News Headlines: January 1-15, 2019

Current Affairs – NEWS HEADLINES: January 1, 2019

India
Economy & Corporate
World
Sports

Current Affairs – NEWS HEADLINES: January 2, 2019

India
Economy & Corporate
World
Sports

Current Affairs – NEWS HEADLINES: January 3, 2019

India
Economy & Corporate
World
Sports

Current Affairs – NEWS HEADLINES: January 4, 2019

India
Economy & Corporate
World
Sports

Current Affairs – NEWS HEADLINES: January 5, 2019

India
Economy & Corporate
World
Sports

Current Affairs – NEWS HEADLINES: January 6, 2019

India
Economy & Corporate
World
Sports

Current Affairs – NEWS HEADLINES: January 7, 2019

India
Economy & Corporate
World
Sports

Current Affairs – NEWS HEADLINES: January 8, 2019

India
Economy & Corporate
World
Sports

Current Affairs – NEWS HEADLINES: January 9, 2019

India
Economy & Corporate
World
Sports

Current Affairs – NEWS HEADLINES: January 10, 2019

India
Economy & Corporate
World
Sports

Current Affairs – NEWS HEADLINES: January 11, 2019

India
Economy & Corporate
World
Sports

Current Affairs – NEWS HEADLINES: January 12, 2019

India
Economy & Corporate
World
Sports

Current Affairs – NEWS HEADLINES: January 13, 2019

India
Economy & Corporate
World
Sports

Current Affairs – NEWS HEADLINES: January 14, 2019

India
Economy & Corporate
World
Sports

Current Affairs – NEWS HEADLINES: January 15, 2019

India
Economy & Corporate
World
Sports

January 1, 2019

Loan subsidy for middle-income group under PMAY extended till March 2020

The Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri has said that the loan subsidy for the middle-income group under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, (PMAY) has been extended till 31st March 2020.
The Minister said that more than Rs 6900 cr interest subsidy on housing loans has been disbursed to over 3.14 lakh beneficiaries of Credit Linked Subsidy Scheme (CLSS) under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban).

Credit Linked Subsidy under PMAY-Urban

The Credit Linked Subsidy Scheme (CLSS) is a component under the PMAY-Urban. Under the scheme, the central government provides interest subsidy or purchase/construction/extension/improvement of a house to cater Economical Weaker Section(EWS)/Lower Income Group(LIG)/Middle Income Groups (MIG).
The CLSS is being implemented by two central nodal agencies in India, namely Housing Urban Development Corp and National Housing Bank. The CLSS is planned as a demand-side intervention to expand institutional credit flow to the housing needs of the urban poor.
The CLSS is the only central scheme under the PMAY-Urban and the remaining ones are implemented as sponsored schemes.

For Middle-Income group

CLSS for Middle-Income group covers two income segments in the MIG viz. Rs.6,00,001 to Rs.12,00,000 (MIG-I) and Rs.12,00,001 to Rs.18,00,000 (MIG-II) per annum.
For MIG-I, an interest subsidy of 4% has been provided for loan amounts up to Rs.9 lakh and for  MIG-II, an interest subsidy of 3% has been provided for loan amount up to Rs.12 lakh. Housing loans beyond Rs. 9 lakh and Rs. 12 lakh will be at non-subsidized rates.

Bangladesh Elections: PM’s Awami League registers landslide victory

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

JatiyoShangsad

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

Opposition calls the elections as rigged

The opposition parties have rejected the election outcome calling the election farcical and are demanding a new election be held under the authority of a nonpartisan government. The opposition claims that the ruling alliance has rigged the elections to ensure a favourable outcome.
The Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has dismissed opposition claims that the vote was rigged. The Election commission of Bangladesh has ruled out any revote, saying there were no reports of large irregularities.
The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for restraint. Condemning violence against candidates and voters as unacceptable he has asked both sides to address complaints peacefully and legally.

RBI releases Fiscal Stability Report

The bi-annual Fiscal Stability Report discussing issues relating to the development and regulation of the financial sector has been released by the RBI. The Fiscal Stability Report reflects the collective assessment of the Sub-Committee of the Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC) on risks to the financial stability of the country, as also the resilience of the financial system.

Findings of the Fiscal stability Report

The December 2018 report has made the following observations:

The findings of the report suggest that the worst case scenario is over for PSBs especially the ones who are not included in PCA framework and it is expected that the earnings may see some jump in upcoming quarters.

India’s core sector growth drops to a 16-month low in November

The data from the Ministry of Commerce and Industries has shown that the growth in the eight core sectors of the economy fell to a 16-month low of 3.5 per cent in November. The eight core sectors are coal, crude oil, natural gas, refinery products, fertilizer, steel, cement and electricity.

Growth of Core Sectors

The following observations can be made from the data of the Ministry of Commerce and Industries:


Economists contribute the slowdown to the unfavourable base effect, along with a sudden slowdown in the growth of cement production and electricity output.

Telangana to have separate High Court from 1st January 2019

Separate High Courts will start functioning for the states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh from 1st January 2019. The High Court for Telangana is the 25th High Court in the country.
Telangana was carved out of Andra Pradesh in 2014 and the two states continued to have a common high court in Hyderabad.

Separate High Courts

The modalities of the separate high courts are:

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

Panel suggests not to allow new Engineering colleges from 2020

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

Recommendations of the Panel

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

Why the recommendations are made?

The recommendations are due to the following reasons:

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

Factsheet: Initiatives for improving teaching quality in Higher Education

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

Diksha

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

TEQUIP

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

GIAN

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

PMMMNMTT

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

Inter-University Centres for Teachers Education

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

Factsheet: Initiatives to monitor the quality of education in Government schools

The Central Government has launched the following mechanisms for the monitoring of quality of education in Government schools:

ShaGun Portal

Together with showcasing success stories and providing a platform for all stakeholders to learn from each other, and instill a positive competitive spirit among all the States and UTs, ShaGun also measures state-level performance and progress against key educational indicators. This enables the Government of India and the State and UT Departments of education to conduct real-time assessments which normal paper-based monitoring mechanisms did not allow.

Amendment to Rules under RTE act

The central government has amended the rules under the RTE Act to include the reference for class-wise, subject-wise Learning Outcomes. These references of learning outcomes have set a benchmark for student’s capabilities to be achieved in each subject & class.

Shaala Siddhi

Shaala Siddhi is a School Standards and Evaluation Framework which enables the schools to self evaluate based on seven key domains. It has been developed by National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA).

PINDICS

Performance Indicators for Elementary School Teachers (PINDICS)  is a  framework for assessing teacher performance and providing constructive feedback for further improvement. It has been developed by NCERT.

National Achievement Survey

National Achievement Surveys has been carried out by NCERT to assess learning achievement of children in Classes – III, V, VIII, and X.

Factsheet: Initiatives for improving quality of education

The Central Government has launched the following mechanisms for improving the quality of education:

Amendment to RTI Act

The RTI act has been amended to make it mandatory for all untrained in-service teachers working in Government, Government aided, and Private un-aided schools to acquire minimum qualification as laid down by an academic authority.

Integrated Scheme for School Education-Samagra Shiksha

Integrated Scheme for School Education-Samagra Shiksha has been launched by subsuming three erstwhile Centrally Sponsored Schemes of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) and Teacher Education (TE).
The Samagra Shiksha scheme focuses on improving the quality of education by providing support for  different interventions like; in-service training of teachers and schools heads, conduct of achievement surveys at National and State level,  provision of textbooks as per  Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, remedial teaching for academically weaker students, ICT and digital initiatives etc.

Rashtriya Aavishkar Abhiyan

Rashtriya Aavishkar Abhiyan motivates and engages children of the age group from 6-18 years in Science, Mathematics and Technology through observation, experimentation, inference drawing, model building, etc. both through inside and outside classroom activities.

e PATHSHALA

e PATHSHALA has been launched as a single point repository of e ­resources containing NCERT textbooks and various other learning resources.
e PATHSHALA has been developed for showcasing and disseminating all educational resources including textbooks, audio, video, periodicals, and a variety of other print and non-­print materials.

SWAYAM

SWAYAM portal offers various online courses for school education and higher education. NCERT is providing course modules in the SWAYAM portal.

SWAYAM PRABHA DTH-TV

SWAYAM PRABHA DTH-TV has been launched to provide learning opportunities for the students, as per their convenience. Everyday four hour fresh slot is telecast and repeated six times in 24 hours.

Diksha Portal

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

India to achieve 100 per cent electrification before 2019 Republic Day

India is likely to achieve 100 per cent household electrification before 2019 Republic Day. India has already provided electricity access to 2.39 crore out of the targeted 2.49 crore households under the Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana, Saubhagya scheme.

Status of Electrification

India has achieved the hundred per cent electrification of the households in 25 states by December 2018. About 10.48 lakh households are left to be electrified in 4 states of Assam, Rajasthan, Meghalaya and Chhattisgarh. The electrification got delayed in these states due to elections and Maoist problems. These states are now making concerted efforts to achieve 100 per cent household electrification in their respective states.

Saubhagya scheme

The centre had launched the Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana, Saubhagya scheme to provide electricity to all households by December 2018. The households identified via the Socio-economic and Caste Census (SECC) of 2011 are provided with free electricity connections and others were charged a nominal fee of Rs. 500. The scheme aims at providing last mile connectivity and electricity connections to all remaining households in rural as well as urban areas.
 

Pakistan to issue Panda Bonds to raise capital in China

The government of Pakistan has decided to launch Panda Bonds to raise loans from Chinese capital markets. Launching of Panda Bonds is part of Pakistan’s plans to move towards giving the Chinese currency, a status at par with that enjoyed by the US dollar. The interest rates and the size of the bonds would be decided at a later stage.
The Finance Ministry of Pakistan has said that the Panda Bonds are part of its multipronged approach for bridging the foreign financing needs and building foreign exchange reserves. Panda Bonds will help Pakistan to diversify the investor base of capital market issuance and provide a source of raising renminbi.
China is Pakistan’s largest trading partner. Pakistan has the highest trade deficit with China. The raising of capital in Chinese currency will aid Pakistan to bridge the deficit.

Panda Bonds

Panda bonds are Chinese renminbi-denominated bonds from a non-Chinese issuer, sold in the People’s Republic of China. The first two Panda bonds were issued in October 2005 on the by the International Finance Corporation and the Asian Development Bank on the same day.
The Philippines issued its inaugural Panda bonds in 2018. It was the first ASEAN member to issue Panda bonds.

Indian Bridge Management System

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

About IBMS

Indian Bridge Management System (IBMS) was launched by the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways to create an inventory of all bridges in the country and rate their structural condition so that timely repair and rehabilitation work can be carried out based on the criticality of the structure.
Lack of clear objective database on bridges in the country has led to a situation where the authorities were neither clear about the exact number and location of the bridges nor they were able to maintain this asset in proper working condition. IBMS has been brought in to address this anomaly.
The inventory under IBMS comprises of:

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

January 2, 2019

Samwad with Students

Indian Space Research Organisation  (Isro) has launched an outreach programme called Samwad with Students. During Samwad with Students on 1st January Isro chairman K Sivan interacted with 40 students and 10 teachers from select schools.
Isro’s outreach programme was aimed at motivating young India and tapping their scientific potential. During the interaction the Isro Chairmen engaged with students on a series of topics ranging from rockets, satellites, Chandrayaan, Gaganyaan and other space applications.
Further, Isro will be organising guided tours thrice in a year, especially during summer and Christmas holidays for students of class 11 and class 12. The students would be taken to Isro facilities in Thiruvananthapuram and Bengaluru and the launch centre at Sriharikota. Students would also be taken to space laboratories and would be allowed to make small satellites.

Japan to Withdraw from the International Whaling Commission

Japan has announced its decision to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission (IWC). The withdrawal would enable Japan to resume commercial whaling activities.
Japan has said that it would undertake commercial whaling  from July 2019 limited to Japan’s territorial waters and exclusive economic zones. As per the announcement, Japan would not undertake whaling activities in Antarctic waters or in the southern hemisphere.

Why the withdrawal?

The Japanese government was trying hard to persuade the IWC to allow its commercial whaling operations. IWC refused to budge and rejected the proposal of Japan.
Japan has said that since most whale species are not endangered and that eating whale is a part of its culture, Japan has been forced to withdraw from the IWC.
With the withdrawal Japan joins Iceland and Norway in openly defying the organization’s ban on commercial whale hunting.

International Whaling Commission (IWC)

The International whaling commission was set up under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling which was signed on 2nd December 1946 at Washington DC. The IWC aims at providing for the proper conservation of whale stocks and make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry.
IWC is accompanied by legally binding schedule which sets out specific measures that the IWC has collectively decided as necessary in order to regulate whaling and conserve whale stocks. Schedule can be amended by at least three quarters majority agreement unlike convention.
Conservation measures advocated under the schedule are catch limits (which may be zero as it the case for commercial whaling) by species and area, designating specified areas as whale sanctuaries, protection of calves and females accompanied by calves, and restrictions on hunting methods.

RBI launches SRPHi

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has launched Survey on Retail Payment Habits of Individuals (SRPHi). The Survey will capture payment habits of individuals in cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru and Guwahati.

About the Survey

Sigma Research & Consulting Pvt Ltd has been engaged by RBI to conduct the fieldwork of the survey. Around 6000 individuals from various socio-economic backgrounds across six cities would be covered under the survey.
The survey seeks qualitative responses from individuals on their payment habits. The findings of the survey will provide insights into awareness and usage habits of digital payment products.

Women’s wall for Gender Equality in Kerala

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

Vanitha Mathil, Women’s Wall

The event was organised by the Government of Kerala with the support of several political, religious and social groups. The participants at the Women’s Wall resolved to uphold the values of Kerala’s renaissance, ensure gender justice, and counter moves to turn the state into a lunatic asylum.
The event was also a counterdemonstration against the agitations preventing women of menstruating age from entering the Sabarimala shrine in violation of the Supreme Court’s ruling.
During the event, participants took a pledge to protect the values of social reformation movement, to support the idea of gender equality as conceived by the Constitution and to oppose any efforts to turn Kerala into “a lunatic asylum”.

Centre approves renaming Allahabad to ‘Prayagraj’

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

Why the name change was proposed?

The government of Uttar Pradesh has said that it is restoring the original name of the city. The government states that the city was rechristened during the reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar. Akbar called the city Illahabas, meaning the abode of God.
Before renaming by Akbar, the city was known as Prayag. Medieval texts, including Akbar’s court historian Abul Fazl, called the city as Piyag.

Procedure for changing Names

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

Justice AK Sikri nominated as Executive Chairman of NALSA

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

National Legal Services Authority (NALSA)

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

NALSA works in close coordination with the various State Legal Services Authorities, District Legal Services Authorities and other agencies for a regular exchange of relevant information, monitoring and updating on the implementation and progress of the various schemes. NALSA fosters a strategic and coordinated approach to ensure smooth and streamlined functioning of the various agencies and stakeholders.

RBI proposes loan restructuring of MSMEs

The RBI has proposed a one-time loan restructuring scheme for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). The loan restructuring would be a big relief for troubled small businesses hit by demonetisation in late 2016 and the implementation of goods and services tax (GST) in July 2017.

Features of the Restructuring scheme

The features of the restructuring scheme proposed by the RBI are:

The restructuring would aid provide a stimulus to the economy since the MSME sector contributes significantly to job creation and employs around 12 crore people, the second largest after the agriculture sector.

Norms for the manufacturing of defence items relaxed

The government has relaxed norms for the manufacturing of the defence items. As per new norms, manufacturing of items of defence aerospace and warships will now be covered by Industries (Development and Regulation) Act and will not require any licence from the Commerce and Industry Ministry.
The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, has issued a clarification on the list of defence products requiring a compulsory licence under Industries (Development & Regulation) Act, 1951 (IDRA), and Arms Act, 1959.
The new norms together with enhancing the ease of doing business will aid in attracting investments and fasten the process of indigenisation of defence production.

India-Pakistan exchange list of Nuclear Installations

Both India and Pakistan have exchanged their list of nuclear installations. The exchange was in accordance with the Agreement on Prohibition of Attacks against Nuclear Installations and Facilities between Pakistan and India.

Agreement on Prohibition of Attacks against Nuclear Installations and Facilities

The Agreement was signed between India and Pakistan on 31 December 1988 at Islamabad and came into force on 27th January 1991. As per the agreement:

Both countries have adopted the agreement as part of their efforts to uphold durable peace and develop friendly and harmonious bilateral relations. The exchange under the agreement is also a confidence-building measure in the bilateral relations.

New chairman for the Ordnance Factory Board

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

Indian Ordnance Factories

Indian Ordnance Factories organisation is a family of 41 Ordnance Factories under the aegis of its corporate headquarters Ordnance Factory Board, Kolkata. It is working under the aegis of Ministry of Defence.
The ordnance factories form an integrated base for the indigenous production of defence hardware and equipment. The primary objective of the ordnance factories is achieving self-reliance in equipping the armed forces with state of the art battlefield equipment.

Saurabh Kumar

Saurabh Kumar is a 1982-batch Indian Ordnance Factory Service officer and has done his M-Tech in mechanical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur.
Saurabh Kumar has served in the Ministry of Defence as the director of planning and coordination from 2002 to 2009. He has played an instrumental role in drafting the Indian offset policy for defence purchases and the ‘Make’ procedure in the Defence Procurement Procedure of 2003-04 during his tenure in the Defence Ministry.
Saurabh Kumar has also served as the general manager of the Engine Factory at Avadi (2012-13) was involved in operationalising the project and initiating an indigenisation programme which culminated in the handing over of fully indigenous engines of T-90 ‘Bhishma’ and T-72 ‘Ajeya’ tanks to the Raksha Mantri in July 2018.

Krishak Bandhu scheme of West Bengal

The government of West Bengal has announced the Krishak Bandhu scheme to address the farm distress in the state.

Features of the Scheme

The important features of the scheme are:

Financial burden on the exchequer

The average land holding per cultivator in West Bengal is pegged at around 0.5 hectares (or 1.2 acres). Hence the average financial assistance to a farmer would come around to Rs 6000. To even cover 50 lakh farmers, the burden on the exchequer would be Rs 3000 Cr.

States set to roll out Parivesh

An ambitious web-based single-window system Parivesh (Pro-Active and Responsive facilitation by Interactive, Virtuous and Environmental Single-window Hub) for environmental clearances will be rolled-out at state levels by January 15. Parivesh provides for an automated system for submission, clearance and monitoring. Parivesh is expected to bring an end to the clearance nightmare for entrepreneurs. Parivesh has already been implemented at the Central level.

Parivesh

Parivesh is a web-based workflow application which has been developed for online submission and monitoring of the proposals submitted by the proponents for seeking Environment, Forest, Wildlife and CRZ Clearances from Central, State and district level authorities.
Parivesh automates the entire tracking of proposals which includes online submission of a new proposal, editing/updating the details of proposals and displays status of the proposals at each stage of the workflow.

Benefits of the Parivesh

The automated Parivesh provides the following benefits:

Parivesh provides for an amalgamation of various objectives of government like Digital India initiated by the Prime Minister and capturing the essence of Minimum Government and Maximum Governance.

Paper Sensor to detect freshness of Milk

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

How does the Kit work?

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

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

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

Kit

The probe discs were attached to a 2 cm square transparent cellulose acetate film. Another layer cellulose acetate film is coated as cover on the probe. The milk is injected through the tiny hole on the cover. The colour change is photographed and processed using a smartphone to get the results.

January 3, 2019

President Trump signs ‘Asia Reassurance Initiative Act’ into law

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

Features of the Act

The important features of the act are:

Significance for India

The act reiterates US commitment to all bilateral and security agreements and arrangements between the two countries, including the New Framework for the United States-India Defense Relationship, and the United States-India Defense Technology and Trade Initiative.
Noting that designation of India as a major defence partner, which is unique to India the law states that the designation elevates defence trade and technology cooperation between the United States and India to a level commensurate with the closest allies and partners of the United States.

Odisha reduced the cases of Malaria by 80 percent

Odisha is highly endemic for malaria and bears almost a quarter of the country’s disease burden. Through its innovative methods involving non-health workers in malaria control, Odisha was able to reduce the number of cases by 80 per cent.

How Odisha fought the battle?

The battle of Odisha resulted has resulted in the decline in the number of cases. Close to  4, 44, 850 cases of malaria in 2016 in the State and it dropped to around 55,360 till October 2018. Deaths were reduced from 77 in 2016 to four in 2018. Odisha achieved this significant achievement through:

All these cohesive, concentrated efforts results resulted in the decline in the number of cases of Malaria in the state of Odisha. States like Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Assam, which have a high incidence of Malaria, can learn from the Odisha model to replicate the success.

Aadhaar amendment Bill introduced in Lok Sabha

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

Features of the Bill

The important features of the Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill 2018 are:

Why the amendments are proposed?

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

Ujjwala Yojana beneficiaries register refill rate of 80%

The Ujjwala Yojana was first of its kind welfare scheme initiated by the Ministry of Petroleum. But the viability of the scheme was questioned citing that there would not be refills from the beneficiaries of the scheme. The current data from the Ministry of Petroleum has put the refill rate at 80%.

Refilling of cylinders under Ujjwala

The data from the Ministry of Petroleum states that around six crore connections were disbursed under the Ujjwala scheme. There were 23 crore refills under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana.
Almost 80 per cent of the recipients have opted for a refill of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) cylinders. The average refilling was four for the Ujjwala connections and in some cases, there were refills up to 12.

Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana

Under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana LPG connections will be provided to BPL families with the support of Rs.1600 per connection. The connections will be issued in the name of women of the households. The identification of the BPL families will be done through 2011 Socio-Economic Caste Census Data.
The scheme aims to safeguard the health of women & children by providing them with a clean cooking fuel of LPG, so that they don’t have to compromise their health in smoky kitchens or wander in unsafe areas collecting firewood.

Heritage conservation in Indian Railways

The Ministry of Railways has initiated several steps to promote heritage conservation. The conservation measures undertaken by railways include a revival of Steam Locomotives, up-keeping Hill Railways, a special delegation of powers to Divisions for promoting Hill and Steam tourism, strengthening Railway museums, conservation of built heritage, digitization of Railway Heritage and bringing it online for universal access etc.

Measures undertaken for Heritage conservation

The measures undertaken for heritage conservation are:

Ministry of Railways had also organised a day-long event of heritage officers of Zonal Railways and Production Units to give complete attention to the century-old rich heritage of Indian Railways and to train them in heritage conservation approaches.

Parliamentary Panel Report on Western Ghats

The Western Ghats has an exceptionally high level of biological diversity and endemism and is recognized as one of the world’s eight ‘hottest hotspots’ of biological diversity. The Western Ghats represents geomorphic features of immense importance with unique biophysical and ecological processes.
The Rajya Sabha Committee on Government Assurances has examined issues related to the categorisation of the Western Ghats as ecologically sensitive areas (ESA) as per the recommendations of two committees led by Madhav Gadgil and K. Kasturirangan.

Observations of the Committee

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

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

Monuments of national importance

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has declared 6 monuments as Monuments of national importance in 2018.

Monuments of national importance declared in 2018

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

Criterion for the declaration of Monument of National Importance

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

What is an Ancient Monument?

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

Sabarimala Opens for Makaravilakku festival season

The Sabarimala shrine has been opened for the annual 21-day annual Makaravilakku festival season.

Women Enters Sabarimala Shrine

The History was made on 2nd January 2019. Women on the menstrual age entered the Sabarimala shrine during this season of Makaravilakku festival. Even though Supreme Court had struck down the century-old religious practice which barred the entry of women in the menstrual age to the temple, the entry of women was not possible due to widespread opposition by the religious groups. But during the early hours of 2nd January 2019 two women by name Bindu Ammini, 42 years and Kanaka Durga, 44 years entered the adobe of Swamy Ayappa.

Makaravilakku

Makaravilakku is the religious practice performed by the tribes in the forest of Ponnambalamedu. Once the Cyrus star (Makara Jyothi) appears in the sky during the day of the Makara Sankranti festival, the tribes perform their rituals in a temple at Ponnambalamedu forest.
As part of the ritual, the tribes perform aarathi by lighting camphor and ghee in a vessel and circling around the idol at the temple in the Ponnambalamedu forest 3 times. This Aarathi performed by the tribes is referred to as Makaravilakku.

Initiatives to reduce carbon emissions from Farming

Recognising the need to cut down on carbon emissions to tackle climate change, the government of India has taken the following steps to reduce the emissions from the farm sector:

Together with above initiatives, various sub-programmes initiated by government like Soil Health Card (SHC), Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY), Mission Organic for Value Chain Development for North East (MOVCD), Rainfed Area Development (RAD), Sub-Mission on Agroforestry (SMAF) and National Bamboo Mission (NBM) are contributing towards cutting down of carbon emissions from farm sector.

Government to introduce Commercial Space Activities Bill in the Budget session

The government is likely to introduce the Commercial Space Activities Bill in the budget session. The government has said in Lok Sabha that “Steps are being taken so that the Bill could be possibly introduced during the Budget session 2019”.

Features of the Space Activities Bill, 2017

The Space Activities Bill, 2017 is aimed at regulating space activities to ensure peaceful exploration and use of outer space. The important features of the bill are:

Shortfalls of the Bill

The criticisms against the bill are:

The bill had received responses from the public, Indian aerospace industry, related start-ups, space law experts, scholars, satcom companies and scientists. The government is in the process to address the concerns expressed by the stakeholders.

Union Cabinet approves bill to amend the ST list of Arunachal Pradesh

The Union cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved the bill to amend the ST list of Arunachal Pradesh. The bill Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Amendment) Bill, 2018 will now be introduced in the parliament for seeking the approval.

Amendment to the ST list of Arunachal Pradesh

The amendment bill Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Amendment) Bill, 2018 aims to make following changes in the schedule tribes list of Arunachal Pradesh:

Procedure to amend the ST list

Under the article 342 (1) of the Constitution of India, the President of India was empowered to specify, the castes, races, tribes or parts of groups within castes or races, which shall be deemed to be Scheduled Tribes in relation to that State or Union territory. Thereafter to amend the ST list, a law must be passed by the Parliament.

GEF assisted Green – Ag Project to transform Indian Agriculture

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

About the Project

The features of the project are:

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

January 4, 2019

Export Promotion Cell for MSMEs

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

Exports from the MSME sector

The performance of the MSMEs in the exports is listed below

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

Benefits of the Promotion Cell

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

Governing Council to be set up

In order to ensure the efficient delivery of the export-related interventions for the MSMEs, the MSME Ministry has decided to set up a governing council chaired by the secretary of the MSME ministry and co-chaired by the development commissioner, MSME.
The council will also comprise of senior officials and members from ministries of MSME and commerce, MSME Export Promotion Council, Export Development Authority, Commodity Boards, and other bodies.

High-level committee for the implementation of clause 6 of the Assam Accord

The Union cabinet has approved the setting up of a high-level committee for the implementation of clause 6 of the Assam Accord. The committee is formed to address the sense of feeling that clause 6 has not been fully implemented even almost 35 years after the accord was signed.

What the committee will look into?

The committee will look into the following aspects:

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

Clause 6 of the Assam Accord

The clause 6 of the Assam Accord reads “Constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, as may be appropriate, shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.”
The Assam Accord came as a culmination of a movement against immigration from Bangladesh. The cutoff date to be considered as citizens of India under the accord was set at March 24, 1971. The immigrant’s up to March 24, 1971, will get all rights as citizens of India. But the immigrants are not eligible for safeguards meant for Assamese people because the cutoff for defining “Assamese people” eligible for the proposed safeguards was set at National registry of Citizens, 1951. Hence those who migrated between 1951 and 1971 to Assam would be Indian citizens, but would not be eligible for safeguards meant for “Assamese people”.

Measures to tackle stubble burning

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

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

Union Cabinet approves amendments to the Trade Union Act, 1926

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

Amendments Proposed

The amendment bill provides for inserting of section 10A in the Trade Union Act, 1926 to power centre and state governments to recognize trade unions and federation of trade unions at central as well as state level.
The amendment bill once passed by the parliament, the Ministry of Labour would issue rules and regulations prescribing the manner of recognition of these trade unions.

Benefits from the Proposed recognition to Trade Unions

The benefits of formal recognition to the trade unions are:

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

Go Green Initiatives in Indian Railways

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

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

How Metro Policy 2017 can be made more effective?

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

Components of the Metro Policy 2017

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

Making the Policy more Effective

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

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

Parliament passes NCTE amendment Bill

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

Features of the Bill

The important features of the bill are:

Why the bill was necessary?

As per the data from the Ministry of Human Resource Development, 23 state and Central universities and colleges offering B.Ed courses were found not recognised by the National Council for Teacher Education.
As a result, the fate of thousands of students who had completed the courses from these unrecognized institutes was in jeopardy as their degrees would not be recognized anywhere. Hence the granting of retrospective permission had become a necessity.

Parliament passes RTE amendment Bill

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

What was the amendment proposed?

The features of the amendment proposed are:

No detention Policy

The features of the No detention policy are:

Why the no detention policy was withdrawn?

The Parliamentary Standing Committee had made the following observations:

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

Pakistan withdraws on-arrival visa facility for Afghan Nationals

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

New Visa Policy for Afghans

As per the new policy:

Impact on Afghan Population

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

Anindita Neogy Anaam honoured with National Nritya Shiromani award

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

Cuttack Mahotsav: International Dance and Music Festival

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

Anindita Neogy Anaam

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

New Delhi World Book Fair

The New Delhi World Book Fair will be held at the Pragati Maidan. The theme of the 27th edition of the New Delhi World Book Fair is “Readers with special needs”. The UAE’s third largest emirate Sharjah is the guest of honour for the New Delhi World Book Fair.

New Delhi World Book Fair

The New Delhi World Book Fair would be inaugurated by the Minister for Human Resource Development Prakash Javadekar. The theme “Readers with special needs” has been chosen to generate emotions of not sympathy but respect and equality.
An exclusive exhibition of Braille books, audio books, integrated print-braille books and books for people and children with different disabilities will be showcased in the Fair’s theme pavilion.
An International Disability Film Festival “We Care” has also been organised where 45 films from 27 countries would be screened. To commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, an exhibition of books on and by Gandhi and his associates will also be put up at the book fair.

106th Session of Indian Science Congress Inaugurated

Prime Minister, Narendra Modi delivered the inaugural address at the 106th session of the Indian Science Congress. The 106th Indian Science Congress is being held at Jalandhar. The theme of the 106th science congress is ‘Future India: Science and Technology’.
Reflecting on the theme of ‘Future India: Science and Technology’, PM Modi said that he would like to add Jai Anusandhan to former prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri’s famous slogan of Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan and Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s Jai Vigyan. He gave the nation a new slogan Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan, Jai Vigyan and Jai Anusandhan.

Indian Science Congress

Indian Science Congress is organised by the Indian Science Congress Association every year in the first week of January. The Indian Science Congress Association was started in the year 1914 in Kolkata and has a membership of more than 30,000 scientists.
The two British chemists, namely, Professor J. L. Simonsen and Professor P. S. MacMahon thought that scientific research in India might be stimulated if an annual meeting of research workers somewhat on the lines of the British Association for the Advancement of Science could be arranged. This led to the establishment of the Indian Science Congress Association and the annual session of the Indian Science Congress.

Ministry of Commerce clarifies on FDI rules in e-commerce

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

Provisions for FDI in e-commerce

The DIPP has clarified on the following provisions:

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

Pakistan’s Provincial Government declares Panj Tirath Hindu religious site as national heritage

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) provincial government of Pakistan has declared the ancient Hindu religious site of Panj Tirath in Peshawar of North Western Pakistan as national heritage.
The Directorate of Archaeology and Museums of KP has issued a notification under the KP Antiquities Act 2016 declaring the land in the Panj Tirath Park as a heritage site.

Significance of the Site

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

NASA’s New Horizon spacecraft flew past Ultima Thule

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

Discoveries about Ultima Thule

The New Horizon has discovered interesting facts about Ultima Thule:

New Horizon Mission

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

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

China’s Chang’e 4 probe makes historic touchdown

China’s Chang’e 4 probe spacecraft has become the first spacecraft to land on the far side of the moon.
Chang’e 4 is a Chinese lunar exploration mission that aims to achieve soft-landing on the far side of the Moon. The mission aims to deliver samples of Moon rock and soil to Earth.
About the Mission:

Von Kármán crater and the far side of Moon:

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

Chandrayaan-2 mission launch most likely in Feb

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

Chandrayaan-2

The features of the Chandrayaan-2 mission are:

Accomplishments of Chandrayaan-1

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

January 5, 2019

Targets under the Street Lighting National Programme likely to be missed

Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Power and Renewable Energy, R K Singh has stated in Lok Sabha that the targets set under the Street Lighting National Programme are most likely to be missed.

Street Lighting National Programme

The Street Lighting National Programme was launched on 5th January 2015. The programme aims to replace 3.5 crore conventional street lights with energy efficient LED lights. This replacement is expected to result in an annual energy saving of 900 crore units and a financial saving of Rs 5,500 crore. Energy Efficiency Services Limited is the implementing agency for the programme.

Energy Efficiency Services Limited

Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), founded in 2009, is a joint venture of four national Public-Sector Undertakings NTPC Limited, Power Finance Corporation Limited, Rural Electrification Corporation Limited and POWERGRID Corporation of India Limited. EESL is leading the market-related activities of the National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency (NMEEE), one of the eight national missions under the National Action Plan on Climate Change.

Implementation of Street Lighting National Programme

The Energy Efficiency Services Limited has installed over 76.77 lakh LED street lights against the target set to install 1.34 crore set by March 2019. The Street Lighting National Programme has not been implemented so far in Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Meghalaya and Union Territories of Daman & Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Lakshadweep.

RBI forms expert committee to rejuvenate MSMEs

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has formed an expert committee to look into the various challenges being faced by MSMEs and suggest ways and measures to rejuvenate them.

Composition of the Committee

The eight-member committee would be chaired by former Securities and Exchange Board of India chairman UK Sinha. The other members of the committee are Ram Mohan Mishra, Pankaj Jain, PK Gupta, Anup Bagchi, Abhiman Das, Sharad Sharma, and Bindu Ananth.

Terms of Reference of the Committee

The Terms of Reference of the Committee include:

Significance of MSMEs for Indian Economy

The MSMEs are termed as engines of growth of India. MSMEs account for more than 80% of the total industrial enterprises in India creating more than 8000 value-added products and contribute about 8% to the GDP. About 45% of total manufacturing output and 40% of the total exports from the country are from MSMEs.

Lok Sabha Passes the Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2018

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

Features of the Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2018

The features of the bill are:

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

Atal Solar Krishi Pump Yojana

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

Atal Solar Krishi Pump Yojana

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

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

Utilisation of funds by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs

The data released by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs outlines the following trends in the utilisation of funds:

Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY)

HRIDAY was launched by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs was launched to preserve and revitalise soul of the heritage city to reflect the city’s unique character by encouraging aesthetically appealing, accessible, informative & secured environment.
The scheme is being implemented in 12 identified Cities namely, Ajmer, Amaravati, Amritsar, Badami, Dwarka, Gaya, Kanchipuram, Mathura, Puri, Varanasi, Velankanni and Warangal in a mission mode.

10% Lumpsum Scheme

Under the 10% Lumpsum Scheme of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, 10% of the Annual Plan Budget of the Ministry is earmarked for implementation of projects / schemes for the North Eastern States including Sikkim.

North-Eastern Region Urban Development Programme (NERUDP)

The North Eastern Region Urban Development Programme (NERUDP) has been taken up with the financial assistance from Asian Development Bank (ADB).
The scheme is being implemented in the capital cities of 5 North Eastern States viz. Agartala (Tripura), Aizawl (Mizoram), Gangtok (Sikkim), and Kohima (Nagaland) covering priority urban services likeWater Supply, Sewerage and Sanitation, and Solid Waste Management besides capacity building, institutional and financial reforms of urban local bodies.

To monitor the progress of schemes and funds allocated to the States, various institutional frameworks such as submission of periodic progress reports, review meetings, video conferences and field visits have been put in place by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.

National Entrepreneurship Awards 2018 presented at New Delhi

The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) presented the National Entrepreneurship Awards 2018 by honouring 30 outstanding young entrepreneurs and three entrepreneurship ecosystem builders for their exceptional contribution in entrepreneurship development at a ceremony held in New Delhi.
Those honoured included:

National Entrepreneurship Awards

The National Entrepreneurship Awards was instituted by the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship in 2016 to encourage a culture of entrepreneurship across the country.
Each of the enterprise/individual winners receives a trophy, certificate and a cash prize of Rs 5 lakh, while each of the winning organizations/institutes receives a trophy, certificate and a cash prize of Rs 10 lakh.

PM Modi inaugurated developmental works in Manipur

PM Modi inaugurated a slew of developmental works and laid the foundation stone for four projects during his visit to the North-Eastern state of Manipur.

Development Works Inaugurated

PM Modi inaugurated eight projects during his visit to the Manipur. They are:

Foundation Stone for New projects

PM Modi laid the foundation stone for four new projects

These developmental projects will aid in reaching out to the people of North-East especially Manipur and aid in the bridging of the gap between North-East and the rest of India.

Andhra Pradesh bags CBIP award for Polavaram project

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

Polavaram Multipurpose project

Under the Polavaram Multipurpose project, a dam is constructed across the Godavari River in West Godavari District and East Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh. The reservoir of the dam also spreads to parts of Chhattisgarh and Orissa States.
Through the Polavaram Project, 291,000 ha of new land will be brought under irrigation in which 129,000 ha by the right canal and 162,000 ha by the left canal.
Central Board of Irrigation and Power
Central Board of Irrigation and Power (CBIP) is a Premier Institution of Indian government rendering dedicated services to the professional organization, engineers and individuals in the country related to Power, Water Resources and Renewable Energy Sectors for the last 90 years. CBIP was established in the year 1927.

Lok Sabha passes New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Bill

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

New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Bill

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

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

Asia Competitiveness Institute releases Ease of Doing Business Rankings for Indian states

The Asia competitiveness institute (ACI) has released the Ease of Doing Business Rankings for Indian states.

Rankings of Indian States

Andhra Pradesh has topped the Ease of Doing Business rankings. Maharashtra and Delhi came in second and third place respectively.

Performance of Andhra Pradesh

Andhra Pradesh has jumped from the 7th rank in 2016 to the 3rd rank in 2018 in Attractiveness to Investors and the rankings have been increased from 6th to the 1st position in Business Friendliness.
The ranking of Andhra Pradesh dropped from 2nd to the 4th rank in Competitiveness Policies. Overall the ranking of Andhra Pradesh has increased from 5th rank in 2016 to the top spot in 2018.

Scope for Improvement for Andhra Pradesh

The ACI has highlighted the following areas for improvement for Andhra Pradesh in its report:

Taking note of the findings of the report the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh has announced that the state government will consider the observations of the ACI EDB rankings report and strengthen the areas of weaknesses.
 

UN observes First-Ever World Braille Day

The United Nations observed the first official World Braille Day on 4th January to create awareness about the importance of Braille for approximately 1.3 billion people living with some form of distance or near vision impairment.
The proclamation for the celebration of World Braille Day was made by the United Nations General Assembly as a means for realising the human rights of visually-impaired and partially-sighted people, and bringing written language to the forefront as a critical prerequisite for promoting fundamental freedoms.

Why January 4th?

World Braille Day is celebrated on the January 4th to honour Louis Braille, who is credited for inventing the Braille script. Louis Braille was born in France on 4 January 1809. The World Braille Day is celebrated on his Birth Anniversary.

Indian Railways to replace the conventional coaches with modern LHB coaches

The Indian Railways has decided to replace conventional coaches with modern LHB (Linke Hofmann Busch) design coaches in all long distance trains.
Indian Railways is undertaking a massive retrofitting exercise to convert existing conventional coaches into LHB ones by providing crashworthiness features in these coaches. Safety parameters like strong couplers and anti-climbing features are being provided during the retrofit exercise.
The Railways has decided to stop manufacturing of ICF conventional coaches from 2018-19 and production of LHB coaches will be expedited from 2017-18 in a big way to provide a safer and comfortable ride for passengers.

Why the replacement is being undertaken?

The Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) coaches are equipped with modern technology to prevent capsizing of coaches during derailments. The ICF coaches were getting overturned and capsized during the derailments. As a result, there was more damage to life and property. Hence the Ministry of Railways has decided to replace conventional coaches with modern LHB coaches.
The LHB coaches provide advantages like anti-telescopic feature which do not penetrate into the adjacent coaches in case of accidents. Further, the LHB coaches do not climb on the adjacent coaches, due to the use of Center Buffer Coupling (CBC).

January 6, 2019

Swachh Survekshan Survey launched in New Delhi

The fourth edition of the Swachh Survekshan Survey has been launched in New Delhi. The Swachh Survekshan 2019 will be conducted by an independent third party across 4,237 towns and cities between January 4 and 28.

Objectives of the Swachh Survekshan Survey

The objectives of the Swachh Survekshan Survey are:

The Swachh Survekshan Survey 2019 will be a completely digital and paperless survey and would be completed in a record time of 24 days.

Vijay Mallya declared as Fugitive Economic Offender

The  Prevention of Money Laundering (PMLA) court in Mumbai has declared Vijay Mallya as a Fugitive Economic Offender. Vijay Mallya is the first businessman to be charged under the new fugitive economic offender’s act 2018.

Declaration of the Fugitive Economic Offender

Vijay Mallya is declared as the Fugitive Economic Offender under the following provisions:

The person who is declared as a Fugitive Economic Offender can challenge the proclamation in the High Court within 30 days of such declaration according to the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018.

Orange alert sounded for Cyclone Pabuk

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has stated that cyclone Pabuk will move northwestwards and cross the Andaman Islands late on 6th Jan as a cyclonic storm with wind speed up to 90 kmph. IMD has sounded a orange alert for the cyclone Pabuk. The Pabuk cyclone would cause heavy rain over the Andaman Islands.

Cyclone Pabuk

Cyclone Pabuk originated over the Gulf of Thailand and neighbourhood. The IMD predicts that Pabuk would move west-northwestwards and emerge into the Andaman Sea. Then it would move northwestwards and cross the Andaman Islands. Then recurve northeastwards towards Myanmar coast and weaken gradually.

Course of Cyclone Pabuk

Cyclone warnings

The four stages of cyclone warnings in India are:

Stage of warning Colour code
Cyclone Alert Yellow.
Cyclone Warning Orange.
Post-landfall outlook Red.

Even though there is no cyclonic situation for Odisha, Seven districts of Odisha have been put on alert and the weather in Odisha would be cloudy and dry.

National Health Agency to be restructured as National Health Authority

The Union Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Modi has approved the restructuring of existing National Health Agency as National Health Authority. The existing society, “National Health Agency” has been dissolved and it is now restructured as an Authority to effectively the implement Pradhan Mantri – Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY).
The National Health Authority would be empowered with full autonomy, accountability and the mandate to implement PM-JAY through an efficient, effective and transparent decision-making process by aligning the accountability with responsibility.

Why the Authority has been constituted?

The reasons for restructuring as an authority are:

The National Health Authority would be chaired by Union Health Minister and have representation from the Government and domain experts.

Pradhan Mantri – Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY)

Pradhan Mantri – Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY) is a scheme of the government under Ayushman Bharat. The scheme aims to reduce the financial burden on poor and vulnerable groups arising out of catastrophic hospital episodes and ensure their access to quality health services was conceived. It also seeks to accelerate India’s progress towards the achievement of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and Sustainable Development Goal – 3 (SDG3).
Under the scheme about 10.74 crore poor, deprived rural families and identified occupational categories of urban workers’ families as per the latest Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) data (approx. 50 crore beneficiaries) will have health benefit cover of Rs. 500,000 per family per year at free of cost. The health benefit cover includes more than  1,350 medical packages covering surgery, medical and daycare treatments, cost of medicines and diagnostics.

Two years of insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC)

The Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has written a Facebook post titled ‘Two years of insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC)”. In the post, he explains how things have been changed after the IBC was passed by the Parliament.
Once the IBC was passed by the government, the government took immediate steps to set up Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India and National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT).

Recovery of Debt

The Finance Minister states that the recovery under the IBC was satisfactory and highlights the ways under IBC through which the money was recovered:

There has been a definite improvement in the lending and borrowing behaviour, an increase in the conversion of NPAs into standard accounts and decline in new accounts are a testimony to this fact.
The Finance Minister notes that so far 1322 cases have been admitted by NCLT. 4452 cases have been disposed at the pre-admission stage and 66 have been resolved after adjudication. 260 cases have been ordered for liquidation. In 66 resolution cases, the realization by creditors was around Rs. 80,000 crores.

PM Modi lays Foundation Stone for Mandal Dam Project

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has laid the foundation stone for the Mandal Dam Project on the North Koel River. The Mandal Dam Project would be boon for the states of Jharkhand and Bihar.

Mandal Dam Project

The features of the Mandal Dam project are:

Why the project was stalled?

The construction of the Mandal Dam began in 1972 and continued till 1993. Later it was stalled over the concerns raised by the Bihar Forest Department.
The project threatens to submerge the portions of the Palamau Tiger Reserve and Betla National Park. The central government has now approved the ‘in principle’ for diversion of forest under Palamu Tiger Reserve (PTR) for the construction of Mandal Dam. The Central Government has set some conditions in this regard.

North Koel River

North Koel River originates on Ranchi plateau in Jharkhand and joins the Sone River, a few miles north-west of Haidarnagar in Jharkhand. The river meanders through the northern part of Betla National Park. The principal tributaries of the North Koel River are Auranga and the Amanat.

Yarn Bank Scheme

The Ministry of Textiles, Government of India had launched a Yarn Bank Scheme as one of the components of PowerTex India scheme with an aim to avoid fluctuation in yarn price.

Objectives of the Scheme

The objectives of the Yarn Bank Scheme are:

Financial Assistance under the Scheme

Under the scheme, an interest-free corpus fund up to Rs.2.00 crore would be provided to the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV)/Consortium formed by power loom weavers.

PowerTex India

PowerTex India is a comprehensive scheme for power loom sector development. The components of the scheme are:

The PowerTex India is an integrated scheme for the development of the power loom sector. PowerTex India aims to boost common infrastructure and modernise the power loom sector in the country.

January 7, 2019

70-Point Grading Index to Assess Quality of School Education in the States

The Ministry of Human Resource Development has launched 70-Point Grading Index to assess the quality of school education in the states.

About the Grading Index

The salient features of the 70-Point Grading Index are:

The Ministry has initiated the grading index to focus on quality improvement. The Ministry is also in the process of setting up a Central Institute of Assessment to strengthen Continuous and Comprehensive Education and handhold states in ensuring customised teacher training and work on pedagogical improvements.

Nafed sell pulses to states under the scheme of Central Government

The National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd (Nafed) has sold over 5 lakh tonnes (lt) pulses to 10 States and a Union Territory at discounted rates under the scheme of central government.

Why the central government had introduced the scheme?

The first of its kind scheme was introduced by the central government to clear the stock procured during the past few years and improve nutritional indicators for poor households. The objectives of the scheme are:

Features of the scheme

The salient features of the scheme are:

The scheme is already showing the desired impact particularly on the lifting of market prices. Reports suggest that the mandi prices of pulses have already increased on an average by Rs 300-1,000 a quintal in different markets, even though it was just two and a half months since the scheme was launched.

Centre sets up Bezbaruah committee to review the implementation of clause 6 of Assam Accord

As per the announcement made to set up a high-level committee to review the implementation of clause 6 of the Assam Accord, the government has set up a committee headed by former Union tourism secretary M.P. Bezbaruah.

Terms of Reference of the committee

Clause 6 of the Assam Accord provides for Constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards to protect preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people. The committee set up to review the implementation of clause 6 of the Assam Accord will look into the following aspects:

The committee will be facilitated by the Noth East Division of the Home Ministry. The state government will provide the necessary administrative and logistic support to the committee.

Criticisms against the move

The State government has welcomed the move saying that the committee will work to fulfil a long-standing demand of the people of Assam to reserve seats in the assembly and local bodies for the indigenous people.
There is also criticism that the committee is an attempt to cover up the central government’s move to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 which aims to grant citizenship to immigrants. It is said that some provisions of the amendment bill are contrary to the Assam Accord.

Rail Kumbh Seva Mobile App

Rail Kumbh Seva Mobile App has been launched by the North Central Railway (NCR) to help the devotees arriving in Allahabad for the Kumbh Mela.

About the Mobile Application

The Mobile Application ‘Rail Kumbh Seva Mobile App’ has been designed to provide critical and valuable information to the devotees, tourists and other passengers who will visit Allahabad during the Kumbh Mela period. The app will assist the devotees in the following ways:

Kumbh Mela at Allahabad

The Mythological story related to Kumbh is narrated below,
“During an ongoing war between the demons and the demigods for the possession of the elixir of immortality (Amruth), few drops fell to earth at four places: Allahabad, Haridwar, Nasik, and Ujjain. At each of the four places, Kumbh Mela is held. At Allahabad, the drop of Amruth is believed to be fallen near Sangam and people assemble near the Sangam during Kumbh Mela to purge themselves of all sins by taking a dip in the waters and attain Moksha (Salvation).”
The Kumbh Mela is held in these four places based on the astrological calculations it returns to each place after a gap of twelve years.
The normal Kumbh Mela is held every 3 years, the Ardh (half) Kumbh Mela is held every six years at Haridwar and Allahabad (Prayag) while the Purna (complete) Kumbh mela takes place every twelve years, at four places Prayag (Allahabad), Haridwar, Ujjain, and Nashik. The Maha Kumbh Mela is celebrated at Prayag after 144 years (i.e. after 12 ‘Purna Kumbh Melas’).

China passes law to make Islam compatible with socialism

The Peoples Republic of China has passed a new law to regulate Islam and make it more compatible with socialism by “Sinicizing Islam”.

Why the new law?

The new Chinese law aims to “Sinicise” Islam. The indifference of China towards Islam was garnering it loads of criticism:

Hence to address the criticisms China has brought in a law to “Sinicise” Islam.

China justifies the move

The Chinese Media justifying the law has stated that:
“Modern countries are secular and diverse in a globalized world. But the revival and spread of religion have impacted secular society. Fundamentalism has caused more religious violence. Religious nationalism is threatening countries’ legitimate governments and is resulting in social instability.”
“The main purpose of China’s five-year plan to sinicise Islam is to seek Islam governance that tallies with Chinese practice, and it is not only limited to Islam. The government would take similar measures with other recognised religions of the People’s Republic of China.”

Reservation for Economically Weaker Sections

The government has announced a decision to provide ten per cent reservation in jobs and higher education for those belonging to the economically backward sections of the general category. The government aims to provide the aid of reservation to economically backward poor people who are not availing the benefit of reservation as of now.

Who will be provided reservation and how?

As per the reports, those with annual family income below Rs 8 lakhs and owning less than five acres of land will be provided reservations.
This 10% reservation would be over and above the existing 50 per cent reservation.
The government plans to introduce a constitutional amendment to amend Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution for providing reservations.

Does it violate Supreme Court Judgments?

In the landmark verdict of Supreme Court in the Mandal case, the Supreme Court had held that the proposal to provide 10% Reservation for Other economically backward sections of the people who are not covered by any of the existing schemes of Reservation as constitutionally invalid.
The Supreme Court had held that mere economic backwardness or mere educational backwardness which is not the result of social backwardness cannot be the criterion of backwardness in Article 16 (4).
The Supreme Court has even ruled in the Indra Sawhney case that the share of jobs or educational or legislative seats reserved for different communities cannot together exceed 50%.
So the present order of the government to provide reservations violates some of the observations made by the Supreme Court in its previous judgments.

How can the government implement it?

The one way to implement the current reservation proposal is to include the law of providing reservations under the ninth schedule of the constitution.  An example of this can be Tamil Nadu Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutions and Appointments or Posts in the Services under the State) Act, 1993 was placed in ninth schedule of the constitution to keep Tamil Nadu’s reservation limit intact at 69%.
Even then the law must pass the judicial scrutiny as the supreme court has made it clear that any law placed in the Ninth Schedule after April 24, 1973 (which is the day the propounded the doctrine of in the Kesavananda Bharti’s case was delivered).
The present proposal is also seen as an attempt by the central government to consolidate the upper caste votes just ahead of the general elections.

‘Benefits of the Aadhaar – where it stands today’

The Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has released a Facebook post titled ‘Benefits of the Aadhaar – where it stands today’ highlighting how the efficient use of the Aadhaar based identification has aided in improving the governance and in efficient delivery of services.

How Aadhaar has aided in reducing leakages?

The Finance Minister highlights the efficacy of Aadhaar in reducing leakages through following instances:

The Minister further states from savings through efficient implementation of Aadhaar the government can fund three schemes of the size of Ayushman Bharat.

How Aadhaar benefitted the people?

The Minister notes that with Aadhaar the government was able to eliminate middlemen and the benefits of various welfare schemes were directed to the bank accounts of the beneficiaries. Under the schemes like

The Finance Minister gave special credits to Shri Nandan Nilekani who spearheaded the Aadhaar in the beginning days and Dr Ajay Bhushan Pandey, who subsequently provided it with the direction and expansion.

Impact of increase in salinity on Gangetic Dolphins

A five-year study by researchers Sangita Mitra (National Biodiversity Authority, Chennai) and Mahua Roy Chowdhury, (a marine biologist from the University of Calcutta, West Bengal) has been published in the Journal of Threatened Taxa.
The research has found that raising water salinity level is threatening the habitat of Gangetic river dolphins.

Findings of the Study

The study was conducted in the lower stretch of river Hooghly, covering 97 km stretch of the western, central and eastern Sundarbans in India between 2013 and 2016 in different seasons. The study area was demarcated for boat-based and land-based surveys based on interaction with local fishing communities. Researchers also measured the salinity level of the water during the different points in the survey. The findings of the Survey are:

Gangetic Dolphin

Gangetic Dolphins are the only surviving freshwater dolphin in India. Gangetic Dolphins are found in the river systems of Ganga, Brahmaputra, Meghna and Karnaphuli- Sangu in Nepal, India and Bangladesh. The IUCN status of the Gangetic Dolphin is Endangered. Gangetic Dolphin is the National Aquatic Animal of India.

The Impact of Crude Price Shock on CAD, Inflation and Fiscal Deficit

The RBI has released a paper titled ‘The Impact of Crude Price Shock on CAD, Inflation and Fiscal Deficit’. The paper outlines how the crude price shock will have an adverse impact on current account deficit (CAD), Inflation and Fiscal Deficit.

Highlights of the Research Paper

Since India is heavily dependent on oil imports for meeting its domestic demand, it remains susceptible to global crude price shocks. The research paper highlights the interrelation between the crude prices, CAD, Inflation and Fiscal Deficit as explained below:

The study concludes by stating that the actual impact on the inflation and fiscal deficit will depend on the level of government intervention through changes in tax and subsidy in the domestic oil markets.

CSO releases advance estimates of National Income for 2018-19

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation has released the first advance estimates of National Income for 2018-19.

Highlights of the Estimate

The Estimate makes the following observations:

Central Statistics Office (CSO)

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation coordinates the statistical activities in the country and evolves statistical standards.
The functions of the CSO include National Income Accounting, conducting of Annual Survey of Industries, Economic Censuses and its follow up surveys, compilation of Index of Industrial Production, as well as Consumer Price Indices for Urban Non-Manual Employees, Human Development Statistics, Gender Statistics, imparting training in Official Statistics, dissemination of statistical information, work relating to trade, energy, construction, and environment statistics, revision of National Industrial Classification, etc

Lok Sabha passes Personal Laws (Amendment) Bill 2018

The Lok Sabha has passed the Personal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018. The bill moved by Minister of State for Law PP Chaudhary seeks to remove leprosy as a ground for divorce in five personal laws – Hindu Marriage Act, Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, Divorce Act (for Christians), Special Marriage Act and the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act.

Why the amendment was moved?

The bill was introduced in Lok Sabha in August 2018. The bill was introduced as various recommendations were made to remove leprosy as a ground for divorce. Some of the recommendations are:

The Minister said that Leprosy is now a curable disease as against the earlier notion of it being incurable. Hence it would be wise to bring out an amendment in this regard.

Leprosy

Leprosy is a chronic infectious bacterial disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae. Leprosy mainly affects the skin, the peripheral nerves, mucosal surfaces of the upper respiratory tract and the eyes.
Even though the exact mechanism of transmission of leprosy is not known, the most widely held belief was that the disease was transmitted by contact between cases of leprosy and healthy persons. The possibility of transmission by the respiratory route is gaining ground more recently.
A centrally sponsored scheme National Leprosy Eradication Programme is being implemented in India to tackle the disease. India has eliminated leprosy as a public health problem, which means that there is less than 1 person in 10,000 infected with the disease. Even though the number seems low in percentage terms, when considered in absolute terms, it is humongous.

Rashtriya Gokul Mission

The Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare is implementing the scheme of Rashtriya Gokul Mission to conserve and develop indigenous breeds in a focused and scientific manner.
The scheme comprises of two components namely National Programme for Bovine Breeding (NPBB) and National Mission on Bovine Productivity (NMBP).

Objectives of the Mission

The objectives of the Mission are:

Initiatives under the Rashtriya Gokul Mission

The following initiatives have been undertaken under the Rashtriya Gokul Mission:

Rashtriya Gokul Mission aims to enhance the productivity of the indigenous breeds of India through professional farm management and superior nutrition.

January 8, 2019

National Policy for Domestic Workers

The Union Ministry of Labour and Employment has notified the draft National Policy on Domestic Workers. The policy aims to provide social security benefits to an estimated 39 lakh people employed as domestic workers by private households, of which 26 lakhs are female domestic workers.

Features of the Policy

The important features of the policy are:

Under the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act, 2008, the Central Government is providing social security benefits relating to life and disability cover, health and maternity benefits, old age protection to the unorganised workers including domestic workers.
The Union Ministry of Labour and Employment is also in process of drafting a universal social security code that would cover even domestic workers, who are otherwise deprived of benefits such as medical insurance, pension, maternity and mandatory leave.

MoU for sale of FASTag

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) has been signed between Indian Highways Management Company Limited (IMHCL) and leading Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) like BPCL, HPCL and IOCL for sale of FASTags through their petrol pumps.

FASTag

FASTag is an electronic toll collection system operated by the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI). FASTag enables automatic deduction of toll charges and lets you pass through the toll plaza without stopping for the cash transaction.
FASTags are linked to a prepaid account from which the applicable toll amount is deducted automatically. FASTag employs Radio-frequency Identification (RFID) technology.

Features of the FASTag

The features of the FASTag are:

There are plans to expand the FASTag to allow purchasing fuel at petrol pumps in future.

Radio-frequency Identification (RFID) technology

Radio-frequency Identification (RFID) technology uses electromagnetic fields to automatically identify and track tags which are containing electronically-stored information.
A two-way radio transmitter-receivers called interrogators or readers send a signal to the tag and read its response. The RFID reader transmits an encoded radio signal to interrogate the tag. The tag receives the message and then responds with its identification and other information.

National programme for organic production

The Ministry of Industries and Commerce had initiated the National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP) to assist the organic producers to tap the market which is growing steadily in the both in domestic and export segments.

Objectives of the National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP)

The Ministry of Industries and Commerce is implementing the NPOP since 2001 with the following objectives:

The Agricultural & Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) is the implementation agency for the NPOP. APEDA is providing assistance to the exporters of organic products under various components of its export promotion scheme.

Agricultural & Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA)

The APEDA was established by the Government of India under the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority Act passed by the Parliament in December 1985. APEDA replaced the  Processed Food Export Promotion Council (PFEPC). APEDA is mandated with the responsibility of promotion and development of the export of agricultural and its allied products.

Digital Initiatives for to promote the Ease of Doing Business of MSMEs

In the World Bank’s Doing Business (DB) rankings for 2019, India has climbed 23 spots to rank 77th globally. India has witnessed a substantial jump in the rankings for the second consecutive year. In the year 2018 India had jumped 30 places. The various digital interventions have been a great contributing factor for India in making this significant improvement.
To increase the ease of doing business rankings , it is a pre-requisite for India to give a special focus towards MSMEs to ensure that there is a robust and conducive environment for the sector. The Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) has introduced various digital initiatives in this regard. Some of them listed below:

Udyog Aadhaar Memorandum

Udyog Aadhaar Memorandum (UAM) is a one-page registration form which constitutes a self-declaration format under which the MSME will self-certify its existence, bank account details, promoter/owner’s Aadhaar details and other minimum information required. There shall be no fee for filing the Udyog Aadhaar Memorandum. Once the UAM is submitted, Udyog Aadhaar Number would be sent through e-mail.

MSME SAMADHAAN Portal

MSME Delayed Payment Portal –  MSME SAMADHAAN has been launched for empowering micro and small entrepreneurs across the country to directly register their cases relating to delayed payments by Central Ministries, Departments,  CPSEs or State Governments.

MSME SAMBANDH Portal

MSME SAMBANDH Portal has been launched to monitor the implementation of the Public Procurement from MSMEs by Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs). Together with assisting MSMEs for participation process it also helps Ministries and the CPSEs to assess their performance in procurement process as stipulated in Procurement Policy, 2012.

MSME SAMPARK Portal

The MSME Sampark portal is a digital platform, wherein, job seekers (passed out trainees / students of 18 MSME Technology Centers) and recruiters register themselves for getting employment and getting right kind of manpower respectively.

NASA Discovers New Planet

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of USA has discovered a new planet. It is the third new planet discovered by the NASA mission, Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).

HD 21749b- New Planet

The salient features of the newly discovered planet are:

Other planet discovered by TESS

The other two discoveries made by the TESS probe are Pi Mensae b and LHS 3844b. Pi Mensae b has an orbit of 6.3 days and LHS 3844b has an orbit of just 11 hours.

TESS Mission

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission of NASA is an explorer mission which is undertaking an all-sky survey to search for planets transiting nearby stars. The objective of the TESS mission is to discover planets smaller than Neptune that transit stars bright enough to enable follow-up spectroscopic observations that can provide planet masses and atmospheric compositions.

Indian Forest Service to be renamed as Indian Forest and Tribal Service

The Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions has initiated an inter-ministerial consultation note to rename the Indian Forest Service as Indian Forest and Tribal Service. The consultation note also contains the proposal to train the cadre to be more receptive towards tribals and forest dwellers.

Why the proposal has been made?

The proposal has been made according to the recommendations made by the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) in its annual report. The NCST had made the following observations in this regard:

Indian Forest Service

The erstwhile Imperial Forest Service was constituted in 1867 recognising the need to have a premier forest service to manage the varied natural resources of the vast country like India and to organize the affairs of the Imperial Forest Department.
After the subject of Forestry was moved to the “Provincial List” by the Government of India Act, 1935, the recruitment to the Imperial Forest Service was discontinued.
In the year 1966, the government of India constituted Indian Forest Service as one of the three All India Services under the All India Services Act, 1951.
The Indian forest service was provided with the mandate of the implementation of the National Forest Policy which envisages scientific management of forests and to exploit them on a sustained basis for primary timber products, among other things.

Airports Authority of India bans single-use plastic items

The Airports Authority of India has banned the single-use plastic items at its 129 airports across the country. The Airports Authority of India has initiated numerous steps like banning of single-use plastic items like straws, plastic cutlery, plastic plates etc.
The AAI has already declared 16 of its airports as “Single-Use Plastic Free” based on the third-party assessment carried out by Quality Council of India.

Single-use plastics

Single-use plastics, or disposable plastics, are used only once before they are thrown away or recycled. Petroleum-based plastic is not biodegradable and usually goes into a landfill where it is buried or it gets into the water and finds its way into the ocean. They degrade into tiny particles after many years. In this process of degradation, they release toxic chemicals (additives that were used to shape and harden the plastic) which make their way into our food and water supply.

Airports Authority of India

The Airports Authority of India was created under the Airports Authority of India Act, 1994. The Airports Authority of India came into being on 1st April 1995.
The Airports Authority of India was brought into existence as a single Organization entrusted with the responsibility of creating, upgrading, maintaining and managing civil aviation infrastructure both on the ground and airspace in the country by merging erstwhile National Airports Authority and International Airports Authority of India.

SC verdict on reinstating CBI chief Alok Kumar Verma: Key Facts

The Supreme Court of India has reinstated CBI director Alok Kumar Verma, setting aside the Centre’s order to divest him of his powers. The Supreme Court has restrained him from taking any major policy decision till the CVC probe into corruption charges against him is over.

Observations made by the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has further asked the high-powered committee which selects and appoints the CBI director to take any further decisions once the CVC submits its report after the probe.

The selection committee of the CBI director comprises the Prime Minister, the leader of opposition and the Chief Justice of India.

There is no provision in the law which permits the government to divest the CBI director of his powers and functions without prior consent from the high powered select committee.
Supreme Court cited the Vineet Narain verdict of 1997 where the Supreme Court underlined the fact that the tenure of the CBI director had been fixed to two years after the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act.

Vineet Narain verdict of 1997

The Supreme Court had delivered a landmark verdict in the case of Vineet Narain vs Union of India case, popularly known as the Jain hawala case. The Supreme Court in its verdict had pronounced measures to shield the CBI director from outside interference and make the director’s post more transparent. The measures are:

The Supreme Court had laid down these measures recognising the need to provide permanent insulation to agencies such as CBI against extraneous influences to enable them to discharge their duties in the manner required for proper implementation of the rule of law.

DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2018 introduced in Lok Sabha

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

Features of the Bill

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

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

Government approves around 5000 additional seats in Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas

The Union Minister of Human Resource Development Prakash Javadekar has announced an increase of around 5,000 seats at Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas across the country. This is the biggest-ever expansion and the number of seats has increased from 46,600 to 51,000 at the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (JNVs).

Why the increase?

The increase in the number of seats was part of the government efforts to increase the access to quality education for the student, especially from rural areas.
Over the time there has been an increase in the number of students applying for the exam to get enrolled in the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas. The number of applicants increased from 5.50 lakh aspirants in 2001 to 31.10 lakh aspirants in 2019.
The increase in the number of applicants reflects the growing aspirations of rural children for acquiring quality education. Hence the government has increased the number of seats to provide more opportunity for talented children from rural areas to get a quality education in the nearly free of cost residential schools.

Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas

Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas were set up under the provisions of National Policy on Education-1986. The Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas were set up to nurture and provide opportunities for children with special talent or aptitude to progress at a faster pace by making good quality education available to them irrespective of their capacity to pay for it.
It was a unique experiment in India where the students are selected for admission to Class 6 based on their performance at the entrance examination. These schools are fully residential and co-educational schools affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), New Delhi and provide education from class VI to XII standard.

Initiatives to promote e-vehicles

The following initiatives have been taken to promote e-vehicles in the country:

The government of India even has a plan of converting the entire new fleet of vehicles to fully electric by 2030.

UGC approves journals for Consortium for Academic and Research Ethics (CARE)

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has approved the list of journals for the “CARE Reference List of Quality Journals”. The Consortium for Academic and Research Ethics (CARE) is tasked to scrutinise and then compile a list of journals for social sciences, humanities, language, arts, culture, Indian Knowledge system etc.

Consortium for Academic and Research Ethics (CARE)

UGC had established Consortium for Academic and Research Ethics (CARE) to prepare a “CARE Reference List of Quality Journals”. The Consortium would compile a list of “credible quality journals” which would ultimately replace UGC’s own list of journals.
The Consortium would be headed by headed by the UGC Vice Chairman and would consist of government bodies and statutory councils.

Why the UGC has formed the Consortium?

A research paper led by Professor Bhushan Patwardhan had found that 88% of 1,009 journals recommended by universities and included in the white list were dubious and only 112 journals met the criteria set by UGC to be included in the list.
This high instance of the dubious journals had adversely impacted the image of UGC and as well as India at the international stage. Hence the UGC had announced the setting up of Consortium for Academic and Research Ethics to scrutinise and then compile a list of quality journals,
With Consortium for Academic and Research Ethics (CARE), UGC which is the principal funding agency for the universities aims to effectively discharge the responsibility of setting up academic standards and ensuring that they are followed.

Defence India Start-up Challenge

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

Problem Statements under the Defence India Startup Challenge

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

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

Defence Innovation Organisation

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

Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) scheme

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

January 9, 2019

GDP forecasts by Standard Chartered Plc: Key Facts

Standard Chartered Plc, a multinational company has made long term forecasts about the shake-up of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) rankings. The key elements of the forecast are:

Standard Chartered Plc has undertaken the long-term growth forecasts based on one key principle that countries’ share of world GDP should eventually converge with their share of the world’s population, driven by the convergence of per capita GDP between advanced and emerging economies.

Gross domestic product

Gross domestic product (GDP) is the market monetary value of all the final goods and services produced in a period of time, often annually or quarterly. It is the measure of the nation’s overall economic activity.

Standard Chartered Plc

Standard Chartered Plc is a British multinational banking and financial services company headquartered in London, England. Standard Chartered Plc is a universal bank with operations in consumer, corporate and institutional banking, and treasury services.

Gita Gopinath becomes the first female chief economist of IMF

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

Role of Chief Economist of IMF

The chief economist of IMF undertakes the following functions:

Gita Gopinath

Gita Gopinath is an Indian-American Economist. Prior to her present role as the Chief Economist of IMF, she was serving as the John Zwaanstra Professor of International Studies and Economics at Harvard University.
Born in Mysore, she holds a B.A. degree from Lady Shri Ram College for Women, University of Delhi (1992), Masters in economics from Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi (1994). She also completed her M.A. at the University of Washington (1996). In 2001, she completed her PhD at Princeton University.

Nilekani Panel to strengthen the Digital Payments Ecosystem

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

Members of the Committee

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

Terms of the Reference

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

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

Addressing the delays in settlements of claims under PMFBY

The operational guidelines of the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) prescribe the timeline of two months of completion of Crop Cutting Experiments/harvesting period for settlement of claims by insurance companies. This timeline is subjected to conditions like timely release of subsidy and yield data to the insurance companies.

Reasons for the delay in settlement of claims

One of the biggest drawbacks in the PMFBY was the delayed settlements of claims. The main reasons for the delay were:

Revised guidelines to overcome the delays

The government has comprehensively revised the Operational Guidelines of the PMFBY scheme to ensure better transparency, accountability and timely payment of claims to the farmers. The following provisions have been made in the operational guidelines:

Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY)

Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) is the government-sponsored crop insurance scheme that integrates multiple stakeholders on a single platform. It was supposed to provide a breakthrough by enhancing the coverage of the crop insurance and protect the farmers from the vagaries of the monsoon.
Under the scheme, there is a uniform premium of 2% to be paid by farmers for all Kharif crops, 1.5% for all Rabi crops and 5% in case of annual commercial and horticultural crops. The balance premium would be paid by the government. The scheme is being implemented in an area-based approach.

CAG report on the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management: Key Facts

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

Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG)

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India was is a constitutional body established under Article 148 of the Constitution of India. The CAG is responsible for undertaking audits of all receipts and expenditure of the Government of India and the state governments, including those of bodies and authorities substantially financed by the government. CAG is also the external auditor of Government-owned corporations and conducts the supplementary audit of government companies. CAG also serves as head of the Indian Audit and Accounts Department.
The reports of the CAG is examined by the Public Accounts Committees and Committees on Public Undertakings.

Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2018: Key Facts

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has released the Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2018. The report draws information from 142 countries, examining trafficking trends and patterns.

Findings of the Report

The important observations made in the report are:

Addressing human trafficking is a key component of the UN Sustainable Development Agenda. It requires the Member States to monitor progress in tackling the problem, and report the number of victims by sex, age and form of exploitation.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is a UN office established as Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention by combining the United Nations International Drug Control Program (UNDCP) and the Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Division in the United Nations Office at Vienna.
It was established in the year 1997 and is headquartered at Vienna. The United Nations Secretary-General appoints the agency’s Executive Director.
UNODC was established to ensure a coordinated, comprehensive response to the interrelated issues of illicit trafficking in and abuse of drugs, crime prevention and criminal justice, international terrorism, and political corruption.

Kumar Rajesh Chandra appointed Director General of the Sashastra Seema Bal

The appointment of Kumar Rajesh Chandra as the Director General of Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) has been approved by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet. As per the notification, he would continue in the post up to 31.12.2021 i.e. date of his retirement on superannuation or until further orders, whichever is earlier.
Kumar Rajesh Chandra is a 1985 batch IPS officer of the Bihar cadre.

Appointments Committee of the Cabinet

The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet headed by the Prime Minister decides on the appointments to several top posts under the Government of India. The committee also has Union Home Minister as the member.

Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB)

After the Chinese incursion of 1962, it was felt that the borders of the country could not be protected with the force of rifles alone. The government realised the importance of the backing and resolute will of a committed border population together with an in-depth understanding and familiarity of the terrain as well as the culture and ethos of the border population was required to defend the borders effectively.
Hence a unique, unconventional yet specialized organization, which would function in the far, flung, vulnerable, strategic, remote, climatically and topographically difficult border areas and motivate the border population across several states towards the cause of protecting our national sovereignty was conceived as Special Service Bureau in 1962. It was eventually created in March 1963. This Special Service Bureau was renamed the Sashastra Seema Bal in January 2001.

Lok Sabha passed 124th constitutional amendment bill to provide reservations to the economically weaker sections

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

Features of the Bill

The features of the 124th constitutional amendment bill are:

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

Citizenship Amendment Bill passed in Lok Sabha

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

Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019

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

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

Addressing the concerns against the Bill

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

Protestors led by Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) in Assam have imposed an economic blockade and have said that they would not allow locally produced oil, petroleum products, coal, forest products and limestone to be taken out of the state.

5-Judge Constitution Bench to hear Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid Case

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

What is the case?

In the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid Case 14 appeals were filed against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment. The verdict of the Allahabad High Court judgment had partitioned the 2.77-acre land equally among the three parties – the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.
The Allahabad High Court had concluded that Lord Ram, son of King Dashrath, was born within the 1,482.5 square yards of the disputed Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid premises over 9,00,000 years ago during the Treta Yuga.

Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid Dispute

The Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi case is a property dispute over the land where the Babri Masjid, a 16th-century mosque once stood. The mosque was razed by kar sevaks on 6 December 1992.
The Hindu groups claim that the exact site of Lord Ram’s birthplace is where the Babri Masjid was once located. They argue that the Mughals demolished a Hindu shrine that marked the spot of Lord Ram’s birthplace and constructed a mosque in its place. Those opposed to this view argue that such arguments arose only in the 18th century and that there is no evidence for the spot being the birthplace of Rama.
The political, historical and socio-religious debate over the history and location of the Babri Mosque, and whether a temple was demolished or modified to create the Masjid has become the focal point of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid Dispute.

Khelo India Youth Games 2019

Khelo India Youth games 2019 are being held at Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Pune. Previously called as Khelo India School Games, it has been now renamed as Khelo India Youth Games.

Khelo India Youth games

Khelo India Youth games are held annually in January or February as the national level multidisciplinary grassroot games. The games are held in two categories- under-17 years school students and under-21 college students.
Kelo India Youth games are part of  Khelo India programme, which was introduced to revive the sports culture in India at the grass-root level by building a strong framework for all sports played in our country and establish India as a great sporting nation.
Khelo India programme has been divided into 12 verticals, namely:

Verticals of Khelo India
 
Talented players identified in priority sports disciplines at various levels by the High-Powered Committee will be provided annual financial assistance of INR 5 lakh per annum for 8 years.

Kerala High Court makes notice mandatory for strike and Hartals

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

Why the 7 day notice period?

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

  • To provide time for the citizens to approach the court with their objections and to enable courts to examine the legality of the hartal call on request of citizens.
  • To provide an opportunity for the State to be prepared for safeguarding the interests of the citizens.
  • Even though the court recognised the fundamental right of those who call for a strike to demonstrate their protests, it made it clear that the rights cannot be exercised in violation of the fundamental rights of other citizens.
  • The court made it clear that the fundamental right of the citizens to life and livelihood would outweigh the fundamental right of persons calling for strikes and hartals.
  • The court further said that since the call for hartals and general strikes denies the fundamental rights of traders, the general public, migrant labourers and those in unorganised sectors, those persons who call for hartals will be held responsible for the loses suffered due to the event.

Observations of the High Court

The court observed that Kerala’s economy had taken a severe hit during the recent devastating floods and the frequent strikes will only cause more sufferings for the economy of the state. Kerala’s economy is dependent on tourism and the travel advisories issued by foreign countries against visiting Kerala cannot be ignored.
The Court noted that in 2018, 97 hartals and strikes had taken place in the State and in 2019 one hartal was called on January 3, Trade unions have also called for a two-day strike starting January 8. Frequent strikes like these are a cause of concern.

Pranav R Mehta becomes President of the Global Solar Council

Pranav R Mehta, President of the National Solar Energy Federation of India has become the president of the Global Solar Council. He has become the first Indian to head the Global Solar Council.

Global Solar Council

Global Solar Council is an international non-profit association of the national, regional and international associations in solar energy and the world‘s leading corporations.
The Global Solar Council headquartered in Washington D.C., USA. came into being following the historic United Nations Climate Change Conference (UN COP 21).
The Global Solar Council is an International Coalition of more than 30 nations, utilising maximum solar energy which have decided to harness the renewable energy for the greater good.

National Solar Energy Federation of India

National Solar Energy Federation of India is an umbrella organization of all solar energy stakeholders of India working in the area of policy advocacy for Solar Energy.
National Solar Energy Federation of India aims to provide a platform at the National level for addressing all issues connected with solar energy growth in India.

January 10, 2019

Sikkim to Introduce Universal Basic Income

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

Universal Basic Income (UBI)

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

Resources for Funding the UBI

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

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

Benefits of UBI

The 2017 Economic Survey had proposed UBI as a conceptually appealing idea which could be a possible alternative to social welfare programmes targeted at reducing poverty.
The advocates of the UBI praise the concept as futuristic which will allow the people to look into the future without worrying too much about income to sustain themselves.
The pilot programmes for the UBI has been successfully implemented in the states Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and tribal belts with fairly large samples.

IIT-M recreates Space Fuel

The researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras (IIT-M) have recreated space fuel by simulating interstellar conditions in the laboratory. It is a big breakthrough for India in the exploration of cleaner and sustainable alternatives to fossil fuel.
The discovery has the potential to convert atmospheric carbon dioxide into a next-generation energy source to curb greenhouse gases and global warming.
The research of the IIT-M in this regard has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Study of Space Fuels

The team from IIT-M was able to create methane-containing clathrate hydrates in ultra-high vacuum (1000 billion times below the atmospheric pressure) and at a temperature close to -263oC. i.e. the conditions at deep space.
This discovery of hydrates at extremely low pressures and ultra-cold temperatures is highly unexpected. The team predicts that molecules like methane and ammonia in space could exist in a completely different form than what is known to us.

Tackling Climate Change

Clathrate hydrates are crystalline solids containing gases like methane and carbon dioxide trapped in well-defined cages of water molecules. These hydrates, especially of methane, are considered to be the fuel of the future.
The researchers then repeated the experiments with carbon-di-oxide and similar hydrates were produced. This can be a breakthrough in dealing with global warming.  Now carbon dioxide can be trapped from the atmosphere and carbon dioxide gas can be sequestered as solid hydrates under the sea bed.

January 10: World Hindi Day

Every year 10th January is celebrated as World Hindi Day to create awareness about the language of Hindi across the World and to present Hindi as an international language.

Why 10th January?

The first world World Hindi Conference was organized in Nagpur on January 10, 1975. The conference saw representation from 30 countries. To commemorate the occasion, the government of India since 2006 is celebrating 10th January as World Hindi Day.

How it is different from Hindi Divas?

Every year Hindi Divas is celebrated on September 14th because it was the day Hindi was recognised as an official language. On 14 September 1949, the constituent assembly adopted Hindi written in Devanagari script as the Official Language of the Union.
While the World Hindi Day is aimed at the promotion of the Hindi language at the global stage, the Hindi Divas is being observed across the country at the national level.

Constitutional Provisions for the Promotion of Hindi

Hindi is the fourth most spoken language of the world. Various constitutional provisions like Article 120, Article 210, Article 343, Article 344 and Articles from 348 to 351 are aimed at the promotion of Hindi.
 

India’s longest single-lane steel cable suspension bridge inaugurated in Arunachal Pradesh

The Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh, Pema Khandu inaugurated India’s longest single-lane steel cable suspension bridge over Siang River in Upper Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh.

Key Facts about the Bridge

The important Facts about the Bridge are:

  • The bridge is 300-metre-long and is also known as byorung bridge.
  • The bridge will reduce the distance between Yingkiong and Tuting in Arunachal Pradesh by almost 40 km.
  • The bridge was constructed under the non-lapsable central pool of resources (NLCPR) of Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region at a cost of Rs 48.43 crore.
  • The bridge would help the movement of people residing on both sides of the river bank. The bridge would be of great help to around  20,000 people on living on both sides of the Siang river.
  • The bridge will also bolster defense preparedness and facilitate the army in their operations.

Siang River

The Siang River is considered as lifeline of Arunachal Pradesh. The Tsangpo river originates in the Angsi Glacier in the Himalayas. The river enters India through Arunachal Pradesh where it is called by name Siang. The river is also called as Dihang in the plain regions.  As the river flows through the plains it is joined by the rivers Dibang and Lohit. Downstream of the confluence of Lohit, the river is called by name Brahmaputra.

PM launches Gangajal Project

The Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Gangajal Project. The project aims to improve water supply to the city of Agra.

About the Gangajal Project

The key facts about the project are:

  • The Gangajal project aims to provide a better supply of drinking water which will benefit the residents as well as tourists.
  • The Gangajal project aims to bring 140 cusecs of Ganga water to Agra to help in meeting the drinking water demands in the city.
  • The project was launched in 2005 in collaboration with the Japan International Cooperation Agency and was scheduled to be completed by March 2012.
  • The project missed several deadlines and even the cost of the project escalated from Rs 345 crore in 2005 to over Rs 2,800 crore.
  • Under the Gangajal project, Agra will get 140 cusec water supply per day from Palra headworks in Bulandshahr’s Upper Ganga canal through the pipelines.
  • Together with Agra, Mathura and Vrindavan will also get water through these pipelines.

Japan International Cooperation Agency

Japan International Cooperation Agency is an agency of the Japanese government which coordinates official development assistance (ODA) for the government of Japan. It aims to assist economic and social growth in developing countries and promote international cooperation. Japan International Cooperation Agency is advancing its activities around the pillars of a field-oriented approach, human security,  enhanced effectiveness, efficiency, and speed.

Web- Wonder Women Campaign

The Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India has launched an online campaign Web- Wonder Women to discover and celebrate the exceptional achievements of women, who have been driving positive agenda of social change via social media.

About the Campaign

The features of the Web- Wonder Women campaign are:

  • Through the campaign, the Ministry aims to recognize the fortitude of Indian women stalwarts from across the globe who have used the power of social media to run positive & niche campaigns to steer a change in society.
  • The Campaign is aimed at encouraging, recognizing and acknowledging the efforts of these meritorious Women.
  • The Campaign has been launched by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India in association with the NGO Breakthrough and Twitter India.
  • Based on the nominations received from a large number of categories including Health, Media, Literature, Art, Sports, Environmental protection, fashion, the entries would be shortlisted. Then the shortlisted entries will be open for public voting on Twitter. The finalists would then be selected by the panel of judges.

Breakthrough NGO

Breakthrough NGO is a global human rights organization working to end violence against women and girls. Some of the well-known programmes of the NGO are Bell Bajao! (Ring the Bell!), Nation Against Early Marriage, Deport The Statue, #ImHere.

Democracy Index 2019 : Key Facts

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has released the Democracy Index which ranks 167 countries by 60 indicators across five broad categories.
The categories considered for the index are electoral process and pluralism, the functioning of government, political participation, democratic political culture and civil liberties.
The index classifies each country either as a full democracy, flawed democracy, hybrid regime or authoritarian.

Highlights of the Democracy Index

The important findings of the democracy index are:

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

Rankings of the Countries

The countries rankings are highlighted below:

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

Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)

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

First India-Central Asia Dialogue to be held in Uzbekistan

The first India-Central Asia Dialogue will be held in Samarkand, Uzbekistan on January 12 and 13. The Dialogue will be co-chaired by External Affairs Minister (EAM) Sushma Swaraj and the Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan, Abdulaziz Kamilov.
The Foreign Ministers of Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan will participate in the event. The Foreign Minister of Afghanistan will participate in the dialogue as a special invitee for the session dedicated to connectivity issues in the region.

Objective of the Dialogue

India and the Central Asian countries are bound together through shared history and cultural linkages. The objectives of the first India-Central Asia Dialogue are:

  • To enhance their cooperation in wide-ranging spheres including exploring ways to substantially enhance India’s economic involvement in business and development sector of Central Asia.
  • Developing viable connectivity options between India and Afghanistan and Central Asia to further facilitate trade and economic activity in the region.
  • Strengthen India’s engagement, including political, economic, development partnership and cultural, with all the Central Asian countries and take it to a new level.

The first India-Central Asia Dialogue aims at taking forward the bilateral relations which have strengthened following the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to all the five Central Asian nations – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan – in 2015 and the EAM’s tour across the region in August 2018.

Henley Passport Index

The Henley Passport Index measures the access each country’s travel document affords. The Index is based on the data provided by the International Air Transport Authority (IATA) and covers 199 passports and 227 travel destinations.

Ranking of the Jurisdictions

The Rankings of the jurisdictions based on the rankings in the Henley Passport Index are:

  • Japan retained its top spot as the world’s most travel-friendly passport due to the document’s access to 190 jurisdictions.
  • South Korea and Singapore are at joint second position offering access to 189 jurisdictions.
  • China has jumped almost 20 places in just two years, from 85th in 2017 to 69th this year.
  • India jumped two positions from 81st in 2018 to 79th this year.
  • European Union member states along with Norway and the US occupy the places behind the top three nations in the rankings.
  • The rankings of the USA and UK have continued to drop.
  • The top 5 positions are held by Japan (190 countries), Singapore, South Korea (189), France, Germany (188), Denmark, Finland, Italy, Sweden (187), and Luxembourg, Spain (186)
  • The bottom 5 positions are held by Eritrea (38), Yemen (37), Pakistan (33), Somalia, Syria (32)and Afghanistan, Iraq (30).

Observations

Christian Kalin, Chairman of the Henley & Partners’ Group who is also the creator of the index notes that the ranking is a bright spot in an increasingly isolationist world.
Open-door policies have the potential to contribute billions to the global economy, as well as create significant employment opportunities around the world. The ascent in the rankings of South Korea and the United Arab Emirates are examples of what happens when countries take a proactive foreign affairs approach, an attitude which significantly benefits their citizens as well as the international community.

Guatemala unilaterally terminate the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) agreement

The Foreign Minister of Guatemala Sandra Jovel had notified the UN secretary-general of the Government’s decision to terminate the agreement which established the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). The International Commission had mandate till 3rd September this year.

Guatemala is a Central American Country bordered by  Mexico to the north and west, Belize and the Caribbean to the northeast, Honduras to the east, El Salvador to the southeast and the Pacific Ocean to the south.

Why the termination?

The President of Guatemala Jimmy Morales terminating the agreement had reasoned that the CICIG has put at risk the nation’s security, public order, governance, respect for human rights and above all the sovereignty of the state of Guatemala.
But the speculation was that the decision of termination was taken by the President because the commission was investigating Guatemala’s business and political elite, including Morales and his family.

Termination Suspended by the Court

But the Guatemala constitutional court had suspended the president’s decision to unilaterally terminate the government’s pact with the United Nations. The UN has made it clear that the commission would continue with the mandate respecting the rule of law in Guatemala and the decision of the Constitutional Court.

International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG)

The International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) was set up as an international body to examine and investigate the serious crime in Guatemala.
The commission was established in response to a request for assistance from the Government of Guatemala to investigate illegal security groups and clandestine security organizations in Guatemala and criminal groups believed to have infiltrated state institutions, fostering impunity and undermining democratic gains in Guatemala since the end of the country’s armed conflict in the 1990s.
The commission was set by UN in conjunction with the Guatemalan Government had successfully highlighted corruption cases involving hundreds of politicians, bureaucrats and business people.

WEF Report- ‘Future of Consumption in Fast-Growth Consumer Market – India’ – Key Facts

The World Economic Forum has released the report ‘Future of Consumption in Fast-Growth Consumer Market – India’. The report was produced based on consumer surveys conducted by Bain & Company across 5,100 households in 30 cities and towns in India and draws from more than 40 interviews with private and public-sector leaders.

Highlights of the Report

The key facts highlighted in the report are:

  • India would become the world’s third largest consumer market behind only USA and China by 2030.
  • The consumer spending in India is expected to grow from USD 1.5 trillion at present to nearly USD 6 trillion by 2030.
  • The domestic private consumption, which accounts for 60 per cent of the country’s GDP, is expected to grow into a USD 6-trillion growth opportunity.
  • The report states that as India continues its path as one of the world’s most dynamic consumption environments, private and public-sector leaders will have to take shared accountability to ensure such consumption is inclusive and responsible.
  • In spite of high growth rates, India needs to address critical societal challenges including skills development and employment of the future workforce, socio-economic inclusion of rural India and creating a healthy and sustainable future for its citizens
  • Growth in income will transform India from a bottom of the pyramid economy to a middle class-led one.
  • The consumption growth will be driven by rich and densely populated cities and the thousands of developed rural towns.
  • India’s top 40 cities will form a USD 1.5 trillion opportunities by 2030 and thousands of small urban towns will also drive an equally large spend in aggregate.
  • There will also be an opportunity to unlock nearly USD 1.2 trillion of spending in developed rural areas by improving infrastructure and providing access to organised and online retail.

World Economic Forum

World Economic Forum is the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation.  It is a not-for-profit foundation and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. The World Economic Forum is committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas.

Global Economic Prospects report 2019: Key Facts about India

The World Bank has released the Global Economic Prospects report 2019 titled “Darkening Skies”. The key findings of the report related to India are:

  • India’s GDP is expected to grow at 7.3 per cent in the fiscal year 2018-19, and 7.5 per cent in the following two years. The growth rates are attributed to an upswing in consumption and investment.
  • India would continue to be the fastest growing major economy in the world. The report estimates China’s growth to slow down to 6.2 per cent each in 2019 and 2020 and 6 per cent in 2021.
  • China had an estimated growth rate of 6.5 per cent as against India’s 7.3 per cent in 2018.
  • China’s growth rate at 6.9 per cent growth was marginally ahead of India’s 6.7 per cent in 2017 because of the slowdown witnessed in the Indian economy due to demonetisation and implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
  • World Bank notes that domestic demand has strengthened as the benefits of structural reforms such as the GST harmonisation and bank recapitalisation take effect.
  • Strong domestic demand may further widen the current account deficit to 2.6 per cent of GDP in 2020. Inflation is projected to be above the midpoint of the Reserve Bank of India’s target range of 2 to 6 per cent, mainly owing to energy and food prices.
  • The introduction of the GST and demonetisation has encouraged a shift from the informal to the formal sector.
  • Public sector banks in India, which represent roughly 70% of the banking sector assets, still report low profitability and high non-performing assets.

The report notes that growth performance of India as compared to other emerging markets has been quite impressive.

Global Economic Prospects report 2019- Key Facts

The World Bank has released the Global Economic Prospects report 2019 titled “Darkening Skies”. The key findings of the report are:

  • Growth among advanced economies is expected to drop to 2 per cent this year.
  • Slowing external demand, rising borrowing costs and persistent policy uncertainties may weigh on the outlook for Emerging Market and Developing Economies (EMDE). As result growth rates of this group are anticipated to hold steady at a weaker-than-expected 4.2 per cent this year.
  • South Asia is expected to grow at 7.1 per cent in 2019 driven by strengthening investment and robust consumption. Much of the contribution would come from India.
  • The growth rate of Pakistan is anticipated to slow to 3.7 per cent in 2018-19 as financial conditions tighten in the face of rising inflation and external vulnerabilities.
  • Bangladesh is expected to register a growth of 7 per cent in 2018-19, Sri Lanka is expected to speed up slightly to 4 per cent in 2019, and Nepal’s growth is expected to slow to 5.9 per cent in FY 2018-19.
  • The report warns that if a trade war between the US and China leads to a global slowdown, the spillover effects on the emerging market and developing economies (EMDEs) could be profound.
  • The report underlines the importance of “rebuild policy buffers” for EMDEs while underscoring the need of laying a stronger foundation for future growth by boosting human capital, promoting trade integration, and addressing the challenges associated with informality.
  • The global growth rates are moderating as the recovery in trade and manufacturing activity loses steam.
  • Trade tensions among major economies combined with concerns about softening global growth prospects, have weighed on investor sentiment and contributed to declines in global equity prices.
  • The report states that Growth in the US will continue to be supported by fiscal stimulus. As a result, there would be larger and more persistent fiscal deficits.
  • Even though the probability of a recession in the United States is still low and the slowdown in China is projected to be gradual, markedly weaker-than-expected activity in the world’s two largest economies will have a severe impact on global economic prospects.
  • The report warns that sharper-than-expected tightening of global financing conditions, or a renewed rapid appreciation of the US dollar, could exert further downward pressure on activity in EMDEs, due to large current account deficits financed by portfolio and bank flows.
  • The report estimates that if all tariffs under consideration were implemented, they would affect about 5% of global trade flows and could dampen growth in the economies involved, leading to negative global spillovers.

The World Bank has warned that the projected gradual deceleration of global economic activity over the forecast horizon could be more severe than expected because of the predominance of substantial downside risks.

January 11, 2019

Chhattisgarh withdraws general consent accorded to the CBI to probe cases in the state

The government of Chhattisgarh has withdrawn the general consent accorded to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to probe the cases in the state. The general consent was withdrawn under Section 6 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946.

Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) derives its powers to investigate the cases from the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946. The Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946 provides for a special police force to investigate the offences specified by the central government through the Gazette notification.

Section 6

Section 6 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946 makes the consent of the states mandatory for the CBI to exercise its power and jurisdiction in the state.  The government of Chhattisgarh has revoked section 6 of the Delhi Special police investigation act to withdraw the general consent.

Reasons for Withdrawal

The government of Chhattisgarh has cited the following reasons for the withdrawal:

  • The credibility and integrity of the CBI have been compromised under the present central government.
  • As a result of the free hand to CBI to operate in the state, the law and order and state officers were being disturbed.

The CBI is now required to seek permission from the state government before initiating any investigations.
Chhattisgarh has joined the list of West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh which have withdrawn the general consent for CBI to undertake investigations.

Union Cabinet approves setting up of 3 New AIIMS

The Union Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved the setting up of three new AIIMS institutions. The three new institutions would come up at Vijaynagar at Samba of Jammu Region, Awantipora in Pulwama of Kashmir Region and Rajkot in Gujarat under the pradhan mantri swasthya suraksha yojana.
The two new AIIMS for Jammu and Kashmir, one each for Jammu Region and Kashmir Region was announced by the Prime Minister under the Prime Minister’s Development Package and the AIIMS in Rajkot, Gujarat was announced by the Finance Minister in his budget speech.

Prime Minister’s Development Package

Prime Minister’s Development Package was announced as a reconstruction plan for J&K.
The Reconstruction Plan aims at expanding economic infrastructure, expanding provision of basic services, providing thrust to employment and income generation and providing relief and rehabilitation to the victims of September 2014 floods and to strengthen Disaster Management Framework of the State. The reconstruction plan also seeks to strengthen the economic and social infrastructure and provide for the balanced development of the three regions of J&K.

Benefits of New AIIMS institutions

The new AIIMS institutions are set up with the following objectives:

  • Each new AIIMS will add 100 UG (MBBS) seats and 60 BSc (nursing) seats, and the new AIIMS will have 15-20 super speciality departments.
  • This wills serve the dual purpose of providing super speciality healthcare to the population closer to their homes and help in creating a large pool of doctors and other health workers in these regions to strengthen the primary and secondary level institutions and facilities being created under the National Health Mission (NHM).

All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS)

All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) are the autonomous institutions set up under the act of parliament, AIIMS act 1956. They have been declared as Institutes of National Importance.  The educational principles and practices being adopted at AIIMS are those which are best suited to the needs of the nation.

SC sets up panel for to suggest reforms for holding competitive exams

The Supreme Court has suggested setting up of a three-member panel comprising of Nandan Nilekani, a co-founder of Infosys, and renowned computer scientist Vijay P Bhatkar to suggest reforms for conducting of competitive examinations fairly by government bodies.
The Supreme Court has asked advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner, to suggest a name besides Nilekani and Bhatkar for constituting the panel.

What is the case?

The petitioner Shantantu Kumar had sought cancellation of 2017 SSC examination due to alleged tampering and leaking of question papers. The Supreme Court has put a stay on the declaration of results of SSC 2017 examinations.
The allegations of tampering and leaking of question papers had led to large scale protests from the aspirants. The SSC had recommended the CBI investigation in the case.
CBI had stated in the Supreme Court that FIR has been registered and people involved have been identified, therefore there was no need to cancel the 2017 examination. But the Supreme Court was not convinced and stated that it was not possible either identify the beneficiaries of question paper leaks or who all are innocents.
To overall the structure of conducting competitive exams by the government agencies and to bring in transparency, the SC has suggested setting up of a three-member panel to suggest reforms.

NIC Command and Control Centre Inaugurated

The Minister for Electronics and IT (MeitY) Ravi Shankar Prasad inaugurated the National Informatics Centre (NIC)’s Command and Control Centre (CCC) and its Centre for Excellence in Artificial Intelligence.

Role of Centre’s Command & Control Centre

National Informatics Centre hosts over 10,000 e-Governance applications and offers Data Centre and Cloud services to the Government.
The Command and Control Centre is set up as a specialized facility with a nationwide view of ICT infrastructure for effective monitoring and management of the performance & availability of all these critical services. The Command and Control Centre will increase the agility of NIC’s nationwide ICT infrastructure.

Centre of Excellence in Artificial Intelligence

The Centre of Excellence in Artificial Intelligence aims to provide a platform to provide innovative new solutions and to test and develop solutions for projects undertaken by NIC at central and state level.
It has been established with a motto ‘Inclusive AI’ for responsive governance, to work towards improving Govt. service delivery to citizens. The centre of excellence will also provide Capacity Building & Institutionalizing AI in Ministries / Departments / Organizations.

National Informatics Centre

National Informatics Centre is the premier science and technology organisation of the Government of India in informatics services and information and communication technology (ICT) applications. Established in 1976, it works under the Department of Electronics & Information Technology of Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

National Clean Air Programme Launched

The Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan launched the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP). The programme aims to tackle the challenge of increasing pollution in the cities and towns.

Features of the Programme

The important features of the programme are:

  • It is a five-year action plan with a tentative target of 20-30% reduction in concentrations of PM10 and PM2.5 by 2024, with 2017 as the base year.
  • The plan covers 102 non-attainment cities, across 23 states and Union territories, which were identified by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on the basis of their ambient air quality data between 2011 and 2015.

Non-attainment cities
Cities are considered as Non-attainment cities, if they were consistently showing poorer air quality than the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. Cities included under the list of Non-attainment cities Delhi, Varanasi, Bhopal, Kolkata, Noida, Muzaffarpur, and Mumbai.

  • The centre plans to scale up the air quality monitoring network across India under the programme.
  • Studies would be conducted across 102 non-attainment cities to ascertain pollution sources and the extent of their contribution.
  • The Apex committee in the Ministry of Environment would periodically review the progress of these components on the basis of appropriate indicators, which will be evolved.
  • Each city would be asked to develop its own action plan for implementation based on sources of pollution.
  • A three-tier system, including real-time physical data collection, data archiving, and an action trigger system in all 102 cities, besides extensive plantation plans, research on clean-technologies, landscaping of major arterial roads, and stringent industrial standards are proposed under the plan.
  • State-level plans of e-mobility in the two-wheeler sector, rapid augmentation of charging infrastructure, stringent implementation of BS-VI norms, boosting public transportation system, and adoption of third-party audits for polluting industries are proposed part of the plan.
  • The plan document is not binding on the states since the document is not a legal document.

The Environmentalists criticised the plan for not making it legally binding. The Environmentalists demand a more stringent action to ensure the safety and well being of millions of lives risk because of the continuously growing air pollution crisis.

West Bengal exits Ayushman Bharat scheme

The government of West Bengal has decided to exit from the Centre’s ambitious Ayushman Bharat- Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojana.

Reasons cited by the West Bengal for the Withdrawal

The letter of the West Bengal government to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Family Welfare,  Government of India  has cited the following reasons for the withdrawal:

  • The Government of India was issuing entitlement letters to the beneficiaries without the knowledge of the state government.
  • Prior to the launch of the Ayushman Bharat scheme, West Bengal had well established Swasthyasathi. It was agreed to retain the name of Swasthyasathi, this was even acknowledged in the MoU between the State and the Ministry of Family and Health, Government of India. But the centre has unilaterally changed the name of the scheme to Ayushman Bharat- Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojana.
  • Even though the state government have a key role in the implementation and are shouldering 40% of the cost for the scheme, the centre is unilaterally taking important decisions and is projecting the scheme as of central scheme rather than centrally sponsored one.

The Government of West Bengal has alleged that the Central government was politicising the scheme by sending letters about its provisions to every household of the state with the picture of PM and a lotus symbol on top.
West Bengal has joined states of Telangana, Kerala, Odisha, and Delhi which have opted out of the scheme for varied reasons.

Pradhan Mantri – Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY)

Pradhan Mantri – Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY) is a scheme of the government under Ayushman Bharat. The scheme aims to reduce the financial burden on poor and vulnerable groups arising out of catastrophic hospital episodes and ensure their access to quality health services was conceived. It also seeks to accelerate India’s progress towards the achievement of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and Sustainable Development Goal – 3 (SDG3).
Under the scheme about 10.74 crore poor, deprived rural families and identified occupational categories of urban workers’ families as per the latest Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) data (approx. 50 crore beneficiaries) will have health benefit cover of Rs. 500,000 per family per year at free of cost. The health benefit cover includes more than 1,350 medical packages covering surgery, medical and daycare treatments, cost of medicines and diagnostics.

RBI tweaks Gold Monetisation Scheme

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has made changes with the Gold Monetisation Scheme (GMS) to allow charitable institutions, central government entities and state government entities to deposit gold under GMS.
Now the entities allowed to deposit gold under the scheme include Resident Indians [Individuals, HUFs, Proprietorship & Partnership firms, Trusts including Mutual Funds/Exchange Traded Funds registered under SEBI (Mutual Fund) Regulations, Companies, charitable institutions, Central Government, State Government or any other entity owned by Central Government or State Government].

Why the ambit to deposit gold under the scheme was expanded?

The reasons for expanding the ambit are:

  • To bring out the unaccounted gold with the charitable institutions.
  • To enable the government agencies to deposit gold which they had confiscated.

Gold Monetisation Scheme

The Gold Monetisation Scheme was launched with the tagline Earn, while you secure. The scheme provides the dual benefit of, interest (denominated in gold) on the gold deposited and an option of encashing the gold at maturity. All the scheduled commercial banks except the RRBs are authorised to implement the scheme.
The gold deposits can be made under 3 term deposit plans:

  • Short term:1 to 3 years
  • Medium term:5 to 7 years
  • Long term:12 to 15 years

Short-term deposit rates are decided by the banks concerned, while the medium and long-term deposit interest rates are decided by the Central Government.
The minimum deposit one can make in a gold monetisation scheme is 30 grams of any purity and there is no maximum limit. The capital gains from the scheme are exempted from capital gains tax, wealth tax and income tax.

Important decisions of the GST council meet

The GST Council meeting on January 10 has taken the following important decisions:

  • The exemption limit for Goods and Services Tax (GST) registration has been increased to Rs 40 lakh from the current Rs 20 lakh to ease the cost of compliance for small taxpayers or micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).
  • This exemption limit has been doubled to Rs 20 lakh for North-Eastern and hilly states.
  • The increased exemption limit of Rs 40 lakh is applicable for those businesses who deal in goods and also do intra-state trade and not for those who do inter-state transactions.
  • The small States such as Puducherry which have a small assess base have been given the option to ‘opt in’ or move to a lower exemption and registration limit.
  • The threshold limit for the compensation scheme under which small traders and businesses pay a 1 per cent tax based on turnover has been increased to Rs 1.5 crore. The dealer under the composition scheme cannot issue tax invoice because the dealer cannot charge tax from their customers. They need to pay the tax out of their own pocket. The dealer is required to issue the bill of supply.
  • Service providers and suppliers of both goods and services up to a turnover of Rs 50 lakh would be eligible to opt for the GST composition scheme and pay a tax of 6 per cent.
  • Kerala has been allowed to levy a 1 per cent calamity cess on the intra-state sale of goods and services for a period of up to two years to mobilise revenues to meet the cost of rehabilitating parts of states that were ravaged by floods.
  • A seven-member group of ministers would be formed to address the differences of opinion emerged at the meeting on the issues like the issues related to the lottery.

These decisions would be beneficial for MSMEs, which were adversely affected after the introduction of GST.

GST council

Goods and Services Tax Council is a constitutional body for making recommendations to the Union and State Government on issues related to Goods and Service Tax. The GST Council is chaired by the Union Finance Minister and other members are the Union State Minister of Revenue or Finance and Ministers in-charge of Finance or Taxation of all the States.
Every decision of the Goods and Services Tax Council shall be taken by a majority of not less than three-fourths of the weighted votes of the members present and voting. The vote of the Central Government shall have the weightage of one-third of the total votes cast, and the votes of all the State Governments taken together shall have a weightage of two-thirds of the total votes cast, in that meeting.

Tata Steel’s Netherlands plant recognised as the Factory of the Future

The World Economic Forum has recognised Tata Steel’s plant at IJmuiden in the Netherlands as Manufacturing Lighthouse with state-of-the-art production facilities which successfully adopt and integrate the cutting-edge technologies of the future and drive financial and operational impact.

Recognition to Tata Steel

The recognition of the Tata Steel was due to the following factors:

  • Acknowledgement of the thriving culture of innovation at Tata Steel and advanced analytics team’s vision and commitment to realise more efficient, productive and responsible steelmaking.
  • The pioneering use of advanced analytics to optimise the way raw materials are used, increase the yield at every step of the steelmaking process and further improve logistics between the different processes and the quality of the product for customers.
  • The Advanced Analytics Academy gives Tata Steel employees an impetus to find solutions for waste reduction, quality improvement and overall reliability of production processes.

Manufacturing Lighthouses

The World Economic Forum organizes a network of leading intelligent production companies as Manufacturing Lighthouses under its ‘Shaping the Future of Production’ initiative to allow the exchange of knowledge and promote collaborations in the area of the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ in production.
These Manufacturing Lighthouses showcases how best a strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution be developed by training employees, cooperating with other parties, implementing changes in the workplace and in the value chain through greater efficiency and contribute to reducing the climate footprint of production companies by 50 per cent.

Cabinet approves Currency Swap Agreement with Japan

The Union Cabinet has approved India’s Currency Swap Agreement with Japan. The $75-billion bilateral currency swap arrangement is a milestone in mutual economic cooperation and special strategic and global partnership between two countries.

Currency Swap Agreements

A Currency swap agreement is a foreign exchange agreement between two parties to exchange a given amount of one currency for another and, after a specified period of time, to give back the original amounts swapped.

How Currency Swap Agreement can benefit India?

The currency swap agreement can be beneficial to India in the following ways:

  • The currency swap facilities make it easier for India to pay for its imports. This aids in addressing the challenge of depreciation.
  • Since the Currency swap agreement involves trading in local currencies. Countries pay for imports and exports through their own currencies rather than involving a third country currency.  This does away with the charges involved in multiple currency exchanges.
  • The currency swap makes it easier to improve liquidity conditions.
  • Currency swap agreements help in saving for a rainy day when the economy is not looking in good shape.
  • The swap agreements also contribute towards stabilising the country’s balance of payments (BoP) position.
  • The agreement aids in improving the confidence in the Indian market.
  • Together with ensuring that the agreed amount of capital is available to India, it also brings down the cost of capital for Indian entities while accessing the foreign capital market.

The Currency Swap Agreement was concluded between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during the summit level meeting at Yamanashi, Japan.

India Manufacturing Barometer 2019 Report: Key Facts

The India Manufacturing Barometer 2019 Report has been prepared by Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) in association with PwC.
The report was prepared based on the survey of companies which contribute approximately 12 per cent to the manufacturing Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country from the automobiles, chemicals, electrical machinery, food processing, leather, pharmaceuticals and textiles sectors.

Findings of the Report

The important findings in the India Manufacturing Barometer 2019 are:

  • India would witness faster growth in the next 12 months driven by expanding domestic market, technology and increased spending.
  • Around 74 per cent of companies surveyed believes that the next 12 months will see faster growth in their sector.
  • Around 58 per cent of those surveyed believes that their sector would grow faster by at least 5 per cent.
  • India’s economy is projected to grow anywhere between 7.3 – 7.7 per cent and the domestic market would be a major demand driver for India.
  • Business leaders also anticipate an increase in turnover from global demand in the future.

Business Groups have asked India to concentrate on improving at the logistics front. Logistics cost in India is about 15 per cent of the overall cost whereas the cost is less than 10 per cent in countries like Japan. The reduced logistics cost can be of great benefit to India.

Agreement for Renukaji dam multipurpose project Signed

The Agreement for the construction of Renukaji Dam Multi-Purpose Project was signed by six states, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Delhi, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh in the presence of Union Water Resources Minister Nitin Gadkari.

Features of the Project

The important features of the project are:

  • Renukaji Dam Multi-Purpose Project is a storage project on the Giri river which is tributary of the Yamuna at Sirmour district of Himachal.
  • A 148 m-high rock-filled dam would be constructed across the river Giri.
  • The project also involves the generation of 40 MW of power during peak flow to be executed by Himachal Pradesh Power Corporation Ltd (HPPCL).
  • The project would increase by the river flow about 110 per cent which will be used to meet the drinking water needs of Delhi and the other Yamuna basin states up to some extent in the lean period.
  • The share of stored water among the states will be as follows,  Haryana-47.8 per cent; Uttar Pradesh/ Uttarakhand-33.65 per cent; Himachal-3.15 per cent; Rajasthan-9.3 per cent and NCT of Delhi: 6.04 per cent.
  • The Central government will bear 90 per cent of the cost of irrigation/drinking water component, and the balance cost will be borne by the states.

Along with the Renukaji dam multipurpose project other two projects are planned in the Yamuna river basin, Lakhwar Project on the River Yamuna in Uttarakhand, Kisau Project on the River Tons in Uttarakhand and Himachal for the effective utilisation of the water resource.

Introduction of a Bill to amend the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950

The Government has proposed a bill to amend the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950. The features of the proposed amendment are:

  • On the basis of recommendation the government of Karnataka, it has been proposed to amend Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950 relating to Karnataka. The amendment aims to grant Scheduled Tribe status to the communities, namely Parivara and Talawara which are Synonyms of Nayaka and Siddi community of Dharwad and Belagavi districts along with existing ‘Siddi’ community of Uttar Kannada district.
  • On the basis of recommendation the government of Assam, it has been proposed to amend Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950 relating to Assam. The amendment aims to grant Scheduled Tribe status to the communities, namely Chutiya, Matak, Moran, Koch Rajbongshi, Tai Ahom and states’ 36 tea tribes.

The persons belonging to the above-mentioned communities would become eligible to get benefits meant for the Scheduled Tribes in the respective States, once the bill is passed in the parliament.

January 12, 2019

Sanskriti Kumbh

The Uttar Pradesh Governor Shri Ram Naik inaugurated the Sanskriti Kumbh at Prayagraj. The Sanskriti Kumbh celebrates the conglomeration of Spiritual Consciousness and Cultural Heritage of India in the main premises of Kumbh Mela in Prayagraj. It is being organised by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India under the Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat initiative.

Celebrating the Diversity of India

The Sanskriti Kumbh is aimed at showcasing the vibrancy of India. The Sanskriti Kumbh will give a chance to people to experience all the colours of Indian Culture at one place. This cultural extravagance aims to promote and reconnect the people especially the youth with our magnificent and multifaceted culture along with the opulence and its historical significance.
The cultural performances would display the legacy of India’s Spiritual and Mythological practices. The performances will showcase the inclination of visitors towards devotion and Kumbh tradition. The folk dances, representing states from East West North South India, will showcase the spirit of Unity in Diversity that is Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat.
Under the ambit of Sanskriti Kumbh, Rashtriya Shilp Mela is being organised to display handicrafts and live demonstration of the skill by craftsmen.

Kumbh Mela at Prayagraj

Kumbh Mela is one of the oldest and largest congregation in the world. The Kumbh Mela is now part of the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural heritage for humanity in.
This year Kumbh Mela is being organized in the city of Prayagraj which is located at the confluence of the Ganges, the Yamuna and Mystic river of Saraswati in Uttar Pradesh.

Partnership Summit to be held in Mumbai

The Partnership Summit provides for a global platform to dialogue, debate, deliberate and engage  Indian and global leaders on economic policy and growth trends in India. The 25th edition of the Partnership Summit would be inaugurated by Vice President of India, M Venkaiah Naidu in Mumbai.
The Partnership Summit is being organized by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Government of India, State Government of Maharashtra and Confederation of Indian Industry. The Partnership Summit 2019 will showcase India in the present landscape of an emerging “New India” and the “New Global Economic Address”.
The sessions will be held on the following themes in the Partnership Summit:

  • Partnering with New India
  • Reforms and De-regulation – Strategies to Boost Investment
  • The Infra Expanse – A Super Imperative for Growth
  • The Inclusion Dynamics – A Digital Wireframe for all

The Summit will be presided by Union Minister of Commerce & Industry, Suresh Prabhu. He will deliver the keynote address. A Special address will be delivered by Minister of Trade of South Korea, Kim Hyun Chong and Minister of Economy of UAE, Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansoori.

Sino-Indian Digital Collaboration Plaza

The Sino-Indian Digital Collaboration Plaza (SIDCOP) has been launched by the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) in association with Municipal Governments of Guiyang and Dalian.

About the SIDCOP

The initiative aims to bring Indian IT companies and Chinese enterprises closer to each other on a single AI enabled platform. This platform will be managed by a joint venture comprising of one Indian and Chinese company.
The initiative aims to encash the expertise of Indian IT enterprises in business transformation and operational optimization by using IT tools in complex business environments. Indian IT enterprises are successfully serving many international clients to transform their businesses and globalize and revolutionize with changing times.
The SIDCOP offers a boundary-less marketplace for Chinese enterprises in order to assist them in operational optimization and adopting industry best practices in business solutions by connecting with Indian enterprises.

National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM)

NASSCOM is a not-for-profit industry association and is the apex body for the Indian IT-BPM industry. The membership of the NASSCOM is open for Companies registered in India and are focused on providing IT-BPM products and services.
NASSCOM aims to make sure that service quality and enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights have been properly implemented in the Indian software and BPM industry.

Index of Industrial Production of November: Key Facts

The Index of Industrial Production for the month of November has been released by the Central Statistical Office, under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.
The Index of Industrial Production (IIP) provides details about the growth of various sectors in an economy such as mineral mining, electricity and manufacturing. IIP is a composite indicator that measures the short-term changes in the volume of production of a basket of industrial products during a given period with respect to that in a chosen base period.

Key Facts about the IIP, November 2018

The IIP report of CSO makes the following observations:

  • Industrial growth unexpectedly plummeted to a 17-month low in November as a result of the post-festival season decline in manufacturing, fewer working days in the month and tighter financial conditions.
  • The Index of Industrial Production (IIP) stood at 0.47 per cent in November and the high base of last year has also contributed to the slowdown. IIP had witnessed a growth of 8.5 per cent in November 2017.
  • Manufacturing which constitutes 77.63 per cent of IIP, shrank 0.4 per cent, the Manufacturing had witnessed a robust growth of 10.4 per cent in November 2017.
  • The production of both capital goods and consumer goods saw a decline.
  • Mining expanded by 2.7 per cent in November 2018 compared with 1.4 per cent in November 2017.
  • The electricity generation rose 5.1 per cent.
  • The Production of intermediate items was down 4.5 per cent.

The Industrial growth in India is still not on a sound footing due to the high variability in industrial growth across sectors and within sectors on a month-on-month basis. It is expected that incrementally improving liquidity, normalisation after festive season related disruptions and spending tied to elections would act as a catalyst for the growth.

Supreme Court gives its nod for Chardham Project

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

What is the issue?

The construction of all weather roads in the environmentally critical zone of Himalayas was questioned in the National Green Tribunal (NGT). The National Green Tribunal had cleared the Chardham Project and had formed an oversight committee to monitor the environmental safeguards during the construction of the project.
This order was questioned in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court refused to stay the order of NGT and had asked the Centre to file its affidavit on a plea seeking a stay on the order of the NGT.

Significance of Chardham Yatra

As per Hindu traditions, Char Dham Yatra opens the gates of salvation by washing away all the sins. The term Chardham is believed to be coined by Shri Adi Shankaracharya, which means four abodes of God or Holy Destinations.
The Yatra begins from Yamunotri, then the pilgrims head to Gangotri, thereafter to Kedarnath and finally to Badrinath to complete the Chardham Yatra.
Yamunotri is the source of the sacred Yamuna River. According to Hindu Mythology, Yamuna was the sister of Yamraj and she was promised by Yamraj that whoever takes the holy dip in the Yamuna River will not be taken to Yamlok and they would attain salvation. Yamunotri is also the seat of Goddess Yamuna.
Gangotri i.e. Gomukh is the birth place of the Holy River Ganga. The stone on which King Bhagirath did meditation to bring Goddess Ganga to earth is located near Ganga Temple in Gangotri. A temple dedicated to Goddess Ganga is located in this pious area.
Kedarnath is one of the twelve jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva and the temple is believed to be restored by Adi Shankaracharya.
Badrinath is considered as the most sacred among the four shrines and is located on the left bank of the Alaknanda River. The temple at Badrinath is dedicated to  Lord Vishnu, the protector and preserver of the divine Hindu Trinity (Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva). It is also believed that Adi Shankaracharya got freedom from the process of reincarnation at Badrinath.
The Chardham Development Plan is the project of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.

Amendments to Indian Cinematograph Act, 1952

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

Amendments proposed

The features of the amendment bill are:

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

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

Delhi to Open Six World-Class Skill Centres (WCSCs)

The government of Delhi has decided to open six World-Class Skill centres (WCSCs) in the national capital to prepare students to acquire different professional skills.

About the World Class Skill Centres

The decision to open the World Class Skill Centres was announced by the Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in 2017. The features of these skill centres are:

  • The six skill centres would be opened at  Institute of Basic Business Studies (Pusa); Integrated Institute of Technology Dwarka, Delhi Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research University; Society for Self Employment (SSE), Wazirpur; SSE, Jhandewalan; and RIT Rajokari.
  • These skill centres would be set up at the unutilised space in the existing buildings of ITIs, polytechnics, degree colleges and universities.
  • The courses in Health and Wellness, IT and IT-enabled Services, Retail Management, Hospitality and Tourism, Accounts, Banking and Finance, Automobile, Electronics, Media and Event Management, Production and Manufacturing, Apparel and Food Production will be provided in these skill centres.
  • The government would set up six World class Skill Centres in phase 1 and 19 more Skill centres in Phase two.

The government of Delhi had announced the decision to open 25 World Class Skill Centres after the success of the first WCSC at ITI, Vivek Vihar, started in 2013.

January 13, 2019

Fair Value for Innovation launched at Raisina Dialogue 

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

Fair Value for Innovation

The Fair Value for Innovation initiative would

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

Raisina Dialogue

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

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

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

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

Sarva Bhasha Kavi Sammelan of AIR Inaugurated

The Governor of Tamil Nadu inaugurated the Kavi Sammelan, a National Symposium of Poets in Chennai. The poems were recited in the original language by the poets themselves and then they were translated to Hindi and Tamil.

Sarva Bhasha Kavi Sammelan

Sarva Bhasha Kavi Sammelan of All India Radio (AIR) aims to provide a creative platform for national integration and linguistic harmony through mutual interaction and coordinated presentation of the best in contemporary poetry of all Indian languages.
This Kavi Sammelan made its beginning in 1956 and is one of its kind programme wherein 23 eminent poets from 22 Indian languages come together on one stage to offer their creative best.
The Kavi Sammelan is the reflection of rich culture, literacy and shared heritage of Indian languages

All India Radio

All India Radio is the National Radio Broadcaster of India. Living up to its motto – ‘Bahujan Hitaya: Bahujan Sukhaya’ it is striving to inform, educate and entertain the masses of the country. The All India Radio broadcasts programmes in 23 languages and 179 dialects.

Collegium Recommends names of Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice Sanjiv Khanna for appointment as Judges of the Supreme Court

The Collegium headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi has recommended appointing Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice Sanjiv Khanna as judges of the Supreme Court.
The collegium headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi also comprises four senior-most judges of Supreme Court which includes Justices A K Sikri, S A Bobde, N V Ramana and Arun Mishra.

Three Judges Case and Collegium System

The Constitution of India under Article 124 and Article 217 prescribes the procedure for the appointment of judges of Supreme Court and High Court respectively. The articles state that the judges would be appointed by the President in consultation with the Chief Justice and other judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts as the President of India may deem necessary.
The Collegium system for appointment of Judges emerged out of the three rulings of the Supreme Court which are collectively referred to as the Three Judges Case.
In the first judge case, S. P. Gupta vs Union of India, the Supreme Court had held that the word “consultation” in Article 124 and in Article 217  does not mean “concurrence” and the ultimate power would be vested with President.
In the Second judge case, Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association vs Union of India, the earlier judgment in the first judge case was overruled. It was said that in the event of a conflict between the President and the CJI with regard to appointments of Judges, the opinion of Chief Justice of India would have primacy, also would be determinative in the matter. It was in the second judge case the collegium system was instituted by the Supreme Court. For the appointment of judges of SC, the collegium would consist of CJI and two senior most judges and for the appointment of judges of HC, the collegium would consist of Chief justice of High court along with two senior-most judges of the High Court.
In the Third judge case under the special reference to the Supreme Court by the President of India, the Court upholding the judgment of the Second Judge expanded the collegium to include four senior-most judges along with the chief justice.

NJAC

The Constitution (Ninety-Ninth Amendment) Act, 2014 sought to replace the Collegium system with the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC). But the Supreme Court declared the amendment act as unconstitutional with a majority 4-1 judgment. This has been now referred to as Fourth judge case.

AMRUT Scheme : Only 20% of Projects completed

The data from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has revealed the following facts about the implementation status of AMRUT Yojana:

  • With only a year to the deadline, only 20 per cent of the total projects were completed utilising 3 per cent of the total funds approved.
  • States like Bihar and Assam were not able to complete even a single project.
  • Tamil Nadu topped the list by completing 378 projects. Tamil Nadu was the only State to have completed more than 300 projects.
  • West Bengal with the completion of 194 projects stands distant second.
  • Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala have completed more than 50 projects.
  • Work is in progress for 3,222 projects at a cost of Rs 53,319 crore.

Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT)

Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) launched in 2015 aims to establish an infrastructure that could ensure adequate robust sewage networks and water supply for urban transformation. The AMRUT aimed to

  • Ensure that every household has access to tap with an assured supply of water and a sewerage connection.
  • Increase the amenity value of cities by developing greenery and well maintained open spaces (e.g. parks).
  • Reduce pollution by switching to public transport or constructing facilities for non-motorized transport (e.g. walking and cycling).

The Union Government funds 50 per cent of project cost for cities with a population of up to 10 lakhs each and one-third of project cost for cities with a population of above 10 lakhs each.
AMRUT aimed at providing better infrastructure to cities with a population of more than one lakh, cities on the banks of main rivers, state capitals, cities under HRIDAY scheme and so on. The mission period is up to March 2020.

Ama Ghare LED scheme of Odisha

The government of Odisha has launched the scheme Ama Ghare LED to provide LED bulbs at free of cost to about 95 lakh families in the state.

Features of the Scheme

The features of the Ama Ghare LED are:

  • The beneficiaries of the scheme are those who have registered under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) and the State Food Security Scheme (SFSC).
  • The implementing agency for the scheme is Odisha Power Transmission Corporation Ltd (OPTCL).
  • The LED bulbs would be distributed through camps and PDS outlets.
  • Biometric authentication is mandatory to avail the benefits of the scheme.

The people in the rural areas were forced to use incandescent or CFL bulbs due to non-availability of quality LED bulbs at a reasonable price. As a result, they were burdened with higher electricity bills. Distribution of LED bulbs at free of cost to the poor families together with reducing the financial burden would enhance the energy efficiency. It is estimated that Odisha would require about 3.8 crore LED bulbs to implement the scheme successfully.

Pravasi Bhartiya Divas 2019

The Pravasi Bhartiya Divas (PBD) will be held at Varanasi on January 21  and would be formally inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 22. The theme of the PBD 2019 is “Role of Indian Diaspora in building a New India.”
The convention held during the Pravasi Bhartiya Divas (PBD) provides an important platform to engage and connect with the overseas Diaspora. The chief guest for this year’s Pravasi Bhartiya Divas Pravind Jugnauth, Prime Minister of Mauritius.

Pravasi Bhartiya Divas

India celebrates Pravasi Bhartiya Divas on 9 January to mark the contribution of the overseas Indian community towards the development of India. 9th January also commemorates the return of Mahatma Gandhi from South Africa to Mumbai in 1915.
The decision to celebrate PBD was taken based on the recommendations of the High-Level Committee (HLC) on the Indian Diaspora under the chairmanship of L. M. Singhvi. The first PBD was celebrated in 2002 and the PBD was held every year on 9th January since then.
In 2015, a decision was made to celebrate PBD once in two years in different states and a smaller event would be held in Delhi every alternate year. Now India celebrates Pravasi Bhartiya Divas once in every two years to strengthen the engagement of the overseas Indian community with the Government of India and reconnect them with their roots.

Why Postponed in 2019?

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

PM releases commemorative coin and stamp on Sikh Guru Gobind Singh

Prime Minister Narendra Modi released a commemorative coin and stamp on Guru Gobind Singh to mark the 350th birth anniversary. On the occasion, Prime Minister Modi underlined the role of Guru Gobind Singh in uniting the country through Khalsa sect.

Commemorative Coin

Rs 350 commemorative Coin with the standard weight of 35 gram will have 50 per cent silver, 40 per cent copper and 5 per cent each of nickel and zinc. The front side of the coin bears the rupee symbol and denominational value ‘350’ in international numerals below the Lion Capital. The reverse side bears the picture of “Takht Shri Harimandir Ji Patna Sahib” in the centre and the years ‘1666’ and ‘2016’ in international numerals will be on the left and right periphery of the coin.

Image: Commemorative Coin

Guru Gobind Singh

Guru Gobind Singh was the tenth and last of the human Gurus of Sikhism. He became Guru at the age of 9 in 1675 after the martyrdom of his father, the ninth Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur.
Guru Gobind Singh played a vital role in moulding the Sikh religion into its present shape, with the institution of the Khalsa fraternity, and the completion of the sacred scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib.
Guru Gobind Singh lost his four sons died during his lifetime two in battle and two executed by the Mughal army. Later he himself declared Guru Granth Sahib as the next and perpetual Guru of the Sikhs before leaving his mortal body in 1708.

Khalsa Sect

After the martyrdom of his father, Guru Tegh Bahadur, Guru Gobind Singh had declared that he would create such a Panth which would challenge the tyrant rulers in every walk of life to restore justice, equality and peace for all of mankind. This led to the institution of the Khalsa Sect.
He infused the dual spirit of a saint and a soldier in the minds and hearts of the Khalsa sect followers to fight oppression in order to restore righteousness (Dharma) and to uplift the down-trodden people in this world.
He introduced the 5Ks, of the Khalsa: Kesh (uncut hair), Kangha( wooden comb), Kara( iron or steel bracelet worn on the wrist), Kirpan (sword or dagger) and Kacchera (short breeches).

National Wildlife Board Approves Trishna Gas Project of ONGC

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

Trishna gas project

ONGC has discovered 10-12 gas bearing wells in the Trishna Wildlife sanctuary. The gas extracted from these wells would be supplied to the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Ltd (NEEPCO) owned 100 MW gas-based thermal power project at Monarchak in Sonamura subdivision of Sipahijala district of Tripura.
The Tripura unit of ONGC has also committed to provide Rs 25 crore to the state government for carrying out Swacch Bharat Abhiyan.

Trishna Wildlife Sanctuary

The Trishna Wildlife Sanctuary was established in 1988. The vegetations in the sanctuary fall under four broad categories of tropical semi-evergreen forest, the east Himalayan lower Bhanar sal, Moist mixed deciduous forest and the Savanah woodland.
Prominent medicinal plant species are Kurcha, Tulsi, Vasak, Sarpaganda, Rudraksha, Bel, Chirata, and Kalamegh can be found here. The wildlife prominent in the sanctuary comprises of Indian Gaur(bison), Deer, Hooklock Gibbon, Golden Langur, Capped Langur, Pheasants and Reptiles.

National Wildlife Board

National Board for Wild Life is a statutory organization constituted under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. It is an apex body to review all wildlife-related matters and approves projects in and around national parks and sanctuaries.
The National Board for Wild Life is chaired by the Prime Minister, Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change is the vice-chairman of the Board and the members include 15 non-government members, 19 ex-officio members and 10 government officials such as secretaries.

Political Parties Oppose Footing Bill for ads on criminal record

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

What is the Issue?

To check the increasing criminalisation of politics in the Country, the Supreme Court had made it mandatory for every candidate contesting the election to inform the public at large about his criminal record in bold letters at least three times after filing of nomination papers through newspapers at large and electronic media.
The Election Commission had implemented this order of the Supreme Court in the recently held assembly polls in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Manipur, Chhattisgarh and Telangana.
The Election Commission had added the cost of these advertisements into candidate’s electoral expenditure while the Supreme Court order was silent on whether the expenditure would go on to the electoral expenditure account of the candidate.

Why the political parties are opposing?

The political parties are arguing that the candidates should not be made to bear the cost of advertising their criminal records since they are faced with an expenditure limit as per EC rules and this could impose a constraint on their campaign-related expenses.
The political parties also pointed out at the differential impacts on urban centres when compared to that at rural centres as newspaper and TV advertisements pricing is typically higher in cities.

Way Forward

A suggestion has been made that to shift the expenditure of these advertisements to the political party’s account from the candidates account as there is no expenditure limit for the party as of now.
There is also an argument that it is unfair to expect the political parties and candidates to bear the expense for advertising their own criminal record. Hence airtime and newspaper space could be allocated for this purpose as done for campaign purposes.

Proposal to revive National Register of Indian Citizens Project

The Central Government is actively considering the proposal to revive the National Register of Indian Citizens project as part of its efforts to identify and deport the illegal immigrants from the Country.

National Register of Indian Citizens

The Department of the National Population Register (NPR) under the Registrar General of India would be tasked with the responsibility to prepare the National Register of Indian Citizens. The department would prepare two databases, one National Register of Indian Citizens and the rest would become National Register of Residents.
The idea of creating National Register of Indian Citizens was first floated during the regime of NDA 1 with Atal Bihari Vajpayee as PM to contain the influx of illegal immigrants.
The Group of Ministers’ (GoM) report after the Kargil war had recommended the government to identify citizens and non-citizens, and providing both different identity cards. The committee had recommended to implement it in border districts, or maybe in a 20-kilometre border belt in first phase and then to expand it gradually all over the country.
Even a pilot project Multi-Purpose National Identity Cards (MPNIC) to citizens was also undertaken during NDA 1. But the proposal got abandoned with the change of government in 2004.
The National Register of Indian Citizens project has now got a push after the National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise in Assam is heading towards conclusion.

Atal Tinkering Lab Handbook Released

The Atal Tinkering Lab Handbook Nayee Dishayen, Naye Nirman, Naya Bharat was released by the NITI Aayog’s Atal Innovation Mission.
During the occasion an announcement of 10 Month Student Entrepreneurship Programme to help the top six innovations across six crucial themes having broader social impact, namely, Clean Energy, Waste Management, Agritech, Healthcare, Smart Mobility and Water Resources under the Atal Tinkering Marathon 2017 to transform these innovative prototypes into functioning, scaled and Go-to-Market products was made.

Atal Tinkering Lab Handbook Nayee Dishayen, Naye Nirman, Naya Bharat

The Atal Tinkering Lab Handbook together with capturing the experiences of the young innovators of the country with the Atal Tinkering Lab, provides for a compendium of guidelines, resources, methodologies, key learning, case studies of the ATL ecosystem.
The handbook showcases the outcome and impact that is being created by the Atal Tinkering Labs has been showcased, including some case examples of celebrating and rewarding innovation, over the last two years.
The Handbook also serves as an action plan to provide for a smooth scale-up approach for the Atal Tinkering Lab initiative, via the public-private-partnership and Centre-State cooperation.

Atal Innovation Mission

Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) is the Government of India’s flagship initiative to promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in the country.
AIM aims to create an umbrella structure to oversee innovation ecosystem of the country and revolutionize the innovation eco-system by touching upon the entire innovation life cycle through various programs.
While the Atal Tinkering Laboratories under the Atal Innovation Mission aims to create innovators and the Atal Incubation Centres would provide support to these innovations to scale up to market and helps to create enterprises around these innovations.

National Youth Day: January 12

India celebrates National Youth Day on January 12 to commemorate the birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda.
The National Youth Day is celebrated on the birth anniversary of the Swami Vivekananda so that the philosophy of Swami Vivekananda and the ideals for which he lived and worked could be a great source of inspiration for the Indian Youth. The government aims to imbibe the students and youth with the philosophy and ideals of Swami Vivekananda, the man who brought a change in the thought process of the Indian youth.

Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda was born in 1863. He was a renowned philosopher, poet, writer, social reformer and orator. His works include Jnanayoga’, ‘Bhaktiyoga’, ‘Rajayoga’, ‘To the youth of India’. He also founded the Ramakrishna Math
and Ramakrishna Mission.
Swami Vivekananda was the main force behind the introduction of Indian philosophies of Vedanta and Yoga to the western world. Swami Vivekananda’s speech at the Parliament of the World’s Religion at Chicago is cherished even today. He is credited with raising interfaith awareness and bringing Hinduism to the status of major world religion in the late 19th century.
He passed away on July 4, 1902, at the age of 39. Within this short span of time, his works, ideals, and ideas became immortal in Indian history. To commemorate the great contribution of the Swami Vivekananda to Indian society and to ensure his ideas, ideals and philosophies continue as guiding light for Indian youth, his birth anniversary is celebrated as National Youth Day.

One family One Job scheme of Sikkim

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

About the Scheme

One family one job scheme entitles one government job for every family in the state. The Chief Minister handed over appointment letters to over 12,000 unemployed youths at an employment fair organised at the Paljor Stadium in Gangtok. Only members of those families which do not have a government job at present are eligible for government employment under the scheme.
The government has announced that the nature of the job is not temporary and would be regularised after five years.
Sikkim is the first state in the country to launch an exclusive programme which entitles every family in the state with a government job and Sikkim earmarks 70 per cent of its revenues towards salaries for state government employees.

January 14, 2019

Macedonia renamed as the Republic of Northern Macedonia

The Parliament of Macedonia has passed the resolution to amend the constitution of the country to rename it as the Republic of Northern Macedonia. The opposition parties had boycotted the vote and the proposal narrowly got the two-thirds majority vote required for the constitutional amendment.
The renaming is in line with a landmark agreement with Greece to end a decades-long dispute.

Dispute between Macedonia and Greece

The use of the name “Macedonia” was disputed between the European countries of Greece and the Republic of Macedonia, formerly a state within Yugoslavia. After the declaration of independence of Macedonia from erstwhile Yugoslavia, the country named it as the Republic of Macedonia.
The dispute was mainly due to the ambiguity in nomenclature between the Republic of Macedonia, the adjacent Greek region of Macedonia and the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedonia. Greece opposed the use of the name “Macedonia” by the Republic of Macedonia without a geographical qualifier such as “Northern Macedonia.
Greece accused the Republic of Macedonia of appropriating symbols and figures that are historically considered part of Greek culture such as the Vergina Sun and Alexander the Great, and of promoting the irredentist concept of a United Macedonia, which involves territorial claims on Greece, Bulgaria, Albania and Serbia.
Due to the conflict over the name, Greece vetoed Macedonia’s attempt to join Nato in 2008 and even blocked its EU membership ambitions. The opposition of Greece was so fierce that the United Nations was forced to refer Macedonia as “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”.

Agreement with Greece

After a lot of negotiations, an agreement was reached between Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras and his Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev. The agreement is famously referred to as the Prespa Agreement.
As per the agreement the Republic of Macedonia would be renamed as the Republic of North Macedonia. The language of the country would be referred to as Macedonian and its people known as Macedonians (citizens of the Republic of North Macedonia).

National Youth Parliament Festival 2019

The Minister of State (I/C) for Youth Affairs and Sports Col Rajyavardhan Rathore (Retd)  launched the National Youth Parliament Festival 2019 as part of the National Youth Day celebrations.

About the National Youth Parliament Festival

The Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the December Mann Ki Baat address had shared the idea of organizing Youth Parliaments for young people in every district of the country. As a step forward the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports has shaped the initiative of National Youth Parliament to:

  • Capture the voice of Youth.
  • Provide a chance to the youth to brainstorm about new India and to find ways and chalk out plans to realize our resolves before 2022.
  • Hear the voice of Young minds in the age bracket of 18-25 who are allowed to vote, but not allowed to contest in elections.
  • To engage with public issues, understand the common man’s point of view, form their opinion.

The theme of the National Youth Parliament festival is “Be the Voice of New India” and “Find solutions and contribute to policy”.

How it would be organised?

Through District Youth Parliaments, the festival would be taken to the doorstep of the youth. This is to ensure a large number of Youth participate in the initiative.
The participants for the District Youth Parliament would be selected through two screening processes i.e. Digital and Walk-in screenings.
Three best speakers from each District Youth Parliament will participate at the State Youth Parliament and two best speakers selected from each State Youth Parliament will participate as speakers in the National Youth Parliament.
The highest scorer from each of the District Youth Parliament (DYP) will participate in the National Youth Parliament (NYP) as a delegate.
A cash award of Rs. 2 Lakhs, Rs. 1.50 Lakhs and Rs. 1 Lakh would be awarded for three best speakers at the National Youth Parliament.

Sovereign gold bonds on sale between Jan 14-18: Govt

The government has decided to issue new series of sovereign gold bonds between January 14 and January 18 at Rs 3,214 per gram and those who subscribe to the bonds online will get a discount of Rs 50 per gram.

Sovereign gold bond scheme

The Sovereign gold bond scheme was introduced by the government in 2015 to reduce the demand for physical gold by shifting a part of the physical bars and coins purchased every year for investment into gold bonds. The features of the scheme are:

  • Sovereign gold bonds are issued by the RBI on behalf of the government
  • Sovereign gold bonds are denominated in grams of gold and investments can be done in multiples of one gram with a maximum limit of 4 kg per person.
  • The Resident Indians including individuals (in his capacity as an individual, or on behalf of minor child, or jointly with any other individual), HUFs, Trusts, Universities and Charitable Institutions are eligible to avail these bonds.
  • The tenor of the Bond is of 8 years with an exit option in 5th, 6th and 7th year.
  • The investors will also be compensated at a fixed interest rate of 2.50 per cent per annum payable semi-annually on the nominal value.
  • Bonds can be used as collateral for loans.
  • The interest on Gold Bonds shall be taxable and are exempted from the capital gains tax on redemption.
  • Bonds will be tradable on stock exchanges.

The Sovereign gold bonds also aid in maintaining the current account deficit as most of the demand for gold in India is met through imports.

Government promulgates Companies (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019

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

Features of the Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2018

The Loksabha had passed the Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2018. The bill had important features like re-categorisation of offences, reducing the burden on special courts and bringing down the applicable penalties for small companies, enhancing the jurisdiction of Regional Director for compounding offences, empowers the central government to allow certain companies to have a different financial year instead of being determined by the National Company Law Tribunal among others.
The main objective of the amendment bill was the promotion of ease of doing business along with better corporate compliance.

Promulgation of Ordinance

Article 123 of the Constitution empowers the President to promulgate Ordinances to amend certain laws when either of the two Houses of Parliament is not in session and hence it is not possible to enact laws in the Parliament.
Ordinances must be must be approved by Parliament within six weeks of reassembling or they shall cease to operate.
Similar power to promulgate the ordinance has been provided to the Governor of the state under Article 213.
Ordinances were provided as a stop-gap arrangement and not as an alternative legislation process. The promulgation of the ordinance is subject to judicial review

Right to Disconnect Bill introduced in Lok Sabha

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

Features of the Bill

The important features of the bill are:

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

Global Examples

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

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

What is the Importance to Right to Disconnect?

Studies found that the need to be available 24X7 was adversely affecting the workers, even if workers weren’t actively checking work emails after hours, they can still be harmed by the expectation that they should be available. This work culture was creating anxiety amongst workers.
Studies also showed that workers who answered work-related emails after 9pm had worse quality of sleep. Hence a campaign had gained ground demanding Right to Disconnect.

RBI cautions on NPAs due to MUDRA Loans

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

Disbursements under Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana

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

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

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

Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana

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

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

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

GoM on GST revenue shortfall faced by states

The GST Council has decided to set up a seven-member committee to look into revenue shortfall being faced by the states after the GST roll-out, and suggest steps for augmenting collections.
The committee would be headed by Deputy Chief Minister and Finance Minister of Bihar Sushil Modi. Other members of the committee include Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal, Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac, Karnataka Rural Development Minister Krishna Byre Gowda, Odisha Finance Minister Shashi Bhushan Behera, Haryana Taxation Minister Capt Abhimanyu and Goa Panchayat Minister Mauvin Godinho.

Terms of Reference of the Committee

The committee headed by Sushil Modi will look into the following aspects:

  • Analyse reasons for the shortfall in revenue collections by the states since July 2017.
  • Undertake data analysis using econometric and statistical tools and suggest suitable measures and policy interventions for course correction for revenue augmentation, particularly for the states suffering high revenue shortfall.
  • Look into account trends of revenue collection before and after implementation of goods and services tax.
  • Structural patterns of major sectors of the economy impacting revenue collection, including the services sector.
  • Identify reasons for deviation in revenue collection trends, compare it with original assumptions worked out at the time of design and implementation of GST.
  • Only Andhra Pradesh and five northeastern states — Mizoram, Andhra Pradesh, Manipur, Sikkim and Nagaland — have recorded revenue increase post the GST roll out.

Revenue Trends under GST Regime

The GST revenue data shows the following trends:

  • A large number of States including Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir, Odisha, Goa, Bihar, Gujarat and Delhi are facing revenue shortfall following the implementation of goods and services tax.
  • The revenue shortfall experienced by these states was in the range of 14-37 per cent.
  • Among the Union Territories, Puducherry is facing a maximum shortfall of 43 per cent.

The Goods and Services (State compensation for loss of revenue) act provides for compensation to the states for loss of revenue arising on the account of implementation of the Goods and Services Tax for a period of 5 Years and the projected revenue nominal growth rate for a state during the transition period shall be 14% per annum.

Women of India Organic Festival

The Women of India Organic Festival has been organised by the Ministry of Women and Child Development at Leisure Valley, Sector-10, Chandigarh, to celebrate and promote women farmers and entrepreneurs in the organic sector from the remotest parts of India.

About the Festival

The objectives of the Women of India Organic Festival are:

  • To encourage Indian women entrepreneurs and farmers to connect with more buyers and thus, empower them through financial inclusion, while promoting organic culture in India.
  • To educate people about its various initiatives and schemes relating to women and children.
  • To provide a platform to showcase the varied products of women farmers and entrepreneurs.

The festival would provide an opportunity to showcase over 1,000 varied organic products, including fabric, wellness, grains, seeds, jewellery, bakery items and a lot more. The Festival is being held annually since 2015 and for the first time, it is being held in Chandigarh.

Hunar Haat Exhibitions Inaugurated in New Delhi

Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitley and Union Minority Affairs Minister Shri Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi inaugurated Hunar Haat exhibitions in New Delhi. Hunar Haat plays an important role in national and international branding of the heritage of master artisans in India. Hunar Haat is aimed at “Development with Dignity” of the artisans and craftsmen from the minority communities.

Benefits from Hunar Haat

Hunar Haat provides following benefits:

  • Projecting the talent of Indian artisans.
  • Build a credible brand of Indigenous Talent of Indian artisans and craftsmen.
  • Promoting the artisan and craftsmen heritage of India which had been marginalised for a long time.
  • Provides an Empowerment & Employment Exchange platform for master artisans and craftsmen.
  • Provides a platform to fulfil the commitments under “Make in India”, “Stand up India” and “Startup India”.

Hunar Haat

Hunar Haat exhibitions are organised by the Ministry of Minority affairs under its USTAAD (Upgrading the Skills & Training in Traditional Arts/Crafts for Development) scheme.
USTAAD scheme aims to preserve the heritage of traditional arts and crafts of minority communities, build the capacity of traditional craftspersons and artisans and establish linkages of traditional skills with the global market
Together with boosting the skill of craftsmen, weavers and artisans engaged in the traditional ancestral work, USTAAD scheme aims to enhance the market access to the traditional arts and crafts , so that the rich heritage of the minority communities are preserved for future generations.

Sakhi Centres

Sakhi centre or One Stop Centre (OSC) is a fully sponsored scheme of Central Government. These centres are set up through the Nirbhaya Fund under the National Mission for Empowerment of women by the Ministry of Women and Child Development.

About the Sakhi centre

Sakhi centres offer integrated services like medical, legal, psycho-social support and temporary shelter under one roof. These centres provide necessary support to women facing physical, sexual, emotional, psychological and economic abuse, irrespective of age, class, caste, education status, marital status, race and culture will be facilitated with support and redressal.
The objectives of these one-stop centres are:

  • To provide integrated support and assistance to women affected by violence, both in private and public spaces under one roof.
  • To facilitate immediate, emergency and non-emergency access to a range of services including medical, legal, psychological and counselling support under one roof to fight against any forms of violence against women.

These are 24×7 centres and any woman in an adverse situation or someone on her behalf can seek help from the Sakhi Centre by dialling Women’s toll-free helpline 181.
Due attention is given to the training of staff in these centres to ensure that survivors of violence who have faced tremendous physical, emotional and psychological trauma are not further victimised and treated with sensitivity and care.

Nirbhaya Fund

Nirbhaya Fund was announced by the government of India in the 2013 Union Budget. The fund was established to support initiatives by the government and NGOs working towards protecting the dignity and ensuring the safety of women in India.
Nirbhaya Fund is administered by the Department of Economic Affairs of the finance ministry. The Ministry of Women and Child Development together with concerned ministries will work out details of the structure, scope and the application of this fund.
Nirbhaya which means fearless was the pseudonym given to the 2012 Delhi gang-rape victim to hide her actual identity.

Namita Gokhale awarded Sushila Devi Literature Award

Renowned writer Namita Gokhale was awarded Sushila Devi Literature Award for her work “Things to Leave Behind”. She was honoured in the ‘Best Book of Fiction Written by a Woman Author’ category at the inaugural edition of Bhopal Literature and Art Festival.

Sushila Devi Literature Award

Sushila Devi Literature Award is constituted by Ratanlal Foundation. The award recognises the Best Book of Fiction Written by a woman author. It is a newly constituted award and comes with a cash prize of Rs 2 lakh.

Bhopal Literature and Art Festival

Bhopal Literature and Art Festival was the brainchild of former bureaucrat Raghav Chandra and was Conceptualised by the Society for Culture and Environment, Heartland Stories. The festival draws inspirations from glorious traditions and rich history of Central India. The literature festival is organised by the Society for Culture and Environment, Heartland Stories in association with Sahitya Akademi.

Namita Gokhale

Namita Gokhale is an Indian writer, publisher and festival director who has authored sixteen books including nine works of fiction. She has also conceived and curated over a hundred episodes of ‘Kitaabnama: Books and Beyond’, a book-show broadcast on Indian’s national broadcaster Doordarshan.
Namita Gokhale is a founder-director of the ‘Jaipur Literature Festival’ along with William Dalrymple. She has also served as member-secretary of Indian Literature Abroad (ILA), an initiative by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, to translate and promote contemporary literature from the Indian languages into the major international languages, particularly the six UNESCO languages (English, French, Arabic, Spanish, Russian and Chinese).

Puducherry to Ban Single-Use Plastic from March 1

The government of Puducherry has decided to ban the production, sale and use of single-use plastic products from March 1. To ensure the ban is effective on the ground both in letter and spirit, the government of Puducherry would be conducting a massive drive to create awareness among the merchants and the public on the necessity of the ban.

The government of the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu had announced on World Environment Day 2018, that it would ban the use of plastic items including non-biodegradable carry bags from January 1, 2019.

Industrialists argue that it is not the plastics which have become a problem. It is the way in which human beings deal with disposable plastics is the real cause for concern. It is only the disposable kind that harms the environment. Hence it would be wise to regulate the use rather than ban so that it doesn’t harm the industry.
The government has said that the decision to ban single-use plastic was taken to gift a plastic-free Puducherry to the future generation and curb the plastic in the larger interest of the environment.

PM Narendra Modi receives first ever Philip Kotler Presidential Award

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

Why PM Modi was conferred with the award?

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

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

Philip Kotler Presidential Award

Philip Kotler, a professor of marketing at Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management is also known as ‘Father of Modern Marketing’. Apart from marketing, Philip Kotler has extensively written on education, environment, government marketing, healthcare, hospitality, and innovation.
The Philip Kotler Presidential Award is constituted to honour mastery in the field of marketing and management. The award recognises and celebrates achievements of organisations, marketing teams, and individuals in different industries around the world.

January 15, 2019

January 15: Army Day

India celebrates Army India on January 15. Army Day is celebrated to salute the valiant soldiers who sacrificed their lives to protect the country and its citizens.

Why January 15?

It is in recognition of Field Marshal Kodandera M. Cariappa taking over as the first Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army from General Sir Francis Butcher, the last British Commander-in-Chief of India, on 15 January 1949.

Rise of Women Power

For the first time in the history of Indian Army, Lieutenant Bhavana Kasturi will lead the Indian Army’s Service Corps (ASC) contingent and Captain Shikha Surabhi, a female officer, will be leading the Army’s Daredevils Motorcycle Display team comprising 33 men riding nine bikes in a pyramid formation.

Indian Army

Indian Army traces its origin to the Military Department which was created within the Government of the East India Company at Kolkata in the year 1776. With the motto of ‘service before self’, Indian Army is on the mission to ensure national security,  national unity, defend the nation from external aggression and internal threats, and maintain peace and security within its borders.

103rd Constitutional Amendment Act: Key Facts

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

Key Facts about the 103rd Constitutional Amendment Act

The Important components of the 103rd constitutional Amendment are:

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

Criterion for Reservation

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

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

Quota for Economically Weaker Sections questioned in Supreme Court

A not for profit organisation Youth for Equality has questioned the constitutional validity of the 103rd constitutional amendment act which provides for 10 per cent quota for economically weaker sections.

Why the 103rd constitutional amendment act is questioned in Supreme Court?

Youth for Equality has questioned the constitutional validity of the 103rd constitutional act based on the following reasons:

  • The amendment which inserts Articles 15(6) and 16(6) in the Constitution would alter the basic structure of the Constitution and annul various binding judgments of the Supreme Court.
  • The amendments fail to consider that Articles 14 and 16 form the basic feature of equality. The amendment act violates restraints that were imposed on the reservation policy, i.e. the 50% ceiling limit and the exclusion of economic status as a sole criterion.
  • The 103rd constitutional amendment act shows complete disregard for the Supreme Court’s nine-judge bench judgment in Indira Sawhney (Mandal) case which held that the sole economic criteria could not be a basis for reservation and that the 50% ceiling limit ought not to be crossed.
  • The petition also cites the judgment in the case of M Nagraj vs Union of India which had upheld the constitutional validity of Art 16(4A), 16(4B), subject to certain conditions like undertaking proper exercises by the State to show that there was inadequacy in the representation.
  • The expression economically weaker section remained undefined by the amendment and was left to be notified by the state.
  • It is unclear whether the central government and state governments can both define the expression separately, but they both may define it differently. This level of untrammelled vagueness makes the insertion arbitrary and unworkable.

The bill was introduced in the parliament at haste just months ahead of the 2019 general election. Even this put the intention of the government in question.

Garbage Dumps and Food Habits of Animals: Study in journal Current Science

A study by Gitanjali Katlam and Soumya Prasad from School of Life Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU); Mohit Agarwal from Asian Adventures and Raman Kumar from Nature Science Initiative, examined the relationship between animal type and behaviour vis-à-vis the risk of plastic ingestion. The Study was published in the journal Current Science.

Findings of the Study

The study outlines the following findings:

  • Modern-day garbage dumps are full of harmful products and chemicals, are emerging as a serious threat to animal and plant life.
  • Plastic together with causing environmental pollution through chemicals leaching from it, plastics are causing health complications and disruptive reproductive patterns in animals that accidentally ingest it.
  • The food chain is witnessing an ecological shift wherein few animal species at some places are becoming more dependent on anthropological food waste.
  • The study warns of disastrous implications on wildlife if proper waste management strategies, particularly in and around natural sites and forest areas are not adopted.
  • Garbage dumping sites have resulted in both physical and toxicological implications on animal life. Plastics in the garbage which are ingested by wild animals is leading to lethal injuries and damage to digestive tract which results in starvation, ulceration of the stomach, reduced fitness, growth problems and premature death.

The study recommends that there should be segregation of waste generated from domestic and other activities at the source only in order to prevent harm to animal feeding on it and also to address the problem of the ecological impact of non-biodegradable waste accumulation.

Study shows Albumin as better indicator of Diabetes

A study by the scientists from National Chemical Laboratory, Pune indicates levels of free albumin and albumin attached to glucose molecules in the blood can be a better diagnostic test for diabetes.

Present Procedure

Most tests at present, use levels of glycated (or glucose-bound) haemoglobin in blood for diagnosis of diabetes. This is subject to large variations due to factors like stress levels, time of collection, diet and medications taken previous day etc.
Glycation refers to the process of binding of glucose to protein or lipid molecules. The glucose molecules get attached to the Hemoglobin in the blood. The level of glucose bound haemoglobin indicates the diabetic condition of an individual.

Challenges with the current procedure

The average lifespan of the Hemoglobin is four months. Hence the test results predict the diabetic condition of an individual from the previous four months.
The levels of glycated haemoglobin in blood are influenced by many factors like anaemia, iron deficiency, pregnancy. Hence the current results may not necessarily indicate accurate results.

New Study

The new researches have shown that glycation of both albumin and haemoglobin occurs at lower levels of albumin in blood. When the albumin level decreases or gets saturated with bound glucose, other proteins like haemoglobin are exposed to glucose and their glycation increases. Hence it is predicted that levels of albumin and glycated albumin can also help in predicting the onset of diabetes.
The new study proposes albumin and glycated albumin levels quantified in conjunction with glycated haemoglobin can provide for better diagnosis and management of diabetes.

Sita Rama Lift Irrigation Project

The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has given its approval for the Sita Rama Lift Irrigation Project of Telangana. The project would be completed in three years and would lead to submergence of about 1,930-hectare area and 157 villages.

About the Project

The Sita Rama Lift Irrigation Project aims to divert Godavari river water to irrigate 2.72 lakh hectares in three districts of Bhadradri Kothagudem, Khammam and Mahabubabad districts of Telangana. The water from River Godavari will be diverted from the upstream of existing Dummugudem Anicut barrage.
Head regulator would be constructed at Dummugudem Anicut on Godavari river and lined canal of about 372 km would be constructed.

Objective of the Project

The project aims to provide water for irrigation as well as to enroute tanks, villages, towns and supplement some of the existing/ proposed irrigation schemes.

Survey on sanitation across Cities on the Bank of River Ganga

The Quality Council of India undertook a survey on the status of sanitation across cities and towns on the bank of River Ganga for the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. There are 39 towns on the banks of river in West Bengal, 20 in Uttar Pradesh, 17 in Bihar and 14 and two towns respectively in Uttarakhand and Jharkhand.

Findings of the Survey

The findings of the Survey are:

  • Four out of five towns along the River Ganga have waste dumps along the banks and nearly 55 per cent of the towns have drains emptying into the river without any cleaning.
  • Only 19 towns had municipal solid waste (MSW) plants and only 7 towns in the plains can claim installation of a trash cleaner in their territory.
  • 72 per cent of towns have nullahs (drains) discharging into the river and 77 per cent of these drains do not have functional screens that filter out filth.
  • 12 towns have scored A, 44 B-grade and the rest scored a poor C grade in performance.
  • Poor-performing towns were in states of West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

Different Grades

Grade A – Towns had good cleanliness and waste management services.
Grade B – Towns managed only a partial cleanliness around the ghats.
Grade C- Towns have a lot to do to achieve over improvement in cleanliness, solid waste management and in setting up infrastructure at treating sewage flowing into the river.

Quality Council of India

The Quality Council of India (QCI) is an accreditation body established by the government of India in partnership with the Indian industry.
Quality Council of India (QCI) is set up as a non-profit autonomous society to establish an accreditation structure in the country and to spread quality movement in India by undertaking a National Quality Campaign.

Yellow Vests Protests

The protestors are referred to as Yellow Vests because they don the “Gilets Jaunes” (yellow vests), which the French drivers are required to carry in their cars. It is a leaderless movement which no reported structure or leadership to the movement.

Why are they protesting?

Though there is no consensus on the French media about why the yellow vests are protesting. Some report that the protesters are primarily angry about what they see as President Emmanuel Macron’s apparent indifference toward tough conditions for working people and for others the movement is evidence of a middle-class backlash. The increase of the taxes on the fuel provided an opportunity for the anger to outburst.

France Go Green Policy

The tax imposed by the government of France was in line with the pro-Green agenda espoused by Macron’s government. The government of France had already pledged to ban all gasoline-fueled cars by 2040.

Is this an anti-green movement?

US President Trump has linked the protests in France with Paris Climate deal. He said the protests are due to France’s commitment to the expensive and ridiculous Paris Climate deal. But the movement has avoided any explicit anti-Green stance and the Fuel taxes in France are not the highest in Europe and are actually lower than Germany.
The workers feel they are squeezed by the government as only 20 per cent of the tax actually goes toward supporting the country’s transition to cleaner energy.
The protestors see government as too technocratic and favouring the rich, ignoring the plight of the worker and the middle class. The rallying cry also includes an immediate increase in the minimum wage and pension benefits.

France U-turn on Tax Hike

The government of France has bowed down to the pressure and has suspended the proposed tax hike for six months. The government has even announced an immediate freeze on gas and electricity price.
The announcements have failed to satisfy the protestor’s anger. They have vowed to continue their protest campaign dismissing the steps taken by the government as insufficient.

Pune to have Traffic Robot on its Roads

The Traffic Police Department of Pune is looking at a futuristic model to maintain traffic flow and spread awareness about the traffic rules.

Roadeo

The traffic police authorities of Pune are planning to introduce a robot named ‘Roadeo’ which would move around city roads, functioning as a quasi-traffic policeman and cautioning commuters about traffic rules and offences.
Roadeo consists of 16-inch LED display to showcase traffic rules and other important messages such as ‘Wear a helmet’, ‘Do not jump the signal’ and others. The Hands of the Roadeo is also engineered to move and show stop signs to vehicles. Roadeo is also equipped with a siren, skid-steering wheels and obstacle-detection sensors.
It is a first of its kind initiative in the entire country. If this pilot project turns out to be successful it would go a long way in easing the traffic management burden and reducing the workload of overburdened policemen.
The Robot “Roadeo” is developed by SP Robotics Maker Lab, a Pune based laboratory that trains people to learn about robotics and build tech themselves.

The Hindu Literary Prize 2018 Announced

The Hindu Literary Prize 2018 was awarded during The Hindu Lit for Life 2019. The winners under different categories are mentioned below:

  • English writer Neelum Saran Gour, author of Requiem in Raga Jankibagged The Hindu Prize 2018 for Fiction.
  • Activist Manoranjan Byapari, author of Interrogating my Chandal Life: An Autobiography of a Dalit, bagged The Hindu Prize 2018 for non-fiction.
  • The Hindu Young World-Goodbooks Award for Best Book Fiction to Venita Coelho for Boy No: 32.
  • A Brush with Indian Art of Mamta Nainy received The Hindu Young World-Goodbooks Award for Best Book Non-Fiction.
  • Vinayak Varma’s Angry Akku received The Hindu Young World-Goodbooks Award for Best Picture Book: Story.
  • Rajiv Eipe’s Ammachi’s Amazing Machines received The Hindu Young World-Goodbooks Award for Best Picture Book: Illustration.

The Hindu Literary Prize was instituted to honour writers who have spent their lifetime mining the human spirit through their words and ideas. The idea of the Hindu Literary Prize was mooted in the 20th year of the Literary Review.

National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction (2018-2023)

The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has drafted National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction (2018-2023) for addressing the problem of drug and substance abuse in the country, dumping a long-pending draft policy on the matter.

Components of the Action Plan

The components of the National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction (2018-2023) are:

  • The Action Plan aims to employ a multi-pronged strategy involving education, de-addiction and rehabilitation of affected individuals and their families to address the issue.
  • The Action Plan focuses on preventive education, awareness generation, counselling, treatment and rehabilitation of drug-dependent people, besides training and capacity-building of service providers through the collaborative efforts of the Centre, state and NGOs.
  • Several measures like coordination with implementing agencies for controlling the sale of sedatives, painkillers and muscle relaxant drugs, holding awareness generation programmes and checking online sale of drugs by stringent monitoring by the cyber cell are proposed under the Action Plan.
  • The Action Plan also proposes awareness generation through social, print, digital and online media, and engagement of celebrities, besides strengthening the national toll-free helpline for drug prevention.
  • The Action Plan calls for persuading principals, directors, vice chancellors of educational institutions to ensure that no drugs are sold within/nearby the campus.
  • The Action Plan also aims at increasing community participation and public cooperation in the reduction of demand by involving Panchayati Raj institutions, Urban Local Bodies, Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan and other local groups like Mahila Mandals, self-help groups etc to tackle the menace of drugs.
  • A steering committee would be constituted under the chairmanship of the secretary, Social Justice Ministry, and with representatives from the Ministries of Health, Human Resource Development, Women and Child Development, Home Affairs, Skill development and Entrepreneurship to monitor the effective implementation of the Action Plan.
  • The Action Plan proposes module for re-treatment, ongoing treatment and post-treatment of addicts of different categories and age groups and database on substance use.

The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in collaboration with the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC) under the AIIMS, is conducting a national survey on the extent and pattern of substance abuse.

Global Housing Technology Challenge

The Union Minister of Housing and Urban affairs Hardeep Singh Puri launched the Global Housing Technology Challenge. The challenge is undertaken under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana Urban (PMAY-U).

Features of the Global Housing Technology Challenge

The features of the Global Housing Technology Challenge (GHTC) are:

  • GHTC aims to fast-track the construction of affordable housing and meet the target of constructing 1.2 crore houses by 2022.
  • GHTC focuses on identifying and mainstreaming proven demonstrable technologies for lighthouse projects and spotting potential future technologies for incubation and acceleration support through ASHA (Affordable Sustainable Housing Accelerators) — India.
  • To enable adoption of construction techniques for housing that are affordable and takes minimum time as less as three months instead of the conventional three years for construction.
  • Bring a paradigm shift in technology transition using large-scale construction under the PMAY-U as an opportunity to get the best available construction technologies across the globe.

Under GHTC, a grand expo-cum-conference on GHTC will be organised in March, wherein stakeholders will showcase their best technologies to build houses. This will provide builders plethora of technological innovations to choose from, for timely delivery of projects.

Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana Urban (PMAY-U)

The Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) Mission has been undertaken by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (MoHUPA). The Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) Mission seeks to address the housing requirement of urban poor including slum dwellers through following programme components:

  • In-situ Rehabilitation of existing slum dwellers using land as a resource through private participation.
  • Credit Linked Subsidy.
  • Affordable Housing in Partnership.
  • Subsidy for Beneficiary-led individual house construction/enhancement.

Of these components, Credit linked subsidy is implemented as a Central Sector Scheme while other three components will be implemented as Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS).

IMBEX 2018-19

India-Myanmar bilateral army exercise, IMBEX 2018-19, has begun at Chandimandir Military Station which houses the headquarters of the Western Command.

Objectives of the IMBEX 2018-19

It is the second edition of the IMBEX. The objectives of IMBEX 2018-19 are:

  • Train the Myanmar delegation for participation in United Nations peacekeeping operations under the UN flag.
  • Training the Myanmar Army delegation on tactics, procedures, expertise and methodology required by contingents of the member nations for serving in UN peacekeeping operations.
  • Provide opportunities to the army personnel of both the nations to serve effectively in UN missions by providing understanding about each other’s training, tactics, procedures and best practices.

India is one of the largest contributors to the UN peacekeeping force and has a rich experience of serving in UN peacekeeping operations. This expertise will be shared with the delegation from Myanmar. This delegation would form the core group of trainers who will further impart training to Myanmar Army personnel who are likely to serve in UN peacekeeping operations.

United Nations Peace Keeping Force

United Nations Peace Keeping Force are employed in areas of armed conflict to maintain or re-establish peace. The UN Peacekeeping Forces would be employed only when both parties to a conflict accept their presence.
Often referred to as Blue Helmets, the peacekeeping operations are authorised by the United Nations Security Council which is authorised by the United Nations Charter to maintain global peace.

Multiple Choice Questions

1. Which city is the venue of the 42nd Indian Social Science Congress (ISSC)?
[A] Bhubaneswar
[B] Hyderabad
[C] Kolkata
[D] New Delhi

Show Answer

2. Which Indian player has been named as the ICC Women’s Cricketer of the Year 2018?
[A] Jhulan Goswami
[B] Harmanpreet Kaur
[C] Mithali Raj
[D] Smriti Mandhana

Show Answer

3. ESAF Small Finance Bank (SFB) has recently got RBI nod to operate as a scheduled bank. The headquarters of ESAF is located at ___?
[A] Thiruvananthapuram
[B] Chennai
[C] Thrissur
[D] Kolkata

Show Answer

4. Who is the newly appointed Chief Information Commissioner (CIC)?
[A] Sudhir Bhargava
[B] Vanaja N. Sarna
[C] Suresh Chandra
[D] Yashwardhan Sinha

Show Answer

5. Norman Gimbel, the Oscar & Grammy-winning lyricist has passed away. He was from which country?
[A] United States
[B] France
[C] Germany
[D] Italy

Show Answer

6. Who has become the first Indian wicket-keeper to claim 20 catches in Test series?
[A] Dinesh Karthik
[B] MS Dhoni
[C] Rishabh Pant
[D] Ajay Ratra

Show Answer

7. Transgenders can file sexual harassment case under which section of IPC?
[A] Section 357A
[B] Section 356A
[C] Section 354A
[D] Section 358A

Show Answer

8. Which toll-free helpline has been launched by NHRC to file complaint through CSC?
[A] 14433
[B] 14432
[C] 14434
[D] 14435

Show Answer

9. Which country has announced 2019 as the ‘Year of Active Investment and Social Development’ in backdrop of wider business with India?
[A] Kyrgyzstan
[B] Tajikistan
[C] Turkmenistan
[D] Uzbekistan

Show Answer

10. Who is the head of the government committee that suggested AICTE to stop setting up new engineering colleges from 2020?
[A] Bhaskar Ramamurthy
[B] B V R Mohan Reddy
[C] Devang Vipin Khakhar
[D] Partha Pratim Chakraborty

Show Answer