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August 2017 National Affairs

  • Work on Asian Trilateral Highway to begin shortly as part of India's Act East Policy
    Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Commerce and Industries Nirmala Sitharaman has said on 20th August at Imphal that the construction work of Asian Trilateral Highway will be started shortly to catalyze the Act East policy. 

    According to Minister: 
    • Manipur will be the gateway for the entire South-East Asia.
    • Manipur will have a lot more to benefit from the country’s Act East Policy. Ministry has launched Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme(TIES) for exporting industrial goods outside the country and a sum of nine crore rupees will given for infrastructure development at Imphal Airport under this scheme.
    • 316 central sponsored schemes are being implemented through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT)
    • 29.4 crore people have opened their bank accounts through Jan Dhan Yojana
    • So far 17 million LPG connections have been provided under Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojna and 20 million toilets have been constructed under Swachh Bharat Mission.


  • NHAI to roll out incident management system
    The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has set to roll out an ‘incident management system’ by the end of 2017. Under this, ambulances will be stationed every 50 kilometres to be able to respond to any mishap within 15 minutes of it being reported on a national accident helpline. 

    A greener drive is also likely for road users. Trucks running on CNG will be able to hit the highways without worrying about their fuel tank’s range. 

    Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fuel stations will come up within wayside amenities on highways as part of a proposal now under discussion between the Ministries of Road Transport and Highways as well as Petroleum and Natural Gas. 

    A larger four-bedded ambulance with medical recovery systems that can save lives within the ‘golden hour’ will be placed every 100 km of highway lengths in seven States to begin with: Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Gujarat and Maharashtra. 

    National highways accounted for 35% of total deaths on Indian roads and 29% of the total number of persons injured in road accidents in 2015, as per official statistics. 

    The NHAI plans to invite bids for running the ambulance service on highways from manufacturers of such specialised vehicles, hospitals and emergency response service providers, among others, by the end of this month. 

    The NHAI has also mooted the inclusion of CNG fuel stations in the wayside amenities coming up along all highways. CNG-powered trucks or buses need a top-up after every 100 km, whereas CNG cars can travel up to 200 km before a refill is needed. 

    NHAI announced that all toll plazas will have electronic toll collection facility with at least one lane dedicated to vehicles with electronic tag device, known as FASTags, beginning September 1. It also said all toll plaza planes will be RFID [Radio-frequency identification] tags-enabled by October 31. 

  • PM Modi announces assistance of Rs 500 crore for flood-hit Bihar
    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced immediate assistance of 500 crore rupees to flood ravaged Bihar. He held detailed review meeting with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar over relief operations, compensation and rehabilitation work in flood affected areas. 

    Mr. Modi said, 2 lakh rupees each will be paid next to the kin of those who died in flood related incidents. Fifty thousand rupees each will be given to injured persons. 

    The Prime Minister said, more assistance will be given after assessing the damage. A central team will visit to Bihar to assess the damage caused by flood. 

    Mr Modi assured that all possible help will be extended to the state to tackle flood. The Prime Minister also stressed upon the immediate payment of crop insurance amount to the farmers of the flood affected areas. 

    Earlier on 26th August, Mr Modi undertook an aerial survey of the worst-affected bordering districts of Araria, Purnea, Katihar and Kishanganj to take stock of the flood situation. 

  • ICMR, Ministry of Health sign pact with South Korea's IVI for vaccine
    The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the Union Ministry of Health on 21st August inked a pact with the International Vaccine Institute (IVI), South Korea to collaborate on vaccine research and development. 

    The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Director General of ICMR and Secretary, Department of Health Research, Manoj Jhalani, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Health and Dr Jerome H Kim, Director General of IVI, South Korea. 

    The ICMR is the apex body in the country for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research. An official statement said in New Delhi that with a long history of scientific collaboration with IVI, India officially became a signatory to the treaty of the Seoul-based organisation in 2012. The IVI has 35 signatory countries. 

    With this partnership, India is committing an annual contribution of USD 5, 00,000 to IVI and joins Sweden and South Korea as financially contributing signatories to IVI. 

  • Supreme Court strikes down instant Triple Talaq
    The Supreme Court on 22nd August set aside the practice of instant divorce through triple talaq among Muslims, terming it as unconstitutional, illegal and void. In a 3:2 majority judgment, the apex court held that triple talaq is against the basic tenets of Quran and hence, is unacceptable. The three judges also said, triple talaq is manifestly arbitrary and violative of the constitution and must be struck down. 

    While Justices Kurian Joseph, RF Nariman and U U Lalit held triple talaq as violative of the constitution, Chief Justice J.S Khehar and Justice S Abdul Nazeer were in favour of putting the practice on hold for six months and asking the government to come out with a law. 

  • Institutional deliveries up by 40 per cent in Telangana State
    Telangana Information Technology Minister K T Rama Rao on 22nd August said institutional deliveries had gone up by 30 per cent to 40 per cent after the introduction of KCR Kits scheme in the State. Besides financial assistance of Rs 12,000 to pregnant women, healthcare materials were also given to protect the health of lactating mothers and new born under the scheme. 

    Attracted by the scheme, pregnant women were making a beeline to government hospitals for deliveries, the Minister said addressing a public meeting in the district headquarters hospital. 

    Telangana stands first in the entire country by establishing 40 dialysis centres in government hospitals. With a view to reduce financial burden on patients, State government has established dialysis centres in all major hospitals. 

  • Cabinet approves setting up of Commission to examine sub-categorization of OBCs
    Union Cabinet has approved setting up of a Commission to examine sub-categorization of OBCs. According to the Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, the decision is based on the recommendation of National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC). Parliamentary Standing Committee had also made similar recommendations. The sub-categorization will apply for reservation in Central government jobs. 

    The Commission will be mandated to examine the extent of inequitable distribution of benefits of reservation among castes and communities included in the central list of OBC. As per proposed terms of reference, it will also work out a mechanism, criteria, norms and parameters through a scientific approach for sub-categorization. 

    The Commission will take up the exercise of identifying the respective castes, sub-castes, communities and synonyms in the Central list of OBCs and classifying them into their respective sub-categories. The Commission will submit its report within 12 weeks from the date of appointment of Chairperson. 

    In an another decision, the Cabinet has increased the creamy layer ceiling for the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category to eight lakh rupees per annum from the existing six lakh for central government jobs. 

  • Supreme Court declares right to privacy as Fundamental right
    In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court on 24th August declared the right to privacy a fundamental right under the constitution. 

    A nine-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar ruled that right to privacy is an intrinsic part of the Right to Life and Personal Liberty under Article 21 and entire Part III of the Constitution. 

    The bench unanimously overruled the two earlier judgements of the apex court that the right to privacy is not protected under the Constitution. 

    Several petitioners had challenged the validity of the Aadhaar scheme on grounds of it being violative of the right to privacy. 

    The court had also voiced concern over the possible misuse of personal information in the public domain. The question whether Aadhaar violates right to privacy will be dealt with by the five-judge bench which has been hearing the petitions since 2015. 

  • Union Government finalizes new cadre policy of IAS,IPS, IFOS
    Union Government finalized a new policy for cadre allocation by the Central government for IAS, IPS and other officers, aimed at ensuring "national integration" in the country's top bureaucracy. 

    Officers of all-India services include the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS) and Indian Forest Service (IFoS) have to choose cadres from a set of zones instead of states. 

    The Zone I has seven cadres namely AGMUT (also known as Arunachal Pradesh-Goa-Mizoram and Union Territories), Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Rajasthan, and Haryana. 

    The Zone-II consists of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, and Odisha. 

    The Zone-III comprises Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. 

    The Zone - IV consists of West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam-Meghalaya, Manipur, Tripura, and Nagaland

  • Violence after Baba Ram Rahim conviction
    Massive violence has followed the conviction of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh on 25th August by a special Panchkula court, holding the Dera Sacha Sauda leader guilty of rape. 

    The situation deteriorated soon after the conviction was announced and Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was taken into custody. There have been about 300 incidents of violence reported from across Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh and Delhi. So far, 31 people have died and about 250 have been injured in the violence which ensued after the court verdict. 

  • Taj Mahal is a tomb and not a temple, ASI tells court
    The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has told an Agra court that the Taj Mahal-- widely regarded as a masterpiece of Muslim architecture—is a tomb and not a temple as claimed by a group of petitioners. In a written statement filed in the court of civil judge (senior division) on 24th August, the ASI refused to accept the contention that the world heritage site was built on a temple dedicated to Hindu god Shiva. 

    The court in April 2015 admitted a law suit filed by six lawyers, who had claimed the Taj is a Hindu temple, Tejo Mahalaya and as such followers of the religion should be allowed access inside the premises of the monument to perform ‘darshan’ and ‘aarti.’ They also asked for opening of the locked rooms in the monument. 

    Currently, only Muslims are allowed to worship at the site, offering prayers at a mosque attached to the monument. The court has fixed the next hearing on September 11. The court had earlier issued notices to the central government, Union ministry of culture, home secretary and ASI to file their replies. 

    The ASI is responsible for archaeological research and the conservation and preservation of historical monuments in the country. The counsel for the Union of India and ASI, appearing before the court, stated that the petitioners had no locus standi in the matter and neither did they have the right to worship or perform any religious rituals as the monument is Islamic. 

  • Telangana government to distribute Bathukamma sarees to over one crore women
    Over a crore women in Telangana, irrespective of caste, creed or religion will receive a handloom spree as a gift from the State Government on the occasion of Batukamma festival next month. 

    This decision taken of the Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao will see women above the age of 18 years receiving this unique gift, which would also provide a much needed fillip to the ailing handloom sector in the State. 

    These sarees are to be distributed through ration shops to 1,04,57,610 women for three days starting from September 18. The sarees are to be procured from handloom and power loom sectors and this move is expected to support the weavers community and revive the handloom and powerloom sector. 

    These decisions were taken by the Chief Minister Chandrashekhar Rao, who reviewed the saree distribution program at Pragathi Bhavan on 25th August. He appealed to the the Members of Parliament, MLAs, MLCs and other public representatives to ensure that the saree distribution program was made a success. The Chief Minister was shown the samples of sarees to be distributed and he expressed satisfaction over the quality

  • PM Modi announces assistance of Rs 500 crore for flood-hit Bihar
    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced immediate assistance of 500 crore rupees to flood ravaged Bihar. He held detailed review meeting with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar over relief operations, compensation and rehabilitation work in flood affected areas. 

    Mr. Modi said, 2 lakh rupees each will be paid next to the kin of those who died in flood related incidents. Fifty thousand rupees each will be given to injured persons. 

    The Prime Minister said, more assistance will be given after assessing the damage. A central team will visit to Bihar to assess the damage caused by flood. 

    Mr Modi assured that all possible help will be extended to the state to tackle flood. The Prime Minister also stressed upon the immediate payment of crop insurance amount to the farmers of the flood affected areas. 

    Earlier on 26th August, Mr Modi undertook an aerial survey of the worst-affected bordering districts of Araria, Purnea, Katihar and Kishanganj to take stock of the flood situation. 

  • UIDAI says Aadhaar system secure, refutes reports of biometric data breach
    The Unique Identification Authority of India or UIDAI on 27th August asserted that Aadhaar system has stringent security features to prevent any unauthorised capture or transmission of data, refuting reports that hinted at sensitive biometric data being allegedly accessed by certain foreign agencies. 

    The statement by the UIDAI came after WikiLeaks hinted that the Central Intelligence Agency had allegedly accessed the Aadhaar database. 

    Dismissing the allegations, UIDAI said Aadhaar biometric capture system has been “developed within own country and it has adequate and robust security features to prevent any possibility of any such unauthorised capture and transmission of data regardless of any biometric device that may be used”. The UIDAI said that such “misinformation” was being spread by certain “vested interests”. 

    Outlining the stringent checks and balances in UIDAI system, it said that any biometric device before being used in the Aadhaar system is "thoroughly tested" internally and externally extensively by Standardised Testing Quality Certification and certified. 

    The Aadhaar issuing body said that the biometric identifier had been issued to over 1.17 billion people, with around 40 million authentications taking place every day. 

  • Centre announces setting up of regional medical research centre at Gorakhpur
    The Centre has announced setting up of a regional medical research centre at Gorakhpur in view of the recurring deaths of children in the region. According to the Union Health Minister J.P. Nadda, his ministry has sanctioned 85 crore rupees immediately for the project. 

    The announcement comes in the wake of several deaths at BRD Medical College during the past one week. The Union Minister said, a team of specialists from New Delhi are camping at Gorakhpur to strengthen the treatment protocol and ascertain the cause of death of so many children. 

  • Air India to accord priority to armed forces personnel in boarding
    Coinciding with the country's 71st Independence Day, Air India on 15th August began according priority to the armed forces personnel in boarding its flights across the carrier's network. The decision was taken as a mark of honour and respect to these personnel. Air India already provides concessionary and discounted air fares to the armed forces personnel on its domestic sectors. 

  • Karimnagar leads in individual sanitary latrines in State
    The bifurcated Karimnagar district has emerged number one in the state and secured 20th rank in the country in the construction of record number of individual sanitary latrines (ISL) under the Swachch Bharath Mission programme. 

    Against a total of 1,78,581 families in the district, a total of 1,76,083 families have constructed toilets at the cost Rs. 48 crore. The balance two % of the families would also construct the toilets before October 2 and emerge first in the State, said Minister for Finance and Civil Supplies Eatala Rajender. 

  • Govt caps prices of orthopaedic knee implants
    In a major relief to patients suffering from knee problems, the government on 16th August capped the prices of orthopaedic knee implants. 

    It has declared the capped prices of different knee implant surgeries. Now, the most widely used Cobalt chromium knee implant will cost around 55 thousand rupees instead of current average price of over 1.58 lakh rupees. Titanium Oxidized Zirconium surgery implant has been capped at 76,600 rupees against the current average prices of 2.5 to 4.50 lakh rupees. 

    The High flexibility implant costing from 1.80 to 4.5 lakh rupees has been capped at 56,490 rupees. The revision implants for second surgery has been capped at over 1.13 lakh rupees. Besides, the specialized implants for cancer and tumor will be charged at over 1.13 lakh. Earlier, the government had capped the prices of stents used in cardiac surgery. The Minister informed that 39 hospitals across the country have been issued notices for overcharging. 

  • India opens first partition museum in Amritsar
    India 's first museum will open in the third week of August, 2017 in Amritsar Punjab, as India and Pakistan celebrate 70 years as independent nations. The museum will include photographs, newspaper clippings, donated personal items, and screens showing video interviews with survivors. 

    It will have 'The Gallery of Hope', where visitors can scribble messages of love and peace. 

  • Govt caps prices of orthopaedic knee implants
    In a major relief to patients suffering from knee problems, the government on 16th August capped the prices of orthopaedic knee implants. 

    It has declared the capped prices of different knee implant surgeries. Now, the most widely used Cobalt chromium knee implant will cost around 55 thousand rupees instead of current average price of over 1.58 lakh rupees. Titanium Oxidized Zirconium surgery implant has been capped at 76,600 rupees against the current average prices of 2.5 to 4.50 lakh rupees. 

    The High flexibility implant costing from 1.80 to 4.5 lakh rupees has been capped at 56,490 rupees. The revision implants for second surgery has been capped at over 1.13 lakh rupees. Besides, the specialized implants for cancer and tumor will be charged at over 1.13 lakh. Earlier, the government had capped the prices of stents used in cardiac surgery. The Minister informed that 39 hospitals across the country have been issued notices for overcharging. 

  • India opens first partition museum in Amritsar
    India 's first museum will open in the third week of August, 2017 in Amritsar Punjab, as India and Pakistan celebrate 70 years as independent nations. The museum will include photographs, newspaper clippings, donated personal items, and screens showing video interviews with survivors. 

    It will have 'The Gallery of Hope', where visitors can scribble messages of love and peace. 

  • Home Minister launches live twitter wall on ‘Bharat Ke Veer’
    Home Minister Rajnath Singh has launched the live twitter wall for promoting Bharat Ke Veer portal on the eve of Independence Day. The Home Minister said, the Security Forces have made supreme sacrifice in the line of duty and the people need to stand by their families to support them. 

    According to an official release, this social media awareness campaign will display all tweets with hashtag Bharat Ke Veer at Connaught Place, CGO complex and Khan Market in New Delhi where huge LED display screens have been installed. Bharat Ke Veer portal was launched by Mr Rajnath Singh and actor Akshay Kumar on 9th of April this year. 

    This portal facilitates online donation directly to the families of CAPF Martyrs who have sacrificed their lives for the country in line of duty from 1st of January last year. 

  • Hyderabad to host World Congress of Optometry
    Around 10 million children in India suffer from eye ailments, including the basic sight problems. They are part of the 100 million Indians who face the plight of mostly preventable blindness, according to Vinod Daniel, CEO of India Vision Institute (IVI). 

    The world’s visually impaired will be the subject of some serious discussions at the upcoming 2nd World Congress of Optometry to be held in Hyderabad during September 11-13. The Congress is being hosted by the World Council of Optometry, the Asia Pacific Council of Optometry, and the IVI. About 1,500 delegates are expected to participate and nearly 600 abstracts have been received so far. 

    The Congress will not only highlight and raise awareness of issues, but will also further the important strides made in India to improve both access to vision care and reduce avoidable blindness. The LV Prasad Eye Institute in Hyderabad has been playing a significant role in reaching eye-care to the people in rural areas with satellite centres and contributing to blindness control programmes. It has also developed low-cost devices, treatment facilities and outreach programmes that create awareness about eye care. 

    Eye specialists feel there is a need to screen school children for detecting simple refractive error problems. This requires a massive public-private initiative involving government hospitals, private eyecare facilities and non-governmental organisations. 

  • Tamil Nadu govt decides to form inquiry commission to probe into Jayalalithaa’s death
    Tamil Nadu government has decided to form an inquiry commission to probe the death of former chief minister and AIADMK leader J Jayalalithaa. In a statement in Chennai, chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswamy said the commission would be headed by a retired High Court judge. 

    In another significant development, he has also said the house where late Jayalalithaa was living, the ‘Vedha Nilayam’ in Poes Garden in Chennai, would be converted into a memorial in her honour. 

    The faction has made it as a pre-condition for its merger with the Edappadi Palaniswamy faction of the party, in addition to the demand for dismissal of Jayalalithaa’s aide VK Sasikala and her relatives from the party. Recently, Palaniswamy faction passed a resolution seeking to nullify Mr TTV Dhinakaran from party post, who is the nephew of Ms Sasikala. 

    It also said Ms Sasikala’s appointment as the party General Secretary is also an interim measure, adding party cadres are not prepared to see anyone in the post which was held by late Jayalalithaa. 

    These moves are viewed by many as an overture to the Panneerselvam faction for effecting merger of the two camps. 

  • Corporates donated Rs 957 crore to political parties
    Manufacturing and real estate sectors continue to remain big funders to political parties, an analysis of donations made between 2012-13 and 2015-16 reveals. 

    After electoral trusts set up by big corporate conglomerates to fund parties without appearing to favour one over the other, the highest donations have come from individual businesses such as distilleries, steel, cement, sugar, food production, ceramics, textile, real estate, and mining. 

    The Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) said that Rs 956.77 crore was received by five political parties — BJP, Congress, NCP, CPI and CPI(M). As much as 89 per cent of the total contribution was from known sources. 

    The BJP tops the list of corporate donations. The analysis also reveals dwindling fortunes of the Congress. The BJP received Rs 705.81 crore over the past four financial years from 2,987 donors. Contribution to the Congress is Rs 198.16 crore from 167 corporate donors. 

    Earlier, an analysis of donations made between 2004-05 and 2011-12 had recorded just Rs 192 crore worth of corporate donations for the BJP, followed closely by the Congress' Rs 172 crore. 

    All political parties are required to submit annual details to the Election Commission of India about donors who have contributed above Rs 20,000 in a financial year. 

    Between 2012-13 and 2015-16, the BJP's and the Congress' voluntary contributions above Rs 20,000 from corporate/business houses are 92 per cent and 85 per cent, respectively. The CPI and the CPI(M) have the lowest share of corporate donations at 4 per cent and 17 per cent, respectively. 

  • Chief Election Commissioner inaugurates two-day Chief Electoral Officers’ Conference
    Chief Election Commissioner AK Joti and Election Commissioner OP Rawat inaugurated a two-day Chief Electoral Officers’ Conference in New Delhi on 18th August. Addressing the conference, Mr Joti stressed on the need of providing E-services to stakeholders and emphasised the requirement to develop E-Payment gateways for various election services of Election commission. 

    He underlined the need for extensive training programmes on Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) as the Commission has decided to conduct all future elections using it along with Electronic Voting Machines. 

    The Chief Election Commissioner also stated that Systematic Voters' Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) should be developed as core area of election management. 

    Mr Rawat called upon all Chief Electoral Officers to avail the opportunity to share the experiences and good practices of each other and learn election management related issues from senior practitioners. 

    He stated that all electoral practitioners must work together to reach the higher scale on electoral integrity with further strengthening Indian democracy. 

  • Govt doubles child care allowance for women with disabilities
    Centre has doubled the child care allowance for women employees with disabilities to three thousand rupees per month . At present, the allowance of 1,500 rupees per month is given to Divyang female employees for taking care of their newborn child. An order issued by Department of Personnel and Training said, the allowance will be payable from the time of the child's birth till the child is two years old. It will be payable for a maximum of two eldest surviving children. 

    The DoPT said the above limit will be automatically go up by 25 per cent every time the Dearness Allowance on the revised pay structure rises by 50 per cent. The decision to hike the allowance is based on the recommendations of seventh central pay commission. 

  • Govt launches ‘Test and Treat policy for HIV patients’ to eradicate AIDS: MoS Health
    The Government has launched the “Test and Treat policy for HIV patients” in 2017. ”As per this policy, all people living with HIV (PLHIV) are to be treated with Antiretro Viral Therapy regardless of CD4 count, clinical stage, age or population,” according to the Minister of State for Health Anupriya Patel. 

    ”The Government plans to develop a National Strategic Plan for HIV for ending AIDS for which National Strategic Plan for HIV/AIDS and STI 2017-24 has been approved in June 2017. 

    Under National Strategic Plan for HIV/AIDS and STI 2017-24, the Government plans to accelerate HIV prevention in key population and ‘at risk group’, expand quality assured HIV testing with universal access to comprehensive HIV care. 

    Also, as many as 536 anti-retroviral Therapy centres are providing ART treatment across the country. She noted that the government has revised national HIV testing guidelines to reach out to people in community to test and counsel them. 

    The National guidelines on HIV counselling and Testing Services were revised in December 2016. They include the HIV screening through trained ancillary health care provider in community based setting for priority population including High Risk Groups, TB suspect and patients, STI/RTI attendees, sexual partners/spouses of PLHIV, prison inmates, pregnant women, adolescent age group among others. 

  • UNESCO worried about world heritage Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
    The UNESCO has cautioned that the damage caused to the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) in the northern part of West Bengal due to the Gorkhaland agitation may put in peril the World Heritage tag it earned in 1999. 

    Two prime stations Gayabari and Sonada were torched while an arson attempt was made on Elysia Building -- the headquarters of the DHR during the pro-Gorkhaland bandh that entered its 54th day on 6th August. 

  • Govt launches Measles-Rubella vaccination campaign across India
    Government has launched the second phase of measles-rubella vaccination campaign this month under which more than three crore children are expected to be covered. The second phase of campaign has begun in 8 states and union territories namely Andhra Pradesh, Chandigarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Telangana and Uttarakhand. 

    Health Ministry has initiated this vaccination campaign in the age group of 9 months to less than 15 years in a phased manner in the country. The campaign aims to rapidly build up immunity for both measles and rubella diseases in the community to knock out the disease. 

    For those children who have already received such vaccination, the campaign dose will provide additional boosting to them. 

  • Centre declares entire Assam as 'disturbed' area under AFSPA for another month
    The Centre has declared entire Assam state as a disturbed area under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, AFSPA for one more month, citing various violent activities by insurgent groups ULFA, NDFB, and others. 

    The Home Ministry also declared Meghalaya's border areas adjoining Assam and three districts in Arunachal Pradesh as disturbed under the AFSPA for two more months with effect from 3rd of this month. 

    In separate gazette notifications issues in this regard, the Ministry also declared Tirap, Changlang and Longding districts of Arunachal Pradesh and areas falling within the jurisdiction of 14 police stations in nine other districts of the state as disturbed under the AFSPA with effect from 4th of this month. 

  • Govt forms committee of joint secretaries to make drugs more affordable
    The government has constituted a committee of joint secretaries for ensuring enhanced affordability, availability and accessibility of drugs for the citizens. According to the Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilisers Mansukh L Mandaviya, it will suggest ways to make pricing policy in favour of poor patients. The committee would also review the scope of Drugs (Price Control) Order 2013 and suggest ways for strengthening the regulatory provisions of the order. It will also delve into making the existing mechanism for collection of market based data on prices of medicines more robust and suggest ways for strengthening the existing pharmaceutical database management system. 

    The panel will also look at procedural improvements and process of re-engineering in National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority, NPPA to ensure better and quicker implementation of the government policy and bring greater transparency to reduce litigations and review petitions. 

  • Amit Shah, Smriti Irani and Ahmed Patel win Gujarat Rajya Sabha polls
    BJP National President Amit Shah, Union Minister for Textile and Information and Broadcasting Smriti Irani and Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel have won the Rajya Sabha elections from Gujarat. 

    After much drama in the counting for the three Rajya Sabha seat, Amit Shah received 46 votes, Smriti Irani also secured 46 votes while Ahmed Patel got 44 votes. Congress leader Ahmed Patel succeeded to be re-elected in Rajya Sabha from Gujarat for the fifth term. 

  • Supreme Court dismisses petition to make yoga compulsory for Class 1 to 8 students across country
    The Supreme Court on 8th August dismissed a plea seeking framing of a national yoga policy and making the practice compulsory for students of classes 1-8 across the country. 

    A bench headed by Justice M B Lokur rejected the plea and said it is for the government to take a decision on such issue. The bench said, court cannot say what is to be taught in schools. The apex court also said it was not possible for it to grant the relief as sought by petitioners - Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, a lawyer and Delhi BJP spokesperson and J C Seth. 

    The petitioners had sought a direction to the Ministry of Human Resources Development, NCERT, NCTE and CBSE to provide standard textbooks of 'yoga and health education' for students of Class 1-8 keeping in spirit various fundamental rights such as right to life, education and equality. 

  • NITI Aayog announces partnership with 6 states to transform Health and Education sectors
    NITI Aayog has shortlisted Uttar Pradesh, Assam and Karnataka under its 'Sustainable Action for Transforming Human Capital', SATH initiative to handhold them and transform their health sector. The Aayog has also selected Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Odisha under its SATH initiative to transform their education sector. 

    To give major push to competitive, cooperative federalism, the government think tank had invited all states and Union Territories to participate in its SATH initiative to transform Health and Education sectors. States then made presentations for each sector which was assessed by a committee comprised of senior members of NITI Aayog and Health and Human Resources Development ministries. 

    The States highlighted the initiatives undertaken by them and their willingness to accelerate improvement. On thorough technical evaluation, the chosen States have committed to time-bound, governance reforms in both sectors. 

    A Program Management Unit to push for efficiency and efficacy in governance structures and service delivery will now be available in the six chosen States for a period of 30 months. 

    It is expected that these three years of focused attention and support from the premier think tank will lead to a marked transformation and also provide a model for other States to replicate and adapt. 

  • India ranks 43rd in 2017 Global Retirement Index
    India ranked last at 43rd position in 2017 Global Retirement Index (GRI) published by French asset management company Natixis Global. The index ranks 43 countries on the basis of four factors namely the material means to live comfortably in retirement (Material Well-being); access to quality health services (Health); access to quality financial services to help preserve savings value and maximize income (Finances) and a clean and safe environment (Quality of Life ). The Top three countries in 2017 GRI are Norway, Switzerland, and Iceland. 

    The 43 countries include members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), International Monetary Fund (IMF) advanced economies and the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China). 

  • National Mission for Clean Ganga approves 10 projects worth more than Rs 2,000 crore
    National Mission for Clean Ganga has approved ten projects in Bihar, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh to the tune of about Rs 2,033 crore. 

    Eight of the ten projects pertain to sewage infrastructure and treatment, one to ghat development and one to Ganga Knowledge Centre. Water Resources Ministry in a release said, these projects were approved in the 5th meeting of the Executive Committee of National Mission for Clean Ganga. 

    In Bihar, three major sewage infrastructure projects with total estimated cost of 1461 crore rupees in Barh, Kankarbagh and Digha have been approved. These projects will create additional sewage treatment capacity in Kankarbagh and Barh. In West Bengal, three projects at an estimated cost of around 495 crore rupees have been approved. Out of these two pertain to sewage infrastructure while the third one is for ghat development. 

    In Uttar Pradesh, sewage infrastructure work in Chunar, district Mirzapur, has also been approved at an estimated cost of around 28 crore rupees. A project to establish Ganga Monitoring Centres in five riparian Ganga states has also been approved at an estimated cost of around 47 crore. 

  • Kerala, Haryana top sanitation survey
    The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation released the findings of the survey of 1.4 lakh rural households, undertaken by the Quality Council of India (QCI) between May and June this year. 

    The survey, covering 4626 villages across all States and Union territories, claimed that 62.45% of the households had access to a toilet. 

    The survey also pointed that 91.29% of the people who had access to a toilet also used it, indicating a change in sanitation behaviour. 

    Northeastern States of Sikkim, Manipur and Nagaland were top performers with 95% rural households covered by toilets. And so were the Himalayan States of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand with over 90% toilet coverage of the rural houses. In Bihar, only 30% of the rural household had access to toilets while Uttar Pradesh was marginally better at 37% . Another BJP-ruled State, Jharkhand, too scored the same as U.P. Apart from Kerala, Tamil Nadu was the other performer as 79% rural households had access to a toilet. However, neighbouring Puducherry scored poorly with just 43%.

  • Gujarat first state to implement coal utilisation between power units
    The Gujarat government issued a tender for power developers to receive cheap coal marked for the state in return for selling coal-based power at less than Rs 2.82 a unit. Through the auction, Gujarat will transfer the coal allocated to power generating stations owned by Gujarat State Electricity Corporation (GSECL) to more fuel-efficient private power plants. 

    The aim is to reduce the cost of fuel for financially ailing distribution companies and ensure effective distribution of domestic coal. 

  • Telangana CM initiates Rs. 2,000-crore Sriram Sagar modernisation project
    In an effort to modernise the Sriram Sagar project and increase the area served by this lifeline project, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao on 10th August initiated a Rs.2,000-crore project that seeks to modernise and revitalise its network. 

    The project on the Godavari river has the potential to boost water supply to several districts in the State. The Sriram Sagar project, which has been a key water source for the farming community in several districts, has been neglected over the years, leading to silting. 

    This has brought down its storage capacity from 112 TMC ft to 85 TMC ft and its cultivation ability from 16 lakh acres to about 5 lakh acres. The State plans to keep the reservoir full throughout the year by filling it with water from the Kaleshwaram project. 

    Under the Sriram Sagar project revival and restoration initiative, water from the Pranahitha river, which joins the Godavari, will be diverted at Medigadda and pumped into the Sriram Sagar project. 

  • Government reconstitutes existing CBFC for three years
    Government has reconstituted the existing Central Board of Film Certification with immediate effect for a period of three years or until further orders. Information and Broadcasting Ministry in a release said, there are 12 members in the board, which include Ms. Gautami Tadimalla, Narendra Kohli, Naresh Chandra Lal, Vivek Agnihotri and Ms Vidya Balan. 

  • Delhi, Patna, Guwahati among India's 29 most quake-prone cities
    Twenty-nine Indian cities and towns, including Delhi and capitals of nine states, fall under "severe" to "very severe" seismic zones, according to the National Centre for Seismology (NCS). 

    A majority of these places are in the Himalayas, one of the most seismically active regions in the world. Delhi, Patna (Bihar), Srinagar (Jammu and Kashmir), Kohima (Nagaland), Puducherry, Guwahati (Assam), Gangtok (Sikkim), Shimla (Himachal Pradesh), Dehradun (Uttarakhand), Imphal (Manipur) and Chandigarh fall under seismic zones IV and V. These cities have a combined population of over 30 million. 

    The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has classified different regions in the country into zones II to V, taking into consideration earthquake records, tectonic activities and damage caused. 

    The NCS, which records earthquakes and carries out studies pertaining to micro-zonation of cities, comes under the India Meteorological Department (IMD). 

    Seismic micro-zonation is the process of subdividing a region into smaller areas having different potential for hazardous earthquake effects. 

    Zone II is considered the least seismically active, while Zone V is the most active. Zone IV and V fall under "severe" to "very severe" categories respectively. 

    Zone V includes the entire northeastern region, parts of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat, parts of north Bihar and the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago. Parts of Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi, Sikkim, Northern Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Gujarat and a small part of Maharashtra fall under Zone IV. 

    Bhuj, which was struck by a massive earthquake in 2001 in which 20,000 people were killed, Chandigarh, Ambala, Amritsar, Ludhiana and Roorkee fall under zones IV and V. M Rajeevan, Secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences, said 31 new earthquake observatories will come up in the country by March next year. At present, there are 84 observatories. 

    This is being done to detect and record earthquake parameters more accurately and identify possible precursors of tremors. The NCS has also carried out micro-zonation of cities like Delhi and Kolkata to study the possible impact of earthquake in these mega cities. 

  • Rajya Sabha passes the amended Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill 2017
    The Rajya Sabha on 31st July passed the Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-third Amendment) Bill, 2017 with amendments. The bill seeks to create a new commission with constitutional status for the OBCs at par with the National Commissions for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. 

    Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot allayed Members’ concern that the bill will encroach upon the rights of the states. He said, there is no attempt to reduce the rights of states and attack the federal structure. 

    Earlier, initiating the discussion, B K Hariprasad of the Congress said, the National Commission for Backward Classes should have been given Constitutional status. Bhupender Yadav of the BJP said, the bill provides maximum advantage to backward and neglected classes in the society. 

    He said, this will provide social justice to the people. He thanked Prime Minister for his efforts to bring the amendment. 

  • Supreme Court bans use of five metals in firecrackers
    The Supreme Court on 31st July imposed a ban on the use of five harmful metals including lead and mercury in firecrackers as they cause enormous air pollution. 

    A bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur prohibited use of lithium, mercury, arsenic, antimony, lead metals which are used in the manufacturing of firecrackers. 

    The order came after the Central Pollution Control Board's (CPCB) Member Secretary told the top court that standards on air pollution caused by the bursting of firecrackers are yet to be laid down and the exercise would be completed by September 15. 

    It is the responsibility of the Petroleum and Explosive Safety Organisation (PESO) to ensure compliance particularly in Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu. The bench said that Member Secretary of the Central Pollution Control Board and Deputy Chief Controller of Explosive, Sivakasi should remain present on August 23, the next date of hearing. 

  • Parliament passes Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill, 2017
    Parliament has passed the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill, 2017 with Rajya Sabha approving it on 1st August. Lok Sabha had passed it earlier. 

    Replying to the debate on the bill, HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar said education is national agenda and all political parties should work together to accomplish it. He said deteriorating standard of education in government schools is a matter of concern and the government has taken several initiatives to improve the quality of education. 

    Mr Javadekar said learning outcomes have been codified and handbooks have been provided to schools. He said parents will also be given copy of the outcomes so that they may know what their wards are expected to know in a particular class. 

    Apart from this, school children will be required to pass examination in fifth and eighth class to move to next class. For this, examination will be held in March and those who are not able to clear this examination will be given another opportunity in May. 

    If they do not clear second examination, they will be detained in that class. The minister said board examinations are also being reintroduced in class tenth from this academic session. On demand by members that teachers should not be engaged for non-academic works, Mr Javadekar said the census work is held once in ten years while elections are held after five years. 

    On 25 per cent quota for the education of economically weaker sections in private schools, he said the government provides compensation for this. The bill provides for training of eleven lakh untrained teachers working in government and private schools in next two years through off-line and on-line modes. 

  • Health Ministry to launch Intensified Mission Indradhanush
    Health Ministry will launch Intensified Mission Indradhanush to accelerate immunization coverage to meet its target of full immunization coverage by 2018. 

    The Ministry will give greater focus on urban areas and other pockets of low immunization coverage. According to the plan, States will conduct Intensified Mission Indradhanush drives for 7 working days from 7th day of every month starting from 7th October this year for four consecutive months. 

    A total of 118 districts, 17 urban areas and 52 districts of North East states will be targeted under Intensified Mission Indradhanush. The Ministry said, intensive monitoring and strong accountability mechanism is being established at all levels with Cabinet Secretary at national level and the Chief Secretary at state level. Universal Immunization Programme of India prevents mortality and morbidity in children and pregnant women against 12 vaccine preventable diseases. 

  • NOTA for Rajya Sabha polls been in force since 2014: Election Commission
    The Election Commission has clarified that the provision of ‘None of the Above’, more commonly referred to as NOTA, has been available for elections to the Rajya Sabha since April 2014. 

    The clarification comes after proceedings of the Rajya Sabha were adjourned on 1st August following Opposition protests against the EC notification providing for the use of NOTA in voting for elections to the House. Gujarat’s elections to the Rajya Sabha, scheduled for August 8, will decide the fate of BJP chief Amit Shah, Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani and Ahmed Patel, Political Secretary to Congress President Sonia Gandhi. 

    In January 2014, the EC had sent a communication to the Chief Electoral Officers that following the particulars of the last candidate on the ballot paper, another panel may be provided and the words ‘None of the Above (NOTA)’ be printed therein, in the language or languages in which the ballot paper is printed. 

  • Cabinet nod to scrapping of no-detention policy till Class 8
    The Union Cabinet on 2nd August approved the scrapping of the no-detention policy in schools till Class 8. It also gave its nod to the Human Resource Development Ministry's plan of creating 20 world-class institutions in the country. 

    An enabling provision will be made in the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Amendment Bill which will allow states to detain students in class 5 and class 8 if they fail in the year-end exam. 

    However, the students will have to be given a second chance to improve via an examination before they are detained. The bill will now be placed in Parliament for approval. 

    Under the present provision of RTE Act, students are promoted automatically to higher classes till class 8. This is one of the key components of the RTE Act which came into force on April 1, 2010. 

    The Union Cabinet, which had deferred its decision in June, about the creation of 20 world-class institutions in the country, also approved it on 2nd August. 

    The University Grants Commission (UGC) had in February passed a new set of regulations to set up 10 world-class institutions in the public sector and as many in the private sector. 

    Of the 20 universities, first proposed in this year's budget, the 10 state-supported institutions are expected to receive public funding of up to Rs 500 crore each. 

    An Expenditure Finance Committee note seeking Rs 5,000 crore for these institutions was moved. The institutes can be existing or greenfield (the latter for private institutions). 

    HRD's separate rules UGC (Declaration of Government Educational Institutions as World Class Institutions) Guidelines allow these institutes to fix their own fees for foreign students and decide salaries for foreign faculty, as well as the freedom to choose admission procedures. Existing universities don't have such freedom and are guided by the detailed UGC rules. 

  • e-RaKAM Portal launched
    The Union Government launched e-Rashtriya Kisan Agri Mandi (e-RaKAM) portal to provide a platform for farmers to sell agricultural produce. It is a digital initiative that aims to bring together the farmers, PSUs, civil supplies and buyers on a single platform to ease the selling and buying process of agricultural products. It has been developed by state-run-auctioneer MSTC Limited and CRWC (Central Railside Warehouse Company) Limited. 

    Under this initiative, e-RaKAM centers are being developed throughout the country in a phased manner to facilitate farmers for the online sale of their produce. 

  • Bihar govt decides compulsory retirement for non performing employees
    The Bihar Government has decided to compulsory retire non performing head masters, teachers and education department officials above the age of 50 years. This decision was taken after the review of the education department by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. 

    The chief Secretary Anjani Kumar Singh said, the state government is in process of identifying non performing institutions and all those responsible for poor show will be given compulsory retirement. 

    He said, those teachers having failed thrice in the assessment test would also be removed. With a view to improving results in matriculation and Intermediate, the government has also asked the Bihar School Examination Board (BSEB)to work out changes with greater emphasis on multiple choice questions. 

    The Chief Secretary said, the government will also go in for merger of two or more schools in the same building in urban areas. The surplus teacher will be relocated elsewhere for rationalisation.
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