Top 15 Current Affairs 24th January 2017

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24 January 2017

Goa will become the first state in the country to opt for electronic transmission of postal ballots to service voters in the upcoming assembly polls, chief election commissioner (CEC) Syed Nasim Zaidi. The returning officers will transfer the postal ballots to service voters by electronic means so that the service voters can download it, fill it and send it via e-mail to returning officer. Goa has 822 service voters who are either in the defence, para-military forces or on diplomatic missions. The CEC also said the commission has initiated few IT-based initiatives. A total of 80 flying squads and 21 static surveillance teams are working round the clock, he said, adding that the vehicles engaged in poll works are fitted with GPS device.  

24 January 2017

Scientists have spotted a new view of the dark, contorted centre of a sunspot that is nearly twice the diameter of the Earth. It was spotted using Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA) antennas located in Atacama Desert of northern Chile. The discovery is an important expansion of range of observations that can be used to probe the physics of our nearest star. Using ALMA antennas capabilities, astronomers imaged the millimetre-wavelength light emitted by the Sun’s chromosphere, the region that lies just above the photosphere that forms the visible surface of the Sun.  They produced the images to study solar activity at longer wavelengths of light that are typically available to solar observatories on Earth. Using two of ALMA’s receiver bands at wavelengths of 1.25 millimetres and three millimetres, scientists were able to observe an enormous sunspot.  The images captured through it help to reveal differences in temperature between parts of the Sun’s chromosphere and also understanding the heating and dynamics of the chromosphere. They are darker, cooler areas on the surface of the sun in a region called the photosphere (having temperature 5,800 degrees Kelvin). Sunspots can be very large, up to 50,000 kilometers in diameter and have temperatures of about 3,800 degrees K. They are dark in comparison with the brighter and hotter regions of the photosphere surrounding them.

24 January 2017

According to scientists from Food Standards Agency (FSA) of United Kingdom, chips, potatoes and bread cooked to brown can cause cancer. According to FSA when the starchy foods are roasted, grilled or fried for too long at high temperatures (above 120 degree Celsius), it produces carcinogenic chemical Acrylamide. Acrylamide is a chemical used primarily in making polyacrylamide and acrylamide copolymers that are used in industrial processes such as a production of dyes, plastics, paper. It is also used in treatment of drinking water and waste water.  Acrylamide is present in many types of food such biscuits, cakes, bread, coffee, toast, crisps, chips, and other starchy food. It is a natural byproduct of the cooking process. It is produced when Asparagine, a building block of proteins found in many vegetables is heated to high temperatures in the presence of certain sugars. Cooking methods such as baking, frying, grilling, roasting mainly results in production of acrylamide. The darker the colour gets of the food, more acrylamide is present in it. Some researches in animals have shown that the chemical Acrylamide is toxic to DNA and causes cancer. Although there is no conclusive evidence but same can be applicable in the case of people. It can also have adverse effects on the reproductive and nervous systems.  

24 January 2017

The Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Committee has submitted its 4 volume report on changes in FRBM Act, 2013 to the Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.  The 5 member committee was headed by N.K. Singh, former Revenue and Expenditure Secretary and former MP.  Its member included RBI Governor Urjit Patel, Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian, former Finance Secretary Sumit Bose, and National Institute of Public Finance and Policy Director Rathin Roy. The committee was constituted in May 2016 following Finance Minister Budget 2016-17 announcement.  It was assigned task to review the working of the FRBM Act over last 12 years to suggest the way forward. It was also tasked to examine the need and feasibility of having a ‘fiscal deficit range’ as the target in place of the existing fixed numbers (percentage of GDP) as fiscal deficit target.  The committee has kept in view the broad objective of fiscal consolidation and prudence and has suggested changes required in the context of the uncertainty and volatility in the global economy. The first volume of the report addresses the issue of the fiscal roadmap, fiscal policy, international experience and recommendations therein.  The second volume refers to international experience especially from a lot of international organisations particularly OECD, the World Bank, ILO. The third volume deals with Centre-State issues. The fourth volume deals with views of domain experts both from national and international appropriate for fiscal policy  

24 January 2017

India, along with Brazil, Argentina and some other nations rejected an informal attempt of European Union (EU) and Canada to work towards a global investment agreement at World Trade Organisation (WTO)-level.  The EU and Canada proposed agreement incorporates a contentious Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism. They wanted their investment pact to be the template for a similar multilateral agreement. The ISDS mechanism permits companies to drag governments to international arbitration without exhausting the local remedies. It also allows them to claim huge amounts as compensation citing losses they suffered due to reasons, including policy changes.  The contentious ISDS mechanism already has been incorporated by investment pact by the EU and Canada. India has rejected such mechanism. It clearly held that only after all local options have been exhausted for settling disputes between a corporate and a government, then the issues can be taken up in international arbitration tribunals.  It also held that such provisions could be a part of bilateral agreements but they can’t be allowed in a multilateral agreement.  

24 January 2017

US President Donald Trump signed an executive order to formally pull US out of the negotiating process of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a mega trade deal of 12 Pacific Rim countries.  TPP was one of the major international trade initiatives of his predecessor Barack Obama aimed to set trade rules for the 21st century and bind US allies against growing Chinese economic clout. During the Presidential election campaign, Trump had vowed to withdraw the US from the TPP which he argued was harmful to American workers and manufacturing. Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)  :  The TPP is a trade agreement under negotiation among 12 Pacific Rim nations accounting for 40% of the world economy.  It was promoted by US and signed by 12 countries in 2015. 12 members are Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, US and Vietnam. India was not part of TPP. The aimed to ease the flow of goods, services and investments among member countries and set trade rules for 21st century especially on labour standards, environmental issues, origin criteria and intellectual property.  The mega trade deal was considered as counterweight to growing global economic clout of China, the largest economy in the Pacific Rim. It might have led to market share losses for certain categories of India’s exports due to preference erosion. It could have indirectly impacted exports in several industrial sectors such as textiles, leather, clothing, plastics, cotton and yarn. Even India’s pharmaceutical sector might had suffered due to higher standards compared WTO norms, including on IPR and ever-greening of patents.

24 January 2017

The Union Cabinet on 24 January 2017 gave its post-facto approval to a series of decisions related to the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD). The approval was given at a Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi. National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) is allowed to make short term borrowings at the prevailing market rate of interest for about Rs 20,000 crore. The money raised will be utilized to lend to cooperative banks at 4.5 per cent rate of interest. Additional capital of Rs 2,000 crore will be provided to NABARD for this purpose through the Union Budget. To start with, additional capital of Rs 500 crore may be released to NABARD during the 2016-17 financial year itself. Interest subvention of about 1.8 per cent and NABARD's administrative cost of 0.2 per cent to be provided as per the scheme of Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare (DAC&FW). The extent of interest subvention may vary depending on the rate at which NABARD raises funds. The NABARD will coordinate the conversion of operative Kisan Credit Cards (KCCs) into RuPay or ATM-enabled KCCs by cooperative banks and Regional Rural Banks (RRBs) in a mission mode. In the light of a good monsoon and expectation of increased credit demand, the farmers need to be supported through cooperative banks. The approval will ensure increased availability of short term crop loans to farmers through cooperative banks at a reduced rate of interest. The conversion of operative KCCs into RuPay or ATM-enabled KCCs will enable easy and hassle free availability of credit. The decision of the Cabinet is also in tune with the spirit of Digital India campaign that seeks to facilitate digital and cashless transactions by farmers.

24 January 2017

Indian-origin Prime Minister (PM) of Mauritius Anerood Jugnauth resigned from his position on 23 January 2017. Anerood officially handed his resignation to Mauritius President Ameenah Gurib Fakim. He has been serving in his post since 2014. He will be succeeded by his own son Pravind Jugnauth. Pravind is the leader of the main political party of Mauritius Militant Socialist Movement (MSM). He had already formed his ministerial cabinet after receiving an appointment letter from President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim. Pravind also holds the post of Finance Minister of the country. His party has the majority of seats in the National Assembly since December 2014. Anerood Jugnauth : Anerood had earlier served as the President of Mauritius and held various ministerial portfolios, including Minister of Rodrigues, Defence, Home Affairs and National Development Unit. Being a central figure of Mauritian politics in the 1980s and 1990s, he continuously held a constitutional office since 1976. He had visited India in November 2016 as Prime Minister and had expressed support for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s move to demonetise higher value currency. Mauritius is an island of 1.3 million inhabitants. This island country regularly tops the Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance, and has held a series of peaceful elections and smooth handovers of power since 1968 when it got independence from Britain. Mauritius is a model of political stability in Africa. However, the handover of the post of PM from father to son has created political turbulence in the country.  

24 January 2017

The National Girl Child Day was observed across the country on 24 January 2017. On the occasion, the Union Ministry of Women & Child Development threw the light on the exemplary achievements by nation’s daughters during 2016. The theme of this year National Girl Child Day was Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao. The Ministry also applauded the performance of females at the Olympics and Paralympics. It also highlighted the historic induction of the first female fighter pilots into the Indian Air Force. The event was attended by Avani Chaturvedi (Women Fighter Pilot), Arunima Sinha (First women amputee to climb Mount Everest), Deepa Malik (Silver medalist at Rio Paralympics 2016) and Shanno (Editor, Badhte Kadam).  The occasion was also marked by the release of The National Plan of Action for Children 2016. The Ministry also felicitated 10 districts under the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao scheme for their exemplary performance. Observed every year on 24 January, the day was established by the Union Government in the year 2008. The day was initiated with an aim to spread awareness about the inequalities faced by the girl child in the country. It also works towards enhancing girls’ meaningful contribution in decision making processes by active support of the parents and the community members.  

24 January 2017

The Union Cabinet, presided by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on 24 January 2017 gave its post-facto approval for launching of Varishtha Pension Bima Yojana 2017 (VPBY 2017). The Varishtha Pension Bima Yojana 2017 is a part of Union Government’s commitment for financial inclusion and social security. The Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) will implement the VPBY 2017 during the current financial year. The scheme aims at providing social security during old age and protecting elderly persons aged 60 years and above against a future fall in their interest income due to uncertain market conditions. It will provide an assured pension based on a guaranteed rate of return of 8 per cent per annum for ten years. The scheme also has an option to opt for pension on a monthly/quarterly/halfyearly and annual basis. The difference between the return generated by LIC and the assured return of 8 per cent per annum will be borne by Government of India as subsidy on an annual basis.The scheme is proposed to be open for subscription for a period of one year from the date of launch.  

24 January 2017

The World Economic Forum (WEF) and Santa Barbara’s Marine Science Institute of the University of California (UCSB) on 20 January 2017 entered into a partnership to protect world’s ocean economy. The partnership was announced on the sidelines of the 47th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF). The meeting was held for four days between 17 January and 20 January 2017 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland. Highlights of WEF-UCSB partnership : The partnership seeks to improve the health of the world’s oceans and maritime resources. The partnership is a part of the World Economic Forum’s New Vision for Ocean Initiative.The vision seeks to bring together public, private and civil society sector stakeholders to achieve goal number 14 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG). The objective of the UNSDG Goal 14 is to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. The partnership would follow the multi-stakeholder model of other successful environmental public-private partnerships brokered by or hosted at the WEF such as the Alliance of Climate Leaders, Global Water Initiative, Circular Economy initiatives and the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020.The partnership will be supported by the Benioff Ocean Initiative, which is an applied programme within the Marine Science Institute and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. While the Marine Science Institute uses science to improve ocean health, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation is a fund to advance ocean science, protection and management. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), oceans generate goods and services worth an estimated USD 2.5 trillion per year, which is equivalent to the seventh largest economy in the world.Oceans also support the livelihoods of around 80 per cent of the world’s population. However, the oceans are threatened by the decline in ocean health, lack of adequate measuring and monitoring of ocean activities.  

24 January 2017

Union Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on 23 January 2017 launched the Rubber Soil Information System (RubSIS) in New Delhi. The RubSIS recommends application of an appropriate mix of fertilizers to the specific plantations of rubber growers depending upon their soil nature. The RubSIS was developed by the Rubber Research Institute of India (RRII) in collaboration with three agencies. The agencies are - Indian Institute of Information Technology and Management, Kerala National Bureau of Soil Survey and Land Use Planning of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) National Remote Sensing Center of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) The RRII is a research and development agency. It works under the Rubber Board. Features of RubSIS : The RubSIS brings soil data to the fingerprints of rubber growers and recommends the optimal mix and quantities of chemical fertilizers that his/her holding requires.  It is a cost effective tool for sustainable and scientific management of rubber growing soils. It helps in preventing indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizers and soil degradation. The adoption of RubSIS will result in reduction in the cost of production of rubber, increase in productivity and reduction in environmental pollution. In the first stage, the scientific and user friendly online fertiliser recommendation system will serve farmers in Kerala’s Kottayam district. Kottayam is the largest rubber growing district in India. The services of RubSIS will be extended to the entire traditional rubber growing region - Kerela and Tamilnadu – by the end of 2017. Rubber Board : The Rubber Board is a statutory body. It was constituted by the Union Government under the Rubber Act , 1947 for the overall development of the rubber industry in the country. It works under the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry.Its headquarters is located in Kottayam, Kerala. Its chairman is appointed by the Union Government under the Rubber Rules, 1955.    

24 January 2017

The Tamil Nadu Assembly on 23 January 2017 passed a Bill amending the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960 unanimously. The Bill is aimed at safeguarding Jallikattu sport in the state saying it helps preserve native breeds of bulls and serves to uphold tradition and culture. The Bill labels Jallikattu as an event involving bulls conducted with a view to following tradition and culture from January to May. It also includes similar events like 'manjuviratu', 'vadamadu' and 'erudhuvidum' festivals. State Chief Minister O Panneerselvam piloted the Bill, which was supported by all the three opposition parties, the DMK, the Congress and the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML). The first legal jallikattu under this exemption is scheduled on 1 February 2017 in Alanganallur, Madurai district. The Animal Welfare Board of India had filed a case in the Supreme Court for a complete ban on Jallikattu. The cruelty to animals and the threat to public safety were the reasons behind asking the ban. The SC, on 27 November 2010, permitted the Government of Tamil Nadu to allow Jallikattu for five months in a year. The apex court also directed the District Collectors to make sure that the animals that participate in the game are registered to the Animal Welfare Board. In 2011, the Ministry of Environment and Forests issued a notification that banned the use of bulls as performing animals. Therefore, the event was banned. However, Jallikattu continued to be held under Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act No 27 of 2009. On 7 May 2014, the top court struck down the state law and completely banned Jallikattu. The court also noted that any disdain shall result in penance under The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. The Union Government on 8 January 2016 passed an order exempting Jallikattu from all performances where bulls cannot be used, effectively reversing the ban. However, the SC on 14 January 2016 upheld its ban on the event, which eventually led to protests all over Tamil Nadu. On 12 January 2017, the Supreme Court ordered a stay and issued notices to the Union Government and the Government of Tamil Nadu, and later refused to lift the stay.  On 21 January 2017, the Governor of Tamil Nadu issued a new ordinance that authorized the continuation of Jallikattu.  

24 January 2017

The government of Nepal has launched a 10-year-plan that seeks to cut its reliance on vegetable imports from India. The plan seeks to make the land-locked nation self-reliant in food by boosting domestic production.  The government plans to adopt the modern farm techniques, which would lead to boost the productivity of the nation and make it self-reliant in food. With this plan, the government wants to achieve self-sufficiency in vegetable sand wheat by fiscal 2017-18. The government also aims at achieving self-sufficiency in paddy and potato in two years. The plan targets to make the country self-sufficient in maize in fish by the next three years. In the context of fruits like papaya, litchi and bananas, it will attain a self-sufficiency situation in next four years. By its end, the plan/project envisages to become self-sufficient in fruits like apple, kiwi and orange. Kathmandu Post, a local media of Nepal, reports that even as the far-western region has seen a rise in commercial vegetable farming, the land-locked country witnessing a continuous rise in the imports of vegetables. According to official data, the region annually imports vegetables worth Rs 55 billion from India. Exports volume, however, was negligible, the report said. Potatoes: Annual imports worth Rs 370 million Green vegetable: Annual imports stand at Rs 180 million Regional Plant Quarantine is the second important border trading point with India after Birgunj. District Agriculture Development Office (DADO) of Nepal suggests that vegetable is cultivated on 4450 hectares in Kanchanpur and the annual output is 56000 metric tonnes. Some other major vegetables producing areas in Nepal include Jhalari, Krishnapur, Belauri, Mahendranagar and Mahakali. But the production fails in meeting the local demand.As per the report of the Kathmandu post, India exports nearly 25000 metric tonnes of vegetables annually to Nepal. Of these imports, about 50 per cent vegetables are consumed in Kanchanpur district. Rest imports are consumed in Kailai, Banke and other hilly districts of the country.

24 January 2017

Mike Pompeo on 23 January 2017 was sworn in as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). He was administered the oath to office by Vice President Mike Pence. The sworn-in ceremony was held swiftly after the United States Senate confirmed Pompeo to run the CIA, giving President Donald Trump the third member of his cabinet. Pompeo was confirmed by a vote of 66-32. Mike Pompeo : Mike Pompeo previously served as the U.S. Representative for Kansas's 4th congressional district from 2011–2017. He is a member of the Tea Party movement within the Republican Party. He represented Kansas on the Republican National Committee. Central Intelligence Agency : The agency gathers, processes and analyzes national security information from around the world, primarily through the use of human intelligence (HUMINT). It is primarily focused on providing intelligence for the President and Cabinet. The CIA reports to the Director of the agency. Unlike the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the CIA has no law enforcement function. It primarily focuses on overseas intelligence gathering, with only limited domestic intelligence collection. One of the CIA’s largest divisions, the Information Operations Center (IOC), has shifted focus from counter-terrorism to offensive cyber-operations. The CIA has had achieved some major accomplishments, such as locating Osama bin Laden and taking part in the successful Operation Neptune Spear.

24 January 2017

Anurag Thakur was unanimously elected head of the Himachal Pradesh Olympic Association (HPOA) for a four-year term. Thakur, who had to step down as BCCI President owing to the Supreme Court ruling on Lodha Committee reforms, was elected at the HPOA's Annual General Meeting. Nirwan Mukherjee was Observer from Indian Olympic Association for the polls. Other observers included NP Gulleria, Hockey Coach, and Ratan Lal Thakur, Observer Himachal Pradesh Government Sports Council. Surat Singh Thakur was the Returning Officer to conduct the elections. The newly-elected members deliberated on how to improve the quality of sports in the state which has an immense pool of talent but is not doing well due to the lack of quality infrastructure and a concrete policy for the development of the same," the HPOA said in a statement. The HPOA decided to have a Himachal Olympic Bhawan at Shimla and to organise the state Olympic festival on the lines of the national games at hamirpur from June 23 to 26.

24 January 2017

The Union Health Ministry will soon launch population based prevention, screening and control programme for five common non-communicable diseases (NCDs) on the occasion of World Cancer Day (4th February). They are Hypertension, Diabetes, and Cancers of oral cavity, breast and cervix. This programme will be launched as part of the National Health Mission. Under this programme screening will be rolled out in 100 districts in 32 states and Union Territories before March 31, 2017 in the first phase. ASHA and ANM workers will be trained for this purpose.  They will also be capture information on major risk factors so that persons at risk could be counselled on leading healthy lifestyles to prevent onset of NCDs. In subsequent phases, Chronic Obstructive Respiratory diseases will be also included and the programme will be scaled up to cover other districts. Non-Communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and stroke, Diabetes, Chronic Respiratory Diseases (Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases) and Cancer account for over 60% of all mortality in India, of these, nearly 55% are premature mortality.  Since these conditions do not exhibit symptoms until complications set in, it is essential to detect them early which enables treatment and prevents high financial costs and suffering. Besides, NCDs imposes a financial and social cost on families and the country.  According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), India stands to lose $ 4.58 trillion (Rs 311.94 trillion) due to non-communicable diseases between 2012 and 2030

24 January 2017

The Union Government has transferred the advising role of Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM) on utilisation of the proceeds from disinvestment to the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA). This announcement comes after the Union Cabinet approved an alternative mechanism to decide the modalities to do with stake sales in PSUs, so as to speed up the process and to streamline the disinvestment process. The DEA in the Union Finance Ministry will now be in charge of financial policy in regard to the utilisation of proceeds of disinvestment channelised into the National Investment Fund (NIF). The National Investment Fund was created in 2005 in which the proceeds from the disinvestment of Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs) were to be channelised.  During his Budget speech 2016-17, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had announced renaming the previously known Department of Investment as DIPAM.  Earlier the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) had given its approval to Alternative Mechanism to decide the modalities to do with stake sales in PSUs. Under this mechanism, the quantum of disinvestment in a particular Central Public Sector Undertaking (CPSE) will be decided on a case-by-case basis subject to Government retaining 51% equity and management control.

24 January 2017

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is planning to set a new world record in space history by launching 103 satellites in one go on a single rocket in the first week of February, 2017.  These satellites will be launched on board of ISRO’s workhorse PSLV (C37) from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. The mission will carry three satellites from India and rest from other countries. The satellites will be separated from vehicle in different directions, once launch vehicle reaches the orbital condition. The separation angle and time of separation will be different for every satellite. The separated satellites will have relative velocity of one metre per second. So after 1,000 seconds distance between satellite and rocket will be 1,000 metres.  It will ensure that satellite will not collide with another. The first satellite launched will move at relatively faster velocity than the next satellite. Due to different relative velocities, distance between the satellites will increase continuously but the orbit will remain same.  The present record of highest number of satellites launched in a single mission has been 37 by Russia in 2014. NASA has launched 29 satellites in one go in 2013. In June 2016, ISRO had launched 20 satellites in one go.

24 January 2017

The Union Government has constituted committee (Working Group) to frame uniform rules for the states to avoid delay in proper implementation of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 across the country.  The Committee will be headed by Secretary from Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD). It will submit its report within three months.  It will comprise of representatives from the Union Ministry of Health, DoPT, Labour, Legislative Department and representatives from NGOs as members. It will also have Principal Secretary/Secretary, Social Welfare Department from Karnataka, Gujarat, Odisha, Assam, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Suggest model draft rules for the states in order to have a uniform rules across the country and also to avoid delay in finalization of rules by any state. The Act was notified in December 2016, after it received assent of President. It comprehensively covers a whole spectrum of problems from physical disabilities to mental illness and multiple disabilities under it. It raises number of disabilities from 7 to 21.  It also raises reservation in government jobs for persons with benchmark disabilities from present 3% to 4% and in higher education from 3% to 5% per cent.  It includes mental illness, autism, spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, chronic neurological conditions, specific learning disabilities, speech and language disability, sickle cell disease, deaf ,blindness, acid attack and Parkinsons disease under the definition of disability. The Act aims to bring Indian laws in line with the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, to which India became a signatory in 2007.  Once it comes into effect, every child with benchmark disability between the age group of 6 and 18 years will have the right to free education.  

24 January 2017

The Steel Ministry has released new draft National Steel Policy of 2017, envisaging to double India’s domestic steel production capacity to 300 million tonnes by 2030-31. The draft policy anticipates a requirement of Rs. 10 lakh crore of fresh investments to meet production goal and expects creation of at least 11 lakh new jobs in the process. Create a globally competitive steel industry that promotes inter-sectoral growth (ii) Create a self-sufficient steel industry that is technologically advanced, globally competitive and promotes inclusive growth. Impediments like high input costs, import dependency, availability of raw materials and financial stress plaguing the sector. Couple of factors such as the demand and production of sponge iron are still under discussion. Proposes gas-based steel plants and technologies such as electric furnaces to bring down use of coking coal in blast furnaces in order to cut down reliance on expensive imports of coking coal. They should aim for economies of scale. The will be encouraged to divest their non-core assets through mergers and restructuring. These plants will be set up under the aegis of Sagarmala project to tap cheap imported raw materials such as coking coal and export the output in a more cost-effective manner. It will be pursued, especially for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to ensure easy availability of raw materials, optimum land use and economies of scale.  

24 January 2017

Election Commission of India (ECI) on 23 January 2017 gave its nod the Union Government to present the Union Budget 2017-18 on 1 February 2017. This go-ahead by the ECI means that the budget will be presented ahead of the Assembly elections in 5 states of India, namely Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur and Goa. Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur and Goa will be held between 4 February and 8 March 2017. Counting of votes will take place on 11 March 2017. In its notification, the commission said that no schemes related to these poll-bound states can be announced. The notification also bars the finance minister from referring the government’s achievements in these states in his budget speech. Highlights of ECI decision : In the interest of free and fair elections and to maintain level playing field, no state-specific schemes shall be announced as it may influence voters in the poll-bound states. Finance Minister's speech should not highlight the government's achievements in respect of the five states in any manner. Earlier, the opposition parties had written to the President and the Election Commission demanding suspension of budget date. They had an objection to the Union Government’s decision to present the Union Budget on 1 February ahead of the Assembly elections in five states. The budget session of Parliament has already been convened from 31 January 2017 when the President will address the joint sitting of the two Houses. Union Budget and the Economic Survey are slated to be presented the next day. Earlier on the same day, the Supreme Court had dismissed a plea seeking postponement of Union Budget presentation ahead of the Assembly elections. The court in its decision said that there was no illustration that it will influence voters. The petition sought to direct the Centre to present the Union Budget 2017-18 on 1 April 2017 instead of the proposed 1 February 2017.

24 January 2017

Raghubar Das, the Chief Minister of Jharkhand, on 23 January 2017 presented the annual state budget 2017-18 in the legislative assembly. Size of the budget for the financial year 2017-18 is Rs 75673 crore. The budget primarily focuses on villages, poor and industry. While presenting the budget, the Chief Minister said that the government will aim at developing agriculture, education and modern amenities in towns and villages. This year Budget outlay is about 19 percent higher than 2016-17. The fiscal deficit is 2.29 per cent and Budget overall deficit is within 2.5 per cent - both of these are under permissible limits. Capital expenditure was increased by 21 per cent Revenue expenditure was increased by 18.66 per cent Women welfare expenditure, which will be increased by 30 per cent, was presented under a sub-head of "Gender Budget". Outlay for Agriculture: It was increased to Rs 5375 crore, that is, by 12 per cent Budget allocation for skill development: The allocation has seen a massive jump from Rs 145 crore in the current financial year 2016-17 to Rs 704 crore for 2017-18. In addition to all these, while delivering the Budget speech, Chief Minister Raghuwar Das said that budget period for 2017-18 will be called the "Garib Kalyan Varsha." Besides, the Chief Minister in his budget speech also proposed formations of various authorities like Tana Bhagat Development Authority and Jharkhand Irrigation Commission. He also proposed an idea of creating five new Universities of which two from public fund and three from private sector.  

24 January 2017

Vishal Kaul, a PepsiCo veteran, was on 23 January 2017 appointed as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the ride-hailing service Ola Cabs. Kaul will head Ola’s operations, strengthen Ola’s market leadership and will work to expand its reach across the country and widen the base of Ola’s customers and driver-partner fraternity. Moreover, the company also elevated current COO Pranay Jivrajika as the Founding Partner. An alumnus of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay, Jivrajika had earlier served as Associate Vice-President and Vice-President of Ola Operations before taking over as COO in February 2015. Vishal Kaul :  Kaul joined the PepsiCo, a FMCG, in 1999. With over 18 years of experience in PepsiCo, he has served various positions including Vice-President (marketing), Vice-President (business operations) and most recently as General Manager (Thailand, Myanmar and Laos). Among many accomplishments, he won PepsiCo President's Ring of Honor and Exceptional Change Leadership awards for his performance in India.He is an alumnus of Punjab Engineering College and Symbiosis Centre for Management and HRD. Ola's market presence : Ola has been strengthening its leadership team as it strives to expand its lead over Uber Technologies Inc.  Earlier in January 2017, Ola appointed former SAB Miller India executive Shalabh Seth as the Chief Executive Officer of Ola Fleet Technologies Pvt Ltd to help grow the supply of cars. However, on the other hand, the company is struggling over senior-level exits. Most recently, Abhimanyu Rawal resigned as Head of Ola’s luxury car business.  Earlier in 2015, Harsha Kumar, Associate Vice-President of products and Rushil Goel, Head of the Payments Business, had quit. Till date, Ola has raised around USD1.3 billion in external funding. However, still its valuation was marked down by Japanese internet company Softbank, an investor.