the sacred Yamuna River. According to Hindu Mythology, Yamuna was the sister of Yamraj and she was promised by Yamraj that whoever takes the holy dip in the Yamuna River will not be taken to Yamlok and they would attain salvation. Yamunotri is also the seat of Goddess Yamuna.

Gangotri i.e. Gomukh is the birth place of the Holy River Ganga. The stone on which King Bhagirath did meditation to bring Goddess Ganga to earth is located near Ganga Temple in Gangotri. A temple dedicated to Goddess Ganga is located in this pious area.

Kedarnath is one of the twelve jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva and the temple is believed to be restored by Adi Shankaracharya.

Badrinath is considered as the most sacred among the four shrines and is located on the left bank of the Alaknanda River. The temple at Badrinath is dedicated to  Lord Vishnu, the protector and preserver of the divine Hindu Trinity (Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva). It is also believed that Adi Shankaracharya got freedom from the process of reincarnation at Badrinath.

The Chardham Development Plan is the project of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.

Cinematograph Act, 1952 

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has released the draft amendment bill to amend the Indian Cinematograph Act, 1952. The amendments are brought in counter the film piracy.

Amendments proposed

The features of the amendment bill are:

  • To check piracy, particularly release of the pirated version of films on the internet which causes huge losses to the film industry and government exchequer, an enabling provision in the Cinematograph Act, 1952 would be added.
  • The amendment bill aims to add a new sub-section (4) of section 7 of the Cinematograph Act, 1952.
  • Under the amendment bill, the piracy would be a punishable offence with imprisonment of three years and fines of up to Rs 10 lakh or both.
  • The punishment is prescribed those, who use any recording device to make or transmit a copy of the visual recording or sound recording of a film or attempts to make or transmit, or abet the making or transmission of such a copy without the written authorisation of the copyright owner.

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has invited the Comments on the draft Cinematograph Act (Amendment) Bill.

Raisina Dialogue

The Global Innovation Policy Center (GIPC) of the United States Chamber of Commerce has launched a new innovation initiative Fair Value for Innovation at the Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi.

Fair Value for Innovation

The Fair Value for Innovation initiative would

  • Examine economic underpinnings that would enable breakthrough innovation.
  • Explore how policymakers can harness innovation capital in India and around the globe through research, advocacy, partnerships, and programs.

Raisina Dialogue

The Raisina Dialogue is a multi-stakeholder, cross-sectoral discussion, involving heads of state, cabinet ministers and local government officials, as well as major private sector executives, members of the media and academics.

The Raisina Dialogue has emerged as India’s flagship conference on geopolitics and geo-economics. The Dialogue is hosted by the Observer Research Foundation in collaboration with the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India. It was designed on the lines of Singapore’s Shangri-La Dialogue.

The dialogue is named after Raisina Hill, which is the seat of the Government of India, as well as the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

The first Raisina Dialogue was held in 2016 with the theme “Asia: Regional and Global Connectivity”. The theme of the 2019 dialogue is “A World Reorder: New Geometries; Fluid Partnerships; Uncertain Outcomes”.

Pravasi Bhartiya Divas 2019 

The Pravasi Bhartiya Divas (PBD) will be held at Varanasi on January 21  and would be formally inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 22. The theme of the PBD 2019 is “Role of Indian Diaspora in building a New India.”

The convention held during the Pravasi Bhartiya Divas (PBD) provides an important platform to engage and connect with the overseas Diaspora. The chief guest for this year’s Pravasi Bhartiya Divas Pravind Jugnauth, Prime Minister of Mauritius.

Pravasi Bhartiya Divas

India celebrates Pravasi Bhartiya Divas on 9 January to mark the contribution of the overseas Indian community towards the development of India. 9th January also commemorates the return of Mahatma Gandhi from South Africa to Mumbai in 1915.

The decision to celebrate PBD was taken based on the recommendations of the High-Level Committee (HLC) on the Indian Diaspora under the chairmanship of L. M. Singhvi. The first PBD was celebrated in 2002 and the PBD was held every year on 9th January since then.

In 2015, a decision was made to celebrate PBD once in two years in different states and a smaller event would be held in Delhi every alternate year. Now India celebrates Pravasi Bhartiya Divas once in every two years to strengthen the engagement of the overseas Indian community with the Government of India and reconnect them with their roots.

Why Postponed in 2019?

The PBD 2019 has been delayed to facilitate the dignitaries to participate in the Kumbh Mela being held at Prayagraj and the Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi.

Trishna Gas Project 

The National Wildlife Board has given its approval for the Trishna Gas project of ONGC which falls in the …….Trishna Wildlife Sanctuary in the Gomati district of …..Tripura.

Trishna gas project

ONGC has discovered 10-12 gas bearing wells in the Trishna Wildlife sanctuary. The gas extracted from these wells would be supplied to the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Ltd (NEEPCO) owned 100 MW gas-based thermal power project at Monarchak in Sonamura subdivision of Sipahijala district of Tripura.

The Tripura unit of ONGC has also committed to provide Rs 25 crore to the state government for carrying out Swacch Bharat Abhiyan.

Trishna Wildlife Sanctuary was established in 1988. The vegetations in the sanctuary fall under four broad categories of tropical semi-evergreen forest, the east Himalayan lower Bhanar sal, Moist mixed deciduous forest and the Savanah woodland.

Prominent medicinal plant species are Kurcha, Tulsi, Vasak, Sarpaganda, Rudraksha, Bel, Chirata, and Kalamegh can be found here. The wildlife prominent in the sanctuary comprises of Indian Gaur(bison), Deer, Hooklock Gibbon, Golden Langur, Capped Langur, Pheasants and Reptiles.

National Wildlife Board

National Board for Wild Life is a statutory organization constituted under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. It is an apex body to review all wildlife-related matters and approves projects in and around national parks and sanctuaries.

The National Board for Wild Life is chaired by the Prime Minister, Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change is the vice-chairman of the Board and the members include 15 non-government members, 19 ex-officio members and 10 government officials such as secretaries.

Footing Bill for ads on criminal record-

The political parties have opposed the directive of the Election Commission that a candidate should bear the bill to publicise his criminal record since it eats up the share of the election expenditure limit.

 Political Parties have written to the Election Commission expressing concerns over the Election Commissions directive.

What is the Issue?

To check the increasing criminalisation of politics in the Country, the Supreme Court had made it mandatory for every candidate contesting the election to inform the public at large about his criminal record in bold letters at least three times after filing of nomination papers through newspapers at large and electronic media.

The Election Commission had implemented this order of the Supreme Court in the recently held assembly polls in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Manipur, Chhattisgarh and Telangana.

The Election Commission had …….added the cost of these advertisements into candidate’s electoral expenditure while the ……..Supreme Court order was silent on whether the expenditure would go on to the electoral expenditure account of the candidate.

Why the political parties are opposing?

The political parties are arguing that the candidates should not be made to bear the cost of advertising their criminal records since they are faced with an expenditure limit as per EC rules and this could impose a constraint on their campaign-related expenses.

The political parties also pointed out at the differential impacts on urban centres when compared to that at rural centres as newspaper and TV advertisements pricing is typically higher in cities.

Way Forward

A suggestion has been made that to shift the expenditure of these advertisements to the political party’s account from the candidates account as there is no expenditure limit for the party as of now.

There is also an argument that it is unfair to expect the political parties and candidates to bear the expense for advertising their own criminal record. Hence airtime and newspaper space could be allocated for this purpose as done for campaign purposes.

One family one job scheme

The Chief Minister of Sikkim Pawan Kumar Chamling has announced the One family one job scheme to provide employment to the youth of Sikkim.

About the Scheme

One family one job scheme entitles one government job for every family in the state. The Chief Minister handed over appointment letters to over 12,000 unemployed youths at an employment fair organised at the Paljor Stadium in Gangtok. Only members of those families which do not have a government job at present are eligible for government employment under the scheme.

The government has announced that the nature of the job is not temporary and would be regularised after five years.

Sikkim is the first state in the country to launch an exclusive programme which entitles every family in the state with a government job and ……..Sikkim earmarks 70 per cent of its revenues towards salaries for state government employees.

Macedonia renamed

The Parliament of Macedonia has passed the resolution to amend the constitution of the country to rename it as the …..Republic of Northern Macedonia.

The opposition parties had boycotted the vote and the proposal narrowly got the two-thirds majority vote required for the constitutional amendment.

        

The renaming is in line with a landmark agreement with Greece to end a decades-long dispute.

Dispute between Macedonia and Greece

The use of the name “Macedonia” was disputed between the European countries of Greece and the Republic of Macedonia, formerly a state within Yugoslavia. After the declaration of independence of Macedonia from erstwhile Yugoslavia, the country named it as the Republic of Macedonia.

The dispute was mainly due to the ambiguity in nomenclature between the Republic of Macedonia, the adjacent Greek region of Macedonia and the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedonia.

 Greece opposed the use of the name “Macedonia” by the Republic of Macedonia without a geographical qualifier such as “Northern Macedonia.

Greece accused the Republic of Macedonia of appropriating symbols and figures that are historically considered part of Greek culture such as the Vergina Sun and Alexander the Great, and of promoting the irredentist concept of a United Macedonia, which involves territorial claims on Greece, Bulgaria, Albania and Serbia.

Due to the conflict over the name, Greece vetoed Macedonia’s attempt to join Nato in 2008 and even blocked its EU membership ambitions. The opposition of Greece was so fierce that the United Nations was forced to refer Macedonia as “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”.

As per the agreement the Republic of Macedonia would be renamed as the Republic of North Macedonia. The language of the country would be referred to as Macedonian and its people known as Macedonians (citizens of the Republic of North Macedonia).

Government promulgates Companies (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019

The government has re-promulgated the Companies (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019 to amend the Companies Act 2013. Even though the Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2018 for this effect was passed in Lok Sabha, it was pending before Rajya Sabha. The ordinance was first issued in November and would have ceased to be operational from January 21. Hence the government has decided to re-promulgate the ordinance.

Right to Disconnect Bill

A private members bill, Right to Disconnect Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha by MP Supriya Sule.

Features of the Bill

The important features of the bill are:

  • The bill empowers the employee with the right to not respond to employers’ calls, texts or emails after office hours.
  • The bill aims to reduce work-related stress and strive for a better work-life balance.
  • The bill applies to companies with more than 10 employees.
  • Such companies are required to set up an Employee Welfare Committee to ensure compliance.
  • The bill stipulates that no disciplinary action can be taken against you if you choose to not respond to your employer after your stipulated work hours.

Global Examples

Some measures have been already taken in empowering the employees with Right to disconnect. For Example:

  • France has already provided Right to disconnect since 2017 in companies with more than 50 employees with an aim to re-build the boundary between professional and personal life.
  • Even Spain has a similar law which provides Right to Disconnect without any minimum employee criterion.
  • German automobile maker Daimler had taken this bold step of introducing software that automatically deletes any emails you get while on vacation, back in 2014.

What is the Importance to Right to Disconnect?

Studies found that the need to be available 24X7 was adversely affecting the workers, even if workers weren’t actively checking work emails after hours, they can still be harmed by the expectation that they should be available. This work culture was creating anxiety amongst workers.

Studies also showed that workers who answered work-related emails after 9pm had worse quality of sleep. Hence a campaign had gained ground demanding Right to Disconnect.

RBI cautions on NPAs due to MUDRA Loans

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has voiced concern on the spike in non-performing assets (NPAs) under the government’s flagship scheme Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana to support micro-enterprises in the country.

Disbursements under Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana

The annual report of the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana provides following data about the disbursements under the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana:

  • The total disbursements under the scheme stood at Rs 2.46 trillion in FY 18.
  • 40 per cent of these disbursements went to women entrepreneurs and 33 per cent to social categories.
  • More than 4.81 crore micro-borrowers have benefited through the scheme.

The RBI has raised the red flag over the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana since the bad loans under the scheme have increased to Rs 11,000 crore.

Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana

Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana (PMMY) launched in 2015 aims to provide loans up to 10 lakh to the non-corporate, non-farm small/micro enterprises. The loans are provided through Commercial Banks, RRBs, Small Finance Banks, Cooperative Banks, MFIs and NBFCs. The Mudra loans are provided under three categories:

  • Under Shishu up to Rs 50,000 under.
  • Under Kishore for loans between Rs 50,001-Rs 5 lakh.
  • Under Tarun for loans between Rs 5,00,001 and Rs 10 lakh category.

The categories signify the stage of growth/development and funding needs of the beneficiary microunit/entrepreneur and also provide a reference point for the next phase of graduation/growth.

 Philip Kotler Presidential Award

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was awarded first ever Philip Kotler Presidential Award. Philip Kotler Presidential Award aims to spread examples of individuals and companies who create an innovative culture for the economic, social and technological advancements of an industry or a country.

Why PM Modi was conferred with the award?

The citation of the award underlines the following achievements of the PM Modi for conferring the award:

  • PM Modi was selected for his outstanding leadership for the nation.
  • PM Modi’s selfless service towards India, combined with his tireless energy has resulted in extraordinary economic, social and technological advances in the country.
  • Under PM Modi’s leadership, India is now identified as the centre for innovation and value-added manufacturing (Make in India), as well as a global hub for professional services such as information technology, accounting and finance
  • Modi’s visionary leadership has also resulted in the digital revolution (Digital India), including the Unique Identification Number, Aadhaar, for social benefits and financial inclusion.
  • Initiatives such as Make in India, Startup India, Digital India and Swachh Bharat have positioned India as one of the most lucrative manufacturing and business destinations in the world

Philip Kotler Presidential Award

Philip Kotler, a professor of marketing at Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management is also known as ‘Father of Modern Marketing’. Apart from marketing, Philip Kotler has extensively written on education, environment, government marketing, healthcare, hospitality, and innovation.

The Philip Kotler Presidential Award is constituted to honour mastery in the field of marketing and management. The award recognises and celebrates achievements of organisations, marketing teams, and individuals in different industries around the world.

103rd Constitutional Amendment Act

President Ramnath Kovind has given the assent to the 124th constitutional Amendment Bill (which is now Constitution 103rd amendment Act) providing 10 per cent reservation for economically weaker sections.;

Key Facts about the 103rd Constitutional Amendment Act

The Important components of the 103rd constitutional Amendment are:

  • The amendment changed two fundamental rights, Article 15 and 16. The amendments provide for the advancement of the “economically weaker sections” of the society.
  • The amendment aims to fulfil the commitments of the directive principles of state policy under Article 46, to promote the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the society.

Criterion for Reservation

  • People who have an annual income of less than Rs.8 lakhs, or
  • People who own less than five acres of farm land, or
  • People who have a house lesser than 1,000 sq feet in a town (or 100 sq yard in a notified municipal area).
  • The constitutional amendment is yet to pass the judicial scrutiny since the Supreme Court had set the cap of 50% on reservations.
  • ‘Youth for Equality’ has questioned the constitutional validity of the 103rd constitutional amendment act which was passed by the both the Houses of Parliament after being presented as the Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill, 2019.
  • The example of Tamil Nadu is been cited to propose that there are ways and means to protect the amendment from the Supreme Court declaring it unconstitutional.

Gujrat has become the first state to implement the 10% quota reserved for people from economically weaker sections proposed under the 103rd constitutional amendment act.

SpaceX-CRS-16 Dragon craft

The SpaceX cargo craft departed from the International Space Station after its successful mission to deliver scientific equipment and other supplies.

The SpaceX-CRS-16 Dragon successfully delivered more than 2,500 kilograms (5,600 pounds) of cargo to the space station and orbited Earth for five weeks. The SpaceX-CRS-16 Dragon craft is expected to splash down just west of Baja, California.

SpaceX-CRS-16 Dragon

The SpaceX-CRS-16 Dragon is a Commercial Resupply Service mission to the International Space Station launched by NASA. The NASA had contracted this mission to SpaceX for launch.

International Space Station

The International Space Station is a habitable artificial satellite, in low Earth orbit. The ISS maintains an orbit with an altitude of between 330 and 435 km (205 and 270 mi) by means of reboost manoeuvres and  circles the Earth in roughly 92 minutes and completes 15.5 orbits per day

The ISS programme is a joint project between five participating space agencies: NASA (United States), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada).

PSU banks to bring down govt equity to 52%

The Finance Ministry has asked the public sector banks to gradually reduce the government’s equity to 52 per cent. Currently, some of the public sector banks have government’s holding beyond 75 per cent.

Why the disinvestment?

The decision to bring down the government’s equity to 52 per cent was taken due to the following reasons:

  • Dilution of the government’s stake will help banks to meet 25 per cent public float norms set by the SEBI.
  • To align with the best corporate practices.
  • Encourage the banks to follow the prudential lending norms.

The Ministry of Finance has authorised the Public Sector Banks to take necessary steps in bringing down the government equity based on the marketing conditions.

Rules of SEBI

A notification under the Securities Contracts Regulations (Amendment) Rules makes it mandatory for all listed entities to have a minimum public float of 25%.

SEBI

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) was established under the provisions of the Securities and Exchange Board of India Act, 1992 on April 12, 1992. SEBI aims to protect the interests of investors in securities and to promote the development and regulate the securities market in the country.

Recommendations of Committee to revisit the Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act

The Committee headed Deputy Election Commissioner Umesh Sinha has submitted the report on revisiting the section 126 of the Representation of the People Act. The committee had nine officers from the Election Commission and one nominated member each from I&B Ministry, Law Ministry, IT Ministry, National Broadcasters Association and Press Council of India.

Recommendations of the Committee

The committee has made the following recommendations:

  • Amendment to the Model Code of Conduct to ensure that political parties release their manifesto at least 72 hours before voting ends in the first phase of polls.
  • The provision of election silence, which prohibits any form of poll campaign in the last 48 hours leading up to voting to be extended to cover print and social media, internet, cable channels and online version of print media.
  • Social media platforms should work with the EC to evolve a mechanism by which the latter can flag content violating electoral law and social media sites can take it down as soon as possible.
  • EC should issue directions to private cable TV channels to follow NBSA guidelines for election broadcasts during the poll period.

The recommendations when implemented will help in minimizing the possible interference of activities which aim at indirectly influencing voters during the valuable silence period of 48 hours provided to them.

JLL City Momentum Index

The City Momentum Index of JLL which identifies World Dynamic Cities has been released by the property consultant JLL.

About the Index

The City Momentum Index of JLL measures momentum for 131 of the world’s most commercially active cities by tracking a range of socio-economic and commercial real estate indicators over a three-year period to identify the urban economies and real estate markets undergoing the most rapid expansion.

The Index measures short-term momentum over a three-year horizon and identifies urban economies and real estate markets which are currently undergoing significant rapid growth.

World Dynamic Cities 2019

The standings of the various cities under the 2019 survey are listed below:

Top 10 Cities

  • Silicon Valley of India, Bengaluru has emerged as the world’s most dynamic city among 131 major established and emerging business hubs globally.
  • The Second place is occupied by Hyderabad.
  • Other Indian cities which featured in the top 20 list are Delhi (4th), Pune (5th), Chennai (7th) and Kolkata (20th).
  • 19 of the top 20 cities from are from the Asia Pacific. This showcases the region’s rapid urbanisation and strong economic growth.

The Index notes that implementation of reforms such as RERA and GST with a focus on improving infrastructure and improving ease of doing business has brought in more transparency in the real estate sector and has given a strong impetus to the sector. As a result, India is receiving greater interest from foreign real estate investors who are seeking to tap into the countries favourable growth dynamics.

Democracy Index 2019

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has released the Democracy Index which ranks 167 countries by 60 indicators across five broad categories.

The categories considered for the index are electoral process and pluralism, the functioning of government, political participation, democratic political culture and civil liberties.

The index classifies each country either as a full democracy, flawed democracy, hybrid regime or authoritarian.

The important findings of the democracy index are:

  • Only 4.5% of the world’s people live in a full democracy.
  • The overall global score remained stable in 2018 for the first time in three years.
  • 42 countries experienced a decline in their index score compared with 89 in 2017 and 48 countries have improved their score.
  • The Index notes that threats to democracy around the world have become increasingly obvious. The Arab spring fizzled, China’s leader is poised to rule for life, Populists with autocratic tendencies have won elections in the Philippines, Brazil and Mexico. Democratic institutions have been subverted in Hungary, Turkey and Poland.
  • The subversion of the democratic institutions have become so glaring that strongmen in different countries often copy each other’s tactics, sound bites and voters have become scapegoats.
  • Political participation is the most improved category in the index.

Rankings of the Countries

The countries rankings are highlighted below:

  • Australia and New Zealand are the only “full democracies” in the entire Asia-Pacific region
  • Eight countries Algeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Timor-Leste, Ethiopia, North Korea, Laos, Nepal and Sri Lanka which have the word “democratic in full titles were not fully democratic.
  • India was at the 41st place with a score of 7.23/10 and was placed in the flawed democracies category.

Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) is the research and analysis division of The Economist Group, which is a British multinational media company headquartered in London. It provides forecasting and advisory services through research and analysis, such as monthly country reports, five-year country economic forecasts, country risk service reports, and industry reports. It publishes a number of reports each year focussing on current issues affecting specific countries, regions and industries.

 ‘Space Fuel’ to Curb Global Warming 

The researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras (IIT-M) have recreated space fuel by simulating interstellar conditions in the laboratory. It is a big breakthrough for India in the exploration of cleaner and sustainable alternatives to fossil fuel.

The discovery has the potential to convert atmospheric carbon dioxide into a next-generation energy source to curb greenhouse gases and global warming.

The research of the IIT-M in this regard has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The team from IIT-M was able to create methane-containing clathrate hydrates in ultra-high vacuum (1000 billion times below the atmospheric pressure) and at a temperature close to -263oC. i.e. the conditions at deep space.

This discovery of hydrates at extremely low pressures and ultra-cold temperatures is highly unexpected. The team predicts that molecules like methane and ammonia in space could exist in a completely different form than what is known to us.

First State To Roll Out Universal Basic Income

The ruling party of Sikkim, Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) has assured the implementation of the universal basic income in Sikkim by 2022. If things go as per plan, Sikkim would become the first state in the country to implement the Universal Basic Income (UBI).’

Universal Basic Income (UBI)

Universal Basic Income (UBI) refers to a programme wherein the people are provided with a fixed amount of money irrespective of their income, resources or employment status.

Resources for Funding the UBI

The state of Sikkim aims to mobilise the resources for funding the UBI through the following avenues:

  • Sikkim is a power-surplus state. Sikkim produces 2200 MW and the requirement of the state is only 200-300 MW. The power generation capacity would further go up to 3000 MW in a few years. The revenue from the selling of the surplus power would provide extra revenue, which the government plans to divert to implement UBI.
  • Sikkim also plans to subsume other subsidies and allowances in order to provide a particular amount every month to people.

Benefits of UBI

The 2017 Economic Survey had proposed UBI as a conceptually appealing idea which could be a possible alternative to social welfare programmes targeted at reducing poverty.

Kerala HC bans flash hartals

The High Court of Kerala has set a seven-day notice period for political parties and individuals to call for hartal and general strike in the State.

Why the 7 day notice period?

The Kerala High Court has provided the following reasons for setting a seven-day notice period:

  • To provide time for the citizens to approach the court with their objections and to enable courts to examine the legality of the hartal call on request of citizens.
  • To provide an opportunity for the State to be prepared for safeguarding the interests of the citizens.
  • Even though the court recognised the fundamental right of those who call for a strike to demonstrate their protests, it made it clear that the rights cannot be exercised in violation of the fundamental rights of other citizens.
  • The court made it clear that the fundamental right of the citizens to life and livelihood would outweigh

Ayodhya case

The Supreme Court has formed a 5-Judge Constitution Bench to hear Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid Case. The bench would be headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and comprise of justices SA Bobde, NV Ramana, UU Lalit and DY Chandrachud.

What is the case?

In the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid Case 14 appeals were filed against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment. The verdict of the Allahabad High Court judgment had partitioned the 2.77-acre land equally among the three parties – the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.

The Allahabad High Court had concluded that Lord Ram, son of King Dashrath, was born within the 1,482.5 square yards of the disputed Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid premises over 9,00,000 years ago during the Treta Yuga.

Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid Dispute

The Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi case is a property dispute over the land where the Babri Masjid, a 16th-century mosque once stood. The mosque was razed by kar sevaks on 6 December 1992.

The Hindu groups claim that the exact site of Lord Ram’s birthplace is where the Babri Masjid was once located. They argue that the Mughals demolished a Hindu shrine that marked the spot of Lord Ram’s birthplace and constructed a mosque in its place. Those opposed to this view argue that such arguments arose only in the 18th century and that there is no evidence for the spot being the birthplace of Rama.

The political, historical and socio-religious debate over the history and location of the Babri Mosque, and whether a temple was demolished or modified to create the Masjid has become the focal point of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid Dispute.

Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was passed in Lok Sabha. The protests have erupted in Assam against the passage of the bill. The people of Assam fear that the amendment bill undermines the Assam Accord of 1985.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 seeks to amend the citizenship Act, 1955.  The features of the amendment bill are:

  • The bill aims to grant …Indian citizenship to all persecuted religious minorities like Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists and Parsis from three neighbouring countries of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
  • The bill is applicable to all states and union territories of the country and the beneficiaries of the can reside in any part of the country.
  • The bill when passed would provide a big relief to the persecuted migrants who have come through western borders of the country to States like Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, and other states.

As per the reports, the government would set the cut off date at December 31, 2014, to provide citizenship to persecuted religious minorities.

Addressing the concerns against the Bill

The Union Home Minister provided the following assurance to allay fears about the bill:

  • The burden of the persecuted migrants will be shared by the entire country and not by Assam alone.
  • The Union Home Minister also assured full support for the state governments in the implementation of the bill.

124th Constitution Amendment Bill

The Lok Sabha has passed the 124th constitutional amendment bill to provide reservations to the economically weaker sections.  The central government is planning to introduce a ten per cent reservation for those belonging to economically weaker sections of society.

Features of the Bill

The features of the 124th constitutional amendment bill are:

  • The Bill states that people from the economically weaker sections of the society have largely remained excluded from attending the higher educational institutions and public employment on account of their financial incapacity to compete with the persons who are economically more privileged.
  • The Bill is brought into to fulfil the commitments under the Directive principles of the state policy listed in the Article 46 of the Constitution which urges the government to protect the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of society.
  • The Bill amends Article 15 of the Constitution to provide reservations to economically weaker sections for admission to educational institutions including private educational institutions, whether aided or unaided by the State, other than the minority educational institutions
  • The Bill also amends Article 16 of the Constitution to provide reservations to people from economically weaker sections in government posts.
  • The Bill caps the reservation to economically weaker sections at 10%.
  • The Bill states that the criterion for the economically weaker sections would be notified by the State from time to time on the basis of family income and other indicators of economic disadvantage.

The government has stated that the bill is part of the government’s endeavour to ensure that every poor person, irrespective of caste or creed gets to lead a life of dignity, and have access to all possible opportunities.

Four CAG reports with government for tabling in House 

The CAG report on Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management has been tabled in the parliament. The important observations made in the report are:

  • CAG recommends the government to frame a policy on off-budget financing and sources of such funding in view of its fiscal implication.
  • The off-budget financial arrangements defer committed liability (subsidy arrears/bills) or create future liability and increase the cost of subsidy due to interest payment.
  • The report states that since the off-budget financing is outside the parliamentary control, it has implications for fiscal indicators as they “understate” the government’s expenditure in the year by keeping them off the budget.
  • Hence the CAG recommends the government to put in place a policy framework for off-budget financing which would specify the rationale and objective of off-budget financing, quantum of off-budget financing, sources of the fund among others.
  • The CAG also recommends the government to consider disclosing the details of off-budget borrowings through disclosure statements in Budget as well as in accounts.

RBI forms Nandan Nilekani

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has constituted a high-level committee under Nandan Nilekani to suggest measures to strengthen the safety and security of digital payments in the country.

Members of the Committee

Nandan Nilekani will be the head of the committee which comprises of former RBI deputy governor H.R. Khan, former MD and CEO of Vijaya Bank Kishore Sansi, former secretary in ministries of IT and steel Aruna Sharma and chief innovation officer, Centre for Innovation, Incubation & Entrepreneurship (CIIE), IIM Ahmedabad, Sanjay Jain.

Terms of the Reference

RBI has provided the following terms of reference for the committee:

  • To encourage digitisation of payments and enhance financial inclusion through digitization.
  • Reviewing the existing status of digitisation of payments in the country, identifying the current gaps in the ecosystem and suggesting ways to bridge them.

RBI has asked the committee to submit its report within a period of 90 days from the date of its first meeting.

Gita Gopinath

Gita Gopinath has joined International Monetary Fund as its chief economist. She is the first woman to occupy the post of chief economist of IMF. She is the 11th chief economist of the IMF.

Role of Chief Economist of IMF

The chief economist of IMF undertakes the following functions:

  • The Chief Economist is also the Director of the Fund’s Research Department and is responsible for providing independent advice to the Fund on its policy issues, integrating ideas of the research in the design of policies, conveying these ideas to the policymakers inside and outside the fund and managing all research done at IMF.
  • The Chief Economist is part of the senior leadership team of the IMF and directly advises the Managing Director.
  • The Chief Economist also leads about a hundred PhD economists in the Research Department.

Gita Gopinath is an Indian-American Economist. Prior to her present role as the Chief Economist of IMF, she was serving as the John Zwaanstra Professor of International Studies and Economics at Harvard University.

Defence India Startup Challenge 

The Defence India Startup Challenge has been launched by the Defence Innovation Organisation to boost innovations under the Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) scheme. The initiative has been launched with support from the Department of Defence Production, Ministry of Defence, Atal Innovation Mission and NITI Aayog.

The Defence India Startup Challenge calls for proposals to address specific technological needs of the Indian defence establishment.

Problem Statements under the Defence India Startup Challenge

The Ministry of Defence has stated 11 problem statements for prospective solutions to be provided by the Indian startup ecosystem. The problem statements are:

  • Individual Protection System with built-in sensors
  • See Through Armour
  • Carbon Fibre Winding (CFW)
  • Active Protection System (APS)
  • Secure hardware based offline Encrypt or Device for Graded Security
  • Development of 4G/LTE based Tactical Local Area Network
  • Development of Advanced Technology Based Desalination System (Water Purification) and Bilge Oily Water Separation System
  • Artificial Intelligence in Logistics & SCM
  • Unmanned Surface and Underwater Vehicles
  • Remotely Piloted Airborne Vehicles
  • Laser Weaponry

Start-ups showing capability, intent, and promise to be able to produce functional prototypes or to productise existing technologies in areas listed in the problem statement will be awarded up to Rs. 1.5 crores, on a milestone basis in the form of grant/equity/debt/other relevant structures along with incubation and mentoring support.

Defence Innovation Organisation is a ‘not for profit’ company under section 8 of the Companies Act. The Defence Innovation Organisation is funded by two Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs), namely Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL). The headquarters of the Defence Innovation Organisation is located at Bengaluru.

Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) scheme

Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) scheme is aimed at the creation of an ecosystem to foster innovation and technology development in Defence and Aerospace by engaging Industries including MSMEs, Startups, Individual Innovators, R&D institutes and Academia and provide them grants/funding and other support to carry out R&D which has good potential for future adoption for Indian defence and aerospace needs. The Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) will function as the executive arm of the Defence Innovation Organisation.

DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2018

The DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2018 was introduced in Lok Sabha by the Minister of Science and Technology Harsh Vardhan.

Features of the Bill

The bill aims to allow the use of DNA technology for establishing the identity of certain persons, including victims, offenders and missing persons. The features of the bill are:

  • The Bill regulates the use of DNA technology for establishing the identity of persons in respect of matters listed in a Schedule which include criminal matters (such as offences under the Indian Penal Code, 1860), and civil matters such as parentage disputes, emigration or immigration, and transplantation of human organs.
  • The Bill seeks to establish a National DNA Data Bank and Regional DNA Data Banks.
  • As per the provisions of the bill, every Data Bank is required to maintain the following indices: (i) crime scene index, (ii) suspects’ or undertrials’ index, (iii) offenders’ index, (iv) missing persons’ index, and (v) unknown deceased persons’ index.
  • The Bill establishes a DNA Regulatory Board to accredit the DNA laboratories that analyse DNA samples to establish the identity of an individual.
  • It is mandatory to get written consent by individuals to collect DNA samples from them. The consent is not required for offences with the punishment of more than seven years of imprisonment or death.
  • The Bill provides for the removal of DNA profiles of suspects on the filing of a police report or court order. The DNA profiles of undertrials can be removed on the basis of a court order.  Profiles in the crime scene and missing person’s index will be removed on a written request.

The members of the house citing privacy concerns requested for referring the bill to the standing committee of the Parliament.

New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Bill

The Lok Sabha has passed the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Bill to set up a revamped International Arbitration Centre at New Delhi with an aim to make India the hub of arbitration.

New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Bill

The features of the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Bill are:

  • The bill seeks to establish an independent and autonomous regime for institutionalised arbitration and for acquisition and transfer of undertakings of the International Centre of Alternative Resolution.
  • The New Delhi International Arbitration Centre will take over the undertakings of the International Centre for Alternative Dispute Resolution (ICADR). The chief justice of India is the ex-officio chairperson of the ICADR.
  • The New Delhi International Arbitration Centre is being set up as per the recommendation of the Justice B N Srikrishna committee formed to identify the roadblocks in the development of institutional arbitration in India.
  • Justice B N Srikrishna committee had recommended that ICADR should be taken over with complete revamp of its governance structure to include only experts of repute who can lend credibility and respectability to the institution and be re-branded as a centre of national importance to highlight its character as a flagship arbitral institution.

The bill to establish, New Delhi International Arbitration Centre is part of the government efforts to develop the centre into a world-class arbitration centre and India as the hub of international arbitration.

Polavaram Multipurpose project

Andhra Pradesh was conferred with CBIP’s “Best Implementation of Water Resources Project” for better planning, implementation, monitoring and speedy execution of Polavaram multipurpose project on the Godavari River.

Under the Polavaram Multipurpose project, a dam is constructed across the Godavari River in West Godavari District and East Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh. The reservoir of the dam also spreads to parts of Chhattisgarh and Orissa States.

Through the Polavaram Project, 291,000 ha of new land will be brought under irrigation in which 129,000 ha by the right canal and 162,000 ha by the left canal.

Central Board of Irrigation and Power is a Premier Institution of Indian government rendering dedicated services to the professional organization, engineers and individuals in the country related to Power, Water Resources and Renewable Energy Sectors for the last 90 years. CBIP was established in the year 1927.

Atal Solar Krishi Pump Yojana

The government of Maharashtra has decided to give two LED bulbs, a DC fan and a mobile charging socket as freebies to farmers enrolling under the Atal Solar Krishi Pump Yojana.

Atal Solar Krishi Pump Yojana

The government of Maharashtra introduced the Atal Solar Krishi Pump Yojana to reduce losses due to non-payment of electricity bills and also promote solar energy. The features of the Atal Solar Krishi Pump Yojana are:

  • The government would provide solar pumps at subsidised rates for the farmers.
  • Under the Scheme, farmers with less than five acres will have to pay 5 per cent of the cost of a 3 HP solar pump while farmers with more than five acres will get a 5 HP solar pump for Rs 30000.

With the scheme, the government aims to reach out to farmers from remote areas where the agricultural feeder is not possible.

Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2018

The Lok Sabha has passed the Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2018. The bill aims to amend the Companies Act, 2013. The bill would replace the ordinance promulgated on November 2018.

The features of the bill are:

  • It provides for re-categorisation of offences. The bill re-categorises 16 offences including the issuance of shares at a discount, and failure to file an annual return as a civil offence.
  • The bill aims to remove the clause of imprisonment for officers for defaulting the rule which prohibits issuing shares at a discount, except in certain cases. Instead, the bill provides for a penalty equal to the amount raised by the issue of shares at a discount or five lakh rupees, whichever is lower.
  • The Bill states that a company may not commence business, unless it files a declaration within 180 days of incorporation, confirming that every subscriber to the Memorandum of the company has paid the value of shares agreed to be taken by him, and files a verification of its registered office address with the Registrar of Companies within 30 days of incorporation.
  • The Bill transfers the power to approve any changes in the financial year for a company associated with a foreign company and any alteration in the incorporation document of a public company which has the effect of converting it to a private company to the central government from the National Company Law Tribunal.
  • The Bill provides that failure make a declaration of interest when a person holds the beneficial interest of at least 25% shares in a company or exercises significant influence or control over the company may either be fined or imprisoned for up to one year or both.
  • The bill increases the ceiling up to which the regional director can compound (settle) offences with a penalty of up to twenty-five lakhs from five lakh rupees.

The amendments are brought in as per the recommendations of a committee constituted to suggest changes to the Companies Act, 2013.

Chandrayaan-2

Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) will most likely launch Chandrayaan-2, the country’s second mission to the Moon in the month of February.

The features of the Chandrayaan-2 mission are:

  • Chandrayaan-2 mission is a totally indigenous venture comprising of an orbiter, a lander and a rover.
  • There would be a controlled descent and the lander would soft-land on the lunar surface at a specified site and deploy a rover.
  • The rover would then move around the landing site on the lunar surface in a semi-autonomous mode as decided by the ground commands.
  • The rover will observe the lunar surface and send back the data. This data will be useful for analysis of the lunar soil.
  • The payloads will collect scientific information on lunar topography, mineralogy, elemental abundance, lunar exosphere and signatures of hydroxyl and water-ice.
  • The 3,290-kg Chandrayaan-2 will orbit the Moon and perform the objectives of remote sensing the moon.

Accomplishments of Chandrayaan-1

India’s first lunar probe Chandrayaan-1 was launched by the ISRO in October 2008 and operated till August 2009. The Chandrayaan-1 had confirmed the magma ocean hypothesis, which stated that the moon was once completely molten. In its ten-month orbit around the moon, Chandrayaan-1 had detected titanium and had confirmed the presence of calcium. Chandrayaan-1 had gathered the most accurate measurements yet of magnesium, aluminium and iron on the lunar surface.

China’s Chang’e 4 probe makes historic touchdown

China’s Chang’e 4 probe spacecraft has become the first spacecraft to land on the far side of the moon.

Chang’e 4 is a Chinese lunar exploration mission that aims to achieve soft-landing on the far side of the Moon. The mission aims to deliver samples of Moon rock and soil to Earth.

About the Mission:

  • For the first time, there would be soft-landing on the far side of the Moon.
  • China’s mission consists of a static lander and rover.
  • The rover will touch down on the Von Kármán crater, located on the side of the Moon which never faces Earth.
  • During the landing, the probe will descend on thrusters and touch down on the rugged terrain of the lunar far side.
  • The landers will aid in characterising the region’s geology and the composition of rock and soil.
  • Chang’e-4’s instruments would examine whether the impact which created the South Pole Aitken Basin has punched through the crust down to the Moon’s mantle layer. This will shed light on the early history of our only natural satellite.
  • The Chang’e-4 mission will also characterise the “radio environment” on the far side to lay the groundwork for the creation of future radio astronomy telescopes on the far side, which is shielded from the radio noise of Earth.
  • To study the respiration of the seeds and the photosynthesis on the Moon the static lander is carrying a container with potato and Arabidopsis plant seeds to perform a biological experiment.
  • The lander will send the data through the satellite Queqiao of China.
  • Von Kármán crater is located within the oldest and largest impact feature on the Moon – the South Pole-Aitken Basin, which was formed by a giant asteroid impact billions of years ago.

The Chang’e-4 mission is part of the Chinese larger lunar exploration mission. The first and second Chang’e missions were aimed at gathering data from orbit. The third and fourth missions concentrated on surface operations. The fifth and sixth are sample return missions, delivering lunar rock and soil to laboratories on Earth.

NASA’s New Horizon spacecraft flew past Ultima Thule

The New Horizon Spacecraft has flown past Ultima Thule, a trans-Neptunian object located in the Kuiper belt. This marks a new beginning in the era of exploration from the enigmatic Kuiper Belt region.

Discoveries about Ultima Thule

The New Horizon has discovered interesting facts about Ultima Thule:

  • Ultima Thule (TOO-lee) has two reddish globes joined by a narrow neck, much like a
  • Ultima Thule is 4 billion miles (6.4 billion kilometres) from Earth.
  • Ultima Thule is spinning like a propeller.

New Horizon Mission

New Horizon Mission is an interplanetary space probe part of NASA’s New Frontiers programme. The New Horizon was launched in 2006 to with

  • The primary mission to perform a flyby study of the Pluto system in 2015.
  • The secondary mission to fly by and study one or more other Kuiper belt objects.

The New Horizons mission was aimed at getting insights about the edge of our solar system by making the first reconnaissance of the dwarf planet Pluto and by venturing deeper into the distant, mysterious Kuiper Belt which is a relic of solar system formation.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) provincial government of Pakistan has declared the ancient Hindu religious site of Panj Tirath in Peshawar of North Western Pakistan as national heritage.

The Directorate of Archaeology and Museums of KP has issued a notification under the KP Antiquities Act 2016 declaring the land in the Panj Tirath Park as a heritage site.

Significance of the Site

Panj Tirath derives its name from the five pools of water in the site which also has a temple. According to the epic of Mahabharat, the mythical king Pandu belonged to this area and Hindus used to come to these pools for bathing during the auspicious month of Karteek and worship for two days under the trees.

Aadhaar amendment Bill

The government has introduced the Aadhaar amendment bill in Loksabha. The bill aims to provide legal backing for voluntary seeding of biometric Aadhaar ID for mobile SIM card and bank account authentication purposes.

Features of the Bill-2018

  • The bill seeks to amend the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016, the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 and the Prevention of Money-laundering Act, 2002.
  • The amendment permits children, who would turn 18 years old, to opt out of the system.
  • The amendments make sharing of Aadhaar details voluntary for opening bank accounts, school admissions and procuring mobile SIM cards.
  • The bill provides for stiff penalties for .violation of norms set for the use of Aadhaar.
  • The amendment bill ban storing of core biometric information as well as Aadhaar number by service providers in cases of individuals who have voluntarily offered the national ID as a means of authentication.
  • The bill makes it clear that anyone not offering Aadhaar cannot be denied any service, be it a bank account or a SIM card.
  • The bill lays down the procedure for …offline verification of an Aadhaar number holder and confers enhanced regulator-like power on Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to give directions as it may consider necessary to any entity in the Aadhaar ecosystem.

Why the amendments are proposed?

While upholding the constitutional validity of Aadhaar, the Supreme Court had held struck down Section 57 of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 that permitted private entities like telecom companies or other corporate to avail of the biometric Aadhaar data. Hence to address the issues like recognising the authentification of those who provided Aadhaar as the identity proof, the amendments are brought in by the government.

Parliamentary Panel Report on Western Ghats

The Western Ghats has an exceptionally high level of biological diversity and endemism and is recognized as one of the world’s eight ‘hottest hotspots’ of biological diversity. The Western Ghats represents geomorphic features of immense importance with unique biophysical and ecological processes.

The Rajya Sabha Committee on Government Assurances has examined issues related to the categorisation of the Western Ghats as ecologically sensitive areas (ESA) as per the recommendations of two committees led by Madhav Gadgil and K. Kasturirangan.

Observations of the Committee

The Rajya Sabha Committee on Government Assurances has made the following observations:

  • The ecologically sensitive areas (ESA) in the Western Ghats could not be earmarked due to State governments’ ‘insensitivity’.
  • The recent floods in Kerala and parts of Karnataka must serve as an alarm bells for the governments in the States of Goa, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, which have failed to mark ESA in the Western Ghats.
  • Despite three draft notifications issued over four years for earmarking ESA, the State governments could not be brought on board for action.
  • As a result over 56,000 square km of ESA could not be earmarked as ‘no-go’ zones for polluting activities and deforestation. Hence large-scale deforestation, mining, and construction are continuing unabated, hurting the ecology of the Western Ghats.

The parliamentary panel has urged the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to constitute a committee to address the issues and grievances of State governments and local people.

Monuments of national importance declared in 2018

The six monuments declared as Monuments as Monuments of national importance in 2018 are:

  • Old High Court Building in Nagpur, Maharashtra
  • Haveli of Agha Khan in Agra
  • Haveli of Hathi Khana in Agra
  • Neemrana Baori in Rajasthan’s Alwar district
  • Group of Temples at Ranipur Jharail in Odisha’s Bolangir district
  • Vishnu Temple in Kotali, Pithoragarh district, Uttarkhand.

Criterion 

The Archaeological Survey of India declares a site as Monument of National importance based on the following criterion:

  • The remains of an ancient monument
  • The site of an ancient monument
  • The land on which there are fences or protective covering structures for preserving the monument
  • Land by means of which people can freely access the monument

What is an Ancient Monument-The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 defines Ancient Monument as any structure, erection or monument, or any tumulus or place of interment, or any cave, rock-sculpture, inscription or monolith which is of historical, archaeological or artistic interest and which has been in existence for not less than 100 yea

GEF assisted Green – Ag Project

The Government has launched the “Green – Ag: Transforming Indian Agriculture for global environmental benefits and the conservation of critical biodiversity and forest landscapes” in association with Global Environment Facility (GEF).

About the Project

The features of the project are:

  • The project would be implemented in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in high-conservation-value landscapes of five States namely,

(i) Madhya Pradesh: Chambal Landscape, (ii) Mizoram: Dampa Landscape, (iii) Odisha: Similipal Landscape, (iv) Rajasthan: Desert National Park Landscape and v) Uttarakhand: Corbett-Rajaji Landscape.

  • The Green-Ag project seeks to integrate biodiversity, climate change and sustainable land management objectives and practices into Indian agriculture.
  • The project aims to catalyze a transformative change of India’s agricultural sector to support the achievement of national and global environmental benefits and conservation of critical biodiversity and forest landscapes.

The project supports harmonization between India’s agricultural and environmental sector priorities and investments to realise the national and global environmental benefits without compromising on India’s ability to strengthen rural livelihoods and meet its food and nutrition security.

Export Promotion Cell for MSMEs

The Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises has established an Export Promotion Cell. The cell aims to create to create a sustainable ecosystem for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).’

Exports from the MSME sector

The performance of the MSMEs in the exports is listed below

  • The value of MSME-related export products was USD 147,390.08 million in 2017-18.
  • The share of MSME-related products in the country’s exports was 48.56 per cent during 2017-18.

The MSMEs still have a huge untapped potential. To cap this potential the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises has set up an Export Promotion Cell.

Benefits of the Promotion Cell

MSMEs are the pillars of the Indian economy. The promotion cell aims to create a sustainable ecosystem for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). The Promotion cell will aid the MSME sector in the following ways:

  • Integration of MSMEs into the global value chain.
  • Evaluation of readiness of MSMEs to export their products and services.
  • Recognition of areas where improvements are required in order to be able to export effectively and

High-level committee for  clause 6 of the Assam Accord

The Union cabinet has approved the setting up of a high-level committee for the implementation of clause 6 of the Assam Accord. 

The committee is formed to address the sense of feeling that clause 6 has not been fully implemented even almost 35 years after the accord was signed.

The clause 6 of the Assam Accord reads “Constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, as may be appropriate, shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.”

The Assam Accord came as a culmination of a movement against immigration from Bangladesh. The cutoff date to be considered as citizens of India under the accord was set at March 24, 1971.

The immigrant’s up to March 24, 1971, will get all rights as citizens of India.

But the immigrants are not eligible for safeguards meant for Assamese people because the cutoff for defining “Assamese people” eligible for the proposed safeguards was set at National registry of Citizens, 1951. Hence those who migrated between 1951 and 1971 to

What the committee will look ?

  • The committee shall examine the effectiveness of actions since 1985 to implement the clause.
  • The committee will suggest constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards as envisaged in clause 6.
  • Examine the measures to be taken to protect Assamese and other indigenous languages of Assam.
  • Assessing the quantum of reservation in employment under the government of Assam and other measures to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of Assamese people.
  • Assess the required quantum of reservation of seats in Assam assembly and local bodies for Assamese people.

The committee will hold consultation with all the stakeholders and recommend the necessary measures to the government.

Assam would be Indian citizens, but would not be eligible for safeguards meant for “Assamese people”.

Measures to tackle stubble burning

Stubble burning in states such as Haryana and Punjab is a major cause of air pollution in north India in October and November. The stubble burning is one of the main reasons for the higher level of pollutants in the air in the National Capital Region. The Central government has initiated following steps to reduce and eradicate the stubble burning in the neighbouring states of NCR:

  • The government is also taking steps to popularize …zero tillage farming where the crop seed will be sown through drillers without prior land preparation and disturbing the soil where previous crop stubbles are present.
  • In the budget of the ..2018-19, the central government had announced a special scheme’ to encourage farmers in these states to shift to alternative ways of dealing with agricultural waste.
  • In pursuance of the announcement in the budget, the government announced a central sector scheme on ‘Promotion of Agricultural Mechanization for In-Situ Management of Crop Residue in the States of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and NCT of Delhi’.
  • The scheme provides for.. in-situ crop residue management machinery to the farmers on subsidy, the establishment of Custom Hiring Centres (CHCs) of in-situ crop residue management machinery and undertaking Information, Education and Communication (IEC) activities for creating awareness among farmers to avoid stubble burning.
  • The Union Ministry of Power has brought out a …policy for biomass utilization for power generation through co-firing in pulverized coal-fired boilers. The Ministry of Power has decided that the States of Haryana and Punjab shall issue bids for all coal based Thermal Power Plants to use a minimum of 5 per cent of biomass pellets and up to 10 per cent to be co-fired with coal.

These measures have made a positive impact. The satellite data indicates that paddy residue burning events in 2018 have reduced by 29.5 per cent, 24.5 per cent and 11.0 per cent in the States of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, respectively when compared with the paddy residue burning events in the year 2017.

Amendments to the Trade Union Act, 1926

The Union Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved the amendment to the Trade Union Act, 1926.

Amendments Proposed

The amendment bill provides for inserting of section 10A in the Trade Union Act, 1926 to power centre and state governments to recognize trade unions and federation of trade unions at central as well as state level.

The amendment bill once passed by the parliament, the Ministry of Labour would issue rules and regulations prescribing the manner of recognition of these trade unions.

Benefits to Trade Unions

  • Reduce the duplicacy of such exercise by different departments.
  • Ensure true representation of workers in the tripartite bodies in a transparent manner.
  • Check on the arbitrary nomination of workers’ representatives by the Government.
  • The recognised trade unions may be assigned specific roles at Central or State level. This would aid in developing inclusive governance.

The Indian Trade Unions Act, 1926 provided for only registration of trade unions and there was a long pending demand to grant recognition to trade unions. The amendment bill fulfils this long-standing demand

Go Green Initiatives in Indian Railways

Railways form the backbone of the Indian Transportation System. The Railways has undertaken following measures under its Go Green initiatives:

  • Ministry of Railways has planned to set up …1000 Mega Watt (MW) solar power by 2020-21. This would help Railways to source about 10% of its electrical energy from renewable source.
  • Wind energy plants of 36.5 MW ..have been installed by the Railways.
  • Almost all electrified Railway stations and 99% of service buildings have been fitted with ..100% LED luminaries by Indian Railways to reduce power consumption.
  • Railways have started blending of…… 5% bio-diesel in High-Speed Diesel (HSD) for diesel locomotives.
  • 20% Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) substitution in diesel engines of Diesel Power Cars of Diesel Electric Multiple Unit (DEMU) trains and the introduction of solar energy based DEMUs.
  • Tree plantation to increase green cover in Railway Premises.
  • Water Audits at major consumption centres as well as the proliferation of Water Recycling Plants and Rain Water Harvesting (RWH) Systems as a step towards better water management.
  • Assessment and rating of Indian Railway’s Production Units and major Workshops as Green Industrial Units.
  • Nearly 163,000 bio-toilets have been installed in around 44,500 coaches.
  • Increasing the pace of electrification to reduce the dependency on fossil fuels.

Also, the Ministry of Railways has taken a policy decision for allocating 1% cost in all sanctioned works for execution of environment-related works.

How Metro Policy 2017 can be made more effective

The Metro rail Policy 2017 was released by the central government to issue clear directives for undertaking Metro rail projects in various urban centres. The policy was a welcome change from the meandering development in the Metro rail sphere happening all over the country.

Components of the Metro Policy 2017

The Metro Policy 2017 laid out three significant conditions for catalyzing the development of Metro rail systems. They are:

  • It will be the responsibility of the state governments ..to explore and choose various options for urban mobility and then implement the project.
  • A ..comprehensive mobility plan (CMP) is a mandatory prerequisite for planning Metro rail in any city.
  • Constitution of a statutory body called the …Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (UMTA) for ensuring an integrated approach in planning and management of urban transport.

Making the Policy more Effective

Metro policy 2017 is a well-thought-out plan but it has left some gaps. The gaps lie in the details of the policy. The following amendments must be made to make the policy more effective:

  • The UMTA must be set up as a statutory body and must be adequately staffed.
  • CMP should be prepared and issued by the statutory body only, and no other agency.
  • For Metro services to be effective, it is important to the metro system with secondary and tertiary transport feeder services. Hence UMTA should ideally have powers to regulate fares for all urban transport units and prepare, monitor and audit the CMP.
  • It is a well-known fact that no Metro line anywhere in the world is financially remunerative. The Metro policy itself states that social and economic viability too must be assessed and be a part of the whole analysis. But it is necessary to bring clarity on how the viability gap will be bridged.
  • It must be made mandatory for states to put a fare fixation committee in place in accordance with the Metro Railways Act, 2002 to ensure the Metro fares do not become a pawn in a political slugfest.

India is witnessing a rapid pace of urbanisation. It has become important to introduce an efficient transport system. Hence it has become an urgent need for introducing these amendments to the policy to ensure that the Metro rail projects are finalized after a holistic assessment. This will ensure that projects run smoothly once they are put into operation.

Parliament passes NCTE amendment Bill

The Parliament has given its approval to the National Council for Teacher Education (Amendment) Bill, 2018. The bill aims to protect the interest of the students who had completed courses from unrecognized institutes.

Features of the Bill

The important features of the bill are:

  • The Bill grants retrospective recognition to institutions offering teacher education courses after the establishment of the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) until the academic year 2017-18.
  • The Bill grants retrospective permission to start a new course or training in teacher education to institutions which satisfy certain conditions and which have offered teacher education courses after the establishment of the NCTE until the academic year 2017-2018.

Why the bill was necessary?

As per the data from the Ministry of Human Resource Development, 23 state and Central universities and colleges offering B.Ed courses were found not recognised by the National Council for Teacher Education.

As a result, the fate of thousands of students who had completed the courses from these unrecognized institutes was in jeopardy as their degrees would not be recognized anywhere. Hence the granting of retrospective permission had become a necessity.

Parliament passes RTE amendment Bill

The Parliament has given its approval for the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill, 2018.

What was the amendment proposed?

The features of the amendment proposed are:

  • The amendment bill does away with the…. no-detention policy mentioned in the law.
  • The amendment bill now ….leaves it to the states to decide whether they want to continue the no detention policy.
  • The states can choose to hold a regular examination either at the end of Classes 5 and 8, or both.
  • Students who fail this test will be provided with additional instructions and the opportunity to appear for a re-examination within two months of the declaration of the result.
  • If the student still does not pass the exam, the state government may decide to detain the student.
  • If a state decides to continue with the no-detention policy till Class 8, the amendment bill makes it clear that no child can be expelled from school before they complete elementary education

No detention Policy

The features of the No detention policy are:

  • The no detention policy was introduced in the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009. The act prohibited schools from detaining students till they complete elementary education.
  • The no detention policy banned the practice of making under-performing children repeat classes in elementary school to ensure they do not drop out.
  • The no detention policy was brought in to reduce the emphasis on year-end examinations and replace it with a form of evaluation that would track students’ progress through the year.

Why the no detention policy was withdrawn?

The Parliamentary Standing Committee had made the following observations:

  • The RTE act focused on the quantitative expansion of education. As a result, the quality aspects of teaching and learning were relegated to the backburner.
  • The committee noted that there was no pressure on the children to learn and on the teachers to teach.  Therefore, there was a need for policy change so as to improve the learning of children at elementary stage of education.
  • The NCERT’s National Achievement Survey and the ASER report consistently pointed towards the abysmally low learning levels among school children.

To address these anomalies, a decision was made to leave it to the states to decide on the no detention policy to address the issue of deteriorating quality of education.

Pakistan withdraws on-arrival visa facility

Pakistan has decided to withdraw the facility of on-arrival visas for Afghan nationals. Pakistan has cited security risks and the spike in terror attacks as the reasons for the withdrawal. Now the Afghan Nationals are required to apply for a visa from Pakistani missions in Afghanistan.

New Visa Policy for Afghans

As per the new policy:

  • Afghans are required to apply for a visa from Pakistani missions in Afghanistan.
  • After the issuance of Visa, Afghan nationals will be allowed to enter Pakistan.
  • On entry, Afghans will be asked to fill out details including the time period and place of stay.
  • Once the details are verified Afghan nationals will be issued residence and travel permits.

Impact on Afghan Population

Afghanistan is a war-hit country, still trying to bring back normalcy. Afghan refugees have fled their country due to war, violence and ensuing economic turmoil. Thousands of Afghans daily enter Pakistan for business, medical and educational purposes or meet their relatives. The new visa rules will create problems for those who need timely medical attention or other urgent visits.

 National Nritya Shiromani award

Kathak exponent Anindita Neogy Anaam has been honoured with the prestigious National Nritya Shiromani award for her contribution towards preserving and promoting the dance form across the world. The award was conferred during the 10th Cuttack Mahotsav: International Dance and Music festival.

Cuttack Mahotsav: International Dance and Music Festival

The Cuttack Mahotsav is an International Dance and Music festival organised by Utkal Yuva Sanskrutik Sangh, in collaboration with the state government’s department of Odia language.

Anindita Neogy Anaam

US-based Kathak exponent Anindita Neogy Anaam has been trained under Pandit Rajendra Gangani and Pandit Jaikishan Maharaj. She has acquainted herself with both Jaipur and Lucknow Gharana of the art-form. She has been awarded the National Nritya Shiromani award for her contribution towards preserving and promoting the Kathak dance form across the world.

106th Session of Indian Science Congress

Prime Minister, Narendra Modi delivered the inaugural address at the 106th session of the Indian Science Congress. The 106th Indian Science Congress is being held at Jalandhar. The theme of the 106th science congress is ‘Future India: Science and Technology’.

Reflecting on the theme of ‘Future India: Science and Technology’, PM Modi said that he would like to add Jai Anusandhan to former prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri’s famous slogan of Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan and Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s Jai Vigyan. He gave the nation a new slogan Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan, Jai Vigyan and Jai Anusandhan.

Indian Science Congress

Indian Science Congress is organised by the Indian Science Congress Association every year in the first week of January. The Indian Science Congress Association was started in the year 1914 in Kolkata and has a membership of more than 30,000 scientists.

 FDI rules in e-commerce

The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) under the Ministry of Commerce has clarified that the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) rules for e-commerce have not allowed foreign investment in the inventory-based model or multi-brand retailing.

Provisions for FDI in e-commerce

The DIPP has clarified on the following provisions:

  • FDI is allowed only in the business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce segment and not in the business-to-consumer (B2C) segment which in effect is the multi-brand retail or the inventory-based e-commerce model.
  • DIPP further has clarified that through FDI in B2B e-commerce, an e-commerce entity providing marketplace will not, directly or indirectly, influence the sale price of goods or services. If it does so, such renders such business would be rendered as an inventory based model.

The DIPP clarifies that an e-commerce platform operating an inventory based model does not only violate the FDI policy on e-commerce but also circumvents the FDI policy restrictions on multi-brand retail trading.

India rebuts CDC Zika alert

The Indian Government has strongly rebutted the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) travel advisory for Indian travel. The Zika alert will adversely affect tourism.

The CDC’s travel advisory forbids pregnant women to travel to India as Zika is “endemic” in the country. The advisory also asks travellers to take precaution to prevent mosquito bites and use condoms or not have sex to protect against Zika during travel.

Zika- is a mosquito-borne infection spread by a virus. Zika was first identified in Uganda in 1947 among monkeys and was detected in humans five years later. Sporadic cases have since been reported across the world since the 1960s. In 2015, Brazil reported a major Zika outbreak. The research’s also linked Zika to microcephaly (i.e. babies born with small and underdeveloped brains).

Amendments to POCSO Act.

The Union Cabinet has approved amendments to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012. The amendments are proposed by the Ministry of Women and Child Development.

Amendments Proposed

POSCO is a gender-neutral law protects both boys and girls under the age of 18. The amendments proposed are:

  • The amendments provide for stringent punishment, including the …death penalty, for committing aggravated penetrative sexual assault crime on a child, both boys and girls, below the age of 18.
  • The amendments extend the punishment for aggravated penetrative sexual assault from a minimum of 10 years to a minimum of 20 years, up to a maximum of life imprisonment and even the death penalty.
  • The amendments are proposed to protect children from sexual offences in times of natural calamities and disasters.

The Ministry of Women and Child Development cites the reports of rapes of young girls in the aftermath of Kedarnath floods.

Is law a deterrent?

Government proposes that amendments will further enhance the deterrence against sexual assault on children. But the data shows that less than 3% of all POCSO cases end in convictions and experts further warn against the chilling effect the death penalty may have on reporting the crime. Hence it can be said that law by itself will not be a deterrent but systemic changes in law enforcement and prosecution hold the key to tackling child sexual abuse.

 2nd biennial report on greenhouse gas inventory

India is mandated to submit a biennial update report containing updates of national greenhouse gas inventories and information on mitigation actions, needs and support received as a party to UNFCC.

The Union Cabinet chaired by PM Modi has approved the submission of second ….Biennial Update Report (BUR) to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), giving India’s national greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory of 2014.

India’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2014

The Biennial Update Report contains five major components National Circumstances, National Greenhouse Gas Inventory, Mitigation Actions; Finance, Technology and Capacity Building Needs and Support Received and Domestic Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) arrangements. The BUR reports following figures about India’s greenhouse gas emissions:

  • In India, a total of  2.607 billion tonnes of CC-2 equivalent of GHGs were emitted from all activities, excluding ‘land use, land use change and forestry’ (LULUCF) in 2014.
  • Net national GHG emissions after including LULUCF were 23,06,295 Gg CO2 equivalent or around 2.306 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent.
  • Energy sector accounted for 73 per cent, industrial processes and product use (IPPU) 8 per cent, agriculture 16 per cent and waste sector 3 per cent of emissions.
  • India is on course for achieving the target for emission intensity of the economy and share of non-fossil fuel-based power capacity.

India’s commitments IN Paris Agreement

India advocating the principle of common burden differential responsibility according to the respective capability has made three important commitments under the INDC. They are:

  • Reducing greenhouse gas emission intensity of India’s GDP by 33-35 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
  • 40 per cent of India’s power capacity would be based on non-fossil fuel sources.
  • Creating an additional ‘carbon sink’ of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of Co2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.

India’s commitments under the INDC’s are seen as most ambitious ones under the current circumstances.

 Gaganyaan project

The Union Cabinet has approved a budget of Rs 10,000 crore for India’s Gaganyaan project. The allocation of the budget comes after the announcement of Prime Minister that, an Indian would travel to space in an Indian spacecraft by 2022 in his 2018 Independence Day speech.

The Mission

  • The Mission aims to carry three human beings for a maximum period of seven days in space with the support of academia, the scientific community, industry, IAF and Isro (Indian Space Research Organisation).
  • India will launch two unmanned missions before the final mission. The first unmanned test-flight will be launched in December 2020.
  • The second unmanned test will be conducted in July 2021 and the human space flight will be launched in December 2021.
  • The module carrying three Indians will be attached to a service module. These two modules will comprise the orbital module that will be integrated with an advanced GSLV Mk III rocket.

  • The rocket will take the modules to the low-earth orbit (300-400 km) where they will perform micro-gravity and other scientific experiments for a week.
  • The orbital module will reorient itself. The crew and service module will get separated at 120km altitude.
  • The crew module will reduce the speed by applying aerobrake and parachutes will open just before the splashdown in the Arabian Sea.
  • The return journey will take approximately 36 minutes. The module can also land in the Bay of Bengal as a backup
  • The crew members will be jointly selected by the IAF and Isro. The crew members would be trained for two-three years.

Isro had started preparations for the project way back in 2004. Gaganyaan will also provide employment to around 15,000 people.

Nabin Chandra Das-

A postal stamp dedicated to Nabin Chandra Das, inventor of Rosogolla was launched on the inaugural day of the three-day festival, Bagbazar-O-Rosogolla Utsob marking the 150th year of its invention.

Bagbazar-O-Rasogolla Utsob

Bagbazar O Rosogolla Utsob, a three-day Rosogolla Utsav is being held at Bagbazar, Kolkata as a tribute to Nabin Chandra Das, inventor of Rosogolla. The statue of Nabin Chandra Das was also unveiled during the inaugural programme.

The battle over the ownership of Rosogolla started in 2015 when the government of West Bengal applied for the GI tag for the sweet. Odisha contested the West Bengal claim by narrating Rosogolla has a 600-year-old history in Odhisa.

Odhisa even cited mythological stories to claim that Lord Jagannath had offered kheer mohana to an angry Goddess Lakshmi in order to appease her and this kheer mohana later became Pahala Rosogolla.

The GI authorities ruled in the favour of West Bengal. The Odisha has now applied to get GI tag for a variant of Rosogolla, the Odishara Rosogolla.

National Commission for Homeopathy Bill, 2018 

The Union Cabinet has approved the National Commission for Homeopathy bill, 2018. The National Commission for Homeopathy seeks to replace the existing regulator Central Council of Homoeopathy.

Features of the Bill

The salient features of the draft National Commission for Homeopathy bill are:

  • Constitution of a national commission with three autonomous boards.

-The Homoeopathy Education Board to be vested with the responsibility of overseeing the Homeopathy education in the country.

-The board of assessment and rating to assess and grant recognition to educational institutions of Homoeopathy.

-Board of ethics and registration of practitioners of Homoeopathy to maintain National Register and deal with ethical issues relating to practice.

  • The bill also proposes a common entrance exam and an exit exam which all graduates will have to clear to get practicing licenses.
  • The bill proposes a teacher’s eligibility test to assess the standard of teachers before appointment and promotions.

The bill aims at bringing reforms in the medical education of homoeopathy in line with the National Medical Commission proposed for setting up for allopathy system of medicine. The National Commission for Homeopathy aims to promote transparency and accountability.

 National Commission for Indian Systems of Medicine (NCIM) Bill, 2018 

The Union Cabinet has approved the National Commission for Indian Systems of Medicine (NCIM) Bill, 2018. The bill seeks to replace the existing regulator, the Central Council for Indian Medicine (CCIM).

Features of the Bill

  • The bill provides for the constitution of a National Commission with…four autonomous boards.

-The Board of Ayurveda would be responsible for overseeing the overall education of Ayurveda.

-The Board of Unani, Siddha and Sowarigpa will be responsible for overseeing the overall education of Unani, Siddha and Sowarigpa.

-The bill provides for two common boards, Board of Assessment and Rating and Board of Ethics and Registration.

  • The Board of Assessment and Rating would be responsible to assess and grant permission to educational institutions of Indian systems of Medicine.
  • The Board of Ethics and Registration of practitioners of Indian systems of medicine would maintain National Register and deal with ethical issues relating to practice under the National Commission for Indian Medicine,
  • The bill also proposes a common entrance exam and an exit exam which all graduates will have to clear to get practicing licenses.
  • The bill proposes a teacher’s eligibility test to assess the standard of teachers before appointment and promotions.

The bill aims at bringing reforms in the medical education of Indian systems in line with the National Medical Commission proposed for setting up for allopathy system of medicine. The National Commission for Indian Systems of Medicine aims to promote transparency and accountability

Bimal Jalan Panel 

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has set up an expert committee, headed by its former governor Bimal Jalan, to suggest how the central bank should handle its reserves and whether it can transfer its surplus to the government. The committee will submit its report within 90 days of its first meeting.

The expert committee headed by Bimal Jalan will have former RBI deputy governor Rakesh Mohan as its vice chairman.

RBI Reserves

RBIs contingency fund core reserve is only around 7% of its total assets and the rest of it is largely in revaluation reserves. Revaluation reserves fluctuate with corresponding changes in currency and gold valuations.

In 2017-18, the central bank’s contingency funds and revaluation reserves stood at ₹2.32 trillion and ₹6.92 trillion respectively.

The data shows that the growth in revaluation reserves has far exceeded the growth in the contingency fund. While revaluation reserves have more than tripled from ₹1.99 trillion in 2008-09 to ₹6.92 trillion in 2017-18, the contingency fund has grown 50% during the same period from ₹1.53 trillion to ₹2.32 trillion.

Core Reserve and Revaluation Reserve

Core Reserves are considered to be of highest quality and consists mainly of share capital and disclosed reserve. They are fully available to cover losses

Revaluation reserves arise from revaluation of assets that are undervalued in the bank’s books, Ex: Marketable Securities. The Revaluation Reserves can be used as a cushion for unexpected losses and depends mainly upon the level of certainty that can be placed on estimates.

Why the committee was formed?

The RBI and the government were at loggerhead over the transfer of surplus. The committee has been formed to look into this issue. The committee will:

  • Decide whether RBI is holding provisions, reserves and buffers in the surplus of the required levels.
  • Propose a suitable profits distribution policy taking into account all the likely situations of the RBI, including the situations of holding more provisions than required and the RBI holding lesser provisions than require

 Mahila Police Volunteer Scheme

The proposal from the states of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Mizoram, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh for the implementation of Mahila Police Volunteer Scheme has been approved by the union government.

Haryana was the first state to adopt the initiative of Mahila Police Volunteer at Karnal and Mahindergarh District on a pilot basis under the Nirbhaya Fund during the financial year 2016-2017.

Mahila Police Volunteer Scheme

The Mahila Police Volunteer was initiated by the Ministry of Women and Child Development in collaboration with the Ministry of Home Affairs. The salient features of the scheme are:

  • A Mahila Police Volunteer could be any woman who is socially and voluntarily committed towards empowerment of women and girls, willing to raise her voice against gender-based violence and support the police in creating a gender just society free from violence.
  • A Mahila Police Volunteer should be minimum 21 years of age and possess at least 12th pass certificate.
  • A Mahila Police Volunteer must be from the same geographical area and conversant with the local dialects.
  • No criminal proceedings must have been instituted against her and she must not have been convicted or imprisoned for the violation of any criminal law.
  • A Mahila Police Volunteer should not be a member of any political party.
  • The Mahila Police Volunteers in the States/UTs will act as a link between police and community and help women in distress.
  • There will be one Mahila Police Volunteer per Gram Panchayat.
  • Mahila Police volunteers will directly report to the Circle Inspector in the Police Thana.
  • The Mahila Police volunteers are required to mobilize the community to form Mahila and Shishu Rakshak Dals (MASRD) to act as community watch groups.

The Ministry of Women and Child Development has requested Chief Secretaries of all States and UTs to adopt this initiative in their respective States.

 International Rice Research Institute’s South Asia Regional Centre

Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the International Rice Research Institute South Asia Regional Centre (IRRI SARC) in…. Varanasi. It is the sixth campus of IRRI SARC. The institute will complement the government’s effort to double farmer’s income by 2022.

IRRI South Asia Regional Centre (IRRI SARC)

The components of the IRRI SARC are:

  • The education and training arm of IRRI SARC will educate scientists and agriculture leaders about the latest technologies and innovations for sustainable farming.
  • The IRRI SARC will house laboratories for digital crop monitoring and assessment.
  • IRRI SARC will house demonstration fields for testing various varieties of rice.
  • IRRI SARC will also house  Centre of Excellence in Rice Value Addition (CERVA), which would be a suite of modern laboratories where rice grains are assessed for quality and nutritional value and sensory evaluations for grain taste, texture and aroma are conducted on-site facilities.

International Rice Research Institute

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is a dynamic and rapidly evolving organization which focuses on solving complex global problems through vibrant, rice-based agri-food systems. It is headquartered in Los Baños, Laguna in the Philippines.

Benefits of the IRRI SARC

The IRRI SARC centre will aid in the following ways:

  • It will serve as a hub for rice research and training in South Asia and SAARC region.
  • The IRRI SARC will aid in improving crop production, seed quality and the nutritional value of rice.
  • The centre will work with national partners to enhance farmers’ knowledge and income and deliver advanced research, teaching and services in the connection.

Together with giving impetus to Indian agriculture the centre will catalyze South-South collaboration, strengthen the research expertise and capacity of rice-growing countries in the region, and contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals.

One District, One Product scheme of Uttar Pradesh

The government of Uttar Pradesh has initiated One District, One Product scheme to encourage indigenous and specialized products and crafts of the state. The scheme aims to capitalize the rich heritage of the Uttar Pradesh by reviving them through modernization and publicisation to enhance the reach of these products.

Objective of the Scheme

Uttar Pradesh is a vast state with vast diversity in all facets of life. The diversity of products and crafts in UP is breathtaking. The vast diversity encompasses the ancient and…… nutritious Kala namak rice, the rare and intriguing ….wheat-stalk craft, ……..world-famous chikankari and …….zari-zardozi work on clothes, the intricate and stunning horn and bone work that uses the remains of dead animals rather than live ones, a nature-friendly replacement for ivory.

Many of these rich traditions are facing the existential threat. The One District, One Product aims to revive these traditional heritages by reviving them through modernization and publicisation.

Rajasthan cabinet scraps education criteria for civic poll candidates.

The new government of Rajasthan has abolished the condition of a minimum educational qualification to contest local body elections. The cabinet also decided on holding the election of mayors and chairman’s in corporations through the direct system instead of the indirect method introduced by the previous government.

Criteria’s for contesting in local polls

As per the Rajasthan Panchayati Raj Amendment Bill 2015, Candidates were:

  • Required to have passed Class X for contesting municipal elections, Class VIII for contesting panchayat polls for the post of a sarpanch, and Class X for contesting zila parishad or panchayat samiti elections.
  • Construction of toilets in their homes as mandatory for contesting polls to the panchayati raj institutions in the state.

Even Haryana had passed a similar law mandating minimum education qualification for those contesting in Panchayat Raj Institutions. The constitutional validity of this law of Haryana was questioned in the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court had upheld the constitutional validity of the law enacted by Haryana government to bar the illiterate from contesting panchayat polls in the state. The Supreme Court had ruled that “it is only education which gives a human being the power to discriminate between right and wrong, good and bad”.

The Supreme Court had even made it clear that it would be valid for the legislature to disqualify a candidate from seeking election to a civic body if he or she lacks “basic norms of hygiene” by not having a functional toilet

India submits sixth national report to Convention of Biological Diversity

India has submitted its sixth national report (NR6) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) highlighting the progress it has made in achieving the 12 National Biodiversity Targets (NBT) set under the convention process.

The report was submitted to the CBD Secretariat by Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan during the inaugural session of the 13th National Meeting of the State Biodiversity Boards (SBBs). The Minister also released the document “Progress on India’s National Biodiversity Targets: A Preview” on the occasion.

Highlights of the Report

India was among the first five countries in the world, the first in Asia and the first among the biodiversity-rich megadiverse countries to have submitted NR6 to the CBD Secretariat. The major findings of the report are:

  • India has already achieved two targets and was on track to achieve another eight soon. The remaining two would be met by the stipulated time of 2020.
  • While the biodiversity is facing increasing pressure on account of habitat fragmentation and destruction, invasive alien species, pollution, climate change and over-use of resources globally, India is one of the few countries where forest cover is on the rise, with its forests teeming with wildlife.
  • India has done well in raising awareness about biodiversity.
  • India is a megadiverse country harbouring nearly 7 to 8 per cent of globally recorded species while supporting 18 per cent of the global human population on a mere 2.4 per cent of the worlds land area. India’s is pursuing its economic development by maintaining the integrity of its natural capital through various programmes and strategies.
  • India has adopted measures for sustainable management of agriculture, fisheries and forests, with a view to ensure food and nutritional security to all without destroying the natural resource base while ensuring intergenerational environmental equity.

National Biodiversity Targets of India

The 12 National Biodiversity targets of India are:

  • By 2020, a significant proportion of the country’s population, especially the youth, is aware of the values of biodiversity and the steps they can take to conserve and use it sustainably.
  • By 2020, values of biodiversity are integrated into national and state planning processes, development programmes and poverty alleviation strategies.
  • Strategies for reducing the rate of degradation, fragmentation and loss of all natural habitats are finalized and actions put in place by 2020 for environmental amelioration and human well-being.
  • By 2020, invasive alien species and pathways are identified and strategies to manage them developed so that populations of prioritized invasive alien species are managed.
  • By 2020, measures are adopted for sustainable management of agriculture, forestry and fisheries.
  • Ecologically representative areas under terrestrial and inland water, and also coastal and marine zones, especially those of particular importance for species, biodiversity and ecosystem services, are conserved effectively and equitably, based on protected area designation and management and other area-based conservation measures and are integrated into the wider landscapes and seascapes, covering over 20% of the geographic area of the country, by 2020.
  • By 2020, national initiatives using communities’ traditional knowledge relating to biodiversity are strengthened, with the view to protecting this knowledge in accordance with national legislation and international obligations.
  • By 2020, opportunities to increase the availability of financial, human and technical resources to facilitate effective implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and the national targets are identified and the Strategy for Resource Mobilization is adopted.

India is the hub of biodiversity. India has nearly two-thirds of the population of wild tigers in the world. The population of the lion has increased from 177 in 1968 to over 520 in 2015, and elephants from 12,000 in the 1970s to 30,000 in 2015. One-horned Indian Rhino which was on the brink of extinction during the early 20th century, now number 2,400. India is leading the global efforts in conserving biodiversity.

Ujjwala Sanitary Napkin initiative

The oil marketing companies have launched Ujjwala Sanitary Napkin Initiative, as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) in Odisha.

According to the data from the National Family Health Survey-4, overall use of sanitary napkins in Odisha is 33.5 per cent and only 42.8 per cent of rural women between the age of 15 and 24 years use proper hygienic methods of protection during menstruation. The oil companies came up with this initiative keeping this scenario in mind.

About the Initiative

Under the Initiative:

  • Around 100 local manufacturing units will be set up by oil marketing companies at Common Service Centres (CSCs) across 93 blocks in all 30 districts of Odisha.

Common Service Centres

Common Service Centres are physical facilities for delivering Government of India e-Services to rural and remote locations where availability of computers and Internet was negligible or mostly absent.

  • Each facility will have the capacity to produce 1200-2000 pads each day.
  • Each facility will also have a sterilization room to ensure that the napkins are sterilized before they are packed for use of rural women.
  • The companies will provide machineries and raw material for one time. Then the women will manage it and earn by selling the pads.
  • The women will also be provided with proper training in the manufacturing and sale of sanitary napkins and the Ujjwala beneficiaries will also be provided with the job.

The oil companies have started this initiative on a pilot basis and would be expanded across the state if the module gets success.

Khushi Scheme of Odisha

Khushi scheme of Odisha aims to provide good menstrual hygiene care to women of the state. The initiative aims to promote health and hygiene among school going adolescent girls leading to higher retention in school and greater empowerment of women.

Under the scheme, the government will provide free sanitary napkins to 17 lakh girls studying in Classes 6 to 12 in government and government-aided schools. The scheme is being implemented by the health and family welfare department of the state at a cost of Rs 70 crore per year.

Why the scheme has been initiated?

As per the data of the National Family Health Survey, in Odisha 53 per cent women use unhygienic methods and around 69 per cent women use cloth during menstruation. To address this dire scenario, the Odisha government has initiated Khushi Scheme.

The government of Odisha is also providing sanitary napkins to rural women at subsidised rates of Rs. 6 for six napkins through ASHA workers.

Bangladesh Elections-

The ruling coalition led by Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Awami League has registered a landslide victory in Parliamentary elections. The ruling coalition led by Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League party won 288 out of 300 seats which are about 96 per cent of the seats.

Bangladesh has a unicameral legislatureThe legislature is referred to as Jatiyo Shangsad in Bengali and House of the Nation in English. It is a 350 member’s house of which 300 Members from 300 territorial constituencies are directly elected on the basis of adult Franchise and the remaining 50 seats are reserved for women who are elected on the basis of proportional representation in the Parliament through Single Transferable Vote based on the vote share in elections.

Telangana to have separate High Court from 1st January 2019

Separate High Courts will start functioning for the states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh from 1stJanuary 2019. The High Court for Telangana is the 25th High Court in the country.

Telangana was carved out of Andra Pradesh in 2014 and the two states continued to have a common high court in Hyderabad.

Separate High Courts

The modalities of the separate high courts are:

  • The High Court for Telangana will function from the current High Court building in Hyderabad.
  • The High Court for Andhra Pradesh will start functioning from a temporary building at Amaravati until it gets a permanent structure.
  • 16 judges have been allocated to Andhra Pradesh High Court and ten have been allocated to Telangana High Court.
  • Justice TBN Radhakrishnan will be sworn-in as Chief Justice of the Telangana High Court.

The government of Andhra Pradesh is constructing a complex known as Justice City in Amaravati where the High Court, subordinate courts and some tribunals would be accommodated.

Panel suggests not to allow new Engineering colleges from 2020

The Panel headed by IIT-Hyderabad chairman B V R Mohan Reddy has suggested All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) not to allow setting up of new Engineering colleges from 2020.

Recommendations of the Panel

The panel headed by B V R Mohan Reddy has made the following recommendations to the AICTE:

  • To stop setting up new colleges from 2020 and review the creation of new capacity every two years after that.
  • No additional seats should be approved in traditional engineering areas such as mechanical, electrical, civil and electronics and suggests that institutes should be encouraged to convert current capacity in traditional disciplines to emerging new technologies.
  • To introduce undergraduate engineering programmes exclusively for artificial intelligence, blockchain, robotics, quantum computing, data sciences, cybersecurity and 3D printing and design.

Why the recommendations are made?

The recommendations are due to the following reasons:

  • Current capacity utilisation in traditional disciplines is just 40% as opposed to 60% seat occupancy in branches such as computer science and engineering, aerospace engineering and mechatronics.
  • As per the reports, there were no takers for 51 per cent of the 15.5 lakh B.E/B.Tech seats in 3,291 engineering colleges in 2016-17.

The panel has said that concessions should be made for applications already in the pipeline while not allowing new engineering institutes should be set up from 2020.

Initiatives for improving teaching quality in Higher Education

The following initiatives have been launched to improve teaching quality in Higher Education:

Diksha

Diksha Portal has been launched to provide a digital platform for teachers to learn and train themselves and connect with teacher community.

TEQUIP

Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme (TEQUIP) is a quality improvement program in technical education. It aims at bridging the regional gaps in technical education. Under TEQUIP, 200 IIT and NIT graduates have opted for 3 years teaching in educationally backward regions.

GIAN

Under Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN), 700 professors from 58 countries have so far conducted about 1120 courses in specialized topics for students in Indian Higher Educational institutions and more than 40,000 students and associated Indian Faculty has benefited from this international teaching exposure.

PMMMNMTT

Under Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya National Mission for Teachers Training (PMMMNMTT)in-service training programs for more than 1,00,000 college and university teachers have been organized. Also, newly appointed teachers are now required to undergo six months pedagogical training, so they can develop a good rapport with students and the quality of the teaching improves.

Inter-University Centres for Teachers Education

Inter-University Centres for Teachers of teachers education and research (IUCTE) function as autonomous institutions for providing services and Programs for a group of universities and institutions.

 Panda Bonds

The government of Pakistan has decided to launch Panda Bonds to raise loans from Chinese capital markets. Launching of Panda Bonds is part of Pakistan’s plans to move towards giving the Chinese currency, a status at par with that enjoyed by the US dollar. The interest rates and the size of the bonds would be decided at a later stage.

The Finance Ministry of Pakistan has said that the Panda Bonds are part of its multipronged approach for bridging the foreign financing needs and building foreign exchange reserves. Panda Bonds will help Pakistan to diversify the investor base of capital market issuance and provide a source of raising renminbi.

China is Pakistan’s largest trading partner. Pakistan has the highest trade deficit with China. The raising of capital in Chinese currency will aid Pakistan to bridge the deficit.

Panda Bonds

Panda bonds are Chinese renminbi-denominated bonds from a non-Chinese issuer, sold in the People’s Republic of China. The first two Panda bonds were issued in October 2005 on the by the International Finance Corporation and the Asian Development Bank on the same day.

The Philippines issued its inaugural Panda bonds in 2018. It was the first ASEAN member to issue Panda bonds.

Indian Bridge Management System

The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways has inventoried 1,72,517 bridges/structures under Indian Bridge Management System (IBMS). It comprises of 1,34,229 culverts, 32,806 minor bridges, 3,647 major and 1,835 extra-long bridges.

About IBMS

Indian Bridge Management System (IBMS) was launched by the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways to create an inventory of all bridges in the country and rate their structural condition so that timely repair and rehabilitation work can be carried out based on the criticality of the structure.

Lack of clear objective database on bridges in the country has led to a situation where the authorities were neither clear about the exact number and location of the bridges nor they were able to maintain this asset in proper working condition. IBMS has been brought in to address this anomaly.

The inventory under IBMS comprises of:

  • Under the IBMS, each bridge is assigned a unique identification number or National Identity Number based on the state, RTO zone and whether it is situated on a National Highway, State Highway or is a district road.
  • The precise location of the bridge in terms of latitude-longitude is collected through GPS and based on these, the bridge is assigned a Bridge Location Number.
  • Engineering characteristics like the design, materials, type of bridge, its age, loading, traffic lane, length, the width of carriageway etc are collected and are used to assign a Bridge Classification Number to the structure.

Based on the following data from inventory, IBMS will analyse data and identify bridges that need attention. Also, an inspection will be carried out wherever required to improve the operational availability of the structure, enhance its life and prioritize repair and rehabilitation work.

Japan to Withdraw from the International Whaling Commission

Japan has announced its decision to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission (IWC). The withdrawal would enable Japan to resume commercial whaling activities.

Japan has said that it would undertake commercial whaling  from July 2019 limited to Japan’s territorial waters and exclusive economic zones. As per the announcement, Japan would not undertake whaling activities in Antarctic waters or in the southern hemisphere.

Why the withdrawal?

The Japanese government was trying hard to persuade the IWC to allow its commercial whaling operations. IWC refused to budge and rejected the proposal of Japan.

Japan has said that since most whale species are not endangered and that eating whale is a part of its culture, Japan has been forced to withdraw from the IWC.

With the withdrawal Japan joins Iceland and Norway in openly defying the organization’s ban on commercial whale hunting.

International Whaling Commission (IWC)

The International whaling commission was set up under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling which was signed on 2nd December 1946 at Washington DC. The IWC aims at providing for the proper conservation of whale stocks and make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry.

IWC is accompanied by legally binding schedule which sets out specific measures that the IWC has collectively decided as necessary in order to regulate whaling and conserve whale stocks. 

Women’s wall

On 1st January, around 30 lakh women stood shoulder to shoulder to form Vanitha Mathil, “women’s wall” that ran across the length of Kerala. The wall stretched from Kasaragod in the north to Thiruvananthapuram in the south for about 620 Kms.

Vanitha Mathil, Women’s Wall

The event was organised by the Government of Kerala with the support of several political, religious and social groups. The participants at the Women’s Wall resolved to uphold the values of Kerala’s renaissance, ensure gender justice, and counter moves to turn the state into a lunatic asylum.

The event was also a counterdemonstration against the agitations preventing women of menstruating age from entering the Sabarimala shrine in violation of the Supreme Court’s ruling.

During the event, participants took a pledge to protect the values of social reformation movement, to support the idea of gender equality as conceived by the Constitution and to oppose any efforts to turn Kerala into “a lunatic asylum”.

Allahabad to ‘Prayagraj’

The Union Home Ministry has approved the proposal of the Uttar Pradesh Government to rename Allahabad as Prayagraj.

Why the name change?

The government of Uttar Pradesh has said that it is restoring the original name of the city. The government states that the city was rechristened during the reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar. Akbar called the city Illahabas, meaning the abode of God.

Before renaming by Akbar, the city was known as Prayag. Medieval texts, including Akbar’s court historian Abul Fazl, called the city as Piyag.

Procedure for changing Names

The proposals of the states would be scrutinised by the Union Home Ministry according to the existing guidelines in consultations with agencies concerned. The Ministry approves the proposal after taking no-objections from the Ministry of Railways, Department of Posts and Survey of India, which confirms that there is no such city, town or village in their records with a name similar to the proposed one. Then an executive order is passed on the renaming of cities.

Justice AK Sikri

President Ram Nath Kovind has nominated Justice AK Sikri as Executive Chairman of National Legal Services Authority (NALSA). He will be replacing Justice Madan B Lokur.

National Legal Services Authority (NALSA)

The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) has been constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 to provide free Legal Services to the weaker sections of the society. The features of the NALSA are:

  • NALSA was brought into existence to fulfil the provisions under the Article 39A of the constitution which provides for free legal aid to the poor and weaker sections of the society, to promote justice on the basis of equal opportunity.
  • NALSA organises Lok Adalats for amicable settlement of disputes.
  • The functions of the NALSA also includes spreading legal literacy and awareness, undertaking social justice litigations.
  • The Chief Justice of India is the Patron-in-Chief and the Senior most Judge of the Supreme Court of

Norms for the manufacturing of defence items relaxed

The government has relaxed norms for the manufacturing of the defence items. As per new norms, manufacturing of items of defence aerospace and warships will now be covered by Industries (Development and Regulation) Act and will not require any licence from the Commerce and Industry Ministry.

The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, has issued a clarification on the list of defence products requiring a compulsory licence under Industries (Development & Regulation) Act, 1951 (IDRA), and Arms Act, 1959.

The new norms together with enhancing the ease of doing business will aid in attracting investments and fasten the process of indigenisation of defence production.

New chairman for the Ordnance Factory Board

Saurabh Kumar has been appointed as the Director General of Ordnance Factories (DGOF) and chairman of the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) in Kolkata.

Indian Ordnance Factories

Indian Ordnance Factories organisation is a family of 41 Ordnance Factories under the aegis of its corporate headquarters Ordnance Factory Board, Kolkata. It is working under the aegis of Ministry of Defence.

Paper Sensor to detect freshness of Milk

Scientists from the Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati, have developed a paper kit to test the freshness of milk and determine how well the milk has been pasteurized. The kit can also aid in ensuring that milk is consumed before it turns too sour with the help of a smartphone app.

How does the Kit work?

The Kit uses an ordinary filter paper to prepare the detector. The filter paper which is cut into small pieces is impregnated with chemical probes that preferentially react with Alkaline Phosphatase, which is an indicator of the quality of the milk. When the filter paper impregnated with probes come in contact with the milk, its colour changes.

Alkaline Phosphatase or ALP is an indicator of milk quality. It’s presence even after pasteurization indicates presence of microbes that may not have been rendered inactive with pasteurization.

The colour change is photographed by a Smartphone. The images are then processed to obtain corresponding colour values. These values are then compared with standard data stored in the phone. This provides information about the quality of the Milk. Since the sensors used works in both qualitative and quantitative mode, the kit can also be used to measure the quantity of the milk.

 ‘Asia Reassurance Initiative Act’

US president has signed the ‘Asia Reassurance Initiative Act’. The law aims at countering the encroaching influence and growing threat from China, and to reinvigorate U.S. leadership in Asia.

Features of the Act

  • The act notes that increased presence throughout Southeast Asia of the Islamic State and other international terrorist organizations threaten the United States.
  • The act recognizes the vital role of the strategic partnership between the United States and India in promoting peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region and calls for strengthening and broadening of diplomatic, economic, and security ties between the United States and India.
  • The act aims to establish a multifaceted U.S. strategy to increase U.S. security, economic interests, and values in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • The act authorises the spending of $1.5 billion over a five-year period to enhance cooperation with America’s strategic regional allies in the region.
  • Citing China’s illegal construction and militarization of artificial features in the South China Sea and coercive economic practices, the new law calls for countering China’s influence to undermine the international system.
  • The act calls on the U.S. Secretary of State, in conjunction with the Secretary of the Treasury, to justify the termination of U.S. support for any United Nations Security Council resolutions sanctioning North Korea or the lifting of any unilateral U.S. sanctions on North Korea.
  • The act reasserts US support to Taiwan and calls on President Trump to encourage the travel of high-level United States officials to Taiwan, in accordance with the Taiwan Travel Ac

Significance for India

The act reiterates US commitment to all bilateral and security agreements and arrangements between the two countries, including the New Framework for the United States-India Defense Relationship, and the United States-India Defense Technology and Trade Initiative.

Noting that designation of India as a major defence partner, which is unique to India the law states that the designation elevates defence trade and technology cooperation between the United States and India to a level commensurate with the closest allies and partners of the United States.

Factbox: Thoothukudi Sterlite Plant

Thoothukudi Sterlite Plant is the largest copper smelter plant in India, in …Thoothukudi, Tamil Naduwhich is operated by Vedanta group. It started its operation in 1998 till 2018 when the plant was shut on the orders of Tamil Nadu government in May 2018. The Tamil Nadu government gave closure order after various violent protests from locals demanding the entire shutdown of the smelting plants which were operational.

Thoothukudi Sterlite Plant Controversy:

  • The Thoothukudi Sterlite plant has been long-opposed by the local residents for polluting their environment as well as causing a range of health problems and has been subject to several closures, on grounds of violating environmental norms.
  • The National Environmental Research Institute (NEERI) and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board also found the evidence that the plant contaminated the groundwater, air and soil of the areas with its effluents and also for the violation of the standards of operation.
  • In 2010, the Madras High Court ordered a shutdown of the Sterlite plant for the violation of environmental regulations.
  • In April 2013, The Supreme Court struck down the Madras high court’s orderIt put a fine on Sterlite of Rs 100 crore for polluting the environment and for operation without the consent of TNPCB. The plant soon reopened after this favourable order.
  • But in March 2013, The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board re-ordered a closure of the plant on grounds of gas leakage, causing nausea and skin irritation among residents of the area.

The National Green Tribunal on 15th December 2018 had dismissed the state government’s order of May 2018 to shut down the plant permanently. Recently, the Tamil Nadu government has announced to approach the Supreme Court challenging the National Green Tribunal (NGT)’s order allowing the reopening of Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper plant in Thoothukudi.

Bhupesh Baghel to become the new CM of Chhattisgarh

Bhupesh Baghel, who is also the president of Chhattisgarh Pradesh Congress Committee, will be the new chief minister of Chhattisgarh state. Bhupesh Baghel has been named as the leader of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) by the newly elected legislators in Raipur on 16th December 2018.

2018 Assembly Elections in Chhattisgarh:

  • The Chhattisgarh Legislative Assembly elections in 2018 took place to elect members of the Vidhan Sabha (Legislative Assembly) of Chhattisgarh. The elections in Chhattisgarh were held in two phases:  the first phase of elections for 18 seats in South Chhattisgarh was held on 12 November 2018 and the second phase of elections for the remaining 72 took place on 20 November 2018
  • The elections were held for a total of 90 Assembly seats.
  • The Indian National Congress won 68 seats out of 90 seats winning the majority to form the government.
  • The Bharatiya Janata Party could win only 15 seats.
  • The Incumbent Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh Sh. Raman Singh resigned from his post on 11th December 2018

Baghel will be sworn in as the chief minister of Chhattisgarh by Governor Anandiben Patel in a ceremony in the state capital Raipur on 17th December 2018.

 Mekedatu Project.

The tussle between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu on the issue of River Cauvery has got a new addition. The proposal of Karnataka to build dam at Mekedatu is opposed fiercely by Tamil Nadu.

About the Project

  • The Government of Karnataka is planning to build a dam across river Cauvery near Mekedatu in Ramanagara district.
  • The proposed capacity of dam is 48 TMC (thousand million cubic feet).
  • The objective of the dam is to supply drinking water to Bengaluru and recharge the groundwater table in the region.

Why Tamil Nadu is opposing the project?

  • Tamil Nadu’s main argument is that the project violates the final award of the Cauvery River Water Tribunal.
  • Tamil Nadu argues that the construction of the reservoir would result in impounding of the flows in the intermediate catchment below the Krishnaraja Sagar and Kabini reservoirs, and Billigundulu in the common border of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

Karnataka’s Arguments

  • Karnataka argues that Mekedatu project will not come in the way of releasing the stipulated quantum of water to Tamil Nadu, nor will it be used for irrigation purposes.
  • Karnataka is willing to hold talks with Tamil Nadu on this issue.
  • Karnataka has again made it clear that the reservoir is only for storing water meant to generate electricity and provide drinking water to Bengaluru as well as its neighbouring areas.

SC Order on Appointment of DGPs

The Supreme Court has passed an interim order allowing the Punjab and Haryana DGPs to continue in office till January 31. The Supreme Court was hearing the petition filed by the two states seeking modification of the SC order which had made it mandatory for states and UTs to take the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) assistance in short listing the names of senior IPS officers for selection of DGP.

SC Order on appointing DGP’s

  • In July 2018, Supreme Court had ordered all states and Union territories to stop appointing any police officer as an acting Director General of Police (DGP) and gave a slew of directions to states and UTs on police reforms.
  • As per the order of the Supreme Court, the states are now required to send names of senior police officers to the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) for being considered as probable candidates for the post of DGPs or police commissioners (as per applicability)
  • The UPSC would then prepare a list of three most suitable candidates out of the list of names sent by states and UTs.
  • The states are free to appoint any one of them as the police chief.
  • It is mandatory for the states to send the list of senior police officers to the UPSC at least three months prior to the retirement of the incumbent.
  • The UPSC would then form a committee and intimate the state concerned, which in turn will immediately appoint one of the persons from among that list.
  • The Supreme Court granting liberty to states which already had laws on police appointments had asked them to move before it, seeking modification of the order.
  • The Supreme Court had even directed the states to ensure that a reasonable period of service is left before appointing DGPs.

Since the states of Punjab and Haryana their own laws for appointment of DGPs, they had approached the Supreme Court for the modification of the order. The Supreme Court would take up this matter in January 2019.

Why the Supreme Court had interfered?

It was pointed before the Supreme Court that many states were appointing acting DGPs and then making them permanent just before their superannuation to extend them the benefit of additional two-year tenure. To curb this practice Supreme Court had directed all states and UTs not to appoint any police officer as acting DGP and issued certain other directions on police reforms to check favoritism and nepotism in appointments.

47th Anniversary of Vijay Diwas celebrated..

India celebrated Vijay Diwas on 16th December 2018 marking the 47th anniversary of its victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war. On this occasion, the Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman along with the heads of the three armed forces paid tributes to the martyrs at Amar Jawan Jyoti at the India Gate in New Delhi.

About Vijay Diwas:

  • Vijay Diwas, also called as Victory Day, is celebrated on every 16th December in India.
  • It marks the victory of Indian armed forces over Pakistan in the war of Independence of Bangladesh from Pakistan in 1971.
  • At the end of the 1971 war, the Pakistani Army unilaterally and unconditionally surrendered resulting in the independence of East Pakistan, which was called as Bangladesh.
  • On this day in 1971, the chief of the Pakistani forces along with 93,000 troops, surrendered to the allied forces consists of Indian Army and Mukti Bahini in Dhaka after they got defeated in the war.
  • On the anniversary of Vijay Divas, respect and tributes are paid to the martyrs who laid down their lives for their country.
  • Every year on Vijay Diwas, the Indian Defence Minister along with heads of armed forces of India pay their tributes to the martyrs at Amar Jawan Jyoti at the India Gate in New Delhi and also at the National Military Memorial, Bangalore.

On Vijay Diwas, every year, Citizens, senior officials, students & war veterans pay their homage and remember the sacrifices of the soldiers.

Ranil Wickremesinghe sworn-in as Prime Minister

On 16th December 2018, Ranil Wickremesinghe has once again become the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka after the end of the weeks-long political crisis in the island nation.

On 26th October  2018, Mr. Ranil Wickremsing was ousted as Prime minister of Sri Lanka.  He was replaced by Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister. Mr. Rajapaksa resigned on 15th October 2018 after he failed to prove majority in the Sri Lankan Parliament. Ranil Wickremesinghe has been sworn in as the Prime minister for the fifth time which is a record in Sri Lanka.

In the 2015 parliamentary elections of Sri Lanka, Wickremesinghe’s coalition alliance, called as the United National Front for Good Governance, won 106 seats. Although it did not attain an outright majority, Wickremesinghe got re-elected as Sri Lankan Prime Minister as over 35 MPs from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party joined his cabinet.

Belgium wins Hockey World Cup 2018 Title

Belgium Hockey team won their first ever Word cup title on 16th December 2018 after they defeated The Netherlands in sudden death. Belgium, which also won a silver medal in Rio Olympics 2016, made history by beating the opponents by 3-2 in the penalty shoot-out after finals ended without any goal.

Belgium hockey team registered its second biggest international title after winning a silver medal in Rio Olympics silver in 2016 and ending up second in the 2017 Euro Hockey Championships.

About Hockey World Cup 2018:

  • The Hockey World Cup 2018 was held at Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneshwar, Odisha from 28 November to 16 December 2018.
  • It was the 14th edition of the cup.
  • Belgium finished first, while the Netherlands and Australia finished second and third respectively.
  • Australia defeated England by 8-1 to secure third place.
  • Belgium came fifth in the last edition of the Hockey World Cup which was played at The Hague in the Netherlands.
  • India came at sixth place in the Hockey World Cup 2018.
  • Arthur Van Doren, the Belgian Hockey player, was awarded as the Best Player of the Hockey World Cup 2018 tournament.
  • Australia’s Blake Govers and Belgium’s  Alexander Hendrickx scored most number of goals (7) in the tournament.
  • Primin Blaak was the goalkeeper of the tournament and team of Spain was given Fair Play award.

The mascot for Hockey World Cup 2018: Turtle ‘Olly’ was the official mascot for the Hockey World Cup 2018 cup. ‘Olly’ mascot of the Hockey World Cup 2018 represents the Olive Ridley turtles which are an endangered species.  Olive Ridley turtles swim thousands of miles in the ocean to arrive for their annual nesting on Odisha’s Rushikulya and Gahirmatha beaches every year. Olly was also the mascot for Asian Athletics Championships that took place in India in 2017.

PV Sindhu wins maiden BWF World Tour Title

PV Sindhu, the 2016 Rio Olympic silver medallist, created history on 16th December 2018 as she became the first Indian to win the BWF World Tour Finals.  She defeated Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara, the 2017 world champion, by 21-19 21-17 in the final match that lasted for an hour and two minutes. Earlier, Sindhu defeated Ratchanok by 21-16, 25-23 in the semi-finals to enter the finals of the season-ending BWF World Tour tournament.

About 2018 BWF World Tour:

  • The BWF World Tour Finals is an annual badminton competition that takes place at the end of every year. The badminton players having most points from all the events of the BWF World Tour in that calendar year compete with each other in this tournament.
  • It was held from 12th to 16th December 2018 in Tianhe, Guangzhou, China. The total prize of the tournament was $1,500,000.
  • Shi Yuqi of China won the Men’s Singles title defeating Kento Momota of Japan by 21-12, 21-11.
  • Li Junhui & Liu Yuchen (China) beat Hiroyuki Endo & Yuta Watanabe by 21-15, 21-11 to win the Men’s Doubles title final match.
  • In the Women’s Doubles final match, Misaki Matsutomo & Ayaka Takahashi (Japan) defeated Lee So-hee & Shin Seung-chan (South Korea) by 21-12, 22-20.
  • Wang Yilü & Huang Dongping (China) defeated Zheng Siwei & Huang Yaqiong (China)by 23-21, 16-21, 21-18 to win Mixed Doubles final match.

This win was Sindhu’s  14th title in her career but it was the first title for her in 2018. P V Sindhu won the silver medal at the World Championships 2018, Thailand Open 2018, Asian Games 2018, Commonwealth Games 2018 and India Open held this year.

Catriona Gray from Philippines wins Miss Universe 2018 Title..

Catriona Elisa Gray from the Philippines was crowned as the Miss Universe 2018, beating 93 contestants from other countries. She was crowned by Demi Leigh Nel-Peters from South Africa, the Miss Universe 2017 title winner.

India was represented by Nehal Chudasama in the beauty pageant. Nehal Chudasama failed to enter the final 20 of the Miss Universe 2018 competition. After  Lara Dutta had won the crown in 2000, no Indian contestant has been able to win the Miss Universe title in all these 18 years.

About Miss Universe 2018:

  • Tamaryn Green from South Africa and Sthefany Guterrez from Venezuela were the first runner-up and second runner-up at Miss Universe 2018 competition.
  • Spain’s Angela Ponce created history as the first transgender woman to participate in the Miss Universe beauty pageant.
  • The event was hosted by Emmy Award-winning comedian Steve Harvey.
  • Miss universe 2018 Catriona Elisa Gray has a Master Certificate in Music Theory. She also works as an HIV/AIDS advocate and volunteers at an NGO as a teacher’s assistant.
  • The countries of Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia participated for the first time in the Miss Universe competition.

This was the 67th edition of the Miss Universe pageant. Miss Universe 2018 was held at in Nonthaburi Province, Thailand on 17th December 2018.  For the first time, the competition was judged by an all-women jury. Total 94 countries participated in the competition.

 National Squash Women’s Singles Title

 Joshna Chinappa won the National Squash Women’s Singles title after she defeated Urwashi Joshi in the final match of the competition by 9-11, 11-1, 11-6, 11-5. It was her 16th National title and with this win, she has equalled the record of Bhuvaneshwari Kumari of winning 16 titles.

  • Joshna Chinappa is the first Indian squash player to win the British Squash Championship in 2003. She won this title in the under 19 category
  • She is also the youngest Indian women’s national Squash champion.
  • Joshna Chinappa and Dipika Pallikal Karthik won the squash women’s doubles gold medal in 2014 at the Commonwealth Games. It was India’s first ever medal in squash at the Commonwealth Games.

Mahesh Mangaonkar defeated Vikram Malhotra in the final match by 11-4, 13-15, 11-2, 5-11, 15-13to win Men’s Singles title. It was the 75th edition of the championship. This is the maiden title for Mahesh Mangaonkar. The entire tournament was held in Noida.

Squash is a ball sport played by two or four players in a four-walled court with hollow rubber ball. In India, the game is not very popular but picking up gradually.

NITI – Women Transforming India Awards 2018

15 women entrepreneurs were given awards at the recently concluded Women Transforming India Awards 2018 in New Delhi. The  Women Transforming India Awards are organised by NITI Aayog. It was the 3rd edition of these awards.

Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu, the vice-president of India, was the chief guest on this occasion.  He also launched the upgraded version of the Women Entrepreneurship Platform web portal at the event. Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu lauded the effort of the NITI Aayog for creating Women Entrepreneurship Platform 2.0 and placing gender equality at the centre of its policy decisions.

 Women Entrepreneurship Platform:

  • The primary objective of Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP) is to promote and support both established and aspiring Indian women entrepreneurs. This platform has been set up by NITI Aayog.
  • Women Entrepreneurship Platform is the first of its kind unified access platform that allows the partner organizations to provide various support services to Indian women entrepreneurs.
  • It aims to transform the entrepreneurial ecosystem for women entrepreneurs in the country.

Mount Soputan Volcano erupts

Central Indonesia’s Mount Soputan volcano erupted on 16th December 2018, sending ash about 7.5 km high in the sky. Mount Soputan erupted twice on the same day, forcing local residents to move to safer places. Mount Soputan volcano is one of the most active volcanoes of Indonesia. it is located on the Sulawesi island in Indonesia.

Indonesia has around 129 active volcanoes and Mount Soputan is one of 1them. The country of Indonesia is an archipelago which is highly prone to earthquakes and volcanoes as it is located on the “the Pacific Ring of Fire”.  The most active volcanoes of Indonesia are Kelud and Merapi. Both these volcanoes are located on the Java island of Indonesia and have claimed the lives of many people in the region.

 Pacific Ring of Fire

The Ring of Fire is a major area in the Pacific Ocean, approx 25000 miles, where about 75% of the world’s volcanoes are located. The Ring-of-Fire is also called as the Circum-Pacific Belt. Many major and minor tectonic plates such as the Eurasian, North American, Juan de Fuca, Cocos, Caribbean, Nazca, Antarctic, Indian, Australian, Philippine, and other smaller plates meet at the Ring of Fire. The movement of these tectonic plates leads to volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and formation of deep trenches in the ocean. The Mariana trench which is the deepest ocean trench is also located in the Ring-of-Fire.

Indian Navy’s IFC-IOR

The Indian government will soon inaugurate the information fusion centre (IFC) to boost the maritime security and Information exchange in the for the Indian Ocean Region(IOR).

The Information Fusion Centre (IFC) for the Indian Ocean Region will be set up by the Indian Navy at the Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) in Gurugram, Haryana.

 Indian Navy’s IFC-IOR:

  • Indian Navy’s IFC-IOR will share information on “white shipping”, or commercial shipping with the countries in the region to improve maritime security and tackling piracy and terrorism in the Indian Ocean. It aims to become a maritime information hub for the entire region.
  • Only those countries will be served by this centre that have signed White Shipping Information Exchange agreements with India. Around 21 countries have such agreement with India till now.
  • The IFC will generate a seamless real-time picture of the nearly 7,500-km coastline of India by linking all the coastal radar chains.
  • The entire Indian Ocean region will be benefited by mutual collaboration and exchange of information through the setting up of IFC-IOR.
  • it will help in understanding the major concerns and threats prevalent in the Indian Ocean region.

India has also signed the ascension agreement to the Trans Regional Maritime Network (T-RMN).  T-RMN will allow information exchange on the movement of commercial ships on the high seas. The T-RMN agreement is being steered by Italy.

The information about the commercial ships is available primarily through the Automatic Identification System (AIS) fitted on merchant ships. It Automatic Identification System (AIS) chips have been made mandatory by the International Maritime Organisation for ships with more than 300 gross registered tonnage. These AIS chips contain information like name, MMSI number, position, course, speed, last port visited, destination and other vital data. The various AIS sensors read the information from these AIS chips and obtain the information.

COP24 IN KATOWICE

The 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference that took place between 2 and 15 December 2018 in Katowice, Poland, is the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24). It is also referred to as the Katowice Climate Change Conference or Katowice Climate Talks.  The most important outcome of COP24 was that the countries have agreed on rules for the implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Main Outcomes of COP 24 in Katowice:

  • The participating nations agreed on the rules to implement the Paris Agreement that will come into effect in 2020. The rules are regarding how the member nations will measure the carbon-emissions and report on their emissions-cutting efforts. This ‘rulebook’ can be called as the detailed “operating manual” of the 2015 Paris Agreement.
  • The members of the conference did not agree to “welcome” the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on 1.5°C. The US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait refused to “welcome” the IPCC report.
  • The parties to the conference agreed to record the pledges in a public registry, as per the existing interim portal. The public registry will continue to include a search function, although many attempts have been made to get it deleted.
  • It was also agreed among the members that future pledges should cover a “common timeframe” from 2031. The number of years for the timeframe will be decided later.

Many difficult matters could not reach an agreement and have been postponed to next year for resolution. This includes questions such as ways to scale up existing commitments on emission reduction, different ways of providing financial aid to the poor nations, wording that prevents double counting and whether member nations are doing enough to cut their respective emissions.

PMUY extended to all poor households

The central Government has decided to extend the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) to all poor households in the country.

Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) is the government’s flagship programme to provide free cooking gas (LPG) connections. The PMUY scheme targets to reach out to provide free LPG connections to 80 million families by 2020.

India to give USD 1.4 billion financial assistance to Madives.

The Union government has decided to give USD 1.4 billion to the island nation of Maldives. This decision came after Maldivian president Ibrahim Mohamed Solih met Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his 3-days visit to India.

This is Solih’s first foreign trip after he was sworn in as the President of Maldives in a ceremony on 17th November 2018, which PM Modi had also attended.

Important Highlights of the Meeting:

  • The two countries have agreed to work for the stability of the Indian Ocean region.
  • Both the countries have reiterated their stands to not allow their respective territories to be used for any activity inimical to their interests.
  • India and Maldives have agreed to coordinate patrolling and aerial surveillance, exchange of information and capacity building for enhancement of the maritime security in the Indian Ocean region.
  • The four agreements signed between India and Maldives will enhance cooperation in areas of cultural, agri-business and information technology and will provide easy facilitation of visas.
  • Solih has committed to work closely with India and reaffirmed his government’s ‘India-First Policy’.
  • The Maldivian president supported India’s demand for a reformed UN Security Council and India’s candidature for permanent membership of an expanded council.

Tamil Nadu fishermen get NavIC-powered ISRO Gadgets

The Tamil Nadu government has distributed 200 NavIC- powered satellite-enabled communication devices developed by ISRO to 80 fishing boat groups in Tamil Nadu. These gadgets will help the Tamil Nadu fishermen to get cyclone and weather updates on a real-time basis.

These Tamil Nadu government rolled out these devices after Chief Minister K Palaniswami distributed the gadgets to seven fishermen engaged in deep sea fishing in Chennai.

These gadgets, which are of the size of a soapbox, are basically ‘receivers’ which will produce a beep when alerts are received by the device. These are Bluetooth enabled and the alerts received can be read on the NavIC App which can be downloaded on an android phone. The alerts will be in the Tamil language so that the fisherman find it easy to understand. These gadgets have been given free of cost and there is no recurring cost associated with these devices.

What is NavIC?

  • NavIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation) can be understood as the Indian version of the American GPS (Global Positioning System).
  • The Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System constellation consists of eight satellites.
  • NavIC provides accurate real-time position, navigation and timing services over India and region extending 1,500 km around Indian borders.

Last year several fishermen went missing in the cyclone Ockhi and Tamil Nadu government had to face severe criticism for not providing timely weather alerts to fishermen. For this reason, the Tamil Nadu government had declared giving these gadgets free of cost to fishermen in this year’s state budget.

Kaiga Atomic Power Station –

The Kaiga Atomic Power Station of Karnataka has created a new world record, with one of its units functioning continuously without any interruption for more than 940 days.  The previous world record was held by Unit 2 of Heysham of the United Kingdom. It operated without any interruption for 940 days.

 Kaiga Atomic Power Station:

  • Kaiga Atomic Power Station is a nuclear power generating station located at Kaiga in Karnataka, India.
  • The Kaiga power plant has four units of 220 MW each.
  • The total power generating capacity of Kaiga power plant is 880 MW
  • It is the third largest nuclear power plant in India.  Tarapur (1400 MW) of Maharashtra is the largest and Rawatbhata (1180 MW) of Rajatshan is the second largest power plant in India.
  • It supplies electricity to Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.

The same unit of Kiaga Power plant had set a world record in October 2018 when it functioned non-stop for 894 days. The record set by Kaiga power plant is a record for all kinds of units in the world which generate nuclear power, including advanced gas-based reactors.

 WEF’s Gender Gap Index

India has come at 108th position in the recently released Gender Gap Index 2018 by World Economic Forum. India was ranked at the same position in 2017 rankings as well.

The Global Gender Gap Report is published annually by the World Economic Forum since 2006. The Global Gender Gap Index is an index that measures gender equality across four key pillars which are economic opportunity, political empowerment, educational attainment, and health and survival.

Iceland has been ranked as number 1 in the WEF’s Gender Gap Index for the 10th consecutive year. It has been able to close about 85.8 percent of its overall gender gap.

Norway (83.5 percent) came at the second spot .

Sweden (82.2 percent) at the third, and …..Finland (82.1 percent) claimed the 4th spot in the rankings.

Other countries in Top 10: Nicaragua at 5th, Rwanda at 6th, New Zealand at 7th, the Philippines at 8th, Ireland at 9th and Namibia at 10th.

About India in the Gender Gap Index 2018:

  • India has improved in wage equality for similar work subindex of the Gender Gap Index 2018.
  • It has been able to fully close the tertiary education gender gap for the very first time.
  • India has been ranked 142nd in the economic opportunity and participation subindex out of total 149 countries.
  • As per WEF report, India needs to get more women into senior and professional roles to make more improvement in the rankings.
  • India widened the gap in health and survival subindex. It continues to rank third-lowest in this subindex in the world. It has made the least improvement in this parameter in the last 10 years.
  • India has closed 66 percent of its Gender Gap and is slightly ahead of the  South-Asian region. South Asian region was ranked second-lowest in the index having closed only 65 per cent of its gender gap.

The world has closed 68 percent of its gender gap as per the Gender Gap Index report. At the current speed, it will take about 108 years to close the overall gender gap in the world. And after 202 years there will be parity in the workplace in the world at the current rate of change.

National Cancer Institute (NCI) opened in Jhajjar, Haryana

India’s largest Cancer Institute, National Cancer Institute (NCI), has opened on 18th December 2018 in Jhajjar, Haryana for public services. The National Cancer Institute will be formally inaugurated in January 2019.

The National Cancer Institute has been established under a project of Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). Dr G.K. Rath, head of Institute Rotary Cancer hospital at All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi, will head the NCI.

About the National Cancer Institute:

  • The NCI is built at a cost of Rs 2,035 crore. Presently, NCI has a total of 710 beds out of which 200 beds have been dedicated for the treatment of cancer patients based on research protocols.
  • The  National Cancer Institute (NCI) will act as the nodal institution for all cancer-related activities in India.
  • It will be linked to regional cancer centres and other cancer institutes of India.
  • The NCI will be the premier institute for cancer treatment and research. It is tasked to conduct basic and applied research in areas like molecular biology, genomics, proteomics, cancer epidemiology, radiation biology, cancer vaccines and more.
  • It will work towards evolving new cancer control strategies, which include new models of prevention, early diagnosis and therapy, for the developing nations.
  • Development of human resource in various branches of cancer management is another area where NCI will work. 
  • NCI will also have the facilities for training and capacity building in cancer treatment.
  • The NCI will have equipment with advanced and latest technology to learn more about cancer.
  • NCI will assist other regional cancer centres in research activities.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) will help to take off some patient load from AIIMS which presently receives about 1000 patients every day. Although the doctors have started OPDs in the NCI, the full functioning of all the departments of the National Cancer Institute will commence in January 2019.

Capital First merges with IDFC Bank to create IDFC First Bank.

The IDFC Bank has merged completely with the non-banking financial company Capital First on 18th December 2018 into a new entity to be called as IDFC First Bank. The merger between IDFC Bank and Capital First was announced on 13th January 2018. The new bank i.e. IDFC First bank will have a loan asset book of Rs 1.03 lakh crore.

V Vaidyanathan, who is the founder and chairman of Capital First Ltd, has been appointed as the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the newly formed IDFC First bank.

 NBFC-An NBFC is a financial institution that does not have a banking license but provides banking services.

Operations of NBFCs are regulated under a country’s banking regulations but it is established under the Companies Act, 1956.

The Reserve Bank of India regulates the NBFCs under Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934.

 Eklavya Model Residential Schools

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has given its approval for the revamped Eklavya Model Residential Schools (EMRSs) scheme. Under this, Eklavya Model Residential Schools (EMRSs) will be set up in every block where Scheduled Tribes population is more than 50% and has at least 20,000 tribal persons.

A budget of Rs. 2,242 crore during 2018-19 and 2019-20 has been approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) for rolling out this scheme.

The EMRSs will be run by an Autonomous Society, on the lines of  Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti. This society will be under the Ministry of Tribal Affairs.

462 new Eklavya Model Residential Schools (EMRSs) will be set up as 102 EMRSs are already running in the country.The new scheme aims to improve the construction quality and provide better facilities for the students. For this,  the support of construction cost of EMRS has been enhanced from the current Rs. 12 crore to Rs. 20 crore.

Military Communication Satellite GSAT-7A

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) successfully launched the communication satellite GSAT-7A on 19th December 2018 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh. GSAT-7A weighing 2250 kg was launched using Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-F11).

GSAT-7A Satellite:

  • ISRO’s GSAT-7A satellite is the heaviest satellite (2250 kgs) with an indigenously developed cryogenic stage that has been launched by GSLV.
  • GSAT-7A is a high-tech communication satellite having new technologies including a Gregorian Antenna.
  • It is the 39th communication satellite of ISRO and will mainly be used for military applications. Indian Air Force’s existing communication capabilities of satellites will be augmented with GSAT-7A
  • GSAT-7A will offer services to the users in Ku-band over the Indian region.

The launch of GSAT-7A was the 13th flight of GSLV-MkII and the seventh flight with an indigenously developed cryogenic engine. GSAT-7A was lifted off by GSLV which is ISRO’s fourth generation launch vehicle with three stages. The first stage consists of four liquid strap-ons and a solid rocket motor. The second stage of GSLV has a high thrust engine using liquid fuel. The third and final stage of the GSLV is the cryogenic upper stage.

USA pulls out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty

Russia has confirmed that the United States of America has decided to cancel the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty signed between Russian and the USA in 1987. The USA had already announced the withdrawal decision from the INF treaty in October 2018.

About INF Treaty:

  • The INF Treaty was signed in 1987 between US President Ronald Reagan and USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev.
  • The treaty aimed to end arms race between USA and USSR during cold war and to ensure some strategic stability in Europe.
  • The INF treaty banned the development, testing and possession of short and medium-range ground-launched nuclear missiles having ranger between 500-5,000 km.
  • Also, all the nuclear and conventional missiles, as well as their launchers, with ranges of 500–1,000 km or (short-range) and 1,000–5,500 km (intermediate-range) were banned under this treaty.
  • The Treaty proved to be a potent deterrent against any full-scale nuclear war in Europe.
  • Almost 3,000 existing weapons were dismantled and destroyed after the signing of this treaty.

Russia has warned to take retaliatory measures and to counter any aggression if its security gets threatened after the US pulling out of the INF treaty.

 NITI to Make India $ 4 trillion Economy

The government think tank Niti Aayog has unveiled the Strategy for New India @ 75. This comprehensive national strategy defines clear objectives for 2022-23.

The strategy provides for a detailed exposition across forty-one crucial areas. Together with the progress already made, the strategy identifies binding constraints, and suggests the way forward for achieving the clearly stated objectives. The strategy was prepared through wide consultations with all three groups of stakeholders, viz., business persons, academics including scientists, and government officials.

Recommendations for New India @ 75

The strategy document with 41 chapters has been disaggregated under four sections, which are:

 Drivers, Infrastructure, Inclusion and Governance. The major recommendations are outlined below:

Recommendations under Drivers:

The section of drivers focuses on the engines of economic performance with chapters on growth and employment, doubling of farmers’ incomes; upgrading the science, technology and innovation eco-system; and promoting sunrise sectors like fintech and tourism. The recommendations in this section include:

  • Accelerating the economy to achieve a GDP growth rate of about 8% on average during 2018-23. This will increase the economy’s size in real terms from USD 2.7trillion in 2017-18 to nearly USD 4 trillion byv2022-23.
  • Increasing the investment rate as measured by gross fixed capital formation (GFCF) from the present 29% to 36% of GDP by 2022.
  • In agriculture, shift the focus for converting farmers to ‘agripreneurs’ by further expanding National Agriculture Markets and replacing the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee Act with the Agricultural Produce and Livestock Marketing Act.
  • Encouraging ‘Zero Budget Natural Farming’ techniques that reduce costs, improve land quality and increase farmers’ incomes. This has emerged as a tested method for putting environment carbon back into the land.
  • Ensuring of maximum employment creation, codification of labour laws and undertaking massive effort to upscale and expand apprenticeships.
  • Revamping minerals exploration and licensing policy by launching a new mission “Explore in India”.

Recommendations under Infrastructure:

The section on infrastructure deals with the physical foundations of growth which are crucial to enhancing the competitiveness of Indian business as also ensuring the citizens’ ease of living. The recommendations in this section include:

  • Expediting the establishment of the Rail Development Authority (RDA) which has been approved already. RDA would aid railways to make informed decisions on an integrated, transparent and dynamic pricing mechanism.
  • Doubling the share of freight transported by coastal shipping and inland waterways and providing for viability gap funding until the infrastructure is fully developed.
  • Developing an IT-enabled platform for integrating different modes of transport and promoting multi-modal and digitized mobility.
  • Completion of the Bharat Net programme in 2019. All 2.5 lakh gram panchayats to be digitally connected. This would aid in delivering all government services at the state, district, and gram panchayat level digitally by 2022-23.

Recommendations on Inclusion:

The section on Inclusion focuses on the urgent task of investing in the capabilities of all of India’s citizens. This section has three themes which revolve around the dimensions of health, education and mainstreaming of traditionally marginalized sections of the population. The recommendations in this section include:

  • Successful implementation of the Ayushman Bharat programme by establishing 150,000 health and wellness centres across the country, and rolling out the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Abhiyaan (PM-JAY).
  • To create a focal point for public health at the central level with state counterparts and promoting integrative medicine curriculum.
  • Upgradation of the quality of the school education system and skills, including the creation of a new innovation ecosystem at the ground level by establishing at least 10,000 Atal Tinkering Labs by 2020.
  • Conceptualizing an electronic national educational registry for tracking each child’s learning outcomes.
  • Giving a huge push to affordable housing in urban areas to improve workers’ living conditions and ensure equity while providing a strong impetus to economic growth as already done in rural areas.

President’s rule  in Jammu & Kashmi.

The state of Jammu and Kashmir has come under President’s rule from 20th December 2018 as Governor’s rule in the state completed its six months. It implies that now all the policy decisions related to Jammu and Kashmir will be taken by the Union Cabinet.

The state faced a political crisis when 25-member BJP withdrew its support from Mehbooba Mufti-led coalition government, reducing it to a minority government in the state. Thereafter, the Governor’s rule was imposed in the state.

In the case of Jammu and Kashmir, which has a separate Constitution, six months of Governor’s rule is mandatory before President’s rule under Article 92 of its Constitution. All the legislative powers are exercised by the Governor in case of Governor’s rule.

Now, after the proclamation for the President’s rule has been made, the legislative powers of the state shall be exercised under the authority of Parliament.  The Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers will aid and advise the president regarding the decisions related to the state.

President’s Rule:

  • Under Article 356 of the Indian Constitution,the Union government can take over the affairs of the state government when state government is unable to function according to the constitutional provisions. This is called as President’s rule in the state.
  • President’s Rule in a state can continue for 6 months.
  • It can be extended, with the approval of both the houses done every 6 months, for a maximum of 3 years

For President’s rule to continue over a year every 6 months following conditions should be met: 1. There should already be a National emergency across the country, or in the whole or any part of the state. 2. The Election Commission of India should certify that the conduct of elections is not possible in the concerned state.

Charles Michel resigns as the Prime Minister of Belgium.

Charles Michel has resigned from the post of the Prime Minister of Belgium on 19th December 2018. The resignation came as his government was under immense pressure from the opposition over his government’s support for the UN global compact on migration.

Charles Michel’s, who became the Prime Minister of Belgium in 2014, was the country’s youngest prime minister since 1841. He belongs to the francophone liberal party Mouvement Réformateur (MR). His party had earlier lost the support of their coalition partner nationalist New Flemish Alliance over his support for a UN-backed migration deal. There were many angry protests and demonstrations that took place in Brussels against this migration pact.

About UN Global Compact on Migration:

  • The negotiations for Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration started in 2016 after the influx of over one million migrants into Europe. 
  • In July 2018, all of the 193 members agreed to the UN pact on migration except the United States. But, only 164 countries formally signed the UN migration deal in Marrakech on 10th December 2018.
  • The agreement commits the signatories to improve co-operation on international migration.
  • The agreement is not legally binding on the countries signing the pact and allows them to be in charge of their own immigration policies.

The agreement stresses that all migrants should be given universal human rights. It seeks to do away with all forms of discrimination against migrants and their families.

 ‘Asiatic Lion Conservation Project’ launched by Government.

The “Asiatic Lion Conservation Project” has been launched by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change(MoEFCC). The main objective of this project is to work for the conservation of the world’s last ranging free Asiatic Lion population and the ecosystem associated with it.

The total budget of the “Asiatic Lion Conservation Project” for 3 years stands at about Rs. 9784 lakh. The project will be funded under the ‘Development of Wildlife Habitat (CSS-DWH)’ scheme which is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme. The cost will be borne in the 60:40 ratio by the Central and State government.

About Asiatic Lion

  • Asiatic Lions are listed as ‘Endangered’ under the IUCN Red List.
  • Its population is restricted to the state of Gujarat in India.
  • With serious conservation efforts of the State and the Union Government, the population of Asiatic lions have increased to over 500 which used to be around 50 by late 1890s.
  • As per the 2015 census, there were a total of  523 Asiatic Lions in Gir Protected Area Network
  • The Gir Protected Area Network of Gujarat includes Gir National Park, Gir Sanctuary, Pania Sanctuary, Mitiyala Sanctuary and adjoining forests. It has an area of 1648.79 sq. km.

The main activities under the ‘Asiatic Lion Conservation Project’ include habitat improvement of the Lions, controlling of diseases among the population, scientific interventions and adequate veterinary care. It will be supplemented with sufficient eco-development works ensuring a stable and viable Lion population in India.

Harsh Vardhan Shringla appointed as India’s Ambassador to US.

Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla has been appointed as the Ambassador of India to the USA on 20th December 2018. Presently, Mr. Shringla is serving as the High Commissioner to the People’s Republic of Bangladesh and will take up the assignment soon. He will be succeeding Navtej Sarna as the ambassador to the United States of America.

DIPP announces States’ Startup Ranking 2018

The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry released the first ever States’ Startup Ranking 2018 on 20th December 2018 in New Delhi. As per Startup Ranking 2018,  the state of Gujarat is the best-performing state in the country for the Startups.  Total 27 States and 3 UTs took part in this exercise.

The states have been ranked across various categories in the ranking which includes categories like Start-up policy leaders, incubation hubs, seeding innovation, scaling innovation, regulatory change champions, procurement leaders, communication champions, North-Eastern leader, and hill state leader. Gujarat’s score was better than all other states in all the identified categories.

Results of States’ Startup Ranking 2018

  • Gujarat was ranked as the Best Performer
  • Karnataka, Kerala, Odisha, and Rajasthan were judged as Top Performers. 
  • Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana were ranked as Leaders. 
  • Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal were ranked as Aspiring Leaders. 
  • Assam, Delhi, Goa, Jammu & Kashmir, Maharashtra, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand were judged as Emerging States. 
  • Chandigarh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Puducherry, Sikkim, and Tripura were ranked as Beginners.

The primary objective of this ranking is to encourage States and UTS to work towards strengthening of Startup ecosystems in their region. Also, it seeks to create a healthy competition among States and will result in the promotion of Startup culture.

Lok Sabha passed the Consumer Protection Bill, 2018.

The Lok Sabha has passed the Consumer Protection Bill, 2018 on 20th December 2018, which will replace the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.  The Bill seeks to enforce consumer rights and to offer a mechanism for complaint redressal related to the deficiencies in goods and services.

Key points about the Consumer Protection Bill, 2018

  • The Consumer Disputes Redressal Commissions will be set up at District, State and National levels as per the bill passed.
  • The District Commissions will have the mandate to hear complaints having claim worth one crore rupees. In the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 this limit was 20 lakh rupees.
  • The limit of the Commissions’ at the State level enhanced from 1 crore rupees to 15 crore rupees.
  • Complaints above 15 crore rupees worth of claim will be settled by the National Commission.
  • The Consumer Protection Bill, 2018 has provisions for stringent punishments in the matters of food adulterations.
  • The Bill has the provisions to protect those consumers who use new digital technologies likes e-commerce and online shopping.
  • The Bill seeks to establish a central consumer protection authority (CCPA) which will be tasked with promoting, protecting and enforcing consumer rights.

The main objective of the said bill is to protect of the interests of consumers and to provide effective administration and timely settle consumer disputes. Now, the bill will move to Rajya Sabha for passage.

New coach of Women’s Cricket Team of India.

BCCI has appointed W V Raman as Indian women’s cricket team coach on 20th December 2017. He was preferred over South African cricketer Gary Kirsten for this position. Gary Kirsten, who is associated with IPL franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore, did not agree to give up his job with RCB which made the selectors choose WV Raman as the coach of the Indian women cricket team.

About W V Raman

  • W V Raman Raman has played 11 Tests and 27 ODIs for India and is one of the most qualified coaches in the nation.
  • He has coached Ranji Trophy sides like Tamil Nadu and Bengal and the Indian Under -19 cricket team as well.
  • He was the first Indian to hit a century in South Africa during the 1992-93 tour.
  • Presently, Raman is serving as a batting consultant at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru.

Kapil Dev, Anshuman Gaekwad and Shantha Rangaswamy were the members of the selection committee of the coach for Indian women cricket team. Total 28 candidates had applied for the position. Former coach Ramesh Powar, whose tenure ended last month amid many controversies, also had appeared for the interview for this position.

InSight lander places its first instrument (SEIS) on Mars.

InSight, NASA’s new Mars lander, has set up its first instrument on planet Mars. The instrument placed by InSight, which landed on Mars on 26th November, is a quake monitor (seismometer) that will listen for quakes and wobbles.

It is the first time that a scientific instrument has ever been placed on another planet’s surface. InSight will also put a wind cover over the seismometer next month and initiate a new experiment.

Insight Mission

InSight or the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport mission of NASA is a robotic lander that seeks to gather information about the deep interior of Mars. InSight mission was launched by NASA on 5 May 2018 and landed on Mars on 26 November 2018 making a journey of about 483 million km.

The successful execution of Insight mission will enable humans to have a better understanding of the evolution of the Solar System’s terrestrial planets – Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars – and Earth’s Moon. InSight’s primary tasks include placing a seismometer, known as SEIS, planet Mar’s dusky red surface to measure the seismic activity. SEIS will also provide accurate 3D models of the interior of Mars. To study Mars’ early geological evolution, InSight also plans to set up a heat probe called HP3 on Mars that will measure internal heat flow.

NITI Aayog releases Sustainable Development Goals Index

The NITI Aayog has released a first-of-its-kind Sustainable Development Goals index released on 21st December 2018.

According to the SDG Index….. Himachal Pradesh, …Kerala, and …Tamil Nadu have been ranked on top 3 positions and are on track to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

The recently released Sustainable Development Goals Index aims to promote healthy competition among States by evaluating their progress in social, economic and environmental terms that will help India in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by 2030.

Based on the performance of the States and UTs across 13 of the 17 identified SDGs, a score ranging between 0 and 100 has been assigned to each of them in the index. The index considered only 13 out of 17 goals because of non-availability of data at the state level. The average Indian score in the SDG index is 57 and varies between 42 and 69 for the States and between 57 and 68 for UTs.

Key Points of the SDG Index:

Kerala and Himachal Pradesh have been called as the front-runners in the Index with a score of 69. Chandigarh has been declared as the front runner in the Index with a score of 68 among the UTS. The state of Tamil Nadu (score 66) is at the top to meet the goals of eradicating poverty and providing clean and affordable energy. Assam, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are at the bottom of the rankings in the NITI Aayog’s Sustainable Development Goals Index .

Goa, Kerala, Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland were the front runners on the ‘Zero’ hunger sub-index. The states performed badly in the SDG Index in regards to the goals of gender equality (36), in enabling industry, innovation, and infrastructure (44), and in eradicating hunger (48) and in creating sustainable cities and communities (39).

India’s Forex Reserves to USD 393.12 billion

India’s foreign exchange reserves declined in this week by USD 613.9 million reaching USD 393.12 billion. This decline has been attributed to the fall in foreign currency assets as per the Reserve Bank of India. The Forex reserves had increased by USD 16.6 million to reach USD 393.734 billion in the previous week.

Foreign currency assets, which form a major part of the overall foreign reserves India, declined by USD 631.6 million to reach USD 367.865 billion. Apart from US dollars, foreign currency assets also include non-US currencies such as the euro, pound and yen and the appreciation and depreciation of these currencies also have an effect on the reserves. As per the data, Gold reserves increased by USD 37.2 million to USD 21.187 billion this week.

GST Council slashes rates on 23 Goods and Services

The tax rates on 23 goods and services has been reduced by the GST Council on 22nd December 2018. These goods include movie tickets, TV and monitor screens, power banks and others. After this reduction, only 28 goods are left in the highest tax bracket of 28 percent and includes cement, sin goods (tobacco, alcohol), auto parts and luxury goods such as Air Conditioner and dishwasher. The new GST rates will be applicable from 1st of January 2019.

The renewable energy devices and their parts will be taxed at 5%. The GST on the accessories for carriages for specially-abled persons has been reduced to 5 per cent. No tax will be applied to the services provided by the banks to Jan-Dhan account holders. Also, Frozen and preserved vegetables will not be taxed at all.

The tax has been reduced to 12% from the previous rate of 18% for the cinema tickets costing up to 100 rupees and to 18% from 28% for tickets priced above Rs 100.  The rate of tax for Digital cameras, Power banks, 32 inches monitors and TV  up to 32 and video game consoles has also been reduced to 18%.

Constitution of a seven Member Group of Ministers has been proposed by the GST Council to study the revenue trend and to analyse the reasons for structural patterns influencing the revenue collection in some states.

The GST council is the primary decision-making body regarding the Goods and Services Tax (GST) that takes all the important decisions like setting the tax rate, tax exemption, tax laws, and tax deadlines etc.

Gitega named as the new capital of Burundi

The government of Burundi has declared Gitega as the country’s new political capital on 22nd December 2018. Bujumbura, the previous capital of Burundi, will serve as the economic capital of the country. President Nkurunziza had made this promise of shifting the capital in 2007 which has been implemented now.

The government has decided to hold future Cabinet meetings in Gitega and to establish five ministries in Gitega from the start of 2019. Gitega’s population is around 30 000  as compared to Bujumbura’s 1.2 million.

 Burundi

Burundi is a resource-poor, underdeveloped landlocked African country which shares its borders with Rwanda in the north, Tanzania in the east and south, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the west. Burundi gained freedom from colonial rule in 1962. The political system of Burundi is that of a presidential representative democratic republic. About 85% of the population of Burundi is of Hutu ethnicity, 15% are of Tutsi origin and less than 1% are Twa. Burundi has extreme levels of poverty and rampant corruption. Burundi was ranked as the world’s least happy nation in the World Happiness Report 2018.

Indonesia hit by Volcanic Tsunami

On 22nd December 2018, Indonesia was hit by a Tsunami. As the giant tsunami waves crashed into coastal towns on the islands of Sumatra and Java, at least 281 people were killed and 1,016 were injured.

          

About Tsunami

Tsunami refers to a series of waves in a water body caused by the displacement of a large volume of water, generally in an ocean or a large lake.

Tsunamis are different from the normal sea waves. Normal waves are generated due to the wind and Tides are generated due to the gravitational pull of the Moon and the Sun, whereas Tsunami is generated by an abrupt movement on the ocean floor due to the triggering points like Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, underwater explosions, landslides, glacier calving or meteorite impacts.

Tsunami waves have a large wavelength in the open ocean. As the Tsunami waves reach shallow water near shores they grow rapidly in size and make a landfall causing large-scale destruction.

Fact Box: Initiatives of Niti Ayog in 2018

The think tank through slew of initiatives is aiding the government in building an inclusive and sustainable India. The major initiatives of Niti Aayog in 2018 are detailed below.

Initiatives of Niti Aayog

Competitive federalism

To boost the competitive federalism Niti Aayog has taken following steps:

  • NITI Aayog has finalized indices to measure incremental annual outcomes in critical social sectors like health, education, water and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
  • Niti Aayog has developed the District Hospital Index to measure and monitor the performance of hospitals with a focus on outputs and outcomes.
  • Niti Aayog has developed the ‘Healthy States, Progressive India’ Report also known as the ‘Health Index’.
  • Niti Aayog has announced the Composite Water Management Index to assess and improve the performance of States/ Union Territories in efficient management of water resources.
  • Niti Aayog is in the process of formulating ‘School Education Quality Index (SEQI)’, ‘SDG India Index’ and the ‘Digital Transformation Index’ (DTI) to measure states’ progress in respective sectors.

Sustainable Action for Transforming Human Capital (SATH)

Niti Aayog aimed at initiating transformation in two key social sectors of education and health has initiated SATH. Under SATH, Niti Aayog aims to bring transformative change by hand-holding States towards improving their social sector indicators and providing technical support over three years.

Uttar Pradesh, Assam and Karnataka were selected to improve their healthcare delivery and in education, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, and Jharkhand were selected by Niti Aayog through a unique challenge method.

Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat 

The Initiative of Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat aims to make our country united, strong and promote excellence in all walks of life by means of long-term inter-state engagements through cultural exchanges and education. Niti Aayog is actively collaborating with various ministries in the implementation.

Development Support Services to States (DSSS) for Development of Infrastructure

Niti Aayog has launched DSSS to de-risk projects and address key structural issues in project development and build institutional and organizational capacities. The initiative aims at establishing a Centre-State partnership model and reignite and establish Private Public Partnership across infrastructure sectors.

Public-Private Partnership in Health

To aid States in achieving the health goals in the area of prevention, diagnosis and treatment of select Non-Communicable processes, viz. Cardiac Sciences, Oncology and Pulmonary Sciences, Niti Aayog has developed a guiding framework for States, for implementation at the district hospital level, focusing on tier II/ tier III cities and by engaging services of private/voluntary sector providers. Niti Aayog has also developed a model concessionaire agreement along with the guidelines for promoting PPP in Healthcare.

Cooperative federalism

Niti Aayog is working tirelessly in resolving pending issues with the Central Ministries from all States and UTs. Niti Aayog is also providing a platform to share best practices among states and for collaboration to achieve common good.

State Human Development Report

Niti Aayog assisted states of Maharashtra, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Karnataka, Nagaland, Bundelkhand region and Delhi in the preparation of State Human Development Reports.

Transforming of 115 identified Aspirational Districts

Niti Aayog is the driving force behind the Aspirational District Programme (ADP) which aims at rapidly transforming 115 identified districts that have shown relatively lesser progress in key social areas and have emerged as pockets of under-development, thereby posing a challenge to ensure balanced regional development.

New Big Bank likely to emerge next year

It is expected the contours for the amalgamation of Bank of Baroda (BoB), Vijaya Bank and Dena Bank would be finalised soon and it would be placed before the parliament for approval in the ongoing winter session. The decision of amalgamation was taken by the Alternative Mechanism’ (AM) headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, which included Railways Minister Piyush Goyal and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. The government has already set aside the funds to facilitate the amalgamation.

New Big Bank

The new entity from the amalgamation will have a combined business of Rs 14.82 lakh crore, making it the third largest bank after SBI and ICICI Bank.

The net NPA ratio of the new entity will be at 5.71 per cent. This is significantly better than the public sector bank (PSB) average of 12.13 per cent.

India’s first music museum to be set up in Thiruvaiyaru

Tamil Nadu has announced the setting up of country’s first music museum with assistance from the Central government in Thiruvaiyaru which is the birthplace of Saint Tyagaraja, one of the Trinities of Carnatic music. The other two of the Trinity are Muthuswami Dikshitar and Syama Sastri.

Saint Tyagaraja was a renowned composer of Carnatic music. He has composed thousands of devotional compositions, mostly in Telugu in the praise of Lord Rama, many of which remain popular today. He saw the reigns of four kings of Maratha dynasty — Tulaja II (1763-1787), Amarasimha (1787-1798), Serfoji II (1798-1832) and Sivaji II (1832-1855), but he served none of them.

NATIONAL FARMERS’ DAY

India celebrates National Farmers Day on …23rdDecember to commemorate the birth anniversary of the 5th Prime Minister of India, Choudhary Charan Singh. He was a farmer’s leader and he had introduced many policies to improve the lives of the Indian farmers.

Choudhary Charan Singh served as the Prime Minister of India between 28 July 1979 and 14 January 1980.  He is often referred to as the ‘champion of India’s peasants.

Choudhary Charan Singh was born on 23 December 1902 in a rural peasant Jat family. He entered into politics during the Independence Movement motivated by Gandhiji and he served as a member of Legislative Assembly of the United Provinces elected in 1937.

In the post-independence period, he was one of three principal leaders of Congress from Uttar Pradesh. He defected from the Congress in 1967 and became the first non-Congress chief minister of UP. He became Prime Minister in the year 1979. He died in 1987. His memorial in New Delhi is named as Kisan Ghat.

 Bogibeel Bridge-

PM Modi inaugurated the Bogibeel Bridge on the birth anniversary of the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee i.e. December 25 which is observed as “Good Governance Day”. This 4.9 km-long bridge is the nation’s only fully welded bridge and for the first time European codes and welding standards were adhered to and it has a life of about 120 years.

The Bogibeel Bridge connects the southern bank of the Brahmaputra River in Assam’s Dibrugarh district with Silapathar in Dhemaji district, bordering Arunachal Pradesh. This Double-Track and three-lane Road Bridge will be the lifeline of the north-eastern part of India

The railroad bridge is constructed at a cost of Rs 5,900 crore and it is Asia’s second-longest railroad bridge. The bridge is part of infrastructure projects planned to improve logistics along the border in Arunachal Pradesh which includes the construction of a trans-Arunachal highway on the Brahmaputra’s north bank, and new road and rail links over the river and its major tributaries.

Benefits of the Bridge

The bridge is referred to as “Lifeline of Assam”, It is an asset for the entire north-eastern region. The benefits of the bridge include:

  • It reduces travel time from Assam to Arunachal Pradesh to four hours and will eliminate a detour of over 170 km via Tinsukia.
  • It also reduces the train travel time between Delhi and Dibrugarh by about three hours.
  • The bridge will also play an important role in defence of the country by facilitating ease of mobility to the India-China border in Arunachal Pradesh and also the three road lanes of the bridge can act as three landing strips for the Air Force.

The foundation stone for the Bogibeel Bridge was laid by former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda on January 22, 1997. The work had begun on 21st April 2002, under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee led government. It is now inaugurated on the birth anniversary of the former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Govt extends ban on import of milk products from China for 4 months.

India which is the largest producer and consumer of milk has extended the ban on import of milk products from China for 4 months. The ban would continue till 23rd April 2019 as per the notification issued by the Ministry of Commerce.

The Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), an arm of the commerce ministry which deals with the norms related to exports and imports of the country in a statement has said that “Prohibition on import of milk, milk products (including chocolates, chocolate products, candies, confectionary food preparations with milk or milk solids as an ingredient) from China is extended for a further period of four months, i.e. till April 23, 2019, or until further orders”.

Reasons for the Ban?

The ban was primarily imposed due to the concerns about the presence of melamine in some of the milk consignments from China. Melamine is a toxic non-edible chemical used for making plastics and fertilisers. Even though India does not import milk products from China, the ban is imposed as a preventive measure.

Sadaiv Atal dedicated to the Nation

Sadaiv Atal, the Samadhi of Atal Bihari Vajpayee was dedicated to the Nation on the birth Anniversary of the former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

To emphasise on the unity in diversity, stones from various parts of the country have been used in the construction of Samadhi near Rajghat in New Delhi.  The Samadhi has a central platform comprising of nine square blocks, capped with a Diya in the centre. The number nine represents the navarasas, navaratras and navagrahas. The placement of the nine square blocks is in a circular lotus shaped pattern.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee served as the Prime Minister of India for a term of 13 days in 1996, then for a period of 13 months from 1998 to 1999, and finally, for a full term from 1999 to 2004.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee was born to Krishna Devi and Krishna Bihari Vajpayee on 25 December 1924 in Gwalior. He passed away on 16 August 2018 due to age-related illness. His birth anniversary is celebrated as Good Governance Day.

Experts call to revisit ban on Plastic in Tami Nadu

The government of Tamil Nadu on World Environment day 2018 on 5th June had announced that it would ban the use of plastic items, including non-biodegradable bags, from January 1, 2019, with some exceptions. Plastic was allowed only for only milk, oil, medicine packets and other items of basic needs.

  

The ban was announced by the Chief Minister under Rule 110 of the state Assembly which allows the chief minister to make announcements without a debate in the House.

Why calls to revisit the decision of ban on Plastics?

Those demanding a revisit argue that

  • Elimination of single-use plastic by 2020 is perfectly fine, but a total ban on plastic will cause harm for both industry and the common man.
  • The proposed ban in Tamil Nadu would hit over 5,000 plastic industries across the State and investment close to Rs 3,000 crore turning idle.
  • Tamil Nadu would incur an annual loss of around Rs 18000 crore.

Hovercrafts for enhanced security in Sir Creek

Indian Coast Guards has deployed two new hovercrafts to enhance its surveillance capabilities and to protect against any filtration bids from the Pakistan Side. The two hovercrafts would operate from the Jakhau facility in Gujrat.

The two new hovercrafts together with three interceptor vessels will be responsible for the round the clock surveillance in the contentious area around Sir Creek.

A hovercraft is an amphibious vehicle capable of travelling over land, water, mud, ice, and other surfaces. Hovercrafts operate at high speeds between 30-40 knots (around 50-60 kilometres) per hour. Sir Creek area in the Kutch district of Gujarat is a disputed area between India and Pakistan. Sir Creek also witnessed some action during the 1965 war. Sir Creek is used by the infiltrators from Pakistan to enter the Indian Territory. Hovercrafts can be an asset in dealing with these infiltrations.

Aadhaar not mandatory for admission in schools.

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has made it clear that schools cannot make Aadhaar a pre-condition to admit the students. UIDAI has categorically made it clear that asking for Aadhaar card for admissions is not as per the provisions of law and doing so will be against the recent order of the Supreme Court.

UIDAI has asked schools to ensure that children are not left out from schools due to unavailability of Aadhaar. Instead, the UIDAI has asked the schools to admit children without Aadhaar and ensure that children are enrolled for Aadhaar once they are in schools by arranging special camps for them.

The UIDAI’s clarification has come at a right time as admissions to nursery and entry-level classes have begun in over 1,500 private schools in Delhi.

SC Verdict

In the verdict which upheld the constitutional validity of Aadhaar, SC had emphasised that Aadhaar would not be mandatory for school admissions, for examinations conducted by the Central Board of Secondary Examination, National Eligibility cum Entrance Test for medical entrance and the University Grants Commission.

Islands of Andaman to be renamed after Netaji Bose

The Union Government has decided to rename …Ross, Neil and Havelock islands of Andaman. The Ross, Neil and Havelock Islands are to be named as Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Island, Shaheed Dweep, and Swaraj Dweep, respectively.

    

The announcement about renaming is expected to be made by PM Narendra Modi on 30 December during his visit to the Islands. 30th December marks the 75th anniversary of the Netaji’s visit to the Andaman Islands.

Netaji’s connect with the Andaman Islands

Netaji, accompanied by Sarvashri Anand Mohan Sahay, Captain Rawat-ADC and Colonel DS Raju, the personal physician of Netaji, landed at the Port Blair aerodrome in Andaman on 29thDecember 1943. Netaji was accorded a warm welcome. Netaji had appointed Indian National Army General AD Loganathan as the governor of the islands.

After the Japanese captured the Andaman Island during the time of the Second World War, Netaji had hoisted the flag at Port Blair on December 30, 1943. This was because he believed that Port Blair was the first territory to be freed from British rule. Netaji had even suggested way back that the Andaman and Nicobar Islands be renamed as Shahid and Swaraj Dweep.

Bahuda Rookery: Another Olive Ridley Nesting Site in Odisha.

Gahirmatha marine sanctuary and… Rushikulya rookery coast in Ganjam district are main Olive Ridley Nesting sites in Odisha. Of these sites, Gahirmatha marine sanctuary is largest rookery (mass nesting site) of Olive Ridley turtles. Odisha is home to 50% of the total world’s population of Olive Ridleys and about 90% of Indian population of sea turtles.

Recently, Odisha forest department added another olive ridley mass nesting site Bahuda Rookery at beach on Bahuda river mouth in Ganjam district. It is located around 20 km to south of Rushikulya rookery coast.

Olive Ridley

Olive Ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) is smallest and most abundant of all sea turtle found in world. It gets its name from its olive coloured carapace, which is heart-shaped and rounded. It is best known for their unique mass nesting called Arribada, where thousands of females come together on the same beach each year to lay eggs.

It is found in warm waters of Pacific and Indian oceans. They are found along both-eastern and western coasts of India. It spends entire lives in ocean and migrates thousands of kilometers between feeding and mating grounds in course of a year.

Breeding season

Olive Ridley turtles commence their journey from Indian Ocean towards Bay of Bengal during their mating season in October and November every year. A single female can lay upto 100 to 150 eggs in a pit dug on beaches. Six weeks later these eggs hatches and newly hatched turtles start journey to their Indian Ocean habitat.

Threats

Accidental killing of adult turtles through entanglement in trawl nets and gill nets due to uncontrolled fishing during their mating season around nesting beaches. Poaching for meat, shell and leather, and their eggs. Development and exploitation of nesting beaches for ports and tourist centres.

Protection Status

Though found in abundance, their numbers have been declining over the past few years. It is included in Vulnerable category by the IUCN Red list. In India, it is protected under Schedule I of Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Moreover, trading in its products are banned under CITES.

 Manju Mehta conferred Tansen Samman, 2018

The Madhya Pradesh Government has conferred the annual Tansen Samman  upon eminent Sitar Player Manju Mehta for her contribution in the field of Hindustani Classical Music. The award was presented by Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on inaugural function of Tansen Music Festival in Gwalior.

Tansen Samaroh (Tansen Music Festival)

The department of culture, Madhya Pradesh government organizes annual four day Tansen Samaroh near the tomb of Tansen in Gwalior every year in December. The vocal and instrumental artists from all over India come and deliver their performances.

Tansen Award

Tansen Award was instituted by Madhya Pradesh government to honour the individual artists with significant contribution to Hindustani Classical Music. This award carries a cash prize of Rs. 2 Lakh along with a memento. The first Tansen Samman was conferred upon Sitar maestro Ustad Abdul Haleem Jafar Khan in 2000.

Manju Mehta

Veteran Sitar maestro Manju Mehta belongs to Bhatt family of Jaipur, which other eminent musicians Shashimohan Bhatt and Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt come from. She has been a top artist at All Indian Radio and has co-founded the Saptak School of Music in Gujarat.

Lok Sabha Passes Triple Talaq Bill

The Lok Sabha has passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, famously referred to as Triple Talaq Bill. The bill would replace the ordinance passed in the month of September.

The opposition members from Congress and AIADMK staged the walkout demanding that the government must refer the bill to the joint select committee.

Features of the Bill

The Important features of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill are:

  • The bill makes the all declaration of triple talaq, including in written or electronic form, to be void (i.e. not enforceable in law) and illegal. Talaq-e-biddat.

Talaq-e-biddat (Triple Talaq)
It refers to the practice under Muslim personal laws where pronouncement of the word ‘talaq’ thrice in one sitting by a Muslim man to his wife results in an instant and irrevocable divorce.

  • Declaration of Triple Talaq would be a cognizable offence, attracting up to three years’ imprisonment with a fine. The bill states that the offence will be cognizable only if information relating to the offence is given by the married woman (against whom talaq has been declared), or any person related to her by blood or marriage.

Cognizable offence-A cognizable offence is one for which a police officer may arrest an accused person without a warrant.

  • Under the provisions of the bill, the Magistrate may grant bail to the accused only after hearing the woman (against whom talaq has been pronounced), and if the Magistrate is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for granting bail.
  • The bill also states that the offence may be compounded by the Magistrate upon the request of the woman (against whom talaq has been declared). The bill empowers the Magistrate to determine terms and conditions of the compounding.

Compounding of offence- Compounding of offence refers to a procedure where the two sides agree to stop legal proceedings, and settle the dispute.

  • A Muslim Women against whom the triple talaq is pronounced is entitled to seek subsistence allowance from her husband for herself and for her dependent children and the amount of the allowance will be determined by the Magistrate.
  • A Muslim Women against whom the triple talaq is pronounced is entitled to seek custody of her minor children and the manner of custody will be determined by the Magistrate.

The Opposition members were demanding the joint select committee for a detailed study of the bill since it is a constitutional matter related to a specific religion.

Niti Aayog releases second Delta Ranking of Aspirational districts.

The government think tank, Niti Ayog has released the second Delta Ranking of the Aspirational Districts Programme. The second delta ranking measures the incremental progress made by 111 Aspirational Districts between June 1, 2018, and October 31, 2018, across …….six developmental areas of health and nutrition, education, agriculture and water resources, financial inclusion, skill development, and basic infrastructure.

Only 111 of the 115 Aspirational Districts participated in the survey. Three Aspirational Districts from West Bengal did not participate, and one district of Kerala could not take part because of floods.

Findings of the Ranking

The important findings of the second Delta Ranking of the Aspirational Districts Programme are:

  • Aspirational districts which have shown most improvements in education are ….Virudhunagar (Tamil Nadu), Nuapada (Odisha) and Gumla (Jharkhand) while least improved three districts are Pakur (Jharkhand), Yadgir(Karnataka) and Malkangiri (Odisha).
  • Aspirational districts which have shown most improvements in …..health and nutrition are Chitrakoot (Uttar Pradesh), Barwani (Madhya Pradesh) and Vidisha (Madhya Pradesh), while the least improved three districts are Chatra (Jharkhand), Pakur (Jharkhand) and Hazaribagh (Jharkhand).

Delta rankings

The Delta rankings aim to spur a sense of competition among dynamic teams in Aspirational Districts. The rankings provide for a quantitative tool to identify sectors and indicate specific challenges so that Team India, which is driving Transformation of Aspirational Districts programme can take immediate corrective measures.

The Delta Ranking also goes a step further and looks into specific aspects of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and analyses how these districts have performed across important sectors. The findings from this ranking will aid District Magistrates or Collectors to focus more on these sectors and improve their ranking in future.

Transformation of Aspirational Districts programme-The programme launched in January 2018 aims to quickly and effectively transform the most underdeveloped districts of the country. The programme envisages rapid development of selected districts on basis of a composite index based on six parameters of health and nutrition, education, financial inclusion, skill development, agriculture and water resources and basic the infrastructure. The programme promotes Convergence of Central and State Schemes, Collaboration of Central, State level ‘Prabhari’ Officers and District Collectors and Competition among districts driven by Mass Movement or Jan Andolan.

Government bans Khalistan Liberation Force.

The government has banned Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF) under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for its involvement in several killings, bombings and other terror activities during its violent campaign for the secession of Punjab. KLF will be the 40th organisation to be proscribed under the UAPA law.

The ban comes in the backdrop of various agencies unearthing several KLF modules in recent months which has led to apprehensions that it is attempting to revive militancy in the state.

Khalistan Liberation Force

The Khalistan Liberation Force came into existence in 1986 with the objective of establishing an independent Khalistan by the secession of Punjab from India through violent means.

Bhutanese PM on a 3 day visit to India

Prime Minister of Bhutan Lotay Tshering arrived in India on 27th December for a three-day visit. The Visit is significant because it is taking place during the Golden Jubilee year of the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The Bhutanese PM was accorded ceremonial reception at the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan. He would pay homage to Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi and hold talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

India-Bhutan Diplomatic Relations

The diplomatic relations between India and Bhutan were established in 1968. India established a special office of India in Thimphu in 1968. Prior to this, Indian diplomatic relations with Bhutan were looked after by Indian  Political Officer in Sikkim.

The India-Bhutan bilateral relations are governed by the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation signed in 1949 between the two countries. The treaty was revised in February 2007. The India-Bhutan Friendship Treaty together with reflecting the contemporary nature of our relationship lays the foundation for their future development in the 21st century.

The Golden Jubilee of the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between India and Bhutan is being celebrated in the year 2018.

Lotay Tshering

Doctor by profession Lotay Tshering is a Bhutanese politician who is the current Prime Minister of Bhutan. He is also the president of the political party, Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa since 14 May 2018. Lotay Tshering is the 3rd democratically elected Prime Minister of Bhutan.

New norms for FDI in e-commerce

The new norms for the foreign direct investment (FDI) in e-commerce, bars e-commerce firms from selling products of entities in which they have an equity stake.

Why the new norms?

The new norms are brought in by the government to plug-in some loopholes like:

  • To bypass the rules which restricted large sellers on platforms such as Flipkart and Amazon from contributing more than a quarter of sales, online retailers had set up structures to get around those loopholes by mandating other sellers to buy from those large sellers and then, in turn, sell those products on e-marketplaces.
  • Large sellers formed multiple entities, which sold their products separately on online marketplaces.
  • The small traders were complaining that deep discounts offered by the likes of Amazon and Flipkart are driving them out of business.
  • The new norms aim to tackle the anti-competitive behaviour by e-commerce entities and to ensure that there is no wrong subsidization and the marketplace remains neutral to all vendors.

How will it affect e-commerce companies?

The impacts of the new norms are:

  • The e-commerce companies like Amazon and Flipkart would be adversely affected because Amazon has several such joint ventures, including Cloudtail and Appario. Even Flipkart has exclusive partnerships with top smartphone brands such as Xiaomi and Oppo. The new norms will adversely impact their business models.
  • The critics blame that the new norms are not in sync with the spirit of competition and free market economy because Only those exclusive arrangements that have an appreciable adverse effect on competition are prohibited under the Competition Act.

The new norms are welcomed by stating that the new norms will enable a level- playing field for all sellers especially MSMEs and help them leverage the reach of e-commerce.

BeiDou starts providing global service.

China’s BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) has started offering global service. It is touted as a rival to America’s Global Positioning System (GPS). Pakistan has become the first foreign nation to use the BeiDou system ending its reliance on GPS.

China’s BeiDou Navigation Satellite System was the fourth global navigation system after US’s GPS, Russia’s GLONASS and the European Union’s Galileo.

China has named its navigation satellite system after the Chinese term which means ‘Big Dipper’. BeiDou-1 consisted of three satellites and was offering navigation services mainly in China and neighbouring regions.  It was decommissioned in 2012.

The second generation of the navigation system, BeiDou-2 became operational in China in December 2011 with

Four commonly used medical devices as drugs

Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has notified four medical devices including …blood pressure monitors, nebulisers, digital thermometers and glucometers as drugs under Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940. The decision will enable the government to ensure their quality and performance. Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) will ….regulate import, manufacture and sale of these devices from January 2020.

Companies which are engaged in manufacture and import of these equipment will have to seek necessary permission or license from DCGI from January 1, 2020 onward. All these devices will have to be registered under quality parameters prescribed under Medical Devices Rules, 2017 and other standards set by Bureau of Indian Standard (BIS) certification.

With addition of these four new devices, the number of medical devices falling under definition of drugs under this law goes up to 27. Prior to this, only 23 medical devices were monitored for quality by DCGI. The other medical equipments are sold without any quality checks or clinical trials. Drug Technical Advisory Body (DTAB), the country’s highest drug advisory body earlier had approved the proposal to include these four medical devices under purview of Drug law.

Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) is under gamut of Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) is responsible for approval of licenses of specified categories of drugs such as blood and blood products, vaccines, IV fluids and sera in India. DCGI lays down standards and quality of manufacturing, selling, import and distribution of drugs in India. It acts as appellate authority in case of any dispute regarding quality of drugs. It prepares and maintains national reference standard. It brings about uniformity in enforcement of Drugs and Cosmetics Act. It trains Drug Analysts deputed by State Drug Control Laboratories and other Institutions.

India to receive total remittance of $80 billion in 2018: World Bank

According to World Bank’s Migration and Development Brief, India will retain its position as world’s top recipient of remittances in 2018, receiving a total remittance of $80 billion from its diaspora. India is followed by China ($67 billion), Mexico and hilippines ($34 billion each) and Egypt ($26 billion).

Remittance: It is transfer of money by foreign worker to individual or family in their home country. It competes with international aid as one of the largest financial inflows to developing countries. It has direct impact on alleviating poverty for many households especially in developing and low- and middle-income countries.

Exercise AVIAINDRA –

The second edition of service specific exercise AVIAINDRA between Indian Air Force and Russian Federation Aerospace Force (RFSAF) was held at Air Force Station Jodhpur, Rajasthan. The inaugural IAF-RFSAF Ex AVIAINDRA was conducted in 2014 and since then it is conducted bi-annually (twice a year) in both countries.

AVIAINDRA 2018-The aim of this exercise is focused towards anti-terrorist operations in bi-lateral scenario. It also seeks to further enhance co-operation and understanding between Air forces of both countries in each other’s Concept of Operations. This edition of exercise is planned in two phases.

The exercise is unique wherein foreign participant does not bring its air assets. In Russia IAF pilots flew alongside their Russian counterparts in RFSAF aircraft at Lipetsk in September 2018. Similarly in India, RFSAF pilots will fly alongside their Indian counterparts in the IAF aircraft, which are common to both Air Forces.

UN Global Counter Terrorism Coordination Compact 

To deal with the rising problem of Terrorism, United Nation chief along with 39 organizational entities, Interpol and World custom organization signed a framework to deal with terrorism and promote peace and sustainable growth. The agreement is non-binding in nature. The UN Global counter terrorism coordination compact is also termed as Global compact.

The Global compact coordination committee will be chaired by Under-Secretary-General for counter terrorism. And the first meeting took place on 6th December 2018 in New York. United Nations office of counter terrorism will serve as Secretariat of Global Compact.

Need of the Framework..?

The Global terrorism index released by Institute for Economic and Peace showed that there is a decrease in deaths due to terrorism, but the impacts of terrorism are still spreading all over the world. United Nation is actively working to bring peace and cooperation among member states. UN Global counter terrorism coordination compact replaced counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force

Objectives of the agreement

  • To monitor use of technology which is the main source of reaching people globally and manipulate them.
  • To devise the policies that will protect communities and their religious belief.
  • To bring the UN agencies together to combat terrorism with common approach and find the ways to improve the strategies to support member states.
  • To protect the people from violent extremist groups and hate speeches.
  • To adopt the strategies that do not compromise the international human rights standards and rule of law.

Despite the previous approaches and initiatives by UN there is still some loopholes in the strategies. There is still threat of terrorism persist. Many countries are high on risk. By these new framework, UN is now taking a step ahead to remove terrorism from the roots.

 Global Nutrition Report, 2018

The Global Nutrition Report came into existence following the first Nutrition for Growth Initiative Summit (N4G) in 2013. The Global Nutrition Report was devised as a mechanism for tracking the commitments made by 100 stakeholders spanning governments, aid donors, civil society, the UN and businesses.

The Global Nutrition Report is the world’s leading report on the state of global nutrition. The report is delivered by an Independent Expert Group and guided at a strategic level by a Stakeholder Group, whose members also review the Report.

India has the highest number of ‘stunted’ children in the world and nearly a third of all stunted children worldwide are to be found in India as per the recently released WHO’s Global Nutrition Report, 2018.

2018 Report: Indian Profile

  • India has the highest number of ‘stunted’ children in the world and nearly a third of all stunted children worldwide are to be found in India.
  • About 46.6 million children in India suffer from stunting due to poor nutrition intake in the long term and repeated infections.
  • India is also the country with the highest number of children who are ‘wasted’. This is an even more severe indicator of acute malnutrition.
  • India has 25.5 million children who are wasted. Among the 50.5 million children who are wasted globally, India has half of the global wasting burden.

Stunting in India varied greatly from district to district (12.4 per cent to 65.1 per cent). 239 of 604 districts had stunting levels above 40 per cent

2018 Report: Global Profile

  • Stunting among children aged under five has fallen from 32.6 per cent in 2000 to 22.2 per cent in 2017
  • 20 million babies are born with low birth weight each year.
  • 3 million Children in the world over are overweight, while 38.9 per cent of adults are overweight or obese.
  • One third of all women of reproductive age have anaemia.
  • Women also have a higher prevalence of obesity than men.

Government raises its contribution in National Pension System to 14% from 10%

Union Cabinet has decided to raise contribution of Central Government to National Pension System (NPS) corpus of its employees from 10% to 14%. This will increase in eventual accumulated corpus of all central government employees covered by NPS. There are 18 lakh central government employees at present. The revenue impact from higher government contribution to employees’ corpus is expected to be around Rs.2,840 crore for 2019-20 and will be in nature of a recurring expenditure.

Government also has decided to make NPS fully tax free, making it on par with the provident fund scheme. It has decided to exempt income tax that is applicable on part of NPS corpus that is withdrawn on retirement. At present, while exiting scheme, 60% of corpus could be withdrawn and 20% of withdrawn amount is taxable. This portion now has been made tax free. The remaining part that could be used to buy annuities is anyway tax free. With this decision, NPS has acquired parity with provident fund savings, which are not taxed at any of three stages of saving, profit accrual or exit.

National Pension System (NPS)  is easily accessible, low cost, tax-efficient, flexible and portable retirement savings account. It was launched in 2004 and was initially introduced for new Government recruits (except armed forces). It aims to institute pension reforms in country and to inculcate habit of saving for retirement amongst the citizens.

Hand-in-Hand Military exercise

The seventh edition Hand-in-Hand Military exercise between India, China began in Chengdu, China. It is being held to improve capabilities of the two armies in fighting terrorism and promote mutual understanding. The exercise was held after gap of one year as both the sides were locked in 73-day standoff in Doklam in Sikkim sector of the border in 2017. The strained relations between two sides later improved resulting in informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Chinese city of Wuhan in April 2018.

Hand-in-Hand 2019-In this edition of exercise, 100 troops from each side are taking part. The main focus is on counter-terrorism operations. It will involve tactical level operations in an International Counter Insurgency/ Counter Terrorist environment under UN mandate. The drill will promote understanding between two militaries and improving their capabilities in fighting terrorism. The exercise will include live shooting and adoptive and basic training.

HAL developed Light Utility Helicopter

Indigenously developed Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has achieved important milestone of flying at 6 km altitude in Bengaluru, capital of Karnataka. The test was critical requirement towards certification of LUH. Its first flight was carried in September 2016 and second Prototype was flown in May 2017.

The recent flight test was carried out under envelope expansion tests and helicopter exhibited satisfactory performance and handling qualities. With the completion of this milestone, LUH can now undertake high altitude cold weather trials planned in January 2019.

Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) –It is 3-ton class new generation helicopter designed and developed by indigenously Rotary Wing Research and Design Center (RWR&DC) of HAL. It will replace ageing fleet of Cheetah and Chetak helicopters used by Indian Armed Forces.

It is capable of flying at 220 kmph, with service ceiling of 6.5 km and range of 350 km with 400 kg payload. It is fitted with Glass Cockpit and powered by TM/HAL Ardiden 1U/Shakti 1U single turbo shaft engine with sufficient power margins to cater to demanding high altitude missions.

It will meet requirements of both military and civil operators. It can be deployed for reconnaissance, surveillance roles and as light transport helicopter. HAL has in principal order for 187 LUH that includes 126 for Indian Army and 61 for IAF.

Hindustan Aeronautical Limited (HAL) is state-owned aerospace and defence company based in Bengaluru, Karnataka. It is governed under the management of the Union Defence Ministry. It pursues high-end research and development to create the country’s future aircraft and aeroengine technologies HAL has already developed four highly popular models of helicopters under its belt.  Its product range includes, Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), multi-role seven seater Chetak Helicopter, Light combat helicopter (LCH) Cheetah and Lancer, anti-insurgency, close air support chopper.

Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration adopted at UN Conference in Marrakesh, Morocco

Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration was adopted by 164 nations including India at Intergovermental Conference to adopt this compact held under auspices of United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at Marrakesh, Morocco. It is first intergovernmental agreement to cover wide-ranging dimensions of international migration in holistic and comprehensive manner and agreed upon by all the UN member states minus United States.

Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration seeks to better manage migration at local, national, regional and global levels, in order to reduce the risks and vulnerabilities of migrants. It creates non-legally binding and co-operative framework that builds on commitments agreed upon by member states in New York Declaration for refugees and migrants of December 2016.

It lists four objectives  are –

  • Expand access to third country solutions
  • Support conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity
  • Ease pressures on host countries
  • Enhance refugee self-reliance

It sets out framework on how international cooperation on migration issues should work but does not oblige states to take concrete action. It sets out 23 objectives to deal issues ranging from factors that compel people to move, legal channels for migration, combating trafficking and smuggling, harness economic benefits of migration and return of the migrants.

Its intent to protect human rights of migrants, address root causes of migration, and combat negative myths surrounding migration. It acknowledges that migration is international issue that affects all member states and there is a need for more effective migration governance

 loan agreement with ADB to develop tourism

Union Government has inked $31 million loan agreement with Asian Development Bank (ADB) for Tamil Nadu Government’s Infrastructure Development Investment Program for Tourism (IDIPT). It is fourth loan tranche for this program aimed at building-up tourism industry and boost visitor arrivals in Tamil Nadu.

Infrastructure Development Investment Program for Tourism (IDIPT) is $250 million project approved in September 2010. It aims to build opportunities for local communities and boost local economy by enhancing tourism in three other states – Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand- besides Tamil Nadu. This will be achieved through developing and preserving sites of natural and cultural heritage, and building connectivity, capacity, and infrastructure around State tourist sites.

It will support conservation and restoration of eight heritage monuments, one museum, three temples and pond. It will build various facilities at the sites, including information centers, rest centers and toilet blocks with facilities served by solar-powered lighting and energy efficient lighting. The estimated completion date is June 2020.

EU opens India’s first Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence in New Delhi

European Union (EU) has established India’s first Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence (CoE) at Department of European Studies (DES) at Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE) in New Delhi. It comes with grant of €1,00,000 to pursue India-EU interdisciplinary studies in culture, literature, education and society.

Key Facts

This is for fifth time MAHE has been awarded grants under Erasmus+Jean Monnet initiative. Previous grants have been used for chair, modules and project. Under the present award, Jean Monnet CoE in India-EU Interdisciplinary Studies aims to strengthen and enhance the educational connect between India and EU. It will host open-to-public workshops on European literature, winter schools for students around the world and India-EU Higher Education Meet.

Jean Monnet was French political economist and diplomat. He was influential supporter of European unity and is considered as one of founding fathers of European Union. He also has been called “The Father of Europe” by those who see his innovative and pioneering efforts in the 1950s as the key to establishing the European Coal and Steel Community, the predecessor of today’s European Union. He was never elected to public office.

 Surjit Bhalla resigns from

Eminent economist and columnist Surjit Bhalla has resigned as part-time member of Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister(EAC-PM). His resignation comes day after Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor Urjit Patel, quit abruptly after months-long tussle over policy with government.

Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council (PMEAC)is non-constitutional and non-statutory, non-permanent and independent body, constituted with the prime and sole aim to analyse all critical issues, economic or otherwise, referred to it by the prime minister and advising him thereon. It is mandate to give advice to prime minister on economic matters such as inflation, GDP changes, export-import changes, creating supporting environment for increased trade and commerce.

Functions

Submit periodic reports to PM related to macroeconomic developments and issues which will have implications of the economic policy. Analyse any topics, issues assigned by the PM and provide advice to them. Analyse macroeconomic issues having high importance and present the views to PM and any other task which is assigned by Prime Minister.

Current Composition of PMEAC: It is headed by Niti Aayog member Bibek Debroy. Economists Rathin Roy, Ashima Goyal and Shamika Ravi are other part-time members.

CAG Rajiv Mehrishi

Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) Rajiv Mehrishi was elected as Vice-Chair of United Nations (UN) Panel of Auditors at its annual meeting held in New York. In this meeting CAG of UK was also appointed as Chair of Panel for another term (2019). The meeting discussed various issues concerning audit of United Nations and the agencies under the United Nations System. The next meeting  will be held in in Bonn, Germany in November-December 2019.

United Nations Panel of Auditors was established by UN General Assembly Resolution 1438 (XIV) in 1959. Its main objectives are to further co-ordination of audits for which its members are responsible and to exchange information on audit methods and findings.

It is made up of members of United Nations Board of Auditors and external auditors of Specialized Agencies of UN and of International Atomic Energy Agency. Currently, it is chaired by CAG of UK and consists of 11 countries — India, Germany, Chile, Canada, France, Italy, Philippines, Ghana, Indonesia, Switzerland and United Kingdom.

It may submit to executive heads of organisations audited any observations or recommendations in relation to accounts and financial procedures of organisation concerned. The executive heads of articipating organisations may also, through their auditors submit requests to it for its opinion or recommendation on any matter within its competence.

@CyberDost

Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has launched Twitter account @CyberDost to spread awareness about cybercrimes and normal precautions to be taken. It is aimed at enhancing people’s basic knowledge about cybercrimes and precautions to be taken for prevention.

This twitter handle will educate people about various channels through which complaints about cyber-crimes can be filed and makes people aware of their duties regarding misuse of cyber space by some people in the country. It will also help to mitigate possibilities of disruption in normal business activities or losses due to cyber-crimes by creating ecosystem to prevent and control cyber-crimes. The information shared on this handle will enhance basic knowledge of  followers about cyber-crimes and precautionary measures to be taken to prevent such crime.

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft

\NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft has found water locked inside asteroid Bennu. Bennu is too small to have ever hosted liquid water, but this finding does indicate that liquid water was present at some time on Bennu’s parent body, a much larger asteroid.

Key Facts

Data obtained from spacecraft’s two spectrometers OSIRIS-REx Thermal Emission Spectrometer (OTES) and OSIRIS-REx Visible and Infrared Spectrometer (OVIRS) has revealed presence ofhydroxyl molecules that contain oxygen and hydrogen atoms bonded together. These hydroxyl groups exist globally across asteroid in water-bearing clay minerals, indicating that at some point Bennu’s rocky material interacted with water.

OSIRIS-Rex was launched in September 2016 is NASA’s first asteroid sampling mission i.e. it will survey surface, collect sample and deliver it safely back to Earth. It had reached its destination Bennu asteroid in December 2018 after travelling through space for more than two years and travelling over two billion kilometres. Samples returned by the mission to Earth in 2023 will enable scientists to find new information about the history and evolution of our solar system.

Bennu  is near-Earth carbonaceous asteroid about the size of a small mountain in the Apollo group. It was discovered in September 1999 by the LINEAR Project. It is one of oldest known asteroids which is considered as remnant from early in formation of solar system and orbits close to Earth’s path around Sun.. It is carbon-rich asteroid and believed to be the type of asteroids that may have chemical building blocks of life, along with lots of water. So, analysis of returned sample from it could help to reveal key insights about early solar system and the origin of life on Earth. It is potentially hazardous asteroid and there is very slight chance it could strike into Earth in the late 22nd century.

ADB retains India’s growth forecast at 7.3% for FY19

Asian Development Bank (ADB) in its Outlook Supplement has retained India’s growth forecast at 7.3% for current fiscal (2018-19) and 7.6% in following financial year (2019-20). It held that India is maintaining growth momentum on rebounding exports and higher industrial and agricultural output.

Key Facts

India saw GDP growth moderate to 7.1% in Q2 of FY2018 (ending March 31, 2019) from 8.2%in Q1. The slowdown came mainly from food prices, rising oil prices delivering negative shock in terms of trade, lower rural consumption, and rising costs for raw materials. But growth forecasts of 7.3% for 2018-19 and 7.6% for 2019-20 are retained from update despite some downside risks.

Asian Development Bank (ADB)is a regional development bank based out of Asia. It aims to promote social and economic development in Asia by achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. It was established in December 1966. It is headquartered at Ortigas Centre in Manila, Philippines. It has total 67 members, of which 48 are from within Asia and the Pacific and 19 outside.

Indian Navy inducts first Deep Submergence Rescue Vessel

Indian Navy inducted its first Submarine Rescue System with Deep Submergence Rescue Vessel (DSRV) along with associated equipment at western naval dockyard in Mumbai, Maharashtra (west coast of India). It is first of the two non-tethered DSRVs ordered by Indian Navy. With this, India joined select list of international navies (US, Russia, Japan, South Korea, China, Singapore UK, Sweden and Australia). Its induction will enhance Indian Navy’s operational capabilities for search, locate and provide assistance to downed or disaster-struck or distressed submarines at high sea.

Deep Submergence Rescue Vessel (DSRV)

The vehicles are developed by Scotland-based JFD, a part of James Fisher and Sons Plc In March, 2016. JFD had won the contract of 193 million pounds for supply of two sets of non-tethered DSRV and 25 years of maintenance.

These DSRVs are third-generation system, considered to be most advanced system currently in operation globally. It is capable of undertaking rescue from a disabled submarine up to 650 metres depth. It is operated by a crew of three, can rescue 14 personnel from disabled submarine at time.

DSRVs complete with associated kit in fly away configuration, can be crucial in quickly locating submarines through vast expanse of sea and can be mobilised by air and water for rapid rescue.  It can be deployed at short notice for providing assistance to submarines in distress.

Indian Navy two DSRVs will be based on West and East Coast of India respectively. The first DSRV will be operated and deployed by crew of Indian Navy’s newly formed Submarine Rescue Unit (West) from its base in Mumbai. The second DSRV is out for delivery and is expected to reach Visakhapatnam soon. It will be operational by April 2019.

Dam Safety Bill 2018 introduced in Lok Sabha

Minister of State for Parliamentary affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal introduced Dam Safety Bill 2018 in Lok Sabha. The bill provides a uniform procedure for the safety of dams in country. The bill ensures surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of dams; and prevention of dam failure from disaster. According to bill, dam owner is responsible for dam safety and contain penal provisions for not adhering the certain acts of bill.

Key Features of Bill

  • The bill provides legal and institutional safeguard to ensure the safe functioning of dams.
  • The bill addresses all the issues related to dam safety, comprehensive dam safety review, Emergency Action plan, repair and maintenance of funds for dam.
  • The bill provides institutional framework which includes – National Dam Safety Authority, State committee on Dam safety, State Dam safety organization.
  • Owner of dam have to prepare Emergency action plan within 5 year and for new dams it has to prepare before filling.
  • Owner of the dam is required to establish hydro-meteorological network and emergency Flood warning system.
  • There is a provision for comprehensive safety evaluation by independent panel of expert.
  • Every state will establish a State Dam Safety Organization for the safety of Dam.

Background

India holds third rank after USA and China in terms of larger number of dams. Over 5254 larger dams are operating in India and about 447 dams are under construction. These dams are not maintained properly which causes concern for human life, Flaura and Fauna and to environment. In past India faced 36 dam failures due to low maintenance and lack of legal mechanism.

FTII New Chairman

Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has appointed Brijendra Pal Singh as the new chairman and President of Film and Television Institute of India. He succeeded Anupam Kher, who had resigned from the post in October because of some international commitments.

Brijendra Pal Singh

  • He is an alumnus of FTII of 1970-73 batch and done specialization in film cinematography.
  • He is producer of the famous crime drama CID and completed a record of 21 years of continuous telecast on Sony TV.
  • He also made his name in Limca book of world record for taking continuous shot of 111 minutes marking the completion of six years of crime drama CID.
  • He served as chairman of FTII academic council and vice chairman of governing council.

FTII –Film and television Institute of India is an autonomous body established in 1960. It comes under Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. It is one of the members of International Liasion Centre of Schools of Cinema and Television which is world’s leading organization of schools of films and television.  The institute is registered under Societies’ registration Act 1960.

It consists of a President who also serves as chairman of governing council and Standing Finance Committee. Governing council of FTII is responsible for all the important policy decision of institute. Director of Institute is responsible for implementation of policies.

Delhi High Court Orders Ban on sale of Online Medicines.

The Delhi High Court has ordered a ban on the sale of online medicines by E-pharmacies across the country. A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao has also ordered central and delhi governments to implement the order.

Background

The court was acting on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Zaheer Ahmed, a Delhi based dermatologist. The main complaints in the PIL were as follows:

  • Medicines worth Lakhs was being sold online everyday without much regulation and posing a huge risk to patients as well as doctors.
  • Online sale of medicines is not permitted under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and Pharmacy Act, 1948.
  • The Drug Controller General of India in 2015 had clearly directed all state drug controllers to protect the interest of public health by restraining such sale online.
  • By allowing unchecked online sales, the government has failed in its responsibility to protect public health and fulfill its obligation under Article 21 of the constitution (right to life).
  • Drugs are different from common items; and their misuse and abuse can have serious consequences for public health.
  • Internet is used by a large number of children, minors and also uneducated people in rural areas. They can become victims of wrong medication.
  • Online pharmacies are working without drug licenses and are also indulged in selling psychotropic substances.

Legal Status of Online Pharmacies

The Union Health Ministry had come out with draft rules on sale of drugs by E-pharmacies in September 2018. The objective of these rules was to regulate the sale of medicines across India. The government did not ban the sale of drugs online because such sale also provides the patients in remote areas access to genuine drugs from authentic portals. The draft rules had mandated that no person will distribute or sell, stock, exhibit or offer for sale of drugs through e-pharmacy portal unless registered

Supreme Court gives Clean Chit to NDA Government over Rafale Deal

Supreme Court has given clean chit to Modi government for purchase of 36 Rafale fighter Jets. The three Judge bench headed by Ranjan Gogoi, find nothing wrong on the purchase of 36 fighter jet instead of 126 from France.  The court gave clean chit on three aspects – Purchasing of 36 Rafale jets instead of 126. Pricing of Rafale jets and Selection of Indian offset partners.

The litigation had questioned the deal on the ground of pricing mechanism, commercial favoritism and procurement of less number of fighter jets. The petition was first filed by Advocate M L Sharma. The petitioners demanded CBI to register a FIR for the said irregularities in deal.  The apex court rule has two main points – (1) It finds no evidence of commercial favoritism (2) It is not the job of court to deal with comparative pricing mechanism.

Rafale Deal- Dassault Rafale won the MMRCA competition in January 2012 to supply 126 Jet aircraft with additional 63 aircraft to Indian Air Force. First 18 aircrafts were to be supplied by Dassault and remaining were to be manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. Dassault refused to ensure the quality of aircraft produced by HAL. In 2014 the price of deal increased to $30 billion. This created the price issue on the deal and deal couldn’t be signed. Then after Modi government the deal was confirmed with the 36 multirole fighter aircraft of Rs. 58000 crores from France’s Dassault Aviation. The deal has been in controversy since its inception and supreme finally gave clean chit to government.

Four Indian PSUs feature in world’s top 100 arms producers: SIPRI Report

The recently released rankings by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) have placed four Indian Public Sector Undertakings among world’s top 100 arms producers. These companies are as follows:

  1. Indian Ordnance Factories (37th Rank)
  2. Hindustan Aeronautics (38th Rank)
  3. Bharat Electronics (64th Rank)
  4. Bharat Dynamics (94th rank)

This was for the first time that four Indian companies have ranked in top 100 arms producers companies of world. These four companies have sold arms worth USD 7.52 Billion in 2017.

SIPRI- Established in 1966, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) is a Swedish think tank dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament. SIPRI provides data, analysis and recommendations, based on open sources, to policymakers, researchers, media and the interested public.

India’s share in Global Arms Sale

India’s current share in total global arms sales stands at less than 2%. This indicates that India has been a weak player in international markets. Successive government have tried to turn India into a global defence manufacturing hub and take multiple policy steps to involve private sector in defense production. However, most of such measures have been on papers only till now.

World’s top arms producers

The global arms market is dominated by US companies which have a whopping 57% of the market share, followed by Russia (9.5%), United Kingdom (9%) and France (5.3%). As of 2017, Lockheed Martin is world’s largest arms with arms sales of $ 44.9 billion. Boeing is the second largest arms producer company in the world.

National Medical Devices Promotion Council

The government will set up a National Medical Devices Promotion Council (NMDPC) under the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) in the Ministry of Commerce & Industry to promote the medical devices sector. This announcement has been made by Union Minister of Commerce and Industry and Civil Aviation, Suresh Prabhu on December 14, 2018.

National Medical Devices Promotion Council will have representations form concerned departments of the Government of India and also healthcare industry and quality control institutions of the country. It will be headed by  Secretary of Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion. It will get technical support from Andhra Pradesh MedTech Zone, Visakhapatnam.

Objectives and Activities

The key objectives and activities of the National Medical Devices Promotion Council will be as follows:

  • To work as a facilitating and developmental body for Indian Medical Devices Industry.
  • To conduct seminars, workshop and other promotional and networking activities to promote the sector.
  • To identify redundant processes and provide technical assistance to simplify the approval processes involved in medical devices industry.
  • To work towards making a export driven market in the field.
  • To support dissemination and documentation of international norms and standards for medical devices’ and promote global best practices.
  • To drive a robust and dynamic Preferential Market Access (PMA) policy, by identifying the strengths of the Indian manufacturers and discouraging unfair trade practices in imports; while ensuring pro-active monitoring of public procurement notices across India to ensure compliance with PMA guidelines of DIPP and DoP.
  • Help validation of Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs) and other such entities within MDI sector.
  • To recommend government various measures to promote the MDI sector.

Medical Devices Industry (MDI) in India-The current value of India MDI industry is more than USD 5 Billion and India is one of the top 20 global medical devices markets. However, the medical devices market in India is currently dominated by imports. Currently, Indian companies are engaged in production of only low end products. There are huge possibilities in this market and the government has provided for a regulatory framework for the industry in 2017.

 New Member of UPSC.

On 13 December 2018, Sh. Bharat Bhushan Vyas has joined as a member of the Union Public Service Commission. UPSC Chairman Arvind Saxena administered him the oath of office and secrecy. Shri Vyas has become the first IAS officer from J&K cadre to join any constitutional body. His tenure will be of three years.

 Amitav Ghosh

Renowned English fiction writer Amitav Ghosh has been selected for Jnanpith award, 2018. This has been announced by Jnanpith Selection Board on 14 December 2018.

About Amitav Ghosh

Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta in 1956. He is an alumnus of Doon School, Dehradun, St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University and Delhi School of Economics. He was awarded Padma Shri in 2007 and was elected as Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2009. He was also named Ford Foundation Art of Change Fellow in 2015.

His works-The Circle of Reason (1986) was his first novel. Other fiction works include  The Shadow Lines (1988), The Calcutta Chromosome (1995), The Glass Palace (2000), The Hungry Tide (2004). He has also written three works as a part of The Ibis trology of which the first volume is Sea of Poppies (2008); second volume is River of Smoke (2011); and third volume is Flood of Fire (2015).

His notable non-fiction works include Antique Land (1992), Dancing in Cambodia and at Large in Burma (1998), Countdown (1999), and The Imam and the Indian (2002), The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (2016) etc.

About Jnanpith Award-Jnanpith award was instituted in 1961. Via this award, the Bhartiya Jnanpith recognises Indian litterateurs who write in one of the 22 Indian languages listed in the Schedule Eight of the Indian Constitution. The winners receive a cash prize, a citation and a bronze replica of Goddess Saraswati. Famour Malyalam writer G.S. Kurup was first winner of Jnanpith award.

 Women Transforming India Awards

Third edition of Women Transforming India Awards to be organized by Government think- tank NITI Aayog on 16th December.  On this occasion NITI Aayog will also launch the upgraded portal of Women Entrepreneurship Platform. Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu will present the awards to the women. The theme for this year awards is – ‘Women and Entrepreneurship’ and 15 winners have been selected.

Women Transforming India Awards

The awards were launched in 2016 to recognize the exceptional women who are working hard and making difference in lives of others. It invites the stories of women entrepreneurs from the country, who are doing innovative work to address the key development challenges and impacting the communities.

The nominations of the awards were opened on the launch of Women Entrepreneurship Platform in March this year. The event will include panel discussions consists of entrepreneurs, investors, and experts.

NITI Aayog was launched on 1st January 2015 to achieve Sustainable Development Goals and enhance cooperative federalism by increasing involvement of states in the policy making process. The initiative consists of 5 years road map plan and 7 years vision, strategy and action plan.  NITI Aayog replaced the 65 years old Planning Commission of India.

Functions of NITI Aayog

  • To enhance the involvement of States in decision making process by fostering cooperative federalism.
  • To promote innovation, knowledge and entrepreneurial support system through a collaborative community of national and international experts.
  • Incorporating National security in economic strategy and policy.
  • To maintain state-of-the-art resource center for best practices in sustainable and equitable development and promote good governance.
  • Formulate the strategies at village level and integrate these at higher levels of government.
  • To work towards the technology up-gradation for implementation of policies.
  • The design framework for strategic and long-term policies and monitor their progress.

Board of NITI Aayog

The board consists of a Chairperson, Vice Chairperson, Ex-Officio members, Chief Executive Officer, Special Invitees, Full time members and Governing Council.

Chairperson – The Prime Minister of India

Vice Chairperson – Rajiv Kumar

Chief Executive Officer – Amitabh Kant

Governing Council – All Chief minister of Stated and LG of Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Special Invitees.

 World’s First Floating Nuclear Power Plant

On December 11, 2018, Russia’s Akademik Lomonosov, the world’s first floating nuclear power plant (FNPP) has become operational. The Russian atomic energy corporation Rosatom announced that the plant has been brought to 10% of its capacity.

Akademik Lomonosov

Akademik Lomonosov was constructed by Russian state nuclear power firm Rosatom. It has length of 144 metres and width of 30 metres. It has displacement of 21,500 tonnes and crew of 69 people. For power generation, it has been fitted with two modified KLT-40 naval propulsion nuclear reactors (each of 35 MW capacity) together providing up to 70 MW of electricity and 300 MW of heat. It is named after Russian Academician Mikhail Lomonosov. 
It has latest security systems and is considered as one of safest nuclear installations in the world. However, environmentalists have dubbed it as ‘nuclear Titanic’ or ‘Chernobyl on ice’. It will be primarily used to power oil rigs in remote areas of Artic region where Russia is pushing to drill for oil and gas.

Internet Facility for Post Office Savings Bank

India Post has started internet facility of the customers of Post office savings bank account. The facility was launched by Union Minister for Communication (independent charge) Manoj Sinha at National Media Centre, New Delhi. Revamped version of Indian Post website and e-commerce portal for rural artisans were also launched at event.

Facilities available to Customers

  • Customers can transfer funds online from one Post office Saving Bank Account to other.
  • E-Commerce portal provide an online market to rural artisans and Public Sector Units where they can sell their products.
  • Indian Post Service provide a vast network for delivery of products over 1.5 lakh places.
  • Speed post service will deliver the products to the destination.
  • The online market provides return policy to the customers.
  • The Department of Post provides registration of sellers free of cost for the first six months.

India Post-India Post a central postal system of was founded on 1st April 1854. It works under the Ministry of Communication of the Government of India. The postal system of India is one of the widely distributed networks in the world. India is divided into 23 postal circles headed by Chief Postmaster.

Australia Recognizes West Jerusalem as Capital of Israel

On 15th December 2018, Australia recognized West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. With this, Australia has become one of the few countries that officially recognize West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and as the seat of the Knesset (Israel’s parliament). This move is supposed to irk Indonesia and other countries.

However, Australia has made it clear that it will not move its embassy from Tel Aviv until a peace settlement is reached between Israel and Palestine. Yet, Australia will establish a defence and trade office in Jerusalem and start looking for an embassy site

Background

West Jerusalem is that part of Jerusalem which remained under Israeli control after the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.  A number of western countries such as the UK acknowledge de facto Israeli authority, but withhold de jure recognition.  Israel’s claim of sovereignty over West Jerusalem is more widely accepted than its claim over city of East Jerusalem

  • Both Israel and Palestine claim Jerusalem as their capital.
  • Before this, United States President Donald Trump’s administration had also announced recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on December 6, 2017.
  • The UN General Assembly passed a resolution in opposition to declare the US President Donald Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “null and void”
  • India also supported the resolution, which was approved with a majority of 127-9 at the UN General Assembly calling for the US to withdraw its decision

The Israeli–Palestinian tussle is the ongoing struggle between Israelis and Palestinians that began in the mid-20th century. The origins of this conflict can be traced back to Jewish immigration, and sectarian conflict in Mandatory Palestine between Jews and Arabs. This conflict has been referred to as the world’s “most intractable conflict”, with the ongoing Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip for last 51 years

Rajasthan Legislative Assembly Elections, 2018

Rajasthan Legislative Assembly Election, 2018 was held on 7 December 2018 in a single phase. The election resulted in win of Indian National Congress and consequently, senior congress leader Ashok Gehlot was selected to be Chief Minister of the state. Some exam oriented questions & answers:

Structure of Legislature of Rajasthan

Rajasthan has a unicameral legislature and thus has only one house called Vidhan Sabha or Legislative Assembly, located in Jaipur, the state capital.

Unicameral and Bicameral Houses

At present, most Indian states have unicameral legislatures. Only seven states viz. Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh have bicameral legislature with one house being Legislative Assembly and other house being Legislative Council. Legislative Assembly is the lower or popular house while legislative council is the upper house.

The current strength of Rajasthan Assembly is 200 members. To form a government, a party or coalition needs 101 seats in the house.

Current composition of Rajasthan Assembly

The recent election was held for 199 seats of the state (1 seat is for nomination by Governor).

Current Chief Minister – Ashok Gehlot

Ashok Gehlot has recently become the chief minister of the state for third time. He entered into politics in early 1970s and has been active in both centre and state politics. He served as Union Minister in Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi as well as Narsimharao governments. His first term as Rajasthan CM was from 1998 to 2003, while second term was from 2008 to 2013. Currently, he represents Sardarpura constituency.

Deputy Chief Minister – Sachin Pilot

Sachin Pilot was member of 15th Lok Sabha representing the Ajmer constituency. He has alsorved as Minister of Corporate Affairs UPA-II government under Manmohan Singh. At present, he is the President of the Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee. He has been selected to be deputy chief minister of the state for the first time.

Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly Election, 2018

Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly Election, 2018 was held on 28 November 2018 in a single phase. The election resulted in win of Indian National Congress and consequently, senior congress leader Kamal Nath was selected to be Chief Minister of the state.

Structure of Legislature of Madhya Pradesh

Madhya Pradesh has a unicameral legislature and thus has only one house called Vidhan Sabha or Legislative Assembly, located in Bhopal, the state capital. The current strength of Madhya Pradesh Assembly is 231 members (230 elected and 1 nominated). To form a government, a party or coalition needs 115 seats in the house.

Current composition of Madhya Pradesh Vidhan Sabha

The recent election was held for 230 seats of the state. The seat composition is as follows:

  • INC (114)
  • BSP (2)
  • SP (1)
  • Independents (4)
  • BJP (109)
  • Others (1)
  • Nominated (1)

Past Chief Ministers

The current state of Madhya Pradesh came into existence after its reorganization on 1 November 1956 from erstwhile Madhya Bharat, Vindhya Pradesh and Bhopal State.

  • So far, 17 people have served as Chief Minister of the state, of which 11 belonged to Indian National Congress.
  • The first Chief Minister of the state was Ravishankar Shukla who remains in office for only 60 days.
  • Govind Narayan Singh (1967-1969) was the first non-congress Chief Minister of the state.
  • The first chief minister to complete two full five year terms was Digvijay Singh.
  • The first and only female Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh was Uma Bharti who served between 2003 and 2004.
  • Shivraj Singh Chouhan is the longest serving Chief Minister of the state with 13 years in office from 2005 to 2018.

Current Chief Minister

Veteran Congress Leader Kamal Nath is one of the longest serving and most senior members of the Lok Sabha. He has been elected for nine times from  Chhindwara Lok Sabha constituency of Madhya Pradesh. He has served as Union Minister in various capacities under Manmohan Singh Government and has held portfolios of Commerce and Industry ministry, Textiles Ministry, Environment and Forests Ministry, Road Transport and Highways Ministry and Ministry of Urban Development.

Pu Zoramthanga has been appointed as new Chief Minister of Mizoram

Mr. Zoramthanga has been sworn in as the Mizoram’s new chief minister of Mizoram. Zoramthanga belongs to the Mizo National Front (MNF). He will be heading a 12-member council. Governor of Mizoram K Rajasekharan administered the oath of office and secrecy during a ceremony at Raj Bhavan in Aizawl, which was taken by Zoramthanga in the Mizo language.

  • This is Zoramthanga’s third stint as the chief CM of Mizoram. Previously, he has led the MNF government in Mizoram in 1998 and 2003.
  • The five cabinet ministers of the new Mizoram government are – Tawnluia, R Lalthangliana, Lalchamliana, Lalzirliana and Lalrinsanga. Mr Tawnluia will also be the deputy chief minister of Mizoram.
  • The six ministers of state in the new Mizoram government are — K Lalrinliana, Lalchhandama Ralte, Lalruatkima, Dr K Beichhua, TJ Lalnuntluanga and Robert Romawia Ralte.

About MNF:

  • The Mizo National Front, also known as MNF, is a regional political party in the state of Mizoram.
  • MNF originated from the Mizo National Famine Front formed by Pu Laldenga. The Mizo National Famine Front was formed to protest against the inaction of the Indian government towards the famine of 1959 in the Mizo areas of Assam.
  • After years of violence and underground activities, it signed the Mizoram Accord in 1986 with the Government of India, giving up secession and violence.

Recent Elections in the state of Mizoram:

  • The elections to the Legislative Assembly of Mizoram were held on 28th November 2018.
  • There are total 40 constituencies in Mizoram.
  • Mizo National Front (MNF) won 26 seats out of 40 seats in the 2018 elections.
  • Indian National Congress won 5 seats and BJP won 1 seat

Punjab Assembly passed resolution to seek 33% reservation for women in Parliament.

Punjab Legislative Assembly unanimously passed a resolution for seeking 30% reservation for women in Parliament and State legislative assembly. The resolution was moved by Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, urging the Centre to enact it. The bill would ensure the representation of men and women equally in national electoral process.

Key facts

The women Reservation Bill will ensure the balanced representation of women in electoral and decision-making process. The bill would reserve 180 seats out of 543 seats in Lok Sabha and 1370 seats out of 4109 seats in State Assembly.

Apart from that, State will give more parole holidays for prisoners extending from 12 weeks to 16 weeks during 550th birth anniversary celebration of Guru Nanak Dev.

Other Resolutions passed

  • The state assembly passed other amendments in Punjab Goods and Service Tax Bill, The Punjab Panchayat Raj Bill, The Punjab Good Conduct Prisoners Bill, The Punjab Regulation of Cattle Feed, Concentration and Mineral Mixtures Bill.
  • The Punjab Goods and Service tax Bill will enable small taxpayer to quarterly file returns and tax payment.
  • The Cattle feed Bill will provide framework for proper regulation of animal husbandry sector.
  • The State Assemble unanimously passed another resolution for swapping of land with Pakistan to make it Kartarpur.

 Cyclonic Storm Phethai

Cyclonic Storm Phethai is the sixth named cyclone of 2018 North Indian Ocean Cyclone season. The previous five named cyclones are Sagar, Mekunu, Luban, Titli and Gaza.

Formation

Cyclone Pethai has emerged as a deep depression in the Bay of Bengal around 900 kms off Chennai on 15 December 2018.  It was expected to bring heavy rainfalls in the coastal areas of north Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Odisha. [stub]

NRTI: India’s first Railway University in Vadodara

On 15 December 2018, Union Railways Minister Piyush Goyal has dedicated India’s first railway university to the Nation in Vadodara. The Railway University will be first of its kind institution in the nation and the third in the world after Russia and China.

  • It is named as the National Rail and Transportation Institution (NRTI).
  • It will be a deemed university which will offer professional courses in technology and management of transportation networks.
  • The chairman of Railways Board Sh. Ashok Lohani has been named the Vice Chancellor of the University
  • It will host visiting faculty from renowned institutions like XLRI School of Management and Indian Business School, Hyderabad and others.

The National Rail and Transportation Institution (NRTI) started its operation on September 5 earlier this year. The first batch of the university has already been shortlisted and consists of 103 students – 62 for BSc in Transportation Technology and 41 in BBA in Transportation Management. Both the courses are the flagship three-year programmes offered by the university.

The first batch of students has been awarded 50 per cent scholarship in the yearly course fee of Rs 75,000. The actual annual fee of NRTI for one year is Rs 91,000, including all other charges.

There are plans to start Master Degree programmes from the academic session 2019-20 in Transportation and Systems Design, Transport Systems Engineering, Transport Policy and Economics, and others.

The Railways Ministry has sanctioned Rs 421 crore for the NRTI and its curriculum development for the next five years. A greenfield campus is also under development for the university. Indian Railways has identified a 110-acre plot of land for the NRTI campus at Pipaliya village in Waghodiya Taluka, District Vadodara

Institute of High-Altitude Medicinal Plants (IHAMP) laid in J&K

On December 15, 2018, the foundation stone of Institute of High-Altitude Medicinal Plants (IHAMP) was laid by Union Ministers Jitendra Singh and Shripad Yesso Naik (Ayush Ministry).

Location & Functions

The Institute of High-Altitude Medicinal Plants will be located in Bhaderwah in Doda district of Jammu & Kashmir. It will provide research in medicinal plants and promote cultivation of medicinal plants. The institute will also provide employment and promote medicinal plant in foreign market.

Cost

The estimated cost of the construction of Institute of High-Altitude Medicinal Plants is Rs 100 crore.

Focus on Research

Institute of High-Altitude Medicinal Plants will be a pioneer in research on medicinal plants. It will help the farmers in cultivation of medicinal plants in a scientific manner. Training and capacity-building in the field of medicinal plants will also generate employment opportunity for youth in the region.

UNESCO/Emir Jaber al-Ahmad al Jaber al Sabah –

It is awarded to persons/organisations in recognization of their outstanding contributions of individuals and organizations in promoting inclusion and enhancing lives of persons with disabilities through application of digital solutions, resources and technologies. It will be offered biennially in 2018-19 and 2020-21.

\ It will be awarded in each biennial edition and will be given in Individual Person and Organization category. It carries monetary award of US $40,000, which is distributed equally between individual and the organizational winner. It is sponsored by Kuwait in memory of its late ruler Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah.

Bangladeshi disabilities’ advocate Vashkar Bhattacharjee and Chinese private sector ICT enterprise, Tencent (China) were awarded UNESCO/Emir Jaber al Ahmad al Jaber al Sabah Prize for Digital Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities.

They were awarded for there outstanding contribution to empowerment of persons with disabilities through application of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to access information and knowledge. They will be presented with award in ceremony to be at UNESCO Headquarters on occasion of International Day of Persons with disabilities (Observed on 3 December).

Vashkar Bhattacharjee: He was awarded in individual category. He is leading advocate on production of resources dedicated to learners with disabilities and to training of teachers in use accessible reading materials. He has successfully developed Bangladesh’s first Accessible Dictionary in four forms, dedicated to persons with visual, print and learning disabilities, and special programme of self-employment through e-micro credit support for persons with disabilities.

Tencent (China): It was awarded in organizational category. It was recognized for its outstanding contribution to empowerment of persons with disabilities by using inclusive digital technologies to provide greatly enhanced access to information. In China, Tencent products have helped persons with special needs access critical information and interact more easily with digital devices, thus improving their quality of life.

First India-ASEAN InnoTech Summit held in New Delhi

The first India-ASEAN InnoTech Summit was held in New Delhi. It was organized by Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) in association with Department of Science & Technology (DST) and Ministry of External Affairs.

Objectives of this summit were

  • Explore avenues of cross country partnerships with Indian R&D-based enterprises.
  • Capture global trends in technology management and strategy
  • Advance progressive ideas for policy reforms and regulatory environment
  • Create avenues for industry-academia-government partnerships
  • Build capacities for market assessment and rapid commercialization of research
  • Promote best practices in financing, strategy, and leadership
  • Connect local and global research & development community for collaborative engagement

Government puts imports of gold dore in restricted category

Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) under Ministry of Commerce and Industry has put imports of gold dore in restricted category. This means, now, importer needs a license to import this commodity.

Gold dore is semi-pure alloy of gold and silver which is refined for further purification. Proportions of silver and gold can vary widely. It usually created at site of a mine and then transported to refinery for further purification. Refined gold bars are manufactured from gold dore bar.

 India imports about 900 tonnes of gold year making it world’s second-biggest gold consumer after China. The imports mainly take care of demand of the jewellery industry.

Heart Attack Rewind

Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) launched media campaign “Heart Attack Rewind”, calling for elimination of industrially produced trans-fat in the food supply. It will support FSSAI’s global target of eliminating trans-fat in India by 2022, a year ahead of global target by World Health Organization (WHO). It is in line with FSSAOI’s objective to get Freedom from ‘Trans Fat: India@75′.

FSSAI is a nodal statutory agency responsible for protecting and promoting public health in India through regulation and supervision of food safety. It was established under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 and operates under aegis of Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.

Growth rate of 8 infrastructure sectors slows down to 4.8%

According to index of eight core industries released by Ministry of Commerce and Industry, growth rate of eight infrastructure sectors slowed down to 4.8 per cent in October 2018. This was mainly due to contraction in production of crude oil, natural gas and fertilizer. It had recorded growth rate of 5% in October 2017. During April-October 2018-19, eight sectors recorded a growth rate of 5.4% against 3.5 per cent in the same period last year.

Index of Eight Core Industries (ICI) is monthly production volume index considered as lead indicator of monthly industrial performance. It is calculated by using Laspeyre’s formula of weighted arithmetic mean of quantity relatives. It measures collective and individual performance of production in selected eight core industries viz. Natural Gas, Coal, Crude Oil, Fertilizers, Petroleum Refinery Products, Steel, Cement and Electricity.

It is compiled and released by Office of Economic Adviser (OEA), Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP), Ministry of Commerce & Industry. The eight infrastructure sectors, constitute 40.27% of total index of industrial production (IIP). These eight core industries have impact on general economic activities as well as industrial activities. (Base year for ICI is 2011-12).

Components and weightages covered in ICI

  • Petroleum Refinery production (weight: 28.04%): It includes total refinery production (in terms of crude throughput).
  • Electricity generation (19.85%): It includes actual electricity generation of thermal, nuclear, hydro, imports from Bhutan.
  • Steel production (17.92%): It includes production of alloy and non-alloy steel only.
  • Coal production (10.33%): It includes coal production excluding coking coal.
  • Crude Oil production (8.98%): It includes total crude oil production.
  • Natural Gas production (6.88%): It includes total natural gas production.
  • Cement production (5.37%): It includes production of large plants and mini lants.
  • Fertilizers production (2.63%): It includes production of Urea, Calcium Ammonium Nitrate (CAN), Ammonium Sulphate (A/S), Diammonium Phosphate (DAP), Ammonium chloride (A/C), Complex Grade Fertilizer and Single superphosphate (SSP).

 Kimberley Process Certification Scheme-

India will Chair Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) from 1st January 2019. It was was handed Chairmanship by the European Union during KPCS Plenary 2018, which was held in Brussels, Belgium.

Commitments of India as KPCS Chair

  • Make KPCS stronger process in terms of inclusiveness, strengthened administration and implementation.
  • Make KPCS more efficient in terms of delivery of what it promises, more transparent and empathetic towards living standards of people who are dependent on production, trade and manufacture of diamonds.

Kimberley Process is joint initiative of governments, industry and civil societies to stem flow of ‘conflict diamonds’, rough diamonds used by rebel groups to finance wars against legitimate governments. It is also described in United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions. India is one of the founding members of KPCS. At present, KPCS has 54 members representing 81 countries including EU with 28 members.

KPCS came into effect from 1 January, 2003 through United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution. It outlines the rules that govern trade in rough diamonds. It has evolved into effective mechanism for stopping trade in conflict diamonds. It sets minimum requirements that each participant must meet. In India, the scheme is administered through Department of Commerce under aegis of the Union Commerce and Industry Ministry.

India  is founding member of KPCS. It is actively involved in KPCS activities to ensure that almost 99% of diamond trade in world is conflict free.

Conflict diamonds or blood diamonds are the rough diamonds used by rebel movements in the third world countries especially in Africa to finance (civil) wars with an aim to topple legitimate governments. The KPCS completely bans import and export of rough diamonds without certification.

Blue Cross -Highest shooting honour

Ace Indian shooter Abhinav Bindra (36) and still India’s only individual Olympic gold medallist was awarded coveted International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) Blue Cross. With this Bindra is the first Indian to be awarded the Blue Cross. The award is conferred for outstanding contribution to sport of shooting and honours distinguished members of the international shooting fraternity.

Blue Cross is  highest recognition conferred by parent body of international shooting ISSF.

Abhinav Bindra

He has won Olympic gold medal (2008), World Championship gold (2006), 7 Commonwealth Games medals and 3 Asian Games medals in shooting. He became first Indian to win individual Olympic gold medal by winning the top prize in 10m Air Rifle event at 2008 Games held in Beijing, capital of China. He was given Arjuna award in 2000, Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna in 2001 and Padma Bhushan in 2009. He narrowly had missed out on second Olympic medal at 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, post which he decided to retire from sport at the age of 33 to make way for next generation of Indian shooters.

 Cyril Ramaphosa –

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will be chief guest at India’s 70th Republic Daycelebrations on 26 January 2019. Mr Ramaphosa was invited to be chief guest by Prime Minister Narendra Modi when two leaders met on sidelines of G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The announcement comes month after US President Donald Trump declined India’s invitation to be chief guest. The reason citied was “scheduling constraints” of President.

Republic Day parade

On 26 January every year, Republic Day parade is held at Rajpath, New Delhi. It is largest and most important of the parades in India. The parade showcases India’s defence capability and its cultural and social heritage. It is conducted under control Union Defence Ministry

2018 Republic Dayr first time in history of Republic Day celebrations, 10 heads of state were chief guest at a time. They were from Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a regional grouping of 10 Southeast Asian countries comprising of Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Brunei.

New Chief Election Commissioner of India

Sunil Arora assumed charge as 23rd Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) of India. He succeeded OP Rawat who retired on 1 December 2018. He will have nearly two-and-a-half-year tenure as CEC and General Election 2019 to 17th Lok Sabha will be conducted under his stewardship. Prior to assuming this, charge he was serving as Election Commissioner in Election Commission of India (ECI) from September 2017.

Sunil Arora

Sunil Arora is retired IAS officer of1980-batch from Rajasthan cadre. He had retired in April 2016 as Information and Broadcasting secretary. Prior to this, he was skill development secretary. He has also worked in ministries and departments such as Finance, Textiles and Planning Commission and also has served as CMD of Indian Airlines for five years. In his home state, he had served as principal secretary of Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje from 2005 to 2008.

Election Commission of India (ECI) is permanent and independent constitutional body established directly by Constitution of India under Article 324 to ensure fair and fair elections in the country. It is multi-member body and currently has three members including Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and two election commissioners (ECs). They all are appointed by the President.

 Rajiv Kumar Committee

Union Government has constituted six-member committee to look at selling as many as 149 small and marginal oil and gas fields of state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) and Oil India Ltd (OIL) to private and foreign companies to boost domestic output.

The committee will be headed by NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar and includes Cabinet Secretary P K Sinha, Oil Secretary M M Kutty, Economic Affairs Secretary Subhash Chandra Garg, NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant and ONGC Chairman and Managing Director Shashi Shanker as members.

Constitution of this committee is follow up of October 2018meeting called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to review domestic production profile of oil and gas and the roadmap for cutting import dependence by 10% by 2022. In this meeting, Union Oil Ministry had made presentation showing that 149 smaller fields of ONGC, OIL and other explorers accounted for just 5% of domestic crude oil production. It was suggested at the meeting that these smaller fields could be given out to private and foreign firms, so that ONGC could concentrate on big ones where it could rope in technology partners through production enhancement contracts (PEC) or technical service arrangements. This was mainly large ONGC fields as contribute to 95% of its production and leave out the rest for private firms.

COP24: 24th Conference of Parties to UNFCCC begins Katowice, Poland

The 24th meeting of Conference of Parties (COP-24) to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) began at Katowice, Poland. COP-24 is expected to finalise guidelines for implementation of Paris Agreement adopted in 2016.  Delegates from nearly 200 nations are participation in COP24. Indian delegation to this conference is led by Environment Minister, Dr Harsh Vardhan.

India-COP24

India expects that COP-24 will be able to frame guidelines, which are pragmatic and gives due consideration to challenges and priorities of developing countries. India considers that outcome of COP-24 should be balanced, inclusive, and consistent with principles and provisions of Convention and its Paris Agreement.

India strongly supports objective of Paris Agreement to strengthen global response to threat of climate change by keeping global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius from pre- industrial revolution period. India considers it important as it is linked to issue of poverty eradication.

India will highlight its concern for climate change and reaffirm its commitments to finalisation of Paris Agreement Work Programme. This agreement also focuses on developing countries need to adapt to adverse impacts of climate change, in manner that it does not put additional burden on them.

India will be setting up pavilion to create awareness about India’s positive climate actions in various sectors of economy. The theme of Pavilion is ‘One World One Sun One Grid’ as highlighted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during first assembly of International Solar Alliance (ISA) in October 2018.

UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) is international environmental treaty negotiated at Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and entered into force in 1994. It has near universal membership as it has 196 countries and European Union (EU) as its members. It is parent treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol which was ratified by 192 of the UNFCCC Parties. The ultimate objective of both treaties is to stabilize greenhouse gas (GHGs) concentrations in atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system.

Conference of Parties (COP) is the supreme decision-making body of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). ‎All States that are Parties to UNFCCC are represented at COP. ‎At COP, all parties review implementation of Convention and take decisions necessary to promote the effective implementation of Convention.

India to host G20 Summit in 2022

India will host G20 Summit In 2022, when it celebrates its 75th year of Independence. It was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during ongoing G20 meet of international grouping in Buenos Aires, capital of Argentina. This comes after  Italy accepted India’s formal request to host this summit in 2021 as earlier it was going to host it in 2022. During the Buenos Aires G20 meet, India presented a nine-point agenda to the G20 countries calling for strong and active cooperation among them to comprehensively deal with fugitive economic offenders.

G20 is premier forum for international economic cooperation and decision-making for governments and central bank governors from 20 major economies to focus on economic issues and other important development challenges.

It comprises of total 19 countries plus European Union (EU), representing 85% of global GDP, 80% of international trade, 65% of world’s population. Its members include Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, India, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Turkey, South Africa, UK, US and EU.

It was started in 1999 as meeting of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors in the aftermath of the South-east Asian (Tiger economies) financial crisis. It was established for studying, reviewing, and promoting high-level discussion of policy issues pertaining to the promotion of international financial stability.

In 2008, the first G20 Leaders’ Summit was held in Washington DC, US. Prior to this, it was merely forum for meeting of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors. The group has played key role in responding to the global financial crisis.

Train 18:

India’s first indigenously designed locomotive-less (engine less) train known as Train 18, breached the 180 kmph speed limit during test run in Kota-Sawai Madhopur section. When this train is made operational, it will become the country’s fastest train. It is touted as next generation Shatabdi Express and will connect metros with other important cities.

Train 18 was rolled out in October 2018 at Chennai’s Integral Coach Factory (ICF). Earlier in November 2018, Research Designs and Standards Organisation (RDSO) had announced its trial run successfully. During this trail on tracks in Moradabad division of Northern Railway, this train had ran up to 115 km per hour.

Train 18  is capable of touching 200 kmph provided the rest of Indian Railways’ system such as tracks and signals permit. It will replacing current 30-year-old Shatabdi Express – a day train. Thus it is touted as next generation Shatabdi Express. It will be first long-distance train without separate locomotive (engine).

It has been indigenously developed by Chennai-based Integral Coach Factory (ICF) in just short time span of 18 months.

47th Navy Day Navy day Observed

Indian Navy Day is observed annually on 4 December to celebrate magnificence, achievements and role of naval force of the country. This year it was 47th Navy Day.

Why Navy Day is celebrated –It commemorates launch of Operation Trident by Indian Navy against Pakistan on 4th December, 1971. During 1971 India-Pakistan war, Indian Navy had played significant role in bombing of Karachi harbour, the stronghold of Pakistani Navy.

Indian Navy is marine branch of Indian Armed Forces and is led by President of India as Commander-in-Chief. It is one of most potent maritime forces in the world and the most lethal in Indian Ocean.  Currently, 67,228 soldiers/employees are employed in Indian Navy. The motto of the Indian Navy is  शंनो वरुणः (Sham No

The roots of Indian Navy dates back to 1612 AD when Great Maratha ruler Chatrapati Shivaji had formed navy in his forces. So he is called the father of the Indian Navy

Qatar to leave OPEC from January 2019

Qatar has announced its withdrawal from Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) from January 2019 and focus more on the production of natural gas. It makes Qatar first Gulf country to leave OPEC bloc of oil-producing countries led by Saudi Arabia.

Qatar has been member of OPEC since 1961 and its decision to pull out after more than five decades comes at turbulent time in Gulf politics. It is under boycott from its neighbouring gulf allies including Saudi Arabia for 18 months (since August 2017).

Qatar is the world’s largest exporter of liquified natural gas (LPG) and 17th largest producer of crude oil (around 600,000 barrels per day). It also only holds around 2% of the world’s global oil reserves. The withdrawal decision reflects Qatar’s desire to focus its efforts on plans to develop and increase its natural gas production from 77 million tonnes per year to 110 million tonnes in the coming years. Being part of OPEC its oil production was steady with limited prospects for increases. Since 2013,  amount of oil Qatar produced has steadily declined from about 728,000 barrels per day (2013) to about 607,000 barrels per day (2017), or just under 2% of OPEC’s total output.

World Bank unveils US $200 billion in climate action investment for 2021-25

World Bank has unveiled US $200 billion in climate action investment for 2021 to 2025 to fight  impact of climate change. The move coincides with Conference of Parties-24 (COP24) United Nations Climate Summit in Katowice, Poland.

The breakdown of US $200 billion will comprise approximately 100 billion in direct finance from World Bank. Around one-third of remaining funding will come from two World Bank Group agencies and rest will be private capital mobilised by the World Bank Group.

Comment

This US $200 billion in climate action investment, amounts to World Bank’s doubling of its current five-year funding. It also represents significantly ramped up ambition of World Bank to tackle climate change and sends an important signal to the wider global community to do the same. This amounts is also double of World Bank’s earlier commitment for ts current five-year funding.

World Bank is international financial institution that provides loans to countries of the world for capital projects. Its official goal is reduction of poverty by providing loans to developing countries for capital programmes. It is one of five institutions created at Breton Woods Conference in 1944. It is headquarter is situated at Washington DC, US.

World Bank comprises two institutions: the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), and the International Development Association (IDA). It is component of World Bank Group, which also includes three more subsidiary organisations viz. International Finance Corporation (IFC), Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), and International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). World Bank is part of United Nations system, but its governance structure is different.

PRASAD Scheme

Union Government has included …Gangotri and Yamunotri in Uttrarakhand, Amarkantak in MadhyaPradesh and Parasnath in Jharkhand under Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual, Heritage Augmentation Drive (PRASAD) to develop pilgrimage and heritage destinations in the country. With the new additions, the number of sites under PRASAD has now reached to 41 in 25 states.

Patents granted by India up by 50% in 2017: WIPO

According to World Intellectual Property Indicators 2018 report released by United Nation’s World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), number of patents granted by India shot up by 50% in 2017.  The patents granted by India increased from 8,248 in 2016 to 12,387 in 2017, thus keeping up trend of steep increases.

Key Facts

Patents granted in 2017 in India were more than double 6,022 patents granted in 2015. Of the patents granted in 2017, 1,712 went to entities and individuals based in India, and 10,675 to foreigners. The steep increase in number was driven by patents granted to foreigners, which accounted for 85% of total increase. The number of patents given to domestic entities also has shown increasing trend.

World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) is the global body for promotion and protection of intellectual property rights (IPR). It is one of the 15 specialized agencies of United Nations (UN). It was established in 1967 and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. Its mandate is to encourage creative activity, to promote the protection of intellectual property throughout the world.

Odisha’s Kandhamal Haldi to get GI tag

Odisha’s Kandhamal Haldi (turmeric) will soon get Geographical Indications (GI) tag. It is a few steps away from receiving this tag. Its registration was moved by Kandhamal Apex Spices Association for Marketing and was accepted under sub-section (1) of Section 13 of Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999. Kandhamal Haldi is famous for its healing properties. It is main cash crop of tribal people in Kandhamal. Apart from domestic use, it is also used for cosmetic and medicinal purposes.

Geographical Indication (GI) tag is name or sign used on certain products which correspond to specific geographical location or origin. It is used for agricultural, natural and manufactured goods having special quality and established reputation. The purpose of GI tag enables stakeholders to authenticate their production while earning a premium and derive an improved livelihood.

SpaceX successfully launches 64 small satellites using reusable Falcon 9 rocket

Elon Musk-led SpaceX has successfully launched 64 small satellites into low Earth orbit onboard of its reusable and preflown Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. This has set new record in United States of launching satellites in single go. It was third voyage of Falcon 9 rocket, marking another milestone in SpaceX’s cost-cutting reusable rocket technology.

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) holds record for the most satellite launch in single flight. It had launched 104 satellites in one go using Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C37) rocket.

Space X is private US space agency. It was founded by Elon Musk on May 6, 2002 who is its current CEO of Space X. Its main purpose for its establishment was to reduce cost of space transport and establish human habitation on Mars house. Space X has developed series of Falcon Rockets. To reduce cost of internal transport, the space company has created re-usable rockets. Majority of these rockets are also used in other launches.

NASA’s spacecraft OSIRIS-REx arrives at its targeted asteroid Bennu after 2-year journey

NASA’s first-ever OSIRIS-REx mission designed to visit asteroid and return sample of its dust back to Earth reached its destination, Bennu, two years after its launch. It will use its suite of five science instruments to study asteroid for the next year and a half.

OSIRIS-Rex

OSIRIS-Rex stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer. It was launched in September 2016 for studying 101955 Bennu, a carbonaceous asteroid. It is NASA’s first asteroid sampling mission i.e. it will survey surface, collect sample and deliver it safely back to Earth. It will regularly observe area around the asteroid to search for dust plumes and natural satellites and study its light and spectral properties. It will return to Earth after collecting some of its gravels by 2023. It will capture 60 grams dirt and debris from surface of asteroid using its robotic arm without landing i.e. by hovering like hummingbird stirred up by nitrogen gas thrusters and then to Earth for detailed analysis of the collected samples.

Bennu is near-Earth carbonaceous asteroid about the size of a small mountain in the Apollo group. It was discovered in September 1999 by the LINEAR Project. It orbits close to Earth’s path around the Sun. It is one of the oldest asteroids known to NASA. It is carbon-rich asteroid and believed to be the type of asteroids that may have chemical building blocks of life, along with lots of water. So, analysis of returned sample from it could help to reveal key insights about early solar system and the origin of life on Earth. It is potentially hazardous asteroid and there is very slight chance it could strike into Earth in the late 22nd century.

World Soil Day observed on December 5

World Soil Day is celebrated every year on 5th of December by Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of United Nations. Observance of this day aims to communicate messages on importance of soil quality for food security, healthy ecosystems and human well-being. It also advocates for sustainable management of soil resources. The Theme for year 2018 is ‘Be the Solution to Soil Pollution’. It aims to raise awareness and call people to stop soil pollution.

 Ombudsman Scheme for Digital Transactions

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has announced to introduce ‘Ombudsman Scheme for Digital Transactions’ to provide cost-free mechanism to redress grievances of customers related to digital transactions. The scheme will be notified by end of January 2019. It will cover services provided by entities falling under RBI’s regulatory jurisdiction. The scheme is being implemented taking into consideration rise in digital mode for financial transactions which is gaining traction in the country. There is emerging need for dedicated, cost-free and expeditious grievance redressal mechanism for strengthening consumer confidence in this channel.

GSAT-11: India’s heaviest satellite launched from French Guyana

Indian Space Research and Organisation (ISRO) has successfully launched India’s heaviest and most-advanced communication satellite GSAT-11 into space. It was launched on board of Ariane 5 VA-246 rocket from Kourou Launch Base, French Guiana.

        

Key Facts

GSAT-11 also called Big Bird has been indigenously developed by ISRO. It weigh 5854 kg making it heaviest Indian-made equipment that has been put into the orbit. It will provide high data rate connectivity to Indian mainland and islands users through 32 user beams in Ku-band and 8 hub beams in Ka-band.  It is three to six times more powerful than any other ISRO’s satellite. It will help provide satellite-based internet to remote places where cable-based internet cannot reach. It will boost the broadband connectivity to rural and inaccessible gram panchayats in the country under Bharat Net Project, which is part of Digital India Programme.

24 poets and authors 2018 Sahitya Akademi Award

India’s national academy of letters Sahitya Academy has announced names of 24 poets and authors who will be conferred the prestigious 2018 Sahitya Akademi Award in 24 different Indian languages. The award has recognised premier works in 24 Indian languages that includes seven books of poetry, six novels, six short stories, three of literary criticism and two of essays.

The awards will be presented at a roadshow function to be held on 29th January next year at New Delhi duringFestival of Letters to be organised by Sahitya Akademi.  The awardees were recommended by distinguished jury members representing 24 languages and were approved by Executive Board under chairmanship of Dr. Chandrashekhar Kambar who is President of Sahitya Akademi.

Awardees are

Poetry: Sananta Tanti (Assamese), Paresh Narendra Kamat (Konkani), S Ramesan Nair (Malayalam) and Dr Rama Kant Shukla (Sanskrit), Dr. Mohanjit (Punjabi), Dr. Rajesh Kumar Vyas (Rajasthani) and Khiman U Mulani (Sindhi).

Short stories: Sanjib Chattopadhyay (Bengali), Mushtaq Ahmed Mushtaq (Kashmiri), Prof Bina Thakur (Maithili), Rituraj Basumatary (Bodo), Prof. Budhichandra Heisnamba (Manipuri) and Nath Upadhyay Chapagain (Nepali).

Novel: Inderjeet Kesar (Dogri), Anees Salim (English), Chitra Mudgal (Hindi), Shyam Besra (Santali), Ramkrishnan (Tamil) and Rahman Abbas (Urdu).

Literary Criticism: KG Nagarajappa (Kannada), Ma. Su. Patil (Marathi) and Prof. Dasarathi Das (Odia).

Essays: Prof. Sharifa Vijliwala (Gujarati) and Dr. Kolakaluri Enoch (Telugu).

Bhasha Salman 2017 and 2018

Sahitya Akademi also announced its Bhasha Salman for year 2017 and 2018. Yogendra Nath Sharma was awarded for North zone; Gagendra Nath Das for Eastern zone; G Venkatasubbiah for South zone; and Shailaja Bapat for Western zone.

Sahitya Akademi Awards

It is literary honour that is conferred annually on Indian writers for their outstanding works of literary merit. It was established in 1954. It is conferred annually on writers of outstanding works in one of the twenty-four major Indian languages (22 Scheduled Languages+ English and Rajasthani). The award consists of a casket containing an engraved copper-plaque (designed by film-maker Satyajit Ray), a shawl and cheque of Rs.1 Lakh.

SC approves Centre’s Witness Protection Scheme

Supreme Court has approved Witness Protection Scheme 2018 and directed Union and State Governments to enforce the same.  This scheme was framed by Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in response to PIL seeking protection for witnesses.

Key Facts

The apex court held that scheme will become law under Article 141/142 of Constitution till enactment of parliamentary and state legislations on the subject. It also directed states/UTs to set up the vulnerable witness deposition complexes (VWDCs) within period of 1 year (by the end of 2019). It also observed that there is paramount need to have witness protection regime in statutory form. The main reasons for establishing these VWDC is  large percentage of acquittal in criminal cases is due to witnesses turning hostile and giving false testimonies, mostly due to lack of protection for them and their families.

Witness Protection Scheme 2018

It has been formulated by Home Ministry on the inputs received from 18 States/UTs, five state legal services authorities and open sources including civil society, three high courts as well as from police personnel. It was finalised in consultation with National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).

It aims to ensure that investigation, prosecution and trial of criminal offences does not turn out to be biased as witnesses are intimidated or frightened to give evidence without protection from violent or other criminal recrimination.

Essential features

  • Identifying categories of threat perceptions
  • Preparation of Threat Analysis Report by the head of police
  • Confidentiality and preservation of records, recovery of expenses, etc.
  • Types of protection measures like ensuring that witness and accused do not come face to face during investigation etc. protection of identity, change of identity, relocation of witness

Three types of witnesses categorises

  • Threat extends to life of witness or his family members during investigation, trial or thereafter.
  • Threat extends to safety, reputation or property of witness or his family members, during investigation, trial.
  • Threat is moderate and extends to harassment of witness or his family member’s, reputation or property during investigation, trial or thereafter.

Categorised witnesses under the scheme can file application for seeking protection order before competent authority of concerned district where offence is committed. This competent authority will be chaired by District and Sessions Judge. Head of police in the district will be its member and head of prosecution in the district as its member secretary.

When this authority receives application, it has to call for Threat Analysis Report (TAR) from ACP/DSP in charge of the concerned Police Sub-Division. The authority is also empowered to order protection measures based on TAR such as identity protection, change of identity and relocation of witnesses.

World Bank assisted project SMART launched in Maharashtra

Maharashtra Government has launched World Bank assisted State of Maharashtra’s Agribusiness and Rural Transformation (SMART) Project to transform rural Maharashtra. This project aims to revamp agricultural value chains, with special focus on marginal farmers across 1,000 villages. This initiative is in line with Union Government’s step towards doubling farmers’ income by 2022.  The launch of project which was followed by signing of 50 memorandum of understandings (MoUs) between big corporates and farmers producer groups.

CCEA approves strategic sale of Rural Electrification Corporation

Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has given its in principle approval for strategic sale of Central Government’s existing 52.63% of total paid up equity shareholding in Rural Electrification Corporation (REC) to Power Finance Corporation (PFC) along with transfer of management control. Both REC and PFC are Central Public Sector Enterprises under the Ministry of Power.

The acquisition intends to achieve integration across Power Chain, create economies of scale, obtain better synergies and have enhanced capability to support energy access and energy efficiency by improved capability to finance power sector.  It may also allow for cheaper fund raising with increase in bargaining power for combined entity.

Rural Electrification Corporation (REC) is public Infrastructure finance company in India’s power sector. It finances and promotes rural electrification projects across India. It provides loans to Central/ State Sector Power Utilities, State Electricity Boards, Rural Electric Cooperatives, NGOs and Private Power Developers. It was founded in July 1969 and is headquartered in New Delhi.

Shahpurkandi Dam on river Ravi in Punjab

Union Cabinet has approved implementation of Shahpurkandi Dam Project on river Ravi in Punjab. It also has approved central assistance of Rs. 485.38 crore (for irrigation component) over five years period from 2019 to 2023. The project will be implemented by Punjab Government with central assistance. It will be completed by June 2022.

Funding

The total cost of this project is Rs. 1973.53 crore (Irrigation component: 564.63 cr, Power component: 1408.90 cr.) Out of this, Rs 485.38 cr would be provided as Central Assistance. Funding for central assistance will be made through National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) under existing system for funding of 99 Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana- Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (PMKSY-AIBP) projects under Long Term Irrigation Fund (LTIF).

This project will help minimising some of water of River Ravi which at present is going waste through Madhopur Headworks downstream to Pakistan. It will create irrigation potential of 5,000 hectares in Punjab and 32,173 hectares in Jammu & Kashmir on completion. Besides, Punjab will be able to generate 206 MW of hydropower.

Background

Indus Waters Treaty was signed between India and Pakistan in 1960 for sharing of Indus waters. According to this treaty, India got the full rights for utilization of waters of three eastern rivers namely Ravi, Beas and Satluj. Bilateral agreement was signed between Punjab and J&K in January 1979 for construction of RanjitSagar Dam (Thein Dam) and Shahpurkandi Dam by Punjab Government. RanjitSagar Dam was commissioned in August 2000.  ShahpurKandi Dam project was proposed on River Ravi. The Project was initially approved by erstwhile Planning Commission in November 2001 and was included under AIBP for funding its irrigation component. However, works could not progress much due to non-availability of funds on part of Punjab Government for power component and later interstate issues with J&K. Series of meetings were held bilaterally between both states as well as at Central Government level. Finally, agreement was reached between both states under aegis of Ministry of Water Resources in September, 2018.

National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems

Union Cabinet has approved launching of National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems (NM-ICPS). It will be implemented by Department of Science &Technology under Ministry of Science and Technology for period of five years. The objective of Mission is to addresses ever increasing technological requirements of the society. It also takes into account international trends and road maps of leading countries for next generation technologies.

Implementation of this mission will develop and bring

  • Cyber Physical Systems (CPS) and associated technologies within reach in the country,
  • Adoption of CPS technologies to address India specific National / Regional issues,
  • Catalyze Translational Research,
  • Produce Next Generation skilled manpower in CPS,
  • Accelerate entrepreneurship and start-up ecosystem development in CPS,
  • Place India at par with other advanced countries and derive several direct and indirect benefits.
  • Give impetus to advanced research in CPS, Technology development and higher education in Science, Technology and Engineering disciplines.

NM-ICPS

It is comprehensive mission to address technology development, application development, human resource development & skill enhancement, entrepreneurship and start-up development in CPS and associated technologies.

It aims at establishment of 15 numbers of Technology Innovation Hubs (TIH), six numbers of Application Innovation Hubs (AIH) and four numbers of Technology Translation Research Parks (TTRP).

These Hubs & TTRPs will connect to Academics, Industry, Central Ministries and State Government in developing solutions at reputed academic, R&D and other organizations across the country in a hub and spoke model.

They have four focused areas along which mission implementation will proceed viz. (i) Technology Development; (ii) HRD & Skill Development; (iii) Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Start-ups Ecosystem Development; (iv) International Collaborations.

Strategic approach involving a suitable mix of Academic, Industry and Government is proposed to be adopted. Strong Steering and Monitoring Mechanisms in the form of Mission Governing Board (MGB), Inter-Ministerial Coordination Committee (IMCC), Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) and other Sub-Committees will guide and monitor the Mission implementation.

Significance of Mission

It will act as engine of growth, benefiting national initiatives in health, education, energy, environment, agriculture, strategic cum security, and industrial sectors, Industry 4.0, SMART Cities and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It will help bring paradigm shift in entire skill sets requirement. It will boost job opportunities by imparting advanced skills and generating skilled manpower as per requirement of the industry and society. It will support and encourage Central ministries and departments, state governments and also industry to effectively use CPS technologies in their projects and schemes for the benefit of the society.

 Agriculture Export Policy, 2018 

Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved Agriculture Export Policy, 2018 with aim to double farmer’s income by 2022. Cabinet has also approved proposal for establishment of Monitoring Framework at Centre with Ministry of Commerce as nodal Department to oversee implementation of Agriculture Export Policy. It will also have representation from various ministries and departments and agencies and representatives of concerned State Governments

Agriculture Export Policy

It is aimed at doubling agricultural exports and integrating Indian farmers and agricultural products with the global value chains. Its vision is to harness export potential of Indian agriculture, through suitable policy instruments and to make India global power in agriculture and raise farmers’ income.

Objectives

  • Double agricultural exports from present US$ 30+ Billion to US$ 60+ Billion by 2022 and reach US$ 100 Billion in next few years thereafter with stable trade policy regime.
  • Diversify India’s export basket, destinations and also boost high value and value added agricultural exports including perishables.
  • Provide institutional mechanism for pursuing market access, tackling barriers and deal with sanitary and phyto-sanitary issues.
  • Strive to double India’s share in world agri-exports by integrating with global value chain at earliest.
  • Promote indigenous, organic, ethnic, traditional and non-traditional agri products exports.
  • Enable farmers to benefit from export opportunities in overseas market.

Elements of Agriculture Export Policy:

Strategic

  • Policy measures
  • Holistic approach to boost exports
  • Infrastructure and logistics support
  • Focus on Clusters
  • Promoting value-added exports
  • Marketing and promotion of Brand India
  • Greater involvement of State Governments in agri exports

Operational

  • Attract private investments into production and processing
  • Research & Development
  • Establishment of strong quality regimen
  • Miscellaneous

2nd Khelo India School Games to be held in Pune from January 9 to 20, 2019

The second edition of Khelo India School Games rechristened as Khelo India Youth Games will be held from January 9-20, 2019 in Pune, Maharashtra. It will take place at Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Pune. The first edition of this games under Khelo India Programme was held in New Delhi in February 2018.

Khelo India Youth Games

Union Ministry of Sports has expanded in its scope as compared to Khelo India School Games. It will allow participants to compete in two categories, (Under 17) and (Under 21). It also allows students from colleges and Universities to compete. It will see over 10,000 participants from 29 states and 7 Union Territories. Thus

Khelo India Programme was introduced by Ministry of Sports and Youth affairs to revive sports culture in India at grass-root level. Its objective is to build strong framework for all sports played in our country and establish India as great sporting nation. It is expected to help scout young talent from schools in various disciplines and groom them as future sports champions. Talented players will be identified under it in priority sports disciplines at various levels by High-Powered Committed and each will be provided annual financial assistance of Rs. 5 lakh for 8 years.

International Anti-Corruption Day observed on December 9

International Anti-Corruption Day (IACD) is observed every year across world on December 9 to raise public awareness of corruption and what people can do to fight it. Observance of this day aims to promote and strengthen measures to prevent and combat corruption more efficiently and effectively. It also highlights role of United Nations Convention against Corruption in combating and preventing it.

Corruption is serious societal crime that undermines social and economic development in all societies. No country, region or community is immune from corruption. According to United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), every year $1 trillion is paid in bribes while an estimated $2.6 trillion are stolen annually through corruption – a sum equivalent to more than 5% of global GDP. In developing countries, funds lost to corruption are estimated at 10 times amount of official development assistance.

Background

International Anti-Corruption Day was instituted by UN General Assembly (UNGA) by passing resolution 58/4 of October 31, 2003. It was adopted to raise people’s awareness of corruption and role of United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) in combating and preventing it. The UNCAC is the first legally binding, international anti-corruption instrument that provides a chance to mount a global response to corruption.

7th International Tourism Mart 2018 being organised in Agartala

The 7th edition of the ‘International Tourism Mart’ was held in Agartala, the capital city of Tripura. It was organised by Union Ministry of Tourism in association with Department of Tourism, Government of Tripura and North Eastern States. The theme for this year is “Adventure Tourism”.

Key Facts

This edition of tourism mart is expected to witness wide participation of international buyers and media delegates from countries around the world and from different regions of the country. Total of 41 foreign delegates from 18 countries and 23 tour operators and travel agents along with 18 media representatives, journalists, travel writers and bloggers are participating in this edition of the tourism mart.

International Tourism Mart

It is annual event organized in north-eastern region with the objective of highlighting tourism potential of region in domestic and international markets. It provides platform to tourism business fraternity and entrepreneurs from eight North Eastern States. It organized annually in North Eastern States on rotation basis.

 Nahid Afrin

United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has appointed popular singer Nahid Afrin (17) of Assam as the first ‘Youth Advocate’ of the northeastern region to fight for child rights. UNICEF engages ‘Youth Advocates’ to harness their voice as agents of change in society. Nahid had made her playback debut in 2016 Bollywood film ‘Akira’ starring Sonakshi Sinha in the lead. She received best female playback singer award at the Assam state Film Award 2018.

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

Formerly known as United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund is special program of UN devoted to aiding national efforts to improve the health, nutrition, education, and general welfare of children. It was created in 1946 to provide relief to children in countries devastated by World War II. It is headquartered in New York City.

After 1950, it directed its efforts toward general programs for improvement of children’s welfare, particularly in less-developed countries and various emergency situations. Its broader mission was reflected in present name adopted in 1953. It was awarded Nobel Prize for Peace in 1965.

Impact Based Forecasting Approach

India Meteorological Department (IMD) has developed new technology called ‘Impact Based Forecasting Approach’ to assess rise of water level in rivers and reservoirs by rain.  It shows pre-event scenario will help state governments authorities to minutely monitor impact of rainfall and take real-time decisions. It will help to avoid disastrous situation similar to Kerala floods.

Background

The heavy downpour which had ravaged Kerala in August 2018 had caused death of around 500 people and economic damages worth over Rs 40,000 crore. Excessive rainfall had led to floods in Kerala and was result of climate change. State Government had blamed IMD for lapses in its part for wrong rain forecast. IMD had forecasted estimated 98.5 mm rain in the state between 9 and 15 August, 2018 but Kerala received was 352.2 mm of rainfall resulting in severe flooding.

India Meteorological Department (IMD)

It is national meteorological service of the country and chief government agency dealing in everything related to meteorology, seismology and associated subjects. It was formed in 1875. It functions under Ministry of Earth Sciences. It is headquartered in New Delhi.

first-ever silent airplane

Scientists from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), US have built and flown first-ever silent airplane with no moving propellers or jet turbines. At present, every aircraft have moving parts such as propellers, turbine blades and fans, which are powered by the combustion of fossil fuels or by battery packs that produce a persistent, whining buzz.

Key Facts

MIT researchers have designed this lightweight plane weighing about five pounds with five-meter wingspan. It was flown at distance of 60 meters, a feat that was repeated 10 times. It was simplest possible plane design that could prove concept that ion plane could fly. It is first-ever plane having no moving parts in propulsion system.

This new light aircraft does not carry propellers or turbines and also not depends on fossil fuels to fly. It is inspired from movie and television series “Star Trek”. It is powered by ionic wind or electrodynamic thrust, a silent but mighty flow of ions that is produced aboard plane. It can generate enough thrust to propel plane over sustained, steady flight. Unlike propeller-driven planes, the new design is completely silent.

Significance

It has potentially opened new and unexplored possibilities for aircraft which are quieter, mechanically simpler and do not emit combustion emissions. In the near-term, such ion wind propulsion systems could be used to fly less noisy drones. Moreover, ion propulsion paired with more conventional combustion systems can create more fuel-efficient, hybrid passenger planes and other large aircrafts in future.

Sameer Verma

India’s Sameer Verma has won Syed Modi India Grand Prix Gold badminton title 2018 in men’s singles category. In the final match held in Lucknow, he defeated China’s Lu Guangzu by 16-21,  21-19 and 21-14 score. Women’s singles title was won by China’s Han Yue after defeating India’s Saina Nehwal by 21-18, 21-8 score.

Syed Modi International India Open Grand Prix championship was launched by Uttar Pradesh Badminton Association (UPBA) in 1991 as ‘Syed Modi Memorial Badminton Tournament’ in memory of Syed Modi. Initially, it was national level event and in 2004 it was organized as International event for the first time. In 2011, it was upgraded to BWF Grand Prix Gold tournament. It is held every year at Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh.

Mary Kom

India’s boxing legend Mary Kom won gold medal at World Women’s Boxing Championships held in New Delhi. It was her sixth medal in World Boxing Championships. In the final, she defeated 22-year-old Ukrainian boxer Hana Okhaya of Ukraine. Mary Kom won this medal at age of 35 years. With winning this medal, Mary Kom has become the most successful boxer in world boxing history with 6 gold medals. In this Women’s World Boxing Championships 2018, India won total four gold, three silver and three bronze medals.

In April 2016, President had nominated her as member of Rajya Sabha. She has been bestowed with Padma Bhushan (2013), Arjuna Award (2003), Padma Shri (2006) and Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award (2009).

70-feet tall statue of Lord Buddha unveiled at Rajgir in Nalanda district.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar unveiled 70-feet tall statue of Lord Buddha at Rajgir in Nalanda district of state. It is second tallest statue of Buddha in the country.

Key Facts

The statue has been installed above 16 metre radius pedestal in middle of lake Ghora Katora. It has been made from 45,000 cubic foot pink sand stone. Ghora Katora is natural lake surrounded by five hills. The area around lake and statue has been developed into beautiful park from eco-tourism point of view. In this area no petrol and diesel vehicles will be allowed to ply and only electronic vehicles will be allowed.

Sashastra Seema Bal to patrol Dudhwa tiger reserve.

Dudhwa Tiger Reserve (DTR) and Sashastra Seema Bal have joined hands to provide security to Dudhwa forests and its rich wildlife. It was part consensus reached among all security agencies including SSB, central and local intelligence officers, customs and excise officials, Special Tiger Protection Force and DTR’s field staff to discuss issues involving safety of Dudhwa forests and its wildlife.

Key Facts

The joint long route patrolling comprising SSB, STPF and DTR field staff will help to strengthen patrolling in and around Dudhwa to check forest and wildlife crimes.

Dudhwa Tiger Reserve is protected area in Uttar Pradesh that stretches mainly across the Lakhimpur Kheri and Bahraich districts. It comprises Dudhwa National Park, Kishanpur Wildlife Sanctuary and Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary. It covers area of 1,284.3 km2 and includes three large forest fragments. It shares north-eastern boundary with Nepal

Andaman & Nicobar Islands home to tenth of India’s fauna species: ZSI.

Andaman & Nicobar Islands are to home to tenth of India’s fauna species and hosts 1,067 endemic faunal species found nowhere else. It was revealed by Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) publication titled Faunal Diversity of Biogeographic Zones: Islands of India. This publication for the first time has come up with database of all faunal species found on the island. It has database of species found in particular category of animals and also highlights most vulnerable among them.

 

 

Highlights of ZSI publication

Total area of A&N Islands, which comprises of 572 islands, islets and rocky outcrops, is about 8,249 sq. km has around total 11,009 species. It comprises only 0.25% of India’s geographical area but is home to more than 10% of country’s fauna species.

Marine fauna: Of the ten species of marine fauna found on islands, dugong/sea cow and Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin are both classified as Vulnerable under IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Terrestrial mammalian species: 46 terrestrial mammalian species are found. 3 species have been categorised as Critically Endangered —Jenkin’s shrew (C. jenkinsi), Andaman shrew (Crocidura andamanensis) and Nicobar shrew (C. nicobarica). Five species are listed as Endangered, 9 species as Vulnerable, and 1 species as Near Threatened by IUCN.

Birds: Endemism is quite high in A&N islands, with 36 among 344 species of birds found only on the islands. Many of these bird species are placed in IUCN Red List of threatened species and also under the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA).

Sunil Arora

He is 1980-batch IAS officer of the Rajasthan cadre is appointed as new Chief Election Officer of India . Prior to this appointment, he was Election Commissioner since September 2017. At centre he has served as skill development secretary before was appointed as top bureaucrat in Information & Broadcasting Ministry. He also has worked in ministries and departments such as Finance, Textiles and Planning Commission and was also CMD of Indian Airlines for five years

Arvind Saxena

Is appointed as chairman of UPSC .He was student of civil engineering from Delhi College of Engineering and holds M.Tech in systems management from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi. He was selected for civil services and joined Indian Postal Service in 1978. In 1988, he started working at Cabinet Secretariat, where he specialised in study of strategic developments in neighbouring countries. He has served in different countries and in states of Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. He is recipient of awards for meritorious services (2005) and distinguished services (2012).

Union Public Service Commission (UPSC)

UPSC is constitutional body which conducts the prestigious civil services examination to select IAS, IFS and IPS officers among others. It has been established under Article 315 of the Constitution and consists of Chairman and ten Members appointed and removed by President.

The chairman and members of the Commission hold office for a term if six years or until they attain the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier. It conducts the prestigious civil services examination to select officers of Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS) and Indian Police Service (IPS) among others

 

Winter Session of Parliament from Dec 11, 2018 to Jan 08, 2019

The Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs (CCPA) has recommended convening of winter session of Parliament from December 11, 2018 to January 8, 2019. The CCPA was headed by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and met in New Delhi and deliberated on the dates of the session.  The winter session of Parliament usually starts every year after Monsoon Session in November.

 However, from past two years in a row, it is beginning in December.  The session has been delayed this year due to assembly elections in five states.

Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs (CCPA) is one of the six cabinet committees in function (as of 2016). It looks after progress after of government business in the Parliament. It is chaired by Union Home Minister. Others five cabinet committees are Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs, Cabinet Committee on Economic (CCEA), Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), Cabinet Committee on Accommodation (CCA) and Appointments Committee of Cabinet (ACC). These five cabinet committees are chaired by Prime Minister.

 

GSAT-29

Communication satellite GSAT-29 was launched successfully by the second developmental flight of Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV MKIII-D2) from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota.

Communication satellite GSTA-29 weighing 3,423 kg is a multiband and multi-beam satellite. The mission life will be 10 years.

The satellite’s Ku-band and Ka-band payloads will cater to the communication needs of people residing in remote parts of the country especially those from Jammu & Kashmir and North-Eastern regions.

 Similarly, the satellite’s Q/V-Band communication payload will help in demonstrating the future high throughput satellite system technologies.

GSLV MKIII

GSLV MKIII is ISRO’s fifth generation three stage heavy lift launch vehicle. The launch vehicle is capable of placing satellites weighing 4000 kg in GTO. The first stage constitutes two massive boosters with solid propellants. The core with liquid propellant and the cryogenic engine constitutes the second and third stages respectively.

  • The weight of GSLV Mark III is 641 tons roughly equals the weight of five fully loaded passenger aircrafts. GSLV MarkIII, which took 15 years to make, is the heaviest among India’s operational launch vehicles. Also, with only 43 meters tall, it is also the shortest launch vehicles.
  • GSLV MKIII will be used to launch Chandrayaan-2 and Gaganyaan missions.

With the success of this flight, the Indian Space programme has achieved a significant milestone as the heaviest launcher (GSLV MKIII) lifted off the heaviest satellite (GSAT-29). The success of this mission is also an important milestone for the Indian space programme as it showcases the self-reliance of ISRO in launching heavier satellites. Also, the launch also signifies the completion of the experimental phase of GSLV MarkIII. The first successful mission of GSLV MarkIII was in 2014. In 2017, GSLV Mark III-D1 placed 3150 kg GSAT-19, a high throughput communication satellite into Geostationary Transfer orbit (GTO).

The launch of GSAT-29 communication satellite will pave for bridging the digital divide in the country. The launch of the satellite is also expected to aid Digital India Programme. The satellite is also intended to serve as a test bed for several new and critical next generation payload technologies. GSAT-29 is the 33rd communication satellite of India.

The successful flight of GSAT-29 will constitute a series of experimental flights that will help in developing the heaviest rocket for the manned space missions of the ISRO. ISRO’s manned mission Gaganyaan is expected to lift of three Indian astronauts into space for a seven days trip to the Low-Earth Orbit. The mission is slated for 2022.

Yuva Sahakar-

Union Ministery of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare has launched Yuva Sahakar-Cooperative Enterprise Support and Innovation Scheme of National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC). It is youth-friendly scheme aimed at attracting youth to cooperative business ventures.

The scheme is linked to Rs 1000 crore ‘Cooperative Start-up and Innovation Fund (CSIF)’ created by the NCDC. It aims to encourage cooperatives to venture into new and innovative areas. It envisages 2% less than applicable rate of interest on term loan for the project cost up to Rs 3 crore including 2 years moratorium on payment of principal. All types of cooperatives in operation for at least one year are eligible to avail of the scheme.

Under it more incentives will be provided for cooperatives of North Eastern region, Aspirational Districts and cooperatives with women or SC or ST members. The funding for the project under this scheme will be up to 80% of the project cost for these special categories against 70% for others

Sri Ramayana Express

Shri Ramayana Express, a special tourist train to run on Ramayana circuit to cover major spots related to Hindu epic was flagged off by Indian Railways from Safdarjung Railway Station, New Delhi. The pilgrimage circuit of Shri Ramayana Yatra will have two travel components — one each in India and Sri Lanka.

Shri Ramayana Express

In India, after leaving New Delhi, 800-seat Shri Ramayana Express will make its first stop in Ayodhya followed by Hanuman Garhi Ramkot and Kanak Bhawan temple. Then it cover important destinations of Ramayana circuit such as Nandigram, Sitamarhi, Janakpur, Varanasi, Prayag, Shringverpur, Chitrakoot, Nasik, Hampi and Rameshwaram.

It will complete its journey till Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu in 16 days covering all important destinations associated with the life of Lord Shri Ram. The railways has decided the fare for 16-day trip at Rs. 15,120 per person.

The Sri Lanka leg of the tour will be charged separately as passengers opting for Sri Lanka leg of Ramayana Yatra package can take flight to Colombo from Chennai. Railways is currently offering five-night/six-day Sri Lanka tour package at  cost starting from Rs. 47,600 per person

Government to refund employers for seven weeks of maternity leave to employees:

Union Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) has announced that government will pay employers salaries for ..first seven of 26 weeks of maternity leave for women earning more than Rs 15,000 month.

The announcement comes in wake of complaints that many companies were reluctant to hire pregnant women after maternity leave was extended from 12 to 26 weeks and some were even firing women employees. The decision covers both the government as well as private sector.

This decision was taken after WCD Ministry had talks with Union Labour Ministry that 7 of 26 weeks of maternity leave for all women employees in private and government sector getting more than Rs 15,000 a month will be paid from that fund. For paying employers, Government has decided to utilise funds lying in labour welfare cess with governments to pay employers.

Government had increased maternity leave for pregnant women was extended from 12 weeks to 26 weeks in 2017 after Parliament had passed Maternity Benefits (Amendment) Bill, 2016. This law had paved way for doubling of the maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for two surviving children. This benefitted about 1.8 million women in the organised sector and raised India’s position to the third place in terms of the number of weeks given for maternity leave after Canada (50 weeks) and Norway (44).

2nd Mega Food Park Maharashtra inaugurated in Aurangabad

Union Ministey for Food Processing Industries has inaugurated 2nd Mega Food Park in Maharashtra, in Wahegaon and Dhangaon village in Paithan taluka of Aurangabad district. It was launched under Mega Food Park Scheme and is promoted by Paithan Mega Food Park Pvt Ltd.

 The first park was inaugurated in Satara district in March 2018. Third mega foodpark has been sanctioned by Union Ministry of Food Processing Industries in Maharashtra in Wardha district.

Paithan Mega Food Park has been set up in 102 acre of land at cost of Rs 124.52 crore. The facilities at Central Processing Centre (CPC) of this mega food park include dry warehouse of 10,000 metric tonne (MT), cold storage (1,000 MT), pre-cooling facility (10 MT), ripening chambers (400 MT), individual quick freezing (IQF) facility (1.5 metric tonne per hour).

The modern infrastructure for food processing created at mega food park will benefit the farmers, growers, processors and consumers of Maharashtra and adjoining areas immensely and prove to be big boost to growth of food processing sector in Maharashtra.

This mega food park will benefit the people of Aurangabad district as well as nearby districts of Nashik, Dhule, Jalgaon, Buldhana, Jalna, Bid and Ahmednagar. It will provide direct and indirect employment to 5,000 persons and benefit about 25,000 farmers in CPC catchment areas.

Mega Food Park Scheme is implemented by Ministry of Food Processing Industries to give major fillip to food processing sector by adding value and reducing food wastage at each stage of supply chain with particular focus on perishables. It aims to create modern infrastructure facilities for food processing along value chain from farm to market with strong forward and backward linkages through cluster based approach.

Projects under it are merged under comphrehensive flagship scheme of ‘Pradhan Mantri Kisan SAMPADA Yojana’. Under it, common facilities and enabling infrastructure is created at Central Processing Centre (CPCs) and facilities for primary processing and storage is created near farm in form of PPCs and CCs. For it, Government provides financial assistance upto Rs. 50.00 Crore per Mega Food Park project.

Swadesh Darshan Scheme

Union Ministry of Tourism has inaugurated two important projects as part of Development of North East Circuit under Swadesh Darshan Scheme in Arunachal Pradesh. The projects were jointly inaugurated by Union Minister of State (IC) Tourism,K J Alphons, and Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu.

Bhalukpong- Bomdila – Tawang Project: It was sanctioned by Ministry of Tourism in March 2015. Under it, Ministry has developed facilities like Accommodation, Cafeteria, wayside Amenities, last Mile Connectivity, Pathways, Toilets, Multipurpose Hall at Lumpo, Zemithang, Bumla Pass, Jang, Sorang Monastery, Gritsang TSO lake, PTSO Lake, Lumla, Sela Lake and Thingbu and Grenkha Hot Spring.

Nafra- Seppa- Pappu, Pasa, Pakke Valleys- Sangdupota- New Sagalee- Ziro- Yomcha Project: It was sanctioned in December 2015. The facilities developed under it includes wayside amenities, helipad, trekking trails, log huts, craft bazaar, rafting centre, eco-park, tourist facilitation centres, parking, multipurpose hall, festival ground etc.

Swadesh Darshan scheme was launched by Union Tourism Ministry in 2015 with objective to develop theme-based tourist circuits in the country. These tourist circuits developed will be developed under on principles of high tourist value, competitiveness and sustainability in integrated manner.

Under this scheme, Government is focusing on development of quality infrastructure with objective of providing better experience and facilities to visitors on one hand and on other hand fostering economic growth.

It is 100% centrally funded scheme for project components undertaken for public funding. It also has provision for leveraging voluntary funding under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives of Central Public Sector Undertakings and corporate sector.

13 thematic circuits have been identified for development bnder this scheme. They are Buddhist Circuit, North-East India Circuit, Coastal Circuit, Himalayan Circuit, Krishna Circuit, Desert Circuit, Eco Circuit, Wildlife Circuit, Tribal Circuit, Rural Circuit, Spiritual Circuit, Ramayana Circuit and Heritage Circuit.

The funding of projects under this scheme varies from state to state. It is finalised on basis of detailed project reports prepared by Programme Management Consultant (PMC) which is national level consultant for implementing scheme. So far, Tourism Ministry has sanctioned 73 projects worth projects for Rs. 5873.99 crore to 30 States and UTs under this scheme.

NITI Aayog constitutes Himalayan State Regional Council

NITI Aayog has constituted Himalayan State Regional Council to ensure sustainable development of Indian Himalayan region. It will be chaired by Dr VK Saraswat, Member, NITI Aayog and will consist of Chief Secretaries of Himalayan States as well as Secretaries of key Central Ministries, senior officers of NITI Aayog as well as special invitees.

The Council has been constituted to review and implement identified action points based on Reports of five Working Groups, which were established along thematic areas to prepare a roadmap for action. It will be nodal agency for Sustainable development in Himalayan Region which consists of 12 States namely Jammu &Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur,  Mizoram, Tripura, two districts of Assam namely Dima Hasao and KarbiAnglong and Darjeeling and Kalimpong in West Bengal.

Government inks $300 million loan agreement with ADB

Union Government has inked $300 million Loan Agreement with Asian Development Bank (ADB) to support lending by India Infrastructure Finance Company Limited (IIFCL). The loan will enhance availability of long-term finance for PPP projects, improve operational capacity of IIFCL. It will expand portfolio of infrastructure financing instruments available to IIFCL. It is expected to compliment Government’s infrastructure building efforts.

ADB funding is expected to fund at least 13 sub-projects through IIFCL, involving roads and renewable power generation, under the last tranche. It expected to help catalyze the financial closing of $2.4 billion in investments. In addition, attached technical assistance will support IIFCL capacity development and will focus on IIFCL’s financial management and social and environmental safeguards. It will support renewed effort of Central Government in accelerating infrastructure growth through increased Private Sector investment. The Project undertaken it will be relevant and responsive to constraints to bank based infrastructure financing, fiscal space creation, and repercussions on GDP growth.

India Infrastructure Finance Company Limited (IIFCL) was set up in 2006 to provide long term debt for infrastructure projects. It provides financial assistance to commercially viable projects, which includes projects implemented by public sector company, private sector company; or private sector company selected under Public Private Partnership (PPP) initiative. IIFCL raises funds from domestic as well as external markets on strength of government guarantees.

Following sectors projects are eligible for financing from IIFCL:

  • Power;
  • Warehouses;
  • Gas pipelines;
  • Cold storage chains;
  • Fertilizer Manufacturing Industry
  • Infrastructure projects in Special Economic Zones;
  • International convention centres and other tourism infrastructure projects;
  • Road and bridges, seaports, railways, airports, inland waterways and other transportation projects.
  • Urban transport, water supply, sewage, solid waste management and other physical infrastructure in urban areas.

Government approves 3 new proposals under Nirbhaya Fund

Union Government has approved three proposals under Nirbhaya Fund including setting up of 1023 Fast Track Special Courts (FTSCs). Decision in this regard was taken by Empowered Committee of Officers under Nirbhaya Fund, under Chairmanship of Secretary, Women and Child Development Ministry. Apart from these three proposals, in-principle approval to proposal of Union Ministry of Road Transport and highways for C-DAC for customisation, deployment and management of state wise vehicle tracking platform for safety and enforcement.

Three proposals are

Setting up of 1023 Fast Track Special Courts (FTSCs): It was proposal forwarded by Department of Justice under Ministry of Law and Justice) to dispose off pending cases of rape and POCSO Act across the country. In phase I, 777 FTSCs will be set up in 9 states and in the second phase, 246 FTSCs will be set up. It will have total financial outlay of Rs 767.25 crores.

Procurement of forensic kits for sexual assault cases: It was proposal forwarded by Union Ministry of Home Affairs to kick start usage of such kits in States. These kits will be used through Training of Trainers (TOTs), strengthening of State Forensic Science Laboratory (FSLs) and capacity building or training for forensics in sexual assault cases.

Setting up video surveillance system at 50 Railway Stations: It was proposal forwarded by Konkan Railway Corporation Limited for setting up video surveillance system at 50 Railway Stations. The funding will be utilised for surveillance hardware and accessories, local connectivity equipment and power supply devices.

Nirbhaya Fund is created by Ministry of Finance in 2013 with a corpus of Rs 1000 crore. It dedicated for implementation of initiatives aimed at enhancing the safety and security for women in the country. It is a non-lapsable corpus fund. It is being monitored by Empowered Committee of Officers under Secretary of Women and Child Development Ministry. It is an inter-ministerial committee appraises and recommends various projects (schemes) proposed by different ministries to be funded from Nirbhaya Fund.

 India’s first specialized hospital for elephants

India’s …first specialized hospital for elephants was formally opened Churmura village in Mathura district of Uttar Pradesh.  It is promoted by Wildlife SOS which had established first elephant conservation and care centre in 2010 and is currently looking after 20 elephants requiring specialised treatment.

The unique medical centre offers wireless digital X-ray, dental X-ray, laser treatment, thermal imaging, ultrasonography, hydrotherapy and quarantine facilities.  The hospital is located close to elephant conservation and care centre. It is designed to treat injured, sick or geriatric elephants. It is equipped with medical hoist for lifting elephants. It also has elephant restraining device with dedicated indoor treatment enclosure for long duration medical procedures. It also has observation deck that allows veterinary students and interns to observe elephants’ behavior.

Punjab becomes 3rd state to ban hookah bars

Punjab becomes third state in the country after.. Maharashtra and Gujarat  to ban hookah bars or lounges. The ban was announced through law after President Ram Nath Kovind gave assent to Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) (Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2018.  The objective of this law is to check use of tobacco in various forms and prevent diseases caused by use of the tobacco products.

 

The Bill was Punjab state assembly in March this year with an aim to bring the law in force to check the use of tobacco in various forms and prevent diseases caused by the use of tobacco. The law was enacted due check unregulated growth these hookah parlours and rapid increase in trend of ‘hookah-sheesha’ smoking in the state. Moreover, there were complaints of drug consumption in these hookah bars across the state.

Impact on Health  Smoking of hookah increases health risks, which includes exposure to toxic chemicals that are not filtered out by water. It also results in transmission or risk of infectious disease like tuberculosis (TB) from sharing a hookah. As per study, an hour’s average of hookah includes 20-200 puffs, delivering 50 litres of smoke contain, hazardous and carcinogenic chemicals.

BSE to cut ties with S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC

Asia’s oldest bourse BSE has decided to snap ties with S&P Dow Jones, which manages and operates benchmark Sensex. Now it is planning to develop indices through its own in-house development team.

The two entities had announced joint venture called Asia Index in 2013 to provide array of indices enabling global and domestic investors to participate in South Asia’s vibrant economies. The deal with BSE came after expiry of licensing arrangement between India Index Services & Products (IISL), a joint venture of NSE and S&P-owned Crisil. BSE will not renew its agreement with S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC which expires on December 31, 2018 and it is looking to develop indices through its own team. The agreement was not renewed because as joint venture was not able expand reach and usage of the indexes in the foreign jurisdiction.

first National Institute of Inter-Faith Studies in Punjab

Union Government will set up first-of-its-kind institute of Inter-Faith Studies in Punjab to promote brotherhood and diversity. It is being established as part of year-long activities to commemorate 550th birth anniversary of first Sikh Guru and founder of Sikh religion Guru Nanak. The institute will be set up on lines of teachings of Guru Nanak Dev ji who preached qualities of brotherhood, diversity and the concept of unity in diversity. Government will engage experts and form committees to oversee and finalise concept of this institute.

Guru Nanak dev

He was Nirguna Bhakti saint and social reformer. He was born at Rai Bhoi Ki Talvandi near Lahore in April 15, 1469 AD. He was first Sikh Guru and founder of Sikhism. The verses composed by him were collected in Adi Granth, written in Gurmukhi script.

 

 

Centre for Science and Environment

Delhi-based environment think-tank Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) will be awarded Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development 2018 for its work in environmental education and protection. CSE is being awarded prize for its steadyfast advocacy of measures to combat environmental deterioration and for its success in influencing public policies and programmes that have benefitted social and economic development in India. It was selected for this award by international jury, chaired by former president Pranab Mukherjee.

Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) is not-for-profit public interest research and advocacy organisation based in New Delhi. It was established in 1980 under the leadership of late Anil Aggarwal. It works as think tank on environment-development issues in India, poor planning, climate shifts devastating Sundarbans and advocates for policy changes and better implementation of already existing policies.

Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development- is awarded annually by Indira Gandhi Trust since 1986. It has been named after former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. It is awarded to individuals or organizations in recognition of their creative efforts towards promoting international peace, development.

The award consists of monetary award of 25 lakh and citation. Some of its earlier recipients are UNICEF (1989), Rajiv Gandhi (1991), M S Swaminathan (1999), Kofi Annan (2003), Angel Merkel (2013), Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) (2014) and UN High Commission for Refugees (2015),  Manmohan Singh (2017).

Vajra Prahar:

India, US Joint Special Forces Exercise 2018 named Vajra Prahar commenced at Mahajan Field Firing Range (MFFR), Bikaner in Rajasthan. The exercise was called between Special Forces of both countries to deal with operations for counter-terrorism and is being done at unit as well as sub-unit levels.

For this exercise, US Army is represented by contingent of one officer and 10 Other Ranks from Special Forces Group of United States Pacific Command. They will carry out 12 days rigorous joint training in semi desert and rural terrain with aim to enhance inter-operability of the two armed forces and further military to military co-operation.

 

 

Sulabh sewer cleaning machine

Sulabh International has introduced India’s first sewer cleaning machine to reduce sewer deaths and put end to unsafe practice of manual scavenging. The machine was unveiled on occasion of World Toilet Day 2018 (observed on 19 November) by mayors of all three Municipal Corporations of Delhi (MCD) in the presence founder of Sulabh International Bindeshwar Pathak.

The machine will do away with 99% of manual scavenging in the country. With help of it manual cleaner (safai karamchari) does not have to enter sewers. But if need arises and person has to go, then machine is fully equipped with gas checking machine, protective gears and dress to protect workers from harmful gases.

It is electro-hydraulically operated, with personal protective devices and quick-view pipe inspection camera which extends up to 20 feet. The quick-view pipe view camera is designed to felicitate inspection of sewer, manholes, tunnels, tanks, mainline and other lateral pipeline facilities with outstanding zoom function (industrial HD camera), scalable carbon fibre rods and sunlight presentable controller.

Sulabh International is social service organization that works to promote human rights, environmental sanitation, non-conventional sources of energy, waste management and social reforms through education. It is largest nonprofit organization in India. It was founded by social activists Bindeshwar Pathak in 1970.

Four new horned frogs discovered in Northeast Himalayas

Team of biologists has discovered four new species of Indian horned frogs from Himalayan regions of Northeast India. The team also comprised S D Biju, famously known as the ‘Frogman of India’. Horned frogs get their name from …fleshy horn-like projection on upper eyelids of some species

Four new species of horned frogs

They were discovered in the forests of ..Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh. Scientists have named them as Himalayan horned frog (Megophrys himalayana), Garo white-lipped horned frog (Megophrys oreocrypta); Yellow spotted white-lipped horned frog

 

 

Indian Army selects Russian Igla-S missile system

Indian Army has picked Russia’s Igla-S missile system as choice for its multibillion dollar contract for man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS). Igla-S bid around $1.47 billion from Russia’s Rosoboronexport had emerged lowest bidder for Indian Army’s Very Short Range Air Defence (VSHORAD) deal. The other bidders were MBDA of France (bid of $3.68 billion) and SAAB of Sweden (bid of $2.6 billion). The deal is expected to be inked when Indian-Russian Intergovernmental Commission on Military-Technical cooperation meeting will take place in Moscow in December 2018.

IGLA-S (SA-24) is latest model of Russian MANPADS (Man-portable air-defense system) technology. It offers superior performance over earlier supplied SA-18 missiles to India. It is designed for use against visible aerial targets at short range such as tactical aircraft, helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAVs), cruise missile, head-on or receding, in presence of natural (background) clutter and countermeasures. As per requirements of Indian Army, it will have maximum range of 6km, altitude of 3km along with all-weather capability. Igla-S missile system will replace the existing Igla in service which is in urgent need of replacement.

49th International Film Festival of India opens in Panaji, Goa

49th International Film Festival of India began in Panaji, capital of Goa. The theme of for this year’s film festival is New India through a variety of genres of cinema, including history, action, romance and sports. Jharkhand is focus state for this year, with Jharkhand Day being celebrated on 24th November as part of festival. The focus country is Israel.

This edition of the festival  showcase 212 films from over 68 countries which reflects diversity of taste. International Competition section has 15 films out of which 3 are Indian.  Competition section represents films produced and co-produced by 22 countries. 26 feature and 21 non – feature Indian films will be screened in Indian Panorama section.

 

 

27th BASIC Ministerial Meeting on Climate Change held in New Delhi

27th BASIC Ministerial Meeting on Climate Change held in New Delhi has urged advanced countries to enhance their support to developing nations in effectively implementing Paris Agreement to combat climate change. BASIC countries comprise Brazil, South Africa, India and China. This comes ahead of UN Conference of Parties (COP) scheduled to be held in December 2018 in Katowice, Poland.

Outcomes of Meeting

Participating BASIC countries reaffirmed that Paris Agreement is significant step to advance global action against climate change, recognising needs and special circumstances of  developing countries.

They also reaffirmed member countries’ commitment to implement UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) its Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement. It resolved to promote low carbon transition to safeguard future of mankind.

As a group they will continue to push for developed countries on their earlier commitment to providing $100 billion annually from 2020. They also urged developed countries to take urgent actions to close pre-2020 implementation gaps by 2023 which they said can be useful input for first Global Stocktake (GST). Brazil will host next BASIC meeting in 2019.

Global Stocktake (GST)

GST refers to proposed five-yearly-review of the impact of climate change action undertaken by countries. Under the Paris Agreement, each country has to present a climate action plan every five years. Under the Paris Agreement, the first global stocktake will happen in 2023. It will help world to determine whether it needs to do moreand how much more. India is demanded for 10-year period for GST, while EU and some others demanded five-year cycle. India argues that five years is too short a time to assess whether the actions were having the desired impacts.

BASIC

BASIC countries are bloc (geopolitical alliance) of four large newly industrialized countries – Brazil, South Africa, India and China. It was formed by agreement in November 2009. They were committed to act jointly at Copenhagen climate summit 2009, including possible united walk-out if their common minimum position was not met by developed nations during climate talks. It is working to define common position on emission reductions and climate aid money and try to convince other countries to sign up to Copenhagen Accord.

Mohammed VI-B

Morocco successfully launched its second earth observation satellite named Mohammed VI-B on board of Arianespace Vega rocket from launch pad at Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana in South America.  It will be placed at same orbit as its twin satellite Mohammed 6-A, the first Moroccan satellite launched in November 2017 also on Vega rocket. The launch completes Morocco’s two-satellite constellation for Earth observation.

The 1,100-kilogram satellite was developed by Thales Alenia Space and Airbus Airbus Defence and Space. Airbus had built platform of satellite while Thales Alenia Space supplied payload and ground segment for image processing. It will be mainly used for mapping, land surveying, agricultural monitoring, prevention and management of natural disasters, monitoring changes in the environment and desertification as well as border and coastal surveillance.

 

 

Kim Jong-yang of South Korea elected as new President of Interpol

Kim Jong Yang of South Korea was elected Interpol President for two-year term by member countries at 87th General Assembly of Interpol, held for first time in Dubai. He secured at least two-thirds of votes cast at general assembly and defeated Russia’s Alexander Prokopchuk. He will serve until 2020, completing the four-year mandate of his predecessor, Meng Hongwei, who was detained in China over corruption charges.  

INTERPOL

Interpol is global police co-operation agency and a non-governmental organization (NGO). It was established as the International Criminal Police Commission (ICPC) in 1923. Its headquartered is located at Lyon, France.  It is the world’s largest international police organization, with 194 member countries (including India). It is second-largest international organization after United Nations in terms of international representation.

Its work focuses on public safety and battling terrorism, crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes, environmental crime etc. It seeks to facilitate international police cooperation even where diplomatic relations do not exist between particular countries. It ensures that police around world have access to tools and services necessary to do their jobs effectively. It also provides targeted training, expert investigative support, relevant data and secure communications channels.

Sangai tourism festival held in Manipur

The annual Sangai Festival was celebrated in northeastern state of Manipur. It is grandest festival of state named after state animal, Sangai, the critically endangered brow-antlered deer found only in Manipur. The festival aims to promote Manipur as world class tourism destination. It was inaugurated by Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

Sangai Tourism Festival was started in 2010 and has grown over years into big platform for Manipur to showcase its rich tradition and culture to the world. It showcases tourism potential of Manipur in field of arts & culture, handloom, handicrafts, indigenous sports, cuisine, music and adventure sports of state etc.

The focus areas of festival reflect Manipur’s rich cultural heritage and love for art of various tribes inhabiting state. It also showcases ‘Ras Leela’, state’s classical dance form along with various other folk dance performances like Bamboo dance, Maibi dance, Kabui Naga dance, Lai Haraoba dance, Khamba Thoibi dance etc.

Sangai Deer  also called the Dancing Deer. It is the state animal of Manipur. Once it was found across Manipur Valley in abundant now only its remaining natural habitat is found in ..Keibul Lamjao National Park (KLNP), only floating national park in the world. It is listed as critically endangered species by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). KLNP is floating biomass in Manipur’s Loktak Lake. It is known around the world for its unique composition which is made up of biomass vegetation (locally called phumdis) that floats on surface of lake.

CCEA approves extension of norms for mandatory packaging in Jute Materials

Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved to expand the scope of mandatory packaging norms under Jute Packaging Material (JPM) Act, 1987. It has approved that 100% of the food grains and 20% of sugar shall be mandatorily packed in diversified jute bags. Initially 10% of indents of jute bags for packing foodgrains will be placed through reverse auction on GEM portal. This will gradually help to usher in a regime of price discovery.

Impact of this decision

It will give a fillip to development of jute sector and impetus to the diversification of the jute industry. It will increase quality and productivity of raw jute and also boost and sustaining demand for jute product. It will benefit farmers and workers located in Eastern and North Eastern regions of country particularly in the states of West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Meghalaya and Tripura.

Jute Sector is one of the important natural fibers after cotton in terms of cultivation and usage. Its cultivation is dependent on climate, season, and soil. Almost 85% of world’s jute cultivation is concentrated in the Ganges Delta. India is largest producer or cultivator of jute in the world (around 60%) followed by Bangladesh and China. Top jute producing states are West Bengal, Bihar, Assam and Odisha.

This sector in India is predominantly dependent on Government which purchases jute products more than Rs. 6,500 crore every year. Government has been making concerted efforts for the development of jute sector considering that nearly 3.7 lakh workers and approximately 40 lakh farmers are dependent for their livelihood on jute sectors.

Government is also making concerted efforts for development of jute sector. It is increasing quality and productivity of raw jute, diversification of jute sector and also boosting and sustaining demand for jute product. The intensive Government support is to sustain core demand for jute sector and to support livelihood of workers and farmers dependent on sector.

 Kartarpur corridor in Gurdaspur district to International Border

Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired Union Cabinet has approved building and development of Kartarpur Corridor from Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district of Punjab to international border with Pakistan. It was approved as part of 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev, which falls in 2019.

Kartarpur is located in Shakargarh in Narowal district of Punjab province of Pakistan. Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism and its first guru had spent over 18 years of his life here. Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara is located about three to 4km from Indo-Pak border in Pakistan in Punjab.

Kartarpur corridor will facilitate pilgrims from India who visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, Kartarpur, on the banks of the Ravi River in Pakistan every year. It was first proposed by then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1999. If connected on both sides, this could also provide major boost to religious tourism as more pilgrims will be able to visit holy shrine throughout year.

ASEAN Summit

The 33rd edition of the ASEAN Summit concluded on November 15, 2018 at Suntec Singapore Convention Centre, Singapore. The Summit also saw the conclusion of other related summits like 13th East Asia Summit (EAS), 2nd Regional Comprehensive Economic Summit, (RCEP) and ASEAN plus summits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, the US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping were not in attendance. The Vice President Mike Pence represented the US, while the Chinese side was represented by Premier Li Keqiang.

Key Highlights

• The leaders reviewed ASEAN’s achievements in the year 2018 while mapping out a new course for the year ahead. 

• The  leaders adopted the ASEAN Smart Cities Framework
• The ASEAN leaders, along with their counterparts from countries participating in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) .
• The leaders also exchanged views on regional and international issues with their counterparts at the 21st ASEAN Plus Three Summit and 13th East Asia Summit. 

• Singapore PM Lee handed over the ASEAN Chairmanship to Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

13th East Asia Summit (EAS)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also attended the 13th East Asia Summit (EAS). Leaders of 18 countries of Asia Pacific region of 10 ASEAN countries including India, US, Russia, Australia, South Korea and China discussed the ways to deepen the links and combat the common challenges.

The Prime Minister called for enhancing multilateral cooperation and economic and cultural ties among member-nations. He reiterated India’s vision of a peaceful, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region, strengthening maritime cooperation and commitment to a balanced Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) pact.

India has been participating in the EAS since its inception in 2005. The EAS consists of 10 ASEAN nations (Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Brunei and Laos), Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia and the United States.

GSAT-29

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on November 14, 2018 successfully launched communication satellite GSAT-29 aboard its heavy-lift Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV MkIII-D2).

The GSLV Mark-III rocket weighs around 640 ton and has a height of 43.4 metres.

  • The launch vehicle injected India’s second high-throughput communication satellite GSAT-29 into its planned geostationary transfer orbit just over 17 minutes into its flight. After injection, ISRO’s Master Control Facility at Hassan assumed the control of the 3,423 kg satellite.• In the coming days, three orbit raising manoeuvers will be executed to position the satellite in the Geostationary Orbit at its designated location, at an estimated height of 36,000 km from the earth. • GSAT-29 is a multiband, multi-beam communication satellite, intended to serve as test bed for several new and critical technologies. The mission life of the satellite is over ten years.  It carries Ka/Ku-band high throughput communication transponders, which are intended to cater to the communication requirements of users, including those in remote areas. The satellite will mainly aim to increase hi-speed communication facilities in the northeast, Jammu & Kashmir and other far-flung areas of the nation.

National Legal Services Day

National Legal Services Day (NLSD) is observed every year in India on 9th November to spread awareness for ensuring reasonable fair and justice procedure for all citizens.

On this day, Lok Adalats are organized across the country to make safe the legal system operations and encourages righteousness of people on the equality basis. Besides, variety of legal literacy camps and functions are also organized to increase awareness of free legal aid towards every weak citizen of the country.

National Legal Services Day (NLSD) was started by Supreme Court of India in 1995 to provide help and support to poor and weaker sections of the society. It was established with mandate to offer help and support to weaker and poor group of sections of people which may be women, disabled persons, Scheduled Tribes (STs), children, Scheduled Castes (SCs), human trafficking victims as well as natural calamities victims.

CIMAP signs pact with RIFM to standardize fragrant oils 

Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (CIMAP) has signed MoU with US-based Research Institute for Fragrant Materials (RIFM) for improving the …quality of fragrant oils. It was signed at conclusion of two-day annual conference of International Fragrance Association (IFA) in Paris, capital city of France.

It will go long way in standardizing fragrant material produced in India and bring it to an international level. It will give a big boost to fragrance quality in India as RIFM internationally standardizes the quality of fragrant materials. It will give impetus to aroma mission of Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) which aims at enhancing production of fragrant materials.

Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (CIMAP)-Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (CIMAP) is a frontier plant research laboratory of CSIR. It was originally established as Central Indian Medicinal Plants Organisation (CIMPO) in 1959. It is headquartered in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh.

Ashok Kumar Gupta

Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) headed by Prime Minister has appointed former IAS officer Ashok Kumar Gupta as Chairperson of Competition Commission of India (CCI). He replaces acting chairperson Sudhir Mital. He will be in office till October 25, 2022 i.e. till he attains age of 65 years or until further orders, whichever is the earliest. Gupta is former IAS officer of the Tamil Nadu cadre.

Competition Commission of India (CCI) is quasi-judicial statutory body established under The Competition Act, 2002. It was established in October 2003 and became fully functional in May 2009. Section 8(1) of the Act provides CCI shall consist of Chairperson and not less than two and not more than six Members. Presently, Chairperson and four Members are in position. It has been functioning as collegium right from its inception. It functions under Ministry of Cooperate Affairs.

SIMBEX 2018

India and Singapore to hold 25th joint naval exercise SIMBEX, acronym for Singapore-India Maritime Bilateral Exercise from November 10 to 21 in India off Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal. SIMBEX 2018 will mark silver jubilee of exercise and will be largest edition since 1994 in terms of scale and complexity

It will witness diverse range of exercises at sea such as live weapon drills including multiple missile firings, heavy weight torpedo (HWT) and medium range gun and anti-submarine rocket firings; advanced anti-submarine warfare (ASW) exercises, submarine rescue demonstrations; integrated surface and anti-air warfare (AAW); unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operations and cross deck helicopter flying among others.

 

Long cohabitation is presumed marriage: SC

Supreme Court has upheld presumption that couple who live together as husband and wife are legally married and woman can claim maintenance under Section 125 of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC ). The apex court held that law presumes in favour of marriage and against concubinage when man and woman have cohabited continuously for a number of years.

 

 

 

 

 

Indian Army inducts 3 artillery gun system 

Indian Army inducted three major globally combat proven artillery gun system viz….. M777 A2 ultra light howitzers (ULH), ……..K-9 Vajra-tracked self-propelled guns and ……‘Composite Gun Towing Vehicle’ at Deolali Field Firing Range in Maharashtra. These are first artillery gun systems to be inducted by Indian Army in three decades. Last inducted was Bofors artillery gun system procured from Sweden in early 1980s.

M777 A2 Ultra Light Howitzers : It is 155mm, 39 Calibre ULHs towed artillery gun, with maximum range of 24-30km procured from US. It being versatile and light weight can be heli-lifted, thus providing employment flexibility in different terrains.

 

 

 

Ladakh restoration project

The restoration of an aristocratic house project from partial ruin state in Ladakh undertaken by LAMO (Ladakh Arts and Media Organisation) Center has won 2018 UNESCO Asia-Pacific award for Cultural Heritage conservation in Award of Distinction category. LAMO is public charitable trust established to articulate an alternative vision for the arts and media in Ladakh.

The restored structure is strategically located at the foot of Leh palace, contributes to continuity of historic townscape of 17th century.  Its recovery establishes precedent for conserving non-monumental urban fabric of Leh Old Town. Under restoration project, LAMO had used salvaged and local building materials and indigenous construction techniques and skillfully introduced modern amenities to assure its ongoing use.

 

Other Category awardees

  • Award of Excellence: It was awarded to restoration project of early 20th-century Shijo-cho Ofune-hoko Float Machiya in Japan. It celebrates Kyoto culture by safeguarding city’s endangered wooden townhouse typology as well as iconic annual Gion Festival.
  • Award of Distinction: LAMO Center, Ladakh, India
  • Award of Merit: 5 Martin Place, Sydney (Australia);  Aijing Zhuang, Fujian (China);  Commercial Bank of Honjo Warehouse, Saitama (Japan).
  • Honourable Mention: Hengdaohezi Town, Heilongjiang (China),  Rajabai Clock Tower & University of Mumbai Library Building, Mumbai (India), Ruttonsee Muljee Jetha Fountain, Mumbai (India).
  • New Design in Heritage Contexts: Kaomai Estate 1955, Chiang Mai (Thailand) and Harts Mill, Port Adelaide, (Australia).

UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservationt was established in 2000. It recognizes efforts of private individuals and organizations that have successfully conserved structures and buildings of heritage value in the region. It aims to encourage other property owners to undertake conservation projects within their communities, either independently or by seeking PPP (public-private partnerships).

Presidential Medal of Freedom

United States President Donald Trump has presented 7 distinguished individuals including late singer Elvis Presley 2018 Presidential Medal of Freedom on November 16, 2018.

These seven awardees includes three posthumous recipients- Music legend Elvis Presley, baseball great Babe Ruth and late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia. Other four are  philanthropist and heavyweight political donor Miriam Adelson and two football Hall of Famers- quarterback Roger Staubach and defensive tackle Alan Page, who later became first African American to serve on Minnesota Supreme Court.

 Presidential Medal of Freedom is United States’ highest civilian award. It is awarded to individuals with exceptional meritorious service to security or national interests of US, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. Majority of awardees are US citizens, but individuals from other countries are also eligible.

Sri Lankan PM

Newly appointed Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa ended his five-decade-long association with Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and joined newly-formed Sri Lanka People’s Party (SLPP). SLFP was founded by his father Don Alwin Rajapaksa in 1951.

Rajapaksa’s joining SLPP signals that he will contest snap polls, under his own party banner and not that of President Maithripala Sirisena’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).

SLPP was formed in 2017 by Rajapaksa’s supporters as platform for his re-entry into politics. In February 2018 local council elections SLPP won two-third of total 340 seats.

 

 

 

 

 

SpiNNaker:

The world’s largest supercomputer Spiking Neural Network Architecture (SpiNNaker) machinedesigned to work in same way as human brain was switched on for the first time.

SpiNNaker was designed and built at University of Manchester in UK. It can model more biological neurons in real time than any other machine on planet. Biological neurons are basic brain cells present in nervous system that communicate by emitting ‘spikes’ of pure electro-chemical energy. It is neuromorphic computing that uses large scale computer systems containing electronic circuits to mimic these spikes in a machine.

It is capable of completing more than 200 million million actions per second, with each of its chips having 100 million transistors.

It is unique as it mimics the massively parallel communication architecture of brain, sending billions of small amounts of information simultaneously to thousands of different destinations.

 ‘Samudra Shakti’ begins in Indonesia

The inaugural edition India, Indonesia Bilateral Naval Exercise ‘Samudra Shakti’ was held at the port of Surabaya, Indonesia. The aim of the exercise is to strengthen bilateral relations, expand maritime co-operation, enhance interoperability and exchange best practices.

Samudra Shakti exercise started with Harbour Phase which encompassed planning and briefing on various activities, professional interactions, cross deck visits, sports fixtures and social interactions. It was progressed by Sea Phase which included operations such as joint manoeuvres, helicopter operations, surface warfare exercise, ASW exercise and anti-piracy exercises. Indian Navy was represented by INS Rana of Eastern Fleet based at Visakhapatnam under Eastern Naval Command, which is deployed in South East Asia.

 

Faizabad as Ayodhya, Allahabad as Prayagraj

Uttar Pradesh Government has approved renaming of Faizabad and Allahabad divisions as Ayodhya and Prayagraj respectively. The decision was taken at meeting of state cabinet presided over by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in state capital Lucknow. Now, the proposal will now go to Central before the city is officially renamed. Prayagraj division will comprise Prayagraj, Kaushambi, Fatehpur and Pratapgarh districts. Ayodhya division will include Ayodhya, Ambedkarnagar, Sultanpur, Amethi and Barabanki districts, Khanna said.

Allahabad’s ancient name was ‘Prayag’, but was changed after 16th-century Mughal emperor Akbar built fort near ‘Sangam’, the holy confluence of three rivers viz. Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati. Akbar named the fort and its neighbourhood ‘Ilahabad’.

 Later, Akbar’s grandson Shah Jahan renamed the entire city as ‘Allahabad’. But the area near the ‘Sangam’, the site of the Kumbh Mela, continues to be known as ‘Prayag’.

The reason cited for renaming Faizabad is that Ayodhya was the capital of ‘Ikshvaku dynasty’, to which the Hindu god Ram belonged, and that it is popular known as his birthplace. Ayodhya is has been capital of many estates and dynasties in different time periods.

Rs 75 commemorative coin

Union Ministry of Finance has announced to release Rs 75 commemorative coin on occasion of 75th anniversary of hoisting of Tricolour for first time by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose at Cellular Jail, Port Blair on December 30, 1943. Earlier on October 21, 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had hoisted National Flag at Red Fort and unveiled plaque to commemorate 75th Anniversary of formation of Azad Hind Government, formed by Bose.

The 35-gram coin will be composed of 50% silver, 40% copper, and 5% each of nickel and zinc. It will bear the portrait of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose saluting flag on background of cellular jail. It will have numeral 75th along with inscription “anniversary” will be depicted below portrait. It will also have inscription in both Devanagari script and English saying ‘First Flag Hoisting Day’.

Subhash Chandra Bose on December 30, 1943 had hoisted Tricolor for first time on free Indian soil at Cellular Jail of Port Blair during his visit to Andaman and declaring the island as the free territory from the British rule. On same occasion, he had announced freedom of Andaman & Nicobar Islands (making it first Indian Territory) from the British rule and renamed them as “Shaheed-dweep” (Martyr Island) and “Swaraj-dweep” (Self-rule Island). 

 Hima Das –

India’s ace sprinter and Asian Games gold-medallist sprinter Hima Das (400 m.)was appointed as first ever youth ambassador of United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) India. UNICEF India works with central government to ensure that each child born in country gets best start in life, thrives and develops to his or her full potential.

Hima Das is nicknamed ‘Dhing Express’ after her village in Assam. In September 2018, she was appointed as Sports Ambassador of Assam to inspire budding players of northeastern state to aim big and young generation to take up sports seriously.

Dissolution of Lower house in Sri Lanka

President Maithripala Sirisena  dissolved the House. The move came after his political front admitted to lacking the majority needed for its controversially-installed Prime Minister to be declared legitimate.

Mr. Sirisena signed an official notification dismissing the 225-member assembly with effect from midnight, clearing the way for a snap election nearly two years ahead of schedule.

Since October 26, Sri Lanka has been facing an unprecedented power struggle with two rival prime ministers claiming legitimacy.

Embroiled in a conflict with his Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, with whom he joined hands to form government in 2015, Mr. Sirisena sacked him abruptly, and instead appointed former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

 Agni-I ballistic missile

India has successfully carried out night user trial of Agni-I short-range nuclear-capable ballistic missile. The test flight was conducted by Indian Army’s Strategic Forces Command off Abdul Kalam Island in Bay of Bengal, off the coast of the Indian state of Odisha. The test was second known nighttime trial of Agni-I since its first such successful test in April 2014.

Agni-I is short range nuclear capable surface-to-surface ballistic missile. It is first missile of the Agni series launched in 1983. It was developed by premier missile development laboratory of DRDO in collaboration with Defence Research Development Laboratory and Research Centre Imarat and integrated by Bharat Dynamics Limited, Hyderabad.

It weighs 12 tonnes and is 15-metre-long. It is designed to carry payload of more than one tonne (both conventional and nuclear warhead). It is single stage missile powered by solid propellants. It can hit a target 700 km away. Its strike range can be extended by reducing the payload. It can be fired from road and rail mobile launchers.

India ranked 77th World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index

India ranked 77th among 190 countries by leapfrogging 23 ranks in World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business (EODB) 2018 rankings. In the 2017 rankings, India ranked 100th and had jumped 30 places. In 2016, 2015 and 2014, India had not improved much and was placed at 130, 131 and 134, respectively, in ranking.

EODB 2018 was topped by New Zealand (consecutive for third time), followed by Singapore, Denmark, and Hong Kong. US was placed at eighth and China was ranked 46th while Pakistan is placed at 136th.

Ease of Doing Business Index

The index ranks 190 countries based on 10 indicators across the life-cycle of a business, from “starting a business” to “resolving insolvency.” These 10 indicators are: Starting business, Dealing with construction permits, Getting electricity, Registering property, Getting credit, Protecting minority investors, Paying taxes, Trading across borders, Enforcing contracts and Resolving insolvency. Each one of these indicators carry equal weightage. In case of India, Delhi and Mumbai are only two cities surveyed by World Bank for this reankings.

India’s performance in EODB 2018

  • Its jump in ranking in EODB 2019 was aided largely by improvement in areas such as “trading across borders”, “dealing with construction permits”, “getting electricity”, “getting credit” and “starting a business”.

 ICC Hall of Fame

Former India captain Rahul Dravid was officially inducted into International Cricket Council’s (ICC) Hall of Fame. He presented memento by the legendary opener Sunil Gavaskar at Greenfield International Stadium in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. With this, Dravid became fifth Indian cricketer after Bishan Singh Bedi (inducted in 2009), Sunil Gavaskar (2009), Kapil Dev (2010) and Anil Kumble (2015) to be named on the elite list. In July 2018, ICC had announced Rahul Dravid, Australian legend Ricky Ponting and former England Women’s wicket-keeper Claire Taylor’s induction into Hall of Fame during ceremony in Dublin. Ponting is 25th from Australia to receive the honour. Taylor is third female player from England to be named on the list and seventh overall.

 

 

 

 

Veer Surendra Sai Airport, Jharsuguda”

The Union Cabinet has approved renaming of Jharsuguda Airport in Odisha as “Veer Surendra Sai Airport, Jharsuguda” after Veer Surendra Sai who is well-known freedom fighter of Odisha. The renaming of airport fulfills long-pending demand of Odisha Government and reflects sentiments of local public of the respective area. It will is befitting tribute to contribution of revered personality associated with State.

The airport has been developed by Airports Authority of India (AAI) in collaboration with Odisha government at estimated cost of Rs 210 crore, with Rs 75 crore contribution from the state. It is spread across over 1,027.5 acres of land and has 2,390-metre long runway. The area of its terminal building is 4,000 square metres.

Surendra Sai  was a freedom fighter and tribal leader, born in 1809 in small town Khinda in Sambalpur (now in Odisha). He was direct descendant from Madhukar Sai and was legally entitled to be crowned as king of Sambalpur after demise of king Maharaja Sai in 1827. But he was not acceptable to British power and ignored his claim for succession.

 

 

 

 

 

Lt General Rajeshwar

Lt Gen P S Rajeshwar took over as 12th Chief of Integrated Defence Staff to Chairman, COSC. Prior to this appointment, he was serving as Director General (Perspective Planning) at Integrated Headquarters, Ministry of Defence.

Lt Gen PS Rajeshwar

He was commissioned into Regiment of Artillery in December 1980. He is alumnus of Indian Military Academy (IMA), Dehradun, National Defence College (NDC), Delhi.

Integrated Defence Staff

Government had established Integrated Defence Staff, headed by Chief of Integrated Staff as Chairman (who enjoys  status equivalent to that of Vice Chief of Service.) to ensure high degree of synergy between Armed forces. It acts as point organisation for integration of policy, doctrine, war fighting and procurement by employing best management practices.

 It was created on 1 October 2001 based on recommendations of Group of Ministers which was set up in 2000 (post-Kargil) to review India’s defence management. It has representation from all three services, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Department of Defence (DoD) and Def (Finance).

India and South Korea for trengthening cooperation in Tourism

The Union Cabinet Narendra Modi has approved signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and South Korea for strengthening cooperation in the field of Tourism.

Objectives of MoU

  • Expand bilateral cooperation in tourism sector
  • Increase exchange of information and data related to tourism
  • Encourage cooperation between tourism stakeholders including hotels and tour operators
  • Establish exchange programmes for cooperation in Human Resources Development (HRD)
  • Encourage Investment in Tourism and Hospitality sectors
  • Exchange visits of tour Operators, decision or opinion makers, media for promotion of two-way tourism.
  • Exchange experience in areas of promotion, marketing destination development and management.
  • Encourage participation in travel fairs/exhibitions in each other’s country
  • Promote safe, honorable and sustainable tourism.

 India and South Korea have enjoyed strong diplomatic and long economic relationship. Both countries are now desiring to strengthen and further develop established relationship in field of tourism. South Korea is one of leading tourist generating markets for India from East Asia region. Signing of this MoU will be instrumental in increasing arrival in India from this source market.

Dharma Guardian-2018:

The first joint military exercise named “Dharma Guardian” between India and Japan has begun at Indian Army’s Counter-Insurgency Warfare School at Vairengte (Mizoram). The exercise is aimed at developing mutual understanding and respect between militaries of both countries, as also facilitate in tracking worldwide phenomenon of terrorism.

Dharma Guardian

In this exercise, Indian Army will be represented by 6/1 Gorkha Rifles, while Japanese Ground Self-Defence Force will field its 32 Infantry Regiment. The emphasis of this exercise will be on building interoperability. Armies of both countries will jointly train, plan and execute series of well-developed tactical drills for neutralization of likely threats that may be encountered in urban warfare scenario. Moreover, experts from both sides will also hold detailed discussions to share their expertise on varied operational aspects.

 International Solar Alliance membership to all UN countries

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given ex-post facto approval for opening up International Solar Alliance (ISA) membership to all countries that are members of the United Nations. In this regard, Cabinet has approved to move Resolution in first Assembly of ISA for amending the Framework Agreement of ISA.

Significance

It will put solar energy in global agenda with universal appeal for developing and deploying solar energy. It will make ISA inclusive, whereby all member countries of UN could become member. Thus, expanding membership will lead to ISA initiative benefitting the world at large.

International Solar Alliance (ISA)

ISA is an alliance dedicated to the promotion of solar energy among its member countries. The ISA Framework Agreement had entered into force in December 2017 and formally became de-jure treaty based International Intergovernmental Organization.

It is headquartered at Gurugram, India. The main objective of ISA is to include global deployment of over 1,000GW of solar generation capacity and mobilisation of investment of over US$ 1000 billion into solar energy by 2030.

 Unreserved Mobile Ticketing facility

Union Ministry of Railways has launched Unreserved Mobile Ticketing facility (UTS on Mobile) to enable seamless booking of unreserved tickets including season tickets and also platform tickets all over Indian Railways. This will remove the need for passengers to wait in queues for purchasing the tickets.

UTS on Mobile aims to promote three C’: Cashless transactions (Digital payment), Contact less ticketing (no need to physically visit the point of sale) and Customer convenience and experience. With this, booking of unreserved tickets on all non-suburban sections across all Zonal Railways will be now made available on mobile.

 

 

Unreserved Mobile Ticketing facility

The facility for booking unreserved tickets is available through ‘UTSONMOBILE’ app, available for mobile phones with Android, IOS and windows operating systems. The process of ticket booking involves downloading application on mobile phone and registration by furnishing the necessary details.

After successful registration, user is given user-ID and password through which user can log-in and book ticket through this app within the ticketing area and outside Geo-fenced area. The payment can be made by user digitally using R-Wallet, debit card, credit card, net-banking, UPI and other e-wallets.

Benefits

This environment friendly initiative will allow seamless booking of unreserved tickets all over Indian Railways. It will obviate need for passengers to wait in queues for purchasing tickets. It will also enhance experience for booking unreserved tickets i.e. for journey, platform tickets, season tickets etc.

Government Promulgates Ordinance to amend Companies Act

Union Cabinet has approved proposal for promulgation ordinance to amend the Companies Act, 2013. The ordinance had received assent from President Ram Nath Kovind under Article 123 and has been promulgated. The amendments to the Act are aimed to promote ease of doing business as well as ensure better compliance levels.

Key Facts

The ordinance to change Companies Act seeks to declog National Company Law Tribunals (NCLTs) and decriminalise minor offences by companies. The ordinance will transfer 90% of the cases to regional directors under Ministry of Corporate Affairs from NCLTs. Moreover, it will retain status of all non-compoundable offences since they are serious in nature.

 

Background

Union Government-appointed Committee (headed by Corporate Affairs Secretary Injeti Srinivas) had suggested various changes to Act, including restructuring of corporate offences under companies law and in-house adjudication mechanism to ensure that courts get more time to deal with serious violations.

Apart from restructuring of corporate offences to relieve special courts from adjudicating routine offences, the committee had mooted …re-categorisation of 16 out of 81 compoundable offencesunder the Act. This move was recommended to bring down NCLT’s load as it looks at insolvency and bankruptcy cases as well.

It also recommended disqualification of directors in case they have directorships beyond permissible limits and capping an independent director’s remuneration.

 It also had suggested that remuneration any independent director gets from company should be capped at 20% of his gross income in year to prevent any material pecuniary relationship, which could impair their independence on the board.

 loan Agreement for Turga Hydel Project

India and Japan signed Loan Agreement worth Rs. 1817 crore for construction of Turga Pumped Storage (I)’ Hydel Project. On completion, this project will contribute to Industrial Development and Living Standard Improvement in the West Bengal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Key Facts

This loan agreement was signed between Union Ministry of Finance, Government of India and Mr. Katsuo Matsumoto, Chief Representative Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The objective of project is to strengthen capability to respond to fluctuation in supply and demand of power. It also seeks to improve stability of power supply by constructing pumped storage facilities, thereby contributing to industrial development and improvement of Living Standard of people in West Bengal.

Background

India and Japan have long and fruitful history of bilateral development cooperation since 1958. In the last few years, the economic cooperation between India and Japan has steadily progressed, which has further consolidated and strengthened Strategic and Global Partnership between them.

Maharashtra Government to convert decommissioned aircraft carrier 

Maharashtra state cabinet approved plant for conversion of Indian Navy’s longest-serving aircraft carrier INS Viraat, into India’s…. first-ever moored maritime museum-cum-marine adventure centre. At present, INS Viraat is at Mumbai’s Naval dockyard after it was decommissioned (retired) in 2017.

Key Facts

As per state government’s plan, INS Viraat’s conversion will be on publicprivate-partnership (PPP) basis. It will be grouted (grounded, sealed to seabed with concrete and moored) seven nautical miles off Malvan coast at Nivati rocks in Sindhudurg districct. This ship will host biodiversity centres and marine adventure centre providing sailing and scuba-diving experiences. There will be virtual galleries, cafeterias and even training centre for merchant navy crew.  World over only seven aircraft carriers so far have been converted into museums, theme parks and luxury hotel.

INS Viraat

It was built in 1943 during Second World War and was first commissioned as HMS Hermes into the British Royal Navy in November 1959.

Saura Jalnidhi Scheme

Odisha Government has launched Saura Jalnidhi scheme to encourage use of solar energy in irrigation by farmers. Under this scheme, farmers will be given 90% subsidy and 5,000 solar pumps. This will provide irrigation benefits in 2,500 acres of the state. The beneficiary of this scheme will be farmers who have valid farmer identity cards and have minimum 0.5 acres of agricultural land.

Saura Jalnidhi scheme

The scheme was launched as part of state government’s endeavor to increase the use of solar photovoltaic pump sets in those areas so that irrigation facilities can be provided where power system is bad. For this scheme, state government has made a provision of Rs 27.18 crore in the financial year 2017-18.

In the first phase, this scheme will be available in those areas where electricity is not available for running the pump set. This scheme will generate 1.52 lakh human day employments annually and provided livelihood to around 5,000 families and also reduce carbon footprints.

Under this scheme, farmers will be provided with a well-equipped solar pump irrigation system in convergence mode. It will help to reduce burden of input cost on farmers and also increase agricultural income. It will promote the use of green energy and reduce pollution.

PM launches Support and Outreach Programme for MSME Sector 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Support and Outreach Programme. As part of this programme, PM unveiled ..12 key initiatives which will help the growth, expansion and facilitation of MSMEs across the country. There are five key aspects for facilitating the MSME sector. These include access to credit, access to market, technology upgradation, ease of doing business, and sense of security for employees.

MSME Outreach Programme

It aims to.. boost MSME sector it is one of important sector for major generations of employment opportunities. It will …run for 100 days covering 100 Districts throughout the country.

 Under Access to Credit aspect of this porgramme, Government will launch 59 minute loan portal to enable easy access to credit for MSMEs. Loans upto Rs. 1 crore will be granted in-principle approval through this portal, in ..just 59 minutes. The link to this portal will be available at GST portal.

Government will give 2% interest subvention for all GST registered MSMEs, on fresh or incremental loans. For exporters who receive loans in pre-shipment and post-shipment period will get increase in interest rebate ranging from 3% to 5%.

All MSMEs or companies with turnover more than Rs. 500 crore will now be compulsorily brought on Trade Receivables e-Discounting System (TReDS). This will enable entrepreneurs to access credit from banks, based ontheir upcoming receivables. This will help to resolve their problems of cash cycle.

For access to markets for entrepreneurs, Union Government has taken number and now it is mandatory for public sector companies to procure 25 %t, instead of 20% of their total purchases from MSMEs. Out of the 25% procurement mandated from MSMEs, 3% is reserved for women entrepreneurs. It is mandatory for all PSUs of Union Government to be part of GeM.

For Technology Upgradation, Government will form ..20 hubs and 100 spokes in the form of tool rooms will be established vital part of product design. For ease of doing business, government will establish clusters of pharma MSMEs. 70% cost of establishing these clusters will be borne by the Union Government.

For simplification of government procedures, the return under 8 labour laws and 10 Union regulations will be now filed only once year. Now establishments to be visited by an Inspector will be decided through computerised random allotment.

Air pollution and water pollution laws now have …been merged, and henceforth under them single consent and will be required, besides return will be accepted through self-certification.

Government has promulgated ordinance under which, for minor violations under the Companies Act, entrepreneur will no longer have to approach Courts, but can correct them through simple procedures. For Social Security for MSME Sector Employees, government will launch mission to ensure that they have Jan Dhan Accounts, provident fund and insurance.

 Aerospace and Defence Manufacturing

Odisha Government launched Aerospace and Defence Manufacturing Policy 2018. The policy is aimed to carry forward process of industrialization through promotion of aerospace and defence manufacturing enterprises, generate employment opportunities and promote value addition.

Key Features of Polity

It proposes to extend subsidy upto 50% of cost of land, building, plant and machinery to special purpose vehicle (SPV) for setting up first state-of-the-art Aerospace and Defence Park in the state. This is to attract investment in aerospace and defence manufacturing in the State, the policy

It sets ceiling of Rs. 50 crore for Common Facility Centre, Rs. 30 crore for Technology Innovation Centre and Rs. 25 crore for Testing Centre to be established with private participation. It also provides capital grants of 50% of infrastructure cost limited to Rs. 10 crore for subsequent aerospace and defence parks.

It also extends capital subsidy of Rs. 100 crore for first three OEMs (original equipment manufacturer) for setting up manufacturing facilities in the state with investment of at least Rs. 1000 crore and generating 1000 domiciled employment.

 India’s first indigenous microprocessor

The researchers from Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras) have designed India’s first indigenous microprocessor called …‘Shakti’. It is aimed at developing industrial-grade microprocessors and other components of the microprocessor ecosystem. It will also help to reduce dependency on imported microchips and risk of cyber-attacks.

Microprocessors are brain of all computing and electronic devices and are used to operate larger high-speed systems and supercomputers.

Shakti microprocessor was designed, developed and booted by IIT Madras with microchip fabricated in ISRO’s Semi-Conductor Laboratory at Chandigarh. It has been developed under project partly funded by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), as part of two-decade-old efforts to develop indigenous microprocessors.

It will reduce dependency on imported microchips especially in communication and defence sectors and thus eliminate risk of cyber-attacks. It can be used in mobile computing, wireless and networking systems. It may also provide power to mobile phones, smart meters and surveillance cameras.

IIT M researchers are now conducting research on.. ‘Parashakti’, an advanced microprocessor for supercomputers.  It will be super scaler processor that will be ready by December 2018. It will have its applications in desktops and 32 such interconnected microprocessors may be used in supercomputers.

NDMC launches QR-enabled fridge magnets for digital payment of bills

New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) has launched quick response (QR)-enabled fridge magnets for digital payment of bills. The magnets are personalised and each customer will have unique QR Code mapped to their consumer account number. It is powered by SignCatch – an IT and services company,.

QR-enabled fridge magnets

There will be separate magnets provided by the NDMC to its consumers’ doorstep for both electricity and water bills. Consumers can stick these magnets on their refrigerators at home and use their smartphones to scan QR Code on magnet to pay their bills instantly.

 The QR Code will redirect consumers to their current bill with option to pay using any of digital payment channels active with NDMC like credit/debit cards, net banking, wallet, and UPI. The move will reduce collection costs and expedite revenue realisation. Moreover, these magnets will be extremely useful in cases where a consumer misplaces the pending paper bills.

Quick Response (QR) code is a two-dimensional (matrix) machine-readable bar code made up of black and white square. This code can be read by the camera of a smartphone. It is used for storing URLs or other information that link directly to text, emails websites phone numbers. It is capable of 360 degrees (omni-directional), high speed reading.

It can store up to 7089 digits as compared to conventional bar codes which can store max 20 digits. It encodes same amount of data in one-tenth the space of a traditional bar code. It carries information both horizontally and vertically. It has error correction capability and data stored in it can be restored even if it is partially damaged or dirty.

Indian Coast Guard launches new Offshore patrol vessel 

Indian Coast Guard (ICG) launches new Offshore patrol vessel (OPV) ICGS Varaha at L&T Kattupalli shipyard near Chennai, Tamil Nadu. It is fourth in the series of 98 M OPVs designed and built indigenously by Larsen & Toubro (L&T).

ICGS Varaha

It is fitted with advanced technology navigation and communication equipment, sensor and machinery. Its weaponry includes one 30 mm and two 12.7 mm guns with fire control system. It has been designed to attain maximum speed of 26 knots and has endurance of 5,000 nautical miles.

It also equipped with an Integrated Bridge System (IBS), Automated Power Management System (APMS), Integrated Platform Management System (IPMS), and High Power External Fire Fighting (EFF) system. It can carry one twin engine helicopter and four high speed boats, including two inflatable boats, for boarding operation, search and rescue, law enforcement and maritime patrol. It will also be capable of carrying pollution response equipment to contain oil spill at sea.

In March 2015, Union Defence Ministry had awarded contract to L&T for construction of seven OPVs awarded. The first and second ships of this project already have been delivered to ICG and are presently based in Western Coast and Eastern Coast of India and third OPV will be delivered in early 2019. The shipyard will deliver all seven ships by March 2021.

Digital Public Credit Registry (PCR) to

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has initiated steps to set up wide-based digital Public Credit Registry (PCR) to capture loan information of individuals and corporate borrowers. In this regard, RBI has invited expression of interest (EOI) for developing PSC from companies with turnover of over Rs 100 crore in last three years. Setting up of PCR assumes significance amidst rising bad loans in financial system. The non-performing assets (NPAs) in Indian banking system is about Rs 10 lakh crore.

Public Credit Registry (PCR) is digital registry of authenticated granular credit information. It will work as financial information infrastructure providing access to various stakeholders and enrich the existing credit information ecosystem. It seeks to serve as single point of mandatory reporting for all material events for each loan, notwithstanding any threshold in the loan amount or type of borrower.

PCR will capture all details of borrowers, including wilful defaulters and also pending legal suits in order to check financial delinquencies. It will also include data from entities like market regulator SEBI, Corporate Affairs Ministry, Goods and Service Tax Network (GSTN) and Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) to enable banks and financial institutions to get 360 degree profile of existing and prospective borrowers on real-time basis.

Lucknow’s Ekana cricket stadium renamed after Atal Bihari Vajpayee

Uttar Pradesh Government has decided to rename newly-built Ekana International Stadium in capital city Lucknow after former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The stadium with a seating capacity of around 50,000 will now be known as ‘Bharat Ratna Atal Bihari Vajpayee International Cricket Stadium’.

Key Facts

The stadium was renamed just ahead of first-ever international cricket match – T20 International between India and West Indies. For renaming stadium,

RBI liberalises norms governing external commercial borrowings for infrastructure creation

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has liberalised norms governing external commercial borrowings (ECBs) for infrastructure creation. The provisions have been reviewed and decision has been taken in consultation with Central Government.

Key Facts

RBI has reduced minimum average maturity required for the ECBs in the infrastructure space raised by eligible borrowers to three years from earlier five years. Additionally, it also has reduced average maturity requirement for mandatory hedging to five years from earlier ten years.

 

Background

The move comes amid concerns surrounding availability of funds following liquidity squeeze and the difficulties being faced by non-bank lenders, especially those facing asset liability issues due to heavy reliance on short-term funding for long-term assets. This, along with defaults by infra lender IL&FS, has hurt credit markets especially infrastructure financing sector. Central Government has been unequivocal in suggesting remedial measures which will address needs of the economy. It had suggested to include special window for NBFCs, but RBI is not undertaking measures. However, relaxations in ECB norms follow other moves by RBI, including earlier it permission to banks to use credit enhancement to help NBFCs raise medium to long-term funds.

UN World Food Programme, Alibaba Group form strategic partnership to eliminate hunger

United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group have formed  strategic partnership to support efforts eliminate hunger globally by 2030. The agreement was signed at Alibaba’s headquarters in Hangzhou, China.

Under this agreement, Alibaba will lend its cutting-edge technology and resources to support digital transformation of WFP’s operations. In particular, Alibaba Cloud, the cloud computing arm of Alibaba will work with WFP to develop digital “World Hunger Map”.

The map will help to monitor global hunger and operations to end scourge by 2030 which is one of UN’s key Sustainable Development goals. It also aims to boost efficiency of interventions and shorten emergency response times.

World Food Programme (WFP) is the food-assistance branch of the United Nations. It is the world’s largest humanitarian organization addressing hunger and promoting food security. It works to help people who cannot produce or obtain enough food for themselves and their families. It is a member of the United Nations Development Group (UNDG) and part of its Executive Committee. It was established in 1961 after 1960 Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) Conference. It is headquartered in Rome (Italy) and has more than 80 country offices around the world. It provides food assistance to an average of 80 million people in 75 countries each year.

United Nations Postal System issues special postal stamps to mark Diwali celebration

United Nations Postal Administration (UNPA) has issued special stamps with Diyas lamps (special event sheet) to commemorate India Hindu festival of Diwali. These stamps are available at UN headquarters post office in New York, US and also online.

Key Facts

The special event sheet (stamps) issued by UNPA are in denomination of US $1.15. It contains ten stamps and tabs featuring festive lights and symbolic lamps known as diyas. The background of sheet features United Nations Headquarters building illuminated with message of “Happy Diwali” to celebrate the spirit of the festival.

 

 

United Nations Postal Administration (UNPA) is postal agency of United Nations. It issues postage stamps and postal stationery, denominated in United States dollars for United Nations offices in New York, in Swiss francs for offices in Geneva and in euros  for the offices in Vienna. Postage rates charged are identical to those of the host nation.

Cabinet approves signing and ratifying Extradition Agreement between  India and Morocco

Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved signing and ratifying Extradition Agreement between India and Morocco. The agreement will be signed during proposed VIP visit from Morocco in November 2018.

Benefits of Agreement

It will provide strong legal base for extradition of fugitive offenders who are accused of economic offences, terrorism and other serious offences in one Contracting State and found in another Contracting State. It will also strengthen bilateral relations to deal with criminal elements acting against national interest of both India and Morocco.

Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved Agreement between India and Morocco on Mutual Legal Assistance in Civil and Commercial Matters. The Agreement will be beneficial for citizens of both the countries. It will also fulfill desire of both countries to strengthen bonds of friendship and fruitful cooperation in Civil and Commercial matters. It will also enhance co-operation in the service of summons, judicial documents, letters of request and the execution of judgments decrees and arbitral awards.

Salient features of agreement

  • Service of summons and other judicial documents or processes;
  • Taking of evidence in civil matters;
  • Production, identification or examination of documents, recordings;
  • Execution of Letter of Request for taking of evidence in civil matters; and
  • Recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards.

 Central Tribal University in Andhra

Union Cabinet has approved setting up of Central Tribal University in Andhra Pradesh. The Union Cabinet meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi. The proposed university will come up after necessary amendment in the Central Universities Act, 2009.

Central Tribal University

It will be set up in Relli village of Vizianagaram District of Andhra Pradesh. It will be established under Thirteenth Schedule to Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014 (No. 6 of 2014). Cabinet has also approved provision of funds of Rs. 420 crore for first phase expenditure towards establishment of Central Tribal University.

 

Cabinet approves leasing out six airports through PPP

Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved leasing out six airports of Airports Authority of India (AAI) for operation, management and development under Public Private Partnership (PPP) in the first phase. This will be done through Public Private Partnership Appraisal Committee (PPPAC).

Union Cabinet also approved constitution of Empowered Group of Secretaries headed by CEO, NITI Aayog with Secretaries of Ministry of Civil Aviation, Department of Economic Affairs and Department of Expenditure to decide on any issue falling beyond scope of PPPAC.

 

 

Benefits

PPP in infrastructure projects brings efficiency in service delivery, enterprise, expertise and professionalism apart from harnessing needed investments in public sector. The PPP in airport infrastructure projects has brought world class infrastructure at airports, delivery of efficient and timely services to airport passengers, augmenting revenue stream to AAI without making any investment, etc. of these, for development of Greenfield Airports.

Presently… Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Cochin airports are being managed under PPP model.PPP airports in India have been ranked among top 5 in their respective categories by Airports Council International (ACI) in terms of Airport Service Quality (ASQ). These PPP experiments have helped to create world class airports and also helped AAI in enhancing its revenues and focusing on developing airports and air navigation infrastructure in rest of the country.

CCEA approves Strategic Sale of Government Equity in Dredging Corporation of India

Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved strategic disinvestment of 100% Government of India’s shares in Dredging Corporation of India Limited (DCIL) to consortium of four ports. Presently, Central Government holds 73.44% shares in DCIL. The consortium of four ports consists of Vishakhapatnam Port Trust (Andhra Pradesh), Paradeep Port Trust (Odisha), Jawahar Lal Nehru Port Trust (Maharashtra) and Kandla Port Trust (Gujarat). The government’s divestment target for fiscal 2018-19 was Rs 80,000 crore and so far it has garnered over Rs 15,000 crore from PSU stake sales.

Significance

Strategic sale of DCIL will further facilitate linkage of dredging activities with ports, keeping in view the role of DCIL in expansion of dredging activity in the country as well as potential scope for diversification of ports into third party dredging. The co-sharing of facilities between company as well as ports shall lead to savings for ports.  This will also further provide opportunities for larger investment in DCIL as integration with ports shall help ineffective vertical linkage in value chain.

Dredging Corporation of India Limited (DCIL)

It is miniratna public sector unit (PSU) engaged in the business of dredging. It does dredging for Indian seaports exclusively. It is involved in capital dredging, beach nourishment, and land reclamation. It was established in March 1976 and is headquartered in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh. It reports to the Ministry of Shipping. Almost all maintenance dredging in Indian seaports is carried out by DCI. It also occasionally dredges at foreign seaports in countries such as Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Dubai.

13th India-Japan Annual Summit

The annual bilateral summit of India –Japan held on 28, 29 October 2018 in Japan. The Indian prime minister visited Japan to attend the summit. The partnership between the two countries has been transformed a lot and it has now become as a ‘special strategic and global partnership’.

The Indian government signed a $75-billion currency swap agreement with Japan to stabilise foreign exchange and capital markets.

The deal will help the two countries to swap their currencies for U.S. dollars to stabilise the rupee which has witnessed the steepest fall in recent years. The agreement, according to a statement from the Ministry of Finance, will allow India to tap foreign capital as and when the need arises, and help to bring down the cost of funds for Indian companies while accessing the foreign capital market.

Highlights

  • Japan investors will invest around $2.5 US dollars in India.
  • The two sides agreed for a 2+2 dialogue between our foreign ministers and defence ministers to further work towards world peace.
  • An India-Japan Business Platformwill be established to enhance the development of industrial corridors and industrial network in the region
  • There will be commencement of talks on a military logistics pact, the Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement, between the two nations that will ensure the access to each other’s military bases and naval bases.
  • Japan-India Investment Promotion Roadmap enhanced the contribution of Japan in India’s Make in Indiainitiative with establishment of Business Support Centrein Ahmedabad.

The Act East Forum established last year has served as a driving force to improve India-Japan cooperation in the North-East. The cooperation in the project for the construction of International Cooperation and Convention centerin Varanasi.  India and Japan are cooperating to construct the Mumbai Ahmedabad High Speed Rail (MAHSR).

The Statue of Unity

Is a statue of Indian freedom fighter and politician Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (1875–1950) in the Narmada district of Gujarat, India.

It currently holds the record for the world’s tallest statue, with a height of 182 metres (597 ft). Vallabhbhai Patel was one of the most prominent leaders of the Indian independence movement, and the first Deputy Prime Minister of India.

 The statue is on a river-island facing the Narmada Dam (also called as Sardar Sarovar dam) near Rajpipla, 100 kilometres southeast of the city of Vadodara.

The monument and its surroundings occupy more than 2 hectares (4.9 acres), and are surrounded by a 12 km2 (4.6 sq mi; 3,000 acres) artificial lake.

It was built by Larsen & Toubro, who received the contract for ₹29.89 billion (US$420 million) for the design, construction and maintenance in October 2014.

It was designed by Indian sculptor Ram V. Sutar, and was dedicated by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 31 October 2018, the 143rd anniversary of Patel’s birth.

The statue was built on a Public Private Partnership model, with most of the money raised by the Govt of India .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Researchers developed a web-based tool to monitor fake news on on social media

A web-based tool to monitor the spread of fake news on social media platforms has been developed by the Researchers from the University of Michigan in the     US. The tool uses a Platform Health Metric called the Iffy Quotient and will supposedly draw data from two external entities namely NewsWhip and Media Bias/Fact Checker.

Working of the tool

  1. The News Whip will collect URLs from hundreds of thousands of sites each day and then it will gather information about the engagements of these sites on Facebook and Twitter.
  2. The Iffy Quotient will fetch information by querying NewsWhip for the top 5000 most popular URLs Facebook and twitter.
  3. Then the tool will check using the information at Media Bias/Fact checker whether the URL has been classified as iffy, ok, or unknown.

Newswhip

It is a social media engagement tracking firm to collect URLs of thousands of       sites everyday and collect information whether these sites have involvement in Facebook and Twitter.

Media Bias/Fact Checker

It divides the URL into three categories, ‘Iffy’ if the website is on a questionable source or a conspiracy list and ‘OK’ if the websites on the lists such as Left Bias, Right Bias or Satire, and ‘Unknown’ if the website is not on any of the lists.

SWAS, SAFAL and STAR

The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) scientists has developed less polluting green firecrackers named SWAS,SAFAL,STAR. Green crackers are so named because they do not contain harmful chemicals that would cause air pollution.

Features

  • SWAS stands for safe water releaser, SAFAL stands for safe minimal aluminum and STAR stands for safe thermite cracker.
  • These crackers are 15-20 percent cheaper than the conventional ones.
  • STAR eliminates usage of Potassium nitrate and sulphur.
  • SAFAL has less usage of aluminum as compared to commercial crackers.
  • The new crackers have been developed by Central Electrochemical Research Institute (CECRI) based in Karaikudi, Tamil Nadu and National Environmental Engineering Research Institute in Nagpur.
  • The firecrackers have a unique property of releasing water vapour.
  • The researchers at CECRI have developed green crackers by modifying the chemical formulations for flower pots, ‘jiljil’ and used flower pots as a substitution for barium nitrate .
  • The crackers will come in the market after the approval from Petroleum and Explosive Safety Organization (PESO), which is the nodal agency for safety requirements in manufacture, storage, transport of all types of explosives.
  • It matches the sound intensity of commercial crackers in the range of 105-110 decibels.

The CSIR-National Environmental Engineering Research Institute is a research institute created and funded by Government of India under the Ministry of Science and Technology. It works in the field of environmental science and engineering and is a part of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research. It was established in Nagpur in 1958.

The Indian fireworks industry has an annual turnover of over Rs 6000 crore .It provides employment opportunities to about 5 lakh families annually. CSIR tried to address pollution level and at the same time protecting the livelihoods of those involved in this industry.

FSDC

The 19th meeting of Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC) was held in New Delhi under the Chairmanship of Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. The meeting was attended by RBI Governor Dr. Urjit R. Patel, SEBI chairman, IRDAI Chairman along with heads and other senior officers of Government and financial sector regulators.

Key Highlights of Meeting

  • Economic Review:It reviewed health of economy, both domestic and global, financial sector performance and issues due to rising oil prices. It also discussed issue of real interest rate, current liquidity situation, including segmental liquidity position in NBFCs and mutual fund space.
  • Cyber Security in Financial Sector:It also reviewed developments regarding strengthening of Cyber Security in Financial Sector and progress made towards setting up of Computer Emergency Response Team in the Financial Sector (CERT-Fin) under Statutory Framework. It also deliberated on need for identifying and securing critical information infrastructure in financial sector.
  • Crypto Currency:It also deliberated on issues and challenges of Crypto Assets and Currency. It was briefed about deliberations of High-level Committee chaired by Secretary (Economic Affairs) to devise appropriate legal framework to ban use o fprivate crypto currencies in India and encouraging use of distributed ledger technology (blockchain), as announced in Budget 2018-19.
  • RegTech and SupTech:It also discussed market developments and financial stability implications of use of RegTech and SupTech by financial firms and regulatory and supervisory authorities. It also discussed implementation of recommendations of Sumit Bose Committee on measures, such as promoting appropriate disclosure regime for financial distribution costs.

Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC)

  • FSDC is super regulatory body for regulating financial sector which is vital for bringing healthy and efficient financial system in economy of the country. It was set up in 2010 by then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee
  • Mandate:To strengthen and institutionalise mechanism of maintaining financial stability, financial sector development, inter-regulatory coordination along with monitoring macro-prudential regulation of economy and promoting financial sector development.
  • CompositionUnion Finance Minister is chairman of FSDC. Its members are heads of all financial sector regulatory authorities (i.e, RBI, SEBI, IRDA, PFRDA), Chairman of Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board, Finance Secretary and Secretary, Department of Economic Affair; Secretary, Department of Financial Services and Chief Economic Adviser.

India among nations that face grave danger to soil biodiversity

According to recently released Global Soil Biodiversity Atlas prepared by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), India among nations that face grave danger to soil biodiversity. The atlas was released as part of WWF’s bi-annual Living Planet Report (LPR) 2018. The key aspect of this year’s report was threat to soil biodiversity and pollinators, the two key drivers of biodiversity. These two key drivers loss were due to over exploitation of natural resources and agriculture.

 

 

 

 

 

Highlights of report

  • Soil Biodiversity:It encompasses presence of micro-organisms, micro-fauna (nematodes and tardigrades for example), and macro-fauna (ants, termites and earthworms).
  • Millions of microbial and animal species live and make up soils, from bacteria and fungi to mites, beetles and earthworms. Soil biodiversity, thus is total community from genes to species, and varies depending on environment.
  • The immense diversity in soil allows for great variety of ecosystem services that benefit species that inhabit it, the species that use it and its surrounding environment.
  • WWF’s ‘risk index’ for globe: It indicated threats from loss of above-ground diversity, pollution and nutrient over-loading, over-grazing, intensive agriculture, fire, soil erosion, desertification and climate change.
  • India was coloured red on atlas and is among countries whose soil biodiversity faces the highest level of risk. Other countries in this category include Pakistan, China, several countries in Africa and Europe, and most of North America.

World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)-It is international non-governmental organization working field of the wilderness preservation and reduction of human impact on the environment. It was formerly named World Wildlife Fund. 

United Nations Human Rights Prize – 2018

The United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights (UN Human Rights Prize) was announced recently The winners of 2018 award are:

  • Asma Jahangir – Pakistan’s late human rights activist
  • Rebeca Gyumi – A Tanzanian human rights activist
  • Joenia Wapichana – Brazil’s first indigenous lawyer
  • Front Line Defenders – A human rights organisation of Ireland

These awards were instituted by the General Assembly of United Nations in 1966 and are intended to honour and commend people and organizations which have done outstanding contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other United Nations human rights instruments. The first awards were given in 1968 and are given every five years since then.

About 2018 Winners

Asma Jahnagir

Late Asma Jahangir (died Feb. 2018) was the fourth Pakistani woman to receive the prestigious award. She was an advocate from Pakistan, known for her persistent advocating for women’s rights and discrimination against minorities. She was first woman to serve as president of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan. She was critical of Pakistan’s military, intelligence and armed groups. She faced death threats, imprisonments and beatings several times. She co-founded and chaired the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan; helped passing of a legislation against bonded labour in Pakistan; and worked on blasphemy cases.

Rebeca Gyumi

Rebecca Gyumi is a Tanzanian advocate and founder of the Msichana Initiative in Tanzania. This is an NGO which advocates for girls’ right to education. In 2016, Gyumi had won a landmark case on child marriages after petitioning against the 1971 Tanzania Marriage Act which allowed girls as young as 14 to get married.

Joenia Wapichana

Joenia Wapichana is an indigenous lawyer from northern Brazil, and she became first indigenous woman to be elected to the Congress. She was the first indigenous lawyer to speak in front of the Supreme Federal Court and more than a decade before that she became the first indigenous person to graduate from law school in the country.

Front Line Defenders

Front Line Defenders is an Ireland based charity that provides support to human rights defenders having lives and health at risk through advocacy, grants, security and training. It was founded in 2001 in Ireland’s capital,

 World Wrestling Championships – 2018

The 2018 World Wrestling Championships were fifteenth edition of World Wrestling Championships of combined events and were held from October 20 to 28 in Budapest, Hungary. Here are important facts:

The top medal winning countries

In the 2018 event, Japan won the most medals with 5 gold, 1 silver and 4 bronze. Russia comes second with 8 medals.

India’s performance

India is at the 17th place with 2 medals – 1 silver and 1 bronze. Bajrang Punia bagged the silver medal. Pooja Dhanda won Bronze medal and became fourth Indian woman to win a medal at the World Wrestling Championship.

About Bajrang Punia

Bajrang Punia from Haryana is India’s freestyle wrestler who won a Bronze medal in 2013 world wrestling championships, bagged silver medal in 2015 commonwealth games, 2014 Asian games, and 2014 Asian wrestling championships. With the 2018 win, he has total four silvers in his kitty. He has also won a gold medal at the Asian Wrestling Championship 2017, 2018 commonwealth games, and 2018 Asian games.

Pooja Dhanda

Pooja Dhanda from Haryana won silver medals in the 2010 Summer Youth Olympics and 2018 Commonwealth Games. With 2018 Bronze win

 World’s Highest Railway Line

India railways announced its plan to link New Delhi and Ladakh by means of a railway line that will run along the India-China Border. The proposed Bilaspur-Manali-Leh Line would be the world’s highest railway line once launched.

Key Facts of the Project

  • The projected cost to construct the 465 km line will be Rs 83,360 crore.
  • The railway line will be the world’s highest at 5,360 metres above mean sea level which is comparable to China’s Quinghai-Tibet Railway Line at 2,000 metres.
  • The project comprise of 74 tunnels, 124 major bridges, 396 minor bridges and 30 stations on the line.
  • Keylong station on the route will be constructed inside a tunnel at the height of 3000 metres which is a first in India.
  • After the completion, the railway line will halve the time taken to cover the distance between Delhi and Leh from the current 40 hrs to 20 hrs.

In addition to providing quick all-weather access to the armed forces, the railway line will also enhance tourism in the Ladakh region that is presently connected by road and air. The Ladakh-Himachal areas receives heavy snowfall and the road and air connectivity.

 Third Largest Aviation Market : IATA 

India will be among the top three aviation market by 2024 according to International Air Transport Association (IATA) in its 20- year air passenger forecast report. India is currently at seventh position in Global Aviation market.

Key Highlights Of Report

  • The number of air passengers around the world will double to 8.2 billion in 2037.
  • China will displace the US as the world’s largest aviation market in the mid- 2020. India will take  the third place after US around 2024  surpassing UK.
  • By 2037, India is expected to add 414 million passengers to its existing 572 million passengers.
  • Home passenger traffic in India is growing at around 18.28 per cent to reach 243 million  in 2018-19 and will grow to 293 million in 2020.

International Aviation Traffic Association (IATA): It is the trade association for the world’s airlines formed in 1945 and headquartered in Montreal, Canada. It represents around 280 airlines or 82% of total air traffic. It helps to formulate aviation sector policy and standards. It also provides training services in many areas of aviation.

Fisheries and Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund

To double farmers’ income by 2022 the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved creation of FAIDF recently. The proposal for creation of fund was made in budget 2018-19.

Salient features of the fund

  • The main aim is to boost fish production to achieve the target of producing 15 million tonnes of fish production by 2020 and 20 million tonnes by 2022-23 from current production of 11.4 million tonnes. The aim to achieve this target was set under Blue revolution.
  • The nodal agencies for the fund will be National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), National Cooperatives Development Corporation (NCDC) and scheduled banks.
  • The fund being raised by nodal loaning entities (NLE).
  • The estimated fund size is about 7522 crore that will benefit country in both inland and marine fisheries areas.
  • The fund will involve in attracting private investment and technologies in creation and management of fisheries all around the country.

Indian Fish Market

Fisheries in India is an important economic activity and emerging sector. India’s fish production is estimated at around 12 million tonnes annually. India has become the second largest fish producing and aquaculture industry in the world. In aquaculture, India is second to china with a share of 6% in global aquaculture. The fisheries sector employed over 14.5 million people directly and many more indirectly. At present, Fish production contributes to around 1% to GDP of country and 5% to agricultural GDP of country. India exports one tenth of its Fish produced. The contribution of fish from the seas has lowered now and the share is rising from inland farming.

 Mammals of India (MaOI) 

Mammals of India (MaOI) is a new model of repository on Indian mammals by the Scientists and Researchers from the National Centers for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Bangalore. It is a citizen-scientific repository initiated in September 2018. It is a first such repository of Mammals in India.

   

           

Special Features Of MaOI

  • It is an online, freely –accessible portal whose aim is to develop individual pages for all Indian mammals covering all related information about their distribution, breeding, variation, identification and conservation .
  • The website mammalsofindia.org provides a facility to the citizen to upload photographic observations about mammals. 768 images, of 161 species of mammals, have been uploaded by October 25, 2018.
  • The photographs of rare species such as Red Serow from (Tahr)Manipur, Lynx a species of wild cat from Jammu and Kashmir, Asian Golden Cat from West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh and Binturong, also known as bear cat, from East Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh have been uploaded on this portal.

Electoral bonds

The GoI has notified the sale of …..electoral bond by SBI through its 29 authorized branches from 1.11.2018 to 10.11.2018. 29. These SBI branches are in cities like New Delhi, Gandhinagar, Chandigarh, Bengaluru, Bhopal, Mumbai, Jaipur, Lucknow, Chennai, Kolkata and Guwahati. The concept of electoral bond was initiated in Union Budget 2017.Later on Electoral bond scheme 2018 was introduced.

What is Electoral Bond?

An Electoral Bond is just like a promissory note that will be payable to bearer on demand and free of interest. It can be purchased by a citizen of India or anybody incorporated in India.

Benefits of an Electoral bond
  • Transparent political funding
  • Protecting donors from harassment
  • No disclosure of information to third parties
  • Achieving Digital India vision
  • Bringing donations under tax preview

Dharma Guardian:

The first joint military exercise named “Dharma Guardian” between India and Japan will be held at the Army’s Counter-Insurgency Warfare School at Vairengte (Mizoram) from November 1 to 14, 2018. The exercise is aimed at developing mutual understanding and respect between militaries of both countries, as also facilitate in tracking worldwide phenomenon of terrorism.

Dharma Guardian

In this exercise, Indian Army will be represented by 6/1 Gorkha Rifles, while Japanese Ground Self-Defence Force will field its 32 Infantry Regiment. The emphasis of this exercise will be on building interoperability. Armies of both countries will jointly train, plan and execute series of well-developed tactical drills for neutralization of likely threats that may be encountered in urban warfare scenario. Moreover, experts from both sides will also hold detailed discussions to share their expertise on varied operational aspects.

Sajjan Jindal

JSW Steel CMD Sajjan Jindal was elected as treasurer of World Steel Association (WSA). He was appointed for one-year period (2018/2019) by Board of Directors of WSA at Worldsteel General Assembly held in Toyko, Japan.

WSA is a non-profit organisation and is one of the largest industry associations in world. It was founded in July 1967 and is headquartered in Brussels, Belgium. Its members represent approximately 85% of the world’s steel production. It includes over 160 steel producers with 9 of the 10 largest steel companies, national and regional steel industry associations, and steel research institutes.

Bhutan general elections:

Dravk Nyamrup Tshogpa Party has won the recent general elections held in Bhutan. This party won 30 of the National Assembly’s 47 seats. The National Assembly is the Lower House of Bhutan Parliament. This was overall third general election since democracy was adopted in Bhutan in 2008 and the first general elections held same year itself.

In 2018 general elections of Bhutan, Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa emerged largest single majority party by winning 30 seats, while Druk Fenasum Tsogoga got only 17 seats.

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay of  ruling People’s Democratic Party was defeated in this election. In this general election, there was 71% voter turnout. This poll percentage was higher than 66% in 2013. Late Tshering, President of Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa, will be next Prime Minister of Bhutan.

Minal Patel

Indian-American Minal Patel Davis was honoured with Presidential Medal for Combating Human Trafficking’. She was presented with award by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for her extraordinary contribution towards combating human trafficking. It is US’s highest honour in the field.

Minal Patel Davis- She is special advisor on Human Trafficking to Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. She was appointed to this post in July 2015 and since then she has made local impact on human trafficking in America’s fourth largest city. She has achieved this from policy-level perspective and by helped in advancing systems change. She is currently implementing Mayor Turner’s Anti-Human Trafficking Strategic Plan, which is first comprehensive municipal response to human trafficking by US city. She was also past speaker at United Nations World Humanitarian Summit. She holds MBA from the University of Connecticut and BA from New York University.

US merges its embassy and Consulate General

United States has decided to merge its Consulate General with its new embassy in Israel into single diplomatic mission in Jerusalem. This decision was taken as part of US’s global efforts to improve efficiency and effectiveness of its operations.

It also comes after US under President Donald Trump administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017 and moved its Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May 2018. The consulate general in Jerusalem was top mission of US for Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem for their capital. Post this merger, US will establish new Palestinian Affairs Unit inside embassy in Jerusalem to continue reporting, outreach and programming in West Bank and Gaza as well as with Palestinians in Jerusalem.

The status of Jerusalem is one of thorniest disputes between Israel and Palestinians. Palestinians, with broad international backing, seek East Jerusalem as capital of state they want to establish in occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. But, Israel regards all of city, including eastern sector it captured in 1967 Middle East war and annexed, as its eternal and indivisible capital, but this is recognized internationally.

 

AG600-

China’s first home-grown… amphibious aircraft AG600 (code-named Kunlong) successfully carried out its first take-off and landing on water. It is claimed to be as the world’s largest amphibious aircraft. In this maiden flight, the seaplane took off from Zhanghe Reservoir in Jingmen, Hubei’s province and stayed airborne for about 15 minutes

AG600 is third member of China’s large aircraft family following large freighter Y-20 and large passenger aircraft C919. It has been developed and built by state-owned aircraft giant Aviation Industry Corporation of China. It had made its maiden flight at the coastal city at Zhuhai in December 2017.

AG600 can land and take off from water. It has wingspan of 38.8 metres. It is powered by four turboprop engines. It has been designed and built by China’s state-owned manufacturer Aviation Industry Corp of China. It is capable of carrying 50 people and can stay airborne for 12 hours.

It has operational range of 4,500-km. This aircraft has military applications and also can be used for firefighting and marine rescue. Its flight capabilities put all of China’s artificial island-building projects in disputed South China Sea (SCS) well within its range

Cope India air exercise

India and US have agreed to elevate their bilateral ‘Cope India’ air exercise to …trilateral format by including Japan. The next edition of this exercise is scheduled to be held in December 2018 for which final planning conference to finalise its modalities will held in Kalaikunda, West Bengal.

It is series of international Air Force exercises between Indian Air Force (IAF) and United States Air Force conducted on and over Indian soil. The first such exercise was conducted at IAF air force station in Gwalior from February 2004. The exercise included flight tests, practice and demonstrations as well as lectures on subjects related to aviation. The exercise was repeated in 2005, 2006, and 2009.

India’s longest river bridge

India’s longest river bridge with total length of 19.3 kilometers will be built on Brahmaputra river in Assam. This bridge will connect …Dhubri of Assam to Fulbarani of Meghalaya. This bridge will reduce the distance between these two places by 203 kms and also travel time. At present, India’s largest river bridge is Dhola-Sadia bridge, its length is 9.15 kilometers.

This bridge will have total length will be 19.3 kilometers and will be four-lane. Its construction will be completed by 2026-27 and will be public-funded work. Japanese Finance Agency (JICA) has approved the loan for this project as part of road infrastructure improvement package in the north-east after assessing the economic benefit of the big project. At present, the road connecting Assam and Meghalaya is about 200 kilometers long.  This bridge will reduce travel time to 15-20 minutes to cross the river after it becomes operational from two and a half hours. Two northeastern states of Assam and Meghalaya will be connected by NH127B with the help of this bridge. On completion this bridge will push economic activities and development on both sides of the river. It will also improve connectivity from West Bengal to Assam.

 Tricolour at Red Fort on 75th Anniversary 

75th anniversary of establishment of Azad Hind government observed October 21, 2018. On this occasion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi hoisted National flag and unveiled plaque at the Red Fort, Delhi.

Azad Hind Government was founded in Singapore on October 21, 1943. It was India’s first independent government established by Indian nationalists-in-exile during latter part of WWII in Singapore with monetary, military and political assistance from Imperial Japan.

It was a part of political freedom movement originating in 1940s outside India with purpose of allying with Axis powers during Second World War (WWII) to free India from British Rule. It was inspired by ideas of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, who was leader of Azad Hind Government and also Head of State of this Government-in-exile. The inspirational song “Kadam Kadam badhae jaye khushee ke geet gaye jaa” of Azad Hind Fauj  was Written by Pt. Vanshidhar Shukla , Composed by Ram Singh Thakur,.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced launch of national award in name of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose to honour those involved in disaster response operations. It was announced on the occasion of 75th anniversary of Bose’s declaration of formation of Azad Hind Government, India’s first independent government on October 21, 1943.

The national award named after Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose will be given every year to …police personnel who do excellent work in rescue and relief operations during any kind of disaster. It will be announced every year on January 23 i.e. on Netaji’s birthday.

The award will help to recognize exemplary services rendered by ..National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) personnel in rescue and relief works during the time of any disaster. NDRF and SDRF are constituted with personnel from Central paramilitary forces and State police organisations respectively. These forces are mandated under Disaster Management Act, 2005 for effective management of disasters and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

Green Climate Fund approves $1

Green Climate Fund (GCF) has approved more than $1 billion new investments for 19 new projects to help developing countries tackle climate change. The decision was taken during four-day meeting of GCF in Manama, Bahrain. The funding was approved for projects linked to geothermal energy in Indonesia, greener cities in Europe and Middle East and protection for coastal communities in India.

GCF is UN-backed fund considered as key vehicle for climate-related development programs. It is guided by the principles and provisions of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It aims to help developing countries to finance clean energy projects other mitigation efforts, practices and adaptation to counter climate change. 

It was formally established by UNFCCC decision in Durban, South Africa in December 2011. It was intended to be the centrepiece of efforts to raise Climate Finance of $100 billion a year by 2020.

US to pull out of Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty signed with Russia

United States (US) President Donald Trump has announced that US will unilaterally pull out of three-decade-old Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty signed with Russia during Cold War.

Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty

It was crucial Cold War-era treaty banning development, testing and possession of short and medium range ground-launched nuclear missiles with range of 500-5,000 km. The treaty was signed in December 1987 between then US President Ronald Reagan and his USSR counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev.

The treaty banned all nuclear and conventional missiles, as well as their launchers, with ranges of 500–1,000 km or (short-range) and 1,000–5,500 km (intermediate-range). This treaty was central to ending arms race between two superpowers during cold war and protected America’s NATO allies in Europe from Soviet missile attacks. It was designed to provide measure of some strategic stability on continent of Europe.

Reasons of US withdrawal-US President Trump has alleged that Russia has… violated treaty and has been violating it for many years. This violation comes after Russia’s alleged development and deployment of Novator 9M729 missile (also known as SSC-8), that could strike Europe at short notice.

Accusations of Russia violating this treaty pre-dates Trump presidency and go back to 2008 during President Obama administration. Under former President Barack Obama raised issue of Russia testing ground-launched cruise missile with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2014.

Implications-The unilateral withdrawal from this treaty will allow US new nuclear weapon options in Pacific in its efforts to counter China’s growing influence. There are also concerns that unilateral termination of this treaty could mark beginning of new arms race between US and Russia.

Iron Magic 19

The joint military exercise Iron Magic 19 between…. United Arab Emirates (UAE) and United States (US) kicked off near Dubai. The two-week military exercise is part of series of joint military exercises held throughout the year between UAE armed forces and armed forces of other countries.

Iron Magic 19-The exercise seeks to reinforce cooperation, joint actions and exchange of expertise in military areas between both countries. This will contribute to maximizing combat capabilities and increasing coordination between UAE and the US armed forces.

The bulk of UAE military hardware, such as F-16 fighter jets, Mirage jets and Apache Longbow attack helicopters are mostly manufactured by companies from US, Britain and France. UAE, a major oil supplier, has established growing defence industry in recent years, mainly in armoured vehicles and naval military equipment.

Sittwe Port-

India and Myanmar inked MoU for appointment of private port operator for Operation and Maintenance (O&M) of Sittwe Port, Paletwa Inland Water Terminal and associated facilities included in Kaladan Multi Model Transit Transport Project. The MoU was signed Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale on behalf of Government of India (GoI) and by U Win Khant, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transport and Communications on behalf of Myanmar Government.

Key Facts

Sittwe port in Myanmar will connect India’s landlocked north-east region to Bay of Bengal through Mizoram. It will also provide alternate route to Kolkata. Following this MoU, process of identifying bidders to maintain these facilities will be initiated by floating Request for proposal (RFP).

Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project-This project aims to connect seaport of Kolkata (India) with Sittwe seaport in Myanmar by sea; it will then link Sittwe seaport to Lashio in Myanmar via Kaladan river boat route and then from Lashio to Mizoram in India by road transport. This project will reduce distance from Kolkata to Mizoram by approximately 1000 km and cut travelling time to 3-4 days for transport of goods. It will provide alternative to current route from North East to Kolkata port via chicken neck which faces heavy traffic and transportation of cargo via this route takes many days to reach port.

Benefits to India-It will provide alternative route to India to ship goods to the landlocked north-eastern States as it will provide access to the sea to landlocked northeastern states via Myanmar. It will significantly lower cost and distance of movement from Kolkata to Mizoram and beyond. It will also reduce dependency on only route narrow strip dubbed as Chicken’s Neck in West Bengal, sandwiched between Bhutan and Bangladesh. It will be also instrumental for India’s Act-east policy and strengthen India’s trade and transport links with Southeast Asia. It will not only serve economic, commercial and strategic interest of India but also contributes to development of Myanmar and its economic integration with India.

Fali S. Nariman

Eminent jurist Fali S. Nariman (89) was awarded ..19th Lal Bahadur Shastri National Award for Excellence in Public Administration. He was presented the award by Vice President Venkaiah Naidu at a function held in New Delhi.

Fali S. Nariman-He is one of India’s most distinguished constitutional lawyers and he has argued several leading cases. He was the senior advocate to Supreme Court of India since 1971 and has remained President of Bar Association of India since 1991. He is internationally recognised jurist on international arbitration. He was Additional Solicitor .

 

 

Druzhba-III:

The Druzhba 2018 (Friendship 2018) joint bilateral military exercise between Pakistan and Russian special forces has begun in Pakistan. This exercise will be organized in north-western hill region in Nowshera district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa of Pakistan. The two week long joint military exercise is aimed at bolstering and building military cooperation between the two countries

Seoul Peace Prize 2018

Seoul Peace Prize Committee has decided to confer 2018 Seoul Peace Prize on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He is the fourteenth recipient of this award. The award will be presented to him by Seoul Peace Prize Foundation at mutually convenient time.

PM Modi was selected for this prestigious award in recognition of his dedication for improving international cooperation, raising global economic growth, accelerating Human Development of people in India by fostering economic growth and furthering development of democracy through anti-corruption and social integration efforts. It also recognized PM Modi’s contributions to growth of Indian and global economies, credited ‘Modinomics’ for reducing social and economic disparity between rich and poor. It also lauded PM’s initiatives to make government cleaner through anti-corruption measures and demonetization. It also credited PM for his contribution towards regional and global peace through proactive foreign policy with countries around  world under Modi Doctrine and Act East Policy.

Seoul Peace Prize-It was established in 1990 to commemorate success of the 24th Olympic Games held in Seoul, South Korea. It was established to crystallize Korean people’s yearning for peace on Korean Peninsula and in the rest of the world.  It is awarded biennially to those individuals who have made their mark through contributions to harmony of mankind, reconciliation between nations and world peace. 

 

STAPCOR 2018

International Conference on Status and Protection of Coral Reefs (STAPCOR – 2018) was held at Bangaram Island, Union Territory of Lakshadweep from 22nd to 24th October, 2018. The theme of the conference was “Reef for Life”. It was inaugurated by Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Dr. Harsh Vardhan.

STAPCOR – 2018

It was jointly organized by Department of Environment and Forest, Union Territory of Lakshadweep Administration with the technical support of Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) and in association with Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Environmental Information System (ENVIS) in consonance with declaration of year 2018 as 3rd decadal International year of Reefs. About 150 delegates both international and national had participated in this mega event. The delegates and keynote speakers for technical deliberations in this conference were from United State of America (USA), United Kingdom (UK), Kuwait, Italy, France, Maldives and Sri Lanka.

International Year of the Reef-International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) has declared year 2018 as International Year of the Reef (IYOR 2018). It is designed to raise awareness about the threats to coral reefs and the associated ecosystem.

China opens world’s longest sea bridge linking Hong Kong, Macau and Zhuhai

China inaugurated Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, world’s longest sea bridge with total length of 55 km. The new sea bridge will connect the east and west sides of Pearl River Delta of the South China Sea, connecting two Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau with Zhuhai i.e. mainland China.

Criticisms-This bridge is considered is another move of China to assert more control over Hong Kong and Macau special administrative regions. Both provinces are former European colonies (Hong Kong was under British control and Macau was under Portuguese control), handed back to China in late 1990 and are run under “one country, two systems” principle, which allows them to retain their economic and democratic systems of government (multi-party system) independent of China for 50 years. Concerns of affecting ecology of area especially to White Chinese dolphin also have been raised. Safety concerns of bridge also have been raised after reports that artificial islands has drifted.

Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board

Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB) is going to issue.. masala bonds worth Rs. 5,000 crore to mobilise funds for various development works. KIIFB has appointed Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings for rating the masala bonds issue. The bonds will be listed in London and Singapore stock exchanges. The funds will be raised in tranches over period of 10 years.

Tagore Award for Cultural Harmony-

Union Government (Ministry of Culture) has announced winners of Tagore Award for Cultural Harmony for year 2014, 2015 and 2016. The awardees were selected by award jury headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and included Chief Justice of India Justice (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi, former chief election commissioner N Gopalaswami and national vice president of BJP Vinay Sahasrabuddhe.

Awardees are

  • 2014: Rajkumar Singhajit Singh. He is doyen of Manipuri dance. He is also teacher, performer and choreographer.
  • 2015: Chhayanaut. It is cultural organization of Bangladesh established in 1961. It has played leading role in promoting Tagore’s works in Bengali culture, music and literature not only within Bangladesh, but all across the world.
  • 2016: Ram Vanji Sutar. He is renowned sculptor. His first notable work was the 45-feet Chambal monument at the Gandhi Sagar Dam in Madhya Pradesh. He is also receipient of Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri.

Sri Lanka president sacks prime minister, appoints Rajapaksa-

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has sacked Ranil Wickremesinghe, incumbent prime minister of Sri Lanka and appointed …….former President Mahinda Rajapaksha as new Prime Minister.

In recent times, the politics of Sri Lanka is in turmoil because of the tension between President Sirisena and PM Vikramasinghe. In a sudden move, the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), the Political Front of President Mittipala Sirisena, withdrew support from the coalition government with Ranil Vikramasinghe’s Party United National Party (UNP). This coalition government was formed in 2015, when Sirisena became President by the support of Ranil Vikramasinghe.

This sudden move also indicates a constitutional crisis lurking in Sri Lanka. According to the 19th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution, Vikramasinghe could not be removed from the post without the majority.

Mahinda Rajapaksa was born on November 18, 1949 in the southern province of British Sri Lanka. He was the 18th Prime Minister of Sri Lanka from April 6, 2004 to November 19, 2005. After that, he was the 6th President of Sri Lanka from November 19, 2005 to January 9, 2015.

The Rafale Deal Controversy

Is a political controversy in India related to the purchase of 36 multirole fighter aircraft for a price estimated to be  worth Rs 58,000 crore (7.8 billion euros) by The Defence Ministry of India from France’s Dassault Aviation.

The first 18 aircraft were to be supplied by Dassault Aviation fully built and the remaining 108 aircraft were to be manufactured under license by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) with transfer of technology from Dassault.

Rafale was chosen as the lowest bidder based on life-cycle cost, which is a combination of cost of acquisition, operating cost over a duration of 40 years and cost of transfer of technology.

 The negotiations with Dassault dragged on over disagreements on warranty for aircraft produced by HAL. India wanted Dassault to ensure the quality of aircraft produced by HAL, but Dassault refused to do so.

 In July 2015, defence minister Manohar Parrikar informed the Rajya Sabha that the tender for 126 aircraft had been withdrawn and negotiations for 36 aircraft had begun. In September 2016, India and France signed an inter-governmental agreement (IGA) for the acquisition of 36 aircraft at a cost of €7.87 billion.

The agreement included a 50% “offset clause”, which requires the companies involved in the agreement to invest 50% of the contract value back into India. Of this 50%, 74% or €2.9 billion would have to come from purchase of goods and services from India.

 In October 2016, Reliance Group and Dassault announced the creation of a 51:49 joint venture named Dassault Reliance Aerospace Pvt. Ltd. The joint venture planned to manufacture components for Legacy Falcon 2000 series of jets to fulfil Dassault’s offset obligation.

Supreme Court  in Oct 2018 asked the govt. for details of pricing in 10 days. The information is classified, the government said, after which the court asked for a written submission that the details cannot be shared.

Central Bureau of Investigation

The country’s premier investigation agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation, is facing the biggest credibility crisis ever since it was formed as a special police force in 1941. At the centre of the controversy are two highranking officials — special director Rakesh Asthana and director Alok Verma. 

In a first of sorts, the CBI has registered a first information report against Asthana for allegedly accepting a Rs 3-crore bribe to settle a case against meat exporter Moin Quereshi. On his part, Asthana has levelled bribery allegations in more than a dozen cases against his boss. 

The ugly fight within the CBI has already become a political potboiler, with Opposition parties pointing fingers at PM Modi for institutional decay. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has hit out at the PM, calling the CBI “an institution in terminal decline that’s at war with itself.” 

Clearly disappointed, the PMO has summoned both Asthana and Verma seeking explanations over the recent developments. 

Supreme Court ordered the central vigilance commissioner (CVC) to complete his inquiry into Central Bureau of Investigation director Alok Verma in two weeks and said the latter’s interim replacement M Nageswara Rao wouldn’t be able to take any major decisions. The next hearing is on November 12 after the Diwali break. 

Verma had also accused Asthana of stalling several crucial investigations that were being monitored by the top court.

12th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) summit

The 12th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) summit  was held on 18-19 October 2018 in Brussels, Belgium.

Inclusive growth     and    connectivity     is on the agenda of the ASEM summit

 The ASEM summit  brings together:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-Heads of state or governments of 51 European and Asian countries

-Representatives of the European Union

-The Secretary General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

European Council President, Donald Tusk chairrd the summit. European Commission President  .Leaders sought to strengthen dialogue and cooperation between the two continents on a wide range of areas, including:

  • trade and investment
  • connectivity
  • sustainable development and climate
  • security challenges such as terrorism, non-proliferation, cyber-security, irregular migration

The ASEM summit was be followed by the …EU-Korea summit and the ..EU-ASEAN leaders’ meeting on 19 October:

Shahi litchi from Bihar gets geographical indication tag

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bihar’s Shahi litchi has received the geographical indication tag .The fruit is mostly grown in Muzaffarpur and its neighbouring districts of East Champaran, Vaishali, Samastipur and Begusarai.

The tag, awarded by the India Patent Office, allows a state or a geographical region to lay an exclusive claim over a product, gives an assurance of quality, and is often used as a reason to increase product rates. A few other products with a geographical indication tag are Darjeeling tea, Mahabaleshwar strawberry, Jaipur blue pottery, Banarasi sarees and Tirupati laddus.

Sabarimala Row

Sabrimala is a Hindu temple complex located at the Periyar Tiger Reserve in KeralaIndia. It is the largest annual pilgrimage in the world with an estimated 17-20 million devotees visiting every year. It is the second largest seasonal pilgrim centre in the world, after Mecca in Saudi Arabia .

Ayyappan is the Hindu god of growth, particularly popular in Kerala and the rest of South India. He is a synthetic deity, the son of Shiva and Mohini (the female avatar of Vishnu) . Ayyappan is also referred to as Ayyappa, Sastavu, Hariharaputra, Manikanta, Shasta or Dharma Shasta.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Supreme Court ordered  allowing women of all ages inside Kerala’s Sabarimala temple in Oct 2018.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders have expressed displeasure over the Supreme Court’s order on the Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala which allows women of the menstruating age to enter the sanctum sanctorum, which was earlier barred.

Tension mounts in Sabarimala women of the age 10-50 are not given entry by the protesters .

 Ro-Ro service in Assam-

Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) in collaboration with.. Assam Government has launched new Roll on-Roll off (Ro-Ro).. facility connecting …Neamati to Manjuli Island in Assam. The Ro-Ro facility will…. cut down circuitous road route of 423 km that trucks take from Neamati to Majuli Island via Tezpur Road Bridge.

It will limit distance between these points to only 12.7 km with use of river route. For this, IWAI has procured new vessel MV Bhupen Hazarika and is also providing needed terminal infrastructure. The vessel is 46.5-metre-long, 13.3-metre-wide and has carrying capacity of eight trucks and 100 passengers. The commencement of Ro-Ro services to Majuli island would be a landmark event towards augmenting connectivity not only in Assam but the entire North Eastern Region.

It refers to vessels used to carry wheeled cargo like cars, semi-trailer trucks, trucks, trailers, and railroad cars that are driven on (rolled on) and off (rolled off) ferry on their own wheels or using platform vehicle.

Majuli is world’s largest riverine islands located on Brahmaputra River. It has 144 villages with a population of over 1,50,000. The habitants of the island are facing serious challenges of connectivity. They cross river using conventional ferry service at various locations for their day to day needs. In absence of adequate number of bridges, cargo and passenger movement takes through longer road routes leading to critical loss of time and money.

Earlier, IWAI had started similar Ro-Ro service between Dhubri and Hatsingimari which had reduced travel distance by 190 kms. Permanent Ro-Ro terminal was constructed at Dhubri for the purpose. It also has constructed floating terminals at 11 locations along length of Brahmaputra waterway.

IWAI is nodal statutory body in charge of development and regulation of inland waterways for shipping and navigation. It was established in October 1986 and is headquartered in Noida, UP. Its main function is to build necessary infrastructure in inland waterways, surveying economic feasibility of new projects and also carrying out administration and regulation.

Draft National Policy on Electronics 2018-

Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has issued draft ‘National Policy on Electronics 2018’ (NPE 2018) for Electronics System Design and Manufacturing (ESDM) Sector of India. It sets ambitious target of creating…. $400 billion electronics manufacturing industry by 2025, with …mobile phone devices segment accounting for three-fourths of production.

 

 

 

 

 

Draft National Policy on Electronics (NPE)

Draft NPE aims to promote domestic manufacturing in entire value-chain of ESDM sector for spur economic development in the country. It also aims to double the target of mobile phone production from 500 million units in 2019 to 1 billion by 2025 to meet objective.

It replaces existing incentive schemes like Modified Special Incentive Package Scheme (M-SIPS), with schemes that are easier to implement such as interest subsidy and credit default guarantee etc. It also takes into consideration interest subsidy and credit default guarantee in order to encourage new units and in expansion of existing units in electronics manufacturing sector.

The set target of $400 billion turnover under it, includes targeted production of 1 billion mobile handsets by 2025, valued at $190 billion (approximately Rs. 13 lakh crore) and also 600 million mobile handsets valued at $110 billion (approximately Rs. 7 lakh crore) for export.

It also proposes to push development of core competencies in all sub-sectors of electronics including electronic components and semiconductors, automotive electronics, defence electronics, industrial electronics, strategic electronics etc. It also proposes to set up 20 greenfield and three brownfield electronic manufacturing cluster projects have been sanctioned with project outlay of Rs 3,898 crore, including Rs 1,577 crore from Central Government.

It proposes suitable direct tax benefits, including inter-alia investment-linked deduction under Income Tax (IT) Act for electronics manufacturing sector, for setting up of new manufacturing unit or expansion of an existing unit.

Zika cases in Rajasthan

 Zika virus Disease is mosquito-borne virus transmitted by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes which also transmit three other vector-borne diseases Chikungunya, dengue and yellow fever. The virus belongs to family Flaviviridae and Genus Flavivirus. It was first identified in 1947 in Zika Forest, Uganda from where it derives its name. Now it is emerging disease currently being reported by 86 countries worldwide.

Transmission: It is transmitted primarily by infected Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which also transmits dengue. It can also spread through blood transfusion and sexual contact.

Symptoms: They are similar to other viral infections such as dengue, and include fever, skin rashes, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise, and headache.

Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has confirmed 22 positive laboratory-confirmed cases of Zika virus in Rajasthan’s capital Jaipur. It was detected through Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) surveillance system and all suspected cases in defined area and mosquito samples are being tested.

Health Ministry has taken precautionary measuresfollowed by daily monitoring. It has activated control room at National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to undertake regular monitoring of the situation. Moreover, 7-member Central team also has been deputed to Jaipur following detection of the first case. State government also has been supplied with IEC material prepared to create awareness about zika virus disease and its prevention strategies. Besides, extensive surveillance and vector control measures are also being undertaken in area as per protocol by the state government.

Threats: Pregnant women infected with Zika virus may give birth to babies with severe brain damage or serious birth defects i.e. neurological disorders and foetal deformation known as Microcephaly in which infants are born with abnormally smaller heads. Besides there is also possible link between virus and Guillain-Barré syndrome (a condition in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the nervous system) is also suspected.

Treatment and Prevention: There is no specific treatment or vaccine currently available to treat Zika. The best form of prevention is protection against mosquito bites and clearing stagnant water where mosquitoes breed.

Previous Outbreaks in India: First outbreak of Zika Virus was reported in Ahmedabad, Gujarat in January/February 2017 and second outbreak in July 2017 from Krishnagiri District in Tamilnadu. Both these outbreaks were successfully contained through intensive surveillance and vector management.

Satish Dhawan Center for Space Science-

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Central University of Jammu (CUJ) in Jammu today for setting up of Satish Dhawan Center for Space Science in University.  It will be first of its kind institute coming up in Jammu and Kashmir.

The centre is named after Satish Dhawan, father of experimental fluid dynamics research in India and former Chairman of ISRO (1971-84). He was born in Srinagar and played leading the successful and indigenous development of Indian space programme. The centre will have facilities for Geospatial Data analysis that will help in sustainable use of natural resources and planning land-use pattern.

 

 

 

India suffered $79.5 billion economic loss

According to United Nations report titled ‘Economic Losses, Poverty and Disasters 1998-2017’, India has suffered whopping $79.5 billion economic loss due to climate-related disasters in last 20 years. The report was compiled by UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction which highlights impact of extreme weather events on global economy. The report was released ahead of International Day for Disaster Reduction, observed every year on October 13.

The years between 1998 to 2017 have seen dramatic rise of 151% in direct economic losses from climate-related disasters. The direct losses (impact) of disasters on global economy between 1998 and 2017 in affected countries was reported $2.908 trillion, more than twice of what was lost in previous two decades.

There is growing threat from climate change led extreme weather events, which now account for 77% of total economic losses of $2.245 trillion. This represents dramatic rise of 151% compared with losses reported between 1978 and 1997, which amounted to $895 billion.

The greatest economic losses was experienced by… United Stats at $944.8 billion followed by China($492.2 billion), Japan ($376.3 billion), India ($79.5 billion), Puerto Rico ($71.7 billion), France ($48.3 billion) Germany ($57.9 billion), Italy ($56.6 billion), Thailand ($52.4 billion) and Mexico ($46.5 billion).
In terms of occurrences, climate-related disasters also dominate the picture, accounting for 91% of all 7,255 major recorded events between 1998 and 2017. Floods (43.4%) followed by storms (28.2%) are the two most frequently occurring disasters.

India remains polio free, all vaccines used in Government

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organization (WHO) have reiterated India’s status as polio-free country. This comes in backdrop of some oral polio vaccine vials being found contaminated with the type-2 polio virus.

The two global agencies held that risk of children getting vaccine derived poliovirus was minimal in India because of high routine immunisation coverage in the country. They also asserted that all vaccines provided under Universal Immunization Programme (UIP) are safe and urged people to get their children vaccinated not only for their protection but also to keep Indian polio free.

Type 2 poliovirus containing vaccine has been phased out globally, and in India, in April 2016, as a part of the polio endgame strategy. Like in other countries, India also has replaced trivalent OPV oral polio vaccine (tOPV) with bivalent OPV (bOPV) in all polio campaigns and routine immunization. It also continues to conduct mass vaccination campaigns against polio, using bivalent oral polio vaccine (bOPV), to maintain high immunity.

India was certified polio-free in March 2014 and it still continues to remain vigilant against all three types of polioviruses.

World Economic Forum (WEF)-

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has announced its new Centre for Fourth Industrial Revolution in India.. The Centre is  in Maharashtra. It will be…. fourth center in chain-ones as part of WEF’s global network along with San Francisco (US), Tokyo (Japan) and Beijing (China) are already functioning.

The centre will facilitate to bring together government and business leaders to pilot emerging technology policies. It has selected drones, artificial intelligence and blockchain as the first three project areas. The centre will work in collaboration with government on national level to co-design new policy frameworks and protocols for emerging technology alongside leaders from business, academia, start-ups and international organizations. NITI Aayog will coordinate partnership on behalf of government and work of centre among multiple ministries.

WEF  is an international institution founded by Klaus Schwab that works to improve the state of the world through public-private cooperation. It was established in 1971 and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.

Malaysia to abolish the death penalty

Malaysia’s Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has agreed to abolish death penalty for all crimes and halt pending executions. This decision was taken in pursuance of strong domestic opposition to colonial practice for being barbarous and unimaginably cruel which has put terrible stain on the country’s human rights record. It is also in line with move away from capital punishment in the rest of the world

Currently capital punishment in Malaysia is mandatory for murder, kidnapping, possession of firearms, treason and drug trafficking, among other crimes. The death penalty in Malaysia is exclusively carried out by hanging and has been legacy of British colonial rule. More than 1200 people are on death row in Malaysia.

At present, the sentence of death penalty has been abolished in 103 countries, while penalty of capital punishment is still in 56 countries. There are still provisions for capital punishment in countries like China, India, America, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Japan and Sri Lanka. United Nations General Assembly passed the resolution in 62nd session in 2007 to impose universal restrictions on the death penalty.

World’s Most Innovative University

Stanford University was named as World’s Most Innovative University by Reuters news agency rankings. No Indian was able to make it to the list. The Reuters’ top 100 World’s Most Innovative University ranking recognises universities from across the world for their work in inventing new technologies, advance science and power new markets and industries. It was first published in 2015, since then there has been no mention of any Indian university in the list.

In this top 100 list, 48 universities are from North America find mention on the list, 23 Asian universities, 27 from Europe and 2 from the Middle East. The list has no mention of universities from South America, Africa and Oceania countries that include Australasia, Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia.

 

 

Top 10 Innovative Universities

  • Stanford University, US
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), US
  • Harvard University, US
  • University of Pennsylvania, US
  • University of Washington, US
  • University of Texas System, US
  • KU Leuven, Belgium
  • Imperial College London, United Kingdom
  • University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, US
  • Vanderbilt University, US

Sikkim awarded FAO’s Award

Sikkim was awarded UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) Future Policy Gold Award (Gold Prize) for its achievement in becoming the world’s first totally organic agriculture state. Sikkim beat out 51 other nominees from around the world for the award. Policies from Brazil, Denmark and Quito (Ecuador) were joinlty Silver Awards.

Sikkim is first organic state in the world and all farmlands in the state are certified organic. State’s policy approach reaches beyond organic production and has proven transformational for its citizens. It primarily focuses socioeconomic aspects such as consumption and market expansion, cultural aspects as well as health, education, rural development and sustainable tourism.

The policy implemented by state of organic farming has phased out chemical fertilisers and pesticides, and achieved total ban on sale and use of chemical pesticides in the state. The transition has benefitted more than 66000 farming families in state.

Transition to 100% organic state also has greatly benefited its tourism sector and numbers of tourists have increased by over 50% between 2014 and 2017.  With this Sikkim has set excellent example for other Indian states and countries worldwide for successfully upscale agroecology.

FAO is a s specialised agency of UN that leads international efforts to defeat hunger. Its parent organization is UN Economic and Social Council (UNESC). It was established on 16 October 1945 and its headquarters are in Rome, It has 194 member states, along with European Union (member organization).

India elected to UN Human Rights Council-

India was elected to United Nations’ Human Rights Council’, the main body of UN charged with promoting and monitoring human rights for period of three years beginning January 1, 2019. In this secret ballot election held in 193-member UN General Assembly (UNGA) India secured 188 votes in Asia-Pacific category, the highest number of votes among all candidates.

Total 18 new members in the five regional categories were elected by absolute majority (i.e. minimum of 97 votes are required to get elected through secret ballot). From Asia-Pacific region category, Fiji with 187 and Bangladesh 178 votes were also elected along with India. This was fifth time India has been elected to UNHRC, previously was elected 2006-2009, 2011-2014 and 2014-2017.

UNHRC is an.. inter-governmental body within United Nations system. It is responsible for strengthening promotion and protection of human rights around globe and for addressing situations of human rights violations and make recommendations on them.  It was created by UNGA on 15 March 2006 by adopting resolution 60/251 to promote human rights globally. It had replaced former UN Commission on Human Rights. It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.

Members: UNHRC is made up of 47 UN member states which are elected by UN General Assembly (UNGA) with specific number of seats allocated for each five region of the globe viz.

Sovereign gold bonds scheme

Union Government has opened new series of sovereign gold bonds scheme for subscription. Under this scheme, sovereign gold bonds will be issued every month from October 2018 to February 2019. This bond will be sold through ….Stock Holding Corporation of India Limited, Post Office, Stock Exchange (NSE and BSE).

It is aimed at providing alternative to buying physical gold. Under it, bonds are denominated in units of one gram of gold and multiples thereof. These gold denominated bonds are restricted for sale to resident Indian entities, including individuals, Hindu undivided families (HUF), trusts, universities and charitable institutions.

The minimum subscription for individual and HUF is 1 gram and maximum is 4 kg. For trusts and similar entities, maximum subscription is 20 kg per fiscal. Price of bond is fixed in rupees on basis of simple average of closing price of gold of 999 purity published by India Bullion and Jewellers Association Limited for last 3 working days of week preceding the subscription period.

The tenor of SGB bonds is 8 years with provision of premature cancellation after 5 years on interest payment dates. Investors in SGB bonds have been provided with option of holding them in physical or dematerialised form.  RBI has notified rate of interest of 2.50% per annum on SGB bonds is payable on half yearly basis.

The bonds can be used as collateral for loans and loan-to-value ratio is set equal to ordinary gold loan mandated by RBI from time to time. Individual investing in it are exempted from capital gains tax arising on redemption of SGB. The indexation benefits are also provided to long-term capital gains arising to any person on transfer of bond.

6th RCEP – Singapore

The 6th Interregional Ministerial Meeting of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was held in Singapore. The meeting was reviewed after 6th RCEP ministerial meeting held in August 2018. In this meeting, all partner countries agreed to finalize trading deal by the end of this year. From Indian side, Minister of State (MoS) for Commerce & Industry and Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution C. R. Chaudhary had attended the meeting.

RCEP is a ..proposed proposed free trade agreement (FTA) or comprehensive regional economic integration agreement between the 10-ASEAN countries (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam) and its… six FTA partners (Australia, New Zealand, India, China, Japan and Korea).

The negotiations for this mega trade deal were formally launched at 2012 ASEAN Summit in Cambodia. It aims to cover goods, services, investments, economic and technical cooperation, competition and intellectual property rights under its ambit.

Till 2017, 16 RCEP member states accounted for population of 3.4 billion people with total GDP (in terms of PPP) of $49.5 trillion, approximately 38% of the world’s GDP (combined GDPs of China and India makes up more than half that amount) and 29% of world trade.

First India-US tri-services exercise to be held in 2019

The first India-United States tri-services exercise is likely to take place in 2019 in India. It will include all services of both countries and talks are on to include special forces. US will second country after Russia with whom India conducts tri-services exercise.

The Indo-US joint tri-services drill was formally announced after first 2+2 dialogue between principals of External Affairs and Defence Ministries of two countries which was held in New Delhi in September 2018.

The drill will focus on United Nations-based scenario and overarching mission of humanitarian assistance, disaster relief measure. It will be also in line with India’s ambition of being natural humanitarian disaster relief hub in the Indo-Pacific region.

The three forces of India and US already take part in multiple bilateral exercises separately. Moreover, armies of both countries are also participating in annual drill called Yudh Abyaas, whose latest edition took place in September 2018, and Air Forces take part in bilateral drill called Cope India.

Navies of both countries also participate in exercise called Malabar which also involves Japan. But this will be first time, three services of India and US will participate in drill together. Indian Army has Para SF, Navy has Marcos while Air Force has Garud as their respective special forces

Mohammed Zahur Khayyam Hashmi 

Veteran composer, lyricist, writer and national award winning music director Mohammed Zahur Khayyam Hashmi, famously known as Khayya was ….2018 Hridaynath Award for Lifetime Achievement. The award will be conferred by Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in Mumbai. This year, the award ceremony coincides with81st birthday of Hridaynath Mangeshkar after whom award is named.

 

 

 

 

 

Foreign tourists can now visit Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Government has allowed foreign tourists to visit Andaman and Nicobar Islands without any restrictions. In this regard, Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has modified its earlier order which made it mandatory for foreign tourists to register with …Foreigners Registration Officer (FRO) within 24 hours of their arrival.

The step was taken on suggestion made by Union Tourism Ministry to boost foreign tourist arrivals in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. This order follows earlier directive which allowed foreigners to visit 29 inhabited and 11 uninhabited islands in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which were prohibited for visitors under Foreigners (Restricted Area) Order, 1963, without any restrictions.

However, citizens of ..Afghanistan, China and Pakistan and foreign nationals having their origin in these countries will continue to require Restricted Area Permit (RAP) to visit Union Territory. Moreover, separate approvals of competent authority will continue to be required for visiting reserved forests, wildlife sanctuaries and tribal reserves as at present. Ministry of Tourism has also proposed that travel restrictions be removed from border areas in Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh.

The Me Too movement (or #MeToo movement)

 #MeToo is a movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault  .Spread virally in October 2017 as a hashtag used on social media in an attempt to demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace.

 It followed soon after the sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey WeinsteinTarana Burke, an American social activist and community organizer, began using the phrase “Me Too” as early as 2006, and the phrase was later popularized by American actress Alyssa Milano, on Twitter in 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Milano encouraged victims of sexual harassment to tweet about it and “give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem. In early January 2018, about a hundred evangelical women also launched #SilenceIsNotSpiritual to call for changes to how sexual misconduct is dealt within the church.

It has been noted that, although the financial industry is known to have a wide prevalence of sexual harassment, as of January 2018, there were no high-profile financial executives stepping down as the result of #MeToo allegations

It has been noted that, although the financial industry is known to have a wide prevalence of sexual harassment, as of January 2018, there were no high-profile financial executives stepping down as the result of #MeToo allegations

Indian list consists of …. M.J .Akbar  ,Nana Pateker .Sajjid Ali ,Alok Nath,   Subash Ghai ,Kailash kher ,Rajat Kapoor ,Chetan Bhagat… are the latest to be named for an alleged sexual assault.

Queen director Vikas Bahl removed from Amazon’s upcoming web series after Kangana Ranaut accuses him of sexual harassment.

Advantages

-Alyssa Milano described the reach of #MeToo as.. helping society understand the “magnitude of the problem” and said, “it’s a standing in solidarity to all those who have been hurt.”

-To give people the.. resources to have access to healing, and advocates for changes to laws and policies. .. re-examining policies,  and updating sexual harassment policies

-The movement has given the.. victims a channel to talk, let it out, and express their feelings. Victims need to be heard .

Cons

-It …lacks clear action points and only serves as a.. token act. automatically feed children in poor countries.

-It creates… false sense of achievements. Did we really change anything besides creating new hashtag?

-It could be… exploited by both people who cheats and lies. …Fake victims, and fake symphatisers with their own agenda could pretty much hijack it, and make the movement to be discredited by many, when the truth is exposed.

– It can.. destroy a mans life with one allegation. No proof needed.
 -Women are using this movement as a “bargaining” chip to get what they want.
 -Women can turn a consensual sex act in the past into “rape” leaving the

-There have been many calls for the #MeToo movement to include sex workers and sex trafficking victims. Although these women experience a higher rate of sexual harassment and assault than any other group of people, they are often seen in society as legitimate targets that deserve such acts against them.

-There has been discussion about the extent to which accusers should be believed before fact-checking. Some have questioned whether the accused are being punished without due process confirming their guilt.

– Many commentators have responded that the number of…false reports is expected to be low, citing figures obtained by the U.S. Department of Justice and other organizations which estimate the number of false rape accusations to be around 2–10%.

 S-400 ‘Triumf’ missile systems-

India and Russia  concluded the contract for…. five S-400 ‘Triumf’ missile systems, one of the biggest defence deals in recent times, after the annual summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The announcement of the deal, which could attract sanctions from the United States, was made in a joint statement issued by both sides. “The sides welcomed the conclusion of the contract for the supply of the S-400 long range surface to air missile to India,”

It can engage up to 36 targets at a time and simultaneously launch 72 missiles. he delivery of the missile systems, tipped to be over $5 billion (Rs 39,000 crore), will start in 24 months after signing the deal.

The S-400 is known as Russia’s most advanced long-range surface-to-air missile defence system, which is capable of destroying hostile strategic bombers, jets, missiles and drones at a range of 380-km.

The S-400 is an upgraded version of the S-300 systems. The missile system, manufactured by Almaz-Antey, has been in service in Russia since 2007.

International Coffee Day 

The International Coffee Day is observed every year on October 1 to promote and celebrate coffee as beverage. Observance of this day marks global celebration of coffee’s journey from farm to your local shop and opportunity to honour men and women who grow and harvest coffee.

This year International Coffee Organization had chosen special theme: ‘Women in Coffee’. It was aimed at highlighting important role played by women in whole coffee chain as men, from planting seeds to processing to trading to brewing and drinking it.

India accounts for only 4-5% of world’s coffee output, but exports 70-80% of its produce. Italy, Russia and Germany are the top three buyers of Indian coffee.  In India, two coffee varieties robusta (or Coffea canephora) and Coffea arabica are grown on large scale.

 52nd district of Madya Pradesh

Madhya Pradesh Government has announced creation of new district.. Niwari. It will be 52nd district of the state and came into effect from October 1, 2018. The proposal to this effect was cleared by state Cabinet chaired by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

Niwari district has been carved out of the Tikamgarh district. It will include three tehsils of present Tikamgarh district viz. Niwari, Orchha and Prithvipur. IAS officer Akshay Kumar Singh (2010-batch) will hold interim charge as first District Collector of new district. The decision of forming new district comes ahead of Madhya Pradesh assembly elections, which is scheduled to be held by year end.

 

 

 Reinvigorating Trade and Inclusive growth report

International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and World Trade Organization have collectively launched report …“Reinvigorating(give new energy or strength to) Trade and Inclusive Growth”. In this report all three international organisations have sought….. liberalisation of global service sector, asserting that barriers to these services trade currently is roughly as high as those to trade in goods about a half century ago.

Services comprise some two-thirds of global GDP and employment. The ..limited opening of service sectors to foreign competition impedes trade and productivity growth throughout sector and broader economy.  Countries… should open up to international competition in services provided in other ways, including through foreign direct investment (FDI) and operation of foreign affiliates and temporary movement of workers across borders for the purpose of supplying services.

The full services trade liberalisation can raise manufacturing productivity by average of 22% across sample of 57 countries with larger benefits for countries with stronger institutional environments. Moreover, service sector has enormous contributor to growth and to trade including manufacturing trade.

Digital economy revolution is opening new opportunities for cross-border trade and investment and this is changing nature of trade, elevating roles of policies relating to electronic commerce, investment and services trade.

AICTE Training and Learning (ATAL) Academy in Jaipur

All India Council for Technical Education will establish country’s first AICTE Training and Learning (ATAL) Academy in Jaipur, capital of Rajasthan. Moreover, tree more ATAL academies will come at Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala), Guwahati (Assam) and Baroda (Gujarat) by next year.

These academies will provide upgraded teaching methods and modules to make technical education more effective and accountable. Faculties will be trained on the eight-module course in these academies in five months. The training will be mandatory for new teachers from 2019 and it will be necessary for existing teachers and assistant teachers while applying for promotions. For building these academies states had provided infrastructure and land for free of cost.

AICTE is statutory body established in November 1945. It comes under aegis of Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Human Resources Development.

 Karnataka Good Samaritan Protection Bill

President Ram Nath Kovind has given assent Karnataka Good Samaritan (a charitable or helpful person )and Medical Professional (Protection and Regulation during Emergency Situations) Bill, 2016 under Article 200 of Constitution. With this, Karnataka became first state give legal protection to good Samaritans who help accidents victims with emergency medical care within golden hour. This law will ensure that good samaritans are not harassed in any manner and face any criminal or civil liability.

The legislation aims to give protection to good samaritans and ensure immediate medical assistance for road accident victims within golden hour. It also seeks encourage people to offer first aid to victims without fear of harassment in hands of police and investigations. Golden hour in medical term is the first hour after traumatic

 

 

Gita Gopinath

India-born economist Gita Gopinath was appointed …Chief Economist of International Monetary Fund (IMF). She will take over as IMF chief economist after Maurice Obstfeld retires in December 2018. It makes her second Indian after former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan to hold the position.

Gita Gopinath was born and brought up in India. She is US citizen and Overseas Citizen of India (OCI). She had received her Ph.D in economics from Princeton University in 2001 after earning BA from Delhi University and MA degrees from both Delhi School of Economics and University of Washington.

She joined the University of Chicago in 2001 as Assistant Professor before moving to Harvard in 2005. She became tenured Professor there in 2010.

She is currently Economic Adviser to Chief Minister of Kerala and also had served on advisory panel for G-20 issues for India’s Ministry of Finance. In 2014, she had made into IMF’s list of 25 economists under 45. She was also chosen as Young Global Leader by World Economic Forum (WEF) in 2011.

World Habitat Day observed on October 1

The World Habitat Day was observed every year on first Monday in October all over the world. This year it was observed on 1 October 2018 with theme Municipal Solid Waste Management’. The purpose of day is to reflect on state of cities and towns and basic human right to adequate shelter. It also aims to remind world of its collective responsibility for habitat of future generations.

This year’s theme aims to highlight issue of solid waste management as global issue that affects everyone. It seeks to bring change in public attitudes to minimize waste and stop littering, regularization of informal waste pickers, increase recycling and reusing, solid waste planning including adequate landfill sites to improve current state of solid waste management in cities across the world and save money to become ‘Waste-Wise Cities’.

The United Nations has designated the first Monday of October of every year as World Habitat Day. The day was established by United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) through Resolution 40/202 in 1985 and was first celebrated in 1986. Since then it is observed each year with new theme to promote sustainable development policies that ensure adequate shelter for all.

Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation

Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas has launched Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation (SATAT) aimed at providing sustainable alternative towards affordable transportation. The initiative was launched with PSU Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs i.e. IOC, BPCL and HPCL).

The SATAT initiative has potential to boost availability of more affordable transport fuels, better use of agricultural residue, cattle dung and municipal solid waste, as well as provide additional revenue source to farmers. It will also benefit vehicle-users as well as farmers and entrepreneurs. Under it, Expression of Interest (EoI) have been invited from potential entrepreneurs to set up Compressed Bio-Gas (CBG) production plants and make available biogas in market for use in automotive fuels.

It will boost availability of more affordable transport fuels and enable better use of agricultural residue, cattle dung and municipal solid waste. It will pave way for efficient municipal solid waste management and help in tackling problem of polluted urban air due to farm stubble-burning and carbon emissions.

It will boost entrepreneurship, rural economy and employment and provide additional source of revenue to farmers. It will also help achieve nation’s climate change goals and bring down dependency on natural gas and crude oil imports and act as a buffer against crude oil and gas price fluctuations.

It will also help to integrated CBS networks with city gas distribution (CGD) networks to boost supplies to domestic and retail users in existing and upcoming markets. Besides retailing from OMC fuel stations, CBS can at later date be injected into CGD pipelines too for efficient distribution and optimised access of cleaner and more affordable fuel.

Bio-gas is produced naturally through process of anaerobic decomposition from waste and bio-mass sources like agriculture residue, cattle dung, municipal solid waste, sugarcane press mud, sewage treatment plant (STP) waste, etc.  It is called CBG after biogas is purified and compressed, which has pure methane content of over 95%. CBG is exactly similar to commercially available natural gas in its composition and energy potential. It has calorific value (~52,000 KJ/kg) and other properties are similar to CNG. CBG can be used as alternative, renewable automotive fuel.  It has potential to replace CNG in automotive, industrial and commercial uses in the coming years, given the abundance of biomass in the country. Advantages of converting agricultural residue, cattle dung and municipal solid waste into CBG on commercial scale are

  • It results in responsible waste management, reduction in carbon emissions and pollution.
  • It generates additional revenue source for farmers.
  • It boosts entrepreneurship, rural economy and employment.
  • It supports national commitments in achieving climate change goals
  • It also helps in reduction in import of natural gas and crude oil.
  • It also serves as buffer against crude oil and gas price fluctuations.

 

Nobel Prize– 2018-in Physiology or Medicine

The 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was jointly awarded to two immunologists.. James P. Allison (US) and Tasuku Honjo (Japan) for their …discovery of Immune checkpoint therapy i.e. cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation. It was announced by Nobel Assembly at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Significance of their discovery

Both… immunologists had figured out entirely new principle …for cancer therapy by stimulating the ability of immune system to attack tumour or cance cells more quickly, unlike traditional forms of cancer treatment that directly target cancer cells.  Their discovery has led to treatments targeting proteins made by some immune system cells that act as brake on body’s natural defences killing cancer cells. This therapy is landmark in fight against cancer and has revolutionised cancer treatment. It also has fundamentally changed way to manage cancer.

Nobel Prize 2018- in Physics

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has selected …three scientists Arthur Ashkin (USA), Gerard Mourou (France) and Donna Strickland (Canada) for the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics. They were selected for groundbreaking inventions in the.. field of laser physics. Arthur Ashkin (91) received the half prize and remaining half was shared equally by Gérard Mourou and Donna Strickland.

 

Arthur Ashkin: He is 96 years old which makes him oldest scientist ever to be awarded a Nobel Prize. He received prize for ..optical tweezers and their application to biological systems. His optical tweezers are able to grab particles, atoms, viruses and other living cells with their laser beam fingers, allowing use of radiation pressure of light to move physical objects.

Gerard Mourou and Donna Strickland: They were jointly awarded for their method of generating high-intensity, ultra-short optical pulses. They have created …ultrashort high-intensity laser pulses without destroying amplifying material, thus paving way towards shortest and most intense laser pulses ever created by mankind. Their innovative technique is known as ‘chirped pulse amplification’ (CPA), has now become standard for high-intensity lasers, including ultra-sharp beams used in corrective eye surgeries.

Note: With this, Strickland (59) became third woman to have received Nobel Prize in Physics, after Marie Curie in 1903 and Maria Goeppert Mayer in 1963.

Nobel Prize – Chemistry 2018

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has selected… US scientists Frances Arnold and George Smith and ..British researcher Gregory Winter for the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. They were selected for…..harnessing power of evolution to develop enzymes and antibodies ..that have led to new pharmaceuticals and biofuels. Chemistry was third of this year’s Nobel Prizes. Frances Arnold shared the half price and George Smith and Gregory Winter share other half of the prize.

Frances Arnold: She was awarded for conducting the first directed evolution of enzymes, leading to more environmentally friendly manufacturing of chemicals, including drugs, and in production of renewable fuels.

George Smith and Gregory Winter: Smith had developed new way to evolve proteins and Winter had used method for evolving antibodies with aim of producing new drugs. These antibodies can neutralize toxins, counteract autoimmune diseases and cure metastatic cancer.

 

BSE  first stock exchange to launch commodity derivative

 

India’s leading bourse Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) became first stock exchange in the country to launch commodity derivative contracts. It has launched contracts in popular commodities like gold (1kg) and silver (30kg).  This launch comes after unified exchange regime kicked off from 1 October 2018.

The launch of commodity derivatives platform on BSE will help efficient price discovery, reduce timelines and make it cost effective. BSE also has applied for launching of crude oil and copper commodity contracts with capital markets regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). Subsequently, it is also planning to launch more agri commodities

So far, commodity contracts were only available on commodity exchanges like MCX and NCDEX, the two specialised commodity derivatives exchanges in the country. Recently SEBI had allowed India’s top two stock exchanges BSE and NSE to launch commodity derivatives trading under unified exchange regime wherein stock exchanges will be allowed to offer trading in commodities derivatives.

World’s largest dome inaugurated in Pune

The world’s largest dome was inaugurated at Maharashtra Institute of Technology (MIT)’s World Peace University (MIT-WPU) campus at Loni Kalbhor, Pune (Maharashtra). It was inaugurated by Vice President Venkaiah Naidu along with Peace Center on the occasion of 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

World Peace Monument dome

The dome has been built atop MIT World Peace Library and World Peace Prayer Hall, which are named after 13th century poet-saint and philosopher Dnyaneshwar who was pivotal figure of Bhakti movement in Maharashtra.  The dome has diameter of 160 feet, overtaking earlier record holding Vatican Dome having diameter of 139.6 feet . It stands 263 feet tall with bell hanging from centre and has prayer hall with area of around 30,000 sq ft. It is supported by 24 massive columns, each 63 feet tall. The periphery of the dome and underneath — inside and outside has bronze statues of 54 of biggest names in world history stand, irrespective of nationality or religion

 

International Solar Alliance

Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated first Assembly of International Solar Alliance (ISA) in New Delhi. The same event also marked inauguration of second Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Renewable Energy Ministerial Meeting and second Global RE-Invest (Renewable Energy Investors’ Meet and Expo). United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres was present on the occasion.

International Solar Alliance (ISA)

ISA is an alliance dedicated to the promotion of solar energy among its member countries. The ISA Framework Agreement had entered into force in December 2017 and formally became de-jure treaty based International Intergovernmental Organization. It is headquartered at Gurugram, India. The main objective of ISA is to include global deployment of over 1,000GW of solar generation capacity and mobilisation of investment of over US$ 1000 billion into solar energy by 2030. ISA also aims to serve as an action-oriented organization by bringing together countries with rich solar potential to aggregate global demand, thereby reducing prices through bulk purchase. It also seeks to facilitate deployment of existing solar technologies at scale, and promoting collaborative solar R&D and capacity building.

 National Institute of Mental Health Rehabilitation in Sehore

The Union Cabinet has remodified its earlier decision to establish of National Institute of Mental Health Rehabilitation (NIMHR) in Sehore District (Bhopal-Sehore highway) instead of Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. NIMHR will be the first of its kind in the country in the area of mental health rehabilitation.

 

It will be established as society under Societies Registration Act, 1860. It will function under Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities. Its objective is to provide rehabilitation services to persons with mental illness, capacity development in field of mental health rehabilitation, policy framing and advanced research in mental health rehabilitation. It will have nine departments and centres and will conduct 12 courses to offer diploma, certificate, graduate, post graduate, M.Phil degrees in field of mental health rehabilitation.

Benefits: It will serve as institution of excellence for capacity building in human resource and research in area of mental health rehabilitation. It will be also recommending body suggesting models and protocols for effective rehabilitation of persons with mental illness.

 UNEP Champions of Earth Award 2018

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was conferred with …United Nation’s Champions of the Earth Award 2018 by UN Secretary General ..Antonio Guterres at ceremony in Delhi. He is among the six winners who received this award. PM Modi was jointly awarded this award along with French President..Emmanuel Macron under the ‘Political Leadership’ category for their work in championing International Solar Alliance (ISA) and promoting new areas of cooperation on environmental action.

PM Modi is third Indian to receive this award after Tulsi Tanti, Chairman of the Suzlon Group, and Afroz Alam, a lawyer who led clean-up at Mumbai’s Versova beach.

Cochin International Airport also received Champions of Earth Award 2018 for ‘Entrepreneurial Vision and for its leadership in the use of sustainable energy. It is world’s first fully solar-powered airport.

It is UN’s highest environmental recognition celebrating exceptional figures from public and private sectors and from civil society, whose actions have had transformative positive impact on the environment. It was established in 2005 by United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment). This award programme is successor to UNEP’s Global 500 Roll of Honour. The award is presented in five categories – Lifetime Achievement, Policy Leadership,  Entrepreneurial Vision, Action and Inspiration and Science & Innovation.  Since its inception thirteen years ago, the awards have recognized 84 laureates.

Past laureates include: Afroz Shah, who led world’s largest beach cleanup (2016), Rwandan President Paul Kagame (2016), Ocean Cleanup CEO Boyan Slat (2014), scientist-explorer Bertrand Piccard, developer of Google Earth Brian McClendon (2013), and former US Vice-President Al Gore (2007). 

Udyam Abhilasha–

Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) has launched Udyam Abhilasha (उद्यम अभिलाषा), a national level entrepreneurship awareness campaign. It was launched in 115 Aspirational Districts identified by NITI Aayog in 28 States.

The campaign will run from 3 October to 8 October, 2018 across India and reach out to around 15,000 youth. It will create and strengthen cadre of more than 800 trainers to provide entrepreneurship training to aspiring youths across these districts to enter admired segment of entrepreneurs.

Operation Samudra Maitri

India has launched massive humanitarian operation Samudra Maitri to provide assistance to earthquake and tsunami victims in…. Indonesia. The operation was launched after telephonic conversation between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Indonesian President Joko Widodo and following Indonesia’s acceptance of international aid.

Under this operation, India has dispatched two aircraft C-130J and C-17 and three naval ships carrying relief material and personnel to the country. C-130J aircraft had carried medical team along with tents and equipments to set up field hospital. C-17 aircraft is carried medicines, generators, tents and water to provide immediate assistance. Three Indian Navy ships were deployed INS Tir, INS Sujatha and INS Shardul to carry out humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR).

A shallow earthquake of magnitude 7.5 (richter scale) had struck in neck of Minahasa Peninsula, Indonesia on 28 September 2018 with its epicentre located in mountainous Donggala Regency, Central Sulawesi.

 

REINVEST- 2018

The second Global Renewable Energy Investment Meeting and Expo (REINVEST- 2018) was organised by Ministry of New and Renewable Energy in Noida from October 3 to 5, 2018. It was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the presence of Secretary General of United Nations Antonio Guterres. 2nd Global RE-INVEST also hosted First Assembly of International Solar Alliance (ISA) and Meeting of the Energy Ministers of Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) countries.

2nd RE-INVEST

The 2nd RE-INVEST was aimed at accelerating worldwide effort to scale up renewable energy and connect global investment community with Indian energy stakeholders. It included three-day Conference on renewables, cleantech and future energy choices and expo of renewables-related manufacturers, developers, investors and innovators.

The 2nd RE-INVEST provided great opportunity to various organisations to showcase their business strategies, achievements and expectationsIt also facilitated collaboration and cooperation with key stakeholders in India, which have emerged as one of the world’s largest renewable energy markets. It was attended by Ministerial Delegations from across the world, including ISA and IORA Member Countries, over 600 global industry leaders, and 10,000 delegates.

RE-Invest

It is global platform to explore strategies for development and deployment of renewables. It was built upon success of RE-Invest 2015 and was organized by Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE). It provides international forum to established players as well as new segments of investors and entrepreneurs to engage, ideate and innovate.

 

Sahyog HOP TAC -2018

The maiden joint exercise of Coast Guards of India and Vietnam “Sahyog HOP TAC -2018” was held in the Bay of Bengal off the Chennai coast, Tamil Nadu. It was aimed at strengthening the working level relationship between coast guards of both navies.

Sahyog HOP TAC-2018

The exercise was aimed at acquainting coast guards of both countries with each other’s’ capabilities and strengthening working level relationship to rescue lives at sea. It encompassed scenario of hijacking of oil tanker and subsequent rescue of its crew in coordinated anti-piracy joint operation as well as preventive efforts for marine environment protection. Moreover, it also included interdiction of pirated vessels, coordinated joint boarding operation and external fire-fighting to salvage burning ships. From Indian side, Coast Guard ships Shaurya, Arnvesh and inreceptor boat C-431 along with Dornier aircraft and Chetak helicopter participated in the joint exercise. It also saw participation of Sagar Manjusa vessel of National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT).

21 IORA Countries adopt Delhi Declaration on Renewable Energy

21 countries in Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) adopted Delhi Declaration on Renewable Energy in Indian Ocean Region. It was adopted at 2nd IORA Renewable Energy Ministerial Meeting held at 2nd Global Re-Invest India-ISA Partnership Renewable Energy Investor’s Meet & Expo in Greater Noida.

It calls for collaboration among IORA member states in meeting growing demand for renewable energy in Indian Ocean littorals, development of common renewable energy agenda for Indian Ocean region (IOR) and promote regional capacity building.

It also calls for promotion of technology development and transfer, strengthening of public private partnerships (PPP) in renewable energy and collaboration among IORA member states and member nations of International Solar Alliance (ISA).

NITI Aayog and UN sign Sustainable Development Framework for 2018-2022

NITI Aayog and United Nations in India signed Sustainable Development Framework for 2018-2022. The agreement is reflection of commitment and efforts made by India towards attaining Sustainable Development Goals.

 

UNSDF 2018-2022 outlines development cooperation strategy between Union Government and United Nations Country Team in India in support of achievement of India’s key national development priorities and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

It was framed following highly participative process, in consultation with government entities, civil society representatives, academia, and private sector. Focus areas under it include poverty and urbanization, health, water, and sanitation, education, climate change, nutrition and food security, clean energy, and disaster resilience; skilling, entrepreneurship, job creation, gender equality and youth development.

Across these outcome areas, UN will support Union Government in south-south cooperation in partnership with Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). The total planned budget outlay for implementation of UNSDF is approximately Rs. 11000 crore, of which 47% is planned to be mobilized through course of implementation from multiple sources, including private sector and government.

The programmatic work outlined in UNSDF targets seven low-income states viz. Bihar, Jharkhand, MP, Odisha, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and UP along with North-East region and aspirational districts identified by the NITI Aayog. It will work on improving lives of most marginalized, poor, and vulnerable communities and people in the country, especially women and girls.

UNSDF also includes set of UN flagship programs that are aligned with major government schemes. These flagship programs will be scalable innovative, multi-sectoral solutions to some of most pressing development challenges that India faces and also serve as catalysts for increased investment of development finance.

UNSDF programmes range from affordable housing for poor to increasing access to clean energy in rural off-grid areas, protecting all children from vaccine-preventable diseases, providing quality education for all children and skilling for young people, especially young girls and ending stunting to improving child sex ratio.

 

NITI Aayog inks SoI for with Oracle collaboration against counterfeit drug in India 

NITI Aayog has singed Statement of Intent (SoI) with Oracle to pilot real drug supply-chain using blockchain distributed ledger and Internet of Things (IoT) software to fight growing problem of counterfeit drugs in India. Strides Pharma Sciences and Apollo Hospitals will partner in this effort. Oracle is US multinational computer technology corporation that specializes primarily in.. developing and marketing database software and technology, cloud engineered systems, and enterprise software products.

Need

The problem of fake and counterfeit drugs is a major issue, costing Indian pharma industry billions. At the same time, it is also putting patients at higher risk. This agreement with Oracle, will help ensure that Indian drug manufacturers and healthcare experts have access to standards-based, modern technology platform – blockchain and Internet of Things (IoT) to help eliminate fake drug distribution.

Blockchain technology in drug supply-chain

Blockchain technology will help to permanently register drug’s record in manufacturer’s drug supply chain (serial number, scanning, labelling). This will leave no scope for record tampering. At every point of hand change of drug, it records drug’s movement from manufacturer to logistics, stockiest, hospital or pharmacy to consumer. In case of fake drug, software will detect irregularity. Additionally, critical information such as chemical ingredients of drug or maintenance of temperature control in case of life saving drugs or vaccines, can also be tracked.

Major Advantages of blockchain software

It will allow sharing of information across drug supply chain securely with every exchange of information getting recorded. This system cannot be tampered with record of drug movement. Besides being decentralized database, it has inability to delete any records so there can be no dispute, if offender is caught.

 Injeti Srinivas High Level Committee

The Union Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) has constituted High Level Committee on …Corporate Social Responsibility – 2018 (HLC-2018) under Chairmanship of Injeti Srinivas, Secretary, MCA. It will review existing framework and guide and formulate roadmap for coherent policy on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

It will review existing CSR framework as per Act, Rules and Circulars issued from time to time and recommend guidelines for better enforcement of CSR provisions. It will analyze outcomes of CSR activities, programmes and projects and suggest measures for effective monitoring and evaluation of CSR by companies. It will also give suggestions on innovative solutions, use of technology, platform to connect stakeholders, and social audit. It will submit its report to Government within three months from date of holding its first meeting.

CSR is referred as initiative undertaken by CST to assess and take responsibility for company’s effects on environment and impact on social welfare and to promote positive social and environmental change. Its basic philosophy is that income is earned only from the society and therefore it should be given back. Thus, CSR aims at promoting responsible and sustainable business through inclusive growth.

The provisions of section 135 of Companies Act, 2013 (Act) pertains to CSR. The existing provisions of in Companies Act, 2013 fully empower Board of Company to decide on their CSR Policy, approve projects and oversee implementation. Under this Act, any company with net worth of Rs 500 crore or more or turnover of Rs 1000 crore or more o net profit of Rs 5 crore or more has to spend at least 2% of last 3 years average net profits on CSR activities as specified in Schedule VII of Act.

 

 

 

 

 

India, Japan sign Loan Agreement for Bullet Train Funds 

India has signed two loan agreement with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for construction of Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail Project and Kolkata East West Metro Project. Under these agreements, Japan will provide Official Development Assistance (ODA) loan of around Rs 5,500 crore as tranche 1 for Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project Rs.1619 crore for tranche 3 Kolkata East-West Metro Project .

Key Facts

Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail Project (I): Its objective is to develop mass and high frequent transportation system by constructing high speed rail between Mumbai and Ahmedabad with use of Japanese high speed rail technologies. It will improve connectivity in India. It is India’s first high-speed rail project (bullet train) project.

Kolkata East West Metro Project (III): Its objective is to cope with increase in traffic demand in Kolkata metropolitan area by extending mass rapid transit system. It will also improve urban environment through mitigation of traffic jams and decrease of pollution caused by increasing motor vehicles.

Significance

India and Japan have had long and fruitful history of bilateral development cooperation since 1958. In the last few years, economic cooperation between both counties has steadily progressed. This further consolidates and strengthens the Strategic and Global Partnership between India and Japan.

 

 

 

 

 Parakram Parv

Second Anniversary of Surgical Strike was celebrated as ..Parakram Parv or Surgical Strike Day on September 29 – 30, 2018 by Indian Army to showcase gallant action of brave Army in the conduct of Surgical Strikes on September 29, 2016. This day was also marked to remember sacrifice of soldiers during ‘Uri incident’.

Celebrations

The Parakram Parv celebrations were inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at ‘Combined Commanders’ Conference in Jodhpur, Rajasthan. Exhibition to highlight the valour and accomplishments of the Indian Army was also organised by Konark Corps at Jodhpur Military station.

Background

Indian Army had carried out Surgical strike on the night of September 28-29, 2016 in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK), 11 days after the Uri attack that claimed 18 soldiers. It was carried out by Para (Special Forces), commonly known as Para SF, is the special force unit of the Indian Army’s Parachute Regiments.  The four hour surgical strike had inflicted heavy casualties on terrorists along with those protecting them,  sending across  message of change of stand on rules of engagement on the disputed Line of Control (LoC). The strike was conducted to prevent terrorists who were prepping to infiltrate and attack the Kashmir region and metros. It was claimed to be first-of-its-kind strike across the Pakistani border was based on specific intelligence reports.

US, Morocco launch GCTF Terrorist Travel Initiative to curb terrorist travel

United States and Morocco have launched ..GCTF Terrorist Travel Initiative under auspices of ..Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF). The initiative brings together stakeholders to share expertise on developing and implementing effective counterterrorism watchlisting and screening tools. It was launched on sidelines of United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session in New York.

The new initiative will strengthen UNSC Resolution 2396 aiming to stop terrorist travel altogether. It will improve capabilities for detecting and interdicting terrorist travel through enhanced terrorist screening and information sharing.

Under this initiative, series of four regional workshops in 2018 and 2019 will be convened to develop set of good practices that will be endorsed at 2019 GCTF Ministerial. The resulting document will reinforce countries and organizations to use border security tools prescribed in UNSC Resolution 2396 to stop terrorist travel.

GCTF’s is international apolitical, multilateral counter-terrorism (CT) platform of 29 countries and European Union (EU) with overarching mission of reducing vulnerability of people worldwide to terrorism by preventing, combating, and prosecuting terrorist acts and countering incitement and recruitment to terrorism. It was launched officially in New York on 22 September 2011.

GCTF’s goal is to strengthen capabilities to develop strategic, long-term approach to counter terrorism and prevent violent extremist ideologies that underpin it. Its mission is to diminish terrorist recruitment and increase countries’ civilian capabilities for dealing with terrorist threats within their borders and regions.

 

S-400 ‘Triumf’ missile systems

India and Russia  concluded the contract for…. five S-400 ‘Triumf’ missile systems, one of the biggest defence deals in recent times, after the annual summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The announcement of the deal, which could attract sanctions from the United States, was made in a joint statement issued by both sides. “The sides welcomed the conclusion of the contract for the supply of the S-400 long range surface to air missile to India,”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It can engage up to 36 targets at a time and simultaneously launch 72 missiles. he delivery of the missile systems, tipped to be over $5 billion (Rs 39,000 crore), will start in 24 months after signing the deal.

The S-400 is known as Russia’s most advanced long-range surface-to-air missile defence system, which is capable of destroying hostile strategic bombers, jets, missiles and drones at a range of 380-km.

The S-400 is an upgraded version of the S-300 systems. The missile system, manufactured by Almaz-Antey, has been in service in Russia since 2007.

International Coffee Day 

The International Coffee Day is observed every year on October 1 to promote and celebrate coffee as beverage. Observance of this day marks global celebration of coffee’s journey from farm to your local shop and opportunity to honour men and women who grow and harvest coffee.

This year International Coffee Organization had chosen special theme: ‘Women in Coffee’. It was aimed at highlighting important role played by women in whole coffee chain as men, from planting seeds to processing to trading to brewing and drinking it.

India accounts for only 4-5% of world’s coffee output, but exports 70-80% of its produce. Italy, Russia and Germany are the top three buyers of Indian coffee.  In India, two coffee varieties robusta (or Coffea canephora) and Coffea arabica are grown on large scale.

 52nd district of Madya Pradesh

Madhya Pradesh Government has announced creation of new district.. Niwari. It will be 52nd district of the state and came into effect from October 1, 2018. The proposal to this effect was cleared by state Cabinet chaired by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

Niwari district has been carved out of the Tikamgarh district. It will include three tehsils of present Tikamgarh district viz. Niwari, Orchha and Prithvipur. IAS officer Akshay Kumar Singh (2010-batch) will hold interim charge as first District Collector of new district. The decision of forming new district comes ahead of Madhya Pradesh assembly elections, which is scheduled to be held by year end.

 

 

 Reinvigorating Trade and Inclusive growth report

International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and World Trade Organization have collectively launched report …“Reinvigorating(give new energy or strength to) Trade and Inclusive Growth”. In this report all three international organisations have sought….. liberalisation of global service sector, asserting that barriers to these services trade currently is roughly as high as those to trade in goods about a half century ago.

Services comprise some two-thirds of global GDP and employment. The ..limited opening of service sectors to foreign competition impedes trade and productivity growth throughout sector and broader economy.  Countries… should open up to international competition in services provided in other ways, including through foreign direct investment (FDI) and operation of foreign affiliates and temporary movement of workers across borders for the purpose of supplying services.

The full services trade liberalisation can raise manufacturing productivity by average of 22% across sample of 57 countries with larger benefits for countries with stronger institutional environments. Moreover, service sector has enormous contributor to growth and to trade including manufacturing trade.

Digital economy revolution is opening new opportunities for cross-border trade and investment and this is changing nature of trade, elevating roles of policies relating to electronic commerce, investment and services trade.

AICTE Training and Learning (ATAL) Academy in Jaipur

All India Council for Technical Education will establish country’s first AICTE Training and Learning (ATAL) Academy in Jaipur, capital of Rajasthan. Moreover, tree more ATAL academies will come at Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala), Guwahati (Assam) and Baroda (Gujarat) by next year.

These academies will provide upgraded teaching methods and modules to make technical education more effective and accountable. Faculties will be trained on the eight-module course in these academies in five months. The training will be mandatory for new teachers from 2019 and it will be necessary for existing teachers and assistant teachers while applying for promotions. For building these academies states had provided infrastructure and land for free of cost.

AICTE is statutory body established in November 1945. It comes under aegis of Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Human Resources Development.

 

 Karnataka Good Samaritan Protection Bill

President Ram Nath Kovind has given assent Karnataka Good Samaritan (a charitable or helpful person )and Medical Professional (Protection and Regulation during Emergency Situations) Bill, 2016 under Article 200 of Constitution. With this, Karnataka became first state give legal protection to good Samaritans who help accidents victims with emergency medical care within golden hour. This law will ensure that good samaritans are not harassed in any manner and face any criminal or civil liability.

The legislation aims to give protection to good samaritans and ensure immediate medical assistance for road accident victims within golden hour. It also seeks encourage people to offer first aid to victims without fear of harassment in hands of police and investigations. Golden hour in medical term is the first hour after traumatic

 

 

Gita Gopinath

India-born economist Gita Gopinath was appointed …Chief Economist of International Monetary Fund (IMF). She will take over as IMF chief economist after Maurice Obstfeld retires in December 2018. It makes her second Indian after former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan to hold the position.

Gita Gopinath was born and brought up in India. She is US citizen and Overseas Citizen of India (OCI). She had received her Ph.D in economics from Princeton University in 2001 after earning BA from Delhi University and MA degrees from both Delhi School of Economics and University of Washington.

She joined the University of Chicago in 2001 as Assistant Professor before moving to Harvard in 2005. She became tenured Professor there in 2010.

She is currently Economic Adviser to Chief Minister of Kerala and also had served on advisory panel for G-20 issues for India’s Ministry of Finance. In 2014, she had made into IMF’s list of 25 economists under 45. She was also chosen as Young Global Leader by World Economic Forum (WEF) in 2011.

World Habitat Day observed on October 1

The World Habitat Day was observed every year on first Monday in October all over the world. This year it was observed on 1 October 2018 with theme Municipal Solid Waste Management’. The purpose of day is to reflect on state of cities and towns and basic human right to adequate shelter. It also aims to remind world of its collective responsibility for habitat of future generations.

This year’s theme aims to highlight issue of solid waste management as global issue that affects everyone. It seeks to bring change in public attitudes to minimize waste and stop littering, regularization of informal waste pickers, increase recycling and reusing, solid waste planning including adequate landfill sites to improve current state of solid waste management in cities across the world and save money to become ‘Waste-Wise Cities’.

The United Nations has designated the first Monday of October of every year as World Habitat Day. The day was established by United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) through Resolution 40/202 in 1985 and was first celebrated in 1986. Since then it is observed each year with new theme to promote sustainable development policies that ensure adequate shelter for all.

Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation

Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas has launched Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation (SATAT) aimed at providing sustainable alternative towards affordable transportation. The initiative was launched with PSU Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs i.e. IOC, BPCL and HPCL).

The SATAT initiative has potential to boost availability of more affordable transport fuels, better use of agricultural residue, cattle dung and municipal solid waste, as well as provide additional revenue source to farmers. It will also benefit vehicle-users as well as farmers and entrepreneurs. Under it, Expression of Interest (EoI) have been invited from potential entrepreneurs to set up Compressed Bio-Gas (CBG) production plants and make available biogas in market for use in automotive fuels.

It will boost availability of more affordable transport fuels and enable better use of agricultural residue, cattle dung and municipal solid waste. It will pave way for efficient municipal solid waste management and help in tackling problem of polluted urban air due to farm stubble-burning and carbon emissions.

It will boost entrepreneurship, rural economy and employment and provide additional source of revenue to farmers. It will also help achieve nation’s climate change goals and bring down dependency on natural gas and crude oil imports and act as a buffer against crude oil and gas price fluctuations.

It will also help to integrated CBS networks with city gas distribution (CGD) networks to boost supplies to domestic and retail users in existing and upcoming markets. Besides retailing from OMC fuel stations, CBS can at later date be injected into CGD pipelines too for efficient distribution and optimised access of cleaner and more affordable fuel.

Bio-gas is produced naturally through process of anaerobic decomposition from waste and bio-mass sources like agriculture residue, cattle dung, municipal solid waste, sugarcane press mud, sewage treatment plant (STP) waste, etc.  It is called CBG after biogas is purified and compressed, which has pure methane content of over 95%. CBG is exactly similar to commercially available natural gas in its composition and energy potential. It has calorific value (~52,000 KJ/kg) and other properties are similar to CNG. CBG can be used as alternative, renewable automotive fuel.  It has potential to replace CNG in automotive, industrial and commercial uses in the coming years, given the abundance of biomass in the country. Advantages of converting agricultural residue, cattle dung and municipal solid waste into CBG on commercial scale are

  • It results in responsible waste management, reduction in carbon emissions and pollution.
  • It generates additional revenue source for farmers.
  • It boosts entrepreneurship, rural economy and employment.
  • It supports national commitments in achieving climate change goals
  • It also helps in reduction in import of natural gas and crude oil.
  • It also serves as buffer against crude oil and gas price fluctuations.

Nobel Prize– 2018-in Physiology or Medicine

The 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was jointly awarded to two immunologists.. James P. Allison (US) and Tasuku Honjo (Japan) for their …discovery of Immune checkpoint therapy i.e. cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation. It was announced by Nobel Assembly at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Significance of their discovery

Both… immunologists had figured out entirely new principle …for cancer therapy by stimulating the ability of immune system to attack tumour or cance cells more quickly, unlike traditional forms of cancer treatment that directly target cancer cells.  Their discovery has led to treatments targeting proteins made by some immune system cells that act as brake on body’s natural defences killing cancer cells. This therapy is landmark in fight against cancer and has revolutionised cancer treatment. It also has fundamentally changed way to manage cancer.

Nobel Prize 2018- in Physics

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has selected …three scientists Arthur Ashkin (USA), Gerard Mourou (France) and Donna Strickland (Canada) for the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics. They were selected for groundbreaking inventions in the.. field of laser physics. Arthur Ashkin (91) received the half prize and remaining half was shared equally by Gérard Mourou and Donna Strickland.

Arthur Ashkin: He is 96 years old which makes him oldest scientist ever to be awarded a Nobel Prize. He received prize for ..optical tweezers and their application to biological systems. His optical tweezers are able to grab particles, atoms, viruses and other living cells with their laser beam fingers, allowing use of radiation pressure of light to move physical objects.

Gerard Mourou and Donna Strickland: They were jointly awarded for their method of generating high-intensity, ultra-short optical pulses. They have created …ultrashort high-intensity laser pulses without destroying amplifying material, thus paving way towards shortest and most intense laser pulses ever created by mankind. Their innovative technique is known as ‘chirped pulse amplification’ (CPA), has now become standard for high-intensity lasers, including ultra-sharp beams used in corrective eye surgeries.

Note: With this, Strickland (59) became third woman to have received Nobel Prize in Physics, after Marie Curie in 1903 and Maria Goeppert Mayer in 1963.

Nobel Prize – Chemistry 2018

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has selected… US scientists Frances Arnold and George Smith and ..British researcher Gregory Winter for the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. They were selected for…..harnessing power of evolution to develop enzymes and antibodies ..that have led to new pharmaceuticals and biofuels. Chemistry was third of this year’s Nobel Prizes. Frances Arnold shared the half price and George Smith and Gregory Winter share other half of the prize.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frances Arnold: She was awarded for conducting the first directed evolution of enzymes, leading to more environmentally friendly manufacturing of chemicals, including drugs, and in production of renewable fuels.

George Smith and Gregory Winter: Smith had developed new way to evolve proteins and Winter had used method for evolving antibodies with aim of producing new drugs. These antibodies can neutralize toxins, counteract autoimmune diseases and cure metastatic cancer.

BSE  first stock exchange to launch commodity derivative

India’s leading bourse Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) became first stock exchange in the country to launch commodity derivative contracts. It has launched contracts in popular commodities like gold (1kg) and silver (30kg).  This launch comes after unified exchange regime kicked off from 1 October 2018.

The launch of commodity derivatives platform on BSE will help efficient price discovery, reduce timelines and make it cost effective. BSE also has applied for launching of crude oil and copper commodity contracts with capital markets regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). Subsequently, it is also planning to launch more agri commodities

So far, commodity contracts were only available on commodity exchanges like MCX and NCDEX, the two specialised commodity derivatives exchanges in the country. Recently SEBI had allowed India’s top two stock exchanges BSE and NSE to launch commodity derivatives trading under unified exchange regime wherein stock exchanges will be allowed to offer trading in commodities derivatives.

World’s largest dome inaugurated in Pune

The world’s largest dome was inaugurated at Maharashtra Institute of Technology (MIT)’s World Peace University (MIT-WPU) campus at Loni Kalbhor, Pune (Maharashtra). It was inaugurated by Vice President Venkaiah Naidu along with Peace Center on the occasion of 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

World Peace Monument dome

The dome has been built atop MIT World Peace Library and World Peace Prayer Hall, which are named after 13th century poet-saint and philosopher Dnyaneshwar who was pivotal figure of Bhakti movement in Maharashtra.  The dome has diameter of 160 feet, overtaking earlier record holding Vatican Dome having diameter of 139.6 feet . It stands 263 feet tall with bell hanging from centre and has prayer hall with area of around 30,000 sq ft. It is supported by 24 massive columns, each 63 feet tall. The periphery of the dome and underneath — inside and outside has bronze statues of 54 of biggest names in world history stand, irrespective of nationality or religion

International Solar Alliance

Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated first Assembly of International Solar Alliance (ISA) in New Delhi. The same event also marked inauguration of second Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Renewable Energy Ministerial Meeting and second Global RE-Invest (Renewable Energy Investors’ Meet and Expo). United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres was present on the occasion.

International Solar Alliance (ISA)

ISA is an alliance dedicated to the promotion of solar energy among its member countries. The ISA Framework Agreement had entered into force in December 2017 and formally became de-jure treaty based International Intergovernmental Organization. It is headquartered at Gurugram, India. The main objective of ISA is to include global deployment of over 1,000GW of solar generation capacity and mobilisation of investment of over US$ 1000 billion into solar energy by 2030. ISA also aims to serve as an action-oriented organization by bringing together countries with rich solar potential to aggregate global demand, thereby reducing prices through bulk purchase. It also seeks to facilitate deployment of existing solar technologies at scale, and promoting collaborative solar R&D and capacity building.

 National Institute of Mental Health Rehabilitation in Sehore

The Union Cabinet has remodified its earlier decision to establish of National Institute of Mental Health Rehabilitation (NIMHR) in Sehore District (Bhopal-Sehore highway) instead of Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. NIMHR will be the first of its kind in the country in the area of mental health rehabilitation.

 It will be established as society under Societies Registration Act, 1860. It will function under Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities. Its objective is to provide rehabilitation services to persons with mental illness, capacity development in field of mental health rehabilitation, policy framing and advanced research in mental health rehabilitation. It will have nine departments and centres and will conduct 12 courses to offer diploma, certificate, graduate, post graduate, M.Phil degrees in field of mental health rehabilitation.

Benefits: It will serve as institution of excellence for capacity building in human resource and research in area of mental health rehabilitation. It will be also recommending body suggesting models and protocols for effective rehabilitation of persons with mental illness.

 UNEP Champions of Earth Award 2018

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was conferred with …United Nation’s Champions of the Earth Award 2018 by UN Secretary General ..Antonio Guterres at ceremony in Delhi. He is among the six winners who received this award. PM Modi was jointly awarded this award along with French President..Emmanuel Macron under the ‘Political Leadership’ category for their work in championing International Solar Alliance (ISA) and promoting new areas of cooperation on environmental action.

PM Modi is third Indian to receive this award after Tulsi Tanti, Chairman of the Suzlon Group, and Afroz Alam, a lawyer who led clean-up at Mumbai’s Versova beach.

Cochin International Airport also received Champions of Earth Award 2018 for ‘Entrepreneurial Vision and for its leadership in the use of sustainable energy. It is world’s first fully solar-powered airport.

It is UN’s highest environmental recognition celebrating exceptional figures from public and private sectors and from civil society, whose actions have had transformative positive impact on the environment. It was established in 2005 by United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment). This award programme is successor to UNEP’s Global 500 Roll of Honour. The award is presented in five categories – Lifetime Achievement, Policy Leadership,  Entrepreneurial Vision, Action and Inspiration and Science & Innovation.  Since its inception thirteen years ago, the awards have recognized 84 laureates.

Past laureates include: Afroz Shah, who led world’s largest beach cleanup (2016), Rwandan President Paul Kagame (2016), Ocean Cleanup CEO Boyan Slat (2014), scientist-explorer Bertrand Piccard, developer of Google Earth Brian McClendon (2013), and former US Vice-President Al Gore (2007). 

Udyam Abhilasha–

Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) has launched Udyam Abhilasha (उद्यम अभिलाषा), a national level entrepreneurship awareness campaign. It was launched in 115 Aspirational Districts identified by NITI Aayog in 28 States.

The campaign will run from 3 October to 8 October, 2018 across India and reach out to around 15,000 youth. It will create and strengthen cadre of more than 800 trainers to provide entrepreneurship training to aspiring youths across these districts to enter admired segment of entrepreneurs.

 

 

Operation Samudra Maitri

India has launched massive humanitarian operation Samudra Maitri to provide assistance to earthquake and tsunami victims in…. Indonesia. The operation was launched after telephonic conversation between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Indonesian President Joko Widodo and following Indonesia’s acceptance of international aid.

Under this operation, India has dispatched two aircraft C-130J and C-17 and three naval ships carrying relief material and personnel to the country. C-130J aircraft had carried medical team along with tents and equipments to set up field hospital. C-17 aircraft is carried medicines, generators, tents and water to provide immediate assistance. Three Indian Navy ships were deployed INS Tir, INS Sujatha and INS Shardul to carry out humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR).

A shallow earthquake of magnitude 7.5 (richter scale) had struck in neck of Minahasa Peninsula, Indonesia on 28 September 2018 with its epicentre located in mountainous Donggala Regency, Central Sulawesi.

REINVEST- 2018

The second Global Renewable Energy Investment Meeting and Expo (REINVEST- 2018) was organised by Ministry of New and Renewable Energy in Noida from October 3 to 5, 2018. It was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the presence of Secretary General of United Nations Antonio Guterres. 2nd Global RE-INVEST also hosted First Assembly of International Solar Alliance (ISA) and Meeting of the Energy Ministers of Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) countries.

 

 

 

 

2nd RE-INVEST

The 2nd RE-INVEST was aimed at accelerating worldwide effort to scale up renewable energy and connect global investment community with Indian energy stakeholders. It included three-day Conference on renewables, cleantech and future energy choices and expo of renewables-related manufacturers, developers, investors and innovators.

The 2nd RE-INVEST provided great opportunity to various organisations to showcase their business strategies, achievements and expectationsIt also facilitated collaboration and cooperation with key stakeholders in India, which have emerged as one of the world’s largest renewable energy markets. It was attended by Ministerial Delegations from across the world, including ISA and IORA Member Countries, over 600 global industry leaders, and 10,000 delegates.

RE-Invest

It is global platform to explore strategies for development and deployment of renewables. It was built upon success of RE-Invest 2015 and was organized by Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE). It provides international forum to established players as well as new segments of investors and entrepreneurs to engage, ideate and innovate.

Sahyog HOP TAC -2018

The maiden joint exercise of Coast Guards of India and Vietnam “Sahyog HOP TAC -2018” was held in the Bay of Bengal off the Chennai coast, Tamil Nadu. It was aimed at strengthening the working level relationship between coast guards of both navies.

Sahyog HOP TAC-2018

The exercise was aimed at acquainting coast guards of both countries with each other’s’ capabilities and strengthening working level relationship to rescue lives at sea. It encompassed scenario of hijacking of oil tanker and subsequent rescue of its crew in coordinated anti-piracy joint operation as well as preventive efforts for marine environment protection. Moreover, it also included interdiction of pirated vessels, coordinated joint boarding operation and external fire-fighting to salvage burning ships. From Indian side, Coast Guard ships Shaurya, Arnvesh and inreceptor boat C-431 along with Dornier aircraft and Chetak helicopter participated in the joint exercise. It also saw participation of Sagar Manjusa vessel of National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT).

21 IORA Countries adopt Delhi Declaration on Renewable Energy

21 countries in Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) adopted Delhi Declaration on Renewable Energy in Indian Ocean Region. It was adopted at 2nd IORA Renewable Energy Ministerial Meeting held at 2nd Global Re-Invest India-ISA Partnership Renewable Energy Investor’s Meet & Expo in Greater Noida.

It calls for collaboration among IORA member states in meeting growing demand for renewable energy in Indian Ocean littorals, development of common renewable energy agenda for Indian Ocean region (IOR) and promote regional capacity building.

It also calls for promotion of technology development and transfer, strengthening of public private partnerships (PPP) in renewable energy and collaboration among IORA member states and member nations of International Solar Alliance (ISA).

NITI Aayog and UN sign Sustainable Development Framework for 2018-2022

NITI Aayog and United Nations in India signed Sustainable Development Framework for 2018-2022. The agreement is reflection of commitment and efforts made by India towards attaining Sustainable Development Goals.

UNSDF 2018-2022 outlines development cooperation strategy between Union Government and United Nations Country Team in India in support of achievement of India’s key national development priorities and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

It was framed following highly participative process, in consultation with government entities, civil society representatives, academia, and private sector. Focus areas under it include poverty and urbanization, health, water, and sanitation, education, climate change, nutrition and food security, clean energy, and disaster resilience; skilling, entrepreneurship, job creation, gender equality and youth development.

Across these outcome areas, UN will support Union Government in south-south cooperation in partnership with Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). The total planned budget outlay for implementation of UNSDF is approximately Rs. 11000 crore, of which 47% is planned to be mobilized through course of implementation from multiple sources, including private sector and government.

The programmatic work outlined in UNSDF targets seven low-income states viz. Bihar, Jharkhand, MP, Odisha, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and UP along with North-East region and aspirational districts identified by the NITI Aayog. It will work on improving lives of most marginalized, poor, and vulnerable communities and people in the country, especially women and girls.

UNSDF also includes set of UN flagship programs that are aligned with major government schemes. These flagship programs will be scalable innovative, multi-sectoral solutions to some of most pressing development challenges that India faces and also serve as catalysts for increased investment of development finance.

UNSDF programmes range from affordable housing for poor to increasing access to clean energy in rural off-grid areas, protecting all children from vaccine-preventable diseases, providing quality education for all children and skilling for young people, especially young girls and ending stunting to improving child sex ratio.

NITI Aayog inks SoI for with Oracle collaboration against counterfeit drug in India 

NITI Aayog has singed Statement of Intent (SoI) with Oracle to pilot real drug supply-chain using blockchain distributed ledger and Internet of Things (IoT) software to fight growing problem of counterfeit drugs in India. Strides Pharma Sciences and Apollo Hospitals will partner in this effort. Oracle is US multinational computer technology corporation that specializes primarily in.. developing and marketing database software and technology, cloud engineered systems, and enterprise software products.

Need

The problem of fake and counterfeit drugs is a major issue, costing Indian pharma industry billions. At the same time, it is also putting patients at higher risk. This agreement with Oracle, will help ensure that Indian drug manufacturers and healthcare experts have access to standards-based, modern technology platform – blockchain and Internet of Things (IoT) to help eliminate fake drug distribution.

Blockchain technology in drug supply-chain

Blockchain technology will help to permanently register drug’s record in manufacturer’s drug supply chain (serial number, scanning, labelling). This will leave no scope for record tampering. At every point of hand change of drug, it records drug’s movement from manufacturer to logistics, stockiest, hospital or pharmacy to consumer. In case of fake drug, software will detect irregularity. Additionally, critical information such as chemical ingredients of drug or maintenance of temperature control in case of life saving drugs or vaccines, can also be tracked.

Major Advantages of blockchain software

It will allow sharing of information across drug supply chain securely with every exchange of information getting recorded. This system cannot be tampered with record of drug movement. Besides being decentralized database, it has inability to delete any records so there can be no dispute, if offender is caught.

 Injeti Srinivas High Level Committee

The Union Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) has constituted High Level Committee on …Corporate Social Responsibility – 2018 (HLC-2018) under Chairmanship of Injeti Srinivas, Secretary, MCA. It will review existing framework and guide and formulate roadmap for coherent policy on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

It will review existing CSR framework as per Act, Rules and Circulars issued from time to time and recommend guidelines for better enforcement of CSR provisions. It will analyze outcomes of CSR activities, programmes and projects and suggest measures for effective monitoring and evaluation of CSR by companies. It will also give suggestions on innovative solutions, use of technology, platform to connect stakeholders, and social audit. It will submit its report to Government within three months from date of holding its first meeting.

CSR is referred as initiative undertaken by CST to assess and take responsibility for company’s effects on environment and impact on social welfare and to promote positive social and environmental change. Its basic philosophy is that income is earned only from the society and therefore it should be given back. Thus, CSR aims at promoting responsible and sustainable business through inclusive growth.

The provisions of section 135 of Companies Act, 2013 (Act) pertains to CSR. The existing provisions of in Companies Act, 2013 fully empower Board of Company to decide on their CSR Policy, approve projects and oversee implementation. Under this Act, any company with net worth of Rs 500 crore or more or turnover of Rs 1000 crore or more o net profit of Rs 5 crore or more has to spend at least 2% of last 3 years average net profits on CSR activities as specified in Schedule VII of Act.

India, Japan sign Loan Agreement for Bullet Train Funds 

India has signed two loan agreement with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for construction of Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail Project and Kolkata East West Metro Project. Under these agreements, Japan will provide Official Development Assistance (ODA) loan of around Rs 5,500 crore as tranche 1 for Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project Rs.1619 crore for tranche 3 Kolkata East-West Metro Project .

Key Facts

Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail Project (I): Its objective is to develop mass and high frequent transportation system by constructing high speed rail between Mumbai and Ahmedabad with use of Japanese high speed rail technologies. It will improve connectivity in India. It is India’s first high-speed rail project (bullet train) project.

Kolkata East West Metro Project (III): Its objective is to cope with increase in traffic demand in Kolkata metropolitan area by extending mass rapid transit system. It will also improve urban environment through mitigation of traffic jams and decrease of pollution caused by increasing motor vehicles.

Significance

India and Japan have had long and fruitful history of bilateral development cooperation since 1958. In the last few years, economic cooperation between both counties has steadily progressed. This further consolidates and strengthens the Strategic and Global Partnership between India and Japan.

 Parakram Parv

Second Anniversary of Surgical Strike was celebrated as ..Parakram Parv or Surgical Strike Day on September 29 – 30, 2018 by Indian Army to showcase gallant action of brave Army in the conduct of Surgical Strikes on September 29, 2016. This day was also marked to remember sacrifice of soldiers during ‘Uri incident’.

Celebrations

The Parakram Parv celebrations were inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at ‘Combined Commanders’ Conference in Jodhpur, Rajasthan. Exhibition to highlight the valour and accomplishments of the Indian Army was also organised by Konark Corps at Jodhpur Military station.

Background

Indian Army had carried out Surgical strike on the night of September 28-29, 2016 in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK), 11 days after the Uri attack that claimed 18 soldiers. It was carried out by Para (Special Forces), commonly known as Para SF, is the special force unit of the Indian Army’s Parachute Regiments.  The four hour surgical strike had inflicted heavy casualties on terrorists along with those protecting them,  sending across  message of change of stand on rules of engagement on the disputed Line of Control (LoC). The strike was conducted to prevent terrorists who were prepping to infiltrate and attack the Kashmir region and metros. It was claimed to be first-of-its-kind strike across the Pakistani border was based on specific intelligence reports.

US, Morocco launch GCTF Terrorist Travel Initiative to curb terrorist travel

United States and Morocco have launched ..GCTF Terrorist Travel Initiative under auspices of ..Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF). The initiative brings together stakeholders to share expertise on developing and implementing effective counterterrorism watchlisting and screening tools. It was launched on sidelines of United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session in New York.

The new initiative will strengthen UNSC Resolution 2396 aiming to stop terrorist travel altogether. It will improve capabilities for detecting and interdicting terrorist travel through enhanced terrorist screening and information sharing.

Under this initiative, series of four regional workshops in 2018 and 2019 will be convened to develop set of good practices that will be endorsed at 2019 GCTF Ministerial. The resulting document will reinforce countries and organizations to use border security tools prescribed in UNSC Resolution 2396 to stop terrorist travel.

GCTF’s is international apolitical, multilateral counter-terrorism (CT) platform of 29 countries and European Union (EU) with overarching mission of reducing vulnerability of people worldwide to terrorism by preventing, combating, and prosecuting terrorist acts and countering incitement and recruitment to terrorism. It was launched officially in New York on 22 September 2011.

GCTF’s goal is to strengthen capabilities to develop strategic, long-term approach to counter terrorism and prevent violent extremist ideologies that underpin it. Its mission is to diminish terrorist recruitment and increase countries’ civilian capabilities for dealing with terrorist threats within their borders and regions.

 

Financial Inclusion Index (FII)

Union Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs Arun Jaitley launched Financial Inclusion Index in New Delhi. It was launched after his Annual Performance Review Meeting with CEOs of Public Sector Banks (PSBs).

 

 

 

 

 

The annual FII will be released by Department of Financial Services (DFS), Ministry of Finance. It will be measure of access and usage of basket of formal financial products and services that includes savings, remittances, credit, insurance and pension products.

The index has three measurement dimensions –

(i) Access to financial services …     (ii) Usage of financial services and ……(3) Quality. 

It will serve as single composite index that will give snap shot of level of financial inclusion which will guide Macro Policy perspective.

Significance of index: Its various components will help to measure financial services for use of internal policy making. It can be used directly as composite measure in development indicators. It will also enable to fulfil G20 Financial Inclusion Indicators requirements. It will also facilitate researchers to study the impact of financial inclusion and other macro-economic variables.

The Supreme Court-Ayodhya

The Supreme Court on September 27, 2018 …..declined to refer the 1994 Ismail Farooqui judgment that mosques are not integral to Islam to a larger constitution bench.

 The Judgment: Key Highlights

  • In the majority verdict, the apex court bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said that ….the present case on Ayodhya land dispute shall be decided on its own facts and the ..Ismail Farooqui judgment would have no impact on it.
  • Justice Ashok Bhushan, who read out the majority judgement on behalf of himself and the CJI, said that the ……court has to find out the context in which the five-judge had delivered the 1994 judgement.
  • He said that the…. statement in Faruqui case was in the limited context of immunity claimed by the petitioners for the mosque from acquisition and added that it need not be read broadly to mean mosque can never be essential to practise of Islam.
  • Justice S Abdul Nazeer disagreed with the two judges and said whether mosque is integral to Islam has to be decided considering belief of religion and it requires detailed consideration.
  • He referred to the recent Supreme Court order on female genital mutilation and said that the present matter should be heard by a larger bench.
  • The civil suit on the land dispute will now be heard by a …newly constituted three-judge benchon October 29 as Justice Misra is scheduled to retire as the CJI on October 2.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Background

The issue whether mosque is integral to Islam had cropped up when the three-judge SC bench headed by CJI Misra was hearing a batch of petitions challenging the Allahabad High Court’s 2010 verdict by which the disputed land on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid area was to be divided in three parts.

The Allahabad high court, in a 2:1 majority ruling, had ordered that the 2.77 acres of land be divided equally among the three concerned parties -the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla represented by the Hindu Maha Sabha.

Ismail Farooqui judgement

In 1994, the Supreme Court had ruled that namaz or prayers could be offered anywhere and that a mosque was not necessary.

This cleared the way for the government to acquire the land where the 16th century Babri mosque was demolished by large crowd of Hindu Kar Sevaks. The site is considered by some of Hindus to be Ram Janmabhoomi, or the birthplace of Lord Ram and so they feel that a Ram temple should be built at the site.

 Constitutional validity of the government’s Aadhaar

 The Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of the government’s Aadhaar scheme as pro-poor and inclusionary, but scrapped provisions of the legislation that were seen as enabling surveillance by the state.

 Aadhaar won’t be mandatory for opening bank accountsgetting a phone connection or school admissions, the constitutional bench ruled. It also said an Aadhaar holder’s data can’t be disclosed on the grounds of national security

The Constitution does not permit the establishment of an authority ..that in turn through an invasive programme can chain every Indian citizen/resident to a central data bank and maintain lifelong records and logs of that individual.

“The Constitution of India, when read as a whole, is designed for a nation of free individuals who enjoy a full range of rights and who are entitled under the Constitution to lead their lives without any monitoring or scrutiny . 

without any monitoring or scrutiny or continuous oversight by the state or any of its organs.” 

CONSTITUTIONAL ON SEVERAL COUNTS 
Its aims had subsequently been expanded to include the fight against terrorism and financial fraud.However, the court upheld the need to link the income tax Permanent Account Number ( PAN) with Aadhaar, which will also be required for filing returns. 

The Aadhaar Act truly seeks to secure to the poor and deprived persons an opportunity to live their life and exercise their liberty,” the court said. “By ensuring targeted delivery through digital identification, it not only provides them a nationally recognised identity but also attempts to ensure the delivery of benefits, service and subsidies with the aid of the public exchequer.” 

Ban on the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM)

The Supreme Court  referred the petition seeking a ban on the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) to a five-judge Constitution bench.

“We are referring the case to a five-judge Constitution bench,” a three-judge bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra and also comprising Justice AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud observed.

The petitioner, Sunita Tiwari had earlier sought a direction to the respondents to implement the resolutions passed in December 2012, by the United Nations General Assembly banning female genital mutilation or Khatna of minor girls in the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community, in which India is a signatory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cited health benefits include “a lower risk of vaginal cancer … fewer infections from microbes gathering under the hood of the clitoris, and protection against herpes and genital ulcers.

Adultery is not a crime

 A five-judge Constitution Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, in four separate but concurring opinions held that ….adultery is not a crime and struck it off the Indian Penal Code.

Chief Justice Misra, in an opinion for himself and Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, observed that Section 497 (adultery) of the Code “commands” married couples to remain loyal to each other.

Two individuals may part if …..one cheats, but to attach criminality to infidelity is going too far, the Chief Justice observed. Besides, there is……. no data to back claims that abolition of adultery as a crime would result in “chaos in sexual morality” or an increase of divorce.

How married couples deal with adultery is “absolutely a matter of privacy at its pinnacle”, the Chief Justice wrote.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Section 497 treats a married woman as the commodity of her husband, the Bench held. Adultery is not a crime if the cuckolded husband connives or consents to his wife’s extra-marital affair.

Section 497 treats a married woman as her husband’s “chattel”( an item of property other than freehold land). The provision is a reflection of the social dominance of men prevalent 150 years ago, the judgment said.

 Quota for promotions-

The Supreme Court  paved the way for grant of quota for promotions in the government jobs to SCs and STs, holding that the…. states were not required to “collect quantifiable data” reflecting the backwardness among these communities. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The verdict ….cleared a major hurdle that was cited by the central government in granting reservation in promotion to its employees belonging to the Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST). 

The matter had travelled to a five-judge constitution bench, which…. declined the demand to refer it to a seven-judge bench to reconsider its 2006 judgement that had put certain conditions for granting quota benefits in job promotions for SC/ST employees. 

The apex court clarified that…… there was no need to revisit its 12-year-old verdict in the M Nagaraj case which had said that the states were bound to provide quantifiable data on the backwardness of SC/ST, the facts about their inadequate representation in government jobs and the overall administrative efficiency, before providing them quota in promotions. 

The bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said the conclusion arrived at in the Nagaraj case that the states have to collect quantifiable data showing backwardness of SCs and STs was “contrary” to the nine-judge bench judgement in the Indra Sawhney verdict of 1992, popularly known as Mandal Commission case. 
The bench, which said that “efficiency of administration” has to be looked at every time promotions are made, said there was no need to revisit the part of judgement in Nagaraj case which applied the “creamy layer test” to SCs and STs. 

This will not be possible if …only the creamy layer within that class, bag all the coveted jobs in the public sector and perpetuate themselves, leaving the rest of the class as backward as they always were,” it said. 

SC ruled that the ‘creamy layer exclusion’ principle can be extended to SCs and STs

The whole object of reservation is to see that… backward classes of citizens move forward so that they may march hand in hand with other citizens of India on an equal basis.

The Parliamentary Committee on Welfare of Other Backward Classes will also examine issues like the concept of Creamy Layer in employment for SCs and STs in central government posts and services and PSUs 

Government hikes import duty –

The Union Finance Ministry has increased import duty on 19 ‘non-essential items’ high-end consumer items to curb import of certain imported items. This decision was taken in effort to stabilise depreciating rupee by narrowing current account deficit (CAD) and get outgoing foreign funds flowing back to India.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAD is difference between inflow and outflow of foreign exchange. It has widened to 2.4% of GDP in the April-June quarter. The 19 ‘non-essential items’ includes air conditioners, refrigerators, washing machines and ATF (aviation turbine fuel). Total import bill on account of shipment of these items into country in last fiscal (2017-18) was Rs 86,000 crore.

Curbing non-essential imports was part of Central Government’s… five-pronged steps to check widening CAD and capital outflows. Other steps included… removal of withholding tax(5 %) on Masala bonds,…. relaxation for Foreign portfolio investment (FPIs). Rupee has depreciated more than 12% so far this year widening  CAD higher oil oil prices

Navy signs contract with Hindustan Shipyard 

Indian Navy has signed contract with Hindustan Shipyard Limited (HSL) located in Visakhapatnam for construction of two Diving Support Vessels (DSV). These vessels will help to augment Indian Navy’s submarine support operations on either coast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first DSV will be built over 36 month period and will be followed by second, six months later. These vessels will be based at Vishakhapatnam and Mumbai respectively. They will be of 118 m in length and shall have approximately 7,650 tonnes displacement capacity. These DSVs will be equipped with Deep Submergence Rescue Vessel (DSRV), which significantly enhances its Submarine Rescue Capabilities. These vessels are capable of effecting submarine rescue upto depths of 650 meters.

Indian Navy undertakes diving operations in Indian Ocean Region (IOR) in addition to operating submarines to secure our waters. This necessitates extensive diving operations to facilitate various activities such as submarine rescue, testing or salvage, under water inspection and recovery of objects/ship aircraft lost at sea.

NDRF to raise 4 more battalions

 NDRF is India’s elite disaster mitigation combat force established in 2006 under The Disaster Management Act, 2005. It is headquartered in New Delhi. It functions under Union Ministry of Home Affairs. It works under National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) which lays down policies, plans and guidelines for disaster management.

The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) will soon raise four more battalions, adding to existing 12. The four new battalions would be stationed in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and NCR Delhi. These battalions be modernised to meet international standards. NDRF also has proposed to have exclusive women contingents within battalions to take care of women during times of distress.

 

 

 

 

 

NDRF has also provisioned revolving fund of Rs. 250 crore for NDRF to create National Disaster Response Reserve in all its battalions. The reserve will essentially have necessary relief material like readymade food, medicines, etc. to be distributed during distress in calamity-hit areas.

The mandated of specialized force is to undertake special disaster response, relief, rescue operations and combat roles independently in the case of an event of any disaster (natural or man-made), accident or emergency. It also assists local authorities in launching a quick rescue and response operation to save life and property. At present there are 12 battalions in NDRF which are deployed strategically across country to provide immediate response.

Astra Missile

Indian Air Force (IAF) has successfully test fired indigenously developed Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM) Astra from Su-30 figher aircraft. The missile was tested at Kalaikunda Air Force Station, West Bengal. During the test, missile successfully engaged manoeuvring target with high precision meeting mission objectives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The flight test assumes significance as it was part of the series of final pre-induction trials. In the series of trials held till date, Astra missile has been launched in complete Su-30 flight envelope. So far it has undergone more than 20 developmental trials.

Astra is air to air beyond visual range air-to-air indigenously developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). It is one of the smallest weapon system developed by DRDO, having length of 3.8-metre and weighing 154kg. It is single stage solid fuelled missile and has payload capacity of 15 kg conventional explosives.

It can be launched from different altitudes and is capable of engaging targets at varying range and altitudes at both short-range targets (up to 20 km) in tail-chase mode and long-range targets (up to 80 km) in head-on mode.

The missile can be integrated with all fighter aircraft of IAF including Sukhoi-30 MKI, Mirage-2000, MiG-29, Jaguar and the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA)

National Digital Communications Policy-2018 (NDCP 2018)

Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved National Digital Communications Policy-2018 (NDCP 2018). It also has re-designated Telecom Commission as Digital Communications Commission. It replaces existing National Telecom Policy-2012 to cater to the modern needs of the digital communications sector of India.

 

 

 

 

 

It envisions supporting India’s transition to digitally empowered economy and society by fulfilling information and communications needs of citizens and enterprises. It strives to achieve this by establishing ubiquitous, resilient and affordable digital communications infrastructure and services. It is customer focused and application driven. It will help lead to new ideas and innovations after launch of advanced technology such as 5G, IOT, M2M, etc. which shall India’s govern telecom sector

Key Objectives

  • Broadband for all.
  • Creating four million additional jobs in Digital Communications sector.
  • Enhancing contribution of Digital Communications sector to 8% of India’s GDP from ~ 6% in 2017.
  • Propelling India to Top 50 Nations in ICT Development Index of ITU from 134 in 2017.
  • Enhancing India’s contribution to Global Value Chains and
  • Ensuring Digital Sovereignty.

These objectives are to be achieved by 2022.

Features

NDCP 2018 aims to

  • Provide universal broadband connectivity at 50 Mbps to every citizen.
  • Provide 1 Gbps connectivity to all Gram Panchayats by 2020 and 10 Gbps by 2022.
  • Ensure internet connectivity to all uncovered areas.
  • Attract investments of US $100 billion in Digital Communications Sector.
  • Train 1 million manpower for building New Age Skill.
  • Expand IoT ecosystem to 5 billion connected devices.
  • Establish comprehensive data protection regime for digital communications that safeguards privacy, autonomy and choice of individuals
  • Facilitate India’s effective participation in global digital economy;
  • Enforce accountability through appropriate institutional mechanisms to assure citizens of safe and
  • Secure digital communications infrastructure and services.

NDCP 2018 advocates

  • Establish National Digital Grid by creating National Fibre Authority.
  • Establish Common Service Ducts and utility corridors in all new city and highway road projects.
  • Create collaborative institutional mechanism between Centre, States and Local Bodies for Common Rights of Way, standardization of costs and timelines;
  • Remove barriers to approvals.
  • Facilitate development of Open Access Next Generation Networks.

Conversion of GSTN into government entity 

The Union Cabinet has approved conversion of Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN) into government-owned company. Government will now own 100% of GSTN which is IT backbone to GST regime. Majority of Goods and Services Tax (GST) processes including registration, filing of returns, payment of taxes, processing of refunds is IT driven and mainly through GSTN.

Earlier in May 2018,  GST Council, chaired by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and comprising state finance ministers had agreed to make GSTN a government company with Centre owning 50% stake and states together holding the remaining 50%. Over 1.1 crore businesses are registered on GSTN portal. With enhanced role of GSTN from just collecting taxes to data analytics, Government had felt that it should now be the majority owner in the IT backbone provider.

GSTN was set up as not for profit, non-Government, private limited company in 2013. Currently, Centre and states together hold 49% stake (24.5% each) in GSTN. The remaining 51% is owned by five private financial institutions- ICICI Bank, NSE, HDFC Ltd, HDFC Bank and LIC Housing Finance Ltd. Its revenue model after GST was rollout out consisted of User Charge to be paid by stakeholders who will use the system and making it self-sustaining organization.

 Online platform for Agmark quality certification

Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare launched online software for processing applications Agmark quality certification mark for agricultural products.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Agmark

Agmark is certification mark that assures conformity to set of standards approved by Government agency Directorate of Marketing and Inspection. It is legally enforced by Agricultural Produce (Grading and Marking) Act of 1937 (and ammended in 1986). The present AGMARK standards cover quality guidelines for 205 different commodities spanning variety of cereals, pulses, vegetable oils, essential oils, fruits & vegetables, and semi-processed products like vermicelli.

It is being implemented across the country to conduct quality control functions. It will be available 24×7. It will make process of application is simple, quick, transparent. Through this online system, certificate of authorisation (domestic), permission of laboratories (domestic), permission of printing press and services related to laboratory information management system will be provided online. The online system will make processes easy, reliable and cost effective.  It also has provisions for online receipt of fees from the applicants as payments can be received in digital mode.

Prithvi interceptor missile test –

India successfully conducted interceptor missile test off the Odisha coast at night. With this, Defence Research and Development Organization achieved major milestone in developing indigenous two-layer Ballistic Missile Defence system.

 

 

 

 

 

PDV interceptor missile was launched from Abdul Kalam Island (earlier known as Wheeler Island) of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) off Odisha coast. Its mission was aimed at test-firing of interceptor missile of coast of Odisha to intercept an incoming ballistic missile off the Bay of Bengal

Prithvi Defence Vehicle (PDV) missile has been developed by indigenously by DRDO. It is two-stage missile and both stages are powered by solid propellants. It is intended to replace the existing Prithvi Air Defence (PAD) in PAD/Advanced Air Defence (AAD) combination.

It is designed for engaging targets in exo-atmosphere region at altitude 50 km of earth’s atmosphere. It is guided by high-accuracy Inertial Navigation System (INS) supported by Redundant Micro Navigation System for estimating point of interception.

Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched ambitious Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY), under Ayushman Bharat umbrella at Ranchi, Jharkhand. The scheme aims to provide annual health insurance cover of Rs 5 lakh to 10.74 crore beneficiary families i.e. over 50 crore beneficiaries across India. It is touted as world’s largest healthcare scheme that will serve beneficiary population that equals 27-28 European countries and almost equal to population of Canada, Mexico and US put together. The scheme will become operational from September 25, 2018 i.e. on birth anniversary of Deendayal Upadhyay.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PMJAY is government-sponsored health insurance scheme, that will provide free coverage of up to Rs 5 lakh per family per year in any government or empanelled private hospitals all over India. It will cover beneficiaries families identified on the basis of Socio Economic Caste Survey (SECC) 2011 in 444 districts of 30 states/Union Territories.

 Telangana, Odisha, Kerala, Punjab and Delhi (UT) are the states which have still not signed MoUs for joining this schemes.

National Health Agency (NHA) is the apex body for implementing this scheme. States will be required to form State Health Agency (SHA) to implement scheme and at the district level also structure for its implementation will be set up. Around 13000 hospitals both public and private in the country have been coordinated for implementation of the scheme.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PMJAY will be funded with 60% contribution from Centre and remaining from the states. NITI Aayog will be working as partner for this scheme for operationalizing robust, modular and interoperable IT platform which will involve a paperless and cashless transaction.

 Facebook’s Global Community Leaders

Social networking giant Facebook has selected three Indian women among five global leaders for $1 million award as part of its Community Leadership Programme. They are Adhunika Prakash, Chetana Misra and Tamanna Dhamija.

 

 

 

 

 

 

They were awarded $50,000 in fellowship each. The three are among 115 people selected by Facebook into its programme as community leaders in residence, fellows and youth participant to work for community resilience or issues, civic engagement health and wellness parenting education.

Adhunika Prakash: She had founded non-profit Breastfeeding Support for Indian Moms in Pune. It is a peer-to-peer support group primarily for breastfeeding parents. The group has more than 80,000 people from across the country.

Chetana Misra: She had founded Mompreneurs India. It is community of like-minded women, allowing them to network, share knowledge and contacts and benefit from partnerships to start business and take it online.

Tamanna Dhamija: She had created Baby Destination. It helps mothers exchange information and support one another.

Global Community Leaders Programme was launched by Facebook in February 2018. It is designed to enable extraordinary leaders advance their initiatives and build stronger communities through social networking giant’s family of apps and services. The selected participants will spend time at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park (California), and work with team to help develop their community initiatives.

Swadesh Darshan Scheme

 It was launched by Union Tourism Ministry with objective to develop theme-based tourist circuits in the country. These tourist circuits will be developed on principles of high tourist value, competitiveness and sustainability in an integrated manner.

Under this scheme, 13 thematic circuits have been identified for development. They are Buddhist Circuit, North-East India Circuit, Coastal Circuit, Himalayan Circuit, Krishna Circuit, Desert Circuit, Eco Circuit, Wildlife Circuit, Tribal Circuit, Rural Circuit, Spiritual Circuit, Ramayana Circuit and Heritage Circuit.

It is 100% centrally funded scheme for project components undertaken for public funding. It also has provision for leveraging voluntary funding under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives of Central Public Sector Undertakings and corporate sector.

Vice-President has inaugurated(Sep 2018) two coastal tourism circuit projects in Andhra Pradesh taken up under Swadesh Darshan Scheme. These projects are aimed at boosting beach and coastal tourism by leveraging bountiful coastlines along the state.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two coastal tourism projects are

First coastal circuit: It includes beautification of Nellore tank and Pulicat Lake, facelift to Nelapattu Bird Sanctuary, construction of restaurant and development of Kotha Koduru, Ubbala Madugu, Mypadu, Rama Theertham, and Isukapalli project.

Second coastal circuit:  It is aimed at developing Kakinada port, Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary, Hope Island, construction of cottages and wooden huts at Aduru, Passarlapudi and S Yanam and development of Kotipalli project.

The funding of projects under this scheme varies from state to state. It is finalised on basis of detailed project reports prepared by Programme Management Consultant (PMC) which is national level consultant for implementing the scheme. So far, Tourism Ministry has sanctioned 74 projects worth Rs. 5997.47 crore to 31 states and Union Territories under this scheme.

Indian Culinary Institute –

Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu inaugurated Indian Culinary Institute (ICI) in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh. It is promoted by Union Ministry of Tourism. The ICI building was designed by National Building Construction Corporation (NBCC).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indian Culinary Institute (ICI)-The main objective of ICI  is to institutionalize mechanism to support efforts intended to preserve, document, promote and disseminate Indian Cuisine. It also seeks to meet sectoral requirement of specialists specific to Indian Cuisine and promote cuisine as niche tourism product.

It will be centre of excellence that will offer structured regular programmes of study specific to culinary arts and culinary management. It will also promote research and innovation, organize demand driven certificate and diploma courses. It will also document and create data base specific to Indian cuisine and commission studies and survey on cuisine. It will also provide appropriate training platform at par with elite “Chef Schools” functioning in different parts of developed world.

Pakyong airport-

Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated Sikkim’s first-ever airport at Pakyong. Prior to this airport, Sikkim was only state in India remaining without functional airport. Pakyong airport is India’s 100th functional airport and one of the country’s five highest airports.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The airport is spread over 201 acres and was constructed by Airports Authority of India (AAI). It is located on top of hill about two km above Pakyong village at 4,500 feet above sea level.  It was carved from mountain side using massive geo technical ‘cut and fill’ engineering works.

It is located around 60 km from Indo-China border and around 30km away from Gangtok, capital city of Sikkim. It has 1.75 km long runway. It has capacity to handle 50 in-bound and as many out-bound passengers flights.

Initially, this airport will cater only to domestic flights, but later provide international flight services connecting Sikkim with other countries (especially neighbouring) like Paro (Bhutan), Kathmandu (Nepal) and Dhaka (Bangladesh).

Operationalization of Pakyong airport will give huge big boost to connectivity and tourism to north-eastern state of Sikkim. It will cut down air travelling time to Sikkim by almost 5 hours because, earlier, nearest airport for connecting Sikkim was at Bagdogra in West Bengal. It will be major booster for Sikkim’s tourism sector, as it will help to improve air connectivity and save travel time for the tourists.  Its location also makes it strategically relevant from the country’s security point of view. Indian Air Force (IAF) can use this airport for landing and taking off of its aircrafts during critical situations.

WWF T x2  programme

Nepal become first country in the world to double its tiger population in a decade as part of  World Wildlife Foundation’s (WWF) ‘Tx2’ programme which aims to double number of tigers in the world all over the world by 2022. There are now estimated 235 wild tigers in Nepal in comparison to an estimated 121 back in 2009. This trend is against global tend where number of tigers in many countries is witnessing a decline.

 

 

 

 

 

The success of Nepal in doubling tiger numbers has been largely attributed to its political commitment and adoption of innovative tools and approaches towards tiger conservation. Nepal was the first country to achieve global standards in managing tiger conservation areas, an accreditation scheme governed by Conservation Assured Tiger Standards (CA|TS).

Tx2 programme was launched by World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) at the 2010 St Petersburg Tiger Summit held in Russia. Under it, 13 tiger range countrieshad agreed to double the world tiger population by 2022, which is the year of tiger in Chinese calendar. These 13 countries are Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam.

It aims at driving political momentum to ensure tigers remain top priority for world leaders, professionalise wildlife protection by training rangers, developing conservation standards (CA|TS) and technology (SMART) to achieve zero poaching, tackle illegal wildlife trade through partnership with TRAFFIC, focus efforts in key tiger landscapes and ensure there is space for both tigers and people in future.

SDG Media Compact

 SDGs are 17 global non-binding goals featuring 169 targets to be implemented from 2015 to 2030. These goals and targets are set of ambitious objectives across the three dimensions of sustainable development viz. economic development, social inclusion and environmental sustainability, underpinned by good governance.

Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has joined SDG Media Compact aimed at advancing awareness of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is among more than 30 organisations from across the world that have come together to form global media compact.

 

 

 

 

 

 

SDG Media Compact is initiative of United Nations, in collaboration with UN Foundation. It is alliance of news and entertainment media and it is committing to work with United Nations to foster public discourse and spur action on SGDs.

It seeks to inspire media and entertainment companies around the world to leverage their resources and creative talent to advance SDGs adopted by all world leaders at UN in 2015. It encompasses more than 100 media and entertainment outlets.

It is inclusive and aims to embrace media companies from all regions and all platforms. Collectively, its founding members comprise of audience in billions spanning over 80 countries on four continents and many more companies are expected to join.

 Ease of Living Index rankings under AMRUT

Andhra Pradesh has topped Ease of Living Index rankings under AMRUT (Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation). It was followed by Odisha and Madhya Pradesh. The three states were awarded best-performing states at National Dissemination Workshop on Ease of Living Index, 2018 held in New Delhi.

 

 

 

 

 

It is an urban transformation scheme with the focus of the urban renewal projects to establish infrastructure that could ensure adequate robust sewerage networks and water supply. It aims at ensuring robust sewage networks, water supply and other infrastructure to improve the quality of life of people in urban areas.

Ease of Living Index-The index was conceived by Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs in June 2017. It aims to help cities assess their liveability vis-a-vis global and national benchmarks and encourage them to move towards ‘outcome-based’ approach to urban planning and management.

It was launched to rank 116 cities that are smart city contenders, capital cities and cities with population of 1 million plus based on the liveability parameters. The first edition of index released in January 2018 had ranked 111 Indian cities and was topped by Pune.

It captures quality of life based on data collected from urban local bodies on four parameters, which were further broken down into 15 categories. It seeks to help cities undertake 360-degree assessment of their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

The four parameters include …….institutional (governance),…. social (identity, education, health, security), …..economic ( economy, employment) and …….physical factors (waste water and solid waste management, pollution, housing/ inclusiveness, mixed land use, power and water supply, transport, public open spaces).  Institutional and social parameters carry 25 points each, physical factors have weightage of 45 points and economic factors 5 points totalling to 100 mark scale on which cities were evaluated.

Procurement of 1,000 engines for fitment in T-72 tanks

Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has approved procurement of 1,000 engines of 1,000 BHP (brake horse power) for fitment in T-72 tanks of Indian Army. These engines will be procured under ‘Buy & Make’ category at an approximate cost of over Rs 2,300 crore. Most of these engines will be manufactured by Ordnance Factories Board (OFB). Their fitment will enhance mobility, agility and acceleration of T-72 tanks making them more versatile and effective in the battlefield.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DAC also approved several amendments to Defence Procurement Procedure(DPP)-16, the manual governing defence procurement. The amendments aim to reduce timelines in defence procurements and streamline Defence Procurement Procedures.

WAYU: Air pollution control device inaugurated in New Delhi 

Union Minister for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences and Environment Dr. Harsh Vardhan inaugurated air pollution control device WAYU (Wind Augmentation PurifYing Unit) for traffic junctions at ITO intersection and Mukarba Chowk in New Delhi. The device aims at tackling toxicity in air by sucking in particulate matter and release fresh air

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It has been indigenously developed by Council of Scientific and Industrial Research – National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (CSIR-NEERI) as part of Technology Development Project being funded by Department of Science and Technology. Its prototype has capacity to purify air in area of 500 meter square. It consumes only half unit of electricity for 10 hours of running and has maintenance cost of only Rs. 1500 per month.

Working: The device works on two principles mainly wind generation for dilution of air pollutants and active pollutants removal. It has filters for particulate matter (PM) removal and activated carbon (charcoal) and UV lamps for poisonous gases removal such as Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and Carbon Monoxide. It has one fan and filter for sucking and removing PM. It also has two UV lamps and half kg of activated carbon charcoal coated with special chemical Titanium Dioxide.

Bigger version: CSIR-NEERI is in the process of developing bigger version of WAYU which can purify air in area of 10,000 meter square. It will also make designs of future WAYU devices better in aesthetics and can be deployed in bus shelters etc.

Cyclone-30

India’s biggest cyclotron facility named Cyclone-30 became operational at Kolkata-based Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre (VECC), which comes under Department of Atomic Energy (DAE). Cyclotron is used to produce radioisotopes for diagnostic and therapeutic use for cancer care. Radiations from these isotopes are used to destroy cancer cells.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It will produce radioisotopes vital for diagnosis and treatment of cancer.It will be first and only cyclotron facility in country to produce Germanium 68 radioisotopes, which is used in diagnosis of breast cancer. It will also produce Palladium 103 isotopes, which is used for the treatment of prostate cancer. In its future stages, it will also produce Iodine 123 isotopes, which can help detect thyroid cancer.

It started working for first time when 30 MeV beam reached Faraday Cup (a metal cup designed to catch charged particles in vacuum). The beam from this facility was used to produce fluorine-18 isotope for preparation of radio-pharmaceutical fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG), which is used for diagnose various types of cancer.It will start regular production by mid-2019 after supporting nuclear systems and regulatory clearances are commissioned.

The high-energy and high-yielding Cyclone-30 machine will provide for affordable radio isotopes and related radiopharmaceuticals for entire country, especially for eastern states like West Bengal. It will also help in bringing down imports, while raising possibility of exporting radioisotopes in the future. It also has export potential for germanium-68 and gallium-68 generator for in-situ production of gallium-68 and palladium-103 isotopes, which are used for breast cancer diagnosis and prostate cancer treatment, respectively. It can also be used for research in the fields of material science and nuclear physics.

 International Solar Alliance –

The inaugural General Assembly of International Solar Alliance (ISA) will be inaugurated on 2 October 2018 in New Delhi. It will be followed by ministerial level assembly of ISA following day which will be will be held in Greater Noida.

 

 

 

 

 

ISA was jointly launched by India and France in November 2015 at Paris on side lines of COP21 UN Climate Change Conference. Its Framework Agreement came into force in December 2017. It celebrated its founding day on 11th March, 2018. Its founding conference was held on 11 March 2018 in New Delhi.

ISA is action-oriented organization that aims brings together countries with rich solar potential to aggregate global demand, thereby reducing prices through bulk purchase, facilitating deployment of existing solar technologies at scale and promoting collaborative solar R&D and capacity building. It also aims at contributing to implementation of Paris Climate Agreement 2015 through the rapid and massive deployment of solar energy.

ISA is first international intergovernmental treaty based organization to be headquartered in India. It is headquartered at campus of National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE), Gurugram, Harayana. Till date, 47 countries have signed and 19 countries have ratified Framework Agreement of ISA. United Nations is Strategic Partner of ISA.

Objectives of ISA

  • Undertake joint efforts required to reduce the cost of finance and the cost of technology;
  • Mobilize around US $1000 billion of investments needed by 2030 for massive deployment of solar energy;
  • Pave way for future technologies adapted to needs of solar rich 121 countries lying fully or partially between Tropic of Cancer and Capricon.

ISA’s 4 ongoing programmes

  • Scaling Solar Mini Grids;
  • Affordable Finance at Scale.
  • Scaling Solar Applications for Agricultural Use.
  • Scaling Solar Rooftop catering to the needs of solar energy in specific areas.

Fast Breeder Reactor to achieve criticality in 2019

India’s first indigenously developed 500-megawatt (mw) Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) at Kalpakkam in Tamil Nadu is expected to achieve criticality in 2019. It was stated by Sekhar Basu, Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy at 62th General Conference of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, Austria. The indigenously developed PFBR is now undergoing sodium commissioning.

 

 

 

 

 

Criticality of Nuclear Reactor

It is event of nuclear reactor reaching self-sustained chain reaction. This means that no external source of neutrons is required to sustain fission in reactor core. It is precondition of producing useful amounts of energy from the reactor.

Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR)

PFBR has been designed indigenously by Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR). It is pool-type reactor with 1,750 tonnes of sodium as coolant.  It is designed to generate 500 MWe of electrical power, with operational life of 40 years. It generates power by burning mixed uranium-plutonium MOX fuel, a mixture of PuO2 and UO2.

PFBR at Kalpakkam was earlier expected to be commissioned in 2012, but has missed several deadlines. PFBR design is build on decades of experience gained from operating lower power Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR). It comes under second stage of India’s three-stage nuclear power programme. Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam (Bhavini), a public sector company under DAE, has been given the responsibility to build these reactors. India is planning to build 21 such reactors by 2030.

NSE, LSE inks MoU for dual listing of masala bonds

National Stock Exchange of India (NSE) and London Stock Exchange (LSE) have signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to collaborate on creating dual listing route for masala bonds and foreign currency bonds of Indian issuers. Through approval of single listing document, issuer can obtain dual listing on LSE’s International Securities Market and NSE’s GIFT City. It will serve as potential precursor of further joint listings in future that could see foreign currency bonds in India also being able to list in London.

 

 

 

 

 

Masala bonds are rupee-denominated bonds through which Indian entities can raise money from foreign markets in rupee and not in foreign currency. Basically, it is debt instruments used by corporates to raise money from foreign investors in local currency.

The issuance of rupee denominated bonds transfers risk associated with currency fluctuations to investors and not to the issuers. This is especially during depreciation of domestic currency and when borrowing is in foreign currency as company has to pay more while repaying its debt, or while servicing interest on such borrowings if the rupee weakened.

From the issuer’s perspective, masala bonds provides cheaper borrowings compared to raising funds in India besides helps in diversifying its sources of fund-raising. Besides, it also helps in internationalization of the rupee and in expansion of Indian bond markets. Its issuance in long term can help to check slide of rupee and also reduce current account deficit over time.

It will extend access to wider base of global investors as well as domestic and regional investors registered on NSE’s International Exchange and NSE IFSC Limited in Gujarat International Finance Tech City. It will also enhance visibility, increase liquidity in secondary marketsand enhance efficiency of price discovery for masala bond issuers. It will also reduce cost of raising capital for all issuers and encourage participation of wider variety of issuers in masala bond market.

Third launch pad at Sriharikota –

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is setting up third launch pad at Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh to undertake Gaganyaan manned space flight programme. ISRO currently has two launch pads which are already full. Third launch pad is being set up for the human space flight. It will be ready in time for the mission. In addition, ISRO is scouting for location on western sea coast near Gujarat to set up another launch pad for Small Satellite Launch Vehicles (SSLV).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Small Satellite Launch Vehicles (SSLV)

ISRO is developing SSLV to offer affordable launch options for smaller satellites through ANTRIX, the space agency’s commercial arm. The SSLV is expected to reduce launch time as well as cost less to launch small satellites, which are much in demand. ISRO currently piggybacks smaller satellites on Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle abbreviated (GSLV) along with bigger satellites.

Gaganyaan Mission

It will be India’s first manned space mission. Under it, India is planning to send three humans (Gaganyatris) into space i.e. in low earth orbit (LEO) by 2022 i.e. by 75th Independence Day for period of five to seven days. The mission was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his 72nd Independence Day speech. Under this mission, crew of three astronauts will conduct experiments on microgravity in space.  The crew will be selected jointly by Indian Air Force (IAF) and ISRO after which they will undergo training for two-three years. India will be fourth nation in the world after USA, Russia and China to launch human spaceflight mission.

Objectives of Gaganyaan Mission: Enhance of science and technology levels in the country, serve as national project involving several institutes, academia and industry, improve of industrial growth, inspire youth, develop technology for social benefits and improve international collaboration.

ISRO already has begun work on manned mission in 2004. It already has validated many of the critical technologies required for human spaceflight through various tests such as Space Capsule Recovery Experiment, Crew Module Atmospheric Re-Entry Experiment and Pad Abort Test.  ISRO will use its GSLV Mk-III launch vehicle which can carry heavier payload of Gaganyaan. This launch vehicle will take off from new launch pad of ISRO.

Scheme for protection of exotic Neela kurinji  plants

Tamil Nadu government has announced Scheme for protection of exotic Neela kurinji (Strobilanthus kunthianus) plants that flower only once in 12 years. This scheme comes following complaints that these rare and ecologically unique flowers are being packaged and sold on the commercial basis.

 

 

 

 

 

Neelakurinji plant-i is a tropical plant species. It is native to Shola forests in Western Ghats. It is also seen in Shevroys Hills in Eastern Ghats, Anamalai hills and Agali hills in Kerala and Sanduru hills in Karnataka. It grows at height of 30 to 60 cm on hills slopes at an altitude of 1300 to 2400 meters where there is no tree forest. The flowers of Neelakurinji are purple-blue in colour and blooms once in 12 years. The flower has no smell or any medicinal value. 

It is because of these flowers, Nilgiri hills in southern tip of Western Ghats are called blue mountains. It is rarest of rare plant species that grows in Western Ghats and does not grow in any other part of the world. It has been categorized as endangered species. In ancient Tamil literature, kurinji flowers symbolize love. Paliyan tribal people living in Tamil Nadu use this flower bloom as reference to calculate their age.

India’s first Coal-gasification fertilizer plant Odisha

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched commencement of work for India’s first Coal-gasification based fertilizer plant with pet coke blending will come up in Talcher, Odisha. The coal gasification based fertilizer plant is being developed by Talcher Fertilizers Limited (TFL).

 

 

 

 

 

TFL is joint venture company of GAIL (India) Limited (GAIL-29.67% stake), Coal India Limited (CIL-29.67% stake), Rashtriya Chemicals & Fertilizers Limited (RCFL-29.67% stake) and Fertilizer Corporation of India Limited (FCIL-10.99% stake).

The plant will be built at an estimated investment of Rs. 13,000 crore and is targeted to be commissioned by 2022. On completion, this plant will have capacity of producing 1.27 Million Metric Tonnes Per Annum (MMTPA) of Neem coated prilled urea using coal and petcoke as feedstock. Neem coated urea reduces leaching of nitrogen into soil and checks diversion of urea from agriculture uses.

For this plant, TFL has been allotted captive coal mine in Talcher region to ensure steady supply of the feedstock for maintaining continuous operations of the plant. It will produce 2.38 million metric standard cubic meter per day (MMSCMD) natural gas equivalent syngas from coal, leading to reduction in import bill of liquefied natural gas (LNG) by more than Rs 1,620 crore per annum.

It will use gas produced from coal, thus reducing dependence on urea and gas imports. It will promote alternative use of domestic coal in environment friendly manner, thereby supporting India’s commitments under CoP 21 Paris Agreement 2016. Pollutants like Carbon Dioxide (CO2) produced by this plant will be recycled for production of Urea and other by – products. Further, ash produced by it will be converted to inert slag which is non–hazardous.

Jharsuguda Airport in Odisha

Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated new airport in Jharsuguda – also known as the powerhouse of Odisha. PM also flagged off the UDAN flight on Jharsuguda-Raipur sector. It is first airport in Odisha to provide necessary connectivity to Bhubaneswar, Raipur and Ranchi under Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS)-UDAN (UdeDesh Ka AamNaagrik) Scheme. Other than Jharsuguda, three more airports are being developed in Odisha namely, Jeypore (Koraput District), Rourkela (Sundargarh District) and Utkela (Kalahandi District) to provide connectivity to remote and far flung areas of coastal state under Regional Connectivity Scheme.

 

 

 

 

 

Jharsuguda is the second airport of Odisha after Bhubaneswar to become operational. It has been developed by Airports Authority of India (AAI) in collaboration with Odisha Government. The airport is spread across over 1027.5 acres of land. Area of its terminal Building is around 4000 sqm.

The airport has 2390 metre-long runway and has been developed for all weather operations including night operations for A-320 type of aircraft. It is equipped with state-of-the-art passenger facilities. Interiors of its building depict local handicrafts, artwork and tourist destinations of state highlighting rich ethos and culture of region. The airport will play significant role in development of Western Odisha and will give impetus to the growing tourism industry in the region.

UDAN is flagship scheme of Central Government introduced to enable air operations on unserved routes, connecting regional areas, to promote balanced regional growth and to make flying affordable for masses.

International Day of Sign Languages-

International Day of Sign Languages is celebrated annually across the world on 23 September every year along with International Week of the Deaf. This day aims to raise awareness of the importance of sign language in the full realization of the human rights of people who are deaf. This year it was first International Day of Sign Languages. Its theme was “With Sign Language, Everyone is Included!”.

 

 

 

 

 

International Day of Sign Languages was proposed by World Federation of the Deaf (WFD), a federation of 135 national associations of deaf people, representing around 70 million deaf people’s human rights worldwide. Later, United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) instituted this day by adopting resolution A/RES/72/161 in December 2017. The choice of 23 September commemorates date of establishment of WFD in 1951. International Week of the Deaf was first celebrated in September 1958. According to WFD, there are approximately 72 million deaf people worldwide. More than 80% of them live in developing countries. Collectively, they use more than 300 different sign languages.

Village Rockstars India’s official entry for Oscars 2019

Assamese movie ‘Village Rockstars’ was selected as India’s official entry to the Oscars 2019 (91st Academy Awards) under Foreign Language Film category. It was selected by 12-member jury of Film Federation of India (FII), led by Kannada producer-director SV Rajendra Singh Babu from 29 other films.

The film is written, edited, co-produced, and directed by Rima Das, who is a self-taught filmmaker. It has been set in Das’ own village Kalardiya in Chaygao district of Assam. Its story revolves around 10-year-old girl, Dhunu (played by child actor Bhanita Das), who dreams to form her own rock band and goes in search of electric guitar in her village.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The film was made over period of four years, and was shot on hand-held camera and shoe-string budget in rural Assam. Its casts include non-professional actors, sourced mostly from Kalardiya village. It had its world premiere at Toronto International Film Festival and India premiere at Mumbai Film Festival 2018. It had won Best Feature Film ‘Swarna Kamal’ award at 65th National Film Awards. It also has won awards in three other categories: Best Child Artist, Best Location Sound Recordist and Best Editing.

Miniature Human Oesophagus

Scientists for first time have successfully grown oesophageal organoids, a miniature, functional versions of human food pipe using pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) in laboratory. This bioengineered oesophageal organoids paves way for new ways to study and test drugs against gut disorders. It may also lead to personalised diagnostic methods and focused in part on developing regenerative tissue therapies to treat or cure GI disorders. It will help to study birth defects like esophageal atresia, organoids, eosinophilic esophagitis and Barrett’s metaplasia. Moreover bioengineer genetically matched esophageal tissue can be also transplanted in individual patients.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oesophagus-It is long muscular tube part of digestive system that connects mouth to stomach to actively pass food. It is also called as gastro-intestinal tract (GI tract or gullet or food pipe). It is around 25cm long in adults. After food is swallowed walls of oesophagus squeeze together (contract) and moves food down to the stomach. The area where oesophagus joins stomach is called gastro-oesophageal junction.

Oesophagus has four layers:

  • Mucosa – inner layer, which is moist to help food pass smoothly into stomach.
  • Submucosa –Contains glands that produce mucus (phlegm), which keeps oesophagus moist.
  • Muscularis – It is muscle layer, which pushes food down to stomach.
  • Adventitia – It is outer layer, which attaches oesophagus to nearby parts of body.

Oesophagus can be affected by congenital diseases, such as oesophageal atresia, a medical condition causing narrowing or malformation of oesophagus due to genetic mutations. Other diseases related to it includes oesophageal cancer, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or rare ailment called achalasia, a disease affecting muscles of lower oesophagus that prevents contraction of organ and passage of food.

Stem cell is undifferentiated cell of multicellular organism which is capable of giving rise to indefinitely more cells (through mitosis) of same type and from which certain other kinds of cell may be formed by the cellular differentiation. There are two types of stem cells widely used .

The International Day for Preservation of Ozone Layer

The International Day for Preservation of Ozone Layer (or World Ozone Day) is observed every year on September 16 for the preservation of the Ozone Layer. This year, the theme for the Day is ‘Keep Cool and Carry On: The Montreal Protocol’. The day was designated by United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on December 19, 1994. Its observance commemorates the date in 1987 on which Montreal Protocol was signed on substances that deplete the ozone layer. It also is intended to spread awareness of the depletion of the Ozone Layer and search for solutions to preserve it.

 

 

 

 

 

The Ozone layer is fragile shield of gas which protects Earth from harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation of Sun and thus helping preserve life on the planet.

Montreal Protocol is an international treaty designed to protect ozone layer by phasing out production of numerous Ozone Depleting Substances (ODSs) that are responsible for ozone depletion. It was agreed on 26 August 1987 in Montreal, Canada and entered into force on 26 August 1989. It is legally binding on member countries

Vienna Convention for Protection of the Ozone Layer is an multilateral environmental agreement agreed upon at the 1985 Vienna Conference and entered into force in 1988. It is one of the most successful treaties of all time in terms of universality. It has been ratified by 197 states (all UN members as well as the Niue, Holy See and the Cook Islands) as well as European Union. It acted as framework for international efforts to protect fragile ozone layer. These are laid out in accompanying Montreal Protocol. However, it does not include legally binding reduction goals for the use of CFCs, the main chemical agents causing ozone depletion.

MPATGM

Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) conducted first successful trials of indigenously developed third generation Man Portable Anti-Tank Guided Missile (MPATGM). Two rounds of missile were flight tested in operational configuration in two days from Ahmednagar range in Maharashtra.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The two tests were intended for two different ranges. After its launch from platform, the missile tracked target all through its trajectory and destroyed it with high precision. The missile performed as expected during the test by meeting all mission objectives successfully and validated its maximum range capability. Apart from stand alone and warhead testing, the missile also had undergone series of tests including integrated static trial to characterise trust vector control.

MPATGM is third-generation anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) indigenously developed by DRDO. It is best in its class in the world. It is yet to be formally named. It is expected to replace second generation French origin anti-tank guided missile Milan and Soviet semi-automatic wire-guided missile Konkur, which are in service with Indian Army.

This missile is considered as major boost to Make-in-India initiative. It has strike range of 2.5 kmIt weighs around 14.5 kg to maintain man portability.

Yudh Abhyas 2018

India and United States joint military exercise Yudh Abhyas 2018 commenced at Chaubattia, Uttarakhand. It will be fourteenth edition of exercise in Yudh Abhyas series which was started in 2004 under US Army Pacific Partnership Program. This will be fourth time exercise will be conducted at Chaubattia in Uttarakhand.

 

 

 

 

 

The aim of this exercise will be to enhance interoperability between armies. It will also focus on enhancing counter-terror cooperation. The scope and intensity of this year’s exercise is much wider and is in reflection of upswing in defence ties between the two countries.

 NovaSAR and S1-4

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) successfully launched two satellites— NovaSAR and S1-4-belonging to United Kingdom (UK) based Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL). Both satellites were injected into Sun Synchronous Orbit (pole-to-pole orbit) at an altitude of 583 km after the launch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

These satellites were launched on board of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C42) from first launch pad of Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh. This was the 44th flight of PSLV and the 12th flight of Core Alone version of the vehicle.Core Alone version of PSLV is lightest version without six strap-on motors. It is used for launching smaller payloads. It was ISRO’s first fully commercial trip of the year. This launch helped Antrix Corporation, commercial arm of ISRO to earn more than Rs. 220 crore. As on date, ISRO has launched 239 foreign satellites of 28 countries.

Key Facts

S1-4 Satellite: It is high resolution earth observation satellite meant for surveying resources, environment monitoring, urban management and disaster monitoring.

NovaSAR Sateillite: It carries S-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and Automatic Identification Receiver payloads. It is technology demonstration mission designed to test capabilities of new low cost S-band SAR platform. Its applications include forestry mapping, land use and ice cover monitoring, flood and disaster monitoring and maritime missions. It will be operated from SSTL’s Spacecraft Operations Centre in Guildford, UK.

PSLV

PSLV in the standard configuration,  measures 44.4 m tall, with a lift off weigh of 295 tonnes.

Some notable payloads launched by PSLV include India’s first lunar probe Chandrayaan-1, India’s first interplanetary mission, Mars Orbiter Mission (Mangalyaan) and India’s first space observatory, Astrosat.

 Cyber University 

Maharashtra Government is setting up new Cyber University dedicated to mitigating cyber threats. It will train 3,000 professionals to fight online space cyber-attacks, internet crimes and conduct cyber forensics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cyber University will provide for and prepare internet professionals on lines of Microsoft Certified Professional Program. It will conduct courses in data analytics, cloud computing, blockchain, AI, cyber forensics and cyber investigations. It will also impart training in 15 other Internet of Things (IoT) areas such as Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI). For this university, state government will provide different levels of training and enable affiliated colleges to impart certification for the 15 courses. It will also supply infrastructure for training and education.

Cyber-attacks India are taking place every 10 minutes as opposed to 12 minutes previously. The current demand of cyber professionals hovers around 30 lakh, but supply of is in about lakh. The university will be remedy for this by providing required human resource and bridge skill gap. Maharashtra Government is also in process of setting up its version of Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) to ward off external cyber threats.

Smart fence’

India’s first ‘smart fence’ pilot project was inaugurated along two 5-km each patches of India-Pakistan International Border Jammu and Kashmir.

The initiative has been taken up by BSF as part of comprehensive integrated border management system (CIBMS). The pilot project involves deploying of laser-activated fences and technology-enabled barriers to plug vulnerable gaps along the frontiers.

It uses number of devices for surveillance, communication and data storage. It also comprises automated surveillance technology and alarm detection systems. It also has sensors like thermal imager, underground sensors, fiber optical sensors, radar and sonar mounted on different platforms like aerostat, tower and poles as part of the smart fence

The smart fences along with other gadgets are integrated with CCTV-live feed which is routed to BSF post so that immediate action can be taken against any intrusion or infiltration attempt. The shortcomings of this pilot project will be addressed to make Comprehensive Integrated Border Management system fool proof before it is

World’s first hydrogen-powered train–

Germany has rolled out world’s first hydrogen-powered passenger train. These locomotives named iLint trains emit zero emissions, making them eco-friendly. This train technology offers greener and quieter alternative to diesel on non-electrified railway lines. These hydrogen trains are manufactured by French TGV-maker Alstom and are commercially running on 100km route between towns and cities of Cuxhaven, Bremerhaven, Bremervoerde and Buxtehude in northern Germany.

 

 

 

 

 

Hydrogen trains

Hydrogen trains are equipped with fuel cells that produce electricity by combining hydrogen with oxygen. This conversion process only emits steam and water, thus producing zero emissions. Excess energy produced is stored in ion-lithium batteries on board train.

These trains also make very little noise. Moreover, hydrogen fuel cells have advantages over batteries. Instead of recharging, they can easily be refueled like gas or diesel engine. It is also easier to build refueling infrastructure for these trains at railway stations.

These trains can run for around 1,000 km on a single tank of hydrogen, similar to the range of diesel trains. These trains offer attractive prospect to many cities scrambling to combat air pollution. The only disadvantage these hydrogen trains is that they are more expensive than fossil fuel-based trains.

Exercise Aviaindra-18

India and Russia joint air exercise Aviaindra 18 was held in Lipetsk, Russia from September 17 to 28, 2018. The second session of Aviaindra 18 will be conducted in Jodhpur, Rajasthan (India) from December 10 Dec to 22, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

Exercise Aviaindra is Air Force level exercise between India and Russia. It was conducted for first time in 2014 and since then it is conducted bi-annually (twice a year) in both countries. The aim of this exercise is focused towards anti-terrorist operations in bi-lateral scenario. It also seeks to further enhance co-operation and understanding between Air forces of both countries in each other’s Concept of Operations.

Aviaindra-18 saw participation of Indian Air Force (IAF) contingent comprising of 30 officers from different branches and streams of IAF including four women officers of Flying, Admin and Medical Branch. IAF’s aircraft that participated in the exercise included Su-30 SM, Mig-29, Su-25, Mi-8 and An-26. Apart from flying exercise, formal interactions, discussions, exchange of ideas and friendly sports matches were also held to enhance bonhomie between two Air Forces.

 Atal Bimit Vyakti Kalyan Yojna

The Employee’s State Insurance (ESI) has rolled out Atal Bimit Vyakti Kalyan Yojna for providing unemployment allowance to workers rendered jobless due to changing employment pattern. It was announced at 175th ESI Corporation meeting chaired by Union Labour Minister Santosh Gangwar in New Delhi.

 

 

 

 

 

Atal Bimit Vyakti Kalyan Yojna was launched keeping in mind change in employment pattern. The current scenario of employment in India has been transformed from long employment to fixed short term engagement in the form of contract and temping. So, there was need to provide assistance to employees in case they get unemployed for sometime and search new job.

Atal Bimit Vyakti Kalyan Yojna

It aims to financially support those who lost their jobs or rendered jobless for whatsoever reasons due to changing employment pattern. Its beneficiaries will be insured persons covered under Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948 for period of two years continuously.

Under it, relief will be payable in cash directly to bank account of insured persons in case of unemployment. This financial assistance will be given to insured persons even while they search for new engagement. Beneficiary insured workers will be paid money, from their own contribution towards ESI scheme, in cash through bank account transfer.
Under this scheme, workers will be able to draw 47% of their total contributions towards ESIC after remaining unemployed for at least three months from date of leaving their previous jobs. They can choose to receive the cash at one go or in instalments. It will be applicable to all factories and establishments employing at least 10 workers.

Employee’s State Insurance (ESI)

ESI is self-financing social security and health insurance scheme for Indian workers. It is autonomous corporation by statutory creation under Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India. It is managed by Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) according to rules and regulations stipulated there in the ESI Act 1948.  It was founded in 1952 and is headquartered in New Delhi.

BSE, NSE get SEBI approval to launch commodity derivatives segment

The capital markets regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has allowed India’s top two stock exchanges BSE Ltd and National Stock Exchange of India Ltd (NSE) to launch commodity derivatives trading from 1 October, 2018. This approval is part of SEBI’s December 2017 announcement of having unified exchange regime wherein stock exchanges will be allowed to offer trading in commodities derivatives. By unified exchange regime  stock exchanges need not to set up different entities to offer commodity trading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With this approval, BSE will begin trading in commodity derivatives with non-agriculture commodities like metals initially, followed by agri-commodities subsequently. NSE will launch its commodity derivatives segment trading in non-agriculture commodities in initial phase, followed by agriculture commodities, subject to SEBI approval.

Instant triple talaq a penal offence

The Union Cabinet has cleared ordinance to make practice of instant triple talaq penal offence. It was signed by President Ram Nath Kovind later as per Article 123 of the Constitution. Compelling reason cited by Government for promulgation of this ordinance was that practice of triple talaq continues unabated even after annulled by Supreme Court due to absence of legal framework.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Core components of ordinance

The ordinance makes instant triple talaq illegal and void. It prescribes punishment with jail term for three years to husbands practicing triple talaq. It also includes certain safeguards such as the addition of a provision of bail for the accused before trial, to do away with fears of misuse of the law.

The offence of triple talaq will only be cognizable when victim wife or her relatives by blood or marriage file FIR. It is compoundable offence, meaning that there can be compromise but only on insistence of wife and t magistrate will have to determine terms and conditions.

The offender can be granted bail by magistrate but only after hearing victim wife as it is private dispute between husband and wife and wife must be heard when bail is granted.  Additionally, victim wife will get custody of minor children. They will be entitled to receive maintenance from husband for herself and children, as decided by magistrate.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

India has decided to place four more reactors under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards .The four reactors include two Russian-designed Pressurised Light Water Reactors and two Pressurised Heavy Reactors being built with Indian technology. With this, total of 26 Indian nuclear facilities will be now under IAEA safeguards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IAEA is an international organization that seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and to inhibit its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons. It was established as an autonomous organization in 1957 through its own international treaty, the IAEA Statute. Its headquarters are in Vienna, Austria