Today Current Affairs 11th March 2016

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Indian Railways has recently launched an online “clean my coach” service that allows travellers to get their compartments cleaned by sending an SMS or by using an app or a designated website.This service empowers the citizen to get an important service on board and is in line with the objectives of the ‘Digital India’ programme.As per the scheme, for any cleaning requirement in the coach, passengers have to send an SMS on a mobile number 58888. Alternatively, passengers can use the android app or Web page for logging the request. Following this, a passenger’s request is immediately acknowledged via SMS on mobile phone along with a code. Mainly for this service to improve the cleanliness on stations and trains

The Lok Sabha passed the Aadhaar Bill 2016  ensuring targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services. The bill has been tagged as a money bill. Since Aadhaar Bill 2016 has been tagged as money bill its passage will not be stalled by the Rajya Sabha, where the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is short of a majority.The Bill intends to empower the government in providing targeted services to the intended beneficiaries by assigning them unique identity numbers, called Aadhaar Id. It will be given to every person, who has stayed in India for 182 days in the year preceding the date of application.Making Aadhaar mandatory for availing Financial and Other Subsidies will eliminate the loop holes involved and bring down its subsidy bill, which has been budgeted at Rs.2.5 trillion in 2016-17. It will also help push India towards a cashless economy.

The national capital got its first battery operated "zero-emission" electric bus on 10 March,2016 .Delhi Transport Minister Gopal Rai said more such buses may follow if the six-month trial of this bus was a success."It is the first such bus in India which is 100 percent pollution-free, operates completely on electricity and used for public transport.This "Made in China" bus is fully air conditioned and has seating capacity of 31 passengers against 41 of the DTC's low-floor CNG buses.But its lower operational cost which was estimated around Rs.12.06 per KM, adjustable hydraulic suspension makes it more passenger friendly especially for the differently-abled people.The initiative to run this electric bus was taken by the Delhi Dialogue Commission after its vice chairperson Ashish Khetan visited China last year."The Delhi government has not paid a single penny for the bus," Khetan said.The bus was being run on promotional basis by its Chinese manufacturers BYD Auto Industry Company Ltd. and introduced in India by their technology partner, the Smart Group."We have only provided basic support like parking space and charging point at the Millennium Depot. We have also provided a driver and a conductor of DTC for the bus," Rai added.The unit cost of the bus to the Indian company was around Rs.3 crore, the Smart Group said.The bus was exported by China to Gujarat."The cost is being evaluated and it will be almost same as that of a fully AC bus. It had costed around Rs.3 crore to the company.We are looking forward to manufacture it in India under Make in India programme," said Sunil Sharma of Smart Group.

Japanese researchers have successfully isolated a bacterium species Ideonella sakaiensis 201-F6 capable of breaking down plastic polyethylene terephthalate (PET) or polyester. Their results were published in the journal Science. Ideonella sakaiensis relies on PET film as a primary source of carbon for growth. It is capable of completely degrading a thin film of PET in a short span of six weeks at 30°C. The bacterium species uses two enzymes in sequence to break down the highly biodegradable-resistant polymer PET.First enzyme helps the bacterium to adhere to the PET and produce an intermediate substance through process of hydrolysis. The second enzyme then works with water and acts on this intermediate substance. It produces the 2 monomers ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid that are used for making PET through polymerisation. Applications for  : The bacteria could potentially be used in industrial recycling processes with having any adverse impact on the environment. It can replace or augment the current mechanical recycling plastic process.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) on 10 March 2016 approved revised policy on gas production from deep water, ultra deep water and high pressure-high temperature (HPHT) areas.The revised policy seeks to grant marketing and pricing freedom for new gas production from these areas so that domestic gas production is improved and dependence on imports is reduced.Features of the revised policy is the producers will be allowed marketing including pricing freedom. It is applicable to all the discoveries in these areas which are yet to commence commercial production as 1 January 2016 and for all future discoveries also.To protect user industries from any market imperfections, this freedom would be subject to a ceiling price on the basis of landed price of alternative fuels.The ceiling shall be based on publicly available prices of substitute fuels and shall be calculated as lowest of the - Landed price of imported fuel oil, weighted average import landed price of substitute fuels (namely coal, fuel oil and naphtha) and landed price of imported LNG.The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas will notify the periodic revision of gas price ceiling under these guidelines.This revised policy is in addition to the Hydrocarbon Exploration Licensing Policy (HELP) which was approved by the CCEA on 10 March 2016. The policy, among other things, provided for concessional royalty regime for deep water and ultra-deep water areas.As per the provision, these areas shall not have any royalty for the first seven years and thereafter shall have a concessional royalty of 5 percent in deep water areas and 2 percent in ultra-deep water areas.The revision in the policy has much of  unexploited oil and gas available in India is in areas characterized by deep water/ultra-deep water or high pressure/high temperature.Recognizing the need for incentivizing gas production from these areas, the CCEA, in October 2014, approved premium on the gas produced from these areas.However, in the subsequent period, due to the fall in the global oil gas prices affected the attractiveness of the sector to potential investors. As a result, there are a number of discoveries of gas in these areas which have not been developed..ONGC and other operators are also requesting higher price for gas to be produced from such fields, without which they may not be economical to bring to production.Meanwhile, domestic gas production is showing a declining trend in recent years. It has witnessed a decline of 17 percent in two years from 40.66 BCM in 2012-13 to 33.65 BCM in 2014-15. With the economy growing at over 7 percent, demand for petroleum products including gas is increasing.Thus, the sector is facing a situation of rising demand, falling production and consequently rapid increase in hydrocarbon imports which occupy a large share of India’s total imports.Currently, over three-quarters of the domestic requirement of crude oil and approximately a third of domestic requirement of gas are met through imports.Against this backdrop, the CCEA felt that rather than fixing a premium, it would be more appropriate to provide marketing and pricing freedom to the gas to be produced from the deep water, ultra deep water and high pressure-high temperature areas.

The Supreme Court on 10 March 2016 asked telecom operators to give an undertaking that they have not exceeded the two percent threshold limit of call drops as mandated in the regulations of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).A bench headed by Justice Kurian Joseph also asked the cellular operator associations to inform the court whether any penalty was ever levied on them for call drops.Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), a body of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India and 21 telecom operators challenged the Delhi High Court order upholding the 16 October 2015 decision of the TRAI.TRAI made mandatory for telecom operators to compensate for call drops from 1 January 2016.The TRAI made it mandatory for cellular operators to pay consumers one rupee per call drop experienced on their networks, subject to a cap of 3 rupees a day. The High Court allowed telecom regulator to implement its decision with effect from 1 January 2016.If the TRAI's recommendation is implemented the telecom operators will end up paying around 50000 crore rupees to the consumers in a year.

The NITI Aayog on 8 March 2016, celebrated as International Women’s Day, launched the Women Transforming India initiative in partnership with the UN in India and MyGov.  Through the initiative, NITI Aayog seeks for entries in the form of written essays/stories, preferably accompanied by photographs that set a context to the narrative. These stories should reflect new ground broken by women in empowering themselves/others, or of challenging stereotypes.To encourage and recognize women who have made a difference, particularly, by demonstrating leadership in the economic, socio-cultural and environmental front.To encourage the stories of change fostered through the setting up of small businesses/enterprises to generate livelihood opportunities for communities, challenging discriminatory practices/norms, or preserving the environment and responding to challenges of climate change.To identify successes in leading change achieved either through the use of technology or by employing innovating on-ground methods.Spread across a period of over one month, the initiative will also sensitize citizens to gender issues and seek to promote gender equity and equality, through a variety of media.Women Transforming India is consistent with the government’s renewed commitment to advancing gender equality.The many interventions including Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, Sukanya Samridhi Yojana, Janani Suraksha Yojana are testimony to its resolve to empower and educate of girls, and to tackle discrimination against girls and women.This initiative is also a step forward in furthering the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which have Gender as a stand-alone goal.

The Union Cabinet on 10 March 2016 approved the proposal of the Ministry of Home Affairs to amend the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925 through the Parliament retrospectively with effect from 8 October 2013.A meeting of the Union Cabinet, presided by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, considered the proposal and gave green signal to remove the exception given to Sehajdhari Sikhs in 1944 to vote in the elections for selecting members of the board and the committees constituted under the Act.The amendment was carried out by a Home Ministry notification on 8 October 2003, in exercise of the powers conferred by Parliament under Section 72 of the Punjab Re-organisation Act, 1966.However, the notification was nullified by the Punjab and Haryana High Court on 20 December 2011 leaving it to the appropriate and competent legislature to decide whether to amend the Act to that effect.

Egyptian diplomat and former Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit was named as Secretary General of the Arab League on 10 March 2016. The 22-member organization voted unanimously in favor of Aboul Gheit.This appointment was announced by Bahraini Foreign Minister Khaled bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa at the end of 22-nation ministerial meeting in Cairo.73-year-old Aboul Gheit, a former ambassador to the United Nations, will succeed NabilEl-Araby. Gheit served as Egypt's foreign minister during the final seven years of Hosni Mubarak's rule, leaving his post in 2011, following the mass protests that toppled the Mubarak.Gheit’s name was proposed for the post by Cairo after the incumbent, Nabil al-Arabi, another Egyptian, declined a second five-year term as Secretary General.Aboul Gheit will take office at a time when the Cairo-based Arab League is facing several tests of its unity. At the top of the list is the war in Syria that has killed more than 270000 people and displaced millions since it erupted in 2011.

The Union Cabinet, presided by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on 10 March 2016 approved the Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP).The decision will enhance domestic oil and gas production, bring substantial investment in the sector and generate sizable employment. The policy also targets the enhancement of transparency and reduction of administrative discretion. Main Four components of the policy are:Uniform license for exploration and production of all forms of hydrocarbon.The uniform licence will enable the contractor to explore conventional as well as unconventional oil and gas resources including CBM, shale gas/oil, tight gas and gas hydrates under a single license.  An open acreage policy :The concept of Open Acreage Policy will enable Exploration & Production (E&P) companies choose the blocks from the designated area. Easy to administer revenue sharing model : Present fiscal system of production sharing based on Investment Multiple and cost recovery /production linked payment will be replaced by a easy to administer revenue sharing model.The earlier contracts were based on the concept of profit sharing where profits are shared between Government and the contractor after recovery of cost. Under the profit sharing methodology, it became necessary for the Government to scrutinize cost details of private participants and this led to many delays and disputes.Under the new regime, the Government will not be concerned with the cost incurred and will receive a share of the gross revenue from the sale of oil, gas etc. This is in tune with Government’s policy of Ease of Doing Business. Marketing and pricing freedom for the crude oil and natural gas produced: Recognising the higher risks and costs involved in exploration and production from offshore areas, lower royalty rates for such areas have been provided as compared to NELP royalty rates to encourage exploration and production.A graded system of royalty rates have been introduced, in which royalty rates decreases from shallow water to deepwater and ultra-deep water. At the same time, royalty rate for onland areas have been kept intact so that revenues to the state governments are not affected.On the lines of NELP, cess and import duty will not be applicable on blocks awarded under the new policy.  This policy also provides for marketing freedom for crude oil and natural gas produced from these blocks.  This is in tune with Government’s policy of Minimum Government –Maximum Governance.

Rest of India has won the Irani Cup Cricket title. In the match played in Mumbai, Rest of India defeated 41-time Ranji Champions Mumbai by four wickets.Rest of India overhauled the victory target of 480 by making 482 for 6 on the fifth and final day in Mumbai.Rest of India’s chase was also the best-ever run-chase in the Irani history. It bettered Rest’s 424, chasing 421 set by Delhi at the Ferozshah Kotla in 1982-83.Man-of-the-match - Karun Nair.The final scores: Mumbai-603 and 182; Rest of India - 306 and 482 for 6.The Irani Cup (earlier called Irani Trophy) tournament was conceived during the 1959-60 season to mark the completion of 25 years of the Ranji Trophy championship.It was named after the late ZR Irani, who was associated with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) from its inception in 1928, till his death in 1970. The fixture is always played between the previous year's Ranji Trophy winners and the Rest of India Team.

India will launch 25 foreign satellites in 2016-17, using Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). While 12 of these 25 satellites belong to the USA, the remaining 13 belong to six other countries including Germany, Canada, Algeria, Japan, Indonesia and Malaysia.the minister of state in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), Jitendra Singh, said, "The PSLV with its string of successful flights has emerged as one of the most reliable launch vehicles in the world".Till date, 57 foreign satellites from 21 countries have been succefully launched on-board PSLV, under the commercial arrangement between Antrix Corporation Limited (Antrix) and the foreign clients".Under the agreement, signed between foreign clients and the Antrix - commercial arm of the Idian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), India will launch three satellites each of Algeria and Canada, four of Germany, one each of Indonesia, Malaysia and Japan and 12 of the USA during 2016-17.In the last three years, from January 2013 till December 2015, the ISRO had launched 28 foreign satellites belonging to nine countries. It had during this period launched seven satellites of Singapore, six of UK, five of Canada, four of the USA, two of Austria and one each of Denmark, France, Germany and Indonesia.The Antrix has earned revenue of 80.6 million euros through launching of these 28 international customer satellites".Six satellites of Singapore out of these total 28 foreign satellites were launched on-board PSLV-C29 on December 16 last year from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota - the same centre from where India on Thursday successfully put its sixth navigation satellite into the intended orbit in a launch that is just one step away from having its own regional navigation satellite system that will be on par with the US-based Global Positioning System.

Project Mausam is the initiative of Ministry of Culture which is to be implemented by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) as the nodal agency with research support of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) and National Museum as associate bodies. This project aims to explore the multi-faceted Indian Ocean world collating archaeological and historical research in order to document the diversity of cultural, commercial and religious interactions in the Indian Ocean extending from East Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, the Indian Subcontinent and Sri Lanka to the Southeast Asian archipelago. It also aims to promote research on themes related to the study of Maritime Routes through international scientific seminars and meeting and by adopting a multidisciplinary approach. It aims to encourage the production of specialized works, as well as publications for the general public with an attempt at promoting a broader understanding of the concept of a common heritage and multiple identities. Project Mausam is not aimed to counter Chinas Silk Route strategy. Instead it focuses on monsoon patterns, cultural context, maritime trade routes and coastal landscapes and examines key processes and phenomena that link different countries along the Indian Ocean littoral as well as those that connect the coastal centers to their hinterlands. Project Mausam was launched in the 38th Session of World Heritage Committee meeting which was held at Doha, Qatar in June, 2014. Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in collaboration with State Govt. of Kerela organized a National Conference on Project Mausam in Kochi in November, 2014. Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) has constituted an Academic Committee and is organizing lecture series. This information was given by Minister of State for Culture and Tourism (Independent Charge) and Minister of State for Civil Aviation Dr. Mahesh Sharma in a written reply in Rajya Sabha

The Rajya Sabha has passed the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill, 2015, paving way for regulation in the real estate sector.The law will protect home buyers against erring developers besides bringing in investments as well as transparency in the sector.Establishes state level regulatory authorities called Real Estate Regulatory Authorities (RERAs) and tribunals called Real Estate Appellate Tribunals (REAT) to settle disputes. Enforces the contract between the developer and buyer and fast track the mechanism to settle disputes. 70% of the amount collected from buyers for a project must be maintained in a separate bank (escrow) account and must only be used for construction of that project. State government can alter this amount to less than 70%. In case of delays in completion of projects on time, developers will have to pay the same penal interest rate as the buyer does. All information for registered projects must be disclosed on website of the RERA. It will include details of promoters, land status, layout plan, schedule of execution and status of various approvals. Promoters and real estate agents must register project details with RERAs who intend to sell any plot, apartment or building. The commercial real estate also has been brought under its ambit. Projects under construction are also required to be registered with the RERAs. The term carpet area has been clearly defined in order to eliminate any scope for wrongdoing.

Thirty four countries nearly 80% of them in Africa don't have enough food for their people because of conflicts,drought and flooding, according to a UN report.The Food and Agriculture Organisation's Crop Prospects and Food Situation report yesterday said conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and the Central African Republic have taken a heavy toll on agricultural production, worsening the humanitarian crisis in those countries.And the impact of these conflicts extends to neighbouring countries that are hosting refugees, straining food resources in those countries, it said.Congo is not only dealing with almost 100,000 refugees from Central African Republic but conflict in the east where an estimated 1.5 million people are displaced and flooding related to El Nino which has affected about half a million people, the report said.FAO said drought associated with El Nino has "sharply reduced" 2016 crop production prospects in southern Africa. It said dry conditions linked to El Nino may also affect the planting of crops for the main growing season in areas of Central America and the Caribbean for the third consecutive year.Dry conditions have also lowered expectations for harvests this year in Morocco and Algeria, the report said.FAO also warned that drought and floods in North Korea in 2015 "sharply decreased" food crop production in the early and main growing seasons."With a reduced harvest in 2015, the food security situation is likely to deteriorate compared to the situation of previous years, when most households were already estimated to have borderline or poor food consumption rates," the report said.The number of countries needing outside food assistance grew from 33 in December, after the addition of Swaziland where El Nino-associated drought conditions have sharply lowered 2016 cereal crop production prospectsOther countries on the FAO list facing food shortages are Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Guinea, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Sierra Leone, Burundi, Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mozambique, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Afghanistan, Myanmar and Nepal.

The Union Cabinet on 10 March 2016 approved creation of a post of Nominated Authority in the Ministry of Coal.The post will be of Joint Secretary level and was created as per the Section 6 of Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act, 2015The Union Government shall act through the Nominated Authority for the following purposes.Conduct the auction process and allotment with the assistance of experts.Execution of the vesting order for transfer and vesting of Schedule I coal mines pursuant to the auction.Executing the allotment order for any Government company or corporation in pursuance of Section 5 of Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act, 2015.Recording and mutating incorporeal rights of whatsoever nature including, consents, permissions, permits, approvals, grants, registrations.Collection of auction proceeds, adjustment of preferential payments and transfer of amount to the respective State Governments where Schedule I coal mine is located in accordance with the provisions of the Act.The creation of Nominated Authority post would resolve the uncertainties that had affected the coal sector and improve coal availability to the core sectors of the economy thereby enabling it to develop at faster pace.

The Union Government has appointed former Supreme Court (SC) judge Justice Balbir Singh Chauhan (66) as Chairman of the 21st Law Commission of India (LCI). Currently he is Chairman of the Cauvery River Water Disputes Tribunal. He was judge of the SC from May 2009 to July 2014. He also had served as Chief Justice of Orissa high court from July 2008 to May 2009. Apart from him, Union Government has appointed former judge of the Gujarat high court Justice Ravi R Tripathi as member of 21st LCI.Earlier in September 2015, Union Government had constituted 21st LCI for period of 3 years with effect from 1 September 2015 to 31 August 2018. Composition: (i) Chairperson (full-time), (ii) Four Members (full-time). It will include a Member-Secretary. (iii) 3 Secretaries: Department of Legal Affairs, Legislative Department and Legislative Department as ex offcio Members. (iv) Up to 5 part-time Members. Recommendations: 21st LCI will give its major recommendations on a review of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the criminal justice system and the bail law in order to ensure uniformity in the procedure of granting the relief.The LCI is a non-statutory and non-constitutional body constituted by the Union Government from time to time. The first commission was constituted in 1955 and since then various commissions were re-constituted every three years. It is usually headed by a retired Supreme Court judge or former Chief Justice of a high court. So far, various Law Commissions have submitted 262 reports to make important contribution towards codification and progressive development of laws of the country. The 20th LCI was headed by Justice A P Shah, Former Chief Justice (CJ) of Delhi High Court and its tenure ended on 31 August, 2015.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on 10 March 2016 approved Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana.The scheme seeks to provide free LPG connections to women from below poverty line (BPL) households and builds on the objective of achieving universal coverage of cooking gas in the country.Incidentally, this is the first time the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas would implement a welfare scheme benefitting crores of women belonging to the poorest households.Under this scheme, a financial support of 1600 rupees will be provided for each LPG connection to the BPL households.The identification of eligible BPL families will be made in consultation with the State Governments and the Union Territories.This will benefit about 1 crore 50 lakh households below the poverty line in 2016-17.It will be implemented at an estimated cost of 8000 crore rupees over three years between April 2016 and March 2019 to cover 5 crore BPL households.It is complimentary to Prime Minister’s Give It Up campaign under which 75 lakh middle class and lower middle class households have voluntarily given up their cooking gas subsidy.In India, the poor have limited access to cooking gas (LPG). The spread of LPG cylinders has been predominantly in the urban and semi-urban areas with the coverage mostly in middle class and affluent households.But, there are serious health hazards associated with cooking based on fossil fuels. According to an estimate of the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 5 lakh deaths in India alone occur due to unclean cooking fuels.Most of these premature deaths were due to non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. Indoor air pollution is also responsible for a significant number of acute respiratory illnesses in young children.According to experts, having an open fire in the kitchen is like burning 400 cigarettes an hour.Against this backdrop, the Union Government took up thechallenge of providing LPG connections to BPL households. This measure will empower women and protect their health.It will also reduce drudgery and the time spent on cooking and provide employment for rural youth in the supply chain of cooking gas.