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January 2017 - National Issues

  • Lack of infrastructure crippling lower judiciary: Report : Underlining the severe shortage of judges in the lower judiciary, a Supreme Court report claimed there were 16 judges to address the needs of every million, whereas there were 42 police officers of the rank of inspector or above available for the same population. 

    In terms of total strength, Group A civil servants across the country numbered 91,501, police officers 51,523, but the number of judges in the lower judiciary stood at just 20,174, according to data from 2015. 

    The report prepared by the apex court's Centre for Research and Planning, said judges' strength needed to be at least doubled in the next 10 years to handle the increasing number of cases being filed in lower courts. It said proper infrastructure in terms of court rooms and residential accommodations for judges was not available, making it difficult to deliver timely justice to litigants. 

  • Three Central panel members held for taking bribe : Three members of a Central-government appointed committee were arrested in Aurangabad by the Anti-Corruption Bureau sleuths for allegedly accepting Rs. 1.70 lakh as bribe from a civic official to give a positive feedback to the city for ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ works. 

    Shailesh Purushottam Bajania, Vijay Joshi and Govind Ghimare, all residents of Gujarat, were in the city to inspect sanitation works carried out by the Aurangabad Municipal Corporation (AMC). After inspection, they demanded a bribe of Rs. 2.5 lakh from AMC officer Jayashree Kulkarni to file a positive report. 

  • Tamil Nadu Assembly passes bill replacing ordinance to revive Jallikattu :The Tamil Nadu Assembly passed a Bill unanimously replacing an ordinance to revive Jallikattu in a special sitting ON 23rd January. Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam tabled the Bill. 

    The bill amends the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, and defines jallikattu as an event involving bulls conducted with a view to following tradition and culture from January to May and includes similar events like 'manjuvirattu 'vadamaad' and yerudhu vidum festivals. 

  • Supreme Court forms SIT to probe charges against ex CBI chief in Coal scam case : The Supreme Court on 23rd January constituted a Special Investigation Team, SIT, to probe the allegations of abuse of authority committed by former CBI Director Ranjit Sinha to scuttle investigation and enquiries in coal block allocation cases. 

    A bench, comprising Justices Madan B Lokur, Kurian Joseph and A K Sikri, observed that a prima facie case has definitely been made out for probe into the abuse of authority by Mr. Sinha. 

  • Govt releases National Action Plan on Children : The Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi released the National Action Plan on Children on 24th January as the country observed the National Girl Child Day. The top 10 performing districts in the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao program were also honoured at a function organised in New Delhi. Haryana has emerged as one of the best performing states in the implementation of this scheme. 

  • Specific timeline for completing enquiry against officers : Government has laid down a specific limit of six months for completing enquiry against officers and members of All India Services, in a time-bound manner. In case it is not possible to complete the enquiry within six months for justifiable reasons an additional time limit not exceeding six months at one time can be granted. 

    The officer under enquiry has to give his representation within 30 days. This can be extended to not more than 30 days. No extension will be provided beyond 90 days. Similarly, a period of 15 days has been provided to send a representation on the advice of UPSC regarding the penalty to be imposed. For such a representation no extension will be provided beyond 45 days. 

  • Animal rights groups challenge new TN law on Jallikattu in Supreme Court : The Supreme Court on 25th January agreed to hear on the pleas of Animal Welfare Board of India and other animal rights organisations challenging the new law passed by Tamil Nadu Assembly to allow bull taming sport Jallikattu in the state. 

    The bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra asked senior advocates Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Anand Grover to file their applications which will be taken up for hearing on January 30 when the Centre's plea for withdrawing the January 6, 2016 notification will be taken up. 

    In their applications the animal rights group has said that the new law passed by Tamil Nadu Assembly to allow Jallikattu has over reached the earlier verdict of apex court. Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi had informed the apex court that Centre has decided to withdraw the January 6, 2016 notification allowing Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu. 

  • Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma inaugurates Bharat Parv at Red Fort : Tourism and Culture Minister Dr Mahesh Sharma inaugurated the Bharat Parv at Red Fort in New Delhi on 26th January. The event is aimed at generating a patriotic mood, promoting the rich cultural diversity of the country and popularizing the idea of Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat. The week-long festival is a part of the Republic day celebrations and will continue till 31st of this month. 

    There will be 11 theme state pavilions where each state will showcase their achievements and initiatives, tourism products and destinations. Information and Broadcasting Ministry has also set up a Photo Exhibition on the theme Mera Desh Badal Raha Hai, Aage Badh Raha Hai. 

  • Water levels in 91 major reservoirs dip to 51% of total capacity : Water levels in 91 major reservoirs in the country have dip to 51 per cent of their total capacity. Water Resources Ministry said on 27th January, the water storage available in 91 major reservoirs of the country for the week ending on 25th January was 80.597 billion cubic metre, which is 51 per cent of total storage capacity of these reservoirs. 

    The total storage capacity of these 91 reservoirs is 157.799 BCM which is about 62 per cent of the total storage capacity of 253.388 BCM which is estimated to have been created in the country. Out of 91 reservoirs, 37 have hydro-power benefit with installed capacity of more than 60 MW. 

  • Supreme Court says farmers’ deaths a human rights issue : The Supreme Court on 27th January sought the Centre and the States to explain whether there was a lifeline, including a comprehensive insurance plan, for farmers to end the vicious circle plaguing the agriculture sector. 

    It was alarmed that crop failure and natural calamities were driving farmers to take their lives. The court was hearing a petition seeking a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for families of 692 farmers who committed suicide in Gujarat. 

  • CWC inks MoUs with IIT, IISc : Central Water Commission has joined hands with IIT Madras and IISc Bengaluru to help them procure specified equipment and software for enhancing their capability to support its World Bank-assisted Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project (DRIP). Under DRIP, assistance is being provided to seven states for rehabilitation of 250 dams, which are experiencing different levels of distress. 

    The commission, on 27th January signed two separate MoUs with IIT Madras and IIS Bengaluru in New Delhi in this regard. 

  • Panel recommends reservation for girl students in IITs to address issue of slump : A panel has recommended reservation for girl students in IITs to address the issue of slump in the number of female students entering the prestigious institutes. The committee is learnt to have suggested creating up to 20 per cent supernumerary seats for girls out of the total number of seats. 

    The recommendation of the committee will be taken up in the meeting of the Joint Admission Board, JAB for a final decision, which will decide whether the reservation will come in effect from this year or from 2018. The number of seats for male candidates will not be affected and this will help IITs achieve the one lakh target by 2020. 

  • Akhilesh Yadav gets Samajwadi Party cycle symbol : Election Commission on 16th January recognised Akhilesh Yadav faction as the Samajwadi Party and permitted it to use the name of the party and its symbol Bicycle. The Commission also rejected party patriarch Mulayam SIngh Yadav's claim to the party and the symbol. 

    The Commission in its order observed that the Akhilesh group enjoys overwhelming majority support both among the legislative and organizational wing of the party. 

    The Commission said in response to its direction, Ramgopal Yadav on behalf of Chief Minister's faction submitted individual affidavits of the members of legislative and organizational wings in support of the claim. The poll body applied the test of majority supported as approved by the Supreme Court while deciding the case in favour of Akhilesh Yadav. 

  • Rajyavardhan Rathore inaugurates Indian Panorama Film Festival : Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Col. Rajyavardhan Rathore on 16th January inaugurated the Indian Panorama Film Festival at Siri Fort auditorium in New Delhi. The Indian Panorama Film Festival, organised by Directorate of Film Festivals shall be screening a package of five iconic films of Late Om Puri to pay tribute to the legendary actor. 

  • India now an associate member of CERN : India on 16th January became an associate member of CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, after the government completed internal approval procedures on the agreement it signed in November last year. 

    On November 21, Sekhar Basu, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission and Secretary of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), and Fabiola Gianotti, CERN Director-General, signed an agreement to admit India to CERN as an associate member. But India had to “notify CERN of its final approval for the agreement to enter into force” and become an associate member, which it did on 16th January. 

    Being an associate member will allow India to take part in meetings of the CERN Council and its committees (Finance Committee and Scientific Policy Committee). Indian industry will be entitled to bid for CERN contracts, which will open up opportunities for industrial collaboration in areas of advanced technology. Also, Indian scientists will become eligible for staff appointments. 

    In 1991, India and CERN signed a Cooperation Agreement, setting priorities for scientific cooperation. India and CERN have signed several other protocols since then. 

    But India’s involvement in CERN began in the 1960s with researchers from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, participating in experiments at CERN. In the 1990s, scientists from Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology, Indore, too got involved. 

  • Pakistan must shun terrorism: Modi : Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said Pakistan must walk away from terrorism if it wants dialogue with India as New Delhi alone cannot walk the path of peace. 

    Addressing the 2nd edition of Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi on 17th January, Modi said, the world is going through profound changes and non-state actors are major contributors to spread of challenges faced by the world. 

    The Raisina Dialogue is an annual conference held in New Delhi, envisioned to be India's flagship conference of geopolitics and geo-economics. The conference, organized like the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, is held jointly by Ministry of External Affairs, India and the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), an independent think tank based in India. 

    In the present summit Modi said India believes in de-linking terrorism from religion, and rejecting artificial distinctions between good and bad terrorism. 

    On India-China relations, Mr Modi said, the rise of the two countries is an unprecedented economic opportunity for them and for the whole world. At the same time, it is not unnatural for two large neighbouring powers to have some differences. 

    He said both the countries need to show sensitivity and respect for each other's core concerns and interests for peace and progress in the region. 

  • Union Cabinet gives nod to repeal 105 old laws : The Union Cabinet on 18th January gave its nod to repeal 105 old laws. According to the Law Minister Ravishankar Prasad the Cabinet approved introduction of the Repealing and Amending Bill, 2017 to repeal these old laws in Parliament. 

    Out of them, which would be repealed include 2008 amendments to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the President's Emoluments and Pension Act and the Vice-President's Pension Act. 

    The two Member Committee constituted by the PMO, the Law Commission of India and the Legislative Department identified 1,824 redundant and obsolete Central Acts for repeal. 

    After careful examination and consultation with various Ministries and Departments, four Acts have been enacted to repeal 1,175 Central Acts during the period May, 2014 to August, 2016 by Parliament. A list of remaining 422 Central Acts was circulated among all the Ministries and Departments for their comments. 

    Till date, 73 Ministries and Departments including Legislative Department have sent their comments whereby they have agreed to repeal 105 Acts and disagreed to repeal about 139 Acts. On the basis of the comments and concurrence received from the Ministries and Departments, 105 Acts have been identified for repeal by this Department. 

  • Javadekar launches web portal ShaGun for Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan : Human Resources Development Minister Prakash Javadekar on 18th January launched a dedicated web portal ShaGun for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan at New Delhi. ShaGun aims to capture and showcase innovations and progress in elementary education sector of the country by continuous monitoring of the flagship scheme - Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. 

  • Corporates donated 85% of Rs. 107 crore to 21 regional parties : Regional parties declared receiving Rs. 107.62 crore as donations above Rs.20,000 in 2015-16, with about 85 per cent ( Rs. 90.89 crore) of these coming from corporates and business houses and the rest from individuals. 

    Of the 21 regional parties considered, Shiv Sena declared getting the lion’s share of these donations at Rs.86.16 crore, of which the highest amount of Rs. 85 crore came from Videocon Industries Ltd, while the rest came from ZAD Enterprises, Garware Charitable Trust, Sai Enterprises among others, as per an analysis by Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) and National Election Watch of the contribution reports submitted by these regional parties to the Election Commission. 

    The second highest donation of Rs. 6.6 crore was declared by Aam Aadmi Party, of which the highest Rs. 1.11 crore came from Ramesh Bellamkonda from Bengaluru. Among AAP’s corporate donors are Forum Shopping Mall and Shree Ram Transport. Telugu Desam Party declared Rs. 3.10 crore as donations, the highest Rs. 1.1 crore was from Shrinivas Audikesavulu Dalavai. 

    Interestingly, AIADMK, Biju Janata Dal, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Naga People’s Front and Rashtriya Lok Dal declared receiving NIL donations during 2015-16. 

    However, overall there was a decrease of about 20 per cent in donations received by regional parties in 2015-16, compared with 2014-15 when donations of Rs. 134.86 crore had been declared. Only five parties reported an increase in donations. These are Shiv Sena, Assam-based All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), Karnataka’s Janata Dal (Secular), and Tamil Nadu’s Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK). 

    Regional parties that declared receiving cash donations are PMK ( Rs. 264.6 lakh), AAP ( Rs. 29.56 lakh), Shiv Sena ( Rs. 27.27 lakh), Indian Union Muslim League, Desiya Morpokku Dravida Kazhagam and AIUDF. 

    Bank transfers accounted for 83.77 per cent of the total donations to regional parties at Rs. 90.15 crore, while seven per cent of the donations (Rs. 7.53 crore) were received by cheque, and only 3.08 per cent was by cash. 

  • Supreme Court refuses plea to revoke ban on Jallikattu : The Supreme Court on 19th January refused to hear a plea seeking its intervention in the public protest in Marina beach in Chennai, to revoke ban on Jallikattu. 

    A bench, headed by Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar, refused to hear the plea filed by lawyer Raja Raman to take suo moto cognizance for ongoing protests at Marina Beach where police is debarring protesters to take food and water with them when protest is peaceful. 

  • Church courts’ cannot veto divorce law, says Supreme Court : Canon law and decrees of divorce given by ecclesiastical tribunals or ‘Church Courts’ cannot veto the statutory law of divorce, the Supreme Court said on 19th January. 

    Thus saying, a Bench of Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud disposed of a writ petition filed in 2013 seeking a judicial declaration that divorce decrees passed by ecclesiastical tribunals are valid and binding. 

    1996 verdict: The Supreme Court referred to its 1996 judgment in the case of Molly Joseph versus George Sebastian upholding the binding nature of the Indian Divorce Act of 1869, which governs divorce among Christians. 

    In Molly’s case, the court said the implication of the Canon law is confined to either theological or ecclesiastical, but has no legal impact on the divorce or annulment of marriage between two persons professing the Christian religion. 

  • Centre gives nod to Tamil Nadu's jallikattu ordinance : The decks are now clear for Tamil Nadu to promulgate an ordinance allowing jallikattu in the state after the Centre moved speedily to clear the proposal late on 20th January. 

    The development raises hopes that massive public protests in Tamil Nadu could soon end peacefully. The law ministry gave its nod for promulgation of the ordinance. The home ministry then conveyed the Centre's approval to the state government, paving the way for promulgation of the ordinance by Tamil Nadu governor Vidyasagar Rao. 

  • CISF eastern HQ inaugurated : Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on 8th January inaugurated CISF Eastern Sector Headquarter at Tiril Ashram in Dhurwa near Ranchi. He also laid foundation stone for Residential Reserve Battalion Bhawan and Dog training Center. After this, he held a review meeting on naxal situation of the state.

  • Maharashtra govt launches India's largest WiFi service : Maharashtra government has launched India’s largest public WiFi service called 'Mumbai Wifi'. The facility, inaugurated by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in Mumbai on 9th January will initially provide 500 Wifi hotspots across various locations in Mumbai. About 23000 users across the city signed up and downloaded more than 2 TB of data. He reiterated the government’s commitment to provide 1200 WiFi hotspots by 1st May this year.

  • Telangana plea against Krishna tribunal award dismissed : A Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and P.C. Pant categorically refused without prejudice to any other writ or special leave petitions filed by Telangana in the Supreme Court to intervene in the decision of the Krishna Water Dispute Tribunal-II to confine the question of re-allocation of river water, post bifurcation of erstwhile Andhra Pradesh, to the two successor States of Telangana and Andhra and not all the four riparian States.

    The tribunal had decided that the details of the re-distribution would be decided as per the Andhra Pradesh Reorganization Act of 2014 by an apex council headed by top officials.

  • SRCC becomes 1st college in Delhi to go completely cashless :
    Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) has become the first college in Delhi to go completely cashless in all its transactions. Digi mela was organized in the college campus to make aware students, teachers and staffs about digital transactions. Vittshala, the financial literacy cell of the college is conducting a two-day awareness programme. Vittshala, was launched in October 2016 and has already adopted one village in Haryana and two slum clusters in Delhi to help them adopt cashless methods.

  • SC directs Centre, CAPART to complete auditing of NGOs, submit report by March 31 : The Supreme Court has directed Centre and Council for Advancement of People's Action and Rural Technology (CAPART) to complete auditing of NGOs and voluntary organisations and submit its report by 31st of March this year.

    Hearing a petition filed by advocate M L Sharma, seeking monitoring of funds given to NGOs and their utilisation by them, the apex court said, the funds are public money and must be accounted for. It said, the government must act against NGOs for misappropriation.

  • IOA revokes its decision to appoint Suresh Kalmadi and Abhay Singh Chautala :
    The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has revoked its decision to appoint scam-tainted Suresh Kalmadi and Abhay Singh Chautala as its lifetime Presidents. The appointments have been declared null and void in order to get the recognition of the Sports Ministry and also to avoid any possible action from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

    Kalmadi and Chautala were elevated to the honorary post at the IOA's Annual General Meeting in Chennai in December. Newly-appointed International Hockey Federation President Narinder Batra had also resigned as IOA's associate Vice President in protest. While Kalmadi is an accused in the 2010 Commonwealth Games corruption scam, Chautala is facing a trial in disproportionate assets case.

  • Supreme Court rejects plea on Political funding : The Supreme Court on 11th January dismissed a PIL challenging income tax exemption to donations given to political parties; says, there is no illegality in granting such exemption.

    A bench comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud said that the decision to grant IT exemptions is an "executive" action and did not violate any constitutional provision. The bench said that the action didn't violate the related provisions of the Income Tax Act, the Representation of People Act and the court cannot intervene in it.

    It also dismissed a plea seeking its intervention to direct political parties to disclose name & identity of donor who gave money to the party. Political Parties need not submit details of funding below 20,000 Rupees. 

  • SC rejects plea for SIT probe against PM Modi, others : The Supreme Court on January 11th rejected a plea seeking SIT probe against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other politicians, on allegations of receiving money from two business houses, Aditya-Birla Group and Sahara.

    Dismissing the plea filed by an NGO, the apex court said that there was no conclusive evidence in the matter. The Court passed the order after a detailed hearing. 

  • Supreme Court refuses to pass judgment on Jallikattu before Pongal : The Supreme Court rejected a plea urging it to pass judgment on Jallikattu before the harvest festival of Pongal on 12th January. A bench comprising justices Dipak Misra and R Banumathi told that it is unfair to ask the bench to pass an order. The apex court, however, said that the draft of judgment has been prepared but it was not possible to deliver it before 13th January. It had also dismissed the review petition against its 2014 verdict.

  • 'Mann ki Baat' compilation launched : A book compiling Prime Minister Narendra Modi's monthly radio broadcast of 'Mann ki Baat' in which he addresses the nation on various issues was launched in New Delhi. The book compiled by 29-year-old Rajeev Gupta form UP was released by Union Minister Jual Oram at the World Book Fair.

  • Ken-Betwa river linking project receives environment, forest & tribal clearances : The NDA government's ambitious Ken-Betwa river linking project has received environment, forest and tribal clearances. The project aims at addressing water needs of dry swathes in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

    According to Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti, Ministry is pursuing NITI Ayog to change its funding pattern of Centre state share to 90:10 from 60:40 for the project as it is a special project. The phase I of the project, of linking Ken river in Madhya Pradesh and Betwa in Uttar Pradesh, at a cost of 9500 crore rupees is envisaged to help irrigate an area of 6.35 lakh hectares annually.

    Apart from the Ken-Betwa linking project, Par-Tapi-Narmada Link to transfer water from surplus regions of Western Ghats to the dry areas of Kutch and Saurashtra and Damanganga-Pinjal link, which will provide water for the Greater Mumbai, are among the 30 such river links plan

  • Delhi to have its own Madame Tussads : Managed by Britain based Merlin Entertainments, Madame Tussads museum will be launched in delhi in June 2017 in the Regal Cinema at Connaught Place and will be spread over two floors.
    UK-based Merlin Enterprises runs 116 attractions in 24 countries and the company will be foraying in the Indian market in a big way. Wax statue of PM Modi will also be on display at the Delhi Tussads.

  • Akhilesh Yadav declared Samajwadi Party's national president : Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has unanimously been elected Samajwadi Party's national President replacing his father and party Chief Mulayam Singh. A resolution to this effect was presented by party general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav in the party's national convention in Lucknow which was passed with a voice vote. 

    In another resolution, Akhilesh's uncle Shivpal Yadav was removed from the post of state party chief and Amar Singh was expelled from the party with immediate effect. 

  • 27th Southern Zonal Council meeting held in Thiruvananthapuram : The 27th meeting of the Southern Zonal Council held was held on 28 December 2016 in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. The meeting was chaired by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. 

    The Southern Zonal Council consists of Kerala, Karnataka, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry (UT) and Andhra Pradesh. 

    In the meeting, several important issues were discussed. The council resolved 16 out of 22 items on agenda. The Council assessed the progress of implementation of various recommendations made in last meeting relating to Extension of High Speed Rail Corridor between Thiruvananthapuram up to Mangalore and Udupi. 

    They also discussed on Peninsular Region Industrial Development Corridor, issues of fishermen, introduction of peninsular tourism trains in zone and Amendments to New Road Transport & Road Safety Bill, revision of ceiling on profession tax by Union Government, prevention of communicable diseases and Naxalism. 

  • Amma Vodi scheme launched : In a move to help the poor, the government has launched Amma Vodi at five primary health centres at Narayanakhed on 31st December, 2016. Under this service pregnant women along with the new born would be dropped at home after delivery. 

    The PHCs that were selected for this service are Kangti, Kalher, Sirgapur, Manoor and Karasguthi. On July 9, 102 Janani Express was started with support of NGO CARPED. This was started at Gajwel and Dubbak and it would be extended to other places and for which Rs 3 crore was sanctioned. 

    Another innovation planned by Collector Manickaraj Kannan at Narayanakhed is conducting C- section at private hospitals. Under this programme, C-Section deliveries referred from government institutions in Narayankhed will be conducted in a private facility. 

    For that the private hospital would be paid Rs. 2,500 per delivery under Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY). Medicines will also be provided free of cost along with 7 days diet and free drop back after delivery. This service is being extended under National Health Mission to hire specialist for Mother and Child Health Care Service. 

  • Andhra Pradesh chief minister launches ‘Aarogya Raksha’ for all : Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu began the New Year by launching the Aarogya Raksha family health insurance scheme on 1st January, 2017. It is intended to provide health insurance cover to every individual in a family on payment of a monthly premium of Rs.100 per head for a year. 

    According to Chief Minister it was a Universal Health Coverage (UHC) scheme for the Above Poverty Line families. Similar schemes targeted at the BPL families would continue, he said, allaying apprehensions in this regard. Registrations through www.ntrvaidyaseva.ap.gov.in are open till February 28. 

    Under the Aarogya Raksha, end-to-end cashless services would be rendered for 1044 diseases under secondary and tertiary care through 432 government and private hospitals. 

    He exhorted the students of medicine, nursing, psychology and home science to contribute their best to the improvement of public health through the Swasthya Vidya Vahini. They would visit villages to prepare disease profiles thereby facilitating better public health management starting from January.

  • Railway Projects inaugurated : The State Government of Andhra Pradesh signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Indian Railways on December 30, 2016, for setting up a Joint Venture for taking up major Rail Projects in the state. The Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu laid the foundation stone for the railway project Nadikudi-Srikalahasti line via Video conference. The Nadikudi–Srikalahasti section falls under the administration of Guntur and Guntakal railway divisions of South Central Railway zone. 

  • BHIM becomes most popular Android app in the country : Government's online payments app Bharat Interface for Money (BHIM) has become the most popular Android app in the country. The app is topping the charts on Google's Play Store in India. NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant said, since the launch the app was downloaded in 3 million times. 

    He said, over 5 lakh transactions took place since the launch of BHIM App. Mr. Kant has also announced that the app will soon be available on iOS platform as well. Presently the app is only available to download through Google Play Store on Android smart phones. 

  • Votes can’t be asked on caste : The Supreme Court has ruled that no politician can seek vote in the name of caste, creed or religion. The court's verdict came while it was hearing several petitions in the Hindutva case on 2nd January. 

    A seven-judge constitution bench, in a majority verdict, said any appeal for votes on the ground of religion amounts to corrupt practices under electoral laws. It said, the relationship between man and God is an individual choice and state is forbidden to interfere in such an activity. 

    The court further said, election is a secular exercise and its way and process should be followed. It said, secular ethos of the constitution must be upheld. The court said, a candidate will be disqualified if he or she was found violating the order. 

  • Supreme Court removes BCCI President Anurag Thakur : Supreme Court has removed Anurag Thakur from the post of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) President for allegedly lying on oath. Ajay Shirke has also been removed from the post of BCCI Secretary by the court. SC also issued contempt notice to Thakur. 

    The Lodha Committee, appointed by the Supreme Court after a betting scandal in the Indian Premier League, has recommended sweeping changes in the way the board is run and led and has complained that the BCCI or Board of Control for Cricket in India is refusing to implement them. 

  • Supreme Court seeks headcount of judges to cut pendency : The Supreme Court has kick-started an exercise to determine the number of additional trial judges that would be required to wipe out in five years the 2.6 crore cases pending in lower courts. 

    A bench of Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justices D Y Chandrachud and L N Rao asked the states and the high courts to take steps in accordance with the interim report submitted by the National Court Management System Committee (NCMSC) to enhance strength of judges in trial courts. 

    The enhancement of the strength of the district judiciary should be such that a `five plus zero' pendency is achieved (wiping out the backlog with a target period of five years)," the bench said. 

    Taking note that the 14th Finance Commission had approved sanctioning Rs 9,749 crore for setting up of more courts and getting them infrastructure, the SC asked the state governments to provide necessary financial and infrastructural support to enable the HCs create the means for speedy disposal of pending cases. 

  • Election commission announces poll dates for Assembly Elections in 5 States : The Election Commission on 4th January announced the dates for the assembly elections in five states-- Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur and Goa. Uttar Pradesh, the biggest state in the country, will go to polls in seven phases for 403 seats from 11th February to 8th March. 

    Manipur will go to polls for 60 seats in two phases on 4th and 8th March. There will be single phase elections in Uttarakhand, Goa and Punjab. Goa and Punjab will go to polls on February 4th while polling in Uttarakhand for 70 seats will be held on 15th February. Counting of votes for all five states will take place on 11th March. 

    Announcing the poll dates Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi said over 16 crore voters are eligible to vote in the five states. With the Election Commission announcement the Model code of conduct has come into effect from on 4th January. 

    For the first time ever, photo of candidates in EVMs would be available in the forthcoming assembly elections. The commission will also set up all women managed polling stations. The limit for expenses for candidates is 28 lakh rupees for Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Uttarakhand and 20 lakh rupees for Manipur and Goa. 

  • All India Institutes of Yoga & Naturopathy to be set up : The Centre will set up two All India Institutes of Yoga and Naturopathy to impart education and training and promote research on Yoga. One Institute will be set up in Haryana while other will come up in Goa. Inaugurating an International Conference on Yoga for Diabetes in New Delhi, Minister for AYUSH Shripad Yesso Naik said, the Ministry has also set up a National Board for Promotion and development of Yoga and Naturopathy. 

  • Helpline for Handloom Weavers ‘Bunkar Mitra’ starts functioning : Bunkar Mitra”, the Government of India’s Helpline for Handloom Weavers, went live on 4th January. The helpline was launched by the Union Textiles Minister Smt. Smriti Zubin Irani on December 25, 2016 on the occasion of “Good Governance Day. This helpline can be accessed by dialing the toll free number 1800-208-9988. 

    The service is available from 10.00 A.M to 06.00 P.M, on all 7 days of the week, in seven languages: Hindi, English, Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Kannada and Assamese. The services available through this helpline are technical guidance, raw material supply, credit facility, market linkage etc. 

  • Government approves new projects under Namami Gange for Haridwar and Varanasi : The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) has approved new projects under Namami Gange programme in Haridwar (Uttarakhand) and Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh). In Haridwar, 68 MLD sewage treatment plants (STP) and 14 MLD STP in Sarai will be built with Central government funding and also under Hybrid Annuity based PPP mode. Besides, 50 MLD sewage treatment plant at Ramana in Varanasi under Hybrid Annuity-based PPP mode was also approved. 

    The programme was launched to achieve the target of cleaning Ganga River in an effective manner with the unceasing involvement of all stakeholders, especially five major Ganga basin States Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.

  • Farmer suicides up 42% between 2014 & 2015 : Farmer suicides in the country rose by 42% between 2014 and 2015, according to newly released data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). It recorded 5,650 suicides by farmers and cultivators in 2014. The figure rose to 8,007 in the latest data. 

    Several states across the country battled severe drought in both 2014 and 2015. Some, including Maharashtra, experienced two successive years of drought. 

    With 3,030 cases, Maharashtra recorded the highest number of farmer suicides in the country (37.8%). Telangana was second, with 1,358 cases, and Karnataka third with 1,197. Six states of Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka accounted for 94.1% of total farmer suicides. 

    The states which reported nil farmer suicides in 2015 include Bihar, West Bengal, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Mizoram, Nagaland and Uttarakhand. While the data showed a sharp rise in suicides by farmers, it also recorded a steep 31.5% decline in suicides by agricultural laborers in the country during the same period. 

  • North-Eastern Tourism Development Council set up : The Union Minister of State for Development of North Eastern Region Dr Jitendra Singh on 6th January announced setting up of an exclusive North-Eastern Tourism Development Council for promoting tourism industry in the north eastern region of India. 

    The council is a first of its kind in the country for ensuring regional development. It will be based on Public Private Partnership model. A 'Venture Fund' as initial capital assistance for young entrepreneurs or start-ups who wish to launch a new venture in the North-Eastern region has also been set up. 

  • 14th Pravasi Bhartiya Divas convention begins in Bengaluru : The 3-day 14th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD 2017) convention began in Bengaluru on 7th January. On the first day, the Youth Pravasi Bhartiya Divas was inaugurated by Vice President of Suriname Micheal Ashwin Adhin, Union Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports Vijay Goel, Minister of State for External Affairs Gen V K Singh and Karnataka Ministers R V Deshpande and Priyank Kharge. 

    Human Resources Development Minister Prakash Javadekar has said, India offers seamless opportunities for Non-Resident Indian, NRI students to study and pursue their dream careers in India. He was speaking at the 1st plenary session at the youth Pravasi Bhartiya Divas on the theme reaching out to students both in India and abroad. 

  • Jaipur International Film Festival begins : The ninth edition of Jaipur International Film Festival (JIFF) began in Jaipur in the presence of renowned film makers. According to South Indian film maker Hariharan the future of film festivals in the country is bright and such events should be promoted to encourage budding film makers. 

    This year's Life Time Achievement Award was presented to internationally acclaimed cine-visionary Ramesh Prasad, hailed as creator of specialised post production facilities. 

  • 'JUTE-SMART’ on line portal launched : On the occasion of Good Governance Day, i.e. on 25th December, Ministry of Textiles launched JUTE-SMART’ an online portal in New Delhi to facilitate purchase of Jute bags from the Jute industry by the state procurement agencies. According to the Textiles Minister Smriti Irani, the portal seeks to provide an integrated platform for use by all the stakeholders to allow easy access to information, more transparency and ease of doing business for the jute sector. Government will also establish Bunkar Mitra -Handloom Helpline Centre where professional queries of weavers will be answered by the experts in the field. This helpline will function from 10.00 AM to 6 PM and initially it will be provided in 7 languages. These are Hindi, English, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada Bengali and Assamese. 

  • Mohenjodaro ‘Dancing Girl’ is Parvati, claims ICHR journal : The iconic ‘Dancing Girl’ of Mohenjodaro is Goddess Parvati, further proof that people of the Indus Valley Civilisation worshipped Shiva, claims a new research paper published in Itihaas, the Hindi journal of the Indian Council of Historical Research. 

    The research paper, titled ‘Vedic Sabhyata Ka Puratatva (Archaeology of Vedic Civilisation)’, authored by Thakur Prasad Verma, a retired professor of Banaras Hindu University, makes a case for the Vedic identity of the Indus Valley Civilisation and reiterates the longstanding claim of Right-leaning historians that Shiva was worshipped by the inhabitants of this civilisation. Verma’s interpretation of the Dancing Girl, dating around 2500 BC, as a Hindu goddess – the first such claim – is in line with this argument. 

    The research paper goes on to say that several artifacts excavated from Mohenjodaro point to Shiva worship in those times. 

    According to Verma, the famous ‘Seal 420’, a seal of a horned figure sitting in yogic posture and surrounded by animals, is strong evidence of Shiva worship. 

    The identity of the figure in the seal has often been the subject of debates. While archaeologist John Marshall in 1931 saw a “prototype of Siva” in this figure, historians have later differed with this interpretation and some have even suggested the figure is of a woman. 

    Further, to prove Shiva worship in the Indus Valley Civilisation, Verma states that the trefoil pattern seen on the shawl of the ‘Priest King’, another iconic sculpture excavated from Mohenjodaro, is sign that the king was the follower of a Hindu god. The trefoil pattern, he says, resembles the Vilva or Bilva leaves that are used to worship Shiva even in these days. 

    The author then goes on to claim that the Dancing Girl is Parvati because “where there is Shiva, there should be Shakti”, a manifestation of the Goddess, though “till date, no one has identified any idol or statue of Parvati in Harappa Civilisation”. 

  • Google India, Ministry of Consumer Affairs tie up for Digitally Safe Consumer campaign : Google India has partnered with the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs to launch nationwide Digitally Safe Consumer campaign to raise awareness among consumers about online safety and better protect consumer interest online. The campaign is expected to be rolled out in January 2017. 

    It will be yearlong campaign focused on building capacities of consumer organisations, personnel of consumer affairs department and counselors of National Consumer Helpline on Internet safety. Under it, Google with the help of partner agencies will work towards advocating digital security and privacy needs through ‘Digital Literacy, Safety & Security’ workshops. 

  • Polavaram project: Centre extends Rs. 1,982 Crore to Andhra Pradesh : The Centre on 26th December provided loan assistance of Rs. 1,982 crore to Andhra Pradesh’s Polavaram irrigation project, seeking to minimize the negative impact of distrust that had crept in after the AP re-organisation law was enacted in 2014. 

    To support the Polavaram National Project centre has used the instrumentality of NABARD. Under the arrangement, NABARD has sanctioned Rs. 2,981 crore to the National Water Development Agency, a special purpose vehicle of the Water Resources Ministry. 

    The Polavaram project is being constructed on River Godavari seeks to provide irrigation facilities to 7.20 lakh acre, diversion of 80TMC of Godavari water to Krishna River, 23.44 TMC of Godavari water for the industries in and around Visakhapatnam. On 26th December, NABARD also released Rs. 756 crore to Maharashtra, Rs. 463 crore for Gujarat as part of Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana.

  • Tribal development remains poor, says Ministry report : According to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, the tribal population in India lags behind other social groups on various social parameters, such as child mortality and infant mortality and women’s health. Tribal population, with a vast majority engaged in agricultural labour, has the largest number of anemic women, the report states. The community also registered the highest child mortality and infant mortality rates, when compared to other social groups, the data indicates. Health infrastructure has also been found wanting in tribal areas. While educational achievement on the whole has improved, statistics cited elsewhere in the report shows that the gross enrolment ratio among tribal students in the primary school level has declined from 113.2 in 2013-14 to 109.4 in 2015-16. Besides, the dropout rate among tribal students has been alarming. While the overall poverty rates among the tribal population have fallen compared to previous years, they remain relatively poor when weighed against other social groups. 

  • Law Ministry rejects Finance move to link small savings to Aadhaar : The Law Ministry has turned down Finance Ministry’s proposal that a person investing in small savings schemes which attract gross deposits of over Rs 2 lakh crore each year be made to link the accounts to his or her Aadhaar number. 

    The rationale put forth by Finance Ministry’s Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) was that individuals evade scrutiny by parking cash below Rs 50,000 into multiple small savings accounts because such deposits (below Rs 50,000) do not seek permanent account number (PAN) details. 

    The Law Ministry turned down DEA’s proposal on October 4 saying such schemes cannot be notified as “service within the meaning of Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act” since small savings are serviced under the Public Account Fund of India and not the Consolidated Fund to which the Aadhaar Act applies. 

    Section 7 of the Act states that the government can ask an individual to furnish his Aadhaar number to establish his identity “as a condition for receipt of a subsidy, benefit or service for which the expenditure is incurred from, or the receipt there from forms part of, the Consolidated Fund of India. 

  • Maharashtra govt to create new ministry for welfare of VJNT, OBCs and SBCs : Maharashtra government has decided to create a new ministry for welfare of Vimukta Jati and Nomadic Tribes (VJNT), OBCs and Special Backward Classes. A proposal to this effect was approved by the cabinet presided over by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on 27th December. Mr. Fadnavis had recently announced that a separate ministry would be created for OBCs which would be headed by an independent minister. 

    The cabinet also approved hike in the grant provided for Ramai and Shabri Awaas Gharkul Yojana. It was also decided that State Agriculture Corporation land will be available for allocation to those affected by notified projects as compensation. Government will provide financial assistance to backward cotton producers. 

  • PM lays foundation stone of Char Dham Highway Development Programme : To make Char Dham pilgrimage safe and convenient, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone of 900 kilometres long all weather Char Dham Highway Development Programme in Dehradun on 27th December. Prime Minister Modi dedicated the ambitious project to all those who lost their lives in the natural disaster that rocked Uttarakhand in 2013. 

    The main objective is to develop around 900 kms of national highways at an approximate cost of Rs. 12,000 crore. Environment friendly and modern techniques are being incorporated in the design to make these zones safer. The government aims to make the project that will cut travel time by 30 to 40 percent. 

    The project is significant from a strategic point of view too as it is expected to quicken supply and deployment to defence establishments along the Indo-China border areas in Uttarakhand. A target has been set to complete the project by 2020. 

  • EC asks pole bound states to implement model code of conduct : Keeping in view the increasing influence of money and muscle power in the elections, the election commission has sent a communication to the Cabinet Secretary and chief secretaries of the poll-bound states of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa, Manipur and Punjab. 

    The model code of conduct includes avoiding the use of official vehicles for campaigning by political parties and candidates, removal of pictures of political factionaries from govt websites, prohibiting the advertising and campaigning activities in govt offices and public places and advertising in mass media with public money. 

  • Govt to establish world class educational institutions for Minority communities : Government will establish world class educational institutions to provide better traditional and modern education to students belonging to Minority communities. According to Minority Affairs Minister, a high-level committee has been constituted for this purpose. 

    The committee will give its detail report within two months on roadmap including places where these institutes will be established. The Ministry is also working on a strategy to start these institutes from 2018 and forty per cent reservation will be for girls in these institutions. 

  • Andhra Pradesh declares Mori as states first digital village : According to Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu 1,400 houses in Mori, of East Godavari district had been connected with optical fibre cable under the Fibre to Home scheme, which would provide Internet and video conference via television. 

    CM clicked on the Wi-Fi system by switching on the Sri Venkateswara Bhakthi Channel. He spoke to the Secretary of the Department of Telecommunication in Delhi, and asked him to provide the villagers phone connection at Rs. 149. He inaugurated a digital classroom and declared the village is open defecation free. 

  • Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu Suspended By His Party : Incumbent Chief Minister and former Congress rebel Pema Khandu and six other lawmakers were suspended for allegedly breaking party discipline by the regional People's Party of Arunachal (PPA) - the regional party that embraced Mr. Khandu along with 42 other Congress lawmakers in mid-September. 

    In an order issued by PPA president Kafia Bengia on 29th December, the party also categorically announced that Pema Khandu is no longer the Leader of the legislature party and cannot exercise any of the powers bestowed to him as the leader of the legislature party. 

  • SP heading for split as Mulayam Singh Yadav expels CM Akhilesh for 6 years : In Uttar Pradesh, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav on 30th December expelled his son and Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and Party general secretary Prof. Ram Gopal Yadav from the party for six years. Mr. Yadav announced this in a hurriedly called press conference in Lucknow. 

    He has also been stripped of all party posts. Prior to it, both Mr. Akhilesh and Prof. Ram Gopal were served show cause notice following the release of list of candidates without Mr. Mulayam Yadav's consent. 

  • Inter-State bridge on Godavari opened : The new inter-State bridge across the Godavari was officially opened to the public on 30th December by Maharashtra Governor Ch. Vidyasagar Rao, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Union Minister Nithin Gadkari at Sironcha in Maharashtra. 

    Telangana was represented at the inauguration ceremony by the Minister for R&B Tummala Nageswara Rao. As the area is considered to be a naxalite stronghold, there was heavy deployment of security forces for the function. 

    The 1.6-km long inter-State bridge across the Godavari connects the temple town of Kaleshwaram in Telangana with Sironcha of Maharashtra. The bridge was constructed at a cost of Rs 292.20 crore under the Integrated Action Plan (IAP) for left-wing extremist affected region (LWE). 

  • BJP forms govt in Arunachal Pradesh with 33 PPA MLAs joining it : In Arunachal Pradesh, a BJP government was installed on 31st December. The development came after 33, out of 43 Peoples' Party of Arunachal (PPA) MLAs, led by Chief Minister Pema Khandu joined BJP. 

    With this, Pema Khandu government has the support of 47 MLAs including the two independents in the 60-member Assembly. He paraded the MLAs before Assembly Speaker Tenzing Norbu Thongdok who accepted their joining. Earlier, Mr. Khandu and others were temporarily suspended from PPA for anti-party activities.

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