Top 15 Current Affairs 16th March 2017

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16 March 2017

The Executive Committee (EC) of National Mission for Clean Ganga on 15 March 2017 approved 20 projects worth nearly Rs 1900 crore. Out of 20 projects, 13 are in Uttarakhand that includes creating new sewage treatment plants, upgrading existing STPs and laying of sewage networks in Haridwar at an estimated cost of around Rs 415 crore. The approved plan for Haridwar is aimed at treating sewage water generated by not only city’s 1.5 lakh local dwellers, but also by people who visit the place for various purposes. All the projects will be completely funded by the Union Government, including the expenditure on operation and maintenance of these projects. Highlights : Out of 13 projects approved for Uttarakhand, four pertain to pollution abatement works for river Alakananda to ensure cleaner flow of the river downstream. This includes interception and diversion of drains along with creation of new small STPs at four crucial locations at an estimated cost of nearly Rs 78 crore. These locations are Joshimath, Rudraprayag, Karnprayag and Kirti Nagar. A pollution abatement project for River Ganges at Rishikesh has also been approved at an estimated cost of more than Rs 158 crore. The construction of a new 26 MLD STP at Lakkar Ghat with online monitoring system has also been envisaged in the Rishikesh-specific project. In New Delhi, a project to construct new state-of-the-art 564 MLD Okhla sewage treatment plant with best effluent standards has also been approved at an estimated cost of Rs 665 crore. The new project will replace the existing STPs phase-I, II, III and IV. In addition, two projects for laying new sewage pipelines in Pitampura and Kondli in Delhi have also been approved. These new pipelines will prevent leakages and they have an estimated cost of more than Rs 100 crore. The Union Cabinet also approved sewage related works in Karmalichak in Patna and Rajmahal in Jharkhand for a cost of over Rs 335 crore. For River Ganges in Varanasi, a project under Hybrid-Annuity PPP model worth almost Rs 151 crore has also been given EC approval.

16 March 2017

Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman launched the Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme (TIES) on 15 March 2017. Speaking on the occasion, Sitharaman said that the scheme aims to address the needs of the exporters and added that the focus is not just on creating infrastructure but to make sure it is professionally run and sustained. Highlights : An empowered committee will be set up to periodically review the progress of the approved projects in the scheme. The committee will also take the required steps to ensure that the objectives of the scheme are achieved. The committee chaired by Commerce Secretary Rita Teaotia would also look over the proposals of the implementing agencies for funding. Explaining the scheme further, Rita Teaotia stated that some of the biggest cost incurred by the exporters is on account of the absence of proper dedicated infrastructure, whether it is testing or handling facilities or cold storages at ports. Hence she added that TIES, which would focus on projects like checkpoints, first and last mile connectivity, border haats and integrated check posts, would help in ensuring smoother movement in export cargo and better quality standards and certification. Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme (TIES) : The main objective of the scheme is to enhance export competitiveness by bridging the gap in export infrastructure, which has not been addressed by any other scheme. Under this scheme, all central and state agencies including Commodities Boards, SEZ authorities, Export Promotion Councils and Apex Trade Bodies recognised under the EXIM policy of Government of India will be eligible for financial support. The funding would be in form of grant-in-aid and in normal cases it would not be more than the equity being funded by the implementing agency or 50% of the total equity in the project. However, in cases of projects located in the North Eastern states or Himalayan states including Jammu & Kashmir, the grant will go up to 80% of the total equity.Five per cent of the grant approved would be used for appraisal, review and monitoring. The scheme would be implemented from 1 April 2017 with a total budgetary allocation of Rs 600 crore for three years and an annual outlay of Rs 200 crore.The cost of projects under TIES would be equally shared by the Centre and the states.  

16 March 2017

The Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune and Canon India Private Limited on 15 March 2017 signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to promote film education through short-term courses across several towns and cities in the country. Highlights of the MoU : The courses are proposed to be held in non-metros such as Guwahati, Jaipur, Vishakhapatnam, Raipur, Chandigarh, Raipur, Bhopal, Leh and Andaman & Nicobar Islands. Basically, Canon partnered FTII for its Skilling India in Film and Television (SKIFT), an initiative designed to spread the art of cinematography and film making across the country.   Under FTII's unique initiative SKIFT (Skilling India in Film and Television), several short courses, mostly of skill-oriented nature have been proposed to be held in collaboration with several State Governments, Universities and Educational institutions. Initially SKIFT will conduct courses such as Digital Cinematography, Documentary Film Making, Screenplay Writing, Acting, Film Criticism & Journalism and Film Appreciation. As a technology partner for this initiative, Canon India will add value to the program which is endeavoured to scale skill development in film and television to greater heights. Canon as a technology partner of SKIFT will be providing high-end cameras and accessories free of cost for the courses.  This support by Canon will be a major contributing factor in keeping the course fees affordable while offering an opportunity to course participants to use cutting-edge equipment. FTII Pune : FTII Pune is one of Asia's leading and India's foremost institute in film and television education.  It has been working to break new grounds by pushing to democratise cinematic education by offering quality and affordable training to general public and practitioners at locations where there is a demand for such courses.  FTII is also in the process of aligning some of the short courses with Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) under National Skill Development Council.  

16 March 2017

Congress leader Captain Amarinder Singh was on 16 March 2017 sworn in as the 26th Chief Minister (CM) of Punjab. Alongside, Navjot Singh Sidhu was sworn in as a Cabinet Minister of Punjab.Amarinder Singh was administered oath of office and secrecy by Punjab Governor VP Singh Badnore at an impressive ceremony at the Punjab Raj Bhawan. Nine ministers including two women were also inducted in the state cabinet. The ministers inducted included Brahm Mohindra, Navjot Singh Sidhu, Manpreet Badal, Charanjit Singh Channi, Rana Gurjeet Singh, Sadhu Singh Dharamsot and Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa. The two women inducted are Aruna Chaudhary and Razia Sultana. This comes following the landslide victory of Congress in the Punjab Elections 2017. Congress won 77 seats in the 117-seat Assembly. However, other parties AAP and the SAD-BJP alliance could only manage  20 and 18 seats respectively. Amarinder Singh : Amarinder is a former Army captain.  He joined the Indian Army in June 1963 after graduating from the National Defence Academy and Indian Military Academy.  He was inducted into the Congress by Rajiv Gandhi and was first elected to the Lok Sabha in 1980.He was also the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the 16th Lok Sabha till 2016. This is the second time that Amarinder has become Chief Minister of the state. He was earlier in office from 2002 to 2007.

16 March 2017

The Union Cabinet on 15 March 2017 approved the revised Mode of Operation (MoO) and Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Bangladesh to establish the Border Haats on India-Bangladesh Border. ‘ The Revised MoU and Mode of Operation will provide a legal framework for establishment and operationalization of additional Border Haats. Benefits of the Border Haats : These Border Haats are being created with an aim to promote the well-being of the people dwelling in the remote areas across the borders of the two countries. Besides promoting the well-being of people who are the residents of the remote areas, these haats will help in promoting the traditional system of marketing the local produce through local markets.These measures help to improve the economic well-being of marginalised sections of society. The approval to this revised MoU and MoO was given at a Union Cabinet meet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. At present, four Border haats are operational between the two countries, two each in Tripura and Meghalaya. These haats were established under the MoU and Mode of operation of Border Haats earlier signed between Bangladesh and India on 23 October 2010. Later on 15 May 2012, an addendum to the mode of operation of Border Haats was also signed. Border Haats : The border haats were created with an aim to boost the trade between the two countries. The trade in these haats is permitted in both Indian Rupees and Bangladeshi Taka as well as on barter basis.  Data of such trade is managed by the Haat Management Committee of the respective border haat. As per reports of December 2016, the data furnished by the concerned state governments said that the cash trade was equivalent to Rs 1686.62 lakhs. This transaction was carried out at the four border haats in the five-year period ending 2015-16. There are no border haats in operation along the Bhutan and Myanmar borders. In addition to these existing four functional border haats, the governments of the two countries have approved six additional border haats. These six border haats will be developed in two in Tripura at Palbasti and Kamalpur and four in Meghalaya at Bholaganj, Nalikata, Shibbari and Ryngku. Apart from this, the Union Cabinet also approved the signing of a MoU on Aids to Navigation (AtoNs) between the Directorate General of Lighthouses & Lightships (DGLL) functional under Union Ministry of Shipping and the Department of Shipping of Bangladesh. Approval to this signing of the MoU will help the two countries in cooperating in capacity building in the field of AtoN training in the South Asian region. It will also give a boost to imparting training on the management of marine aids to navigation based on IALA Model Course E-141/1 and accordingly facilitate the delivery of a professional training course as per the IALA guidelines.

16 March 2017

Scientists from Swedish Museum of Natural History have found two kinds of fossils resembling red algae in uniquely well-preserved sedimentary in Chitrakoot, Madhya Pradesh One type is thread-like, the other one consists of fleshy colonies.This algae is 1.6 billionyears old which will be the oldest evidence of plant-like life found on the Earth. The Indian fossils are 400 million years older and by far the oldest plant-like fossils ever found The earliest traces of life on Earth are at least 3.5 billion years old. These single-celled organisms, unlike eukaryotes, lack nuclei and other organelles. Large multicellular eukaryotic organisms became common much later, about 600 million years ago, near the transition to the Phanerozoic Era, the “time of visible life” This research was published in the open access journal PLOS Biology on on 14 March, 2017

16 March 2017

Former Judge of the Gauhati High Court Chittaranjan Sharma has sworn in as Assam’s Upalokayukta by Governor Banwarilal Purohit on March 14, 2017 Lokayukta is an anti corruption ombudsmen appointed in states. For the very first time the Maharashtra state has been initiated Lokayukta in year 1971 and at present the Lokayukta system is functioning in 17 states. The state government will appoint Lokayukta.

16 March 2017

Union Minister of State for Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises, Babul Supriyo has been named as Vice President of the 2017 U-17 FIFA World Cup organising committee said by Praful Patel, president of All India Football Federation (AIFF) on March 15, 2017 For the first time, India to host FIFA U-17 World from October 6 to 28, 2017 A FIFA team will visit India this month end for the final inspection of the facilities in the six cities which will host matches of the U-17 World Cup.

16 March 2017

Chennai Port Trust and the Government of Puducherry has signed Memorandum of Understanding(MoU) for handling EXIM cargo originating from Puducherry Port hinterland on March 15, 2017 in New Delhi To promote industrial growth in the region, generate substantial employment and attract investment by major industries. The cargo originating from Puducherry Port hinterland will be transported through sea mode to Chennai Port for shipping to overseas destinations through mainline and feeder vessels and vice-versa. Around 5 Lakh to 10 Lakh tonnes of cargo is expected to be handled between this two ports.

16 March 2017

India’s contribution to the United Nations has increased to Rs 244 crore from Rs 157crore during the fiscal year 2016-16 said by Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj Indian government had also made voluntary contributions to the tune of Rs 22 crore to international organisations, including UN agencies. For the period 2016-18, India’s Scale of Assessment for the UN’s Regular and Peacekeeping budgets has been fixed at 0.737 per cent and 0.1474 per cent, respectively.

16 March 2017

In a bid to encourage women participation in workforce, Saudi Arabia has for the first time decided to launch a Girl’s Council. However, the encouraging initiative became more talk of the town, when none of the female member of the council was present on the stage at its first Qassim Girls Council meeting on March 14, 2017. The meeting in the al-Qassim province was attended by 13 male members while the women were present too but they were in another room, linked via video due to strict Saudi laws on gender segregation between unrelated men and women. The meeting was led by province governor, Prince Faisal bin Mishal bin Saud while the girls’ council is chaired by his wife, Princess Abir bint Salman. Saudi Arabia is taking steps to move toward loosening some of its rules and increasing women’s participation in the workforce from 22% to 30% as part of its Vision 2030programme. But it should also see that women’s voices must be heard in the changes and for this they need to be given a platform.

16 March 2017

Focussing on women welfare and new born, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao has come out with an innovative scheme – KCR Kit. The government proposes to earmark ₹605 crore for the scheme. The scheme is designed to address complications during the time of pregnancy and aimed at reducing infant mortality rate and encourage institutional deliveries. The KCR Kit consists of 16 essential things needed for a new-born and will be useful for up to three months. The kit comes packed with soaps useful for mother and child, baby oil, baby bed, mosquito net, dresses, sarees, hand bag, towels and napkins, powder, diapers, shampoo and toys for the kid.

16 March 2017

IndusInd Bank has entered into an agreement with Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services Ltd (IL& FS) to acquire 100% stake in IL& FS Securities Services Ltd (ISSL). The private sector bank, however, did not disclose the cost of acquisition or the price at which ISSL shares were acquired. ISSL, which was incorporated in 2007 as a subsidiary of IL& FS, is a capital market intermediary for professional clearing, depository and custodial Services.

16 March 2017

The Gujarat government has entered into an agreement with a global cloud-based solutions provider cloudBuy.com to develop a B2B marketplace for small and large business units in the state. The e-marketplace will be used to promote businesses in the state on one single platform, where members can trade with each other and across India and globally.  The project has been developed as part of the Centre’s ‘Digital India’ and ‘Make in India’ initiatives.  

16 March 2017

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved Indian Institutes of Information Technology (Public- Private Partnership) Bill, 2017. Decision in this regard was taken by Union Cabinet meeting chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi. The Bill will declare the existing IIITs in PPPS as ‘Institutions of National Importance with powers to award degrees. This coveted status will entitle them to use the nomenclature of Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech) or Master of Technology (M.Tech) or Ph.D degree as issued by Institution or University of National Importance. By granting formal degree, IIITs will enhance the prospects of graduating students in job market and will also enable them to attract enough students to develop a strong research base in the country in the field of IT. Besides, it will also cater the emerging needs of the industry and the economy as a whole for skilled technical manpower from the talent pool of trained personnel of the institutes.  The 15 IIITs are: Assam (Guwahati), Andhra Pradesh (Chittoor), Haryana (Sonipat), Gujarat (Vadodara),Himachal Pradesh (Una), Kerala (Kottayam), Jharkhand (Ranchi), Karnataka (Dharwad), Maharashtra (Nagpur & Pune), Rajasthan (Kota), Manipur (Senapati), Tamilnadu (Tiruchirappalli), Uttar Pradesh (Lucknow), Kalyani (West Bengal). In 2010, the Union Cabinet had approved scheme of setting up of 20 new IIITs in Public Private Partnership (IIIT PPP). But it was not having provision empowering these institutes to grant degrees to its students.  

16 March 2017

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved Policy for Early Monetization of Coal Bed Methane (CBM) Gas Marketing and Pricing Freedom for CBM Gas. The policy provides marketing and pricing freedom to the CBM Contractors to sell the CBM at Arm’s Length Price in the domestic market.  The policy is expected to incentivize the CBM operation in the country to boost gas production and will generate economic activities. It will in turn be beneficial for creating more employment opportunities in CBM operations and related activities. Under it, contractor while discovering the market price has to ensure a fully transparent and competitive process for sale of CBM at the best possible price without any restrictive commercial practices. It allows contractors to sell the CBM to its any affiliate, in the case it cannot identify any buyer. However, royalty and other dues to the Government will be payable on the basis of Petroleum Planning & Analysis Cell (PPAC) notified prices or selling prices, whichever is higher. Coal Bed Methane (CBM)  : CBM is natural gas found in coal seams. It mainly consists of Methane (CH4) with minor amounts of nitrogen (N2), carbon dioxide (CO2) and heavier hydrocarbons like ethane (C2H6). It is clean source of energy. During the initial years of mining, CBM was vented out and wasted into the atmosphere as it was considered as serious safety hazard while conducting coal mining operations. However, later with advancement of technology it was possible to extract CBM, a precious energy resource and an unconventional form of natural gas. Advantages of CBM as a fuel  : It is environmentally safe and clean fuel which on combustion emits only carbon dioxide and water. It is not only considered as an efficient fuel but also reduces emission of greenhouse gas from coal mining. Its extraction prior to coal mining activities makes mining activities safer by degassing the coal seams.  

16 March 2017

The Andhra Pradesh Finance Minister Yanamala Rama Krishnudu on 15 March 2017 presented the annual budget for the State for the period between April 2017 and March 2018. The total size of the budget is pegged at Rs 1,56,999.40 crore, out of which revenue expenditure will be Rs 1,25,911.62 crore. Highlights of the budget : The Receipts on revenue account during the year 2017-18 are estimated at Rs 1,25,495.82 crore as against Rs 1,07,708.88 crore during the FY 2016-17.Rs 9,091 crore, which constitutes 5.79 per cent of the total budgetary spending, was allocated for the development of  agriculture and allied sectors. To revitalize the rural economy, Rs 19,565 crore was  allocated to develop social and economic infrastructure in rural areas.The finance minister has proposed Rs. 3,600 crore for the payment towards the next instalment of debt redemption for farmers. Micro Irrigation was given top priority with a proposed outlay of Rs 200 crore for the year 2017-18.  Under Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, it was proposed to encourage farmer groups in vegetable growing areas in value addition activities such as grading and packing, establishment of market linkages and pack houses.Oil palm area expansion will be encouraged with the proposed allocation of 55 crore rupees. The Andhra Pradesh Industrial Corridor Development Authority (APICDA) will be established shortly to manage industrial infrastructure development under a single umbrella entity.An allocation of Rs. 125 crore is proposed in the financial year 2017-18 for rejuvenation of MSMEs. A provision of Rs. 364 crore was proposed for IT, E&C department in the financial year 2017-18.  In the financial year 2017-18, an allocation of Rs 285 crore was proposed for tourism development and Rs 72 crore to the cultural affairs department. It was proposed to help 1,09,326 SC families under economic support schemes during 2017-18 with an investment of Rs 847 crore.  

16 March 2017

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg, the highest court in the European Union recently passed a ruling, allowing companies to ban staff from wearing visible religious symbols including Islamic headscarves at work. The court, however, added that if a company does not have a policy barring their staff from sporting the religious symbols then customers cannot demand workers to remove their headscarves. This ruling was issued as a joint judgment in the cases of two women from France and Belgium, who were dismissed from their workplace for refusing to remove their headscarves. The court ruled that an internal rule of an undertaking that prohibits the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign does not constitute to direct discrimination.It further stated that a company's wish to project a neutral image was legitimate. The first case, which is of Samira Achbita, was referred to the ECJ by the Belgian courts.  Achbita was fired in June 2006 for refusing to take off her scarf and her company had stated that she had broken their unwritten rule that prohibited religious symbols. The second case was of a design engineer- Asma Bougnaoui who was fired from an IT consultancy firm after a customer complained that his staff had been embarrassed by her headscarf while she was on their premises to give counselling. The ruling has come as a blow to many religious groups. It also contradicts the ruling from the European court of human rights (ECHR), which allowed crosses to be worn at workplaces.

16 March 2017

Ramakrishna Ashram, which is located in the South 24 Parganas of West Bengal, was conferred with the national-level Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay Rashtriya Krishi Vigyan Protsahan Puraskar for 2016. The award was presented by the Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers' Welfare Radha Mohan Singh on 15 March 2017 during the inaugural function of the Krishi Unnati Mela 2017 in New Delhi. On this occasion, the minister also distributed 11 regional level Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay Rashtriya Krishi Vigyan Protsahan Puraskars. The 3-day long Krishi Unnati Mela 2017 is jointly organised by the Indian Council of Agriculutral Research (ICAR) and the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare.  Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay Rashtriya Krishi Vigyan Protsahan Puraskar : The award was instituted by the Union Government in 2016 to mark the birth centenary year of Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay, a pioneer of Antyodaya. The total sum of this award is 50 lakh rupees in which there is a provision of one award of 25 lakh rupees at the national level and 11 awards of Rs 2,25,000 lakh each at the regional level. The winners of this annual award are selected by the selection committee on the basis of nominations received from all the Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) across the country.

16 March 2017

The Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on 14 March 2017 introduced the Footwear Design and Development Institute (FDDI) Bill, 2017 in the Lok Sabha. The Bill is aimed at declaring the FDDI as an Institution of National Importance (INI). Provisions of the Footwear Design and Development Institute Bill, 2017 :  It proposes that FDDI shall be established as a body corporate. The existing institute is centrally-funded for meeting its capital expenditure.It aims to facilitate and promote teaching, training and research in all disciplines relating to design and development of Footwear and leather products. It will enable FDDI to emerge as Centre of Excellence meeting international standards.The institute shall consist of a Governing Council having a Chairperson who shall be an eminent academician, scientist or industrialist from the leather sector. The Chairperson shall be nominated by the Union Government. The Union Government shall have the power to remove the  Chairperson or other members or can reconstitute the Governing Council as well.  The FDDI will develop and conduct courses leading to graduate and post-graduate degrees, doctoral and post-doctoral courses and research in the areas of footwear and leather products. The institute will conduct skill development programmes and provide technical assistance to artisans, craftsmen, manufacturers, designers and exporters. Footwear Design & Development Institute : The Footwear Design & Development Institute was established in 1986 with the objective of providing trained human resource and assistance to the sector.  It has a pan-India presence with campuses at Noida, Kolkata, Chennai, Fursatganj (UP), Rohtak (Haryana), Chhindwara (M.P) and Jodhpur (Rajasthan) equipped with state of art academic facilities and infrastructure.  Its new campuses at Hyderabad, Patna, Ankleshwar (Gujarat), Banur(Punjab) and Guna (M.P) would also start functioning shortly.