Today Current Affairs 20th March 2017

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According to recent report tabled in the Lok Sabha, West Bengal has the highest number of arsenic-affected people in the country. State’s 83 blocks in eight districts have ground water affected by arsenic contamination.  Despite the State government’s efforts to curb the Arsenic menace, there is still a lot to be done. So far, state government was able to provide safe drinking water to 52% of the arsenic-affected areas in Bengal. The total number of arsenic-affected people in the country is about 1.48 crore (as of March 2017). West Bengal has topped the list with more than 1.04 crore arsenic-affected persons. Bihar is second with 16.88 lakh persons, with Assam is third with 14.48 lakh victims.  According to the WHO’s guidelines for drinking water quality (2011), the permissible limit of Arsenic in groundwater is .01 m/ litre. However, in India the permissible limit in drinking water was only recently been revised from .05 mg/litre to .01 mg/litre. West Bengal government recently had initiated a project to provide safe drinking water to more than six lakh people in the arsenic-affected blocks. However, there is slow progress in setting up water treatment plants since the technology for removal of arsenic is new and expensive. Arsenic Contamination  : Arsenic is a natural component in the earth’s crust. It is widely distributed throughout the environment in the air, water and land. It is highly toxic in its inorganic form. Contaminated water used for drinking, irrigation of food crops and food preparation poses the greatest threat to public health from arsenic.  Long-term exposure to arsenic from drinking-water and food can lead to chronic arsenic poisoning. It can cause cancer, skin lesions, developmental effects, cardiovascular disease, neurotoxicity and diabetes. The most important action in affected communities is the prevention of further exposure to arsenic by providing them of a safe water supply.  It is a high-profile problem in the Ganges Delta, due to the use of deep tubewells for water supply. The groundwater in these tubewells have high concentrations of arsenic in deeper levels .  

Scientists from Eindhoven University of Technology in Netherlands have developed a new wireless Internet network based on infrared rays that is reportedly 100 times faster than existing Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity) networks.  It has a huge capacity, more than 40 Gigabits per second (Gbit/s). It also does away with the need of sharing Wi-Fi, as every device gets its own ray of light. The wireless data in this network comes from a few central ‘light antennas’, that are able to precisely direct the rays of light supplied by an optical fibre.  These antennas contain a pair of gratings that radiate light rays of different wavelengths at different angles (passive diffraction gratings).  If a user is walking and his smartphone or tablet is moving out of the light antenna’s direction, then another light antenna takes over. In this system, changing the light wavelengths also changes the direction of the ray of light. It uses safe infrared wavelength that does not reach the retina in the eye. Features of the new system  : The network tracks the precise location of every wireless device using its radio signal transmitted in the return direction. Different devices are assigned different wavelengths by the same light antenna and so do not have to share capacity.  It uses infrared light with wavelengths of 1,500 nanometres and higher. Current, Wi-Fi uses radio signals with a frequency of 2.5 or five gigahertz.  On this network, researchers have managed to achieve a speed of 42.8 Gbit/s over a distance of 2.5 metres. It is hundred times fast than best Wi-Fi systems currently available that can provide users maximum 300 mbps speed. The new system so far has used the light rays only to download. Uploads are still done using radio signals since in most applications much less capacity is needed for uploading.

Scientists using Large Hadron Collider accelerator (LHC) at CERN (European Organisation for Nuclear Research) have discovered a new system of five particles all in a single analysis. This discovery is unique as observing five new states all at once is very rare. According to the standard convention, these particle states were named Oc(3000)0, Oc(3050)0, Oc(3066)0, Oc(3090)0 b Oc(3119)0. The numbers indicate their masses in megaelectronvolts (MeV), measured by LHCb experiment, one of seven particle physics detector experiments collecting data at LHC, world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator. The new particles were found to be in excited states (a particle state that has a higher energy than the ground state or absolute minimum configuration) of a particle called Omega-c-zero. Omega-c-zero is a baryon.  It is a particle with three quarks, containing two strange and one charm quark. It decays via the strong force into another baryon, called Xi-c-plus (containing a “charm”, a “strange” and an “up” quark) and a kaon K-. Xi-c-plusparticle further decays in turn into a proton p, a kaon K- and a pion p+. LHCb collaboration by analysing trajectories and energy left in the detector by all the particles in this final configuration were able to trace back the initial event he decay of the Omega-c-zeroand its excited states.  Now quantum numbers of these new particles, characteristic numbers used to identify the properties of a specific particle and their theoretical significance will be determined. Significance of the Discovery: It will contribute to understanding how the three constituent quarks are bound inside a baryon.  It will also help to probe the correlation between quarks, which plays a key role in describing multi-quark states, such as tetraquarks and pentaquarks. Baryon is a composite subatomic particle made up of three quarks (a triquark, as distinct from mesons, which are composed of one quark and one antiquark). Baryons and mesons belong to the hadron family of particles, which are the quark-based particles. The most familiar baryons are the protons and neutrons that make up most of the mass of the visible matter in the universe.

Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain on 19 March 2017 promulgated the Hindu Marriage bill into a law. The Act seeks to protect Hindu marriages and family rights. The Hindu Marriage Act of Pakistan will regulate marriages of Hindus, who are the minority in Pakistan. In short, this marriage act is the first personal law in Pakistan for Hindu residents of the country. As per reports, the Bill was signed into an Act by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Highlights of the Hindu Marriage Act of Pakistan : The Act prohibits marriage of minors. It prescribes a minimum age of 18-years for contracting marriage in addition to protecting the customs and customary rites of the Hindu community.It also introduces the concept of judicial separation. The legitimacy of children born out of the void and voidable Hindu marriages has also been protected under the bill. It also allows Hindu women to have a documentary proof of their marriage. Earlier in February 2017, the National Assembly of Pakistan passed the Hindu Marriage Bill 2016. The bill was passed after amendments which were made by the Senate. The law will be applicable in the provinces of Punjab, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The bill was tabled before the house by Minister of Human Rights Kamran Michael. While presenting the bill in the house, Michael said, the decision was taken by the ministry of human rights to protect the rights of minorities of Pakistan.  Earlier, Sindh province had introduced its own version of the Hindu marriage law.  

The Delhi High Court on 19 March 2017 passed a ruling stating that children who assault or abuse their parents while staying with them in their house can be evicted from the property.  The ruling was delivered by Justice Manmohan who specified that the house need not be self-acquired or owned by the parents. This is a major shift from the 2007 law that left it upon the state governments to frame rules to protect the life and property of senior citizens.  The court delivered its verdict in relation to an appeal filed by an alcoholic former policeman, whose service was terminated by the Delhi Police and his brother, challenging the verdict given by a senior citizens’ Maintenance Tribunal in October 2015 that ordered the eviction of the two from the residence where their elderly parents resided.  The brothers had challenged that the tribunal had exceeded its jurisdiction in passing the eviction order and argued that even in cases of allegations of physical assault, maltreatment and mental harassment of parents, no eviction order could be passed under the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007.  While interpreting the provisions of the Act, the court stated that it was in the jurisdiction of the senior citizen's maintenance tribunal to issue an eviction order to ensure the safety and protection of senior citizens in their house without forcibly having to accommodate a child who assaults and harasses them and threatens to throw them out. The court in its 52-page judgement noted that the direction to evict the adult children from the property was necessary in some cases like the present one, to ensure a normal life for senior citizens. The court also noted that while the Delhi government’s rules only allowed a senior citizen to complain to district authorities to evict abusive children from a self-acquired property, the Act, in fact, made no such discrimination and allowed parents to evict their abusive children even from a rented accommodation.  Further, the court directed the Delhi government to amend its rules and create a new action plan to protect the life and property of senior citizens.

The Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in the third week of March 2017 announced that it is expected to deliver 123 Tejas aircrafts to the Indian Air Force (IAF) by 2024. In order to achieve this goal, the HAL is in the process of setting up a new assembly line by involving the private sector. Features of Tejas : The Light Combat Aircraft Tejas is a supersonic, single-seat, single-engine multirole light fighter aircraft. The fourth generation aircraft was co-developed by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) in cooperation with the Bengaluru-based Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).  The Tejas is built from CFC materials and has unstable aerodynamics. It is equipped with a quadruplex digital fly-by-wire flight control system to ease handling by the pilot. It incorporates an advanced glass cockpit that comprises all the round dialed electro-mechanical instruments. It is fitted with the coherent pulse-Doppler Multi Mode Radar, which is designed to operate equally effectively in the Air to Air and Air to Surface domains. This tailless aircraft is designed and developed to meet diverse needs of the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian Navy (IN). The first squadron of the Tejas was inducted into the IAF on 1 July 2016. The squadron has been named as ‘Flying Daggers 45’.

Idea Cellular, owned by Kumar Mangalam Birla, on 20 March 2017 announced that its board has approved the merger of Vodafone India and its wholly-owned subsidiary Vodafone Mobile Services Limited with itself. This merger will lead to the creation of the country's largest telecom entity with about 400 million customers. The merger will also help the company in holding 35 per cent market share as well as 41 per cent revenue market share. Highlights of the merger : Vodafone will hold 45.1 per cent in the combined entity. Idea promoters will hold 26.1 per cent of the entity. Aditya Birla Group will have right to buy 9.5 per cent stake in the new entity. Under the terms of the agreement, the merger should be completed within 24 months. Idea will have the sole right to appoint the chairman. Vodafone has right to appoint CFO of the company. On the other hand, the appointment of CEO and COO will require an approval of both the companies. The entity or the combined entity will be jointly controlled by Aditya Birla Group and Vodafone. Vodafone will deconsolidate Vodafone India immediately. As per reports, Kumarmangalam Birla will be the Chairman of merged Vodafone-Idea entity. In addition to this, both companies will have equal stakes in the merged entity over a period of time. Idea Cellular in a statement said, "Upon the amalgamation of becoming effective, the entire business of VIL and VMSL (excluding VIL's investment in Indus Towers) will vest in the company”. The board of the combined entity will have 12 directors including 3 directors appointed by each of Aditya Birla Group and Vodafone. Promoters of the two firms will have the right to nominate 3 directors each.  

The Indo-Oman joint military exercise Al Nagah-II 2017 concluded on 19 March 2017 at Bakloh in Himachal Pradesh. The bilateral exercise of the Indian Army and the Royal Army of Oman was declared closed by Major General Naveen Kumar Airy of the Indian Army. Highlights of Al Nagah-II 2017 : Al Nagah-II 2017 was the second edition of the joint exercise between the Indian and Oman armies. The previous edition of the exercise was held in Muscat, Oman in 2015. The 14-day joint exercise began on 6 March 2017 with an opening ceremony. The aim of the exercise was to acquaint both forces with each other’s operating procedures, improve the interoperability in conducting joint operations in the backdrop of counter-insurgency and counter- terrorism environment. The training contingents comprised of platoon strength from both the armies.The exercise also sought to enhance the existing military relationship between the Indian Army and the Royal Army of Oman. During the exercise, the troops of the two armies shared expertise in counter-insurgency and other operations in various terrains like snow-bound areas and dense woods. The exercise also demonstrated the determination of the two armies in working closely with each other to eradicate the menace of terrorism in all its forms. The joint military exercise is a milestone in defence co-operation and military relations between the two countries.

The Indian Sports Ministry will soon be launching a talent search portal that will help spot, groom, support and encourage young Indians from across the country, especially from the rural region.  The announcement was made by the Union Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs, Vijay Goel while interacting with the Indians in Dubai. Explaining the intention behind the move, the sports minister stated that the main idea is to ensure that the grassroot population in India also gets an opportunity to contribute their share in sports. Highlights : The portal will have an interactive window that will allow any person to upload a video or a biodata of any young talented girl or a boy who has exceptional sporting ability but lacks proper exposure. The ministry will work on identifying and grooming deserving young talents and then provide them with a platform to showcase their sporting abilities irrespective of their social or economic status. The Ministry will also be providing the selected youths with proper training facilities.  The ministry is also planning to enhance the existing sports infrastructure. Besides this, Vijay Goel announced that the Ministry of Sports would be setting up a task force to conduct a feasible study on whether India will be able to host the Olympics in 2024 and 2028.

The World Sparrow Day was observed across the world on 20 March 2017. The day was created with an aim to raise awareness about the house sparrow and then other common birds to urban environments. The World Sparrow Day also speaks of threats to their populations. The day also provides an opportunity to appreciate the beauty of the common biodiversity which is taken so much for granted. World Sparrow Day is an international initiative of the Nature Forever Society of India in collaboration with several national international organisations including the Eco-Sys Action Foundation (France). The first World Sparrow Day was celebrated in 2010 across the world. Scientifically known as Passer domesticus, the house sparrow is a bird of the sparrow family Passeridae, found in most parts of the world.  It is a small bird with a typical length of 16 cm and a mass of 24–39.5 g. Females and young birds are coloured pale brown and grey, and males have brighter black, white, and brown markings. One of about 25 species in the genus Passer, the house sparrow is native to most of Europe, the Mediterranean region, and much of Asia. Its distribution in many regions makes it as the most widely distributed wild bird. The birds are directly associated with human habitations and thus can live in both rural and urban settings. Though found in widely varied habitats and climates, it typically avoids extensive woodlands, grasslands, and deserts away from human development. It feeds mostly on the seeds of grains and weeds, but at times it also eats insects. In 2012, the house sparrow, whose existence is challenged by the mindless urbanisation, was declared as the ‘State Bird of Delhi’.

The nearly five-month-long economic blockade imposed in Manipur by the United Naga Council (UNC) came to an end on 19 March 2017. Till date, the council was blocking the two National Highways of Manipur namely the Imphal-Dimapur and Imphal-Silchar highways. The economic blockade ended after successful tripartite talks between the representatives of the union government, the state government and the Naga groups at Senapati District Headquarters. The success of the tripartite talks is based on the agreement on certain demands of the United Naga Council. Highlights of demands The State Government has agreed to release the arrested leaders of the UNC without any condition. The state also agreed to close all the cases related to the economic blockade against Naga leaders including its student leaders. All the three sides also agreed upon holding the next tripartite talks within one month. The Centre: It was represented by the Joint Secretary (North-East) of the Ministry of Home Affairs-Satyender Garg Manipur Government: It was represented by its Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Dr J Sureshbabu and Commissioner (Works) K. Radhakumar The United Naga Council (UNC): It was represented by its Core Committee members including former President of the Council- Paul Leo, Samson Remei, All Naga Students Association and others. The United Naga Council imposed a blockade on NH-2 and NH-37 on 1 November 2016 to protest against the creation of seven new districts by the erstwhile Okram Ibobi Singh-led Congress government in the state. The blockade led to a steep rise in prices of essential commodities and severely affected the normal life and it became a major issue in the recent Assembly polls in the state.

Mumbai on 19 March 2017 lost its permanent voting status in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). It lost the voting rights in accordance with the new constitution of the Indian Cricket Board, which was finalised by the Committee of Administrators (COA) appointed by the Supreme Court of India. The new rules of Memorandum of Associations (MOA) and Rules & Regulations of BCCI clearly states, there could be only one full member from a state. In addition to it, the new constitution of the Indian cricket board also grants full membership with voting rights to all the North Eastern states, namely Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Sikkim. The full membership with voting rights was given to the North Eastern states as recommended in Lodha Panel reforms. Other states to receive the full membership include Telangana and Uttarakhand. On the other hand, Bihar gets back its voting right but it will start functioning only after the pending cases are over. Ranji champions’ along with Baroda and Saurashtra are associate members and will take turns to rotate annually to vote. The new Memorandum of Association has also taken away the proxy system. The Committee of Administrators has strictly adhered to the reforms that have been passed by the Supreme Court.

State-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) has signed definitive agreements to buy Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation’s (GSPC) entire 80% stake in KG-basin natural gas block for $1.2 billion.  The company will close the deal and pay debt-ridden GSPC the money after getting the regulatory approvals like government nod for transfer of participating interest (PI) and change of operatorship. Under the farm-in and farm-out agreement, ONGC will pay $995.26 million for three discoveries in the KG-OSN-2001/3 block that are under trial production since August 2014. Besides, another $200 million will be paid for six other discoveries for which GSPC has been finalising an investment plan to bring them to production. ONGC will also have to pay for the entire development cost of the six discoveries Jubilant Offshore Drilling Pvt Ltd and Geo Global Resources (India) Inc each holds 10% stake in the block.

The central government has appointed Dilip Shanghvi, managing director of Sun Pharmaceuticals as a member on the western area local board of Reserve Bank of India. His period of tenure is four years with effect from March 11, 2017. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is India's central banking institution, which controls the monetary policy of the Indian rupee. It commenced its operations on 1 April 1935 during the British Rule in accordance with the provisions of the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934.  

Former captain of the Pakistan national cricket team ‘Boom Boom’, Shahid Afridi has roped as the ambassador for the 5th Blind Cricket World Cup  by the Pakistan Blind Cricket Council (PBCC) Blind Cricket World Cup will be hosted by PBCC in the United Arab Emirates(UAE) and Pakistan in January 2018. This tournament to be played in ODI format Shahid Afridi : Afridi has played 27 Test matches, in which he hit 1,176 runs with a highest score of 156 and 48 wickets.and he announced his retirement from international cricket in February 2017. He is currently working as the President for PSL team Peshawar Zalmi  

An Indian-American computer scientist, Anshumali Shrivastava, was honored with the National Science Foundation’s prestigious CAREER Award for his research on redesigning current machine-learning processes. Each year about 400 scholars receives the CAREER Award across all disciplines to support the research and educational development of young scholars likely to become leaders in their fields. Shrivastava, who is currently working an assistant professor of computer science at Rice University, hopes to come up with clever algorithmic strategies to enable faster, more scalable computations required by big data and machine-learning technologies. He has done his MS and BS in mathematics and computing from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur in 2008 and a PhD in computer science from Cornell University in 2015 and then in the same year he joined the Rice faculty. CAREER Award : CAREER awards are the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious awards to represent the role of teacher-scholars through research, education and the integration of education and research. The award comes with a federal grant for research and education activities for five consecutive years. The National Science Foundation is a United States government agency that supports fundamental research and education in all the non-medical fields of science and engineering.

An Indian-American CEO, Sandeep Matharani, has been ranked 4th on a list of top 25 overpaid CEOs in the United States, as per the report by US based NGO ‘As You Sow’. Sandeep Matharani, CEO of General Growth Properties, Chicago was paid a total compensation of USD 39.2 million in 2016. According to the report, he was overpaid by USD 26 million. The list was topped by Leslie Moonves, CEO of CBS. Moonves earned compensation worth USD 56.7 million in 2016. Marc Benioff of Salesforce ranked second on the list with a total compensation of USD 33.4 million. Discovery Communications David Zaslav was placed third with a compensation of USD 32.4 million. Among the top 25 overpaid CEOs on the list, 15 were appearing on it for a second time and 10 of them were listed for the third time. As You Sow is a non-profit organisation that promotes environmental and social corporate responsibility and takes a close look at CEO’s pay.

Yogi Adityanath, the 32nd Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh now have two deputies Keshav Prasad Maurya and  Dinesh Sharma. Keshav Prasad Maurya was the party's UP chief, and Dinesh Sharma, who has been Lucknow Mayor for many years and led the party's membership drive in the state. The oath-taking ceremony was held in Lucknow's sprawling Smriti Upvan complex near the Ambedkar memorial. Other states who have had two Deputy CM are Meghalaya, Telengana and Jharkhand. Apart from the CM and the two Deputy CMs, there are 22 Cabinet Ministers and 22 Ministers of State.

Mumbai-based Ushalakshmi Breast Cancer Foundation has released an app to provide information under one roof. Launched by Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan, the app – ‘ABC of Breast Health’ – will provide information in 12 languages. Ushalakshmi Breast Cancer Foundation has been established in 2007, working with a missionary zeal to make significant and meaningful difference to the lives of people affected by breast cancer or with Breast health concerns through the provision of high quality, innovative, responsive services and by campaigning for excellence in breast cancer treatment and care.   

Punjab cabinet has decided to provide 33 per cent reservation for women in all government jobs.  The cabinet also decided to increase representation of women in the Panchayati Raj Institutions and Urban Local Bodies from the present 33 per cent to 50 per cent. 

Renowned Meteorologist and former director of the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (Pune) Dev Raj Sikka passed away. He was 85. He is famously known as Monsoon Man and the Father of Indian Meteorology. He was first proposed a link between the El Nino phenomenon and the Indian monsoon in 1982, but that time less importance was given to it. Dev Raj Sikka He was born on March 1, 1932 in Jhang, Maghiana in Pre-partition India (now in Panjab, Pakistan) and later migrated to India after the partition. He had completed his Masters in Science (MSc) in Physical Chemistry from Agra University and joined Indian Meteorological Department (IMP) in 1954.  He joined Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) in Pune in 1964 and retired from the same as the director of the institute. He is credited with being among the pioneers of developing weather models and computer-modelling techniques to forecast the monsoon. He had actively participated in research and development of Monsoon Dynamics, , Prediction of Weather and Climatology, Tropical Meteorology, Atmospheric Chemistry and Air-Sea interaction. He had served as Chairman of the Ministry of Earth Sciences’ Monsoon Mission, a programme to improve monsoon-related forecasts. He also had served as chairman of Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) committee on Climate Change and also of Research and Advisory Council of National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecast. Awards and Honours: IMD’s Lifetime time achievement award and Sir Gilbert Walker Gold Medal (2010).  El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO)  : It is complex climatic and weather phenomenon observed due see-sawing of temperatures in the equatorial Pacific. It is among the most significant factors that meteorologists scan to forecast the performance of the Indian monsoon. 6 out of 10 El Nino-years have been associated with below-normal rainfall over India.

First fully India-made train (rake) Medha was flagged off at Dadar station in Mumbai, capital of Maharashtra by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu via videoconferencing. The rake (group of coaches) costs Rs.43.23 crore, approximately Rs. 1 crore less than imported German-made Bombardier rake, which is Rs. 44.36 crore. It will save foreign exchange worth $50 lakh per EMU rake along with 25% manufacturing cost.  Features of Medha :  It has been manufactured by the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Its rake with 12 coaches has capacity of 6,050 passengers and 1,168 seats.  It has in-built systems to minimise breakdowns during the travel. It is fitted with a high power fully Made in India 3-phase propulsion system and powered by Hyderabad-based firm Medha Servo Drives. The rake can run at a speed of 110 kmph, whereas local trains run at maximum 90 or 100 kmph.  Like the existing rakes, it has cushioned seats in first class and stainless steel seats in general compartments. It also has LED lighting which reduces energy consumption by approximately 30-35% as compared to the existing rakes.  It is also fitted with GPS-based information system to indicate the stations and also has a facility that will help motormen communicate with a guard in case of emergencies. The rake also has modular roof-mounted forced ventilation system which supplies 16000 cubic m/hr fresh air into the passenger area.

Five-time Parliamentarian and BJP’s firebrand leader Yogi Adityanath (44) was sworn in as the 21st Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. Keshav Prasad Maurya and Dinesh Sharma were sworn in as Deputy Chief Ministers. They were administered the oath to the office and secrecy by Governor Ram Naik at oath taking ceremony held in Kanshiram Smriti Upvan in Lucknow. Besides them 47-member council of ministers consisting of 22 cabinet ministers, 9 ministers of state (MoS) with independent charge and 13 ministers of states (MoS) also took oath.  The cabinet has 5 female ministers and 1 Muslim Minster, Mohsin Raza. Yogi Adityanath :  Mahant Yogi Adityanath was born as Ajay Singh Bisht on 5 June 1972 in Panchur, Pauri Garhwal district in then undivided Uttar Pradesh (now in Uttarakhand).  He had renounced his family at the age of 21 and became a disciple of Mahant Avaidyanath, then the head priest of Gorakhnath Math. He was promoted to the rank of Mahant of Guru Gorakhnath Temple, following the death of his spiritual father Mahant Aavaidyanath on 12 September 2014. He is also the founder of the Hindu Yuva Vahini He was elected as a MP of Lok Sabha from the Gorakhpur Constituency, Uttar Pradesh for five consecutive terms (1998, 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014). He was the youngest member of the 12th Lok Sabha at 26. Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) had won the 17th Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly election by winning 312 seats of the total 403 seats. BJP’s allies Apna Dal (Sonelal) and Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party won 9 and 4 seats respectively. Samajwadi Party had won 47 seats, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) won 19 seats and Congress had won 7 seats. The election was held from 11 February to 8 March 2017 in 7 phases with voter turnout of 60-61% compared to 59.48% in 2012 elections.

India’s longest surface tunnel in Jammu and Kashmir’s Udhampur district is complete. It will be open to traffic soon, following successful completion of trial runs for peak and off-peak hours.  The 9-km-long tunnel at Chenani passes through the lower Himalayan mountain range on Jammu- Srinagar National Highway. Cheneni-Nashiri Road Tunnel was started in May 2011. It took nearly six years for completion of the project at a cost of over Rs. 3,720 crore.  The 9-km-long twin-tube tunnel located at an elevation of 1,200 metres. It is an important part of a 286-km-long four-lane project on the highway. It is India’s first tunnel equipped with world class integrated tunnel control system through which ventilation, signals, fire control, communication and electrical systems are automatically actuated. It reduces travel distance between Jammu and Srinagar by 30 kilometres and save time by three to four hours.  The road distance from Chenani and Nashri will now be 10.9 km, instead of present 41 km. The tunnel will provide all-weather road connectivity to the Valley and avoid landslide-prone stretch. It will help to boost the trade and commerce and tourism in the valley.

The Union Minister of State for Textiles Ajay Tamta on 16 March 2017 informed the Lok Sabha that the ministry approved the Solar Energy Scheme for Small Powerloom Units. The minister also announced that the scheme will come into force on 1 April 2017. Features of Solar Energy Scheme for Small Powerloom Units : The scheme seeks to provide financial assistance in the form of capital subsidy to small powerloom units for installation of Solar Photo Voltaic (SPV) plants. These SPV plants will alleviate the problem of power cuts and shortages faced by decentralized powerloom units in the country. Under the scheme, the plants have two options - (i) On-Grid Solar Power Plant in areas where power cuts and shortages are negligible and power tariff is high (ii) Off-Grid Solar Power Plant in areas where there is a power shortage and on-grid power is not continuously available Measures to boost powerloom sector Following are some of the initiatives of the Union Ministry of Textiles that seek to promote the powerloom sector across the country. Comprehensive Powerloom Cluster Development Scheme (CPCDS) : It seeks to assist the entrepreneurs in establishing world-class units with modern infrastructure, latest technology and appropriate market linkages. In 2008-09, the scheme was launched in two clusters, namely, Bhiwandi (Maharashtra) and Erode (Tamil Nadu). In 2013-14, the Modified Comprehensive Powerloom Cluster Development Scheme (CPCDS) was launched in order to extend the original scheme to other parts of the country. Integrated Scheme for Power Sector Development : The detailed guidelines of the scheme were issued in October 2013 by the Union Government. Its primary objective is to empower powerloom industry and build their capacity to meet the challenges of the market and global competition in a sustainable and self-reliant manner.It has five components, including market development programme, establishing common facility centres and organizing awareness programmes, seminars and workshops. A special purpose vehicle (SPV) was set up by the government to oversee the implementation of the scheme.