General - Current Affairs for April,2017

Month and Year:   
▼ Get your PAN linked to your Aadhaar. It’s important!   [04-28-17]

GoI clarified that permanent account number will not be retrospectively invalidated if not linked with Aadhaar.

PAN will be invalidated from July 1, 2017 and not from when one had applied for it, Mukul Rohatgi, government’s top law officer attorney announced.

Earlier this month, the government had made Aadhaar number compulsory for filing income tax returns and also to apply for a new PAN.

According to the new Finance Act, 2017, the PAN number can be considered void if it is not linked with the Aadhaar.

The court was hearing three petitions on the government’s decision to make Aadhaar mandatory for PAN and also for filing returns.

Aadhaar is more a right of the citizen and not a duty. Hence, it can be argued it cannot be made mandatory for any government scheme.

Government has made Aadhaar mandatory for multiple schemes and facilities including filing tax returns and getting a new phone connection.

▼ India ranks 133 on World Press Freedom Index   [04-28-17]

India ranks abysmally low at 133 among 180 countries in the latest annual World Press Freedom Index.

The report holds that Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems “indifferent” to the threats against journalists.

The 2016 ‘World Press Freedom Index’ released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is led by Finland, which retained its top spot for the sixth consecutive year, followed by Netherlands and Norway.

India jumped three spots from the 136th position it had in 2015.

It is hard to permit journalists to cover regions such as Kashmir that are regarded as sensitive by the government,the report alleged.

Among India’s neighbouring countries, Pakistan ranks 147, Sri Lanka (141), Afghanistan (120), Bangladesh (144), Nepal (105) and Bhutan (94). China is ranked 176.

The United States is ranked 44th and Russia is placed at the 148th place.

The report shows that there has been a deep and disturbing decline in respect for media freedom at both the global and regional levels.

World Press Freedom Index

  • The Press Freedom Index is a yearly ranking of countries compiled and published by Reporters Without Borders.
  • It is based upon the organisation's assessment of the countries' press freedom records in the previous year.
  • It intends to reflect the amount of freedom that journalists, news organisations, and netizens have in each country, and the efforts made by authorities to respect this freedom.
  • Reporters Without Borders also notes that the index only deals with press freedom.
  • It does not measure the quality of journalism or human rights violations in general.

▼ Wikitribune to combat fake news   [04-28-17]

The founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales is going to launch Wikitribune, a news site aimed at tackling the spread of false information.

Fake news is a major issue faced by a majority of other sites such as Facebook.

The site would be jointly run by journalists and a community of volunteers who will verify the stories before publishing them in Wikipedia.

The same was confirmed by Wales through a video posted on the site.

The journalists will research and report the news stories while the volunteers will proofread, do a fact-check and add sources.

The site will ensure that journalists only write articles based on facts that they can verify.

The source of the news will also be mentioned. The site would be 100 per cent advertisement free.

The site would also be accessible to all for free so anybody would be able to read the stories and flag or fix them if required and submit for review.

As far as funding goes, the site would depend on crowdsourcing and the more funds it is able to raise, the more journalists it will employ.

Wikitribune: Know More

  • The crowdfunding section was launched on 25 April 2017.
  • The supporters would be required to pay $15 per month.
  • The advisory group of the site includes American journalist Jeff Jarvis, venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki and British actress Lily Cole.
  • The site currently has about 5380 supporters and has been able to hire 3 journalists.

▼ IRB to launch India's first InvIT   [04-27-17]

Infrastructure investment trust or InvIT is the new buzzword for money managers and infra companies. IRB Infra and Sterlite Power Grid's Indian Grid Trust are all set to sell InvITs.

IRB InvIT (Infrastructure Investment Trust) Fund, sponsored by IRB Infrastructure Developers, will launch its initial public offering (IPO) on May 3.

The issue would be available for subscription till May 5.

The IPO consists of a fresh issue aggregating up to Rs 4,300 crore and an offer for sale of up to 34,761,770 units by IRB Infrastructure Developers, Modern Road Makers, Aryan Toll Road, ATR Infrastructure and Ideal Road Builders.

The issue is being made through the book building process and in compliance with the InvIT regulation.

Around not more than 75% of the issue shall be available for allocation on a proportionate basis to institutional bidders, IRB said.

The investment manager and the selling unit holders, may, in consultation with the GCBRLMs (Global Co-ordinators and Book Running Lead Managers) and the BRLM (Book Running Lead Managers) allocate up to 60% of the institutional bidder category to anchor investors and strategic investors.

This is on a discretionary basis in accordance with the InvIT regulations.

Further, not less than 25% of the issue shall be available for allocation on a proportionate basis to other bidders, in accordance with the InvIT regulations, subject to valid bids being received at or above the issue price.

In case of under-subscription in any category, the unsubscribed portion in either category may be allotted to bidders in the other category at the discretion of the investment manager, in consultation with the GCBRLMs, the BRLM and the designated stock exchange.

As per InvIT regulation sponsor will hold 15% units for the initial three years.

What is InvIT?

  • InvIT is like a mutual fund a collective investment framework.
  • The sponsor is usually an infrastructure company which sets up a trust.
  • The trust raises capital by issuing units and uses that cash to buy a bunch of the sponsor’s projects which are already generating cash.
  • The units are typically purchased by pension funds, insurance companies and sovereign funds.
  • These funds are paid from the revenues generated by the infra projects. Under Indian rules, the sponsor has to retain 15 percent of the units for at least 3 years.
  • Thus the InvIT helps an infra company sell-off a part of its completed projects to new investors and secure funds for new projects. In a way, InvITs replace banks as funders for infra projects.
InvIT versus REITs
  • InvITs are like real estate investment trusts (REITs) - in that the REITs are backed by rent-generating real estate assets and InvITs by cash generating infra projects like roads or power grids or even power projects.
  • However, InvITs are different because the returns depend on both growth and on inflation.
  • Besides the sponsor and the trust, the InvIT has a project manager who manages the under construction projects and operates the completed assets.
  • The InvIT also has an investment manager who makes investment decisions related to the InvIT and oversees the project manager.

▼ Rajiv Rai Bhatanagar is new CRPF chief   [04-27-17]

Senior IPS officer Rajiv Rai Bhatnagar was appointed as the new Director General of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) on April 26, 2017.

His appointment comes two days after the CRPF lost 25 jawans in the deadly Sukma attack.

Bhatnagar will be replacing acting DG Sudeep Lakhtakia.

Currently, Bhatnagar serves as DG of the Narcotics Control Bureau–an ADG rank post which has temporarily been upgraded to a Special DG rank.

Bhatnagar belongs to the 1983 batch of the Indian Police Service (IPS).

In another key appointment, R K Pachnanda was appointed as DG of the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP).

He'll be taking over from Krishna Chaudhary, who is set to retire in June this year.

Pachnanda is serving as DG of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), India's specialized force for responding to natural disasters and CBRN emergencies.

Pachnanda is an IPS officer of the 1983 batch, West Bengal cadre.

▼ Haryana town Ballabhgarh renamed    [04-27-17]

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on 24th April, 2017 announced the renaming of Ballabgarh town in Faridabad as Balramgarh.

The process to change the name in official records may take a few months.

Local MLA Moolchand Sharma and the Raja Nahar Singh Society had been demanding for long that the town be renamed after its founder king Balram Singh.

Situated around 30 km from Delhi on National Highway-2, Ballabgarh is a town and a tehsil (sub-division).

The princely State was founded by Balram Singh in 1739. Ballabgarh means ‘the fort of Balram’.

Raja Nahar Singh, who ascended the throne of Ballabgarh in 1829, was the ruler of 101 villages.

▼ Belgium first to open consulate in GIFT city   [04-27-17]

Belgium has become the first country to open an honorary consulate office in Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT City).

Besides the Belgian Embassy in New Delhi, two Consulates-General in Mumbai and Chennai, and an honorary consulate in Kolkata, Belgium has expanded its diplomatic representation in India with this new office in Gandhinagar.

The consulate was inaugurated by Belgian Secretary of State for Foreign Trade, Pieter De Crem, at an event where Ajay Pandey, Managing Director and Group CEO, GIFT City, and members of a high-level delegation from Belgium were also present.

Hari Sankaran was nominated as Honorary Consul of the Kingdom of Belgium to the state of Gujarat.

Sankaran, who is the Vice-Chairman and MD, IL&FS, said Gujarat and Belgium have had strong historic ties around the diamond industry.

With Gujarat emerging as a pre-eminent centre for manufacturing, agriculture, and, now services through GIFT, the potential for increasing collaboration is manifold.

About GIFT City

  • GIFT is a central business district (CBD) located between Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar in the state of Gujarat.
  • GIFT is built on 886 acres of land to provide high-quality physical infrastructure with facilities like electricity, water, gas, district cooling, roads, telecoms and broadband services to woo finance and tech firms to relocate their operations from Mumbai, Bangalore, Gurgaon etc.
  • GIFT includes a special economic zone (SEZ), international education zone, integrated townships, an entertainment zone, hotels, a convention center, an international techno park, Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) units, shopping malls, stock exchanges and other service units.
  • The likely cost of the GIFT City project is INR 70,000 crore.
  • Gujarat International Finance Tec-City Company Limited (GIFTCL) is responsible for developing and implementing the project.
  • GIFTCL is a joint venture of Gujarat Urban Development Company Limited (GUDCOL) and Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services (IL&FS).

▼ Joint doctrine on tri-services   [04-27-17]

Joint operational doctrine aimed at providing deeper operational synergies among the tri-services was unveiled by the chairman of the chiefs of staff committee (COSC) and Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba in presence of Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat and IAF Chief B S Dhanoa.

The doctrine is aimed at coherently dealing with all possible security threats faced by India such as conventional and proxy wars.

This document is the second edition of the joint doctrine.

The first edition of the document was released around eight years ago.

The doctrine proposes joint training of personnel, unified command and control structure.

In addition, it supports tri-service approach to modernise the tri-services. The doctrine has said that the Higher Defence Organisation will facilitate inter-Service coordination in planning, execution of operations and force planning.

The doctrine facilitates the establishment of a broad framework for the conduct of operations across all the domains (land, air, sea, space and cyber-space).

The doctrine pushes for effective deterrent capabilities to protect India’s strategic interests along the Northern, Western and Eastern borders and sensitivities along the Line of Control (LoC) and Line of Actual Control (LAC).

The doctrine calls for the integration of the layered hierarchies of the national security structures to reap the most out of the available expertise.

The doctrine also pushes for having an ‘Integrated Theatre Battle’ as the guiding philosophy for evolution of war fighting strategies.

It has called for coordination of agencies like RAW, Intelligence Bureau and Intelligence organisations of the para-military forces as part of the Joint Intelligence Committee under the National Security Adviser.

▼ Uighur Muslim names banned in China    [04-26-17]

China has banned Islamic names for babies in Muslim-majority Xinjiang region, home to the Muslim Uighur ethnic minority.

According to the move, children with the banned names like Saddam or Midina will not be able to get a residence permit called “hukou”, which is required for access to medical and educational services.

This is just the latest in a slew of new regulations restricting religious freedom in the name of countering religious extremism, as per Human Rights Watch.

The Xinjiang government claims the names were banned because of their religious connotation, which can “exaggerate religious fervour”.

On April 1, the authorities in Xinjiang had also imposed new rules banning “abnormal” beards or a full veil and warned people of punishments for refusing to watch state TV or radio programmes.

Conflicts between the Uighur and the Han, the majority ethnic group in China and who also control the government, are common.

Beijing usually attributes the violence to Islamist groups and secessionists whereas Uighur groups in exile consider the conflict to be a result of repression by the Communist regime.

Xinjiang: Know More

  • Area: 1.665 million km²
  • Population: 21.81 million (2010)
  • Largest city: Ürümqi
  • Language: Uyghurs
  • Major Colleges and Universities: Xinjiang University, Shihezi University

▼ India's first and longest ropeway to be launched   [04-26-17]

India’s first and longest ropeway to connect Mumbai with the famous Elephanta Island in the Arabian Sea is planned to be constructed by the Mumbai Port Trust.

The 8-km ropeway will begin from Sewri in Mumbai’s east coast and end at Raigad district’s Elephanta Island, globally renowned for Elephanta Caves, a Unesco World Heritage site.

Known locally as Gharapuri Caves, the small 16 sq. km island has several archaeological remains pointing to its rich cultural heritage, including the famous temples carved out of rocks.

Elephanta Caves: Know More

  • Elephanta Caves are a network of sculpted caves located on Elephanta Island, or Gharapuri in Mumbai Harbour, 10 kilometres to the east of the city of Mumbai in the Indian state of Maharashtra.
  • Address: Gharapuri, Maharashtra 400094
  • Designated as world heritage site: 1987 (11th session)

▼ US top defence spender, India fifth   [04-25-17]

India’s military expenditure grew around 8.5 per cent in 2016, making it the world’s fifth largest spender at USD 55.9 billion, figures released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

As per the figures, the US remains the world’s largest military spender registering a growth of 1.7 per cent between 2015 and 2016 to $611 billion.

Four others in the top 15 spenders include China, Japan, South Korea, Australia.


China is second on the list spending $215 billion, an increase of 5.4 per cent.

Russia increased its spending by 5.9 per cent to $69.2 billion, making it the third largest spender.

Global military spending amounted to 2.2% of the worldwide GDP.

Military spending as a share of GDP, was highest in the Middle East and lowest in the Americas.

In Asia and Oceania, military expenditure increased by 4.6% in 2016 spurred by many tensions in the region such claims of territorial rights made by various countries in the South China Sea.

The US is the top spender whose military expenditure grew 1.7% between 2015 and 2016 to USD 611 billion.

The growth in US military expenditure suggests the end o the trend of decreases in spending that resulted from the economic crisis and the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and Iraq.

Even now the expenditure of US remains 20% lower than its peak in 2010. China spent USD 215 billion. Russia spent USD 69.2 billion making it this edition's third largest spender.

Saudi Arabia which was the third largest spender in 2015 is ranked at 4th position in 2016 with a spending of USD 63.7 billion.

Pakistan did not figure in the list of top 15 spenders and it spent USD 9.93 billion. Military expenditure in Western Europe has increased for the second consecutive year.

Falling oil revenue forced many oil-exporting countries to reduce military spending.

SIPRI: Know More

  • SIPRI was established in 1966.
  • It is an independent international institute dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament.
  • The organization provides data, analysis and recommendations to policymakers, researchers, media and the interested public.

▼ Mauritius, NASSCOM partners for ICT capacity building   [04-21-17]

Mauritius has approached Indian information technology industry body NASSCOM for support in building capacity in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) skill needs.

ICT has become an important activity to Mauritius. The country has started a dialogue with NASSCOM for skill development in the sector.

According to him ICT is already contributing by five per cent to the national GDP and holds lot more potential.

The proposed Indo-Mauritius Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement is expected to be signed by end of this year as both countries finalised the areas of exchange.

Implementation of the CECPA between the two countries is likely to be signed by the end of this year which will help greater cooperation between two countries.

Areas of cooperation identified are financial services, ICT, health, education, R&D and construction.

He invited Indian investment in Mauritius to exploit the African market as the country offers preferential access through agreements.

▼ INS Chennai flagged off    [04-21-17]

Naval ship ‘INS Chennai’ was formally dedicated to the city in the presence of Chief Minister K Palaniswami and Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Naval Command, Vice-Admiral HCS Bisht.

The dedication ceremony of the ‘P15A Guided Missile Destroyer’ was marked by a series of drills and events, besides unveiling of a plaque by Palaniswami at the Chennai Port Trust

The navy was fully geared to meet the challenges at sea.

INS Chennai has been anchored here since April 15 and was visited by more than 5,000 people, including 2,000 students.

▼ India ranks 8th on FDI confidence   [04-21-17]

India has jumped one spot to rank 8th in the 2017 AT Kearney Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Confidence Index with 31 percent of the surveyed respondents being more optimistic on economic outlook over the next three years.

Investors see India as a vast and diverse up-and-coming market with plans to increase investments there over the near to medium term.

Investor confidence in India has been growing steadily over the last two years, making it one of the top two emerging market performers on the FDI Index, said the UK-based AT Kearney in the index.

Reform efforts by the current government have improved the country's investment environment.

This includes the national goods and service tax (GST) reform, the largest non- direct tax reform in India in recent years.

India's vast domestic market is an added attraction for foreign companies. Investors are looking at India's phenomenal economic performance as a key selling point.

It is forecast to be the fastest-growing major economy in the world in the coming years, which should provide a variety of investment opportunities to global firms," he said.

Among the investors surveyed, over half said a successful GST implementation would cause them to significantly or moderately increase their investment in India.

More broadly, 70 percent of the respondents plan to maintain or increase their FDI in India in the coming years, according to Kearney.

India's government is considering further policy reforms to further boost FDI inflows. A proposal to loosen FDI regulations on the retail sector is being evaluated, in part to support the country's 'Make in India' initiative and bolster the manufacturing industry, said the consultancy.

The government is eliminating the need for FDI approvals in sectors where licenses are also required, such as defence, telecommunications and broadcasting.

▼ Tougher requirements for skilled workers in New Zealand   [04-20-17]

New Zealand announced on April 19, 2017 that it is introducing tougher requirements for skilled overseas workers as it tries to control immigration numbers that have reached an all-time high.

This comes after Australia scrapped a temporary visa for skilled overseas workers and after US President Donald Trump signed an order to help American workers whose jobs are threatened by skilled immigrants.

The New Zealand government was unapologetic that industries relying on overseas workers are finding it harder to recruit people from abroad.

The changes include new income thresholds. To qualify as skilled, immigrants will need to get a job in which they earn at least the median income.

To qualify as highly skilled, they will need to earn at least 150 per cent of the median income.

Other changes include a new three-year limit for workers with lower skills.

Changes would control the number and improve the quality of immigrants.

It is the second time New Zealand has tightened its immigration rules in the past six months and the latest changes come during an election year.

Many people have expressed alarm at the immigration rate.

Part of the turnaround can be attributed to the nation's healthy economy, which is growing at more than 3 percent a year and is attracting back some New Zealanders who had moved abroad.

The largest numbers of new migrants to New Zealand are coming from China, India and the United Kingdom.

The South Pacific nation's median annual wage is about 49,000 New Zealand dollars (U.S. $34,400).

New Zealand: Know More

  • Capital: Wellington
  • Code: +64
  • Currency: New Zealand dollar
  • Prime minister: Bill English
  • Population: 4.471 million (2013) World Bank

▼ Contaminated water on the rise: WHO    [04-18-17]

The World Health Organization (WHO) on 13 April 2017 published a report, Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water (GLAAS) 2017.

This report states that nearly two billion people currently use contaminated water.

The disclosure was by made in the new report published by WHO on behalf of UN-Water.

The report states that countries will not meet global aspirations of universal access to safe drinking-water and sanitation unless steps are taken to use financial resources more efficiently.

Contaminated Water and Health: Know More

  • Contaminated drinking-water is estimated to cause more than 500000 diarrhoeal deaths each year.
  • Contaminated water is also a major factor in several neglected tropical diseases, including intestinal worms, schistosomiasis and trachoma.
  • Countries have increased their budgets for water, sanitation and hygiene at an annual average rate of 4.9 per cent over the last three years.
  • 80 per cent of countries report that Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) financing is still insufficient to meet nationally-defined targets for WASH services.
  • In many developing countries, current national coverage targets are based on achieving access to basic infrastructure.
  • Planned investments have yet to take into account the much more ambitious Sustainable Development Goals targets, which aim for universal access to safely managed water and sanitation services by 2030.
  • Water and sanitation official development assistance disbursements increased from USD 6.3 to USD 7.4 billion from 2012 to 2015.

▼ Cyclone Maarutha: First named storm of 2017    [04-18-17]

A deep depression in Bay of Bengal has intensified into a tropical cyclone named Maarutha.

This cyclone is expected to hit Myanmar on 17 April 2017 and bring heavy rains in parts of that country.

Tropical Cyclone Maarutha is the first named storm of 2017 Northern Hemisphere tropical cyclone season.

A Cyclone represents a rotating, organized system of clouds and thunderstorms that originates over tropical or subtropical waters and has closed low-level circulation.

Most large scale cyclonic circulations are centered on areas of low atmospheric pressure. Based on their latitude, the cyclones may be tropical cyclones or temperate cyclones (extra-tropical cyclones).

The tropical cyclones rotate anti-clockwise in the northern hemisphere and are classified into three types namely

  • Tropical Depression (maximum sustained winds of 38 mph or lower)
  • Tropical Storm (maximum sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph);
  • Hurricane (maximum sustained winds of 74 mph) and major hurricane (maximum sustained winds of 111 mph).
Hurricanes are called typhoons in western North Pacific, while similar storms in the Indian Ocean and South Pacific Ocean are called cyclones.

Tropical Cyclones in Indian Ocean Tropical cyclones between east of the Horn of Africa and west of the Malay Peninsula are most common from April to December, with peaks in May and November in the Indian Ocean.

Vardah was the strongest cyclone of the 2016 North Indian Ocean cyclone season.

Other 2016 cyclones are Cyclonic Storm Roanu, Cyclonic Storm Kyant and Cyclonic Storm Nada.

Cyclone Maarutha is the first tropical cyclone of 2017 North Indian Ocean cyclone season.

It started forming under the influence of a persistent area of convection in South Bay of Bengal on April 13, 2017 and has been recently classified as a Cyclonic storm.

After giving heavy rainfall in Sri Lanka and Andaman & Nicobar Islands, it is expected to make a landfall in Myanmar.

▼ Govt to replace 7.7 MW coal thermal plants    [04-18-17]

The government has identified old power projects totalling 7,738 mw capacity owned by the Centre and states for replacement with energy-efficient supercritical plants.

The replacement will result in creation of 18,560 mw of capacity as per the assessment of power generation utilities.

The move is expected to not just save natural resources, but help in boosting generation capacity of the plants.

440 mw of the Haryana Power Generation Corporation in Panipat will be replaced with an 800-mw energy efficient plant, which will almost double the generation capacity.

Breaking down the numbers, state power generation utilities have marked out 6,608 mw for the purpose, which will lead to creation of 16,580 mw.

The central utilities have marked 1,130 mw for replacement that will create 1,980 mw, going forward.

According to power ministry estimates, as on March 31, 2016, the capacity of coal-based thermal plants that are more than 25 years old was about 37,453 mw, including 35,509 mw in the government sector and 1,947 mw in private space.

The official said the move towards energy efficiency and less-polluting technology makes more sense than renovation and modernisation and will yield long-term benefits.

The plan is being chalked out after stringent norms for thermal power plants were laid down by the environment ministry.

The new guidelines for coal-based power stations were introduced in December 2015 to cut down emission of PM10, SO2 and NOx and improve ambient air quality around plants.

The ministry for the first time had fixed SOx and NOx norms for such stations and mandated that plants must adhere to these guidelines by 2017.

The cost for technical changes at these plants could entail up to INR 1.5 crore per megawatt.

Besides, the domestic capacity to manufacture power equipment for the upgrade is not more than 15 gw a year compared to demand of around 40 gw per annum for meeting SOx norms alone.

▼ Now, meet the Father of All Bombs   [04-18-17]

Recently, the US dropped the most destructive non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat on an alleged target of the so-called Islamic State (IS) in Afghanistan.

The bomb, officially known as the GBU 43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast and colloquially as 'the mother of all bombs (MOAB)', has been in the US arsenal since 2003. It weighs over 10,000kg and its blast yield is equivalent to that of 11 tonnes of TNT.

The MOAB was developed to replace the BLU-82, also known as the 'daisy cutter', a 6,800kg bomb used in the Vietnam war to create instant helicopter landing sites. The explosive force could vaporise trees in a 76-metre radius.

The MOAB is, however, not the heaviest bomb in the US arsenal. The heaviest conventional bomb possessed by the US military is the 14,000kg GBU-57A/B Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP), which has never been used. However, its blast yield is lower than that of the MOAB.

In 2007, Russia tested the Aviation Thermobaric Bomb of Increased Power (ATBIP), which has been dubbed the 'father of all bombs (FOAB)' as it is four times more powerful than the MOAB. Though lighter at 7,000kg, the bomb has a blast yield equivalent to that of 44 tonnes of TNT.

▼ Haryana launches Operation Durga   [04-17-17]

Similar to that of Uttar Pradesh’s ‘Anti-Romeo Squad’, the Haryana government has launched ‘Operation Durga’ to ensure women safety in the state.

Under this operation, the ‘Flying Squad’ is patrolling those areas where anti-social elements are committing crimes against women.

The team is formed by Chief Minister of Haryana Mr. Manohar Lal Khattar. The teams visited public places such as schools, colleges, bus stands and railway stations and nabbed persons indulging in crimes against women, including eve teasing.

Haryana: Know More

  • Area: 44,212 km²
  • Capital: Chandigarh
  • Population: 27.76 million (2016)
  • Chief minister: Manohar Lal Khattar

▼ PM Modi is most followed leader on Instagram   [04-14-17]

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has now become the most followed world leader on Instagram.

This is according to a recent survey posted by Twiplomacy, a Twitter account that looks into the social media usage of governments and international organisation.

The survey revealed that with 6.8 million followers, PM Modi leads the way followed closely by US President Donald Trump with 6.3 million followers.

Prime Minister Modi is already the most followed leader on Twitter and Facebook with 28.9 million and over 40 million followers respectively.

Though Modi has posted only 53 photos in Instagram, compared to the US President’s 1028 posts, over the last 12 months he has enjoyed a greater interaction rate, the survey said.

But the survey also shows that Trump has had greater interaction numbers – nearly 114 million, which include comments and likes.
But when it comes to effective interactions on Instagram, the Prime Minister ranks at the top, with every post by Modi receiving an average 223,000 interactions.

The survey posted by Twiplomacy was conducted by Burson-Marsteller, a PR firm, which analysed almost 325 Instagram accounts which have a combined total of 48,705,021 followers.

Other active accounts were of MEA minister Sushma Swaraj at 3.5 posts per day.

▼ US drops mother of all bombs on Afghan militants   [04-14-17]

The Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb was dropped on a cave complex believed to be used by Islamic State, very close to the border with Pakistan.

The United States dropped a massive GBU-43 bomb, the largest non-nuclear bomb it has ever used in combat, in eastern Afghanistan on April 13, 2017 against a series of caves used by Islamic State militants.

It was the first time the United States has used this size of bomb in a conflict.

It was dropped from a MC-130 aircraft in the Achin district of Nangarhar province, close to the border with Pakistan.

Also known as the “mother of all bombs,” the GBU-43 is a 21,600 pound (9,797 kg) GPS-guided munition and was first tested in March 2003, just days before the start of the Iraq war.

The security situation in Afghanistan remains precarious, with a number of militant groups trying to claim territory more than 15 years after the US invasion which toppled the Taliban government.

The bomb was used against caves and bunkers housing fighters of the Islamic State in Afghanistan, also known as ISIS-K.

Islamic State is based overwhelmingly in Nangarhar and neighboring Kunar province.

Estimates of its strength in Afghanistan vary. US estimates the movement has only 700 fighters but Afghan officials estimate it has about 1,500.

Islamic State's offshoot in Afghanistan is suspected of carrying out several attacks on minority Shi'ite Muslim targets.

The Afghan Taliban, which is trying to overthrow the U.S.-backed government in Kabul, are fiercely opposed to Islamic State and the two group have clashed as they seek to expand territory and influence.

▼ Cabinet approves GeM SPV   [04-13-17]

The Cabinet gave its nod for setting up of a special purpose vehicle for providing procurement of goods and services required by Central & State Government organisations on April 12, 2017.

This Government e-Marketplace (GeM SPV) will been registered as the National Public Procurement Portal as a Section 8 company registered under the Companies Act.

GeM SPV shall provide an end-to-end online marketplace for Central and State Government Ministries/Departments, Central & State Public Sector Undertakings, autonomous institutions and local bodies, for procurement of common use goods & services.

Effectively, this portal will replace the Directorate General of Supplies and Disposal. DGS&D shall be wound up and cease its functions by October 31.

In case it is not possible to wind up DGS&D by October 31, the Department of Commerce may extend the date of closure with proper justification, latest up to March 31, 2018.

The Cabinet started a not for profit company, to operate government e-marketplace (GeM) portal to procure goods and services by all government departments and PSUs.

The move is aimed at making GeM an autonomous body, which would help in taking all the decisions including those related to finance at a faster pace.

In 2016, GoI launched GeM for online purchase of goods and services to bring in more transparency and streamlining government procurement, estimated at INR 10,000 crore a year.

Currently, over 9,000 products from 250 categories, including computers, stationery and several services, are registered by different vendors on the portal.

▼ G7 condemns Syria chemical attacks   [04-12-17]

Foreign Ministers of the Group of Seven (G7) countries and several other West Asian countries spoke with one voice at a meeting in Lucca, Italy, condemning the chemical attack in Syria that left 89 people dead.

The US and its allies held Syrian President Bhashar al-Assad responsible for the attacks.

The G7 also lent support to the U.S. for its attack on the Syrian government-controlled Shayrat airfield in Homs province last Thursday.

While the G7 united to isolate Mr. Assad diplomatically and urged Russia to do the same, no agreement was reached on sanctions against Russia for supporting the Syrian regime.

Some experts hold that the chemical attack and the US strike may not change the situation in Syria dramatically.

All About G-7 Countries

  • Canada: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
  • France: President François Hollande
  • Germany: Chancellor Angela Merkel
  • Italy (2017 Chair): Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni
  • Japan: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
  • United Kingdom: Prime Minister Theresa May
  • United States: President Donald Trump

▼ China has highest number of executions: AI   [04-12-17]

China executed more people in 2016 than all other nations combined, Amnesty International said Tuesday, even as death penalties in the world decreased overall.

The human rights organisation estimates the Asian giant alone killed thousands of people, a figure based on examinations of court records and news reports.

All other countries together executed at least 1,032 people last year–a decline of 37 percent compared to 2015. Of those, 87 percent took place in just four countries namely Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan.

Amnesty’s report found that hundreds of death sentences, including cases involving foreign nationals, had been omitted from China’s public database of court verdicts.

This is suggesting a concerted effort to hide the extent of the country’s killings.

The ruling Communist Party considers the death toll a state secret.

Despite local media reports saying at least 931 individuals were executed between 2014 and 2016, only 85 of them were in the online database.

In 2013, China’s Supreme People’s Court ruled that legal judgements should be made public, but the decision included many exceptions, including cases involving state secrets or personal privacy.

Previous estimates from other rights groups also put the number of annual executions in China in the thousands.

Chinese courts have a conviction rate of 99.92 percent, and concerns over wrongful verdicts are fuelled by police reliance on forced confessions and the lack of effective defence in criminal trials.

The nation’s top judge, Zhou Qiang, apologised in 2015 for past miscarriages of justice and said mistakes must be corrected.

In December 2016, a Chinese court cleared a man executed 21 years ago for murder, citing insufficient evidence in the original trial.

However experts say recent reforms have not been widely implemented.

A 2016 report from the US-based Dui Hua Foundation said China’s average death row prisoner waits only two months for execution.

The United States executed 20 last year, the lowest figure for the country since 1991.

▼ Anuja Ravindra Dhir is Old Bailey Court’s first non-white judge   [04-12-17]

Indian-origin Anuja Ravindra Dhir on 9 April 2017 became the first non-white judge of the Old Bailey Court of London.

She is also the youngest circuit judge currently to sit at the court.

The Old Bailey Court of London is the Central Criminal Court of London.

It houses 15 judges including 10 men and five women.

Anuja Ravindra Dhir was born in Dundee, Scotland to Indian immigrant parents and studied at Harris Academy before studying English and Scots law at Dundee University.

During the schooling days, she was faced dyslexia making it difficult for her to read and write.

After winning a Gray’s Inn scholarship in London, she began practicing law in 1989 where she practised for 23 years as both prosecutor and defence counsel.

She was made a Queen’s Counsel in 2010.

Dhir donned her judge’s robes as a circuit judge at the Central Criminal Courts, known as at the Old Bailey, in London in February 2017.

▼ FICCI, FBCCI launch 6 point trade agenda   [04-10-17]

The leading industrial bodies of India and Bangladesh, FICCI and FBCCI on April 8, 2017 came up with a 6-point agenda to boost trade and investment between the SE Asian neighbours.

This agenda includes setting up joint task forces on tariff and non-tariff barriers and promoting Indian investments in Bangladesh in areas of:

- Infrastructure
- Educational
- Healthcare
- Power
- Tourism

The agenda also included connectivity initiatives for expansion of sub-regional cooperation among BBIN (Bhutan-Bangladesh- India-Nepal) countries to cover links through road, rail, rivers, sea, transmission lines, petroleum pipelines and digital.

In addition, it included pursuing joint investments and a road-map for cooperation in the Bay of Bengal in exploration of hydrocarbons, marine resources, deep sea fishing, preservation of marine ecology and disaster management.

It also included collaboration in knowledge sharing to facilitate innovation and research and forming a partnership on skill development.

The agenda was released on the occasion of the visit of Ms. Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh.

Bangladesh is on a sound economic footing with forex reserves of USD 32 billion, adding that the government has decided to retain USD 25 billion and release the rest for investments overseas with India emerging as a favoured destination.

▼ India ranks 40th in world tourism: WEF   [04-10-17]

There has been an improved rank of India in the Travel and Tourism Competitive Index (TTCI) of World Economic Forum released on 5th April 2017.

India has moved 12 places up in this ranking from 52nd to 40th position.

The tourism sector in the country has been on a growth trajectory since the present government came into power in May, 2014.

India’s ranking in the Travel and Tourism Competitive Index (TTCI) of World Economic Forum moved from 65rd position to 52nd position in 2015.

Now India has moved up by another 12 positions and ranked at 40th position.

In all, in last three years India has cumulatively improved its ranking by 25 places which is a significant achievement.

India continues to attract international tourists with its vast cultural and natural resources with a ranking of 9th and 24th respectively which are the USP’s of Indian Tourism product.

In terms of price competitiveness advantage, India is ranked 10th.

India continues to enrich its cultural resources, protecting more cultural sites and intangible expressions through UNESCO World Heritage lists, and via a greater digital presence.

In terms of International openness, India is ranked 55th, up by 14 places.

This has been possible through stronger visa policies. Implementing both visas on arrival and e-visas, has enabled India to rise through the ranks.

The T&T sector benefited from improvements in the country's ground transport infrastructure, which has traditionally been a challenge (29th).

At a macro level, the primary reasons for India’s jump in the Travel and Tourism Competitive Index 2017 should be attributed to the pro-active steps taken by our Government in terms of development of tourism infrastructure.

Also critical are the easing of entry formalities for tourists by introducing the e-visa facilities in November 2014.

WEF's TTCCI: Know More

  • The World Economic Forum has, for the past 11 years, engaged leaders in travel and tourism.
  • It also aims to carry out an in-depth analysis of the Travel and Tourism competitiveness of 136 economies across the world i.e.The Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index
  • The index assesses the set of factors and policies that enable the sustainable development of the travel and tourism sector, which in turn, contributes to the development and competitiveness of a country”.
  • The Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index enables all stakeholders to work together to improve the industry’s competitiveness in their national economies.
Some of the key achievements of the Ministry of Tourism in the last 3 years are as follows:-

Foreign Tourist Arrivals (FTA) which were 6.97 million tourists in 2013, increased to 7.68 million in 2014, 8.03 million in 2015 and 8.89 million in 2016. FTA has grown with a CAGR of 8.45% against the international growth rate of 4-5%.
The Ministry of Tourism set up a Medical and Wellness Tourism Promotion Board on 5th October 2015 for the promotion of Medical and Wellness tourism in India.
The Ministry of Tourism created a task force for Cruise Tourism on 24th November 2015 to formulate a common Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for promotion of Cruise Tour- ism in India.
The Indian Culinary Institute (ICI) at Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh was set up and commenced its academic session with the 3-year regular B.Sc. course (Culinary Arts) from August 2016. The e-Tourist Visa was introduced in September 2014 for 46 countries. This facility is now called e-Visa. It is now available for nationals of 161 countries and allows visits for business and medical treatment. The process of obtaining the e-Tourist Visa has been simplified significantly by addressing issues like more than one entry and longer lead period for applying for e-Visa.10,79,696 tourists visited India on the e-Tourist Visa in 2016.
Incredible India Tourist Helpline was launched on 8th February 2016. The helpline provides assistance and information to tourists in 12 major languages of the world including Hindi & English. The helpline is available 24x7 and can be accessed on the Toll-free Number 1800- 11-1363 or on a short code 1363. The languages covered are Hindi, English, Arabic, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.
Foreign Exchange Earnings (FEE) which were US$18.45 billion tourists in 2013, increased constantly, to US$20.24 billion in 2014, US$21.07 billion in 2015 and US$23.15 billion in 2016. FEE has grown with a CAGR of 7.86% against a contraction of 5% in international tourism receipts. FTA has registered a growth of 16.3% in January 2017 when compared to January 2016.
FTA registered a growth of 16.5% in January 2017 compared to January 2016. FTAs during the period January- February 2017 were 19.40 lakh with a growth of 14.7%, as compared to the FTAs of 16.91 over January-February 2016.
The Ministry of Tourism has launched a ‘Welcome Card’ for distribution at immigration counters to tourists arriving at international airports. From 15th February 2017 the Ministry has introduced free SIM Cards with pre-loaded talk time and data to all tourists arriving in India on the e-Tourist Vis
18 projects worth Rs. 488.45 crores have been sanctioned under the PRASAD Scheme since its launch on 1st January 2015. 25 religious cities have been identified under the scheme for development.
56 projects covering 29 States /UT’s worth Rs. 4,823.91 crores have been sanctioned under the Swadesh Darshan Scheme since its launch on 1st January 2015. 13 thematic circuits have been identified under which projects are sanctioned.
Two new schemes for development of tourism infrastructure in the country with a holistic coverage of an entire circuit instead of individual tourist spots. PRASAD Scheme is targeted towards the development of tourism infrastructure in and around famous religious and pilgrimage cities. The Swadesh Darshan Scheme aims at the development of a complete circuit on a specific theme.

▼ Malala Yousafzai: UN's youngest messenger of peace   [04-10-17]

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai is set to become the United Nations’ youngest-ever “Messenger of Peace.

Ms. Yousafzai (19) was honoured by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during a ceremony at the UN headquarters in New York on April 10.

She will help promote girl’s education around the world as part of her new role.

As the youngest-ever UN Messenger of Peace, Malala can do even more to help create a more just and peaceful world.

Born on July 12, 1997 in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, Ms. Yousafzai became an international symbol for the fight for girls’ education after being shot on October 9, 2012 for opposing Taliban restrictions on female education.

She survived the attack and became an advocate for the millions of girls denied a formal education worldwide.

In 2013, Yousafzai with her father Ziauddin Yousafzai, co-founded Malala Fund.

The fund aims to bring awareness to the social and economic impact of girls’ education and to empower girls to demand change.

Yousafzai became the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate in 2014.

Malala Yousafzai: Know More

  • Born: 12 July 1997 Mingora, Pakistan
  • Key Awards: Nobel Peace Prize, Sakharov Prize
  • Education: Khushal Public School (2012), Edgbaston High School
  • Parents: Ziauddin Yousafzai, Tor Pekai Yousafzai

▼ Haryana sex ratio crosses 950 mark   [04-10-17]

Haryana's sex ratio at birth stood at 950 girls to 1,000 boys for the first time in the history of the state in March this year.

As per district-wise data, the sex ratio at birth during March in Kaithal, Rohtak, Jhajjar, Gurugram, Bhiwani, Jind, Fatehabad, Panchkula, Rewari, Ambala, Mewat, Sonepat and Faridabad was 864, 863, 893, 893, 893, 896, 898, 912, 913, 921, 926, 939 and 947 respectively.

The ratio in Karnal, Hisar, Yamunanagar, Sirsa, Kurukshetra, Panipat, Palwal and Narnaul was 953, 972, 974, 976, 980, 993, 1,217 and 1,279 respectively.

Khattar said that the state had, after the launch of Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao programme by Prime Minister Narendra Modi from Haryana, accepted the challenge of improving the skewed sex ratio.

It launched a massive campaign in the state by implementing Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994 and Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971.

It was also running sensitisation-cum awareness campaigns promoting girl child.

More than 430 FIRs have been lodged in the state under the PC-PNDT Act and the MTP Act against the offenders during last about two years since the launch of this campaign, who were involved in sex selection and female foeticide.

Out of these, more than 80 FIRs were registered after inter-state raids in the neighbouring states of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi and Punjab.

The sex ratio at birth in the state crossed the 900 mark in 2016 for the first time, for which the Prime Minister had lauded the Haryana government for its achievement.

More than 50 cases of Sex Selection Drugs (SSDs) being sold by unscrupulous elements promising male child were also detected and FIRs were registered against such offenders under the PNDT Act and Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Rampant misuse of MTP kits for illegal abortion purposes by unauthorised paramedics in the state was also detected and culprits were booked under MTP Act, Drugs Act and IPC.

Earlier, the sex ratio in Haryana was a dismal 879 females per 1,000 males.

Haryana had ranked the worst among all states in sex ratio in the country.

Haryana: Know More

  • Area: 44,212 km²
  • Capital: Chandigarh
  • Population: 27.76 million (2016)
  • Chief minister: Manohar Lal Khattar

▼ Cyber Physical systems program launched by DST   [04-10-17]

Department of Science and Technology (DST) has launched Cyber Physical Systems (CPS) programme dealing with self-driven cars, autonomous unmanned vehicles and aircraft navigation systems.

The programme is still at a nascent stage.

INR. 3,000-crore has been has been conceived for it and it will first take root in some of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs).

What is Cyber Physical Systems (CPS)?

  • CPS is an interdisciplinary field that deals with the deployment of computer-based systems that do things in the physical world.
  • It uses computer-based algorithms, tightly integrated with the internet and its users.
  • It involves trans disciplinary approaches, merging theory of cybernetics, design and process science and mechatronics.
  • In CPS, physical and software components are deeply intertwined, each operating on different spatial and temporal scales.
  • Both exhibit multiple and distinct behavioural modalities, and interact with each other in a myriad of ways that change with context.
  • Autonomous unmanned vehicles (UAVs) and aircraft navigation systems and smart grids (where electricity is optimally distributed on the basis of calculations in real time by micro-processors) also qualify as CPS.
  • CPS has offered robotics, artificial intelligence, digital manufacturing, big data analysis, quantum communication and IoTs.
  • The National Science Foundation of the United States already has identified CPS as a key area of inter-disciplinary research back in 2003.

▼ Thailand takes step towards democracy   [04-10-17]

Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn on 6 April 2017 signed a military-backed Constitution of the country into a law.

The signing is an essential step toward an election that would bring the country back to democratic rule.

The document was signed by the King in a ceremony at Bangkok.

The outgoing military government will have the right to appoint a senate that will have a say in appointing the prime minister.

It allows the King Maha Vajiralongkorn to travel abroad without appointing a regent. T

An original draft of the constitution, viewed as the basis for returning to democracy, was approved in a referendum in August 2016.

But the King has asked in January that changes be made to give him more power on appointing a regent in the event he isn’t in the country.

The interim government has pledged to hold the election by the end of 2017.

But the vote is likely to be put off to 2018 due to a delay caused by the revision work. The military-led interim government has ruled the country since it seized power in a 2014 coup.

The Junta that seized the power after the 2014 Coup has promised to restore democracy in the nation. The 2014 coup was its 12th successful coup in some 80 years.

The new constitution is the 20th constitution of the South-east Asian country since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932.

Current PM took charge of the country after the 2014 Coup.

Besides, 6 April was a public holiday in Thailand as the day marks the establishment of the Chakri dynasty 235 years ago.

The current king is also known as King Rama X in the dynasty.

▼ 1/3rd panchayats reached by DAY-NRLM   [04-7-17]

The Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana–National Rural Livelihood Mission (DAY-NRLM) is making a difference to the lives and livelihoods of over 3.6 crore households from where women have joined Self Help Groups (SHGs).

The collectives of women under SHGs, Village Organisations (VOs) and Cluster Level Federations (CLFs) has evolved transformational social capital that is changing gender relations, access to services and participation in Gram Sabhas and Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs).

The programme has given confidence to women to seek Bank loans for economic activity after developing skills and competencies through a sustained Community Resource Person (CRP) led handholding for livelihood diversification.

Since the inception of the programme in 2011, women members of SHGs have accessed Rs. 1.06 lakh crore as Bank credit.

From INR 20,000 crore Bank linkage in 2014-15, SHGs got more than INR. 30,000 crore as credit in 2015-16.

Till February 2017 over INR. 29,000 crore had already been disbursed and it is expected that about INR. 35,000 crore to Rs. 38,000 crore will be mobilised as credit in the Financial Year 2016-17.

Analysis of Bank linkage in 2016-17 shows the remarkable increase in credit linkage in States like Assam, Bihar, Odisha, Rajasthan and West Bengal.

Under the DAY-NRLM, over 30 lakh women farmers have been supported under Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana (MKSP) to promote sustainable agricultural practices.

The DAY-NRLM programme has reached nearly 1/3rd of the Gram Panchayats of the country and efforts for its consolidation and expansion are being continuously made.

During 2017-18, 52 lakh households through 4.5 lakh new SHGs were added to DAY-NRLM. Start-up Village Entrepreneurship Programme (SVEP) to develop 84,000 micro enterprises was started in 17 States covering 47 Blocks.

Solid Waste Management initiative through convergence was done in 11,000 (nearly 90%) villages of Tamil Nadu through their women SHGs.

To facilitate diversification of livelihoods, skill development for Placement Based Wage Employment and self-employment was promoted on a large scale through the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDUGKY) and Rural Self Employment & Training Institutes (RSETIs) respectively under DAY-NRLM.

The first National evaluation of DAY-NRLM has been completed recently by the Institute of Rural Management Anand (IRMA).

Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Chattisgarh are ahead of other States in addressing urban poverty during the last three years i.e 2014-17.

Tamil Nadu is in the forefront in assisting urban poor with subsidized loans for self-employment through setting up of individual and group micro enterprises and formation of Self-Help Groups under Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana-NULM (DAY-NULM) and Uttar Pradesh led in skilling urban poor. Madhya Pradesh stood second in skill training and providing loans support.

NULM: Know More

  • National Urban Livelihoods Mission (NULM) was launched in September,2016.
  • It has the objective of reducing the poverty and vulnerability of urban poor households by enabling them to access gainful self-employment and skilled wage employment opportunities for improvements in their livelihoods on a sustainable basis.
  • NULM which was launched in 790 cities and towns in 2013 was subsequently extended to all the statutory 4,041 cities and towns in February, 2016.
  • During 2014-17, 8,07,187 urban poor were given skill training, 1,35,158 beneficiaries were given subsidized bank loans for setting up own enterprises and 1,62,285 Self-Help Groups have been formed for taking up income augmenting activities with the support of bank loans.

▼ INS Shardul for joint EEZ surveillance   [04-7-17]

In keeping with India’s national objective of ensuring a secure and stable regional environment to allow unhindered economic and social development, not just in India, but also in the Indian Ocean Region, Indian Naval Ship Shardul is on a two month long deployment in the South Indian Ocean.

It has an aim to provide surveillance support in the region.

The warship is under the command of Commander Rohit Mishra.
Deployment was aimed to show presence, deter IUU fishing and drug trafficking.

Since 2009, Indian Navy has been deploying ships to the region bi-annually to assist in patrolling of the vast EEZ of the country based on request by host nations.

The last such deployment was by the same ship in Dec 16. These committed and custom made deployments for joint patrol by Indian Navy Ships with the Coast Guard of the host nation underscore the strong relationship and cherished bonds of friendship between the nations of the region.

INS Shardul: Know More

  • INS Shardul is a Landing Ship Tank (Large) of the Indian Navy
  • Its primary role is to transport troops, vehicles, armaments and accomplish all objectives of an amphibious operation which primarily includes landing of combat equipment and personnel to an Amphibious Objective Area.
  • INS Shardul has the capability to launch and recover Marine Commandos through sea as well as by helicopters.
  • In addition, the ship can act as a ‘Hospital Ship’ with facilities provided in containerised form as well as a ‘Fleet Tanker’ for limited mission/ exercise.
  • The ship is routinely deployed with the First Training Squadron and is responsible for the ab-initio sea training of Young Officers of Indian Navy.

▼ Germany launches military unit for thwarting cyberattacks   [04-6-17]

Germany has launched a new military unit dedicated to thwarting cyberattacks and responding if necessary.

The unit, which will be fully operational by 2021, will bring together information technology experts from other branches of the military, and also include new specialists.

In all, it's envisioned to have some 13,500 soldiers and civilians by summer.

The unit is being put under command of a lieutenant general with an initial 260 troops under his command.

The Defence Ministry says the military experiences thousands of cyberattacks of varying degrees of severity on its servers every day.

Germany: Know More

  • Capital: Berlin
  • Code: +49
  • President: Frank-Walter Steinmeier
  • Key Cities: Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Düsseldorf.
  • Official language: German

▼ Germany bans child marriage   [04-6-17]

German cabinet on April 5, 2017 moved to ban child marriages after the recent mass refugee influx brought in couples where one or both partners were under 18.

The new law is set to be approved by July. It is a protective move for annulling child marriages of foreign minors.

It will allow youth welfare workers to take into care underaged girls even if they were legally married abroad and, if deemed necessary, separate them from their husbands.

The age of consent for all marriages in Germany will be raised from 16 to 18 years. Currently in some cases an 18-year-old is allowed to marry a 16-year-old.

Foreign marriages involving spouses under 16 will be considered invalid, and those involving 16 or 17-year-olds can be annulled by family courts.

Rare exceptions are possible, for example when one of the spouses suffers from a serious illness - but only if the couple are now both adults and both want to stay married.

The draft law would also punish with a fine any attempts to marry minors in traditional or religious rather than state ceremonies.

There were 1,475 married minors registered in Germany last July - 361 of them aged under 14 - according to the latest figures released after a parliamentary request.

Of these 1,152 were girls, said the interior ministry.

The largest group, 664 children, came from Syria followed by 157 from Afghanistan, 100 from Iraq, and 65 from Bulgaria.

But certain underage couples that have their own children, who could then be considered born out of wedlock and lose certain entitlements and inheritance rights.

Government in Germany: Know More

  • Government: Federal parliamentary republic
  • President: Frank-Walter Steinmeier
  • Chancellor: Angela Merkel Legislature
  • Upper house: Bundesrat
  • Lower house: Bundestag

▼ WADA: India 3rd in doping worldwide   [04-6-17]

This is the first set of Anti-Doping Rule Violation statistics under the revised WADA Code and third such report in its history since 2013.

The worrying sign for India is that the number of dope offenders has been increasing in the last three years.

India had 91 and 96 Anti-doping Rule Violations (ADRVs) in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

An ADRV is a doping offence committed by an athlete or athlete support person, which results in certain consequences or sanctions.

It is derived from adverse analytical findings (AAFs), commonly known as ‘positive’ results.

Of the 117 Indian offenders of 2015, two are non-analytical ADRVs, which refer to cases that do not involve the detection of a prohibited substance by a WADA-accredited laboratory.

Instead there are instances like failure to submit to a test, possession, use or trafficking of a prohibited substance by athletes and support personnel.

Out of the 115 analytical ADRVs, 78 are committed by male athletes, while 37 are by female.

Among individual sports, weightlifting has taken over athletics as the dirtiest with a whopping 56 Indian lifters (32 male and 24 female) punished for doping.

Athletics contributed the second highest number of dope offenders with 21 (14 male and 7 female).

This was followed by boxing (8), wrestling (8), cycling (4), kabaddi (4), aquatics (3), powerlifting (3), judo (2), wushu (2), rowing, bodybuilding (1), hockey (1), football (1) and street and ball hockey (1).

Among the NADOs, India’s National Anti—Doping Agency recorded 109 ADRVs, the second highest behind Russia’s (127).

The NADA took 5162 samples during 2015, out of which 110 tested positive for banned substances - AAFs. But there was no sanction in one case.

A total of 229,412 samples were received and analysed in 2015 by WADA-accredited laboratories worldwide. Out of these, 2,522 samples were reported as AAFs.

There were a total of 1,929 ADRVs (1,901 from athletes and 28 from athlete support personnel) out of which 1,649 are analytical findings and 280 from ‘evidence - based intelligence’ non - analytical findings.

Out of 1649 are Analytical ADRVs, 1304 cases (79 per cent) were of male and 345 female (21 per cent); 390 (24 per cent) were from out - of - competition tests and 1259 in - competition (76 per cent); 1644 urine and five blood.

The dope offenders belong to 80 sports/disciplines and 121 nationalities.

Among sports disciplines worldwide, bodybuilding overtook athletics in contributing the highest number of dope cheats with 270 such cases.

Athletics is second at 242, followed by weightlifting (239), cycling (200), powerlifting (110), football (108), rugby union (80), boxing (66), wrestling (57) and basketball (39).

Just like the increase in the number of Indian dope offenders, the worldwide figure also showed an upward trend.

WADA: Know More

  • Headquarters: Montreal, Canada
  • President: Craig Reedie
  • Purpose: Anti-doping in sport
  • Motto: Play True
  • Official language: English, French
  • Founder: Dick Pound

▼ Cherry blossoms mark start of spring   [04-5-17]

Japan had announced the season would start on March 21 with the flowering of sakura blossoms at the Yasukuni Shrine, but other places in Tokyo were denied the sight, because of a cold weather snap.

The April 4 jump in temperature of 17 degrees C (63 degrees F), changed that, however, drawing out throngs of people for the "hamami” tradition of the viewing and appreciation of the famed pink flowers.

Japan makes its cherry blossom predictions scrupulously, with one weather broadcaster collecting observations from 10,000 trees nationwide.

That is especially important for foreign tourists, who plan holidays to catch a glimpse.

Japan's Tourism Ministry says the number of foreign tourists peaked in April last year, thanks to the popularity of the sakura flowers.

Beneath the flowering sakura trees, Tokyo residents laid out picnics.

Sakura: Know More

  • A cherry blossom is the flower of any of several trees of genus Prunus, particularly the Japanese cherry, Prunus serrulata.
  • This is called sakura after the Japanese (桜 or 櫻; さくら).
  • Currently it is widely distributed, especially in the temperate zone of the Northern Hemisphere including Japan, China, Korea, Europe, West Siberia, India, Canada, and the United States.
  • Along with the chrysanthemum, the cherry blossom is considered the national flower of Japan.

▼ Now, Aadhaar set to be used in airports   [04-5-17]

The government has asked IT major Wipro to develop a blueprint for Aadhaar-based biometric access to flyers at all airports across India.

Wipro is expected to give the report by early May and then airports will begin the process of a passenger's thumb being all the identification he or she requires to fly, for domestic flights as international ones will need passports.

The aviation ministry had been toying with the idea of linking Aadhar numbers to air travel bookings and then enabling biometric access possible at airports.

It was felt a joint system be developed that can be replicated by all airports. We are seeing what all airport processes can be made e-enabled.

The passengers give their Aadhar numbers at the time of booking tickets.

Once they reach the airport they are flying out of, flyers can just keep their thumb on touch pad at entry point. Once inside, a similar process can be repeated at other places like check-in.

This will give passengers a seamless and effortless travel experience at airports as possible.

Due to security considerations, flyers in India have to show an ID card along with their tickets to be allowed inside airport terminals.

AAI: Know More

  • Type: PSU
  • Industry: Aviation sector
  • Founded: 1 April 1995
  • Headquarters: Rajiv Gandhi Bhawan,Safdarjung Airport, New Delhi-110003
  • Head: Dr.Guruprasd Mohapatra , Chairman

▼ J&K imposes blanket ban on plastic below 50 microns   [04-5-17]

Jammu and Kashmir government on 3 April 2017 imposed a blanket ban on the use of polythene bags manufactured below fifty (50) microns.

Choudhary Lal Singh, the Minister for Forest, Environment and Ecology of Jammu and Kashmir, said that the government is taking all the possible measures to prevent the state’s environment and ecology from being polluted.

The Minister said new guidelines and regulations, would facilitate proper recycling of plastic waste, reducing its impact on the ecology.

The manufacturer’s name and address will now be required to be printed on the bags, failing to which, strict action will be taken against them.

Producers of the plastic carry bags will have to obtain registration from the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB), in the case of absence of registration, no person will be allowed to manufacture these carry bags.

The brand owner or the producer of these plastic carry bags will have to submit its action plan for buyback/waste collection system based on extended producer responsibility to the Board.

The guidelines state that every street vendor will have to get him/herself registered with the concerned Municipal body for trading in the products of polythene.

For this purpose, the vendor will have to pay a fee of INR

48000 annually. Local bodies will be responsible for segregation, collection, processing and disposal of plastic waste in urban areas either on its own or by engaging agencies or producers.

Directions have been passed to all allied departments for successful and strict implementation of this order.

The government will also organise awareness camps to educate masses about ill effects of non-biodegradable products.

Reason behind the decision on a blanket ban on the use of polythene bags.

The minister informed that unnecessary or wanton use of polythene and its unscientific disposal has posed a serious threat to the environment as it takes a long time to degrade.

It also poses a serious threat to wildlife.

▼ Now soil fungus to break down plastic   [04-4-17]

Scientists have identified a soil fungus, which uses enzymes to rapidly break down plastic materials, an advance that could help deal with waste problem that threatens our environment.

Humans are producing ever greater amounts of plastic — much of which ends up as garbage.

Since plastic does not break down in the same way as other organic materials, it can persist in the environment over long periods of time.

Scientists found an unexpected solution to the growing plastic problem in the form of a soil fungus.

Attempts to deal with plastic waste through burying, recycling, incineration or other methods are variously unsustainable, costly and can result in toxic by-products.

These are hazardous to human health.

The researchers took samples of soil and various pieces of rubbish in hopes of finding an organism that could feed on plastic waste in the same way that other fungi feed on dead plant or animal material.

Aspergillus tubingensis is a fungus, which ordinarily lives in the soil.

In lab trials, the researchers found that it also grows on the surface of plastics.

It secretes enzymes onto the surface of the plastic, and these break the chemical bonds between the plastic molecules, or polymers.

Using advanced microscopy and spectroscopy techniques, the team found that the fungus also uses the physical strength of its mycelia - the network of root - like filaments grown by fungi - to help break down the polymers.

▼ Bahrain to try civilians in military court   [04-4-17]

Bahrain’s king has approved a law passed by parliament that allows for military courts to try civilians amid a major crackdown on all dissent in the island kingdom.

King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa approved the constitutional amendment on April 3, 2017.

The island’s elected 40-member Consultative Council and its appointed 40-seat Council of Representatives, the two houses of Bahrain’s parliament, had earlier passed the amendment.

Activists warn the amendment will allow an undeclared state of martial law on the island near Saudi Arabia that’s home to the US Navy’s 5th Fleet.

Supporters call the change necessary to fight terrorism as the persistent low-level unrest that followed the 2011 demonstrations has escalated recently in tandem with the crackdown.

▼ Singapore restricts visa for IT pros   [04-4-17]

While the focus has been on the US, visas for IT professionals to work in Singapore have dropped “to a trickle.”

This has forced the government to put on hold the review of the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) citing violation of the trade pact.

With Indian companies being advised to hire local talent, they are looking at relocating some of their operations to other countries in the region.

From HCL and TCS, which were the early movers to Singapore, the list has expanded to include Infosys, Wipro, Cognizant and L&T Infotech.

Singapore authorities were insisting on what is called “economic needs test” (ENT), which requires compliance with certain economic criteria, to deny access to Indian professionals.

Singapore: Know More

  • Code: +65
  • Currency: Singapore dollar
  • Official scripts: Roman (Latin); Simplified Chinese; Tamil
  • Island state off Southern Malaysia.

▼ NW Railway declares two rail routes as green corridors   [04-3-17]

The North Western Railway has declared the Barmer-Munawab and Pipad Road-Bilara rail routes in Rajasthan as Green Corridors.

With this total number of green corridors has increased to three.

The 114-km-long Manamadurai– Rameswaram stretch of Southern Railway was India’s first ‘Green corridor’.

What is Green Corridor: Know More

- The Green Corridor ensures zero toilet discharge on rail tracks as part of its commitment to clean environment under the ‘Swachh Rail-Swachh Bharat’ initiative.

- Trains in the section have been equipped with bio-toilets to ensure zero discharge of human waste on the rail tracks and preventing corrosion of the tracks.

- Indian Railway had developed the environment friendly ‘Bio-toilets’, in association with Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

- Bio-toilets evacuate discharge into a biodigester tank, containing anaerobic bacteria, fitted underneath the train coach in a small space.

- The bacteria convert human faecal matter into water and small amount of gases (including CH4) by process of hydrolysis, acetogenesis, acidogenesis and methanogenesis.

- Indian railways aims to install human waste discharge free bio-toilets in all its coaches as part of the Swachh Bharat Mission by September 2019.

▼ NTPC crosses 50 GW power generation   [04-3-17]

State-run NTPC has crossed the milestone of 50 GW power generation capacity which will help the country realise the goal of power for all.

NTPC has crossed 50,000 MW of installed power generation capacity which marks another milestone towards 24X7 power for all.

According to a company statement, with commissioning of 500 MW unit at Unchahar in Uttar Pradesh, the total installed capacity of NTPC has increased to 50,498 MW.

In FY17, NTPC's annual generation topped 250 BU (billion units). The company also commenced coal mining at Pakri Barwadih.

Besides, it commissioned the first high efficiency 800 MW unit at Kudgi and has steadily added to its renewable portfolio.

It is the third-largest power company in terms of coal based power generation capacity, second in Plant Load Factor, third in machine availability and seventh in terms of electricity generation.

NTPC is among the top 20 coal based power generating companies globally.

NTPC has 19 coal-based, seven gas-based, 10 solar PV, one hydro and nine subsidiaries/joint venture power stations.

The company has capacity of over 21,000 MW under implementation at 23 locations across the country, including 4300 MW being undertaken by joint ventures and subsidiary companies.

▼ GoI to tackle NCD    [04-3-17]

To tackle the burden of cancer and other NCDs, the government has planned a series of measures including setting up 20 state cancer institutes, investing INR 3000 crores.

Government has also launched universal screening of diabetes, hypertension and cancer in 2100 districts of India.

Work on cancer institutes was under way and setting up of each AIIMS institute in every state would incur a cost of INR 150 crore.

The Centre supplements the efforts of the state governments for improving healthcare including prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

At present, the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases and Stroke (NPCDCS) being implemented under National Health Mission (NHM).

This is for interventions up to the district level includes awareness generation for Cancer prevention, screening, early detection and referral to an appropriate level institution for treatment.

In February, the health ministry also rolled out a massive free door-to-door screening programme for the early detection of cancer, heart disorders and diabetes, which account for over 35% of all deaths in India.

The programme is among the preventive-care measures planned by the health ministry, and is targeted at people in the age group of 30-69 years, who constitute almost 37% of the total population.

This population is also highly vulnerable to noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) like cancer and diabetes that are responsible for 55% of the premature mortality in the same age group.

NCD: Know More

  • Estimates show the prevalence of non-communicable diseases is fast growing in India.
  • Diseases like cancer and heart disorders are also causing significant mortality, whereas diabetes is leading to a huge socio-economic burden.
  • While over 26% of all deaths in India are from heart diseases, 7% are from cancer. In 2015, over 690 lakh cases of diabetes were reported in India.

Chronology of events
The Union Defence Ministry has allowed Arunachal Pradesh government to use the functional Advance Landing Grounds (ALGs) in the state for civilian purpose. The Ziro, Mechuka, Walong, Aalo, Pasighat and Tuting ALGs across the state have been developed.
A global alliance of tech industries and academic organisations have unveiled $14-million The News Integrity Initiative to combat the spread of “fake news.”
Tripura Government has signed two agreements with the Union Ministry of Power to enhance power supply in distribution network. The agreements will enable state to get the benefits under the Central government scheme.
The Cabinet on April 5 approved setting up of a Rail Development Authority (RDA) meant primarily to determine rail tariffs - fares and freight charges.
K Prithika Yashini became India’s first-ever transgender person to become a police official, after she took charge as sub-inspector in Dharmapuri district in Tamil Nadu.
India’s first-ever micro-drama festival “Thespis” has started at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts in New Delhi on April 9, 2017. The micro drama festival has presented the series of 25 micro drama tales composed with the duration of 10 minutes and is named after Thespis of Icaria.
Survey of India completes 250 years of its service to the nation and is celebrating its achievements this year. A National Conference on, “Users’ Perspective on Geospatial Policy Framework in India” was organised by Survey of India (SoI) and FICCI, in New Delhi on April 9. The 10th of April is also celebrated as National Survey Day.
The Government has accorded its approval to India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO) for the redevelopment of Pragati Maidan into a new world class Integrated Exhibition-cum-Convention Centre (IECC) at a cost of INR 2254 crore.
According to EY Europe, Middle East, India and Africa (EMEIA) Fraud Survey 2017, India ranks 9th among 41 surveyed countries in bribery and corrupt practices in businesses.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull inaugurated the world’s most advanced nanobiotechnology research centre, a joint venture between The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and Deakin University, Australia.
The first rail freight service from United Kingdom to China departed from Essex. Earlier the first freight train in the opposite direction, from China to UK had arrived in London in January 2017.
For the first time ever, the twelve major ports under the Ministry of Shipping have been ranked on sanitation parameters, based on the efforts undertaken by them to counter waste generating sources with respect to port operation, office area, township area and the response to incoming ships. QCI was tasked to assess the Swachhata activities undertaken by all the Ports.
India and Georgia have singed a Joint Statement on the launching of the Joint Feasibility Study on the Free Trade Agreement between both countries.
The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister has approved the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cooperation in the field of justice between India and Tunisia.
The Department of Post has allotted a unique pin code for the Income Tax Department’s Central Processing Centre (CPC) based in Bengaluru so as to ensure that the letters and mails sent by taxpayers to the CPC are not lost or reach the centre late.
The Union Cabinet has approved the proposal of the Ministry of Power for signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with member states of BIMSTEC for establishing BIMSTEC grid interconnections. The MoU will be signed at the 3rd BIMSTEC Energy Ministers’ Meeting that will be held in Nepal shortly.
The Union Cabinet has approved the proposal of the Ministry of Power for signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with member states of BIMSTEC for establishing BIMSTEC grid interconnections. The MoU will be signed at the 3rd BIMSTEC Energy Ministers’ Meeting that will be held in Nepal shortly.
A contraction in capital goods has led to a decline in Industrial output by 1.2% in February
The hijacked Indian Dhow Al-Kausar was released on 11 April 2017 along with its cargo and two of its crew members. The remaining of its eight crew members were released on 12 April 2017.
US National Security Advisor HR McMaster is slated to visit New Delhi. India will raise the issue of use of ‘mother of all bombs’ by US against the IS caves in Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
Special envoys of five BRICS member states who are specialised in West Asian Affairs met at Vizag to discuss the volatile situation in Syria and the US air strikes.
The Central government has asked some states to take up water conservation projects and give priority to drinking water. Also, states have been advised to control water consumption and promote the use of drip and sprinkler irrigation.
Chinese have warned that the war clouds will thicken over the Korean peninsula if the nation defies the US sanctions and stark warnings to carry out the sixth nuclear test or more missiles.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will be launching its South Asia Satellite on 5 May 2017. The launch aims to benefit all the countries in the region, except Pakistan.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the National Scheduled Castes Finance and Development Corporation (NSFDC) and the Development Commissioner (Handlooms) on 14 April 2017 in New Delhi.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed in April 2017 between the Indian Academy of Highway Engineers and the University of New South Wales. The MoU was signed in line with the Union Ministry of Road Transport.
Alia Bhatt has made it to the Forbes Under 30 Asia list that was released today. The list comprises of 300 names from Asia, who made it big in different fields.
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has said that for the first time in Indian Railways’ history, Habibganj station in Bhopal has been handed over to a private firm to be operated by it.
Over 50 Indians, including gymnast Dipa Karmakar, Olympic medallist Sakshi Malik and actress Alia Bhatt, are among Forbes’ list of super achievers from Asia under the age of 30 who are “pushing boundaries of innovation”.
Philippines president Roger Duterte won the TIMES 100 poll.
GeoMGNREGA has reached a major milestone by geotagging one crore assets created under it. The geotagged assets have been put in public domain.
Pakistan has leased the operations of its strategic Gwadar port to a State-run Chinese firm, the China Overseas Port Holding Company (COPHC) for a period of 40 years.
India is set to host the 18th World Road Meeting (WRM 2017) on November 13, the International Road Federation (IRF) announced recently.
The Indian Navy has began a joint maritime exercise Varuna with the French Navy at the Mediterranean Sea. The exercise will conclude on 30 April 2017. The joint maritime exercise aims at deepening combat coordination between the two navies.
Srishti Kaur of India has been crowned Miss Teen Universe 2017 at Managua, the capital of Nicaragua. She won after beating 25 contestants from across the world.
At least 132 people participated in the first-ever athletics meet for transgender persons organised by the Kerala government at Thiruvananthapuram’s Central Stadium. The first-of-its-kind tournament saw them taking part in popular track and field events such as sprint, relay race, shot put and long jump.
The first freight train to link China directly to the UK reached in the eastern Chinese city of Yiwu. The freight train covered 12,000 km which makes the journey the second-longest route in the world.
Assam got its first Shatabdi Express with Minister of State for Railways Rajen Gohain flagging off the train from Dibrugarh. The new Shatabdi Express train (No. 12085/12086) will run between Dibrugarh and Guwahati.
Uttar Pradesh Cabinet Minister Om Prakash Rajbhar on Sunday said the state government is going to waive loans of up to ₹1 lakh of ‘Divyangs’ (differently-abled). “We will also provide them loans up to ₹1 lakh at an interest rate of 4% only,” the Minister added. The government also plans to hold “Samadhan Diwas” every month to resolve their problems.
Starting May 1, prospective parents going for adoption would not be allowed to “pick and choose” but would only be given one option by the national adoption body. Till now, the government’s adoption portal, CARINGS, referred up to three children.