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January 2018 National Affairs

  • President Ram Nath Kovind accepts Election Commission’s recommendation disqualifying 20 AAP MLAs
    Twenty Aam Aadmi Party MLAs stand disqualified from Delhi Assembly on account of holding Office of Profit. President Ram Nath Kovind accepted the recommendation of the Election Commission in this regard. In its opinion to the President, the EC had said the MLAs, by occupying the post of parliamentary secretaries had held offices of profit, and were liable to be disqualified as legislators. 

    AAP insisted that despite holding the office these MLAs did not take any salaries or perks. However, the EC said that whether or not the individual Parliamentary Secretaries had actually derived the benefits or participated in executive functions of the government is of no relevance as the Supreme Court in the Jaya Bachchan case had laid down that if the post falls under office of profit, the disqualification is imminent. 

    The Commission said, its opinion is based on judicial pronouncements of the past, the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act and the Constitution. The complaint was against 21 MLAs out of which one MLA Jarnail Singh had resigned in January last year for contesting Punjab Assembly Polls. The MLAs were appointed as Parliamentary Secretaries to the Ministers of Delhi government which was office of profit. Parliamentary Secretaries assist Ministers with their work. 

    However, the disqualification will not affect the Arvind Kejriwal government as it has comfortable majority with 46 MLAs in seventy member House whose effective strength get reduced to 50. The opposition BJP has four members in the Assembly. 

  • Navika Sagar Parikrama INSV Tarini enters port Stanley Falkland Islands
    INSV Tarini entered Port Stanley (Falkland Islands) on 22nd January during it’s maiden voyage to circumnavigate the globe. This is the first-ever Indian circumnavigation of the globe by an all-women crew. The vessel is skippered by Lieutenant Commander Vartika Joshi, and the crew comprises Lieutenant Commanders Pratibha Jamwal, P Swathi, and Lieutenants S Vijaya Devi, B Aishwarya and Payal Gupta. 

    INSV Tarini started its journey from Goa on 10 September 2017. The vessel has covered approximately 15000 Nautical miles from Goa, crossing the Equator on 25 September 17, Cape Leeuwin on 09 November 17 and Cape Horn on 18 January 18. 

    The indigenously-built INSV Tarini is a 56-foot sailing vessel, which was inducted in the Indian Navy earlier this year, and showcases the ‘Make in India’ initiative on the International forum. 

    The expedition titled ‘Navika Sagar Parikrama’, is in consonance with the National policy to empower women to attain their full potential. It also aims to showcase ‘Nari Shakti’ on the world platform and help revolutionise societal attitudes and mindset towards women in India by raising visibility of their participation in challenging environs. 

  • Unemployment in India, China to rise over next two years: International Labour Organisation
    The number of jobless persons in India is likely to increase over the next two years with no change in the unemployment rate, the ILO has estimated. 

    While the Asia-Pacific region will add 23 million jobs from 2017 to 2019, with employment generation taking place in many South Asian nations including India, the jobless in the entire region will continue to increase, the ILO’s World Employment Outlook report released on 23rd January pointed out. What is of greater concern is that a high incidence of informality continues to undermine the prospects of further reducing working poverty in South Asia. 

    In India, the number of jobless is expected to increase to 18.6 million in 2018 and 18.9 million in 2019, against 18.3 million in 2017, as per the report. The unemployment rate is estimated at 3.5 per cent for all three years. 

    China, too, is going to witness an increase in the number of unemployed to 37.6 million in 2018 and 37.8 million in 2019 from 37.4 million in 2017, the report estimated. 

    Unemployment in the Asia Pacific region will increase to 83.6 million in 2018 and 84.6 in 2019 from 82.9 million in 2017. Globally, however, unemployment is likely to go down slightly to 192.3 million jobless people in 2018 compared to 192.7 million in 2017. 

    The report also pointed out that a lot of jobs being created are of poor quality despite strong economic growth and some 72 per cent of workers in South Asia will have vulnerable employment by 2019. 

    Vulnerable employment, as per the ILO, is a measure of persons who are employed under relatively precarious circumstances and are less likely to have formal work arrangements, access to benefits or social protection programmes and are more “at risk” to economic cycles. 

  • Lalu Yadav, Jagannath Mishra sentenced to 5-year jail terms in third case
    A special CBI court on 24th January of Ranchi sentenced former Bihar chief ministers Lalu Prasad and Jagannath Mishra to 5 years in jail in a fodder scam case. 

    Earlier in the day, CBI judge SS Prasad pronounced Prasad and Mishra guilty in the case pertaining to fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 37.62 crore from Chaibasa treasury in the 1990s. This is the third conviction of Prasad, the RJD supremo,in fodder scam cases. 

    Former Chairman of the PAC of the Bihar Vidhan Sabha Jagdish Sharma has also been given same sentence. The Special CBI Court of Ranchi pronounced 50 guilty and absolved remaining six others in case of fodder scam. 

    The judgment and then sentencing came in the case which is related to illegal withdrawal of 37.62 crores rupees from Chaibasa Treasury in 1990s. 

    RJD Chief Lalu Prasad was given jail term of five years and fine of 10 lakhs rupees under various sections of the IPC and under section 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Same sentencing to Dr. Jagganth Mishra and Jagdish Sharma. Lalu Prasad is presently in jail in because of his sentencing in another case of fodder scam. 

    This is the third sentencing of RJD Chief Lalu Prasad in the infamous fodder scam, along with others. In this case CBI had filed charge sheet against 76 people, out of which 56 had faced trial.Ex IAS officers Phul Chand Singh, Mahesh Prasad, and Sajal Chakravarti were sentenced four years of jail term with two lakhs rupees fine each. 

    Among the 40 suppliers sentenced, female suppliers were given lighter sentence of three years imprisonments each with fines, whereas each male suppliers were given five years imprisonments with fines. 

  • Swachh Bharat Mission: Over six crore toilets built across rural India
    Over six crore toilets have been built across rural India under Swachh Bharat Mission so far. According to Secretary, Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Parameswaran Iyer aid, 15 States and union territories are expected to be declared Open Defecation Free (ODF) by March this year. 

    He said, over 3 lakh villages and 300 districts have been declared ODF across ten States and Union Territories. Mr Iyer said, UNICEF estimates that the lack of sanitation is responsible for the deaths of over one lakh children in India annually. 

    He also said that the Ministry will soon launch a mass media campaign to promote the twin pit toilet . A twin pit toilet is a toilet model that is economical, safe, easy to clean, eco-friendly, and is effectively a self-contained waste treatment plant that does not harm the ground water beneath the toilet. 

  • Jaipur Literature Festival 
    The five-day Jaipur Literature Festival at the fortified Diggi Palace was inaugurated in the presence of former Rajasthan governor Margaret Alva. 

    In a keynote address, travel writer and novelist Pico Iyer emphasised the importance of literature in a world where nationalism is on the rise, to show that what unites people is more important than what separates them. 

    In this time of wars and travel bans, literature is more indispensable than ever, because imagination does not respect boundaries or fences

    The festival’s sessions on 25th January had Mr. Iyer speaking of his book The Art of Stillness , Philip Norman on The Beatles’ visit to India, investigative journalist Suki Kim on going undercover in North Korea, Zakir Hussain in conversation with Nasreen Munni Kabir about his life in music, Margarat Alva and Helena Kennedy in a session tilted ‘Women in Power’ and playwright and writer ofShakespeare in Love Tom Stoppard. 

    Hindi writer Mridula Behari will release the English translation of her book Padmini: The Spirited Queen of Chittor , and Nobel Prize-winning economist Muhammad Yunus will speak of his micro-finance initiative, the Grameen Bank. 

  • IMT Ghaziabad selected as United Nations PRME Champion
    Ghaziabad-based Institute of Management and Technology (IMT) has been selected as one of the champions of the United Nations’ initiative on Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME). 

    The announcement was made on January 23 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. PRME Champions Group comprises a group of B-Schools engaged as PRME signatories from across the world, committed to making broad-scale implementation of sustainability principles a reality, the release added. 

    IMT is now one of the 38 B-schools from various countries that are part of PRME Initiative for the 2018-19 Champions Cycle. The aim of the PRME Champions group is to work towards developing and promoting activities which focus on United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

    Member-institutes will be required to take the lead in the areas of curriculum, research and partnership, as well as to contribute to group learning with examples of innovative practices in implementing the goals, the release said. 

  • Aadhaar is Oxford’s first Hindi word of the year
    The Hindi Word of the Year for 2017 is 'AADHAAR'. This was announced by Oxford Dictionaries at the Jaipur Literature Festival on 27th January. 'Aadhaar' also becomes the first Oxford Dictionaries Hindi Word of the Year. The accompanying shortlisted words include Notebandi, Swachh, Vikaas, Yoga and Bahubali, reflect the social, cultural, political and economic trends and events that have been part of 2017. 

    The 'Hindi Word of the Year' is a word or expression that has attracted a great deal of attention and reflects the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the past year, stated a press statement from Oxford University Press. 

    Aadhaar' is a word long established in the Hindi language. However, it gained a new sense in 2010 as the shorthand name for the Aadhaar Card i.e. Unique Identification Numbers (UIN) introduced by the then government of India under Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. This new sense of the word has been at the centre of the national conversation in 2017 as moves to mandate expansion of the programme to bank accounts and phone numbers have resulted in significant debates around the merits and risks of the programme. 2017 has been the year of several high-profile court cases and reports of data leaks which have influenced public opinion. 

    The Word of the Year was formally announced on January 27, 2018 at the Jaipur Literature Festival where it was subject of a panel discussion with Ashok Vajpeyi, Hindi poet, literary and cultural critic, Pankaj Dubey, writer, producer and director, Anu Singh Choudhary, writer, translator and filmmaker and Chitra Mudgal, one of the leading literary figures of modern Hindi literature, among others. 

    The Hindi Word of the Year was chosen by the Oxford Dictionaries team in India with the help of an advisory panel of language experts which include Kritika Agrawal, lawyer, polyglot and Indian language expert, Mallika Ghosh, senior editorial manager at Oxford University Press, India, Namita Gokhale, writer and publisher and Poonam Nigham Sahay, associate professor at Ranchi University, among others. 

  • SC announces composition of constitution bench to hear crucial cases
    Supreme Court has announced the composition of a 5-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India Justice Dipak Mishra to hear crucial cases. The bench comprises Justices AK Sikri, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan besides the Chief Justice. 

    The newly constituted bench will start hearing on a range of crucial matters. These include cases challenging the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar Act and 2013 apex court judgment re-criminalising gay sex between consenting adults. 

    This bench will also hear the contentious issue of the ban on the entry of women between 10 and 50 years of age in Kerala's Sabarimala temple and resume hearing a legal query on whether a Parsi woman would lose her religious identity if she marries a man from a different religion. 

    Another contentious matter relates to the challenge to the validity of a penal law on adultery, which only punishes a married man for having an extra-marital sexual relationship with a woman married to someone else. 

    The other issues to be dealt with by constitution bench include the pleas, which have raised a question as to when will a lawmaker, facing criminal trial, stand disqualified. 

    All these matters were earlier referred to larger benches for adjudication by different benches of the apex court. 

    The daily list of business shows that the two PILs seeking probe into death of CBI Special Judge BH Loya are listed before a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra. 

    SC matter ‘resolved’: The four most senior judges of the Supreme Court, who had on January 12 held an unprecedented press conference and raised the issue of assignment of cases and protested publicly against Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Mishra

    The four judges — Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph — took up their respective business on the first working day of the top court after the January 12 presser. 

    However, there was a delay in the start of the proceedings of the apex court. The court began at 10:39 am, which was nine minutes late as per the scheduled time. Meanwhile, Bar Council of India chairman Manan Kumar Mishra said that the matter has now been resolved. 

  • Centre & J&K Govt agree to use education as tool to bring normalcy to state
    Centre and Jammu and Kashmir Government have resolved to use education as a tool to bring normalcy to the state. The Central and State Governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding at the 65th Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) meeting in New Delhi on 14th January. 

    The State Government had also agreed to look at the NCERT curriculum for convergence and more schools from Jammu and Kashmir were seeking CBSE affiliation. 

    The two governments have planned a number of measures, including an exchange programme involving 9,000 to 10,000 students from the state from January 18 and setting up ICT and digital platforms in the state's schools. 

    The roadmap will be implemented in three years with the goal of bringing a major improvement in learning levels of students by 2020. It comprises a comprehensive framework, including human resource management to quality interventions. 

    The roadmap has identified high priority areas, including restructuring of state teacher education institutes, created integrated data management information system and curriculum revision. 

  • PM Modi launches project work of Rajasthan's first oil refinery in Barmer
    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 16th January launched the project work of Rajasthan's first oil Refinery at Pachpadra in Barmer district. The 43,000 crore rupees project is expected to generate thousands of direct and indirect jobs. 

    According to Narendra Modi….
    The project is an important initiative that will lead the energy sector of the nation in years to come. It will completed by 2022 when the country celebrates 75 years of its Independence. 

  • Narendra Modi inaugurates iCreate centre in Ahmedabad
    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu on 17th January attended the inauguration of the iCreate centre in Ahmedabad. 

    iCreate, or the International Centre for Entrepreneurship and Technology is an autonomous institution located in Dev Dholera village, about 50 km from Ahmedabad. Approved under the Narendra Modi’s ambitious Start-up scheme, iCreate has ties with leading Israeli institutes and firms. The centre identifies, nurtures, and mentors aspiring individuals and teams (with or without ideas) to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. 

    Its mission is to ‘facilitate innovative minds with an ecosystem that comforts as well as challenges their intrinsic abilities’. Spread across an area of over 30 acres, the campus house facilities for classroom training and infrastructure for carrying out entrepreneurial ideas in technology. 

    The model of icreate involves a 13-week intensive “grooming” program to equip individuals for their next-gen entrepreneurial journey. Subsequent to the grooming phase, aspirants are expected to pick an idea that has a strong value proposition around which a viable and dependable business can be built. The participants have to work out details to submit an incubation proposal along with a skeleton business plan. The proposals are then evaluated by an independent panel for incubation at icreate. 

  • Election Commission disqualifies 20 Delhi AAP MLAs
    The Election Commission on 19th January recommended disqualification of 20 Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLAs for holding an Office of Profit. While the Delhi High Court refused to grant interim relief to the 20 legislators. 

    In its opinion sent to President Ram Nath Kovind on 19th January, the Election Commission said the MLAs, by occupying the post of Parliamentary secretaries between March 13, 2015 and September 8, 2016, held offices of profit, and was liable to be disqualified as legislators. Parliamentary Secretaries assist ministers with their work. 

    Numerically, even if the disqualification of the 20 MLAs is approved, the AAP will have a majority in the 70-member Assembly. However, the number of its MLAs will come down to 45 and bye-elections will have to be held. 

  • Govt launches Cyber Surakshit Bharat Yojna to strengthen cyber security
    Union Government has launched the Cyber Surakshit Bharat Yojna to strengthen cyber security. Inaugurating the initiative in New Delhi, Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology K J Alphons said, it will be operated on the three principles of awareness, education and enablement. 

    He said that the Government has launched this initiative with a primary objective to keep the country data safe and protected. He said, the initiative is the first public-private partnership of its kind and will leverage the expertise of the IT industry in cyber security. 

    Mr Alphons said, digital India has led to a rapid transformation in the governance system and securing the cyber space is vital for achieving the vision of a Digital India. The Minister said, Cyber Surakshit Bharat aims to conduct a series of training programs in the next six months across Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai. 

  • Central Govt launches 100 accessible websites for Divyangs
    Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thaawarchand Gehlot on 19th January launched 100 accessible websites for Divyangs. These 100 government websites are now divyang friendly. 

    The divyang-friendly websites, especially for visually impaired, use features such as screen readers and screen magnifiers, which can relay website content to the user in audio format. Mr Gehlot said 900 such websites will be launched in a phased manner. 

    Saying divyangs are full of capabilities but should be given opportunities to prove themselves, Mr Gehlot asserted a lot needs to be done to empower divyangs in the country. 

    The Minister urged the states to increase the pace of the work which is being done in favour of divyangs. He said, the Centre is extending all assistance to empower divyangs and bring them into the mainstream. 

  • Rural sanitation coverage reaches up to 76 % from 39 % in October 2014
    The rural sanitation coverage has reached up to 76 per cent from 39 per cent in October 2014 when the Swachh Bharat Mission was launched. Secretary in the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation Parameswaran Iyer said this at a workshop on Swachh Bharat Mission at Gurugram in Haryana. He said, three lakh villages, 300 districts and 10 States and Union Territories have been declared Open Defecation Free so far. 

    Mr Iyer also expressed confidence that with the sustained and focussed implementation, the Prime Minister's vision of a Swachh Bharat by 2nd of October 2019 would be realized. 

    He said, the States shared their plans on achieving an Open Defecation Free status in 2018 in the workshop, with a strong focus on behaviour change communication. The States also shared their plans for sustaining their ODF status after achievement, by ensuring that the toilets constructed under the Mission are used by all members of every household in a village. 

  • Government proposes rolling out e-Sansad and e-Vidhan in Legislatures 
    The Government has proposed rolling out of e-Sansad in Parliament and e-Vidhan in State Legislatures to digitize and make their functioning paperless. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar will inaugurate the 18th All India Whips’ Conference on 7th January in Udaipur, Rajasthan and will consider rolling out of e-Sansad and e-Vidhan in Parliament and State Legislatures. 

    A whip is a member of a political party's parliamentary body responsible for discipline within the party. Their main job is ensuring that their members in Parliament and legislature vote in line with the party's official policy on important issues. 

    The two-day conference will focus on the efficient functioning of legislatures and the delegates will make suggestions and recommendations for making the rolling out of e-Vidhan a success. This environment-friendly initiative is in line with the Go Green initiative of the government. 

    The Ministry has said, some states have made good progress in the field of automation of their Legislatures but in some states consumption of huge volume of papers is still going. 

    The conference will also make other recommendations for smooth and efficient working of Parliament and the state legislatures in the light of the experience gained by the whips. 

  • Defence Innovation Centre to be set up in Coimbatore 
    Defence Minister Nirmala Seetharaman on 7th January said that a Defence Innovation Centre will be set up in Coimbatore to assist small industries in manufacturing components for the defence sector. The Defence Ministry will release 20 crore rupees as an initial funding to the Coimbatore District Small Industries Association (CODISSIA) to set up the innovation centre. 

    Ms. Seetharaman said small and micro units as well as startups, that can manufacture components required for the defence production, would be identified by the association. 

    The Minister said that the association can design or test their products at the centre. She also added that the association had earlier submitted a proposal in this regard. 

  • Give top priority to Cyber Security issues: PM
    Prime Minister Narendra Modi says cyber security issues should be given top priority; urges use of technology to pin point problem areas on radicalization, lays emphasis on open exchange on information between states and authorities to keep nation secure. 

    Cyber security and related issues continue to be the biggest threat to nations around the globe. And Prime Minister Narendra Modi underlined the urgent need to tackle cyber security stressing that these issues should be dealt with immediately, receiving highest priority. 

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 8th January addressed the Valedictory Ceremony at the Conference of Director Generals and Inspector Generals of Police at BSF Academy at Madhya Pradesh's Tekanpur. 

    Prime Minister recalled how the nature and scope of the Conference have changed since 2014, beginning with its being shifted out of Delhi. He appreciated the officers who have been instrumental in facilitating this change. PM said that the Conference has now become more relevant, in the context of challenges and responsibilities facing the country. He said the new format of the Conference has resulted in a marked improvement in the quality of discussions. 

    He commended the country's security apparatus for the work they are doing in securing the country. He said that the officers present in the gathering on 8th January have delivered leadership, despite often having to operate in an environment of negativity. 

    He said that as a result of the discussions in this Conference over the last few years, now, once an objective is clearly defined for the police force, there is a lot of cohesion in the execution. He said this Conference is helping top police officers get a more holistic view of problems and challenges. He said, the range of topics being discussed has become more broad-based over the last two years. This has helped give a whole new vision to senior police officers, he added. 

    Discussing ways to add even more value to this Conference, the Prime Minister suggested that follow up should continue through working groups, all the year round. In this context, he specially emphasized the importance of involving younger officers. He said this would greatly help in improving effectiveness of the exercise. 

    Prime Minister Modi mentioned the emerging global consensus towards greater information sharing on illicit financial dealings, and said India had a key role to play in achieving this. He said just as openness is getting increased acceptance worldwide, there is need for greater openness among states too, on security issues. He said that security cannot be achieved selectively, or alone. But breaking of silos and information sharing among states can help make everyone more secure. 

    He said cyber security issues should be dealt with immediately, and should receive highest priority. In this context, he particularly mentioned the importance of social media. He said messaging should rely on local languages for greater effectiveness. On radicalization too, the Prime Minister urged the use of technology to pinpoint problem areas. 

    Prime Minister also presented President's Police Medals for Distinguished Service to IB officers. During his address the Prime Minister congratulated and appreciated the medal winning officers of IB, for their dedication and commitment to service. 

    Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, and Union Ministers of State for Home Hansraj Ahir and Kiren Rijiju were present on the occasion. 

  • Bihar Government bans electronic cigarettes in state
    The Bihar Government has banned electronic cigarettes in the state. E-cigarette is a battery run electronic device that tries to create the feeling of tobacco smoking. 

    It works by heating a liquid to generate an aerosol that users inhale. The prohibition will also be extended to online portals, which were prime facilitators between the distributors and the end user. 

    Those found guilty of violating the decision would attract a jail term of up to three years and fine not less than 5,000 rupees. The state government has already banned sale, manufacture, distribution, display and advertising of Gutka, pan masala and tobacco. 

  • Playing of national anthem in cinema halls optional: The Supreme Court
    The Supreme Court on 9th January made the playing of national anthem in cinema halls before screening of movies optional, modifying its earlier order. 

    The apex court modified its November 30, 2016, order by which it had made the playing of the anthem mandatory in cinema halls before the screening of a film. 

    A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said a 12-member inter-ministerial committee, set up by the Centre, would take a final call on the playing of national anthem in the cinemas. 

    The Centre’s decision had come after the top court had in October last year observed that the people “cannot be forced to carry patriotism on their sleeves” and it cannot be assumed that if a person does not stand up for the national anthem, he or she is “less patriotic“.

    The top court accepted the government’s affidavit which said the 12-member panel has been set up to suggest changes in the 1971 Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act. Attorney General K K Venugopal told the bench that the committee will submit its report within six months. 

    The Centre had told the apex court that an inter-ministerial committee has been set up as extensive consultations were needed for framing of guidelines describing the circumstances and occasions on which the national anthem is to be played or sung and observance of proper decorum on such occasions. 

    The government had said that the top court may “consider the restoration of status quo ante until then, that is restoration of the position as it stood before the order passed by this court on November 30, 2016” as it mandated the playing of the anthem in cinemas before a feature film starts. 

    The inter-ministerial committee headed by Additional Secretary (Border Management), Ministry of Home Affairs, with representatives from various other ministries, including the Ministries of Defence, External Affairs, Culture, Woman and Child Development and Parliamentary Affairs. It would also have representatives of the Ministries of Information and Broadcasting and Minority Affairs, Department of Legal Affairs, Department of School Education and Literacy and the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disability, the affidavit filed by Centre said. 

    The apex court had on October 24 last year observed that people do not need to stand up in the cinema halls to prove their patriotism and had asked the Centre to consider amending the rules for regulating playing of the national anthem in the theatres. 

  • SC to form Team to probe Anti-Sikh riot cases 
    Supreme Court has decided to set up a new special investigation team headed by a retired high court judge to probe 186 anti-Sikh riots cases that were closed without proper investigation. The riots broke out following the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984. A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra asked the Centre to suggest names for its consideration and appointment in the proposed SIT. 

    The bench, also comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud, said the proposed committee will be headed by a former High Court Judge and consist of one retired and one serving police officer. 

    It also made it clear that the retired police officer shall not be below the rank of a DIG at the time of his superannuation. 

    The apex court said the supervisory body, appointed by it has found that out of 241 cases, 186 cases were closed without investigation. 

    The apex court perused the report of the supervisory body which was submitted before it in a sealed box. 

  • International cruise terminal to open in Mumbai
    Union Minister for road transport & highways, shipping and water resources Nitin Gadkari and Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on 11th January laid the foundation stone for an international cruise terminal in Mumbai. 

    Spread over 4.15 lakh square feet and costing about `300 crore, the terminal is being built with a capacity to host 700,000 passengers. The terminal is expected to be ready by 2019. 

    Bhatia said the new terminal will have restaurants, retail spaces and will be open to local citizens for recreation, leisure and shopping. 

    In 2016-17, the Mumbai Port received 55 cruise ships carrying about 60,000 passengers. In future, the city is expected to handle about 80% of India’s cruise passengers, with an increase expected in both international and domestic cruise tourists. 

  • Judges accuse CJI of breach of norms
    Four senior most judges of the Supreme Court publicly accused Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra of selectively assigning cases to judges of his choice without any rational basis and refusing to take corrective measures about it. 

    Transcending judicial protocol that sitting judges should not interact with the media, Justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph, in a first-of-its kind press conference, accused the CJI of assigning cases of “far-reaching consequences to the nation” to particular judges against the time-tested convention, practice and tradition of the apex court. 

    In a letter circulated by the judges at the press conference, the four judges accused certain Supreme Court judges of judicial indiscipline. The letter, addressed to the CJI, said certain judges arrogate to themselves the “authority to deal with and pronounce upon” cases which ought to be heard by other appropriate Benches. The letter is of October 2017 origin. 

    Justice Chelameswar, speaking for the four judges, said they had collectively tried to persuade the Chief Justice to take remedial measures, but their efforts unfortunately failed. 

    The judges said that with the independence of the judiciary and the future of democracy at stake, they had no other choice but turn to the nation for help. 

    Justice Chelameswar said they decided to act now because they did not want “any wise men say 20 years later that Justices Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Lokur and Kurian sold their souls and did not take care of the interests of this illustrious institution”. 

  • India registers significant decline in under-five child mortality rate
    India has registered significant decline in under five child mortality rate. Health Ministry in a release said, the rate of decline has doubled over the last year. 

    As per the Sample Registration System data, under-five child mortality of the country has shown that the mortality has come down to 39 per thousand in 2016 from 43 in 2015. 

    It said, most of the states have shown good progress in reduction of under-five child mortality from the previous year, except Chattisgarh, Delhi and Uttarakhand, which have shown a slight increase over the previous year. However, Telangana has shown no change in 2016. 

  • EC panel to suggest changes to RP Act
    Election Commission has constituted a 14-member committee to suggest changes to Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act in view of social media expansion. The Act prohibits poll campaign in the last 48 hours of voting. 

    The Committee chaired by Senior Deputy Election Commissioner Umesh Sinha will study the impact of social media during the silence period and suggest modifications to the election law and model code of conduct. 

  • Seven-member delegation of BCI to meet Supreme Court judges to resolve judges issue
    The seven-member delegation, set up by the Bar Council of India (BCI), will begin its meetings with the judges of the Supreme Court to resolve the issues raised by the four senior-most judges during a press conference recently. 

    BCI, the regulatory body for lawyers, met in New Delhi and unanimously decided to form a delegation to meet the Judges. Addressing media after the meeting, BCI Chairman Manan Mishra said, the delegation will request the apex court judges to resolve the issues at the earliest. 

    Mr. Manan said such matters should not be made public as Judiciary is an important pillar of the Constitution and the people have unflinching faith in the judicial system. 

    He also appealed to the political parties not to politicize the matter. Mr. Manan appreciated the government's stand for not interfering in the internal matter of the Judiciary. 

    Meanwhile, the Supreme Court Bar Association has passed a resolution saying the differences of four senior-most judges with the Chief Justice should be considered by the full court of the apex court. 

  • India reports more than 1.5 lakh cases of Dengue
    India reported more than 1.5 lakh cases of dengue and 250 people died this year across the country. The data compiled by National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme under the Union Health Ministry showed that the maximum dengue deaths were reported from Tamil Nadu, where the disease claimed 63 lives followed by Maharashtra 41 lives. 

    Last year, during the same time period, the disease claimed 245 lives, while more than one lakh 29 thousand cases were reported. In Delhi, Dengue claimed nine lives, while over nine thousand cases were reported. 

  • GAIL commissions India's second largest rooftop solar plant in UP
    State-owned gas utility GAIL India Ltd on 1st January said it has commissioned the country's second largest rooftop solar power plant. A company statement says that firm has installed a 5.76 MWp (Mega Watt peak) solar plant at its petrochemical complex at Pata in Uttar Pradesh. 

    The plant over the roofs of warehouses covers a total area of 65,000 square meters. With an expected PLF of around 15 per cent annually, over 79 lakh KWh of electricity is targeted to be generated for captive use of India's largest gas-based petrochemicals plant. 

    Tata Power Solar had in December 2015 commissioned a 12 MW solar rooftop project in Amritsar, which produces more than 150 lakh units of power annually and offset over 19,000 tonne of carbon emissions every year. 

    India is planning to have 40 GW of rooftop photovoltaics (PV) by 2022. The Captive solar power initiative of GAIL will reduce carbon emissions by 6,300 tonnes per annum and help India achieve climate goals. 

  • Arunachal Pradesh declared Open Defecation Free
    Arunachal Pradesh has been declared Open Defecation Free. It has become the second state in the North East after Sikkim to achieve the status with the declaration of Upper Subansiri, Siang, and Changlang districts as officially Open Defecation Free. 

    The project, undertaken under the Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin), was carried through after the state government provided an additional incentive of eight thousand rupees per toilet, in addition to the state’s matching share and the support given by the Centre, raising the cost to 20,000 rupees. The state has achieved the ODF status before the the national target, which is October next year. 

  • Minister of Women and Child Development inaugurates online portal ‘NARI’ 
    Minister of Women and Child Development Maneka Sanjay Gandhi on 2nd January inaugurated an online portal NARI which will provide women citizens with easy access to information on government schemes and initiatives for women. 

    Referring to the portal which contains information about schemes being run by both Central as well as the States Governments, she said 'for the first time since Independence, women of the country will be able to access information about benefits being provided to them by the Government.' 

    To make this information easily accessible in one place, the NARI portal summarises more than 350 government schemes and other important information for the benefit of women, with more being added every day. It provides links to the ministries, departments and autonomous bodies offering these schemes as well as easy access to online applications and grievance redressal. 

  • Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill, 2017 in Lok Sabha for constitutional status to the OBC Commission
    The Lok Sabha on 3rd January took up discussion on the Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill, 2017 for consideration and passing. In the last session, the Rajya Sabha had made certain amendments in the bill. The Constitution Amendment bill seeks to create a new commission with constitutional status for the OBCs at par with the National Commissions for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. 

    The bill carries most of the provisions it had in its original version passed by the Lok Sabha before the opposition got amendments passed in the Upper House in the last session. 

    Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thaawarchand Gehlot moved amendments seeking to reject the amendments inserted in the original bill by the Rajya Sabha regarding composition of the National Commission for Backward Classes. 

    Mr Gehlot said opposition parties in the Rajya Sabha had demanded that the Act should make provisions for a woman and a member from minority communities in the commission. 

    He said he had agreed to make provision in the rules for inclusion of a woman member in the commission but there is no need for a quota for minority communities as a Minority Commission already exists. 

    The bill also says that the proposed National Commission for Backward Classes will give its report concerning a state to the state government and not to the Governor as provided in the original bill passed by the Lok Sabha. 

  • Cabinet approves establishment of new AIIMS at Bilaspur
    The Cabinet on 3rd January gave its approval for establishment of a new All India Institute of Medical Sciences, AIIMS at Bilaspur in Himachal Pradesh under the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY). The cost of the project is 1 thousand 3 hundred 51 crore rupees. The new AIIMS will be completed in a period of 48 months. 

    The Institution will consist of a hospital with a capacity of 750 beds and trauma center facilities. It will also have a Medical college with an intake of 100 MBBS students per year and Nursing college with an intake of 60 B.Sc. (Nursing) students per year. 

    The hospital will have 20 Speciality and Super-Speciality Departments including 15 Operation Theatres. It will also have an AYUSH department with 30 beds for providing treatment facilities in traditional system of medicine. 

    Under this scheme, AIIMS have been established in Bhubaneshwar, Bhopal, Raipur, Jodhpur, Rishikesh and Patna while work of AIIMS Rae Bareli is in progress. 

    Also, three AIIMS in Nagpur (Maharashtra), Kalyani (West Bengal) and Mangalagiri in Guntur (Andhra Pradesh) have been sanctioned in 2015; two AIIMS have been sanctioned at Bathinda and Gorakhpur in 2016 and an AIIMS in Kamrup (Assam). 

  • Central government ministries join hands for a technology mission for railways
    Three central ministries have come together to drive a technology mission for Indian Railways, which would be beneficial for both the national transporter and academic and research institutions. 

    A memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Technology Mission for Indian Railways (TMIR) was signed on 4th January by the ministries of railways, human resource development (HRD), and science and technology. The agreement will “facilitate collaboration and cooperation” between the ministries. 

    While the Indian Railways would get the world class technologies, academic and research institutions would get involved in numerous applied research projects which would help them in reorienting research towards national objectives. 

    “This MoU will facilitate the co-financing of Technology Mission for Indian Railways by investment sharing for identified railway projects for applied research. The funding component of the railways ministry is 30 percent, the HRD ministry is 25 per cent and the department of science and technology (DST) 25 per cent. 

    The indigenous technologies would successfully be developed with “win-win scenario” to all the consortium members. The Technology Mission will take up research and development projects in the areas of heavy haul, safety, energy, environment and urban railways. 

    The projects will be implemented through a Mission Implementation and Coordination Committee having members from the three ministries, academia and the industry. The projects will be implemented in the national research and development labs and academic institutions. Collaborations, wherever essential, will be entered into with similar foreign institutions. 

    The MoU was signed by TMIR chairman Professor N S Vyas, Alok Kumar, co-chairman, TMIR, on behalf of the Ministry of Railways, R Subrahmanyam, Additional Secretary, on behalf of Ministry of Human Resource Development and Dr Neeraj Sharma, Adviser, DST on behalf of the Ministry of Science and Technology. 

  • PM Narendra Modi urges officers to take postings in backward district
    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 5th January said uplifting backward districts of a region will transform the entire state and urged government officials to challenge themselves by taking postings in those districts. 

    Modi said that by creating success stories in such backward districts -- which he dubbed the aspirational districts -- an environment of confidence would be created among people who would start believing that anything is possible. 

    He said that relative backwardness of some regions is an injustice to the people of those regions. In that context, he added, this effort to develop 115 backward districts, is in keeping with the vision of Dr (B.R.) Ambedkar

    The NITI Aayog has identified 115 aspirational districts from different parts of the country which the government intends to transform by 2022. 

    Modi added that uplifting the aspirational district of a region will transform the entire state and one could start with achieving low hanging fruits to create success stories to build confidence and motivation. 

    The Prime Minister said that all-round and inclusive development was essential as even in the states with strong development indicators, there would be certain areas which would need greater push for development. He said that regional imbalances should not be allowed to increase indefinitely. 

  • CBI Court sentences Lalu Prasad Yadav to 3.5 years in prison
    RJD chief Lalu Prasad was on 6th January sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail by a CBI special court in a fodder scam case relating to fraudulent withdrawal of money from the Deoghar Treasury 21 years ago. 

    CBI court judge Shiv Pal Singh, who had convicted Prasad, along with 10 others on December 23, also imposed a fine of 10 lakh rupees on him for two cases in the scam. A CBI counsel said that he was fined 5 lakh rupees for each case, failing which he would serve another six months in jail. 

    The court had convicted Prasad for offences of cheating, along with criminal conspiracy, under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Prevention of Corruption Act. 

    The scam is related to withdrawal of 89 lakh 27 thousand rupees from the Deogarh Treasury between 1990 and 1994 when Prasad was the chief minister of Bihar. 

    This is the second fodder scam case in which Prasad has been jailed. He was sent to prison for five years on 30th September 2013. 

  • Venkaiah Naidu sends privilege notice against Rahul to LS speaker
    Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu on 6th January sent a privilege notice against Rahul Gandhi to Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan for further action, holding that "prima facie there is an issue of privilege". Naidu sent the notice to the Lok Sabha speaker for further action as Gandhi is a member of the Lower House. 

    A complaint against Gandhi is already pending before the Ethics Committee of the Lok Sabha, chaired by BJP veteran L K Advani, after the speaker forwarded the same to it. 

    BJP leader and Rajya Sabha member Bhupinder Yadav had given the privilege notice against Congress President Gandhi over a tweet put out by him in which he questioned the authority of the Rajya Sabha and questioned its decision. 

    Yadav had alleged that there is a "breach of privilege" by Gandhi as he used derogatory words against Finance Minister and Leader of the House Arun Jaitley, by twisting his name.


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