National Issues- November 2016

TELANGANA, AP TOP CHART ON INDUSTRIAL REFORMS IN ‘EASE OF DOING BUSINESS’

  • Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have jointly topped the ease of doing business ranking with a score of 98.78 per cent while Gujarat, the former number one, has slipped to the third position.
  • The rankings are on the basis of a 340-point business reform action plan and their implementation by the States. This covers the period from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016
  • The World Bank said that it was interesting this year that four of the seven states with the lowest income levels in India have found a place in the top ten ranks, while all the seven such states had an implementation rate of over 75 per cent.
  • The index also puts Jharkhand (7th), Rajasthan (8th), Uttarakhand (9th) and Maharashtra (10) in the top ten
  • Karnataka stands at 13th position, falling down by four positions. Last year stood at 9th position.

How did AP & Telangana achieve?

  • To attract investments, and make it easy to set up business, the Telangana Government had introduced the Telangana State-Industrial Project Approval and Self Certification System (TS-iPASS) which gives clearance to industrial projects within a fortnight.
  • The industrial policy launched by Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao’s allows self-certifications. Anyone seeking to set up business does not have to run around for approvals.
  • In Andhra Pradesh, chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu introduced a similar policy.
  • AP’s Industrial Policy-2015-20 assures clearances within 21 days through a single desk clearance system after which it is deemed approved based on self-certification.
  • AP’s policy also gives spot approvals for identified enterprises and clearances; exemptions from seeking approvals for investments in certain category of industries; assignment of Inspection to Private Technical Experts; State Investment Promotion
  • The 340 reform areas are broadly under categories including construction permit, environmental and labour registration, obtaining electricity connection, online tax-return filing, inspection reform, access to information and transparency, single window, land availability and commercial dispute resolution.

India-Palestine sign MoU for setting up Techno Park in Ramallah

  • India and Palestine signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for setting up of Palestine-India Techno Park in Ramallah.
  • During the visit of President Pranab Mukherjee to Palestine in October last year, the announcement for setting up of park was made.
  • India has announced grant of $12 million for setting up the park with payment of $3 million each on half-yearly basis for 2 years and the Palestinian side has made the land available for the project.
  • Once completed, the Technopark will serve as an IT hub in Palestine with complete IT facilities offering a one-stop solution to all IT-related service requirements, providing state-of-the-art technology, hosting IT companies and foreign compani ..
  • The assistance is part of government of India’s strong commitment to support Palestinian cause.
  • The project will help job creation, business and other opportunities for young Palestinians

Union Government to set up $2 bn clean energy equity fund for additional renewable energy

  • The Indian government and three state-run firms will jointly set up an equity fund of up to $2 billion for renewable energy companies to tap into to help New Delhi meet its clean energy goals.
  • Private and public companies will be able to dip into an initial amount of more than $1 billion starting next fiscal year.
  • India’s government hopes the Clean Energy Equity Fund (CEEF) will attract pension and insurance funds from Canada and Europe.
  • Around $600 million of the initial pool will come from the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund, under the finance ministry, and the rest from state entities NTPC Ltd, Rural Electrification Corp and the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set a target of raising India’s renewable energy target to 175 gigawatts by 2022, more than five times current usage, as part of the fight against climate change by the world’s third-biggest greenhouse gas emitter and to supply power to all of the country’s 1.3 billion people.
  • New and Renewable Energy Ministry has already processed the proposal and sent it to the Finance Ministry to initiate a USD 2 billion clean energy equity fund to push renewable energy capacity addition as envisaged by the central government,” a senior official in the know said.
  • Ahead of the Paris climate talks in November last year, Power, Coal, New and Renewable Energy Minister Piyush Goyal had said that the central government is planning a USD 1 billion private equity fund for the renewable energy sector.
  • The government is also seeking to collect USD 4 billion per year in the next 3-4 years for a clean energy fund.

BENAMI PROPERTY TRANSACTIONS PROHIBITION ACT TO BE EFFECTIVE FROM NOV 1

  • The Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Act, 2016, designed to curb black money and passed by parliament in August, came into effect on 1st Nov 2016.
  • The new law to prohibit benami transactions, which also provides for up to 7 years imprisonment and penalty for those indulging in such activities
  • The amendments aim to strengthen the Act in terms of legal and administrative procedure.
  • While the existing law provides for up to three years of imprisonment or fine or both for carrying out benami transactions, the amended legislation would provide for seven years imprisonment and fine.
  • The Act defines benami transactions, prohibits them and further provides that any violation is punishable with imprisonment and fine. The PBPT Act prohibits recovery of the property held benami from benamidar by the real owner.
  • If there is a genuine property which belongs to a Church or a Mosque or a Gurdwara or a Temple, section 58 says that the government has the power to exempt it

Highlights of the Act:

  • Up to seven years’ imprisonment and fine for indulging in  benami transactions
  • Furnishing false information is punishable by imprisonment up to five years and fine
  • Properties held benami are liable for confiscation by government without compensation
  • Initiating Officer may pass an order to continue holding the property and may then refer case to Adjudicating Authority
  • Adjudicating Authority will then examine evidence and pass anorder
  • Appellate Tribunal will hear appeals against orders of Adjudicating Authority
  • High Court to hear appeals against orders of Appellate Tribunal
What is Benami property?
  • A transaction is considered benami (literally ‘nameless’ or ‘without a name’) when the consideration for a property that is transferred to a person or is held by him/her is paid by another person.
  • In such transactions, the person who pays for the property is the ultimate beneficiary of the property, directly or indirectly, in the future.
  • Such a property is considered benami, and is illegal under the Benami Transaction (Prohibition) Amendment Bill, 2015.

GST COUNCIL SETS RATES, FOUR MAIN TAX SLABS RANGING FROM 5% TO 28%

  • The GST Council on 4th Nov decided on a four-tier structure of 5, 12, 18 and 28 per cent for the Goods & Services Tax (GST) regime scheduled for roll-out next April.
  • The lower rates would apply on essential items and the highest on luxury and de-merit goods, which would also attract a cess.
  • There will be no tax on essential items such as food – this is likely to beat down inflation, which has afflicted food items in particular.
  • The outgo will be more for those who buy luxury cars, aerated drinks, and cigarettes and other tobacco products.
  • Dubbed “demerit goods”, these will be taxed at 28% and attract a cess that may take the total to 40% or more, though there is no confirmation yet of how much the cess will be.
  • The collection from this cess as well as that of the clean energy cess would create a revenue pool that would be used for compensating states for any loss of revenue during the first five years of implementation of GST.
  • States have indicated that they would like the GST Council to be separate from the Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers but the final call is likely to be taken by the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
  • According to State Finance Ministers, the Empowered Committee can be a platform for States to discuss their regional issues while the GST Council can oversee the implementation of the indirect tax reform.
  • Welcoming the GST Council’s decision of a four-slab rate structure, India Inc however cautioned the government that the multi-tier tax system may make the new indirect tax regime highly complex.
  • It also suggested that most of the consumer goods should fall in the 18 per cent tax slab.

THE PARIS AGREEMENT ON CLIMATE CHANGE IS OFFICIAL. NOW WHAT?

  • On 4th Nov, the landmark Paris climate agreement officially goes into force.
  • Last December, world leaders reached what’s been called the first truly universal agreement on climate change, because the signers account for virtually all of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions.
  • More importantly, it marked the first time top polluters like China, India, and the U.S. found a way past old divides and down a shared path toward a low-carbon future.
  • Now that agreement is coming into force much earlier than expected.
  • Often countries take not just months but years to ratify major international deals.
  • It took eight years to bring the Kyoto Protocol into effect. But the Paris Agreement was ratified by enough countries in under 11 months. China, India, the European Union, and dozens of other nations got the job done fast in part because they wanted Paris to be officially on the books
  • The passage of the accord the fruit of more than two decades of often tortuous international negotiations on combating climate change was hailed by nations and observers around the world.
  • Under the agreement, all governments that have ratified the accord, which includes the US, China, India and the EU, now carry an obligation to hold global warming to no more than 2C above pre-industrial levels.
  • That is what scientists regard as the limit of safety, beyond which climate change is likely to become catastrophic and irreversible.
  • Countries have put forward commitments on curbing carbon emissions under the agreement, but a report on Thursday found those pledges would see temperature rises significantly overshoot the threshold, with 3C of warming. Environmental groups urged governments to do more.
  • Harjeet Singh, global lead on climate change for the charity Action Aid, added: “The Paris agreement sends a much-needed signal to politicians and industry that we have to build a new world, and this has to start now. However, the deal is not enough to keep people and the planet safe.”
  • Next week, governments will meet in Morocco under the auspices of the United Nations to discuss how to put the Paris accord into force, and meet its aims.
  • Patricia Espinosa, the UN’s climate chief, and Salaheddine Mezouar, foreign minister of Morocco, said in a joint statement: “Humanity will look back on 4 November 2016 as the day that countries of the world shut the door on inevitable climate disaster and set off with determination towards a sustainable future.
  • Top energy policy makers and corporate leaders caution that it will be challenging to meet even the deal’s modest goals to reduce planet-warming emissions of greenhouse gases.
  • Many companies have not even figured out yet how much greenhouse gas they emit, much less made plans to curb these emissions. Rapid technological advances in areas like electric cars are not enough to stop the world’s long climb in oil consumption, let alone reverse it.
  • The financial framework, namely a carbon price or tax that would force industries to pay for the pollution they spew, has barely started to emerge.
  • While tens of billions of dollars of green bonds have been issued to finance environmental projects, these are a pittance compared to the sums required to make a difference.

MAHARASHTRA BECOMES FIRST STATE TO ADOPT FLY ASH UTILISATION POLICY

  • Maharashtra has become the first state to adopt Fly Ash Utilisation Policy, paving way for prosperity by generating “wealth from waste”, and environment protection.
  • The decision was taken at the weekly cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
  • Maharashtra Cabinet approves a policy for 100 per cent use of fly ash generated from thermal power plants and biogas plants for construction activities.
  • This fly ash will be used to make bricks, blocks, tiles, wall panels, cement and other construction materials.
  • It will save soil excavation and protect environment. Earlier, use of fly ash was allowed within 100 kms radius of power plant, now it has been extended to 300 kms.
  • The policy will create new employment opportunities in the power plant areas and also make available raw material for construction at low cost to help ‘Housing for All’ projects.

What is fly ash?

  • Fly ash is a fine, glass powder by-product recovered from gases of burning coal in thermal power plants during production of electricity.
  • They are micron sized earth elements primarily consisting silica, alumina and iron.

What are environmental concerns?

  • The Fly ash causes air pollution.
  • It can also contaminate water and soil systems.
  • The wet disposal of Fly ash results in leaching of toxic heavy metals in ground water system.

Uses

  • Fly ash can be used as a replacement for some of the Portland cement contents of concrete.
  • It can be used in the production of bricks for building construction.
  • Central Government has made it mandatory for use of fly ash bricks in construction activities happening 500km around thermal power plants.

MADE IN INDIA – RUSTOM-2 DRONE CAPABLE OF COMBAT, COMPLETES MAIDEN FLIGHT

  • Rustom-II, India’s indigenously developed long-endurance combat-capable drone, successfully completed its maiden flight on Wednesday, giving a boost to India’s development programme for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV).
  • The Defence Research and Development Organisation successfully carried out the maiden flight of TAPAS 201 (RUSTOM-II), a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV.
  • It has an endurance of 24 hours and can conduct surveillance and reconnaissance missions for the country’s armed forces.
  • The UAV can also be used as an unmanned armed combat vehicle on the lines of the US’s Predator drone.
  • The test flight took place from Aeronautical Test Range(ATR), Chitradurga, 250 km from Bangalore, which is a newly developed flight test range for the testing of UAVs and manned aircraft.
  • The flight accomplished the main objectives of proving the flying platform, such as take-off, bank, level flight and landing among others.
  • TAPAS 201 has been designed and developed by Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), the Bangalore-based lab of DRDO with HAL-BEL as the production partners.
  • The UAV weighing two tonnes was put into air by a dedicated team of young scientists of DRDO.
  • It was piloted (external and internal) by the pilots from the armed forces. It is also the first R&D prototype UAV which has undergone certification and qualification for the first flight from the Center for Military Airworthiness & Certification (CEMILAC) and Directorate General of Aeronautical Quality Assurance (DGAQA).
  • TAPAS 201, a multi-mission UAV is being developed to carry out Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) roles for the three armed forces with an endurance of 24 hours.
  • It is capable to carry different combinations of payloads like Medium Range Electro Optic (MREO), Long Range Electro Optic (LREO), Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), Electronic Intelligence (ELINT), Communication Intelligence (COMINT) and Situational Awareness Payloads (SAP) to perform missions during day and night.
  • Many critical systems such as air frame, landing gear, flight control and avionics sub-systems are being developed in India with the collaboration of private industries.
  • Rustom-II will undergo further trials for validating the design parameters, before going for User Validation Trials.

INDIA- SRI LANKA SET UP JOINT WORKING GROUP TO ADDRESS FISHERMEN ISSUE

  • India and Sri Lanka have agreed to set up a Joint Working Group on Fisheries (JWG) and a hotline between their Coast Guards to address the long-standing issue of fishermen from Tamil Nadu being arrested.
  • Major objectives of the joint working group include expediting the transition towards ending bottom trawling, working out modalities for handing over apprehended fishermen and cooperation on patrolling.
  • JWG will meet every three months and the Ministers of Fisheries will meet every six months, according to a joint communique issued by the Foreign Ministries of the two countries.
  • The Indian and Sri Lankan delegations in the JWG would include representatives from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, the Coast Guards and Navies of the two countries.
  • Sumanthiran, who belongs to the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), has been seeking a ban on bottom trawling in both Sri Lanka and India. This is the first time, a Tamil MP has been included in a Sri Lankan official delegation discussing the fishing issue with India.

Terms Of Reference for JWG 

  1. Expediting the transition towards ending the practice of bottom trawling at the earliest,
  2. Working out the modalities for the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for handing over of apprehended    fishermen
  3. Ascertaining possibilities for cooperation on patrolling.
  • The issue of the release of detained fishing vessels will be discussed at the first JWG meeting.
  • Both governments agreed on setting up a hotline between the two Coast Guards.
  • There was support for expediting the provision of communication tracking sets to the fishermen.
  • They also agreed to the request by the Fishermen Associations that there should be no violence and no loss of life in the handling of fishermen by the Navies and Coast Guards of the two countries.
  • The Ministers noted that the process is underway for the release of fishermen presently in custody on either side.

Sushil Chandra takes over as Chairman of CBDT

  • Senior Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officer Sushil Chandra today took over as chairman of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT).
  • Chandra had been Member (Investigation) in CBDT since December 2015.
  • Incumbent Chairperson Rani Singh Nair, retired from service after being at the top post for three months, after she took over on August 1.
  • The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet headed by the Prime Minister had early this month approved the name of Chandra as the CBDT Chairman to replace Nair.
  • CBDT has six members apart from the chairman, and is responsible for framing policy and administrative issues related to direct taxes and the Income Tax department.

About Sushil Chandra

  • An IIT graduate, Chandra will be in office till May next year.
  • During his long and illustrious career in the Income Tax Department, he has handled many prestigious assignments like the Principal Chief Commissioner and Director General of Income Tax at Ahmedabad, Commissioner of Income Tax (Central) and Director of Income Tax (Investigation) at Mumbai, among others.

KOLKATA-BORN BECOMES CANADA’S FIRST SIKH SENATOR

  • Kolkata-born former Scotia bank’s vice chairman Sarabjit Singh Marwah has become the first Sikh to be appointed to the Canadian Senate.
  • Toronto-based Marwah, who retired from Scotia bank in 2014, was among six people from Ontario who were appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
  • In appointing him to the Senate, the Canadian Prime Minister has lauded Marwah for his efforts “to showcase the rich diversity of Sikh and South Asian art and culture”.
  • Marwah is one of the founders of the Sikh Foundation of Canada that promotes Sikh culture and art among the diaspora community .
  • Marwah, who was born in Kolkata in 1952, did his his schooling from St Xavier’s School. He is an alumnus of Delhi’s St Stephen’s College and the Delhi School of Economics and holds an MBA degree from the University of California in Los Angeles.
  •  Marwah joined Scotia bank in Toronto as a financial analyst in 1978.
  • Rising through the ranks, he went on to become the chief financial officer of the bank in 1998. In 2002, he was made the bank’s senior executive vice president and chief financial officer.
  • In 2005, he was elevated as the vice chairman and chief administrative officer. Marwah joins two other turbaned Sikhs defence minister Harjeet Sajjan and science minister Navdeep Bains in the Canadian parliament.
  • While Marwah will be the only Indian-origin member of the Senate (upper house), there are over 20 MPs of Indian origin the Canadian House of Commons (lower house).

PM MODI’S JAPAN VISIT – TO SEAL A LANDMARK NUCLEAR ENERGY PACT

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is on a three-day visit to Japan, is expected to seal a landmark nuclear energy pact that will materialise after six years of negotiations.
  • India is in advanced negotiations with US-based Westinghouse Electric, owned by Japan’s Toshiba, to build six nuclear reactors in the south – a part of New Delhi’s plan to ramp up nuclear capacity ten-fold by 2032.
  • Along with the $1.5 billion deal for U-2 amphibious aircraft, the civil nuclear agreement will be the highlight of the talks between Mr. Modi and Mr. Abe, which will follow business meetings and a call on Emperor Akihito
  • India maintains a voluntary moratorium on nuclear testing, but has thus far refused to sign on to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) or given any other undertaking outside of its commitments at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
  • The PM’s talks in Japan will coincide with a critical meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers Group in Vienna on Friday which will consider the question of criteria on whether to admit India and Pakistan, the two non-signatories to the NPT that have applied for membership.
  • India has made predictability an important part of its pitch for the NSG membership, which would come under a cloud if it were to allow Japan to cancel its agreement in the event of a nuclear test, which explains the sharp focus on the exact text of the agreement in Tokyo.
  • India and Japan have also been trying to close a deal on the supply of amphibious rescue aircraft US-2 to the Indian navy, which would be one of Japan’s first sales of military equipment since Prime Minister Abe lifted a 50-year ban on arms exports.

INDIA TAKES STRONG EXCEPTION TO WORLD BANK DECISION ON INDUS WATERS TREATY

  • India has lashed out at the World Bank over its decision to favour Pakistan on the Indus Water Treaty dispute process over the Kishenganga and Ratle dam and hydropower projects.
  • India had asked for a neutral expert to be appointed over Pakistan’s objections to the projects first, Pakistan appealed directly for a Court of Arbitration (CoA) to be set up as it claims India has violated the 1960 treaty.
  • Surprised at the World Bank’s decision to appoint a Neutral Expert, as sought by the Indian government and at the same time establish a Court of Arbitration as wanted by Pakistan, India said proceeding with both the steps simultaneously “legally untenable”.
  • Under the Indus Waters Treaty, signed between India and Pakistan and also the World Bank in 1960, the World Bank has a specified role in the process of resolution of differences and disputes.
  • Pakistan had sought the establishment of a Court of Arbitration, which is normally the logical next step in the process of resolution in the Treaty. The Neutral Expert can also determine that there are issues beyond mere technical differences
  • The current proceedings under the treaty concern the Kishenganga (330 megawatts) and Ratle (850 megawatts) hydroelectric power plants which being built by India on Kishenganga and Chenab Rivers.(Neither of the two plants are being financed by the World Bank Group.)
  • Last week PM Modi held a high level meeting on the issue , where several senior officials proposed that India should pull out of the arbitration entirely unless the World Bank changes what one official referred to as its “legally untenable” stance on Pakistan “intransigence”.

UPSC WON’T ISSUE PAPER ADMIT CARDS FOR CIVIL SERVICES MAIN EXAM

  • The Commission has uploaded the e-admit cards on its website and the candidates have been asked to bring e-admit card print-out in each session to secure admission to examination hall
  • No paper admit cards will be issued for this year’s civil services main examination, scheduled to begin early next month, the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) has said.
  • The UPSC will be conducting the test at 23 centres from 3-9 December.
  • The Commission has uploaded the e-admit cards on its website www.upsc.gov.in.
  • The candidates are advised to download their e-admit cards and take a print-out thereof.
  • The candidates will have to produce the print-out of their e-admit cards at the allotted venue for appearing in the examination.
  • In case the photograph is not visible or available on the e-admit cards, candidates are advised to carry identical photograph for each session along with proof of identity such as Aadhaar card, voter identity card, driving licence, passport etc. to the venue of the examination.
  • No paper admit card will be issued for this examination by the Commission
  • The civil services examination is conducted annually in three stages preliminary, main and interview  to select officers of the prestigious Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS) and Indian Police Service (IPS), among others.
  • Candidates have been asked to bring e-admit card print-out in each session to secure admission to examination hall. e-admit card may be preserved till the declaration of written test result, the Commission said.
  •  In case of any discrepancy, the candidate may contact UPSC facilitation counter in person or call on 011-23381125, 23098543 and 23385271.

INDIA – US LAUNCH USD 95 MILLION CLEAN ENERGY PROJECTS

  • The US announced two financial projects worth USD 95 million in India to bring more energy-efficient appliances to rural sector, as part of its efforts to continue the global transition to zero-and-low carbon energy sources.
  • The US has committed USD 70 million in Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) financing for renewable energy projects in India; and announced to launch a USD 20 million partnership this week with the philanthropic sector to bring more efficient appliances to rural Indian villages.
  • The USD 75 million OPIC financing is for a utility-scale PV project in Telangana.
  • It is sponsored by ReNew Power Ventures.
  • This commitment represents the rapid mobilisation of financing under a USD 250 million facility to support up to 400 MW of new solar power projects in India across multiple states.
  • Further the OPIC and Indian Government will this week formally launch a USD 20 million distributed solar facility in partnership with leading philanthropies.
  • Known as US-India Clean Energy Finance program (USICEF), it will address a key financing gap in the Indian distributed solar market by funding early-stage project preparatory work.
  • USICEF is anticipated to unlock up to USD 400 million in long-term debt financing from OPIC and private sector investors.
  • According to the White House fact sheet, the Rockefeller Foundation’s Smart Power for Rural Development Initiative is also announcing a new partnership with the Clean Energy Ministerial’s (CEM) Global Lighting and Energy Access Partnership (Global LEAP) to accelerate the deployment and use of energy efficient off-grid devices in rural India.
  • The US Department of State will, subject to Congressional notification, provide funding for Global LEAP to support the development and roll out of a programme to deploy energy- efficient devices such as televisions, fans, and refrigerators at selected Smart Power supported mini-grid sites.
  • It will also develop a strategy for a programme-wide scale-up targeted to reduce energy costs for some of the poorest people in India.
  • When deployed it is expected to reduce energy consumption by over 50 per cent for rural households, increase revenue for mini-grid operators by over 300 per cent per household, and generate rural employment for people involved in distribution and supply chain management of the devices.
  • Noting that the US President Barack Obama’s leadership has catalyzed a global transition towards a clean energy economy, the White House said from 2010-2015 alone, the US has invested in more than USD 11 billion in international clean energy finance.
  • At the same time, the US has made research and development a top priority.
  • Key achievements include establishing Mission Innovation (MI), with the leaders of 19 countries, to accelerate innovation by doubling public investment in clean energy research and development to USD 30 billion over five years.

WHO: ZIKA NO LONGER A WORLD PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY

  • The World Health Organization announced that the Zika virus outbreak, linked to deformations in babies’ heads and brains, no longer poses a world public health emergency, though it warned the epidemic remains a challenge.
  • Brazil, the epicentre of the outbreak, has however refused to downgrade the risk, while experts swiftly lashed out against the world health body’s decision.
  • The Zika virus remains a highly significant and long term problem, but it is not any more a public health emergency of international concern
  • While Zika causes only mild symptoms in most people, pregnant women with the virus risk giving birth to babies with microcephaly a deformation that leads to abnormally small brains and heads.
  • It can also cause rare adult-onset neurological problems such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), which can result in paralysis and even death.
  • In the outbreak that began in mid-2015, more than 1.5 million people have been infected with Zika, mainly in Brazil, and more than 1,600 babies have been born with microcephaly since last year, according to the WHO.
  • The UN’s global health agency declared the Zika epidemic a global health emergency in February 2016.
  • Researchers earlier this year warned that at least 2.6 billion people, over a third of the global population, live in parts of Africa, Asia and the Pacific where Zika could gain a new foothold, with 1.2 billion at risk in India alone. Brazil yesterday said it would continue to treat the outbreak as an emergency.
  • The WHO was careful yesterday not to dismiss the risk still posed by the virus, which has been detected in 73 countries worldwide, mainly in Latin America and the Caribbean.

INDIA SUCCESSFULLY CONDUCTS TWIN TRIAL OF PRITHVI-II MISSILE

  • The Indian Armed forces today successfully test fired two nuclear capable Prithvi-II ballistic missiles back-to-back in salvo mode from two mobile launchers at a defence test facility off the Odisha coast.
  • Mounted on two Mobile Tatra Transporter-erector Launchers (MTL), the indigenously developed surface-to-surface medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs) were launched from the launching complex-III (LC-III) of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur-on-sea.
  • The first missile was fired at about 9.37 AM and the second one at 9.38 AM.
  • A defence official said both the missiles having a strike range of around 350 km fired at two different targets met all mission parameters
  • Similar twin trial had been conducted on October 12, 2009 from the same base where both tests were successful
  • The missiles were randomly chosen from the production stock and the entire launch activities were carried out by the specially formed strategic force command (SFC) and monitored by the scientists of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) as part of training exercise
  • Two naval ships located at the impact points tracked and monitored both the missiles destroying the targets. All the radars and other sensors along the east coast also monitored the missiles trajectory parameters, the official informed.

About Prithvi 

  • Prithvi, the first missile developed under Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP), has the capability to carry 500 Kg of warhead.
  • It has a length of nine meters with one metre diameter thrusted by liquid propulsion twin engine and uses Advanced Inertial Guidance System (AIGS) with maneouring trajectory and reaches the targets with accuracy.
  • The missile was inducted in the Armed Forces in 2002.
  • Prithvi-II missile is one of the proven weapon systems of the country and it dives at the target at an 80 degree angle.
  • The missile’s short range variant was first tested in January 1996 and inducted in the Armed forces in 2002.

INDIA SIGNS AGREEMENT TO BECOME AN ASSOCIATE MEMBER OF CERN

  • India and the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) signed an agreement on November 21 on making India an associate member state of the research organisation that operates the largest particle physics laboratory in the world.
  • This follows CERN Council’s adoption of the resolution to this effect on September 15, 2016.

Who signed the agreement

  • The agreement was signed by Sekhar Basu, Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission and Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy and CERN Director General Fabiola Gianotti in Mumbai.

What is CERN

  • CERN, based in Geneva on the French-Swiss border, is the world’s largest nuclear and particle physics laboratory, where scientists and engineers are probing the fundamental structure of the Universe by using the most sophisticated scientific instruments and advanced computing systems.

Contribution by India

  • In recent years, Indian scientists have been involved in all pioneering activities at CERN.
  • India has made significant contributions to the construction of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), in the areas of design, development and supply of hardware accelerator components/systems and its commissioning and software development and deployment in the machine.
  • The discovery of the Higgs Boson at the LHC is the most talked about scientific discovery in recent memory.
  • Indian scientists have played a significant role in the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiments, which is one of the two large experiments that have led to the discovery of the Higgs Boson. They have been named as part of this historic discovery.

How will India Benefit

  • Becoming an associate member of CERN will enhance participation of young scientists and engineers in various CERN projects.
  • It will also open opportunities for Indian industries to participate directly in CERN projects.
  • The industries now can directly bag contracts for specified requirements of CERN.
  • Earlier, the supply of required material, components and services was in the form of kind (without any charge).
  • Now, the companies can directly bag the order and provide the services.
  • After becoming an associate member, India also has to contribute a certain amount of money for research activities.
  • This would involve annual contribution of 11.5 million swiss frank from Indian government to CERN.

The CERN has 22 member states, four associate member states while observer status is given to four states and three international organisations

SWITZERLAND TO SHARE INFORMATION ON INDIANS HOLDING SWISS BANK ACCOUNTS FROM 2018

  • India will now automatically receive information on Swiss bank accounts of its citizens from September 2019.
  • The country has been trying to control the problem of corruption and black money by adopting different measures. Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes to clamp down on black money hoarders and terror financing.
  • Alleged use of Swiss bank account by politicians and business tycoons has been an election issue since the ‘Anna andolan’ in 2013.
  • The protests and growing sentiment against black money and corruption in the country led to fall of 10-year-long Congress rule and a clear majority to BJP in 2014 General Elections.
  • Meanwhile, the issue of Swiss bank accounts and black money is also being raised ahead of Punjab assembly elections as the Aam Aadmi Party released alleged Swiss bank account details of former state CM and Congress leader Amarinder Singh and his family on Monday.
  • While Switzerland has conformed to the global standards on automatic exchange of information with the signing of the declaration, India, on its part, has promised to safeguard the
    confidentiality of the data.
  • Switzerland, which has always been at the centre of the debate on black money allegedly stashed by Indians abroad, used to be known for very strong secrecy walls till a few years ago around its banking practices.
  • A huge global pressure has resulted in Switzerland relenting on the tough secrecy clauses its local laws gave to the banks. Several information requests on details about Indians who had accounts in Swiss banks are still pending.
  • However this does not talk about exchange of information based on stolen data or pending requests from India.
  • Following the government’s demonetisation of high value currency notes earlier this month as a crack down on domestic black money, some opposition parties have been demanding that the government take action to bring back the unaccounted Indian money stashed abroad, particularly in Swiss banks.
  • The Switzerland Department of Finance said the automatic exchange of information with India will be implemented based on the Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement on the Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information (MCAA).
  • On June 6, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had met Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann at Geneva and discussed the need for expeditious exchange of information for combating tax evasion together with an early start to negotiations on the Agreement for Automatic Exchange of Information.
  • As a follow up, Adhia and Switzerland’s State Secretary for International Financial Matters Jacques de Watteville met on June 15 and agreed to move towards an early agreement for the implementation of AEOI between the two countries.

SCIENCE & TECH: NASA DEVELOPING TASTY BARS FOR FUTURE MISSIONS

  • As there is limited space inside the Orion capsule, NASA food scientists at the Human Research Program (HRP) are working to reduce the amount of food and supplies astronauts need for longer trips, as well as cut down on the waste they create.
  • As a result, the scientists have developed high-calorie food bars that astronauts can substitute for breakfast.
  • So far, scientists have created a variety of flavors, including banana nut, orange cranberry, ginger vanilla and barbecue nut.
  • Each bar is approximately 700 to 800 calories, thus ensuring the astronauts maintain a healthy weight as they eat the tasty snack.
  • What’s more, creating this single-meal replacement could help Orion engineers meet mass reduction requirements for the spacecraft, according to a statement from NASA
  • When astronauts explore deep space destinations, they will need a robust diet to keep them healthy and sharp.
  • While crew members aboard the International Space Station (ISS) can choose from about 200 items for their meals and have the space to stow an array of options, feeding the crew on deep space missions presents several unique challenges that NASA scientists are working to tackle.
  • Orion has limited room inside it to accommodate the supplies and food astronauts will need during their missions.
  • Since flights to deep space will not rely on resupply spacecraft to deliver what astronauts need and dispose of trash, the Orion crew will have to take everything they need with them and bring it all back home.
  • Given the distances Orion will travel, teams also must limit Orion’s mass, since a heavier spacecraft requires more fuel and energy to propel it to its ultimate destination.
  • To help reduce the amount of supplies Orion will carry for its crew, scientists are developing a variety of food bars that astronauts can eat for breakfast during their spaceflight missions.
  • Food scientists determined that developing a single calorically dense breakfast substitution can help meet mass reduction requirements.
  • On Orion, the goal is to have a number of food bars to select from in a variety of flavours like orange cranberry or barbeque nut for their first meal of the day, reducing the amount of space and storage the breakfasts require.
  • For lunch and dinner, Orion astronauts will be able to select from similar items space station crew members eat and have a food warmer to help them prepare their meals.
  • However, designing a food bar to a specific nutritional balance for astronauts while also increasing caloric density and passing the taste test is no small task.
  • The food bars, which are being developed in coordination with NASA’s Human Research Programme have been tested by crew members inside HERA, the agency’s three-story habitat designed to serve as an analogue for the isolation and remote conditions in exploration scenarios.

GOA WILL BE FIRST STATE TO GO CASHLESS FROM DECEMBER 31

  • People of Goa in 2017 will carry no cash as the state is set to become cashless starting from December 31.
  • People will be able to buy perishables like: fish, vegetables etc.  from their mobile by dialing *99# and follow the instruction for transactions.
  • The phone does not have to be a smartphone for making transactions and the money will be debited from the bank account of the person making transactions
  • The government will conduct drives to educate small vendors about cashless transactions in Mapusa and Panaji. There wouldn’t be any minimum limit for the transactions and no fees will be charged for them,
  • While cash transactions are not being banned, the move is to encourage a cashless society.
  • Also, there will be no minimum limit on the cashless transfer of money. Chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar said no fees will be charged for any of these transactions over the mobile.
  • Normally the money is debited by online payments and by swiping cards, but this system is being introduced for small vendors to become tech-savvy  who don’t have the swiping machines
  • Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar in this regard said that it is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream that our country becomes cashless and we had decided that Goa will be the first state to go cashless.
  • Parrikar further added that the mobile can now become the new bank. He had also held a meeting with government officials and bankers of Goa for making the ‘cashless’ dream a real.

‘Less-cash’ first, ‘cashless society’ next: PM Narendra Modi appeals in ‘Mann ki Baat’ radio address

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the biggest public push for a ‘cashless economy’ on his monthly ‘Mann ki Baat’ radio address.
  • He acknowledged that while a ‘cashless’ society is not immediately possible, and appealed to the people to work towards it by being part of a ‘less-cash’ society immediately.
  • He asked citizens to learn how this digital economy works.
  • Learn the different ways you can use your bank accounts and internet banking. Learn how to effectively use the apps of various banks on your phones.
  • Learn how to run your business without cash,” said PM Modi.

DEMONETISATION – AKODARA BECOMES INDIA’S FIRST DIGITAL VILLAGE

  • Akodara, India’s first ‘digital village’ is located in Gujarat’s Sabarkantha district. Situated 90 km from Ahmedabad,
  • The village has been functioning normally despite the chaos demonetisation has brought to the rest of the country, as neither shops nor citizens of the village deal in cash.
  • The village of 1,200 people has been adopted by ICICI Bank, helped by the local administration, so that it can be showcased as an example of the bank’s vision of the digital future that awaits India’s hinterland.
  • From the merely cosmetic, like embellishing the archway at the village entrance with the ICICI logo, to the very practical improvement of providing access to modern banking to the villagers, the bankers at ICICI have gone all out to showcase their vision in Akodara.
  • If some of the interventions, such as installing CCTV cameras in the village anganwadi and in schools, seem a bit gimmicky, many others are useful and potentially revolutionary when imagined on a large scale — across whole districts and regions in the country.
  • Residents of Akodara have been using e-banking for everything. From buying milk and groceries to paying bills and drawing salaries, everyone here uses mobile phones for their payments.
  • The bank, with help from the local administration, has helped every villager have access to modern banking facilities.
  • The village has almost 100% financial rate and all mobile banking is done in Hindi, English and Gujarati languages.
  • It also has its own official website. The villagers’ most important transactions selling agri-produce at the local market or mandi or selling milk at the co-operative society have been made cashless.

SUPREME COURT: NATIONAL ANTHEM MUST BE PLAYED BEFORE SCREENING OF FILMS

  • The national anthem must be played in all theaters before movie screenings, the Supreme Court today directed.
  • Everyone should stand when the anthem is played and the national flag should be on the screen, said the court.
  • It said the practice will “instill a feeling within one a sense of committed patriotism and nationalism.”
  • The Bench said it is the duty of every person to show respect when the national anthem is played or recited or sung under the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act of 1951.
  • he government, represented by Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi, said it completely agrees with the need for specific guidelines to show respect and honour for the national anthem and the flag.
  • In its interim order, while awaiting a detailed response from the Centre, the apex court issued a complete ban on the commercial exploitation of the national anthem and the flag.
  • The court further banned the dramatisation of the anthem or it to be used in any part of any variety shows or for entertainment purposes.
  • The court banned the display of the national anthem on any “undesirable or disgraceful places.” It said such display “tantamounts to disrespect.”
  • It also banned the display, recitation or use of the abridged version of the national anthem

Supreme Court Warns Electoral Candidates With Punishment On False Educational Degree

  • In a recent event of sessions held in Supreme Court of India, it has warned and briefed up Election Commission for choosing right candidate from the constituency.
  • It further warned to punish those electoral candidates or legislative bodies who possesses false documents regarding educational degree or of similar sort.
  • The candidate will be dismissed immediately if found guilty of sustaining fake declaration of educational documents in the nomination papers.
  • The strict measures have been taken for the goodwill of the public as they have full liberty to know about the candidate as well as his/her educational qualification, especially when he’she is about to contest the polls.

Why in News

  • The session in the apex court was headed by Justice AR Dave and Justice L Nageswara Rao followed up by annulling Manipur-based Congress MLA Mairembam Prithviraj, who showed false degree certificates of pursuing Business Management degree from one of India’s leading institution.
  • Supreme Court withheld his nomination procedures thus making a strict statement regarding Article 325 of Part XV-Election from the Indian Constitution.

What other details need to be furnished

  • Apart from educational qualification of the electoral candidate, the public should also be aware of all the details regarding his personal and professional aspects.
  • The same should be submitted to Election Commission hence being crystal clear under public scrutiny.

Banks to report frauds of Rs 1 crore and above to CVC

  • Central Vigilance Commission has now made it mandatory for the public sector banks to report to it all such matters involving funds over Rs one crore.
  • Based on the reports, the anti-corruption watchdog, which has hired four General Manager ranked officers from bank as advisors, will recommend whether CBI probe can be ordered.
  • According to CBI data, in 2015, the agency had probed 171 cases of bank frauds involving funds of Rs 20,646 crore. In addition, CBI is also investigating the Ponzi schemes involving funds of over Rs 1.20 lakh crore.
  • The Commission will also call regular monthly meetings of senior officials of Reserve Bank of India (RBI), CBI and banks to monitor probe in suspected bank frauds of Rs 50 crore and above.
  • The banks have been asked to share their reports ofFraud Monitoring and Reporting (FMR) mechanism with the CVC in the suspected fraud cases of Rs one crore and above.

*Until now this report was shared with the RBI only.

PM Narendra Modi Bans Rs. 500, Rs. 1,000 Notes In War On Black Money

  • Taking the nation by surprise, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 8th November night announced demonetisation of Rs. 1000 and Rs. 500 notes with effect from midnight, making these notes invalid in a major assault on black money, fake currency and corruption.
  • In his first televised address to the nation, Mr. Modi said people holding notes of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 can deposit the same in their bank and post office accounts from November 10 till December 30.
  • PM Modi, urging the country to bear with “temporary hardships” in the implementation of the new rule, said that banks will be closed to the public tomorrow and ATMs will not work in some places for the next 48 hours and withdrawals will be limited till Friday to Rs. 2,000.
  • The PM said that though India is now “a global bright spot” with its fast-growing economy, corruption and black or undeclared money “are the biggest obstacles to our success.”
  • PM Modi said that since his government was elected, 1.25 lakh crores of black money “belonging to the corrupt” has been uncovered, through a series of measures including a voluntary disclosure scheme which has seen a good response.
  • The PM said that fake Rs. 500 notes are employed “by the enemy across the border” to sponsor deadly attacks.
  • He also announced that new notes of Rs 2000 and Rs 500 will be introduced.
  • The announcement was met with immediate shock and confusion across social media, with people tweeting out their confusion at the sudden step. Most people wanted to know why this step was take, while others lauded the PM’s effort to counter black money hoarding and corruption. Some even proposed ‘auctioning’ their ‘rare collectors Rs 500 note from 2016 AD Modi era for Rs 10,000’.

What is Demonetisation

  • Demonetisation is the act of stripping a currency unit of its status as legal tender.
  • Demonetisation is necessary whenever there is a change of national currency.
  • The old unit of currency must be retired and replaced with a new currency unit. In economics demonetisation is one of the tool to curb counterfeit and black money.
  • Demonetisation is an excellent tool to curb counterfeit money.

What is black money

  • In India, black money refers to funds earned on the black market, on which income and other taxes have not been paid.
  • The total amount of black money deposited in foreign banks by Indians is unknown. Some reports claim a total of US$1.06 trillion is held illegally in Switzerland.Other reports, including those reported by the Swiss Bankers Association and the Government of Switzerland, claim these reports are false and fabricated, and the total amount held in all Swiss bank accounts by citizens of India is about US$2 billion.

List Of Countries That Have Tried Demonetisation Before India

 

 

NITI Aayog ranks Maharashtra most farmer-friendly state

  • Maharashtra has been ranked first state in the country on reforms in agricultural marketing, followed by Gujarat and Rajasthan, by the NITI Aayog.
  • Its first-ever index on reforms in the farm sector was issued.
  • Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, West Bengal, Assam, Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu performed poorly, not even reaching the halfway mark of 50.
  • Termed the Agricultural Marketing and Farmer Friendly Reforms Index, it ranks states on three major parameters reforms in agricultural marketing, land lease and forestry on private land.
  • The minimum score of zero implies no reforms at all; a score of 100 would mean the opposite and the friendliest to farmers.
  • Maharashtra got 81.7 and Gujarat was second at 71.5, Puducherry, Delhi and Jammu & Kashmir got the lowest three grades, of 4.8, 7.3 and 7.4, respectively.
  • Three states and four Union Territories — including Bihar and Kerala — did not figure in the list, as these do not have any Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee Act.
  • The state of Maharashtra achieves first rank in implementation of various reforms. The state has implemented most of the marketing reforms and offers the best environment for doing agribusiness among all states and UTs,” went an official statement.
  • Madhya Pradesh was ranked fourth, followed by Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Telangana, Goa and Chhattisgarh.

Aim of NITI Ayog

  • The index is aimed at helping states identify and address problems in the farm sector, which suffers from low growth, low incomes and agrarian distress.
  • The central government first introduced reforms in the APMCs or wholesale markets (mandis) through the model APMC law in 2003, urging states to adopt it; agri-marketing is a state subject under the Constitution.
  • In the past decade, a majority of states have partly adopted the model law; some have ignored it.
  • The Centre has since decided to bring another model APMC Act to address all the concerns of states,including the subject of contract, and to facilitate the setting up of private mandis.
  • It has also launched the electronic agriculture market (e-NaM) portal but success here has been slow in the absence of big mandi reforms.

Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia gets Lifetime Achievement award

  • Legendary flutist Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia was awarded the 2016 Sumitra Charat Ram Award for Lifetime Achievement in the field of Indian classical music at Shriram Bhartiya Kala Kendra .
  • The award, which recognises the contribution of individuals in the field of Indian Classical Dance and Music or other disciplines of Indian Art and Culture, was presented to Chaurasia by Najeeb Jung, the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi.

Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia

  • Born in Allahabad to a wrestler father, Chaurasia started learning vocal music from his neighbour, Pandit Rajaram, at the age of 15 and later took up the flute under the mentorship of Bholanath Prasanna of Varanasi for the next eight years.

ABOUT SUMITRA CHARAT RAM AWARD

  • The prize is named after Sumitra Charat Ram, of the illustrious Shri Ram family, who played a key role in the revival of the performing arts traditions, specially kathak and Hindustani music in north India.
  • The award is given to individuals who have excelled in the field of Indian classical dance and music or other disciplines of the Indian art and culture, including theatre during the last 15 years and who had a significant impact in promoting a particular art form,
  • She was also the founder of Shiram Bharatiya Kala Kendra, one of the country’s premier institutions of performing arts.
  • Previous recipients of the award include stalwarts of Indian classical music like Pandit Birju Maharaj, Kishori Amonkar and Mayadhar Raut, Pandit Jasraj and Kumudini Lakhia

Global unity to act on Paris climate deal

  • U.N. climate summit that began under the shadows of the U.S. presidential election results, which ended with the ascent of Donald Trump, a climate change denier, the 11-day meeting here concluded with all participating member nations coming together to reaffirm their commitment to climate action under the Paris Agreement adopted last year.
  •  The nearly 200 nations attending the COP22 summit adopted the Marrakech Action Proclamation late on Thursday evening, sending out a strong signal to the world on climate action.
  •  Responding to an invitation by the King of Morocco, Mohammed VI, heads of state from close to 90 countries, and, delegations from other U.N. member countries issued the proclamation to signal a shift towards a new era of implementation and action on climate and sustainable development.
  • The nations demanded solidarity with those countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, highlighting the need to support efforts aimed at enhancing their adaptive capacity, to strengthen resilience and to reduce vulnerability.
  • A Climate Vulnerable Forum, comprising a group of over 45 most vulnerable countries, was launched, which adopted an agenda for maintaining the target of limiting warming to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.
  •  The countries also called for an increase in the volume, flow and access to finance for climate projects, alongside improved capacity and technology.

Doha Amendment

  • Given the gaps in emissions reduction has to stay on course for keeping global warming levels under 2 degrees C, the nations also called for urgently raising ambition and strengthening cooperation among the countries to close the gap between current emissions trajectories and the pathway needed to meet the long-term temperature goals of the Paris Agreement.
  • The nations, who are parties to the Kyoto Protocol (which does not include the U.S.), also encouraged the speedy ratification of the Doha Amendment, with its focus on pre-2020 action.

Jagdish Singh Khehar appointed executive chairman of NALSA

  • The Union government announced that Jagdish Singh Khehar, a judge of the Supreme Court, will be the new Executive Chairman of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).
  • He succeeds Anil R. Dave who retired as a judge of supreme court after completing the tenure of six years.
    NALSA has been constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, to provide free legal services to weaker sections of society.

Roles & Responsibilities of National services authority (NALSA)

  • The aim is to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reasons of economic or other disabilities.
  • NALSA also organises Lok Adalats for amicable settlement of disputes.
  • NALSA identifies specific categories of the marginalised and excluded groups and formulates various schemes for the implementation of preventive and strategic legal service programmes.
  • Services provided by the agency include free legal aid in civil and criminal matters for the poor and marginalised people who cannot afford the services of a lawyer in any court or tribunal,under the authority of the Legal Services Authorities Act 1987.
  • Its purpose is to provide free legal services to eligible candidates (defined in Sec. 12 of the Act), and to organize Lok Adalats for speedy resolution of cases.
  • The Chief Justice of India is patron-in-chief of NALSA while second senior most judge of Supreme Court of India is the Executive-Chairman.

 

Communal Harmony Week or Quami Ekta Week observed all over the country from 19th Nov to 25 Nov.

  • The week-long ‘Quami Ekta Week’ concluded in Brahmaputra Cracker and Polymer Limited (BCPL) at Lepetkata. The week was observed with a view to foster the spirit of communal harmony, national integration and pride in the vibrant composite culture and nationhood.
  • This occasion provided an opportunity to reaffirm age-old traditions and faith in the values of tolerance, coexistence and brotherhood in a multi-cultural and multi-religious society.
  • The celebration was inaugurated on November 19 by Ashok Kumar Singh, Managing Director, BCPL in presence of OP Tailor, Director (Finance) and other senior officials of BCPL.
  • The Quami Ekta Week involved various programmes like discussion sessions on ‘Welfare of Minority and Linguistic Harmony’ and on ‘Importance of Women in Indian Society and their role in Nation Building’.
  • Activities for children like drawing competition with the theme ‘Unity in Diversity’ and go as you like competition on communal harmony, costumes of different States and communities of India was also organised.
  • The week-long celebration concluded on Wednesday with sapling plantation programme at the BCPL township,
  • The observation of the Quami Ekta Week helps in highlighting the inherent strength and resilience of the nation to withstand actual and potential threats to the eclectic and secular fabric of the country.
  • From times immemorial, diverse races migrated into India by via land and sea routes and get themselves settled here. In course of time they are absolutely absorbed in India’s social life.
  • The Minority Affairs Ministry is organising cultural harmony conclaves to showcase the country’s rich culture & arts and also pitched for ensuring cultural harmony, which protects people from religious narrow-mindedness.
  • Cultural harmony conclaves are being organised separately in big cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Kolkata and Bengaluru.

INDIAN NAVY INDUCTS FOUR UNDERWATER SONAR SYSTEM DEVELOPED BY DRDO:

  • The Indian Navy on 18 November 2016 inducted four types of indigenously developed SONAR systems. The sonar systems are capable of boosting the Navy’s underwater surveillance capabilities.
  • The four sensors were handed over to the Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sunil Lanba by Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.
  • The systems have been designed and developed by Naval Physical & Oceanographic Laboratory (NPOL), a Kochi based laboratory of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

FOUR TYPES OF SONARS:

ABHAY:

  • ABHAY is an advanced active-cum-passive integrated sonar system designed and developed for the smaller platforms such as shallow water crafts and coastal surveillance/patrol vessels.
  • It is capable of detecting, localizing, classifying and tracking sub-surface and surface targets in both its active and passive modes of operation.
  • The prototype of this compact sonar installed onboard a nominated naval platform has successfully completed all user evaluation trials to demonstrate the features as per the Naval Staff Qualification Requirements. Indian Navy has proposed to induct this SONAR on three of the Abhay class ships.

HUMSA UG:

  • HUMSA UG is designed for upgrading the existing Humsa sonar system.
  • This system is proposed to be installed on seven ships of three different classes of ships

AIDSS:

  • It stands for Advanced Indigenous Distress sonar system for submarines.
  • It is a distress SONAR. It is an Emergency Sound Signalling Device, which is used to indicate that a submarine is in distress and enable quick rescue and salvage.
  • It is a life-saving alarm system designed to transmit sonar signals of a pre-designated frequency and pulse shape in an emergency situation from a submarine for long period, so as to attract the attention of passive sonars of ships or submarines in the vicinity and all types of standard rescue vessels in operation.

NACS:

  • It determines the in-situ performance of the SONAR systems, which are used to find the frequency-dependent 3-D transmission and reception characteristics of the SONAR.
  • It is also used to measure the magnitude and phase characteristics of the SONAR transmission and reception electronics and the transducers.

Advantages

  • With the induction of these four systems, the underwater surveillance capability of the Indian Navy will get a boost, besides providing a fillip to the quest for self-reliance in this critical area of technology.

Mehbooba Mufti launches World Bank funded Jhelum-Tawi flood recovery project:

  • Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti formally launched the World Bank funded mega US $250 million Jhelum-Tawi Flood Recovery project which would give a massive push to the reconstruction and rehabilitation of infrastructure post 2014 floods in the State
  • The project was conceptualised and pursued by former Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed in the aftermath of devastating floods of 2014 and was formally launched after completion of all formalities.
  • The Government of India and the World Bank signed a USD 250 million credit agreement as per the Jhelum and Tawi Flood Recovery Project
  • Project is funded by credit from the International Development Association, the concessionary lending arm of the World Bank with a mature of 25 years including a 5 year grace period
  • Project aims at reconstruction and recovery of support in flood affected areas where public infrastructure and livelihoods are badly impacted
  • It will focus on 20 flood affected areas in the state including Pulwama , Kupwara, Baramulla and Jammu
    the project will also focus on disaster risk mitigation.
  • The loan assistance would not only comprise fund flow from the world body but also expertise to handle such projects and the necessary technological advancements as well. It will also facilitate capacity building and creation of livelihood.
  • The loan assistance from the World Bank would be shared by Centre and the State Government on 90:10 basis and it would be operative for five years ending June 2020
  • The works to be completed under the project include projects in core sectors like roads, bridges, hospitals and other infrastructure projects. A key factor of the project is that the sectoral and geographical equities have been adequately ensured.

President launches National Student Startup Policy:

  • President Pranab Mukherjee launched the National Student Startup Policy on the opening day of the second visitor’s conference at Rashtrapati Bhavan.
  • The National student startup policy, formulated by AICTE, aims to create 100,000 technology based student start-ups and a million employment opportunities within the next 10 years.
  • The policy plans on achieving this by developing an ideal entrepreneurial ecosystem and promoting strong inter-institutional partnerships among technical institutions.
  • It emphasises the much-desired need for an appropriate startup policy to propel the youth of India through and beyond the 21st century.
  • Adequate job creation is a priority – The job creation figures of 1.35 lakh in 2015, which is the lowest in seven years, are not encouraging. With machines fast replacing men, we have to look at a paradigm shift. We have to prepare our youth, who are buzzing with innovative ideas, to turn into entrepreneurs.

Features of the Policy

  • The NSSP has been formulated by the All India council for technical education (AICTE)
  • It aims to create one lakh technology based student start ups and a million employment opportunities within the next 10 years
  • It also aim to propel Indian youth to contribute to the nation’s socio-economic process through promotion of technology-driven students start-ups
  • NSSP seek to develop an ideal entrepreneurial ecosystem by lending crucial soft skills like decision-making in the students.
  • It also seeks to promote strong inter-institutional partnership among technical institution.
    Second Visitor’s Conference:
  • It is a conference of Vice Chancellors/Directors/Director Generals of Institutions of higher learning for which the President is a visitor. This is the second time President has convened such a conference which has brought together all heads of higher education institutions in one forum. Earlier, separate conferences were held for Vice Chancellors of Central Universities, Directors of IITs, IISERs, NITs and IISC

MADE IN INDIA – RUSTOM-2 DRONE CAPABLE OF COMBAT, COMPLETES MAIDEN FLIGHT

  • Rustom-II, India’s indigenously developed long-endurance combat-capable drone, successfully completed its maiden flight on Wednesday, giving a boost to India’s development programme for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV).
  • The Defence Research and Development Organisation successfully carried out the maiden flight of TAPAS 201 (RUSTOM-II), a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV.
  • It has an endurance of 24 hours and can conduct surveillance and reconnaissance missions for the country’s armed forces.
  • The UAV can also be used as an unmanned armed combat vehicle on the lines of the US’s Predator drone.
  • The test flight took place from Aeronautical Test Range(ATR), Chitradurga, 250 km from Bangalore, which is a newly developed flight test range for the testing of UAVs and manned aircraft.
  • The flight accomplished the main objectives of proving the flying platform, such as take-off, bank, level flight and landing among others.
  • TAPAS 201 has been designed and developed by Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), the Bangalore-based lab of DRDO with HAL-BEL as the production partners.
  • The UAV weighing two tonnes was put into air by a dedicated team of young scientists of DRDO.
  • It was piloted (external and internal) by the pilots from the armed forces. It is also the first R&D prototype UAV which has undergone certification and qualification for the first flight from the Center for Military Airworthiness & Certification (CEMILAC) and Directorate General of Aeronautical Quality Assurance (DGAQA).
  • TAPAS 201, a multi-mission UAV is being developed to carry out Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) roles for the three armed forces with an endurance of 24 hours.
  • It is capable to carry different combinations of payloads like Medium Range Electro Optic (MREO), Long Range Electro Optic (LREO), Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), Electronic Intelligence (ELINT), Communication Intelligence (COMINT) and Situational Awareness Payloads (SAP) to perform missions during day and night.
  • Many critical systems such as air frame, landing gear, flight control and avionics sub-systems are being developed in India with the collaboration of private industries.
  • Rustom-II will undergo further trials for validating the design parameters, before going for User Validation Trials.

“Hunar Haat” inaugurated at 2016 India International Trade Fair

  • Power minister Piyush Goyal, Minority Affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvialong with the minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar inaugurated “Hunar Haat”, at India International Trade Fair(2016) at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi.
  • About 184 master artisans from all corners of the country are showcasing their traditional art and skills at about 100 stalls in “Hunar Haat” at India International Trade Fair.
  • Piyush Goyal said that this exhibition is an outstanding display of traditional Indian art and handicrafts. Preserving the rich traditional and culture of our artisans is our duty. Goyal said that he is delighted to see the good work done by the ministry of Minority Affairs.
  • Akbar said that through this “Hunar Haat”, the art of living has joined the art of livelihood. This is the true genius of the people, our nation is blessed. This genius ethos through history will echo into the future. Akbar said that this exhibition has provided such a big market to these artisans.
  • “Hunar Haat” exhibition is aimed at promoting and supporting artisans from Minority communities and providing them domestic as well as international market for display and sell their products.
  • It will be providing an excellent platform to artisans belonging to Minority communities from across the nation to display their art and skills before the domestic and international visitors.
  • “Hunar Haat” also displays other arts/crafts like marble work from Rajasthan; beautiful handicrafts from Gujarat; Pashmina and bronze work from Kashmir. Besides, centuries old Ayurvedic, Unani health care; glass artefacts; Indian silk-cotton work is also a part of the exhibition

ABOUT USTTAD SCHEME:

  • The Scheme aims at upgrading Skills and Training in preservation of traditional Ancestral Arts/Crafts of minorities.
    The scheme was launched in Varanasi to improve sordid conditions of weavers of world famous Banaras Saree, belonging to minority communities.
  • USTAD will provide skill development and better marketing strategies to weavers and artisans of traditional crafts like wooden lacquerware and toys and Banaras Gulabi Meenakari
    The scheme was announced in 2014 with the Finance Ministry allocating Rs 17 crore for it.union ministry of minority affairs- Heptullah said the programme is linked to ‘Make in India’ campaign and seeks to help artisans connect with buyers

India, China Joint Training Exercise Hand in Hand 2016 begins in Pune

  • The sixth edition of India-China Joint Training Exercise “Hand in Hand 2016” started in Pune, Maharashtra.
  • The exercise continues a series of joint exercises between the two neighbours.
  • This will be the sixth such exercise by the Indian Army with the People’s Liberation Army of China, and is part of a series held annually and alternately in India and China.
  • The first exercise was held in China at Kunming of Yunnan province in 2007 and the last exercise was held in October 2015 in Kunming Military Academy, Yunnan Province in China
  • It seeks to promote healthy military to military relations between the two armies and developing joint strategies for conducting operations in a counter terrorism environment.
  • It is supervised by a Joint Directing Panel comprising senior officials of both nations.
  • Exercise Hand in Hand 2016 will be conducted in three phases. The first phase of the exercise consists of familiarization with the weapons and equipment.
  • The second phase conducts basic training that includes combat conditioning, firing of personal weapons and support weapons
  • This phase also includes practice of drills like establishing covert observation posts, house clearing, and cordon and search, humanitarian and disaster relief operations.
  • The third phase of the exercise is the conduct of joint operations. The exercise will be attended by senior military observers of both the countries.

Cabinet approves constitution of special committee for inter- linking of rivers

  • The Union Cabinet approved constitution of ‘special committee for inter-linking of rivers’ in compliance with a Supreme Court order, a move the government said will help in monitoring “precious” projects to be carried out under its National Perspective Plan, 1980
  • The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given its approval to the Status-cum-Progress Report and constitution of ‘special committee for inter-linking of rivers’ in compliance of Supreme Court judgement dated 27.2.2012
  • The status-cum-progress report of the special committee will be submitted bi-annually for information of Cabinet to facilitate “faster and appropriate” decisions in the interest of the country.
  • India’s National Water Development Agency (NWDA) under Ministry of Water Resources has been given the responsibility of managing the project.
  • The project was proposed by NDA Government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
  • The court also held the opinion that success of this project would save people living in drought-prone zones from hunger and those living in flood-prone zones from destruction.

INTERLINKING OF RIVERS PROJECTS:

  • The Inter-link project has been split into three parts: a northern Himalayan rivers inter-link component, a southern Peninsular component and starting 2005, an intrastate rivers linking component.
  • The project is being managed by India’s National Water Development Agency (NWDA), under its Ministry of Water Resources. NWDA has studied and prepared reports on 14 inter-link projects for Himalayan component, 16 inter-link projects for Peninsular component and 37 intrastate river linking projects.

How is the Project Divided

The project has been divided into three parts:

  1. Northern Himalayan rivers inter-link component
  2. Southern Peninsular component
  3. Intrastate rivers linking component

Reason behind the Project

  • The average rainfall in India is about 4,000 billion cubic meters, but most of India’s rainfall comes over a 4-month period – June through September.
  • Furthermore, the rain across the very large nation is not uniform, the east and north gets most of the rain, while the west and south get less.
  • India also sees years of excess monsoons and floods, followed by below average or late monsoons with droughts.
  • This geographical and time variance in availability of natural water versus the year round demand for irrigation, drinking and industrial water creates a demand-supply gap, that has been worsening with India’s rising population.

GoM recommends heavy fine and ban on celebrities endorsing products in misleading ads

  • The government is focussing heavily on taking action against those celebrities who endorse ‘misleading’ products.
  • A panel of ministers earlier recommended a jail term and a heavy fine. However, the proposal of jail term has been dismissed. Under the new proposal, celebrities cricketers, actors or globally renowned artists, will be required to independently verify the guarantees being made about products they promote.
  • A high-level Group of Ministers (GoM) has approved imposing a heavy fine and ban on celebrities who endorse products making unrealistic and dodgy claims.
  • The group, headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, includes Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, Communications & IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, Health Minister J P Nadda, Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Power Minister Piyush Goyal and Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan. Paswan’s ministry piloted the Consumer Protection Bill, 2015.
  • The Consumer Protection Bill, 2015, which seeks to replace the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, by inserting tough measures for the protection of consumer rights and providing strict punishment to violators, was presented in Parliament in 2015.
  • It was referred to a Standing Committee, which gave a report suggesting measures like making celebrities accountable for the brands they endorse, and called for severe penalties such as jail term for celebrities endorsing the brands, publishers and broadcasters of misleading advertisements and manufacturers of such products.
  • The panel had recommended that for first-time offence, the offender celebrities may be penalised with either a fine of Rs 10 lakh or imprisonment up to two years or both. For second-time offences, it had suggested a fine of Rs 50 lakh and imprisonment of five years.
  • It was seen that in no other country is a celebrity advertising products jailed. So the GoM decided to do way with the recommendation.

RECOMMENDATIONS MADE BY GoM

  • The GoM decided that instead of jailing the endorsers, they should be fined Rs 10 lakh and slapped a ban of one year for the first offence.
  • Fined Rs 50 lakh and banned for up to three years for the second offence.
  • Dropped Standing committee’s proposal of jail term to celebrities found guilty for misleading endorsement.

SAIL wins Golden Peacock Award for corporate governance:

  • The prestigious Golden Peacock Award for Corporate Governance for this year has been conferred upon the ‘Maharatna’ firm, Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL).
  • Set up by the Institute of Directors, India, the award was received by Ashwini Kumar, CEO of Rourkela Steel Plant (RSP) on behalf of SAIL during the 16th London Global Convention on Corporate Governance and Sustainability held in London recently
  • SAIL was presented the award on account of its exemplary performance in the field of corporate governance that is for balancing the interests of all the stakeholders of the company shareholders, management, customers, suppliers, financiers, government and the community
  • The event was attended by leaders, policy makers, academicians, jurists and social thinkers, professionals in business, finance, corporate governance and sustainability from across the world.

About Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL):

  • Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) is one of the largest state-owned steel making company based in New Delhi, India and one of the top steel makers in world.It is a public sector undertaking which trades publicly in the market is largely owned by Government of India and acts like an operating company.
  • SAIL is the 24th largest steel producer in the world. The Hot Metal capacity of the Company will further increase and is expected to reach a level of 23.5 million tonnes per annum by the end of the Financial Year 2015-16. Shri P.K Singh is the current Chairman of SAIL.
  • SAIL operates and owns 5 integrated steel plants at Bhilai, Rourkela, Durgapur, Bokaro and Burnpur and 3 special steel plants at Salem, Durgapur and Bhadravathi.
  • It also owns a Ferro Alloy plant at Chandrapur.
    SAIL is one of India’s fastest growing Public Sector Units. Besides, it has R&D centre for Iron & Steel (RDCIS), Centre for Engineering and Technology (CET), Management Training Institute (MTI) and SAIL Safety Organisation (SSO) located at Ranchi capital of Jharkhand.

Golden peacock award:

  • The Institute of Directors (India) was established on 13 July 1990 as an apex association of directors to improve their professional competence.
  • In 1991, the Institute of Directors established the Golden Peacock Awards for the recognition of “corporate excellence.

Professor Raj Bisaria to get Madhya Pradesh government govt’s Kalidas Samman for Theatre

  • Renowned theatre personality and Padma Shri, Prof Raj Bisaria is all set to weave another feather in his cap with the Madhya Pradeshgovernment honouring him with its prestigious ‘Kalidas Samman’ national award for 2015-16 for achievement in theatre.
  • The ceremony will be held on November 10 in Ujjain, which is also the birthday of the 80 year old.

About Prof.Raj Bisaria

  • Raj Bisaria (born November 10, 1935) is an Indian director, producer, actor and educationalist, described by the Press Trust of Indiaas “the father of the modern theatre in North India”.
  • He founded Theatre Arts Workshop in 1966, and Bhartendu Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1975 and the repertory company of Bhartendu Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1980. He has blended artistic concepts of the East and the West, and the traditional and the modern.
  • He is the first man from Uttar Pradesh to have been awarded a Padma Shree for work in modern theatre and his contribution towards the growth of theatre in India.

What is Kalidas Samman

  • The Kalidas Samman is a prestigious arts award presented annually by the government of Madhya Pradesh in India. The award is named after Kālidāsa, a renowned Classical Sanskrit writer of ancient India.
  • The Kalidas Samman was first awarded in 1980. It was initially conferred in alternate years in the fields of Classical Music, Classical Dance, Theatre and Plastic Arts. From 1986-87 onwards, the awards were presented in all four fields every year. The award is presented for outstanding achievement in one of the four categories.
  • The award carries a cash prize of 200,000 (200,000) rupees. The winners are selected by a five-member committee appointed by the Government of Madhya Pradesh, which consists of eminent artists, art critics and officials from the Sangeet Natak Akademi (India’s National Academy for Music, Dance and Drama).
  • Some of the previous recipients are Pandit Ravi Shankar, MF Husain, Pandit Jasraj, Shambhu Mitra, Habib Tanvir, Ebrahim Alkazi etc.

Competition Commission of India (CCI) to host ICN 2018 Annual Conference

  • International Competition Network (ICN) has accepted the proposal and decided that Competition Commission of India would host the 2018 ICN Annual Conference.
  • This will be held at Delhi in March –April 2018. ICN is an international body comprising 132 members from 120 competition jurisdictions exclusively devoted to international competition enforcement.
  • CCI has also been inducted as an ex-officio member of the steering group member of the ICN for a period of 3 years.
  • CCI eagerly looks forward to hosting this international event which will provide a rare opportunity to attract domestic and international competition enforcement experts to deliberate on international best practices and host of competition issues being faced by the Competition agencies the world over.

Competition Commission of India (CCI)

  • Competition Commission of India is a body of the Government of India responsible for enforcing The Competition Act, 2002 throughout India and to prevent activities that have an appreciable adverse effect on competition in India.
  • It was established on 14 October 2003 & became fully functional in May 2009 with Dhanendra Kumar as its first Chairman
  • The Competition Act, 2002, as amended by the Competition (Amendment) Act, 2007, follows the philosophy of modern competition laws. The Act prohibits anti-competitive agreements, abuse of dominant position by enterprises and regulates combinations (acquisition, acquiring of control and Merger and acquisition), which causes or likely to cause an appreciable adverse effect on competition within India.
  • CCI has been engaged with competition authorities of other jurisdictions and also multilateral agencies like the Organisation for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD) and the International Competition Network (ICN).
    CCI is a member of the ICN since 2003.
  • ICN provides competition authorities with a specialised yet informal platform for addressing practical competition concerns, sharing experiences and adopting international best practices. Its members are national competition authorities and NGA (Non-governmental Advisers) which include reputed law firms, eminent persons, and think tanks of international repute.

About International Competition Network (ICN)

  • The International Competition Network is an informal, virtual network that seeks to facilitate cooperation between competition law authorities globally. It was established in 2001.
  • Competition law experts in the US recommended that increased collaboration with overseas authorities could contribute to the coordination of enforcement and sharing of information on competition policy globally.
  • It comprised 132 member states from 120 competition jurisdiction exclusively devoted to international competition enforcement.
  • The first annual conference was held in Naples, Italy in September 2002, with representatives from 59 countries and NGOs. The last annual conference was hosted by Competition Commission of Singapore in April 2016.
  • The upcoming annual conference will be hosted by Portuguese Competition Authority in May 2017. It will be hosted by Competition Commission of India in March – April 2018 at New Delhi.

Government rolls out Pradhan Mantri Yuva Yojana for entrepreneurs

  • The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship announced launch of Pradhan Mantri Yuva Yojana to scale up an ecosystem of entrepreneurship for youngsters.
  • The scheme was launched to mark 2nd Foundation Day of Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE).

Pradhan Mantri Yuva Yojana

  • The scheme spans over five years (2016-17 to 2020-21) with a project cost of Rs 499.94 crore and will provide entrepreneurship education and training to over 7 lakh students in 5 years through 3,050 institutes
  • It will also include easy access to information and mentor network, credit, incubator and accelerator and advocacy to create a pathway for the youth.
  • Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy said Pradhan Mantri Yuva Yojana has national and international best practices of learning in entrepreneurship education.
  • The institutes under the PM’s Yuva Yojana include 2,200 institutes of higher learning (colleges, universities, and premier institutes), 300 schools, 500 ITIs and 50 entrepreneurship development centres through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

How will it benefit

  • MSDE has plans to distribute around Rs 7,000 crore to states to help align them with the Centre’s skill development agenda.
  • The Sector Skill Councils (SSCs) will work closely with the local authorities and industries towards job aggregation. Those who perform well will be incentivised while those who do not perform will have to exit
  • The conference also saw Rudy unveil the guidelines for state engagement under Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana 2.0 (2016-20) in the presence of state ministers.
  • MSDE has allocated around Rs 3,000 crore of 25 per cent from the funds earmarked for the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) to the states to achieve its target of training 10 million people over 4 years.
  • Emphasising on the importance of being self-sustainable, MSDE announced the institutionalisation of National Entrepreneurship awards for first generation achievers below 30 years. The entrepreneurship awards are proposed to be given on January 16, 2017.

Union Government extends AFSPA in three districts of Arunachal Pradesh

  • Considering Naga underground factions’ increased indulgence in extortion and inter-factional rivalry, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs has extended Armed Forces Special Powers Act or AFSPA in three districts of Arunachal Pradesh. The districts (Tirap, Changlang, and Longding) have been specified as ‘disturbed areas’ under Section 3, AFSPA.
  • The Centre has decided to extend the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in three districts of Arunachal Pradesh. One of the primary reasons cited by the Centre is “extortion and intimidation” by the cadres of National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah), who are “contriving to dominate areas hitherto occupied by NSCN (Khaplang).”
  • The notification has been issued even after the NDA government signed a ‘framework agreement’ with NSCN-IM in September 2015 to find a final solution to the six-decade-old Naga issue.
  • The Home Ministry’s latest notification, issued on November 4, has, for the first time, said the AFSPA was being extended in the districts of Tirap, Changlang and Longding, all bordering Assam, as the NSCN-IM was desperate to regain control from the NSCN-K.

Background:

  • After decades of violence, the NSCN-IM had entered into a ceasefire agreement with India in 1997. The largest group representing the Nagas has demanded a “Greater Nagalim” or a contiguous land for the Nagas, across the States of Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Mizoram.
  • The NSCN-K (now banned ground) had unilaterally abrogated the ceasefire in March 2015 but NSCN-IM continues to be in a ceasefire pact with the Union Government.
  • Earlier in August 2015, the Union Government had signed a ‘framework agreement’ with NSCN-IM to find a final solution to the six-decade-old Naga issue.
  • The ceasefire signed with NSCN-IM is only for Nagaland; it does not include Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur. This notification has been issued after much consultation between the security agencies.

What is Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts or AFSPA?

  • The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts allows the Indian Armed Forces to observe a strict vigil in what the acts term as ‘disturbed areas’.
  • The Indian Armed Forces include the Indian Army, the Navy, and the Air Force, paramilitary forces such as Assam Rifles, Indian Coast Guard and Special Frontier Force and inter-service commands and institutions such as the Strategic Forces Command, the Andaman and Nicobar Command and the Integrated Defence Staff.
  • The acts are not invoked in cases of civil unrest during elections. The AFSPA is invoked when a case of militancy or insurgency takes place and the international borders of India are at risk. It provides army officers and jawans legal immunity for their actions in disturbed areas.
  • After giving warning, an officer can fire upon or use other kinds of force, even if it causes death, against the agitator who is acting against the law and order in the ‘disturbed area’, for the maintenance of public order.
  • Seize any unauthorised arms storage, hide-outs, shelter or training camp which is being used by the militants.
    Arrest anyone who has committed cognisable offences or is suspected of having committed such a crime, without a warrant
  • Search any place to make such arrests, or to recover any suspect, or confiscate unauthorised arms and ammunition
    Stop and search any vehicle or vessel, suspected to be carrying such a person or weapons
  • The arresting officer must present the suspect to the nearest police station with least possible delay, with a report of the circumstances that resulted in the arrest
  • No Army officer can be held against any arrest under the AFSPA. No prosecution or any other legal proceeding can be made against the arrest or seize. Even the state government cannot question his action.
  • The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts were applied to the seven north-eastern states of India (Seven Sisters) on September 11, 1958. Since 1990, Jammu and Kashmir has also been included under the AFSPA rule. The acts were also applied in Punjab and Chandigarh in 1983 and was revoked in 1997.

Kerala becomes first State in India to roll out LNG-powered bus

  • A new chapter in the country’s transport sector has been initiated which moves towards clean fuel, India’s first liquefied natural gas-driven bus was launched in Kerala.
  • Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan jointly flagged off the first pilot run of the eco-friendly bus on the sidelines of the fourth meeting of the Group of Ministers, set up by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
  • It has been a joint effort of Petronet LNG Limited (PLL), Indian Oil Corporation Ltd and Tata Motors Ltd to introduce LNG as a fuel in commercial vehicles in the state capital.
  • LNG fueled Bus was brought to PLL Kochi LNG Terminal for LNG filling. LNG fuel tank was provided by M/s Chart Industries, USA. As it is a pilot project, the LNG-driven bus will run on trial basis before it can be certified for commercial application.
  • The LNG pipeline was one the major topics of discussion between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pinarayi Vijayan during the latter’s first New Delhi visit after taking charge as Kerala Chief Minister,
  • After the meeting, the Prime Minister had asked him to coordinate things in this regard and Kerala CM had assured all help to complete laying of GAIL pipeline in Kochi-Mangaluru stretch
  • On Kerala’s natural gas expansion plans, Pradhan said IOC planned to set up five CNG stations at Ernakulum by March 2017 and would provide Piped Natural Gas to 4000 households.
  • The PNG connections would increase to 41,000 by 2020.
  • The company has also finalised an arrangement with Kerala State Road Transport Corporation to set up an integrated fuel complex at its various depots in the state having provision to dispense different fuels, including LNG and CNG to vehicles
  • The Government of India has already announced that it is planning to use LNG, which is cheaper than diesel, as a fuel for Railways and long-haul transportation.
  • The KSRTC, which has a fleet of 6,000 buses, has already announced plans to use natural gas. LNG is greener as well as more economical as compared to Diesel. LNG is more suitable for heavy duty segment like Trucks and Buses.
  • LNG is an environmentally friendly fuel with less number of Nox, Sox and particulate matters, as compared to any other automotive fuel. Co2 emission is also lesser than Diesel. Introduction of LNG in transport segment will also help India to meet its COP21 commitment.

 

128th birth anniversary of CV Raman Observed

  • The 128th birth anniversary of Nobel laureate Bharat Ratna Sir CV Raman was observed on November 7, 2016. Various functions including debates have been organized in schools and colleges across India to commemorate the day.
  • Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman[2] (7 November 1888 – 21 November 1970) was an Indian physicist born in the former Madras Province in India presently called as Tamil Nadu.
  • He carried out ground-breaking work in the field of light scattering, which earned him the 1930 Nobel Prize for Physics.
  • He discovered that when light traverses a transparent material, some of the deflected light changes in wavelength. This phenomenon, subsequently known as Raman scattering
  • He was the first Asian and first non-white to receive any Nobel Prize in the sciences. Before him Rabindranath Tagore had received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913.
  • In 1954, India honoured him with its highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna.
  • He was the first recipient of the Bharat Ratna along with politician C. Rajagopalachari, philosopher Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan.
  • National Science Day is observed every year in India on February to mark the discovery of Raman Effect.

What is Raman Effect?

  • Some part of light beam after passing through a transparent medium gets scattered.
  • This phenomenon of scattering of light is termed as Raman Scattering and the cause of scattering is called the Raman Effect. The wavelength of these scattered rays is different from that of the incident rays of light.

India rises to second spot on global business optimism index

  • India improved its ranking by one spot in a global index of business optimism, with policy reforms and Goods and Services tax (GST) expected to become a reality soon, says a survey.
  • According to the latest Grant Thornton International Business Report, India was ranked second on the optimism index during the third quarter (July-September 2016).
  • Indonesia took the top spot, with the Philippines coming in third.
  • India was ranked third during the April-June period after being on top for two consecutive quarters.
  • The improvement in the optimism ranking in the recent past clearly reflects that the reform agenda of the government and its efforts on improving the climate for doing business are having an impact
  • High business optimism was also complimented by the rise of employment expectations. India regained its top position on this parameter, from second position in the April-June period, while profitability expectations also moved up.
  • High business optimism was also complimented by the rise of employment expectations.
    The report is prepared on the basis of a quarterly conducted global business survey of 2,500 businesses across 36 economies.
  • Meanwhile, in terms of revenue expectations, India slipped to third position from top in the previous quarter.
    Globally, business optimism stands at net 33 per cent, rising 1 percentage point from the previous quarter but falling 11 percentage points over the year.

RBI appoints M Rajeshwar Rao as Executive Director

  • The Reserve Bank has appointed M Rajeshwar Rao as Executive Director following G Mahalingam’s decision to take voluntary retirement.
  • The RBI said that as Executive Director, Rao will look after Department of Statistics and Information Management, Financial markets Operations Department and International Department.
  • Prior to taking over as the Executive Director, he was the Chief General Manager, Financial Markets Operations Department.

About M Rajeshwar Rao

  • Rao has a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and a Master of Business Administration from University of Cochin.
  • He is also a Certificated Associate of Indian Institute of Bankers. Rao joined RBI in 1984 and as career central banker has exposure in various aspects of central bank functioning.
  • He has previously held charge of the Risk Monitoring Department. He has also worked as the Banking Ombudsman, New Delhi and in the Reserve Bank’s regional offices at Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Chennai and New Delhi.

India’s Aniruddha Rajput elected to UN’s International Law Commission

  • A young Indian lawyer won a hotly-contested election in the UN General Assembly for membership to the world body’s top body of legal experts, garnering the highest number of votes in the Asia-Pacific group.
  • 33-year-old Aniruddha Rajput is among the 34 individuals elected by the General Assembly as members of the International Law Commission, the UN organ tasked with the progressive development of international law and its codification.The newly elected members will serve five-year terms of office with the Geneva-based body beginning January 2017.
  • Mr Rajput got 160 votes, topping the Asia Pacific group in voting that was held by way of secret ballot yesterday.
    Mr Rajput is India’s first time candidate to the Commission

ANIRUDDHA RAJPUT

  • Aniruddha Rajput is a 33-year-old private law practitioner from India who was nominated for the International Law Commission election by the Ministry of External Affairs, in May.
  • Rajput is possibly the youngest ever candidate to be a member of the ILC. In 2011, France’s Mathias Forteau got nominated for the ILC at the age of 37.
  • He got his LLB degree from Pune’s ILS Law College, and went on it complete his LLM from the London School of Economics. He also holds a merit rank at University of Pune.
  • Rajput practiced in the Supreme Court of India for six years, focusing on arbitration, public law and commercial litigation.
  • His prime areas of interest being international laws include sources of international law, law of sea, international arbitration, UN law & practice and international trade law (WTO law).

International Law Commission (ILC)

  • The International Law Commission was established by the General Assembly, in 1947, to undertake the mandate of the Assembly, under article 13 (1) (a) of the Charter of the United Nations to “initiate studies and make recommendations for the purpose of encouraging the progressive development of international law and its codification”.
  • The following topics are on the programme of work of the Commission:
    1. Protection of persons in the event of disasters;
    2. Immunity of State officials from foreign criminal jurisdiction;
    3. Subsequent agreements and subsequent practice in relation to the interpretation of treaties;
    4. Provisional application of treaties;
    5. Identification of customary international law;
    6. Protection of the environment in relation to armed conflicts;
    7. Protection of the atmosphere;
    8. Crimes against humanity;

DRDO signs MoU with IIT Delhi to establish JATC

  • Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Indian Institute of Technology(IIT), Delhi to establish a ‘Joint Advanced Technology Centre’ (JATC) .
  • JATC will be located in the campus of IIT Delhi at the upcoming Science and Technology Park (Mini-Science Park ‘MSP’).
  • Secretary, Department of Defence R&D and Chairman DRDO Dr. S Christopher, signed the MoU with the Director IIT Delhi Prof. V Ramgopal Rao.
  • The JATC will enable Directed, Basic & Applied Research and will engage with premier research institutes through multi-institutional collaboration.
  • DRDO scientists and engineers will work with the academic research faculty and scholars in addressing scientific problems to find an innovative solution. DRDO will facilitate towards advanced research to utilize technology outcome in the futuristic applications.
  • The objective for creation of JATC is to undertake and facilitate multi-disciplinary directed basic and applied research in the jointly identified research verticals.
  • The researchers will get the opportunity to work in advanced areas of research namely Advanced Materials for Ballistic Protection, Advanced Mathematical Modelling and Simulation, Advanced Electromagnetic Devices and Terahertz Technologies, Smart & Intelligent Textile Technologies, Brain Computer Interface & Brain Machine Intelligence besides Photonic Technologies, Plasmonics and Quantum Photonics, etc.
  • Faculties and researchers in various Engineering and Science departments of IIT Delhi will participate in the research programme/projects of the Centre. JATC may also involve other premier institutions in the region, based on their research strengths.
  • The focused research efforts at the JATC will help in realization of indigenous technologies the critical areas which will be used for speedy self-reliance.

Indian women’s hockey team clinches maiden Asian Champions Trophy title

  • India beat China 2-1 with a last-gasp goal in the final to emerge winners for the first time in the Women’s Asian Champions Trophy hockey tournament in Singapore on November 5th
  • Deepika Thakur scored the winner in the 60th minute as she slammed home a penalty corner rebound to trigger celebrations in the Indian camp.
  • The first goal for India was scored by Deep Grace Ekka in the 13th minute which was equalised by China’s Zhong Mengling in the 44th minute.
  • With a winning goal in the dying moments of the game, India registered a thrilling 2-1 win over China in the 4th Women’s Asian Champions Trophy hockey tournament .
  • Hockey India (HI) announced a cash prize of Rs 2 lakhs (around $2994) for each player and chief coach Neil Hawgood.
  • Besides this HI also announced Rs 1 lakh (around $1497) for the other support staff of the team. A prize of Rs 1 lakh was announced for Deepika

Asian Hockey Champions Trophy

  • The Asian Hockey Champions Trophy is an event held annually by the Asian Hockey Federation (since 2011). It features the Asian Games top six field hockey teams competing in a round robin format. Pakistan and India are the most successful teams in Asian Hockey Champions Trophy; Pakistan and India have won the trophy twice.
  • India is the defending champion of the Men’s Trophy.
  • They won their second title in 2016 by beating Pakistan 3-2 in the final. India is the defending champion of the Women’s Trophy.

Union Government launches Pradhan mantri surakshit matritva abhiyan:

  • Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyan (PMSMA) was launched by the Union Government.
  • Under this scheme, free health check-ups to pregnant women at government health centres and hospitals will be provided.
  • Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare J P Nadda announced the scheme in New Delhi.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi also addressed the program back in June 2016 during his monthly radio address Mann Ki Baat.

Features of PMSMA

  • To provide healthy life to pregnant women
  • To lower the maternity mortality rate
  • To make pregnant women aware of their health issues and diseases
  • To ensure safe delivery and healthy life of baby
  • The national programme aims to provide pregnant ladies free ante-natal services (ANC) and required treatment for free on 9th of every month
  • The scheme is applicable for all pregnant women. It will provide all kind of medical check up completely to free to pregnant women
  • These check ups will take place at the medical centres , government hospitals , and private hospitals and clinics across the country
  • These free of cost tests will include blood pressure, sugar level, weight, haemoglobin test, blood test and screening.
  • Women will be marked differently using different colour stickers based on their health problems so that doctors can easily detect the problem. Different colour stickers will be Red Sticker for Serious patients, Blue Sticker for High blood pressure and Yellow Sticker for Other diseases.

Indo-Bangla joint military exercise Sampriti-2016 begins in Bangladesh

  • India-Bangladesh defence cooperation, a joint military training exercise ‘Sampriti 2016’ will be conducted at Tangail near Dhaka in Bangladesh from November 5-8.
  • The 14-day (from 05 to 18 November 2016) joint military exercise will be held at Shaheed Salauddin Cantonment in Tangail, Dhaka (Bangladesh’s Capital).

About Sampriti

  • The SAMPRITI 2016 will simulate a scenario where both nations are working together in a Counter Insurgency and Counter Terrorism environment under the UN Charter.
  • The exercise is likely to include counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations army personnel from both countries will also be “familiarised” with each other’s organisational structure and tactical drills.
  • It will culminate with a final validation exercise in which troops of both armies will jointly practice a Counter Terrorist Operation in a controlled and simulated environment.
  • SAMPRITI Exercise is important bilateral defence cooperation between India and Bangladesh.
    Earlier six editions of the exercise were hosted alternately by both countries. The first edition of the exercise in this series was held at Jorhat in Assam in 2010.

AP ranked best state by World Bank in energy efficiency

  • The World Bank has ranked Andhra Pradesh as the best state in the country in implementation of energy efficiency and conservation programmes.
  • With an overall score of 42.01, AP has emerged on top followed by Rajasthan with 41.89, Karnataka 39.34 and Maharashtra 39.29 in Energy Efficiency Readiness, a release from the State Energy Conservation Mission.
  • Kerala, Gujarat, NCT Delhi, Punjab, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh are the other states in the top ten ranking in that order.

How did they achieve

  • Andhra Pradesh achieved an energy saving of 1,500 million units in two years through use of LED lighting.
    The result-oriented approach of AP government in implementing energy efficiency programmes is worth emulating by other states
  • State government has launched a new initiative ‘AP Energy Star’, making it mandatory to procure only five-star rated appliances like air conditioners, refrigerators, ceiling fans and water pump sets in future.
  • The government also proposes to supply such appliances to consumers on instalment basis at lower prices.
    The World Bank has claimed that the index-based evaluation is not only able to benchmark the readiness of Indian States for energy efficiency implementation, but also reveals critical deficits or barriers in this respect.
  • Effective implementation of energy efficiency and energy conservation activities’ of the State, with an assessed achievement of around 650 MW of avoided capacity and about 1500 MU of Annual Energy Savings in a span of two years with adoption of emerging LED technology in domestic and urban street lighting sectors has impressed the World Bank, according to a press statement issued by the Andhra Pradesh Bhavan.

Food Security Act implemented

  • The National Food Security Act (NFSA), which envisages supply of subsidised food grains, has been implemented across the country.
  • Kerala and Tamil Nadu have also rolled out the NFSA from November. With this, now the Act has been implemented in all the States and Union Territories.
  • At the current coverage, the monthly allocation of foodgrains to States and UTs under the Act is about 45.5 lakh tonnes, with a subsidy implication of about Rs. 11,726 crore per month or about Rs.1,40,700 crore per year.
  • As a result, 81.34 crore persons will get wheat at Rs. 2 per kg and rice at Rs. 3 per kg Now Union Government will focus on further reforms in the public distribution system (PDS) including end to end computerization in order to check leakages and diversion of food-grains.

About national food security act 2003

  • The National Food Security Act, 2013 (also Right to Food Act) is an Act of the Parliament of India which aims to provide subsidized food grains to approximately two thirds of India’s 1.2 billion people.
  • It was signed into law on 12 September 2013, retroactive to 5 July 2013.
  • The National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA 2013) converts into legal entitlements for existing food security programmes of the Government of India. It includes the Midday Meal Scheme, Integrated Child Development Services scheme and the Public Distribution System. Further, the NFSA 2013 recognizes maternity entitlements.
  • The Midday Meal Scheme and the Integrated Child Development Services Scheme are universal in nature whereas the PDS will reach about two-thirds of the population (75% in rural areas and 50% in urban areas).
  • Under the provisions of the bill, beneficiaries of the Public Distribution System (or, PDS) are entitled to 5 kilograms (11 lb) per person per month of cereals at the following prices: Rice at ₹3, Wheat at ₹2, Coarse grains (millet) at ₹1
  • Pregnant women, lactating mothers, and certain categories of children are eligible for daily free cereals

First Titanium project begins test production in Odisha:

  • The first titanium project of India being established by Saraf Group in Ganjam district of Odisha started its test production.
  • One of its four furnaces became functional for test run.director of Saraf Titanium Industry, A. R. Mehta said this titanium plant, which is first of its kind and the only one in the country would be ready for inauguration in next few months. After inception this plant is expected to produce 36,000 tons of titanium slag and 20,000 tons of pig iron per year.
  • In the first phase, Saraf group has invested 350 crore rupees in this titanium project, which will produce titanium slag.
  • Its raw material, ilmenite would be procured from Odisha Sands Complex (OSCOM), a unit of Indian Rare Earths Limited (IREL) in Ganjam district of Odisha as well as a private company which has its unit in Srikakulam of adjoining Andhra Pradesh.
  • The company has decided provide appointment to around 210 persons of land loser families.
  • Three hundred and sixty-five families who lost their land for the project have also been provided proper compensation.
  • For this project 200 acres of private land and 34 acres of government land had been acquired.
    Its expected to export around 75 per cent of its produce to countries like China, Japan. Its produce would also be used within country in ship making, aeronautics, automobile and defence products manufacturing industries.
  • This titanium project of Saraf Group is coming up near Gopalpur port and the proposed SEZ of Tata Steel in the region. This titanium industry would use ilmenite produced by Odisha Sands Complex (OSCOM) of Indian Rare Earths Ltd (IREL) located in the same area to produce titanium.

Anti-dumping duty imposed on certain Chinese steel products:

  • The Centre has imposed antidumping duty on imports of steel wire 4.76 % rods from China to protect domestic manufacturers from cheap in-bound shipments.
  • Anti-dumping duty is being imposed for six months on import of wire road of alloy or non-alloy steel from China.
  • The effective duty rate would be calculated after deducting the value of the goods and the anti-dumping duty payable when the import price is below USD 504 per tonne, said a Revenue Department notification.
  • The duty arrived at would be 10 per cent in the first year and will gradually reduce to 6 per cent by 2019
  • A 10 per cent ad valorem minus anti-dumping duty payable will be imposed on imports up to November 22, 2017. This will be lowered to 8 per cent between November 23, 2017 and November 22, 2018.
  • Six per cent ad valorem minus anti-dumping duty payable, if any, (will be imposed) when imported during the period from November 23, 2018 to May 22, 2019 (both days inclusive) at an import price below USD 504 per ton on CIF basis
  • An anti-dumping duty equivalent to the difference between the landed value of steel products and USD 499 per tonne will be imposed on products exported by Minmetals Yingkou Medium Plate Co Ltd.
  • In case of other producers, the anti-dumping duty would be the difference between the landed value and USD 538 per tonne
  • The ‘landed value’ of imports was defined as the assessable value as determined by the customs and includes all duties of customs
  • India previously slapped anti-dumping duty on certain cold-rolled flat steel products from four nations, including China and South Korea.
  • Anti-dumping measures are taken to ensure fair trade and provide a level-playing field to the domestic industry. They are not a measure to restrict imports or cause an unjustified increase in cost of products.

The Director General (Safeguard), in his final findings on August 2, 2016, “had come to the conclusion that increased imports of subject goods into India has caused and threatened to cause serious injury to the domestic producers of subject goods, thereby necessitating the imposition of safeguard duty on imports of the subject goods into India.

PM Narendra Modi launches ‘Saur Sujala Yojana’ in Chhattisgarh:

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday launched the Saur Sujala Yojana in Chhattisgarh that would provide solar powered irrigation pumps to farmers at a subsidized price.
  • Chhattisgarh would be the first state to implement the scheme. “The Centre is taking all necessary measures to promote farmers, villager and poor people,” Modi said while launching the scheme at Chhattisgarh’s foundation day function in Naya Raipur.
  • Besides, he will also dedicate the state’s first man-made jungle safari and Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) at Naya Raipur.

Key Facts:

  • Under the scheme, solar powered irrigation pumps of 3HP and 5HP capacity worth Rs 3.5 lakh and Rs 4.5 lakh respectively would be distributed to the farmers by March 31, 2019.
  • The beneficiaries would get the pumps at the subsidised price.
  • 51,000 farmers would be benefitted in the state with the launch of the scheme in next two years.
  • The scheme will be given priority in those areas where electricity connection has not reached yet
  • The five-day ‘Chhattisgarh Rajyotsav’ – the statehood celebrations- will be held at the sprawling Rajyotsav Sthal at Naya Raipur, the upcoming new capital of Chhattisgarh.