News Headlines: January 1-15, 2019
Current Affairs – NEWS HEADLINES: January 1, 2019
- Lok Sabha passes Indian Medical Council (Amendment) bill to allow a panel of eminent professionals to run the scam-tainted Medical Council of India (MCI)
- Former IFS Officer Sudhir Bhargava appointed as new Chief Information Commissioner (CIC)
- HRD Ministry to turn 3 deemed universities imparting education in Sanskrit into central universities
- The three institutions are: Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, New Delhi, Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth, New Delhi, and Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth, Tirupati
- West Bengal govt. to give financial aid of Rs 5,000 per acre for all peasant families in the state
- West Bengal govt. to provide life insurance coverage of Rs 2 lakh for farmers under Krishak Bondhu scheme from 2019
- CM Nitish Kumar announces setting up of Bihar Industrial Security Force (BISF) to protect businessmen, industrialists
- Gujarat: School students to answer roll call with ‘Jai Hind’, ‘Jai Bharat’ from Jan 1
- Nagaland: Centre extends Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) for a period of six months
- Meghalaya: Indian Navy divers start operation to rescue trapped miners in coal mine since Dec 13
- Telangana, AP to have separate high courts at Hyderabad and Amaravati from Jan 1
- Dipika Kakar wins season 12 of reality show Bigg Boss
- Veteran Kannada actor C. H. Loknath dies in Bengaluru at 91
Economy & Corporate
- Non-subsidised LPG rate cut by Rs 120.50/cylinder, subsidised by Rs 5.91 from January 1
- Eight core industries grew at its slowest pace in 16 months at 3.5 per cent in November
- Asset quality of PSBs showed improvement with gross non-performing assets’ (GNPAs) ratio declining to 14.8% in September 2018 from 15.2% in March 2018: RBI
- India’s external debt fell by USD 19.3 billion (3.6%) to USD 510.4 billion during the 6-month period ended September: RBI
- infuses Rs 10,882 crore in 4 PSBs: UCO Bank- Rs 3,074 crore, Bank of Maharashtra-Rs 4,498 crore, Syndicate Bank-Rs 1,632 crore and Central Bank of India-Rs 1,678 crore
- Loan subsidy for middle-income group under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) extended till March 31, 2020
- K. Yadav succeeds Ashwani Lohani as new Railway Board Chairman
- Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League wins landslide victory in Parliamentary elections
- Cyclone Usman leaves 68 dead in Philippines
- ‘City on Fire’ director Ringo Lam dies at 63 in Hong Kong
- Smriti Mandhana wins ICC ‘Women’s Cricketer’ and ‘ODI Player of the year’ awards
- Bangladesh: ODI captain Mashrafe Mortaza wins election as an Awami League candidate
Current Affairs – NEWS HEADLINES: January 2, 2019
- ISRO launches a new platform named “Samwad with Students” (SwS) in Bengaluru
- Kerala: Women form 620-km long human ‘wall’ from Kasaragod to Thiruvananthapuram to uphold gender equality
- Justice AK Sikri nominated as the Executive Chairman of National Legal Services Authority (NALSA)
- Actor Prakash Raj to join politics, to contest Lok Sabha election as an independent candidate
- Actor-writer Kader Khan, who made his debut in ‘Daag’ (1973), dies at 81 in Toronto
- Thottathil B. Radhakrishnan sworn in as 1st Chief Justice of the Telangana High Court in Hyderabad
- Siddhu Siddrameshwar Humanabade, who saved 10 people from a fire in a Mumbai hospital on Dec 31, honoured by MoS for Labour & Employment (I/C) Santosh Kumar Gangwar
Economy & Corporate
- RBI gives relief to MSME sector, provides for one-time restructuring of loans
- Govt appoints Hemant Bhargava interim chairman of LIC
- 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 & industry ministry
- Saurabh Kumar takes over as the Director General of Ordnance Factories (DGOF) and Chairman of the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) in Kolkata
- India and Pakistan exchange a list of their nuclear installations for the 28th consecutive year
- A bilateral agreement prohibits India and Pakistan them from attacking each other’s atomic facilities
- India and Pakistan exchange details of civilian prisoners and fishermen lodged in each other’s jails
- USA and Israel officially quit UNESCO with the close of 2018
- Qatar ceases to be a member of OPEC from Jan 1
- Third Elite women’s National Boxing Championships starts in Vijayanagara, Karnataka
Current Affairs – NEWS HEADLINES: January 3, 2019
- Govt tables bill in Lok Sabha for voluntary use of Aadhaar for obtaining services like opening bank account and getting mobile phone connection
- Cabinet approves continuation of “Umbrella Scheme for Family Welfare and Other Health Interventions” till 2019-20
- Cabinet approves restructuring of existing National Health Agency as “National Health Authority” for better implementation of PM-JAY (Pradhan Mantri – Jan Arogya Yojana)
- Cabinet approves continuation of Rastriya Yuva Sashaktikaran Karyakram Scheme for welfare of adolescents till 2019-2020
- Union Cabinet approves constitution of a high-level committee to make recommendations for effective implementation of the ‘Assam Accord’ inked in August 1985
- Haryana approves 11 projects for revival of ancient Saraswati River
- Former diplomat Sujan R. Chinoy appointed Director General of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi
Economy & Corporate
- RBI constitutes an expert committee headed by former SEBI Chairman U. K. Sinha to ensure timely and adequate availability of finance for MSMEs
- Cabinet approves bill to provide statutory recognition to trade unions; the present act provides for only registration of trade unions
- Govt releases 6-croreth LPG connection under PMUY (Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana)
- Oil PSUs sign agreement with IIT-Bombay to set up a Centre of Excellence in Oil, Gas and Energy
- Cabinet approves amalgamation of Dena Bank and Vijaya Bank with Bank of Baroda that will create country’s 3rd largest bank
- President Xi Jinping says that China will not give up the use of military force as an option to ensure the reunification of Taiwan
- Somalia labels UN Special Representative Nicholas Haysom as a ‘persona non-grata’
- On first day of 2019, estimated 395,000 babies born worldwide, most (69,944) in India: UNICEF
- NASA’s Juno probe photographs volcanic plumes on Jupiter’s moon Io
- Sachin Tendulkar’s childhood coach and Dronacharya awardee Ramakant Achrekar dies in Mumbai at 87
Current Affairs – NEWS HEADLINES: January 4, 2019
- Rajya Sabha passes National Council for Teacher Education (Amendment) Bill, 2019 that seeks to retrospectively grant recognition to certain institutions running teacher education courses
- Parliament passes the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill, 2018 to abolish the no-detention policy in schools
- PM Modi adds Jai Anusandhan to ex-PM Lal Bahadur Shastri’s famous slogan of Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan and Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s Jai Vigyan
- 106th Session of the Indian Science Congress being held at Jalandhar, Punjab from Jan 3 to 7, Theme: ‘Future India: science & Technology
- 27th New Delhi World Book Fair from Jan 5 to 13 with its focus on ‘Readers with Special Needs’; UAE’s emirate Sharjah is ‘guest of honour’
- Veer Savarkar International Airport in Port Blair declared as an authorized Immigration Check post for entry into/exit from India
- Odisha: Kathak exponent Anindita Neogy Anaam presented National Nritya Shiromani award at Cuttack Mahotsav: International Dance and Music festival
- Sahitya Akademi awardee Bengali writer Dibyendu Palit dies in Kolkata at 79
- Retired justice Chandrashekhar Shankar Dharmadhikari, who delivered a landmark verdict during the Emergency on human rights, dies in Mumbai at 91
Economy & Corporate
- HDFC MF surpasses ICICI Prudential MF to become largest AMC in India as of December-end
- E-commerce rules do not allow foreign investment in multi-brand retail: DIPP
- Sun Pharma completes acquisition of Japan-based Pola Pharma
- Pakistan: Provincial Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government declares Panj Tirath Hindu religious site in Peshawar as national heritage
- Pakistan abolishes the long-standing facility of visa on arrival for Afghan nationals
- China’s lunar explorer Chang’e-4 probe makes first-ever landing on far side of moon
- US: Pharma giant Bristol-Myers Squibb buying Celgene in USD 74 bn deal
- Switzerland enter final of Hopman Cup mixed team tennis tournament in Perth
- Former FIFA referee Alex Vaz dies in Mumbai at 84
Current Affairs – NEWS HEADLINES: January 5, 2019
- PM IN MANIPUR
- Inaugurates Integrated Check Post at Moreh on border with Myanmar
- Inaugurates the Dolaithabi Barrage Project and the FCI Food Storage Godown at Sawombung
- Dedicates to the nation the 400 kV Double Circuit Silchar-Imphal Line
- Lok Sabha passes bill to amend the Aadhaar Act. This will allow individuals to offer voluntarily biometric ID as a means of identity verification for opening bank account and procuring mobile phone connection
- 106th Indian Science Congress in Jalandhar: Time Capsule with items representing today’s technology and India’s scientific prowess buried for 100 years at the Lovely Professional University (LPU)
- Swachh Survekshan 2019 (Annual Cleanliness survey) being conducted across 4,237 Urban Local Bodies from January 4 to 28
- Indian Panorama Film Festival being organised in New Delhi from January 4 to 13
- Afghan National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib meets his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval in New Delhi
Economy & Corporate
- India’s foreign exchange reserves rose marginally to US$ 393.40 billion in the week ended December 28
- Nikkei India Services Business Activity Index falls to 53.2 in December from 53.7 in November
- National Entrepreneurship Awards 2018 presented to the winners in New Delhi
- Andhra Pradesh tops Asia Competitiveness Institute (ACI), Singapore’s 2018 Ease of Doing Business (EDB) Index of Indian states
- AP Govt. bags Central Board of Irrigation and Power (CBIP) award for speedy execution of Polavaram multipurpose project on the Godavari River
- Lok Sabha passes the Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2018 that seeks to improve ease of doing business, declog the NCLT and prescribe strong action against non-compliant companies
- Lok Sabha passes bill to set up a new international arbitration centre in New Delhi with an aim to make India as hub of international arbitration
- Conventional coaches will be replaced with modern LHB (Linke Hofmann Busch) design coaches in all long distance trains: Railway Minister Piyush Goyal
- Veteran Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi elected as Speaker of the House of Representatives in US Parliament
- Tropical storm ‘Pabuk’ makes landfall in Thailand
- United Nations observes the first World Braille Day on January 4
- 80th National Table Tennis Championship began at Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium in Cuttack
Current Affairs – NEWS HEADLINES: January 6, 2019
- PM IN ODISHA
- Baripada: Unveils plaque to mark start of conservation work at Rasika Ray Temple and Excavated Structure at Ancient Fort Haripurgarh
- Balasore: Inaugurates Balasore-Haldia-Durgapur section of the Paradip-Haldia-Durgapur LPG pipeline of IOCL
- Balasore: Inaugurates Multi Modal Logistic Park
- Balasore: Flags off the second passenger train from Tatanagar to Badampahar
- PM IN JHARKHAND
- Palamu: Witnessed the e-Grih Pravesh of 25,000 beneficiaries under Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana
- Palamu: Lays Foundation Stone for the revival of North Koel (Mandal Dam) project & Kanhar Sone pipeline irrigation scheme
- Odisha: CM Naveen Patnaik announces interest-free loans of up to Rs 3 lakh for the women self-help groups (WSHGs)
- Mumbai: Veteran journalist Dinu Randive conferred with lifetime achievement award by the Mantralaya and Vidhimandal Vartahar Sangh, an association of journalists covering Maharashtra legislature and secretariat
- ‘Crusade against corruption’, a book written by Manohar Manoj, released
Economy & Corporate
- Liquor baron Vijay Mallya becomes 1st person to be declared a ‘fugitive economic offender’ under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) by a special court in Mumbai
- NGT imposes fine of Rs. 100 crore on Meghalaya government for failing to curb illegal coal mining in the state
- NHAI to collaborate with Oil Marketing Companies for issuance of FASTags through petroleum retail outlets
- ONGC Videsh makes second oil discovery in Colombia; to drill more wells
- Tropical storm Pabuk kills 3, forces over 34,000 to evacuate in Thailand
- Tata Open Maharashtra tennis in Pune: Rohan Bopanna & Divij Sharan win Men’s Doubles title; South Africa’s Kevin Anderson wins Men’s Singles title
- Bengaluru Bulls beat Gujarat Fortune Giants in final 38-33 to win Pro Kabaddi League title in Mumbai
Current Affairs – NEWS HEADLINES: January 7, 2019
- Bihar CM, his cabinet colleagues declare their assets; CM Nitish Kumar owns assets worth Rs 56.18 lakh
- Centre sets up high-level committee headed by former Union tourism secretary M. P. Bezbaruah to assess the appropriate level of reservation of seats in the Assam Assembly and local bodies for the Assamese people
- Cyclone Pabuk: IMD issues orange warning for Andaman and Nicobar Islands
- Meghalaya: Operations to rescue 15 trapped in flooded coal mine in East Jaintia Hills district enter 25th day
Economy & Corporate
- ‘Rail Kumbh Seva Mobile App’ launched to help those arriving in Allahabad for the Kumbh Mela starting from January 15
- Malaysia’s 15th King, 49-year old Sultan Muhammad V, resigns from Kingship
- China passes law to make Islam ‘compatible with socialism’
- United States: Pentagon Chief of Staff Kevin Sweeney resigns
- Qatar Open tennis: Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut defeats Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in the final to win Men’s Singles title
- Brisbane International tennis: Japan’s Kei Nishikori defeats Russia’s Daniil Medvedev 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 in the final to win Men’s Singles title
- Brisbane International tennis: Karolina Pliskova of Czech Republic beats Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 in the final to win Women’s Singles title
- WTA Auckland Classic tennis: Germany’s Julia Goerges beats Canada’s Bianca Andreescu in the final 2-6, 7-5, and 6-1 to win Women’s Singles title
- Switzerland beat Germany 2-1 in final to win Hopman Cup mixed team tennis tournament in Perth
- South Africa (431, 43/1) beat Pakistan (177, 294) by 9 wickets in 2ndt test at Newlands, Cape Town; take 2-0 lead in 3-test series
- Xiamen Marathon in China: Ethiopians Dejene Debela (2:09:26) and Medina Deme (2:27:25) win Men’s and Women’s races respectively
- Asia Cup Football in Abu Dhabi: India beat Thailand 4-1 in their opening match; country’s 1st win in the tournament since 1964
Current Affairs – NEWS HEADLINES: January 8, 2019
- Union Cabinet approves 10% reservation in jobs and educational institutions for the economically backward section in the general category
- Lok Sabha passes ‘The Personal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018’ to remove leprosy as ground for divorce
- Assam: Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), which has 14 MLAs in 126-member Assembly, pulls out of the BJP-led coalition govt
- Assam Assembly (126): BJP-61, Bodoland People’s Front-12, Congress-25, All Indian United Democratic Front (AIUDF)-13, AGP-14
- HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar approves an increase of 5,000 seats at Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas across the country
- MEA and the Observer Research Foundation organising 4th edition of Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi on January 8-10, theme: ‘A World Reorder: New Geometries; Fluid Partnerships; Uncertain Outcomes’
- External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj holds talks with her Japanese counterpart Taro Kono in New Delhi
- PM of Norway Erna Solberg attends Indo-Norwegian Business Summit 2019 in New Delhi
- French Navy Chief Vice Admiral Christophe Prazuck hold talks with his Indian counterpart Admiral Sunil Lanba in New Delhi
- DRDO pavilion receives ‘Exhibitor of the Year Award’ at 106th Indian Science Congress at Jalandhar, Punjab
- UGC decides to set up Consortium for Academic and Research Ethics (CARE) to refine and strengthen research publication
- Tamil Nadu Minister P. Balakrishna Reddy sentenced to three years imprisonment by a special court in Chennai for damaging buses with stones in 1998
- Private FM channels to broadcast All India Radio News from January 8
Economy & Corporate
- Indian economy is expected to grow at 7.2% in 2018-19 (6.7% in 2017-18): Central Statistics Office
- to allow PSUs ONGC and Oil India Ltd. to induct private and foreign partners in oilfields to raise output and also give special incentive to make their discoveries in difficult areas viable
- Bandhan Bank Ltd to buy mortgage provider Gruh Finance Ltd in a share-swap deal
- India takes over operations of the strategic Chabahar port in the Sistan-Balochistan province of Iran’s southern coast
- 2019 Golden Globe Awards presented in Los Angeles: ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ wins Best Motion Picture Drama award, Best Motion Picture Musical or Comedy award won by ‘Green Book’
- 4th and final Test between India (622/7d) and Australia (300, 6/0) in Sydney ends in draw; India win series 2-1 — their first ever series win in Australia
Current Affairs – NEWS HEADLINES: January 9, 2019
- SC reinstates Alok Verma as CBI Director, restrains him from taking policy decisions
- Lok Sabha passes Bill for providing citizenship to minorities (Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis) who came to India from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh before 2015
- Lok Sabha passes Bill seeking to provide 10% reservation in jobs and education for the general category poor (Economically Weaker Sections-EWS)
- PM Modi meets Norwegian PM Erna Solberg in New Delhi
- 5-Judge Constitution bench of SC headed by CJI Ranjan Gogoi constituted to hear the title suit in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid Ayodhya case from Jan 10
- IPS Officer Kumar Rajesh Chandra appointed Director General of the (DG) Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB)
- “We are Displaced”, book written by Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, released in India
- Playback singer P. Suseela chosen for the Harivarasanam award instituted by the Kerala government
- Kerala HC sets a 7-day notice period for political parties and individuals to call a hartal and general strike in the State
- West Bengal govt. hikes retirement age for college and university teachers to 65 years and that of VCs to 70 years
- Former West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi conferred D.Litt (Honoris Causa) by the University of Calcutta
Economy & Corporate
- RBI constitutes high-level committee headed by Aadhaar architect Nandan Nilekani to suggest measures to strengthen the safety and security of digital payments in the country
- FASTags, which are RFID (radio-frequency identification) tags used to pay toll automatically on national highways, now available at petrol pumps across the country
- Information and Broadcasting Ministry hikes advertisement rates for print media by 25%
- Centre’s net direct taxes collections grew 13.6 per cent in April-December 2018 to ₹43 lakh crore
- The ‘Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2018’ released by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
- Pranav R Mehta takes charge as 1st President of Washington-based Global Solar Council (GSC)
- World Bank President Jim Yong Kim resigns more than three years before his current term was due to expire
- India-born Gita Gopinath joins IMF as its Chief Economist
- Khelo India Youth Games in Pune: Gymnasts Mohammed Rafey of UP and West Bengal’s Prathista Samanta becomes first gold medal winners
- Football: Egypt selected to host the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in June-July after Cameroon’s exit
Current Affairs – NEWS HEADLINES: January 10, 2019
- Arunachal Pradesh: India’s longest (300 m) single-lane steel cable suspension bridge inaugurated over river Siang by CM Pema Khandu
- UP: PM launches Gangajal Project to provide better and more assured water supply in Agra
- Uttarakhand: Children residing in the state-owned orphanages to get 5% reservation in govt. jobs
- West Bengal: Trinamool Congress (TMC) expels 2 Lok Sabha MPs from the party – Anupam Hazra from Bolpur and Saumitra Khan from Bishnupur
- Former Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar appointed amicus curiae for Jagannath temple reforms by Supreme Court
- Shah Faesal, who became the first Kashmiri to top IAS exam in 2009, resigns from the Indian Administrative Service
- WCD Ministry launches online campaign ‘Web-WonderWomen’ to exceptional achievements of women on social media
Economy & Corporate
- World Bank forecasts 7.3% growth for Indian economy in FY 2018/19 in its 2019 Global Economic Prospects report
- India is set to become the world’s third largest consumer market behind only USA and China by 2030: WEF
- Norway ranked first on The Economist’s Democracy Index; India ranked 41st
- The first India-Central Asia Dialogue to be held in Samarkand, Uzbekistan on January 12-13
- World Bank forecasts global economic growth at 2.9% in 2019 in its newly-released Global Economic Prospects report
- Guatemalan Government unilaterally terminates the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG)
- CICIG was set up as an independent body set up by the UN and Guatemala to high-level corruption in the country
- Henley Passport Index: Japan tops list of most powerful passports, India ranks 79th
- National Table Tennis Championship in Cuttack: A. Sharath Kamal (PSPB) and Archana Kamath (PSPB) win Men’s and Women’s Singles titles respectively
- Liverpool and Egypt forward Mohamed Salah wins the 2018 Confederation of African Football (CAF) Player of the Year award
- Harendra Singh removed as Indian men’s hockey coach
Current Affairs – NEWS HEADLINES: January 11, 2019
- Winter Session of Parliament concludes: Productivity of Lok Sabha: 47% & Rajya Sabha: 27%; 5 Bills passed by both Houses
- CBI Director Alok Verma ousted by PM-led panel; posted as DG Fire Services
- Alok Verma removed as CBI Director by a 3-member committee (comprising PM, Supreme Court Judge Justice A. K Sikri. and Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge) in a 2-1 decision on the basis of CVC report; posted as Director General Fire Service, Civil Defence and Home Guards
- Chhattisgarh govt. withdraws general consent accorded to the CBI to probe cases in the state
- World Hindi Day celebrated on January 10 to mark the holding of World Hindi Conference on January 10, 1975 in Nagpur
- Rajya Sabha passes the Constitution amendment Bill to provide 10% reservation in jobs and education to economically backward sections in the general category
- New Ambassadors present credential to President: Ron Malka-Israel, Sekou Kasse-Mali, Andrei Rzheussky- Belarus, Bounneme Chouanghom-Laos and Leko Ado-Niger
- Union Cabinet approves setting up of 3 new AIIMS – 2 in J&K: Vijaynagar in Samba district and Awantipora in Pulwama and 1 in Gujarat: Rajkot
- SC suggests setting up of a high-powered committee comprising Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani, and computer scientist Vijay P. Bhatkar to suggest reforms for fair conduct of govt. competitive examinations
- Union Minister for Electronics & Information Technology and Law & Justice, Ravi Shankar Prasad inaugurates the Command & Control Centre (CCC) and Centre of Excellence (CoE) for Artificial Intelligence in New Delhi
- Japanese delegation led by the Minister of Justice, Japan, Takashi Yamashita meets Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, in New Delhi
- Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan launches National Clean Air Programme to improve air quality by 20-30% in next 5 years with 2017 as the base year
- West Bengal CM announces her state’s exit from the Centre’s Ayushman Bharat scheme
Economy & Corporate
- RBI allows charitable institutions and govt. entities to deposit gold in Gold Monetisation Scheme (GMS), 2015
- Businesses with turnover up to Rs 40 lakh exempted from GST, threshold limit doubled from Rs 20 lakh
- Bureau of Energy Efficiency and CPWD sign MoU on promoting energy efficiency in buildings
- Godrej Group Chairman Adi Godrej conferred the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI)
- WEF recognises Tata Steel’s Netherlands plant as ‘factory of the future’
- Virat Kohli is the most valuable celebrity brand in India with a brand value of USD 170.9 million in 2018: Duff & Phelps
- Sino-Indian Digital Collaboration Plaza (SIDCOP), a partnership between NASSCOM and municipal governments of Guiyang and Dalian in China, launched in New Delhi
- Congo: Opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi wins Presidential election
- Anatoly Lukyanov, the last chairman of the USSR’s Supreme Soviet, dies at 88
- International Boxing Association’s (AIBA) rankings: M. C. Mary Kom ranked world No: 1 in women’s 48 kg category
Current Affairs – NEWS HEADLINES: January 12, 2019
- 2nd lunar mission Chandrayaan-2 with a lander and rover will be attempted in mid-April: ISRO Chairman K. Sivan
- CMs of 6 states – Delhi, Rajasthan, UP, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand – sign agreement for Renukaji Multipurpose Dam project
- Renukaji Multipurpose Dam project will be project on Giri river (tributary of Yamuna) in Sirmour district of Himachal Pradesh
- 4 of the 9 members of the high-level committee formed by the Centre to implement Clause 6 of the Assam Accord have declined to be a part of it
- AP CM N. Chandrababu Naidu announces enhancement of old age pensions from Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000
- SC Collegium recommends names of Justice Dinesh Maheshwari of Karnataka HC and Justice Sanjiv Khanna of Delhi HC for elevation as judges of the apex court
- NITI Aayog’s Atal Innovation Mission releases the Atal Tinkering Lab Handbook on eve of National Youth Day
- A day after being shunted out as CBI Director, senior IPS officer Alok Verma resigns from service
- Senior bureaucrat Jaideep Govind appointed Secretary General of National Human Rights Commission
- Former chief statistician T. C. A. Anant appointed as member of UPSC
- Banker-turned-politician Meera Sanyal dies at 57 in Mumbai
- CBI court convicts Gurmit Ram Rahim in journalist Ram Chander Chhatrapati murder case of 2002
Economy & Corporate
- Industrial output growth drops to a 17-month low of 0.5% in November
- Foreign exchange reserves jump by USD 2.68 billion to touch USD 396.084 billion in the week to January 4
- GST Council allows Kerala to levy calamity cess up to 1% over and above GST
- Delhi government to open 6 world class skill centres (WCSCs) in the national capital in March
- “Fair Value for Innovation” initiative launched by Global Innovation Policy Center (GIPC) of US Chamber of Commerce at the Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi
- Former bureaucrat Ashok Chawla resigns as Chairman of National Stock Exchange
- China announces that the Chang’e-4 mission, the first-ever probe to land on the moon’s dark side, was a complete success
- Britain’s Andy Murray announces retirement from tennis at the age of 31. Won Singles titles at US Open in 2012, Wimbledon in 2013 & 2016 and Olympic gold in 2012 & 2016
- Bengaluru Raptors enter final of the Vodafone Premier Badminton League
- Asian Cup football tournament: India lost 0-2 to UAE in 2nd Group-A match in Abu Dhabi
- BCCI suspends Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul pending inquiry into comments on TV show
- Virat Kohli, Ravi Shastri receive honorary membership of Sydney Cricket Ground
- President of the Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWF), Birendra Prasad Baishya, named Chef de Mission for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics
Current Affairs – NEWS HEADLINES: January 13, 2019
- President Ram Nath Kovind confers the honorary rank of General of the Indian Army on Purna Chandra Thapa, the Chief of the Army Staff of Nepalese Army
- President Ram Nath Kovind signs into law Constitution Amendment Bill, which provides for 10% reservation for economically weaker sections in the general category
- Former bureaucrat MP Bezbaruah refuses to be a part of the nine-member panel, which was set up by the Home Ministry on January 7 to suggest ways to implement Clause 6 of the Assam Accord
- Sikkim: CM Pawan Kumar Chamling launches ‘One Family One Job’ scheme which entitles one govt. job for every family in the state
- National Youth Parliament Festival-2019 being held across the country from Jan 12 to Feb 24
- Birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda on Jan 12 celebrated as National Youth Day
- UP: SP-BSP announce alliance for Lok Sabha polls, to contest 38 seats each out of 80 in the state
Economy & Corporate
- Sovereign gold bonds on sale at Rs 3,214 a gram during Jan 14-18: Govt.
- 25th edition of CII’s Partnership Summit being held in Mumbai on Jan 12-13
- Macedonia: Parliament unanimously agrees to change the name of the country to the Republic of North Macedonia
- US Govt. shutdown due to Republican President Donald Trump’s row with Democrats over building a Mexico border wall enters a record 22nd day
- 18-year-old Saudi girl, Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, who fled from her family in Kuwait to Thailand, granted asylum in Canada
- Australia (288/5) beat India (254/9) by 34 runs 1st ODI at Sydney; Jhye Richardson is Man of the Match for his 4/26 in 10 overs
- Mahendra Singh Dhoni becomes 5th Indian after Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Virat Kohli to make 10,000 runs in ODI cricket
- Sydney International tennis: Petra Kvitova of Czech Republic beats Australia’s Ashleigh Barty 1-6, 7-5, 7-6 (3) in the final to win Women’s Singles title; Alex De Minaur of Australia beats Italy’s Andreas Seppi 7-5, 7-6 (7-5) to win Men’ Singles title
- CCI International JSW Indian Squash Circuit in Mumbai: Tarek Momen of Egypt beats compatriot Fares Dessouky 3-2 in final to win Men’s Singles title
Current Affairs – NEWS HEADLINES: January 14, 2019
- PM releases Commemorative Coin of Rs. 350 to mark birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh
- 352nd birth anniversary of Guru Govind Singh celebrated as Prakash Utsav on Jan 13
- re-promulgates the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Ordinance, 2019 banning the practice of instant triple talaq
- Bhopal Literature and Art Festival: Namita Gokhale given Sushila Devi Literature Award for her novel “Things to Leave Behind”
- Gujarat to implement 10% reservation in govt. jobs and higher education for economically backward sections in the general category from Jan 14
- Puducherry govt to ban single-use plastic products from March 1: CM V Narayanasamy
- Former Finance Secretary Ashok Chawla resigns as Chairman of The Energy Resources Institute (TERI)
- Niyogi Books launches new imprint Bahuvachan dedicated to Hindi titles
Economy & Corporate
- Bihar Deputy CM Sushil Modi to head 7-member committee to look into revenue shortfall being faced by states after GST roll-out
- First India-Central Asia Dialogue held in Samarkand, Uzbekistan on Jan 12-13; co-chaired by EAM Sushma Swaraj and Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan, Abdulaziz Kamilov
- Pakistan: Saudi Arabia to establish $10bn oil refinery in Gwadar port city in Balochistan province
- Former India footballer Mohammed Zulfiqaruddin, member of team in 1956 Melbourne Olympics, dies in Hyderabad at 83
Current Affairs – NEWS HEADLINES: January 15, 2019
- PM Modi receives Philip Kotler Presidential award for his ‘outstanding leadership for the nation’ in New Delhi
- Director Buddhadeb Dasgupta conferred ‘Satyajit Ray Lifetime Achievement’ award by West Bengal Film Journalist Association (WBFJA) in Kolkata
- The Hindu Prize 2018 — English writer Neelum Saran Gour wins Fiction prize for her novel ‘Requiem in Raga Janki’, Bengali writer Manoranjan Byapari wins Non-Fiction Prize for his book ‘Interrogating my Chandal Life: An Autobiography of a Dalit’
- Ex-Chairman of Maharashtra Legislative Council Shivajirao Deshmukh of Congress dies in Mumbai at 84
- UP: EC allots “key” (chaabi) as election symbol to Shivpal Yadav’s Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party-Lohia (PSPL)
- Rajasthan govt. to honour those who adopt stray cows on Independence Day and Republic Day
- 2nd edition of the India-Myanmar bilateral army exercise, IMBEX 2018-19, being held in Chandigarh from Jan 14 to 19
- Armed Forces Veterans Day observed on January 14
- Devendra Swarup, former Editor of RSS magazine ‘Panchjanya’, dies in New Delhi at 93
- Malayalam filmmaker & Chairman of the Kerala Film Development Corporation, Lenin Rajendran, dies in Chennai at 67
- ‘India in Chaos, Only Judiciary Can Save by Electoral Reforms & Playing A Third Eye’, written by K. C. Agrawal, released
Economy & Corporate
- Wholesale Price Index (WPI)-based inflation falls to 8-month low of 3.8% in December
- Consumer Price Index (CPI)-based inflation (retail inflation) falls to 18-month low of 2.19% in December
- launches Global Housing Technology Challenge (GHTC) aimed at constructing houses faster with lower cost
- Finance Secretary Ajay Narayan Jha gets one-month extension; appointed member of 15th Finance Commission
- Finance Ministry asks public sector banks to bring down govt.’s equity to 52%
- 24th Critics’ Choice Awards presented in Santa Monica (USA): Best Picture: ‘Roma, Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron for ‘Roma, Best Actor: Christian Bale for ‘Vice’, Best Actress: Lady Gaga for ‘A Star is Born’ and Glenn Close for ‘The Wife’
- Newmont Mining Corp to buy Goldcorp Inc for $10 billion creating the world’s biggest gold producer by output
- South Africa beat Pakistan by 107 runs in third test at Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg; win 3-match series 3-0
- Bengaluru Raptors beat Mumbai Rockets 4-3 in final at Bengaluru to win Premier Badminton League (PBL) title
- Indian badminton player Kidambi Srikanth signs 4 year Rs. 35-crore sports sponsorship deal with Chinese brand Li-Ning
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.
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:
- Banking system’s asset quality has surprisingly started to show improvement. The gross non-performing assets (NPAs) have decelerated during September 2018 quarter.
- The asset quality of Scheduled Commercial Banks (SCB) showed an improvement with gross non-performing assets (GNPA) ratio declining from 11.5% in March 2018 to 10.8% in September 2018 and the net non-performing assets (NNPA) ratio has also registered a decline during the period.
- The number of banks with GNPA ratio less than 10% has gone down in September 2018 as compared to March 2018.
- Due to the withdrawal of various restructuring schemes the Restructured standard advances (RSAs) ratio steadily declined in September 2018 to 0.5%.
- The provision coverage ratio (PCR) of all SCBs was higher in September 2018 as compared to March 2018.
- The capital to risk-weighted assets ratio (CRAR) of SCBs has declined marginally from 13.8% in March 2018 to 13.7% in September 2018.
- Based on the Data, RBI predicts that projected GNPA ratio under the baseline scenario may decline from 10.8% in September 2018 to 10.3 per cent in March 2019.
- Analysis of portfolio of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) shows that, the performance of PSBs in the MSME segment trails that of other intermediaries (private banks and non-banking financial companies (NBFC)).
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:
- The growth in the eight core sectors of the economy fell to a 16-month low of 3.5 per cent in November, after it had hit a three-month high of 4.8 per cent in October.
- The cement production saw growth reduce by more than half in November.
- In the steel sector, the output registered a 6 per cent rise in November.
- The 3.7 per cent growth in coal production was a three-month low.
- The growth in electricity generation also halved to 5.4 per cent in November.
- Crude oil output contracted by 3.5 per cent.
- The natural gas production managed to barely make it back to the growth charts with 0.5 per cent
- The output of the fertiliser sector contracted by a significant 8 per cent.
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 High Court for Telangana will function from the current High Court building in Hyderabad.
- The High Court for Andhra Pradesh will start functioning from a temporary building at Amaravati until it gets a permanent structure.
- 16 judges have been allocated to Andhra Pradesh High Court and ten have been allocated to Telangana High Court.
- Justice TBN Radhakrishnan will be sworn-in as Chief Justice of the Telangana High Court.
The government of Andhra Pradesh is constructing a complex known as Justice City in Amaravati where the High Court, subordinate courts and some tribunals would be accommodated.
Panel suggests not to allow new Engineering colleges from 2020
The Panel headed by IIT-Hyderabad chairman B V R Mohan Reddy has suggested All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) not to allow setting up of new Engineering colleges from 2020.
Recommendations of the Panel
The panel headed by B V R Mohan Reddy has made the following recommendations to the AICTE:
- To stop setting up new colleges from 2020 and review the creation of new capacity every two years after that.
- No additional seats should be approved in traditional engineering areas such as mechanical, electrical, civil and electronics and suggests that institutes should be encouraged to convert current capacity in traditional disciplines to emerging new technologies.
- To introduce undergraduate engineering programmes exclusively for artificial intelligence, blockchain, robotics, quantum computing, data sciences, cybersecurity and 3D printing and design.
Why the recommendations are made?
The recommendations are due to the following reasons:
- Current capacity utilisation in traditional disciplines is just 40% as opposed to 60% seat occupancy in branches such as computer science and engineering, aerospace engineering and mechatronics.
- As per the reports, there were no takers for 51 per cent of the 15.5 lakh B.E/B.Tech seats in 3,291 engineering colleges in 2016-17.
The panel has said that concessions should be made for applications already in the pipeline while not allowing new engineering institutes should be set up from 2020.
Factsheet: Initiatives for improving teaching quality in Higher Education
The following initiatives have been launched to improve teaching quality in Higher Education:
Diksha Portal has been launched to provide a digital platform for teachers to learn and train themselves and connect with teacher community.
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.
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.
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:
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 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).
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 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 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 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.
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 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.
Indian Bridge Management System (IBMS) was launched by the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways to create an inventory of all bridges in the country and rate their structural condition so that timely repair and rehabilitation work can be carried out based on the criticality of the structure.
Lack of clear objective database on bridges in the country has led to a situation where the authorities were neither clear about the exact number and location of the bridges nor they were able to maintain this asset in proper working condition. IBMS has been brought in to address this anomaly.
The inventory under IBMS comprises of:
- Under the IBMS, each bridge is assigned a unique identification number or National Identity Number based on the state, RTO zone and whether it is situated on a National Highway, State Highway or is a district road.
- The precise location of the bridge in terms of latitude-longitude is collected through GPS and based on these, the bridge is assigned a Bridge Location Number.
- Engineering characteristics like the design, materials, type of bridge, its age, loading, traffic lane, length, the width of carriageway etc are collected and are used to assign a Bridge Classification Number to the structure.
- The Engineering characteristics are then used to do a structural rating of the structure on a scale of 0 to 9, and each bridge is assigned a Structural Rating Number.
- Socio-Economic Bridge Rating Number will be assigned based on the importance of the structure in relation to its contribution to the daily socio-economic activity of the area in its vicinity.
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 was brought into existence to fulfil the provisions under the Article 39A of the constitution which provides for free legal aid to the poor and weaker sections of the society, to promote justice on the basis of equal opportunity.
- NALSA organises Lok Adalats for amicable settlement of disputes.
- The functions of the NALSA also includes spreading legal literacy and awareness, undertaking social justice litigations.
- The Chief Justice of India is the Patron-in-Chief and the Senior most Judge of the Supreme Court of India is the Executive Chairman of the Authority.
- NALSA identifies specific categories of the marginalized and excluded groups from the diverse populace of the country and formulates various schemes for the implementation of preventive and strategic legal service programmes to be undertaken and implemented by the Legal Services Authorities at the various levels.
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 scheme is applicable to the stressed accounts provided the total fund and non-fund based exposure to such a borrower does not surpass Rs 25 crore.
- The scheme will be applicable to the existing loans of the MSMEs that are in default but classified as ‘standard’ as on January 1, 2019, without an asset classification downgrade.
- The restructuring has to be implemented by March 31, 2020.
- A provision of 5 per cent of the total outstanding loan, in addition to the money already set aside to cover potential losses, will have to be made for such borrowers.
- Each bank or non-banking financial company (NBFC) should formulate a policy which includes a framework for viability assessment of the stressed accounts and regular monitoring of the restructured accounts.
- The loan restructuring scheme would be applicable for the borrowers who are GST-registered on the date of implementation of restructuring.
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 India and Pakistan would refrain from undertaking, encouraging or participating in, directly or indirectly, any action aimed at causing the destruction of, or damage to, any nuclear installation or facility in the other country.
- Both India and Pakistan will inform each other about their nuclear installations and facilities on 1st January each year and also whenever there is a change.
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 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:
- The West Bengal government will give annual financial assistance of Rs 5,000 per acre in two instalments, one during Kharif and another during Rabi season.
- Farmers can also take the financial assistance at one go.
- The scheme also provides for a life insurance cover of Rs 2,00,000 in case of death, irrespective of the cause, of an earning family member (farmer) aged between 18 and 60 years. Framers are not required to pay any premium to avail the insurance benefit.
- The scheme would cover 72 lakh farmer and share-cropper families in the State.
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 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 empowers the proponent to track real-time pendency of their proposals or applications. The system will show a bar chart about the delay at each level of clearance.
- The sharp reduction in the time taken for issuance of Terms of Reference (TOR) for a project is the biggest benefit of the scheme.
- Parivesh removes manual intervention and puts the proposals on the first-come-first-serve basis for agenda. Also barring a few special and specific mentions of a project, the minutes of a meeting will be auto-generated by the system and made available on the same day. This enhances the transparency of the system.
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.
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:
- The act aims to establish a multifaceted U.S. strategy to increase U.S. security, economic interests, and values in the Indo-Pacific region.
- The act authorises the spending of $1.5 billion over a five-year period to enhance cooperation with America’s strategic regional allies in the region.
- Citing China’s illegal construction and militarization of artificial features in the South China Sea and coercive economic practices, the new law calls for countering China’s influence to undermine the international system.
- The act notes that increased presence throughout Southeast Asia of the Islamic State and other international terrorist organizations threaten the United States.
- The act recognizes the vital role of the strategic partnership between the United States and India in promoting peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region and calls for strengthening and broadening of diplomatic, economic, and security ties between the United States and India.
- The act calls on the U.S. Secretary of State, in conjunction with the Secretary of the Treasury, to justify the termination of U.S. support for any United Nations Security Council resolutions sanctioning North Korea or the lifting of any unilateral U.S. sanctions on North Korea.
- The act reasserts US support to Taiwan and calls on President Trump to encourage the travel of high-level United States officials to Taiwan, in accordance with the Taiwan Travel Ac
Significance for India
The act reiterates US commitment to all bilateral and security agreements and arrangements between the two countries, including the New Framework for the United States-India Defense Relationship, and the United States-India Defense Technology and Trade Initiative.
Noting that designation of India as a major defence partner, which is unique to India the law states that the designation elevates defence trade and technology cooperation between the United States and India to a level commensurate with the closest allies and partners of the United States.
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:
- Additional investments were provided for the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) under the Comprehensive Case Management Programme (CMP) to experiment with the interventions required.
- Challenges such as unavailability of drugs when roads get cut off due to rain, or health workers facing difficulty in reaching remote villages when blocked by elephants, were addressed.
- Alternative providers like teachers, forest animators were trained to do mass screening by running blood tests and providing medication to villagers in the areas where Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) were unable to reach.
- Districts were divided into a control block and an intervention block, based on instances of malaria under the CMP and activities were intensified while in the control block things went on as usual.
- People were screened even if they had no symptoms of malaria in hill-top areas. If their blood samples showed the presence of parasites, they were treated with anti-malarial drugs.
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:
- The bill seeks to amend the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016, the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 and the Prevention of Money-laundering Act, 2002.
- The amendment permits children, who would turn 18 years old, to opt out of the system.
- The amendments make sharing of Aadhaar details voluntary for opening bank accounts, school admissions and procuring mobile SIM cards.
- The bill provides for stiff penalties for violation of norms set for the use of Aadhaar.
- The amendment bill ban storing of core biometric information as well as Aadhaar number by service providers in cases of individuals who have voluntarily offered the national ID as a means of authentication.
- The bill makes it clear that anyone not offering Aadhaar cannot be denied any service, be it a bank account or a SIM card.
- The bill lays down the procedure for offline verification of an Aadhaar number holder and confers enhanced regulator-like power on Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to give directions as it may consider necessary to any entity in the Aadhaar ecosystem.
Why the amendments are proposed?
While upholding the constitutional validity of Aadhaar, the Supreme Court had held struck down Section 57 of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 that permitted private entities like telecom companies or other corporate to avail of the biometric Aadhaar data. Hence to address the issues like recognising the authentification of those who provided Aadhaar as the identity proof, the amendments are brought in by the government.
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:
- Zonal Railways/Production Units are organising drives from time to time for identification and preservation of Railway heritage assets like buildings, bridges, rolling stocks, documents, photographs, artefacts, equipment, clocks, benches etc, which currently lying unnoticed or overlooked at different locations.
- A specific provision was made by the Ministry of Railways in the budget outlay for 2018-19 for the revival of steam locomotives including restoration and procurement of spares.
- A weekly regular timetabled train on steam traction has been made operational between Garhi Harsaru and Farukhnagar.
- Maintenance of five hill railways of India [Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR), Nilgiri Mountain Railway (NMR), Kalka Shimla Railway (KSR), Matheran Light Railway(MLR) and Kangra Valley Railway (KVR)] are undertaken as per codal provision of Indian Railways and UNESCO Guidelines.
- Special powers have been delegated to Divisional Railway Managers of five hill railways for promoting tourism in these five hill railways.
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 ecologically sensitive areas (ESA) in the Western Ghats could not be earmarked due to State governments’ ‘insensitivity’.
- The recent floods in Kerala and parts of Karnataka must serve as an alarm bells for the governments in the States of Goa, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, which have failed to mark ESA in the Western Ghats.
- Despite three draft notifications issued over four years for earmarking ESA, the State governments could not be brought on board for action.
- As a result over 56,000 square km of ESA could not be earmarked as ‘no-go’ zones for polluting activities and deforestation. Hence large-scale deforestation, mining, and construction are continuing unabated, hurting the ecology of the Western Ghats.
- Insensitivity towards the ecology of the Western Ghats has made the Goa, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka vulnerable to floods and landslides.
- The committee recommends that implementation of the recommendations of the Kasturirangan report is only possible with the active support of the local population.
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:
- Old High Court Building in Nagpur, Maharashtra
- Haveli of Agha Khan in Agra
- Haveli of Hathi Khana in Agra
- Neemrana Baori in Rajasthan’s Alwar district
- Group of Temples at Ranipur Jharail in Odisha’s Bolangir district
- Vishnu Temple in Kotali, Pithoragarh district, Uttarkhand.
Criterion 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:
- The remains of an ancient monument
- The site of an ancient monument
- The land on which there are fences or protective covering structures for preserving the monument
- Land by means of which people can freely access the monument
What is an Ancient Monument?
The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 defines Ancient Monument as any structure, erection or monument, or any tumulus or place of interment, or any cave, rock-sculpture, inscription or monolith which is of historical, archaeological or artistic interest and which has been in existence for not less than 100 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 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:
- Crop diversification programme under Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), National Food Security Mission (NFSM) and Bringing Green Revolution to Eastern India (BGREI).
- Increasing the area under System of Rice Intensification (SRI) as an alternative to the widely used practice of transplanted paddy.
- Deployment of zero tillage drill machines and other residue management equipment to enable planting of Rabi crop in the standing residue of rice crop to avoid stubble burning.
- Adopting the practices like alternate wetting and drying, direct seeded rice system of rice cultivation, use of slow-release nitrogen fertilizers, integrated nutrient management practices, leaf colour chart-based nitrogen application, use of urea super granules etc in rice cultivation.
- Neem coating of urea.
- Planting of trees under National Food Security Mission (NFSM), Bringing Green Revolution to Eastern India (BGREI), Sub-Mission on Agro-Forestry (SMAF) and National Bamboo Mission (NBM).
- Spreading of micro irrigation under Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY)-Per Drop More Crop
- Models of Integrated Farming System (IFS) have been developed for replication in Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) and in the States for enabling climate-resilient agriculture and cutting down the carbon emissions.
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:
- The bill provides for a non-transferable licence to be provided by the Central Government to any person carrying out commercial space activity.
- The bill empowers the Central Government to formulate the appropriate mechanism for licencing, eligibility criteria, and fees for the licence.
- The Central Government would be required to maintain a register of all space objects (any object launched or intended to be launched around the earth) and develop space activity plans for the country.
- The Central Government would ensure safety requirements and supervise the conduct of every space activity of India and investigate any incident or accident in connection with the operation of space activity.
- The Central Government would share details about the pricing of products created by space activity and technology with any person or any agency in a prescribed manner.
- The bill provides for penal provisions if any person undertakes any commercial space activity without authorisation they shall be punished with imprisonment up to 3 years or fined more than Rs 1 crore or both.
- The bill requires licensed entities to carry out operations in a manner that prevents the contamination of outer space or damage to the earth’s environment.
Shortfalls of the Bill
The criticisms against the bill are:
- The bill falls short in addressing the space-based activities separately.
- The bill tries to cover large swaths of the space value chain in one go. This would make the regulatory environment clumsy.
- The definition of space activity is ambiguous. The current definition puts every space object under its ambit; even hardware that carries GPS receivers could require a license.
- The bill will adversely affect the navigation services provided by companies such as Google Maps, Ola and Uber.
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:
- The ‘Nocte’, ‘Tangsa’, Tutsa’, ‘Wancho’ would be included in lieu of ‘Any Naga Tribes’ in serial No. 10 in the list of ST of Arunachal Pradesh.
- Deletion of ‘Abor’ in serial No. 1, as it is the same as ‘Adi’ in Serial No. 16.
- Replacing Tai Khamti’ instead of ‘Khampti’ at serial No. 6.
- Inclusion of ‘Mishmi-Kaman’ (Miju Mishmi), Idu (Mishmi) and Taraon (Digaru Mishmi) in serial No. 8.
- Inclusion of Monpa, Memba, Sartang, Sajolong (Miji) in serial No. 9 in lieu of ‘Momba’.
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 would be implemented in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in high-conservation-value landscapes of five States namely, (i) Madhya Pradesh: Chambal Landscape, (ii) Mizoram: Dampa Landscape, (iii) Odisha: Similipal Landscape, (iv) Rajasthan: Desert National Park Landscape and v) Uttarakhand: Corbett-Rajaji Landscape.
- The Green-Ag project seeks to integrate biodiversity, climate change and sustainable land management objectives and practices into Indian agriculture.
- The project aims to catalyze a transformative change of India’s agricultural sector to support the achievement of national and global environmental benefits and conservation of critical biodiversity and forest landscapes.
The project supports harmonization between India’s agricultural and environmental sector priorities and investments to realise the national and global environmental benefits without compromising on India’s ability to strengthen rural livelihoods and meet its food and nutrition security.
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 value of MSME-related export products was USD 147,390.08 million in 2017-18.
- The share of MSME-related products in the country’s exports was 48.56 per cent during 2017-18.
The MSMEs still have a huge untapped potential. To cap this potential the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises has set up an Export Promotion Cell.
Benefits of the Promotion Cell
MSMEs are the pillars of the Indian economy. The promotion cell aims to create a sustainable ecosystem for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). The Promotion cell will aid the MSME sector in the following ways:
- Integration of MSMEs into the global value chain.
- Evaluation of readiness of MSMEs to export their products and services.
- Recognition of areas where improvements are required in order to be able to export effectively and efficiently.
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 shall examine the effectiveness of actions since 1985 to implement the clause.
- The committee will suggest constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards as envisaged in clause 6.
- Examine the measures to be taken to protect Assamese and other indigenous languages of Assam.
- Assessing the quantum of reservation in employment under the government of Assam and other measures to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of Assamese people.
- Assess the required quantum of reservation of seats in Assam assembly and local bodies for Assamese people.
The committee will hold consultation with all the stakeholders and recommend the necessary measures to the government.
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:
- In the budget of the 2018-19, the central government had announced a special scheme’ to encourage farmers in these states to shift to alternative ways of dealing with agricultural waste.
- In pursuance of the announcement in the budget, the government announced a central sector scheme on ‘Promotion of Agricultural Mechanization for In-Situ Management of Crop Residue in the States of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and NCT of Delhi’.
- The scheme provides for in-situ crop residue management machinery to the farmers on subsidy, the establishment of Custom Hiring Centres (CHCs) of in-situ crop residue management machinery and undertaking Information, Education and Communication (IEC) activities for creating awareness among farmers to avoid stubble burning.
- The Union Ministry of Power has brought out a policy for biomass utilization for power generation through co-firing in pulverized coal-fired boilers. The Ministry of Power has decided that the States of Haryana and Punjab shall issue bids for all coal based Thermal Power Plants to use a minimum of 5 per cent of biomass pellets and up to 10 per cent to be co-fired with coal.
- The government is also taking steps to popularize zero tillage farming where the crop seed will be sown through drillers without prior land preparation and disturbing the soil where previous crop stubbles are present.
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.
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:
- Ensure true representation of workers in the tripartite bodies in a transparent manner.
- Check on the arbitrary nomination of workers’ representatives by the Government.
- Reduce the duplicacy of such exercise by different departments.
- The recognised trade unions may be assigned specific roles at Central or State level. This would aid in developing inclusive governance.
The Indian Trade Unions Act, 1926 provided for only registration of trade unions and there was a long pending demand to grant recognition to trade unions. The amendment bill fulfils this long-standing demand.
Go Green Initiatives in Indian Railways
Railways form the backbone of the Indian Transportation System. The Railways has undertaken following measures under its Go Green initiatives:
- Ministry of Railways has planned to set up 1000 Mega Watt (MW) solar power by 2020-21. This would help Railways to source about 10% of its electrical energy from renewable source.
- Wind energy plants of 36.5 MW have been installed by the Railways.
- Almost all electrified Railway stations and 99% of service buildings have been fitted with 100% LED luminaries by Indian Railways to reduce power consumption.
- Railways have started blending of 5% bio-diesel in High-Speed Diesel (HSD) for diesel locomotives.
- 20% Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) substitution in diesel engines of Diesel Power Cars of Diesel Electric Multiple Unit (DEMU) trains and the introduction of solar energy based DEMUs.
- Tree plantation to increase green cover in Railway Premises.
- Water Audits at major consumption centres as well as the proliferation of Water Recycling Plants and Rain Water Harvesting (RWH) Systems as a step towards better water management.
- Assessment and rating of Indian Railway’s Production Units and major Workshops as Green Industrial Units.
- Nearly 163,000 bio-toilets have been installed in around 44,500 coaches.
- Increasing the pace of electrification to reduce the dependency on fossil fuels.
Also, the Ministry of Railways has taken a policy decision for allocating 1% cost in all sanctioned works for execution of environment-related works.
How Metro Policy 2017 can be made more effective?
The Metro rail Policy 2017 was released by the central government to issue clear directives for undertaking Metro rail projects in various urban centres. The policy was a welcome change from the meandering development in the Metro rail sphere happening all over the country.
Components of the Metro Policy 2017
The Metro Policy 2017 laid out three significant conditions for catalyzing the development of Metro rail systems. They are:
- It will be the responsibility of the state governments to explore and choose various options for urban mobility and then implement the project.
- A comprehensive mobility plan (CMP) is a mandatory prerequisite for planning Metro rail in any city.
- Constitution of a statutory body called the Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (UMTA) for ensuring an integrated approach in planning and management of urban transport.
Making the Policy more Effective
Metro policy 2017 is a well-thought-out plan but it has left some gaps. The gaps lie in the details of the policy. The following amendments must be made to make the policy more effective:
- The UMTA must be set up as a statutory body and must be adequately staffed.
- CMP should be prepared and issued by the statutory body only, and no other agency.
- For Metro services to be effective, it is important to the metro system with secondary and tertiary transport feeder services. Hence UMTA should ideally have powers to regulate fares for all urban transport units and prepare, monitor and audit the CMP.
- It is a well-known fact that no Metro line anywhere in the world is financially remunerative. The Metro policy itself states that social and economic viability too must be assessed and be a part of the whole analysis. But it is necessary to bring clarity on how the viability gap will be bridged.
- It must be made mandatory for states to put a fare fixation committee in place in accordance with the Metro Railways Act, 2002 to ensure the Metro fares do not become a pawn in a political slugfest.
India is witnessing a rapid pace of urbanisation. It has become important to introduce an efficient transport system. Hence it has become an urgent need for introducing these amendments to the policy to ensure that the Metro rail projects are finalized after a holistic assessment. This will ensure that projects run smoothly once they are put into operation.
Parliament passes NCTE amendment Bill
The Parliament has given its approval to the National Council for Teacher Education (Amendment) Bill, 2018. The bill aims to protect the interest of the students who had completed courses from unrecognized institutes.
Features of the Bill
The important features of the bill are:
- The Bill grants retrospective recognition to institutions offering teacher education courses after the establishment of the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) until the academic year 2017-18.
- The Bill grants retrospective permission to start a new course or training in teacher education to institutions which satisfy certain conditions and which have offered teacher education courses after the establishment of the NCTE until the academic year 2017-2018.
Why the bill was necessary?
As per the data from the Ministry of Human Resource Development, 23 state and Central universities and colleges offering B.Ed courses were found not recognised by the National Council for Teacher Education.
As a result, the fate of thousands of students who had completed the courses from these unrecognized institutes was in jeopardy as their degrees would not be recognized anywhere. Hence the granting of retrospective permission had become a necessity.
Parliament passes RTE amendment Bill
The Parliament has given its approval for the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill, 2018.
What was the amendment proposed?
The features of the amendment proposed are:
- The amendment bill does away with the no-detention policy mentioned in the law.
- The amendment bill now leaves it to the states to decide whether they want to continue the no detention policy.
- The states can choose to hold a regular examination either at the end of Classes 5 and 8, or both.
- Students who fail this test will be provided with additional instructions and the opportunity to appear for a re-examination within two months of the declaration of the result.
- If the student still does not pass the exam, the state government may decide to detain the student.
- If a state decides to continue with the no-detention policy till Class 8, the amendment bill makes it clear that no child can be expelled from school before they complete elementary education
No detention Policy
The features of the No detention policy are:
- The no detention policy was introduced in the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009. The act prohibited schools from detaining students till they complete elementary education.
- The no detention policy banned the practice of making under-performing children repeat classes in elementary school to ensure they do not drop out.
- The no detention policy was brought in to reduce the emphasis on year-end examinations and replace it with a form of evaluation that would track students’ progress through the year.
Why the no detention policy was withdrawn?
The Parliamentary Standing Committee had made the following observations:
- The RTE act focused on the quantitative expansion of education. As a result, the quality aspects of teaching and learning were relegated to the backburner.
- The committee noted that there was no pressure on the children to learn and on the teachers to teach. Therefore, there was a need for policy change so as to improve the learning of children at elementary stage of education.
- The NCERT’s National Achievement Survey and the ASER report consistently pointed towards the abysmally low learning levels among school children.
To address these anomalies, a decision was made to leave it to the states to decide on the no detention policy to address the issue of deteriorating quality of education.
Pakistan withdraws on-arrival visa facility 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:
- Afghans are required to apply for a visa from Pakistani missions in Afghanistan.
- After the issuance of Visa, Afghan nationals will be allowed to enter Pakistan.
- On entry, Afghans will be asked to fill out details including the time period and place of stay.
- Once the details are verified Afghan nationals will be issued residence and travel permits.
Impact on Afghan Population
Afghanistan is a war-hit country, still trying to bring back normalcy. Afghan refugees have fled their country due to war, violence and ensuing economic turmoil. Thousands of Afghans daily enter Pakistan for business, medical and educational purposes or meet their relatives. The new visa rules will create problems for those who need timely medical attention or other urgent visits.
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:
- FDI is allowed only in the business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce segment and not in the business-to-consumer (B2C) segment which in effect is the multi-brand retail or the inventory-based e-commerce model.
- DIPP further has clarified that through FDI in B2B e-commerce, an e-commerce entity providing marketplace will not, directly or indirectly, influence the sale price of goods or services. If it does so, such renders such business would be rendered as an inventory based model.
The DIPP clarifies that an e-commerce platform operating an inventory based model does not only violate the FDI policy on e-commerce but also circumvents the FDI policy restrictions on multi-brand retail trading.
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:
- Ultima Thule (TOO-lee) has two reddish globes joined by a narrow neck, much like a
- Ultima Thule is 4 billion miles (6.4 billion kilometres) from Earth.
- Ultima Thule is spinning like a propeller.
New Horizon Mission
New Horizon Mission is an interplanetary space probe part of NASA’s New Frontiers programme. The New Horizon was launched in 2006 to with
- The primary mission to perform a flyby study of the Pluto system in 2015.
- The secondary mission to fly by and study one or more other Kuiper belt objects.
The New Horizons mission was aimed at getting insights about the edge of our solar system by making the first reconnaissance of the dwarf planet Pluto and by venturing deeper into the distant, mysterious Kuiper Belt which is a relic of solar system formation.
China’s Chang’e 4 probe makes historic touchdown
China’s Chang’e 4 probe spacecraft has become the first spacecraft to land on the far side of the moon.
Chang’e 4 is a Chinese lunar exploration mission that aims to achieve soft-landing on the far side of the Moon. The mission aims to deliver samples of Moon rock and soil to Earth.
About the Mission:
- For the first time, there would be soft-landing on the far side of the Moon.
- China’s mission consists of a static lander and rover.
- The rover will touch down on the Von Kármán crater, located on the side of the Moon which never faces Earth.
- During the landing, the probe will descend on thrusters and touch down on the rugged terrain of the lunar far side.
- The landers will aid in characterising the region’s geology and the composition of rock and soil.
- Chang’e-4’s instruments would examine whether the impact which created the South Pole Aitken Basin has punched through the crust down to the Moon’s mantle layer. This will shed light on the early history of our only natural satellite.
- The Chang’e-4 mission will also characterise the “radio environment” on the far side to lay the groundwork for the creation of future radio astronomy telescopes on the far side, which is shielded from the radio noise of Earth.
- To study the respiration of the seeds and the photosynthesis on the Moon the static lander is carrying a container with potato and Arabidopsis plant seeds to perform a biological experiment.
- The lander will send the data through the satellite Queqiao of China.
Von Kármán crater and the far side of Moon:
- Von Kármán crater is located within the oldest and largest impact feature on the Moon – the South Pole-Aitken Basin, which was formed by a giant asteroid impact billions of years ago.
- The far side of the moon is never visible from earth because of the phenomenon of tidal locking. As the Moon takes just as long to rotate on its own axis as it takes to complete one orbit of Earth, we are able to see only one face of the moon from the earth.
- Even though it is said as the dark side, it is also illuminated by the Sun and has the same phases as the near side. Dark in the context simply means unseen.
- The far side is rather different than the near side. The far side has a thicker, older crust that is pocked with more craters.
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.
The features of the Chandrayaan-2 mission are:
- Chandrayaan-2 mission is a totally indigenous venture comprising of an orbiter, a lander and a rover.
- There would be a controlled descent and the lander would soft-land on the lunar surface at a specified site and deploy a rover.
- The rover would then move around the landing site on the lunar surface in a semi-autonomous mode as decided by the ground commands.
- The rover will observe the lunar surface and send back the data. This data will be useful for analysis of the lunar soil.
- The payloads will collect scientific information on lunar topography, mineralogy, elemental abundance, lunar exosphere and signatures of hydroxyl and water-ice.
- The 3,290-kg Chandrayaan-2 will orbit the Moon and perform the objectives of remote sensing the moon.
Accomplishments of Chandrayaan-1
India’s first lunar probe Chandrayaan-1 was launched by the ISRO in October 2008 and operated till August 2009. The Chandrayaan-1 had confirmed the magma ocean hypothesis, which stated that the moon was once completely molten. In its ten-month orbit around the moon, Chandrayaan-1 had detected titanium and had confirmed the presence of calcium. Chandrayaan-1 had gathered the most accurate measurements yet of magnesium, aluminium and iron on the lunar surface.
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:
- Review the current institutional framework in place to support the MSME (micro, small and medium enterprises).
- Examine the factors affecting the timely and adequate availability of finance to the MSME sector.
- Study the impact of the recent economic reforms on the sector and identify the structural problems affecting its growth.
- Conduct a study about the best global practices with respect to MSMEs and recommend its adoption in India, wherever appropriate.
- Review the existing MSME focused policies and its impact on the sector.
- To propose measures for leveraging technology in accelerating the growth of the sector.
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:
- It provides for re-categorisation of offences. The bill re-categorises 16 offences including the issuance of shares at a discount, and failure to file an annual return as a civil offence.
- The bill aims to remove the clause of imprisonment for officers for defaulting the rule which prohibits issuing shares at a discount, except in certain cases. Instead, the bill provides for a penalty equal to the amount raised by the issue of shares at a discount or five lakh rupees, whichever is lower.
- The Bill states that a company may not commence business, unless it files a declaration within 180 days of incorporation, confirming that every subscriber to the Memorandum of the company has paid the value of shares agreed to be taken by him, and files a verification of its registered office address with the Registrar of Companies within 30 days of incorporation.
- The Bill transfers the power to approve any changes in the financial year for a company associated with a foreign company and any alteration in the incorporation document of a public company which has the effect of converting it to a private company to the central government from the National Company Law Tribunal.
- The Bill provides that failure make a declaration of interest when a person holds the beneficial interest of at least 25% shares in a company or exercises significant influence or control over the company may either be fined or imprisoned for up to one year or both.
- The bill increases the ceiling up to which the regional director can compound (settle) offences with a penalty of up to twenty-five lakhs from five lakh rupees.
The amendments are brought in as per the recommendations of a committee constituted to suggest changes to the Companies Act, 2013.
Atal Solar Krishi Pump Yojana
The government of Maharashtra has decided to give two LED bulbs, a DC fan and a mobile charging socket as freebies to farmers enrolling under the Atal Solar Krishi Pump Yojana.
Atal Solar Krishi Pump Yojana
The government of Maharashtra introduced the Atal Solar Krishi Pump Yojana to reduce losses due to non-payment of electricity bills and also promote solar energy. The features of the Atal Solar Krishi Pump Yojana are:
- The government would provide solar pumps at subsidised rates for the farmers.
- Under the Scheme, farmers with less than five acres will have to pay 5 per cent of the cost of a 3 HP solar pump while farmers with more than five acres will get a 5 HP solar pump for Rs 30000.
With the scheme, the government aims to reach out to farmers from remote areas where the agricultural feeder is not possible.
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:
- Developing metro rail networks and housing development has been the top priority of the Central Government’s urban development strategy.
- The central government has allocated Rs 53,000 crore to the States in four years to implement metro projects and Rs 33,000 crore for the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Urban.
- 17 cities are implementing 27 metro projects, of which 10 are 50:50 joint ventures between the Government of India and the respective States.
- The central government has allocated 40 per cent funds for metros and 25 per cent for the housing projects in four years.
- The allocation for the Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY) was less than even 1 per cent of the total allocation.
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.
- Of the Rs 8,750 crore released to the states under the Swachh Bharat Mission–Urban, only 48 per cent funds has been utilised.
- The states have utilised 54 per cent i.e. Rs 9,876 crore of the Rs18,390 crore under the AMRUT scheme.
- The allocation to the North-Eastern Region Urban Development Programme (NERUDP) and the 10% Lumpsum Scheme of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs was just 1 per cent of the total allocation.
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.
- The States have utilised 67 per cent of the Central funds provided under the eight urban development projects.
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:
- Roshan Kahtoon, 23, from Bihar, who despite her physical disability, has beaten all odds and has set up a small bangle manufacturing unit.
- Shruthi Reddy Sethi, 33, of Kolkata, who began Anthyesti Funeral Services to provide end-to-end funeral management service.
- Tana Sumpaaged, 35, of the Nyishi tribe, Arunachal Pradesh, who is successfully running piggery farms and fisheries and helping local people, women, housewives and unemployed youth with quality training and livelihood support.
- Mahipal Chary Kadivendi, 38, of Telangana, who has developed a self-propelled weeder-cum-cultivator that can be used for a number of agricultural processes such as hoeing, weeding, tilling, sowing and also for applying fertilizer or insecticides.
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:
- Integrated check post in Tengnoupal district.
- Dolaithabi Barrage project of Imphal East district.
- FCI food storage godown in Imphal East district.
- Buffer water reservoirs in Ukhrul district.
- Improved and upgraded water supply for Churachandpur zone.
- Eco-tourism complex at Thangapat in Kangpokpi district.
- Integrated tourist destination in Noney district.
- Water supply scheme at JNV, Lambui and its surrounding villages.
Foundation Stone for New projects
PM Modi laid the foundation stone for four new projects
- Infrastructure development of Dhanamanjuri University in Imphal West district.
- Floodlighting of hockey stadium and the main stadium at the Khuman Lampak Sports Complex in Imphal East district.
- AstroTurf laying in Langjing Achouba of Imphal West district
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 seeks to establish an independent and autonomous regime for institutionalised arbitration and for acquisition and transfer of undertakings of the International Centre of Alternative Resolution.
- The New Delhi International Arbitration Centre will take over the undertakings of the International Centre for Alternative Dispute Resolution (ICADR). The chief justice of India is the ex-officio chairperson of the ICADR.
- The New Delhi International Arbitration Centre is being set up as per the recommendation of the Justice B N Srikrishna committee formed to identify the roadblocks in the development of institutional arbitration in India.
- Justice B N Srikrishna committee had recommended that ICADR should be taken over with complete revamp of its governance structure to include only experts of repute who can lend credibility and respectability to the institution and be re-branded as a centre of national importance to highlight its character as a flagship arbitral institution.
The bill to establish, New Delhi International Arbitration Centre is part of the government efforts to develop the centre into a world-class arbitration centre and India as the hub of international arbitration.
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:
- The report states that Andhra Pradesh needs to bridge numerous institutional and infrastructural gaps in order to sustain its position in the future.
- There was sufficient room for improvement in subenvironments such as facilitating business operations, infrastructure resilience and market
- The weakest indicators for the state of Andhra Pradesh were Worker density, foreign direct investment per capital, labour productivity, and the illiteracy rate.
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:
- To encourage large-scale participation of citizens.
- To ensure the sustainability of the initiatives taken towards garbage-free and open defecation-free cities.
- To foster a spirit of healthy competition among towns and cities to improve their service delivery to citizens and towards creating cleaner cities.
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:
- According to the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018 a fugitive economic offender is a person against whom an arrest warrant has been issued for his or her involvement in economic offences involving at least Rs. 100 crore or more and has left India to avoid prosecution.
- The investigating agencies have to file an application in a Special Court under the Prevention of Money-Laundering Act, 2002 containing details of the properties to be confiscated, and any information about the person’s whereabouts.
- The Special Court will issue a notice for the person to appear at a specified place and date at least six weeks from the issue of notice.
- Proceedings will be terminated if the person appears. If not the person would be declared as a Fugitive Economic Offender based on the evidence filed by the investigating agencies.
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 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
The four stages of cyclone warnings in India are:
- The First Stagewarning Pre Cyclone Watch, issued 72 hours in advance. It contains an early warning about the development of a cyclonic disturbance in the north Indian Ocean, its likely intensification into a tropical cyclone and the coastal belt likely to experience adverse weather.
- The second stage warning is Cyclone Alert, is issued at least 48 hrs in advance of the expected commencement of adverse weather over the coastal areas. It contains information about the location and intensity of the storm likely direction of its movement, intensification, coastal districts likely to experience adverse weather and advice to fishermen, the general public, media and disaster managers.
|Stage of warning
- The Third Stage warning is Cyclone Warning, issued at least 24 hours in advance of the expected commencement of adverse weather over the coastal areas and the landfall point is forecasted at this stage.
- The Fourth Stage of warning is Post Landfall Outlook and it gives likely direction of movement of the cyclone after its landfall and adverse weather likely to be experienced in the interior areas.
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:
- To enable faster decision-making.
- Replacing the multi-layered structure with a simplified structure.
- Authority will be able to specify treatment protocols and enforce their compliance.
- The Authority with a stronger mandate would be able to prevent, detect and control frauds, abuse and redress grievances, thus resulting in the reduction of leakages.
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:
- The section 29 A of IBC mandated that persons who have contributed to the defaults of the corporate debtor or are undesirable due to incapacities as specified in the section or are a ’related party’ to another defaulting party, are prevented from gaining control of the corporate debtor by being declared ineligible to submit a resolution plan under the Code.
- As a result, the companies are paying up in anticipation of not crossing the red line and being referred to NCLT.
- Many debtors are paying up once the creditor has filed the petition at a pre-admission stage so that the declaration of insolvency does not take place.
- NCLT has resolved some major cases & many are on the way of resolution.
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:
- The Mandal Dam project will help around one lakh eleven thousand hectares of agricultural land in Jharkhand and Bihar to get irrigation facilities.
- 24 MW of electricity will also be produced.
- The project is scheduled to be completed in 30 months at the estimated cost of Rs. 1622.27 crores.
- 60 Per cent would be financed by the central government as a grant from Long-Term Irrigation Fund (LTIF) under Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY).
- Remaining 40% will be borne by the States through loan financed by NABARD.
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:
- To provide interest-free corpus fund to Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) or Consortium to enable them to purchase yarn at a wholesale rate and give the yarn at a reasonable price to the small weavers.
- To avoid middleman and local supplier’s brokerage charge on sales of yarn.
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 is a comprehensive scheme for power loom sector development. The components of the scheme are:
- In-situ Upgradation of Plain Power looms.
- Group Workshed Scheme (GWS).
- Yarn Bank Scheme.
- Common Facility Centre (CFC).
- Pradhan Mantri Credit Scheme for Power loom Weavers.
- Solar Energy Scheme for Power looms.
- Facilitation, IT, Awareness, Market Development and Publicity for Power loom Schemes.
- Tex Venture Capital Fund.
- Grant-in-Aid and Modernisation & Upgradation of Power loom Service Centres (PSCs).
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 70-Point Grading Index will assess areas of deficiency in each state’s school education system so that targeted interventions can be made at every level from pedagogy to teacher training.
- The 70-Point Grading Index aims at helping states understand where they may be lagging behind and prioritise areas for intervention to ensure that the school education system is robust at every level.
- Under the grading index, 70 indicators will be used to grade state schooling systems on areas like number of existing teacher vacancies, number of direct entry recruitments especially at leadership positions, school infrastructure and so on.
- The index will assess states on a 1,000 point grading system with 10-20 points per parameter.
- The government will be setting up a separate fund over and above existing funding mechanisms to help states take up improvement exercises.
- The index will reinforce competitive federalism by giving the correct picture of where every state stands and inducing a fair competition to improve each other’s performances.
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:
- Making pulses available to poor people at affordable rates.
- Reduction of the sale of pulses, procured by the government procurement agencies, in the open market as it often brings down the mandi prices of the freshly harvested crop, which in turn is against the interests of farmers.
Features of the scheme
The salient features of the scheme are:
- The subsidised price of the pulses is Rs 15 lower than the weighted average mandi price of any of the pulses and the states have to borne by states.
- There is no limit on how much a State can buy from Nafed under the scheme, but the states are required to justify the demand.
- The states are required to distribute the pulses only through welfare schemes and should produce the evidence.
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 examine the effectiveness of actions since 1985 to implement the clause 6 of the Assam Accord.
- The committee will also suggest constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards as envisaged in clause 6.
- The committee will examine the measures to be taken to protect Assamese and other indigenous languages of Assam.
- The committee will assess the quantum of reservation in employment under the government of Assam and other measures to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of Assamese people.
- The committee will assess the required quantum of reservation of seats in Assam assembly and local bodies for Assamese people.
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:
- The app will assist to navigate through the city and the mela grounds.
- The app will also provide information regarding all the ‘Mela special’ trains that will be run during the period.
- The app will provide a link to the user to buy both unreserved and reserved train tickets.
- The app will aid in knowing their current location and also aid in getting directions to reach railway stations, the mela zone, major hotels, bus stations and other facilities within Allahabad city.
- The app will also provide information about passenger amenities available at the stations like parking lots, refreshment rooms, waiting rooms, book stall, food plaza, ATMs and train enquiry
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:
- China has around 20 million Muslims and Islam is one of the five officially recognised religions in atheist China. Even then the top officials in the Chinese government have often likened the religion to “mental disease” that “needs to be cured”.
- China has detained more than 1 million Muslim Uyghur’s at the indoctrination camps of Xinjiang.
- Many heavy-handed measures like confiscating copies of the Quran, issuing diktats to Muslims not to grow beards, and not choose names for their wards which sound “too Islamic” have been witnessed in China.
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 cites that Aadhaar’s use in the delivery of subsidies has helped saved Rs 90,000 crore in the last few years till March 2018 by eliminating several duplicate, non-existent and fake beneficiaries.
- The Digital Dividend Report of the World Bank estimates that India can save Rs 77,000 crore every year by the use of Aadhaar.
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
- PAHAL and Ujjwala beneficiaries are given cooking gas subsidies through direct benefit transfer (DBT) in their Aadhaar-linked bank accounts.
- 33 crore MGNREGA cardholders are getting wage payment directly through DBT in their bank accounts.
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:
- No sighting record for Gangetic dolphin in waterways wherever the salinity level crosses 10 parts per trillion (ppt).
- The increase in salinity in the eastern and central region of Sundarbans has affected the habitat of the Gangetic Dolphin.
- The increase in the salinity was due to hydrological changes such as reduction in freshwater flow, reduced discharge from barrages, runoff from adjacent agricultural lands and river water abstraction for irrigation.
- The increasing salinity was conducive for marine cetaceans like Indo-Pacific hump-backed and Irrawaddy dolphins as these species can thrive in saline waters.
- The other major threats to the dolphin habitats are excessive fishing, use of vulnerable fishing gears, noise from motorized boats and lack of awareness among local communities.
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:
- An increase in crude price worsens the CAD and this adverse impact cannot be significantly contained through higher growth. Hence a crude price shock will result in high CAD to GDP ratio.
- The crude price of USD 85/barrel in the worst case scenario will result in deficit increases by USD 106.4 billion, which is 3.61 per cent of the GDP on account of the oil shock.
- Every increase of USD 10/barrel in crude prices leads to an additional USD 12.5 billion deficit. This is roughly 43 bps of the country’s GDP. Hence every USD 10/barrel increase in crude price will shoot up the CAD/GDP ratio by 43 bps.
- The study states that if the price increase is passed on directly to the final consumers, it will result in increased inflation.
- It is estimated that a USD 10/barrel increase in crude price at the price of USD 65/barrel will lead to a 49 basis points increase in headline inflation and a USD 10/barrel increase in crude price at the price of USD 55/barrel gives around a 58 bps increase in headline inflation.
- If the government decides not to pass on the USD 10/barrel increase in crude price to customers the fiscal deficit would increase by 43 bps.
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:
- The Indian economy is expected to grow at 7.2 per cent in the financial year 2018-19 which is higher than the 6.7 per cent GDP growth in the previous financial year 2017-2018.
- The Real GVA (Gross Value Added) is expected to grow at 7 per cent in the current fiscal as against 6.5 per cent in 2017-18.
- The CSO estimates that the expansion in activities in agriculture, forestry and fishing is likely to increase to 3.8 per cent in the current fiscal from 3.4 per cent in the preceding year.
- The manufacturing sector is expected to grow at 8.3 per cent in 2018-19, up from 5.7 per cent in 2017-18.
- India’s per capita income in real terms (at 2011-12 prices) during 2018-19 is likely to attain a level of Rs 91,921 as compared to Rs 86,668 for the year 2017-18. The per capita income would grow at a rate of 6.1 per cent.
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 Law Commission in its 256th report had recommended repeal of laws and provisions which were discriminatory against leprosy affected people.
- India is a signatory to a UN Resolution which calls for the elimination of discrimination against persons suffering from leprosy. Leprosy as a ground for divorce was contradicting to the resolution.
- In 2014, Even the Supreme Court had asked the Centre and the state governments to take steps for rehabilitation and integration of leprosy-affected people into the mainstream.
- The National Human Rights Commission had long made a proposal for the government in this regard.
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 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:
- Development and conservation of indigenous breeds.
- Undertaking breed improvement programmes for indigenous cattle breeds so as to improve the genetic makeup and increase the stock.
- Enhancing milk production and productivity.
- Upgrading nondescript cattle using elite indigenous breeds like Gir, Sahiwal, Rathi, Deoni, Tharparkar, Red Sindhi.
- Distributing disease free high genetic merit bulls for natural service.
Initiatives under the Rashtriya Gokul Mission
The following initiatives have been undertaken under the Rashtriya Gokul Mission:
- Establishment of integrated cattle development centres ‘Gokul Grams’ to develop indigenous breeds.
- Awards for encouraging farmers and breeder societies to rear Indigenous breeds of Bovines. Gopal Ratna award for farmers maintaining the best herd of Indigenous Breed and practising best management practices. Kamdhenu award for best managed Indigenous Herd by Institutions/Trusts/ NGOs/ Gaushalas or best-managed Breeders’ Societies.
- National Kamdhenu Breeding Centres are being established as Centres of Excellence to develop and conserve Indigenous Breeds in a holistic and scientific manner.
- An e-market portal “E-Pashu Haat”- Nakul Prajnan Bazaar for connecting breeders and farmers, an authentic market for quality- disease-free bovine germplasm in the form of i) semen; ii) embryos; iii) calves; iv) heifers and v) adult bovines with different agencies/stakeholders.
- Pashu Sanjivni Programme encompassing the provision of Animal Health cards (‘Nakul Swasthya Patra’) along with UID identification and uploading data on National Data Base.
- Advanced Reproductive Technology: Including Assisted Reproductive Technique- In-vitro Fertilization (IVF)/ Multiple Ovulation Embryo Transfer (MOET) and sex-sorted semen technique to improve the availability of disease-free female bovines.
- National Bovine Genomic Center for Indigenous Breeds (NBGC-IB) for selection of breeding bulls of high genetic merit at a young age using highly precise gene-based technology.
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:
- Facilitating the domestic workers to register as unorganised workers under the Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008. This will help domestic workers to access and obtain social security benefits like life and disability cover, health and maternity benefits, as well as old age protection.
- Providing domestic workers with the right to form their own associations and unions.
- Right to minimum wages and access to social security.
- Right to enhance their skills.
- Protection of domestic workers from abuse and exploitation, giving them access to courts.
- Tribunals for grievance redressal, the establishment of a mechanism for the regulation of private placement agencies.
- Establishment of a grievance redressal system for domestic workers.
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 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:
- FASTag is bank neutral and can be linked to customers’ choice of bank accounts.
- Together with providing flexibility and convenience to the users, FASTag is also user-friendly as there will be no requirement of fulfilling KYC obligations.
- FASTag apps provide provides real-time recharge of any FASTag through UPI by linking customer’s bank account with IHMCL FASTags.
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:
- To provide the means of evaluation of certification programme for organic agriculture and products as per the approved criteria.
- To accredit certification programmes of Certification Bodies seeking accreditation.
- To facilitate the certification of organic products in conformity with the prescribed standards.
- To facilitate certification of organic products in conformity with the importing countries organic standards as per equivalence agreement between the two countries or as per importing country requirements.
- To encourage the development of organic farming and organic processing.
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:
- The new planet HD 21749b is outside our solar system and orbits a dwarf star 53 light years away.
- HD 21749b orbits a bright star in the constellation Reticulum.
- It has the longest orbital period of all the three discoveries made by TESS.
- HD 21749b orbits its star in a relatively leisurely 36 days.
- It is predicted that the surface of the new planet is likely around 300 degrees Fahrenheit, which is relatively cool, given its proximity to its star, which is almost as bright as the sun.
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.
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:
- The NCST highlights the close ties between tribals, the forest and forest ecosystem as a resource-base.
- NCST recommends the renaming of the Indian Forest Service into Indian Forest and Tribal Service in recognition of the close ties between tribals, the forest and forest ecosystem.
- NCST argues that merging forest and tribal welfare administrations will further the participation of ‘tribals’ in forest management.
- The NCST states that renaming will also engender greater sensitivity on the forest department’s part towards the needs of ‘tribal’ communities.
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, 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 CBI director shall have a minimum tenure of two years, regardless of the date of his superannuation.
- The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) shall be responsible for the efficient functioning of CBI.
- The transfer of an incumbent Director, CBI in an extraordinary situation, including the need for him to take up a more important assignment, should have the approval of the selection committee.
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 Bill regulates the use of DNA technology for establishing the identity of persons in respect of matters listed in a Schedule which include criminal matters (such as offences under the Indian Penal Code, 1860), and civil matters such as parentage disputes, emigration or immigration, and transplantation of human organs.
- The Bill seeks to establish a National DNA Data Bank and Regional DNA Data Banks.
- As per the provisions of the bill, every Data Bank is required to maintain the following indices: (i) crime scene index, (ii) suspects’ or undertrials’ index, (iii) offenders’ index, (iv) missing persons’ index, and (v) unknown deceased persons’ index.
- The Bill establishes a DNA Regulatory Board to accredit the DNA laboratories that analyse DNA samples to establish the identity of an individual.
- It is mandatory to get written consent by individuals to collect DNA samples from them. The consent is not required for offences with the punishment of more than seven years of imprisonment or death.
- The Bill provides for the removal of DNA profiles of suspects on the filing of a police report or court order. The DNA profiles of undertrials can be removed on the basis of a court order. Profiles in the crime scene and missing person’s index will be removed on a written request.
The members of the house citing privacy concerns requested for referring the bill to the standing committee of the Parliament.
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 has granted an exemption to Battery Operated Transport Vehicles and Transport Vehicles running on Ethanol and Methanol fuels from the requirement of a permit.
- The Ministry of the Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises has launched FAME (Faster Adoption and Manufacture of (Hybrid and) Electric Vehicles) to incentivize the production and promotion of eco-friendly vehicles including electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles.
- To incentivise the development of charging infrastructure for e-vehicles the Ministry of Power has issued a policy statement on charging infrastructure and has issued a notification clarifying that charging electric vehicles will be a service, not a sale of electricity.
- The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has agreed to commercialize indigenously developed lithium-ion battery technology and has selected 14 companies for transfer of technology.
- The government think tank, NITI Aayog has taken an initiative to provide a Model Concessionaire Agreement (MCA) document for introducing Electric-Bus Fleet in Cities for Public Transportation on Public-Private Partnership (PPP) mode on Operational Expenditure (per km basis) Model rather than paying the upfront capital cost.
- The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has made amendment in the Urban and Regional Development Plans Formulation and Implementation (URDPFI) guidelines to provide for electric vehicle charging stations in private and commercial buildings.
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:
- Individual Protection System with built-in sensors
- See Through Armour
- Carbon Fibre Winding (CFW)
- Active Protection System (APS)
- Secure hardware based offline Encrypt or Device for Graded Security
- Development of 4G/LTE based Tactical Local Area Network
- Development of Advanced Technology Based Desalination System (Water Purification) and Bilge Oily Water Separation System
- Artificial Intelligence in Logistics & SCM
- Unmanned Surface and Underwater Vehicles
- Remotely Piloted Airborne Vehicles
- Laser Weaponry
Start-ups showing capability, intent, and promise to be able to produce functional prototypes or to productise existing technologies in areas listed in the problem statement will be awarded up to Rs. 1.5 crores, on a milestone basis in the form of grant/equity/debt/other relevant structures along with incubation and mentoring support.
Defence Innovation Organisation
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:
- Seven of the world’s top 10 economies by 2030 most likely would be emerging markets of the present.
- China would become the largest economy by 2020, based on purchasing power parity exchange rates and nominal GDP.
- India’s GDP would be most likely larger than the US in 2020 based on purchasing power parity exchange rates and nominal GDP.
- Indonesia will break into the top 5 economies by 2020.
- The study projects that India’s growth would accelerate to 7.8% by the 2020s.
- China’s growth would moderate to 5% by 2030 reflecting a natural slowdown given the size of the economy.
- The share of Asia in global GDP which is about 28% would further increase to 35% by 2030. This would be equal to the combined share of Euro area and US.
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:
- The Chief Economist is also the Director of the Fund’s Research Department and is responsible for providing independent advice to the Fund on its policy issues, integrating ideas of the research in the design of policies, conveying these ideas to the policymakers inside and outside the fund and managing all research done at IMF.
- The Chief Economist is part of the senior leadership team of the IMF and directly advises the Managing Director.
- The Chief Economist also leads about a hundred PhD economists in the Research Department.
Gita Gopinath is an Indian-American Economist. Prior to her present role as the Chief Economist of IMF, she was serving as the John Zwaanstra Professor of International Studies and Economics at Harvard University.
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:
- To encourage digitisation of payments and enhance financial inclusion through digitization.
- Reviewing the existing status of digitisation of payments in the country, identifying the current gaps in the ecosystem and suggesting ways to bridge them.
- Assessing the current levels of digital payments in financial inclusion.
- Suggest measures to strengthen the safety and security of digital payments.
- Suggest a road map for increasing customer confidence and trust while accessing financial services through digital modes.
- Undertake cross-country analysis to identify best practices to accelerate digitisation of the economy and financial inclusion through greater use of digital payments.
- Suggest a medium-term strategy for deepening of digital payments.
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:
- Delayed transmission to yield data.
- Dispute raised by Insurance Companies on yield data.
- Reconciliation of individual farmer data on the portal by bank branches.
- Late release of their share in premium subsidy by some States.
- NEFT related issues.
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:
- Provision of 12% interest rate per annum to be paid by the Insurance Company to farmers for any delay in settlement of claims beyond 10 days of prescribed cut off date for payment of claims.
- State Governments are required to pay 12% interest rate for delay in the release of the State share of Subsidy beyond three months of prescribed cut off date/submission of requisition by Insurance Companies.
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:
- CAG recommends the government to frame a policy on off-budget financing and sources of such funding in view of its fiscal implication.
- The off-budget financial arrangements defer committed liability (subsidy arrears/bills) or create future liability and increase the cost of subsidy due to interest payment.
- The report states that since the off-budget financing is outside the parliamentary control, it has implications for fiscal indicators as they “understate” the government’s expenditure in the year by keeping them off the budget.
- Hence the CAG recommends the government to put in place a policy framework for off-budget financing which would specify the rationale and objective of off-budget financing, quantum of off-budget financing, sources of the fund among others.
- The CAG also recommends the government to consider disclosing the details of off-budget borrowings through disclosure statements in Budget as well as in accounts.
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:
- Human trafficking has taken a horrific dimension as armed groups and terrorists are using it to spread fear and gain victims to offer as incentives to recruit new fighters. The report cites child soldiers, forced labour and sexual slavery as examples.
- There was a steady increase in the number of victims reported since 2010. Improved methods of detecting, recording and reporting data on trafficking or a real increase in the number of victims are cited as possible reasons for the increase in the number of victims reported.
- Regions of Asia and the Americas witnessed the largest increase in the numbers of victims detected.
- The large numbers of victims of trafficking detected outside their region of origin are from East Asia, followed by sub-Saharan Africa. There has been an increase in the number of convictions for trafficking in these regions.
- Large areas of impunity still exist in many Asian and African countries, and conviction rates for trafficking remain very low.
- Trafficking for sexual exploitation was the most prevalent form in European countries and in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, forced labour is the main factor driving the illicit trade in humans.
- Women and girls formed the most trafficking victims worldwide. Almost three-quarters of women and girls were trafficked for sexual exploitation, and 35 per cent of them were trafficked for forced labour.
- The report notes that in conflict zones, where the rule of law is weak, and civilians have little protection from crime, armed groups and criminals may take the opportunity to traffic them.
- The report acknowledges that significant gaps in knowledge remain and many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and some parts of East Asia still lack sufficient capacity to record and share data on trafficking in persons.
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 Bill states that people from the economically weaker sections of the society have largely remained excluded from attending the higher educational institutions and public employment on account of their financial incapacity to compete with the persons who are economically more privileged.
- The Bill is brought into to fulfil the commitments under the Directive principles of the state policy listed in the Article 46 of the Constitution which urges the government to protect the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of society.
- The Bill amends Article 15 of the Constitution to provide reservations to economically weaker sections for admission to educational institutions including private educational institutions, whether aided or unaided by the State, other than the minority educational institutions
- The Bill also amends Article 16 of the Constitution to provide reservations to people from economically weaker sections in government posts.
- The Bill caps the reservation to economically weaker sections at 10%.
- The Bill states that the criterion for the economically weaker sections would be notified by the State from time to time on the basis of family income and other indicators of economic disadvantage.
The government has stated that the bill is part of the government’s endeavour to ensure that every poor person, irrespective of caste or creed gets to lead a life of dignity, and have access to all possible opportunities.
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:
- The bill aims to grant Indian citizenship to all persecuted religious minorities like Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists and Parsis from three neighbouring countries of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
- The bill is applicable to all states and union territories of the country and the beneficiaries of the can reside in any part of the country.
- The bill when passed would provide a big relief to the persecuted migrants who have come through western borders of the country to States like Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, and other states.
As per the reports, the government would set the cut off date at December 31, 2014, to provide citizenship to persecuted religious minorities.
Addressing the concerns against the Bill
The Union Home Minister provided the following assurance to allay fears about the bill:
- The burden of the persecuted migrants will be shared by the entire country and not by Assam alone.
- The Union Home Minister also assured full support for the state governments in the implementation of the bill.
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.
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 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).
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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 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 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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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)?
2. Which Indian player has been named as the ICC Women’s Cricketer of the Year 2018?
3. ESAF Small Finance Bank (SFB) has recently got RBI nod to operate as a scheduled bank. The headquarters of ESAF is located at ___?
4. Who is the newly appointed Chief Information Commissioner (CIC)?
5. Norman Gimbel, the Oscar & Grammy-winning lyricist has passed away. He was from which country?
6. Who has become the first Indian wicket-keeper to claim 20 catches in Test series?
7. Transgenders can file sexual harassment case under which section of IPC?
8. Which toll-free helpline has been launched by NHRC to file complaint through CSC?
9. Which country has announced 2019 as the ‘Year of Active Investment and Social Development’ in backdrop of wider business with India?
10. Who is the head of the government committee that suggested AICTE to stop setting up new engineering colleges from 2020?