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Current Affairs

Remuneration for ASHA

 The announcement of increase in incentives of ASHA will be effective from October 2018. It was made during video bridge interaction with lakhs of ASHA, Anganwadi and ANM (Auxiliary Nurse Midwife). It was organised as part Poshan Maah being observed in September every year.

Increase in remuneration

ASHA workers: The routine incentive given by Union Government to ASHA workers has been doubled. In addition, all ASHA workers and their helpers will be provided free insurance cover under Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana and Prime Minister Suraksha Bima Yojana.

The social health activists will not have to pay any premium for the insurance coverage and will get Rs 4 lakh in case of any untoward incident, the prime minister said during a video interaction with Asha, ANM (auxiliary nurse midwife) and Anganwadi workers from across the country. 

Those who drew an honorarium of Rs 3,000 will from now on get Rs 4,500 and those who used to get Rs 2,200 will get Rs 3,500,  The honorarium of Anganwadi helpers will be hiked from Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,5 00.

NITI Aayog, Intel and TIFR collaborates for Al

NITI Aayog, Intel, and Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) are collaborating to set up Model International Center for Transformative Artificial Intelligence (ICTAI) in Bengaluru, capital of Karnataka. This collaboration is part of NITI Aayog’s ‘National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence’ Discussion Paper that focuses on establishing ICTAI in the country through private sector collaboration. The model centre is aimed at solving major challenges in India with special focus on application-based AI research in healthcare, agriculture and smart mobility.

Model ICTAI

  • It will aid in Developing and deploying AI-led application-based research projects.
  • It will conduct advanced research to incubate AI-led solutions in three important areas – healthcare, agriculture and smart mobility – by bringing together expertise of TIFR and Intel.
  • It will experiment, discover and establish best practices in domains of ICTAI governance, fundamental research, physical infrastructure, compute and service infrastructure needs, and talent acquisition.

Key Features

Through this collaborative effort, model ICTAI will develop AI foundational frameworks, tools and assets, including curated datasets and unique AI algorithms. It will also develop standards and support policy development related to IT such as data-storage, information security, privacy, and ethics for data capture and use. It will also develop AI foundational technologies to promote applied research that can scale for national impact and will lead to the creation of a vibrant and self-sustaining ecosystem.

ICTAI will also collaborate with industry leaders, startups, and AI services and product companies to productize technologies and IP that are developed by it. It will also support skilling and talent development for world-class AI talent. The learning and best practices developed through this model ICTAI will be used by NITI Aayog to set up future ICTAIs across country.

BARC recommissions oldest research reactor

Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Trombay has recommissioned India’s oldest nuclear research reactor named ‘Apsara’, which was shut down permanently in 2009 for repair. The refurbished version of this reactor has been named as ‘Apsara-upgraded’ (Apsara-U) and also has double capacity compared to its earlier version.  It is located within India’s nuclear weapons facility at BARC’s Trombay campus (Maharashtra).

Apsara-Apsara was the first nuclear research reactor in Asia. It had become operational in BARC’s Trombay campus in August 1956. It was first nuclear research reactor indigenously developed in India. The design was conceptualised in 1955 by Dr Homi Bhabha, the father of Indian Nuclear programme. Its name Apsara was coined by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

Apsara-upgraded- The upgraded version, like its ancestor, is indigenously made. It uses plate type dispersion fuel elements made of Low Enriched Uranium (LEU). It will help to increase indigenous production of radio-isotopes for medical application by about 50% mainly due to higher neutron flux. It will also be extensively used for research in nuclear physics, material science and radiation shielding. The radioisotopes produced by it will be also used in the field food preservation, agriculture, and other industries apart from medicine for diagnosis and therapy.

Government makes demat mandatory

Union Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) has mandatory for unlisted public companies to issue new shares or transfer of all shares in dematerialised or demat (i.e. in electronic form) form beginning October 2, 2018. With this, major benefits of dematerialisation of securities will now be available to unlisted Public companies.

The Companies Act 2013, provides for government to mandate that as in case of listed public companies other classes of public companies should also issue securities only in dematerialised form. MCA’s latest step is seen as measure for further enhancing transparency, investor protection and governance in the corporate sector. It also comes at a time when the ministry is clamping down on shell companies that are suspected of being conduits for illicit fund flows

It will help in elimination of risks associated with physical certificates such as loss, theft, mutilation, fraud etc. It will help in improving corporate governance system by increasing transparency and preventing mal-practices such as benami shareholding, back dated issuance of shares, etc. It will also ease in transfer, pledge etc. of securities and provide exemption from payment of stamp duty on transfer.

Unlisted Companies

According to Companies Act 2013, a public company is formed by seven persons or more, while for private company this number is two or more. If shares of such companies are not traded on stock exchange, they are called unlisted companies.

Tamil Nadu Government bans  e-cigarettes

Tamil Nadu Government has issued order banning manufacture, sale and possession of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) or e-Cigarettes with immediate effect in the state. The ban covers distribution, trade, display, marketing, advertisement, use, import and possession of e-cigarettes as well. So far, Punjab, Karnataka, Kerala, Mizoram, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar already have prohibited manufacture, import, sale and distribution of ENDs or e-cigarettes. The Tamil Nadu government has already banned chewable tobacco products.

ENDS–ENDS are devices that heat solution to create aerosol, which also frequently contains flavours, usually dissolved into propylene glycolor and glycerin. Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are most common prototype of ENDS. These devices do not burn or use toacco leaves but instead vaporise solution, which user then inhales (This process is called as vaping). The main constituents of vaporise solution are nicotine, propylene glycol (with or without glycerol and flavouring agents).

Children, adolescents, pregnant women and women of reproductive age are at greater health risk due to use of ENDS including e-cigarettes. ENDS solutions and emissions contain harmful chemicals and toxicants. They contain nicotine, addictive component of tobacco products. In addition they also contain harmful metals, including lead, chromium and nickel and chemicals like formaldehyde with concentrations equal to or greater than traditional cigarettes. Use of ENDS may affect development of foetus during pregnancy. It may contribute to cardiovascular disease to people who use ENDS.

LK Advani –

Senior BJP leader L K Advani was renominated as Chairman of Ethics Committee of Lok Sabha. He was renominated by Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan. L K Advani represents Gandhinagar Lok Sabha constituency from Gujarat.

It formulates Code of Conduct for members and suggest amendments to it from time to time. It also oversee moral and ethical conduct of Members. It examines complaints related to any unethical conduct by members of Lower House of Parliament. It can also initiate suo motu investigation into matters related to unethical conduct of a member and make recommendations, as it may deem fit.

2018 US Open

Former world number one Novak Djokovic from Serbia won 2018 US Open title of tennis in men’s singles category by defeating Argentina’s Juan Martín del Potro (world no 3).  It was Djokovic’s third US Open title and overall 14th Grand Slam title. With this win, he equalled Pete Sampras’ haul of 14 Grand Slams. Further, he became seventh man to win US Open singles title at least thrice in the Open Era.

Women’s singles title: It was won by Japan’s Naomi Osaka by defeating Serena Williams of US by score of 6-2, 6-4 in the finals.

Men’s Double title: It was won by US pair of Mike Bryan and Jack Sock. They defeated Łukasz Kubot (Poland) and Marcelo Melo (Brazil) by 6–3, 6–1 scrore.

Women’s Doubles title: It was won by Ashleigh Barty (Australia) and CoCo Vandeweghe (US). They defeated Tímea Babos (Hungary) and Kristina Mladenovic (France) pair by 3–6, 7–6(7–2), 7–6(8–6).

Mixed Doubles title: It was won by Jamie Murray (UK) and Bethanie Mattek-Sands (US). They defeated Alicja Rosolska (Poland) and Nikola Mektić (Croatia) pair by 2–6, 6–3, [11–9] score.

It was the 138th edition of tennis’ US Open held on outdoor hard courts at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City. It was fourth and final Grand Slam event of the year. Rafael Nadal and Sloane Stephens were defending champions in the men’s and women’s singles events, but they were unsuccessful to defend their titles in this edition of tournament.

Nepal refuses to participate in BIMSTEC joint military exercise 

Nepal has refused to participate in inaugural joint military exercise-  MILEX-18, … 

of Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) countries scheduled to be held in Pune, Maharashtra. Nepal’s withdrawal comes in wake of stringent criticism from ruling and opposition parties in the country.

Reasons for Nepal’s backing out

The BIMSTEC military drill saying it is beyond the agenda of BIMSTEC. It also goes against country’s history of following policy of keeping equal distance from its neighbours, without ever being part of a regional bloc militarily. Experts believe that non-participation of Nepal in such ‘military drill’ certainly seems like political call and comes at time when Nepal-China relations are on upward trajectory and BIMSTEC connectivity seen as counter to China’s BRI (Belt and Road Initiative).

BIMSTEC Military Exercise

The first BIMSTEC field training exercise will be conducted at Foreign Training Node at Aundh in Pune, Maharashtra from September 10 and 16, 2018. Armies of BIMSTEC members including India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand and Nepal were to participate in it.

The theme of exercise includes counter-terrorism in semi-urban terrain and cordon and search. The main aim of this military exercise is to promote strategic alignment among the member-states and to share best practices in the area of counter-terrorism.

The exercise was required platoon-level participation of around 30 soldiers from each BIMSTEC member countries for exercises involving counter-terrorism in semi-urban terrain and cordon and search.

Now, Nepal will be only sending three-member observer team. Apart from Nepal, Thailand will also not be participating in military exercise and will be represented by observer.

Regional Conference on Good Governance held in Bhopal 

Regional Conference on Good Governance with Focus on Aspirational Districts was held in Bhopal, capital of Madhya Pradesh. It was organized by Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DAR&PG), Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions in association with Madhya Pradesh Government. Delegates from 12 States/2 UTs had participated in this Conference. There were 5 Technical sessions in this 2-day conference.

 Ethanol plant

Haryana Government has signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) to set up ethanol plant at village Bohali village in Panipat district with an outlay of over Rs. 900 crore. The MoU will be valid for one year. This plant will motivate farmers in its 50 km radius area to manage crop residue and prevent straw burning and help to fulfill increasing demand of ethanol and also bio-fuels for consumers of petroleum product.

The proposed capacity of this ethanol plant will be of producing 100 kilolitres of ethanol per day. It will help to manage crop residue and prevent straw burning before upcoming paddy season. 10 cooperative and three private sugar mills in the state will provide raw fuel to this plant. There will be regular supply of raw material to this plant as paddy crop residue will be provided as raw material after end of paddy season in October and November and after that sugarcane crop residue will be supplied in cyclic manner.

Bioethanol is an alcohol derived by process of fermentation mostly from carbohydrates of agricultural residue and feedstocks. It acts as a quasi-renewable energy, as it can be easily blended with petrol or diesel, thus making it sustainable transport fuel. Its long-term usage will help to reduce emissions and dependency on imported fossil fuel. It will benefit farmers economically, as they will be paid for their agro-based produce to extract bio-ethanol. It would also help in preventing loss of fertility of soil and damage to environment by reducing air pollution caused by burning of leftover agro-based produce.

Scheme for doorstep delivery

Aam Aadmi Party-led Delhi Government has launched scheme for doorstep delivery of 40 essential government services like caste and marriage certificates, driving license and new water connections. It is fist home delivery scheme of various essential government services in the country. It will help to deal with corruption in delivery of essential government services and promote transparent governance.

 

Under this scheme, Delhi government will provide 40 services such as caste certificate, driving licence at doorstep of people in the first phase. Eventually, more services will be added to the list in later phases. These essential government services will be delivered by mobile sahayaks with fee of Rs 50.

For implementation of this scheme, Delhi government has intermediary agency which has set up call centres and hired mobile sahayaks (facilitators). For availing doorstep delivery of services, Delhi citizens need to call centralised number to set up home visit with mobile sahayak.

The mobile sahayak will be equipped with all necessary equipment such as biometric devices and camera. These sahayak will help user fill out application, pay fee and collect documents needed for service. Then completed certificate will then be posted to applicant.

For certificates that mandate visit to office concerned, such as test for driving licence, applicant will be required to personally visit to office after sahayak helps with initial application at home. This scheme will cover doorstep delivery of various certificates including caste, new water connection, income, driving licence, ration card, domicile, marriage registration, duplicate RC and change of address in RC, among others.

3rd ASEM Conference-

The third ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting) Conference on ‘Global Ageing and Human Rights of Older Persons’  was held in Seoul, capital of South Korea. It was jointly organised by South Korea and National Human Rights Commission of Korea.

The 3-day Conference was attended by International Institutions including United Nations, Regional Institutions such as  European Union (EU), ASEAN .

ASEM is informal process of dialogue and cooperation that brings 53 entities – including 51 countries (including India) from Asia and Europe and two regional bodies European Union (EU) and ASEAN.  It was officially established in March 1996 at the first summit in Bangkok, Thailand. ASEM represents around 62.3% of the world’s population, 57.2% of the global GDP and almost 60% of the world’s trade. The dialogue addresses political, economic and cultural issues between the two regions. It also seeks to strengthen relationship between the two regions in a spirit of mutual respect and equal partnership.

Government eMarketplace

Union Ministry of Commerce & Industry has launched National Mission on Government eMarketplace (GeM) for increasing awareness and accelerating use of GeM by major central Ministries, State Governments and their agencies. GeM provides online, end to end solution for procurement of commonly used goods and services for all Central Government Departments and State Governments. Public Sector Units and affiliated bodies

The mission aims to promote inclusiveness, transparency and efficiency in public procurement and achieve cashless, contactless and paperless transaction. This will help to increase overall efficiency and lead to cost saving on government expenditure in procurement.

It will cover all central government departments, states and public sector undertakings in mission mode. It will create awareness about GeM, train buyers and sellers, get them registered in GeM and increase procurement through GeM. It will also promote inclusiveness by empowering various categories of sellers and service providers such as MSMEs, start-ups, domestic manufacturers, women entrepreneurs, and Self-Help Groups.

Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)

Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD has officially decided to participate in Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) after gap of nine years. It will send team of officers to Paris to negotiate India’s terms of participation in PISA 2021.

PISA is assessment test for 15-year-olds, organised every three years by Organisation for Economic Cooperation Development (OECD), Paris, France. It was started in 2000 with about 43 states participating, and its latest edition in 2015 saw participation from 73 countries including China and Vietnam.

PISA measures student performance in mathematics, reading, and science and even innovative subjects like collaborative problem-solving and money literacy. The test is designed by education experts around the world. It assess how students apply what they have learnt to real-world problems.

PISA test results give insight into education systems around the world. The results are shown as a national mean score and not shown individually. Its objective is not to rank countries, but to see how education system can be improved. Countries willing to participate in PISA choose kids from different regions to represent sample of 15-year-olds in their country.

In 2012 PISA test, schools of Shanghai in China topped reading, mathematics and science test, followed closely by Singapore. In 2015, Singapore, Japan and Estonia were ranked as top three countries, in that order.

India had made its debut in PISA in 2009 with 16000 students from 400 schools across Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh. However, students had performed miserably in 2009 test and India was placed at 72nd among 74 participating countries. Government had blamed “out of context” questions for the poor results in 2009 and decided it won’t participate in 2012 and 2015.

Revision of Boycott decision

In 2016, HRD Ministry had revisited this decision and Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS) had set up committee to review matter and submitted its report in December 2016. The report recommended for participation in test in 2018. Similar recommendation was made in 2017 by group of secretaries on education constituted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, India had missed the application deadline for 2018 cycle of PISA test.

PISA 2021- is likely to be administered in schools in Union Territory of Chandigarh. Apart from schools in Chandigarh, HRD Ministry also suggested that all Kendriya Vidyalayas (KVs) and Navodaya Vidyalayas (NVs), funded and run by Centre, shall take the test.  Chandigarh was selected for its compact area, students are taught in Hindi and English (Government wants to keep number of languages in which test has to be administere) to minimum). Chandigarh has record of performing well in learning assessments.

SLINEX-2018

India, Sri Lanka joint naval exercise SLINEX-2018 was held at Trincomalee, Sri Lanka from September 7 to 13, 2018. SLINEX exercise started in 2005 was previously held once in two years and now it has been converted to annual event this year onwards.

The exercise was conducted in two phases, namely Harbour and Sea Phase. These exercises involved joint training, exchange of expertise, helicopter and maritime patrol aircraft operations, search and rescue, and maneuvers at sea.  The exercise also involved sports fixtures and cultural events to provide opportunity for personnel from both navies to learn from each other and to build individual bonds of friendship and camaraderie.

The scope of exercise was significantly increased this year, as it saw participation of three ships, two maritime patrol aircraft and one helicopter participating from Indian side. In addition, Sri Lanka Air Force personnel also participated in the exercise for first time.

SLINEX exercise is continuation of ongoing operational interaction between both navies wherein regular ships visits are being undertaken between the two countries. SLINEX 2017 was held at Visakhapatnam in September 2017 wherein two ships SLNS participated from Sri Lanka Navy.

India, Czech Republic sign five agreements

India and Czech Republic have signed five agreements on defence, scientific and industrial research, laser technology, agriculture and diplomatic visa waiver. These agreements were signed after delegation-level talks between Indian President Ram Nath Kovind and Czech Republic counterpart Milos Zeman in Prague, capital of Czech Republic. President Kovind visited Czech Republic on final leg of his state visit to three European nations – Cyprus, Bulgaria and Czech Republic.

Five agreements signed are

  • Cooperation between India’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Czech Academy of Sciences.
  • Work plan to support Indo-Czech projects in diverse areas of science and technology. Department of Science and Technology will be taking lead from Indian side for this.
  • Visa waiver agreement for diplomatic passport holders.
  • Cooperation in laser technology between Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) and ELI Beamlines.
  • Cooperation between Haryana Agricultural University and Czech University of Life Sciences

In addition, both countries also agreed to initiate cooperation in civil nuclear energy. Details of prospective agreement to be signed between Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership, Jhajjar (Haryana) and relevant Czech institution are to be worked out.

Temasek inks agreement to invest $400 million

Singapore-based global investment firm Temasek has signed agreement to invest up to Rs 2,750 crore ($400 million) in National Investment and Infrastructure Fund’s (NIIF) Master Fund. With this investment, NIIF Master Fund is now one of largest infrastructure funds in India which invests in core infrastructure sectors in India with focus on energy, transportation and urban infrastructure.

As part of this agreement, Temasek will join Government of India (GoI), Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), HDFC Group, ICICI Bank, Kotak Mahindra Life Insurance and Axis Bank as investor in NIIF’s Master Fund and as shareholder in National Investment and Infrastructure Limited (NIIFTL), investment management company of NIIF. With this agreement, NIIF now has agreements totalling almost Rs. 10,000 crore, with ADIA having committed to invest up to $1 billion (about Rs 6,500 crore) and domestic financial institutions, about Rs. 500 crore.

NIIF was set up in December 2015 to catalyse funding into the country’s infrastructure sector by serving as quasi sovereign wealth fund (SWF). It has been set up as fund of funds structure with aim to generate risk adjusted returns for its investors alongside promoting infrastructure development. It aims to maximize economic growth of country mainly through infrastructure development in commercially viable projects (both greenfield and brownfield) and also in stalled projects.

NIIF has targeted corpus of Rs 40,000 crore to be raised over the years — 49% of it will be funded by government and remaining 51% will be raised from domestic and global investors, including international pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, multilateral/bilateral investors.

NIIF’s Governing Council is chaired by Finance Minister and act as an advisory council. Moreover, two companies viz. NIIFTL, a trustee of fund and NIIFL, an investment management company of NIIF were incorporated in 2015.  NIIF is also planning third fund to be called strategic investment fund, which could be of similar size to its master fund. This third fund will target investments in greenfield projects and will be long-tenure fund of 15 years.

Yudh Abhyas 2018

India and United States will conduct their annual combat exercise “Yudh Abhyas” at Chaubatia in Uttarakhand from 16 to 29 September, 2018. The exercise will be held soon after both countries hold their inaugural top-level “2+2” dialogue in New Delhi.

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. This year’s Yudh Abhyas drills will be upgraded to battalion-level field training exercise (FTX) and division-level command post exercise (CPX). It will see participation of around 400 soldiers from each side, increase from around 200 each earlier. India will be fielding 15 Garhwal Rifles. Last year, Yudh Abhyas was held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in the US.

ONGC finds oil, gas reserves in Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal 

State-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) has made oil and gas discoveries in Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal that may potentially open up two new sedimentary basins in country. They are category-III basins, having hydrocarbon and are considered geologically prospective for exploration.

Madhya Pradesh: The gas deposits were discovered in block in Vindhyan basin. This find is at 3,000-plus meters deep and is being now tested. Four wells drilled after discovery and now hydro-frack will be undertaken to test commerciality of this field.

West Bengal: Oil and gas was discovered in well in Ashok Nagar of 24 Parganas district. Around one lakh cubic meters per day of gas has flowed from one object that was tested.

Background

India has 26 sedimentary basins, of which only seven category-I basins have commercial production of oil and gas. Except for Assam shelf, ONGC opened up all the other six basins, including Cambay, Mumbai Offshore, Rajasthan, Krishna Godavari, Cauvery, and Assam-Arakan Fold Belt for commercial production. The seventh basin was opened way back in 1985. It is in the process of adding eighth basin by putting Kutch offshore discovery (it holds about one trillion cubic feet of gas reserves) to production.

26 sedimentary basins (category wise)

Category-I basins: Cambay, Mumbai Offshore, Rajasthan, Krishna Godavari, Cauvery, Assam Shelf and Assam-Arakan Fold Belt. They have been established for commercial production.

Category-II basins: Kutch, Mahanadi-NEC (North East Coast), Andaman-Nicobar, Kerala-Konkan-Lakshadweep. They are known for accumulation of hydrocarbons but no commercial production has been achieved so far.

Category-III basins: Himalayan Foreland Basin, Ganga Basin, Vindhyan basin, Saurashtra Basin, Kerela Konkan Basin, Bengal Basin. They having hydrocarbon and are considered geologically prospective.

Category-IV basins: Karewa, Spiti-Zanskar, Satpura–South Rewa–Damodar, Chhattisgarh, Narmada, Deccan Syneclise, Bhima-Kaladgi, Bastar, Pranhita Godavari and Cuddapah. They have uncertain potential which may be prospective by analogy with similar basins in the world.

India and France sign implementation agreement

India and France have signed implementation agreement on Mobilise Your City (MYC) to support three pilot cities – Nagpur, Kochi and Ahmedabad for reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions related to urban transport. It was signed between Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs and Agence Française de Développement (AfD).

MYC aims at supporting three pilot cities viz. Nagpur (Maharashtra), Kochi (Kerala) and Ahmedabad (Gujarat) in their efforts to reduce their Green House Gas (GHG) emissions related to urban transport by implementing urban mobility plans at local level and to help India at national level to improve their sustainable transport policy.

The three pilot cities selected under programme as well as MoHUAwill benefit from technical assistance activities to be carried out under MYC. The main components of proposed assistance are to support planning and implementation of sustainable urban transport projects, support to strengthening institutional capacity for regulating, steering and planning urban mobility, and learn and exchange formats with other cities across India for exchanges on best practices.

The details of the project activities will be worked out by AFD in consultation with MoHUA and three partner cities including institutions such as respective Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) for Smart Cities, Municipal Corporations and any transport authority or transport related SPV.

Mobilise Your City (MYC)is global and inclusive network of cities and countries as well as umbrella brand of European development cooperation particularly related to field of sustainable urban transport. It aims at assisting beneficiary partners – i.e. national and local governments in their preparation of National Urban Mobility Policies and Investment Programs (NUMPs) and Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMPs). It facilitates establishment of framework conditions for effective investment and sustainable development of urban transport infrastructure and services as well as regulatory soft measures. MYC is part of international initiative which is supported by French and German Governments. It was launched at 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) meeting in December, 2015.

Creation of Legislative Council

The Odisha State Assembly has passed resolution seeking creation of Legislative Council (Vidhan Parishad or second house of legislature). The resolution was passed with as many as 104 of total 147 legislators casting their votes in its favour. The resolution now will be sent to Central Government (Union cabinet) for approval, following which it will be tabled in both houses of the Parliament. Thereafter, presidential assent is required to make it Act.

The proposal for creation of Legislative Council in Odisha was passed by State Cabinet chaired by Chief Ministry in August 2018.  The proposed Council will have 49 members (one-third size of state assembly. State government plans to function legislative council from old assembly building while the existing assembly secretariat will cater to its administrative needs.

Hima Das appointed 

India’s ace sprinter Hima Das 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.

She was born 9 January 2000 at Kandhulimari village near Dhing Town of Nagaon district, Assam. Her parents are rice farmers. She was the first Indian athlete to win gold medal in track event at IAAF World U20 Championships held in Tampere, Finland. In 2018 Asian Games (Jakarta), she had won silver medal in 400 m final to win a silver medal. She is nicknamed ‘Dhing Express’ after her village in Assam.

Medals won in 2018 Asian Games-

Gold medal: Women’s 4 × 400 metres relay  

Silver medal: Mixed4 × 400 metres relay

Silver medal: Women’s 400 m individual race

Snow leopard spotted –

Snow leopard was spotted at height of about 4,000 metres in Lippa-Asra wildlife sanctuary in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh.

LGBTI

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people in India face legal and social difficulties not experienced by non-LGBT persons. Sexual activity between people of the same gender is legal but same-sex couples legally cannot marry or obtain civil partnerships.

Bisexuality is romantic attraction, sexual attraction, or sexual behavior toward both males and females,[1][2][3] or romantic or sexual attraction to people of any sex or gender identity; this latter aspect is sometimes alternatively termed pansexuality.

Sexual orientation is an essential attribute of privacy. Discrimination against an individual on the basis of sexual orientation is deeply offensive to the dignity and self-worth of the individual.”

On 6 September 2018, the Supreme Court of India decriminalised homosexuality by declaring Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code unconstitutional. The Court unanimously ruled that individual autonomy, intimacy, and identity are protected fundamental rights.

Anjali Gopalan, founder of Naz Foundationsaid “I am over the moon,”

   

 

 The rights 0f Transgender Persons Hijras-

Hijras were legally granted voting rights asthird sex in 1994. 

 In April 2014, the Supreme Court of India declared transgender people as a socially and economically backward class entitled to reservations in education and jobs, and also directed union and state governments to frame welfare schemes for them.

The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016, which was initially introduced to Parliament in August 2016, was re-introduced to Parliament in late 2017.

The states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala were the first Indian states to introduce a transgender welfare policy. According to the transgender welfare policy, transgender people can access free sex reassignment surgery (SRS) in government hospitals (only for male-to-female); free housing program; various citizenship documents; admission in government colleges with full scholarship for higher studies; alternative sources of livelihood through formation of self-help groups (for savings) and initiating income-generation programmes (IGP).

Tamil Nadu was also the first state to form a transgender welfare board with representatives from the transgender community. In 2016, Kerala started implementing free surgery in government hospitals.

In July 2016, the state of Odisha enacted welfare benefits for transgender people, giving them the same benefits as those living below the poverty line.

In April 2017, the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation instructed states to allow transgender people to use the public toilet of their choice.

On 28 November 2017, N. Chandrababu Naidu, the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, announced the enactment of pension plans for transgender people.

 In January 2018, the Kashmiri Finance Minister introduced a proposal to the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly that would grant transgender people free life and medical insurance, and a monthly sustenance pension for those aged 60+ and registered with the Social Welfare Department. Transgender activists have criticised aspects of the bill, including its requirement to establish medical boards to issue “transgender certificates.

FDI into India in 2017-18: RBI

According to Reserve Bank of India (RBI) data, Mauritius was top source of foreign direct investment (FDI) into India in 2017-18 followed by Singapore. The total FDI in FY 18 stood at $37.36 billion in financial year which was marginal rise over $36.31 billion recorded in the previous fiscal 2016-17.

 

FDI from Mauritius was $13.41 billion in 2017-18 as against $13.38 billion in previous year. FDI inflows from Singapore rose to $9.27 billion from $6.52 billion. FDI from Netherlands has declined marginally to $2.67 billion as against $3.23 billion.

FDI into manufacturing sector had witnessed substantial decline to $7.06 billion, as against $11.97 billion a year earlier. FDI into communication services had rose to $8.8 billion in 2017-18 from $5.8 billion. The inflows into retail and wholesale trade increased to $4.47 billion as against $2.77 billion.

FDI in financial services too saw rise to $4.07 billion from $3.73 billion in the previous year. These sectors accounted for more than 50% of total FDI of $37.36 billion in 2017-18 reflects global interest in new areas, including online marketplaces and financial technologies.

4th International Ayurveda Congress

Fourth International Ayurveda Congress (IAvC) was held in Leiden, Netherlands from September 1 to 2, 2018. It was inaugurated by Minister of State, (IC), for AYUSH Shripad Yesso Naik. The Congress was jointly organized by International Maharishi Ayurveda Foundation, Netherlands; All India Ayurvedic Congress, New Delhi and International Academy of Ayurveda, Pune in association with Indian Embassy in Netherlands.

The congress focused on promotion and propagation of Ayurveda in Netherlands and its neighboring countries of Europe. On sidelines of this congress, Indian Embassy also had organized special seminar titled “India-Netherlands collaboration in Healthcare, including Ayurveda”.

India has long history and culture running over 5000 years of using traditional medicines for health care and developing them with modern scientific outlook. AYUSH is acronym of tradition medical systems that are being practiced in India such as Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy which are collectively abbreviated as AYUSH.

 e-pharmacies to regulate online

Union Health Ministry has released draft rules on sale of drugs by e-pharmacies to regulate online sale of medicines across India. These rules also have been proposed to ensure accessibility and availability of genuine drugs to the people across India from authentic online portals.

 

It is mandatory for online pharmacies to register under Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) and obtain trade licence applicable across India from any state government. E-pharmacies only need to take one licence in any state. They can sell drugs all over the country even if they have one licence.

E-pharmacies need to apply for grant of registration to Central Licensing Authority through online portal of Central Government. The registration issued to any person for e-pharmacy will remain valid for three years period from date of its issuance and renewal of registration will have to be done in case it wants to continue.

Registration of e-pharmacy can be suspended or cancelled if it contravenes any provision of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940. E-pharmacy registration holder will have to comply with provisions of Information Technology Act, 2000.

$60 billion of financial assistance –

China has pledged $60 billion of financial assistance to Africa bolster industry, counter hunger, and enhance security in the continent. It was announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping in his inaugural address at third Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) held in Beijing.

FOCAC is an official forum between China and all states in Africa (except Eswatini). It was started as Ministerial Conference in 2000 in Beijing and since then it is held triennially in China and Africa alternatively.

 

Eight focal areas of funding were mentioned that would premise emergence of China-Africa community with shared future in the new era. Energy, transport, telecommunications and tapping cross-border water resources will be China’s priority in this next phase of Africa’s infrastructural forays.

 China’s will also help to set up additional economic and trade cooperation zones to promote industrialisation in Africa. It will also encourage local currency settlements, instead of hard currency usage to settle transactions. It will also support Africa to achieve general food security by 2030.

China also flagged its intent to bolster security in the continent. It will set up peace and security fund in partnership with Africa. It will also support countries in Sahel region and others bordering piracy-ridden Gulf of Aden and Gulf of Guinea apart from providing military aid to African Union.

50 China-Africa security assistance programmes will be launched under flagship Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).  China has already established naval base in Djibouti on the edge of the strategic Gulf of Aden, which links the Red Sea and Arabian Sea

 China-Africa Green Envoys Programme will be launched to strengthen Africa’s capacity for environmental management, pollution prevention and control, as well as green development. China-Africa environmental cooperation centre will also be set up where research on environmental issues will be conducted.

 For financing, China will nudge African countries to tap new multilateral lenders such as Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), New Development Bank (NDB) of emerging economies as well as Silk Road Fund marshalled by China.

Out of $60 billion offered, China will disburse $15 billion as aid, interest-free loans and concessional loans, $20 billion as credit line, channel $10 billion into special fund for China-Africa development and $5 billion special fund will be set up only for African imports.

ISPAI sign MoU-

US-based nonprofit The Internet Society and Internet Service Providers Association of India (ISPAI) have signed MoU to make Internet safe and secure in India by securing routers which is vital for healthy internet infrastructure. The MoU will also see both organizations exchanging research information and training materials related to routing security which is vital to future and stability of the Internet.

The partnership between Internet Society and ISPAI will also promote Mutually Agreed Norms for Routing Security (MANRS) which is global initiative to implement crucial fixes needed to reduce most common threats to internet’s routing system and safeguard enterprises and government from cyber threats. MANRS will provide simple and concrete steps for network operators that enable dramatically improved Internet security and reliability. By joining MANRS, participants commit to implement actions to address common challenges related to routing security such as filtering and anti-spoofing.

The Internet Society is a non-profit organisation dedicated to ensuring open development, evolution and safe use of Internet worldwide. It was founded in 1992 and is headquartered in Virginia, US. It is open standards body which develops and promotes voluntary internet standards. It is governed by diverse board of trustees that is dedicated to ensuring that internet stays open, transparent and defined by the people who use it.

 Jharkhand Government’s proposal to rename

Union Ministry of Home Affairs has cleared proposal of Jharkhand Government to rename Nagar Untari town and railway station as Banshidhar Nagar, after Banshidhar Temple, which is dedicated to Krishna in Garhwa district of state. It has granted No-Objection Certificate (NOC) to Jharkhand Government after there were no adverse reports from Intelligence Bureau, Geological Survey of India (GSI), Department of Post, Ministry of Earth Sciences and Ministry of Railways for renaming Nagar Untari town and railway station as Banshidhar Nagar.

The proposal was forwarded Jharkhand Government as part of its plant to include Banshidhar Nagar part of Krishna circuit  and develop it as major tourist attraction under Swadesh Darshan Scheme. Under it, state government is planning to develop Nagar Untari as Banshidhar Nagar and model it on the lines of Mathura and Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh. It is also examining proposals for tying-up with International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) also for this.

 Rs. 3,000 crore from MNCs-

Union Government has received Rs. 3,000 crore of additional tax from MNCs that have entered into advance pricing agreements (APAs) with it over last five years and also has eliminatedbig source of tax litigation. It was revealed in recently released annual report on advance pricing agreements (APAs) for FY18 by Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT).

219 APAs signed by CBDT has resulted in MNCs accepting extra income of Rs 10,000 crore, translating into tax of Rs 3,000 crore. Between FY06 and FY15, around Rs. 2.6 lakh crore were added by taxman to income of MNCs through what are called ‘transfer pricing adjustments’, and many of these have been settled by using APAs.

The rate of completing APAs pacts has slowed down in FY18 compared to year ago. CBDT had signed 88 APAs in FY17 and it has now come down to 67 in FY18. One of the reasons for dip was increasing complexity of cases, which required more time for analysing relevant international transactions.

Drug-resistant superbug spreading in hospitals: Study

Researchers from University of Melbourne, Australian have found that superbug resistant to all known antibiotics and can cause severe infections or even death is spreading undetected through hospital wards across the world. They have discovered three variants of multidrug-resistant superbug in bacteria known as Staphylococcus epidermidis in samples collected from 10 countries, including strains in Europe that cannot be controlled by any drug currently in the market.

Scientists have found that bacteria known as Staphylococcus epidermidis is related to better-known and more deadly MRSA superbug. This bacterium is found naturally on human skin and most commonly infects elderly or patients who have had prosthetic materials implanted, such as catheters and joint replacements.

It can be deadly, but it is usually in patients who already are very sick in hospital and can be quite hard to eradicate and the infections can be severe. Some strains of Staphylococcus epidermidis bug have made mall change in its DNA that led to resistance to two of most common antibiotics.

These findings show urgent need for better understanding of how infections spread. Earlier, study had suggested some hospital superbugs are growing increasingly tolerant to alcohol-based disinfectants found in sanitisers  and handwashes used on hospital wards.

IOWave18

India along with 23 other nations will be participating in major Indian ocean-wide tsunami mock exercise known as IOWave18. The exercise is being organized by Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO. It will involve evacuation of thousands of people from coastal areas in over half a dozen states.

The purpose of the exercise is to increase tsunami preparedness, evaluate response capabilities in each state and improve coordination throughout the region. It is also aimed at enhancing tsunami preparedness at the community level. The exercise will simulate Indian Ocean countries being put in tsunami warning situation and require National Tsunami Warning Centre (NTWC) i.e. National and Local Disaster Management Offices (NDMO/LDMO) to implement and test their communication links and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) at all levels of warning chain. In this exercises, Hyderabad based Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) will be nodal participating agency. It will be involved in evacuation of more than 1,25,000 people from coastal communities of Odisha, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Gujarat, and Goa in this simulated tsunami warning situation.

IOC, the only UN body specialized in ocean science and services had coordinated in setting up of Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (IOTWMS) in the aftermath of December 26, 2004 tsunami. Indian Tsunami Early Warning Centre (ITEWC), based out of Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), Hyderabad.

 Plan to save springs in Himalayas 

NITI Aayog constituted group of experts has submitted report titled ‘Inventory and Revival of Springs in the Himalayas for Water Security.’ It has mentioned that nearly 30% of springs crucial to water security of people are drying and 50% have reported reduced discharge.

Almost half of perennial springs in Indian Himalayan Region (IHR) have already dried up or have become seasonal. Tens of thousands of villages in this region are currently facing acute water shortage for drinking and other domestic purposes. Almost 60% of low-discharge springs that provided water to small habitations in Himalayan region have reported clear decline during the last couple of decades

 It has urged government to set up dedicated mission to salvage and revive spring water systems in Himalayan States, given their vital importance as source of water for both drinking and irrigation for the region’s inhabitants.

Key Message: It calls for spring mapping and revival, using 8 steps protocol should be taken up across Himalayan states in phased manner, applying carrying capacity concept to all major tourist destinations and implementing and monitoring tourism sector. It calls for setting up of Mission on Spring Water Management in Himalayas.

KAZIND 2018

India, Kazakhstan joint army exercise KAZIND will be conducted between Indian and Kazakhstan Army in Otar region, Kazakhstan from 10 to 23 September 2018. This will be third joint military exercise between two countries which have history of extensive cooperation in defence arena. The second edition of the exercise was held in India in 2017.

The aim of the exercise is to build and promote bilateral army to army relations and exchange skills and experiences between armies of both countries. The exercise will also serve as platform for exchange of drills and procedures.

Justice Ranjan Gogoi

Justice Ranjan Gogoi will be become 46th Chief Justice of India succeeding incumbent Dipak Misra. His name was recommended incumbent CJI Dipak Misra by following convention of recommending next senior most Supreme Court judge. With this, Justice Ranjan Gogoi will become first CJI from north-eastern region. He will have tenure of about 13 months, from October 3, 2018 till his retirement on November 17, 2019.

Justice Gogoi was born on November 18, 1954. He is a native of Assam and is son of former Assam Chief Minister Keshab Chandra Gogoi. He had joined Bar in 1978 and practiced mainly in Gauhati High Court. He was appointed as permanent judge of High Court in February 2001. He was transferred to Punjab and Haryana High Court in September 2010 and was appointed its Chief Justice in February 2011. He was elevated to the Supreme Court in April 2012.

National Nutrition Month 

The National Nutrition Month (Rashtriya Poshan Maah) is being celebrated across the country in September 2018 to mark fight against malnutrition. Union Ministry of Women and Child Development are spearheading various programmes during this month to spread broad awareness on issues related to malnutrition like stunting, under-nutrition, anaemia and low birth weight in children.

 

The National Nutrition Month will also focus on adolescent girls, pregnant women and lactating mothers to eliminate the deficiencies prevailing in the Health sector. Ministry of Women and Child Development is working on eight focused themes like optimal breast feeding, growth monitoring, food fortification and girls’ education, hygiene and sanitation, diet and marriage at right age etc. to achieve improvement in nutritional status of children, adolescent girls, pregnant women and lactating mothers. It is also trying to reach about 11 crore women and children during this month through various grass-root activities, with the convergence of different ministries.

The decision to celebrate September as the National Nutrition Month every year was taken during the second meeting of National Council on India’s Nutrition Challenges under Poshan Abhiyaan (Prime Minister’s Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nutrition) held in July 2018. POSHAN Abhiyaan- the National Nutrition Mission was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in March 2018 in Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan with aim to bring down stunting of children in age group of 0-6 years from 38% to 25% by 2022.

S&P BSE Private Banks Index

Asia Index Pvt Ltd has launched S&P BSE Private Banks Index to measure the performance of private banks. Asia Index Pvt Ltd is a joint venture between S&P Dow Jones Indices and BSE Ltd.

This index is designed to provide market participants with transparent and rules-based benchmark that measures performance of private banks listed in India. It draws from constituents of S&P BSE Finance Index. Only common stocks classified as banks by BSE Sector Classification model and that are not classified under BSE scrip category as Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) are eligible for this index. The index will be calculated in Indian Rupees and US Dollar in real-time by BSE, Asia’s oldest exchange.

Dr Arif ur Rehman Alvi

Dr Arif ur Rehman Alvi (69) was elected as 13th President of Pakistan. He is close ally of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and one of founding members of ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party. He will take oath of office of President on September 9, 2018.

Dr Alvi had defeated Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) candidate Aitzaz Ahsan and Pakistan Muslim League-N nominee Maulana Fazl ur Rehman in three-way contest to become President. Of the 430 votes cast through secret ballot in National Assembly and Senate, Dr. Alvi had received 212 votes followed by Mr. Rehman 131 and Mr. Ahsan 81. Six votes were rejected.

He was born in Karachi in 1947 where his father settled after partition. His father Dr Habib ur Rehman Elahi Alvi was dentist to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru before partition. He had inherited profession of dentist from his father. His father was also connected with Jinnah family. Prior to his political career, Dr Alvi was dentist by profession.

International Women Entrepreneurs Summit 2018

International Women Entrepreneurs Summit 2018 was held in Kathmandu, capital of Nepal from September 3 to 5, 2018. The summit was inaugurated by Vice President of Nepal Nanda Bahadur Pun. The theme of 3-day summit was “Equality begins with Economic Empowerment”. It was organised by the South Asian Women Development Forum

The main objective of the summit was to bring together achievers, women business leaders, professionals, international service providers, resource organizations, experts, government representatives and other stakeholders with a focus on innovative economic transformation through discussions and collaborations. It had seen participation of delegates from SAARC, ASEAN, EU, Africa, Arab countries and China.

SAWDF is an autonomous, nonprofit organization based in Kathmandu, Nepal. It was granted the status of SAARC Recognized Body by 36th Session of SAARC Council Ministers at 18th SAARC Summit held in Kathmandu in 2014. It is first SAARC Recognized Body organisation working on women entrepreneurs issues. It represents national women entrepreneurs’ associations or organizations, institutions working towards economic issues of women entrepreneurs in SAARC Region. Its membership is based on organizations with extensive work around women’s entrepreneurship.

Lockheed Martin, Tata JV to make F-16 jet

American security and aerospace giant Lockheed Martin has entered into an agreement with Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL) to manufacture wings of its F-16 fighter jets in India. Producing F-16 wings in India will support Central Government’s flagship ‘Make in India’ programme and strengthen Lockheed Martin’ strategic partnership with TASL.

Lockheed Martin and TASL joint venture is bidding for contract to supply Indian air force (IAF) with 114 combat planes, estimated at more than $15 billion which must be all manufactured locally under Make in India programme. Lockheed has offered to move its entire F-16 manufacturing base to India.

The proposed production of F-16 wings in India is not contingent upon company winning order from IAF for these planes. It will help to push local manufacturing that will generate jobs and also end armed forces dependence on imports. Lockhead Martin and TASL already have entered into partnership for C-130J [Super Hercules airlifter] and S-92 [helicopter].

SpyLite mini UAV

Cyient Solutions & Systems Pvt. Ltd has bagged order from Indian Army to supply SpyLite mini UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) systems for high altitude aerial surveillance. Cyient Solutions & Systems Pvt. Ltd is joint venture between IT firm Cyient and BlueBird Aero Systems of Israel

SpyLite is an advanced, combat-proven, electric fully autonomous mini unmanned aerial system. It is optimized to offer covert, extended range real-time visual intelligence. It is fully autonomous system from launch to accurate parachute recovery. It has capability to deliver enhanced reliability even in severe weather conditions, assuring long endurance and high operational availability.

SpyLite has endurance of 4-5 hours and maximum flight ceiling of 30,000 feet, which makes it ideal for supporting Indian Army operations along border with China as well as on Siachen glacier. Using high-end payloads, it can deliver high-quality day and night videos. It also has low visual and acoustic signature which gives it edge to conduct covert operations.

GM Mustard DMH-11

Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) will soon convene special meeting of Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) to decide on field-trial approvals for transgenic mustard DMH-11 developed by University of Delhi’s Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP).

    

CGMCP had earlier applied to grow transgenic mustard (DMH-11) in plots in Delhi and Punjab to test plant’s effects on honeybees after GEAC had initially cleared GM crop for commercial cultivation. But later GEAC had backtracked and demanded more tests of transgenic mustard and asked for additional data on honeybees and other pollinators and on soil microbial diversity after some members objected to use of unapproved pesticides/herbicides including banned Endosulfan in project proposal. Some members also had voiced objections over lack of time to examine field safety protocol which specifies what measures can be undertaken in case of pest attack.

DMH (Dhara Mustard Hybrid)-11 is genetically modified variety of Herbicide Tolerant (HT) mustard. It was developed by team of scientists from Delhi University’s CGMCP led by former Vice-Chancellor Deepak Pental under Government sponsored project. It was created by using “barnase/barstar” technology for genetic modification by adding genes from soil bacterium that makes mustard self-pollinating plant. It contains three genes viz. Bar gene, Barnase and Barstar sourced from soil bacterium. The bar gene had made plant resistant to herbicide named Basta.

Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) –GEAC is apex body under Environment Ministry for regulating manufacturing, use, import, export and storage of hazardous micro-organisms or genetically engineered organisms (GMOs) and cells in the country. It is also responsible for giving technical approval of proposals relating to release of GMOs and products including experimental field trials.

34 per cent of Indians insufficiently active

According to recent study published in Lancet Global Health journal, at least 34% of India’s population is insufficiently active. The levels of insufficient activity were higher among women at 48%, while prevalence was 22 %among men. The study was undertaken by researchers from World Health Organisation (WHO). It was based on self-reported activity levels, including activity at work and at home, for transport, and during leisure time in adults aged 18 years and older from 358 population-based surveys in 168 countries.

Globally, more than 1.4 billion adults are at risk of diseases from not doing enough physical activity as around one in three women (32%) and   one in four men (23%) do not do enough physical activity to stay healthy. Levels of insufficient physical activity are more than twice as high in high income countries compared with low income countries.

The highest rates of insufficient activity in 2016 were found in adults in Kuwait, American Samoa, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, where more than half of all adults were insufficiently active. Comparatively, around 40% of adults in United States, 36% in UK and 14% in China were insufficiently active. India was ranked 52nd (with 1 being the most inactive, and 168 being the most active) among 168 countries.

Insufficient physical activity puts people at greater risk of non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, dementia, and some cancers. If current trends continue, 2025 global activity target of 10% relative reduction in insufficient physical activity will not be met.

Cities needed to be more walk friendly and more opportunities for physical activity in public open spaces and parks in workplaces need to be created. The recommended levels of physical activity are at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week. It is also necessary to promote and improve women’s access to opportunities that are safe, affordable and culturally acceptable to address inequalities in physical activity levels between men and women. WHO Global Action Plan on Physical Activity (2018-30) provides selection of policy options targeting different settings and population groups that can be adapted and tailored to local contexts in all countries.

World’s first test of space elevator

Japanese researchers from Shizuoka University will conduct world’s first experiment to test small prototype of space elevator in space by using two mini satellites. The test equipment will be launched by Japan’s space agency on board of H-2B rocket from southern island of Tanegashima.

In this experiment, two ultra-small cubic satellites developed by Shizuoka University Faculty of Engineering will be used for demonstration of space elevator technology. Each satellite measures 10 centimeters each side. Roughly 10-meter-long steel cable will be employed to connect twin satellites. The pair of satellites will be released from International Space Station (ISS) and container acting like elevator car will be moved on cable connecting satellites using motor. The movement of motorised elevator box will be monitored with cameras in the satellites.

It is proposed type of planet-to-space transportation system. Its components mainly are cable (also called tether) anchored to surface of planet and extending into space. It will permit vehicles to travel along cable from planetary surface, such as Earth’s, directly into space or orbit, without use of large rockets. The idea of space elevator was first proposed in 1895 by Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky after he saw Eiffel Tower in Paris and later it was revisited nearly century later in novel by Arthur C. Clarke.

The one end of cable of space elevator will be attached near to surface and the other end in space beyond geostationary orbit (35,786 km altitude). The competing forces of gravity, which is stronger at lower end and outward or upward centrifugal force, which is stronger at upper end, will result in the cable being held up, under tension, and stationary over single position on Earth. Once cable (tether) is deployed at fixed position, climbers can repeatedly climb it to venture into space by mechanical means, releasing their cargo to orbit. Climbers also can descend ether to return cargo to surface from orbit.

Indian Air Force successfully carries first-ever mid-air refuelling of LCA

Indian Air Force (IAF) has successfully carried out first ever midair refuelling of indigenously developed light combat aircraft (LCA) Tejas. The midair refuelling test conducted involved dry linkup, meaning no fuel was actually transferred between IAF Il-78 tanker and Tejas fighter jet through its air-to-air refuelling probe.

For this test, Russian-built IL-78 MKI tanker was launched from IAF’s base in Agra while LCA Tejas fighter was launched from Gwalior. Nine more tests will be held which will also include wet tests where actual transfer of fuel takes place from IAF tanker to fighter jet. The success of these midair refuelling trials will be major leap for indigenous fighter which will help in enhancing its mission capability by increasing its range and payload. .

Long Range Surface-to-Air Missile (LRSAM)

State-run Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) has bagged order worth Rs. 9,200 crore for supply of seven Long Range Surface-to-Air Missile (LRSAM) systems to Indian Navy. In this regard, it has entered into a contract with Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL) and Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE).  The LRSAM will be fitted onboard seven ships to be built by these two shipbuilders. This was highest-ever single value order bagged by BEL. This contract has pushed order book of BEL beyond Rs 50,000 crore for the first time in single financial year,

LRSAM has long-range engagement capability to penetrate deep water and land to intercept all types of aerial targets like subsonic and supersonic missiles, fighter aircraft, maritime patrolling aircraft (MPA), helicopter and sea skimming missiles. It is capable of countering newest generation anti-ship missiles.

Indian Navy has decided to equip its all naval ships such as INS Kolkata, INS Kochi, and INS Chennai guided missile destroyers with Barak 8 LRSAM for air and missile defense. Barak 8 LRSAM has been jointly developed by DRDO and IAI, Israel to be launched from ship. It possesses high degree of maneuverability at target interception range. It has maximum speed of Mach 2 with maximum operational range of 70 km (which has been increased to 100 km).

BEL is state-owned leading defence electronics company. It is one of nine PSUs under the Union Ministry of Defence of India. It has been accorded Navratna status. It is headquartered in Bengaluru, Karnataka. BEL is engaged in design, manufacture and supply of state-of-the-art radars like weapon locating radar and battle field surveillance radar, communication systems, naval systems, electronic warfare systems, missile systems, tank electronics and gun/weapon systems, coastal surveillance system etc for armed forces.

Civil nuclear cooperation, S&T, investment & tourism.

India and Bulgaria have signed four MoUs in fields of Civil Nuclear cooperation, investment, Tourism and establishment of Hindi chair at Sofia University. Both countries also signed program of Cooperation on science and Technology. These agreements were signed after President Ramnath Kovind and his Bulgarian counterpart Rumen Radev held talks in Sofia, capital of Bulgaria. President Ram Nath Kovind visited Bulgaria on the second leg of his three-nation visit (Cyprus, Bulgaria and Czech Republic) to Europe to continue India’s high-level engagements with the European countries. President Kovind was fifth Indian President to visit Bulgaria and first in 15 years.

India called for collaboration with Bulgaria in fields of innovation and R&D as it can offer exciting eco system for it. It was also held that India and Bulgaria can cooperate in devising technologies to clean rivers and to explore potential of blue economy. Both countries also have agreed to substantially upgrade their economic partnership in line with depth of robust political relations. Bulgaria can become key partner for India in defence sector under Make In India programme and in technology intensive sectors such as IT, logistics and infrastructure under Digital India and Smart Cities programmes of the Government. Bulgaria supported India on issues like entry into Nuclear Suppliers Group and permanent membership of UN Security council.

Search engine for scientific community

Search engine giant Google has launched Dataset Search, a new search engine for scientific community that will help them make sense of millions of datasets present online. It will also help scientists, data journalists and geeks to find data required for their work and their stories or simply to satisfy their intellectual curiosity.

 

The new search engine will work like Google Scholar, which is company’s popular search engine for academic studies and reports. It will help to find datasets wherever they’re hosted, whether it is publisher’s site, digital library or an author’s personal web page. It can be used to find references to most datasets in environmental sciences, social sciences, as well as government data and data provided by news organizations. It will have twin benefits of creating data sharing ecosystem that will encourage data publishers to follow best practices for data storage and publication and give scientists way to show impact of their work through citation of datasets that they have produced.

Atal Pension Yojana (APY)

Union Cabinet decided to indefinitely extended Atal Pension Scheme, which had lapsed in August 2018. It also has broadened its scope by keeping it open-ended. The extension was given by taking into consideration of mass participation.

To further incentivize people’s participation in the scheme, age criterion for participation has been revised. Earlier, people of age 18 to 60 years were entitled to enroll in this scheme. But now it has been relaxed further to 65 years, taking into consideration rise in average age-expectancy,

Henceforth the scheme will expand its focus to target individuals, instead of households. Moreover, all accounts opened after August 2018 will have accident insurance limit of Rs 2 lakh, double than earlier Rs 1 lakh limit. The overdraft facility of the scheme was also increased from Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000.

Data on OBCs

Union Home Ministry has announced that Census 2021 for the first time in independent India will collect data on Other Backwards Castes (OBCs). This comes more than 25 years after implementation of 27% reservation for OBCs based on Mandal Commission’s recommendations on basis of last castes data collected in 1931 census.

This decision was taken in meeting the roadmap for undertaking the Census in 2021 chaired by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. The meeting also put special emphasis on improvements in design and technological interventions to ensure that data is finalised within three years of the conduct of the 2021 Census. This census data on OBCs will play an important role in such a sub-categorisation.

 Idea-Vodafone merger

The merger of Idea Cellular and Vodafone India has been completed after it was cleared by National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT). This merger has created India’s biggest telecom service provider. The merged entity is named Vodafone Idea Ltd and dislodges current market leader Bharti Airtel from top position, by its sheer size and scale. New board has been constituted for merged entity with 12 directors (including six independent directors) and Kumar Mangalam Birla as its Chairman.

 

The combined entity will have nearly 443 million customers surpassing Bharti Airtel’s 344 million users. Moreover, it will have all-India revenue market share of 32.2% and take numero uno slot in nine telecom circles. It will have broadband network of 3.4 lakh sites and distribution network with 17 lakh retail outlets.

The combination will have wide spectrum portfolio of about 1,850 MHz, over 2 lakh mobile sites and about 2.35 lakh kms of fibre network. This will allow merged entity to offer superior voice and broadband connectivity across the country, covering 92% of the population and reaching nearly 5,00,000 towns and villages.

Indus Waters Treaty (IWT)

India and Pakistan have agreed to undertake Indus Waters Treaty 1960 mandated tours by their water commissioners in Indus basin on both sides to resolve issues on various hydroelectric projects in Jammu and Kashmir. This was decided in recently concluded high-level bilateral talks on Indus Waters Treaty in Lahore, Pakistan.

  

Deliberations were held on further strengthening the role of Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) for matters under 1960 Treaty.

Technical discussions were also held on implementation of various hydroelectric projects under provisions of Indus Waters Treaty including Pakal Dul (1000 MW) and Lower Kalnai (48 MW) in Jammu and Kashmir. India has invited Pakistani experts to visit sites of Pakal Dul and Lower Kalnai hydropower projects on Chenab river in September 2018 to address its concerns over construction of the projects .

Pakistan is demanding reduction of height of Pakal Dul’s reservoir up to five metres, maintenance of 40-metre height above sea level and making spillways’ gates of Pakal Dul project. Besides it is also asking for clarification of pattern and mechanism for water storage, releases and some technical concerns over design of Lower Kalnai hydropower project from India.

IWT is water-distribution treaty between India and Pakistan which was brokered by World Bank (then the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development). It deals with sharing of water of Indus water system having six rivers — Beas, Ravi, Sutlej, Indus, Chenab and Jhelum between the two countries.

It was signed by then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and President of Pakistan Ayub Khan in Karachi on September 19, 1960. It is most successful water treaty in world as it has survived India-Pakistan wars of 1965, 1971 and the 1999 Kargil standoff besides Kashmir insurgency since 1990.

As per treaty, control over three eastern rivers Ravi, Beas and Sutlej are with India. While control over three western rivers Indus, Jhelum and Chenab was given to Pakistan. It allows India to use only 20% of the water of Indus river, which flows through it first, for irrigation, power generation and transport.
The treaty also sets out mechanism for cooperation and information exchange between two countries regarding their use of the rivers. It sets up Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) as a bilateral commission to implement and manage the treaty. It also makes mandatory for both countries to appoint water commissioners, who are required to meet twice a year and arrange technical visits to projects’ sites.

China-Maldives Friendship Bridge

China-Maldives Friendship Bridge was recently opened for traffic. It is first cross-sea bridge to be built in Maldives. It was China’s flagship infrastructure project in Maldives. It is considered as iconic project of China and Maldives cooperation towards building 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

It is 2.2 km long bridge and has four vehicle lanes and two pedestrian lanes. It connects Maldives capital city Male and neighbouring Hulhule island where island country’s main international airport is located. It will allow locals and tourists to transfer between the two islands on land within five minutes. The bridge was built with Chinese grant of $116 million.

Krishna Kutir

Union Ministry of Women and Child Development recently had inaugurated widows’ home ‘Krishna Kutir’ at Vrindavan in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh. Krishna Kutir is special home for 1000 widows set under Swadhar Greh scheme and is the largest ever facility of its kind created by government organization. It was constructed to mitigate the plight of widows living in pathetic condition in Vrindavan.

Its construction was funded by Central Government and will be managed by UP Government.

The design of this Home was prepared in consultation with Helpage India and is old age friendly. It consists of ground plus three floors with facilities of ramp, lifts, supply of adequate electricity, water and other amenities for meeting requirement of senior citizens and persons with special challenges. It is also equipped with large modern kitchen and skill cum training centre. It also has two dispensaries and physiotherapy facility to provide regular medical check-ups to inmates.

MOVE Cyclathon-

National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog flagged off cycle rally MOVE Cyclathon to spread message of clean mobility to the Indian public and promote cleaner, accessible modes of transport. The cyclathon was held in run up to MOVE: Global Mobility Summit scheduled to be held on September 7, 8 in New Delhi.

The event was aimed at promoting cycling for healthier life & less polluting city and spread message of a shared, connected, and zero-emission mobility in the country. It was organized as part of ‘Mobility Week’ which will see 17 events in seven days from 31 August to 6 September 2018. These events are aimed to facilitate interactions with various stakeholders across the mobility domain.

4th BIMSTEC summit

The 4th BIMSTEC summit successfully concluded today with Nepal Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli handing over the chairmanship of the grouping to Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the top leaders of other BIMSTEC member states attended the two-day summit in Kathmandu. 


Reiterating strong commitment to combat terrorism the leaders called upon all countries to devise a comprehensive approach to prevent financing of terrorists and terrorist actions from territories under their control, blocking recruitment and cross-border movement of terrorists, countering radicalization, countering misuse of internet for purposes of terrorism and dismantling terrorist safe havens. 

The leaders also committed themselves for promoting a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable Bay of Bengal Region through meaningful cooperation and deeper integration. 

The leaders of all seven member states including Prime Minister Narendra Modi underscored the importance of robust institutional arrangements to effectively steer the process of regional cooperation under BIMSTEC. 

The Prime Minister of Nepal K.P. Sharma Oli presented the draft Kathmandu declaration which was unanimously adopted by all member states. 

The Kathmandu Declaration underlined the importance of multidimensional connectivity as a key enabler for economic integration and shared prosperity of the region. 

 Raxaul-Kathmandu rail line

India and Nepal have signed MoU to build strategic railway line connecting Raxaul city in Bihar, India to Kathmandu, capital of Nepal. It was signed  after Prime Minister Narendra Modi held talks on all aspects of the bilateral ties with his Nepalese counterpart KP Sharma Oli on sidelines of 4th BIMSTEC Summit held in Nepal.

 

It is expected to expand connectivity by enhancing people-to-people linkages and bulk movement of goods between both countries. It help to promote economic growth and development in the region.

 India’s Konkan Railway Corporation Ltd. will conduct preliminary engineering-cum-traffic survey of this new rail line in consultation with Government of Nepal. This will be followed by finalization of implementation and funding modalities of project based ondetailed project report.  Besides, there are also three other railway projects in pipeline between both countries viz. Nautanwa-Bhairahawa, New Jalpaiguri-Kakarbhitta and Nepalgunj Road-Nepalgunj.

Dr B.K. Misra

Mumbai-based eminent neurosurgeon Dr B.K. Misra was named for prestigious Dr B.C. Roy National Award for year 2018 as Eminent Medical Person of the Year. It is highest medical honour of India and will be bestowed upon him by President Ram Nath Kovind in July 1 , 2019 on the occasion of National Doctors Day.

BC Roy Award is the highest recognition for medical practitioners in India. It was instituted by Medical Council of India (MCI) in 1976 in memory of renowned physician and former West Bengal Chief Minister Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy. The award is bestowed annually six categories viz. statesmanship of the Highest Order in India, eminent medical person, medical man-cum-statesman, eminent person in philosophy, eminent person in arts and eminent person in Science.

Bidhan Roy was was physician, educationist, philanthropist, freedom fighter and politician.  He had served as the Chief Minister of West Bengal from 1948 until his death in 1962. He is often considered founder of modern West Bengal due to his key role in founding of several institutions and five eminent cities, Durgapur, Kalyani, Bidhannagar, Ashokenagar and Habra in West Bengal.

Arunachal Assembly passes bill for creation of 3 new districts

Arunachal Pradesh Legislative assembly has passed Arunachal Pradesh Re-Organisation of Districts (Amendment) Bill, 2018 for the creation of three new districts, Pakke-Kesang, Lepa Rada and Shi Yomi in the state. The bill was passed by voice vote. These new districts were created keeping in view growing demands of people, bring administration to their door-steps and for all-round equal development in all parts of the state.  With addition of these three new districts, state will have total 25 districts from earlier 22 districts

Pakke-Kessang district: It will be carved out of East Kameng district with five administrative units namely Pakke-Kessangn, Seijosa, Pijiriang, Passa Valley and Dissingn Passo with district headquarters at Lemmi.

Lepa Rada district: It will be created by bifurcating Lower Siang district with headquarters at Basar. It will have four administrative units Tirbin, Basar, Daring and Sago.

Shi-Yomi district: It will be created by bifurcating West Siang district with its headquarters at Tato. It will have four administrative units namely Mechuka, Tato, Pidi and Manigong.

Vostok-2018

Russia is going to conduct Vostok-2018 (East-2018) military exercise in central and eastern Russian military districts from September 11 to 15, 2018. It will be biggest war games ever conducted by Russia since Zapad-81 (West-81) exercise conducted by erstwhile Soviet Union in 1981 which had seen involvement about 100,000 to 150,000 troops.

Vostok-2018 will involve participation of units from Russian Army, Air Force and Navy. More than 300,000 troops, 36,000 tanks, armoured personnel carriers, armoured infantry vehicles, over 1,000 military aircraft, two naval fleets and all its airborne units will participate in this military exercise. China and Mongolia will also participate in Vostok 2018.

Vostok-2018 exercise is being conducted in response to aggressive and unfriendly attitudes towards Russia by NATO and West countries. Tensions between Moscow and NATO had been running high since Russian annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in early 2014 and Russia backed uprising in eastern Ukraine, alleged meddling in US presidential elections of 2016 and nerve agent attack on ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in UK in March 2018, which have resulted in sharp escalations. NATO has also stepped up deployment of forces in East Europe and Russia has increased its naval presence in Mediterranean Sea off Syria. Moreover, involvement of China will be also significant and also improve Chinese-Russian military relations, as well as to prevent Chinese concern about military exercises near their border.

ADB to $245 million Loan-

Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved financing package of $245 million to implement project for providing safe, sustainable drinking water service to million people in three districts of West Bengal affected by arsenic, fluoride, and salinity. The project will provide continuous potable water through metered connections to about 390,000 individual households in three districts of North 24 Parganas, Bankura and Purba Medinipur. This project will play pivotal role in reducing burden of disease from arsenic and fluoride while preserving groundwater and enhancing climate resilience.

 

Through this project, potable water will be provided through bulk water systems, consisting of intakes, water treatment plants and transmission mains that will be connected to grid with existing and new systems in these three districts. The project will use high-technology based smart water management system to efficiently manage services. It will be first of its kind technology to be used for large scale rural water schemes in India.

High arsenic and fluoride levels in drinking water are serious threat to public health in India. About 85% of water in India’s rural areas comes from groundwater and around 27 million people are at risk from arsenic and fluoride contamination. West Bengal is by far worst affected state in high arsenic and fluoride levels in drinking water in India. Arsenic in drinking water can lead to range of serious health problems including cancer, while high exposure to fluoride can cause dental or skeletal fluorosis and bone diseases.

 AFSPA extended for 6 months in Assam

Governor of Assam has extended application of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) in the entire state for six more months with immediate effect. For this, it used powers conferred under Section 3 of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 declaring entire state as ‘Disturbed Area’ upto 6 months or unless withdrawn earlier.

The Act gives special powers to army and state and central police forces to shoot to kill, search houses and destroy any property used by insurgents in disturbed areas. It also provides army personnel with safeguards against malicious, vindictive and frivolous prosecution.

This decision was taken as precautionary measure to maintain law and order during ongoing National Register of Citizens (NRC) update process during the ongoing National Register of Citizens (NRC) update process. The final draft NRC is likely to be published by end of 2018. In September 2017, Union Home Ministry had delegated to Assam and Manipur Governors power to impose or withdraw AFSPA.

 

At present, the AFSA has been enforced in 6 states viz. Assam, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh (only the Tirap, Changlang and Longding districts plus 20-km belt bordering Assam), Manipur (except Imphal municipal area), Meghalaya (confined to  20-km belt bordering Assam) and Jammu and Kashmir.

 Smart India Hackathon 2019

Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) has third edition of Smart India Hackathon 2019 (SIH-2019). Smart India Hackathon is world’s biggest open innovation model which aims to provide students with platform to solve some of  pressing problems faced by people in their daily lives. It also seeks to inculcate culture of product innovation and mindset of problem-solving among young children.

 

SIH-2019 is expected to witness participation from over one lakh students from around 3000 institutions across the country. It will provide students opportunity to work on challenges faced by public sector organisations and union ministries. For the first time, SIH-2019 in the series of such events will also include problem statements from private sector and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Similar to its prequel editions, SIH- 2019 will have two sub-editions viz. software edition which will be 36-hour software product development competition and hardware edition which will be five days long hardware product development competition.

SIH-2019 will also see students from IITs, IISc, NITs, AICTE and UGC approved institutions compete to creatively solve problems and offer technical solutions. It will provide platform for both students who will get  chance to create world class solutions for some of world’s top organisations and these top organisations will also get chance to meet brightest young minds and brand themselves from hiring perspective.

 Irrigation Efficiency Improvement Project

Union Government has signed $375 million loan agreement with Asian Development Bank (ADB) for Madhya Pradesh Irrigation Efficiency Improvement Project. The project will contribute to double farming incomes in Madhya Pradesh by expanding irrigation networks and system efficiency.

It will develop 125,000 hectares of new, highly efficient and climate resilient irrigation networks. It will also improve water use efficiency in more than 400 villages and benefit over 800,000 people in the state. It will also support institutional innovations through introduction of design-build-operate contracting approach. It will also help farmers to adopt micro-irrigated agriculture including high-value crops. The ADB funds will be used to develop a large-scale pressurized and automated irrigation system for boosting irrigation efficiency.

It focuses on two large irrigation systems

  • Kundalia irrigation project: It will develop 125,000 ha of new and highly efficient and climate resilient irrigation networks. The work that will be undertaken includes building two large pumping stations pumping water to distribution chambers where water will be distributed through a network of buried pipes to farm outlets.
  • Sanjay Sarovar Irrigation Project: Under it comprehensive modernization feasibility study will be prepared and other preparatory work for soundly designed project.

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.

Karnataka State Highways Improvement III Project (KSHIP-III)

India has inked $346 million loan agreement with Asian Development Bank (ADB) to finance Karnataka State Highways Improvement III Project (KSHIP-III) for improvement of over 400 km of state highways in Karnataka. This will help in enhancement of connectivity and access to economic centres across 12 districts in Karnataka.

KSHIP-lll project will upgrade about 419 kilometers of state highways to two-and four-lane with paved shoulders. It will also reconstruct, widen, and strengthen culverts and bridges. Use of hybrid annuity contracts is important aspect of the project is to improve quality and sustainability of road assets with performance-based maintenance period of 7 years, post-construction.

The project will also carry out road safety audit to identify and mitigate critical accident blackspots across state highway network. It will also strengthen the institutional capacity of the Karnataka Public Works, Ports, and lnland Water Transport Department.

National REDD+ Strategy

Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has released National Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) strategy for India. It aims at achieve climate change mitigation by incentivizing forest conservation. This strategy will soon be communicated to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

National REDD+ strategy will help India to fulfill its nationally determined contribution (NDC)   commitments and will also contribute to livelihood of forest dependent population. It will help to enhance efforts for forest conservation and enhance productivity of forest eco-systems. It takes into consideration important role played by tribals, other forest dwelling people and society as whole in reiterating India’s commitment to Paris Agreement.

 It has been prepared by Indian Council of Forestry Research & Education (ICFRE), Dehradun. It is one of tools to further supplement India’s commitment to 2015 Paris agreement. It will support empowerment of youth cadres as community foresters to lead charge at local level. Under it, Green Skill Development programme will be launched for imparting forestry-related specialised skills among the youth.

 Paris Agreement on Climate Change recognises role of forests in climate change mitigation and calls upon participating nations to take action to implement and support REDD+. India its NDC to this agreement has committed to capture 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) through additional efforts in forestry sector. India’s first biennial update report to UNFCCC has revealed that forests in India capture about 12% of India’s total GHG emissions. Thus, forestry sector in India is making positive cost effective contribution for climate change mitigation.

REDD is set of steps designed to use market and financial incentives in order to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from deforestation and forest degradation. It is collaborative programme of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Its original objective is to reduce greenhouse gases but it is claimed that it can deliver co-benefits such as biodiversity conservation and poverty alleviation.

REDD+ initiative goes beyond deforestation and forest degradation, and includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks. It aims at reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, conservation of forest carbon stocks, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries. It gives emphasis to activities that will help in sustainable livelihood of local communities and also in conservation of biodiversity.

Soft loan for Clean Ganga Mission

Germany has announced to provide soft loan of euro 120 million (Rs. 990 crore approximately) to India to strengthen sewage water treatment infrastructure in Uttarakhand in an effort to clean River Ganga under Clean Ganga Mission. German development agency GIZ also has prepared ‘Ganga Box’ aimed to target schools-going children and inform them about the river.

The proceeds from this soft loan will be used for project focusing on extension and replacement of sewerage system (around 360 kilometres) including complete house connection, construction of sewage treatment plants (STPs) of around 15 million litres per day (mld). The purpose of project is to reduce inflow of untreated waste water in River Ganga and, thus, to improve the water quality of the river. This project also includes construction of 13 sewage pumping stations.

Ganga book has been prepared on lines of ‘Danube Book’ when cleaning of European river was undertaken. This book will have information mythological, socio-cultural, economic importance about river and suggestions to avoid pollution, like not dumping plastic in water body. Its aim is to bring behavioural change of people towards Ganga River. Ganga book project has been piloted in government schools in Uttarakhand and it will be replicated in other states.

Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation Achievements (ARRIA)

Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) has introduced Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation Achievements (ARRIA) to systematically rank education institutions and universities primarily on innovation related indicators. ARRIA aims to promote culture of innovation and research in higher education.

ARRIA is named after former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. It measures some parameters which are India-specific considering current scenario and status of higher education in India. ARIIA parameters are primarily organised in five broad heads which are further elaborated into suitable sub-heads. Each of five main parameters has certain weightage assigned to it and sub-heads also have appropriate weight distribution. The institutions will be rank-ordered based on scores. The overall score can take a maximum value of 100.

Five main focus parameters of ARRIA are budget expenses and revenue generated through Innovation and entrepreneurship development (weightage: 20)facilitate access to advance centres and facilities and entrepreneurial support system (10)idea to entrepreneurship (54)development of innovation ecosystems supported through teaching & learning (10) and best innovative solutions developed in-house for improving governance of institution (6).

ARRIA will inspire Indian institutions to reorient their mind-set and build ecosystems to encourage high quality research, innovation and entrepreneurship. It will focus on quality of innovations rather than quantity and measure the real impact created by these innovations nationally and internationally. It will set tone and direction for institutions for future development for making them globally competitive and in forefront of innovation.

 MoveHack-

Union Government’s premier think tank NITI Aayog has made computer chip manufacturer NVIDIA its deep learning technology partner to support its MoveHack event. MoveHack is global mobility hackathon event organized by NITI Aayog to crowdsource solutions aimed at the future of mobility in India.

Deep learning technology: It is subset of machine learning (ML) in artificial intelligence (AI) that has networks capable of learning unsupervised from data that is unstructured or unlabelled.

As deep learning technology partner, NVIDIA will help NITI Aayog to solve grand challenge of making innovations in mass mobility matter of national importance using Artifical Intellegence (AI) and deep learning. It will provide participants in MoveHack event with graphics processing unit (GPU) and deep learning technologies, as well as remote access to NVIDIA DGX systems, purpose built deep learning supercomputers. Moreover, participants will also get a chance to be mentored by experts from the chip-making company

Desecration of religious texts –

Punjab Legislative Assembly has unanimously passed Indian Penal Code (Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2018 and Code of Criminal Procedure (Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2018 to make sacrilege of all religious texts punishable with life imprisonment. This comes week after State Cabinet chaired by Chief Minister Arminder Singh approved the amendments. Besides, Justice (retired) Ranjit Singh Commission report on incidents of desecration of religious texts was also tabled in the assembly.

These Bills amends Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) to add necessary provisions. IPC (Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2018 inserts section 295AA to IPC which says that whoever causes injury, damage or sacrilege to holy religious texts with intention to hurt religious feelings of people, will be punished with imprisonment for life. The main objective of making sacrilege of religious texts punishable offence with life imprisonment is to preserve communal harmony in the society.

Energy Efficiency Program (EEP)

Union Government (Finance Ministry) has inked $220 million Loan Agreement with World Bank to scale-up Inida’s Energy Efficiency Program. It also signed $80 million guarantee agreement with World Bank.

The loan will be provided to EESL by World Bank through its lending arm International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD). It has maturity of 19 years and 5-year grace period. The $80 million IBRD guarantee will partially cover re-payment risks to commercial lenders or investors to enable EESL to raise funds for its program.

It will be implemented by Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL). It will help to scale-up deployment of energy saving measures in residential and public sectors, strengthen EESL’s institutional capacity and enhance its access to commercial financing.  Under it, EESL will deploy 219 million LED bulbs and tube lights, 5.8 million ceiling fans, and 7.2 million street lights, which will be supplied by private sector manufacturers and suppliers.

Key Components of Program

  • Create sustainable markets for LED lights and energy efficient ceiling fans.
  • Facilitate well-structured and scalable investments in public street lighting.
  • Develop sustainable business models for emerging market segments such as super-efficient air conditioning and agricultural water pumping systems.
  • Strengthen institutional capacity of EESL.
  • Increase private sector participation in energy efficiency, including through private sector energy service companies.

The World Bank investments under this program are expected to avoid lifetime greenhouse gas emissions of 170 million tons of CO2. It will also contribute to avoiding an estimated 10 GW of additional generation capacity. This will help to achieve 50% of National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency target of 19.6 GW indicated in India’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under 2015 Paris Agreement ( India has committed to reduce carbon emissions by 33-35% by 2030 under NDC). Thus, help India to move further towards a more resource-efficient growth path. It will help tackle financing, awareness, technical and capacity barriers faced by new energy efficiency programs and also support Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for All (UJALA) program of Central Government.

Horizon 2020 research project

Under this project, cost-effective and affordable influenza vaccine will be developed. It aims at advancing the efficacy, safety, duration of immunity, and reactivity against an increased breadth of influenza strains. Rs. 240 crore fund has been earmarked for research and innovation actions under this project.

The vaccine will be developed by EU-India consortia by bringing together multi-disciplinary stakeholders who represent any part of chain from lab to market. It will comprise minimum of three applicants from Europe (three different EU member states) or countries associated to EU programme Horizon 20202 and minimum three applicants from India. Other countries are also free to join this EU-India consortia.

The outcome of this project is expected to contribute to achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 3 (SDG-3) to ensure health and well-being for all. It will help international community to better prepare in the event of an influenza pandemic. It will also give boost India’s National Health Mission.

Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS).

Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare issued advisory to all states and Union Territories to not allow manufacture, sale and advertisement of e-cigarettes and other Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS). It also has issued warning that use e-cigarettes and other ENDS devices pose great health risk to public at large, especially to children and pregnant women. Punjab, Karnataka, Kerala, Mizoram, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar already have prohibited manufacture, import, sale and distribution of e-cigarettes and ENDS.

e-cigarettes and ENDS-   ENDS are devices that heat solution to create aerosol, which also frequently contains flavours, usually dissolved into propylene glycolor and glycerin. e-cigarettes (electronic cigarettes) are most common prototype of ENDS. These devices do not burn or use tobacco leaves but instead vaporise solution, which user then inhales. The main constituents of solution are nicotine, propylene glycol (with or without glycerol and flavouring agents).

According to World Health Organisation (WHO) report on Global Tobacco Epidemic 2017, 30 countries like Mauritius, Australia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Brazil, Mexico, Uruguay, Bahrain, Iran, Saudi Arabia and UAE have already banned ENDS.

ENDS including e-cigarettes, heat-not-burn devices, vape, etc. are great health risk to public at large, especially to children, adolescents, pregnant women and women of reproductive age. ENDS are not approved as NRTs (nicotine-replacement therapies) under Drugs and Cosmetics Act and rules made thereunder.

ENDS solutions and emissions contain other chemicals, some of them considered to be toxicants. They contain nicotine, addictive component of tobacco products. In addition they contain metals, including lead, chromium and nickel and chemicals like formaldehyde with concentrations equal to or greater than traditional cigarettes.

Use of ENDS may affect development of foetus during pregnancy. It may contribute to cardiovascular disease to people who use ENDS. Moreover, nicotine may function as ‘tumour promoter’ and seems to be involved in biology of malignant diseases. Foetal and adolescent nicotine exposure have long-term consequences for brain development, potentially leading to learning and anxiety disorders.

PM-STIAC-

Union Government has constituted new 21-member advisory panel on science, technology and innovation called Prime Minister’s Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council (PM-STIAC). It will be headed by Principal Scientific Advisor to government K Vijay Raghavan. It will replace earlier Scientific Advisory Committee to Prime Minister and to Cabinet.

The council will advise PM on science, technology, as well as innovation. It will also coordinate implementation of PMs scientific vision. It will actively aid in formulation and timely implementation of major science and technology missions and evolve interdisciplinary technology development programmes.  It will also advise government on developing ‘Clusters of Excellence’ in science including city-based R&D clusters. It will work to bring together all science and technology partners from academia and institutes to industries near such centres or cities.

It has nine members, including Chairperson. Apart from nine members, it will also have twelve special invitees — eleven ex officio secretaries 10 central ministries, related to science, technology, energy and education, are special invitees to the panel. Members of PM-STIAC are including Dr VK Saraswat (member of NITI Aayog and former director general of Defence Research and Development Organisation), Dr AS Kiran Kumar (former chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation), Maj Gen Madhuri Kanitkar (dean of Armed Forces Medical College, Pune), Manjul Bhargava (professor at Princeton University and a Fields medal winner), Subhash Kak (professor at Oklahoma State University), Baba Kalyani (managing director of Bharat Forge), AS Kiran Kumar (former ISRO chief) and Ajay Sood (Professor at Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru).

Gaganyaan-

Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) unveiled details of its first indigenous human space mission dubbed as Gaganyaan to be launched in 2022. The mission was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his 72nd Independence Day speech. Under it, three Indian astronauts (Gaganyatris) will be taken to space on board Gaganyaan spacecraft by 2022.

This will be the first human space mission to be indigenously developed by ISRO. If successful, India will become fourth nation in the world to send astronaut into space after US, Russia and China. Former Indian Air Force (IAF) Rakesh Sharma was first Indian to travel to space. He was part of the Soviet Union’s Soyuz T-11 expedition, launched on April 2, 1984, of the Intercosmos programme.

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.

The entire cost of Gaganyaan mission will be less than Rs 10,000 crore. It will be totally indigenous, very cost-effective mission by Indian standards which is not viable from international standards. Prior to actual launch of this manned mission by 2022, ISRO will launch  two unmanned Gaganyaan missions (first in 30 months’ time and then 36 months).

Launch Phase: GSLV Mk-III launch vehicle will be used to launch Gaganyaan as it has necessary payload capability for this mission. The spacecraft will comprise of crew module and service module that constitute orbital. It weighs approximately 7 tonnes and will be placed in low earth orbit (LEO) of 300-400 km. Crew module’s size will be 3.7 meters and of service module will be 7 meters.

Orbital Phase: The mission will send three-member crew to space for period of five to seven days. The launch vehicle will take off from spaceport of Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh and it will reach desired orbit in 16 minutes. The crew will be selected by Indian Air Force (IAF) and ISRO jointly after which they will undergo training for two-three years. It will conduct microgravity experiment during the mission.

Re-entry phase: The velocity of whole module will be reduced and will be turned in opposite direction so that it can start to come down. When it will reach distance of 120 km from Earth’s surface, service module will be removed and separated out. The module carrying crew alone will come back to earth, this will take about 36 minutes to reach Earth. ISRO is planning to land crew module in Arabian Sea, closer to Gujarat coast or in Bay of Bengal or even on land from where the crew will be recovered

Execution time: The mission may be executed six months before India completes its 75th Independence Day in 2022. It is expected to be completed before 2022.

Support technology developed by ISRO for Gaganyaan Mission

So far, ISRO has developed some critical technologies required manned space mission like re-entry mission capability, crew escape system, crew module configuration, thermal protection system, deceleration and floatation system and sub-systems of life support system. Some of these technologies have been demonstrated successfully through Space Capsule Recovery Experiment (SRE-2007), Crew module Atmospheric Reentry Experiment (CARE-2014) and Pad Abort Test (2018).

Fabless Chip Design Incubator (FabCI)

Indian Institute of Technology-Hyderabad (IIT-H) has launched “Fabless Chip Design Incubator (FabCI)”, an exclusive incubator to boost chip design. It is first of its kind in India that will focus on creating an ecosystem for start-ups in chip design.

FabCI is funded by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeITY) along with technology partners Cadence Design Systems and Mentor Graphics both are leading providers of Electronic Design Automation (EDA) software, hardware and IP. I

FabCI’s purpose is to incubate at least 50 ‘Make-in-India’ chip design companies that can compete globally and generate Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs). It will provide bouquet of offerings including free software tools with leading technology partners in Electronic Design Automation (EDA), characterization facility for testing chips and equipment for performing DC and RF characterization. It will also offer virtual support to non-Hyderabad start-ups which can join FabCI and leverage the offerings and participate remotely.

Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan

Indian tennis pair of Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan won gold medal in Men’s Doubles tennis at 2018 Asian Games. In the final match, they defeated Kazakhstan’s Aleksandar Bublik and Denis Yevseyv pair by 6-3, 6-4 score in a match that lasted 52 minutes. Earlier in semi-final, Rohan Bopanna and Sharan had won against Japan’s Kaito Uesugi and Sho Shimabukoro by 4-6, 6-3, 10-8 score in three-set match which lasted for 72 minutes.

It is 18th edition of Asian Games hosted by Indonesia. It was held from August 18 to September 2, 2018 in two cities – Jakarta (capital of Indonesia) and Palembang (capital of Indonesia’s province of South Sumatra). It is second time Indonesia hosting Asian Games. For first, it was held in Jakarta in 1962.

Tejinder Pal Singh Toor

Shot-putter Tejinder Pal Singh Toor (24) won Gold medal in men’s shot put final at 2018 Jakarta-Palembang Asian GamesAsian Games held in Indonesia. He finished first in men’s shot put final and set new record at 20.75 m in his fifth attempt. It was India’s first Gold medal in Athletics event in this edition of Asian Games.

He hails from Punjab (Khosa Pando village in Moga district) and is son of farmer. He holds outdoor national record of 20.75m in shot put  throw. He had won silver medal at 2017 Asian Athletics Championships held in Bhubaneswar, Odisha in shot put with throw of 19.77m, missing out on gold medal by 0.03 m. He had finished eighth infinal of 2018 Commonwealth Games with throw of 19.42m.

MH-60R – Multi role helicopters

Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has approved procurement 24 anti-submarine capable multi role helicopters to enhance capability of Indian Navy at sea. This approval will allow Government to sign contract US based aviation giant Lockheed Martin for purchasing 24 MH-60R helicopters for Indian Navy.

This contract will be direct government-to-government (G2G) deal with United States worth approximately $1.8 billion. MH-60R helicopters (or Seahawk multi-mission helicopters)are anti-submarine helicopters. Buying them will replace British-built Sea King helicopters, many of which are more than three-decades-old.

Multi role helicopters are integral part of frontline warships like aircraft carriers, destroyers, frigates and corvettes. Availability of MRH with Indian Navy will help to plug existing capability gap. For years, Indian Navy has argued that its warships lack any modern anti-submarine helicopters with existing Sea King fleet now being obsolete.

155 mm Advanced Towed Artillery Gun Systems

Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has approved procurement of 150 indigenously designed and developed 155 mm Advanced Towed Artillery Gun Systems for Indian Army at approximate cost of Rs 3,364.78 crores. This procurement will further quest for modernisation of Armed forces.

These guns have been indigenously designed & developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). They will be manufactured by production agencies as nominated by DRDO. They are likely to mainstay of Artillery in near future.

Procurement of indigenous artillery gun systems will provide major fillip to ‘Make in India’ programme of Government. It will also help to create self-reliance in country’s defence manufacturing sector. It also has potential of making defence industry as a major engine of India’s economic growth.

Aeolus-

European Space Agency (ESA) has successfully launched wind-sensing satellite named Aeolus into orbit on board of Vega rocket from French Guyana. It is world’s first wind-sensing satellite dedicated to map Earth’s wind on global scale in particular tropical winds which are very poorly mapped because of almost complete absence of direct observations.

The satellite is Aeolus named after guardian of wind in Greek mythology. It will be placed at altitude of 320km above the Earth. It is part of the Copernicus project, a joint initiative of European Union (EU) and European Space Agency (ESA) to track environmental damage and aid disaster relief operations.

Aeolus satellite is equipped with single instrument Doppler wind lidar (named Aladin), which is advanced laser system is designed to accurately measure global wind patterns from space. It will probe lower layers of atmosphere, down to altitude of about 30 km to yield vertical profiles of wind and information on aerosols and clouds.

Bennu asteroid mission

NASA’s asteroid sampling spacecraft OSIRIS-REx has captured first images of its target asteroid Bennu and began its final approach towards it after almost two-year journey. OSIRIS-Rex stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security-Regolith Explorer. The first glimpses of targeted asteroid were captured by PolyCam camera OCAMS on board of OSIRIS-Rex from a distance of 2.1 million kilometre. It will help to study Bennu’s size, shape, surface features, and surroundings.

 

OSIRIS-Rex mission 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. So far, it has travelled approximately 1.8 billion kilometres since its launch. During its approach phase, OSIRIS-REx will regularly observe area around the asteroid to search for dust plumes and natural satellites and study its light and spectral properties.

India’s first biofuel-powered plane-

India’s first flight using biofuel will fly from Dehradun (capital of Uttarakhand) to Delhi. The first ever biofuel test flight was conducted by SpiceJet on its turborporp Q-400 plane. With this India will join elite club of nations who have operated flight on alternative energy source like biofuel. Developed countries like Canada, Australia and US have already conducted these test flights. India will be first developing nation to experiment biofuel test flight.

 

SpiceJet operated first such biofuel flight from Dehradun to Delhi using alternative environment friendly fuel for 10 minutes over Dehradun. Based on the result of test flight, second flight took off later to Delhi. The objective this biofuel flight is to make air travel economical and bring some respite to airlines reeling under high fuel price through use of alternate fuel. Moreover, use of biofuel has the potential to reduce aviation carbon emissions by up to 80%. According to recent data from International Air Transport Association (IATA), recent rising aviation fuel costs in India has eroded aviation sector’s profitability.

The world’s first dedicated biofuel flight (by Dreamliner Boeing 787-9) was flown for first time from Los Angeles (US) to Melbourne (Australia) in January 2018 by Australian carrier Qantas.

5 Thematic Reports

NITI Aayog has released five Thematic Reports on Sustainable Development in Indian Himalayan Region (IHR) recognizing uniqueness of Himalayas and challenges for sustainable development. These reports list challenges in all defined five thematic areas and discuss significance, challenges, ongoing actions and future roadmap.

These reports were prepared by five working groups which were set up by NITI Aayog in June 2017 to prepare roadmap for actions in five thematic areas that are quite significant for the Himalayas. These areas were as fallows-

Inventory and Revival of springs in Himalayas for Water Security: Nearly 30% of springs, crucial to water security of people in Himalayas are drying and 50% have reported reduced discharge. There is need for spring mapping and revival by using eight steps protocol that must be taken up across Himalayan States in phased manner. It calls for setting up of Mission on Spring Water Management in Himalayas.

Sustainable Tourism in Indian Himalayan Region: Himalayan Tourism is growing annually at 6.8% and has created huge challenge related to solid waste, water, traffic, loss of bio-cultural diversity etc. Projected arrival of tourists will be more than double by 2025. Urgent actions are needed to address issues of waste management and water crisis. The concept of carrying capacity must be applied to all major tourist destinations.“Himalaya Calling: An Awareness to Action Campaign” must be launched as people’s movement.

Transformative approach to shifting cultivation: Thousands of households in north eastern states, continue to practice shifting cultivation i.e. slash and burn (Jhum cultivation) which needs to be addressed in view of ecological, food and nutritional security. There is urgent need for assessment of nature and extent of shifting cultivation area. Moreover there is need for improved policy coherence, strengthened tenurial security and improved access to related programs for transform shifting cultivation. National Mission/Program on Transforming Shifting Cultivation in North Eastern States must be set up.

Strengthening Skill and Entrepreneurship Landscape in Himalayas: The Himalayan states face severe challenge of unskilled workforce and migration of youths. There is urgent need to strengthen skill and entrepreneurship workforce in Himalayan region with required focus on identified priority sectors where mountains have advantage, along with investment in trainers, assessors and setting up training centers with industry partnership. There is need to set up demand driven network of skill and entrepreneurship development Centers in Himalayan States along with consortium of institutions of high learning for mountain specific research and technology.

Data/Information for Informed Decision Making: Himalayan states face challenges related to data availability, data authenticity, compatibility, data quality, validation, user charges. It needs to be addressed for informed decision making at different levels of governance. Central Data Management Agency for Himalayas must be set up to provide data with high fidelity scenario.

 It will help in addressing data sharing, access, authenticity and comparability issues. It should be linked with Hindukush Himalaya Monitoring and Assessment program (HIMAP). Central Data Management Agency for

Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhavana Award

Former West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi was conferred with 2018 Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhavana Award. He was presented award in New Delhi on occasion of 74th birth anniversary of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Born on 22 April 1945. He is grandson of Father of Nation Mahatma Gandhi. He is retired IAS officer (Tamil Nadu cadre) and also had served as diplomat. He was 22nd Governor of West Bengal serving from 2004 to 2009.

SC strikes out Nota option in RS election

Supreme Court scrapped use of NOTA (none of the above) option for Rajya Sabha elections, saying it defeats fairness in indirect elections, destroys democratic values and serves as Satan of defection and corruption. It came on petition by Shailesh Parmar, who was Congress chief whip in Gujarat, challenging EC decision to allow NOTA in Rajya Sabha polls.

It held that choice of NOTA will have negative impact in voting process of Rajya Sabha where open ballot is permissible and secrecy of voting has no room and discipline of political parties matters. Though elector, in Rajya Sabha has single vote and has quantified value of his vote and transferable surplus votes. But there is existence of formula for determining value of vote which has different connotation.

Background

NOTA was introduced in Lok Sabha polls (direct election) by Election Commission of India (ECI) following 2013 Supreme Court decision. It was extended to Rajya Sabha election (i.e. indirect elections) via notification in January 2014.

 Cyclone Warning Centre in Kerala

Union Ministry of Earth Sciences has announced to set up Cyclone Warning Centre in Kerala’s capital Thiruvananthapuram. It also proposed to set up C-band Doppler weather radar at Mangalore, Karnataka. This comes in view of recent heavy rainfall and concerns over extreme weather activities in future.

The centre will be equipped with state- of-the-art infrastructure including forecasting tools to provide daily weather alerts, issue weather warnings and coastal warnings or bulletins (for fishermenetc). It is expected to be functional within a month and will cater to the needs of Kerala and Karnataka states. It will further strengthen tpresent forecasting activity in India Meteorological Department’s existing office in Thiruvananthapuram.

At present, IMD has six cyclone warning centres, four along east coast at Chennai (Tamil Nadu), Visakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh), Bhubaneswar (Odisha) and Kolkata (West Bengal), and two along west coast at Ahmedabad (Gujarat) and Mumbai (Maharashtra).

 Governors of seven states

 President Ram Nath Kovind appointed Governors of seven states including Bihar, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir, Sikkim, Meghalaya, and Tripura by exercising his authority under Article 156. The appointments will be effective from the dates the incumbents take charge of their respective offices.

Satya Pal Malik: He is former Governor of Bihar who was transferred to Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). It makes hi,  first careered politician to be appointed as  Governor of  J&K in 51 years. He succeeds N Vohra, who has been serving this post since 2008.

Lal Ji Tandon: He has been appointed as new Governor of Bihar. He was MLA in Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council for two terms (1978-84).

Ganga Prasad: He was appointed as the new Governor of Sikkim. He is former Governor of Meghalaya.  He was member of Bihar legislative council for 18 years. He is former leader of Opposition in Bihar Assembly. He was businessman by profession, and had started his political career as Jan Sangh member in 1967.

Tathagata Roy: He was transferred as new Governor of Meghalaya. He was earlier the Governor of Tripura.  He was BJP’s West Bengal unit President from 2002 to 2006.

Kaptan Singh Solanki: He was appointed as new Governor of Tripura. Prior to this, he was Governor of Haryana. He is former Rajya Sabha member and was appointed as the Governor of Haryana in 2014. He was elected to Rajya Sabha in August 2009.

Satyadev Narayan Arya: He was appointed as the new Governor of Haryana. He is prominent Dalit leader from Nalanda, Arya. He was eight-term MLA from Bihar. He was cabinet minister in 2010 BJP-JDU Government in state.

Baby Rani Maurya: She has been made the new Governor of Uttarakhand. She is former Agra mayor and ex-member of National Commission for Women (NCW). She was BJP leader from Agra.

Kowsar: fighter jet

Iran has unveiled first domestically manufactured fighter jet nicknamed Kowsar. It was unveiled at defence show held in the capital city of Tehran.

It is fourth-generation fighter with advanced avionics and multi-purpose radar. It was 100% indigenously made in Iran. Its name Kowsar means river in paradise in Islam and also title of chapter in Koran. It is dual-cockpit, single engine jet with single tail fin.

It resembles US-made F-5F Tiger (first flew in 1974), which is variant of 1950s-era US Northrop F-5 fighter that is a long-time mainstay of Iranian Air Force. It can be used for short aerial support missions. It is equipped with systems that promote precision targeting.

Background

Shooter Chaudhary

Shooter Saurabh Chaudhary (16) won gold medal in Men’s 10m Air Pistol event with record score of 240.7 at 2018 Jakarta  Palembang Asian Games in Indonesia. For first time he was competing senior event and won gold medal in Asian Games debut. .  

Rahi Sarnobat

Rahi Sarnobat became first Indian woman to win shooting gold medal at Jakarta-Palembang 2018 Asian Games in 25m pistol event. She shot score of 34 in final to tie with Thailand’s Naphaswan Yangpaiboon who won silver medal and Kim Minjung of South Korea won bronze with score of 29. It was Rahi’s biggest medal of her shooting career.

She hails from Kolhapur, Maharashtra.

FSSAI

Food Safety and Standards Authority (FSSAI) has notified food safety standards for honey and its products in bid to curb adulteration. These standards will be applicable to both domestic manufacturers and importers. It will help farmers to fetch better prices for their products.

It defines honey as natural sweet substance produced by honey bees from nectar of blossoms or from secretions of plants, which honey bees collect, transform and store in honeycombs for ripening. Honey products should comply with 18 parameters like that of sucrose content, glucose ratio, pollen count, foreign oligosaccharides etc,

These products should contain fixed maximum 5% limit for sucrose, 10% for carviacallosa and honeydew honey. The moisture percentage should be maximum 20% and pollen count should be 25,000 per gram. If product is sold as honey then food ingredient, including food additives should not be added to it.

Honey should not be heated or processed to such extent that its essential composition is changed and its quality is impaired. Honey can be labelled according to floral or plant source, if it comes from any particular source and has organoleptic, physicochemical and microscopic properties corresponding with torigin.

International Buddhist Conclave 2018

The International Buddhist Conclave (IBC), 2018 was held in New Delhi. It was inaugurated by President Ram Nath Kovind. It was sixth edition of International Buddhist Conclave. Its theme was ‘Buddha Path – The Living Heritage”.

The Conclave was organized by Ministry of Tourism in collaboration with State Governments of Maharashtra, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Japan is ‘Partner Country for IBC-2018. It was held from 23rd to 26th August, 2018 at New Delhi and Ajanta (Maharashtra), followed by site visits to Rajgir, Nalanda and Bodhgaya (Bihar) and Sarnath (Uttar Pradesh). It saw participation delegates from following 29 countries including ministerial level delegation from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. This edition of conclave had religious and spiritual dimension, academic theme and diplomatic and business component.

 

 

ICOMOS launches Kerala Heritage Rescue Initiative 

 

International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) launched Kerala Heritage Rescue Initiative to assess damage to rich cultural and built heritage sites in flood-devastated Kerala. ICOMOS is global monument conservation body.

The initiative aims at setting up platform for emergency response to cultural heritage damaged by the floods in Kerala. It also has set Facebook page to collect information on the damage to buildings, museum collections, cultural artefacts, libraries, archives, and even intangible heritage.

ICOMOS has also approached International Centre for Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) to partner in post-disaster work. ICCROM based in Rome (Italy) is inter-governmental organisation dedicated to preservation of cultural heritage worldwide through training, information, research, cooperation and advocacy programmes.

Cyber attacks IN Indian sites

 

According to recent report by Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), maximum number of cyber-attacks on official Indian websites are from China, US and Russia. The report was forwarded to National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) and other security agencies. It had analysed cyber-attacks from April-June 2018.

China continues to intrude Indian cyberspace in significant way as cyber-attacks originating from China account for largest 35% of total number of cyber-attacks on official Indian websites followed by US (17%), Russia (15%), Pakistan (9%), Canada (7%) and Germany (5%).

Indian institutions attacked by these malicious activities on cyberspace include Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), National Informatics Centre (NIC), Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), Railways, Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS) and some banks like Punjab National Bank (PNB), Oriental Bank of Commerce (OBC), State Bank of India (SBI) and state data centres, particularly in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka.

CERT-In is nodal agency for information technology (cyber) security under aegis of Department of Information Technology, Ministry of Electronics and IT. It was established in 2004. Its mandate is to protect Indian cyberspace and software infrastructure against destructive and hacking activities. It also responds to computer security incidents, report on vulnerabilities and promote effective IT security practices throughout country. It also issue guidelines, vulnerability notes, advisories and whitepapers regarding to information security practices, prevention.

 

RIL

Mukesh Ambani-led oil-to-telecom behemoth Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) became first Indian company to cross Rs 8 lakh crore ($114 billion) market capitalisation. This record m-cap of RIL also bumped up Mukesh Ambani’s (India’s richest man) wealth to over $48 billion (according to Bloomberg Billionaires Index). M-cap is value of company that is traded on stock market, calculated by multiplying total number of shares by present share price.

RIL achieved Rs 8 lakh crore m-cap feat, after its shares rose by 1.86% to close at a record high of Rs 1,269.70 on Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) in intra-day trade, elevating its market cap to Rs 8.05 lakh crore. So far this year, RIL shares surged over 38 per cent.

RIL is engaged in energy, petrochemicals, textiles, natural resources, retail, and telecommunications. It is second largest company in India as measured by revenue after government-controlled Indian Oil Corporation. It is ranked 203rd on the Fortune Global 500 list of the world’s biggest corporations as of 2017. It is ranked 8th among the Top 250 Global Energy Companies by Platts as of 2016.

 

 

Government developing National Logistics Portal

Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry is developing National Logistics Portal is to ensure ease of trading in international and domestic markets. The portal will link all stakeholders of EXIM (export and import), domestic trade and movement and all trade activities on single platform.

It will be implemented in phases and will fulfil Central Government’s commitment to enhance trade competitiveness, create jobs, boost India’s performance in global rankings and pave way for India to become logistics hub. Stakeholders like traders, manufacturers, logistics service providers, infrastructure providers, financial services, Government departments and groups and associations will all be on one platform.

 

5G steering committee –

The 5G steering committee chaired by Stanford University’s Professor Emeritus AJ Paulraj submitted its recommendations to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT). It gave wide-ranging recommendations to drive India’s 5G adoption entailing areas like spectrum policy, regulatory policy, standards and education.

The committee was set up by Government in September 2017 to suggest a road map for adoption of 5G. It was high-level forum on 5G technology, comprising secretaries of ministries of communications, information technology, and science & technology, along with representatives of industry and academia. Its aim was to push participation in the process of defining global standards for the next generation of wireless technology.

AJ Paulraj committee gave has proposed promulgation of key norms on regulatory matters by March 2019 in

No ATMs to be refilled with cash after 9 pm

Union Home Ministry has issued new Standard Operating Procedures (SoPs) for cash refilling of automated teller machines (ATMs) after certain time period. It comes in view of rising incidents of attacks on cash vans, cash vaults, ATM frauds and other internal frauds leading to increased sense of insecurity. It will come into effect from 8 February 2019. There are over 8,000 privately owned cash vans operating across country, operated by non-bank private agencies, and they handle over Rs. 15,000 crore daily on behalf of banks.

It sets deadline of replenishing cash in ATMs before 9 pm in cities and 6pm in rural areas. In case of Naxal-hit districts notified by central government, e deadline will be 4pm.

One armed guard must sit in front along with driver and another in rear portion of van during transit. The cash van should not carry cash of more than Rs. 5 crore per trip.

The cash van shall be provided with small CCTV system with at least five days recording facility and three cameras installed in front, rear and inside of cabin. The cash van shall be equipped with hooter, fire extinguishers and emergency lights to ensure quick reaction in case of attack. It should also be equipped with security alarm with GSM based auto-dialer along with motorised siren.

Rishabh Pant

Rishabh Pant became fourth Indian wicket-keeper to take five catches on Test debut during the second day of the third Test against England. Pant who became India’s 291st Test player, achieved this in England’s first innings.

 

With this feat, Rishabh Pant joins club of other Indian wicket-keepers who have taken five catches on Test debut. They are Naren Tamhane (vs Pakistan in 1955), Kiran More (vs England in 1986) and Naman Ojha (vs Sri Lanka in 2015).  It also makes him Pant first Asian wicket-keeper and third in the world to take five catches in an innings on Test debut. Other two international wicket-keepers who achieved this feat are B Taber (vs South Africa, 1966) and J MacLean ( vs Brisbane, 1978).

Centralised secretariat –

Six northern states Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Union territories of and Delhi and Chandigarh have decided to set up centralised secretariat at Panchkula (Haryana) for tackling the drug menace. It was decided at in inter-State regional conference of Chief Ministers organised in Chandigarh by Haryana government on issue of “Drug menace, challenges and strategies”.

It aims to have mechanism for quick and proactive information exchange on drug trends, cases registered and persons named, wanted or arrested. It will host monthly meeting of special task forces and quarterly meetings at level of Home Secretaries to build inter-agency trust to break and demolish the supply chains to tackle the drug menace.

New set of warnings on tobacco products

Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has notified new sets of specified health warnings for all tobacco product packs. In this regard, it has made amendments in Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labeling) Rules, 2008. The amended rules will be applicable w.e.f. 1st September 2018.

 

Union Health Ministry maintains pictorial health warnings on packs of tobacco products are most cost-effective tool for educating people on the health risks of tobacco use. The warning on all packs of tobacco products have tobacco causes cancer and tobacco causes painful death written in white on red background accompanied with quitline number. Study conducted by National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) had found that about 46% of illiterate men smoke, whereas only 16% of college graduates are hooked to tobacco.

Violation of above provision will be punishable offence with imprisonment or fine as prescribed in Section 20 of Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003.

 Re-Water Research Center

Indian Instituted of Technology (IIT)-Kharagpur has decided to set up Re-Water Research Center to replenish and rejuvenate water resources. It will be seed-funded by two alumni members – Aneesh Reddy & Aditya Choubey and named after them as Aditya Choubey Center for Re-Water Research.

 

The purpose of this centre will be to tackle challenge of resolving two burning issues faced by urban India – sewage disposal and access to clean potable water. It will network with government bodies to take up technology developed by it and process and meet the water challenge faced by various cities.

IIT-Kharagpur will set up an on-campus plant which will convert 1.35 million litre of sewage water from the hostels to 1.2 million litre of potable water on daily basis. The project aims to attract potential entrepreneurs and government agencies to take up sewage treatment atlarge scale and with business model for banks to gain confidence in funding such businesses. The pilot plant is expected to be ready by March 2019.

Dalbir Singh Suhag-

United States Government has awarded Legion of Merit (Degree of Commander) to General Dalbir Singh Suhag (Retired) of Indian Army. The award was given to Singh for his exceptionally meritorious service as Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) from August 2014 to December 2016. With this, he becomes second Indian to get this award, first being General Rajendrasinghji Jadeja in 1946.

The award commended his leadership for Indian Army’s counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations and its humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) during Nepal earthquake in 2015. He was also lauded for sustaining Indian Army contributions to United Nations global peacekeeping as one of world’s largest provider of forces to UN. Notably, India-US Army to Army bilateral engagements, improved interoperability and close functional cooperation expanded during Gen Dalbir Singh’s tenure as chief of Indian Army.

The Legion of Merit to General Dalbir Singh was announced by US Government in March 2016 when he was in chair as Chief of Army Staff, with intention of conferring award to him during his official visit to US in April 2016. However, due to procedural delays in obtaining necessary government sanction for award presentation had resulted in this not being presented during his official visit. General Dalbir Singh subsequently had retired from service in December 2016.

Article 18 (4) of Constitution (Abolition of titles): It says that no person holding any office of profit or trust under State shall, without consent of President, accept any present, emolument, or office of any kind from or under any foreign State.

National Nutrition Month

Union Ministry of Women and Child Development has announced to observe September 2018 as the National Nutrition Month to mark the country’s fight against malnutrition. The month-long intensive campaign will be undertaken with an aim of reaching every household with message of nutrition — ‘Har ghar poshan tyohar’ (every house a celebration of nutrition).

It will promote antenatal care, breastfeeding, fight anemia, convey messages about importance of nutrition for girls and right age of marriage, deliver messages about importance of growth monitoring and also promote hygiene and sanitation.  It will be jointly organised by NITI Ayog, Ministries of Women and Child Development (WCD), Health and Family Welfare, Panchayati Raj, Rural Development, Drinking Water and Sanitation, Housing and Urban Affairs, Human Resources Development (HRD), Information and Broadcasting, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Tribal Affairs, Minority Affairs and AYUSH.

India has very high burden of malnutrition. According to National Family Health Survey-4 (NFHS-4), 38.% of India’s children aged less than 5 years are stunted (less height for their age), 21% are wasted (less weight for their height) and 35.7% are underweight.

India also ranks low 100th out of 119 countries on 2017 Global Hunger Index (GHI) and was placed at high end of “serious” category in GHI severity scale, owing mainly to fact that one in every five children under age 5 is “wasted” (low weight for height). Government already has embarked on Rs 9000-crore to Poshan Abhiyan (National Nutrition Mission) to fight malnutrition. It was launched in March 2018. The mission targets to reduce stunting, under-nutrition, anaemia (among young children, women and adolescent girls) and reduce low birth weight. The target of mission is to bring down stunting among children up to age of six years from 38.4% to 25% by 2022.

 Barak 8 missile-

Israeli Navy has announced to procure multi-purpose Barak 8 missile defence system, jointly developed by India and Israel. It will be used by Israeli Navy’s Sa’ar-6 corvettes to expand its operational capabilities of Israeli navy, including defence of Israel’s territorial and exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and strategic facilities from diversified threats.

Barak-8 (Lightning 8 in Hebrew), also known as also known as LR-SAM or as MR-SAM has been jointly developed by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Israel’s Administration for Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure, Elta Systems, Rafael and some other Indian defence companies.

 The missile has maximum speed of Mach 2 with maximum operational range of 70 km (which has been increased to 100 km).

The missile provides broad aerial and point defence against wide range of threats to marine arena from the air, sea or land. It is designed to defend against variety of short-to-long-range airborne threats, including fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, drones and projectiles.

 P-notes –

Investments through participatory notes (P-notes) into Indian capital markets- equity, debt, and derivatives have plunged to over nine-year low of Rs 80,341 crore till July 2018-end. This is the lowest level since April 2009 when the cumulative value of such investments stood at Rs 72,314 crore.

P-notes are offshore/overseas derivative instruments (ODIs) issued by registered foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) to overseas investors who wish to be part of the Indian stock market without registering themselves directly.

The decline comes amid stringent norms put in place by market watchdog Securitas Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to check misuse of these instruments.  In July 2017, Sebi had notified stricter norms stipulating fee of US $1,000 on each instrument to check any misuse for channelising black money

 It had also prohibited FPIs(foreign portfolio investor india) from issuing such notes where underlying asset is derivative, except those which are used for hedging( investment to minimize the negative impact of adverse price swings in another.) purposes. Earlier in April 2017, SEBI also had barred resident Indians, NRIs and entities owned by them from making investment through P-notes.

They, however, need to go through due diligence process. P-Notes are not used within the country but are mainly used outside India for making investments in shares listed in the Indian stock market. SEBI had permitted FIIS to participate and register in the Indian stock market in 1992.  Earlier, investing through P-Notes is very simple and is very popular amongst FPIs, FIIs.

 PCA framework –

PCA framework is supervisory tool of RBI, which involves monitoring of certain performance indicators of banks to check their financial health as early warning exercise and to ensure that banks don’t go bust. Its objective is to facilitate banks to take corrective measures including those prescribed by RBI, in timely manner to restore their financial health.

PCA framework is invoked on banks when they breach any of three key regulatory trigger points (or thresholds). They are –

Capital to risk weighted assets ratio

Net non-performing assets (NPA) and

 Return on Assets (RoA).

 Depending on risk thresholds set in PCA framework, banks are put in two type of restrictions,

Mandatory and Discretionary depending upon their placement in PCA framework levels
Union Government is expecting that public sector banks (PSBs) placed under RBI’s Prompt Corrective Action (PCA) framework will come out of it by the end of  2018 . As many as 11 out of 21 state-owned banks are currently under PCA framework.

Operational performance of PSBs has improved in April-June 2018 quarter, with steep reduction in net losses, increase in recoveries and significant improvement in provision coverage ratio. Besides, government is also providing PSUs adequate capital when required.  Some of capital already has been given, as recoveries is taking place and there is possibility that some banks will not need it. As of now, there no bank is breaching regulatory norms prescribed by RBI.

India bans pet coke import for use as fuel

PET Coke is dark solid carbon material. Cement companies in India account for about three-fourths of country’s petcoke use. Usage of pet coke in energy-hungry India recently had come under scrutiny due to rising pollution levels in major cities. It is categorized as bottom of the barrel fuel as it is residual waste material which is obtained after refining coal to extract lighter fuels like petrol. It is used as a source of energy and carbon for various industrial applications.

Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) under Ministry of Commerce and Industry has banned import of petcoke for use as fuel. But it has allowed its import of only for use as feedstock in some select industries such as cement, lime kiln, calcium carbide and gasification industries. These industries were earlier affected by petcoke-related policy flip-flops, which began after Supreme Court judgment (October 2017) banning use its in and around New Delhi to curb pollution.

India is the world’s biggest consumer of petcoke. It gets over half its annual petcoke imports of around 27 million tonnes from United States. Local producers include Indian Oil Corp, Reliance Industries and Bharat Petroleum Corp.   

Petcoke is much more potent pollutant than coal and causes greater harm to the environment and health. It contains whopping 74,000 PPM of sulphur content which is released into atmosphere as emissions which is much higher than vehicular emissions. It is also source of fine dust .Apart from sulphur, petcoke also releases cocktail of other toxic gases after burning such as nitrous oxide, mercury, arsenic, chromium, nickel, hydrogen chloride and greenhouse gases (GHG) which contribute to global warming.

 Bru deal

Union Home Ministry has agreed to relax conditions laid down in ‘four-corner agreement’ signed with Bru migrants for their repatriation from Tripura to Mizoram. The agreement was signed between Government of India, Governments of Mizoram and Tripura and Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF) in July 2018. Bru (or Reang) are tribals inhabit to some parts of Northeastern states.

 

The agreement covers 5,407 Bru families (32876 persons) presently staying in temporary camps in Tripura to repatriate them to Mizoram before September 30, 2018. Central Government will provide financial assistance for their rehabilitation in Mizoram and address their issues of security, education, livelihood etc. in consultation with Governments of Mizoram and Tripura.

These families who moved to Mizoram from Tripura will be given one-time financial assistance of Rs 4 lakh to be kept as fixed deposit in name of head of family. This cash assistance will be to be provided only after three years of uninterrupted stay in Mizoram.

Moreover, house building assistance of Rs 1.5 lakh will be also disbursed to these families in three instalments. Besides, these families will be also provided with free ration for two years and monthly assistance of Rs 5,000 for each family.

 NABARD 2016-17 survey

According to National Bank for Agriculture & Rural Development’s (NABARD) All India Rural Financial Inclusion Survey 2016-17, agriculture (farming) generates only 23% of rural income i.e. not even quarter of rural household incomes in India. Even for so-called agricultural households, just over 43% of their average income comes from cultivation of crops and rearing of animals. The reference period of survey was 2015-16.

It estimates that total number of rural households in India at 21.17 crore. Its definition of “rural” is broad, covering revenue villages and semi-urban centres with population of less than 50,000. Out of 21.17 crore rural households, 10.07 crore, or under 48% are agricultural. At least one member is self-employed in farming with annual value of produce at more than Rs 5,000. The remaining 11.10 crore households (around 52%) are non-agricultural.

The average net monthly income of Indian rural householdsafter deducting expenses incurred in course of economic activity was Rs 8,059. The highest share of this (Rs 3,504) was accounted for by wage labour (both farm and non-farm), followed by government or private service jobs (Rs 1,906).

The agriculture income i.e. income from crop cultivation and livestock rearing contributed only Rs 1,832. Within agricultural households, the share of average income from cultivation and livestock rearing was just over 43%. The balance 57% income was from non-agricultural sources.

It reinforces trend that has gathered momentum since start of this century of increasingly less ‘Krishi’ in ‘Bharat’. 

Insurers to cover mental illness

Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDAI) has asked insurers to cover mental illness under medical insurance policy from immediate effect, treating it at par with physical illness. At present, insurers exclude mental illness from ambit of medical insurance policies.

 

IRDAI’s directive follows Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 enacted by Parliament and came into force from May 2018. The section 21(4) of said Act mandates every insurer to make provision for medical insurance for treatment of mental illness on same basis as available for treatment of physical illness. According to provisions of the Act, mental healthcare includes analysis and diagnosis of person’s mental condition and treatment as well as care and rehabilitation of such person for his mental illness or suspected mental illness.

As per Ministry of Law and Justice, mental illness is defined as substantial disorder of thinking, mood, perception, orientation or memory that grossly impairs behaviour, judgment, capacity to recognise reality or ability to meet ordinary demands of life.

 It also includes mental conditions associated with abuse of alcohol and drugs, but does not include mental retardation which is condition of arrested or incomplete development of mind of  person, specially characterised by subnormality of intelligence.

Bringing mental illness under medical insurance policy, will ensure life of dignity to those who have mental health issues. It will help to create awareness, acceptance and inclusion of mental illness as any other ailment. Moreover, it will bring mental health disorders at par with physical illnesses, which will normalize diagnoses, reduce associated myths and stigma related mental health disorders. It will be in lines with global practice, as globally, companies cover mental illness after initial waiting period of two-three years.

 Wheat genome 

Team of international researchers including 18 Indian scientists for first time have decoded wheat genome. In this research, DNA sequence of bread wheat was successfully ordered and it represents highest quality genome sequence generated to date for such wheat variety.

The research conducted by more than 200 scientists from 73 research institutions in 20 countries. The reference enome decoded covers 94% (14.5 Gb) of entire wheat genome. Team of 18 Indian scientists contributed in decoding of Chromosome 2A of wheat genome. This project was financially supported by Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology.

Significance

The research shows that bread wheat has complex hexaploid genome which is 40 times larger than that of rice genome and 5 times larger than human genome. Information generated by decoded wheat genome will help to identify genes controlling complex agronomic traits such as yield, grain quality, resistance to diseases and pests as well as tolerance to drought, heat, water logging and salinity. The availability of high quality reference genome will accelerate breeding of climate-resilient wheat varieties to feed ever-increasing world population and help address global food security in decades to come.

Facial  recognition

 Aadhaar-issuing body UIDAI (Unique Identity Authority of India) has announced phased roll-out of face recognition for carrying out Aadhaar authentication from September 15, 2018 as additional security layer. It also has announced new feature ‘live face photo,’ which is live feed of person facial features whose 12-digit unique number Aadhaar is submitted.

 

The face authentication will be in addition to fingerprint or iris scans for Aadhaar authentication. In initial phase, telecom service providers (TSPs) will be first to use face recognition to authenticate subscribers while issuing new SIM cards. In later phases, it will be rolled out to all agencies using Aadhaar for authentication in phases.

This move is aimed at curbing possibility of fingerprint cloning or spoofing and also seeks to tighten audit process and security around the issuance and activation of mobile SIMs. It will also help to solve authentication problem for those who have issues regarding fingerprint and iris scan. Fingerprints wear out either with person’s old age or due to jobs such as heavy manual labour.

18th  Asian Games –

The 18th edition of Asian Games was inaugurated in Jakarta, Indonesia. This will be second time that Indonesia will be hosting Asian Games. For first, it was held in Jakarta in 1962. Javelin Thrower Neeraj Chopra was India’s flag-bearer at the glittering opening ceremony.

This edition of pan-continental mega sporting event will be held from August 18 to September 2, 2018 in two cities – Jakarta (capital of Indonesia) and Palembang (capital of Indonesia’s province of South Sumatra) to accommodate all branches of sports. This will be the first time that the Asian Games will be held in two cities.

It will see participation of around 11,000 athletes from 45 countries will compete in 40 sports, 67 disciplines, 4 new Olympic sports and 8 non-Olympic sports. For the first time, eSports (form of competition using video games) and canoe polo will be contested as demonstration sports in Asian Games. Indian contingent comprised of around 570 Indian athletes who will compete for top honours across 36 sports.

Mascots: Trio of Bhin Bhin (bird of paradise), Kaka (deer) and Atung (rhino) are mascots of 2018 Asian Games. These three represent  east, west and centre of country and they have dress traditional to each locality.

 This edition of Asian Games was originally scheduled to be hosted by Vietnam in Hanoi, but it had withdrawn its bid citing reason of economic considerations.  Following Vietnam’s withdrawal, Indonesia proposed to host 18th Asian Games.

The first Asian Games were held in New Delhi, India in 1951. Since then overall, nine nations have hosted it and forty-six nations have participated in it, including Israel (now excluded from it after its last participation in 1974). The 17th edition of games was hosted by Incheon, South Korea from in 2014.

Vinesh Phogat:

Wrester Vinesh Phogat (23) became first Indian women athlete to win gold medal at the Asian Games 2018 held in Jakarta, Indonesia. She achieved this feat, by defeating Yuki Irie of Japan by 6-2 score final of the women’s wrestling in the 50kg category. With this, she also became first Indian woman wrestler to win gold medal at 2018 Asian Games. It also makes her only woman wrestler to win two medals in back-to-back Asian Games. She had earlier won Bronze medal in 2014 Asian Games held in Incheon, South Korea (in 48 kg category).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

This was India’s second Gold medal after start of Asian Games in Jakarta. First was won by wrestler Bajrang Punia in the men’s freestyle 65 kg final event.

Her cousins Geeta Phogat and Babita Kumari are both international wrestlers and Commonwealth Games medalists (Hindi biographical film Dangal was loosely based on them).

The next games (19th edition) are scheduled to Hangzhou, China between 10 and 25 September 2022. India had hosted Asian Games two times in 1951 (inaugural) and 1982, both in New Delhi.

Smart Anti Airfield Weapon –

SAAW is long-range lightweight high precision-guided anti-airfield weapon. It is 120 kg smart weapon capable of engaging ground targets with high precision up to range of 100 km. It is designed for deep penetration with high degree of precision and is armed with high-explosive warhead, which is usually very difficult to achieve operationally with simple gravity bombs.

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has successfully tested indigenously developed light weight glide bomb Smart Anti Airfield Weapon (SAAW) dropped from an Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft. Total of three tests with different release conditions and ranges were conducted at Chandan range near Pokhran in Rajasthan.

It successfully destroyed targets with high precision.SAAW project is India’s first fully indigenous anti-airfield weapon project sanctioned by Government in September 2013. It was indigenously developed by state-run Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in collaboration with IAF and the Research Centre Imarat (RCI). It will be inducted soon into the Armed Forces.

It is meant to deal debilitating damage to ground infrastructure such as runways, taxi ways, aircraft hangars and bunkers among other things. Depending on operational requirements, it can also be used against other ground targets to give Indian forces enhanced area-denial capabilities, like taking out ground infrastructure.

The guided bomb is considered to have higher precision and much cheaper compared with missiles. It can be integrated into varied types of multi role fighter jets of IAF such as MiG, Sukhoi Su-30 and ground attack SEPECAT Jaguar. SAAW’s deep penetration capabilities and high explosive warhead carrying capacity will enhance capability of IAF to easily hit targets across border without putting pilot and aircraft at risk.

HELINA –

Indigenously developed Helicopter launched Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) ‘HELINA’ was successfully flight tested from Indian Army Helicopter at Pokhran range. The weapon system was tested for its full range.

 ATGM HELINA weapon system was released smoothly from Army Helicopter. After its launch it tracked target all through its course and hit it with high precision.

 

HELINA is helicopter launched version known of NAG ATGM, designed and developed indigenously for Indian Army under integrated guided missile development programme (IGMDP). It is manufactured by India’s sole missile producer, state-owned Bharat Dynamics Limited.

 HELINA is one of the most advanced Anti-Tank Weapons in the world. It works on “fire and forget” principle and operates in Lock on Before Launch mode. It has operational range of 7-10km (after air-launched). It is equipped with highly advanced Imaging Infrared Radar (IIR) seeker along with integrated avionics. This technology is possessed by very few nations. It also possesses advanced passive homing guidance system. It has been designed mainly to destroy modern main battle tanks and other heavily armoured targets.

Pitch Black 2018 –

It is a biennial warfare exercise hosted by Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). It is normally held in Northern Australia, primarily at RAAF Bases Darwin and Tindal. The first Pitch Black exercises took place in 1981 between different RAAF units.

Pitch Black – 18 (PB-18), biennia multinational air exercise hosted by Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) concluded recently Darwin, Australia. It was the largest Pitch Black ever conducted by Australia, which saw participation of 16 nations and more than 140 aircraft, the current edition.

In this edition of exercise, Indian Air Force (IAF) for the first time participated with air assets and in earlier exercises it had participated as observer. IAF contingent consisted of 145 air-warriors including IAF Commandos team, Garuds, four Su-30 MKI, one C-130 and one C-17 for logistic support for induction and de-induction.

The objectives of this exercise were to foster closer relationship between participating friendly forces and promote interoperability through exchange of knowledge and experience. Its aim was to expose participating nations to operational environment in international scenarios.

It comprised of two phases. During first phase, forces flew basic missions with aim to get to same working platform. Subsequently in second phase, missions involved larger packages and undertook simulated air combat exercises in near realistic environment and exchanged best practices towards for enhancing operational capability.

 “Exercise Maitree”

Joint platoon level military exercise Maitree 2018 between India and Thailand was conducted in Thailand from 6 to 19 August 2018. It was platoon level exercise between Indian Army and Royal Thai Army that comprised of infantry component.

The exercise had started with cross training period involving familiarization training between two armies to evolve drills and procedures involved in counter insurgency & counter terrorist operations in urban, rural and jungle terrain under United Nations (UN) mandate.

Wrestler Bajrang Punia

Wrestler Bajrang Punia (24) won India’s first gold medal at the 18th edition of the Asian Games held in Jakarta, Indonesia. In the men’s freestyle 65 kg final event, he defeated Japan’s Takatani Daichi by 11-8 score. It was Bajrang’s maiden gold medal and overall second medal in Asian Games after he had earlier won silver medal in 2014 Asian Games (Incheon, South Korea) in the men’s freestyle 61 kg category.

Note: Apurvi Chandela and Ravi Kumar were first Indian athletes to win medals in 2018 Asian Games. Both had won bronze medal in mixed team rifle shooting event.

N Raguram

Indian scientist-academician N Raghuram became first Indian and Asian to get elected as Chair of International Nitrogen Initiative (INI), a global policy making initiative. He will succeed Mark Sutton of the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Edinburgh. Besides, him David Kanter of the New York University was elected as Vice-Chair. The new chairs will formally take up their roles on January 1, 2019.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee

Veteran political leader, prolific writer and former Prime Minister of India Atal Bihari Vajpayee passed away in New Delhi at the age of 93. He was Prime Minister thrice in 1996 (13 days), 1998-1999 and 1999-2004 (making him first non-Congress leader to have completed full term as Prime Minister).

He was born on 25th December 1924 in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh. He was amongst founder members of erstwhile Bharatiya Jana Sangh (and was its president in 1968 upon death of Deendayal Upadhyaya) which later became known as Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

He parliamentarian for over  47 years elected to Lok Sabha for 10 times (elected for first time  in 1957 from Balrampur constituency in Uttar Pradesh) and 2 times to Rajya Sabha. During first non-Congress Government of Prime Minister Morarji Desai in Centre he had served as Minister of External Affairs.

He served as PM of India between 1996 and 2004 in three non-consecutive terms viz. May 1996 (for 13 days), 1998–1999 (for 11 months) and 1999–2004. During his second term as PM, he had ordered thermonuclear tests in May 1998 which were seen as strategic masterstroke to blunt Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions.

Some of his pet projects launched during his tenure as PM were National Highway Development Project (Golden Quadrilateral) and Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. In 2009, he had retired from active politics due to health concerns.

He was awarded the India’s highest civilian honour ‘Bharat Ratna’ in 2015. His birthday is celebrated as Good Governance Day (GGD) by the Central Government since 2014 to foster awareness among the people of accountability in government. His poetry collection is released in his book Meri Ekyaavan Kavitayein (My 51 Poems).

Unified Payments Interface (UPI)

National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) has launched UPI 2.0, an upgraded and renwed version of Unified Payments Interface (UPI) by adding four new features to make it attractive and safer for users. These new features will allow users to link their overdraft account to UPI, creation of one-time mandates and pre-authorisation of transactions for payment at later date and checking the invoice sent by merchant prior to making payment.

UPI is payments system that allows multiple bank accounts belonging to any participating bank to be controlled via single mobile app. It was launched by NPCI in April 2016 to allows easy, quick and hassle free money transfer between any two parties. The UPI app merges a number of banking features, facilitating seamless and secure fund transfer and merchant payments at single platform. It also allows Peer to Peer collection request.

UPI is a payment system much like existing NEFT, RTGS, IMPS etc. but it is far more sophisticated and standardized across banks. Technically, UPI is standard set of APIs (Application programming interface).

Four additional services in UPI 2.0 are

Overdraft facility: It will allow users to link their overdraft (OD) account to UPI. Earlier, only current accounts and savings accounts were able to linked with UPI. It will help UPI customers have instant transaction through an additional digital channel with access to OD account.

One Time Mandate: It allows users to schedule payments. It also allows pre-authorisation of transaction in which amount will be deducted on date for which has been scheduled. It can be used in cases where money is to be transferred later while commitment has been made now.

Invoice in The Inbox: It allows users to get invoices sent by merchants in their inbox, which will help them to view and verify credentials. With this, users can view and verify credentials of merchant even before making payment and ensure their authenticity.

Signed Intent and QR: This feature will allow users to check credentials of merchants via Quick Response (QR) code. It will enable to check whether merchant is UPI verified or not.

NPCI is the umbrella organisation for all retail payments system in India. It is being promoted the Reserve Bank of India. It was founded in 2008 as a not-for-profit organisation registered under section 25 of the Companies Act, 2013. It has successfully played pioneering role in development of a domestic card payment network called RuPay, reducing the dependency on international card schemes.

Colour-coded stickers on vehicles

Supreme Court has accepted Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) proposal to use hologram-based coloured stickers on vehicles, plying in Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR) to indicate the nature of the fuel used. The apex court has asked government to implement use of coloured stickers on vehicles plying in Delhi-NCR by September 30, 2018. It also clarified that this colour-coding will only be applicable in Delhi and NCR.

 

With this approval, Delhi will be first city in India to have hologram-based coloured stickers on according to fuel they run on. This move aims to counter air pollution in national capital. Under this colour scheme proposed by MoRTH, light-blue colour will be used for vehicles running petrol and CNG-run vehicles while orange colour sticker will be used for diesel-driven vehicles.

These hologram-based stickers will also contain registration date of the vehicle. MoRTH is also considering to introduce green number plates for electric and hybrid vehicles.

Introduction of coloured stickers will restrict use of more polluting vehicles in congested or polluted zone temporarily or permanently depending on the pollution level. The colour coding will help authorities identify and restrict vehicles running on high-polluting fuel from congested or polluted zone temporarily or permanently depending on the pollution level

11th World Hindi Conference

11th World Hindi Conference (विश्व हिंदी सम्मेलन) was held in Mauritius in its capital city Port Lois from August 18-20, 2018. It was inaugurated by Prime Minister of Mauritius Praveen Kumar Jagannath and was attended by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and some other ministers.

 

The theme of the Conference is “Vaishvik Hindi Aur Bharatiy Sanskriti“. It was be organised by Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India in association with Government of Mauritius. The venue of Conference was Swami Vivekanand International Convention Centre, Pailles Mauritius.

The conference provided common platform to several Hindi scholars, writers and laureates from different parts of the world to contribute language.  It was attended by delegates from India and various countries of the world. They deliberated on eight subtopics on Hindi World and Indian Culture. It was for first time of the conference, representatives from all 29 states and Union Territories of Delhi, Chandigarh and Puducherry attended the conference.

World Hindi Conference was started in 1975 to make Hindi language a medium of service and knowledge and enable it to move forward with time. Since then, ten such Conferences have been held in different parts of world. The 1st World Hindi Conference was held from 10 to 12 January 1975 in Nagpur, Maharashtra and was inaugurated by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. To commemorate this event, every year 10th January is being observed as World Hindi Day.

Cleanest Railway station in India 

Union Railway Ministry released Third Party Survey Report on Station Cleanliness which ranked 407 railway stations including 75 A1 category stations, 332 A category stations on basis of cleanliness performance. Jodhpur (Rajasthan) was ranked first in survey A1 category stations, Marwar (Rajasthan) first in A category stations and North Western Railway first among all Zonal Railways.

This was third such audit cum cleanliness survey conducted by Indian Railways to increase level of cleanliness under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan by identifying unclean spots, improve cleanliness standards and propel healthy competition among railway stations. It was conducted by Quality Council of India (QCI) with help of their partners. The parameters adopted for conducting survey were Evaluation of Process of cleanliness in main entry area, parking, main platform, waiting room(33.33%), direct observation by QCI assessors of cleanliness in these areas (33.33%) and passenger feedback (33.33%). The cleanliness rankings of stations is  reward for stations that have performed well and gives impetus for further improvement for stations that not made into e top rankings.

Ranking of Stations

Top 10 A1 category Stations (out of 75): Jodhpur (1st), Jaipur (2nd), Tirupati (3rd), Vijayawada (4th), Anand Vihar Terminal (5th), Secunderabad Junction (6th), Bandra (7th), Hyderabad (8th), Bhubaneshwar (9th) and Vishakhapatnam (10th).

Top 10 A category stations (out of 332): Marwar (1st), Phulera (2nd), Warangal (3rd), Udaipur (4th), Jaialmer (5th), Nizamabad (6th), Barmer (7th), Machiryal (8th), Mysore (9th) and Bhilwara (10th).

Top 10 Zonal Railways Rankings: North Western Railway (1st), South Central Railway (2nd), East Coast Railway (3rd), South East Central Railway (4th), Western Railway (5th), Southern Western Railway (6th), Southern Railway (7th), Central Railway (8th), West Central Railway (9th) and Northeast Frontiers Railway (10th).

Akshay Kumar –

Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways had appointed Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar as brand ambassador of its Road Safety campaigns. As part of this campaign, three short films featuring Akshay Kumar for generating public awareness towards road safety were also released. These films were directed by R.Balki and call upon people to adopt good practices in road safety to build accident-free society.

Rupee crashes to all-time low of 70.08 against US dollar

Indian rupee for first time in history plunged to record low of Rs. 70.07 against US dollar on 14 August 2018. However, it recovered later at around Rs. 69.84 after heavy intervention by Reserve Bank of India (RBI). This sudden deprecation of rupee is similar to fall of other currencies of emerging markets triggered by crash in Turkish currency lira.

Turkish lira has been in free fall following political and economic problems in Turkey, combined with fresh trouble on the external front.

 It has slid by almost 50% against dollar in past one year. The primary reason for ongoing rout in lira is poor economic management by government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkish economy is overheating due to soaring inflation (has reached annual rate of nearly 16% in July 2018), mounting levels of foreign debt and very high current account deficit (CAD). Moreover, both Turkish government and central bank are facing serious loss of credibility. There are also signs of massive bubble in construction sector of Turkey, which is further threatening country’s already fragile banking system.

Impact of Rupee

Rupee is one of the worst performing emerging market currencies and hardest hit in Asia due fall in Turkish lira. It is depreciating due to external factors and at this stage it is not serious economic issue as depreciation is in line with other currencies. In comparison to many other currencies, rupee has not seen that much

‘Pitch to MOVE’ for startups

NITI Aayog has launched mobility pitch competition Pitch to MOVE to provide budding entrepreneurs of India unique opportunity to pitch their business ideas to distinguished jury. Using this platform, startups working in various fields of mobility can pitch their ideas to industry leaders and venture capitalists for raising investments.

 

The competition is organised by NITI Aayog in collaboration with Invest India and Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM). It is part of series of Global Mobility Summit, engaging featured events in run up to the main event.

It aims to identify and incentivize (also reward) startups offering innovative solutions to Government realize its vision of shared, connected, intermodal and environment friendly mobility for India. Its objective is to harness latest disruption for generating employment and growth in our country.

Austrian capital Vienna ranked most liveable city in the world

Austrian capital Vienna was ranked as world’s most liveable city among 140 major cities in 2018 Global Liveability Index released by Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). It is first time that European city has topped rankings of EIU annual survey.

 Global Liveability Index released by EIU compares world cities with each other in terms of security, affordability, education, healthcare, its urban lifestyle and infrastructure. It scores 140 major cities of the world on scale ranging from 0 (least liveable city) to 100 (most liveable city) based on these above parameters.

Key Highlights of 2018 Global Liveability Index

10 most liveable cities’ list includes Vienna, Austria (rank: 1st, with total score of 99.1), Melbourne, Australia (2nd, 98.4); Osaka, Japan (3rd, 97.7); Calgary, Canada (4th, 97.5); Sydney, Australia (5th, 97.4); Vancouver, Canada (6th, 97.3); Toronto, Canada (7th, 97.2); Tokyo, Japan (8th, 97.2); Copenhagen, Denmark (9th, 96.8); and Adelaide, Australia (96.6).

Three Canadian cities made it into top 10 viz. Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary. No Indian cities were ranked in the top ten or bottom ten of this edition of index. New Delhi had figured at 112th and Mumbai 117th position in list. South Asian cities were also ranked low in

The 10 least liveable cities are Dakar, Senegal (131st); Algiers, Algeria (132nd); Douala, Cameroon (133rd); Tripoli, Libya (134th); Harare, Zimbabwe (135th); Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (136th); Karachi, Pakistan (137th); Lagos, Nigeria (138th); Dhaka, Bangladesh (139th) and Damascus, Syria (140th).

Swadesh Darshan Scheme-

The scheme was Union Tourism Ministry with an objective to develop theme-based tourist circuits in the country. These tourist circuits will be developed on the principles of high tourist value, competitiveness and sustainability in an integrated manner. It is 100% centrally funded scheme for the 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. The funding of projects under this scheme vary from state to state. It is finalised on the basis of detailed project reports prepared by Programme Management Consultant (PMC) which is national level consultant for implementing the scheme.

The first project under Swadesh Darshan Scheme ‘North East Circuit: Imphal and Khongjom’ was inaugurated in Manipur. The project covers two sites i.e. Kangla Fort and Khongjom in Manipur. Under this project, Union Tourism Ministry has carried out works such as restoration and improvement of outer and inner moat of old Govindajee Temple and rejuvenation of sacred ponds, reconstruction of old rampart, among others.

 Kangla Fort is one of the most important historic and archaeological site of Manipur located in the heart of the capital city Imphal. It had served as tradition seat of past Meetei rulers of Manipur till 1891. The old Govindajee Temple is the largest Hindu, Vaishnav temple in Imphal city in Manipur. It is located next to Kangla Fort, palace of the former rulers of the then Manipur Kingdom. Its outer and inner moat and other relics are perfect reflections of the rich art and architectural heritage of Manipur.

RUCO –

 

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) launched RUCO (Repurpose Used Cooking Oil) initiative to enable collection and conversion of used cooking oil to biodiesel. Under this initiative, 64 companies at 101 locations have been identified to enable collection of used cooking oil.   

 

 

The initiative was launched nearly month after FSSAI notified standards for used cooking oil. According to FSSAI regulations, maximum permissible limits for Total Polar Compounds (TPC) have been set at 25%, beyond which the cooking oil is unsafe for consumption. Beside this, FSSAI is also working in partnership with Biodiesel Association of India (BAI) and food industry to ensure effective compliance of used cooking oil regulations.

According to FSSAI, India has potential to recover 220 crore litres of used cooking oil for production of biodiesel by 2022 through co-ordinated action. Currently, biodiesel produced from used cooking oil is very small, but robust ecosystem for conversion and collection is rapidly growing in India and soon it will reach sizable scale. FSSAI is also looking at introducing regulations to ensure that companies using large quantities of cooking oil hand it over to registered collecting agencies to convert it into biofuel.

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.

 Livability Index’ to rank 116 cities.

“The Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry has decided to assess the livability standard of 116 Indian cities, which include the identified Smart Cities and few more cities with a population of over 1 million,” the housing and urban minister told a press conference here.

The cities will be assessed on 15 core parameters like governance, social infrastructure, education, employment, health and safety and security. Rampur in Uttar Pradesh is at the bottom of the list.

Iris authentication

Axis Bank became first bank in the country to introduce Iris Scan Authentication feature for Aadhaar-based transactions through its micro ATM tablets. These micro ATM tablets are Standardisation Testing and Quality Certification (STQC) certified and UIDAI compliant registered devices with completely integrated iris sensors.

Iris scan technology is completely contactless and provides up to 98.2% authentication success rate and offers edge over other prevalent biometric modes. It will help to boost bank’s financial inclusion efforts by making Aadhaar authentication process hassle-free and offering easier access to digital banking for consumers especially in rural parts of the country.

The transaction process through iris scan is very simple. Customer need to select desired service (funds transfer, cash withdrawal) and feed-in their Aadhaar numbers in micro ATM. Next, they have to choose IRIS as desired mode of authentication. Verification will be done by scanning eyes of customers through tablet’s iris sensor camera in 3-5 seconds. The transaction will be completed after biometric details are verified from UIDAI database.

Micro ATMs completely eliminate requirement of debit cards, passwords, PINs, and user IDs, and empower consumers to avail banking services using only their Aadhaar numbers and biometrics (iris scan or fingerprint scan).

Human rights chief-

Former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet (66) was appointed as next United Nations High Commissioner for Human Right. She was nominated by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and her appointment was approved by UN General Assembly. She will have four year term and shall replace Jordanian diplomat Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein (served a single term, beginning in 2014). 

 Bachelet most recently had served as President (first women) of Chile (from 2014 to 2018 and 2006 to 2010).

Reservation  for women –

Union Government has announced 50% reservation for women in upcoming recruitment of 9500-10000 jawans for the Railway Protection Force (RPF). This decision aims to create more employment opportunities for women. It was announced by Union Railways Minister Piyush Goyal. He also announced 13,00,00 jobs are also coming up in Indian Railways in which there will be computer-based test and no interviews.

RPF is security force entrusted with protecting railway passengers, passenger area and railway property of the Indian Railways. It was introduced for the first time in the central act of 1957. It is headquartered in New Delhi. It functions under the authority of Union Ministry of Railways. It has powers to arrest, investigate and prosecute criminals under its jurisdiction.

 Defence Industrial Corridor 

The projects for defence industrial corridor in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh were launched recently by Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. It was launched as part of the Union Government’s efforts to develop specialised zones dedicated to defence production in the state.

As part of defence corridor in UP, six nodal points, Agra, Aligarh, Lucknow, Kanpur, Chitrakoot and Jhansi have been identified. There will be exhibition of products by armed forces, defence public sector undertakings (PSUs) and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) which are planned to be indigenised over the next five years.

Defence Manufacturing was identified as one of the 25 key sectors as part of Make in India initiative. In 2018-19 Union Budget, Government had announced setting up of two corridors – one in Tamil Nadu and other in UP- exclusively for defence manufacturing.

The main purpose of setting of these two corridors is for inclusion of Indigenous Design, Development and Manufacture (IDDM) category and giving it top priority in capital acquisition, introduction of make procedure and simplification of licensing process and modification of offset policy.

International Youth Day

International Youth Day is observed every across the world on 12 August to draw attention to give set of cultural and legal issues surrounding youth. Observance of this day seeks to highlight role of young women and men as essential partners in change and opportunity to raise awareness of challenges and problems facing the world’s youth

The theme for this year is ‘Safe Spaces for Youth’. It aims to highlight need of safe spaces where youth can come together, engage in activities related to their diverse needs and interests, participate in decision making processes and freely express themselves.

The theme supports 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, specifically Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11, emphasizes need for provision of space towards inclusive and sustainable urbanization.

The World Elephant Day

Elephant  is national heritage animal of India .The World Elephant Day is observed every year on August 12 to create awareness of urgent plight of African and Asian elephants. It also seeks to share knowledge and positive solutions for better care and management of captive and wild elephants. In India, cultural event Gaj Mahotsav was organised by Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) on this occasion of this day. It was aimed to sensitise people urgent plight of elephants through different art forms including an exhibition of elephant themed paintings and installations.

The first International Elephant Day was held on August 12, 2012. Since then observed annually and is dedicated to preservation and protection of the world’s elephants.

African elephants are listed as Vulnerable and Asian elephants as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of threatened species. The current population estimates are about 400,000 for African elephants and 40,000 for Asian elephants. Some of the major threats faced by both African and Asian elephants are escalation of habitat loss, poaching, human-elephant conflict and mistreatment in captivity etc.

Water aerodromes in the country-

Union Civil Aviation Ministry has given in-principle approval to set up water aerodromes in the country. To start with it has identified five states: Odisha, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Assam for development of water aerodromes. In the first phase of the project, Chilka Lake (Odisha), Sabarmati River Front and Sardar Sarovar Dam (Gujarat) have been identified for the development of such facilities.

Airdrome is location from which aircraft flight operations take place, regardless of whether they involve air cargo, passengers. The development of aerodromes projects in India will pave way for operation of amphibian planes (both in land and water) to enhance air connectivity. These water aerodromes will be set up near tourist locations and places of religious importance.

Sea-planes are small fixed-wing aircrafts designed for taking off and landing on water and do not require capital-intensive infrastructure for operations. They are considered ideal for high-end travel to destinations that are far by road and are not equipped with airports. They require either 1-km long airstrip or water body, which is one km long and at least 10 feet deep.

Digital North East Vision 2022

The Digital North East Vision 2022 was released in Guwahati, Assam by Union Minister for Electronics & Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad. First electronics manufacturing cluster in northeastern region was also inaugurated in Guwahati, Assam.

He vision document emphasizes on leveraging digital technologies to transform lives of people of north east and enhance ease of living. It identifies eight digital thrust areas namely, Digital Infrastructure, Digital services, Promotion of Electronics Manufacturing, Digital empowerment, Promotion of IT and ITes including BPOs, Digital Payments, Innovation & Startups and Cyber security.

Under Digital North East, Union government will invest nearly Rs. 10,000 crore in region over next 4 years to implement more than 400 projects.

Digital North East is envisioned as an integral part of Digital India programme. It will help in leveraging power of Information Technology to leapfrog the overall development of North East region and realize its full potential.

National Wildlife Genetic Resource Bank

National Wildlife Genetic Resource Bank was inaugurated at Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology’s (CCMB) Laboratory of Conservation of Endangered Species (LaCONES) facility in Hyderabad, Telanagana. It is India’s first genetic resource bank where genetic material will be stored for posterity which will further the cause of conservation of endangered and protected animals.

It is equipped with sophisticated equipment to preserve the genetic resources that could be utilised to virtually resurrect an animal species in case it goes extinct. It will cryopreserve living cell lines, gametes and embryos of endangered wild animal species in India. For cryogenic preservation, researchers at CCMB-LaCONES will use liquid Nitrogen that is cooled down to as low as minus 195 degrees Celsius.

It will aid wild life conservation efforts by taking up artificial reproduction, conducting studies in evolution biology and wildlife medicine. Thus, it will also help in protecting India’s biodiversity and environment. So far this bank has collected and preserved genetic resources of 23 species of Indian wild animals.

 PMGSY beyond 12th Plan period

Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved continuation of Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) beyond 12th Five Year Plan period ((2012–2017)). It will help in connecting 38,412 habitations at estimated cost of Rs. 84,934 crore. For this, fund sharing pattern between centre and states will be same (Thus, central government share will be Rs 54,900 crore and states’ share is Rs 30,034 crore).

Initially targets of PMGSY were to be achieved by March 2022, however, sunset date of achievement of PMGSY-I was pre-poned to March, 2019, with enhanced fund allocation and changed funding pattern i.e. in ratio of 60:40 between Centre and State for all States except for 8 North Eastern and 3 Himalayan States (Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Jammu & Kashmir) for which it is 90:10.

Under, PMGSY-II, against target length of 50,000 km works of upgradation almost 32,100 km road length have been sanctioned in 13 states, which have transited to PMGSY-II. 12,000 km road length has been completed up to March, 2018 against the sanctions issued.

The scheme was launched on 25 December 2000. It aims to provide single all-weather road connectivity to all eligible unconnected habitations in rural areas with population of 500 persons and above  (in plain areas) and 250 persons and above (in hilly states, desert areas, tribal areas and selected tribal and backward districts). Union Ministry of Rural Development is nodal ministry for implementation of Scheme.

Four additional battalions –

Union Cabinet has given approval for raising of four additional battalions of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) to strengthen the India’s disaster response set up. These battalions will be placed in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Delhi National Capital Region based on their disaster vulnerability profile.

The objective of raising four additional battalions is to reduce response time keeping in view vast geographic area of the country. These four battalions will initially be raised as two battalions in Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and one battalion each in Assam Rifles (ARs) and Border Security Force (BSF). Later these four battalions will be converted into NDRF 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.

At present there are 12 battalions in NDRF which are deployed strategically across country to provide immediate response.

Proxy voting’ to overseas Indians-

Lok Sabha has passed Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill, 2017 by voice vote to extend the facility of ‘proxy voting’ to overseas Indians, on the lines of service voters. The Bill seeks to amend Representation of People Act (RPA), 1950 and Representation of People Act (RPA), 1951 to allow for proxy voting and make certain provisions of these Acts gender-neutral.

The Bill replaces the term ‘wife’ with ‘spouse’ in both Acts. It replaces wife with spouse of a person holding service qualification to vote. It amends RPA, 1951 to permit overseas voter to cast their vote in person or by proxy in constituency where elections are being conducted.

According to rough estimates, there are about 1 crore Indians settled abroad, of which 60 lakh may be within eligible voting age. By granting them proxy voting rights, overseas Indians will be able to exercise franchise during elections and also need not to spend foreign currency to come to India during elections ..specially in states such as Punjab, Kerala and Gujarat where a number of expats hail from.

AIIA signs MoU with IIT –

All India Institute of Ayurveda (AIIA), a premier institute of Ayurveda under the AYUSH Ministry has signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with IIT Delhi to boost research in traditional medicine and streamline hospital care facilities in the country.

Under it, the faculties of IIT Delhi and AIIA will work together in projects to look at ways to integrate technology with Ayurveda. Under this partnership, projects developed will be given scientific validation to ancient medical science and integrate it with technology.

Multi Option Payment Acceptance Device

India’s largest bank State Bank of India (SBI) has launched its Multi Option Payment Acceptance Device (MOPAD) for digital payments convenience of merchants and consumers. It aims at providing digital convenience to customers and ease of doing business for merchants at the same time. SBI will roll-out this new initiative on all SBI PoS terminals in a phased manner.

MOPAD also aims at providing convenience to merchants by eliminating multiple machines that they keep in order to facilitate transaction from different sources. It will allow customers to make payments through cards, Bharat QR, UPI and SBI Buddy (e-wallet) on single Point–of–Sale (PoS) terminal.

It will help merchants to integrate different kinds of transaction through one PoS machine, which will help in eliminate their operational inconvenience and streamline cash flow. Customers will receive a charge-slip as proof of payment after processing any type of transactions through MOPAD. This multipurpose initiative will also enhance digital ecosystem and help bank in driving economy towards a less-cash society.

RBI to pay Rs 50,000 –

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has transferred surplus (dividend) of Rs. 50,000 crore to Government for year ended in June 2018, over 63% more than Rs 30,659 crore which it transferred in 2017.

 

RBI surplus forms sizeable chunk of revenue which government earns under head of ‘non-tax’, which is mainly dividends distributed by state owned firms. With increase in RBI surplus by close to Rs 20,000 crore, Centre’s prospect of meeting fiscal deficit target (pegged at 3.3% of gross domestic product this financial year) has improved based on fiscal consolidation and budget assumptions. The transfer also gives Central Government more elbow room to infuse capital into public sector banks owned by it.

 Swaminathan Gurumurthy-

Appointments Committee of Cabinet (ACC) has approved appointment of Chartered Accountant Swaminathan Gurumurthy and businessman Satish Kashinath Marathe as another non-official director on Central Board of Reserve Bank of India (RBI). They have been appointed for period of four years.

Swaminathan Gurumurthy is Chartered Accountant by profession and is considered as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) idealogue and is associated with its affiliate Swadeshi Jagran Manch.

NRIs cannot file RTI applications: Government-

Government has informed Lok Sabha that Non-Resident Indians (NRI) cannot file Right to Information (RTI) applications to seek governance-related information from Central government departments. It mentioned that only citizens of India have the right to seek information under the provisions of RTI Act, 2005 and NRIs  are not eligible to file RTI applications.

Begging decriminalized

Delhi High Court has declared 25 sections of Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959 which have been extended to Delhi, as “unconstitutional”. With this, it has struck down legal provision criminalising begging in national capital. The court’s order came on PILs which had sought decriminalisation of begging in capital and beggar by challenging provisions of the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act. The PILs had argued that poverty can never be crime and if a person is destitute and begs for living, such person cannot be treated as criminal.

The court observed that people beg on streets not because they wish to, but because they need to. Begging is their last resort to subsistence as they have no other means to survive. It also held that begging is symptom of disease, of fact that person has fallen through socially created net. Government has mandate to provide social security for everyone, to ensure that all citizens have basic facilities and presence of beggars is evidence that state has not managed to provide these to all its citizens.

Khangchendzonga –

Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve in Himalayan state of Sikkim was included in UNESCO designated World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR), making it 11th Biosphere Reserve from India to achieve this recognition. The decision was taken at 30th Session of International Coordinating Council (ICC) of Man and Biosphere (MAB) Programme of UNESCO held in Palembang, Indonesia.

 

It is one of the highest ecosystems in the world, It includes range of ecolines, varying from sub-tropic to Arctic (tundra), as well as natural forests in different biomes, that support an immensely rich diversity of forest types and habitats.

Its core area is major transboundary Wildlife Protected Area. Its southern and central landscape which makes up 86% of core area is situated in Greater Himalayas. Its northern part of accounting for 14% of area is characterized by trans-Himalayan features.

The core zone of Khangchendzonga National Park already has been designated World Heritage Site in 2016 under ‘mixed’ category (first from India in this category). Many of mountains, peaks, lakes, caves, rocks, Stupas (shrines) and hot springs in this biosphere reserve function as pilgrimage sites.

Committee on RCEP

The Union Government constituted a four-member Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by the Union Minister of Commerce and Industry Suresh Prabhu  on whether to continue with or withdraw from the 16-member Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations. 

Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) between the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) (BruneiCambodiaIndonesiaLaosMalaysiaMyanmar, the PhilippinesSingaporeThailandVietnam) and the six Asia-Pacific states with which ASEAN has existing free trade agreements (AustraliaChinaIndiaJapanSouth Korea and New Zealand).

RCEP negotiations were formally launched in November 2012 at the ASEAN Summit in Cambodia.[1] The free trade agreement is scheduled and expected to be signed in November 2018 during the ASEAN Summit and Related Summit in Singapore, after the first RCEP summit was held on 14 November 2017 in Manila, Philippines. 

RCEP is viewed as an alternative to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposed trade agreement which includes several Asian and American nations but excludes China and India.

 Restricted Area Permit-liberalised

In a major step to increase footfalls and promote tourism in the remote Andaman and Nicobar islands, the government has excluded 29 inhabited islands in the Union Territory from the Restricted Area Permit (RAP) regime till December 31, 2022. These include Havelock, Long Island, Curfew Island, North Andaman, Smith Island, Neil Island, Flat Bay and Strait Island among others.

The lifting of RAP means that foreigners will now be allowed to visit these islands without prior permission from the government.

However, New Delhi remains wary of opening its doors to neighbouring countries like Pakistan and China, which have long been eyeing an opportunity to get a foothold in the strategically located islands.

Irreversible ‘hothouse’

Our planet is at the risk of entering an irreversible ‘hothouse’ condition – where the global temperatures will rise by four to five degrees and sea levels may surge by up to 60 metres higher than today – even if targets under the Paris climate deal are met. According to the researchers, keeping global warming to within 1.5-2 degrees Celsius may be more difficult than previously assessed.

“Human emissions of greenhouse gas are not the sole determinant of temperature on Earth,” said the Australian National University. “Our study suggests that human-induced global warming of two degrees Celsius may trigger other Earth system processes, often called “feedbacks,” that can drive further warming .

Doubled import duty

The government has doubled import duty on as many as 328 textile products from 10% to 20 percent to provide a boost to manufacturing of these items in the country.

Increase in duties would give an edge to domestic manufacturers as imported products are currently cheaper. Increase in manufacturing activity will help create jobs in the sector, which employs about 10.5 crore people.

The government had last month doubled import duty on over 50 textile products including jackets, suits and carpets to 20 percent, a move that is aimed at promoting domestic manufacturing.

World’s first-ever thermal battery

 Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu has unveil the world’s first-ever thermal battery in his Andhra Pradesh state. Manufactured by the Bharat Energy Storage Technology Private Limited (BEST), the first-of-its-kind cell is aimed at boosting up renewable sources of energy production, instead of non-renewable fossil fuel-based energy generation.

The technology, which will help in mitigating carbon emissions, is best suited for grid balancing and stabilisations. It will also be used to store energy for telecommunication, commercial establishments, electric vehicles and highway charging stations. It can also be effectively used in remote locations, such as hilly terrains and islands.

The BEST also aims to set up a Greenfield Project in India, at an estimated cost of Rs. 660 crores.

SC/ST law-

The Lok Sabha has passed a Bill to reverse the effects of a Supreme Court order concerning certain safeguards against arrests under the SC/ST law.

Notwithstanding any court ruling, the renewed Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, 2018, rules out any provision for anticipatory bail for a person accused of atrocities against from SC or ST communities

Moreover, no preliminary enquiry will be required to register a criminal case, and an arrest under this proposed law would not be subject to any approval. An FIR will be filed based on complaints of crimes against people from Dalit and tribal communities without any questions, it entails

One Hundred and Twenty-third Amendment) Bill-

The Rajya Sabha has unanimously passed the Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-third Amendment) Bill as passed by the Lok Sabha to give a constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes.

Earlier, the upper House had made some amendments to the bill passed by the Lok Sabha and sent it back to the lower House of Parliament. The Lok Sabha, in a rare gesture, adopted the “amendment alternative to the amendment made by the Rajya Sabha” and passed the bill.

The bill seeks to grant NCBC the constitutional status on a par with the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes

Kadaknath got GI-

The famous Kadaknath chicken meat from Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh has now got a Geographical Indication (GI) tag. The tag denotes that the product comes from a particular geographical area, and often enhances its commercial value. 

The Gramin Vikas Trust of Krishak Bharati Cooperative (KRIBHCO) had sought GI tag for the protein-rich and black coloured meat of Kadaknath variety of chicken, which is mainly reared in Jhabua. As per the information available on the Geographical
Indications Registry, India, the application, made in the category of “Meat Product, Poultry & Poultry Meat”, was approved on July 30,2018.

     

The Cell for IPR Promotions & Management (CIPAM) under the aegis of the Department of Industrial Policy Promotion (DIPP), Ministry of Commerce and Industry, has launched a logo and tagline/slogan contest for Geographical Indications (GIs) of India on MyGov.in website.

            A Geographical Indication (GI) is primarily an agricultural, natural or a manufactured product (handicrafts and industrial goods) originating from a definite geographical territory. Typically, such a name conveys an assurance of quality and distinctiveness, which is essentially attributable to the place of its origin. Some of the examples of registered Indian GIs are Darjeeling Tea, Tirupathi Laddu, Kangra Paintings, Nagpur Orange, Kashmir Pashmina etc.

 

            GIs are not only part of our rich culture and collective intellectual heritage, but they also supplement the incomes of our rural farmers, weavers, artisans and craftsmen across the country. The promotion of GIs is in line with the Government of India’s ‘Make in India’ campaign and therefore, it is our responsibility to preserve and protect them.   
The Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts (Amendment) Bill, 2018

 

Highlights of the Bill

  • The Commercial Courts Act, 2015 provides for commercial courts and commercial divisions of high courts to adjudicate commercial disputes with a value of at least one crore rupees.  The Bill reduces this limit to three lakh rupees.
  • The Bill allows state governments to establish commercial courts at the district level, even in territories where high courts have ordinary original civil jurisdiction.
  • In areas where high courts do not have original jurisdiction, state governments may set up commercial appellate courts at the district level to consider appeals from commercial courts below the level of a district judge.

   

‘Seva Bhoj Yojana (SBY)’

Union ministry of culture launched a scheme of financial assistance under ‘Seva Bhoj Yojana (SBY)’ with an outlay of Rs 325 crore to benefit the religious charitable institutions taking up distribution of free food to the public.

Under the scheme, CGST (Central Goods and Service Tax) and Central government share of IGST (Integrated Goods and Services Tax) paid on purchase of specific items by charitable religious institutions for distributing free food to public will be reimbursed as financial assistance by the Centre. 
After the President accorded sanction to the scheme, Union culture minister approved the scheme laying the path for its implementation for two years i.e. from financial year 2018-19 to the financial year 2019-20, according to an order issued on May 31 by ministry of culture under secretary Praveen Sharma. 


It is needless to say that the scheme will provide a relief to Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), the richest Hindu religious institution engaged in Annadanam, providing free food on a massive scale daily to the pilgrims in Tirumala. 

Outstanding Parliamentarians Award

President Ramnath Kovind  presented the Outstanding Parliamentarians Award to five MPs. 

For the year 2013, the award was presented to Manipur’s Governor and five-time Rajya Sabha member Dr. Najma A. Heptulla. 

The award for the year 2014 was given to Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Lok Sabha member Hukumdev Narayan Yadav.

Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad was present with the award for the year 2015. 

Congress’ Dinesh Trivedi was also honoured by the Outstanding Parliamentarians Award for the year 2016

For the year 2017, the Outstanding Parliamentarians Award was presented to Biju Janata Dal (BJD) Member of Parliament (MP) from Odisha’s Cuttack Bhartruhari Mahatab.

Concessional Financing Scheme (CFS)

          The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the first extension of Concessional Financing Scheme(CFS) to support Indian Entities bidding for strategically important infrastructure projects abroad.         

          Under the CFS, the Govt. of India has been supporting Indian Entities bidding for strategically important infrastructure projects abroad since 2015-16. Since the objectives of the Scheme continue to be relevant, it is proposed to extend the Scheme for another five years from 2018 to 2023.    

          Prior to the introduction of CFS, Indian entities were not able to bid for large projects abroad since the cost of financing was very high for them and bidders from other countries such as China, Japan, Europe and US were able to provide credit at superior terms, i.e., lower interest rate and longer tenures which works to the advantage of bidders from those countries. 

          Also, by having projects of strategic interest to India executed by Indian entities, the CFS enables India to generate substantial backward linkage induced jobs, demand for material and machinery in India and also a lot of goodwill for India. 

          The Scheme is presently being operated through the Export-Import Bank of India, which raises resources from the market to provide concessional finance. Government of India (GoI) provides counter guarantee and interest equalization support of 2% to the EXIM Bank. 

          The scheme envisages Government of India to provide counter guarantee and interest equalization of 2 % to EXIM Bank to offer concessional finance to any foreign Govt. or foreign Govt. owned or controlled entity, if any Indian entity, succeeds in getting contract for the execution of a project. 

China’s Earth observation project

China successfully launched an optical remote sensing satellite, as part of its high-resolution Earth observation project which will also provide data for the Belt and Road Initiative. The Gaofen-11 satellite was launched on a Long March 4B rocket at 11 am (local time) from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in northern ShanxiProvince, state-run Xinhua news agency reported. 
The satellite can be used for land survey, urban planning, road network design, agriculture, and disaster relief. 

TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite)-

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) observatory in space has started scouring the solar system for other worlds.

Named TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite), the spacecraft started looking for signs of other planets on July 25 by clicking pictures of nearby stars with its four cameras. The satellite will transmit its first images down to Earth by mid-August and will continue to do so for the next two years at least.

According to a report by The Verge, TESS’ main duty is to specifically look for planets close to Earth’s nearest stars — up to 100 light years away. These planets ideally should pass in front of the stars and block out their light, making it easier for scientists to study them. Any follow-

Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code(Second Amendment) Bill, 2018-

The Lok Sabha  passed the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code(Second Amendment) Bill, 2018 that recognises homebuyers as financial creditors to real estate developers. The bill also proposes a special dispensation for small sector enterprises. 
The IBC Amendment Bill now requires clearance from Rajya Sabba to replace the June 6 ordinance that sought to put these amendments into force to aid quick resolution of several bankrupt firms. 

   

The objective of the bill was not to liquidate the companies but to save jobs in those companies. 
Opposition’s charged that the government has come out with an amend  code to favour a big corporate house. 

The bill says that homebuyers will get due representation in the committee of creditors (CoC) that takes a call on resolution proposals, making them an integral part of the decisionmaking process. 
It also provides some reliefs for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). It does not disqualify promoter of an MSME firm from bidding for his enterprise undergoing corporate insolvency resolution process (CIRP), provided he is not a wilful defaulter and does not attract other disqualifications not related to default. 

According to the bill, lenders will need to seek the prior approval of the competition regulator before finalising resolution plans. The measure seeks to prevent litigation that can derail the resolution process at a later stage. Currently, the winning bidder approaches Competition Commission of India (CCI) for clearance before formally taking over the asset.

Death penalty for raping girls-

A crucial bill seeking to provide death penalty to those convicted of raping girls below the age of 12 years was passed by the Lok Sabha . 

The bill seeks to replace the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance promulgated on April 21, following an outcry over the rape and murder of a minor girl in Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir and the rape of another woman at Unnao in Uttar Pradesh. 

The bill stipulates stringent punishment for perpetrators of rape, particularly of girls below 12 years. Death sentence has been provided for rapists of girls under 12 years. 

The minimum punishment in cases of rape of women has been increased from rigorous imprisonment of seven years to 10 years, extendable to life imprisonment .
According to the bill, in case of rape of a girl under 16 years, the minimum punishment has been increased from 10 to 20 years, extendable to imprisonment for rest of life, which means jail term till the convict’s “natural life”. 

The punishment for gangrape of a girl below 16 years will invariably be imprisonment for the rest of life of the convict. 

Stringent punishment for rape of a girl under 12 years has been provided with the minimum jail term being 20 years which may go up to life in prison or death sentence.

Gangrape of a girl under 12 years of age will invite punishment of jail term for the rest of life or death. 

The measure also provides for speedy investigations and trial. The time limit for investigation of all cases of rape has been prescribed, which has to be mandatorily completed within two months. 
The deadline for the completion of trial in all rape cases will be two months. A six-month time limit for the disposal of appeals in rape cases has also been prescribed, the bill says, adding that there will also be no provision for anticipatory bail for a person accused of rape or gangrape of a girl under 16 years. 

It has also been prescribed that a court has to give notice of 15 days to a public prosecutor and the representative of the victim before deciding on bail applications in case of rape of a girl under 16 years of age. 

Deep Ocean Mission (DOM)

The Centre has drawn up a five-year, ₹8,000 crore plan to explore the deep recesses of the ocean.

The Union Earth Sciences Ministry — tasked with coordinating the exercise — unveiled a blueprint of the ‘Deep Ocean Mission (DOM)’

Among the key deliverables to achieve these goals are an offshore desalination plant that will work with tidal energy, and developing a submersible vehicle that can go to a depth of at least 6,000 metres with three people on board.

India has been allotted a site of 75,000 square kilometres in the Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) by the UN International Sea Bed Authority for exploitation of polymetallic nodules (PMN). These are rocks scattered on the seabed containing iron, manganese, nickel and cobalt. “It is envisaged that 10% of recovery of that large reserve can meet the energy requirement of India for the next 100 years. It has been estimated that 380 million metric tonnes of polymetallic nodules are available at the bottom of the seas in the Central Indian Ocean,” the report adds.

 India’s Exclusive Economic Zone spreads over 2.2 million square kilometres and in the deep sea, lies “unexplored and unutilised.”

 

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