April 2015

 The Kannada Language Learning Bill 2015

  • The Karnataka Assembly on 30th March passed a bill making the study of the local Kannada language compulsory for all students from class 1 to class 10 in all schools in the state.
  • The Kannada Language Learning Bill 2015 codifies a policy decision of the state government to ensure that all students must be taught Kannada “as one of the compulsory language in all classes in a phased manner from the academic year 2015-16”
  • The new law is seen as a means to work around a Supreme Court order of May 2014 that struck down the usage of Kannada as the mandatory medium of instruction in primary schools in the state.
  • While dealing with cases arising out of a 1994 state government order which made Kannada the mandatory medium of instruction in all schools in the state, the Supreme Court had last year ruled that the state cannot impose the regional language in a state for imparting primary education.
  • The state government subsequently on the direction of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah held discussions with educators, Kannada writers and literary figures to find a way to ensure all students in the state learn the local language.
  • According to the new law, Kannada shall be taught either as a first language or a second language in all schools. Schools that are not teaching Kannada as a first or second language at present must introduce it in class 1 from the 2015-16 academic year and extended it till class X.
  • Moreover, schools shall follow text books prescribed by the state.

The Karnataka Panchayat Raj (Amendment) Bill, 2015

The Bill Provides for

  • Making voting compulsory in panchayat elections.
  • The electorate to select None Of The Above (NOTA) option while exercising their franchise.
  • Increasing the terms of office of presidents and vice-presidents of gram, taluk and zilla panchayats from the present 30 months to five years.
  • The continuation of rotation of reservation of SC, ST and Other Backward Classes and non-reserved category up to 10 years and provides for one half reservation to women in all panchayats

However, there is no penal provision against those who violate the “compulsory voting” clause. “As many as 22 countries have made voting compulsory and only 10 of them impose penalty on electorates who do not turn up at polling booths.

Why this amendment?

  • Government wanted to make voting compulsory in panchayat elections to ensure greater participation of people. Gujarat and Rajasthan have already made voting compulsory in panchayat elections.
  • There were all sorts of malpractices at panchayat level due to short tenure of the president and vice-president . The members are indulging in a lot of politics instead of development. A full five- year tenure will prevent these activities.

Model Question:
The Karnataka legislative assembly passed the Karnataka Panchayat Raj (Amendment) Bill, 2015. Which of the following statement is true with respect to the Bill?
i. It makes voting compulsory
ii. It provides for 50% women reservation in local bodies

Select correct answer using the code given below
A. i only
B. ii only
c. i and ii
D. None of the above


 

The Tumkur City Municipal Corporation presented the first paperless e-budget in the State for 2015-16

Jeevana Shikshana

  • It is celebration time for ‘Jeevana Shikshana’, the first-ever magazine on primary education in the country. This magazine joined the list of a few others that have been published continuously for the last 150 years.
  • Started as ‘Matha Patrike’ in April 1865 by legendary educationist Deputy Chennabasappa, the magazine was subsequently renamed ‘Shala Patraka’ in 1867, ‘Kannada Shala Patraka’ in 1871, ‘Kannada Prathamika Shikshaka’ in 1929 and finally ‘Jeevana Shikshana’ in 1956.
  • It is published by the District Institute of Education and Training (DIET) and reaches 11,800 schools in nine districts of Belagavi division.
  • The magazine was launched at a time when modern education in Kannada was in the nascent stage and there was no guide for Kannada-medium teachers. This continues to be popular among teachers till today, as it has kept pace with the changing times and addresses contemporary issues, thus helping teachers to keep themselves abreast with the latest developments in the field of education.

 

Indradhanush Mission

  • As many as 59,878 children, aged below two, who have missed their routine immunisation in the five Hyderabad-Karnataka districts of Kalaburagi, Yadgir, Raichur, Koppal, Ballari, Bengaluru (Urban) and in the jurisdiction of Bengaluru Bruhat Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) will be covered under the Centre’s ‘Mission Indradhanush’ that will be launched in the city on April 7
  • the programme was aimed at covering all those children who have either missed vaccination or are partially vaccinated against seven vaccine-preventable diseases, which include diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, measles and hepatitis B. Expecting mothers will also be immunised for tetanus
  • To ensure complete coverage, immunisation will be taken up for one week from the 7th of April, May, June and July.
  • In the first phase, the programme will be taken up in five Hyderabad Karnataka districts as they have a low record of immunisation.
  • It would be taken up in BBMP jurisdiction and in Bengalurue (Urban) due to high concentration of migration workers or labourers

Nendran Banana and Bangalore Rose Onion gets GI tag

  • Kerala’s sumptuous Nendran Banana and Karnataka’s Bangalore Rose Onion have got geographical indication (GI Tag) registrations from the Geographical Indications Registry, Chennai.
  • Chengazhikodan Nendran Banana, also known Chengazhikode Banana, is among the most popular traditional fruits cultivated in Thrissur district, Kerala. This variety of Nendran Banana is famed for its characteristic taste, bunch shape and fruit colour. The mature fruits are pale yellow and, on ripening, turn golden yellow with red patches.
  • Bunches of Chengalikodan are particularly used as ‘Kazhchakula’(auspicious sighting) to be offered in temples and also as gift to relatives and friends, particularly during the Onam season. The crop is mainly cultivated in organic mode and the crop duration is 13-14 months.
  • The Bangalore Rose Onion grown in Bangalore and its surrounding areas is famous for its high pungency compared to other varieties.

What is GI?

  • Geographical indication (GI) refers to any indication that identifies the goods as originating from a particular place, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the goods is essentially attributable to its geographical origin.
  • GI helps a community of producers to differentiate their products from competing products in the market and build goodwill around their products, which often fetches a premium price.
  • As per the Act, any association of persons or producers or any organization established by or under any law for the time being in force representing the interest of the producers of concerned goods, can apply in writing to the Registrar of GI.
  • Among GI tag recipients are the Naga Tree Tomato, Arunachal Orange, Sikkim Large Cardamom, Mizo Chilli, Assam Karbi Anglong Ginger, Tripura Queen Pineapple, Tezpur Litchi, Khasi Mandarin and Kachai Lemon, handicraft items such as Khurja Pottery, Banaras Gulabi Meenakari Craft, Varanasi Wooden Lacquer Wear and Toys and foods such as Ratlami Sev of Madhya Pradesh, Joynagarer Moa from West Bengal and Rajasthan’s Makrana Marble.

Operation Raahat 

  •  After a delay in beginning the evacuation of Indians stranded in Yemen owing to intensified fighting in Aden, India on 31st march night received permission to dock its vessel at the port of Aden to evacuate nearly 400 stranded Indians to Djibouti.
  • Naval Ship INS Sumitra which was diverted from anti-piracy duty in the Gulf of Aden and anchored just off the Yemen coast has entered Aden to assist the evacuation operation that has been officially named “Operation Raahat”.
  • There has been increased urgency for evacuation with mounting fears of a ground invasion by Saudi-led forces into Yemen to fight back the Houthi rebels in control.
  • Two more ships, the destroyer INS Mumbai and the frigate INS Tarkash have set sail from India, and would reach the Yemen coast by April 2, and are equipped to deal with several contingencies, officials said.
  • The problem is road travel is curtailed because they are fighting,” he told The Hindu. The other problem was that the Saudi forces were not extending bigger airflight windows to allow the evacuation flights to operate from Sana’a.
  • Officials say the Op. Raahat plan is to deploy all naval ships and four aircraft, including two IAF C-17 Globemasters and two Air India flights stationed in Muscat all together to launch a “composite” evacuation effort.

  Iran Nuclear Agreement

How did the dispute begin? 

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  • In 2002 nuclear program previously unknown to the United Nations was discovered in Iran. The program includes a vast uranium enrichment plant at Natanz and a heavy water plant at Arak. The United States accuses Tehran of an “across-the-board pursuit of weapons of mass destruction,” 
  • Iran has always maintained that its nuclear programme was meant only for peaceful purposes and that as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it was entitled to enrichment of uranium for energy generation.
  • But the unrelenting pressure from the West in the past decade, including recurring talk of open hostility from the U.S. and Israel, had led to defiance from the Mahmoud Ahmadinejad-led regime.
  • Iran went on to expand its nuclear programme by furthering enrichment capabilities and building clandestine nuclear facilities. These actions had invited sanctions from not only the U.S. and the EU, but the UN as well, which had hurt Iran economically and also made it difficult for countries such as India to engage in trade with the country
  • This lead to 18-month-long negotiations between the various parties finally bore fruit

What helped in the breakthrough?

  1. The Iran’s current regime is headed by a pragmatist in President Hassan Rouhani who was elected in 2013 on the premise of bringing about an entente with the West, among others.
  2. The determination of U.S. President Barack Obama to reverse the rigid stance of his more conservative predecessor, George W. Bush, over repairing ties with Iran and bringing about an agreement over the latter’s nuclear programme helped.

What is the current deal about? Or what is Joint comprehensive plan of action? (JCPOA)

The joint comprehensive plan of action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear programme announced by Iran and the EU 3+3 (the United Kingdom, France, Germany along with China, Russia and the United States)  (Europe 3+3 or P5+1 of the Security Council and Germany) in Lausanne, Switzerland

According to the draft agreement:

  1. Iran will reduce the number of installed centrifuges by two-thirds, bring uranium stocks down from 10,000 kg to 300 kg LEU (low-enriched uranium)
  2. Turn its nuclear facility in Fordow into an R&D facility for 15 years.
  3. All the excess stockpile and nuclear parts will be kept at an IAEA-monitored location
  4. The U.N., the U.S. and the EU will withdraw all sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy for years.

How will Iran benefit?

The possible reward for Iran’s promised steps, namely ramping down its uranium enrichment capabilities and stockpiles of enriched uranium, reducing the number of centrifuges, allowing for thorough inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency and giving up nuclear reprocessing is the lifting of the tough sanctions regime against the country.

What is the benefit for India?

  • India’s imports from Iran — particularly petroleum products — had been severely curtailed due to the sanctions. This Would benefit our economic engagement greatly as even the most normal transactions had become very tedious for Indian businesses. From insurance to raising capital, every deal faced international hurdles
  • India and Iran have an annual bilateral trade of about $14 billion, with an extremely high balance of trade problem, as India has been unable to pay Iran about $8.8 billion for oil due to sanctions
  • The government has also had to bow to U.S. and international pressure on cutting its oil imports from Iran, and in March 2015 halted oil imports altogether for the first time in more than a decade in order to keep its international commitments.
  • The nuclear agreement with Iran should also help ease the long-standing hostile ties between the U.S. and Iran eventually helping to change at least some equations in the conflict-ridden West Asian region

Model Question:

Which of the following country was not a part of the E3+3 or P5+1 grouping involved in the nuclear negotiation with Iran?

A. Germany

B. Japan

C. France

D. China


 

National Air Quality Index (AQI)

  • The government on 6th April launched the National Air Quality Index (AQI) that will put out real time data about the level of pollutants in the air and inform people about the possible impacts on health.
  • Launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the two-day Environment and Forest Minister’s conference
  • The new index will initially cover 10 cities — Delhi, Agra, Kanpur, Lucknow, Varanasi, Faridabad, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad — each of which would have monitoring stations with Air Quality Index display boards.
  • The government said the aim was to eventually deploy the index in all cities with a population of over one million.
  • The Air Quality Index may prove to be a major impetus to improving air quality in urban areas, as it will improve public awareness in cities to take steps for air pollution mitigation
  • The AQI is a global standard used to understand air quality. It takes multiple data on pollution already available with the country’s Central Pollution Control Board and presents it as a colour coded scale with six levels.
  • Dark green, the first level, indicates good quality air while maroon at the other end indicates severe pollution. For each category, the index identifies associated health impacts.
  • For example when the scale touches maroon, the advisory reads: “May cause respiratory impact even on healthy people, and serious health impacts on people with lung/heart disease. The health impacts may be experienced even during light physical activity.”

INS Kalvari

  • India’s first Scorpene submarine INS Kalvari launched for sea trials on 6th April
  • The first of the six French Scorpene submarine joined the long list of key Indian defence platforms that have been awaiting final inductions into the armed forces after achieving key development milestones.2754A91000000578-3027893-image-a-15_1428366083414
  • Kalvari, as the first Scorpene has been christened, was undocked in Mumbai’s Mazagon Docks Limited after much delay.
  • The submarine however, will be made available to navy only in September 2016 after undergoing sea trials.
  • It features diesel propulsion and an additional air-independent propulsion (AIP) system.

what is Air-independent propulsion?

Air-independent propulsion (AIP) is any technology which allows a non-nuclear submarine to operate without the need to access atmospheric oxygen (by surfacing or using a snorkel). AIP can augment or replace the diesel-electric propulsion system of non-nuclear vessels. The DCNS system, known as MESMA (Module d’Energie Sous-Marine Autonome), is based on the combustion of stored oxygen and ethanol to augment battery-powered propulsion.

Significance of AIP:

  • Notably, a submarine is about stealth. It is a weapons platform not visible to the naked eye. AIP significantly improves stealth because it enables a submarine to generate electricity for services and battery charging and propulsion while completely submerged.
  • AIP systems are auxiliary, like a smaller hull inserted in the main body. They generate electricity, powering a submarine’s to operate and also generate oxygen, lighting and amenities for crew. Accordingly, they enable conventional diesel-electric submarines to remain submerged for two to three weeks at a time. Without AIP, diesel-electric submarines have to come up to snorkeling depths just below the surface or surface at shorter intervals so that the diesel engines can recharge their batteries. This significantly increases the risk of detection.
  • A submarine’s diesel engines can only be started once the snorkel has cleared the surface to take in oxygen in the fresh air. Snorkeling depth is about the same as periscope depth. AIP significantly improves stealth because it enables a submarine to generate electricity for services and battery charging and propulsion while completely submerged.
  • A benefit of this approach is that it can be retrofitted into existing submarine hulls by inserting an additional hull section. AIP does not normally provide the endurance or power to replace the atmospheric dependent propulsion, but allows it to remain submerged longer than a more conventionally propelled submarine.
  • A typical conventional power plant will provide 3 megawatts maximum, and an AIP source around 10% of that. A nuclear submarine’s propulsion plant is usually much greater than 20 megawatts. Another advantage is that the Non-nuclear submarines running on battery power or AIP can be virtually silent.

 

  • The navy is also awaiting the induction of indigenous aircraft carrier Vikrant, which is being constructed at Cochin shipyard. Vikrant was launched in July 2013.The aircraft carrier will not be ready for an operational role before the end of 2018.
  • The Indian Air Force (IAF) also has its own share of wait-lists. The Light Combat Aircraft Tejas initially got two operational clearances, but is yet to be inducted into the IAF. It can be declared fit for service only after the final operational clearance certification, which is not expected by the end of this year.
  • The army, too, has been waiting for the home-built Main Battle Tank Arjun for several years. It is now hoping that the mark II version of the tank will be ready for operations after undergoing technological improvements.
  • As far as navy is concerned, the undocking of Scorpene is just a small step towards building blue water capability of the Indian Navy whose underwater arm has struggled to evolve into a sturdy unit.
  • The six French conventional boats were part of the ambitious 24 submarine construction plan conceived in 1999 which has fallen off track for numerous reasons.
  • Some movement has taken place on the construction of remaining boats under the 24-submarine plan. The government is in the process to finalise domestic shipyards for making the next line of submarines under project 75 A.

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 Dena Bank ties up with LIC

Dena Bank recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) of India under the Prime Minister’s Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana (PMJBY) scheme to provide insurance cover to all Aadhaar-linked savings account holders of the bank in the age group of 18 to 50 years.

Prime Minister’s Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana (PMJBY) scheme:

The Scheme is to benefit people in case of death for any reason.

  • It is available to people in the age group of 18 to 50, having a bank account.
  • The scheme will come in effect from June 1, 2015.
  • People who join the scheme before completing the age of 50, can continue to have the risk of life cover up to the age of 55 years, subject to the payment of premium.
  • The scheme has an annual premium of Rs 330, with a risk coverage of Rs 2 lakh. The premium will be directly auto- debited by the bank from the subscriber’s account.
  • A person can opt for the scheme for a year or prefer to continue it as a long term option. In case of long term option, his account will be auto- debited every year by the bank.
  • Under the scheme, a risk of Rs.2 lakh will be covered in case of death and a premium sum of Rs.330 per annum will be auto-debited to the account holder’s account. As per the terms of risk coverage, a person has to opt for the scheme every year.

Project ‘Mausam’

  • China has expressed its readiness to work with India to link its ambitious Maritime Silk Road plans with India’s ‘Mausam’ project in a bid to address India’s strategic concerns and derive common benefits.
  • It is a Project under which the Government of India has proposed to establish cross cultural linkages and to revive historic maritime cultural and economic ties with 39 Indian Ocean countries.
  • The 39 countries include Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Egypt, Iraq, Mauritius, Singapore, Thailand, Yemen, South Africa, Philippines, Pakistan among others.
  • Project ‘Mausam’ was launched in the 30th Session of World Heritage Committee meeting which was held at Doha, Quatar in June, 2014 and since then it has received positive response from countries such as China, UAE, Qatar, Myanmar, Iran and Vietnam.
  • It is a Ministry of Culture project with Archaeological Society of India (ASI) as the nodal agency and Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) as its Research Unit.
  • The endeavour of Project ‘Mausam’ is to position itself at two levels: at the macro level it aims to reconnect and re-establish communications between countries of the Indian Ocean world, which would lead to an enhanced understanding of cultural values and concerns; while at the micro level the focus is on understanding national cultures in their regional maritime milieu.
  • The central themes that hold Project ‘Mausam’ together are those of cultural routes and maritime landscapes that not only linked different parts of the Indian Ocean littoral, but also connected the coastal centres to their hinterlands.

The Real Estate (Regulation & Development) Bill

The Real Estate (Regulation & Development) Bill has been approved by the Union Cabinet

Objective:
  • It is aimed at addressing a long-standing demand to bring in a regulator for the real estate sector.
  • It seeks to protect the interests of consumers and establish regulatory bodies at the Centre and States for ethical and transparent business practices in the real estate sector.
  • The Bill is expected ensure greater accountability towards consumers, and to significantly reduce frauds and delays.
  • It is expected to promote regulated and orderly growth of the real estate sector through efficiency, professionalism and standardization
  • Expected to boost domestic and foreign investment in the sector and help achieve the objective of the Government of India to provide ‘Housing for All by 2022’, through enhanced private participation
Salient Features:
  • The Bill provides for mandatory registration of all projects and real estate agents who intend to sell any plot, apartment or building with the Real Estate Regulatory Authority.
  • It makes mandatory the disclosure of all information for registered projects like details of promoters, layout plan, land status, schedule of execution and status of various approvals.
  • The Bill also seeks to enforce the contract between the developer and buyer and a fast track mechanism to settle disputes.
  • The earlier Bill had mandated that a developer put 70 per cent of the buyer’s investment into an escrow account that would be used only for the construction of that project. Last year, the Housing Ministry brought this down to 50 per cent, reportedly after much lobbying from the real estate companies.
  • It brings the commercial segment of the real estate sector within the ambit of the Bill
  • The Bill also now includes a condition that prohibits a developer from changing the plan in a project unless 2/3rd of the allottees have agreed for such a change.

Foreign Trade Policy 2015- 2020

 The new FTP calls for the “enhancement of the entire trade ecosystem”. The policy seeks to tie-in foreign trade with major government initiatives like Make in India, Digital India, and Skills India. Some notable points are

  1. First, there is an integrated look at the trade policy. The FTP acknowledges that trade cannot be formulated and implemented by a single department or government. The policy thus talks about taking a “whole of government” approach and working with state governments to increase competitiveness. The approach in this is to rationalize non-essential imports and promote exports that will help build resilience and competitiveness.
  2. It aims at increase in almost doubling the exports over the next five years – to USD 900 billion from the 2013-14 levels of USD 465.9 billion.
  3. Also aims to increase India’s share in world exports from 2 percent to 3.5 percent.
  4. Improving trade ecosystem— This includes simplifying administrative procedures and reducing transaction costs for business and government alike. Towards this, the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) is already providing a facility of online filing of various applications under FTP by the exporters/importers. Such steps are aimed at promoting ease of doing business for export promotion and will further bolster trade performance.
  5. The policy distinctly focuses on a market strategy and a product strategy for trade.

The market strategy

includes bettering India’s present engagement with the key economies of the world and strengthening the trading engagement over the next five years. These include the Indo-US, Indo-European, Sino-Indian, Indo-East Asian, Indo- Australian and Indo-New Zealand, Indo-South Asian, IndoWANA (West Asia & North Africa), IndoLatin American & Caribbean, Indo-CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) and finally, Indo-African trade engagements. The strategy will help provide respite against the two mega-regional trading agreements (MRTA) of which India is not a part.

The product strategy

seeks a movement up the value chain for a variety of goods and services. In the context of the manufacturing sector, in particular, the engineering goods, electronics and pharmaceutical sectors, the removal of regulatory hurdles along key economic markets will hold the key.

  1. Another product strategy entails leveraging the MSME sector by focusing on hi-tech products.
  2. The policy also talks about the “India” branding that will aid in greater value realization in export markets.
  3. Institutional changes
    • MEIS (Merchandize Exports from India Scheme)– The MEIS aims at exports of specified goods to specified markets. The rate of rewards ranges from 2-5 percent                             The clubbing of five existing schemes free transferability of reward credit scrips, extension of incentives to SEZ units, provision for status holder manufacturers to self-certify the origins of their goods, promised online procedure to upload digitally signed documents by Chartered Accountant/Company Secretary/Cost Accountant, etc into one Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (MEIS)
    • The SEIS (Services Exports from India Scheme) is for an increase of notified services, and select services will be given rewards of 3-5 percent. SEIS shall apply to “service providers located in India” instead of “Indian service providers”.
    • Set up a National Committee on Trade Facilitation in line with the WTO agreement on trade facilitation –for easing customs procedures and reducing transaction costs for traders.
    • Set up Centre for Research in International Trade –for strengthening India’s research capabilities in the area of international trade.

The Social Progress Index

  • The Social Progress Index measures the extent to which countries provide for the social and environmental needs of their citizens.
  •  Fifty-four indicators in the areas of basic human needs, foundations of wellbeing, and opportunity to progress show the relative performance of nations.
  • The index is published by the nonprofit Social Progress Imperative, and is based on the writings of Amartya Sen, Douglass North, and Joseph Stiglitz.
  •  The SPI measures the well-being of a society by observing social and environmental outcomes directly rather than the economic factors. The social and environmental factors include personal safety, ecosystem sustainability, health and wellness, shelter, sanitation, equity and inclusion and personal freedom and choice.
  • Out of 133 countries rated India has secured the 101th place.
  • Norway has bagged the first rank

Child Labour Welfare Corpus Fund

  • The corpus fund, established in each district and managed by the respective Deputy Commissioner, was set up in the wake of a Supreme Court order in 1996 to help rehabilitate rescued child labourers.
  • The local courts adjudicating over child labour cases can impose a maximum penalty of Rs 20000 on persons found guilty of employing children under the Child Labour Act, 1986. The fine collected from the guilty is remitted to the corpus fund.
  • Close to 95 per cent of the amount collected from those found guilty of employing children in the State over the last 10 years is lying unutilised in the Child Labour Welfare Corpus Fund.

New software to improve children’s Aadhaar enrolment

  •  The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which issues the 12-digit Aadhaar number, is introducing new software in May for exclusive enrolment of children in the 0 to 5 age group, since the coverage of this group had been found unsatisfactory.
  • The enrolment centres in most parts of the country, including Karnataka, will incorporate the software and the trial enrolment will begin on May 1. The actual enrolment of children using this software will be launched on May 15

RED SANDERS

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  • Karnataka is not just a transit hub for red sanders smuggling, but it has now emerged that most of the money on the red wood is made as it passes through the State.
  • These gangs operating in the Old Mysuru region, mostly those who were earlier involved in sandalwood smuggling, buy red sanders from smaller gangs operating in Seshachalam forest area for Rs. 3,000 to Rs. 4,000 a kg
  • The gangs in the State have developed a network of non-descript godowns in the forests of Kollegal, Mysuru and Malnad region enroute to Mangaluru, from where they resell the wood to gangs from Mumbai mafia operating in the ring, who, in turn, sell it to Chinese gangs,

MNREGA wages hiked by Rs. 13 a day

Daily wages have gone up from Rs. 191 in 2014–15 to Rs. 204 in 2015–16, an increase by Rs. 13 a day.

08bg_bgnag_NREG_09_2368038eWith this, the wage rates have been revised nine times since the launch of the job scheme in 2006–07 by the previous UPA government. The revision in the wage rate indexed to the Consumer Price Index for Agricultural Labour

Office hours changed in 8 districts of Karnataka

To provide relief from excessive heat, the State government has issued an order changing the office hours of its employees in eight districts of north Karnataka in April and May. Office timings in Kalaburagi, Bidar, Yadgir, Raichur, Koppal, Ballari, Vijayapura and Bagalkot districts will be from 8 a.m. to 1.30 p.m. in April and May against the regular timings of 10 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.

The government has been changing the office timings in these districts during summer months since 1995–96.

MUDRA bank launched

  • Pradhan Mantri Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency (MUDRA) Yojana
  • PM launched the MUDRA bank with a corpus of Rs. 20,000 crore and credit guarantee of Rs. 3,000 crore on 8th April.
  • The bank will be responsible for refinancing micro-finance institutions in the business of lending to small entities.
  • MUDRA will be set up through a statutory enactment.
  • It will be responsible for developing and refinancing all micro-finance institutions (MFIs) which are in the business of lending to micro and small business entities engaged in manufacturing, trading and service activities.
  • It will also partner with State and regional-level coordinators to provide finance to last-mile financiers of small and micro business enterprises.
  • Its proposed role includes laying down policy guidelines for micro enterprise financing business, registration, accreditation and rating of MFI entities.
  • The agency will also lay down responsible financing practices to ward off over-indebtedness and ensure proper client protection principles and methods of recovery
  • These measures are targeted towards mainstreaming young, educated or skilled workers and entrepreneurs, including women entrepreneurs, the release said.
  • A vast part of the non-corporate sector operates as unregistered enterprises and formal or institutional architecture has not been able to reach out to meet its financial requirements. Providing access to institutional finance to such micro, small business units, enterprises will not only help in improving the quality of life of these entrepreneurs, but also turn them into strong instruments of GDP growth and employment generation

The Justice A. J. Sadashiva Inquiry Commission

The Justice A. J. Sadashiva Inquiry Commission was set up in 2005 to look into methods of equitable distribution of reservation facilities among Scheduled Castes (SCs). The commission had been set up following complaints by the most backward communities among the Scheduled Castes that some castes among Dalits had cornered all reservation benefits, while others had been denied their share of Constitutional rights.

  1. It had recommended internal reservation among the castes Scheduled Castes
  2. This is to be done by broadly reclassifying all the 101 castes into four groups. The overall reservation of 15 per cent that is being given to Scheduled Castes will be allocated as follows
  • Right Community-5 per cent
  • Left Community-6 per cent
  • Touchables- 3 per cent
  • Other Scheduled Castes communities- 1 per cent
  1. The above quantum of allocation of reservation benefits to the four groups were made after assessing their socio-economic and educational development through a door-to-door survey of 96.60 lakh persons belonging to Scheduled Castes This included 1.58 lakh persons employed in Union and State government establishments.
  2. Of the total 96 lakh population of Scheduled Castes, the Left Community accounted for 33.47 per cent, Right Community 32 per cent, Touchables 23.64 per cent and Other Scheduled Castes communities 4.65 per cent. The numbers do not add up to 100 per cent as about 6 lakh members among the Scheduled Castes have desisted from mentioning their castes during the survey.
  3. The survey results had indicated that the Right Community had got more benefits from reservation than the other Scheduled Castes communities as comparatively they were in a better situation in terms of education and employment.
  4. Expressing dissatisfaction that on an average the implementation of Scheduled Castes welfare measures were not effective, the commission had recommended setting up of enforcement and evaluation wings to not only monitor the implementation of these schemes but to find out if they were effective.

To implement the recommendations, a constitutional amendment is required to Article 341. So the State has to take up the matter with the Union Government.


Thane named India’s Earth Hour Capital

  • An 11-member international jury has declared Thane the National Earth Hour Capital with the city emerging the winner from India in the Earth Hour City Challenge this year.

Earth Hour:

  • Earth Hour is a worldwide movement for the planet organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). The event is held worldwide annually encouraging individuals, communities, households and businesses to turn off their non-essential lights for one hour, from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. on the last Saturday in March, as a symbol for their commitment to the planet.

Dhanush

  • India recently successfully test-fired its nuclear-capable Dhanush ballistic missile with a strike range of 350 km from a naval ship off the Odisha coast.
  • It is a surface-to-surface missile and a naval variant of India’s indigenously-developed Prithvi missile.
  • It is a single-stage, liquid-propelled missile.
  • It has 350 km range.
  • It has already been inducted into the armed forces and is one of the five missiles developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP).

Caste census in Karnataka

  • The census has been named ‘Social and Educational’ census of the people in Karnataka.
  • Noted music director Hamsalekha has composed music for this census.
  • The first caste census, which will be conducted across the State over the next 20 days, got underway on 11th  April, 2015.
  • During the survey, enumerators will be asking 55 questions to the household and not all questions are mandatory to be answered.
  • Question one to 31 pertain personal information, and the rest is information about the family.
  • While people from Scheduled Castes will be coded B, Scheduled Tribes will be coded C while others will be coded A.
  • Conducted by the Karnataka State Backward Classes Commission, the census intends to cover an estimated 1.31 crore families in the state
  • For the first time in the country since 1931, Karnataka will conduct a census based on caste, education and economic status

Rating of Tourism facility in Karnataka

  • The State’s Tourism Department, announced the rating scheme for 18 tourist facilities in the State, including eco-tourism, adventure tourism, homestays and resorts.
  • Four accreditation agencies have been empanelled to carry out the rating process.
  • Depending on their net worth, they will have to pay the agency a fee of Rs. 8,000 to Rs. 21,000. Based on parameters such as lighting, design and room-size, they will be rated from A to E (with plus or minus).
  • Only those with ratings will be displayed on the government portal

Amendment to the Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act

  • No permission needed to fell certain trees following a recent amendment to the Karnataka
  • Passed at the Belagavi legislature session
  • The amendment allows for the felling of certain varieties of trees without the permission of the Department of Forests.
  • The department issued an order on March 3, 2015, listing 26 species of trees that are exempt from the Karnataka Forest Rules, 1969, and mango is among them.
  • The inclusion of mango on this list has resulted in indiscriminate felling of old mango trees.
  • Moreover, mango was one among the species, which had been declared a heritage tree by the Karnataka Biodiversity Board.
  • The ‘hebbevu’ ( Melia dubia ), ‘ranjalu’, ‘betta’ and ‘kadudhoopa’ trees were also on the list.
  • The Act was amended to exempt some horticulture trees to help farmers. But these three varieties were forest species. This was yet another opportunity to plunder the forests.

Belgaum Fort declared heritage monument

  • It was built by Jaya Raya during 1204 AD
  • The State government has declared the historical Belgaum Fort here a State Heritage Monument, as per Section 4(3) of the Karnataka Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1961.
  • As per the official records, the fort, located right in front of a picturesque lake at the entrance of the city from Hubballi-Dharwad, traces its history to the Ratta dynasty with lineage to the Rashtrakutas.
  • It was built by Jaya Raya, also called Bichi Raja, an ally of the Rattas, during 1204 AD.
  • Subsequently, the fort has undergone several renovations under different rulers of the region.
  • The fort, with fine ramparts and a large moat, has two shrines of Lord Ganapati and Goddess Durga at the entrance. Of the two Jain Basadis, Kamala Basadi, was built in the late Chalukyan style in 1204 with the Neminatha idol in black stone.
  • The masterpiece here is the Mukhamantapa with a well-executed lotus on the ceiling. Outside the Kamala Basadi, is another ruined Jain temple.Safa Masjid is one of the two mosques inside the fort and by far the best of the 25-30 mosques in the city.
  • The minars, domes and arches point to a typical fusion of Indo-Sarcenic and Deccan styles of architecture. A sense of the past is all pervading here.
  • Two of the circular pillars in the Jamia hall are said to be from the old temples. Some of them have Kannada inscriptions in the Nagari script, while others have beautiful Persian script forming exquisite calligraphic decorations.
  • Also, a sub-centre of the Ramakrishna Mission Ashram has been established, where exists the blessed house of Sri Haripada Mitra where Swami Vivekananda stayed for nine days in October 1892.
  • After having confirmed the Hindu monk’s stay here, the S.M. Krishna Government handed it over to Ramakrishna Math and Mission.

SyndicateBank to offer low-cost insurance scheme

  •  SyndicateBank tied up with Life Insurance Corporation of India to offer low-cost life insurance under the new Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana.
  • The scheme will come into effect on June 1 at all branches of the bank, an official statement said.
  • Eligibility: Saving bank account holders of the bank in the age group of 18 to 50 are eligible to get insurance cover on paying an annual premium of Rs. 330.
  • Under the scheme, announced in March this year, the LIC will provide a life insurance cover of Rs. 2 lakh in case of death of the insured person.

Internet Santhe

  • Head Held High Services organized Internet Santhe at Nargund, a taluk 60 kms from Gadag, on Nov 14.
  • The event was organized in partnership with Idea Cellular Services.
  • The day-long Internet Santhe was an open-for-all event held at a large temple auditorium.
  • The Santhe was divided into zones, tailored to match the participant’s level of familiarity with internet, smartphone and digital technologies.
  • The non-user zone was designed for novices who were taught basic skills like how to access internet, browsing, basic search, emails and social networking. The experience zone, meant for regular internet/ smartphone users, introduced them to new apps and tools that could impact their life, ranging from e-commerce, fitness, news to finance.
  • At the Innovation zone, attendees experienced the possibilities of technology innovations like Google Cardboard. It also showcased videos of 3D printing, Google glass experience, and Robotics developed in Indian universities.
    The event witnessed a phenomenal response, with over 100 walk-ins, from school going children to rural youth to retired pensioners.
  • H3S plans to organize 10 Internet Santhe in the next 6 months.

Micro-solar dome

  • A pilot project to try out a device that captures diffuse sunlight and bounces it back inside rooms, giving the effect of a 60-watt electric lamp. Called a “micro-solar dome”, this zero-fuel, zero-maintenance contraption will be installed on the roofs of 30 houses in the slums in Bardhaman and the Sundarbans in West Bengal and places in Tripura. The lamp costs Rs. 300.
  • It works on the principle of capturing sunlight using a micro-solar dome with a small diameter. This light is filtered through a PVC pipe with a highly reflective lining. Bright light emerges at the other end through a transparent glass shade
  • S.P. Gon Chaudhuri, renewable energy expert, led his team to launch this gadget through a Centrally funded low-cost research project. This is a “research-you-can-use” project awarded last October.

MMRCA (MEDIUM MULTI-ROLE COMBAT AIRCRAFT) PROJECT

  • India floated a global tender, for 126 fighters. the project envisaged direct acquisition of the first 18 jets with the remaining 108 being built in India by Hindustan Aeronautics after transfer of technology
  • France won the tender. But the project has been halted since a year now. The hurdle in the MMRCA negotiations was Dassault’s substantial hike in pricing for the 108 fighters to be produced by HAL as well as its refusal to take “full responsibility” for them. India, in turn, was clear it could not accept a hike in the L-1 (lowest bidder) price provided by Dassault since it had led Rafale to defeat the Eurofighter Typhoon in commercial evaluation in January 2012.
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Sania Mirza 

Sania Mirza has created history by becoming the first woman tennis player from India to achieve the world No. 1 ranking in doubles after her stupendous title win at the WTA Family Circle Cup with partner Martina Hingis here.


The final ward-wise reservation list of Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike 

  • The final ward-wise reservation list of Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike was notified on 15th April with changes to 22 wards from the draft notification issued on April 4.
  • The final notification comes in the wake of a High Court direction.
  • It will be the first time that 50 per cent of the seats (99) will be reserved for women in the BBMP council.

The Cauvery Gallery

  • A mansion on Kantharaj Urs Road in Mysuru, which is nearly a century old and once served as the residence to professors of Maharaja’s College, has been identified by the University of Mysore to set up the Cauvery Gallery.
  • The gallery, expected to be thrown open to the public by the end of this year or early next year, will showcase cultural and socioeconomic aspects of the river. It will feature exhibits, detailed satellite images, multimedia displays and digital video-shows.
  • National Academy of Sciences of India (NASI), which plans to set up the gallery on the lines of the Ganga Gallery at Allahabad and Brahmaputra Gallery at Guwahati, had visited the Old Professor’s Quarters and given its approval for the venue.
  • By capturing the etymological, ecological, cultural, heritage, and social characteristics of the river, the gallery will serve as a learning centre on the major south Indian river.

Vachanas in two reader-friendly volumes

  • The Kannada Book Authority (KBA) is set to introduce Vachanas (maxims of Vachanakaras of the 12th century Veerashaiva Bhakti movement) in two reader-friendly volumes based on the Bible printing model.
  • About 20,000 Vachanas of over 250 Vachanakaras published in 8,808 pages of 15 volumes of Samgra Vachana Samputa will be accommodated in two volumes. These volumes will be easy to carry and can be referred whenever needed.
  • A committee of writers headed by writer-scholar M.M. Kalbugri edited and compiled the Samagra Vachana Samputa, a few years ago. Now, the same committee is working on the project that will accommodate the Vachanas in compact-size volumes.
  • The government has released Rs. 60 lakh for the purpose.

The State-level Vigilance and Monitoring Committee (SVMC)

  • Karnataka has failed to even hold the mandatory biannual meetings of the State-level Vigilance and Monitoring Committee (SVMC) formed under the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, since 1995.
  • A report by the Committee for Monitoring and Strengthening Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in Karnataka (CMASK) indicates that the State has held only four meetings though it was supposed to have held 41 meetings in the last two decades to fulfil the constitutional mandate towards the SCs and STs under the Act. This translates to only 9.76 per cent adherence to the constitutional mandate.
  • The report states that it is mandatory for States to hold the meetings in January and July every year.
  • But though the rules were notified on March 31, 1995, the first meeting of the SVMC was held only on March 11, 2000. The subsequent meetings were held in December 2006, September 2010 and November 2013.
  • Rating the 12 Chief Ministers of the State since 1995 on the basis of number of SVMC meetings held during their regime, the report assigned “C” grade to H.D. Kumaraswamy for holding one meeting of the mandatory three during his tenure.
  • All other Chief Ministers, including the incumbent Mr. Siddaramaiah, have been given “F” grade.

Bike ambulances

  • Health Minister U.T. Khader, who launched 30 first responder bike ambulances in the city on 14th April.
  • Two companies had evinced interest in taking up the air ambulance project in the State.
  • The bike ambulance project is termed as a “platinum ten minutes” trauma care initiative.
  • Aimed at reducing deaths due to road accidents, the platinum trauma care initiative is useful for negotiating heavy traffic in urban areas where it will be difficult for four-wheeler ambulances to reach the accident spot at the earliest.
  • Of the 30, 21 will be stationed at strategic locationsin the city and one each in the districts of Mysore, Mangaluru, Kalaburgi, Belagavi, Hubballi-Dharwad, Davangere, Tumkuru, Vijayapura and Shivamogga.
  • The initiative will be implemented through GVK-EMRI, the organisation that is running the 108 Arogya Kavacha ambulance service.
  • The bike ambulance rider will be a trained paramedic who has a driving licence.
  • The paramedic will reach the spot in ten minutes and give first aid and start resuscitation measures to save the victim till the four-wheeler ambulance arrives.
  • Each bike ambulance will carry 40 medical items including stethoscope, pulse oxymeter, bandages and IV normal saline apart from 53 basic drugs.
  • The government has spent nearly Rs 2 lakh on each of the bike ambulances.

Testing fluoride content in Chickballapur tube wells

  • The Health and Family Welfare Department has for the first time taken up a project to test fluoride content in the water supplied through tube wells in Chickballapur district.
  • The project was taken up following an alarming number of children and elders were found suffering from fluorosis.
  • According to the Health Department, 5,299 children are affected by fluorosis, specifically dental fluorosis. As many as 5,277 elderly people are suspected to be suffering from dental fluorosis in the district, and 48 elders from bone fluorosis.
  • The project aims to test water samples within two months.

FDI in DEFENCE

  • The present Bharatiya Janata Party government, despite its rallying ‘Make in India’ cry, has further increased the FDI limit in defence, with 49 per cent now permitted under the automatic route, 75 per cent where technology transfer is involved, and up to 100 per cent in cases involving significant new technology.

The arguments in favour of FDI in defence

  1. Public sector companies in defence, Research and Development and allied industries have consistently failed to meet the requirements of the armed forces, especially given the global revolution in military technology.
  2.  The superior management culture of the private sector will ensure better adherence to budgets and timelines.
  3. The country is compelled into repeated imports without any technology transfer (despite contractual obligations) because the military is always urgently in need of the technology. Therefore, the argument goes, encouraging foreign companies to invest in Indian defence and set up industries here will mean that money will be spent within the country, generating jobs and bringing in new know-how, with the possibility of exports.

U.N. imposes arms embargo on Houthi rebels

  • The U.N. Security Council stepped up efforts to thwart a Houthi rebel takeover of Yemen, imposing an arms embargo on the leaders of the Shiite group, along with former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his son.
  • The Security Council resolution was approved in a 14-0 vote, with Russia abstaining. Moscow had insisted on an arms embargo on all parties to the conflict.
  • The resolution imposes the weapons embargo on five men- Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, second-in-command Abdullah Yahya al Hakim, military commander Abd al-Khaliq al-Huthi, Saleh and his eldest son, Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh. The former president and his son are key supporters of the Houthi group.
  • The council called on all countries, especially Yemen’s neighbours, to inspect cargo headed to Yemen if there are “reasonable grounds” to believe it contains weapons.
  • In addition, the council imposed an asset freeze and travel ban on the Houthi leader and Saleh’s son. The same sanctions had already been imposed on the other three men last November.
  • The resolution demands that all Yemeni parties, especially the Houthis, end violence and return swiftly to U.N.—led peace talks aimed at a political transition. It makes no mention of the Saudi—led airstrikes.
  • The resolution demands that the Houthis withdraw from areas they have seized, including the capital of Sanaa, relinquish arms and missiles seized from military and security institutions, and release the defense minister and all political prisoners.

New visa scheme renamed “e-Tourist Visa”

  • The “Tourist Visa on Arrival-Electronic Travel Authorization (TvoA-ETA)” scheme, which was launched last year to facilitate short duration visits by travellers from as many as 44 countries, has now been renamed “e-Tourist Visa” to clarify that it is not an on-arrival scheme.
  • According to the MHA, it will be extended to more countries and airports in a phased manner.

NET NEUTRALITY

What’s net neutrality?

  • It is the principle that all traffic on the Internet must be treated equally by Internet service providers.
  • Those advocating Net neutrality believe all bits of data are equal, and, therefore, should not be discriminated on the basis of content, site or user. This has largely been the default mode since Internet started.

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Why has there been so much of noise about net neutrality in recent months?

  • India’s top telecom company Bharti Airtel, towards the end of last year, decided to charge subscribers extra for use of apps such as Skype and Viber. These apps compete with the voice and messaging services of telecom providers, and are even cheaper.
  • There was uproar, after which Airtel stayed its decision, saying it would wait for regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) Consultation Paper on Regulatory Framework for Over-the-top (OTT) services.
  • Facebook brought to India internet.org, a pre-selected bouquet of Web sites offered free to subscribers of Reliance Communications. There was not much controversy then.
  • TRAI put out a 118-page consultation paper asking the public for its opinion on 20 questions, most of them about how the Internet can be regulated. Views were also sought on net neutrality.
  • Over 4.2 lakh mails had been sent in support of net neutrality through the savetheinternet.in Web site.
  • Political parties such as the Congress, political leaders such as Arvind Kejriwal and celebrities such as Shah Rukh Khan joined the bandwagon, as has the comedy group All India Bakchod through a video. All of them argue why the Internet should not be touched.
  • TRAI will be open to taking comments till April 24, and counter comments by May 8.
  • In between all this, Airtel last week launched Airtel Zero, which is a free offering of a slew of apps that sign up with the telecom provider.
  • Flipkart pulled out of the platform after initially agreeing to be on it, saying it was committed to Net neutrality.

Who benefits from net neutrality? How?

  • Every Internet user.
  • New ventures. In fact, one of the key reasons for start-ups to have come up in a big way in recent decades is the openness of the Internet. The Internet has reduced transaction costs and levelled the playing field.

Then, why do we need to think about regulating the Internet?

Essentially because the telecom companies do not like the way the apps are riding on their networks for free. The companies complain that voice-calling and messaging apps are cannibalising their business. On top of all this, it is they who have to invest billions in getting access to spectrum and build networks as also adhere to regulations.

So, absence of net neutrality will benefit telecom companies?

  • It could make them a gatekeeper to a valuable resource, a role that supporters of Net neutrality feel will be misused to create winners and losers. They could charge companies a premium for access to users.
  • It would not be a telecom companies versus internet players issue, as could be mistakenly perceived. For, the absence of Net neutrality could also benefit established Internet companies who are flush with money. They could nip challengers in the bud with vastly higher payoffs to telecom companies.

Is this an issue in India alone?

No. The Federal Communications Commission just recently voted for what is seen as strong Net neutrality rules. This is to ensure Internet service providers neither block, throttle traffic nor give access priority for money. Europe is trying to correct a 2013 proposal for Net neutrality, in which privileged access was allowed to ‘specialised services.’ This was vague and threatened Net neutrality. Chile last year banned zero-rated schemes, those where access to social media is given free to telecom subscribers.


Lagori league 

  • Lagori league formed to popularise the traditional sport in State
  • The Karnataka Amateur Lagori Association (KALA), an affiliated body of the Amateur Lagori Federation of India, formally introduced the sport in Mysuru, explaining its rules to a group of youth.
  • Maharashtra government has recognised the game as a sport

Karnataka on a rapid urbanisation path

  • No. of households in urban areas has increased by more than 5.9 lakh
  • Initial trends from data collected through the on-going caste census have revealed that the population of people living in urban centres in the State could have increased by up to 12 per cent during the last four years (2011-2015).
  • The number of households in urban areas increased more than 5.9 lakh between the 2011 Census and 2015 caste census.
  • Increased migration of families seeking jobs in urban areas is stated to be the major reason.
  • The trend was revealed by enumerators of the caste census who counted the number of households in each block during the first two days. With this, the total number of households in the State increased from 1.31 crore in 2011 to 1.4 crore in 2015.
  • Except three districts — Bidar, Chamarajangar and Kalaburagi — all other districts registered a double-digit increase in number of families residing in urban areas.
  • Two coastal districts — Uudpi and Dakshina Kannada — recorded 101 and 54 per cent increase respectively in urbanisation compared to 2011Census, while Mysuru registered 33 per cent.
  • As explained in previous surveys, the outskirts of Bengaluru city are recording a meteoric rise in population.
  • While Bengaluru Urban district recorded 10 per cent increase, Bengaluru Rural district witnessed 32 per cent rise, according to data provided by the Social Welfare Department.
  • According to the 2011 Census, 38.57 per cent of the State’s population are living in urban areas.
  • The survey has also suggested only a 4 per cent increase in rural households and interestingly, districts such as Udupi (-7), Dakshina Kannada (-14) have registered negative growth.
  • Only three districts recorded double-digit increase in number of households and they are Vijayapura and Chikkamagaluru (11 p.c. each), Kodagu (12 p.c.).

Chinkara found in Bukapatna state forests in Sira taluk in Tumakuru district

  • The Sanna Hulle as it is known in Kannada to roam only in the north Karnataka region
  • The cameras — placed in the forests to track the movement of leopards — got the shy and docile chinkara in its sights.
  • With this, the chinkaras’ presence has been photo-documented for the first time in south Karnataka.
  • This antelope species, also called the Indian gazelle and ‘Sanna Hulle’ in Kannada, lives in arid areas, the Savannahs, and subtropical light forests.
  • It is known to exist in very few numbers in Pakistan and Iran. However, hunting has brought down their numbers there, as per the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).
  • In India, chinkaras are protected under the Schedule-I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
  • Of the six species of antelopes found in India, three — chinkara, blackbuck, and the four-horned antelope — are found in Karnataka.
  • Bukkapatna is perhaps the only documented place in the State to have all three species.
  • This study on leopards is giving interesting results.
  • Last year the Ratel or honey badger was first photo documented in Karnataka under this project in Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary.

Jayadeva Institute to set up cardiology centre in Kalaburagi hospital

  • The long felt need for a cardiology centre in the Hyderabad Karnataka region is being fulfilled with the decision of the State government to establish Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Research in the newly constructed Kalaburagi Government General Hospital.
  • At present, patients have to go to centres in Hyderabad or Bengaluru since there are no cathlab facilities in any of the government hospital in Hyderabad Karnataka region. Even the Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital at Raichur has suspended the cathlab facility after technical glitch.
  • The Hyderabad Karnataka Region Development Board (HKRDB) has released a sum of Rs. 6 crore and the Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences has released another Rs. 6 crore for establishment of the centre in Kalaburagi and Jayadeva Institute would invest Rs. 3 crore.

Women’s wing in KSRP                       

  • The Police Department is working on establishing an exclusive women’s wing within the Karnataka State Reserve Police, which will come into being soon
  • The contingent would consist of 100 women personnel, who would be trained on the lines of the personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force.
  • Also, the department had decided had to open special cells at range headquarters to deal with cyber crimes in the State soon.

Internet.org

  • Internet.org is social networking site’s initiative to bring Internet services to areas that are still not connected in partnership with tech giants such as Samsung and Qualcomm.
  • In India, Facebook partnered with Reliance Communications to provide free Internet access to over 30 websites, including Cleartrip.
  • While many net neutrality supporters have alleged that the initiative violates the principle of Net Neutrality, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has defended it saying Internet.org can coexist with Net Neutrality.
  • In a major win for the supporters of Net Neutrality, Cleartrip, Times Group and NDTV, on Wednesday, joined Flipkart in voicing support for the cause by opting out of Facebook-led Internet.org.

City to get a two-acre park for renewable energy

  • Karnataka Renewable Energy Development Limited (KREDL) will construct a two-acre renewable energy park and green building for its corporate office at Nagarabhavi.
  • The park will exhibit various types of renewable energy models

Special session next week to disband BBMP

  • The State government on Wednesday decided to convene a special session of the Legislature on April 20 to amend the Karnataka Municipal Corporation (KMC) Act for disbanding the BBMP and to trifurcate the civic body.
  • The move comes in the wake of a division bench of the Karnataka High Court, comprising Chief Justice D H Waghela and Justice Ram Mohan Reddy, declining to stay the single judge order to conduct BBMP polls by May 30.
  • The Opposition parties feel this is another effort by the government to postpone the civic body polls. As the government is running out of time and options, the ruling Congress has resorted to the legislative route to postpone the polls.
  • The amendment bill may have a smooth sailing in the Assembly as the ruling Congress outnumbers the combined strength of the Opposition.
  • But in the Council, the combined Opposition is numerically stronger than the Congress and the bill is likely to face hurdles. Also, the government’s plan hinges largely on Governor Vajubhai Vala. His assent is mandatory for the bill to become an act. And the going may not be smooth for the government as the governor had recently sent back an ordinance seeking to disband BBMP by amending the KMC Act. The governor was reportedly not satisfied with the reasons given for opting for ordinance route. The governor may now give his assent or take time or may even reject the bill.
  • Convening the session would help the government claim before the court that it was not trying to stall elections but was only trying to have three smaller bodies to govern the State capital better.
  • The government is hoping that if the BBMP is done away with, then the question of conducting elections will not arise.
  • It is not clear whether the government will retain the contents of the ordinance bill in the proposed amendment bill or come up with some modifications.
  • Sources said the Cabinet will meet on April 17 and is likely to recommend to the governor to summon the session.

 

Bengaluru-based director to air serial on FB

  • Bengaluru-based Aviram Kanteerava has an innovative and cost-effective way to air his serial. One episode a week would be uploaded on Facebook for viewers.
  • Taking entertainment a step ahead, now, the cine-serial would be made available to you at the time you wish to see it. This idea is that of Kanteerava who is coming up with a new serial ‘Hello’ that would be aired on Facebook on its official page www.facebook.com/HelloCineserial.
  • To begin with, 12 episodes of the serial would be aired. One episode each on every Saturday would be put up on Facebook and also Youtube for viewing.

First job portal for transgenders in India

  • A Bengaluru-based organisation is all set to launch a national portal to provide employment opportunities to sexual minorities.
  • The unique feature of this online portal is its inclusive approach: It’s not an exclusive platform for transgenders but open for all.
  • It treats transgenders as a part of society.
  • The portal, www.1008jobs.com will not stop at listing job opportunities. Its staff would also appoint transgender agents in each city to help job seekers from the community.

Mediterranean Migrants

  • Up to 700 people were feared drowned on Sunday after an overcrowded boat smuggling them to Europe capsized off Libya in the latest and deadliest in a long list of migrant disasters in the Mediterranean.
  • Italy’s coastguard, which was coordinating the search for survivors and bodies, said only 28 people had survived a wreck that triggered fresh calls from Pope Francis and others for European leaders to act over what many see as an avoidable loss of life.
  • The European Union announced an emergency meeting of Foreign and Interior Ministers to discuss what Amnesty International blasted as a predictable “man-made tragedy”
  • Amnesty, along with other NGOs, has called for the restoration of an Italian navy search-and-rescue operation known as Mare Nostrum which was suspended at the end of last year.
  • Italy scaled back the mission after failing to persuade its European partners to help meet its operating costs of nine million euros ($9.7 million) a month amid divisions over whether the mission was unintentionally encouraging migrants to attempt the crossing.
  • Mare Nostrum has been replaced by a much smaller EU-run operation called Triton which has only a fraction of the specialist assets and manpower.

Agri eco-tourism project

  • The University of Agricultural Sciences-Bangalore’s Alumni Association has decided to rectify this by launching an agri eco-tourism project from June to help urban children understand the rudiments of agriculture, especially the main food crops, and also give them an exposure to rural life.
  • Under this initiative, students of classes 5 to 7 in urban areas like Bengaluru would be taken to fields of innovative farmers on a day-long trip. Retired experts from the UAS-B would accompany them and open up a window to rural life, animal husbandry and poultry. The on-field demonstration would also cover various food and vegetable crops.
  • The main intention is to create a sense of pride among them through this process of the farmer who grows their food
  • This is also an attempt to bridge the urban-rural divide by helping children understand the rural lifestyle

Kyasanur Forest Disease

  • KFD is caused by the Kyasanur Forest Disease Virus (KFDV). The virus was identified in 1957 when it was isolated from a sick monkey from the Kyasanur Forest in Karnataka (formerly Mysore State).
  • Since then, between 400-500 humans cases per year have been reported. Hard ticks (Hemaphysalis spinigera) are the reservoir of the KFD virus and once infected, remain so for life. Rodents, shrews, and monkeys are common hosts for KFDV after being bitten by an infected tick, KFDV can cause epizootics with high fatality in primates, explained a health official here on Monday.
  • Transmission to humans may occur after a tick bite or contact with an infected animal, most importantly a sick or recently dead monkey. No person-to-person transmission has been described.
  • After an incubation period of 3-8 days, the symptoms of KFD begin suddenly with chills, fever, and headache. Severe muscle pain with vomiting, gastrointestinal symptoms and bleeding problems may occur 3-4 days after initial symptom onset. Patients may experience abnormally low blood pressure, and low platelet, red blood cell, and white blood cell counts.
  • After 1-2 weeks of symptoms, some patients recover without complication. However, the illness is biphasic for a subset of patients (10-20 per cent) who experience a second wave of symptoms at the beginning of the third week. These symptoms include fever and signs of neurological manifestations, such as severe headache, mental disturbances, tremors, and vision deficits. The estimated case-fatality rate is from 3 to per cent for KFD.
  • The disease has historically been limited to the western and central districts of Karnataka State, India. However, in November 2012, samples from humans and monkeys tested positive for KFDV in the southernmost district of the State which neighbours Tamil Nadu State and Kerala State, indicating the possibility of wider distribution of KFDV.
  • People with recreational or occupational exposure to rural or outdoor settings (e.g., hunters, herders, forest workers, farmers) are potentially at risk for infection by contact with infected ticks.
  • Seasonality is another important risk factor as more cases are reported during the dry season, from November through June.
  • Diagnosis can be made in the early stage of illness by molecular detection by PCR or virus isolation from blood. Later, serologic testing using enzyme-linked immunosorbent serologic assay (ELISA) can be performed.

Prevention

  • Doctors at the State Health Services say there is no specific treatment for KFD, but early hospitalisation and supportive therapy is important. Supportive therapy includes the maintenance of hydration and the usual precautions for patients with bleeding disorders.
  • A vaccine does exist for KFD and is used in endemic areas of India. Additional preventative measures include insect repellents and wearing protective clothing in areas where ticks are endemic.

A team from the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Delhi, is presently in Goa carrying out detailed investigation of the outbreak Kyasanur Forest Disease(KFD) and also give expertise in prevention and control measures in the affected areas.

 India to hand over three Cheetal copters to Kabul

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to hand over three indigenously-built Cheetal multi-role helicopters during the visit of Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani to India at the end of this month, diplomatic sources confirmed. This comes amid increasing perception that India’s strategic space in Afghanistan is under threat after formation of the new Unity government there and its major policy shift towards Pakistan and China.
  • Cheetals are the upgraded variants of Cheetah light utility, multi-role helicopters built by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. They can be used for personnel transport, casualty evacuation, reconnaissance and aerial survey, logistic support and rescue and can operate in high-altitude areas, a critical requirement for Afghanistan’s mountainous regions. They have been customised as per the requirements of Afghanistan and will not be armed, the sources said.
  • The choppers are being supplied under the strategic partnership agreement between the two counties signed in 2011.

INS Visakhapatnam

  • INS Visakhapatnam, the first Indian Navy P15-B stealth destroyer, was launched in Mumbai.
  • The indigenously-designed ship’s air defence capability is designed to counter the threat of enemy aircraft and anti-ship cruise missiles, and will revolve around a vertical launch and long-range surface-to-air missile system.
  • The vessel is expected to be commissioned into the India Navy in 2018

Chinese visit to Pakistan

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping inaugurated a $46 billion investment plan in Pakistan on Monday that aims to create direct links between China and the Arabian Sea and boost the sluggish Pakistani economy.
  • Islamabad and Beijing hope the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will transform Pakistan into a regional economic hub and bring growth to the restive western Chinese region of Xinjiang.
  • The corridor scheme is part of Beijing’s “Belt and Road” plan to expand its trade and transport footprint across Central and South Asia, while countering US and Indian influence.
  • They foresee the creation of road, rail and pipeline links that will connect China to the Arabian Sea, cutting several thousand kilometres off the route that transports oil from the Middle East.
  • The upgrade will stretch 3,000 kilometres (1,860 miles) from China’s western city of Kashgar to the Pakistani port of Gwadar, control of which was transferred to a Chinese public company in 2013.

India has 988 species on IUCN ‘Red List’

  • India has added 15 more species to the “Red List” of threatened species published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2014, but the country has climbed down a spot to the seventh position.
  • By the year-end, India had 988 threatened species on the list, which lists critically endangered, endangered and vulnerable species. In 2013, the number was 973. With 659 species in 2008, the increase over seven years is 50 per cent, in part due to better research identifying more threatened species and deforestation.

Parrot Lady

  • India’s ‘Parrot Lady’ is to return home, after Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Wednesday handed over to his counterpart, Narendra Modi, the 800-year-old Indian sandstone sculpture of a woman holding a parrot.
  • The sculpture dates back to the 12th century. It was returned in accordance with the 1970 UNESCO Convention
  • The three-foot high statue of ‘Parrot Lady’ turned up in Canada in 2011 in the possession of an individual who did not have proper documentation; it was seized under the Cultural Property Export and Import which controls antiquities and other cultural objects being imported from foreign states
  • The Parrot Lady is what is known as a naayika, or heroine. She is voluptuous, scantily clad, posed in a manner that is a tad saucy, and has a parrot on her back. She is just one of many erotic stone ladies that were created to adorn the Khajuraho temples
  • Mr. Modi in exchange presented Mr. Harper with a miniature painting of Guru Nanak Dev with his disciples. The painting is by Jaipur-based artist, Virendra Bannu

Impeachment procedure against S.K. Gangele

  • Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari has set up a three-member panel to investigate sexual harassment charges against S.K. Gangele, a sitting judge of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, nearly a month after admitting a motion supported by 58 Rajya Sabha members to impeach him.
  • The committee, to be headed by Supreme Court judge Vikramjit Sen, will have Justice Manjula Chellur, Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court, and jurist K.K. Venugopal as its members
  • The committee will now investigate the charges and grounds for removal of the judge and submit its report to the Rajya Sabha Chairman.
  • The report will then be tabled in both Houses of Parliament.
  • Posted to the Gwalior Bench, Justice Gangele is now serving in the Principal Bench at Jabalpur

New visa scheme for tourists from Sri Lanka

  • India has launched e-tourist Visa Scheme (eTV) aimed at making visa facility easier for India-bound Sri Lankans.
  • Those Sri Lankans holding ordinary passports can avail themselves of the facility, which came into effect on Tuesday coinciding with the Tamil and Sinhala New Year Day.
  • Visas to be issued under the new scheme will be for single-entry and valid for only 30 days’ stay from the date of arrival in India.
  • Entry into India must be through any of the nine designated airports. A fee of $ 60 will be levied per person for the new scheme.

Jog Falls

  • Plans are afoot to develop a tourist circuit in Malnad region with the world famous Jog Falls, where the Sharavati takes a plunge from a height of 830 feet, as its centre.
  • The Ministry of Tourism has sanctioned Rs. 14 crore for the project.
  • With the objective of promoting the local artisans of Malnad region, outlets to sell handicrafts will be opened at all places.
  • The department will also construct watch towers in the Sharavati sanctuary and in the forest near Hejini village.
  • A tourist information centre will also be established in Sagar city as part of the plan
  • Roads around these places will be upgraded under the Rural Infrastructure Development Fund

India broadband reach

  • In the wireless or mobile broadband segment, India is ranked at 113th with a penetration of 3.2 per 100 inhabitants.
  • India is ranked below Bhutan and Sri Lanka in terms of broadband penetration
  • India ranks 125th in the world for fixed broadband penetration. Some of our neighbours like Bhutan and Sri Lanka are ahead of us.
  • NOFN project aims to spread broadband across 2.5 lakh village panchayats by the end of 2016 but has missed its target of completing roll out in first 50,000 panchayats by March 2015

GAGAN kicks off new forest database

  • Karnataka is set to be the first State to initiate what will be a new, accurate and publicly available satellite based database of its forestlands.
  • The work also makes the Forest Department an early non-aviation user of GAGAN, the Indian augmentation of Global Positioning System (GPS).
  • The maps are meant to rid authorities of ambiguities related to forest boundaries and give clarity to forest administrators, revenue officials as also the public, according to R.K. Srivastava, Chief Conservator of Forests (Headquarters). The department completed a pilot of 220 villages in 2014–15, covering four types of landscapes.

New species of gecko found

  • A new species of the day gecko, a type of lizard usually found in warm climates, has been spotted at the ruins of the World Heritage Site of Hampi in Karnataka. The gecko has been named Cnemaspis adii after a young herpetology researcher from Hyderabad, Aditya Srinivasulu.

Waste-to-energy projects

  • The National Green Tribunal (NGT), New Delhi, has permitted the States, including Karnataka, to use incinerator technology for producing Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF), commonly known as waste-to-energy.
  • However, the Tribunal said no waste could be directly put into the incinerators or for power generation, except the specifically permitted.
  • Only those wastes that are found unrecyclable after segregation should be put into the incinerators. Also, the tribunal emphasised that it was “not putting any absolute restriction on RDF being used as power generation fuel, but first effort should be made for composting of wet waste”.
  • The States are free to use RDF for generating fuel with due care and caution by framing necessary guidelines.
  • The Central Pollution Control Board and the Ministry of Environment and Forests were directed to prescribe specific guidelines for emissions from incinerators.
  • The NGT also directed dividing the State into clusters for locating sufficient number of incinerator plants. Authorities were also asked to provide maximum space for plants to have large storage and processing area for wastes; ensure green belt of higher density around plants, and adopt new technologies.

Rail fence project launched at Nagarahole

  • The country’s first rail fence project to mitigate human-elephant conflict was launched at Nagarahole on Tuesday.
  • Minister for Forests B. Ramanath Rai laid the foundation for the first stage of the project at Veeranahosahalli in Nagarahole.
  • The project envisages erecting rail fence at a length of 33 km of the forest boundary in the first phase for which Rs. 212 crore has been sanctioned by the State government.
  • Similar work will be taken up at Bandipur, Madikeri and Virajpet, the Minister said.
  • The rail fence project will cover the entire forest boundary around wildlife zones in the State but primarily around Bandipur and Nagarahole where human-elephant conflict is the highest.
  • Experts in support of the project aver that only the forest boundary would be fenced along with the existing elephant-proof trenches, but wildlife corridors that facilitate movement of elephant herds and other wildlife would not be fenced. These corridors are essential not only for the free movement of wildlife but helps in gene transfer from one herd to another thus preventing inbreeding.
  • The authorities will use discarded tracks procured from the Railways for the purpose and though expensive, it is reckoned to be a permanent measure to mitigate human-elephant conflict.
  • However, it is no barrier against other forms of wildlife, including tigers and leopards, which can jump over while wild boars can sneak in through the gap. But, a high number of human and wildlife conflict pertains to elephants and this can be reduced significantly, according to officials.
  • The rail fence project was originally conceived by Graham Armstrong who first installed it around the Addo National Park in South Africa.
  • Officials say that though Bandipur and Nagarahole forests have Elephant Proof Trenches (EPT) and solar fencing, the EPTs are useless unless maintained.
  • Besides, elephants are intelligent enough to fill the trench with silt and cross-over.
  • While Bandipur has more than 200 km of EPT, Nagarahole has roughly about 150 km dug over the years and their maintenance costs around Rs. 15,000 to Rs. 20,000 per km a year.

Maglev train

  • Japan’s state-of-the-art maglev train clocked a new world speed record Tuesday in a test run near Mount Fuji, breaking the 600-kmph mark, as Tokyo races to sell the technology abroad.
  • The seven-car maglev (short for magnetic levitation) train hit a top speed of 603 kmph, and managed nearly 11 seconds at over 600 kmph
  • The maglev hovers 10 centimetres above the tracks and is propelled by electrically charged magnets.

Packets of Drugs Seized From Pakistan Boat Intercepted Off Porbandar

  • Acting on Intelligence alerts, the Coast Guard and the Navy confiscated a suspected Pakistani boat carrying eight Pakistani nationals off the Porbandar coast in Gujarat and seized a huge cache of narcotics.record_drug_haul_2381182f
  • The joint operation, which began on Saturday, culminated in the early hours of Monday. The security forces recovered 232 packets of narcotics, suspected to be heroin estimated at Rs. 600 crore in the international markets. Additionally, they confiscated satellite phones and Global Positioning System sets, used to facilitate transhipment of the contraband to another boat.
  • Multiple units from the Navy and the Coast Guard were deployed for the operation, which included Naval ships Nirghat and Kondul, along with Coast Guard ship Sangram. The agencies undertook extensive aerial searches, deploying Dorniers and patrol aircraft IL38 and P8Is
  • Since the boat in which the accused were travelling in was captured in international waters, the case had to be registered in Mumbai. The jurisdiction of all such violations committed along the country’s West Coast lies with the Yellow Gate police station.

Drone in Bandipur Park sky to track poachers

  • After being used in the surveillance of the Dasara procession, drones are now foraying into a new territory – the forest. A drone is keeping a vigil on nefarious activities and wildfire in the Bandipur National Park of the district. The step comes in the backdrop of the success of the pilot project undertaken by the union ministry of environment and forests and the Indian Wildlife Institute.
  • The device had been deployed last year on a pilot basis at the Panna tiger sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh and Kaziranga forest of Assam.  The device will now be used in all tiger sanctuaries of the country. The drone will keep a vigil on aspects like trespassing the forest, wildfire and hunting, especially of tigers. Equipped with state-of-the-art cameras, the movements of the drones will be remote controlled. The cameras can take pictures of high resolution.
  • The battery-operated drone is being used on a trial basis in Bandipur. It hovers over the forest for 40 minutes in a specific area. The footage received from the drone will help contain forest fires or catch those trespassing the forest.
  • The drone is expected to help in the protection of wildlife at Hediyala, Nugu, N Begur, Gundre and Mulehole ranges of the Bandipur forest. The device has been developed by Key Falcon Solutions company. The Forest department has rented the drone for Rs 3,000 a day.

Prof H M Maheshwaraiah

  • Prof H M Maheshwaraiah, who has specialised in Kannada linguistics, took charge as the new vice chancellor of the Central University of Karnataka (CUK)
  • Maheshwaraiah is the third vice chancellor of Central University of Karnataka. He was associated with the Karnataka University in Dharwad and was recently appointed  Director of Centre for Excellence in Classical Kannada, Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysuru. 

Kataria Committee report

  • On February 19th 2015, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had announced a one-man committee headed by IAS officer Rajendra Kumar Kataria to probe into various irregularities in the BBMP.
  • The committee which investigated into the matter has now submitted its report to the government.
  • The probe was conducted with the help of officials from the State accounts department. It was a kind of post-mortem on financial irregularities in solid waste management, sub-standard civil works etc.
  • Contents of the report have not been made public yet.
  • The government which is under pressure from the BBMP’s ruling party (BJP) and civic society to conduct the election on time has no other way to postpone the election but to dissolve the existing council.
  • Bengaluru Urban Deputy Commissioner has completed the process of delimitation of wards based on 2011 census.
  • Though the government is yet to publish the draft notification of the delimitation for public display, the process of calling for objection and publishing final notification will not take much time.
  • Delimitation process was done at the behest of State Election Commissioner’s direction to the Deputy Commissioner to complete the process without any delay. Yet another instrument that the government had, to delay the election was Restructuring of BBMP.
  • But, opposition from various quarters on delaying the election for the sake of restructuring, reduced the chances of using restructuring as a tool to postpone the election. As it is evident for the government to conduct election on time, the only way out is to dissolve the BBMP council.
  • Dissolving the council before the term ends gives the government six months time from the date of dissolution, to conduct the election. Failing to perform duties can be reason for dissolution Section 99 of the Karnataka Municipal Council Act gives power to the government to dissolve the corporation if in the opinion of the Government, the corporation is not competent to perform, or makes default in the performance of any of the duties imposed on it, exceeds or abuses its powers or fails to carry out the directions or orders given by Government to it under this Act or any other law, or is acting in a manner prejudicial to the interests of the corporation.
  • The Kataria report is believed to have given a solid reason for the government to dissolve the council for failing to perform its duties and for abusing power.

Board set up on classical Kannada

The Ministry of Human Resources Development has constituted a Planning-cum-Monitoring Board of the Centre of Excellence for Studies in Classical Kannada (CESCK) at the Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL), Mysuru. Constitution of the Board is being perceived as a boost for the progress of work related to studies in classical Kannada

The Board will monitor the implementation of the functions of CESCK, identify research areas, help the centre in identifying qualified research through a transparent process, monitor the progress of research and financial aspects, and submit its report to CIIL Director on quarterly basis.

What is a classical language

In 2004, the Government of India declared that languages that met certain requirements could be accorded the status of a “Classical Language in India”. Languages thus far declared to be Classical are Tamil (in 2004), Sanskrit (in 2005), Telugu (in 2008), Kannada (in 2008), Malayalam (in 2013), Oriya (in 2014)

Following criteria were laid down to determine the eligibility of languages to be considered for classification as a “Classical Language”

  • High antiquity of its early texts/recorded history over a period of 1500–2000 years;
  • a body of ancient literature/texts, which is considered a valuable heritage by generations of speakers;
  • the literary tradition be original and not borrowed from another speech community;
  • the classical language and literature being distinct from modern, there may also be a discontinuity between the classical language and its later forms or its offshoots.

Benefits

  • Two major international awards for scholars of eminence in Classical Indian Languages are awarded annually.
  • A ‘Centre of Excellence for Studies in Classical Languages’ is set up.
  • The University Grants Commission be requested to create, to start with at least in the Central Universities, a certain number of Professional Chairs for Classical Languages for scholars of eminence in Classical Indian Languages.

IT attacks in the city

The country ranks second in the world when it comes to falling for social media scams, said the Internet Security Threat Report brought out by software security company Symantec, which analyses millions of attacks through 2014. Nearly 6.23 per cent of the victims of all social media scams are from India, which is second behind the United States which has a whopping 30.22 per cent of all worldwide attacks. One-thirds of all attacks in India are targeted at small businesses; with a majority of attacks — 65 per cent — concentrated in major metros, including Bengaluru

Various type of attacks

  • ‘Manual sharing’ – certain videos on clicking, force you to ‘like’ the video. This adds to the scam becoming viral, and getting your friends to click on it too. Then they direct you to a survey to make it seem more authentic. Eventually, they ask you to download malware — in the guise of a software update — that will steal data. that constitutes four out of five social media attacks
  • Bot infections — Internet-connected software that relays information about an individual’s system to the hacker
  • Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack–which makes the infected machine slower and cripples its Internet systems.
  • “Ransom-ware” attacks — a type of digital extortion where the hacker disables your system until a payment is given

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)

The corridor runs from Kashgar, in China’s restive Xinjiang province, to Gwadar in Pakistan

The corridor is 3,000 km which will have roads, railways, energy pipelines and industrial parks. China will invest up to $37 billion in energy projects that would generate 16,400 MW of power. Concessional loans will fund infrastructure projects worth $10 billion.

Though CPEC will pass through a lawless, insurgency-prone zone, Pakistan has promised to counter it by deciding to deploy a Special Security Division, consisting of nine battalions of the Army and six battalions of the civilian forces. These troops are meant to ensure the safety of the Chinese workers who are expected to arrive in strength in the area.

Significance

  • China wants to develop the corridor as one of the arteries that head out of Xinjiang, which can then access the markets of South Asia, West Asia and Africa.
  • Beijing will find a point of access in the Indian Ocean at the tri-junction of South Asia, West Asia and Africa
  • It will turn Pakistan into a new tiger economy in Asia.
  • China appears to have stolen a march over the U.S. and emerged as Pakistan’s unrivalled external partner.
  • Also implies a significant mutation of the regional balance of power in South Asia and Afghanistan.
  • For India– The development of the CPEC is not necessarily bad for India or the region. On the contrary, Pakistan’s young people who find meaningful work in the projects are unlikely to enter the jihad factories.
  • India should also welcome the impending joint initiative by China and Pakistan to curtail terror groups along the corridor and in Afghanistan

4-CPEC-to-benifit-entire-Pakistan-and-region-300x160

CNG in public transport

The High Court of Karnataka told the State that all public transport vehicles in Bengaluru city would have to compulsorily run on CNG at the earliest.

The Karnataka Land and Revenue (Amendment) Bill, 2015

  • Tabled in the Legislative Assembly
  • For regularisation of unauthorised construction of dwelling houses up to 4,000 sq. ft. on government land, up from the earlier limit of houses up to 2,400 sq. ft. The Bill gives 10 per cent exemption of the holding used for bonafide agricultural purposes exclusively for construction of farmhouse. The ‘farmhouse’ means a house attached to a farm and construction on a portion of the agricultural land used as residence of the agriculturist, or used for the purpose of keeping agricultural equipment and tethering cattle. The house should be used by the farmer and should not be rented out for commercial activities to an individual or agency
  • The Bill also envisages extension of time limit for receipt of applications for approval of conversion of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes. Three lakh applications have been received for regularisation of houses. The deadline for receipt of applications would be extended beyond April 30.

Panchayat Raj Sashaktikaran (empowerment) award

  • Chikkamagaluru district has won the Panchayat Raj Sashaktikaran (empowerment) award
  • Instituted by the Department of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj, Government of India
  • For effective implementation of the development scheme by panchayat raj institutions in the district during 2013-14.
  • The award was presented at the National Panchayat Raj celebrations being held at New Delhi 24th April by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
  • The district was chosen for the award after reviewing the administration of panchayat raj institutions across the district by a Union government committee.

Reserve Bank revises norms for priority sector lending

  • Medium enterprises, social infrastructure and renewable energy would form part of priority sector in addition to the existing categories.
  • Bank loans to food and agro processing units will form part of agriculture.
  • The loan limits for housing loans and MFI loans qualifying under priority sector have been revised
  • It prescribed a target of 8 per cent for the small and marginal farmers within agriculture. RBI asked banks to achieve this in a phased manner, that is, 7 per cent by March 2016 and 8 per cent by March 2017.
  • A target of 7.5 per cent has been prescribed for micro enterprises, which also has to be achieved in a phased manner, that is, 7 per cent by March 2016 and 7.5 per cent by March 2017.
  • There is no change in the target of 10 per cent for weaker sections
  • Foreign banks
  • With 20 branches and above, already have priority sector targets and sub-targets for agriculture and weaker sections, which are to be achieved by March 31, 2018. The sub-targets for small and marginal farmers and micro enterprises would be made applicable post 2018 after a review in 2017.
  • With less than 20 branches will move to total priority sector target of 40 percent on par with other banks by 2019-20, and the sub-targets for these banks, if to be made applicable post 2020, would be decided in due course. Export credit up to 32 per cent will be eligible as part of priority sector for foreign banks with less than 20 branches
  • The revised guidelines are operational with immediate effect.

Asian African Conference 2015 in Indonesia

  • Commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the Asian African Conference and 10th Anniversary of the New Asian African Strategic Partnership
  • theme– “Strengthening South-South Cooperation to Promote World Peace and Prosperity
  • China announced duty free access to 97 per cent items produced in the Least Developing Countries, that have diplomatic ties with China.
  • Also offered to train 1,00,000 people in developing countries in Asia and Africa over the next five years.
  • China reiterated its focus on integrating and developing the economies of Eurasia under the Silk Road initiative. China has deployed a $40 billion Silk Road fund, and has played a leading role in forming the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which will be used to develop infrastructure along the Asian leg under the “belt and road” plan.
  • India also showed that it had fresh ideas to re-engage developing countries in Asia and Africa. India had launched the “Act East” policy towards Asia, complemented by the “renewed Africa policy.”
  • India was also collectively engaging Africa under its flagship India-Africa Forum Summit, whose third edition would be held in October this year.
  • Japan would offer industrial training and technology to 3,50,000 people throughout the region. The Japanese Prime Minister added that trade deals under negotiations, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific “will all eventually head toward Africa.”

Cabinet cleared Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill

Provisions

  • The bill introduces legal provisions to ensure that children between the ages of 16 and 18 are tried as adults if they commit heinous offences such as murder and rape
  • The Juvenile Justice Board will assess whether the crime has been committed as a ‘child’ or as an ‘adult’. The trial would take place on the basis of this assessment.
  • The present framework classifies offences as petty, serious and heinous and treats each category under a different process.

The bill introduced in the Lok Sabha last year contained these clauses that many child rights activists and groups disapproved of. A Standing Committee of Parliament recommended a review and reconsideration of all clauses that sought to carve out an exception for children in the 16-18 age group and subject them to the rigours of regular criminal procedure

However, the amended Bill now cleared by the Cabinet retains the clause that provides that when a heinous crime is committed by one in this age group,

The government claims that since this assessment will be done with the help of psychologists and social experts, the rights of the juvenile would be protected

Kataria committee report

  • The Rajender Kumar Kataria report has noted gross irregularities in the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) by engineers, account staff, officers and contractors. The 76-page report probed into irregularities committed in 198 wards of the BBMP since 2008.
  • It recommended disciplinary action against engineers, account staff and officers, who have caused loss to the corporation. It suggested recovery of the amount paid illegally.
  • The report became the basis for the government to defend its decision to split the BBMP

The report notes the following issues with BBMP

  1. Transportation of solid waste management not transparent and lacks internal control leading to irregular/excess payments
  2. Civil works grossly mismanaged inefficiently monitored causing huge losses to the BBMP through non adherence to programme of works, irregular tender process, substandard works and illegal payments
  3. Lacks control of property khata registration and tax collection. This has caused inefficient tax collection and regularisation of illegal irregular properties
  4. Revenue loss from advertisement tax due to nexus between officials and ad agencies
  5. No policy for laying OFC in BBMP limits causing damage to roads, footpaths and loss of revenue
  6. Lack of financial discipline is the root cause for BBMP’s deteriorating financial position, injudicious borrowings, inefficient debt servicing and mounting pending bills

The State government response to kasturirangan panel report

The State government has formally told the Centre that the key recommendations of the Kasturirangan committee report on conservation of Western Ghats need to be modified to be accepted by the State. The State government has said that the selection of eco-sensitive area (ESA) according to the Kasturirangan report is “highly subjective and arbitrary”

Kasturirangan report – had suggested that any village limit with more than 20 per cent forest or natural landscape should be declared as ESA. It recommended 1,438 villages as ESA for Karnataka

The SLEC (State-Level Expert committee of forest officials) and State government –

  • has said that not more than 153 villages, which incidentally lie in already protected wildlife sanctuaries and national parks, can be termed as sensitive areas.
  • Any further inclusion of villages can be thought of, after wider awareness creation with special emphasis regarding prohibitions/regulations and benefits that may accrue to the ESA villages has underlined that the very concept of ESA notification is not going (down) well with most people
  • Points out that four State and national forest and environment acts are currently applied in forest areas.
  • The wide-spread resentment, apprehension and strong public opinion against the report, is to be understood in this background. Bringing in further restrictions, in the absence of a larger public appreciation and support, will defeat the very purpose of conserving ecology environment of Western Ghats

 Revised Master Plan 2031 for Bangalore

  • Bangalore Development Authority (BDA), in its proposed Revised Master Plan, has projected the city population to cross the two-crore mark by 2031.
  • The Revised Master Plan 2031 is likely to consider shrinking the green belt around the city by at least 500 metres from the current 2 km. 26bg_bgadb_bdam_27_2386996e
  • There seems to be no consideration for smart city proposals and developing satellite townships.
  • Most of the villages, such as Hongadevanahalli, Basavanapura and Mylasandra, which became part of the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) in 2007 are in the green belt, where a lot of illegal layouts have come up. These villages are likely to now come under the yellow zone
  • Bangalore Development Authority’s (BDA) decision to hold a public hearing to move forward with a revised Master Plan 2031
  • This is the second time that the BDA has called for a public hearing. In November 2014, the BDA called off the meeting at the last minute, amidst tough opposition from civic groups.
  • BDA had hired a Netherlands-based company ‘Royal Haskoning DHV’ to prepare the Revised Master Plan 2031

The Karnataka Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Bill, 2015

  • The Karnataka Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Bill, 2015, which envisages splitting the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), is likely to get stuck with the select committee of the Legislative Council if it is referred to it.
  • Interestingly, the Council on Monday is likely to set a new precedent by referring the Bill, which was passed in the Assembly, to the select committee, for the first time.
  • So far, a Bill, which was passed in the Assembly, has not been referred to the committee of the Upper House
  • A Bill can be referred to the committee under Rule 116 of the Upper House
  • The Opposition would be in majority in the committee though it would be headed by Minister for Law and Parliamentary affairs T.B. Jayachandra, who tabled the Bill in the legislature, hence it may be difficult for the government to get a favourable report from the committee.
  • As per rules, the committee should submit its report within three months. If it fails to do so, then the Assembly can pass the Bill again in the next session without passing it in the Council to become a law.

The State government has sought an early action in relaxation of the Coastal Regulation Zone-1 (CRZ-1) norms

  • The State government has sought an early action in relaxation of the Coastal Regulation Zone-1 (CRZ-1) norms  so as to develop beach tourism in three coastal districts.
  • Currently, under the CRZ-1 norms, no construction is allowed up to 500 metres from the high tide zone and this prevents investors from coming forward to invest in the creation of tourism infrastructure.
  • Karnataka is bestowed with 320 km of coastline with pristine beaches. The Centre has sanctioned coastal circuit project to develop beaches in the State. The entire coastal tourism development is dependent on CRZ relaxation

Sangeeta Bhatia

  • An Indian-origin scientist at MIT, who has developed artificial human microlivers for drug testing, has won a prestigious $2,50,000 Heinz award for her work in tissue engineering and disease detection.sangeeta-bhatia-1
  • Sangeeta Bhatia at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has been named the recipient of the 2015 Heinz Award for Technology, the Economy, and Employment. The award includes an unrestricted prize of $ 2,50,000.
  • The Heinz Awards annually recognise individuals for their extraordinary contributions to arts and humanities; environment; human condition; public policy; and technology, the economy, and employment.
  • She is also using microlivers in the lab to model malaria infection and test drugs that can eradicate malaria parasites completely. She hopes to eventually develop implantable liver tissue as a complement or substitute for whole-organ transplant.

Former Egyptian President verdict

  • The conviction of former Egyptian President Mohammad Morsy and his co-defendants by an Egyptian court last week is the first of several verdicts expected in four major criminal cases brought against the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood (the Ikhwan), which was ousted following the 2013 military coup.
  • Morsy was sentenced to 20 years in prison for inciting riots against protestors outside the presidential palace in December 2012.
  • The protestors were agitating against an order by the President that allowed him to avoid judicial oversight for actions until a new constitutional charter was put in place.
  • The Muslim Brotherhood’s sectarian attempts while in government to radically restructure Egypt’s institutions on Islamist lines had also resulted in protests in 2013 by liberals and secular-minded people. This had ultimately paved the way for the military re-establishing control, with some liberals supporting the move then. Yet, this was unmistakably a coup that overthrew a legitimately elected government. The Freedom and Justice Party affiliated to the Brotherhood had, after all, won the parliamentary and presidential elections held in 2011 and 2012.
  • Since coming to power, the new military government led by General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has sought to persecute the movement, slapping case after case on its leaders.
  • The persecution is not limited to the Brotherhood; even the liberals and secular-minded sections of the population that were part of the Spring protests are at the receiving end. There is a clampdown on the media and a crackdown on all dissent. Egypt meanwhile continues to receive military aid from the West and allies such as Saudi Arabia, and it has restored its domestic and foreign policy on lines that existed prior to the Brotherhood’s ascent to power
  • Egypt is thus back to square one, and faces an additional problem that could hurt it in the long run — an indignant Brotherhood reeling under repression.

Transferrable Development Rights (TDR) 

  • The Expert Committee on Transferrable Development Rights (TDR) has recommended that TDR, which was to date estimated in terms of land size, should be calculated in terms of cost of land.
  • The move, if accepted by the State government, would also fetch much greater compensation and hence ease land acquisition for key development and infrastructure projects.27bg_bgadb_TDR__28_2388051g
  • The committee has recommended that TDR be linked to guidance value instead of area of land lost.
  • The new rules will do away with the zoning of the city for TDR as well.
  • Currently, the city is divided into three zones A (core city), B (between core city and Outer Ring Road) and C (beyond ORR). One can now sell the TDR in the same zone or transfer it to other zones
  • According to the new formula, guidance value plays a key role even while TDR is converted into Floor Area Ratio (FAR) and utilised in another area.
  • The committee also recommended a centralised monitoring authority to oversee the trade in TDR across the city

Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spirituality Augmentation Drive (PRASAD)

  • Twelve cities have been identified by the Union Ministry of Tourism for development under the Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spirituality Augmentation Drive (PRASAD)
  • The cities are Amaravati (Andhra Pradesh), Gaya (Bihar), Dwarka (Gujarat), Amritsar (Punjab), Ajmer (Rajasthan), Kanchipuram (Tamil Nadu), Vellankani (Tamil Nadu), Puri (Odisha), Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh), Mathura (Uttar Pradesh), Kedarnath (Uttarakhand) and Kamakhya (Assam).
  • To implement the PRASAD scheme, a mission directorate has been set up in the Ministry of Tourism. A budget provision of Rs. 15.60 crore has been made for development of basic facilities at the Vishnupad temple at Gaya in Bihar.
  • The development of the cities will be dovetailed with the Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY) scheme, aimed at revitalising the unique character of the heritage cities in India.
  • Cities identified for the HRIDAY scheme are Amaravati, Gaya, Dwarka, Badami (Karnataka), Puri, Amritsar, Ajmer, Kanchipuram, Vellankani, Warangal (Telangana), Varanasi, and Mathura.
  • The criterion for selection of these cities is their rich heritage and cultural history

China to integrate Mongolian, Russian initiatives with MSR

  • In tune with its effort to interface India’s Mausam and Spice Route projects with its Maritime Silk Road (MSR) initiative, China is making headway in integrating a Mongolian and a Russian initiative to develop another spur of its ambitious Silk Road land corridor.
  • China wants to include Mongolia’s “Steppe road” initiative, and link up with the Moscow-driven transcontinental rail plan to develop the China-Mongolia-Russia (CMR) economic corridor.
  • The CMR initiative is similar to two other undertaking initiated by China: the recently inaugurated Pakistan-China economic corridor, and the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) corridor.
  • China is encompassing a string of initiatives, hoping to sprout several new “growth engines” in Eurasia under the “Belt and Road” umbrella.
  • Faced with the challenge of convincing governments to integrate their national plans within the “Belt and Road” initiative, the Chinese have already sounded their readiness to enmesh India’s Mausam and Spice Route projects within the framework of its larger plans.

Instant self-test HIV kit

  • Britain’s first legally-approved HIV self-testing kit went on sale online on Monday, promising a result in just 15 minutes with a 99.7 per cent accuracy rate.
  • Developers hope the BioSure HIV Self Test will help identify the estimated 26,000 people in Britain who have HIV but do not yet know.
  • Early diagnosis reduces the risk of passing the disease on to other people and also raises the success rate of modern treatments, which now make the disease manageable.
  • The kit reacts to antibodies — proteins made in response to the virus — in a drop of the person’s blood, producing two purple lines in the event of a positive diagnosis. The self-test, which is only available via the Internet, can only detect antibodies three months after the patient has become infected, and is not effective during this initial period, and all positive results must be confirmed by professional health workers

Zippr Code

  • It is a 8-digit alphanumeric code that gives your precise location, shortens your address and pin-points your house/office on a map
  • Once it is downloaded on your Android smart phone or iPhone, you feed the exact address as a one-time process to generate a code that is latently linked to a Google map.
  • The code could then be customised according to your name or place, retaining the eight-digit alphanumeric format.

Intelligent Transport System (ITS)

  • Intelligent Transport System (ITS), the much-awaited project of Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) which aims to provide the real-time information pertaining to the bus timings through GPS, has hit hurdles. 
  • The project, which was supposed to be launched in April 2014, will be delayed by at least another six months. Howver, the first phase of the project will start in June this year.
  • One of the most useful and important aspect of ITS is the real-time information update of buses that passengers can receive while waiting at bus stops. Sending an SMS to a given number or logging in to a website created for the purpose will allow passengers to know the exact location where a particular bus is at a given point in time.
  • The Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation  is planning to equip its entire fleet of over 7,000-odd buses with ITS.

Nepal earthquake

  • An earthquake with an intensity of 7.9 on ritcher scale with epicenter 77 kilometer north-west of Kathmandu has been experienced in some parts of India.
  • The impact of the earthquake has been felt in almost all northern States in India particularly in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Sikkim, West Bengal.
  • The Earthquake has occurred at a depth of 10 Km with its Epicentral Region located in Nepal about 80 Km NW of Kathmandu.
  • More than 30 aftershocks have also been reported.
  • It was triggered by the India tectonic plate, which is moving northwards into central Asia. This results in thrust-faulting and has thrown up the Himalayan mountain range.
  • Nepal is prone to destructive earthquakes, not only because of the massive forces involved in the tectonic collision, but also because of the type of fault line the country sits on. Normal faults create space when the ground cracks and separates. Nepal lies on a so-called thrust fault, where one tectonic plate forces itself on top of another.
  • The most visible result of this is the Himalayan mountain range. The fault runs along the 1,400-mile range, and the constant collision of the India and Eurasia plates pushes up the height of the peaks by about a centimeter each year.

Decoding the earthquake

  • About 160 million years ago, the Indian plate broke off from Antarctica and started moving north-northeast with velocities of up to 13cm/year and collided with the Eurasian plate some 50 million years ago. The Indian plate continues to move with a velocity of more than 5 cm/year.

 

WO-AW280_QUAKES_16U_20150426191507

  • Since both plates are continental, the continued collision has given rise to the Himalayan belt of mountains. This continued thrusting results in accumulation of strain and when this strain exceeds the strength of the rocks, earthquakes occur. That is why we have a seismically active earthquake zone in Himalaya.
  • In the past, the zone had been very active, with the occurrence of four earthquakes of magnitude exceeding 8 on the Richter scale. These are the 1897 Shillong, 1905 Kangra, 1934 Bihar-Nepal and the 1950 Assam-China border earthquakes. No such earthquake has occurred since 1950. Over the time, enough strains have accumulated to cause several M8 (magnitude, on Richter scale) earthquakes.

Understand the relationship between the Richter magnitude and the energy released.

  • A magnitude 6 releases energy equivalent to a Hiroshima kind of atom bomb. With the increase of one unit in the magnitude, the energy release increases 30 times. So, a M 7 earthquake would release energy of 30 Hiroshima kind of bombs and a M 8 would be equivalent to 900 Hiroshima kind of atom bombs.

Operation Maitri

  • As part of the Nation’s overall relief effort for Nepal, Indian Army has launched Operation Maitri.
  • The following resources have been allocated so far as part of Operation Maitri, in support of the Nepalese Army’s relief effort:-
  1. Medical Teams.
  2. Engineer Task Forces(ETFs) consisting of manpower, skid steers and JCBs.
  3. Blankets and 1,000 tents are on standby.
  4. 10 INMARSATs for satellite communications have reached Nepal.

Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2014

Significance of the passage of Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2014, by the Rajya Sabha

  • It has again drawn the nation’s attention to the plight of the transgender community and the need to ensure that they get equal status in society as others.
  • It was a private member’s bill, introduced by DMK member Tiruchi Siva. It is the first time since 1970 that a private member’s bill has been passed by the House. In fact, in the history of parliament, only 15 such bills have been approved.

The bill is a good legislative follow-up to last year’s landmark Supreme Court judgment which recognised transgenders as the third gender, declared them as a socially and economically backward community eligible for reservations and other benefits and called upon the society and government to take steps to bring them into the mainstream.

India and Afghanistan

  • Modi conveyed to Ghani that New Delhi would support “an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned” peace process with Taliban, but added that it should be “conducted within the framework of the Constitution of Afghanistan, without the shadow of violence”.
  • New Delhi and Kabul agreeing to sign within the next three months an Extradition Treaty, an Agreement on Transfer of Sentenced Persons, a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty in Criminal Matters and a Treaty for Mutual Legal Assistance in Civil and Commercial Matters. The two sides also agreed to sign a Memorandum of Understanding for visa-free entry for people having diplomatic passports.
  • Both countries agreed to conclude bilateral Motor Vehicles Agreement at the earliest. The Motor Vehicles Agreement is intended to make it easier for passenger, personal and vehicular cargo traffic of India and Afghanistan to enter each other’s territory without any hassles.Though the agreement cannot be implemented without cooperation from Pakistan, New Delhi inked the deal with Kabul, ostensibly to send out a message to Islamabad. Afghanistan and Pakistan signed a Transit and Trade Agreement in 2010. But Islamabad insisted on inserting a provision in it to deny Afghanistan full access to the growing Indian and other South Asian markets.
  • Modi and Ghani also agreed to work with Tehran to turn Chabahar port of Iran into a viable gateway to Afghanistan and Central Asia. New Delhi is keen to build a container terminal and a multi-purpose cargo terminal on two berths at Chabahar port, which it views as a strategically important facility that could give India a sea-land access route into Afghanistan through the eastern borders of Iran, thus bypassing Pakistan.

The Afghanistan Pakistan Transit and Trade Agreement (APTTA)

  • The Afghanistan Pakistan Transit and Trade Agreement (APTTA), signed in 2011, which gives each country equal access up to the national boundaries of both.
  • At present, Pakistan allows Afghan trucks carrying goods meant for India only up to its last checkpoint at Wagah, and not to the Indian checkpoint at Attari, less than a kilometre away.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India was keen on a trade agreement with Afghanistan that would include India in the APTTA.

In Residence programme

  • The ‘In Residence’ programme for students, an effort by President Pranab Mukherjee to open up the Presidential palace to the public.
  • It encourages creative and innovative potential of people and open up the Bhavan for greater participation and involvement of the common man in its activities.
  • The Innovation Scholars In-Residence programme was launched in December 2013.
  • Online applications are invited from interested applicants through the website of the President of India.
  • All Indian nationals who have a track record of innovation and implementation of innovative ideas are eligible. A committee will screen the applications and shortlist names for selection as ‘Innovation Scholar In-Residence.
  • The initiative was aimed at giving the students exposure to the overall functioning of the Bhavan, especially changes such as e-governance and infrastructure.
  • On the first day, students will be familiarised with the President’s estate. They will be visiting the famous Mughal Garden, Spiritual Garden and Herbal Garden and will be taken on an industry visit.
  • It will give an exposure to the overall functioning of the President and his office. It will provide an opportunity to understand the functioning of the government and interact with top bureaucrats.

 

Proposal to move Official Amendments to the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2013

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister today gave its approval to amend the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 by pursuing the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2013, pending before the Rajya Sabha by moving official amendments. The proposed amendments would fill in perceived gaps in the domestic anti-corruption law and also help in meeting the country’s obligations under the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC)more effectively.

The proposed amendments are mainly aimed at laying down more stringent measures to tackle corruption as follows:

  • Providing for more stringent punishment for the offences of bribery, both for the bribe giver and the bribe taker.
  • Penal provisions being enhanced from minimum 6 months to 3 years and from maximum 5 years to 7 years (The seven year imprisonment brings corruption to the heinous crime category).
  • To contain gain of benefits from profits of corruption, the powers of attachment are proposed to be conferred upon the trial Court (Special Judge) instead of the District Court.
  • Expanding the ambit of provision for containing inducement of public servant from individuals to commercial entities is being added to contain supply side of corruption.
  • Providing for issue of guidelines for commercial organizations to prevent persons associated with them from bribing a public servants
  • The average trial period of cases under PC Act in the last 4 years has been above 8 years. It is proposed to ensure speedy trial by providing a trial completion within 2 years.
  • Intentional enriching by public servants will be construed as criminal misconduct and possession of disproportionate assets as proof of such illicit enrichment.
  • Non-monetary gratification has been covered within the definition of the word gratification.
  • It is also proposed to extend the protection of prior sanction for prosecution to public servants who cease to hold office due to retirement, resignation etc.Further, prior sanction for inquiry and investigation shall be required from the Lokpal or Lokayukta, as the case may be, for investigation of offences relatable to recommendations made or decision taken by a public servant in discharge of official functions or duties.

Background:

The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 was enacted in the year 1988. Later developments, such as, India ratifying the UNCAC, international practice on treatment of the offence of bribery and corruption, etc. necessitated a review of the existing provisions of the Act, so as to bring it in line with current international practice and also to meet, more effectively, the country’s obligations under the UNCAC. The Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2013 was introduced in the Rajya Sabha for the purpose on 19.08.2013. The Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee submitted its report on the Bill to the Rajya Sabha on 06.02.2014 but the Bill could not be passed. As the Bill contemplates an important paradigm shift in defining offences relating to bribery, the views of the Law Commission of India were also sought on the proposed amendments. Further amendments are proposed in the Bill as recommended by the Law Commission of India in its 254th Report.

Smart cities and Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT)

  • The Union Cabinet on Wednesday cleared one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s most favoured projects — 100 smart cities spread across the country — and a new urban renewal mission named after Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) , replacing the existing one named after Jawaharlal Nehru, with a total outlay of nearly Rs. 1,00,000 crore.
  • The smart cities mission is aimed at recasting the urban landscape of the country by making cities more liveable and inclusive, besides driving economic growth.
  • Each selected city under the ambitious scheme would get Central assistance of Rs. 100 crore a year for five years.
  • The mission aims to release funding depending on multi-pronged progress of the projects and makes citizen participation an integral part of the planning of these cities.

Redrawing Urban Landscape

  • Centre approves outlay of nearly Rs. 1 lakh crore to make cities more livable.
  • Rs. 48,000 crore for Smart Cities Mission
  • 100 smart cities to receive Rs. 100 crore per year for five years
  • Rs. 50,000 crore for Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation
  • 500 cities and towns, with population of one lakh and above, to receive funds in three installments
  • Over Rs. 2 lakh crore to flow into urban areas over the next five years

Raising funds

  • Special Purpose Vehicle to be created for each city to implement Smart City action plan
  • Public-Private Partnership model to be used by States and urban local bodies to mobilise private investments

States

  • States will get at least a smart city each
  • The States get the flexibility of designing schemes based on the needs of identified smart cities and in their execution and monitoring.
  • States will only submit State Annual Action Plans to the Centre for broad concurrence based on which funds will be released. In a significant departure from JNNURM, the Central Government will not appraise individual projects.
  • The Cabinet also approved Central funding under AMRUT to the projects sanctioned under JNNURM and not completed. JNNURM projects sanctioned during 2005-2012 and which have achieved physical progress of 50 per cent or more will be supported till March 2017.
  • Nearly 400 such projects will get balance funding for completion.
  • Smart City aspirants will be selected through a ‘City Challenge Competition’ intended to link financing with the ability of the cities to achieve the mission objectives.
  • Each State will shortlist a certain number of smart city aspirants as per the norms to be indicated and they will prepare smart city proposals for further evaluation for extending Central support.
  • 10 per cent of Budget allocation will be given to States and UTs as incentive based on achievement of reforms during the previous year.
  • A reform matrix with timelines would be circulated to States in the guidelines.
  • This mission will be implemented in 500 cities and towns each with a population of one lakh and above, some cities situated on stems of main rivers, a few capital cities and important cities located in hilly areas, islands and tourist areas.

what it aims at achieving? 

  • the smart cities mission intends to promote adoption of smart solutions for efficient use of available assets, resources and infrastructure with the objective of enhancing the quality of urban life and providing a clean and sustainable environment.
  • There will be special focus on adequate and clean water supply, sanitation and solid waste management, efficient transportation, affordable housing for the poor, power supply, robust IT connectivity, e-governance, safety and security of citizens, health and education.
  • There will be special emphasis on citizens’ participation in prioritizing and planning urban interventions.
  • It will be implemented through ‘area based’ approach consisting of retrofitting, redevelopment, pan-city initiatives and development of new cities.

 

  • Pan-city components could be interventions like intelligent transport solutions to benefit all citizens by reducing commuting time.The two missions are interlinked
  • AMRUT will focus on ensuring basic infrastructure services such as water supply, sewerage, storm water drains, transport and development of green spaces and parks with special provision for meeting the needs of children. Implementation of this mission will be linked to promotion of urban reforms such as e-governance, setting up of professional municipal cadre, devolving funds and functions to urban local bodies, review of building bye-laws, improvement in assessment and collection of municipal taxes, credit rating of urban local bodies, energy and water audit and citizen-centric urban planning.
  • Central assistance will be to the extent of 50% of project cost for cities and towns with population of up to 10 lakh and one-third of the project cost for those with a population of above 10 lakh. Central assistance will be released in three instalments in the ratio of 20:40:40 based on achievement of milestones indicated in state annual action plans. “AMRUT seeks to lay a foundation to enable cities and towns to eventually grow into smart cities.”

 Hockey in My Blood

  • Independent film-maker Sandhya Kumar has made a documentary,Hockey in My Blood, which captures the sentiments of the Kodavas to the sport.
  • The 52-minute-long documentary in English and Kodava, with English subtitles, made through crowdsourcing, will be premiered at the Junior College Grounds, Virajpet, on May 7. This year’s tournament, which began on April 15, features more than 200 teams and the final is scheduled for May 9.

Bidriware

  • Bidriware, the black metal art from Bidar, has winged its way to New York to be part of a special theme exhibition, specially-curated at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met).
  • The handicraft with a Geographical Indication (GI) tag has found a place in the show titled ‘Sultans of Deccan, India-Opulence and Fantasy’.
  • Apart from Bidriware, Bidar is represented by tile work from the madrassa of Mahmud Gawan and stone-engraved Thuluth-style calligraphy found on the Chaukhandi monument

Sri Lanka adopts 19th Amendment

  • The legislation envisages the dilution of many powers of Executive Presidency, which had been in force since 1978.

The important features of the Bill are:

  1. The reduction in the terms of President and Parliament from six years to five years
  2. Re-introduction of a two-term limit that a person can have as President
  3. The power of President to dissolve Parliament only after four and a half years [unlike one year, as prevalent now]
  4. The revival of Constitutional Council and the establishment of independent commissions.
  • Though the abolition of the Executive Presidency was the major electoral promise of Mr Sirisena, the Supreme Court, in its ruling early this month, held that certain provisions, such as those making Prime Minister the head of Cabinet and empowering PM to determine the size of Cabinet, would require a referendum. So, the President remains the head of Cabinet. However, he can appoint Ministers on the advice of Prime Minister.
  • The 19th Amendment to the Constitution will annul the 18th Amendment while replac-ing the now defunct 17th Amendment to establish the Independent Commissions.

Saudi King names new heir

  • Saudi Arabia’s King Salman named his powerful Interior Minister as heir in a generational shift that also saw one of his sons promoted to second in line to the throne.
  • A royal decree removed Crown Prince Moqren bin Abdul Aziz bin Saud (69), as heir and replaced him with Prince Mohammed bin Nayef (55), who led a crackdown on Al-Qaeda in the oil-rich kingdom a decade ago.

Renewable Energy has come under priority sector lending 

  • As per RBI’s notification, Renewable Energy has come under priority sector lending along with medium enterprises and social infrastructure.
  • Now commercial banks need to extend loans of up to a limit of Rs.15 crore to borrowers for setting up solar based power generators, biomass based power generators, wind mills, micro-hydel plants and for non-conventional energy based public utilities such as street lighting systems and remote village electrification.
  • For individual households, the loan limit will be Rs.10 lakh per borrower.
  • The Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) decision to grant special status to the renewable energy sector, among others, under priority sector lending, is expected to accrue large benefits for the sector.
  • This is also expected to ensure energy security of the country, which is currently betting big on renewable energy with a target to achieve 100 GW of green energy by 2022.
  • This will boost investments from the SME sector in renewable space as finance will be available at a competitive rate as bankers have separate allocation and priority for the sector

Sugar import duty hiked to 40 per cent

  • The Union Cabinet on 29 April, decided to hike the import duty on sugar to 40 per cent from the current 25 per cent to check the slide in domestic prices of the sweetener and enable the industry to clear cane arrears to the tune of Rs. 20,099 crore.
  • This is in line with the demand raised by the industry, cane growers and state governments with whom the government recently held a series of meetings.
  • The meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, also decided to waive off 12.6 per cent excise duty on ethanol blending for the next sugar season. The saving will be passed on to the sugar industry/distilleries. It is mandatory for millers to produce five per cent ethanol from molasses for blending with petrol.
  • The government has also decided to end duty-free raw sugar imports.
  • Under the Duty Free Import Authorisation (DFIA), exporters of sugar could import duty free, permissible quantities of raw sugar for subsequent processing and disposal.
  • To prevent offloading of sugar made from such duty free imports in the domestic markets, the DFIA scheme for sugar would be withdrawn.
  • The government has reduced to six months the period for discharging export obligations under the Advanced Authorisation Scheme for Sugar to prevent possibility of any leakage of such sugar in the domestic market.
  • The government steps are to improve the price sentiments relating to sugar.
  • The last few years have witnessed over-production of sugar as compared to domestic requirement. This has depressed sugar prices with the mills having been constrained for liquidity, facing difficulties in clearing cane dues owed to the farmers and impacting incomes of 50 million sugarcane farmers. Similar conditions of subdued prices prevail in the global markets.
  • Ex-factory prices of sugar have fallen to Rs 22-24/kg in the country, while the cost of production is over Rs 30/kg. Sugar production of India, the world’s second largest producer, is estimated to be higher than the domestic consumption for the fifth year in a row this year.

Chikungunya vaccine

  • The chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes and causes an infection in humans known as chikungunya fever. The disease causes fever and severe joint pain; the joint pain can last for a few months and in some cases for up to several years. India is one of the worst affected countries.
  • An experimental chikungunya vaccine to induce neutralising immune responses to kill the viruses once they enter the body has shown promise in mice. Mice vaccinated with the vaccine were “partially protected” even when they were infected with a high dose of chikungunya virus. In nature, the viral load will be much lower when it is transmitted by a mosquito. In all probability, the protective effect of the vaccine may be “sufficient to protect against a mosquito derived infection.”
  • The prophylactic ability of the vaccine can be enhanced if it is used with an appropriate adjuvant (a compound that can increase the immune response). Currently, no vaccine is commercially available against chikungunya. The results were published a few days ago in the journal PLOS Neglected Diseases .