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December 2017 National Affairs

  • Yoga Institute centenary celebrations launched
    Indian Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu on 24th December inaugurated the Centenary celebrations of the Yoga Institute in Mumbai. The institute was founded by Yogendraji Mani Haribhai Desai, the disciple of Paramahans Madhavadasji in 1918. It helps spread yoga practices. 

  • Union Minister Dr Jitendra Singh launches e-HRMS on Good Governance Day
    Minister for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions Dr Jitendra Singh on 25th December launched the electronic-Human Resource Management System (e-HRMS) in New Delhi on the occasion of Good Governance Day. The Minister launched the 25 applications of 5 modules of the system. The e-service book launched for DoPT during March this year will also be integrated into the e-HRMS. 

    Speaking on various other initiatives taken by the Government, Dr Singh said, Government has been able to expedite various stalled projects, due to the initiatives such as PRAGATI. He also said that the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances is organizing regional conferences at different parts of country, which is taking good practices of governance to other parts outside Delhi. 

    The Minister said, Government is adopting a policy of intolerance towards non-performing officers and encouraging the performing officers and all these initiatives are in the direction of citizen-centric approach of the Government. 

    With launch of e-HRMS, employees will be able to not only see all their details likes service book, leave, GPF and Salary but also apply for different kind of claims or reimbursements, loans or advances, leave, leave encashment, LTC advances and Tour on a single platform. 

  • Home Ministry directs NGOs to open account in any designated bank in a month for transparency
    Union Home Ministry has directed all NGOs, business entities and individuals who receive funds from abroad to open accounts in any of the 32 designated banks, within a month for higher level of transparency. 

    According to the ministry order, the directive to the NGOs, companies and individuals to open foreign contribution accounts in banks, which are integrated with the central government's Public Financial Management System (PFMS), came for providing a higher level of transparency and hassle-free reporting compliance. 

    The order, issued on December 21, said the NGOs are directed to comply with the order within one month. The government also told them not to do anything detrimental to national interests. 

    The central government has already decided that all banks where the FCRA registered persons and organisations have opened their foreign contribution accounts will be integrated with the PFMS for providing a higher level of transparency and hassle-free reporting compliance. 

  • 25% of Swachh Bharat cess hasn’t reached dedicated fund
    During the last two years, the government collected more than Rs 16,400 crore as Swachh Bharat cess, meant to fund sanitation schemes, but the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has pointed out nearly a quarter of the collection has stayed outside the dedicated fund. 

    While collections through the 0.5% cess on all services was meant to be transferred to a non-lapsable Rashtriya Swachhta Kosh, over Rs 4,000 crore remained outside the RSK schemes. 

    CAG said Rs 12,400 crore, around 75% of total collections, was transferred to the RSK and used for identified schemes in the last two years. 

    The rules stipulated that the resources of RSK were to be distributed in the ratio of 80:20 between Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) and Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban). 

    However, the ministry of drinking water and sanitation expended the entire amount on Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) without leaving any provision for Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban)," the auditor pointed out on the portion of funds utilised. 

    The national auditor has said that the experience was similar with other cesses. The CAG has found that in case of six major cesses, where total collections were to the tune of Rs 4 lakh crore till 2016-17, over Rs 1.81 lakh crore, or nearly 45% of the funds collected, remained unutilised and were not transferred from the government's Consolidated Fund of India to the dedicated funds or the intended schemes. 

  • Parliament passes Indian Forest (Amendment) Bill
    Parliament has passed the Indian Forest (Amendment) Bill, 2017 with Rajya Sabha approving it on 27th December. The bill will replace the ordinance promulgated by the President on 23rd of November this year. It seeks to exempt bamboo grown in non-forest areas from definition of tree, thereby dispensing with the requirement of felling and transit permit for its economic use. 

    According to Minister for Environment and Forest Dr Harsh Vardhan, 24 States and Union Territories have supported this bill. It will promote the cultivation of bamboo in non-forest areas; improve the income of the farmers besides providing green cover in the country. 

    Parliament has also passed the Indian Institute of Petroleum and Energy Bill with the Rajya Sabha approving it on 27th December. The bill establishes the Institute at Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and declares it as an institution of national importance. The Institute aims at providing high quality education and research focusing on the themes of petroleum, hydrocarbons and energy. 

    According to Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, the institution will be totally autonomous and academics session has already been started. Earlier initiating the discussion, P L Punia of Congress supported the bill and said shell gas should be promoted in the country because it has lot of opportunity. 

  • President Ram Nath Kovind inaugurates Andhra Pradesh Fiber Grid Project
    President Ram Nath Kovind formally inaugurated the Andhra Pradesh Fiber Grid Project at Amaravathy on 27th December. The project aims to expand high speed internet facility in the state. 

    It aims to cover over 1.45 crore households, more than 12,000 panchayats and 60,000 schools. It will also provide internet facilities to 10,000 government offices, 96 municipalities, 14 Corporations and 6,000 Public Health Centres in the state. 

  • Cyclone Ockhi has affected Lakshadweep’s marine biodiversity
    Cyclone Ockhi has affected the marine biodiversity of Lakshadweep and washed up 80 tonne of plastic debris on the western coast of the country, minister of state in the ministry of environment, forest and climate change Mahesh Sharma informed the Lok Sabha on 29th December. 

  • Smart City Mission: Only 7% of Rs 9,860 cr used and Ahmedabad spent the most
    Out of Rs 9,860 crore released to 60 cities under the Smart City Mission only seven per cent, or about Rs 645 crore, have been utilised so far, an issue which has raised concerns in the Urban Affairs Ministry. 

    Of the Rs 196 crore released to each of around 40 cities, Ahmedabad has spent the maximum amount of Rs 80.15 crore, followed by Indore (Rs 70.69 crore), Surat (Rs 43.41 crore) and Bhopal Rs 42.86 crore, according to a data of the Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry. 

    On the other hand, the data revealed that of the sanctioned funds Andaman and Nicobar could utilise only Rs 54 lakh, Ranchi 35 lakh, and Aurangabad Rs 85 lakh. 

    Among cities which got around Rs 111 crore each from the Centre, Vodadara has spent Rs 20.62 crore, Namchi in Sikkim spent Rs 6.80 crore, while Salem, Vellore and Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu could utilise only Rs five lakh, Rs six lakh and Rs 19 lakh, respectively. 

    Ninety cities have so far been selected by the government under the smart city mission and each of them will get Rs 500 crore as central assistance for implementing various projects. 

    The cities are required to set up Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to get funds from the Centre for the implementation of the project. 

    In a review meeting recently, the official said cities in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar were found to be "performing well", while those in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra needed to speed up the implementation process. 

  • India's push for farm issues at WTO remains unsuccessful
    India has struggled to achieve its trade goals on a multilateral platform such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in the past, but the current year saw a drop in support for issues crucial to India and pushed back chances of the country achieving a permanent solution to food stockpiling. 

    Earlier this month, the 11th Ministerial Conference of the WTO, the largest global meet for multilateral trade talks held biennially, came to an end without any significant outcome as nations dug into their divergent positions and the US played spoilsport to India’s demands for a permanent solution on public stockpiling of foodgrain. 

    Held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the meet had set the tone for global negotiations in trade rules over the next two years and pointed to a scenario where the development-based agricultural issues had been cast away not only by high-income economies but several smaller and economically weaker nations as well, many of whom had remained India’s allies on the matter, Abhijit Das, head of the Centre for WTO studies said. 

    While the developing world led by India and China had thrown their weight behind a demand for a solution on food stockpiling, besides domestic subsidies to the agriculture sector, developed nations such as the United States, the European Union and Australia remained staunchly against it, he added. Das had sounded the alarm before the meet began by saying that no major country apart from India was actively talking about the Doha development agenda. 

    With wide divergence in negotiating positions established before the onset of the summit, trade experts had confidently predicted that few, if any, outcomes would emerge. 

    On the other hand, the richer nations strived to bring into the discussions a stream of issues from rules for small and medium enterprises to gender rights in global trade, which India has categorised as non-trade issues. Many of these proposals ran counter to India’s interests while also reducing the policy space for governments if norms were decided beforehand, JS Deepak, India’s ambassador at the WTO had said. 

  • Panel suggests host of changes in life insurance sector
    A committee constituted by the IRDAI has suggested host of changes in the life insurance sector, including in the investment norms to improve the returns generated by the funds. 

    The insurance regulator had notified the IRDAI (Non- Linked Insurance Products) Regulations, 2013 and IRDAI (Linked Insurance Products) Regulations in February, 2013. 

    However, it was observed that there is a need to review the regulations due to changing market and economic environment, Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDAI) said. 

    In January this year, it constituted an eight member committee to make recommendations on the amendments required in the regulations. 

    The committee in its report among other things has recommended that the investment norms "should undergo significant change" with a view to improve the returns generated by the funds while taking account of the risks inherent in the various asset classes. 

    Currently, the report said, the investment norms governing traditional business are quite restrictive, making it difficult, if not impossible, to provide competitive returns to the policyholders. The current investment regulations mandating investment in certain asset classes limit the returns that may be generated to enable better return for the policyholders. 

    The report also observed that the expectation of generating a return of at least 8 per cent per annum is a "tall order" given that at least 50 per cent of assets of the insurer are mandatorily to be backed by government securities (G-Secs), which currently yield about 6.7 per cent - 7.2 per cent annually. 

  • BJP victory in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh state elections
    The BJP has retained power in Gujarat for the 6th time in a row and swept the polls in Himachal Pradesh finishing just short of two-third majority. BJP won 99 seats in Gujarat, seven seats more than the mark of absolute majority in the 182-member House. Congress won 77 seats and others 6. 

    In Himachal Pradesh, BJP wrested power from Congress by winning 44 seats, two seats short of two-third majority, in the 68 member House. The Congress won 21 and others three. 

    In Himachal Pradesh, Congress Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh has won, while former BJP Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal has lost. 

  • Inordinate delays in the procurement of key military platforms and weapons systems: Parliamentary panel 
    A parliamentary panel on 19th December came down hard on the government for inadequate allocation of funds to the three defence services and inordinate delays in the procurement of key military platforms and weapons systems for them. 

    In its latest report tabled in the Lok Sabha, the standing committee on defence particularly mentioned the capital budget allocated to the Army, the Navy and the Air Force for the current year, saying funds given to them were much less than what they had demanded. 

    It said the capital allocation to the Army in the budget estimate was Rs 25,254 crore against a projection of Rs 42,500 crore while the Navy was given Rs 37,841 crore when the demand was Rs 51,065 crore. 

    Similarly, the Air Force was allocated Rs 59,672 crore against its projected requirement of Rs 92,496 crore for the year 2017-18, leaving a major shortfall. 

    The panel, headed by Maj Gen (retd) B C Khanduri also mentioned that Rs 6,170 crore remained unspent by the Army during the first four years of the 12th five year plan (2012- 17), and called the under utilisation of the funds an indication of an "apathetic" attitude towards modernisation of the force. 

    The committee said fund crunch was impacting the three forces and it may even hit operational preparedness of the forces. It expressed unhappiness over the "customary nature" of the reply by the defence ministry to these critical issues. 

    The defence ministry, in its reply to the panel, said it was taking up the matter of funds shortage for the three forces with the finance ministry so that additional money can be given to them. 

  • Panvel Municipal Corporation passes resolution to ban liquor sale
    BJP-ruled Panvel City Municipal Corporation in Mumbai’s neighbouring Raigad district has passed a unanimous resolution banning sale of liquor within civic limits. 

    The resolution passed during the civic body’s general body meeting will now be sent to Maharashtra Urban Development department for a final approval. Established in 2016, Panvel City Municipal Corporation includes 29 revenue villages of Panvel taluka including Taloja, Kharghar, Kalamboli, Kamothe and Turbhe. The resolution was backed by all parties including the Peasants and Workers Party, Congress, and the Shiv Sena while rejecting the argument that closure of liquor vends will lead to loss of revenue. 

  • India, China holds 20th Special Representatives level talks
    India and China on 22nd December held Special Representative level talks on Boundary Question in New Delhi. The 20th round meeting held between National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and State Councillor and Member of Politburo of Communist Party of China’s Central Committee Mr. Yang Jiechi focused on bringing out the full potential of the Closer Developmental Partnership between the two countries. 

    MEA said in a statement that the Special Representatives undertook a comprehensive review of earlier rounds of the talks and agreed that an early settlement of the boundary question serves the fundamental interests of both countries. 

    They reiterated their commitment to achieve a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution to the India-China boundary question at an early date. 

    The two sides agreed that pending the final resolution of the boundary question, it is necessary to maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas. In this regard, the Special Representatives exchanged ideas on various confidence building measures. 

    They also reviewed the development of India-China bilateral relations and agreed to maintain regular contact and to advance the development of bilateral relations in all areas. 

  • Lalu Yadav convicted in fodder scam, taken into custody
    A special CBI court on 23rd December convicted former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad and 15 others in a fodder scam case while acquitting six including another former chief minister Jagannath Mishra. 

    CBI judge Shivpal Singh pronounced the verdict in the case pertaining to fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 89.27 lakh from Deoghar Treasury between 1991 and 1994. The court will pronounce on 3rd of next month the quantum of punishment to Lalu Prasad and 15 others convicted in fodder scam case. 

    Lalu Prasad, the chief of RJD, and other convicts were taken into custody immediately after the pronouncement of the verdict. Lalu Prasad has been taken to Ranchi's Birsa Munda jail. 

    A charge sheet was filed against 38 persons on October 27, 1997. Eleven of them died and three turned approvers while two other accused confessed and were convicted in 2006-07. 

    The RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav has already been convicted in another fodder scam case that cost him his Lok Sabha seat and his disqualification from contesting elections. 

  • A Raja, Kanimozhi and 15 others acquitted in the 2G spectrum scam case
    A special court in Delhi on 21st December acquitted former telecom minister A Raja and DMK MP Kanimozhi along with 15 other accused in the 2G spectrum scam case. Three companies were also acquitted. Those acquitted in the case include former telecom secretary Siddharth Behura, Raja's erstwhile private secretary R K Chandolia, Swan Telecom promoters Shahid Usman Balwa and others. 

    Special CBI Judge O P Saini pronounced the judgement, the CBI had alleged, in its charge sheet filed in April 2011 against Raja and others that there was a loss of 30,984 crore rupees to the exchequer in allocation of 122 licences for 2G spectrum. The licences were scrapped by the Supreme Court on 2nd February 2012. All the accused facing trial in these cases had denied allegations leveled against them by the CBI and the ED. 

    The court had in October 2011 framed charges against them under various provisions of the IPC and the Prevention of Corruption Act dealing with offences of criminal conspiracy, cheating, forgery, using as genuine fake documents, abusing official position, criminal misconduct by public servant and taking bribe. 

    Special Judge O P Saini also acquitted A Raja and Kanimozhi and 17 other in the Enforcement Directorate's money laundering case relating to the 2G scam. 

    In its charge sheet, the ED had also named DMK supremo M Karunanidhi's wife Dayalu Ammal as an accused in the case in which it had alleged that Rs 200 crore was paid by Swan Telecom (P) Ltd (STPL) promoters to DMK-run Kalaignar TV. 

    In its final report, the ED had named 10 individuals and nine companies as accused and listed them in the charge sheet for the offences under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. CBI will file an appeal against the acquittal of accused persons in the 2G scam case. 

    The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has also decided to appeal against the judgement of the special court that acquitted 19 people in the money laundering case. 

  • Election Commission rejects reports of EVM tampering via Bluetooth
    Election Commission (EC) in Gujarat has said an inquiry found that the apprehension about possible Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) tampering through bluetooth technology, raised by opposition Congress, is baseless. 

    Chief electoral officer (CEO) BB Swain told reporters that the device which the complainant’s mobile phone detected after putting on bluetooth was not an EVM but a mobile phone, carried by a polling agent. 

  • Union Health Minister J P Nadda launches new initiatives on Universal Health Coverage Day
    Union Health Minister JP Nadda launched new initiatives including Laqshya-A Labour Room Quality Improvement Initiative and safe delivery application at a function in New Delhi on the occasion of Universal Health Coverage Day on 10th December. 

    Laqshya initiative is expected to improve the quality of care that is being provided to the pregnant mother in the Labour Room and Maternity Operation Theatres, thereby preventing the undesirable adverse outcomes associated with childbirth. 

    Mr Nadda said, this will be implemented in Government Medical Colleges besides District Hospitals and high delivery load Sub-District Hospitals and Community Health Centres. 

    He said the goal of this initiative is to reduce preventable maternal and newborn mortality, morbidity and stillbirths associated with the care around delivery in Labour room. 

  • Govt to set up special courts on cases involving politicians
    The Centre has told the Supreme Court that at least 12 special courts will be set up to decide cases involving politicians as accused. The Ministry of Law and Justice said this in an affidavit filed in pursuance of an order asking it to come up with a scheme for the purpose. It said, 12 such courts for a period of one year will be set up at a cost of 8 crore rupees. 

    The Centre also sought more time to collect and collate data of pending cases against lawmakers across the country. 

    The apex court had, last month, directed the Centre to place before it the details regarding 1,581 cases involving MPs and MLAs, as declared by the politicians at the time of filing their nominations during the 2014 general elections. It had asked the government to appraise it of how many among these cases have been disposed of within one year and how many have ended either in conviction or acquittal. 

  • Supreme Court refers petitions on Jallikattu Act to Constitution bench
    The Supreme Court on 12th December referred to a Constitution bench a batch of petitions challenging Tamil Nadu’s Jallikattu Act permitting the bull-taming sport. 

    The Constitution Bench has been asked to decide whether jallikattu is a cultural right, and whether states can claim protection under Article 29 of the Constitution - which ensures the protection of interests of minorities. 

    The Bench will also examine whether the Tamil Nadu government had the legislative competence to make amendments and bring in a new law. 

    On January 23rd, the Tamil Nadu Assembly unanimously passed the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Bill, 2017, exempting jallikattu from the purview of penalty under rules for the list of performing animals. 

    The Supreme Court had banned jallikattu in May 2014. The court held that bulls cannot be used as performing animals either for jallikattu or for bullock cart races anywhere in the country. 

    Following this, the central government had passed a notification exempting Jallikattu from the law, which was later stayed by the apex court. 

  • PM Modi dedicates Scorpene-class submarine INS Kalvari to the nation
    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated to the nation INS Kalvari, the first of the six Scorpene-class submarines, at the Naval Dockyard in Mumbai on14th December. According to Prime Minister India is playing an important role in combating terrorism via sea, piracy, drug smuggling or illegal fishing. 

    The Prime Minister coined the acronym SAGAR as 'Security And Growth for All in the Region'. 

  • Central Government approves draft legislation banning instant triple talaq
    The government on 15th December approved a draft law under which the practice of giving instant triple talaq would be made illegal and void and would attract a jail term of three years for the husband. 

    The draft 'Muslim Women Protection of Rights on Marriage Bill' was considered by the Union cabinet which gave its nod. 

    The draft was prepared by an inter-ministerial group headed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh. The other members included External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and his junior in the ministry P P Chaudhary. 

    The proposed law would only be applicable on instant triple talaq or 'talaq-e-biddat' and it would give power to the victim to approach a magistrate seeking "subsistence allowance" for herself and minor children.
    • Under the draft law, the practice of giving instant triple talaq would be made illegal & would attract a jail term of 3 years for husband.
    • The proposed law would only be applicable on instant triple talaq or 'talaq-e-biddat'.
    • The law would give power to the victim to approach a magistrate seeking "subsistence allowance" for herself and minor children

  • AP Assembly okays 5% reservation for Kapus
    The Andhra Pradesh government’s move to provide 5 per cent reservation for Kapus by creating a separate ‘F’ category among the list of backward classes has evoked mixed reaction. Following the move, people belonging to the Kapu community as well as sub-castes such as Telaga, Balija and Ontari would be classified under the ‘F’ category for education and jobs. 

    On 2nd December, the last day of the Winter Session, the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly passed the AP Kapu Reservation (of Seats in Educational Institutions and Appointments or Posts in Services Under the State) Bill. The Bill does not mention political reservation. 

    The Bill will now go to Governor ESL Narasimhan for his signature, before being sent to the Central Government for inclusion in the Schedule IX of the Constitution. The inclusion takes the total reservation to 55 per cent, higher than the Supreme Court-set cap of 50 per cent for backward classes, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. 

    The State Cabinet chaired by Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu approved the long-pending demand to provide 5 per cent reservation for Kapus. 

    The Naidu government had constituted the Manjunath Commission to study the issues relating to demand for reservation by the Kapus. It recommended providing 4-5 per cent reservation, even as the protests headed by Mudragada Padmanabham gathered momentum. 

  • India’s first battery back-up project in Andhra Pradesh
    Andhra Pradesh is planning to develop a 160 MW solar-wind hybrid project with battery back-up facility. Significantly, this is the first such project to be developed in the country. Recently, Tesla announced the commissioning of a 100 MW power pack system, the world’s largest, in Jamestown, Australia. G Adiseshu, Managing Director of AP Solar Power Corporation, told that “this will be first such large-scale hybrid project to be attempted in the country with a battery back-up facility.” 

  • India First Madame Tussauds Wax Museum Opened in New Delhi
    India's first Madame Tussauds wax museum opened in New Delhi. Madame Tussauds has been a successful tourist attraction in places like London, Las Vegas, New York, Orlando, San Francisco and Hong Kong. The Delhi facility is the 23rd edition of Madame Tussauds. It will be open for all seven days. 

  • 6th International Tourism Mart begins in Guwahati
    The 6th International Tourism Mart began in Guwahati on 5th December. Assam Governor Jagdish Mukhi, Assam Chief Minister Sarbanand Sonowal, Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu and Union Tourism Minister KL Alphons attended the inaugural programme. Mr. Alphons said that, with unique sense of music, cuisine and culture, North East is an undiscovered gem of the world. 

    The 3-day event where delegates from several countries are taking part will put the spotlight on India’s “Act East Policy”, blossoming ties with ASEAN and larger East Asia region. The event has been organized by Ministry of Tourism in association with all North Eastern states. Senior officials from the Railway, Civil Aviation, DoNER, Road Transport ministry will share their views for the betterment of the tourism sector of North East including Assam. 

  • Sharad Yadav and Ali Anwar disqualified from Rajya Sabha
    Rebel JDU MPs Sharad Yadav and Ali Anwar were disqualified from the Rajya Sabha on 4th December. Chairman of the Rajya Sabha M. Venkaiah Naidu, in a communication, said Ali Anwar and Sharad Yadav cease to be members of the House. 

    Mr. Naidu agreed to the JDU’s contention that the two senior leaders had “voluntarily given up” their membership by defying their party’s directives and attending events of Opposition parties. The JD (U) had sought their disqualification on the grounds that they had attended a rally of opposition parties in Patna in violation of its direction. Mr. Yadav was elected to the House last year and his term was scheduled to end in 2022. Mr. Anwar’s term was to expire early next year. 

  • Minorities Commission sets up committee to study the matter to give minority status to Hindus
    National Commission for Minorities has set up a three member committee to study the matter to give minority status to Hindus in eight states including Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab. The Commission chairman Syed Ghayorul Hasan Rizvi said the committee will give its report within three months and after examining the report the Commission will take a view over the issue. 

    He said decision in this regard came following the Supreme Court views over the issue asking the petitioner to approach the Commission. 

    Last month, the Supreme Court had refused to entertain a petition seeking its direction to Centre to grant minority status to Hindus in eight states. 

    The Court had said the issue needed to be decided by National Commission for Minorities and asked the petitioner to approach the commission. The other states are Lakshadweep, Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.

  • Govt enhances monetary allowances for Gallantry Award winners
    Government has enhanced the monetary allowances for the Gallantry Award winners. The enhancement is for the recipients of post-independence Gallantry Award, pre-independence Gallantry Award and the monetary allowance attached to Jangi Inam, a pre-independence Gallantry Award. This will come into effect from 1st of August this year. 

    The monetary allowances for Param Vir Chakra (PVC) recipients has been hiked from ten thousand to 20 thousand rupees, for Ashok Chakra from six thousand to 12 thousand rupees while Mahavir Chakra recipients will get 10 thousand instead of five thousand rupees. 

    Distinguished Service Order, Indian Order of Merit and Indian Distinguished Service Medal will now get eight thousand in place of four thousands rupees. Jangi Inam's monetary allowances has been revised from five hundred to one thousand rupees. 

  • UNESCO recognises Kumbh Mela as cultural heritage of humanity
    India's Kumbh Mela has been recognised by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity. Kumbh Mela was inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity at its 12th session in South Korea. Kumbh Mela is considered to be the largest peaceful congregation of pilgrims on earth, attended by millions irrespective of caste, creed or gender. 

    The inscription of elements on the list helps countries which are a part of UNESCO’s convention for safeguarding cultural heritage to mobilise international cooperation and assistance for ensuring that communities continue to practice and transmit such aspects of their heritage. 

  • India declared free from Trachoma, a bacterial infection of eye
    India has been declared free from infective Trachoma which is a contagious bacterial infection of the eye. It causes inflamed granulation on the inner surface of the lids. Releasing the National Trachoma Survey Report (2014-17) in New Delhi on 8th December, Health Minister J P Nadda made an announcement in this regard and termed it as a momentous achievement. 

    He said, the Survey results indicate that active Trachoma is no longer a public health problem in the country. The Minister said, this has been possible due to efforts that included provision of antibiotic eye drops, personal hygiene, availability of safe water, improved environmental sanitation and availability of surgical facilities for chronic Trachoma. 

  • Centre to ask all states to prescribe minimum educational qualifications for Sarpanch
    Centre will write to all states to prescribe certain minimum educational qualifications for holding the office of Sarpanch. According to Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi, all state governments must implement what Rajasthan government has done. 

    In 2015, Rajasthan and Haryana governments amended their Panchayati Raj laws and laid down minimum educational qualifications required to contest Panchayat elections. The Minister said, Rajasthan had done really a good thing, which should be replicated all over. 

  • 48th International Film Festival of India concludes in Goa
    The 48th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) came to an end at Panaji in Goa on 28th November. The closing ceremony was held at the Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Stadium in Bambolim. Amitabh Bachchan. Mr Bachchan was honoured with the Indian film personality of 2017 award. 

    Acclaimed Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan was honoured with the lifetime achievement award. The best film award was given to French movie 120 Beats Per Minute directed by Robin Campullo. 

    The best director award was presented to Chinese director Vivian Qu for Angels Wear White. Malayalam film Take-off bagged the special jury award, while lead actor in the film Parvathy was given the Best Actor (Female) award. Nahuel Perez Biscayart received the Best Actor (Male) award for his performance in 120 Beats Per Minute. 

    The Best Debut Feature Film Director award was given to Kiro Russo for Spanish film Dark Skull. The ICFT-UNESCO Gandhi Medal was given to Marathi movie Kshitij-A Horizon directed by Manouj Kadamh. 

    Pablo Cesar-directed Indo-Argentine film Thinking of Him was the closing film at IFFI this year, while Beyond the Clouds directed by Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi opened the festival. Around 200 films from 82 countries were screened during the nine-day event. 

  • India unlikely to cut malaria burden by half in 2020: WHO
    India accounted for 6% of global malaria cases and 7% of deaths caused by it in 2016, according to a report released on 29th November by the World Health Organisation (WHO). This is in the same ballpark as last year, though the WHO figures also suggest that India is unlikely to reduce its case burden beyond 40% by 2020. 

    In contrast, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Kyrgyzstan achieved malaria-free status in 2015 and 2016 respectively. There were an estimated 4,45,000 deaths from malaria globally in 2016, compared with 4,46,000 estimated deaths in 2015. About 80% of the deaths were accounted for by 15 countries, namely India and 14 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. A key impediment to eliminating malaria is a weak surveillance system. 

    India and Nigeria, two major contributors to the global burden of malaria, were able to detect only 8% and 16% of cases respectively via the system. 

    Moreover, 51% of Plasmodium vivax cases — the milder cousin of the P. falciparum— were traced in India. This could at least be partially explained by resistance to chloroquine, the first line treatment to P. vivax infections that has been detected in pockets of the country earlier this decade. For a long time, P. falciparumdominated India’s case burden and, though its share has decreased, there is a slight increase in malaria cases by other parasites. 

    Bhutan, Nepal, Thailand, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Indonesia, says the WHO, are among the countries poised to reduce malaria incidence by over 40% by 2020. India — due to low funding per person at risk and resistance to certain frontline insecticides — is only expected to achieve a 20%-40% reduction. 

    In 2016, an estimated Rs. 13,000 crore was invested in malaria control and elimination efforts globally by governments of malaria endemic countries and their international partners. The majority (74%) of investments in 2016 was spent in the WHO’s Africa region, followed by the WHO regions of Southeast Asia (7%), the Eastern Mediterranean and the Americas (each 6%), and the Western Pacific (4%).

  • India re-elected to International Maritime Organisation Council
    India was re-elected to the Council of the International Maritime Organisation at an assembly of the body at its headquarters in London on 1st December. Indian High Commissioner to the UK, YK Sinha represented India at the assembly where India secured the second-highest 144 number of votes from member-countries, just after Germany's 146. 

    India has been one of the earliest members of the IMO, having ratified its convention and joined it as a member-state in the year 1959. India has been elected to the Council of the IMO ever since it started functioning, except for a two-year hiatus during 1983-1984. 

    The IMO Council plays a crucial role in deciding various important matters within the mandate of the IMO, in relation to the global shipping industry and its work strategy and budget. 

  • Ockhi cyclone wrecks havoc in Lakshadweep island in 48 hours
    Ockhi cyclone has wrecked havoc in Lakshadweep island in last 48 hours. Heavy rain and storm has resulted in widespread damage in the area. Minicoy and Kalpeni are the worst hit. No casualties are, however, reported from the islands. 

    In many places, houses and buildings are damaged and trees have been uprooted disrupting traffic and communication network. Heavy rain is continuing in all major islands, though the wind speed has eased, but the sea continues to be rough. 

    The island authorities, Navy, Air Force, coast guards, police, medical teams along with civilians are involved in relief operations. MeT department reports that the cyclone Ockhi has started to move away from Lakshadweep islands, towards the western coast. The death toll in rain related incidents triggered by cyclone Ockhi in Kerala has risen to ten. 

    Over 400 rescued fishermen are being brought safe to the shore by the Naval forces, coast guards and police. Search is on for the rest of the missing fishermen. 

  • Andhra Pradesh assembly unanimously passes Kapu Reservation Bill
    In a major boost to Kapu Community, the Andhra Pradesh Assembly unanimously passed the Kapu Reservation Bill to provide five per cent quota in education and employment. 

    The reservation to Kapu community will be given by including them in the BC list. Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu said that Justice Manjunath commission had recommended reservation to the Kapu community. He said, the bill will be sent to Centre for its consent. He also said that the Centre will be requested to include this reservation in the 9th Schedule, to insulate it from judicial review. 

    The state already has 29 per cent reservation for Backward Castes. Apart from this, 15 per cent and 6 per cent reservations exist for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. With the quota for Kapus, the total reservation in the state goes up to 55 per cent, beyond the 50 per cent cap set by the Supreme Court for reservations. The Chief Minister assured that the existing Backward Castes will not be affected by this decision. 

    The Kapu community, with 27 per cent population in the state, has been demanding reservations for decades. Before the 2014 elections, Mr Chandrababu Naidu had promised to give quota to the community on being elected to power. 

  • In 2016, Uttar Pradesh accounted for maximum crimes, says National Crime Records Bureau
    Uttar Pradesh accounted for 9.5% of total crimes reported in the country, while Delhi reported the highest crime rate (974.9) for the year 2016, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). 

    Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on 30th November released the annual publication of the NCRB, “Crime in India 2016”. 

    This year, the NCRB has published data on 19 metropolitan cities with a population of over 2 million and included a new section on Missing Persons & Children, Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICN) and arms seizure. 

    A total of 48,31,515 cognizable crimes, comprising 29,75,711 Indian Penal Code (IPC) crimes and 18,55,804 Special & Local Laws (SLL) crimes were reported in 2016, showing an increase of 2.6% over 2015 (47,10,676 cases). IPC Crimes have increased by 0.9% (from 29,49,400 in 2015 to 29,75,711 in 2016). SLL Crimes by 5.4% (from 17,61,276 in 2015 to 18,55,804 in 2016). 

    Murder cases (30,450) in the country, however, declined by 5.2%, compared to 2015. Rioting (5%) and robbery (11.8%) too showed decline, while abduction cases increased by 6%.

    Cases under 'Crime Against Women' have reported an increase of 2.9% in 2016 over 2015. The majority of such crimes were reported under ‘Cruelty by Husband or His Relatives’ (32.6%), followed by ‘Assault on Women with Intent to Outrage her Modesty’ (25.0%), ‘Kidnapping and Abduction of Women’ (19.0%) and ‘Rape’ (11.5%).

    Rape cases have reported an increase of 12.4% from 34,651 cases in 2015 to 38,947 in 2016. Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh reported the highest incidence, with 4,882 cases (12.5%) and 4,816 (12.4%), followed by Maharashtra 4,189 (10.7%) in 2016. 

    Atrocities against SC/ST people have increased by 5.5% in 2016. Of the 40,801 cases registered, 10,426 were reported from Uttar Pradesh, accounting for 25.6%, followed by Bihar, with 14% (5,701) and Rajasthan 12.6% (5,134). The incidence of 'cyber crime' has shown an increasing trend by 6.3%.

  • International story tellers festival Kathakar inaugurated in New Delhi
    Minister for MSME Giriraj Singh, Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju, Member of Parliament Manoj Tiwari and Australian High Commissioner to India Harinder Sidhu inaugurated International Storytellers Festival - Kathakar in New Delhi on 1st December. Storytellers and film personalities Vishal Bhardwaj and Mohit Chauhan were also present on the occasion. The three day event which began will continue till 3rd December at Indira Gandhi Centre for Arts.


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