WBCS Current Affairs 18th November to 24th November 2017
1) The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved expansion of Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) Yojana for a pan India coverage from 2017-18 to 2019-20. It expansion has proposed outlay of Rs.1132.5 crore. It will cover all the 640 districts (as per census 2011) of the country to have a deeper positive impact on Child Sex Ratio (CSR). Currently the scheme is being implemented in select 161 districts have low CSR. Expansion of BBBP: The expansion of scheme was approved based on its successful implementation in 161 districts. The expansion includes multi sectoral intervention in 244 districts in addition to existing 161 districts. 235 districts will be covered through alert district media, advocacy and outreach, thus covering all 640 districts of the country. Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP): The scheme was launched by Prime Minister in January 2015 at Panipat, Haryana as comprehensive programme to address declining Child Sex Ratio (CSR) and related issues of empowerment of women over life-cycle continuum. The scheme is being implemented as a tri-ministerial, convergent effort of Union Ministries of Women and Child Development (WCD), Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW) and Human Resource Development (HRD). The Union Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) is nodal ministry for programme at the central level. The focus of BBBP is on awareness and advocacy campaign, multi-sectoral action enabling girls’ education and effective enforcement of Pre-Conception & Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PC&PNDT) Act. The specific objectives of the scheme are preventing gender biased sex selective elimination, ensuring survival and protection of the girl child and ensuring education and participation of the girl child. Performance of BBBP: As per the latest reports of MoHFW, there is improving trend in Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB) in 104 districts of the total 161 BBBP districts in the time period between April-March 2015-16 & 2016-17. 119 districts have reported progress in first trimester registration against the reported Anti Natal Care registrations. 146 districts have reported improvement in institutional deliveries.
2) The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) approved ‘Pradhan Mantri Mahila Shakti Kendra’ scheme for a period 2017-18 to 2019-20. The scheme is part of Umbrella Scheme “Mission for Protection and Empowerment for Women” of the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development. It aims at empowering rural women through community participation to create an environment in which they realise their full potential. Pradhan Mantri Mahila Shakti Kendra Scheme (PMMSK): PMMSK scheme is envisioned as one-stop convergence support service for empowering rural women with opportunities for skill development, digital literacy, health and nutrition and employment. It aims to improve declining child sex ratio (CSR), ensure survival and protection of the girl child, ensuring her education and empowering her to fulfil her potential. It will provide an interface for rural women to approach government for getting their entitlements and for empowering them through training and capacity building. Through this scheme, government plans to reach 115 most backward districts in the country with 920 Mahila Shakti Kendra. The government plans to reach the 115 most backward districts in the country with 920 Mahila Shakti Kendra. At national level, Mahila Shakti Kendra will provide domain-based knowledge support while at state level, it will cater to State Resource Centre for Women that will provide technical support on issues related to women at district and block level centres. It will provide support to PMMSK and also give foothold to Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao in 640 districts.
3) Government will soon initiate a comprehensive ‘safe city’ plan for women in eight cities for women in eight metropolitan cities of the country. It will be implemented in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Lucknow, Bengaluru and Hyderabad. Decision in this regard was taken Steering Committee meeting under chairmanship of Union Home Secretary. Steering committee meeting: Municipal Commissioners, Police Commissioners, senior state government officials and civil society representatives attended steering committee meeting. Besides, representatives of Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways also participated. Plan of action: The Safe city plan will serve as robust emergency response system and provides police-verified public transport will come into place. In the meeting, it was decided that police and municipal corporations of these metropolitan cities will frame plan of action. The plan will be forwarded by respective State Level Committee headed by Chief Secretary of the state. Later it will be then assessed by Steering Committee headed by Home Secretary, which will make suitable recommendations. Highlights of meeting: The meeting undertook comprehensive review to gaugue progress and examine steps taken by police and civil administration for women’s safety in the cities. It discussed issues such as 33% reservation for women in police, installation of CCTV cameras, deployment of women in police stations, infrastructure issues, prevention of cybercrime, mapping of dark spots and crime-prone locations and involvement of educational institutions, among others. It also discussed initiatives under taken by these cities. It included ‘Himmat’ app, all women patrol van, ‘shishtachar’ programme of the Delhi police; ‘Suraksha’ app of the Bengaluru police, ‘Hawkeye’ mobile app and ‘Bharosa’ programme of the Hyderabad police and Power Angels of Uttar Pradesh police.
4) Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the fifth edition of Global Conference on Cyber Space (GCCS) in New Delhi. GCCS is one of world’s largest conferences on cyber space. It is for first time organized in India. The theme of the two-day conference is “Cyber4All: A Secure and Inclusive Cyberspace for Sustainable Development”. Key Facts: The National e-Governance Division (NeGD), under the Ministry of Electronics & IT (MeitY) is main agency to organize GCCS 2017 on behalf of Government of India. Representatives from 124 countries and 33 Ministerial delegates from 31 countries are attending GCCS 2017. It is also expected to attract over 2000 delegates from more than 100 countries. Besides that, industry, civil society and academia from various countries will also participate. Objectives of GCCS 2017 are to promote importance of inclusiveness and human rights in global cyber policy, defend the status quo of open, interoperable and unregimented cyberspace, create political commitment for capacity building initiatives to address digital divide and assist countries, and develop security solutions in balanced fashion that duly acknowledge importance of the private sector and technical community. Global Conference on Cyber Space (GCCS): It is prestigious global event where international leaders, policymakers, industry experts, think tanks, cyber wizards etc gather to deliberate on issues and challenges for optimally using cyber space. It was launched to establish internationally agreed rules of road for behavior in cyberspace and create more focused and inclusive dialogue between all those with stake in internet (governments, civil society and industry). The first edition of GCCS was held in London in 2011. Later it was held in Budapest (2012), Seoul (2013), The Hague (2015).
5) The Union Cabinet has approved continuation of scheme on Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs (IICA) for another three financial years (FYs 2017-18 to 2019-20). This decision will make IICA self-sustainable by the end of FY 2019-20. Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs (IICA): IICA is an agency under the aegis and jurisdiction of Ministry of Corporate Affairs. It handles and deal with various subjects, matters and affairs of corporate affairs regulation, governance and policy. It was established in 2008 at Manesar, Gurgaon (Haryana). IICA works and operates to deliver as well as create avenues and opportunities for research, education, training and advocacy. It is first institution in India to be formally set up as ‘think-tank’ for major Ministry of Government. It offers services to stakeholders in field of corporate laws, corporate governance, CSR, accounting standards, investor education, etc. It conducts training programs, research activities and projects in partnership with public and private sector in niche areas of Corporate Governance. National Foundation for Corporate Social Responsibility (NFCSR) at IICA is responsible for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives. NFCSR conducts various activities in partnership with Corporates in field of CSR, oriented towards social inclusion.
6) Union Cabinet has proposal to promulgate an ordinance under Article 123 of Constitution to make certain amendments in the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC). The ordinance is likely to be tabled during winter session of Parliament with view to getting its approval soon. The President’s nod for the ordinance is expected shortly. Key Facts: The amendments seeks to strengthen IBC by explicitly preventing certain persons — including wilful defaulters, those who have indulged in fraudulent transactions, disqualified directors as well as promoters whose account is classified as non-performing assets (NPA) beyond prescribed duration from regaining control of defaulting company through backdoor in the garb of a resolution applicant. These amendments were proposed because in initial phase of Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process (CIRP) under IBC, a number of cases are likely to have long pending default requiring deep haircut for the creditors. This decision also after Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) amended its CIRP Regulations to ensure that as part of due diligence, prior to approval of a ‘Resolution Plan’, the antecedents, credit worthiness and credibility of Resolution Applicant, including promoters, are taken into account by Committee of Creditors (CoC). Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC): The IBC provides for market-determined and time-bound insolvency resolution process. It provides for effective and robust legal framework for time-bound insolvency resolution to release assets locked up in NPA and promote maximisation of value of assets, failing which, under-utilised resources of unviable business are released through liquidation.
7) The Union Cabinet approved signing and ratifying of Agreement between India and Philippines on co-operation and mutual assistance in customs matters. The agreement will help in availability of relevant information for prevention and investigation of Customs offences. The Agreement is also expected to facilitate trade and ensure efficient clearance of goods traded between countries. It will enter into force after necessary national legal requirements have been fulfilled by both countries. Key Facts: The Agreement will provide legal framework for sharing of information and intelligence between Customs authorities of two countries. It would help in proper application of Customs laws, prevention and investigation of Customs offences and facilitation of legitimate trade. The Agreement has been finalized with concurrence of two Customs Administrations. It takes care of Indian Customs’ concerns and requirements, particularly in area of exchange of information on correctness of Customs value declared and authenticity of certificates of origin of goods traded between two countries.
8) The Union Cabinet approved revision in salaries, gratuity, allowances, pension etc. of Judges of Supreme Court and High Courts and retired Judges of Supreme Court and High Courts. The decision follows implementation of recommendations of 7th Central Pay Commission in respect of Civil Servants. Key Facts: The increase in salary and allowances will benefit 31 Judges of Supreme Court (including the CJI) and 1079 Judges (including the Chief Justices) of High Courts. Besides, it will also benefit approximately 2500 retired Judges. The approval will pave way for necessary amendments in two laws viz. Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Act, 1958 and High Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Act, 1954, which govern the salaries of CJI, Judges of Supreme Court, Chief Justices and all Judges of High Courts. Government has proposed to introduce Bill in Parliament in ensuing Session for amendment in these relevant Acts for giving effect to the revision of salaries and allowances. Background: Supreme Court judge at present gets Rs 1.5 lakh a month in hand after all deductions from salary and allowances. The CJI gets a higher amount than this while judges of High Courts get lesser amount. Moreover, these judges are provided with rent-free accommodation while they are in service. After the recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission, the matter of pay hike was taken in consideration by the government.
9) The world’s fastest supersonic cruise missile BrahMos was successfully test fired from Indian Air Force’s (IAF) Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jet for the first time. The missile was gravity dropped from Su-30MKI from its fuselage and two-stage missile’s engine fired up and was propelled towards the intended target in Bay of Bengal. Significance: It was for first time that missile was successfully tested from fighter aircraft against sea-based target. It makes IAF first air force in world to have successfully fire air-launched 2.8 Mach surface attack missile of this category. This test effectively gives Indian armed forces especially IAF ability to fire Brahmos Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM). With this, India also created world record and completed Supersonic Cruise Missile Triad by successfully test firing of Brahmos from IAF Sukhoi-30MKI fighter aircraft. BrahMos cruise missile: The Brahmos is supersonic cruise missile developed by joint-venture between Russia’s Mashinostroyenia and India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). It operates on ‘fire and forget principal’ and is capable of being launched from land, sea, sub-sea and air against sea and land targets. It is capable of carrying warhead of 300 kilogram (both conventional as well as nuclear) and has top supersonic speed of Mach 2.8 to 3 (roughly three times speed of sound). It is two-stage missile, the first one being solid and the second one ramjet liquid propellant. It is hailed as the world’s fastest anti-ship cruise missile in operation. Its range was extended 600-km plus and capability to strike the targets with pinpoint accuracy after India became member of Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in 2016. The Indian Navy and Army already operate different variants of Brahmos missile.
10) The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved setting up of 15th Finance Commission (FC). It is a constitutional obligation to set up FC under Article 280 (1) of the Constitution. The Terms of Reference for 15th FC will be notified in due course of time. In terms of constitutional provisions, setting up 15th FC, its recommendations will cover five years commencing on April 1, 2020. Constitutional Provisions: Article 280(1) of Constitution lays down that FC should be constituted within two years from commencement of Constitution. Thereafter at expiration of every fifth year or at such earlier time as President considers necessary. In keeping with this requirement, practice has generally been to set up next FC within five years of date of setting up of the previous Finance Commission. 14 Finance Commissions have been constituted in the past. 14th Finance Commission: The 14thFinance Commission was set up in January 2013 to make recommendations covering period of five years commencing on April, 2015 to March 2020. It was headed by former RBI Governor YV Reddy. The Commission had submitted its report in December, 2014. The recommendations of 14th FC are valid upto the financial year 2019-20. It had recommended of enhanced devolution — 42% as against 32% — of the taxes from divisible pool to the states. Finance Commission: Article 280 of the Constitution of India provides for FC as a quasi-judicial body. It is constituted by the President of India every fifth year. It consists of a chairman and four other members to be appointed by the president. The recommendations made by FC are only advisory in nature and hence, are not binding on the government. It makes recommendations about the following to the President of India: Distribution of net proceeds of taxes between centre and states and allocation between states of respective shares of such proceeds. Principles that should govern grants in aid to states by centre. Measures needed to augment consolidated fund of states to supplement resources of local governments in states on basis of recommendations made by State Finance Commissions. Any other method referred to it by President in interests of sound finance.
11) The Union Finance Ministry has constituted task force to review Income Tax (IT) Act 1961 and draft new direct tax law in consonance with current economic needs. CBDT member Arbind Modi will be convener of task force. Chief Economic Adviser Dr. Arvind Subramanian will be its permanent Special Invitee. Terms of Reference of Task Force: Taskforce main mandate is to draft appropriate Direct Tax Legislation keeping in view direct tax system prevalent in various countries, international best practices. It will also take into consideration, economic needs of country and any other matter connected thereto. Background: During 2017 Rajaswa Gyan Sangam held in September, 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had observed that IT Act, 1961 was drafted more than 50 years ago and it needs to be re-drafted. Rajaswa Gyan Sangam is an annual conference of senior tax administrators to enable two-way communication between policy-makers and senior officers in field offices with view to increase revenue collection and facilitate effective implementation of law and policies in key result areas.
12) The Union Cabinet has approved India’s Membership for European Bank for Reconstruction & Development (EBRD). Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance will take necessary steps to acquire the membership of the EBRD. Significance: The membership of EBRD will enhance India’s international profile and promote its economic interests. It will give India access to EBRD’s Countries of Operation and sector knowledge. Moreover, it will boost India’s investment opportunities and also improve investment climate in country. The membership of EBRD will help to increase scope of cooperation between India and EBRD through co-financing opportunities in manufacturing, services, energy and Information Technology. It will also help India leverage technical assistance and sectorial knowledge of EBRD for benefit of development of private sector. The membership of EBRD will also enhance competitive strength of Indian firms and provide enhanced access to international markets in terms of business opportunities, procurement activities, consultancy assignments etc. It will open up new vistas for Indian professionals on one hand and give fillip to Indian exports on other. It will also have positive impact on employment generating potential due to increased economic activities. It will also enable Indian nationals to get employment opportunity in EBRD. Background: Government has decided to expand its presence on the global developmental landscape beyond its association with the Multi-lateral Development Banks (MDBs) owing to country’s impressive economic growth over years and enhanced international political profile. So far, India is member of World Bank, Asian Development Bank and African Development Bank. It has also joined Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and New Development Bank (NDB).
13) The Union Cabinet has approved signing an Agreement on Cooperation between India and Russia in field of combating all forms of terrorism and organized crime. The agreement is proposed to be signed during upcoming visit of Indian Delegation led by Home Minister Rajnath Singh to Russia in November, 2017. Key Facts: The proposed Agreement, which will replace previous agreement, signed in October 1993. It is considered as step towards consolidating benefits accrued in field of security and seeks to jointly fight new and evolving risks and threats. The Agreement will reinforce relationship between India and Russia through exchange and sharing of information, expertise, best practices and will help in curbing terrorism and enhancing, security in region. Background: India and Russia have long history of close cooperation in international fora on matters of mutual interest. It has become imperative for countries to work together to combat all forms of terrorism as there is rise in terrorism and organized crime across the world.
14) The first ever North East Development Summit (NEDS) 2017 was held in Imphal, Manipur. It was inaugurated by President of India Ram Nath Kovind. It was organised by Delhi-based think tank India Foundation in collaboration with Union Government and Manipur government. Key Facts: NEDS 2017 aims to boost trade and investment in underdeveloped region of North East. It also aimed at building confidence and altering perception among visiting delegates and investors. Various international finance agencies laid down their plan for development in the region. Key Focus Areas of NEDS 2017 were Trade and Investment, Connectivity and Infrastructure Development, Tourism Development in North-East India, Skill Development, Capacity Building and Entrepreneurship.
15) The annual Sangai Festival was celebrated in the northeastern state of Manipur. It is grandest festival of the state to promote Manipur as a world class tourism destination. The festival showcases tourism potential of Manipur in field of arts & culture, handloom, handicrafts, indigenous sports, cuisine, music and adventure sports of the state etc. Key Facts: The focus areas of the festival will reflect Manipur’s proud cultural heritage and love for art which is inherent amongst various tribes inhabiting state. ‘Ras Leela’, state’s classical dance form along with various other folk dance performances like Bamboo dance, Maibi dance, Kabui Naga dance, Lai Haraoba dance, Khamba Thoibi dance etc. which will be showcased at the festival. Indigenous sports such as martial arts- Thang Ta (a combination Spear and Sword skills), Mukna Kangjei (game that combines hockey and wrestling), Yubi-Lakpi (game played with greased coconut like rugby) and Sagol Kangjei- Modern Polo (believed to have evolved in Manipur) will be also showcased festival. Background: The festival is named after state animal, Sangai, the critically endangered brow-antlered deer found only in Manipur’s Keibul Lamjao National Park, only floating national park in the world. It was started in 2010 and has grown over years into big platform for Manipur to showcase its rich tradition and culture to the world.
16) India ranked 51st among 63 countries on the IMD Talent Rankings in terms of ability to attract, develop and retain talent. In previous rankings, India was ranked 54th. The annual IMD World Talent Ranking covers 63 countries and assessed methods countries adopted to attract and retain talent. The rankings of countries are based on their performance in three main categories — investment and development, appeal, and readiness. Highlights of IMD Talent Rankings: Switzerland topped list followed by Denmark, Belgium, Austria, Finland, Netherlands, Norway, Germany, Sweden and Luxembourg in top 10. Globally, Europe continues to dominate rankings being most competitive countries. Leading Asian economies in rankings are Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan. They have cemented their global status as hubs of attracting and retaining highly-skilled workers though they trail Europe in this regard. Among BRICS bloc, China was in lead with ranking of 40, followed by Russia (43) and South Africa (48). Brazil was ranked 52nd just after India. India Related Facts: India was ranked 62nd (on investment and development), 43rd (appeal) and 29th (readiness) in three main categories. India is not doing good job at retaining local talent and attracting foreign labour. On both fronts, remuneration levels, quality of life, security and property rights are deterrent to domestic employment. Furthermore, relative to other economies, investment in education is still weak. India ranks among the bottom five countries on list in terms of investment in education as percentage of GDP. India needs to emphasise education system as key to prosperity. It also needs to prevent brain drain by providing better opportunities to local talent. India has potential to thrive in age of digital economy. Its labour growth provides necessary domestic talent pool. India has performed well on parameters such as science in schools, availability of finance skills and knowledgeable senior managers. But it still needs to invest in all levels of education and job related competence mastering.
17) The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) successfully tested supersonic landing parachute that will be deployed in its Mars rover mission set to launch in 2020. The mission will rely on special parachute to slow spacecraft down as it enters Martian atmosphere at over 5.4 kilometres per second. It was first of several tests in support of NASA’s Mars 2020 mission. Key Facts: The Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiment (ASPIRE), mission’s parachute-testing series was launched on 17.7-metre-tall Black Brant IX sounding rocket for evaluation of ASPIRE payload performance. The payload was bullet-nosed, cylindrical structure holding supersonic parachute along with parachute’s deployment mechanism, and test’s high-definition instrumentation including cameras to record data. This payload was carried as high as about 51 km and was successfully deployed from altitude of 42 km and at velocity of 1.8 times speed of sound. Thirty-five minutes after launch, ASPIRE splashed down in Atlantic Ocean about 54 km southeast of Wallops Island. The next ASPIRE test is planned for February 2018. The Mars 2020 team will use data from these tests to finalize design for its mission. Mars 2020 mission: NASA’s Mars 2020 mission will seek signs of ancient Martian life by deploying rover for investigating evidence in place and by caching drilled samples of Martian rocks for potential future return to Earth. It will carry out search by conducting drills for core samples that may contain proof of microbial life from the past. The rover will also examine different methods to create oxygen from Mar’s atmosphere.
18) The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare observed Vasectomy Fortnight to raise awareness about male sterilisation and to promote the participation of men in family planning. Under this awareness campaign, all states and union territories observed Vasectomy Fortnight by providing quality of male sterilisation services at public health facilities. Key Facts: The Vasectomy fortnight will be observed up to block level with focus on family planning service delivery along with information, education, communication and advocacy. The theme for this is “Zimmedar Purush ki yehi hai Pehchan, Parivar Niyojan mein jo de Yogdaan”. During the event, various myths about use of contraceptives by men will be dispelled. Through such initiative, government aims to achieve ‘replacement level fertility’ of 2.1 (presently it is 2.3). It will also be step in direction of fulfilling objectives of National population policy. Vasectomy: Vasectomy is form of birth control for men where health care provider closes or blocks tubes that carry sperm. When these tubes are closed, sperm cannot leave man’s body and prevents pregnancy. It is meant to be permanent. Medically and financially it is more viable compared to female sterilization.
19) The Union Finance Ministry has granted Infrastructure Status to Logistics sector. Logistics Infrastructure was included by insertion of new item in renamed category of ‘Transport and Logistics’.The inclusion of “Logistics Sector” in the Harmonized Master List of Infrastructure Sub-sectors was considered in the 14th Institutional Mechanism (IM) Meeting chaired by Finance Minister. The proposal was mooted by the Commerce Ministry and was approved by finance ministry. Logistics Infrastructure means and includes: Multi-modal Logistics Park comprising Inland Container Depot (ICD): Minimum investment of Rs. 50 crore and minimum area of 10 acre. Cold Chain Facility: Minimum investment of Rs.15 crore and minimum area of 20,000 sq. ft. Warehousing Facility: Minimum investment of Rs. 25 crore and minimum area of 1 lakh sq ft. Significance: Coming under infrastructure category will help logistics sector to get credit at competitive rates and on long-term basis with enhanced limits. It will also give access to larger amounts of funds as external commercial borrowings (ECB), longer tenor funds from insurance companies and pension funds. Besides, logistics sector will be also eligible to borrow from India Infrastructure Financing Company (IIFC). It can also put logistics sector on steady growth path and its benefits could spill over to other sectors such as food processing that use logistics services in a big way. Need: The need for integrated Logistics sector development was felt in view of fact that logistics cost in India is very high compared to developed countries. High logistics cost reduces the competitiveness of Indian goods both in domestic as well as export market. In 2017, India’s logistics performance had improved from 54th rank to 35th under World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index (LPI). The government also expects Indian logistics sector to grow to $360 billion by 2032 from current $115 billion. The development of logistics will give boost to both domestic and external demand, thereby encouraging manufacturing and ‘job creation’. This will in turn be instrumental in improving country’s GDP.
20) The first India-Myanmar Bilateral Military Exercise 2017 (IMBAX 2017) was held at Joint Warfare Centre at the Umroi Joint Training Node in Meghalaya. It is first of its kind military training exercise between India and Myanmar on United Nations Peacekeeping Operations (UNPKO). It was conducted by Army’s RED HORNS DIVISION under aegis of GAJRAJ CORPS. Key Facts: The six-day training exercise aimed at building and promoting closer relations with armies of the neighbouring countries. It also aims to train officers of Myanmar Army in various United Nations Peacekeeping roles and tasks. Its focus was on training the Myanmar army delegation on tactics, expertise, procedures and methodology required by contingent of member nations for serving in UNPKO. The exercise includes participation of 15 officers from Myanmar army and 16 officers from Indian army. Significance: The Indo-Myanmar joint Army Exercise is positive step in bilateral relations between two neighbouring nations. Such exercises in future will not only enable mutual capacity enhancement, but will assist in building strong bonds of friendship and cooperation between India and Myanmar.
21) India’s nominee to International Court of Justice (ICJ) Dalveer Bhandari (70) was re-elected to fifth and the last seat of world court. Bhandari received 183-193 votes in United Nations General Assembly and secured all 15 votes in UN Security Council (UNSC). He was elected after Britain withdrew its candidate from the election. This is the first time since the ICJ was established in 1945 that there will be no British judge in ICJ. Bhandari is fourth Indian judge to be elected to ICJ after B.N. Rau, Nagendra Singh and RS Pathak. Who is Dalveer Bhandari? Justice Bhandari was born on October 1, 1947. He comes from a family of lawyers. He had studied humanities and law from Jodhpur University and practiced law at Rajasthan High Court between 1968 and 1970. After successful career of 23 years as practising lawyer, he was appointed judge in Delhi High Court in 1991. He was then appointed Chief Justice of Bombay High Court. In October 2005, he was elevated to Supreme Court as judge. After an illustrious term at apex court of India, he was sworn in as member of ICJ in June 2012. In 2014, He was conferred with Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award in India. Bhandari has served as an Executive Member of International Law Association, India Chapter, since 1994. He was also elected President of India International Law Foundation in 2007 and holds position still. International Court of Justice (ICJ): ICJ is principal judicial body of UN. It was established in 1945 via UN Charter and its jurisdiction is worldwide. It is located in “The Hague” in Netherlands and has 193 state parties. Current President is Ronny Abraham. The major functions of ICJ are to settle legal disputes submitted to it by states and to provide advisory opinions on legal questions submitted to it by duly authorized international organs, agencies, and UN General Assembly. ICJ is composed of 15 judges elected to nine-year terms of office by UNGA and UN Security Council. These organs vote simultaneously but separately. In order to be elected, a candidate must receive absolute majority of votes in both bodies. In order to ensure measure of continuity, one third of ICJ is elected every three years. Judges are eligible for re-election. President and Vice-President are also elected by the court, but for three-year periods.
22) The Hyderabad based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in association with Indian Institute of Rice Research (IIRR) has developed Improved Samba Masuri (ISM) variety rice with low Glycemic Index (GI). Rice with low GI is considered suitable for people with diabetics. Consumption of food with low GI results in slow release of glucose into the bloodstream reducing the ill-effects of diabetes. Improved Samba Masuri (ISM): ISM has lowest GI of 50.99 against the normal 53 to 70 in several rice varieties. It also has shown better yield and fine grain type, enhancing its market potential and profit for farmers. It is also resistant to bacteria blight. The molecular breeding of ISM was done in CCMB and traditional rice breeding at the rice research institute. The new variety is not a transgenic one, thus improving yield of up to 40%. The ISM has been grown in 1.3 lakh hectares in 7 states including Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
23) Government has signed four MoUs under Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY) Scheme with Nagaland and UTs of Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Dadra & Nagar Haveli & Daman & Diu for operational improvements. With this, 27 States and 4 UTs have joined UDAY till date. These State/UTs have joined only for operational improvement and shall not undergo financial restructuring and issue of bonds under the scheme. These MoUs will pave way for improving operational efficiency of Electricity Departments or DISCOM of these State/UTs. Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY): UDAY Scheme was launched by Union Power Ministry for financial turnaround and revival package for state electricity distribution companies (DISCOMs). It aimed to help to make discoms financially and operationally healthy so they can supply adequate power at affordable rates. The scheme is optional for the states to join. Under it, state governments were to take over up to 75% of their respective discoms’ debt by issuing sovereign bonds to pay back the lenders. Remaining 25% of debt will be issued by discoms in the form of bonds. UDAY envisages to have a permanent solution for past as well as potential future issues of power sector such as reducing interest burden ondiscoms by allowing states to take over the bulk of their debt, reduce the cost of power, increase operational efficiencies of discoms by providing capital and infrastructure like coal linkages and reduce in AT&C and transmission losses.
24) China has announced that Bangladesh and Myanmar have accepted its mediatory role and agreed to implement three-phased solution proposed by its Foreign Minister Wang Yi to resolve Rohingya refugee crisis. The three-phased solution was proposed after Wang Yi met separately with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Myanmar’s top leaders. Three- stage solution: First stage: Myanmar should impose ceasefire and stop persecuted Rohingyas from fleeing into Bangladesh. Second stage: Bangladesh and Myanmar should strengthen exchanges and find solution on basis of equality. Third stage: International community to help develop the backward Rakhine state and poverty alleviation of Rohingyas in Myanmar. Background: Over 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar’s violence hit Rakhine state to neighbouring Bangladesh since August when the military intensified crackdown against alleged militant outfits of Rohingya Muslim. China is positioning itself as mediator in dispute between Bangladesh and Myanmar over the Rohingya refugee crisis. Rohingya: Rohingya is ethnic Muslim minority group, largely comprising Muslims living primarily in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state. They practice Sufi-inflected variation of Sunni Islam. They differ from Myanmar’s dominant Buddhist groups religiously, ethnically and linguistically. They speak Bengali dialect, as opposed to commonly spoken Burmese language in Myanmar. Myanmar considers Rohingya’s as illegal Bengali immigrants, despite fact that they have resided in Rakhine province for centuries. Myanmar government refuses to grant them citizenship status, and as result they do not have any legal documentation, effectively making them stateless. They are also restricted from freedom of movement, state education and civil service jobs. UN has often described Rohingyas as one of most persecuted minorities in world.
25) The World Fisheries day is celebrated every year on November 21 throughout world by fisherfolk communities to highlight critical importance to human lives, of water and lives it sustains, both in and out of water. Water forms a continuum, whether contained in rivers, lakes, and ocean. Fish forms an important part of diets of people around world, particularly those living near rivers, coasts and other water bodies. A number of traditional societies and communities are rallied around occupation of fishing. In India, Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries, Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare is celebrating the day. This years theme is 2022 Ka Hai Sapna Kisan Ki Aay Ho Dugna – Sankalp Se Siddhi”. Challenges: Due to close proximity of living habitats across water bodies, it has led to severe ocean and coastal pollution from run-off and from domestic and industrial activities carried out near-by. It has led to depletion of fish stocks in immediate vicinity, requiring fishermen to fish farther and farther away from their traditional grounds. Besides, overfishing and mechanization has also resulted in a crisis. Fish sticks have depleted through ‘factory’ vessels, bottom trawling, and other means of unsustainable fishing methods. Recent, United Nations study had reported that more than two-thirds of world’s fisheries have been overfished or are fully harvested. It also reported that more than one third fisheries are in state of decline because of factors such as the loss of essential fish habitats, pollution, and global warming. The World Fisheries Day helps to highlight these problems and moves towards finding solutions to increasingly inter-connected problems and in the longer term, to sustainable means of maintaining fish stocks.
26) The Union Government has signed a guarantee agreement for IBRD/CTF loan of US $98 million and Grant Agreement for US $2 million for Shared Infrastructure for Solar Parks Project with World Bank. The objective Shared Infrastructure for Solar Parks Project is to increase solar generation capacity through establishment of large-scale parks in the country. Shared Infrastructure for Solar Parks Project: The project consists of two components viz. (i) Shared Infrastructure for Solar Parks and (ii) Technical Assistance. It will help to establish large-scale solar parks and support government’s plan to install 100 Gigawatts (GW) of solar power out of total renewable-energy target of 175 GW by 2022. World Bank: World Bank is one of five institutions created at Breton Woods Conference in 1944. It is part of the United Nations system, but its governance structure is different. Its headquarter are situated at Washington DC, US. World Bank provides loans to developing countries for capital programmes. It comprises only two institutions viz. International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and International Development Association (IDA). In contrast, World Bank Group comprises three more viz. International Finance Corporation (IFC), Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), and International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).
27) The 42nd World Congress of the International Committee of Military Medicine (ICMM) was held in New Delhi. It was organised by Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS), Ministry of Defence (MoD). The theme of this edition of World Congress is “Military Medicine in Transition: Looking Ahead.” The five-day event was being organised for the first time in India. It was the largest medical conference ever organised by AFMS. It was attended by around 350-400 foreign delegates from 80 countries. International Committee of Military Medicine (ICMM): The ICMM is international inter-governmental organisation established in 1921 after World War I to strengthen cooperation between the health services of the armed forces worldwide. Its secretariat is at Brussels, Belgium and currently has 112 nations as members. ICMM’s main objective is to ensure that medical services personnel have means to work together, using similar practices, in operations involving international cooperation. It works towards achieving this by encouraging activities at which scientific and technical experience is shared, by developing contacts with scientific community, by promoting regional events. This enables it to pool resources and work experience of military medicine, both in theatre of operations and in support role in case of crisis situations.
28) The UNFCCC Climate Change Conference (COP23) was held in Bonn, Germany and was presided over by Government of Fiji. It concluded with countries putting in place a roadmap for ‘Talanoa Dialogue’, a year-long process to assess countries’ progress on climate actions. The Conference also made progress on framing rules for implementing 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change and brought rich nations on board on their pre-2020 commitments as demanded by developing nations. Key Highlights of COP23: The conference provided countries around world took opportunity to showcase their actions taken to fulfil pledges under landmark 2015 Paris agreement as well as took other decisions including ‘Talanoa Dialogue’. It also made progress on framing rules for implementing Paris Agreement post-2020 and brought rich nations on board to walk the talk on pre-2020 commitments. However, the differences over climate financing continued. Talanoa Dialogue: Talanoa is a traditional approach used in Fiji and other Pacific islands to engage in an inclusive, participatory and transparent dialogue to resolve differences without putting any blame on any one. As per COP23 decision, it has been structured around three questions to arrive at answers with consensus: Where are we? Where do we want to go? How do we get there? The dialogue will be conducted in a manner that promotes enhanced ambition. It will help parties to UNFCCC review their actions and discuss way forward in terms of raising ambitions before 2020. It will consider efforts of Parties on mitigation action and financial and technical support, as appropriate, as one of its elements, in the pre-2020 period under 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Obligations under Kyoto Protocol: The COP23 outlined what all the rich nations need to do as far as their pre-2020 actions under Kyoto Protocol are concerned. It was crucial demand of developing countries. The pre-2020 actions refer to existing obligations of small group rich and developed nations to take mitigation actions under Kyoto Protocol. On the other hand, post-2020 actions are meant for all countries as per their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) under 2015 Paris Agreement. Conference of Parties (COP): COP is the supreme decision-making body of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). All States that are Parties to UNFCCC are represented at COP. At COP, all parties review implementation of Convention and take decisions necessary to promote the effective implementation of Convention.
29) Scientists from Botanical Survey of India (BSI) have discovered a new species of parasitic flowering plant named Gleadovia konyakianorum. The species was named in honour of Konyak tribe of Nagas. The plant was discovered in the semi-evergreen forest at an altitude of 1,500-1,600 metres during an exploration near Tobu town of Mon district in eastern Nagaland. Parasitic plants are often referred to as curious plants, as they steal their nutritional needs from the host. Gleadovia konyakianorum: Gleadovia konyakianorum is a holoparasite (complete parasite) plant that derives its entire nutritional requirement from the host plant, which is a Strobilanthes species. It has no chlorophyll (which helps a plant make its own food using sunlight). Though it has no chlorophyll, the plant has a vascular system and extracts its nutrition from the host plant with the help of a haustorium. A haustorium is specialised structure with which plant parasites attach themselves to host plants and derive nutrition. Gleadovia konyakianorum species is root parasite that grows up to 10 cm in height, and bears white, tubular flowers. It is only the fourth species from the genus Gleadovia to be found in the world. The other three are Gleadovia banerjiana (discovered in Manipur), Gleadovia mupinense (found in China) and Gleadovia ruborum (discovered in Uttarakhand and also reported from China). Its protection status has been described as ‘data deficient’ as per International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species criteria.
30) The World Toilet Day (WTD) is observed every year across the world on 19 November to raise awareness and inspire action to tackle the global sanitation crisis. The theme for year 2017 is Wastewater. World Toilet Day is about inspiring action to tackle the global sanitation crisis. Observance of the day seeks to draw attention of people around world to raise global awareness of the daily struggle for proper sanitation which in fact is a human right along with clean water. It is coordinated by United Nations-Water in collaboration with Governments of member countries and relevant stakeholders. World Toilet Day (WTD): WTD was instituted by World Toilet Organisation in 2001. In 2013, United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) had officially designated November 19 as WTD in its 67th session under global campaign of Sanitation for All resolution. Observance of this day now has become an important platform to demand action from governments. It seeks brings together different groups, such as media, the private sector, development organisations and civil society in a global movement to advocate for safe toilets.
31) Actor-playwright Girish Karnad (79) was conferred with 2017 Tata Literature Live Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding contribution in field of theatre at the eighth edition of the Tata Literature festival held in Mumbai, Maharashtra. Other category winners: Big Little Book Awards: Nabaneeta Dev Sen. Book of the year, non-fiction: ‘Age of Anger: A History of the Present’ by Pankaj Mishra. Book of the year, fiction: Easterine Kire’s ‘Son of the Thundercloud’. Girish Karnad: He is famously known for writing plays. His works translated into various Indian languages. Some of his critically acclaimed plays are Yayati (1961), Tughlaq (1964), Hayavadana (1971), Naga-mandala (1988) and Taledanda (1990). He also had made his acting impact through several films and theatre shows. His screen debut in Kannada movie “Samskara” had won first President’s Golden Lotus Award for Kannada cinema. Some of his critically acclaimed Bollywood movies are Nishaant, Manthan, Swami, Pukar, Iqbal and Dor. He is also known for his role of Swami’s father in the TV series “Malgudi Days” based on R.K.Narayan’s books. He had served as Director of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) and Chairman of Sangeet Natak Akademi, National Academy of Performing Arts. He is recipient of Jnanpith Award, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri awards.
32) Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (85) was selected Indira Gandhi Prize for peace, disarmament and development for his leadership of the country between 2004 and 2014 and for enhancing India’s stature globally. He was unanimously chosen for the award by an international jury chaired by former President Pranab Mukherjee. Manmohan Singh: Born on 26 September 1932 in Gah now in Punjab, Pakistan. His family had migrated to India during partition in 1947. He had obtained his doctorate in economics from Oxford. He had worked for UN during 1966–69. He subsequently began his bureaucratic career when Lalit Narayan Mishra hired him as an advisor in Ministry of Commerce and Industry. In 1970s and 80s, he had held several key posts in Government of India, such as Chief Economic Advisor (1972–76), Reserve Bank Governor (1982–85) and Planning Commission head (1985–87). In 1991, he was inducted in P. V. Narasimha Rao led Government as Finance Minister when India faced a severe economic crisis. As a Finance Minister he had carried out several structural reforms that liberalised economy. He was 13th Prime Minister of India and was in office from May 2004 to May 2014. He is only the third Indian prime minister to complete two full terms as the PM. Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development: The prestigious award accorded annually by Indira Gandhi Trust since 1986. It has been named after former prime minister Indira Gandhi. It is awarded to individuals or organizations in recognition of their creative efforts towards promoting international peace, development. It is also bestowed upon them for creating new international economic order and ensuring that scientific discoveries are used for the larger good of humanity and enlarging the scope of freedom. The award consists of monetary award of 25 lakh and a citation. Some of its earlier recipients are UNICEF (1989), Rajiv Gandhi (1991), M S Swaminathan (1999), Kofi Annan (2003), Angel Merkel (2013), Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) (2014) and UN High Commission for Refugees (2015).
33) India’s Manushi Chhillar (20) was crowned coveted Miss World crown for the year 2017. The win comes 17 years after Priyanka Chopra brought home coveted title in the year 2000. The winner of 2016 title, Puerto Rico’s Stephanie Del Valle passed on her crown to Ms Chhillar at a grand event held in Sanya in China. Miss England Stephanie Hill was first runner up and Miss Mexico Andrea Meza was second runner up. Around 108 women from across world participated in 2017 beauty pageant. Ms Chhillar is sixth Indian woman to win the coveted title of Miss World. Reita Faria was first Indian woman to claim title back in 1966, followed by Aishwariya Rai Bachchan (1994), Diana Haydon (1997), Yukta Mookhey (1999) and Priyanka Chopra (2000). Manushi Chhillar: Manushi Chhillar was born on 14 May 1997. She had studied at St. Thomas’ School in New Delhi and is pursuing a medical degree at Bhagat Phool Singh Government Medical College for Women in Sonipat. She is trained Kuchipudi dancer, and has trained under legendary dancers Raja and Radha Reddy and Kaushalya Reddy. She has also attended National School of Drama. She had won Femina Miss India World 2017 in May 2017.
34) The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has launched a next-generation satellite called the Joint Polar Satellite System-1 (JPSS-1) into space. JPSS-1 is a joint venture between NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It was launched into orbit atop United Launch Alliance-built Delta II rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. It will be renamed NOAA-20 when it reaches its final orbit. Key Facts: JPSS-1 is first multi-day weather forecasts satellite in NOAA’s series of four, next-generation operational environmental satellites representing major advancements in observations used for severe weather prediction and environmental monitoring. It is designed to monitor weather around world and help improve forecasts. It is highly advanced polar-orbiting satellite that will orbit Earth 14 times each day from one pole to other at 824 kms above planet, providing scientists full global coverage twice a day. JPSS-1 carries a suite of five advanced instruments designed to take global measurements of atmospheric, land and sea conditions from sea surface temperatures, volcanic ash, hurricane intensity and many more. The satellite will improve weather forecastings, such as predicting hurricane’s track and will help agencies involved with post-storm recovery by visualizing storm damage and the geographic extent of power outages. Its data will also improve recognition of climate patterns that influence weather, such as El Nino and La Nina.
35) Health ministers, NGOs, and private sector representatives from 120 countries have adopted Moscow Declaration on the sidelines of the first WHO Global Ministerial Conference. The declaration calls for eliminating additional deaths from HIV co-infection by 2030 and achieving synergy in coordinated action against Tuberculosis and non-communicable diseases (NCDs). India is among signatories to the declaration. A co-infection is when a person suffers from two infections at same time. Key Facts: Moscow declaration emphasis need for fixing multisectoral responsibility towards ending TB by 2035, the global target. It recognises need for multisectoral accountability framework to end TB, which is both political and technical. This framework is critical to creating enabling operational environment for multisectoral action, fast-tracking priority interventions, monitoring overall progress, and accelerating advocacy at all levels within different sectors, all of which is necessary to achieve committed milestones and targets to end TB epidemic. Multi-drug resistant TB will be tackled as national public health crisis. National inter-ministerial commission will be set up by 2018 to achieve fast-tracking universal access to health care through all state and non-state care providers by adopting WHO-recommended TB diagnostics, drugs, technologies and standards of care. It will also ensure attention to high-risk groups and vulnerable populations such as migrants, refugees and prisoners.
36) The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has launched Daily Drug Regimen for treatment of Tuberculosis (TB) patients across the country under The Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP). Under it, Health Ministry is providing thrice weekly regimen for treatment of TB, however it has now decided to change treatment strategy for TB patients from thrice weekly to daily drug regimen using fixed dose combinations (FDC) for treatment. This change will bring transformation in approach and intensity to deal with this disease which accounts for about 4.2 lakh deaths every year. Key Facts: The daily FDC anti-TB drugs will be made available to private pharmacy or at private practitioners to dispense to TB patients who seek care in private sector, depending upon convenience of patient and practitioner free of cost. Health Ministry will take this forward with all major hospitals, Indian Medical Association (IMA), Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP) and other professional medical associations to expand access to daily FDC to all TB patients. This treatment strategy will use Ethambutol in continuation phase for all patients, drugs to be given daily (as against only 3 times weekly previously), fixed dose combination (FDC) tablets will be used to reduce pill burden (as against separate 7 tablets previously), for children, child friendly formulations as dispersible tablets. Moreover, use of Information Technology (IT) enabled treatment adherence support system will be also undertaken. Tuberculosis (TB): TB is bacterial disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria that most often affect lungs. The disease is spread from person to person through the air. It commonly affects lungs but can also affect other parts of body. It is second biggest killer disease worldwide next only to HIV/AIDS. It can be completely cured with proper and regular medication.
37) Interim Meeting of Steering Committee of International Monetary Fund (IMF)’s South Asia Regional Training and Technical Assistance Centre (SARTTAC) was held in New Delhi. Officials from all Six SARTTAC Member countries attended the meeting together with Development Partner representatives European Union, United Kingdom, Australia, and USAID along with IMF staff. Steering Committee SARTTAC: It endorsed FY 2018 work plan and also approved new work area in Government Finance and Public Debt Statistics. It welcomed progress in securing over 90 percent of the financing for SARTTAC’s first five-year (2017-2022) Phase. It also approved new work area in Government Finance and Public Debt Statistics, where members have expressed strong demand and work is underway to plan future technical assistance and training. The next Steering Committee meeting will take place in Sri Lanka in May, 2018. South Asia Regional Training and Technical Assistance Centre (SARTTAC): SARTTAC was inaugurated in February 2017. It is first IMF Regional Capacity Development Centre to fully integrate training and technical assistance activities. It is located in New Delhi, India. It works with Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. Member countries finance two-thirds of SARTTAC’s Budget, with additional funding from European Union, Korea, United Kingdom, and Australia. Its goal is to help member countries to strengthen their institutional and human capacity for designing and implementing macroeconomic and financial policies that promote growth and reduce poverty. It will help Governments modernize their economic policies and institutions.
38) The Union Cabinet approved setting up of National Anti-Profiteering Authority (NAA), an apex body with an overarching mandate under Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime so as to ensure the benefit of tax reaches consumers. It also approved creation of posts of Chairman and Technical Members of National Anti-profiteering Authority (NAA) under GST regime. National Anti-Profiteering Authority (NAA): The NAA is tasked with ensuring full benefits of reduction in tax on supply of goods or services flow to consumers. It is responsible for applying anti-profiteering measures in event of reduction GST rate on supply of goods or services or if benefit of input tax credit is not passed on to recipients by way of commensurate reduction in prices. Composition: NAA will be headed by senior officer of level of a Secretary to Union Government and shall have four technical members from Centre and/or States. The chairman and four members will be less than 62 years of age. Powers and functions: If NAA finds that company has not passed on benefits of tax reduction, it can direct entity to pass on benefits to consumers along with interest from the date of collection of the higher amount till date of return of such amount. If the beneficiary cannot be identified, NAA can ask company to transfer amount to the ‘Consumer Welfare Fund’, as provided under Section 57 of CGST Act. In extreme cases NAA can impose a penalty on defaulting business entity and even order cancellation of its registration under GST. NAA also has power to cancel registration of any entity or business if it fails to pass on benefit of lower taxes under GST regime to consumers, and empowers consumers to approach it in case of any complaint. Background: The anti-profiteering framework under new indirect tax regime consists of NAA at top level, standing committee, screening committees in every state and Directorate General of Safeguards (DGS) in Central Board of Excise & Customs (CBEC). The GST Council earlier had approved setting up of five-member NAA to enable consumers to file complaints in case benefits are not transferred to them. Section 171 of Central GST Act pertaining to anti-profiteering, provides that any reduction in rate of tax on supply of goods or services or benefit of input tax credit must be passed on to recipient (consumer) by way of commensurate reduction in prices.
39) Ministry of Power launched Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana – ‘Saubhagya’ Web Portal. The portal can be accessed at http://saubhagya.gov.in. The web portal aims to ensure transparency as well as accelerate household electrification in rural as well as urban areas in the country. Key Facts: Saubhagya web portal will enable every state to fill current status of progress of electrification works which will enable accountability for State DISCOMs/utilities. It offers feature on village electrification camps that will be organised by DISCOMs in villages for facilitating instant filling up of application forms and to complete requisite documentation to expedite release of electricity connections to households. Saubhagya Scheme: Saubhagya scheme (Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana) was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September 2017 with an aim at providing last mile electricity connectivity to all rural and urban households. Under it, government will provide all willing households in rural areas and poor families in urban areas free electricity connections identified under Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) data 2011. Rural Electrification Corporation Limited (REC) is nodal agency for operationalization of the scheme throughout the country.
40) The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved four sub-schemes under Umbrella Scheme Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS). These four schemes include anganwadi services, programme for adolescent girls called Sabla, Child Protection Services and National Creche Scheme. Key Facts: Anganwadi Services (ICDS): It aims at holistic development of children under age of 6 years and its beneficiaries are children of this age group and Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers. Sabla (programme for adolescent girls): Its objective is to facilitate, educate and empower adolescent girls (AGs) to enable them to become self-reliant and aware citizens through improved nutrition and health status. It aims at promoting awareness about health, hygiene, nutrition, mainstreaming out of school AGs into formal and non-formal education and providing information and guidance about existing public services. Child Protection Services: Its objectives are to provide safe and secure environment for children in conflict with law and children in need of care and protection. It also aims to reduce vulnerabilities through wide range of social protection measures, prevent actions that lead to abuse, neglect, exploitation, abandonment and separation of children from families etc. It also aims to bring focus on non-institutional care, develop platform for partnership between Government and Civil Society and establish convergence of child related social protection services. National Creche Scheme: It aims at providing safe place for mothers to leave their children while they are at work. It is measure for empowering women as it enables them to take up employment. It is also intervention towards protection and development of children in age group of 6 months to 6 years. Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme: ICDS Scheme is a centrally sponsored scheme implemented by states/UTs. It was launched on 2nd October 1975. It has following objectives: Improve the nutritional and health status of children in the age-group 0-6 years; Reduce mortality, morbidity, malnutrition and school dropout; Promote policy coordination and implementation for promoting child development; Lay adequate foundation for psychological, physical and social well-being of children etc. Under the scheme, services such as Supplementary nutrition; Pre-school non-formal education; nutrition and health education, immunization, health check-ups; and Referral services through Anganwadi Centres for children below 6 years of age as well as to pregnant women and lactating mothers are offered.
41) The Union Cabinet has approved increase in carpet area of houses eligible for interest subsidy under Credit Linked Subsidy Scheme (CLSS) for Middle Income Group (MIG) under Pradhan Mantri AwasYojana (Urban). The purpose is to further enhance the scope, coverage and outreach of Scheme. Cabinet has approved: Increasing carpet area in MIG I category of CLSS from existing 90 square metre (sq m) to up to 120 sq m. Under MIG-I category, 4% interest subsidy is provided to beneficiaries, whose annual income is between Rs. 6 lakh and Rs. 12 lakh, on loan of up to Rs 9 lakh. Increasing carpet area in MIG II category of CLSS from existing 110 sq m to up to 150 sq m. Under MIG-II category, beneficiaries with an annual income of Rs 12 lakh to Rs 18 lakh get an interest subsidy of 3% on loan of up to Rs 12 lakh. Impact: The limit of 120 sq m and 150 sq m is seen as reasonable enhancement and it will cater to market generally scouted by MIG belonging to two income categories specified in the scheme. The increase in carpet area will enable MIG-I category of individuals to have wider choice in Developers’ projects. Moreover, it will also give boost to sale of ready built flats in affordable housing segment. Background: Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs is implementing Credit Linked Subsidy Scheme for Middle Income Group (CLSS for MIG) under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban). Under PMAY-U, Government aims to provide houses to all urban poor by 2022. It covers entire urban area consisting of 4041 statutory towns with initial focus on 500 Class I cities. Intended beneficiaries are Poor people (BPL) and people living under EWS and LIG categories in urban establishments of the country. The ownership of houses will be in name of woman or jointly with husband. Besides, states have flexibility to for choosing best options to meet demand of housing in their states.
42) Madhya Pradesh has partnered with Nagaland and Manipur under Ek Bharat-Shreshtha Bharat Yojana to strengthen cultural relations between them. MP Government has made its Higher Education Department as nodal department to execute the scheme. MP will participate in Sangai Mahotsav which is being organized in Manipur. Likewise, teams from Nagaland and Manipur will take part in Lok Rang and Bal Rang programmes of MP to present their cultural programmes. Moreover, translation work of Nagaland’s books also has been started in MP to introduce people to state with their activities and cultural heritage. Ek Bharat-Shreshtha Bharat Yojana: It was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Ekta Diwas (31st October 2015) on the occasion of birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel. Its objective is to strengthen cultural relations of various parts of country and to embolden mutual connection between people dwelling in different states. It also aims to celebrate unity in diversity culture of nation and to bolster sentimental bonds between people of different states. It aims to strengthen sentiments for National Unity between the citizens of states and states governed by the union government by conducting various activities throughout the year under this campaign. Under it rich heritage and culture, customs and traditions of either State will be showcased for enabling people to understand and appreciate the diversity that is India, thus foster sense of common identity. It will also establish long-term engagements and create an environment which promotes learning between States by sharing best practices and experiences.
43) Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu inaugurated Aadi Mahotsav, a fortnight long Tribal Festival in New Delhi. The theme of the festival is A Celebration of the Spirit of Tribal Culture, Cuisine and Commerce’. The festival will feature exhibition-cum-sale of tribal handicrafts, art, paintings, fabric, jewellery and much more through about 200 stalls. Over 750 tribal artisans and artists from over 25 States participated in the festival. Tribal India cuisine, recreated and presented in delectable forms to suit urban tastes by special tribal chefs is special feature of the festival. In line with the national aspiration to go cashless, all stalls will prefer and promote payments through cards. Aadi Mahotsav: The name Aadi Mahotsav suggests that the ‘adi’ factor is important about them. The adivasi way of life is guided by primal truths, eternal values and natural simplicity. The greatness of tribes lies in the way they have managed to retain primal skills, the natural simplicity. This quality gives their arts and crafts a timeless appeal. So, this festival seeks to channelize and promote their natural skills and provide then sources of income. The Government has formed the Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED) for achieving this. TRIFED is working in this direction and now has embraced e-commerce and digital platforms to take the business forward. Background: In India, tribes constitute over 8% of country’s population which corresponds to over 10 crore Indians. The national object of inclusive development includes the development of tribes as an important component. Even Constitution enjoins upon Government the responsibility of addressing the special needs of the tribals.
44) The Union Cabinet has approved signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Poland for Promotion of Civil Aviation Cooperation. The objective of MoU is to recognize mutual benefit of Cooperation in field of Civil Aviation having particular significance in establishing and improving Regional Air Connectivity (RCA) in India. Besides, both sides will recognize mutual benefits of environmental testing and approvals, aircraft maintenance facilities approvals, flight simulators monitoring and approvals, maintenance personnel approvals and aircrew members approvals. The MoU will be for a term of five years. The main areas of MoU: Support in civil aviation market by reviewing any legal and procedural issues which may adversely affect cooperation between both countries. Exchange of information and expertise between respective ministries and authorities related to aviation regulations, regional air operations, safety standards to enhance safety and security of air transport. Collaboration on aviation safety on topics such as safety oversight, airworthiness, flight operations, licensing, legislation and enforcement.
45) The Union Cabinet had approved agreement between India and Belarus on Scientific and Technological Cooperation for mutual benefit in the areas of science, technology, agriculture, etc. The agreement was signed between Indian National Science Academy (INSA) and National Academy of Sciences of Belarus (NASB). It was exchanged in September 2017 at New Delhi during official state visit of Belarus President H.E. Mr. Alexander Lukashenko. Key Facts: The agreement aims at identifying, assessing, developing and commercializing globally competitive technologies from India and Belarus. It will support institutions of both countries by way of research, technology transfers, exchange of visits and joint workshops leading to scientific and economic benefit.
46) The Union Government has given go-ahead for setting up India’s first mega coastal economic zone (CEZ) at Jawaharlal Nehru Port (JNPT) in Maharashtra. The first of its kind mega CEZ will stretch along north Konkan region spread across Mumbai, Thane, Pune, Nashik and Raigarh. About 45 companies across auto, telecom and IT sectors will soon bid for 200 hectares of land to set up manufacturing units in zone. Coastal Economic Zone (CEZ): CEZs are spatial economic regions comprising group of coastal districts or districts with strong linkage to ports in region to tap into synergies with planned industrial corridor projects. These zones are expected to provide business-friendly ecosystem including ease of doing business, ease of exporting and importing, swift decisions on applications for environmental clearances and speedy water and electricity connections. Key Facts: CEZ will be developed as part of plan for developing 14 such industrial clusters to spur manufacturing and generate jobs. The plan envisages total investment of Rs 15,000 crore in first phase and creation of more than 1.5 lakh jobs. The idea is to attract large firms interested in serving export markets as they will bring with them capital, technology, good management practices and links to world markets. This in turn will help create ecosystem around them in which productive small and medium firms will emerge and flourish. Background: The Union Cabinet in 2016 had approved setting up of 14 mega CEZs under National Perspective Plan of Sagarmala Programme. Its aim was to promote development of industrial clusters around ports, encourage portled development, reduce logistics cost and time for movement of cargo, enhance global competitiveness of country’s manufacturing sector and create hubs of job creation.
47) Joint Indo-Bangladesh Training Exercise SAMPRITI 2017 was culminated at Counter Insurgency & Jungle Warfare School, Vairengte in Mizoram. The exercise was aimed to strengthen and broaden the aspects of interoperability and cooperation between the Indian and Bangladesh Armies. It was 7th edition of exercise in SAMPRITI series which is held alternately in India and Bangladesh every year with aim to build and promote positive relations between armies of two neighbours. Key Facts: The 13-day exercise also aimed to enhance interoperability between two nations and enrich from each other’s experience while carrying out counter-insurgency or counter-terrorism operations. This edition of exercise had two district components which included Command Post Exercise (CPX) and Field Training Exercise (FTX). The CPX was conducted at Umroi and FTX was conducted at Vairengte. CPX focused on practicing joint planning and conduct of counter-terrorist operations in semi-mountainous terrain with special focus on drills and procedures followed while operating in dense jungles. The FTX emphasised on physical conditioning, training on special heliborne operations, cordon and search operations, neutralisation of improvised explosive devices and company and platoon level tactical drills in counter-terrorist operations scenario.
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