February 23, 2019

February 2019

28 February 2019

National Science Day 2019 observed; Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize to be conferred

National Science Day 2019 observed

28 February: National Science Day

The National Science Day 2019 was observed across India on February 28, 2019 to mark the discovery of the Raman Effect by Indian physicist Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman (CV Raman).

This year celebrations of the Day were organised by the Department of Science & Technology (DST).

Theme
The theme of National Science Day 2019 was “Science for the People and the People for Science.”

Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize

On the occasion of National Science Day 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will confer the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize for Science and Technology for the years 2016, 2017 and 2018 to the awardees.

The Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize is named after the founder Director of the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), Dr. Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar.

The Prize is given each year to recognise outstanding Indian work in various disciplines of Science and Technology.

Why the National Science Day is observed on February 28 in India?
The National Science Day is observed on February 28 to mark the discovery of the Raman Effect (a phenomenon of scattering of photons) by Indian physicist, Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata (CV) Raman on February 28, 1928.

For his path-breaking discovery, CV Raman was knighted in 1929 and awarded the Nobel Prize in 1930. This was the first Nobel Prize won by an Indian or any Asian in the field of Science.

The motive behind the celebration of the Day is to spread a message about science and its importance in the daily life of the people.

Raman Effect

  • Raman Effect is a process in which the wavelength of light changes when it passes through a transparent sample of a chemical compound. The light beam changes its wavelength when its molecules are deflected.
  • The molecules deflect when the light passes through a dust-free, transparent sample of a chemical compound or something else. In this case, a fraction of the light emerges in directions other than that of the actual beam. Maximum of the scattered light is of unchanged wavelength.
  • The small part of deflected light or the light with a different wavelength is the result of the Raman Effect.

How the day came into existence?

The day came into existence after the National Council for Science and Technology Communications (NCSTC) asked the Union Government to designate 28 February as National Science Day in 1986.

In 1986 itself, the government designated 28 February as National Science Day. The first National Science Day was observed in the year 1987.

Geneva Convention: How will it help India bring back captured IAF Pilot?

Geneva Convention: How will it help India bring back captured IAF Pilot?

The Union Ministry of External Affairs has confirmed that during an aerial engagement with Pakistani fighter jets on February 27, 2019, India lost one of its MiG-21 aircraft. The fighter jet was shot down in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and its pilot, an Indian Air Force Wing Commander was taken into custody by Pakistan.

The incident occurred when the Indian Air Force swiftly responded to Pakistan’s attempt to target its military installations along LoC and shot down one Pakistani fighter aircraft, F-16. According to sources, at least ten Pakistani fighter jets were seen heading for military targets along LoC but they were forced to retreat without causing any damage in India.

However, post the engagement, reports of video footage of the captured IAF pilot being circulated on social media came out. Following this, MEA released a statement conveying India’s strong objection to Pakistan’s vulgar display of injured personnel in violation of all norms of International Humanitarian Law and the Geneva Convention.

India also made clear to Pakistan that no harm should be caused to the IAF Wing Commander and summoned the acting high commissioner of Pakistan to demand his immediate and safe return.

Sources in the Indian Army have also stated that the captured IAF officer should be extended all courtesies accorded to prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions, no matter whether it is declared war or not.

So let us understand what is the Geneva Convention and how it can be invoked to help India bring back the IAF pilot under the present circumstances.

Geneva Convention

What is the Geneva Convention?

The Geneva Conventions are a set of international treaties agreed to between 1864 and 1949 that establish the standards of international law for humanitarian treatment in case of war.

The conventions ensure that warring nations conduct themselves in a humane way with non-combatants such as civilians and medical personnel, as well as with combatants no longer actively engaged in fighting, such as prisoners of war and wounded or sick soldiers.

  Geneva Convention: Treatment and release of prisoners of war

How many treaties are there under the Convention?

Overall, the Geneva Conventions comprise four treaties and three additional protocols.

First Geneva Convention: First adopted in 1864 then finally in 1949, the convention deals with the treatment of wounded and sick armed forces in the field.

Second Geneva Convention: First adopted in 1949 and successor of the Hague Convention of 1907, the convention deals with the sick, wounded and shipwrecked members of armed forces at sea.

Third Geneva Convention: First adopted in 1929 and revised in 1949, the convention deals with the treatment of prisoners of war during times of conflict.

Fourth Geneva Convention: First adopted in 1949, based on parts of the Hague Convention, the convention deals with the treatment of civilians and their protection during wartime.

The three additional protocols are as follows:

Protocol I (1977): It relates to the protection of victims of international armed conflicts.

Protocol II (1977): It relates to the protection of victims of non-international armed conflicts.

Protocol III (2005): It relates to the adoption of an additional distinctive emblem.

The whole set of conventions, with two revised and adopted and the second and fourth added, are together referred to as the Geneva Conventions of 1949 or simply Geneva Conventions.

How many countries ratified the agreement?

The Geneva Conventions of 1949 were ratified, in whole or with reservations, by 196 countries across the world.

  Geneva Convention: How will it help India bring back captured IAF Pilot

When are the conventions applicable?

The Geneva Conventions apply at times of war and armed conflict to governments who have ratified its terms. The further details of the applicability of the conventions have been explained in the following two common articles:

Common Article 2: Relating to international armed conflicts

The provisions of the article state that the Geneva Conventions apply to all cases of international conflict, where at least one of the warring nations have ratified the Conventions.

The Conventions apply to all cases of declared war between signatory nations.

The Conventions also apply to all cases of armed conflict between two or more signatory nations, even in the absence of a declaration of war.

They also apply to a signatory nation even if the opposing nation is not a signatory, but only if the opposing nation accepts and applies the provisions of the Conventions.

Common Article 3: Relating to non-international armed conflict

– The provisions of the article state that the certain minimum rules of war apply to armed conflicts where at least one party is not a state.

– It applies to conflicts between the government and rebel forces, or between two rebel forces, or to other conflicts that have all the characteristics of war, whether carried out within the confines of one country or not.

– The provisions of this article state that persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those overcome by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely.

The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for. To ensure the same, the following acts are prohibited:

Violence to life and person, in particular, murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture.

Taking of hostages.

Outrages upon dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment.

The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court.

Rights of Prisoners of War

Under the Third Geneva Convention, prisoners of war (POW) must be:

Treated humanely with respect for their persons and their honor.

Able to inform their next of kin and the International Committee of the Red Cross of their capture.

Allowed to communicate regularly with relatives and receive packages.

Given adequate food, clothing, housing, and medical attention.

Paid for work done and not forced to do work that is dangerous, unhealthy or degrading.

Released quickly after conflicts end.

Not compelled to give any information except for the name, age, rank, and service number. Refusal to answer questions should not invite punishment.

In addition, if wounded or sick on the battlefield, the prisoner will receive help from the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Further, the use of PoWs as hostages or human shields is strictly prohibited.

Is the captured Indian pilot a prisoner of war?

While neither India nor Pakistan has named the current situation as war or identified the pilot as a prisoner of war, the Geneva Conventions apply to all cases of armed conflict between two or more signatory nations, even in the absence of a declaration of war.

Going by the same, the Indian pilot can be identified as a prisoner of war, even though he hasn’t been officially named as such.  Hence, his treatment also should be in accordance with the provisions for PoWs under the Geneva Conventions.

What do the conventions say about the release of PoW?

According to Article 118 of the third Geneva Convention, prisoners of war shall be released and repatriated without delay when the hostilities between the two nations end and any unjustifiable delay in the repatriation of the prisoner of war will be a grave breach of the Protocol.

Who is responsible for ensuring whether the Geneva Conventions are being followed?

The Geneva Conventions have a system of “Protecting Powers” who ensure that the provisions of the conventions are being followed by the parties in a conflict. Each side must designate states that are not party to the conflict as their “Protecting Powers”. In practice, the International Committee of the Red Cross usually plays the role.

The conventions were, in fact, established as a result of Red Cross founder Henri Dunant pushing for negotiations to help the wounded in time of war in 1864.

Past Instance of Prisoner of War

A similar situation had occurred during the Kargil War in 1999 when Indian Flight Lieutenant Kambampati Nachiketa was captured after his MiG-27 suffered an engine flameout while destroying enemy positions in the Batalik subsector.

The Lieutenant was captured by Pakistan on May 27, 1999 and he remained in Pakistani custody for more than a week.

He was returned to India on June 3 after intense diplomatic efforts by the then government led by the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

SHREYAS: Union HRD Ministry launches Scheme to provide apprenticeship opportunities to graduates

Union HRD Ministry launches SHREYAS Scheme to provide apprenticeship opportunities to graduates

The Union Minister for Human Resources Development, Prakash Javadekar on February 27, 2019 launched the ‘Scheme for Higher Education Youth in Apprenticeship and Skills’ (SHREYAS) for providing industry apprenticeship or training opportunities to fresh graduates of 2019.

Launched primarily to skill non-technical students of BA, BSc. BCom courses, the SHREYAS programme intends to introduce BA, BSc, and BCom (Professional) courses in the higher educational institutions.

These courses will be available to the students from Academic year April-May 2019.

The scheme aims to boost the employment skills of Indian youth by providing them with ‘on the job work exposure’ through the National Apprenticeship Promotional Scheme (NAPS) and the National Career Service (NCS).

Ministries involved

The SHREYAS Scheme is a programme basket comprising the initiatives of three central ministries, including the Ministry of Human Resources Development, Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, and the Ministry of Labour and Employment.

SHREYAS: Scheme for Higher Education Youth in Apprenticeship and Skills
Functioning of the Scheme

The scheme will be operated in conjunction with National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS) which provides for placing of apprentices or trainees up to 10 percent of the total work force in every industry.

The scheme will be implemented by the Sector Skill Councils (SSCs) initially in the Banking Finance Insurance Services (BFSI), Retail, Health care, Telecom, Logistics, Media, Management services, ITeS and Apparel.  More sectors would be added over time with emerging apprenticeship demand.

The programme would witness the simultaneous implementation of three tracks. These 3 tracks are:

1st Track: Add-on apprenticeship (Degree apprenticeship)

The students, who are about to complete the degree programme, would be invited to choose a job role of their choice from a selected list of apprenticeship or training job roles.

This apprenticeship programme would commence immediately after completion of the degree programme (May each year) with basic training regarding the sector and will long for 6 months.

During the apprenticeship period, the student would get a monthly stipend of about Rs 6,000 per month by the industry. At the end, successful students would get skills certificate in addition to their degree certificate.

2nd Track: Embedded Apprenticeship

The existing B.Voc (Bachelor of Vocation) programmes would be restructured into B.A (Professional), B.Sc (Professional) or B.Com (Professional) courses. These courses would include educational input, vocational input, and mandatory apprenticeship of 6 to 10 months.

Alternatively, one full semester of an existing B.Voc course would be dedicated to apprenticeship with industry. During the apprenticeship period, the student would get a monthly stipend of about Rs 6,000 per month by the industry, 25 percent of which would be reimbursed under the NAPS programme.

At the end, successful students would get skills certificate in addition to their degree certificate.

3rd Track: Linking National Career Service with Colleges

Under this, the National Career Service (NCS) portal of Ministry of Labour & Employment would be linked with the Higher Education institutions. The students would be trained in soft skills required by the market. This would improve the employment opportunities.

Process
  • The scheme would be operationalised by coordination of Ministry of Skills Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) and the Ministry of Labour.
  • The Sector Skill Councils (SSCs) have identified more than 100 areas where they would be able to find apprenticeship opportunities where the apprenticeships would be provided.
  • Higher Educational Institutions can log-in to the SHREYAS portal and express their interest in the skill areas along with the expected number of students.
  • This demand would be scrutinised by the SSC concerned, who would confirm the positions available on portal.
  • Based on this confirmation, the Higher Educational Institutions would upload the names of the students on the SHREYAS portal.
  • The NAPS would thereupon generate the Contract between the industry and the student.
  • After this, the monthly stipend would be paid by the industry and 25 percent of this would be reimbursed by NAPS portal subject to a maximum of Rs 1,500 per month.
  • The SSC would monitor the progress and would conduct the examination at the end of the apprenticeship period and would give certificate to the successful candidates.
  • These certificates will be valid throughout India for seeking employment.
  • More than 40 higher educational institutions have already been tied up for taking up embedded apprenticeship courses.
Objectives
  • To improve employability of students by introducing employment relevance
  • To forge a close functional link  between education and industry
  • To provide skills to the students in a dynamic manner
  • To establish an ‘earn while you learn’ system into higher education
  • To help industry in securing good quality manpower
  • To link student community with employment facilitating efforts of the Government
Financing of the Scheme

Under the NAPS scheme, the Central Government shares 25 percent of the stipend per month subject to a maximum of Rs.1500 per month during the period of the apprenticeship. Apart from that, an amount upto Rs 7500 will be met towards basic training cost, where needed.

Target

The scheme aims to cover 50 lakh students by 2022.

Roles of agencies involved

Role of the Institutions: The institutions would explain the scheme along with various options to the students who are in the final year. The institutions would register the students on the SHREYAS portal, duly indicating their skill job roles along with likely number of students in each role.

Role of SSCs: SSCs would identify industries for apprenticeship and would conduct assessment leading to certification. They would arrange and confirm the establishments where the students would be provided as apprenticeships.

Role of National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) of Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE):  MSDE operates the NAPS programme through NSDC.  They would not only monitor the programme, progress of the apprentices, but would finance the programme by disbursing the claims from the business enterprises towards stipend reimbursement as per the NAPS.

Role of States: The State Governments are expected to play a major role in securing apprenticeship opportunities, apart from the Sector Skill Councils, so that general degree students passing out in April 2019 gain the option of industry & service sector apprenticeship.

Indian Railways launches new facility; Rail passengers can now view reservation chart, vacant berths online

Rail passengers can now view reservation chart, vacant berths online

Union Minister of Railways & Coal, Piyush Goyal on February 27, 2019 launched a new facility for Public Viewing of Train Charts and Vacant Berths to enhance travel experience and bring greater transparency for Indian Railway passengers.

With this, rail passengers can view the information about reservation chart and vacant berths through IRCTC website.

This feature will be available in web as well as on the mobile version.

Functioning of the new facility
  • The user-friendly interface will give a graphical representation of the train coaches and berth-wise accommodation status.
  • The system displays coach layout of 9 classes used in the reserved trains of Indian Railways and more than 120 different coach layouts have been incorporated.
  • It displays class wise and coach wise full vacant berth availability information as per the ‘First Chart’ of the train. ‘First Chart’ is prepared four hours in advance to train departure.
  • If the ‘Second Chart’ is also prepared, then the option to view the details of vacant berth available at the time of ‘Second Chart’ will also be displayed. The ‘Second Chart’ is prepared about 30 minutes prior to the departure of the train.
  • Both the charts will get updated for every charting location as the train heads towards its destination.

Features

  • Customer friendly flow: Passengers can view the complete data on single click of button.
  • Enhanced Visual Experience: The facility presents an enhanced visual representation of coaches, Coach Layout view. The Data is also presented in tabular form with filters on each column.
  • State of art technology: The “React JS” Javascript library and HTML canvas have been used for creating interactive user interface.

Significance

  • The public viewing of train charts and vacant berths will facilitate the prospective passengers in getting the information of the vacant berths available in the train after chart preparation.
  • Complete information of vacant berths from train source as well as intermediate locations will be available to the user.
  • The customer can use the information for online booking of vacant berths or through TTE as per business rules.
  • This new feature in ticketing system will keep upgrading itself as the train proceeds for the destination and make it more transparent as passengers can see the real time availability of berths.
  • It will introduce transparency in the system and will add comfort to the travel experience of the passengers.
  • It will put the practice of searching a Ticket collector in the moving train to an end.

More kitchen bases

The Railways Ministry also announced that IRCTC will soon add 30 kitchen bases. All kitchen bases will be equipped with cameras for public viewing. Biodegradable packing of food prepared in these kitchen bases is also being planned so the quality of food is not lost during the transit.

Government brings 42 non-scheduled cancer drugs under price control

Government brings 42 non-scheduled cancer drugs under price control

The Union Government announced on February 27, 2019 that it has brought 42 non-scheduled anti-cancer drugs under price control, capping trade margin at 30 per cent, which would reduce their retail prices by up to 85 per cent.

This was made possible after the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) invoked extraordinary powers in public interest, under Para 19 of the Drugs (Prices Control) Order, 2013 to bring 42 non-scheduled anti-cancer drugs under price control through trade margin rationalisation.

The Department of Pharmaceuticals (DOP) stated in a notification that invoking paragraph 19 of DPCO, 2013 places a cap on trade margin of 30 per cent and directs the manufacturers to fix their retail price based on the price at first point of sale of the product of the non-scheduled formulations containing any of the 42 drugs.

Key Highlights

According to NPPA’s available data, the MRP for 105 brands will be reduced up to 85 per cent resulting in a minimum saving of Rs 105 crore for the consumers.

Currently, 57 anti-cancer drugs are under price control as scheduled formulations.

Now 42 non-scheduled anti-cancer medicines have been selected for price regulation by restricting trade margin on the selling price up to 30 per cent.

The medicines would cover 72 formulations and 355 brands, as per the data available with NPPA.

More data is being collected from hospitals and manufacturers to finalise the list.

The drug manufacturers have been given seven days to recalculate the prices and inform the NPPA, state drug controllers, stockists and retailers.

The revised prices shall come into effect from March 8, 2019.

Background

The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority currently fixes prices of drugs placed in the National List of Essential Medicines under Schedule-I of the DPCO.

So far, around 1000 drugs have been brought under price control under the initiative.

Non-scheduled drugs are allowed an increase of up to 10 per cent in prices every year, which is monitored by the NPPA.

Sanath Jayasuriya banned from cricket for two years

Sanath Jayasuriya banned from cricket for two years

Former Sri Lankan Cricket captain Sanath Jayasuriya has been banned from cricket for a period of two years. The information was shared by the International Cricket Council through a statement on February 26, 2019.

The veteran cricketer has been banned from all forms of cricket for two years after he admitted to breaching the following two provisions of the ICC Anti-Corruption Code.

Article 2.4.6 – Failure or refusal, without compelling justification, to cooperate with any investigation carried out by ICC’s Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU), including failure to provide accurate and complete information or documentation requested by the ACU as part of such investigation.

Article 2.4.7 – Obstructing or delaying any investigation that may be carried out by the ACU, including concealing, tampering with or destroying any documentation or other information that may be relevant to that investigation or that may be evidence or may lead to the discovery of evidence of corrupt conduct under the Anti-Corruption Code.

Key Highlights

The 49-year-old former cricketer admitted failing to co-operate with an investigation and concealing, tampering with or destroying evidence.

The cricketer was charged in October 2018. The charge came after a year-long investigation in Sri Lanka, where the ACU said corruption had become an inherent part of the system.

Jayasuriya was charged after he failed to provide a phone and SIM card for the investigation after being requested by ACU.

The statement from the ICC read that the conviction is the latest part of a much broader ICC investigation into corruption in cricket in Sri Lanka.

It demonstrates the importance of participants in cricket, cooperating with investigations.

The ICC had recently held an amnesty in relation to Sri Lankan Cricket resulting in eleven players and other participants coming forward with new information.

This information has reportedly assisted in a number of ACU’s ongoing investigations and has resulted in some new investigations getting underway.

Background

Sri Lankan cricket has been under investigation by ICC for last few years and Jayasurya was served a notice a few months back.

He had served as the chairman of Sri Lankan cricket selection committee in 2016-17, during which, the team’s performance had dipped and it has remained uneven since then.

In September 2017, ACU had asked Jayasuriya to hand over any mobile phones after being “satisfied” they might contain information that could help with the wider investigation, which he failed to do so.

In January 2019, the ICC held a 15-day amnesty as a part of its investigation into corruption in Sri Lanka.

While failure to report an approach, incident or information can result in a ban from cricket of up to five years, those who came forward during the amnesty with information on corrupt conduct, which they had previously failed to report, would not be charged.

During the period, 11 players and other participants came forward with new information, as per ICC.

About Sanath Jayasuriya

  Sanath Jayasuriya banned from cricket for two years

Sanath Jayasuriya is a former Sri Lankan cricketer and a former captain of the Sri Lankan national team. He is considered as one of the greatest One Day International (ODI) players of all time.

He was well known for his powerful striking and match-winning all-round performances in ODI cricket.

He is credited for having revolutionised one-day international cricket with his explosive batting with Romesh Kaluwitharana in 1996, which initiated the hard-hitting modern-day batting strategy of all nations.

Overall, Jayasuriya was an all-rounder, who had an international cricket career that spread over two decades.

Career Highs

He is the only player to score over 12,000 runs and capture more than 300 wickets in One Day International cricket.

Hence, he is regarded as one of the best all-rounders in the history of limited-overs cricket.

He was named as the player of the tournament when Sri Lanka won the cricket World Cup in 1996.

Overall, he scored 21 centuries and took 323 wickets in 445 one-day internationals. He also averaged 40.07 runs in 110 Test matches.

He served as the captain of the Sri Lankan cricket team from 1999 to 2003.

Retirement

Jayasuriya retired from Test cricket in December 2007 and from One Day Internationals in June 2011 but continued playing Twenty20 matches until 2012.

On January 28, 2013, Sri Lankan Cricket appointed him as the chairman of the cricket selection committee.

Sri Lanka won the ICC World Twenty20 for the first time in 2014, during his tenure as the chief selector.

Trump-Kim Vietnam Summit: President Donald Trump to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam

2nd Trump-Kim Summit: President Donald Trump to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam

United States President Donald Trump will hold the second summit with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un in Vietnam on February 27-28, 2019 as part of his administration’s ongoing endeavours to denuclearise North Korea.

Vietnam’s Hanoi will be hosting the second summit. Vietnam has diplomatic ties with both Washington and Pyongyang.

Significance

The 2nd Trump-Kim Summit will be in continuation of Trump’s efforts to persuade Kim to roll back his nuclear program.

The Summit comes less than a year after the two leaders held a historic meeting in Singapore in June 2018. Since their meeting, Trump has claimed that North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat; however, the observers have witnessed some movement at their nuclear site.

Expectations

At the second Trump-Kim summit, experts expect that North Korea will likely be exchanging the destruction of its main Yongbyon nuclear complex with a formal declaration of the end of 1950-53 Korean War by the US.

North Korea might also resume some lucrative economic projects with South Korea.

First Trump-Kim Summit
The first Trump-Kim Summit was held in Singapore on June 12, 2018. During the first historic delegation level talks, Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un signed a historic agreement.

Though the Summit opened a path to peace, there is still not a concrete plan for denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

That was the first time that a sitting US president met a North Korean leader in the last 60 years. The meeting followed decades of hostility, which worsened following North Korea’s nuclear missile tests that brought America within striking range.

Inter-Korean Summit: Improving relations of North and South Koreas

South Korean President, Moon Jae-in was the one who had helped set up the first Trump-Kim meeting.

Moon himself held three summits with Kim in 2018 itself. During the Inter-Korean Summit in April 2018, both the leaders signed a landmark peace agreement ‘Panmunjeom Declaration’ for the complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. The two leaders pledged a ‘new era of peace’ through the joint declaration.

It was the first time that a North Korean leader crossed over the southern side of the Demilitarised Zone to enter South Korea, since the end of the Korean War in 1953.

Denuclearisation of North Korea

The Denuclearisation of North Korea has recently become crucial for the world leaders after they witnessed the back-to-back nuclear missile tests by the North Korea.

These nuclear weapon tests came as a shock for the US when America was brought within the striking range of North Korea.

Since 2011, the country has fired over 80 missiles and conducted four nuclear weapons tests. In 2017, North Korea launched its first-ever intercontinental ballistic missile and threatened to send more missiles into the waters near Guam, a US island territory in the Western Pacific.

The country has repeatedly demanded that the United States should reciprocate with measures such as sanctions relief.

Impact after Trump-Kim Summit

Following the Summit, North Korea released American detainees and announced the suspension of the nuclear and long-range missile tests and dismantling of a nuclear test site and parts of a rocket launch facility. All this was done in the absence of outside experts.

However, the satellite videos taken since the June 2018 summit indicated that North Korea is continuing to produce nuclear materials at its weapons factories.

Even the monitors of the United Nations (UN) in the first week of February 2019 observed that North Korea is still working to protect its ballistic missiles against American military strikes. They also observed that the country was illegally evading sanctions against it.

27 February 2019

Assam launches PRANAM commission to protect parents of state government employees

Assam launches PRANAM commission to protect parents of state government employees

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on February 26, 2019 launched the PRANAM Commission, which is a panel set up to look after the issues concerning a Bill brought in for the protection of parents of state government employees.

The Parents Responsibility and Norms for Accountability and Monitoring (PRANAM) Bill, stated to be the first-of-its-kind bill in the country, aims to protect elderly parents of government employees in their times of need.

Objective

The bill aims to ensure that no state government employee ignores their elderly parents and unmarried differently-abled siblings.

It is an effort from the state government to protect the parents and give them financial security.

Key Features

• The PRANAM Bill makes it mandatory for the state government employees to look after their parents and unmarried differently-abled siblings who do not have their own sources of income.

• Under the bill’s provisions, if the PRANAM Commission gets a complaint that parents of a state government employee are being ignored, then 10 or 15 per cent of the employee’s salary will be deducted by the government and paid to the parents or differently-abled siblings.

 The bill would benefit 8 lakh parents of 4 lakh state government employees.

• The employees of private companies and the central government working in the state would also be covered by the bill at a later stage.

Composition of PRANAM Commission

Chief Commissioner: V B Pyarelal

Commissioners: Dr. Alaka Desai Sarma and Jugabala Buragohain

Background

The PRANAM Bill was approved by the state cabinet in 2018. According to the state’s Chief Minister, it would be better if the bill did not require to be implemented.

ISRO to launch electronic intelligence satellite ‘Emisat’

ISRO to launch electronic intelligence satellite ‘Emisat’

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) would be launching an electronic intelligence satellite Emisat for Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in March 2019.

In the special mission, ISRO would also be launching 28 third-party satellites and demonstrate its new technologies like three different orbits with a new variant of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket.

The exact date of the mission has not been specified yet.

Key Highlights

 ISRO would be using a PSLV rocket with four strap-on motors. For the first time, it will be trying to orbit the rocket at three different altitudes.

• 
The main passenger of the PSLV rocket will be DRDO’s electronic intelligence satellite ‘Emisat’. The satellite alone weighs about 420 kg.

 The remaining 28 satellites would cumulatively weigh about 250 kg.

 After launching Emisat at an altitude of 763 km, the PSLV rocket will be brought down to put the 28 satellites into orbit at an altitude of 504 km.

 Following that the rocket will be brought down further to 485 km where the fourth stage will turn into a payload platform carrying three experimental payloads.

 The experimental payloads include one developed by the students of Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology, ISRO’s own technology demonstrator and a Hamsat.

Other Details

The PSLV is a four-stage engine expendable rocket with alternating solid and liquid fuel.

In its normal configuration, the rocket will have six strap-on motors hugging the rocket’s first stage.

The space agency selects the kind of rocket to be used based on the weight of the satellites it carries.

Background

In January, the space agency launched a defence imaging satellite Microsat R for the DRDO.

On January 24, the ISRO flew a PSLV with two strap-on motors while in March it will have four strap-on motors.

The space agency has two more PSLV variants -Core Alone, which does not have any strap-on motors and PSLV-XL, which is a larger rocket.

Further, ISRO will be launching two more defence satellites in July or August 2019 with its new rocket Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV).

National Cancer Institute at Jhajjar a part of AIIMS Delhi; AIIMS Rewari to come up as 22nd AIIMS in country

National Cancer Institute at Jhajjar a part of AIIMS Delhi; AIIMS Rewari to come up as 22nd AIIMS

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) at Jhajjar, Haryana, recently dedicated to the nation by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is an integral part of All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi.

This tertiary healthcare institute dedicated for cancer care is the second campus of the AIIMS Delhi only.

Built at a cost of Rs. 2035 crores, NCI is the largest investment by the Government in a single hospital project and holds the unique distinction of being one of the mega healthcare projects to be completed in a record time of 3 years.

National Cancer Institute (NCI)

• The NCI will have 710 patient care beds dedicated for cancer prevention, treatment, research and education.

• It will be equipped with cutting edge technology and shall have 25 Operation Theatres, 5 Linear Accelerators, 4 PET Scanners, 3 Brachy-therapy, 2 CT Scanners, 2 MRI Scanners and much more.

• It will also have the first public sector proton facility of the country, a new prototype in the treatment of cancer patients.

• India’s first public sector ‘Robotic Core Clinical Laboratory’ has been established at NCI at a cost of Rs. 15 crores. This Laboratory can perform over 60000 tests in a day and has the capability to give reports in two hours.

• It will have advanced digital integration of Hospital Critical Care Systems and door to discharge paperless patient records.

• It will focus on translational research on India Specific Cancers which shall enable early detection of cancers and better treatment outcomes.

• Various countries like USA, France, UK, etc., have entered into research collaborations with NCI.

• It has also collaborated with Department of AYUSH for research into the role of Indian Systems of Medicine in prevention and cure of cancer.

AIIMS Rewari: 22nd AIIMS to come up in country & first in Haryana

As announced in the speech of Interim Budget 2019, the AIIMS Rewari will be 22nd AIIMS to come up in the country and the first in Haryana.

The site for this AIIMS has already been finalised at Manethi in Rewari, Haryana.

Like other AIIMS in the country, the AIIMS Rewari will also be set up under the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY).

This will be a greenfield project for which funds have been given separately by the Central Government.

AIIMS Rewari

  • The AIIMS Rewari will be built at the cost of Rs. 1299 crores on 223 acres of land.
  • The Institution will consist of a hospital with a capacity of 750 beds, trauma center facilities, residential complexes, 1000 seat auditorium and allied facilities, broadly on the pattern of AIIMS, New Delhi.
  • It will encompass a medical college with an intake of 100 MBBS students per year, and a nursing college with an intake of 60 B.Sc. (Nursing) students per year.
  • The hospital will have 25 Specialty and Super-Specialty Departments including Operation Theatres.
  • It will also have an AYUSH department with 30 beds for providing treatment facilities in traditional system of medicine.

Significance

The establishment of new AIIMS will provide super specialty health care to the people of Haryana and nearby areas.

The Institute will also create a large pool of doctors and other health workers for the region that can be used at primary and secondary level institutions being created under National Health Mission (NHM).

Exercise Sampriti 2019: India-Bangladesh joint military exercise to be held from March 2

Exercise Sampriti 2019: India-Bangladesh joint military exercise to be held from March 2

India and Bangladesh will be conducting a joint military exercise, ‘Exercise Sampriti 2019’ at Tangail, Bangladesh from March 2 to March 15, 2019.

This will be the eighth edition of the exercise which is hosted alternately by both countries.

As part of the ongoing India-Bangladesh defence cooperation, Exercise Sampriti is an important bilateral endeavor between India and Bangladesh.

The exercise is aimed to strengthen and broaden the aspects of interoperability and cooperation between the Indian and Bangladesh Armies.

The exercise will involve tactical level operations in a counter insurgency and counter terrorism environment under the mandate of the United Nations.

About Exercise Sampriti

• The Exercise Sampriti is a Joint Training Exercise between India-Bangladesh held alternately in India and Bangladesh every year.

• The aim of this excise is to build, strengthen and promote positive relations between the Armies of India and Bangladesh.

• In addition to understanding each other in tactical level operations, the exercise lays emphasis on greater cultural understanding to strengthen military trust and cooperation between the two nations.

• The joint exercise was first held in Assam in 2011.

NDMA to conduct national workshop on heat wave risk reduction

NDMA to conduct national workshop on heat wave risk reduction

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) would be conducting a two-day national workshop on heat wave risk reduction in Nagpur from February 27-28, 2019. The workshop has been organised in collaboration with the Maharashtra Government.

The workshop will be attended by experts on heat wave as well as other stakeholders such as early warning and forecasting agencies, state governments and research institutions apart from Members and senior officials from NDMA.

Objective

The workshop aims to sensitise the states to the need of preparing and implementing specific heat action plans.

Key Highlights

• During the workshop, some of the most vulnerable states, which have done a commendable job in mitigating the impact of heat waves, will share their experiences and best practices to help other stakeholders draw lessons.

• The workshop will also provide an opportunity for community capacity building and awareness generation among vulnerable populations.

• It will also discuss the integration of long-term heat risk reduction measures into developmental plans as well as climate change adaptation.

Significance

Heat wave has emerged as one of the major severe weather events around the globe in recent years.

Climate change is driving temperatures higher as well as increasing the frequency and severity of heat waves. India too is experiencing increased instances of heat waves every year.

Hence, the NDMA has been closely working with the vulnerable states to reduce the adverse impacts of the heat wave.

Background

Sustained efforts including timely release and effective implementation of the national guidelines on heat wave, preparation of heat action plans by 13 vulnerable States, regular follow-up and monitoring by NDMA, extensive awareness generation campaigns through print, electronic and social media, preparedness workshops in 2017 and 2018, have significantly brought down the  number of heat-related deaths in the past few years.

From more than 2,000 deaths in 2015, the number came down to 25 in 2018.

26 February 2019

43rd CSMC Meeting: 5,60,695 houses sanctioned under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban)

560695 houses sanctioned under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban)

The Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs on February 25, 2019 approved the construction of another 5,60,695 affordable houses for the benefit of urban poor under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) (PMAY(U)).

With this, the cumulative number of houses sanctioned under the PMAY(U) now stands at 79,04,674.

The approval was given during the 43rd meeting of the Central Sanctioning and Monitoring Committee.

Number of houses sanctioned for states
State Number of Houses
Uttar Pradesh 1,79,215
Andhra Pradesh 1,10,618
Maharashtra 1,01,220
Karnataka 48,729
Madhya Pradesh 26,587
Gujarat 25,861
Manipur 13,715
Tamil Nadu 12,174
Bihar 10,084
Odisha 7,472
Chattisgarh 7,067
Kerala 4,194
Haryana 4,019
Rajasthan 3,601
Jharkhand 2,165
Assam 1,419
Meghalaya 1,397
Puducherry 1,158

Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana

• Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) or ‘Housing for all’ is a housing scheme for all the people who belong to lower income group, economically weaker section and Middle Income Group in India.

• Launched in 2015, the scheme is divided into two parts, PMAY (Urban) and PMAY (Gramin).

• Under PMAY (Urban), houses are being constructed in the urban areas, mainly the congested slums areas are converted into pucca or permanent houses for inhabitants and covers other people from LIG ,EWS and MIG categories.

• The total project cost approved under PMAY (U) stands at Rs. 2.81 lakh crore with a Central Assistance of Rs. 77,934 crore.

• The scheme aims to provide 2 crore houses across nation’s length and breadth. The scheme is estimated to be completed by 2022.

• Till now, the PMAY (U) mission has achieved a significant milestone of approving 73 Lakh houses against a demand of about 1 Crore houses in urban areas. Out of these, around 39 Lakh houses are at various stages of construction and around 15 Lakh houses have already been completed

Afghanistan begins export to India through Chabahar port

Afghanistan begins export to India through Chabahar port

Afghanistan on February 24, 2019 began exports to India through the Chabahar port in Iran. This is the first time Afghanistan has exported goods to India bypassing the Pakistan route.

The first consignment of exports to India was flagged off by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. While inaugurating the new route, the President said that the Chabahar port is the result of healthy cooperation between India, Iran and Afghanistan and it will ensure economic growth.

Key Highlights

According to reports, twenty-three trucks carrying 570 tonnes of dried fruits, textiles, carpets and mineral products were dispatched from the western Afghan city of Zaranj to Chabahar in Iran.

The consignment will then be shipped from Chabahar to the Indian port city of Mumbai.

Afghanistan’s exports are expected to increase from $1 billion to $2 billion after the opening of the new trade route.

The Chabahar port is expected to help Afghanistan transform from an importer country into an exporter country.

Significance

The move marks the first time that Afghanistan has shipped goods to India through a newly developed Iranian seaport in a bid to improve exports and reduce reliance on routes through its uneasy neighbor, Pakistan.

For decades, the landlocked nation was forced to rely on Pakistan’s land and seaports for international trade.

However, mutual tensions in recent years significantly reduced Afghan trade and transit activities through Pakistan.

  Afghanistan begins export to India through Chabahar port

While Pakistan allows Afghanistan to use its seaports for international trade under a bilateral trade and transit agreement and also allows the use of overland routes for Afghan exports to India, the nation wants improvement in ties with India before it will allow Indian exports through the same routes back to Afghanistan.       

Background

India has played a huge role in the financing and development of Iran’s Chabahar Port in order to enable Kabul to get direct and easy sea trade access.

India took operational control of a portion of the Iranian port late last year for 18 months and plans to send cargo ships from its ports of Mumbai, Kandla and Mundra every two weeks.

The United States also last year waived off certain anti-Iran sanctions to allow the development of Chabahar to support efforts aimed at stabilising Afghanistan.

The waiver has enabled India, Iran and Afghanistan to continue their work to establish a new transit and transport corridor linking the three countries to help improve Afghan economy and allow the war-ravaged country to import food and medicines, bypassing Pakistan.

India successfully shipped 1.1 million tons of wheat to Afghanistan through Chabahar Port in 2017. In the same year, India also launched an air corridor with Kabul for bilateral trade.

According to Indian envoy to Afghanistan, Vinay Kumar, the air corridor has since helped increase Afghan’s exports to India by 40 per cent.

President Ram Nath Kovind confers Gandhi Peace Prize for 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018

President Ram Nath Kovind confers Gandhi Peace Prize for 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018

President Ram Nath Kovind on February 26, 2019 conferred the Gandhi Peace Prize for the years 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 at a function in Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi. The award ceremony saw the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The awards were announced on January 16, 2019 by the Union Ministry of Culture.

The 2018 Gandhi Peace Prize was conferred on Yohei Sasakawa, who is at the forefront of many philanthropic initiatives. His compassionate nature can be seen in the manner in which he has worked to eliminate leprosy in India.

Awardees
Year Awardees Contribution
2015 Vivekananda Kendra, Kanyakumari Contribution in rural development, education, development of natural resources.
2016 Akshaya Patra Foundation and Sulabh International Akshaya Patra Foundation was chosen for its contribution in providing mid-day meals to millions of children across India
Sulabh International was chosen for its contribution in improving the condition of sanitation in India and emancipation of manual scavengers.
2017 Ekal Abhiyan Trust Contribution in providing education for rural and tribal children in remote areas pan India, rural empowerment, gender and social equality
2018 Yohei Sasakawa For his contribution in Leprosy Eradication in India and across the world

Selection Process

The awardees were selected by the jury under the Chairmanship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The jury comprises the Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Speaker of Lok Sabha Sumitra Mahajan, Leader of the single largest Opposition Party in Lok Sabha Mallikarjuna Kharge and Member of Parliament, L.K. Advani.

The jury unanimously decided on the awardees after detailed discussions on January 16, 2019.

About the Gandhi Peace Prize
  • The Gandhi Peace Prize was instituted in the year 1995 on the occasion of the 125th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
  • This annual award is given to individuals and institutions for their contributions towards social, economic and political transformation through non-violence and other Gandhian methods.
  • The award carries a cash prize of Rs 1 crore, a citation and a Plaque as well as an exquisite traditional handicraft/handloom item.
  • The Award for every year is selected by a Jury under the Chairmanship of the Prime Minister.
  • Julius K Nyerere, former Tanzanian President, was the first recipient of the award in 1995.

Railway Minister launches ‘Rail Drishti Dashboard’ to promote transparency

Rail Drishti Dashboard launched to bring accountability in Indian Railways

The Union Minister of Railways, Piyush Goyal on February 25, 2019 launched the Rail Drishti dashboard, which encompasses all the digitisation efforts in the Indian Railways and aims to promote transparency and accountability.

The dashboard will bring information from various sources on a single platform and give access to key statistics and parameters to every citizen of the country. It can be accessed through a desktop, laptop or a mobile device such as a phone or tablet. The application has been mobile optimised for ease of use of the public. The URL of the dashboard is raildrishti.cris.org.in.

Objective

The Rail Drishti Dashboard has been launched to make the citizens of the country aware of all the projects undertaken by the Indian Railways.

Through the dashboard, the customer or railway passenger will get exposure to the multifaceted transformation underway in Indian Railways across the country.

The dashboard will also help make available every kind of information anytime, anywhere to anybody.

The information has been categorised under 15 user-friendly sections on the Dashboard:

1. At a glance

The section gives information on 4 key parameters of Indian Railways, including Passenger Reservation, Unreserved Ticketing, Freight Earnings and Freight Loading.

The parameters of each element for different periods are displayed. Besides, information on any station on Indian Railways can also be viewed in this tab.

2. Services

In this section, the passengers can view and avail the status of any digital service offered.

The dashboard comprises 6 services including PNR enquiry, ODC application enquiry, Complaint Enquiry, Tender Enquiry, Shramik Enquiry and Freight related enquiries.

Besides, the links to eight important railway websites are available in this section for the convenience of the citizens.

3. Trains on run

The section assists passengers in tracking any train on the Indian Railways Network. The passengers will also be able to get information about the train as well as the contact number of the housekeeping staff. Besides, filters are available to view specific trains.

4. IRCTC kitchens

The Dashboard provides a facility to view live feeds from the cameras installed in various IRCTC base kitchens.

The passengers can now view how the food being served to them in trains and is being cooked and packed.

5. Grievances

This section shows the status of grievances reported through the Complaint Management System (COMS).

It will display the number of grievances resolved and pending. Zone wise and Division wise breakup, as well as complaint type wise breakup, can be viewed through the Dashboard.

6. Achievements

The section shows the achievements of Indian Railways as a whole and the achievements of Railways in various states.

7. Station Images

The section monitors the progress of some of the major initiatives launched to improve passenger experience on the Indian Railways network.

It displays the images of various areas across the network before and after the work has been completed.

8. Heritage

The section showcases the cultural aspect of travel on the Indian Railways. It comprises 4 main sections including rail heritage, memorable journeys, 360-degree virtual tours of routes, trains, saloons and the IRCTC tourism desk, which provides important information and tourist services.

9. Shramik Kalyan

The section provides information about the unorganised sector working with railway contractors.

The amount of wages distributed to casual workers is available on the dashboard. The same can be seen department wise and zone wise for various time periods.

The move is an attempt to ensure that the labourers in the unorganised sector are paid their dues.

10. Bills

The section provides information on the bills required to be paid by Indian Railways to suppliers and their duration wise pendency can be viewed on the dashboard.

11. Freight Earnings

The section shows earnings of Freight across the Indian Railways Network. The earnings can be viewed for a day, for a week, for a month and for a year along with the zones and commodity wise breakup.

Besides, the performance of nine major freight commodities has been made available.

12. Freight Loading/Unloading

The section shows the number of rakes and quantity of freight loaded and unloaded in a day, in a week, in a month and in a year along with their zones and commodity wise breakup.

13. Passenger Earnings

The section shows the earnings of passenger reservations and unreserved ticketing. The number of passengers, tickets, and earnings can also be viewed.

Further, in unreserved ticketing, the performance of suburban, non-suburban and mobile bookings can be viewed.

14. Expenditure

The section reveals the details of the expenditure and works by the Indian Railways. The figures of four different periods are displayed including performance during the day, during last 7 days, during the month and for the year.

15. SUGAM – The Freight App

The section gives access to Indian Railways freight business information. It helps customers keep track of their consignment and provides information on various terminals and associated nodal officers, indents status, prevailing freight rates, rake allocation plans and restrictions applicable.

Freight performance and other statistics are also available on the tab.

24-25 February 2019

Aero India 2019 culminates; Drone Olympics held

Aero India 2019 show held at Air Force Station Yelahanka

The 12th biennial edition of International Aerospace and Defence Exhibition, Aero India 2019 culminated on February 24, 2019 at Air Force Station Yelahanka in Bengaluru.

For the first time, the 2019 edition of Aero India combined the defence and civil aviation segments into a holistic event with the co-involvement of the defence and civil aviation ministries. The 12th edition of Aero India intended to be a “Runway to a billion opportunities” and put India on the Global map.

Theme
The theme of 2019 Aero India exhibition is ‘The Runway to a Billion Opportunities’ that aims to bolster business in the international aviation sector and provide a platform to showcase India’s aeronautical advancements.

Key Highlights

More than 600 Indian Companies and 200 Foreign Companies participated and witnessed the largest Air show of Asia.

The total area of the show grew from 27,678 sq m to 28,398 sq m this year.

A total of 61 aircraft participated in the event, of which, 31 flew.

Several seminars were conducted by a host of agencies including Ministry of Civil Aviation, Skill Development Ministry, State Governments and Industrial Associations.

The air show saw a lot of activity from business point of view and witnessed several round table meets.

The Aero India 2019 had many firsts to its credit such as the ‘Drone Olympics’.

There was a specific theme for each day of the show.

Start-ups, technology and women were featured on each of the business days of Aero India 2019.

As many as 500 B2B meetings were held and 50 MoUs were signed.

Drone Olympics Competition held at Aero India 2019

The Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) made a spectacular entry at the Aero-India 2019 with the first ever ‘Drone Olympics’ competition for UAV’s held on February 21, 2019 at Air Force Station, Yelahanka, Bengaluru.

The ‘Drone Olympics’ aims to encourage the UAV industry to connect with potential buyers and business partners in the country and also provide an opportunity to the Armed Forces to assess the capabilities of UAVs.

An overwhelming response was received for participation in the competition, both from companies and individuals. More than 120 applications were received, out of which 57 applicants were invited to participate.

The winners of competition were honoured with medals and cash prizes.

The winners of the competition will be invited to demonstrate the best of human machine interaction during Lockheed Martin’s Alpha Pilot Race in United States later in 2019.

ATL Drone Module – Get Set Fly!

During the award ceremony of the Drone Olympics Competition, the Atal Tinkering Lab (ATL) of Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), NITI Aayog launched the ‘ATL Drone Module – Get Set Fly!’.

Created in collaboration with the blooming drone industry in India, the ATL Drone Module aims to introduce the young minds of India to the technology and help them to identify and solve community issues using drones as a tool.

‘Make in India’ initiative
  • The Make in India initiative of the Government has provided the impetus for increased self-reliance in Defence and the potential for “Nose to tail production”.
  • The initiative has stressed on the need for instituting provisions for creating the ecosystem for utilisation and consolidation of design and manufacturing facilities to create a ‘robust supply chain system’.

  • It is under Make in India that Indian PSUs are manufacturing more than 4000 aircraft including LCA, LCH, ALH, C295 etc.
  • Over 10,000 MSMEs have made 80 percent of components, aggregates and assemblies of complex weapon systems and aircrafts.
  • Over 424 companies had obtained the licence for Defence production which was almost double the number in last four years.

Major initiatives and developments in Defence Sector

During the last four years, 150 contracts worth Rs 1,27,500 crore have been signed with Indian vendors for procurement of defence equipment for the Armed forces.

The Government had accorded Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) to 164 proposals worth Rs 2,79,950 Cr under ‘Buy and Make” categories only to the Indian vendors.

In respect of Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs), 40 percent of the production had been outsourced to the Private Sector and Government issued Reference for Proposals for the manufacture of seven identified types of ammunition in private sector.

The ‘Defence Investor cell’ was set up in January 2018 to enhance the ‘Ease of doing Business’ and over 350 industries had been facilitated till date.

• 34 projects relating to Army, Navy and Air Force had already been accorded ‘Approval in Principle’ under the ‘Make-II’ category.

The FDI policy had been revised and now foreign investments upto 49 percent are allowed through the automatic route and above 49 percent are allowed under Government route.

In last four years, six companies in Defence and Aerospace sectors had obtained government approval for FDI of Rs 237 crore while FDI of over Rs 200 crore had been received through the automatic route.

The iDEX scheme was launched on April 12, 2018 to create a network of Defence Innovation hubs throughout the country and to resolve Defence and Aerospace related issues.

The Mission Raksha Gyan Shakti was launched by the Ministry of Defence to create greater capacity development and encourage greater filing of patents in defence and aerospace sectors.

Oscars 2019: ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ wins most Oscars; India-based ‘Period. End Of Sentence’ wins Best Short Documentary Oscar

Oscars 2019: India-based ‘Period. End Of Sentence’ wins Best Short Documentary Oscar

The 91st Academy Awards, popularly known as Oscar Awards, were conferred on February 24, 2019 (February 25 as per Indian time).

The 2019 Oscars ceremony had no host, no ‘Most Popular Film’ award, and no awards were given out during commercials. The Oscars opened with a performance by Queen and Adam Lambert with a powerful version of the group’s 1977 single “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions”.

‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, nominated for five Oscars, won the most Oscars at the award show. It bagged Oscars for Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Film Editing and Best Actor. It is a biographical film about British rock band Queen’s lead singer ‘Freddie Mercury’.

Here is the list of major winners:

Award Winner
Best Picture Green Book
Best Actor Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Best Actress Olivia Colman, The Favourite
Best Director Alfonso Cuaron, Roma
Best Supporting Actor Mahershala Ali, Green Book
Best Supporting Actress Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Best Animated Feature Film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Best Foreign Language Film Roma (Mexico; Alfonso Cuaron)
Best Documentary – Feature Free Solo
Best Animated Short Film Bao
Best Documentary – Short Subject Period. End Of Sentence
Best Live Action Short Film Skin
Best Film Editing Bohemian Rhapsody
Best Sound Editing Bohemian Rhapsody
Best Sound Mixing Bohemian Rhapsody
Best Production Design Black Panther
Best Costume Design Black Panther, Ruth Carter
Best Visual Effects First Man
Best Cinematography Roma, Alfonso Cuaron
Best Original Score Black Panther, Ludwig Goransson
Best Original Song Shallow, A Star is born (Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando and Andrew Wyatt)
Best Original Screenplay Green Book

India-based ‘Period. End Of Sentence’ won Best Short Documentary Oscar

The ‘Period. End Of Sentence’, a film on menstruation set in rural India, won the Oscar in the Documentary – Short Subject category at the 91st Academy Awards.

The film has been directed by Rayka Zehtabchi and produced by Indian producer Guneet Monga’s Sikhya Entertainment. The film came into being as a part of ‘The Pad Project’, started by students at the Oakwood School in Los Angeles and their teacher Melissa Berton.

PM-KISAN: PM Modi launches ‘Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana’ from Gorakhpur, UP

PM-KISAN: PM Modi launches ‘Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana’ from Gorakhpur, UP

The Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 24, 2019 launched the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana (PM-KISAN) from Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh.

On the launch day itself, the first instalment of Rs 2,000 was directly credited to the bank accounts of selected beneficiary farmers. Around 12 crore farmers are expected to benefit from PM-KISAN.

The Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana was announced in the Union Interim Budget 2019 by Finance Minister Piyush Goyal.

Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana (PM-KISAN)
  • The Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi will provide assured income to small and marginal farmers.
  • Under the Scheme, all Small and Marginal Farmers (SMF) with combined land holding or ownership of up to 2 hectares of cultivable land will be provided with income support of Rs 6000 per year.
  • The amount will be transferred directly into their account in 3 equal installments of Rs 2000 each. The Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) will ensure transparency in the entire process.
  • The complete expenditure of Rs 75000 crore for the scheme will borne by the Union Government in 2019-20.
  • Over 12 crore farmer families will be benefitted under the scheme.
  • The scheme is being implemented with effect from December 2018.

Note: A family of a small and marginal farmer, for the purpose of the calculation of the benefit, is defined as “a family comprising of husband, wife and minor children (up to 18 years of age) who collectively own cultivable land upto 2 hectare as per land records of the concerned State”.

What made Government to launch PM-KISAN?

Considering that the declining prices of agricultural commodities and food inflation led to reduced returns for farmers, the Government felt the need for structured income support for farmers to procure seeds and labour.

Taking this into account, the Government introduced Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana for farmers’ welfare.

Objective

The PM-KISAN scheme aims to supplement the financial needs of the SMFs in procuring various inputs to ensure proper crop health and appropriate yields. This would also protect them from falling in the clutches of moneylenders for meeting expenses and ensure their continuance in the farming activities.

Guidelines for States for implementation of scheme

Earlier on February 7, 2019, the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare launched a platform named pmkisan.nic.in, under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana (PM-KISAN) for uploading the details of the Small and Marginal Farmers (SMF).

The Ministry also launched the guidelines for states and UTs to implement the scheme. Here are the guidelines:

The selection of eligible small farmer families under the scheme will be undertaken by the State Governments.

The necessary details such as bank account details will be provided on the online portal so that the first installment of the benefits can be transferred to the eligible families.

The States will prepare database of eligible beneficiary landholder farmer families in the villages capturing the Name, Age, Gender, Category (SC/ST) , Aadhaar Number/ Driving Licence/Voters’ ID Card/ NREGA Job Card, Bank Account Number, IFSC Code.

Though mobile number is not mandatory, but it may be noted when available so that the information related to transfer of benefit can be communicated.

States/UTs shall ensure that there is no duplication of the payment transferred to eligible families.

Speedy settlement in case of wrong or incomplete bank details of the beneficiary should be ensured.

23 February 2019

Over 12 lakh people treated for free under Ayushman Bharat; 10000 Wellness Centres operational

Over 12 lakh people treated for free under Ayushman Bharat; 10000 Wellness Centres operational

Indu Bhushan, the CEO of Ayushman Bharat, on February 22, 2019 announced that over 12 lakh people received free treatment under the Ayushman Bharat – Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY), while around two crore beneficiary e-cards have been issued since the launch of mission in September 2018.

The announcement was made during the 25th edition of Medical Fair India (MFI) 2019 held in Delhi, organised by Messe Dusseldorf India, a fully owned subsidiary of Messe Düsseldorf GmbH.

Status of Health and Wellness Centres (HWC) under Ayushman Bharat

• So far, 15,000 hospitals have been empanelled under the scheme, of which, 15 percent are private hospitals.

• The first Health and Wellness Centre (HWC) under Ayushman Bharat was inaugurated by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Jangla in Bijapur, Chhattisgarh on April 14, 2018. Since then, 10,252 HWCs have been operationalised.

• The states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala have the highest number of HWCs under the Ayushman Bharat.

• Andhra Pradesh operationalised 1361 HWCs, Tamil Nadu has 1318, UP has 912, Karnataka has 700 and Kerala has 678 HWCs.

• A total of 1,33,84,332 women and men of age 30 years and above have been screened for common Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) at these HWCs.

Functioning of Health & Wellness Centres

• Under Ayushman Bharat its first component, 1,50,000 existing Sub- Health Centres (SHCs) and Primary Health Centres (PHCs) to be transformed to Health & Wellness Centres (HWCs) to deliver Comprehensive Primary Health Care (CPHC), which is universal and free to users.

• The wide range of services provided at these Health and Wellness Centres encompass maternal and child health services, communicable and non-communicable diseases, services for the elderly and palliative care including free essential drugs and diagnostic services.

• States have the flexibility to expand the service package to address problems of local importance as defined by disease prevalence and community feedback.

• In the urban context, the Urban Primary Health Centres or Urban Health Posts would be strengthened to deliver comprehensive primary health care.

• The norm of ‘One Multipurpose Worker’ MPW-(F) per 10,000 population supported by four-five ASHAs, will enable outreach of services, preventive and promotive care.

• HWC at the sub centre level are being staffed by trained Mid- Level Health Provider (MLHP), also called as Community Health Officers (CHO).

Ayushman Bharat – Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-NHPM)

What?

• Ayushman Bharat, the government-sponsored health insurance scheme, will provide free coverage of up to Rs 5 lakh per family per year in any government or even empanelled private hospitals all over India.

• The Ayushman Bharat programme will be funded with 60 percent contribution from the Centre and the remaining from the states.

• The benefit cover will also include pre and post-hospitalisation expenses. All pre-existing conditions will be covered from day one of the policy.

• A defined transport allowance per hospitalisation will also be paid to the beneficiary.

• The payment for treatment will be done on package rate which will be defined by the Government in advance basis. The package rates will include all the costs associated with treatment. The States and UTs will have the flexibility to modify these rates within a limited bandwidth.

• For beneficiaries, it will be a cashless and paper less transaction.

Why?

• Launched with an aim to help the poor and the economically deprived, the scheme will be available for 10.74 crore beneficiary families and about 50 crore Indian citizens.

• This scheme will strengthen the healthcare services in India. Around 13000 hospitals in the country have been coordinated for the implementation of the scheme.

• The scheme aims to target poor and vulnerable population of the country, based on the Socio Economic and Caste Census 2011 (SECC) database. There will be no cap on family size and age in the scheme.

• The scheme allows the beneficiary to take cashless benefits from any public or private empanelled hospitals across the country.

Who?

• The scheme will work in partnership with NITI Aayog to operationalise a robust, modular and interoperable IT platform which will involve a paperless and cashless transaction.

• The National Health Agency (NHA), the apex body implementing the scheme, has launched a website (mera.pmjay.gov.in).

Indus Waters Treaty between India and Pakistan: Present status of development in India

Indus Waters Treaty between India and Pakistan: Present Status of Development in India

Union Minister of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation, Nitin Gadkari on February 21, 2019 announced the Government’s decision to stop the flow of river water to Pakistan and divert water from Eastern Rivers to Jammu & Kashmir and Punjab.

The decision came as a response to the devastating terror attack in Pulwama, Jammu & Kashmir that killed over 44 Indian paramilitary police officers.

Indus Basin System
The Indus System comprises of rivers – Indus, Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej. The river basin is mainly shared by India and Pakistan with a small share for China and Afghanistan.

Under the Indus Waters Treaty signed between India and Pakistan in 1960, all the waters of three rivers, namely Ravi, Sutlej and Beas (Eastern Rivers) were allocated to India for exclusive use. The waters of Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab (Western Rivers) were allocated to Pakistan.

However, India was given the right to use waters of Western Rivers only for specified domestic, non-consumptive and agricultural use. India also has the right to generate hydroelectricity through Run of the River (RoR) projects on the Western Rivers, subject to specific criteria for design and operation.

Ongoing projects under the Indus Waters Treaty

India constructed Bhakra Dam on Satluj, Pong and Pandoh Dam on Beas and Thein (Ranjitsagar) on Ravi to utilise the waters of the Eastern Rivers which have been allocated to India for exclusive use.

These dams along with other works like Beas-Sutlej Link, Madhopur-Beas Link and Indira Gandhi Nahar Project has helped India utilise nearly 95 percent of waters of Eastern Rivers. However, about 2 million acre feet (MAF) of water annually from Ravi is reported to be still flowing unutilised to Pakistan.

To stop the flow of these waters, following projects are being undertaken:

Resumption of Construction of Shahpurkandi project

The Shahpurkandi Project will help in utilising the waters coming out from powerhouse of Thein dam to irrigate 37000 hectares of land in Jammu & Kasmir and Punjab and generate 206 MW of power.

The project was scheduled to be completed by September 2016; however, following a dispute between J&K and Punjab, the work on the project had been suspended since 2014.

The project was resumed after agreement between the states on September 8, 2018.

The cost of the project is Rs 2715.70 Crore. The Central Government will provide assistance of Rs 485.38 crore towards balance cost of works of irrigated component of the project.

Construction of Ujh multipurpose project

The Ujh multipurpose project will create storage of about 781 million cubic meter of water on river Ujh, a tributary of Ravi.

It will be utilised for irrigation and power generation in India and will provide a total irrigation benefits of 31,380 ha in Kathua, Hiranagar and Samba district of J&K.

The project will be completed at a total cost of Rs 5850 crore as per the estimates of July 2017.

This project is a National Project and the Central Assistance of Rs. 4892.47 crore on works portion of irrigation component as well as the special grant is under consideration.

The project will be implemented in 6 years.

2nd Ravi Beas link below Ujh

This project will tap excess water flowing down to Pakistan through river Ravi, even after construction of Thein Dam.

It involves construction of a barrage across river Ravi for diverting water through a tunnel link to Beas basin.

The project is expected to utilise about 0.58 Million acre-foot (MAF) of surplus waters below Ujh dam by diverting it to Beas basin for benefits of other co-basin states.

Note
The all three projects are declared as the National projects and will help India to utilise its entire share of waters given under the Indus Waters Treaty 1960.

Indus Waters Treaty

Indus Waters Treaty was signed in 1960 after over 9 years of negotiations between India and Pakistan with the help of the World Bank, which is also a signatory.

The treaty was signed in Karachi on 19 September 1960 by then Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru and President of Pakistan Ayub Khan.

The Treaty describes the methods for cooperation and information exchange between the two countries regarding use of the rivers.

It also puts up different procedures to handle issues such as- “questions” to be handled by the Commission; “differences” to be resolved by a Neutral Expert and “disputes” to be referred to seven-member tribunal “Court of Arbitration.”

Permanent Indus Commission, which is responsible for cooperation and information exchange between both the countries, has a commissioner from each country.

PM Narendra Modi receives Seoul Peace Prize for 2018

PM Narendra Modi receives Seoul Peace Prize for 2018

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 22, 2019 received the prestigious Seoul Peace Prize 2018 for his contribution to international cooperation and fostering global economic growth.

The committee credited him for his efforts in promoting global peace and harmony through inclusive economic growth and improving quality of life.

The award was presented to him by Kwon E-hyock, the Chairman of the Seoul Peace Prize Cultural Foundation at a grand ceremony in Seoul, South Korea. A short film on the life and achievements of Prime Minister Modi was also screened at the event.

With this, PM Modi became the 14th recipient of the Seoul Peace Prize.

Recognition of ‘Modinomics’, ‘Modi Doctrine’ and ‘Act East Policy’
The Seoul Peace Prize Committee recognised Modi’s contributions to the growth of the Indian and global economies, crediting ‘Modinomics’ for reducing social and economic disparity between the rich and the poor.

The Committee lauded PM Modi’s initiatives to make the government cleaner through anti-corruption measures and demonetisation. He has also been credited for his contribution towards regional and global peace through a proactive foreign policy with countries around the world under the ‘Modi Doctrine’ and the ‘Act East Policy.’

The committee assessed over a hundred candidates proposed by over 1300 nominators from around the world and decided to bestow the Prize on PM Modi, calling him ‘the perfect candidate for the 2018 Seoul Peace Prize’.

The nominating group consists of 300 Korean nationals and 800 internationals.

About Seoul Peace Prize

The Seoul Peace Prize was established in 1990 to commemorate the success of the 24th Olympic Games held in Seoul, Korea which saw participation of 160 nations, creating harmony and friendship.

The award was established to crystallise the Korean people’s yearning for peace on the Korean Peninsula and in the rest of the world.

The award has been conferred biennially to individuals who have made their mark through contributions to the harmony of mankind, reconciliation between nations and to world peace.

The awardee receives a diploma, a plaque and honorarium of USD 200,000.

Past laureates include distinguished global personalities like former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and international relief organizations like Doctors Without Borders and Oxfam.

Note
The Seoul Peace Prize was established to mark the success and spirit of the 24th Summer Olympics held in Seoul in 1988.

The 1988 Olympics were held at a time when the world was undergoing a massive transformation. The Iran-Iraq War had just ended; the Geneva Accords relating to the situation in Afghanistan were signed; the Cold War was about to end.

22 February 2019

MHA announces to conduct ‘All India Citizens Survey of Police Services’ to test public perception of police

MHA announces to conduct All India Citizens Survey of Police Services

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on February 21, 2019 announced to conduct a pan-India survey called ‘All India Citizens Survey of Police Services’ to gauge public perception of police.

The survey will be conducted by the Bureau of Police Research and Development with the help of the National Council of Applied Economic Research in a period of nine months.

The Ministry approved to conduct the survey with an aim to strengthen the model of good governance by acting as a link between the people and the government, considering that a globally accepted way to assess the impact of government initiatives is through public perception surveys.

All India Citizens Survey of Police Services

The survey will commence in mid March 2019 and will cover a representative sample of 1.2 lakh households spread over 173 districts across the country, based on the National Sample Survey framework.

All States and Union Territories would be suitably represented in this survey.

States/UTs have been requested to extend full cooperation to the conduct of the survey, and prepare their Police for undertaking such surveys on their own.

The survey aims to understand public perceptions and their attitudes about Police.

It aims to know the level of number of crimes or incidents in which matter is not reported to Police, and also about crime reporting and recording.

It will assess citizens’ perception and experience about women and children safety.

Significance
The outcome of the survey is expected to bring out useful suggestions for government in formulating appropriate policy responses for crime prevention programmes, for transformation in community policing, improvement in the access to the justice and increased resource allocation for police.

Aero India 2019: Drone Olympics Competition held

Aero India 2019 show held at Air Force Station Yelahanka

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman inaugurated the 12th biennial edition of International Aerospace and Defence Exhibition ‘Aero India 2019’ at Air Force Station Yelahanka, Bengaluru.

For the first time, the 2019 edition of Aero India combines the defence and civil aviation segments into a holistic event with the co-involvement of the defence and civil aviation ministries. The 12th edition of Aero India intends to be a “Runway to a billion opportunities” and put India on the Global map.

Theme
The theme of 2019 Aero India exhibition is ‘The Runway to a Billion Opportunities’ that aims to bolster business in the international aviation sector and provide a platform to showcase India’s aeronautical advancements.

A total of 61 aircraft are participating in the event, out of which 31 are flying. The total area of the show has grown from 27,678 sq m to 28,398 sq m this year. More than 600 Indian Companies and 200 Foreign Companies are participating in Aero India 2019, the largest Air show of Asia.

Drone Olympics Competition held at Aero India 2019

The Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) made a spectacular entry at the Aero-India 2019 with the first ever ‘Drone Olympics’ competition for UAV’s held on February 21, 2019 at Air Force Station, Yelahanka, Bengaluru.

The ‘Drone Olympics’ aims to encourage the UAV industry to connect with potential buyers and business partners in the country and also provide an opportunity to the Armed Forces to assess the capabilities of UAVs.

An overwhelming response was received for participation in the competition, both from companies and individuals. More than 120 applications were received, out of which 57 applicants were invited to participate.

The winners of competition were honoured with medals and cash prizes.

The winners of the competition will be invited to demonstrate the best of human machine interaction during Lockheed Martin’s Alpha Pilot Race in United States later in 2019.

ATL Drone Module – Get Set Fly!

During the award ceremony of the Drone Olympics Competition, the Atal Tinkering Lab (ATL) of Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), NITI Aayog launched the ‘ATL Drone Module – Get Set Fly!’.

Created in collaboration with the blooming drone industry in India, the ATL Drone Module aims to introduce the young minds of India to the technology and help them to identify and solve community issues using drones as a tool.

‘Make in India’ initiative
  • The Make in India initiative of the Government has provided the impetus for increased self-reliance in Defence and the potential for “Nose to tail production”.
  • The initiative has stressed on the need for instituting provisions for creating the ecosystem for utilisation and consolidation of design and manufacturing facilities to create a ‘robust supply chain system’.

  • It is under Make in India that Indian PSUs are manufacturing more than 4000 aircraft including LCA, LCH, ALH, C295 etc.
  • Over 10,000 MSMEs have made 80 percent of components, aggregates and assemblies of complex weapon systems and aircrafts.
  • Over 424 companies had obtained the licence for Defence production which was almost double the number in last four years.

Major initiatives and developments in Defence Sector

During the last four years, 150 contracts worth Rs 1,27,500 crore have been signed with Indian vendors for procurement of defence equipment for the Armed forces.

The Government had accorded Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) to 164 proposals worth Rs 2,79,950 Cr under ‘Buy and Make” categories only to the Indian vendors.

In respect of Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs), 40 percent of the production had been outsourced to the Private Sector and Government issued Reference for Proposals for the manufacture of seven identified types of ammunition in private sector.

The ‘Defence Investor cell’ was set up in January 2018 to enhance the ‘Ease of doing Business’ and over 350 industries had been facilitated till date.

• 34 projects relating to Army, Navy and Air Force had already been accorded ‘Approval in Principle’ under the ‘Make-II’ category.

The FDI policy had been revised and now foreign investments upto 49 percent are allowed through the automatic route and above 49 percent are allowed under Government route.

In last four years, six companies in Defence and Aerospace sectors had obtained government approval for FDI of Rs 237 crore while FDI of over Rs 200 crore had been received through the automatic route.

The iDEX scheme was launched on April 12, 2018 to create a network of Defence Innovation hubs throughout the country and to resolve Defence and Aerospace related issues.

The Mission Raksha Gyan Shakti was launched by the Ministry of Defence to create greater capacity development and encourage greater filing of patents in defence and aerospace sectors.

21 February 2019

India’s fighter jet ‘LCA Tejas’ now fully combat-ready; gets Final Operational Clearance

India fighter jet LCA Tejas gets Final Operational Clearance

Landmark day for India’s defence sector, India’s first self-made fighter jet, Light Combat Aircraft Tejas MK I (LCA Tejas) on February 20, 2019 received the Final Operational Clearance for induction into the Indian Air Force (IAF) as a fully-weaponised fighter jet.

The formal declaration of Final Operational Clearance (FOC) of the aircraft was made by Dr G Satheesh Reddy, Chairman of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Secretary of Defence (R&D).

The military aviation regulator CEMILAC handed over the FOC Certificate and other release-to-service documents to Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa during the ongoing ‘Aero India 2019’ event.

Prior to this, the LCA Tejas was an Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) aircraft.

Difference between FOC and IOC Aircraft
The Final Operational Clearance (FOC) aircraft has several additional capabilities compared to the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) aircraft.

The primary difference is that a FOC aircraft has more advanced missile capability with a significantly enhanced range.

Some of the more advanced capabilities of the FOC aircraft LCA Tejas are: Beyond Visual Range Missile capabilities, Air-to-Air Refuelling, Air-to-Ground FOC earmarked advanced weapons and delivery system, and general flight envelope expansion.

Note: The Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) was accorded to the LCA Tejas aircraft in the year 2013 and was inducted into the Indian Air Force 45 Squadron in July 2016 to prepare for combat readiness. The 45 Squadron has since flown over 1500 sorties during the trials.

What follows next?

The FOC standard Aircraft drawings have already been handed over to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to start production after incorporating key changes over the IOC standard Aircraft.

The Rangsons Defence Solutions (RSD) provides the capabilities, features and technologies that FOC standard Aircraft will have on Induction into IAF. The Indian Air Force recently placed an order of 83 advanced FOC aircraft of the LCA Tejas.

Tejas successfully completed first-ever mid-air refuelling trial
In a first, Tejas, the advanced version of India’s indigenously produced Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) was successfully refuelled mid-air by a Russian-origin Ilyushin-78 tanker on September 10, 2018.

The Air-to-Air Refuelling was a part of a ‘wet contact’ trial for LCA Tejas MK-1. The Russian-origin tanker refuelled the fighter plane, piloted by Wing Commander Siddarth Singh, with 1,900 litres of fuel at an altitude of 20,000 ft.

The air-to-air refuelling capability for LCA is a ‘force multiplier’ for the IAF, giving the aircraft the potential to stay airborne for a much longer period of time.

Organisations behind the LCA Tejas aircraft

The design, development and production of the LCA Tejas aircraft were carried out by Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), the autonomous society of DRDO as the design agency. The Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is the manufacturer of the aircraft.

Many other DRDO laboratories like ADE, GTRE, LRDE, Centre for Military Airworthiness & Certification (CEMILAC), etc., as well as other agencies such as BEL, CSIR, DG-AQA, and Private sector agencies have contributed in the journey of LCA.

Light Combat Aircraft Tejas

The Light Combat Aircraft Tejas is a supersonic, single-seat, single-engine multirole light fighter aircraft that uses fourth generation technologies.

It was co-developed by the Aeronautical Development Agency in cooperation with the Bengaluru-based Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.

It is built from CFC materials and has unstable aerodynamics.

It is equipped with a quadruplex digital fly-by-wire flight control system to ease handling by the pilot.

It incorporates an advanced glass cockpit that comprises all the round dialed electro-mechanical instruments.

It is fitted with the coherent pulse-Doppler Multi Mode Radar that is designed to operate equally effectively in the Air to Air and Air to Surface domains.

It is fitted with Open Architecture Computer (OAC).

Government launches ‘Operation Digital Board’ to boost quality education

Government launches Operation Digital Board to boost quality education

The Union Minister of Human Resource Development, Prakash Javadekar on February 20, 2019 launched the ‘Operation Digital Board’ to boost quality education in the country.

The Operation Digital Board is a revolutionary step which will make the learning as well as the teaching process interactive and will popularise flipped learning as a pedagogical approach.

Note: Flipped learning is an instructional strategy that reverses the traditional learning environment by delivering instructional content often online, outside of the classroom.

An expert committee has worked out optimum configuration of the Digital Class Rooms under the Operation Digital Board.

Highlights of Operation Digital Board

Under the Operation Digital Board, 7 lakh classrooms of 9th, 10th and 11th standards and 2 lakh classrooms of colleges and Universities will be equipped with digital boards in the next three years.

The digital board will be introduced all over the country in government and government aided schools from class 9th onwards as well as in higher education institutions.

The operation aims to convert a class room into a digital class room and make available the e-resources at any time and at any place to students.

It will also help in providing personalised adaptive learning as well as Intelligent Tutoring by exploiting emerging technologies like Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence & Data Analytics.

The implementation will begin from the coming session of 2019 itself.

Implementation of ODB in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs)
  • The Operation Digital Board (ODB) will be implemented in the Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) by the University Grants Commission (UGC)
  • UGC recently passed a resolution for extending digital education to every classroom in the country by 2022.
  • It is estimated that are around 5 lakh classrooms in the institutions which are aided by Centre or State Governments. Out of this, UGC proposed to take up 300 universities and about 10,000 colleges in the first phase, covering 2 lakh classrooms.
  • For the 2 lakh class rooms, the cost is estimated at Rs. 2000 crores. The scheme can be implemented as a Central scheme as a loan from Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA).
  • For this purpose, UGC will put in place a Portal for all the public funded HEIs to log-in and opt for the scheme giving details of this facility.
Implementation of ODB in Schools
  • Digital or SMART board will be provided in all Government and Government – aided schools having Secondary and Sr. Secondary classes.
  • Nearly 1.5 lakh Secondary and Sr. Secondary schools will be covered under the scheme in collaboration with the State and UTs.

Background

Taking into account that the biggest challenge facing education sector in the country is maintaining acceptable quality standards, the Government is continuously making efforts to spread educational technology and connectivity to resolve this issue and being fairness in educational standards.

Various initiatives such as e-Pathshala, DIKSHA, NROER, NPTEL, e-pathshala SWAYAM and SWAYAM-Prabha DTH Channels etc. have provided adequate content of high quality which can be taken to every classroom, and thereby facilitating blended learning and flip class learning.

These educational interventions can adequately raise the standards of teaching, irrespective of the location of the Schools and Colleges/Institutes.

20 February 2019

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman’s India visit

Key highlights of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman India visit

The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who is also the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence of Saudi Arabia, visited India on February 19-20, 2019.

This first ever visit by his Royal Highness followed the official visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in April 2016 at the invitation of King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud; the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques (Head of State & Government).

Prime Minister Modi and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) held delegation level talks at Hyderabad House on February 20, 2019 and released the India-Saudi Arabia Joint Statement.

Both the sides also signed five agreements and Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) including deals on an investment fund and tourism.

List of MoUs/Agreements signed
S. No. Agreement / MoUs Signatory (Indian side) Signatory (Saudi Arabia side)
1. MoU on investing in the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund Sushma Swaraj,
Minister of External Affairs
Khalid Al Falih,
Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources
2. MoU on Cooperation in the field of Tourism between the Union Ministry of Tourism, and the Saudi Commission for tourism and national heritage of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia T S Tirumurti,
Secretary (ER)
Adel Al-Jubeir,
MOS for Foreign Affairs
3. MoU for Cooperation in the field of housing Ahmad Javed,
Ambassador of India to Saudi Arabia
Dr. Majid bin Abdullah Al Qasabi,
Minister of Commerce
4. Framework Cooperation Program between Invest India and Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) on enhancing bilateral investment relations Ahmad Javed,
Ambassador of India to Saudi Arabia
Dr. Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi,
Minister of Commerce
5. MoU for Cooperation on Broadcasting between Prasar Bharati and Saudi Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) for exchange of audio visual programme Ahmad Javed,
Ambassador of India to Saudi Arabia
Dr. Turki Abdullah Al-Shabanah,
Minister of Media
6. Another agreement was signed by Saudi Arabia to join the International Solar Alliance (ISA), launched by Prime Minister Modi.

India-Saudi Arabia Joint Statement

Condemnation of Pulwama terrorist attack and cooperation against terrorism: The Prime Minister and His Royal Highness condemned in the recent Pulwama terror attack on Indian security forces on February 14, 2019.

Both sides called on all states to reject the use of terrorism against other countries. They stressed for early adoption of the ‘UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism’ and underlined the importance of comprehensive sanctioning of terrorists and their organisations by the United Nations.

Comprehensive Security Dialogue: To enhance cooperation in the Counter-terrorism, the two sides agreed to constitute a ‘Comprehensive Security Dialogue’ at the level of National Security Advisors and set up a Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism.

Increase in the Hajj quota:
Saudi Arabia enhanced the quota for Hajj pilgrims from India to 200000 to reflect the latest census.

Release of 850 Indian prisoners: Prime Minister expressed his thanks to the Saudi Crown Prince for ordering the release of 850 Indian prisoners from Saudi jails.

Strategic partnership under Riyadh Declaration: The two sides re-affirmed deep commitment to strengthen the strategic partnership envisaged in the ‘Riyadh Declaration’ of February 2010.

Strategic Partnership Council: The two sides agreed to reinforce the existing partnership with high level monitoring mechanism by the creation of the Strategic Partnership Council led by Prime Minister Modi and His Royal Highness the Crown Prince, and supported by ministerial representation.

Workshop between NITI Aayog and SCISP: Both the sides welcomed the outcomes of the Workshop between NITI Aayog and Saudi Centre for International Strategic Partnership (SCISP) organised recently in Riyadh. The Workshop identified over 40 opportunities of joint collaboration and investments.

Deepening trade and investment cooperation: They agreed to deepen trade and investment cooperation by aligning the Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and 13 Vision Realisation Programs with India’s flagship initiatives “Make in India”, “Start Up India”, “Smart Cities”, “Clean India”, and “Digital India”.

Saudi Arabia to invest USD 100 billion in India: Saudi Crown Prince announced to invest over USD 100 billion in India in areas of energy, refining, petrochemicals, infrastructure, agriculture, minerals and mining, manufacturing, education and health.

First joint venture West Coast Refinery and Petrochemical Project: Both sides agreed to expedite the implementation of the first Joint Venture West Coast Refinery and Petrochemical Project estimated to cost USD 44 billion. In addition, investments of USD 10 billion through the Public Investment Fund and other investments opportunities worth USD 26 billion are expected.

Saudi Arabia’s investment in NIIF: The Prime Minister welcomed the investment from Saudi Arabia in the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) and other key sectors in India.

Energy security: The two sides expressed to grow bilateral trade in the energy sector, acknowledging Saudi Arabia as the world’s most reliable supplier of oil & gas and the key supplier to India. They stressed on continuation of the India-Saudi Arabia Energy consultations.

Joint Working Group on Skill Development: The two sides agreed to set up a Joint Working Group on Skill Development to identify areas of cooperation in important fields such as manufacturing, information technology, communications, and programming.

Co-operation in the defence sector: They welcomed the recent developments in India-Saudi co-operation in the defence sector, especially after signing of MoU on Defence Cooperation during the visit of His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to India in February 2014.

Security situation in West Asia and Middle East:
Both sides emphasised Security Council Resolution (2254) with regard to the solution in Syria, and Security Council Resolution (2216), the GCC initiative, and the outcomes of the Yemeni National Dialogue with regard to the solution in Yemen.

Cooperation in payment systems: Both sides agreed to explore opportunities for cooperation in the area of payment systems including RuPAY for the benefit of Indian community in general and particularly the Hajj or Umrah pilgrims. The Prime Minister thanked the Crown Prince for sorting the issue of “Iqamah” for the Indian Labour who were stranded in Saudi Arabia.

Asia tour of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman
The Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman’s visit to India is a part of an Asia tour that includes stopovers in Pakistan and China. Prior visiting India, His Royal Highness visited Pakistan where Saudi Arabia signed investment agreements worth USD 20 billion with Pakistan.

The visit came amid rising Indo-Pakistan tensions following the devastating terror attack in Pulwama, Jammu & Kashmir that killed over 44 Indian paramilitary police officers.

The Asia tour includes Saudi Crown Prince visit to China, which is his last stop. He is expected to announce deepening cooperation on Beijing’s ‘Belt and Road initiative’, a revival of the ancient Silk Road.

KUSUM Yojana: CCEA approves ‘Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan’ Scheme for farmers’ welfare

CCEA approves ‘Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan’ Scheme for farmers’ welfare

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on February 19, 2019 approved the launch of ‘Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan’ (KUSUM Yojana) with the objective of providing financial and water security to farmers.

The Central Government will provide a total financial support of Rs 34,422 crore for the scheme.

Components of KUSUM Yojana
The Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan scheme consists of three components:

  • Component-A: 10,000 MW of Decentralised Ground Mounted Grid Connected Renewable Power Plants.
  • Component-B: Installation of 17.50 lakh standalone Solar Powered Agriculture Pumps.
  • Component-C: Solarisation of 10 Lakh Grid-connected Solar Powered Agriculture Pumps.

With all these three components combined, the scheme aims to add a solar capacity of 25,750 MW by 2022.

The Component-A and Component-C will be implemented on pilot mode.  The Component-A aims for 1000 MW capacity, while, Component-C aims for the one lakh grid connected agriculture pumps. On the other hand, the Component-B will be implemented in full-fledged manner.

Component-A

Under Component A, Renewable power plants of capacity 500 KW to 2 MW will be setup by individual farmers, cooperatives, panchayats or farmer producer organisations (FPO) on their lands.

The power generated will be purchased by the DISCOMs in tariffs determined by respective State Electricity Regulatory Commissions (SERC). The scheme will open a continuous source of income to the rural land owners.

The DISCOMs will be provided with the Performance Based Incentives of Rs. 0.40 per unit for five years.

Component-B

Under Component B, individual farmers will be supported to install standalone solar pumps of capacity up to 7.5 HP. Under the scheme, the Solar PV capacity in kW equal to the pump capacity in Horsepower (HP) is allowed.

Component C

Under Component C, individual farmers will be supported to solarise pumps of capacity up to 7.5 HP. Solar PV capacity up to two times of pump capacity in kW is allowed under the scheme.

The farmer will be able to use the generated energy to meet the irrigation needs and the excess available energy will be sold to DISCOM. This will help to create an avenue for extra income to the farmers.

Funding of Component-B and Component-C

For both Component-B and Component-C, central financial assistance (CFA) of 30 percent of the benchmark cost or the tender cost, whichever is lower, will be provided.

The State Government will give a subsidy of 30 percent; and the remaining 40 percent will be provided by the farmer. Bank finance may be made available for meeting 30 percent of the cost. The remaining 10 percent will be provided by the farmer.

Higher CFA of 50 percent will be provided for North Eastern States, Sikkim, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Lakshadweep and Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

Impact
  • The Scheme will have substantial environmental impact in terms of savings of CO2 emissions. All three components of the Scheme will save about 27 million tonnes of CO2 emission per annum.
  • The Component-B of the Scheme on standalone solar pumps may result in saving of 1.2 billion liters of diesel per annum and associated savings in the foreign exchange due to reduction of import of crude oil.
  • The scheme will have direct employment potential. Besides increasing self-employment, it will generate employment opportunity equivalent to 6.31 lakh job years for skilled and unskilled workers.

19 February 2019

Relief for Angel Investors, Government clears proposal to encourage investments in Start-Ups; hikes tax exemption cap

Government clears proposal to encourage investments in Start-Ups

Union Minister of Commerce & Industry and Civil Aviation, Suresh Prabhu on February 19, 2019 cleared proposals to encourage investments in Start-Ups, aiming at simplifying the process of exemptions for Start-ups from the ‘Angel Tax’ under Section 56 (2) (viib) of Income Tax Act, 1961.

As per the new norms, registered startups will be exempted from tax on funding of up to Rs 25 crore compared with the existing limit of Rs 10 crore.

Significance
The new norms aim to catalyse entrepreneurship by enabling angel investments by innovators across all sections of society and all sectors of economy.

Till date, the startups were availing of the tax concession only on the condition that their total investment, including funding from angel investors, does not exceed Rs 10 crore.

The eased norms were the outcome of a meeting between Union Minister Suresh Prabhu with concerned officials and a roundtable was organised on February 4, 2019 under the chairmanship of Secretary DPIIT.

Section 56(2)(viib) of the Income Tax Act (Angel Tax)
The Section 56(2)(viib) of the Income Tax Act provides that the amount raised by a start-up in excess of its fair market value would be deemed as income from other sources like angel investors and would be taxed at 30 percent. This section was introduced in 2012. This tax was named as the ‘Angel Tax’.

Angel tax is applicable to unlisted companies that have raised capital through sale of shares at a value above their fair market value. This tax affects start-ups and the angel investments they attract. Entrepreneurs and investors consider levy of the ‘angel tax’ as offensive.

Definition of ‘Start-ups’ expanded

The norms expand the definition of a ‘Start-Up’. Now an entity will be considered as a Start-up up to 10 years from its date of incorporation and registration instead of the previous period of 7 years.

Similarly, an entity will continue to be recognised as a Start-up, if its turnover for any of the financial years since incorporation and registration has not exceeded Rs 100 crore instead of Rs. 25 crore limit earlier.

Cases of Exemption of Start-Ups from Angel Tax

Start-ups will be exempted from the Angel Tax in following cases:

  • Investments of up to Rs 25 crore received by eligible Start-ups for shares issued or proposed to be issued.
  • Investments made by a listed company having a net worth of at least Rs 100 crore or a turnover of at least Rs 250 crore.
  • The aggregate limit of Rs. 25 crore will exclude consideration received by eligible Start-ups for the following classes of persons:
  • Investments made by non-residents will also be exempted.

Start-ups will need to file a duly signed declaration with DPIIT for availing of the exemption. The declaration will be transmitted by DPIIT to the CBDT.

Eligibility for exemption from the Angel Tax under Section 56 (2) (viib) of Income Tax Act

A Start-up will be eligible for exemption under Section 56 (2) (viib) of Income Tax Act, if it is a private limited company recognised by Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) and is not investing in:

Building or land or both, unless it is for its business or used by it for purposes of renting or held by it as stock-in-trade.

Loans and advances, other than loans extended in the ordinary course of business by the Start-ups

Capital contribution made to any other entity

Shares and securities

a motor vehicle, aircraft, yacht or any other mode of transport, the actual cost of which exceeds Rs 10 lakh, other than that held by the Start-ups for the purpose of plying, hiring, leasing or as stock-in-trade

Jewelry other than that held by the Start-ups as stock-in-trade

Cabinet approves National Policy on Electronics 2019; aims to make India global hub in ESDM Sector

Cabinet approves National Policy on Electronics 2019

The Union Cabinet on February 19, 2019 approved the National Policy on Electronics 2019 (NPE 2019), proposed by the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY).

The 2019 Policy on Electronics proposes to propel the growth of Electronics System Design and Manufacturing (ESDM) industry in the country. It replaces the National Policy of Electronics 2012 (NPE 2012).

Objective of NPE 2019
The Policy aims to position India as a global hub for Electronics System Design and Manufacturing (ESDM) by encouraging and driving capabilities for developing core components and creating an enabling environment for the industry to compete globally.

Features of National Policy on Electronics 2019

Create eco-system for globally competitive ESDM sector by promoting domestic manufacturing and export in the entire value-chain of ESDM

Provide incentives and support for manufacturing of core electronic components

Provide special package of incentives for mega projects which are extremely high-tech and entail huge investments, such as semiconductor facilities display fabrication, etc.

Formulate suitable schemes and incentive mechanisms to encourage new units and expansion of existing units

Promote Industry-led R&D and innovation in all sub-sectors of electronics such as 5G, loT/ Sensors, Artificial Intelligence (Al), Machine Learning, Virtual Reality (VR), Drones, Robotics, Additive   Manufacturing, Photonics, Nano-based devices, etc.

Provide   incentives and support for significantly enhancing availability of skilled manpower

Special thrust on Fabless Chip Design Industry, Medical Electronic Devices Industry, Automotive Electronics Industry and Power Electronics for Mobility and Strategic Electronics Industry

Create Sovereign Patent Fund (SPF) to promote the development and acquisition of IPs in ESDM sector

Promote trusted electronics value chain initiatives to improve national cyber security profile

Implementation strategy

The Policy will lead to the formulation of several schemes, initiatives, projects and measures for the development of ESDM sector in the country.

Targets

The scheme targets to promote domestic manufacturing and export in the entire value-chain of ESDM for economic development to achieve a turnover of USD 400 billion by 2025.

This will include targeted production of 1.0 billion (100 crore) mobile handsets by 2025 valued at USD 190 billion, including 600 million (60 crore) mobile handsets valued at USD 110 billion for export.

Major Impact

The NPE 2019 will lead to formulation of several schemes, initiatives, and projects in consultation with the concerned Ministries and Departments for the development of ESDM sector in the country.

It will enable flow of investment and technology, leading to higher value addition in the domestically manufactured electronic products, increased electronics hardware manufacturing in the country and their export.

Setback for chit funds, Cabinet approves Promulgation of Banning of Unregulated Deposit Schemes Ordinance, 2019

Cabinet approves Promulgation of Banning of Unregulated Deposit Schemes Ordinance, 2019

The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on February 19, 2019 approved the Promulgation of Unregulated Deposit Schemes Ordinance, 2019.

The proposed Ordinance will immediately tackle the menace of illicit deposit taking activities in the country which at present are exploiting regulatory gaps and duping poor and gullible people of their hard-earned savings.

Earlier, the Lok Sabha on February 13, 2019 passed the Banning of Unregulated Deposit Schemes Bill, 2018.

The Banning of Unregulated Deposit Schemes Bill, 2018 was introduced in Parliament on July 18, 2018 and was referred to the Standing Committee on Finance (SCF), which submitted its Seventieth Report on the Bill to Parliament on January 3, 2019.

Significance
The official amendments will strengthen the Bill to effectively tackle the menace of illicit deposit taking activities in the country, and prevent schemes such as Saradha Chit Fund Scheme from duping poor people of their hard earned savings.

Provisions of the Banning of Unregulated Deposit Schemes Bill, 2018

The Bill contains a banning clause which bans Deposit Takers from promoting, operating, issuing advertisements or accepting deposits in any Unregulated Deposit Scheme. The Bill bans unregulated deposit taking activities altogether, by making them an offence.

It three different types of offences, namely, running of Unregulated Deposit Schemes, fraudulent default in Regulated Deposit Schemes, and wrongful inducement in relation to Unregulated Deposit Schemes.

It provides for severe punishment and heavy fines to act as deterrent.

It has adequate provisions for repayment of deposits in cases where such schemes manage to raise deposits illegally.

It provides for attachment of properties or assets by the Competent Authority and subsequent realisation of assets for repayment to depositors.

It provides clear-cut time lines for attachment of property and restitution to depositors.

It enables creation of an online database for collection and sharing of information on deposit-taking activities in the country.

It adopts best practices from State laws while entrusting the primary responsibility of implementing the provisions of the legislation to the State Governments.

It defines “Deposit Takers” as all possible entities (including individuals) receiving or soliciting deposits, except specific entities such as those incorporated by legislation.

It defines “Deposit” in such a manner that deposit-takers are restricted from concealing public deposits as receipts, and not to hinder acceptance of money by an establishment in the ordinary course of its business.

What led to the amendments in the Bill?

As per information provided by the RBI, during July 2014 and May 2018, 978 cases of unauthorized schemes were discussed in State Level Coordination Committee (SLCC) meetings in various States. A large number of such instances were reported from the eastern part of the country.

Subsequently, the Finance Minister in the Budget Speech 2017-18 had announced that the draft bill to curtail the menace of illicit deposit schemes had been placed in the public domain and would be introduced shortly after its finalisation.

The Banning of Unregulated Deposit Schemes Bill, 2018 provides a comprehensive legislation to deal with the menace of illicit deposit schemes in the country.

Saradha chit fund scam

In the early 2000s, businessman Sudipto Sen led Saradha Group launched a collective investment scheme. The Group used a consortium of companies to tap small investors promising them very high returns and raised over Rs 2000 crore.

The scheme expanded to states like Odisha, Assam, and Tripura and the number of investors rose to over 15 lakh.

By 2009, the Group diversified with the help of continued investments from ordinary people and opened 239 companies. Some invested through the schemes launched by the Group itself and some invested through chit funds under the Chit Fund Act, 1982.

In 2012, the market regulator SEBI asked the Group to stop accepting money from investors until it got the regulator’s permission. In 2013, the Group’s scheme failed and investors lodged hundreds of complaints. The company collapsed in April 2013.

18 February 2019

Union Government launches three women safety initiatives

Union Government launches three women safety initiatives

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh along with Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi jointly launched three significant initiatives to promote the safety of women in their living spaces, working spaces and the public spaces on February 18, 2019 at Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi.

The initiatives include Emergency Response Support System, Investigation Tracking System for Sexual Offences (ITSSO) and Safe City Implementation Monitoring Portal. The Ministry launched Emergency Response Support System in 16 states and union territories including Andhra Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, UP, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Puducherry, Lakshadweep, Andaman, Dadar Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu and Jammu and Kashmir.

The Union Government has enacted the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2018 to provide effective deterrence against the offence of rape. For the effective implementation of the Act, to strengthen investigation and prosecution machinery and to instill a sense of security amongst women, the government is launching the following initiatives:

Emergency Response Support System (ERSS)

The Emergency Response Support System (ERSS) is a pan-India single number (112) based response system for persons in distress.

Citizens can access emergency services by using the following methods:

Dial 112: A person in distress can dial a pan-India number: 112.

Press power button: A citizen can press the power button on a smartphone thrice quickly to activate a panic call to ERC.

Long press 5, 9 keys: In case of a feature phone, a citizen can long press on number 5 or 9 on the phone keypad to activate the panic call.

The other ways to access the emergency service is by logging onto the ERSS website for the state and lodge the emergency or send SOS alert to State ERC or use 112 India Mobile App, which is available free on Google Play store and Apple store.

Key Highlights

Under this system, all the states have to set up a dedicated Emergency Response Centre (ERC).

The centres will have a team of trained call-takers and dispatchers to handle emergency requests relating to assistance from police, fire & rescue, health and other emergency services.

The police can view all events after an emergency call is made at the ERC. The ERCs are connected to District Command Centres (DCC) and the Emergency Response Vehicles and assistance and response to victims are facilitated through them.

The centre is designed to be a common protocol managed by each state and union territory.

For Women and children, 112 India App provides a special SHOUT feature which alerts registered volunteers in the vicinity of the victim for immediate assistance.

The Central Government is funding Rs 321.69 crore to the states and union territories for the emergency system as a part of Nirbhaya scheme project. The service has already been launched in Himachal Pradesh and Nagaland.

Investigation Tracking System for Sexual Offences (ITSSO)

The Investigation Tracking System for Sexual Offences (ITSSO) is an online module available to law enforcement agencies at all levels- national, state, district and police station that allows states to undertake real-time monitoring and management for completion of investigation in rape cases in two months.

The system leverages the existing CCTNS database, which covers nearly 15000 police stations in the country.

It would greatly strengthen the states’ ability for analytics and prognosis for timely investigation and prosecution in rape cases.

Significance

The Criminal Law Amendment in April 2018 prescribes stringent penal provisions including the death penalty for rape of a girl below the age of 12 years.

For swift administration of justice in such cases, the Act also inter-alia mandates completion of investigation and trials within two months.

To enhance women safety in the country, the government has formulated a multi-pronged action plan and initiated a series of measures. ITSSO is one of such measures developed by the Home Ministry towards smart policing.

Safe City Implementation Monitoring (SCIM) portal

The Government has identified eight cities for implementation of Safe City projects in the first phase at a cost of Rs 2,919 crore, in order to instil a sense of security in women in metro cities.

The cities include Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Lucknow and Mumbai.

The projects are funded under the Nirbhaya Fund scheme. They have been prepared jointly by Municipal bodies and City Police and reflect integrated action for the safety of women.

The safe city projects involve the creation of on-ground assets, resources and behaviour change programs for the safety of women.

The projects will supplement existing assets and meet citizen demands for safe eco-system for women in these cities.

Key features of projects:

Identification of crime hot-spots in each city.

Saturating such Hot-spots with increased CCTV surveillance.

Automated Number Plate Reading (ANPR) and drone-based surveillance also being deployed in few cities as per requirement.

Setting up women police out-posts for facilitating ease of access by any aggrieved woman to report incidence or seek assistance.

Patrols by women police in vulnerable areas.

Setting up women help desks in police stations with facility for trained counsellors

Augmentation of existing women support centers like Asha Jyoti Kendra or Bharosa centers

Implementing safety measures in buses, including cameras.

Improving street lighting in identified hot spot areas.

Setting up toilets for women.

Undertaking social awareness programmes on women safety and gender sensitivity.

Other Details

All the measures would be coordinated through an Integrated Smart Control Room in the city.

In order to facilitate states to monitor and manage the safe city projects and avoid duplication on the ground, an online Safe City Implementation Monitoring (SCIM) portal has been developed by the Home Ministry.

The portal will facilitate online tracking of deployment of assets and infrastructure created under the Safe City projects.

It will facilitate an evidence-based online monitoring system. The details on assets and infrastructure are captured along with latitude and longitude using GPS for greater transparency.

The portal also creates a digital repository of assets, infrastructure and social outreach programs, as well as best practices achieved in each city.

India, Argentina sign MoU, release Joint Statement

India, Argentina sign MoU, release Joint Statement

India and Argentina released a Joint Statement on February 18, 2019 after extensive talks between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the President of the Argentine Republic, Mauricio Macri, who is on a state visit to India from February 17-19, 2019.

President Mauricio Macri is in India at the invitation of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as part of the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Argentine Republic and the Republic of India. The President is accompanied by senior government officials and a business delegation.

During the visit, President Macri met Indian President Ram Nath Kovind, who hosted a banquet in his honor. The President then met Prime Minister Modi, with whom he held official talks in a warm, cordial and friendly atmosphere and exchanged views on bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest.

The Prime Minister fondly recalled his visit to Argentina to attend the G20 Leaders Summit in November-December 2018 and commended President Macri’s leadership for successfully steering the Summit. The two sides agreed to work closely for a successful G20 Summit in India in 2022, coinciding with the 75th year of India’s independence.

They also expressed satisfaction over the successful conclusion of the fifth India-Argentina Joint Commission Meeting, held in New Delhi on January 14, 2019, and reiterated their strong commitment to further deepen and reinvigorate the multifaceted relations between India and Argentina.

Following the talks, ten Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) were signed between the two nations:

S.No.

Area of cooperation

MoU

Exchanged on Argentine side by

Exchanged on Indian side by

1. Defence MoU between the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of India and the Ministry of Defence of the Argentine Republic on Defence Cooperation Jorge Faurie,
Foreign Affairs Minister
Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore,
MOS (IC)/I&B and Youth Affairs & Sports
2. Tourism MoU between Republic of India and Republic of Argentina for cooperation in the field of Tourism Jorge Faurie,
Foreign Affairs Minister
Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore,
MOS (IC)/I&B and Youth Affairs & Sports
3. Broadcasting content MOU on Cooperation and Collaboration between Prasar Bharti, India and the Federal System of Media and Public Contents, Argentina Jorge Faurie,
Foreign Affairs Minister
Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore,
MOS (IC)/I&B and Youth Affairs & Sports
4. Pharmaceuticals MoU in pharmaceuticals between Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO), GoI, and National Administration of Drugs, Food and Medical Technology, Argentina Jorge Faurie,
Foreign Affairs Minister
Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore,
MOS (IC)/I&B and Youth Affairs & Sports
5. Antarctica MoU on Antarctic Co-operation between
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship of the Argentine Republic and the Ministry of Earth Sciences of the Republic of India
Jorge Faurie,
Foreign Affairs Minister
Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore,
MOS (IC)/I&B and Youth Affairs & Sports
6. Agriculture Work Plan on Cooperation between the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare of the Republic of India and the Ministry of Production and Labour of the Argentine Republic within the MoU signed in 2010. Luis Miguel Etchevehere, Secretary, Agro Industry Sanjay Agarwal,
Secretary, Agriculture
7. Agriculture Work Plan for the year 2019-21 between Indian Council of Agriculture Research Republic of India and the State Secretary of Agro industry of the Ministry of Production and Labour of the Argentine Republic within the MoU signed in 2006. Luis Miguel Etchevehere, Secretary, Agro Industry Sanjay Agarwal,
Secretary, Agriculture
8. ICT Joint Declaration of Intent on Cooperation in the field of Information & Communications Technology and Electronics between the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology of the Government of the Republic of India and
the Government Secretary of Modernization of the Republic of Argentina
Andres Ibarra,
Government of Secretary for Modernization
Vijay Thakur Singh,
Secretary (East), MEA
9. Civil nuclear MOU between Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership (GCNEP), India, and CNEA, the Secretariat of Energy, Argentina Osvaldo Calzetta Larrieu,
President of CNEA
Sanjiv Ranjan,
Ambassador of India to Argentina
10. Centre of Excellence for Information and Technology Agreement for the establishment of India-Argentina Centre of Excellence for Information and Technology Jorge Faurie,
Foreign Affairs Minister
Sanjiv Ranjan,
Ambassador of India to Argentina

Joint Statement: Key Highlights

Strengthening political ties

The two leaders reiterated that India-Argentina relations are based on shared principles and values of democracy, freedom, rule of law, respect for human rights and territorial integrity of States.

They expressed their satisfaction at the mutually beneficial cooperation and partnership between the two countries in the political, economic, technical, energy, mining, information technology, scientific and cultural fields.

They noted that new spheres of cooperation in areas of mutual interest have been identified and modalities worked out for further strengthening and expanding the bilateral relationship between the two countries.

They also decided to elevate India-Argentina multi-faceted cooperation to a strategic partnership with focus on key areas for the prosperity of both countries.

Defence Cooperation

The leaders welcomed the signing of the MOU in Defence Cooperation and tasked their relevant ministries to work towards its robust implementation.

Space

The leaders noted the coming into force of the Framework Agreement on Cooperation on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space in 2018 and the establishment of its joint committee with representatives from respective space agencies.

They also expressed satisfaction over the recent interactions in December 2018 between the two sides to pursue cooperation in the field of satellite remote sensing, including the exchange of data, the development of applications and calibration and validation experiments.

They further agreed to explore avenues of space collaboration including in such areas as satellite building and launch.

Peaceful uses of Nuclear Energy

The leaders noted with satisfaction the progress in the ongoing cooperation on the Fission Molly Project, the molybdenum plant being built in Mumbai by the Argentine company INVAP, with a target completion in 2020.

The two sides also expressed the desire to enhance and explore cooperative ventures in the areas of nuclear power, other societal uses of nuclear energy in the health, agriculture sectors and for industrial applications and training and capacity building.

They also noted that the MoU signed on the occasion, between the Department of Atomic Energy, India and National Atomic Energy Commission, Argentina for cooperation within the framework of Global Center for Nuclear Energy Partnership would bolster institutional linkages in civil nuclear research and development and capacity building.

Terrorism

The two leaders, while emphasizing on the need to resolutely and unequivocally fight the menace of terrorism, issued a separate Joint Declaration in this regard.

India-Argentina Special declaration to Fight Terrorism

Argentina condemned in the strongest terms the brutal terrorist attack that took place in Pulwama District of Jammu and Kashmir on February 14, 2019 against the CRPF convoy, in which more than 40 CRPF personnel lost their lives.

The two leaders agreed that terrorism poses a grave threat to global peace and stability and noted the need for concerted action by the global community against terrorism.

They stressed that there could be no justification for acts of terror on any grounds whatsoever particularly emphasising the scourge of cross border terrorism and emphasised that terrorism must be confronted unequivocally and resolutely.

They reiterated their commitment to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and asserted that strong measures should be taken against terrorists, terror organisations, their networks and all those who encourage, support, finance and provide safe haven to terrorists and terror groups.

The leaders gave a call that no country must allow their territory to be used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries.

The leaders also affirmed their support for a UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism that will advance and strengthen the framework for global cooperation and reinforce the message that no cause or grievance justifies terrorism.

  India, Argentina sign MoU, release Joint Statement

Economy

The two leaders resolved to work together to further enhance and diversify trade and investment by eliminating impediments, facilitating greater market access and promoting trade and investment exchanges to fully exploit their economic complementariness.

Further, recognising the importance of the services sector in their respective economies, both sides agreed that there was immense potential to increase two-way services trade in tourism, films, health-care and IT among others.

They also agreed to further promote bilateral investments in sectors of mutual interest and to expedite the signing of the Bilateral Investment Treaty and the Double Taxation Avoidance agreement between the two countries.

They also encouraged Indian and Argentine companies to explore partnerships including through the PPP mode.

Pharmaceutical

The two sides highlighted the importance of concluding enabling instruments such as the MOU on cooperation in the field of Medical Products Regulation, which facilitates, the exchange of information on procedures for inspection and registration of pharmaceutical products and efficient communication channels between their counterpart institutions.

The Argentine side underlined that since 2014 India has been included in Annex 2 list of countries of their Presidential decree that has a mechanism to introduce Indian pharmaceutical drugs in Argentine market.

Technical Cooperation

The two sides agreed to deepen and strengthen the modalities of bilateral technical cooperation in matters of mutual interest, such as energy including renewable, ICT, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, higher education, mechanisation and new technologies applied to agro-industry, animal and plant health, biotechnology, technological development for livestock production amd ocean research.

With regard to the same, they welcomed the Technical Cooperation Seminar in Agribusiness, organised from February 15-17, 2019 jointly by the two sides with the participation of officials, researchers and private stakeholders, in order to exchange knowledge, technologies and good practices.

They also agreed to explore the possibilities of third country collaboration in the area of technical cooperation, subject to mutual consent.

Agriculture

The two leaders noted that the conclusion of the work plan on Agro-Industrial cooperation will enhance the scope of agricultural cooperation between India and Argentina, including the exchange of technology to increase productivity, reduce post-harvest losses and build climate resilience.

It would also expedite sanitary and phyto-sanitary approvals of products of mutual interest by the respective regulatory authorities and enhance market access.

The leaders also agreed to continue to work towards expeditious market access in other agricultural products of interest to each other. Argentina expressed interest in oranges, tangerines, grapefruits, grapes, blueberries, nuts, yerba mate and sesame seeds and India in, rice, onion, potato, pomegranate, grapes, banana, mango, poultry and poultry products.

Further, the Argentina authorities informed the Indian side about the usefulness of the multipurpose vaccine “Bío jaja” against the bovine sadness (anaplasmosis and bovine babesiosis), which has been developed by INTA (National Institute of Agricultural Technology, Argentina).

The two sides also agreed to step up exchange and sharing of agriculture mecahnisation technology and resolved to simplify processes for export of such machinery and equipment.

Oil and Gas

The two sides agreed to explore possibilities of cooperation in the conventional and non-conventional oil and gas resources and in the entire hydrocarbon value chain.

Mining

The two sides acknowledged the immense potential for bilateral cooperation in the mining sector.

The Indian side conveyed its objective to have at least 30 per cent of its vehicles run on electrical batteries by 2030.

In this regard, the Argentine side expressed satisfaction that the Indian Joint Venture of three public sector mining companies, Khanij Videsh India Limited (KABIL), had shown interest in the lithium mining in Argentina.

The Argentine side expressed its readiness to facilitate geological information for lithium exploration available in the Geological and Mining Survey of Argentina and coordinate with the Argentine provinces through the Federal Mining Council of Argentina.

  India, Argentina sign MoU, release Joint Statement

Renewable Energy

The two leaders emphasised on the importance of efforts towards enhancing the contribution of renewal energy in their energy mix and its contribution to mitigate climate change.

India invited Argentina’s collaboration in meeting its target of 175 GW power generation from renewable energy sources by 2022.

The Argentine side invited Indian companies to participate in its RenovAR renewable energy programme.

Further, India welcomed signature by Argentina of the ISA Framework Agreement noting that the association under ISA would foster cooperation in innovative and cost effective solar technologies.

Social Security

In order to explore possible ways of facilitating the movement of IT professionals and business persons between the two countries, both sides agreed to expedite the negotiations to conclude a Social Security Agreement at an early date.

Education

The two leaders took note of the progress made towards conclusion of the negotiations for adopting the Cultural Exchange Program for the period 2019-2023.

They welcomed the agreement reached to establish India-Argentina Centre of Excellence for Information and Technologies in Argentina. The Centre will facilitate the transfer of technology to equip labs and the transfer of knowledge, including through the exchange of experts and the development of training courses.

The two sides also welcomed the collaborative MoU being negotiated between Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur and University of Buenos Aires and asked for its early conclusion.

The Indian side informed about the successful Atal IT Tinkering labs in India and then the two sides agreed to make an initial assessment study of the Atal programme as a pilot programme in Argentina.

They also expressed satisfaction over the increasing cooperation through exchanges of students and academics under Indian scholarship programmes and the launch of the Argentine online platform Global Campus, which facilitates scholarship opportunities.

Argentina welcomed Indian participation in this initiative and the inclusion of scholarships for citizens from both countries.

Further, the two sides welcomed the signing of the Joint Declaration of Intent to further strengthen collaboration in diverse areas of innovation such as, battery technology, e-Governance, e-health, digital payment infrastructure, financial inclusion, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Tourism

The two sides, while recognizing the importance of air connectivity, agreed to work towards early conclusion of an Air Services Agreement.

Further, they expressed their satisfaction on the signing of the MOU on cooperation in the field of Tourism and India welcomed the inclusion of Indian citizens in the e-visa Argentine System, that allows applying for an online entry authorization for any non-immigrant travel purpose.

The two sides also welcomed the signing of the agreement between Sistema Federal de Medios y Contenidos Públicos and Prasar Bharati.

Global Peace

The two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to globalisation and reformed multilateralism.

They emphasised on the essential role of the UN in maintaining global peace and security, promoting economic and social advancement and dealing with global threats and challenges.

They reiterated their commitment to intensify their dialogue in the United Nations and other multilateral organissations to address current global challenges such as climate change and to foster international and regional peace and security, as well as sustainable development.

Trade- WTO

The two sides reaffirmed the importance of the rules-based, open, transparent, inclusive, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system with the World Trade Organisation at its center. They recognised the urgent need to discuss ways and means to adapt the WTO to face current and future challenges and stressed the need to strengthen, reform and modernise the WTO in order to strengthen the dispute settlement mechanism of the WTO.

UNSC

The two leaders reaffirmed the need for a comprehensive reform of the UN Security Council, including its expansion to make it more representative, accountable, effective, and reflective of the geopolitical realities of the 21st century.

South-South Cooperation

Argentina highlighted the importance of the Second High-Level United Nations Conference on South-South Cooperation, to be held in Buenos Aires from March 20-22, 2019, as a unique opportunity to enhance South-South Cooperation.

As a host of BAPA 40, Argentina hopes both countries can join efforts throughout the negotiation process, to reach a consensus in the outcome document that reflects South- South Cooperation opportunities within the framework of the 2030 Agenda implementation.

India, Morocco sign four MoUs to enhance cooperation

India, Morocco sign four MoUs to enhance cooperation

India and Morocco on February 18, 2019 signed four MoUs following the delegation-level talks between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Moroccan counterpart Nasser Bourita in Rabat.

The agreements include setting up of joint working group on counter terrorism, cooperation in housing and human settlement, reciprocal facilitation of procedures for issue of business visa and cooperation in youth matters.

The Indian External Affairs Minister and her Moroccan counterpart discussed ways to enhance bilateral cooperation in a number of areas, including defence and security, counter-terrorism and trade and investment.

  India, Morocco sign four MoUs to enhance cooperation

Following is the list of the four MoUs signed during the visit of External Affairs Minister to Morocco:

S. No. MoU Remarks
1. Setting up of Joint Working Group on Counter Terrorism To develop a comprehensive approach to combat terrorism including cross- border terrorism, misuse of internet including social media by terror entities; terrorist financing, recruitment of members of terrorist groups.
2. Cooperation in Housing and Human Settlement To further the cooperation in the field of Low Cost and Affordable Housing, Urban Planning and Smart Cities.
3. Cooperation in Youth Matters To strengthen and encourage people to people connect, emphasizing on youths who comprises more than 50% of the population in both the countries through participation in events and activities in the two countries, exchange of information and knowledge sharing, and youth exchanges.
4. Reciprocal facilitation of procedures for issue of Business Visa To alleviate the difficulties faced by businessmen in issue of Business Visa to further strengthen the excellent economic relations between the two countries.

Background

  • The Indian External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj is currently on a 4-day three nation tour to Bulgaria, Morocco and Spain from February 16-19, 2019, as a part of India’s efforts to strengthen ties with these countries and expand avenues of cooperation.
  • Swaraj’s visit to Bulgaria is the first-ever visit of an Indian External Affairs Minister to the nation. It is a follow-up visit to the state visit of the Indian President to Bulgaria in September 2018.
  • In the second leg of her tour, EAM visited Kingdom of Morocco from February 17-18, 2019. The visit was in pursuit of India’s objective of enhanced engagement with the Kingdom and aimed to provide an opportunity to hold in-depth discussions on bilateral, regional and global issues.
  • Swaraj began the second leg of her tour with an important meeting with Prime Minister of Morocco Saadeddine Othmani. She also handed over to Moroccan External Affairs Minister a letter from Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed to the country’s King Mohammed VI.
  • In the last leg of her visit, EAM will travel to Spain on February 18-19, 2019 at the invitation of her counterpart, Josep Borrell Fontelles, Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, the European Union and Cooperation.
  • During her visit, the External Affairs Minister will hold a bilateral meeting with her counterpart to discuss bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual concern.
  • The Spanish Government will also confer upon the Minister the prestigious Grand Cross of the Order of Civil Merit by the Spanish Government for India´s swift response through Operation Maitri in rescuing 71 Spanish nationals from Nepal in April 2015 in the wake of the disastrous earthquake.

President confers Tagore Award for Cultural Harmony

President presents Tagore Award for Cultural Harmony

Indian President Ram Nath Kovind presented the Tagore Award for Cultural Harmony to Rajkumar Singhajit Singh, Bangladesh cultural organisation Chhayanaut and Ram Sutar Vanji for the years 2014, 2015 and 2016 respectively on February 18, 2019 at a function held in Pravasi Bhartiya Kendra, New Delhi.

The award was instituted by the Union Government in 2012 to recognise the contributions made by Rabindranath Tagore to humanity at large with his works and ideas, as part of the commemoration of his 150th Birth Anniversary, for promoting values of cultural harmony.

Key Highlights

The award is conferred annually and carries an amount worth Rs one crore, citation in a scroll, a plaque and an exquisite traditional handicraft and handloom item.

The award may be divided between two persons or institutions who are considered by the jury to be equally deserving of recognition in a given year.

• The jury comprises the Prime Minister of India, Chief Justice of India, leader of the opposition in Lok Sabha or the leader of the single largest opposition party in the House and two eminent persons.

The Prime Minister, who is the chairman of the jury, had nominated Rajya Sabha MP N Gopalaswami and Indian Council for Cultural Relations President Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, as jury members for a period of three years from July 16, 2018 till July 15, 2021.

Background

The Tagore Award for Cultural Harmony is given to individuals, associations, institutions or organisations for their outstanding contribution towards promoting values of cultural harmony.

The award is open to all persons regardless of nationality, race, language, caste, creed or gender.

Generally, the contributions made during ten years immediately preceding the nomination are considered.  Older contributions may also be considered if their significance has become apparent only recently.

A written work, in order to be eligible for consideration, should have been published during the last ten years. The work by a person since deceased cannot be the subject of an award.

However, if the death occurred subsequent to a proposal having been submitted to the jury in the manner stipulated in the Code of Procedure, then a posthumous award can be conferred.

The first Tagore award was conferred upon Pt. Ravi Shankar, the Indian Sitar Maestro in 2012 and the second award was conferred upon Maestro Zubin Mehta in 2013.

17 February 2019

J&K Government withdraws security cover of separatist leaders in Kashmir

J&K Government withdraws security cover of separatist leaders in Kashmir

The Jammu and Kashmir administration on February 17, 2019 issued orders to withdraw security cover of six separatist leaders, including Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.

The security has been withdrawn for Abdul Gani Bhat, Bilal Lone, Hashim Qureshi, Fazal Haq Qureshi and Shabir Shah, besides Mirwaiz. The decision comes days after the shocking Pulwama terror attack, in which 44 CRPF personnel were killed.

Key Highlights

According to the order, all security and vehicles provided to the separatist leaders will stand withdrawn with immediate effect.

Under it, no security forces or cover will be provided, under any pretext, to these leaders or any other separatists.

The order states that if the separatists have any other facilities provided by Government, they will be withdrawn forthwith.

Further, the state police will review if there are any other separatists who have security or facilities that will be withdrawn immediately.

Why were the Separatists provided with security?

The Jammu and Kashmir state government in consultation with the central government had provided these separatist leaders with ad hoc security, keeping in mind the threat to their lives from some militant groups.

The militants of Hizbul Mujahideen had killed Mirwaiz’s father, Mirwaiz Farooq, in 1990 and Abdul Gani Lone in 2002.

Reaction of the Separatists

Mirwaiz, who is one of the religious heads in Kashmir valley, said that the Hurriyat leaders had never asked for the security. “In fact, it was the government that insisted on keeping the personnel based on what they said was their assessment of threat perception,” he said.

Separatist leader Abdul Ghani Bhat also said, “Security was provided by state government, I don’t need it. My security is Kashmiri people. There are chances of war between Pakistan and India. Let them address the war issue first.”

Background

The order comes two days after Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh visited Kashmir on February 15, 2019 to review the security situation in the Valley after the Pulwama attack. After reviewing the security situation in Kashmir, the Home Minister said that the security given to people being funded by Pakistan and the ISI should be reviewed.

The Minister said that some elements in Jammu and Kashmir have links with the ISI and terrorist organisations. Their security should be reviewed.

Pulwama terror attack

On February 14, 2019, at least 37 CRPF personnel were killed and dozens injured after a Jaish suicide bomber rammed a vehicle carrying over 100 kilograms (kg) of explosives into their bus at Awantipora in Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir.

More than 2,500 Central Reserve Police Force personnel were travelling in a convoy of 78 vehicles when they were ambushed on the Srinagar-Jammu highway at Latoomode in Awantipora in South Kashmir.

Many of the CRPF personnel were returning from leave to rejoin duty in the valley.

The attack is one of the deadliest terror attacks on India’s armed forces since the Uri airbase attack in 2016.

The Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed terror group has claimed responsibility for the attack and the suicide bomber was identified as Adil Ahmed, who according to officials joined the terror group in 2018.

Ahmed was driving a vehicle packed with over 300 kg of explosives on the wrong side of the road and hit the bus, which was carrying around 39-44 CRPF personnel.

The powerful explosion reduced the bus to a mangled heap of iron with no survivors. The explosion was heard many kilometres away, including in some parts of Srinagar adjoining Pulwama district.

Chris Gayle announces retirement from One-day Internationals

Chris Gayle announces retirement from One-day Internationals

Veteran West Indies batsman Chris Gayle has announced that he will retire from One-day Internationals after this year’s World Cup in England and Wales. The announcement was made by West Indies Cricket on February 17, 2019.

The 39-year old left-hander has scored 9,727 ODI runs, second only to the legendary Brian Lara among West Indians in 284 matches. He needs 677 more runs to surpass Lara as the West Indies’ all-time record ODI run scorer, a feat he will be hoping to achieve during his fifth World Cup.

He is currently set to play his first international since July 2018 against England on February 20. The game will be the first of a five-match series against World Cup favourites England. The upcoming World Cup is scheduled to be held in England and Wales from May 30 till July 14, 2019.

About Chris Gayle

Born on September 21, 1979, Christopher Gayle is a Jamaican cricketer who plays international cricket for the West Indies.

He started his cricket career with the famous Lucas Cricket Club in Kingston, Jamaica. He played for the West Indies at youth international level prior to making his first-class debut in 1998, at the age of 19 for Jamaica.

Gayle had a slow start to his international career. He made his debut in One Day International in September 1999 against India and test debut in March 2000 against Zimbabwe. He later captained the West Indies’ Test side from 2007 to 2010.

He made his T20 debut in February 2006 against New Zealand and he has been since then known as a T20 specialist.

Gayle made his last test appearance in September 2014 against Bangladesh, last ODI appearance in July 2018 against Bangladesh and last T20 International appearance in May 2018 against World XI.

Most Destructive Batsman

Gayle is known to be one of the most destructive batsmen in the history of cricket, especially in T20.

He is well known for hitting sixes. In 2012 he became the first player to hit a six off the first ball of a Test match.

He normally opens the innings when he plays for the West Indies.

Key Records

  Chris Gayle announces retirement from One-day Internationals

Since making his debut in 1999, Gayle has scored a Windies record of 23 ODI hundreds. Considered one of the greatest batsmen ever in T20 cricket, he is the first batsman to score a century in each of international cricket’s three formats of the game.

In 2002, he ended the year with over 1000 runs, becoming the third West Indian after Vivian Richards and Brian Lara to score over the 1000 mark in a calendar year.

He is also one of the only six players in One Day International history to have three or more scores of 150.

In tests, Gayle is one of the only four players who have scored two triple centuries, which include 317 against South Africa in 2005 and 333 against Sri Lanka in 2010.

He also became the first batsman in World Cup history to score a double century when he reached 200 off 138 balls against Zimbabwe during the 2015 World Cup.

He finished on 215 runs, which was the record for highest score in a World Cup until it was broken by New Zealand‘s Martin Guptill against the West Indies.

In March 2016, Gayle became only the second player after New Zealand‘s Brendon McCullum to hit two Twenty20 International hundreds, scoring 100 not out against England.

Premier League

Gayle represents the Kings XI Punjab in the Indian Premier League, the Karachi Kings in the Pakistan Super League, the Melbourne Renegades in the Big Bash League, the Rangpur Riders in the Bangladesh Premier League, Jozi Stars in Mzansi Super League, Vancouver Knights in Global T20 Canada and the Balkh Legends in the Afghanistan Premier League.

He has also represented Worcestershire, the Western Warriors, Sydney Thunder, Barisal Burners, Rangpur Riders, Dhaka Gladiators, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Kolkata Knight Riders and Somerset in his career.

What Next?

Gayle will continue playing franchise cricket, with the T20 World Cup in two years’ time potentially on the agenda.

Controversies

  Chris Gayle announces retirement from One-day Internationals

In 2005, Gayle was involved in the dispute between the West Indies Cricket Board and a number of players over sponsorship issues. These players had personal sponsorship deals with Cable and Wireless, who used to sponsor West Indian cricket.

However, since the West Indies had recently become sponsored by Cable and Wireless’ rivals Digicel the West Indies Cricket Board demanded the players dropped their Cable and Wireless deals.

When the players refused to back down, the West Indies Cricket Board dropped them for the first Test against South Africa.

Gayle later cut his deal with Cable and Wireless and rejoined the side for the second Test.

In March 2006, he was charged with conduct contrary to the spirit of cricket during a Test against New Zealand, but was subsequently found not guilty.

Later that year, during October’s Champions Trophy tournament in India, he was fined 30 percent of his match fee after repeated verbal exchanges with the Australian batsman Michael Clarke.

He also publicly criticised the West Indies Cricket Board during the 2007 tour of England, which led to an official reprimand and warning.

In April 2011, Chris Gayle criticised the West Indies Cricket Board yet again and coach Ottis Gibson and did not play for the team for more than a year. In April 2012, Gayle and the WICB reached an understanding that paved the way for the former West Indies captain to return to the national team.

Batting Statistics

Competition Test ODI T20I
Matches 103 284 56
Runs Scored 7215 9727 1607
100s/ 50s 15/37 23/49 2/13
Top Score 333 215 117

Bowling Statistics

Competition Test ODI T20I
Balls bowled 7109 7322 319
Wickets 73 165 17
5 wickets in innings 2 1
Best Bowling 5/34 5/ 46 2/15
Catches 96 120 14

16 February 2019

India raises customs duty on all goods imported from Pakistan

India raises customs duty on all goods imported from Pakistan

India on February 16, 2019 increased customs duty on all goods originating from or imported from Pakistan to 200 per cent with immediate effect. It is not very clear whether this will affect the third-country trade which is going on between the two countries through places such as Dubai in the UAE and Singapore.

The move comes after India withdrew the ‘Most-Favoured Nation’ status accorded to Pakistan on February 15 following the Pulwama terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir that led to the killing of at least 40 CRPF personnel and injuring of many others.

The decision was taken during a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security, which was presided over by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the security scenario in Jammu and Kashmir in the wake of the terror attack. During a press meet after the meeting, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said all the required efforts will be made to ensure that perpetrators of the heinous attack are brought to book and made to pay a heavy price.

The Minister said that the Union External Affairs Ministry would be launching an all-out effort to isolate Pakistan for having a direct hand in this gruesome terrorist attack. He said that the CRPF will make all the arrangements to bring back the mortal remains of all those who lost their lives in this attack.

What is MFN status?

The most favoured nation (MFN) status was accorded in 1996 under WTO’s General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).

The special status is accorded by one state to another in international trade. The term means that the country which is the recipient of this treatment must nominally receive equal trade advantages as the “most favoured nation” by the country granting such treatment.

As per the obligation under the WTO, the member countries of WTO were required to extend MFN status to each other automatically, unless otherwise specified in the agreement or schedule notified to the WTO by the member country.

Both India and Pakistan are signatories to this which means they have to treat each other and rest of WTO member countries as favoured trading partners.

India extended MFN status to all SAARC nations including Pakistan and except for Pakistan, all the SAARC countries extended the special status to India as well.

MFN status leads to equal treatment amongst countries and ensures a more stable, predictable, reliable and competitive international trade.

The trade advantages mainly include low tariffs and high import quotas. A country that has been accorded MFN status may not be treated less advantageously than any other country with MFN status by the promising country.

Following are some of the key benefits of MFN status:

Free trade: The status increases trade creation and decreases trade diversion. A country that grants MFN on imports will have its imports provided by the most efficient supplier if the most efficient supplier is within the group of MFN.

Equal Opportunities: The status allows smaller countries, in particular, to participate in the advantages that larger countries often grant to each other. The smaller countries would often not be powerful enough to negotiate such advantages by themselves.

More Transparency: Having one set of tariffs for all countries simplifies the rules and makes them more transparent.

No Discrimination: Each WTO member is required to treat all the other members equally as “most-favoured” trading partners. If a country improves the benefits that it gives to one trading partner, it has to give the same “best” treatment to all the other WTO members so that they all remain “most-favoured”. The nation also has to ensure that there is no discrimination between its own and foreign products, services or nationals.

Fair competition: It also discourages unfair practices such as export subsidies and dumping products at below cost to gain market share.

India-Pakistan

India granted the MFN status to Pakistan in the year 1996. Though the two nations have no formal bilateral trade agreement, a composite dialogue began between them in 1998.

As per the WTO rules, India could roll back the MFN status from Pakistan at any point. The decision to review the MFN status accorded to Pakistan was first thought off in the wake of Uri attack.

India’s main exports to Pakistan include sugar, cotton, man-made filaments, chemicals, carpets, furniture fresh fruits and vegetables while its imports comprise mineral fuels, precious stones and wooden handicrafts among others.

Impact of withdrawal

Pakistan exported just $500 million of goods in 2017-18 to India, representing 1.5 per cent of its exports. However, it is believed to have exported goods worth about 3-4 times as much through third countries.

While the official trade between the two neighbours in 2017-18 stood at $2.4 billion, the third-country trade between the two is estimated to have been $5-10 billion.

The main items imported by India from Pakistan include fresh fruits, cement, petroleum products, bulk minerals and ores and finished leather.

The major items that India exports to Pakistan include raw cotton, cotton yarn, chemicals, plastics, manmade yarn and dyes.

According to analysts, the 200 per cent hike in the excise duty could hit cement and bituminous oil export by Pakistan as these are bulk commodities which are difficult to ship through third countries without impacting the costing hugely.

Pulwama terror attack

On February 14, 2019, at least 37 CRPF personnel were killed and dozens injured after a Jaish suicide bomber rammed a vehicle carrying over 100 kilograms (kg) of explosives into their bus at Awantipora in Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir.

More than 2,500 Central Reserve Police Force personnel were travelling in a convoy of 78 vehicles when they were ambushed on the Srinagar-Jammu highway at Latoomode in Awantipora in South Kashmir.

Many of the CRPF personnel were returning from leave to rejoin duty in the valley.

The attack is one of the deadliest terror attacks on India’s armed forces since the Uri airbase attack in 2016.

The Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed terror group has claimed responsibility for the attack and the suicide bomber was identified as Adil Ahmed, who according to officials joined the terror group in 2018.

Ahmed was driving a vehicle packed with over 300 kg of explosives on the wrong side of the road and hit the bus, which was carrying around 39-44 CRPF personnel.

The powerful explosion reduced the bus to a mangled heap of iron with no survivors. The explosion was heard many kilometres away, including in some parts of Srinagar adjoining Pulwama district.

Trump declares national emergency to build US-Mexico border wall

Trump declares national emergency to build US-Mexico border wall

US President Donald Trump on February 15, 2019 signed an executive order declaring national emergency in the nation. The move would unblock billions of dollars of federal money to construct a wall along the US-Mexico border.

Trump explained the move by saying that it was essential to prevent the country from “invasion” of illegal immigrants, drug dealers and criminal cartels. The move followed a rare show of cooperation between opposition parties when the US legislators reached a tentative deal on funding for border security to avoid another government shutdown that was due to start on February 16.

However, the budget for a wall along the Mexico border is far less than what President Donald Trump had demanded.

Border Issue: Background

Building a border wall on the US-Mexico border was one of the key promises made by Donald Trump during his 2016 election campaign.

Since then, the President has been faced with much opposition from the opposition parties over the funding of the wall.

  US President declares national emergency to build border wall

The disagreement over funding the wall on the border ended up in the longest government shutdown in the United States during December-January.

The shutdown left more than 800,000 government workers without pay. It only ended when Trump signed a deal on January 25 to give the Congress 21 days to come up with an agreement or face further blocking of funds.

New Agreement: Key Details

While, the details of the new agreement have not been officially released, according to reports, the US legislators agreed to settle for a figure of $1.4 billion to build border barriers, far below Trump’s demand of $5.7 billion.

The agreed amount is expected to finance just a quarter of more than 322 kms of the wall that Trump planned to build in 2019.

How will declaration of emergency help border wall funding?

Trump backed his decision of declaring a national emergency by saying that he has taken this path to speed up the process of building the wall. “I could do the wall over a long period of time. I didn’t need to do this, but I would rather do it much faster,” he said.

According to the White House, Trump administration has so far identified up to $8.1 billion that will be available to build the border wall once the national emergency is declared and additional funds have been reprogrammed.

This includes about $601 million from the Treasury Forfeiture Fund, up to $2.5 billion under the Department of Defence funds transferred for support for counter-drug activities and up to $3.6 billion reallocated from Department of Defence military construction projects.

The expected funds would be used to repair or build barriers along at least 376 kms of the border.

Criticism

In a joint statement, US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer declared Trump’s declaration of emergency as unlawful. They claimed that he has declared a national emergency over a crisis that does not exist and it does great violence to the Constitution.

The opposition leaders stated that the move was plainly a power grab by a disappointed President, who has gone outside the bounds of the law to try to get what he failed to achieve in the constitutional legislative process.

According to Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, the decision not only jeopardises the safety of thousands of asylum seekers at the US southern border but also the integrity of US democracy.

Trump’s opponents have already announced their intention to legally challenge it. The declaration is challenged in court by states and others who stand to lose federal money or claim that Trump is abusing his authority.

However, Trump exuded confidence that he will win the court battle.

Background

This is not the first time that a US President has ordered a national emergency for an issue that is conventionally considered as less important.

Trump’s predecessors have used this provision of presidential powers multiple times in the past, even for issues that are less important than this.

Under the National Emergencies Act, since 1976, US presidents have declared nearly 60 national emergencies, as per a White House factsheet. As many as 31 of them are reportedly still in effect.

Former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, who became former president Barack Obama’s Homeland Security Secretary, declared a state of emergency along the border in 2005.

Former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson also declared a state of emergency at the border in 2005.

Former presidents George W Bush and Barack Obama also directed the use of the military to assist Homeland Security in securing and managing the southern border.

George W Bush declared a national emergency in 2001, which invoked reprogramming authority granted by Title 10 United States Code, section 2808, and both he and Obama used that authority a total of 18 times to fund projects between 2001 and 2014.

In total, according to past records, Bill Clinton is set to have declared 17 national emergencies, George W Bush 13 and Barack Obama 12, but nearly all were for crises that emerged overseas.

15 February 2019

Inland Waterways Authority of India launches new portal ‘LADIS’

Inland Waterways Authority of India launches new portal ‘LADIS’

The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) on February 15, 2019 launched a new portal called ‘LADIS’ – Least Available Depth Information System in New Delhi to ensure optimum use of national waterways.

The portal will ensure that the real-time data on least available depths (LADs) is disseminated for ship and barge and cargo owners so that they can undertake transportation on the national waterways in a more planned way.

Key Highlights

The LADIS portal is hosted at on IWAI’s website and has been built in house by the IWAI.

Initially the information of LADs will be available for national waterway 1, national waterway 2, Indo-Bangladesh Protocol route and national waterway 3, along with the date of survey. The facility will soon be expanded to other national waterways as well.

The details of the LAD will be fed into the portal by respective surveyors and regional in-charge deputed with Inland Waterways Authority of India survey vessels, which constantly move on national waterways.

The Inland Waterways Authority of India has designed the portal to facilitate the day to day operations of inland vessels plying on National Waterways and to avoid any hindrance in service and operation.

It will enhance credibility and efficiency of information sharing to achieve seamless operations on National Waterways, besides pre-empting problems that may occur during movement of vessels.

The vessel operators and cargo owners will prepare their sailing plans strictly as per applicable waterways related information (Hydrographic survey reports, River Notices) available on IWAI’s website.

Significance

For seamless movement of vessels, an assured depth of waterway is required.

If real time information is made available regarding least available depths in stretches of various national waterways, it will help transporters by guiding them on the suitability of time of movement.

Sushil Chandra appointed as new Election Commissioner

Sushil Chandra appointed as new Election Commissioner

Sushil Chandra on February 15, 2019 assumed charge as the new Election Commissioner (EC) of India. He would be working along with Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora and Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa in the Election Commission.

The Election Commissioners are usually retired IAS or IRS officers. Until 1989, the Election Commission was a single member body, but later two additional Election Commissioners were added. Thus, the Election Commission currently consists of a Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners.

The decisions of the commission are taken by a majority vote. The term of an Election Commissioner in 6 years.

About Sushil Chandra

Born on May 15, 1957,  Sushil Chandra is a 1980 batch Indian Revenue Service Officer.

He acquired his academic proficiency from Roorkee University and LLB from DAV College, Dehradun.

In the IRS service, Chandra rendered his service in various states including Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi, Gujarat and Maharashtra.

He has the expertise of working extensively in the areas of international taxation and investigation at various places.

Chandra brings rich experience from his position of Director of Investigation, Mumbai and Director General (Investigation), Gujarat.

Besides this, he has undergone various training programmes at Singapore, IIM Bangalore and Wharton.

Prior to joining the Election Commission, Chandra held the office of Chairman in Central Board of Direct Taxes in the Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance and was also Member (Investigation), CBDT.

Background

In 1950, the Election Commission had only a Chief Election Commissioner. Two additional Commissioners were appointed to the commission for the first time on October 16, 1989 but they had a very short tenure, ending on January 1, 1990.

The Election Commissioner Amendment Act, 1989 made the Commission a multi-member body.

The concept of a 3-member Commission has been in operation since then, with the decisions being made by a majority vote.

Vande Bharat Express: PM Modi launches India’s first semi-high speed train

Vande Bharat Express: PM Modi launches India’s first semi-high speed train

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 15, 2019 flagged off India’s first Semi High Speed Train, ‘Vande Bharat Express’ on New Delhi-Kanpur-Allahabad-Varanasi route from the New Delhi Railway Station.

With maximum speed of 160 kmph, Vande Bharat Express or Train-18 offers travel classes like Shatabdi Train but with better facilities with a totally new travel experience to passengers.

Vande Bharat Express is regarded as a successor to the 30-year-old Shatabdi Express. Shatabdi was introduced in 1988 and is presently running on over 20 routes connecting metros with other important cities.

PM Modi condemned the Pulwama terror attack
While launching the train, the Prime Minister condemned the Pulwama terror attack and said, “A befitting reply will be given to the perpetrators of the heinous attack and their patrons. No force will succeed in disturbing peace, progress and stability of India”.

In the deadliest attack ever on security forces in Jammu and Kashmir, over 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were martyred and several other were injured after a Jaish suicide bomber rammed a vehicle carrying over 100 kg of explosives into a CRPF convoy of over 70 vehicles in Pulwama district on February 14, 2019.

More than 2000 CRPF personnel were travelling in a convoy of 78 vehicles when they were ambushed on the Srinagar-Jammu highway at Latoomode in Awantipora in South Kashmir.

Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed terror group claimed responsibility for the attack and the suicide bomber was identified as Adil Ahmed.

New Delhi-Varanasi train journey to be covered in 8 hours

The Vande Bharat Express will cover the distance between New Delhi and Varanasi in 8 hours at speed of 160 kmph and will run on all days except Mondays and Thursdays.

Make in India: Vande Bharat Express developed by Integral Coach Factory
Integral Coach Factory (ICF), Chennai, a Railways Production unit, has been the force behind the complete in-house design and manufacture, computer modelling and working of the Vande Bharat Express with the help of large number of suppliers for system integration in just 18 months, in keeping with the vision of Prime Minister’s vision of “Make in India”.

The major systems of the train have been designed and built in India.  It offers matching global standards of performance, safety and passenger comfort and yet costing less than half of global prices.

Features of Vande Bharat Express
• Touted as the Next Generation Shatabdi Express, Vande Bharat Express is the first long-distance train without separate locomotive (engine) and is driven by a self-propulsion module.

• It is capable of running at a speed of up to 160 kmph. It will cut travel time by 15 percent compared to the Shatabdi Express.

 The train has been developed by the Chennai-based Integral Coach Factory (ICF) at an investment of nearly Rs 100 crore.

 It is fully air-conditioned train and is equipped with CCTV cameras.

• It has 16 coaches with Chair Car type configuration with 2 Executive Class Chair Cars and 14 Chair Cars.

 It has two executive compartments in the middle with 52 seats each and the trailer coaches would have 78 seats each.

 It has soft lighting, automatic doors, footsteps and GPS-based audio-visual Passenger Information System.

 It has intelligent braking system with power regeneration for better energy efficiency thereby making it cost, energy and environment efficient.

 The footstep in a coach’s doorway slides outward when the train stops at a station enabling passengers to board or deboard safely with comfort.

• The train offers some features to enhance passenger comfort which include inter-connected fully sealed gangways, automatic doors with retractable footsteps, onboard Wi-Fi and infotainment, and modular toilets with bio-vacuum systems.

• It also has provision of Divyang-friendly facilities.

 It also features rotational seats which can be aligned in the direction of travel (executive class), roller blinds and diffused LED lighting, and disabled-friendly toilets.

All toilets are bio-vacuum type.

The lighting is dual mode – diffused for general illumination and personal for every seat.

Every coach has a pantry with facility to serve hot meals, hot and cold beverages.

The insulation is meant to keep heat and noise to very low levels for additional passenger comfort.

Adding up the green footprints, the train has regenerative braking system in the coaches which can save up to 30 percent of electrical energy.

Speed, Safety and Service are the hallmarks of this train.

Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maan-Dhan Yojana launched

Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maan-Dhan Yojana launched

The Union Ministry of Labour and Employment on February 15, 2019 launched the Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maan-dhan Yojana (PM-SYM), a mega pension scheme for unorganised sector. The scheme was announced in the Interim Budget 2019.

Implemented from February 15 itself, the PM-SYM is a voluntary and contributory pension scheme that will engage as many as 42 crore workers in the unorganised sector.

Eligibility
  • The unorganised sector workers, with income of less than Rs 15,000 per month and who belong to the entry age group of 18-40 years, will be eligible for the scheme.
  • Those workers should not be covered under New Pension Scheme (NPS), Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) scheme or Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO).
  • He or she should not be an income tax payer.

Who are the workers of unorganised sector?

The workers of unorganised sector can be home based workers, street vendors, mid-day meal workers, head loaders, brick kiln workers, cobblers, rag pickers, domestic workers, washer men, rickshaw pullers, landless labourers, own account workers, agricultural workers, construction workers, beedi workers, handloom workers, leather workers, audio- visual workers and similar other occupations.

Benefits under Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maan-dhan Yojana
Minimum Assured Pension: Each subscriber under the scheme will receive minimum assured pension of Rs 3000 per month after attaining the age of 60 years.

In case of death during receipt of pension: If the subscriber dies during the receipt of pension, his or her spouse will be entitled to receive 50 percent of the pension as family pension. This family pension is applicable only to spouse.

In case of death before the age of 60 years: If a beneficiary has given regular contribution and dies before attaining the age of 60 years, his or her spouse will be entitled to continue the scheme subsequently by payment of regular contribution or may even exit the scheme.

Contribution to the scheme
Contribution by the Subscriber: The subscriber is required to contribute the prescribed contribution amount from the age of joining the scheme till the age of 60 years.

Medium of contribution: The subscriber can contribute to the PM-SYM through ‘auto-debit’ facility from his or her savings bank account or from his or her Jan- Dhan account.

Equal contribution by the Central Government: Under the PM-SYM, the prescribed age-specific contribution by the beneficiary and the matching contribution by the Central Government will be made on a ‘50:50 basis’.

For example, if a person enters the scheme at an age of 29 years, he or she is required to contribute Rs 100 per month till the age of 60 years and the equal amount of Rs 100 will be contributed by the Central Government.

Contribution by Subcribers
Entry Age Member’s  monthly contribution (Rs) Central Govt’s  monthly contribution (Rs) Total monthly contribution  (Rs)
18 55 55 110
19 58 58 116
20 61 61 122
21 64 64 128
22 68 68 136
23 72 72 144
24 76 76 152
25 80 80 160
26 85 85 170
27 90 90 180
28 95 95 190
29 100 100 200
30 105 105 210
31 110 110 220
32 120 120 240
33 130 130 260
34 140 140 280
35 150 150 300
36 160 160 320
37 170 170 340
38 180 180 360
39 190 190 380
40 200 200 400

Note: The Contribution amount for the first month shall be paid in cash for which they will be provided with a receipt.

Enrolment Process
The subscriber is required to have a mobile phone, savings bank account and Aadhaar number for enrolling in the scheme. The eligible subscriber may visit the nearest Common Service Centers (CSCs) and get enrolled using Aadhaar number and savings bank account on self-certification basis.

Later, the government will also come out with a web portal and mobile app on which the subscribers can self-register using Aadhar number and savings bank account on self-certification basis.

Enrollment agency: The enrolment will be carried out by all the Community Service Centers (CSCs).

Exit and Withdrawal
Considering the unpredictable nature of employability of these workers, the exit provisions of scheme have been kept flexible. These provisions are:

  • In case subscriber exits the scheme within a period of less than 10 years, the beneficiary’s share of contribution only will be returned to him with savings bank interest rate.
  • If subscriber exits after a period of 10 years or more but before 60 years of age, the beneficiary’s share of contribution along with accumulated interest will be returned.
  • If a beneficiary has given regular contributions and died due to any cause, his/ her spouse will be entitled to continue the scheme subsequently by payment of regular contribution or exit by receiving the beneficiary’s contribution along with accumulated interest.
  • If a beneficiary has given regular contributions and become permanently disabled before 60 years of age and is unable to continue to contribute, his/ her spouse will be entitled to continue the scheme subsequently by payment of regular contribution or can exit the scheme by receiving the beneficiary’s contribution with interest.
  • After the death of subscriber as well as his or her spouse, the entire corpus will be credited back to the fund.
Facilitation Centres and arrangements to be made by them
All the branch offices of Life Insurance Corporation (LIC), the offices of ESIC, EPFO and all labour offices of Central and State Governments will facilitate the unorganised workers about the Scheme, its benefits and the procedure to be followed.

In this respect, the offices of LIC, ESIC, EPFO and all Labour offices will make following arrangements for the ease of reference:

  • Setting up of a “Facilitation Desk” to facilitate the unorganised workers and guide about the features of the Scheme and direct them to nearest CSC. Each desk may consist of at least one staff.
  • They will have sufficient number of brochures printed in Hindi and regional languages to be provided to the unorganised workers.
  • Unorganised workers will visit these centres with Aadhaar Card, Savings bank account/ Jandhan account and mobile phone.
  • Help desk will have onsite suitable sitting and other necessary facilities for these workers.
  • Any other measures intended to facilitate the unorganised workers about the Scheme, in their respective centers.
Other highlights
Fund Management:  PM-SYM will be a Central Sector Scheme administered by the Ministry of Labour and Employment and implemented through Life Insurance Corporation of India and CSCs. LIC will be the Pension Fund Manager and responsible for Pension pay out.

Default of Contributions: If a subscriber has not paid the contribution continuously, he or she will be allowed to regularise his contribution by paying entire outstanding dues along with penalty charges.

Pension Pay Out: Once the beneficiary joins the scheme at the entry age of 18-40 years, the beneficiary has to contribute till 60 years of age. On attaining the age of 60 years, the subscriber will get the assured monthly pension of Rs 3000.

Doubt and Clarification: In case of any doubt, clarification provided by the Directorate General Labour Welfare (DGLW) will be final.

14 February 2019

New mobile app launched for beneficiaries of PMAY (U) mission

Urban Affairs Minister launches PMAY (U) mobile application

Minister of State (I/C) for Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep S Puri on February 14, 2019 launched the PMAY (U) mobile application in New Delhi.

A one-minute film showcasing the impact of PMAY (U) in the lives of beneficiaries was also released on the occasion. Speaking during the launch, the Minister emphasised that the mission intends to create a closer interface with its beneficiaries.

Objective

The mobile application has been developed to bring beneficiaries directly in contact with the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) mission.

Key Highlights

The mobile app will allow beneficiaries of PMAY (U) to capture and upload high-resolution photographs and videos of completed houses along with their families.

These photos and videos of beneficiary testimonies will be scrutinised at the state as well as at the central level.

The selected beneficiaries from the states and union territories would be awarded and invited as special guests for the anniversary celebration of PMAY (U).

The application will also allow the beneficiaries to upload selfies with their house and a 30 – 60 seconds video clip where they would share stories of owning a house under PMAY (U).

These stories would be an emotional recount of experiences such as increased self-esteem, sense of pride and dignity, improved social status, safety and security for the family, protected environment for the girl child and children’s education among others.

One Minute Film

The short film showcases the impact of PMAY (U) on the lives of beneficiaries from across the country.  It narrates the stories of happy families experiencing a transformation of owning a house with all basic amenities such as water, electricity, toilet and kitchen with gas connection.

The film narrates how PMAY (U) is contributing in transforming the lives of all Indians starting from Kashmir to Kerala and empowering them from different walks of life.

It has captured the journey and emotions of families belonging to different regions of the country who feel connected with a common feeling, the pride of owning their dream house through PMAY (U).

Background

The Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) mission was launched on June 25, 2015 with the aim to provide houses to every eligible urban household in India by the year 2022.

The scheme has achieved a significant milestone of approving more than 73 lakh houses against a validated demand for about one crore houses in urban areas.

Around 40 Lakh houses are at various stages of construction and more than 15 lakh houses have already been completed.

Further, around 12 lakh houses are being constructed using new and emerging technologies.

India-US CEO Forum and Commercial dialogue held; sets up Working Groups

India-US CEO Forum and Commercial dialogue held

India and the United States on February 14, 2019 held the India-US CEO Forum and India-US Commercial Dialogue in New Delhi. The Union Minister for Commerce & Industry and Civil Aviation, Suresh Prabhu chaired the meeting.

However, Wilbur Ross, the Secretary of Commerce of United States, could not attend the Dialogue and Forum because of unforeseen flight cancellation. He participated in the most of the sessions remotely through teleconference.

Suresh Prabhu and Wilbur Ross held one to one bilateral telephone conversation and discussed various aspects of India-US trade and commerce relations.

India-US CEO Forum

The CEO Forum was co-chaired by Chairman of Tata Sons, N Chandrasekaran and President and CEO of American Tower Corporation, James D. Taiclet.

The Indian side was represented by Secretary of Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, Ramesh Abhishek, while the US side was represented by the US Ambassador in India, Kenneth Juster.

The Forum highlighted key issues that affect business entities and identified areas for closer collaboration for mutual benefit of both economies.

The CEOs from both countries, after detailed deliberations, decided to set up working groups on financial services, healthcare and defense to suggest measures to accelerate trade and investment between the two countries.

They provided their recommendations relating to energy, water, environment, information and communication technology, emerging technologies, digital infrastructure, entrepreneurship and inclusive growth, promoting small business, and infrastructure and manufacturing.

Note
The Forum has met thrice after its reconstitution in December 2014 by the Governments of India and USA.

Other highlights of the CEO Forum and Commercial dialogue

The sides assessed the progress made during the year 2018 on the commercial track targets and appreciated the performance in the areas of business climate, investment and travel and tourism.

The sides expressed interest in facilitating partnerships among businesses and institutions with a view to encourage best practices, and collaboration for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in both countries.

The US Department of Commerce has taken the initiative to organise ‘Trade Winds’ event which will bring in a lot of SMEs having interest in India in May 2019. Both sides agreed to constitute a private sector led SME initiative on the side lines of this event.

Both the sides welcomed the appreciable development on cooperation between the Indian National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and the United States.

They welcomed the MoU signed between National Accreditation Board for Certification Bodies (NABCB) of India and ANSI National Accreditation Board (ANAB) of the United States for cooperation in matters related to accreditation.

They welcomed the progress made during 2018 on the MoU between the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and appreciated the utility of an India-US Standards Portal.

They acknowledged the progress achieved under the Indian-U.S. State Spotlight Webinar Series. The successful webinars were conducted with Odisha, Michigan, Washington, Texas, and West Bengal to highlight trade and investment opportunities.

Both sides noted the accession of India to the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty.

They also noted the government-to-government Working Group meeting held in February 2019 to advance the agenda of the Travel and Tourism Working Group.

Anoop Satpathy-led Expert Committee submits report; recommends National Minimum Wage at Rs 375 per day

Anoop Satpathy-led Expert Committee recommends National Minimum Wage at Rs 375 per day

The Expert Committee led by Anoop Satpathy, Fellow of V. V. Giri National Labour Institute (VVGNLI), on February 14, 2019 submitted its report on “Determining the Methodology for Fixation of the National Minimum Wage” to the Government.

The Committee was constituted by the Union Ministry of Labour and Employment January 17, 2017 to review and recommend methodology for fixation of National Minimum Wage (NMW) and determine the base level National minimum wage/wages through an evidence-based approach.

The Report has been placed on the Ministry’s website for facilitating the process of consultation and dialogue among social partners and stakeholders for necessary approval of methodology.

Recommendations of the Anoop Satpathy-led Expert Committee

The report recommended a balanced diet approach which is culturally edible for fixation of national minimum wage. It proposed a particular amount of food items per day per person to constitute a national level balanced food basket: More or less than 10 percent of 2400 calories + proteins greater than or equal to 50 gm + fats greater than or equal to 30 gm per day per person

It proposes minimum wage should include reasonable expenditure on essential non-food items such as clothing, fuel, light, house rent, education, medical expenses, footwear and transport which must be equal to the median class.

It proposes that expenditure on any other non-food items be equivalent to 25-30 percent of the household expenditure distribution as per the survey data of 2011-12 by National Sample Survey Office (NSSO).

It recommended the fixation of need based National Minimum Wage for India at Rs 375 per day or Rs 9,750 per month irrespective of sectors, skills, occupations and rural-urban locations for a family comprising of 3.6 consumption units.

It recommended to introduce an additional house rent allowance or city compensatory allowance of Rs 55 per day or Rs 1,430 per month for urban workers, over and above the National Minimum Wage.

It recommended reviewing the food consumption basket once in every five years, subject to the availability of NSSO-CES data.

It also recommended revising and updating the basic minimum wage at least in line with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) every six months to reflect changes in the cost of living.

Different national minimum wages for different geographical regions
The Committee recommended different national minimum wages for different geographical regions of the country to suit the local realities.

For the purpose of estimating national minimum wages at regional levels, it grouped the states into five regions and recommended region specific national minimum wages. Have a look:

Region States National Minimum Wage
Region I Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal Rs 342 per day

(Rs 8,892 per month)

Region II Andhra   Pradesh,  Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Jammu & Kashmir and Uttarakhand Rs 380 per day

(Rs 9,880 per month)

Region III  Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu Rs 414 per day

(Rs 10,764 per month)

Region IV Delhi, Goa, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and  Punjab Rs 447 per day

(Rs 11,622 per month)

Region V Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Sikkim,  Mizoram and Tripura Rs 386 per day

(Rs 10,036 per month)

Note: The report undertook a rigorous analysis and verified the changes in the demographic structure, consumption pattern, nutritional intakes, composition of food baskets and the relative importance of non-food consumption items to address the realities in the Indian context.

US House passes a resolution to withdraw US military support in Yemen

US House passes a resolution to withdraw US military support in Yemen

The US House of Representatives on February 13, 2019 approved a resolution that would end US support for the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in the war in Yemen.

The resolution would direct the US President to withdraw US military forces in or “affecting” Yemen within 30 days unless they are fighting al Qaeda or associated forces. It is the first time the House of Representatives has ever supported a war powers resolution.

Key Highlights

The resolution was passed with 248 votes in favour and 177 against in a Democratic-led House of Representatives.

The vote is a sharp rebuke to Saudi Arabia for its conduct in the war conflict and a push-back against the Trump administration’s close ties to the kingdom.

Eighteen Republicans joined all voting Democrats in supporting the measure. The vote puts pressure on the Senate to act.

The Senate had passed a similar resolution in December 2018 condemning Trump administration’s defence of the Saudi Kingdom.

However, the resolution was not brought up for a vote in the House, as then the Republicans held a majority in the house. On January 3, 2019, the Democrats took control of the house following sweeping victories in November elections.

The Senate is now expected to vote on the resolution within 30 days.

Objective

The resolution seeks to stop the US military from any hostilities in or affecting Yemen, including refueling aircraft conducting missions in the Yemen civil war, without authorisation from Congress.

The democrats and republicans reintroduced the war powers resolution two weeks ago as a way to send a strong message to Saudi Arabia about the humanitarian disaster in Yemen and condemn the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Background

  US House passes a resolution to withdraw US military support in Yemen

The Yemeni Civil War is an ongoing conflict that began in 2015 between two factions, the internationally recognised Yemeni government, led by Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi and the Houthi armed movement, along with their supporters and allies.

The almost four-year-long conflict has killed tens of thousands of people, collapsed the economy and brought millions of people to the brink of famine.

The United States has supported the Saudi-led air campaign against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen with mid-air refueling support, intelligence and targeting assistance.

The Senate’s vote in December was the first time either chamber of Congress backed a resolution to withdraw US forces from a military engagement under the War Powers Act.

Third Indo-German Environment Forum held in New Delhi

Third Indo-German Environment Forum held in New Delhi

The third Indo-German Environment Forum with the theme “Cleaner Air, Greener Economy” was held in New Delhi on February 13, 2019.

While inaugurating the forum, Union Environment Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan said that India and Germany have had a rich cooperation engagement for the last 60 years which extends to sectors such as natural resource management, urban environment protection, climate change adaptation and mitigation and innovative green technologies.

Key Highlights

The one-day event involved panel discussions and parallel sessions focused on challenges, solutions and necessary framework conditions of air pollution control, waste management and circular economy as well as the implementation of NDCs and SDGs based on Paris Agreement and Agenda 2030 of UN respectively.

It saw participation from around 250 representatives of ministries, business and science as well as non-governmental organisations.

The forum provided an ideal platform for the bilateral exchange of high-level policy-makers and other key players on international environmental and climate policy and cooperation between the two countries.

It was organised by the two environment ministries in cooperation with the Asia-Pacific Committee of German Business and the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Besides this, two Joint Declarations of Intent (JDI) were exchanged during the forum between CPCB Chairman SP Singh Parihar and German Environment Agency President Maria Krautzberger.

The declarations were signed to increase cooperation in the following areas:

(i) Clean air and combating air pollution

(ii) Preparation of reference and COINDS documents for textile sector.

Significance

Indo-German bilateral relations are founded on common democratic principles. Currently, Germany is amongst India’s most important partners both bilaterally and in the global context.

According to German Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze, the progress and implementation of 2030 agenda is slow and window of opportunity for low carbon economy is dwindling and so the government, industry and society should do more.

She further stated that Indo-German Environment Forum needs to build on experience exchange and cooperation will be strengthened in the areas of marine litter, waste to energy, biodiversity, waste and water.

Background

Four working groups had met this year in the run-up to the forum, to discuss the progress made and to bring in new topics of mutual benefits.

Few of the outcomes have been cooperation in the field of marine litter, air pollution control, waste management, water pollution, circular economy, NDC implementation, SDG monitoring and climate change with focus on forestry and adaptation.

13 February 2019

Union Cabinet approves Introduction of Registration of Marriage of NRI Bill, 2019

Union Cabinet approves Introduction of Registration of Marriage of NRI Bill, 2019

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 13, 2019 approved the introduction of Registration of Marriage of Non-Resident Indian (NRI) Bill, 2019 to create more accountability to Indian citizens living abroad.

The bill mainly seeks to offer more protection against the exploitation of Indian citizens, mostly Indian women by their NRI partners.

Key Highlights

The Bill provides for amendment of the legal framework to act as a deterrent to the erring NRI spouses and creating more accountability and offer protection against exploitation of Indian Citizens, specially women married to NRIs.

Under the new bill, a marriage between an NRI and an Indian citizen will have to be registered in India or Indian missions and posts abroad within 30 days from the date of marriage.

After the bill’s passing, the necessary changes would be carried out in the Passports Act, 1967 and Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 by insertion of Section 86A.

According to the proposed amendments, if the marriage isn’t registered within 30 days, the passport of the NRI will be revoked, summons and warrant be issued.

Despite all this, if the NRI fails to appear in court, his properties will be attached and he will be declared ‘Proclaimed Offender’.

Impact

The Bill would offer great protection to Indian citizens married to NRIs and serve as a deterrent to NRIs against harassment of their spouses.

It is expected to benefit Indian women married to NRIs across the world.

The bill would amend the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, solving a major problem of serving judicial summons for court proceedings in India.

Background

The bill has been introduced with the hope of restricting NRI husbands from using marriage as a tool of exploitation and making money and providing better enforcement of rights for the deserted woman under the family laws.

The introduction of the Bill was necessitated due to numerous complaints received from Indian nationals mostly women, who were deserted or harassed by their Non-Resident Indian Spouses.

Since marriage takes place outside India, there are no records or legal documents for further procedures to be initiated against the offender.

Hence, once the Bill is passed, such practices will be curbed and it will provide much needed relief to all Indian women married to NRIs worldwide.

Combating climate change: Government releases publication on actions undertaken to tackle climate change

Government releases publication on actions undertaken to tackle climate change

The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change on February 12, 2019 released a publication titled “India – Spearheading Climate Solutions” on climate actions in India.

The publication mentions the key initiatives undertaken by India under various sectors towards combating and adapting to climate change. It not only highlights the achievements towards climate action but also showcases Government’s preparedness for future.

Highlights of the publication

During the last four years, the Narendra Modi-led NDA Government introduced a number of policies and initiatives like e-mobility, green transportation, renewable energy, waste management, afforestation, water, etc. to minimise the impact of climate change.

Moreover, many clean and green development initiatives have been undertaken at both the state and national level.

Some of the key initiatives include the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), National Adaptation Fund on Climate Change (NAFCC), Climate Change Action Programme (CCAP) and State Action Plan on Climate Change (SAPCC).

The Government also undertook few measures to minimise the impact of climate change such as generating 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022, smart cities, electric vehicles, leapfrogging from Bharat Stage -IV to Bharat Stage-VI emission norms by April 2020, etc.

Major initiatives of the Government towards combating climate change
National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC): The Action plan covers eight major missions on Solar, Enhanced Energy Efficiency, Sustainable Habitat, Water, Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem, Green India, Sustainable Agriculture and Strategic Knowledge on Climate Change.

International Solar Alliance (ISA): ISA was jointly launched by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the then President of France, Francois Hollande on November 30, 2015 in Paris on the side-lines of CoP 21. The vision and mission of the alliance is to provide a dedicated platform for cooperation among solar resource rich countries that lie completely or partial between the Tropics of Capricorn & Cancer.

State Action Plan on Climate Change (SAPCC): State governments have drafted climate strategies aligned with the eight National Missions under the NAPCC. The strategies focus on issues ranging from climate mitigation, energy efficiency, and resource conservation to climate adaptation.

FAME Scheme for E-mobility: Union Government in April 2015 launched Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric vehicles (FAME) – India Scheme with an aim to boost sales of eco-friendly vehicles in the country. It is a part of the National Mission for Electric Mobility.

Atal Mission for Rejuvenation & Urban Transformation (AMRUT) for Smart Cities: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 25 June 2015 launched three urban development schemes- AMRUT, Smart Cities Mission and Housing for All (Urban) with an aim to develop infrastructure.

Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana: The scheme provides LPG connections to five crore below-poverty-line beneficiaries. The connections are given in the name of women beneficiaries to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels and conventional fuel like cow dung for cooking food, thus reducing air pollution.

UJALA scheme: The scheme was launched by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in January 2015 with a target of replacing 77 crore incandescent lamps with LED bulbs. The usage of LED bulbs will not only result in reducing electricity bills but also help in environment protection.

Swachh Bharat Mission: Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Movement) is a campaign that was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 2, 2014. The campaign seeks to clean the streets, roads and infrastructure of the country’s 4041 statutory cities and towns.

India’s first Aqua Mega Food Park commissioned in Andhra Pradesh

India’s first Aqua Mega Food Park commissioned in Andhra Pradesh

Union Minister of Food Processing Industries Harsimrat Kaur Badal on February 12, 2019 commissioned Godavari Mega Aqua Food Park at Tundurru Village in Bhimavaram Mandal, West Godavari District, Andhra Pradesh through video conferencing.

The park is promoted by Godavari Mega Aqua Food Park Pvt. Ltd. It will be the first Mega Aqua Food Park operationalised exclusively for fish and marine products processing in the state of Andhra Pradesh.

Key Highlights

  India’s first Aqua Mega Food Park commissioned in Andhra Pradesh The Godavari Mega Aqua Food Park Pvt. Ltd has been set up in 57.81 acre of land at a cost of Rs. 122.60 crores.

The facilities created by the developer at Central Processing Centre (CPC) of this mega food park include pre-processing line for fish of 1.5 TPH, pre-processing line for shrimp of 1.5 TPH, freezing of fish of 1.5 TPH, freezing of shrimp of 1.5 TPH, cold storage for fish of 2000MT, cold storage for shrimp of 1000MT, ice plant, food testing laboratory besides state of art enabling infrastructure.

The park also has a common administrative building for office and other uses by the entrepreneurs and 2 PPCs at Amalapuram EG-District and Karlapalem, Guntur District having facilities for primary processing and storage near the farms in the catchment area to benefit farmers.

This mega food park will benefit the people of West Godavari-District as well as nearby Districts of East Godavari, Krishna of Andhra Pradesh and nearby districts of Telangana.

Significance

The modern infrastructure for food processing created at park will benefit the farmers, growers, processors and consumers of Andhra Pradesh and adjoining areas immensely and prove to be a big boost to the growth of the food processing sector in the state of Andhra Pradesh.

Background

The Union Ministry of Food Processing Industries is implementing Mega Food Park Scheme in the country to give a major boost to the food processing sector by adding value and reducing food wastage at each stage of the supply chain with particular focus on perishables.

The mega food parks create modern infrastructure facilities for food processing along the value chain from farm to market with strong forward and backward linkages through a cluster based approach.

Further, common facilities and enabling infrastructure is created at central processing centre and facilities for primary processing and storage is created near the farm in the form of Primary Processing Centers (PPCs) and Collection Centers (CCs).

Under the Scheme, Government of India provides financial assistance upto Rs 50.00 crore per mega food park project.

Besides this aqua food park, the Ministry had sanctioned another mega food park in Chittoor District of Andhra Pradesh. It was inaugurated on July 9, 2012.

Currently, the third Mega Food Park sanctioned by the Ministry is under implementation at Krishna District of Andhra Pradesh.

RBI penalises seven banks for violating various norms

RBI penalises seven banks for violating various norms

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in the first week of February 2019 imposed monetary penalty on seven banks for non-compliance with various directions issued by the RBI on monitoring of end use of funds, exchange of information with other banks, Know Your Customer (KYC) norms, etc.

The penalties were imposed in exercise of powers under the provisions of Section 47A (1) (c) and Section 46 (4) (i) of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949, taking into account the failure of banks in adhering to the directions issued by RBI.

Here are the details of the penalties imposed by the RBI:

Non-compliance with directions issued by RBI on Name of the bank Amount of penalty
Know Your Customer (KYC) norms and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) standards HDFC Bank Limited Rs 2 million
IDBI Bank Limited Rs 2 million
Kotak Mahindra Bank Limited Rs 2 million
Monitoring of end use of funds, exchange of information with other banks, classification and reporting of frauds, and on restructuring of accounts Allahabad Bank Rs 15 million
Andhra Bank Rs 10 million
Bank of Maharashtra Rs 15 million
Indian Overseas Bank Rs 15 million

Similar penalties on other banks

Earlier in January 2019, the apex bank had imposed monetary penalty on Axis Bank, Syndicate Bank, and UCO Bank for their non-compliance with directions contained in circulars of the RBI.

The Axis Bank and the UCO Bank were penalised to pay Rs 20 million for their non-compliance with Circular on ‘Collection of Account Payee Cheques – Prohibition on Crediting Proceeds to Third Party Account’ dated January 22, 2014 and Master Directions on ‘Frauds – Classification and Reporting by commercial banks and select FIs’ dated July 1, 2016.

On the other hand, the Syndicate Bank was imposed with the penalty of Rs 10 million for its non-compliance with ‘Master Circular on Frauds – Classification and Reporting’ of July 1, 2015 and ‘Circular on Risk Management Systems in Banks’ dated October 7, 1999.

Parliament passes Personal Laws (Amendment) Bill 2019

Parliament passes bill to remove leprosy as ground for divorce

The Parliament on February 13, 2019 passed the Personal Laws (Amendment Bill), 2018 that seeks to remove leprosy as a ground for divorce. The bill was passed after upper house of the Parliament Rajya Sabha approved it without discussion.

The lower house of the Parliament, Lok Sabha had passed the bill on January 7, 2019. Leprosy is being removed as a ground for divorce as it is now a curable disease as against the earlier notion of it being incurable.

Objective

The Bill seeks to uphold the rights of people with leprosy as the disease is curable.

It seeks to amend five personal laws- the Hindu Marriage Act 1955, Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act 1939, Divorce Act (for Christians) 1869, Special Marriage Act 1954 and the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act 1956- to remove leprosy as a ground for divorce.

Key Highlights

Leprosy as a ground for divorce is a “discriminatory” provision. The first attempt towards eliminating the bias against people suffering from the disease was made in 2008 when the National Human Rights Commission had underlined the need to make amendments in certain personal laws and other legislations.

In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a Resolution on the ‘Elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members’, which was signed and ratified by India.

Subsequently, the 20th Law Commission of India in its 256th Report titled “Eliminating Discrimination Against Persons Affected by Leprosy” had recommended repeal of laws and provisions that were discriminatory against leprosy-affected people.

In 2014, the Supreme Court had also asked the Centre and the state governments to take the necessary steps for rehabilitation and integration of leprosy-affected people into the mainstream including the steps to repeal the provisions where leprosy has been treated as a stigmatic disability.

Hence, taking in regard the recommendations, Government decided to omit such discriminatory provisions from the Personal Laws.

Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill

The section states that earlier leprosy patients were isolated and segregated from society as the leprosy was not curable and the society was hostile to them.

However, as a result of intensive healthcare and availability of modern medicine to cure the disease, the attitude of the society towards them began to change.

The discriminatory provisions contained in various statutes against the persons affected with leprosy were made prior to the medical advancements rendering leprosy a curable disease. Presently, leprosy is completely curable and can be treated with multidrug therapy.

However, old legislative provisions discriminating the persons affected by leprosy continue to be active in various laws.

Significance

The bill aims to end discrimination against people suffering from leprosy. When it will get Presidential assent and become an Act, it will go a long way in detaching the social stigma associated with the disease.

What is leprosy?

  Lok Sabha passes bill to remove leprosy as ground for divorce

Leprosy is one of the oldest diseases in recorded history. Also known as Hansen’s disease (HD), it is a chronic, progressive bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae.

It primarily affects the nerves of the extremities, the skin, the lining of the nose, the upper respiratory tract and the eyes.

The disease produces skin ulcers, nerve damage, and muscle weakness. If it isn’t treated, it can cause severe disfigurement and significant disability.

It is known to occur at all ages ranging from early infancy to very old age. It is common in many countries, especially those with a tropical or subtropical climate.

NITI Aayog signs agreement to document systemic transformation in education

NITI Aayog signs agreement to document systemic transformation in education

The NITI Aayog on February 12, 2019 signed a Statement of Intent (SOI) with the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation (MSDF) to codify, document and share best practices to improve learning outcomes in public school education through systemic reforms, based on their collective experiences of working with various state governments in India.

The SOI was signed in the presence of NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant, by Alok Kumar, Adviser (HRD), NITI Aayog and Barun Mohanty, Managing Director (International), MSDF.

Key Highlights

Under the agreement, NITI Aayog and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation will document the reforms pursued by various state governments that have initiated systemic reforms in education and have begun to see improved learning outcomes over the past few years.

A joint team comprising state leaders, consultants, research agencies and educators shall work together to develop a ‘theory of change’ based on the learnings from the states and will document the impact on ground by commissioning third-party studies to evaluate the impact of systemic reforms in education.

Improving learning outcomes at scale will require a coordinated and simultaneous effort with both academic and governance reforms.

The key findings of the exercise will then be disseminated to relevant decision-makers and policymakers in other states after a consultative process of validating the same. This will be done through workshops and publications in the coming months.

Background

The NITI Aayog was established with the aim of promoting cooperative and competitive federalism through evidence-based policy reform and knowledge inputs.

Since its inception, the policy think tank has placed learning outcomes as a key focus area for establishing sustainable education systems.

As a part of this push, the School Education Quality Index (SEQI) is being developed to rank states and union territories on educational outcomes, with a high weightage given to learning outcomes.

Further, the body is implementing Sustainable Action for Transforming Human Capital in Education (SATH-E) initiative to induce systemic transformation in Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Odisha.

Education also forms a crucial component of the Aspirational Districts Programme, which seeks to improve status of education in the most underserved districts of India.

Nearly 30 million children are reported to have been positively impacted across India through such systemic reforms in education in different states.

Defence Ministry begins process of procurement of 111 Naval Helicopters for Indian Navy

Defence Ministry begins process of procurement of 111 Naval Helicopters for Indian Navy

The Defence Ministry on February 12, 2019 issued Expression of Interest to shortlist potential Indian strategic partners and foreign Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) for the procurement of 111 Naval Utility Helicopters (NUH) for the Indian Navy at an estimated cost of over Rs 21,000 crore.

These Naval Utility Helicopters will replace Chetak Helicopters and will be utilised for albeit SAR, CASEVAC (Casualty evacuation), Low Intensity Maritime Operations (LIMO), passenger roles and torpedo drops.

The procurement of the helicopters was approved by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) on August 25, 2018.

Boost ‘Make in India’ initiative
The project will provide impetus to ‘Make in India’ initiative and manufacturing capability for helicopters in India. Of 111, 95 helicopters will be manufactured in India itself by the selected Indian Strategic Partner through the Strategic Partnership model.

Under the Strategic Partnership model, private Indian firms will be roped in to build select military platforms in partnership with foreign defence manufacturers.

Expression of Interest for Indian companies and OEMS

The Request for the Expression of Interest from Indian private companies for participating in the project was hosted on the Indian Navy website on February 12, 2019.

However, the request from foreign OEMs has been forwarded to companies that participated in the Request for Information (RFI) in August 2017 for procurement of 111 utility and 123 multi-role helicopters.

While Indian companies have been given two months time to respond to the EoI, the foreign OEMs have been given three months time due to the nature of inputs required.

Based on the responses, the Indian Navy would issue a detailed Request for Proposal (RFP) by March 2019 to shortlisted Indian companies.

Mandate for OEMS

The foreign Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) have been mandated to set up dedicated manufacturing line, including design, integration and manufacturing processes for NUH in India.

The OEMs have also been mandated to make Indian Manufacturing Line as a global exclusive facility for the NUH platform.

 Companies expected to participate in EoI
Indian companies that are likely to participate in EoI are Tata Advanced Systems Ltd, Mahindra Defence, Adani Defence, Larsen & Toubro, Bharat Forge and Reliance Infrastructure.

The Original Equipment Manufacturers could be Lockheed Martin, Airbus Helicopters, Bell Helicopters and RoE of Russia.

Textiles Ministry to organise outreach programme for stakeholders

Textiles Ministry to organise outreach programme for stakeholders

The Union Ministry of Textiles would be organising an outreach programme for textiles sector MSMEs on February 13, 2019 in New Delhi to hold interactions with the stakeholders to help them avail the support and outreach for 100 days programme announced by the Prime Minister.

Minister of Social Justice & Empowerment Thawar Chand Gehlot will be the Chief Guest of the event and Minister of Textiles, Smriti Zubin Irani will preside over the function. An exhibition showcasing achievements of the textiles sector MSMEs will also be held on the occasion.

Key Highlights

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched the support and outreach 100 days programme for MSMEs on November 2, 2018 identifying one hundred districts in various sectors across the country.

Among these, thirty-nine districts were identified for textiles sector, 12 for handloom, 19 for handicraft and 8 for power loom.

Under the support and outreach 100 days programme, various activities have been undertaken in identified districts for creating synergy for MSMEs in textile sector like holding camps for Mudra Loan in collaboration with local bank, enrolment of beneficiaries on e-dhaga, distribution of toolkits to beneficiaries and registration and distribution of Pehchancard to artisans and weavers.

With a view to consolidate progress under the programme, district level events were organised in each identified district on February 9 and 10.

Further, an exhibition showcasing handloom, handicraft and powerloom products was also organised in the state bhavans of the identified districts in Delhi on February 11 and 12.

Impact

Over 75 per cent of the garment industry in India is in the MSME sector and the twelve initiatives covered in the package would benefit most units in the industry.

The two per cent interest subvention for new loans, two per cent additional subvention for export credits and clearance of loans upto Rs 1crore within 59 minutes would help the India’s garment industry to address working capital problems.

Credit based on upcoming receivables under e-discounting system is another welcome step in this direction.

Benefits to Ministry of Textiles include skilling of youth in textile sector, thus, providing requisite skilled manpower to the textile industry.

These incentives would provide support in manufacturing of quality tools to improve productivity of MSMEs and enable them to become competitive in national and international markets.

It will also provide trained manpower and consultancy in related areas. Since Textiles industry is rapidly moving forward towards modernisation, expansion and integration, these initiatives will be immensely beneficial to the textile sector.

Background

The MSME focused outreach programme will give boost to the MMF textile manufacturing units in textile hubs like Gujrat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.

The initiatives are gifts to MSMEs and they will not only be enhanced MSMEs spirit and confidence level including competitiveness but they would also be able to focus on increasing their business activity.

The initiatives taken under the MSME outreach programme will provide a much-needed fillip and encouragement to the MSME sector which contributes significantly to the textiles exports.

12 February 2019

HRD Ministry to take immediate steps to protect Maithili language and scripts

HRD Ministry to implement recommendations of committee for promotion of Maithili Language

The Ministry of Human Resource Development has decided to take immediate steps to implement the recommendations of a committee, which it had constituted in 2018 to make a report for the promotion and protection of Maithili language and its scripts.

The committee has submitted its report to the Ministry. In the report, it has made several recommendations for the promotion and protection of the Maithili language. The report was examined in the Ministry and it has been decided to take immediate action on some of the recommendations of the committee.

Following are some of the recommendations by the committee:

To establish a script and manuscript centre at Darbhanga in any one of the Universities namely Kameshwar Singh Sanskrit University or Lalit Narayan Mithila Unviersity.

To ensure early completion of the work pertaining to unicode scripts of Mithilakshar by Technology Development of Indian Languages (TDIL).

To prepare audio-visual teaching materials for teaching the Mithilakshar scripts.

Background

  • Mithilakshar or Tirhuta is the script of broader cultural Mithila. The scripts of Mithilaksar, Bangla, Assamese, Nebari, Odia and Tibetan are part of the family.
  • It is an extremely ancient script and it is one of the scripts of the broader North Eastern India.
  • Mithilakshar had come to its current shape by 10th Century AD. The oldest form of Mithilakshar is found in the Sahodara stone inscriptions of 950 AD.
  • In the subsequent years, the scripts were found to have been used throughout Mithila from Champaran to Deoghar.
  • However, the use of the script saw a decline in the last 100 years, raising fears of culture getting decimated.
  • As the script is not being used, the Maithili language is being developed in a composite manner despite having been accorded a constitutional status in the constitution.

To safeguard the same, the Human Resources Ministry had constituted the committee in 2018 for making a report for the promotion and protection of Maithili Language and its scripts.

Urban Affairs Ministry launches Light House Project challenge

Urban Affairs Ministry launches Light House Project challenge

The Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has instituted a challenge for States and Union Territories to select six sites across the country for constructing the lighthouse projects under Global Housing Technology Challenge- India (GHTC- India)

The challenge has been launched to bring about paradigm shift in housing construction technology sector. The states and union territories that score the highest marks will be awarded lighthouse projects.

Important Note

The Urban Affairs Ministry has encouraged all the states and union territories to participate in the challenge proactively. The last date for participation is February 20, 2019.

The states and UTs can send their applications in the prescribed format at the earliest and latest by February 20.

The selected states or UTs will then enter into a Memorandum of Agreement (MoU) with the Urban Affairs Ministry to execute these lighthouse projects in their regions under GHTC-India.

Key Highlights

The winning six states or union territories, which score the highest marks across the prescribed criteria, will be awarded lighthouse projects.

The winners will receive central assistance to construct these projects as per Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) guidelines.

In addition to this, a Technology Innovation Grant (TIG) for the states/ UTs is provisioned to offset the impact of any additional cost implication due to the use of new technology and to absorb the issues related to economies of scale and other related factors.

The selected sites for lighthouse projects will be used as an ‘open laboratory’ for live demonstration and will receive due attention from academia, public and private practitioners, policymakers and media apart from felicitation and recognition in Grand Expo-cum-Conference.

Global Housing Technology Challenge-India

The three key components of the challenge are as follows:

i) Conduct of Grand Expo-cum-Conference

ii) Identifying Proven Demonstrable Technologies from across the globe

iii) Promoting Potential Technologies through the establishment of Affordable Sustainable Housing Accelerators- India (ASHA-I) for incubation and accelerator support.

Among the three points, the second component intends to identify and pilot ‘Proven Demonstrable Technologies’ from around the world in actual housing projects in different parts of the country.

The shortlisted global technology providers will be invited to plan and construct lighthouse projects within the framework of PMAY (U) on pre-selected sites provided by States/UTs across six identified PMAY.

Other Details

The states and UTs were appraised about the challenge through video conferencing chaired by JS & MD, Housing for All, Amrit Abhijat.

Besides this, the Ministry will also be doing the Technology Meets during the Construction year.

This will encourage the potential beneficiary to visit the sites to see the ongoing work for adaptation.

PM Modi presents Swachh Shakti-2019 Awards; inaugurates development projects in Haryana

PM Modi presents Swachh Shakti-2019 Awards; inaugurates development projects in Haryana

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 12, 2019 participated in Swachh Shakti 2019 event and distributed the Swachh Shakti 2019 Awards during his visit to Kurukshetra, Haryana.

On the same occasion, he also inaugurated and laid foundation stone of several development projects in Haryana.

Swachh Shakti 2019
The Prime Minister Modi gave away the Swachh Shakti awards to woman sarpanches from across the country in Swach Shakti 2019 programme. He also visited the Swachh Sundar Shauchalay exhibition at Kurukshetra.

The Swachh Shakti 2019 was attended by women panches and sarpanches from across the country. Over 15,000 women took part in Swachh Shakti event that was aimed at empowering women. This was the third edition of the Swachh Shakti programme.

Swachh Shakti Programme

  • The Swachh Shakti Programme is a national event which aims to bring in to focus the leadership role played by rural women in Swachh Bharat Mission.
  • Launched in 2017, the Programme is a part of ongoing activities under the aegis of the Swachh Bharat Mission, launched on October 2, 2014 by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to achieve a clean and Open Defecation Free (ODF) India by October 2, 2019.
  • The programme is attended by women panchs and sarpanchs from across the country.
  • The first edition of Swachh Shakti programme was launched from Gandhinagar, Gujarat by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on International Women’s Day 2017. The second edition was launched from Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh.

Inauguration of National Cancer Institute: India’s premier institute of cancer

The Prime Minister dedicated the India’s premier institute of cancer, the ‘National Cancer Institute’ of Bhadsa, Jhajjar to the nation.

The National Cancer Institute is built at the AIIMS Jhajjar campus.

The 700 bed hospital has different facilities like surgical oncology, radiation oncology, medical oncology, anaesthesia, palliative care and nuclear medicine, besides hostel rooms for doctors and attendants of cancer patients.

The NCI will be the nodal institution for all activities related to cancer in the country and will have linkages with regional cancer centers and other cancer institutes within the country.

It will identify priority areas for Research & Development and will carry out basic and applied research in molecular biology, genomics, proteomics, cancer epidemiology, radiation biology and cancer vaccines.

Other development projects launched by PM Modi in Haryana

The Prime Minister inaugurated the ESIC Medical College & Hospital of Faridabad, the first ESIC Medical College and Hospital in North India.

He laid the foundation stone of the National Institute of Ayurveda, Panchkula being set up at Shri Mata Mansa Devi Temple Complex in Panchkula. It will be a national level institute for Ayurveda treatment, education and research.

He laid the foundation stone of ‘Sri Krishna Ayush University’, the first University related to Indian system of medicine in Haryana as well as the first University of this kind in India.

He laid the foundation stone of ‘Battles of Panipat Museum’. Located at Panipat, the museum will honour the heroes of the various battles of Panipat. The Museum is in line with the Union Government’s initiative to honour the unsung heroes of India.

The Prime Minister laid the foundation stone of Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay University of Health Sciences, Karnal.

Minority Status of Aligarh Muslim University: Supreme Court refers case to 7-Judge bench

Case of Minority Status of Aligarh Muslim University

The Supreme Court on February 12, 2019 referred the petition seeking withdrawal of minority status of the Aligarh Muslim University to a seven-judge bench.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi referred the matter to the larger bench to determine the correctness of minority status of AMU and to define the parameters for granting minority status to the institution.

The Matter of Aligarh Muslim University’s Minority Status
The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government had moved a petition in the Supreme Court against a 2006 Allahabad High Court Judgement which stated that the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) was not a minority institution. The university administration had also filed a separate petition against the High Court verdict.

In January 2006, the Allahabad High Court had struck down the provision of the Act by which the university was accorded the minority status.

However, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party Government in 2016 withdrew the petition saying that the University was not a minority institution.

The BJP cited the ruling of a five-judge Constitution bench in 1968 in the Aziz Basha case which held that AMU was a “central university” and not a minority institution. It was after this 1968 ruling that the AMU (Amendment) Act, 1981 came into force.

The AMU Act of 1981 grants AMU the minority status and Article 15 (5) of the Constitution exempts minority institutions from implementing constitutional reservations under the SC/ST category.

Earlier in July 2018, the Uttar Pradesh Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Commission ruled that the university was not a minority institution and asked it to explain why it does not provide reservation to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities.

11 February 2019

US President signs executive order to prioritise research in Artificial Intelligence

US President signs executive order to prioritise research in Artificial Intelligence

US President Donald Trump on February 11, 2019 signed an executive order directing federal agencies to prioritise research and development in Artificial Intelligence (AI).

The order follows huge investment pledges from China and other countries intended to advance and apply AI technology in fields ranging from warfighting to health care.

American AI Initiative

The plan, called American AI initiative, requires the federal agencies to make government data and computing resources more available to AI experts while maintaining security and confidentiality.

Creating such standards for capturing and sharing huge troves of data, such as medical records, is expected to lead to breakthroughs in medical diagnosis and treatment.

The order also calls on agencies to protect civil liberties, privacy and American values in applying AI technologies and to help workers gain relevant skills through fellowships, apprenticeships, training programs and computer science education.

Funding

The executive doesn’t include any funding details. According to the US administration, it would be up to the Congress to appropriate the money.

Background

The tech leaders from industry and academia have pushed the Trump administration to develop a national AI strategy.

The White House in December 2018 hosted a listening session with the CEOs of Google, Microsoft, IBM, Oracle and Qualcomm to field ideas for securing American dominance in AI and other fields such as quantum computing and faster wireless technology known as 5G.

Trump had made a brief mention of technology in his January State of the Union address, pledging investments in the cutting-edge industries of the future.

AI Technology: Benefits and challenges

AI-based technologies such as facial recognition can be used to enhance government surveillance, while studies have found that computers are susceptible to the same racial and gender biases as the humans whose data they learn from.

According to Kate Crawford, a co-director of New York University’s AI Now Institute for studying the social implications of artificial intelligence, the directive takes some steps in the right direction but is too light on details.

Crawford explained that AI policy isn’t an autonomous vehicle, it needs a detailed plan or it’s going to run off the road.

While Crawford welcomed the Trump administration’s intention to accelerate research and regulate AI across different industrial sectors, she said the administration also must ensure that AI’s potential ethical challenges are taken seriously.

India, Norway launch ‘India-Norway Marine Pollution Initiative’ to combat Marine Pollution

India, Norway launch ‘India-Norway Marine Pollution Initiative’ to combat Marine Pollution

The Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change on February 11, 2019 signed a Letter of Intent (LoI) with the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to launch the ‘India-Norway Marine Pollution Initiative’.

The Joint Initiative was signed by Nils Ragnar Kamsvag, Norwegian Ambassador to India and Anil Kumar Jain, Additional Secretary in the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

MoU signed during Norwegian PM Erna Solberg’s visit to India in January 2019
The launch of the initiative came after the Indian and Norwegian governments signed an MoU to establish the ‘India-Norway Ocean Dialogue’ during the Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s visit to India in January 2019.

A Joint Task Force on Blue Economy was also established under the aegis of the MoU to promote multi-sectoral cooperation in various aspects of Blue Economy.

The task force comprises of government officials, researchers and experts. It was tasked to develop sustainable solutions within strategic areas of the blue economy, such as maritime and marine sector in addition to energy sector.

Note: Blue Economy can be defined as ‘sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and better ocean ecosystem health’. The Blue Economy comprises various activities such as fisheries, marine transport, waste management, tourism, climate change, etc.

India-Norway Marine Pollution Initiative

The India-Norway Marine Pollution Initiative will combat marine pollution, which is one of the fastest growing environmental concerns.

Norway and India will share experiences, competence and collaborate on efforts to develop clean and healthy oceans.

Both the sides will jointly collaborate for sustainable use of ocean resources and growth in the blue economy.

Through a range of implementing partners, this initiative will seek to support local governments in implementing sustainable waste management practices, develop systems for collecting and analysing information about sources and scope of marine pollution.

They will also work towards beach clean-up efforts, awareness raising campaigns and pilot project using plastic waste as fuel substitution for coal in cement production.

SC directs NCM to decide on redefining ‘Minority’ & guidelines for identifying minorities within 3 months

SC directs NCM to decide on redefining ‘Minority’ guidelines for identifying minorities within 3 mon

The Supreme Court on February 11, 2019 directed the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) to take a decision within three months on a representation seeking guidelines to redefine the term ‘Minority’.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi asked petitioner Ashwini Upadhyay to re-file his representation to the Minority Commission and directed the Commission to take a decision in this regard within three months in the context of state-wise population of a community.

Pleas presented by Petitioner Ashwini Upadhyay

Direct and declare that Section 2(c) of the NCM Act 1992 is void and inoperative for being arbitrary, unreasonable and offending Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution of India

Direct and declare that the Notification on Minority Community dated 23.10.1993 is void and inoperative for being arbitrary unreasonable and offending Articles 14, 15, 21, 29 and 30 of the Constitution of India

Direct the Government to define “Minorities” and lay down guidelines for their identification to ensure that only those religious and linguistic groups, which are socially, economically and politically inferior, may enjoy rights and protections guaranteed under Articles 29-30 of the Indian Constitution

The case
BJP leader and lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay had filed a writ petition in the court to declare the Notification dated 23.10.1993 as arbitrary unreasonable and ultra-vires the Constitution.

The apex court had declined his petition in 2017 and had asked him to approach the National Commission for Minorities, following which, he submitted a Representation to the National Commission for Minorities on November 17, 2017

However, as per Upadhyay, the NCM has done nothing since November 2017.

Hence, he filed a fresh writ petition to declare Section 2(c) of the NCM Act, 1992, and the Notification dated 23.10.1993 as void and unconstitutional for being arbitrary, unreasonable and offending Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Indian Constitution.

He contended that those who are not entitled to minority protection are enjoying the benefits of the same under the Articles 29 and 30 of the Constitution, exemptions under Articles 15(5) and (6) of the Constitution, provisions of the Right to Education Act and welfare programmes of the Government.

The enjoyment of minority benefits by majority breaches various fundamental rights such as right to equality, right to freedom of speech and discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or birth.

He further illustrated that Hindus, who are otherwise a majority community, are minority in several north-eastern states such as in Jammu and Kashmir. However, Hindus are deprived of benefits available to the minority communities in these states.

Abu Dhabi adds Hindi as third official court language

Abu Dhabi adds Hindi as third official court language

The Abu Dhabi Judicial Department (ADJD) has added Hindi as the third official language to be used in the city’s courts, alongside Arabic and English.

The move is aimed at helping foreigners to learn about litigation procedures, their rights and duties without a language barrier, in addition to facilitating registration procedures through unified forms available through the judicial department’s website.

Key Highlights

The Abu Dhabi Judicial Department has extended the adoption of interactive forms of statement of claims filed before courts by including the Hindi language alongside Arabic and English in labour cases.

The adoption of multilingual interactive forms for claim sheets, grievances and requests, aims to promote judicial services and increase the transparency of litigation procedures. The move is designed to improve access to justice.

It is in addition to facilitating registration procedures to the public through simplified and easy forms and raising litigants’ legal awareness through interactive forms of the statements of claims, to ensure access to the legal materials related to the subject of the dispute.

The adoption of new languages comes as part of the bilingual litigation system, the first phase of which was launched in November 2018, through the adoption of procedures requiring the plaintiffs to translate case documents in civil and commercial lawsuits into English, if the defendant is a foreigner.

The foreign investor receives the case files translated, thus contributing to the provision of a global judicial service that meets the requirements of residents in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

Background

The extension of the adoption of interactive forms in several languages comes under the directives of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs and ADJD Chairman.

According to official figures, the UAE population is estimated to be around nine million, of which 88.5 per cent are expatriate workers from foreign countries.

The Indian community in the UAE, numbering 2.6 million, constitutes 30 per cent of the total population and is the largest expatriate community in the country.

PM Narendra Modi inaugurates PETROTECH-2019

Representative Image

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 11, 2019 inaugurated the 13th International Oil and Gas Conference – PETROTECH-2019 at India Expo Centre in Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh. The Prime Minister also addressed the inaugural session of the event.

Welcoming the delegates, Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said, India is the third largest consumer of crude oil and petroleum products and the government has taken several measures to provide energy for all.

PETROTECH – 2019: Key Highlights

The three-day mega event, which will be held from February 10-12, 2019, is considered to be India’s flagship hydrocarbon conference.

It will showcase the recent market and investor-friendly developments in India’s oil and gas sector.

It is expected to witness participation from over 95 Energy Ministers from partner countries and 7000 delegates from around 70 countries.

The 13th International Oil & Gas Conference & Exhibition is being organised under the aegis of the Union Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas.

Along with the Conference, the event will have a concurrent exhibition spread over 20,000 square meters at India Expo Mart, Greater Noida.

The exhibition will have over 13 country pavilions and around 750 exhibitors from over 40 countries, with exclusive areas on the Make in India and Renewable Energy theme.

Background

Prime Minister Narendra Modi previously inaugurated the 12th edition of PETROTECH-2016 on December 5, 2016.

The Prime Minister had said then that his vision for India’s energy future includes four pillars: energy access, energy efficiency, energy sustainability and energy security.

He had also invited the global hydrocarbon companies to come and Make in India and assured them that India’s motto is to replace Red Tape with Red Carpet.

10 February 2019

Hungary to give life tax exemption to women with 4 children

Hungary to give life tax exemption to women with 4 children

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban on February 10, 2019 announced new measures, under which increasing financial aid and subsidies will be provided to families that have more than three children.

The measures were announced by the Prime Minister during his “state of the nation” speech. They are meant to encourage women to have more children and to reverse Hungary’s population decline.

Objective

The new policies are aimed at reversing Hungary’s downward demographic trends.

Key Highlights

The Hungarian government has decided to provide a lifetime income tax exemption for women who give birth to at least four children.

The government has also proposed the introduction of a subsidy worth 8,825 US dollars towards the purchase of a seven-seat vehicle for families with three or more children.

It has also announced a seven-point plan to increase the fertility rate in the country.

It has also promised to extend home loans to families with at least two children.

Besides, a low-interest loan of 35,300 US dollars for women under the age of 40 who are marrying for the first time has also been proposed.

The government has also decided to build 21,000 nurseries across the country in three years and provide grandparents with free childcare if they are raising their children’s children.

Hungarian children, not immigrants: Orban

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s new measures aren’t just aimed at increasing Hungary’s declining birthrate. They are also aimed at limiting the country’s immigration and diversifying its population.

According to Orban, while the West is responding to declining birthrate with migrants from other continents, in Hungary, they do not need numbers, but Hungarian children.

With the European Parliament elections set for May, Orban said that unchecked immigration would create mixed populations in countries that Muslims eventually would dominate and Christians quickly would become a minority.

Orban has made “zero tolerance” for immigration his main theme in the past four years and was elected to a third consecutive term in April 2018. According to him, the initiative is meant to ensure the survival of the Hungarian nation.

The right-wing nationalist has also repeatedly vowed to make Hungary a Christian homeland.

He has also built high-tech border fences to curb migration and has said that Middle Eastern immigrants should be viewed as Muslim invaders rather than refugees.

Protests

Following Orban’s speech, several hundred members and supporters of Hungary’s main opposition parties held an anti-Orban rally in Budapest.

The event also was aimed at protesting recent heavy fines the state audit office imposed on several opposition parties. A small group of protesters used their cars to block traffic from crossing the Chain Bridge over the Danube River for most of the day.

Indian historian Sanjay Subrahmanyam wins Israel’s Dan David Prize 2019

Indian historian Sanjay Subrahmanyam wins Israel’s Dan David Prize 2019

Indian historian Sanjay Subrahmanyam on February 10, 2019 won the prestigious Dan David Prize 2019 for his work on inter-cultural encounters between Asians, Europeans and people of North and South America during the early modern era.

He won the Israel’s prestigious USD 1 million dollar award in the category of ”Past Time Dimension” for his work in macro history. He shared the award in the Past category with Professor Kenneth Pomeranz of University of Chicago.

Once presented with the award money, Subrahmanyam will donate 10 percent of the prize money towards scholarships for graduate or post-graduate researchers.

Note: The Dan David Prize laureates are required to donate 10 percent of their prize money towards scholarships for graduate or post-graduate researchers in their respective fields to encourage and foster new generations of scholars.

About Sanjay Subrahmanyam

Sanjay is the son of strategic analyst K Subrahmanyam and brother of former foreign secretary S Jaishankar.

Subrahmanyam is an alumnus of University of Delhi and did his doctorate from Delhi School of Economics.

He began as an economic historian but later, worked on the political, intellectual and cultural history.

He holds the Irving and Jean Stone Endowed Chair in Social Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), which he joined in 2004.

He is the recipient of the Infosys Prize for humanities for his path-breaking contribution to history.

Other winners of Dan David Prize 2019

This year’s winners were chosen from the three categories for their work in macro history (Past), defending democracy (Present) and combating climate change (Future), respectively.

The award in the “Present” category was won jointly by Reporters without Borders and Professor Michael Ignatieff for “Defending Democracy”.

The Reporters without Borders is an organisation that works for the freedom of the Press. Michael Ignatieff is a Canadian author, academic and former politician who headed Liberal Party of Canada and was also the leader of the official opposition for almost three years.

• Christina Figueres, a Costa Rican diplomat was awarded the prize in the “future” dimension for her role in combating climate change.

About Dan David Prize
The Dan David Prize is awarded annually to those who have made outstanding scientific, technological and humanistic accomplishments in fields representing the past, present and future of human achievement.

This USD 1 million prize is endowed by the Dan David Foundation, headquartered at Tel Aviv University, Israel.

The prize was established by late Dan David, an international businessman and philanthropist who envisioned a project that would extend beyond traditional academic categorisations.

Three Dan David prizes are given every year in the categories of Past, Present and Future to people around the world who have made outstanding contributions to humanity in the sciences.

The recipients in the ‘Past’ category are generally drawn from the field of history, archaeology, paleontology, biography, etc.

The recipients in the ‘Present’ category are drawn from arts, media, policy, economics, etc.

The recipients in the ‘Future’ category are drawn from one of the exact or natural sciences.

Some of the previous recipients of the award include former US Vice President Al Gore, former British Premier Tony Blair, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, novelist Margaret Atwood, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales and filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen.

Other prominent Indian laureates of the Dan David Prize were author Amitav Ghosh, music conductor Zubin Mehta, renowned chemist CNR Rao and astronomy professor Shrinivas Kulkarni.

Chinook Helicopters: First batch of 4 Boeing heavy-lift helicopters arrive in India from US

First batch of 4 Boeing heavy-lift Chinook Helicopters arrive in India from US

The first batch of four Boeing heavy-lift Chinook Helicopters, CH-47F (I), arrived at the Mundra airport in Gujarat on February 10, 2019.

Procured from the United States, the Chinook Helicopters are expected to provide impetus to the heavy-lift capabilities of Indian Air Force (IAF) and strengthen the defence ties with the United States.

Manufactured by Boeing, the CH-47F (I) will be stationed at Chandigarh air base of the Indian Air Force. The Chandigarh air base takes care of providing necessary items to Siachen and Eastern Ladakh sectors.

The Indian Air Force is currently using Mi-17 and Mi-26 helicopters, which were manufactured by Russia.

Chinook Helicopters

The CH-47F (I) Chinook is an advanced multi-mission helicopter that will provide unmatched strategic airlift capability to the Indian armed forces across the full spectrum of combat missions.

With capability of carrying around 10 tonnes of load, these helicopters are majorly used for artillery, battlefield resupply and transportation of troops.

These are also used for humanitarian and disaster relief operations such as transportation of relief supplies and mass evacuation of refugees.

Chinooks have a unique twin engine and tandem rotor design, one of the most visibly recognised symbols of the American armed forces.

The Chinook helicopter is used by 18 other defence forces around the world.

India’s procurement of Chinook Helicopters from US
Indian government has already spent USD 3 billion to buy 15 Chinook and 22 Apache attack helicopters. India also has the option to buy six more Apaches, already approved by the United States.

India signed a USD 3 billion deal with the US in September 2015 for the purchase of 15 Chinook heavy lift and 22 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters.

In October 2018, 4 pilots and 4 flight engineers of IAF were trained by Boeing for operating Chinook helicopters. The pilots and flight engineers were trained in Delaware USA.

On February 2, 2019, India was officially handed over first of the Chinook helicopters during ‘India-Chinook Transfer Ceremony’ at Boeing’s facility in Philadelphia. The handover took place in the presence of Indian ambassador to US, Harsh Shringla.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi elected as new chair of African Union

Egypt’s Abdel Fattah El Sisi takes over as new head of African Union

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on February 10, 2019 took over as the chair of the African Union (AU) following a meeting by heads of state from the continent in Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa.

The post of AU’s chair rotates annually between the five regions of the continent. The Incoming AU chairman President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is expected to focus on the fight against armed groups on the continent and rebuilding efforts of countries recovering from conflict.

Speaking after his appointment, the Egyptian leader said that terrorism remains a cancer that affects African nations and counter-terrorism requires the identification of those who support and fund it and combating them collectively.

Key Highlights

Egypt’s tenure as chair of the African Union is expected to concentrate more on security and peacekeeping and focus less on financial and administrative reforms.

Under Egypt’s leadership the bloc will prioritise mediation and preventive diplomacy as one of the key mechanisms for promoting peace and security on the continent.

The Egyptian President will be taking over from outgoing chair, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who focused on creating an Africa wide free-trade zone during his tenure.

Post his appointment, Amnesty International warned that Sisi’s chairmanship might undermine the African Union’s human rights mechanisms.

Amnesty’s concern

According to Amnesty’s North Africa Campaigns Director Najia Bounaim, during his time in power President Abdel Fattah El Sisi demonstrated shocking contempt for human rights and under his leadership the country underwent a catastrophic decline in rights and freedoms.

Bounaim further stated that there are real fears about the potential impact Sisi’s chairmanship could have on the independence of regional human rights mechanisms and their future engagement with civil society.

The human rights group said Egypt since 2015 orchestrated a sustained political attack against the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the body that aims to monitor African states’ human rights records.

A dozen cases alleging serious human rights violations have also been lodged against Egypt at the ACHPR.

Background

It is the first time since the AU was founded in 2002 that Egypt assumes the top seat of the body.

The nation would be taking the helm of the African Union nearly six years after it was suspended from it following a Sisi-led military coup.

Egypt was kicked out of the 55-member pan-African body in 2013 following a military coup that overthrew the country’s democratically elected leader, Mohamed Morsi and brought Sisi to power. The bloc later lifted Egypt’s suspension.

9 February 2019

PM Modi laid foundation stone for Sela Tunnel; 7 EHV Sub-stations; 24 LT Sub-stations in Arunachal Pradesh

PM Modi laid foundation stone for Sela Tunnel in Arunachal Pradesh

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 9, 2019 laid the foundation stone for the Sela Tunnel Project in Arunachal Pradesh during his visit to Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Tripura.

The tunnel will be constructed by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) at a cost of Rs. 687 crore.

The Tunnel would be completed in the next three years. It covers a total distance of 12.04 kms which consist of two tunnels of 1790 meters and 475 meters.

Significance
Once completed, the tunnel would provide:

  • ​All weather connectivity to Tawang and forward areas; a move that would be a game changer for the local population apart from the much required strategic edge for the security forces
  • ​Reduction in more than one hour of travelling time from Tezpur to Tawang
  • ​ Travellers would be able to avoid the dangerous snow covered Sela top at a height of 13,700 feet

Foundation stone for 7 Extra High Voltage Sub-stations and 24 Low Tension Sub-stations laid

The Prime Minister also laid the foundation stone for 7 Extra High Voltage (EHV) Sub-stations and 24 Low Tension (LT) Sub-stations in Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh. This project is aimed at meeting the objectives of affordable 24X7 power to all, especially in the remote locations.

The project will be implemented by Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (POWERGRID), a ‘Navratna’ Company under Union Ministry of Power.

The project will be carried out under the ‘Comprehensive Scheme for Strengthening of Transmission & Distribution (T&D) Systems in Arunachal Pradesh’ that was sanctioned in October 2014 under Central Sector Plan Scheme of Ministry of Power at an estimated cost of Rs 3,199.45 crores.

Impact

The project will enhance the consumers’ access to affordable grid connected power supply.

It will lead to reduction in operation of Diesel Generating Plants in Arunachal Pradesh, thus bringing socio-economic and environmental benefits to the people of the state.

It will also facilitate in development of small scale industries, cottage industries and tourism sector in the region.

It will give impetus to integration of upcoming Hydro Power Generating Plants in Arunachal Pradesh with the National Grid.

It will facilitate lying of optical fiber to extend communication facility to the small villages.

It will boost local economy of the entire state with infusion of about Rs. 6501 crore.

PM Modi launches dedicated 24×7 satellite channel ‘DD Arunprabha’ for Arunachal Pradesh

PM Modi launches dedicated 24×7 Satellite channel DD Arunprabha for Arunachal Pradesh

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 9, 2019 launched a dedicated 24×7 Satellite channel, ‘DD Arunprabha’ for Arunachal Pradesh during his visit to Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Tripura.

DD Arunprabha is the Doordarshan’s second channel for the northeastern region; DD Northeast was the first one. The channel will familiarise people across India with the beauty and the culture of the State.

On the same occasion, PM Modi also laid the foundation stone of Film and Television Institute (FTI), to be developed in Jote, Arunachal Pradesh.

DD Arunprabha: Second channel for the northeastern region

DD Arunprabha is the 24th satellite channel operated by Doordarshan.

It is equipped with modern facilities including a Digital Satellite News Gathering unit to provide live coverage from remote locations for 24×7 telecast.

DDK Itanagar’s playout facility and the earth stations will ensure seamless transmission of DD Arunprabha.

It will showcase the rich tradition and diversity of local culture of the state.

Despite integrating North-East with the country, It will bring alive the magnificence of North-East by airing content sensitive to the needs and aspirations of local population such as news, travelogues, documentaries, films, reality shows, etc.

Film and Television Institute (FTI)

The permanent campus of Film and Television Institute will come up at Jollang-Rakap (Jote), Papum Pare, Arunachal Pradesh. It will be the first Film and Television Institute of entire North-East.

This will the third Film and Television Institute of Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the first two being FTII Pune and SRFTI Kolkata.

It will provide a boost to the talented youngsters of the North-East in film and television sector.

The Institute will be constructed at around 20 km from Itanagar at a total estimated cost of Rs. 204.32 crore.

The project will be executed by Central Public Works Department (CPWD) and will be completed in 25 months time.

It will comprise of Administrative Block, Class Room Block, Class Room Theatre, Academic Staff Block, Library, Preview Theatre, Mini Theatre, Shooting Floor, Digital Block, Sound Studio, Canteen, Residential Quarters, Boys Hostel, Girls Hostel, and Guest House.

It will be constructed with an organic design philosophy, ensuring minimum disturbance to natural topography.

For its construction, the National Building Code 2016 norms, Accessible India Campaign features and other statutory norms will be followed.

It will have several green features including Sewage Treatment Plant of 150 kiloletres per day capacity to ensure a zero discharge building, 300 KW solar panels, street lighting with LED lamps, etc.

8 February 2019

Jammu & Kashmir Government grants Divisional Status to Ladakh Region

Jammu & Kashmir Government grants Divisional Status to Ladakh Region

The Jammu and Kashmir Governor, Satya Pal Malik on February 8, 2019 granted the Divisional Status to Ladakh Region, while exercising its powers under Section 5 of Land Revenue Act, 1996.

The Ladakh division will comprise Leh and Kargil districts with its headquarters at Leh. Till now, the Ladakh region formed a part of the Kashmir Division of Jammu & Kashmir.

The State Government also approved creation of the posts of Divisional Commissioner (Ladakh), Leh and Inspector General of Police (Ladakh), Leh.

The notification came just after the visit of PM Narendra Modi to Leh on February 3, 2019.

Ladakh becomes the third Division of J&K
With this, Ladakh became the third Division in the state with the other two being Jammu, and Kashmir.

The Ladakh division is now the biggest division in the state with 86,909 sq. km of area, followed by Jammu division of 26,293 sq km at second and Kashmir Division of 15,948 sq km at third.

Significance of Divisional Status to Ladakh

The Divisional status would facilitate the Ladakh Region in a great way to progress.

Ladakh has two Hill Councils for its administration, one in Leh and the other in Kargil. With the Divisional Status, both Leh and Kargil districts will get equal benefits.

Offices and the opportunities will be distributed to both the districts.

With this, the routine administrative clearances for Leh and Kargil can now be obtained at Divisional headquarters in Leh.

It also brings opportunities of employment of different levels in various departments for the locals.

Background

For almost last three decades, Ladakh region has been demanding for Union Territory status with a proper legislation. The Divisional Status is considered as a step towards its dream of Union Territory.

Recently, the state government has also empowered the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Councils (LAHDC) of Leh and Kargil with financial and administrative powers through an  amendment in the Act.

Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban): Government institutes PMAY (U) Awards to reward top performers

Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban): Government institutes PMAY (U) Awards to reward top performers

The Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs on February 8, 2019 instituted the ‘PMAY (U) awards for Implementation and Innovation’ under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) to reward the “Top Performers” in different categories and attain the goal of ‘Housing for All’ in a sustained manner.

The award scheme aims to recognise the outstanding performance and promote a healthy competition between States and UTs, Urban Local Bodies, Beneficiaries and Housing Finance Corporations.

PMAY (U) awards for Implementation and Innovation

The Award has 3 broad levels. The first level is for States, UTs and Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) for performance on key indicators of the Mission.

There would be separate competition among Municipal Corporations and Municipalities within the ULBs.

The awards will recognise and reward the selected beneficiaries from each State/UT under ‘Beneficiary-led Construction’ component for building their house in a most aesthetic and innovative manner.

A few Special Category awards to give special recognition to States/ UTs for Innovative Technology in construction, community mobilisation, slum redevelopment, and project monitoring have also been instituted.

Significance
The rank of States or the UTs in the PMAY (U) awards will influence their monthly incremental progress on vital parameters which will be given more weightage for the period Jan 2019 to May 2019.

The ranking of States/UTs will be made public every month to create competitive environment among stakeholders. The winners will be awarded in a special national event which will be held in New Delhi tentatively in June 2019.

Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana

Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) or ‘Housing for all’ is a housing scheme for all the people who belong to lower income group, economically weaker section and Middle Income Group in India.

Launched in 2015, the scheme is divided into two parts, PMAY (Urban) and PMAY (Gramin).

Under PMAY (Urban), houses are being constructed in the urban areas, mainly the congested slums areas are converted into pucca or permanent houses for inhabitants and covers other people from LIG ,EWS and MIG categories.

The total project cost approved under PMAY (U) stands at Rs. 2.81 lakh crore with a Central Assistance of Rs. 77,934 crore.

The scheme aims to provide 2 crore houses across nation’s length and breadth. The scheme is estimated to be completed by 2022.

Till now, the PMAY (U) mission has achieved a significant milestone of approving 73 Lakh houses against a demand of about 1 Crore houses in urban areas. Out of these, around 39 Lakh houses are at various stages of construction and around 15 Lakh houses have already been completed.

7 February 2019

India climbs 8 Spots in 2019 International Intellectual Property Index; ranks 36th

India climbs 8 Spots in 2019 International Intellectual Property Index

India climbed eight places in the 2019 International Intellectual Property (IP) Index, ranking at 36th position among 50 countries. India’s overall score has increased from 30.07 percent in 2018 to 36.04 percent in 2019.

In 2018 International Intellectual Property Index, India was ranked 44th out of 50 countries.

The seventh edition of the International Intellectual Property Index, “Inspiring Tomorrow” was released by the Global Innovation Policy Center (GIPC) of U.S. Chamber of Commerce on February 7, 2019.

The Index was topped by the United States with 42.66 points out of 45, followed by the United Kingdom (42.22) at 2nd, Sweden (41.03) at 3rd and Germany (41.00) at 4th.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s take on India’s improvement
As per the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, “The improvement reflects important reforms implemented by Indian policymakers toward building and sustaining an innovation ecosystem for domestic entrepreneurs and foreign investors alike”.

For the second year in a row, India’s score represents the largest gain of any country measured on the Index.

The improvement is an outcome of specific reforms such as accession to the WIPO Internet Treaties, the agreement to initiate a Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) with international offices, and a dedicated set of IP incentives for small business.

The development was also attributed to few pro-IP policies of the Modi Government such as ‘Accelerating Growth for New India Innovations’, ‘Startup India’ and ‘Digital India’.

About International Intellectual Property Index

The International Intellectual Property Index ranks 50 economies based on 45 unique indicators across eight separate categories that are critical to an innovation-led economy supported by robust patent, trademark, copyright, and trade secrets protection.

The Global Intellectual Property Centre of the USCC works around the world to examine the Intellectual Property (IP) rights and their role in creating jobs, saving lives, advancing global economic growth, etc.

It provides both an IP report card for the world and a blueprint for policymakers in various countries.

The Index covers 50 economies, representing 90 percent of global GDP.

US-India CEO Forum to be held on February 14; American members of Forum announced

US-India CEO Forum to be held on February 14

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on February 7, 2019 announced the names of the American private sector members of the US-India CEO Forum. MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga and Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf are among the members of the US-India CEO Forum.

The first meeting of the US-India CEO Forum under the US President Donald Trump Administration will be held in New Delhi on February 14, 2019.

Chair, Co-chair and Members of US-India CEO Forum

The meeting will be co-chaired by US Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross and Union Minister of Commerce and Industry and Civil Aviation, Suresh Prabhu.

The Chairman, President and CEO of the American Tower Corporation, James Taiclet will be the US Private Sector Co-chair of the forum.

The incoming US CEOs will bring fresh perspectives to the forum and help us consider new opportunities to further deepen our cooperation,” he added.

The other prominent American members of the Forum are Sanjay Bhatnagar, President and CEO of WaterHealth International; John Chambers, Founder and CEO of JC2 Ventures LLC; Douglas DeVos, Co-Chairman of Amway; and D. James Umpleby III, Chairman and CEO of Caterpillar, among others.

Term and selection of US CEOs
The term of the CEOs from the United States is that of two years. The US CEOs are selected from respondents to a Federal Register Notice calling for CEO-level applicants to the US Section of the Forum.

Highlights of the US-India CEO Forum

The US-India CEO Forum is crucial for the fruitful commercial relationship and strong economic ties between India and the United States.

Both the sides will discuss key issues such as India’s FDI rules for e-commerce and import duties on IT and electronics, and the US penal duties on steel and aluminium.

The Commercial Dialogue will also focus on issues such as standards, business climate and investment and, travel and tourism

It will cover areas like MSME, infrastructure and logistics, energy and environment, finance, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, defence, aerospace, media and entertainment.

The Forum will present a report on the progress made in the key areas between the US and Indian governments.

Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana: Guidelines launched for States to implement scheme; PM-Kisan Portal launched

States urged for speedy implementation of Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana

The Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare on February 7, 2019 launched a platform named PM Kisan, http://pmkisan.nic.in, under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana (PM-KISAN) for uploading the details of the Small and Marginal Farmers (SMF).

The Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana was announced in the Union Interim Budget 2019 by Finance Minister Piyush Goyal.

Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana (PM-KISAN)
  • The Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi will provide assured income to small and marginal farmers.
  • All Small and Marginal Farmers (SMF) with 2 hectares of cultivable land will be provided income support of Rs 6000 per year.
  • The amount will be transferred directly into their account in 3 equal installments.
  • The complete expenditure of Rs 75000 crore for the scheme will borne by the Union Government in 2019-20.
  • Over 12 crore farmer families will be benefitted under the scheme.
  • The scheme is being implemented with effect from December 2018.

Agriculture Minister’s letter to states for implementation of PM-KISAN

The Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, Radha Mohan Singh on February 8, 2019 wrote to the Chief Ministers of all States for their support in the effective and speedy implementation of the PM-KISAN Yojana so that the entitled benefits are speedily transferred to the farmers. Here is the content of the letter:

Guidelines for States for implementation of the scheme:

The selection of eligible small farmer families under the scheme will be undertaken by the State Governments.

The necessary details such as bank account details will be provided on the online portal so that the first installment of the benefits can be transferred to the eligible families.

The States will prepare database of eligible beneficiary landholder farmer families in the villages capturing the Name, Age, Gender, Category (SC/ST) , Aadhaar Number/ Driving Licence/Voters’ ID Card/ NREGA Job Card, Bank Account Number, IFSC Code.

Though mobile number is not mandatory, but it may be noted when available so that the information related to transfer of benefit can be communicated.

States/UTs shall ensure that there is no duplication of the payment transferred to eligible families.

Speedy settlement in case of wrong or incomplete bank details of the beneficiary should be ensured.

Objective behind launching of the scheme
Considering that the declining prices of agricultural commodities and food inflation led to reduced returns for farmers, the Government felt the need for structured income support for farmers to procure seeds and labour.

Taking this into account, the Government introduced Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana for farmers’ welfare.

6 February 2019

International Financial Services Centre: Cabinet approves setting up of unified authority for regulating IFSCs in India

Cabinet approves setting up of unified authority for regulating IFSCs in India

The Union Cabinet on February 6, 2019 approved establishment of a unified authority for regulating all financial services in International Financial Services Centres (IFSCs) in India through the International Financial Services Centres Authority Bill, 2019.

Note
The International Financial Services Centre is the institution that caters to customers outside the jurisdiction of the domestic economy. These centres deal with flows of finance, financial products and services across borders.

India’s first International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) became operational on April 11, 2015 at GIFT City in Gandhinagar, Gujarat.

Draft Bill for setting up the unified authority

For setting up a separate unified regulator for IFSCs, the Department of Economic Affairs, Union Ministry of Finance prepared a draft Bill. Here are the provisions of the Bill:

Management of the Authority 

The Authority will consist of a Chairperson, one Member each to be nominated by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI), the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) and the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA).

Two members will be dominated by the Central Government and two other whole-time or full-time or part-time members will also be there.

Functions of the Authority

  • The Authority will regulate financial services, financial products and financial institutions in an IFSC which has already been permitted by the Financial Sector Regulators for IFSCs.
  • It will also regulate such other financial products, financial services or institutions notified by the Central Government from time to time.
  • It will recommend to the Central Government such other financial products, financial services and financial institutions which may be permitted in the IFSCs.

Powers of the Authority

All the powers enjoyed by the respective financial sector regulatory such as RBI, SEBI, IRDAI, under the respective Acts will be exercised by the Authority in the IFSCs.

Processes and procedures of the Authority

The Authority will follow such processes and procedures which are governed in accordance with the provisions of the respective Acts of Parliament applicable to financial products, services or institutions.

Grants by the Central Government

The Central Government, after due appropriation made by Parliament by law, may grant few funds to the authority for its purposes.

Transactions in foreign currency

The transactions of financial services in the IFSCs will be done in the foreign currency as specified by the Authority in consultation with the Central Government.

Why Government felt a need for having a unified financial regulator for IFSCs?

At present, the banking, capital markets and insurance sectors in IFSC are regulated by multiple regulators such as the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI).

The nature of business in the IFSCs requires a high degree of inter-regulatory coordination and regular clarifications in the existing regulations governing financial activities in IFSCs.

Hence, a need was felt for having a unified financial regulator for IFSCs in India to provide world class regulatory environment to financial market participants. The unified authority would provide the much needed thrust for further development of IFSC in India.

Functions of International Financial Services Centre (IFSC)

An IFSC helps bring back the financial services and transactions that are currently carried out in offshore financial centers by Indian corporate entities and overseas branches of financial institutions to India by offering business and regulatory environment.

The centre works on the similar lines as that of other leading international financial centers in the world like London and Singapore.

It provides Indian corporates easier access to global financial markets.

IFSC also compliments and promotes further development of financial markets in India.

Cabinet approves setting up of Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog for cows

Cabinet approves setting up of Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog for cows

The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on February 6, 2019 approved the proposal for establishment of Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog for conservation, protection and development of cows and their progeny.

The setting up of the Aayog was announced in the Union Interim Budget 2019-20.

Terms of Reference

The Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog will work in collaboration with Veterinary, Animal Sciences or Agriculture University, departments or organisations of the Central and State Governments engaged in the task of research in breeding and rearing of cow, organic manure, biogas, etc.

Impact

The setting up of Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog will lead to conservation, protection and development of cattle population in the country including development and conservation of indigenous breeds.

It will result in increased growth of livestock sector which is more inclusive, benefitting women, and small and marginal farmers.

It will provide the policy framework and direction to the cow conservation and development programmes in the country.

It will ensure proper implementation of laws with respect to the welfare of cows.

Plight of cows in India: Issue of Cattle Slaughter

Cow, considered as a sacred animal in India, owns a tremendous value for its nutritious milk and variety of dairy products. In India, there are thousands of stray cows that walk the jammed streets freely owing to the law and belief of the people that they shouldn’t be harmed physically.

However, despite such sacred sentiments and animal protection laws, cattle slaughter has become a controversial topic in India in recent times, with one group of Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists treating cattle such as cows, bulls and calves as an endeared and respected living being, while the other religions of Islam and Christianity considering it as a source of meat.

In such intense scenario, Union Government’s new Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Market) Rules also steamed up the winds. These Rules prohibit the sale of cows and buffaloes for slaughter at animal markets.

Though the Supreme Court tried to normalise the situation by putting a stay on the ban on cattle slaughter in July 2017, the issue of cattle slaughter still looms over.

Cabinet approves proposal for higher power allocation to Telangana, Jharkhand

Cabinet approves proposal for higher power allocation to Telangana, Jharkhand

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 6, 2019 approved the proposal of the Ministry of Power to allocate 85 per cent power from Telangana Super Thermal Power Project (4000MW) of NTPC Ltd to the Telangana government.

The cabinet also approved the proposal to allocate 85 per cent power from the expansion project of Patratu Thermal Power Station (4000MW) of Patratu Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Limited to the Jharkhand state government. Both the projects will be set up in two phases.

Key Highlights

The Telangana Super Thermal Power Project will come up at Ramagundam in Peddapalli district and the Patratu Super Thermal Power Station will come at Patratu in the Ramgarh district of Jharkhand.

The first phase of the TSTPP will comprise two units of 800 MW each and second phase for three units of 800 MW each.

The Patratu Thermal Power Station (PTPS) will comprise three units of 800 MW each in the first phase while two units 800 MW each in the second phase.

The Andhra Pradesh Reorganization Act, 2014 mandates that TPC shall establish a 4000 MW power facility in the successor state Telangana, as mentioned in the Thirteenth Schedule of the Act.

The allocation of 85 per cent power from PTPS expansion project (4000MW) was the prime condition in the joint venture agreement between Jharkhand government and NTPC Ltd. for 4000 MW capacity expansion of PTPS.

Currently, the phase-I of both the projects is under construction.

Other Details

The Telangana Super Thermal Power Project is expected to commission in the third quarter of 2020-2021.

As per the investment approval dated January 29, 2016, the indicative completion cost of the Telangana Super Thermal Power Project (TSTPP) is Rs 11811.26 cr out of which Rs 1849 cr expenditure have been incurred upto March 2018.

Further, Phase-I of Patratu Super Thermal Power Station is expected to commission in the fourth quarter of 2022-2023.

As per the investment approval dated October 30, 2017, the indicative completion cost of the PTPS expansion project is Rs 18668 crores out of which Rs 247.66 crore expenditure have been incurred upto March, 2018.

Significance

The higher allocation of power to Telangana will ensure that the central government has taken the necessary measures as enumerated in the thirteenth schedule of the AP reorganisation act, for the progress and sustainable development of the successor states.

On the other hand, the higher allocation of power to Jharkhand will help in improving the power scenario of the state. It will facilitate the mission of the government towards providing power to all.

Swachh Bharat Mission launches ‘Darwaza Band – Part 2’ campaign; Amitabh Bachchan stars in campaign films

Swachh Bharat Mission launches Darwaza Band Part 2 campaign

The Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen) on February 6, 2019 launched the ‘Darwaza Band -Part 2’ campaign for sustainability of the Open Defecation Free (ODF) status of villages across the country.

The campaign was launched in Mumbai in the presence of actor Amitabh Bachchan, Maharashtra’s Minister for Water Supply and Sanitation Babanrao Lonikar, Secretary of Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation Parameswaran Iyer and other dignitaries.

As per Amitabh Bachchan, “The campaign talks about how a toilet must be used by all, always and under all circumstances (har koi, har roz, hamesha).” The actor dedicated a re-adaptation of a poem of his father Late Harivansh Rai Bachchan to the Swachh Bharat Mission – “Swachh Tann, Swachh Mann, Swachh Bharat, Mera Parichay”.

Highlights of the ‘Darwaza Band- Part 2’ campaign

The ‘Darwaza Band- Part 2’ campaign is supported by the World Bank and will be rolled out countrywide immediately after the launch.

The campaign was produced by the Union Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.

The primary focus of the campaign is on behaviour change and promoting sustainable usage of toilets, at both community and village levels.

Three “Darwaza Band Part 2” films were launched by Amitabh Bachchan during the event. These films will be aired across various television channels over the next few weeks in various regional languages.

There will also be radio jingles, outdoor publicity and digital campaigns aired under the campaign.

About Swachh Bharat Mission
  • Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Movement) is a campaign that was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 2, 2014.
  • The campaign seeks to clean the streets, roads and infrastructure of the country’s 4041 statutory cities and towns.

  • Behaviour change has been the focus of Swachh Bharat Mission, which is being pursued through a countrywide comprehensive IEC (Information-Education-Communication) programme.
  • Communication campaigns have been taken up both, at the central and state levels, for promoting sustained use of toilets and for sustaining the Open Defecation Free status achieved.
  • Objectives of Swachh Bharat are to reduce or eliminate open defecation through the construction of individual, cluster and community toilets.
  • Under the campaign, the government aims to achieve an Open-Defecation Free (ODF) India by October 2, 2019, the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. For that purpose, 12 million toilets are being constructed in rural India at a projected cost of Rs 1.96 lakh crore.
  • Over 50 crore people stopped defecating in the open since the launch of the Swachh Bharat Mission and over 5.5 lakh villages have already been declared Open Defecation Free (ODF), the national sanitation coverage is now in excess of 98 percent, compared to 39 percent in 2014.

Transport Minister launches highway projects in Odisha

Transport Minister launches highway projects in Odisha

The Union Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari on February 6, 2019 laid the foundation stone of three major highway projects with an investment worth Rs 2,345 crores in Odisha. The projects are aimed at ensuring speedy development in the state.

Speaking on the occasion, the Transport Minister said that cooperation and assistance of the state government will be essential for proper implementation of a number of projects being taken up by the centre for overall economic development of the region.

Significance

The three highway projects are expected to considerably improve connectivity of mineral-rich Angul and Dhenkanal districts with the rest of Odisha.

The three national highway projects will have a total length of 132 km. They include:

Four-Laning of 41.7-km Talcher-Kamakhyanagar section of NH 200/23 (new NH 53) at a cost of Rs 795.18 crore.

Four-Laning of 51.1-km Kamakhyanagar-Duburi section of NH 200 (new NH 53) at a cost of Rs 761.11 crore.

Four Laning of 39.4-km Duburi-Chandikhole section of NH 200 (new NH 53) at a cost of Rs 789.23 crore.

Impact

The new projects will have appropriate structures to reduce traffic congestion and ensure the safety of road users.

The new structures include three bypasses, one flyover, 19 vehicular underpasses, nine major and 39 minor bridges and a 45-km of the service road.

The projects will reduce traffic congestion and travel time, which will help in reducing the operating costs of vehicles and bring down the level of pollution.

The projects will also help in generating employment opportunities in the region and improve the socio-economic condition of local people.

President Ram Nath Kovind confers Sangeet Natak Akademi Awards for Year 2017

President Ram Nath Kovind confers Sangeet Natak Akademi Awards for Year 2017

The President, Ram Nath Kovind conferred the prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi Awards for the year 2017 on February 6, 2019 at Rashtrapati Bhawan during a special investiture ceremony.

The General Council of the Sangeet Natak Akademi selected 42 artists from the field of Music, Dance, Theatre, Puppetry and Overall contribution/scholarship in the Performing Arts for the Sangeet Natak Akademi Awards 2017at its meeting in Imphal, Manipur that was held on June 8, 2018.These 42 artists include one joint award.

List of awardees

Music
S. No. Winner Category
1. Lalith J Rao Hindustani Vocal
2. Umakant Gundecha and Ramakant Gundecha (Gundecha Brothers)

(Joint Award)

Hindustani Vocal
3. Yogesh Samsi Hindustani Instrumental – Tabla
4. Rajendra Prasanna Hindustani Instrumental – Shehnnai Flute
5. M.S.Sheela Carnatic Vocal
6. Suma Sudhindra Carnatic Instrumental – Veena
7. Tiruvarur Vaidyanathan Carnatic Insrumental – Mridangam
8. Shashank Subramanyam Carnatic Instrumental – Flute
9. Madhurani Other Major Traditions of Music -Sugam Sangeet
10. Haimanti Sukla Other Major Traditions of Music -Sugam Sangeet
11. Gurnam Singh Other Major Traditions of Music – Gurbani
Dance
S. No. Winner Category
1. Rama Vaidyanathan Bharatanatyam
2. Shobha Koser Kathak
3. Madambi Subramanian Kathakali
4. L.N.Oinam Ongbi Dhoni Devi Manipuri
5. Deepika Reddy Kuchipudi
6. Sujata Mohapatra Odissi
7. Ramkrishna Talukdar Sattriya
8. Janmajay Saibabu Chhau
9. Aashit Desai Music for Dance
Theatre
S. No. Winner Category
1. Abhiram Bhadakamkar Playwriting
2. Sunil Shanbagh Direction
3. Bapi Bose Direction
4. Hema Singh Acting
5. Deepak Tiwari Acting
6. Anil Tickoo Acting
7. Nuruddin Ahmed Allied Theatre Arts – (Stage Craft)
8. Avtar Sahani Allied Theatre Arts – (Lighting)
9. Shougrakpam Hemanta Singh Other Major Traditions of Theatre – Shumang Leela, Manipur
Traditional/Folk/Tribal Music/Dance/Theatre and Puppetry
S. No. Winner Category
1. Anwar Khan Manganiyar Folk Music, Rajasthan
2. Prakash Khandge Folk Arts, Maharashtra
3. Jagannath Bayan Traditional Music – Khol, Assam
4. Ramchandra Majhi Folk Music, Bihar
5. Rakesh Tiwari Folk Theatre, Chhattisgarh
6. Parvathy Baul Folk Music (Baul),  West Bengal
7. Saravjit Kaur Folk Music, Punjab
8. K.C. Runremsangi Folk Music, Mizoram
9. Mukund Nayak Folk Music, Jharkhand
10. Sudip Gupta Puppetry, West Bengal
Overall Contribution/Scholarship in the Performing Arts
Vijay Verma Sandhya Purecha

About Sangeet Natak Akademi Awards

The Sangeet Natak Akademi Awards are conferred every year by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, the National Academy of Music, Dance and Drama, is an autonomous body of the Union Ministry of Culture.

Established in 1952, the Akademi Award not only symbolise the highest standard of excellence and achievements, but also recognise sustained individual work and contribution.

The award carries a cash prize of Rs 1,00,000, a Tamrapatra and Angavastram.

Union Cabinet approves MoU between India, Finland in the field of Biotechnology

Union Cabinet approves MoU between India, Finland in the field of Biotechnology

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 6, 2019 approved the Memorandum of Understanding between India and Finland for cooperation based on mutual interest in the field of Biotechnology, for funding and implementing ambitious industry-led innovative and transnational projects within the broad scope of research development and innovation.

Objective

The agreement will support the creation of long-term research, development and innovation collaboration mechanism and to establish and strengthen cooperative network between Indian and Finnish organisations.

By funding need-oriented, ambitious joint projects of high international standards, the two countries aim to help reach world-class innovations beneficial to both countries.

It will also facilitate knowledge sharing and knowledge generation among scientists, researchers and industry in the two countries.

Key Highlights

India’s Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and Business Finland have agreed to cooperate with Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), the public sector enterprise of DBT for funding and implementing ambitious industry-led innovative and transnational projects.

The two departments, based on their mutual interest, have identified the following research areas for cooperation:

i. Mission Innovation

ii. Biofuture platform, biofuels, bioenergy and biomass-based products;

iii. Environmental and energy applications of biotechnology

iv. Business development of start-up and growth companies

v. Education technologies and games in life sciences

vi.
Other fields of life science industry

Background

The Memorandum of Understanding was signed in accordance with the agreement signed on March 25, 2008 between the Governments of India and Finland on cooperation in the fields of science and technology, where, based on mutual interest it was agreed to promote long-term research and development and innovation cooperation between Finnish and Indian organisations.

5 February 2019

Government to conduct survey of all agricultural households in India

Government to conduct survey of all agricultural households in India

The government has decided to conduct a survey of all agricultural households in the country to assess the plight of farmers for the current crop year (July-June).

The information was shared by Minister of State for Agriculture Gajendra Singh Shekhawat in a written reply to Lok Sabha on February 5, 2019. The survey would cover the period from July 2018 to June 2019.

Objective

The survey aims to provide a comprehensive assessment of the situation of agricultural households in the country, including their income, expenditure and indebtedness.

Key Highlights

The survey called the ‘Situation Assessment Survey of Agricultural Households’ will be conducted during the 77th round of the National Sample Survey in the current calendar year.

It would mainly focus on assessing the income, expenditure and indebtedness of the agricultural households among other issues for the current crop year.

The National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) has been chosen as the nodal agency.

The last such survey was conducted for crop year 2012-13. Post it, the National Sample Survey Office has not conducted any such survey.

The comparable estimates for rise in income of agricultural households during 2014-2018 are also not available.

Other Details

The periodicity of such a survey is decided on the basis of requirements of the concerned ministry, adequacy of the current data, availability of resources and manpower, emerging areas of concern and development priorities of the government.

Given the vastness of the country’s size and resources involved, the NSSO conducts other surveys on household consumer expenditure and employment-unemployment after every five years.

The inter-ministerial committee formed on doubling farmers’ income by 2022 has considered the estimates of agriculture households’ income obtained from the 70th round of NSS survey data as the base level income.

Trump proposes new missile treaty with potential to include India

Trump proposes new missile treaty

US President Donald Trump has proposed a new nuclear missiles treaty that could possibly include India as he delivered the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress.

Defending his decision to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia, he said in a speech on February 5, 2019, “perhaps we can negotiate a different agreement, adding China and others, or perhaps we can’t, in which case, we will outspend and out-innovate all others by far.”

Key Highlights

The INF treaty, which was signed by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Communist Party General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, banned land-based missiles of 1,000 to 5,000 kilometres.

Some of the Prithvi and Agni class missiles in India’s arsenal could fall under the ambit of such a treaty, as well as some of Pakistan’s Babur, Shaheen and Ghauri missiles.

Trump defended his decision to withdraw from the INF treaty stating that Russia repeatedly violated its terms.

While stating that the US could possibly negotiate a new agreement, Trump did not make any direct references to India or region.

On Afghanistan

Trump in his speech touched upon US negotiations with the Taliban in Afghanistan and emphasised on the need to reach a political settlement in Afghanistan.

He said that his administration is holding constructive talks with a number of Afghan groups, including the Taliban.

He stated that as they make progress in these negotiations, they will be able to reduce their troop presence and focus on counter-terrorism.

Besides, Trump asked for support for Reciprocal Trade Act, under which, if another country places an unfair tariff on an American product, then America would be able to charge them the exact same tariff on the same product that they sell to them.

2nd Trump-Kim Summit: President Donald Trump to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam on February 27

2nd Trump-Kim Summit: President Donald Trump to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam

President Donald Trump announced on February 5, 2019 that he will hold the second summit with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un in Vietnam on February 27-28, 2019 as part of his administration’s endeavours to denuclearise North Korea.

Vietnam has diplomatic ties with both Washington and Pyongyang.

Significance

The 2nd Trump-Kim Summit will be in continuation of Trump’s efforts to persuade Kim to roll back his nuclear program.

The Summit comes less than a year after the two leaders held a historic meeting in Singapore in June 2018. Since their meeting, Trump has claimed that North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat; however, the observers have witnessed some movement at their nuclear site.

Expectations

At the second Trump-Kim summit, experts expect that North Korea will likely be exchanging the destruction of its main Yongbyon nuclear complex with a formal declaration of the end of 1950-53 Korean War by the US.

North Korea might also resume some lucrative economic projects with South Korea.

First Trump-Kim Summit
The first Trump-Kim Summit was held in Singapore on June 12, 2018. During the first historic delegation level talks, Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un signed a historic agreement.

Though the Summit opened a path to peace, there is still not a concrete plan for denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

That was the first time that a sitting US president met a North Korean leader in the last 60 years. The meeting followed decades of hostility, which worsened following North Korea’s nuclear missile tests that brought America within striking range.

Inter-Korean Summit: Improving relations of North and South Koreas

South Korean President, Moon Jae-in was the one who had helped set up the first Trump-Kim meeting.

Moon himself held three summits with Kim in 2018 itself. During the Inter-Korean Summit in April 2018, both the leaders signed a landmark peace agreement ‘Panmunjeom Declaration’ for the complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. The two leaders pledged a ‘new era of peace’ through the joint declaration.

It was the first time that a North Korean leader crossed over the southern side of the Demilitarised Zone to enter South Korea, since the end of the Korean War in 1953.

Denuclearisation of North Korea

The Denuclearisation of North Korea has recently become crucial for the world leaders after they witnessed the back-to-back nuclear missile tests by the North Korea.

These nuclear weapon tests came as a shock for the US when America was brought within the striking range of North Korea.

Since 2011, the country has fired over 80 missiles and conducted four nuclear weapons tests. In 2017, North Korea launched its first-ever intercontinental ballistic missile and threatened to send more missiles into the waters near Guam, a US island territory in the Western Pacific.

The country has repeatedly demanded that the United States should reciprocate with measures such as sanctions relief.

Impact after Trump-Kim Summit

Following the Summit, North Korea released American detainees and announced the suspension of the nuclear and long-range missile tests and dismantling of a nuclear test site and parts of a rocket launch facility. All this was done in the absence of outside experts.

However, the satellite videos taken since the June 2018 summit indicated that North Korea is continuing to produce nuclear materials at its weapons factories.

Even the monitors of the United Nations (UN) in the first week of February 2019 observed that North Korea is still working to protect its ballistic missiles against American military strikes. They also observed that the country was illegally evading sanctions against it.

India’s communication satellite GSAT-31 launched from French Guiana

ISRO’s communication satellite GSAT-31 launched from French Guiana

Indian Space Research Organisation’s latest communication satellite, GSAT-31 was successfully launched by Arianespace aboard its launch vehicle Ariane 5 from the spaceport in French Guiana on February 5, 2019.

The launch vehicle Ariane 5 VA-247 lifted off from Kourou Launch Base in Guiana Space Center (CSG) at 2:31 am (IST) carrying two telecommunications satellites.  This is Arianespace’s first launch of the year and the 103rd Ariane 5 mission.

Ariane 5 carried two communication satellites:

1. Saudi Geostationary Satellite 1/Hellas Sat 4 and Hellas Sat

2. ISRO’s GSAT-31

GSAT-31

  ISRO launches GSAT-31 from French Guiana

GSAT-31 is a telecommunications satellite designed and manufactured by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). It is India’s 40th communication satellite and derives its heritage from ISROs earlier INSAT/GSAT satellite series.

After separation from Ariane-5 upper stage, the two solar arrays of GSAT-31 were automatically deployed in quick succession and ISRO’s Master Control Facility at Hassan in Karnataka took over the command and control of GSAT-31 and found its health parameters normal.

In the coming days, ISRO scientists will undertake phase-wise orbit-raising manoeuvres to place the satellite in Geostationary Orbit (36,000 km above the equator) using its onboard propulsion system.

During the final stages of its orbit raising operations, the antenna reflector of GSAT-31 will be deployed.  Following this, the satellite will be put in its final orbital configuration.  The satellite will be operational after the successful completion of all in-orbit tests.

Key Objectives

With a lift-off mass of 2536 kg, the telecommunications satellite will augment the Ku-band transponder capacity in Geostationary Orbit for at least 15 years.

It will further provide continuity to operational services on some of the in-orbit satellites. It will also help bridge the digital divide in the Indian subcontinent as part of an ambitious Indian space program, whose objectives are to develop India while pursuing scientific research and planetary exploration.

It has a unique configuration of providing flexible frequency segments and flexible coverage. Hence, it will provide communication services to Indian mainland and islands.

It will also provide DTH Television Services, connectivity to VSATs for ATM, Stock-exchange, Digital Satellite News Gathering (DSNG) and e-governance applications. The satellite will also be used for bulk data transfer for a host of emerging telecommunication applications.

Saudi Geostationary Satellite 1/Hellas Sat 4

The Saudi Geostationary Satellite 1/Hellas Sat 4 (also called HS-4/SGS-1) satellite comprises two payloads, with coverage zones encompassing three continents- Europe, the Middle East and South Africa:

1. The Saudi Geostationary Satellite 1 communications payload will provide advanced Ka-band spot beam communications services for Saudi Arabia’s KACST (King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology), as well as secure communications for countries belonging to the Gulf Cooperative Council region.

2. The Hellas Sat 4 communications payload, on the other hand, will offer advanced Ku-band regional beam communications services for Arabsat’s subsidiary Hellas Sat, a Greek-Cypriot satellite operator which provides services to leading Direct-to-Home (DTH) operators by delivering contents to more than three million households.

The HS-4/SGS-1 satellite was designed, assembled and integrated by the US manufacturer Lockheed Martin Space.

About Arianespace

Arianespace provides launch services for all types of satellites into all orbits. It has orbited more than 590 satellites since 1980, using its three launchers, Ariane, Soyuz and Vega, from launch sites in French Guiana (South America) and Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

It is headquartered in Evry, near Paris and has a technical facility at the Guiana Space Center, Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.

It is a subsidiary of ArianeGroup, which holds 74 per cent of its share capital, with the balance held by 15 other shareholders from the European launcher industry.

4 February 2019

Kisan Credit Card: IBA advisory waives off processing and other charges for KCC; Government to launch campaign for financial inclusion

IBA advisory waives off processing and other charges for KCC; Government launches campaign for finan

The Indian Banking Association (IBA) on February 4, 2019 issued advisory guidelines requesting banks to waive off the processing, documentation, inspection, ledger folio charges and all other service charges for crop loans up to Rs 3 Lakhs or for the Kisan Credit Card Scheme.

The move aims to provide direct benefit to farmers and ease the pressure on them.

What led IBA to issue advisory guidelines?

It came to the notice recently that some of the scheduled commercial banks are collecting a nominal amount of service charges towards processing, documentation, and inspection for agriculture loans.

On the other hand, some banks are collecting bit higher service charges, irrespective of whether the loan is sanctioned or not. This often acts as a deterrent for the farmers to approach the banks for loans. Considering this, the IBA issued the advisory guidelines.

Plight of Small and Marginal Farmers in India
In India, land holding pattern is dominated by Small and Marginal Farmers (SMF) category. Around 85 percent of the total operational holding in India is in the SMF category, which is about 43 percent of the gross cropped area.

There are around 21.6 crore small and marginal farmers in the country. Taking this into account, it becomes crucial to provide timely and affordable credit to this resource constrained group for attaining inclusive growth.

Moreover, the small and Marginal farmers are the most affected ones during floods, droughts and other natural calamities. As per Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture, the losses due to climate change account for overall GDP loss of 1.5 percent of agriculture economy.

In addition to that, the instability in income of the farmers due to various types of risks involved in production and low bargaining power add more distress to the already affected farmers.

Government to launch campaign with immediate effect to saturate farmers with Kisan Credit Cards

The Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare on February 4, 2019 itself announced the launch of campaign with immediate effect to saturate farmers for financial inclusion under Kisan Credit Cards (KCC).

This campaign will be launched through the Financial Institutions including Commercial Banks, Cooperative Banks and Regional Rural Banks in collaboration with the State Governments. The Department of Financial Services has already issued directives to these financial institutions under their purview. There are around 6.95 crore active KCCs.

The success of the campaign will depend on collaboration and leadership of the State Government and the District Administration. To make this campaign successful, following strategy will be adopted:-

The KCC will be issued in a time bound manner from the branch where the farmer is already having an account.

In case the eligible farmer is not having any bank account, the same will be immediately opened in any of the nearby branch.

The camps for collection of applications can be organised bank wise or village wise. The District Level Bankers Committee will decide the modalities of the camp and the date wise schedule.

For village wise camps, the field level development and revenue functionaries would be present on the pre designated dates in the concerned village.

If the camps are organised branch wise, the field level functionaries would bring eligible farmers to the concerned bank branches on the designated dates.

Farmers can avail the option of directly submitting the complete application form with necessary documents to the bank branch for issue of KCC.

IBA has also issued an advisory guideline to all the banks to waive the processing, documentation, inspection, ledger folio charges and all other service charges for KCC and crop loans up to Rs. 3 lakhs keeping in view the hardship and financial distress of small and marginal farmers.

Eligible farmers will be issued KCCs by the concerned banks within two weeks of the submission of completed application forms.

In the Interim Budget 2019, the Government announced that under the Kisan Credit Card scheme (KCC), 2 percent interest subversion will be given for farmers pursuing Animal Husbandry and Fisheries and additional 3 percent interest subversion will be given for those who repay the loan in time. Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries will shortly issue a detailed circular in this regard.

Kisan Credit Card Scheme
The Kisan Credit Card (KCC) scheme was announced in the Budget speech of 1998-99, when Yashwant Sinha was the Union Finance Minister, to fulfil the financial requirements of the farmers at various stages of farming through institutional credit.

The model scheme was prepared by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) on the recommendation of R.V Gupta committee.

Objective
  • To provide adequate and timely credit support from the banking system to the farmers at the cheap rate of interest
  • To provide credit at the time of requirement
  • To support post-harvest expenses
  • Working capital for maintenance of farm assets and activities allied to agriculture
  • Investment credit requirement for agriculture and allied activities (land development, pump sets, plantation, drip irrigation etc.)
  • Consumption requirements of farmers
Eligibility
  • All farmers who are owner cultivators.
  • Tenant farmers, Oral lessees and Share Croppers, etc.
  • Self Help Groups or Joint Liability Groups of farmers including tenant farmers, share croppers etc.,
Documents required to get KCC
  • Duly filled in application form
  • Identity proof and Address proof such as Voter ID card or PAN card or Passport or Aadhaar card or even Driving License.
Benefits
  • The beneficiaries under the scheme are issued with a Smart card or a Debit card.
  • Removes rigidity regarding cash
  • No need to apply for a loan for every crop
  • Assured availability of credit at any time
  • Helps buy seeds, fertilizers at farmer’s convenience
  • Credit facility for 3 years with no need for seasonal appraisal
  • Maximum credit limit based on agriculture income
  • Repayment only after harvest
  • Rate of interest as applicable to agriculture advance
Who implements the scheme? The KCC scheme is being implemented by the all Co-operative banks, Regional Rural Banks and Public Sector Banks throughout the country.

Ministry of Coal signs MoU with Poland’s Ministry of Energy

Ministry of Coal signs MoU with Poland’s Ministry of Energy

The Union Ministry of Coal on February 4, 2019 signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Ministry of Energy, Republic of Poland in New Delhi on cooperation in the field of coal mining.

The MoU was signed between Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary, Minister of State for Coal and Mines and Grzegorz Tobiszowski, Secretary of State for Poland’s Ministry of Energy.

Objective

The key objective of the MoU is to foster relations in the field of coal mining and clean coal technologies through the already established joint coal working group as well as research institutes and academia between the two countries.

The other objectives include:

To promote trade and investment in the coal sector, enhance the understanding of coal-related energy issues, particularly clean coal technologies, and promote the exchange of information on policies, programmes and technologies with special emphasis on coal exploration and exploitation, research and development, technical cooperation and capacity building.

To review the activities implemented under MoU.

To identify other forms of cooperation mutually agreed upon by the Participants.

Key Highlights

The agreement will greatly benefit the field of clean technologies and would provide opportunities to both India and Poland to augment trade and investment in diverse areas in the mining and energy sectors.

A joint working group has been created to ensure proper implementation of the MoU. The group would be working closely to take the aims of the MoU further in a time-bound manner.

India and Poland recently celebrated 60 years of vibrant diplomatic relations and also formalised cooperation agreements in different areas.

The Memorandum of Understanding is aimed at further strengthening these efforts.

Speaking on the occasion, Minister of State for Coal and Mines Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary complimented the officials from Poland and India for identification of areas of cooperation and the development of this MoU after consistent engagements. He also added how he foresees a very strong scope for cooperation in other areas of mining in India.

World Cancer Day 2019 observed across the world

World Cancer Day 2019 observed across the world

4 February: World Cancer Day

The World Cancer Day 2019 was observed across the world on February 4, 2019 with an aim to unite the world’s population in the fight against cancer.

What is Cancer?
Cancer is a general term for a large group of diseases in which abnormal cells divide uncontrollably and destroy body tissue. Its causes, characteristics and occurrence can vary greatly. Cancer can affect almost any part of the body.

The day is observed every year with an aim to save millions of preventable deaths by raising awareness and education about the disease, pressing governments and individuals across the world to take action.

Launch of a new 3-year campaign with theme “I Am and I Will”
The Union for International Cancer Control, which organises the World Cancer Day every year, launched a new 3-year campaign with the theme “I Am and I Will”.

The campaign is an empowering call-to-action, urging for personal commitment and represents the power of individual action to impact the future.

The theme for the World Cancer Day during 2016-2018 was ‘We can. I can.’

Facts about Cancer

Cancer is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide, with approximately 14 million new cases in 2012.

The number of new cases is expected to rise by about 70 percent over the next 2 decades.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally, and was responsible for 9.6 million deaths in 2018.

Lung, prostate, colorectal, stomach and liver cancer are the most common types of cancer in men, while breast, colorectal, lung, cervix and thyroid cancer are the most common among women.

Around one third of deaths from cancer are due to the 5 leading behavioral and dietary risks: high body mass index, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, tobacco use and alcohol use.

Tobacco use is the most important risk factor for cancer and is responsible for approximately 22 percent of cancer deaths.

Cancer causing infections, such as hepatitis and human papilloma virus (HPV), are responsible for up to 25 percent of cancer cases in low- and middle-income countries.

The economic impact of cancer is significant and is increasing. The total annual economic cost of cancer in 2010 was estimated at approximately USD 1.16 trillion.

Only 1 in 5 low- and middle-income countries have the necessary data to drive cancer policy.

About World Cancer Day

World Cancer Day was proclaimed by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), a leading international non-governmental organisation.

It was established to support the goals of the World Cancer Declaration written in 2008.

The primary goal of the day is to significantly reduce illness and death caused by cancer by 2020. It also aims at raising awareness of cancer and to encourage its prevention, detection and treatment.

National Road Safety Week to be launched

National Road Safety Week to be launched

The Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways will be launching the 30th National Road Safety Week on February 4, 2019 with a host of initiatives planned for generating awareness and sensitising people about safe road usage.

One of the primary initiatives planned as a part of the week includes the flag off of a motor car rally to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi at an event at Rajghat in New Delhi by Union HRD Minister Rajnath Singh along with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari.

Key Highlights

The motor car rally will travel through places historically associated with Gandhi, both in India, as well as in Bangladesh and Myanmar, taking up advocacy on Road Safety concerns along the route.

The places include Sabarmati, Porbandar, Dandi, Yerwada, Sewagram, Jabalpur, Lucknow, Gorakhpur, Chauri Chaura, Champaran, Shantiniketan and Kolkata in India and Dhaka in Bangladesh.

The rally will conclude at Yangon in Myanmar on February 24, 2019, covering a total distance of 7250 km.

It is a part of the year-long celebrations to commemorate the 150th year of Mahatma Gandhi in India and across the globe, initiated by the union government on October 2, 2018.

Besides this, the road safety week would also witness the launch of Dash Board for Road Accident Data of India and its states.

The Society of Indian Automobile Industry will also declare 2019 as the Year of Road Safety on the occasion, to underline its commitment and support for promoting safety on Indian roads.

The occasion will also see initiatives being taken to involve people in promoting the cause of road safety.

Other Initiatives

Amar Chitra Katha would be releasing a set of comic books on road safety that it has published, in order to create awareness on the issue among children in an informal format that they can relate to.

The Indian Road Safety Campaign of IIT Delhi would also be launching an Inter-Collegiate competition on the issue.

In addition to this, letters will be issued to 135 NGOs for conducting road safety programmes.

Retro reflective stickers on Sadak Suraksha Jeevan Raksha will also be launched on the occasion. These will be put on vehicles to improve their conspicuity.

Besides this, various other programmes will be held including seminars and workshops on emerging trends in safety, road safety engineering, motor vehicle insurance, emergency care (protection of good Samaritan and first responder training), the role of youth and industry and corporate conclave on the role of corporate in road safety.

School Bus Driver Refresher Training session will also be held at IDTR, Sarai Kale Khan, where bus drivers from private schools will be imparted training on road safety.

3 February 2019

Ladakh now connected to National Grid; Srinagar-Alusteng-Drass-Kargil-Leh Transmission Line launched

Ladakh now connected to National Grid; Srinagar-Alusteng-Drass-Kargil-Leh Transmission Line launched

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 3, 2019 dedicated the 220 kV Srinagar- Alusteng – Drass- Kargil – Leh Transmission System to the nation, a step that would ensure quality power supply to Ladakh region of Jammu & Kashmir round the year.

With this, Ladakh now stands connected to the National Grid. The move is expected to boost the tourism sector and enhance the socio-economic development of Ladakh.

It is a flagship project of the Union Government under the Prime Minister’s Reconstruction Plan (PMRP) which was aimed to improve reliability and quality of power supply in Ladakh region of Jammu & Kashmir by connecting with National Grid.

The project was launched during the visit of PM Modi to Jammu & Kashmir.

What is National Grid?
The National Grid is the high-voltage electric power transmission network in India, connecting power stations and major substations and ensuring that electricity generated anywhere in mainland India can be used to satisfy demand elsewhere.

The National Grid is owned, operated, and maintained by state-owned Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd (POWERGRID), a Navratna Company under the Union Ministry of Power.

POWERGRID is one of the world’s largest power transmission utility, and has a wide network of 150,874 circuit kilometers transmission lines with 238 sub-stations.

About Srinagar- Alusteng – Drass – Kargil – Leh Transmission Line Project

The foundation stone for the Srinagar-Alusteng-Drass-Kargil-Leh Transmission Line was laid by the PM Modi on August 12, 2014.

This project has been completed by the POWERGRID within 4.5 years.

Built at a height of around 3000-4000 meters, this transmission line is around 335 km long.

Under this project, four new modern Gas Insulated Sub-stations of 220/66 Kilovolt (kV) were built at Drass, Kargil, Khaltsi and Leh to help ensure 24×7 quality power in all weather conditions.

It took funding of Rs 2266 crore to complete the project. These funds were provided by the Central Government and Jammu & Kashmir Government in the ratio of 95:05, respectively.

Significance

The project will result in minimising the massive use of diesel generating sets during winters, and thus will help in protection of beautiful environment of Ladakh region.

It will provide grid connectivity and reliable quality power supply to the Ladakh region including defence establishments in the area.

This will not only help evacuate power of Kargil and Leh Hydel stations in summers, but will also supply power to the region in winters when temperatures dip and hydro electricity generation do not match up.

The project will meet the power demand of Ladakh region at economical rates.

With quality electricity available at reasonable rates, hospitality industry in Ladakh will get a boost, as their reliance on diesel sets will reduce.

This will also attract tourists looking for affordable stay in all weathers.

Challenges faced by POWERGRID in executing the project

POWERGRID came across unforeseen weather conditions while executing the project. The line remains covered with snow for nearly six months with the minimum temperature going down to as low as -40 degrees at Drass.

However, this was made possible by sound project monitoring skills, high team spirit and strategic planning and use of modern technologies. Specially designed tower foundations were constructed with assistance from Snow & Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE) for spotting the tower foundations.

Projects launched by PM Modi in Jammu & Kashmir

  • PM Modi inaugurated around Rs 7000 crore projects related to healthcare, higher education, skill development and employment in the State.
  • He unveiled the plaque to mark the laying of foundation stone for Rs 1828 crore All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) coming up on 207 acres at south Kashmir’s Awantipora area of Pulwama district.
  • He digitally launched various projects under Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) for whole country.
  • PM laid foundation stone digitally for 3 Model Degree Colleges in north Kashmir’s Kupwara, Baramulla and Kishtwar districts.
  • He digitally inaugurated Rs 3 crore facilities for launch of Rural BPO in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district. This will enhance employment opportunities for the youth in Bandipora.
  • The Multipurpose Indoor Sports Facility at Sehpora area of Ganderbal district in Central Kashmir was inauguarted.
  • PM Modi also laid the foundation stone for construction of Transit accomodation for Kashmiri migrant employees in Kashmir valley through the unveiling of plaque coming up at the cost of Rs 920 Crores.
  • He dedicated 400 KV D/C Jalandhar-Samba-Rajouri-Shopian-Amargarh (Sopore) transmission power line to the nation. The project has augmented the grid connectivity in Jammu & Kashmir.
  • PM also declared 100 percent electrification of households in the State under SAUBHAGYA Scheme.

Government launches Shehri Samridhi Utsav to extend outreach of DAY-NULM

Government launches Shehri Samridhi Utsav to extend outreach of DAY-NULM

The Union Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs (MoHUA) in February 2019 launched the Shehri Samridhi Utsav, an initiative that aims to extend the outreach of Deendayal Antyodaya Mission – National Urban Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NULM) to the most vulnerable.

The event will facilitate access of Self-Help Group (SHG) members to the other government schemes.

Highlights of the Shehri Samridhi Utsav

  • The Day one of Shehri Samriddhi Utsav began with a series of rallies led by women’s’ SHGs across the country. These rallies spread awareness about DAY-NULM in urban poor communities.
  • Job melas and fairs were organised by many states to market the products made by women micro-entrepreneurs.
  • Through Shehri Samridhi Utsav, the SHG members across cities are being linked to government schemes such as Swachchh Bharat Mission (Urban), Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban), Ujjwala Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Yojana and National Nutrition Mission.
  • A major highlight of Shehri Samridhi Utsav is the National Exhibition cum sale of SHG products and National Street Food Festival that will be organised in New Delhi.
  • Over 100 stalls are being set up in Central Delhi with various handlooms, handicrafts, snacks and other local products made by 200 Self Help Groups representing 23 states.
Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Urban Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NULM)
  • The Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana – National Urban Livelihoods Mission extends coverage to all the 4041 statutory cities and towns, there by covering almost the entire urban population.
  • The mission aims to provide the shelter equipped with essential services to the urban homeless in a phased manner to reduce poverty and vulnerability of the urban poor households.
  • The scheme addresses the livelihood concern of the urban street vendors by facilitating with suitable space, institutional credit, and social security and skills to the urban street vendor for accessing emerging market opportunities.
  • The core belief of National Urban Livelihoods Mission is that the poor are entrepreneurial and have innate desire to come out of poverty. The challenge is to unleash their capabilities to generate meaningful and sustainable livelihoods.
  • NULM believes that any livelihood promotion programme can be scaled up in a time bound manner only if driven by the poor and their institutions.

UK government approves Vijay Mallya’s extradition order

UK Home Secretary approves Vijay Mallya’s extradition order

UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid on February 3, 2019 signed the order to extradite Indian business tycoon and liquor baron Vijay Mallya from the United Kingdom to India. Mallya now has a 14-day window to appeal against the order to a higher court.

The Secretary of State signed the order after having carefully considered all relevant matters. The move comes less than two months after a UK court ordered the extradition of the fugitive businessman to face charges of fraud and money laundering filed against him in India. It follows a nine-month-long trial on an extradition warrant, which began with Mallya’s arrest in April 2017 and ended in September.

India has been seeking the businessman’s extradition on charges of fraud and money laundering amounting to almost Rs 9,000 crore. He has been on bail since his arrest. According to sources, the entire procedure to bring back Mallya to India may take at least 7-8 months if he uses all his legal options.

Key Highlights

The extradition trial, which opened at the Westminster Magistrates’ Court on December 4, 2017, has gone through a series of hearings beyond the initial seven days earmarked for it.

Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot decided there was a prima facie case against Mallya, who moved to Britain in March 2016 and his human rights would not be infringed if he was extradited.

Judge Emma Arbuthnot ruled that Mallya can be extradited to India to stand trial on the charges brought by the CBI and ED, as there is nothing to indicate that the Mallya case was pursued because of his political opinions.

The Judge ordered the extradition of Mallya to India, calling him ‘bejewelled’ bodyguarded billionaire playboy. The Central Bureau of Investigation welcomed the decision of the Chief Magistrate.

Under the Extradition Treaty procedures, the Chief Magistrate’s verdict was then referred to the UK’s Secretary of State, as only he was authorised to order Mallya’s extradition.

Sajid Javid, UK’s senior-most Pakistani-origin minister, had two months from that date to sign off on that order.

What will happen next?

Vijay Mallya now has 14 days to appeal in a higher court. The person to be extradited is entitled to make an application for permission to appeal to the High Court within 14 days of the date of the extradiction order’s approval.

Following UK’s government’s approval of his extradiction order, the fugitive business tycoon said that he will initiate the appeal process. “After the decision was handed down on December 10, 2018 by the Westminster Magistrates Court, I stated my intention to appeal. I could not initiate the appeal process before a decision by the Home Secretary. Now I will initiate the appeal process,” said Mallya.

Background

Vijay Mallya was declared as a proclaimed offender by a special court in June 2016 under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in Mumbai in a loan diversion case.

The move came after the Enforcement Directorate (ED), an investigation agency under the Union Finance Ministry, filed a petition over a case where Mallya is suspected to have diverted Rs 430 crores worth loan given by IDBI Bank Ltd to his Kingfisher Airlines Ltd.

The ED requested the court to issue an order under Section 82 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and term Mallya a proclaimed offender, citing multiple arrest warrants pending against Mallya including a non-bailable warrant (NBW) under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002.

Mallya left India in a self-proclaimed exile in March 2016 for London on a diplomatic passport. The businessman, who owned the now defunct Kingfisher Airlines and co-owned the Formula One motor racing team Force India until it went into administration in July, has denied all wrongdoing and argued the case against him was politically motivated.

The 62-year-old has contested his extradition on the grounds that the loans he has been accused of defaulting on were sought to keep his airline afloat.  He said that he has offered to repay 100 per cent of the principal amount to the banks.

The Indian Government, however, argued that Mallya, who moved to Britain in March 2016, had no intention of repaying the money it borrowed from IDBI in 2009 and the loans had been taken out under false pretences, on the basis of misleading securities.

2 February 2019

Interim Budget 2019: How Income Tax slabs have changed since 2014?

How income tax slabs have changed since 2014

Finance Minister Piyush Goyal presented the Interim Budget 2019-20 on February 1, 2019. It was the last Budget of the Modi Government before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

As per the Interim Budget, the direct tax collection has increased substantially. The number of returns filed have increased from 3.79 crore to 6.85 crore, showing 80 percent growth in tax base since four years. In 2018-19, 99.54 percent of the income-tax returns were accepted as they were filed.

Indian taxation system has come a long way since 2014 when the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Government (NDA) came to power in India. The NDA Government came into power at a juncture where India needed a decisive leadership that is free of corruption, policy paralysis and coalition compulsions.

Though the Government implemented several welfare schemes in key areas such as financial inclusion, affordable housing, 100% electrification and transportation connectivity, its two big financial decisions were demonetisation and the implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST).

The implementation of the GST, a uniform tax rate fixed for both goods and services across India, was one of the biggest changes in the Indian taxation system. Despite this, few major changes have been introduced in the tax rules since last five years.

Here are changes in income tax slabs since 2014:

Taxation reforms in 2014-15

  • Personal Income-tax exemption limit was raised by Rs 50,000 from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 2.5 lakh in the case of individual taxpayers, below the age of 60 years.
  • For senior citizens aged 60 and above but below 80 years, the tax exemption limit was hiked to Rs 3 lakh.
  • Investment limit under section 80C of the Income-tax Act was raised from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 1.5 lakh.
  • Deduction under section 24 (interest paid on housing loan) was hiked to Rs 2 lakh from the previous limit of Rs 1.5 lakh.
  • No change in the rate of surcharge either for the corporates or the individuals, Hindu Undivided Family (HUFs), firms etc.
  • It was announced to implement the GST by the end of 2014 (no deadline was announced). GST will streamline tax administration and result in higher tax collection for centre and states

Taxation reforms in 2015-16

  • No major changes announced in personal income tax slabs and rates.
  • 100 percent tax deduction for contribution to Swachh Bharat Fund.
  • For the salaried class, transport allowance limit was doubled from Rs 800 per month to Rs 1,600 per month.
  • Hike in deduction limit for health insurance premiums paid. For individuals, the limit was increased from Rs 15,000 to Rs 25,000. For senior citizens, the limit was increased from Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000.
  • Hike in surcharge on taxable income from 10 percent to 12 percent for those earning more than Rs 1 crore.
  • With the passage of Finance Bill, 2015, the wealth-tax was abolished with effect from assessment year 2016-17.

Taxation reforms in 2016-17

  • For taxpayers having income above Rs 1 crore, surcharge was increased from 12 percent to 15 percent.
  • For individuals living on rent but not receiving house rent allowance (HRA), maximum deduction on rent paid under section 80GG was raised from Rs 24,000 to Rs 60,000.
  • Individuals with income not exceeding Rs 5 lakhs per annum, the ceiling of tax rebate under section 87A was raised from Rs 2000 to Rs 5000.
  • For the property buyers, an additional deduction of Rs 50,000 was introduced under section 80EE, provided all the other conditions are satisfied.

Taxation reforms in 2017-18

  • The Individuals tax rate on income from Rs 2.5 lakh to 5 lakh was reduced to 5 percent instead of 10 percent.
  • 0% tax liability on income up to 3 lakh
  • 10% Surcharge on individuals with income between Rs 50 lakh to Rs 1 Crore
  • 15% Surcharge on individuals with income of Rs 1 crore and more
  • Income tax rates for small companies with an annual turnover of Rs 50 crore were slashed to 25 percent instead of 30 percent.

Taxation reforms in 2018-19

  • No changes in personal income tax slabs.
  • 100 percent tax deduction to farmer-producer companies having Rs 100 crore turnover.
  • Corporate tax was reduced to 25 percent for companies having turnover of up to Rs 250 crore.
  • A standard deduction of Rs 40000 for transport and medical reimbursements. The revenue cost of this reimbursements was fixed at Rs 8000 crore.
  • Long term capital gains tax of 10 percent levied for amount exceeding Rs 1 lakh.
  • Exemption of interest income for deposits in banks and post offices was increased from Rs 10000 to Rs 50000 for senior citizens. It applied to all fixed deposit schemes.

The Interim Budget 2019 listed following tax proposals:

  • Individual tax payers with taxable income of up to Rs 5 lakh will get full tax rebate from now on.
  • Those earning Rs 6.5 lakh will not have to pay tax, if they invested in specified savings such as PF, PPF, etc.
  • However, the tax slabs will remain unchanged.
  • This move will benefit around 3 crore middle class tax payers.
  • For salaried persons, Standard Deduction is being raised from the current Rs 40,000 to Rs 50,000.
  • The Tax Deducted at Source (TDS) on fixed deposits and postal deposits will be exempted for interest earned up to Rs 40,000 from Rs 10,000 currently.
  • The rent up to Rs 2.4 lakh will be exempted from TDS.
  • The benefit of capital gains of up to Rs 2 crore will be increased to investment on two residential houses. This benefit can be availed only once in a lifetime.
  • The benefit of the section 80IBA of Income Tax Act will be extended for one more year for availing of the affordable housing.

ISRO sets up Human Space Flight Centre for Gaganyaan mission

ISRO sets up Human Space Flight Centre for Gaganyaan mission

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on January 31, 2019 unveiled its Human Space Flight Centre (HSFC) at ISRO Headquarter campus in Bengaluru, Karnataka for its maiden manned space mission ‘Gaganyaan’.

The space flight centre was inaugurated by K Kasturirangan, former ISRO Chairman, in the presence of K Sivan, current ISRO Chairman and Secretary, Department of Space.

Significance

ISRO is gearing up for its maiden manned mission Gaganyaan, which is planned for 2021-end. The plan is to have the first unmanned mission in December 2020 and the second one in July 2021.

Once the two unmanned missions are completed, the manned mission will happen in December 2021.

India’s first human spaceflight programme is likely to include a woman astronaut.

Key Highlights

The Human Space Flight Centre shall be responsible for implementation of Gaganyaan project which involves end-to-end mission planning.

The centre shall be responsible for the development of engineering systems for crew survival in space, crew selection and training and also pursue activities for sustained human space flight missions.

It will take the support of existing ISRO centres to implement the first development flight of Gaganyaan under the human spaceflight programme.

S Unnikrishnan Nair is the founder director of HSFC, while R Hutton is the project director of Gaganyaan.

Directors of other ISRO Centres, former Chairman and other dignitaries were present during the centre’s unveiling.

Besides the centre, a full-scale model of Gaganyaan’s crew module was unveiled during the event.

The Union Cabinet had recently given its nod for the Rs 9,023 crore programme.

US pulls out of Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty with Russia

US pulls out of Nuclear Arms Control Treaty With Russia

US President Donald Trump announced on February 1, 2019 that the United States will pull out of the three-decade-old Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, which it had signed with Russia during the Cold War.

Trump announced that the US will suspend its obligations under the pact and begin the process of withdrawing from it on February 2, 2019. He stated that the US will exit the treaty in six months unless Russia comes back into compliance by destroying all of its violating missiles, launchers, and associated equipment. Explaining the decision, he said that for arms control to effectively contribute to national security, all parties must faithfully implement their obligations.

Trump alleged that Russia has violated the agreement and that they have been violating it for many years. He said that the US would not let Russia violate a nuclear agreement and go out and develop the weapons while the US is not allowed to. “We’ll have to develop those weapons,” he added.

Russia’s reaction

In response to US suspension of the treaty, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on February 2, 2019 that Russia would also abandon its obligations under the cold-war era nuclear arms control treaty.

Putin stated that Russia would build weapons previously banned under the treaty and would no longer initiate talks with the United States on any matters related to nuclear arms control.

However, Putin said that Russia will only deploy short and intermediate-range nuclear missiles if US does so as well.

Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty

What is the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty?

The INF treaty was signed in December 1987 between the then US President Ronald Reagan and his USSR counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev on the elimination of intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles.

The treaty banned all nuclear and conventional missiles, as well as their launchers, with ranges of 500–1,000 km or 310–620 miles (short-range) and 1,000–5,500 km or 620–3,420 miles (intermediate-range).

Significance of the treaty

The treaty offered a blanket of protection to the United States’ European allies and marked a watershed agreement between two nations at the centre of the arms race during the Cold War.

It was designed to provide a measure of some strategic stability on the continent of Europe.

  US to end decades-old nuclear arms control treaty with Russia

What led US to withdraw from the agreement?

The Trump Administration has repeatedly alleged that Russia has violated the treaty. The US insists the Russians have, in breach of the deal, developed a new medium-range missile called the ‘Novator 9M729’ – known to NATO as the SSC-8. The missile would enable Russia to launch a nuclear strike at NATO countries at very short notice.

In 2014, President Barack Obama had accused Russia of breaching the INF after it allegedly tested a ground-launched cruise missile. He, however, reportedly chose not to withdraw from the treaty under pressure from the European leaders, who said such a move could restart an arms race.

Recently, NATO officially confirmed Russia’s activity constituted a likely violation. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said earlier this month that the military alliance remained concerned about Russia’s lack of respect for its international commitments, including the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

Stoltenberg stated that after years of denials, Russia recently acknowledged the existence of its new missile system ‘9M729’.  However, Russia did not provide any credible answers on its new missile.

Russia’s failure to adhere to the agreement was also addressed in the most recent Nuclear Posture Review published by the Defense Department in February, which said Russia “continues to violate a series of arms control treaties and commitments.”

Other Factors

The INF treaty was a bilateral treaty between the US and the USSR. Hence, other nations such as China were free to develop and deploy intermediate-range nuclear missiles without restraint.

This led many in the Trump administration to feel that the INF treaty placed them at a growing disadvantage in their developing strategic rivalry with China.

Impact

The withdrawal of the United States from the treaty could provoke an arms race, not only with Russia, but also with China, which was never a signatory to the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, similar to the one that was occurring when the agreement was initially signed in the 1980s.

The decision comes as the United States has begun building its first long-range nuclear weapons since 1991, a move that other nations are citing to justify their own nuclear modernisation efforts.

The move signals an end to the more than a half-century of traditional nuclear arms control, in which the key agreements were negotiated in US and Russia.

Budget 2019: List of all Schemes

Budget 2019 Schemes

New Schemes announced in Union Budget 2019-20: The Union Minister Piyush Goyal announced various schemes in the Interim Union Budget 2019-20 on February 1, 2019. These schemes have been announced with the objective to uplift the poor, women and farmers.

The union Budget 2019 is the Modi government’s first interim Budget in which Piyush Goyal began his speech by highlighting the government’s reforms undertaken in the last four and half years and its achievements.

Here, we’ll see all the new schemes launched by the government in Budget 2019-20.

1. Pradhanmantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojna:

  • Government announced fixed yearly income for small and marginal farmers.
  • This scheme will benefit about 12 crore farmers who have 2 Hectare land.
  • Rupee 6000 per year direct cash transfer in their account.
  • Cash transfer will be given in three equal installments of Rs 2000 each.
  • The benefit under this yojna will be given retrospectively from December 2018.
  • Rs. 75000 crore allotted for this scheme.
  • It is expected to double the farmers income.

2. Rastriya Kamdhenu Aayog:

  • This aayog will undertake the development work for Cow welfare.

3. Pradhanmantri Shramyogi Maan-dhan Yojna:

  • Mega Pension Yojna. It is expected to be largest in World.
  • For unorganised sector and organised workers who earns upto Rs. 15000 monthly income.
  • A fixed pension amount of Rs 3000 per month will be giving after 60 years of age.
  • They will have to pay minimum contribution of Rs 55 starting from age of 18.
  • Minimum premium, means if 29 years old person enters into it, he will have to pay only Rs. 100 per month.
  • Rs. 500 crore for this scheme.
  • Government will contribute equal amount

4. Interest subvention scheme for Fishries:

  • 2% interest subvention
  • 3% extra interest subvention if all the installments paid on time.
  • The committee would implement policies and schemes for welfare of cows.
  • It aims to enhance the production and productivity cows.
5. Income Tax Slab raised to Rs. 5 lakh
  • No Income tax upto 5 lakh rupess.
  • It means the person who earns Rs 5 lakh per years will not have to pay any taxes.
  • It will be given in the form of rebate.

Rishi Kumar Shukla appointed as new CBI director

Rishi Kumar Shukla appointed as new CBI director

Rishi Kumar Shukla, 1983 batch IPS officer of Madhya Pradesh cadre, was on February 2, 2019 appointed as the new chief of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).  He will be serving for a fixed term of two years.

Shukla’s appointment to the post was approved by a high-level committee chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The IPS officer has previously served as the DGP of Madhya Pradesh.

About Rishi Kumar Shukla

Shukla, a 1983-batch IPS officer, was till recently serving as the Chairman of Madhya Pradesh Police Housing Corporation in Bhopal.

He had been recently transferred from the post of Director General of Madhya Pradesh Police to the police housing corporation.

His appointment as new CBI chief comes after two meeting of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led selection committee held on January 24 and February 1.

His name was short-listed during the second meeting of the selection committee on February 1.

He has been appointed in the place of former CBI Director Alok Kumar Verma, who was removed from the post on January 10.

Significance

The development assumes significance as on February 1, the Supreme Court had said it was “averse” to the arrangement of an interim CBI Director and the Centre should “immediately” appoint a regular chief of the investigation agency.

While observing that the post of CBI Director is “sensitive” and “important”, and it is not good to keep an interim director of the agency for longer period, the top court sought to know as to why the government has not made the appointment yet.

Background

The post of the CBI Director has been lying vacant since January 10 after the unceremonious exit of Verma, who had been engaged in a bitter fight with Gujarat-cadre IPS officer Rakesh Asthana over corruption charges. Both Verma and Asthana had accused each other of corruption.

Following Verma’s ouster, M Nageswara Rao was serving as the interim CBI chief.

Verma, after being removed from the post of CBI director by the PM-led panel, was named as the Director General of Fire Services, Civil Defence and Home Guards, a less significant portfolio.

Hence, he did not accept the offer and wrote to the government, saying he should be considered as deemed superannuated as he had completed 60 years age of superannuation on July 31, 2017.

Verma had taken over as the CBI chief on February 1, 2017 for a fixed two-year tenure.

1 February 2019

New e-commerce policy comes into effect

Government’s new e-commerce policy comes into effect

India’s new e-commerce policy came into effect on February 1, 2019. The implementation has caused widespread disruption for the online retailers, forcing some of them to take down an array of items from their website.

According to an official notification released on December 28, 2018 by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, a new set of policy rules were formed for the e-commerce companies. It gave them a 60-day window period for aligning themselves to the government’s modified foreign direct investment (FDI) rules.

Key Highlights

The new e-commerce norms bar online retailers from selling products through vendors in which they have an equity interest.

It also bars them from entering into exclusive deals with brands for selling products only on their platforms.

All online retailers will be required to maintain a level playing field for all the vendors selling their products on the platform, and it shall not affect the sale prices of goods in any manner.

Further, the policy disallows e-commerce players to control the inventory of the vendors. Any such ownership over the inventory will convert it into inventory based model from marketplace based model, which is not entitled to FDI.

Under the new rules, the e-commerce retailer shall be deemed to own the inventory of a vendor if over 25 per cent of the purchases of such a vendor are through it.

Hence, not more than a quarter of the inventory on an e-commerce platform can come from a single vendor.

The policy has also restricted marketplaces from influencing prices in a bid to curb deep discounting.

With this, special offers like cashback, extended warranties, faster deliveries to some brands will be prohibited, with the view to provide a level playing field.

Objective

The key objective behind the revising the FDI rules for the e-commerce giants is to level the playing field in the retail space, as heavy discounting on online retail sites was causing heavy losses to the small and medium brick and mortar stores.

According to many small traders, e-commerce giants use their buying power and control over inventory from affiliated vendors to create an unfair marketplace where they can offer deep discounts on some products.

The arrangements will be barred under the new policy. The new rules will force the big e-sellers to change their business structures, which will raise their compliance costs.

Impact

The policy will impact global e-commerce players like Walmart-owned Flipkart and Amazon, who would have to change their business structures to comply with the new policy, which was announced late in December.

According to analysts, the new norms could take a massive toll on the earnings of Amazon and Flipkart. Earlier this month, both the e-commerce companies had asked that the deadline be extended by 4 and 6 months respectively, leading to traders’ opposition.

By the midnight on January 31, a number of items sold by vendors such as Cloudtail, in which Amazon holds an indirect equity stake, were no longer available on the Amazon India site.

Clothing from Shopper’s Stop will also no longer be available, as Amazon owns 5 percent of the company.

Further, Amazon’s own range of Echo speakers, its Presto-branded home cleaning goods and other Amazon Basics products such as chargers and batteries will also not be available.

Background

In December, the government modified foreign direct investment (FDI) rules for its growing e-commerce sector, which has drawn major bets from not only Amazon.com but also the likes of Walmart Inc, which bought a majority stake in homegrown e-commerce player Flipkart in 2018.

Both the companies have bet heavily on India being a big growth driver. While Amazon has committed to investing $5.5 billion in India, Walmart spent $16 billion on Flipkart.

Union Budget 2019: Financial Sector, Fiscal Expenditure & Taxation Reforms

Union Budget 2019: Financial Sector, Fiscal Expenditure & Taxation Reforms

Finance Minister Piyush Goyal presented the Interim Budget 2019-20 on February 1, 2019. It was the last Budget of the Modi Government before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

This year, the government presented the Interim Budget, also known as ‘Vote on Account’ as it is close to the end of its term. An interim budget is usually passed by the Lok Sabha without discussion.

As per the Interim Budget or Vote on Account, the government seeks the approval of Parliament to meet its expenditure for the first four months (January-April) of the fiscal year with no changes in the taxation structure, until a new government takes over and presents a full Budget of the year in July 2019.

The Budget 2019 has identified Financial Sector as key driver of the economy. Accordingly, Piyush Goyal announced following initiatives:

Financial Reforms

Around 34 crore Jan Dhan accounts were opened during 2014-18.

The Budget speech also mentioned the government’s big financial decision of demonetisation. The move succeeded in eliminating the black money. Demonetisation and other moves were able to bring back Rs 1,36,000 crores of cash to banks.

More than one crore people filed income tax returns post demonetisation.

Over 338000 shell companies were detected and their directors were disqualified.

Fiscal Expenditure

The Interim Budget pegs the Fiscal Deficit at 3.4 percent.

Total expenditure rises from revised estimates Rs 24,57,235 crore in 2018-19 to Rs 27,84,200 crore in 2019-20, a rise of Rs 3,26,965 crore.

Capital Expenditure for 2019-20 is estimated to be Rs 3,36,292 crore.

Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS) are proposed were allocated with Rs 3,27,679  crore in 2019-20 as against Rs 3,04,849 crore in 2018-19 revised estimates.

Allocation for National Education Mission is being increased from Rs 32,334 crore in 2018-19 revised estimates to Rs 38,572 crore in 2019-20.

Allocation for Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) is being increased from Rs 23,357 crore in 2018-19 revised estimates to Rs 27,584 crore in 2019-20.

Taxation Reforms

The direct tax collection has been increased substantially. The number of returns filed have increased from 3.79 crore to 6.85 crore, showing 80 percent growth in tax base since four years. In 2018-19, 99.54 percent of the income-tax returns were accepted as they were filed.

From now on, all returns will be processed in 24 hours and refund will be initiated at the earliest.

The entire process will be done in the back-end so that a tax payer need not interact with an official, thus, reducing time.

With the efforts of the GST Council, the Goods & Services Tax (GST) resulted in increased tax base and increased collection.

Cinema goers who were subjected to multiple taxes up to 50 percent are mostly paying much lower tax at 12 percent now.

Exemptions from GST for small businesses has been doubled from Rs 20 lakh to Rs 40 lakh.

Businesses comprising over 90 percent of GST payers will be allowed to file quarterly return soon.

The GST collection for January 2019 is estimated at Rs 1.03 lakh crore.

The government abolished the duties on 36 capital goods. Indian Customs is introducing full digitization.

Tax proposals

  • Individual tax payers with taxable income of up to Rs 5 lakh will get full tax rebate from now on.
  • Those earning Rs 6.5 lakh will not have to pay tax, if they invested in specified savings such as PF, PPF, etc.
  • However, the tax slabs will remain unchanged.
  • This move will benefit around 3 crore middle class tax payers.
  • For salaried persons, Standard Deduction is being raised from the current Rs 40,000 to Rs 50,000.
  • The Tax Deducted at Source (TDS) on fixed deposits and postal deposits will be exempted for interest earned up to Rs 40,000 from Rs 10,000 currently.
  • The rent up to Rs 2.4 lakh will be exempted from TDS.
  • The benefit of capital gains of up to Rs 2 crore will be increased to investment on two residential houses. This benefit can be availed only once in a lifetime.
  • The benefit of the section 80IBA of Income Tax Act will be extended for one more year for availing of the affordable housing.

Union Budget 2019: Infrastructure sector

Union Budget 2019: Infrastructure sector

The Union Interim Finance Minister Piyush Goyal presented the Interim Budget 2019-20 on February 1, 2019. In Independent India, this will be the 89th budget and the sixth of the Narendra Modi-led NDA government.

This year, the government will present the Interim Budget, also known as ‘Vote on Account’ as it is close to the end of its term. The vote-on-account is an approval, which the government seeks from the parliament for essential spending for a limited period. The full-fledged budget will be presented by the new government.

The Budget 2019 has identified Infrastructure as the backbone of any nation’s development and quality of life. Accordingly, Piyush Goyal announced following initiatives:

Airways

India’s aviation industry has seen a high in the past. India now has more than 100 operational airports with the inauguration of the Pakyong airport in Sikkim.

The domestic passenger traffic has doubled during the last five years, which has led to more job creation.

Due to ‘UDAAN Scheme’, ordinary citizens are also travelling by air now.

Roadways

India has become the fastest highway developer in the whole world with almost 27 km of highway built everyday.

Projects stuck for decades like the Eastern Peripheral Highway around Delhi or the Bogibeel rail-cum-road bridge in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh have been completed.

The construction of rural roads has also tripled. Around 15.8 lakh out of a total 17.84 lakh habitations have been connected with pucca roads under PMGSY. PMGSY allocated Rs 19,000 crore in 2019-20

Waterways

The flagship programme of Sagarmala along the coastal areas of the country will develop ports for faster handling of import and export cargo.

For the first time, container freight movement has started on inland waterways from Kolkata to Varanasi.

The government also plans to introduce container cargo movement to the North East as well, by improving the navigation capacity of the Brahmaputra River.

Railways

  • The Indian Railways has experienced the safest year in its history.
  • All unmanned level crossings on broad gauge network have been completely eliminated.
  • The introduction of the first indigenously developed “Vande Bharat Express” will give the Indian passengers world class experience with speed, service and safety.
  • This is a major leap in wholly developed technology. It will give an impetus to the Make in India programme and create jobs.
  • The capital support from the budget for railways is proposed at Rs 64,587 crore in 2019-20 (BE).
  • The railways’ overall capital expenditure programme is of Rs 1, 58, 658 crore. The operating ratio is expected to improve from 98.4 per cent in 2017-18 to 96.2 per cent in 2018-19 and further to 95% in 2019-20 (BE).
  • The operating ratio is expected to improve to 96.2 per cent in 18-19.

North-East

The people of North East have also received significant benefits of infrastructure development. Arunachal Pradesh came on the air map recently and Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram have come on India’s rail map for the first time.

The allocation for the North Eastern Areas is being proposed to be increased by 21 per cent to Rs 58,166 crore in 2019-20 over 2018-19.

Union Budget 2019:Underprivileged

Union Budget 2019: Underprivileged

The Union Interim Finance Minister Piyush Goyal presented the Interim Budget 2019-20 on February 1, 2019. In Independent India, this will be the 89th budget and the sixth of the Narendra Modi-led NDA government.

This year, the government will present the Interim Budget, also known as ‘Vote on Account’ as it is close to the end of its term. The vote-on-account is an approval, which the government seeks from the parliament for essential spending for a limited period. The full-fledged budget will be presented by the new government.

The lower and middle class have been the focus of the NDA Government during the last four years. Hence, accordingly Piyush Goyal announced the following initiatives in the Union Budget 2019:

Keeping the existing reservation framework intact, the government has ensured 10 per cent additional reservation for the backward classes in general category in government jobs and education.

To provide food grains at affordable prices to the poor and middle classes, about Rs 1,70,000 crores were spent in the year 2018-19 which is almost double the amount of Rs 92,000 crores spent in the year 2013-14.

For the same, the government is allocating Rs 60,000 crore for MGNREGA. Additional amount would be provided if required.

The Government has worked to bridge urban-rural divide in the country. During the last five years, it has undertaken targeted expenditure to improve the quality of life of those living in rural areas. The government aims to provide urban facilities in villages while keeping the soul of rural life intact.

Under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, construction of rural roads has been tripled. 15.80 lakh habitations out of a total of 17.84 lakh habitations have already been connected with pucca roads and work is going on to complete the rest very soon.

The yojana is being allocated Rs 19,000 crore in 2019-20 as against Rs 15,500 crore in 2018-19.

Besides, during the period 2014-18, a total number of 1.53 crore houses have been built under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana.

Further, under the Pradhan Mantri Saubhagya Yojna, by March 2019 every household will get electricity connection.

The government has also distributed 143 crore LED bulbs with the participation of private sector, which has resulted into a savings of approximately Rs 50,000 crore per year in electricity bills of poor and middle class families.

Women development

The government aims to make women in rural India free from the smoke of wood by providing cleaner fuel. The Government aims to deliver 8 crore free LPG connections to rural households, of which 6 crore connections have already been distributed under Ujjwala Yojana. In the next year, another 2 crore connections will be disbursed.

More than 7,000 beneficiaries of PM Mudra Yojana are women.

Union Budget 2019: Agriculture Sector

Union Budget 2019: Agriculture Sector

The Union Interim Finance Minister Piyush Goyal presented the Interim Budget 2019-20 on February 1, 2019. In Independent India, this will be the 89th budget and the sixth of the Narendra Modi-led NDA government.

This year, the government will present the Interim Budget, also known as ‘Vote on Account’ as it is close to the end of its term. The vote-on-account is an approval, which the government seeks from the parliament for essential spending for a limited period. The full-fledged budget will be presented by the new government.

The Budget 2019 has identified Agriculture Sector as one of the key drivers of the economy. Accordingly, interim Finance Minister Piyush Goyal announced the following initiatives:

Farmer’s income doubled: All 22 crops have been put under Minimum Support Price. The various pro-farmer policies have led to the production of agricultural commodities in record quantities.

However, farming produce has reduced in recent times with that the income of farmer families have also reduced.

Hence, there has been a need to provide structured income support to the poor farmer families to buy fertilizers and seeds etc.

The support is aimed to help the farmers in their indebtness and to enable them to live a respectable life.

To provide assured income to small and margiunal farmers, the Government has introduced a historic yojana- Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (KISAN).

Under the yojana, the vulnerable farmers, who own around 2 hectares of land, will get direct income support of Rs 6000 per year.

The income support will be transferred directly to the account of the beneficiary farmer in three equal installments of Rs 2000 each. It would be fully funded by the Government of India.

The scheme is expected to benefit 12 crore farmer families. The programme will be implemented from December 2018.

Around Rs 75,000 crore will be borne by the Centre every year. The first installment will be issed soon after preparing a list. Rs 20,000 crore will be spent this financial year.

PM Kisan will provide assured supplementary income to vulnerable farmer families, enabling them to live a respectable life.

Besides this, farmers affected by natural calamities will be given 3 per cent interest subvention on crop loans.

Animal Husbandry and Fisheries Sector

India is the second largest fish producing nation in the world accounting for 6.3% of global production, registering an average annual growth of more than 7% in recent years.

The sector provides livelihood to about 1.45 crore people at the primary level. To provide sustained and focused attention towards development of this sector, the government has decided to create a separate Department of Fisheries.

To provide a further push to the animal husbandry and fisheries sector, the Union Government has decided to increase allocation to the Rashtriya Gokul mission to Rs 750 crore in the current year itself.

Two percent interest subvention will be given to farmers who are engaged in animal husbandary and fisheries when loans taken through Kisan Credit Card..

An additional 3 per cent relaxation will be given in case of timely repayment of loans.

Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog

The Union Government has decided to set up Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog to upscale sustainable genetic up-gradation of cow resources and to enhance production and productivity of cows.

The committee would also look into implementing policies and schemes for welfare of cows. It aims to enhance the production and productivity cows.