October 31, 2018

November 2018

30 November 2018

Government launches new initiative to introduce school students to 22 Indian languages

Government launches new initiative to introduce school students to 22 Indian languages

The Union Government has launched a unique initiative called Bhasha Sangam to introduce school students to 22 Indian languages.

This initiative, which is a part of the Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat programme, was launched on November 22, 2018 and will continue till December 21, 2018.

What is Bhasha Sangam?

Bhasha Sangam is a programme for schools and educational institutions to provide multilingual exposure to students in Indian languages.

The initiative aims to enhance linguistic tolerance and respect and promote national integration.

It also aims to create interest in different Indian languages and instil the curiosity to learn more.

There are 22 languages listed in Schedule VIII of the Constitution but most students are familiar with only one or two languages.

Under Bhasha Sangam, the students will now be familiarised with the other languages.

  Government launches unique initiative ‘Bhasha Sangam’ for school students

Schedule VIII of the Constitution

The Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution lists 22 official languages of the Republic of India.

The languages include Hindi, Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Odia, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu.

Among these languages, initially, 14 were included in the Constitution. However, subsequently Sindhi was added in 1967 by 21st constitutional amendment act, Konkani, Manipuri and Nepali were added in 1992 by 71st Constitutional Amendment Act and Bodo, Dogri, Maithili and Santali were added in 2003 by 92nd Constitutional Amendment Act.

At the time when the Constitution was enacted, inclusion in this list meant that the language was entitled to representation on the Official Languages Commission and that the language would be one of the bases that would be drawn upon to enrich Hindi, the official language of the Union.

The list has since, however, acquired further significance. The Indian Government is now aiming to take measures for the development of these languages, such that “they grow rapidly in richness and become effective means of communicating modern knowledge”.

A candidate appearing in an examination conducted for the public service is now entitled to use any of the listed 22 languages as the medium to answer the paper.

Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat

  Government launches unique initiative ‘Bhasha Sangam’ for school students

The ‘Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat’ programme was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in October 2015 on the occasion of the 140th birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Subsequently, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced the initiative in his Budget Speech for 2016-17.

The programme aims to actively enhance interaction between people of diverse cultures living in different states and union territories in India, with the objective of promoting greater mutual understanding amongst them.

As per the programme, each year, every state/UT would be paired with another state/UT in India for reciprocal interaction between the people.

It is envisaged that through this exchange, the knowledge of the language, culture, traditions and practices of different states will lead to an enhanced understanding and bonding between one another, thereby strengthening the unity and integrity of India.

For the same, the government has drawn up an indicative list of activities and circulated to the state governments, UT administrations and to the key central ministries.

The paired states and UTs are to enter into MoUs with each other to carry out common activities under the programme.

Emergency Response Support System: Himachal Pradesh becomes first state to launch Single Emergency Number ‘112’

Himachal Pradesh becomes first state to launch Single Emergency Number ‘112’

Himachal Pradesh on November 28, 2018 became the first Indian state to launch a single emergency number ‘112’ which will connect to police, fire, health and other helplines through an Emergency Response Centre (ERC) in the state.

The emergency number was launched by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh under the Emergency Response Support System (ERSS).

Creation of Emergency Response Centre (ERC)
For this purpose, state established an ERC in Shimla along with 12 District Command Centres (DCCs) covering the entire state.

The ERC has been integrated with police (100), fire (101), health (108) and women helpline (1090) services to provide emergency services via single emergency number 112.

‘112 India’ mobile app and ERSS state website

This single emergency number ‘112’ service is part of the Emergency Response Support System (ERSS) which includes a ‘112 India’ mobile app integrated with panic button of smartphones.

To ensure safety of women, a ‘SHOUT’ feature has been introduced in ‘112 India’ mobile app to seek immediate assistance from registered volunteers in the vicinity apart from assistance from ERC. The SHOUT feature is exclusively available for women.

The mobile app can be downloaded from the Google App store and Apple.

The ‘112 India’ mobile app will now subsequently be rolled out in all States and Union Territories to help people across the country access the unified emergency services.

An ERSS state website has also been designed for ease of citizen in availing immediate assistance.

Anybody in distress, especially women, can call 112 from landline or mobile phone or by using the ERSS. The ERSS would help in optimum utilsation of manpower and prompt action on all the emergency calls. In addition to this, problems related to coordination would also be simplified

To increase the effectiveness of emergency response, the ERC has been integrated with location-based services provided by telecom service providers.

Financial Assistance
For the project, the Union Government provided financial assistance of Rs 4.71 crore for the project from the Nirbhaya fund. The Central government has allocated Rs 321.69 crore under Nirbhaya fund to implement the ERSS project across the country.
Emergency Response Support System (ERSS)
  • The Justice Verma Committee, in the backdrop of unfortunate Nirbhaya incident in December 2012, suggested for the implementation of the ‘Emergency Response Support System’ (ERSS) across India.
  • This recommendation was accepted by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
  • Earlier referred as Nationwide Emergency Response System (NERS), the ERSS was approved with budgetary provision of Rs 321.69 crore with a view to introduce a Pan-India Single Emergency Response Number ‘112’ to address all kinds of distress calls such as police, fire and ambulance etc.
Objectives
  • Providing a single emergency response number across the country
  • Providing 24×7 efficient and effective response system which can receive input from various voice and data services such as voice call, SMS, email, Internet of Things, panic buttons in public transport etc.
  • Identification of location of person in distress connecting through voice or data
  • Automated response system for timely dispatch of field resources such as police to the location of incidence using the system
  • GPS (Global Positioning System) enabled dispatch of vehicles to locate nearest vehicles
  • Integration with existing Dial 100, Dial 108 and other emergency response systems
  • Integrate with other relevant systems like CCTNS etc.
  • Provide standardised and easy to use mobile apps, IoT (Internet of Things) enabled applications on a Pan-India basis.

EU aims to be first carbon neutral economy by 2050

EU aims to be first carbon neutral economy by 2050

The European Union on November 28, 2018 urged government, businesses, citizens and regions to join it in an ambitious plan to cut emissions and make the bloc carbon neutral by 2050.

The EU climate commissioner Miguel Arias Canete said in a press conference in Brussels that the bloc is kicking off a process to determine how Europe’s energy and climate policy will evolve between now and 2050.

According to Canete, if Europe retains its current targets it will only reduce net carbon emissions by 60 per cent by mid-century, not enough to meet the bloc’s pledges under the 2015 Paris climate accord.

Key Highlights

  EU aims to be first carbon neutral economy by 2050 The European Union comprises 28 members, which together form one of the world’s biggest and hence, most polluting economies. Hence, it is keen to play its part and become the first major world player to be “climate neutral”.

The European Union’s strategic long-term vision relies on its member states to take action.

Under the climate neutral goal, the member states will submit their draft national climate and energy plans to the EU by the end of 2018.

According to EU’s climate commissioner, while more homes will be insulated and transport will be modernised, the key plank of any successful strategy will be to reduce fossil fuel use in energy production by 80 per cent by 2050.

This implies increasing investments in clean energy from two per cent of Europe’s GDP to 2.8 per cent, representing an additional spend of between 175 and 290 billion euros per year.

The announcement comes at a time when delegations from more than 200 countries are due to convene in Poland for the upcoming COP24 climate summit, which aims to renew and build on the Paris deal and limit global warming.

Objective

The proposed strategy does not intend to launch new policies, nor does the European Commission intend to revise 2030 targets.

The strategy is meant to set the direction of travel of climate and energy policy and to frame what the European Union considers as its long-term contribution to achieving the Paris Agreement temperature objectives.

The strategy is “an invitation” to European citizens, businesses and institutions “to show leadership” and to put forward ideas to limit emissions.

Significance

According to EU climate commissioner Miguel Arias Canete, the bloc’s strategy would help reduce the cost of energy imports by two to three trillion euros by 2050.

The plans will cover commitments already made to reduce greenhouse emissions by 40 per cent before 2030, while the strategy now aims “for a climate neutral Europe by 2050”.

Background

While leaders across the world have been trying to keep the 2015 Paris Agreement afloat, one of the world’s leading economies, the United States continues to hold on its stand of rejecting the treaty and promising to withdraw from it.

  EU aims to be first carbon neutral economy by 2050

Syria, which was the last remaining holdout previously, agreed to sign the Paris agreement in November 2017.

The accord is to take effect in 2020, and the UN Environment Program (UNEP) now warns that its two-degree goal is already out of date.

Experts also warn that the temperature rise is on track to surpass three degrees by 2100 and urge governments to do more than first planned if global warming is to be reined in at all.

Saubhagya Scheme: 8 States achieve 100% household electrification; total 15 States now have 100% household electrification

8 States achieve 100% household electrification under Saubhagya Scheme

RK Singh, Union Minister of State for Power and Renewable Energy, on November 29, 2018 announced that 8 States have achieved 100 percent saturation in household electrification under Saubhagya Scheme. With this, there are now total 15 States in the country that have 100 percent household electrification.

These eight states are Madhya Pradesh, Tripura, Bihar, J&K, Mizoram, Sikkim, Telangana and West Bengal. As many as 2.1 crore connections have been released under Saubhagya or Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana so far.

States like Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, etc. are left with small number of un-electrified households and expected to achieve saturation any time.

In order to ensure that no un-electrified household is left in the States which have achieved 100 percent household electrification, campaign will be taken up to publicise the achievement across the areas, so that anyone left out for any reasons may avail electricity connection under Saubhagya.

Comment
With the present pace of electrification, India is expected to achieve 100 percent saturation in the country by December 31, 2018.

Achievement of 100 percent household electrification would be a major milestone in the direction to achieve 24×7 power for all by March 31, 2019.

Award scheme under Saubhagya

Earlier on October 15, 2018, the Government launched an award scheme under the umbrella Saubhagya Scheme, also known as Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana. The Saubhagya award scheme will felicitate the power distribution companies (DISCOMs) and Power Department of the States and their employees for achieving 100 percent household electrification.

Three categories of Saubhagya award scheme
Award will be given in three categories. These categories are:

(i) DISCOMs / Power Departments of Special Category States (Seven North Eastern States, Sikkim, J&K and Uttarakhand)

(ii) DISCOMs / Power Departments of  Non-Special Category States having more than 5 Lakh un-electrified households (Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Telengana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal)

(iii) DISCOMs / Power Departments of other than Special Category States having less than 5 Lakh un-electrified households

Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana (Saubhagya)
constitutional validity of death penalty

• Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched Rs 16320-Crore ‘Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana’- Saubhagya on September 25, 2017 to mark the birth anniversary of Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya.

• The scheme aims to achieve the goal of universal household electrification in the country by March 31, 2019.

• The scheme envisages providing last mile connectivity and electricity connections to all remaining households in rural as well as urban areas.

• With the support of State Power Departments and DISCOMs, more than 1.65 crore households have already been connected since the launch of scheme.

• The Eligibility for free electricity will be identified through Caste Census of 2011 and on the basis of Socio-Economic.

• The Households that do not fall under the free criteria of this scheme will be provided electricity at a sum of Rs 500.

• To identify and register beneficiaries under the Saubhagya scheme, a mobile app will be used.

• Households in remote areas like hilly or tribal areas where providing electricity is not feasibile, will be provided with solar power packs of 200 to 300 Wp (Watt peak).

• The Rural Electrification Corporation Limited (REC) has been appointed as the nodal agency for the implementation of the Saubhagya scheme.

29 November 2018

IFFI 2018: Donbass wins the Golden Peacock Award; Lijo Jose Pellissery wins Best Director Award

IFFI 2018: Donbass wins the Golden Peacock Award; Lijo Jose Pellissery wins Best Director Award

The movie ‘Donbass’ directed by Sergei Loznitsa won the coveted Golden Peacock Award at the 49th International Film Festival of India (IFFI), which concluded in Goa on November 28, 2018.

The Golden Peacock Award carries a cash prize of Rs 4 million (Rs 40 lakhs) to be shared equally between the Producer and the Director, a Trophy and the citation.

Donbass movie tells the story of a hybrid war taking place in a region of Eastern Ukraine, involving an open armed conflict alongside mass killings and robberies by separatist gangs. A journey through Donbass unfolds as a series of curious adventures. It is about a world lost in post-truth and fake identities.

Donbass is also the official submission of Ukraine for the ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ category at the 91st Academy Awards in 2019. It was selected as the opening film in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.

Lijo Jose Pellissery won Best Director Award for Ee.Ma.Yau

Lijo Jose Pellissery won the Best Director Award for his 2018 film ‘Ee.Ma.Yau’. The film is a satire on death and how it affects human lives. The Best Director gets the Silver Peacock Award and a cash prize of Rs 1.5 million (Rs 15 lakhs).

Set in Chellanam, a coastal village in Kerala, the film shows the plight of a son who tries to arrange a worthy funeral for his father; however, meets unpredictable obstacles and reactions from different quarters.

Chemban Vinod won Best Actor Award

Chemban Vinod  won the Best Actor (Male) Award for his portrayal in Ee.Ma.Yau of ‘Eeshi’, a son who tries to arrange a worthy funeral for his father but is met with unpredictable obstacles.

Best Actor (Male) is are honoured with the Silver Peacock Trophy and a cash prize of Rs 1 million (Rs 10 lakhs).

Anastasiia Pustovit won Best Actor (Female) Award

Anastasiia Pustovit won the Best Actor (Female) Award for her portrayal as a ‘Larysa’, a teenage girl in the Ukrainian film ‘When the Trees Fall’.

Best Actor (Female) is honoured with the Silver Peacock Trophy and a cash prize of Rs 1 million (Rs 10 lakhs).

Milko Lazarov’s Aga won Special Jury Award

Milko Lazarov won the Special Jury Award for his film ‘Aga’; the film focuses on the story of Sedna and Nanook, an elderly couple from Yakutia, and the particular challenges they face in the midst of a frigid landscape.

The Special Jury Award carries a cash prize of Rs 1.5 million (Rs 15 lakhs), a Silver Peacock Award and a citation.

Alberto Monteras II won Best Debut Feature Film of a Director

Alberto Monteras II received the Centenary award for ‘Best Debut Feature Film of a Director’ for his Filipino Movie ‘Respeto’.

Salim Khan won IFFI 2018 Special Award

Salim Khan, the celebrated actor, story-screenplay-dialogue writer of Hindi films was honoured with the IFFI 2018 Special Award for his Lifetime Contribution to Cinema.

The prestigious award consisting of a cash prize of Rs 1 million (Rs 10 lakhs), Certificate, Shawl and a Scroll was conferred upon Khan for his outstanding contribution to cinema.

ICFT –UNESCO Gandhi Medal

‘Walking with the Wind’, directed by Praveen Morchhale, won The ICFT –UNESCO Gandhi Medal instituted by the International Council for Film, Television and Audiovisual Communication, Paris and UNESCO.

’Walking with the Wind’ tells the story of a 10 year old boy in Himalayan Terrain, who mistakenly breaks his friend’s school chair. The criteria for the Gandhi Medal reflect UNESCO’s fundamental mandate of building peace in the mind of men and women, particularly human rights.

‘Los Silencios’, the Portuguese, Spanish movie directed by Beatriz Seigner got the special mention under ICFT-UNESCO Gandhi medal category.

Capital Punishment in India: SC upholds constitutional validity of death penalty; Justice Kurian Joseph dissents

SC upholds constitutional validity of death penalty Justice Kurian Joseph dissents

The Supreme Court on November 28, 2018 upheld the constitutional validity of death penalty while awarding life term imprisonment to Chhannu Lal Verma instead of death penalty for murdering three persons including two women.

While delivering the judgment, a three-judge bench comprising Justices Kurian Joseph, Deepak Gupta and Hemant Gupta expressed different opinions with Justice Joseph saying that the provision of capital punishment has failed to become a deterrent and the other two holding its continuance in the rarest of rare cases.

Though the three judges differed on the applicability of death penalty, they were unanimous in commuting or reducing the death sentence of Chhannu Lal Verma.

Unanimous view of judges on commuting death sentence of Chhannu Lal Verma
The three judges were unanimous in their view that the Chhattisgarh High Court has wrongly confirmed death penalty on Chhannu Lal Verma without correctly applying the law laid down in Bachan Singh and other cases.

As per the judges, the decision to impose the highest punishment of death sentence in this case does not fulfil the test of rarest of rare case.

They noted that the superintendent of the jail has given a certificate that his conduct in jail has been good during the pendency of his appeal in apex court for past four years.

Thus, there was a conscious effort on his part to lead a good life for the remaining period. A convict is sent to jail with the hope and expectation that he would make amends and get reformed.

Verma was convicted by a Sessions Court in Chhattisgarh and then by the Chhattisgarh High Court for killing Anand Ram Sahu, his wife Firanteen Bai and raping and murdering their daughter-in-law Ratna Sahu in 2011 and was subsequently awarded a death penalty.

Justice Kurian Joseph’s views on the applicability of death sentence

constitutional validity of death penaltyJustice Kurian Joseph, who superannuated on November 29, 2018, referring to the 262nd report of the Law Commission and said, “The constitutional regulation of capital punishment attempted in Bachan Singh versus State of Punjab in 1980 has failed to prevent death sentences from being ‘arbitrarily and freakishly imposed’ and that capital punishment has failed to achieve any constitutionally valid penological goals…”

He further added that “Every death penalty case before the court deals with a human life that enjoys certain constitutional protection and if life is to be taken away, then the process must adhere to the strictest and highest constitutional standards.”

The irrevocable nature of the sentence and the way the death row convicts hang between life and death, are to be duly considered.

His views on public discourse on crimes

Justice Joseph also voiced his views on public discourse on crimes which have an impact on the trial, conviction and sentence. He said that it has almost become a trend for the investigating agency to present their version and blow the collective conscience of the society regarding the crime and criminal.

While referring to the law commission report, he said that the court plays a counter-majoritarian role in protecting individual rights against majoritarian impulses. This puts mounting pressure on the courts at all the stages of the trial.

Judgment delivered by Justices Deepak Gupta and Hemant Gupta

Justices Deepak Gupta and Hemant Gupta gave contradictory opinion on the views expressed by Justice Joseph on applicability of death sentence.

They mentioned that a five-judge constitution bench in Bachan Singh versus State of Punjab in 1980 had already held the constitutional validity of death penalty provided in Indian Penal Code. Thus, there is no need to re­examine the same at this stage.

Capital Punishment or Death Penalty in India
Capital punishment is a legal penalty in India. The execution of death sentence in India is carried out by hanging by the neck until death or by shooting. However, the issue of death penalty has been debated and discussed from time to time in India with no conclusion drawn till now.

There have been diverse and distinct opinions regarding the death penalty in India as some are in the favour while others are against it.

India is one of the 78 countries which have retained death penalty on the ground that it will be awarded only in the ‘rarest of rare cases’ and for ‘special reasons’.

According to Amnesty International ‘Death Sentences and Executions’ report released in April 2018, the Indian courts gave away 109 death sentences in 2017 but no executions were carried out. Overall, there were 371 people on death row in India in 2017.

Cases which challenged constitutional validity of the death penalty
  • The constitutional validity of the death penalty was challenged from time to time in numerous cases starting from Jagmohan Singh v State of UP where the Supreme Court rejected the argument that the death penalty is in violation of Article 19 of the Indian constitution which guarantees “Right to Life”.
  • In Rajendra Prasad v State of UP in 1979, Justice Krishna Iyer of the Supreme Court ruled that death penalty violates Articles 14, 19 and 21.
  • In Bachan Singh  v State of  Punjab case of 1980,  the Supreme  Court overruled  its  earlier  decision  in  Rajendra  Prasad case.  It expressed that death penalt is an alternative punishment for murder and hence not violative of Articles 14, 19 and 21. The court also  pronounced  the  principle  of  awarding  death penalty only in the ‘rarest of rare cases’.
  • In Machhi Singh v State of Punjab, the apex court laid down the broad outlines of the circumstances when death sentence should be imposed and held that five categories of cases may be regarded as rarest of rare cases:
  1. Manner of carrying out murder : When the murder is committed in an extremely brutal manner to arouse intense fury in the community, for instance, when the house of the victim is set a flame to roast him alive, when the body is cut to pieces or the inhuman torture.
  2. Motive : When the murder is committed for a motive such as a murder by a hired assassin, a cold blooded murder to inherit property, or gain control over property of a ward, or a murder committed for betrayal of the motherland.
  3. Anti-social or socially abhorrent nature of the crime :  A scheduled caste or minority community person is murdered in circumstances which arouse social wrath; or bride burnt for dowry or for remarriage.
  4. Magnitude of the crime : Crimes of enormous proportion, like multiple murders of a family or persons of a particular caste, community or locality.
  5. Personality of victim of murder
Recent death sentence executions
  • The last time India had carried out an execution was in 2015 when Yakub Memon was hanged after being found guilty in the 1993 Mumbai terrorist bombings that killed 257 people.
  • In February 2013, Afzal Guru, convicted of conspiracy in connection with the 2001 Indian Parliament attack, was hanged till death at Delhi’s Tihar Central Jail.
  • Prior to that, on November 21, 2012, Ajmal Kasab was hanged in the Yerwada Central Jail in Pune. Kasab was a Pakistani terrorist and a member of the Lashkar-e-Taiba Islamist group and took part in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks. Kasab was the only attacker captured alive by police.

India, China sign protocol on hygiene requirements for export of fish meal, fish oil

India, China sign protocol on hygiene requirements for export of fish meal, fish oil

India and China on November 28, 2018 signed a protocol on hygiene and inspection requirements for the exports in New Delhi during the visit of Hu Wei, the Vice Minister of China’s General Administration of Customs. The information was shared by the Union Commerce Ministry.

Hu Wei, who led a six-member delegation to India, met India’s Commerce Secretary Anup Wadhawan during his visit and discussed various issues of market access for different products.

Key Highlights

During the meeting, both Indian and Chinese sides appreciated each other’s concerns and agreed to resolve the market access issues expeditiously to achieve the vision of the leaders of both the countries by promoting a more balanced trade.

The Chinese delegation discussed issues regarding market access for products such as milk and milk products, agricultural goods like soy meal, fruits and vegetables, tobacco and pharmaceuticals.

This is significant, as India has been seeking market access for these items from China.

The protocol on hygiene and inspection requirements was signed for the export of fish meal and fish oil from India to China.

The agreement would enable India to commence export of fish meal and fish oil to China. China had so far not allowed these exports from India.

China imports fish oil to the tune of USD 143.29 million per year and fish meal worth USD 263.43 million.

Significance

This is the second Indian product to get clearance from China in the last six months.

A few months ago, during the meeting of the two countries in Wuhan, the protocol for Indian rice export to China was signed paving the way for export of Indian rice to China.

Background

The Indian exports to China are an integral part of the bilateral trade relations between the two Asian countries. They focus mainly on primary products.

In 1984, India and China signed a trade agreement to foster greater cooperation with each other.

The principal items of Indian exports to China comprise ores, slag and ash, iron and steel, plastics, organic chemicals and cotton.

India’s cotton exports to China may see a fivefold jump in the marketing year starting October 1 (2018-19), after China in a move to counter US trade restrictions slapped a 25 per cent additional duty on imports of the fibre from the US on July 6, amid the trade standoff between the world’s two biggest economies.

China is the second biggest market for Indian cotton after Bangladesh. India exported 154,857 tonnes of the fibre to China and 350,488 tonnes to Bangladesh in 2016-17. As per the DGFT data, during April 2017-January 2018, India shipped 57,549 tonnes to China and 296,805 tonnes to Bangladesh.

At present, iron ore constitutes about 53 per cent of the total Indian exports to China. The other items that have the potential to be exported include marine products, oil seeds, salt, inorganic chemicals, plastic, rubber, optical and medical equipment and dairy products.

Arvind Saxena appointed as Chairman of UPSC

Arvind Saxena appointed as Chairman of UPSC

The President of India, Ram Nath Kovind on November 28, 2018 appointed Arvind Saxena as the new Chairman of the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC).

The term of his appointment will be from the date he enters the Chairman office till August 7, 2020 when he attains the age of 65 years or till further orders, whichever is earlier.

The Government had appointed Saxena as the acting Chairman of UPSC in June 2018. He took over charge from Vinay Mittal who had completed his term.

About Arvind Saxena

 Arvind Saxena appointed as Chairman of UPSC

Arvind Saxena studied civil engineering at the Delhi College of Engineering and did his M.Tech. in systems management from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), New Delhi.

In 1978, he was selected for the Civil Services and joined the Indian Postal Service.

In 1988, Saxena started working at the Cabinet Secretariat, where he specialised in the study of strategic developments in neighbouring countries.

In his decade’s long career, Saxena has served in different countries as well as in the States of Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh.

He joined as a member of the Union Public Service Commission on May 8, 2015 and has been performing the duties of the post of Chairman, UPSC since June 20, 2018.

He was appointed as a member of UPSC in May 2015 after he completed his stint as the Director of Aviation Research Centre (ARC).

He has also previously worked in India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) after he joined it in 1988.

Saxena has received several awards for his excellent services such the awards for Meritorious Services in 2005 and Distinguished Services in 2012.

About UPSC

The Union Public Service Commission is a constitutional body that conducts prestigious civil services examination for bureaucratic positions such as the Indian Administrative Service, Indian Foreign Service and Indian Police Service (IPS) among others.

The commission was established under Article 315 of the Constitution of India. It comprises Chairman and ten Members, who are appointed and removed by the President.

The term of the members and the chairman is six years or until they attain the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.

The commission reports directly to the President and can advise the government through him, although such advice is not binding on the government.

Being a constitutional authority, UPSC is amongst the few institutions which function with both autonomy and freedom, along with the country’s higher judiciary and lately the Election Commission.

G20 Summit 2018 begins in Argentina

G20 Summit 2018 begins in Argentina

The 2018 G20 Summit began on November 28, 2018 in the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Nineteen leaders of the world’s biggest economies and a representative of the European Union will be holding a meeting on November 30 as part of the G20 summit.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be representing India at the Summit and is scheduled to meet US President Donald Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Argentina President Mauricio Macri, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, on the sidelines of the summit.

US President Donald Trump is expected to hold a trilateral meeting with Prime Minister Modi and Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit.

G20 Summit 2018

It will be the 13th meeting of Group of Twenty (G20) and the first G20 summit to be hosted in South America.

Argentina is expected to host over 45 meetings at various government levels and areas in 11 different cities throughout the country. President Mauricio Macri of Argentina assumed the presidency of G20 on November 30, 2017 for one year during an official ceremony in Kirchner Cultural Centre in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

G20 or the Group of Twenty

Formed in 1999, the G20 is an international forum of the governments and central bank governors from 20 major economies.

Collectively, the G20 economies account for around 85 percent of the Gross World Product (GWP), 80 percent of world trade.

To tackle the problems or the address issues that plague the world, the heads of governments of the G20 nations periodically participate in summits. In addition to it, the group also hosts separate meetings of the finance ministers and foreign ministers.

The G20 has no permanent staff of its own and its chairmanship rotates annually between nations divided into regional groupings.

The first G20 Summit was held in Berlin in December 1999 and was hosted by the finance ministers of Germany and Canada.

Objective
  • The Group was formed with an aim of studying, reviewing, and promoting high-level discussion of policy issues pertaining to the promotion of international financial stability.
  • The forum aims to preempt balance of payments problems and turmoil on financial markets by improved coordination of monetary, fiscal, and financial policies.
  • The forum seeks to address issues that go beyond the responsibilities of any one organisation.
Member Countries
  • The members of the G20 consist of 19 individual countries plus the European Union (EU).
  • The 19 member countries of the forum are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States.
  • The European Union is represented by the European Commission and by the European Central Bank.

Wipro Chairman Azim Premji conferred highest French civilian honour

Wipro Chairman Azim Premji conferred highest French civilian honour

Indian business tycoon and philanthropist Azim Premji was bestowed with the highest French civilian distinction Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur (Knight of the Legion of Honour) in Bengaluru on November 28, 2018.

Premji, who is the chairman of Wipro, received the honour from Alexandre Ziegler, the Ambassador of France to India. He received the award for his outstanding contribution to developing the information technology industry in India, his economic outreach in France and his laudable contribution to the society as a philanthropist through the Azim Premji Foundation and Azim Premji University.

Key Highlights

 India’s Azim Premji receives highest French civilian honour The Legion d’Honneur (Legion of Honour) award, which was instituted in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte, is the highest civilian award given by the French Republic for outstanding service to France, regardless of the nationality of the recipients.

The President of the French Republic is the Grand Master of the Order of the Legion of Honour.

The Indians who have received the prestigious award in the past include renowned scientist and Bharat Ratna awardee C N R Rao, late Tamil actor Sivaji Ganesan, actor Kamal Haasan, Bengali actor Soumitra Chatterjee and Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan.

Wipro said its association with France spans over 15 years and the company enjoys a close relationship with several French organisations.

France is a key market for Wipro and the company is committed to continued investments in the nation. Nearly, 65 per cent of Wipro’s employees in France are locals.

About Azim Premji

Premji is an Indian business tycoon, investor and philanthropist, who is the chairman of Wipro Limited.

He is informally known as the Czar of the Indian IT Industry. He was responsible for guiding Wipro through four decades of diversification and growth to finally emerge as one of the global leaders in the software industry.

In 2010, Premji was voted among the 20 most powerful men in the world by Asiaweek. He has twice been listed among the 100 most influential people by TIME Magazine, once in 2004 and then in 2011.

Premji owns 73 per cent stake of Wipro and also owns a private equity fund, Premji Invest, which manages his $2 billion worth of personal portfolio.

 India’s Azim Premji receives highest French civilian honour

He is currently the second richest person in India with an estimated net worth of US$15.6 billion as of October 2018.

In 2013, he agreed to give away at least half of his wealth by signing The Giving Pledge. He started with a $2.2 billion donation to the Azim Premji Foundation, which focuses on education in India.

The Azim Premji Foundation is a non-profit organisation founded by Premji in 2001 to significantly contribute to achieving quality universal education that facilitates a just, equitable, humane and sustainable society. The foundation has worked largely in rural areas, to help contribute to the improvement of quality and equity of school education.

In 2005, the Indian government honoured Premji with the Padma Bhushan for his outstanding work in trade and commerce and he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian award by the Government of India in 2011. He also received an honorary doctorate from the University of Mysore in 2015.

Donald Trump to hold trilateral meeting with PM Narendra Modi, Japan’s Shinzo Abe

Donald Trump to hold trilateral meeting with PM Narendra Modi, Japan’s Shinzo Abe

The White House said in a statement on November 28, 2018 that US President Donald Trump will hold a trilateral meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe this week on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Argentina.

The trilateral meet, which would be an expansion of the bilateral meeting between Trump and Abe, is a part of the series of meetings Trump would have on the sidelines of the summit in Buenos Aires on November 30 and December 1. Trump will first meet with Abe and then the two leaders jointly will meet with Modi.

The annual G-20 summit will be attended by leaders of the top 20 economies of the world.

Significance

The trilateral meeting is significant, as it comes at a time when China is engaged in territorial disputes with several nations in the South China Sea and with Japan in the East China Sea.

Both the areas are said to be rich in minerals, oil and other natural resources.

The Conflict

China claims almost all of the South China Sea, while several Southeast Asian nations such as Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims in the waterway.

The waterway includes vital sea lanes through which about USD 3 trillion in global trade passes each year.

The US has been conducting regular patrols in the South China Sea to assert freedom of navigation in the area where Beijing has built up and militarised many of the islands and reefs it controls in the region.

India’s Stand

Prime Minister Modi, in his keynote address at the Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore in June 2018 expounded India’s stand on the strategic Indo-Pacific region.

India considers the Indo-Pacific as a natural region, which is home to a vast array of global opportunities and challenges.

India does not see the Indo-Pacific Region as a strategy or as a club of limited members, nor as a grouping that seeks to dominate.

It also does not consider it as directed against any country. It stands in favour of an open and stable international trade regime.

India also supports a rule-based, open, balanced and stable trade environment in the Indo-Pacific region, which will be beneficial for all the nations in the region.

Other Details

Besides Trump and Abe, Prime Minister Modi is also scheduled to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the summit. It would be their fourth meeting in the last seven months.

PM Modi would also meet UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Mauricio Macri, the President of Argentina, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Trump is also scheduled to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

28 November 2018

Defence Ministry revises security restrictions to boost development in border areas

Defence Ministry relaxes restrictions on developmental works in border areas

The Defence Ministry on November 27, 2018 issued fresh guidelines, in which, it has allowed developmental work of small nature to be carried out by the central or state governments’ statutory bodies for faster development in the border areas.

Key Highlights

Under the new rules, restrictions have been lifted for works like construction, repair and maintenance of village ponds, construction and maintenance of government buildings like schools and hospitals.

With this, the security considerations for construction activities in border areas issued earlier from time to time by the ministry shall not be applicable for the development works in border areas.

The fresh guidelines were issued by the ministry by superseding the Security Restrictions Guidelines issued by it in 1990.

The need for new guidelines was felt, as the earlier restrictions were restrictive in nature towards developmental activities near border areas and were not fully facilitating in developmental works of small nature in the border areas.

Background

The construction works in the border areas were getting affected due to provisions listed in the Defence Ministry’s existing guidelines.

Hence, the state governments put forward requests to the centre to consider revision of the guidelines.

Keeping in view the requests of the state governments, the central government decided to allow the developmental works of small nature by Panchayati Raj Institutions and other central or state government statutory bodies for faster development in border areas.

BCCI announces two-year ban for age fraud

BCCI announces two-year ban for age fraud

The Board of Control for Cricket in India on November 27, 2018 announced that a cricketer guilty of age fraud will be barred from all its recognised tournaments for a period of two years.

The cricketing body said in a statement, “The BCCI has a zero-tolerance policy for age fraud in sport and has taken strict action against cricketers found guilty of manipulating their date of birth certificates while registering for BCCI tournaments.”

Key Highlights

  • The BCCI statement relayed that from the 2018-19 season, any cricketer who is found guilty of tampering his or her date of birth will be disqualified and barred from participating in any BCCI tournament for a period of 2 years i.e. 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons.
  • Under the new rules, the board will clamp down on cricketers found guilty of tampering with their date of birth certificates
  • According to the earlier rules, a cricketer guilty of age fraud had to face a ban for a period of one year.
  • In September 2018, the BCCI had banned a Meghalaya-bound Delhi player, Jaskirat Singh Sachdeva, for producing a fake birth certificate to play in an Under-19 tournament.

Background

The problem of age fraud has existed for a long time and it is not only limited to the Indian Team or the sport of cricket.

In India, it is especially a perennial issue in junior cricket or the Under-19 team.

In his MAK Pataudi lecture in 2015, former India captain and India A coach Rahul Dravid had acknowledged age-fudging as a major problem in Indian cricket and welcomed BCCI’s decision to allow a player to compete in the U-19 World Cup only once.

Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu launches logo and brochure of ‘Logix India 2019’

Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu launches logo and brochure of ‘Logix India 2019’

Union Minister of Commerce and Industry and Civil Aviation, Suresh Prabhu on November 27, 2018 launched the logo and brochure of ‘Logix India 2019’.

Logix India will enable effective international trade logistics and help provide efficient and cost-effective flow of goods on which other commercial sectors.

Logix India 2019

Logix India 2019 is scheduled to take place in New Delhi from January 31 to February 2, 2019.

This mega logistics event will be organised by the Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) as a major initiative to improve logistics cost effectiveness and operational efficiencies for India.

FIEO will focus on investment opportunities in infrastructure development, warehouse consolidation, technology integration, and skilling of manpower.

Over 20 countries are sending delegations to explore logistics partnerships with India and FIEO is focusing on logistical solutions for difficult to reach markets.

Over 100 international delegates are expected to attend Logix India 2019.

India’s Logistics Industry
  • As per the Economic Survey 2017-18, India’s logistics industry, worth around USD 160 billion, is likely to touch USD 215 billion in the next two years.
  • This sector provides employment to more than 22 million people and is expected to grow at the rate of 10.5 per cent over the next 5 years.
  • India ranked at 44th position in the World Bank’s ‘Logistics Performance Index 2018’.

Need for integrated Logistics sector development in India

Considering the need for India to have more robust trade relations with countries in Africa, Latin America, Central Asia, Middle East and ASEAN, Union Minister of Commerce and Industry is working on an integrated logistics strategy.

The need for integrated Logistics sector development has also been felt for in view of the fact that the logistics cost in India is very high compared to developed countries.

High logistics cost reduces the competitiveness of Indian goods both in domestic as well as export market.

Logistics is the backbone of EXIM trade and creates business opportunities and employment. Logistics sector is expected to grow to USD 360 billion by 2032 from the current USD 115 billion.

Defence Minister launches ‘Mission Raksha Gyan Shakti’

Defence Minister launches ‘Mission Raksha Gyan Shakti’

The Union Defence Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman on November 27, 2018 formally launched ‘Mission Raksha Gyan Shakti’ in New Delhi.

During the event, salient inventions and innovations achieved by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs) and Ordnance Factories (OFs) that have resulted in successful filing of Intellectual Property Right (IPR) applications were showcased.

On the occasion, the Defence Minister also felicitated some of the scientists, who invented and innovated useful products for the nation. A panel discussion was held with participation of Chairman and Managing Directors of all DPSUs to formulate a strategy for the future in this regard.

While speaking on the occasion, the Minister lauded the efforts of DRDO and DGQA  for focused efforts in spreading awareness about IPR, thus promoting a culture of innovation and creation of Intellectual Property.

The Minister also highlighted that while India has always been a knowledge hub since ancient times, but due to lack of awareness on modern legal framework for protection of IP rights, the nation’s knowledge and creativity have often not been utilised to its full potential.

Mission Raksha Gyan Shakti: Key Highlights

Mission Raksha Gyan Shakti has been instituted by the Department of Defence Production as a part of the ongoing initiatives to enhance self-reliance in defence.

The mission aims to provide a boost to the IPR culture in indigenous defence industry.

The Directorate General of Quality Assurance (DGQA) has been entrusted with the responsibility of coordinating and implementing the programme.

The end objective of the programme is to inculcate IP culture in Indian defence manufacturing ecosystem.

Background

The Intellectual Property Right has emerged as a key ingredient of an ecosystem which stimulates innovation and ingenuity.

An IP Facilitation Cell was established in April 2018, which has worked tirelessly to achieve ambitious targets of training 10,000 personnel of OFB and DPSUs on IPR and facilitate filing of at least 1,000 new IPR applications.

NASA’s InSight Mars explorer lands safely on the Red Planet

NASA’s InSight Mars explorer lands safely on the Red Planet

NASA’s InSight explorer successfully touched down on Mars on November 26, 2018, after an almost seven-month journey through deep space. This is the eighth time in human history that NASA has executed a successful landing on the red planet and the first in six years.

The landing kicks off a two-year mission for the InSight lander to study Mars’ deep interior. Operated by NASA, the explorer is built by scientists in the United States, France and Germany.

InSight Mission

InSight stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport. It has been designed to study the “inner space” of Mars: its crust, mantle, and core.

The lander’s two-year mission will be to study the deep interior of Mars to learn how all celestial bodies with rocky surfaces, including the Earth and the Moon, were formed.

It was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on May 5, 2018. It touched down November 26 near Mars’ equator on the western side of a flat, smooth expanse of lava called Elysium Planitia.

The explorer will carry out mission objectives on the surface of Mars for a period of two years (one Martian year, plus 40 Martian days) till November 24, 2020.

The landing signal was relayed to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, through one of NASA’s two small experimental Mars Cube One (MarCO) CubeSats, which launched on the same rocket as InSight and followed the lander to Mars.

They are the first CubeSats sent into deep space. After successfully carrying out a number of communications and in-flight navigation experiments, the twin MarCOs were set in position to receive transmissions during InSight’s entry, descent and landing.

Significance

InSight will study the interior of Mars and send back valuable information, which will help NASA prepare better to send astronauts to the Moon and later to Mars.

The mission’s objective is to determine what Mars is made of and how it has changed since it formed more than 4 billion years ago.

The results could help solve the mystery of how the Red Planet became the dry, desolate world that we see today.

Tricky Landing

The stretch from the moment a spacecraft hits the Martian atmosphere to the second it touches down on the red planet’s rusty surface is considered extremely crucial, as scientists have no control over the process. More than half of all missions don’t make it safely to the surface.

However, in the case of InSight, the whole sequence of entry, descent and touching down on the surface took only six-and-a-half minutes.

During the short span of time, InSight had to autonomously perform thousands of operations such as separate the heat shield, deploy the legs, activate the radar, fire the retrorockets and orient for landing and it had to them flawlessly and by all the indications, it was able to do just that.

The confirmation of a successful touchdown is not, however, the end of the challenges of landing on the Red Planet.

 NASA’s InSight explorer lands safely on Mars

Challenges Ahead

InSight’s surface-operations phase began a minute after touchdown. One of its first tasks was to deploy its two decagonal solar arrays, which will provide power. The process began 16 minutes after landing and took another 16 minutes to complete.

The verification of the successful deployment of the spacecraft’s solar panels will come from NASA’s Odyssey spacecraft, which is currently orbiting Mars.

The deployment of the spacecraft’s solar panels is significant, as it is solar powered.

InSight will begin to collect science data within the first week after landing, though the teams will focus mainly on preparing to set InSight’s instruments on the Martian ground.

At least two days after touchdown, the engineering team will begin to deploy InSight’s 5.9-foot-long (1.8-meter-long) robotic arm so that it can take images of the landscape.

Within two or three months, the arm will deploy the mission’s main science instruments, the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) and Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instruments.

How is InSight different from previous Mars landings?

Unlike the rovers that landed previously on Mars like Opportunity and Curiosity, which trundle across Mars in search of interesting rocks, InSight is designed to sit still.

Using its dome-shaped seismic sensor, scientists hope to detect tiny tremors associated with meteorite impacts, dust storms and “marsquakes” generated by the cooling of the planet’s interior.

As seismic waves ripple through, they will be distorted by changes in the materials they encounter — perhaps plumes of molten rock or reservoirs of liquid water, revealing what’s under the planet’s surface.

 NASA’s InSight explorer lands safely on Mars

InSight’s seismometer is so sensitive it can detect tremors smaller than a hydrogen atom. Nothing like this has been deployed on any planet, even Earth.

InSight also has a drill capable of burrowing 16 feet, deeper than any previous Mars instrument. Nothing like this has been deployed on any planet, even Earth.

From there, it can take Mars’s temperature to determine how much heat is still flowing out of the body of the planet.

Meanwhile, two antennae will precisely track the lander’s location to determine how much Mars wobbles as it orbits the sun.

Background

The InSight is being managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The explorer is a part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

While the MarCO CubeSats were built and managed by JPL, Lockheed Martin Space Systems built the InSight spacecraft, including its cruise stage and lander and supports spacecraft operations for the mission.

The mission is supported by a number of European partners, including France’s Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR).

The CNES and the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, provided the SEIS instrument, with significant contributions from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany, the Swiss Institute of Technology in Switzerland, Imperial College and Oxford University in the United Kingdom and JPL.

On the other hand, the DLR provided the HP3 instrument, with significant contributions from the Space Research Center of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Astronika in Poland and Spain’s Centro de Astrobiología supplied the wind sensors.

Government launches ‘PAiSA’ Portal under National Urban Livelihoods Mission

Government launches ‘PAiSA’ Portal under National Urban Livelihoods Mission

The Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs on November 26, 2018 launched the ‘PAiSA’ – Portal for Affordable Credit and Interest Subvention Access, a centralised electronic platform for quicker processing of loans under the Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana – National Urban Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NULM).

PAiSA is yet another effort by the government to connect directly with the beneficiaries, ensuring that there is greater transparency and efficiency in delivery of services.

All 35 States and Union Territories (UTs) & all scheduled commercial banks, RRBs and Cooperative Banks are expected to be on board the PAiSA portal the year end.

The web platform was designed and developed by Allahabad Bank, the nodal bank under the scheme.

National Workshop on Municipal Finance and Urban Planning

The ‘PAiSA’ portal was launched during the course of a daylong National Workshop on Municipal Finance and Urban Planning organised by the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.

The workshop provided a platform to identify key areas of concern regarding municipal finance and urban planning and exploring the options available to resolve them by inviting senior experts to shed light on best practices.

More than 300 delegates comprising officers from the states, urban local bodies, town planning offices across the country and banks participated in the workshop.

Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Urban Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NULM)
  • The Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana – National Urban Livelihoods Mission extends coverage to all the 4041 statutory cities and towns, there by covering almost the entire urban population.
  • The mission aims to provide the shelter equipped with essential services to the urban homeless in a phased manner to reduce poverty and vulnerability of the urban poor households.
  • The scheme addresses the livelihood concern of the urban street vendors by facilitating with suitable space, institutional credit, and social security and skills to the urban street vendor for accessing emerging market opportunities.
  • The core belief of National Urban Livelihoods Mission is that the poor are entrepreneurial and have innate desire to come out of poverty. The challenge is to unleash their capabilities to generate meaningful and sustainable livelihoods.
  • NULM believes that any livelihood promotion programme can be scaled up in a time bound manner only if driven by the poor and their institutions.

India, ADB sign USD 200 million loan agreement to improve highways in Bihar

India, ADB sign USD 200 million loan agreement to improve highways in Bihar

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Union Government on November 26, 2018 signed a USD 200 million loan agreement to finance widening and upgrading of about 230 kilometers state highways in Bihar to all-weather standards with road safety features.

This loan agreement for the Bihar State Highways III Project (BSHP-III) was signed by Sameer Kumar Khare, Additional Secretary (Fund Bank and ADB), Union Ministry of Finance and Rajeev P Singh, Officer in-Charge of ADB’s India Resident Mission.

The Bihar State Highways III Project agreement was signed by Vipin Kumar, Resident Commissioner of Bihar and Chandra Shekhar, Chief General Manager of Bihar State Roads Development Corporation Limited.

Bihar State Highways III Project (BSHP-III)

The project involves upgrading State Highways to standard two-lane width with road safety features and paved shoulders including reconstructing, widening, and strengthening culverts and bridges.

The Project will also build institutional capacity of the State for road design and maintenance and incorporate appropriate new technologies in the State’s road sub-sector.

The improved roads will contribute to savings in vehicle operating cost and travel time, reduce vehicle emissions, and improve road safety.

It will establish a State-level Road Research Institute to improve technical and management capacity of the Road Agency Staff.

The loan will complement the efforts of Bihar Government to upgrade all State Highways to meet the minimum two-lane standard with better surfaces and improved road safety.

Note
This BSHP-III project was approved by the ADB Board in October 2018. This loan is in continuation of ADB’s support in the development of the road sector in Bihar.

Since 2008, ADB has provided four loans to Bihar, amounting to USD 1.43 billion, to upgrade about 1453 km of State Highways and to construct a new bridge over the Ganga River near Patna.

27 November 2018

RBI eases hedging norms for overseas borrowings to 70% from current 100%

RBI eases hedging norms for overseas borrowings to 70% from current 100%

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on November 26, 2018 eased the norms for External Commercial Borrowings (ECBs) by reducing the mandatory hedging provision to 70 percent from the current 100 percent.

What do you mean by ‘Hedging’?
‘Hedging’ refers to an investment process required to reduce the risk of adverse price or currency movements.

A borrower has to hedge in a manner that the projected cash flows match the expectation of the borrowers, irrespective of the fluctuations in the foreign currency.

The RBI also clarified that the ECBs raised prior to this circular will be required to mandatarily roll over their existing hedge only to the extent of 70 percent of outstanding ECB exposure.

The relaxed norms will apply to the ECBs with a maturity period between three and five years.

The relaxation in hedging is for Indian companies raising foreign currency-denominated ECBs under Track I of the ECB framework. The Track I refer to medium-term foreign currency-denominated ECB with a minimum average maturity of three to five years.

Note
The easing of hedging norms comes at a time when the economy faces liquidity issues, particularly among the Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFC).

For the same purpose, the RBI had earlier eased hedging rules by reducing the minimum tenure for borrowing through the ECB route to three years from five years. It had also reduced the tenure required for exemption from mandatory hedging to five years from 10 years.

Significance

The move is likely to boost the local credit market.

It will increase the exposure of Indian companies borrowing abroad to fluctuations in the foreign exchange market.

The move will also help in improving dollar inflows into the economy at a time when some foreign currency deposits are likely to mature.

External Commercial Borrowings (ECB)

ECB is an instrument used to facilitate the access to foreign money by Indian companies, corporations and PSUs (public sector undertakings).

ECBs include commercial bank loans, buyers’ credit, and suppliers’ credit, securitised instruments such as floating rate notes and fixed rate bonds etc., credit from official export credit agencies and commercial borrowings from the private sector window of multilateral financial Institutions.

ECBs cannot be used for investment in stock market or speculation in real estate.

Train 18 completes trials successfully; runs at 115 km per hour

Train 18 completes trials successfully runs at 115 km per hour

The Research Designs and Standards Organisation on November 26, 2018 announced that the trial run of indigenously developed engineless train, ‘Train 18’ was successfully conducted and the train ran up to 115 km per hour on tracks in Moradabad division of Northern Railway.

The trials proved that the train has defined track geometry parameters, curved alignments of specific radius and station yard zones.

The Train 18 will now be sent to Kota division in West Central Railways for validating its performance at its designed speed of 160 kmph, following which the Railways will be initiating the process for obtaining necessary approvals from the designated authorities for induction of Train 18 into commercial service.

Train 18 was rolled out on October 29, 2018 by Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani at the Chennai’s Integral Coach Factory (ICF). Touted as the Next Generation Shatabdi Express, this is the first long-distance train without separate locomotive (engine).

Features of ‘Train 18’

Train 18 is driven by a self-propulsion module without a separate locomotive.

It is capable of running at a speed of up to 160 kmph. It will cut travel time by 15 percent compared to the Shatabdi Express.

The superior 16-coach model of the train has been developed by the Chennai-based Integral Coach Factory (ICF) in time span of just 18 months. Passengers can have a look at the driver’s cabin.

It took an investment of nearly Rs 100 crore to build this prototype and the subsequent production would bring down the cost.

It is fully air-conditioned train and is equipped with CCTV cameras.

It has two executive compartments in the middle with 52 seats each and the trailer coaches would have 78 seats each.

Train 18 has soft lighting, automatic doors, footsteps and GPS-based Passenger Information System.

The footstep in a coach’s doorway slides outward when the train stops at a station enabling passengers to board or deboard safely with comfort.

The train offers some features to enhance passenger comfort which include inter-connected fully sealed gangways, automatic doors with retractable footsteps, onboard Wi-Fi and infotainment, and modular toilets with bio-vacuum systems.

It also features rotational seats which can be aligned in the direction of travel (executive class), roller blinds and diffused LED lighting, and disabled-friendly toilets.

Train 18 is regarded as a successor to the 30-year-old Shatabdi Express. Shatabdi was introduced in 1988 and is presently running on over 20 routes connecting metros with other important cities.

In a historic move, Venkaiah Naidu lays down foundation stone of Dera Baba Nanak – Kartarpur Sahib Corridor

Venkaiah Naidu lays down foundation stone of Dera Baba Nanak Kartarpur Sahib Corridor

Marking a new beginning in India-Pakistan relations, 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.

The corridor will provide a passage to Indian Sikh pilgrims to visit the holy site of Gurudwara Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur in Pakistan.

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.

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.

Earlier on November 15, 2018, 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.

Sunil Arora appointed as new Chief Election Commissioner

Sunil Arora appointed as new Chief Election Commissioner

President Ram Nath Kovind on November 26, 2018 appointed Sunil Arora as the new Chief Election Commissioner. He would be succeeding OP Rawat who retired on November 24.

The 62-year-old Arora was appointed to the Election Commission on August 31, 2017. He was brought in last year to fill the vacancy created by former CEC Nasim Zaidi’s retirement. He is now expected to take charge of his new post on December 2, 2018.

Term

A CEC of the Election Commission can have a term of six years or hold office till the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.

The post of Chief Election Commissioner is generally given to the senior-most election commissioner within the Election Commission.

About Sunil Arora

 Sunil Arora appointed as new Chief Election Commissioner

Sunil Arora is a 1980 batch IAS officer of the Rajasthan Cadre, who has held top positions in various government departments and ministries.

Prior to being appointed as a top bureaucrat in the central government, he served as the secretary to the Chief Minister from 1993 to 1998. He served as the principal secretary of CM Vasundhara Raje from 2005 to 2008.

He also handled Information and Public Relations (IPR), Industries and Investment Departments in the state besides having district postings in Dholpur, Alwar, Nagaur and Jodhpur.

He was later appointed as the Secretary in the Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting and the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship.

He has also served as the joint secretary in the Ministry of Civil Aviation from 1999 to 2002.

He also worked in finance, textile and planning commission during his long career as a bureaucrat.

He also worked as chief managing director of the Indian Airlines for a period of five years, with two years as additional charge and three years as full charge.

Other Details

The Election Commission will hold the 2019 general election under him.

Besides the Lok Sabha polls, Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir, Odisha, Maharashtra, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim are also scheduled to be held next year.

ISRO to launch hi-tech imaging satellite with 30 foreign satellites

ISRO to launch hi-tech imaging satellite with 30 foreign satellites

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on November 29, 2018 will launch a hyperspectral imaging satellite (HySIS), an earth observation satellite along with 30 foreign commercial satellites from Sriharikota launch centre in Andhra Pradesh.

The satellites will be launched through Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C43) from the first launch pad of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota.

Key Highlights

PSLV is a four stage launch vehicle with alternating solid and liquid stages. PSLV-C43 is the Core Alone version of PSLV which is the lightest version of PSLV.

HySIS is an earth observation satellite developed by ISRO. It is the primary satellite of the PSLV-C43 mission. The mass of the spacecraft is about 380 kg.

The satellite will be placed in 636 km polar sun synchronous orbit with an inclination of 97.957 deg. The mission life of the satellite is expected to be 5 years.

The primary goal of the hyper spectral imaging satellite would be to study the earth’s surface in visible, near infrared and shortwave infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum.

The foreign satellites to be launched along with HySIS include 1 Micro and 29 Nano satellites from 8 different countries.

All these satellites will be placed in a 504 km orbit by PSLV-C43. Out of the 30 commercial satellites, 23 are from the United States.

These satellites have been commercially contracted for launch through Antrix Corporation Limited, the commercial arm of ISRO.

HySIS Mission

The satellite, which can see in 55 spectral or colour bands from 630 km above the ground, will be used for a range of applications like agriculture, forestry and assessment of coastal zones, inland waters, soil and other geological environments.

Being an earth observation satellite, it will also be used by the military for surveillance purpose.

The optical imaging detector array chip in the HySIS satellite has been designed by Isro’s Ahmedabad-based space applications centre and manufactured by its electronic arm, semi-conductor laboratory, Chandigarh.

The hyspex technology is still an evolving science and has become a new global trend.

The hyperspectral imaging combines the power of digital imaging and spectroscopy. It collects and processes information from across the electromagnetic spectrum.

The hi-tech imaging will enable distinct identification of objects, material or processes on the Earth by reading the spectrum for each pixel of a scene from space.

Government appoints Akhilesh Ranjan as Convenor of Task Force drafting a New Direct Tax Legislation

Government appoints Akhilesh Ranjan as Convenor of Task Force drafting a New Direct Tax Legislation

The Union Government on November 26, 2017 appointed appointed Akhilesh Ranjan as Convenor of the Task Force that was constituted in Nove,ber 2017 for drafting a New Direct Tax Legislation.

Akhilesh Ranjan is presently serving as the Member (Legislation) of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT). The other members of the Task Force remain unchanged.

The other members are:
• Girish Ahuja, non-official Director of State Bank of India

• Rajiv Memani, Chairman & Regional Managing Partner of E&Y

• Mukesh Patel, Practicing Tax Advocate, Ahmedabad

• Mansi Kedia, Consultant, ICRIER, New Delhi

• G.C. Srivastava, Retd IRS (1971 Batch) and Advocate

Besides, Chief Economic Adviser (CEA) Arvind Subramanian will be a permanent Special Invitee in the Task Force.

The task force has been tasked to draft an appropriate Direct Tax Legislation keeping in view the direct tax system prevalent in various countries, international best practices and economic needs of the country. The Task Force has set its own procedures for regulating its work.

The Task Force will submit its report to the Government by February 28, 2019.

Note
In order to review the Income-tax Act, 1961 and to draft a new direct tax law in consonance with the economic needs of the country, a Task Force was constituted by the Union Government on November 22, 2017.

At that time, Arbind Modi, the then Member (Legislation) of CBDT, was appointed as the Convener of the task force.

World-class township for autistic children, adults to be built in Kolkata

World-class township for autistic children, adults to be built in Kolkata

The India Autism Centre (IAC), a world-class autism township is being planned to be built near Kolkata, where children and adults suffering from the developmental disorder would receive training, treatment and boarding facilities.

The one-of-its-kind initiative is a joint effort between a private firm and the state government. It is expected to come up over a 52-acre plot at Sirakol in South 24 Parganas in the next five years.

Key Highlights

The township is expected to be built at an estimated cost of Rs 500 crore. It will be built under Section 8 of Companies Act, 2013

The construction work for the township will begin in 2019 and it is expected to be completed by 2023. The soft launch of the project has been scheduled for January 2019.

The centre will be the first of its kind in India as well as abroad, with housing facilities for 350 residents and daycare centre for over 200 children, adolescents and adults.

It will have provisions for training teachers, who would be dealing with those suffering from the disorder.

It will also have an administrative wing and a guest house, to accommodate parents of those receiving training at the institute.

Significance: The Township is expected to ensure holistic development of those suffering from autism.

Background

The project was announced during the Bengal Global Business Summit (BGBS) in January 2018.

West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra, during the BGBS meet in January, had highly appreciated the initiative and promised all support to it.

The project will involve international tie-ups and it is expected to be very different from any of the centres in India till now.

25-26 November 2018

India marks 10th anniversary of 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks; US announces reward for information on 26/11 perpetrators

India marks 10th anniversary of 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks

India on November 26, 2018 marked the tenth anniversary of 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks that left 166 people dead and over 300 people injured. President Ram Nath Kovind paid tributes to the victims of terror attacks.

Ten years back in 2008, 10 terrorists of Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist group sailed into Mumbai and carried out coordinated attacks that lasted for three days.

The terrorists carried out bomb explosions and gun firings at Taj Mahal Palace hotel, the Oberoi Trident, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station, Leopold Cafe, Cama Hospital, Nariman House Jewish community centre, the Metro Cinema and St. Xavier’s College.

In response to the terrorist attack, Operation Black Tornado was conducted by National Security Guards to catch the attackers at the Taj Hotel. Ajmal Kasab was the only attacker who was captured alive and was later executed at Yerwada Jail in Pune on November 21, 2012.

US calls upon Pakistan, others to implement UNSC sanctions against 26/11 perpetrators
US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo also paid tribute to the victims of attack by calling upon countries, particularly Pakistan, to implement UN Security Council’s sanctions against the terrorists responsible for this atrocity, including Lashkar-e-Taiba and its affiliates.

 

Mike Pompeo urged Pakistan to take action against those responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks and offered a new reward of USD 5 million under Rewards for Justice programme for information on 26/11 perpetrators.

The US Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service administers the Rewards for Justice (RFJ) programme. Since its inception in 1984, the programme has paid over USD 150 million to more than 100 people who provided actionable information that helped bring terrorists to justice or prevented acts of international terrorism worldwide.

Six Americans were killed in 26/11 terror strikes, namely, Ben Zion Chroman, Gavriel Holtzberg, Sandeep Jeswani, Alan Scherr, Naomi Scherr, and Aryeh Leibish Teitelbaum.

Indian missions abroad to soon issue passports within 48 hours

Indian missions abroad to soon issue passports within 48 hours!

Indian missions across the world would soon issue passports in less than 48 hours to citizens abroad. The information was shared by Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh while addressing a gathering after launching the ‘Passport Seva’ project at the Indian Embassy in New Delhi on November 24, 2018.

Singh said that the passport offices at Indian missions have been digitally linked with the data centre in India, which would speed up the process of issuing passport.

Key Highlights

Earlier this week, the Indian mission at New York had issued passports in less than 48 hours. The same will soon start happening across the world.

Lately, there has been a major simplification of rules and regulations for passport applicants. In fact, verification of a lot of information of the applicants would now be done digitally.

The ‘Passport Seva’ project was first launched in the United Kingdom in October 2018. In the United States, the project was first rolled out in New York on November 21, followed by Washington on November 24.

The project would be subsequently launched in Indian Consulates at Atlanta, Houston, Chicago and San Francisco.

Following this, the project would be extended to all the Indian missions across the globe.

Passport Seva Project

The project aims to deliver all Passport-related services to the citizens in a timely, transparent, more accessible, reliable manner and in a comfortable environment through streamlined processes and committed, trained and motivated workforce.

It will create a countrywide networked environment for Government staff and integrate with the State Police for physical verification of applicant’s credentials and with India Post for the delivery of passports.

Significance

The move is going to quantitatively and qualitatively improve India’s passport services immensely, both in the scope of the applications that can be handled and also in the way they will be handled and the way they will be integrated into the overall much better consular services.

Other Details

The Indian government will soon issue a new set of passports, the design of which has already been approved.

The new passports will have advanced security features and better printing and paper quality.

However, there will be no change in the colour of the Indian passport.

Further, India aims to have 500 passport officers or centres across India by March 2019 to ensure that no citizen in India has to travel more than 50-60 km to apply for a passport. Currently, the number stands at 336.

Mary Kom clinches gold in World Boxing Championship

Mary Kom clinches gold in World Boxing Championship

Mary Kom created history on November 24, 2018 by winning her sixth world championship gold at the 10th World Women’s Boxing Championships, held in New Delhi, India.

Speaking on her historic win, Mary Kom said that it is very special as she was under pressure, especially because of the change in her weight category. “I won my last Worlds gold in 2010 and then the change of weight for Olympics happened. The pressure was something I always felt but don’t know how to put this gold alongside the earlier five,” she reasoned.

However, Mary distinctly remembered that she had earlier won five straight gold medals at the World Boxing Championship, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished by any women boxer before.

Key Highlights

Mary Kom won the sole gold for India by beating Ukraine’s Hanna Okhota in a unanimous 5-0 verdict in the 48kg category summit bout.

The final results read 30-27, 29-28, 29-28, 30-27, 30-27 in favour of Kom. She had beaten Okhota previously this year during a tournament held in Poland.

Another Indian boxer, Sonia Chahal claimed the silver medal in 57kg bout, after she lost to Wahner Ornella Gabriele of Germany in the finals.

Besides, two bronze medals were won by Lovlina Borgohain and Simranjit Kaur, after they lost their semi-finals bouts in 69kg and 64kg weight categories respectively.

Overall, India ended the championships with 1 gold, 1 silver and 2 bronze.

India’s best-ever performance was in the 2006 championship that was held in Delhi, when it had won eight medals, including four gold.

Recalling her participation in the New Delhi event held in 2006, Mary Kom said that at that time, boxers from fewer countries had participated and the sport was not even included in the Olympics. She said that though they won eight medals then, which included four gold medals, the competition is tougher nowadays and considering that fact, their current result, comprising one gold, one silver and two bronze medals, was great.

Key Facts about Mary Kom

 Mary Kom clinches gold in World Boxing Championship

The Indian Olympic boxer from Manipur is the only woman to become World Amateur Boxing champion for a record six times.

She is also the only woman boxer to have won a medal in each one of the seven world championships. She once won silver.

Nicknamed Magnificent Mary, she is the only Indian woman boxer to have qualified for the 2012 Summer Olympics, competing in the flyweight (51 kg) category and winning the bronze medal.

She was ranked at the top in AIBA World Women’s Ranking Light Flyweight category.

She also became the first Indian woman boxer to win a gold medal at the 2014 Asian Games, held Incheon, South Korea.

She is also the first Indian woman boxer to win gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, held in Gold Coast, Australia.

In April 2016, Kom was nominated by the Indian President as a member of the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian Parliament.

In March 2017, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports appointed Mary Kom along with Akhil Kumar as national observers for boxing.

The 35-year-old mother of three was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2013. She is also the recipient of the Padma Shri (2006), Arjuna Award (2003), the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award (2009) and several other such top honours and recognitions.

Conclusion

Post her historic world championship win, Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh announced that the state government will honour Mary Kom by conferring an appropriate title in recognition to her unprecedented feat of winning the sixth gold medal in the World Boxing Championship and her illustrious career in the field.

The title would soon be announced in a grand reception ceremony for the boxing ace, to be organised after her arrival in the state.

69th Constitution Day observed across India

69th Constitution Day observed across India

26 November: Indian Constitution Day

The 69th Constitution Day was observed across India on November 26, 2018 to mark the adoption of the Indian Constitution by the Constituent Assembly.

The Constitution of India was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on November 26, 1949 and it came into force on January 26, 1950.

                                Note       
On November 19, 2015 during the year-long celebration of the 125th birth anniversary of Dr BR Ambedkar, the Union Government declared November 26 as the Constitution Day in a gazette notification.

Following the independence of India, the Constituent Assembly entrusted the job of drafting the Indian Constitution to the Drafting Committee chaired by Dr BR Ambedkar.

In the beginning of 1948, Dr. Ambedkar completed the draft of the Constitution and presented it in the Constituent Assembly. In November 26, 1949, this draft was adopted with very few amendments.

Indian Constitution

The Constitution of India is a supreme law of India, which lays down the framework that defines the political principles, establishes the structure, procedures, powers and duties of Government institution.

The Constitution declares India a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic, assuring its citizens justice, equality and liberty, and endeavours to promote fraternity.

The constitution’s articles are grouped as ‘Preamble’, Parts, Schedules, and Appendices. The preamble can be referred to as the preface which highlights the entire Constitution.

The Constitution of India is the longest written constitution of any sovereign country in the world. It signifies the sovereignty of the people.

• Dr BR Ambedkar is regarded as the father of the Indian Constitution.

What is Constitution?
A Constitution, which may be written or oral, is a set of fundamental principles according to which a state or a country is governed.

It is a document that lays down the framework demarcating fundamental political code, structure, procedures, powers, and duties of government institutions and sets out fundamental rights, directive principles, and the duties of citizens.

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women observed

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women observed

November 25: International Day for the Elimination of Violence Women

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women was observed on November 25, 2018. The 2018 theme of the day is Orange the World: #HearMeToo and like previous editions, the date marks the launch of 16 days of activism that will conclude on 10 December 2018, International Human Rights Day.

Orange Day

The 25th of every month has been designated as Orange Day by the UN Women campaign Say No, UNiTE, which was launched in 2009 to mobilise civil society, activists, governments and the UN system in order amplify the impact of the UN Secretary-General’s campaign, UNiTE to End Violence against Women.

On the occasion, participants from across the world are encouraged to wear a touch of orange in solidarity with the cause, as the colour symbolises a brighter future and a world free from violence against women and girls.

Besides, a host of public events are coordinated, among which iconic buildings and landmarks will be ‘oranged’ to recall the need for a violence-free future.

Why do we need the Day?

Violence against women and girls (VAWG), which is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in the world currently, remains largely unreported due to the impunity, silence, stigma and shame surrounding it.

In general terms, it manifests itself in physical, sexual and psychological forms, encompassing:

– Intimate partner violence (battering, psychological abuse, marital rape, femicide)

– Sexual violence and harassment (rape, forced sexual acts, unwanted sexual advances, child sexual abuse, forced marriage, street harassment, stalking, cyber- harassment)

– Human trafficking (slavery, sexual exploitation)

– Female genital mutilation

– Child marriage

The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women issued by the UN General Assembly in 1993, defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”

The adverse psychological, sexual and reproductive health consequences of VAWG affect women at all stages of their life.

The early-set educational disadvantages not only represent the primary obstacle to universal schooling and the right to education for girls; down the line but they are also to blame for restricting access to higher education and even translate into limited opportunities for women in the labour market.

While gender-based violence can happen to anyone, anywhere, some women and girls are particularly vulnerable – for instance, young girls and older women, women who identify as lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex, migrants and refugees, indigenous women and ethnic minorities, or women and girls living with HIV and disabilities, and those living through humanitarian crises.

Violence against women continues to be an obstacle to achieving equality, development, peace as well as to the fulfillment of women and girls’ human rights.

All in all, the promise of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – to leave no one behind – cannot be fulfilled without putting an end to violence against women and girls.

Background

Despite the adoption of the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) by the UN General Assembly in 1979, violence against women and girls remains a pervasive problem worldwide.

The General Assembly also issued a resolution that laid the foundation for the road towards a world free of gender-based violence.

Another bold step in the right direction was embodied by an initiative launched in 2008 – UNiTE to End Violence against Women.

The initiative aims to raise public awareness around the issue as well as increase both policymaking and resources dedicated to ending violence against women and girls worldwide.

However, globally, there is still a long way to go, as till date, only two out of three countries have outlawed domestic violence, while 37 countries worldwide still exempt rape perpetrators from prosecution if they are married to or eventually marry the victim and 49 countries currently have no laws protecting women from domestic violence.

In 2017, the European Union (EU) and the UN launched the Spotlight Initiative, which aims to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls by raising the awareness of this issue, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Why November 25?

The women’s rights activists have observed November 25 as a day against gender-based violence since 1981.

The date was selected to honour the Mirabal sisters, three political activists from the Dominican Republic who were brutally murdered in 1960 by order of the country’s ruler, Rafael Trujillo (1930-1961).

On December 20, 1993, the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women through a resolution , paving the path towards eradicating violence against women and girls worldwide.

Finally, on February 7, 2000, the General Assembly adopted a resolution, officially designating November 25 as the International day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

NASA, SpaceX to launch test flight on January 7, ahead of historic crewed flight

NASA, SpaceX to launch test flight on January 7, ahead of historic crewed flight

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the United States is planning to send humans to space for the first time in eight years, in a historic flight through SpaceX Crew Dragon.

Prior to the historic launch, as a part of the preparation, the space agency will shoot out a test flight on January 7, 2019. The announcement comes as the race between Boeing and SpaceX to launch their first crewed space missions is heating up.

Key Highlights

NASA has announced an updated schedule for the two companies on the road to sending astronauts to space from American soil.

The SpaceX will send its Crew Dragon capsule on its maiden voyage to the International Space Station on January 7.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon can seat three astronauts, but will be unpiloted for its first test flight, which will be launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

This flight will be known as Demo-1 (or DM-1). It will undergo an in-flight abort test sometime before its first crewed flight in June.

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will be the first two astronauts to test the commercial spaceflight.

Significance

The flight aims to provide NASA with performance data from the SpaceX spacecraft and also help the agency certify if transportation system is ready for taking astronauts between the Earth and the International Space Station.

Background

Boeing’s first uncrewed test flight is currently scheduled for March 2019, almost two months behind SpaceX.

Both companies have to complete abort tests before their first crewed tests, which will happen in June for SpaceX and August for Boeing.

In August 2018, NASA announced the astronauts who will be flying in these missions, which would see the United States send people to space in American spacecraft again, after the agency grounded its fleet in 2011.

Since 2011, Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft was being used by the astronauts to travel to and from the Earth to the International space station.

NASA now expects the first operational mission with commercial crew to take place in August 2019, with a second to follow in December.

Those dates could change depending on the results of test flights, but it appears that that the world is close to seeing an actual commercial spacecraft ferrying real passengers out of this world.

WCD Ministry empanels 223 Institutes to conduct awareness programmes on Sexual Harassment at Workplace

WCD Ministry empanels 223 Institutes to conduct awareness programmes on Sexual Harassment at Workpla

The Ministry of Women and Child Development has empanelled institutions and organisations to conduct awareness exercises on the provisions of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, in order to ensure security of women at all workplaces.

Around 223 institutes and organisations have been empanelled from across the country to impart training in local languages as of November 2018.

Key Highlights

The empanelled institutes will be required to submit quarterly reports through SHe-Box, an online complaints portal, of all the training programmes and workshops conducted by them under the SH Act.

The empanelled institutes, organisations and companies have so far organised over 700 capacity building exercises that were attended by nearly 50,000 participants.

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013 mandates all the workplaces that include any department, organisation, undertaking, establishment, enterprise, institution, office, branch or unit with more than 10 workers to constitute an Internal Complaint Committee (ICC) to receive complaints of sexual harassment.

The complaints can be registered on SHe-Box, a single window access to every woman, irrespective of her work status, whether working in organised or unorganised, private or public sector, to facilitate the registration of complaint related to sexual harassment.

Any woman facing sexual harassment at workplace can register her complaint through the portal.

Once a complaint is submitted on the online portal, it will be directly sent to the authority concerned having jurisdiction to take action in the matter.

The WCD Ministry has published a handbook and training module on the SH Act to provide information about the provisions of the Act in an easy-to-use practical manner.

The private organizations are encouraged to customise the Training Module as per their extant service rules and disciplinary procedures prescribed therein.

She-Box

The comprehensive online complaint management system- ‘SHe-Box’- was launched by WCD Minister Maneka Sanjay Gandhi on November 7, 2017 for women working in both public and private organisations to lodge complaints of sexual harassment at workplace.

The portal was launched to ensure the effective implementation of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act (SH Act), 2013.

The SH Act defines “sexual harassment at the workplace” in a comprehensive manner, to cover circumstances of implied or explicit promise or threat to a woman’s employment prospects or creation of hostile work environment or humiliating treatment, which can affect her health or safety.

23-24 November 2018

WCD Ministry links ‘SHe-Box’ to central, state ministries for speedy disposal of cases

WCD Ministry links ‘SHe-Box’ to central, state ministries for speedy disposal of cases

The Ministry of Women and Child Development has linked the sexual harassment complaints portal ‘She-Box’ with all the Central Ministries, Departments and 653 districts across 33 states and union territories.

SHe-Box is an online portal, which has been created by the WCD Ministry to report complaints of sexual harassment at the workplace.

Key Highlights

With the linkage of the SHe-Box with central and state governments, once a case is reported on the portal, it will go directly to the concerned central and state authority having jurisdiction to take action in the matter, in order to enable prompt disposal of complaints.

The progress of the cases on the portal can be monitored by the complainants as well as the WCD Ministry, reducing the time taken in case disposal.

Around 321 complaints have been registered with ‘SHe-Box’ till November 20, 2018, among which around 120 are related to central ministries and departments, 58 are from state governments and 143 are from private companies.

The SHe-Box portal is an effort to provide a speedy remedy to women facing sexual harassment at workplace.

She-Box

 'SHe-Box' linked to central, state ministries for speedy disposal of cases

The comprehensive online complaint management system- ‘SHe-Box’- was launched by WCD Minister Maneka Sanjay Gandhi on November 7, 2017 for women working in both public and private organisations to lodge complaints of sexual harassment at workplace.

The creation of the portal is historic, as it is the first-ever time that the government of any country has launched an online portal to receive complaints of sexual harassment at workplace.

Besides, allowing a user to file a complaint, the portal also gives them the option of interacting with Ministry of WCD, with an assured time-bound response.

The portal also provides information on 112 institutions empanelled by the WCD Ministry to conduct training and workshops on the issue of sexual harassment at the workplace.

It also has the option for resource persons and institutions willing to contribute to training on this subject in various organisations to submit their applications.

It also provides a platform to the empanelled institutes and organisations to share their capacity building activities with the Ministry, which in turn will be able to monitor the activities of these institutes and organizations empanelled from across the country.

The portal can be accessed at the following link: http://shebox.nic.in/

Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act

SHe-Box was launched to ensure the effective implementation of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act (SH Act), 2013.

 'SHe-Box' linked to central, state ministries for speedy disposal of cases

This SH Act is unique in its broad coverage, which includes all women irrespective of their work status, whether working in organised or unorganised, public or private sectors, regardless of hierarchy. The domestic workers are also included within its ambit.

It defines “sexual harassment at the workplace” in a comprehensive manner, to cover circumstances of implied or explicit promise or threat to a woman’s employment prospects or creation of hostile work environment or humiliating treatment, which can affect her health or safety.

Other Details

The Ministry has published a Handbook and Training Module on the SH Act to provide information about the provisions of the Act in easy to use practical manner.

The private organisations are encouraged to customise the Training Module as per their extant service rules and disciplinary procedures prescribed therein.

Government decides to set up a domestic Gold Council in India

Suresh Prabhu

The government on November 23, 2018 has decided to set up domestic Gold council in India to promote the growth of the sector and boost exports of jewellery. Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu said this while inaugurating the 2nd Edition of India Gold and Jewellery Summit in New Delhi.

The gold council will have representations from all stakeholders including artisans, traders, miners and purifiers. The council would work in the direction of promoting the gold and jewellery industry, job creation, building of regional clusters.

It will also extend domestic support for exports.

Why Gold Council?

India is the world’s largest consumer of gold and also one of the main importers. There are huge opportunities in the global market to push exports of gold jewellery.

The country’s gems and jewellery exports contracted by 8% to about $32.72 billion in 2017-18 owing to demand slowdown in US and other major markets.

The gems and jewellery sector is labour-intensive sector that contributes about 14% to the country’s overall exports. Gold imports increased by about 4%  to $17.63 billion in the first half of 2018-19.

Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council

  • The Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) was set up by the Ministry of Commerce,
  • Government of India (GoI) in 1966.
  • The GJEPC is the apex body of the gems & jewellery industry and today it represents almost 6,000 exporters in the sector. With headquarters in Mumbai, the GJEPC has Regional Offices in New Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Surat and Jaipur.
  • Primary goal of GJEPC is to promote  the Indian Gem & Jewellery industry  and its products.
  • Since 1998, the GJEPC has been granted autonomous status.

PM Modi lays foundation stone of City Gas Distribution Projects

PM Modi lays foundation stone of City Gas Distribution Projects

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 22, 2018 laid the foundation stone of City Gas Distribution (CGD) Projects in 65 Geographical Areas (GAs) in 129 districts under the 9th CGD bidding round, remotely from Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi.

The PM also launched the 10th CGD Bidding Round in 50 GAs spread over 124 districts in 14 states. Speaking on the occasion, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister, Dharmendra Pradhan said that the Government is working to move towards creating a gas-based economy.

Key Highlights

Currently, the share of gas in the India’s energy mix is just over 6 per cent and the aim is to reach the 15 per cent figure, while the world average is 24 per cent.

India aims to bring down its carbon emission level and a number of initiatives have been taken in this direction such as LED bulbs, BS VI fuel, bio-energy, International Solar Alliance, Pradhan Mantri Ujjawala Yojana, and providing clean piped gas supply to more cities.

India would also be enhancing the LNG terminal capacity, renegotiating Indo-Qatar Gas deal and encouraging positive Indo-US engagement in this direction.

India is not only focussing on increasing the use and supply of gas, but also on producing gas through agro-wastes and other products and including the same into the CGD network.

India has also increased its focus on promoting the usage of environment-friendly clean fuel, natural gas as a fuel and feedstock across the country to move towards a gas based economy.

Accordingly, the development of CGD networks has been focused to increase the availability of cleaner cooking fuel such as PNG and transportation fuel (CNG) to all the citizens of the country.

Impact

The expansion of CGD network will benefit industrial and commercial units by ensuring the uninterrupted supply of natural gas.

The move will also expand the potential coverage of CGDs to about 50 per cent of country’s population, spreading over 35 per cent of the area.

Around 46.5 lakh households and 32 lakh CNG vehicles are currently availing the benefit of clean fuel through existing CGD networks.

Implementation Process

Around 96 cities and districts in different parts of the country were covered for development of CGD networks till September 2018.

As per commitment made by various entities in the 9th bidding round, around 2 crore PNG (Domestic) connections and 4600 CNG stations are expected to be installed across the country in the next 8 years.

Various pre-project activities for these GAs have already commenced and efforts are being made to commence the physical works at the site.

Background

To boost the expansion of PNG/CNG network in India, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB) launched 9th CGD bidding round in April, 2018 for 86 Geographical Areas (GAs) covering 174 districts in 22 States/ Union Territories.

After the processing of the received bids, grants of authorisation were issued to the successful bidders to develop CGD network for 84 GAs.

Now, the PNGRB has also initiated the process of 10th CGD bidding round for additional 50 new GAs covering 124 districts in 14 States to increase the potential coverage to about 53 per cent of the country’s area covering 70 per cent of country’s population.

Natural Gas: Key Facts

Superior Fuel

  • Natural gas is a superior fuel as compared with coal and other liquid fuels, as it is environment friendly, safer and a cheaper fuel.
  • The gas is supplied through pipelines and hence, there is no need to store cylinders in the kitchen and thus saves space.

Environment Friendly Fuel

  • As per WHO database released in May 2018, India has 14 out of the world’s 15 most polluted cities in terms of PM 2.5 concentration.
  • A large number of industries also consume polluting fuels like pet coke and furnace oil, which emit polluting CO2.
  • Some of the courts recently ordered for banning the use of pet coke in states within their jurisdiction.
  • India made a commitment in COP21 Paris Convention in December 2015 that by 2030, it would reduce carbon emission by 33 per cent of 2005 levels.
  • Natural gas, as domestic kitchen fuel, as fuel for transport sector as well as a fuel for industries and commercial units, can play a significant role in reducing carbon emission.

Cost-Friendly Fuel

Natural gas such as CNG is 60 per cent cheaper when compared with petrol and around 45 per cent cheaper when compared with Diesel.

Similarly, natural gas such as PNG is 40 per cent cheaper when compared with market price LPG.

In fact, the price of PNG almost matches with that of the subsidised LPG (based on prices in Delhi).

India’s Wildlife Crime Control Bureau wins UN Environment award

India’s Wildlife Crime Control Bureau wins UN Environment award

The United Nations Environment has awarded India’s Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) with the Asia Environment Enforcement Award, 2018 for the excellent work done by the Bureau in combating transboundary environmental crime.

The Asia Environmental Enforcement Award recognises the excellent work done by government officials and teams from the bureau who are diligently involved in combating transboundary environmental crime.

Key Highlights   

The Asia Environment Enforcement Awards publicly recognise and celebrate excellence in enforcement by government officials and institutions and teams combating transboundary environmental crime in Asia.

The awards are given to outstanding individuals or government organisations and teams that demonstrate excellence and leadership in enforcement of national laws to combat transboundary environmental crime in one of the following eligibility criteria areas: collaboration, impact, innovation, integrity and gender leadership.

India’s Wildlife Crime Control Bureau has been conferred the award in the Innovation category.

The bureau has adopted innovative enforcement techniques that have dramatically increased enforcement of transboundary environmental crimes in India.

It has developed an online Wildlife Crime Database Management System to get real-time data in order to help analyse trends in crime and devise effective measures to prevent and detect wildlife crimes across India.

Background

The WCCB’s wildlife crime database management system has been successfully used to analyse trends, help put in preventive measures as well as for successfully carrying out operations such as Operation Save Kurma, Thunderbird, Wildnet, Lesknow, Birbil, Thunderstorm, Lesknow-II along with other enforcement agencies.

The result of the same is the arrest of 350 wildlife criminals and huge seizures of tiger and leopard’s skin and bones and other trophies including rhino horn, elephant ivory, turtles, tortoises, mongoose raw hairs as well as mongoose hair brushes, protected birds, marine products, live Pangolin as well as its scales and deer antlers across all the states.

 UN Environment honours India with Asia Environment Enforcement award

In order to involve the public in the fight against wildlife crime, WCCB has also developed a scheme to enrol willing persons as WCCB Volunteers.

The award was decided upon by a selection panel set up by the UN Environment and this is the second time in a row the awards are being given by UN Environment to India.

Wildlife Crime Control Bureau

The Wildlife Crime Control Bureau is a statutory multi-disciplinary body established by the Government of India under the Ministry of Environment and Forests in June 2007, to combat organised wildlife crime in the country.

The Bureau has its headquarters in New Delhi and five regional offices at Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai and Jabalpur.

Under Section 38 (Z) of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, the WCCB is mandated to collect and collate intelligence related to organised wildlife crime activities and to disseminate the same to state and other enforcement agencies for immediate action so as to apprehend the criminals.

The bureau is also mandated to establish a centralised wildlife crime data bank, assist foreign authorities and international organisations concerned to facilitate co-ordination and universal action for wildlife crime control and help in the capacity building of the wildlife crime enforcement agencies for scientific and professional investigation into wildlife crimes and assist State Governments to ensure success in prosecutions related to wildlife crimes.

The bureau can also advise the Government of India on issues relating to wildlife crimes having national and international ramifications, relevant policy and laws.

It also assists and advises the Customs authorities in inspection of the consignments of flora and fauna as per the provisions of Wild Life Protection Act, CITES and EXIM Policy governing such an item.

Allied and Healthcare Council of India to be set up: Cabinet approval

Cabinet approves Allied and Healthcare Professions Bill, 2018

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 22, 2018 approved the Allied and Healthcare Professions Bill, 2018 for regulation and standardisation of education and services by allied and healthcare professionals.

The Bill provides for setting up of an Allied and Healthcare Council of India and corresponding state allied and healthcare councils, which will play the role of a standard-setter and facilitator for professions of allied and healthcare.

Key Highlights

The bill provides for the establishment of central and corresponding state allied and healthcare councils and 15 major professional categories including 53 professions in allied and healthcare streams.

It provides for structure, constitution, composition and functions of the central council and state councils such as framing of policies and standards, regulation of professional conduct, creation and maintenance of live registers, provisions for common entry and exit examinations.

The professional advisory bodies under central and state councils will examine issues independently and provide recommendations relating to specific recognised categories.

The bill will also have an overriding effect on any other existing law for any of the covered professions.

The state council will undertake recognition of allied and healthcare institutions.

The clause of offences and penalties has been included in the bill to check mal¬practices. The bill also empowers the central and state governments to make rules.

Under the bill’s provisions, the central government will also have the power to issue directions to the council, to make regulations and to add or amend the schedule.

The bill calls for the constitution of an interim council within 6 months of its passing, which will hold the charge for a period of two years until the establishment of the Central Council.

The council at the centre and the states are to be established as body corporate with a provision to receive funds from various sources.

The councils will also be supported by central and state governments respectively through grant-in-aid as needed. However, if the state government expresses inability, the central government may release some grant for initial years to the state council.

Composition of the Council

The central council will comprise 47 members, of which 14 members shall be ex-officio representing diverse and related roles and functions and remaining 33 shall be non-ex-officio members who mainly represent the 15 professional categories.

The state councils are also envisioned to mirror the central council, comprising 7 ex-officio and 21 non-ex officio members and a chairperson to be elected from amongst the non-ex officio members.

Impact

The bill’s provisions will bring all existing allied and healthcare professionals on board during the first few of years from the date of establishment of the council.

They will provide an opportunity to create qualified, highly skilled and competent jobs in healthcare by enabling professionalism of the allied and healthcare workforce.

This would also lead to high quality, multi-disciplinary care in line with the vision of Ayushman Bharat, moving away from a ‘doctor led’ model to a ‘care accessible and team-based’ model.

It would also provide an opportunity to cater to the global demand (shortage) of the healthcare workforce, which is projected to be about 15 million by the year 2030, as per the WHO Global Workforce, 2030 report.

The bill is expected to directly benefit around 8-9 lakh existing Allied and Healthcare related professionals in the country and several other graduating professionals joining workforce annually and contributing to the health system.

However, since the bill is directed to strengthen the healthcare delivery system at large, it is expected to benefit the entire population of the country and the health sector as a whole.

Expenditure Incurred

The total cost implication of the bill’s implementation is expected to be Rs 95 crores for the first four years.

Around 4/5th of the total budget (Rs 75 crores) has been earmarked for the states, while the remaining fund will support the Central Council’s operations for 4 years and also establish the Central and State Registers.

 Allied and Healthcare Council of India to be set up Who are Allied and Healthcare Professionals?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Allied health personnel are personnel who have specific connections with the art and science of health care and are recognised as members of the health team in the national health system.

They are educated with different levels of professional qualifications, in a recognised or accredited health or health-related or academic Institution.

The allied and healthcare professionals include individuals involved with the delivery of health or related services, with expertise in therapeutic, diagnostic, curative, preventive and rehabilitative interventions. They work in interdisciplinary health teams including physicians, nurses and public health officials to promote, protect, treat or manage a person’s physical, mental, social, emotional and environmental health and holistic well-being.

Background

In the current state of the healthcare system, there exist many allied and healthcare professionals, who remain unidentified, unregulated and underutilised.

The current system is highly focused on efforts towards strengthening limited categories of professionals such as doctors, nurses and frontline workers such as Accredited Social Health Activist or ASHAs, Auxiliary Nurse Midwife or ANMs.

However, a number of others have been identified over the years, whose potential can be utilised to improve and increase the access to quality driven services in the rural and hard to reach areas.

The allied and healthcare professionals constitute an important element of the health human resource network and the skilled and efficient allied and healthcare professionals can help reduce the cost of care and dramatically improve the accessibility to quality driven healthcare services.

Globally, allied and healthcare professionals (A&HPs) typically attend undergraduate degree programme of a minimum of 3-4 years to begin with and may attain up to Ph.D. level qualification in their respective streams. However, most of the Indian institutions offering such courses lack standardisation.

Most of the countries across the world have a statutory licensing or regulatory body that is authorised to license and certify the qualifications and competence of such professionals, especially those involved in direct patient care such as physiotherapist, nutritionist or those whose occupation impact patient care directly such as lab technologists and dosimetrists.

Though such professionals exist in the Indian healthcare system, the gap in the allied and healthcare space is due to the lack of a comprehensive regulatory framework and absence of standards for education and training of A&HPs.

The bill thus seeks to establish a robust regulatory framework that will play the role of a standard-setter and regulator for the allied and healthcare professions.

India, Australia sign five agreements

India, Australia sign five agreements

India and Australia on November 22, 2018 signed five agreements to boost investments and enhance cooperation in areas including services to the disabled, bilateral investment, scientific collaboration and agricultural research and education.

The agreements were signed during the talks held between Indian President Ram Nath Kovind and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Sidney, Australia. The Indian President has become the first-ever Indian head of state to visit Australia. He arrived in the country on November 21, as a part of the second leg of his two-nation trip.

The following are the five pacts:

1. Agreement between the Government of India and the Government of Australia for cooperation in the area of disability and to deliver services to the differently-abled.

2. Agreement between Invest India and Austrade to facilitate bilateral investment.

3. Agreement between the Central Mine Planning and Design Institute, based in Ranchi and the Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organisation, based in Canberra, to foster scientific collaboration and innovation.

4. Agreement between the Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University, Guntur and the University of Western Australia, Perth, for cooperation in agricultural research and education.

5. Joint Ph.D. agreement between the Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology, Delhi and the Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane.

The agreements were exchanged by High Commissioners of both the countries, in the presence of Marise Payne, Foreign Minister of Australia and Anantkumar Hegde, Minister of State for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship.

 India, Australia sign five agreements

Following the high-level delegation meeting, Australian Prime Minister Morrison announced the release of Australia’s response to the India Economic Strategy, a blueprint to transform the economic engagement.

The report mainly highlights Australia’s aim of deepening economic engagement with India, targeting 10 Indian states and 10 key sectors, while providing practical support for Australian businesses entering or expanding operations in India.

WTO to set up panels to rule on US tariff disputes

WTO panels

The World Trade Organization (WTO) agreed to hear grievances from a number of countries over new US steel and aluminium tariffs, as well as complaints from Washington over retaliatory duties.

The Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) of WTO approved the constitution of panels to review US decision to hit a long line of countries with tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminium.

Earlier, the European Union, China, Canada, Norway, Mexico, and Russia all confirmed they would escalate their disputes by starting adjudication proceedings, while the US wants dispute panels against Canada, China and the EU.

The Dispute Settlement Body will create separate panels for the complaints by the European Union, China, Canada, Mexico, Norway and Russia, after the US said it would not agree to a single panel to hear all of them. A seventh request from Turkey for a panel will be discussed during a meeting later.

The DSB also agreed for a panel which will review “certain Chinese measures pertaining to the protection of intellectual property rights” as demanded by US.

Background

Earlier, US President Trump imposed the tariffs levying 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminium import. While imposing the tariffs, US President Donald trump justified it and said ‘it’s a matter of national security’ and hence it is the ‘safeguard’ under WTO rule and out of purview the WTO’s remit.

US departure from a decades-long strive for free trade, the exporter countries knocked the WTO door. They say the United States should compensate them for the damage, and have imposed their own tariffs in response.

The tariff spat has escalated into an all-out trade war between the US and China and growing trade tensions between Washington and many of its traditional allies.

Now, what?

The WTO decision to set up the panels follows rounds of failed consultations or discussions between the aggrieved parties and mark an escalation in an ongoing showdown at the WTO around Trump’s controversial trade policies.

Under WTO regulations, parties in a dispute can block a first request for the creation of an arbitration panel, but if the parties make a second request, it is all but guaranteed to go through.

The creation of a DSB panel usually triggers a long and often costly legal battle that sometimes takes years to resolve.

 

22 November 2018

India, Vietnam issue joint statement

India, Vietnam issue joint statement

India and Vietnam released a Joint Statement on November 21, 2018 after extensive talks between Vietnam President Nguyen Phu Trong and Indian President Ram Nath Kovind, during the latter’s state visit to Vietnam from November 18-20, 2018.

The Indian President was accompanied by a high-level official delegation, including Minister of State Anantkumar Hegde, Members of Parliament and a large business delegation. The President also met Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, President of the National Assembly Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, and addressed the National Assembly of Vietnam.

He also addressed the Vietnam– India Business Forum and met with the Indian community in the nation. Vietnam is the first south-east Asian nation to be visited by President Kovind since he was sworn into office in July 2017.

Following the talks between President Kovind and Vietnamese President Nguyen Phu Trong, four MoU’s were signed between the two nations. The agreements include:

(i) The MOU between Vietnam’s Ministry of Information and Communications and the Indian Ministry of Communications on cooperation in the field of Communications

(ii) The MOU on cooperation between Vietnam’s Department of Foreign Affairs and the Indian Business Chamber in Viet Nam (INCHAM)

(iii) The MOU between the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics, Ha Noi, Vietnam and the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India

(iv) The Cooperation Agreement between Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI)

The two Leaders reaffirmed the long traditional friendly relations between the two countries and shared how the relations between the two nations have been thriving in all areas since the establishment of the Strategic Partnership in 2007 and its elevation to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in 2016.

Highlights of the Joint Statement

Reinforcement of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership

The two leaders shared a common vision on further deepening the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in all areas.

They expressed their satisfaction at the regular exchange of high-level visits and regarded the year 2018 as an extraordinary year, which saw visit by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in January 2018 to attend the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit in New Delhi and India’s 69th Republic Day celebrations, state visit to India by late President Tran Dai Quang in March 2018 and the visits to Vietnam by Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in June 2018 and the Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj in August 2018.

The two leaders also welcomed the organisation of the various meaningful activities during the 2017 Year of Friendship to celebrate the 45th Anniversary of diplomatic relations and 10th Anniversary of the Strategic Partnership.

The leaders encouraged both sides to continue the effective implementation of the Plan of Action for the Implementation of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership for the period of 2017 – 2020.

They also agreed to maintain the regular and timely organisation of bilateral cooperation mechanisms and to effectively implement the outcomes of high-level visits as well as the signed documents.

Defence and Security Cooperation

The two leaders shared the view that defence and security cooperation has become an important pillar of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between the two countries and expressed their satisfaction at the growing defence exchanges in recent years.

The two leaders agreed to effectively implement the Joint Vision Statement on Vietnam– India Defence Cooperation for the period of 2015-2020.

They agreed to step up cooperation in human resources training and promote collaboration between the Army, Air Force, Naval and Coast Guard of the two countries, as well as cooperation in cybersecurity and information sharing.

The two leaders expressed their satisfaction at the progress of the implementation of the US$100 million Line of Credit for the building of high-speed patrol vessels for the Vietnamese Border Guards.

The Vietnamese side appreciated Indian’s offer of the US$500 million Line of Credit to the defence industry and agreed to accelerate procedures for its approval.

 India-Vietnam Joint Statement released

The two sides agreed to step up experience sharing in the training of personnel for participation in the United Nations peace-keeping operations and cooperation in addressing war legacies in Vietnam and to strengthen criminal information exchange and law enforcement experience sharing.

They also agreed to actively support each other and step up coordination at multilateral defence and security cooperation frameworks, particularly ARF and ADMM.

Both sides also agreed that it is essential to strengthen cooperation in the maritime domain including anti-piracy, security of sea lanes and exchange of white shipping.

Economic, Trade and Investment Cooperation

The two leaders expressed pleasure with the rapid growth of bilateral trade since relations were upgraded to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and expressed their confidence that the target trade volume of US$15 billion would be achieved.

They called for the reduction of trade barriers including non-tariff and technical barriers. They also stressed on the need to engage in close coordination as well as periodic consultations to address bilateral trade issues.

They agreed to continue promoting bilateral investment, including cooperation projects between PVN and ONGC in oil and gas exploration on land, continental shelf and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Viet Nam and encouraged the two sides to be more active in identifying models for cooperation, including those involving third country.

The Vietnamese side welcomed and agreed to create facilitating conditions for Indian companies to invest into new thermal energy and renewable energy projects in Viet Nam.

In return, India welcomed and agreed to create facilitating conditions for Vietnamese businesses investing in India, particularly in agriculture, agro-processing, marine products and wood products.

Development Cooperation

Vietnam’s President highly appreciated India’s long-term and continuous support for development projects in various forms such as grants, preferential credit lines and human resource training in areas of interest of Vietnam.

The two sides agreed to focus on the timely implementation of grants-in-aid and preferential credit lines that the Indian Government has pledged to Vietnam, as well as the annual projects under the CLMV Quick Impact Projects (QIPs) Fund.

In return, the Indian President reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to providing around 200 annual scholarships to Vietnam through the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Program (ITEC) and 30 scholarships through cultural exchange programme and general cultural scholarship scheme (CEP/GCSS) Program.

Further, Vietnam’s President appreciated PM Modi’s announcement of undertaking a pilot project on rural connectivity in the CLMV countries to create digital villages and for offering 1000 fellowships to students and researchers from the ASEAN Member States for studying integrated Ph.D. programmes in Indian Institutes of Technology.

Scientific and Technological Cooperation

The two leaders welcomed the signing of the Framework Agreement on Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy in December 2016 and the signing of the MOU between the Institute of Atomic Energy of Vietnam and India‘s Global Center for Nuclear Energy Partnership in March 2018.

They agreed to step up the implementation of agreements signed and to hold the first meeting of the Joint Committee at the earliest.

They also agreed to soon hold the next meeting of the India-Vietnam Joint Committee on Science and Technology, establish a suitable mechanism for joint research activities, hasten the implementation process for ongoing projects and continue the exchange of delegations and the sharing of experience in scientific and technological development between the two countries.

They also agreed on the importance of stronger connectivity between Vietnam and India and urged utilisation of the US$1 billion credit line for physical and digital connectivity projects under the India-ASEAN cooperation framework and called for an early mechanism between the two sides to enable utilisation of the Line of Credit for projects in Vietnam.

Cultural, Tourism Cooperation and People-to-People Exchange

The two leaders welcomed the launch of the Swami Vivekananda Center for Indian Culture in April 2017 and the Center for Indian Studies in Ha Noi in September 2014 and the Center for Vietnamese Studies in New Delhi in March 2018.

The Indian President expressed his appreciation to Vietnam for the collaboration in the organisation of events celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi in 2018.

The President also expressed his appreciation for the close collaboration between the two sides that led to Archaeological Survey of India‘s effective implementation of the Project for the conservation and restoration of three temple groups at the heritage site.

Vietnam’s President welcomed India’s support for the Cham community, including the building of the Cham Community Houses and Schools and Cham culture research programs in Ninh Thuan province.

 India-Vietnam Joint Statement released

The two sides further welcomed an agreement signed between the Youth Union of Vietnam and the National Cadet Corps of India. They agreed to maintain the regular exchange of youth delegations on an annual basis to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and experience between the youth.

They also agreed to work on the possibility of establishing Twinning or Sister City arrangements between the important cities of both countries to enhance the exchange of experience and expertise and establish fraternal relations.

They further agreed on the importance of the reinforcement of people-to-people ties by organising film festivals and advancing tourism cooperation.

They also stressed on the role of enhancing connectivity and resolved to facilitate Vietjet Air’s direct flight between Ho Chi Minh City and New Delhi in 2019.

The Vietnamese President also conveyed his appreciation for the efforts of the Indian Government and the Bhagwan Mahavir Viklang Sahayata Samiti in the provision of rehabilitation services and the artificial limb fitment Jaipur foot to around 500 Vietnamese in the provinces of Phu Tho and Vinh Phuc (July 2018) as also for another 500 Vietnamese citizens in a new limb fitment camp in Hanoi to be held later in 2018.

Other Areas

The two sides agreed to organise meetings of joint working groups in healthcare, IT and remote sensing, among others at the earliest, in order to effectively implement the signed Agreements.

They also agreed to ensure continuous and close cooperation for the effective implementation and early operation of the Project for the construction of the Satellite Tracking & Data Reception Station and Data Processing Facility under the ASEAN – India cooperation framework in Viet Nam.

Regional and International Cooperation

The Indian President placed high value on Vietnam’s contributions as the Country Coordinator for the ASEAN-India relations for the period of 2015-2018 and suggested that the two sides would work together to advance the implementation of the Delhi Declaration of the ASEAN – India Summit.

The President of Vietnam, on the other hand, reaffirmed Vietnam’s support for India’s ‘Act East’ policy, and highly appreciated India’s support for ASEAN’s unity.

The two sides agreed to continue their close coordination and mutual support at multilateral forum, particularly within the United Nations.

They reaffirmed mutual support for their respective candidatures as non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, Vietnam for the term of 2020 – 2021 and India for the term of 2021 – 2022.

The Vietnamese side reiterated its consistent support for permanent membership of India in an expanded United Nations Security Council and the Indian side expressed its appreciation for the same.

The two sides further stressed on the necessity of full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) as well as the early conclusion of a substantive, effective and binding Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (COC).

They emphasised on the importance of peaceful settlement of disputes, including the full respect for diplomatic and legal processes, and complete compliance with international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 (UNCLOS).

The two sides reiterated that the parties concerned should continue exercising self-restraint and refrain from the use of force or threat to use force.

Terrorism

The two leaders unequivocally condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including cross-border terrorism.

The Vietnamese side shared India’s concern that terrorism is one of the most serious threats to global peace, security and stability.

They underscored that there is no justification whatsoever for act of terrorism and recognised that terrorism cannot be and should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilisation or ethnic groups.

They called upon all nations to adopt a comprehensive approach in combating terrorism and agreed that they would cooperate in building a strong consensus for early adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT).

Conclusion

The talks concluded with Indian President Ram Nath Kovind extending his cordial invitation to President Nguyen Phu Trong to visit India in the near future. President Nguyen Phu Trong accepted the invitation with pleasure and agreed that the timing of the visit would be arranged through diplomatic channels.

J&K Governor dissolves state assembly, President’s rule to be imposed

J&K Governor dissolves state assembly, President’s rule to be imposed

The Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik on November 21, 2019 dissolved the State Assembly with immediate effect after rival alliances staked claim to form the government.

The dissolution was announced through a communiqué that was released by Raj Bhavan. The Governor cited four main reasons for dissolving the Assembly with immediate effect, which include:

i) The impossibility of forming a stable government by the coming together of political parties with opposing political ideologies including some which have been demanding dissolution of the Assembly; whereas the experience of the past few years shows that with the fractured mandate that is there in the Assembly, it is not possible to form a stable government comprising of like-minded parties. The coming together of such parties in a grouping is nothing but an attempt to gain power rather than to form a responsive government.

ii) Reports of extensive horse trading and possible exchange of money in order to secure the support of legislators belonging to widely diverging political ideologies just to be able to form a government. Such activities are not healthy for democracy and vitiate the political process.

iii) Serious doubts about the longevity of any such arrangement where there are competing claims of majority.

iv) The fragile security scenario in the state of Jammu and Kashmir where there is a need to have a stable and supportive environment for security forces which are engaged in extensive anti-militancy operations and are gradually gaining control over the security situation.

Key Highlights

The governor released the communiqué of dissolution minutes after People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti released a letter on Twitter announcing that she would seek to form the government with her traditional rivals, the National Conference (NC) and Congress.

The former Chief Minister and PDP President, Mehbooba Mufti staked claim to form the government in the state by saying that her party, which is the largest party in the assembly with 29 MLAs, had the backing of 15 lawmakers of National Conference and 12 of Congress.

Earlier, both NC and Congress had demanded the dissolution of the assembly to avoid horse-trading and possible poaching of legislators amid the emergence of the Lone-led front.

Mufti’s letter was followed by People’s Conference Chief Sajad Lone’s letter to the governor, in which he staked claim to form the government with the support of the BJP, which has 25 seats and more than 18 other elected members. People’s Conference has just two seats in the assembly

The majority mark required to form the government in the state’s 87-member assembly is 44.

 J&K Governor dissolves state assembly, President’s rule to be imposed

President’s rule to be imposed

The Governor’s rule was imposed in the state on June 19 for a 6-month period following the collapse of the PDP-BJP coalition government after the BJP withdrew its support.

The state assembly was kept in suspended animation so that political parties could explore the possibility of forming a new government.

The six-month tenure of the Governor’s rule is scheduled to end on December 18, after which the state will be put under the President’s rule till it goes into polls.

The state went to polls at the end of 2014 and the Assembly’s tenure was till October 2020.

The Governor has decided to hold elections at an appropriate time so that a government with a clear mandate is formed.

HRD Minister launches ‘Institution’s Innovation Council’ programme

HRD Minister launches ‘Institution’s Innovation Council’ programme

The Union HRD Minister, Prakash Javadekar launched the Institution’s Innovation Council (IIC) programme under Innovation cell of the Ministry of Human Resource Development through video conferencing in New Delhi on November 21, 2018.

The HRD Ministry has established an ‘Innovation cell’ at AICTE to systematically foster the culture of Innovation in all Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) across the country. Speaking on the occasion, the Minister said that it is a significant step in institutionalising innovation and developing a scientific temperament in the country.

Objective

The main purpose behind the formation of the network of Institution’s Innovation Councils (IICs) is to encourage, inspire and nurture young students by exposing them to new ideas and processes resulting in innovative activities in their formative years.

Key Highlights

More than 1000 Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) have already formed IICs in their campuses and enrolled for the IIC network managed by MHRD’s Innovation cell to promote innovation through multitudinous modes leading to an innovation promotion eco-system in their campuses.

In most developed countries, Universities are the main research centers and because of their research, the nations get top ranks in the global innovation ranking.

Now, Indian universities are also setting up research centers through the Institution’s Innovation Council programme.

Through this initiative, India hopes to get a good rank in global innovation ranking in the next 2-3 years.

Conclusion

According to the HRD Minister, educational advancement in higher education can only be achieved by encouraging best practices in innovation and advance research and the Innovation Cell has undertaken many initiatives in this direction such as implementing programmes like Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation Achievement (ARIIA) and Smart India Hackathon (SIH)- 2019.

He further said that the IIC programme will contribute in the holistic development of education in the country.

International Space Station completes 20 years

International Space Station completes 20 years

The International Space Station (ISS) turned 20 years old on November 20, 2018. The project was kicked by Russian space agency Roscosmos when it launched its Zarya module from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on November 20, 1998.

The launch was followed by NASA’s Unity module. The pair was joined in low-earth orbit, which kick-started a 13-year construction effort of the most ambitious construction project in the history of humanity. The result of the effort was a habitable artificial satellite, which currently serves as a giant orbiting observatory and laboratory.

ISS History

 International Space Station completes 20 yearsOn November 20, the International Space Station reached a two-decade milestone since the launch of its first module.

On this day in 1998, aerospace engineers from Russia and the United States celebrated the lift-off of the Russia-built, US-funded unit Zarya (“sunrise”) as it took off from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome.

At 11:40 am, the first component of the ISS made its way into orbit where it served as the foundation of an international space exploration program that continues today.

The most significant thrust for the success of the project was the co-operation between former Cold War rivals- the United States and Russia (part of Soviet Union that disintegrated in 1990).

Zarya would not have been possible had the two nations not kept aside the decades of nuclear tensions to share the expertise both sides had accumulated during and after the Space Race of the 1960s to further the common good.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the US tapped Russia’s skilled but idle space industry to help bring down costs and expedite Ronald Reagan’s 1984 vision of a “permanently manned space station.”

In their audacious bid to create a continuously inhabited structure 250 miles above the Earth, the long-time adversaries found a common ground.

How Zarya became ISS?

ISS’s first crew included Astronaut Bill Shepherd and cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev, who climbed aboard the station on November 2, 2000.

At that time, the station wasn’t as big as it is today.

Over the next two decades, space agencies based in 15 countries including the UK, Italy, Japan, Canada, France, Denmark, Germany and Spain jointly contributed to transform the complex technological instrument into a vast space station with 15 pressurised components.

Over 136 space flights from seven different types of craft were deployed to deliver parts to the engineers. The large modules were delivered on 42 assembly flights, 37 on US shuttles, five on Russian Proton and Soyuz rockets.

Several additions like Canada’s robotic appendage Canadarm2 and Japan’s Kibo Laboratory Module helped the ISS grow to nearly the size of a football field.

Key Facts about ISS

It is the largest manned object in space, 357ft long, just a yard short of a full-length football field.

It weighs 419,725kg including the weight of spacecrafts. The space station can accommodate as many as six spacecrafts at one time.

It is the single most expensive object ever built at £93.4bn.

It is the third brightest object in the Earth’s night sky after the moon and Venus.

The space station travels at a speed of 4.791 miles per second, fast enough to go to the moon and back in a single day.

 International Space Station completes 20 years

It orbits the earth approximately once every 90 minutes or 16 times in a 24-hour period.

It passes over 90 per cent of the earth’s population in the course of its orbital path.

The living space in the station includes six sleeping quarters, a gym and a 360-degree bay window, but only two bathrooms.

The zero gravity causes astronauts to float while doing their daily activities.

The orbiting station has been continuously occupied since November 2000.

On September 2, 2017, Nasa’s Peggy Whitson set the record of being the longest-serving human in space.

Largest peaceful collaboration!

The ISS currently serves as the largest, peaceful scientific collaboration in history. The multination partnerships have helped defray the burden of the ISS’s functioning.

The continuous staffing of the orbiting laboratory with a multinational team of six has also relied on heavy intercontinental collaboration.

According to NASA, 230 individuals from 18 countries have visited. The collaborations between mission controls have also helped sustain missions.

After NASA discontinued the Space Shuttle program in 2011, Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft started selling rides.

The cosmic collaborations on the station have also guaranteed that even amid diplomatic standoffs, communication channels between ISS nations cannot be closed off completely.

During the 2014 Crimea crisis, when the Russian and US relations were mired in sanctions, their space agencies -NASA and Roscosmos -continued to cooperate on the Space Station.

ISS- worth the cost?

Despite its triumphs, the staggering cost of the ISS has been a source of contention, with the bill estimates being between $100 and $150 billion.

Still, the research has been ambitious, focusing on how different substances and compounds—like cells, tissues and liquids—react when freed from the constraints of gravitational forces.

 International Space Station completes 20 years

Many studies have looked at the human body’s response to long-duration spaceflight, a vital field to understand for the survival of humans during the 500-odd-day journey to and from Mars.

The information extracted from exercises such as two astronauts’ record year-long stay on the station is crucial in helping humans push the boundaries of space exploration.

Missions Prior to ISS

The ISS is the ninth space station to be inhabited by crews, following the Soviet and later Russian Salyut, Almaz, and Mir stations and Skylab from the US.

The ISS has made the record of the longest continuous human presence in low Earth orbit, having surpassed the previous record of 9 years and 357 days held by Mir.

 International Space Station completes 20 years

Future of ISS

While the governments are looking to explore the Moon, Mars and beyond, the future of the 20-year-old ISS remains unclear, as NASA has committed funds only until 2024.

There also have been preliminary talks of de-orbiting the station and crashing it into the Pacific Ocean or handing over the keys to private companies.

Australia refuses to sign UN migration pact

Australia refuses to sign UN migration pact

The Australian Government announced on November 21, 2018 that it would not sign the UN Global Compact for Migration saying that the agreement would undermine its existing immigration policies.

Speaking on the decision, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that the government believes that the Compact is inconsistent with its well-established policies and not in Australia’s interest.

Key Highlights

According to the Australian government, the nation’s immigration policy already promotes safe, orderly and regular migration.

Hence, the government feels that adopting the pact would risk encouraging illegal entry to Australia and reverse the hard-won successes in combating the people-smuggling trade.

Australia’s harsh immigration policy detains asylum-seekers who try to reach the country by boat on remote Pacific islands.

While the policy has led to a decline in people-smuggling, hundreds of people are now being held in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. Some have been there for years.

The United Nations and human rights groups at home and abroad have criticised the nation’s approach and the government has been under pressure over the deteriorating health of the people, many of them children, imprisoned on the islands.

Australia has been under pressure to release detained child refugees

Background

The UN pact on migration was agreed upon in July 2018 following almost a year of negotiations and it is expected to help open up legal migration and better management of the movement of people around the world. The agreement is due to be adopted in December.

The US has already rejected the UN Compact and a number of populist governments in Europe, including Poland and Hungary, have also said they will not sign it.

Morrison’s government is focussing on immigration ahead of elections due to take place in May next year. Earlier this week, the Prime Minister announced he would also seek to slash legal migration into Australia, from the current official cap of 190,000 people per year to about 160,000. He said the cut was needed to counter worsening congestion in the nation’s main cities.

Global Compact for Migration

The global compact for migration will be the first, inter-governmentally negotiated agreement, prepared under the auspices of the United Nations, to cover all dimensions of international migration in a holistic and comprehensive manner.

 Australia rejects UN migration pact

In the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, adopted in September 2016, the UN General Assembly decided to develop a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration.

The process to develop this global compact for migration started in April 2017. The General Assembly then held an intergovernmental conference on international migration in 2018 with a view to adopting the global compact.

The global compact is a significant opportunity to improve the governance on migration, to address the challenges associated with migration and to strengthen the contribution of migrants and migration to sustainable development.

21 November 2018

UN environment Chief Erik Solheim resigns amid audit on travel expenses

UN environment Chief Erik Solheim resigns

UN Environment Chief Erik Solheim resigned from his post on November 20, 2018 following an audit report questioning his huge travel expenses.

In an official statement, Solheim said that he had received the final audit report of his travel expenses and after deep reflection, he decided to step down. A UN audit had found that Solheim had spent nearly five lakh US dollar on travel.

These unjustified travel expenses raised accusations that the Environment chief showed little regard for the environment and efforts to reduce carbon emissions generated by air travel. They come at a time when the world body is struggling with shrinking budgets.

The Report: Key Highlights

According to a draft of the report, the amount spent on travel by UN Environment doubled between 2014 and 2017.

The report was particularly critical of the travel undertaken by Solheim, UN Environment executive director since 2016.

Solheim was found to have travelled for 529 out of the 668 days audited, spending $488,518 with no regard for the rules.

On one occasion, it said that Solheim made an eight-hour trip from Washington DC for a weekend in Paris, before taking another flight to New York City.

The report says that Solheim’s leave and travel were approved by a member of his office who reported directly to him – in contravention of UN rules.

The audit was carried out by the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS).

About Erik Solheim

 UN environment Chief Erik Solheim quits

Erik Solheim is a Norwegian diplomat, who served as the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme from 2016 to 2018.

Solheim was formerly a politician for the Socialist Left Party (SV). He led its youth branch, the Socialist Youth, from 1977 to 1981 and was the party secretary from 1981 to 1985. He served as a member of the Parliament of Norway from 1989 to 2001.

He was the leader of his party from 1987 to 1997. During Solheim’s tenure as a party leader, the party moved closer to the centre and abandoned many former hard-left stances.

In 2000 Solheim left Norwegian politics to take up an appointment as a special adviser in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs working as a participant in the Norwegian delegation that unsuccessfully attempted to resolve the Sri Lankan Civil War before the outbreak of Eelam War IV.

Solheim returned to Norwegian politics in 2005 when he was appointed Minister of International Development. In 2007 he additionally became the Minister of the Environment and he held both offices until 2012.

After leaving the government in 2012, he returned to his previous position as a special adviser in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and he served as the Chair of the OECD Development Assistance Committee in Paris from 2013 till he was appointed Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme in 2016.

Other Details

Solheim’s resignation, which was accepted by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, would be effective from November 22.

The UN Environment Programme aims to set the global environmental agenda through leadership and partnerships.

Solheim was described by UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric as having been a leading voice in drawing the world’s attention to critical environmental challenges, including plastics pollution and circularity, climate action, the rights of environmental defenders, biodiversity and environmental security.

Gujarat launches intensive project to conserve Gir lions

Gujarat launches project

Gujarat government on November 20, 2018 launched a Rs 351-crore project for the conservation of the Gir lions. The project is launched in the backdrop of the Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) outbreak that claimed 23 Asiatic lions lives in their only dwelling Gir National park in Saurashtra.

This intensive project will also include an emergency ambulance van akin to the 108 emergency services.

 

Canine distemper

Canine distemper is a viral disease that affects a wide variety of animal families, including domestic and wild species of dogs, coyotes, foxes, pandas, wolves, ferrets, skunks, raccoons, and large cats, as well as pinnipeds, some primates, and a variety of other species.

Canine distemper is also sometimes termed as hardpad disease.

Canine distemper is caused by a single-stranded RNA virus of the family Paramyxoviridae (the same family of the viruses that causes measles, mumps, and bronchiolitis in humans). It affects several body systems, including the gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts and the spinal cord and brain, with common symptoms that include high fever, eye inflammation and eye/nose discharge, labored breathing and coughing, vomiting and diarrhea, loss of appetite and lethargy, and hardening of nose and footpads.

The Gujarat government put on hold approval to 10 mines in the Gir region in view of the environmental issues related to the eco-sensitive zones 10 km around Gir. Wildlife experts and forest officials have been complaining for long that mining and commercial activities around the lion sanctuary have increasingly become a threat to the tranquil existence of the wild beasts.

Modern technology for conservation

The Government said that modern technology would also be used in lion conservation. The movements of nocturnal animals like the lions and others will be tracked through closed-circuit television cameras (CCTV) and camera-mounted drones.

They are also planning to bring in a project on the lines of E-eye, which has been successful in the Corbett National Park.

E-eye

E-Eye is a 24/7 all-weather large-scale intelligent technology, capable of providing live-feed wildlife supervision in vulnerable areas and sanctuary perimeters, collecting and interpreting wildlife crime data to alert law enforcement before violations occur.

The E-eye apparatus protects areas by helping in monitoring the hard-to-access regions, manage patrols, detect intruders, and keep rangers accountable. It also helps reserve managers study wildlife.

The government has also decided to set up five Safari Parks. Accordingly, a lion safari will come up at Gandhinagar, a Tiger Safari at Kevadia near the Statue of Unity and two leopard safari parks will be set up in Mandvi in Surat district and Dangs in South Gujarat.

WB passes bill to give land rights to enclave dwellers

land rights to enclave dwellers

To end an era of undecided future for the people residing West Bengal (WB) enclaves, the WB Assembly unanimously passed a bill to provide land rights to enclave dwellers in north Bengal.

The bill was moved by Minister of State for Land and Land Reforms Chandrima Bhattacharya, the West Bengal Land Reforms (Amendment) Bill, 2018, was passed in the House unopposed. The WB Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee termed it as a “historic Bill” that would help the enclave dwellers to get full-fledged status as citizens of India, along with all civic amenities and citizenship rights.

West Bengal Land Reforms (Amendment) Bill, 2018

This Bill will help in the distribution of land-right documents to the people of the enclaves in the border district of Cooch Behar, the chief minister said, adding that the state government was working hard to give beneficiaries their due.

Background

India and Bangladesh on August 1, 2015 ended one of the world’s most-complex border disputes that had lingered for seven decades since Independence by exchanging a total of 162 enclaves. With this exchange, 14,856 people living in 51 Bangladeshi enclaves became part of India. Indian deeds for their land eluded them till date, making it impossible for them to buy, sell or get farming loans for their land.

With the exchange of enclaves, following an agreement between the two countries with the consent of West Bengal, the enclave dwellers deserve their rights as the citizens of India.

The agreement of exchange

The agreement of exchange between India and Bangladesh also gave some territory from India to Bangladesh. In Cooch Behar of WB, 111 Indian enclaves, spread across 17,160 acres, became a part of Bangladesh territory and 51 Bangladesh enclaves, comprising 7,110 acres, joined India.

The enclave residents were allowed to either reside at their present location or move to the other country.

Around 37,334 people residing in the enclaves in the Indian side refused to go to Bangladesh, whereas 922 enclave dwellers, who were in the Bangladesh side, preferred to be in India.

Impact

With the passing of the bill, it will create 13 new administrative districts (mouzas), while the rest of the area would be merged with the existing 31 ‘mouzas’. However, the Plot-to-plot verification has already been commenced to ascertain the possession of the land to the dwellers, who now reside on khas land.

26th General Conference on Weights and Measures redefines standard definition of Kg

26th General Conference on Weights and Measures redefines standard definition of Kg

The 26th meeting of the General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM) was held from November 13-16, 2018 at Palais des Congrés, Versailles, France.  The CGPM is the highest international body of the world for accurate and precise measurements.

Significance

The 26th CGPM was special and historic, as the members voted for the redefinition of 130-years-old “Le grand K – the SI unit of kg” in terms of the fundamental Planck’s constant (h). The new definitions will come into force on May 20, 2019.

CGPM Members

The CGPM comprises 60 countries including India and 42 Associate Members. India was represented by Consumer Affairs Secretary Avinash K Srivastava, National Physical Laboratory (NPL) Director D K Aswal and Head of NPL’s Planning, Monitoring & Evaluation TD Senguttuvan.

Key Highlights

The International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM), the main executive body of CGPM has the responsibility of defining the International System of Units (SI).

The revision of the SI is the culmination of many years of intensive scientific cooperation between the National Metrology Institutes (The National Physical Laboratory for India) and the BIPM.

The dissemination of SI units for the welfare of society and industries in the country is the responsibility of Legal Metrology, Department of Consumer Affairs, Government of India.

Out of five draft resolutions, the revision of the International System of Units and the definition of timescales are important.

The most important is the resolution on the revision of the International System of Units.

The definition of the seven base units namely, second, metre, kilogram, ampere, Kelvin, mole and candela has been changed from being linked to artefacts to being based on the fundamental constants on nature.

New Definitions

Kilogram: The definition of the kilogram has been changed from being the mass of prototype sanctioned by the 1st CGPM held in Paris in 1889 and deposited at the BIPM to the Planck constant, which is a physical constant.

Metre: The definition of the metre has been changed to link it to the speed of light. Similarly, there is a change in the definition of time also.

Impact

The change in the definitions will result in uniform and worldwide accessible SI system for international trade, high- technology manufacturing, human health and safety, protection of the environment, global climate studies and the basic science underpinning these.

The units are expected to be stable in the long term, internally self-consistent and practically realisable being based on the present theoretical description of nature at the highest level.

Old Definition of Kilogram

 New International System of Units to come into force

The International prototype of kilogram (IPK), which serves as the international standard of kilogram,  is kept at the BIPM, Paris.

It is made of 90 per cent platinum and 10 per cent iridium and is a cylinder of 39 mm diameter and 39 mm height.

The replicas of the IPK are made of the same material and used at BIPM as reference or working standards and national prototype of kilogram (NPK), kept at different National Metrology Institutes (NMIs).

The NPK-57, kept at CSIR- National Physical Laboratory, is sent periodically to BIPM for calibration.

What was the problem with the system?

Having an artifact as the world standard for a measurement unit has two fundamental problems.

1.  The first is that it can change value over time but, because it’s the world standard, there is no way of knowing how it changes, as it’s the standard. If the world standard changes, all measurements traced to it will also change.

2. The second problem is that it is difficult to bring every mass-measurement device to France every time it needs calibration. Thus, the national standards labs such as NIST in the US and NPL in the UK have their own kilogram standards that they periodically bring to France for comparison against the Prototype.

New Definition of Kilogram

New Definition: The kilogram is defined by taking the fixed numerical value of the Planck constant h to be 6.626 070 15 × 10−34 when expressed in the unit J s, which is equal to kg m⊃2; s−1, where the meter and the second are defined in terms of c and Δv.

When it comes into force on May 20, 2019, the new kilogram definition will do away with the comparisons to the International Prototype.

It will enable the national labs to create their own standard for the kilogram because it will be reproducible.

However, it is important to note that Kilogram won’t be changing, just the way it is defined.

Thereon, the process for realising a kilogram will rely on a tool called Kibble balance.

What is Kibble Balance?

Kibble balance is a self-calibrating electromechanical balance and provides the measurements of mass, traceable in terms of electrical parameters and provides linkage of macroscopic mass to the Planck constant(h).

 New International System of Units to come into force

The national labs of UK, US, Canada and Germany have successfully developed Kibble balance for 1 kg with an uncertainty of measurement in order of 10-8.

The NPL-India, in association with the Department of Consumer Affairs, Government of India is looking forward for the development of 1 kg Kibble balance.

Advantages of Kibble Balance

The main advantage of the tool would be that the national prototype of kilogram would not have to be sent to BIPM for calibrations.

Further, the accuracy and stability of the Kibble balance would be very high, which is very important where low weights with high accuracies are essential, for example in pharmaceuticals and biotechnologies.

How does it work?

The tool uses coils and magnets wherein the current in the coil exerts a known force and that current can be measured to sufficient accuracy.

As the definition of current has already been established in terms of magnetic-field force, it can be used to derive an upward force from which the mass of an unknown object can be compared. When the forces are equal, the mass of the unknown object can be measured.

The voltage and current measurements are based on Planck’s Constant.

Significance: As Kibble balances already exist in national metrology labs, the kilogram can now be recreated across the planet.

India asks WTO to set up panel against US for high import duty on steel, aluminium

India- US Trade dispute

India’s trade dispute with America has reached to a next level in the World Trade Organization (WTO), as India asked the WTO to form a panel against the USA for imposing high import duties on aluminium and certain steel products.

India decision to urge WTO to set up panel came after both countries failed to resolve the issue in a bilateral talk process under the WTO’s dispute settlement mechanism.

 

Dispute settlement in WTO

Disputes in the WTO are essentially about broken promises. WTO members have agreed that if they believe fellow-members are violating trade rules, they will use the multilateral system of settling disputes instead of taking action unilaterally. That means abiding by the agreed procedures, and respecting judgements.

A dispute arises when one country adopts a trade policy measure or takes some action that one or more fellow-WTO members considers to be breaking the WTO agreements, or to be a failure to live up to obligations. A third group of countries can declare that they have an interest in the case and enjoy some rights.

However, when any dispute arises between the member countries, consultation is the first step of the dispute settlement process in the organisation. If two countries are not able to reach a mutually agreed solution through consultation, a country can request for a WTO dispute settlement panel to review the matter.

So, now, when India has asked the WTO for establishment of the dispute panel on the matter, means consultation did not work.

What’s the case?

Earlier US President Trump imposed the tariffs levying 25% on steel import and 10% on aluminium. While imposing the tariffs, US justified it by saying that it’s a matter of national security and hence it is the ‘safeguard’ under WTO rule and out of purview the WTO’s remit.

This imposition of high import duties affected the exports of Indian businesses of these products. And India believes that US move is not in compliance with global trade norms.

It is estimated that India exports steel and aluminium goods worth about $1.6 billion a year to USA.

India, Russia, Japan, China, European Union and Turkey have all dismissed US claim regarding the U.S. tariffs as ”safeguards” under the WTO rules, entitling them to a combined $3.5 billion in annual compensation. They dragged the US in the WTO for tariff imposition which triggered global trade tensions.

Impacts on India

As per the experts, America’s decision to impose tariffs will impact India’s export of these goods and hit global trade. The entire basis of the US action is based on its own perception of security threat issue. This cannot be a ground to impose these duties.

However, some experts are also in the opinion that dragging the US in the dispute over the issue is not a positive step, since India had a trade surplus with America.
Both countries are also involved in several other disputes in the WTO, including in the areas of poultry, export incentives, solar and steel.

In retaliation to the imposition of duties by the US, India had decided to increase customs duty on 29 American products such as almond, walnut, pulses and iron and steel items. The duties would come into effect from December 17.

SC to direct states to implement draft witness protection scheme

SC to direct states to implement draft witness protection scheme

The Supreme Court of India on November 19, 2018 said that it would direct all the states to implement the draft witness protection scheme framed by the Centre in consultation with the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).

The SC bench comprising Justices AK Sikri and S Abdul Nazeer took the decision in response to the plea made by Attorney General KK Venugopal that the draft scheme, which has now been finalised, would be made into a law in due course, but till then the court should direct the states to start implementing it.

Key Highlights

The issue of the witness protection scheme had cropped up earlier when the top court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking protection for witnesses in rape cases involving self-styled preacher Asaram Bapu.

During the hearing on November 19, advocate Gaurav Agrawal, assisting the court as an amicus curiae in the matter, told the bench that the government has finalised the draft witness protection scheme in consultation with NALSA, based on the inputs received from a majority of the states.

The advocate stated that the scheme has three categories of witnesses based on the threat perception, and suggested that the states should start enforcing it.

The petitioners, who are witnesses in cases related to Asaram, had sought a probe into the instances of alleged attacks and disappearances of witnesses in these cases.

The top court had in March 2017 questioned Haryana and Uttar Pradesh over the status of implementation of witness protection schemes till then and had directed them to provide security cover to witnesses in rape cases against Asaram, who is currently in jail.

While Uttar Pradesh has three such witnesses, Haryana has one.

Witness Protection Scheme-2018

Objective

To enable a witness to give testimony in a judicial setting or to cooperate with law enforcement and investigations without fear of intimidation or reprisal.

To ensure that the investigation, prosecution and trial of criminal offences is not prejudiced because witnesses are intimidated or frightened to give evidence without protection from violent or other criminal recrimination.

To promote law enforcement by facilitating the protection of persons who are involved directly or indirectly in providing assistance to criminal law enforcement agencies and the overall administration of Justice.

To give witnesses the confidence to come forward to assist law enforcement and Judicial Authorities with full assurance of safety.

To identify a series of measures that may be adopted to safeguard witnesses and their family members from intimidation and threats against their lives, reputation and property.

Why is there a need for such a scheme?

In cases involving influential people, witnesses turn hostile because of the threat to life and property.  In such cases, witnesses find that there is no legal obligation by the state for extending any security.

The Supreme Court had held in an old judgement that it is the salutary duty of every witness who has the knowledge of the commission of the crime, to assist the State in giving evidence.

If the witnesses get threatened or are forced to give false evidence, it would not result in a fair trial.

Due to witnesses turning hostile, the conviction rate in murder and rape in India is just around 10 to 12 per cent.

The first-ever reference to witness protection in India came in 14th Law Commission Report in 1958.

 SC to direct states to implement draft witness protection scheme

Why now?

Organised crime has seen a huge jump in recent years and is becoming stronger and more diverse.

In the investigation and prosecution of crime, particularly the more serious and complex forms of organised crime, it is essential that witnesses, the cornerstones for successful investigation and prosecution, have trust in the criminal justice system.

Witnesses need to have the confidence to come forward to assist law enforcement and prosecutorial authorities. They need to be assured that they will receive support and protection from intimidation and the harm that criminal groups may seek to inflict upon them in attempts to discourage or punish them from co-operating.

Hence, legislative measures to emphasise prohibition against tampering of witnesses have become the imminent and inevitable need of the day.

Even the Law Commission of India has recommended that witnesses should be protected from the wrath of the accused in any eventuality.

Following are some of the rights that the witnesses should be entitled to:

i) Right to give evidence anonymously

ii) Right to protection from intimidation and harm

iii) Right to be treated with dignity and compassion and respect of privacy

iv) Right to information of the status of the investigation and prosecution of the crime

v) Right to secure waiting place while at Court proceedings

vi) Right to transportation and lodging arrangements

Scope of the Scheme

The Witness Protection scheme may be as simple as providing a police escort to the Courtroom, offering temporary residence in a safe house or using modern communication technology such as video conferencing for the recording of testimony.

In other more complex cases, where cooperation by a witness is critical to the successful prosecution of a powerful criminal group, extraordinary measures are required to ensure the witness’s safety such as anonymity, relocation of the witness under a new identity in a new, undisclosed place of residence.

The witness protection, especially in its practical operation, must, therefore, be viewed on a case by case basis in meaningful assistance to the witnesses.

Background

In November 2017, the Supreme Court had asked the Centre as to why a draft scheme cannot be formulated for witness protection in the country when specific provisions in this regard were already there in the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act.

It had said that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) could at least come out with a draft scheme for witness protection and had asked the Attorney General to give his suggestions on the issue.

The court had said that the witness protection scheme can be implemented for at least sensitive cases and that the MHA could come out with a comprehensive plan.

In April 2018, the Centre had informed the top court that it had framed a draft witness protection scheme and it was circulated among the states and Union Territories administration for comments.

The court had asked the Centre to finalise the scheme after getting a response from the states and Union Territories.

20 November 2018

Prime Minister launches Ease of Doing Business Grand Challenge

Prime Minister launches Ease of Doing Business Grand Challenge

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 19, 2018 launched the Ease of Doing Business grand challenge on resolving seven identified ease of doing business problems with the use of cutting-edge technologies.

Ease of Doing Business Grand Challenge

Ease of Doing Business Ranking

The Doing Business Ranking is an annual assessment conducted by the World Bank that measures aspects of regulation affecting 10 areas of the life of a business, evaluating 190 countries on 10 specific indicators.

The scores are based on the measures implemented by the Government departments, however, they also reflect the experience of industry users that is counted in the rankings.

The 10 indicators include starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting minority interests, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts and resolving insolvency.

EODB Grand Challenge

From a user’s perspective, ease of doing business signifies the ease of getting permission, license, registration or a service from a government agency. There are established processes within each government agency for issuing of such permissions or services.

Hence, the grand challenge seeks to invite innovative ideas from individuals, startups or other enterprises to implement artificial intelligence, Big Data Analytics, Internet of Things (IoT), Blockchain and other cutting-edge technologies for re-engineering related Government processes to eliminate physical interface, improve service delivery, enhance transparency and reduce cost and time.

 Prime Minister launches Ease of Doing Business Grand Challenge

Key Highlights

The EODB grand challenge is open to all young Indians, start-ups and private enterprises. The main purpose is to provide solutions to complex problems using current technology.

The platform for the grand challenge will be the Start-up India portal.

The date for closing of applications is January 1, 2019 and the final results will be declared on February 1, 2019.

The top 3 teams for each problem statement would be awarded cash prizes worth Rs 1 lakh, Rs 2 lakh and Rs 3 lakh respectively.

The government would be working with all the winners for solution development and implementation.

Other Details

The Prime Minister at a programme organised at his residence on November 19 interacted with select CEOs from Indian & foreign companies.

The Prime Minister apprised CEOs of the efforts being made by the Union Government to ensure that India consistently improves its business environment.

The Prime Minister further reiterated his resolve to make India one of the easiest places to conduct business in the world.

He then congratulated all the government officials from the reforming Ministries and Departments as well as states and municipal corporations for their achievements in the last 4 years and exhorted them to work towards reforms with greater zeal and energy.

Hartwig Schafer, Vice President, South Asia of the World Bank Group, also addressed the gathering and appreciated the enormity of India’s achievement.

He also stressed that it gets tougher to improve ranks as a country moves higher up in the ranking and expressed his belief that India will continue to maintain the momentum it has gained over the last four years in its efforts in improving Ease of Doing Business.

Background

In the World Bank’s Doing Business Report (DBR, 2019) released on October 31, 2018 India recorded a jump of 23 positions from 100 in 2017 to 77 in 2018, among a total of 190 countries.

India also recorded the highest improvement in two years by any large country since 2011 in the Doing business assessment by improving its rank by 53 positions.

India improved its rank in 6 out of 10 indicators and has moved closer to international best practices (Distance to Frontier score) on 7 out of the 10 indicators.

In the grant of construction permits, India’s rank improved from 181 in 2017 to 52 in 2018, an improvement of 129 ranks in a single year.

In Trading across Borders, India’s rank improved by 66 positions moving from 146 in 2017 to 80 in 2018.

The World Bank has recognised India as one of the top improvers for the year. This is the second consecutive year for which India has been recognised as one of the top improvers.

World Toilet Day observed globally

World Toilet Day observed globally

19 November: World Toilet Day

The World Toilet Day was observed across the world on November 19, 2018. The day’s main focus is to inspire action to tackle the global sanitation crisis and ensure that everyone has a safe toilet by 2030. This is part of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6: sanitation and water, which aims to ensure availability and sustainable management of sanitation and water for all by 2030.

The 2018 theme of the International Day is ‘toilets and nature’. This year’s campaign is based on the narrative: When nature calls, we have to listen and act. The theme focuses on the need to build toilets and sanitation systems that work in harmony with the environment.

Objective

The key objective of the observance is to engage with communities and reaffirm the national resolve to sustain the Sanitation achievement. Since the inception of the Swachh Bharat Mission, the rural sanitation coverage has increased from 39 per cent in October 2014 to over 96 per cent currently.

 World Toilet Day observed globally

The World Toilet Day focuses on nature-based solutions (NBS) to the world’s sanitation needs. Following are some of the solutions:

– Composting latrines that capture and treat human waste on site, producing a free supply of fertiliser to help grow crops.

– Human-made wetlands and reed-beds filter wastewater before it is released back into water courses.

World Toilet Day Commemoration in India

In India, the day was celebrated with mass awareness and mobilisation activities across states and districts.

The main focus of the campaign is on the usage of toilets, which is closely linked to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for a Swachh Bharat by October 2019.

The central part of the day’s celebrations in India was the Swachh Bharat World Toilet Day Contest, which was announced on the occasion by the Union Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.

The key purpose of the Contest is to encourage all districts in India to re-intensify the sanitation movement with a special focus on Open Defecation Free-ODF Sustainability.

As per the advisory issued by the Ministry, top 10 District Collectors, top 3 State Mission Directors and State Secretary in-charge of Sanitation will be recognised and awarded by the Swachh Bharat Mission.

Global Sanitation Coverage: Key Highlights

 World Toilet Day observed globally

More people in the world have phones than toilets. The world is better at communication than sanitation.

Over billions of people do not have a safe toilet.

Around 80 per cent of all the world’s wastewater flows back untreated into the environment.

About one-fifth of schools worldwide have no toilet facilities at all, which is a big problem for girls during menstruation.

Around 900 million schoolchildren have nowhere to wash their hands to stop the spread of deadly diseases.

During menstruation, women and girls often stay home or quit altogether, when there are no safe toilets and private hygiene facilities at work or school.

Presently, around 445 million women and girls have no other option but to go to the toilet in the open.

Background

The world is not on track to reach Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6: to ensure availability and sustainable management of sanitation and water for all by 2030.

All over the world, approximately 4.5 billion people live without a safe toilet and 892 million people still practise open defecation.

Hence, human faeces, on a massive scale, are not being captured or treated thus, contaminating the water and soil that sustain human life.

The impact of exposure to human faeces on this scale has a devastating impact on public health, living conditions, nutrition, education and economic productivity across the world.

The SDG 6 aims to ensure that everyone has a safe toilet and that no-one practises open defecation by 2030. The failure to achieve this goal risks the entire agenda for Sustainable Development.

PM Modi inaugurates KMP Expressway, Ballabhgarh-Mujesar Metro rail link

PM Modi inaugurates KMP Expressway/Image for representation purpose

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 19, 2018 inaugurated the Kundli-Manesar section of the Kundli-Manesar-Palwal (KMP) western peripheral expressway. Along with this, he also inaugurated the 3.2 km-long Ballabhgarh-Mujesar Metro rail link, which would facilitate travel for people of Delhi and Faridabad, and laid the foundation stone of the Shri Vishwakarma Skill University, which will come up at Dudhola in Palwal district.

Ballabhgarh becomes the fourth city in Haryana to get metro connectivity after Gurgaon, Faridabad and Bahadurgarh.

Earlier this year, Manesar to Palwal stretch of the KMP, whose entire length is 135.65 km, was opened for public.

Important facts about KMP Expressway

  • KMP expressway will pass through five districts of Haryana: Gurugram, Sonipat, Mewat, Jhajjar and Palwal.
  • A sum of Rs 6,400 crore has been spent on the expressway project and 3,846 acres of land was acquired at a cost of Rs 2,788 crore.
  • The length of the stretch from Kundli to Manesar is over 83 km. This stretch would have 14 major or minor bridges, 56 underpass or agricultural vehicular underpasses, seven intersections and seven toll plazas.
  • The expressway will decongest the road traffic from Delhi, especially reducing the number of trucks entering the national capital, thus helping in reducing pollution.
  • Besides, the project will also provide a high-speed link between northern Haryana and southern districts and give an uninterrupted high-speed link for traffic, especially commercial traffic, from Haryana to neighbouring states.

Commerce Minister releases report on Industrial Park Rating System

Commerce Minister releases report on Industrial Park Rating System

The Union Commerce Minister, Suresh Prabhu on November 19, 2018 released a report on Industrial Park Rating System. The report was prepared by the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

Speaking on this occasion, Commerce Minister said that manufacturing has emerged as one of the high growth sectors in India and it has moved 23 places up in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business (EODB-2019) and achieved the rank of 77 out of 190 countries.

Key Highlights

The Ministry has undertaken the exercise of studying infrastructure across states and in 3354 industrial clusters in order to assess the quality of infrastructure in industrial parks, to ensure that India moves into the top 50 countries in Ease of Doing Business.

According to the Commerce Ministry, it will be a useful tool for policymakers and investors at the click of a button.

The database includes 3000 parks and all the industrial parks will be rated on the following 4 points:

– Internal infrastructure

– External infrastructure

– Business services and facilities

– Environment and safety management

To optimise resource utilisation and enhance the efficiency of the manufacturing sector, the DIPP has launched the Industrial Information System (IIS), a GIS-enabled database of industrial areas and clusters across the country in May 2017.

The portal serves as a one-stop solution to the free and easy accessibility of all industrial information including availability of raw material – agriculture, horticulture, minerals, natural resources, distance from key logistic nodes, layers of terrain and urban infrastructure.

The portal has been actively used by the State Governments and Industrial Development Corporations over the last one year and they have nominated over 200 parks for assessment along the above parameters.

Significance

The Industrial Park Rating System is proposed to be translated into an annual exercise covering all the parks across India.

The coverage would be widened and updated to bring in deeper qualitative assessment feedback and technological intervention and develop it as a tool that effectively helps for demand-driven and need-based interventions both by policymakers and investors.

Baba Kalyani committee submits report on India’s SEZ policy

Baba Kalyani-led committee submits report on India’s SEZ policy

The Baba Kalyani led committee constituted by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to study the existing SEZ policy of India submitted its report to Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu, in New Delhi on November 19, 2018.

The key objectives of the committee included:

– To evaluate the SEZ policy and make it WTO compatible

To suggest measures for maximising utilisation of vacant land in SEZs

To suggest changes in the SEZ policy based on international experience

To merge the SEZ policy with other Government schemes such as coastal economic zones, Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor, national industrial manufacturing zones and food and textiles parks.

Key Highlights

The Committee’s chairman, Baba Kalyani, while submitting the report to the Commerce Minister said that if India is going to become a USD 5 trillion economy by 2025 then the current environment of manufacturing competitiveness and services has to undergo a basic paradigm shift.

The report notes that the success seen by services sectors like IT and ITES has to be promoted in other services sector like health care, financial services, legal, repair and design services.

The Union Government has set the target of creating 100 million jobs and achieving 25 per cent of GDP from the manufacturing sector by 2022, as a part of its flagship ‘Make in India’ programme.

The Government also plans to increase manufacturing value to USD 1.2 trillion by 2025.

While these are ambitious plans to propel India into a growth trajectory, it requires an evaluation of existing policy frameworks to catalyse manufacturing sector growth.

At the same time, the policy needs to be compiled with the relevant WTO regulations.

Speaking on the same, Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu said that the suggestions of the committee are very constructive and that the Commerce Ministry will immediately begin formal consultations with the Finance Ministry and other Ministries so that implementation of the committee’s recommendations may be done without any delay.

Background

In June 2018, the Union Commerce Ministry set up a committee headed by Bharat Forge chairman Baba Kalyani to make its special economic zone (SEZ) policy compatible with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules after the US challenged India’s export subsidy programme at the multilateral trade body.

The group was given three months time to submit its recommendations.

India’s SEZ Policy was implemented from April 1, 2000. Subsequently the Special Economic Zones Act, 2005 was passed by Parliament in May 2005 and received presidential assent on the June 23, 2005 and the Special Economic Zone Act was enacted.

The SEZ Act, 2005, supported by SEZ Rules, came into effect on February 10, 2006.

The commerce ministry has been consistently lobbying with the finance ministry to exempt units in the SEZs from the minimum alternate tax (MAT), imposed on them in 2011.

Commerce Minister launches AirSewa 2.0 to make air travel hassle-free

Commerce Minister launches AirSewa 2.0 to make air travel hassle-free

Union Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu and Minister of State for Civil Aviation, Jayant Sinha on November 19, 2018 launched the upgraded version of AirSewa 2.0 web portal and mobile app in New Delhi.

Speaking on the occasion, the Civil Aviation Minister said that a need was felt for development of an upgraded version of AirSewa to provide a superior user experience with enhanced functionalities.

Key Highlights

The major improvements in the upgraded version of the web portal include features such as secure sign-up and log-in with social media, chatbot for travellers support, improved grievance management including social media grievances.

It will allow flyers to register their complaints through social media using the hashtag ‘AirSewa’.

It will provide all the required information about flights operating from various airports across the country including real-time flight status and details of flight schedule.

It will provide all services and facilities including assistance to the disabled or unaccompanied minor that are available at the airports in India.

The upgraded version of AirSewa operates through an interactive web portal as well as through a mobile app for both Android and iOS platforms and will offer passengers a convenient and hassle-free air travel experience.

The web portal and application will also help capture air travellers’ feedback for policy interventions.

In relation to the same, the Commerce Minister gave away the champion award to Chennai airport that saw hundred per cent timely closure of grievances in one year.

 Commerce Minister launches AirSewa 2.0 to make air travel hassle-free

Objective

The main focus of the Aviation Ministry is on improving the quality of services so that passengers who are travelling have a safe and comfortable experience.

Background

According to the Aviation Ministry, currently five crore passengers are travelling by air every year and the number is expected to grow exponentially in the near future.

Hence, the Ministry felt there was an urgent need of upgradation of AirSewa and systemic intervention in improving customer services.

The Air passengers face issues like flight delays, problem in refunds, long queues, inadequate facilities at airports and complaints of lost baggage.

The Ministry of Civil Aviation launched AirSewa web portal and mobile app in November 2016 to address this need. The AirSewa 1.0 was received well, with around 30,000 app downloads and around 75,000 web portal hits since its launch.

The upgradation has helped a significant number of air passengers to get their concerns resolved with 92 per cent closure rate for grievance solutions.

In addition to grievance redressal, AirSewa also provides real-time flight status and flight schedules.

Further upgrades of AirSewa are also being planned which would include DigiYatra registration, airport maps, BHIM payment integration and grievance escalation and transfer.

18-19 November 2018

Maharashtra Cabinet passes Maratha Reservation Bill

Maharashtra Cabinet passes Maratha Reservation Bill

The state cabinet of Maharashtra on November 18, 2018 passed the Maratha Reservation Bill, approving reservation for the Maratha community. The bill is likely to be tabled during the winter session of the state’s legislative assembly.

The state government made the decision based on the recommendations of the Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission, whose report was submitted to the state’s Chief Secretary DK Jain on November 15. The move follows months of massive protests by members of the community demanding reservation in education and jobs.

Key Highlights

Maharashtra’s Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced that independent reservation will be given to the Maratha community under a new category called SEBC (socially and economically backward category).

The Marathas will get the reservation from an independent quota and it is not expected to affect the reservations given to the Other Backward Class (OBC).

The State Commission for Backward Class had stated in its report that extraordinary and exceptional circumstances prevail among the Marathas, which makes them eligible to reap the benefits of reservation.

The commission’s report stated that Marathas are a “socially and educationally backward class of citizens” with minuscule representation in government and semi-government services.

The percentage of the reservation for the Maratha community will be decided by a sub-committee, which will be constituted by the state cabinet to take statutory steps for the implementation of the recommendations of the backward commission.

Background

Maharashtra CM Fadnavis had said last week that all statutory formalities over the quota issue will be completed in the next 15 days and that the Maratha community should get ready to celebrate on December 1.

The Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission’s report on the social and economic conditions of the Marathas, favouring the grant of quota to the community was submitted to the Chief Secretary on November 15.

The Maratha community, which accounts for 30 per cent of the state’s total population, has been protesting since 2017, demanding reservation in government jobs and educational institutions.

UIDAI CEO Ajay Bhushan Pandey appointed as new revenue secretary

UIDAI CEO Ajay Bhushan Pandey appointed as new revenue secretary

The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet on November 17, 2018 appointed Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) CEO Ajay Bhushan Pandey as the new revenue secretary. He will succeed current Finance and Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia, who is retiring on November 30.

According to the notification by the Appointments Committee, Pandey will continue to hold the charge as the CEO of UIDAI and GSTN Chairman until further orders. Pandey is a 1984 batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of Maharashtra cadre.

Other Top Bureaucratic Appointments

Girish Chandra Murmu

The Special Secretary in the Department of Revenue, Girish Chandra Murmu has been appointed as the Officer on Special Duty (OSD) of the Department of Expenditure. He will take charge after the retirement of current Expenditure Secretary Ajay Narayan Jha on January 31, 2019.

The 1985 batch IAS officer of Gujarat cadre is currently serving as a special secretary in the revenue department.

Anshu Prakash

Delhi Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash has been posted as additional secretary in the Department of Telecommunications.

Chhabilendra Roul

Punjab cadre IAS officer Chhabilendra Roul, who is currently the special secretary in the department of agricultural research and education, has been appointed as officer on special duty (OSD) in the fertilizers department.

Roul will take over as secretary on superannuation of Bharathi S Sihag at the end of December 2018.

Yogendra Tripathy

Food Corporation of India chairman and managing director Yogendra Tripathy has been appointed as secretary in the tourism department. Tripathy will take charge after the retirement of Rashmi Verma at the end of November 2018.

Upma Chawdhry

The Director of Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Upma Chawdhry has been appointed as Secretary in the Department of Youth Affairs.

Sumanta Chaudhuri

The West Bengal IAS officer, Sumanta Chaudhuri, who is currently the Managing Director of Small Farmers’ Agri-Business Consortium in the agriculture department, has been appointed as the Secretary in the Coal Ministry.

N Sivasailam

The special secretary in the department of telecommunications, N Sivasailam has been appointed as special secretary (logistics), in the department of commerce.

Shalini Prasad

Shalini Prasad, the special secretary in the Panchayati Raj ministry has been appointed as member Secretary in the Tariff Commission in the department of industrial policy and promotion.

Ashok Kumar Singh

Ashok Kumar Singh, additional secretary at Lok Sabha Secretariat, has been appointed as Secretary in the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes.

The special secretaries are of the same rank as secretaries with the only difference that the latter act as functional heads of a department.

India, Maldives released Joint Statement

India, Maldives released Joint Statement

India and Maldives released a Joint Statement on November 17, 2018 after extensive talks between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and His Excellency Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, President of the Republic of Maldives in Male.

Modi was on a one day visit to the Maldives to attend the historic swearing-in ceremony of Solih. On the occasion, the Prime Minister thanked Maldives President Solih for the special gesture of inviting him to the Inauguration Ceremony. He also conveyed greetings and compliments from the people of India to the people of the Republic of Maldives on the consolidation of democracy, which is essential for peace, prosperity and stability.

Highlights of the Joint Statement

Bilateral Relations

The two leaders, while noting the resilience of the relations between India and the Maldives, expressed confidence in the renewal of the close bonds of cooperation and friendship with the election of Solih as the President of the Maldives.

 India, Maldives released Joint Statement

Peace and Security

The leaders also agreed on the importance of maintaining peace and security in the Indian Ocean and being mindful of each other’s concerns and aspirations for the stability of the region.

Terrorism

The leaders also expressed their unwavering commitment and support for increased cooperation in combating terrorism both within the region and elsewhere.

Economic Development Partnership

Maldives President Solih briefed Prime Minister Modi on the dire economic situation facing the country as he takes office.

The two leaders discussed ways in which India can continue development partnership, particularly to help the new government in meeting its pledges to the people of the Maldives.

The Maldives leader highlighted the pressing need for increased housing and infrastructure development as well as for establishing water and sewerage systems in the outlying islands.

Modi assured the leader of India’s firm commitment in assisting the nation to achieve sustainable social and economic development.

Modi also conveyed India’s readiness to extend help in every possible way and suggested that both sides should meet at the earliest to work out details as per requirements of the Maldives.

Investment Opportunities

Modi also welcomed the expanding opportunities for Indian companies to invest in the Maldives in different sectors for the mutual benefit of both countries.

Visa Laws

The two leaders, while recognising that nationals of both countries travel extensively between the two countries, agreed on the need for facilitating easier visa procedures.

 India, Maldives released Joint Statement

Further, Prime Minister Modi extended an invitation to President Solih to make a state visit to India at his earliest convenience. President Solih accepted the invitation with pleasure. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Maldives is scheduled to make an official visit to India on November 26 to hold further discussions and prepare for the forthcoming state visit of President Solih to India. In return, Modi also accepted the invitation from President Solih to make an official visit to the Maldives in the future.

India’s Statue of Unity visible from space: Commercial satellite network ‘Planet’

India’s Statue of Unity visible from space: Commercial satellite network ‘Planet’

Commercial satellite network ‘Planet’ on November 17, 2018 revealed that India’s Statue of Unity, the world’s tallest statue, is visible from the space. The network Planet photographed the statue from the space on November 15.

India's Statue of Unity visible from space

The memorial was inaugurated on October 31, 2018 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Kevadia in Gujarat’s Narmada district to honour India’s first Deputy Prime Minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel on his 143rd birth anniversary.

At 182 metres, the bronze sculpture is nearly twice the height of US’ Statue of Liberty (93 metres).

Statue of Unity

• The Statue of Unity is a dream project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This project was announced on October 31, 2013 by Narendra Modi, when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat.

• For development of the project, Modi launched a country wide campaign to collect iron to build the Statue of Unity and iron was collected from around seven lakh villages across the nation.

• The statue is 182m tall that is double the size of New York’s Statue of Liberty (93 metres) and surpasses the height of Spring Temple Buddha in China (153 metres).

• The project includes an exhibition hall and audio-visual presentation on the life of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.

• The main structure was completed at an expense of Rs 1345 crore, a part of Rs 2979 crore total amount allocated for the project.

• Out of the remaining cost, Rs 235 crore is being spent on the construction of exhibition hall and convention centre; Rs 83 crore is being spent on the bridge connecting the memorial to the main land; and Rs 657 crore rupees will be spent to maintain the structure for next 15 years.

• Around 75000 cubic meters of concrete, 5700 metric tonne of steel structure, 18500 steel rods and 22500 metric tonne of bronze was used for this project.

Union Government, ADB sign loan agreements worth USD 574 million for various projects in India

Union Government, ADB sign loan agreements worth USD 574 million for various projects in India

The Union  Government and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) on November 16, 2018 signed loans agreements worth USD 574 million for various projects in India, including hydropower transmission in Himachal Pradesh; support to IIFCL in India; and for water and sanitation services in Tamil Nadu.

Established in 1966, the ADB is committed to achieve a prosperous, inclusive, resilient and sustainable Asia and the Pacific. It is owned by 67 members with 48 from the Asia and the Pacific region.

USD 105 million loan agreement to support hydropower transmission in Himachal Pradesh

• The ADB and the Union Government signed a USD 105 million loan agreement to continue financing the transmission system upgrades in Himachal Pradesh for increased supply of hydropower.

• This tranche 3 loan is part of the USD 350 million multi-tranche financing facility (MFF) for Himachal Pradesh Clean Energy Transmission Investment Program approved by the ADB Board in September 2011.

• The program is aimed at developing and expanding the transmission network to evacuate clean and renewable power generated from the State’s hydropower sources to load centers.

• It also supports the institutional capacity development of the state transmission utility, Himachal Pradesh Power Transmission Corporation Limited (HPPTCL), as the executing agency for the project.

• The loan will have a 25-year term, including a grace period of 5 years.

USD 300 million loan agreement to support IIFCL in India

• The ADB and Union Government signed a USD 300 million Loan Agreement to support lending by India Infrastructure Finance Company Limited (IIFCL).

• The  ADB funding is expected to fund at least 13 sub-projects through IIFCL, including roads and renewable power generation, under the last tranche.

• The Project supports the renewed effort of the Government in accelerating infrastructure growth through increased Private Sector investment.

• The will help catalyse the financial closing of USD 2.4 billion in investments.

• In addition, the attached technical assistance will support IIFCL capacity development and will focus on IIFCL’s financial management and social and environmental safeguards.

USD 169 million loan agreement to provide water and sanitation services in Tamil Nadu

• The ADB and Union Government signed USD 169 million loan as the First Tranche of a USD 500 million multi-tranche financing to develop climate-resilient water supply, sewerage, and drainage infrastructure in at least 10 cities of Tamil Nadu.

• The program will develop climate-resilient sewerage collection and treatment and drainage systems in 10 cities, and install the country’s first solar-powered sewage treatment plant.

• Introduction of smart water management systems will help reduce non-revenue water and strengthen operational efficiency.

• Around 4 million people will benefit from piped water and sewerage connections and improved drainage.

• The program will boost institutional capacity, public awareness, and urban governance as part of a comprehensive approach for developing livable cities.

• The First Tranche Loan will target the cities of Chennai, Coimbatore, Rajapalayam, Tiruchirappalli, Tirunelveli, and Vellore.

Government approves 3 proposals under Nirbhaya Fund; 1023 Fast Track Courts to be set up

Government approves 3 proposals under Nirbhaya Fund; 1023 Fast Track Courts to be set up

The Empowered Committee of Officers under Nirbhaya Fund, under the Chairmanship of Secretary, Women and Child Development Ministry on November 16, 2018 three proposals under the Nirbhaya Fund including setting up of 1023 Fast Track Special Courts.

Setting up of 1023 Fast Track Special Courts

• The Committee approved the proposal of the Department of Justice under Ministry of Law and Justice to set up 1023 Fast Track Special Courts (FTSCs) to dispose off pending cases of rape and POCSO Act across the country.

• The project was approved with a total financial outlay of Rs 767.25 crores.

• In the First phase, 777 FTSCs will be set up in 9 states and in the second phase, 246 FTSCs will be set up.

Procurement of forensic kits for sexual assault cases

• The Committee approved the proposal of Union Ministry of Home Affairs for procurement of forensic kits for sexual assault cases to kick start usage of such kits in States.

• These kits will be used through Training of Trainers (TOTs), capacity building or training for forensics in sexual assault cases and strengthening of State Forensic Science Laboratory (FSLs).

• The proposal was approved with a total  financial implication of Rs 107.19 crore.

Setting up video surveillance system at 50 Railway Stations

• The Committee approved the proposal from Konkan Railway Corporation Limited for setting up video surveillance system at 50 Railway Stations with a total Project cost of Rs 17.64 crore.

• The funding will be utilised for surveillance hardware and accessories, local connectivity equipment and power supply devices.

In-principle approval for state wise vehicle tracking platform

Apart from these three proposals, the committee gave in-principle approval to the proposal of the Union Ministry of Road Transport and highways for C-DAC for customisation, deployment and management of state wise vehicle tracking platform for safety and enforcement.

Nirbhaya Fund
  • The Nirbhaya Fund was announced in 2013 Union Budget by the government with a corpus of Rs 1000 crore. This fund was created to support the initiatives taken by the government and NGOs working towards protecting the dignity and ensuring the safety of women in India.
  • The government, in April 2015, made the Women and Child Development Ministry (WCD) as the Nodal Agency for the Nirbhaya Fund replacing the Home Ministry.
  • To approve the funds under Nirbhaya fund, a committee was constituted which comprised officials from various ministries, including women and child development, home affairs, road transport and railways.
  • Between 2013 and 2017, the corpus of Nirbhaya Fund grew to Rs 3100 crore.
Nirbhaya Incident

 

Damini or Nirbhaya, a 23-year old para-medical student was gang raped in New Delhi on December 16, 2012. Even after medical assistance, Nirbhaya passed away in Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore on December 29, 2012.

She was raped in the moving bus by six men, one of which included a minor. The 16 December gang rape led to massive protests across the country, following which, the Government promised strict punishment to the criminals and announced the Nirbhaya Fund for women safety.

17 November 2018

Odisha government announces new Biotechnology Policy

Representative Image

The state government of Odisha on November 15, 2018 announced a new Biotechnology Policy 2018 to attract investments in the sector at the concluding day of the Make in Odisha Conclave, held in its capital city Bhubaneswar.

Speaking on the occasion, Odisha’s Science and Technology Minister B N Patra said that the government will provide its full support for the development of the biotechnology sector by forming Public Private Partnership, bio-incubation centres and bi-tech finishing schools.

Objective

The state government aims to make the state a top biotech investment destination in the country.

Key Highlights

The development of the biotech sector will be based on three key pillars – innovation, entrepreneurship and investment.

Towards the same, the state government plans to collaborate with various international organisations to provide cutting edge technology in the biotech sector in order to provide innovation and fellowship and grant.

The new Biotechnology Policy was prepared after a wide range of discussion and inputs from various industries and stakeholders.

As per the policy, all biotechnology units shall be allotted land at a concessional rate as per the Industrial Policy Resolution of the state government. An additional subsidy of 25 per cent shall be available to reputed anchor tenants.

The policy provides attractive incentives for the stakeholders to invest in Odisha.

Background

Biotechnology is one of the emerging technologies that has excellent potential to grow in Odisha.

In the wake of IT transforming the country and the world, the state government has realised that biotech is another such emerging technology and that the state should take full advantage of it.

World Tolerance Summit held in Dubai

World Tolerance Summit held in Dubai

The World Tolerance Summit (WTS) 2018 was inaugurated on November 16, 2018 in Dubai, UAE. The theme of the summit was ‘Prospering from Pluralism: Embracing Diversity through Innovation and Collaboration’.

The two-summit is the biggest gathering of government leaders, ambassadors, change-makers and key figures from the public and private sectors. Over 2,000 ministers and government leaders from around the world are expected to participate in the event.  It is being held in the UAE for the first time.

Key Highlights

The summit is being held to commemorate the UN-designated International Day of Tolerance. UNESCO had declared November 16 as World Tolerance Day.

The interactive summit will engage international thought leaders, decision-makers, and influencers in thought-provoking discussions in technology, social innovations and global networking can play an important role in creating a conducive environment to bring about positive change in people’s lives.

The main aim will be to discuss the great importance of tolerance, peace, equality, and to celebrate diversity amongst people from all walks of life, regardless of varying political views, cultural and religious backgrounds.

Through a wide array of activities, it will delve deep into the ways by which individuals, organisations and nations can be open-minded, understanding and accepting of others’ opinions and beliefs in order to have a peaceful co-existence and cooperate in generating new ideas to build a prosperous and sustainable future.

WTS-Objective

The World Tolerance Summit aims:

To be a platform that serves as a meeting ground for international leaders from various countries to discuss and educate on the topic of cultural diversity, peace, and coexistence

To promote an understanding of peaceful coexistence, cooperation, and harmony, while rejecting violence, extremism, hate, fanaticism, and discrimination

To provide an innovative and creative solution to spreading awareness of tolerance to the Youth

To make the best use of technology and social innovation for society’s prosperity

To promote education about the active implementation of tolerance in one’s daily lifestyle.

To emphasise and affirm the universal right for all to adhere qualities of tolerance in society.

To encourage Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities among local and international institutions.

To address key messages on women empowerment and gender equality for tolerant societies

To send UAE’s message of tolerance, peace, and love to the world

Significance

Education and knowledge are the keys to inculcate deep values of peace, harmony, tolerance for diversity and to enhance the social fabric of the community.

Hence, the summit will play a crucial role in promoting tolerance and diversity which is the cue to peaceful co-existence between communities and regions.

It will also help discover how technology can empower societies to unify people from different religions, creeds, class and colour and develop innovative ways to share positive messages to create cohesive and vibrant societies.

World Tolerance Day

The International Day for Tolerance was observed globally on November 16, 2018.

 

 World Tolerance Summit held in Dubai

Background

The UN General Assembly through a resolution in 1996 invited the UN Member States to observe the International Day for Tolerance on November 16, 2018.

The move followed up on the United Nations Year for Tolerance, 1995, proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 at the initiative of UNESCO, as outlined in the Declaration of Principles on Tolerance and Follow-up Plan of Action for the Year.

To mark the day, the United Nations has launched a new campaign to promote tolerance, respect and dignity across the world.

The global campaign, “TOGETHER” aims to reduce negative perceptions and attitudes towards refugees and migrants, and to strengthen the social contract between host countries and communities and refugees and migrants.

UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence

UNESCO created ‘UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize’ for the promotion of tolerance and non-violence in 1995, to mark the United Nations Year for Tolerance and the 125th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi,

The prize rewards significant activities in the scientific, artistic, cultural or communication fields aimed at the promotion of a spirit of tolerance and non-violence.

It is awarded every two years on the International Day for Tolerance, November 16.

It may be awarded to institutions, organisations or persons, who have contributed in a particularly meritorious and effective manner to tolerance and non-violence.

The 2018 winners are social entrepreneur and filmmaker Manon Barbeau (Canada) and the Coexist Initiative, a non-profit organization working to end violence against women (Kenya).

Government to refund employers for seven weeks of maternity leave given to employees

The Union Women and Child Development Ministry announced on November 15, 2018 that the government will refund the employers the salaries for the first seven of the 26 weeks of maternity leave for women earning more than Rs 15,000 a month.

The Ministry’s decision came in the wake of complaints that many companies were reluctant to hire pregnant women after maternity leave was extended from 12 to 26 weeks and some were even firing women employees.

Key Highlights

The decision covers both the government as well as the private sector.

The government has decided to utilise the funds lying in the labour welfare cess to pay the employers.

The utilisation of the cess lying with the state governments has been very less.

Hence, the government decided after talks with the Labour Ministry that the seven of the 26 weeks of maternity leave for all women employees in the private and government sector getting more than Rs 15,000 a month would be paid from that fund.

The maternity leave for pregnant women was extended from 12 weeks to 26 weeks in 2017.

Background

The Lok Sabha on March 10, 2018 had passed the Maternity Benefits (Amendment) Bill, 2016, paving the way for doubling of the maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks.

The Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Parliament passed the bill in August 2017 during the monsoon session.

The bill, strongly supported by the women and child development ministry, increased maternity benefit from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for two surviving children and is aimed at benefitting about 1.8 million women in the organised sector.

Post the bill’s passing, India’s position rose to the third place in terms of the number of weeks given for maternity leave, after Canada (50) and Norway (44).

CBI-Alok Verma Dispute: SC orders CVC to hand over probe report to Alok Verma for his response

CBI-Alok Verma Dispute: SC orders CVC to hand over probe report to Alok Verma for his response

The Supreme Court on November 16, 2018 ruled that the vigilance probe report of the CVC against ousted CBI Director Alok Verma gives out “mixed” findings and indicated that some charges need to be investigated further.

As per the apex court, the report can be categorised in four points- very complimentary on some charges; not so complementary on others; very uncomplimentary on some charges and some charges require further investigation.

A Bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice S. K. Kaul and K. M. Joseph expressed gratitude to retired SC judge Justice AK Patnaik, who filed the report on basis of supervision of CVC probe as per SC directions.

CVC to hand over the report to CBI Director Alok Kumar

The court directed the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) to hand over the copy of the probe report to CBI Director Alok Kumar in a sealed cover and asked Verma to file his response by November 19, 2018. The matter will now be heard on November 20.

The court stated that the report should also be handed over to Attorney General K K Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta. The court ruled this with an aim to preserve the sanctity of the CVC and public confidence in the institution.

No information on the important decisions taken by M Nageshwar Rao

The Court noted that, so far, no details have been submitted setting out the important decisions taken by Interim Director M Nageshwar Rao.

October 2018 ruling of Supreme Court
The Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi on October 26, 2018 directed the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) to complete enquiry into divested CBI chief Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana cases in two weeks under retired Supreme Court judge AK Patnaik.

The Court clarified that the allocation of supervision of investigation to a former SC judge was a one-time exception and it should not be understood as reflection on any authority of Government of India.

The bench also ruled that Interim Director of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), M Nageswara Rao, is not authorised to take any policy decisions.

The bench directed that the decisions taken by Rao between October 23 -26, including transfers of investigations, change of Investigating Officers, etc. shall be furnished before the apex court in a sealed cover on November 12, 2018.

Nageshwar Rao shall not take any policy or major decisions and will only perform the routine processes to keep the CBI functioning.

Who filed the petition?

The bench of CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justice S K Kaul and Justice K M Joseph was hearing the petition filed by CBI Director Alok Verma and PIL filed by NGO Common Cause against the orders of CVC and Central Government divesting Verma of the powers of CBI Director and giving the charge of CBI to M. Nageshwara Rao.

CBI-Alok Verma- Rakesh Asthana Dispute

After a spell of internal strife in the CBI, the CVC and Central Government divested CBI Director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana from their roles and asked them to go on leave. Verma and Asthana accused each other of taking bribe and blocking investigation of several important cases.

Asthana, a 1984 batch Indian Police Service officer of Gujarat cadre, is alleged to have demanded a bribe of Rs 5 crore and accepting Rs 2 crore from a Hyderabad-based businessman Sathish Babu Sana through two middlemen Manoj Prasad and Somesh Prasad to help Sana get clear of his charges in the Moin Qureshi case. The case was being examined by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by Asthana.

On the other hand, CBI chief Verma also alleged corruption charges on Asthana with regard to the Sterling Biotech case.

However, Asthana hit back by writing to the Cabinet Secretary saying that Verma received Rs 2 crore bribe in the Moin Qureshi case and had tried to stop a raid on Lalu Prasad in the IRCTC case, alleging corruption on Verma’s part.

16 November 2018

SC issues directions to 8 High Courts, State Governments on appointment of Judges

SC issues directions to 8 High Courts, State Governments on appointment of Judges

The Supreme Court on November 15, 2018 issued a series of directions to eight High Courts and State Governments on the appointment of judges to the vacant positions in the subordinate judiciary.

The directions were issued to Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Goa, NCT Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Manipur, and Meghalaya.

The bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Sanjay Krishan Kaul and Justice K. M. Joseph also pulled up these state governments for their laid-back attitude in providing infrastructure and manpower for the functioning of the subordinate courts.

Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi clearly stated that the top court wants vacancies in subordinate judiciary to be filled up along with the required infrastructure for their functioning. He asserted that, “We need judges, we need court rooms and the staff”.

Delhi

The Registrar General told the court that there are 201 vacancies out of which recruitment process for 100 posts is underway. Regarding the remaining 100 vacancies, the Registrar General told the Court that it has not been advertised due to lack of infrastructure to house the courtrooms. However, this was not stated in the affidavit submitted by the High Court.

Regarding the infrastructure, the Court was told that 167 court buildings are needed. The Court was also apprised of the fact that construction was underway with respect to court buildings in four District courts and would be completed by October 2021. However, the Supreme Court told that it cannot wait for three years for completion of the same.

The Court further directed the Chief Secretary to file an affidavit indicating the difficulties and possible solutions in this regard.

Uttar Pradesh

More than 1000 posts are lying vacant in the subordinate judiciary in the State. In the higher judicial services, 125 posts were advertised on May 10, 2018. The Court directed that the recruitment process for the same should be completed by March 31, 2019.

For the 239 posts advertised for recruitment on November 12, 2018, the Court ordered the completion of recruitment process by July 31, 2019. The state was also given timeline for putting up court infrastructure, support staff and for accommodation for the judges.

West Bengal

The bench took note of the way the things were progressing in West Bengal. Of the 23 vacancies which were advertised, the recruitment process for 17 has already been completed.

However, the Court was critical of the lack of infrastructure provided to the judiciary by the State government. It directed the Chief Secretary and Finance Secretary to file affidavits indicating the time to complete the construction of court buildings and residential units.

Court’s directions to other states

The bench noted that there were a total of 22,036 posts in the subordinate judiciary. Out of these, 5,133 posts are lying vacant.

The court was satisfied the way things were progressing in Maharashtra and Assam.

It ordered the Manipur High Court to initiate the recruitment process with respect to the 5 vacancies of District Judges and complete it as expeditiously as possible.

The Court directed the High Court of Meghalaya to complete the construction of the 18 buildings in a time bound manner.

The court noted that out of the 72 vacancies in Higher Judicial Services in the Chhattisgarh High Court, recruitment process with respect to 62 vacancies is underway and will be completed by February 2019.

The court will consider the pleas of Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka and Kerala governments in the next hearing on December 5, 2018.

NITI Aayog organises South Asian Regional Conference on Urban Infrastructure

NITI Aayog organises South Asian Regional Conference on Urban Infrastructure

The South Asian Regional Conference on “Urban Infrastructure: New Approaches to Public and Private Partnerships and Municipal Finance Innovations” began on November 15, 2018 in New Delhi.

The two-day conference is being organised by NITI Aayog, the premier think tank of the Union Government in partnership with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

In the inaugural address, NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant emphasised upon the need to ensure adequate return on investments in infrastructure through properly structured Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) and de-risking of projects. He said that it is required to evolve unique models and systems of urban planning that are creative, innovative and sustainable and suited for South Asian countries.

Objective

The main objective of the conference is to discuss the key issues, perspectives and the way forward in the Urban Infrastructure.

It aims to review overall issues and assess the sustainability of PPPs and urban finance in South Asia, specifically India, while broadening the knowledge base and engaging on international best practices.

Key Highlights

The South Asian regional conference is a first of its kind and it will see participation from across the South Asian region including leaders from the government, industry, research organisations, academia, think tanks and civil society.

The main components of the conference include keynote and breakout sessions, panel discussions, presentation and a variety of stakeholder consultations.

During the conference, emphasis was laid on the need to decentralise urbanisation, with porous boundaries between urban and rural areas acting as the key to sustainable urbanisation.

The future areas of growth and development were identified to be infrastructure and digitalised delivery of goods and services.

Further, considering the quantum deficit in infrastructure implementation in current times with regard to demand, it has become extremely imperative to focus on newer means of implementing and financing urban infrastructure.

Background

In India alone, until 2040, estimated investments of around $4.5 trillion are required in the infrastructure space.

With respect to urban needs, the population in South Asia is expected to grow by around 250 million till 2030, while that in India is expected to reach around 590 million during the same period.

There are an estimated 98 million people who reside in the slums of Indian cities and are disproportionately deprived of access to basic services and infrastructure. These gaps need to be addressed to enable cities to grow equitably in an environmentally responsible way.

The countries need to explore innovative models to implement infrastructure projects. While public-private partnerships (PPPs) have been one such option that enables governments to optimally share the risks associated with a project’s life cycle, however, for making government procurement more dynamic, it is imperative to focus on wider options.

Further, to implement urban infrastructure in India, a deeper deliberation is required on the means of democratising the governance at the city level with a view towards providing greater operational and fiscal autonomy to Urban Local Bodies (ULBs).

These challenges and the emerging opportunities necessitate focusing on the institutional environment to improve the delivery of sustainable urban infrastructure and services and evaluating alternatives for long term and predictable financing.

NITI Aayog constitutes ‘Himalayan State Regional Council’

NITI Aayog constitutes Himalayan State Regional Council

NITI Aayog on November 15, 2018 constituted the ‘Himalayan State Regional Council’ to ensure sustainable development of the Indian Himalayan region.

Chairman and Members
The Himalayan State Regional Council will be chaired by the Dr VK Saraswat, Member of NITI Aayog.

It will consist of the Chief Secretaries of the Himalayan States as well as the Secretaries of key Central Ministries, senior officers of NITI Aayog as well as special invitees.

The Council was constituted with an aim to review and implement identified action points based on the Reports of five Working Groups, which were established along thematic areas to prepare a roadmap for action.

Note
Earlier in June 2017, the NITI Aayog had set up 5 Working Groups to prepare a roadmap for actions in 5 thematic areas that are quite significant for the Himalayas. These areas were:

  1. Inventory and Revival of Springs in Himalayas for Water Security
  2. Sustainable Tourism in Indian Himalayan Region
  3. Transformative Approach to Shifting Cultivation
  4. Strengthening Skill & Entrepreneurship Landscape in Himalayas
  5. Data/Information for Informed Decision Making

These working groups were constituted after the NITI Aayog recognised that mountains require specific solutions for resilience building that address socio-economic and environmental challenges in the mountain setting.

The five thematic reports were released by the NITI Aayog in August 2018 to frame the action points for the Terms of Reference of the Council constituted.

Terms of Reference of the Himalayan States Regional Council

• The Himalayan States Regional Council will be the nodal agency for the Sustainable development in the Himalayan Region.

• It will monitor the implementation of action points for Central Ministries, Institutions and 12 Himalayan State Governments in Indian Himalayan Region.

• The action points include river basin development and regional cooperation, spring mapping and revival across Himalayas for water security; develop, implement and monitor tourism sector standards, strengthen skill and entrepreneurship, among other action points.

12 States of Himalayan Region
Himalayan Region consists of 12 States, namely, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura, two districts of Assam namely Dima Hasao and Karbi Anglong; and Darjeeling & Kalimpong in West Bengal.

UNICEF appoints Indian athlete Hima Das as India’s first ever Youth Ambassador

UNICEF appoints Indian athlete Hima Das as India’s first ever Youth Ambassador

The United Nations Children’s Fund-India (UNICEF) on November 14, 2018 appointed Asian Games gold-medalist sprinter Hima Das as India’s first ever Youth Ambassador.

UNICEF India works along with the Central Government to ensure that children born in India get the best start in life, thrive and develop to his or her full potential.

Recently, Hima clinched a Gold medal in Women’s 4×400 metre relay event at the 2018 Asian Games, held from August 18 to September 2, 2018 at Jakarta, Indonesian. She also won Silver in the Women’s 400m Race event with a clock timing of 50.59 seconds.

About Hima Das

Hailing from Nagaon district of Assam, Hima Das took up serious running in 2017.

In July 2018, Hima scripted history by becoming the first Indian woman athlete to win a gold medal in the women’s 400m final race at the IAAF World Under-20 Athletics Championships in Tampere, Finland.

With the win at IAAF World Under-20 Athletics Championship, Das became the first Indian woman, be it junior or senior, to win a gold medal at any level in a World Championship.

She is also the first Indian woman to win a gold medal at any athletics meet at the world level.

Das had earlier clocked an Indian U-20 record of 51.32 seconds to finish sixth in the Commonwealth Games 400m final in Gold Coast in April 2018.

Nicknamed the ‘Dhing Express’, Hima was among the 20 sportspersons to be recommended for the Arjuna Award.

In October 2018, Hima joined Indian Oil Corporation as a Grade ‘A’ HR Officer.

UNSC lifts asset freeze, travel ban imposed on Eritrea after 9 years

UNSC lifts asset freeze, travel ban imposed on Eritrea after 9 years

The United Nations Security Council in a unanimous vote on November 14, 2018 agreed to lift the sanctions imposed against Eritrea, after nine years.

The Security Council had imposed an arms embargo, asset freeze and a travel ban on Eritrea, amidst claims that the northeast African nation, supported al-Shabab militants in Somalia. However, Eritrea has always denied the accusations.

Key Highlights

The 15-member UNSC adopted a UK-drafted Resolution 2444, calling for an end to the nine-year-old embargo on the impoverished country as it rebuilds relations with its neighbouring nation Ethiopia following almost decades of animosity, conflict and standoff.

Eritrea and Ethiopia had both agreed to sign a peace deal in July 2018, ending a long stalemate resulting from the war between the two from 1998 to 2000 that had led to the killing of an estimated 100,000 people.

The United Nations had first imposed restrictions on Eritrea in 2009 after the nation was accused of supporting armed terrorist groups, including Somalia’s al-Shabab.

Eritrea had also been criticised for human rights abuses and mandatory national service conscription, which had led tens of thousands of young Eritreans to flee the country for Europe.

The Eritrean government had criticised the designation as baseless. UN investigators also said that there is no evidence that Eritrea has supported terrorism in the past five years.

Hence, in a relief move, UNSC lifted the embargo, travel bans and asset freezes imposed on the nation with immediate effect. The Security Council also renewed its arms embargo against Somalia.

The draft resolution adopted by the council also urged Eritrea and another African nation Djibouti to work towards normalising ties and settling a decade-old border dispute, the progress of which will have to be reported back to the council by February 15, 2018 and then every six months.

 UNSC lifts sanctions imposed against Eritrea after 9 years

Significance

The nine-year-long asset freeze and travel ban affected not only individuals and businesses in Eritrea but also the Eritrean leadership.

Hence, the removal of sanctions could help Eritrea and its population of 3.2 million participate more actively in the global banking system and could attract foreign investment.

 UNSC lifts sanctions imposed against Eritrea after 9 years

In recent years, Eritrea has been a major source of migrants escaping to Europe and neighboring countries.

Background

The African nations of Eritrea and Djibouti had agreed in September 2018 to work on reconciling with each other.

Deadly clashes had broken out between the two Horn of Africa countries in June 2008 after Djibouti accused Eritrea of moving troops across the border.

The development occurred after Eritrea and Ethiopia declared an end to their state of war in July 2018 and agreed to open embassies, develop ports and resume flights between the two countries after decades of hostilities.

The Security Council had welcomed the renewed ties in a statement at the time, but it had stopped short of pledging that it could review sanctions after the United States, China, Britain, France and Ivory Coast raised concerns about linking the development. Both the United States and China have military bases in Djibouti.

A November 2017 Security Council resolution had said that the peaceful settlement of the border dispute would be a factor in any review of sanctions on Eritrea.

15 November 2018

Union Agriculture Ministry launches NCDC’s ‘Yuva Sahakar Scheme’ to promote young entrepreneurs

Union Agriculture Ministry launches NCDC’s Yuva Sahakar Scheme to promote young entrepreneurs

Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, Radha Mohan Singh on November 14, 2018 launched the ‘Yuva Sahakar-Cooperative Enterprise Support and Innovation Scheme’ of the National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC).

The NCDC has come up with this youth-friendly scheme for attracting youth to cooperative business ventures. It has created a dedicated fund with liberal features enabling youth to avail the scheme.

Yuva Sahakar-Cooperative Enterprise Support and Innovation Scheme
  • The scheme will be linked to Rs 1000 crore ‘Cooperative Start-up and Innovation Fund (CSIF)’ created by the NCDC.
  • It would have more incentives for cooperatives of North Eastern region, Aspirational Districts and cooperatives with women or SC or ST or PwD members.
  • The funding for the project will be up to 80 percent of the project cost for these special categories against 70 percent for others.
  • The scheme envisages 2 percent less than the applicable rate of interest on term loan for the project cost up to Rs 3 crore including 2 years moratorium on payment of principal.
  • All types of cooperatives in operation for at least one year are eligible to avail of the scheme.
  • It would encourage cooperatives to venture into new and innovative areas.
  • The scheme is expected to meet the needs of youth.

National Cooperative Development Corporation

The NCDC has the unique distinction of being the sole statutory organisation functioning as an apex financial and developmental institution exclusively devoted to cooperative sector.

It supports cooperatives in diverse fields apart from agriculture and allied sectors.

It is an ISO 9001:2015 compliant organisation and has a distinctive edge of competitive financing.

It has extended financial assistance of Rs 63702.61 crore during 2014-2018 (as on November 13, 2018), which is 220 percent more than Rs 19850.6 during 2010-14.

Being the most preferred financial institution in the world of cooperatives, it has also initiated Sahakar 22, a Mission for Doubling Farmers’ Income by 2022.

ISRO successfully launches communication satellite GSAT-29

ISRO launches communication satellite GSAT-29

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on November 14, 2018 successfully launched communication satellite GSAT-29 aboard its heavy-lift Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV MkIII-D2).

The launch took place at 05.08 hours from the second launch pad of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. The countdown for the launch had begun at 2.50 pm on November 13. The GSLV Mark-III rocket weighs around 640 ton and has a height of 43.4 metres.

Key Highlights

 ISRO launches communication satellite GSAT-29 The launch vehicle injected India’s second high-throughput communication satellite GSAT-29 into its planned geostationary transfer orbit just over 17 minutes into its flight.

After injection, ISRO’s Master Control Facility at Hassan assumed the control of the 3,423 kg satellite.

In the coming days, three orbit raising manoeuvers will be executed to position the satellite in the Geostationary Orbit at its designated location, at an estimated height of 36,000 km from the earth.

Two massive boosters with solid propellant constitute the first stage, the core with liquid propellant form the second stage and the cryogenic engine completes the final stage.

GSAT-29 is a multiband, multi-beam communication satellite, intended to serve as test bed for several new and critical technologies. The mission life of the satellite is over ten years.

It carries Ka/Ku-band high throughput communication transponders, which are intended to cater to the communication requirements of users, including those in remote areas.

The satellite will mainly aim to increase hi-speed communication facilities in the northeast, Jammu & Kashmir and other far-flung areas of the nation.

The satellite also carries few other systems such as Q/V-band communication payload, for experimenting with the evolving technologies in satellite science.

It also carries a Geo High Resolution Camera, which will carry out high resolution imaging and an Optical Communication Payload, which will demonstrate data transmission at a very high rate through optical communication link.

Significance

The success of GSLV MkIII-D2 marks an important milestone in Indian space programme towards achieving self-reliance in launching heavier satellites. The success of this flight also signifies the completion of the experimental phase of GSLV Mark III.

The first successful mission of GSLV Mark III was an experimental suborbital flight in 2014.

Subsequently, GSLV Mark III-D1 launched GSAT-19, a high throughput communication satellite, with a lift-off mass of 3150 kg, into GTO on June 5, 2017.

The current launch will help to bridge the digital divide.

 ISRO launches communication satellite GSAT-29

Background

GSLV Mk III is a three-stage heavy lift launch vehicle developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

This is the second test flight of the launch vehicle. Its success will prove its reliability for future commercial launches.

The same class of rocket is scheduled to be used for the upcoming Chandrayaan-II mission in January 2019 as well as the Gaganyaan mission.

The four-ton class vehicle comprises three stages, beginning with the two solid strap-on motors on both the sides of the middle stage. The middle stage uses liquid fuel and the upper one is a cryogenic engine.

India, Morocco sign agreement for assistance in legal and commercial matters

India, Morocco sign agreement for assistance in legal and commercial matters

India and Morroco on November 13, 2018 signed an agreement to further mutual legal assistance in Civil and Commercial Courts. The agreement will enhance co-operation in the service of summons, judicial documents, letters of request and the execution of judgments decrees and arbitral awards.

The agreement was signed in the presence of Union Minister of Law and Justice and Electronics & IT, Ravi Shankar Prasad and his Moroccan Counterpart Mohammed Auajjar.

Salient features of the proposed agreement for assistance in legal and commercial matters
  • Service of summons and other judicial documents or processes
  • Taking of evidence in civil matters
  • Production, identification or examination of documents, recordings
  • Execution of a Letter of Request for taking of evidence in civil matters
  • Recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards
The agreement will be beneficial for the citizens of both the countries. It will fulfill the desire of both the countries to strengthen the bonds of friendship and fruitful cooperation in the Civil and Commercial matters.

Joint declaration on use of Information Technology

A joint declaration of Intent on cooperation was signed in the field of modernisation and use of Information Technology between National Informatics Center (NIC) of India and the Ministry of Justice of Morocco.

The objective is to strengthen e-Governance including modernisation of courts using IT as a tool to the mutual benefit of both sides by means of exchange of best practices, field visits of officials and experts.

The Center for Development of Advance Computing (CDAC) of India had set up a Center of Excellence in Information Technology in Casablanca in Morocco. This center was inaugurated on May 7, 2018. It has 193 students and 10 students have already received placements in private as well as public sectors.

Since the establishment of relations, India and Morocco have enjoyed cordial and friendly ties. From time to time dignitaries of one country visited the other country. Indian dignitaries who visited Morocco includes Vice-President Dr. Zakir Hussain (1967) and Minister of Law & Justice Ravi Shankar Prasad (2016).

HRD Ministry launches LEAP and ARPIT programmes for higher education faculty

HRD Ministry launches LEAP and ARPIT programmes for higher education faculty

Satya Pal Singh, Minister of State for Human Resource Development, launched two new initiatives, namely, the Leadership for Academicians Programme (LEAP) and the Annual Refresher Programme In Teaching (ARPIT) on November 13, 2018 for higher education faculty.

While LEAP is a three weeks flagship leadership development training programme for second level academic functionaries in higher education institutions, ARPIT is a unique initiative of online professional development of 15 lakh higher education faculty.

Leadership for Academicians Programme (LEAP)

• Leadership for Academicians Programme (LEAP) is a three weeks (2 weeks domestic and one week foreign training) flagship leadership development training programme for second level academic functionaries in public funded higher education institutions.

• LEAP will make Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) perform their roles of developing better students who will be future torch bearers.

• The main objective is to prepare second tier academic heads who are potentially likely to assume leadership roles in the future.

• It would provide senior faculty the required leadership and managerial skills including skills of problem-solving, handling stress, team building work, conflict management, communication, understanding the complexity and challenges of governance in HEIs and general administration.

• It will be implemented through 15 NIRF top ranked Indian Institutions namely, IIT Roorkee; IIT Kanpur; NIT Trichy; IISER Kolkata; JNU; IIT (BHU); Delhi University; IIT Bombay; TISS Mumbai; University of Hyderabad ; NIEPA, IIT Kharagpur; Jamia Milia Islamia; BHU; and AMU.

• The foreign universities identified for the training are also within the top 100 in the world global rankings.

• The foreign collaborating institutions are University of Michigan; NTU Singapore; Harvard University; Purdue University, USA ; University of Chicago; University of Pennsylvania; Monash University; Oxford University; University of Cambridge and University of Virginia.

Annual Refresher Programme in Teaching (ARPIT)

• Annual Refresher Programme in Teaching (ARPIT) is a major and unique initiative of online professional development of 15 lakh higher education faculty using the MOOCs platform SWAYAM.

• For implementing ARPIT, 75 discipline-specific institutions have been identified and notified as National Resource Centres (NRCs) in the first phase.

• These instituted are tasked to prepare online training material with focus on latest developments in the discipline, pedagogical improvements and methodologies for transacting revised curriculum.

• In 2018, the inaugural year itself, the NRCs are expected to cater to around 13 lakh faculty of the total 15 lakh faculty in higher education.

The courses cover a diverse range of topics such as:
Indian culture and Heritage Studies Tribal and Regional languages, Urdu, French Studies,
Pedagogical Innovations & Research Methodology Tools, techniques and experiments in Earth Science,
Latest Trends in Pedagogy and Assessment Mathematics, Statistics, Zoology, Chemistry, Physics, Biotechnology, Biomechanics
Personal-Emotional Development and Counselling Marine Science, Calculus, Real Time Power Analysis and Smart Grid
Neural Networks and Deep Learning &  Knowledge discovery Civil Infrastructure for Smart City Development
ICT in Science and Maths teaching Engineering Mechanics, Design Spectrum, DIY Manufacturing Technology
Innovation and Best Practices in Educational Skills Advanced Concepts in Fluid Mechanics, Energy Systems Engineering
Leadership and Governance in Higher Education Engineering Mechanics, Physics of Semiconductors and Devices, Electrical Engineering
Public Policy and Administration Bio-Medical engineering, Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Sciences, Chemical Engineering
English Language Teaching Internet of Things
Hindi Literature & Linguistics Astronomy and Astrophysics
Methodology of Teaching Sanskrit Aerospace Engineering, Tourism and Hospitality Management
Effective Creations and Innovative Researches in Medieval Gujarati Literature Political Science, Economics, Psychology, Development Perspectives in Agriculture
Library & Information Science, Ethics, Human Rights and Environment, Anthropology Gender/Women’s studies, Law, Social and Rural Development
Disaster Management, Climate change

• The course is a 40 hour module with 20 hours of video content and 20 hours of non-video content.

• There are built-in assessment exercises and activities as part of the academic progression in the course.

• At the end of the course, there will be a terminal assessment which can be either online or a written examination.

• All faculties who have successfully completed the online refresher course will be certified.

• The courses will remain open from November 1, 2018 to February 28, 2019.

• All in-service teachers, irrespective of their subject and seniority are requested to register and complete these refresher courses which will help them in career advancement.

• ARPIT will be an ongoing exercise so that every year NRCs will continuously develop new refresher module in their earmarked discipline each year.

• The training materials will be uploaded and made available through SWAYAM.

• NRC will publish the list of the faculty who have been certified.

• The NRCs will revolutionise professional development of faculty by catering to massive numbers by leveraging ICT and online technology platform of SWAYAM.

India, Russia conduct joint military exercise ‘INDRA 2018’

India, Russia conduct joint military exercise ‘INDRA 2018’

The joint military exercise between India and Russia, ‘INDRA 2018’ aimed at combating insurgency under the aegis of United Nations (UN) began on November 18, 2018 in India.

The joint exercise is being conducted at Babina Field Firing Ranges, Babina Military Station in Uttar Pradesh. The training exercise that will span across eleven days will see participation from company-sized contingents of the 5th Army of the Russian Federation and a Mechanised Infantry Battalion of India including induction and de-induction of the Russian contingent.

Objective

The main aim of the exercise is to practice joint planning and conduct to enhance the interoperability of the two armies in the peacekeeping, enforcement environment under the aegis of the United Nations.

Key Highlights

The main focus of the exercise will be on training on enhancing team building, special tactical level operations such as cordon and search, house intervention, handling and neutralisation of improvised explosive devices and integrated employment of force multipliers.

The primary focus of the tactical field exercise will be to share best practices amongst the militaries and work on the existing skills of the troops to equip them to deal with exigencies at hand.

The topics chosen for the exercise are both live and contemporary affecting both the nations alike.

The training will be supervised by a joint directing panel comprising of senior officials of both the national contingents.

The tenth counterterrorism exercise in the series of Exercise INDRA is aimed at sending a strong message to the world with an intent of appreciation of interoperability between Indian and Russian Armies for joint tactical level operations in the peacekeeping environment.

Background

In October 2017, the first-ever tri-services joint exercise was held between the Indian and Russian Armed Forces in the Eastern Military District of Russia.

Prior to that, the exercise was conducted as a single service exercise alternately between the two countries.

In 2017, the exercise was upgraded to involve all the three Services of the Armed Forces- Army, Navy and Air Force. The exercise has been held regularly since 2003.

Ministry of Renewable Energy prepares draft of Indian Wind Turbine Certification Scheme

Renewable Energy Ministry prepares draft of Indian Wind Turbine Certification Scheme

The Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), in consultation with National Institute of Wind Energy Chennai, has prepared a draft of a new scheme called Indian Wind Turbine Certification Scheme (IWTCS), which incorporates various guidelines of the Turbine Certification Scheme.

The scheme is a consolidation of all relevant national and international standards, technical regulations and requirements issued by Central Electricity Authority (CEA), guidelines issued by MNRE and other international guidelines.

Key Highlights

The draft scheme enlists the guidelines for the benefit of all the stakeholders from concept to lifetime of a wind turbine, including Indian Type Approved Model (ITAM), Indian Type Certification Scheme (ITCS), Wind Farm Project Certification Scheme (WFPCS) and Wind Turbine Safety & Performance Certification Scheme (WTSPCS).

It incorporates the best practices from other nations in order to ensure the quality of the wind energy projects.

The scheme aims to assist and facilitate the following stakeholders:

(i) Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs)

(ii) End Users -Utilities, SNAs, Developers, IPPs, Owners, Authorities, Investors and Insurers

(iii) Certification Bodies

(iv)Testing Laboratories

The Ministry has uploaded the draft scheme on its website: https://mnre.gov.in and has invited comments from all stakeholders and even the public latest by December 5, 2018 for finalising the new scheme.

Background

Wind energy has over the period become the mainstream source of renewable power generation in India.

The steady growth of the sector has seen different types of wind turbines with diverse performance and safety criteria.

The Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy through various policies and schemes has facilitated the healthy and orderly growth of this sector.

The modern wind turbines have higher hub heights, larger rotor diameter, higher capacity and improved Capacity Utilization Factor (CUF) along with technological improvements.

Under these developments, there is a need for a comprehensive document that provides the complete technical requirements which shall have to be complied by the wind turbines for the safe and reliable operation by all the stakeholders namely, OEMs, Independent Power Producers (IPPs), wind farm developers, Financial Institutions, Utilities and others.

Also, there is a need for technical regulations that shall facilitate a common ground for OEMs, Developers, Investors and Financial Institution for systematic development.

Further, type certification of wind turbines plays an active role in ensuring that wind turbines in India meet the requirements of requisite IS/IEC/IECRE standards in vogue.

Internationally, IEC /IECRE Certification schemes for wind turbines are well recognised and widely used and the IWTCS in its formulation has incorporated the rules and procedures of IS/IEC/IECRE.

14 November 2018

Delhi Air Pollution: NGT forms committee to check air quality during functions at hotels, banquets

Delhi Air Pollution: NGT forms committee to check air quality during functions at hotels, banquets

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on November 13, 2018 formed a committee to stop activities that lead to degradation of the environment, taking note of pollution and traffic congestion during functions at banquet halls, farmhouses and hotels in Delhi.

Delhi’s air quality has been deteriorating rapidly and continues to be in the ‘severe’ category.

Joint Committee headed by the Delhi Government’s Urban Development Secretary

The green panel formed a joint committee with representatives of municipal corporations, the Central Ground Water Authority, the Delhi Jal Board, the Delhi Police and the Delhi Pollution Control Committee.

The Committee will be headed by the Delhi Government’s Urban Development Secretary. Justice SP Garg, former Delhi High Court judge, will also oversee the working of the committee. The Chief Secretary of Delhi will provide all the requisite logistic support and assistance for functioning of committee.

Terms of Reference

The tribunal has asked the committee to prepare an action plan in this regard within a month.

An action plan on sewage disposal, groundwater extraction, rainwater harvesting, municipal solid waste management, systems for groundwater recharge will be in worked upon in the first meeting.

It will have to form a plan to check air quality due to traffic congestions and noise pollution because of use of DJ sets, loudspeakers and crackers etc. in the functions.

The action plan must involve all the stakeholders, particularly students and senior citizens.

The committee will have the authority to close venues flouting norms and remove every illegal structure.

It will look into allegations of whether members of the applicant are running swimming pools by illegally drawing groundwater without valid sanctions and drawing groundwater from critical or over-exploited areas without any mechanism for groundwater harvesting and recharge.

The re-use of water, after being disinfected as per norms, can be used for swimming pools and such water may be used for flushing by installing double piping system or utilised for plantation or gardening.

It will monitor compliance of Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016, and sewage discharge including decentralised waste processing facilities, installation of CCTV camera, GPS system in garbage collection vans. etc.

Plea filed by Westend Green Farms Society

The NGT was hearing a plea filed by Westend Green Farms Society alleging that banquets and marriage halls operating in Mahipalpur and Rajokri near Indira Gandhi International Airport were causing vehicular congestion and environment pollution.

The Westend Green Farms Society, a society of 170 residential farm houses at Rajokri, is upset by violation of environmental laws by commercial establishments operating as restaurants, hotels, motels or banquets.

It further claimed that these establishments cause massive traffic congestion on account of unauthorised parking of vehicles and through huge gatherings for weddings or other functions.

Government to release Rs 75 commemorative coin to mark anniversary of Tricolour hoisting by Bose

Government to release Rs 75 commemorative coin to mark anniversary of Tricolour hoisting by Bose

The Union Ministry of Finance on November 13, 2018 decided to release a Rs 75 commemorative coin on the occasion of 75th anniversary of the hoisting of Tricolour for the first time by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose at Port Blair.

Earlier on October 21, Prime Minister Narendra Modi hoisted the National Flag at Red Fort and unveiled the plaque to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the formation of Azad Hind Government, formed by Bose.

Features of Rs 75 commemorative coin

The coin will bear the portrait of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose saluting the flag on the background of cellular jail.

A numeral 75th along with inscription “anniversary” will be depicted below the portrait.

There will be inscription in both Devanagari script and English saying ‘First Flag Hoisting Day’.

The 35-gram coin will be composed of 50 percent silver, 40 percent copper and 5 percent each of nickel and zinc.

Flag Hoisting by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose

During his visit to Andaman in on December 30, 1943, Subhash Chandra Bose hoisted the Tricolor for the first time on free Indian soil at Cellular Jail of Port Blair, much before India attained Independence declaring the island as the free territory from the British rule.

On the same occasion, he announced the freedom of Andaman & Nicobar Islands, the first Indian Territory, from the British rule. The island at that time was liberated from British rule by Japan which captured it during the World War – II.

Currently, the place where the flag was hoisted stands as a great memorial, and one of the best places to visit in Andamans. It was built by the Andaman Club as a mute testimony of Netaji’s visit to the islands.

Flipkart co-founder, CEO Binny Bansal steps down

Flipkart co-founder, CEO Binny Bansal steps down

Flipkart co-founder Binny Bansal on November 13, 2018 announced his resignation as the CEO of the group, effective immediately.

The decision came to light after Flipkart and Walmart released a statement informing the same.  The statement read, “Earlier today, Binny Bansal announced his resignation as CEO of Flipkart Group, effective immediately. Binny has been an important part of Flipkart since co-founding the company, but recent events risked becoming a distraction and Binny has made a decision to step down.”

The statement further read that Bansal’s decision follows an independent investigation done on behalf of Flipkart and Walmart into an allegation of serious personal misconduct. Though he strongly denies the allegation, nevertheless, the companies shared that they had a responsibility to ensure the investigation was deliberate and thorough.

While the investigation did not find evidence to corroborate the complainant’s assertions against Binny, it did reveal other lapses in judgement, particularly a lack of transparency, related to how Binny responded to the situation. Because of this, both Flipkart and Walmart accepted his decision to resign.

The statement also read that Binny had been contemplating a transition for some time and that they had been working together on a succession plan, which has now been accelerated.

What happens now?

Kalyan Krishnamurthy will continue to be the CEO of Flipkart that now includes Myntra and Jabong, which will continue to operate as separate platforms within the Flipkart business.

Further, Ananth Narayanan will continue to be the CEO of Myntra and Jabong and will report directly to Kalyan.

Sameer Nigam will also continue to be the CEO of PhonePe. Both Kalyan and Sameer will report directly into the board.

As far as Bansal’s board seat is concerned, it is not clear if he will hold on to it post stepping down.

Background

Bansal’s decision to step down from Flipkart comes less than six months after the news of American retailer Walmart acquiring Flipkart broke in the nation.

At the point of sale, Binny had stayed while Flipkart’s other co-founder Sachin Bansal had decided to leave the company.

Both the Bansals had held 5.5 per cent stake each in Flipkart. As a part of Walmart’s condition that it could accommodate only one of the Flipkart founders in the board, Sachin Bansal had resigned, selling his 5.5 per cent stake for a little over Rs 6,700 crore (about $1 billion).

Binny Bansal, on the other hand, had retained his 5.5 per cent stake in the company and remained as the Group’s CEO.

Binny and Sachin, both IIT graduates had founded India’s largest e-commerce platform Flipkart as an online bookstore in 2007 from an apartment in Bangalore with 4, 00,000 rupees cash.

Though they share the same surname, the two are not related.

Before Flipkart, both Sachin and Binny worked with Amazon India as software engineers but they decided to leave within a short span of time to start something of their own.

Though initially, they thought of starting a comparison search engine but they realised that the market for e-commerce in India was very small.

About Flipkart’s Acquisition

Walmart, one of the world’s largest multinational retailers acquired Indian e-commerce platform Flipkart in a $16 billion deal on May 9, 2018.

The US-based company bought 77 per cent stake in Flipkart from the existing shareholders including Japan’s Softbank Group.

The deal is the biggest merger and acquisition in India so far and marks the entry of Walmart into the Indian retail business.

With 77 per cent stakes, Walmart has the controlling rights in Flipkart.

Indian Navy – Indonesian Navy bilateral exercise ‘Samudra Shakti’ begins

Indian Navy – Indonesian Navy Bilateral Exercise ‘Samudra Shakti’ begins

The inaugural edition of Indian Navy -Indonesian Navy Bilateral Exercise ‘Samudra Shakti’ began on November 12, 2018 at Surabaya, Indonesia. The exercise will conclude on November 18, 2018.

The Indian Naval Ship (INS) Rana of the Eastern Fleet based at Visakhapatnam under the Eastern Naval Command arrived at the port of Surabaya to participate in the exercise.

Objective
The exercise aims to strengthen bilateral relations, expand maritime co-operation, enhance interoperability and exchange best practices.

The strategic partnership between both the two nations was elevated to ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’ during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Indonesia in May 2018.

Highlights of the Bilateral Exercise ‘Samudra Shakti’

• The exercise began with a Harbour Phase scheduled from November 12 to 15 encompassing planning and briefing on various activities, professional interactions, cross deck visits, sports fixtures and social interactions.

• The harbour phase will be followed by a Sea Phase scheduled from November 16 to November 18 and would include operations such as Joint Manoeuvres, Helicopter Operations, Surface Warfare exercise, ASW exercise and Anti Piracy exercises.

• The participation of INS Rana seeks to promote India’s solidarity with Indonesia towards ensuring good order in the maritime domain and to strengthen existing bonds between the navies of the two nations.

Background

During the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Indonesia in May 2018, both the nations agreed to step up their defence and maritime cooperation, raising the level of their ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership.

India agreed to develop the strategically important Indonesian port Sabang in the Indian Ocean, close to the Andamans and both the sides unveiled a vision document for the Indo-Pacific region, the first of its kind between India and a South-East Asian country, to deal with the increasing presence of China in the area.

Government sets up National Data Repository

Government sets up National Data Repository

The Union Government has set up a state of -the- art National Data Repository. The information was shared by Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan while speaking at the DG Carbons Roadshow programme in Abu Dhabi.

The Minister said that the repository is a database of all the geo-scientific data of hydrocarbon resources in the country. He added that it is equipped with cutting-edge technology and will provide ready access to interested companies.

Significance

With the introduction of the National Data Repository, India has joined the league of countries like UK and Norway which have a National Data Repository for the upstream sector.

National Data Repository

What is National Data Repository?

The National Data Repository (NDR) is an integrated data repository of Exploration and Production (E&P) data of Indian sedimentary basins.

It is hosted at Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH) in Noida. The DGH is a technical arm of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MoPNG).

The repository offers a unique platform to all E&P Operators, E&P Service Companies, E&P Investors and Academia to delve inside diverse E&P datasets of Indian sedimentary basins.

It is a step towards fulfilment of the Union Government’s ambitious project, which includes setting up of a National Knowledge Hub (NKH) alternatively called as National Knowledge Centre (NKC) in E&P area in coming few years.

Objective

The main objective is to set up National Data Repository of reliable exploration and production data for India with provisions for seamless access and online data management.

The specific goals of the repository include:

To validate, store, maintain and reproduce high quality and reliable geoscientific data.

  To facilitate efficient data reporting, data exchange and data trading among existing players including all geoscientific agencies.

  To improve DGH’s ability to monitor and control the exploration and production activities and reporting.

  To encourage new exploration and production activities by providing high quality and reliable data.

  To strengthen overall geoscientific activities in India.

  To support an open acreage system for an improved global exploration and production business environment in India.

•  To provide quality E & P data for processing, interpretation and visualization centres at DGH.

Other Details

The repository will primarily safeguard national exploration and production data asset and shall help and promote exploration and production activities in India.

It will store and maintain hydrocarbon exploration and production data in a safe and reusable manner, in perpetuity.

The data shall be preserved in accordance with generally accepted NDR standards and made available to entitled users.

Having an NDR for India will enhance prospects of petroleum exploration and facilitate the bidding rounds by improving the availability of quality data.

With this, India will be joining the league of countries that have an NDR and can compete effectively in the hydrocarbon exploration and production sector.

13 November 2018

Government approves constitution of new boards of Governors for IIMs

Government approves constitution of new boards of Governors for IIMs

The Union Government on November 12, 2018 approved the process of constitution of new boards of Governors for 20 IIMs as per the IIM Act 2017.

Speaking on the same, Union Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar said that the process of constitution of boards for the IIMs, which have been given full powers of running the institutions, is a major development which signals complete autonomy of quality institutions in higher education and will ensure a quality expansion of higher education.

Key Highlights

The approval for the constitution of the new boards for IIMs has been given in consultation with the Union Ministry of Law and Justice.

The process is in accordance with the provisions of Section 10 of the IIM Act 2017. The IIM Act is a historical step of the Government that for the first time provided comprehensive autonomy to the higher educational institutions.

In accordance with the spirit of the Act, Government has decided to immediately withdraw the Government nominees who are in excess of the provisions of the Act. This will pave way for complete control of the institutions by reputed academicians and alumni.

The process of constitution of the first boards would begin with three Ex-officio members, who will select the Chairperson, who shall normally be the current Chairperson and would be given the full term under the new Act (except where there are issues of ineligibility).

The Chairperson would then lead the further process of constitution of the boards as laid down under the Act.

Thereafter, the board consisting of Chairperson and ex-officio members will co-opt five alumni from each of the IIMs, who will normally be the current serving members, except in cases of ineligibility.

Other Details

In the first meeting of the board, the regulations for selection of four eminent persons and two faculty members would be framed and based on this, normally the current serving persons would be selected for a full term. This process is expected to be completed before December 15, 2018.

Once the new boards are constituted, the rules under the IIM Act would be issued, which would bring out the operational details more clearly.

India’s Department of Biotechnology, Wellcome Trust of UK complete 10 year of partnership

India’s Department of Biotechnology, Wellcome Trust of UK complete 10 year of partnership

The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) under the Union Ministry of Science and Technology and the Wellcome Trust (WT) of the United Kingdom on November 12, 2018 celebrated 10 years of their joint partnership at an event in New Delhi.

The DBT and Wellcome Trust jointly support a three-tier fellowship programme on biomedical research at post-doctoral level.

Four frontlines in the battle to safeguard planet
While speaking on the occasion of 10 years of their joint partnership, President Ram Nath Kovind suggested four frontlines in the battle to safeguard planet, species and future.

The first is the environment; second frontline is that of lifestyle diseases; third frontline is infectious disease; and the final frontline is diseases of the brain.

Department of Biotechnology – Wellcome Trust partnership

• The partnership was announced in 2008. The aim of setting up the fellowship jointly with Wellcome Trust was to create a system comparable to the best in the world, taking India on the path of becoming a leader in key areas of life sciences and biomedical research.

• The partnership in its next phase will look to set up mechanisms to strengthen veterinary research, develop mechanisms to engage with Universities around the country to equip researchers to apply and receive competitive funding for their research.

• The current programme is being delivered by a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), a public trust registered as the DBT/Wellcome Trust India Alliance.

• The Trust receives equal contribution from both DBT and WT for the running the fellowship grant scheme.

• The joint commitment of DBT and WT has been up to 16 million pounds each year (8 million pounds each), amounting to a total of 160 million pounds (Rs 1296 crore) over a 10-year period.

• Fellowships are available across the full spectrum of biomedical research (human and veterinary) – from fundamental molecular and cellular studies to clinical and public health research.

• Research projects can be based in the laboratory, the clinic or the field and may involve experimental, theoretical approaches as well as translational approaches

• In the past 10 years, the alliance has awarded 320 fellowships to researchers in 93 institutions across 34 Indian cities.

• More than 900 PhDs, postdoctoral scientists, undergraduates and research technicians have been trained in the laboratories of India Alliance Fellows.

• Nearly 2500 researchers were trained in Science Communication workshops.

Wellcome Trust

• Established in 1936 with an endowment of around 15 billion pounds, Wellcome Trust is the largest non-governmental source of funds for biomedical research in the United Kingdom.

• It is an independent charity funding research to improve human and animal health.

• Its funding supports over 14000 people in more than 70 countries.

• The trust aims to spend up to 5 billion pounds in the next five years helping thousands of curious, passionate people all over the world explore ideas in science, population health, medical innovation, the humanities and social sciences and public engagement.

ISPRL, ADNOC sign MoU to explore storage of crude oil at Padur

ISPRL, ADNOC sign MoU to explore storage of crude oil at Padur

The Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserves Ltd (ISPRL) on November 12, 2018 signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) in Abu Dhabi to explore the possibility of storing ADNOC crude oil at ISPRL’s underground oil storage facility at Padur in Karnataka, which has a 2.5 million tonne capacity.

The agreement was signed by Abdulla Salem Al Dhaheri, Director of Marketing, Sales and Trading at ADNOC and ISPRL CEO, MD HPS Ahuja on the sidelines of the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference (ADIPEC). Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan was present on the occasion along with UAE Minister of State and ADNOC Group CEO Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber.

Key Highlights

 ISPRL, ADNOC sign MoU to explore storage of crude oil at Padur Under the agreement, ADNOC is expected to store crude in compartments at Padur.

The MoU follows the arrival of the final shipment of the initial delivery on November 4 of ADNOC crude to be stored in another ISPRL underground facility at Mangalore, also in Karnataka, which will store 5.86 million barrels of ADNOC crude oil.

ISPRL is an Indian government-owned company mandated to store crude oil for emergency needs.

ADNOC is the only foreign oil and gas company, so far, to invest by way of crude oil in India’s strategic petroleum reserves program.

Significance

India is an important oil market and the MoU underscores the strategic energy partnership between the UAE and India that leverages the UAE and ADNOC’s expertise and oil resources.

The agreement will allow ISPRL to explore, with ADNOC, opportunities related to the possible storage of ADNOC crude at Padur, which would help to significantly strengthen the country’s strategic petroleum reserves.

Further, it reflects the strong bonds of cooperation between India and the UAE and provides a foundation for strengthening and expanding the strategic energy relationship between the two nations.

Background

ISPRL has already built 5.33 million tonnes of underground storage capacity at three locations – Visakhapatnam (1.33 million tonnes), Mangalore (1.5 million tonnes) and Padur (2.5 million tonnes), that can meet around 9.5 days of the country’s oil needs as per consumption data of last financial year.

In June 2018, the Union Government had announced the creation of two new reserves, a 4 million tonnes storage facility at Chandikhol in the eastern state of Odisha and an additional 2.5 million-tonne facility at Padur.

The existing and newly announced strategic reserve facilities put together will provide around 21 days of emergency coverage for India’s crude oil requirements.

Amnesty International strips Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi of ‘Ambassador of Conscience’ Award

Amnesty International strips Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi of highest honour

Amnesty International on November 12, 2018 stripped Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi of its highest honour, the ‘Ambassador of Conscience’ award, over her indifference to atrocities committed by the Myanmar military against  and increasing intolerance of freedom of expression.

The Amnesty International, an international human rights group, named Suu Kyi as its 2009 Ambassador of Conscience Award recipient when she was still under house arrest for her opposition to Myanmar’s oppressive military.

However, considering her failure to speak out and her shielding of the security forces from accountability for the violence against the Rohingya, the organisation withdrew the honour from her.

What led to this move?

Suu Kyi, the Burmese State Counsellor, has been widely criticised for turning a blind eye to the violence and military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state that forced more than 700000 Rohingya Muslims to seek refuge in Bangladesh, creating one of the world’s biggest refugee crisis.

A United Nations fact-finding mission recently found that the Myanmar military was committing genocide against the Rohingyas, the minority Muslim population; and other ethnic minorities and in the middle of all this, Suu Kyi had failed in her duty to protect her own citizens.

The report names six military commanders in Myanmar who should be investigated for genocide in Rakhine state and for crimes against humanity in other areas.

The report condemns Suu Kyi for failing to use her power to prevent the genocide and fulfil her responsibility to protect the civilian population, thus, leading to mass murder, rape and displacement.

However, Suu Kyi’s administration rejected the findings as one-sided, and said the military action was engaged in a legitimate counter-insurgency operation.

Other honours withdrawn from Suu Kyi
Once hailed as a champion in the fight for democracy, Suu Kyi has been stripped of a series of international honours over a Rohingya evacuation that began in August 2017.

• In September 2017, the governing body of St Hugh’s College at Oxford University, Suu Kyi’s alma mater, decided to remove a painting of her from its main entrance.

• In October 2017, under-graduates at the college voted to remove her name from the title of their junior common room.

• At the beginning of November 2017, musician Bob Geldof returned his Freedom of the City of Dublin award, which is also held by Suu Kyi in protest against her response to the Rohingya crisis.

• The cities of Sheffield and Glasgow stripped the Burmese leader of their Freedom of the City awards.

Canada’s largest trade union, Unifor, also withdrew the honorary membership that it had awarded to Aung San Suu Kyi in 2000.

• The Oxford City Council on November 27, 2017 voted unanimously to permanently revoke the ‘Freedom of the City’ honour awarded to Suu Kyi in 1997, which she personally collected in 2012, after spending 15 years under house arrest.

• Suu Kyi was on March 7, 2018 stripped of her human rights award conferred by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

•On October 3, 2018, the Canadian Senate stripped Suu Kyi of the honorary Canadian citizenship for her role in gross human rights violations against the Rohingya people.

Union Environment Minister launches Global Cooling Prize

Union Environment Minister launches Global Cooling Prize

The Global Cooling Innovation Summit was inaugurated by Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan on November 12, 2018 in New Delhi.

While speaking at the inaugural event, the Union Minister announced the launch of the Global Cooling Prize, an international competition to incentivise the development of a residential cooling technology that will have five times less climate impact in comparison to the standard Room Air Conditioning (RAC) units sold currently.

The Minister said that concrete and collective actions are required to address the colossal challenge of global warming. He added that India is close to doubling its research and development activities in this regard.

Global Cooling Innovation Summit: Key Highlights

The two-day summit is a first-of-its-kind solutions-focused event, which has been organised to explore concrete means and pathways to address the climate threat that comes from the growing demand from room air conditioners.

It has been jointly organised by the Department of Science and Technology along with Rocky Mountain Institute, Alliance for An Energy-Efficient Economy (AEEE), Conservation X Labs and CEPT University.

The summit saw the launch of the Global Cooling Prize, which is an Innovation challenge that aims to spur development of a residential cooling solution that has at least five times less climate impact than the standard air conditioners.

It is expected to witness participation from distinguished speakers from around the world, including innovators, philanthropists, venture capitalists, and other industry leaders.

Global Cooling Prize

About

It is an innovation competition with wide global reach and participation that aims to achieve dramatic breakthroughs in cooling technologies.

 Union Environment Minister launches Global Cooling Prize

Objective

The key objective of the competition is to develop a climate-friendly residential cooling solution that can provide access to cooling to people around the world without warming the planet.

It aims to develop a cooling technology that requires radically less energy to operate, utilises refrigerants with no ozone depletion potential and with low global warming potential and has the potential to be cost-effective at scale.

Key Highlights

The competition aims to rally a global coalition of leaders to solve the critical climate threat that comes from growing demand for residential air conditioning by harnessing the power of innovation.

The competition is designed to incentivise development of a residential cooling solution that will have at least five times less climate impact than the standard RAC units.

The technology could prevent up to 100 gigatons (GT) of CO2-equivalent emissions by 2050, and put the world on a pathway to mitigate up to 0.5˚C of global warming by 2100, all while enhancing living standards for people in developing countries around the globe.

The awards programme will call world-wide attention to the most promising ideas across the globe and will celebrate successes and facilitate endeavours of innovators through providing recognition, encouragement and support.

Rewards

Over US$3 million will be awarded in prize money over the course of the two-year competition.

Up to 10 short-listed competing technologies will be awarded up to US$200,000 each in intermediate prizes to support the design and prototype development of their innovative residential cooling technology designs.

The winning technology will be awarded at least US$1 million to support its incubation and early-stage commercialisation.

Background

There are currently 1.2 billion room air conditioning units in service around the world.

It is estimated that the number of units will increase to at least 4.5 billion by 2050.

India alone will see over 1 billion air conditioning units deployed in the market by 2050.

The energy consumption associated with comfort cooling represents one of the largest end-use risks to the climate, putting the most vulnerable populations at risk.

PM Narendra Modi inaugurates Inland Multi-Modal Terminal Port in Varanasi

PM Narendra Modi inaugurates Inland Multi-Modal Terminal Port in Varanasi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 12, 2018 inaugurated an Inland Multi-Modal Terminal Port on river Ganga at Ramnagar in Varanasi.

Constructed at the cost of Rs 207 crore, this inland waterways terminal is the first of the four Multi-Modal Terminals being constructed on National Waterways-I on River Ganga as part of the World Bank-aided Jal Marg Vikas project of the Inland Waterways Authority of India.

The other three terminals are under construction at Sahibganj, Haldia and Gazipur.

Note
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 3, 2017 approved the implementation of the Jal Marg Vikas Project (JMVP) for capacity augmentation of navigation on National Waterway-1 (NW-1).

The project was approved at a cost of Rs 5369.18 crore with the technical assistance and investment support of the World Bank.

Following this, the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) on February 2, 2018 signed a project agreement with the World Bank for Jal Marg Vikas Project. World Bank entered into a USD 375 million loan agreement with the Department of Economic Affairs, Union Ministry of Finance

Jal Marg Vikas Project (JMVP)

• The Jal Marg Vikas Project aims to enable commercial navigation of vessels with the capacity of 1500 – 2000 tons on National Waterway-1.

• The development and operations of the National Waterway-1 project will lead to direct employment generation to the tune of 46000 and indirect employment of 84000 in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal.

• The project includes development of fairway, Multi-Modal Terminals at Varanasi, Haldia and Sahibganj, strong river navigation system, modern River Information System (RIS), Digital Global Positioning System (DGPS), night navigation facilities, construction of a navigational lock at Farakka.

• The National Waterway-1 along with proposed Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor and National Highway-2 constitutes the Eastern Transport Corridor of India connecting the NCR with the eastern and north-eastern states.

• This waterway will function as a link to Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Nepal and other east and south-east Asian countries through the Kolkata Port and Indo-Bangladesh Protocol Route.

• The JMVP will result in an environment-friendly, fuel-efficient and cost-effective alternative mode of transportation, especially for bulk goods, hazardous goods and over-dimensional cargo.

Ladakh’s LAMO Centre wins UNESCO Asia-Pacific Award, 2 Mumbai projects get Honourable Mention

Ladakh’s LAMO Centre wins UNESCO Asia-Pacific Award, 2 Mumbai projects get Honourable Mention

The LAMO Centre of Ladakh won the 2018 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation on November 9, 2018. This aristocratic house was restored from a state of partial ruin.

The centre won the ‘Award of Distinction’ for its systematic restoration project that used local building materials and indigenous construction techniques while skilfully introducing modern amenities to assure its ongoing use.

2 Mumbai projects get Honourable Mention

Apart from Ladakh’s centre, two Mumbai projects fetched Honourable Mention under the 2018 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards.

These two projects are Rajabai Clock Tower & University of Mumbai Library Building of Mumbai; and Ruttonsee Muljee Jetha Fountain, both belonging to the colonial-era.

Noted conservation architect Vikas Dilawari was behind the restoration of these projects. He worked on a public-private-partnership model between the MCGM (Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai) and KGA (Kala Ghoda Authority) to restore neglected urban landscape, especially a city fountain.

Other Awardees

Award Category Winner Country
Award of Excellence 20th-century Shijo-cho Ofune-hoko Float Machiya

(The meticulously restored building of Shijo-cho Ofune-hoko Float Machiya celebrates Kyoto culture through safeguarding of the city’s endangered wooden townhouse typology as well as the iconic annual Gion Festival.)

Kyoto, Japan
Award of Merit 5 Martin Place Sydney, Australia
Aijing Zhuang Fujian, China
Commercial Bank of Honjo Warehouse Saitama, Japan
Honourable Mention Hengdaohezi Town Heilongjiang, China
New Design in Heritage Contexts Kaomai Estate 1955 Chiang Mai, Thailand
The Harts Mill Port Adelaide, Australia

UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation programme

The UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards recognise the efforts of private individuals and organisations that have successfully conserved structures and buildings of heritage value in the region.

The Awards aim to encourage other property owners to undertake conservation projects within their communities, either independently or by seeking public-private partnerships.

All the awarded projects reflect a clear understanding and application of various criteria, such as the understanding of the place, technical achievement, and the project’s social and policy impact.

11-12 November 2018

Public Service Broadcasting Day observed across India

Mahatma Gandhi in AIR studio on November 12, 1947

12 November: Public Service Broadcasting Day

The Public Service Broadcasting Day was observed across India on November 12, 2018. The day is observed every year to commemorate the first and last visit of the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi to the studio of All India Radio, Delhi in 1947.

Mahatma Gandhi had on November 12, 1947 visited the studio of All India Radio to address the displaced people from Pakistan who were temporarily settled in Kurukshetra, Haryana after the partition of the Indian subcontinent.

Significance

The day will be marked by a function which will be organised in the premise of AIR to celebrate the occasion.

Also, a snippet of Gandhi’s speech will be played as a mark of respect, a tribute to Bapu who is also called the saint of Sabarmati.

About the Day

On November 12, 2018, 70 years ago Mahatma Gandhi visited the AIR office for his first and last live broadcast.

Gandhi had decided to convey his message through radio, as he couldn’t visit the refugees of Partition stationed at Kurukshetra in Haryana.

“I see ‘shakti’, the miraculous power of God,” Gandhiji had reportedly said about the medium of radio as he entered the studio.

Gandhi began his speech around 3:30 pm. He began by saying, “My brothers and sisters who are suffering, I do not know if only you or some other people are also listening to it….”

The words, which were spoken by Gandhi on that day, became a treasure and a snippet of the speech is played on November 12 every year.

Mahatma Gandhi was neither the Prime Minister nor the President, he didn’t hold any post. Like a common citizen he spoke from the AIR studio.

He used to run several newspapers and understood the power of media and hence, was completely against commercial ads and believed that only those non-commercial ads should be accepted that serve some public purpose. For him, the aim of media was service.

The day was declared as the Jan Prasaran Diwas (Public Service Broadcasting Day) in 2000, after it was conceptualised by Suhas Borker, Convenor, Jan Prasar.

33rd ASEAN Summit begins in Singapore

33rd ASEAN Summit held in Singapore

The 33rd edition of the ASEAN Summit began on November 11, 2018 at Suntec Singapore Convention Centre, Singapore. The opening ceremony of the summit will take place on November 13, 2018. Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of Singapore, is the Chairman of this year’s Summit.

The Summit will continue till November 15, 2018 along with other related summits like East Asia Summit (EAS), Regional Comprehensive Economic Summit (RCEP) and ASEAN plus summits.

The Summit will see the presence of leaders of partner countries such as Russian President Vladimir Putin, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Indian PM Narendra Modi and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

However, the US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping will not be in attendance. The Vice President Mike Pence will represent the US, while the Chinese side will be represented by Premier Li Keqiang.

PM Modi to attend East Asia Summit
The Indian side will be represented by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is scheduled to attend the East Asia Summit and Associated meetings of ASEAN on November 14-15 in Singapore. He will address the audience during the Fintech Conference along with the IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde.

Fintech Conference is a part of Fintech festival which began on November 12, 2018.

Prospective events

• Over 400 companies from over 100 countries are taking part as exhibitors in the summit.

• Apart from leaders of all 10 ASEAN countries, heads of 8 key partner nations of ASEAN will also be participating.

• The ASEAN leaders are expected to adopt the ASEAN Smart Cities Framework and take stock of ASEAN’s achievements in 2018 in strengthening ASEAN’s resilience and innovation.

• The ASEAN leaders, along with their counterparts from countries participating in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), will discuss the process of the RCEP negotiations at the 2nd RCEP Summit.

• The leaders will also exchange views on regional and international issues with their counterparts at the 21st ASEAN Plus Three Summit and 13th East Asia Summit.

• On the last day of Summit that is November 15, Singapore PM Lee will hand over the ASEAN Chairmanship to Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

France unveils bronze statue commemorating role of Indian soldiers in World War I

Vice President inaugurates Indian War Memorial in France

A statue commemorating the role of Indian soldiers in World War I was unveiled on November 11, 2018 in the town of Laventie, France to mark the end of the First World War in 1918.

Another memorial was inaugurated by Vice President Venkaiah Naidu at Villers Guislain in France on November 10, 2018. The main motif of the Indian War Memorial at Villers Guislain is the Indian national emblem that has four Ashoka lions.

Significance

The memorial at Villers Guislain is the first such memorial built by the Indian government in France and the historic occasion was witnessed by the representatives of Indian French armed forces and locals amidst severe rain.

On the other hand, the seven-foot bronze statue in Laventie, is the first of 57 similar commemorative sculptures planned by the Inter-Faith Shaheedi Commemoration Association (IFSC) to be unveiled near cemeteries around France where Indian soldiers who fought for the British Indian Army have been buried.

Key Highlights

The Bronze statue was unveiled at a spot allocated by the Mayor of Laventie, Jean-Philippe Boonaert, adjacent to a 12th-century church, St Vaast, in the French town.

The town of Laventie was chosen as the site of the commemorative statue after the remains of two soldiers belonging to the 39th Royal Garhwal Rifles were identified and reburied with military honours in 2017.

The unveiling marks the commencement of the project to establish 57 such statues near all cemeteries where Indian soldiers lie buried in France.

The martyred Indian soldiers largely went undocumented as the forces sent from the subcontinent at the time were either British Empire soldiers or soldiers of Indian princely states.

The IFSC has now commenced work to establish a 12-tonne brass statue adjacent to the Indian war memorial at Neuve Chapelle in Richebourg, France.

The memorial commemorates over 4,700 soldiers and labourers from British India who lost their lives on the Western Front during World War I and have no known graves.

A spot has been allocated by the local French authorities for this large sculpture, which is also expected to be unveiled in 2019.

Speaking on the development, IFSC president Ramesh Chander Vohra said, “The First World War is a relatively unnoticed event in an otherwise historic timeline of Indian events. This colossal effort in the most difficult circumstance is not entirely forgotten nor actively remembered and needs to be portrayed in the correct perspective globally and in India.”

In fact, Vohra has written a book on the subject titled ‘Unsung Indian Heroes of World War I’, which is set to be released next year alongside an exhibition of newspaper articles from the World War I period of 1914-1918.

Background

A series of commemorative events were organised across UK and Europe in recent weeks to mark the contribution of Indian soldiers in the war effort, alongside millions of others from around the world.

This included a special event at Westminster Abbey in London, which was attended by the Duke of Sussex (Prince Harry), who witnessed a wreath of marigolds shaped in the symbol ‘Om’ being laid in honour of Indian soldiers at the ‘Indian Army pre-1947 Memorial Plot’.

The South Asia Centre of the London School of Economics (LSE) also organised a special event, celebrating the launch of the commemorative Khadi poppy to mark the centenary of the end of the war on November 11, 1918, or Armistice Day.

Around 2 million Indian servicemen, workers and labourers travelled West for World War I as they helped secure victory for the Allied Forces, which included Britain, France, Russia, Italy and the United States of America.

Union Minister Ananth Kumar passes away: A glimpse of his political career

Union Minister Ananth Kumar passes away

Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Ananth Kumar passed away on November 12, 2018 at a private hospital in Bengaluru. He was 59. He is survived by his wife and 2 daughters.

He was diagnosed of lung cancer just three months ago and had returned to Bengaluru recently after undergoing treatment in the United States and Britain.

Kumar’s representation at Lok Sabha
Year Constituency Losing candidate
1996 Bengaluru South Varalakshmi Gundu Rao
1998 Bengaluru South D P Sharma
1999 Bengaluru South B K Hariprasad
2004 Bengaluru South Krishnappa M
2009 Bengaluru South K Byre Gowda
2014 Bengaluru South Nandan Nilekani

Political career of Ananth Kumar

A senior BJP leader from Karnataka, Ananth Kumar represented the Bengaluru South parliamentary constituency six times in Lok Sabha since 1996.

A graduate in Arts and Law, Kumar was associated with the Akhila Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), a student organisation of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), before joining the BJP in 1987. As an RSS worker, Kumar was arrested during Emergency.

He joined the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) in 1987 and held posts of State Secretary, State President of the Yuva Morcha, General Secretary and National Secretary.

He was State President of BJP during 2004 Assembly elections when the party emerged as the single largest party in Karnataka for the first time. He was a national General Secretary of BJP for nine years.

He was among a few party leaders, besides former CM B.S.Yeddyurappa, who can be credited for the growth of BJP in Karnataka, bringing the party to power in 2008 and making it the first saffron government in South India.

He was the youngest minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s Cabinet during 1999-2004 and had held Civil Aviation; Tourism, Sports, Youth Affairs and Culture; Urban Development and Poverty Alleviation portfolios.

He held charge of two key ministries in the Narendra Modi government – Chemicals and Fertilisers Ministry since May 2014 and Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs since July 2016.

Other achievements
  • In January 1998, Kumar became the first Indian politician to host his personal websites ‘www.dataindia.com’ and ‘www.ananth.org’, earning the tag of a tech-savvy leader.
  • He will be remembered as the first person to speak in Kannada in the United Nations.

World leaders mark 100 years since end of First World War

World leaders mark 100 years since end of First World War

World leaders gathered in Paris on November 11, 2018 to lead the global commemorations to mark 100 years since the end of the first World War.

The occasion saw around 70 leaders come together including US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin to mark the centenary of the 1918 Armistice in the French capital.

The memorial service was organised by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which lies at the foot of the Arc de Triomphe monument in Paris. Other attendees of the memorial service included UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Canadian premier Justin Trudeau and Israel’s Benyamin Netanyahu.

Germany’s Angela Merkel gave the opening address alongside UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at a conference called the Paris Peace Forum, which took place after the memorial service on the Champs-Elysees.

 World leaders mark 100 years since end of First World War

Key Highlights

The Paris Peace Forum is a new annual event based on a idea that international cooperation is key to tackling global challenges and ensuring durable peace.

Envisioned by French President Emmanuel Macron, the Peace forum is aimed at highlighting the importance of international institutions in helping resolve conflicts, avert wars and spread prosperity.

The forum is a part of the “fightback” against nationalism worldwide.

The main aim of the conference is to show that there are lots of forces in the international system including states, NGOs, foundations, intellectuals, companies, who believe that there is a need of a world of rules, an open world and a multilateral world.

The forum witnessed performances from French-born Chinese-American cellist Yo-yo Ma, West African singer Angelique Kidjo and a European youth orchestra with a Russian conductor.

The first World War saw almost 70 of the modern day nations in conflict with each other with six main colonial powers in the centre including Austria-Hungary, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and the Ottoman Empire.

Around 10 million soldiers are estimated to have been killed during the war and more than double the number wounded. Among the civilians, about five to 10 million are estimated to have been killed.

WWI’s Centenary Observance in UK

British Prime Minister Theresa May and Queen Elizabeth attended separate events in London to mark the occasion.

While Queen Elizabeth II and the royal family attended a wreath-laying ceremony at the Cenotaph in central London, UK Prime Minister Theresa May and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier attended a national service of remembrance at Westminster Abbey.

The UK government invited 10,000 members of the public to march past the Cenotaph in a “People’s Procession” to pay their respects to all who served in World War I.

The Government also called for bells to be rung across the nation and around the world to replicate the spontaneous ringing of bells across Britain on November 11, 1918 as news of the war’s end spread.

 World leaders mark 100 years since end of First World War

Tensions Afloat

US President Donald Trump, whose hardline nationalism has badly shaken the Western alliance, arrived in Paris on November 9 criticising host Macron for being “insulting.”

Trump took offense at a recent interview in which Macron talked about the need for a European army and listed the US along with Russia and China as a threat to national security.

With far-right nationalist politicians coming to power from Brazil to Italy to Austria, 40-year-old centrist Macron is set to invoke the war to make the case for international cooperation.

India’s commitment to world peace

On the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated India’s commitment towards world peace and pledged to work to further an atmosphere of harmony and brotherhood so that the trail of death and destruction caused by wars does not occur.

In his message, Modi remembered the brave soldiers who fought in the first World War. He said, it was a war in which India was not directly involved yet its soldiers fought world over, just for the cause of peace.

The Prime Minister said, he has had the honour of paying tributes at the Neuve-Chapelle Memorial in France and at the memorial in Israel’s Haifa, places associated with India’s role in the First World War.

He recalled paying tributes at the Teen Murti-Haifa Chowk in Delhi with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during Mr Netanyahu’s visit to India.

World War I

How it began?

 World leaders mark 100 years since end of First World War

The war started with the assassination of Austro-Hungarian heir Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo by Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb Yugoslav nationalist on July 28, 1914, which lead to July Crisis.

In response, on July 23,  Austria-Hungary issued an ultimatum to Serbia. Serbia’s reply failed to satisfy the Austrians and the two moved to a war footing.

A network of interlocking alliances enlarged the crisis from a bilateral issue in the Balkans to one involving most of Europe.

Triple Entente vs Triple Alliance 

 World leaders mark 100 years since end of First World War

  • By 1914, the great powers of Europe were divided into two coalitions- the Triple Entente consisting of France, Russia and Britain and the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy.
  • Japan sided with the Entente, seizing the opportunity to expand its sphere of influence by capturing German possessions in China and the Pacific.
  • The war was fought in and drew upon each powers’ colonial empires as well, spreading the conflict across the globe. The Entente and its allies eventually came to be known as the Allied Powers, while the grouping of Austria-Hungary and Germany became known as the Central Powers.
  • Though Italy had been allied with the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires since 1882 as part of the Triple Alliance, it had a secret 1902 pact with France, effectively nullifying its part in the Triple Alliance.
  • Following the Allied invasion of Turkey in April 1915, Italy joined the Allied Powers and declared war on Austria-Hungary on May 23 and 15 months later, it declared war on Germany.
  • After the sinking of seven US merchant ships by German submarines, and the revelation that the Germans were trying to incite Mexico to make war on the United States, the US declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917.

How it ended?

  • The 1917 February Revolution in Russia replaced the Tsarist autocracy with the Provisional Government, but continuing discontent at the cost of the war led to the October Revolution, the creation of the Soviet Socialist Republic, and the signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk by the new government, ending Russia’s involvement in the war.
  • On November 4, 1918, the Austro-Hungarian empire agreed the Armistice of Villa Giusti with revolution at home and the military no longer willing to fight  and Germany also signed an Armistice on November 11, 1918.
  • Though the armistice signed on November 11 brought an end to the actual fighting, it took six months of Allied negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference to conclude a peace treaty.
  • The Treaty of Versailles was the most important of the peace treaties that brought World War I to an end. The Treaty ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on June 28, 1919 in Versailles, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

Background

World War I also known as the First World War or the ‘Great War’, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from July 28, 1914 to November 11, 1918.

Contemporaneously described as the ‘war to end all wars’, it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history.

It was one of the deadliest conflicts in history and precipitated major political changes, including the Revolutions of 1917–1923, in many of the nations involved.

The unresolved rivalries at the end of the conflict contributed to the start of the Second World War about twenty years later in 1939.

10 November 2018

India to resume exporting raw sugar to China from early 2019

India to resume exporting raw sugar to China from early 2019

India plans to resume exporting raw sugar to China beginning 2019, almost after a decade. The move is a part of a larger goal of shifting focus to the overseas markets to shed surplus stocks that have muted prices and created financial distress in the Indian sugar mills.

The Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry said in a statement that Indian Sugar Mills Association and COFCO, a public sector company of China have entered into a contract for exporting 15 thousand tonnes of raw sugar.

Key Highlights

India plans to export two million tonnes of raw sugar to China beginning next year.

Raw sugar is the second product after non-basmati rice that China will import from India.

The move is expected to reduce the 60 billion trade deficit that China has with India.

India’s export to China in 2017-18 amounted to 33 billion US dollars while imports stood at 76.2 billion dollars.

Sugar Production in India

India is the largest producer of sugar in the world. India produces sugar of all three grades- raw, refined and white.

Indian sugar is also of a high quality and is Dextran free because of the minimum time taken from cut to crush.

India is currently in a position to become a regular and dependable exporter of high-quality sugar in significant volumes to China.

Background

India produced a record 32.5 million tonnes of sugar in the 2017-18 marketing year and the output is estimated to be around the same level or slightly lower in the current marketing year.

The annual domestic demand is around 26 million tonnes. The country also has an opening stock of 10 million tonnes at the start of the current marketing year that started last month.

To liquidate surplus stock, the Indian government has asked sugar mills to mandatory export 5 million tonnes in 2018-19 and has even announced some financial assistance to facilitate outward shipments.

The government is also negotiating with many countries, including China and Indonesia, to boost exports.

On the other hand, China’s sugar production is around 10.5 million tonnes as against its annual demand of 15 million tonnes. The nation imports sugar to meet its domestic demand as well as to build buffer stocks.

India, Singapore bilateral naval exercise ‘ SIMBEX 2018’ begins

India, Singapore bilateral naval exercise ‘ SIMBEX 2018’ begins

The 25th edition of SIMBEX, “Singapore-India Maritime Bilateral Exercise” is scheduled to be held from November 10- 21, 2018 in the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal.

The 2018 edition marks the silver jubilee of SIMBEX.  To mark the historical occasion, the navies of both nations are undertaking exercises over an extended geography.

Indian Fleet

The Indian Navy is being represented this year by the Ranvir class destroyer – INS Ranvijay, two Project 17 multirole stealth frigates – INS Satpura and INS Sahyadri, the Project 28 ASW corvette – INS Kadmatt, the Project 25A missile corvettes, INS Kirch, the OPVs INS Sumedha and INS Sukanya, the Fleet Support Ship, INS Shakti, a Sindhughosh Class submarine, INS Sindhukirti, the P8I Long Range Maritime Patrol and ASW aircraft from INAS 312, Dornier 228 Maritime Patrol aircraft from INAS 311, Mk 132 Hawk AJTs from INAS 551 and integral helicopters such as the UH3H, Seaking 42 B, Seaking 42C and Chetak utility helicopters.

Singaporean Fleet

The Singapore Navy is being represented by two Formidable Class stealth frigates – RSS Formidable and RSS Steadfast, one Littoral Mission Vessel – RSS Unity, two Missile Corvettes, RSS Vigour and RSS Valiant, an Archer class Submarine, RSS Swordsman, ‘Swift Rescue’ a Deep Sea Rescue Vehicle (DSRV), a Fokker F50 maritime reconnaissance aircraft, embarked S70B helicopters and Scan Eagle unmanned aerial systems.

Key Highlights

The 2018 edition of the bilateral maritime exercise will be the largest edition since 1994 in terms of scale and complexity.

The initial harbour phase will be held at Port Blair, the capital of Andaman and Nicobar Islands from November 10-12, which will be followed by sea phase from November 12-16 in the Andaman Sea.

The second harbour phase will be held from November 16- 19 at Visakhapatnam – ‘the City of Destiny’.

The harbour phase would include programmes such as a silver jubilee commemoration ceremony, various professional and training interactions, 10 Km ‘Friendship Run’ during the Annual Vizag-Navy Marathon, social evening and joint cultural programmes to commemorate the 25th anniversary.

The final sea phase would be held in the Bay of Bengal from November 19-21.

The SIMBEX 2018 will witness a diverse range of exercises at sea ranging from live weapon drills including multiple missile firings, Heavy Weight Torpedo (HWT) and medium range gun/ anti submarine rocket firings, advanced Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) exercises, submarine rescue demonstrations, integrated Surface and Anti-Air Warfare (AAW), Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) operations and cross deck helicopter flying among others.

Significance

The number of missiles and torpedo firings being undertaken in this year’s edition will be the largest the Indian Navy has undertaken with any foreign Navy till date, which indicates the growing trust and operational comfort between the two navies.

This year would also witness the highest numbers and variety of platforms fielded by both sides.  Over the years the two navies have increased their interoperability to a level that could be matched by few other navies.

About SIMBEX

Simbex is an acronym for Singapore-India Maritime Bilateral Exercises.

Bilateral cooperation between Singapore and India was first formalised when RSN ships began training with the Indian Navy in 1994.

The modest endeavour to exchange best practices in the field of Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), has in the recent years evolved into a complex high stakes exercise with both nations attaching premium in terms of time, complex advanced exercises and type of platforms involved.

•  Simbex is aimed to increase interoperability between the RSN and IN as well as develop common understanding and procedures for maritime security operations.

The scope of the current exercise includes wide-ranging professional interactions during the Harbour Phase scheduled and a diverse range of operational activities at sea during the Sea Phase.

The previous edition of the exercise was held off Singapore in the South China Sea in May 2017.

Indo-Singapore Relations

  • India and Singapore have shared a good relationship in the past and their relations have been on an upswing lately.
  • Complementing India’s ‘Act-East’ policy, there have been a number of agreements and high level visits in the recent past between the two countries.
  • Both countries have a full calendar of more than 20 bilateral mechanisms, dialogues and exercises, many of which take place annually.
  • In November 2015, the strong relationship between the two countries was elevated to ‘Strategic Partnership’.
  • In June 2018, on the side-lines of the Shangrila Dialogue, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore signed many agreements including those under the ‘Defence and Strategic Partnership Sectors’.
  • The key agreement among them was the ‘Implementation Agreement between Indian Navy and Republic of Singapore Navy concerning Mutual Coordination, Logistics and Services Support for Naval Ships’, Submarines and Naval Aircraft (including Ship borne Aviation Assets) visits.
  • The Implementation Agreement since coming in force has facilitated deployment of naval assets from bases of the other through logistics and services support.
  • Besides, both the nations had agreed to undertake continuous and institutionalised naval engagements in their shared maritime space including establishing maritime exercises with like-minded regional / ASEAN partners.

9 November 2018

India re-elected as member of ITU council till 2022

India re-elected as member of ITU council till 2022

India has been elected as a member of the International Telecommunications Union Council (ITU) for another 4-year term from 2019 to 2022.

The announcement was made by the Union Government on November 6, 2018. Speaking on the same, Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha said, “We are delighted to see India as a member of the ITU Council once again. This is a recognition of the role our country plays in the area of Telecom and ICT on the global stage.”

Key Highlights

The elections to the Council were held during the ongoing ITU Plenipotentiary Conference 2018 at Dubai.

India secured 165 votes and ranked third among the 13 countries elected to the council from the Asia-Australasia region and eighth among the 48 countries elected to the council globally.

The ITU has 193 member states, which elect representatives to the council.

India has been an active member of the ITU since 1869, earnestly supporting the development and propagation of telecom in the global community of nations.

Significance

The presence of India in the council of the global body will help the country have its say at a time when global standards for technology will be frozen and currently work is going on around 5G standards.

Background

India has been a regular member of the ITU Council since 1952 and has played an important role in harmonising the contributions of member states from the region, always respecting the principles of equality and consensus-building.

India also shares the dream and vision of ITU to realise the world as one nation and knowledge society.

India’s strong partnership with the ITU is also demonstrated in the recent ITU decision to set up the ITU South Asia Area Office and Technology Innovation Centre in New Delhi. The centre is expected to be made operational by January 2019.

Bihar approves funds worth Rs 25000 for graduate girls

Representative Image

The state cabinet of Bihar on November 8, 2018 approved a proposal to pay Rs 25000 to every girl graduating in 2018 and onwards.

The decision was taken at the cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. As per the decision, the one-time payment will be made to every girl who graduated from the colleges of the state on or after April 25, 2018, irrespective of the pass division, community or region.

Key Highlights

The state cabinet has allotted Rs 300 crore towards the disbursal of the payment.

Around one lakh twenty thousand girls are expected to clear their graduation course in 2018.

The scheme is a part of a larger government scheme that aims to pay each girl Rs 54000 including the payments made to her, right from birth to graduation.

Besides this, the Bihar cabinet gave its approval to six proposals, the others are as follows:

The cabinet sanctioned allotment of 50 acres of land from the Bhagalpur Engineering College campus to the Indian Information Technology Institute Society. The land transfer is free of any fee.

The cabinet also gave its nod to a proposal to create 119 posts, including 109 of English instructors and 10 employability skills instructors, for the newly created Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) and extremist-affected districts for skill development.

The cabinet also sanctioned the creation of 132 new posts in the Criminal Investigation Department of the state police to man various wings for the weaker sections in the districts, including the rail districts. The posts include one each of DSP (special crime), typist assistant sub-inspector and constable driver for each district.

The cabinet also gave its approval to allotment of Rs 1.75 crore to the building construction department.

7-8 November 2018

Lucknow stadium renamed after Atal Bihari Vajpayee ahead of India-West Indies T20I match

Lucknow stadium renamed after Atal Bihari Vajpayee

The newly-built Ekana International Stadium of Lucknow was on November 5, 2018 renamed after former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The stadium will now be known as ‘Bharat Ratna Atal Bihari Vajpayee International Cricket Stadium’.

The stadium was renamed just ahead of the first-ever international cricket match – the T20 International between India and West Indies. The city hosted its first international match at the stadium on November 6, 2018 when India played against West Indies in the second T20 International match.

Note
The officials of the Lucknow Development Authority (LDA) had informed earlier that the clause 17.5.1 of the agreement between Ekana Sports City Private Ltd; GC Constructions; Development Industries Pvt Ltd; and the LDA says that the stadium will be named once the project is completed.

Hence, the Uttar Pradesh government used the powers vested in it as per this clause and changed its name in the memory of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who passed away in August 2018.

Similar initiatives undertaken by various states to pay tribute to Atal Bihari Vajpayee

Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh announced to rename the upcoming capital Naya Raipur as Atal Nagar.

Yogi Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government also decided to name the proposed Bundelkhand Expressway as ‘Atal Path’.

AIIMS Rishikesh auditorium, a ghat on Sabarmati River in Gujarat and the cyber tower in Mauritius will also be named after him.

Even, North Delhi Municipal Corporation is consolidating a list of institutions including parks, schools, and hospitals to be named after Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Andhra Pradesh wants to name AIIMS Mangalagiri after Vajpayee; and Himachal Pradesh wants to rename the Rohtang Tunnel after him.

Several states including Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Assam, and Madhya Pradesh have urged the Central Government to rename landmarks after Vajpayee.

Shivraj Singh Chouhan has sought Central Government’s permission to change the name of Habibganj railway station in Madhya Pradesh after him.

The state government of Madhya Pradesh has also decided to build two memorials in Gwalior and Bhopal and include a biography on Vajpayee in the school curriculum from next year to preserve the memory of the late leader.

The Himachal Pradesh cabinet also approved the proposal to install a statue of Atal Bihari Vajpayee at Shimla’s historic Ridge.

Assam BJP legislator from Dibrugarh constituency Prasanta Phukan has appealed to the Centre to name the yet-to-be-inaugurated Bogibeel bridge after former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

India’s nuclear submarine INS Arihant completes first ‘deterrence patrol’

India’s nuclear submarine INS Arihant completes first ‘deterrence patrol’

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 5, 2018 announced that India’s first indigenous nuclear submarine INS Arihant has successfully completed its “first deterrence patrol”.

The development signifies that the underwater warship has completed its maiden long-range mission with “live” nuclear-tipped missiles. On the occasion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated all those involved in the process, especially the crew of INS Arihant for the great accomplishment.

Key Highlights

The 6,000-tonne INS Arihant, which was under development for three decades under a highly classified programme, comes under the direct control of the Nuclear Command Authority headed by PM Modi.

Following the successful completion of its “deterrence patrol”, INS Arihant can now be considered a fully functional underwater ballistic missile delivery platform.

The ballistic missile submarine is a strategic asset as it can fire city-destroying missiles from anywhere in the ocean and remain undetected for a long time.

It can also sneak closer to the coast of an enemy nation and fire ballistic missiles deep into their territory, which otherwise cannot be reached by land-based short-range ballistic missiles.

 INS Arihant completes first-ever ‘deterrence patrol’

India’s nuclear triad completed

India’s long-awaited nuclear triad, the capability to fire nuclear weapons from land, air and sea, is finally operational almost five decades after it was first conceived for credible strategic deterrence and 20 years after the Pokhran-II tests.

INS Arihant has completed India’s nuclear triad by adding maritime strike capability to land and air based delivery platforms.

All the big five nuclear nations including the US, Russia, France, China and the UK are already full-fledged nuclear triad powers.

China reportedly began combat patrols of an armed nuclear-powered submarine in 2015.

Pakistan last year tested its submarine-launched Babur missile and in the process completed its nuclear triad since it already possesses land-based ballistic missiles as well as tactical nuclear bombs that it can drop from its fighter aircraft.

Background

India has had the land-based Agni missiles for long, with the over 5,000-km Agni-V inter-continental ballistic missile now in the process of being inducted and fighter jets jury-rigged to deliver nuclear weapons. However, INS Arihant gives it much more nuclear teeth and credibility.

The triad’s underwater leg in the shape of nuclear-powered submarines armed with ballistic missiles, called SSBNs, is considered to be the most secure, survivable and potent platform for retaliatory strikes.

Unlike land-based missiles and fighter-bombers that can conceivably be destroyed in pre-emptive enemy strikes, SSBNs can remain undetected in deep seas for months at the end.

INS Arighat, the second SSBN under-construction at the ship-building centre at Vizag, was launched in November 2017 and is slated to become operational by 2020.

It will be followed by the launch of two 7,000-tonne submarines code-named S-4 and S-4*, which will be armed with six missiles each instead of the four each in INS Arihant and INS Arighat, by around 2020-2022. The design of 13,500-tonne S-5 submarines is also underway.

6 November 2018

US exempts India, China from its sanctions for buying Iranian oil

US exempts India, China from its sanctions for buying Iranian oil

The United States on November 5, 2018 temporarily exempted eight countries, including India from the US sanctions for buying Iranian oil.

Addressing a press conference in Washington, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the list of the countries temporarily exempted from the sanctions. The countries include India, China, Japan, Italy, Greece, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey. Pompeo said that these countries showed a significant reduction in oil purchase from the Persian Gulf country after the Trump administration reimposed sanctions on Tehran.

At the same time, Pompeo warned companies globally that they would be subject to severe penalties including potential sanctions if they continued to have commercial transactions with Iran. Asserting that the US wants Iran to change its behaviour, Pompeo said that at the center of it is an unprecedented campaign of economic pressure.

The announcement comes as the US imposed the toughest ever sanctions on Iran on November 5, 2018. The sanctions were announced against more than 700 individuals, entities, aircraft and vessels, as part of its largest ever single-day action targeting Iran. They cover Iran’s banking and energy sectors and reinstate penalties for countries and companies in Europe, Asia and other continents that do not halt Iranian oil imports. Over 300 of those sanctions are new targets.

While the US had previously wanted countries including India to completely halt oil purchases from Iran by November 4, it seems to have relented considering all the repercussions of the move on oil prices globally.

Objective

The main objective of the United States is to starve the Iranian regime of the revenue it uses to fund violent and destabilising activities throughout the Middle East and around the world.

Key Highlights

Two among the exempted eight nations have already completely ended imports of Iranian crude and will not resume as long as the US sanctions regime remains in place.

The US is looking to continue negotiations to get all of the nations to bring down their crude imports from Iran to zero.

Over 20 importing nations have already zeroed out their imports of crude oil, taking more than 1 million barrels of crude per day off the market.

The Iranian regime, since May till date, has lost over USD 2.5 billion in oil revenue.

Besides this, 100 per cent of the revenue Iran receives from the sale of oil will be held in foreign accounts.

Iran would only be able to use the money for humanitarian trade or bilateral non-sanctioned goods.

Impact of sanctions on India

India is the world’s third-biggest oil consumer and it meets more than 80 per cent of its oil needs through imports.

Iran is India’s third-largest supplier after Iraq and Saudi Arabia and meets about 10 per cent of total needs. Currently, India pays Iran in Euros using European banking channels.

India had previously resisted US’s call to reduce crude oil imports from Iran to zero, citing the increasing energy needs of its 1.3 billion population.

However, at the same time, India has taken steps to reduce its oil purchase from Iran, which has already declined substantially.

 

Iran’s Reaction

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has said that the Islamic republic “will proudly bypass sanctions” imposed by the United States, which came into effect from November 5, targeting the country’s oil and financial sectors.

Rouhani announced that they will proudly bypass the illegal and unjust sanctions because they are against international regulations.

China’s Reaction

China has denounced the new US sanctions targeting Iran’s oil and financial sectors as “long-arm jurisdiction” and vowed to continue its bilateral trade with the Islamic republic.

Background

In May 2018, US President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the 2015 landmark Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) terming it as disastrous”.

Under the Obama-era deal, which involved five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, Iran had agreed to stop its nuclear programme in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.

After the US’ withdrawal from the deal, Trump signed fresh sanctions against Iran, which claims its nuclear programme is peaceful and for civilian purpose.

The US, however, decided to grant narrow and temporary waivers to permit the continuation of three non-proliferation projects currently underway. The nation though warned that Iran will never come close to getting a nuclear weapon on President Trump’s watch.

Union Home Ministry releases Rs 113 crore to 6 Border States for development purpose

Union Home Ministry releases Rs 113 crore to 6 Border States for development purpose

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs on November 5, 2018 released Rs 113.36 crore to 6 Border States under the Border Area Development Programme (BADP) to improve the condition of people living in these isolated locations.

These 6 Border States are Assam, Nagaland, Sikkim, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand.

With this, so far, the Home Ministry has released a total of Rs 637.98 crore during 2018-19 to states having International Border. These funds were in addition to Rs 1100 crore released in 2017-18 for the all-round development of villages located along the International Border in 17 states.

Border Area Development Programme (BADP)

The Border Area Development Programme was started in the year 1986-87 for balanced development of border areas of States bordering Pakistan namely, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Gujarat and Rajasthan and subsequently it was extended to all the land borders.

Now, the BADP covers 111 border districts in 17 states to meet special development needs of border population with a focus on the people living within 50 kilometres of the International Border.

The 17 states are Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal.

The BADP schemes include construction of primary health centres, schools, and supply of drinking water, community centres, connectivity, and drainage to enable sustainable living in border areas.

It also covers schemes or activities relating to Swachhta Abhiyan, skill development programmes, and construction of helipads in remote and inaccessible hilly areas which do not have road connectivity.

It involves promotion of sports activities in border areas, promotion of rural tourism and border tourism, and protection of heritage sites.

• Skill development training to farmers for the use of modern and scientific techniques in agriculture, organic farming is also part of the BADP.

As many as 61 model villages are being developed under the BADP to improve the quality of life for the border population.

A total of Rs 13400 crore has been released since the BADP programme was initiated in 1986-87.

Note
India shares border with Pakistan (3323 km), China (3488 km), Nepal (1751 km), Bhutan (699 km), Myanmar (1643 km) and Bangladesh (4096 km).

India, South Korea sign MoUs for strengthening cooperation in field of Tourism and sports

India, South Korea sign MoUs for strengthening cooperation in field of Tourism and sports

India and South Korea signed two Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) for strengthening cooperation in field of Tourism and sports during the visit of Kim Jung-sook, the First Lady of the Republic of Korea, to India.

First Lady Kim was the Chief Guest at the Deepotsav event organised by Uttar Pradesh and at the ceremony of the new Memorial of Queen Suriratna (Heo Hwang-ok) in Ayodhya.

Note
Ayodhya and Korea have historical connections through the legendary Princess Suriratna of Ayodhya, who traveled to Korea in 48 CE and married Korean King Suro.

MoU on cooperation in the field of Tourism

The Union Ministry of Tourism signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of South Korea for strengthening cooperation in the field of Tourism.  Union Tourism Minister KJ Alphons and Do Jong-hwan, South Korean Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sports signed the MoU.

Objectives

Expand bilateral cooperation in tourism sector

Increase exchange of information and data related to tourism

Encourage cooperation between tourism stakeholders including hotels and tour operators

Establish exchange programmes for cooperation in human resources development

Encourage investment in the tourism and hospitality sectors

Exchange visits of tour operators and media for promotion of two way tourism

Exchange experience in the areas of promotion, marketing destination development and management

Encourage participation in travel fairs in each other’s country

Promote safe, honorable and sustainable tourism

MoU on cooperation in the field of Sports

Another MoU was signed between the Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism on sports cooperation. The MoU was signed by Minister of State of Youth Affairs and Sports Rajyavardhan Rathore and the Korean Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Do Jong-hwan.

Cooperation under this MoU includes:

Exchange of coaches, athletes, experts

Exchange of scientific and methodical materials

Joint training for athletes and officials

Participation in sports event, seminars, symposia and conferences

Encourage exchanges and cooperative actions between sports authorities, sports federations and other sports bodies

4-5 November 2018

RBI initiates process to set up digital Public Credit Registry

RBI initiates process to set up digital Public Credit Registry

The Reserve Bank of India has initiated the process to set up a digital Public Credit Registry to capture all the details of borrowers, including wilful defaulters and also the pending legal suits in order to check financial delinquencies.

The public credit registry will also include data from entities like market regulator SEBI, the corporate affairs ministry, Goods and Service Tax Network and the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India to enable the banks and financial institutions to get a 360-degree profile of existing and prospective borrowers on a real-time basis.

What is PCR?

The Public Credit Registry or PCR is a digital registry of authenticated granular credit information. It will work as a financial information infrastructure providing access to various stakeholders and enrich the existing credit information ecosystem.

It would be the single point of mandatory reporting for all material events for each loan, notwithstanding any threshold in the loan amount or type of borrower.

Key Highlights

The Reserve Bank has invited expression of interest (EOI) for developing the registry from companies with a turnover of over Rs 100 crore in the last three years.

Currently, there are multiple granular credit information repositories in India, with each having somewhat distinct objectives and coverage.

Within the RBI, CRILC is a borrower level supervisory dataset with a threshold in an aggregate exposure of Rs 5 crore.

Besides, there are other four privately owned credit information companies (CICs) operating in India.

The RBI has mandated all its regulated entities to submit credit information individually to all four CICs.

As per the EOI, the proposed solution should allow easy integration with ancillary information sources, like the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Sebi, GSTN, CERSAI, utility billers, Central Fraud Registry and Wilful Defaulter/Caution/Suit Filed Lists.

Besides, borrowers would also be able to access their own credit information and seek corrections to the credit information reported on them.

Significance

The setting up of the Public Credit Registry is a significant move, as it comes amidst rising bad loans in the financial system.

The non-performing assets in the banking system amount to about Rs 10 lakh crore.

Background

In June 2018, the RBI had announced to set up a PCR for India with a view to address information asymmetry, foster access to credit and strengthen the credit culture in the economy.

Earlier, a high-level task force (HTF) was constituted by the RBI to review the current availability of information on credit, the adequacy of the existing information utilities and identify gaps that could be filled by a PCR.

USITC rules against anti-dumping duty on PTFE resin from India, China

USITC rules against anti-dumping duty on PTFE resin from India, China

The US International Trade Commission on November 2, 2018 ruled against putting an anti-dumping duty on the import of a synthetic fluoropolymer from India and China. The fluoropolymer is a key ingredient in the non-stick coating for pans and other cookware.

The US International Trade Commission (USITC) noted in its ruling that polytetrafluoroethylene or PTFE resin from India and China were sold in the US at less than fair value.

Key Highlights

The USITC announced that no antidumping duty orders will be issued on the imports of PTFE resin from China and India, as a result of its negative determinations.

The counsel for the foreign exporters in this proceeding, Dharmendra Choudhary, said an antidumping order would have been issued without this remarkable success at USITC.

The counsel, while underscoring that the threshold for injury determination at USITC is very low, said that the federal American body generally sides with the US domestic industry.

He said that given the extremely paltry success rate of foreign exporters in USITC proceedings, this exceptional victory of Indian PTFE exporters is all the more notable.

The decision is expected to serve as a springboard for the Indian PTFE exporters to cement their position in the US market.

Without the orders, PTFE imports from India would have been subject to an anti-dumping duty of 22.78 per cent.

In addition, the Indian PTFE exporters would also have been imperilled by a costly and time-consuming annual cycle of administrative review of the anti-dumping order.

Polytetrafluoroethylene

What is it?

Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) is a synthetic fluoropolymer of tetrafluoroethylene that has numerous end-use applications.

Properties of PTFE

It is a fluorocarbon solid, as it is a high-molecular-weight compound consisting wholly of carbon and fluorine.

It is hydrophobic, neither water nor water-containing substances wet PTFE, as fluorocarbons demonstrate mitigated London dispersion forces due to the high electronegativity of fluorine.

It has one of the lowest coefficients of friction of any solid.

Usage

PTFE is used as a non-stick coating for pans and other cookware.

It is nonreactive, partly because of the strength of carbon-fluorine bonds and so it is often used in containers and pipework for reactive and corrosive chemicals.

When used as a lubricant, PTFE reduces friction, wear and energy consumption of machinery.

It is also commonly used as a graft material in surgical interventions. It is also frequently used as a coating on catheters.

The other end-use applications of the product include gaskets, seals, linings and packing materials.

3rd Ayurveda Day observed across India

3rd Ayurveda Day observed across India

The Ayurveda Day was observed across India on November 5, 2018 on the occasion of the Dhanawantari Jayanti or Dhanteras with an aim to further promote Ayurveda as the mainstream system of medicine.

Theme
The theme of the 3rd Ayurveda Day was “Ayurveda for Public health”.

All the State Governments, State AYUSH Directorates, all Ayurveda colleges/ teaching institutions, AYUSH/Health Universities, Associations of Ayurveda Practitioners, Ayurveda Drug Industries and stakeholders of Ayurveda in India and abroad observed the 3rd Ayurveda Day centered on this theme.

Objectives of Ayurveda Day

• Focus on strengths of Ayurveda and its unique treatment principles

• Reduce the burden of disease and related mortality by utilising the potential of Ayurveda

• Exploring Ayurveda to contribute towards National health policy and National Health programmes

• Promote Ayurvedic principles of healing in society

Why Ayurveda Day is observed on the occasion of Dhanawantari Jayanti?
Every year, the Ministry of AYUSH observes Ayurveda Day on the occasion of Dhanawantari Jayanti (Dhanteras).

Ayurveda is perceived as one of the well documented systems of medicine, equally relevant in modern times. Prevention of disease and promotion of health is the main aim of Ayurveda. Lord Dhanvantari is considered as divine propagator of Ayurveda. He holds the virtues of granting health and wealth.

Therefore, Dhanvantari Jayanti was preferred for celebration of Ayurveda Day by the Ministry of AYUSH to nationalise this system of medicine.

Events and programmes to be launched on the occasion of Ayurveda Day

National Seminar on Entrepreneurship and Business Development in Ayurveda

• The Ministry of AYUSH held a “National Seminar on Entrepreneurship and Business Development in Ayurveda” in association with NITI Aayog to encourage entrepreneurs and Ayurveda stakeholders towards businesses opportunities in the sector.

• The Seminar is a subsequent step to the initiatives undertaken by the Ministry to increase Ayurveda Market share three fold by the year 2022.

• The seminar is expected to develop awareness among stakeholders about the business opportunities, encourage young entrepreneurs to use of modern technologies and modern innovations in business development and to highlight opportunities at global level.

• The experts in marketing, finance management, innovation, telemedicine, the policy makers, experts in start-up and experienced entrepreneurs in Ayurveda pharmaceuticals and hospital industry guided and shared their experiences with the participants.

National Dhanwantari Ayurveda Award

• The Ministry conferred the National Dhanwantari Ayurveda Award to eminent Vaidyas on this occasion.

• The awards consists of a Citation, Trophy (Dhanwantari Statue) and Cash reward of Rs 5 lakh.

• The Ministry selected three renowned Ayurveda experts namely Vaidya Shiv Kumar Mishra, Vaidya Madhav Singh Bhagel and Vaidya Itoozhi Bhavadasan Namboothiri for the prestigious National Dhanwantari Ayurveda Award 2018.

• The winners of the National level Ayurveda quiz conducted by All India Institute of Ayurveda (AIIA), New Delhi, were also felicitated during function.

AYUSH-Health Management Information System (A-HMIS)

• The Ministry launched the AYUSH-Health Management Information System (A-HMIS), a dedicated software application for Electronic Health Record (EHR) for the AYUSH systems of Healthcare.

• A-HIMS was launched across 15 AYUSH units in different parts of the country in the first phase.

• It is expected to revolutionise the way Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy are practised in the country, by inducting modern IT-solutions into these systems.

Ministry of Food Processing Industries issues guidelines for ‘Operation Greens’

Ministry of Food Processing Industries issues guidelines for Operation Greens

The Union Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MoFPI) on November 5, 2018 approved the operationalisation strategy for Operation Greens.

The Operation Greens was announced in the Budget speech of 2018-19 with an outlay of Rs 500 crores to stabilise the supply of Tomato, Onion and Potato (TOP) crops. It will ensure availability of TOP crops throughout the country round the year without price volatility.

Series of Measures
The Strategy will comprise of a series of measures as decided by the Ministry:

Short term Price Stabilisation Measures

  • NAFED will be the Nodal Agency to implement price stabilisation measures.
  • MoFPI will provide 50 percent of the subsidy on transportation of Tomato Onion Potato (TOP) Crops from production to storage; and hiring of appropriate storage facilities for TOP Crops.

Long Term Integrated value chain development projects

  • Capacity Building of FPOs & their consortium
  • Quality production
  • Post-harvest processing facilities
  • Agri-Logistics
  • Marketing / Consumption Points
  • Creation and Management of e-platform for demand and supply management of TOP Crops

Assistance and eligibility

The pattern of assistance will comprise of grants-in-aid at the rate of 50 percent of the eligible project cost in all areas, subject to maximum Rs 50 crores per project.

Eligible Organisation who will be eligible to participate in the programme would include State Agriculture and other Marketing Federations, Farmer Producer Organizations (FPO), cooperatives, companies, Self-help groups, food processors, logistic operators, supply chain operators, retail and wholesale chains; and central and state governments.

The applicant fulfilling the eligibility criteria under the scheme is required to submit the online application on SAMPADA portal of the ministry attaching therewith complete documents.

Major objectives of Operation Greens
Operation Greens was announced on the line of “Operation Flood” to promote Farmer Producers Organizations, agri-logistics, processing facilities and professional management.  The major objectives are:

  • Enhance value realisation of TOP farmers by targeted interventions to strengthen TOP production clusters and their FPOs
  • Price stabilisation for producers and consumers by proper production planning in the TOP clusters
  • Reduction in post-harvest losses by creation of farm gate infrastructure, development of suitable agro-logistics, and creation of appropriate storage capacity linking consumption centres
  • Increase in food processing capacities and value addition in TOP value chain
  • Setting up of a market intelligence network to collect and collate real time data on demand and supply and price of TOP crops

IIT-Madras develops India’s first microprocessor ‘Shakti’

Representative Image

The researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras) have designed India’s first indigenous microprocessor, which will reduce dependency on imported microchips and the risk of cyber attacks.

The microprocessor called ‘Shakti’ was designed, developed and booted by IIT Madras with a microchip fabricated in the Semi-Conductor Laboratory of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) at Chandigarh. It has been developed at an outlay of about Rs 11 crore.

Objective

The ‘Shakti’ project is aimed at developing industrial-grade microprocessors and other components of the microprocessor ecosystem.

It is partly funded by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), as part of two-decade-old efforts to develop indigenous microprocessors.

Key Highlights

The design of the microprocessor originates from an open source instruction set architecture (ISA), a set of basic instructions called RISC V, which makes it customisable to any device.

The RISC-V is an open, free ISA, enabling a new era of processor innovation through open standard collaboration.

It delivers a new level of free, extensible software and hardware freedom on architecture, paving the way for the next 50 years of computing design and innovation.

The ISA is basically the programming or machine language and provides commands to the processor instructing it on the functions to be executed.

The concept to design the chip was germinated in 2011 and some preliminary works were then carried out. Bluespec, an open-source high-level synthesis language, went into making the chips.

Initially, the researchers created a normative design to show the feasibility. Different devices may need a different type of hardware and may be even new features or instructions.

Significance

The microprocessor will reduce dependency on imported microchips and the risk of cyber attacks..

It could be used in mobile computing, wireless and networking systems, besides reducing reliance on imported microprocessors in communication and defence sectors.

It may also provide power to mobile phones, surveillance cameras and smart meters.

The brain of all computing and electronic devices, many such microprocessors that are connected are used to operate larger high-speed systems and supercomputers.

Background

Launched in 2014, the ‘Shakti’ microprocessor was designed at the Reconfigurable Intelligent Systems Engineering (RISE) Laboratory at the IIT-Madras’ department of computer science and engineering.

In July, an initial batch of IIT-M-designed 300 chips, ‘RISECREEK’, was developed at Intel’s facility at Oregon, US, and later booted the Linux Operating System. Now, developed in the country, the microprocessor is completely indigenous.

While the microprocessor fabricated in India was in a 180nm facility, the one in the US was in a 20nm lab.

According to Prof Kamakoti Veezhinathan, lead researcher at IITM’s RISE laboratory, “180nm, though outdated, is relevant as many applications across the world look for limited frequency.”

He also added that the chip can be used for any application where conventional power is available. The one fabricated in the US consumes less power and hence can be used in mobiles.

The microprocessor has already attracted the attention of Indian industry and IIT-M is in touch with more than 13 companies involved in strategic and commercial applications.

About Parashakti

After ‘Shakti’, the research is now ready with ‘Parashakti’, an advanced microprocessor for supercomputers.

The super scaler processor will be ready by December 2018 and it will go into desktops and 32 of them interconnected may go into supercomputers.

Delhi’s Signature Bridge: All you need to know

Delhi’s Signature Bridge opens for public

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on November 4, 2018 inaugurated the long awaited Delhi’s Signature Bridge, the first asymmetrical cable-stayed bridge in India.

The bridge was constructed by the Delhi Tourism and Transport Development Corporation (DTTDC) at an expenditure of Rs 1,518.37 crore. The 675-metre bridge aims to reduce travel time and traffic congestion between the north-eastern and northern parts of Delhi.

The bridge was first approved in 1997 after school bus fell off the narrow Wazirabad Bridge into the Yamuna, killing 22 children. However, a number of hurdles and budget modifications led to the delay in its completion.

Signature Bridge: A tourist destination with selfie spots for tourists
Built over the Yamuna River, the bridge includes 154-metre-high glass box like observation deck at the top of the bridge, offering a panoramic view of the city. This deck will act as a selfie spot for the tourists, offering a bird’s eye view of the city.

Four elevators will take a total of 50 people to the deck. The elevators are likely to be operational in two months.

Benefits

The bridge will ease pressure on the Ring Road and is expected to reduce traffic congestion on NH-9, starting from Wazirabad Chowk near Khajuri Khas.

The bridge is expected to reduce the travel time by at least half an hour for commuters going to Loni, Ghaziabad and areas near Uttar Pradesh border via Bhajanpura, Khajuri Khas, and Yamuna Vihar in northeast Delhi from north Delhi areas like Wazirabad, Mukherjee Nagar and Burari.

Some of the vehicles going towards Loni from Rohini and outer Delhi can now be diverted through the Wazirabad Bridge.

The bridge will also take off considerable traffic from the Kashmere Gate ISBT.

It will be an addition the old Wazirabad Bridge that serves as a major link across the Yamuna for lakhs of people living in northeast Delhi colonies, and caters to more than two lakh vehicles each day.

All-in-all, the bridge would decongest the Outer Ring Road, Shahdara Bridge, ISBT Kashmiri Gate, Khajuri Khas, Bhajanpura, Old Wazirabad Bridge and Pusta Road.

3 November 2018

Railways Ministry launches ‘UTS on Mobile’ facility to enable seamless booking of unreserved tickets

Railways Ministry launches UTS on Mobile facility

The Ministry of Railways on November 1, 2018 launched the ‘Unreserved Mobile Ticketing’ facility (UTS on Mobile) to enable seamless booking of unreserved tickets all over Indian Railways, wiping out the need for passengers to wait in queues for purchasing the tickets.

With this, the booking of unreserved tickets on all non-suburban sections across all Zonal Railways will now be made available on mobile from November 1, 2018. This move aims to promote three C’:

• Cashless transactions (Digital payment)

• Contact less ticketing (no need to physically visit the point of sale)

• Customer convenience and experience.

Note
A pilot project for booking of unreserved tickets through mobile phone was launched in December, 2014 on select stations in Central Railways to provide customers the convenience of booking of unreserved tickets.

Gradually, unreserved Mobile ticketing was extended to all suburban sections in metropolitan cities of Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata and Secunderabad between 2015 and 2017 along with the facility of paperless ticketing.

The ‘UTSONMOBILE’ app was also introduced on Non-Suburban sections in 2015 initially on Delhi-Palwal section of Northern Railway which was subsequently extended to other non-suburban sections of Northern, South Central, Southern, South Western, East Coast, South East Central and South Eastern Railways.

Process of ticket booking

• The facility of booking unreserved tickets, including season tickets and also platform tickets is available through the ‘UTSONMOBILE’ app, available for Android, IOS and Windows phone users.

• The process of ticket booking involves downloading the application and registration by furnishing the necessary details.

• After successful registration, the user is given user-ID and password through which the user can log-in and book ticket through this application within the ticketing area and outside the Geo-fenced area.

• The payment could be made R-Wallet, debit card, credit card, net-banking, UPI and other e-wallets, thus, promoting government’s directives to promote all digital modes of payments.

Geofenced area is station premises and train route within which ticket cannot be booked.  Ticketing area is outside the geofenced area as defined in the application.

Significance

• Seamless booking of unreserved tickets all over Indian Railways

• Obviate the need for passengers to wait in queues for purchasing the tickets

• Enhance the experience for booking unreserved tickets – journey, season tickets, platform tickets

• Environment friendly

PM Modi launches historic Support and Outreach Programme for MSME Sector

PM Modi launches MSME Support and Outreach Programme

The Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 2, 2018 launched the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Support and Outreach Programme at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi.

The launch of the programme was witnessed by Union Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs, Arun Jaitley and the Union Minister of State for MSME, Giriraj Singh, among other dignitaries.

Five key aspects for facilitating the MSME sector:

• Access to credit
• Access to market
• Technology upgradation
• Ease of doing business
• A sense of security for employees

As part of this programme, the Prime Minister unveiled 12 key initiatives which will help the growth, expansion and facilitation of MSMEs across the country. These 12 key initiatives that address each of these five aspects:

Aspects 12 Initiatives
Access to Credit 59 minute loan portal to enable easy access to credit for MSMEs. Loans upto Rs. 1 crore can be granted in-principle approval in just 59 minutes through GST Portal.
2 percent interest subvention for all GST registered MSMEs on fresh or incremental loans . Increase in interest rebate from 3 percent to 5 percent For exporters who receive loans in the pre-shipment and post-shipment period.
All companies with a turnover more than Rs 500 crore will now compulsorily be brought on the Trade Receivables e-Discounting System (TReDS). It will enable entrepreneurs to access credit from banks. This will resolve the problems of cash cycle.
Access to Markets Public sector companies will now need to compulsorily procure 25 percent, instead of 20 percent of their total purchases from MSMEs.
Out of the 25 percent procurement mandated from MSMEs, 3 percent will now be reserved for women entrepreneurs.
All public sector undertakings of the Union Government must now compulsorily be a part of GeM.
Technology Upgradation 20 hubs will be formed across the country and 100 spokes in the form of tool rooms will be established.
Ease of Doing Business Clusters will be formed of pharma MSMEs. 70 percent cost of establishing these clusters will be borne by the Union Government.
The return under 8 labour laws and 10 Union regulations will now need to be filed only once a year.
Establishments to be visited by an Inspector will be decided through a computerised random allotment.
Air pollution and water pollution laws have now been merged as a single consent. The return will be accepted through self-certification.
Ordinance has been brought under which, for minor violations under the Companies Act, the entrepreneur will no longer have to approach the Courts, but can correct them through simple procedures.
Social Security for MSME Sector Employees A mission will be launched to ensure that they have Jan Dhan Accounts, provident fund and insurance.

MSME Outreach Programme

• MSME Outreach Programme will run for 100 days covering 100 Districts throughout the country.

• Various Central Ministers will visit these districts in order to apprise the entrepreneurs about various facilities being extended to MSME Sector by the Government and financial institutions.

• Entrepreneurs will be encouraged to come forward and make best use of these facilities including access to credit and market, etc.

• The Outreach Programme will help in further boosting the MSME sector since this sector is one of the major generators of employment opportunities.

About Indian Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Sector

• The Indian MSME sector provides maximum opportunities for both self-employment and wage-employment outside the agricultural sector.

• The sector generates around 100 million jobs through over 46 million units situated throughout the geographical expanse of the country.

• With 38 percent contribution to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 40 percent and 45 percent share of the overall exports and manufacturing output respectively, the sector plays a key role in our economy.

• Besides the wide range of services provided by the sector, the sector is engaged in the manufacturing of over 6000 products ranging from traditional to hi-tech items.

2 November 2018

Justices Hemant Gupta, R Subhash Reddy, MR Shah and Ajay Rastogi sworn-in as Supreme Court Judges

Justices Hemant Gupta, R Subhash Reddy, MR Shah and Ajay Rastogi sworn-in as SC Judges

Justices Hemant Gupta, R Subhash Reddy, M R Shah and Ajay Rastogi were on November 2, 2018 sworn-in as the Judges of the Supreme Court. Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi administered oath of office to the four judges.

Earlier on November 1, 2018, President Ram Nath Kovind issued a notification appointing these four judges as the Supreme Court judges.

Prior to this elevation, Justice Gupta served as the Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court; Justice Rastogi as the Chief Justice of the Tripura High Court; Justice Shah as the incumbent Chief Justice of the Patna High Court; and Justice Reddy as the Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court.

Strength of Supreme Court Judges

With their elevation, the number of judges at the Supreme Court rose to 28. The sanctioned strength of Supreme Court judges in 31. Two judges, namely, Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice Madan B Lokur are set to retire in November and December 2018 respectively.

Recommendation by Supreme Court Collegium
On October 30, 2018, the Supreme Court Collegium comprising CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Madan B Lokur, Justice Kurian Joseph, Justice A K Sikri and Justice S A Bobde recommended the names of these four judges as they “are more deserving and suitable in all respects than other Chief Justices and senior Judges of High Courts..”.

The Collegium Resolution stated that it has taken into consideration combined seniority on all-India basis of Chief Justices and senior puisne Judges of High Courts, apart from their merit and integrity.

Justice Hemant Gupta, Justice R. Subhash Reddy, Justice MR Shah, and Justice Ajay Rastogi stand 4, 5, 17 and 25 positions respectively in the combined seniority of High Court Judges on all-India basis.

The Collegium also noted that the High Courts of Punjab & Haryana, Gujarat and Rajasthan have remained unrepresented in the Supreme Court since long.

Justice Hemant Gupta

Justice Hemant Gupta took oath as the Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court on March 18, 2017.

He was elevated as the Judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court — where he served the longest tenure on July 2, 2002. He was one of most senior judges of the high court.

Justice Gupta served as Additional Advocate General of Punjab from 1997 to 1999.

Justice Ramayyagari Subhash Reddy

Justice Ramayyagari Subhash Reddy served as the Judge of the High Court of Judicature at Hyderabad for the State of Telangana and the State of Andhra Pradesh

He was appointed as the Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court on February 3, 2016.

He was appointed as judge of High Court of Andhra Pradesh on December 2, 2002.

Justice Mukeshkumar Rasikbhai Shah

Justice Mukeshkumar Rasikbhai Shah was appointed as the Chief Justice of Patna High Court on August 4, 2018.

On March 7, 2004, he was appointed as the Judge of Gujarat High Court.

Justice Shah enrolled as an advocate in July 1982.

Justice Ajay Rastogi

Justice Ajay Rastogi was recommended by the Collegium for being appointed as Chief Justice of Tripura High Court on February 1, 2018.

Prior to that, he was serving as a judge of Rajasthan High Court since September 2, 2004.

Assam NRC: Supreme Court fixes December 15 as deadline for filing claims for inclusion of names in NRC

Assam NRC: Supreme Court fixes December 15 as deadline for filing claims for inclusion of names in N

The Supreme Court on November 1, 2018 fixed December 15 as the deadline for filing of claims and objections by individuals excluded from the first draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) of Assam, published on July 30, 2018.

The bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Rohinton Nariman allowed claimants for Assam NRC to rely on five documents, which were earlier objected to by NRC coordinator, to prove their citizenship.

These five documents are:

1) Names in NRC, 1951

2) Names in Electoral Roll up to March 24, 1971

3) Citizenship Certificate and Refugee Registration Certificate

4) Certified copies of pre-1971 Electoral Roll, particularly, those issued by Tripura

5) Ration Card

All these documents will be subjected to a thorough process of verification and would be accepted only after due and complete satisfaction of the genuineness.

Earlier, the Supreme Court bench had earlier asked claimants to file their claims and objections within a period of 60 days starting from September 25.

However, with the extension of the deadline, the court has set January 15, 2019 as the last date for the authorities to issue its notice. The verification of the documents will begin on February 1, 2019.

National Register of Citizens of Assam

The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a list that contains names of Indian citizens of Assam.

Assam, which had faced influx of people from Bangladesh since the early 20th century, is the only state having an NRC, which was first prepared in 1951.

The recently updated draft of the NRC includes the names of Indian citizens who have been residing in Assam before March 25, 1971.

First Draft of NRC

The first draft of the NRC for Assam was published on December 31, 2017 and it incorporated the names of 1.9 crore people out of the total 3.29 crore applicants.

The top court had earlier said that the claims of those citizens, whose names do not figure in the draft NRC for Assam published on December 31, 2017 would be scrutinised and included in the subsequent list, if found genuine.

Final Draft of NRC

The Assam government on July 30, 2018 released the second and final draft of the state’s National Register of Citizens (NRC).

As per the Draft, the total number of persons included in the list is 2,89,83,677 leaving a total of 40,70,707 as ineligible for inclusion. Out of 40,70,707 names, 37,59,630  names have been rejected and 2,48,077 names are kept on hold.

Union Cabinet Decisions: 2 November 2018

Cabinet Decisions: 2 November 2018

Cabinet approves agreement between India & Morocco on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters

The Union Cabinet approved the Agreement between India and Morocco on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters.
The Agreement will provide a broad legal framework for bilateral cooperation between India and Morocco in investigation of crime, tracing, restraint, forfeiture or proceeds and instruments of crime.
It aims to increase effectiveness in investigation and prosecution of crime, and in providing the necessary peaceful ambience which is a pre-requisite for the development of society as a whole.
It will be instrumental in gaining better inputs and insights in the modus operandi of organised criminals and terrorists.

Cabinet approves renaming of ‘Jharsuguda Airport, Odisha’ as ‘Veer Surendra Sai Airport, Jharsuguda’

The Union Cabinet approved renaming of Jharsuguda Airport, Odisha as “Veer Surendra Sai Airport, Jharsuguda”
Veer Surendra Sai is a well-known freedom fighter of Odisha.
Renaming of the Jharsuguda airport in his name will fulfill long-pending demand of the Odisha Government, which reflects the sentiments of the local public of the respective area.
It will also be a befitting tribute to the contribution of Surendra Sai, the revered personality associated with the State.

Cabinet apprised of MoUs between India and Russia for cooperation in transport education

The Union Cabinet was apprised of the two agreements between India and Russia.
These are: MoU with the Russian Ministry of Transport for the development of cooperation in transport education; and a Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) with the Joint Stock Company “Russian Railways” (RZD) on technical cooperation in the field of railways.
The MoUs/ MoCs provide a platform for Indian Railways to interact and share the latest developments and knowledge in the railway sector.
The MoUs/ MoCs facilitate exchange of technical experts, reports and technical documents, training and seminars, focusing on specific technology areas and other interactions for knowledge sharing.
The MoU would enable preparation of specific proposals in this area including their implementation within the framework of the Intergovernmental Russian-Indian Commission on Trade-Economic, Scientific-Technical and Cultural cooperation.
The MoC will enable technical cooperation in implementation of project for upgrading the Nagpur; implementation of Single Traffic Control Center to manage traffic; customisation of manufacture of signaling and interlocking system; and supply of turnout switches for Semi High Speed.

Cabinet approves MoU between India and Korea for strengthening cooperation in field of Tourism

The Union Cabinet approved the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Korea for strengthening cooperation in the field of Tourism.
It will expand bilateral cooperation in tourism sector; increase Exchange of information and data related to tourism; encourage cooperation between tourism stakeholders; establish exchange programmes for cooperation in Human Resources Development; etc.
It will also encourage Investment in the Tourism and Hospitality sectors; exchange visits of Tour Operators; encourage participation in travel exhibitions in both countries and promote safe and sustainable tourism.

Cabinet approves Resolution to open ISA membership for all United Nations member countries

The Union Cabinet approved for moving a Resolution in the first Assembly of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) for amending the Framework Agreement of the ISA for opening up the ISA membership to all countries that are members of the United Nations.
Opening the membership of the ISA will put solar energy in global agenda with the universal appeal for developing and deploying solar energy.
It will make ISA inclusive, whereby all member countries that are members of the United Nations could become member.
Expanding membership will lead to ISA initiative benefitting the world at large.

1 November 2018

World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business 2019: India jumps 23 spots to 77th rank

World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business 2019: India jumps 23 spots to 77th rank

The World Bank on October 31, 2018 released the Doing Business Report 2019 titled as ‘Doing Business 2019: Training for Reform’, assessing and ranking countries on the basis of ease of doing business in the year 2018.

As per the 2019 Report, India jumped 23 places on the Ease of Doing Business Index to 77th rank, up from 100th rank last year. This year, India’s Distance to Frontier score improved to 67.23 from 60.76 in the previous year.

The Doing Business assesses 190 economies and covers 10 indicators which span the lifecycle of a business. It ranks countries on the basis of Distance to Frontier (DTF), a score that shows the gap of an economy to the global best practice.

India’s progress in Ease of Doing Business Index

India improved its rank in 6 out of 10 indicators and has moved closer to international best practices (Distance to Frontier score) on 7 out of the 10 indicators. The most striking improvements have been registered in the indicators related to ‘Construction Permits’ and ‘Trading across Borders’.

Changes in six indicators where India improved its rank
S. No. Indicator 2017 2018 Change
1 Construction Permits 181 52 +129
2 Trading Across Borders 146 80 +66
3 Starting a Business 156 137 +19
4 Getting Credit 29 22 +7
5 Getting Electricity 29 24 +5
6 Enforcing Contracts 164 163 +1
Overall rank 100 77 +23

India as one of the top improvers

The World Bank has recognized India as one of the top improvers for the year. This is the second consecutive year for which India has been recognized as one of the top improvers.

India is the first BRICS and South Asian country to be recognised as top improver in two consecutive years. India recorded the highest improvement in two years in the Doing business assessment by improving its rank by 53 positions.

India is now placed at first position among South Asian countries as against 6th in 2014.

Comparison

India’s improvement in the Ease of Doing Business ranking is significant considering that in 2017 as well, India had improved its rank by 30 places by being placed at 100th rank, a rare feat a diverse country like India.

The continued efforts of the Government have led to India’s improved rank by 53 positions in last two years and by 65 positions in last four years.

Year 2014 2016 2017 2018
Overall rank 142 130 100 77
DTF score 53.97 56.05 60.76 67.23

Such an improvement is accredited to commitment of the Government to carry out comprehensive and complex reforms. The government identified corrective measures based on feedback received and undertook regular review of reforms for removing bottlenecks in their implementation.

Key Findings of 2019 Doing Business Report

• Doing Business took note of record 314 regulatory reforms introduced by 128 countries between June 2, 2017, and May 1, 2018 for making it easier to do business in all areas measured by Doing Business.

• The top 10 economies in the ease of doing business rankings are New Zealand, Singapore, Denmark, Hong Kong SAR, Korea, Georgia, Norway, United States, United Kingdom and FYR Macedonia.

• The economies with the most notable improvement in Doing Business 2019 are Afghanistan, Djibouti, China, Azerbaijan, India, Togo, Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire, Turkey and Rwanda.

• Around one-third of all business regulatory reforms recorded by Doing Business 2019 were in the economies of Sub-Saharan Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa implemented a total of 107 reforms.

• Brazil, Russia, India and China, the BRICS economies, introduced a total of 21 reforms, with getting electricity and trading across borders the most common areas of improvement.

• The 10 top economies in the ranking share common features of regulatory efficiency and quality including mandatory inspections during construction, automated tools used by distribution utilities to restore service during power outages and automated specialised commercial courts.

• Training opportunities for service providers and users are positively associated with the ease of doing business score.

Location tracking devices, emergency buttons mandatory for new public service vehicles: Government

Location tracking devices, emergency buttons mandatory for new public service vehicles: Government

The Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways on October 25, 2018 notified that all new public service vehicles, except auto rickshaws and e-Rickshaws, registered on and after January 1, 2019 will have to be mandatorily equipped with Vehicle Location Tracking (VLT) and Emergency Buttons.

In case of older public service vehicles, registered up to December 31, 2018, the respective State Governments will notify the date by which these vehicles have to install Vehicle Location Tracking Device and Panic Buttons.

The VLT device manufacturers would assist in providing the back end services for monitoring the device. With such regulation, the Ministry aims to ensure safety of passengers especially women.

Operational procedure for implementation of VLT cum Emergency buttons 

• The Ministry has sent an advisory to all the states as well in this regard. The States are required to ensure execution of this order and check fitment and functional status of the VLT device in the public service vehicles at the time of checking of the vehicles for fitness certification.

• Command and Control Centres will be setup by the State or VLT manufacturers or any other agency authorised by the State Government.

• These centres will provide interface such as state emergency response centre, the transport department or Regional Transport Offices and its designated agencies.

• These centres will also provide feed to the ‘VAHAN’ data base or the relevant data base of the State with regard to the over speeding device ‘healthstatus’.

• The details of each VLT device will be uploaded on the VAHAN database by the VLT device manufacturer using its secured authenticated access.

• The VLT device manufacturers or their authorised dealers will install the VLT devices in public service vehicles and register the devices along with details of vehicle on the corresponding backend systems in real-time.

• The public service vehicle owners have to ensure that the VLT devices installed in their vehicles are in working condition and regularly send required data to the corresponding backend system.

• VLT device manufacturers will get their devices tested for conformity of production every year after the first certification from the testing agencies referred to in Rule126 of the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989.

• The testing agencies will upload the details of the VLT devices certified by them on the VAHAN database.

• The State or Union Territories will publish Internet Protocol address (IP address) and Short Message Service Gateway (SMS gateway) details of their respective emergency response system where VLT devices will send the emergency alerts on press of emergency button.

VAHAN: The Integrated Solution for Vehicle Registration
  • VAHAN is a highly flexible and comprehensive system that takes care of all the activities of Vehicle Registration, leaving the Transport Department to deal with more important business issues.
  • The software enables the processes at RTO/DTO/MLO/SDM involving vehicle registration, fitness, taxes, permits and enforcement to get computerised.
  • The State Transport Department is governed by both Central Motor Vehicle Regulation (CMVR) and state specific Motor Vehicle Regulation (State MVR). Consequently, VAHAN was conceptualized as a product that would capture the functionalities as mandated by CMVR as well as state MVRs.

Section 7 of the RBI Act, 1934: All you need to know

Section 7 of the RBI Act, 1934: All you need to know

The Union Ministry of Finance on October 31, 2018 clarified that “the autonomy for the Central Bank, within the framework of the RBI Act, is an essential and accepted governance requirement”.

The Ministry also stated that both the Government and the Central Bank need to be guided by public interest and the requirements of the Indian economy and for this purpose, extensive consultations on several issues take place between both the bodies from time to time. The final decisions are then communicated to the public.

The clarification came in the wake of widespread rumours about government’s decision to invoke never-before-used powers by invoking Section 7 of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Act, 1934,allowing it to issue directions to the RBI Governor on matters of public interest such as liquidity for NBFCs, capital requirement for weak banks and lending to SMEs.

What led to this situation?

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on October 30, 2018, during a meeting of the Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC), blamed the RBI for failing to stop a lending spree during 2008-2014 that left banks with USD 150 billion of bad debt.

RBI Governor Urjit Patel and officials from the Securities and Exchange Board of India, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) and the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) attended the meeting to discuss the liquidity crunch.

This rift between the Central Government and the RBI grew after the RBI Deputy Governor Viral Acharya said in a speech on October 26, 2018 that undermining a central bank’s independence could be “potentially catastrophic”, an indication that the regulator is pushing back hard against government pressure to relax its policies and reduce its powers.

Acharya also said that, “Governments that do not respect central bank independence will sooner or later incur the wrath of financial markets, ignite economic fire, and come to rue the day they undermined an important regulatory institution…

Section 7 of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Act, 1934
  • The Section 7 of the RBI Act empowers the Central Government to consult and give instructions to the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to act on certain issues, that the government considers serious and in public interest.
  • The Central Government may give such directions to the Bank from time to time, after consultation with the Governor of the Bank, consider necessary in the public interest.
  • Once the Section 7 is invoked, the general superintendence and direction of the affairs and business of the Bank is entrusted to a Central Board of Directors which may exercise all powers and do all acts exercised or done by the Bank.
  • It is considered that such a move could be a last resort for the Government to increase liquidity, ease pressure on banks and businesses, and boost economic growth.
Has the Section 7 been invoked earlier?

The Section 7 had never been used in independent India till now. It was neither even used when the country was close to economic crisis in 1991 and nor in the aftermath of the 2008 recession crisis.

Allahabad High Court’s ruling in context of Section 7

The talks of invoking Section 7 began for the first time during the matter related to power generation which was taken up by the Allahabad High Court in which a case was filed by power producers challenging the RBI’s February 12 circular. The High Court at that time ruled that invoking of the section could be considered. However, the government at that point did not invoke the section.

How this Section operates?

It is not yet clear how this Section operates since it has never been used till now.

Dispute between the Government and RBI

In September 2016, when Raghuram Rajan exited the RBI governor’s office and Urjit Patel took over the central bank, it was believed that the government-RBI tussle would end. This belief was confirmed in November 2016 when the RBI under Urjit Patel approved demonetisation.

However, the situation seems to be same as that of September 2016. The Government and RBI have been crossing swords over a few issues for some time now.

NPA crisis

The government believes that easing lending rules for the 11 banks under the Prompt Corrective Action (PCA) framework could help reduce pressure on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).

However, the apex bank differs a bit, contradicting that such a move would undo clean-up efforts against Non-performing assets (NPAs). Currently, 11 out of 21 PSU banks are under the scanner. Dena Bank and Allahabad Bank are even facing restrictions on expansion of business.

Nirav Modi-PNB Scam

At the same time, the Nirav Modi case gained the limelight. Businessmen Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi are accused in a scam involving their deals with several banks including the PNB fraud of nearly Rs 14000 crore.

NBFCs issue

For the past few days, the Non-Banking Finance Companies (NBFCs) have been pressing the government for more liquidity. But RBI was resolute in maintaining its position against it.

Delhi Metro Pink Line: Trilokpuri Sanjay Lake – Shiv Vihar section opens for public

Trilokpuri Sanjay Lake Shiv Vihar section of Delhi Metro opens for public

The Trilokpuri Sanjay Lake to Shiv Vihar section of the Delhi Metro Pink Line was flagged off by Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri and Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia on October 31, 2018.

With the opening of this 17.86 km long section, Delhi Metro joined the league of top metro networks around the world which have an operational length of over 300 km like those in London, Beijing, Shanghai and New York.

Delhi Metro Network has now become 314 kilometres long with 229 metro stations. From now on, Delhi Metro will be running 4,749 trips a day, the highest ever so far.

Highlights of the Trilokpuri Sanjay Lake – Shiv Vihar section (Pink Line)

• The 17.86 km long Shiv Vihar – Trilokpuri Sanjay Lake section is part of 59 km long Majlis Park – Shiv Vihar corridor (Line 7) of Phase 3 of the Delhi Metro, also known as the Pink Line.

• Three interchange facilities at Welcome (With Red Line), Karkarduma and Anand Vihar ISBT (with Blue Line) will tremendously boost the connectivity of areas such as Shiv Vihar, Gokul Puri, Maujpur, Jaffrabad, etc.

• This stretch will later get connected with the presently operational Majlis Park – Lajpat Nagar section of Pink Line.

• The Majlis Park – Shiv Vihar Corridor is crossing the existing Vaishali- Dwarka elevated line 21 metres above the ground and is 10 metres above the existing Metro line.

• All the major corridors under Delhi Metro’s Phase 3 are expected to be opened for passengers by December 2018.

• This stretch will be a major boon for the eastern and northern zones of the national capital.

• The residents of the neighbouring Ghaziabad areas of Uttar Pradesh will also get immensely benefitted.

Projects envisioned for future

In coming months, Delhi Metro will also breach the 350 kilometre mark and more and more people of the entire National Capital Region will be benefitted.

Delhi Metro has added 80 kilometres of new sections in the year 2018. Soon, Delhi Metro Phase-IV project of 103.93 km length will also be commenced. In the coming months, a lot of expansion is going to happen in the NCR cities as new sections will open in NOIDA, Greater NOIDA, Ghaziabad and Ballabhgarh.

Other Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS) projects being planned include the 82.15 km Delhi to Meerut corridor; Delhi- Panipat (111 km) and Delhi- Alwar (180 km).

Anupam Kher resigns as Chairman of Film and Television Institute of India

Anupam Kher resigns as Chairman of Film and Television Institute of India

Anupam Kher on October 31, 2018 resigned as Chairman of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), citing international film and TV assignments.

Anupam Kher took office as the Chairman of the prestigious organisation in October 2017. Prior to Kher, Gajendra Chauhan was the Chairman of FTII. Chauhan left office in March 2017.

He offered his resignation through a letter addressed to the Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore. Here’s is his resignation letter:

Reason behind Kher’s resignation
When Kher was approached for the position by Smriti Irani, former Minister of Information and Broadcasting, he had informed her of his commitments with an international TV show, ‘New Amsterdam’.

As the show has now been extended, he will be required to be in the United States for nearly 9 months between 2018 and 2019, and a similar period for another three years.

‘New Amsterdam’ show

Anupam Kher will soon appear in the American television show ‘New Amsterdam’ that requires him to shoot in New York. The actor will portray the role of a neurosurgeon in the series that also stars Ryan Eggold, Janet Montgomery, Jocko Sims and Tyler Labine. The shooting for the show is taking place in New York.

Film and Television Institute of India (FTII)

• Established in 1960, FTII is considered as a premier institute for training in Cinema and Television.

• It is an autonomous institute under the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and is aided by the Central Government.

• It is situated on the premises of the erstwhile Prabhat Film Company in Pune.

• FTII is a member of the International Liaison Centre of Schools of Cinema and Television (CILECT), an organisation of the world’s leading schools of film and television

• It has been accorded the status of Institute of National Importance by the Union Government.

• It boasts of notable alumni such as Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi, Om Puri, Jaya Bachchan, among others.