December 29, 2018

January 2019

31 January 2019

Union Budget 2019-20: Full Budget vs Interim Budget

Full Budget vs Interim Budget: Everything you need to know!

The Union Government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be presenting Interim Budget 2019-20 on February 1, 2019, the last budget of the NDA government before the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections.

The budget presentation is likely to be done by interim Finance Minister Piyush Goyal in the Lok Sabha. The Railway Minister was given the additional charge of the Finance Ministry, as Arun Jaitley is currently undergoing treatment.

The Interim Budget is also known as a vote-on-account or approval, which the government seeks from the parliament for essential spending for a limited period, the first four months of the fiscal year in which the elections are scheduled. The full-fledged budget is then presented by the new government.

Key difference between Interim and Full Budget

Interim Budget Full Budget
It is presented by the outgoing government during the last year of its tenure before elections. It is presented by the new government during the first term of its tenure after it takes charge.
It is also known as vote on account or approval, which the government seeks from the parliament for essential spending for a limited period. The annual budget is presented in two parts. It includes the detailed structure of income and future ways to raise funds.  
It is generally meant for the first 2-4 months of the fiscal year in which the elections are scheduled. It is prepared for the entire fiscal year.
It is the summary of the income and expenses made in the previous year and the proposed future expenses likely to be made in the next few months until the new government takes charge. It includes a detailed structure of income and expenses prepared by the government in previous year.
It does not include the proposal on the income part of the budget through collection of taxes. It also includes announcement of future ways to raise funds from taxes and how to spend them on welfare measures in different segments.
The vote-on-account is treated as a formal matter and passed by Lok Sabha without discussion. The full budget is passed by the Lok Sabha only after proper discussions and voting on demand for grants.

Background

In 2014, the then Finance Minister P Chidambaram had presented the vote-on-account on behalf of the UPA Government. Arun Jaitley had presented the full budget of the year in July after Narendra Modi-led NDA government had emerged victorious in the 2014 Lok Sabha Elections.

Arun Jaitley has made the Union Budget presentation five times previously.

Union Budget 2019: All you want to know about the Budget; Process of Budget approval

Union Budget 2019

Finance Minister Piyush Goyal will be presenting the Union Budget 2019-20 on February 1, 2019. It will be the last Budget of the Modi Government before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Union Budget 2019-20 will be the Interim Budget

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. 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.

All about Budget: Common FAQs
What is a Budget?
Budget is an estimate of revenues and expenditure of the Government during a financial year (April-March). The Constitution of India defines Union Budget under the article 112. It is also known as Annual Financial statement. Under Article 112, a Statement of estimated expenditure of the Union Government has to be laid before the Parliament in respect of every financial year running from 1st April to 31st March.
 
When is the Budget presented?
The Budget is presented for the proceeding financial year on a day determined by the Parliament. Traditionally, it was presented on the last working day of February.

Who presents the Budget?
The Budget is presented by the Finance Minister of India. The Finance Minister delivers a speech while introducing the Budget. The Budget division in the Finance Ministry has complete responsibility over it, though it requires final approval from the Prime Minister.

What are the parts of the Budget speech?
The Budget speech of the Finance Minister is divided into two parts. Part I deals with the general economic survey of the country and allocations for various sector; while, Part II deals with the Finance Bill, which contains taxation proposals such as income tax revisions.

What does the Budget consist of?
Every budget consists of actual figures for preceding year’s budget and budget estimates for the current year. For instance, Budget presented in February 2018 will have the actual figures of the preceding year 2017-18 and will have the estimates for 2018-19.

What the Receipts and Payments Statement consists of?
The Budget also includes the Statement of Receipts and Payments (estimated) which is presented in three parts:
Consolidated Fund:  Consolidated Fund consists of revenues received by the government and expenses made by it, excluding the exceptional items which are met from the Contingency Fund or the Public Account. No money can be withdrawn from this fund without the Parliament’s approval.
Public Account: Public Account is meant for those transactions where the government is merely acting as a banker. This fund was established under Article 266 (2) of the Constitution.
Contingency Fund: Contingency Fund is used to meet some urgent or unforeseen expenditure of the government. This fund was established by the government under Article 267 of the Constitution of India. The Contingency fund is at the disposal of the President.
Process of Budget approval
Once the Budget is presented before the Lok Sabha by way of a speech, it is then presented in Rajya Sabha. Both Houses of the Parliament then allot time for a general discussion on the Budget.

Presentation of report by Standing Committees on Demands for Grants
After the General Discussion on the Budget, the House is adjourned for a certain period. During this period, the Demands for Grants of various Departments and Ministries are considered by concerned Standing Committees. These Committees are responsible for making their reports to the House within a fixed period. The Standing Committee consists of 45 Members, 30 from Lok Sabha and 15 from Rajya Sabha.

Note: The Article 113 of the Indian Constitution mandates that estimates of expenditure from the Consolidated Fund of India are included in the Annual Financial Statement (Budget), which requires voting by the Lok Sabha. Once these estimates are voted, they are submitted in the form of Demand for Grants. Generally, one Demand for Grant is presented in respect of each Ministry or Department.

What happens after presentation of report by Standing Committees?
After the presentation of the reports to the House, the House moves ahead to the discussion and voting on Demands for Grants. The time for voting is allocated by the Speaker in consultation with the Leader of the House.
On the last day, the Speaker puts all the outstanding Demands to the Vote of the House. This process is commonly known as ‘guillotine’. The Lok Sabha holds the right to vote on the outstanding Demands.
Lok Sabha has the power to assent or refuse any Demand or even reduce the amount of Grant.  However, Rajya Sabha can only hold general discussions on the Budget; it does not have the power to vote on the Demands for Grants.

Presentation of Bills after the Budget
Appropriation Bill The Appropriation Bill is introduced by the government after the completion of the General Discussion on the Budget proposals and Voting on Demands for Grants. The Appropriation Bill is aimed to give authority to Government to incur expenditure from and out of the Consolidated Fund.
Finance Bill Once the Appropriation Bill becomes an Act, the Finance Bill is passed. The Finance Bill seeks to give effect to the Government’s taxation proposals. The Finance Bill must be passed within 75 days of its introduction by the Parliament.
Once the Finance Bill is passed, the final Budget gets approved.

Government announces hike in Research Fellowship; all research fellows entitled to HRA

Government announces hike in Research Fellowship; all research fellows entitled to HRA

The Union Science & Technology Minister, Dr Harsh Vardhan on January 30, 2019 announced hike in the fellowship of research scholars and associates with effect from January 1, 2019.

The hike will be applicable for of Ph.D students and other research personnel enrolled in any area of science and technology, including physical and chemical sciences, engineering, mathematical sciences, agricultural sciences, life sciences, pharmacy, etc.  

Key highlights of hike in Research Fellowship

The hike in fellowship will directly benefit over 60000 research fellows and also provide a template to the States to consider increase in their fellowship rates.

The Fellowship of the Junior Research Fellows in the first two years of Ph.D programme has been increased from Rs 25,000 to Rs 31,000 per month.

For the remaining tenure of Ph.D, Senior Research Fellow will get Rs 35,000 per month instead of the present Rs 28,000 per month.

There is substantial 30 to 35 percent increase in the financial rewards for the scientists involved in the Research and Development (R&D) projects as Research Associates.

The top bracket of Research Associateship is fixed at Rs 54,000.  

All the research fellows will also be entitled to House Rent Allowance (HRA) as per Central Government norms.

What led Government to announce hike in Research Fellowship?
The decision regarding the hike in Research Fellowship came after a series of protests by researchers from leading institutes like the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT), Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) laboratories, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) and All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). These researchers had been demanding a hike of at least 80 percent in their stipend. On the other hand, the guest teachers at universities have also been demanding a pay hike lately.

Recommendations of Empowered Inter-Ministerial Committee

The Union Government constituted an Empowered Inter-Ministerial Committee to periodically examine all the fellowship matters that impact the value, quality and experience of doctoral research, including the quantum of fellowship.  

The committee recommended a set of strong financial and academic incentives to enhance the performance of our research fellows.  This will be a performance based addition to the fellowship.  

One of the recommendations is to involve Ph.D students in undergraduate teaching and managing research infrastructure during their doctoral research. This will widen their scope of training and enhance their career prospects.

PM Modi inaugurates National Salt Satyagraha Memorial in Gujarat

PM Modi inaugurates National Salt Satyagraha Memorial in Gujarat

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 30, 2019 dedicated the National Salt Satyagraha Memorial at Dandi in Navsari district, Gujarat to the nation, on the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi’s 71st death anniversary.

The Prime Minister also unveiled at the memorial site, the statues of Mahatma Gandhi and 80 Satyagrahis who had marched with him during the historic Dandi Salt March in 1930 to make salt from sea water against the British law.

Key Highlights

The memorial has 24-narrative murals depicting various events and stories from the historic 1930 Dandi March.

Besides, solar trees are installed around the site to meet the energy requirements of the memorial complex.

The memorial aims to serve as a reminder of the great sacrifices made by the people of the nation for the cause of freedom.

It is a tribute to the Satyagrahis led by Gandhi Ji, who worked for India’s freedom and is expected to be a major attraction for the tourists.

The memorial encapsulates the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi-  Agrah for Swadeshi, Swatchagrah and Satyagraha.

  PM Modi inaugurates National Salt Satyagraha Memorial in Gujarat
Significance
A dedication ceremony on Bapu’s death anniversary has acquired special significance as Dandi village is to receive a big push from the government to be developed as a place of national importance and tourist interest like Statue of Unity.

Other Projects

Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Gujarat also laid the foundation stone for the extension of terminal building of the Surat Airport on January 30, 2019.

The Terminal building is being constructed at a cost of Rs 354 crores with an area of over 25,500 square metres with passengers handling capacity upto 1800. It is expected to lead to enhanced connectivity and economic prosperity in Surat and surrounding areas.

He also inaugurated various other developmental projects in Surat and addressed the New India Youth Conclave.

The Prime Minister also inaugurated the state-of-the-art Venus Hospital in Surat, which is aimed at catering to the city’s healthcare needs.

Background

  PM Modi inaugurates National Salt Satyagraha Memorial in Gujarat

The Prime Minister was on a day-long visit to Gujarat. In an effort to carry forward the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi, the Union Government has modernised around 2000 institutions related to khadi. The move has benefitted lakhs of craftsmen and workers.

Swadeshi played an immensely important role in freedom struggle, likewise, handlooms will be instrumental in overcoming poverty.

The Government has, in fact, declared August 7 to be celebrated as Handlooms Day, every year to promote handlooms.

Amnesty urges travel sites to ban Israel settlement listings

Amnesty urges travel sites to ban Israel settlement listings

Amnesty International on January 30, 2019 urged online travel sites to ban listings from Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The group’s report titled “Destination: Occupation,” stated that rental sites such as Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia and TripAdvisor are driving tourism to settlements that most of the world considers illegal.

Key Highlights

Airbnb had announced in November 2018 that it would remove West Bank settlement listings but has yet to implement its decision.

The company said that it is working to identify the “precise boundaries” of areas subject to the policy.

Amnesty called on Airbnb to immediately implement its ban and to extend it to east Jerusalem, which Israel captured along with the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast War.

The Palestinians seek these lands for a future independent state.

Impact

Israeli Cabinet Minister Gilad Erdan called the Amnesty statement “an outrageous attempt to distort facts, deny Jewish heritage and delegitimise Israel.”

The World Jewish Congress said it was disheartened by Amnesty’s report and called on it to shift its focus back to human rights.

The World Jewish Congress CEO and Executive Vice President Robert Singer said that Amnesty International is a serious and respected human rights organisation, whose work to stop abuses around the world should never be underrated, but its singular focus on corporate entities doing business in Israeli settlements is gravely misguided.

Singer further stated that if Amnesty wishes to involve itself in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it should center its attention on the real human rights abuses ongoing in Palestinian territories, and not attack corporate businesses who strive to bridge divides and build peace through global tourism and interaction.

SEBI proposes relaxed norms for REITs, InvITs to increase access to investors

SEBI proposes relaxed norms for REITs, InvITs to increase access to investors

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) on January 30, 2019 proposed a new set of relaxed norms for Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) and Infrastructure Investment Trusts (InvITs) to increase access to investors.

The new set of framework will provide flexibility to the issuers in terms of fund raising and will boost investments in REITs and InvITs.

What do you mean by REITs and InvITs?
The REITs and InvITs are listed entities that mainly invest in income-producing assets, the earnings of which are mostly distributed to their shareholders. They generally get special tax treatment. The Infrastructure Investment Trusts (InvITs) allows investors to invest in infrastructure assets. It was established with an aim to ease the liquidity crunch in the infrastructure space. The Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) was introduced for making collective investments in commercial real estate. SEBI notified the final rules for setting up of REITs Regulations 2014 and InvITs Regulations 2014 on September 26, 2014.
What led SEBI to relax the norms further?
The REITs and InvITs markets have evolved considerably in the global scenario and these investment vehicles have gained enormously in terms of their market capitalisation. However, the market for REITs and InvITs are still at a budding stage in India. SEBI notified the REITs Regulations in 2014, allowing setting up and listing of such trusts which are very popular in some advanced markets. However, till date, only three InvITs have issued and listed their units, raising about Rs 10000 crore. On the other hand, only one REIT is in the process of making a public offer. Despite various relaxations given by SEBI earlier, these investment vehicles have failed to attract investors. Considering this, the market regulator came out with few more relaxations to amend the Regulations. These relaxations are open for public response till February 18, 2019. The final norms will be put in place after taking views of all the stakeholders.

Proposed norms for REITs, InvITs

As per the new norms, minimum allotment and trading lot for publicly issued REITs and InvITs will be reduced.

The leverage limit for InvITs will be increased from existing 49 percent to 70 percent. The enhanced limit will be available specifically for acquisition of new infrastructure assets.

At the time of issue, the minimum application and allotment lot shall be of 100 units and the value of one such lot will range from Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000. After initial listing, a trading lot shall also be of 100 units.

InvITs which are increasing their leverage beyond 49 percent will have to make additional disclosures about financial results on quarterly basis.

Sebi proposed a separate framework to enable unlisted privately placed InvITs. The number of investors in such InvITs shall be as determined by the issuer including the extent of investment by a single investor.

Other proposals are the minimum investment by an investor should not be less than Rs 1 crore; leverage should be determined by the issuer after consultation with investor and listing of units of such InvITs on recognised stock exchanges should not be permitted.

The trading lot for existing publicly issued and listed units should be reduced by the stock exchange within a period of six months from the date of notification of the regulations.

Procedure for InvITs

Existing privately placed listed InvITs may migrate to the proposed framework for private unlisted InvITs, if they obtain the approval of more than 90 percent of their unit holders by value. Consequently, the units of such privately placed InvITs will get delisted from stock exchanges.

On the other hand, a privately placed unlisted InvIT, may choose to list its units on stock exchanges, after complying with the requirements as applicable for a privately placed and listed InvIT.

Present scenario of investment in REITs, InvITs
Currently, in the case of a REIT issue, the minimum subscription from any investor in an initial offer and follow-on public offer is not less than Rs 2 lakh, while the same is Rs 10 lakh in case of InvIT.
The prescribed trading lot for the purpose of trading of units of the REIT on the stock exchange is Rs 1 lakh, while the same is Rs 5 lakh for InvIT.

30 January 2019

UAE, Saudi Arabian central banks launch common digital currency called ‘Aber’

UAE, Saudi Arabian central banks launch common digital currency called ‘Aber’

The central banks of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia have launched a common digital currency called ‘Aber’, which will be used in financial settlements between the two countries through Blockchains and Distributed Ledgers technologies.

The UAE central bank said in a statement that it will establish an additional means for the central financial transfer systems of the two countries and enable banks to directly deal with each other in conducting financial remittances.

Objective
The key objective of the pilot project is studying the practical application of modern technologies and determining their impact on the reduction of remittance costs and assessment of technical risks and how to deal with them.

Key Highlights

For the implementation of Aber project, the two countries have emphasised that concentration in the initial stages will be on technical aspects.

The use of the currency will be restricted to a limited number of banks in each state.

In case that no technical obstacles are encountered, economic and legal requirements for future uses will be considered.

The central bank-based digital currency will make cross-border financial transactions more secure and financially efficient.

SAMA and the Central Bank of UAE share the same desire to launch pilot projects in the use of Blockchain and Distributed Ledgers technologies to identify them and learn how to benefit from them.

Cooperation between UAE, Saudi Arabia

The UAE’s central bank and SAMA hope that their pilot projects will benefit everyone locally and internationally.

Based on this desire, the two countries do not only aspire to be the forerunners in the application of modern technologies, but also in their adaptation, development and delivery to the world.

Hence, the two countries embarked on carrying out the experiment of issuing a common digital currency for use across borders to carry out remittances.

Significance
The agreement to launch this project jointly rather than independently in each country can be attributed to the fact that the two countries have in place central systems for remittances and domestic transactions which have evolved over time and proved their feasibility. However, there are still some aspects of international remittances that need further development. It may be proved after study that the use of digital currency may contribute to supporting this development.  The project will also enable considering the possibility of using the system as an additional reserve system for domestic central payments settlement system in case of their disruption for any reason.

Background

The central banks of some countries have already begun pilot projects to explore the dimensions of Blockchain and distributed ledger technologies in the circulation of digital currencies.

The countries that have already begun working on the pilot project include Sweden, Bahamas, Uruguay and Russia.

Besides this, a large number of companies in the UAE are increasingly embracing new technologies such as Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, in line with the Fourth Industrial Revolution that is reshaping governments and corporates around the world.

The Abu Dhabi Global Market has also been aggressively working on a framework to regulate spot crypto asset activities.

Maharashtra Government launches special scheme to curb infant deaths

Maharashtra Government launches special scheme to curb infant deaths

The state government of Maharashtra on January 29, 2019 launched a special scheme to curb infant deaths. The government started distributing baby-care kits to the children born in primary health centres and government hospitals, as part of its efforts to reduce the infant mortality rate.

Speaking after the launch, the state’s Women and Child Development Minister Pankaja Munde said that the scheme is only applicable for the first child and it is expected to benefit around four lakh women across the state.

Key Highlights

Each of the baby-care kits contains a blanket, a small mattress, a towel, a thermometer, baby oil, shampoo, toys, nail-cutter, gloves and socks among other things. The total cost of each kit is around Rs 2,000.

The baby-care kits will be given to the women, who are admitted to a state-run hospital, after their first delivery.

The government has allocated Rs 20 crore for the scheme but would increase the amount if required.

Background

The government-run hospitals and primary health centres in the state report around 10 lakh deliveries every year, of which around four lakh are first-time deliveries (first-time mothers).

All these four lakh women will be eligible for the baby-care kits.

A similar scheme was introduced earlier in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu and it has shown some success in terms of bringing down the infant mortality.

India improves its ranking on Corruption Perceptions Index 2018; moves to 78th position

India improves its ranking on Corruption Perceptions Index 2018; moves to 78th position

India improved its ranking on the 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) by three points and moved to 78th position with a score of 41. India ranked at 81st place on the Corruption Perceptions Index 2017.

In the list of 180 countries, China and Pakistan lagged far behind India at 87th and 117th position, respectively.

According to the Index, Denmark is the least corrupt country followed by New Zealand; while Somalia, Syria and South Sudan are the most corrupt countries in the world.

This global corruption index was released by anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International on January 29, 2019.

Key highlights

The Index is topped by Denmark and New Zealand at first and second positions respectively.

• Singapore moved up three spots to fetch 3rd place on the index.

The Asia-Pacific region included top performers like New Zealand on the second position, Singapore at number 3, Australia at no 13 and Japan at no 18.

Other top performers around the world were Sweden, Finland, Norway, Iceland, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland and Germany.

The best performer in South America was Uruguay at number 23 with a score of 70 and in Africa, Botswana topped with 61 points at the 34th position.

More than two-thirds of countries score below 50 on this year’s CPI, with an average score of just 43.  

Since 2012, only 20 countries have significantly improved their scores including Estonia and Cote D’Ivoire, and 16 have significantly declined including, Australia, Chile and Malta.

With a score of 71 at 22nd position, the United States lost four points since last year, dropping out of the top 20 countries on the CPI for the first time since 2011.

Top 10 countries in Corruption Perceptions Index 2018

Position Country Region
1 Denmark Western Europe & European Union
2 New Zealand Asia Pacific
3 Finland Western Europe & European Union
3 Singapore Asia Pacific
3 Sweden Western Europe & European Union
3 Switzerland Western Europe & European Union
7 Norway Western Europe & European Union
8 Netherlands Western Europe & European Union
9 Canada Americas
9 Luxembourg Western Europe & European Union

About Corruption Perceptions Index

The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and business people,.

It uses a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.

It gives zero points to countries with rampant corruption and 100 points to countries completely free of graft.

Since its inception in 1995, the Index, Transparency International’s flagship research product, has become the leading global indicator of public sector corruption.

Sahitya Akademi Awards 2018 presented to 24 writers; Hindi writer Chitra Mudgal among winners

Sahitya Akademi Awards 2018 announced in 24 languages

India’s national academy of letters, Sahitya Akademi on January 29, 2019 presented the Sahitya Akademi Award 2018 to 24 writers. The awards were given for 24 different Indian languages.   

Renowned Hindi writer Chitra Mudgal, Dogri writer Inderjeet Kesar, Kannada writer KG Nagarajappa and Kashmiri story writer Mushtaq Ahmad Mushtaq were among the 24 winners.

Sahitya Akademi President, Chandrasekhar Kambar presented these awards at a function in New Delhi during the Festival of Letters, organised by Sahitya Akademi.

The winners were announced by the Sahitya Akademi on December 6, 2018. Seven books of poetry, six novels, six short stories, three of literary criticism and two of essays won the Sahitya Akademi Awards 2018.

Complete list of winners of Sahitya Akademi Awards 2018

Mushtaq Ahmad Mushtaq’s “AAKH’’ won in ‘Kashmiri’ category

Eminent short-story writer, Mushtaq Ahmad Mushtaq, bagged the Award for his collection of short stories “AAKH’’.

Mushtaq Ahmad, an Indian Information Service officer, is presently posted as Head of the Regional News Unit at Radio Kashmir Srinagar.

AAKH, a collection of eighteen short stories, was published in 2012 and had earlier bagged the best book award in Kashmiri at the state level from State Academy of Art, Culture and Languages for the year 2014.

Selection of Awardees

The awardees were recommended by distinguished jury members representing 24 languages and were approved by the Executive Board under the chairmanship of Dr. Chandrashekhar Kambar, the President of Sahitya Akademi.

Bhasha Salman 2017 and 2018
The Akademi also announced its Bhasha Salman for the year 2017 and 2018. Yogendra Nath Sharma was awarded the Bhasha Salman for the North zone; G Venkatasubbiah was awarded for South zone; Gagendra Nath Das was awarded for the Eastern zone; and Shailaja Bapat for the Western zone.

About Sahitya Akademi Awards

Sahitya Akademi award is a literary honour that is conferred annually on Indian writers for their outstanding works of literary merit.

The award, established in 1954, is given on books of literary merit written in any of the major languages of India.

The award is presented in the form of a casket containing an engraved copper-plaque, a shawl and a cheque of Rs 1 lakh.

Indian film-maker Satyajit Ray is the designer of the plaque awarded by the Sahitya Akademi.

K J Alphons to inaugurate first Swadesh Darshan Project in Sikkim

K J Alphons to inaugurate first Swadesh Darshan Project in Sikkim

K.J. Alphons, Union Minister for Tourism will on January 30, 2019 inaugurate the first project under the Swadesh Darshan Project of the Union Ministry of Tourism at the Zero Point, Gangtok, Sikkim. This project was sanctioned by the Ministry of Tourism in June 2015 for Rs. 98.05 crores.

The project is officially named as “Development of North East Circuit: Rangpo– Rorathang- Aritar- Phadamchen- Nathang-Sherathang- Tsongmo- Gangtok-Phodong- Mangan- Lachung-Yumthang- Lachen- Thangu-Gurudongmer- Mangan- Gangtok-Tuminlingee- Singtam”.

Development of Tourism in North Eastern Region
The development of Tourism in North Eastern Region has been prime area of focus for the Ministry of Tourism. In recent times, several initiatives for growth of domestic and international tourism in the region has been taken by the Ministry. ‘ The Ministry sanctioned 16 projects for Rs. 1349.04 crores covering all North Eastern States under its schemes of Swadesh Darshan and PRASHAD.  The Ministry has also set up Hotel Managements and Food Craft Institutes for creating skilled manpower in tourism and hospitality sector in the North Eastern Region. The efforts of Ministry have shown positive results as there have been a surge in the Foreign tourist arrivals in the region over the years. The region received a total of 1.69 lakh foreign tourist visits during 2017 as against 1.45 lakh in 2016. The Domestic Tourist Visits reached to 95.47 lakhs in the year 2017 against 77.71 lakh. 

Swadesh Darshan Scheme

Swadesh Darshan Scheme is one of the flagship scheme of Ministry of tourism for development of thematic circuits in the country in a planned manner.

Under the scheme. the Government is focussing on development of quality infrastructure in the country with objective of providing better experience and facilities to the visitors and on fostering the economic growth.

The scheme was launched in 2014 -15 when the Ministry sanctioned 77 projects worth projects for Rs. 6121.69 crore to 30 States and UTs.

These 30 projects are expected to be completed by the end of 2019. 11 projects have already been inaugurated.

Beating the Retreat ceremony held in Delhi

Beating the Retreat ceremony held in Delhi

The four-day long celebrations of the 70th Republic Day concluded on January 29, 2019 with ‘Beating the Retreat’ ceremony, which was held at the historic Vijay Chowk in New Delhi.

The Beating Retreat’ marks a centuries-old military tradition, when the troops ceased fighting, sheathed their arms and withdrew from the battlefield and returned to the camps at sunset at the sounding of the Retreat. The ceremony began with the arrival of Indian President Ram Nath Kovind guarded by his well decorated bodyguards.

Key Highlights

This year, Indian tunes were the flavour of ‘Beating the Retreat’ ceremony.

The ceremony witnessed as many as 27 spectacular performances by the bands from the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the State Police and Central Armed Police Force (CAPF).

Out of the 27 performances, 19 tunes were composed by Indian musicians, which include Indian Star, Paharon ki Rani, Jai Janam Bhumi, Queen of Satpura, Vijay Bharat, Aakash Ganga, Gangotri, Namaste India, Samudrika, Jai Bharat, Young India, and Veerta Ki Misal.

Eight western tunes such as Sound Barrie’, Twilight, Space Flight, Drummers Call were also a part of the ceremony.

The event was brought to a close with the ever-popular tune of Sare Jahan se Acha.

Overall this year, 15 Military Bands, 15 Pipes and Drums Bands from Regimental Centres and Battalions participated in the Beating Retreat ceremony.

Besides this, one band each of the Indian Navy and Indian Air Force band and bands from the State Police and CAPF comprising Central Industrial Security Force, Central Reserve Police Force and Delhi Police also took part in the ceremony.

Beating Retreat
Beating Retreat is a military ceremony dating to 16th century England and was first used to recall nearby patrolling units to their castle.
In India, it officially denotes the end of Republic Day festivities. It is conducted on the evening of January 29, the third day after the Republic Day.
It is performed by the bands of the three wings of the military, the Indian Army, Indian Navy and Indian Air Force and pipe bands from the Army, and from 2016 a massed formation of bands of the Central Armed Police Forces and the Delhi Police.
The venue of the ceremony each year is Raisina Hills and an adjacent square, Vijay Chowk, flanked by the North and South blocks of the Central Secretariat and the Rashtrapati Bhavan (President’s Palace) towards the end of Rajpath.
The Chief Guest of the function is the President of India who arrives escorted by the President’s Bodyguards (PBG), a cavalry unit.
When the President begins to arrive, a fanfare is sounded by the trumpeters of the Brigade of the Guards on their fanfare trumpets, and then the PBG commander asks the unit to give the National Salute, which is followed by the playing of the Indian National Anthem, Jana Gana Mana, by the Massed Bands and at the same time by the unfurling of the Flag of India on the flagpole right at the Vijay Chowk.
The ceremony traces its origins back to the early 1950s when Major GA Roberts better known as Robbie from Grenadier battalion of the Indian army was asked to develop the ceremony of display by the massed bands. The bands from Army, Air Force and Navy consisting of pipes, drums, buglers and trumpeters from various regiments had taken part then.
This legacy was a handover of British influence. However, when British Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip were visiting India for the first time after independence, the then Prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru summoned Roberts asking him to do something spectacularly creative and eventful for the Queen’s visit.
That is when the Beating Retreat was officially conceived in honour of the visit. Thereafter it became official ceremony to have a Head of State of a country as the chief guest and that year the Beating Retreat was in their honour.

ICC suspends Ambati Rayudu from bowling in international cricket

ICC suspends Ambati Rayudu from bowling in international cricket

The International Cricket Council announced on January 28, 2019 that Indian bowler Ambati Rayudu has been suspended from bowling in international cricket.

The ICC stated in its press release that the player elected not to submit to a test of his bowling action within the stipulated period of 14 days of being reported for a suspect action and therefore he was suspended with immediate effect in accordance with clause 4.2 of the ICC regulations.

Key Highlights

The 33-year-old Indian bowler was reported for a suspected bowling action during the first one-day international of India’s series against Australia in Sydney on January 13, 2019.

Following the complaint, Rayudu failed to submit a bowling action test in the given timeline and hence, was penalised.

The suspension will remain in place until he is tested and can demonstrate that he is able to bowl with legal action.

However, according to Article 11.5 of the Regulations and with the consent of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, Rayudu may be allowed to bowl in domestic cricket events played under the auspices of the BCCI.

Background

Rayudu is currently a part of the Indian team, which is playing a five-match ODI series against New Zealand. The part-time off-spinner has so far picked up three wickets in his ODI career.

As a part-time bowler, Rayudu had bowled just two overs during the match and given away 13 runs without picking up a wicket.

However, his action drew comparisons with Sri Lankan great Muttiah Muralitharan, who himself had been pulled up by match officials for suspect bowling action a number of points in his career.

According to the ICC rules, an illegal bowling action is defined as where the player’s elbow extends by the amount of more than “15 degrees between their arm reaching the horizontal and the ball being released.”

29 January 2019

Former Defence Minister George Fernandes passes away

Former Defence Minister George Fernandes passes away

Former Defence Minister George Fernandes passed away on January 29, 2019 following a prolonged illness. He was 88. Fernandes was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease; and recently, he contracted swine flu.

Fernandes held the portfolio of the Union Defence Minister from 2001 to 2004 under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government.

He was born in Mangaluru in British India on June 3, 1930.

Fernandes’ stint during 1975 Emergency in India
Fernandes played a pivotal role in fighting against the Emergency declared by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in the mid 1970s. During the Emergency, he was arrested and tried in the Baroda dynamite case. He was still in prison when he won in Muzaffarpur in the 1977 general election.

A glance at Fernandes’ political career

• A veteran parliamentarian,  George Fernandes was first elected to the Lok Sabha in 1967.

• He held several portfolios during his political career such as Union Minister of Communications, Industry, Railwaysn and Defence.

• As a Defence Minister, Fernandes oversaw the Pokhran nuclear tests of 1998 and the Kargil war in 1999.

• He was also famous for taking frequent trips to the Siachen glacier to look after the well being of the soldiers deployed there and providing facilities such as snow scooters by cutting down the bureaucracy of his ministry.

• Fernandes was a senior member in Morarji Desai’s cabinet when the Janata Party took office in 1977.

• He held the portfolio of Union Railways Minister from 1989 to 1990 under the leadership of the then Prime Minister VP Singh.

• He was a key member of the Janata Dal and founded the Samata Party in 1994, which later merged with the Janata Dal (United).

• His last stint as a Member of Parliament was in the Rajya Sabha during 2009-2010.

India replaces Japan to be world’s second largest steel producer

India replaces Japan to be world’s second largest steel producer

India has replaced Japan as the world’s second-largest steel producing country, only behind China, which is the largest producer of crude steel accounting for more than 51 per cent of production, as per the latest report by World Steel Association.

The report noted that India’s crude steel production in 2018 was at 106.5 MT, which is up by 4.9 per cent from 101.5 MT in 2017.

Key Highlights

The rise in India’s crude steel production in 2018 means that India has replaced Japan as the world’s second-largest steel producing country, as Japan produced 104.3 MT in 2018, which is down by 0.3 per cent as compared to 2017.

On the other hand, China’s crude steel output jumped by 6.6 per cent to 928.3 MT in 2018 from 870.9 MT in 2017. China’s share also increased from 50.3 per cent in 2017 to 51.3 per cent in 2018.

The global crude steel production reached 1808.6 MT for the year 2018 from 1729.8 MT in 2017, displaying a rise of 4.6 per cent.

The other nations in the list of top 10 steel producing countries include the United States, which is at the 4th position as the country produced 86.7 MT of crude steel in 2018, followed by South Korea at the 5th place with 72.5 MT of crude steel, Russia at 6th with 71.7 MT, Germany at 7th with 42.4 MT, Turkey at 8th with 37.3 MT, Brazil at 9th with 34.7 MT and Iran at the 10th position with 25 MT crude steel in 2018.

Among other countries, Italy produced 24.5 MT of crude steel in 2018, France produced 15.4 MT and Spain produced 14.3 MT and Ukraine produced 21.1 MT of crude steel in the same year.

Significance

Steel contributes two percent of India’s national income. The targeted steel build-up capacity in the country is likely to reach 300 million tons by 2030, aligned with the target of National Steel Policy 2017.

World Steel Association
The World Steel Association (worldsteel) is an international trade body for the iron and steel industry, which has its headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. It was founded as the International Iron and Steel Institute on July 10, 1967. It changed its name to the World Steel Association on October 6, 2008. The association celebrated its 50th year anniversary in 2017. The association represents over 160 steel producers including 9 of the world’s 10 largest steel companies, national and regional steel industry associations and steel research institutes. The worldsteel members cover around 85 per cent of world steel production. 
The key objectives of the organisation include:
To act as the focal point for the steel industry providing global leadership on all major strategic issues impacting the industry, particularly focusing on economic, environmental and social sustainability.
To deliver benchmarking analysis and drive global improvement initiatives in the areas of environmental protection, technology, safety and people development.
To promote global market development opportunities for steel and promote steel to the world at large.
To provide on a timely basis world-class economic data and analysis on the global steel industry and its value chain, as well as assessments on life cycle aspects of steel.
To increase awareness, understanding and support for the steel industry amongst all external stakeholders and key target audiences worldwide.
To promote market competition that is free of government interventions preventing fair trade.

ICAR Republic Day tableau ‘Kisan Gandhi’ wins first prize

ICAR Republic Day tableau Kisan Gandhi wins first prize

The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) was awarded the first prize for its Tableau, ‘Kisan Gandhi’ in the Republic Day Parade – 2019. The Union Minister of Defence, Nirmala Sitharaman, handed over the award to the ICAR team in New Delhi on January 28, 2019.

The ICAR tableau displayed the importance of dairy farming, use of indigenous breeds and livestock based organic agriculture for rural prosperity.

Theme
The ICAR Republic Day tableau – 2018 rolled down at Rajpath with the theme of integrated farming, “Mishrit Kheti, Khushiyon Ki Kheti”.

Key Highlights

The ICAR tableau “Kisan Gandhi” portrayed Mahatma Gandhi’s vision to improve agriculture and livestock for the prosperity of rural communities.

To gain more insight, Gandhi attended a training program on dairy farming for fifteen days in 1927 at Bangalore Centre of the ICAR – National Dairy Research Institute.

He also visited and appreciated the ‘Indore method’ of composting at the Institute of Plant Industry, Indore in 1935.

In the tableau, Gandhi was shown with goats and a cow. Organic agriculture, a revolution in cotton and milk production and food safety analysis for better health were also showcased.

Kasturba Gandhi was also shown engaged with Charkha and caring for animals at Bapu Kuti at Wardha Ashram. It symbolised livestock based sustainable and climate resilient agriculture.

In total, 22 tableaux rolled down the Rajpath during the 70th Republic Day Parade including 16 tableaux from states and Union Territories and six from various central ministries and departments.

  ICAR Republic Day tableau Kisan Gandhi wins first prize

Background

The Gandhian philosophy included promotion of Swadeshi breeds, organic agriculture and goat milk for better health.

In order to realise Gandhi’s dream, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research is relentlessly working towards transforming the Indian Agriculture for ensuring livelihood security and higher income of our Annadata, the farmers.

By developing and deploying cutting edge science and technology, India has succeeded in achieving food self-sufficiency and remains the highest milk and cotton producer in the world.

India signs agreement with OECD for participation in PISA 2021

India signs agreement with OECD for participation in PISA 2021

The Union Human Resources Development Ministry on January 28, 2019 signed an agreement with Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for India’s Participation in Programme for International Student Assessment- PISA 2021.  

The agreement was signed by Maneesh Garg, Joint Secretary, MHRD and Andreas Schleicher, Director (PISA) in OECD in the presence of the Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar. Speaking on the occasion, the HRD Minister said that the format for the student assessment will be offline. He added that the question to Indian students will be related to India’s perspective only.

Objective
The student assessment by PISA will ensure learning outcome through education. It would lead to an improvement in the learning levels of the children and enhance the quality of education in the country. It would also indicate the health of the education system of the nation and would motivate other schools and states in the subsequent cycles.

Key Highlights

The students will be selected by PISA through random sampling. The schools run by Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS), Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti (NVS) and schools in the UT of Chandigarh would be participating.

The OECD has agreed to ask some of the questions based on Indian context.

Within the country or specific geography to be covered in case of large countries, PISA will cover a sample of 15-year-old students representing all forms of schooling including public, private and private aided.

The learnings from participation in PISA will help to introduce competency-based examination reforms in the school system and help move away from rote learning.

The CBSE and NCERT will be a part of the process and activities leading to the actual test.

More than 80 countries, including 44 middle-income countries, have participated in the assessment since the first round of testing in 2000.  

The next round of PISA is going to be held in 2021.  The list of registered countries includes Brazil, China (certain areas like Shanghai and Beijing) and countries from South-East Asia such as Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Significance

India’s participation in PISA- 2021 would lead to recognition and acceptability of Indian students and prepare them for the global economy in the 21st century.

What is PISA?
PISA is a triennial international survey that aims to evaluate the education system worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students.
It is a competency-based assessment which unlike content-based assessment, measures the extent to which students have acquired key competencies that are essential for full participation in modern societies.
The survey will assess the students in reading, mathematics, science and collaborative problem-solving.
The participation in PISA will allow benchmarking performance against a wide range of countries.
The survey uses test items aligned with international benchmarks. The test items are adapted to the local context and language, pilot tested and validated before being used for the test.

Background

India first participated in PISA in 2009 with 16000 students from 400 schools across Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

However, the students performed miserably in the 2009 test, placing India at 72nd among the 74 participating countries.

Following the poor score, India decided to stay away from PISA in 2012 and 2015. The decision to boycott PISA was undertaken by the then UPA government, which blamed “out of context” questions for the poor show in 2009.

Later, the HRD Ministry, under the NDA-II government, revisited this decision in 2016 and the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS) had set up a committee to review the matter and submitted its report in December 2016. The report recommended for participation in test in 2018.

However, India missed the application deadline for the 2018 cycle.

SC forms Constitution Bench to hear plea challenging ‘Hindu prayers’ in Kendriya Vidyalayas

SC forms Constitution Bench to hear plea challenging ‘Hindu prayers’ in Kendriya Vidyalayas

The Supreme Court on January 28, 2019 constituted a Constitution Bench for hearing a plea challenging the mandatory requirement to recite Sanskrit and Hindi prayers in morning assembly sessions of 1,125 Kendriya Vidyalayas (KVs) across the country.

The bench of Justices R F Nariman and Vineet Saran observed that the matter of Hindu prayer recitation in Kendriya Vidyalayas required examination by constitution bench and accordingly placed the matter before the Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi to constitute bench.

Who filed the petition and Why?
The petition challenging the compulsory recitation of Sanskrit and Hindi hymns at Kendriya Vidyalaya was filed by lawyer Veenayak Shah, whose children had passed out of KV. The petitions seek discontinuance of a Hindu religion based song as a morning prayer in Kendriya Vidyalayas across the country on the ground that religion based prayers will create a lot of obstacles in developing a scientific temperament among the students as the whole idea of God and Religious Faith is given immense priority and is instilled among the students as well. Resultantly, students end up developing an inclination towards seeking refuge from Almighty instead of developing a practical outcome towards the obstacles and hurdles faced in everyday life. The petition invokes Article 28 (1) that says, “No religious instruction shall be provided in any educational institution wholly maintained out of State Funds”. It insisted that any school or educational institution funded by state cannot propagate any particular religion.

As per the Revised Education Code for Kendriya Vidyalayas, 2013, it is compulsory for students to attend morning assembly where they have to recite the prayers.

The morning assemblies at Kendriya Vidyalayas across the country begin with a prayer in Sanskrit and Hindi. The practice has been going on in the schools since 1964.

July 2018 ruling of Supreme Court

In July 2018, a bench of Justices R F Nariman and Indu Malhotra questioned that whether religious functions can be held in public parks maintained out of state funds and had referred the matter to the constitution bench.

The ruling came on a petition seeking permission to hold a religious prayer gathering, ‘Mata Ki Chowki’ in Chanchal Park, Delhi.

28 January 2019

Train 18 named as ‘Vande Bharat Express’; set to run between Delhi and Varanasi at speed of 160 kmph

Train 18 named as Vande Bharat Express

The Union Minister of Railways and Coal, Piyush Goyal on January 27, 2019 named India’s first engineless train, ‘Train 18’ as the ‘Vande Bharat Express’, acknowledging its made-in-India status.

The train was manufactured by the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) in the period of 18 months under the ‘Make in India’ initiative of PM Narendra Modi.

Vande Bharat Express is the next major leap for Indian Railways in terms of speed and convenience. It is India’s first semi-high speed train equipped with world class passenger amenities.

Train 18 was rolled out on October 29, 2018 by Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani at the Chennai’s Integral Coach Factory (ICF).

Vande Bharat Express: Successor to Shatabdi Express
Train 18 or the 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.

Vande Bharat Express to reduce journey time

The Vande Bharat Express is set to run between Delhi and Varanasi at speed of 160 kmph. With this, the scheduled commute between New Delhi and Varanasi will take approximately 8 hours, making it 40-50 percent faster than the fastest train currently connecting these two cities.

It will reduce the journey time by 25 percent to 45 percent. It can achieve high speeds with maximum speed of 160 kmph due to faster acceleration and deceleration.

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 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.

Bharat Ratna 2019: Pranab Mukherjee, Nanaji Deshmukh, Bhupen Hazarika conferred with highest civilian honour

Pranab Mukherjee, Nanaji Deshmukh, Bhupen Hazarika conferred with Bharat Ratna 2019

The President, Ram Nath Kovind on January 25, 2019 conferred the 2019 Bharat Ratna Award, country’s highest civilian honour, on former president and Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee.

The award was also conferred on RSS ideologue Nanaji Deshmukh and singer Bhupen Hazarika, both posthumously.

Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee, who was the 13th President of India and served from 2012 until 2017, had served under Indira Gandhi. He was also the Finance Minister under the premiership of Manmohan Singh.

Nanaji Deshmukh, who passed away in 2012 at the age of 94, was a member of the Lok Sabha from 1977 to 1979 representing the Balrampur in Uttar Pradesh. He also served as a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha from 1999 to 2005. His contribution towards rural development showed the way for a new paradigm of empowering those living in villages.

Bhupen Hazarika, who died in 2011, was the legendary singer-composer from Assam. As put by PM Narendra Modi, “songs and music of Bhupen Hazarika are admired by people across generations. From them radiates the message of justice, harmony and brotherhood.”

About Bharat Ratna Award

Bharat Ratna is the highest civilian award of India that was instituted on January 2, 1954 by the order of Rajendra Prasad, the former President of India.

Bharat Ratna recipients rank seventh in the Indian order of precedence, but constitution prohibits using the award name as title.

The award is conferred in recognition of exceptional service or performance of the highest order, without distinction of race, occupation, position, or gender.  

The award was originally limited to achievements in the arts, literature, science and public services but the union government expanded the criteria to include any field of human endeavour in 2011.

Recommendations for the Bharat Ratna are made by the Prime Minister to the President, with a maximum of three nominees being awarded per year.

Recipients receive a certificate signed by the President and a peepal-leaf–shaped medallion and award does not contain any monetary grant.

The award can also be bestowed posthumously, as per the provision inserted in January 1966.

The former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri was the first individual to be honoured posthumously in 1966.

The first recipients of the Bharat Ratna were C Rajagopalachari, scientist C V Raman and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan in 1954.

Padma Awards 2019 announced: Gautam Gambhir, Prabhu Deva, Late Kader Khan among awardees

Padma Awards 2019 announced

The Padma Awards 2019, one of the highest civilian awards of India, were announced on January 25, 2019 on the occasion of Republic Day eve.

The awards were announced in three categories:

• Padma Vibhushan: For exceptional and distinguished service.

• Padma Bhushan: For distinguished service of high order.

• Padma Shri: For distinguished service in any field.

This year, President Ram Nath Kovind approved conferment of 112 Padma Awards including one duo case (in a duo case, the Award is counted as one).

The list comprises 4 Padma Vibhushan, 14 Padma Bhushan and 94 Padma Shri Awards, of which, 21 of the awardees are women. The list includes 11 persons from the category of Foreigners/NRI/PIO/OCI, 3 posthumous awardees and 1 transgender person.

List of Padma Awardees

Padma Vibhushan

S.No Name Field State
1. Teejan Bai Art-Vocals-Folk Chhattisgarh
2. Ismail Omar Guelleh (Foreigner) Public Affairs Djibouti
3. Anilkumar Manibhai Naik Trade & Industry-Infrastructure Maharashtra
4. Balwant Moreshwar Purandare Art-Acting-Theatre Maharashtra

Padma Bhushan

S.No Name Field State
1. John Chambers (Foreigner) Trade & Industry-Technology USA
2. Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa Public Affairs Punjab
3. Pravin Gordhan (Foreigner) Public Affairs South Africa
4. Mahashay Dharam Pal Gulati Trade & Industry-Food Processing Delhi
5. Darshan Lal Jain Social Work Haryana
6. Ashok Laxmanrao Kukade Medicine-Affordable Healthcare Maharashtra
7. Kariya Munda Public Affairs Jharkhand
8. Budhaditya Mukherjee Art-Music-Sitar West Bengal
9. Mohanlal Viswanathan Nair Art-Acting-Film Kerala
10. S Nambi Narayan Science & Engineering-Space Kerala
11. Kuldip Nayar (Posthumous) Literature & Education (Journalism) Delhi
12. Bachendri Pal Sports-Mountaineering Uttarakhand
13. V K Shunglu Civil Service Delhi
14. Hukumdev Narayan Yadav Public Affairs Bihar

Padma Shri

S.No Name Field State
1. Rajeshwar Acharya Art-Vocal-Hindustani Uttar Pradesh
2. Bangaru Adigalar Others-Spiritualism Tamil Nadu
3. Illias Ali Medicine-Surgery Assam
4. Manoj Bajpayee Art-Acting-Films Maharashtra
5. Uddhab Kumar Bharali Science & Engineering-Grassroots Innovation Assam
6. Omesh Kumar Bharti Medicine-Rabies Himachal Pradesh
7. Pritam Bhartwan Art-Vocals-Folk Uttarakhand
8. Jyoti Bhatt Art-Painting Gujarat
9. Dilip Chakravarty Others-Archaeology Delhi
10. Mammen Chandy Medicine-Hematology West Bengal
11. Swapan Chaudhuri Art-Music-Tabla West Bengal
12. Kanwal Singh Chauhan Others-Agriculture Haryana
13. Sunil Chhetri Sports-Football Telangana
14. Dinyar Contractor Art-Acting-Theatre Maharashtra
15. Muktaben Pankajkumar Dagli Social Work-Divyang Welfare Gujarat
16. Babulal Dahiya Others-Agriculture Madhya Pradesh
17. Thanga Darlong Art-Music-Flute Tripura
18. Prabhu Deva Art-Dance Karnataka
19. Rajkumari Devi Others-Agriculture Bihar
20. Bhagirathi Devi Public Affairs Bihar
21. Baldev Singh Dhillon Science & Engineering-Agriculture Punjab
22. Harika Dronavalli Sports-Chess Andhra Pradesh
23. Godawari Dutta Art-Painting Bihar
24. Gautam Gambhir Sports-Cricket Delhi
25. Draupadi Ghimiray Social Work-Divyang Welfare Sikkim
26. Rohini Godbole Science & Engineering-Nuclear Karnataka
27. Sandeep Guleria Medicine-Surgery Delhi
28. Pratap Singh Hardia Medicine- Ophthmology Madhya Pradesh
29. Bulu Imam Social Work-Culture Jharkhand
30. Friederike Irina (Foreigner) Social Work-Animal Welfare Germany
31. Joravarsinh Jadav Art-Dance Folk Gujarat
32. S Jaishankar Civil Service Delhi
33. Narsingh Dev Jamwal Literature & Education Jammu & Kashmir
34. Fayaz Ahmad Jan Art-Craft-Papier Mache Jammu & Kashmir
35. K G Jayan Art-Music-Bhakti Kerala
36. Subhash Kak (Foreigner) Science & Engineering-Technology USA
37. Sharath Kamal Sports-Table Tennis Tamil Nadu
38. Rajani Kant Social Work Uttar Pradesh
39. Sudam Kate Medicine-Sickle Cell Maharashtra
40. Waman Kendre Art-Acting-Theatre Maharashtra
41. Kader Khan (Posthumous-Foreigner) Art-Acting-Films Canada
42. Abdul Gafur Khatri Art-Painting Gujarat
43. Ravindra Kolhe (Duo)* Medicine-Affordable Healthcare Maharashtra
Smita Kolhe (Duo)* Medicine-Affordable Healthcare Maharashtra
44. Bombayla Devi Laishram Sports-Archery Manipur
45. Venkateswara Rao Yadlapalli Others-Agriculture Andhra Pradesh
46. Kailash Madbaiya Literature & Education Madhya Pradesh
47. Ramesh Babaji Maharaj Social Work-Animal Welfare Uttar Pradesh
48. Vallabhbhai Vasrambhai Marvaniya Others-Agriculture Gujarat
49. Gita Mehta (Foreigner) Literature & Education USA
50. Shadab Mohammad Medicine-Dentistry Uttar Pradesh
51. K K Muhammed Others-Archaeology Kerala
52. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Medicine-Affordable Healthcare Jharkhand
53. Daitari Naik Social Work Odisha
54. Shankar Mahadevan Narayan Art-Vocals-Films Maharashtra
55. Shantanu Narayen (Foreigner) Trade & Industry-Technology USA
56. Nartaki Natraj Art-Dance-Bharatnatyam Tamil Nadu
57. Tsering Norboo Medicine-Surgery Jammu & Kashmir
58. Anup Ranjan Pandey Art-Music Chhattisgarh
59. Jagdish Prasad Parikh Others-Agriculture Rajasthan
60. Ganpatbhai Patel (Foreigner) Literature & Education USA
61. Bimal Patel Others-Architecture Gujarat
62. Hukumchand Patidar Others-Agriculture Rajasthan
63. Harvinder Singh Phoolka Public Affairs Punjab
64. Madurai Chinna Pillai Social Work-Microfinance Tamil Nadu
65. Tao Porchon-Lynch (Foreigner) Others-Yoga USA
66. Kamala Pujhari Others-Agriculture Odisha
67. Bajrang Punia Sports-Wrestling Haryana
68. Jagat Ram Medicine-Ophthalmology Chandigarh
69. R V Ramani Medicine-Ophthalmology Tamil Nadu
70. Devarapalli Prakash Rao Social Work-Affordable Education Odisha
71. Anup Sah Art-Photography Uttarakhand
72. Milena Salvini (Foreigner) Art-Dance-Kathakali France
73. Nagindas Sanghavi Literature & Education-Journalism Maharashtra
74. Sirivennela Seetharama Sastry Art-Lyrics Telangana
75. Shabbir Sayyad Social Work-Animal Welfare Maharashtra
76. Mahesh Sharma Social Work-Tribal Welfare Madhya Pradesh
77. Mohammad Hanif Khan Shastri Literature & Education Delhi
78. Brijesh Kumar Shukla Literature & Education Uttar Pradesh
79. Narendra Singh Others-Animal Husbandry Haryana
80. Prashanti Singh Sports-Basketball Uttar Pradesh
81. Sultan Singh Others-Animal Husbandry Haryana
82. Jyoti Kumar Sinha Social Work-Affordable Education Bihar
83. Anandan Sivamani Art-Music Tamil Nadu
84. Sharada Srinivasan Others-Archaeology Karnataka
85. Devendra Swarup (Posthumous) Literature & Education-Journalism Uttar Pradesh
86. Ajay Thakur Sports-Kabaddi Himachal Pradesh
87. Rajeev Tharanath Art-Music-Sarod Karnataka
88. Saalumarada Thimmakka Social Work-Environment Karnataka
89. Jamuna Tudu Social Work-Environment Jharkhand
90. Bharat Bhushan Tyagi Others-Agriculture Uttar Pradesh
91. Ramaswami Venkataswami Medicine-Surgery Tamil Nadu
92. Ram Saran Verma Others-Agriculture Uttar Pradesh
93. Swami Vishudhananda Others-Spiritualism Kerala
94. Hiralal Yadav Art-Vocals-Folk Uttar Pradesh

Padma Awards

Padma Awards are one of the highest civilian Awards of India.

The awards are conferred in three categories namely – Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri.

Announced on the occasion of Republic Day every year, the Padma Awards are conferred by the President of India at ceremonial functions held at Rashtrapati Bhawan usually around March or April every year.

The Awards are conferred to people belonging to various disciplines or fields including art, social work, public affairs, science and engineering, trade and industry, medicine, literature and education, sports and civil service.

26 January 2019

Republic Day 2019: 48 people to be conferred Jeevan Raksha Padak awards

Jeevan Raksha Padak awards to be conferred on 48 people

The President of India has approved the conferment of Jeevan Raksha Padak Series of Awards – 2018 on 48 people, eight of them posthumously.

The Jeevan Raksha Padak series of awards are conferred for the meritorious act of human nature in saving the life of a person. They are given under three categories: Sarvottam Jeevan Raksha Padak, Uttam Jeevan Raksha Padak and Jeevan Raksha Padak.  People of all walks of life are eligible for these awards.

This year, the Sarvottam Jeevan Raksha Padak will be given to 8 people, Uttam Jeevan Raksha Padak to 15 and Jeevan Raksha Padak to 25 people. Among these, 8 awards will be conferred posthumously.

The decoration of the award, which includes a medal and a certificate signed by the Union Home Minister and monetary allowance will be presented to the awardee in due course by the respective Union Ministries, organisations and state government to which the awardee belongs.

Following is the full list of awardees:

Sarvottam Jeevan Raksha Padak

S.No.NameState
1.Kishor Rai (Posthumous)Chhattisgarh
2.Chetan Kumar Nishad (Posthumous)Chhattisgarh
3.Kaustubh Bhagwan Tarmale (Posthumous)Maharashtra
4.Prathamesh Vijay Wadkar (Posthumous)Maharashtra
5.P. Lalvenpuia (Posthumous)Mizoram
6.T. Lalrinawma (Posthumous)Mizoram
7.Nitisha Negi (Posthumous)Delhi
8.Rakesh Chandra Behera (Posthumous)Odisha

Uttam Jeevan Raksha Padak

S.No. Name State
1. Vismaya. P Kerala
2. Sajid Khan Madhya Pradesh
3. Charanjit Singh Balveer Singh Saluja Maharashtra
4. Amol Sarjerao Lohar Maharashtra
5. Lalliansanga Mizoram
6. Lalliansanga Mizoram
7. Vinod Haryana
8. Ramraja Yadav Madhya Pradesh
9. Azad Singh Malik Delhi
10. H. Beiduasa Mizoram
11. Karan Delhi
12. Deepanshu Delhi
13. Prashant Sidar Chhattisgarh
14. Walambok Sohphoh Meghalaya
15. Avinash Babu Naik Goa

Jeevan Raksha Padak

S.No. Name State
1. Abraham Taying Arunachal Pradesh
2. Padi Payang Arunachal Pradesh
3. Monuj Chawtal Assam
4. Raju Garh Assam
5. Radhakrishnan. M Kerala
6. Ankit Dhangar Madhya Pradesh
7. Mahendra Tekam Madhya Pradesh
8. Shanlang Marbaniang Meghalaya
9. Vanlalvenaima Chhangte Mizoram
10. Darchungnunga Mizoram
11. Chandra Kumar Gurung Sikkim
12. Bariya Mehul Babubhai Daman and Diu
13. M. Padmanaban Tamil Nadu
14. Sushil Bhoi Uttar Pradesh
15. Samarpan Malviya Madhya Pradesh
16. Dhairyashil Dhaktuba Adake Maharashtra
17. Dhananjay Kumar Sonwane Chhattisgarh
18. Abhinav K.K Kerala
19. Khrawboklang Kharlukhi Meghalaya
20. Dhruv Love Uttar Pradesh
21. Madhav Love Uttar Pradesh
22. Lalthasangzuali Mizoram
23. Ruhinfatima M. Talat Gujarat
24. Vyshnav E.R. Gujarat
25. Sreejith P.S. Kerala

Supreme Court upholds constitutional validity of Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code

Supreme Court upholds constitutional validity of Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code

The Supreme Court on January 25, 2019 upheld the constitutional validity of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC).

A Bench headed by Justice R.F. Nariman upheld the constitutional validity of the code “in its entirety”. However, the apex court said that related parties in the Act should mean a person connected with the business.

The Bench disposed of a batch of pleas filed by companies challenging various provisions of the IBC.

Note
Insolvency is a situation where an individual or company is unable to repay their outstanding debt to creditors.  A bankrupt entity is a debtor who has been declared as bankrupt by an adjudicating authority.As per the law, the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) is the adjudicating authority for companies and limited liability partnerships. The Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT) is the adjudicating authority for individuals and partnership firms.In India, the insolvent or bankrupt entities are dealt on the basis of bankruptcy laws. Currently, Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Second Amendment) Bill, 2018 is pending for its passage in the parliament. The Bill seeks to replace the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Ordinance 2018.Prior to this legislation, Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 was applicable for resolution of bankrupt companies and individuals.

Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Ordinance 2018

• The committee of creditors’s voting rights of resolution plans will be limited to 66 percent from earlier threshold of 75 percent, a move that will help speed up the resolution process. 

• In order to facilitate the corporate debtor to continue as a going concern during the CIRP, the voting threshold for routine decisions has been reduced to 51 percent.

• Withdrawal of an insolvency application will be allowed, if 90 percent of the creditors agree.

• The Ordinance also provides for a mechanism to allow participation of security holders, deposit holders and all other classes of financial creditors that exceed a certain number, in the meetings of the Committee of Creditors.

• Section 29(A) of the IBC, 2016 has been amended to exempt pure play financial entities from being disqualified on account of non-performing assets (NPA).  

• Taking into account the wide range of disqualifications contained in Section 29(A) of the Code, the Ordinance provides that the Resolution Applicant shall submit an affidavit certifying its eligibility to bid. 

• Promoters of companies with turnover of up to Rs 250 crore will be allowed to bid. Earlier, they were barred from bidding as the government feared that they will walk away with the stressed assets at a discount.

• The ordinance proposes to facilitate implementation of the resolution plan by the successful bidder.

• It provides a year time to the Resolution Applicant to obtain necessary statutory clearances from central, state and other authorities.

• The other changes brought about by the Ordinance include – non-applicability of moratorium period to enforcement of guarantee; and liberalising terms and conditions of interim finance to facilitate financing of corporate debtor.

Jan Shikshan Santhans: Government launches new reforms, guidelines to align JSS with National Skill Qualification Framework

Government launches new reforms, guidelines of Jan Shikshan Santhans

Dharmendra Pradhan, Minister of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Petroleum and Natural Gas (MSDE) on January 24, 2019 launched new reforms and guidelines for Jan Shikshan Sansthan (JSS) to further strengthen the skills ecosystem benefiting those in the underprivileged sections of society.  

The motive behind the new guidelines is to align the JSSs to the National Skill Qualification Framework (NSQF). By aligning JSSs to the National Skill Framework, the Government aims to provide standardised training across sectors.

New Guidelines of Jan Shikshan Sansthan (JSS)
Alignment of JSS course and curriculum to National Skill Qualification Framework (NSQF) to standardise trainingDecentralisation of powers for JSSs for giving more accountability and independence to district administrationTo identify and promote traditional skills in the district through skillingEvidence based assessment systemEasy online certificationLinking JSS to Public Finance Management system (PFMS) to maintain transparency and accountability of the ecosystemCreating livelihood linkagesTraining of trainers to develop the capacity through National Skills Training Institutes (NSTIs)

Launch of JSS portal 

The Ministry also launched the new JSS website (www.jss.gov.in) on the same occasion. 

The website will furnish information on action plans, database of beneficiaries and stakeholders, details of finance and expenditure and other ongoing developments along with a public log-in access.

Blended Training System at JSS

On the same occasion, the Amrita University’s Blended Training System was launched at the Jan Shikshan Sansthans (JSSs) with e-content entailing selected skill courses. This is a comprehensive ICT -based platform that provides numerous benefits for trainees and trainers.

MoU of MSDE and NSDC with NACER


The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship and National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) signed an MoU with National Centre for Excellence of RSETIs (NACER), the apex body for Rural Self Employment Training Institutes (RSETIs). 

The objective of this collaboration is to provide skilled Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) candidates from Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Kendras (PMKKs) for the 10-day residential Entrepreneurship Development Program (EDP) at RSETIs. 

RSETIs will also support the candidates to access loans through credit linkages with public sector banks and also provide two-year mentorship support to the candidates.

Jan Shikshan Sansthans (JSSs)
Jan Shikshan Sansthans (JSSs) are established to provide vocational training to non-literate, neo-literate, as well as school drop outs by identifying skills as would have a market in the region of their establishment.Earlier known as Shramik Vidyapeeth and later renamed Jan Shikshan Sansthan in April 2000, the scheme has been successfully working for the past 50 yearsEarlier, the Jan Shikshan Sansthan was managed by the Union Ministry of Human Resources Development. However, later in 2018, the JSS was transferred to the Union Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship.Jan Shikshan Sansthan (JSS) has been instrumental in skill training and introducing avenues of entrepreneurship among the socio-economically backward and educationally disadvantaged groups such as neo-literates, semi-literates, SCs, STs, women and girls, slum dwellers, migrant workers.At present, out of the 247 active JSS, there are 43 JSSs that are established across 42 Aspirational Districts identified by NITI Aayog.
Overview of Jan Shikshan Sansthan
Currently, there are 247 JSSs working across the country towards making skilling and entrepreneurship benefits accessible to the underprivileged.Since 2014, over 8 lakh people have benefitted from the JSS scheme.More than 86000 men have been registered.There has been an exceptional surge in the registration of women with over 7 lakh registrations.JSSs have also helped open over 1 lakh bank accounts under Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) and mobilised around 7.5 lakh beneficiaries enrolled in Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana (PMSBY).

25 January 2019

Renowned Hindi author, poet Krishna Sobti passes away

Renowned Hindi author, poet Krishna Sobti passes away

Eminent Hindi author and poet Krishna Sobti passed away on January 25, 2019 at a hospital in Delhi. She was 93.

The author had been admitted to a Delhi hospital for the last two months. She was about to complete her 94 years in February. Since the last one week, she was in the ICU. She is a recipient of prestigious awards such as Sahitya Akademi award, Jnanpith and was also offered Padma Bhushan, which she had declined.

About Krishna Sobti

  Eminent Hindi writer Krishna Sobti passes away at 93

Born in 1925 in Gujrat, Punjab (now a part of Pakistan), Krishna Sobti was a popular Hindi fiction writer and essayist.

She was known primarily for writing about issues of female identity and sexuality. She is best known for her 1966 novel Mitro Marjani, an unapologetic portrayal of a married woman’s sexuality.

Sobti also used to write under the pen name of Hashmat and has published Hum Hashmat, a compilation of pen portraits of writers and friends.

Her other novels included Daar Se Bichchuri, Surajmukhi Andhere Ke, Yaaron Ke Yaar, Zindaginama.

Some of her well-known short stories were Nafisa, Sikka Badal gaya, Badalom ke ghere. Sobti Eka Sohabata includes her major selected works.

A number of her works are now available in English and Urdu.

Awards

Krishna Sobti won the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1980 for her novel Zindaginama.

In 1996, she was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship, the highest award of the Akademi.

In 2017, she received the Jnanpith Award for her contribution to Indian literature.

She was also the recipient of the first Katha Chudamani Award in 1999 for Lifetime Literary Achievement.

She also won the Shiromani Award in 1981, Hindi Academy Award in 1982 and Shalaka Award of the Hindi Academy Delhi.

In 2008, her novel Samay Sargam was selected for Vyas Samman, instituted by the K. K. Birla Foundation.

In 2005, Dil-o-Danish, translated into ‘The Heart Has Its Reasons’ in English by Reema Anand and Meenakshi Swami of Katha Books, won the Crossword Award in the Indian Language Fiction Translation category.

In 2010, Sobti was also offered the Padma Bhushan, the third-highest civilian award, which she had declined.

National Voters’ Day 2019 observed in India

9th National Voters’ Day observed in India

25 January: National Voters’ Day

The 9th National Voters’ day was observed across India on January 25, 2019 with an aim to increase enrolment of voters, especially of the newly eligible ones. This was the ninth edition of the Day.

The day also aims to spread awareness among voters regarding effective participation in the electoral process.

Theme
Considering the upcoming Lok Sabha Elections 2019, the Election Commission chose ‘No Voter to be Left Behind’ as the theme for the 9th National Voters’ Day.

National Awards for the Best Electoral Practices

On the occasion of the National Voters’ day, the government conferred the National Awards for the Best Electoral Practices on Officers for their outstanding performance in the conduct of elections.

Moreover, new voters will be felicitated and handed over with the Elector Photo Identity Card (EPIC) on the same occasion. President Ram Nath Kovind was the Chief Guest at the main function being organised by the Election Commission in New Delhi.

About National Voters’ Day
• The National Voters’ Day is observed every year on 25 January.
• It is observed annually to mark the anniversary of Election Commission of India, which came into being on January 25, 1950.
• The Day aims to increase enrolment of voters, especially of the newly eligible ones.

About Election Commission of India

• The Election Commission of India is an autonomous constitutional authority responsible for administering election processes in the country.

• It administers elections to the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, state legislatures, and the offices of the President and Vice President in India.

• It operates under the authority of Article 324 of the Constitution of India.

• Under the Indian Constitution, the Commission has the powers to act in an appropriate manner when the enacted laws make insufficient provisions to deal with a given situation in the conduct of an election.

Veteran South African all-rounder Johan Botha retires from all forms of cricket

Johan Botha announces retirement from all forms of cricket

Veteran South African all-rounder Johan Botha has announced his immediate retirement from all forms of cricket. The cricketer cited wear and tear on his body and sheer physical fatigue as the main reason behind the decision.

The news of his retirement was announced on the official website of Botha’s Australian Twenty20 league team, the Hobart Hurricanes on January 23, 2019. The 36-year-old played for South Africa in five test matches, 78 one-day internationals and 40 T20 Internationals from 2005 to 2012.

About Johan Botha

  Johan Botha announces retirement from all forms of cricket

The former cricketer had played for the South African national team between 2005 and 2012.

In 2012, he made the decision to move to Australia to play in the country’s domestic leagues and in 2016 he was officially granted Australian citizenship.

Born in Johannesburg, Botha represented the South African under-19s at the 2000 Under-19 World Cup and made his first-class debut for Eastern Province in the same year at the age of 18.

The all-rounder was a right-hand batsman and right-arm off-spin bowler. He made his international debut in November 2005, in a One Day International (ODI) against India.

His test debut came in January 2006 against Australia, although at the end of the match he was reported for an illegal bowling action.

In his entire cricketing career, he played only five Test matches, the last of which came in 2010.

He had much greater success in the limited-overs formats, representing South Africa at the 2009 World Twenty20, 2009 Champions Trophy, 2010 World Twenty20, 2011 World Cup and the 2012 World Twenty20.

He captained the team for periods at both ODI and Twenty20 International level, generally during the absence of more senior players. In total, he captained the team in 10 ODIs and took it to the No. 1 ranking after they defeated Australia 4-1 in Australia in 2009.

He retired from international cricket after the 2012 World Twenty20, signing a contract to captain South Australia in Australian domestic cricket.

He was till recently only playing at the Twenty20 level, representing the Hobart Hurricanes in the Big Bash League.

He has also made appearances in the Indian Premier League and the Caribbean Premier League.

Switching of Nationalities
Johan Botha had switched nationalities in 2012, to give a shot to his talent in the Australian cricketing circuit. Swapping nationalities meant he was playing in the BBL not as an overseas recruit but as a local Australian player, leaving room for his franchise to rope in another overseas player. He had played for the Sydney Sixers in the previous edition of the Big Bash League. The decision to quit the sport has come midway through the 2018-19 edition of the Big Bash League. This season, he was playing for the Hobart Hurricanes and he had failed to take a wicket during his team’s nine-wicket loss to the Sydney Sixers.

Government institutes Subhash Chandra Bose Aapda Prabandhan Puraskar

Government institutes Subhash Chandra Bose Aapda Prabandhan Puraskar

The Union Government on January 23, 2019 instituted an annual award titled ‘Subhash Chandra Bose Aapda Prabandhan Puraskar’ to mark the 122nd birth anniversary of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. 

The award scheme will recognise the efforts of organisations or individuals who work to alleviate suffering of the affected population in the aftermath of any disaster.

What led to institution of the award?

The award scheme was constituted after it was observed that in the aftermath of any disaster, many organisations and individuals work silently but effectively to alleviate sufferings of the affected population. 

Their immense contribution and selfless service to humanity often goes unacknowledged. Keeping this in view, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had advised to institute a National Award to recognise the efforts of such organisations and individuals.

Subhash Chandra Bose Aapda Prabandhan Puraskar
The award will be announced every year on 23 January on the birth anniversary of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.All Indian Citizens and organizations who have excelled in areas of Disaster Management like Prevention, Mitigation, Preparedness, Rescue, Response, Relief, Rehabilitation and Early Warning will be eligible for the award.The Award carries a certificate and a cash prize of Rs. 51 lakh.

Subhash Chandra Bose Aapda Prabandhan Puraskar 2019

• For the year 2019, 8th Battalion of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), located at Ghaziabad, was selected for the Subhash Chandra Bose Aapda Prabandhan Puraskar for its commendable work in Disaster Management. 

• The 8th Battalion of NDRF was raised in 2006 and is a highly specialised Rescue and Response Force with large area of responsibility covering National Capital Region (NCR), Uttarakhand, Western Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.

• It participated in 314 major operations and rescued over 50000 people. 

• In the recent Kerala Floods, the battalion rescued 5338 victims and evacuated 24000 persons to safety. 

• Other major disasters in which this NDRF battalion participated are Leh Cloud Burst (2011), Kedarnath Floods (2013), Cyclone Hudhud (2014), Chennai Floods (2015) and Tripura Floods (2018). 

• The battalion had worked efficiently to neutralise the threat during Radiation Incident at Mayapuri, Delhi during the year 2010.

• The battalion has also done commendable Disaster Management related work internationally. In the aftermath of Nepal Earthquake in 2015, six teams of the battalion were amongst the first responders to land at Kathmandu. 

• Their teams were also sent to Japan during Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster (2011) and recent Tsunami in Indonesia (2018).

WCD Ministry observes National Girl Child Day 2019; marks anniversary of Beti Bachao Beti Padhao

National Girl Child Day 2019 observed in India

The Ministry of Women and Child Development on January 24, 2019 celebrated the National Girl Child Day 2019 (NGCD) at Pravasi Bharti Kendra, Chankyapuri, New Delhi.

Theme
The theme of National Girl Child Day 2019 was “Empowering Girls for a Brighter Tomorrow”.The theme focussed on the objective of generating awareness on the issue of declining Child Sex Ratio (CSR) and creating a positive environment around valuing the girl child.

The Day aims to increase awareness among people about all the inequalities faced by the girl child in the society.

Anniversary of the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Scheme
On the same occasion, the Ministry also observed the anniversary of the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) SchemeThe WCD Minister Maneka Gandhi felicitated the Principal Secretaries and Commissioners of the 5 States for their overall support, guidance and monitoring of the Scheme.The District Magistrates and Deputy Commissioners of 25 Districts covering 21 States and UTs were also felicitated for their exemplary work done for- Effective Community Engagement (16 districts), Enforcement of Pre Conception & Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act (2 districts) and Enabling Girl Child Education (7 districts).A booklet on ‘Innovations under BBBP’ was released on the occasion. The Ministry compiled 38 Innovative Activities from Districts to set an example for other Districts. These activities were categorised on 5 themes – Survival, Protection, Education, Participation and Valuing Girls.
Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Scheme
The scheme was launched by PM Narendra Modi in January 2015 to prevent gender biased sex selective elimination, ensure survival and protection of the girl child.This is being implemented through a national campaign and focussed multi sectoral action in 100 selected districts low in Child Sex Ratio (CSR), covering all States and UTs.The scheme was launched by the government in the backdrop of declining the Child Sex Ratio (CSR). As per the 2011 census, the CSR reduced from 927 in 2001 to 918 in 2011, which is an alarming trend.Seeing the good progress and improving trend of Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB) in 161 implementing districts, PM Modi in March 2018 launched all India expansion of BBBPcovering all 640 districts, as per Census 2011.Out of 640 districts, 405 districts are covered under advocacy and multi-sectoral action while the remaining 235 districts are covered under media advocacy and outreach.The objectives of the scheme include preventing gender biased sex selective eliminationensuring survival and protection of the girl child, and ensuring education and participation of the girl child.At the Central level, the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development is the nodal ministry for the programme and the National Task Force headed by Secretary of MWCD monitor the scheme.At the State level, Chief Secretaries head the State Task Force (STF) with representation of Department of Women and Child Development, Health and Education to monitor the implementation of the scheme.The District Collectors and Deputy Commissioners (DCs) lead and coordinate action of all departments for implementation of BBBP at the District level

About National Girl Child Day

 The day was established by the Women and Child Development Ministry in 2008 and since then it is celebrated as a national observance.

 On the occasion, various events are organised all across the country to celebrate the day and promote the position of girls in the society.

• Besides this, a campaign is organised by the Union Government to increase people’s consciousness towards girl children and highlight the inequalities faced by them in the society.

Objectives behind the observance of day:

• To celebrate the accomplishments of girl children and bring focus on important issues such as declining sex ratio, female foeticide, child marriage, gender inequality and disparity in India.

 To highlight the importance of education, nutrition, legal rights, medical care and safety of girl children.

 To develop an enabling environment for girls where they will feel safe and will be able to utilise their potential fully.

 To offer support and expand the scope of opportunities for girls in the nation.

 To remove different types of social discrimination and exploitation faced by with them.

 To raise awareness among the girls that they have equal rights to quality education, health care and nutrition.

• To make girls aware of all their legal and human rights in the country.

24 January 2019

ECI to host international conference on making elections inclusive and accessible

ECI to host international conference on making elections inclusive and accessible

The Election Commission of India (ECI) will be hosting an International Conference on ‘Making Elections Inclusive and Accessible’ on January 24, 2019, in consonance with the 9th National Voters’ Day which will be held on January 25, 2019.

Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora and Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa will be attending the conference along with heads and dignitaries from six Election Management Bodies (EMBs) namely, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Kazakhstan, Maldives, Russia and Sri Lanka and three International Organisations including Malaysian Commonwealth Studies Centre, UK and International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) and International Centre for Parliamentary Studies (ICPS).

Key Highlights

The international conference is being organised with the purpose of sharing the experience of different EMB’s, international institutions and experts with regard to analysis of barriers, policy interventions, strategies, programmes, good practices and technological innovation for inclusive and accessible election.

The conference will include two sessions in which representatives from the EMBs and International Organisations will participate and share their experiences, best practices and initiatives aimed at electoral engagement, enrolment and active participation in inclusive and accessible voting exercise in various countries.

The international delegates will also attend the national voters’ day celebrations in New Delhi besides visiting the new campus of the India International Institute of Democracy and Election Management (IIIDEM) at Dwarka in New Delhi.

The January 2019 issue of ECI’s quarterly magazine “Voice International” will also be released during the conference, which will carry articles on the theme of “Making polling stations accessible and voter-friendly”.

ECI to renew MoU with Election Commission of Bhutan

On the sidelines of the international conference, the Election Commission of India will renew Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for cooperation in the field of election management with the Election Commission of Bhutan.

The agreement provides for an institutional framework and seeks the promotion of exchanges of knowledge and experience in the field of organisational and technical development, with a view to strengthen the administration of electoral processes.

It also seeks promotion of exchange of information, material, expertise and technical know-how relating to electoral processes and systems and training of personnel and organisational development and capacity building.

Background

The Election Commission of India has so far signed MOUs with twenty-five election management bodies and international organisations including Australia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Chile, Fiji, Georgia, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Republic of Korea, Kyrgyz Republic, Libya, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, South Africa, Suriname, Yemen and the United Nations.

ISRO to launch Kalamsat, Microsat-R satellites on PSLV-C44 rocket

ISRO to launch Kalamsat, Microsat-R satellites on PSLV-C44 rocket

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will launch a students’ satellite Kalamsat and an imaging satellite Microsat-R from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh on January 24, 2019, marking its first launch of the ISRO in 2019.

The national space agency’s rocket, PSLV C44 will be carrying the satellites into the orbit.

After about 14 minutes into the flight, the rocket will eject 700-kg Microsat R satellite at an altitude of about 277 km.

Kalamsat Satellite
The Kalamsat is a 10 cm cube nanosatellite weighing about 1.2 kg and has a life span of about two months.
Kalamsat, prepared by a student and Chennai-based Space Kidz India, is a small satellite (10 x 10 x 10 cm) and is meant for HAM radio services.
It has been developed by Space Kidz India and their team including Rifath Sharook, Srimathy Kesan, among others.
The Kalamsat will be the first to use fourth stage (PS4) of the launch vehicle PSLV-C44 as an orbital platform. The fourth stage would be moved to higher circular orbit so as to establish an orbital platform for carrying out experiments.

Configuration of PSLV-C44 rocket

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

One of the specialties of the launch would be the configuration of the rocket. ISRO will be using the aluminium tank for the first time in the fourth stage of the launch of PSLV C 44.

In its normal configuration, the rocket would have six strap-on motors hugging the its first stage. However, for the launch of Kalamsat and Microsat-R satellites, the rocket will carry only two strap-on motors by the sides of the first fuel stage at the bottom.

This is the first time the launch vehicle is built in this configuration known as PSLV-DL.

This will reduce the weight and increase the mass in the four-stage engine expendable rocket with alternating solid and liquid fuel.

After parking the satellites in the intended orbits, the fourth stage of the rocket will be taken to a circular orbit in space for carrying out certain experiments by the scientists.

Normally, the fourth stage is kept deserted in space after the injection of the satellites. This time, it will be kept ‘live’ for carrying out innovative studies.

PM Narendra Modi inaugurates Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose museum at Red Fort

Representative Image

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 23, 2019 inaugurated the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose museum at the iconic Red Fort in Delhi to mark the leader’s 122nd birth anniversary.

The Prime Minister unveiled the plaque to inaugurate the Museum. The museum showcases various artefacts related to Subhash Chandra Bose and Indian National Army.

Key Highlights

The museum on Bose and the Indian National Army showcases various artefacts related to Subhash Chandra Bose and INA.

The artefacts include a wooden chair and sword used by the leader and medals, badges, uniforms and other artefacts related to the INA.

Visitors can also watch a documentary on Netaji and the INA to understand the vision of the freedom fighter. Bollywood actor Abhishek Bachchan has lent his voice for the purpose.

Modi had laid the foundation stone of the museum during the celebrations of the 75th anniversary of Azad Hind Government in October 2018.

The PM also unveiled two more new museums inside the Red Fort compound – the Yaad-e-Jallian Museum (museum on the Jallianwala Bagh and World War I) and the Museum on 1857- India’s first war of Independence.

PM Modi also inaugurated Drishyakala-Exhibition on Indian Art.

Together, the entire complex of museums will be known as Kranti Mandir as a tribute to the revolutionary zeal and courage of our great freedom fighters.

Yaad-e-Jallian Museum
The Yaad-e-Jallian museum provides an authentic account of the history of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, which happened on April 13, 1919. A replica of the memorial built at the Jallianwala Bagh in Punjab’s Amritsar has also been placed at the museum. The museum also showcases the heroism, valour and sacrifices made by Indian soldiers during the World War-I. The visitors would also be able to read a poem, titled ‘The Gift’, written by Sarojini Naidu on the plight of the 1.5 million Indian soldiers in WWI.
Museum on 1857
The museum is based on the revolt of 1857, which is popularly known as India’s first war of Independence. The museum portrays the historical narrative of the 1857 war of independence, showcasing the valour and sacrifices made by the Indians during the period.  
Drishyakala Museum
The Drishyakala-Museum on Indian art showcases artworks from 16th century till India’s independence. Paintings by Raja Ravi Varma and Amrita Shergil are displayed in the museum. The work of eminent Indian artists such as Raja Ravi Varma, Gurudev Tagore, Amrita Sher-Gil, Abanindranath Tagore, Nandlal Bose, Gaganendranath Tagore, Sailoz Mookherjea amd Jamini Roy are on display at the exhibition.

Significance

The key objective of the museums is to provide visitors with an enthralling experience with paintings, newspaper clippings, photographs, audio and video clips, ancient public records, animation and multimedia.

  Prime Minister inaugurates four historical museums at Delhi’s Red Fort

Background

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 30, 2018 renamed three islands of Andaman and Nicobar after Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. The three islands include Ross Island, Neil Island and Havelock Island.

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

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

PM Narendra Modi launches Pravasi Teerth Darshan Yojana

PM Narendra Modi launches Pravasi Teerth Darshan Yojana

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 22, 2019 launched the Pravasi Teerth Darshan Yojana under which a group of Indian diaspora will be taken on a government-sponsored tour of religious places in India twice a year.

The first batch of 40 Indian-origin people are at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas and they would be beginning their tour from there.

Key Highlights

The group will be taken to the religious places of all major religions in India.

The tour would be completely government sponsored, as the government will bear all the expenses including the airfare from their country of residence.

Under the eligibility criteria, all people of Indian-origin, aged between 45 and 65 can apply and a group will be selected out of them.

The first preference will be given to people from ‘Girmitiya countries’ such as Mauritius, Fiji, Suriname, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica.

Other Details

Prime Minister Modi, during his, also inaugurated the Centers of Excellence at Deen Dayal Hastkala Sankul.

  PM launches Pravasi Teerth Darshan Yojana

The Prime Minister also unveiled a plaque to mark the inauguration of 55 outlets which would serve as Centers of Excellence at the Hastkala Sankul, which is a complex dedicated to the handicrafts of the region.

He also released two books ‘Kashi: The Universe of Crafts and Textiles’ and ‘Indian Textiles: History, Splendour, Grandeur’.

He also unveiled a plaque to mark the inauguration of an Integrated Textile Office Complex, at Chowkaghat.

Article 35-A: Supreme Court to take ‘in-chamber’ decision on plea challenging the legislation

Supreme Court to take ‘in-chamber’ decision on plea challenging Article 35A

The Supreme Court on January 22, 2019 ruled that it would take an ‘in-chamber’ decision on listing of a petition challenging the constitutional validity of Article 35-A.

The ruling was made by a Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices L Nageswara Rao and Sanjiv Khanna.

Advocate Bimal Roy had mentioned the matter before the bench and sought urgent hearing of the petition filed by NGO ‘We The Citizens’, saying the court had earlier ordered listing of the matter in the second week of January 2019.

Note
The Article 35-A was added to the Indian Constitution (Appendix II) through a Presidential Order – The Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 1954. It provides special rights and privileges to permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir.

Highlights of August 2018 hearing in Supreme Court

Earlier in August 2018, the apex court had adjourned the hearing on a batch of petitions challenging the validity of Article 35 A till January 2019, after taking note of submissions of the Centre and the state government.

The crucial hearing was adjourned as Justice DY Chandrachud, one of three judges in bench, was not present.

However, the court maintained that it will only look into “whether Article 35A goes against the basic structure of Constitution.”

Controversy regarding Constitutional validity of Article 35A

The Article 35A appears in the Constitution as an “appendix” and not as an amendment. In 2014, an NGO ‘We the Citizens’ filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court seeking the striking down of Article 35A as it was not added to the Constitution through following the procedure prescribed in the Article 368 of the Indian Constitution, hence, it lacks parliamentary sanction.

In response, while the J&K Government filed a counter-affidavit and sought dismissal of the petition, the Union Government did not.

In 2017, two Kashmiri women filed another case in Supreme Court against Article 35A for its discrimination against J&K women.

As a response, in July 2017, Attorney General K K Venugopal told the Supreme Court that Union government was not keen on filing an affidavit in the Article 35A case, instead the government wants a ‘larger debate’.

Following this, the court referred the matter to a three-judge bench and set another date for final disposal of the case, leading to an uproar in Kashmir.

It is feared that the scrapping of Article 35A could trigger an explosive situation in J&K.

Text of Article 35A
The Article 35A of the Indian Constitution reads as follows –
“ Saving of laws with respect to permanent residents and their rights — Notwithstanding anything contained in this Constitution, no existing law in force in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, and no law hereafter enacted by the Legislature of the State:
(a) defining the classes of persons who are, or shall be, permanent residents of the State of Jammu and Kashmir; or
(b) conferring on such permanent residents any special rights and privileges or imposing upon other persons any restrictions as respects—
(i) employment under the State Government;
(ii) acquisition of immovable property in the State;
(iii) settlement in the State; or
(iv) right to scholarships and such other forms of aid as the State Government may provide, shall be void on the ground that it is inconsistent with or takes away or abridges any rights conferred on the other citizens of India by any provision of this Part. “

Indian Navy commences largest-ever coastal defence exercise – ‘Sea Vigil’

Indian Navy commences largest-ever coastal defence exercise – ‘Sea Vigil’

The Indian Navy on January 22, 2019 commenced its largest-ever coastal defence exercise – ‘Sea Vigil’-off the Indian coast, ten years after the “26/11” attack.

The exercise, a first of its kind, is being undertaken along the entire 7516.6 km coastline and Exclusive Economic Zone of India and is involving all the 13 coastal States and Union Territories along with all maritime stakeholders, including the fishing and coastal communities.

Objective
The exercise aims to comprehensively and holistically validate the efficacy of the measures taken since the ’26/11′ attack in Mumbai. It aims to simultaneously activate the coastal security mechanism across all states and union territories.

Key Highlights

The seaward monitoring during the exercise will involve patrolling off the coast, in offshore development areas and islands by the Indian navy, Indian coast guard, supported by the state marine police. It would also include inputs from technical means, including intelligence sources.

On the other hand, the closer coast, strategic assets, ports, Single Point Moorings (SPMs) will be patrolled by designated agencies.

The shore-based monitoring will include enhanced vigil by the state police along the coast, monitoring of fish landing centres by state fisheries departments and also monitoring of port areas by respective port authorities.

The exercise will cover a wide frontage, covering for the first time the entire coast of India, including island territories. It will also go deeper, being spread over seaward, coastal, and hinterland areas.

It will involve the evaluation of critical areas and processes, including inter-agency coordination, information sharing and technical surveillance.

Significance
Though smaller exercises are conducted in coastal states on a biannual basis, including combined exercises amongst adjoining states, this is the first-of-its-kind security exercise to be conducted at the national level. The exercise reflects the distance that has been covered since ’26/11′ and the relative maturing of the organisation for coastal security to take on this large-scale endeavour. It will also help provide a realistic assessment of the nation’s strengths and weakness and it will certainly help in the further strengthening of maritime security and national security.

Other Details

The exercise is a build-up towards the major theatre level tri-service exercise ‘TROPEX’ (Theatre-level Readiness Operational Exercise) which Indian Navy conducts once every two years.

Exercise Sea Vigil and TROPEX together will cover the entire spectrum of maritime security, including the transition from peace to conflict.

All operational assets of the Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard are participating in the Sea Vigil.

Background

In the aftermath of “26/11”, a whole-of-government approach to maritime security was adopted and a large number of measures were taken by a host of stakeholders.

The Indian Coast Guard was designated as the agency responsible for overall maritime security, including offshore and coastal security in territorial waters, including waters to be patrolled by the State Marine Police.

Coastal security is a complex construct since it involves activities both at sea and at land. Hence, in the discharge of these very responsibilities, the Indian Navy planned exercise ‘SEA VIGIL’.

23 January 2019

President Ram Nath Kovind confers Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar 2019

President Ram Nath Kovind confers Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar 2019

The President of India, Ram Nath Kovind on January 22, 2019 conferred the Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar 2019. 

The awards were presented to 26 shortlisted awardees including one joint award for National Child Award (now renamed as Bal Shakti Puraskar) under the category of innovation, scholastic, sports, art and culture, social service and bravery. 

Under National Child Welfare Awards category (now renamed as Bal Kalyan Puraskar), 2 individuals and 3 institutions were awarded.

Selection of awardees

A total of 783 applications were received for the Bal Shakti Puruskar this year. 

The names of awardees were finalised by the National Selection Committee under the Chairpersonship of Minister of Women and Child Development, Maneka Sanjay Gandhi.

Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar
The Union Ministry of Women and Child Development introduced a revamped award scheme under the name of Pradhan Mantri National Children Awards or Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar.These awards are given in two main categories. The categories are:
1) Bal Shakti Puraskar (erstwhile known as National Child Award)
2) Bal Kalyan Puraskar(erstwhile known as National Child Welfare Award).
Bal Shakti Puraskar
The Bal Shakti Puraskar is given in the fields of Innovation, Social Service, Scholastic, Sports, Art & Culture, and Bravery.The award carries a medal, a cash prize of Rs 100000, book vouchers worth Rs. 10,000, a certificate and a citation.
Bal Kalyan Puraskar
The Bal Kalyan Puraskar is given in the categories of Individual and Institution.The award for Individual category consists of a cash prize of Rs 100000, a medal, a citation and a certificate.The award for Institution category consists of a prize of Rs 500000 each, a medal, a citation and a certificate.The maximum number of awards would be 3 for National Child Welfare Award, Individual and Institution both.
Application process
A Child who is an Indian Citizen and residing in India can apply for National Child Award by registering on the award portal (www.nca-wcd.nic.in), filling the requisite information and attaching the relevant documents.
Eligibility
In order to draw wide response from public, any citizen of India can nominate any child who has achieved excellence in any of the fields.Individuals, who are citizen of India and have made an outstanding contribution for the cause of children for not less than 7 years and have a positive impact on their lives and Institutions who have done exceptional work in any field of Child Welfare for 10 years can apply for the Award.

Indu Shekhar Jha took oath as Member of Central Electricity Regulatory Commission

Indu Shekhar Jha took oath as Member of Central Electricity Regulatory Commission

Indu Shekhar Jha on January 21, 2019 took oath as the Member of the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC). R K Singh, Union Minister of State for Power and New & Renewable Energy administered the oath of Office and Secrecy to Jha.

Jha was appointed as the Member of Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) vide Order dated January 4, 2019. Prior to this, he was holding the post of Chairman and Managing Director of the Powergrid Corporation of India Ltd (PGCIL) since 2015.

Lalchharliana Pachuau appointed as Member of JERC

On the other hand, Lalchharliana Pachuau was appointed as Member of the Joint Electricity Regulatory Commission (JERC) for Manipur and Mizoram from Mizoram side. 

Pachuau was appointed for a period of five years or till the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier in accordance with the provisions in the Memorandum of Agreement signed by the State Governments of Manipur and Mizoram. 

About Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC)

• The Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) was established by the Government under the provisions of the Electricity Regulatory Commissions (ERC) Act, 1998. 

• CERC is the Central Commission for the purposes of the Electricity Act, 2003, which repealed the ERC Act, 1998. 

• The Commission consists of a Chairperson and four other Members including Chairperson of the Central Electricity Authority who is the ex-officio Member of the Commission.

• Major functions of CERC – regulation of tariff of generating companies owned by the Government, regulation of the tariff of other generating companies having a composite scheme for generation and sale of electricity in more than one State and regulation of inter-State transmission of electricity.

About Joint Electricity Regulatory Commission (JERC)

• The Joint Electricity Regulatory Commission (JERC) was constituted by the Government for Manipur and Mizoram in pursuance of provisions of the Electricity Act, 2003.

• A Memorandum of Agreement was signed by the State Governments of Manipur and Mizoram, authorising the Government of India to constitute a JERC on their behalf.  

• It is a two-Member Commission, each Member representing the respective participating State. 

• The Central Government appoints the Members of the Commission from Manipur and Mizoram sides under the provisions of the Act and in pursuance of MoA.

• The major functions of the Commission are – regulation of the tariff for generation, supply, and transmission and wheeling of electricity within the State, regulation of the electricity purchase of distribution licensees, facilitate intra-state transmission of electricity, issue licenses to transmission licensees.

National Women’s Party launched in Mumbai

National Women’s Party launched in Mumbai

The National Women’s Party (NWP), which has been formed with the motto of women empowerment, was launched in Mumbai, Maharashtra on January 21, 2019. 

The party has been founded by Dr Swetha Shetty, a medical practitioner-cum- activist from Hyderabad, who would also serve as its President. Announcing its formation, Shetty said that apart from ensuring empowerment of women, issues like getting 50 per cent reservation for women in the parliament and state assemblies and the betterment of soldiers and farmers, would be among their top priorities.

Key Highlights

 The National Women’s Party would be contesting in 283 Lok Sabha seats, which is half of the total number of seats, in the upcoming Lok Sabha Elections. 

 The party aims to succeed in its mission to guarantee equal representation in Parliament.

• The key objective behind the formation of the party is to remove gender disparity in politics.

 The process to shortlist the women candidates is currently underway.

 Besides this, the party also plans to open Youth Parliament (political schools for women) in every state for imparting practical and academic training for them.

Speaking during the party’s launch, Shetty said, “hard fact is that we live in a society where most of the political decisions are taken by men which narrows the possibility of political empowerment of women.”

She further added that the safety of women is of the utmost importance considering the rise in crimes against them and hence, the party aims to take up initiatives that will enable every girl to live a fearless life and be able to step out of her home without any impending danger.

Background

 The battle to get reservation for women in parliament and assemblies has been going on inconclusively for the last 20 years.

• The Women’s Reservation Bill or The Constitution (108th Amendment) Bill, 2008, is a lapsed bill in the Indian Parliament.

 The bill had proposed to amend the Indian constitution to reserve 33 per cent of all seats in the lower house of the Parliament, Lok Sabha and in all state legislative assemblies for women. 

• The seats were proposed to be reserved in rotation and would have been determined by draw of lots in such a way that a seat would be reserved only once in three consecutive general elections.

 Though the Rajya Sabha passed the bill on March 9, 2010, the Lok Sabha never voted on the bill. The bill lapsed after the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha in 2014.

22 January 2019

Virat Kohli named ICC Test, ODI Player and Cricketer of the year 2018

Virat Kohli named ICC Test, ODI Player and Cricketer of the year 2018

Indian skipper Virat Kohli on January 22, 2019 became the first cricketer to win all the top three ICC individual awards including the Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy for ICC Cricketer of the Year, the ICC Men’s Test Player of the Year and the ICC ODI Player of the Year for his performances in 2018,

The Indian captain, who recently led India to its historic series win down under, was also named the captain of the ICC Test Team and the ODI Team of the year 2018, the line-ups of which were dominated by Indian players.

Key Highlights

 Kohli, who accumulated a total of 1322 runs from 13 Tests, 1202 from 14 ODIs and 211 from 10 T20Is, became the first player to win all three awards together.

• This is the second consecutive time that he has won the Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy for ICC Cricketer of the Year. This was also his second successive ODI Player of the Year award.

• Besides, Indian wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant claimed the ICC’s Emerging Cricketer of the Year award.

 Further, players from India and England, which are the top-ranked ODI sides, dominated the ICC Men’s ODI Team rankings, as with four players each, they made up more than two-thirds of the ODI Team of the Year 2018.

• On the other hand, the ICC Test team of the year featured three players each from India and New Zealand. The Indian players included in the ICC test team included Rishabh Pant, Jasprit Bumrah and Virat Kohli.

 Besides Kohli, fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah was the only player to be named in both Test and ODI sides. The other two Indians in the ICC ODI team of the year included opener Rohit Sharma and spinner Kuldeep Yadav.

The Awardees
ICC Men’s Cricketer of the Year: Virat Kohli (India)
ICC Men’s Test Cricketer of the Year: Virat Kohli (India)
ICC Men’s ODI Cricketer of the Year: Virat Kohli (India)
ICC Men’s Emerging Cricketer of the Year: Rishabh Pant (India)
Fans Moment of the Year: Indian under-19 team’s World Cup triumph in New Zealand
David Shepherd Trophy, Umpire of the Year: Kumar Dharmasena (Sri Lanka)
ICC Spirit of Cricket Award: Kane Williamson (New Zealand)
ICC Men’s Test Team of the Year (in batting order)Tom Latham (New Zealand), Dimuth Karunaratne (Sri Lanka), Kane Williamson (New Zealand), Virat Kohli (India) (capt), Henry Nicholls (New Zealand), Rishabh Pant (India) (wk), Jason Holder (Windies), Kagiso Rabada (South Africa), Nathan Lyon (Australia), Jasprit Bumrah (India), Mohammad Abbas (Pakistan)
ICC Men’s ODI team of the year (in batting order)
 Rohit Sharma (India), Jonny Bairstow (England), Virat Kohli (India) (capt), Joe Root (England), Ross Taylor (New Zealand), Jos Buttler (England) (wk), Ben Stokes (England), Mustafizur Rahman (Bangladesh), Rashid Khan (Afghanistan), Kuldeep Yadav (India), Jasprit Bumrah (India).

Background

The 30-year-old Kohli, who first came into limelight when he led India to victory at the ICC Under-19 World Cup in Malaysia in 2008, finished the year as the top-ranked batsman in Tests and ODIs.

The highest scorer in both forms of the game in 2018, he was one of only two batsmen to score more than 1,000 runs in Tests and only among three to do so in ODI cricket.

Kohli was the unanimous choice of the voting academy for the Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy with South Africa fast bowler Kagiso Rabada coming in second to him for both this award and the Test Player of the Year honour.

Afghanistan leg-spinner Rashid Khan was runner up to Kohli for the ICC ODI Player of the Year award.

India won six Tests and lost seven during the voting period that ran from January 1 to December 31, 2018. In ODIs, Kohli led India to nine victories, with four losses and one tied match.

Vice President presents Chhatra Vishwakarma, Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana awards

Vice President presents Chhatra Vishwakarma, Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana awards

Indian Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu presented the second Chhatra Vishwakarma Awards to students and their mentors and Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (SAGY) awards to institutions at an event organised by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) on January 21, 2019 at New Delhi.

The awards challenge young students to come up with novel ideas that have a great potential to impact life in villages through technological interventions at the grass root level. Expressing his agreement with Mahatma Gandhi’s statement that ‘the future of India lies in its villages’, the Vice President said that the development of villages is an essential precondition to the development of the nation.

Naidu also stated that educational institutions must re-orient their curriculum to ensure that students spend time in rural areas, interacting with people and understanding their problems. He said that ‘one size fits all’ approach will not ensure development in a vast and diverse country like India, as every village has its own individuality, its own industries and its own developmental needs.

Chhatra Vishwakarma Awards

The Chhatra Vishwakarma Awards are inspired by the spirit of engineering and creation patronised by Lord Vishwakarma, the ruling deity of construction practices in India.

The awards aim to motivate young individuals, inspire leaders and institutions and organisations to recognise and applaud the innovations and achievements of individuals as well as institutions.

This year, the AICTE in association with Engineering Council of India (ECI) and the Indian Society for Technical Education (ISTE) announced the 2nd Chhatra Vishwakarma Awards 2018 under the theme “Empowerment of Villages through Technologies”. 

The AICTE invited applications from various institutions under the following categories:

(i) Water & Irrigation

(ii) Sanitation & Solid Liquid Waste Management


(iii) Rural infrastructure

(iv) Tourism

(v) Agriculture & Food


(vi) Education, Skill initiative & Start-ups


(vii) Rural Craft & Livelihood

(viii) Any other Rural Appropriate Technologies


The council received a total of 1067 applications from the teams of various institutions. After scrutiny, 118 teams with a total of 310 students including 191 male and 119 female students have been called for the National Convention at AICTE Headquarters, New Delhi.

The projects presented by the team, were assessed by eminent jury of domain experts and following teams and institutions were awarded the first position in the following categories:

S.No.CategoryWinner
1.Any other Rural Appropriate Technologies Army Institute of Technology, Maharashtra
2.Education, Skill Initiative & StartupsGokaraju Rangaraju Institute of Engineering and Technology, Telangana
3.Rural Craft & Livelihood, Rural Infrastructure, TourismSri Venkateswara College of Engineering, Andhra Pradesh
4.Agriculture & Food Sri Krishna College of Technology, Tamil Nadu
5.Water & IrrigationAditya Engineering College, Andhra Pradesh
6.Sanitation & Solid Liquid Waste ManagementKalasalingam Academy of Research and Education, Tamil Nadu

About Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (SAGY) Awards

The awards were launched in October 2014 with the aim to translate the comprehensive vision of Mahatma Gandhi of an ideal Indian village.

Under the scheme, the members of the Parliament adopted Gram Panchayats for their holistic progress. 

The AICTE also encouraged institutes located in the proximity of villages to support them under the scheme. These institutes have been working hard to develop the adopted villages. 

The SAGY award was constituted with an aim to motivate, recognise and honor such institutions under the theme “developed village-developed nation” to raise their performance in the specific domains leading to significant contribution for the growth and development of villages and country as well.

Under the award, 103 nominations were received from AICTE approved institutions across the country. The entries were scrutinised at different stages and judged by a jury of eminent experts in the field. Out of the 24 shortlisted applications, the following institutions were recommended for the Awards:

S.No.Name of the InstitutionAward/Rank
1College of Technology and Engineering, Udaipur, RajasthanFirst
2Seethi Sahib Memorial Polytechnic College, Tirur, KeralaSecond
3Indian Institute of Food Processing Technology, Thanjavur, Tamil NaduThird

World Economic Forum 2019 begins in Davos

World Economic Forum 2019 begins in Davos

The annual meet of World Economic Forum (WEF) began on January 22, 2019 in Davos, Switzerland. 

The World leaders from across the globe will attend the Forum at the Swiss Alps for five days to discuss the looming global economic crisis, global cooperation challenges, rapid climate change, increasing pollution levels, habitat loss, fourth wave of globalisation, among others.

Theme
The theme of the World Economic Forum 2019 would be ‘Globalisation 4.0: Shaping a Global Architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution’.The theme will be explored over 350 sessions.

Participants

• Those expected to attend the meet include German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Swiss President Ueli Maurer, Japan’s Shinzo Abe, Italy’s Giuseppe Conte, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, among 30 heads of states and governments.

• Britain’s Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, will be attending the Forum to discuss his work on mental health, another key topic this year.

• Sir David Attenborough will also be there as a ‘Crystal Award Winner’, recognised for harnessing culture to promote positive change.

• The Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of global corporations, central bankers, economists, civil society leaders, media heads, celebrities and heads of international organisations like IMF, WTO, OECD and World Bank will also be present on the occasion.

• Heads of the global charities will also be present including Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International; Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director of Greenpeace International; and Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch.

• Overall, around 3000 participants from 115 economies would be present during the annual meeting. 

• More than 100 CEOs from India are expected to participate in the meet. Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi and filmmaker Karan Johar are also going to be a part of session. 

• The US President Donald Trump will not be attending the meet this year.

World Economic Forum

• The World Economic Forum is an international organisation for public-private cooperation.

• Established in 1971 as a not-for-profit foundation, the WEF is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. 

• The Forum engages the foremost political, business and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas.

• The Forum is currently chaired by Founder and Executive Chairman Professor Klaus Schwab. 

• It is guided by a Board of Trustees, which oversees the Forum’s work in promoting true global citizenship.

India among the most trusted nations globally: 2019 Edelman Report

India among the most trusted nations globally: 2019 Edelman Report

India is among the most trusted nations globally when it comes to government, business, NGOs and media but the country’s brands are among the least-trusted, as per the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer report.

The report, which released on January 21, 2019, ahead of the World Economic Forum (WEF) meet, noted that the Global Trust Index witnessed a marginal increase of 3 points to 52. It also revealed that trust has changed profoundly in the past year with people shifting their trust to the relationships within their control, most notably their employers. 

Globally, 75 percent of people trust “my employer” to do what is right, significantly more than NGOs (57 percent), business (56 percent) and media (47 percent).

The Report: Key Highlights 

 China topped the Trust Index among both the informed public and the general population segments, with scores of 79 and 88 respectively. 

• India was at the second place in the informed public category and third place in the general population category.

 India was among the most trusted nations globally when it comes to government, business, NGOs and media.

 The findings are based on an online survey that took place in 27 markets, covering over 33,000 respondents. The fieldwork was conducted between October-November 2018.

 The companies headquartered in Switzerland (71 per cent), Germany (71 per cent), Canada (70 per cent) and Japan (69 percent) were found to be the most trusted. 

 On the other hand, the companies headquartered in India (40 per cent), Mexico and Brazil were found to be the least trusted, followed by companies in China and South Korea.

 While the score of India and Brazil stood at 40 per cent, the score of Mexico and China stood at 36 per cent and 41 per cent respectively.

Key FindingsTrust inequality returns to record high
The report found a 16-point gap between the more trusting informed public and the far-more-skeptical mass population, marking a return to record highs of trust inequality.The phenomenon fueling this divide was a pronounced rise in trust among the informed public. Markets such as the U.S., UK, Canada, South Korea and Hong Kong saw trust gains of 12 points or more among the informed public.In 18 markets, there is now a double-digit trust gap between the informed public and the mass population. The gap is being attributed to the rise in trust among the informed public.
An Urgent Desire for Change
Despite the divergence in trust between the informed public and mass population the world is united on one front—all share an urgent desire for change.Only one in five feels that the system is working for them, with nearly half of the mass population believing that the system is failing them. And despite a full-employment economy, fear of job loss remains high among the general population.
Engagement in News
In the midst of a growing feeling of pessimism about the future, there is a growing move toward engagement and action.In 2019, the engagement with the news surged by 22 points; 40 percent not only consume news once a week or more, but they also routinely amplify it.At the same time, people are encountering roadblocks in their quest for facts, with 73 percent worried about fake news being used as a weapon.
Trust in ‘My Employer’
Despite the high lack of faith in the system, there is one relationship that remains strong: “my employer.”Around fifty-eight percent of general population employees say they look to their employer to be a trustworthy source of information about contentious societal issues.Employees’ expectation that prospective employers will join them in taking action on societal issues (67 percent) is nearly as high as their expectations of personal empowerment (74 percent) and job opportunity (80 percent).
Trust in ‘My CEO’
Around 71 percent of employees believe it’s critically important for “my CEO” to respond to challenging times.More than three-quarters (76 percent) of the general population agree that they want their CEOs to take the lead on change instead of waiting for the government to impose it.

Other key findings from the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer include:

 Trust increased in 12 of 15 sectors, with technology (78 percent) remaining most trusted, followed by manufacturing (70 percent) and automotive (70 percent), which experienced the largest jump at seven points. 

 Financial services, which saw a two-point increase to 57 percent, was once again the least-trusted globally.

 More women (+22 points) than men (+20 points) in the informed public became amplifiers of news and information this past year.

 71 percent of employees believe it’s critically important for my CEO to respond to challenging times.

About Edelman

Edelman is an independent global communications firm that partners with businesses and organisations, long-established and just-emerging, to evolve, promote and protect their brands and reputations. 

Over the last 19 years, the Edelman Trust Barometer has detected and documented some of the largest opinion shifts shaping the world. 

The firm observed that the state and dynamic of trust in institutions was in many ways predictive of larger societal, economic and political changes to come.

Bharat Ratna CNR Rao chosen for first Sheikh Saud International Prize for Materials

Bharat Ratna CNR Rao chosen for first Sheikh Saud International Prize for Materials

Eminent Indian scientist, Chintamani Nagesa Ramachandra Rao, popularly known as CNR Rao, was on January 18, 2019 chosen for the first Sheikh Saud International Prize for Materials Research by the Centre for Advanced Materials of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The award will be presented to Rao by Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, the ruler of one of UAE’s seven emirates Ras Al Khaima at the International Workshop on Advanced Materials on February 25, 2019.

The Sheikh Saud International Prize committee unanimously decided to award Professor Rao of the Jawaharlal Nehru for Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), Bengaluru.

The prize includes a plaque and cash prize of USD 100,000.

About C N R Rao

• Born on 30 June 1934, CNR Rao is an Indian chemist who has worked mainly in solid-state and structural chemistry.

• He has honorary doctorates from 60 universities from around the world.

• He has authored around 1600 research papers and 50 scientific books.

• Some of his areas of research include transition metal oxides and other extended inorganic solids, metal-insulator transitions, nano-materials including nanotubes and graphene, artificial photosynthesis and hydrogen generation by photocatalysis and thermal means. 

• In 2014, he was honoured with the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award in India, making him the third scientist after C.V. Raman and A. P. J. Abdul Kalam to receive the award.

• He has also been conferred with ‘Padma Shri’ (1974), ‘Padma Vibhushan’ (1985) and ‘Karnataka Ratna’ (2001), among other honours.

• He has received several national and international honours and awards including – honorary fellowship of the ‘Royal Society of Chemistry’, London in 1989 and ‘Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur’ from France in 2005.

India likely to surpass UK in world’s largest economy rankings: PwC

India likely to surpass UK in world’s largest economy rankings: PwC

India is likely to surpass the United Kingdom in the world’s largest economy rankings in 2019, as per a report by global consultancy firm PwC.

As per PwC’s Global Economy Watch report, while the UK and France have regularly switched places owing to similar levels of development and equal populations, India’s climb up the rankings is likely to be permanent.

Key Highlights

• The PwC report has projected real GDP growth of 1.6 per cent for the UK, 1.7 per cent for France and 7.6 per cent for India in 2019.

• According to the projected real GDP growth rate, India and France are likely to surpass the UK in the world’s largest economy rankings in 2019, pushing it down from fifth to seventh place in the global table.

 As per the World Bank data, in 2017, India became the sixth largest economy with a GDP of $2.59 trillion, surpassing France and pushing it to the seventh position. The GDP of France stood at $2.58 trillion.

 The data further showed that the UK, which is currently dealing with its Brexit situation, had a GDP of $2.62 trillion, which is about $25 billion more than that of India.

PwC’s Global Economy Watch
It is a short publication that looks at the trends and issues affecting the global economy and details its latest projections for the world’s leading economies.
The report’s projection for India
According to the report, India should return to a healthy growth rate of 7.6 per cent in 2019-20, if there are no major headwinds in the global economy such as enhanced trade tensions or supply-side shocks in oil.The growth will be supported through further realisation of efficiency gains from the newly adopted GST and policy impetus expected in the first year of a new government.According to Mike Jakeman, a senior economist at PwC, India is the fastest growing large economy in the world, with an enormous population, favourable demographics and high catch-up potential due to low initial GDP per head.
The report’s projection for the world
1. Slow down in global growth:
According to the report, the phase when the global economy enjoyed a mini-boom between the end of 2016 and early 2018 and growth picked up in most major economies, is now over.In 2019, the global economy as a whole is expected to slow down as G7 countries return to growth rates close to their long-run averages.Growth in China is also expected to slow relative to 2018. Although the government will try to ensure that the slowdown is minimal, the impact of US tariffs and the need to control debt levels are likely to result in at least a modest deceleration in growth in 2019.
2. Workers and wages to come to the fore: 
Labour markets in advanced economies are likely to continue to tighten, even if job creation slows.This may push up wages, but cause problems for businesses looking to fill talent shortages. In 2019, unemployment rates are expected to fall a little further in the US and Germany, where the rates of job creation have remained strong.Assuming an orderly Brexit, by end-2019, the UK may also see unemployment flattening off at around current levels, though a disorderly ‘no deal’ could lead to a marked rise in unemployment.
3. Trade conflicts to deepen:
The report predicts trade wars to continue in 2019. It is likely to generate further uncertainty for policymakers and businesses.While the policymakers will try to assess the impact of potential tariffs on growth and inflation, the businesses will attempt to mitigate the impact on their supply chains and customers.The main focus of tensions will most likely be on the US-China trade, but there will always be the risk of this escalating into a wider trade conflict and businesses accordingly need to plan for different scenarios.

Background

The US was the world’s largest economy with a size of $19.39 trillion, followed by China ($12.23 trillion) at the second place in 2017.

Japan ($4.87 trillion) and Germany ($3.67 trillion) were at the third and fourth places, respectively.

The UK and France have regularly alternated between the fifth and sixth positions, but subdued growth in the UK in 2018 and again in 2019 is likely to tip the balance in India and France’s favour and push the nation to the 7th position.

20-21 January 2019

Indians over 65 and under 15 years can use Aadhaar Card to visit Nepal, Bhutan

Indians over 65 and under 15 years can use Aadhaar Card to visit Nepal, Bhutan

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs on January 20, 2019 announced that Aadhaar Cards are now valid travel documents for Indians under 15 and over 65 years travelling to Nepal and Bhutan.

However, Indians belonging to the age bracket of 15 to 65 years will not be able to use Aadhaar to travel to the two neighbouring countries. 

Indian citizens going to Nepal and Bhutan don’t need a visa if they have a valid passport, a photo identity card issued by the Government of India or the Voter’s ID card issued by the Election Commission. 

Key Highlights

• Earlier, people over 65 and under 15 years could show PAN card, driving licence, ration card, but not the Aadhaar, to prove their identity to visit the two countries. The Aadhaar card has now been added to the list.

• A certificate of registration issued by the Embassy of India at Kathmandu to Indian nationals is not an acceptable travel document for travelling between India and Nepal.

• However, the emergency certificate and identity certificate issued by the Indian Embassy in Nepal will be valid for single journey for travelling back to India. 

• Teens between 15 to 18 years will be allowed to travel between India and Nepal on the basis of an identity certificate issued by the principal of their school in a prescribed form.

• In case of a family travelling together (like husband, wife, minor children and parents), all persons will not be required to carry relevant documents, if one of the adult members has valid travel papers. However, the other family members must have some proof of their identity with a photograph such as ration card, a driving licence or an ID card issued by school or college.

• Indian nationals travelling to Bhutan need to have either an Indian passport with minimum validity of six months or a voter ID card issued by the Election Commission of India.

Aadhaar is a 12-digit unique identification number issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). It is used to establish a person’s identity on the basis of demographic and biometric information.

Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016

• The Union Government on July 12, 2016 notified the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016.

• Eligibility: Every resident shall be entitled to obtain an Aadhaar number.  A resident is a person who has resided in India for 182 days, in the one year preceding the date of application for enrolment for Aadhaar.

• Information to be submitted: To obtain an Aadhaar number, an individual has to submit biometric (photograph, finger print, iris scan) and demographic (name, date of birth, address) information.  

• Enrolment: At the time of enrolment, the individual will be informed of the manner in which the information will be used, the nature of recipients with whom the information will be shared and the right to access this information.

• Usage of Aadhaar number: To verify the identity of a person receiving a subsidy or a service, the government may require them to have an Aadhaar number.  If a person does not have an Aadhaar number, government will require them to apply for it.

• Key Functions of UIDAI: 
The UIDAI authority will specify demographic and biometric information, assign Aadhaar numbers to individuals, authenticate Aadhaar numbers and specify the usage of Aadhaar numbers for delivery of subsidies and services.

About UIDAI

• The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) was founded in 2009 under the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime with former Infosys CEO Nandan Nilekani as its chairman. Nilekani resigned in 2014.

• Unique identification project was initially started by the Planning Commission as an initiative that would provide identification for each resident across the country.

• It is used primarily as the basis for efficient delivery of welfare services. It also acts as a tool for effective monitoring of various programs and schemes of the Government.

• It is the organisation behind the Aadhaar, a 12 digit unique number linked with an individual’s demographic and biometric information. Aadhaar serves as the proof of identity and address anywhere in India.

Rio de Janeiro named as first World Capital of Architecture for 2020

Rio de Janeiro named as first World Capital of Architecture for 2020

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has named the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro as the World Capital of Architecture for 2020.

The announcement was made by UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Culture Ernesto Ottone R, Thomas Vonier, President of the International Union of Architects (UIA) and Verena Vicentini Andreatta, Municipal Secretary of the City of Rio for Urbanism, on January 18, 2019.

Significance

Rio will be the first city to receive the title under a programme launched together by UNESCO and the International Union of Architects (UIA) in November 2018. The city beat Paris and Melbourne to get the position.

World Capital of Architecture
The initiative underscores the common commitment of UNESCO and the UIA to preserve architectural heritage in the urban context.As the first World Capital of Architecture, Rio de Janeiro will demonstrate the crucial role of architecture and culture in sustainable urban development, through the range and quality of its activities.It is intended to become an international forum for debates about pressing global challenges from the perspectives of culture, cultural heritage, urban planning and architecture.

About Rio de Janeiro

As one of the oldest cities in Brazil, Rio has a mix of modern and colonial architecture, with world-renowned sites like the statue of Christ the Redeemer and contemporary constructions like the Museum of Tomorrow.

The city is also home to works of renowned architects such as Oscar Niemeyer, who also designed the capital city of Brasilia.

With the recognition as the World Capital of Architecture, the city will hold a series of events under the theme “All the worlds. Just one world,” and promote the internationally agreed 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’s 11th Goal: “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.”

The city would also be hosting the 27th edition of the International Union of Architects’ World Congress in July 2020. The World Congress takes place every three years.

Other Details

UNESCO, the UIA and local institutions would be organising activities to promote projects involving architects and urban planners as well as policymakers, social institutions and professionals from other sectors including artists and writers in an open and creative space of dialogue and innovation.

15th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas begins at Varanasi

15th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas begins at Varanasi

The 15th edition of the Pravasi Bhartiya Divas (PBD) began at Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh on January 21, 2019, giving a chance to the Indian diaspora to participate in the ongoing Kumbha Mela.

For the first time in the history of Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas, the event is being held in Varanasi, the cultural and spiritual capital of India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will formally inaugurate the event on January 22, 2019, along with his Mauritian counterpart Pravind Jugnauth, the Chief Guest of the event.

Around 6,000 non-resident Indians (NRIs) are expected to take part in the three-day event.

Theme

The theme 15th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas was ‘Role of Indian Diaspora in building New India’.

Several world leaders of Indian origin, including Prime Minister of Mauritius, Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, will take part in the event and share their insights on the theme.

Key Highlights

The Youth Pravasi Bhartiya Divas and Uttar Pradesh Pravasi Bhartiya Divas were held on the opening day itself that is on January 21, 2019. The young diaspora will engage with its counterparts back home in India.

Information and Broadcasting Minister, Rajyavardhan Rathore inaugurated several exhibitions including a digital exhibition on the theme of ‘Ek Bharat Swacch Bharat: Sardar Patel and Gandhi ke Sapno ka Bharat’, intended towards the PBD.

The Day will be jointly organised by the Union Ministry of External Affairs in association with the Uttar Pradesh government.

The Nodal Officer of the 15th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas is Deepak Agrawal, Commissioner of Varanasi Division.

The main convention center of PBD 2019 is the Deen Dayal Trade Facilitation Centre at Bada Lalpur, Varanasi. The entire campus has been decorated with the theme of ‘Kashi Culture’ depicting famous ghats, temples and the ethos of the most ancient living city.

The valedictory address and Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards will be given away by the President Ram Nath Kovind on January 23, 2019.

About Pravasi Bharatiya Divas

Pravasi Bharatiya Divas is celebrated in India every year.

It is celebrated to mark the contribution of the overseas Indian community to the development of India.

The day also commemorates the return of Mahatma Gandhi from South Africa in Bombay on January 9, 1915.

The decision to celebrate Pravasi Bharatiya Divas was taken in accordance with recommendations of the High Level Committee on the Indian Diaspora set up by India Government under the chairmanship of L M Singhvi.

The day was formally established in 2003 and is sponsored by the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Ministry of Development of the North Eastern Region of India.

The 14th Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas was held in New Delhi.

Defence Minister launches India’s second defence industrial corridor

Defence Minister launches India’s second defence industrial corridor

Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on January 20, 2019 inaugurated the Tamil Nadu Defence Industrial Corridor from Tiruchirappalli, taking a major step forward to boost indigenous production of defence equipment.

The TN Defence Industrial Corridor is a mega corridor, which will link leading military manufacturing units in five cities of South India, including Chennai, Hosur, Coimbatore, Salem and Tiruchirappalli. The project will require an investment worth Rs 3,000 crore.

Key Highlights

The corridor is the second defence corridor being set up by the government to support various defence manufacturing units. The first one is being established in Uttar Pradesh.

Investments worth around Rs 3,038 crore were announced for this defence corridor during its inauguration itself.

A majority of the investments will come from public sector undertakings (PSUs) as Ordnance Factory Board, Bharat Electronics Limited and Bharat Dynamics Limited have committed to invest Rs 2305 crore, Rs 140.5 crore and Rs 150 crore respectively.

Besides, private companies such as TVS, Data Patterns and Alpha Designs have also committed to make investments worth Rs 50 crore, Rs 75 crore and Rs 100 crore respectively.

Lockheed Martin, one of the global security giants, has also announced its intention to invest in the corridor.

TN Defence Industrial Corridor
  Defence Minister launches TN Defence Industrial Corridor

The corridor is also referred to as the Tamil Nadu Defence Production Quad as the nodal cities form a quadrilateral with one of them at the centre.

The development of the defence corridor will help facilitate a well-planned and efficient industrial base that will lead to an increased defence production in the country.

The key aim behind setting up defence industrial corridors is to ensure connectivity among various defence industrial units.

The five nodal cities have existing defence ecosystem in the form of ordnance factory boards, vendors working with defence PSUs and other allied industries.

Background

The Union Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, in his Budget speech on February 2, 2018, had announced that two defence industrial production corridors will be set up in the country to promote domestic industry base.

The government had envisaged building corridors in Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

The Uttar Pradesh Defence Industrial Corridor was launched at Aligarh on August 11, 2018 with announced investments worth Rs 3,732 crore.

19 January 2019

India, JICA sign loan agreements on Japan’s Official Development Assistance Loan to India

India, JICA sign loan agreements on Japan’s Official Development Assistance Loan to India

India and Japan-India Cooperative Actions (JICA) on January 18, 2019 signed the loan agreements under the Japanese Official Development Assistance Loan Program.

The Loan Agreements were signed by Dr. C.S. Mohapatra, Additional Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Union Ministry of Finance, and Katsuo Matsumoto, Chief Representative, JICA in New Delhi.

The agreements under the Japanese Official Development Assistance Loan were singed for two projects. These are:

(i) Project for the Construction of Chennai Peripheral Ring Road (Phase 1) for Japanese Yen 40.074 billion (around Rs 2470 Crore)

(ii) Program for Japan-India Cooperative Actions towards Sustainable Development Goals in India for Japanese Yen 15.000 billion (around Rs 950 Crore).

Project for the Construction of Chennai Peripheral Ring Road (Phase 1)

The Project aims to meet increasing traffic demands in Chennai metropolitan area by constructing the Chennai Peripheral Ring Road (Section 1).

It also includes installation of the Intelligent Transport Systems, thereby contributing to mitigation of Traffic Congestion.

It aims to promote the Regional Economic Development.

Program for JICA towards SDGs

The Program for Japan-India Cooperative Actions towards Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aims to contribute to promotion of SDGs in India especially in social development.

It will support the efforts of the Central Government to strengthen the Policy Framework and Implementation Mechanism, thereby supporting India in achieving SDGs by 2030.

India and Japan have been enjoying fruitful bilateral relations since 1958. In the last few years, the Economic Cooperation between India and Japan has steadily progressed. These agreements further consolidate and strengthen the Strategic and Global Partnership between India and Japan.

IIT-Hyderabad to launch full-fledged bachelor’s programme in Artificial Intelligence

IIT-Hyderabad to launch full-fledged bachelor’s programme in Artificial Intelligence

The Indian Institute of Technology-Hyderabad (IIT-H) has announced the launch of a full-fledged bachelor’s programme in Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology from the new academic session, which is a first for the country and only the third globally.

The Institute was already offering a Masters in Technology programme in AI-Machine Learning (ML). Besides IIT- Hyderabad, only Carnegie Mellon University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), both of which are in the US, offer full-fledged B.Tech programmes in AI.

Key Highlights

The new course will have 20 seats and the eligibility will include clearing the JEE-Advanced test.

The AI solutions are particularly promising for India, given the availability of a large corpus of data, where it can have a major positive impact on several critical domains such as healthcare, crop and soil management, weather prediction, surveillance and security, and defence.

However, the demand for professionals trained in this area exceeds the current supply.

Hence, the B.Tech programme in AI is a step in the direction of addressing this highly skewed demand-supply scenario.

The course will focus on application verticals such as healthcare, agriculture, smart mobility, among many others.

The students pursuing other degrees such as B.Tech in Chemical Engineering or Mechanical Engineering will be able to do a minor in AI as well from the coming academic year.

About Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence (AI) is the intelligence demonstrated by machines, in contrast to the natural intelligence displayed by humans and other animals. Computer science defines AI research as the study of “intelligent agents”: any device that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its chance of successfully achieving its goals. Colloquially, the term “artificial intelligence” is applied when a machine mimics cognitive functions that humans associate with other human minds, such as learning and problem-solving. Artificial intelligence was founded as an academic discipline in 1956, and in the years since has experienced several waves of optimism, followed by disappointment and the loss of funding, which was followed again by new approaches, success and renewed funding. The traditional problems of AI research include reasoning, knowledge representation, planning, learning, natural language processing, perception and the ability to move and manipulate objects. The AI field draws upon computer science, information engineering, mathematics, psychology, linguistics, philosophy and many others.

Shehri Samridhi Utsav to begin from February 1; will focus on extending outreach of DAY-NULM

Shehri Samridhi Utsav to begin from 1 February

Hardeep S. Puri, Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs, on January 18, 2019 informed that a series of events named ‘Shehri Samridhi Utsav’ will begin from February 1, 2019 and will go on till February 15, 2019.

The event, organised by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, will focus on urban livelihoods and extending the outreach of National Urban Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NULM) to the poorest of the poor and the most vulnerable, and facilitate access of SHG members to the other government schemes.

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.
Progress observed under the mission till now:
-Over 34 lakh urban poor women have been organised into Self Help Groups and their federations.
-Over 8.9 lakh candidates have been skill trained and certified with over 4.6 lakh provided placement.
-Over 8.5 lakh individuals and groups have been supported to access subsidised loans.
-1,098 shelters have been made functional creating capacity for more than 60000 urban homeless.
-16 lakh street vendors have been identified through survey in 2430 cities

City, State and National level activities

Various activities will be organised during the event at the city, state and national level, with the active participation from the States and Cities.  

City Level Activities

Safety Net Survey – The survey is being conducted to identify eligible SHG members not covered by government programs such as SBM(U), PMAY(U), Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Surakhsa Bima Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Yojana and National Nutrition Mission.

SHG members across cities will participate in a rally to spread awareness about DAY-NULM. Revolving Funds will be provided to all eligible SHGs.

A drive to form new SHGs, especially for vulnerable sections such as informal sanitation workers, manual scavengers, and waste pickers, will be taken up.

A new platform called Shehri Sahabhagita Manch has been proposed for regular meetings of ULB officials with SHG federations.

Loan camps would be organised by banks close to the urban poor colonies to facilitate access to credit for micro-enterprises of the urban poor.

Shelters for the urban homeless under DAY-NULM would be adopted by colleges located nearby.

State Level Activities

Job Melas will be organised by the State in all the cities having more than 5,00,000 population.

Melas for exhibition and sale of SHG products would also be organised at the State Capitals and major cities.

Identity Cards will be provided to all eligible street vendors.

Street food festivals to celebrate the local street food culture and cuisine would be organised at the State Capitals to support the street food vendors.

National Level Activities

DAY-NULM Swachhata Excellence Awards will be conferred to recognise the ALFs, CLFs and ULBs working towards achieving sanitation outcomes in their communities.

A National Workshop will be organised on sanitation-based livelihoods with active participation from the States, ULBs, and federations of SHGs from across the country.

A National Conference on Street Vending will also be held to discuss issues and seek a way forward to support livelihoods of street vendors.

National Exhibition cum sale of SHG products will be organised in New Delhi along with a National Street Food Festival.

18 January 2019

Vinesh Phogat becomes first Indian athlete to be nominated in Laureus World Comeback of Year Award

Vinesh Phogat becomes first Indian athlete to be nominated in Laureus World Comeback of Year Award

Indian star wrestler Vinesh Phogat on January 17, 2019 became the first Indian athlete to be nominated for the prestigious Laureus World Comeback of the Year Award.

Vinesh has been nominated in “Laureus World Sporting Comeback” category for the year 2019 and will be competing for the award with some of the world’s greatest sportsmen including golfer Tiger Woods, Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris, American alpine ski racer Lindsey Vonn, Japanese figure skater Yuzuru Manyu and Dutch para-snowboarding star Bibian Mentel-Spee.

The Awards will be presented on February 18, 2019 in Monaco, a tiny independent city-state on France’s Mediterranean coastline.

Key Highlights

• Phogat has been nominated for the award alongside US Tour Championship winner Tiger Woods, who won his first tournament in five years.  

 The 24-year-old from Haryana made a sensational comeback in 2018 after battling a long injury lay-off.

 She not only won gold at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games but also won a silver in the 2018 Asian Championships in Bishkek and a gold at the Asian Games in Jakarta.

 Phogat was one of the favourites to win a medal for India at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, but a horrific knee injury forced her out of the tournament during the quarter-finals. 

 Though the injury was viewed virtually as a death sentence for her career, the wrestler steadily worked her way back to fitness.

 She won gold at the CWG and went on to dominate the field at the Asiad, dropping just two points and spending a little over 11 minutes on the mat, which took her through to the final. 

 Aged just 24, she was one of the nominees for the Padma Shri award in 2018 and is expected to be a favourite to win a medal in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Other Nominees

Football stars, Croatia’s Luka Modric and French footballer Kylian Mbappe have been nominated for the ‘Laureus Sportsman of the Year award’ along with tennis star Novak Djokovic, American basketball player LeBron James, Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton and Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge. 

On the other hand, the nominees for ‘Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year’ include American gymnast, Romanian tennis world no.1 Simona Halep, Wimbledon winner Angelique Kerber, Swiss triathlete Daniela Ryf, Czech snowboard Ester Ledecka and American alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin.

About Laureus World Sports Awards
• The Laureus World Sports Awards is an annual awards ceremony, which honours individuals and teams from the world of sports along with sporting achievements throughout the year.
 It was established in 1999 by Laureus Sport for Good Foundation founding patrons Daimler and Richemont and supported by its global partners Mercedes-Benz and IWC Schaffhausen.
 The awards support the work of Laureus Sport for Good, which supports over 100 community projects in around 40 countries. These projects aim to use the power of sport to end violence, discrimination and disadvantage, and prove that sport has the power to change the world.
• The name “Laureus” is derived from the Greek word for laurel, considered a traditional symbol of victory in athletics.
 The first awards ceremony was held on May 25, 2000 in Monte Carlo at which Nelson Mandela gave the keynote speech.
 The awards are given annually in eight categories, with a number of discretionary categories irregularly recognised.
 The recipient of each award is presented with a Laureus statuette, created by Cartier, at an annual ceremony held in various locations around the world.
 Swiss tennis player Roger Federer with 6 awards holds the record for having won the maximum number of times.

Pradhan Mantri Rozgar Protsahan Yojana achieves milestone of one crore beneficiaries

Pradhan Mantri Rozgar Protsahan Yojana achieves milestone of one crore beneficiaries

The Pradhan Mantri Rozgar Protsahan Yojana (PMRPY), the flagship scheme of the Union Government for employment generation, crossed the milestone of one crore beneficiaries on January 14, 2019.

The scheme was announced on August 07, 2016 and is being implemented by the Union Ministry of Labour and Employment through the Employees’ Provident Fund Organization (EPFO). 

Under the scheme, Government is paying full employers’ contribution of 12 percent towards Employees’ Provident Fund and Employees’ Pension Scheme both for a period of 3 years. 

The new employees who are registered with the EPFO on or after April 1, 2016, with salary up to Rs. 15,000 per month are covered under the scheme.

Facts and Figures
During 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 (up to January 15, 2019), 33,031, 30,27,612, and 69,49,436 beneficiaries respectively, have been enrolled with EPFO under the PMRPY.
The numbers of establishments who have been benefitted during the implementation of the scheme are 1.24 lakh.

Pradhan Mantri Rozgar Protsahan Yojana (PMRPY)

• The Scheme has been designed to incentivise employers for generation of new employment, where the Union Government pays the full employer’s contribution towards EPF and EPS with effect from April 1, 2018. Earlier the benefit was applicable for employer’s contribution towards EPS only.

• PMRPY has a dual benefit – on the one hand, the employer is incentivised for increasing the employee base in the establishment through payment of EPF contribution of 12 percent of wage, which otherwise would have been borne by the employer, and on the other hand, a large number of workers find jobs in such establishments. 

• A direct benefit of the scheme is that these workers have access to social security benefit through Provident Fund, Pension and Death Linked Insurance. 

• The terminal date for registration of beneficiaries through an establishment under the PMRPY is March 31, 2019. The entire system of availing of the scheme is online and AADHAR based with no human interface in the implementation of the scheme.

NAS Shibpur to be commissioned as INS Kohassa

NAS Shibpur to be commissioned as INS Kohassa

Naval Air Station (NAS) Shibpur will be commissioned as INS Kohassa by Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sunil Lanba on January 24, 2019. The move is being undertaken to enhance the operational capability of Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC). NAS Shibpur was established in 2010.

The NAS Shibpur was set up as a Forward Operating Air Base (FOAB) for surveillance in North Andaman. Located in the northern-most part of the islands, the airfield holds strategic importance not only for the security of the islands but also for its overall development.

About INS Kohassa

 INS Kohassa has been named after a White-Bellied Sea Eagle, which is a large bird of prey endemic to Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

 By commissioning NAS Shibpur as INS Kohassa, the ANC’s ability to operate independently from all the regions of Andaman and Nicobar Islands will get a great boost.

 Post commissioning, the station will function as a base for joint operation of both military and civil aircraft in keeping with the UDAN scheme of the government.

 INS Kohassa will become the third Naval Air Base in the Andaman and Nicobar islands after INS Utkrosh at Port Blair and INS Baaz at Campbell Bay.

 As part of the Phase II expansion plan, the runway length would subsequently be extended to 3000 metre. This would enable the operation of wide-bodied civil and defence aircraft in the future.

Background

 Naval Air Station (NAS) Shibpur was established in 2001 as a Forward Operating Air Base (FOAB) for enhanced surveillance in North Andaman.

 In 2009, the government of India accorded sanction to commission NAS Shibpur as a full-fledged air station.

• The length of the runway was extended to 12,000 ft, enabling both day and night operations.

 Dornier Do 228s of the navy and coast guard conducted the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 from this base.

 In 2017, it was reported that the runway length would be extended to 3000m after the acquisition of about 100 hectares of land. This enabled the operation of wide-bodied civil and defense flights.

PM Narendra Modi to launch National Museum of Indian Cinema in Mumbai

PM Narendra Modi to launch National Museum of Indian Cinema in Mumbai

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the National Museum of Indian Cinema (NMIC) in Mumbai on January 19, 2019. 

The development of the Museum was guided by the Museum Advisory Committee headed by Shyam Benegal. An innovation Committee headed by Prasoon Joshi provided an upgrade to the NMIC.

National Museum of Indian Cinema

• Built at a cost of Rs 140.61 crore, the museum depicts the journey of over a century of Indian cinema in a story telling mode with the help of visuals, graphics, artifacts, interactive exhibits and multimedia expositions.

• The Museum is housed in two buildings – the New Museum Building and the 19th century historic palace Gulshan Mahal – in the Films Division campus in Mumbai.

• The Gulshan Mahal is an ASI Grade-II Heritage Structure which has been restored as part of the NMIC project. 

• It is divided into 9 sections, namely, The Origin of Cinema, Cinema comes to India, Indian Silent Film, Advent of Sound, The Studio Era, The impact of World War II, Creative Resonance, New Wave and Beyond and Regional Cinema.

Four Exhibition Halls
The New Museum Building has four Exhibition Halls:

Gandhi & Cinema: It depicts the movies made on the life Mahatma Gandhi and showcases the deep impact his life had on cinema.

Children’s Film Studio:  It gives visitors an opportunity to explore the science, technology and art behind filmmaking. It offers hands on experience on various facets associated with making cinema like camera, light, shooting, and experience of acting presented in an interactive format. The exhibits displayed include chroma studio, animation studio, and makeover studio.

Technology, creativity & Indian cinema: It showcases the creative use of technology by Indian film makers over the years to produce cinematographic impact on the silver screen.

Cinema across India: It showcases the charismatic kaleidoscopic presence of the vibrant cinematographic culture across India.

India’s Satyarup becomes world’s youngest mountaineer to climb 7 peaks, 7 volcano summits

India’s Satyarup becomes world’s youngest mountaineer to climb 7 peaks, 7 volcano summits

Indian mountaineer Satyarup Siddhanta on January 16, 2019 became the world’s youngest mountaineer to climb the seven highest peaks and volcanic summits across all continents after conquering Antartica’s highest point Mount Sidley

Satyarup summited Mt. Sidley at 6:28 am in the morning, at a temperature of minus 40 degree Celsius according to the inReach Satellite Communicator he was carrying.

Key Records Broken
Satyarup achieved the unique feat at the age of 35 years and 262 days, setting a new world record by beating Australia’s Daniel Bull who did it at the age of 36 years and 157 days.With this feat, Satyarup also became the first Indian to conquer the seven mountain peaks and seven volcanic summits.

About Satyarup Siddhanta

  India’s Satyarup becomes world’s youngest mountaineer to climb 7 peaks, 7 volcano summits

 The West Bengal-based IT professional, who currently works in Bengaluru, belongs to Haridevpur in South Kolkata and is a software engineer by profession. 

 Despite being an asthma patient, Satyarup holds an illustrious record of conquering several treacherous summits including Mt Kilimanjaro in Africa, Mt Elbrus in Europe, Mt Denali in Alaska and Mt Mont Blanc in France.

 He successfully climbed Mount Everest in 2016. Before that in 2012, he climbed Mt. Vinson in Antarctica. He has also summited Mont Blanc and Carsten’s Pyramid in Papua New Guinea, which is the highest point in Oceania.

 The biggest challenge Satyarup had to face was arranging the funds for such expensive expeditions. It was difficult to get sponsors. 

• However, he did not let this stop him and apart from sponsorship, crowdfunding he took personal loans and auctioned his summit mementos to make his dream come true.

• The 35-year-old scaled the highest volcanic peak in North America, Pico de Orizaba on December 5, 2018.

World’s 7 Mountain Summits

Summiting the world’s seven mountain peaks refers to climbing the highest mountains of each of the seven continents. 

The highest mountains of each of the seven continents include Mount Everest in Asia, Mt Aconcagua in South America, Mt Denali in North America, Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, Mt Vinson Massif in Antartica, Mount Elbrus in Europe, Carstensz Pyramid in Oceania and Mt Kosciuszko in Australia.

Satyarup’s Summits
Following are the 7 summits and volcanic peaks that Satyarup successfully climbed:
7 summits, 9 peaks
Mt Kilimanjaro, Africa (5895 metres) – June 29, 2012 and June 14, 2018
Mt Elbrus, Europe (5642 m) – June 27, 2013
Mt Aconcagua, South America (6962m) – January 13, 2014
Mt Denali, North America (6190m) – June 23, 2014
Mt Mont Blanc, Western Europe (4810 m) – September 23, 2014
Mt Kosciuszko, Australia (2228 m) – June 12, 2015
Mt Everest, Asia (8848 m) – May 21, 2016
Mt Carstenz, Oceania (4884 m) – June 13, 2017
Mt Vinson Massif, Antarctica (4892 m) – December 15, 20177

Volcanic Summits
Mt Kilimanjaro
Mt Elbrus
Mt Ojos Del Salado, South America (6893 m) – January 15, 2018
Mt Damavand, Asia (5610 m) – September 10, 2018
Mt Giluwe, Oceania (4367 m) – November 9, 2018
Mount Pico de Orizaba, North America- December 5, 2018

ISRO launches UNNATI Programme; will launch Kalamsat, Microsat-R satellites on January 24

ISRO launches UNNATI Programme; will launch Kalamsat, Microsat-R satellites on January 24

National space agency, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on January 17, 2019 launched the UNNATI (UNispace Nano-satellite Assembly and Training by ISRO) programme at the U R Rao Satellite Centre, Bengaluru.

UNNATI is a capacity building programme on nanosatellite development. 

The programme was launched following an announcement made by ISRO Chairman K Sivan during a symposium in Vienna on June 18, 2018.

UNNATI Programme

• The UNNATI Programme is an ISRO initiative to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE+50).

• UNNATI programme is planned to be conducted by U R Rao Satellite Centre (URSC) of ISRO for 3 years in 3 batches and will target to benefit 90 officials from 45 countries. 

• Each batch will be for 8-week duration and will comprise of theoretical course work on nanosatellite definition, utility, laws governing their impact on space debris, design drivers, reliability and quality assurance.

• It will also include hands-on training on assembly, integration and testing of nanosatellites.

• The first batch of this programme began on January 17 with 32 participants from 18 countries. 

ISRO to launch Kalamsat, Microsat-R satellites

ISRO will launch a student satellite called ‘Kalamsat’ and an imaging satellite known as ‘Microsat-R’ on January 24, 2019, marking the first launch of the ISRO in 2019.

The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C44) will lift off the satellites from the spaceport Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh. 

This will be the 46th flight of PSLV. The 45th flight of PSLV-C43 had successfully launched 31 satellites from Sriharikota in November 2018.

Kalamsat Satellite
Kalamsat, prepared by a student, is a small satellite (10 x 10 x 10 cm) and is meant for HAM radio services. It has been developed by Space Kidz India and their team including Rifath Sharook, Srimathy Kesan, among others.The student satellite ‘Kalamsat’ will be the first to use fourth stage (PS4) of the launch vehicle PSLV-C44 as an orbital platform.

Configuration of PSLV-C44

• One of the specialties of the launch would be the configuration of the rocket. 

• This is the first time the launch vehicle is built in this configuration known as PSLV-DL. 

• It will carry only two strap-on motors by the sides of the first fuel stage at the bottom. 

• After parking the satellites in the intended orbits, the fourth stage of the rocket will be taken to a circular orbit in space for carrying out certain experiments by the scientists. 

• Normally, the fourth stage is kept deserted in space after the injection of the satellites. This time, it will be kept ‘live’ for carrying out innovative studies

17 January 2019

CCI imposes penalty on Chemists and Druggists Association of Baroda

CCI imposes penalty on Chemists and Druggists Association of Baroda

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has imposed a penalty on the Chemists and Druggists Association of Baroda (CDAB) after it found it to be in contravention of the provisions of the Competition Act, 2002.

The move was undertaken after a complaint was filed with the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTPC) in 2009 alleging that the CDAB has indulged in restrictive trade practices.

Key Highlights

The complaint alleged that the CDAB, through its practices, was limiting and controlling the supply of drugs and medicines in the market by mandating ‘No Objection Certificate’ prior to the appointment of stockists and payment of ‘Product Information Service’ charges prior to the introduction of new products in the market by pharmaceutical companies.

There were also allegations that CDAB was fixing the trade margins for the wholesalers and retailers.

The case was transferred to the Commission by MRTPC under the provisions of Section 66(6) of the Act.

The Commission after forming a prima-facie opinion directed the office of Director-General to conduct an investigation into the matter. The investigation carried out by the DG established contravention on part of the CDAB.

After detailed enquiry, the Commission passed an order where it was found that the CDAB was imposing the requirement of mandatory NOC and was also fixing margins for the wholesalers and retailers by enforcing the norms laid down by AIOCD.

The same was found to be in contravention of the provisions of Section 3(3)(a) and 3(3)(b) with Section 3(1) of the Act.

Accordingly, the Commission imposed a monetary penalty, in addition, to cease and desist directions, under Section 27 of the Act.

Other Details

Following an appeal filed by CDAB, the Commission’s order was set aside and the matter was considered afresh.

After allowing CDAB with an opportunity to cross-examine various witnesses, the Commission allowed parties to file their written submissions and conducted a detailed hearing in the matter.

Based on the material available on record, the Commission found that the CDAB was indulging in the anti-competitive practice of insisting NOC prior to the appointment of new stockists by pharmaceutical companies and was also fixing and prescribing the trade margins during the relevant time period, in contravention of the provisions of Section 3(3)(a) and 3(3)(b) read with Section 3(1) of the Act.

Accordingly, CDAB was directed to cease and desist from indulging in the aforesaid anti-competitive practice.

Further, the Commission imposed a monetary penalty of Rs 32,724 calculated at the rate of 10 per cent of the average relevant income of CDAB for the relevant period, under the provisions of Section 27 of the Act.

Government constitutes Group of Ministers on issues relating to lottery

Government constitutes Group of Ministers on issues relating to lottery

The Ministry of Finance on January 16, 2019 constituted a Group of Ministers (GoM) on issues relating to lottery.

The GoM was constituted in pursuance of the decision of GST Council taken in the 32nd meeting held on January 10, 2019 at New Delhi.

S. No. Name Designation and State Role in the Committee
1 Sudhir Mungantiwar Finance Minister, Maharashtra Convener
2 Dr T.M. Thomas Isaac Finance Minister, Kerala Member
3 Dr. Amit Mitra Finance Minister, West Bengal Member
4 Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma Finance Minister, Assam Member
5 Mauvin Godinho Minister of Panchayat, Goa Member
6 Manpreet Singh Badal Finance Minister, Punjab Member
7 Krishna Byre Gowda Finance Minister, Karnataka Member
8 Jarkar Gamlin Minister, Taxes and Excise, Arunachal Pradesh Member

Terms of Reference of GoM

Decide on whether the disparity in tax structure on the same product be continued or a uniform rate shall be prescribed for both

Look into whether private persons are misusing the lower GST rate and getting enriched themselves at the cost of the State and suggest measures to curb it

Examine any other issue related to enforcement including the legal frame work so as to prevent evasion of tax on lottery and suggest appropriate tax rate to address the problem

The GoM on will be assisted by a Committee of officers from the Centre and the States

Secretary of the GoM on issues relating to lottery shall be Manish Sinha, Joint Secretary (TRU-II), CBIC.

The GoM will submit its report to the GST Council in next Meeting of the GST Council.

Election Commission of India launches Voter Awareness Forums

Election Commission of India launches Voter Awareness Forums

The Election Commission of India on January 16, 2019 launched Voter Awareness Forum (VAF) in New New Delhi. Similar VAFs were launched by the Chief Electoral Officers in the state capitals and by District Election Officers in the districts simultaneously.

Voter Awareness Forums
The VAFs are informal forums aimed at generating awareness around the electoral process through activities like discussions, quizzes, competitions and other engaging activities. All employees of the organisation are expected to become members of the VAF with the head of the organisation acting as the chair.
Objective
The key objective of the Voter Awareness Forums is to promote informed and ethical electoral participation, beginning from the first step, which is voter registration.

Key Highlights

The Election Commission has ordered all the respective nodal officers and agencies to immediately set up the forums and facilitate enrolment of all employees and officials on the electoral roll.

The VAFs will facilitate members to check their names and details on the electoral roll through online NVSP portal of the ECI and the voter helpline number – 1950.

The half-day briefing was conducted to familiarise the officers from various Ministries and Federations with the concept of voter awareness forum and to brief them about their role as nodal officers of the VAFs.

Similar briefing sessions were held across the country by the Chief Electoral Officers and District Election Officers where nodal officers of departments, non-govt departments, CSOs, Corporate and media houses in the state and district were briefed respectively.

The voter awareness forum is a part of the Electoral Literacy Club programme of the Election Commission of India.

The ELC programme, which was launched on the 8th National Voters Day, January 25, 2018, envisages setting up of Electoral Literacy Club in every educational institution and Chunav Pathshala at every booth to cover those outside the formal education system.  

Around 2.11 Lakh ELCs have already been established across the country in the first year of the launch of the programme.

Besides this, Senior Deputy Election Commissioner briefed all present about the ‘Voter Verification and Information’ drive that the Commission is taking up. Further, while speaking on the occasion, Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa said that thousands of unnamed and faceless government officials undertake the task of preserving the electoral process, in different capacities and roles.

Hailing the Officers as “Ambassadors of Democracy”, Lavasa said that as Nodal Officers, now they are invested with the additional responsibility of educating colleagues and staff in their workplace and ensuring that all the members of their Ministry and Departments are familiar with the electoral procedure right from enrolment to the casting of the vote.

Gandhi Peace Prize announced for years 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018

Gandhi Peace Prize announced for years 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018

The Gandhi Peace Prize for the years 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 was 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.

Brexit: UK Parliament rejects Brexit Deal, May wins no-confidence vote

Brexit: UK Parliament rejects Brexit Deal, May wins no-confidence vote

British Prime Minister Theresa May suffered a crushing defeat in the Parliament on January 15, 2019 when over 100 lawmakers of May’s Conservative party – both Brexiteers and Remainers, voted against the Brexit deal.

The lawmakers overwhelmingly rejected Britain’s withdrawal deal by a vote of 432 to 202, a majority of 230 votes, with just 73 days to go until Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union. The withdrawal agreement had been negotiated between Prime Minister Theresa May and the European Union. Britain is scheduled to leave the EU on March 29, 2019.

Impact
Theresa May’s defeat is the biggest-ever defeat suffered by a British premier in modern history. The only other comparable party split and parliamentary defeat happened in 1886, when Prime Minister William Gladstone’s support for Irish home rule cut the Liberal Party in two. The crushing defeat marks the collapse of May’s two-year strategy of forging an amicable exit with close ties to the EU. The rejection has also complicated and increased doubts about how or whether Britain will leave the European Union on March 29.

May wins no-confidence vote

May’s minority government on January 16, 2019 won the no-confidence motion, which was tabled by opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn following the rejection of the Brexit deal, with 325 votes in favour of her government and 306 against, by a majority of 19 votes.

After the results were declared, May called on the MPs to put self-interest aside and work constructively together to find a way forward for Brexit. She told them that she would continue to work on the promise made to the people of the country on the result of the referendum and leaving the EU.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn during a six-hour debate on his motion said that his party has not ruled out tabling further no-confidence motions. May had previously survived a no-confidence vote by her Conservative Party in December 2018.

What Happens Next?

Theresa May had called Brexit vote in Parliament as the most important in a generation. She told the lawmakers that the choice was plain, either support her compromise deal – the only one that Europe will abide, as the EU refused to go over the deal again or face the idea of a no-deal Brexit.

The vote against her deal was decisive. Moments after the result came in, May said, “the government has heard what the House has said tonight.”

Despite the huge defeat, May has said she still wants to fulfil her duty to deliver on Britain’s 2016 vote for leaving the EU.

With the defeat of the Brexit deal, three key options lay before the British Government now:

1. Re-negotiate with EU for a new deal

• May, who now has three days to bring a revised plan back to parliament, will now most likely seek concessions from the EU, then put her deal to parliament a second time.

• However, the EU has said it will not negotiate the deal again. Now, with the margin of her defeat, it is more unlikely that EU would give May more concessions.

• The British government and EU leaders have said that their agreement is the best compromise available. However, the members of her Conservative party argue that the deal keeps Britain too close to the EU, while opposition parties say that it fails to protect economic ties with the bloc.

• The two sides also oppose the plan of keeping the Irish border open, which could see Britain indefinitely follow European rules on trade. May’s agreement was meant to keep trade rules between the world’s fifth-biggest economy and its largest export market almost unchanged for a transition period running to the end of 2020.

• However, there is nothing that can stop the government from bringing the same deal back again to the House of Commons until either MPs accept it or seek to remove May.

2. No-deal Brexit

• This is the most likely scenario that the United Kingdom is heading towards currently. Critics claim the situation to be economically disastrous for both UK and EU, saying that it threatens to trigger a recession in Britain and markedly slow EU’s economic growth.

• However, if the deal is re-introduced in the parliament and is defeated again then there would probably be no other solution than this before March 29.

3. New Brexit Referendum

• EU supporters have been calling for another vote ever since the “Leave EU” campaign won the 2016 referendum.

• Though, there is no law keeping Britain from doing the referendum all over again, many question on whether the move would be democratic. It also threatens to be just as divisive, with opinion polls showing the country is still split over the issue.

• Despite the huge defeat, May has said she still wants to fulfil her duty to deliver on Britain’s 2016 vote for leaving the EU.

EU reaction to Brexit vote

In a statement following May’s defeat, Juncker said he “regretted” the result of the vote.”The risk of disorderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom has increased with the vote,” Juncker said.

Background
The Brexit vote was initially scheduled to be held on December 11 but was postponed by May when it became clear to her that she faced a certain defeat. Prior to the vote, May had warned the British legislators that if the plan was rejected, a catastrophe would follow. The United Kingdome is set to leave the European Union on March 29, 2019, two years after the Brexit referendum in June 2016 that triggered Article 50, the exit clause in the EU’s constitution and kick-started arduous negotiations with European leaders over a divorce deal. The EU deal was finally reached in November 2018. However, since reaching a deal in November, the agreement has come under fire from across the political spectrum, with opponents of the EU seeking a cleaner break and pro-European legislators pressing for a second vote on membership in the bloc. A second referendum, however, has been opposed by both May and main opposition leader Corbyn. It has, however, won the support of many labour MPs, who say that the decision should be put back to the people for a final say, in a public vote, with the option to stay and keep the Brexit deal.

Brexit Referendum
On June 23, 2016, people of the United Kingdom (UK) were asked to vote to decide if they wanted Britain to remain as a member of the European Union or to leave the bloc. The vote was popularly referred to as a vote to leave or remain! The referendum resulted in a close vote, with 51.9 per cent of voters casting votes in favour of the UK leaving the EU, while 48.11 per cent voted to remain. Although legally the referendum was non-binding, the government of that time had promised to implement the result and it initiated the official EU withdrawal process on March 29, 2017, which put the UK on course to leave the EU by 30 March 2019, after a period of Brexit negotiations

16 January 2019

Cabinet approves Recapitalisation of Export-Import Bank of India

Cabinet approves Recapitalisation of Export-Import Bank of India

The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on January 16, 2019 approved the recapitalisation of the Export-Import Bank of India (EXIM Bank).

The Cabinet also approved an increase in the authorized capital of EXIM Bank from Rs 10,000 crore to Rs. 20,000 crore.

How recapitalisation of EXIM Bank will be carried out?

The Government will issue the Recapitalization Bonds to the tune of Rs 6000 crore for capital infusion in the EXIM Bank.

The equity will be infused in two tranches. First tranche will be of Rs 4,500 crore in FY 2018-19, and then of Rs 1,500 crore in FY 2019-20.

The recapitalisation bonds will be on the lines issued to Public Sector Banks.

Impact
Exim Bank is the principal export credit agency for India. The infusion of capital into Exim Bank will enable it to augment capital adequacy and support Indian exports with enhanced ability. The infusion will also give a boost to anticipate new initiatives like supporting Indian textile industries, changes in Concessional Finance Scheme (CFS), likelihood of new LoCs in future in view of India’s active foreign policy.

EXIM Bank

Export Import Bank of India or EXIM Bank is the premier agency in India in the arena of export financing.

It was established in the year 1982 under an act of Parliament in order to make Indian companies get requisite credit facilities for exporting their products to different countries of the world.

The bank steadily grew into an organisation that does not only support export from the country, but also encourages overseas investment, pre-shipment and post-shipment finance, finance for developing business cycle for Indian companies, etc.

The Bank is regulated by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

What is Recapitalisation?
Simply put, recapitalisation of banks mean adding capital to Public Sector Undertaking Banks. As owners of PSUs government can provide capital to these banks. It is different from loan because a loan has to be repaid whereas recapitalisation injects money without incurring any liability.
Why Recapitalisation?
• With over 10 trillion stressed assets and 7.7 trillion Non-Performing Assets, Indian banks are unable to give fresh loans.
• Most Public Sector Banks are in need of Capital plus, the credit growth has been slow moving for a while for want of big corporate loans. 
• Banks have been unable to lend loans to big corporate houses due to bank’s weak capital positioning which limited its capability to lend to big corporate houses.
What could change after Recapitalisation?
• Lending Capacity of Banks would increase.
• This could also boost India’s economy and improve private sector investment.
• Big expansion in supply of money and this could also mean banks can lend lower interest rates.
• It might increase India’s fiscal deficit that is government’s total expenditures may exceed the revenue that it generates (apart from money from borrowings).
• Experts suggest that banks have much wider requirement than the budgetary allocation.  According to Moody’s Investors Service, 11 big state-owned banks will require additional capital of Rs 70,000 – 95,000 crore, against the Rs 20,000 crore budgeted until March 2019.

PM Modi to inaugurate Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit 2019 on January 18

PM Modi to inaugurate Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit 2019 on January 18

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the ninth edition of the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit 2019 on January 18, 2019. The summit will be held at the Mahatma Mandir, Gandhinagar, Gujarat.

The Summit will witness presence of Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani, Tata Sons Chairman N. Chandrashekhran, Chairman of Aditya Birla Group Kumar Mangalam Birla, Adani Group Chairman Gautam Adani, Godrej Group Chairman Adi Godrej, among others.

Theme
The theme of the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit 2019 will be “Youth Connect 2019: Shaping A New India – The Story of Billion Dreams”.

Key Highlights

• Heads of five countries – Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, Rwanda President Paul Kagame, Prime Minister of Denmark Lars Lokke Rasmussen, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic Andrej Babis and Prime Minister of Malta Joseph Muscat would be attending the summit.

Besides, 21 ministers from various countries will be attending the event.

• Fifteen countries including Australia, Canada, France and Japan have agreed to be “partner countries” this year.

Unlike past summits, the United States and United Kingdom will not be associating themselves with the Summit as `Partner Countries’ this year.

Over 20,000 national and international delegates are expected to attend the 9th edition of the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit.

Some of the major events that will be held during the three-day summit are – roundtable interaction, ‘Africa Day’ and an MSME Convention.

About Vibrant Gujarat Summit
-Vibrant Gujarat Summit was initiated by Narendra Modi in 2003 when he was the Chief Minister of the state to re-establish Gujarat as a preferred investment destination within India.
-Today, the Summit has evolved into a platform for brainstorming on agendas of global socio-economic development.
-The 8th Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit was held in January 2017 and witnessed participation from over 25000 delegates from over 100 countries including 4 Heads of States, Nobel Laureates, and others.
Objectives
-Strengthen the foundation for Gujarat to become economically and socially the most developed state in India by 2030
-Leveraging Gujarat’s manufacturing leadership in the country
-Attract the brightest minds from across the world to ideate, and showcase innovation and best practices
-Empower India to compete with the global economies
-Provide a platform for global business networking

DBT, ICAR sign MoU for cooperation in agricultural biotechnology research and education

DBT, ICAR sign MoU for cooperation in agricultural biotechnology research and education

The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on January 14, 2019 to increase emphasis on multi-disciplinary research and development activities and nurturing innovations in agricultural biotechnology research and education.

The Department of Biotechnology has undertaken several activities and programs to promote Biotechnology Research & Development in the areas of agriculture biotechnology. On the other hand, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research has been coordinating, guiding and managing research and education in agriculture including horticulture, fisheries and animal sciences in the entire country.

Objective
The MoU between DBT and ICAR will be implemented with the aim to collaborate with one another in mutually agreed-upon research programmes in the areas of agricultural biotechnology, funding of projects, policy issues, regulatory aspects, and other specified areas of National interest.
The specific objectives of the agreement include:
To plan and implement jointly the mutually agreed major National programmes through joint funding and sharing of resources in the priorities areas of agricultural biotechnology.
To form a common think tank of experts from ICAR and DBT and others to formulate policies related to:
Transgenic crops, animals, fish and biological agents along with trait prioritisation of traits.
Strategies to employ the emerging areas of biotechnology tools, such as, genome editing, synthetic biology and nano-biotechnology in agriculture.
Harmonise the laws governing bio-diversity, bio-safety, patents protection and food safety.
Communication and public engagement in agricultural biotechnology.
Modalities of public-private partnerships.
To establish national platform and centres for services related to genomics, genotyping, data banking, agriculture bioinformatics, GM food detection, validation of technologies such as vaccines, diagnostics of veterinary and fisheries use, molecular markers in crop and animal breeding.
To formulate and introduce courses and training programmes in the area of IPR, biosafety, biodiversity conservation and germplasm exchange, genomic selection and breeding for faculty and students through appropriate mechanisms.
Research prioritisation with other ministries and foreign collation like Indo-UK SIC, BRICS, African countries and ‘Look East’ programme in relation to agricultural biotechnology.

Other Details

The MoU has been signed for mutual collaboration to explore the possibility of cooperation, convergence and synergy to promote and accelerate the progress of research and training in various disciplines of agricultural biotechnology between ICAR and DBT.

Under the agreement, five to ten focused programmes, both short, medium and long term will be developed and implemented.

The major facilities and technology platforms created by both the agencies will be accessible to the National systems and a joint working group will be constituted to take the partnership forward.

The collaboration also aims to promote agriculture innovations and start-ups, through the well established BIRAC mechanism.

This flagship synergistic approach would be taken-up in mission mode through networking with the elite institutions in the Country.

7-Member GoM constituted for boosting Real Estate Sector under GST regime

7-Member GoM constituted for boosting Real Estate Sector under GST regime

The Ministry of Finance on January 15, 2019 constituted a Group of Ministers (GoM) for boosting the Real Estate Sector under the GST regime.

The GoM was constituted in pursuance of the decision of GST Council taken in the 32nd meeting held on January 10, 2019 at New Delhi.

The group has been tasked to provide a Composition Scheme for Residential Construction Units.

Secretary of the GoM

The Secretary of the GoM will be Manish Sinha, Joint Secretary (TRU-II), Central Board of Indirect taxes and Customs (CBIC).

Members of the Group of Ministers

S.No. Name Designation and State Role in the GoM
1 Nitin Patel Deputy Chief Minister, Gujarat Convener
2 Sudhir Mungantiwar Finance Minister, Maharashtra Member
3 Krishna Byre Gowda Finance Minister, Karnataka Member
4 Dr. T.M. Thomas Isaac Finance Minister, Kerala Member
5 Manpreet Singh Badal Finance Minister, Punjab Member
6 Rajesh Agarwal Finance Minister, Uttar Pradesh Member
7 Mauvin Godinho Minister of Panchayat, Goa Member

Terms of Reference for the GoM

Analyse GST rate and inter-alia challenges for boosting the Real Estate Sector under GST regime by providing a Composition Scheme for Residential Construction Units

Examine and suggest ways for Composition Scheme or any other Scheme for boosting Real Estate Sector and suggest Scheme for Transition and its introduction

Examine various aspect of levy of GST on Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) and Development Rights in a joint Development Agreement

Examine legality of inclusion or exclusion of land in composition and suggest Valuation Mechanism

Examine and suggest aspects relevant to boost Real Estate Sector

The GoM may invite officers from the Centre and the States, as may be required, for boosting the sector.

The Conveners of Law Committee and Fitment Committee will assist the GoM.

Indian Real Estate Sector

The Indian real estate sector has witnessed high growth in recent times with the rise in demand for office as well as residential spaces.

The Government has undertaken several initiatives to encourage the development in the sector. Some of these initiatives are:

  • Smart Cities Mission: The Smart Cities mission, a project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was launched in June 2015 with the government releasing the guidelines and mission statement for the 100 Smart Cities project.
  • Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) Urban: The Mission will be implemented during 2015-2022 and will provide central assistance to Urban Local Bodies (ULBs). The Government is committed to provide “Housing for All” by the end of 2022. As on June 2018, a total of 7.60 lakh houses were completed and another 28 lakh were grounded.
  • Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana- Gramin: Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Gramin), under which a target of completing one crore new houses by March 31, 2019 was set, was launched in November 2016 from Agra.

Government launches two national science channels DD Science, India Science

Government launches two national science channels DD Science, India Science

The Department of Science and Technology (DST) along with Doordarshan (DD), Prasar Bharati on January 15, 2019 launched two science communication initiatives -DD Science and India Science.

While inaugurating the two key initiatives, Union Science & Technology Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan said that it is a watershed moment not only in science and technology communication but also in developing the scientific temper of the society.

The minister, while recalling the role played by Doordarshan, India’s public service broadcaster, in the Pulse Polio campaign back in 1990s, said that the channel, which reaches out to more than 92 per cent of India’s population, would be a very impactful medium for popularisation of science.  The Minister further, expressed hope that in the near future the country will see a 24 hour DD Science Channel.

DD Science India Science
The programme will have a one-hour time slot on the Doordarshan National channel. It will be an internet-based channel, which will be made available on any internet-enabled device.
It will be telecasted from Monday to Saturday from 5 pm to 6pm It will offer live, scheduled play and video-on-demand services.
  Government launches India’s first 24x7 science channel

Key Highlights

The two science communication platforms are national-level initiatives to elevate science into a celebration and bring it close to everyday life.

They will have science-based documentaries, studio-based discussions, and virtual walkthroughs of scientific institutions, interviews and short films and will be completely free to access.

The DST and DD aim to make them jewels in the crown of the country for serving humanity for the furtherance of science.

The channels have been conceived and supported by the DST and are being implemented and managed by Vigyan Prasar, an autonomous organisation of DST.

For the same, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between Vigyan Prasar and Doordarshan.

Significance

The two science channels, which are milestones in the history of science communication in India, are the first step in creating a national science channel for the country.

The two initiatives are building blocks towards realising the goal of India becoming one of the top three countries in science and technology by 2030.

While India Science will be available 24×7, DD Science may also be scaled up to a full-fledged channel in the future.

15 January 2019

PM Modi launches development projects worth over Rs 1500 crore in Odisha

PM Modi launches development projects worth over Rs 1500 crore in Odisha

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 15, 2019 visited Odisha and launched several development projects worth over Rs 1,500 crore at Balangir, Odisha. 

PM Modi dedicated electrified Jharsuguda-Vizianagaram and Sambalpur-Angul lines spanning 813 kilometres to the nation. These railway lines were electrified at a cost of around Rs 1,000 crore.

Projects launched by PM Modi
The Prime Minister inaugurated the doubling of Barpali-Dungaripali and Balangir-Deogaon railway lines in the state.The 15 km-long Balangir-Bichhupali railway line laid at a cost of Rs 115 crores was also launched. It is part of the new 289 kilometre Balangir-Khurda road line which connects Howrah-Chennai main line on Khurda Road and Titlagarh-Sambalpur line at Balangir.A new train on Balangir-Bichhupali route was also flagged off. It would benefit commuters of the region, besides connecting Bichhupali to Jharsuguda and Vizianagaram main line through Balangir.PM Modi also dedicated to the nation the Multi-Modal Logistics Park at Jharsuguda. The Park promotes movement of goods for domestic as well as global trade. It will establish Jharsuguda as a prime logistics hub and boost ease of doing business in the state.A bridge between Theruvali and Singapur Road station was inaugurated on the occasion. The bridge re-establishes the linkage over Nagavali River which was destroyed during floods in July 2017.The Passport Sewa Kendras were inaugurated at Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Puri, Phulbani, Bargarh and Balangir.The foundation stone was also laid for a permanent building of Kendriya Vidyalaya at Sonepur.The Prime Minister also inaugurated renovation and restoration works at Nilamadhav and Siddheswar Temple at Gandhaharadi in Boudh, Paschim Somnath group of temples in Boudh and Ranipur Jharial group of monuments in Balangir.

Significance 

The projects will not only spur the growth of Odisha but also of eastern India. Within a month, more than Rs 20,000 crore of development projects have been either inaugurated or initiated in Odisha.

Global Aviation Summit 2019 begins in Mumbai

Global Aviation Summit 2019 begins in Mumbai

The Union Minister of Civil Aviation, Suresh Prabhu on January 15, 2019 inaugurated the Global Aviation Summit 2019 in Mumbai, Maharashtra. The Summit is a union and it will address the problems faced in the aviation sector.

Theme
The theme of the Global Aviation Summit 2019 is ‘Flying for all-especially the next 6 Billion’.

The event will host experts and CEOs from Global Aviation Fraternity emphasising upon the latest trends, futuristic aircraft and cutting-edge technologies. 

Present on the occasion, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced that by the beginning of 2020, the state government will make New Mumbai’s airport functional, which has the capacity to add 1 percent to the GDP. 

India would be adding 1,000 aircraft over the next 7-8 years and one billion trips in the next 15 years. The domestic aviation in India has been growing at 20 percent every year since 2015 and this growth has been highest in the world. 

Organisers and Partners

The two-day summit is being organised by the Union Ministry of Civil AviationAirport Authority of India (AAI) in association with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI). 

The Union Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, CiviI Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO), Airports Council International (ACl), International Air Transport Association (IATA) are the partner organizations of the Summit.

Objective
The objective of the Summit is to provide a platform to the aviation industry to discuss the challenges faced in the newly developing growth spots and understand how technology-driven innovations will change air travel in the future.The Summit also aims to be the most comprehensive platform for civil aviation, witnessing a vivid representation from global leaders from airlines, manufacturers, investors, vendors, cargo, space industry, banking institutions, skill development agencies and states and UTs of India.The Global Aviation Summit will offer stakeholders an opportunity to explore, deliberate and understand how technology-driven innovations will change air travel in the decades to come.

Key Highlights

• The two-day summit will host a conference, expo and will endeavour meaningful engagements via G2G, G2B, B2B meetings and other networking opportunities.

• The platform will bring together prominent leaders from across the world to share their experiences on strengthening national aviation ecosystems. 

• Prominent transport ministers from across the world would be sharing their experiences on enhancing the Aviation ecosystem and put forth key analytical inputs on their success stories, experience and knowledge to develop aviation in their respective countries. 

• The civil aviation authorities of the world will also discuss how to ensure that safety and security standards are maintained across a fast-growing and vast aviation ecosystem. 

• The event will also examine the future of drones, sustainable growth of aviation, cargo and logistics in the aviation industry – all the factors behind building great aviation business. 

• More than 1000 delegates from global aviation fraternity are participating in first of its kind summit.

Government launches ‘Womaniya on Government e Marketplace’ initiative

Government launches Womaniya on Government e Marketplace

The Union Government on January 14, 2019 launched the ‘Womaniya on Government e Marketplace (GeM)’, an initiative to enable women entrepreneurs and Women Self-Help Groups (WSHGs) to sell handicrafts, handloom, accessories, and other products directly to Government departments and institutions. 

The Womaniya on GeM initiative aims to develop women entrepreneurship on the margins of society to achieve gender-inclusive economic growth.

Significance
India has approximately 500 million Internet users and nearly 54 percent of them are more than 25 years of age with higher discretionary income and likely to transact more online. Women constitute 33 percent or 143 million Internet users and control 44 percent of household spending in India.Nearly 80 percent women-owned establishments in India are self-financed and more than 60 percent of 8 million units are owned and led by women entrepreneurs from socially-challenged sections.Since women tend to invest up to 90 percent of their earnings back in their families to provide better nutrition, health care and education to their children, their economic empowerment is essential for poverty alleviation which would be made possible through Womaniya initiative.Womaniya on GeM will spur hyper-local economic opportunities for women entrepreneurs and address goals and objectives under United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

Key Highlights of the ‘Womaniya on GeM’ initiative

• Artist Anukta M Ghosh’s artwork “Magan”, an illustration of women empowerment and grace, is the face of Womaniya on GeM. 

• The Womaniya homepage (gem.gov.in/womaniya) will inform procurement officers in various government ministries, departments and CPSEs about the drive to promote procurement of common use goods and services from women entrepreneurs. 

• Products like handicrafts and handloom, accessories, jute and coir products, home decor and office furnishings are categorised for ease-in-procurement. 

• The initiative aligns with Government’s initiatives for MSMEs, especially to reserve 3 percent in government procurement from women entrepreneurs.

Government e Marketplace


• Government e Marketplace is a 100 percent government owned company setup under the aegis of Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry for procurement of common use goods and services by Government ministries, departments and CPSEs. 

• GeM was setup in 2016 and has 731,431 product categories, with 180,862 registered sellers and 32,114 government buyers. 

• Since inception, GeM has processed 1,171,761 orders worth Rs 16,976 crores in gross merchandise value.

• The platform offers online, end to end solution for procurement of commonly used goods and services for all central government departments and state governments, public sector units and affiliated bodies.

• It aims to enhance transparency, efficiency and speed in public procurement of goods and services and eliminate corruption.

Kumbh Mela 2019: World’s largest religious and cultural human congregation begins in UP

Kumbh Mela 2019 begins in UP

The world’s largest religious and cultural human congregation, ‘Kumbh 2019’ began at Prayagraj (erstwhile Allahabad), Uttar Pradesh on January 15, 2019 and will go on till March 4, 2019. 

This 7-week event began with the holy dip at Sangam, the confluence of three rivers – Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati. The first bathing was taken by saints and seers of different Akharas.

Key initiatives undertaken by Yogi Adityanath Government

• According to the UP Government, over 12 crores devotees and tourists are expected to visit Prayagraj during the Kumbh.

• The Kumbh 2019 is spread over an area of 3,200 hectares of land. It is nearly 700 hectares more than the area utilised during the 2013 Maha Kumbh.

• 21 Snan Ghats have been set up for bathing. 

• Special arrangements have been made for women devotees and for the first time three women police units have been pressed into service. 

• Over 120000 toilets have been erected for making Clean Kumbh. 

• The whole kumbh area is divided into 20 sectors and 9 zones for keen vigil by sector and zonal magistrates. 

• Forty police stations, 58 police outposts including three women police station are erected where more than 20 thousand security personnel are deployed.

• Traffic management at Kumbh 2019 is planned to ensure coordination of traffic movement on multiple channels which will be integrated with google maps as well before the Mela.

Kumbh Mela
• Known as the festival of the sacred Pitcher, Kumbh Mela is held in Allahabad (now known as Prayagraj), Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik in every four years by rotation and is attended by millions of people irrespective of caste, creed or gender.
• The Kumbh Mela is the largest public congregation of faith. The congregation includes Ascetics, Saints, Sadhus, Sadhvis, Kalpvasis, and Pilgrims from all walks of life.
• The tale of Kumbh Mela includes the battle between Gods and Demons over a pot of Amrit (Nectar of immortality). In the battle between Devas and Asuras, a few drops of this Amrit fell in Haridwar, Allahabad, Ujjain and Nasik and since then Kumbh Mela is organised in these places.
• During the festival, devotees bath or take a dip in a sacred river.
• Followers believe that by bathing in the river, one is freed from sins and is liberated from the cycle of birth and death.
• As a religious festival, Kumbh Mela demonstrates tolerance and inclusiveness which are especially valuable for the contemporary world.
• The knowledge and skills related to Kumbh Mela are transmitted through the Guru-Shishyaparampara (teacher-student relationship) by way of teachings by saints and sadhus to their disciples.
• The festival summarizes the science of astronomy, astrology, spirituality, ritualistic traditions, social and cultural customs, making it extremely rich in knowledge.
• The Mela was included in the list of “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO in 2017.

Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act, 2019: 10% reservation for economically weak in general category comes into force

10% reservation for economically weak in general category comes into force

The Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act, 2019, the Act providing 10 percent reservation in government jobs and educational institutions to Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) of General Category, came into effect on January 14, 2019.

The move came after the Union Government exercised its powers conferred by sub-section (2) of section 1 of the Constitution (One Hundred and Third Amendment) Act, 2019 and appointed January 14, 2019 as the date on which the provisions of the said Act shall come into force.

The Act amends Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution, by adding a clause which allows states to make special provision for the advancement of any economically weaker sections of general category.

Earlier, the President of India, Ram Nath Kovind on January 12, 2019 gave his assent to the Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act, 2019.

The Rajya Sabha had passed the Constitution 124th (Amendment) Bill, 2019 that seeks to provide 10 per cent reservation in jobs and educational institutions to economically backward sections in the general category on January 9, 2019. The legislation was passed in the upper house of the Parliament with 165 members voting in favour of it and seven voting against.

The Lok Sabha had already given its approval to the bill a day earlier with over two-thirds of majority, with 323 members voting in favour and three voting against. Prior to this, the Union Cabinet on January 7, 2019 had approved a proposal for the introduction of the bill. The bill extends 10 per cent quota to the economically weaker sections in the general category who are not covered by any of the existing schemes of reservation.

Important Note
The Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill 2019 is designed to amend the Constitution to extend 10 per cent reservation in direct recruitment in  government jobs and for admission in higher educational institutions to “economically weaker” sections among all castes and communities, Christians and Muslims included, who are not eligible under the existing quotas.The 10 per cent reservation will be in addition to the existing cap of 50 per cent reservation for the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes, taking total reservation to 60 per cent. The quota targets the poor among the upper castes.This will be over and above 50 percent mandated by Constitution and hence the need for Constitution amendment Bill.

According to sources, new clauses would be added to Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution which presently allow the State to make reservation for only Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and for socially or educationally backward classes (Other Backward Classes or OBCs).

Who will be covered under new 10 per cent quota?The proposed amendment Bill will define Economically Weaker Section (EWS) as one having:
1. Annual household income below Rs 8 lakh
2. Agriculture land below 5 acres
3. Residential house below 1000 sqft
4. Residential plot below 100 yards in notified municipality
5. Residential plot below 200 yards in non-notified municipality area
Definition of Household
A person whose family has a gross annual income below Rs 8 lakh will be identified as EWS for the benefit of reservation.The household includes “the person who seeks the benefit of reservation, his, her parents and siblings below the age of 18 years as also his, her partner and children below the age of 18 years”.Also, income will cover all sources such as salary, agriculture, business and profession.
Present QuotaThe existing quota sums up to about 49 per cent, which includes:
 7 per cent for Scheduled Castes
– 15 per cent for Scheduled Tribes
 27 per cent for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (including widows and orphans of any caste)

What happens now?

 An amendment of the Constitution can only be initiated when the bill is passed in both houses of the parliament by a majority of the total membership of the House and by a special majority of not less than two-thirds of the members present and voting.

• Since the bill has been passed by both houses of the Parliament with the required majority, it will now be presented to the President who shall give his assent to the Bill.

 If the amendment seeks to make any change in any of the provisions mentioned in the proviso to article 368, it must be ratified by the Legislatures of not less than one-half of the States.

 Although there is no prescribed time limit for ratification, it must be completed before the amending Bill is presented to the President for his assent.

Consequence of the Measure

The move has come just ahead of the Lok Sabha elections this year. The consequence of the measure will be limited to central agencies, but the government hopes that it will create an “enabling atmosphere” for the state governments to attempt replication.

The change, if it goes through Parliament, will take the quantum of quotas to 59.5 per cent, which many argue will mark a violation of the 50 per cent cap mandated by the Supreme Court in the Indira Sawhney case.

Present quota identical to one defining creamy layer among OBCs?

The proposed criteria for adjudging who is “economically weak” is identical to the one applied for defining “creamy layer” among the OBCs who are debarred from quota benefits.

The measure, which was criticised as “excessively liberal” when enforced for defining who constituted the “creamy layer” among the OBCs, will mean that almost the entire population, except the rich who number around just above a crore or so, cutting across communities, becomes eligible for quotas.

House session to be extended by a day?

Both the houses of the Parliament are set to be adjourned on January 8, however, an additional day is being arranged for the Upper House to help it clear the legislation.

Similar Attempts in the Past
All previous attempts at carving out a quota in jobs and education for the economically backward in the ‘general’ category, including the Hindu upper castes, have failed to pass legal muster.In 1991, the P V Narasimha Rao government had proposed 10 per cent reservation for the poor among the forward castes.But in 1992, while upholding reservation for OBCs as per the Mandal Commission recommendation, the Supreme Court, in the Indra Sawhney & Others vs Union of India case, directed that reservation be restricted to maximum 50 per cent.The court had also said that separate reservation for economically poor among forward class was invalid as Article 15(4) provided for only socially and educationally backward classes and not economically backward classes.The Narasimha Rao government’s attempt failed as it violated the structure of 50 per cent ceiling.
Supreme Court in Indira Sawhney case
The proposed law would face roadblocks if challenged in the Supreme Court.A nine-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in the Indira Sawhney case of 1992 specifically answered the question “whether backward classes can be identified only and exclusively with reference to the economic criterion.”The constitution bench had categorically ruled that a backward class cannot be determined only and exclusively with reference to economic criterion.The bench had held that economic criterion may be a consideration or basis along with, and in addition to, social backwardness, but it can never be the sole criterion.The bench in its judgement declared 50 per cent quota as the rule unless extraordinary situations “inherent in the great diversity of this country and the people” happen. Even then, the court stated that extreme caution is to be exercised and a special case should be made out.
Gujarat
Gujarat government promulgated a similar ordinance in 2016, providing 10 per cent quota to upper castes.The Gujarat High Court, however, quashed the ordinance in August 2016. The case has been referred to a five-judge Bench of the Supreme CourtGujarat had justified the ordinance by referring to how Article 46 of the Constitution, which deals with the Directive Principles of the State Policy, required the State to promote weaker sections.It had categorised the 10 per cent quota as a ‘reasonable classification’ under Article 14 and not ‘reservation’. It said the 50 per cent ceiling limit in the Indira Sawhney judgment applied only to SC/ST and SEBC.The High Court, however, observed that the “unreserved category itself is a class” and economic criteria was too fluctuating a basis for providing quota.

13-14 January 2019

Puducherry to ban single-use plastic from March 1

Puducherry to ban single-use plastic from March 1

Puducherry government has decided to ban the production, sale and use of single-use plastic products in the Union Territory from March 1, 2019. The announcement was made by Chief Minister V Narayanasamy on January 13, 2019 after a cabinet meeting.

The Chief Minister said that the government wants to gift a plastic-free Puducherry to the future generation and curb the plastic in the larger interest of the environment. He said a massive drive would also be launched to create awareness among the merchants and the public on the necessity of the ban.

The move comes after a nominated BJP MLA caused a flutter on the Assembly premises on December 31 by resorting to sudden dharna urging the Puducherry government to ban immediately – the production, sale and use of plastic products in the Union Territory on the lines of neighbouring Tamil Nadu.

The neighbouring Tamil Nadu government had in June 2018 announced that it would ban the use of plastic items including non-biodegradable carry bags from January 1, 2019, to “gift a plastic-free state to future generations”.

Plastic ban in India

  • Sikkim became the first state in 1998 to ban disposable plastic bags. In 2016, it banned the use of packaged drinking water in government offices and government events and use of Styrofoam and thermocol disposable plates in the entire state.
  • Currently, 17 states have pledged to ban the manufacture, use, storage, distribution, sale, import and transportation of many plastic goods and materials. The prohibition covers a slew of items including polyethylene bags, polyethylene terephthalate bottles, polystyrene products, and various plastic plates, cups, spoons and forks.
  • The governments of Tamil Nadu, Nagaland, Maharashtra and Jharkhand on June 5, 2018 affirmed their commitment to make their states plastic-free. Besides them, the Haryana government also has decided to ban single-use plastic water bottles in all government offices in the state.
  • The Uttarakhand Government also decided to completely prohibit the use of polythene or plastic from July 31, 2018.
  • While Tamil Nadu government planned to ban the use of plastic items from January 2019, Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio set December 2018 as a deadline to free the state of all plastic waste.
  • The state governments of Jharkhand and Maharashtra, on the other hand, sought a year to rid their states of plastic items. Jharkhand Chief Minister announced that the state would become plastic-free by June 5, 2019 and Maharashtra Environment Minister Ramdas Kadam said the state would be totally free of plastic in the next year.
  • West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also urged the people of the state to curb plastic pollution on the occasion of World Environment Day.

PM Narendra Modi conferred with first-ever Philip Kotler Presidential Award

PM Narendra Modi conferred with first-ever Philip Kotler Presidential Award

The Prime Minister Narendra Modi was on January 14, 2019 conferred with the first-ever Philip Kotler Presidential Award.

The Award focuses on the triple bottom-line of ‘People, Profit and Planet’. The award will be offered annually to the leader of a Nation.

Award Citation
As per the award citation, the Prime Minister has been selected for his outstanding leadership for the nation. It is under his leadership that India is now identified as the Centre for Innovation and Value Added Manufacturing (through Make in India initiative).His leadership has resulted in the Digital Revolution (Digital India), including the Unique Identification Number (Aadhaar) for social benefits, financial inclusion, ease of doing business and a 21st century infrastructure for India.The Citation mentions initiatives such as Make in India, Startup India, Digital India, and Swachh Bharat, “which have positioned India as one of the most lucrative manufacturing and business destinations in the world.”

Philip Kotler Presidential Award 

The Philip Kotler Presidential Award has been named after Proffessor Philip Kotler, a world renowned Professor of Marketing at Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management. 

Proffessor Kotler deputed Jagdish Sheth of EMORY University, Georgia, USA, to confer the award to PM Modi, owing to his ill-health.

Who is Proffessor Philip Kotler?
 Proffessor Philip Kotler is the S.C. Johnson & Son Distinguished Professor of International Marketing at the Northwestern University, Kellogg Graduate School of Management in Chicago. He is hailed as “the world’s foremost expert on the strategic practice of marketing.” He has served as the Consultant for companies such as IBM, General Electric, AT&T, Honeywell, Bank of America, Merck and others in the areas of marketing strategy and planning. Professor Kotler, an American marketing author, has authored around 57 books on marketing. Kotler started teaching marketing in 1962 at the Kellogg School of Management itself. He did his MA in Economics from University of Chicago in 1953 and earned his PhD (Economics) in 1956 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Awards and Honors bestowed upon Professor Kotler
In 1991, he was presented with the Kellogg Alumni Professor of the Year Award, Kellogg School of Management.He was ranked first on the A-List of Management Academics in 2011.Kotler received the Badge of Honor of Officer of the Order of Academic Palms, Order of the Academic Palms in 2013.In 2014, Kotler fetched 16th Place in the list of the 30 World’s Top Management Professionals and the only marketer.Kotler was inducted in the Marketing Hall of Fame in New York City in 2014.In 2016, Kotler received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Leaders International at the 6th Global Leadership Awards.Apart from these honours, Kotler has received 20 honorary degrees from around the world such as from Plekhanov Russian Academyu of Economics, HHL Germany, University American College, University of Bucharest, University of Stockholm, University of Zurich and others.

India-Central Asia Dialogue: India, 5 Central Asian nations back inclusive peace process in Afghanistan

India, 5 Central Asian nations back inclusive peace process in Afghanis

India and the five Central Asia nations on January 13, 2019 showed their support for the inclusive peace process in Afghanistan following the first ever India-Central Asia Dialogue. These five Central Asia nations are Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

The Dialogue was attended by the Foreign Ministers of Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan and the First Deputy Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan. The Indian side was represented by Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

Sushma Swaraj’s take on Afghanistan’s inclusive peace process
Sushma Swaraj reiterated India’s support and commitment to peace, security and stability of Afghanistan to promote inclusive Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled peace and reconciliation process.Though New Delhi does not hold policy talks with the Taliban, it indicated its support for an inclusive peace process in Afghanistan.India proposed to set up the India-Central Asia Development Group to take forward this development partnership.
India’s role in development of Chabahar port in Afghanistan
Sushma Swaraj also highlighted the joint efforts of India, Iran and Afghanistan in the development of the Chabahar port on the southeastern coast of Iran as a viable route to connect to Afghanistan to Central Asia.India has pledged to invest USD 500 million to develop the Chabahar port and a road link from there to Afghanistan to give access to that country, bypassing Pakistan.The Chabahar Port is a key link in the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC), a 7,200-km-long multi-modal network, to move freight between India, Iran, Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia and Europe.
Discussions between India and the US on Afghanistan’s peace process
Earlier in the beginning of January 2019 itself, India and the US discussed the ongoing peace process in Afghanistan during a meeting between Sushma Swaraj and US President Donald Trump’s Special Envoy on Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad.Khalilzad’s visit reflected India’s favourable stand on an “Afghan-owned, Afghan-led and Afghan-controlled” peace and reconciliation process.Khalilzad is leading an inter-agency delegation to India, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan from January 8-21, 2019.

Key highlights of the India-Central Asia Dialogue

• The Ministers welcomed the participation of Afghanistan as an important land link in the regional cooperation and expressed their support and commitment to peace, security and stability of Afghanistan.

• The countries agreed to promote an inclusive Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process and reconciliation.

• The leaders pledged to assist in economic reconstruction of Afghanistan through the implementation of joint infrastructure, transit and transport, energy projects including regional cooperation and investment projects.

• The heads noted the importance of sustainable economic growth in Afghanistan by attracting Afghan women to participate in the public life of the country.

• They emphasised the importance of developing and implementing projects that provide a concerted solution to the problems and issues of economic growth of Central Asia.

• They discussed areas of cooperation in promoting mutual trade, attracting investments, innovations and technologies in key spheres of industry, energy, information technologies, pharmaceuticals and agriculture, education and training.

PM Modi releases commemorative coin and stamp on Guru Gobind Singh ji

PM Modi releases commemorative coin and stamp on Guru Gobind Singh ji

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 13, 2019 released a commemorative silver coin of Rs 350 and stamp on Tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji to mark his 352nd birth anniversary. 

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, former Chief Justice of India JS Khehar and several Sikh leaders were also present at the event.

The birth anniversary of the Guru Gobind Singh was also celebrated as Prakashotsava at Patna Sahib, Bihar. The main function was organised at Takhat Sri Harmandir Sahib Gurdwara, Patna Sahib, the birth place of Guru Gobind Singh.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself attended the 350th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Gobind Singh Ji in Patna on January 5, 2017. 

Guru Gobind Singh Ji

• Guru Gobind Singh was the tenth and last of the human Gurus of Sikhism. 

• He became Guru at the age of 9 in 1675 after the martyrdom of his father Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth Guru.

• In 1699, Guru Gobind Singh laid the foundation of Khalsa Sect. 

• He introduced the 5Ks, of the Khalsa: Kesh (uncut hair), Kangha (wooden comb), Kara (iron or steel bracelet worn on the wrist), Kirpan (sword or dagger) and Kacchera (short breeches).

• He played a vital role in moulding the Sikh religion into its present shape with the completion of the sacred scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib.

• He declared Guru Granth Sahib as the next and perpetual Guru of the Sikhs before leaving his mortal body in 1708.

• Guru Gobind Singh ji was a great warrior, philosopher poet and guru. 

• He fought against oppression and injustice. His teachings focused on breaking the barriers of religion and caste.

Gujarat becomes first state to implement 10 per cent quota for EWS in general category

Gujarat becomes first state to implement 10 per cent quota for EWS in general category

Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani announced on January 13, 2019 that his government will implement the 10 per cent reservation for economically weaker sections of the general category with immediate effect.

The announcement comes less than a week after the Indian Parliament passed a constitutional amendment bill to facilitate 10 per cent reservation for upper castes in higher education and employment.

In a tweet, the Chief Minister said, “Happy to state that the Government Of Gujarat has decided to implement 10 per cent EWS reservation benefits from January 14. It will be implemented in all ongoing recruitment process too wherein there is the only advertisement published but the first stage of examination is yet to held.”

  Gujarat becomes first state to implement 10 per cent reservation quota for EWS

Key Highlights

 The decision comes just a day after President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to the Constitutional amendment to provide the 10 per cent reservations to the upper castes. 

 According to the state government’s notification, besides fresh recruitment, the new 10 per cent quota will be implemented in all ongoing recruitment processes where only advertisement has been published but the first stage of examination is yet to be held or the actual recruitment process has not started.

 In such cases, a fresh announcement about the admission process or jobs will have to be made. 

 However, if the recruitment or admission process, tests or interviews, started before January 14, the new reservation would not apply.

Who will be covered under new 10 per cent quota?The proposed amendment Bill will define Economically Weaker Section (EWS) as one having:
1. Annual household income below Rs 8 lakh
2. Agriculture land below 5 acres
3. Residential house below 1000 sqft
4. Residential plot below 100 yards in notified municipality
5. Residential plot below 200 yards in non-notified municipality area
Definition of Household
A person whose family has a gross annual income below Rs 8 lakh will be identified as EWS for the benefit of reservation.
The household includes “the person who seeks the benefit of reservation, his, her parents and siblings below the age of 18 years as also his, her partner and children below the age of 18 years”.
Also, income will cover all sources such as salary, agriculture, business and profession.

Background

The President of India, Ram Nath Kovind on January 12, 2019 gave his assent to the Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act, 2019 which aims to provide reservation in public employment and higher education to economically weaker sections in the general category.

The Rajya Sabha had passed the Constitution 124th (Amendment) Bill, 2019 on January 9, 2019 with 165 members voting in favour of it and seven voting against. The Lok Sabha had already given its approval to the bill a day earlier with over two-thirds of majority, with 323 members voting in favour and three voting against. 

Prior to this, the Union Cabinet on January 7, 2019 had approved a proposal for the introduction of the bill. The bill extends 10 per cent quota to the economically weaker sections in the general category who are not covered by any of the existing schemes of reservation.

12 January 2019

Virat Kohli, Ravi Shastri receive honorary membership of Sydney Cricket Ground

Virat Kohli, Ravi Shastri receive honorary membership of Sydney Cricket Ground

Indian national cricket team’s captain Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri on January 11, 2019 received the honorary membership of the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) for their contribution to the sport of cricket.

The Indian team defeated Australia 2-1 in the four-match Test series, ending the country’s 71-year-old wait for a rare series win Down Under.

The Sydney Cricket Ground congratulated India on achieving the feat and its Chairman Tony Shepherd was quoted saying that it is wonderful to see the world’s largest cricketing nation putting its focus firmly on Test cricket – a step that will reinforce the pre-eminence of Tests in the global cricketing landscape.

Key Highlights

The only other international cricketers to be granted the honorary membership of the SCG, apart from Kohli and Shastri, include the iconic Sachin Tendulkar  and Brian Lara of West Indies.

Speaking on the occasion, the SCG Chairman Shepherd said that Virat and Ravi have been at the forefront and Test cricket is well served having both placing such significance on the five-day format.

Kohli has reiterated his love for Test cricket on various instances throughout India’s tours of England and Australia while Ravi Shastri ranked the series win bigger than the 1983 World Cup and the 1985 World Championship for him on a personal level simply because it came in the longest format of the game.

Commenting through a tweet, Shastri had said that it is a great honour to get the honorary life membership of the SCG along with Kohli.

Background

India scored 622 for the seven wickets in the first innings of the final Test that was held at the iconic stadium. It was their second-highest total in the stadium and although it was washed out, the match confirmed India’s series win, their first ever on Australian soil in Test cricket.

After the Test series victory, India are now scheduled to play a three-match One-day International (ODI) series against Australia.

India are the number 1 ranked Test team in the world but they are trailing England in the ODI rankings. They have a chance to cut the gap at the top of the table by beating the Australian side, which is still grappling with after effects of the 2018 ball-tampering scandal, which saw three of the team’s significant players including the captain and vice-captain getting suspended the game.

Australian Ball Tampering Scandal
 Australian ball tampering scandal

In March 2018, during the third Test match against South Africa in Cape Town, Australia’s Cameron Bancroft was caught by television cameras trying to rough up one side of the ball to make it swing in flight.

Captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner were found to be involved and all three received unprecedented sanctions from Cricket Australia.

While Bancroft received a nine-month suspension from all international and domestic forms of cricket, both Smith and Warner received twelve-months suspension each.

Although he was found not to have been involved, Australia’s coach, Darren Lehmann, announced he would step down from his role following the scandal. Smith was replaced by Tim Paine as Test captain.

CBI Dispute: Alok Verma resigns after PM Modi-led panel removed him as CBI Chief

CBI Dispute: Sacked CBI Chief Alok Verma resigns from service

The sacked CBI Chief, Alok Verma on January 11, 2019 announced his resignation from service, refusing to take charge of the new role as DG, Fire Services. The move comes a day after a high-powered selection committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi removed him from the post of CBI Director in a 2:1 vote, less than 48 hours after he was reinstated to the position by the Supreme Court after he was sent on forced leave by the government.

The selection panel removed Verma from the post over charges of corruption and doubtful integrity as per the findings of the Central Vigilance Commission. There were eight counts of charges against him in the CVC report presented before the Committee. This makes him the first chief in the history of CBI to be ousted from the post.

Besides the Prime Minister, the high-level committee comprised Chief Justice of India’s nominee Justice AK Sikri and the leader of the opposition, Mallikarjun Kharge. While the PM and Justice Sikri held that the CVC report had provided sufficient grounds for Verma’s removal, including evidence to initiate a criminal investigation, opposition leader Mallikarjun Kharge dissented on the decision, saying that the committee should not arrive at a conclusion without hearing Verma’s side.

Based on the panel’s recommendation, the PM-headed Appointments Committee of the Cabinet immediately issued orders to transfer Verma as Director General Fire services, civil defence and home guards for the remainder of his term, which ends on January 31, 2019.

Further, the ACC appointed M Nageswara Rao, CBI Additional Director to look after the duties of the CBI Director until the appointment of a new director.

SC reinstates Alok Verma as CBI Director
The Supreme Court had on January 8, 2019 reinstated Alok Verma as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Director, setting aside the orders of Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) which divested Alok Verma of his powers of CBI Director and sent him on forced leave in October 2018.

However, the bench of the Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S. K. Kaul and K. M. Joseph restrained Verma from taking any major policy decisions until his case is finally disposed off by the Selection Committee under section 4A of the DSPE Act.

The apex court held that the word ‘transfer’, as used in section 4B of the DSPE Act, needs to be understood as encompassing all acts which impact the independent functioning of CBI Director.

The Court further said that the DSPE Act did not enable the Government to take any interim measure against the CBI Director without the prior consent of the statutory committee.

Earlier on December 6, 2018, the apex court reserved its order on the pleas filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Director Alok Verma and NGO Common Cause, challenging the decision of the Central Government to remove Verma as the CBI chief. The bench questioned the overnight decision of the CVC and government to send the CBI’s top two officials Alok Verma and Rakesh Asthana on leave after tolerating their fight since July 2018.

Timeline of Alok Verma case

October 23, 2018 Alok Verma and Rakesh Asthana were divested of their powers of CBI Director and CBI Special Director respectively by orders passed by CVC & DoPT
October 24, 2018 Alok Verma approached the Supreme Court after his removal from the post of CBI Director
October 25, 2018 NGO Common Cause filed PIL seeking SIT probe into circumstances leading to Alok Verma’s removal.
October 26, 2018 SC directed the CVC to complete enquiry in allegations against Verma under the supervision of retired SC judge Justice A K Patnaik by November 12.
October 26, 2018 SC also ruled that Interim Director of CBI, M Nageswara Rao is not authorised to take any policy decisions.
November 12, 2018 SC received CVC report in sealed cover, and the matter was adjourned to November 16
November 16, 2018 SC directed the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) to hand over the copy of the probe report to CBI Director Alok Kumar in a sealed cover and asked Verma to file his response.
December 6, 2018 SC reserved its order. The bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph questioned the overnight decision of CVC and government to send the CBI’s top two officials Alok Verma and Rakesh Asthana on leave after tolerating their fight since July 2018.
January 8, 2019 The Supreme Court reinstated Alok Verma as the CBI Director. However, the court restrained Verma from taking any major policy decisions until his case is finally disposed off by the Selection Committee. Note: The Selection Committee is the High Powered Committee that consists of the Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India or his nominee judge and the Leader of Opposition.
January 9, 2019 Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi nominated senior most SC Judge Justice AK Sikri to be part of the high powered committee to decide the fate of CBI Director Alok Verma, in order to avoid the conflict of interest in the Case.
January 10, 2019 PM-led high selection committee voted 2:1 to remove Verma as CBI Chief.
January 11, 2019Sacked CBI Director Alok Verma resigns

What prompted the overnight decision against Alok Verma?: CJI to Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta

Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had on December 6, 2018 asked the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), represented by Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, that what prompted it to take an “overnight” decision to divest Alok Verma of his powers as CBI Director without consulting the Selection Committee.

The apex court ruled that the factors that prompted the CVC to take the decision on CBI Director Alok Verma did not happen overnight. It further said, “If you had tolerated them since July, then what the reason for this immediate action suddenly without which the institution would have crumbled and fallen?”

KK Venugopal, representing the Central Government, had told the judges that extraordinary circumstances led to the decision, since the two CBI officers Alok Verma and Rakesh Asthana had been fighting like “cats” since July 2018.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta’s argument

On behalf of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), Tushar Mehta argued that CBI director Verma was an Indian Police Service officer and the conduct rules for All-India Service officers applied to him as well. Every all-India service officer is covered by the CVC Act, 2003.

He based his argument on the 1997 Jain Hawala case judgement in Vineet Narain vs Union of India case.

He said that before 1997 judgement, either under the Police Act, 1861 or under the DSPE Act, 1946, the CBI director was subject to the IPS rules. Even in the 1997 judgment, it is nowhere said that the IPS rules would not apply to him and only a minimum tenure of two years is guaranteed.

Mehta defended the action against Verma and Asthana correct as the two officers were raiding and investigating each other, instead of investigating serious cases.

Mehta reiterated that Verma was not transferred but only sent on leave signifying the act to be a temporary arrangement in nature.

Alok Verma’s counsel Fali Nariman’s argument

Alok Verma’s counsel Fali Nariman argued that the government’s order of stripping Verma of charges has no basis, that the CBI director can be removed only with the approval of the Selection Committee.

1997 Jain Hawala Case Judgement in Vineet Narain vs Union of India case
The now known Jain Hawala Case got a momentary boost in 1993 when Vineet Narain filed a Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court. He exposed the terrorists and politicians’ Hawala network and approached the apex court demanding honest probe in this case.
In 1996, for the first time in Indian history, several Cabinet Ministers, Chief Ministers, Governors and Leaders of Opposition besides bureaucrats were charge-sheeted for corruption.
In July 1997, Narain compelled the then Chief Justice to reveal what was happening behind the scene in such high-profile case. CJI’s revelations caused major uproar in the parliament and media.
As a part of the judgement, the apex court had ruled that the Director of the CBI should be appointed on the recommendations of a Committee headed by the Central Vigilance Commissioner, the Home Secretary and the Secretary in the Department of Personnel as members.

Who filed the petition?

The bench of CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justice S K Kaul and Justice K M Joseph was hearing the petition filed by CBI Director Alok Verma and PIL filed by NGO Common Cause against the orders of CVC and Central Government divesting Verma of the powers of CBI Director and giving the charge of CBI to M. Nageshwara Rao.

CBI-Alok Verma- Rakesh Asthana Dispute

After a spell of internal strife in the CBI, the CVC and Central Government divested CBI Director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana from their roles and asked them to go on leave. Verma and Asthana accused each other of taking bribe and blocking investigation of several important cases.

Asthana, a 1984 batch Indian Police Service officer of Gujarat cadre, is alleged to have demanded a bribe of Rs 5 crore and accepting Rs 2 crore from a Hyderabad-based businessman Sathish Babu Sana through two middlemen Manoj Prasad and Somesh Prasad to help Sana get clear of his charges in the Moin Qureshi case. The case was being examined by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by Asthana.

On the other hand, CBI chief Verma also alleged corruption charges on Asthana with regard to the Sterling Biotech case.

However, Asthana hit back by writing to the Cabinet Secretary saying that Verma received Rs 2 crore bribe in the Moin Qureshi case and had tried to stop a raid on Lalu Prasad in the IRCTC case, alleging corruption on Verma’s part.

11 January 2019

Environment Ministry launches National Clean Air Programme

Environment Ministry launches National Clean Air Programme

The Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Dr Harsh Vardhan on January 10, 2019 launched the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), a time-bound national level strategy for pan India implementation to tackle the increasing air pollution problem across the country in a comprehensive manner.

Objective
The main objective of the programme is comprehensive mitigation actions for prevention, control and abatement of air pollution besides augmenting the air quality monitoring network across the country and strengthening the awareness and capacity building activities.

Key Highlights

The National Clean Air Program (NCAP) aims to cut pollution in the 102 worst affected cities by 20-30 percent by 2024, taking 2017 as the base year for the comparison of PM concentration.

The programme will be a mid-term, five-year action plan with 2019 as the first year.

The international experiences and national studies though indicate that significant outcome in terms of air pollution initiatives are visible only in the long-term and hence the programme may be further extended to a longer time horizon after a mid-term review of the outcomes.

The approach for NCAP includes collaborative, multi-scale and cross-sectoral coordination between the relevant central ministries, state governments and local bodies with focus on all sources of pollution.

The interlocking of the existing policies and programmes including the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) and other initiatives of the Government of India in reference to climate change will be done while execution of NCAP.

Main Features of NCAP:

  • Increasing number of monitoring stations in the country including rural monitoring stations
  • Providing technology support
  • Placing emphasis on awareness and capacity building initiatives
  • Setting up of certification agencies for monitoring equipment, source apportionment studies, emphasis on enforcement and specific sectoral interventions
Implementation of the Programme
The Smart Cities program will be used to launch the NCAP in the 43 smart cities falling in the list of the 102 non-attainment cities.
The NCAP is envisaged to be dynamic and will continue to evolve based on the additional scientific and technical information as they emerge.
The NCAP will be institutionalised by respective ministries and will be organised through inter-sectoral groups, which include Ministry of Road Transport and Highway, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Ministry of Heavy Industry, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Health, NITI Aayog, CPCB, experts from the industry, academia and civil society.
The program will partner with multilateral and bilateral international organisations and philanthropic foundations and leading technical institutions to achieve its outcomes.
The city-specific action plans are being formulated for 102 non-attainment cities identified for implementing mitigation actions under NCAP.
The cities have already prepared action plans in consultation with CPCB. The institutional framework at the centre and state level comprising of Apex Committee at the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in the Centre and at Chief Secretary Level in the States are to be constituted.
In addition, sectoral working groups, national level Project Monitoring Unit, Project Implementation Unit, state level project monitoring unit, city level review committee under the Municipal Commissioner and DM level Committee in the Districts are to be constituted under NCAP for effective implementation and success of the Programme.

Background

Air pollution is one of the biggest global environmental challenges of today. India is home to the world’s 14 most polluted cities, according to the World Health Organisation. The toxic air claimed 1.24 million lives in the nation in 2017, as per a study in Lancet Planetary Health.

Currently, the cities occupy just 3 per cent of the land, but contribute to 82 per cent of GDP and are responsible for 78 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions.

Cities though are engines of growth and equity but they have to be sustainable and it is in this context that NCAP being a very inclusive program holds special relevance.

The launch ceremony was attended by more than 150 participants representing central and state governments, industries, national and international organisations, universities and research institutes from across the country.

The programme’s launch coincides with the annual peak of pollution levels in northern India, including New Delhi. Last week pollution surged to “emergency” levels in the capital, as the Central Pollution Control Board’s air quality index of poisonous particulate matter hit 440, more than 12 times recommended limit.

Mary Kom becomes ‘World No 1’ Boxer in latest AIBA World Rankings

Mary Kom becomes World No 1 Boxer in latest AIBA World Rankings

The celebrated MC Mary Kom became the World No 1 Boxer in 45-48 kg category in the latest International Boxing Association’s (AIBA) World Rankings released on January 10, 2019.

Mary Kom was placed by AIBA at top of the charts in the 45-48 kg category weight division with 1700 points.

‘Magnificent Mary’ became the most successful boxer in world championships history when she claimed the 48kg category top honours in November 2018, her unprecedented sixth world title triumph.

Other Indian female boxers in the Rankings were:
-Pinki Jangra (eighth in the 51kg category)
-Asian silver-medallist Manisha Maun (eighth in 54kg category)
-Former world silver-medallist Sonia Lather (second spot in the 57kg division)
-World bronze-medallist Simranjit Kaur (fourth position in 64kg)
-India Open gold-medallist and world bronze-winner Lovlina Borgohain (fifth position in the 69kg category)

All about Mary Kom

An Indian Olympic boxer from Manipur, Mary Kom is the only woman to become World Amateur Boxing champion for a record six times.

She is also the only woman boxer to have won a medal in each one of the seven world championships. She once won silver.

She is the only Indian woman boxer to have qualified for the 2012 Summer Olympics, competing in the flyweight (51 kg) category and winning the bronze medal.

She also became the first Indian woman boxer to win a gold medal at the 2014 Asian Games, held at Incheon, South Korea.

She is also the first Indian woman boxer to win gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, held in Gold Coast, Australia.

In April 2016, Kom was nominated by the Indian President as a member of the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian Parliament.

In March 2017, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports appointed Mary Kom along with Akhil Kumar as national observers for boxing.

Mother of three, Mary was awarded with the Padma Bhushan in 2013. She is also the recipient of the Padma Shri (2006), Arjuna Award (2003), and the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award (2009).

Harendra Singh removed as head coach of Indian men’s hockey team

Harendra Singh removed as head coach of Indian men’s hockey team

Indian men’s hockey coach Harendra Singh was on January 9, 2019 sacked from the position and offered the task of helming the junior squad by the national federation.

Explaining the sudden decision, Hockey India said in a statement that though the year 2018 was very disappointing for the Indian Men’s Hockey Team with results not going as expected, they believe investing in the junior program will reap long-term benefits.

About Harendra Singh

  Harendra Singh removed as head coach of Indian men's hockey team

Hailing from Chhapra, Bihar, Singh started his career as a halfback playing with IFFCO Tokio in Delhi. In 1988, he joined the Mahindra & Mahindra team in Mumbai on the insistence of former India coach JM Carvalho.

He switched to Air India in 1990 and later became the company’s senior manager.

Singh made his international debut at the 1990 Asian Games in Beijing, where India won silver.

He represented the Indian hockey team in 43 matches before retiring at the age of 26 citing too much politics in the game.

His coaching career began, when he started playing for the French club HC Lyon in 1995 under Coach Tony Fernandes who asked Singh to manage the club’s junior side “realising his potential as coach”.

After a few years of coaching in France, he returned to India and worked in various coaching and managerial roles of national senior and junior teams in tournaments such as 2000 Summer Olympics, 2005 Men’s Hockey Junior World Cup, 2006 Men’s Hockey World Cup, 2006 Asian Games, 2009 Men’s Hockey Asia Cup and 2010 Men’s Hockey World Cup.

He was awarded the Dronacharya Award in 2012.

He was appointed as the head coach of the Indian junior team in 2014, and the team won the 2016 Men’s Hockey Junior World Cup.

In September 2017, he was appointed as the head coach of the Indian women’s national field hockey team which went on to win the gold medal at the 2017 Women’s Hockey Asia Cup.

  Harendra Singh removed as head coach of Indian men's hockey team

In May 2018, Singh was named as the head coach of the men’s national team, replacing Sjoerd Marijne of the Netherlands who took over the women’s team.

Singh thus became the first Indian to be appointed full time as the men’s team head coach since 2008. Prior to this, he had three stints with the team as interim head coach.

However, in his first assignment in the role, the team won silver at the 2018 Men’s Hockey Champions Trophy, losing the final to Australia in penalties.

Significance
Harendra Singh is the 25th coach of the men’s hockey team who has been sacked in as many years, and the sixth in last six years. The Junior World Cup-winning coach took charge after India’s medal-less performance at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games but was unable to change the team’s fortunes. The Indian men’s team were also below-par at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia, settling for a bronze after going into the tournament as the defending champions. They ended the year with a quarterfinal loss to Belgium in the World Cup in Bhubaneswar. The fifth-ranked Asian team was aiming to win its first World Cup medal since 1975.

Other Details

The decision to reassign Harendra was taken by the HI High Performance and Development Committee on January 7, with an aim to build a “strong base” ahead of the 2021 Junior World Cup and the 2020 and 2024 Olympics.

Hockey India has said that it will be inviting applications for the position of chief coach. The Indian Men’s Hockey Team will be returning to training camp in February 2019 for the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, which is scheduled to commence from March 23, 2019. The name of the new head coach is expected to be announced before that.

In the interim, the team will be overseen by Hockey India High-Performance Director David John and current Analytical Coach, Chris Ciriello.

Women and Child Development Ministry launches ‘#www: WebWonderWomen’ Campaign

Women and Child Development Ministry launches Web Wonder Women Campaign

The Union Ministry of Women and Child Development on January 9, 2019 launched an online campaign, ‘Web – Wonder Women’ also known as ‘#www’.

The Campaign aims to discover and celebrate the exceptional achievements of women, who have been driving positive agenda of social change through the social media itself.

Partner organisations
The Ministry partnered with the Breakthrough and Twitter India for ‘#www: WebWonderWomen’ campaign.  

Highlights of the #www: WebWonderWomen campaign

Through the ‘#www: WebWonderWomen’, the Ministry and the Campaign’s Partners aim to recognise the strength of Indian women stalwarts from across the globe who have used the power of social media to run positive campaigns to steer a change in society.

The Campaign will recognise and acknowledge the efforts of these meritorious Women.

The Campaign invites Entries through nominations from across the world as per the laid out criteria. Nominations will be open till January 31, 2019.

Indian-origin women, working or settled anywhere in the world, are eligible for nomination.

The shortlisted entries will be open for public voting on Twitter and the finalists will be selected by a specialised panel of judges.

Nominations have been invited in a large number of categories including Health, Media, Literature, Art, Sports, Environmental protection, and fashion among others.

10 January 2019

India set to become third-largest consumer market: WEF

India set to become third-largest consumer market: WEF

India is set to become the third-largest consumer market behind only the US and China and consumer spending in India is expected to grow from USD 1.5 trillion at present to nearly USD 6 trillion by 2030, as per a World Economic Forum report that released on January 9, 2019.

The report titled ‘Future of Consumption in Fast-Growth Consumer Market – India’ noted that growth of the middle class will lift nearly 25 million households out of poverty in India.

Report: Key Highlights

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), with an annual GDP growth rate of 7.5 per cent, India is currently the world’s sixth-largest economy.

As per the report, growth in income will transform India from a “bottom of the pyramid economy” to a middle class-led one.

By 2030, domestic private consumption, which accounts for 60 per cent of the country’s GDP, is expected to develop into a USD 6-trillion growth opportunity.

The report stated that if realised, this would make India’s consumer market the third-largest in the world, behind the US and China.

The future consumption growth is expected to come from rich and densely populated cities and the thousands of developed rural towns.

The report stated that India’s top 40 cities will form a USD 1.5 trillion opportunity by 2030, many thousands of small urban towns will also drive an equally large spend in aggregate.

In parallel, it noted that there will be an opportunity to unlock nearly USD 1.2 trillion of spending in developed rural areas by improving infrastructure and providing access to organised and online retail.

How will this be achieved?
To become the third largest consumer market, India will need to address critical societal challenges notwithstanding the significant growth in consumption including skills development and employment of the future workforce, socio-economic inclusion of rural India and creating a healthy and sustainable future for its citizens. The private and public-sector leaders will also have to take shared accountability to ensure such consumption is inclusive and responsible.
The report identified three critical societal challenges that need to be addressed to ensure equitable growth:
Skill development and employment for the future workforce
Socio-economic inclusion of rural India
Healthy and sustainable future

Other Details
The report was produced in collaboration with Bain & Company.
It builds on consumer surveys conducted across 5,100 households in 30 cities and towns in India and draws from more than 40 interviews with private and public-sector leaders.

RBI forms Nandan Nilekani led Committee to boost digital payments

RBI forms Nandan Nilekani led Committee to boost digital payments

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on January 8, 2019 constituted a High-Level Committee on Deepening of Digital Payments to encourage digitisation of payments and enhance financial inclusion.
The five-member committee will be headed by UIDAI’s former Chairman Nandan Nilekani.
The committee will review the existing status of digitisation of payments and suggest ways to bridge any gaps in the ecosystem.
The Committee will submit its report within a period of 90 days from the date of its first meeting.

Composition of the Committee

S.No. Name Portfolio Role in Committee
1 Nandan Nilekani Former Chairman, Unique Identification Authority of India Chairman
2 H.R. Khan Former Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India Member
3 Kishore Sansi Former Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer, Vijaya Bank Member
4 Aruna Sharma Former Secretary, Ministry of Information Technology and Steel Member
5 Sanjay Jain Chief Innovation Officer, Center for Innovation, Incubation & Entrepreneurship (CIIE), IIM Ahmedabad Member

Terms of Reference of the Committee

Review the existing status of digitisation of payments in the country, identify the current gaps in the ecosystem and suggest ways to bridge them

Assess the current levels of digital payments in financial inclusion

Undertake cross country analyses with a view to identify best practices that can be adopted in our country to accelerate digitisation of the economy and boost financial inclusion

Suggest measures to strengthen the safety and security of digital payments

Provide a road map for increasing customer confidence and trust while accessing financial services through digital modes

Suggest a medium-term strategy for deepening of digital payments

Note: The central bank announced the constitution of the Committee in its Fifth Bi-Monthly Monetary Policy Statement 2018-19, that was released on December 5, 2018.

SEBI constitutes advisory panel to link research to policy making

SEBI constitutes advisory panel to link research to policy making

Market regulator Security and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has constituted a “Research Advisory” committee that will assist in formulating policy to undertake research relevant for development and regulation of capital markets.

The committee, headed by Sankar De, would comprise prominent financial economists and market practitioners.

Objective

SEBI has constituted the research advisory committee to strengthen its research function and enhance its linkage to policy making.

Key Functions of the Committee

The committee will be defining objectives, scope and direction of research relevant for development and regulation of capital markets in the country with focus on the linkage of research to policymaking.

The committee will also be responsible for maintaining databases relevant for capital market regulation research.

It will also explore research collaborations with external researchers, including other regulators as well as academic institutions, both domestically and overseas, as appropriate.

About SEBI

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) is the regulator for the securities market in India.

It was established in 1988 and given statutory powers on 30 January 1992 through the SEBI Act, 1992.

The Preamble of the Securities and Exchange Board of India describes the basic functions of the Securities and Exchange Board of India as to protect the interests of investors in securities and to promote the development of, and to regulate the securities market and for matters connected there with or incidental there to.

SEBI has to be responsive to the needs of three groups, which constitute the market including the issuers of securities, investors and market intermediaries.

SEBI has three functions rolled into one body: quasi-legislative, quasi-judicial and quasi-executive.

It drafts regulations in its legislative capacity, it conducts investigation and enforcement action in its executive function and it passes rulings and orders in its judicial capacity.

Though this makes it very powerful, there is an appeal process to create accountability.

Lok Sabha passes Citizenship Amendment bill

Lok Sabha passes Citizenship Amendment bill

The Lok Sabha on January 8, 2019 passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 to make illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, eligible for citizenship. The bill has now been tabled in the Rajya Sabha.
During the discussion on the Bill, Home Minister Rajnath Singh clarified that the bill is not just for Assam but for other states too. He said it is also for migrants who have come from the Western borders and have settled down in Rajasthan, Punjab and Delhi.
The Minister added that Assam is dealing with illegal migration for a long time now and the state’s burden is India’s burden. He said that it is the central government’s responsibility to protect the identity, culture of the people of Assam.

Key Highlights

Under the 1955 Act, one of the requirements for citizenship by naturalisation is that the applicant must have resided in India during the last 12 months and for 11 of the previous 14 years.
The bill relaxes this 11-year requirement to six years for persons belonging to the all the six religions from the three countries.
While moving the bill, Singh said that the government is committed for National Register of Citizens (NRC).
He asserted that there will be no discrimination in NRC. He also said that the Centre has taken several measures to implement the Assam Accord.
The Leader of the Opposition in the house, Mallikarjun Kharge demanded that the bill should be sent to the Select Committee of the House.
The bill was passed in the lower house of the parliament amidst a walkout by some of the opposition members including those of Congress and TMC.

Citizenship Amendment Bill
What is the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016?
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was introduced in Lok Sabha on July 19, 2016 to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955. It seeks to make illegal migrants belonging to the same six religions and three countries eligible for citizenship.
Following are three main provisions of the bill:
• The Bill amends the Citizenship Act, 1955 to make illegal migrants from communities such as Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who entered India before December 31, eligible for Indian citizenship.
• Under the Act, one of the requirements for citizenship by naturalisation is that the applicant must have resided in India during the last 12 months, and for 11 of the previous 14 years.  The Bill relaxes this 11-year requirement to six years for persons belonging to the same six religions and three countries.
• The Bill provides that the registration of Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders may be cancelled if they violate any law.

Why is the bill being opposed?

The opposition has been opposing the bill’s passing, as it would grant citizenship to the illegal Hindu migrants from Bangladesh, who came to Assam after March 1971, violating the Assam Accord, 1985.

Further, the Bill makes illegal migrants eligible for citizenship on the basis of religion.  It provides citizenship to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

However, it excludes Muslim sects like Shias and Ahmediyas, who face persecution in Pakistan. This may violate Article 14 of the Constitution which guarantees right to equality.

It also allows cancellation of OCI registration for violation of any law.  This is a wide ground that may cover a range of violations, including minor offences such as parking in a no parking zone.

Why Assam opposes the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill?
The bill is being opposed by majority groups in Assam, as they all believe that if the Bill becomes an Act, it will nullify the updated National Registration of Citizenship (NRC) of Assam.
The process of updating the NRC is currently underway in Assam.

Assam NRC
The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a list that contains names of Indian citizens of Assam. It was last prepared after Census in 1951.Assam, which had faced an influx of people from Bangladesh since the early 20th century, is the only state having an NRC.
The Assam government on July 30, 2018 released the second and final draft of the state’s National Register of Citizens (NRC). The draft includes the names of Indian citizens who have been residing in Assam before March 25, 1971.
As per the Draft, the total number of persons included in the list is 2,89,83,677 leaving a total of 40,70,707 as ineligible for inclusion. Out of 40,70,707 names, 37,59,630  names have been rejected and 2,48,077 names are kept on hold.
The NRC does not distinguish migrants on the basis of religion. It calls for the deportation of all those who entered the state illegally post March 24, 1971, irrespective of their religion.

9 January 2019

India, Norway sign MoU, release Joint Statement

India, Norway sign MoU, release Joint Statement

India and Norway released a Joint Statement on January 8, 2019 after extensive talks between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Norwegian PM Erna Solberg, during the latter’s official state visit to India from January 7-9, 2019.

The Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Norway paid a state visit to India at the invitation of PM Modi. She was accompanied by a high-level delegation comprising state secretaries, senior officials and business leaders.

During the visit, Prime Minister Solberg called on the President of India, Ram Nath Kovind, held detailed talks with PM Modi and also met India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. Prime Minister Solberg also delivered the Inaugural Address at the Raisina Dialogue and inaugurated the India-Norway Business Summit.

  India, Norway sign MoU, release Joint Statement

Following the talks, one Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the two nations:

S.No. MoU Signatory from the Indian side Signatory from the Norwegian side
1. MoU between the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Norway on India – Norway Ocean Dialogue. Sushma Swaraj, External Affairs Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide, Minister of Foreign Affairs

Joint Statement: Key Highlights

 India, Norway sign MoU, release Joint Statement

Bilateral Ties

The two Prime Ministers held wide-ranging discussions on bilateral, regional and multilateral issues, and on the ways and means to further strengthen the growing bilateral partnership.

The two sides expressed the desire to maintain high-level exchanges and enhancing cooperation through the existing mechanisms of bilateral interaction.

Bilateral Trade

The two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to expand bilateral trade in order to realise its full potential.

They noted with satisfaction the signing of the Terms of Reference for the establishment of the Dialogue on Trade and Investment, which would give impetus to business cooperation and encourage participation of Norwegian companies in the flagship programmes of India.

Further, recognising that all countries benefit from open and predictable trade rules, the leaders acknowledged that a conclusion of the free trade negotiations between EFTA and India is a priority for both the Governments.

They acknowledged that a free trade agreement would ensure increased predictability and give the countries’ companies a solid foundation for doing business.

Infrastructure and other areas

The two leaders discussed the importance of robust infrastructure and Prime Minister Solberg noted with interest India’s new initiative of the Coalition for Disaster-Resilient Infrastructure, which aims to offer risk analysis and capacity building support to disaster-prone countries.

They also agreed to strengthen their partnership as knowledge-based economies and make concerted efforts for cooperation in the domains of higher education, research & innovation, energy, ICT, climate & environment, maritime sector, fisheries & aquaculture.

The two leaders applauded the commendable achievements in maternal and child health care through the Norway-India Partnership Initiative (NIPI) and desired to expand its scope.

Collaboration on Ocean economy

The two Prime Ministers agreed to closely collaborate on ocean economy and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Prime Ministers noted the importance of sustainable use of the oceans, including for food security, energy sources, mineral exploration and climate-friendly maritime transport.

They further, welcomed the signing of the MoU on India-Norway Ocean Dialogue and the establishment of the Joint Task Force on Blue Economy under the aegis of the MoU, in order to promote multi-sectoral cooperation in various aspects of Blue Economy.

  India, Norway sign MoU, release Joint Statement

Climate Change

The two leaders recognised that Climate Change is a global challenge with strong economic, environmental and social dimensions.

In order to mitigate the challenges, the two sides agreed for collaboration and joint research in this sector and India invited Norway to participate in the International Solar Alliance.

Sustainable Development Goals and UN

The two leaders expressed the desire to work together for realising Sustainable Development Goals including poverty, health, education, women’s empowerment, clean energy and sustainable use of ocean resources.

The two sides emphasised the central role of the UN in maintaining global peace and security and recognised the value of each other’s contribution to this important work.

They also stressed on the need for the reform of the UN including of the UN Security Council and its expansion in both permanent and non-permanent seats to make it more representative, accountable, effective and responsive to the realities of the 21st century.

Norway agreed that India is a strong candidate for a permanent seat in a reformed Security Council expanded with both permanent and non-permanent members.

India’s application to Nuclear Suppliers Group

India expressed its appreciation for Norway’s support towards India’s accession to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the Wassenaar Arrangement (WA) and the Australia Group (AG).

Norway supported India’s application for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group and reaffirmed its commitment to work constructively within the Group with the aim of reaching a positive outcome regarding Indian membership at the earliest opportunity.

  India, Norway sign MoU, release Joint Statement

Terrorism

The two leaders strongly condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and agreed to cooperate in combating international terrorism. They also urged the international community to work towards early finalization of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism mooted by India at the UN.

Further, the two sides emphasised on the significance of further strengthening cultural ties through regular exchange and exposure to each other’s culture.

Conclusion

The talks concluded with the Norwegian Prime Minister extending her cordial invitation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to make a state visit to Norway, which the Prime Minister accepted.

The dates of the visit will be decided through diplomatic channels.

Lok Sabha passes bill to provide 10 per cent reservation to EWS in general category

Lok Sabha passes bill to provide 10 per cent reservation to EWS in general category

The Lok Sabha on January 8, 2019 passed the Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill 2019 to provide 10 per cent reservation in jobs and educational institutions to economically backward section in the general category.

The lower house of the parliament passed the bill with over two-thirds of majority, almost after four and half hours of debate. While 323 members voted in favour of the bill, only three voted against it. The bill will now be tabled in the Rajya Sabha on January 9, where proceedings have already been extended by a day.

Prior to this, the Union Cabinet had on January 7, 2018 approved a proposal for introduction of the Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill, extending 10 per cent quota to “the economically weaker sections in the general category who are not covered by any of the existing schemes of reservation”.

Important Note
The Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill 2019 is designed to amend the Constitution to extend 10 per cent reservation in direct recruitment in  government jobs and for admission in higher educational institutions to “economically weaker” sections among all castes and communities, Christians and Muslims included, who are not eligible under the existing quotas.
The 10 per cent reservation will be in addition to the existing cap of 50 per cent reservation for the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes, taking total reservation to 60 per cent. The quota targets the poor among the upper castes.
This will be over and above 50 percent mandated by Constitution and hence the need for Constitution amendment Bill.

According to sources, new clauses would be added to Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution which presently allow the State to make reservation for only Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and for socially or educationally backward classes (Other Backward Classes or OBCs).

Who will be covered under new 10 per cent quota?
The proposed amendment Bill will define Economically Weaker Section (EWS) as one having:
1. Annual household income below Rs 8 lakh
2. Agriculture land below 5 acres
3. Residential house below 1000 sqft
4. Residential plot below 100 yards in notified municipality
5. Residential plot below 200 yards in non-notified municipality area

Definition of Household
A person whose family has a gross annual income below Rs 8 lakh will be identified as EWS for the benefit of reservation.
The household includes “the person who seeks the benefit of reservation, his, her parents and siblings below the age of 18 years as also his, her partner and children below the age of 18 years”.
Also, income will cover all sources such as salary, agriculture, business and profession.
Present Quota
The existing quota sums up to about 49 per cent, which includes:
7 per cent for Scheduled Castes
15 per cent for Scheduled Tribes
27 per cent for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (including widows and orphans of any caste)

What happens now?

A legislation in this regard is likely to be introduced in the Parliament on January 8, 2019.

An amendment of the Constitution can be initiated only by the introduction of a Bill in either House of Parliament.

The Bill must then be passed in each House by a majority of the total membership of that House and by a special majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of that House present and voting.

The Bill, passed by the required majority, is then presented to the President who shall give his assent to the Bill.

If the amendment seeks to make any change in any of the provisions mentioned in the proviso to article 368, it must be ratified by the Legislatures of not less than one-half of the States.

Although there is no prescribed time limit for ratification, it must be completed before the amending Bill is presented to the President for his assent.

Consequence of the Measure

The move has come just ahead of the Lok Sabha elections this year. The consequence of the measure will be limited to central agencies, but the government hopes that it will create an “enabling atmosphere” for the state governments to attempt replication.

The change, if it goes through Parliament, will take the quantum of quotas to 59.5 per cent, which many argue will mark a violation of the 50 per cent cap mandated by the Supreme Court in the Indira Sawhney case.

Present quota identical to one defining creamy layer among OBCs?

The proposed criteria for adjudging who is “economically weak” is identical to the one applied for defining “creamy layer” among the OBCs who are debarred from quota benefits.

The measure, which was criticised as “excessively liberal” when enforced for defining who constituted the “creamy layer” among the OBCs, will mean that almost the entire population, except the rich who number around just above a crore or so, cutting across communities, becomes eligible for quotas.

House session to be extended by a day?

Both the houses of the Parliament are set to be adjourned on January 8, however, an additional day is being arranged for the Upper House to help it clear the legislation.

Similar Attempts in the Past
All previous attempts at carving out a quota in jobs and education for the economically backward in the ‘general’ category, including the Hindu upper castes, have failed to pass legal muster.
In 1991, the P V Narasimha Rao government had proposed 10 per cent reservation for the poor among the forward castes.
But in 1992, while upholding reservation for OBCs as per the Mandal Commission recommendation, the Supreme Court, in the Indra Sawhney & Others vs Union of India case, directed that reservation be restricted to maximum 50 per cent.
The court had also said that separate reservation for economically poor among forward class was invalid as Article 15(4) provided for only socially and educationally backward classes and not economically backward classes.
The Narasimha Rao government’s attempt failed as it violated the structure of 50 per cent ceiling.

Supreme Court in Indira Sawhney case
The proposed law would face roadblocks if challenged in the Supreme Court. A nine-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in the Indira Sawhney case of 1992 specifically answered the question “whether backward classes can be identified only and exclusively with reference to the economic criterion.” The constitution bench had categorically ruled that a backward class cannot be determined only and exclusively with reference to economic criterion. The bench had held that economic criterion may be a consideration or basis along with, and in addition to, social backwardness, but it can never be the sole criterion. The bench in its judgement declared 50 per cent quota as the rule unless extraordinary situations “inherent in the great diversity of this country and the people” happen. Even then, the court stated that extreme caution is to be exercised and a special case should be made out.

Gujarat
Gujarat government promulgated a similar ordinance in 2016, providing 10 per cent quota to upper castes. The Gujarat High Court, however, quashed the ordinance in August 2016. The case has been referred to a five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court Gujarat had justified the ordinance by referring to how Article 46 of the Constitution, which deals with the Directive Principles of the State Policy, required the State to promote weaker sections. It had categorised the 10 per cent quota as a ‘reasonable classification’ under Article 14 and not ‘reservation’. It said the 50 per cent ceiling limit in the Indira Sawhney judgment applied only to SC/ST and SEBC. The High Court, however, observed that the “unreserved category itself is a class” and economic criteria was too fluctuating a basis for providing quota.

Lok Sabha passes DNA (Use and Application) Technology Regulation Bill

Lok Sabha passes DNA (Use and Application) Technology Regulation Bill

The Lok Sabha on January 8, 2019 passed the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019 by voice vote after a brief discussion.
The bill seeks to provide regulation for the use and application of DNA technology for the purpose of establishing the identity of certain category of persons including the victims, offenders, suspects, under trials, missing persons and others.

Objective
The main objective behind the enactment of the bill is to expand the application of DNA-based forensic technologies to support and strengthen the justice delivery system of the country.
The use of DNA based technologies for solving crimes and to identify missing persons is well recognised across the world.

Key Features

The DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill provides for mandatory accreditation and regulation of DNA laboratories.
Through this, it seeks to ensure that with the proposed expanded use of this technology in the country, there is also the assurance that the DNA test results are reliable and the data remain protected from misuse or abuse in terms of the privacy rights of the country’s citizens.
The bill also seeks to ensure speedier justice delivery and increased conviction rate.
It also seeks to establish a National DNA Data Bank and Regional DNA Data Banks.
The bill’s provisions will enable cross-matching between persons who have been reported missing on one hand and unidentified dead bodies found in various parts of the country on the other.
It will help in establishing the identity of victims in mass disasters.

Significance
Once the bill becomes a law, it will help in the criminal justice system, finding the families of missing children and other purposes. The bill has gone through scrutiny of several experts in the last 15 years. 

Background

Forensic DNA profiling is of proven value in solving cases involving offences that are categorised as affecting the human body such as murder, rape, human trafficking, or grievous hurt and those against property including theft, burglary and dacoity.
The aggregate incidence of such crimes in the country, as per the statistics of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for 2016, is over 3 lakh per year.
Among these, only a very small proportion is being subjected to DNA testing at present.
It is expected that the expanded use of the technology in these categories of cases would not only result in speedier justice delivery but also in increased conviction rates, which at present is only around 30 per cent, as per NCRB Statistics for 2016.

Global Aviation Summit with theme ‘Flying for All’ to be held in Mumbai

Global Aviation Summit with theme ‘Flying for All’ to be held in Mumbai

In a first, Global Aviation Summit 2019 with the theme “Flying for all” will be organised by the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) in collaboration with FICCI from January 15-16, 2019 in Mumbai, India.
The summit is supported by International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Federal Aviation Administration of US (FAA), International Air Transport Association (IATA), CiviI Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO), Airports Council International (ACl) and Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA).

Significance
The global aviation industry is in a high-growth trajectory, ushering an era of rapid expansion. The International Civil Aviation Organisation has predicted a 100 percent increase in global air travel by the year 2030, creating a need for extensive efforts to bring the entire aviation ecosystem to pace.
Going forward, the biggest driver of demand will be the emerging economies, which will need to cater for air travel for the nearly 6 billion people.
To commensurate this fast growth of the sector, the Global Aviation Summit provides an exclusive platform for collaborative efforts on a global magnitude.
Objective
The Summit aims to focus on the celebration of ‘Flying for All’ and to provide a platform to the aviation fraternity to showcase the challenges of the sector in the newly developing growth spots and understand how the technology-driven innovations will change the air travel in future.
The Summit also aims to be the most comprehensive platform for civil aviation, witnessing a vivid representation from the global aviation ecosystem entailing global leaders from airlines, manufacturers, investors, vendors, cargo, space industry, banking institutions, skill development agencies and states and union territories of India.

Key Highlights

The two-day summit will host a conference, expo and will endeavour meaningful engagements via G2G, G2B, B2B meetings and other networking opportunities.
The platform will bring together prominent leaders from across the world to share their experiences on strengthening national aviation ecosystems.
Prominent transport ministers from across the world would be sharing their experiences on enhancing the Aviation ecosystem and put forth key analytical inputs on their success stories, experience and knowledge to develop aviation in their respective countries.
The civil aviation authorities of the world will also discuss how to ensure that safety and security standards are maintained across a fast-growing and vast aviation ecosystem.
The event will also examine the future of drones, sustainable growth of aviation, cargo and logistics in the aviation industry – all the factors behind building great aviation business.
More than 1000 delegates from global aviation fraternity are expected to participate in first of its kind Global Aviation summit 2019.

Other Details

The Minister of State for Civil Aviation, Jayant Sinha had launched the official mobile application for the Global Aviation Summit 2019 on December 19, 2018.
The GAS 2019 mobile application is available on Playstore and iOS. It provides a holistic glimpse of the Summit and can be used to access the latest updates about the mega event.
The application enables users to interact with the co-delegates and speakers. It would be an excellent platform for networking through personal and group chats.

8 January 2019

Union Cabinet approves 10 per cent reservation for economically weak among upper caste

Union Cabinet approves 10 per cent reservation for economically weak among upper caste

The Union Cabinet on January 7, 2019 approved a proposal for introduction of the Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty- Fourth Amendment) Bill, extending 10 per cent quota to “the economically weaker sections in the general category who are not covered by any of the existing schemes of reservation”.

The bill is designed to amend the Constitution to extend 10 per cent reservation in direct recruitment in  government jobs and for admission in higher educational institutions to “economically weaker” sections among all castes and communities, Christians and Muslims included, who are not eligible under the existing quotas.

Important Note
The 10 per cent reservation will be in addition to the existing cap of 50 per cent reservation for the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes, taking total reservation to 60 per cent. The quota targets the poor among the upper castes.
This will be over and above 50 percent mandated by Constitution and hence the need for Constitution amendment Bill.

According to sources, new clauses would be added to Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution which presently allow the State to make reservation for only Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and for socially or educationally backward classes (Other Backward Classes or OBCs).

Who will be covered under new 10 per cent quota?

The proposed amendment Bill will define Economically Weaker Section (EWS) as one having:

1. Annual household income below Rs 8 lakh

2. Agriculture land below 5 acres

3. Residential house below 1000 sqft

4. Residential plot below 100 yards in notified municipality

5. Residential plot below 200 yards in non-notified municipality area

Definition of Household

A person whose family has a gross annual income below Rs 8 lakh will be identified as EWS for the benefit of reservation.

The household includes “the person who seeks the benefit of reservation, his, her parents and siblings below the age of 18 years as also his, her partner and children below the age of 18 years”.

Also, income will cover all sources such as salary, agriculture, business and profession.

Present Quota

The existing quota sums up to about 49 per cent, which includes:

7 per cent for Scheduled Castes

15 per cent for Scheduled Tribes

27 per cent for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (including widows and orphans of any caste)

What happens now?

A legislation in this regard is likely to be introduced in the Parliament on January 8, 2019.

An amendment of the Constitution can be initiated only by the introduction of a Bill in either House of Parliament.

The Bill must then be passed in each House by a majority of the total membership of that House and by a special majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of that House present and voting.

The Bill, passed by the required majority, is then presented to the President who shall give his assent to the Bill.

If the amendment seeks to make any change in any of the provisions mentioned in the proviso to article 368, it must be ratified by the Legislatures of not less than one-half of the States.

Although there is no prescribed time limit for ratification, it must be completed before the amending Bill is presented to the President for his assent.

Consequence of the Measure

The move has come just ahead of the Lok Sabha elections this year. The consequence of the measure will be limited to central agencies, but the government hopes that it will create an “enabling atmosphere” for the state governments to attempt replication.

The change, if it goes through Parliament, will take the quantum of quotas to 59.5 per cent, which many argue will mark a violation of the 50 per cent cap mandated by the Supreme Court in the Indira Sawhney case.

Present quota identical to one defining creamy layer among OBCs?

The proposed criteria for adjudging who is “economically weak” is identical to the one applied for defining “creamy layer” among the OBCs who are debarred from quota benefits.

The measure, which was criticised as “excessively liberal” when enforced for defining who constituted the “creamy layer” among the OBCs, will mean that almost the entire population, except the rich who number around just above a crore or so, cutting across communities, becomes eligible for quotas.

House session to be extended by a day?

Both the houses of the Parliament are set to be adjourned on January 8, however, an additional day is being arranged for the Upper House to help it clear the legislation.

Similar Attempts in the Past

All previous attempts at carving out a quota in jobs and education for the economically backward in the ‘general’ category, including the Hindu upper castes, have failed to pass legal muster.

In 1991, the P V Narasimha Rao government had proposed 10 per cent reservation for the poor among the forward castes.

But in 1992, while upholding reservation for OBCs as per the Mandal Commission recommendation, the Supreme Court, in the Indra Sawhney & Others vs Union of India case, directed that reservation be restricted to maximum 50 per cent.

The court had also said that separate reservation for economically poor among forward class was invalid as Article 15(4) provided for only socially and educationally backward classes and not economically backward classes.

The Narasimha Rao government’s attempt failed as it violated the structure of 50 per cent ceiling.

Supreme Court in Indira Sawhney case

The proposed law would face roadblocks if challenged in the Supreme Court.

A nine-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in the Indira Sawhney case of 1992 specifically answered the question “whether backward classes can be identified only and exclusively with reference to the economic criterion.”

The constitution bench had categorically ruled that a backward class cannot be determined only and exclusively with reference to economic criterion.

The bench had held that economic criterion may be a consideration or basis along with, and in addition to, social backwardness, but it can never be the sole criterion.

The bench in its judgement declared 50 per cent quota as the rule unless extraordinary situations “inherent in the great diversity of this country and the people” happen. Even then, the court stated that extreme caution is to be exercised and a special case should be made out.

Gujarat

Gujarat government promulgated a similar ordinance in 2016, providing 10 per cent quota to upper castes.

The Gujarat High Court, however, quashed the ordinance in August 2016. The case has been referred to a five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court

Gujarat had justified the ordinance by referring to how Article 46 of the Constitution, which deals with the Directive Principles of the State Policy, required the State to promote weaker sections.

It had categorised the 10 per cent quota as a ‘reasonable classification’ under Article 14 and not ‘reservation’. It said the 50 per cent ceiling limit in the Indira Sawhney judgment applied only to SC/ST and SEBC.

The High Court, however, observed that the “unreserved category itself is a class” and economic criteria was too fluctuating a basis for providing quota.

Chabahar Port in Iran: India takes over operations of Chabahar Port; sets up India Ports Global Chabahar Free Zone

India takes over operations of Chabahar Port in Iran

India took over the operations of a part of Chabahar Port in Iran during the Chabahar Trilateral Agreement meeting held on December 24, 2018 in Iran.

The heads of Indian, Iranian and Afghanistan delegation jointly inaugurated the office of the Indian SPV – India Ports Global Chabahar Free Zone (IPGCFZ) at Chabahar.

The absolute take-over of the terminal area, cargo handling equipment and the office building was completed by December 29, 2018.

Significance
The commercial operations began at the India Ports Global Chabahar Free Zone (IPGCFZ) with the arrival of a vessel. This step marked the new beginning for India. This is the first time that India will be operating a port outside its territories.

Chabahar Port deal: A Timeline

India started interacting with Iran on Chabahar Port around the year 2003; however, the major push was received in the second half of 2014, leading to the signing of an MoU between Iran and India for the development of Chabahar Port in May 2015.

This MoU translated into a formal 10-year Contract for Equipping and Operating the Chabahar Port, which was executed on May 23, 2016, during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Tehran.

A trilateral transit agreement was also signed on May 23, 2016 between India, Iran and Afghanistan on Establishment of International Transport and Transit Corridor.

India on October 29, 2017 sent its first consignment of wheat to Afghanistan through Iran’s Chabahar port.

Since there were challenges in activation of the 10-year contract, the foundation of an interim period contract was laid during the visit of President of Islamic Republic of Iran, Hassan Rouhani to New Delhi in February 2018.

Resultantly, a formal short term Contract was signed on May 6, 2018.

How operations in Chabahar port will be beneficial for India?

The Chabahar port in the Sistan-Balochistan province in the southern coast of Iran is easily accessible from India’s western coast and is increasingly seen as a counter to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port located at distance of around 80 km from Chabahar.

The Chabahar port is being considered as a gateway to golden opportunities for trade by India, Iran and Afghanistan with central Asian countries, besides ramping up trade among the three countries in the wake of Pakistan denying transit access to New Delhi.

Chabahar Port and its Significance
Chabahar Port is a seaport in Chahbahar in southeastern Iran.
Its location lies in the Gulf of Oman.
It is the only Iranian port with direct access to the Indian Ocean.
Being close to Afghanistan and the Central Asian countries of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and others, the port has also been called as the Golden Gate to these land-locked countries.
The port was partially built by India in the 1990s to provide access to Afghanistan and Central Asia, bypassing Pakistan under the Ashgabat Agreement.
Significance

The port will provide an alternative access to trade with Afghanistan bypassing Pakistan.

Reduced transportation costs will allow India to import crude oil, urea and dry fruits at lower prices.

Besides, land-locked country Afghanistan’s dependence on Pakistan for sea-access will be significantly reduced. It will ultimately lower Pakistan’s strategic hold on Afghanistan.

It will provide India access to the Middle East and Gulf countries increasing trade and ties.

It is the nearest port to India on the Iranian coast. It will provide India access to the resources and markets of Afghanistan and Central Asia.

CBI Dispute: Supreme Court reinstates Alok Verma as CBI Director

CBI Dispute: SC reinstates Alok Verma as CBI Director

The Supreme Court on January 8, 2019 reinstated Alok Verma as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Director, three months after the government divested him of his powers and sent him on forced leave.

Earlier on December 6, 2018, the apex court reserved its order on the pleas filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Director Alok Verma and NGO Common Cause, challenging the decision of the Central Government to remove Verma as the CBI chief. The bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph questioned the overnight decision to send the CBI’s top two officials Alok Verma and Rakesh Asthana on leave after tolerating their fight since July 2018.

What prompted the overnight decision against Alok Verma?: CJI to Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta

Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi asked the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), represented by Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, that what prompted it to take an “overnight” decision to divest Alok Verma of his powers as CBI Director without consulting the Selection Committee.

The apex court ruled that the factors that prompted the CVC to take the decision on CBI Director Alok Verma did not happen overnight. It further said, “If you had tolerated them since July, then what the reason for this immediate action suddenly without which the institution would have crumbled and fallen?”

KK Venugopal, representing the Central Government, had told the judges that extraordinary circumstances led to the decision, since the two CBI officers Alok Verma and Rakesh Asthana had been fighting like “cats” since July 2018.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta’s argument

On behalf of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), Tushar Mehta argued that CBI director Verma was an Indian Police Service officer and the conduct rules for All-India Service officers applied to him as well. Every all-India service officer is covered by the CVC Act, 2003.

He based his argument on the 1997 Jain Hawala case judgement in Vineet Narain vs Union of India case.

He said that before 1997 judgement, either under the Police Act, 1861 or under the DSPE Act, 1946, the CBI director was subject to the IPS rules. Even in the 1997 judgment, it is nowhere said that the IPS rules would not apply to him and only a minimum tenure of two years is guaranteed.

Mehta defended the action against Verma and Asthana correct as the two officers were raiding and investigating each other, instead of investigating serious cases.

Mehta reiterated that Verma was not transferred but only sent on leave signifying the act to be a temporary arrangement in nature.

Alok Verma’s counsel Fali Nariman’s argument

Alok Verma’s counsel Fali Nariman argued that the government’s order of stripping Verma of charges has no basis, that the CBI director can be removed only with the approval of the Selection Committee.

1997 Jain Hawala Case Judgement in Vineet Narain vs Union of India case

The now known Jain Hawala Case got a momentary boost in 1993 when Vineet Narain filed a Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court. He exposed the terrorists and politicians’ Hawala network and approached the apex court demanding honest probe in this case.

In 1996, for the first time in Indian history, several Cabinet Ministers, Chief Ministers, Governors and Leaders of Opposition besides bureaucrats were charge-sheeted for corruption.

In July 1997, Narain compelled the then Chief Justice to reveal what was happening behind the scene in such high-profile case. CJI’s revelations caused major uproar in the parliament and media.

As a part of the judgement, the apex court had ruled that the Director of the CBI should be appointed on the recommendations of a Committee headed by the Central Vigilance Commissioner, the Home Secretary and the Secretary in the Department of Personnel as members.

Who filed the petition?

The bench of CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justice S K Kaul and Justice K M Joseph was hearing the petition filed by CBI Director Alok Verma and PIL filed by NGO Common Cause against the orders of CVC and Central Government divesting Verma of the powers of CBI Director and giving the charge of CBI to M. Nageshwara Rao.

CBI-Alok Verma- Rakesh Asthana Dispute

After a spell of internal strife in the CBI, the CVC and Central Government divested CBI Director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana from their roles and asked them to go on leave. Verma and Asthana accused each other of taking bribe and blocking investigation of several important cases.

Asthana, a 1984 batch Indian Police Service officer of Gujarat cadre, is alleged to have demanded a bribe of Rs 5 crore and accepting Rs 2 crore from a Hyderabad-based businessman Sathish Babu Sana through two middlemen Manoj Prasad and Somesh Prasad to help Sana get clear of his charges in the Moin Qureshi case. The case was being examined by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by Asthana.

On the other hand, CBI chief Verma also alleged corruption charges on Asthana with regard to the Sterling Biotech case.

However, Asthana hit back by writing to the Cabinet Secretary saying that Verma received Rs 2 crore bribe in the Moin Qureshi case and had tried to stop a raid on Lalu Prasad in the IRCTC case, alleging corruption on Verma’s part.

HRD Minister approves addition of 5000 more seats in Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas

HRD Minister approves addition of 5000 more seats in Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas

The Union Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar on January 7, 2019 approved an increase of 5000 seats in Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya (JNV) for the Academic Year 2019-20.  

The number of seats in JNVs, at present, total to around 46600. The addition of 5000 seats will mean availability of 51000 seats from AY 2019-20. The Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas are residential schools for talented rural children.

Key Highlights

In the last four years, there had been an addition of 9000 seats and now with the addition of 5000 seats the total number of seats added to JNVs by the government in five years will be 14000 seats.

In the next four years, the government is likely to add 32000 more seats.

Navodaya is the only education system in the country where students give entrance examination for admission into Class 6.

In 2001, 5.50 lakh aspirants appeared for the entrance examination for Class 6.  Over the years the number of aspirants appearing for the entrance examination has increased considerably.

For the 2019 entrance test, 31.10 lakh students have registered for the entrance examination.

Significance

This would be the biggest-ever expansion of quality education for rural students. The unprecedented expansion of JNVs will provide more opportunity for talented children from rural areas to get quality education.

Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (JNV)

The Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas are fully residential schools managed and run by the Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti, an autonomous organisation under the Ministry of Human Resource Development.

The school system aims to provide good quality modern education to talented children from rural areas. 

The JNVs, which began as a unique experiment, are today unparalleled in the annals of school education in India and elsewhere. The schools have become a saviour for thousands of underprivileged children.

In the past five years, Navodaya Vidyalayas have consistently recorded a pass percentage of over 97 per cent in Class 10 and Class 12, of which 86 per cent securing first division, which is far better than private schools and CBSE’s national average.

6-7 January 2019

2019 Golden Globe Awards: Bohemian Rhapsody wins Best Picture Drama

2019 Golden Globe Awards: Bohemian Rhapsody wins Best Picture Drama

The 76th Annual Golden Globe Awards were announced on January 7, 2019 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, the United States of America. These annual awards honour the best in Motion Pictures and Television for the year 2018.

This year’s event was hosted by actors Andy Samberg and Sandra Oh, who took over from 2018 host, comedian Seth Meyers. Oh joined a small group of actors who won an award in the same ceremony they hosted.

Key Highlights

The Globes this year pulled a twist at the end of the ceremony, with Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody staging upset wins.

While Green Book finished with three awards-the maximum for the evening, Bohemian Rhapsody- the Queen biopic and Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma won two each.

Though “A Star Is Born” was the odds-on favourite for the Best Motion Picture (Drama), ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ won the award.

The other major awards included Best Actress in Motion Picture (Drama), which went to Glenn Close for the film ‘The Wife’ and Best Actor in Motion Picture (Drama) that went to Rami Malek for ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and Best Director – Motion Picture that went to Alfonso Cuaron for the film ‘Roma’.

Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, considered by many as the favourites to win Best Actress and Best Actor Drama awards, went home empty handed.

  76th Annual Golden Globe Awards announced

Full list of winners of the 76th annual Golden Globe Awards: Motion Pictures

Category Awardees
Best Motion Picture Drama Bohemian Rhapsody
Best Motion Picture Musical/Comedy Green Book
Best Director in Motion Picture-Drama Alfonso Cuaron (Roma)
Best Actress in Motion Picture-Drama Glen Close ( The Wife)
Best Actor in Motion Picture-Drama Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody)
Best Actress in Motion Picture Musical/Comedy Olivia Colman ( The Favourite)
Best Actor in Motion Picture or Musical or Comedy Christian Bale (Vice)
Best Actress in a Supporting role in Motion Picture Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk)
Best Actor in a Supporting role in Motion Picture Mahershala Ali (Green Book)
Best Screenplay – Motion Picture Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly (Green Book)
Best Motion Picture – Animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language Roma (Mexico, Alfonso Cuaron)
Best Original Score – Motion Picture Justin Hurwitz (First Man)
Best Original Song – Motion Picture Shallow (Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando, Andrew Wyatt) – Star Is Born, A (2018)

Full list of winners of the 75th annual Golden Globe Awards: Television

Category Awardees
Best Television Series, Drama The Americans
Best Television Series – Musical/ Comedy The Kominsky Method
Best Television Limited Series/ Motion Picture made for Television Assassination of Gianni Versace: The American Crime Story
Best Actress in Limited Series/ Motion Picture made for Television Patricia Arquette (Escape at Dannemora)
Best Actor in Limited Series/ Motion Picture made for Television Darren Criss (Assassination of Gianni Versace: The American Crime Story)
Best Actress in Television Series – Drama Sandra Oh (Killing Eve)
Best Actor in Television Series – Drama Richard Madden (Bodyguard)
Best Actress in Television Series – Musical/Comedy Rachel Brosnahan ( The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel)
Best Actor in Television Series – Musical/Comedy Michael Douglas ( The Kominsky Method)
Best Actress in Supporting Role in Limited Series/Motion Picture made for Television Patricia Clarkson (Sharp Objects)
Best Actor in Supporting Role in Limited Series/Motion Picture made for Television Ben Whishaw ( A Very English Scandal)

Lok Sabha passes bill to remove leprosy as ground for divorce

Lok Sabha passes bill to remove leprosy as ground for divorce

The Lok Sabha on January 7, 2019 passed the Personal Laws (Amendment Bill), 2018, which seeks to remove leprosy as a ground for divorce. 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.

The Bill 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 was passed in the Lok Sabha through a voice vote, amidst protests by the opposition over the Rafale and CBI issue.

The Bill was introduced in the house in August 2018. Now, it will be tabled in the upper house of the Parliament, Rajya Sabha.

If passed by the Upper House and eventually made an Act, the Bill 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.

Government to soon make Aadhaar linking with driving licence mandatory

Government to soon make Aadhaar linking with driving licence mandatory

The Union Government will soon make it mandatory for linking Aadhaar with driving licences, as per Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.

The Minister for Law, Electronics and Information Technology said that the Government is soon going to bring a law that will make the linking process mandatory. The Minister was delivering his presidential address at the ongoing 106th Indian Science Congress in Jalandhar on January 6, 2019.

Why is there a need to link Aadhaar with driving license?

At present, the guilty person who causes an accident flees the scene and gets a duplicate licence which helps him escape blame and prosecution.

However, with the Aadhaar linkage, one can change his/her name but cannot change his or her biometrics, neither iris nor fingerprints.

Hence, linking Aadhaar with driving licences would prevent guilty individuals from escaping the scene of an accident and then procuring duplicate licences.

The moment anyone will try to procure a duplicate licence, the system will inform that the person already has a driving licence and should not be given a new one.

Background

Obtaining a driver’s licence in the country has largely been an unorganised process over the years.

The government is in the process of setting up better equipped driver training schools and a more efficient system to obtain a driving licence.

As far as India’s ‘Digital India’ programme is concerned, India currently has 123 crore Aadhaar cards, 121 crore mobile phones, 44.6 crore smartphones, 56 crore internet users and there has been 51 per cent growth in e-commerce.

The digital payment transactions in the country have also increased manifold to over Rs 2,070 crore in 2017-18.

US Chief of Staff Kevin Sweeney resigns

US Chief of Staff Kevin Sweeney resigns

Kevin Sweeney, the chief of staff of the US Department of Defence, has announced his resignation from the post. Explaining his decision, Rear Admiral Sweeney said in a statement that “the time is right to return to the private sector”.

In a terse resignation letter, Sweeney said it had been “an honour to serve” alongside his colleagues in the department, but made no mention of Trump. The move comes a month after the Defence Secretary James Mattis announced his departure in December 2018.

Key Highlights

  US Chief of Staff Kevin Sweeney resigns

Defense Secretary Chief of Staff Kevin Sweeney served in this role since January 2017.

He is now the third senior Pentagon official to step down since President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of US troops from Syria.

His resignation closely follows that of US Secretary of Defense James Mattis who stood down in December after acknowledging policy differences with the US president.

General Mattis left his post early, after initially planning to stay in his role until February 2019.

Mattis, who worked with Sweeney when he led the US Central Command, picked Sweeney to be his chief of staff in early 2017.

Sweeney retired as a Rear Admiral from the US Navy in 2014.

Significance
As per analysts, the rear admiral’s departure adds to a sense of uncertainty surrounding the Trump administration’s defence and foreign policies since the surprise announcement of the planned withdrawal from Syria.

Other Departures

Earlier this week, Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White also announced her departure from the post.

It was followed by the resignation of Brett McGurk, the Presidential Special Envoy to the global coalition fighting so-called Islamic State.

US withdrawal from Syria to be conditional?
  US Chief of Staff Kevin Sweeney resigns

US President Donald Trump has faced strong criticism over the planned US pullout from Syria.

 Latest reports suggest that the withdrawal process is being slowed down. Speaking on the matter, US National Security Adviser John Bolton said recently that the withdrawal of US troops from Syria will depend on certain conditions.

On a trip to Israel and Turkey, Bolton said he would seek Turkish assurances that Kurds in northern Syria would be safe.

The US also wants to ensure that the remnants of the Islamic State (IS) group are defeated.

When Trump had first announced the move in the middle of December, he had said: “They’re all coming back and they’re coming back now.” In his announcement, Trump had also declared that IS had been “defeated”.

After the president made his announcement on December 19, US officials said American forces had been given 30 days to leave Syria.

However, speaking on January 6, 2019, Trump said, “We’re going to be removing our troops. I never said we were doing it that quickly. He continued by saying that the US is pulling out of Syria but it won’t be finally pulled out until ISIS is gone.

On January 8, 2019, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will embark on a week-long tour of the Middle East designed to reassure allies in the region.

5 January 2019

Lok Sabha passes Aadhaar, Companies Amendment Bill

Lok Sabha passes Aadhaar, Companies Amendment Bill

The Lok Sabha on January 4, 2019 passed Aadhaar and other laws (Amendment Bill) 2018 and Companies Amendment Bill 2018.

The lower house of the parliament passed the Aadhaar bill to amend the Aadhaar Act and two related laws, which will allow individuals to offer voluntarily biometric ID as a means of identity verification for obtaining services such as opening bank account and procuring mobile phone connection.

The Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill

  • The bill seeks to amend the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016, the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 and the Prevention of Money-laundering Act, 2002. 
  • The bill proposes changes in the laws to comply with a Supreme Court judgement pronounced on September 26. 2018, in which it upheld the constitutional validity of unique identification project with certain restrictions and changes.  The court had then prohibited the compulsory use of Aadhaar-based KYC for mobile connections and bank accounts.
  • The bill also gives a minor the option to opt out of the 12-digit identity scheme on attaining the age of 18 years. It also provides for stiff penalties for violation of norms set for the use of Aadhaar. 
  • Further, it bans storing of core biometric information as well as Aadhaar number by service providers in cases of individuals who have voluntarily offered the national ID as a means of authentication. 
  • It also makes it clear that anyone not offering Aadhaar cannot be denied any service, be it a bank account or a SIM card. 
  • The legislation proposes telecom service providers, apart from using Aadhaar for authentication, can also leverage off-line verification, use of passport, or any other officially valid document or modes of identification as notified by the central Government.
Companies( Amendment) Bill 2018
  • The bill seeks to improve ease of doing business, declog the special courts and the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) and prescribe strong action against non-compliant companies. 
  • The Bill was necessitated as the Companies (Amendment) Ordinance, 2018 and was promulgated on November 2, 2018. It amends several provisions in the Companies Act, 2013, relating to penalties, among others.
  • It is based on the recommendations of a government-appointed committee to review offences under the Companies Act in order to promote ease of doing business along with better corporate compliance.
  • The committee had suggested various changes to the Act in August 2018, including restructuring of corporate offences under the companies law and an in-house adjudication mechanism to ensure courts are left free to deal with serious violations.
  • Apart from restructuring of corporate offences to relieve special courts from adjudicating routine offences, the panel mooted “re-categorisation of 16 out of the 81 compoundable offences” under the Act. 
  • The committee had also recommended disqualification of directors in case they have directorships beyond permissible limits and capping an independent director’s remuneration. 
  • The Bill also calls for instituting a transparent and technology driven in-house adjudication mechanism on an online platform and publication of the orders on the website.

Government launches nationwide cleanliness survey ‘Swachh Survekshan 2019’

Government launches nationwide cleanliness survey Swachh Survekshan 2019

Hardeep Singh Puri, Union Housing and Urban Affairs Minister, on January 4, 2019 launched the ‘Swachh Survekshan 2019’, the fourth edition of the annual nationwide cleanliness survey of urban India in New Delhi.

Launched as a part of the ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’, the Swachh Survekshan 2019 aims to evaluate the achievements in the cleanliness level in urban areas of the country.

It will encourage large-scale citizen participation, ensure sustainability of initiatives taken towards garbage free and open defecation free cities, and will provide credible outcomes.

Highlights of the survey ‘Swachh Survekshan 2019’

The survey will cover 40 crore people across over four thousand towns and cities.

Expected to be larger than the previous cleanliness surveys, Swachh Survekshan 2019, completely digital and paperless survey, will be completed in a record time of 28 days.

For the first time ever, inspection will be conducted without giving any prior information to the concerned official for real-time check and survey will be based on people’s feedback.

It will be conducted by an independent third party.

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission)

On October 2, 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan or Clean India Mission, India’s largest cleanliness drive, to achieve an Open-Defecation Free (ODF) India by October 2, 2019, the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi.

The campaign aims to clean up the streets, roads and infrastructure of India’s cities, smaller towns and rural areas.

The key objectives of Swachh Bharat include eliminating open defecation through the construction of household-owned and community-owned toilets and establishing an accountable mechanism for monitoring toilet use.

For the same, the government envisaged to construct 12 million toilets in rural India at a projected cost of Rs 1.96 lakh crore.

NGT imposes Rs 100 crore fine on Meghalaya Government for failing to curb illegal mining

NGT imposes Rs 100 crore fine on Meghalaya Government for failing to curb illegal mining

The National Green Tribunal on January 4, 2019 imposed a fine of whopping Rs 100 crore on the Meghalaya government for its failure to curb illegal coal mining in the state.

A senior advocate, who is assisting the tribunal as an amicus curiae in the matter, said a report of a high-level committee was submitted on January 2 before a bench headed by NGT chairperson A K Goel. The report stated that majority of the mines in the north eastern state were operating without a lease or licence.

Key Highlights

The green tribunal imposed Rs 100 crore fine on the state government as a “deterrent” and for its “inaction” to curb illegal mining in the north eastern state.

During the hearing, the state government had admitted that a large number of mines were operating illegally.

The amount of the fine will have to be deposited with the Central Pollution Control Board within two months.

The green bench in its order made it clear that the amount can be recovered from illegal miners and the officials responsible for operating mines illegally.

Committee Report
The NGT had constituted the committee in August 2018 to supervise and look into the issue of environmental restoration plan and other connected matters in Meghalaya.

The committee was constituted during the hearing of the petition which had sought a ban on coal mining in Meghalaya. It had also taken into account some reports of the state pollution control board.

The report of the three-member committee, headed by retired Justice B P Kakoti of Gauhati High Court, stated that there were around 24,000 mines in Meghalaya and majority of them were operating illegally.

It had also said not only were there no licences or leases, but also no environmental clearance for operation of majority of the coal mines.

Background

The NGT ruling comes when the authorities are finding it difficult to rescue the 15 miners, who have been trapped since December 13 in an illegal coal mine in Meghalaya as there is no blueprint of the 355-feet well which has a “maze of rat holes”.

At least 15 miners are reportedly trapped in the 370 foot-deep illegal coal mine in Lumthari village of East Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya since December 13 and all efforts to pump the water out of flooded mine have been in vain.

The National Green Tribunal had ordered an interim ban on ‘rat-hole’ coal mining in Meghalaya from April 17, 2014.

4 January 2019

FSSAI notifies new food packaging norms, asks food businesses to comply with norms by July 1, 2019

FSSAI notifies new food packaging norms, asks food businesses to comply with norms by July

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) on January 3, 2019 notified the new food packaging regulations, replacing all provisions regarding the packaging requirements prescribed in the Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) Regulations, 2011.

While notifying the new packaging norms, the regulator asked food businesses to comply with new regulations by July 1, 2019.

The new regulations bar the use of recycled plastics and newspapers to wrap food articles.

Packaging regulations separated from labelling regulations
Taking into cognizance the importance of packaging in the food sector and its impact on food safety, the regulator FSSAI has separated the packaging regulations from the labelling regulations and a separate Scientific Panel for food packaging has been planned.

Key highlights of the new food packaging regulations

The regulations prohibit packaging material made of recycled plastics including carry bags for packaging, storing, carrying or dispensing articles of food.

Considering that the inks and dyes may lead to formation of Cancer, the norms also prohibit the use of newspaper and such other materials for packing or wrapping of food articles.

The new regulations also prescribe overall migration and specific migration limits of contaminants for plastic packaging materials.

It specifies the suggestive list of packaging materials to be used for different food product categories.

The regulations state respective Indian standard for printing inks for use on food packages.

The packaging materials used for packing or storing the food products should conform to the Indian standards provided in the schedules.

Importance of food packaging

  • Food packaging plays a vital role in keeping the food quality safe during its handling and transportation processes.
  • It helps protect the food contents from micro-biological, chemical, physical and atmospheric contamination, thereby protecting consumer’s health.
  • It protects foods against physical, chemical and environmental factors that could possibly contaminate food, if not packaged correctly.
  • Good packaging also ensures that there is no change in sensory properties or composition of food when packed.
  • Food packaging, done correctly, extends the shelf-life of food, thereby enhancing food security.

Parliament passes Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill, 2018

Parliament passes RTE Act amendment to abolish no detention policy

The Indian Parliament on January 3, 2018 passed the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill, 2018 that seeks to do away with the no-detention policy in schools.

The motion to pass the bill was accepted by voice vote in the upper house of the Parliament, the Rajya Sabha. Union minister for Human Resources Development Prakash Javadekar’s motion to amend the name of the bill to reflect that it was passed in 2019 was also accepted by voice vote. The Lok Sabha had already passed the bill in July 2018.

Aim

The key aim behind the move is to rebuild the education system of the country, which is at present broken, as per the Union HRD Minister. The Minister said many students have moved from private schools to government schools in some states, such as Sikkim, Kerala and Telangana.

He added that teacher training, quality and accountability are most important and while stating that there is no shortage of teachers, he said that their deployment is not right.

Significance

The legislation is significant as it brings accountability in the elementary education system. The proposal received the support of a majority of state governments.

RTE amendment Bill: Key Provisions

The Bill seeks to amend the Right to Education (RTE) Act to abolish the “no-detention” policy in schools. Under the current provisions of the Act, no student can be detained up to class VIII.

As per the amendment, it would be left to the states to decide whether to continue the no-detention policy. This Bill has been analysed by a Parliamentary standing committee, which also recommended bringing back the concept of detention in schools.

The policy has been brought back as it was felt that compelling children to repeat a class was demotivating, often forcing them to abandon school.

The bill provides for regular examination in classes V and VIII, and if a child fails, the amendment bill grants a provision to give her or him additional opportunity to take a re-examination within two months.

Such children will be provided with two-month remedial teaching to perform better in the re-examinations.

If the students still do not pass the exam, the state government may decide to detain them.

Right to Education (RTE) Act

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (the Act) provides for free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years.

The Section 16 of the Act provides that no child admitted in a school shall be held back in any class or expelled from school till the completion of elementary education.

This provision was made in the said Act because examinations are often used for eliminating children who obtain poor marks, which compels children either to repeat the same grade or leave the school altogether.

 It was felt that compelling a child to repeat a class is both de-motivating and discouraging.

Why the need for the amendment?

In recent years, States and Union territories have been raising the issue of adverse effect on the learning levels of children as section 16 does not allow holding back of children in any class till the completion of elementary education.

Therefore, the amendment to the section was proposed in order to improve the learning outcomes in the elementary classes and to empower the appropriate Government to take a decision as to whether to hold back a child in the fifth class or in the eighth class or in both classes, or not to hold back a child in any class, till the completion of elementary education.

According to the Union HRD Minister, over 25 states favour abolishing the no-detention policy.

Parliament passes National Council for Teacher Education (Amendment) Bill, 2018

Parliament passes National Council for Teacher Education (Amendment) Bill, 2018

The Indian Parliament on January 3, 2019 passed the National Council for Teacher Education (Amendment) Bill, 2018, following the approval of the Rajya Sabha.

The Lok Sabha had already passed the Bill on July 23, 2018. The Bill seeks to amend the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) Act, 1993.

The Bill was introduced by the Union Minister of Human Resource Development, Prakash Javadekar in Lok Sabha on December 18, 2017.

Significance
The bill aims to grant retrospective recognition to Central and State institutions which had conducted teacher education courses without approval by the Council. This will ensure that the future of about 17 thousand students having degrees from such institutions is secured. All institutions running teacher education courses, such as B.Ed, have to obtain recognition from the Council. Around 23 State and Central universities and colleges offering B.Ed courses were found not recognised by the Council.

Retrospective recognition of certain teacher education institutions

The Bill seeks to grant retrospective recognition to these institutions:

Institutions notified by the central government

Institutions funded by the central government or state/union territory government

Institutions which do not have recognition under the Act

Institutions which must have offered teacher education courses on or after the establishment of the NCTE until the academic year 2017-2018

Retrospective permission to start new courses


The Bill also seeks to grant retrospective permission to start a new course or training in teacher education to these institutions:

Institutions notified by the central government

Institutions funded by the central government or state/union territory government

Institutions which have satisfied certain conditions required for the conduct of a new course or training in teacher education

Institutions which must have offered teacher education courses on or after the establishment of the NCTE until the academic year 2017-2018.

National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) Act, 1993

• The NCTE Act, 1993 came into force on 1 July 1995 and is applicable throughout the country, except the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

• The Act establishes the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE). 

• The NCTE plans and co-ordinates the development of the teacher education system throughout the country. 

• It also ensures the maintenance of norms and standards in the teacher education system. 

• In order to achieve the objectives of the Act, separate provisions have been made in the Act for recognising teacher education courses and to lay down guidelines for compliance by recognised Institutions/Universities.

RBI constitutes U.K. Sinha led Expert Committee on Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises

RBI constitutes UK Sinha led Expert Committee on Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on January 2, 2019 constituted an Expert Committee on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) under the chairmanship of U.K. Sinha, former Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).

The Committee was constituted with an aim to understand the structural bottlenecks and factors affecting the performance of the MSMEs. After a thorough study, it will propose long term solutions for the economic and financial sustainability of the MSME sector.

The Expert Committee will submit its report by the end of June 2019.

Composition of the Committee

S.No. Name Role in the Committee Profile
1 UK Sinha  Chairman Former Chairman, Securities and Exchange Board of India
2. Ram Mohan Mishra Member Additional Secretary, Development Commissioner MSME
3. Pankaj Jain  Member Joint Secretary, Department of Financial Services, Ministry of Finance
4. PK Gupta  Member Managing Director, SBI
5. Anup Bagchi Member Executive Director, ICICI Bank
6. Abhiman Das Member Professor, IIM-Ahmedabad
7. Sharad Sharma  Member Co-Founder, iSPIRT Foundation
8. Bindu Ananth Member Chair, Dvara Trust

Terms of reference of the committee

Review the current institutional framework in place to support the MSME sector

Study the impact of the recent economic reforms on the MSME sector and identify the structural problems affecting its growth

Examine the factors affecting the timely and adequate availability of finance to the sector

Study the global best practices with respect to MSMEs and recommend its adoption in India

Review the existing MSME focused policies and its impact on the sector

Propose measures for leveraging technology in accelerating growth of the sector

Suggest long-term solutions for the economic and financial sustainability of the MSME sector

Constitution of Committee announced in RBI Policy

The central bank announced the constitution of the Committee in its Fifth Bi-Monthly Monetary Policy Statement 2018-19, that was released on December 5, 2018.

MSMEs contribute significantly to employment, entrepreneurship and growth in the economy. However, they remain vulnerable to structural and cyclical shocks. It is important to understand the economic forces and transactions costs affecting the performance of the MSMEs.

3 January 2019

Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana: Cabinet approves restructuring of National Health Agency as “National Health Authority”

Cabinet approves restructuring of National Health Agency as National Health Authority

The Union Cabinet on January 2, 2019 approved the restructuring of existing National Health Agency as “National Health Authority” for better implementation of the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY).

With the approval, the existing ‘National Health Agency’ was dissolved and was replaced by the ‘National Health Authority’ as an attached office to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

National Health Authority and its composition

The National Health Agency, a multi-tier decision making structure, was replaced with National Health Authority, the Governing Board chaired by the Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, JP Nadda.

The National Health Authority will enable the decision making at a faster pace, required for smooth implementation of the scheme.

The composition of the new Governing Board is broad based with due representations from the Government, domain experts, etc.

The States will also be represented in the Governing Board on rotational basis.

No new funding
The existing budget that was approved earlier by the Union Cabinet for the National Health Agency including costs related to IT, human resources, infrastructure, and operational costs would be utilised by the proposed National Health Authority. No new funds were sanctioned for the new entity.

Better implementation of “Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana”

The National Health Authority will have full accountability, authority and mandate to implement the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) through an efficient, effective and transparent decision-making process.

The Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana, considered as the world’s largest health insurance programme, was launched pan-India by Prime Minister Narendra Modi from Jharkhand on September 23, 2018.

Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (Ayushman Bharat or AB-NHPM):What?

Ayushman Bharat, the government-sponsored health insurance scheme, provides 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 is funded with 60 percent contribution from the Centre and the remaining from the states.

The benefit cover includes pre and post-hospitalisation expenses. All pre-existing conditions are covered from day one of the policy.

A defined transport allowance per hospitalisation is also paid to the beneficiary.

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

For beneficiaries, it is a cashless and paper less transaction.

Why?

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

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

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

The former ‘National Health Agency’, the apex body implementing the scheme, launched a website ‘mera.pmjay.gov.in’ for implementation of the scheme.

Cabinet approves merger of Vijaya Bank, Dena Bank and Bank of Baroda; first-ever three way merger in Indian Banking

Cabinet approves merger of Vijaya Bank, Dena Bank and Bank of Baroda

The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on January 2, 2019 approved the ‘Scheme of Amalgamation’ for merger of Bank of Baroda, Vijaya Bank and Dena Bank.

The amalgamation will be the first-ever three-way consolidation of banks in India. The merger of Bank of Baroda, Dena Bank and Vijaya Bank was proposed by the Union Finance Ministry on September 17, 2018.

The amalgamated entity will be India’s second largest Public Sector Bank and India’s third largest bank with a total business of more than Rs 14.82 lakh crore.

Note
Post this merger, the number of PSU banks will come down to 19.

Alternative Mechanism

The merger of these three state-owned banks is a part of the government’s agenda of consolidation of public sector banks. The amalgamation would be carried out under Alternative Mechanism. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who heads Alternative Mechanism, assured capital support to the merged entity.

Other members of Alternative Mechanism included Railway Minister Piyush Goyal and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

Key Highlights of the ‘Scheme of Amalgamation’

Vijaya Bank and Dena Bank are the Transferor Banks and the Bank of Baroda is the Transferee Bank.

Who are Transferor and Transferee?
Transferor is the party making a transfer to another party as part of a legal arrangement. Transferee is the party who receives the funds and assets or the benefits of a letter of credit by action of a transfer.

The Scheme of Amalgamation will come into force on April 1, 2019.

The undertakings of the transferor banks will be transferred to the transferee bank, including all business, assets, rights, titles, claims, licenses, approvals and all property, all borrowings, liabilities and obligations.

Every permanent and regular officer or employee of the transferor banks will become an officer or employee of the transferee bank.

The pay and allowances offered to the employees of transferor banks shall not be less favourable as compared to what they are drawing in their respective transferor bank.

The Board of the transferee bank, that is Bank of Baroda, will ensure that the interests of all transferring employees and officers of the transferor bank are protected.

The transferee bank will issue shares to the shareholders of transferor banks as per share exchange ratio.

Shareholders of the transferee bank and transferor banks shall be entitled to raise their grievances, if any, in relation to the share exchange ratio, through an expert committee.

Strengths of individual banks

  • Dena Bank: Relatively higher access to low-cost CASA deposits
  • Vijaya Bank: Profitability and availability of capital for growth
  • Bank of Baroda: The extensive network and offerings

All these strengths of the three banks will translate into advantages in terms of market reach, operational efficiencies and the ability to support a wider offering of product and services.

Strengths of the amalgamated bank

The amalgamated bank will be better equipped to meet the credit needs of a growing economy, absorb shocks and capacity to raise resources.

It would enable creation of a bank with scale comparable to global banks and capable of competing effectively in India and globally.

The amalgamated bank will have access to a wider talent pool, and a large database that may be controlled through analytics for competitive advantage in a rapidly digitalising banking context.

Public will be benefitted in terms of enhanced access to banking services through a stronger network and easy access to credit.

Significance
The amalgamation will help create a globally competitive bank with economies of scale and enable realisation of wide-ranging synergies. Leveraging of networks, low-cost deposits and subsidiaries of the three banks has the potential of yielding significant synergies for positioning the consolidated entity for substantial rise in customer base, market reach, operational efficiency, and improved access for customers.

How these three banks will add value to each other?

Dena Bank, with gross NPA ratio of 22 percent, is currently under the Prompt Corrective Action (PCA) framework and has been restrained from further lending. Dena bank would no longer be covered under PCA after amalgamation.

Vijaya Bank is among the better performing public sector banks with a gross NPA ratio of 6.9 percent. The Bank of Baroda has a bad loan ratio of 12.4 percent.

The Bank of Baroda has a wide spread network, while Dena Bank and Vijaya Bank are more regionally focused. The Global network strength of Bank of Baroda will be leveraged to enable customers of Dena Bank and Vijaya Bank to have global access.

Dena Bank’s strength in the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) will further augment the strength of the other two banks to position the amalgamated bank for being an MSME Udyamimitra.

Merged entity will benefit from Bank of Baroda’s high Capital Adequacy Ratio; Vijaya Bank’s strong asset quality position; and Dena Bank’s strong CASA (Current Account Savings Account) base.

Belgium, Dominican Republic, Germany, Indonesia and SA assume charge as Non-Permanent Members of UN Security Council

Five nations assume charge as Non-Permanent Members of UN Security Council

Five nations, namely, Belgium, Dominican Republic, Germany, Indonesia and South Africa assumed the charge as the Non-Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

These five countries will hold a two-year term in the Council with effect from January 1, 2019. This will be the Dominican Republic’s first time on the Security Council. The other four countries have previously served on the body.

They will fill the seats vacated by Bolivia, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands and Sweden on December 31, 2018, after serving two-year term on the 15-member Security Council.

The Netherlands occupied the seat during the course of 2017 in an unusual arrangement, sharing the seat with Italy.

Other 5 non-permanent members
The other five non-permanent members in the UN Council are Cote d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Kuwait, Peru and Poland.

United Nations Security Council (UNSC)

Under the UN Charter, the UNSC has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.

The council is the only UN body that makes decisions and has the power to impose sanctions and authorize the use of force.

The 15-member Security Council has five Permanent Members – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, and 10 non-permanent members.

Each member of the Security Council has one vote.

Election of non-permanent members of UNSC

The General Assembly elects the non-permanent members of the Security Council as stipulated by Chapter V, Article 23 of the Charter of the United Nations.

The non-permanent seats are allocated according to a rotation pattern set by the Assembly back in 1963, to ensure a proportionate representation over time from the different parts of the world.

The ten non-permanent seats are distributed on a regional basis:
   – Five for African and Asian countries
   – One for Eastern European countries
   – Two for Latin American and Caribbean countries
   – Two for Western European and other countries

Every year, the General Assembly elects five non-permanent members.

The non-permanent members are elected for two-year term.

To be elected to the UN Security Council, a country must win support from two thirds of the UN General Assembly members, or 129 votes.

Sudhir Bhargava takes oath as Chief Information Commissioner

Sudhir Bhargava takes oath as Chief Information Commissioner

Sudhir Bhargava on January 1, 2019 took oath as the Chief Information Commissioner in the Central Information Commission (CIC).

Bhargava was administered the oath of office by President Ram Nath Kovind. Prior to this, Bhargava was working as the Information Commissioner in the CIC.

Swearing-in of four Information Commissioners

Following the swearing-in of Bhargava, newly-appointed Information Commissioners Yashvardhan Kumar Sinha, Vanaja N Sarna, Neeraj Kumar Gupta and Suresh Chandra were administered the oath of office of the Information Commissioner of CIC by the Chief Information Commissioner Sudhir Bhargava.

Yashvardhan Kumar Sinha is a 1981-batch Indian Foreign Service (retired) officer who served as the Indian high commissioner in the United Kingdom. On the other hand, Neeraj Kumar Gupta is a 1982-batch IAS office who retired as a Secretary from the Department Of Investment and Public Asset Management.

Vanaja N Sarna is the only woman to be a part of the CIC. Sarna is a 1980-batch retired Indian Revenue Service (Customs and Central excise) officer.

Note
With the induction of the Chief Information Commissioner and 4 Information Commissioners, the total number of Information Commissioners in the Central Information Commission including Chief Information Commissioner has now gone up to 7.

The appointments came weeks after the Supreme Court had on December 13, 2018 asked the Centre and states to maintain transparency in appointments of Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and Information Commissioners (IC).

The court had asked the government to disclose the process for appointment of Commissioners, including the names of candidates who applied and who were shortlisted.

About Chief Information Commissioner

The Chief Information Commissioner is appointed by the President of India on the recommendation of a selection committee comprising of Prime Minister, the leader of single largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha and a Union Cabinet Minister.

He holds the office for a term of 5 years or till he attains the age of 65 years. He is not eligible for reappointment.

The Office of Central and State Information Commission was established under the Right To Information (RTI) Act, 2005 as a designated statutory authority to receive and inquire into a complaint from any person.

Justice T B N Radhakrishnan sworn in as first Chief Justice of Telangana HC

Justice T B N Radhakrishnan sworn in as first Chief Justice of Telangana HC

Justice Thottathil Bhaskaran Nair Radhakrishnan was on January 1, 2019 sworn in as the first Chief Justice of the Telangana High Court.

The oath to the office was administered to Justice Radhakrishnan by Telangana and Andhra Pradesh Governor ESL Narasimhan at a ceremony held at Raj Bhavan. The ceremony was attended by Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao and other judges, lawyers and senior government officials.

With this, the state of Telangana will have its first independent high court.

Key Highlights

Prior to this, Justice Radhakrishnan had been serving as the Chief Justice of the High Court of Judicature at Hyderabad for both the states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh since July 2018.

Following his swearing in, the Chief Justice administered the oath of office to 12 justices of Telangana High Court on the premises of the High Court.

The state’s Governor ESL Narasimhan then left for Vijayawada to administer the oath to Justice Praveen Kumar, who has become the new acting Chief Justice of the Andhra Pradesh High Court.

With the move, the separate high courts for the two Telugu states – Andhra Pradesh and Telangana became functional.

Till recently, the High Court of Judicature at Hyderabad had been serving as a common high court of the two states since June 2014 when Andhra Pradesh was bifurcated to carve out Telangana.

Background

The advocates and legal fraternity had been demanding a separate high court for Telangana ever since the separate state was carved out in 2014.

Soon enough, the Supreme Court directed the Centre to bifurcate the existing high court in Hyderabad and last week, the Union Government issued a notification announcing the bifurcation.

According to a gazette notification, the bifurcation process has been completed, facilitating the two high courts to function in their respective states.

While the Andhra Pradesh High Court is set to function from Amaravati, the High Court of Judicature at Hyderabad will become the High Court for Telangana.

As per the notification, 12 judges, over 360 district and civil judges have been allotted to the new Telangana state and the Andhra Pradesh High Court has got over 500 district and civil judges.

About Justice T B N Radhakrishnan
  Justice T B N Radhakrishnan sworn in as first Chief Justice of Telangana HC

Justice Thottathil B. Radhakrishnan enrolled as an advocate in December 1983 and started practising in Thiruvananthapuram.

Later, he shifted to the High Court of Kerala at Kochi where he practised in civil, constitutional and administrative matters.

He was appointed as a Permanent Judge of the Kerala High Court on October 14, 2004.

In July 2018, he was appointed as the Chief Justice of the High Court of Judicature at Hyderabad for both the states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

He has now been appointed as the first Chief Justice of the Telangana High Court for the state of Telangana.

2 January 2019

Veteran Bollywood actor-writer Kader Khan passes away

Veteran Bollywood actor Kader Khan passes away

Veteran Bollywood actor-director and scholar, Kader Khan passed away on January 1, 2019 following a prolonged illness in Toronto, Canada. He was 81. He is survived by his wife Hajra, son Sarfaraz, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren.

He had been hospitalised for nearly four months due to various old-age related ailments including breathing issues and finally succumbed to death.

As per reports, he was suffering from Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, a degenerative disease that causes loss of balance, difficulty in walking and dementia.

He was known for his comic roles in films like Dulhe Raja, Aakhein, Coolie No. 1, Haseena Maan Jayegi, and several others.

Kader Khan: A professor, scholar, writer, producer and actor

Born on October 22, 1937 in Afghanistan to a Pashtun family, Kader Khan was educated in a municipal school and later graduated from Mumbai’s Ismail Yusuf College, Jogeshwari.

He was an engineer by training and a professor of civil engineering. Khan used to teach the theory of structure, hydraulics, strength of material, and RCC steel.

He started his career as an actor with the film ‘Daag’ (1973).

In his acting career of over 35 years, he acted in over 300 films in memorable roles.

Despite being an actor, he was also a prolific writer. He wrote the story or dialogues for more than 250 films in Hindi and Urdu, beginning with Randhir Kapoor – Jaya Bhaduri starrer ‘Jawani Diwani’ (1972).

He penned the story-dialogues for films like Jawani Diwani, Benaam, Amar Akbar Anthony, Parvarish, Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, Suhaag, Mr. Natwarlal, Yaarana, Lawaaris, Desh Premee, Sharaabi, etc.

He also produced a film “Shama” in 1981.

He had a huge collection of books on various subjects related to film-making, acting, screenplay writing, penning story-dialogues and other departments.

He will be last seen in Hera Pheri 3 in the role of a doctor. The movie is expected to release this year.

RBI releases guidelines on restructuring MSMEs loans; allows restructuring of debt up to Rs 25 crore

RBI releases guidelines on restructuring of advances to MSMEs

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on January 1, 2019 released guidelines on restructuring of advances to the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).

The central bank allowed a one-time restructuring of existing debt of up to Rs 25 crore for the MSMEs which have defaulted on payment, however, the loans given to them continue to be classified as standard assets.

The move will help MSMEs facing cash crunch in the wake of demonetisation and GST implementation.

Guidelines on restructuring of advances to MSMEs

  • For restructuring of existing loans to MSMEs that are in default but ‘standard’ as on January 1, 2019, the RBI decided to permit a one-time restructuring without an asset classification downgrade.
  • A provision of 5 percent in addition to the provisions already held shall be made in respect of accounts restructured under this scheme. However, the Banks will have the option of reversing such provisions at the end of the specified period, subject to the account demonstrating satisfactory performance.
  • Post-restructuring, the Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) classification of these accounts shall be made as per the existing IRAC norms.
  • Each bank or Non Banking Financial Company (NBFC) shall formulate a policy for this scheme with Board approval. The policy shall include framework for viability assessment of the stressed accounts and regular monitoring of the restructured accounts.
  • Banks and NBFCs shall also make appropriate disclosures in their financial statements under ‘Notes on Accounts’, relating to the MSME accounts restructured under the instructions.
Eligibility
To be eligible for the scheme, the aggregate exposure to a borrower should not exceed Rs 25 crore as on January 1, 2019, including non-fund based facilities of banks and NBFCs. The borrowing entity, i.e. MSME, should be GST-registered on the date of implementation of the restructuring. However, this condition will not apply to MSMEs that are exempt from GST-registration. The restructuring has to be implemented by March 31, 2020.
The restructuring would be treated as implemented, if the following conditions are met:

All related documentation, including execution of necessary agreements between lenders and borrower are completed by all lenders
The new capital structure and changes in the terms and conditions of the existing loans get duly reflected in the books of all the lenders and the borrower.

Background

Earlier, the RBI’s board in its meeting, held on November 19, 2018, had advised the central bank to examine a scheme for restructuring of stressed standard assets of MSME borrowers with aggregate credit facilities of up to Rs 25 crore.

The Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises form an important component of the Indian economy and contribute significantly to the country’s GDP, exports, industrial output, employment generation, etc.

Considering the importance of MSMEs, the RBI considered it necessary to take certain measures for creating an enabling environment for the sector.

ISRO launches Samwad with students to engage them on space science activities

ISRO launches Samwad with students to engage them on space science activities

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched a new platform called ‘Samwad with Students’ on January 1, 2018 in Bengaluru, as part of its enhanced outreach programme.

Through the initiative, ISRO aims to constantly engage youngsters across India in activities concerning space science to capture their scientific temperament. The new conversation mission aims to inspire students cutting across schools and colleges.

Key Highlights

During the inaugural event in Bengaluru, 40 students and 10 teachers from select schools interacted with ISRO Chairman Dr. K Sivan at the Anthariksh Bhavan.

During the three-hour stay at ISRO HQ, the students were first briefed about Indian space programme and their benefits to the common man.

The question and answer session that followed saw Dr. Sivan engaging students on a series of topics ranging from rockets, satellites, Chandrayaan, Gaganyaan and various space applications.

On being asked whether ISRO was his first choice as a youngster, Dr. Sivan said that he was very shy when he was young and, as far as college and career went, he was always denied my first choice.

To another query from a 10th Standard student, on how scientists cope up with failures, Dr. Sivan said that the biggest lessons in life are often derived when the plans go astray.

He explained that space missions are very complex in nature and totally different from terrestrial systems, as they have to work in extreme environments more often.

Upon asked how the students could contribute to ISRO’s missions, Dr. Sivan told the students that when they complete their studies with a focus on fundamentals of science, then they could get back to ISRO and help solve problems.

On the sidelines, the students and teachers also interacted with ISRO scientists and engineers.

Significance

The ISRO Chairman used the platform to explain to the students the importance of the Indian space programme and its benefits to the society at large.

He wanted them to take up science and mathematics with absolute seriousness which would enable them to take up challenging careers.

The Chairman said that they needed solutions to many complex problems and that the children could be giving answers to them in the future.

1 January 2019

Smriti Mandhana named ICC Women’s Cricketer of the Year

Smriti Mandhana named ICC Women’s Cricketer of the Year

India’s left-handed opener Smriti Mandhana has won the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Award for the ICC Women’s Cricketer of the Year. Mandhana was also adjudged as the ICC Women’s ODI Player of the Year. The announcement was made by the International Cricket Council on December 31, 2018.

The 22-year-old, who has also been named in the ICC Women’s ODI Team of the Year and the ICC Women’s T20I Team of the Year, scored 669 runs at an average of 66.90 in 12 ODIs and 622 runs at a strike-rate of 130.67 in 25 T20Is during the voting period, which ran from January 1 to December 31, 2018.

The cricketer had played a crucial role in India’s semi-final appearance at the ICC Women’s World T20 in the West Indies, scoring 178 runs in five matches at a strike-rate of 125.35. She is currently ranked fourth in the MRF Tyres ICC Women’s Players Rankings for ODI Batters and 10th in the MRF Tyres ICC Women’s Players Rankings for T20I Batters.

Key Highlights

Smriti Mandhana has become the second Indian woman player to win an ICC award after fast bowler Jhulan Goswami, who was named the ICC Women’s Player of the Year in 2007.

Australia’s opening batter and wicketkeeper Alyssa Healy, who finished with 225 runs in six matches at the ICC Women’s World T20 2018 in the West Indies, has been named the ICC Women’s T20I Player of the Year.

England’s 19-year-old left-arm spinner Sophie Ecclestone has been voted the ICC Women’s Emerging Player of the Year after she grabbed 18 wickets in nine ODIs and 17 in 14 T20Is during the calendar year.

The ICC Fans’ Moment of the Year award, which will be chosen by cricket fans around the world who will get a chance to vote for their favourite moment of 2018, will be announced next month.

The voting window for this award is now open and the winning moment will be announced along with the men’s ICC Awards, which will be announced in January 2019.

ICC Women’s Awards

Award Winner Nation
Rachael Heyhoe Flint Award for ICC Women’s Cricketer of the Year Smriti Mandhana India
ICC Women’s ODI Player of the Year Smriti Mandhana India
ICC Women’s T20I Player of the Year Alyssa Healy Australia
ICC Women’s Emerging Player of the Year Sophie Ecclestone England

About Smriti Mandhana

  Smriti Mandhana named ICC Women’s Cricketer of the Year

The 22-year-old made her Test debut in August 2014 against England at Wormsley Park. She helped her team win the match by scoring 22 and 51 in her first and second innings, respectively and in the latter innings, she shared in an opening-wicket partnership of 76 runs with Thirush Kamini, chasing 182.

She scored her maiden international hundred, 102 off 109 balls, in the second ODI game of India’s tour of Australia in 2016 at the Bellerive Oval in Hobart, which India lost.

She was the only Indian player to be named in the ICC Women’s Team of the Year 2016.

Mandhana came into the team for the 2017 World Cup after recovering from an injury she sustained, an anterior cruciate ligament rupture.

She began the World Cup with a 90 against England in Derby, in the first of the group matches. She helped her team win by 35 runs and was named the player of the match.

This was followed by her second hundred in a One Day International against West Indies,106 not out.

Mandhana was part of the Indian team to reach the final of the 2017 Women’s Cricket World Cup where the team lost to England by nine runs.

  Smriti Mandhana named ICC Women’s Cricketer of the Year

In March 2018, she scored the fastest fifty for India in a Women’s Twenty20 International (WT20I) fixture, taking 30 balls to reach a half-century against Australia women in the 2017–18 India women’s Tri-Nation Series.

The following month, she was named the player of the series, for the three WODI matches played against England women.

On August 3, 2018, she scored the first century in the 2018 Women’s Cricket Super League.

In October 2018, she was named in India’s squad for the 2018 ICC Women’s World Twenty20 tournament in the West Indies. Ahead of the tournament, she was named as the star of the team.

During the tournament, she became the third cricketer for India to score 1,000 runs in WT20I matches.

India submits Sixth National Report to the Convention of Biological Diversity

India submits Sixth National Report to the Convention of Biological Diversity

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

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

Key Highlights

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

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

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

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

The Report: Key Points

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

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

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

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

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

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

Measures adopted by India

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Acts/ Plans implemented by Government

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

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