February 23, 2019

March 2019

17-18 March 2019

Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar passes away at 63

Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar passes away at 63

Goa Chief Minister and former Union Defence Minister, Manohar Gopalkrishna Prabhu Parrikar passed away on March 17, 2019 after battling with pancreatic cancer. He was 63.

Earlier in February 2018, Parrikar was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer and had been in and out of hospital in Goa, Mumbai, Delhi and New York since then. He was constantly seen wearing medical paraphernalia, a nasogastric tube.

The Goa Government declared one-day holiday and seven-day mourning for Parrikar.

Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar passes away

He continued to serve in the office despite his illness and mostly operated from his private residence. It was during his illness, he presented the Goa Budget 2019-20.

He is survived by his two sons, Utpal and Abhijat. Parrikar’s wife too succumbed to cancer while he was an MLA in 2000.

First IIT alumnus to serve as CM of Goa
Beginning his career as a RSS pracharak, Parrikar was the first Indian Institute of Technology (IIT Bombay) alumnus to serve as Chief Minister of Goa in 2000.

He became Goa Chief Minister for four times, but could not complete a single full term in office.

About Manohar Gopalkrishna Prabhu Parrikar

Manohar Parrikar was a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Born on 13 December 1955, Parrikar did his graduation in metallurgical engineering from IIT Bombay in 1978.

Parrikar debuted in Goa Assembly by winning Panaji seat as a member of BJP  in November 1994.

His four terms as Goa CM

In October 2000, he became the first IITian to be elected as the Chief Minister of Goa.

In 2001, he was awarded the Distinguished Alumnus Award by IIT Bombay, following which he announced the cyberage scheme in the state to provide free computers to higher secondary school students.

In February 2002, the Goa state assembly was dissolved; however, he was re-elected as the Goa CM in June 2002. This was his second term as Goa CM.

His third term as the Goa CM came in March 2012 after BJP fetched 21 seats in 40-member House. Upon his election, he announced popular schemes like ‘Griha Aadhar’ and ‘Laadli Laxmi’.

Parrikar resigned as Goa Chief Minister in 2014 to contest the 2014 elections where he won from his constituency in Uttar Pradesh.

He served as Defence Minister from 2014-17 on the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. During his stint as Defence Minister, Indian Army carried out surgical strikes across LoC after Pakistani terrorists killed 19 soldiers at Uri on September 18, 2016.

However, he returned to State politics in March 2017 as the Goa Chief Minister for the fourth time in his political career to lead a coalition government of distinct parties and independents headed by the BJP.

He represented the Panaji constituency in the Legislative Assembly of Goa.

India to host FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2020; Second Scorpene Class Submarine INS Khanderi to be inducted soon

Current Affairs 18 March 2019 Digest 2: India to host FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2020

Story 1: India to host U-17 Women’s World Cup in 2020: FIFA

Gianni Infantino, the President of International Football Federation (FIFA), on March 15, 2019 announced that India will host the U-17 Women’s World Cup in 2020.

The 2020 World Cup will be the seventh edition of the U-17 Women’s tournament.

The announcement was made during the FIFA Council meeting in Miami, USA.

India’s second FIFA tournament
The U-17 Women’s World Cup will be the second FIFA tournament that India will be hosting, the first was the U-17 Men’s World Cup held in 2017.

Bidding process

The bidding process for the U-17 Women’s World Cup tournament began in 2018. India had bid for the tournament then. France also expressed interest to host the tournament.

Besides the U-17 Women’s WC, India had also expressed interest in hosting the U-20 Women’s World Cup.

About FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup

The FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup is an international association football tournament for female players under the age of 17.

It is organized by Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).

The tournament is held in even-numbered years.

The first U-17 women’s tournament was held in 2008. It was hosted by New Zealand.

Previous winners of U-17 Women’s Tournaments
Tournaments Winner Country
2008 North Korea
2010 South Korea
2012 France
2014 Japan
2016 North Korea
2018 Spain

Spain is the current champion of the tournament. It defeated Mexico 2-1 in the 2018 finals in Uruguay.

Story 2: INS Khanderi: Second Scorpene Class Submarine to be inducted soon in Indian Navy

The Navy is set to induct the INS Khanderi, the second of the 6 Scorpene Class Submarines, will soon be inducted into the Indian Navy by May 2019.

INS Khanderi was launched at the Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL) in Mumbai on January 12, 2017 and since then it has been undergoing trials and tests.

INS Khanderi
• The INS Khanderi is a part of Project 75 of Indian Navy.

• The submarine includes superior stealth, which may provide invulnerability to it.

• It is capable of launching a crippling attack on the enemy using precision guided weapons.

• It can undertake diverse types of missions including anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, mine laying, intelligence gathering and area surveillance among others.

• It also carries the ability to launch attacks with torpedoes and tube-launched anti-ship missiles, while being on the surface or underwater.

• The submarine is designed to operate in all theatres, including the tropics.

Scorpene Class Submarines

The Scorpene Class Submarines are designed by French naval defence company ‘DCNS’ and are being manufactured by Mazagon Dock Limited in Mumbai.

India purchased six submarines for USD 3 billion under Project 75 in 2005.

The project was undertaken due to the decreasing number of submarines in the Indian Navy. The Navy required replacement for older Sindhughosh and Shishumar class submarines.

The Scorpene class submarines have the capability to fire Exocet anti-ship missiles.

INS Kalvari, the first of the Scorpene-class submarines, was commissioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 14, 2017.

The third Scorpene-class submarine, INS Karanj was launched by the Indian Navy on January 31, 2018 and is in the advanced stage of trials.

The fourth submarine ‘INS Vela’ is also ready to be launched for trials in 2019 itself.

The remaining submarines INS Vagir and INS Vagsheer are in advanced stages of manufacturing.

Geographical Indication Tag: Coorg Arabica Coffee, four others get GI Tag

Geographical Indication Tag: Coorg Arabica Coffee, four others get GI Tag

The Geographical Indications Registry on March 1, 2019 granted the Geographical Indication (GI) Tag to Coorg Arabica Coffee, Wayanad Robusta Coffee, Chikmagalur Arabica Coffee, Araku Valley Arabica Coffee and Bababudangiris Arabica Coffee.

Coorg Arabica Coffee

The Coorg Arabica Coffee is grown exclusively in Kodagu district of Karnataka. The Coffee cultivation forms the backbone of economy of the district. The landscape of the district provides unique aroma and flavour notes to the coffee, when roasted.

Wayanad Robusta Coffee

The Wayanad Robusta Coffee is characteristic of the Western Ghats and the plantation crop is grown in the cool climate of Wayanad, Kerala.

The Coffee in Wayanad is grown as a pure crop as well as a mixed crop along with pepper. The Robusta coffee produced is more than 95 percent of the total coffee cultivation done in Wayanad.

Chikmagalur Arabica Coffee & Bababudangiris Arabica Coffee

Chikmagalur Arabica Coffee and Bababudangiris Arabica Coffee are grown in Chikmagalur district of Karnataka. The production of only Chikmagalur Arabica Coffee in the year 2016‐17 was around 10426 MT.

The Chikmagalur district is generally referred as the birthplace of coffee in the country.

Araku Valley Arabica Coffee

Araku Valley Arabica Coffee is grown around the Visakhapatnam district of Andhra Pradesh and in the Koraput district of Odisha. This coffee has a citrus note of grape fruit and a mild jaggery-like sweetness.

About Geographical Indication (GI)

• A Geographical Indication (GI) tag is a name or sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation of that origin. It can be a town, a region, or a country.

• The use of a geographical indication acts as a certification that the product possesses certain qualities, is made according to traditional methods, and enjoys a certain reputation due to its geographical origin.

• It is used for agricultural, natural and manufactured goods having a special quality and reputation.

• It plays a very important role to increase the realm of the market.

• It boosts exports as well tourism and more importantly, it indirectly leads to sustainable development.

• The owner of the GI tag has exclusive rights over the product.

16 March 2019

UN Environment’s sixth Global Environment Outlook released

UN Environment’s sixth Global Environment Outlook released

The United Nation Environment Program (UNEP) has released the sixth edition of the Global Environment Outlook (2019) titled ‘Healthy Planet, Healthy People’.

The report calls on the decision makers to take immediate action to address pressing environmental issues to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals as well as other internationally agreed environment goals, such as the Paris Agreement.

Significance

The GEO -6 has reviewed the state of the health of the environment and the related health of the people and the prospects for meeting the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN’s Agenda 2030.

The title of the report- Healthy Planet, Healthy People, makes clear that achieving the SDGs will require a transformation in human lifestyles and productive activities: our industry, agriculture, buildings, transport and the energy system which powers them.

Role of GEO6

The report comes at a critical time for global development and it will build on the knowledge and experience gained from previous GEOs.

The previous GEO editions have already presented substantial evidence that environmental degradation, even within the planetary limits of the Earth’s ability to support human civilization has undermined current and future development and threatened different aspects of human well-being.

Scope

The GEO-6 builds on previous GEO reports and continues to provide an analysis of the state of the global environment, the global, regional and national policy response as well as the outlook for the foreseeable future.

It differs from previous GEO reports in its emphasis on Sustainable Development Goals and in providing possible means of accelerating achievement of these goals.

  Sixth edition of Global Environment Outlook report released

Following are the six key messages of the report:

1. A healthy planet supports healthy people:
The report emphasises on how a healthy planet is important for the health and well-being of all people. It directly supports the lives and livelihoods of 70 per cent of the Earth’s population living in poverty and provides the basis for the production of the goods and services that are necessary for the global formal economy, which had a global GDP value of $US 75 trillion in 2017.

Overall the biosphere is essential for human survival and civilization and its value to humans is therefore effectively infinite.

2. Unhealthy planet leads to unhealthy people: The report revealed how the planet is becoming increasingly unhealthy through the negative impacts of biodiversity loss including pollinators, coral reefs and mangroves, climate change and other air pollution, water pollution, ocean pollution and depletion, and land use change.

An unhealthy planet has huge social costs in terms of human health and well-being as well as on the formal economy and livelihoods worldwide. In 2016, 24.2 million people were internally displaced in 118 countries as a result of sudden-onset disasters. Such disasters affected not just the poor countries, but also rich countries like the USA and Japan. Between 1995 and 2015, around 700,000 people have reportedly died and 1.7 billion people were affected by extreme weather events.

3. Drivers, pressures leading to unhealthy planet need to be addressed:
The drivers and pressures result from a continuing failure to internalise environmental and health impacts into economic growth processes, technologies and city design. The pressures arise from massive use of chemicals, huge waste streams committed and intensifying climate change impacts and inequality which contributes to demographic changes and other drivers and pressures.

The environmental footprint of rich people is significantly higher than that of poorer people. For example, the monthly emissions per capita in rich countries are mostly higher than the yearly emissions per capita in poorer countries. The wealthiest countries were reported to consume 10 times the materials per person compared to the poorest countries.

4. More detailed knowledge required for refined and preemptive policy:
The report states that the existing knowledge is sufficient to mobilise action now. However, new knowledge including disaggregated data from earth observation, in-situ data, citizen science, ground truthing and indigenous and local knowledge is necessary in national policy and accounting more broadly.

There are major benefits in accounting systems that register the details about who causes damage to the environment, how and why; what is the extent of nature’s contributions to humans, the loss of ecosystem goods and services; and who is affected.

The statistics and accounting systems also need to recognise the realities of the predominantly poor people in the informal economy, who are often particularly dependent on nature’s contributions to people and hence more vulnerable to environmental degradation.

5. Environmental policy is necessary but inadequate by itself:
The report reveals that the current national policies are not on track to address the key environmental challenges effectively and equitably, in line with the aspirations of the SDGs.

It states that environmental considerations need to be integrated into all policy areas, such that the potential and actual implications for natural resources and the environment are robustly included in policies for economic growth, technological development and urban design so that there is effective long-term decoupling between economic growth, resource use and environmental degradation.

It further states that climate mitigation needs to be accompanied by policy for the equitable adaptation to committed climate change. Policies will only be effective if they are well designed, involving clear goals and flexible mixes of policy, including monitoring, instruments aimed at achieving them.

6. Healthy people, a healthy planet and a healthy economy can be mutually supportive: The report states that healthy diets and lifestyles, healthy cities with good waste management and the use of green infrastructure in built-up areas, and healthy mobility can increase labour productivity, reduce the need for land for agriculture and reduce the costs associated with urban congestion and transport-related pollution.

It states that the technological and social innovation that supports environmentally sound economic development provides a viable and attractive alternative to the ‘grow now, clean up later’ practices of the past. In addition, a healthy people approach requires the implementation of the rights of access to clean water and food, tenure rights, and gender equality. The report recommends that securing tenure rights for poor and indigenous people would enhance their ability to protect biodiversity and the different ecosystems that sustain them.

It further states that if gender equality is promoted, including the right to inherit and own land, then food security and many health issues relating especially to women and children could be better addressed.

Background

The UN Environment launched the first Global Environment Outlook (GEO) in 1997.

The GEO reports aim to build on sound scientific knowledge to provide governments, local authorities, businesses and individual citizens with the information needed to guide societies to a truly sustainable world by 2050.

The GEO-6 builds on the findings of previous GEO reports, including the six regional assessments (2016), and outlines the current state of the environment, illustrates possible future environmental trends and analyses the effectiveness of policies.

This flagship report shows how governments can put the world on the path to a truly sustainable future. It emphasises that urgent and inclusive action is needed by decision makers at all levels to achieve a healthy planet with healthy people.

India pilots resolutions on single-use plastics, sustainable nitrogen management; NGT directs CPCB to prepare noise pollution maps

India pilots resolutions on single-use plastics, sustainable nitrogen management

Story 1India pilots resolutions on single-use plastics, sustainable nitrogen management

India piloted resolutions on two key global environmental issues, single-use plastics and sustainable nitrogen management, at the fourth session of United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) that was held in Nairobi from March 11-15, 2019.

The UN Environment adopted both the resolutions with consensus. The theme of the organisation this year is ‘innovative solutions for environmental challenges and sustainable production and consumption’.

Significance

India’s resolutions to address these two global challenges are the first key steps towards addressing these issues and attracting the focus of the global community.

Why are these two issues global environmental challenges?

Single-use plastics: Only a small proportion of the plastics produced globally are recycled with most of it damaging the environment and aquatic bio-diversity.

Sustainable Nitrogen Management:
The global nitrogen use efficiency is low, resulting in pollution by reactive nitrogen which threatens human health, ecosystem services and contributes to climate change and stratospheric ozone depletion.

Other Details

In the high-level segment of UNEA, India hosted a session on “Global Partnerships: Key to Unlocking Resource Efficiency and Inclusive Green Economies”.

The side event saw participation from representatives of member states, civil society organisations, private sector organisations including leading financial institutions.

It included a panel discussion that had high-level diplomatic participation from Germany, Brazil, South Africa and senior management of international financial institutions.

The Indian delegation also participated in the panel discussion on the “need for additional commitments of public finance and the ways to maximise mobilization of climate finance”.

Key takeaways

At the conclusion of the session, it was realised that the mainstreaming of resource efficiency and the use of secondary raw materials through partnerships and action at scale is critical for moving towards a green economy.

It was concluded that collaborations and action at scale is the key to success and that the actions should be oriented towards having an inclusive green economy.

It was also understood that blended finance will help in implementation whereas public finance should be provided to de-risk private finance in transformational projects.

Climate Finance

It was highlighted during the sessions that climate finance is an important lever for climate action related to both mitigation and adaption in the developing countries and that the contributions to climate finance need to be in consonance with the basic principles of common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities (CBDR-RC).

The discussions concluded that climate finance is more of an obligation of the developed countries, based on their historical emissions. The availability of sufficient, additional and predictable climate finance is a key for action.

Importantly, the lack of pledged funds in the Green Climate Fund and the potential reliance on the private sector was highlighted by many developing countries.

India has been initiating domestic climate actions, both related to climate change mitigation and adaptation, primarily through its own financial resources.

Currently, there is a sense of urgency for financial support to developing countries, which have not been so responsible for these global environmental concerns.

Story 2- NGT directs CPCB to prepare noise pollution maps

  NGT directs CPCB to prepare noise pollution maps

The National Green Tribunal has directed the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to prepare a noise pollution map and remedial action plan to solve the issue across the country.

The green bench headed by National Green Tribunal Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel directed the CPCB to identify noise pollution hotspots and categorise cities with specified hotspots and propose a remedial action plan within three months.

Key Highlights

The NGT directed the CPCB to consider setting up noise monitoring mechanisms in all cities where noise pollution is beyond permissible limits. The pollution control board has already established such mechanisms in seven cities.

It further directed all the state pollution control boards to undertake noise level monitoring along with the concerned police departments.

The green tribunal stated that the police departments of all the states and union territories may obtain noise monitoring devices within a period of three months. The specification of such devices may be finalised in consultation with the respective state PCBs and pollution control committees.

The tribunal also stated that the police may also train their staff regarding the use of such devices and develop a robust protocol for taking appropriate action against the defaulters.

Besides this, the tribunal suggested manufacturing of public address systems with equipment that can monitor the noise pollution parameters and alert authorities once the prescribed limits are crossed.

It added that the CPCB may also down the scale of compensation to be recovered including conditions on which equipment seized is to be released within one month.

Impact

As per NGT, the absence of implementation of noise pollution norms affects the health of citizens, especially infants and senior citizens.

It also affects sleep, comfort, studies and other legitimate activities.

15 March 2019

President confers Gallantry and Distinguished Service awards

Representative Image

The President of India, Ram Nath Kovind conferred Gallantry and Distinguished Service awards to armed forces personnel at a solemn ceremony, held at Rashtrapati Bhawan in New Delhi on March 14, 2018.

The Gallantry awards are given for displaying conspicuous gallantry, indomitable courage and extreme devotion to duty. This year, three Kirti Chakras and 15 Shaurya Chakras were conferred, among which two Kirti Chakras and one Shaurya Chakra was given posthumously.

The distinguished service awards included 15 Param Vishisht Seva Medals, one Uttam Yudh Seva Medals and 25 Ati Vishisht Seva Medals. They were conferred to senior officers of the armed forces for distinguished service of an exceptional order.

The following is the list of awardees:

Kirti Chakra

S. no

Name

Regiment

1. Sepoy Vrahma Pal Singh The Rajput Regiment, 44th Battalion, The Rashtriya Rifles (Posthumous)
2. Rajendra Kumar Nain Constable, CRPF (Posthumous)
3. Major Tushar Gauba 20th Battalion, The Jat Regiment

Shaurya Chakra

S. no

Name

Regiment

1. Dhanawade Ravindra Baban Head Constable, CRPF (Posthumous)
2. AS Krishna Head Constable, CRPF
3. K Dinesh Raja Constable, CRPF
4. Prafulla Kumar Constable, CRPF
5. Captain Varma Jayesh Rajesh The Rajput Regiment, 44th Battalion, The Rashtriya Rifles
6. Captain Kaninder Paul Singh The Rajput Regiment, 44th Battalion, The Rashtriya Rifles
7. Gunner Ranjit Singh The Regiment Of Artillery, 13th Battalion, The Rashtriya Rifles
8. Major Aditya Kumar 10th Battalion, The Garhwal Rifles
9. Captain P Rajkumar Indian Navy
10. Naib Subedar Vijay Kumar Yadav 15th Battalion, The Maratha Light Infantry Regiment
11. Major Pawan Gautam The Corps Of Engineers, 44th Battalion, The Rashtriya Rifles
12. Sapper Mahesh HN The Corps Of Engineers, 44th Battalion, The Rashtriya Rifles
13. Captain Abhinav Kumar Choudhary The Corps Of Signals, 21st Battalion, The Rashtriya Rifles
14. Lance Naik Ayyub Ali The Rajputana Rifles, 9th Battalion, The Rashtriya Rifles
15. Major Amit Kumar Dimri The Garhwal Rifles, 14th Battalion, The Rashtriya Rifles

Param Vishisht Seva Medal

S. no

Name

Regiment

1. General Bipin Rawat The Infantry
2. Lieutenant General Surinder Singh The Mechanised Infantry
3. Lieutenant General Bipinpuri The Army Medical Corps
4. Lieutenant General Manoj Mukundnaravane The Infantry
5. Vice Admiral Ajit Kumar Payyapillil Navy
6. Air Marshal Balakrishnan Suresh Flying (Pilot), Air Force
7. Air Marshal Raghunath Nambiar Flying (Pilot), Air Force
8. Lieutenant General Ashwani Kumar The Army Air Defence
9. Lieutenant General Pankaj Kumar Srivastava The Regiment Of Artillery
10. Lieutenant General Sudarshan Shrikant Hasabnis The Corps Of Engineers
11. Lieutenant General Iqroop Singh Ghuman The Mechanised Infantry
12. Air Marshal Sardar Harpal Singh Flying (Pilot), Air Force
13. Lieutenant General Shokin Chauhan The Infantry (Retired)
14. Lieutenant General Jaswinder Singh Sandhu The Infantry (Retired)
15. Major General Vijay Dnayandev Chowgule The Infantry (Retired)

Uttam Yuddh Seva Medal

S. no

Name

Regiment

1. Lieutenant General Saranjeet Singh The Infantry / Headquarters 16 Corps

Ati Vishisht Seva Medal

S. no

Name

Regiment

1.

Lieutenant General Yenduruvenkata Krishna Mohan The Infantry

2.

Lieutenant General Sanjay Verma The Corps Of Electronics And Mechanical Engineers

3.

Lieutenant General Jagdeep Kumar Sharma The Mechanised Infantry

4.

Lieutenant General Umesh Kumar Sharma The Army Medical Corps

5.

Lieutenant General Paramjit Singh The Corps Of Electronics And Mechanical Engineers

6.

Lieutenant General Shashank Tarakantupasani The Infantry

7.

Lieutenant General Anant Prasad Singh The Army Air Defence

8.

Lieutenant General Yogendra Dimri The Corps Of Engineers

9.

Lieutenant General Surendar Kumar Prashar The Infantry

10.

Vice Admiral Sunil Anand Navy

11.

Air Marshal Amit Tiwari Flying (Pilot), Air Force

12.

Air Marshal Amit Dev Flying (Pilot), Air Force

13.

Lieutenant General Giri Raj Singh The Army Ordnance Corps (Retired)

14.

Major Gen Alok Raj The Infantry

15.

Major General Tejpal Singh Rawat The Corps Of Engineers

16.

Major General Channira Bansi Ponnappa The Infantry

17.

Major General Gajinder Singh The Infantry

18.

Rear Admiral Makarand Arvind Hampiholi Navy

19.

Rear Admiral Dinesh Kumar Tripathi Navy

20.

Air Vice Marshal Pijush Mukherjee Aeronautical Engineering (Electronics), Air Force

21.

Major General Paramjit Singh Sandhu The Mechanised Infantry (Retired)

22.

Air Vice Marshal Soumitra Kumar Dey Administration (Retired)
23. Ic-43756n Brigadier Sanjeev Langeh The Jammu & Kashmir Rifles

24.

Air Commodore Dhananjay Vasant Khot Flying (Pilot), Air Force

25.

Air Commodore George Thomas Flying (Pilot), Air Force

World Sleep Day 2019: What are the different kind of sleep disorders?

World Sleep Day observed across the globe

15 March: World Sleep Day

The World Sleep Day was observed across the globe on March 15, 2019 with the theme ‘Healthy Sleep, Healthy Aging’.

The day is observed annually on the Friday before the March Equinox on the Earth, when the subsolar point appears to leave the Southern Hemisphere and cross the celestial equator, heading northward as seen from Earth.

Objective

The key aim is to draw society’s attention to the burden of sleep problems and their medical, educational, and social aspects, which threaten the health or quality of life of as much as 45 per cent of the world’s population.

The day also aims to raise awareness regarding sleep disorders and promote their prevention and management.

Key Highlights

The key message for this year’s World Sleep Day is ‘ageing and sleep health’ in the society.

Healthier ageing and a better understanding of how to sleep better as the age increases is expected to help reduce the overall burden of poor health on society.

This year the focus is on raising awareness about how important sleep is to improve and maintain one’s future physical and mental health and how the amount of sleep one needs changes with age.

Most adults require 7 to 8 hours sleep while babies and children need even more sleep for optimal learning and play.

About the Day

The World Sleep Day is an annual event, intended to be a celebration of sleep and a call to action on important issues related to sleep, including medicine, education, social aspects and driving.

It has been organised by the World Sleep Day Committee of the World Sleep Society, formerly World Association of Sleep Medicine (WASM World Sleep Society), since 2008.

Through the observation, the World Sleep Society aims to raise awareness of sleep disorders and their better understanding and prevention and reduce the burden of sleep problems on society.

It is estimated that sleep deprivation costs the US over $400 billion a year with Japan losing $138 billion, Germany $60 billion, the UK $50 billion and Canada $21 billion.

The first World Sleep Day was held on March 14, 2008. The day is commemorated with events involving discussions, presentations of educational materials and exhibitions, which take place around the world and online.

Sleep Disorders

Sleep disorders are medical disorders of the sleep patterns of a person or animal. Simply put, they are changes in the way a person sleeps.

Sleep disorders can affect a person’s overall health, safety and quality of life. Some sleep disorders are serious enough to interfere with normal physical, mental, social and emotional functioning.

What are the signs of sleep disorders?

Some of the signs and symptoms of sleep disorders include excessive daytime sleepiness, irregular breathing or increased movement during sleep and difficulty in falling asleep.

Symptoms of sleep disorders include being very sleepy during the daytime and having trouble falling asleep at night. Other symptoms are breathing in an unusual pattern or feeling an uncomfortable urge to move while you sleep.

How to identify them?

Polysomnography and actigraphy are tests commonly ordered for some sleep disorders.

What are the different types of sleep disorders?

There are many different types of sleep disorders. They are often grouped into categories that explain why they happen or how they affect a person. They can also be grouped according to behaviors and problems with one’s natural sleep-wake cycles, breathing problems, difficulty sleeping or how sleepy one feels during the day.

Some common types of sleep disorders include:

Insomnia: This type of sleep disorder involves the inability of falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night.

Sleep apnea: In this sleep disorder, one experiences abnormal patterns in breathing while sleeping. There are several types of sleep apnea.

Restless legs syndrome (RLS): This syndrome is a type of sleep movement disorder, also called Willis-Ekbom disease, which causes an uncomfortable sensation and an urge to move the legs while one is trying to sleep.

Sleep bruxism: It is again a sleep-related movement disorder, which involves clenching or grinding of teeth during sleep. People who have this disorder are more likely to have other sleep disorders, such as snoring and pauses in breathing (sleep apnea).

Hypersomnia: This is a kind of disorder in which a person has trouble staying awake during the day. This includes narcolepsy, a condition characterised by extreme sleepiness during the day and falling asleep suddenly during the day. People with a hypersomnia may fall asleep at times that are inconvenient or even dangerous, such as at work or while driving

Parasomnia: The disorder involves acting in unusual ways while falling asleep, sleeping or waking from sleep, such as walking, talking or eating.

Circadian rhythm disorders: The disorder involves problems with the sleep-wake cycle. They make one unable to sleep and wake at the right times.

What causes sleep disorders?

There are different causes for different sleep disorders, such as depression, anxiety or genetics or something more severe such some internal disease or disorder. Sometimes the cause is not known.

At other times, some key factors in our lifestyle causes disruptions in our sleeping pattern such as irregular work schedule, more intake of caffeine and alcohol or simply aging, as with growing age, people often get sleep or spend less time in deep and restful stage of sleep.

World Consumer Rights Day 2019: Ensuring consumers’ trust in smart products

World Consumer Rights Day 2019 Ensuring consumers trust in smart products

The World Consumer Rights Day was observed across the world on March 15, 2019 with an aim to promote basic rights of consumers and to ensure that these rights are respected and protected.

This year, the Day called for access to secure internet for all. The Day encouraged better consumer protection online.

Theme 2019: Trusted Smart Products
The theme of 2019 World Consumer Rights Day was ‘Trusted Smart Products’.

As per the ‘Trusted Smart Products briefing’ by the Consumers International, “a smart product can connect, share and interact with its user and other devices. The most popular consumer smart products are smartphones, games consoles, smart TVs, wearable health trackers, thermostats, toys and connected cars”.

These smart phones, wearable fitness trackers, smart TVs, many of the other smart products are increasingly becoming connected by default.

They collect and analyse user data and transmit it to other connected devices in a network. This Network of smart products is known as the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT).

This year, the World Consumers Rights Day highlighted what consumers need from a connected world and how important it is for them to know about these digital products and services.

As consumer’s uptake of more and more smart products in steadily growing day-by-day, it is important for them to understand the issues of security, and privacy.

The data

  • There are currently 23.1 billion connected devices installed globally as of now, this figure is expected to triple by 2025.
  • By 2025, 72 percent of users will be accessing internet through smart phone and half of these new users will come from China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Pakistan.

History

On March 15, 1962, the then US President John F Kennedy formally addressed the issue of consumer rights in the US Congress. He was the first world leader to do so.

That date marked the consumer movement and now the day is observed every year as a means of raising global awareness about consumer rights.

The US President John F. Kennedy in 1962 declared four consumer rights:

– Right to safety
– Right to be informed
– Right to choose
– Right to be heard

Later in 1980, four more human rights were added:

– Right to redress
– Right to satisfaction of basic needs
– Right to consumer education
– Right to a healthy environment

The first World Consumer Rights Day was observed in the year 1983.

RBI categorises IDBI Bank as Private Sector Bank; SBI, ICICI and HDFC remain Systemically Important Banks

RBI categorises IDBI Bank as Private Sector Bank; SBI, ICICI and HDFC remain Systemically Important

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on March 14, 2019 categorised the IDBI Bank Limited as a ‘Private Sector Bank’ for regulatory purposes with effect from January 21, 2019.

The move came following the acquisition of the 51 percent of the total paid-up equity share capital of the IDBI bank by Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC).

IDBI removed from ‘Other public sector banks’ category

The IDBI Bank was categorised in the sub-group ‘other public sector banks’ by the RBI in April 2005.

The ‘other public sector banks’ categorisation was rendered on the basis of the assurance given to the Parliament on December 8, 2004 by the then Finance Minister during the discussion on the Repeal Bill, 2003, that “the government holding in IDBI Ltd would always be above 51 percent”.

IDBI Bank’s 51% acquisition by LIC: A brief
In January 2019, the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) completed the process of picking up a controlling stake of 51 percent in the IDBI Bank. The deal concluded after the approval of the Union Cabinet on August 1, 2018.

The Cabinet also approved reduction in Government shareholding in IDBI Bank Limited to below 50 percent by dilution.

The acquisition was done through preferential allotment or open offer of equity and through relinquishment of management control by the Union Government.

How IDBI Bank and LIC would be benefitted by the deal?

• The IDBI Bank is currently under the Prompt Corrective Action (PCA) framework of RBI that bans it from corporate lending, branch expansions, salary hikes and other regular activities. The entry of LIC is likely to solve the capital issue through the infusion of funds.

• The acquisition would help financially strengthen the LIC and the bank as well as their subsidiaries which offer financial products such as housing finance and mutual funds.

• The IDBI bank will get an opportunity to tap over 11 lakh LIC agents for doorstep banking services, positioning it to improve customer services and deepen financial inclusion.

• The bank would also be benefitted in terms of lower cost of funds through acquisition of low-cost deposits and fee income from payment services.

• LIC would get bancassurance (selling of insurance products by bank) through the bank’s network of 1916 branches, besides access to bank’s cash management services.

• LIC would gain in terms of furthering the realisation of its vision of becoming a financial conglomerate.

• The acquisition has wide-ranging synergy benefits for customers of the LIC and the bank. Customers will get access to wider offerings of financial services under one roof, and LIC being better positioned to expand life insurance coverage.

SBI, ICICI and HDFC remain Domestic Systemically Important Banks (D-SIBs)

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on March 14, 2019 itself named the State Bank of India (SBI), the ICICI Bank and the HDFC Bank as Domestic Systemically Important Banks (D-SIBs).

What does ‘Domestic Systemically Important Banks (D-SIBs)’ category imply for banks?

The RBI has been coming out with the list of Domestic Systemically Important Banks every year since 2015.

The D-SIBs category generally implies for banks that are too big to fail. The failure of any of these banks would have a tumbling effect on Indian financial system.

As per the norms, these banks have to set aside more capital for their continued operation.

Inclusion of banks in the list gives additional assurance to investors that these banks would never fail.

In July 2014, the RBI issued the Framework to deal with D-SIBs. The D-SIB framework mandates the RBI to disclose the names of D-SIBs banks and place these banks in appropriate categories depending upon their Systemic Importance Scores (SISs)

14 March 2019

World Kidney Day 2019: The Burden of Chronic Kidney Diseases

World Kidney Day 2019: The Burden of Chronic Kidney Diseases

Second Thursday of March: World Kidney Day

The World Kidney Day 2019 was observed on March 14, 2019, the second Thursday of March, with an aim to raise awareness of the importance of our kidneys.

Theme 2019
The theme of World Kidney Day 2019 was “Kidney Health for Everyone Everywhere”.

The theme calls for Universal Health Coverage (UHC) for prevention and early treatment of kidney disease. The ultimate goal of a UHC policy is to promote population health by ensuring universal, sustainable and equitable access to essential healthcare of high quality.

The Day is observed all across the world with hundred events taking place from public screenings in Argentina to Zumba marathons in Malaysia.

The Day is just an awareness campaign that aims to create awareness about preventive behaviors, about risk factors, and about how to live with a kidney disease.

The Burden of Chronic Kidney Diseases

Globally, 850 million people are estimated to have kidney diseases from various causes.

Chronic kidney diseases (CKD) cause at least 2.4 million deaths per year and are now the 6th fastest growing cause of death.

Acute Kidney Injury (AKI) is an important driver of chronic kidney diseases that affects over 13 million people worldwide and 85 percent of these cases are found in low and middle-income countries (LMICs).

Around 1.7 people are estimated to die annually because of Acute kidney injury.

CKD and AKI together are important contributors to other diseases and risk factors including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, as well as infections such as HIV, malaria, tuberculosis and hepatitis.

In children, the CKD and AKI not only lead to extensive mortality during childhood but also result in medical issues beyond childhood.

What is a Chronic Kidney Disease?
The Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is a progressive loss in kidney function over a period of months or years.

Every human possesses two kidneys and each of the kidneys has about a million tiny filters called ‘nephrons’. If nephrons are damaged, they stop working, thus leading to kidney failure.

Boerhavia Diffusa : A herb for decaying kidneys

The Boerhavia Diffusa (BD) is a plant herb, as per ayurvedic claims, that possesses antiaging, disease prevention, and life strengthening traits.

Commonly found in tropical forests, wastelands and agricultural fields as a weed, the herb relieves one from the back pain that occurs in the cases of kidney stones.

World Kidney Day

The World Kidney Day is observed annually on the second Thursday of March.

It is a joint initiative of the International Society of Nephrology (ISN) and the International Federation of Kidney Foundations (IFKF).

The International Society of Nephrology (ISN) is a not-for-profit society dedicated to advancing the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of kidney diseases in 126 countries.

The IFKF, a not-for-profit federation founded in 1999, has membership of over 60 kidney foundations and patient groups in over 40 countries. IFKF advocates improving the health, well-being and quality of life of people with kidney disease.

India, US to set up six nuclear power plants in India

India, US to set up six nuclear power plants in India

India and the United States have agreed to build six American nuclear power plants in India, in an effort to boost bilateral civil nuclear energy cooperation.

The two nations made the announcement through a joint statement issued at the conclusion of the 9th round of India-US Strategic Security Dialogue, held in Washington DC on March 13, 2019. The dialogue was co-chaired by Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale, who had led the Indian delegation and Andrea Thompson, the US under secretary of state for arms control and international security.

India-US Strategic Security Dialogue

During the key strategic dialogue, the two sides exchanged views on a wide range of global security and non-proliferation challenges and reaffirmed their commitment to work together to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems and to deny access to such weapons to terrorists and non-state actors.

The two nations further agreed to strengthen bilateral security and civil nuclear cooperation, including the establishment of six US nuclear power plants in India.

The United States also reaffirmed its strong support of India’s early membership in the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Notably, China has blocked India’s pending membership to the elite grouping that seeks to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons.

India-US Space Dialogue

Earlier on March 12, 2019, the third round of India-US Space Dialogue was held, which was co-chaired by India’s additional secretary for disarmament and international security affairs Indra Mani Pandey and Yleem DS Poblete, US assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification and compliance.

The two delegations discussed trends in space threats, respective national space priorities and opportunities for cooperation bilaterally and in a multilateral forum.

Background

India and the US had signed a historic agreement to cooperate in the civil nuclear energy sector in October 2008. The deal gave a boost to bilateral ties, which have been on an upswing since.

A major aspect of the deal was the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) that gave a special waiver to India enabling it to sign civil nuclear cooperation agreements with a dozen countries.

Following the waiver, India signed civil nuclear cooperation agreements with the US, UK, France, Russia, Canada, Argentina, Australia, Sri Lanka, Japan, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan and South Korea.

Explained- Kartarpur Sahib Corridor: India, Pakistan held talks to finalise modalities for Kartarpur Corridor

India, Pakistan begin talks to finalise modalities for Kartarpur Corridor

Indian and Pakistan’s officials on March 14, 2019 held the first round of talks to discuss and finalise the modalities for Kartarpur Corridor at the Indian side of the Attari-Wagah border.

The corridor will facilitate visa-free travel of Indian Sikh pilgrims to the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur, Pakistan. Indian Government seeks to operationalise the Kartarpur Corridor by November 2019 on the occasion of the 550th Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.

The Indian delegation was led by SCL Das, Joint Secretary in the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, while, the Pakistan delegation was led by Director General South Asia and SAARC, Muhammad Faisal, who is also spokesperson of Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry.

Both the sides will hold the next meeting at Wagah on April 2, 2019.

Meeting held exactly a month after Pulwama terror attack

The meeting was held exactly a month after the Pulwama terror attack in which a suicide bomber killed an Indian army convoy of over 40 CRPF personnel on February 14, 2019 in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district.

The responsibility of the attack was claimed by a Pakistan-based militant group, Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), which is led by Masood Azhar.

Laying of foundation stone for Dera Baba Nanak – Kartarpur Sahib Road Corridor

Earlier, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu on November 26, 2018 laid the foundation stone for the construction of Dera Baba Nanak – Kartarpur Sahib Road Corridor on the Indian side at Mann village in Gurdaspur district of Punjab, marking a new beginning in India-Pakistan relations.

The foundation stone was laid in the presence of Union Minister for Road Transport Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister of Food Processing Harsimrat Kaur Badal, and Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amrinder Singh.

Project work on Kartarpur Corridor on Indian side

India has identified 50 acres of land for the Kartarpur Sahib corridor.

The Passenger Terminal Building complex will be built in two phases. It will be a green building and will display murals and photographs based on rich Indian cultural values.

The design of the complex is inspired by the symbol ‘Khanda’ which symbolises values of oneness and humanity. The building will facilitate movement of nearly five thousand pilgrims.

A robust security system will be put in place in and around the Passenger Terminal Building.

The terminal building will be ready to host at least 5,000 pilgrims on any given day.

Note
On November 22, 2018, the Union Government decided to build the Kartarpur road Corridor upto the international border between India and Pakistan as an integrated development project to mark 550th birth anniversary of the Guru Nanak Dev Ji in 2019.

India and Pakistan had announced to build Corridors on their respective sides to let Sikh pilgrims visit the holy shrine without visa and to help them walk across and come back without having to secure a visa.

Kartarpur Corridor: A bridge between India and Pakistan

The Kartarpur Road Corridor will link India’s border district of Gurdaspur with the historic Gurudwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan, which was the resting place of Guru Nanak.

The Indian side of Corridor starts from Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district and extends upto International border between India and Pakistan.

The corridor will be developed by National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and will be funded by the Union Government.

The project corridor is 4 lanes with service road and will encompass all other appropriate amenities needed by pilgrims while visiting the Gurudwara Darbar Sahib, Kartarpur in Pakistan.

This corridor will be a historical landmark between India and Pakistan and will also boost tourism as more pilgrims would visit the holy shrine throughout the year between two countries.

A high-level committee chaired by Captain Amrinder Singh will regularly review, monitor and oversee the implementation of the project to celebrate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.

The corridor is seen as a bridge between the people of the two countries; it opens new possibilities to connect the people of two countries through love, empathy and invisible threads of common spiritual heritage.

India had first proposed the Kartarpur Sahib corridor in 1999 when the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee took a bus ride to Lahore.

Gurudwara Darbar Sahib, Kartarpur
  • The Gurudwara Darbar Sahib, Kartarpur is located on the bank of river Ravi in Pakistan and is about 3 to 4 km from the Indo-Pak border in Pakistan.
  • It is about 4 km from the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district of India and is about 120 km northeast of Lahore.
  • It was here that Guru Nanak assembled a Sikh community and lived for 18 years until his death in 1539.
  • The shrine is visible from the Indian side as binoculars are installed at Gurdwara Dera Baba Nanak for darshan. Pakistani authorities generally trim the elephant grass that would otherwise obstruct the view.
  • The gurdwara was opened to pilgrims after repairs and restoration in 1999, and Sikh jathas have been visiting the shrine regularly ever since.
  • Sikh jathas from India travel every year to Kartarpur Gurudwara on four occasions – Baishakhi, the martyrdom day of Guru Arjan Dev, the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and on the birthday of Guru Nanak Dev.
  • Kartarpur is located in Shakargarh in Narowal district of Pakistan’s Punjab.

13 March 2019

Geographical Indication Tag: Arecanut gets its first GI tag for ‘Sirsi Supari’

Geographical Indication Tag: Arecanut gets its first GI tag for Sirsi Supari

Arecanut, known as supari or betel nut, made its entry in the list of agricultural produce for the first time with the Geographical Indication (GI) tag for ‘Sirsi Supari’.

The GI tag was accorded by the Registrar of Geographical Indications in the first week of March 2019.

Sirsi-based agri cooperative, Totagars’ Cooperative Sale Society (TSS) Ltd is the registered proprietor of the Sirsi Supari. The cooperative began the process of obtaining a GI tag for Sirsi Supari in 2013.

Sirsi Supari

The ‘Sirsi Supari’ is grown in Sirsi, Siddpaur and Yellapur taluks of Uttara Kannada district in Karnataka.

Production of arecanut in these three taluks is around 7 percent of the total arecanut production in Karnataka.

The GI tag will guarantee the authenticity of arecanut grown in these taluks, and ensure a better market.

Grown on an area of around 40,000 acres, the annual production of ‘Sirsi Supari’ is estimated to be around 40,000 tonnes.

Sirsi Supari is medium sized, round in shape and has ash coloured hard seed.

The fruit of Sirsi Supari turns from yellow to red upon ripening.

The fruit consists of a thick fibrous husk that encloses this seed.

The Sirsi Supari of Karnataka tastes differently in comparison to the supari grown in other parts of the country due to the differences in the different chemical composition of different arecanuts.

Arecanut
  • The arecanut is the fruit of the areca palm that grows in much of the tropical Pacific, Southeast and South Asia, and parts of east Africa. It is commonly referred to as betel nut (chewing nut or Supari).
  • In India, it is extensively used by large sections of people and is linked with religious practices.
  • India is the largest producer of arecanut and at the same time largest consumer also.
  • The nut is majorly cultivated in Karnataka, Kerala, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Meghalaya and West Bengal.

About Geographical Indication (GI)

A Geographical Indication (GI) tag is a name or sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation of that origin. It can be a town, a region, or a country.

The use of a geographical indication acts as a certification that the product possesses certain qualities, is made according to traditional methods, and enjoys a certain reputation due to its geographical origin.

It is used for agricultural, natural and manufactured goods having a special quality and reputation.

It plays a very important role to increase the realm of the market.

It boosts exports as well tourism and more importantly, it indirectly leads to sustainable development.

Madras HC reserves verdict on plea against BCCI representing India

Madras HC reserves verdict on plea seeking to de-recognise BCCI

The Madras High Court on March 12, 2019 reserved its verdict on a public interest litigation petition filed by a Delhi-based woman seeking a direction to the Centre to de-recognise BCCI and its affiliated bodies and associations as the official representative of India.

The plea seeks to restrain the Board of Control for Cricket in India and its affiliated bodies from claiming to be official representatives of the country during international matches. The plea was heard by a division bench of the court comprising Justices S Manikumar and Subramonium Prasad, which reserved its order after hearing arguments from both the sides.

Key Highlights

In the petition, the petitioner from Delhi – Geeta Rani, sought a direction to the central government to create a body of its own and register it under the International Cricket Council. to be the official representative of the nation.

The petitioner stated that only such a body should be authorised to select cricket players for representing the Indian team in international matches.

The petitioner also sought a direction to the central government to take legal action against the members of BCCI to represent the nation at the national and international level without any permission, authority or sanction from the government.

The petitioner also sought a direction to the central government to take suitable action for violation of section 3 of the Emblem and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act against the BCCI and its affiliated bodies and associations.

However, opposing the case, senior counsel P.R. Raman, representing the BCCI, questioned the right or capacity of the petitioner to file such a case.

UK Parliament rejects Brexit deal for a second time

UK Parliament rejects Brexit deal for a second time

The UK Parliament on March 12, 2019 yet again overwhelmingly rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal, delivering a massive blow to her efforts to see the withdrawal agreement through before the planned withdrawal of Britain from the European on March 29.

With just 17 days to go, the British lawmakers rejected the deal 391-242, ignoring May’s pleas to back the agreement and end the political chaos and economic uncertainty that Brexit has unleashed. However, this time around the outcome was narrower than the historic 230-vote margin of defeat for the agreement in January 2019.

The British Parliament is scheduled to vote on a new motion on March 13, 2019 to decide if Britain should leave the European Union within the March 29 deadline without any deal in place.

May defeated as a leader?

May’s massive defeat in the Parliament has not only raised uncertainty over Brexit but also to her authority as leader. Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has called for the general election to allow the British public to decide who should lead them into the next phase of Brexit.

Prior to the significant vote, May had managed to secure some key changes to the deal from the EU, removing one of the biggest roadblocks.

To ensure a breakthrough this time around, May had flown to Strasbourg, France on the eve of the crucial vote, to seek revisions, guarantees and other changes from European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker that would persuade reluctant British legislators to back the deal. In a joint press conference, May and Juncker claimed to have succeeded.

  UK Parliament rejects Brexit deal for a second time

Key new changes

The new documents added to the deal provided legally binding changes to the part relating to the Irish border. The legal 585-page withdrawal agreement itself though was left intact.

The newly introduced changes were expected to overcome legislators’ qualms about a mechanism in the deal designed to keep an open border between Britain’s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.

The mechanism, known as the backstop, is a safeguard that would keep the UK in a customs union with the EU until a permanent new trading relationship is in place.

According to Brexit-supporters, the backstop could be used to bind the country to EU regulations indefinitely. Hence, they are demanding for a unilateral British exit mechanism from the backstop.

However, May stated that the new changes guarantee that EU cannot act with the intent of applying the backstop indefinitely.

What will happen now?

While finally agreeing to introduce changes to the earlier agreed deal, EU President Juncker had warned British legislators that there would be no third chance. He had asked them to be crystal clear about the choice- either it is this deal or Brexit might not happen at all.

With the current defeat, top EU officials warn that it has increased the chances of a chaotic no-deal Brexit.

Now, the British lawmakers will vote to decide on whether to leave the EU without an agreement or to ask the EU to delay Brexit beyond the scheduled March 29 departure date.

The EU ambassadors are also scheduled to meet in Brussels to assess the vote, the bloc’s contingency plans and to discuss whether to grant a delay to Brexit if UK asks for one.

If the UK parliament does rule out both May’s deal and no-deal departure, then it could possibility pave way for a new Brexit referendum or a ‘softer’ withdrawal from the EU.

Background

The United Kingdom 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 British Government has, however, not yet been able to win parliamentary approval for its agreement with the European Union on withdrawal terms and future relations.

The deadlock has raised fears of a chaotic “no-deal” Brexit that could result in a major economic crisis and disruption for businesses and people both in Britain and the remaining twenty seven EU nations.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has been frantically working to save her deal. She is under mounting pressure to quit. She survived a bid to oust her through a no-confidence vote in December 2018.

Ethiopian Airlines crash: India latest to ground Boeing 737 MAX 8 fleet; Over 40 countries ground the fleet after crash

Boeing 737 MAX: DGCA grounds Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft in India; China, UK, others too ground the fl

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on March 12, 2019 midnight ordered to ground the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft fleet in India with immediate effect following the Ethiopian Airlines crash.

Taking passenger safety as its top priority, India is constantly consulting the regulators around the world, airlines, and aircraft manufacturers to ensure passenger safety.

The Boeing 737 Max 8 fleet will be grounded until appropriate modifications and safety measures are undertaken to ensure their safe operations.

India-based operator, Spice Jet has around 12 Boeing 737 Max 8′ planes in its fleet, while Jet Airways has five in the country.

Ethiopian Airlines crash: Second accident involving the 737 Max 8 Model

The decision to ground this Boeing fleet came in the wake of Ethiopian Airlines crash on March 10, 2019 in Addis Ababa, killing all 157 people on board including 4 Indians. The plane belonged to Boeing 737 MAX 8 fleet.

It was the second fatal accident involving the 737 Max 8 model in less than five months. Earlier in October 2018, Indonesia ‘Lion Air’ flight crashed after takeoff from Jakarta, killing all 189 people on board.

Which are the other countries to ground the Boeing 737 Max 8 fleet following the crash?
India joined the growing list of countries to have temporarily grounded the aircraft. Ethiopia, China, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and the United Kingdom had earlier decided to suspend the Aircraft.

However, US Aviation officials differed, said that the 737 Max 8 is airworthy and that it is too early to reach any conclusions or take any action.

UK became latest to ground Boeing 737 Max 8 jets

The United Kingdom on March 12, 2019 banned the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft from operating in or over national airspace following Ethiopia plane crash.

UK’s Civil Aviation Authority said that it is closely monitoring the situation and the decision has been taken as a precautionary measure.

New Zealand bans Boeing 737 MAX aircrafts

New Zealand also grounded the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft from its airspace. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) of New Zealand said that it was imposing the temporary suspension after consultation with other regulators.

China was the first after Ethiopia to ground Boeing 737 MAX 8 fleet after crash

 A day after the Ethiopian Airlines crash, China suspended the commercial operation of the Boeing 737 MAX 8, citing the Ethiopian Airlines crash and another deadly accident of that same model in Indonesia.

Ethiopian Airlines grounded its Boeing 737 MAX 8 fleet on March 11, 2019 after the crash.

Other countries and carriers that grounded Boeing 737 MAX 8 fleet

Apart from these countries, a slew of other countries and airlines across the world moved to ground Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.

These are – European Union, Singapore, Australia, France, Germany, Ireland, South Korea, Mongolia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Oman, United Arab Emirates Norwegian Air, South African airline Comair, Brazilian airline Gol Linhas Aereas, Mexican carrier Aeromexico, Argentina’s flagship carrier, Aerolineas Argentinas, and Cayman Airways.

Boeing 737 MAX aircraft

The Boeing 737 MAX is an American narrow-body aircraft series designed and produced by Boeing Commercial Airplanes as the fourth generation of the Boeing 737, succeeding the Boeing 737 Next Generation (NG).

The Boeing 737 MAX family was designed to provide passengers with a comfortable flying experience and more direct routes to their favorite destinations.

The unmatched reliability of the MAX assured that more 737 flights depart on time with fewer delays.

The technological advances and its powerful LEAP-1B engines redefined the future of efficient and environmentally friendly air travel.

The Boeing 737 MAX is the fastest selling fleet of Boeing that accumulated over 4500 orders from more than 100 customers across the world.

C Lalsawta sworn in as Mizoram’s first Lokayukta chairman

C Lalsawta sworn in as Mizoram’s first Lokayukta chairman

Retired IAS officer C Lalsawta was on March 11, 2019 sworn-in as the first Chairman of the newly-constituted Lokayukta in Mizoram. He was administered the oath of office and secrecy by the newly appointed Mizoram governor Jagdish Mukhi in a swearing-in ceremony held at Raj Bhavan in Aizawl.

Chief Minister Zoramthanga and other ministers including Mizoram Assembly Speaker Lalrinliana Sailo, legislators and senior officials were present on the occasion. The function was presided over by state Chief Secretary Lalnunmawia Chuaungo, who is the younger brother of the new Lokayukta chairman.

About C Lalsawta

Lalsawta is a 1981 batch Bihar cadre IAS officer. The 63-year-old has been in the government service for more than 40 years.

Before he joined the IAS in 1981, he served as a member of the Indian Audit & Accounts Services for nearly two years.

He reached the IAS Apex Scale as chief of vigilance organisation in the rank of chief secretary/ secretary to the Central government.

After returning to Bihar, he was made the vigilance commissioner of the state. He retired in 2015.

During his long career as IAS officer, Lalsawta was given such assignments that required him to exercise statutory powers independently and pass orders in quasi-judicial proceedings.

Lalsawta presided over Appellate Courts and Revision Courts in Revenue and Criminal cases and also had to decide disciplinary cases in Departmental Proceedings.

He also functioned as Chairman of various statutory bodies and as Vice Chancellor of two Universities.

He was also recently appointed as the administrative member of the Real Estate Appellate Tribunal by the state government of Bihar.

Over the period of his long career, he acquired a reputation for honestly, sincerity and probity in public life.

Background

The appointment of the Lokayukta chairman was done after due consultations and fulfilment of judicious selection procedures.

The Mizoram Lokayukta Act was legislated by the state assembly in 2014 but its establishment was delayed as the 14th Finance Commission did not allocate funds for the purpose as sought by the then Congress-led state government.

NASA’s lunar orbiter spots water molecules on Moon

NASA’s lunar orbiter spots water molecules on Moon

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft has observed water molecules moving around the dayside of Moon, a finding that could help scientists learn about the accessibility of water that can be used by humans in future lunar missions.

According to a study published in the journal – Geophysical Research Letters– the measurements from the Lyman Alpha Mapping Project (LAMP), an instrument aboard the LRO, of the sparse layer of molecules temporarily stuck to the surface helped characterise lunar hydration changes over the course of a day.

Study: Key Highlights

As per NASA, scientists have identified surface water in sparse populations of molecules bound to the lunar soil, or regolith. The water molecules reportedly remain tightly bound to the regolith until surface temperatures peak near lunar noon.

The amount and locations vary based on the time of the day. This water is more common at higher latitudes and tends to hop around as the surface heats up.

The water molecules thermally desorb and can bounce to a nearby location that is cold enough for the molecule to stick or populate the Moon’s extremely tenuous atmosphere or exosphere until temperatures drop and the molecules return to the surface.

The latest research revealed the amount of energy needed to remove water molecules from lunar materials, helping scientists understand how water is bound to surface materials.

Due to the complex way light reflects off the surface of the Moon, lunar hydration is tricky to measure from orbit.

The previous research reported quantities of hopping water molecules that were too large to explain with known physical processes.

Scientists have hypothesised that hydrogen ions in the solar wind may be the source of most of the Moon’s surface water.

However, the water observed by LAMP does not decrease when the Moon is shielded by the Earth and the region influenced by its magnetic field, suggesting water builds up over time, rather than raining down directly from the solar wind.

Benefits

Lunar water can potentially be used by astronauts to make fuel or to use for radiation shielding or thermal management.

If these materials would not need to be launched from Earth, it would make future missions more affordable.

Significance

According to LRO deputy project scientist John Keller, the study is an important step in advancing the water story on the Moon and is a result of years of accumulated data from the LRO mission.

The current results help in understanding the lunar water cycle and will ultimately help the scientists learn about accessibility of water that can be used by humans in future missions to the Moon.

Background

Up until the last decade, scientists thought the Moon was arid, with any water existing mainly as pockets of ice in permanently shaded craters near the poles.

Scientists have previously conducted extensive experiments with water and lunar samples collected by the Apollo missions.

12 March 2019

India is world’s second largest arms importer; Saudi Arabia tops the list: SIPRI Report

India is world’s second largest arms importer; Saudi Arabia tops the list: SIPRI Report

India is the second largest importer of weapons in the world, as per the annual report ‘Trends in International Arms Transfers-2018’released on March 11, 2019 by the think tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Saudi Arabia displaces India as world’s largest importer of weapons

After maintaining its position of world’s largest arms importer for about 8 years, India dropped down to be the second largest importer of weapons during 2014-18. Saudi Arabia is now the world’s largest weapons importer.

India accounted for 9.5 percent of the global total imports during 2014-18, while Saudi Arabia accounted for 12 percent of the total imports during the period.

Key highlights of report

The volume of international transfers of major arms across the world in 2014-18 was 7.8 percent higher than in 2009-13; and 23 percent higher than in 2004-2008.

The five largest exporters in 2014-18 were the United States, Russia, France, Germany and China, together accounting for 75 percent of the total volume of arms exports in 2014-18.

The US and Russia remain the largest exporters by far, accounting for 36 percent and 21 percent of the total global trade, respectively.

Arms exports by Russia decreased by 17 percent between 2009–13 and 2014–18, in particular due to the reduction in arms imports by India and Venezuela.

The flow of arms increased in the Middle East increased by 87 percent between 2009-13 and 2014-18.

Arms imports by Egypt, the third largest arms importer in 2014–18, tripled by 206 percent between 2009-13 and 2014-18. However, Syria’s arms imports fell by 87 percent.

Asia and Oceania remains the largest importer region. The top five arms importers in the Asia and Oceania region were India, Australia, China, South Korea and Vietnam.

The combined arms exports of European Union states accounted for 27 percent of global arms exports in 2014-18.

China emerged as a major arms exporter with increase in its share by 2.7 percent for 2014-18 compared to 2009-13. Its biggest customers are Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Israeli, South Korean and Turkish arms exports increased substantially by 60 percent, 94 percent and 170 percent, respectively, between 2009-13 and 2014-18.

Algeria accounted for 56 percent of African imports of major arms in 2014-18.

British arms exports increased by 5.9 percent between 2009-13 and 2014-18. In 2014-18, a total of 59 percent of British arms exports went to the Middle East.

Indian arms imports in 2014–18
  • Indian imports decreased by 24 percent between 2009-13 and 2014-18, partly due to delay in delivery of arms from foreign suppliers.
  • Russia accounted for 58 percent of Indian arms imports in 2014–18, compared with 76 percent in 2009-13.
  • The United States, Israel and France increased their arms exports to India in 2014-18.
Future expectations

India is expected to receive 36 Rafale fighters of Rs 59,000 crore from France.

The Russian share in Indian arms imports is likely to go up in the next five-year period as India signed several procurement deals recently. These include S-400 air defence systems, four stealth frigates, AK-203 assault rifles, and a second nuclear attack submarine on lease.

India also signed deals with Russia for Kamov-226T utility helicopters, Mi-17 helicopters and short-range air defence systems.

Arms imports decreased in India and Pakistan

Despite the never-ending conflict between India and Pakistan, considering the URI attack of 2017 and the recent Pulwama terror attack, the import of arms decreased for both countries in 2014-18, compared with 2009-13 period.

Pakistan was the 11th largest importer of arms, accounting for 2.7 percent of all global imports in 2014-18. Its sources were China, the US and Russia.

About SIPRI

SIPRI is an independent international institute dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament.

Established in 1966, it provides data, analysis and recommendations, based on open sources, to policymakers, researchers, media and public.

The SIPRI Arms Transfers Database contains information on all international transfers of major weapons (including sales, gifts and production licences) to states, international organizations and armed non-state groups.

SIPRI data reflects the volume of deliveries of arms, not the financial value of the deals.

As the volume of deliveries can fluctuate significantly year-on-year, SIPRI presents data for 5-year periods, giving a more stable measure of trends.

EU announces changes to Brexit deal ahead of crucial vote

Theresa May gets new Brexit deal ahead of crucial vote

The United Kingdom and the European Union on March 11, 2019 agreed to some key changes to the Brexit deal, removing one of the biggest roadblocks. The move comes merely a few hours before the UK Parliament sits to decide yet again whether or not to accept May’s hard-fought withdrawal agreement, which they had flatly rejected in January 2019.

To ensure a breakthrough this time around, May had flown to Strasbourg, France on the eve of the crucial vote, to seek revisions, guarantees and other changes from European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker that would persuade reluctant British legislators to back the deal.

In a joint press conference, May and Juncker claimed to have succeeded.

Key Highlights

The new documents to be added to the deal provide legally binding changes to the part relating to the Irish border. The legal 585-page withdrawal agreement itself though was left intact.

Though the European Union finally agreed to introduce changes to the earlier agreed deal, EU President Juncker warned British legislators by saying, “In politics, sometimes you get a second chance. It is what you do with this second chance that counts. Because there will be no third chance.”

He asked them to be crystal clear about the choice- either it is this deal or Brexit might not happen at all.

May, on the other hand, seems confident that the newly introduced changes should overcome legislators’ qualms about a mechanism in the deal designed to keep an open border between Britain’s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.

The mechanism, known as the backstop, is a safeguard that would keep the UK in a customs union with the EU until a permanent new trading relationship is in place.

New Changes

According to Brexit-supporters, the backstop could be used to bind the country to EU regulations indefinitely. Hence, they are demanding for a unilateral British exit mechanism from the backstop.

However, May says that the new changes will guarantee that the EU cannot act with the intent of applying the backstop indefinitely.

What will happen next?

The European Union has clearly stated that there will be no new negotiations if the British lawmakers reject the deal again.

In case the deal gets rejected again by the UK Parliament, the British lawmakers will then vote over the following two days to decide on whether to leave the EU without an agreement or to ask the EU to delay Brexit beyond the scheduled March 29 departure date.

If the parliament does rule out both May’s deal and no-deal departure, then it could possibly pave way for a new Brexit referendum or a ‘softer’ withdrawal from the EU.

Background

The United Kingdom is scheduled to pull out of the European Union on March 29, 2019.

The British Government has, however, not yet been able to win parliamentary approval for its agreement with the European Union on withdrawal terms and future relations.

The deadlock has raised fears of a chaotic “no-deal” Brexit that could result in a major economic crisis and disruption for businesses and people both in Britain and the remaining twenty-seven EU nations.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has been frantically working to save her deal. She is under mounting pressure to quit if the deal is defeated again. She survived a bid to oust her through a no-confidence vote in December 2018.

Evolution of WWW: Google Doodle celebrates 30 years of World Wide Web

WWW: Google Doodle celebrates 30 years of World Wide Web

Google Doodle on March 12, 2019 celebrated 30 years of the World Wide Web (WWW), an invention of Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

The doodle showed the Earth revolving inside a computer connected to a switch on its letters.

The doodle is in the form of animation showing block graphics that were common earlier, depicting how things were like earlier. A globe in the center rotates slowly on the desktop monitor, hinting at the early days of slower speed.

Evolution of World Wide Web

In 1989, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, submitted the ‘Information Management: A Proposal’ to his boss while working at Europe’s CERN Lab, a large nuclear physics laboratory in Switzerland.

This proposal is what came out as the first web browser, the World Wide Web.

Berners-Lee’s boss allowed him time to develop the flowchart into a working model, writing the HTML language, the HTTP application, and the first Web browser ‘WorldWideWeb.app’.

By 1991, the external Web servers were up in the market. The web was made public in April 1993 and the first search engine ‘Mosaic’ was launched in November 1993 to accept pictures.

Mosaic was later replaced by the likes of Internet Explorer, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox.

The World Wide Web opened up the internet to everyone, connecting the world by way of sharing of information.

And now there are social networking sites, blogs, video sharing, and what not.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s Open Letter to public

Marking the 30th anniversary of WWW, inventor Tim Berners-Lee appealed internet users to strive to maintain “complete control” of their data.

He hailed the opportunities the web had created for the marginalised groups to voice their opinions and at the same time he warned that the web has created opportunity for scammers, criminals and haters to spread hatred and make all kinds of crimes easier to commit.

He slammed the increasing commodification of personal data.

World Wide Web and Internet
The World Wide Web is generally confused with the internet, although the two are connected somehow.

The internet is the ‘Network of Networks’; it is a vast and global network that incorporates a multitude of networks. It connects millions of computers together globally, forming a network in which any computer can communicate with other computer as long as they are both connected to the Internet.

In contrast, the World Wide Web is a communications model built upon innovations like HTML language, URL addresses and HTTP (hypertext transfer protocol). The WWW is an application that enables the exchange of information over the internet.

About Sir Tim Berners-Lee

Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee is an English computer scientist.

He is best known as the inventor of the World Wide Web.

In November 1989, he implemented the first successful communication between a Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) client and server via the Internet.

He is the holder of the founders chair at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL).

In 2004, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his pioneering work.

He has also been named in Time magazine’s list of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th century.

Indo-Bangladesh ties: PM Modi, Sheikh Hasina jointly inaugurate development projects

Indo-Bangladesh ties: PM Modi, Sheikh Hasina jointly inaugurate development projects

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina on March 11, 2019 jointly unveiled e-plaques for development projects in Bangladesh through video conferencing.

Both the leaders launched the e-plaques for these projects in Bangladesh:

• Supply of buses and trucks

• Inauguration of 36 community clinics

• Inauguration of 11 water treatment plants

• Extension of National Knowledge Network to Bangladesh

As per External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj, these projects “symbolise the breadth and depth of our partnership and also a reaffirmation of our Neighbourhood First Policy”.

Significance
  • These projects will not only boost transport connectivity but also the knowledge connectivity.
  • The National Knowledge Network will connect scholars and research institutes in Bangladesh to India and the world. This multi-gigabit National Research and Education Network (NREN) provides a unified high speed network backbone for educational institutions in India.
  • The supply of Double Decker, Single Decker AC and Non-AC Buses and Trucks to Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (under the second Line of Credit) would provide affordable transportation for the people of Bangladesh.
  • Water treatment plants will help supply clean water.
  • Community clinics will benefit about two lakh people in Bangladesh.
  • These projects will reiterate Indian support for the ambitious development targets set by Prime Minister Hasina for Bangladesh.

Indo-Bangladesh relations

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

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

Besides this, strong security cooperation was established between the two nations and significant progress was made in settling differences over the Teesta River water sharing.

The bilateral trade between the two nations and India’s investment in Bangladesh has also picked up.

New visa agreement between India, Maldives comes into effect

New visa agreement between India, Maldives comes into effect

The new visa agreement between India and Maldives, providing a liberal visa policy for Maldivian citizens seeking medical treatment as well as education and business opportunities in India, came into force on March 11, 2019.

The agreement has come into effect after all formalities including information being provided to all immigration offices, border points and customs authorities have been completed. India and Maldives had exchanged diplomatic notes for the implementation of the visa facilitation agreement in February 2019, following the approval by the Union Cabinet.

The main aim behind the move is to boost people-to-people ties between the two countries.

Key Highlights

The new visa agreement provides a very liberal visa regime for Maldivian nationals to visit India for tourism, business, education and medical purposes.

It also makes it easier for Indians to travel to the Maldives for business purposes.

Under the agreement, Maldivian businessmen and tourists can stay in India for 90 days without a visa.

The Maldivians with tourist visas can also stay in India for treatment if they suffer a sudden medical issue.

Background

The agreement was signed during Maldivian President Ibrahim Solih’s visit to India on December 17, 2018. Both the nations had agreed to implement the visa facilitation agreement after completing the required procedures.

President Solih’s government has been strengthening ties with India after its decades-long friendship with India came under strain during former President Abdulla Yameen’s five-year rule, which saw him growing closer to China for various development projects.

Former President Yameen, during his term, had cracked down on dissent, imposing a state of emergency by jailing opposition leaders.

However, since the present government took over in November 2018, there have been several high-level exchanges with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi even attending President Solih’s swearing-in ceremony as his special guest, followed by the Maldivian President’s official state visit to India.

India has also extended 1.4 billion US dollars in the form of budgetary support to fulfill the socio-economic development programmes of the island nation.

10-11 March 2019

Lok Sabha Elections To Be Held In 7 Phases, counting starts on 23 May: Election Commission

Lok Sabha Elections To Be Held In 7 Phases, counting starts on 23 May: Election Commission

The Lok Sabha election 2019 schedule has been announced by the Election Commission at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi on 10th March 2019. On behalf of Election Commission, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora read out the dates of the national elections and also the assembly elections in four states. With the announcement of date, Model Code of Conduct also came into force.

As per the The Lok Sabha election 2019 schedule announced Lok Sabha elections will be held in seven phases this year, and counting will start on 23 May 2019. The term of the present Lok Sabha ends on June 3.

  • Phase I-VII polling dates
  • Phase I Date of Polling: April 11
  • Phase II Date of Polling: April 18
  • Phase III Date of polling: April 23
  • Phase IV Date of Polling April 29
  • Phase V Date of polling: May 6
  • Phase VI Date of polling: May 12
  • Phase VII Date of polling: May 19

Below are the details of all the phases:

  • Phase 1 91 constituencies, 20 states
  • Phase 2 97 constituencies, 13 states
  • Phase 3 115 constituencies, 14 states
  • Phase 4 71 constituencies, 9 states
  • Phase 5 – 51 constituencies, 7 states
  • Phase 6 59 constituencies, 7 states
  • Phase 7 59 constituencies, 8 states

States for single phase election:

  • Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Punjab, Sikkim, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Andaman, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and Daman & Diu will be held in a single phase.
  • Two phases elections will be held in Karnataka, Manipur, Rajasthan, Tripura
  • Three phases: Assam, Chhattisgarh
  • Four phases: Jharkhand, MP, Maharashtra, Odisha
  • Five phases: Jammu & Kashmir
  • Seven phases”: Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Bengal

Important details given out by Chief Election Comisioner

  • Arrangements have been made to conduct fair and peaceful elections.
  • As of 2019, 900 million people are registered as voters.
  • 84.3 million voters have increased since 2014
  • The electronic voting machines will also have photographs of candidates next to the symbol of the party.
  • VVPAT machines will be used at all the polling booth.
  • There will be approximately 10 lakh polling stations in this Lok Sabha Elections as compared to 9 lakh polling stations in 2014.
  • Apps like cVigil, PWD app  will be used for more transparency.
  • Candidates will have to provide criminal records.
  • Social media vigilance is already working.
  • Google, Facebook, YouTube have said all political ads will be certified.
  • Videography for all polling booth.

Padma Awards 2019 announced: President to confer awards to Gautam Gambhir, Prabhu Deva, Late Kader Khan among others

Padma Awards 2019 announced

The President Ram Nath Kovind on March 11, 2019 will confer the Padma Awards 2019, one of the highest civilian awards of India, to 112 awardees.

The awards were announced on January 25, 2019 on the occasion of Republic Day eve in 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.

Election Commission imposes model code of conduct with immediate effect

Election Commission imposes model code of conduct with immediate effect

The Election Commission on March 10, 2019 imposed ‘model code of conduct’ in the entire nation with immediate effect for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, following its announcement of the complete election schedule.

The commission also announced that ‘voter-verifiable paper audit trail’ will be used in all polling stations this time. According to Article 324 of the Constitution, the Election Commission of India has the power to monitor the Centre, all the state governments, all the candidates and their respective political parties.

Model Code of Conduct

The Election Commission’s Model Code of Conduct is primarily a manual that features a set of guidelines that aim to ensure that the polls are free and fair. The manual lists out a series of dos and don’ts for the political parties and candidates.

Key Guidelines

The manual deals with eight key provisions – general conduct, meetings, processions, polling day, polling booths, observers, the party in power and election manifestos.

General conduct: Under the provision, while political parties can criticise the other candidates based on policies and programmes and their work record, they are not allowed to use caste and communal sentiments to lure voters.

The manual also bars political parties from bribing or intimidating voters and most importantly, criticising them based on unverified reports.

Meetings/ Rallies/ Processions: Under the provision, the guidelines make it mandatory for the political parties to inform the local police about their rallies and public meetings and provide them time to make adequate security arrangements.

They also bar political parties and candidates from carrying or burning the effigies of their opponents. They also state that in case two rival parties plan a road show in the same area, then their routes must not clash.

Polling Day: During the polling day, all those workers who are working for their parties in the polling booth will be required to wear a badge with party name and symbol.

Polling Booths: Besides voters, only those individuals with a permit from the Election Commission will be allowed to enter polling booths.

The manual bars political parties from campaigning for votes within a distance of 100 metres of the polling booth on the day of voting.

Advertisement: Under the code of conduct, all political advertisements on social media will need pre-certification.

Restrictions on Ruling Party

The model code of conduct bars the ruling government from announcing any policy move that may impact voters’ decision.

It also bars the ruling party from advertising at the cost of the public exchequer or use official mass media for publicity on achievements.

Under the code of conduct, no Member of Parliament or minister can combine their official visit with campaigning or party work.

The guidelines also state that Ministers and other authorities must not announce any financial grants, or promise any construction of roads, provision of drinking water and so on.

Further, the guidelines restrict the ruling party from monopolising public places, paving way for them to be used by other parties as well.

What happens in case of violation of MCC?

If a party violates the MCC, they cannot be charged for violating a section of the code as it has no statutory backing.

However, the EC can file a case under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) or the Income Tax Act.

Background

The EC’s Model Code of Conduct comes into force as soon as polls to either state assemblies or the Lok Sabha are announced by the Election Commission of India.

The 2019 Lok Sabha Elections polls will be held in seven phases beginning from April 11. According to Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora, 10 lakh polling stations would be set up this time as against about nine lakh in 2014.

In total, 91 constituencies will go for polls in the first phase on April 11, followed by 97 constituencies in the second phase on April 18.

In 2014, the Lok Sabha elections were held across nine phases, beginning on April 7 and ending on May 9. The counting of votes had then taken place on May 16. A total of over 55 crore voters (66.3 per cent) had exercised their vote then and there were nearly 60 lakh ‘NOTA’ votes

MP government increases reservation quota of OBCs to 27 per cent

Representative Image

The Madhya Pradesh government on March 9, 2019 issued an ordinance increasing reservation quota for the Other Backward Classes (OBC) to 27 per cent from the current 14 per cent. The announcement was made by the state’s Law and Legal Affairs Minister PC Sharma.

The ordinance was issued and notified after it received the assent from the state’s Governor Anandiben Patel on the same day. The move was made to ensure that the ordinance could be issued before the Election Commission’s model code of conduct for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls came into effect.

Key Highlights

With the issuance of the ordinance, Madhya Pradesh has become the only state in the country to have 27 per cent quota for OBCs.

According to political analysts, the move has been undertaken by the state’s new ruling party, Congress, to woo people belonging to the OBC community in the view of the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

The OBCs in the state have been generally favourable to the BJP since Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who was the state’s longest-serving CM having been on the post between 2005 and 2018, is from the community.

Even in the 2018 assembly polls, though BJP could manage to win only 109 seats, as against Congress’s 114 seats in the 230-member House, it is reported that the saffron party won more than 50 per cent of the OBC votes.

In the Lok Sabha, the BJP currently holds 26 of the 29 Lok Sabha seats in the state, while Congress has the remaining three.

Background

The Lok Sabha election 2019 schedule was announced by the Election Commission at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi on March 10, 2019.

On behalf of Election Commission, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora read out the dates of the national elections and also the assembly elections in four states. With the announcement of the date, EC’s Model Code of Conduct also came into force.

In the state assembly elections that took place at the end of 2018, BJP lost its grip on three of its major Hindi heartland states including MP, Rajasthan, and Chhatisgarh.

With the opposition Congress government coming to power in these states, the party is attempting to replicate its great show at state level and win maximum Lok Sabha seats in these states.

President Ram Nath Kovind launches countrywide Pulse Polio Programme 2019

President Ram Nath Kovind launches countrywide Pulse Polio Programme 2019

President Ram Nath Kovind on March 9, 2019 launched the Pulse Polio programme 2019 by administering polio drops to children less than five years old at the Rahstrapati Bhawan.

The President administered the polio drops on the eve of the National Immunisation Day that is observed on 10 March every year.

More than 17 crore children of less than five years across the country will be given polio drops as part of the Pulse Polio Programme 2019 to sustain polio eradication from the country.

Initiatives launched by Government to protect children from diseases

• The Government has also launched the Universal Immunisation Programme to protect children from more diseases and introduced several new vaccines like Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine, Rotavirus vaccine, and Measles-Rubella vaccine.

• To provide additional protection to children, the Government introduced the injectable ‘Inactivated Polio Vaccine’ into its routine immunisation program.

• Along with the Universal Immunisation Programme of the country, the government also launched the Mission Indradhanush to accelerate goal to achieve more than 90 percent full immunisation coverage.

• More than 3.39 crore children and 87 lakh pregnant women have been vaccinated through Mission Indradhanush drives.

• The immunisation programme contributed significantly to the decline of Infant Mortality Rate from 39 in 2014 to 32 in 2017 per 1000 live births.

About Pulse Polio Immunization (PPI) Program

• The Pulse Polio Immunisation (PPI) Program was initiated in India in 1995 with the aim of eradicating polio completely from the country.

• The program was launched under the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

• Under this program, every child below five years in age is given two doses of Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV), in the month of January and December every year and it needs to be continued till Polio is eradicated completely.

• It aims to reach unreached children through improved social mobilization, plan mop-up operations in areas where poliovirus has almost disappeared and maintain high level of morale among the public.

Mohammad Shtayyeh named as new Palestinian Prime Minister

Mohammad Shtayyeh named as new Palestinian Prime Minister

Mohammad Shtayyeh was on March 10, 2019 named as the new Prime Minister of Palestine by the President of Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas. Shtayyeh, a long time ally of the Abbas, is the member of the central committee of the President’s Fatah party.

He was received by the President at his office on March 10 and asked to form the new government. Shtayyeh replaces Rami Hamdallah, who had been prime minister since 2014. The announcement comes six weeks after Hamdallah gave his resignation from the post and of his Unity government to President Mahmoud Abbas in January 2019, underscoring the failure of Hamas and Fatah to implement a power-sharing deal.

About Mohammad Shtayyeh

  Mohammad Shtayyeh named as new Palestinian Prime Minister Born in Nablus in the West Bank in 1958, Shtayyeh was nine years old when Israel seized the territory during the Six-Day War, an occupation that continues even now.

Shtayyeh studied at Birzeit University in the West Bank, completed a Ph.D. in development at Sussex University in Britain and then returned to the Palestinian territory in the late 1980s.

Shtayyeh has spent much of his life working alongside Abbas. He is a political moderate and a strong supporter of the two-state solution, which calls for the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.

He has been part of a number of Palestinian negotiating teams in the United States-brokered talks with Israel.

He has served as a minister twice in the previous Palestinian governments, as well as held major roles in economic development initiatives including the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction.

Impact

Unlike the two previous prime ministers who were seemingly politically independent, Shtayyeh comes from Fatah, Abbas’s political party.

Hence, some analysts view the appointment of 61-year-old Shtayyeh as a part of Abbas’s efforts to further isolate Hamas, a rival political group that runs the besieged Gaza Strip.

The new administration is expected to be dominated by Fatah, though other smaller parties will be represented. The previous government was formed during a period of improved relations between the two most dominant parties in the Palestinian political scene.

Background

The Palestinian government is the government of the Palestinian Authority or the State of Palestine. Since June 2007, there have been two competing governments in the Palestinian territories, one in the West Bank and the other in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas has been the de facto government in the Gaza Strip since 2007, after defeating the Fatah party in parliamentary elections. It then pushed Fatah out of Gaza when the latter refused to recognise the result of the vote.

Since then, elections have not been held. While Hamas continued to dominate Gaza Strip, Abbas’s Fatah maintained limited self-rule in the occupied West Bank. Abbas won a four-year term as president in 2005 and he remained in office without further elections.

In June 2014, the Palestinian Unity Government was formed with the backing of Hamas and other factions.

Following two Fatah–Hamas Agreements in 2014, Hamas agreed to let the Unity Government resume control over the Gaza Strip and its border crossings with Egypt and Israel, but that agreement broke down by June 2015, after President Abbas said that the unity government was unable to operate in the Gaza Strip.

Several nations including those in the European Union, Israel and the United States consider Hamas as a terrorist organisation.

Palestine- US issues

The Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has recently been in conflict with US President Donald Trump’s administration.

Abbas froze ties with the United States after the US President declared Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and shifted its embassy there.

Trump has since then taken a series of steps against the Palestinians, including cutting hundreds of millions of dollars in aid.

9 March 2019

Cabinet approves setting up of National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage

National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage to be set up

The Union Cabinet on March 7, 2019 approved setting up of a National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage, to drive clean, connected, shared, sustainable and holistic mobility initiatives.

It has also approved Phased Manufacturing Programme (PMP) valid for 5 years till 2024 to support setting up of a few large-scale, export-competitive integrated batteries and cell-manufacturing Giga plants in India.

It has also approved the creation of a Phased Manufacturing Programme valid for a period of 5 years till 2024 to localise production across the entire Electric Vehicles value chain. Both the schemes will be finalised by the National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage.

About National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Storage

Composition

The multi-disciplinary mission with an Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee will be chaired by NITI Aayog CEO.

The other members of the steering committee will include Secretaries from Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Ministry of Power, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Department of Science and Technology, Department of Heavy Industry, Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, and Director General, Bureau of Industrial Standards.

Key Responsibilities

The mission will recommend and drive the strategies for transformative mobility and Phased Manufacturing Programmes for EVs, EV Components and Batteries.

The Phased Manufacturing Program will be launched to localise production across the entire EV value chain and the National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage will determine the final details of the programme

The details of the value addition that can be achieved with each phase of localisation will be finalised by the mission with a clear make in india strategy for the electric vehicle components as well as battery.

The mission will also coordinate with the key stakeholders in the ministries and departments and the states to integrate various initiatives to transform mobility in India.

A phased roadmap to implement battery manufacturing at Giga-scale will be considered with an initial focus on a large-scale module and pack assembly plants by 2019-20, followed by integrated cell manufacturing by 2021-22.

The details of the PMP for Batteries shall be formulated by the mission. The mission will ensure the holistic and comprehensive growth of the battery manufacturing industry in India.

It will also prepare the necessary roadmap that will enable India to leverage upon its size and scale to produce innovative, competitive multi-modal mobility solutions that can be deployed globally in diverse contexts.

Further, the mission will define the roadmap for transformative mobility in ‘New India’ by introducing a sustainable mobility ecosystem and fostering Make-in-India to boost domestic manufacturing and employment generation in the country.

Significance

The mission will drive mobility solutions that will bring in significant benefits to the industry, economy and country.

These solutions will help improve air quality in cities along with reducing India’s oil import dependence and enhance the uptake of renewable energy and storage solutions.

The mission will also lay down the strategy and roadmap which will enable India to leverage upon its size and scale to develop a competitive domestic manufacturing ecosystem for electric mobility.

The actions in this regard will benefit all citizens as the aim is to promote ‘Ease of Living’ and enhance the quality of life of our citizens and also provide employment opportunities through ‘Make-in-India’ across a range of skill sets.

Background

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had outlined the vision for the future of mobility in India based on 7 C ’s which are common, connected, convenient, congestion-free, charged, clean and cutting-edge mobility during the Global Mobility Summit held in September 2018.

Mobility has the potential to drive the economy forward and positively impact the lives of citizens both in urban and rural areas.

Affordable, accessible, inclusive and safe mobility solutions are primary strategic levers for rapid economic development and improving ‘Ease of Living’.

Further, shared, connected and clean mobility solutions are increasingly becoming the key principles of effective mobility solutions across the world.

Given its commitment to climate goals, India needs to adopt effective strategies to place itself as a key driver of the mobility revolution in the world.

Geographical Indication Tag: Idukki’s Marayoor Jaggery gets GI tag

Geographical Indication Tag: Idukki’s Marayoor Jaggery gets GI tag

The Marayoor Jaggery, the traditional and handmade product from Idukki district of Kerala, on March 8, 2019 received the Geographical Indication (GI) tag from the Central Government.

The Marayoor jiggery finally managed to get the GI Tag after two years of continuous efforts by the Agricultural Department of the state.

The GI tag will provide more windows of opportunity to the traditional sugarcane farmers in Marayoor.

Significance
At present, the farmers of the district receive only Rs 45 to 47 per kilo for the jiggery, instead of the expected Rs 80 to Rs 100 per kilo.

One of the major challenges faced by the jiggery farmers is the sale of fake jaggery from Tamil Nadu, which is sold with the similar tag of Marayaoor jaggery. This has led to the constant fall in the price of the original jiggery. This has even forced several farmers to give up sugarcane cultivation.

The GI tag will help the Marayoor farmers get more market and price. Moreover with the GI Tag, only the natives of the area can now produce and market the Marayoor jaggery exclusively.

Marayoor Jaggery

The Jaggery is produced in Marayoor, a town in Idukki district of Kerala.

It is one of the sweetest jaggeries produced in Idukki.

It is made from sugarcane and no chemicals are added during the manufacturing process.

It is dark brown in colour, high in sweetness and iron, with less sodium content and insoluble impurities.

It is not produced in modern factories or using modern equipment. It is prepared in sheds located on the sugarcane farm.

Workers from Onakkallur, a village in Udumalpet in Tamil Nadu, are also engaged in the production of the Marayoor jaggery.

About Geographical Indication (GI)

A Geographical Indication (GI) tag is a name or sign used on products which corresponds to a specific geographical location or origin. It can be a town, a region, or a country.

The use of a geographical indication acts as a certification that the product possesses certain qualities, is made according to traditional methods, and enjoys a certain reputation due to its geographical origin.

It plays a very important role to increase the realm of the market.

It boosts exports as well tourism and more importantly, it indirectly leads to sustainable development.

Government reduces price of 390 Anti-Cancer Non-Scheduled Medicines upto 87 percent

Government reduces price of 390 Anti-Cancer Non-Scheduled Medicines upto 87 percent

The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA), under the Union Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers on March 8, 2019 announced the reduction in prices of 390 Anti-Cancer Non-Scheduled Medicines up to 87 percent.

The revised prices of these anti-cancer drugs would come into effect from March 8, 2019 itself.

The authority directed the manufacturers and hospitals to convey revised prices of the medicines based on the Trade Margin (TM) formula.

These 390 anti-cancer drugs brands, which make up about 91 percent of the 426 brands reported by manufacturers, showed downward price movement.

Note
Non-scheduled drugs are allowed an increase of up to 10 percent in prices every year, which is monitored by the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA).

Significance

The average out of pocket expenditure of cancer patient is 2.5 times more than that of other diseases.

This move is expected to benefit 22 lakh cancer patients in the country and would result in annual savings of around Rs. 800 crores to the consumers.

Previous similar move by NPPA
Earlier on February 27, 2019, the NPPA had put 42 anti-cancer drugs under 30 percent Trade Margin cap.

The Trade Margin rationalisation for 42 anti cancer drugs was rolled out as Proof of Concept, stressing on the new standard of self-regulation by the Industry.  The manufacturers of these 42 drugs were directed not to reduce production volumes of brands under regulation.

8 March 2019

International Women’s Day 2019: President Ram Nath Kovind to present Nari Shakti Puraskar 2018

International Women’s Day 2019: President Ram Nath Kovind to present Nari Shakti Puraskar 2018

8 March: International Women’s Day

The International Women’s Day 2019 was observed across the world on March 8, 2019 with an aim to empower women in all settings, be it rural and urban, and celebrate the activists who work constantly to assert women’s rights and realise their full potential.

The Day is observed to stand in harmony with all those fearless women fighting for gender equality, and highlight those women who often pass unnoticed.

Theme: ‘Think equal, build smart, innovate for change’

The 2019 theme ‘Think equal, build smart, innovate for change’ focuses on innovative ways to advance gender equality and empower women, particularly in the areas of social protection, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure.

Women empowerment and 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
International Women’s Day is also an opportunity to achieve the goal number 4 & 5 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

  • Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning.
  • Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls; and number

How International Women’s Day 2019 was celebrated in India?

The 2019 International Women’s Day was observed in India by the way of conferring the Nari Shakti Awards to various individuals and organisations that are working towards empowering women.

The President of India, Ram Nath Kovind will confer the Nari Shakti Puraskar 2018. This year, 44 awardees have been selected for the Award.

This year, one of the winners of the Nari Shakti Puraskar is the ‘One Stop Centre’ which have shown exceptional progress in improving child sex ratio at birth under the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao scheme.

Nari Shakti Puraskar

The Nari Shakti Puraskar is the national honour conferred on individual women for their exceptional achievement and exemplary service to the cause of upliftment of women.

Established in 1991, the awards are conferred by the President of India on the occasion of International Women’s Day on March 8 every year at New Delhi.

The award recognises the spirit of courage of women in difficult circumstances and the pioneering contribution of an individual in empowering women and raising women’s issues.

About International Women’s Day (IWD)

The United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day (IWD) on 8 March during International Women’s Year 1975.

Two years later in December 1977, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace to be observed on any day of the year by Member States, in accordance with their historical and national traditions.

Regional Air Connectivity- UDAN: CCEA approves revival of un-served and under-served air strips

CCEA approves revival of un-served and under-served air strips

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on March 7, 2019 approved the extension of time and scope for revival and development of un-served and under-served air strips of State Governments, Airports Authority of India (AAI), Civil enclaves, CPSUs, helipads and water aerodromes.

The revival of these un-served and under-served air strips will be carried out at the total cost of Rs 4500 crore with the budgetary support of the Union Government under the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) – UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik).

Impact
Small cities and towns will be connected on commencement of operation of flights to under-served and un-served airports.

It will boost the economic development of these areas as well as surrounding areas in terms of job creation and related infrastructure development.

Developments under the RCS-UDAN Scheme

The Union Ministry of Civil Aviation received overwhelming response from the airlines in two rounds of bidding held so far under the RCS – UDAN.

In the first round of UDAN bidding, 128 routes were assigned to five airline operators for 43 un-served/underserved airports/airstrips on March 31, 2017.

In second round of UDAN bidding, the response from airline operators considerably improved wherein 86 proposals involving 325 routes were awarded to 15 selected airline operators in January 2018.

During the UDAN version 1.0 & 2.0, 66 airports and 31 heliports (28 unserved heliports and 3 unserved airports) were identified.

During UDAN version 3.0, tourism routes in coordination with Ministry of Tourism; and Seaplanes for connecting Water Aerodromes were included to increase the tourism potential at the coastal areas.

UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Naagrik) Scheme

  • UDAN, launched in April 2017, is a flagship scheme of the Union Government to enable air operations on unserved routes, connecting regional areas, to promote balanced regional growth and to make flying affordable for masses.
  • The UDAN Scheme is a key component of the National Civil Aviation Policy (NCAP) which was launched in June 2016.
  • Under the scheme, 24 airports in the western region, 17 in the northern region, 11 in the southern region, 12 in east and six in north-eastern parts of the country will be connected under this scheme.
  • The government will also connect around 50 unserved and under-served airports with the scheme.
  • The operators linked under the scheme are Air India subsidiary Airline Allied Services, SpiceJet, Air Deccan, Air Odisha and Turbo Megha. They would be operating 19-78 seater aircraft.
  • Operators will have to provide 50 percent of the flight capacity with a cap of Rs 2500 per hour and a minimum of five and a maximum of 13 people on helicopters with the same price cap.

PM Modi releases Dictionary of Martyrs of India’s Freedom Struggle spanning 1857-1947

PM Modi releases Dictionary of martyrs of India’s Freedom Struggle spanning 1857-1947

The Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 7, 2019 released the Dictionary of Martyrs of India’s Freedom Struggle (1857-1947) at an event in Lok Kalyan Marg, New Delhi.

This five-volume dictionary contains account of the martyrs from India’s First War of Independence in 1857, to India’s Independence in 1947.

This is the first ever attempt by the Government to compile the names of martyrs on this scale.

Definition of ‘Martyr’
The dictionary defines a martyr “as a person who died or who was killed in action or in detention, or was awarded capital punishment while participating in the national movement for emancipation of India.”

What does the dictionary include?

The dictionary includes the martyrs of 1857 Uprising, Jallianwala Bagh Massacre (1919), Non-Cooperation Movement (1920-22), Civil Disobedience Movement (1930-34), Quit India Movement (1942-44), and Revolutionary Movements (1915-34).

It includes the names of freedom fighters of the Azad Hind Fauj who attained martyrdom.

It also includes the martyrs of Kissan Movements, Tribal Movements, Agitation for Responsible Government in the Princely States (Prajamandal), Indian National Army (1943-45), Royal Indian Navy Upsurge (RIN, 1946), etc.

It includes ex-INA or ex-military personnel who died fighting the British.

Five volumes of the Dictionary of Martyrs

The dictionary has been brought out in five volumes (zone wise). The information of about 13,500 martyrs has been recorded in these volumes. These volumes are:

• Volume 1: More than 4400 martyrs of Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh have been listed.

• Volume 2: More than 3500 martyrs of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Jammu & Kashmir have been listed.

• Volume 3: The martyrs covered in this volume are more than 1400. This volume covers the martyrs of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Sind.

• Volume 4: The martyrs covered in this volume are more than 3300. This volume covers the martyrs of Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura.

• Volume 5: The martyrs covered in this volume are more than 1450. This volume covers the martyrs of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Background
The project for compilation of “Dictionary of Martyrs” of India’s Freedom Struggle was commissioned by the Union Ministry of Culture to commemorate the 150th anniversary of uprising of 1857.

The Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) was given the task of compiling the dictionary.

Padma Lakshmi appointed as UNDP Goodwill Ambassador

UNDP appoints Padma Lakshmi as Goodwill Ambassador

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has appointed Indian-American television personality and food expert Padma Lakshmi as its new Goodwill Ambassador, in support of its fight against inequality and discrimination around the world.

The announcement was made by UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner in a ceremony at the UNDP headquarters on March 7, 2019, on the eve of International Women’s Day. In her new role, the award-winning author will help mobilise support for the Sustainable Development Goals with a focus on fighting inequality, discrimination and empowering the disenfranchised.

Speaking on the occasion, Padma Lakshmi said, “As we celebrate International Women’s Day let’s remember that women and girls face some of the worst discrimination and hardships in the world.”

She further added that her main focus as UNDP Goodwill Ambassador will be to shine a spotlight on the fact that inequality can affect people in rich and poor countries alike. She pointed out that though many nations have greatly reduced poverty, inequality still persists.

She said that inequality is compounded by gender, age, ethnicity and race and added that it especially affects women, minorities and others who face unimaginable discrimination in the societies in which they live.

Why was Padma Lakshmi chosen for the role?

According to UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner, Lakshmi has a strong record of speaking out for those who have been left behind and of fighting discrimination. He said that they needed more voices like hers to ensure that they can meet the vision of sustainable development goals.

About Padma Lakshmi

Padma Lakshmi is an Indian-American author, actress, model, television host, and executive producer.

She started her career with modeling at the age of 21 and has modeled for renowned designers such as Emanuel Ungaro, Giorgio Armani, Gianni Versace, Ralph Lauren, and Alberta Ferretti, and appeared in ad campaigns for Roberto Cavalli and Versus.

Her first cookbook, Easy Exotic, a compilation of international recipes and short essays, was awarded Best First Book at the 1999 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards at Versailles.

She has also been the host of the Emmy award-winning cooking competition program, Top Chef, since its season two in 2006.

She also received an Emmy nomination in 2009 for the same in the category of Outstanding Reality Host.

Her debut memoir ‘Love, Loss and What We Ate’ was released on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2016.

Besides, she is also a New York Times bestselling author, the co-founder of the Endometriosis Foundation of America, a Visiting Scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an ambassador for the American Civil Liberties Union advocating for immigrants’ rights.

In her new role as UNDP Goodwill Ambassador, she would be joining a host of globally celebrated actors, athletes, musicians and other high-profile influencers such as Spanish-born international star Antonio Banderas, Award-winning actor Michelle Yeoh and legendary musician Bob Weir.

PM Modi releases new series of visually impaired friendly coins; 12-edged Rs 20 coin launched

PM Modi releases new series of visually impaired friendly coins; 12-edged Rs 20 coin launched

The Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 7, 2019 released the new series of visually impaired friendly circulation coins of Rs 1, Rs 2, Rs 5, Rs 10 and Rs 20.

The coins were released at a function in New Delhi where visually impaired children were specially invited.

Significance

The new circulation coins with various differentiating features, will greatly aid the visually impaired. The coins will facilitate the visually impaired Divyang community, and will instill them with confidence.

Agencies behind the design & development of coins
Design National Institute of Design
Development Security Printing and Minting Corporation of India Limited
Conception Union Ministry of Finance

Features of the coins released

Various new features have been incorporated in the new series of circulation coins to make it more easy for the visually impaired to use them.

The coins are characterized by the increasing size and weight from lower to higher denominations.

Except for the 12-edged polygon (dodecagon) shaped Rs 20 coin, the rest of the denomination coins are of round shape.

Features of Rs 20 coin

  • The newly included coin of Rs 20 is a 12 sided coin with no serrations. It is of a 12-edged polygon shape (dodecagon).
  • The outside diameter of Rs 20 coin is 27mm and weighs 8.54 grams.
  • The composition of the new coin is 65 percent copper, 15 percent zinc and 20 percent nickel for the outer ring, and 75 percent copper, 20 percent zinc and 5 percent nickel for the inner ring.

Obverse side of Rs 20 coin

  • The face bears the Lion Capitol of Ashoka Pillar with ‘Satyamev Jayate’ inscribed below.
  • The left periphery is inscribed with the word “Bharat” in Hindi and the right periphery has the word “INDIA” in English.

Reverse side of Rs 20 coin

  • It bears denominational value ‘20’ with the rupee symbol shown above.
  • The left side contains the design of grains, depicting the agricultural dominance of the country.
  • The top right and bottom right bear the word Rs 20 in Hindi and ‘TWENTY RUPEES’ in English, respectively.
  • The year of minting in international numerals is shown on centre of left periphery of the coin.

7 March 2019

Google launches ‘Bolo’ app to help children read in Hindi, English

Google launches ‘Bolo’ app to improve reading ability of primary school children

Google on March 6, 2019 launched a new application called ‘Bolo’ that aims to help children in primary school to read in Hindi and English.

The app, which is being launched in India first, uses Google’s speech recognition and text-to-speech technology. It comes with a built-in fun and helpful reading buddy, an animated character called ‘Diya’. The reading material available on the app will be completely free of cost.

Key Features

The animated character ‘Diya’ encourages children to read stories aloud and helps if the child is unable to pronounce a word or understand its meaning. The character also lauds the reader when he or she completes the reading.

Besides helping in reading, the app would enable children to play interesting word games and earn in-app rewards and badges, helping reading become both fun and a daily habit.

Multiple children would be able to use the same app and it would track their progress separately. Over time the difficulty level of recommended stories will adjust according to their reading skills.

The app has been designed to work offline, in order to enable children to just focus on reading and is completely ad free.

Further, the app has been designed with children’s safety and security in mind and all personal information shared will always stay on the device. The users will not be asked for details like email ID and gender for logging into the app.

The app currently comprises up to 100 stories in Hindi and English and more will added with time.

The app will be available for download on Google Play Store in India for all smartphones running Android 4.4 (Kit Kat) and higher.

Significance

The Bolo app aims to help improve the reading ability of children, as the lack of it can significantly impact further education and ultimately children’s ability to realise their full potential.

Google identified limited access to quality material, under-resourced infrastructure and barriers to learning outside the classroom as some of the challenges that children often face.

Background

According to the ASER 2018 report, only half of the students enrolled in grade 5 in rural India can confidently read a grade 2 level textbook.

Google had piloted the ‘Bolo’ app in about 200 villages in Uttar Pradesh and preliminary results showed an improvement in reading proficiency in 64 per cent of children in just three months.

Now, the tech giant is looking at expanding the app to other Indic languages such as Bengali, soon.

Swachh Survekshan 2019 Awards: Indore judged Cleanest City for third time; Bhopal Cleanest Capital

Swachh Survekshan 2019 Awards

President Ram Nath Kovind on March 6, 2019 conferred the Swachh Survekshan Awards 2019 at a ceremony in New Delhi.

Indore was adjudged as India’s Cleanest City for the third consecutive year in the central government’s cleanliness survey, while Bhopal was named as the ‘Cleanest Capital’ of India. Indore reported a 70 percent drop in vector-borne ailments in 2019, which is being attributed to Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.

Winners were awarded with a statue of Mahatma Gandhi as memento.

Highlights

Indore awarded as Cleanest City; Ambikapur in Chattisgarh was acknowledged as the second India’s Cleanest City overall and became a role model for other towns in the state, followed by Mysuru as the third cleanest city.

Gujarat’s Ahmedabad was named as the Cleanest Big City in the population category of more than 10 lakh people.

Ujjain bagged the award for being the Cleanest Medium City in the population category of 3 lakh to 10 lakh.

The New Delhi Municipal Council area was given the ‘Cleanest Small City’ Award, and Uttarakhand’s Gauchar was bestowed as the ‘Best Ganga Town’ in the cleanliness survey.

Chhattisgarh has also emerged India’s top performer among states, followed by Jharkhand and Maharashtra.

Survey found that cities undertook novel ways to address issues of sanitation and waste management including conducting zero-waste public events, converting floral waste to value-added products, cultivating of Oyster Mushrooms from agricultural and kitchen waste in used plastic bottles, etc.

Major Awardees of Swachh Survekshan 2019
Category Place (Winner)
State
India’s Cleanest City Indore Madhya Pradesh
Cleanest Big City Ahmedabad Gujarat
Cleanest Medium City Ujjain Madhya Pradesh
Cleanest Small City New Delhi Municipal Council Delhi
Cleanest Capital Bhopal Madhya Pradesh
Best Performing State Chhattisgarh Chhattisgarh
India’s Cleanest Cantonment Delhi Cantonment Board Delhi
Best Ganga Town Gauchar Uttarakhand
North Zone’s Cleanest City Nawashahr Punjab
East Zone’s Cleanest City Narharpur Chhattisgarh
North East Zone’s Cleanest City Thoubal Manipur
South Zone’s Cleanest City Piriyapatna Karnataka
West Zone’s Cleanest City Karhad Maharashtra
Top 20 Cities

In this year’s survey, these are the top 20 cities that have been the forerunners in Urban India’s progress towards cleanliness:

Large cities Indore Mysuru Ahmedabad Navi Mumbai Tirupati
Rajkot Vijayawada Ghaziabad Surat
Smaller towns and cities Mul Ambikapur Ujjain NDMC Karhad
Lonavala Vita Dewas Bhilai Shahganj
Panhala
Swachh Survekshan Exercise: How Swachh Survekshan 2019 broke records of previous cleanliness surveys?
  • The Swachh Survekshan exercise was started with the objective of inculcating a spirit of healthy competition among cities in their race towards becoming India’s cleanest cities.
  • Every year, cities and towns across India are awarded with the title of ‘Swachh Cities’ on the basis of their cleanliness and sanitation drive as a part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan that was launched in 2014.
  • The Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs (MoHUA) conducted the first survey ‘Swachh Survekshan-2016’ for ranking 73 cities (Urban Local Bodies) in January 2016, under the ambit of the Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban).
  • In order to expand the coverage of cities, the Ministry conducted its second survey ‘Swachh Survekshan 2017’ in January-February 2017 to rank 434 cities.
  • ‘Swachh Survekshan 2018’ saw a massive increase in both scale of survey and intensity of participation, with 4,203 cities covered.
  • The 2019 Swachh Survekshan survey scaled even greater heights, covering 4,237 cities and that too, in a record time of 28 days, in a completely paperless and digital format for data collection.

Here are the details about Swachh Survekshan 2019:

Impressive achievements under the Swachh Bharat Mission

Since the launch of the Swachh Bharat Mission in 2014, the urban areas of 23 states and UTs have become Open Defecation Free (ODF).

Over 94 percent cities are already ODF.

Nearly 63 lakh individual household toilets (94 percent progress), and more than 5 lakh public toilet seats have been constructed.

Google Toilet Locator: More than 42,000 public toilet blocks across 1400 cities have been mapped and are visible on Google Maps. The locator provides an option for citizens to provide their feedback after using the toilets.

Waste processing has gone up to 52 percent, which was mere 18 percent at the start of the Mission.

93.1 percent of households in Rural India were found to have access to toilets during the survey period

96.5 percent of the people, who had access to toilets, actually used them

90.7 percent of villages which were previously declared and verified as ODF were confirmed to be ODF

The remaining villages also had sanitation coverage of about 93 percent

95.4 percent of the surveyed villages have minimal litter and minimal stagnant water

About Swachh Bharat Mission
  • Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Movement) is a campaign that was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 2, 2014.
  • The campaign seeks to clean the streets, roads and infrastructure of the country’s 4041 statutory cities and towns.

  • Behaviour change has been the focus of Swachh Bharat Mission, which is being pursued through a countrywide comprehensive IEC (Information-Education-Communication) programme.
  • Communication campaigns have been taken up both, at the central and state levels, for promoting sustained use of toilets and for sustaining the Open Defecation Free status achieved.
  • Objectives of Swachh Bharat are to reduce or eliminate open defecation through the construction of individual, cluster and community toilets.
  • Under both the versions of the campaign – Gramin and Urban, the government aims to achieve an Open-Defecation Free (ODF) India by October 2, 2019, the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
  • For that purpose, 12 million toilets are being constructed in rural India at a projected cost of Rs 1.96 lakh crore.
  • Over 50 crore people stopped defecating in the open since the launch of the Swachh Bharat Mission.
  • The national sanitation coverage is now in excess of 98 percent, compared to 39 percent in 2014.
  • Over 5.5 lakh villages and 615 districts have been declared ODF, along with 30 ODF States and Union Territories.

India, World Bank sign $250 million agreement to boost rural income

India, World Bank sign loan agreement to boost rural income

The Indian Government on March 5, 2019 signed a $250 million loan agreement with the World Bank for the National Rural Economic Transformation Project (NRETP) that aims to help women in rural households shift to a new generation of economic initiatives by developing viable enterprise for farm and non-farm products.

The loan agreement was signed by Additional Secretary Sameer Kumar Khare on behalf of India and World Bank’s Acting Country Director Hisham Abdo.

Objective

The main focus of the new project will be to promote women-owned and women-led farm and non-farm enterprises across value chains and enable them to build businesses that help them access finance, markets and networks and generate employment.

Key Highlights

The National Rural Economic Transformation project is additional financing to the $500 million National Rural Livelihoods Project (NRLP) approved by the World Bank in July 2011.

The NRLP, which is currently being implemented across 13 states, 162 districts and 575 blocks, has managed to mobilise more than 8.8 million women from poor rural households into 750,000 self-help groups (SHGs).

These SHGs have been further federated into 48,700 village organisations and 2900 cluster and gram panchayat-level federations.

While these 13 states will continue to be supported under the new NRETP project, 125 new districts will be added from within these states.

The National Rural Livelihoods Mission aims to alleviate rural poverty and create sustainable livelihood opportunities in rural communities by promoting sustainable community-based institutions which will facilitate economic and financial services for the rural poor.

The $250 million loan agreement has a 5-year grace period and a final maturity of 20 years.

Significance

The additional funding will help give impetus to the poverty alleviation measures by the government and ensure equitable and inclusive growth in the country.

National Rural Economic Transformation project

The project will support enterprise development programs for rural poor women and youth by creating a platform to access finance including start-up financing options to build their individual or collectively owned and managed enterprises.

The project will involve developing financial products using digital financial services to help small producer collectives scale-up and engage with the market.

It will also support youth skills development, in coordination with the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana.

Besides this, peer to peer learning across states and communities, which was a successful strategy under the NRLP, will continue to be used under this project.

The project will also continue to give technical assistance, skills building and investment support to strengthen women-owned and women-led producer collectives diversify into high-value farm and non-farm commodities such as commercial crops and livestock products and fisheries.

Background

Since its launch in 2011, the National Rural Livelihoods Mission has mobilised 50 million poor rural women into self-help groups and their higher-level federations. These groups have leveraged nearly $30 billion from commercial banks.

Many of these women are now geared towards moving into higher order economic initiatives in farm and non-farm sectors.

The new project will now help them engage purposefully in an evolving rural economy.

Women to get Permanent Commission in Indian Armed Forces

Women to get Permanent Commission in Indian Armed Forces

The Union Ministry of Defence has taken steps to ensure permanent commission to women officers in the Indian Armed Forces, implementing the announcement made regarding the same by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 15, 2018.

Indian Air Force

All branches of the Indian Air Force, including the post of fighter pilots, are now open for women officers.

Indian Navy

All non sea going branches, cadre or specialisation have been opened for the induction of women officers through short service commission.

In addition to education, law and naval constructor branch and cadre, women SSC officers have been made eligible for grant of Permanent Commission in the Naval Armament branch, at par with the male officers.

The proposal for induction of three new training ships for the Indian Navy is currently underway. This will provide the requisite infrastructure for training of both men and women officers.

The Indian Navy will start inducting women in all branches, once the training ships are in place.

Indian Army

Women officers have been granted permanent commission in the Indian Army in all the ten branches where women are inducted for short service commission.

Hence, besides the existing two streams of Judge Advocate General (JAG) and Army Education Corps, permanent commission will now be granted to women officers in signals, engineers, army aviation, army air defence, electronics and mechanical engineers, army service corps, army ordinance corps and Intelligence.

The SSC women officers will have to give their option for permanent commission before completion of four years of commissioned service and then they will be able to exercise option for grant of permanent commission and their choice of specialisation.

The SSC women officers will be considered for grant of permanent commission based on suitability and merit and will be employed in various staff appointments.

Women and Child Development Ministry felicitates ‘Web Wonder Women’; to confer Nari Shakti Puruskar 2019

Women and Child Development Ministry felicitates Web Wonder Women

The Union Ministry of Women and Child Development on March 6, 2019 honoured the ‘Web Wonder Women’ who have been driving social reforms through social media.

The Minister for Women and Child Development, Maneka Sanjay Gandhi along with a panel of 10 judges finalised the names of 30 women who have impacted and influenced society through social media.

The women were selected from over 240 nominations received under the categories media, awareness, legal, health, governmental, food, environment, development, business and art.

Launched in collaboration with Twitter India and Breakthrough India on January 9, 2019, the #WebWonderWomen campaign aimed to recognise the strengths of Indian women from across the globe who have used the power of social media to run positive campaigns, bringing about the change in society.

Who are these 30 ‘Web Wonder Women’?

Adhunika Prakash Dr. Saundarya Rajesh Nmami Agarwal Sonal Goel Kirthi Jayakumar
Afreen Siddiqui Sherwani Dr Anubhuti Yadav ParomitaBardoloi Sonal Kapoor Urvashi Sarkar
Ankita Anand Dr. Debarati Halder Parul Mathur Srilekha Chakraborty Sohini Chattopadhyay
Archana KR Dr Laxmi Gautam SaginaWalyat Supreet K. Singh Manu Khajuria
Chavi Vohra JapleenPasricha Dr Shruti Kapoor Vinita Deshmukh Rishika Sharma
Dr. Angela Chaudhuri Madhulika Choudhary Shweta Pathak Ritu Maheshwari Rakshita Dwivedi

Highlights of the #www: WebWonderWomen campaign

• The ‘#www: WebWonderWomen’ Campaign recognises and acknowledges the efforts of the meritorious Women.

• The Campaign invited entries through nominations from across the world as per the laid out criteria. The nominations were open till January 31, 2019.

• Indian-origin women, working or settled anywhere in the world, were eligible for nomination.

• The shortlisted entries were open for public voting on Twitter and the finalists were selected by a specialised panel of judges.

• Nominations were invited in a large number of categories including Health, Media, Literature, Art, Sports, Environmental protection, and fashion among others.

Ministry to confer Nari Shakti Puruskar 2019 on occasion of International Women’s Day
The Union Ministry of Women and Child Development will on March 8, 2019 on the occasion of International Women’s Day 2019 will confer the Nari Shakti Puruskar 2019 on women who have contributed to society but have remained unsung.

The award will be conferred by the President Ram Nath Kovind at Rashtrapati Bhawan, New Delhi.

‘Women Achievers’ Campaign of the Ministry

The Ministry has started the ‘Women Achievers’ Campaign, a new system of recognising women who have broken the glass ceiling and ventured into unusual fields.

In 2018 on the occasion of International Women’s Day, the Ministry hosted ‘First Ladies’, a first-of-its-kind initiative to felicitate exceptional women who were the first to set a milestone in their respective fields. In 2015, the Ministry collaborated with Facebook to recognise ‘100 Women Achievers’.

The ‘Web Wonder Women’ is the third leg of the ‘Women Achievers’ campaign of the Ministry.

Retirement Homes: Government issues guidelines to states on regulation of such homes; to be friendly for differently-abled

Government issues guidelines to states on regulation of ‘Retirement Homes’, to be friendly for diffe

The Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs on March 6, 2019 issued the model guidelines for development & regulation of ‘Retirement Homes’.

The Model Guidelines prescribe an elderly friendly built environment; address the special needs; and protect the rights of senior citizens and retirees living in Retirement Homes who aspire to spend their retired life independently in a safe and dignified environment.

The Guidelines provide option to senior citizens and their family members, who are willing and can afford to purchase a living space for their parents.

What is a Retirement Home?
A Retirement Home, sometimes called old age home but not exactly, is a multi-residence housing facility intended for the old and retired people.

In a retirement home, each old person or old couple lives in an apartment-style room or suite of rooms generally consisting of a living area, one or more bedrooms, bathrooms and a small kitchen.

Objective

The Model Guidelines will encourage inclusive growth and will enable all States to align their policies in line with these Model Guidelines to ensure the protection of rights of the senior citizens and promote a dignified life after retirement.

These Guidelines will boost investment in the Retirement Home segment, and will contribute in employment generation in industries associated with Retirement Homes.

Model Guidelines on ‘Retirement Homes’

Retirement Homes should be aligned with the guidelines and norms of the National Building Code (NBC); Model Building Bye Laws; and Harmonised Guidelines and Space Standards for Barrier Free Built Environment for persons with Disability and Elderly Persons.

Homes should have elderly-friendly environment like lifts with audio and visual signage, wheel chair accessibility, ramps, anti-skid tiles, elderly friendly design of door-knobs, hand rails, furniture, kitchens with gas leak detection systems, and power back up facilities.

They should have compliance with Green Building Principles as provided in Model Building Bye Laws and should be compliant with use of non-polluting and renewable energy.

Common basic services should be there like 24X7 water and electricity supply, proper hygiene, security and housekeeping, helpdesk, transportation assistance, yoga and fitness facilities, etc.

There shall be provision of basic medical, safety and security services like on-site ambulance service, mandatory tie up with with the nearest hospitals and pharmacy, medical emergency room, regular medical check-up of residents, emergency alarm systems, CCTV cameras.

There shall be deployment of trained security personnel and prior police verification of all the personnel deployed in the Retirement Homes.

Customised services over and above the basic common services like internal and external housekeeping, managing dining services, assistance with legal services, etc., if required by the residents has also been prescribed.

Note
The number of senior citizens in India has increased to 10.4 crore in 2011 from around 7.6 crore in 2001. This number is expected to grow to 17.3 crore by 2025 and about 24 crores by 2050.

Eligibility

Any person can buy such apartment but it has to be solely used by a senior citizen.

Resident of Retirement Homes can be any person who is over 60 years of age.

Management of Retirement Homes

Any promoter or developer can build and manage the Retirement Homes or even can engage a ‘Service Provider’ or ‘Retirement Home Operator’ for management of Retirement Homes.

Such Service Providers will be required to be registered with appropriate State Authorities. With an aim to encourage participation of promoters and developers to develop such projects, the government has proposed an enhanced Floor Area Ratio (FAR).

Regulation of Retirement Homes

Retirement Home apartments can only be sold after registration under the respective Real Estate Regulatory Authorities of the States and Union Territories.

To protect the rights of the residents, a list of ‘Basic Rights of the Allottee/Resident of a Retirement Home’ has been specified.

The Model Guidelines provides for disclosure of technical skill of the Service Provider in the form of a ‘Tri-Partite Agreement’ among the Developer, Service Provider or Operator and Allottee.

Security Deposit & Maintenance Charges

The Allottee is required to pay the Interest Free Maintenance Security Deposit (IFMS) which is refundable within a maximum period of three months from the date of refund application.

Residents need to pay Maintenance Charges on lump-sum basis or monthly/quarterly/yearly basis, based on mutually agreed terms.

Task Force & Monitoring Committees to be constituted

For smooth implementation of the Model Guidelines, a Task Force for constant dialogue with States, UTs and other stakeholders will be set up by the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA).

Appropriate Monitoring Committees will be constituted by States and UTs for timely implementation of all applicable laws, regulations, rules and guidelines governing the Retirement Homes.

6 March 2019

World Air Quality Report 2018: 7 of the top 10 most polluted cities in the world are in India

World Air Quality Report 2018: 7 of the top 10 most polluted cities in the world are in India

As per the World Air Quality Report 2018 released by IQAir AirVisual and Greenpeace on March 5, 2019, seven of the top 10 most polluted cities in the world are in India.

India’s Gurugram led the list of most polluted cities in the world in 2018, followed by Ghaziabad, Faridabad, Noida, and Bhiwadi in the top six worst-affected cities.

Top 10 World’s Most Polluted Cities
Of the 10 cities with highest pollution, seven are in India, while one is in China and two are in Pakistan.

Among the Indian cities are Gurgaon, Ghaziabad, Faridabad, Bhiwadi, Noida, Patna and Lucknow. The other three are Hotan in China and Lahore and Faislabad in Pakistan.

Delhi was ranked at number 11 on the pollution chart.

Objective

The main objective behind the report was to measure the presence of fine particulate matter known as Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5, which has been recorded in real-time in 2018.

The report, based on a study of 3000 cities, said that 64 percent of the cities exceeded the World Health Organisation’s annual exposure guideline for PM 2.5. In South Asia itself, 99 percent of the cities exceeded the WHO’s safe standard exposure of 10 micrograms/cubic metre annually.

Exposure to PM 2.5 pollution increases the risk of lung cancer, stroke, heart attack and respiratory diseases, including asthma symptoms among all age groups.

Key takeaways from the World Air Quality Report 2018

Among the top 30 most polluted cities, India makes up for 22 with five in China, two in Pakistan and one in Bangladesh.

The only non-Indian city in the top five list is Faisalabad, Pakistan.

Delhi was ranked as the most polluted capital in the world, with Dhaka at second and Kabul at third position.

China made a remarkable improvement since 2013 as the country’s pollution levels have gone down by 40 percent. In 2013, Beijing topped the pollution charts. Beijing ranks now as the 122nd most polluted city in the world in 2018.

In South Asia, out of 20 most polluted cities in the world, 18 are in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

In Southeast Asia, Jakarta and Hanoi are the most polluted cities.

In US and Canada, historic wildfires had a dramatic impact on air quality in August and November 2018, with 5 out of 10 most polluted cities in the world during August 2018 found in North America.

Massive populations of the continental Africa and South America do not have adequate air quality measuring data.

Uttarakhand Disaster Recovery Project: India, World Bank sign USD 96 million loan for financing project

Uttarakhand Disaster Recovery Project India World Bank sign USD 96 million loan for financing projec

A tripartite loan agreement was signed between the Central Government, Uttarakhand Government and the World Bank for additional financial assistance of USD 96 million for the Uttarakhand Disaster Recovery Project.

The loan agreement would provide additional funds to Uttarakhand in its post-disaster recovery plans, ongoing since the floods of 2013. The agreement would also strengthen the capacity of the state for Disaster Risk Management.

The Loan Agreement was signed by Sameer Kumar Khare, Additional Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Union Ministry of Finance; Amit Negi, Program Director of Uttarakhand Disaster Recovery Project; and Hisham Abdo, Acting Country Director of World Bank India.

Highlights of the loan agreement

The additional financing of $96 million will further help in the reconstruction of bridges, road and river bank protection works.

It involves construction of a training facility for the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF).

The Project will help increasing the technical capacity of the State to respond promptly and more effectively to such crises in the future.

The USD 96 million loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), has a 5-year grace period, and a final maturity of 15 years.

Uttarakhand Disaster Recovery Project
In June 2013, a heavy torrential rain caused devastating floods and landslides in Uttarakhand. The disaster, the worst of its kind since the 2003 tsunami, had hit more than 4,200 villages, damaged 2,500 houses, and killed over 4,000 people.

Landslides and river bank erosion are common in the Himalayan state and continue to disrupt movement and cause accidents, affecting the livelihood and access to services of the local community.

The extent and pace of recovery under the Uttarakhand Disaster Recovery Project since 2013 has been significant.

The World Bank has been supporting the Uttarakhand Government since 2014 to restore housing and rural connectivity and to build resilience of communities through the Uttarakhand Disaster Recovery Project.

Status of the Project

  • So far, the Project has completed more than 2000 permanent houses and 23 public buildings and restored over 1,300 kilometers of roads and 16 bridges.
  • The Project has helped in strengthening the State’s Disaster Risk Management Capacity which has led to enhanced investment in long-term resilience through policies and institutions.
  • The capacity of the SDRF has also been significantly strengthened and it has so far conducted over 250 operations rescuing over 3,500 people during the high pilgrimage season.

Swachh Bharat Mission (G): Over 96 percent of households in Rural India actually use toilets

Over 96 percent of households in Rural India actually use toilets

Around 96.5 percent of the households in Rural India who have access to the toilet use it as per the National Annual Rural Sanitation Survey (NARSS) 2018-19, conducted by Independent Verification Agency (IVA).

The NARSS also re-confirmed the Open Defecation Free (ODF) status of 90.7 percent of villages which were previously declared and verified as ODF by various districts/States themselves.

The Survey
  • The survey was conducted under the World Bank support project to the Swachh Bharat Mission Grameen (SBM-G).
  • The survey was conducted between November 2018 and February 2019 and covered 92040 households in 6136 villages across all the States and UTs of India.
  • The survey used the Probability Proportion to Size (PPS) sampling methodology, which yields 95 percent accurate results. The data was collected using the Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) platform.
  • The survey also covered schools, anganwadis and public/community toilets of the villages.

Key facts and figures

93.1 percent of households were found to have access to toilets during the survey period

96.5 percent of the people, who had access to toilets, actually used them

90.7 percent of villages which were previously declared and verified as ODF were confirmed to be ODF.

The remaining villages also had sanitation coverage of about 93 percent

95.4 percent of the surveyed villages have minimal litter and minimal stagnant water

Organisations involved

The Independent Verification Agency (IVA) presented the findings of the survey to the Expert Working Group (EWG) constituted for oversight of NARSS.

The group comprised of representatives from the World Bank, UNICEF, Water Aid, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, India Sanitation Coalition, NITI Aayog, and Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation.

Following this, the IVA submitted their provisional summary results report and raw data to the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, and the same was made publicly accessible on the website of Ministry.

About Swachh Bharat Mission
  • Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Movement) is a campaign that was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 2, 2014.
  • The campaign seeks to clean the streets, roads and infrastructure of the country’s 4041 statutory cities and towns.

  • Behaviour change has been the focus of Swachh Bharat Mission, which is being pursued through a countrywide comprehensive IEC (Information-Education-Communication) programme.
  • Communication campaigns have been taken up both, at the central and state levels, for promoting sustained use of toilets and for sustaining the Open Defecation Free status achieved.
  • Objectives of Swachh Bharat are to reduce or eliminate open defecation through the construction of individual, cluster and community toilets.
  • Under both the versions of the campaign – Gramin and Urban, the government aims to achieve an Open-Defecation Free (ODF) India by October 2, 2019, the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
  • For that purpose, 12 million toilets are being constructed in rural India at a projected cost of Rs 1.96 lakh crore.
  • Over 50 crore people stopped defecating in the open since the launch of the Swachh Bharat Mission.
  • The national sanitation coverage is now in excess of 98 percent, compared to 39 percent in 2014.
  • Over 5.5 lakh villages and 615 districts have been declared ODF, along with 30 ODF States and Union Territories.

France reiterates support for India’s permanent seat in UN Security Council

France reiterates support for India’s permanent seat in UN Security Council

France, which assumed the Presidency of the United Nations Security Council for the month of March, has reiterated its support for India as the permanent member of the powerful UN body. The nation also reiterated its support for Germany and Japan as permanent members of an expanded UNSC.

Speaking on the occasion, French Permanent Representative to the UN, François Delattre said that enlargement of the powerful UN body in both permanent and non-permanent categories is the first crucial part towards its reform. He said that the reform of the Security Council through its enlargement is one of the key areas and key priorities of their diplomacy.

Key Highlights

France has stated that the key to UN reform is openness through three different areas – the openness of the Security Council that entails expansion of the 15-nation body, partnership and openness to civil society.

The French Permanent Representative to the UN, François Delattre stated that the UN cannot be recognised as a centre of gravity for multilateralism throughout the world unless it can step-up partnerships and focus should also be made on openness to civil society, business world, NGOs and trade unions, which are all stakeholders that breathe life into the UN.

He called for enlargement of the Security Council in two categories of non-permanent and permanent categories – India, Brazil, Germany and Japan – and equitable representation of Africans.

The next Presidency of the Security Council would be taken over by Germany in April 2019. The German Ambassador to the UN, Christoph Heusgen, also pointed out that the Security Council, in its present composition, does not reflect the realities of this world.

Both France and Germany together stressed on the need to have reforms, adding that the UNSC will lose its legitimacy if reforms are not brought on soon.

UNSC

What is it?

The United Nations Security Council is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations. It is mainly responsible for maintaining international peace and security.

Its key powers include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, establishment of international sanctions and the authorisation of military action through Security Council resolutions.

It is the only UN body with the authority to issue binding resolutions to member states. The Security Council held its first session on January 17, 1946.

When and why was it created?

The UN Security Council was created following the Second World War to address the failure of the previous international organisation, the League of Nations, in maintaining world peace.

Though in its early decades, the Security Council was not very effective given the Cold War division between the US and USSR and their respective allies, the collapse of the Soviet Union led to a dramatic increase in the UN peacekeeping efforts.

The UNSC has authorised major military and peacekeeping missions in Kuwait, Namibia, Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

How many members does UNSC have?

The UN Security Council consists of fifteen members. The powers that came out victorious after the end of the Second World War – Soviet Union (now Russia), United Kingdom, France, China and the United States- currently serve as the body’s five permanent members.

These permanent members can veto any substantive Security Council resolution, including those on the admission of new member states or candidates for Secretary-General.

The Security Council also has 10 non-permanent members, elected on a regional basis to serve two-year terms. The body’s presidency rotates monthly among its members.

India’s bid to UNSC

India’s bid for permanent membership of UNSC is now backed by four of the five permanent members, namely France, Russia, United Kingdom and the United States.

India has been a member of the UN Security Council for seven terms (a total of 14 years), with the most recent being the 2011–12 term.

India is a member of G4, group of nations comprising Brazil, Germany and Japan who back each other in seeking a permanent seat on the Security Council and advocate in favour of the reformation of the UNSC.

According to the G4 proposal, the UN Security Council should be expanded beyond the current fifteen members to include twenty-five members.

If this actually happens, it would be the first time permanent Security Council status is extended to a South Asian nation and supporters of the G4 plan suggest that this will lead to greater representation of developing nations rather than the current major powers.

Background

India has been calling for the reform of the UN Security Council along with Brazil, Germany and Japan for long, emphasising that it rightly deserves a place at the UN high table as a permanent member.

France, a veto-wielding permanent member of the 15-nation Security Council, last month moved a fresh proposal in the UNSC along with the US and the UK to designate Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist.

5 March 2019

PM-SYM: PM Modi launches Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maan-Dhan Yojana from Gujarat

PM-SYM: PM Modi launches Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Mandhan Yojana from Gujarat

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 5, 2019 launched the Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maan-dhan Yojana (PM-SYM), a mega pension scheme for unorganised sector, from Gandhinagar, Gujarat. The scheme was announced in the Interim Budget 2019.

The PM-SYM is a voluntary and contributory pension scheme that will benefit as many as 10 crore workers in the unorganised sector.

It will provide monthly pension of Rs 3000 to the employees of unorganised sector after 60 years of age.

Eligibility
  • The unorganised sector workers, with income of less than Rs 15,000 per month and who belong to the entry age group of 18-40 years, will be eligible for the scheme.
  • Those workers should not be covered under New Pension Scheme (NPS), Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) scheme or Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO).
  • He or she should not be an income tax payer.

Who are the workers of unorganised sector?

The workers of unorganised sector can be home based workers, street vendors, mid-day meal workers, head loaders, brick kiln workers, cobblers, rag pickers, domestic workers, washer men, rickshaw pullers, landless labourers, own account workers, agricultural workers, construction workers, beedi workers, handloom workers, leather workers, audio- visual workers and similar other occupations.

Benefits under Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maan-dhan Yojana
Minimum Assured Pension: Each subscriber under the scheme will receive minimum assured pension of Rs 3000 per month after attaining the age of 60 years.

In case of death during receipt of pension: If the subscriber dies during the receipt of pension, his or her spouse will be entitled to receive 50 percent of the pension as family pension. This family pension is applicable only to spouse.

In case of death before the age of 60 years: If a beneficiary has given regular contribution and dies before attaining the age of 60 years, his or her spouse will be entitled to continue the scheme subsequently by payment of regular contribution or may even exit the scheme.

Contribution to the scheme
Contribution by the Subscriber: The subscriber is required to contribute the prescribed contribution amount from the age of joining the scheme till the age of 60 years.

Medium of contribution: The subscriber can contribute to the PM-SYM through ‘auto-debit’ facility from his or her savings bank account or from his or her Jan- Dhan account.

Equal contribution by the Central Government: Under the PM-SYM, the prescribed age-specific contribution by the beneficiary and the matching contribution by the Central Government will be made on a ‘50:50 basis’.

For example, if a person enters the scheme at an age of 29 years, he or she is required to contribute Rs 100 per month till the age of 60 years and the equal amount of Rs 100 will be contributed by the Central Government.

US to end India’s preferential trade treatment under GSP programme

Trump plans to end India’s beneficiary designation under GSP programme

US President Donald Trump informed the US Congress on March 4, 2019 that he intends to end India’s preferential trade treatment under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) programme. The GSP programme allows $5.6 billion worth of Indian exports to enter the United States duty-free.

Explaining the reason behind withdrawing the duty benefits on Indian products, Trump stated in a letter to the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi that India has failed to assure the United States that it would provide equitable and reasonable access to its markets in numerous sectors.

Trump stated that he will continue to assess whether the Government of India is providing equitable and reasonable access to its markets, in accordance with the GSP eligibility criteria.

When will the withdrawal of the programme come into effect?

According to US Trade Representative’s Office, the removal of India from the GSP programme would not take effect for at least 60 days after notifications to Congress and the Indian government and it will be enacted by a presidential proclamation.

What does India primarily export to US?

India mainly exports raw materials and intermediate goods such as organic chemicals to the United States.

How many products get duty-free access?

As many as 1,900 Indian products from sectors such as chemicals and engineering get duty free access to the US market under the GSP programme, which was introduced in 1976.

How will it affect India?

According to Commerce Secretary Anup Wadhawan, India exports goods worth $5.6 billion under the GSP and the duty benefit is only $190 million annually.

Hence, he said that the US decision to withdraw duty benefits on Indian products under the GSP programme will not have a significant impact on the Indian exports to America.

Major setback for India-US trade ties?

Trump’s decision to withdraw the preferential trade treatment could be seen as a major setback in India-US bilateral relationship, in particular in the arena of trade and economy.

India is the world’s largest beneficiary of the GSP programme and ending its participation would be the strongest punitive action against India since Trump took office in 2017.

According to the US Trade Representative’s Office, the US goods and services trade deficit with India was $27.3 billion in 2017.

However, the US demand for relaxation in norms for exports of medical devices and dairy products is non-negotiable to India.

Besides this, a major move that hurt US-India trade ties was India’s new e-commerce policy, which restricted the way the US-based e-commerce giants- Amazon and Walmart- do business in India. The new policy was unveiled on February 1, 2019.

In a separate announcement, Trump informed the US Congress of his intent to end the designation of Turkey as a beneficiary developing country under the GSP programme. The key reason behind the decision, according to Trump, is the vast growth seen in the economy of Turkey in the last four-and-a-half decades.

The US had designated Turkey as a GSP beneficiary developing country in 1975. However, an increase in the Gross National Income (GNI) per capita, declining poverty rates and export diversification by trading partner and by sector were evidence of Turkey’s higher level of economic development, as per US Trade Representative’s Office.

About GSP Programme

Under the Generalised System of Preferences programme, certain products are allowed to enter the US duty-free if the beneficiary developing countries meet the eligibility criteria established by the US Congress.

The eligibility criteria include respecting arbitral awards in favour of US citizens or corporations, combating child labour, respecting internationally recognised worker rights, providing adequate and effective intellectual property protection and providing the US with equitable and reasonable market access.

The selected beneficiary nations can be graduated from the GSP programme, depending on factors related to economic development.

Background

The Trump administration had initiated an eligibility review of India’s compliance with the GSP market access criterion in April 2018. Since then, India and the US have been discussing various trade issues of bilateral interest for a suitable resolution on mutually acceptable terms.

The GSP benefits are envisaged as non-reciprocal and non-discriminatory benefits extended by developed countries to developing countries. In India’s case, the GSP concessions extended by the US amounted to duty reduction of only USD 190 million per annum.

The US had initiated the review on the basis of representations by the US medical devices and dairy industries but subsequently included numerous other issues on a self-initiated basis. These included issues related to market access for various agriculture and animal husbandry products, relaxation of procedures related to issues like telecom testing, conformity assessment and tariff reduction on ICT products.

The Department of Commerce engaged with various Government of India departments concerned with these issues, and India was able to offer a very meaningful way forward on almost all the US requests. However, in a few instances, specific US requests were not found reasonable and doable by the concerned departments, in light of public welfare concerns reflective of India’s developing country status and its national interest.

One Nation, One Card: PM Modi launches mobility card for seamless travel through different metros

PM Modi launches ‘One Nation, One Card’ for seamless travel through different metros

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 4, 2019 launched ‘One Nation, One Card’ Model from Ahmedabad, Gujarat for seamless travel through different metros and other transport systems.

The Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs introduced the ‘National Common Mobility Card’ (NCMC) to enable seamless travel by different metros and other transport systems across the country besides retail shopping and purchases.

One Nation, One Card

India’s first indigenously developed payment eco-system for transport mobility consists of:

  • National Common Mobility Card (NCMC)
  • Swachalit Kiraya: Automatic Fare Collection System (SWEEKAR)
  • Swachalit Gate (SWAGAT) based on NCMC Standards

The ‘National Common Mobility Card’ (NCMC), an indigenous automatic fare collection system based on One Nation One Card Model, is the first of its kind indigenously developed payment platform in India. These are bank issued cards based on Debit, Credit and Prepaid card platform.

How customers can use One Nation, One Card?

  • The customers can use this single card for payments across all segments including metro, bus, suburban railways, toll, parking, smart city and retail.
  • The stored value on the card supports offline transaction across all travel needs with minimal financial risk to involved stakeholders.
  • The card supports various service area features such as monthly passes, season tickets, etc.
  • NCMC offers the value proposition for customers as they need not to carry multiple cards for different usage

Implementation of NCMC in DMRC

  • For operators, NCMC ecosystem brings common standards for implementation without vendor lock-in.
  • In order to showcase the entire NCMC ecosystem for digital fare collection, the complete AFC system has been deployed in Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) across few stations for field trial purpose.
  • Under this pilot, NCMC compliant gates have been deployed at various stations of DMRC and cards have been issued by multiple banks to the users.
  • NCMC Ecosystem will help government in digitisation of low value payments and reduced cost for the entire ecosystem.

What led the Ministry to come out with common mobility card?

In India, public transport is used as a convenient mode of commuting by people of all class. They use cash as the most preferred mode of fare payments. However, there are multiple challenges associated with the cash payment such as cash handling, revenue leakages, cash reconciliation, etc.

Taking this into account, transit operators have been undertaking various initiatives to digitise the fare collection using ‘Automatic Fare Collection’ System (AFC). However, the restricted usability of these payment instruments limited the adoption by customers.

The AFC System at the gates, validators, and backend infrastructure is the core of any transit operator to automate the fare collection process. Till now, AFC systems deployed at various Metros in India are from foreign players as there is no indigenous or local solution provider.

To develop indigenous standards and AFC system under Make in India initiative, the Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs came out with the National Common Mobility Card (NCMC) Program for seamless travel across metros and other transport systems.

Agencies behind National Common Mobility Card

A committee was formed with representatives from National Informatics Centre (NIC), Centre for Development of Advance Computing (C-DAC), Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI) and the Ministry of Finance to develop the NCMC.

The committee recommended EMV based Open Loop Card with stored value as NCMC.

The NPCI was given the mandate to develop the specifications for card to support the NCMC ecosystem.

The C-DAC finalised NCMC specification for AFC system including the interface with Bank server. CDAC worked in collaboration with NPCI to complete this activity.

The Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) was roped in for making Gates and Reader. This is the first gate and the reader which has been manufactured by an Indian company.

ISRO launches ‘Young Scientist Programme’ for school children

ISRO launches ‘Young Scientist Programme’ for school children

The Indian Space Research Organisation has launched a special programme for school children called Yuva Vigyani Karyakram or Young Scientist Programme.

Objective

The programme aims at imparting basic knowledge on space technology, space science and space applications to the younger ones with the intent of arousing their interest in the emerging areas of space activities.

Key Highlights

ISRO has come up with this young scientist programme to ‘catch them young’. The residential training programme will be conducted during the summer holidays. It will be held for a duration of around two weeks.

Under the programme, three students each will be selected to participate in it every year from each state and union territory, covering CBSE, ICSE and state syllabus.

ISRO has approached the chief secretaries of the respective states and administrators of Union Territories in India to arrange for the selection of three students from each of their states and union territories and communicate the list to ISRO.

The eligibility for being chosen for the programme includes those students who have finished 8th standard and are currently studying in the 9th standard.

Besides this, the selection will be based on the academic performance and extracurricular activities of the students, as per the selection criteria already circulated to the chief secretaries of the states and administrators of Union Territories.

Each state and union territory is expected to submit the list of selected candidates to ISRO by the end of March 2019.

Special weightage

The students belonging to rural areas have been given special weightage under the selection criteria set by ISRO.

Background

The Union Government had previously asked scientific institutions in the country to mentor young minds in the area of basic science. In a step towards realising the same, ISRO has launched the YUVA programme.

In a similar effort previously, ISRO had launched a platform called ‘Samwad with Students’ on January 1, 2019, as part of its enhanced outreach programme to engage youngsters across India in activities concerning space science.

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. The initiative was aimed at capturing the scientific temperament of the students.

3-4 March 2019

Exercise Sampriti 2019: India-Bangladesh joint military exercise begins

Exercise Sampriti 2019: India-Bangladesh joint military exercise begins

Indo-Bangladesh joint military exercise, ‘Exercise Sampriti 2019’ began on March 2, 2019 at Tangail, Bangladesh. This will be the eighth edition of the exercise which is hosted alternately by both countries.

The exercise will conclude on March 15, 2019. As part of the ongoing India-Bangladesh defence cooperation, Exercise Sampriti is an important bilateral endeavor between India and Bangladesh.

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

Key highlights

  • The exercise began with the ceremonial salute of the participating contingents to the national flags of both the countries to the strains of “Jana Gana Mana” and the “Amar Shonar Bangla”.
  • The Bangladesh contingent was represented by 36 East Bengal Battalion, while Indian side was represented by 9th Battalion the Rajputana Rifles.
  • A company group from Bangladesh Army and an equal number from Indian Army are taking part in the two-week long exercise.
  • The experts from both the sides will also hold discussions to share each other’s experiences in varied topics for mutual benefits.
  • The exercise will involve tactical level operations in a counter insurgency and counter terrorism environment under the mandate of the United Nations.
  • Both sides will jointly train, plan and execute a series of well-developed tactical drills for neutralisation of likely threats that may be encountered during simulated UN peace keeping operations.

About Exercise Sampriti

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

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

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

The joint exercise was first held in Assam in 2011.

Kumbh Mela 2019: Prayagraj Kumbh 2019 concludes; makes it to Guinness World Records

Prayagraj Kumbh 2019 concludes; makes it to Guinness World Records

Prayagraj Kumbh Mela 2019 concluded on March 4, 2019 with the sixth and final “Shahi Snan” (royal bath) held on the occasion of Mahashivratri.

The single bathing festival of Mahashivratri is among the six main bathing festivals of the Kumbh. The other 5 bathing festivals of the Kumbh concluded successfully with more than 22 crore pilgrims taking a holy dip.

The world’s largest religious and cultural human congregation, ‘Kumbh 2019’ began at Prayagraj (erstwhile Allahabad), Uttar Pradesh on January 15, 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.

Prayagraj Kumbh 2019 makes it to Guinness World Records

This year, the Kumbh made it to the Guinness World Records in three sectors. A three member team from Guinness World Records visited the Prayagraj Kumbh for this purpose.

The Prayagraj Kumbh 2019 entered the Guiness Book of World Records for:

  • the largest traffic and crowd management plan
  • the biggest painting exercise of public sites under paint my city scheme
  • the biggest sanitation and waste disposal mechanism

All these Exercises were conducted before the team members of the Guinness World Records at a large scale for three days from February 28 to March 3, 2019.

Around 503 shuttle buses were pushed on the highway of Prayagraj in one go on February 28 for showcasing traffic management. Several people participated in painting exercise on March 1 and 10 thousand workers got engaged in cleaning services at Prayagraj Kumbh.

Key initiatives undertaken by Yogi Adityanath Government

According to the UP Government, over 12 crores devotees and tourists visited 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 were set up for bathing.

Special arrangements were made for women devotees and for the first time three women police units were pressed into service.

Over 120000 toilets were erected for making Clean Kumbh.

The whole kumbh area was 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 were erected where more than 20 thousand security personnel were deployed.

Traffic management at Kumbh 2019 was planned to ensure smooth coordination of traffic movement on multiple channels and was 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.

President gives assent to ordinance allowing voluntary use of Aadhaar

President gives assent to ordinance allowing voluntary use of Aadhaar

Indian President Ram Nath Kovind has given his assent to an ordinance that allows voluntary use of Aadhaar as ID proof for obtaining mobile SIM cards and opening bank accounts.

The ordinance was necessitated because the Rajya Sabha could not approve the Aadhaar and other laws (Amendment Bill) 2018, as it was adjourned sine die on February 13, 2019. As a result, many significant bills such as the Aadhaar Bill, Triple Talaq Bill and Citizenship Amendment Bill had lapsed. The Lok Sabha had passed the Aadhaar Amendment Bill on January 4, 2019.

Key Highlights

The Union Cabinet had approved the promulgation of an ordinance to give effect to changes proposed in Aadhaar and two others legislations last week.

The amendments provide for stiff penalties for violation of norms set for the use of Aadhaar and violation of privacy.

The ordinance gives effect to the changes in the Aadhaar Act such as giving a minor an option to exit from the biometric ID programme on attaining 18 years of age.

The amendments also make it clear that anyone not offering Aadhaar cannot be denied any service, be it opening of a bank account or obtaining a mobile phone SIM card.

The amendments will enable UIDAI to have a more robust mechanism to serve the public interest and restrain the misuse of Aadhaar.

The Aadhaar and other laws (Amendment Bill) 2018

  • The bill had sought to amend the Aadhaar Act and two related laws, in order to 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 bill had also proposed 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 had also sought to give minors the option to opt out of the 12-digit identity scheme on attaining the age of 18 years. It also provided for stiff penalties for violation of norms set for the use of Aadhaar.
  • Further, it banned 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 made it clear that anyone not offering Aadhaar cannot be denied any service, be it a bank account or a SIM card.

Other Details

The President also gave his assent to the draft Homoeopathy Central Council (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019.

The ordinance seeks to extend the period for reconstitution of the central council from existing period of one year to two years so that the tenure of the board of governors may be extended for a further period of one year with effect from May 17, 2019.

The President also gave his assent to an ordinance for an amendment to the special economic zones act, 2005.

The present provision of the SEZs Act, 2005 does not permit trusts to set up units in special economic zones.

The amendment will enable a trust to be considered for grant of permission to set up a unit in special economic zones. This will facilitate investments in special economic zones.

India, Brunei sign pact on exchange of tax information

India, Brunei sign pact on exchange of tax information

The Union Government and Brunei signed an agreement for the Exchange of Information and Assistance in Collection with respect to Taxes (TIEA) in New Delhi on February 28, 2019.

The agreement was signed by Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) Chairman Pramod Chandra Mody, and High Commissioner of Brunei Darussalam to India Dato Paduka Haji Sidek Ali.

Key Highlights

The agreement enables exchange of information, including banking and ownership information between the two countries for tax purposes.

It is based on international standards of tax transparency and exchange of information and enables sharing of information on request as well as on automatic basis.

The agreement also provides for mutual assistance in collection of tax revenue claims between both countries.

Significance

The agreement will enhance mutual co-operation between India and Brunei Darussalam by providing an effective framework for exchange of information in tax matters, which will help curb tax evasion and tax avoidance.

2 March 2019

CCEA approves financial support for non-communicable diseases, e-Health

CCEA approves financial support for non-communicable diseases, e-Health

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has approved the continuation of the implementation of the Tertiary healthcare programmes for non-communicable diseases and E-Health upto 2020 with an outlay of Rs 2551.15 crore.

The cabinet has approved the continuation of the implementation of the following Tertiary healthcare programmes:

a) Strengthening of Tertiary Care Cancer facilities Scheme

b) National Program for Health Care of the Elderly

c) National Program for Prevention & Management of Trauma and Burn Injuries

d) National Program for Tobacco Control and Drug Addiction Treatment

e) National Mental Health Program

f) National Program for Control of Blindness and Visual Impairment

g) Program for Strengthening of e-Health and Telemedicine Services

Objective

The main objective of the umbrella program of tertiary healthcare is to provide support for the creation of tertiary care health facilities in the areas of cancer diagnosis and treatment, care for the elderly, trauma and burn injuries, drug dependence, mental health and blindness & visual impairment. It also aims at digitisation of health sector.

Besides this, the tertiary healthcare programmes aim to create the required infrastructure at the tertiary level.

They also focus on the creation of centres of excellence which shall serve as Institutes to set standards and undertake research in these fields and aim to help in the creation of trained manpower in these programs for the country.

Significance

Under these programmes, Tertiary care treatment will be further strengthened to meet the ever-increasing patient load.

Key Highlights

The programs are aimed at strengthening of tertiary level healthcare facilities for treatment through capacity building in terms of both infrastructure and human resources.

There would be considerable direct and indirect employment generation both for technical and non-technical professionals in the country.

The interventions of the government for health care at tertiary level in the above-mentioned areas are aimed at improving access to good quality and affordable healthcare facilities through support for infrastructure development, equipment, strengthening capacities of healthcare professionals engaged in the delivery of services and awareness generation.

A number of facilities for tertiary healthcare in the areas of cancer diagnosis & treatment, health care for the elderly, trauma and burn injuries, drug dependence, mental health, blindness and visual impairment have been approved over a period of time.

The support to these facilities will be continued keeping in view the need for ensuring the availability of such functional facilities in different parts of the country.

In addition to this, setting up of four new State Cancer Institutes will also be supported.

Background

The Tertiary Care Programs for non-communicable diseases and e-Health are ongoing programs of the department of health and family welfare, ministry of health and family welfare which complement and synergize with the ongoing programs and schemes of the department for implementation of various activities up to the district level.

While primary and secondary health care needs are being addressed under the National Health Mission, the tertiary level activities are taken care of through Tertiary sector schemes.

Centre, ADB sign 926 million dollar loan agreement to operationalise two lines of Mumbai Metro

Centre, ADB sign 926 million dollar loan agreement to operationalise two lines of Mumbai Metro

The Union Government on March 1, 2019 signed a 926 million dollar loan agreement to operationalise two of the Mumbai Metro Rail System.

The move will ease the distress of millions of commuters each day and help provide a cleaner and less congested city. The loan agreement was signed by Sameer Kumar Khare, Additional Secretary (Fund Bank and ADB), Department of Economic Affairs, on the behalf of the Indian Government and Kenichi Yokoyama, Country Director of ADB’s India Resident Mission on behalf of ADB.

Key Highlight

The project loan is the single largest infrastructure loan in ADB history approved by the ADB Board on February 26, 2019.

It will help fund lines 2A (Dahisar to D.N. Nagar), 2B (D.N. Nagar-Bandra-Mandale), and 7 (Dahisar [East] to Andheri [East]), totaling about 58 kilometers (km).

The project will fund 63 six-car trains, signaling and safety systems and help establish a new dedicated metro operations organization to manage the entire metro network in Mumbai.

The project will be implemented by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA). It is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.

Special Features

The carriages procured under this project will feature high-level safety features and automation, including surveillance systems, door closing, and train obstacle detectors.

The platforms will have automatic doors, which will be synchronised with the trains, so there will no longer be a danger of surging crowds pushing passengers onto the tracks.

The tracks will be elevated about 9 meters above road level, ensuring no nearby residents are put at risk.

The various features that will benefit women include women-only carriages, mobile applications for women’s security, separate ticket counters, and reporting desks to address incidents of harassment.

It will ensure women have improved opportunities for employment along the new lines, including a station staffed only by women.

Besides this, there will be station and carriage facilities for elderly or differently-abled passengers including priority e-ticket counters.

Significance

Once operational, an estimated two million passengers a day will use the two new lines and will travel in improved safety and comfort.

It will also reduce emissions from vehicles, with carbon dioxide emissions expected to fall by about 166,000 tons a year.

Background

The new Mumbai Metro is an ambitious and truly transformative venture planned by the state government to contribute to enhance the efficiency of the urban transport network and productivity of India’s financial center.

Rail is the primary means of transport in Mumbai, where the suburban network totals almost 400 km and carries more than 7.5 million passengers a day.

Recognising the transportation challenges, the government has developed a plan for 12 metro lines with a total length of 276 km. Line 1, completed in 2014 on a public-private partnership model, carries about 400,000 passengers a day and has reduced travel time along its east-west route from 71 minutes to 21 minutes. Other new metro lines will ease travel and make the city more livable and competitive.

Cabinet approves ‘Pradhan Mantri JI-VAN yojana’ for financial support to Integrated Bioethanol Projects

Cabinet approves ‘Pradhan Mantri JI-VAN yojana’ for financial support to Integrated Bioethanol Proje

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved the ‘Pradhan Mantri Jaiv Indhan- Vatavaran Anukool fasal awashesh Nivaran (JI-VAN) Yojana’ for providing financial support to the Integrated Bioethanol Projects.

The scheme aims to incentivise 2G Ethanol sector and support the industry by creating a suitable ecosystem for setting up commercial projects and increasing Research & Development in this area.

The Pradhan Mantri JI-VAN Yojana will be supported with the total financial outlay of Rs 1969.50 crore for the period 2018-19 to 2023-24.

Disbursement of total allocated fund of Rs 1969.50 crore:
  • Rs 1800 crore for supporting 12 Commercial projects
  • Rs 150 crore for supporting 10 demonstration Projects
  • Rs 9.50 crore will be provided to Centre for High Technology (CHT) as administrative charges

Phases under JI-VAN Yojana

Under the JI-VAN Yojana, 12 Commercial Scale and 10 Demonstration Scale Second Generation (2G) ethanol projects will be provided with a Viability Gap Funding (VGF) support in two phases. These two phases are:

a) Phase-I (2018-19 to 2022-23): 6 Commercial projects and 5 demonstration projects will be supported.

b) Phase-II (2020-21 to 2023-24): Remaining 6 commercial projects and 5 demonstration projects will be supported.

Benefits

Meeting the vision of Government in reducing import dependence by way of substituting fossil fuels with Biofuels

Achieving the greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets through progressive substitution of fossil fuels

Addressing environment concerns caused due to burning of biomass or crop residues.

Improving the health of citizens

Improving farmers’ income by providing them remunerative income for their otherwise waste agriculture residues

Creating rural & urban employment opportunities in 2G Ethanol projects and Biomass supply chain.

Contributing to Swacch Bharat Mission by supporting the aggregation of non­food biofuel feedstocks

Indigenisation of Second Generation Biomass to Ethanol technologies.

Highlights of the Pradhan Mantri JI-VAN Yojana

The Centre for High Technology (CHT), a technical body under the aegis of the Union Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, will be the implementation Agency for the scheme.

The Project developers, interested in availing benefits of the scheme, need to submit their proposal for review by Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) of the Ministry.

The Projects recommended by SAC shall be approved by Steering Committee of the Ministry under the chairmanship of Secretary of Ministry of Petroleum.

The ethanol produced by the beneficiaries of the scheme will be mandatorily supplied to Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) to further enhance the blending percentage under Ethanol Blending Programme (EBP).

Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) programme
  • The Union Government launched the Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) programme in 2003 for undertaking blending of ethanol in Petrol to address environmental concerns due to fossil fuel burning, provide remuneration to farmers, subsidise crude imports and achieve forex savings.
  • Under EBP programme, Oil Marketing Companies are required to blend up to 10 percent of ethanol in Petrol.
  • The present policy allows procurement of ethanol produced from molasses and non-food feed stock like celluloses and lignocelluloses material including petrochemical route.
  • Presently, the EBP is being implemented in 21 States and 4 UTs of the country.

Textiles Minister launches scheme for development of knitwear sector

Textiles Minister launches scheme for development of knitwear sector

Union Minister of Textiles, Smriti Zubin Irani on February 28, 2019 launched a comprehensive scheme for the development of knitting and knitwear sector under PowerTex India in New Delhi.

The Textiles Minister also interacted with industry associations related to knit wear sector in three clusters of Kolkata, Tirupur and Ludhiana through video link. The Minister said that knitting and knitwear sector is predominantly MSME in size and mainly located in decentralised sector and is one of the major employment generator sector.

Significance

The knitting and knitwear sector has a significant contribution on the exports of textiles. Knitting is, in fact, a major segment in the entire textile value chain.

Knitted fabrics contribute to 27 per cent of the total fabric production in India and 15 per cent of knitted fabric is being exported.

The following are the key components of the scheme:

Creation of new service centers on Public Private Partnership (PPP) model by industry and association in the knitting and knitwear clusters.

Modernisation and upgradation of existing power loom service Centers (PSCs) and institution run by Textile Research Associations (TRAs) and Export Promotion Councils (EPCs) Association in knitting and knitwear clusters.

Group work shed scheme.

Yarn bank scheme.

Common facility center scheme.

Pradhan mantra Credit Scheme.

Solar Energy Scheme.

Facilitation, IT, awareness, studies, surveys, market development and publicity for knitting and knitwear units.

Other Details

There is an installed capacity of nearly 12,000 knitting machines under SSI fold and nearly 4600 knitting machines under non-SSI fold, besides a number of household knitting machines.

Some of the major clusters in the knitted garment sector are Tirupur in Tamil Nadu, Ludhiana in Punjab, Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh and Kolkata in West Bengal.

Tirupur is the most important export cluster, followed by Ludhiana. More than 90 per cent of the garment is manufactured in Tirupur are exported.

Background

The Textiles Ministry has approved combined SFC of PowerTex India Scheme and Knitwear Scheme with an outlay of Rs 487.07 crores.

Out of this Rs 439.35 crore is for PowerTex for 3 years from April 1, 2017 to March 31, 2020 and Rs 47.72 crores for Knitwear for the remaining period of 2018-19 and for 2019-20.

1 March 2019

Union Cabinet approves National Policy on Software Products 2019

Union Cabinet approves National Policy on Software Products 2019

The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 1, 2019 approved the National Policy on Software Products 2019 to develop India as a Software Product Nation.

The software product ecosystem is characterised by innovations, Intellectual Property (IP) creation and large value addition increase in productivity, which has the potential to significantly boost revenues and exports in the sector, create substantive employment and entrepreneurial opportunities in emerging technologies and leverage opportunities available under the digital India programme, thus, leading to a boost in inclusive and sustainable growth.

Objective

The National Policy on Software Products 2019 aims to develop India as the global software product hub, driven by innovation, improved commercialisation, sustainable Intellectual Property (IP), promoting technology start­ups and specialised skill sets.

It also aims to align with other government initiatives such as start-up India, make in India and Digital India, Skill India, in order to create Indian software products Industry of USD 70-80 billion with direct and indirect employment of 3.5 million by 2025.

Key Highlights

Initially, an outlay of Rs 1500 crore is involved to implement the programmes and schemes envisaged under this policy over a period of 7 years.

The amount will be divided into Software Product Development Fund (SPDF) and Research & Innovation fund.

The policy will lead to the formulation of several schemes, initiatives, projects and measures for the development of software products sector in the country as per the envisaged roadmap.

To achieve its vision, the new policy has earmarked the following five missions:

Promoting the creation of a sustainable Indian software product industry, driven by intellectual property (IP), leading to a ten-fold increase in India share of the Global Software product market by 2025.

Nurturing 10,000 technology startups in software product industry, including 1000 such technology startups in Tier-II and Tier-III towns and cities and generating direct and indirect employment for 3.5 million people by 2025.

Creating a talent pool for the software product industry through:

(i) Up-skilling of 1,000,000 IT professionals

(ii) Motivating 100,000 school and college students

(iii) Generating 10,000 specialized professionals that can provide leadership

(iv)  Building a cluster-based innovation-driven ecosystem by developing 20 sectoral and strategically located software product development clusters having integrated ICT infrastructure, marketing, incubation, research and development testbeds and mentoring support.

(v) In order to evolve and monitor scheme and programmes for the implementation of this policy, National Software Products Mission will be set up with participation from government, academia and industry.

Background

The Indian IT Industry has predominantly been a service Industry. However, a need has been felt to move up the value chain through technology-oriented products and services.

Hence, to create a robust software product ecosystem the Government has approved the National Policy on Software Products – 2019.

Union Cabinet approves National Mineral Policy 2019

Union Cabinet approves National Mineral Policy 2019

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 28, 2019 approved National Mineral Policy 2019.

The New National Mineral Policy will ensure more effective regulation and will lead to sustainable mining sector development in future while addressing the issues of project affected persons especially those residing in tribal areas.

Objective

The main objective of the policy is to have a more effective, meaningful and implementable policy that will bring in transparency, better regulation and enforcement, balanced social and economic growth as well as sustainable mining practices.

Key Highlights

The National Mineral Policy 2019 includes provisions which will give boost to mining sector such as:

Introduction of Right of First Refusal for RP/PL holders

Encouraging the private sector to take up exploration,

Auctioning in virgin areas for composite RP cum PL cum ML on revenue share basis

Encouragement of merger and acquisition of mining entities

Transfer of mining leases and creation of dedicated mineral corridors to boost private sector mining areas.

The 2019 policy proposes to grant status of industry to mining activity to boost financing of mining for private sector and for acquisitions of mineral assets in other countries by private sector.

It also mentions that long term import export policy for minerals will help private sector in better planning and stability in business.

The new policy also mentions rationalise reserved areas given to PSUs which have not been used and to put these areas to auction, which will give more opportunity to private sector for participation.

It also mentions to make efforts to harmonise taxes, levies and royalty with world benchmarks to help private sector.

Other Details

The National Mineral Policy, 2019 will focus on make in India initiative and gender sensitivity in terms of the vision.

As far as the regulation in Minerals is concerned, E-Governance, IT enabled systems, awareness and Information campaigns have been incorporated.

Besides, regarding the role of state in mineral development online public portal with provision for generating triggers at higher level in the event of delay of clearances has been put in place.

Significance

The National Mineral Policy 2019 aims to attract private investment through incentives while the efforts would be made to maintain a database of mineral resources and tenements under mining tenement systems.

The new policy would focus on the use of coastal waterways and inland shipping for evacuation and transportation of minerals and encourage dedicated mineral corridors to facilitate the transportation of minerals.

It proposes a long term export import policy for the mineral sector to provide stability and as an incentive for investing in large scale commercial mining activity.

It also introduces the concept of Inter-Generational Equity that deals with the well-being not only of the present generation but also of the generations to come and also proposes to constitute an inter-ministerial body to institutionalise the mechanism for ensuring sustainable development in mining.

Background

The National Mineral Policy 2019 replaces the extant National Mineral Policy 2008 which was announced in the year 2008.

The impetus to review NMP 2008 came about by way of a direction from the Supreme Court through its judgment dated August 2, 2017 in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 114/2014 entitled common cause v/s union of India and others.

In compliance of the directions of the apex Court, the Ministry of Mines had constituted a committee on August 14, 2017 under the chairmanship of Dr K Rajeswara Rao, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Mines to review NMP 2008.

The Committee had members from central ministries and departments, state governments, industry associations and subordinate offices of the Ministry of Mines.

The committee also invited concerned NGOs and institutional bodies to take part in the deliberation of the committee meetings. Based on the deliberations held at committee meetings and stakeholders’ comments and suggestions, a committee report was prepared and submitted to the Ministry of Mines.

The Ministry of Mines accepted the committee report and invited the comments and suggestions of the stakeholders as part of the PLCP process.

Then, based on the received suggestions in PLCP process and the suggestions from the central ministries, the Ministry of Mines finalised the National Mineral Policy 2019.

PM-KISAN: Union Cabinet approves Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Scheme

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

The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on February 28, 2019 approved the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) Scheme, seeking to provide income support to all Small and Marginal landholder farmers’ families with cultivable land holding up to 2 hectares across the country.

Earlier, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 24, 2019 launched the PM-KISAN from Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh.

On the launch day itself, the first instalment of Rs 2,000 was directly credited to the bank accounts of selected beneficiary farmers. A total amount of more than Rs 2000 crores was released to more than one crore farmers’ families across the country in the first lot of installment.

The 2nd installment under the scheme would be admissible after April 1, 2019. Around 12 crore farmers are expected to benefit from PM-KISAN.

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

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

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

What made Government to launch PM-KISAN?

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

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

Objective

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

Guidelines for States for implementation of scheme

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NASA to launch new mission to study space weather from ISS

NASA to launch new mission to study space weather from ISS

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has selected a new mission that will help scientists understand and ultimately, forecast the vast space weather system around the Earth.

The mission titled as the Atmospheric Waves Experiment (AWE) is expected to cost around USD 42 million and it will be launched in August 2022, attached to the exterior of the Earth-orbiting International Space Station.

Mission Objectives

The experiment will focus on colourful bands of light in Earth’s atmosphere, called airglow, to determine what combination of forces drive space weather in the upper atmosphere.

It was earlier thought that only the Sun’s constant outflow of ultraviolet light and particles, the solar wind, could affect the region.

However, researchers now have learned that solar variability is not enough to drive the changes observed and Earth’s weather also must be having an effect.

Hence to understand this deeper, the mission will investigate how waves in the lower atmosphere, caused by variations in the densities of different packets of air, impact the upper atmosphere.

Significance

Studying space weather is significance as it can have profound impacts, affecting technology and astronauts in space, disrupting radio communications and at its most severe, overwhelming power grids.

The new experiment will, for the first time, obtain global observations of an important driver of space weather in a dynamic region of Earth’s upper atmosphere that can cause interference with radio and GPS communications.

SunRISE Experiment

NASA has selected another experiment, called the Sun Radio Interferometer Space Experiment (SunRISE) for a seven-month extended formulation study. The experiment is expected to be undertaken at an estimated cost of $100,000.

The experience would involve an array of six CubeSats operating like one large radio telescope.

The proposed mission would investigate how giant space weather storms from the Sun, called solar particle storms, are accelerated and released into planetary space.

Background

The Atmospheric Waves Experiment is a Mission of Opportunity under NASA’s Heliophysics Explorers Program, which conducts focused scientific research and develops instrumentation to fill the scientific gaps between the agency’s larger missions.

Since the 1958 launch of NASA’s first satellite Explorer 1, which discovered Earth’s radiation belts, the Explorers Program has supported over 90 missions. The Uhuru and Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) missions resulted in the conferral of Nobel prizes to their investigators.

The Explorers Program seeks innovative ideas for small and cost-constrained missions that can help unravel the mysteries of the universe.

The AWE was selected for development based on its potential science value and the feasibility of its development plans.

Nitin Gadkari to launch project to connect Ring Road-DND Junction with Delhi-Mumbai Expressway

National Highway project connecting Ring Road-DND Junction with Delhi-Mumbai Expressway

Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways, Shipping and Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Nitin Gadkari will lay the foundation stone for a six-lane National Highway (NH) project at Kalindi Kunj-Meethapur Road in Delhi on March 1, 2019.

The highway will start at Ring Road- DND Flyway junction and will pass through Kalindi bypass and Faridabad-Ballabhgarh bypass. It will finish at the interchange of Delhi-Mumbai Expressway at Kundli-Manesar–Palwal (KMP) Expressway.

Highlights of the project connecting Ring Road-DND Junction with Delhi-Mumbai Expressway

The project will have 3+3 lane service roads on either sides for about 29 km, 7.350 km of elevated section with two level crossings at four locations of Metro line, 18 new underpasses, and nine interchanges with improved junctions.

The project will decongest Delhi with reduction of traffic congestion in Ashram-Badarpur-Faridabad-Ballabhgarh region.

This is expected to result in reduction of vehicular pollution.

The cost of this 59 km long highway project is estimated at Rs 3580 crore.

Delhi-Mumbai Expressway project
Under the Delhi-Mumbai Expressway project, the tender for the project worth Rs 44,000 crore between Mumbai and Vadodara has already been floated earlier in 2018.

Commuters using the expressway would be able to reach Mumbai from Delhi or vise-a-versa within 12 hours, from the 24 hours taken at present.

The expressway, to be built at a cost of about Rs 1 lakh crore, will connect India’s two most backward districts, Mewat (Haryana) and Dahod (Gujarat).

The expressway is expected to begin from Gurugram on the Delhi outskirts and run parallel to the existing highway up to Jaipur, from where it will turn eastwards to Rajasthan’s Alwar and Ratlam in western Madhya Pradesh and then move westwards to Baroda.

The expressway will develop the locality in Rajasthan, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh and foster growth in these regions.

The whole route will be: Delhi-Gurugram-Mewat-Kota-Ratlam-Godhra-Vadodara-Surat-Dahisar-Mumbai.

As the expressway will pass through unexplored regions, land acquisition cost will also be reduced.

Other projects being implemented to decongest Delhi-NCR

The NH project connecting Ring Road-DND Junction with Delhi-Mumbai Expressway is in addition to the other nine projects being implemented for decongesting Delhi-NCR region. These include:

3 km signal free corridor from Dhaula Kuan to Airport at a cost of Rs 280 Crore

22 km long 6-lane elevated corridor on Gurugram-Sohna Road costing Rs 2000 Crore

8-lane Delhi-Panipat highway from Mukarba Chowk to Panipat on NH-1 being constructed at a cost of Rs 2300

29 km long 8 lane access-controlled Dwarka Expressway costing about Rs 9500 crore

Package II, III and IV of Delhi-Meerut Expressway costing Rs 5900 Crore

4 laning of 124 km Khekra – EPE junction to Shamli-Saharanpur (NH-709 B) at a cost of about Rs 1200 Crore

Rangpuri Bypass to connect Dwarka (NH-08) with Vasant Kunj-Nelson Mandela Road at a cost of Rs 1000 Crore

75 km Urban Extension Road (UER-2), the third Ring Road for Delhi under Bharatmala to be developed at a cost of Rs 4000 Crore

31.3 km long 6-lane access-controlled corridor from Akshardham NH24 Junction to EPE Junction on Baghpat Road at a cost of about Rs 2600 Crore

Tribal Affairs Minister launches MSP for Minor Forest Produces

Tribal Affairs Minister launches MSP for Minor Forest Produces

The Union Tribal Affairs Minister, Jual Oram launched the Minimum Support Price for Minor Forest Produces and the Value Addition component of Van Dhan scheme on February 28, 2019 at a workshop organised by TRIFED at Dr. Ambedkar International Centre in New Delhi.

The day-long workshop saw participation from representatives from 30 state governments and stakeholding organisations. Primarily, the rollout and implementation plan of the scheme was discussed with the delegates.

Key Highlights

The Van Dhan Scheme was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Bijapur District of Chhattisgarh in April 2018.

The Ministry of Tribal Affairs is now scaling up the Van Dhan Scheme and is ready to extend it to all tribal districts of the country in phases starting with the aspirational districts with substantial tribal population.

The Ministry has also decided to expand the coverage of the Minimum Support Price for Minor Forest Produce scheme to 50 minor forest produce.

The MSP has also been raised between 30 per cent and 40 per cent in case of each of the commodities.

The procurement of the Minor Forest Produce will commence in Haat Bazaars, where tribals bring their produce through the facilitation of the state government agencies and district collectors of the concerned districts.

A major advocacy drive will be launched for the same.  It is proposed to set up around 6000 Van Dan Vikas Kendras in the country comprising 300 tribal gatherers each, thus, providing employment to almost 45 lakh tribals.

Other Details

The Ministry of Food Processing Industries along with the Ministry of Tribal Affairs has decided to set up two minor forest produce processing units at Jagdalpur in Chhattisgarh and Raigarh in Maharashtra at the cost of almost approximately Rs 11 Crores.

These units will source minor forest produces from tribal gatherers and MSP and process them for marketing through tribal entities all over the country.

The major component of this will be mainstreaming of Heritage Mahua, a traditional tribal drink, which will be produced and marketed all over the country.

Besides this, the Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED) has also launched the “Friends of Tribes” Scheme for sourcing of CSR funds from Public Sector Organisations.

The organisations have been requested to fund tribal entrepreneurship development programme through their csr initiatives.

Further, organisations like BPCL, IOCL and SPMCL have already sanctioned Rs 10.00 crores for Van Dhan operations in Barwani, Rajnandgaon, Dewas & Hoshangabad Districts of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.