December 1, 2018

December 2018

30-31 December 2018

Bangladesh Elections 2018: Sheikh Hasina wins third consecutive term as prime minister

Bangladesh Elections 2018: Sheikh Hasina wins third consecutive term as prime minister

Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina secured her third consecutive term and fourth overall with a landslide victory in the nation’s general elections. The results were announced by the Election Commission on December 31, 2018.

Sheikh Hasina’s ruling party Bangladesh Awami League and its allies won 288 of the 299 parliamentary seats contested, surpassing its previous election win when it had won 234 seats. This is an unprecedented feat in the country’s political history as no other leader in Bangladesh has been able to win a third consecutive term.

Key Highlights

The Election Commission confirmed that Hasina won her Gopalganj-3 seat bagging over 2.29 lakh votes, while her Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) opponent got only 123 votes.

The ruling coalition has reportedly won more than 80 per cent of votes, making it the strongest governments in South Asia.

According to reports, the Grand Alliance-led by the Awami league won as many as 288 seats, while the opposition alliance won less than 10 seats.

The main opposition party BNP won five seats and the Gano Forum is reported to have won two seats. The remaining four seats were won by Independents.

The voting took place in 299 out of 300 seats on December 30. The voting was suspended for one seat due to the death of a candidate.

Polling amidst violence, claims of rigging

The opposition parties have rejected the results and claimed that the polls were rigged and fraudulence took place in almost all the polling centres.

Hasina and her government have also been accused of concerted persecution of its political opponents by critics and human rights organisations.

Further, at least 17 people including a member of a security agency were killed in eight districts and several others were injured in election-related violence.

According to reports, most of those who died were ruling party activists, while others were workers of the opposition alliance.

The authorities had also temporarily blocked mobile data services and slowed down the internet during the time, citing security reasons.

  Sheikh Hasina wins third consecutive term as Bangladesh Prime Minister

Significance

Bangladesh is a Muslim-majority nation of more than 160 million people and faces issues ranging from possibly devastating climate change, Islamist militancy, endemic poverty and corruption.

The country has recently been in the international spotlight as hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims have fled there from neighbouring Myanmar.

This year’s vote was the first one to involve all the major parties in the last 10 years.

Background

The national politics in Bangladesh has been largely dominated by two parties, the ruling Awami League and the BNP. The two parties lead the Grand Alliance and the Jatiya Oikya Front (JOF), respectively.

The main opposition party BNP has been facing a stiff challenge within, as its chairperson and former Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia is serving a five-year jail term in two corruption cases and is ineligible to contest the polls.

In Zia’s absence, Kamal Hossain, who was previously both an AL minister and Hasina ally, leads the main opposition grouping, the Jatiya Oikya Front, which includes Zia’s Bangladesh National Party (BNP).

2014 Elections

Bangladesh’s parliament has 350 seats in total, 50 of which are reserved for women and allotted proportionally to the overall vote.

Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League has been ruling in Bangladesh since 2009. In 2014, Bangladesh’s national elections were boycotted by many opposition parties including the BNP, giving Hasina’s Awami League a walkover.

The Bangladesh Awami League had retained control of the Parliament by winning 234 out of the 300 seats at the time. The elections were also marred by widespread violence.

How is the win significant for India?

India and Bangladesh share a 4,000-km long border that has been marred by ethnic conflicts. Also, Bangladesh is a key component of India’s “Look East” policy.

Under Hasina’s regime, India has seen improved bilateral ties and boundary disputes have been settled amicably.

Besides this, strong security cooperation was established between the two nations and significant progress was made in settling differences over the Teesta River water sharing. The bilateral trade between the two nations and India’s investment in Bangladesh has also picked up.

On the other hand, India’s relationship with the BNP-Jamaat alliance government during 2001-06 was not positive, owing to attacks on Hindus and anti-India activities in the country.

India submits Sixth National Report to the Convention of Biological Diversity

India submits Sixth National Report to the Convention of Biological Diversity

India on December 29, 2018 submitted its Sixth National Report (NR6) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The report was submitted online to the CBD Secretariat by Union Environment Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan during the inaugural session of the 13th National Meeting of the State Biodiversity Boards (SBBs), which was organised by the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) in the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), New Delhi.

The Minister also released the document ‘Progress on India’s National Biodiversity Targets: A Preview’ on the occasion.

Key Highlights

India is among the first five countries in the world, the first in Asia and the first among the biodiversity-rich megadiverse countries to have submitted NR6 to the CBD Secretariat.

The submission of the national report is a mandatory obligation on parties to international treaties, including CBD. The parties were required to submit their NR6 by December 31, 2018.

The NR6 provides an update on the progress in the achievement of 12 National Biodiversity Targets (NBT) developed under the convention process, in line with the 20 global Aichi biodiversity targets.

The report highlights that while India has exceeded or overachieved two of the NBTs, it is on track to achieve eight NBTs and in respect of the remaining two NBTs also, India is striving to meet the targets by the stipulated time of 2020.

The Report: Key Points

While globally, biodiversity is facing increasing pressure on the account of habitat fragmentation and destruction, invasive alien species, pollution, climate change and overuse of resources, India is one of the few countries where forest cover is on the rise, with its forests teeming with wildlife.

India is also on track to achieve the biodiversity targets at the national level and is also contributing significantly towards the achievement of the global biodiversity targets.

With well over 20 percent of its total geographical area under biodiversity conservation, India has exceeded the terrestrial component of 17 percent of Aichi target 11 and 20 percent of corresponding NBT relating to areas under biodiversity management.

India has also made noteworthy achievement towards NBT relating to access and benefit sharing (ABS) by operationalising the Nagoya Protocol on ABS.

Having published the first internationally recognized certificate of compliance (IRCC) under the Protocol in 2015, India has since published nearly 75 per cent of the IRCCs published so far on ABS Clearing House.

Thus, with respect to NBTs 6 and 9, the progress made by India has exceeded the targets.

Measures adopted by India

India is a megadiverse country harbouring nearly 7-8 per cent of the globally recorded species while supporting 18 per cent of the global human population on a mere 2.4 per cent of the world’s land area. Biodiversity is an important thrust area in several programmes of the Government

India’s quest for inclusive economic development while maintaining the integrity of its natural capital is being pursued through various programmes and strategies.

Several measures have been adopted for sustainable management of agriculture, fisheries and forests, with a view to provide food and nutritional security to all without destroying the natural resource base while ensuring intergenerational environmental equity.

Programmes are also in place to maintain genetic diversity of cultivated plants, farms livestock and their wild relatives, towards minimising genetic erosion and safeguarding their genetic diversity.

Further, mechanisms and enabling environment are being created for recognising and protecting the vast heritage of coded and oral traditional knowledge relating to biodiversity for larger human welfare while safeguarding the interests and rights of the local communities as creators and holders of this knowledge.

India has also been investing a huge amount on biodiversity directly or indirectly through several development schemes of the Central and State Governments, to the tune of Rs 70,000 crores per annum as against the estimated annual requirement of nearly Rs 1, 09,000 crores.

India has nearly two-thirds of the population of wild tigers in the world and their count has risen from 177 in 1968 to over 520 in 2015, while the number of elephants has risen from 12,000 in 1970s to 30,000 in 2015.

The count of one-horned Indian Rhino, which was on the brink of extinction during the early 20th century, now stands at 2400.

Further, while globally over 0.3 per cent of the total recorded species are critically endangered, in India only 0.08 per cent of the species recorded are in this category.

Acts/ Plans implemented by Government

Some of the acts enforced by the Indian Government for the protection of biodiversity include National Forest Policy 1988, National Environment Policy, 2006, Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017, Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, Biological Diversity Act, 2002,  Environment (Protection Act), 1986, Forest Conservation Act, 1980, Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and the Indian Forest Act, 1927.

Some of the plans implemented by the government for ecological restoration include National Afforestation Plan (NAP), Green India Mission (GIM), creation of Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZs) and Sacred Groves, India’s National Action Plan for Conservation of Migratory Birds and National Marine Fisheries Policy, 2017.

Legendary filmmaker Mrinal Sen passes away at 95

Legendary filmmaker Mrinal Sen passes away at 95

Legendary filmmaker Mrinal Sen passed away on December 30, 2018 in Kolkata, West Bengal after a prolonged battle with age-related ailments. He was 95. He is survived by his son. His wife, actor Geeta Sen, passed away in 2017.

The Padma Bhushan and Dada Saheb Phalke awardee was known primarily for paving the way for the reign of parallel cinema in the country with films such as Ek Din Achanak, Padatik,Mrigaya, Akaler Sandhane, Chorus, Kharij, Kandahar, Bhuwan Shome, Akash Kusum and Calcutta 71.

His demise brings the end of legends of the golden era of Parallel cinema, who crossed boundaries in placing Indian cinema into the global platform.
About Mrinal Sen

 Legendary filmmaker Mrinal Sen passes away at 95

Mrinal Sen was a noted Bengali filmmaker based in Kolkata. He was born on May 14, 1923, in the town of Faridpur, now in Bangladesh. He did his post graduation from the University of Calcutta.

In a career spanning for more than six decades, Sen along with his contemporary stalwarts Satyajit Ray and Ritwick Ghatak, wrote a new chapter in Indian cinema with content driven, issue-based realistic cinema which appealed to the global diaspora, besides creating ripples in the Indian film industry.

The three directors were known to be the greatest ambassadors of Bengali parallel cinema on the global stage. Although their roles were often adversarial, they were ardent admirers of each other’s work.

Like the works of Ray and Ghatak, Sen’s cinema is remembered primarily for its meticulous and artistic depiction of social reality.

He made his directorial debut with ‘Raat Bhore’ in 1955 and found local acclaim with ‘Neel Akasher Neechey’ and ‘Baishey Shravana’.

However, it was the film ‘Bhuvan Shome’ that finally launched him as a major filmmaker, both nationally and internationally.

Sen was also a member of the Rajya Sabha from 1998 to 2003. His last film as a director ‘Aamaar Bhuvan’ (‘This, My Land’) released in 2002.

Sen and Marxism

  Legendary filmmaker Mrinal Sen passes away at 95

As a student, Sen was influenced by Marxist ideology and was associated with the cultural wing of the Communist Party of India.

Although he never became a member of the party, he was a part of the Indian Peoples Theatre Association.

As a result, many of his films were overtly political, earning him the reputation of a Marxist artist.

His trilogy – ‘Interview’, ‘Calcutta 71’ and ‘Padatik’ – is considered to be a masterpiece for depicting the social and political upheaval in Kolkata in the ’70s.

Awards

The filmmaker won multiple awards throughout his illustrious career. Besides winning national awards for best feature film for movies such as ‘Bhuvan Shoma’ in 1969, ‘Chorus’ in 1974, ‘Mrigaya’ in 1976 and ‘Akaler Sandhane’ in 1980, Sen also won the four national Awards for direction for ‘Bhuvan Shome’, ‘Ek Din Pratidin’, ‘Akaler Sandhane’ and ‘Khandhar’.

He also won two national awards for second best feature film for his movies Calcutta 71 in 1972 and Kharij in 1980 and one national award for special mention feature film for his film ‘Parashuram’.

He also won three national awards for best feature film in Bengali for Punascha in 1961, Akash Kusum in 1965 and Antareen in 1993 and the award for best feature film in Telugu for his movie Oka Oori Katha in 1977.

  Legendary filmmaker Mrinal Sen passes away at 95

A recipient of 12 international film awards, Sen won awards from the prestigious Venice Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival, Berlin International Film Festival, Montreal World Film Festival, Moscow International Film Festival and many others.

His 1982 Bengali film ‘Kharij’ had won the jury prize at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival. In fact, in a tribute to Sen, the Cannes Festival in 2010 had screened his restored masterpiece ‘Kandahar’ (‘The Ruins’) in their ‘Cannes Classic’ section, after it was restored frame by frame at the National Film Archives at Pune.

In 1981, the Government of India awarded him with the third-highest civilian award, the Padma Bhushan.

In 2005, the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, the highest honor given to an Indian filmmaker, was awarded to him by the Government of India for the year 2003.

In 2017, he was inducted as a member of the Oscar Academy.

Parallel Cinema

  Legendary filmmaker Mrinal Sen passes away at 95

Parallel cinema was a film movement in Indian cinema that originated in the state of West Bengal in the 1950s as an alternative to the mainstream commercial Indian cinema, represented especially by popular Hindi cinema, known today as Bollywood.

Inspired by Italian Neorealism, Parallel Cinema began just before the French New Wave and Japanese New Wave and was a precursor to the Indian New Wave of the 1960s.

The movement was initially led by Bengali cinema and produced internationally acclaimed filmmakers such as Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Ritwik Ghatak, Tapan Sinha, Bimal Roy, Guru Dutt and V. Shantaram. It later gained prominence in other film industries of India and Bangladesh.

The cinema was known for its serious content, realism and naturalism, symbolic elements with a keen eye on the socio-political climate of the times and for the rejection of inserted dance-and-song routines that are typical of mainstream Indian films.

The period when the cinema took birth, from the late 1940s to 1965, is considered as a part of the ‘Golden Age’ of Indian cinema.

PM Modi’s visit to Uttar Pradesh: One District, One Product Regional Summit held; 6th International Rice Research Institute inaugurated

PM Modi’s visit to Uttar Pradesh: One District, One Product Regional Summit held

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 29, 2018 visited Varanasi and Ghazipur in Uttar Pradesh on December 29, 2018.

The Prime Minister laid the foundation stone of medical College in Ghazipur during the visit in the presence of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. He took stock of the preparations for the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas

6th International Rice Research Institute dedicated to the nation

The Prime Minister dedicated the 6th International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), South Asia Regional Center (ISARC) to the nation. The Institute is built at the campus of National Seed Research and Training Center (NSRTC) in Varanasi.

It will serve as a hub for rice research and training in South Asia and SAARC region. This first international Center in the eastern India is expected to harness and sustain rice production in the region.

India’s association with IRRI dates back to 1960s, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the first Indian PM to visit IRRI headquarters in Manila, Philippines in November 2017, where he discussed agricultural innovations and research advances for the rice sector.

Postage stamp on Maharaja Suheldeo

A commemorative postal stamp on the Maharaja Suheldeo was released by the Prime Minister in Ghazipur where he also addressed a public rally.

One District, One Product Regional Summit

The One District, One Product Regional Summit was held at Deendayal Hastakala Sankul (Trade Facilitation Centre & Crafts Museum) in Varanasi.

‘One District One Product’ scheme is aimed at enhancing the skills of local people and increasing the reach of the  indigenous trades, crafts and products from small towns and small districts in the state.

These crafts and products include handicrafts, food processing, engineering goods, carpets, readymade clothes, and leather goods etc which not only earn foreign exchange but also provide employment to the people.

29 December 2018

Cabinet approves submission of India’s Second Biennial Update Report to UNFCCC

Cabinet approves submission of India’s Second Biennial Update Report to UNFCCC

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved Submission of India’s second Biennial Update Report (BUR) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) towards the fulfilment of the reporting obligation under the Convention.

India’s Biennial Update Report: Key Features

The second biennial update report aims to provide an update to India’s first biennial report to the United Nation’s body on climate change.

The report contains five major components including national circumstances, national greenhouse gas inventory, mitigation actions, finance, technology and capacity building needs and support received and domestic monitoring, reporting and verification arrangements.

The report has been prepared based on a range of studies conducted at the national level. It has undergone a multitier review process, through peer review, review by Technical Advisory Committee of Experts chaired by Additional Secretary (Climate Change) and by National Steering Committee chaired by Secretary.

The biennial report was finalised after addressing all the relevant comments and modifications as per the multi-tier review process.

Report Findings

  • In 2014, a total of 26, 07,488 Gigagram (Gg) CC-2 equivalent of Green House Gases (GHG) were emitted from all activities (excluding LULUCF) in India.
  • The net national GHG emissions after including LULUCF were 23, 06,295 Gg COa equivalent.
  • Out of the total emissions, energy sector accounted for 73 per cent, IPPU 8 per cent, agriculture 16 per cent and waste sector 3 per cent.
  • About 12 per cent of the emissions were offset by the carbon sink action of forestland, cropland and settlements.

A summary of India’s national GHG inventory of 2014 is provided in the table below:

Category

 

CO2 equivalent (Gg)

 

Energy 19,09,765.74
Industrial Process and Product Use 2,02,277.69
Agriculture 4,17,217.54
Waste 78,227.15
Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF)** -3,01,192.69
TOTAL without LULUCF 26,07,488.12
TOTAL with LULUCF 23,06,295.43

Impact

The submission of India’s second BUR will fulfil the obligation of India to furnish information regarding implementation of the Convention, being a Party.

Background

India is a Party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The Convention, in accordance with its Article 4.1 and 12.1, enjoins upon all Parties, both developed country parties and developing country parties to furnish information, in the form of a national communication regarding the implementation of the convention.

The Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC in its sixteenth session decided that developing countries, consistent with their capabilities and the level of support provided for reporting, should also submit biennial update reports containing updates of national greenhouse gas inventories and information on mitigation actions, needs and support received.

Gaganyaan Programme: Cabinet approves Indian Human Spaceflight Initiative; first manned flight to take place in 40 months

Gaganyaan Programme: Cabinet approves Indian Human Spaceflight Initiative

The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on December 28, 2018 approved the Gaganyaan Programme, first Indian Human Spaceflight Initiative of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

The GSLV Mk-lll rocket will be used to carry the orbital module which will have necessary provisions for sustaining a 3-member crew for the duration of the mission.

The approval came following the demonstration of Indian Human Spaceflight capability to low earth orbit for a mission duration ranging from one orbital period to a maximum of seven days.

Gaganyaan Programme: All you need to know

The Gaganyaan Programme is a national effort and will involve the participation of the Industry, Academia and National Agencies spread across the length and breadth of the country.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will collaborate extensively with National agencies, laboratories, academia and industry to accomplish the Gaganyaan Programme objectives.

Expenditure

The Gaganyaan Programme will require a total expenditure of around Rs 10,000 crore. This expense includes cost of technology development, flight hardware realisation and essential infrastructure elements.

Flights

Two unmanned flights and one manned flight will be undertaken as part of Gaganyaan Programme.

Targets

The first human space flight demonstration is expected to be completed within 40 months from the date of sanction. Prior to this, two unmanned flights in full complement will be carried out to gain confidence on the technology and mission management aspects.

Strategy

ISRO will be responsible for realising the flight hardware of the mission with the help of the Industry. National agencies, laboratories and Academia will participate in crew training, human life science technology development initiatives as well as design reviews.

Benefits
  • It will establish a broader framework for collaboration between ISRO, academia, industry, national agencies and other scientific organizations.
  • It will allow collaboration of diverse technological and industrial capabilities.
  • It will enable broader participation in research opportunities and technology development benefitting large number of students and researchers.
  • It is expected to generate employment and train human resources in advanced technologies.
  • It will inspire large number of young students to take up science and technology careers for national development.
Significance
  • The programme is expected to spur research and development within the country in science and technology domains.
  • It has huge potential for technology development in areas such as medicine, agriculture, industrial safety, pollution, waste management, water and food resource management etc.
  • The manned mission will provide a unique micro-gravity platform in space for conducting experiments and test bed for future technologies.
  • Human Spaceflight capability will enable India to participate as collaborating partner in future global space exploration initiatives with long term national benefits.

Launch vehicle ‘GSLV Mk-lll’ successfully tested

The ISRO has already completed the development of launch vehicle GSLV Mk-lll with necessary payload capability to launch a 3-member crew module in low earth orbit.

The organisation has also tested the crew escape system which is an essential technology for human space flight.

The aerodynamic characterisation of crew module has been completed as part of GSLV Mk-lll X mission flight.

Space suit and crew model for Gaganyaan Mission
The Indian Space Research Organisation  on September 6, 2017 unveiled the space suit and crew model for Gaganyaan Mission at the 6th Bengaluru Space Expo.

The orange-coloured prototype space suit was developed by the ISRO over the past two years at Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram. The suit can hold one oxygen cylinder, allowing an astronaut to breathe in space for 60 minutes.

The elements of the Space suit have been realised and tested.

Apart from this, ISRO has flight demonstrated the orbital & re-entry mission and recovery operations in Space Capsule Re-entry experiment (SRE) mission. ISRO also demonstrated most of the baseline technologies essential for undertaking human spaceflight mission.

Key Takeaways
• The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) on August 28, 2018 unveiled the details of the Gaganyaan mission.

• The Gaganyaan mission was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his 72nd Independence Day speech.

• India’s first manned space mission ‘Gaganyaan’ will be launched by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) by 2022.

• The mission will send a three-member crew to space for a period of five to seven days.

• Prior to the actual launch of this manned mission by 2022, the ISRO will launch two unmanned Gaganyaan missions.

• It weighs approximately 7 tonnes, and will be carried by a rocket.

• The crew module’s size will be 3.7 meters and 7 meters.

• GSLV Mk-III launch vehicle will be used to launch Gaganyaan.

• The spacecraft will be placed in a low earth orbit of 300-400 km.

• The spacecraft will comprise of a crew module and service module that constitute an orbital module.

• After the take off, the manned flight will reach the orbit in 16 minutes.

• The crew will do microgravity experiment during the mission.

• The crew will be selected by Indian Air Force (IAF) and ISRO jointly after which they will undergo training for two-three years.

• The crew, while coming back to the Earth, could land in the Arabian Sea off the Gujarat coast or in the Bay of Bengal or even on land.

• The successful implementation of the programme will make India the fourth nation in the world to launch a Human Spaceflight Mission. So far, only the USA, Russia and China have launched human spaceflight missions.

UAE reopens its embassy in Syria, after 6 years of suspension

UAE resumes diplomatic services in Syria, Bahrain to follow

The United Arab Emirates on December 27, 2018 resumed its diplomatic services at its embassy in Damascus in Syria after six years of suspension. The move signals a thaw in the relations between the two countries, as also with the Arab world.

The Charge d’Affaires of the UAE Embassy began discharging his duty on December 27, 2018. The decision follows a careful reading of the latest developments and a conviction that the next phase requires Arab involvement to protect Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Following suit is Bahrain, as the nation announced on December 28, 2018 that it will resume operations at its embassy in Syria, reflecting new efforts by Gulf Arab states to improve relations with President Bashar Assad as the civil war cools down.

The UAE had closed its Embassy in the early years of the Syrian conflict.

Significance

The UAE Ministry said in a statement that the move underscores the UAE government’s keenness to restore relations between the two brotherly countries to their normal course.

The resumption of relations will enhance and implement the Arab role in supporting the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic.  It will also prevent the dangers of regional interference in Syrian affairs.

Why did UAE close its embassy in Syria?

Till almost a decade back, both Syria and UAE shared a friendly bilateral relationship. In fact, the leaders of the two nations, Syria’s Bashar Al Assad and UAE President Sheikh Khalifa shared a highly cordial relationship.

Bashar Al Assad also shared a warm relation with Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.
Around the time, trade between the two countries was valued at about $254 million and was only expected to increase.

However, the political landscape across the Middle East changed with the beginning of Syrian uprising in 2011.

The UAE was among the several countries that chose to recall their ambassadors and close their embassies in Damascus, as the crisis worsened and security deteriorated in Syria.

Syrian Civil War

In March 2011, pro-democracy demonstrations grown out of discontent with the Assad government erupted in the southern Syrian city of Deraa, inspired by the “Arab Spring” in neighbouring countries.

The Syrian Government responded aggressively and the army of President Bashar al-Assad opened fire on the protestors, killing four people.

At first, the protesters just wanted democracy and greater freedom but after the government forces opened fire on peaceful demonstrations, people began demanding the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad.

However, Assad only hardened his resolve and by July 2011 the Syrian uprising had developed into a full-fledged civil war.

  UAE reopens its embassy in Syria, after 6 years of suspension

Currently, it is a multi-sided armed conflict being fought between the Ba’athist Syrian Arab Republic led by President Bashar al-Assad, along with domestic and foreign allies and various domestic and foreign forces opposing both the government and each other in varying combinations.

The armed conflict has grown so huge that a number of countries in the region and beyond are involved either directly or providing support to one or another faction.

While Iran and Russia have shown support to the Syrian Armed Forces led by President Bashar al-Assad, the US-led international coalition has targeted the Syrian government and pro-government forces.

Turkey also became deeply involved since 2016, actively supporting the Syrian opposition and occupying large swaths of north-western Syria.

The international organisations have accused the Syrian government, ISIL, opposition rebel groups, and the US-led coalition of severe human rights violations and massacres.

The armed conflict has caused a major refugee crisis, with many Syrians including women and young children attempting to flee the country through land and water routes and many dying as a result.

UAE’s relations with Syria during civil war

  • Despite the outbreak of the war, Syrian consular services continued to operate in the UAE, indicating relations were not completely cut off.
  • UAE also showed its dedication to support the Syrians and their aspirations to return security and stability to their country. However, the nation made it clear that it did not support Assad’s government.
  • Despite this, the UAE remained steadfast in its humanitarian support for the Syrian people. Since 2012, it has provided more than $530m in humanitarian aid and development assistance.
  • In 2018, the UAE’s political perspective on Syria began to change and the nation’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Anwar Gargash, said that it was no longer possible to stabilise the country with a military response.
  • While many countries had previously stated that there would be no end to the Syrian conflict if Al Assad remained in power, reopening the UAE embassy in Damascus, with more countries expected to follow suit, shows that governments have accepted that the Assad regime is here to stay.

Background

At the beginning of the civil war, Gulf Arab states like Saudi Arabia and Qatar had backed the Sunni fighters battling Assad’s forces.

Syria was expelled from the 22-member Arab League in 2011 and the Arab countries sanctioned the nation and condemned its use of military force against civilians.

In October 2018, President Assad had revealed that Syria had reached a “major understanding” with Arab states after years of hostility. He had said that Arab and Western delegations had begun visiting Syria to prepare for the reopening of diplomatic and other missions.

Recently, US President Donald Trump announced his intention of withdrawing the US troops from Syria. Trump also cut funding to the nation.

However, Saudi Arabia has come forward and pledged around $100 million to help in the reconstruction of the war-torn nation.

28 December 2018

PM Modi to rename three islands in Andaman and Nicobar after Netaji Subash Chandra Bose

PM Modi to rename three islands in Andaman and Nicobar after Netaji Subash Chandra Bose

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will rename three islands of Andaman and Nicobar after Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose on December 30, 2018. These three islands are – Ross Island, Neil Island and Havelock Island.

These islands will be renamed during PM Modi’s visit to Port Blair to mark the 75th Anniversary of hoisting of the National Flag at Port Blair by freedom fighter Subhash Chandra Bose.

Renaming of islands

Island New Name
Ross Island Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Island
Neil Island Shaheed Dweep
Havelock Island Swaraj Dweep

Bose had hoisted the flag at Port Blair on December 30, 1943, as he believed that Port Blair was the first territory to be freed from British rule. This was done after the Japenese captured that area during the time of the Second World War.

Netaji Subash Chandra Bose
• Born on January 23, 1897, Bose tried to free India from the British rule with the help of Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany but had failed in his attempt.

• In 1938 and 1939, Netaji served the Indian National Congress as its President. But later, he was ousted from the party due to his differences with Mahatma Gandhi.

• After expulsion from Congress, he was placed under house arrest by the British. Later in 1940, he escaped from India.

• In 1941, he went to Germany where he established Free India Centre and another Free India Centre in Berlin with the help of German funds.

• During his stay in Germany, he formed a Free India Legion to aid in a possible future German land invasion of India. The group was formed with the participation of some 3000 people comprising of Indians who were captured by Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps.

• Later in 1943, he moved to Japan and revamped the Indian National Army (INA) with Japanese support. INA was a group of Indian soldiers from the British-Indian army who were captured in the Battle of Singapore.

• As per reports, Bose died when his plane crashed in Taiwan. However, several Indians don’t believe that he died in the crash or even the crash had occurred.

Famous slogans given by the Subhash Chandra Bose:

  • Jai Hind
  • Give me blood and I shall give you freedom! (Tum Mujhe Khoon Do, Mai Tumhe Azaadi Dunga)
  • Ittefaq, Etemad, Qurbani (Urdu for “Unity, Agreement, Sacrifice”)
  • Dilli Chalo (“On to Delhi)!

Railways to grant fare concession to transgender senior citizens

Transgender senior citizens to get fare-concession in railways

The Indian Railways announced on December 27, 2018 that it has decided to grant 40-per-cent concession in passenger fares to transgender senior citizens.

The concession will be applicable to those of the third gender, who are aged 60 years or above. It will be available from January 1, 2019.

Key Highlights

The Indian Railways offers concessions on ticket prices to 53 different categories, ranging from 10-100 per cent.

The railways grants 40 per cent concession in fares to men aged 60 years or above and 50 per cent concession in fares to women aged 58 years or above.

The students going to their hometown or educational tours can avail a concession of 50 per cent in fares for the second and sleeper class, while students belonging to the Scheduled Tribe community can avail a concession of 75 per cent.

Similarly, government school students in rural areas are eligible to get a concession of 75 per cent in second class for a study tour or an entrance examination once a year.

Those appearing for UPSC and Central Staff Selection Commission can also avail a concession of 50 per cent on the fares.

Industrial labours and farmers, who wish to visit agricultural exhibitions, can also avail a 25-per-cent concession on second-class and sleeper-class tickets.

In addition, foreign students studying in India are also eligible for a 50-per-cent concession in the second and sleeper class.

Apart from these, senior citizens, who book their railway tickets online, now have the option to choose between 100-per-cent concession, 50-per-cent concession and no concession.

Though a column for transgender (T) was introduced in the reservation form, the concession was not admissible to them.

Maharashtra Government implements recommendations of 7th Pay Commission

Maharashtra Government implements recommendations of 7th Pay Commission

The Maharashtra Government on December 27, 2018 implemented the recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission, a move that is expected to benefit as many as 20.50 lakh employees of the state government.

The implementation of the new pay commission will benefit the officers, employees, teachers from the unaided schools and those from Zilla Parishad institutions.

The decision was announced after the cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.

Key Highlights

The employees will get arrears with effect from January 1, 2016 and it will be given in 5 instalments. The total amount that will be disbursed as arrears will be Rs 38655 crore.

The arrear amount will be credited directly into the GPF account of the employees.

With the implementation of the 7the Pay Commission, the government will have to spend around Rs 7,731 crore annually as arrears.

With this decision, Group A and Group B officers will get an increase of around Rs 9,000 – Rs 14,000 per month.

With the implementation of the 7th pay commission, a Group ‘D’ employee will get Rs 15,000 per month (a hike of around Rs 4,000- Rs 5,000), whereas a Group ‘C’ employee will get Rs 18,000 per month (hike of Rs 5,000 – Rs 8,000).

The pensioners will also get a hike in their monthly pension.

Background

The decision to implement the new pay commission came after employees in Maharashtra went on a 3-day strike, demanding a pay hike and the earliest implementation of the seventh pay recommendations.

However, around 1.5 lakh gazetted officers withdrew from the strike after a Government Resolution (GR) was issued stating that the pending arrears of the Dearness Allowance (DA) for a period of 14 months will be paid to them.

Tourism Ministry signs MoU to develop mobile audio guide app for five iconic sites

Tourism Ministry signs MoU to develop mobile audio guide app for five iconic sites

The Minister of State (I/C) for Tourism K J Alphons handed over a Memorandum of Understanding to Resbird Technologies under the ‘Adopt a Heritage’ project for the development of a mobile audio guide application for five iconic sites at a function in New Delhi on December 27, 2018.

The five iconic sites are as follows:

Rajasthan Amer Fort

Assam Kaziranga

GoaColva Beach

Kerala – Kumarakom

Bihar – Mahabodhi Temple

Besides this, the Tourism Minister also handed over the Letters of Intent to seven shortlisted agencies for consideration under the project in the presence of Tourism Secretary Yogendra Tripathi.

Seven Shortlisted Agencies

 The Letters of Intent were issued to the following seven shortlisted agencies:

S.no

Agency Name

Iconic Site

State

1.

Mytrah Energy India

Aalampur Temple

Telangana

2.

HEG India Pvt. Ltd.

Bhimbetka Rock Shelters

Madhya Pradesh

3.

Amit Pasricha

Photography and documentation of all lesser known monuments

India

4.

Akshar Travels Pvt. Ltd.

Buddhist Caves, Uparkot

Rani ki Vav, Patan

Champaner Pavagarh Archaeological Park, Champaner

Gujarat

5.

DH Patel & Co. (Kinsfolk group)

European tomb, near Katargam Darwaja, Surat

Lothal, Bhal

Gujarat

6.

Dalmia Bharat Pvt. Ltd.

Khajuraho group of monuments

Mahabalipuram Group of Monuments

Madhya Pradesh

Tamil Nadu

7.

Quality India Tours Pvt. Ltd.

Maharaja Chhatrasal Museum Complex

Madhya Pradesh

  Tourism Ministry issues letters of intent to seven agencies under ‘Adopt a Heritage’ project

Significance

The shortlisted agencies would become ‘Monument Mitras’ through the innovative concept of ‘Vision Bidding’, which will give them the opportunity to associate their CSR activities with a heritage site if the Vision Bid is selected.

‘Adopt a Heritage’ Project

The “Adopt a Heritage: Apni Dharohar, Apni Pehchaan” project is a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Culture and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the state governments and union territories.

The project aims to involve public sector companies, private sector companies and corporate citizens and individuals to take up the responsibility for making India’s heritage and tourism more sustainable through development, operation and maintenance of world-class tourist infrastructure and amenities at ASI/ State heritage sites and other important tourist sites across the country.

The project had seen an encouraging response from corporate and individuals with over 600 registrations on the project website opting for major and lesser-known heritage sites such as Red Fort, Qutub Minar, Gandikota Fort and the trek to Stok Kangri.

The Ministry has previously issued Letters of Intent (LoI) in five ceremonies to 37 shortlisted agencies for their interest in 107 sites across India.

As of date, ten Memoranda of Understanding have been executed with various Monument Mitras for the development, operation and maintenance of tourist amenities at heritage and tourist sites across India.

Palestine to apply for full UN membership in January 2019

Foreign Affairs minister of Palestine, Riyad Malki

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki declared on December 26, 2018 that Palestine would initiate an application to gain full state membership at the United Nations in January 2019.

The application to upgrade Palestine’s status from an observer state to a full-member state will be filed to the UN Security Council (UNSC) during the state Foreign Minister’s visit to New York next month. The decision has been taken upon Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ instructions.

To secure full state membership, the Palestinians would require the support from at least nine out of the UNSC’s 15 member states.

Besides this, the Palestinian Minister said that he would demand the UNSC implementation of Resolution 2334 and ask the International Criminal Court (ICC) to open an official inquiry into Israeli settlement construction.

According to UNSC Resolution 2334, the UN Secretary General should present the Security Council with a progress report every three months on Israeli settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Palestine has been recognised by the UN as a non-member observer state since 2012.

  Palestine to apply for full UN membership in January 2019

Background

The Palestine Liberation Organisation was granted observer status as a “non-member entity” in November 1974.

Acknowledging the proclamation of the State of Palestine by the Palestine National Council in November 1988, the United Nations General Assembly decided that, effective as of December 1988, the designation “Palestine” should be used in place of the designation “Palestine Liberation Organization” in the United Nations System.

In September 2011, Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas submitted the application for UN membership for the State of Palestine to the then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. However, the application was not voted on by the UN Security Council.

In October 2011, the General Assembly of UNESCO voted to admit Palestine as a member, becoming the first UN agency to admit Palestine as a full member.

The UN General Assembly recognised the state of Palestine as a “non-member state” in November 2012, when it passed a resolution by a vote of 138 to 9, with 41 abstentions.

About United Nations

The United Nations is an intergovernmental organisation that was established as the successor of the largely ineffective League of Nations on October 24, 1945.

The organisation is the largest, most familiar, most internationally represented and most powerful intergovernmental organisation in the world. It is financed by assessed and voluntary contributions from its member states.

Its main task is to maintain international peace and security, develop friendly relations among nations, achieve international co-operation and be a centre for harmonising the actions of nations.

Other objectives of the organisation include protecting human rights, delivering humanitarian aid, promoting sustainable development and upholding the international law.

  Palestine to apply for full UN membership in January 2019

Member States of UN

During its founding, the UN had 51 member states and now it has 193 sovereign states as its members.

In principle, only sovereign states can become UN members and currently all UN members are sovereign states.

However, in addition to the member states, the UN also has two non-member permanent observer states: the Holy See and the State of Palestine.

The observer states are allowed to participate and speak in the UN General Assembly meetings but they cannot vote.

Observers are generally intergovernmental organizations and international organisations and entities whose statehood or sovereignty is not precisely defined.

How does a state become a full member of the UN?

The membership in the United Nations is open to all peace-loving states which accept the obligations contained in the present Charter and, in the judgement of the organisation, are able and willing to carry out these obligations.

The admission of any state to membership in the United Nations is effected by a decision of the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council.

A recommendation for admission from the Security Council requires affirmative votes from at least nine of the council’s fifteen members, with none of the five permanent members using their veto power.

The Security Council’s recommendation must then be approved in the General Assembly by a two-thirds majority vote.

NITI Aayog releases Second Delta Ranking under Aspirational District Programme; Virudhunagar District ranked as most improved district

NITI Aayog on December 27, 2018 released the Second Delta Ranking of the Aspirational Districts Programme (ADP). The rankings were released by NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant.

Virudhunagar District of Tamil Nadu was ranked as the most improved district in the Rankings. The ranking represented the incremental progress made by districts between June 1, 2018 and October 31, 2018.

Most improved districts
Rank District State
1 Virudhunagar Tamil Nadu
2 Nuapada Odisha
3 Siddharthnagar Uttar Pradesh
4 Aurangabad Bihar
5 Koraput Odisha
Districts that saw Least Improvement
Rank

District State
107 Kiphire Nagaland
108 Giridih Jharkhand
109 Chatra Jharkhand
110 Hailakandi Assam
111 Pakur Jharkhand
 ‘Fast Movers’ Districts
District, State June 2018 Rank October 2018 Rank
Kupwara, Jammu and Kashmir 108 7
Ranchi, Jharkhand 106 10
Siddharthnagar, Uttar Pradesh 103 3
Jamui, Bihar 99 9
Fatehpur, Uttar Pradesh 82 25
Note: The districts which displayed a qualitative jump in their scores between June and October 2018 are dubbed as ‘Fast Movers’.

Second Delta Ranking: Parameters and Data availability

The districts were ranked in a transparent basis on parameters across Health & Nutrition, Education, Agriculture & Water Resources, Financial Inclusion & Skill Development, and Basic Infrastructure through key performance indicators.

The rankings were based on the data available publicly through the Champions of Change Dashboard, which includes data entered on a real-time basis at the district level.

For the first time, the rankings took in inputs from household survey conducted by NITI Aayog’s knowledge partners, namely, TATA Trusts and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).

First Delta Ranking

The first Delta Ranking for the Aspirational Districts was released in June 2018.

It ranked the Aspirational Districts on improved performance across five developmental areas of Health and Nutrition, Education, Agriculture and Water Resources, Financial Inclusion and Skill Development, and Basic Infrastructure.

It analysed the progress made by districts over the months of April and May 2018 on the basis of self-reported data.

Aspirational District Programme
• The Aspirational District Programme was launched by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 5, 2018.

• It aims to rapidly transform the districts that have shown relatively lesser progress in key social areas, thereby posing a challenge to ensure balanced regional development.

• The program focuses on the strength of each district, identifies low-hanging fruits for immediate improvement, measures progress, and ranks districts.

• It seeks to fulfil Union Government’s Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas initiative that aims to raise the living standards of citizens and ensure inclusive growth for all.

• The broad features of the programme are:

o Convergence (of Central & State Schemes)

o Collaboration (of Central, State level ‘Prabhari’ Officers & District Collectors)

o Competition among districts driven by a Mass Movement or a Jan Andolan

27 December 2018

RBI constitutes Expert Committee headed by Bimal Jalan on Economic Capital Framework

RBI constitutes Expert Committee headed by Bimal Jalan on Economic Capital Framework

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI), in consultation with the Union Government, on December 26, 2018 constituted an Expert Committee on Economic Capital Framework. The Committee will be headed by Bimal Jalan, while, former secretary Rakesh Mohan was named as the Vice Chairman.

The panel will decide on the appropriate size of reserves that the RBI should maintain and the dividend it should give to the government.

The decision regarding the constitution of the Committee was taken by the Central Board of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in its meeting held on November 19, 2018.

Composition of the Committee

S. No. Name Role in the Committee Post
1) Bimal Jalan Chairman Former Governor of Reserve Bank of India
2) Rakesh Mohan Vice Chairman Former Deputy Governor of RBI and
former Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs
3) Bharat Doshi Member Director of Central Board, RBI
4) Sudhir Mankad Member Director of Central Board, RBI
5) Subhash Chandra Garg Member Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs
6) N.S. Vishwanathan Member Deputy Governor of RBI

Terms of Reference of the Committee

Suggest an adequate level of risk provisioning that the RBI needs to maintain

Determine whether the RBI is holding provisions, reserves and buffers in surplus or deficit of the required level of such provisions, reserves and buffers

Propose a suitable profits distribution policy taking into account all the likely situations of the RBI, including the situations of holding more provisions than required and the RBI holding less provisions than required

Any other related matter including treatment of surplus reserves created out of realised gains, if determined to be held
Major task of the Committee

Major task of the Committee

The Committee has also been tasked to review the extant Economic Capital Framework considering the:

(i) Statutory mandate under Section 47 of the RBI Act, 1934. As per the Section 47, the profits of the RBI shall be transferred to the Government, after making provisions ‘which are usually provided by the bankers’

(ii) Public policy mandate of the RBI, including financial stability considerations

Keeping the aforesaid considerations in mind, the Committee will:

  • Review status, need and justification of various provisions, reserves and buffers presently provided for by the RBI
  • Review global best practices followed by the central banks in making assessment and provisions for risks which central bank balance sheets are subject to

The Expert Committee will submit its report within a period of 90 days from the date of its first meeting.

What is Economic Capital Framework (ECF)?
The Economic Capital Framework (ECF) of the RBI handles the capital requirement for operation. The RBI holds ECF reserve of 27 percent.

The ECF amount can be used at the time of economic depression in the country. It can push more liquidity in the market to handle capital requirement.

PM Modi inaugurates Bogibeel Bridge in Assam; flags off first passenger train

PM Modi inaugurates Bogibeel Bridge in Assam

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 25, 2018 inaugurated India’s longest rail-road bridge ‘Bogibeel Bridge’ over the Brahmaputra River in Assam to boost defence along the border with China.

This 4.94 kilometre long bridge over the Brahmaputra river took nearly two decades and over Rs 5900 crore to get completed.

The bridge was inaugurated on the birth anniversary of former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, under whose government the work for the bridge began in 2002.

What led to the delay in bridge construction?
The Bogibeel Bridge was a part of the 1985 Assam Accord and was approved in 1997-98. The foundation stone of the bridge was laid by then Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda on January 22, 1997, but the construction work commenced under the premiership of Vajpayee in April 2002.

Originally scheduled to be inaugurated in 2009, the project had missed several deadlines over the years due to changes in bridge design, and increase in project cost due to revisions in the scope of construction.

To end years of deadly agitation by Assamese nationalist groups, the present Government decided to undertake the construction of the Bogibeel bridge as part of the 1985 agreement. It took funding of over Rs 5900 crore to complete the project from the sanctioned estimated cost of around Rs 3000 crore.

Bogibeel Bridge

Located just over 20 kilometres from the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border, the Bogibeel Bridge will connect the south bank of the Brahmaputra river in Assam’s Dibrugarh district with Silapathar in Dhemaji district, bordering Arunachal Pradesh, making travel to Pasighat easier.

The bridge includes the main bridge, dykes on the north and south banks, road network of 30 kilometres, rail network of 74 kilometres and six new railway stations.

The double-decker Bogibeel bridge has two railway lines on the lower deck and a three-lane road on the upper deck.

The bridge is 32 metres above the water level of the Brahmaputra and is designed as the bridge linking Sweden and Denmark.

It can bear the weight of India’s heaviest 60 tonne battle tanks and so that fighter jets can land on it.

The Bridge will have a serviceable period of around 120 years.

It is India’s only fully welded bridge for which European welding standards were adhered to. It is Asia’s second longest rail-cum-road bridge.

The superstructure of the bridge was built by the joint venture of Hindustan Construction Company, Germany-based DSD Brouckenbau and VNR Infrastructure.

Rail network on Bogibeel Bridge

The Prime Minister also flagged off the Tinsukia-Naharlagun Intercity Express. The train will run five days a week.

The rail journey from Dibrugarh to the Arunachal Pradesh capital Itanagar will now be cut by 750 kilometres.

The rail line will be linked to Chowalkhowa, which is 5.83 kilometres from Dibrugarh, on the south bank and between Sisi Borgaon and Sirpani on the north bank.

The work on the railway line is being undertaken by Northeast Frontier Railway.

Reduce travel time

While the journey from Dibrugarh to Delhi currently takes more than 37 hours, the new bridge is likely to reduce the commute by three hours.

It will reduce travel time from Assam to Arunachal Pradesh to 4 hours (minus the 170-km detour via Tinsukia).

It will also reduce the distance to the North East by 165 km, saving fuel worth Rs 10 lakh per day in the region.

Enhance defence logistics
The bridge will enhance defence logistics along the China border; it will enable the military to speed up the dispatch of forces to Arunachal Pradesh, which borders China. India and China share around 4000-kilometre-long border, with almost 75 percent in Arunachal Pradesh.

Bogibeel Bridge is part of infrastructure projects planned by India to improve logistics along the border in Arunachal Pradesh such as construction of a trans-Arunachal highway on the north bank of the Brahmaputra; and road-rail links over its major tributaries such as the Dibang, Lohit, Subansiri and Kameng.

The 4.94 kilometre-long bridge will be the fourth rail-road bridge on the Brahmaputra River in Assam, the others being – Saraighat Bridge, Naranarayan Setu and the New Saraighat Bridge.

Earlier in 2017, India opened its longest bridge ‘Dhola-Sadiya’, the 9.1 kilometre bridge over the Lohit River that too connects Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

SAIL steel for Bogibeel Bridge

The Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) supplied around 35400 metric tonnes of steel for the construction of Bogibeel Road-cum-Rail Bridge on the river Brahmaputra. This quantity is little more than 50 percent of the total quantity of steel supplied for the bridge.

Japan announces withdrawal from IWC to resume commercial whaling

Japan decides to quit IWC to resume commercial whaling

Japan on December 26, 2018 announced its decision to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission and said that it will resume commercial whaling from July 2019. The withdrawal will come into effect by June 30, 2019.

The announcement comes after Japan failed in a bid earlier this year to convince the IWC to allow it to resume commercial whaling. “We have decided to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission in order to resume commercial whaling in July next year,” said a top Japanese government spokesman.

Key Highlights

The withdrawal from the International Whaling Commission means that the Japanese whalers will be able to resume hunting of minke and other whales, which are currently protected by the IWC, in the Japanese coastal waters.

Japan clarified that commercial whaling will be limited to Japan’s territorial waters and exclusive economic zones and not in the Antarctic waters or in the southern hemisphere.

The withdrawal, however, means that Japan will not be able to continue the scientific research hunts in the Antarctic that it has been exceptionally allowed as an IWC member under the Antarctic Treaty.

The withdrawal also means that Japan will join Iceland and Norway in openly defying the IWC’s ban on commercial whale hunting.

Japan would officially inform the IWC of its decision by the end of 2018, which will mean the withdrawal, comes into effect by June 30.

  Japan announces withdrawal from IWC to resume commercial whaling

Background

Japan has repeatedly threatened to pull out of IWC and has been regularly criticised for catching hundreds of whales a year for “scientific research” despite being a signatory to a moratorium on hunting the animals.

Japan argues that whaling is an important part of Japan’s traditions and the withdrawal would allow fishermen to pass the country’s rich whaling culture onto the next generation. Japan has hunted whales for centuries and the meat was a key source of protein in the immediate post-World War II years when the country was desperately poor.

However, the consumption of the meat declined significantly in recent decades, with much of the population saying they rarely or never eat whale meat.

In September, Japan sought to convince the IWC to allow it to resume commercial whaling, arguing that stocks of certain species were now sufficient to support renewed hunting. But the bid failed, with strong opposition from anti-whaling nations led by Australia, the European Union and the United States.

About IWC

  Japan announces withdrawal from IWC to resume commercial whaling

The International Whaling Commission was established in December 1946 to conserve and manage the world’s whale and cetacean population and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry”.

In 1982 the IWC adopted a moratorium on commercial whaling.  Currently, Japan, Russia and a number of other nations oppose this moratorium.

The IWC allows non-zero whaling quotas for aboriginal subsistence and also member nations may issue ‘Scientific Permits’ to their citizens. Japan has issued such permits since 1986.

Iceland and Norway object to the moratorium and continue to hunt whales commercially without relying on science as an excuse.

The main duty of the IWC is to keep under review and revise as necessary the measures laid down in the Schedule to the Convention, which governs the conduct of whaling throughout the world.

In September 2018, In September 2018, the majority of member nations at the IWC annual symposium in Brazil approved a non-binding resolution stating that commercial whaling was no longer a valid economic activity, or needed for scientific research.

The IWC members agreed to safeguard the marine mammals in perpetuity and allow the recovery of all whale populations to pre-industrial whaling levels.

EC prohibits tobacco use in polling booths during 2019 Lok Sabha elections

EC prohibits tobacco use in polling booths during 2019 Lok Sabha elections

The Election Commission of India (ECI), for the first time, has banned all kinds of tobacco in polling booths during the general elections in 2019. The move is aimed at effectively implementing tobacco control laws across the nation.

The Commission has asked all states and UTs to issue instructions to all the district electoral officers-cum-district magistrates to ensure prohibition of not just smoking but also the use of chewable tobacco in all polling booths in the country.

Key Highlights

According to the guidelines issued by the Election Commission, all polling booths in the country are to be declared tobacco-free and not just smoke-free.

Hence, the use of bidi, cigarette, gutkha, scented or flavoured chewable tobacco will be prohibited. Each polling booth will be required to have a banner put up, stating the same.

The presiding officer of each polling booth will be nominated as the nodal officer for ensuring tobacco-free status at their booths.

All district tobacco control cells will supervise and monitor this campaign to sensitise people on ill effects of tobacco.

Background

The move comes after the Delhi government’s Health Department urged the Election Commission to declare all polling stations as tobacco-free zones rather than just declaring them as smoke-free, as it used to be in previous elections.

In a letter written to the Election panel by the additional director (Health) Dr. SK Arora, it was stated that tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of disease, disability and premature death and major threat to the present and future health of any population.

“On election day, a majority of the adult population is likely to visit polling booth to cast its vote. This will be an excellent opportunity to sensitise among majority adult population on a single day through displayed multi-colour banners with the message on ill-effects of tobacco at the polling booths,” the letter further read.

MSME Ministry proposes to establish governing council to boost shipments

MSME Ministry proposes to establish governing council to boost shipments

The Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) has proposed to establish a governing council to ensure efficient delivery of all export-related interventions, as a part of its action plan to boost shipments from micro, small and medium enterprises.

Composition of the Council

The governing council shall be chaired by Secretary, MSME and co-chaired by Development Commissioner in MSME Ministry.

It shall comprise senior officials and members from MSME Ministry, Commerce Ministry, MSME Export Promotion Councils, Export Development Authorities and Commodity Boards.

Key Highlights

Under MSMEs’ action plan, the National Resource Centre for MSME Exporters will engage with various international agencies including UN organisations to promote procurement from Indian MSMEs and further enhance their capabilities.

The ministry has recommended a detailed analysis of various trade agreements, including FTAs and bilateral and multilateral trade agreements, to identify areas of concern for MSMEs in the strategic action plan titled ‘Unlocking the Potential of MSME Exports’.

It said a study will be conducted of special economic zones and export promotion zones in the country to reassess their role and objectives as these are an essential constituent of Foreign Trade Policy and it is important to harness their potential.

Further, a tech-enabled online portal shall be developed featuring country-wise list of global products and services in demand and information on how to enter specific foreign markets. It will also have details on loans and credit offered by various financial institutions.

A formal platform may also be created by the ministry to ensure that it is involved in all bilateral and multilateral trade negotiations which have an impact on the enterprises.

A guide or handbook shall also be developed to help the export community to understand the processes involved in the export business and access the potential markets.

The guide will comprise practical information which will be useful for exporters.

26 December 2018

Good Governance Day 2018: Nation remembers former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee; ‘Sadaiv Atal’ samadhi dedicated to nation

Good Governance Day 2018: Nation remembers former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee

25 December: Good Governance Day

India observed the Good Governance Day on December 25, 2018 to mark the birth anniversary of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who passed away on August 16, 2018 at the age of 93.

The Good Governance Day was established in 2014 to honor former-Prime Minister Vajpayee by fostering awareness among the Indian people of accountability in governance.

PM Modi released commemorative coin in honour of Vajpayee
To mark the Good Governance Day 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 24, 2018 released a 100-rupee commemorative coin in honour of Bharat Ratna Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Weighing 35 grams, the 100-rupee coin has the image of Vajpayee with his name inscribed in Hindi and English. The coin has the years 1924 and 2018 inscribed to mark the years of Vajpayee’s birth and death.

On the flipside, the coin has the Lion Capitol of the Ashoka Pillar with “Satyameva Jayate” inscribed below.

Sadaiv Atal: Samadhi of Atal Behari Vajpayee
To mark the birth anniversary of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, his Samadhi ‘Sadaiv Atal’ was dedicated to the nation. President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid floral tributes at the Samadhi.

About ‘Sadaiv Atal’ samadhi

  •  ‘Sadaiv Atal’ reflects Vajpayee’s personality as a poet, humanist, statesman and a great leader.
  • The central Samadhi platform comprises of nine square black polished granite solid stone blocks, capped with a ‘diya’ in the center.
  • The number nine holds significance and represents the navarasas, navaratras and navagrahas. The placement of the nine squares in Samadhi is in a circular lotus shaped pattern.
  • The nine-square platform is accessed in four cardinal directions by pathways made in white composite tiles so that the floor does not get heated.
  • The Samadhi is enclosed by nine bas-relief walls which have inscriptions of the Vajpayee’s poetry which can be read by the visitor while taking a pradakshina on the outer circular path.
Stones used for construction of Samadhi
  • For construction of the Samadhi, stones from various parts of the country were used.
  • The Main Samadhi stone is monolithic zed black sourced from the best quarries of Khammam, Telangana.
  • The parikrama area is laid in white composite tiles, which does not get heated in the Sun.
  • Diya, which is centrally placed on the top of Samadhi is made up of leather finish black granite sourced from Khammam and the flame of Diya is made in Crystal with LED lights placed inside.
  • The inner petals, the outer petals and the area in between the intersection of petals are laid in colour composition of Crystal Yellow and Neo Copper granite which are sourced from Abu Road, Rajasthan.
  • Pathways are laid in leather finish black granite.
Samadhi development work undertaken by Atal Smriti Nyas Society

The development work of the Samadhi was undertaken by the Atal Smriti Nyas Society. A vacant piece of land was made available near Rajghat for the Samadhi by the Government.

The land is being maintained by the Society at its own cost as a public place. The earmarked land for the Samadhi will continue to remain with the Government.

The Samadhi was completed by the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) at a total cost of Rs 10.51 crores. The entire cost of construction of the Samadhi was borne by the Atal Smriti Nyas Society.

The Atal Smriti Nyas Society is registered under the Societies Registration Act XXI of 1860 and was formed by eminent persons. The founding members of the Society include Sumitra Mahajan, Lalji Tandon, O.P Kohli, Vajubhai Rudabhai Vala, Vijay Kumar Malhotra, Ram Lal Ji and Ram Bahadur Rai.

‘Atal Ayushman Uttarakhand Yojana’ launched in Uttarakhand

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh launched the ‘Atal Ayushman Uttarakhand Yojana’ to mark the Day.

Under the scheme, each household in the state will be able to avail medical treatment of up to 5 lakh rupees annually.

The scheme will benefit 23 lakh households and cover 1350 critical diseases.

The Chief Minister signed Memoranda of Understanding with private hospitals and announced that soon free of cost OPD facilities will be available for children and elderly people in the state.

All the households have been included under the scheme.

Maharashtra launched Vajpayee International Schools in Mumbai

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis launched Bharat Ratna Atal Bihari Vajpayee International Schools in Mumbai on the occasion of 94th birth anniversary of the late Prime Minister.

The schools are affiliated to the Maharashtra International Education Board, which the state government had set up with an aim to achieve higher education standards.

Uttar Pradesh CM announces to install 21 feet long Statue of Atal Bihari Vajpayee

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath announced to install 21 feet long Statue of Bharat Ratna Atal Bihari Vajpayee at Lok Bhawan in Lucknow.

Various programmes such as kavi sammelans, debates, poetry recitals, rangoli competitions and extempore debates were organised in all the schools and colleges.

A two-hour play ‘Rashtra Purush Atal’ was staged by a 200-strong group from Maharashtra in state capital Lucknow.

Aadhaar not mandatory for admission in schools: UIDAI

Aadhaar not mandatory for admission in schools: UIDAI

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has asserted that schools cannot make Aadhaar, the 12-digit biometric identifier a pre-condition for student admission. UIDAI warned that doing so will be against the recent order of the Supreme Court.

The detail was shared by UIDAI CEO Ajay Bhushan Pandey in New Delhi on December 25, 2018. The clarification comes at a time when admissions to the nursery and entry-level classes have begun in over 1,500 private schools in Delhi.

Key Highlights

UIDAI cleared that asking for Aadhaar cards for admissions is not as per the provisions of law and doing so will be against the recent order of the Supreme Court.

However, there have been reports of certain schools insisting on Aadhaar as one of the documents required for student admission.

The Aadhaar issuing body said that it is aware of such reports and has asked all the schools to ensure that no child is denied admission for not having the identification card.

UIDAI CEO Ajay Bhushan Pandey said that in fact, schools should admit children without Aadhaar and ensure that children are given Aadhaar once they are in schools by arranging special camps for them.

UIDAI cleared that despite this, should certain schools continue to insist on Aadhar then, it would clearly be seen as a case of contempt of court.

The word of caution from UIDAI comes at a time when admissions to the nursery and entry-level classes have just begun in over 1,500 private schools in Delhi.

Background

In September 2018, the Supreme Court had upheld the constitutional validity of Aadhaar but clipped the scope of the biometric identity project, ruling that it was not mandatory for bank accounts, mobile connections or school admissions.

The top court had held that Aadhaar would remain compulsory for the filing of Income Tax returns and allotment of Permanent Account Number, as well as welfare schemes.

The SC verdict emphasised that it would not be mandatory for school admissions, as also for the examinations conducted by the Central Board of Secondary Examination, National Eligibility cum Entrance Test for medical entrance and the University Grants Commission.

25 December 2018

Veteran CPI (M) leader Nirupam Sen passes away

Veteran CPI (M) leader Nirupam Sen passes away

Nirupam Sen, veteran CPI (M) leader, passed away on December 24, 2018 in Kolkata following a cardiac arrest. He was 72.

The former Commerce and Industry Minister of West Bengal had been on life support since the early weeks of December. He is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter.

The body will be kept in a mortuary during the day and the final rites will be performed on December 26 in Bardhaman, his hometown. The body will also be taken to CPI (M) party headquarters and the CITU office.

About Nirupam Sen

  Veteran CPI (M) leader Nirupam Sen passes away Born October 8, 1946, Sen’s political career began when he became a member of the CPI(M) during his student years. He became the district secretary of the Students Federation of India, student’s wing of the party in 1966.

Though he started his career as a teacher, he became a full-time member of the party in 1968. He was appointed as the district secretary of Bardhaman district from 1989 to 1995.

He was elected as an MLA from Bardhaman town in 1987 and he became a central committee member of the party in 1998 and Polit Bureau member in 2008. Overall, Sen was elected as an MLA three times from the Bardhaman Dakshin constituency.

Sen was the driving force behind attempts of industrialisation of the state in the last 10 years of the Left Front government led by former Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

When the Left Front was voted to power in 2001, Sen was handed the charge of commerce and industries.

It was under the leadership of Bhattacharya and Sen that the Left Front started selling the dream of industrialisation in the state and shifted focus to private investments.

This shift in the policy reaped them heavy dividends resulting in the Left Front’s resounding victory in the 2006 assembly election.

But by the end of 2006, land acquisition movement at Singur over the Tata Nano car plant had started taking a toll on the regime.

The protest against the forcible land acquisition ultimately led the Tata Motors to shift the car plant from Singur to Gujarat in 2008.

The anti-land acquisition protests in Singur and Nandigram led by the then opposition Trinamool Congress was one of the reasons behind the fall of the 34-year-old Left Front government in the state in 2011.

Faced with intense criticism both within and outside the party, Sen, then a CPI(M) politburo member, had withdrawn himself from active politics.

In the next few years due to ill health, he stepped down from the politburo, the central committee and earlier this year during the CPI (M) party congress, he stepped down from the state committee.

National Consumer Day 2018 observed across India

National Consumer Day 2018 observed across India

24 December: National Consumer Day

The National Consumer Day was observed across India on December 24, 2018 with the theme “Timely Disposal of Consumer Complaints”.

On this day, the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 had received the assent of the president. The enactment of the Act is considered as a historic milestone in the consumer movement in the country.

The day provides an opportunity to highlight the importance of the consumer movement and the need to make every consumer more aware of their rights and responsibilities.

About National Consumer Day

The day is celebrated annually on 24 December to mark the enactment of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, that was enacted on December 24, 1986.

Observance of this day provides an opportunity for individuals to highlight the importance of the consumer movement and promote the basic rights and responsibilities of all consumers.

The day also reminds the producers and distributors of goods and services about their responsibility towards the protection of consumer rights.

Consumer Protection Act, 1986

The Consumer Protection Act was enacted with the objective of providing better protection of consumer’s interest.

The act provides effective safeguards to the consumer, against various types of exploitations and unfair dealings, relying mainly on compensatory rather than a disciplinary or preventive approach.

The act applies to all goods and services unless specifically exempted, which covers the private, public and cooperative sectors. It also provides speedy and inexpensive adjudication

The Act envisages the promotion and protection of rights of consumers such as Right to Safety, Right to be informed, Right to Choose and Right to be heard.

Recently, on December 20, 2018 Lok Sabha passed the Consumer Protection Bill 2018 to amend the Act. The bill calls for strict punishment, including jail terms and hefty fines for misleading advertisements and food adulteration.

India’s Vedangi Kulkarni becomes fastest Asian to cycle the globe

India’s Vedangi Kulkarni becomes fastest Asian to cycle the globe

India’s Vedangi Kulkarni has become the fastest Asian to cycle the globe. The 20-year-old Indian completed the 29,000 kilometers’ distance required to qualify as bicycling across the globe on December 23, 2018.

Overall, Kulkarni spent 159 days peddling up to 300 km a day in 14 countries. Starting off from Perth in July, she will now be flying back to the Australian city to complete the record by cycling a 15 km distance to reach the same place from where she started.

Key Highlights

  India's Vedangi Kulkarni becomes the fastest Asian to cycle the globe

Kulkarni is a student of the University of Bournemouth in the United Kingdom pursuing a degree in sports management.

She said that the 159 days spent peddling up to 300 km a day in 14 countries has shown her the “best and worst” of both herself and also the world.

The preparations for the ride began about two years ago with long cycle rises, getting the equipment including a specially crafted cycle and planning the route and time window.

Kulkarni did not have anyone accompanying her for over 80 percent of the route and lugged the cycle with the heavy luggage that includes cycle tools, camping equipment and clothing in desolate stretches all alone.

She had to face obstruction from several elements on the way, from both human and natural. This included being chased by a Grizzly bear in Canada or camping alone for multiple nights in the snow in Russia or being robbed at a knife-point in Spain.

She also faced troubles on securing the necessary visas, which cost her time. The visa process led to a delayed departure and consequently facing weather hostilities in Europe where winter had started setting in. The ride was funded majorly by her parents.

Globally, thirty-eight-year-old British adventurer Jenny Graham is the fastest woman to have cycled the globe in 124 days in 2018, which is three weeks faster than the previous record.

Kulkarni’s Route Map

Starting off from Perth, Kulkarni cycled across Australia, through the outback, to reach Brisbane from where she flew over to Wellington, New Zealand, for doing the entire country north to south.

A short flight took her across the international dateline to Western Canada’s Vancouver, from where she continued her eastward journey till Halifax, a port city.

  India's Vedangi Kulkarni becomes the fastest Asian to cycle the globe

Europe beckoned next and she chose chilly Iceland to start it all up and later cycled through Portugal, Spain France, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Finland to enter Russia.

From Russia, she flew to India to do the last 4,000 km.

She encountered temperatures ranging from -20 degree Celsius to 37 degrees Celsius during the ride.

Logistics Development Committee constituted to suggest reforms for ease of doing trade

Logistics Development Committee constituted to suggest reforms for ease of doing trade

The Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (EAC-PM) has constituted a Logistics Development Committee under the Chairmanship of Dr. Bibek Debroy, Chairman of EAC-PM to assess key challenges and suggest reforms in logistics development and associated commerce.

Composition of the Committee

The committee comprises secretaries and heads of the concerned departments and ministries such as Revenue, Commerce, Logistics, DIPP, Civil Aviation, Shipping, Road Transport & Highways, Railways, Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC).

It also included Dr. Jayanta Roy, a well-known trade policy expert specialising in trade and logistics facilitation.

Objective

The committee was tasked to assess key challenges in logistics development and associated commerce and suggest policy reforms for ease of doing trade in India.

Key Highlights

The committee conducted several rounds of deliberations with various stakeholders that included senior officials from the Union and State governments, industry associations, trade and logistics sector representatives.

Based on their review and assessments, the committee prepared a comprehensive logistics and trade facilitation reform agenda.

The reform agenda comprises a number of specific policy actions covering the entire logistics value chain.

It is designed to fundamentally re-engineer the existing business processes of the government and intended to facilitate an integrated “whole of the trade value chain” approach.

Further, it proposes a new institutional framework to leverage co-operation from all stakeholders towards a common shared goal of transforming this space.

The committee’s report has been submitted to the Government for consideration.

Significance

It is hoped that implementation of the proposed agenda will push India’s share in global trade and make India one of the simplest places for doing business in the near term.

Background

Boosting trade and making India a simple and easy place for doing business are an integral part of the broader economic priorities of the Government.

The Government is in the process of implementing a number of reform initiatives in this regard.

Some reforms are designed to target the hardware aspects of trade, which includes augmenting and modernising the hinterland logistics and infrastructure connectivity, while some others are designed to target the software aspects, which are related to regulatory and procedural environment for trade.

As a result of the reforms, though the broader trade and logistics ecosystem in the country has improved considerably, users still continue to face some challenges in this space.

Therefore, the Government is determined to implement more reforms to create a smooth and efficient environment across the logistics value chain.

23-24 December 2018

GST Council reduces GST Rates of 23 goods and services; revised rates effective from January 1, 2019

GST Council reduces GST Rates of 23 goods and services

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council on December 22, 2018 slashed GST Rates for 23 commonly used goods and services. The reduced rates will come into effect from January 1, 2019.

The GST rate on movie tickets, costing up to Rs 100, was cut to 12 percent from 18 percent, while tickets over 100 rupees will attract 18 percent tax against 28 percent. Monitors and TV screens up to 32-inches and power banks will attract 18 percent GST, as against 28 percent earlier.

With this rate rationalisation, only 28 goods are left in the highest 28 percent tax bracket.

The rate rationalisation was a part of the government’s attempt to streamline GST and make it more people-friendly.

GST rate reduction from 28 percent to 18 percent

Pulleys, transmission shafts and cranks, gear boxes, falling under HS Code 8483

Monitors and TVs of up to screen size of 32 inches

Used pneumatic tyres of rubber

Power banks of lithium ion batteries.

Digital cameras and video camera recorders

Video game consoles and other games and sports requisites falling under HS code 9504

Other GST Rate Reductions

28% to 5% 18% to 12% 18% to 5% 12% to 5% 12% to Nil 5% to Nil
Parts  and accessories for carriages of disabled persons Cork roughly debagged Marble rubble Natural cork Music Books Vegetables – boiled, frozen, branded
Articles of natural cork Walking Stick Vegetable preserved but unsuitable for immediate consumption
Agglomerated cork Fly ash Blocks

Exemptions from GST

The GST Council also exempted few goods and services from levy of GST. These services are:

Supply of gold by Nominated Agencies to exporters of gold Jewellery

Proceeds received by Government from auction of gifts received by President, Prime Minister, Governor or Chief Minister and public servants

Exemption from Compensation cess on vehicles imported for temporary purposes under the Customs Convention on the Temporary importation of Private Road Vehicles

GST on Solar Power Plant and other renewable energy plants

The GST council prescribed a GST rate of 5 percent on renewable energy devices and parts for their manufacture such as bio gas plant, solar power based devices, solar power generating system, etc.

‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ field-level awareness campaign launched in three states

‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ field-level awareness campaign launched in three states

A three-state field-level campaign on Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) will be organised by the Union Government from the first week of January 2019.

As a part of the campaign, over 900 cultural programmes across various districts of Maharashtra, 100 programmes in Goa and 30 programmes in UT of Dadra & Nagar Haveli would be held. The awareness and sensitisation drive is being organised by the Pune office of Regional Outreach Bureau (ROB) and the Union Ministry of Information & Broadcasting in coordination with Women and Child Development Departments of the respective states.

Key Highlights

The campaign was launched by Gauri Gadgil, a Divyang child and an  international swimmer, by placing her fingers on traditional instrument “Dholak”, symbolising the creation of reverberance about the scheme across the three states.

She said on the occasion that girls are making their mark across the globe, giving name and fame to their families.

As a prelude to the campaign, an orientation-cum-workshop on the flagship scheme was organised for the Private Registered Cultural Troupes (PRTs) in Pune on December 20, 2018.

Inaugurating the workshop, former ADG, Ministry of I&B, Prabhavati Aakashi said that the cultural troupes of ROB have been doing a wonderful job in creating awareness and sensitising people on the importance of the initiative.

 ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ field-level awareness campaign launched in three states

The cultural troupes are an important bridge between the Government and the last mile at the grass root level, as they help create awareness about various schemes among the people through locally prevalent communication means such as drama, skits, songs and plays.

After the inauguration, a briefing session on various aspects of the scheme was conducted by Assistant Commissioner, ICDS, Mumbai, Sandhya Nagarkar.

Beti Bachao Beti Padhao

What is the purpose of the scheme?

The trend of decline in the Child Sex Ratio (CSR) has been unabated since 1961. The decline from 945 in 1991 to 927 in 2001 and further to 918 in 2011 is alarming.

Child Sex Ratio is defined as number of girls per 1000 of boys between 0-6 years of age. Hence, a decline in the CSR is a major indicator of women disempowerment.

The ratio reflects both, pre-birth discrimination manifested through gender biased sex selection and post birth discrimination against girls.

The social construct discrimination against girls on one hand, easy availability, affordability and subsequent misuse of diagnostic tools on the other hand, have been critical in increasing Sex Selective Elimination of girls leading to low Child Sex Ratio.

 ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ field-level awareness campaign launched in three states

The Government announced Beti Bachao Beti Padhao initiative, as coordinated and convergent efforts are needed to ensure survival, protection and empowerment of the girl child.

The initiative is being implemented through a national campaign and focuses on multi-sectoral action in 100 selected districts low in CSR, covering all States and UTs.

It is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ministry of Human Resource Development.

The key objectives of the initiative are as follows:

  • Prevention of gender biased sex selective elimination
  • Ensuring survival & protection of the girl child
  • Ensuring education and participation of the girl child

Government authorises 10 central agencies to monitor any computer

Government authorises 10 central agencies to monitor any computer

The Union Government has authorised ten central intelligence, security and tax agencies to intercept, monitor and decrypt all the data contained in “any” computer system. The order was issued on December 20, 2018 by the ‘cyber and information security’ division of the Ministry of Home Affairs(MHA) under the authority of Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba.

The move has set off a political storm with the opposition accusing the government of trying to create a “surveillance state”. The Union Government has, however, clarified that the rules for intercepting and monitoring computer data were framed in 2009 when the Congress-led UPA was in power and its new order only notified the designated authority, which can carry out such action.

Political Storm

The opposition parties slammed the new order as unconstitutional, undemocratic and an assault on fundamental rights and an attempt by the ruling government to convert India into a “surveillance state” by resorting to “snooping”, inviting a sharp response from the ruling party.

In a strong defence of the government order, the ruling government said it is legal with adequate safeguards and in the interest of national security. The centre also rejected the opposition’s charge of snooping. The MHA also issued a statement saying that the order was issued to prevent “any unauthorised use of powers”

The issue of notification also rocked the Rajya Sabha where Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad alleged that “undeclared Emergency has taken final shape” and “all federal agencies have been let loose”.

The opposition parties, including the CPI(M), the Samajwadi Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Trinamool Congress, said they will collectively oppose the order.

New Order: Key Details

According to the order, the 10 central probe and snoop agencies are now empowered under the Information Technology (IT) Act for computer interception and analysis.

The agencies, according to the order, have been authorised “for the purpose of interception, monitoring and decryption of any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource under the said Act (section 69 of the IT Act, 2000)”.

The 10 agencies notified under the new order include the Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau, Enforcement Directorate, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (for Income Tax Department), Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Bureau of Investigation, National Investigation Agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, Directorate of Signal Intelligence (in service areas of J-K, North East and Assam) and Delhi Police commissioner

However, the new order “does not confer any new powers” to any security or law enforcement agency.

Each case of computer interception, monitoring and decryption will have to be approved by the competent authority, which is the Union home secretary or the state government.

Benefits

The order is aimed at among other things ensuring that any interception, monitoring or decryption of any information through any computer resource is done in accordance with due process of law.

India successfully test-fires nuclear-capable Agni-IV missile

India successfully test-fires nuclear-capable Agni-IV missile

India on December 23, 2018 successfully test fired nuclear-capable long-range Inter Continental Ballistic Missile Agni-IV.  The strategic surface-to-surface missile was flight tested from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Dr Abdul Kalam Island off Odisha coast.

This was the 7th trial of Agni-IV missile. The test was part of a user trial by the Indian Army.

The last trial was conducted by the Strategic Force Command (SFC) of the Indian Army from the same base on January 2, 2018.

About Agni-IV missile

The Agni-IV missile was designed and developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). It has a strike range of 4,000 km.

It is 20 metres long and weighs 17 tonnes and has many cutting-edge technologies which can meet global standards including Pershing missile of US.

Agni-IV missile is equipped with advanced Avionics, 5th generation On Board Computer and distributed architecture.

It has the latest features to correct and guide itself for in-flight disturbances.

It encompasses most accurate ring laser gyro-based inertial navigation system (RINS) which is supported by highly reliable redundant micro navigation system (MINGS).

Note
India has an armory of the Agni series missiles:

  • Agni-1 with 700 km range
  • Agni-2 with a 2,000-km range
  • Agni-3 and Agni-4 with 2,500 km to more than 3,500-km range
  • Agni-5 with a strike range of 5,000 km

Patrick Shanahan to replace James Mattis as US Defence Secretary

Patrick Shanahan to replace James Mattis as US Defence Secretary

Patrick Shanahan will be taking over as the acting US Defence Secretary from January 1, 2019, replacing James Mattis, who resigned abruptly recently. The announcement was made by US President Donald Trump through a tweet on December 23, 2018.

In his resignation letter, Mattis had offered to stay on for two months in order to facilitate a smooth transition. However, the President announced Shanahan, who is currently serving as the Deputy Secretary of Defense, as the replacement of Mattis two months earlier than planned.

James Mattis had abruptly announced his resignation on December 20, 2018, citing policy differences with President Donald Trump as the main reason behind the move. The resignation came a day after President Donald Trump announced that all US troops would be withdrawn from Syria.

About Patrick Shanahan

  Patrick Shanahan to replace James Mattis as US Defence Secretary A native of Aberdeen, Washington, Patrick Shanahan attended the University of Washington where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering. He then earned a Master of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Shanahan joined Boeing in 1986, becoming involved in Computer Services and the Boeing 777 program. He played a spearheading role in the recovery of Boeing’s 787 programme.

He served as the Vice President of Boeing Commercial Airplanes and General Manager of the Boeing 757 program, with responsibility for the design, production and profitability of the 757 family of planes. He also held leadership positions on the Boeing 767 program and in the fabrication division.

He then served as the Vice President and General Manager for Boeing rotorcraft systems in Philadelphia. He was responsible for all US Army Aviation programs and site activities in Philadelphia and Mesa, Arizona.

He then served as the Vice President and General Manager of Boeing missile defence systems, starting in December 2004 overseeing the ground-based midcourse defence system, airborne laser and advanced tactical laser programs.

He also served as the vice president and general manager of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner program, where he led the program during a period of the aircraft’s development from 2007 to 2008. He next served as the Senior Vice President of Airplane Programs at Boeing Commercial Airplanes, beginning in December 2008.

  Patrick Shanahan to replace James Mattis as US Defence Secretary

In April 2016, he became Senior Vice President, Supply Chain & Operations, for Boeing. His responsibilities in that position included manufacturing operations and supplier management functions, carrying out advanced manufacturing technologies and global supply chain strategies. He was also a member of the Boeing Executive Council.

In March 2017, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Shanahan as the 33rd Deputy Secretary of Defense, the Pentagon’s second-highest civilian position. He received confirmation from the Senate in June 2017.

President Trump initially announced that Shanahan would be elevated as the Acting Defense Secretary on February 28, when the Mattis resignation was originally to become effective but a follow-up announcement stated that Shanahan would be elevated to the position two months prior to the designated date.

• Shanahan now is scheduled to assume the office on January 1, 2019.

Defence Minister inaugurates Indian Navy’s Information Fusion Centre

Defence Minister Inaugurates Information Fusion Centre – Indian Ocean Region

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on December 22, 2018 launched the Information Fusion Centre – Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) at Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) in Gurugram.

The inaugural event saw participation from officials belonging to different ministries and ambassadors and resident defence attaches of partner countries.

IFC-IOR Objective

The Information Fusion Centre – Indian Ocean Region aims to engage with partner nations and multi-national maritime constructs to develop comprehensive maritime domain awareness and share information on vessels of interest.

The key intention of this collaborative endeavour will be to secure the global commons for a peaceful, stable and prosperous region towards the well-being of all.

Key Highlights

The IFC – IOR shall be a collaborative construct that will work with partners, countries as well as international agencies to enhance maritime security and safety.

The centre would work towards capability building in the region, coordination of incident response and disaster relief, and in time, also share submarine safety information.

It will help nations interface and integrate, wherein, they would benefit from each other’s best practices and expertise.

It would also help foster bonds of trust, camaraderie and partnership, ingredients that are vital for relationships between nations to transcend from being merely transactional to ones that are transformational”.

 Indian Navy's Information Fusion Centre for IOR launched

The information exchange at the IFC-IOR would be initially undertaken by virtual means, using telephone calls, faxes, emails and video conferencing over internet.

Subsequently, to enable better interaction, quicker analysis of information and provide timely inputs, the IFC-IOR would host Liaison Officers from partner countries.

Additionally, towards enhancing capability building, the IFC-IOR would undertake conduct of exercises and training capsules in maritime information collation and sharing.

Background

The Indian Ocean Region is vital to world trade and economic prosperity of many nations, as more than 75 per cent of the world’s maritime trade and 50 per cent of global oil consumption passes through the IOR.

However, maritime terrorism, piracy, human and contraband trafficking, illegal and unregulated fishing, arms running and poaching pose myriad challenges to maritime safety and security in the region.

Response to these challenges requires enhanced situational awareness of the maritime activities in the region so as to enable security agencies function effectively.

However, the scale, scope and the multi-national nature of maritime activities, make it difficult for countries to address these challenges individually.

Hence, collaborative efforts between maritime nations in the IOR, is essential.

22 December 2018

SDG India Index 2018: Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu ranked as Front Runners

SDG India Index 2018

The NITI Aayog on December 21, 2018 released the Baseline Report of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) India Index 2018, documenting the progress made by India’s States and Union Territories (UTs) towards implementation of the 2030 SDG targets.

The SDG India Index was developed in collaboration with the Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation (MoSPI), Global Green Growth Institute and United Nations in India.

SDG India Index acts as a bridge between mandates of NITI Aayog
NITI Aayog has the twin mandate to oversee the implementation of SDGs in the country, and also promote Competitive and Cooperative Federalism among States and UTs.

The SDG India Index acts as a bridge between these mandates, aligning the SDGs with the Prime Minister’s clarion call of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’, which embodies the five Ps of the global SDG movement – People, Planet, Prosperity, Partnership and Peace.

India’s National Development Agenda is mirrored in the SDGs. India’s progress in SDGs is crucial for the world as the country is home to about 17 percent of the world population.

Overall Findings

Aspirant Assam, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh
Performer Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur,
Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Telangana, Tripura, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu, Delhi and Lakshadweep
Front Runner Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Chandigarh and Puducherry
Achiever NA

Particular State UT
SDG India Index Score Range 42-69 57-68
Top Performer(s) Himachal Pradesh & Kerala Chandigarh
Aspirant Uttar Pradesh Dadra & Nagar Haveli
Points to Note
  • Himachal Pradesh ranked high on providing clean water and sanitation, in reducing inequalities and preserving mountain ecosystem
  • Kerala’s topped due to its superior performance in providing good health, reducing hunger, achieving gender equality and providing quality education
  • Chandigarh led in UT category because of its exemplary performance in providing clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, generating economic growth, and providing quality education
How was the SDG India Index computed?
  • The SDG India Index tracks progress of all States and UTs on 62 Priority Indicators selected by NITI Aayog.
  • The Index spans 13 out of 17 SDGs as the Progress on SDGs 12, 13 & 14 could not be measured due to non-availability of data and SDG 17 was left out as it focuses on international partnerships.

SDG-Wise ranking of States/UTs

  • A composite score was computed between the range of 0-100 for each State and UT based on their aggregate performance across 13 SDGs, indicating average performance of State/UT towards achieving 13 SDGs & their respective targets.
  • If a State/UT achieves a score of 100, it signifies that it achieved the 2030 national targets. The higher the score of a State/UT, the greater the target achieved.
Classification Criteria based on SDG India Index Score
Index Score Classification
0-49 Aspirant
50-64 Performer
65-99 Front Runner
100 Achiever

PM Modi to release commemorative coin on Paika Rebellion; will inaugurate Lalitgiri Archaeological Museum

PM Modi to release commemorative coin on Paika Rebellion; will inaugurate Lalitgiri Archaeological M

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will release the commemorative coin and postage stamp in memory of Paika Rebellion on December 24, 2018 during his visit to Bhubaneswar to commemorate Paika Rebellion.

The Prime Minister will also be inaugurating the Lalitgiri Archaeological Museum, adding a new facet of tourism in the region and increase the immense potential of employment generation.

The announcement regarding this was made by Minister of State for Culture, Mahesh Sharma and Minister of Petroleum & Natural Gas, Dharmendra Pradhan during a Joint Press Conference.

Note
The decision to commemorate the bi-centenary of the Paika Rebellion was announced in the Budget Speech 2017-18.

In 1817, forty years before the revolt of 1857, Buxi Jagabandhu roused his brave Paika warriors against the oppressive British Raj in Khordha and led them into battle.

Lalitgiri Archaeological Museum

Lalitgiri is one of the earliest Buddhist settlements in Odisha situated about 120 km north of Bhubaneswar in District Cuttack.

As per the policy of Site Museums, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) constructed the Site Museum at Lalitgiri for display and protection of retrieved antiquities.

The museum building was constructed through CPWD by incurring an expenditure of Rs 10 crores.

The whole complex is spread across an area of 4750 sq. meters.

The museum has been organised into six galleries with display of antiquities at a cost of Rs 86 lakh.

Huge sculptures of the Buddha and various Buddhist deities, architectural fragments of Viharas and Chaityas are arranged period-wise across six galleries.

The most important findings of the Lalitgiri are relic caskets found inside the stupa during excavations in the year 1985. Three Khondalite stone caskets were found, out of which two have one set of steatite, silver and gold caskets each with the relics inside in the form of charred bones.

Chair to be constituted in memory of Paika Rebellion
The Union Government has also decided to set up a Chair in the memory of the Paika Rebellion in Utkal University, Bhubaneswar at a cost of Rs 5 crore. The amount will be released to the University as corpus fund to be kept in Escrow account.

Expenses of the Chair will be met out of the interest earned on the corpus fund.

Paika Rebellion

The Paik Rebellion, also called the Paika Bidroha, was an armed rebellion against the British East India Company’s rule that took place in Odisha in 1817.

The Paikas were the traditional landed militia of Odisha. They served as warriors and were charged with policing functions during peacetime.

The conquest of Odisha by the East India Company in 1803 and the dethronement of the Raja of Khurda led to fall in the power and prestige of the Paikas.

The Paik rebellion had several social, economic and political reasons.The Paiks were alienated by the British regime, who took over the hereditary rent-free lands granted to them after the conquest of Khurda.

They were also subjected to extortion and oppression at the hands of the company government and its servants.

The Paik rebellion was led by Bakshi Jagabandhu, former commander of forces of the Raja of Khurda and the last King of Khurda, Raja Mukunda Deva.

The rebellion enjoyed widespread support in Oriya society with feudal chiefs, zamindars and the common people of Odisha participating in it.

It quickly spread across most of Odisha before being ruthlessly crushed by the East India Company.

WV Raman appointed new head coach of Indian national women’s cricket team

WV Raman appointed new head coach of Indian national women’s cricket team

Former India opener Woorkeri Venkat Raman was on December 20, 2018 appointed as the new Head coach of the Indian women’s national cricket team. The announcement was made by the Board of Control for Cricket in India.

The 53-year-old will take over the role from Ramesh Powar, whose contract was not renewed after the controversies and fall-out with senior women’s cricket team player Mithali Raj. Raman’s first assignment in his new post would be the tour of New Zealand, which starts on January 24, 2019. He has been brought on with a two-year contract.

Key Highlights

WV Raman was among one of the three candidates shortlisted for the role by an ad-hoc panel to select the coach.

The panel comprised veteran cricketers Kapil Dev, Anshuman Gaekwad and Shanta Rangaswamy.

Besides Raman, the list included the names of former India coach Gary Kirsten and Venkatesh Prasad.

The committee had listed their order of preference as Kirsten, WV Raman and Venkatesh Prasad and the shortlisted names were then sent to the Committee of Administrators and the BCCI.

Gary Kirsten first choice!

  WV Raman appointed new head coach of Indian national women’s cricket team

Gary Kirsten, who led the Indian men’s side to the World Cup triumph in 2011, was the favourite to get the job.

In fact, according to reports, Kirsten was the unanimous first choice of the ad-hoc panel, which found his presentation during the interview as most impressive.

However, to the dismay of many, Kirsten was denied the opportunity to take up the role because of a conflict of interest.

Kirsten is currently the head coach of the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL, which was the main bone of contention to his selection.

Conflict of Interest

In 2017, the BCCI had made it clear that those associated with the board’s teams would not be allowed to coach IPL teams.

This change in rule saw Rahul Dravid leaving his job at Delhi Daredevils and taking over the post of head coach of India A and U-19 on a regular basis.

Besides Dravid, many others also had to leave their jobs at IPL including Ravi Shastri, who being the head coach of Indian national cricket team, isn’t allowed to do commentary due to conflict of interest.

However, since Kirsten was keen on keeping his job as the head coach of the Virat Kohli-led Royal Challengers Bangalore, the other shortlisted contestant WV Raman landed the job.

About WV Raman

  WV Raman appointed new head coach of Indian national women’s cricket team Venkat Raman is a former Indian cricketer. His first-class career spanned from 1982 to 1999, where he represented Tamil Nadu, mainly as a left-handed batsman and a part-time left-arm spinner.

Raman made his Test debut in his hometown Chennai against West Indies in 1987–88, top-scoring in the second innings with 83 and taking a wicket in his first over itself.

In total, Raman played 11 Tests and 27 ODIs. However, he was relatively unsuccessful in ODIs on the international stage. His only international century, 113, was against South Africa in 1992–93.

Though he began his first-class career as a left-arm spinner, he eventually turned into a batsman. He was a successful batsman in domestic cricket scoring three double centuries, including 313 against Goa, in the 1988–89 season of the Ranji Trophy.

He was a prolific run-getter for Tamil Nadu, scoring 7939 first-class runs. His prime came in the 1988-89 season when his run aggregate went up to 1018 runs, which surpassed the world record set by Rusi Modi in 1944–45.

He retired from all forms of cricket in 1999 after being axed from the TN Ranji Team. After retirement, WV Raman took to a successful career in coaching.

He has so far coached the Tamil Nadu and Bengal cricket teams in the Ranji Trophy besides the Indian U-19 team. Currently, he is the coach for the Bengal Ranji team.

In the IPL, he was the assistant coach of Kings XI Punjab in 2013 and the batting consultant of Kolkata Knight Riders in 2014.

Since 2015, he has been working as the batting consultant at the National Cricket Academy. In this period, he also played the role of a coach for India A, Duleep Trophy and Under-19 teams.

Background

Ramesh Powar, who till recently held the position of the Indian national women’s team coach, was eligible for a 12-month extension of his contract based on favourable evaluation by BCCI.

However, Powar’s contract was not renewed after his differences with leading Indian cricketer Mithali Raj came out in the open.

The controversy had erupted after Mithali was not selected in India’s playing XI against England in the World T20 semi-final, which ended with India’s eight-wicket loss. The issue became public through a series of leaked emails and ballooned into a major controversy.

Though Powar had shown interest to extend his association with the team, his application was not given a go ahead.

This is the fourth time that the women’s head coach has changed in the last 19 months after Purnima Rau was sacked just before the 2017 World Cup and Tushar Arothe resigned citing “personal reasons” very early into his two-year contract after the T20 Asia Cup loss against Bangladesh earlier in 2018.

Union Government to set up panel to look into tax issues faced by start-ups

Union Government to set up panel to look into tax issues faced by start-ups

The Union Government has decided to set up an expert committee to look into all the taxation issues being faced by startups and angel investors. The information was shared by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) on December 20, 2018.

The decision was taken at a high-level meeting of Department of Revenue Secretary Ajay Bhushan Pandey, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) Secretary Ramesh Abhishek, and Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) Chairman Sushil Chandra.

Objective

The key objective behind the move is the promotion of startups in India. The CBDT recognises that the Startups are going to bring lot of innovation to the country and therefore, have to be supported in every possible manner.

Key Highlights

The CBDT shared that no coercive action or measures to recover the demands of completed assessment under income tax would be taken against such firms.

It was decided that the issue of recognition of the startups including the issue of premium among others will be decided on the basis of recommendations of a committee comprising eminent experts drawn from institutions like IITs, IIMs.

The committee, which will be set up by the DIPP, will primarily look into the grant of tax exemptions and other connected matters.

It will make recommendations on individual cases of recognised startups.

Background

The decision to set up the expert panel was taken after several startups raised concerns on the taxation of angel funds under Section 56 of the Income Tax Act, which provides for taxation of funds received by an entity.

Government launches Asiatic Lion Conservation Project to conserve their population

Government launches Asiatic Lion Conservation Project

The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change on December 20, 2018 launched the “Asiatic Lion Conservation Project” to protect and conserve the population of Asiatic Lion and its associated ecosystem.

The project activities are planned in such a manner that cause habitat improvement, scientific interventions, disease control and veterinary care, complemented with adequate eco development works for the fringe population in order to ensure a stable and viable Lion population in the Country

Objective

The Asiatic Lion Conservation Project is aimed at conservation and recovery of Asiatic Lion with the help of up to date techniques, instruments, regular scientific research studies, disease management, modern surveillance and patrolling techniques.

Funding of Asiatic Lion Conservation Project
The total budget of the project for 3 years amounts to around Rs 9784 lakh. The project will be funded under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme- Development of Wildlife Habitat (CSS-DWH) with the Central and State share of 60:40 ratio.

Increase in population of Asiatic Lions

Asiatic lions that once ranged from Persia (Iran) to Palamau in Eastern India were almost driven to extinction due to hunting and habitat loss.

A single population of less than 50 lions persisted in the Gir forests of Gujarat by late 1890’s.

With timely and stringent protection offered by the Government, Asiatic lions have increased to the current population of over 500 numbers.

The last census of the year 2015 showed the population of 523 Asiatic Lions in Gir Protected Area Network of 1648.79 sq. km. that includes Gir National Park, Gir Sanctuary, Pania Sanctuary, Mitiyala Sanctuary adjoining reserved forests, Protected Forests, and Unclassed Forests.

This increase in the number of lions is attributed to the wildlife conservation schemes, well-trained staff and vets as well as help from farmers.

It’s population is currently growing at about two percent a year.

Asiatic Lions

Asiatic lion are cousins of the African lion. It is believed that both got separated 100000 years ago.

Asiatic lions are slightly smaller and have a distinctive fold of skin along their bellies.

Asiatic lion once inhabited complete southwest Asia, but, in past few years, it got restricted to the 1400 square kilometre Gir Sanctuary in Gujarat state, leading to its listing as critically endangered in the year 2000.

The species’ population was under threat due to hunting and human encroachment.

They are a major tourist attraction in Gujarat. Earlier, they were only regarded as the target of poachers.

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis resigns, cites differences with Trump

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis resigns, cites differences with Trump

Jim Mattis, the Defence Secretary of the United States abruptly announced his resignation on December 20, 2018, citing policy differences with President Donald Trump as the main reason behind the move.

The resignation comes a day after President Donald Trump announced that all US troops would be withdrawn from Syria. The President is also considering a substantial US pullout from the 17-year-long conflict in Afghanistan. Defending his decision, Trump had tweeted that the US does not want to be the policeman of West Asia.

Mattis would be retiring at the end of February 2019. Announcing his resignation, Trump had tweeted that General Mattis was a great help in getting allies and other countries to pay their share of military obligations.

Key Highlights

In his resignation letter, Mattis told Trump he had the right to have a Secretary of Defence whose views are better aligned with that of his.

According to reports, Mattis had attempted to convince President Trump to keep US troops in Syria.

According to analysts, the withdrawal of US troops from Syria will clear the way for Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime, Russia and Iran.

Mattis had warned that removing ground forces from the Middle Eastern country would be a “strategic blunder”.

Currently, there are about 2,000 US forces in Syria.

About Mattis

  US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis resigns

James Norman Mattis is the 26th United States Secretary of Defense and a former United States Marine Corps general.

He was commissioned in the Marine Corps through the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps after graduating from Central Washington University.

A career Marine, he gained a reputation for intellectualism and eventually advanced to the rank of general.

He has served in the Persian Gulf War, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

He commanded the United States Joint Forces Command from 2007 to 2010 and concurrently served as the NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Transformation.

He was also the Commander of United States Central Command from 2010 to 2013, which directed military operations and oversaw the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

After retiring from the military, he served in several private sector roles, including as a board member of Theranos.

Mattis was nominated as Secretary of Defense by President-elect Trump and confirmed by the Senate on January 20, 2017.

Mattis had needed a waiver from Congress to allow his nomination to be considered, as he had only been separated from the military for three years and the US federal law requires at least seven years of retirement for former military personnel to be appointed Secretary of Defense.

Mattis as Secretary of Defence

During his tenure, Mattis affirmed the United States’ commitment to defending longtime ally South Korea in the wake of the North Korea crisis.

  US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis resigns

He not only opposed collaboration with Russia on military matters but also consistently stressed on Russia’s threat to the world order.

He has occasionally voiced his disagreement with certain Trump administration policies, opposing the proposed withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.

Background

Jim Mattis is the latest in the long list of senior Trump administration officials to either leave or to be removed.  In March 2018, Trump had fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Recently on December 8, President Trump had announced that his chief of staff, John F Kelly, would step down by the end of December 2018.

The move is a part of a long-planned staff shake-up as the President heads into the 2020 campaign facing growing peril from the special counsel and newly empowered Democrats.

21 December 2018

States’ Startup Ranking 2018 released: Gujarat ranked Best Performer

States Startup Ranking 2018 released Gujarat ranked Best Performer

The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) on December 20, 2018 announced the results of the first ever States’ Start-up Ranking 2018. DIPP began the exercise to review the Start-up ecosystem of the states from January 2016.

Gujarat was ranked as the “Best Performer” in the States’ Start-up Ranking 2018. Gujarat allocated Rs 100 Crore budget for Startups and provided assistance to 200 projects.

How many States/UTs participated?
A total of 27 States and 3 Union Territories participated in the exercise.

Categories under which states were scrutinized

The DIPP examined the States as leaders across various categories such as Start-up policy leaders, incubation hubs, seeding innovation, scaling innovation, regulatory change champions, procurement leaders, communication champions, North-Eastern leader, and hill state leader.

On the basis of performance in these categories, the States were recognised as the Best Performer, Top Performers, Leaders, Aspiring Leaders, Emerging States and Beginners.

States’ Startup Ranking 2018
Category States
Best Performer Gujarat
Top Performers Karnataka, Kerala, Odisha, and Rajasthan
Leaders Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Telangana
Aspiring Leaders Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal
Emerging States Assam, Delhi, Goa, Jammu & Kashmir, Maharashtra, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, and Uttarakhand
Beginners Chandigarh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Puducherry, Sikkim, and Tripura
Champions: 51 officers from States and Union Territories were identified as “Champions”, who have made significant contributions towards developing their State’s Start-up ecosystem.

Objective behind States’ Start-up Ranking

The key objective of the exercise was to encourage States and Union Territories to take proactive steps towards strengthening the Start-up ecosystems in their states.

The entire exercise was conducted for capacity development and to further the spirit of cooperative federalism.

The methodology behind the exercise was aimed at creating a healthy competition environment wherein States were encouraged further to learn, share and adopt good practices.

Activities undertaken by states to support Start-ups

Awareness workshops in all States

Knowledge workshops in leading incubators

Pairing of States for intensive mentoring

International exposure visits to US and Israel

Intensive engagement between the States with Start-up India team

Video conferencing

Initiatives embarked by DIPP to list the states fairly

DIPP consulted all stakeholders of the Start-up ecosystem and came up with 7 key reform areas as the basis of the States’ Start-up ranking framework.

An online portal was launched by DIPP to enable States in seamlessly submitting their initiatives across these reform areas.

An Evaluation Committee, comprising independent experts from the Start-up ecosystem, assessed the responses across various parameters.

Many parameters involved getting feedback from beneficiaries.

More than 40000 calls were made in 9 different languages to connect with beneficiaries to get real figures at the implementation levels.

National Report on the States’ Start-up Ranking 2018
  • A comprehensive ‘National Report on the States’ Start-up Ranking 2018’ was also released by the Department.

  • The report details the journey of Start-up India, role of Central and State Governments, conceptualisation of the ranking framework, evaluation methodology, capacity development of States, assessment process, feedback from stakeholders.
  • It features the results of the States’ Start-up Ranking 2018 along with the impact it created on the states and the future road map.

Lok Sabha passes Consumer Protection Bill, 2018

Lok Sabha passes Consumer Protection Bill, 2018

The Lok Sabha on December 20, 2018 passed the Consumer Protection Bill 2018. The bill calls for strict punishment, including jail terms and hefty fines for misleading advertisements and food adulteration.

The bill will now go to the Rajya Sabha for discussion. The bill seeks to replace the 2015 Consumer Protection Bill that was introduced to repeal the 30-year-old Consumer Protection Act, 1986. It was originally introduced in the Lok Sabha in January 2018.

Provisions of the new Bill

The Consumer Protection Bill, 2018 aims to protect consumers’ interests through a redressal mechanism that would ensure timely and effective settlement of disputes.

It seeks to enlarge the scope of the existing law and make it more effective and purposeful.

It seeks to establish a Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) to protect consumer rights and look into the issues related to false or misleading ads.

It has provisions for post-litigation stage mediation as an alternate dispute resolution mechanism. It also provides for product liability action.

Penalties

The bill provides for fine and ban on celebrities for endorsing misleading advertisements:

In case of the first offence, the penalty would include a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh and a one-year ban on any endorsement.

For the second offence, the penalty would include a fine of up to Rs 50 lakh and a three-year-ban on endorsements.

For manufacturers and companies, the penalty would be up to Rs 10 lakh and up to two years of jail term for the first offence.

For any subsequent offence, the manufacturers and companies would have to pay a fine of Rs 50 lakh and serve a jail term of 5 years.

The bill also provides for penalty up to life term jail sentence in case of adulteration.

Significance

The new bill will ensure faster dispute redressal for consumers and will allow the Central government to regulate e-commerce and direct selling among other important measures.

The bill also provides for product liability action, which means a complaint filed by a person before consumer court for claiming compensation for the harm caused to him on account of a defective product or service.

Background

In August 2015, the Centre had introduced the Consumer Protection Bill in the Lok Sabha to repeal the 30-year-old Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

The Consumer Protection Bill, 2018 was introduced by the consumer affairs ministry to replace the 2015 bill, as there were many amendments to the bill.

A Parliamentary Standing Committee had also submitted its recommendations on the same in April last 2016.

Following this, the Union Cabinet on December 20, 2017 approved a new Consumer Protection Bill that seeks to establish an authority to safeguard consumers’ rights and has provisions for penalty and jail terms in case of adulteration and misleading ads by companies.

Maruti Suzuki India, Ministry of Rural Development sign MoU for training rural youth under DDU-GKY

Maruti Suzuki India, Ministry of Rural Development sign MoU for training rural youth under DDU-GKY

The Union Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) on December 19, 2018 signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Maruti Suzuki India Ltd for training rural youth for skill development under the flagship Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY)

The Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY) is the flagship placement linked skill-training scheme of the Ministry of Rural Development.

Significance

Considering the challenges faced by India’s rural youth in getting employment such as the lack of formal education and employability skills, the Ministry decided to partner with Maruti Suzuki India, the leading industry from the automotive sector, under the DDU-GKY.

DDU-GKY will bridge this gap by funding training projects with an emphasis on placement, retention, career progression and foreign placement of rural youth.

Maruti Suzuki will provide training to atleast 5000 candidates in two years with assured placement to the rural youth of our country.

DDU-GKY’s “Champion Employers” policy

The mission of the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana is to ensure rural poor youth are skilled in market relevant trades and job-relevant competencies.

One of the ways in which DDU-GKY aims to achieve this is through the “Champion Employers” policy.

The Champion Employers are the industry leaders who have the potential to provide training and captive employment to the DDU-GKY candidates.

The policy seeks a strategic alignment of objectives of DDU-GKY with the HR strategy of organisations, which have a large potential to absorb trained manpower.

Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana
The Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY) was launched by the Union government on September 25, 2014.

The Yojana was launched during the 98th birth anniversary of Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay. Earlier the Yojana was known as Aajeevika Skills Development Programme (ASDP).

Objective
  • The Yojana aims at training 10 lakh (1 million) rural youths for jobs.
  • Skill development training centres are being launched to address the unemployment problem in the rural area.
  • The skills imparted under the Yojana are benchmarked against international standards and complement the Prime Minister’s ‘Make In India’ campaign.
  • The Kaushalya Yojana addresses the need for imparting training by involving in private players including international players to impart the skills to the rural youths.
Eligibility

The minimum age for entry under the Yojana is 15 years compared to 18 years under the Aajeevika Skills Programme.

Researchers discover evidence of water in 17 asteroids

Researchers discover evidence of water in 17 asteroids

Japanese researchers have detected evidence of water in 17 asteroids for the first time using data from the infrared satellite AKARI’.

According to researchers, the discovery will contribute to the understanding of the distribution of water in our solar system, the evolution of asteroids and the origin of water on Earth. The study had appeared in the Publications of the Astronomical Society of Japan.

Key Highlights

  Researchers discover evidence of water in 17 asteroidsEarth is an aqua-planet, the only planet in our solar system where the presence of water on the planet surface has been confirmed. However, scientists are not yet sure how the Earth acquired water.

The recent studies have revealed that even other celestial bodies in our solar system have or used to have water in some form. Asteroids were considered to be one of the possible candidates that brought water to Earth.

Researchers from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the University of Tokyo found that water is retained in asteroids as hydrated minerals, which were produced by chemical reactions of water and anhydrous rocks that occurred inside the asteroids.

The hydrated minerals are stable even above the sublimation temperature of water ice. By looking for hydrated minerals, scientists can investigate whether asteroids have water.

The infrared wavelengths contain characteristic spectral features of various substances, such as molecules, ice and minerals, which cannot be observed at visible wavelengths.

Therefore, it is indispensable to observe at infrared wavelengths for the study of solar system objects.

Hydrated minerals exhibit diagnostic absorption features at around 2.7 micrometres. The absorption of water vapour and carbon dioxide in the terrestrial atmosphere prevents the researchers from observing this wavelength with ground-based telescopes.

However, it is necessary to make the observations from outside of the atmosphere, that is, in space and observations with space-borne telescopes have been scarce.

Earlier observations

The Infrared Space Observatory (ISO), launched in 1995, did not have a sufficient sensitivity to make spectroscopy of faint asteroids.

The Spitzer Space Telescope, launched in 2003, did not have the coverage of the required wavelength range.

Hence, researchers were not able to fully understand how much water is contained in the asteroids.

AKARI Satellite

  Researchers discover evidence of water in 17 asteroids

The Japanese infrared satellite, which was launched in February 2006 and ended operations in 2011, was equipped with the Infrared Camera (IRC) that allowed the researchers to obtain spectra at near-infrared wavelengths from two to five micrometres.

Using this unique function, the spectroscopic observations of 66 asteroids were carried out and their near-infrared spectra were obtained.

The information provided the first opportunity to study the features of hydrated minerals in asteroids at around the wavelength of 2.7 micrometres.

The observations detected absorption, which was attributed to hydrated minerals for 17 C-type asteroids.

The C-type asteroids, which appear dark at visible wavelengths, were believed to be rich in water and organic material, but the present observations with AKARI are the first to directly confirm the presence of hydrated minerals in these asteroids.

  Researchers discover evidence of water in 17 asteroids

The heating energy could be supplied by the solar wind plasma, micrometeorite impacts, or the decay heat from radioactive isotopes in the rocks. This trend had been predicted by meteorite measurements, but this is the first time that it has been confirmed in asteroids.

Many C-type asteroids display this trend, suggesting that C-type asteroids were formed by the agglomeration of rocks and water ice, then aqueous alteration occurred in the interior of asteroids to form hydrated minerals and finally, C-type asteroids were heated and dehydrated.

20 December 2018

Former Indian Kabaddi Captain, Anup Kumar announces retirement

India’s legendary kabaddi player, Anup Kumar announces retirement

Anup Kumar, legendary  Indian Kabaddi player and former World Cup-winning captain, announced his retirement from the sport with immediate effect on December 19, 2018, bringing an end to his 15-year-long career.

Kumar, known to be one of the most efficient players, has led his team to victory on several occasions and contributed to the overall growth of the sport in the nation.

Announcing his retirement, Anup Kumar said, “When I started playing kabaddi, I was invested in the sport because I liked it and it was a great hobby, over the years a hobby became the most important part of my life. The day I took to playing kabaddi professionally, I had one dream, to represent my country and bring back a gold medal, I am one of the few lucky people who had the opportunity to accomplish the most important dream of my life.”

About Anup Kumar

  Former Indian Kabaddi Captain, Anup Kumar announces retirement

The kabaddi star began his international career in 2006 at the South Asian Games in Sri Lanka.

He was a part of the Indian National Kabaddi team that won gold medals in 2010 and 2014 Asian Games and the 2016 South Asian Games.

He was appointed as the captain of the Indian National team in 2014 and it was during his tenure that the team won 2 gold medals at Asian Games in 2014 and the Kabaddi World Cup in 2016.

He has played all the six seasons of the Pro Kabaddi League so far, featuring for the U Mumba franchise in the first five seasons and is currently a part of the Jaipur Pink Panthers.

He led the U Mumba franchise for the first five years taking the side to three consecutive finals, a record that has not been achieved by any other captain in the league.

Kumar was the highest points scorer in the inaugural season of the PKL with a tally of 169 points.

  Former Indian Kabaddi Captain, Anup Kumar announces retirement

At this year’s PKL Auction, he was picked by Jaipur Pink Panthers and was handed the role of the captain.

He was felicitated with the Arjuna Award in 2012 for his exceptional contribution to Kabaddi in India.

NITI Aayog releases ‘Strategy for New India @75’; aims to make India a USD 5 trillion economy by 2030

NITI Aayog releases ‘Strategy for New India @75’

The NITI Aayog on December 19, 2018 released ‘Strategy for New India @75’, its comprehensive national Strategy for New India which defines clear objectives for 2022-23. The Strategy was released by the Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

It is a detailed account across 41 crucial areas that recognises the progress already made, identifies binding constraints, and suggests the way forward for achieving the objectives.

The forty-one chapters in the document have been merged under four sections – Drivers, Infrastructure, Inclusion and Governance.

Objective

The Strategy document aims to further improve the policy environment in which private investors and other stakeholders can contribute their fullest towards achieving the goals set out for New India 2022 and propel India towards a USD 5 trillion economy by 2030.

Key Takeaways
  • With ‘Strategy for New India @ 75′, Niti Aayog aims to accelerate growth to 9-10 percent and make India a USD 5 trillion economy by 2030.
  • The development strategy includes doubling of farmers’ income, boosting ‘Make in India’, upgrading the science, technology and innovation ecosystem, and promoting sectors like fintech and tourism.
  • NITI Aayog prescribed reducing upper age limit to join the civil services to 27 years from the present 30 years for General Category candidates by 2022-23 in a phased manner and also to have one integrated exam for all civil services.
  • It calls for successfully implementing the Ayushman Bharat programme including the establishment of 150000 health and wellness centres and rolling out Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana.
  • The document outlines the need for creating agripreneurs, which implies creation of agro-processing industry at a much faster pace to enhance farmer participation though agro processing.
  • It calls for participation of Private Sector in Indian Railways. From ownership of locomotives and rolling stocks to modernising stations, improvement of the railways hinges on private participation.
  • It boasts of expanding the scope of Swachh Bharat Mission to cover initiatives for landfills, plastic waste and municipal waste and generating wealth from waste.
  • The government will have to ease the tax compliance burden and eliminate direct interface between taxpayers and tax officials using technology.
  • It suggests better compensation to banking correspondents, facilitating paperless banking and introducing financial literacy chapters in school curricula to spur financial inclusion.
  • It recommends identification of the poorest among the minority communities through the socio-economic caste census data for proper targeting of various schemes.
Key recommendations stated under four sections
Recommendations stated under Drivers
  • Steadily accelerate the economy to achieve a GDP growth rate of about 8 percent on average during 2018-23. This will raise the economy’s size in real terms from USD 2.7trillion in 2017-18 to nearly USD 4 trillion by 2022-23.
  • In agriculture, shift the emphasis to converting farmers to ‘agripreneurs’ by further expanding e-National Agriculture Markets and replacing the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee Act with the Agricultural Produce and Livestock Marketing Act.
  • Give a strong push to ‘Zero Budget Natural Farming’ techniques that reduce costs, improve land quality and increase farmers’ incomes.
  • To ensure maximum employment creation, complete codification of labor laws; and upscale and expand apprenticeships.
  • Launch a mission “Explore in India” by revamping minerals exploration and licensing policy.
Recommendations under Infrastructure
  • Expedite the establishment of the Rail Development Authority (RDA), which is already approved.
  • Double the share of freight transported by coastal shipping and inland waterways.
  • Develop an IT-enabled platform for integrating different modes of transport and promoting multi-modal and digitised mobility.
  • Deliver all government services at the state, district, and gram panchayat level digitally by2022-23. With the completion of the Bharat Net programme in 2019, all 2.5 lakh gram panchayats will be digitally connected.
  • The three themes in this section revolve around the dimensions of health, education and mainstreaming of traditionally marginalised sections of the population.
Recommendations under Inclusion
  • Successfully implementing the Ayushman Bharat programme including the establishment of 150000 health and wellness centres across the country, and rolling out the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Abhiyaan (PM-JAY).
  • Create a focal point for public health at the central level with state counterparts.
  • Upgrade the quality of the school education system and skills, including the creation of a new innovation ecosystem at the ground level by establishing at least 10,000 Atal Tinkering Labs by 2020.
  • Conceptualise an electronic national educational registry for tracking each child’s learning outcomes.
  • As already done in rural areas, give a huge push to affordable housing in urban areas to improve workers’ living conditions.
Recommendations under Governance
  • Implement the recommendations of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission as a prelude to appointing a successor for designing reforms in the changing context of emerging technologies.
  • Set up a new autonomous body ‘Arbitration Council of India’ to grade arbitral institutions and accredit arbitrators to make the arbitration process cost effective and speedy/
  • Address the backlog of pending cases.
  • Expand the scope of Swachh Bharat Mission to cover initiatives for landfills, plastic waste and municipal waste and generating wealth from waste.

International Migrants Day observed with theme ‘Migration with Dignity’

International Migrants Day observed with theme ‘Migration with Dignity’

18 December: International Migrants Day

The International Migrants Day was observed on December 18, 2018 with the theme ‘Migration with Dignity’. Treating every migrant with dignity is one of the fundamental requirements today.

On September 19, 2016 the United Nations General Assembly adopted a set of commitments during its first-ever summit on large movements of refugees and migrants to enhance the protection of refugees and migrants. These commitments are known as the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants (NY Declaration).

The NY Declaration reaffirms the importance of the international protection regime and represents a commitment by the member states to strengthen and enhance mechanisms to protect people on the move. The declaration paved the way for the adoption of two new global compacts in 2018, the global compact on refugees and the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration.

The global migration pact, known as the ‘Global Compact for Safe, orderly and Regular Migration’, was formally adopted by 164 Governments at an international conference in Marrakech, Morocco on December 10, 2018 to address the real challenges of migration while reaping its many benefits. The Compact is people-centered and rooted in human rights.

Difference between refugees and migrants

Refugees

Refugees are people who are forced to leave their country of origin under the fear of persecution, conflict, generalised violence or other circumstances that have seriously disturbed public order and, as a result, require international protection.

Migrants

Migrants are people who change their countries of usual residence, irrespective of the reason for migration or legal status. Migrants make a conscious choice to leave their country to seek a better life elsewhere.

International Migration: Key Highlights

  International Migrants Day observed globally The key driver of international migration is the search of a bright future, a well-paid job in a developed nation. With the income gap growing between countries, migration has also intensified.

Many advanced and dynamic economies need migrant workers to fill jobs that cannot be outsourced and that do not find local workers willing to take them at going wages.

Migration may reduce wages or lead to higher unemployment among low-skilled workers in advanced economies, many of whom are themselves migrants who arrived in earlier waves.

However, most migrants complement the skills of domestic workers instead of competing with them. By performing tasks that either would go undone or cost more, migrants allow citizens to perform other, more productive and better-paid jobs.

Migrants help boost economic growth in receiving countries by enlarging the labour force and the pool of consumers and by contributing their entrepreneurial capacities.

Though poverty is reported to be one of the reasons for migration, deeper poverty does not lead automatically to higher migration, as the extremely poor people generally do not have the resources to bear the costs and risks of international migration.

International migrants are usually drawn from middle-income households. However, when migrants establish themselves abroad, they help friends and relatives to follow and in the process, the costs and risks of migration fall.

Low-skilled migration has the largest potential to reduce the depth and severity of poverty in communities of origin.

Hence, international migration is usually positive both for countries of origin and of destination and its potential benefits are larger than the potential gains from freer international trade, particularly for developing countries.

Migration Today

The total number of international migrants increased from an estimated 175 million in 2000 to 244 million persons in 2015.

Nearly two-thirds of all international migrants live in Europe (76 million) or Asia (75 million).

  International Migrants Day observed globally

Migration is now more widely distributed across more countries. Today the top 10 countries of destination receive a smaller share of all migrants than in 2000. Further, one of every ten migrants is under the age of 15 years.

The impact of remittance flows is also significant having reached $436 billion in 2014, far exceeding official development assistance and, excluding China, foreign direct investment.

Background

  • On December 4, 2000, the UN General Assembly, taking into account the large and increasing number of migrants in the world, proclaimed December 18 as International Migrants Day. On that day, in 1990, the Assembly had adopted the International Convention on the protection of the rights of all migrant workers and members of their families.
  • A high-level dialogue was conducted by UN General Assembly on September 14-15, 2006, which saw participation from 132 member states.
  • On the occasion, the member nations reaffirmed the following key messages:
  • They underscored that international migration was a growing phenomenon and that it could make a positive contribution to development in countries of origin and countries of destination provided it was supported by the right policies.
  • They emphasised that respect for the fundamental rights and freedoms of all migrants was essential to reap the benefits of international migration.
  • They recognised the importance of strengthening international cooperation on international migration bilaterally, regionally and globally.
  • Although the High-level Dialogue stressed that international migration could contribute to development, it recognised that international migration was not a substitute for development, as often migrants were compelled to seek employment abroad because of poverty, conflict or violations of human rights.
  • The member states agreed that international migration needed to be an integral part of the development agenda and should be part of national development strategies.
  • In September 2016 The UN General Assembly hosted a high-level summit to address large movements of refugees and migrants, with the aim of bringing countries together behind a more humane and coordinated approach.
  • It was the first time the General Assembly had called for a summit at the Heads of State and Government level on large movements of refugees and migrants and was a historic opportunity to come up with a blueprint for a better international response.

WEF’s Global Gender Gap Report 2018: Iceland tops; India ranks 108th

WEF’s Global Gender Gap Report 2018: Iceland tops; India ranks 108th

The World Economic Forum (WEF) on December 18, 2018 released the Global Gender Gap Report 2018, reviewing 149 countries on the basis of their progress towards gender parity and then lists them accordingly in its Global Gender Gap Index.

These 149 countries are ranked on the basis of four thematic dimensions- Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment.

This year, the Gender Gap Index was topped by Iceland with a score of 0.858, holding the top spot in the index for the 10th consecutive year.

India’s rank in Global Gender Gap Index 2018
India was ranked 108th in the Global Gender Gap Index 2018, same as it was ranked in 2017.

In terms of economic opportunity and participation, India ranked 142nd out of 149 countries. Moreover, India continued to rank third-lowest in the world on health and survival, remaining the world’s least-improved country on this subindex.

Though India made no improvement in the overall gender gap ranking, it recorded improvement in wage equality and managed to fully close its tertiary education gender gap for the first time.

Among other South Asian countries, India fetched fourth place with top 3 being Bangladesh (48th), Sri Lanka (100th) and Nepal (105th).

South Asia is the second-lowest-scoring region, with a remaining gender gap of 34.2%, ahead of the Middle East and North Africa, and behind sub-Saharan Africa.

Key highlights of the Global Gender Gap Report 2018

According to the report, the world has closed 68 percent of its gender gap; and at the current rate of change, it will take 108 years more to close the overall gender gap and 202 years to bring about parity in the workplace.

The Gender Gap Index 2018 was topped by Iceland, having closed more than 85.8 percent of its overall gender gap.

Nordic countries dominated the top spots in the index with Norway ranked at 2nd, Sweden at 3rd, and Finland at 4th.

Other countries rounding of the top-10 were Nicaragua (5th), Rwanda (6th), New Zealand (7th), the Philippines (8th), Ireland (9th) and Namibia (10th).

Among the G20 group of countries, France leads in 12th place, followed by Germany (14th), United Kingdom (15th), Canada (16th) and South Africa (19th), United States (51st), and six countries below 100- China (103rd), India (108th), Japan (110th), Korea (115th) Turkey (130th) and Saudi Arabia (141st).

19 December 2018

Asma Jahangir posthumously awarded with 2018 UN Human Rights Prize

Asma Jahangir posthumously awarded with 2018 UN Human Rights Prize

Late human rights activist, Asma Jahangir was on December 18, 2018 awarded with the UN Human Rights Prize 2018, posthumously.

Her daughter Munizae Jahangir received the award on her behalf at the award ceremony that took place at the UN Headquarters in New York, as part of activities to celebrate Human Rights Day.

Asma Jahangir passed away on February 11, 2018 due to cardiac arrest. She was known for her outspoken nature and unrelenting pursuit for human rights.

This year, the award coincided with the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Other Winners

Earlier in October 2018, Asma Jahangir was announced as one of the four winners of this prestigious prize. Other winners were women’s rights activist of Tanzania Rebeca Gyumi; activist for the rights of indigenous Brazilian communities Joenia Wapichana and Ireland’s human rights organisation ‘Front Line Defenders’.

Asma Jahangir: Fourth Pakistani woman to win UN Human Rights Prize
With this win, Asma Jahangir became the fourth Pakistani woman to be awarded with the UN Human Rights Prize. Earlier winners were Begum Ra’Ana Liaquat Ali Khan (1978), Benazir Bhutto (2008) and Malala Yousufzai (2013).

Asma Jahangir

Asma Jahangir will be remembered for her services towards building a democratic and more inclusive Pakistan.

She was the first woman to serve as the President of the Supreme Court Bar Association in Pakistan.

She was the founder of a home-grown human rights movement in Pakistan, and co-founded and served as Chairperson of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

During her tenure at the UN Human Rights office, Jahangir served various roles such as an expert in the Investigation on Sri Lanka; a member of International Fact-Finding Mission on Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory; and a trustee of the UN Voluntary Trust Fund.

She was also a long-standing prominent member of the UN Human Rights Council, where she served as Special Rapporteur on arbitrary executions and Special Rapporteur on the freedom of religion.

She also served as the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Jahangir had also won numerous international awards in recognition of her work including the Martin Ennals Award in 1995, and the UNESCO/Bilbao Prize for the Promotion of Culture of Human rights.

She was honoured as an Officier dans l’Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur by France.

About UN Human Rights Prize

The About UN Human Rights Prize is an honorary award given to individuals and organisations in recognition of outstanding achievement in human rights.

The award was established by the UN General Assembly in 1966.

Every five years, the prize winners are chosen by a special committee mandated by the UN General Assembly. The UN Human Rights office provides support to the special committee.

The award was first conferred in December 1968, marking the twentieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Transport Ministry asks states to accept vehicle documents, driving licence in electronic format

Centre asks states to accept vehicle documents, driving licence in electronic format

The Union Road Transport and Highways Ministry on December 18, 2018 asked states to facilitate acceptance of driving licence and other documents such as vehicle registration certificates in electronic format by enforcement agencies.

The Ministry, while issuing a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to states, said that the vehicle owners can also show their documents including driving licence, RCs and insurance certificates through mobile apps like Digilocker and mParivahan app.

Key Highlights

The vehicle owners have been permitted to present their important documents such as the certificate of registration, insurance, fitness and permit, driving licence, the certificate for pollution under check and any other relevant documents in electronic format

With this, the vehicle owners may now, not be required to carry the documents in hard formats.

People can produce the documents or other information either through the Digilocker app or the mParivahan app.

They can download the Driving Licence or the Registration Certificate through these apps and store on their mobile devices.

They can also show particulars relating to the Driving Licence or the RC through the mParivahan app on mobile through internet connectivity.

The decision would enable the enforcement agencies like traffic and transport departments to simultaneously access the details from the eChallan app, which has data for online verification of vehicle and its licence status.

The off-line verification of mParivahan QR Code is also available on the platform. The enforcement agencies can use regular android mobile apps for the purpose.

The enforcement agencies can also carry out complete challenging operation including tagging of the Driving Licence or the Certificate of Registration for impounding or suspension.

The Transport ministry has urged the states that the standard operating procedure may be adopted for ensuring compliance with the provisions of rule 139 of the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989. The notification to amend the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989 to this effect was issued last month.

Significance

The decision is likely to benefit both the enforcement agencies as they need not physically handle any document, their office need not maintain any inventory or record and the citizens as they will escape harassment to collect document after the payment of compounding fees as the challan when disposed would automatically update the record in the Database.

The fast, transparent and more accountable system will also ensure real-time availability of offence status to the transport and traffic enforcement officers and the citizens.

Sonam Kapoor named PETA India’s Person of the Year for 2018

Sonam Kapoor named PETA India’s Person of the Year for 2018

Sonam Kapoor, a vegan, has been named People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India’s Person of the Year for 2018.

“Whether she’s enjoying vibrant vegan meals or rallying her fans to do their part to stop animal suffering, Sonam Kapoor never hesitates to help animals any way she can,” said PETA India Associate Director Sachin Bangera in a statement.

Key Highlights

 Sonam Kapoor named PETA India's Person of the Year for 2018

Sonam Kapoor has been known to be an advocate for animal rights. She is a vegan herself and keeps animal skin out of her handbag line for her fashion brand Rheson, apart from taking other action for the welfare of animals.

In 2016, the actress was named PETA India’s Hottest Vegetarian Celebrity and she earned a Compassionate Business Award from the group a year later for her cruelty-free handbag line.

Her past animal advocacy efforts include urging the Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change not to revoke the ban on classroom dissection for university life science and zoology students.

She had also been at the forefront to call for a Maharashtra-wide ban on the glass-coated manja, which harms and kills birds as they get entangled in it.

She had also donated “kind kites” to children to help prevent injuries from manja.

In addition, she frequently speaks out for animals on social media.

The past recipients of the PETA India’s Person of the Year Award include Anushka Sharma, Sunny Leone, Shashi Tharoor, former Supreme Court Justice KS Panicker Radhakrishnan a Kapil Sharma, Hema Malini, R. Madhavan and Jacqueline Fernandez.

About PETA

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is the largest animal rights organisation in the world, with more than 6.5 million members and supporters.

PETA mainly focuses its attention on four areas, in which the greatest number of animals suffer intensely, that too for the longest period of time:

– Laboratories

– Food industry

– Clothing trade

Entertainment industry

The organisation works on a variety of other issues as well including the cruel killing of rodents, birds, and other animals who are often considered “pests” as well as cruelty to domesticated animals.

The organisation works through public education, cruelty investigations, research, animal rescue, legislation, special events, celebrity involvement, and protest campaigns.

  Sonam Kapoor named PETA India's Person of the Year for 2018

PETA India, based in Mumbai, was launched in January 2000. It operates under the simple principle that animals are not to experiment on, eat, wear, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way, while also educating policymakers and the public about animal abuse and promoting an understanding of the right of all animals to be treated with respect.

PETA India’s public education efforts, research and animal rescues have resulted in countless improvements to the quality of life for animals and have saved countless animals’ lives.

The winner of the PETA 2017 Person of the Year Award was Anushka Sharma. The popular actress was chosen for the title for her wide-reaching work for animals, from helping to protect dogs from fireworks to advocating for horses who are forced to pull carriages in Mumbai.

UN members adopt Global Compact on Refugees

UN members adopt Global Compact on Refugees

The UN member states on December 17, 2018 voted in favour of the Global Compact on Refugees, affirming international solidarity and cooperation for refugee protection and host community development.

The Global Compact on refugees received 181 votes in favour in the 193-member assembly, days after a UN conference in Morocco adopted a similar compact on migration. The United States and Hungary were the only two nations that voted against the agreement, while 181 countries voted in favour and the Dominican Republic, Eritrea and Libya abstained.

According to an official press release, the new global deal would provide more robust support to those fleeing their countries and for the countries that take them in.

Global Compact for Migration

The global compact on refugees establishes the architecture for a stronger, more predictable and more equitable international response to large refugee situations.

The agreement aims to guide the international community in supporting refugees and countries and communities hosting large numbers through the mobilisation of political will, broadening of the base of support and the activation of arrangements for more equitable and predictable burden and responsibility sharing.

  UN members adopt Global Compact on Refugees

Four key objectives of the Global Compact:

1. Ease pressures on countries that host large numbers of refugees;

2. Build self-reliance of refugees.

3. Expand access to third-country or refugees through resettlement and other pathways of admission.

4. Support conditions that enable refugees to return to their countries of origin.

Background

In the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, adopted in September 2016, the UN General Assembly decided to develop a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration.

The declaration gave birth to two compacts: one on refugees and one on migrants. The global migration pact, known as the ‘Global Compact for Safe, orderly and Regular Migration’, was formally adopted by 164 Governments at an international conference in Marrakech, Morocco on December 10 in a bid to support safe, orderly and regular migration.

The global migration pact and global compact on refugees are both, voluntary in nature and not legally binding instruments.

Although both are groups of people who live outside of their countries of origin, there are crucial distinctions between the terms ‘refugee” and ‘migrant’.

Refugees Migrants
Refugees are people who are forced to leave their country of origin under the fear of persecution, conflict, generalised violence or other circumstances that have seriously disturbed public order and, as a result, require international protection. Migrants are people who change their countries of usual residence, irrespective of the reason for migration or legal status. Migrants make a conscious choice to leave their country to seek a better life elsewhere.

There are more than 25 million refugees worldwide and just 10 countries host around 60 percent of them. Most host countries are middle- or low-income ones and the compact seeks to more equitably distribute the burden-sharing and help make refugees more self-reliant.

18 December 2018

Kamal Nath takes oath as Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh

Kamal Nath takes oath as Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh

Senior Congress leader Kamal Nath was sworn in as the 18th Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh on December 17, 2018.  The swearing-in ceremony took place at the Lal Parade Ground in Bhopal, the capital city of Madhya Pradesh.

Madhya Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel administered the oath of office to Nath in the presence of several senior Congress leaders including Digvijaya Singh and Mallikarjun Kharge, party president Rahul Gandhi, leaders from other parties such as National Conference President Farooq Abdullah, Andhra Pradesh CM N Chandrababu Naidu, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, outgoing CM Shivraj Singh Chauhan and recently sworn in Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot and Deputy CM Sachin Pilot.

Key Highlights

The Congress named veteran leader Kamal Nath as Madhya Pradesh’s next Chief Minister after hours of hectic discussions held by party chief Rahul Gandhi with other senior leaders amid a debate on the old versus the new guard.

The other potential Chief Ministerial candidate was from the younger lot, Jyotiraditya Scindia.

Scindia had, in fact, proposed Nath’s name as the Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leader and it was approved “unanimously” by the MLAs.

Nath said that as the new chief minister he would ensure all promises made by the Congress party are fulfilled and that Madhya Pradesh’s future was secure.

Asserting that the state unit of the party was united and there were no “camps”, Nath thanked Scindia and said he has no problems with him.

Nath also recalled his long association with the Gandhi family, starting with the late Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi.

  Kamal Nath sworn in as Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh

About Kamal Nath

Kamal Nath is one of the longest-serving and senior-most members of the Lok Sabha, the lower house of India’s bicameral Parliament.

He has been elected from the Chhindwara Lok Sabha constituency of Madhya Pradesh nine times.

Nath had close ties with the Nehru–Gandhi family, being young friends and schoolmates with Sanjay Gandhi at the Doon School, an independent boarding school located in Dehradun.

Indira Gandhi had described Nath as her “third son” who helped her take on the Morarji Desai-led regime in 1979.

  Kamal Nath sworn in as Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh

Nath has been often accused of leading mobs during the anti-Sikh riots in 1984 after the death of Indira Gandhi, but he has denied the accusations.

He was appointed the Pro Tem Speaker of the 16th Lok Sabha.

He was elected as the president of the Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee in May 2018, leading the party in the November-December 2018 assembly election.

Kamal Nath’s Political Timeline

1980: Kamal Nath was first elected to the 7th Lok Sabha after he helped Indira Gandhi defeat Morarji Desai-led Janta Party alliance.

1985, 1989 & 1991: He was re-elected to the 8th Lok Sabha, 9th and the 10th Lok Sabha respectively.

June 1991: He was inducted into the Union Council of Ministers as the Minister of State c of Environment and Forests.

1995 to 1996:  He served as the Union Minister of State (Independent Charge)  of Textiles.

1998, 1999: Nath was elected to the 12th and 13th Lok Sabha.

2001 to 2004: He served as the General Secretary of the Indian National Congress (INC).

2004: He was re-elected to the 14th Lok Sabha and served as Union Cabinet Minister of Commerce and Industry till 2009.

2009: He was re-elected to the 15th Lok Sabha and he re-entered the Union Cabinet as the Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways.

2011: As a result of a cabinet reshuffle, Nath replaced Jaipal Reddy to take on the role of Minister of Urban Development.

2012: Nath was confirmed to the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs in addition to his current role as Minister of Urban Development.

December 2012: Nath replaced Minister of Rural Development Jairam Ramesh as an ex officio member of the Planning Commission.

June 2014: Kamal Nath, being the only member to have taken the official oath as a member of the newly-elected 16th Lok Sabha, was made the Pro Tem Speaker.

December 2018: Kamal Nath was elected as the 18th Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh.

  Kamal Nath sworn in as Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh

Background

In the results declared on December 11, after a long neck-to-neck battle, the Congress won 114 seats in the 231-member Madhya Pradesh legislative assembly. Though the party fell short of the required majority, it secured support of a total of 121 MLAs, including one of SP, two of BSP and four independents, to cross the majority mark of 116 seats.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which ruled the state of Madhya Pradesh for 15 years, got 109 seats in the 2018 legislative assembly elections.

The party’s Chief Minister Candidate, Shivraj Singh Chouhan has been the state’s longest-serving chief minister since taking charge in 2005.

Bhupesh Baghel sworn in as Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh

Bhupesh Baghel sworn in as Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh

Chhattisgarh Congress president Bhupesh Baghel was on December 17, 2018 sworn-in as the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh. Governor Anandiben Patel administered the oath of office and secrecy to Baghel at swearing-in ceremony held in Raipur.

By swearing-in, Baghel became the third Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh since its inception in the year 2000.

Baghel was named for the post after four days of discussions with legislators and Congress President Rahul Gandhi and AICC observer Mallikarjun Kharge. Baghel had staked claim to form the government in the state after his election as leader of the Congress Legislature Party.

Bhupesh Baghel

  • Bhupesh Baghel is an experienced administrator who is known for his organisational skills.
  • Born on August 23, 1961, Baghel belongs to the Kurmi community and is a powerful leader of the OBC faction which makes up 52 percent of Chattisgarh’s 2.55 crore population.
  • Baghel started his political career with the Congress in the 1980s.
  • He was first elected as an MLA from Patan seat in 1993 and then in 1998 and 2003 from the same constituency.
  • In the 2008 Assembly polls, he suffered defeat at the hands of BJP’s Vijay Baghel, following which he was given ticket from Raipur for the 2009 Lok Sabha election, which he also lost.
  • He came back again by winning from the Patan Assembly seat in 2013.
  • In December 1998, he was appointed as the minister of state for public grievance in the Digvijaya Singh cabinet of united Madhya Pradesh.
  • After the formation of Chhattisgarh in 2000, he served as a Revenue Minister in the Ajit Jogi Government until 2003, when the BJP came to power.
  • When the Congress lost the 2003 election, Baghel was appointed as deputy leader of the opposition in the assembly. He lost the next elections from Patan in 2008.
  • Baghel became the state Congress chief in October 2014, shortly after the 2013 Naxal attack in Sukma district.

Chhattisgarh Assembly Elections 2018

In the Chhattisgarh Assembly Elections 2018, the Indian National Congress claimed majority in Chhattisgarh by winning 68 seats in the 90-member assembly.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) trailed behind with 15 seats, followed by Janta Congress Chhattisgarh (J) with 5 seats and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) with 2 seats. Counting of votes for the 90-member Assembly began on December 11, 2018.

The comeback of the Congress in the state signals the end of the era of Bharatiya Janata Party’s Raman Singh, the longest-serving Chief Minister of any state who served the state for 15 years.

India, Maldives sign four MoUs, release Joint Statement

India, Maldives sign four MoUs, release Joint Statement

India and Maldives released a Joint Statement on December 17, 2018 after warm and friendly talks between Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during the former’s first official state visit to India from December 16-18, 2018.

This is President Solih’s first visit abroad after assuming the office of President of the Republic of Maldives on November 17, 2018. The President of Maldives is accompanied by his wife First Lady Fazna Ahmed and a high-level delegation comprising of ministers and industry leaders.

  India, Maldives sign four MoUs, release Joint Statement

During the talks, the two leaders reiterated their strong commitment to further strengthening and reinvigorating the traditionally strong and friendly relations between India and the Maldives, nurtured by geographical contiguity, ethnic, historical, socio-economic and cultural ties between the peoples of the two countries. They also reiterated an abiding faith in and commitment to democracy, development and peaceful co-existence.

Prime Minister Modi warmly recalled his recent visit to the Maldives to attend the swearing-in ceremony of President Solih as his special guest. He also reiterated the highest importance that India attaches to its relationship with the Maldives.

Following the talks, four MoU’s were signed between the two nations. The agreements include:

S. No

MoUs

Indian Signatory

Maldives Signatory

1.
Agreement on the Facilitation of Visa Arrangements Sushma Swaraj,
External Affairs Minister
Shahid Abdulla,
Minister of Foreign Affairs
2.
Memorandum of Understanding on Cultural Cooperation Arun Goel, Secretary,
Ministry of Culture
Shahid Abdulla,
Minister of Foreign Affairs
3.
Memorandum of Understanding for Establishing Mutual Cooperation to Improve the Ecosystem for Agribusiness Akhilesh Mishra,
Ambassador of India to Maldives
Fayyaz Ismail,
Minister of Economic Development
4.
Joint Declaration of Intent on Cooperation in the field of Information & Communications Technology and Electronics Akhilesh Mishra,
Ambassador of India to Maldives
Mohamed Aslam,
Minister of National Planning and Infrastructure

The nations also agreed to work together to create institutional linkages and to establish a framework of cooperation in the following areas:

Health cooperation issues particularly cancer treatment

Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters

Investment promotion

Human Resource Development

Tourism

Highlights of the Joint Statement

‘Neighbourhood-First’ Policy

Prime Minister Modi reiterated India’s assurance of all possible support to the Maldives in realising its aspirations for socio-economic development, and strengthening of democratic and independent institutions.

In this regard, the Prime Minister announced the provision of financial assistance up to US$ 1.4 billion in the form of budgetary support, currency swap and concessional lines of credit to fulfil the socio-economic development programmes of the Maldives.

India-First Policy

President Solih reaffirmed his government’s “India-First Policy”, and commitment to working together closely with India.

He appreciated the generous assistance provided by the Indian Government to the Maldives and identified various areas for developmental cooperation, including private sector involvement in development of housing and infrastructure, water and sewerage systems in the outlying islands, healthcare, education and tourism.

  India, Maldives sign four MoUs, release Joint Statement

Connectivity

The two leaders emphasised the need to improve connectivity between the two countries through the establishment of enabling infrastructure that would promote the exchange of goods and services, information, ideas, culture and people.

Visa Facilitation Agreement

Recognising the importance of facilitating people-to-people exchanges and travel, the two leaders welcomed the new agreement on Visa Facilitation.

Prime Minister Modi noted that the new agreement will address the common concerns and ensure that people-to-people contacts are enhanced. The Maldives is one of the very few countries with which India has a visa-free arrangement.

President Solih observed that the agreement will facilitate many Maldivians who send their children to school in India, to be able to accompany them. The agreement will also facilitate easier visa arrangements for Maldivian citizens and their families, to come to India for medical treatment.

Both leaders emphasised the need to ensure seamless movement of people between both countries.

Indo-Pacific Region

The two leaders agreed on the importance of maintaining peace and security in the Indian Ocean Region. They reiterated their assurance of being mindful of each other’s concerns and aspirations for the stability of the region and not allowing their respective territories to be used for any activity inimical to the other.

The two leaders agreed to strengthen cooperation to enhance maritime security in the Indian Ocean Region through coordinated patrolling and aerial surveillance, exchange of information and capacity building.

Terrorism

The two leaders reaffirmed their unwavering commitment and support for increased cooperation in combating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations both within the region and elsewhere.

They also agreed to enhance bilateral cooperation on issues of common concern such as piracy, terrorism, organised crime, drugs and human trafficking. They also agreed to intensify cooperation in the areas of training and capacity building of Maldives Police Service and Maldives National Defence Force.

  India, Maldives sign four MoUs, release Joint Statement

Bilateral Trade

The two leaders reviewed efforts to promote bilateral trade and investment ties between the two countries. The Indian Prime Minister welcomed the expanding opportunities for Indian companies to invest in the Maldives in different sectors for the mutual benefit of both countries.

The two leaders also agreed to promote closer economic cooperation in sectors such as fisheries development, tourism, transportation, connectivity, health, education, information technology, new and renewable energy and communications.

Global Issues

The two leaders reiterated the importance of an effective multilateral system as a key factor in tackling global challenges. They recognised the need to pursue reform of the main UN bodies, including the revitalisation of the UN General Assembly and expansion of the UN Security Council.

The Maldives President reiterated his country’s support for India’s candidature for permanent membership of an expanded and reformed UN Security Council. The Maldives also reiterated support for India’s candidature for a non-permanent seat for the year 2020-21.

India welcomed Maldives’ decision to re-join the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister also welcomed the Maldives as the newest member of the Indian Ocean Rim Association.

Climate Change

The two leaders agreed on the importance of combating the impacts of climate change, especially detrimental to developing countries and Small Island Developing States and the need to work towards strengthening the global response to climate change, through the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement.

Economy

The two leaders underscored the need for strengthening and reforming of multilateral financial institutions and enhancing the voice and participation of developing countries in international economic decision-making.

Conclusion

The talks concluded with the Maldives President extending his cordial invitation to the President and Prime Minister of India to make a state visit to the Maldives, which Prime Minister Modi accepted.

In an important gesture demonstrating the close ties between India and Maldives, President Solih was staying at the Rashtrapati Bhawan as a special guest of the Indian President during his stay in India.

Sri Lankan President reinstates ousted PM Ranil Wickremesinghe

Sri Lankan President reinstates ousted PM Ranil Wickremesinghe

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on December 16, 2018 reappointed Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister of the country, after suddenly dismissing him from the post nearly two months ago.

The President clarified that his move to terminate the Prime Minister was done in “good faith” and the reinstatement was done to uphold parliamentary traditions and democracy. A new cabinet comprising 30 lawmakers is also expected to be sworn in soon.

The Events: As they happened!

October 26: President Maithripala Sirisena announced the dismissal of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe through a live television address.

The President announced that Ranil Wickremesinghe, with whom he had governed in a fragile coalition since 2015, had been dismissed and in his place, he had decided to appoint former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, the same man he had joined forces with Wickremasinghe in 2015 to defeat.

Despite warnings of a possible breakout of extreme violence, President Sirisena suspended Parliament to give Rajapaksa time to muster enough support to survive any no-confidence vote.

October 29: 12 Cabinet ministers including one state minister and deputy minister were sworn in.

The decision created a wedge in the country’s politics with parliamentarians showing more favour towards Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who termed the sacking as illegal and stood his ground despite attempts to replace him with Rajapaksa.

November 9: The President dissolved the Parliament and called for fresh elections on January 5 amid a deepening political crisis.

December 13: Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court ruled unanimously that President Maithripala Sirisena’s order to dissolve Parliament and hold new elections was unconstitutional.

The seven-member judge bench in a unanimous verdict observed that it was illegal to dissolve Parliament before its four and half year term limit.

December 15: Following the top court’s verdict, Rajapaksa gave his resignation, paving the way for the return of 69-year-old Wickremesinghe.

Background

Sri Lanka, one of Asia’s oldest democracies plunged into a huge constitutional crisis when Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was suddenly ousted from his post by President Maithripala Sirisena and replaced with Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The entire development had left Sri Lanka with two Prime Ministers, as even though Rajapaksa took control of the prime ministerial office and started naming a new cabinet, Wickremesinghe continued to occupy his official residence.

It also created a huge divide among the parliamentarians, as the move countered the promises made by President to investigate Rajapaksa-led government’s actions during the country’s long civil war.

Rajapaksa oversaw the end of the 27-year Sri Lankan civil war in 2009 through a series of brutal military offensives in which up to 40,000 Tamil civilians died.

During his 10 years in power, Rajapaksa’s government was accused of authoritarianism, corruption and human rights abuses, especially against the country’s Tamil minority.

His tenure was also marred by accusations his security forces were forcibly disappearing, torturing and murdering opposition politicians, aid workers, activists, journalists and dissidents.

PV Sindhu claims maiden BWF World Tour Finals Title

PV Sindhu claims maiden BWF World Tour Finals Title

Olympic silver medallist PV Sindhu made history on December 16, 2018 by becoming the first Indian to win the BWF World Tour Finals.

Sindhu claimed the coveted gold medal with a win over 2017 world champion Nozomi Okuhara in straight sets of 21-19, 21-17. In both games, Sindhu made a fast start but Okuhara managed to stay within touching distance. Sindhu, though won points at crucial junctures to maintain her dominance in the match. The 23-year-old had beaten Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon 21-16, 25-23 in the semi-final, held on December 15.

Key Highlights

With the win, Sindhu claimed her 14th title overall and the first for this year, which had followed up with a series of disappointments after she was unable to win even a single tournament.

Sindhu had lost out on the gold and had to settle for silver in many championships in 2018 including the World Championships, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, Thailand Open and India Open.

This is Sindhu’s third successive season-ending finale. She had lost to Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi in the 2017 edition and had to settle for silver.

Sindhu became the first Indian to win the acclaimed title in a match that lasted an hour and two minutes.

Saina Nehwal had reached the finals of 2011 World Super Series Finals, while Jwala Gutta and V Diju finished as runner-ups in the 2009 edition.

About PV Sindhu

PV Sindhu grabbed national attention when she became the first Indian woman to win a silver medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics and the second badminton player to ever win an Olympic medal, the first being Saina Nehwal, who won bronze in the 2012 edition.

Sindhu also won silver in the women’s singles at Commonwealth Games 2018, after losing to Saina Nehwal.

She was also a silver medallist at the 2017 BWF World Championships and 2018 BWF World Championships consecutively.

She was also a silver medallist in 2018 Asian Games 2018 which were held in Indonesia.

Sindhu had come into international attention when she broke into the top 20 of the BWF World Ranking in September 2012 at the age of 17.

In 2013, she became the first ever Indian women’s singles player to win a medal at the Badminton World Championships.

In March 2015, she is the recipient of India’s fourth highest civilian honor, the Padma Shri.

COP24: Member countries finalise ‘Katowice package’ rules to implement 2015 Paris Climate Agreement

COP24: Member countries finalise ‘Katowice package’ rules to implement 2015 Paris Climate Agreement

The UN Climate Conference (COP24) on December 14, 2018 saw the adoption of ‘Katowice package’, the rulebook for implementation of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

The Ministers of 200 nations reached consensus on rules after two weeks of intense negotiations during the 24th Conference of the Parties (COP24) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that took place during December 2-14, 2018 in Katowice, Poland. The meeting was presided by Polish President, Michal Kurtyka.

The adopted guidelines package aims to encourage greater climate action ambition and benefit people from all walks of life, especially the most vulnerable.

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hailed the adoption of guidelines as a basis for a transformative process as this will require strengthened ambition from the international community.

Katowice package: Rulebook for implementation of 2015 Paris climate agreement

  • One of the key components is a detailed transparency framework to promote trust among nations. It sets out how countries will provide information about Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), including the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • They agreed on the procedure to uniformly count the greenhouse gas emissions.
  • If poorer countries feel they cannot meet the standards set, they can explain why and present a plan to build up their capacity in that regard.
  • The document sets a way to decide on ambitious funding targets from 2025 onwards from the current commitment to mobilise USD 100 billion per year as of 2020 in support of climate action in developing countries.
  • Nations agreed on the methodology to collectively assess the effectiveness of climate action in 2023, and finalised the procedure to monitor and report progress on the development and transfer of technology.
  • The concerns of developing nations including India and least developed nations on funding for carbon credit were finally addressed.
  • The rich nations which are the main polluters agreed to pay for greening in the underdeveloped world.
  • The agreed guidelines mean that countries can now establish the national systems that are needed for implementing the Paris Agreement by 2020.
Issue of market mechanisms still needs to be resolved

The main issues still need to be resolved such as the use of cooperative approaches, as well as the sustainable development mechanism. Resolution of these issues would allow countries to meet a part of their domestic mitigation goals through the use of “market mechanisms”.

Market mechanisms provide flexible instruments for reducing the costs of cutting emissions, such as carbon markets.

These negotiations will further be taken up for talks at the UN climate change conference, COP25, set to take place in Chile.

Fiji-led Talanoa Dialogue concluded

• The Fiji-led Talanoa Dialogue, a year-long inclusive dialogue that relates to the Paris Agreement, was also concluded at COP24, with the global warming of 1.5 degree Celsius report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as a major input.

• There is a clear recognition of the IPCC’s role in providing scientific input to inform countries in strengthening their response to the threat of climate change.

• ‘Talanoa Call for Action’ calls upon all countries and stakeholders to act with urgency.

• Countries are encouraged to factor the outcome of the dialogue into efforts to increase their ambition and to update their nationally determined contributions in 2020.

Paris Agreement on Climate Change

In December 2015, 195 countries pledged to slow the process of global warming in Paris by signing the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Objectives

  • The primary objective is to limit the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels.
  • Efforts will be made to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels so that it will be possible to reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.
  • Parties should take action to conserve and enhance, as appropriate, sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases including forests.
  • With a view to contribute to sustainable development and to achieve the long term temperature goal of 2°C, the COP established the global goal on adaptation of enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change.

Mitigation

Parties recognised the importance of averting, minimising and addressing loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including extreme weather events and slow onset events, and the role of sustainable development in reducing the risk of loss and damage.

Technology Transfer

Parties share a long-term vision on the importance of fully realising technology development and transfer in order to improve resilience to climate change and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Financing

Developed countries will raise finances to the tune of 100 billion US dollars per year by 2020 to help developing nations in both mitigation and adaptation activities. And, other nations are encouraged to provide funding voluntarily.

Implementation

A mechanism to facilitate implementation of and promote compliance with the provisions of this Agreement is hereby established.

Review

The Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement shall undertake its first global stock take in 2023 and every five years thereafter.

Enforcement

This Agreement shall enter into force on the thirtieth day after the date on which at least 55 Parties to the Convention have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.

Signing & Ratification

As of June 2017, 195 UNFCCC members have signed the agreement, 148 of which have ratified it.

US Withdrawal

On June 1, 2017, US President Donald Trump announced to withdraw the United States from the 2015 Paris agreement, stating that the Paris accord would undermine the U.S. economy, cost U.S. jobs, and weaken American national sovereignty.

16-17 December 2018

Miss Philippines Catriona Gray crowned Miss Universe 2018

Miss Philippines Catriona Gray crowned Miss Universe 2018

Miss Philippines Catriona Gray was crowned Miss Universe after she won the final round of the Miss Universe 2018 pageant, held in Bangkok, Thailand on December 17, 2018. Outgoing Miss Universe Demi Leigh Nel Peters from South Africa crowned her successor.

Miss Philippines made it to the Top 5 along with Miss Puerto Rico, Vietnam, Philippines, South Africa and Venezuela. The top five were then asked questions that were crafted by fellow contestants and had to answer it in 30 seconds or less. This determined the Top 3.

The final three contestants included Miss Philippines, South Africa and Venezuela. During the final round, each contestant was asked the same question. While one was asked the question, the other two were required to wear headphones to keep them from listening to the question and answer.

Final Question

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your life and how would you apply it to your time as Miss Universe?

Gray’s Answer: “I work a lot in the slums of Tondo, Manila and the life there is very poor, sad and I’ve always taught myself to look for the beauty in it, to look in the beauty of the children and be grateful. I would bring this aspect as a Miss Universe to see situations with a silver lining and to assess where I could give something, where I could provide something as a spokesperson. If I could teach people to be grateful, we could have an amazing world where negativity could not grow and foster and children would have smiles on their faces.”

  Miss Philippines Catriona Gray crowned Miss Universe 2018

Key Highlights

 Miss Philippines Catriona Gray crowned Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray won the 2018 Miss Universe pageant, beating 93 other women representing their countries.

With her win, Gray became the fourth contestant from the Philippines to win Miss Universe in almost 50 years. She joins Pia Wurtzbach (2015), Margarita Moran (1973) and Gloria Diaz (1969) in the feat.

Pia Wurtzbach had last won the Miss Universe crown for the Philippines in 2015 and the succeeding edition was hosted in Manila.

Gray won the crown while wearing a gorgeous red gown that had been designed by Filipino fashion designer Mak Tumang.

Tamaryn Green of South Africa was first runner-up followed by Miss Venezuela Sthefany Gutiérrez, who was the second runner-up of Miss Universe 2018.

This year’s pageant was applauded for its inclusivity and diverse competition.  Miss Spain Angela Ponce made history as the pageant’s first openly transgender contestant and Rosa Montezuma became Panama’s first indigenous Miss Universe contestant.

About Catriona Gray

Born in Australia, Gray is a Filipina-Australian television host, singer, model, stage actress and beauty pageant titleholder.

The 24-year-old was an early favourite this year. She entered her first pageant at the age of 5 years and then moved to the United States for university, where she studied music theory at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts.

In addition, she obtained a Certificate in Outdoor Recreation and a black belt in Choi Kwang-Do martial arts.

After finishing high school in Australia, she then moved to Manila, Philippines where she worked as a commercial model.

On October 2, 2016, Gray was crowned Miss World Philippines 2016. After winning her national competition, Gray competed at Miss World 2016 held in MGM National Harbor, in Oxon Hill, Maryland, United States where she made it to the Top 5.

  Miss Philippines Catriona Gray crowned Miss Universe 2018

In Philippine pageant history, Gray is the first Philippine national to represent the country in both the Miss World and Miss Universe competitions.

Accordingly, she is the second Filipina to represent the Philippines in two major international pageants, the first one being Carlene Aguilar in 2005.

Miss India fails to make it to top 20!

India’s Nehal Chudasama was among the 94 contestants who competed for the crown at the 67th Miss Universe pageant held in Bangkok.

However, Miss India failed to make it to the Top 20 shortlisted contestants at the Miss Universe 2018 contest.

  Miss Philippines Catriona Gray crowned Miss Universe 2018

The top 20 comprised of five semi-finalists chosen from each region – The Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia Pacific, as well as a Wild Card category.

The representatives from Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Curacao, Great Britain, Hungary, Indonesia, Ireland, Jamaica, Nepal, Philippines, Poland, Puerto Rico, South Africa, Thailand, US, Venezuela and Vietnam made it to the Top 20.

About Miss Universe

The 67th Miss Universe pageant was held on December 17, 2018 at Impact, Muang Thong Thani in Nonthaburi Province, Thailand.

Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters of South Africa crowned her successor, Catriona Gray of the Philippines at the end of the event.

The show was hosted by comedian Steve Harvey and supermodel Ashley Graham, while television personality Carson Kressley and runway coach Lu Sierra provided commentary and analysis throughout the event. American singer-songwriter Ne-Yo performed during the competition.

This year’s pageant saw participation from contestants belonging to 94 countries and territories across the world, which surpasses the previous year’s record of 92 contestants.

PM Modi inaugurates 175 Km Sewerage Network in Prayagraj; NMCG sanctions funds for Kumbh Mela

PM Modi inaugurates 175 Km Sewerage Network in Prayagraj under Namami Gange

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 16, 2018 inaugurated various projects worth Rs 199.65 crore under Namami Gange Programme in Prayagraj, including 175 KM of sewerage network.

The projects will prevent 7.8 crore litres of sewage from flowing untreated into Ganga River every day. Now, this untreated sewage water will be carried every day to existing Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) at Salori, Kodra & Ponghat for treatment.

The projects were inaugurated in the presence of UP Governor Ram Naik, UP CM Yogi Adityanath, Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya, and Minister of Urban Development Suresh K Khanna.

Foundation stone laid for two projects in the Trans Ganga/Yamuna area

Prime Minister Modi also laid the foundation stone for two projects in the Trans Ganga/Yamuna area under ‘One City-One Operator Scheme’ with sanctioned cost of Rs 767.59 crore.

The project is based on Hybrid Annuity based PPP mode that includes Operations and Maintenance of the entire sewerage infrastructure for 15 years.

These projects include Intersection and diversion (I&D) of sewage network, 7 sewage pumping stations and 3 STPs of total capacity 72 million litres per day (MLD).

These 3 STPs of 72 MLD capacity will be – Naini (42 MLD), Phaphamau (14 MLD) and Jhusi (16 MLD).

With these projects, there will be comprehensive sewerage coverage of Prayagraj, including areas on the other side of the Ganga and Yamuna rivers.

Rehabilitation projects
The sanctioned projects will also involve rehabilitation and operations and maintenance of existing sewage treatment infrastructure at the cost of Rs 904 crores.

Rehabilitation projects include six existing STPs with a total capacity of 254 MLD located at Naini, Numayadahi, Rajapur, Kodra, Ponghat and Salori and operations and maintenance of 10 existing sewage pumping stations.

Projects already sanctioned under Namami Gange Programme

Under Namami Gange Programme, 10 projects have been already sanctioned at an estimated cost of Rs 2915.78 crore for creation of 779 Km sewerage network and construction of 8 STPs having total capacity of 191 MLD.

4 projects were completed during 2016, leading to the creation of sewage treatment capacity of 119 MLD and laying of 129 km of sewerage network.

2 Projects pertaining to Sewerage District A & B in Prayagraj are under advance stage of execution and are expected to be completed by March 2019.

These projects will lead to creation of 456 Km of sewerage network and would feed to existing STPs at Naini and Numayadahi.

NMCG sanctions funds for Kumbh Mela
  • The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) on December 15, 2018 sanctioned a financial assistance of Rs. 113 crores for the construction of 27,500 toilets & 20,000 urinals in Uttar Pradesh during Kumbh Mela 2019.
  • With this funding, NMCG aims to support the sanitation initiative of Government to reduce pollution in river Ganga before Kumbh begins.
  • NMCG sanctioned additional Rs 16.68 crore for ‘Paint My City’ and other such activities. The ‘Paint My City’ campaign aims to connect people with the city and make it clean and beautiful on the eve of the Kumbh.
  • The authority allocated another Rs 3.6 crore for 16000 dustbins and lining bags.
  • Bioremediation projects have been also sanctioned for 53 drains.

Objective: The funds have been sanctioned keeping in mind the enormous gathering that will take place on the banks of river Ganga for a period of 60-90 days.  More than 12 crore people are expected to attend the 2019 Mela, of which, around 10 lakh pilgrims will be stationed in the camps.

Kumbh Mela

• Known as the festival of the sacred Pitcher, Kumbh Mela is held in Allahabad (now known as Prayagraj), Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik in every four years by rotation and is attended by millions of people irrespective of caste, creed or gender.

• The tale of Kumbh Mela includes the battle between Gods and Demons over a pot of Amrit (Nectar of immortality). In the battle between Devas and Asuras, a few drops of this Amrit fell in Haridwar, Allahabad, Ujjain and Nasik and since then Kumbh Mela is organised in these places.

• During the festival, devotees bath or take a dip in a sacred river.

• Followers believe that by bathing in the river, one is freed from sins and is liberated from the cycle of birth and death.

• As a religious festival, Kumbh Mela demonstrates tolerance and inclusiveness which are especially valuable for the contemporary world.

• The knowledge and skills related to Kumbh Mela are transmitted through the Guru-Shishyaparampara (teacher-student relationship) by way of teachings by saints and sadhus to their disciples.

• The festival summarizes the science of astronomy, astrology, spirituality, ritualistic traditions, social and cultural customs, making it extremely rich in knowledge.

Noted writer Amitav Ghosh honoured with Jnanpith Award 2018

Noted writer Amitav Ghosh honoured with Jnanpith Award 2018

Noted English writer Amitav Ghosh was on December 14, 2018 honoured with 54th Jnanpith Award, a literary award given to an author for “outstanding contribution towards literature”.

The decision was taken during a meeting of Jnanpith Selection Board chaired by eminent novelist, scholar and Jnanpith laureate Pratibha Ray.

As per Bharatiya Jnanpith, “Amitav Ghosh is a path- breaking novelist. In his novels, Ghosh treads through historical settings to the modern era and weaves a space where the past connects with the present in relevant ways…”

Ghosh is known for a series of novels such as Shadow Lines, The Glass Palace, The Hungry Tide, and the Ibis Trilogy — Sea of Poppies, River of Smoke and Flood of Fire that chronicle the trade between India and China run by the then East India Company.

About Amitav Ghosh

Amitav Ghosh is an Indian-American author best known for his work in English fiction.

He was educated at the all-boys The Doon School where he edited The Doon School Weekly. His contemporaries at Doon included author Vikram Seth and Ram Guha.

He received degrees from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University, and Delhi School of Economics.

He then won the Inlaks Foundation scholarship to complete a D. Phil. in social anthropology at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, under the supervision of Peter Lienhardt.

In 1986, he wrote his debut novel titled The Circle of Reason.

His other famous works in fiction are The Shadow Lines, The Calcutta Chromosome, The Glass Palace, The Hungry Tide, Sea of Poppies, among others.

His notable non-fiction writings are In an Antique Land, Dancing in Cambodia and at Large in Burma, Countdown, and The Imam and the Indian.

His book The Circle of Reason won the Prix Medicis etranger, one of France’s top literary awards.

The Shadow Lines won the Sahitya Akademi Award and the Ananda Puraskar.

Sea of Poppies was shortlisted for the 2008 Man Booker Prize.

His most recent book, The Great Derangement; Climate Change and the Unthinkable, a work of non-fiction, was released in 2016.

The Government of India awarded him the civilian honour of Padma Shri in 2007.

About Jnanpith Award

• Established in 1961, the Jnanpith Award is the highest literary award of India.

• The award is bestowed only on Indian writers writing in any of the 22 Indian languages included in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution of India and English.

• It is presented annually by the Bharatiya Jnanpith Trust to an author for their “outstanding contribution towards literature”. It is not conferred posthumously.

• Prior to 1982, the award was only conferred for a single work by a writer, however, after 1982 the award recognised writers’ lifetime contribution to Indian literature.

• The first recipient of the award was the Malayalam writer G. Sankara Kurup, who received it in 1965 for his collection of poems, Odakkuzhal.

• Bengali writer, Ashapoorna Devi was the first woman novelist to win the award in 1976 for her 1965 novel Pratham Pratisruti.

• The 2017 Jnanpith award was awarded to Krishna Sobti, renowned Hindi litterateur.

Government announces to set up ‘National Medical Devices Promotion Council’ under DIPP

Government announces to set up ‘National Medical Devices Promotion Council’ under DIPP

Union Minister of Commerce and Industry and Civil Aviation, Suresh Prabhu on December 14, 2018 announced to set up a National Medical Devices Promotion Council under the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

The announcement was made on the occasion of 4th WHO Global Forum on Medical Devices at Andhra Pradesh Medtech Zone in Vishakhapatnam.

National Medical Devices Promotion Council
  • The Council will be headed by Secretary of the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP).
  • Apart from the concerned departments of Government, it will also have representatives from health care industry and quality control institutions.
  • The Andhra Pradesh MedTech Zone of Visakhapatnam, will provide technical support to the Council.
Objectives and activities
  • Act as a facilitating, promotional & developmental body for the Indian Medical Devices Industry.
  • Hold periodic seminars, workshops and related activities to garner views of the industry and understand best global practices in the sector.
  • Identify avoidable processes and render technical assistance to the agencies and departments concerned to simplify the approval processes for MDI promotion and development.
  • Enable entry of emerging interventions and support certifications for manufacturers to reach levels of global trade norms and lead India to an export driven market in the sector.
  • Support dissemination and documentation of international norms and standards for medical devices by capturing the best practices in the global market.
  • Facilitate domestic manufacturers to rise to international level of understanding of regulatory and non regulatory needs of the industry.
  • Drive a robust and dynamic Preferential Market Access (PMA) policy by identifying the strengths of the Indian manufacturers and discouraging unfair trade practices in imports
  • Ensure pro-active monitoring of public procurement notices across India to ensure compliance with PMA guidelines of DIPP and DoP.
  • Undertake validation of Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs) and other such entities within MDI sector, which add value to the industry strength in manufacturing to gain foothold for new entrants.
  • Make recommendations to government based on industry feedback and global practices on policy and process interventions to strengthen the medical technology sector.

Boost to the Medical Devices Industry (MDI)

The Government aims to boost the medical device sector by setting up the council.

The Medical Devices Industry (MDI) plays a critical role in the healthcare ecosystem and is crucial to achieve the goal of health for all citizens of the country.

The manufacturing and trade in MDI is growing steadily in double digits. However, it is largely import-driven with imports accounting for over 65 percent of the domestic market. The setting-up of the Council will spur domestic manufacturing in this sector as Indian companies and startups have stated moving towards creating innovative products.

15 December 2018

ISRO to launch communication satellite GSAT-7A

ISRO to launch communication satellite GSAT-7A

India will launch its latest communication satellite, GSAT-7A aboard Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-F11) on December 19, 2018 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh.

The GSLV-F11 is ISRO’s fourth generation launch vehicle with three stages. The launch vehicle, which is in its 13th flight, will inject GSAT-7A into a Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO).

Key Highlights

GSAT-7A, which weighs about 2,250 kg, is the 35th communication satellite built by ISRO. It is configured on ISRO’s standard I-2000 Kg (I-2K) Bus.

The satellite with a mission life of eight years has been built to provide communication capability to the users in Ku-band over the Indian region.

The satellite will be placed in its final Geostationary Orbit (GEO) using the onboard propulsion system.

According to ISRO, GSAT-7A will take a few days after separation from the launcher to reach its orbital slot.

While four liquid strap-ons and a solid rocket motor at the core form the first stage of the launch vehicle, the second stage is equipped with high thrust engine using liquid fuel.

The Cryogenic Upper Stage forms the third and final stage of the vehicle.

  ISRO to launch communication satellite GSAT-7A

Background

On December 5, 2018, India’s next generation high throughput communication satellite, GSAT-11 was successfully launched from the Kourou launch base in French Guiana by Ariane-5 VA-246.

The communication satellite, weighing about 5854 kg, is the heaviest satellite built by ISRO.

The satellite is the fore-runner in the series of advanced communication satellites with multi-spot beam antenna coverage over Indian mainland and Islands.

It is expected to play a vital role in providing broadband services across the country. It will also provide a platform to demonstrate new generation applications.

Ashok Gehlot to be sworn-in as Rajasthan Chief Minister; Sachin Pilot as Deputy CM

Ashok Gehlot to be sworn-in as Rajasthan Chief Minister

Ashok Gehlot is likely to be sworn-in as Rajasthan Chief Minister for the third time. While, Sachin Pilot will take oath as the Deputy CM of Rajasthan. The decision was announced on December 14, 2018 after Congress President Rahul Gandhi met both Gehlot and Sachin Pilot in Delhi on December 13, 2018.

Two-time chief minister Ashok Gehlot and Rajasthan Congress Chief Sachin Pilot were competing against each other in the race for the post of Rajasthan Chief Minister.

Why choice of Rajasthan Chief Minister candidate suddenly became so crucial?
The choice of Rajasthan Chief Minister is crucial as in the Rajasthan Elections 2018, Congress’ tally stopped at 99, one short of a majority. That made it critical for the party to make a guarded choice, keeping 2019 General Elections in mind.

Rajasthan Elections Results 2018

The Indian National Congress (INC) emerged as the single largest party in Rajasthan, winning 99 seats on its own and one more with RLD in the 2018 Rajasthan Assembly Elections.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) trailed behind with 73 seats and others fetched 27 seats. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) showcased an impressive run by winning six seats, and Hanuman Beniwal-led Rashtriya Loktantrik Party won three seats.

The Gujarat-based Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) and Communist Party of India (Marxist) won two seats each and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) won one seat.

Due to the death of one candidate, elections were called off in one seat in the state, making it an election for 199 seats in the state, putting the majority at 100 seats.

Ashok Gehlot
  • Gehlot has served two terms as the Chief Minister of Rajasthan, once from 1998 to 2003 and then from 2008 to 2013.
  • In his early years, Gehlot headed the Rajasthan unit of the National Students Union of India (NSUI) and was a staunch loyalist of the Gandhi family.
  • After his first proper job as NSUI’s Rajasthan president from 1974 to 1979, he went on to become the Jodhpur district Congress Committee President from 1979 to 1982.
  • Gehlot was first-elected to Parliament in 1980 and went on to win Lok Sabha elections four more times.
  • Since 1999, he has represented the Sardarpura assembly constituency, winning five consecutive terms in the House.
  • Gehlot has served various ministries such as Union Ministry of Tourism; Civil Aviation; Sports; and Textiles in different stints between 1982 and 1993.
  • He was also the AICC General Secretary in charge of Delhi and the Sewa Dal cell from 2004-2009.
Gehlot’s election history as MP
Year Position
1980–84 Member of 7th Lok Sabha
1984–89 Member of 8th Lok Sabha
1991–96 Member of 10th Lok Sabha
1996–98 Member of 11th Lok Sabha
1998–99 Member of 12th Lok Sabha

About Sachin Pilot

In 2013, when the Congress faced its worst defeat in the state, winning just 21 seats against the BJP’s 163, Party President Rahul Gandhi handed the reins of the state to Sachin Pilot, a two-time parliamentarian and son of former leader Rajesh Pilot who died in 2000 in a road accident.

Pilot had made a vow in 2014, when the party lost in the Lok Sabha elections, to not wear a turban till the Congress returns to power.

Pilot served as Minister in the UPA government in different capacities. He was elected as an MP from his father’s constituency Dausa in 2004 and became the youngest member of the parliament. He was elected again from Ajmer in 2009.

Pilot was also the Minister of State for Communication and IT in 2009 and Minister of State (Independent charge) for Corporate Affairs in 2012.

Pilot was selected as one of the Young Global Leaders by the World Economic Forum in 2008.

He received his Private Pilot’s Licence (PPL) from the US in 1995 and is also a keen sportsman and represented Delhi in a number of National Shooting Championships.

He did his graduation from Delhi’s St Stephen’s College and MBA from Wharton Business School, University of Pennsylvania.

Senior citizens should get meaningful pension: Supreme Court

Senior citizens should get meaningful pension: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on December 13, 2018 directed that senior citizens should get a meaningful pension to live with dignity and not just the equivalent of Rs 92 at current value.

The SC bench comprising Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said that the state was obligated to ensure that the right to live with dignity, which includes reasonable shelter, health care, clothing and meaningful pension for elderly people without any means, was not only protected but enforced and made available to all citizens.

The court said this while issuing a number of directions for the enforcement of pension for the elderly, shelter, geriatric care and medical facilities and the effective implementation of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007.

Key Highlights

The bench noted that in real terms the value of Rs 200 being given as pension to elderly people since 2007 today stands at about Rs 92.

The bench stated that the provision for basic necessities including nutrition, clothing and shelter can be made only if the elderly are provided with a pension that is meaningful and not pension that is equivalent to Rs 92 per month.

The court said that if the current value of the rupee is taken into consideration, the amount of Rs 200 in real terms will actually work out to about Rs 92 per month on the lower scale.

The court directed the centre and states to revisit the grant of pension to the elderly so that it is more “realistic”.

The court said that the schemes that are “comparatively dated” should be re-looked and overhauled to bring about convergence and avoid multiplicity.

Consideration of ‘Economic Budgeting’

The court, while addressing the issue of the states’ limited capacity in meeting the expenses of the welfare measures for the elderly people, said that the consideration of ‘economic budgeting’ by the centre and states must be taken into account while enacting the legislation.

However, the court clarified that there cannot be any excuse of lack of finances either by the central or state governments in strictly implementing the provisions of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007.

The court stated that if not the constitutional then at least the statutory rights of elderly persons must be recognised and implemented.

Other Details

The court directed the central government to obtain necessary information from all states and union territories on the number of old age homes in each district.

The court also directed the central government to obtain information on the medical facilities and geriatric care facilities that are available to senior citizens in each district.

Further, referring to the provisions of the MWP Act, the court directed the Centre to exercise its power and issue appropriate directions to the states for the effective implementation of the provisions of the MWP Act and monitor its execution.

The centre has also been directed to file a status report by January 31, 2019, to enable the court to monitor the implementation of its directions.

Maintain transparency in appointments of CIC, Information Commissioners: SC to Centre, States

Maintain transparency in appointments of CIC, Information Commissioners: SC to Centre, states

The Supreme Court on December 13, 2018 asked the Centre and states to maintain transparency in appointments of Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and Information Commissioners (IC).

It asked the government to disclose the process for appointment of Commissioners, including the names of candidates who applied and who were short-listed.

A bench of Justices AK Sikri, S Abdul Nazeer and R Subhash Reddy asked the Centre to put the details of search committees for CIC and ICs on the website.

The Centre told the apex court, in reply, that the search committee has shortlisted names for the post of CIC and a final decision will be taken soon. A total of 65 applications have come up for the post CIC and 280 applications have been received for the post of four ICs in the Central Information Commission.

Once these posts are filled up, notification will be issued for inviting applications for remaining posts of ICs.

Vacancies in the State Information Commissions

The bench also directed the states to fill up vacancies in the State Information Commissions (SICs) to reduce the pendency of cases.

It asked the state government to file the affidavit indicating the pendency of cases before the State Information Commission and give reasons why the state does not need more information commissioners.

July 2018 ruling of Supreme Court
The apex court in its July 2018 ruling expressed concern over vacancies at the Central Information Commission and State Information Commissions. It directed the Centre and seven states to file an affidavit giving a time schedule for filling up the positions.

These seven states are Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat, Kerala, Odisha and Karnataka.

It also warned that a “strict view” will be taken if Centre or states default in filing the affidavit within four weeks.

Plea filed by RTI activist Anjali Bhardwaj

The ruling came on a plea filed by the RTI activists Bhardwaj, Commodore Lokesh Batra (retd) and Amrita Johri, who claimed that over 23500 appeals and complaints are pending with the CIC.

They also said the SIC of Andhra Pradesh was “completely non-functional” as not a single information commissioner has been appointed to the panel. On the other hand, the West Bengal SIC was functioning with only two commissioners and was hearing appeals and complaints filed 10 years ago.

The plea stated that several information commissions like that of Gujarat and Maharashtra were functioning without the chief information commissioner, even though the RTI Act envisages a crucial role for this post.

India, ADB sign USD 60 Million loan agreement to reduce floods in Assam

India, ADB sign USD 60 Million loan agreement to reduce floods in Assam

India and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) on December 13, 2018 signed a USD 60 million loan agreement to reduce floods and the riverbank erosion in Assam.

This Tranche 2 loan is part of the USD 120 million multi-tranche financing facility (MFF) of the ADB for the Assam Integrated Flood and Riverbank Erosion Risk Management Investment Program. The program was approved by the ADB Board in October 2010.

The agreement was signed by Sameer Kumar Khare, Additional Secretary (Fund Bank and ADB), Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance and Kenichi Yokoyama, Country Director of ADB’s India Resident Mission.

Objective
The loan agreement aims to continue financing riverbank protection works, renovation of flood embankments, and community-based flood risk management activities in critically flood-prone areas along the Brahmaputra River in Assam.

Highlights of Loan agreement

The loan will have a 20-year term, including a grace period of 5 years.

It includes an Annual Interest Rate determined in accordance with ADB’s lending facility based on the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), and a commitment charge of 0.15 percent per year.

Projects funded under this Tranche 2 facility

It will fund a combination of structural and nonstructural measures in the three subproject areas of Palasbari-Gumi, Kaziranga, and Dibrugarh along the Brahmaputra River.

It includes 20 km of riverbank protection works and upgrading of 13 km of flood embankments.

The non-structural measures will cover community involvement and community-based flood risk management activities through establishing and training disaster management committees.

It will continue to support the institutional capacity development of the autonomous bodies, namely, Flood and River Erosion Management Agency of Assam (FREMAA), and Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA), as the executing and implementing agencies for this Project.

Assam Integrated Flood and Riverbank Erosion Risk Management Investment Program
The Program is aimed at increasing the reliability and effectiveness of flood and riverbank erosion risk management systems in flood-prone areas of Assam.

It aims to strengthen the disaster preparedness of the communities, and developing institutional capacity and knowledge base for flood forecasting.

Supreme Court dismisses all petitions alleging irregularities in Rafale Deal

Supreme Court dismisses all petitions alleging irregularities in Rafale Deal

The Supreme Court on December 14, 2018 dismissed a group of petitions that demanded an independent probe into the controversial Rafale fighter jet deal, stating that it was satisfied with the procurement process. The court stated that the perception of individuals cannot be a ground for the Court to interfere.

The judgement was delivered by a three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice KM Joseph. “We studied the materials carefully, interacted with Defence officials, we are satisfied with the decision-making process,” Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said, while dismissing the petitions.

Petitioners

The ruling was delivered on a batch of writ petitions filed against the central government’s purchase of 36 Rafale fighters for Euro 7.85 billion. The court clarified that the examination has been primarily from the point of examination of jurisdiction under Article 32 of the Constitution.

The petitions, alleging corruption and irregularities in the Rafale deal, were filed by lawyer Manohar Lal Sharma, Vineet Dhanda, AAP legislator Sanjay Singh and the trio of Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Prashant Bhushan.

The petitions had raised questions over the procurement process and alleged last-minute inflation in the price of the fighter jets and also claimed there to be an impropriety in awarding the contract to Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group.

The Judgement: Key Highlights

  Supreme Court dismisses all petitions alleging irregularities in Rafale Deal

1. Cost Irregularity issue

The bench reiterated that it wasn’t its job to examine minute financial details of the cost of the aircraft.

It opined that it was not the job of the Court to go into issues of pricing and stated that the earlier deal was not forthcoming, while the new deal came with financial advantages.

2. Offset Partner issue

On the issue of offsets being awarded to Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group, the court said that the choice of the Indian Offset Partner was to be of the vendor, in which the Union Government had no role to play.

It also stated that there seemed to have been no commercial bias in the selection of the IOP.

3. Process and number of aircraft issue

The bench, while observing that the country cannot afford to be lacking in any manner so far as defence is concerned, stated that it cannot decide on the wisdom to purchase 36 fighter jets in fly-away condition as against the earlier deal for 126.

Expressing satisfaction with the process of procurement, the bench noted that the earlier deal in respect of the 126 jets had not been coming through.

Background

The three-judge bench of the Supreme Court had heard all the pleas calling for a court-monitored probe into the multi-billion dollar deal for procuring 36 Rafale fighter jets in a fly-away condition from French aerospace company Dassault Aviation and had reserved its verdict on November 14.

The first petitioner in the case was Advocate ML Sharma, followed by another lawyer Vineet Dhanda and  Aam Aadmy Party leader Sanjay Singh.

After the three pleas were filed, former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and activist advocate Prashant Bhushan also moved the SC with a petition that the CBI should be directed to file an FIR seeking a probe into the alleged irregularities in the deal.

Key issues raised by the petitioners

The petitioners contended that PM Narendra Modi announced the deal in April 2015 without following the Defence Procurement Procedure. It was argued that the negotiations for the deal started after the PM announced the deal and approval of the Cabinet Committee was obtained almost a year after the announcement.

The petitioners also argued that the prices of aircraft were highly inflated in the new deal, and offset guidelines were manipulated to accommodate Reliance Defence, which had no experience in the sector.

The petition had raised questions on the bypassing of the procedure for discontinuing the earlier process for acquiring 126 (18 in a ready-to-fly condition and 108 to be manufactured by HAL) fighter jets in favour of acquiring 36 aircraft in ready-to-fly condition and unloading HAL as an offset partner.

Centre’s Defence

The Centre had defended the deal on the grounds of ‘urgent requirement’ of national security and opposed public disclosure of the pricing details.

The Attorney General KK Venugopal, while speaking on behalf of the Central government said that the secrecy regarding the deal is with respect to weaponry and avionics. The AG argued that if these are disclosed then the adversaries will be able to know about it.

The Attorney General also argued that the government has disclosed to the court, total price along with weaponry. He said that what the bench should consider is whether the court is competent to judicially review this on the basis of what has been submitted (by the petitioners).

India and France had signed the agreement as part of the upgrading process of Indian Air Force equipment. The Rafale fighter is a twin-engine Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) manufactured by Dassault Aviation.

14 December 2018

Brijendra Pal Singh nominated as President of FTII

Brijendra Pal Singh nominated as President of FTII

The Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on December 13, 2018 nominated ‘CID’ Director-producer Brijendra Pal Singh as the new President of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) and as the Chairman of FTII Governing Council.

The nomination was made by the Ministry under Rule 3 and Rule 22 of the Rules of the FTII. Singh is at present the Vice Chairman of the FTII Governing Council.

Once appointed, Singh’s tenure will be for the remaining period of 3 years block starting from March 4, 2017 as per the provisions of Rule 6(1) of the Rules of FTII, Pune.

The position of Chairman of FTII was left vacant after actor Anupam Kher stepped down in October 2018, citing international film and TV assignments.

Brijendra Pal Singh
  • BP Singh is an FTII alumnus of 1970-73 batch who specialised in film cinematography.
  • He is the Producer- Director of popular TV serial ‘CID’ which recently completed a record 21 years of successful run on SONY TV.
  • In 2004, he made his entry into the Limca Book of Records for taking a single continuous shot of 111 minutes to mark the completion of six years of CID.
  • He was the Chairperson of FTII Academic Council during 2014-2017.
  • It was his vision to launch FTII’s countrywide film education outreach initiative ‘SKIFT’ (Skilling India in Film and Television) in May 2017 which saw nearly 120 short courses conducted in over 24 cities and towns across India, touching nearly 5000 learners so far.

Film and Television Institute of India (FTII)

Established in 1960, FTII is considered as a premier institute for training in Cinema and Television.

It is an autonomous institute under the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and is aided by the Central Government.

It is situated on the premises of the erstwhile Prabhat Film Company in Pune.

FTII is a member of the International Liaison Centre of Schools of Cinema and Television (CILECT), an organisation of the world’s leading schools of film and television

It has been accorded the status of Institute of National Importance by the Union Government.

It boasts of notable alumni such as Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi, Om Puri, Jaya Bachchan, among others.

K Chandrasekhar Rao sworn in as Telangana CM

K Chandrasekhar Rao sworn in as Telangana CM

The President of Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), K Chandrasekhar Rao, who led his party to a massive win in the Telangana Legislative Assembly Elections 2018, was sworn-in as the Chief Minister of the state for a second straight term on December 13, 2018.

All the MLAs-elect unanimously elected Rao as the leader during their meet at the Telangana Bhavan, the TRS headquarters. The oath-taking ceremony took place on the lawns of the Raj Bhavan in Hyderabad at 1.30 pm. Governor ESL Narasimhan administered the oath to the chief minister.

Along with Rao, party MLC Mohammed Mehmood Ali, who was deputy chief minister in the previous TRS government, took oath as a minister. The full-fledged cabinet will, however, be formed in the next few days.

About K Chandrashekar Rao

Kalvakuntla Chandrashekar Rao, better known as KCR is the first Chief Minister of Telangana, a new state that was carved out of Andhra Pradesh in 2014.

Rao is the leader and founder of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, a regional party formed in April 2001, which led the main campaign for the creation of a separate Telangana state.

He has earlier served as the Member of the Legislative Assembly (Andhra Pradesh) from Siddipet and also as the Member of Parliament from Mahbubnagar, Karimnagar and Medak.

He took oath as the first Chief Minister of the new state of Telangana on June 2, 2014.

He went for early elections in 2018, when his cabinet recommended dissolving the legislative lower house, six months before the completion of his term.

Both in 2014 and 2018, he contested and won from the Gajwel constituency of Siddipet District in Telangana.

  K Chandrasekhar Rao to be sworn in as Telangana CM

Telangana State Elections 2018

KCR-led Telangana Rashtra Samithi secured a simple majority in the 119-member state assembly of Telangana by winning 88 seats on December 11, 2018.

While the Congress came second with 19 seats, the TDP managed to win 2 seats, the BJP won one and the others won 9.

With the clear mandate, the KCR-led party is preparing to form the government in the state for the second straight term.

The early elections called by Chief Minister KCR are the second-ever assembly elections of the new state.

The first one had taken place in 2014 concurrently with the Lok Sabha Elections, right after the state’s creation following its separation from Andhra Pradesh.

Zoramthanga to be sworn in as Mizoram CM

Zoramthanga to be sworn in as Mizoram CM

Mizo National Front (MNF) President Zoramthanga would be sworn-in as the new Chief Minister of Mizoram on December 15, 2018 at Raj Bhavan in Aizawl.

The state’s Governor Kummanam Rajasekharan formally invited Zoramthanga on December 12 to form the next government in the state after receiving the signed notification of the result from the Election Commission. Zoramthanga-led MNF had staked claim to form the government on December 11 after his party secured a landslide victory by winning 26 seats in the 40-member Mizoram House.

The Governor also dissolved the seventh state legislative assembly during the day to pave the way for the constitution of the eighth assembly. Outgoing Congress Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla had submitted his resignation an hour before Zoramthanga had staked the claim.

According to officials, it is not clear whether all 12 members of the council of ministers would be sworn-in along with Zoramthanga on December 15.

About Zoramthanga

  Zoramthanga to be sworn in as Mizoram CM MNF Chief Zoramthanga will be sworn-in as the next Chief Minister of Mizoram for the third term. He had earlier served as the state’s chief minister for two consecutive terms from 1998 to 2008.

The 74-year-old rebel-turned-politician was a former underground leader and a close aide of the legendary MNF leader Laldenga.

When the Mizo Freedom Movement started in 1966, Zoramthanga had joined the underground movement and moved to the jungle. He was offered the position of a secretary for Run Bung Area, a responsibility he held for three years.

The MNF President, Laldenga, engaged him as his Secretary, a job that he held for a period of seven years. In 1979, he was given the responsibility of the Vice President.

When the Mizo National Front formed the government in 1987 under the leadership of Laldenga, he was appointed as the Minister of Finance and Education.

He was second in command to Laldenga during the secession movement of Mizo National Front and became the successor as party leader in 1990 when Laldenga passed away.

In 1998 Mizoram state assembly elections, Zoramthanga led MNF to victory and became the 5th Chief Minister of the state. He was re-elected in the 2003 elections.

However, his party lost the 2008 Assembly elections to the Indian National Congress. Zoramthanga had contested from both North & South Champhai and lost in both constituencies. The MNF faced another heavy defeat in the 2013 elections.

Mizoram State Elections 2018

The MNF returned to power with a full majority in Mizoram’s 40-member state legislature after a decade which saw the crumbling of the last Congress bastion in the northeast.

In a crystal clear mandate, the MNF won 26 seats, while the newly-formed unregistered Zoram Peoples Movement secured eight seats, which is three more than the outgoing Congress that won just 5 seats.

The BJP opened its account for the first time in the state by bagging one seat.

MNF’s massive win unseated five-time Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla of the Congress party, who lost both the seats he was contesting from.

The state had gone for polling in a single phase on November 28, 2018. The voter turnout was recorded at around 80 percent, against what was 83.41 percent in 2013.

India, Saudi Arabia sign bilateral annual Haj 2019 agreement

India, Saudi Arabia sign bilateral annual Haj 2019 agreement

India and Saudi Arabia on December 13, 2018 signed the bilateral annual Haj 2019 agreement at Jeddah. The agreement was signed by the Union Minister for Minority Affairs,  Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi  and Haj and Umrah Minister of Saudi Arabia, Dr. Mohammad Saleh bin Taher Benten.

The agreement is a part of strengthened bilateral relations of the two countries. Both India and Saudi Arabia share strong cultural, historical, economic and political relations. Speaking on the same, the Saudi Minister said that Saudi Arabia has always played an active and effective role to ensure safety and better facilities to the Indian Haj pilgrims.

The Minister also thanked the custodian of the two Holy Mosques, King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz for his guidance and active support to make Haj 2018, successful. He said that the Indian Government in coordination and cooperation with Saudi Arabia Government, Indian Consulate and various concerned agencies in Saudi Arabia, is working to ensure safety and better facilities, medical facilities for the pilgrims during Haj 2019.

Key Highlights

A large number of Muslim women are likely to go to Haj 2019 without “Mehram” (male companion). More than 2100 women have already applied.

The Indian Government had lifted the ban on women going to Haj without a male companion for the first time in 2017.

As a result of the ban, around 1300 Indian Muslim women had gone to Haj in 2018 without any male companion. They had been exempted from the lottery system.

To assist these women Haj pilgrims, for the first time, more than 100 women Haj Coordinators and Haj Assistants had been deployed in 2018.

Currently, the Haj Committee of India has received more than 2 lakh 47 thousand applications for Haj 2019, among which 47 per cent are from women.

For the first time after Independence, a record number of Muslims (1,75,025) from India performed Haj 2018 and that too without any subsidy and among them 48 per cent were women.

The Indian Government has requested the Saudi Arabian Government to increase India’s annual Haj quota for Haj 2019.

Other Details

The process of making Haj applications and other services completely online and digital has helped to make the entire Haj process transparent and pro-pilgrims. For Haj 2019, about 1, 36,000 online applications have been received.

The concerned agencies of both India and Saudi Arabia had completed preparations for Haj 2018 about two months before schedule to ensure smooth Haj pilgrimage.

This time, preparations for Haj 2019 started 3 months before schedule to make the process more comfortable for the pilgrims.

Delhi HC bans online sale of medicines across India

Delhi HC bans online sale of medicines across India

The Delhi High Court on December 12, 2018 ordered a ban on the sale of online medicines by e-pharmacists across the country. The court directed both Central and state government to ensure immediate implementation of the order.

The HC bench comprising Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao passed the judgement while hearing a PIL filed by Delhi-based dermatologist Zaheer Ahmed who complained that lakhs of medicines were being sold on the internet every day without much regulation, posing a huge risk to patients and doctors alike.

PIL: Key Points

The PIL contested that lakhs of medicines were being sold on the internet every day in an unbridled manner and without any regulation posing a huge risk to people.

In her plea, Ahmed pointed out that online sale of medicines is not permitted under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and Pharmacy Act, 1948.

The petitioner highlighted that even though the Drug Controller General of India had in 2015 clearly directed all state drug controllers to protect the interest of public health by restraining such sale online, lakhs of medicines continue to be sold online, often even without prescription.

The PIL stated that the government has failed in its responsibility to protect public health which is its constitutional obligation under Article 21.

It stated that unlike common items, drugs are highly potent and its misuse or abuse can have serious consequences on human health, not just for the person consuming it but for humanity at large as some drugs can be addictive, habit-forming and harmful to the body.

The PIL added that a large number of children or minor or people from the uneducated rural background use the internet and can be victims of wrong medication while ordering medicines online.

It further added that online pharmacies are operating without a drug licence and warned that “unregulated sale of medicines online will increase the risk of spurious, misbranded and substandard drugs being sold”.

It also added that some drugs have psychotropic substances and can be easily ordered on the internet and misused for criminal activities or drug abuse.

Background

The Union Health Ministry had come out with draft rules on sale of drugs by e-pharmacies in September 2018 to regulate online sale of medicines and provide patients accessibility to genuine drugs from authentic online portals.

As per the new rules, registration was made mandatory. The draft rules stated that no person will distribute or sell, stock, exhibit or offer for sale of drugs through the e-pharmacy portal unless it is registered.

Employers must be considerate, sympathetic towards pregnant employees: Delhi HC

Employers must be considerate, sympathetic towards pregnant employees: Delhi HC

The Delhi High Court on December 12, 2018 directed that women should be honoured and treated with dignity at workplace and observed that employers must be considerate and sympathetic towards a pregnant employee.

The high court stated that the employer must realise the physical difficulties that a woman would face in performing her duties at the workplace while carrying a baby in her womb or looking after the child after birth.

The court’s observations came while directing the Delhi government to include a woman in the panel for guest teachers and utilise her services as and when required by any school here, subject to her medical fitness.

The Judgement: Key Highlights

The court stated that women who constitute almost half of the segment of the society have to be given due weightage and honoured and treated with dignity at places where they work to earn their livelihood. The bench said that to become a mother is the most natural phenomena in the life of a woman.

It said that the employer has to be considerate and sympathetic and must realise the physical difficulties faced by a working woman in performing her duties at the workplace while carrying a baby in the womb or while looking after the child after birth.

The court directed the office of Deputy Directorate of Education of the Delhi government to issue necessary order to this effect within two weeks.

Background

  • The high court had passed the judgement while hearing a petition by a woman that seeked to quash the Delhi government’s order which had stated that her candidature may be considered for the post of Guest Teacher PGT (Hindi) in future, subject to availability of the vacancy and production of medical fitness certificate from the competent authority.
  • The woman had said that the department had advertised a notice on May 26, 2017 for ‘Drawing a Panel for Guest Teachers for Empanelment in Delhi Government Schools for the Academic Year 2017-18’.
  • The department had then issued another notice in September 2017 calling all the selected guest teachers for verification of their documents and later the woman had got selected and got her credentials verified.
  • On January 28, 2018, the woman gave birth to a child through caesarean and two days later, the authorities asked the selected candidates to appear at their office between February 1-3 for further verification of documents.
  • The woman stated in her plea that despite the fact that she had a caesarean delivery only few days prior, she went to the office on February 3 for final verification of her documents but the officials “behaved differently and even harassed her by not marking her attendance”. She said that despite communications, she was not issued the joining letter.
  • In response to the plea, the department told the court that the public notice was issued only for making a panel of guest teachers and once the panel was finalised, further engagement as a guest teacher was to be taken on the basis of requirement expressed by any school.
  • “Therefore, any person who was engaged pursuant to the said public notice was enrolled in the panel of guest teachers. Such person, who is enrolled as guest teacher in the panel, has not any vested or legal right to be further engaged as a guest teacher. Thus, there is no merit in the petition and deserves to be dismissed,” it had said.
  • The court said that the department did not entertain the woman’s case thinking that she recently delivered a child through caesarean process, therefore would not be able to work if any requirement comes from the school.
  • The court allowed the woman’s plea to squash the government’s order.

CAG Rajiv Mehrishi appointed as Vice-Chair of UN Panel of External Auditors

CAG Rajiv Mehrishi appointed as Vice-Chair of UN Panel of External Auditors

Rajiv Mehrishi, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, was elected as the Vice-Chair of United Nations Panel of External Auditors on December 12, 2018.

His appointment was made during the annual meeting of the panel in New York from December 3 to 4, 2018. The panel discussed various issues concerning audit of United Nations and the agencies under the United Nations System.

About Rajiv Mehrishi
After his retirement as Union Home Secretary on August 30, 2017, Mehrishi was appointed as the Comptroller and Auditor General of India on August 31, 2017.

Before his appointment as Home Secretary in 2015, he served as the Finance Secretary.

He also held the post of Chief Secretary of Rajasthan in December 2013.

Mehrishi has also worked as the Secretary in departments of chemicals and fertilisers, and Overseas Indian Affairs.

Mehrishi is a 1978-batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of Rajasthan cadre.

He has a degree in business administration from Strathclyde Business School, Glasgow.

He also did BA (History) and MA (History) from the St Stephen’s College in Delhi.

United Nations Panel of External Auditors

The United Nations Panel of External Auditors is a unique forum for the exchange of information and methodologies to further develop and improve the value and quality of the external assurance process.

The panel was formed through a resolution by the United Nations General Assembly in 1959.

It comprises individual external auditors who are the heads of supreme audit institutions of various countries.

Much of the panel’s work is undertaken by the Technical Group, which is mandated to research and review specific topics of interest to the panel.

Presently, the panel consists of 11 countries – India, Germany, Chile, Canada, France, Italy, Philippines, Ghana, Indonesia, Switzerland and United Kingdom.

Currently, the panel is chaired by the Comptroller and Auditor General of the UK, Sir Amyas C. E. Morse.

13 December 2018

Shaktikanta Das assumes charge as 25th Governor of Reserve Bank of India

Shaktikanta Das appointed as 25th Governor of Reserve Bank of India

Shaktikanta Das, Member of the 15th Finance Commission, on December 13, 2018 assumed charge as the 25th Governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, made his appointment on December 12, 2018, within 24 hours of Urjit Patel’s sudden resignation as RBI Governor. Das will have a three-year term.

He currently represents India at the G-20 as a Sherpa, representatives of leaders of G20 member countries who coordinate on the agenda of the summit.

Das’ role in Government’s demonetisation move
Shaktikanta Das gained spotlight in late 2016 following the disruptive ‘Demonetisation’ move of the Narendra Modi Government. Das was Secretary in the Department of Economic Affairs when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the currency ban.

Post demonetisation, Das became a familiar face during government press conferences where he defended Centre’s move that banning Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes would clean-up the black economy, reduce counterfeit money and spur digital payments.

Das to address upcoming challenges

Das joins the RBI at a time when Indian Economy is facing major challenge of constant depreciation of domestic currency ‘Rupee’. The rupee ended 53 paise lower, at Rs 71.87 against the US dollar on December 11, 2018.

Another challenge for Das is to gather the support of RBI executives such as Deputy Governor Viral Acharya, who earlier showed his dismay against Government’s interference in the central bank.

Note
With his appointment, Das joins the list of RBI Governors who were bureaucrats, the latest being Raghuram Rajan.

Earlier such Governors were D Subbarao, Y V Reddy, Bimal Jalan, S Venkitaramanan, R N Malhotra, Manmohan Singh, I G Patel, K R Puri and LK Jha.

Shaktikanta Das

He is a 1980 batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer from the Tamil Nadu cadre.

He served in the north block as Joint Secretary (Finance Expenditure) in 2008.

He was appointed as Fertilizer Secretary in December 2013. Prior to that, he was Special Secretary at Department of Economic Affairs in the Ministry of Finance.

Das was appointed as Member of the 15th Finance Commission as well as India’s Sherpa for the G20 after retirement.

Das holds degrees of graduation and post-graduation in History from the Delhi University. He later pursued a financial management course from IIM Bangalore.

Urjit Patel’s sudden exit

Urjit Patel on December 10, 2018 resigned as the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) with immediate effect, citing personal reasons.

Patel was appointed as the 24th Governor of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on August 20, 2016 and took charge on September 4, 2016 for tenure of three years. He succeeded Raghuram Rajan.

Assam NRC: Supreme Court extends NRC claims submission deadline to December 31

Supreme Court extends Assam NRC claims submission deadline to December 31

The Supreme Court on December 12, 2018 extended the deadline for the submission of claims and objections by individuals excluded from the first draft of the Assam National Register of Citizens (NRC)  to December 31, 2018. Earlier, the last date for submission was December 15.

Consequently, the process of commencement of verification has been shifted to February 15, 2019 from February 1.

The Assam government released the final draft of NRC on July 30, 2018. The list incorporates names of 2.89 crore people out of 3.29 crore applicants. The names of 40.07 lakh people have been left out.

Copies of draft NRC to be made available for inspection

A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Rohinton Nariman directed that the copies of the draft NRC shall be made available for inspection to District Magistrate, Deputy Commissioner, Sub-Divisional Offices (Civil), Circle Offices and Gram Panchayats to facilitate filing of objections against wrongful inclusions.

The NRC Authority was ordered to accept List B documents that are found to be legally valid, regardless of the date of issuance of the same.

November 2018 ruling
The Supreme Court on November 1, 2018 fixed December 15 as the deadline for filing of claims and objections by individuals excluded from the NRC Draft.

The bench allowed claimants for Assam NRC to rely on five documents, which were earlier objected to by NRC coordinator, to prove their citizenship. All these documents will be subjected to a thorough process of verification and would be accepted only after complete satisfaction of the genuineness.

These five documents are:

1) Names in NRC, 1951

2) Names in Electoral Roll up to March 24, 1971

3) Citizenship Certificate and Refugee Registration Certificate

4) Certified copies of pre-1971 Electoral Roll, particularly, those issued by Tripura

5) Ration Card

National Register of Citizens of Assam

The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a list that contains names of Indian citizens of Assam.

Assam, which had faced influx of people from Bangladesh since the early 20th century, is the only state having an NRC, which was first prepared in 1951.

The recently updated draft of the NRC includes the names of Indian citizens who have been residing in Assam before March 25, 1971.

First Draft of NRC

The first draft of the NRC for Assam was published on December 31, 2017 and it incorporated the names of 1.9 crore people out of the total 3.29 crore applicants.

The top court had earlier said that the claims of those citizens, whose names do not figure in the draft NRC for Assam published on December 31, 2017 would be scrutinised and included in the subsequent list, if found genuine.

Final Draft of NRC

The Assam government on July 30, 2018 released the second and final draft of the state’s National Register of Citizens (NRC).

As per the Draft, the total number of persons included in the list is 2,89,83,677 leaving a total of 40,70,707 as ineligible for inclusion. Out of 40,70,707 names, 37,59,630  names have been rejected and 2,48,077 names are kept on hold.

12 December 2018

Mizoram Assembly Elections 2018: MNF wins clear majority

Mizoram Assembly Elections 2018: MNF wins clear majority

The Mizo National Front, a former ally of the BJP has won majority in the Mizoram State Assembly Elections 2018. In a crystal clear mandate, the party won 26 seats in the 40-member assembly, followed by Congress in the second position with 5 seats.

While the BJP has won one seat, others have managed to win a total of 8 seats. The win will unseat five-time Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla of the Congress party, who lost both the seats he was contesting from.

Key Highlights

The state’s Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla, who contested from Champhai South and Serchhip, lost both the seats.

He lost Champhai South by 800 votes to MNF’s TJ Lalnuntluanga. In Serchhip constituency, Zoram People’s Movement’s (ZPM) chief ministerial candidate Lalduhoma won 5,481 votes, while Thanhawla got 5,071.

The BJP opened its account in the state with its candidate BD Chakma winning the Tuichawang seat.

Mizoram had gone for polling in a single phase on November 28, 2018. The voter turnout in Mizoram was recorded at around 80 percent, against what was 83.41 percent in 2013.

Party Name Number of Seats Won Percentage of Votes Received
MNF 26 65 per cent
INC 5 5 per cent
BJP 1 2.5 per cent
Others 8 20 per cent

Other Details

The Indian National Congress had been in power in the state since 2008. The tenure of the current Assembly will end on December 15, 2018.

Mizoram was the last North Eastern state to have a Congress government.

The MNF led by Zoramthanga, a former ally of the BJP in the state, had decided to contest independently in these elections.

Besides these two parties, Mizoram People’s Conference (MPC) and Zoram Peoples’ Movement (ZPM) are two of the other key parties in the state.

Mizoram State Assembly Elections 2013

The Mizoram Legislative Assembly election of 2013 was held on November 25, 2013 to elect the Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) from all of the state’s 40 constituencies.

The results were declared on December 9, in which the Indian National Congress led by Pu Lalthanhawla had won a majority with 34 seats, followed by Mizo National Front led Mizoram Democratic Alliance that won 5 seats.

Madhya Pradesh Elections 2018: Congress wins 114 seats, falls short of majority

Madhya Pradesh Assembly Elections: Neck to neck battle between Congress and BJP

The neck-to neck battle between the Congress and the BJP in the Madhya Pradesh legislative assembly elections, which continued late into the night, ended with the Congress emerging as the single largest party.

In the final vote tally released by the Election Commission, the Indian National Congress won 114 seats, BJP won 109, BSP won 2, SP won one and independents won a total of 4 seats in the state’s 230-member house. The number of seats required to form the government is 116.

With the Congress falling short of majority by two seats, it would be up to the SP, BSP and the independents to decide which party will form the government in a state that was ruled by the  BJP for the last 15 years.

Key Highlights

The counting has finally come to an end in Madhya Pradesh after it began 24 hours ago and the Congress has emerged as the single-largest party with 114 seats, just two short of the majority mark in the 230-seat Assembly.

Though the Bharatiya Janata Party was restricted at 109, the party has staked claim to form government in the state.

The likely Kingmakers in the hung verdict are SP and BSP, as well as the four independent candidates who have managed to win seats.

The Congress party, which had sought an appointed with the state’s Governor Anandiben Patel last night, is waiting for her response.

The party is likely to get support from the Samajwadi Party, which has one seat, but the Congress would still need support of one more MLA.

For the BJP, it is a huge setback, as it is close to losing its bastion of 15 years to the Congress party.

However, if vote share is considered, the BJP was ahead of the Congress with a razor-thin margin. The saffron party secured 0.1 percent more votes than Congress.

  Madhya Pradesh Elections 2018: Congress wins 114 seats, falls short of majority

Madhya Pradesh Elections

Party

Seats Won in 2013

Seats Won in 2018

Voter Percentage

INC

58

114

40.9 per cent

BJP

165

109

41 per cent

BSP

4

2

5 per cent

SP

1

1.3 per cent

Independents

3

4

2.2 per cent

Background

The assembly elections were held in Madhya Pradesh on November 28 and it saw 75 per cent voter turnout.

At least 2,716 candidates are contesting for the 200 seats. The number of seats required to form the government is 116.

The Congress and BJP poll campaign was led by party president Rahul Gandhi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, respectively.

The Congress had appointed veteran Kamal Nath as the Madhya Pradesh party chief in April and named Jyotiraditya Scindia as the campaign leader.

In the 2013 polls, BJP had bagged 165 seats while Congress and BSP got 58 and 4 seats respectively. Three seats went to the independents.

The BJP has been in power in Madhya Pradesh for the last 15 years. The incumbent Chief Minister, BJP’s Shivraj Singh Chouhan has been serving at the position since the year 2005.

2013 Madhya Pradesh Election

The state’s previous legislative assembly election was held on November 25, 2013

A total of 2,586 candidates had filled their nomination for 230 seats spread across 51 districts.

The results were announced on December 8, 2013, in which the BJP emerged as the winner with 165 seats followed by Congress and BSP with 58 and 4 seats respectively.

Besides, three Independent MLAs also won in their respective constituencies.

Telangana Assembly Elections 2018: TRS wins sweeping majority for second straight term

Telangana Assembly Elections 2018: TRS wins sweeping majority for second straight term

The ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) has secured a simple majority in the 119-member state assembly of Telangana by winning 87 seats on December 11, 2018.

While the Congress came second with 19 seats, the TDP managed to win 2 seats, the BJP won one and the others won 9. With the clear mandate, the KCR-led party is preparing to form the government in the state for the second straight term.

The early elections called by Chief Minister KCR are the second-ever assembly elections of the new state. The first one had taken place in 2014, right after the state’s creation following its separation from Andhra Pradesh.

Key Highlights

 TRS wins sweeping majority for second straight term in Telangana

The polling was held in a single phase in the state on December 7, 2018. The voter turnout was recorded as 73.20 per cent.

The counting of votes was underway for 119 constituencies, in which 1821 candidates contested.

Besides the KCR-led TRS, the other main players in the elections included the Congress-led alliance called ‘Prajakutami’ or the “people’s alliance”-  which also consists of the Telugu Desam Party, Communist Party of India (CPI) and Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS) – and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The TRS president K Chandrasekhar Rao, won his Gajwel seat by more than 51,000 votes over his nearest Congress rival V Pratap Reddy.

KCR’s son and minister K T Rama Rao emerged triumphant from Sircilla segment, defeating nearest Congress rival K K Mahender Reddy by a margin of 88,000 votes.

KCR’s nephew and cabinet colleague T Harish Rao also won with a huge margin of 1,18,499 votes in Siddpet constituency, defeating the nearest Telangana Jana Samiti (TJS) rival Bhavani Reddy, who secured 12,596 votes.

Other prominent candidates among those who won include ministers E Rajender and T Srinivas Yadav and AIMIM’s Akbaruddin Owaisi, brother of party chief Asaduddin Owaisi, who won from Chandrayangutta constituency.

Telangana Assembly Elections

Party

Seats Won in 2014

Seats Won in 2018

Voter Percentage

TRS

63

88

73.1 per cent

INC

21

19

16 per cent

TDP

15

2

1.7 per cent

BJP

5

1

0.8 per cent

Others

15

9

7.6 per cent

Early Elections

The Telangana Chief Minister and Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) leader K Chandrasekhar Rao dissolved the Telangana assembly in September 2018, almost nine months before its term was supposed to end.

Governor ESL Narasimhan accepted the resolution after a visit by Rao, who chaired the 15-minute cabinet meeting that took the decision.

The polling in Telangana was due in April-May 2019, along with the Lok Sabha General Elections.

The final call of clubbing Telangana elections with the elections of the four states- Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Meghalaya was taken by the Election Commission.

The TRS had won 90 of the 119 seats in the state assembly. The state sends 17 members to the Lok Sabha.

Currently, the incumbent Telangana Rashtra Samithi’s K. Chandrasekhar Rao is the leader of the house and chief minister of the state.

Other leading political parties contesting the Telangana Assembly polls are – the Indian National Congress, Telangana Jana Samithi, Bharatiya Janata Party and Telugu Desam Party.

2014 Telangana Assembly Elections

The first assembly elections of the newly formed state Telangana was held concurrently with the Lok Sabha Elections of 2014.

The elections saw 72 per cent voter turnout with more than 2.81 crore voters exercising their voting rights.

The results were declared in May 2014, in which KCR’s TRS won 63 seats, followed by the Congress at the second position with 21 seats.

Among others, TDP won 15 seats, AIMIM won 7 seats and BJP won 5 seats.

Rajasthan Election Results 2018: Congress wins 99 seats; emerges single largest party in Rajasthan

Rajasthan Elections Results 2018

The Indian National Congress (INC) emerged as the single largest party in Rajasthan, winning 99 seats in the 2018 Rajasthan Assembly Elections.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) trailed behind with 73 seats and others fetched 27 seats. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) showcased an impressive run by winning six seats, and Hanuman Beniwal-led Rashtriya Loktantrik Party won three seats.

The Gujarat-based Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) and Communist Party of India (Marxist) won two seats each, Independents won 13 seats and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) won one seat.

Vasundhara Raje resigned
Following the declaration of results, Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje of the BJP tendered her resignation to the Governor Kalyan Singh, though she won from her constituency Jhalrapatan and defeated her Congress rival Manvendra Singh.

Due to the death of one candidate, elections were called off in one seat, making it an election for 199 seats in the state, putting the majority at 100 seats.

Key Highlights

Former chief minister Ashok Gehlot won from Sardarpura constituency, defeating BJP’s Shambhu Singh Khetasar by over 40,000 votes.

Congress President Sachin Pilot won from Tonk, beating his BJP rival Yoonus Khan by 54,179 votes. Khan was the only Muslim candidate fielded by the BJP in the Rajasthan Assembly polls.

Another prominent Congress leader who won is CP Joshi, who defeated BJP’s Mahesh Pratap Singh in Nathdwara.

Gulab Chand Kataria, Rajasthan Home Minister, won the assembly elections for eighth term, defeating Congress’s Girija Vyas by 9,307 votes in Udaipur assembly seat.

Rajasthan assembly speaker Kailash Meghwal registered his sixth win in state assembly polls. He defeated Mahaveer Prasad of the Congress by 74,542 votes in Shahpura.

BJP’s Social Justice Minister Arun Chaturvedi lost to Pratap Singh Khachariya in Civil Lines.

Water Resources Minister Rampratap lost to Vinod Kumar in Hanumangarh and Industry Minister Rajpal Singh lost to Lalchand Kataria in Jhotwara.

Pramod Bhaya of the Congress defeated Agriculture Minister Prabhu Lal Saini by a huge margin in Anta.

Anjana Udailal of Congress emerged victorious over Urban Development and Housing Minister Srichand Kriplani in Nimbahera.

Cooperative Minister Ajay Singh lost by a big margin to Vijaypal Mirdha of the Congress in Degana.

Mines Minister Surendra Pal Singh lost to Gurmeet Singh Kooner in Karanpur.

BJP candidate Otaram Devasi lost to Independent candidate Sanyam Lodha in Sirohi.

Higher Education Minister Kiran Maheshwari defeated Narayan Singh Bhati of the Congress by a big margin in Rajsamand.

Race for Chief Minister’s post
Now the bigger worry for the Congress party is that the two of its candidates, Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot are battling against each other for the Chief Minister’s post.

Both Gehlot and Pilot won in their respective constituencies comfortably. While Gehlot won the Sardarpura seat for the fifth time, Pilot won by a huge margin from Tonk.

Sachin Pilot
  • In 2013, when the Congress faced its worst defeat in the state, winning just 21 seats against the BJP’s 163, Party President Rahul Gandhi handed the reins of the state to Sachin Pilot, a two-time parliamentarian and son of former leader Rajesh Pilot who died in 2000 in a road accident.
  • Pilot had made a vow in 2014, when the party lost in the Lok Sabha elections, to not wear a turban till the Congress returns to power.
  • Pilot served as Minister in the UPA government in different capacities. He was elected as an MP from his father’s constituency Dausa in 2004 and became the youngest member of the parliament. He was elected again from Ajmer in 2009.
  • Pilot was also the Minister of State for Communication and IT in 2009 and Minister of State (Independent charge) for Corporate Affairs in 2012.
  • Pilot was selected as one of the Young Global Leaders by the World Economic Forum in 2008.
  • He received his Private Pilot’s Licence (PPL) from the US in 1995 and is also a keen sportsman and represented Delhi in a number of National Shooting Championships.
  • He did his graduation from Delhi’s St Stephen’s College and MBA from Wharton Business School, University of Pennsylvania.
Ashok Gehlot
  • In his early years, Gehlot headed the Rajasthan unit of the National Students Union of India (NSUI) and was a staunch loyalist of the Gandhi family.
  • After his first proper job as NSUI’s Rajasthan president from 1974 to 1979, he went on to become the Jodhpur district Congress Committee President from 1979 to 1982.
  • Gehlot was first-elected to Parliament in 1980 and went on to win Lok Sabha elections four more times.
  • Since 1999, he has represented the Sardarpura assembly constituency, winning five consecutive terms in the House.
  • Gehlot has served various ministries such as Union Ministry of Tourism; Civil Aviation; Sports; and Textiles in different stints between 1982 and 1993.
  • He was also the AICC General Secretary in charge of Delhi and the Sewa Dal cell from 2004-2009.
Single phase elections of 2018
Rajasthan had gone for polling in a single phase election on December 7, 2018 for 199 out of total 200 seats. The election in Alwar’s Ramgarh seat was postponed due to the death of BSP candidate Laxman Singh and the polling will take place later.

The single phase election happened in Rajasthan after weeks of intense campaigning by state-level leaders including Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, Congress’ Sachin Pilot and Ashok Gehlot, and national level leaders including PM Narendra Modi, BJP National President Amit Shah and Congress President Rahul Gandhi.

Note: A political party needs to win at least 100 seats to secure a simple majority in the State Legislative Assembly.

2013 Rajasthan Legislative Assembly elections
The term of current Rajasthan Assembly ends on January 20, 2019. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has been in power in the state since 2013 with Vasundhara Raje holding the post of Chief Minister of Rajasthan since 2013; previously she served in the same post from 2003 to 2008.

In 2013, Vasundhara Raje won the 14th Rajasthan Legislative Assembly elections from Jhalrapatan constituency, winning 163 out of the 200 seats. Congress had finished a distant second with just 21 seats. National People’s Party (NPP) had won four seats and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) had won three.

Rajasthan Legislative Assembly

The Rajasthan Legislative Assembly consists of 200 members. The members of the Legislative assembly are directly elected by the people for a term of 5 years.

The First Rajasthan Legislative Assembly was formed in March 1952. It had strength of 160 members.

The Second (1957–62) and Third (1962–67) Legislative Assemblies had a strength of 176 members.

The Fourth (1967–72) and Fifth (1972–77) Legislative Assembly comprised 184 members each.

The strength became 200 from the Sixth (1977–80) Legislative Assembly onwards.

The 14th and the current Legislative Assembly was formed on January 21, 2013 with 200 members.

Chhattisgarh Election Results 2018: Congress claims majority by winning 68 seats; puts an end to Raman Singh era

Chhattisgarh Election Results 2018

The Indian National Congress claimed majority in Chhattisgarh by winning 68 seats in the 90-member Chhattisgarh Assembly Elections 2018.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) trailed behind with 15 seats, followed by Janta Congress Chhattisgarh (J) with 5 seats and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) with 2 seats. Counting of votes for the 90-member Assembly began on December 11, 2018.

Chief Minister Raman Singh resigned
Post the result declaration, Chief Minister Raman Singh of BJP resigned from his post after serving the state for 15 years.

He took the responsibility for BJP’s poor performance in Chhattisgarh and refused to pass the blame on the BJP’s national leadership over the setback after 15 years of the party’s rule in the state.

Congress yet to decide on chief ministerial candidate

The Congress will hold its legislature party meeting on December 12, 2018 to decide on the Chief Minister candidate for Chhattisgarh.

Congress’ Lok Sabha member Tamradhwaj Sahu, State Party Chief Bhupesh Baghel and Senior Leader T S Singhdeo are front-runners for the top post.

End of Raman Singh era
The Congress was in power in Chhattisgarh when the state was carved out of Madhya Pradesh in 2000 till 2003.

Its comeback this year signals the end of the era of Bharatiya Janata Party’s Raman Singh, the longest-serving Chief Minister of any state.

Polling amidst Naxal Violence
The polling for the Chhattisgarh Legislative Assembly took place in two phases, one on November 12 and the second on November 20, 2018. The first phase saw a voter turnout of 76.35 percent and the second phase saw the turnout of 76.34 percent voters, amidst the naxal violence.

Naxals tried to disrupt polling by triggering an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blast at Katekalyan in Dantewada before voting began.

An encounter also broke out in Bijapur district between the Left-Wing Extremists and the CoBRA battalion of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), in which 10 Naxals were killed and five CRPF personnel were injured.

Battle between three political parties

This year, Chhattisgarh fought a battle between three political parties – Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress and the Ajit Jogi-Mayawati-led alliance.

The Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), former chief minister Ajit Jogi’s Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (J) and Communist Party of India (CPI) formed coalition and added another dimension to the electoral politics.

Chhattisgarh Legislative Assembly
The Chhattisgarh Legislative Assembly comprises 91 Members, which include 90 members directly elected from single-seat constituencies and 1 nominated from the Anglo-Indian community.

The term of the Chhattisgarh Legislative Assembly is of 5 years, unless dissolved.

Chhattisgarh Elections Results 2013

State (seats) BJP (seats) INC (seats) BSP (seats) Others (seats)
Chhattisgarh (90) 49 39 1 1
Previous State Assemblies
Assembly Duration Winning Party Chief Minister
1st 2000–2003 Indian National Congress Ajit Jogi
2nd 2003–2008 Bharatiya Janata Party Raman Singh
3rd 2008–2013 Bharatiya Janata Party Raman Singh
4th 2013–Present Bharatiya Janata Party Raman Singh

Ukrainian to end two-decade-old friendship treaty with Russia

Ukrainian to end two-decade-old friendship treaty with Russia

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on December 10, 2018 signed a bill ending the two-decade-old treaty on friendship, cooperation and partnership between Ukraine and Russia.

The treaty will be terminated on April 1, 2019 amid rising tensions between the two countries.

Key Highlights

The Ukrainian leader said that the non-extension of the deal is a part of the Ukrainian strategy of reorientation towards Europe.

The legislation was approved by the Ukrainian parliament on December 6, 2018 with the support of 277 votes, which is far more than the required majority of 226.

The Ukrainian President had signed a decree in September to enforce a decision of the National Security and Defence Council to terminate the friendship treaty with Russia.

The friendship treaty between Ukraine and Russia was signed in 1997 and brought into effect on April 1, 1999.

Under the agreement, both the nations had pledged to respect each other’s borders and peacefully settle disputes.

The agreement includes a clause, which states that it would automatically get extended for another ten years each time if neither of the parties decides to take the required actions to end it.

Background

Annexation of Crimea

The relations between Russia and Ukraine have taken a downward spiral since early 2014 when Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine.

Russia formally incorporated Crimea as two federal subjects of the Russian Federation with effect from March 2014.

The annexation was condemned by Ukraine, the United Nations as well as other leading nations, who considered it to be a violation of the International law and the Russian-signed agreements safeguarding the territorial integrity of Ukraine including the treaty of friendship, Belavezha Accords and Helsinki Accords.

It led to the other members of the then G8 suspending Russia from the group and then introducing the first round of sanctions against the country.

Seizing of Ukrainian Ships

The relations between the two nations further worsened this year on November 25, when three Ukrainian ships attempting to sail through the Kerch Strait from the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov were seized by the Russian forces for allegedly violating the Russian border.

The Ukrainian Navy said that it had informed Russia in advance of the passage, while Russia said it had received no such report and that the ships ignored multiple warnings by the Russian border guards.

In wake of the tension, Ukraine imposed martial law in 10 regions mainly bordering Russia for 30 days starting from November 26.

The Ukrainian President Poroshenko clarified that the imposition of the martial law does not mean a declaration of war, but a step toward strengthening Ukraine’s defence.

11 December 2018

India successfully test-fires Agni-5 ballistic missile

India successfully test-fires Agni-5 ballistic missile

India on December 10, 2018 successfully test-fired nuclear-capable ballistic missile ‘Agni-5’ from Dr Abdul Kalam Island, off the Odisha coast.

The missile was launched with the help of a mobile launcher from launch pad-4 of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Dr Abdul Kalam Island in the Bay of Bengal. It was a user associated trial and was conducted by the Strategic Force Command with DRDO scientists.

This was the seventh trial of the indigenously-developed surface-to-surface missile.

Previous trials of Agni 5
The first test launch of the missile was conducted on April 19, 2012. The missile was able to hit the target nearly at pin-point accuracy, within a few metres of the designated target point.

India conducted the second test flight of Agni-V from the Wheeler Island on September 15, 2013. The missile hit the pre-designed target in the Indian Ocean with an accuracy of a few metres.

The third successful test flight of the Agni-V was conducted on January 31, 2015. The test used a canisterised version of the missile, mounted over a Tatra truck.

The fourth test of the missile was successfully conducted on December 26, 2018. This was the second canisterised test of the missile.

The fifth test of the missile was successfully conducted on January 18, 2018. This was the third consecutive test of the missile on a road-mobile launcher and the first in its final operational configuration.

The sixth trial was conducted in June 2018 during which the missile was fired from a mobile launcher. Several new technologies were successfully tested during the sixth trial.

About Agni 5

Agni 5 is an intercontinental ballistic missile developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) of India.

The missile is a part of the Agni series of missiles, one of the missile systems under the original Integrated Guided Missile Development Program.

Agni-V is a three stage missile, 17 metres tall, two metres wide and capable of carrying 1.5 tonne of nuclear warheads.

Unlike other Agni missiles, Agni-5 is the most-advanced in terms of navigation and guidance, warhead and engine.

The missile has been designed to hit the designated target point accurately, guided by the on-board computer with the support of a Ring Laser Gyro-based Inertial Navigation System, the Micro Inertial Navigation System, fully-digital control system and advanced compact avionics.

Note
India has an armory the Agni series missiles:

  • Agni-1 with 700 km range
  • Agni-2 with a 2,000-km range
  • Agni-3 and Agni-4 with 2,500 km to more than 3,500-km range
  • Agni-5 with a strike range of 5,000 km

Urjit Patel resigns as RBI Governor: How Indian Economy fared under Urjit Patel?

Urjit Patel resigns as Governor of Reserve Bank of India

Urjit Patel on December 10, 2018 resigned as the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) with immediate effect, citing personal reasons.

Here is his statement:

Patel: First RBI governor to resign before completion of term
With his resignation, Patel became the first RBI governor since 1990 to resign before the completion of the term. Patel’s three-year term was to end in September 2019.
How the Indian Economy fared under Urjit Patel?
Urjit Patel completed two years as the Governor of the RBI in September 2018. During these two years, Patel dealt with the aftermath of demonetisation, oversaw a turn in the monetary policy cycle and undertook various major initiatives to boost the Indian economy. Have a look at some of them:

Demonetisation
  • During the first year of his tenure, Patel had to face the biggest disruptive move of the Narendra Modi Government, that is, ‘Demonetisation’.
  • Prime Minister Modi on November 8, 2016 demonetised Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes to counter black money, fake currency and curb terrorism funding. It was the time when Patel had just assumed the office.
  • After the note ban, the RBI had to deal with immense cash shortage in the system, thus, facing criticism of the public.
Turns in Monetary Policy stance
  • During his first year, Patel had cut the Repo Rate twice by a cumulative 50 bps, first from 6.50 percent to 6.25 percent in October 2016 and then in August 2017 from 6.25 percent to 6 percent, the lowest in about seven years.
  • However, during his second-year, the Repo Rate was hiked twice by cumulative 50 bps, bringing back the Repo Rate to 6.50 percent. On June 6, 2018, the RBI raised the repo rate by 25 bps from 6 percent to 6.25 percent and on August 1, 2018, the policy rate was hiked by 25 bps to 6.50 percent.
Battle against NPAs through bankruptcy code
  • In June 2018, the total gross Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) of the banking industry surged by Rs 2.98 lakh crore to Rs 10.03 lakh crore from Rs 7.06 lakh crore in September 2016. Nearly 90 percent of the NPAs are contributed by the public sector banks.
  • After the bankruptcy code came into existence, the RBI began pushing banks to initiate recovery procedures against a bunch of loan defaulters. This battle against the defaulters is still on.
Decline in Rupee
  • When Patel assumed office in September 2016, the rupee was around the 67-mark against the US dollar and began to strengthen, touching a high of 63.38 on January 5, 2018.
  • However, the rupee began to fall from March 2018 onwards in the wake of rise in crude prices, crossing 71-mark on August 31, 2018. Latest on December 10, 2018 morning, Indian rupee was traded at Rs 71.41 against a US dollar.

About Urjit Patel

• Urjit R Patel was appointed as the 24th Governor of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on August 20, 2016 and took charge on September 4, 2016 for tenure of three years. He succeeded Raghuram Rajan.

• He was previously serving as the Deputy Governor of RBI. He mainly looked after monetary policy, economic policy research, statistics and information management, deposit insurance, communication and Right to Information.

He started working initially with the RBI as an advisor, following which he was appointed as a consultant in the Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance.

He headed a panel that recommended landmark changes to monetary policy in India, which included a switch to inflation-targeting and the creation of a panel to set interest rates.

He has previously been a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution since 2009.

He served at IMF India desk during the 1991–94 transition period. He was posted to IMF country mission in India between 1992 and 95.

Patel, who completed his Bachelor’s in Economics from the London School of Economics, received his doctorate in Economics from Yale University in 1990.

Human Rights Day 2018 observed across the world

Human Rights Day 2018 observed across the world

10 December: Human Rights Day

The Human Rights Day 2016 was observed across the world on December 10, 2018 to commemorate the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The day aims at promoting and raising awareness of the two Covenants of Human Rights Day. They are: International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Theme 2018
The Theme of the 2018 Human Rights Day was ‘Let’s stand up for equality, justice and human dignity’.

70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

This year, Human Rights Day marked the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document that proclaimed the rights which everyone is essentially entitled to as a human being regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, national or social origin, property, or birth.

The Declaration was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on December 10, 1948 as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.

It was drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world.

The Universal Declaration is the most translated document in the world, available in more than 500 languages.

When and why was the Day proclaimed?
  • The Human Rights Day commemorates the day on which the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.
  • In 1950, the Assembly passed resolution 423 (V), inviting all States and interested organisations to observe 10 December of each year as Human Rights Day.
  • UNGA in December 1993 created the mandate of High Commissioner for the promotion and protection of all human rights.
  • The first Human Rights Day was celebrated in 1950.

Tamil Nadu launches toll-free helpline ‘181’ for domestic violence victims

Tamil Nadu launches toll-free helpline ‘181’ for domestic violence victims

The Tamil Nadu government on December 9, 2018 launched a 24-hour toll-free helpline ‘181’ for women facing domestic violence and sexual harassment. The initiative was launched by the state’s Chief Minister K Palaniswami.

Key Highlights

The move will enable women facing domestic violence and sexual harassment at home or workplaces to contact the toll-free helpline to get emergency assistance such as police help, legal aid or medical services including an ambulance.

The helpline initiative has been developed at a cost of Rs 62.70 lakh.

The service will be available for 24 hours on all days of the week.

Besides providing government aid to victims of domestic violence, the helpline would assist women in getting information on welfare schemes aimed at their benefit.

Other Details

On the occasion, the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister also gave away gold and cash to seven beneficiaries of a government scheme aimed at women.

The scheme called ‘gold for mangalsutra’ scheme is a flagship initiative of the ruling Tamil Nadu government.

It aims to provide an allowance of eight grams of gold and cash assistance to women from economically backward families for their marriage.

The state has allotted amount worth Rs 724 crore for the scheme for the year 2018-19.

The scheme is aimed at benefitting around 1.11 lakh beneficiaries.

Besides this, the Chief Minister launched many other initiatives through video conferencing. He laid the foundation stone for various projects to be implemented at an estimated sum of Rs 96 crore in various parts of the state by the Public Works Department (PWD). He also inaugurated projects worth Rs 34 crore.

9-10 December 2018

First International Conference on ‘Sustainable Water Management’ held in Mohali

First International Conference on ‘Sustainable Water Management’ held in Mohali

The first International Conference on ‘Sustainable Water Management’ began on December 10, 2018 at Indian School of Business (ISB) in Mohali, Punjab.

The conference is being organised by Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) under the aegis of the National Hydrology Project of the Union Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation. It will be held for two days till December 11.

About the Theme

The theme of the international conference is ‘Sustainable Water Management.

The theme deals with promoting integrated and sustainable development and management of Water Resources.

Objective

The main aim of the conference is to foster participation and dialogue between various stakeholders, including governments, scientific and academic communities, in order to promote sustainable policies for water management, create awareness of water-related problems, motivate commitment at the highest level for their solution and thus promote better management of water resources at local, regional, national and international levels.

Key Highlights

The inaugural session of the conference was attended by Himachal Pradesh Governor Acharya Devvrat, who was the chief guest of the event and UP Singh, Secretary at the Union Ministry of Water Resources, who was the guest of honour.

The conference is expected to witness participation from a number of experts and delegates from reputed organisations from both within India and other countries such as Australia, United Kingdom, USA, Spain, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Canada, Germany and Sri Lanka.

The experts will deliver their experience and expertise in the use of state of art technology to the stakeholders for sustainable development of water resources.

The participation in the conference is by invitation and more than 400 delegates have been registered.

Overall, around 20 companies and organisations will be putting up stalls in the exhibition to showcase their activities in the area of sustainable water resources management.

The conference is the first in the series of conferences being organised in India under the aegis of the ongoing National Hydrology Project. The hydrology project is being implemented by the Bhakra Beas Management Board with financial assistance from the Ministry of Water Resources.

National Hydrology Project

In March 2017, the World Bank Board had approved the USD 175 million National Hydrology Project to strengthen the capacity of institutions to assess water situation in their regions in India.

The project aims to scale up the successes achieved under Hydrology Project-I and Hydrology Project-II to cover the entire country including the states of Ganga and Brahmaputra-Barak basins.

Apart from benefitting the states in further upgrading and completing their water monitoring networks, the project aims to help new states to better manage water flows from the reservoirs.

The project includes setting up of national flood forecasting systems with an advance warning system and reservoir operation systems as well as water resources accounting in river basins.

It will have the potential to help communities to build resilience against possible uncertainties of climate change.

Background

Adopting sustainable water management practices is significant for the entire world, especially for India, in order to build a water secure future.

According to the researchers, India’s total water demand will increase 32 per cent from now by 2050. The industrial and domestic sectors will account for 85 per cent of the additional demand.

The primary cause of the increasing water deficit is the contamination of water bodies with both bio and chemical pollutants. The increased amount of solid wastes in water systems such as lakes, canals and rivers are heavily polluting the water.

  First International Conference on ‘Sustainable Water Management’ held in Mohali

In fact, around 21 per cent of India’s diseases are water-related with only 33 per cent of the country having access to traditional sanitation.

Besides this, the excessive use of groundwater for agriculture has also caused a strain in the resource. As India is one of the top agriculture producers in the world, the consumption of water for land and crops is also one the highest.

Thus, while the demand for freshwater is increasing with the growing population, the decreasing amount of supply is failing to meet the needs of the people.

However, this can be reversed if nations and their citizens start integrating water-efficient practices into their daily routine.

UAE to double women’s representation in Federal National Council to 50 per cent

UAE to double women’s representation in Federal National Council to 50 per cent

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has, in a landmark decision, decided to increase the representation of Emirati women in the Federal National Council to 50 per cent from the coming Parliamentary term.

A decree passed by the UAE President has directed the doubling of the current percentage of women’s representation in the Federal National Council from 22.5 per cent to 50 per cent in the coming parliamentary term.

Objective

The decision is aimed at achieving full empowerment of the Emirati women and put emphasis on their pioneering and effective role in all vital sectors of UAE.

Key Highlights

The UAE Cabinet had adopted a new package of national legislative policies and initiatives last week to empower the Emirati women and make them partners in the country’s progress.

As per the directives of UAE President Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Emirati women’s representation in the Federal National Council will be doubled from 22.5 per cent to 50 per cent in the coming parliamentary term.

The decision aims to rank the Gulf nation in the top positions worldwide in terms of representation of women in parliament.

The move is a great leap forward in cementing the legislative and parliamentary role of women in UAE’s development.

The move will enable the UAE women to achieve, what has been achieved by their counterparts globally in decades, in a record time.

Federal National Council

The Federal National Council is the consultative council, the parliamentary body of the UAE. The council comprises 40 members with advisory tasks in the house of legislative council.

Twenty members are elected by the citizens of the UAE through an electoral college, while the remaining twenty are appointed by the rulers of each emirate. The FNC assembly hall is located in the Abu Dhabi, the capital of UAE.

The current FNC is the result of the latest elections in 2015. Dr. Amal Al Qubaisi is the Chairperson and the Speaker of the Federal National Council.

Dr. Al Qubaisi was also the first woman elected to the FNC in 2006. Her journey in the FNC represents a historical moment for women’s political empowerment in the country.

FAO Council approves India’s proposal to observe 2023 as International Year of Millets

FAO Council approves India’s proposal to observe 2023 as International Year of Millets

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Council of the United Nations approved India’s proposal to observe the year 2023 as the International Year of Millets. The approval came during the 160th session of the FAO, which was held during December 3-7, 2018 in Rome.

The information was given by Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, Radha Mohan Singh on December 7, 2018.

Why India pressed for the need to observe International Year of Millets?
The Move came after the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare noted that the millet cultivation in India has declined due to change in dietary habits and unavailability of millets.

As a result of this, level of nutrients like proteins, Vitamin-A, iron and iodine have fell in women and children.

Significance

Such observance will enhance global awareness to bring back nutri-cereals to the plate for food and nutrition security, thus, increasing their production for resilience to challenges posed by climate change.

This international endorsement comes in the backdrop of India’s observance of 2018 as the National Year of Millets for promoting cultivation and consumption of these nutri-cereals.

Millets and their prices

Millets consists of Jowar, Bajra, Ragi and minor millets, together termed as nutri-cereals.

The Minimum Support Prize (MSP) of Jowar has been increased to Rs 2450 per quintal from Rs 1725, Bajra to Rs 1950 from Rs 1425, and Ragi to Rs 2897 from Rs 1900 per quintal from 2018-19.

Through the Department of Food and Public Distribution, the State Governments procure jowar, bajra, maize and ragi from farmers at MSP.

India’s membership to Executive Board of World Food Program (WFP)
FAO Council also approved India’s membership to the Executive Board of the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) for 2020 and 2021.

About World Food Programme

Established in 1961 after 1960 Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) Conference, the World Food Programme is the food-assistance branch of the United Nations.

It is the world’s largest humanitarian organisation addressing hunger and promoting food security.

It provides food assistance to an average of 80 million people in 75 countries each year.

It is headquartered in Rome.

It is a member of the United Nations Development Group and part of its Executive Committee.

Millets and their benefits

Millets are highly nutritious and useful in various lifestyle diseases, enhance resilience and risk management in face of climate change especially for small and marginal farmers.

Millet is a common term that categorises small-seeded grasses termed as ‘Nutri-Cereals’ or ‘Dryland-Cereals’. These nutri-cereals are sorghum, pearl millet, ragi, small millet, foxtail millet, proso millet, barnyard millet, kodo millet and other millets.

Millet is an important staple cereal crop for millions of dryland farmers across Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. They offer nutrition, income and livelihood for farmers even in difficult times.

They can be used in various forms such as food, feed, fodder, biofuels and brewing.

They are nutritionally superior to wheat and rice as they have higher levels of protein with more balanced amino acid profile, crude fiber & minerals such as Iron, Zinc, and Phosphorous.

They can offer nutritional security and act as a shield against nutritional deficiency, especially among children and women.

Some major deficiencies such as anaemia (iron deficiency), B-complex vitamin deficiency, pellagra (niacin deficiency) can be dealt easily with intake of less expensive but nutritionally rich millets.

Millets can also help tackle health challenges such as obesity, diabetes and lifestyle problems as they are gluten free, have a low glycemic index and are high in dietary fibre and antioxidants.

Moreover, in times of climate change, they will be the last crop standing and will be a good risk management strategy for resource-poor marginal farmers.

Government notifies four commonly used medical devices as drugs

Government notifies four commonly used medical devices as drugs

The Union Government has notified four commonly used medical devices including nebulisers, blood pressure monitors, digital thermometers and glucometers as drugs under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act.

The decision will enable the government to ensure their quality and performance. The Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) will regulate the import, manufacture and sale of these devices from January 2020.

Key Highlights

The DTAB, the country’s highest drug advisory body, had approved the proposal to include the four medical devices under the purview of the Drug law.

All these devices will have to be registered under the quality parameters prescribed under Medical Devices Rules 2017 and other standards set by the Bureau of Indian Standard (BIS) certification.

Till recently, only 23 medical devices were monitored for quality by the nation’s drug regulator.

With the addition of these four new devices,  the number of medical devices that will now fall under the definition of drugs under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act add up to 27.

The other medical equipments are sold without any quality checks or clinical trials.

Background

The Union Ministry of Health had through a notification dated December 3, specified devices intended for use in humans for internal or external use in the diagnosis, treatment, mitigation or prevention of disease or disorder in human beings or animals, to be included in the definition of drug under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, to be effective from January 1, 2020.

The ministry had proposed expanding the list of devices in eight new categories, under the definition of ‘drugs’ to bring them under the purview of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940.

The eight categories included implantable medical devices, MRI equipment, CT scan equipment, defibrillators, dialysis machines, PET equipment, X-ray machines and bone marrow cell separator.

The proposal to bring high-end medical devices like implants, X-ray machines , MRI and CT scan equipment, dialysis machines under the purview of the drug law is under consideration.

Once the proposal gets the required approval, the companies engaged in manufacture and import of these equipment will have to seek necessary permission or license from the Drug Controller General of India.

NITI Aayog launches Global Hackathon on Artificial Intelligence

NITI Aayog launches Global Hackathon on Artificial Intelligence

NITI Aayog in partnership with Perlin, a Singapore-based AI start up, has launched ‘AI 4 All Global Hackathon’ to further expand the idea of ‘Artificial Intelligence, AI for All’ articulated in the National AI Strategy.

The challenge seeks to develop solutions in distributed computing and privacy preserving techniques, such as multi-party computation, in artificial intelligence. It invites developers, students, start-ups and companies to develop AI applications to make significant positive social and economic impact for India.

Objective

The objective of this hackathon is to promote awareness and subsequently develop solutions that deliver the twin benefit of efficient computing to address the infrastructure challenges, while also not compromising on privacy of data for training AI algorithms.

Key Highlights

The Hackathon was announced at the AI conference organised by NITI Aayog, in partnership with the ORF, held in Mumbai in November 2018.

It will be run two stages with the stage one ending on January 15, 2019 and the stage two, which will only include shortlisted participants from the previous stage, will conclude on March 15, 2019

The first stage will invite ideas for use cases of multi-party computation in areas such as healthcare, education, agriculture, urbanisation and financial inclusion.

The second stage will call for these ideas to be matured and developed, with a focus on privacy preserving AI and distributed computing.

The winners will share in a prize pool worth USD $50,000 in both cash and non-cash rewards.

The participants will also get mentorship and support from the hackathon co-sponsors, including the opportunity to scale and implement their AI applications.

The jury shall comprise of the leaders from the technology and policy ecosystem including NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant, Head at AI Foundations Lab IBM Michael Witbrock, Director of Technology at Sequoia Capital Anandamoy Roychowdhary, Partner at Accel Partners Prahbakar Reddy, Co-founder & Faculty Director of International Innovation Corps Professor Anup Malani, Ery Punta Hendraswara and Perlin CEO Dorjee Sun.

Background

NITI Aayog organises hackathons to source sustainable, innovative and technologically-enabled solutions to address various challenges in the development space.

The government’s policy think tank organised its first hackathon, ‘MoveHack’ in August, on the sidelines of the Global Mobility Summit 2018, with the aim of garnering cutting-edge mobility applications. Over 2,000 submissions were received out of which the top 10 teams were awarded at the summit.

The AI for All Hackathon underscores the commitment of NITI Aayog to supporting meaningful social, economic and technological advancements directed at making people’s lives better.

Tourism Ministry formulates Guidelines for approval of Online Travel Aggregators

Tourism Ministry formulates Guidelines for approval of Online Travel Aggregators

The Union Ministry of Tourism has formulated the guidelines for approval and re-approval of Online Travel Aggregators to ensure adequate safeguards against deficiency of service, alternate arrangements and punitive deterrence.

The voluntary scheme will be open to bonafide online travel aggregators to bring them on a common platform in the organised sector. The guidelines will be rolled out online by the end of December 2018. Hence, all applications and fee payment will have to be made on the online platform.

Objective

The scheme is expected to set standards towards accreditation and add value to the dependability and reliability to the aggregators in the online space operating in the organised tourism sector.

What is OTA?

An Online Travel Aggregator (OTA) is an intermediary or an agent selling travel products and services such as the airlines, car rental, cruise lines, hotels and accommodation, railways and vacation packages on behalf of suppliers using internet as a medium.

They establish an online market place and earn profits on the discounts commonly referred to as commission offered by the suppliers. In doing so, an OTA may:

List the travel related service providers and agents or other service providers like hotels, homestays on its platform under its brand.

Connect the buyers with potential travel, hospitality and related service providers and sellers on its platform under its brand.

Prescribe amenities or quality standards and influence the service providers to match the potential customer’s needs.

Enter into agreements with such service providers laying down benchmarks, standards, commission rates and other services required from such service providers.

Guidelines: Key Highlights

The Tourism Ministry will grant recognition as an approved OTA for five years, based on the inspection report and recommendations of a committee comprising the concerned Regional Director (RD), a representative of FHRAI and IATO each and the approval of competent authority such as the Chairman of The Hotel & Restaurant Approval & Classification Committee (HRACC).

The re-approval, thereafter, shall be granted for five years after inspection conducted by a Committee of the same constitution, based upon an application made by OTA,  complete and free from all deficiencies along with the requisite fee and documents on the online platform.

The re-approval application would have to be submitted at least a clear 6 months prior to the expiry of the previous approval.

In case the application complete in all respect and free from all deficiencies is not received at least a clear 6 months prior to the expiry of the previous approval, it will be treated as a case for fresh approval.

The documents received from the applicants after scrutiny in all respects would be acknowledged online.

The inspection for the first approval or re-approval shall be conducted by the inspection team within a period of forty working days from the receipt of complete and deficiency-free application and confirmation of payment of fees by the Pay and Accounts Office, Ministry of Tourism.

It shall be mandatory for an approved OTA to prominently display the certificate of approval given by the Ministry in the office premises by displaying it in a photo frame so that it is visible to a potential tourist and also under a prominent link on the home page of its main website and online portal.

The decision of the Tourism Ministry, in the matter of approval and re-approval shall be final.

However, the Ministry may at their discretion refuse to re-approve any firm or withdraw or withhold at any time approval or re-approval already granted. Before such a decision is taken, a necessary Show Cause Notice would invariably be issued and the reply considered on merit. This would be done after careful consideration. The circumstances in which withdrawal is effected would also be indicated.

The Ministry said in order to engage with the OTAs constructively, it is imperative that a system is put in place with qualitative benchmarks to accredit them.

Background

In the recent past, several Online Travel Aggregators (OTA) who are aggregating rooms in the various accommodation segments have emerged.

The bed and breakfast and homestay segment has always suffered from inadequate marketing owing to the small scale of business. The emergence of OTAs can galvanise this segment and emerge as a game changer.

However, there are several players in the OTA segment operating now without any accreditation or  validation and one of the key risks of letting the market operate unhindered is that unscrupulous players can vitiate the entire market through unethical trade practices.

The paramount concern would be the assurance of quality of service delivery for the customer by the OTA. Hence, in order to engage with the OTAs constructively, it is imperative that a system is put in place with qualitative benchmarks to accredit them.

SEBI to relax listing norms for start-ups; renames ITP as ‘Innovators Growth Platform’

SEBI to relax listing norms for start-ups; renames ITP as Innovators Growth Platform

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) on December 7, 2018 passed a slew of relaxations for start-ups in sectors like e-commerce, data analytics and bio-technology to raise funds and list them on stock exchanges.

The proposed changes include renaming the ‘Institutional Trading Platform’ (ITP) of start-ups’ listings as ‘Innovators Growth Platform’.

Why SEBI thought to relax listing norms for start-ups?

The relaxation came in the wake of demands from various stakeholders to make the norms easier and the platform more accessible considering the expanding activities in the Indian start-up space.

While there has been a growing interest among the start-ups to get listed, their intention has failed to convert into actual listing due to difficulties in meeting the compliance requirements.

Proposed changes in the report of Expert Group reviewing ITP Framework
The SEBI had earlier set up an expert group to review the start-up platform. The group proposed following changes in the Framework:

Do away with requirement of at least 50 percent of pre-issue capital

The group proposed to get rid of the requirement of at least 50 percent of pre-issue capital held by qualified institutional investors.

It proposed that 25 percent of pre-issue capital for at least two years should be with qualified institutional investors, a family trust with net worth of at least Rs 500 crore, well-regulated foreign investors and a new class of ‘Accredited Investors’ (AIs).

The AIs are individuals with a total gross income of Rs 50 lakh per annum and minimum liquid net worth of Rs 5 crore, or anybody corporate with a net worth of Rs 25 crore. The AIs can hold up to 10 percent stake before listing.

Do away with a cap of 25 percent holding for any person

The group agreed to do away with a cap of 25 percent holding for any person, individually or collectively, in the company’s post-issue capital. The removal of this cap will ensure that investors are able to invest more than 25 percent in a start-up, thus providing the much-needed boost.

Reduce minimum application size for share offers

SEBI also proposed to reduce the minimum application size for share offers to Rs 2 lakh from Rs 10 lakh earlier to attract more investors to the new platform.

No minimum reservation for any specific category of investors

It proposed to do away the allocation of 75 percent of the net offer to institutional investors and the remaining 25 percent to non-institutional investors. There should be no minimum reservation for any specific category of investors.

It also drops the requirement to limit allocation to a single institutional investor at 10 percent.

Retains provisions for lock-in period of entire pre-issue capital

SEBI group retains the existing provisions for lock-in to lend confidence to the entities investing in such a company. The regulations require minimum six-month lock-in of the entire pre-issue capital of the shareholders, excluding the shares arising out of ESOPs and shares held by venture capital funds.

Reduce the time period

SEBI proposed to reduce the time period from 3 years to 1 year for the company listed on the start-up platform to the main board of the stock exchange, subject to compliance with the exchange requirements.

Fixing the minimum offer size at Rs 10 crore

Another key proposal is to fix the minimum offer size at Rs 10 crore.

These changes are being examined by a sub-group within SEBI’s Primary Market Advisory Committee.

Expert Group reviewing Institutional Trading Platform (ITP) Framework
Earlier, the capital market regulator on June 12, 2018 constituted a Group to review Institutional Trading Platform (ITP) Framework to make stock market listing attractive for startups.

Members of the group include representatives from:

• Indian Software Product Industry Round Table (iSPIRT)

• The Indus Entrepreneurs (TIE)

• Indian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (IVCA)

• Law firms

• Merchant bankers

• Stock exchanges

Terms of Reference of the Group

• To look into the existing Institutional Trading Platform (ITP) framework and suggest measures to facilitate listing of startups.

• To revisit the current ITP framework and identify the areas, if any, which require further changes.

• To address issues relevant to ITP which the group may like to assess.

Report

The Group held extensive consultations with other stakeholders including start-ups, investors, bankers and wealth management firms and subsequently submitted its report to the SEBI.

The report was later published for public consultation on the proposed changes.

8 December 2018

CBI Dispute: SC questions CVC on overnight removal of Alok Verma as CBI Chief; reserves its order

CBI Dispute: SC reserves order on Alok Verma removal as CBI Chief; questions CVC on overnight action

The Supreme Court on December 6, 2018 reserved its order on the pleas filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Director Alok Verma and NGO Common Cause, challenging the decision of the Central Government to remove Verma as the CBI chief.

The bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph questioned the overnight decision to send the CBI’s top two officials Alok Verma and Rakesh Asthana on leave after tolerating their fight since July 2018.

What prompted the overnight decision against Alok Verma?: CJI to Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta

Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi asked the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), represented by Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, that what prompted it to take an “overnight” decision to divest Alok Verma of his powers as CBI Director without consulting the Selection Committee.

The apex court ruled that the factors that prompted the CVC to take the decision on CBI Director Alok Verma did not happen overnight. It further said, “If you had tolerated them since July, then what the reason for this immediate action suddenly without which the institution would have crumbled and fallen?”

KK Venugopal, representing the Central Government, had told the judges that extraordinary circumstances led to the decision, since the two CBI officers Alok Verma and Rakesh Asthana had been fighting like “cats” since July 2018.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta’s argument

On behalf of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), Tushar Mehta argued that CBI director Verma was an Indian Police Service officer and the conduct rules for All-India Service officers applied to him as well. Every all-India service officer is covered by the CVC Act, 2003.

He based his argument on the 1997 Jain Hawala case judgement in Vineet Narain vs Union of India case.

He said that before 1997 judgement, either under the Police Act, 1861 or under the DSPE Act, 1946, the CBI director was subject to the IPS rules. Even in the 1997 judgment, it is nowhere said that the IPS rules would not apply to him and only a minimum tenure of two years is guaranteed.

Mehta defended the action against Verma and Asthana correct as the two officers were raiding and investigating each other, instead of investigating serious cases.

Mehta reiterated that Verma was not transferred but only sent on leave signifying the act to be a temporary arrangement in nature.

Alok Verma’s counsel Fali Nariman’s argument

Alok Verma’s counsel Fali Nariman argued that the government’s order of stripping Verma of charges has no basis, that the CBI director can be removed only with the approval of the Selection Committee.

1997 Jain Hawala Case Judgement in Vineet Narain vs Union of India case
The now known Jain Hawala Case got a momentary boost in 1993 when Vineet Narain filed a Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court. He exposed the terrorists and politicians’ Hawala network and approached the apex court demanding honest probe in this case.

In 1996, for the first time in Indian history, several Cabinet Ministers, Chief Ministers, Governors and Leaders of Opposition besides bureaucrats were charge-sheeted for corruption.

In July 1997, Narain compelled the then Chief Justice to reveal what was happening behind the scene in such high-profile case. CJI’s revelations caused major uproar in the parliament and media.

As a part of the judgement, the apex court had ruled that the Director of the CBI should be appointed on the recommendations of a Committee headed by the Central Vigilance Commissioner, the Home Secretary and the Secretary in the Department of Personnel as members.

Who filed the petition?

The bench of CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justice S K Kaul and Justice K M Joseph was hearing the petition filed by CBI Director Alok Verma and PIL filed by NGO Common Cause against the orders of CVC and Central Government divesting Verma of the powers of CBI Director and giving the charge of CBI to M. Nageshwara Rao.

CBI-Alok Verma- Rakesh Asthana Dispute

After a spell of internal strife in the CBI, the CVC and Central Government divested CBI Director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana from their roles and asked them to go on leave. Verma and Asthana accused each other of taking bribe and blocking investigation of several important cases.

Asthana, a 1984 batch Indian Police Service officer of Gujarat cadre, is alleged to have demanded a bribe of Rs 5 crore and accepting Rs 2 crore from a Hyderabad-based businessman Sathish Babu Sana through two middlemen Manoj Prasad and Somesh Prasad to help Sana get clear of his charges in the Moin Qureshi case. The case was being examined by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by Asthana.

On the other hand, CBI chief Verma also alleged corruption charges on Asthana with regard to the Sterling Biotech case.

However, Asthana hit back by writing to the Cabinet Secretary saying that Verma received Rs 2 crore bribe in the Moin Qureshi case and had tried to stop a raid on Lalu Prasad in the IRCTC case, alleging corruption on Verma’s part.

ESIC to allow non insured persons to avail medical services from its underutilised hospitals

ESIC to allow non insured persons to avail medical services from its underutilised hospitals

The Employees’ State Insurance Corporation during its 176th meeting held on December 5, 2018 took few very important decisions towards improvements in its service delivery mechanism.

During the meeting held under the Chairmanship of Santosh Kumar Gangwar, Minister of State for Labour & Employment (I/C), it was decided to allow Non-IPs (Non Insured Persons) to avail medical services from underutilised ESIC Hospitals.

Key Highlights

The non insured persons would now be able to avail medical services from ESIC’s underutilised hospitals after levying user charges at a subsidised cost  of Rs 10 for OPD Consultation, at 25 per cent of CGHS package rates for admitted patients and to provide medicines on actual rate initially for one year on pilot basis.

The decision will immensely help common people get the quality medical care at very low cost.

It will also ensure full utilisation of resources of hospital for people’s cause.

The recruitment to the 5200 posts in various categories like social security officer, insurance medical officer grade-ii, junior engineers, teaching faculty, paramedical and nursing cadre, UDC and Steno in ESIC is under process.

Further, to meet the shortage of specialist and super specialist doctors in some of the ESIC Hospitals, the ESIC approved hiring of full time contractual specialists and super specialists in the department of anaesthesia, medicine, surgery, pediatrics, gyne, ortho, cardiology, nephrology and medical oncology after inviting open tender.

Keeping in view the rise in the national floor level minimum wages to Rs 176, it was decided in the meeting to enhance the exemption limit for payment of employees’ share of contribution from Rs 137 to Rs 176.

UN launches new framework to combat international terrorism

UN launches new framework to combat international terrorism

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on December 6, 2018 launched a new framework titled ‘UN Global Counter-Terrorism Coordination Compact’ to combat international terrorism and coordinate efforts across the peace and security, humanitarian, human rights and sustainable development sectors.

The framework is an agreement between the UN chief, 36 organisational entities, the International Criminal Police Organisation (INTERPOL) and the World Customs Organisation to better serve the needs of member states when it comes to tackling the scourge of international terrorism.

UN Framework: Key Highlights

The Coordination Committee of the United Nations will oversee the implementation of the framework and monitor its implementation. The committee is chaired by UN Under-Secretary-General for counter-terrorism, Vladimir Voronkov.

During the first meeting of the framework’s Coordination Committee, the committee also discussed strategic priorities for the next two years, based on the sixth review of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, relevant Security Council resolutions and UN Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED) assessments as well as the requests from member states for technical help.

The committee also looked into the organisation of work and ways to improve the delivery of an ‘All-of-UN’ capacity-building support to the member states.

The UN Global Counter-Terrorism Coordination Compact Task Force will replace the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force, which was established in 2005 to strengthen UN system-wide coordination and coherence of counter-terrorism efforts.

Why do we need the framework?

The new framework has been introduced keeping in mind the need to ensure full respect for international human rights standards and rule of law in countering terrorism.

Speaking on the same, the UN Chief stated that the policies that limit human rights only end up alienating the very communities they aim to protect, which normally have every interest in fighting extremism and as a result, such policies can effectively drive people into the hands of terrorists and undermine prevention efforts.

Global terrorism threat

According to the UN Chief, despite recent successes against the ISIS and its affiliates, the threat posed by returning and relocating fighters, as well as from individuals inspired by them, remains high and has a global reach.

The 2018 Global Terrorism Index released by the Institute for Economic and Peace, indicates that despite a 27 per cent fall in the number of deaths from acts of terrorism worldwide, the impact of terrorism remains widespread, with 67 countries experiencing deadly attacks, which is the second highest recorded number of countries in the past twenty years.

While terrorist organisations like Da’esh and Al Qaida continue their terror threats and activities, neo-Nazi and far-right groups have begun using the Internet as a platform to mobilise support across borders through hate speech and exploit economic anxieties, radicalise, recruit and carry out attacks against nations.

Misuse of Emerging Technologies

At a time when terror is on a new high, the UN Chief has urged greater vigilance against the misuse of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, drones and 3D (three-dimensional) printing, as well as against the use of hate-speech and distortion of religious beliefs by extremist and terrorist groups.

Cabinet approves Agriculture Export Policy 2018 to double farmer’s income by 2022

Cabinet approves Agriculture Export Policy 2018 to double farmer’s income by 2022

The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on December 6, 2018 approved the Agriculture Export Policy 2018, which aims to double farmer’s income by 2022.

The Cabinet has also approved the proposal for establishment of Monitoring Framework at Centre with Ministry of Commerce as the nodal Department with representation from various Ministries, agencies and representatives of concerned State Governments to oversee the implementation of the Policy.

Elements of Agriculture Export Policy

The Agriculture Export Policy encompasses Strategic and Operational elements. These are:

Strategic Operational
  • Policy measures
  • Infrastructure and logistics support
  • Holistic approach to boost exports
  • Greater involvement of State Governments in agri exports
  • Focus on Clusters
  • Promoting value-added exports
  • Marketing and promotion of “Brand India
  • Attract private investments into production and processing
  • Establishment of strong quality regimen
  • Research & Development
  • Miscellaneous
Agriculture Export Policy 2018
Vision    

 

The Agriculture Export Policy envisions to “harness export potential of Indian agriculture, through suitable policy instruments, to make India global power in agriculture and raise farmers’ income.”

Objectives
  • To double agricultural exports from present approximate USD 30+ billion to approximate USD 60+ billion by 2022 and reach USD 100 billion in the next few years thereafter
  • To diversify export basket, export destinations and boost high value and value added agricultural exports including focus on perishables
  • To promote indigenous, organic, ethnic, traditional and non-traditional agricultural products exports.
  • To provide an institutional mechanism for pursuing market access, tackling barriers and dealing with sanitary and phyto-sanitary issues.
  • To double India’s share in world agriculture exports by integrating with global value chain at the earliest
  • Enable farmers to get benefit of export opportunities in overseas market
Significance

 

The Policy will double the agricultural exports and integrate Indian farmers and agricultural products with the global value chains. Exports of agricultural products would play a crucial role in achieving the goal of doubling farmers’ income by 2022.

Former Indian diplomat Preeti Saran elected to UN’s Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Former Indian diplomat Preeti Saran elected to UN’s Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Right

A former senior Indian diplomat, Preeti Saran was on December 6, 2018 elected unopposed to an Asia Pacific seat on the United Nation’s Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR).

The UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) elected Saran to the 18-member committee ‘CESCR’ for a four-year term beginning on January 1, 2019.

Saran will begin her term at CESCR after another former Indian diplomat Chandrashekhar Dasgupta completes his third term on the CESCR by the end of December 2018.

In November 2018, India nominated Saran for the Asia Pacific seat on the Council. Her nomination was circulated to UN members by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on November 23, paving the way for election.

Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR)

The CESCR was set up in 1985 by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations.

It was constituted with an aim to monitor on its behalf the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESR), which has been ratified by 169 countries.

The countries that are parties to the covenant are required to submit reports to the CESCR every five years on how they protect the economic, social and cultural rights.

The committee examines each report and addresses its concerns and recommendations to the State party in the form of concluding observations.

The Members of the CESCR serve in their personal capacities as experts and do not represent their countries even though they may be nominated by their own nation.

The CECSR meets in Geneva and holds two sessions per year, consisting of a three-week plenary and a one-week pre-sessional working group.

Note
Earlier in April 2018, when the rotating elections for the CESCR were held, Heisoo Shin of South Korea was re-elected but the Asia Pacific Region did not have a nominee for the second seat, leading to the postponement of the election for it.

Any country from the Asian Pacific group was free to put up a candidate for that seat, however, none did. Thus, the seat was reverted to India.

The other Asian member is Shiqiu Chen of China, whose term ends in 2022.

Saran’s election will boost gender balance on the Committee

With Saran’s election, there will now be 6 women on the 18-member panel, which has been criticised for having only five women.

An international NGO ‘Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’, which monitors the CESCR, had commented earlier that the gender balance on the Committee remains poor and States should be concerned about this gender imbalance.

About Preeti Saran
  • Saran is the Indian Foreign Service Officer of 1982 batch.
  • During her 36-year diplomatic career, Saran served as the Consul General of India at Toronto and the as Indian Ambassador to Vietnam.
  • She also served in Indian missions at Moscow, Dhaka and Geneva.
  • As a Secretary in the Union Foreign Ministry, she was responsible for policy formulation of India’s relations with countries in East Asia, South East Asia, Canada and Latin America and the Caribbean region.
  • At the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi, Saran held wide ranging responsibilities, including supervision of the work relating to Counter Terrorism, ASEAN, BIMSTEC, SAARC, and parliament.
  • Saran had retired from the foreign services in September 2018.

7 December 2018

Cabinet approves National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems

Cabinet approves National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 6, 2018 approved the launching of National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems (NM-ICPS).

The mission will be launched by the Department of Science and Technology at an expected cost of Rs 3660 crore for a period of five years.

Objective

The mission addresses the ever-increasing technological requirements of the society and takes into account the international trends and roadmaps of leading countries for the next generation technologies.

Key Highlights

The NM-ICPS is a comprehensive mission that would address technology development, application development, human resource development and skill enhancement, entrepreneurship and start-up development in CPS and associated technologies.

The mission aims to establish 15 Technology Innovation Hubs (TIH), 6 Application Innovation Hubs (AIH) and 4 Technology Translation Research Parks (TTRP).

The hubs and research parks will have four focused areas along which the mission implementation would proceed, which include:

(i) Technology Development

(ii) HRD & Skill Development

(iii) Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Start-ups Ecosystem Development

(iv) International Collaborations

Further, these hubs and research parks will connect to academics, industry, central ministries and state government in developing solutions at reputed academic, research and development and other organisations across the country in a hub and spoke model.

For the same, a strategic approach involving a suitable mix of academic, industry and government has been proposed to be adopted.

The strong steering and monitoring mechanisms in the form of Mission Governing Board (MGB), Inter-Ministerial Coordination Committee (IMCC), Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) and other Sub-Committees will guide and monitor the mission implementation.

The implementation of the mission would develop and bring:

Cyber Physical Systems (CPS) and associated technologies within reach in the country.

Adoption of CPS technologies to address India specific national  and regional issues.

Produce next generation skilled manpower in CPS.

Catalyse translational research.

Accelerate entrepreneurship and start-up ecosystem development in CPS.

Give impetus to advanced research in CPS, technology development and higher education in science, technology and engineering disciplines.

Place India at par with other advanced countries and derive several direct and indirect benefits.

Impact

The proposed mission would act as an engine of growth that would benefit national initiatives in health, education, energy, environment, agriculture, strategic cum security, and industrial sectors, Industry 4.0, SMART Cities and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Cyber-Physical Systems is an integrated system of upcoming technology, which in turn is being taken up on priority basis by countries in the race for development.  The system will help bring a paradigm shift in the entire skill sets requirement.

The pan-India mission will boost job opportunities by imparting advanced skills and generating skilled manpower as per the requirement of the industry and society.

As innovation, entrepreneurship and start-up ecosystem forms an integral part of the proposed mission, the start-ups will also create a number of technology-driven job opportunities in CPS and allied areas.

Accordingly, it is estimated that around 40,000 jobs will be created in the short term and about 2,00,000 in long term.

The mission will support and encourage the central ministries and departments, state governments and also the Industry to effectively use the CPS technologies in their projects and schemes for the benefit of the society.

Background

The Cyber-Physical Systems and its associated technologies such as artificial intelligence, internet of things, big data analytics, robotics, quantum computing, communication and encryption, data science and predictive analytics, cyber security for physical infrastructure and other infrastructure, have pervaded and are playing a transformative role in almost every field of human endeavour, in almost all the sectors.

Hence, it has become imperative for the government and industries to be prepared to adopt these emerging and disruptive technologies in order to remain competitive, drive societal progress, generate employment, foster economic growth and to improve the overall quality of life and sustainability of the environment.

Sahitya Akademi Awards 2018 announced in 24 languages

Sahitya Akademi Awards 2018 announced in 24 languages

India’s national academy of letters, Sahitya Akademi on December 6, 2018 announced the annual ‘Sahitya Akademi Awards 2018’, recognising the literary works of 24 writers in 24 different Indian languages.

Seven books of poetry, six novels, six short stories, three of literary criticism and two of essays won the Sahitya Akademi Awards 2018.

To name a few, this year’s winners include Sanjib Chattopadhyay for Bengali, Anees Salim for English, Sharifa Vijliwala for her essays in Gujarati, Chitra Mudgal for Hindi, and  S Ramesan Nair for his poetry in Malayalam.

The awards will be presented to winners at a roadshow function to be held on January 29, 2019 at New Delhi during the Festival of Letters, organised by Sahitya Akademi.

Complete list of winners of Sahitya Akademi Awards 2018

Mushtaq Ahmad Mushtaq’s “AAKH’’ won in ‘Kashmiri’ category

Eminent short-story writer, Mushtaq Ahmad Mushtaq, bagged the Award for his collection of short stories “AAKH’’.

Mushtaq Ahmad, an Indian Information Service officer, is presently posted as Head of the Regional News Unit at Radio Kashmir Srinagar.

AAKH, a collection of eighteen short stories, was published in 2012 and had earlier bagged the best book award in Kashmiri at the state level from State Academy of Art, Culture and Languages for the year 2014.

Selection of Awardees

The awardees were recommended by distinguished jury members representing 24 languages and were approved by the Executive Board under the chairmanship of Dr. Chandrashekhar Kambar, the President of Sahitya Akademi.

Bhasha Salman 2017 and 2018
The Akademi also announced its Bhasha Salman for the year 2017 and 2018.

Yogendra Nath Sharma was awarded the Bhasha Salman for the North zone; G Venkatasubbiah was awarded for South zone; Gagendra Nath Das was awarded for the Eastern zone; and Shailaja Bapat for the Western zone.

About Sahitya Akademi Awards

Sahitya Akademi award is a literary honour that is conferred annually on Indian writers for their outstanding works of literary merit.

The award, established in 1954, is given on books of literary merit written in any of the major languages of India.

The award is presented in the form of a casket containing an engraved copper-plaque, a shawl and a cheque of Rs 1 lakh.

Indian film-maker Satyajit Ray is the designer of the plaque awarded by the Sahitya Akademi.

Fifth Bi-monthly Monetary Policy Statement 2018-19: RBI keeps policy rates unchanged; announces scheme for digital transactions

Fifth Bi-monthly Monetary Policy Statement 2018-19 RBI keeps policy rates unchanged

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on October 5, 2018 released its Fifth Bi-monthly Monetary Policy Statement 2018-19.

After assessing the current and evolving macroeconomic situation in the economy, the six members Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) decided to:

Keep the policy Repo Rate under the Liquidity Adjustment Facility (LAF) unchanged at 6.5 percent.
The Reverse Repo Rate under the LAF remains at 6.25 percent.
The Marginal Standing Facility (MSF) rate and the Bank Rate stand at 6.75 percent.

The decision of the MPC was consistent with the monetary policy in consonance with the objective of achieving the medium-term target for Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation of 4 percent within a band of +/- 2 percent.

Note
Even after revising its inflation projection on the downside in the Fourth Bi-monthly Monetary Policy Statement, the volatile global markets and the uncertain crude oil prices led to such ‘calibrated tightening’ policy stance of the RBI.

Highlights of Policy Statement

RBI lowered its inflation forecast based on moderation in food inflation and the sharp decline in international crude oil prices. Accordingly, inflation is projected to be in the range of 2.7 to 3.2 percent in the second half of 2018-19.

Inflation will likely to stay in the range of 3.8 to 4.2 percent in the first half of 2019-20.

RBI retained GDP growth rate projection at 7.4 percent for 2018-19 and at 7.5 percent in the first half of 2019-20.

Lower RABI sowing, slowing global demand and rising trade tensions may adversely affect growth prospects while the decline in crude oil prices is expected to boost India’s growth prospects.

Policies and Initiatives announced by RBI
After releasing the Fifth Bi-monthly Monetary Policy Statement 2018-19, the RBI announced a couple of customer protection policies and initiatives. Have a look at them:

RBI to implement an Ombudsman scheme for digital transactions

As the digital mode of payment is gaining momentum in the country, the RBI felt that there is an emerging need for a dedicated, cost-free and expeditious grievance redressal mechanism for strengthening consumer confidence.

Considering this, the central bank announced to implement an Ombudsman Scheme for Digital Transactions covering services provided by entities falling under Reserve Banks regulatory jurisdiction.

The scheme will be notified by the end of January 2019.

Aligning Statutory Liquidity Ratio with Liquidity Coverage Ratio

The Reserve Bank said that it will reduce the Statutory Liquidity Ratio (SLR) by 0.25 percent every quarter beginning January 2019.

The reduction will continue until it reaches 18 percent from the current 19.5 percent of Net Demand and Time Liabilities (NDTL). The move is likely to release funds locked in government securities and add to lendable liquidity.

The SLR is the portion of funds which banks are required to maintain in the form of cash, gold reserves, the government approved securities before providing credit to the customers.

External benchmarking of new floating rate loans by banks

In a bid to ensure greater transparency, the Reserve Bank proposed that floating interest rates on personal, home, auto and MSMEs loans will be linked to external benchmarks like repo rate or treasury yields.

Currently, banks follow system of internal benchmarks, including Prime Lending Rate, Benchmark Prime Lending Rate, Base rate and Marginal Cost of Funds based Lending Rate. The new system is likely to become operational by 1st April 2019.

The banks shall decide the benchmark rate system to be followed right at the inception of the loan and it should remain unchanged through the life of the loan. The adoption of multiple benchmarks by the same bank will not be allowed within a loan category.

The external benchmarking was recommended by the Internal Study Group to Review the Working of the Marginal Cost of Funds based Lending Rate (MCLR) System, chaired by Dr Janak Raj.

The final guidelines to link the interest rate to external benchmarks will be issued by the end of December 2018.

Expert Committee on MSMEs

An Expert Committee will be constituted by the Reserve Bank to identify causes and propose long-term solutions for the economic and financial sustainability of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector.

The composition of the Committee and its Terms of Reference will be finalised by the end of December 2018 and the report will be submitted by Committee by the end of June 2019.

MSMEs contribute significantly to employment, entrepreneurship and growth in the economy. However, they remain vulnerable to structural and cyclical shocks. It is important to understand the economic forces and transactions costs affecting the performance of the MSMEs.

Rationalisation of Borrowing and Lending Regulations under FEMA, 1999

As part of the ongoing efforts at rationalising multiple regulations under FEMA, 1999, the RBI proposed to consolidate the regulations governing all types of borrowing and lending transactions between a person resident in India and a person resident outside India in both foreign currency and INR.

The proposed regulations ‘Foreign Exchange Management (Borrowing or Lending) Regulations, 2018’ will rationalise the existing framework for external commercial borrowings and Rupee denominated bonds to improve the ease of doing business.

The consolidated regulation and guidelines will be issued by the end of December 2018.

6 December 2018

SC approves Witness Protection Scheme 2018; directs Centre, States to enforce the scheme by 2019

SC approves Witness Protection Scheme 2018; directs Centre, States to enforce the scheme by 2019

The Supreme Court on December 5, 2018 approved the Witness Protection Scheme 2018 and directed the Central and State Governments to enforce the same in letter and spirit.

The bench comprising Justice AK Sikri and Justice S Abdul Nazeer held that the scheme will become ‘law’ under Article 141/142 of the Constitution till the enactment of parliamentary and state legislations on the subject.

Scheme framed in a response to PIL seeking protection for witnesses
The Central Government had placed this scheme on record in response to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking protection for witnesses in rape cases involving offender self-styled preacher Asaram Bapu.

It was alleged that as many as 10 witnesses had already been attacked and three witnesses killed. The PIL was filed by four petitioners including a witness, father of a murdered witness, father of the child rape victim and a journalist.

Vulnerable Witness Deposition Complexes

The Bench also directed the states and union territories to set up the vulnerable witness deposition complexes within a period of one year by the end of 2019.

The bench observed that there is a paramount need to have witness protection regime in a statutory form. It also emphasised on the need to create Vulnerable Witness Deposition Complexes.

One of the main reasons behind establishing these Vulnerable Witness Deposition Complexes was that a large percentage of acquittal in criminal cases is due to witnesses turning hostile and giving false testimonies, mostly due to lack of protection for them and their families.

All you need to know about Witness Protection Scheme 2018
The Witness Protection Scheme 2018 was formulated by the Home Ministry on the inputs received from 18 States and Union Territories, five state legal services authorities and open sources including civil society, three high courts as well as from police personnel.

The scheme was finalised in consultation with National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).

Objective

The scheme aims to ensure that the investigation, prosecution and trial of criminal offences does not turn out to be biased as witnesses are intimidated or frightened to give evidence without protection from violent or other criminal recrimination.

Essential features of Witness Protection Scheme 2018
  • Identifying categories of threat perceptions
  • Preparation of a “Threat Analysis Report” by the head of the police
  • Types of protection measures like ensuring that the witness and accused do not come face to face during investigation etc. protection of identity, change of identity, relocation of witness
  • Confidentiality and preservation of records, recovery of expenses, etc.
Scheme categorises witnesses into three types:
  • Where the threat extends to life of witness or his family members during investigation, trial or thereafter.
  • Where the threat extends to safety, reputation or property of the witness or his family members, during the investigation, trial or thereafter.
  • Where the threat is moderate and extends to harassment of the witness or his family member’s, reputation or property during the investigation, trial or thereafter.
How witnesses can seek protection?
  • The witnesses, categorised under the scheme, can file application for seeking protection order before the competent authority of the concerned district where the offence is committed.
  • This competent authority will be chaired by District and Sessions Judge, with head of the police in the district as member and head of the prosecution in the district as its member secretary.
  • The authority, when it receives an application, has to call for a Threat Analysis Report from the ACP/DSP in charge of the concerned Police Sub-Division.
  • The authority is also empowered to order protection measures based on the Threat Analysis Report such as identity protection, change of identity and relocation of witnesses.

Mukhyamantri Tirth Yatra Yojana: Delhi Government launches Free Pilgrimage Scheme for senior citizens

Mukhyamantri Tirth Yatra Yojana: Delhi Government launches Free Pilgrimage Scheme for senior citizen

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on December 5, 2018 launched the ‘Mukhyamantri Tirth Yatra Yojana’ which offers free travel packages for senior citizens from Delhi to five religious circuits. 1,100 senior citizens from every constituency of Delhi will be able to avail this facility at one go.

Under this free pilgrimage scheme, a Delhi resident above 60 years will be eligible to take free pilgrimage along with his or her spouse.

The scheme was approved by the Delhi Government on July 9, 2018. Earlier, the Delhi Cabinet had on January 8, 2018 approved the Revenue Department’s proposal to begin with the Mukhyamantri Tirth Yatra Yojana.

Keys facts and figures

1100 senior citizens from each Assembly Constituency would now undertake free pilgrimage every year, the expenses for which will be borne by the government.

A total of 77000 pilgrims will be able to avail this facility every year.

On an average, the scheme will incur a cost of Rs 7000 per pilgrim.

The pilgrimage duration will be of 3 days and 2 nights.

Routes
a) Delhi-Mathura-Vrindavan-Agra-fatehpur Sikri-Delhi

b) Delhi-Haridwar-Rishikesh-Neelkanth-Delhi

c) Delhi-Ajmer-Pushkar-Delhi

d) Delhi-Amritsar-Bagha Border-Anandpur Sahib-Delhi

e) Delhi-Vaishno Devi-Jammu-Delhi

Eligibility for availing of the scheme

Any resident of Delhi above 60 years of age will be eligible for the scheme.

The applicant can also take along an attendant above the age of 20 years, if the he or his spouse is above 70 years. The expenditure of the attendant will also be borne by the Delhi government.

There is no income criterion but preference will be given to those from economically weaker sections on first-come-first-serve basis.

Employees of central, state and local government or autonomous bodies are not eligible for the scheme.

Those selected for pilgrimage will be covered with an insurance of Rs 1 lakh each.

The applicant will have to give a self-certificate that all information being given by them is correct and they have not availed the scheme in the past.

Selection of pilgrims

The selection of pilgrims will be done through draw of lots and respective area MLAs will certify whether the intended beneficiaries belong to Delhi or not.

Procedure for application

All application forms will be available online and shall be filed online either through Office of Divisional Commissioner or office of respective MLA or office of Tirth Yatra Committee.

Documents required for Tirth Yatra Scheme

The documents required for the scheme are – Voter ID card of the applicant, Self Declaration by applicant, Certificate regarding proof of residency from area MLA and a Medical Certificate of the applicant.

Travel Partner
The journey will be performed through Indian Railways.

To facilitate a seamless coordination for the scheme, the Delhi Tourism and Transportation Development Corporation Ltd (DTTDC) had signed an MoU with the Indian Railways and Catering Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), Ministry of Railways.

The facility provided under the scheme would be non-AC trains with 15 coaches that will have a government doctor and paramedical staff on board. To provide security, there will be one unarmed security guard and one tour escort.

The package offers accommodation, meals and insurance for all participating senior citizens. All trains will leave from Safdarjung railway station.

World Soil Day observed globally with theme ‘Be the Solution to Soil Pollution’

World Soil Day observed globally with theme ‘Be the Solution to Soil Pollution’

5 December: World Soil Day

The World Soil Day was observed across the world on December 5, 2018. The day is observed annually to highlight the importance of healthy soil and advocate for the sustainable management of soil resources.

2018 Theme: The theme of the day this year is ‘Be the Solution to Soil Pollution’. The campaign aims to raise awareness regarding soil pollution and call people to #StopSoilPollution.

About Soil Pollution

 World Soil Day observed globally to raise awareness about soil pollution As pollution rises across the world, the soil is also getting affected. Around one-third of global soils have already degraded.

Soil pollution can be invisible and seems far away but everyone everywhere is affected due to it.

With the population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, soil pollution is a worldwide problem that is not only leading to the degradation of soil across the globe but is also resulting in the poisoning of food, water and air.

Soils have a great potential to filter and buffer contaminants, degrading and attenuating the negative effects of pollutants, but its capacity is finite.

Cause

Most of the pollutants originate from human activities such as unsustainable farming practices, industrial activities and mining, untreated urban waste and other non-environmental friendly practices.

With the evolution of technology, scientists have been able to identify previously undetected pollutants, however, these technological improvements have also led to the release of new contaminants into the environment.

How to combat the problem?

In the Agenda for Sustainable Development 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals 2, 3, 12, and 15 have targets that commend direct consideration of soil resources, especially soil pollution and degradation in relation to food security.

Combating soil pollution requires all nations to join forces and turn determinations into action. Hence the campaign- ‘Be the solution to soil pollution’.

 World Soil Day observed globally to raise awareness about soil pollution

Soil: A solution to combating climate change?

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, the soil holds three times as much carbon as the atmosphere and can help meet the challenges of a changing climate.

The organisation said that 815 million people are food insecure and 2 billion people are nutritionally insecure, but it can be mitigated through the soil, as 95 per cent of the food comes from soil and 33 per cent of the global soils are already degraded.

World Soil Day in India

 World Soil Day observed globally to raise awareness about soil pollution

On the occasion, Indian Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu called upon all the citizens of the country to take a pledge to maintain the purity of soil.

In a tweet, the Vice President said, it is the duty of every human being to protect the most critical component of nature. He said that it is time that people should move towards nature and organic farming and must learn to protect the purity of soil and mother earth.

What has India done to prevent soil pollution?

The Union Government has launched nationwide the soil health card scheme to take care of soil health for the first time in a uniform manner to evaluate the soil fertility across the country.

According to the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, over 15 crore soil health cards have been distributed to the farmers across the country.

The soil health card provides information to the farmers on the fertility status of their soil and enables them to apply soil health card based recommended dosages of fertilizers including micro-nutrients, bio-fertilizers, manures as well as soil ameliorants.

The card is helpful in checking the declining fertility of agriculture land and improve the fertility of soils to increase productivity besides enhancing farmers income.

Background

The dedicated international day to celebrate soil was recommended by the International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS) in 2002.

Under the leadership of the Kingdom of Thailand and within the framework of the Global Soil Partnership, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations supported the formal establishment of WSD as a global awareness raising platform.

The FAO Conference unanimously endorsed World Soil Day in June 2013 and requested its official adoption at the 68th UN General Assembly.

In December 2013 the UN General Assembly responded by designating December 5, 2014 as the first official World Soil Day.

 World Soil Day observed globally to raise awareness about soil pollution

The date, December 5, was chosen because it corresponds with the official birthday of HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the King of Thailand, who officially sanctioned the event.

In 2016, the day was officially recognised in the memory of the monarch, who passed away in October 2016 after being the head of state of Thailand for the past seven decades.

India, Peru sign agreement for co-operation and mutual assistance in Customs Matters

India, Peru sign agreement for co-operation and mutual assistance in Customs Matters

India and the Republic of Peru on December 5, 2018 signed an agreement for co-operation and mutual assistance in customs matters.

The agreement was signed on the sidelines of the 80th Session of the Policy Commission meeting of the World Customs Organisations (WCO) which was held in Mumbai during December 3-5, 2018.

The Agreement was signed by S Ramesh, Chairman of Central Board of Indirect taxes and Customs (CBIC) of India and Rafael Garcia, the National Superintendent of Customs of Peru.

Agreement for co-operation in Customs Matters

The Agreement provides a legal framework for sharing of information and intelligence between the Customs authorities of the two countries.

It will help in the proper application of Customs laws, prevention and investigation of Customs offences.

The Agreement will also help in the availability of relevant information for the prevention and investigation of Customs offences.

It is expected to facilitate trade and ensure efficient clearance of goods traded between the countries

India-Peru Relations
India established diplomatic relations with Peru in March 1963. India-Peru relations have since then been traditionally cordial and friendly.

Since 1987, there has been an increasing economic cooperation between both sides after the visit of the then Peru’s President Alan Garcia to India as the Chief Guest for Republic Day event.

Later, Indian President K.R. Narayanan visited Peru in April 1998. It was the first ever Presidential level visit from India to Peru.

India’s bilateral trade with Peru was USD 107.32 million during 2005-06 and this grew up to 1319.45 percent during 2015-16.

During 2015-16, bilateral trade between both sides stood at USD 1523.35 million with exports at USD 703.12 million and imports at USD 820.22 million.

The Peruvian Community in India is quite small with around two hundred people only. Majority of them reside in Delhi NCR, Haryana, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, and Rajasthan.

On the other side, Indian Community in Peru is also quite small. Only around 50-60 families are engaged in business, trade and other professions in Peru. India origin organisations like Hare Krishna, Sai Baba and Brahma Kumaris are also present in Peru.

Gautam Gambhir announces retirement from all forms of cricket: A Glance at his cricket career

Gautam Gambhir announces retirement from all forms of cricket

After over 15 years of successful career in Indian cricket, Indian Opener Gautam Gambhir on December 4, 2018 announced his retirement from all forms of cricket.

Gautam Gambhir was one of the most complete batsmen who opened well in all three forms of the game – Test matches, ODIs and T20s. He exhibited best in his innings between 2008 and the 2011 World Cup.

He announced his retirement on Twitter:

Gautam Gambhir’s role in helping win World T20 and 2011 World Cup
Gambhir was instrumental in India’s successful campaigns in the 2011 World Cup and the inaugural World Twenty20 in 2007. Gambhir was the top-scorer for India in the 2007 World T20 and 2011 World Cup finals.

While he scored 75 against Pakistan in the World T20 final at Johannesburg, his 97 against Sri Lanka in 2011 helped India lift the World Cup at the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai.

Gambhir’s blazing 75 against Pakistan in World T20

Gambhir played a key role in helping India win the World T20 final in 2007 against Pakistan. Gambhir opened the innings with Yusuf Pathan. Despite the loss of wickets at regular intervals, Gambhir was firm at his end and scored runs at will.

He smashed 75 off 54 balls to help India post 157/5 from their 20 overs. On the other hand, Pakistan fell 5 runs short and India lifted the title in the inaugural edition of the World T20.

Gambhir’s role in 2011 World Cup

In the 2011 World Cup finals, Gambhir was involved in a crucial 109-run stand with MS Dhoni against Sri Lanka. Gambhir was dismissed with 97 in his kitty that had made India win the 2011 World Cup.

India created history in 2011 by becoming the first host nation to win the World Cup, but that could not have been possible without Gambhir’s innings.

Magnificent career in Indian Premier League

  • Gambhir had a successful career in the Indian Premier League while playing for the Sharukh Khan’s Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR).
  • He led Kolkata Knight Riders to glory in 2012 and 2014 and is only one of the three captains to win the IPL title two times.
  • Gambhir played 154 matches over 11 season of the IPL and scored 4218 runs.
  • After 7 years at Kolkata Knight Riders, Gambhir turned to Delhi Daredevils, now known as Delhi Capitals, in 2018. He captained Delhi in the first six matches of the 2018 IPL season but following a string of poor results, Gambhir stepped down from his post.

A Glance at Gambhir’s cricket career

Gambhir made 58 Test appearances for India, making 4154 runs at an average of 41.95. His 147 ODIs fetched him 5238 runs, while in 37 T20 Internationals, he scored 932 runs.

The left-handed batsman scored 10324 runs in international cricket.

He is also the only Indian batsman to have scored more than 300 runs in four consecutive Test series.

He was also a part of the India team that gained the No.1 spot in Test cricket in 2009 under Captain MS Dhoni.

In 2009, he was ranked as the No.1 batsman in Test cricket in the ICC’s rankings, two years after he was ranked No.1 as T20I batsman.

In One Day Internationals (ODIs), Gambhir achieved his career-best 8th rank in ODIs.

He formed one of India’s most durable opening partnerships in world cricket with Virendra Sehwag, the duo together scoring 4412 runs for India in 87 innings from 2004 to 2012.

He led Delhi to the Ranji Trophy title in 2007-08.

He was conferred with the Arjuna Award in 2008.

Gambhir made his international debut in 2003, in an ODI against Bangladesh in Dhaka.

Last match
Recently, Gambhir also stepped down as Delhi’s Ranji Trophy captain. The Ranji Trophy game between Delhi and Andhra Pradesh on December 6 at the Feroz Shah Kotla will be Gambhir’s last match of his glorious career.

Gambhir last played international cricket for India in 2016 against England in Rajkot.

India, UAE sign agreement on currency swap

India, UAE sign agreement on currency swap

The 12th session of the India-UAE Joint Commission Meeting (JCM) for Economic and Technical Cooperation was held on December 3-4, 2018 in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates.

The Indian delegation was led by Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. During the visit, Swaraj held long discussions with her counterpart Abdullah bin Zayed to step up bilateral cooperation in areas such as security, defence, counter-terrorism, investments, space, trade and energy.

Key Highlights

During the India-UAE JCM, India and the United Arab Emirates signed two agreements, one pact on currency swap and an MoU for development cooperation in Africa.

The agreement on currency swap between the countries will allow trading in their own currency and payments to import and export trade at a pre-determined exchange rate without bringing in a third benchmark currency like the US dollars.

The second Memorandum of Understanding would enable both the nations to undertake development projects in Africa.

Besides, the leaders of the two nations discussed several areas of mutual interests including defence, security, counter-terrorism, trade, economic, energy, science and technology and civil aviation.

The leaders also identified several new areas of cooperation and following the conclusion of the JCM, the leaders signed and adopted the agreed minutes of the meeting.

 India, UAE sign currency swap deal

Other Details

Swaraj also called on the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The Crown Prince stressed the importance that both nations attached to the values of peace and tolerance. He further, expressed his desire to do more with India in future to achieve the full potential.

Further, Swaraj along with her UAE counterpart Abdullah jointly inaugurated a digital interactive museum showcasing the life, works and philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi and the founder of modern UAE Shaikh Zayed.

The Gandhi-Zayed Digital Museum, which will promote peace, tolerance and sustainability, is part of the celebrations by the two countries to mark the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and centenary celebrations of the birth of Shaikh Zayed.

Background

With bilateral trade amounting to almost USD 50 billion, India and UAE are one of the largest trade partners for each other and have made robust investments bilaterally.

The UAE is the sixth-largest source of Indian oil imports and hosts a 3.3 million-strong Indian community, which amounts to the largest number of Indians outside India.

Indians also make up the largest ethnic group in the UAE making up roughly 27 per cent of the total UAE`s residents.

During the Indian PM Narendra Modi’s visit to the UAE in February 2018, both sides set an ambitious target of US$100 billion in bilateral trade by the year 2020.

GSAT-11: India’s heaviest communication satellite launched successfully from French Guiana

GSAT-11: India’s heaviest communication satellite launched successfully from French Guiana

India’s heaviest and most-advanced communication satellite GSAT-11, also called the “Big Bird“, was successfully launched into space on December 5, 2018 from the Spaceport in French Guiana, South America.

The satellite will help provide satellite-based internet to remote places where cable-based internet cannot reach. The satellite, weighing 5854 kg, is the heaviest Indian-made equipment that has been put into the orbit.

Developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the GSAT-11 was launched on the Ariane 5 VA-246 rocket from Kourou Launch Base, French Guiana.

The Ariane 5 also lifted off South Korea’s GEO-KOMPSAT-2A satellites. Ariane 5 is one of three launch vehicles operated by Arianespace along with Soyuz and Vega.

GSAT-11: Boost the broadband connectivity
The 5854-kg GSAT-11 will provide high data rate connectivity to Indian mainland and islands users through 32 user beams in Ku-band and 8 hub beams in Ka-band.

With 32 Ku-band transponders and 8 Ka-band hubs on board, GSAT-11 would be three to six times more powerful than any other ISRO’s satellite.

GSAT-11 will boost the broadband connectivity to rural and inaccessible Gram Panchayats in the country under the Bharat Net Project, which is part of Digital India Programme. The Bharat Net Project aims to enhance the public welfare schemes like e-banking, e-health, e-governance, among others.

The satellite will help meet India’s growing mobile and internet usage in households, businesses and public organizations.

When GSAT-11 would become operational?

After a 30-minute flight, GSAT-11 separated from the Ariane 5 in an elliptical Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit.  The achieved orbit was very close to the intended one.

Post-separation, ISRO’s Master Control Facility in Karnataka took over the command and control of GSAT-11.

The scientists will now undertake phase-wise orbit-raising manoeuvres to place the satellite in the Geostationary Orbit (36000 km above the equator) using its on-board propulsion systems.

GSAT-11 will be positioned at 74-degree east longitude in the geostationary orbit.

Two solar arrays and four antenna reflectors of GSAT-11 will be deployed in orbit.

The satellite will be operational after the successful completion of all in-orbit tests.

5 December 2018

Railways Ministry, Madame Tussauds Wax Museum sign MoU to foster tourism in Delhi NCR

National Rail Museum, Madame Tussauds Wax Museum sign MoU to foster tourism in Delhi NCR

The National Rail Museum (NRM) of the Railways Ministry signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Madame Tussauds Wax Museum to foster tourism in Delhi NCR region.

This first time ever public-private museum collaboration will help attract more tourists to both National Rail Museum and Madame Tussauds Wax Museum.

Highlights of National Rail Museum & Madame Tussauds collaboration

Under the MoU, a special discount of 35 percent will be offered on ticket prices to National Rail Museum visitors when they visit Madame Tussauds Museum, Delhi.

Similarly, Madame Tussauds Wax Museum visitors will be getting discount of 30 percent on combo packages of NRM.

There will be a special provision for school groups. School children will be able to enjoy both museums at a 45 percent discount.

Significance
This collaboration will help in promoting railway heritage and also enable children to learn about national heroes, thereby making the student’s excursion more inclusive, holistic and interesting.

It will spread the concept of a discounted single ticket for accessing more museums, even spanning over 3-4 days. Similar facility is already available in major tourist cities across world.

National Rail Museum (NRM)

National Rail Museum (NRM) is managed by the Indian Railway.

It is one of the top edutainment tourist destinations of Delhi NCR area, having annual footfall of more than 5 lakhs.

NRM offers railway history, heritage, nostalgia, games and children activity at one place.

Spread over 11 acres of land at Chanakyapuri, NRM comprises of outdoor and indoor exhibition space with exotic collections of more than 75 real size exhibits, Joy Train, steam engines, more than hundred artifacts and digital displays, Diesel & Steam Locomotive Simulators, VR based coach simulator, etc.

Madame Tussauds wax museum of Delhi

Madame Tussauds wax museum is a leading chain of Wax Museums in the world.

In 2017, Madame Tussauds opened its 23rd Wax museum in Connaught Place (CP), New Delhi. This is the first wax museum in India of Madame Tussauds.

The CP museum has 52 wax figures of celebrities like Mahatma Gandhi, Amitabh Bachchan, Sachin Tendulkar, Shahrukh Khan among others.

Within a year, the wax museum has become one of the most sought after destination in Delhi.

Prioritise trial against MP/MLAs; designate special courts: SC directs Kerala and Patna HCs

Prioritise trial against MP/MLAs; designate special courts: SC directs Kerala and Patna HCs

The Supreme Court on December 4, 2018 directed the High Courts of Bihar and Kerala to prioritise trials of criminal cases against former and present Members of Parliament (MPs) and Members of Legislative Assemblies (MLAs) involving offences punishable with life imprisonment.

The bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Sanjay Krishan Kaul and K.M. Joseph also directed the high courts to designate as many Sessions and Magistrate’s courts in each district as Special Courts to conduct the speedy trials of lawmakers.

Such cases will be heard on a day to day basis and cases involving life imprisonment as punishment will be heard on priority basis.

The designated courts will have to submit report to High Court regarding the progress of such cases. The High Court will then submit a report regarding the same to the Supreme Court.

The high courts were directed to submit first of such status report by December 14, 2018.

The plea

The bench was hearing the plea filed by advocate and BJP leader Ashwani Kumar Upadhyay to provide adequate infrastructure for setting up Special Courts to decide criminal cases against lawmakers, people’s representatives, public servants and members of the judiciary.

The Amicus Curiae Vijay Hansaria informed the bench that there are 4122 cases pending against current (2324) and former (1675) MPs and MLAs.

Ashwini Kumar also pleaded for a lifetime ban on politicians convicted of criminal offences from contesting elections.

Supreme Court’s September 2018 ruling on political candidates
The Supreme Court on September 25, 2018 ruled that candidates cannot be disqualified from contesting elections merely because charges have been framed against them in a criminal case.

The ruling was delivered by a five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court, which was chaired by Chief Justice Dipak Misra and comprised Justices RF Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra.

The bench ruled that all candidates seeking to contest elections must declare their past criminal charges/ records. Political parties must also display the full details of the criminal charges faced by their candidates on their official website.

The judgment came on a batch of petitions filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, former Chief Election Commissioner JM Lyngdoh and NGO Public Interest Foundation.

SpaceX launches 64 satellites aboard reusable rocket

SpaceX launches 64 satellites aboard reusable rocket

Elon Musk’s SpaceX on December 3, 2018 launched its Falcon 9 rocket carrying 64 small satellites into low orbit around the Earth, setting a new US record.

According to the company, the mission was one of its largest and most complex and intricate endeavours. The mission also marked the third voyage to space for the same Falcon 9 rocket, which marks another milestone for SpaceX’s cost-cutting reusable rocket technology.

The rocket blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California carrying satellites from 34 different companies, government agencies and universities, including the University of Illinois.

Key Highlights

 SpaceX launches 64 satellites aboard reusable rocket In its bid to make rockets more re-usable, like airplanes, SpaceX used a recycled booster for the blast-off for the third time.

The company has landed more than 30 of these boosters back on Earth and has begun re-using them on subsequent missions.

In the past, companies have typically allowed rocket parts costing millions of dollars to fall like junk into the ocean.

However, in the recent mission, several minutes after the liftoff, the tall and white portion of the rocket, which is formally known as the first stage, separated from the second stage in a flawless manner, just like many before it.

The booster then fired its engines and made a controlled, upright landing on a platform in the Pacific Ocean. Meanwhile, the second stage pressed deeper into space.

The launch was chartered by a company called Spaceflight, which specialises in space “rideshares,” or putting multiple satellites on the same rocket.

About the Satellites

The Falcon 9 rocket carried 15 micro-satellites and 49 CubeSats belonging to 34 different clients including public, private and university sources from 17 different countries across the world including South Korea, France and Kazakhstan.

While the microsatellites weigh a few dozen kilograms, the CubeSats are even smaller. The satellites will be placed into orbit over the next several hours.

Among the launched satellites, not all have scientific missions, as one is a sculpture called “Orbital Reflector” by artist Trevor Paglen, sent by the Nevada Museum of Art.

Government forms Rajiv Kumar Committee to look at selling of OIL, ONGC fields to private companies

Government forms Rajiv Kumar Committee to look at selling of OIL ONGC fields to private companies

The Union Government on December 3, 2018 constituted a six-member committee to look at selling of 149 small and marginal oil and gas fields of state-owned the Oil and Natural Gas Corporatio (ONGC) and Oil India Limited (OIL) to private and foreign companies to boost domestic output.

The panel is chaired by the NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar. The other members of the Committee are:

• Cabinet Secretary P K Sinha
• Economic Affairs Secretary Subhash Chandra Garg
• Oil Secretary M M Kutty
• NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant
• ONGC Chairman and Managing Director Shashi Shanker

The six-member panel has already begun consultations with the stakeholders on the possible options.

Highlights of October 2018 meeting held to review domestic production of oil and gas
The formation of the Committee came as a follow up of the October 12, 2018 meeting by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to review domestic production profile of oil and gas and the roadmap for cutting import dependence by 10 percent by 2022.

At the meeting, the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas made a presentation showing that 149 smaller fields of ONGC, OIL and other explorers accounted for just 5 percent of the domestic crude oil production.

Considering this, it was suggested that these smaller fields could be sold to private and foreign firms. This move would also allow ONGC to concentrate on the large fields as they contribute to 95 percent of its production and leave out the rest for private firms.

Sale of Discovered Small Fields

This is the second attempt of by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas to take away some of the fields of state-owned ONGC for giving to private and foreign companies.

Previously in October 2017, the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH) identified 15 producing fields of national oil companies with collective reserve of 791.2 million tonnes of crude oil and 333.46 billion cubic metres of gas for handing over to private sector.

However, the plan could not be implemented as ONGC strongly opposed the proposal and presented its own proposal to outsource operations on the same terms as the government plan. The ONGC is of the view that it should be allowed the same terms as extended to the private and foreign firms in Discovered Small Fields (DSF).

The government gave out 34 fields to private firms by offering them pricing and marketing freedom for oil and gas production in the first round of DSF. The second round of DSF with 25 fields on offer is currently under bidding.

The fields offered in DSF were taken from ONGC and Oil India Ltd as they were lying idle and unexploited.

Note
The Ministry believes that selling of the discovered fields to private firms would help in raising the output.

The Ministry has been tasked by Prime Minister to cut dependence on oil imports by 10 percent by 2022 from the over 77 percent in 2014-15. But the dependence has only increased and is now over 83 percent.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador sworn in as 58th President of Mexico

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador sworn in as 58th President of Mexico

Veteran leftist leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was sworn in as the 58th President of Mexico on December 1, 2018 in the presence a huge crowd that included world leaders including US Vice President Mike Pence, Ivanka Trump and King Felipe VI of Spain.

Lopez Obrador, who took office following his landslide victory in the July 1 presidential elections, vowed to bring an end to corruption, chronic poverty and extreme violence that have plagued the country for more than a decade.

The 65-year-old would hold the post of President of Mexico for a term of six years.

“Radical” rebirth of Mexico

Lopez Obrador, during his swearing-in, reaffirmed his intentions to sell Mexico’s official presidential plane and to not live in the presidential palace, Los Pinos and open its doors to public visitors.

Obrador said that he will save money by living in more modest confines. He also said that he will receive 40 per cent of his presidential salary. He has also dissolved the thousands-strong presidential guard, opting instead for a small group of unarmed body guards.

In an extraordinary move, he also announced his intention to promote a recall referendum during his administration, adding the promise that he will never seek re-election.

Obrador pledged to bring about a “radical” rebirth of Mexico to overturn what he called a disastrous legacy of decades of “neo-liberal” governments. He promised to put Mexico’s sizeable indigenous minority first in his drive to root out inequality.

Key Promises

 Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador sworn in as 58th President of Mexico Obrador provided reassurance to the businesses regarding his policies, which includes the abrupt cancellation of a $13 billion New Mexico City airport. Markets had slumped in Mexico post-July 1 elections.

He reiterated that investments in the country of 130 million people would be safe and pledged to respect central bank independence.

He promised that his government would make savings by stopping corruption induced losses and also promised not to raise national debt or taxes.

He also promised higher wages for the poor and zero tolerance for corruption in his administration.

He promised that his government would ensure a divide between economic and political power in the country and vowed to abolish the regime that the neo-liberal policies of the previous governments had created.

He also vowed to ramp up public investment to rescue state oil company Pemex, which is suffering from heavy debts.

Obrador also reaffirmed plans to create a low-tax special economic zone on Mexico’s northern border to act as the “final curtain” to keep Mexicans working inside their homeland.

Challenges Ahead

Migration at the US border

One of the first challenges the new president will be facing is addressing the migrant crisis at the border with the United States.

In Tijuana, just across from San Diego, over 6,000 migrants, mainly from Honduras, who have been travelling by foot on a caravan since October, wait to be granted asylum into the US.

 Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador sworn in as 58th President of Mexico

The situation has strained the relationship between both countries, particularly after President Donald Trump took a strong stance against granting asylum to the Central American migrants and blamed the Mexican government for not doing enough to stop them, weeks before the midterms.

The American president is pressuring Lopez Obrador to accept a deal to keep asylum-seeking migrants in Mexico while their claims are processed in the United States.

Lopez Obrador has said that he seeks to contain migration through a deal with Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to foster development in Central America and Mexico.

Security

Another major challenge facing Obrador is the unprecedented violence in Mexico.

Over 25,000 murders, a record, were logged in 2017 and around 10,000 were registered between July and October 2018, the bloodiest four-month period since modern records began in 1997.

Other Challenges

The other challenges that await the New Mexican leader include corruption and trade and the falling market. However, just a day before Obrador took office, his predecessor Pena Nieto signed the USMCA deal that will be replacing NAFTA with the US and Canada, with no public objections from the new president.

Critics

The critics are viewing Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s governing ways as authoritarian and radical.

They have called his move of dissolving the thousands-strong presidential guard and replacing them with a small group of unarmed bodyguards as irresponsible.

Critics also accuse him for the plunge in Mexican stocks and the nation’s currency, Peso in recent weeks.

Lopez Obrador: About him and his Political Career

 Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador sworn in as 58th President of Mexico

Born on November 13, 1953 in a small village of Tepetitan, in the south-eastern state of Tabasco, Lopez Obrador graduated from the National Autonomous University of Mexico in 1986 following a break from his studies to participate in politics.

He began his political career in 1976 as a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in Tabasco and eventually became the party’s state leader.

In 1989, he joined the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and was the party’s 1994 candidate for Governor of Tabasco.  He was the national leader of the PRD between 1996 and 1999 and in 2000, he was elected as the Head of Government of Mexico City.

He resigned as the Head of Government of Mexico City in July 2005 to enter the 2006 presidential elections, representing the Coalition for the Good of All, which was led by the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and included the Citizens’ Movement party and the Labor Party. He lost by 0.58 per cent after receiving 35.31 per cent of the votes.

He contested for Presidency for the second time in the 2012 Presidential Elections, again representing the same coalition of PRD, Labor Party, and Citizens’ Movement. He finished second with 31.59 per cent of the votes.

In 2012, he left the PRD and in 2014 founded the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), which he led until 2017.

 Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador sworn in as 58th President of Mexico

He contested for Presidency for the third time in the 2018 Presidential Elections, representing Juntos Haremos Historia, a coalition of the left-wing Labor Party, right-wing Social Encounter Party and MORENA.

This time, he won in a landslide victory, taking 53 percent of the vote and winning large majorities in both houses of the Congress. He is now vowing to lead a sweeping “transformation” after 89 years of government by the same two parties.

The win has been the biggest win for any president and the first for a leftist since Mexico transitioned to multi-party democracy in 2000.

4 December 2018

47th Navy Day observed across India

47th Navy Day observed across India

4 December: Indian Navy Day

The 47th Indian Navy Day was celebrated on December 4, 2018 across India. The day is observed every year to celebrate the achievements and role of the naval force in the country.

To celebrate the occasion, the naval forces presented a display of acrobatic skills from Army choppers in Rameswaram. The display took place at the Dhanushkodi beach which lies on the tip of the Rameswaram Island, Tamil Nadu.

On the occasion of the Indian Navy Day, Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lamba announced that the Indian Navy is the net security provider in the Indian Ocean region. So far, the navy has been successful in thwarting 44 piracy attempts and apprehending 120 pirates.

Since 2008, 70 Indian naval warships have been deployed, which have safely escorted over 3440 ships with over 25000 mariners on board.

Note
The Indian Navy is the marine branch of the Indian Armed Forces and is led by the President of India as Commander-in-Chief.

Why Indian Navy Day is celebrated on 4 December?

The Navy day is celebrated every year to commemorate the success of Operation Trident of Indian Navy on Karachi Harbour during the 1971 Indo-Pak war.

Under Operation Trident, the Indian Navy sank four vessels near the largest Pakistani port of Karachi and ravaged the Karachi harbour fuel fields, killing over 500 Pakistani Navy personnel.

Three Indian Navy missile boats – INS Nipat, INS Nirghat, and INS Veer played a pivotal role in the attack. INS Veer fired its first missile onto Pakistani vessel Muhafiz, a minesweeper, sinking it with the entire crew.

Operation Trident resulted in the first use of anti-ship missiles in the region.

Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries: Qatar to withdraw from OPEC in January 2019

Qatar to withdraw from OPEC in January 2019

Qatar’s Energy Minister Saad Sherida al-Kaabi on December 3, 2018 announced that the country will withdraw from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in January 2019. This decision to quit OPEC was confirmed by Qatar Petroleum, the state oil company.

Al-Kaabi said the withdrawal was purely a business decision. Doha is one of the smallest oil producers in the bloc. Since 2013, the oil production in Qatar has steadily declined from 728000 barrels per day in 2013 to about 607000 barrels per day in 2017, which is just under 2 percent of OPEC’s total production.

The Minister further said, “The withdrawal decision reflects Qatar’s desire to focus its efforts on plans to develop and increase its natural gas production from 77 million tonnes per year to 110 million tonnes in the coming years.”

The move came just days ahead of the OPEC meeting that is scheduled to take place on December 6, 2018.

Note
Qatar is the first Gulf country to leave the OPEC, the bloc of 15 oil-producing countries that account for a significant percentage of the world’s oil production.

Qatar joined OPEC in 1961, one year after its establishment.

Qatar is world’s biggest supplier of LNG: The reason behind Qatar’s withdrawal from OPEC

Qatar’s pure strength is the production of Gas. Qatar is the world’s biggest supplier of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), producing almost 30 percent of the world total.

Qatar also shares the world’s largest known natural gas field, the ‘North Field’ with Iran.

The country plans to increase the supply of natural gas by developing a future strategy based on growth and expansion, both in its activities at home and abroad.

It requires focused efforts, commitment and dedication to maintain and strengthen Qatar’s position as the leading natural gas producer.

In September 2018, Qatar announced to increase its production of natural gas by adding a fourth production line to raise capacity from the North Field to 110 million tonnes a year.

Most of Qatar’s annual LNG supplies, almost 80 million tones, are shipped in tankers to different countries, including the UAE, one of the countries imposing the blockade on Qatar.

Impact on oil prices

Of OPEC’s 15 members, Qatar ranks 11th in oil production and is the fifth smallest producer after Ecuador, Congo, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

Qatar’s withdrawal from the bloc would have limited impact on oil prices and markets as the major countries are maintaining the demand and supply stability.

Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries’ boycott on Qatar: Will the withdrawal intensify the Gulf Crisis?

The move may intensify Qatar’s isolation in its crisis with its Arab neighbors. In June 2017, OPEC members Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Yemen, Libya and Egypt had cut trade and transport ties with Qatar, putting diplomatic blockade on Qatar and accusing the country of supporting terrorism. However, Qatar denied the claims.

The cut off included withdrawal of ambassadors and imposing trade and travel bans. The Qatari channel Al Jazeera also faced a lot of flak for its Islamic bent and critical reporting of the regressive regimes in the region.

Besides this, the nation was also accused of maintaining good relations with Iran and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.

Qatar’s removal from GCC

There is a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), comprising Arab States of the Gulf, which meets ahead of OPEC meetings to discuss the policies. Qatar too had a voice in the council. However, the country was shut out of the council and it is hardly consulted now.

Impact of Qatar’s withdrawal on India
Qatar is India’s major LNG supplier and a major Foreign Portfolio Investor (FPI) in Indian equities markets. It has committed over Rs 40000 crore to the Bharatmala road projects in India and is open to further investments.

In this case, what is good for Qatar is good for India. Once Qatar pulls itself out of the OPEC, it will have freedom to decide and fix the prices of LNG without any pressure of the Gulf nations. This would directly benefit India.

Petronet LNG is India’s biggest gas importer. It buys 8.5 million tonnes of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) every year from Qatar under a long-term contract, accounting for 44 percent of India’s LNG imports.

Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)
OPEC was founded in 1960 by Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, five major oil-producing countries.

OPEC is an organisation of 15 oil-exporting countries and has its headquarters in Vienna.

It hosts regular meetings among the oil ministers of its member nations.

Mohammed Barkindo of Nigeria is currently the Secretary-General of the OPEC.

OPEC Statute

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has a Statute which was adopted by a unanimous decision of its Founder Members in January 1961 in Caracas, Venezuela.

“The Statute stipulates that the principal aim of OPEC is to harmonise the petroleum policies of its Member Countries as part of its efforts to safeguard their interests. It further states that members of the Organization shall work together to ensure stable oil prices, secure fair returns to producing countries and investors in the oil industry, and provide a steady petroleum supply to consumers.”

Objective

The main aim of the OPEC is to coordinate and unify the petroleum policies of its Member Countries and ensure the stabilisation of oil markets in order to secure an efficient, economic and regular supply of petroleum to consumers

Members of OPEC (excluding Qatar)

Algeria (1969) Kuwait  (1960)
Angola (2007) Libya  (1962)
Ecuador (1973) Nigeria  (1971)
Equatorial Guinea (2017) Congo (2018)
Gabon (1975) Saudi Arabia (1960)
Iran (1960) United Arab Emirates
Iraq (1960) Venezuela (1960)

Indonesia, Gabon and Ecuador have previously left the bloc, however, they returned at a later stage. But Indonesia withdrew a second time in 2016 and has not returned since then.

Observers

Besides permanent members, OPEC has several observers which are the oil-producing countries that attend OPEC meetings. These observers are Egypt, Mexico, Norway, Russia and Oman.

OPEC Secretariat
  • The OPEC Secretariat is the executive organ of the OPEC. Located in Vienna, it also functions as the Headquarters of the Organization, in accordance with the provisions of the OPEC Statute.
  • The Secretariat consists of the Secretary General, who is the Chief Executive Officer. It further consists of the Office of the Secretary General, the Legal Office, the Research Division and the Support Services Division.
  • The Secretariat was originally established in 1961 in Geneva, Switzerland. In April 1965, the 8th (Extraordinary) OPEC Conference approved a Host Agreement with the Austria, effectively moving the headquarters to Vienna on September 1, 1965.

National Commission for Women to support livelihood programmes for women in northeast

National Commission for Women to support livelihood programmes for women in northeast

The National Commission for Women (NCW) has decided to support northeast livelihood programmes for women, particularly for those falling under the younger age group, through skill development and specialised training.

The same was decided upon during a meeting between the Minister of State for DoNER Ministry, Dr. Jitendra Singh and the newly appointed member of the three-member National Commission for Women, Soso Shaiza in New Delhi on December 3, 2018.

Objective: The main aim behind the move is to empower the young women as individuals and enable them to earn a living for themselves.

Significance

Though the women in the northeast are quite unbound as far as their contribution in outdoor work is concerned, there is still scope for raising the levels of education among them, especially among women living in remote and rural areas.

The livelihood programmes will impart skill training to these women in order to make them self-reliant.

Other Details

The DoNER Ministry has said that the National Commission for Women can supplement its efforts and resources in carrying forward several of the women-oriented projects that have already been undertaken by the Ministry and the North-Eastern Council.

In this regard, the DoNER Minister of State made a special mention of a number of Self Help Groups (SHGs) of women doing a commendable work in the region.

The DoNER Ministry also assured the NCW that the PSUs working under it will offer their collaboration and cooperation in women-oriented welfare programmes in the region.

Besides, during the meeting between the NCW and the DoNER Ministry, the issue of Northeast women, particularly of younger age groups, living in metros like Bengaluru and Mumbai was also discussed.

Upcoming Projects

An exclusive hostel is being built for the girl students from the northeast in Bangalore University campus. The entire project has been funded by the North Eastern Council and the DoNER Ministry.

Another hostel is being built for the northeast students in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). The hostel will include accommodation for 200 girl students.

Government, ADB sign USD 85 million loan agreement to support skill development in Odisha

Government, ADB sign $85 million loan to support Odisha skill development project

The Union Government on December 3, 2018 signed an $85 million loan agreement with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to improve the skill development eco-system in Odisha and establish an advanced skill training center, the World Skill Center (WSC), in the state’s capital city Bhubaneswar.

The agreement was signed by the Additional Secretary in the Finance Ministry, Sameer Kumar Khare and the Country Director of ADB’s India Resident Mission, Kenichi Yokoyama in New Delhi.

Significance

The project will improve the quality of the state’s technical and vocational education and training programs by making them demand driven and relevant to the industry and will impart advanced occupation-ready skill training aligned with international standards.

Key Highlights

The skill development project will help over 150,000 people learn skills in priority sectors, including manufacturing, construction and services for formal employment.

It would complement the efforts to target the employment needs of the emerging sectors in India and globally.

It would engage Singapore’s Institute of Technical Education Services to support Odisha Skill Development Authority in setting-up and operationalising the World Skill Center.

The World Skill Center would offer internationally bench marked advanced training programs for the working age population of Odisha.

It will provide training to 5,000 teachers, 1000 assessors and deliver eight training courses for 13,000 full-time students.

It will improve the overall eco-system of skill development in Odisha by providing integrated services through an entrepreneurship incubation center, a career counseling and placement center, a curriculum design and development center and education technology deployment center.

Conclusion

The multiple functions of the World Skill Centre will help support a network of Government ITIs and develop skills and capacity of Polytechnics College of engineering and other private skilling centres.

Besides, the ADB will also administer a $2 million technical assistance grant from the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction, financed by the Japan Government that will support capacity development activities under the project.

Nagaland becomes first north-eastern state to launch single emergency number ‘112’

Nagaland becomes first north-eastern state to launch single emergency number ‘112’

The Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on December 1, 2018 launched the single emergency number ‘112’ under the Emergency Response Support System (ERSS) for the state of Nagaland.

The launch coincided with the state’s formation day and the inaugural day of the 2018 edition of the Hornbill Festival.

Key Highlights

With the launch of the emergency response support system, the residents of the state would not require to remember multiple helpline numbers.

The residents could dial ‘112’ or use panic button on their phones or ‘112 India’ mobile App to connect to a single number based emergency service, which will connect to police, fire, health and other helplines through an emergency response centre in the State.

The Emergency Response Vehicles fitted with mobile device terminals were also flagged off on the occasion.

The Union Government has allocated Rs 321.69 crore under the Nirbhaya Fund for the implementation of the ERSS project across the nation. Nagaland alone has been allocated Rs 4.88 crore for the project.

Under this project, one Emergency Response Centre has been established in Kohima along with 3 District Command Centers (DCCs), namely Kohima, Dimapur and Mokokchung.

•  The Emergency Response Centre is capable of receiving emergency calls through voice call to 112, email, panic buttons activated calls and 112 India mobile App.

Shout Feature

The 112 India mobile app includes a unique ‘SHOUT’ feature to ensure the safety of women.

The feature allows victims to seek immediate assistance from registered volunteers in the vicinity apart from contacting Emergency Response Centre.

The SHOUT feature is exclusively available to women.

 Emergency Response Support System launched in Nagaland

Significance

Nagaland has become the first amongst the North-Eastern States and the second state overall in India to launch the single emergency number ‘112’ under ERSS.

The state has integrated the emergency system with Tourist Police and Highway patrol and will expand to interior districts subsequently.

Background

Himachal Pradesh on November 28, 2018 had become the first Indian state to launch the single emergency number ‘112’ service under the Emergency Response Support System (ERSS).

The ‘112 India’ mobile app will be subsequently rolled out in all states and union territories to help people across the country access the unified emergency services.

The Justice Verma Committee, in the backdrop of the unfortunate Nirbhaya incident in December 2012, suggested for the implementation of the ‘Emergency Response Support System’ (ERSS) across India.

This recommendation was accepted by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

International Day of Persons with Disabilities observed globally

International Day of Persons with Disabilities observed globally

3 December: International Day of Persons with Disabilities

The International Day of Persons with Disabilities was observed globally on December 3, 2018 with the theme “Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality”.

The international day aims to promote the rights of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development. It also aims to increase awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of life, be it political, social, economic or cultural.

2018 Theme

This year’s theme focuses on empowering persons with disabilities for an inclusive, equitable and sustainable development as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The 2030 Agenda pledges to “leave no one behind”.

Persons with disabilities, as both beneficiaries and agents of change, can fast-track the process towards inclusive and sustainable development and promote resilient society for all, including in the context of disaster risk reduction and humanitarian action, and urban development.

On the occasion, the UN Secretary-General will launch a flagship report titled “UN Flagship Report on Disability and Development | 2018 – Realizing the SDGs by, for and with persons with disabilities”.

About the Day

 International Day of Persons with Disabilities observed globally The International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD) is held on December 3 every year.

The annual observance of the day was proclaimed in 1992, by a resolution of the United Nations General Assembly.

The day aims to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disability and celebrate their achievements and contributions.

Each year the United Nations announces a theme to observe for International Day of People with Disability.

The annual theme provides an overarching focus on how society can strive for inclusivity through the removal of physical, technological and attitudinal barriers for people with disability.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, adopted in 2006, has further advanced the rights of persons with disabilities in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and other international development frameworks such as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action.

Background

 International Day of Persons with Disabilities observed globally

Currently, the world’s population stands at over 7 billion people and more than one billion people among them, or approximately 15 per cent of the world’s population, live with some form of disability.

Almost 80 per cent of the disabled people have been found to be living in developing countries.

What does disability mean?

A disability is a condition or function judged to be significantly impaired relative to the usual standard of an individual of their group.

The term is often used to refer to individual functioning, including physical impairment, sensory impairment, cognitive impairment, intellectual impairment, mental illness and various types of chronic disease.

Persons with disabilities have generally poorer health, lower education achievements, fewer economic opportunities and higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities.

Why?

The key reason for this is the lack of services available to them such as information and communications technology (ICT), justice or transportation and the many obstacles they face in their everyday lives.

These obstacles can take a variety of forms, including those relating to the physical environment, or those resulting from legislation or policy, or from societal attitudes or discrimination.

People with disabilities are at much higher risk of violence:

  • Children with disabilities are almost four times more likely to experience violence than non-disabled children.
  • Adults with some form or disability are 1.5 times more likely to be a victim of violence than those without a disability.
  • Adults with mental health conditions are at nearly four times the risk of experiencing violence.

The factors that place people with disabilities at higher risk of violence include stigma, discrimination, and ignorance about disability, as well as a lack of social support for those who care for them.

 International Day of Persons with Disabilities observed globally

How to change the situation?

Evidence and experience show that when barriers to their inclusion are removed and persons with disabilities are empowered to participate fully in societal life, their entire community benefits.

The barriers faced by persons with disabilities are, therefore, a detriment to the society as a whole, and accessibility is necessary to achieve progress and development for all.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) recognises that the existence of barriers constitutes a central component of disability.

The Convention seeks to enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life and development.

It calls upon state parties to take appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities have access to all aspects of society, on an equal basis with others, as well as to identify and eliminate obstacles and barriers to accessibility.

Under the Convention, disability is an evolving concept that “results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.”

Accessibility and inclusion of persons with disabilities are fundamental rights recognised by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and are not only objectives but also pre-requisites for the enjoyment of other rights.

COP24: UN Conference on Climate Change begins in Poland

COP24: UN Conference on Climate Change begins in Poland

The 24th meeting of Conference of Parties (COP24) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) began on December 3, 2018 at Katowice, Poland.

The Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama declared the UN COP24 climate summit open and handed over the presidency of the talks to Michal Kurtyka, Poland’s Deputy Environment Minister in the presence of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Delegates from nearly 200 nations began talks to tackle deep political. The COP24 will be hosting over 28000 people. They will include CEOs, mayors, governors and other leaders from civil society at large.

Over 100 events will highlight action in transport, water, land-use, energy, the fashion industry, representing the wide spectrum of climate action.

The Conference will continue till December 14, 2018.

COP24: Will the guidelines for implementation of Paris Agreement be finalised?
The COP24 is very significant as it is expected to finalise guidelines for implementation of the Paris Agreement adopted in 2016.

The COP24 climate summit will see nations try to agree on ways of implementing the the 2015 Paris treaty to limit temperature rises and avert global warming.

India to reaffirm its support for Paris Agreement

Union Environment Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan is leading the Indian delegation at the conference. India expects that COP24 frames pragmatic guidelines and gives due consideration to challenges and priorities of developing countries.

India asserts it strong support to the objective of the Paris Agreement to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping the global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius from pre- industrial revolution period.

During the COP-24, India is expected to highlight its concern for climate change and reaffirm its commitments for finalisation of the Paris Agreement Work Programme.

India will be setting up a Pavilion to create awareness about India’s positive climate actions in various sectors of the economy. The theme of Pavilion is ‘One World One Sun One Grid’. This theme was highlighted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the first assembly of the International Solar Alliance in October 2018.

Paris Agreement on Climate Change

In December 2015, 195 countries pledged to slow the process of global warming in Paris by signing the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Objectives

  • The primary objective is to limit the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels.
  • Efforts will be made to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels so that it will be possible to reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.
  • Parties should take action to conserve and enhance, as appropriate, sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases including forests.
  • With a view to contribute to sustainable development and to achieve the long term temperature goal of 2°C, the COP established the global goal on adaptation of enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change.

Mitigation

Parties recognised the importance of averting, minimising and addressing loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including extreme weather events and slow onset events, and the role of sustainable development in reducing the risk of loss and damage.

Technology Transfer

Parties share a long-term vision on the importance of fully realising technology development and transfer in order to improve resilience to climate change and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Financing

Developed countries will raise finances to the tune of 100 billion US dollars per year by 2020 to help developing nations in both mitigation and adaptation activities. And, other nations are encouraged to provide funding voluntarily.

Implementation

A mechanism to facilitate implementation of and promote compliance with the provisions of this Agreement is hereby established.

Review

The Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement shall undertake its first global stock take in 2023 and every five years thereafter.

Enforcement

This Agreement shall enter into force on the thirtieth day after the date on which at least 55 Parties to the Convention have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.

Signing & Ratification

As of June 2017, 195 UNFCCC members have signed the agreement, 148 of which have ratified it.

US Withdrawal

On June 1, 2017, US President Donald Trump announced to withdraw the United States from the 2015 Paris agreement, stating that the Paris accord would undermine the U.S. economy, cost U.S. jobs, and weaken American national sovereignty.

2-3 December 2018

Government launches Digital Sky Platform for drone registration

Aviation Ministry permits flying of nano drones in India

The Union Government’s Civil Aviation Regulations (CAR) to enable safe flying of Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems (RPAS) popularly referred to as drones came into effect on December 1, 2018. The Government had announced the release of the regulations in August 2018.

With the announcement, while nano drones can start flying in the country with immediate effect, for drones of micro size and above categories, the operators would be required to register on the Digital Sky portal.

Speaking on the occasion, Minister for Civil Aviation Suresh Prabhu said that drones are an industry of the future and it is a matter of great pride for the country that it is now at the cutting edge of the rulemaking in this industry.

The Minister further said that India will be taking lead in this sector and will be working with countries around the world to develop common, scalable standards. He said that the industry has a large potential for Make in India and also to export drones and services from India.

Key Highlights

The regulations released by India to enable safe flying of RPAS detail the obligations of operators, remote pilots, users and manufacturers and original equipment manufacturers for safe operations of the drones and co-operative use of airspace.

To get permissions to fly, RPAS operators or remote pilots will have to file a flight plan.

Under the new regulations, the Aviation Ministry has divided the airspace into three zones, the locations of which will be announced soon. The zones are as follows:

Green Zone (automatic permission)
: Flying in this zone will require intimation of the time and location of the flights through the digital sky portal the app.

Yellow Zone (controlled airspace): Permissions will be required for flying in this zone

Red Zone (flying not permitted): No drones will be allowed to operate in this zone.

The permissions to operate or fly the drones, if granted, will be available digitally on the portal.

Digital Sky Platform

The Digital Sky Platform is the first-of-its-kind national unmanned traffic management (UTM) platform that implements “no permission, no takeoff” (NPNT).

The platform has been built to evolve with the evolving needs of this rapidly changing industry. Its users will be required to do a one-time registration of their drones, pilots and owners.

For every flight (except for the nano category), the users will be required to ask for permission to fly on a mobile app and an automated process will permit or deny the request instantly.

To prevent unauthorised flights and to ensure public safety, any drone without a digital permit to fly will simply not be able to take off.

 Government’s regulations for flying of drones come into effect

The UTM operates as a traffic regulator in the drone airspace and coordinates closely with the defence and civilian air traffic controllers (ATCs) to ensure that drones remain on the approved flight paths.

In the coming months, new features will be developed to ease the process of flying for users and provide oversight to security agencies.

Furthermore, it is envisioned that in the future Digital Sky Service Providers (DSPs) will be extending the functionality of the platform through Application Program Interfaces (APIs).

The payments for Unmanned Aerial Operator’s Permit (UAOP) and Unique Identification Numbers (UIN) will be accepted through the Bharat Kosh (bharatkosh.gov.in) portal.

RPAS, popularly referred to as drones, is a technology platform with wide-ranging applications.

Other Details

The existing drone operators will be required to contact their manufacturers for NPNT-compliant firmware upgrades and Equipment Type Approvals (ETA) from Wireless Planning Coordination (WPC) wing of DoT. The potential drone owners will be required to buy NPNT-compliant RPAS.

The DGCA has released a list of frequently asked questions as well as a list of do’s and don’ts for safe flying.

Besides, a detailed RPAS guidance manual was released in November and it is available on the DGCA website.

The manual includes technical Specifications for NPNT compliance that will help manufacturers roll out relevant upgrades to their RPAS.

With the permission of flying drones being given, the import of drones will also be permitted. A point of contact in the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) will be available on the Digital Sky Website.

 Government’s regulations for flying of drones come into effect

Impact

Drones are a frontier technology that have the potential to boost India’s economic growth.

The technology can greatly benefit the farmers and infrastructure entities such as railways, roads, ports, mines and factories, sectors like insurance, photography and entertainment.

The Minister for Civil Aviation has constituted a task-force on the recommendation of Drone Policy 2.0 under the chairmanship of the Minister of State. The task-force is expected to release its final report by the end of 2018.

The Drone 2.0 framework for RPAS is expected to include regulatory architecture for autonomous flying, delivery through drones and beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flights.

Asia Pacific Summit 2018 begins in Kathmandu

Asia Pacific Summit 2018 begins in Kathmandu

The Asia Pacific Summit 2018 began on December 1, 2018 in Kathmandu, Nepal. The Summit will continue till December 3, 2018.

Theme of Asia Pacific Summit 2018
The Theme of two-day Summit is “Addressing the Critical Challenges of Our Time: Interdependence, Mutual Prosperity, and Universal Values”.

The Summit, organised by the South Korea-based Universal Peace Federation and supported by the Nepal Government, will be attended by the leaders from the Asia-Pacific region including India, Cambodia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Pakistan and Philippines.

Around 1500 participants from 45 countries are attending the summit. They will discuss various global issues, including peace, development, good governance and role of parliamentarians, climate change and role of media.

Some of the notable attendees include senior leader of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party Vijay Jolly, former Indian Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, Myanmar Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, former Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, Nauru President Baron Waqa, Philippines Vice-president Maria Leonor G Robredo, Samoa Head of State Vaaleto’a Sualauvi II Tuimalealiifano and Tuvalu Governor General Iakoba TaeiaItaleli.

Address by various leaders and participants

The Summit began with an inaugural address by Nepal’s Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli who called for active partnership between governments, private sector and diverse social groups.

While, former Indian Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, who is representing India at the Summit, addressed the issues of terrorism and climate change as the biggest challenges of world.

Myanmar State Counsellor, Aung San Suu Kyi stressed the need for collective efforts to tackle terrorism, hunger, migration and displacement, poverty, discrimination and injustice.

Note
This is the first extended international summit being held in Nepal after the 4th BIMSTEC Summit held on August 30-31.

Revised GDP Back Series data: All you need to know about the new GDP data

Revised GDP Back Series data: All you need to know about ongoing GDP data row

Nearly four years after moving to a new GDP series, the Union Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation (MOSPI) on November 28, 2018 released the revised Gross Domestic Product (GDP) data for the years 2004-2005 to 2010-2011.

Modifying the data of past years using 2011-12 as the base year instead of 2004-05, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) lowered the GDP growth rate under the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government from 10.3 percent in financial year 2010-11 to 8.5 percent.

The new numbers show that India’s economic growth rate for 2005-06 to 2011-12 averaged at 6.7 percent. The previous numbers had put the average growth rate during the UPA rule at 7.75 percent.

It was in February 2015 that the CSO worked out a new formula with 2011-12 as the base year and the new GDP series was announced. At that time, they had revised the new GDP series from 2012-13 onwards. Since then, all GDP data whether quarterly or annual have been calculated based on new series.

Answers to all your Whys?
Why is there a need to change the Base Year?

The Base year is periodically revised to uncover the structural changes that have taken place in the economy over time and to depict a better picture of the economy through Gross Domestic Product (GDP), National Income, consumption expenditure and other related aggregates.

Why was 2011-12 chosen as the Base Year?

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) uses the estimates from the results of Quinquennial Employment and Unemployment Surveys (EUS) of National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), which are conducted once in every five years, for revising the base years of national accounts statistics once in every five years.

The change in the base year also coincides with the years for which the NSSO conducts the Quinquennial Employment and Unemployment Surveys.

The 61st Round Quinquennial EUS 2004-05, based on which 2004-05 was chosen as the Base Year, was followed by a Quinquennial EUS in 2009-10. However, the 2009-10 was not considered as a “normal” year since it succeeded the Great Recession of 2008.

Hence, a fresh EUS was conducted in 2011-12, the results of which were used for the compilation of the estimates in the new series with base year 2011-12. The year 2011-12 saw the GDP deflator as the highest in the last 10 years. The GDP deflator is an indicator of system inflation that is used to convert nominal GDP to real GDP.

Why Government gives out the ‘Back Series’ GDP data?

The back series data serves as a link between the old and new methodology of calculating the GDP.

After introduction of the new base year of National Accounts, the back-series estimates of National Accounts Statistics (NAS) are compiled and released for the years preceding the new base year for completeness and comparability with old base data sets.

Why the revised GDP data fuelled political row?

Seeing the downward revision of India’s growth rate during the Congress-led UPA regime from 2004-05 to 2010-11, former Finance Minister P Chidambaram slammed the back series GDP data and called the revision a “bad joke.”

Responding to this criticism, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that what was welcomed by the UPA in 2015 is now being criticised because the GDP growth has been revised downwards.

In 2015, the CSO revised the GDP growth of the last two years of the UPA that is 2012-13 and 2013-14. At that time, the GDP growth was revised upwards. At that time, the revised GDP was welcomed by the UPA government.

He further added that a highly credible organisation like CSO has global credibility and no one has ever alleged motives to it. The revised numbers are globally more comparable as they take into account a far greater representation of the Indian economy and are more reflective of its real state.

New methodology by CSO under former chief statistician TCA Anant

The revision of GDP work was started by the CSO under the then chief statistician TCA Anant who changed the base year from 2004-05 to 2011-12 and updated the methodology to calculate the GDP to be in line with internationally accepted standards.

This new methodology uses a lot of data from the Ministry Of Corporate Affairs database of corporations (MCA 21) as well as the production shift method. The problem is that MCA 21 was available only from 2006-07 and thus could not be used for earlier GDP calculations.

However, this MCA 21 data stabilised and could be used only 2010-11 onwards. This was a reason that the CSO under TCA Anant only released the back calculation till 2010-11.

Major Highlights of Revision
Improvement in Methodology

Implementation of International Guidelines (SNA 2008)

  • Estimation by different institutional sectors
  • Valuation of GVA at basic prices
  • Research & Development expenses treated as part of Capital Formation
  • Reserve Bank of India : treated as a Non-Market Enterprise
  • Financial Intermediation Services Indirectly Measured (FISIM) computed using Reference Rate method

Other Changes

  • Use of Enterprise Approach
  • Modified Labour Input Method
  • Use of Sales tax indicator for unincorporated trade instead of GTI index
  • Use of Sector specific CPIs used (Health, Education, Transport & Comm)
  • Inclusion of construction materials as basic materials (bitumen, glass) & indirect estimate of sand
Use of Latest Data Sources
  • Rebasing to 2011-12 by using recent survey or census data
  • Use of MCA 21 database
  • New series of WPI & CPI in lieu of CPI-AL/IW
Improvement in Coverage
  • Inclusion of stock brokers, stock exchanges, asset management companies, additional mutual funds and pension funds, regulatory bodies like SEBI, PFRDA & IRDA in Financial sector
  • Improvements in coverage of local bodies and autonomous institutions
Important Terms
What do you mean by ‘GDP’?

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the final value of the goods and services produced within the geographic boundaries of a country during a specified period of time, normally a year. GDP growth rate is an important indicator of the economic performance of a country.

Nominal and Real GDP

The Nominal GDP comprises the absolute values of goods and services produced in the country in a particular year. In order to compare and know how the economy is growing, the figures of Nominal GDP need to be brought under a ‘constant’ base year. This becomes ‘Real GDP’.

What is a ‘Base Year’?

A base year is the year used for comparison for the level of a particular economic index. It gives an idea about changes in purchasing power and enables calculation of inflation-adjusted growth estimates.

Former US President George H.W. Bush passes away

Former US President George H.W. Bush passes away

George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st President of the United States who helped steer America through the end of the Cold War, passed away on November 30, 2018. He was 94. He is survived by four sons namely George W Bush, Jeb, Neil and Marvin and a daughter Dorothy Bush LeBlond.

President Bush was suffering from Parkinson’s disease that forced him to use a wheelchair in recent years, and he had been in and out of hospitals in recent months as his health declined.

Earlier, he was admitted to a hospital with a blood infection on April 23, 2018, one day after the funeral of his wife Barbara Bush, and remained there for 13 days.

George HW Bush’s role in steering America through the end of the Cold War
  • President Bush worked with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and other key global figures to end the Cold War peacefully.
  • In August 1990, after Iraqi troops under dictator Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, President Bush forged a coalition of 32 countries to restore Kuwaiti sovereignty and upheld the international law.
  • Subsequently, he convened the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991, bringing Israel and Arab neighbours together in face-to-face discussions for the first time in history.

George Herbert Walker Bush: A glance through his life

• George HW Bush was born on June 12, 1924 in Milton, Massachusetts into a wealthy New England political dynasty.

• After turning 18, Bush graduated from Phillips Academy Andover and enlisted in the Navy, just six months after the Japanese attacked the Pearl Harbour.

• Within a year of joining the US Navy, he received his wings and officer’s commission and was believed to be the Navy’s youngest pilot.

• When World War II was at its peak, Bush flew torpedo bombers off the USS San Jacinto. In September 1944, his plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire while he was on a bombing run in the Pacific and was later rescued by a submarine.

• After the war, Bush married Barbara Pierce in 1945 and graduated in 1948 with a degree in economics from Yale.

• Bush had first gotten involved in politics as chairman of the Harris County Republican Party in Houston.

• He lost his first political campaign for a Senate seat in 1964, but he was elected to the House of Representatives in 1966.

• He was re-elected in 1968 and then lost a second campaign for the Senate in 1970.

• Later, the then US President Richard Nixon appointed Bush as the Ambassador to the United Nations.

• After Nixon resigned from office, President Gerald Ford named Bush as the Chief of the U.S. Liaison Office in China and then as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

• In 1980, Ronald Reagan selected Bush as the Vice President.

• After eight years of serving as Vice President, he was elected as the 41st President of the US on November 8, 1988. He was sworn in on January 20, 1989, and served until January 20, 1993.

• During his presidential term, he saw various revolutionary events such as the collapse of the Soviet Union; the end of the Cold War; the Berlin Wall fell; and Germany united within NATO following 45 years of post-war division.

• President Bush also reduced the threat of nuclear attack by signing two Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties in 1991 and 1993, and negotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1992  which later became a law.

Interesting fact
President Bush was informally known as “41” after his son George W. Bush was elected as the president.

1 December 2018

India to Chair Kimberley Process from January 2019

India to Chair Kimberley Process from January 2019

India was handed the Chairmanship of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) by the European Union during the KPCS Plenary 2018, which was held in Brussels, Belgium, from November 12-16, 2018. India will take over the role from January 1, 2019.

Federica Mogherini, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice- President of the European Commission officially handed over the KPCS Chairmanship to India during the concluding day of the Plenary. Indian Commerce Secretary, Dr. Anup Wadhawan was present on the occasion.

Key Highlights

India as a KPCS Chair will be committed to make the KPCS a stronger process in terms of inclusiveness, strengthened administration and implementation.

It will also be committed to making it more efficient in terms of delivery of what it promises, more transparent and empathetic towards the living standards of people who are dependent on the production, trade and manufacture of diamonds.

Further, recognising the issues and challenges of Artisanal & Small-Scale Mining (ASM), India aims to support the ASMs with capacity building, technical assistance and education on valuation, differentiation between natural and lab-grown diamonds and the importance of legal and formal mining practices.

The 4-day KPCS Plenary witnessed discussion on environmental challenges in diamond mining and industry responsibility.

India held bilateral meetings during the event with Botswana, US, Russian Federation and the World Diamond Council to discuss on various issues related to KPCS and its working groups.

On the sidelines of the Plenary, the Chair of Working Groups conducted meetings to discuss some key issues like KP statistics and confidentiality, synthetic diamonds and separate HS code for synthetic rough diamonds, issues relating to review visit and review mission and the issue of Central African Republic (CAR).

India and KPCS

India is the founding member of KPCS and is actively involved in KP activities to ensure that almost 99 per cent of the diamond trade in the world is conflict free.

India is committed to maintaining KP as an efficient and effective process in order to ensure the conflict diamond free status.

Further, it is at the forefront in addressing the issue of differentiation between Natural Diamonds and Lab Grown Diamonds and ensure responsible business in this area.

India chaired the Ad hoc Committee on Review and Reform (AHCRR). The AHCRR held one joint session with Chairs of other Working Groups and 4 sessions with AHCRR committee members to discuss the issue of funding of Permanent Secretariat (PS), Multi-Donor Trust Fund (MDTF), peer review mechanism and consolidation to the core document.

About KPCS

 India to Chair Kimberley Process from January 2019

The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme is a process, which was established in 2000 to prevent “conflict diamonds” from entering the mainstream rough diamond market by a United Nations General Assembly Resolution following recommendations made by the Fowler Report.

The process was set up “to ensure that diamond purchases were not financing violence by rebel movements and their allies seeking to undermine legitimate governments.”

Since its launch, the Kimberley Process has contributed towards peace, security and prosperity.

It has proven to be an effective multilateral tool for conflict prevention in stemming the flow of conflict diamonds.

It has also made a valuable developmental impact in improving the lives of most people dependent on the trade in diamonds.

Since August 2013, the Kimberley Process has 54 participants, representing 81 countries. The next session is slated to be held in India as with the nation as the Chair. Botswana and the Russian Federation will serve as Vice-Chair during the period of 2019-2020.

DAIC, JNU sign MoU to enhance research activities for sustainable development

DAIC, JNU sign MoU to enhance research activities for sustainable development

Dr Ambedkar International Centre (DAIC) and the Jawaharlal Nehru University on November 30, 2018 signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to facilitate and enhance research activities and policy formulation aimed at socio-economic transformation and sustainable development.

The MoU was signed by Prof M Jagadesh Kumar, Vice Chancellor of JNU and Atul Dev Sarmah, Director of DAIC.

JNU, with a status of the ‘University of Excellence’ given by the UGC, is a world-renowned centre for teaching and research, having collaborations and MoUs with universities across the world in research projects, conferences, and publications.

Highlights of the MoU

• The MoU will facilitate and enhance research activities and policy formulation aimed at Socio-economic Transformation and Sustainable Development.

• The two organisations resolved to cooperate within the scope of their mandates and sphere of competences to work for these issues.

• They recognised the benefits to be derived from increased collaboration, cooperation and interaction for the further promotion and understanding of high performance in research training and organising various programmes including conferences, seminars, symposia and lecture series.

• The MoU aims to define the areas for fundamental, academic research in which both the sides desire to work together in future for their mutual benefit to foster a collaborative framework between DAIC and JNU.

• It will also support collaboration among the researchers associated with both the Parties.

Dr Ambedkar International Centre (DAIC)

• DAIC, inaugurated by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is a centrally located state-of-the-art Centre for quality research in socio-economic transformation and it has been envisaged as a think-tank for preparing policy briefs.

• The centre, constructed at a cost of Rs 195.74 crore at 15 Janpath, was declared as a Centre of Excellence for Socio-economic Transformation and Buddhist Studies by PM Narendra Modi in December 2017.

• The Centre has five schools – School of Sustainable Development and Livelihood, School of Buddhist Studies, School of Policy Making and Policy Advocacy, School of Studies on Ambedkar, and School of Socio-economic Transformation.

• These five schools offer short term accredited courses, training and internships, data mining opportunities, research programmes, conferences and symposiums, lecture series and study tours.

Jharkhand to provide free mobile phones to 28 lakh farmers, says CM

Jharkhand to provide free mobile phones to 28 lakh farmers, says CM

Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das on November 29, 2018 announced that the government will provide free mobile phones to 28 lakh farmers and a separate electric feeder for them for agriculture purpose by 2019/2021.

The information was shared by the Chief Minister while speaking at the inaugural function of the two-day Agriculture and Food Summit in Ranchi. The CM said that a separate electric feeder would be set up by May 2019 for farmers for agriculture purpose, providing them six hours of uninterrupted electricity.

Key Highlights

The mobile phones will be given to the farmers to keep the middlemen away and also help farmers to have greater information about the market.

The move will help the farmers know about the market rates and other information relating to agriculture.

Besides this, the state will ensure that power supply will reach every household by December 2018 and by May 2019 separate feeders would be set up for agriculture, for households and industrial usage.

Further, 24×7 power supply will be made available in the rural areas of the state by August 2019.

CM Raghubar Das gave credit to the farmers for the state jumping to 14 per cent agriculture growth from minus 4.5 per cent registered four years ago.

He said that in order to provide a further boost to the agriculture growth, the state has to modernise the farmers, ensuring production at an international yardstick.

Towards the same, the state’s Chief Minister suggested the farmers:

To try and earn one-third of their income from agriculture, another one-third from animal husbandry and another 1-3rd from horticulture and floriculture.

To start solar farming on barren land, which would help them increase their income, and the government will procure through grid at three rupees per unit.

To use modern technology in farming, in order to be in line with the era of globalization and double their income by 2022.

To focus on dairy production and bring white revolution by 2022 in the state, besides focusing on organic farming.

Other Details

The state government has sanctioned sufficient funds for the development of agriculture and allied activities and framed a food processing policy, which is focused on bottling and packaging as food processing is the important link between the farmers and the urban customers.

The government has also announced that it will foot the premium of interest generated from loans taken by farmers if the latter returned the loan amount within one year of taking the loan.

Background

Jharkhand has shown the maximum turnaround in farmer’s life in the last four years in comparison to the other states.

The state, which is both mineral and agriculture-rich, has achieved 19 per cent growth in agriculture.

Currently, the state is working on how to produce maximum yield with minimum water, while it registered 83 per cent growth in fish production.

Efforts are also on in the state to produce tomatoes, onions, peas and other vegetables. The farmers are also being encouraged to take up organic farming.

The state has introduced several initiatives in the agriculture sector in the last four years such as single window facility, soil health card, women self-help groups, farm producers groups, the revival of water resources and Krishi bazaar modernisation among others.

IAF, US air force to conduct joint exercise ‘Cope India 2019’

IAF, US air force to conduct joint exercise ‘Cope India 2019’

The air forces of the United States and India are scheduled to participate in a 12-day- long joint exercise ‘Cope India 2019’ at two air force stations in West Bengal in December 2018.

The exercise will be held from December 3-14 at Air Station Kalaikunda and Air Station Arjan Singh in Panagarh airbase. It showcases efforts and commitment of the two nations to build a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

Cope India: Key Highlights

The Cope India exercise is being held after a gap of eight years, with the last one having taken place in 2010.

The exercise is a long-standing bilateral US Pacific Air Forces-sponsored Field Training Exercise, conducted with the Indian Air Force.

It focuses on enhancing mutual cooperation between the US and India and building on the existing capabilities, aircrew tactics and force employment.

Around 200 men from the US Air Force with 15 aircraft from the 18th Wing, Kadena Air Base, Japan and 182nd Airlift Wing, Illinois Air National Guard will take part in the exercise alongside men from the Indian Air Force.

Cope India

Cope India is a series of joint Air Force exercises held between the Indian Air Force and the United States Air Force, in India.

The first such exercise, which required many months of preparation, was conducted at the air force station in Gwalior in February 2004.

The exercise included flight tests, practice and demonstrations as well as lectures on subjects related to aviation.

There were also media functions and social interactions held among troops of the two countries.

The exercise has now evolved to incorporate subject matter expert exchanges, air mobility training, airdrop training and large-force exercises, in addition to fighter-training exercises.