SLO

Current Affairs Short Notes For Prelims 2017-6 [January 2017]

National, Economy and Policy

Union Government discussing with States to bring Water into Concurrent list

The Union Government is discussing the issue of bringing water into concurrent list of VII schedule of Constitution with States.  It was announced by Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti after inaugurating the Jal Manthan-III in New Delhi. The Ashok Chawla Committee also had recommended inter alia the shifting of water to the Concurrent List to provide uniform national framework to manage water in a better and efficient way.

Seeking votes on religious basis a corrupt act: SC

The Supreme Court in its latest verdict has held that election candidates cannot seek votes on the grounds of the religion, caste, creed, community or language of voters. The ruling was given by a 4-3 majority of the seven-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur. It held that if the candidate is found violating the order will result into call for his disqualification.

Background

The apex court’s verdict came while it was hearing several petitions in the Hindutva case seeking interpretation of Section 123 (3) of the Representation of the People Act. This provision says that if a candidate or his agent or any other person, with his consent, appeals for votes on religious or such grounds it would amount to a ‘corrupt practice’. Earlier in the Hindutva case, SC had held that canvassing votes in name of ‘Hindutva/Hinduism’ was not a corrupt electoral practice, as Hinduism was not a religion but a way of life in India.

What SC Verdict Says?

The state being secular in character will not identify itself with any one of the religions or religious denominations. The relationship between man and God is an individual choice.

It implies that religion will not play any role in the governance of the country and state must at all times be secular in nature.

Election is a secular exercise, therefore this process should be followed and elected representatives must be secular in both outlook and practice to maintain this fabric.

The word ‘his’ only in Section 123 (3) of RPA means complete ban on any reference or appeal to religion, race, community, caste and language during elections. It also extended to social, linguistic and religious identity of voter also.

Significance

The ruling can potentially overturn the traditional rules of the game for electoral politics in India. Traditionally parties did not hesitate to employ religion, caste and ethnicity to woo voters. With this SC verdict, greater clarity will emerge once the Election Commission of India, implement this decision and spells out the electoral rules.

Swachh Bharat Survekshan 2017

The Union Ministry of Urban Development launched Swachh Survekshan 2017 to rank 500 cities/towns across the country on cleanliness with a population of 1 lakh and above. The survey will be conducted by Quality Council of India (QCI) under the Swacch Bharat Abhiyan in a bid to encourage competition to improve sanitation.

Key Facts

  • Swachh Survekshan 2017 will judge cities on the basis of data provided by Municipal bodies, data collected through direct observations and independent assessment and citizen feedbacks.
  • Data provided by Municipal bodies will carry 900 marks, data collected through direct observations and independent assessment will carry 500 marks and citizen feedbacks will carry 600 marks.
  • Areas of evaluations: Waste collection, sweeping and transportation (40% marks), Open defecation free (ODF) and toilets (30%), Municipal Solid Waste-processing and disposal (20%) and Information, education and behavior change and Capacity building-Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) e-learning portal(5% each).
  • The citizens can also give their feedback by either filling up a feedback form on the Swachh Survekshan website or by giving a missed call on 1969 to record their response.

Swachh Survekshan 2016 had ranked 73 cities across the country and Mysore was ranked on top followed by Chandigarh. One Lakh citizens had participated and gave their feedback.

IPR Enforcement Toolkit

The Union Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman launched an Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Enforcement Toolkit for Police. This toolkit will be provided to all state police departments across the nation to assist them in dealing with the cases relating to Trademarks and Copyrights infringements.

Key Facts

  • The toolkit has been jointly developed by the Cell for IPR Promotion and Management (CIPAM) and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).
  • It will act as a ready reckoner for police officials across the country for dealing with crimes related Intellectual Property rights (IPR) infringement, specifically Trade Marks counterfeiting and Copyrights piracy.
  • In addition it will provide details of offences under various laws, checklists for registering a complaint and conducting search and seizures case of IP crimes.

About CIPAM

The CIPAM is nodal agency under the aegis of the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP), Ministry of Commerce & Industry. It is working to ensure effective implementation of the National IPR Policy 2016. It has undertaken several measures to strengthen the IP ecosystem in the country.

Explained: Dispute over party symbol in Samajwadi Party

After the recent the political feud and vertical split in Samajwadi Party, the both warring factions are claiming their stakes on the party symbol, the ‘cycle’. Following this, Election Commission of India (ECI) has served notices to both factions to provide supporting documents and evidence in their favour for claiming the party symbol.

What Is The Legal Procedure?

The Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968 empowers the ECI to recognise political parties and allot symbols. The Paragraph 15 of the Order allows ECI to decide disputes among rival groups or factions of a recognised political party staking claim to its name and symbol.

What Paragraph 15 Of The 1968 Order Says?

This paragraph applies to disputes in recognised national and state parties. Under it, the ECI is the only authority to decide issues over claims of Party symbol in case of split. Even the Supreme Court in Sadiq Ali and another vs. ECI case (1971) had upheld its validity. However, in case of splits in registered but unrecognised parties, the ECI usually advises the warring factions to resolve their differences internally or to approach the court.

What Was The First Case Decided Under Para 15?

The first case was in the split in the Indian National Congress in 1969 in two factions Congress (J) led by led by Indira Gandhi and old Congress (O) led by Syndicates. The “old” Congress retained the party symbol of a pair of bullocks carrying a yoke and the breakaway faction of Indira Gandhi was given the symbol of a cow with its calf.

What Considerations ECI Takes In To Account During Such Scenario?

The ECI primarily ascertains support enjoyed by a claimant within a political party in its organisational wing and in its legislative wing. First the commission examines party’s organisational wing by taking into consideration of support of office-bearers and finds out how many office-bearers, members or delegates support the rival claimants. If ECI fails to test the support strength to any faction based on support within the party organisation then it tests majority in legislative wing i.e. based on support of elected MPs and MLAs of party i.e. In case of the legislative wing, the ECI takes into consideration of majority of affidavits submitted by members for the support of group. Based on the majority support the symbol is allocated. So far, in almost all disputes decided by the EC, a clear majority of office bearers/party delegates, MPs and MLAs have supported one of the factions.

What Happens When There Is No Certainty About The Majority Of Either Faction?

When the party is either vertically divided or it is no warring group has majority, then ECI may freeze the party symbol and allow the rival groups to register themselves with new names or add suffixes or prefixes to the party’s existing names. In case of immediate electoral purposes, ECI advise the rival groups to fight the elections in different names and on temporary symbols.

SC wants VVPAT in EVMs for fair elections

The Supreme Court has reiterated the necessity to implement the Vote Verifier Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) in electronic voting machines (EVMs) to ensure 100% transparency in elections. This is the second time the Supreme Court has directed Election Commission (EC) for the implementation of VVPAT in EVMs. Earlier in 2013, SC had directed the EC to introduce VVPAT in a phased manner for 2014 general elections. SC had observed that VVPAT will ensure free and fair polls and help in sorting out disputes. In response the EC had informed the apex court that the VVPAT can be introduced in a phased manner.

What Is VVPAT?

The VVPAT system is a new initiative of the Election Commission to ensure free and fair elections. In the VVPAT system, when a voter presses the button for a candidate of his choice in the electronic voting machines (EVM), a paper ballot containing the serial number, name of the candidate and poll symbol will be printed for the voter. It is intended as an independent verification system for EVM designed to (i) allow voters to verify that their votes are casted correctly, (ii) detect possible election fraud or malfunction and (iii) Provide a means to audit the stored electronic results.

Draft Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Dog Breeding and Marketing) Rules, 2016

The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has released draft notification of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Dog Breeding and Marketing Rules), 2016. The objective of the Rules is to make dog breeders and their marketers accountable and to prevent infliction of any cruelty on dogs in this process.

What Is The Issue?

In recent times dog breeding and their marketing trade also mushroomed all around but with little or no accountability. This is for the first time Government has framed rules on the breeding, sale and purchase of dogs in the country. Earlier there were also no specific rules for mandatory registration of breeders and establishments and requirements to be met by such breeders. These rules have been framed in pursuance of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960 to prevent infliction of unnecessary pain, or suffering on animals.

Proposed Rules

  • Mandatory for all dog breeders and dog breeding establishments to register themselves with the State Animal Welfare Board (SAWB). Defines the breeding requirements and conditions for sale.
  • Defines the requirements such as health-related requirements, housing facilities, manner of housing dogs, conditions for sale, breeding, micro-chipping, vaccination etc. of dogs to be met by the breeders and establishments used for breeding. Allows SAWB inspector authorised to inspect the establishment.
  • Mandatory for dog breeders to maintain proper records of both female and male dogs, their breed, number of litters, micro-chip number, sale, purchase, death, rehabilitation etc.
  • Every dog breeder is required to submit yearly report to the SAWB regarding animals sold, bartered, traded, given away, exhibited during previous year or any other information asked for by the board.

Non-compliance of the proposed Rules by will lead dog breeders and dog breeding establishments will result in cancellation of the registration of the dog breeder.

 

Church courts cannot veto divorce law: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has ruled that Canon law and decrees of divorce given by ecclesiastical tribunals or ‘Church Courts’ cannot veto the statutory law of divorce.

Ruling in this regard was given by SC Bench of Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud on writ petition filed in 2013 seeking a judicial declaration that divorce decrees passed by ecclesiastical tribunals are valid and binding.

SC Ruling

  • Referring to SC 1996 judgment in the case of Molly Joseph versus George Sebastian, SC held that binding nature of the Indian Divorce Act, 1869 governs divorce among Christians.
  • After Divorce Act, 1860 came into force, dissolution or annulment under Christian personal law cannot have any legal impact as statute has provided a different procedure and a different code for divorce.

Thus, SC order grants supremacy to parliamentary laws over personal laws of religious groups. It can be held that divorce decrees of religious institutions can’t override law enacted by the state.

1996 judgment: In Molly case (1996), SC had held that implication of the Canon law is confined to either theological or ecclesiastical and has no legal impact on the divorce of marriage between two persons professing Christian religion.

Government constitutes negotiation committee on Mahanadi and its Tributaries

The Union Ministry of Water Resources has constituted negotiations committee to assess availability and utilisation of waters of Mahanadi and its tributaries to resolve disputes over sharing of river waters among five states. These five states are Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Jharkhand.

The committee will be chaired by member (water planning and projects) of the Central Water Commission (CWC). It will have 11 other members comprising representatives from the state governments.

Key Facts

  • The committee will also examine existing water sharing agreements on river Mahanadi and will consider claims of the 5 states regarding availability and utilisation of waters of these rivers.
  • It has been set up with reference to complaint of State of Odisha under section 3 of the ISRWD Act, 1956 regarding utilisation of waters of Mahandi Basin.
  • It will also have member representatives of Union Ministries of Agriculture, Environment, Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, India Meteorological Department and CWC.

Government launches India Post Payments Bank

The Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley launched operations of the India Post Payments Bank’s (IPPB) by rolling out pilot services in Raipur and Ranchi in Chhattisgarh. IPPB is the second payments bank to start operations after Airtel Payments Bank. It will offer an interest rate of 4.5% on deposits up to Rs. 25,000; 5% on deposits of Rs. 25,000 to 50,000 and 5.5% on Rs. 50,000 to 1,00,000. IPPB has been incorporated as a Public Sector Bank under the Department of Posts with 100% Central Government equity.

The Union Government has also appointed A P Singh as the interim Managing Director and CEO of India Post Payments Bank (IPPB), floated by the postal department.

99% of Indians over 18 now have Aadhaar cards: Government

Government has announced that over 99% of Indians aged 18 i.e. more than 111 crore residents have enrolled themselves for the unique identification number (Aadhaar cards). Now, 91.7% of the total population has been covered under Aadhaar cards. With this, government is set to accelerate the use of Aadhar numbers for its social welfare schemes for disbursing entitlements and subsidies as it will help check duplication and pilferage. The increase in enrolments will also boost government’s drive to make India a less-cash economy as it will encourage the use of AadhaarPay, a merchant version of Aadhaar-enabled payment system (AEPS). Aadhaar is a 12-digit number which acts as a proof of identity and address anywhere in the country. It is issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). Under it, biometric and demographic data of residents collected, stored in a centralised database.

First flight under UDAN scheme to take off in February 2017

The first flight under the government’s ambitious regional connectivity scheme UDAN (Ude Desh Ke Aam Naagrik) will to take off in February 2017. The scheme aims to boost regional air connectivity and provide various incentives to airlines. It was launched in October 2016 with an objective to provide connectivity to un-served and under-served regions through revival of existing air strips and airports. Under this scheme, Government will provide subsidy to airlines that operate flights between two regional airports. The scheme will give a major boost to tourism activities and employment generation in hinterland. At present there are 75 operational airport in the country and 43 new airports will be added after the implementation of UDAN scheme.

PMGKY not applicable for non-cash income

The Income Tax Department has clarified that income declaration scheme, Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY), will be only applicable to cash or deposits in bank accounts and not for income in the form of jewellery, stock or immovable property. The scheme will also not apply to income stored in foreign accounts. PMGKY was launched to give people an opportunity to pay taxes with penalties and declare undisclosed income following the demonetisation of high value currency.

Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) allows people to deposit previously untaxed money in form of cash or bank deposits by paying 50% of the total amount (It includes 30% as tax and 10% as penalty on the undisclosed income, as well as 33% of the taxed amount as cess). Moreover, the declarant will also needs to deposit 25% of undisclosed income in a fixed deposit scheme under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Deposit Scheme, 2016. If the declarant refuses for using the government deposit scheme, then 85% of the amount will be deducted as taxes and penalties.

Government to roll out Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme

The Union Government will soon roll out Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme (TIES) to boost export infrastructure by tying up with States. The export infrastructure scheme will help states to develop their own export strategy in alignment with the National Foreign Trade Policy. It will provide financial support and supplement the efforts of States to create export infrastructure. It will also enhance states co-operation with Central agencies to set up common facilities for testing, certification, trace-back, packaging and labelling. The Union Government also has decided launch Logistics Performance Index (LPI) to rank states on steps taken to facilitate trade and improve logistics.

Bunkar Mitra Helpline

The Union Ministry of Textiles’ Bunkar Mitra Helpline for Handloom Weavers went live. It was launched by the Union Textiles Minister Smriti Zubin Irani on the occasion of Good Governance Day (on December 25, 2016).

The helpline aims to provide a single point of contact to handloom weavers across the country for addressing their queries and seek guidance. This helpline can be accessed by dialing the toll free number 1800-208-9988.

Key Facts

The helpline seeks to overcome the problem of unavailability of single point of contact where weavers can seek solutions for their technical issues/problems.

Services available through this helpline include access to marketing linkages, assistance on technical issues and information about various schemes and procedure to avail benefits.

Weavers can seek experts’ advice from the field of textiles such as guidance for raw material supply, availing credit facility, quality control, access to marketing linkages and information about various schemes.

Initially the helpline will be provided in 7 languages viz., English, Hindi and 5 other regional languages Tamil, Telugu, Kannada Bengali and Assamese.

Currently 28 Weavers’ Service Centres (WSCs) are functioning across the country to provide technical assistance to handloom weavers in improving their skills.

16th meeting of FSDC held in New Delhi

The 16th meeting of the Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC) was held in New Delhi. It was chaired by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.  It was attended by heads of all financial sector regulators as its members. It reviewed the major issues and challenges facing the economy.

Key Highlights Of The Meeting

Indian Economy: India appears to be much better placed because of improvement in its macroeconomic fundamental despite fragile world economy. It reviewed the major issues and challenges facing the economy.

  • Banking:The status of NPAs of public sector banks and measures taken by the government and the RBI for tackling the stressed assets were reviewed. It also discussed about further action to be taken in this regard.
  • Financial inclusion/ financial literacy:Discussed about the various initiatives taken by the government and regulators for promoting financial inclusion/ literacy. It also discussed further measures for promoting the same.
  • Technology:Discussed issues pertaining to Fintech, digital innovations and cyber security. It also discussed on further steps to be taken.
  • Demonetisation: It will help in eliminating the shadow economy and tax evasion. It will have a positive impact on GDP and fiscal consolidation in the long run.

Besides, a brief report on the activities undertaken by the FSDC sub-committee chaired by RBI Governor Urjit Patel was placed before the FSDC meeting.

About Financial Stability And Development Council

The Central Government had established Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC) in December 2010 with the Finance Minister as it Chairman. The idea to create it was first mooted by the Raghuram Rajan Committee on Financial Sector Reforms in 2008.

It is a super regulatory body for regulating financial sector which is a vital for bringing healthy and efficient financial system in the economy. The FSDC envisages to strengthen and institutionalise mechanism of (i) maintaining financial stability, (ii) Financial sector development, (iii) inter-regulatory coordination along with monitoring macro-prudential regulation of economy.

Composition Of FSDC

  • Chairman: Union Finance Minister.
  • Members: Heads of the financial sector regulatory authorities (i.e, RBI, SEBI, IRDA, PFRDA), Finance Secretary and/or Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs (Union Finance Ministry), Secretary, Department of Financial Services, and Chief Economic Adviser.
  • FSDC can invite experts to its meeting if required.

Two Core Functions

  • Act as an apex level forum to strengthen and institutionalize the mechanism for maintaining financial stability.
  • Enhance inter-regulatory coordination and promoting financial sector development in the country.
  • Other functions
  • Focus on financial literacy and financial inclusion.
  • Monitor macro-prudential supervision of the economy.
  • Assess the functioning of the large financial conglomerates.

Government makes Aadhaar mandatory for MGNREGA work

The Union Government has made mandatory for workers in rural areas enrolled under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA) to have an Aadhaar card. Those who have registered under the scheme will be required to give furnish proof of possession of Aadhaar card or undergo the enrolment process till March 31, 2017.

Key Facts

  • For this purpose, government has invoked Section 7 of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, benefits and services) Act, 2016.
  • This section allows Government to ask an individual to undergo authentication or furnish proof of possession of Aadhaar when the government gives subsidy, benefit or service from Consolidated Fund of India (CFI).
  • The rationale behind making Aadhaar cards mandatory for the MGNREGA is to prevent leakages of subsidies and ensure that the beneficiaries get their due.
  • It will ensure effective implementation of the Aadhaar-linked Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) scheme aimed at checking leakages of welfare funds.

Under DBT scheme, all cash benefits are transferred to beneficiary’s bank account. Union Government has asked its departments and State governments to widen scope of DBT to include all monetary transfers. The expenditure for the MGNREGS is met by Government from the Consolidated Fund of India.

Pravasi Kaushal Vikas Yojana

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched Pravasi Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PKVY), a skill development program targeted at Indian youth seeking overseas employment to make India the Skill Capital of the World. It was launched after inauguration of 14th Pravasi Bhartiya Divas convention at India’s IT hub Bengaluru, Karnataka. Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa was the Chief Guest of the event.

Key Facts

  • PKVY will provide training and certify Indians who are seeking overseas employment in selected sectors that have high demand in the global labour market in line with international standards.
  • It will be implemented by the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) through its training partners and in consultation with the Union Ministry of External Affairs and the Union Skill Development Ministry.
  • It also aims at boosting the confidence of the Indian youth so that they don’t feel like strangers when they land in a country of their choice for vocation.

For this purpose, NSDC will leverage various MoUs it signed between 2011 and 2015 with different agencies of Germany, Canada, Australia, Singapore, UK, US, European Union, France, Iran and China.

India INX

Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated India’s first international exchange India INX at the International Financial Service Centre (IFSC) of GIFT (Gujarat International Financial Tech) City Gandhinagar, Gujarat. India INX is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE). It will enable Indian firms to compete on equal footing with offshore firms.

Key Facts

India INX will initially trade in equity derivatives, currency derivatives, commodity derivatives including index and Stocks. Subsequently, it will offer depository receipts and bonds once required infrastructure is ready.

It will work for 22 hours in a day working from sunrise to sunset i.e. starting when Japan exchanges begin and close when US markets end. It will have 250 trading members including commodity and overseas brokers.

India INX is one of the most advanced technology platforms with turnaround time of 4 seconds. It will facilitate international investors and NRIs to trade from anywhere in the world.

It will provide benefits in terms of waiver of security transaction tax, commodity transaction tax, dividend distribution tax, long term capital gain tax and income tax.

Unemployment in India to increase marginally in 2017-18: ILO

According to recently released World Employment and Social Outlook for 2017, the number of unemployed people in India is expected to rise by 1 lakh in 2017 and another 2 lakh in 2018.

The report was released by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) with projections based on econometric modelling carried out in November 2016.  The report has clubbed India in the category of emerging nations.

Key Highlights Of The Report

Number of jobless in India will increase from 17.7 million in 2016 to 18 million by 2018 even though the country’s unemployment rate is expected to go down from 3.5% to 3.4% in 2017. India performed slightly well in terms of job creation in 2016, as majority of the 13.4 million new employment were created.

  • Globally, the number of jobless people will increase by 3.4 million in 2017. The global unemployment rate is expected to rise modestly from 5.7 to 5.8% in 2017 as pace of labour force growth outstrips job creation.
  • The increase in unemployment levels and rates in 2017 will be driven by deteriorating labour market conditions in emerging countries.
  • Vulnerable forms of employment, which include own account workers and contributing family workers are expected to stay above 42% of total employment.
  • About 1.4 billion people are likely to be engaged in such employment in 2017, with the number rising by 11 million per year. Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia will be the most affected.
  • In developing countries, the number of workers earning less than $3.10 per day is even expected to increase by more than 5 million over the next two years.

Global uncertainty and the lack of decent jobs are, among some of the other factors, underpinning social unrest and migration in many parts of the world.

SEBI tightens merger norms

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has tightened rules for mergers and amalgamations by Indian companies in a bid to safeguard the interests of the public shareholders.

The market regulator amended rules in an effort to make listing process more transparent and ensure wider public holding, prevent mergers of large unlisted firms with small ones.

The new rules will ensure that all classes of shareholders get an equitable treatment during mergers and acquisitions. It will also stop practice using route of merger to get an indirect listing for an unlisted company.

What New Rules Say?

  • Holding of public shareholders post the merger cannot be less than 25%. Similar threshold must be for institutional shareholders of the unlisted entity as well, post-merger.
  • Unlisted company can be merged with a listed company only if the latter is listed on a stock exchange having nationwide trading terminals.
  • e-voting will be mandatory in cases wherein the stake of public shareholders reduces by more than 5% in the merged entity.
  • In case of merger of an unlisted company with a listed company, the unlisted company will have to disclose all the material information in the form of an abridged prospectus, similar to initial public offering (IPO).
  • Companies must follow the pricing formula for stocks as per SEBI’s ICDR (issue of capital and disclosure requirements) norms during mergers.

About Securities And Exchange Board Of India (SEBI)

  • SEBI is the statutory regulator for the securities market in India. It was established in 1988 and given statutory powers through the SEBI Act, 1992.
  • Purpose: Protect the interests of investors in securities, promote the development of securities market and to regulate the securities market.
  • SEBI has is responsive to needs of three groups, which constitute the market, issuers of securities, investors and market intermediaries.

It has three functions: quasi-legislative (drafts regulations in its legislative capacity), quasi-judicial (passes rulings and orders in its judicial capacity) and quasi-executive (conducts investigation and enforcement action in its executive function).

Richest 1% own 58% of total wealth in India: Oxfam Study

According to study conducted by rights group Oxfam, India’s richest 1% now hold a huge 58% of the country’s total wealth, indicating rise income inequality. It is higher than the global figure of about 50%.

It shows that 57 billionaires in India now have same wealth ($216 billion) as that of the bottom 70% population of the country. Globally, just 8 billionaires have the wealth as the poorest 50 % of the world population.

Key Findings of Study

  • The total global wealth in the year 2016 was $255.7 trillion of which about $6.5 trillion was held by billionaires, led by Bill Gates ($75 billion), Amancio Ortega ($67 billion) and Warren Buffett($60.8 billion).
  • Globally, just 8 billionaires have the same amount of wealth as the poorest 50% of the world population.
  • Since 2015, richest 1 % owned more wealth than the rest of the planet. Over the next 20 years, 500 people will hand over $ 2.1 trillion to their heirs (a sum larger than GDP of India, a country of 1.3 billion people).
  • Over the last two decades, richest 10% of the populations in China, Laos, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have seen their share of income increase by more than 15%.
  • Poorest Sections: The poorest half of world has less wealth than had been previously thought. The poorest 10% have seen their share of income fall by more than 15%.
  • Solution: It calls to build a human economy that benefits everyone not just the privileged few.
  • In India, there are 84 billionaires with a collective wealth of $248 billion led by Mukesh Ambani ($19.3 billion), Dilip Shanghvi ($16.7 billion) and Azim Premji ($15 billion).
  • Gender pay gap: India suffers from huge gender pay gap. It has among the worst levels of gender wage disparity (men earning more than women in similar jobs) and the gap exceeding 30%.
  • In India, women form 60% of the lowest paid wage labour but only 15% of the highest wage–earners. Thus, India women are poorly represented in top bracket of wage–earners and experience wide gender pay gap at the bottom.

Indian government must introduce inheritance tax and increase wealth tax as the proportion of this tax in total tax revenue is one of the lowest in India to end the extreme concentration of wealth and to end poverty.

India ranks 60th in Inclusive Development Index

India ranked 60th among the 79 developing countries in 2017 Inclusive Development Index (IDI) released in World Economic Forum’s (WEF) ‘Inclusive Growth and Development Report’.

The index is based on 12 performance indicators and countries are ranked on IDI scores based on a scale of 1-7. It has three pillars Growth and Development, Inclusion and Intergenerational Equity, and Sustainability in order to provide a more complete measure of economic development than GDP growth alone.

Key Highlights Of 2017 IDI

  • Top 10 developing economies in 2017 IDI: Lithuania (1st), Azerbaijan (2nd), Hungary (3rd), Poland (4th), Romania (5th), Uruguay (6th), Latvia (7th), Panama (8th), Costa Rica (9th) and Chile (10th).
  • Top 10 advance economies in 2017 IDI: Norway (1st), Luxembourg (2nd), Switzerland (3th), Iceland (4th) and Denmark (5th), (6th), Netherlands (7th), Australia (8th), New Zealand (9th) and Austria (10th).
  • BRIC’s countries: Russia (13th), China (30th) and Brazil (30th).
  • India’s neighbours: India’s many of the neighbouring nations are ahead in the rankings. China (15th), Nepal (27th), Bangladesh (36th) and Pakistan (52nd).
  • India, with a score of only 3.38, ranks low among 79 developing economies, despite its growth in GDP per capita is among the top 10 and labour productivity growth has been strong.
  • India scores well in terms of access to finance for business development and real economy investment.
  • Reasons for India’s lower rank: India’s debt-to-GDP ratio is high, that raises some questions about the sustainability of government spending.

India’s labour force participation rate is low, informal economy is large and many workers are vulnerable to employment situations with little room for social mobility.

India needs more progressive tax system to raise capital for expenditures in infrastructure, health care, basic services and education,

India ranks 92nd in 2017 Global Talent Index

India was ranked 92nd among 118 countries in the 2017 Global index of talent competitiveness (GTI) list. The index measures ability of countries to compete for talent i.e. how countries grow, attract and retain talent.

The index is produced by global business school INSEAD in partnership with Adecco Group and Human Capital Leadership Institute (HCLI) of Singapore.

Key Highlights Of 2017 GTI

  • Top 10 Countries: Switzerland (1st), Singapore (2nd), United Kingdom (3rd), United States (4th), Sweden (5th), Australia (6th), Luxembourg (7th), Denmark (8th), Finland (9th) and Norway (10th).
  • BRICS Countries: India’s ranking is worst among the five BRICS countries. China (54th), Russia (56th), South Africa (67th) and Brazil (81st).
  • It noted that BRICS countries are not getting stronger and both China and India have slipped from their year-ago rankings.
  • India Related Facts: In this edition of the list, India slipped by 3 places compared to 89th rank in 2016 GTI.
  • India stood on a relatively solid in pool of global knowledge skills compared with other emerging markets. But in terms of retaining and attracting talent indices, India ranked lowly 104th and 114th, respectively.
  • Overall a major challenge for India is to attract talent from abroad, particularly in the context of large emigration rates of high-skilled people.
  • India has been able to create a stable pool of global knowledge skills, but still experiences a brain drain. India’s ranking will improve only if it improves in its regulatory (94th) and market (99th) landscapes.
  • GTI global ranking of cities:2017 edition of GTI also released the first-ever global ranking of cities on the basis of their reputation and growing footprint in attracting, growing, and retaining global talent.
  • Top 10 global cities in terms of talent competitiveness:Zurich, Helsinki, San Francisco, Gothenburg, Madrid, Paris, Los Angeles, Eindhoven and Dublin. Mumbai was only Indian city to make into this list.

Railway Ministry unveils Mission 41K to save energy worth Rs 41,000 crore

Union Railway Ministry has unveiled ‘Mission 41K’ to save Rs. 41,000 crore on the Indian Railways’ expenditure on energy consumption over the next 10 years.

The launch of this programme was announced at a Roundtable Discussion on Energy Initiatives of Indian Railways with external stakeholders headed by Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu.

Key Facts

 

  • This target of ‘Mission 41K will be achieved by taking a slew of measures which include moving 90% of traffic to electric traction over diesel from present 50% of the total rail traffic.
  • The railways will also procure more and more electricity at cheaper rates through open market instead of sourcing it through DISCOMs. Thereby it hopes to save as much as 25% on its energy expenses.
  • New technologies will be also explored to bring down electric consumption and change the energy mix of Indian Railways.
  • The Electrification Mission will help Indian Railways to reduce dependence on imported fuel, change energy mix, and rationalize the cost of energy for Railways.

In the 2016-17 Budget, Indian Railways already had set a target of generating 1000 MW of solar power and 200 MW of wind energy. During 2014-2015 period, Indian Railways had consumed over 18.25 billion units of electrical energy for its traction and non-traction application for which it paid a total of Rs 12,635 crore. In the same period, for diesel traction it spent Rs 18,586 crore.

AAI receives 45 initial bids under Regional Connectivity Scheme

The Airports Authority of India (AAI) has received 45 initial bids from 11 parties to fly routes under the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) launched by the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation.

The initial bid proposals covers more than 200 routes and as many as 65 airports, 52 of them not served by any airline and 13 under-served airports. Now, Government has invited counter-bids against these initial proposals.

After that, these routes will be awarded to bidders who quote the lowest Viability Gap Funding (VGF) requirement against the routes under the RCS.

About Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS)

  • The RCS aims to boost air travel in Tier II and Tier III cities by capping fares at Rs 2,500 per one hour flight. The AAI is the implementing authority of the scheme.
  • Its objective is to make flying affordable for the masses, to promote tourism, increase employment and promote balanced regional growth.
  • As per the scheme, the Union Government will subsidise the losses incurred by airlines flying out of dormant airports to allow airlines to charge Rs. 2,500 for an hour’s flight to passengers.
  • About 80% of the subsidy will be collected by charging a levy of up to Rs. 8,500 on each departing flight of domestic airlines and the rest 20% will come from the respective state governments.

Government launches ShaGun portal to monitor Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan

The Union Government launched a dedicated web portal ShaGun (http://ssashagun.nic.in) for monitoring the progress of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA).

The portal was developed by World Bank in collaboration with Union Ministry of Human Resource Development. Its name has been derived from the words Shala (means schools) and Gun (i.e. Gunvatta meaning Quality).

Key Facts

  • ShaGun portal was developed with a twin track approach to monitor schools under the SSA and also the quality of education imparted by them.
  • It will capture and showcase innovations and progress in Elementary Education sector of India by continuous monitoring SSA.
  • ShaGun will help in monitoring progress in implementation of SSA by assessing the performance of states/UTs on key parameters that will help Government to plan and deliver quality education to all.
  • It will collect and report data to enable the government and administrators to track the efficiency with which SSA funds are being utilised and the results are been delivered.

Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA): It is a centrally sponsored flagship scheme for providing universal access to education to children in the age group of six to fourteen years of age.

In addition, Toolkit for Master Trainers in Preparing Teachers for Inclusive Education for Children with Special Needs (CWSN) was also unveiled. The toolkit is part of the series of 5 training modules that will provide the teachers with practical information on the effective inclusion of CWSN. It will help in building pedagogical practices that will address the needs of all children with special needs.

Union Cabinet approves to augment CGTMSE for supporting MSEs

The Union Cabinet has approved package for augmentation of the Corpus of Credit Guarantee Trust Fund for Micro and Small Enterprises (CGTMSE) for supporting Micro and Small Enterprises (MSEs).

With this, the corpus of the Trust has been increased from Rs. 2,500 crore to Rs. 7,500 crore and it will be fully funded by the Union Government.

Cabinet’s Proposal Also Entails To

  • Increase coverage of the loans covered under the credit guarantee scheme from Rs. 1 crore to Rs. 2 crore;
  • Increase coverage of the credit guarantee scheme for loans extended to MSEs by NBFCs also. This will enable the Trust to enhance the quantum.

Benefits Of These Measures

  • Lower the level of leverage
  • Improve sustainability of the Fund.
  • Improve financial management.
  • Limit the unfunded contingent liabilities.
  • Enable the CGTMSE to enhance the quantum of credit guarantee to larger number of MSEs.

Comment

Augmentation of the corpus of the fund will facilitate larger flow of credit to MSEs. This in turn, will lead to increase output and employment and thereby promote equity and inclusiveness. Start-ups will also be encouraged to set up enterprises based on innovation and new ideas as the scheme provides credit without collateral and third-party guarantee.

CCEA approves listing of five general insurance PSUs at the stock exchanges

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has given its ‘in principle’ approval for listing the five Public Sector General Insurance Companies (2016-17) owned General Insurance Companies in the stock exchanges.

They are New India Assurance Company Ltd, United India Insurance Company Ltd, Oriental Insurance Company Ltd, National Insurance Company Ltd and General Insurance Corporation of India.

The shareholding of these PSGICs will be divested from 100% to 75% in one or more tranches over a period of time as per Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) rules and regulations.

Significance Of Listing Of PSGICs

  • Bring transparency and equity in the companies functioning as listing on the stock exchange necessitates compliance requirements of SEBI.
  • Improve corporate governance and risk management practices leading to improved efficiency. It will lead to greater focus on growth and earnings.
  • Open the way for the companies to raise resources from the capital market to meet their fund requirements to expand their businesses, instead of being dependent on the Government for capital infusion.
  • Divestment in these companies will help government in raising resources and portion of the funds can be used by the company for expansion.

Background

The Union Finance Minister in his 2016-17 Budget speech had announced that public shareholding in Government-owned companies is a means of ensuring higher levels of transparency and accountability. In order to promote this objective, the general insurance companies owned by the Government will be listed on the stock exchanges.

Union Cabinet approves amendment in Modified Special Incentive Package Scheme

The Union Cabinet has given its approval for amendment in the Modified Special Incentive Package Scheme (M-SIPS) for electronics manufacturing.

These modifications will further incentivize investments in electronic sector and move towards Union Government’s goal of ‘Net Zero imports’ in electronics by 2020. 

Key Amendment

  • The applications will be received under M-SIPS scheme till December 2018 or till such time that an incentive commitment of Rs 10,000 crore is reached, whichever is earlier.
  • In case the incentive commitment of Rs 10,000 crore is reached, a review will be held to decide further financial commitments.
  • For new approvals, the incentive under the scheme will be available from the date of approval of a project and not from the date of receipt of application.
  • The incentives will be available for investments made within 5 years from the date of approval of the project. Unit receiving incentive will provide undertaking to remain in commercial production for at least 3 years.
  • The Appraisal Committee chaired by Secretary, Ministry of Electronics and IT will recommend approval of project.

Significance Of Amendment In M-SIPS

  • Expedite investments into the Electronics System Design and Manufacturing (ESDM) sector in India.
  • Create employment opportunities and reduce dependence on imports.

About Modified Special Incentive Package Scheme (M-SIPS)

  • The Union Cabinet in 2012 approved the M-SIPS to provide a special incentive package to promote large scale manufacturing in the ESDM sector to boost domestic electronic product manufacturing in the country.
  • The scheme provides subsidy for capital expenditure 20% for investments in Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and 25% in non-SEZs.
  • It also provides reimbursement of countervailing duty/excise for capital equipment for non-SEZ units and also reimbursement of duties and central taxes for some of the projects with high capital investments.

Cabinet approves the exclusion of States from National Small Savings Fund

The Union Cabinet has excluded States and Union Territories except Arunachal Pradesh, Kerala, Delhi (UT) and Madhya Pradesh from National Small Savings Fund (NSSF) investments with effect from 1 April 2016

The cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi also approved one-time loan of Rs. 45000 crore from NSSF to Food Corporation of India (FCI) to meet its food subsidy requirements.

Key Facts

  • Arunachal Pradesh will be given loans to the tune of 100% of NSSF collections within its territory, while Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi (UT) will be provided with 50% of collections.
  • Through the budget line of Department of Food and Public Distribution, the servicing of interest and principal of debt will be extended to Food Corporation of India (FCI).
  • The repayment obligation of the FCI in respect of NSSF Loans will be treated as the first charge on the food subsidy released to the FCI.
  • In addition, FCI will be required to reduce the amount of its current Cash Credit Limit with the banking consortium to the extent of the NSSF loan amount.
  • An legally binding agreement will be signed between Department of Food, FCI and NSSF on the modalities for repayment of interest rate and the restructuring of FCI debt will be made possible within 2-5 years.
  • In the future, NSSF will invest on items whose expenditure is ultimately borne by Union Government and Union budget will meet requirement of the repayment of the principal and interest of that amount.

Background

The 14th Finance Commission (FFC) had recommended that the State Governments should be excluded from the investment operations of the NSSF. The main reason given was that NSSF loans come at an extra cost to the State Governments compared to the market rates which are considerably lower. Following this, Union Cabinet in February 2015 held that this recommendation will be examined in due course in consultation with various stake holders. Later, all states except Arunachal Pradesh, Delhi, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh expressed their desire to be excluded from NSSF investments.

About National Small Savings Fund (NSSF)

NSSF was set up on 1 April, 1999 with an objective to account all the monetary transactions under small savings schemes of the Union Government under one umbrella. It was set up in the Public Account of India.

The net accretions under the small savings schemes are invested in the special securities of various States/ Union Territories (with legislature)/Central Governments.

States not only can borrow from this account but have the obligation to borrow. The minimum obligation of States to borrow from the NSSF has been brought down from 100% to 80% of net collections from 2007.

AYUSH Ministry, ASCI ink MoU to co-regulate advertisements in AYUSH sector

The Union Ministry of AYUSH and Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) have signed a Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) to co-regulate malpractices in the advertisement of AYUSH sector.

ASCI will comprehensively monitor these advertisements across print and electronic media with respect to AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy) drugs, treatments and related services.

Key Facts

  • The Ministry of AYUSH has given ASCI a self-monitoring mandate to identify potentially misleading advertisement in the AYUSH sector and process complaints through its Consumer Complaints Council (CCC).
  • The Ministry will also redirect complaints against misleading advertisements they receive, to the ASCI, which will be reviewed using ASCI’s code and guidelines.
  • The MoU also requires ASCI to report to the Ministry of AYUSH, all advertisements in potential violation of the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954 and Rules thereunder.

Background

There is unbridled marketing of Ayush drugs across media platforms, including print and television channels. At present, there is no mechanism in place to penalise companies and individuals selling AYUSH products on the basis of false and unsubstantiated claims. The co-regulation between Ministry of AYUSH and ASCI will ensure that consumers have access to safe and effective medicines.

About Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI)

  • ASCI is aself-regulatory voluntary non-governmental organization (NGO)of the advertising industry in India. It aims to maintain and enhance the public’s confidence in advertising.
  • It was established in 1985 by by three main constituents of advertising industry viz advertisers, advertising agencies and media. Its headquarters are in Mumbai, Maharashtra.

India Innovation Index to measure performance of Indian states

The World Economic Forum (WEF), NITI Aayog, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and Cornell University will work to develop an India Innovation Index to provide impetus to states to drive innovative spirit.

Based on the WIPO’s GII (Global Innovation Index), the India Innovation Index will be tailored to better reflect of India’s ground reality and include metrics well suited to the Indian context for innovation.

Key Facts

  • The India Innovation Index will measure and rank the innovation performance of all states in India with the aim of moving India towards an innovation-driven economy.
  • It will be based on key pillars of innovation and sub-indices that together will assist in tailoring policies for innovation that inturn will promote inclusive growth.
  • The pillars of index include thecapacity of human capital and research, strength of institutions, supporting infrastructure and the level of business sophistication, among others.
  • Each partnering organization will nominate a working group member to work on the index. The first ranking of Indian states will released at the India Economic Summit to be held in October 2017.
  • This index will encourage states to compete with each other and, in turn, lead to better policies for inclusive growth.
  • It will create a transparent benchmark of innovation for Indian states and spur competition among states. It will also ensure progress towards innovation at the local level in India.

Himachal Pradesh overtakes Kerala in learning outcomes: ASER

According to Status of Education Report (ASER) 2016, students of Himachal Pradesh stand ahead of Kerala and all other states in terms of learning outcomes. 

The 2016 ASER was the largest annual household survey of the children in India in the field of education. It focused on status of schooling and basic learning.

Key Facts

  • The report found that enrolment rate of students in the age group 6 to 14 in Himachal Pradesh was 99.8%. It secured first rank in achieving learning outcomes in basic reading and mathematics across the country.
  • In language category, outcome of government schools in Himachal Pradesh was 65.3% as compared to the national level of 41.6%.
  • In mathematics, outcome of Himachal Pradesh was 47.4% as compared to the national level of 21.1%. It was found that government schools the state performed better than private schools in mathematics.
  • In learning of English language, Himachal Pradesh ranked fifth in the country with 44% outcome compared to 15.3% achievement at national level.

Draft steel policy anticipates Rs. 10 lakh crore investments

The Steel Ministry has released new draft National Steel Policy of 2017, envisaging to double India’s domestic steel production capacity to 300 million tonnes by 2030-31.

The draft policy anticipates a requirement of Rs. 10 lakh crore of fresh investments to meet production goal and expects creation of at least 11 lakh new jobs in the process.

Key Features Of Policy

  • Two alternatives vision:(i) Create a globally competitive steel industry that promotes inter-sectoral growth (ii) Create a self-sufficient steel industry that is technologically advanced, globally competitive and promotes inclusive growth.
  • Focuses on:Impediments like high input costs, import dependency, availability of raw materials and financial stress plaguing the sector. Couple of factors such as the demand and production of sponge iron are still under discussion.
  • Gas-based steel plants:Proposes gas-based steel plants and technologies such as electric furnaces to bring down use of coking coal in blast furnaces in order to cut down reliance on expensive imports of coking coal.
  • Public sector firms in the steel sector:They should aim for economies of scale. The will be encouraged to divest their non-core assets through mergers and restructuring.
  • Greenfield steel plants along India’s coastline:These plants will be set up under the aegis of Sagarmala project to tap cheap imported raw materials such as coking coal and export the output in a more cost-effective manner.
  • Cluster-based approach:It will be pursued, especially for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to ensure easy availability of raw materials, optimum land use and economies of scale.

N K Singh panel submits report on changes in FRBM Act

The Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Committee has submitted its 4 volume report on changes in FRBM Act, 2013 to the Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

The 5 member committee was headed by N.K. Singh, former Revenue and Expenditure Secretary and former MP. Its member included RBI Governor Urjit Patel, Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian, former Finance Secretary Sumit Bose, and National Institute of Public Finance and Policy Director Rathin Roy.

Key Facts

  • The committee was constituted in May 2016 following Finance Minister Budget 2016-17 announcement. It was assigned task to review the working of the FRBM Act over last 12 years to suggest the way forward.
  • It was also tasked to examine the need and feasibility of having a ‘fiscal deficit range’ as the target in place of the existing fixed numbers (percentage of GDP) as fiscal deficit target.
  • The committee has kept in view the broad objective of fiscal consolidation and prudence and has suggested changes required in the context of the uncertainty and volatility in the global economy.
  • Thefirst volumeof the report addresses the issue of the fiscal roadmap, fiscal policy, international experience and recommendations therein.
  • Thesecond volumerefers to international experience especially from a lot of international organisations particularly OECD, the World Bank, ILO.
  • Thethird volumedeals with Centre-State issues. The fourth volume deals with views of domain experts both from national and international appropriate for fiscal policy

Cabinet clears interest waiver for farm loans

The Union Cabinet has given its ex-post facto approval for an interest waiver of farmers accessing short-term crop loans from cooperative banks for the two months of November and December, 2016

The decision also provides for interest subvention to National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development (NABARD) on additional refinance provided by NABARD to Cooperative Banks.

Key Facts

  • This decision will ensure availability of resources with Cooperative Banks to help farmers to get easy access to crop loans from Cooperative Banks to overcome difficulties due demonisationduring Rabi operations.
  • Additional resources are to be provided to Cooperative Banks through NABARD for refinance to the Cooperative Banks on account of interest waiver of two months for November and December, 2016.
  • A sum of Rs. 15, 000 crore already has been allocated to NABARD during 2016-17 to implement the Interest Subvention Scheme (ISS) has already been utilised.

NABARD To Make Short-Term Borrowings

The Union Cabinet also approved NABARD to make short-term borrowings for approximate Rs.20,000 crore at prevailing market rate of interest for on-lending to Cooperative Banks at 4.5% rate of interest. Additional capital of Rs. 2,000 crore will be be provided to NABARD for this purpose through the Union Budget.

Cabinet approves New Scheme for promotion of Rural Housing

The Union Cabinet has approved a new scheme for promotion of Rural Housing in the country. It will enable people in rural areas to construct new houses or add to their existing pucca houses to improve dwelling units.

Under it, Government will provide interest subsidy to every rural household who is not covered under the Pradhan Mantri Aawas Yojana (Grameen)-PMAY(G).

Features Of Scheme

  • It will be implemented by National Housing Bank (NHB). Under the scheme, the beneficiary will be provided interest subsidy for loan amount upto Rs. 2 Lakhs for taking loan.
  • Government will provide net present value of interest subsidy of 3% to NHB upfront which will, in turn, pass it to the Primary Lending Institutions (Scheduled Commercial Banks, NBFCs etc.).
  • Government will also take necessary steps for proper convergence of the scheme with PMAY-G including technical support to beneficiary through existing arrangements.
  • It will improve housing stock in the rural areas, as well as create employment opportunities in rural housing sector.

Union Cabinet approves Indian Institute of Management Bill, 2017

The Union Cabinet has approved the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Bill, 2017, under which the IIMs will be declared as Institutions of National Importance.

It will also enable IIMs to grant degrees rather than diplomas to their students. At present IIMs are not authorised to award degrees as they registered as societies. Hence, they are awarding Post Graduate Diploma and Fellow Programme in Management.

Salient Features Of The Bill

  • Allow IIMs to grant degrees to their students.
  • Grant complete autonomy to IIMs, combined with adequate accountability. Coordination Forum of IIMs as an advisory body will be established.
  • Board of an IIM will drive the management of the institution. It will select Chairperson and Director of IIM.
  • Board will have greater participation of experts and alumni. It will also include women and members from Scheduled Castes/Tribes.
  • Periodic review of the performance of IIM will be conducted by independent agencies and their results will be placed in public domain.
  • The Annual Report of the IIMs will be placed in the Parliament and CAG (Comptroller and auditor general of India) will audit their accounts.

Background

Indian Institutes of Managements (IIMs) are the country’s premier institutions imparting best quality education in management and are recognized as world-class management Institutions and Centres of Excellence. All IIMs are separate autonomous bodies registered under the Societies Act and are not authorized to award degrees. These awards are treated as equivalent to MBAs and Ph.D, respectively, but their equivalence is not universally acceptable, especially for the Fellow Programme.

Union Cabinet approves ratification of the Second Commitment Period of Kyoto Protocol

The Union Cabinet has given its approval to ratify the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol on containing the emission of Green House Gases (GHGs).

The second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol was adopted in 2012 and is set to expire in 2020. So far, 75 countries have ratified the Second Commitment Period.

Significance

  • This decision is considered as token measure to put pressure on developed countries to deliver on climate change commitments.
  • It further underlines India’s leadership in the comity of countries committed to global cause of environmental protection and climate justice.
  • India’s ratification of the Kyoto Protocol will encourage other developing countries also to undertake this exercise.
  • It will attract some investments in implementation of Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects under this commitment period in accordance with Sustainable Development priorities.

About Kyoto Protocol

  • The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in 1997 to fight global warming by reducing GHGs emission and came into effect in 2005. The 1st commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol was from 2008-2012.
  • The 2nd commitment period for the period 2013- 2020 was adopted in 2012 by the Doha Amendment of the Kyoto Protocol.
  • The protocol is based on principle ofEquity and Common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDR).
  • It places obligations on developed nations to undertake mitigation targets to reduce emissions by 5.2% of 1990 levels during 2008-2012 period) and provide financial resources and technology to developing nations.
  • Developing countries like India have no mandatory mitigation obligations or targets under the Kyoto Protocol.

Union Government releases National Action Plan for Children, 2016

The Union Ministry of Women & Child Development (WCD) has released National Action Plan for Children (NPAC), 2016  on the occasion of National Girl Child Day (24th January).

It was released by Union Minister of Women & Child Development Meneka Sanjay Gandhi in New Delhi. The NPAC has been developed by the Ministry of WCD.

Features Of NPAC, 2016

  • The Action Plan has four key priority areas. They aresurvival, health and nutritioneducation and developmentparticipation and protection.
  • It defines objectives, sub-objectives, strategies, action points and indicators for measuring progress under the four key priority areas. It also identifies key stakeholders for the implementation of different strategies.
  • It puts focus on new and emerging concerns for children such as children affected by natural and man-made disasters, climate change and online child abuse etc.
  • Its strategies and action points largely draw upon the existing programmes and schemes of various Ministries and Departments.
  • It takes into account the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and provides a roadmap towards achieving them though co-ordination and convergence with different stakeholders.

Background

The National Action Plan for Children (NPAC), 2016   was prepared as per the mandate of the National Policy for Children (2013). The policy provides for formation of a National Co-ordination and Action Group (NCAG) under the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development for coordinating and implementation of the plan and monitor the progress with other Ministries concerned as its members.

Union Cabinet approves Varishtha Pension Bima Yojana 2017

The Union Cabinet has given its approval for launching of Varishtha Pension Bima Yojana 2017 (VPBY 2017).  The scheme will be launched as part of Government’s commitment for financial inclusion and social security.

The scheme will be implemented through Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) during the current financial year i.e. FY 2016-17. It will be open for subscription for a period of one year from the date of launch.

Features Of Scheme

  • The purpose of the scheme is to provide social security during old age and protect elderly persons aged 60 years and above against future fall in their interest income due to uncertain market conditions.
  • It will provide an assured pension based on a guaranteed rate of return of 8% per annum for ten years, with an option to opt for pension on a monthly, quarterly, half yearly and annual basis.
  • The Union Government will bear the differential return i.e., the difference between the return generated by LIC and the assured return of 8% per annum as subsidy on an annual basis.

Government launches Rubber Soil Information System

The Union Government has launched Rubber Soil Information System (RubSIS), an online system for recommending appropriate mix of fertilizers to plantations of rubber growers depending upon their soil nature.

It was launched for Kottayam (Kerela), the largest rubber growing district of India which will be extended to the entire traditional rubber growing region i.e. the states of Kerela and Tamilnadu. 

Key Facts

  • RubSIS has developed by Rubber Research Institute of India (RRII) under the Rubber Board in collaboration with three other agencies.
  • They are Indian Institute of Information Technology and Management, Kerala, National Bureau of Soil Survey and Land Use Planning, ICAR and National Remote Sensing Center, ISRO
  • RubSIS brings soil data to the fingerprints of rubber growers and recommends the optimum mix and quantities of chemical fertilizers required for the rubber plantation.
  • It is a cost effective tool for sustainable and scientific management of rubber growing soils. Its adoption will prevent indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizers and soil degradation.
  • It will also lead to reduction in the cost of production of rubber, increase in productivity and reduction in environmental pollution.

India, France sign pact on maritime information sharing in Indian Ocean Region

India and France have signed White Shipping agreement to enable information sharing on maritime traffic and maritime domain awareness in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

The agreement was signed in New Delhi after both countries held their second dialogue on maritime cooperation for the IOR.

Key Facts

  • The agreement will enable navies of India and France to coordinate their roles in stabilising Indo-Pacific region.
  • It will enhance Indo-French maritime security cooperation in the region. It will be implemented over the next few months.

Background

India and France firmed up cooperation on sharing of radars in the Indian Ocean during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Paris in 2015. India is setting up a grid of coastal surveillance radars in the IOR that will enable it to monitor increasing Chinese presence in the area, France has shown interest in sharing data from surveillance systems on its Indian Ocean territories in the region that includes Mayotte, besides military bases in UAE and Djibouti.  Both countries in the last couple of years are coordinating their naval movements and surveillance in the IOR. France retains interests and assets with territories like Reunion Islands in the IOR.

RBI prohibits investments in non-cooperative countries and territories

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has prohibited Indian entities from making direct investments in any entity located in Non-Cooperative Countries and Territories (NCCT) as identified by Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

The prohibition is for aligning instructions under FEMA (Foreign Exchange Management Act) with the objectives of the FATF. At present, there is no restriction on an Indian entity with regard to the countries where it can undertake Overseas Direct Investment (ODI).

The NCCT initiatives principal objective is to reduce the vulnerability of the financial system to money laundering by ensuring that all financial centres adopt and implement measures for the detection, prevention and punishment of money laundering according to internationally recognised standards.

About Financial Action Task Force (FATF)

 

  • FATF is an inter‐governmental policy making body established in 1989 with ministerial mandate to establish international standards for combating money laundering and terrorist financing.
  • Its objectives are to set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures forcombating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to integrity of international financial system.
  • Initially it was only dealing with developing policies to combat money laundering. But in 2001 its purpose was expanded to act against terrorism financing.
  • Currently, it comprises two regional organisations and 35 member jurisdictions, including India, UK, US, China and the European Commission.

GAAR will be effective from April 1, 2017

The Union Finance Ministry has announced that the General Anti Avoidance Rule (GAAR) will be effective from the 1 April, 2017.

In this regard Income Tax (IT) department has issued a slew of clarifications on implementation of GAAR, seeking to address concerns of foreign investors over implementation of the anti-evasion measure.

GAAR seeks to prevent companies from routing transactions through other countries to avoid taxes. The rules are framed mainly to minimize and check avoidance of tax. India will be the 17th nation in the world to have laws that aim to close tax loopholes.  At present, GAAR is in force in nations like Australia, Singapore, China and the UK.

Issued Clarifications

  • GAAR seeks to give the IT department powers to scrutinize transactions structured in such a way as to deliberately avoid paying tax in India.
  • It will not be invoked in cases where investments are routed through tax treaties that have a sufficient limitation of benefit (LOB) clause to address tax avoidance.
  • It should be noted that LOB clause in tax treaties generally requires investors to meet certain spending and employment criteria to avail the benefits of the treaty.
  • All transactions or arrangements approved by courts and quasi-judicial authorities like the authority for advance ruling and that specifically address the issue of tax avoidance will not be subject to the GAAR test.
  • GAAR will not be applicable on compulsorily convertible instruments, bonus issuances or split/consolidation of holdings in respect of investments made prior to 1 April 2017 in the hands of the same investor.
  • In order to prevent misuse of GAAR provisions by the IT department, adequate safeguards also have been put in place based on which GAAR will be invoked.
  • The proposal to apply GAAR first will be vetted by an officer at the level of the principal commissioner or commissioner of income tax and at the second stage by an approving panel headed by a high court judge.
  • GAAR will not apply on foreign portfolio investor if its jurisdiction is based on non-tax commercial considerations and the main purpose is not to obtain tax benefits.

    • Government launches Sparsh Leprosy Awareness Campaign

The Union Government has launched nationwide “Sparsh Leprosy Awareness Campaign (SLAC)” on the occasion of Anti-Leprosy Day (observed on the last Sunday of January).

The day is observed every year on January 30 in the memory of Mahatma Gandhi who attained martyrdom on this day in 1948, to remember his selfless efforts and care for the people affected with Leprosy.

Need For Campaign

  • Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae and it usually affects the skin and peripheral nerves. The mode of transmission of leprosy is still not known.
  • According to WHO, the diseased had affected 2,12,000 people globally in 2015. India alone reported 1,27,326 new cases, accounting for 60% of new  cases globally.
  • India is among the 22 countries considered as having a “high burden for leprosy” along with high transmission. The other high-burden countries were Brazil and Indonesia.

Sparsh Leprosy Awareness Campaign

  • The thrust of SLACcampaign is to promote community participation in diagnosis and treatment of leprosy in its early stages and to spread awareness about the disease to help in early diagnosis and treatment.
  • It seeks to promote decentralised community-based demand-driven approach from present centralised top-down delivery-driven approach to fight the disease.
  • It also seeks to empower local communities to take over the responsibility of sensitising people to not stigmatise and discriminate against those affected.

Finance Ministry to aid Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh for rail safety

The Union Finance Ministry has agreed to contribute partially to a new dedicated railway safety fund named as ‘Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh’ in the upcoming Union Budget 2017-18.

The proposed safety fund will be utilised for track improvement, bridge rehabilitation, rolling stock replacement, human resource development, improved inspection system and safety work at level crossing, among other things.

Key Facts

 

  • The Finance Ministry is likely to grant a fresh infusion of only Rs. 5,000 crore in the upcoming financial year out of the initial proposed corpus of Rs. 20,000 crore.
  • About Rs. 10,000 crore will be earmarked from the Central Road Fund (CRF) that is collected by levying a cess on diesel and petrol at present for safety-related work.
  • Railways may now be asked to fund the remaining Rs. 5,000 crore for the initial corpus from its own resources.
  • For this Indian Railway’s may either have to bring back a cess on rail tickets to finance its share of Rail Safety Fund or look to fund it from non-budgetary resources.

Background

The Railway Ministry had requested the Union Finance Ministry to create ‘Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh’, a ‘non-lapsable’ safety fund of Rs. 20,000 crore over five years. Its request was based on the recommendations of a high-level safety review committee headed by Dr. Anil Kakodkar, former Chairman Atomic Energy Commission.  The Committee, in its report submitted in 2012, had projected an investment requirement of Rs. 1 lakh crore on safety over five years.

International

Second Raisina Dialogue held in New Delhi

The second edition of Ministry of External Affairs’ annual Raisina Dialogue was held in New Delhi with the theme “The New Normal: Multilateralism in a multipolar world”.

The flagship geo-political conference was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and was attended by delegates from 65 countries.

 Highlights PM Narendra Modi’s Speech

  • Outlined government’s foreign policy from May 2014 and also referred to differences with China, and India’s close partnerships with the US, Russia and Japan.
  • Pakistan and Terrorism: Pakistan must walk away from terror for dialogue with India as India alone cannot walk the path of peace.
  • Peaceful South Asia:India remained committed to vision for a “peaceful and harmonious” South Asia, and neighbourhood first.
  • Globalisation:Growing sentiment against trade and migration and rising parochial and protectionist attitudes are putting globalisation’s gains at a risk.
  • China:It has unprecedented business and commercial opportunities for India. However, rising ambition and festering rivalries (in Asia) are generating visible stress points such as freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.
  • CPEC: The ambitious$45 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) connectivity project cannot override sovereignty as it runs through disputed parts of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK).
  • United States:US administration led by Donald Trump and India will further focus on building bilateral relationship.

About Raisina Dialogue

  • Raisina Dialogue is an annual conference held in New Delhi. It is envisioned to be India’s flagship conference of geopolitics and geo-economics.
  • The conference is held jointly by Ministry of External Affairs and the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), an independent think tank based in India.
  • The name of conference comes fromRaisina Hillwhich is the elevation in New Delhi where presidential palace of India, Rashtrapati Bhavan is located.
  • The first edition of the conference was held in March 2016 with the theme “Asia: Regional and Global Connectivity”. It is organized on the lines of the Shangri-La Dialogue held in Singapore.
  • It is structured as a multi-stakeholder, cross-sectorial conclave, involving policy and decision makers, including cabinet ministers from various Governments, high-level Government officials and policy practitioners, leading personalities from business and industry etc.

Gen. Raheel Sharif to head Islamic Military Alliance

Pakistan’s former Army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif (retired) was appointed head of Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT), a Saudi Arabia-led military coalition of 39 nations.

 

India, Pakistan Agreement on the Prohibition of Attack against Nuclear installations

India and Pakistan exchanged the list of their nuclear installations and facilities under the Agreement on the Prohibition of Attack against Nuclear installations. This is the 26th consecutive exchange of such list between the two countries after the first list was exchanged on 1 January 1992. This exchange is done every year on 1st of January between them to prevent them from attacking each other’s nuclear facilities. Both countries also exchanged the lists of nationals (including civil prisoners and fishermen) of each country lodged in their respective jails as per provisions of the Agreement on Consular Access.

Agreement on the Prohibition of Attack against Nuclear installations  is bilateral agreement signed between India and Pakistan that bars them from carrying out any surprise attack (or to assist foreign power to attack) on each other’s nuclear installations and facilities. Under it, both countries inform each other about their nuclear installations and facilities that need to be covered under the Agreement on 1 January every year. It was signed on 31st December 1988 and entered into force on 27 January 1991. It was signed by then Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and his Pakistani counterpart Benazir Bhutto.

Agreement on consular access was signed between the two countries on May 21, 2008. It facilitates exchange of a comprehensive list of nationals of each country lodged in their jails twice each year on January 1 and July 1.

Turkish Parliament approves amendments for Presidential system

The Turkish Parliament has passed constitutional reform bill to adopt Presidential system and strengthen the powers of the President. The adaptation of bill paves the way for a referendum on the issue. Once accepted by people, the reform will enable the President to issue decrees, declare emergency rule, appoint ministers and top state officials and dissolve Parliament. It will also allow incumbent President Tayyip Erdogan to stay in office until 2029. At present the presidential post in Turkey is largely ceremonial position.

Nepal launches 10-year-plan to cut reliance on vegetable imports from India

Nepal Government has launched a 10-year-plan (scheme) to cut reliance on vegetable imports from India and boost domestic production. The scheme starting this fiscal envisions adopting modern farm techniques to boost productivity and making the landlocked Himalayan country self-reliant in food. In recent times, Nepal is witnessing a continuous rise in the imports of vegetables from India. Nepal imports around 25,000 metric tonnes of vegetables worth Rs. 55 billion every year from India, but exports the same in negligible volume.

First China-Britain freight train arrives in London

The first China-to-Britain freight train run by Yiwu Timex Industrial Investment arrived in London after completing a 7,500-mile journey in 18-days. This marks a milestone in China’s push to build commercial links across Europe and Asia. The train had started its journey from Yiwu, a wholesale market town in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang and passed through Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium, France and the English Channel to reach Britain. The train was carrying cargo of small commodities including household items, clothes, fabrics, bags, and suitcases. This successfully journey of freight train from China, makes London the 15th European city to have a direct rail link with China as part of its ambitious One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative.

UNSC adopts resolution backing Gambia’s new President Adama Barrow

United Nation Security Council (UNSC) has unanimously approved a resolution expressing full support to Gambia’s new President Adama Barrow. The resolution called on longtime ruler Yahya Jammeh (in power since 1994 coup) to step down and also condemned Yahya Jammeh’s attempts to usurp power. Yahya Jammeh has refused to step down despite losing a disputed December 1, 2016 presidential election to Barrow. It has deepened political crisis in Gambia as Barrow was sworn in as Gambia’s president in Senegal. After his inauguration, troops from Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a bloc of west African countries have entered Gambia in support of Adama Barrow.

UK unveils 12-point plan to leave European Union

United Kingdom unveiled her 12-point plan to leave European Union for implementing Brexit deal within two years in phased manner. The priorities include control over immigration; securing the rights of EU citizens in Britain; committing to retain workers’ rights; building a strong trading relationship with EU and rest of the world; removing Britain from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice; and making Britain an attractive place for investors and students. In June 2016 referendum, UK had voted to leave the EU (a single market and the customs union with the 28-nation economic bloc) by a margin of 51.9% to 48.1%.

30 more countries apply for Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank

Thirty more countries have applied for joining the China-sponsored Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) apart from existing 57 founding members. The AIIB was officially established in 2015 with headquarters in Beijing, China’s capital. China is the largest shareholder with 26.6% voting shares. India is the second largest shareholder with 7.5% followed by Russia 5.93% and Germany with 4.5%. The US and Japan, however stayed away from joining the bank while most of the European countries have joined it. Japan and Indonesia agree to deepen defence ties

Japan and Indonesia have reaffirmed their commitment to cooperate on maritime security and deepen defence ties as both nations feud with China over sea territory. Both island nations committed to give maritime cooperation the highest priority. It was announced Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Indonesian President Joko Widodo. Besides, Japan will actively encourage cooperation on maritime security and encourage the development of the remote islands of Indonesia. Earlier in December 2016, both countries had unveiled an agreement aimed in strengthening Indonesia’s ability to defend its vast marine borders. At present, Indonesia has no dispute with China over ownership of reefs or islets in the disputed South China Sea. But China’s expansive claims overlap with Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) where it has the right to exploit resources around the Natuna islands.

One China policy is non-negotiable: China

China has made it clear that the One China policy is non-negotiable and no one can change it. China’s reaction came following US President-elect Donald Trump’s statement that the US policy on Taiwan is up for negotiation and that he is not fully committed to it. It also held that One China policy is the political foundation of bilateral ties between US and China and Taiwan is an inalienable part of China. The one-China policy underscores recognition of China’s sovereignty over Taiwan. This position has been held by the US since 1979. Moreover, any country that wants to establish political and diplomatic relations with China must adhere to this principle and not recognise Taiwan as an independent country.

US lifts 20-year economic embargo on Sudan

The United States of America (US) has announced the end of a 20-year economic embargo on Sudan by lifting trade and financial sanctions. The announcement made by outgoing President Barack Obama’s administration in an effort to foster ties with the Sudanese government to improve security in the region. This will be for the first time in two decades Sudan will be able to receive imported goods and services from US. The lift will also release frozen Sudanese property and assets held in the US and allow US companies to trade with the oil and gas industry in Sudan.

Ecuador takes chair of UN group of G77 countries

Ecuador has taken over from Thailand as chair of the Group of 77 (G77) countries of the United Nations for the year 2017. The group promote collective economic interests of the 134 developing countries at the United Nations, including India. The group was founded in June 1964 by the Joint Declaration of the Seventy-Seven Countries at the UNCTAD. There were initially 77 founding members of the organization, but by November 2013 the organization expanded to 134 member countries.

China steps up naval patrols in disputed islands with Japan

China has stepped up its naval patrols in the waters of the disputed Sankakus islands (Diaoyu islands) under the administrative control of Japan in the East China Sea.The move could anger Japan as both countries doggedly trying to enforce the claims over the uninhabited islands. China is saying that it is conducting such patrols on a regular basis in its territorial waters.These islands were under the control Japan since 1895 till 1945 after they went under administration control of United States as part of the Ryukyu Islands till 1972. They are strategically located close to key shipping lanes and rich fishing grounds, and there may be oil reserves in the area. Since Japan asserted its control by nationalising Sankakus islands in 2013 to step up its claims, China has started its naval patrols in the disputed waters.

Russia begins military withdrawl from Syria

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has ordered to scale down its military deployment in Syria as the Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad regime intensified its control over the war-torn country. Russia’s naval group headed by aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov would be the first to leave the area as task set for it during its military mission was fulfilled. Russia still had sufficient air defence capabilities thanks to its S-300 and S-400 systems deployed in the war-torn country. Russia’s military intervention in September 2015 had helped turn the tide in favour of President Bashar Al-Assad, whose forces scored a major victory in December 2016 with the recapture of opposition stronghold east Aleppo. Since then, Russia along with fellow regime ally Iran and rebel backer Turkey are pushing for peace talks and also brokered ceasefire between the regime and the rebels.

Finland to pay unemployed basic income of USD 587 per month

Finland became the first country in Europe to pay its unemployed citizens a basic monthly income, amounting to 560 euros (USD 587). This announcement was made as part of a social experiment hoped to cut government red tape, reduce poverty and boost employment. It will be two-year trial in which 2,000 randomly picked citizens will receive unemployment benefits from January 1, 2017. The unemployment rate of Finland stood at 8.1% in November 2016 with some 213,000 people of total 5.5 million population was without a job.

Nepal’s Supreme Court gives go ahead to govt on crucial Constitution amendment bill

Nepal’s Supreme Court has given nod to government to go ahead with a crucial Constitution amendment bill to accommodate the demands of the agitating Madhesi and ethnic groups. The division bench of SC held that the judiciary cannot not bar legislature from using its wisdom in the formulation of legislation, on the basis of the principle of separation of powers. The Constitution amendment bill seeks to resolve issues related to citizenship and boundary demarcation issues among others.

US imposes sanctions 7 Pakistani entities associated missile programme

United States Department of Commerce has announced sanctions against seven Pakistani entities allegedly associated with the country’s missile programme.  These entities added to the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) list determined by the US government to be acting contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States. Their placement on the list imposes a licence requirement for all items subject to the EAR and a licence review policy of presumption of denial.

UNSC approves Russian-drafted resolution on Syria ceasefire

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has unanimously passed a resolution drafted by Russia that endorses a nationwide Syrian ceasefire. The ceasefire between the rebels and Bashar al-Assad regime was brokered by Russia and Turkey. Two agreements were signed between Syrian government and seven armed opposition groups for ceasefire. The UNSC also expressed its support for the efforts taken by Russia and Turkey and aimed at stopping violence in Syria and launching a political process.

Russia delivers advanced Sukhoi jets to China after two year delay

Russia has finally delivered four fifth generation Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets to China after a delay of two years. The Su-35 is an advanced version of the Su-30s operated by the Indian Airforce (IAF). Russia had feared that its fifth generation Su-35 jet will lose its value after Chinese military unveiled its J-20 stealth fighter. However, Russia did not change its stance on the export of the Su-35 until the J-20 fighter was unveiled. Russia believes that with the commissioning of the J-20 by China, the Su-35 will soon lose its value in the Chinese market. While China made advances in manufacturing of new type of fighter jets, it is still dependent on Russia for engines aswell as avionics. In recent years, Russia has been selling some of its advanced weaponry to China due to economic crisis and sanctions faced by it over Crimean Crisis.

Antonio Tajani elected as President of European Parliament

Italian conservative Antonio Tajani was elected the new President of the European Parliament (EP). In the elector contest of four rounds, he defeated another Italian socialist Gianni Pitella by securing 351 votes against 282. Antonio Tajani will succeed Germany’s Martin Schulz and head the parliament for the next two-and-a-half years. Tajani is a former spokesman for Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi and an ex-European commissioner. The EU Parliament president chairs the plenary sessions of the legislature and is the face of the parliament in the EU and on the international stage. The European Parliament (EP) is the directly elected parliamentary institution of the EU. It exercises the legislative function of the EU along with the Council of the European Union (the Council) and the European Commission. The Parliament is composed of 751 members who are directly elected. EP represents the world’s second largest democratic electorate (after the Parliament of India) and the largest trans-national democratic electorate in the world.

 

CEPI formally launched at WEF, Davos

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was officially launched at World Economic Forum (WEF) Davos after it received $460-million to develop vaccines against 3 emerging highly-contagious and fatal diseases.

These three diseases are Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS)-coronavirusLassa fever, and Nipah virus.  CEPI will use this fund to contain outbreaks these 3 diseases before they become global health emergencies.

Key Facts

  • Under it, CEPI will solicit proposals from academic researchers and industry to develop candidate vaccines for its three target viruses.
  • In 5 years, it aims develop at least two vaccines for each virus through early human studies so that they are ready for a real-world test as soon as one of these viruses surfaces again.
  • CEPI also intends to fund vaccine platforms—technologies like harmless viral vectors or messenger RNA that can serve as backbones for a variety of vaccines.
  • It has has received $100 million commitments from Wellcome Trust and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the governments of Germany, Japan and Norway have pledged to contribute additional $260 million.

About Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI)

  • CEPI is a public-private alliance to finance and coordinate the development of new vaccines to prevent and contain infectious disease epidemics.
  • It plans to develop early phases of vaccines without knowing the details for the form in which the deadly infection will appear but to cut down the time to tailor the eventual vaccine to be effective to epidemic.
  • CEPI’s plan includes preparations for possible outbreaks of Marburg fever, Lassa fever, MERS, SARS, Nipah virus, Rift Valley fever, chikungunya, and others.
  • It is being funded by the Wellcome Trust, t Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, World Economic Forum (WEF), Governments of Norway, Japan, India (Department of Biotechnology) and Germany.

India rejects attempts of EU, Canada for global investment agreement

India, along with Brazil, Argentina and some other nations rejected an informal attempt of European Union (EU) and Canada to work towards a global investment agreement at World Trade Organisation (WTO)-level.

The EU and Canada proposed agreement incorporates a contentious Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism. They wanted their investment pact to be the template for a similar multilateral agreement.

What Is Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) Mechanism?

The ISDS mechanism permits companies to drag governments to international arbitration without exhausting the local remedies. It also allows them to claim huge amounts as compensation citing losses they suffered due to reasons, including policy changes. The contentious ISDS mechanism already has been incorporated by investment pact by the EU and Canada.

What Is India’s Position?

India has rejected such mechanism. It clearly held that only after all local options have been exhausted for settling disputes between a corporate and a government, then the issues can be taken up in international arbitration tribunals. It also held that such provisions could be a part of bilateral agreements but they can’t be allowed in a multilateral agreement.

Pakistan conducts first flight test of Ababeel missile with MIRV technology

Pakistan successfully conducted the first flight test of Ababeel surface-to-surface medium range ballistic missile. The test flight was aimed at validating various design and technical parameters of missile’s weapon system.

It is claimed that Ababeel missile has the capability to carry nuclear as well as conventional warheads and engage multiple targets with high precision by defeating the enemy’s hostile radars.

Key Facts

  • Ababeelmissile is capable of delivering multiple warheads, using Multiple Independent Re-entry Vehicle (MIRV) technology, first of its kind in Pakistan’s missile arsenal. It has a maximum rangeof 2,200 kilometres.
  • The development of Ababeel Weapon System aims at ensuring survivability of Pakistan’s ballistic missiles in growing regional Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) environment in reference to the India’s Prithvi and Ashwin BMD systems. It also seeks to further reinforce Pakistan’s deterrence.

Comment

  • With this successful test, Pakistan becameseventh countryto join the elite club of nuclear countries that have MIRV capabilities.
  • Other countries having MIRV capabilities are United Kingdom, France, Russia, the United States, China and India. India and China had achieved this capability over the past couple of years.
  • The test comes after Pakistan successfully tested its first submarine-based nuclear-capable missile Babur-3 recently on January 9, 2017 from an underwater, mobile platform somewhere in the Indian Ocean.
  • The Babur weapons system incorporates advanced aerodynamics and avionics that can strike targets both at land and sea at a range of 700 km with high accuracy.

India inks deal with UAE for strategic oil reserves storage

India has signed a deal with United Arab Emirates (UAE), fifth biggest oil supplier as part of its quest for energy security and strategic reserve system.

The deal allows UAE’s Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. (ADNOC) to fill half (about 6 million barrels of oil) of an underground crude oil storage facility at Mangaluru, Karnataka.

India has already filled the other half of the Mangaluru storage in Karnataka state with six million barrels of Iranian oil. It also has filled a Vizag storage site in southern Andhra Pradesh with 7.55 million barrels of Iraqi oil and has invited bids from suppliers to fill an 18.3 million-barrel facility at Padur in Karnataka.

Background

As one of the fastest growing economies and world’s third-biggest oil consumer, India is building emergency storage in underground caverns to hold 36.87 million barrels of crude, or about 10 days of its average daily oil demand. This move aims to hedge against energy security risks as it imports most of its oil needs. In 2014, India already had started talks to lease part of its strategic storage to ADNOC. Under those discussions, India was to have first rights to the stored crude in case of an emergency, while ADNOC will e able to move cargoes to meet any shift in demand.

Significance

  • Strategic petroleum reserves have become indispensable to safeguard the economy and to help maintain national security in the event of an energy crisis.
  • These crude oil reserves (or stockpiles) can be held by the government of a particular country, as well as by private industry.

Japan successfully launches first military communications satellite

Japan has successfully launched its first military communications satellite Kirameki-2 (kee-RAH-meh-kee 2) satellite.

It was launched on board of H-2A rocket that lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan. The satellite separated from the rocket and entered a designated orbit.

Key Facts

  • The Kirameki-2 satellite has been designed to upgrade Japan’s existing communication network in the face of China’s increasingly assertive maritime activity and North Korea’s missile threat.
  • It is the first of three satellites that will replace three civilian satellites currently used by Japan’s military. The new satellites will allow military units to communicate on a high-speed and high-capacity network.
  • These satellites aimed at stepping up Japan’s emergency response capability in case of natural disaster, China’s maritime activity from southern Japanese waters to South China Sea, as well as missile threats from North Korea.
  • They will be also used by Japanese troops operating overseas as part of international peacekeeping operations, including those off the Somali coast and in South Sudan.
  • India ranks 79 in Corruption Perception Index

India has been ranked 79th out of 176 countries in the recently released Corruption Perception Index (CPI) for the year 2016 by the Berlin-based corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI).

The index has been complied by using World Bank data, the World Economic Forum (WEF) and other institutions  It ranks countries on the score in the scale ranging from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).

Key Facts

  • Top 10 Countries:New Zealand and Denmark in joint first place (with a score of 90), followed by Finland (3rd), Sweden (4th), Switzerland (5th), Norway (6th), Singapore (7th), Netherlands (8th), Canada (9th) and Germany (10th).
  • Counties bottom of the index:Somalia was ranked the most corrupt country. Other countries with lower rankings were Syria, South Sudan, North Korea, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
  • In this edition of list, India, China and Brazil with a score of 40 each figured in the 10 key economies in the mid-range.
  • Over two-thirds of the 176 countries in this year’s index fall below the midpoint of the scale of 0 to very clean of index. The global average score is 43, indicating endemic corruption in a country’s public sector.
  • In this edition of list, India has marginally improved its ranking index for 2016 by two points from 38 score in 2015. India’s condition showed growth with inequality.
  • India’s ongoing poor performance with a score of 40 reiterates the state’s inability to effectively deal with petty corruption and large-scale corruption scandals.
  • Regionally, South Asia had performed poorly. Bangladesh at 27th and Nepal at 29th positions were slotted in the highly corrupt section.

Seven new countries join BEPS agreement

Seven new countries Lithuania, Gabon, Hungary, Indonesia, Malta, Mauritius and Russia – have signed Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement for Country-by-Country Reporting (CbC MCAA).

With this, the total number of signatories has increased to 57 including India (signed in May 2015). CbC MCAA is a tax co-operation agreement to enable automatic sharing of country-by-country information.

About CbC MCAA

  • The CbC MCAA aims to boost transparency by multinational enterprises (MNEs) by allowing signatories to bilaterally and automatically exchange country-by-country reports.
  • This exchange of information is facilitated as part of Action 13 of thebase erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) Action Plan adopted by the OECD and G20 countries in 2013.
  • The agreement will help to ensure that tax administrations obtain better understanding of how MNEs structure their operations and also ensure that the confidentiality and appropriate use of such information is safeguarded.

Science, Technology, Environment & Defence

Leap second

An atomic clock at National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in New Delhi added ‘leap second’ (extra one second) to the Indian Standard Time (IST) at 5:29.59 hours on 1 January 2017 to synchronise with the Earth’s rotational clock. The clock was programmed to add an extra second to the year 2017 in order to compensate for a slowdown in the Earth’s rotation.

Why Extra Second Was Added?

The Earth and rotation around its own axis is not regular, as sometimes slows down and sometimes speeds up due to various factors, including moon’s gravitational forces and earthquakes. As a result, astronomical time (UT1) gradually falls out of sync with atomic time (UTC). When the difference between UTC and UT1 approaches 0.9 seconds, a leap second is added to UTC through atomic clocks worldwide to match both times. Paris based International Earth Rotation and Reference System Service (IERS) tells when to add leap seconds on the basis of difference between UTC and UT1.

Significance

Adding leap second’ or second barely has an impact on the daily life. However, this one second shift is critical for applications requiring time accuracies in the nanosecond scale, which are critical in the fields of astronomy, satellite navigation, communication networks.

Background

In India, leap second is added to the Indian clock by the NPL, Functioning under the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). The NPL is one of the oldest laboratories in the country, has five atomic clocks of the nearly 300 such pieces exist across the globe. Atomic clocks have high precision and the margin of error in its functioning is just of a second in 100 million years.

Multidrug- resistant mcr-1 gene found in China

According to new studies published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, the mcr-1 gene that makes bacteria resistant to colistin, an antibiotic of last resort was found in China. It was discovered in a wide variety of strains of Escherichia coli (E Coli). Since the 1980s, Colistin has been used extensively in Agriculture in China. It was recently banned for use in agriculture, and will soon be introduced in clinical use for the first time. In recent times it was found that mcr-1 gene has spread to bacteria and it is already resistant to the carbapenem class of antibiotics.

Climate change plan to get 3 new missions

India’s eight-point National Action Plan on Assessment, Adaptation and Mitigation of Climate Change (NAPCC) to fight climate change will soon get three new missions. They are missions on health, coastal zones and waste-to-energy and will be added to address the impact of climate change on health, coastal zones and waste-to-energy. Since 2012, the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change India has instituted a NAPCC that has specified eight national missions. These include a National Water Mission, Green India Mission, National Solar Mission, National Mission on Sustainable Habitat, National Mission for Sustaining Himalayan Ecosystem, National Mission on Enhanced Energy Efficiency, National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture, and National Mission on Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change.

Longyangxia Dam Solar Park : China develops World’s Biggest Solar Park

China has built Longyangxia Dam Solar Park, the world’s biggest solar park in the western province of Qinghai in an effort to become the super powerful occupier of green energy. The park covers an area over 27 square km and has capacity to produce 850 MW of power, enough to supply up to 200,000 households. The construction of the solar park was started in 2013 at total costs around $875 million (around Rs. 6,000 crore).

WEF, UCSB partner to protect world’s $2.5 trillion ocean economy

The World Economic Forum and UCSB’s Marine Science Institute (MSI) have announced a partnership to improve health of world’s oceans and maritime resources. This partnership will harness the potential of public-private cooperation and the 4th industrial revolution to help the international community meet the ocean sustainable development goal. It will be supported by the Benioff Ocean Initiative for using science to improve ocean health, and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation to fund advance ocean science, protection and management.  According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), oceans generate goods and services worth an estimated $2.5 trillion per year, equivalent to the 7th largest economy in the world.

Scientists develop new technique for faster diagnosis of HIV

Researchers from the University of Central Florida (UCF) in the US, have developed a new method for medical testing that may lead to faster diagnosis of HIV, Lyme disease, syphilis and rotavirus infections. In this method, they have combined cutting-edge nanoscience with a magnetic phenomenon. It was developed by coating nanoparticles with the antibody and iron core to BSA (bovine serum albumin) which is commonly used as the basis of a variety of diagnostic tests. When magnetic field is applied to the solution, it causes the particles to align in a particular formation. Depending upon pattern, diseases can be tested faster.

Larsen C  Iceshelf

  • According to scientists, a gigantic block of ice is breaking away from Larsen Cice shelf in West Antarctica. Now the block is attached to its parent ice shelf just by a thread. It is covering an area of 5,000 sq km and is nearly 100 storeys-deep. The breakaway will create one of the largest icebergs ever recorded. If the glaciers held in check by Larsen C spilt into the Antarctic Ocean, it will lift the global water mark by about 10 cm. The nearby Larsen A ice shelf collapsed in 1995, and Larsen B broke up in 2002.

Geo-3 satellite

The US military has successfully launched Geo-3 satellite mounted with Atlas V rocket into space to monitor possible missile attacks from space. The military satellite capitalizes on infrared technology for defence purposes that include missile counter-defense, missile warning, intelligence gathering, and geospatial situational awareness to support troops. Earlier the US Air Force had launched Geo-1 and Geo-2 satellites into space in 2011 and 2013, respectively.

2016 was hottest year on record: WMO

According the consolidated analysis of the World Meteorological Organization, the 2016 was hottest year on record. It surpassed the exceptionally high temperatures of 2015. The global average temperature in 2016 was about 1.1 degree Celsius higher than the pre-industrial period. Surging concentrations of human induced carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) have resulted into climate change and temperature rise. In 2016, Arctic and Antarctic regions were having minimum sea ice levels. Record ocean heat due temperature rise also has caused widespread coral reef bleaching, including in the Great Barrier Reef, which has seen up to 50% of its coral die in certain parts.

World’s primates facing extinction crisis

According new international study, about 60% of more than 500 primate species including Gorillas, monkeys, lemurs around the world are facing extinction crisis. They are now threatened with extinction and 3 out of 4 primate species have shrinking populations. The main reasons for decline in their population are massive habitat loss, illegal hunting, mining and oil drilling, logging, ranching and farming that all driven by human behaviour. The study also cited that poverty and civil unrest in poor countries are the main driving force for hunting of these primate species in order to feed humans.

West Bengal to give legal protection to Hilsa Fish

West Bengal fisheries department has proposed to give legal protection to Hilsa Fish to arrest its dwindling population. In this regard, fisheries department is speaking to the state home department to bring about provisions in CrpC and IPC. With the formal introduction of the provisions, Hilsa will become the first fish variety in the country to get legal protection. It will lead to arrest or fine anyone for selling, catching and buying small Hilsa (commonly called “khoka ilish” in Bengal). Hilsa fish is on brink of extinction due to decades of migration barriers, over-fishing and pollution. Earlier as a protection measure, state government had declared five hilsa sanctuaries on the Hooghly river from Farakka to Sagar (covering a stretch of 250 km) where fishing has been banned between June-August and October-December.

World’s lightest watch created using graphene

Scientists have developed the world’s lightest high-performance mechanical watch RM 50-03 made using the ‘wonder material’ graphene. The RM 50-03 watch weighs just 40 gms.  The ultralight watch was made using a unique grapheme composite known as Graph TPT incorporating graphene to manufacture a strong but lightweight new case to house the delicate watch mechanism. It was jointly developed by the University of Manchester (UK), Richard Mille and McLaren F1.  Graph TPT weighs less than previous similar materials used in watchmaking. Graphene is the world’s first 2D material at just one-atom thick. It was first isolated in 2004 and has the potential to revolutionise a large number of applications including high-performance composites for the aerospace and automotive industries, as well as flexible, bendable tablets, mobile phones and next-generation energy storage.

India superbug resistant to available antibiotics

A 70-year-old woman in the US died after being infected by a superbug (bacteria resistant to all available antibiotics) during her visit to India. She was infected by carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), a multidrug-resistant organism associated with high mortality. In this case, the infection was resistant or non-susceptible to all available antimicrobial drugs. Klebsiella pneumoniae was also confirmed by lab testing and also the presence of New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase (NDM-1), resistant to 26 different antibiotics. NDM-1 is an enzyme that directly breaks down carbapenems, a powerful class of antibiotics that are often used to treat multidrug-resistant infections.

Piperlongumine : Indian pepper may fight cancer

According to a new study, Indian long pepper, widely used for spicing up food, contains a chemical called Piperlongumine (PL) which has anti-cancer properties. PL converts to hPL, an active drug that silences a gene called GSTP1 which produces a detoxification enzyme that is often overly abundant in tumours. Thus, it can stop human body from producing an enzyme that is commonly found in tumours in large numbers and can be used as a potential cancer treatment drug. It has shown activity against many cancers including prostate, lung, breast, colon, leukaemia, lymphoma, primary brain tumours and gastric cancer.

Norway becomes first country to cease FM radio broadcasting

Norway became the first country in the world to cease FM (Frequency Modulation) radio broadcasting and switched to Digital audio broadcasting (DAB). DAB offers a wider range of broadcasting options and greater sound quality and also save money. The move to “radio digitization” was decided by the Norway’s Parliament in 2011 and timetable was announced in 2015.

IGI Airport first in world to adopt digital platform Arc

Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport claimed to become the first aerodrome in the world to adopt Arc, an unique performance and benchmarking digital platform. The dynamic platform at T3 helps in tracking and monitoring building performance. It has been developed by Green Business Certification Inc (GBCI) and US Green Building Council (USGBC), the global certifying body for all Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) projects. It will be used by airport operator to measure, manage and improve performance of airport on resource consumption, quality of passenger space and carbon emissions. It will also allow the airport authorities to measure improvements and benchmark performance against other green building projects around the world.  IGI’s Terminal 3 had earned LEED Gold certification in 2011 under the new construction category.

NGT orders test of cosmetics containing microbeads

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Union Government (Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation) to test cosmetic products containing microbeads, tiny plastic substances. NGT’s order comes after a plea sought a ban on the use of mirobeads in various cosmetics or personal care products on the ground they are extremely dangerous for aquatic life and environment. Microbeads are extremely tiny plastic substances measuring less than 5 millimetres. They act as exfoliators (agents which remove dead cells) on skin and teeth when used in soap, toothpaste and other products. They are made up of Polyethylene (PE) or Polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) and nylon. They usually escape the filtration and treatment processes for waste water and end up in rivers and oceans. When they are ingested in marine animals, the plastics break down and toxic substances resulting into hormonal imbalances and neurological breakdown, are released.

Skywalker Hoolock Gibbon’ : New species of gibbon discovered in China

Scientists have discovered a new species of gibbon named as ‘Skywalker hoolock gibbon’ living in south-west China’s rainforests. Earlier it was believed that Skywalker gibbons belonged to gibbons species found in this region, but later full genetic and physical comparison with other gibbons confirmed that it is a new species.  Scientists estimate that about 200 Skywalker gibbons are living in China and also in Myanmar. This species already has been classified as endangered. Habitat loss and fragmentation due to human overpopulation is putting the gibbons at risk of extinction. Gibbons are renowned for their loud song, which they use to mark territory, and this also sounded unusual.

MIT researchers develop super strong, lightweight 3D Graphene

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed 3D version of graphene by compressing and fusing flakes of graphene, a two-dimensional form of carbon. Graphene is one of the strongest materials known to man, but so far because of its extreme thinness it was not able for practical use. The 3D version of Graphene was produced using a combination of heat and pressure. It produced stable structures called diatom. This version is lightweight, only 5% as dense as steel but is 10 times stronger. This development could lead production of more lighter, stronger materials.

Ngari Observatory : China to set up world’s highest altitude gravitational wave telescopes in Tibet

China is setting up the world’s highest altitude gravitational wave observatory in a Tibet prefecture close to Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India. The telescope will detect and gather precise data on primordial gravitational waves in the Northern Hemisphere. The construction work of the first telescope code-named Ngari No.1 as part of first phase has started. It is expected to be operational by 2021. It is located at located 5,250 meters above sea level, 30kms south of Shiquanhe Town in Ngari Prefecture at China’s border with India. In the second phase series of telescopes, code-named Ngari No. 2 will be set up about 6,000 meters above sea level. The high altitude of Ngari observatory provides clear sky to detect tiny twists in cosmic light and has minimal human activity. This observatory will be among the world’s top primordial gravitational wave observation bases, alongside the South Pole Telescope and the facility in Chile’s Atacama Desert.

Shangri-la of the World’ : China launches its longest bullet train

China has launched its longest bullet train ‘Shangri-la of the World’ connecting Kunming in Yunnan Province to Shanghai. The 2252 km Shanghai-Kunming line links China’s prosperous eastern coast with the less-developed south-western part. It traverses through 5 provinces of China viz. Zhejiang, Jiangxi, Hunan, Guizhou and Yunnan. The bullet train has maximum speed of 330 km/hr and it cuts travel time across 2252 km route from 34 hours to 11 hours. With this, China has expanded its high-speed train network to about 20,000 kilometres. The train’s name highlights the world famous resort in Shangri-la of Yunnan province which had first appeared in British novelist James Hilton’s novel Lost Horizon.

Dell unveils world’s first wireless charging laptop

American tech giant Dell has unveiled ‘Latitude 7285’, the world’s first laptop that charges wirelessly. It is convertible laptop with detachable tablet. It is embedded with wireless receiving coil based on magnetic resonance technology developed by wireless charging company WiTricity. Unlike other current wireless charging standards (like Qi) which require accurate placement of charging coils on top of another, the WiTricity technology generates a very safe magnetic field that transmits the electricity wirelessly near the range of receivable device.

Black rice gains popularity in Assam

An exotic variety of Black rice or purple rice recently has gained popularity in Assam. It was recently sown by the local farmers for the first time in Barak Valley. The Black rice is also known as world super food because of its high nutrition value, unique texture and intriguing nutty flavor. It is known for its powerful disease-fighting antioxidants and also contains dietary fiber, anti-inflammatory properties. It has the ability to help stop the development of diabetes, cancer, heart disease and even weight gain.

Zingiber pseudosquarrosum 

Scientists from Botanical Survey of India (BSI) have discovered a new species of Zingiber (commonly referred as ginger) from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The new species has been named as Zingiber pseudosquarrosum and belongs to genus Zingiber. It is used for its medicinal values by the local Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) of the Andamans.

Key Facts

The pseudo stem of Zingiber pseudosquarrosum is red in colour. Its flowers are lotus shaped and have a vermilion tinge and dehisced fruit.

This species has tuberous root and its inflorescence buds are urceolate in shape. The morphological features of this species make it distinct from other species belonging to the genus Zingiber.

Like other species of Gingers, it is edible and can be propagated vegetatively from the rhizome.

The new species possesses ethno-medicinal uses. The fresh extract (juice) of fleshy tuberous roots of this species is used to treat abdominal pain and anti-helminthic troubles by native tribal communities.

Note

There are 141 species of genus Zingiber distributed throughout tropical Asia, including China, Japan and tropical Australia. Of these, 20 are reported from India, which include seven ( including Zingiber pseudosquarrosum) from Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Species belonging to genera Zingiber are monocotyledonous flowering plants and their hizomes are widely used as a spice or a traditional medicine. Commonly used species of Zingiber are known for its aromatic smell is cultivated widely across India.

World’s Largest Street Light Programme: SLNP

The Union Ministry of Power unveiled world’s largest street light replacement programme in South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) area. It is implemented under LED based Street Lighting National Programme (SLNP) by the Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), a joint venture under the Union Ministry of Power.

Key Facts

  • Under SLNP, 2 lakh street light will be replaced with LED lights in SDMC area. It will result in cumulative annual energy savings of 2.65 crore kWh and daily reduction of 22,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases.
  • The programme will provide benefits to the residents of SDMC area as it would lead to a reduction in dark spots and increased security.
  • It will result in cumulative savings of Rs. 135 crores in next 7 years and Rs. 50 crores per annum. Thus, help in investment in social development initiatives and that too without any extra money.
  • Besides EESL Complaint App for SDMC was also launched. It will allow users can now lodge complaints about faulty street lights.

About LED Based Street Lighting National Programme (SLNP)

The programme aims to install LED bulbs street-lighting across different cities in the country. The LED lights will replace inefficient lamps. The initiative is part of the Government’s efforts to spread the message of energy efficiency in the country. It will result in energy savings and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. It is presently running in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Tripura, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Goa, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan.

Note: LED bulbs have a very long life, almost 50 times more than ordinary bulbs, and 8-10 times that of CFLs, and provide both energy and cost savings in the medium term.

Kuaizhou-1A

China successfully launched first commercial mission using an updated version of the low-cost Kuaizhou-1A rocket. As part of the mission three satellites JL-1, CubeSats XY-S1 and Caton-1 were launched into space.  The rocket was launched form northwestern China’s Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gansu province. Rocket technology company under the state owned China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (ACSIC) was responsible for the successful launch mission.

Key Facts

  • The success of the mission marks the Chinese company’s capability of providing flexible, convenient, quick and economical launch services for domestic and overseas clients.
  • KZ-1A rocket: It is improvised and advance version of erstwhile Kuaizhou-1 rocket. It is a low-cost solid- fuelled carrier rocket with high reliability and short preparation period. It has been designed to launch low-orbit satellites weighing less than 300 kg.
  • JL-1 Satellite: It is a multifunctional remote-sensing satellite providing high-definition video images. It is expected to be used for environmental protection, land resource and forestry surveying, transport and disaster prevention and relief purposes.

XY-S1 and Caton-1 Satellites: They are experimental satellites to test technologies of low-orbit narrow-band communication and VHF Data Exchange System (VDES) respectively.

Health Ministry to roll out measles-rubella vaccine

The Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare will roll out measles-rubella (MR) vaccine in the Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP) in February 2017. In addition, Pneumococcal conjugate (pneumococcal pneumonia) vaccine will also become a part of the UIP basket in three other states from March 2017.

Key Facts

  • The MR vaccine will be introduced in five states and Union territories viz. Goa, Karnataka, Lakshadweep, Puducherry and Tamil Nadu.
  • The UIP basket already has ten vaccines of which measles is one, once MR vaccine is introduced the present monovalent measles will be discontinued.
  • This vaccine will be introduced three years after the National Vaccine Advisory Committee (NVAC) r recommended the introduction of the MR vaccine in the UIP.
  • The Pneumococcal conjugate (pneumococcal pneumonia) vaccine will be introduced in Himachal Pradesh and parts of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

Measles-Rubella (MR)

The disease commonly known as German Measles (or three-day measles) and is symptomatically similar to measles. It can have devastating consequences if a pregnant mother is infected with it and the foetus may be born with incurable congenital anomalies. Symptoms of the infection can include cataracts and deafness. It can also affect the heart and the brain. The congenital rubella infection is believed to affect approximately 25,000 children born in India every year.

Universal Immunization Programme

It is a free vaccination program launched by the Union Government in 1985 against vaccine preventable diseases. It is currently one of the key areas under National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) since 2005. The program consists of vaccination for 10 diseases- Tuberculosis, Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis (whooping cough), Poliomyelitis, measles, Hepatitis B, Diarrhoea, Japanese Encephalitis and Pneumonia.

Effects of Endosulfan use devastating: SC

The Supreme Court has described side effects of Endosulfan, a highly toxic agrochemical (pesticide) as devastating. It has directed Kerala government to release entire Rs. 500 crore compensation to over 5,000 victims in three months who have suffered from various deformities and health complications due to use of Endosulfan in the state. It also asked the state to consider setting up a centre to provide lifelong medical treatment to all the victims.

The major numbers of victims were reported to be affected in Kasargode (Kerala) after Endosulfan was aerially sprayed by state owned company on cashew plantations adjoining habitats where the victims are located. The apex court in 2011 had passed order to ban the production, distribution and use of endosulfan.

About Endosulfan

  • Endosulfan is a most toxic pesticides having hazardous effects on human genetic and endocrine systems.
  • The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants in 2011 added it in list of banned substances and phasing it out as an agrichemical. It is banned in over 80 nations due to its ‘high toxicity.
  • It is sprayed as pesticide on crops like cotton, fruits, tea, paddy, cashew, tobacco etc. for control of pests in agriculture such as whiteflies, aphids, beetles, worms etc.
  • Hazardous effects: In case of humans it causes delayed reproductive development, autism, bioaccumulation, endocrine disruption (stunting of hormones), long-range contamination, neurotoxicity, long-range contamination and sensory Loss.

It blocks the inhibitory receptors of the Central Nervous System, disrupts the ionic channels and destroys the integrity of the nerve cells. The spraying of endsosulfan also destroys biodiversity of the area.

Hope Island becomes graveyard for Olive Ridleys Turtles

Hope Island in Andhra Pradesh has become graveyard for Olive Ridleys turtles after 54 carcasses of this species were spotted on the shores of island. This indicates that the breeding cycle of this species got severe blow due to mechanised fishing boats scouring in the Bay of Bengal coastline. These boats crush most of these turtles under it leading to their death.

The Fisheries Department is encouraging the mechanised boat owners to fit a Turtle Excluder Device (TED) to their trawl nets to allow thee turtles to pass.

About Olive Ridley

  • Olive Ridley turtle is the smallest and most abundant of all sea turtle found in the world. It gets its name from its olive coloured carapace, which is heart-shaped and rounded.
  • It is found in warm waters of the Pacific and Indian oceans. It spends entire lives in the ocean and migrates thousands of kilometers between feeding and mating grounds in the course of a year.
  • Though found in abundance, their numbers have been declining over the past few years. It is recognized as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red list. In India, it is protected under the Wildlife (Protection) Act.
  • Breeding Season: It commences its journey from Indian Ocean towards Bay of Bengal during their mating season in October and November every year.
  • A single female can lay upto 100 to 150 eggs in a pit dug on the beaches. Six weeks later these eggs hatches and the newly hatched turtles start the journey to their Indian Ocean habitat.

The destination for majority of the turtles for laying egg is Gahirmatha in Odisha. The sandy stretches of Hope Island of the Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary also have turned into a breeding area.

Environment Ministry notifies Graded Response Action Plan to combat air pollution in NCR

The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has notified the Graded Response Action Plan to combat air pollution in NCR Delhi region.

In this regard, MoEFCC amended laws and formally tasked a Supreme Court-appointed panel with implementing a graded action plan for pollution control.

Key Facts

  • Graded Response Action Plan defines the measures to taken based on air quality on the basis of PM 2.5 and PM 10 in the atmosphere.
  • Based on the air quality the grades have been classified as Emergency, Severe, Very Poor and Moderate poor. It will be enforced by Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA).
  • Under this plan eemergency measures will be automatically enforced in NCR if level of PM2.5 breaches 300 micrograms per cubic metre (µgm/m3) and PM10 levels stay above 500 (µgm/m3)for two consecutive days.
  • The plan recommends measures like odd-even car rationing scheme and ban on construction activities to combat air pollution.
  • During ‘very poor’ air quality, it recommends banning diesel generators and parking fee increased by three to four times.
  • It also lists a number of other measures such as closing brick kilns, stone crushers, hot mix plants and intensifying public transport services and increasing the frequency of mechanised cleaning and sprinkling of water on roads.
  • For enforcement of the action plan, the Union Government has assigned the task of implementation of the Graded Response Action Plan to the EPCA (Environment Pollution Control Authority) in pursuance of sub-section (1) of section 3 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 (29 of 1986).

Background

The Delhi specific comprehensive action plan was prepared by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and was submitted to the Supreme Court in December 2016. The court had accepted the plan and asked the Union Government to notify it.

Particulate Matter (PM)

They are tiny particles of dust which can cause very serious respiratory disorders and even damage the lungs.

Silicon identified as ‘missing element’ in Earth’s core

Scientists from Tohoku University in Japan have claimed that Silicon (Si) is the ‘missing element’ in the Earth’s core. This discovery could help us to better understand how our world formed.

According to them silicon likely makes up a significant proportion of Earth’s core after its major constituents iron and nickel. It was missing element in the deep interiors of our planet that has eluded us for decades.

Key Facts

  • It was found that silicon is a major element and constitutes about 5% of the Earth’s inner core by weight. It could be dissolved into the iron-nickel alloys.
  • For the study, scientists recreated the high temperatures and pressures found in the deep interior of the Earth’s core. They recreated alloys of iron and nickel and mixed them with silicon.
  • They then subjected these alloys to the immense pressures and temperatures that exist in the inner core.
  • Scientists discovered that this mixture matched what was seen in the Earth’s interior with seismic data.
  • Note: The innermost part of Earth i.e. core is thought to be a solid ball with a radius of about 1,200 kilometres. It is far too deep to investigate directly, so scientists study this region’s make-up using seismic wave. Earth’s core is mainly composed of iron (makes up about 85% of its weight) andnickel (accounts for about 10% of the core).

India becomes associate member of CERN

India formally became an associate member of CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) with the government completing the internal approval procedures for the agreement it signed in November 2016.

Prior to it, in September 2016, CERN Council had adopted a resolution upgrading India’s position as associate member from earlier ‘observer’ status (since 2004).

Benefits For India

  • Now, India can take part in meetings of the CERN Council and its committees (Scientific Policy Committee and Finance Committee). However India will not have voting rights on decisions of the council.
  • It will enhance participation of young scientists and engineers from India in various CERN projects and bring back knowledge for deployment in the domestic programmes.
  • It will open up new avenues for Indian scientists to engage with their counterparts in front line research in physics and engineering. Also, Indian scientists will become eligible for staff appointments.
  • It will help to boost India’s science credentials and give access to high end scientific technology. It will also make Indian scientists eligible for staff appointments in CERN.
  • Besides, Indian industries will be entitled to bid for CERN contracts. Thus, it will open up opportunities for industrial collaboration in areas of advanced technology.

About European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN)

  • CERN as an organisation is world’s largest nuclear and particle physics laboratory. It is situated in North West suburbs of Geneva on France-Swiss Border. It was established in 1954.
  • Members:It has 22 member states, four associate members (including India, Pakistan, Turkey and Ukraine) and three International Organisations have observer status.
  • Functions:The laboratory helps scientists and engineers probing fundamental structure of Universe using the most sophisticated scientific instruments and advanced computing systems.
  • Provide the necessary infrastructure needed for high-energy physics research including particle accelerators.
  • Achievements:CERN operates the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) which is the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator.
  • It is associated with the discovery of the Higgs Boson which is popularly known as the God particle.

India-CERN

  • India has been actively involved in CERN’s activities for over 50 years. Indian physicists, engineers and technicians have made substantial contributions to various projects of CERN.
  • In 1991, India and CERN had signed a Cooperation Agreement, setting priorities for scientific cooperation. Since then India and CERN have signed several other protocols.
  • Indian scientists had active in construction of the LHC in the areas of design, development and supply of hardware accelerator components, software development and deployment in the machine.
  • They also had played significant role in the CMS (Compact Muon Experiment), one of the two large experiments that led to discovery of God particle.

Ministry of Earth Sciences commissions Higher Resolution Weather Prediction Model

  • The Union Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) has commissioned a very high resolution (12 km) global deterministic weather prediction modelfor generating operational weather forecasts.

The model has been on trial since September 2016. It has shown significant improvements in skill of daily weather forecasts. It was made operational from January 2017.

Key Facts

  • This model replaces the earlier version which had a horizontal resolution of 25 km which was very helpful, in predicting track and intensity of recent Cyclonic Storm Vardah and cold wave over northern India.
  • MoES’s operational Ensemble Prediction System (EPS) was upgraded to 12 km. For this, High Performance Computing (HPC) system resources were augmented to 10 Peta Flops (PFs) from current 1.2 PFs.
  • The EPS was adopted to overcome problem of uncertainties in the forecasts. It involves the generation of multiple forecasts using slightly varying initial conditions.
  • The EPS also help generate probabilistic forecasts and quantify the uncertainties. The latest model replaces the earlier version that had a horizontal resolution of 25 km.
  • Note:MoES provides climate, weather and hydrological services to various users round the year and 24/7. Both operational and research aspects for these services are implemented through India Meteorological Department (IMD), Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF), and Indian National Centre for Ocean Information System (INCOIS).

 

NASA approves mission to explore iron-rich asteroid 16 Psyche

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has approved a mission to explore 16 Psyche, an iron-rich asteroid.

As part of the mission, NASA craft will be launched in 2023, and will arrive at Psyche in 2030. The mineral contents on the asteroids are worth over 100-thousand times the value of the entire world economy.

Key Facts

  • Psyche asteroid has diameter in excess of 125 miles and is almost entirely composed of iron and nickel.
  • Scientists believe Psyche to be aprotoplanet e. its entire body consisting of what one day could be the core of a new planet.
  • The spacecraft will be running tests on 16 Psyche to learn more about the history and composition of the celestial body.
  • The information gathered will undoubtedly useful to astronomers to learn more about the formation and early life of planets.
  • The study of Psyche may also reveal more information about the centre of our planet, which cannot be studied directly due to the virtual impossibility of sending a probe deep underground.
  • Astronomers also believe Psyche to contain water, making it a possible candidate for a stellar fuel station, as water can be used to sustain life and synthesize rocket fuel.

Union Cabinet approves India’s Membership in the International Vaccine Institute

The Union Cabinet has given its approval to the proposal for India’s taking full membership of the International Vaccine Institute (IVI) Governing Council.

This decision involves payment of annual contribution of US $5,00,000 to the IVI (headquartered in Seoul, South Korea).

Background

In 2007 with the approval of Union Cabinet, India joined IVI. Since then India is a long-term collaborator and stake-holder of IVI. In 2012, IVI’s Board of Trustees (BOT) had approved the formation of its new governance structure. As per the new structure of its member state has to contribute to the IVI by paying a portion of its core budget. Since India has been classified in Group-I, it has to pay an annual contribution of US $50,000.

About International Vaccine Institute (IVI)

  • IVI is aninternational nonprofit organization devoted to developing and introducing new and improved vaccines to protect the people, especially children, against deadly infectious diseases.
  • It was established in 1997 on the initiatives of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
  • Its work is exclusively on vaccine development and introduction specifically for people in developing countries, with a focus on neglected diseases affecting these regions.
  • Currently, IVI has 40 countries and the World Health Organization (WHO) as signatories to its Establishment Agreement.

Negatively Charged Hydrogen Clusters

Physicists from Austria have created new form of Hydrogen i.e. negatively charged hydrogen clusters. It is a previously unseen form of hydrogen.

For the past forty years, existence of hydrogen in ion clusters was known and is positively-charged clusters have already exists.

How Negatively Charged Hydrogen Clusters Were Created?

  • Researchers first injected cold liquid helium droplets with hydrogen molecules to form clusters with a neutral charge. Then they exposed these hydrogen-infused droplets to an electron beam.
  • This caused some hydrogen molecules to ionize and be flung out into the surrounding vacuum as negatively charged hydrogen ions.
  • Soon, the nearby hydrogen molecules started clustering around the negatively charged ions to create negatively charged hydrogen clusters that could boast a few, or many molecules each.
  • The newly created negatively charged hydrogen clusters existed only for microseconds (1 microsecond = 0.000001 seconds). But it was enough time for researchers to determine their geometric structures.
  • Significance of Research:It will help researchers to easily identify the clusters in nature.

Genetically Modified mosquito trials launched to control dengue, chikungunya and zika

Outdoor caged trials of genetically modified mosquitoes waere launched in Dawalwadi, Badnapur in Jalna district of Maharashtra to demonstrate the efficiency this technique to suppress wild female mosquito populations that transmit dengue, chikungunya and Zika.

The trials are conducted by Oxitec and uses the Release of Insects carrying Dominant Lethal genes (RIDL) technology.

Key Facts

  • Oxitec’s technology uses GM male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that carry a dominant lethal gene. This gene is passed on to offspring after male GM mosquitoes mate with wild female mosquitoes.
  • The lethal gene in the offspring kills the larvae before they reach adulthood. Since male mosquitoes do not bite humans, the release of these GM mosquitoes will not increase the risk of dengue, chikungunya and Zika.
  • Oxitec’s mosquitoes were first released in Brazil were they have successfully reduced the local populations of mosquitoes by more than 90%, whereas insecticides only affect 30%.
  • Advantages: This strategy is considered as most eco-friendly solution so far to control the spread of infectious diseases as it only targets a specific mosquito strain and does not produce any toxic compounds. It has 99% efficiency to kill offspring.

Background

Dengue is estimated to infect 5.8 million people in India every year, costing the country over $1 billion annually. In recent times, outbreaks of Chikungunya, a mosquito borne viral disease have been increasingly reported in India. Both viral diseases are transmitted by female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. The World Health Organization (WHO) has fully supported the genetically engineered mosquitoes during last year’s Zika outbreak.

Scientists creates world’s first stable semi-synthetic organism

Researchers from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), US have created world’s first stable semi-synthetic organism, a single-celled bacterium with an expanded genetic code

The semi-synthetic organism is the modified E.coli bacteria created by introducing DNA molecules that are not found in nature in a common bacterium.

How The New Bacterium Was Created?

  • Life’s natural genetic code only contains four natural bases- adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G), thymine (T). These bases pair forms two base pairs in the DNA ladder.
  • The newly created bacterium has two human-createdX and Y basesthat grow and divide, much like the four natural bases. This single-celled organism can hold on to the synthetic base pair as it divides.
  • The human-created X and Y base pair was dropped over time in the bacterium that limited the ways the it can use the additional information possessed in their DNA.
  • For this, researchers had optimised a tool called a nucleotide transporter, which brings the materials necessary for the unnatural base pair to be copied across the cell membrane.
  • They discovered that modification to the transporter, made it much easier for the organism to grow and divide while holding on to X and Y.
  • Researchers used geneediting tool CRISPR-Cas9to design the synthetic organism to see a genetic sequence without X and Y as a foreign invader.

Potential Applications

This research gives scientists an opportunity to ‘create organisms with wholly unnatural attributes and traits that are not found elsewhere in nature.

In future, it can help in creation of microbes capable of manufacturing entirely new proteins, which can provide leads to new medicines and nanotechnology breakthroughs.

ISRO Successfully tests Cryogenic Engine for Upper Stage of GSLV Mk III

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) successfully tested indigenously developed cryogenic engine for the upper stage ‘GSLV Mk III’ rocket.

The cryogenic upper stage, designated as C25, was tested for 50 seconds at ISRO Propulsion Complex (IPRC) at Mahendragiri in Tamil Nadu demonstrating all the stage operations. It was the first test in a series of two tests.  The second test is planned for flight duration of 640 seconds.

Key Facts

  • Cryogenic engines are used in the upper stage of a rocket launch as they provide the maximum thrust to a launcher vehicle.
  • The development of C25 cryogenic stage started after approval of GSLV MkIII, ISRO’s next generation launch vehicle, capable of launching heavy four tonne class spacecraft in Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO).
  • C25 stage was conceptualised, designed and realised by Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) with support from Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), ISRO Propulsion Complex (IPRC) and Sathish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC).
  • GSLV MkIII vehicle consists of two solid strap-on motors, one earth storable liquid core stage and the cryogenic upper stage.
  • The C25 stage is most powerful upper stage developed by ISRO. It uses Liquid Oxygen and Liquid Hydrogen propellant combination. This stage carries 27.8 tons of propellants loaded in two independent tanks.

Note: Development of a cryogenic stage has unique design challenges liquid Oxygen stored at -195 deg C and as liquid Hydrogen is stored at -253 deg C in its tanks. To store these cryogenic fluids, special multi-layer insulation is provided for the tanks and other structures.

Comment

The 50 second test of C25 is a significant milestone in the ISRO’s development of indigenous cryogenic propulsion technology. The successful hot test of the stage in the first attempt itself demonstrates the ISRO’s ability to work in new areas like cryogenic technology. The first flight stage for ‘GSLV MkIII-D1’ mission is in an advanced stage of realisation. It is scheduled to launch GSAT-19 during first quarter of 2017. Its flight engine was successfully tested earlier in the High Altitude Test facility and integrated with the flight stage.

Aditya

India’s first-ever solar powered boat “Aditya” has been launched by the Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan at a function held in Vaikom boat jetty at Vembanad Lake in Kochi, Kerala. The 75-seater boat fitted with 78 rooftop solar panels, will ferry along a 2.5-kilometre route between Vaikom and Thavanakkadavu 22 times a day. The boat can run at a maximum speed of 7.5 knots and cruises without any noise and minimal vibration compared to the normal diesel ferries. The solar powered boat is built by Kochi-based NavAlt Pvt Ltd.

Second Scorpene class submarine INS Khanderi launched

INS Khanderi, the second Scorpene class submarine was launched at the Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL) in Mumbai, Maharashtra. It is the second of the six submarines being built at MDL in collaboration with France’s DCNS as part of Project 75 of Indian Navy.

About  INS Khanderi

  • It has been named Khanderi, after the Island fort of Maratha ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji which played had vital role in ensuring their supremacy at sea in late 17th century. Khanderi is also name for Tiger Shark.
  • The state-of-the-art features include superior stealth and ability to launch a crippling attack on the enemy using precision guided weapon.
  • The attack from it can be launched with torpedoes, as well as tube-launched anti-ship missiles, whilst on surface or underwater. The stealth features gives it invulnerability, unmatched by many submarines.
  • The submarine is designed to operate in all theatres, including the tropics. All means and communications are provided to ensure interoperability with other components of a Naval task force.
  • It can undertake multifarious types of missions typically undertaken by any modern submarine such as anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, intelligence gathering, area surveillance, mine laying etc.

Background

Under Project 75, six Scorpene submarines are being built with assistance and technology transfer from DCNS of France under deal signed in October 2005. The first of the series INS Kalvari is completing sea trials and will be commissioned shortly. The other four submarines are expected to be launched at nine-month intervals after the INS Khanderi. At Present, the Indian Navy operates only 13 conventionally powered submarines and two nuclear submarines.

Improved Guided Pinaka rockets successfully test-fired for 2nd time

Improved Pinaka rockets, with a guidance system and an enhanced range were successfully test-fired for the second time from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur in Odisha. The guided version dubbed as Pinaka mark-II, has been evolved version of Pinaka mark-I. Its first successful test flight was conducted from the same venue on January 12, 2017.

Key Facts

  • The earlier Pinaka version was an unguided one, now it has been transformed into guided version with a navigation, guidance and control kit developed by the DRDO’s Research Centre, Imarat (RCI), Hyderabad.
  • It was developed jointly by the Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE), Pune, RCI, and the Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL), Hyderabad.

Significance

  • The conversion into improved guided Pinaka rockets has helped in enhancing the range and accuracy of Pinaka. The earlierrangewas 40 km, but now it is more than 70 km.
  • The success of the guided Pinaka also has reinforced the technological strength of India in converting the unguided systems into weapons of high precision.

Indian Navy’s Theatre Level Exercise TROPEX 17

The Indian Navy’s Annual Theatre Readiness Operational Exercise (TROPEX) 2017 is being conducted off the Western Seaboard.

The month long exercise will see participation of ships and aircraft of both the Western and Eastern Naval Command and also assets from the Indian Air Force, Indian Army and the Indian Coast Guard.

Key Facts

  • TROPEX 17 exercise is aimed at testing combat readiness of the combined fleets of the Indian Navy, and the assets of the Indian Army, Indian Air Force and Indian Coast Guard.
  • It seeks to strengthen inter-operability and joint operations in a complex environment. It assumes special significance in the backdrop of the current security scenario.
  • TROPEX 17 exercise will be conducted in various phases, both in harbour and at sea encompassing the various facets of war-fighting and combat operations.
  • It will see participation of major surface combatants and air assets of the Indian Navy including the aircraft carrier Vikramaditya, nuclear submarine Chakra, Landing Platform Dock (LPD) Jalashwa.
  • It will also see participation of recently commissioned destroyer Chennai, the P-8I long range maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft.
  • The assets of Indian Navy will operate alongside SU-30 MKI, Jaguars, AWACS, IL-78 Flight Refuelling Aircraft of the Indian Air Force and Infantry units of the Indian Army.
  • The last edition of TROPEX exercise was conducted in January 2015 and since its launch it has grown in scale and complexity over the years.

Persons and Places in News / Sports

Injeti Srinivas Committee to frame National Sports Code

The Union Sports Ministry has constituted committee to frame comprehensive National Sports Development Code across sports disciplines. It will be headed by Injeti Srinivas, Sports Secretary.

The committee will study the existing sports governance frame work, issues relating to sports governance in the country, recent developments related to sports governance.

It will also study court judgments and international best practices and make recommendations on bringing out a comprehensive code across sports disciplines.

Members of the Committee: Abhinav Bindra (Olympian), Anju Bobby George (Olympian), Praksh Padukone, (eminent sports person), Narinder Batra (President, FIH), Nandan Kamath (Lawyer), Bishweshwar Nandi (Coach) and Vijay Lokpally (Sports Journalist). The committee will:

  • Identify basic universal principles of ethics and good governance based on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Charter, international best practices.
  • Study draft National Sports Development Bill, National Sports Development Code, 2011, Supreme Court and High Court judgments related to issues of good governance in administration of sports in country.

Make specific recommendations for bringing out a comprehensive National Sports Code to address the issues of governance pertaining to the National Sports Federations and National Olympic Committee.

Antonio Tajani elected as President of European Parliament

Italian conservative Antonio Tajani was elected the new President of the European Parliament (EP). In the elector contest of four rounds, he defeated another Italian socialist Gianni Pitella by securing 351 votes against 282. Antonio Tajani will succeed Germany’s Martin Schulz and head the parliament for the next two-and-a-half years. Tajani is a former spokesman for Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi and an ex-European commissioner. The EU Parliament president chairs the plenary sessions of the legislature and is the face of the parliament in the EU and on the international stage. The European Parliament (EP) is the directly elected parliamentary institution of the EU. It exercises the legislative function of the EU along with the Council of the European Union (the Council) and the European Commission. The Parliament is composed of 751 members who are directly elected. EP represents the world’s second largest democratic electorate (after the Parliament of India) and the largest trans-national democratic electorate in the world.

Serena Williams wins 2017 Australian Open title

American professional tennis player Serena Williams won the 2017 Australian Open title in the women’s singles category. In the final match, she defeated her sister Venus Williams by 6-4, 6-4 score.  It was her seventh Australian Open title and overall record 23rd Grand Slam title in the professional era. She is the only tennis player in history to have won singles titles at least 6 times in three of the four Grand Slam tournaments. She is the only tennis player who has won 10 Grand Slam singles titles in two separate decades. Now, Margaret Court of Australia, with 24 is the only woman player ahead of Serena Williams in terms of Grand Slam singles titles

Roger Federer wins 2017 Australian Open title

Swiss professional tennis player Roger Federer (35) won the 2017 Australian Open title in the men’s singles category. In the final match, he defeated Spain’s Rafael Nadal by 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6 and 6-3 score. It was his 5th Australian Open title and overall 18th Grand slam title. It was 6-3 head to head record in Grand Slam summit clash between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. With this victory, Roger Federer became the only male tennis player who had won five or more tittles at in three of the four. He has won 5 Australian Open titles, 7 Wimbledon titles, 5 US Open titles and 1 French Open title. Currently, he is ranked world No. 10 by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP).

PV Sindhu wins 2017 Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold Title

Olympic silver medallist PV Sindhu has won her maiden Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold badminton tournament title in women’s singles category. In the final match held at Lucknow, Sindhu defeated Indonesia’s Gregoria Mariska by 21-13, 21-14 score.  In this edition of tournament, India won three titles out of the five events.

Saina Nehwal wins 2017 Malaysia Masters Grand Prix Gold title

Ace Indian shuttler Saina Nehwal won the 2017 Malaysia Masters Grand Prix Gold title in the women’s singles category. It was her overall 23rd title.  In the final match held at the Sibu Indoor Stadium in Sarawak, Malaysia she defeated Thailand’s Pornpawee Chochuwong by 22-20, 22-20 score.

Kapil Dev inducted into Legends Club Hall of Fame

Cricket icon Kapil Dev was inducted into Legends Club ‘Hall of Fame’ at the Cricket Club of India in Mumbai, Mahrashtra. He was presented with a citation by former India player and Legends Club President Madhav Apte. Kapil Dev had led India to the emphatic World Cup victory in 1983, is considered as the country’s greatest all-rounder. Sunil Gavaskar, who was the first batsman to score 10,000 runs in Test cricket, was also presented a citation. He already has been inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame on July 11, 2013.

India wins 2016 SAFF women’s Championship

India won 2016 South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Women’s Football Championship title by defeating Bangladesh by 3-1 goals. It was India’s fourth consecutive win in the SAFF women’s Championship since it was launched in 2010. This was Bangladesh’s maiden final appearance in the championship. For India, the goals were scored by Dangmei Grace, Sasmita Malik and Indumathi. Bangladesh’s lone goal came through Sirat Jahan. SAFF Women’s Championship is held every two years. In this tournament, 8 SAFF members Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka compete.

Arthur Morris inducted into ICC Cricket Hall of Fame

Former Australian cricketer Arthur Morris was inducted into the International Cricket Council’s Hall of Fame. He was given the honour posthumously.He was inducted by former Australian captain Steve Waugh during the tea break on the opening day of the third Test between Australia and Pakistan in Sydney. With this, he became the 22nd Australian and 82nd player overall to feature in the list. Morris had played 46 matches scoring 3,533 runs for Australia from 1946 to 1955. The ICC Cricket Hall of Fame recognises the achievements of the legends from the game of cricket. Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Bishan Bedi and Anil Kumble are the Indian cricketers who are part of the elite list.

Naqsh Lyallpuri : Urdu Poet and Lyricist

Renowned Urdu poet and lyricist Naqsh Lyallpuri passed away. He was aged 88. He was born as Jaswant Rai Sharmaon 24 February 1928 in Layallpur Punjab (now in Pakistan). Since his childhood, he was inclined towards Urdu literature. He got his first ever break as a lyricist in the 1952 film ‘Jaggu’ where he had given lyrics to the song ‘Agar Teri Aakhon Se Aakhein Mila Doon’. Since then, he went on to be the lyricist for films like ‘Chetna’,’Tumhare Liye’, ‘Aahista Aahista’ and ‘Gharonda’ amongest many others. In 2005, he had written lyrics for the ‘Taj Mahal- An eternal love story’ and also for ‘Yaatra’ in 2006.

Eugene Cernan: Last man to walk on Moon passes away

American astronaut Eugene A. Cernan, the last man to walk on Moon, passed away at the age of 82. He had landed on Moon in December 1972 during NASA’s Apollo 17 mission, the last mission to the moon. He was the eleventh person to land on Moon. He is also best remembered as commander of Apollo 17. He was the second American to walk in space and one of three men to have flown twice to the moon.

Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani: Former Iran President

Former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani passed away after suffering from heart attack. He was 82. He was 4th President of Iran from 1989 to 1997. Rafsanjani was a key figure in the foundation of the Islamic republic in 1979 and leading figure in the Iran’s politics since the 1980s. He had played key role in ending Iran-Iraq war (1980-88) and was considered main mover behind Iran’s acceptance of UNSC resolution for ending war. He also had headed the Iran’s Expediency Council, a body which is intended to resolve disputes between the parliament and the Guardian Council. He was also key player in development of Iran’s nuclear programme. Although, he was a part of the religious establishment, he was regarded as a “pragmatic conservative” open to improving ties to the West.

Sports Ministry reconstitutes committee to identify athletes under TOP Scheme

The Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports has reconstituted TOP committee with objective of identifying and supporting potential medal prospects for 2020 and 2024 Olympic Games under Target Olympic Podium (TOP) scheme.

The committee will be headed by Abhinav Bindra, Olympic Gold Medalist. Its members are Anil Khanna, Prakash Padukone, Karnam Malleshwari, P. T. Usha, Murlidhar Raja, Anjali Bhagwat, Rekha Yadav, Dr. S.S. Roy and Inder Dhamija.

Key Facts

  • The committee will select elite athletes to provided financial assistance for their customized training at Institutes having world class facilities and other necessary support.
  • It will decide on its own procedures and will be competent to invite subject experts as and when required. It will have initial tenure of one year.

About TOP (Target Olympic Podium) Scheme

  • The TOP Scheme was formulated by the Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports within the overall ambit of National Sports Development Fund (NSDF).
  • Its objective is to identify and support potential medal prospects for 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games. Under the scheme the selected athletes are provided financial assistance for their customized training at Institutes.
  • These sports institutes will have world class facilities and other necessary support to improve performance and higher position in medals tally for the country. Under it benchmark for selection of athletes is in relation to international standards.

India’s first Post Office Passport Seva Kendra inaugurated in Mysuru

India’s first Post Office Passport Seva Kendra (POPSK) was inaugurated at the Mysuru Head Post office in Karnataka. The POPSK will offer all passport related services on the lines of PSKs (Passport Seva Kendras). For this initiative, Union Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has tied up with the postal department. The purpose of POPSK is to expand the passport services over a wide area, simplify the process to travel abroad and to offer passport related services through a network of post offices.

India’s first multi-sports museum: Kolkata

India’s first multi-sports museum was inaugurated in Kolkata, capital of West Bengal. The museum entire project took shape under aegis of Harshvardhan Neotia, Chairman of the Ambuja Neotia Group. It is spread over 6700 square feet  and has amazing collection of sports memorabilia ranging from the gloves that Sachin Tendulkar wore while scoring his 100th hundred, a boot owned by Lionel Messi to a chess board signed by Vishwanathan Anand. It also has an impressive collection painstakingly gathered by cricket historian Boria Majumdar for over 25 years. It also display’s books written by KS Ranjitsinhji such as ‘The Jubilee Book of cricket’ and an anthology by PN Polishwalla.

Second capital of Himachal Pradesh: Dharamshala

Himachal Pradesh Government has declared Dharamsala as the second capital of the hill state with a population of about 70 lakh. Henceforth winter session of state legislature will be held in Dharamshala. Himachal Pradesh is third state in India to have two capitals after Maharashtra (Mumbai, Nagpur) and Jammu and Kashmir (Srinagar, Jammu).

India’s first cashless island : Karang

Karang, a small lake island in Manipur, became the first cashless island in India. It was announced by the Union ministry of Electronics and Information Technology after island fulfilled necessary criteria under its Digital India programme. Most of the families living on Karang island have opted for cashless transactions. So far, 400 beneficiaries, 16 merchants, including 6 motor boat service providers, have registered themselves. The Karang island is located in the middle of Loktak lake, the largest freshwater lake in Northeast India. Earlier in 2015, Akodara a village in Gujarat, had attained the unique status to be India’s first digital village.

January – Events, Observances and Miscellaneous

Savitribai Phule

186th birth anniversary of Savitribai Phule was on 3 January 2017. Savitribai was among the country’s first women to speak up for the rights of women. She was the first woman teacher of the first women’s school in India and also a first pioneer in modern Marathi poetry. Born as Savitribai K. Patil on January 3, 1831 into a family of farmers. She was married at the age of nine to the 13-year old Jyotirao Phule.

  • She was home taught to read and write by her husband. Later the couple founded India’s first school for girls and women in Bhidewada, Pune (Maharashtra).
  • It started with just nine girls from different castes enrolled as students – but it became a historic step when female education was considered taboo in the orthodox Indian society prevalent then.
  • The school was started with just 9 girls from different castes. But it was considered as historic step when female education was considered taboo in the orthodox Indian society prevalent then.
  • During the British rule in India, the Phule couple had launched a crusade against social discrimination based on caste and gender, and also had sparked the flame for women’s equal rights.

During this highly patriarchal and orthodox Indian society when women had no say in anything, Savitribai’s courageous campaign covered social issues such as child marriages, child widows, practice of ‘Sati’, women education and fighting for equal rights for all women.

Even after death of Jyotirao Phule in 1890, she carried on legacy of his Satyashodhak. She died while serving people suffering from bubonic plague in Maharashtra in 1897.

As a tribute to her sheer courage and pioneering efforts in field of women education, social reform and gender equality Maharashtra government had renamed Pune University as Savitribai Phule University. India Post also had released a stamp in honour of Savitribai on March 10, 1998.

NDRF celebrates its 12th raising day

The 12th Raising Day celebration of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) was observed on 31 January 2017. On the occasion, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh presented the Jeevan Raksha Padak awards and Distinguished Service Medals to the NDRF personnel. NDRF is India’s elite disaster mitigation combat force established under The Disaster Management Act, 2005. It was raised on January, 2006. It is a specialised force capable of responding to any type of disaster (natural or man-made) in the country and abroad. Its main function is to undertake relief and rescue operations, mass evacuation and immediate relief in the case of an event of any disaster, accident or emergency.

World Leprosy Day observed on January 29, 2017

The World Leprosy Day was observed on January 29, 2017 to raise global awareness of Leprosy, a deadly disease and spread awareness to the fact that it can be prevented, treated and cured. The day is annually observed around the world on the last Sunday of January. It was initiated in 1954 by French philanthropist and writer, Raoul Follereau. The day was chosen to coincide with the death anniversary of Indian freedom fighter and Father of nation Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination on January 30, 1948. Leprosy (also known as Hansen’s disease) is one of the oldest diseases known to humankind. It is caused by a slow-growing type of bacteria called Mycobacterium leprae (M. leprae). It is curable with multidrug therapy (MDT).

National festival Bharat Parv held in New Delhi

National festival Bharat Parv showcasing the country’s diverse culture, cuisines, handicrafts and catch glimpses of a progressive India has begun in New Delhi. It was inaugurated by Union Minister Mahesh Sharma on Thursday at the Red Fort as part of the Republic Day 2017 Celebrations. The six-day festival aims at generating patriotic mood and promote country’s cultural diversity and popularise idea of ‘Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat’ or One India Superior India. It will display Republic Day parade tableaux, performances by armed forces bands, crafts mela and photo exhibition by Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting with a theme ‘Mera Desh Badal Raha Hai, Aage Badh Raha Hai’.

Assam Government observes first Farmer’s Martyrs day

Assam Government for the first time observed Farmer’s Martyrs day on January 27, 2017 to pay homage to the martyrs of 1894 farmers’ rising at Patharughat. On this occasion, Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal presented awards to 22 progressive farmers. On 28th January 1894, 140 innocent farmers were massacred and 150 others injured by then colonial British rulers when they rose in protest against the oppressive increase in land revenue. The farmers had collectively protested against the British tyranny as a cohesive force. With this incident, Assam emerged as one of the pioneers and forerunners of India’s independence struggle.

25 January: National Voters’ Day

The National Voters’ Day (NVD) was observed on 25 January to commemorate the foundation day of the Election Commission of India (ECI). This year it was 7th edition of the day and its theme was Empowering Young and Future Voters. On this occasion President Pranab Mukherjee gave away awards for best electoral practices to District Collectors, Superintendents of Police and other functionaries involved in election management.   NVD marks the foundation day of ECI which came into existence on 25th January 1950. This day is also utilized to spread awareness among voters regarding effective participation in the electoral process.

24 January: National Girl Child Day

The National Girl Child Day is observed every year on 24th January with an objective of raising consciousness of the society towards the girl child so that she can be valued and respected. The day was celebrated at a special function organized by the Women and Child Development Ministry in the light of exemplary achievements by nation’s daughters during 2016. On this occasion, National Plan of Action for Children 2016 was released. Besides, 10 districts under the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (B3P) scheme were felicitated for their exemplary performance.

69th Army Day observed

The 69th Indian Army Day was observed on 15 January 2017. On this day in 1949, Lt. General (later Field Marshal) Kodandera Madappa Cariappa became the first Indian Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army (of the independent India). He had succeeded British Army General Roy Butcher (last British Commander-in-Chief of India). The day is also celebrated to pay homage and salute to the courageous and brave Indian soldiers who have been sacrificing their lives for protecting the country.

1st edition of ABU International Television Dance Festival held in Hyderabad

The first edition of Asia Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU) International Television Dance Festival was held in Hyderabad, capital of Telangana. It was hosted by the Prasar Bharati, India’s public service broadcaster. It showcased the traditional and contemporary dance performances by artistes from over 10 counties across the Asia-Pacific region. The countries participated in the event include Maldives, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan, Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Fiji and Indonesia. The ABU was established in 1964 as a non-profit, non-government, professional association to assist the development of broadcasting in the region.

DEFCOM 2017 inaugurated in Delhi

The 2017 DEFCOM was recently inaugurated in Delhi. This year the theme for the conference is ‘Infrastructure and Skilled Human Resource for Digital Army’. DEFCOM is an annual seminar organised jointly by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Corps of Signals of Indian Army. It is considered as the most seminal forum for interaction between the officers of the Armed Forces, Indian Industry, Academia and Research & Development (R&D) organisations on matters related to operational communication systems for the Army.

Island Tourism Festival 2017 begins in Andaman and Nicobar

The Island Tourism Festival 2017 began at Port Blair, capital of Andaman & Nicobar Islands. It was inaugurated by Lt. Governor Jagdish Mukhi at ITF Ground. The 10 day mega event will see performances by the cultural troupes from mainland India to help the Islanders renew their cultural ties with mainland. The cultural troupes from mainland as well as the Isles will also perform in outer Islands apart from South Andaman. An International Cultural Group from Khazkhistan will also perform in this event. The other attractions of this event will be the food courts, fun games and handicrafts etc.

Solexa DNA sequencing

An Indian-origin British professor of chemistry and DNA expert at Cambridge University Shankar Balasubramanian received Knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II for their contributions. He was recognised for his work as a co-inventor of Next Generation DNA sequencing (also known as Solexa sequencing), described as the most transformational advance in biology and medicine for decades.

2016 Bharatiya Jananpith Navlekhan award

Two new Hindi writers Shraddha and Ghyansham Kumar Devansh have been chosen for Bharatiya Jnanpith Navlekhan Award for the year 2016. Shraddha was chosen for her short story ‘Hawa Mein Phadphadati Chitthi‘ and Devansh for his poem ‘Akash Mein Deh‘. They were unanimously chosen by a selection panel chaired by eminent poet Vishnu Nagar. The award is given to young authors in Hindi for their first creations. It was instituted in 2006 by Bharatiya Jnanpith trustIt consists of a statue of Goddess Saraswati, a citation and a cash prize each. Besides Jnanpith publishing their works.

International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has declared the year 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. The declaration recalls the potential of tourism sector to advance the universal 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Key Facts

  • The International Year aims to support a change in business practices, policies and consumer behaviour towards a more sustainable tourism sector that can contribute effectively to achieve targets of the SDGs.
  • It will promote tourism sector’s role in five key areas: (i) Inclusive and sustainable economic growth (ii) Social inclusiveness, employment and poverty reduction (iii) Cultural values, diversity and heritage (iv) Resource efficiency, environmental protection and climate change (v) Mutual understanding, peace and security.
  • Tourism is under three targets of the SDGs: They are (i) Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all. (ii) Goal 12: Sustainable Consumption and Production and (iii) Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

The tourism sector accounts for 7% of worldwide exports, 10% of the world’s GDP and one in eleven jobs. If managed well, it can foster inclusive economic growth, social inclusiveness and protection of natural and cultural assets.

Bargarh Dhanua Jatra festival

The world-famous Bargarh Dhanua Jatra festival has started in Bargarh, the western Odisha town, as all the rituals were performed before Goddess Samaleswari, the presiding deity of the event. The 11-day gala event will set the stage for all mythological places related to Lord Krishna based in the ancient city itself. Bargarh becomes the Mathuranagari and Ambapalli area is staged as Gopapur, the parenting place of Krishna. Jeera River is considered as river Yamuna and Hatapada mandap is taken as the Raj darbar of king Kansa. The Dhanu Jatra is an annual drama-based open air theatrical performance celebrated within a 6 km radius in and around the Bargarh municipality. It is considered to be the world’s largest open-air theatrical festival.

Chitwan Elephant Festival

The 13th edition of Chitwan Elephant Festival was held at the Chitwan National Park in Kathmandu, Nepal from December 26-30, 2016 to promote tourism with the participation of over 50 elephants. The festival attracted about 20,000 domestic and foreign tourists.The 5-day event showcased elephant walk, elephant polo, elephant calf football, elephant beauty contest, elephant picnic and elephant painting. The annual event was organised by Regional Hotel Association Chitwan in order to bring humans closer with elephants, to encourage wildlife protection and conservation and to promote tourism in the region.

2017 Island Tourism Festival

The 2017 Island tourism Festival has started at Port Blair in Andaman and Nicobar on January 6 and will continue till January 14 is to promote tourism and entertainment for islanders. The mega event has been inaugurated by Lt. Governor Jagdish Mukhi at ITF Ground in Port Blair. The festival provides a common platform where one and all irrespective of colour, caste and religion participate with equal dedication and gaiety promoting and strengthening the spirit of brotherhood. During the 10-day event, performances by the cultural troupes from mainland will help the Islanders renew their cultural ties with mainland India. An International Cultural Group from Khazkhistan will also perform the ITF Ground. Beside this, a band of artists from mainland will also perform during the festival at North & Middle Andaman and also at Nicobar Group of Islands, besides South Andaman. The other attractions will be the food courts, fun games and handicrafts etc.

IMD plans to set up weather stations in 660 districts

The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has decided to set up weather stations in 660 districts of the country by 2019. In the first phase, 130 districts have shortlisted as part of the project. In this regard, IMD has tied up with the Union Ministry of Agriculture to use the Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs), under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) in these districts. These KVKs will be used for weather forecasting observatories and weather forecasts will be issued four days a week between Monday to Thursday. At present, weather forecasting systems are present in 130 districts which give forecasts for a cluster of neighbouring districts. But this project will now help to diversify and every district will have its own weather forecast. IMD is also planning to start state-specific weather forecasts from this year. Currently it gives region-specific weather forecasts namely for the, northwest, central, northeast regions and southern peninsula during monsoons.

Surya Namaskar Yajna recognised in US Congress

The annual “Surya Namaskar Yajna” or “Health for Humanity Yogathon” was recognised in the US House of Representative on the occasion of its 10th anniversary. This recognition highlights the importance of Surya Namaskar as simple yoga postures in ten steps having combination of breathing techniques that can provide immense health benefits to both the body and the mind.

Gujarat Government launches India’s first Student Startup and Innovation Policy

Gujarat government launched India’s first student startup and innovation policy with an aims to provide Rs 200 crore in the form of grants to ideas developed by students. The policy aims to support over 1,000 innovation per year in the state and create pre-incubation support in all universities of the state.

Key Facts

  • The policy will encourage the students from the state to undertake innovative projects related to society, industries, and community instead of conventional academic projects.
  • It will support student-led startups and innovations as well as create an Innovation and Pre-incubation Ecosystem Support (IPIES) across all universities of the state.
  • Under the pre-incubation support, help will be provided to students to convert their ideas from proof of concept (PoC) upto minimum viable proto-type (MVP) and also providing support for patent filing.

The policy has been developed under the aegis of Education Department and state government will provide Rs 200 crore as State Innovation Fund (SIF) during the next five years.

Of the Rs 200 crore SIF, Rs 100 crore will be allocated by the state government and the remaining amount will be created by internal sources, like university funds and CSR funds.  Earlier in 2015, Gujarat Government had unveiled startup-assistant scheme, as part of Gujarat Industrial Policy and in 2016 also had launched Information Technology Startup Policy.

Bengaluru ranked world’s most dynamic city: JLL Index

According to recently released Jones Lang LaSalle’s City Momentum Index (CMI), Bengaluru (capital of Karnatak) has emerged as the most dynamic city in the world.

The index tracks the speed of change of a city’s economy and commercial real estate market. It covers 134 major established and emerging business hubs and ranks them on parameters like technology, connectivity, population, education and real estate investments. 

Key Facts

  • Top 10 cities in 2017 CMI:Bengaluru (India), Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam), Silicon Valley (US), Shanghai (China), Hyderabad (India), London (UK), Austin (US), Hanoi (Vietnam), Boston (US) and Nairobi (Kenya).
  • Most dynamic cities around the world share the ability to embrace technological change, absorb rapid population growth and strengthen global connectivity.
  • Cities in India, China and Vietnam, along with several in the United States head the list of the world’s fastest changing cities.
  • In this edition of CMI, cities from Asia-Pacific region comprise half of the top 30 fastest-changing cities. India has over taken China as home to some of the world’s most dynamic cities.
  • Six Indian cities feature in the CMI Global Top 30 that includes Pune (13th rank), Chennai (17th), Delhi (23rd), Mumbai (25th).

 

Karnataka government to amend law for conducting kambala

The Karnataka government has decided to bring an amendment to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA), 1960 for conducting traditional sports of Kambala and bull-cart race in the State.

State Cabinet meeting presided by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah approved amendments to the Act and announced that bill will be placed before both Houses of the State legislature.

Karnatak state government is going to follow the model of the Tamil Nadu government and bring changes to the PCA. The Bill passed by the legislature will require an assent from the President. 

Issue

The traditional sport along with bull-cart race was banned in the state by the Karnataka high court in November 2016 in an interim order while hearing a case filed by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) citing animal cruelty. Earlier, the high court had stayed this event in view of the Supreme Court’s verdict on jallikattu, a traditional bull taming sport of Tamil Nadu.

What is Kambala?

Kambala is an annual traditional Buffalo Race (he-buffalo) held in coastal districts of Karnataka to entertain rural people of the area. Slushy/marshy paddy field track is used for Kambala. The sports season generally starts in November and lasts till March. The contest generally takes place between two pairs of buffaloes, each pair race in two seprate wet rice fields tracks, controlled by a whip-lashing farmer. In the traditional form of Kambala, buffalo racing is non-competitive and he-buffalo pairs run one by one in paddy fields. Besides, there is also ritualistic approach also as some agriculturists race their he-buffaloes for thanks giving to god for protecting their animals from diseases. But in recent times, Kambala has become an organised rural sport.

Sahaj International

India’s first transgender school “Sahaj International” has started at Thrikkakara in Kerala’s Ernakulam district. It was inaugurated by transgender activist, writer and actor Kalki Subramaniam. The purpose of Transgender School is to provide transgenders security, salvation and sustainability. The new learning centre will help them continue their education and appear for Class X and XII examinations.This alternative learning centre works in collaboration with National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS).

2016 Navlekhan Award of Bharatiya Jnanpith

The two Hindi writers Shraddha and Ghyansham Kumar Devansh have been chosen for 2016 Navlekhan Award of Bharatiya Jnanpith. The award conferred to Shraddha for her short story ‘Hawa Mein Phadphadati Chitthi’ and on Devansh for his poem ‘Akash Mein Deh’. The award, which is given to young authors in Hindi for their first creations, consists of a statue of Goddess Saraswati, a citation and a cash prize each.

Chhabra Thermal Power Plant (CTPP)

The Chhabra Thermal Power Plant (CTPP) is located at Chowki Motipura village in Baran district of Rajasthan. The planned capacity of power plant is 2650MW at the end of 12th Five year plan. It is in news because National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) Ltd has recently signed a non-binding MoU with Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Ltd and Rajasthan Urja Vikas Nigam Ltd for takeover of Chhabra Thermal Power Plant (CTPP)’s four units of 250 MW each and two units of 660 MW units each. With this, after transfer of CTPP to NTPC, the state government will receive equity as per latest valuation and the losses being incurred from Chhabra will stop after transfer of the plant and debt liabilities of the state government shall also be reduced.

Atlantic Council (AC)

The Atlantic Council (AC) is a US-based think-tank to promote constructive leadership and engagement in international affairs based on the central role of the Atlantic Community in meeting think tank. The headquarters of Atlantic Council (AC) is located at Washington DC, United States. It is in news because Manish Tewari, the Congress leader and former Union Minister, has been appointed as the senior fellow of US-based think tank Atlantic Council.

Digital Dakiya

The Madhya Pradesh government has recently launched “Digital Dakiya or Digital Postman” scheme in Indore district to encourage cashless transactions. It is first of its kind scheme in India in which Digital Postman will visit different places of state to teach and encourage people about cashless transactions and its benefits. The state government will also provide identity cards to the volunteers deployed in this programme.

Mawlynnong

Mawlynnong village, which is termed as Asia’s cleanest village, is located at the East Khasi Hills district of the Meghalaya. It is famous for its cleanliness and natural attraction. Mawlynnong was awarded the prestigious tag of ‘Cleanest Village in Asia’ in 2003 by Discover India Magazine. Approx 500 tourists across India and abroad visit the village daily. To maintain its reputation as clean village, all 550 villagers carry cleanliness drive on every Saturday. Through cleanliness, the villagers have created opportunities to earn money as the village has become tourists’ prime destination in North East.

International Vaccine Institute

The International Vaccine Institute (IVI) is an international non-profit i.e. devoted to developing and introducing new and improved vaccine to protect the people, especially children, against deadly infectious diseases. The headquarters of IVI is located in Seoul, South Korea. It is in news because the Union Cabinet has recently given its approval to the proposal for India’s taking full membership of the International Vaccine Institute (IVI) Governing Council. This decision involves payment of annual contribution of US $5,00,000 to the IVI.

Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) has officially launched at 2017 World Economic Forum (WEF) to create new vaccines for emerging infectious diseases. The CEPI has been formed with initial funding of $460 million from the governments of Germany, Japan and Norway, as well as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust. Initially, the CEPI group is targeting the 3 infectious diseases viz. Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS)-coronavirus, Lassa fever, and Nipah virus. All three have the potential to cause large outbreaks and the goal is to have two potential vaccines for each of these viruses ready before an epidemic hits. The group may also provide support for research on strains of the Ebola, Marburg and Zika viruses.

Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI)

The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) is a self-regulatory voluntary organization of the advertising industry in India. It is a non-Government body and it’s headquarters is located at Mumbai, Maharashtra. It is in news because Ministry of AYUSH and ASCI has recently signed MoU to co-regulate misleading advertisements in the AYUSH sector.

India Innovation Index

The India Innovation Index (III) will be developed by the World Economic Forum (WEF), NITI Aayog, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and Cornell University to measure innovation performance of Indian states. Each partnering organisation will nominate a working group member to work on the index. The first ranking is expected to be released at the India Economic Summit (IEC) in New Delhi on October 4-6, 2017. The index will be based on key pillars of innovation and sub-indices that together will assist in tailoring policies that promote inclusive growth. The pillars include the strength of institutions, capacity of human capital and research, supporting infrastructure and the level of business sophistication, among others.

Pakke-Paga Festival

The 2nd edition of the Pakke-Paga Festival-2017 has been held at Seijosa in East Kameng District of Arunachal Pradesh from January 17, 2017 and was inaugurated by the Union minister of state for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju. The purpose of the 3-day festival is to popularise the role played by the community in conserving the endangered species. The festival allowed visitors to adopt a hornbill nest with a minimum annual contribution of Rs 5,000. The 16 wildlife conservation NGOs supported the event, which was organised by the state department of environment and forests and residents of Seijosa. Paga means hornbill in Nyishi language.

Varishtha Pension Bima Yojana (VPBY)

Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given its post-facto approval for launching of 2017 Varishtha Pension Bima Yojana (VPBY). It is a part of Government’s commitment for financial inclusion and social security. The scheme will be implemented through Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) during the current financial year to provide social security during old age and protect elderly persons aged 60 years and above against a future fall in their interest income due to uncertain market conditions. The scheme will provide an assured pension based on a guaranteed rate of return of 8% per annum for ten years, with an option to opt for pension on a monthly / quarterly / half-yearly and annual basis.

National Girl Child Day

The Ministry of Women and Child Development has celebrated the National Girl Child Day at a special function in New Delhi with the theme “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (BBBP)” on January 24, 2017. The event culminated by regional performances in Hindi, Punjabi, Rajasthani and Malayalam languages by professional troupes of Song and Drama Division. The day is celebrated every year on January 24 in India to raise the awareness among people about all the inequalities faced by the girl child in the society.

Nagarhole National Park

The Nagarhole National Park is a national park located in Kodagu district and Mysore district in Karnataka. It is also known as Rajiv Gandhi National Park. The park has rich forest cover, small streams, hills, valleys and waterfalls and has a healthy predator-prey ratio, with many tigers, Indian bison and elephants.

Kirameki -2

Japan has successfully launched its first-ever military communications satellite “Kirameki -2” from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Tanegashima Space Center with the help of H-2A carrier rocket to boost the broadband capacity of its Self Defence Forces (SDF). The purpose of the satellite is to improve communications infrastructure via providing a direct high-speed connection between the ground, naval and air forces of Japan. The satellite will cover the area of the Indian Ocean and is set to be used by the Japanese UN peacekeepers in South Sudan and against Somalian sea pirates. The Kirameki-2 is an X-band communications satellite with a 15-year lifespan built by DSN Corporation for the Japanese Ministry of Defense.

Longyangxia Dam Solar Park

The world’s largest solar park has been built at the Longyangxia Dam in the western province of Qinghai in China. The Longyangxia Dam Solar Park occupies 27 sq km and built at a cost of about 6bn yuan. The solar park can produce about 850 MW of power in Qinghai province.

Alexander Kadakin

Alexander Kadakin, who recently passed away in New Delhi on 26th January 2017, was a Russian diplomat and the Russian Ambassador to India from 2009 until his death in 2017.He was the longest-serving Russian Ambassador to India and to any nation in the Indian subcontinent.

Sparsh Leprosy Awareness Campaign (SLAC)

The nationwide “Sparsh Leprosy Awareness Campaign (SLAC)” has been launched by the Indian Government on 30th January 2017, which is also marked as Anti-Leprosy Day. The day is observed every year on January 30 in the memory of Mahatma Gandhi who attained martyrdom on this day in 1948, to remember his selfless efforts and care for the people affected with Leprosy. The thrust of this campaign is to promote community participation in diagnosis and treatment of leprosy in its early stages, from centralised top-down delivery-driven approach to decentralised community-based demand-driven approach. Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae and it usually affects the skin and peripheral nerves. The World Leprosy Day (WLD) is observed on the last Sunday of January that focuses on the target of zero cases of leprosy-related disabilities in children.

Operation Clean Money

The Income Tax Department (ITD) has recently launched “Operation Clean Money” to track deposits post demonetisation. The initial phase of the operation involves e-verification of large cash deposits made during 9th November to 30th December 2016. In the first phase of verification, approx 18 lakh accounts have been identified where tax-paying profile does not match with the income of account holders. ITD has enabled online verification of these transactions to reduce compliance cost for the taxpayers while optimising its resources. The information in respect of these cases is being made available in the e-filing window of the PAN holder (after log in) at the portal https://incometaxindiaefiling.gov.in. The PAN holder can view the information using the link Cash Transactions 2016 under Compliance section of the portal. The taxpayer will be able to submit online explanation without any need to visit Income Tax office.

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