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June 2018 National Affairs

  • Supreme Court collegium's recommendation for appointments of 2 lawyers
    The Supreme Court collegium's recommendation for the appointments of two lawyers, one of them a former top court judge's son, as judges of the Allahabad High Court has been returned for the second time by the government citing complaints against them. 

    The two lawyers are Mohammad Mansoor and Basharat Ali Khan. Mansoor is the son of former Supreme Court judge late Saghir Ahmed. 

    Justice Ahmed had headed a working group formed by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Centre-State relations with special reference to Jammu and Kashmir. 

    The NDA government had on an earlier occasion returned the file recommending the two names, citing complaints against the candidates. 

    But the collegium reiterated its recommendation, terming the complaints as frivolous. Last month, the recommendation was returned by the government to the collegium for reconsideration, after keeping the matter pending for over two-and-a-half years. 

    After Justice J Chelameswar retirement, the five-member collegium -- a body of top five Supreme Court judges -- will have to be reconstituted. The collegium, with a new member, will now have to take a call on the two names. 

    The two lawyers have been regularly appearing as senior standing counsel in the Allahabad High Court. Meanwhile, the government has also decided to return the name of advocate Nazir Ahmed Beig for elevation as the Jammu and Kashmir High Court judge. 

    The names of three others -- Wasim Sadiq Nargal, Sindhu Sharma and district judge Rashid Ali Dar -- are being processed by the Law Ministry. There was no immediate word on why Beig's name was returned to the collegium. 

  • Chabahar Port in Iran will be operational by 2019: India
    According to a government statement, India will make sure that Chabahar Port in Iran becomes operational by 2019. India`s statement came after the United States (US) threatened to renew sanctions against Tehran. The Chabahar port complex is expected to open way for millions of dollars in trade and cut its dependence on Pakistan. 

    This Indian-backed port is being developed as part of a new transportation corridor for land-locked Afghanistan

    Iran and India, in February, signed an agreement worth $85 million to develop Chabahar Port in south-eastern Iran. The lease agreement gives operational control to India of Shahid Beheshti port (phase one of the Chabahar port) and was signed in the presence of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi. 

    Prime Minister Modi after signing the agreement said the two sides want to expand bilateral ties and cooperation in economic development. 

    On May 8, US President Donald Trump announced Washington`s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or the Iran nuclear deal which limited the country`s uranium enrichment in exchange for sanctions relief. 

    These sanctions threaten to derail the project which would help Afghanistan in building its economy. It is also believed that banks could pull back from financing the port. 

    The Iran nuclear deal was signed between six countries in 2015 - Iran, US, Britain, Germany, Russia, France and China for lifting economic sanctions on Tehran in exchange for limitations to the country`s nuclear programme. 

    Iran had earlier said it would move out of the deal and resume its nuclear activities if the other parties to the nuclear deal fail to safeguard Iran`s interests. 

  • Women and Child Development Ministry aims to bring down stunting of children
    Women and child development secretary Rakesh Srivastava said the Ministry aims to bring down stunting of children in the age group of 0 to 6 years from 38.4 per cent to 25 per cent by 2022. 

    According to the Srivastava, WCD will organize a national level seminar called TECH-THON on 28th June, to foster partnership for the Poshan Abhiyan. 

    He said that the Abhiyan programme, through use of technology will empower the functionaries like Anganwadi workers and supervisors. 

    The Secretary said different Ministries have been integrated under the overarching scheme, Poshan Abhiyan for the holistic development of children and reduction of malnutrition in the country. The Ministry is currently implementing the scheme in 57 districts and aims to cover all 718 districts by 2022. 

  • Government proposes to set up 3,000 Van Dhan Kendras across country
    The government has proposed to set up 3,000 Van Dhan Kendras involving 30,000 self-help groups of tribal community across the country to provide skill up-gradation and capacity building training for value addition of forest produce. 

    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched the Van Dhan Scheme on 14th of April this year (2018) during the celebrations of Ambedkar Jayanti at Bijapur in Chattisgarh. 

    A statement issued by the Ministry of Tribal Affair said, these groups will be working under the leadership of Collector and they can market their products not only within the states but also outside the states. 

    It said training and technical support is provided by the Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India, TRIFED. 

    Under the Van Dhan scheme, 10 self-help groups with each having 30 tribal gatherers were constituted at Bijapur in Chhattisgarh. 

    They are being trained and provided with working capital to add value to the products, which they collect from the jungle. 

  • Union Cabinet approves establishment of additional 6.5 Million Metric Tonne strategic petroleum reserve facilities in Odisha & Karnataka
    The Union Cabinet has approved establishment of additional 6.5 Million Metric Tonne strategic petroleum reserve facilities at Chandikhol in Odisha and Padur in Karnataka. The decision was taken at a Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi. 

    Briefing reporters after the meeting, Union Minister Piyush Goyal said, it was also decided to construct dedicated single point mooring for these two reserve facilities. The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, CCEA, has approved a corpus of 1,040 crore rupees to National Export Insurance Account Trust. 

    The Corpus is to be utilised during three years from 2017-18 to 2019-20. Mr Piyush Goyal said, the Corpus will strengthen NEIA to support project exports from the country that are of strategic and national importance. 

    The CCEA has also approved the Mechanism for procurement of ethanol by Public Sector Oil Marketing Companies to carry out the Ethanol Blended Petrol Programme- Revision of ethanol price for supply to the Public Sector Oil Marketing Companies. 

    It approved the capital infusion of two thousand crore rupees to strengthen Export Credit Guarantee Corporation, ECGC. 

    The amount will be infused in the three financial years which is 50 crore rupees in 2017-18, 1450 crore rupees in 2018-19 and 500 crore rupees for 2019-20. The Cabinet also approved shifting of more experienced government doctors to teaching, clinical, public health programme implementation activities. 

    It approved a proposal to enhance the age of superannuation of General Duty Medical Officers, Specialist Grade doctors and Teaching medical faculty working in Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre, Bhopal to 65 years. 

    The Government decision will meet the shortage of faculty and specialist doctors in the hospital and improve the patient care facility to the victims of Bhopal Gas Tragedy and members of their families. 

  • Union Government proposes to replace University Grants Commission (UGC) with new Higher Education commission
    The Union government on 27th June unveiled the draft of a bill to replace higher education regulator University Grants Commission (UGC) with a Higher Education Commission. 

    The new commission to be established through an Act will not have grant-making authority, will promote reduced inspection system and will focus more on quality outcome at universities and colleges

    Human resource development (HRD) minister Prakash Javadekar, who claimed this is a key education reform, said the new body will be more representational. 

    Its board will have senior bureaucrats from the ministries of HRD, skills and entrepreneurship, and science and technology, in a way ending the monopoly of HRD ministry in regulating higher education. 

    He said the new Act will separate grant-making functions, end inspection raj, focus on academic quality and empower the new commission to enforce quality issues. 

    The new body will specify learning outcomes for colleges and universities, prescribe teaching, assessment, research standards. 

    Over the last four years, the HRD ministry has deliberated on several models like a single regulator for higher education by merging UGC, National Council of Teacher Education (NCTE) and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE); however, the plans were not taken forward. 

    The new commission shall consist of a chairperson, vice chairperson and 12 members to be appointed by the central government. The secretary of the commission will act as the member-secretary. Of the 12 members, three members will represent union government namely: secretary of higher education, secretary of ministry of skill development and entrepreneurship and secretary, department of science and technology. Besides, there will be an “industry doyen” among the board members. 

  • Ayush Ministry to introduce Ayurvedic medicine as subject for Sanskrit students: Ayush Secretary Vaidya Rajesh Kotecha
    Ayush Ministry is in the process of introducing Ayurvedic medicine as a subject for Sanskrit students. Ayush Secretary Vaidya Rajesh Kotecha said, this will help in identifying the medicines and ayurvedic practices from the Sanskrit scriptures that are unexplored. 

    He said, the students who have completed Plus Two in Sanskrit will be introduced to Ayurveda as a subject. Mr Vaidya Rajesh Kotecha was participating in a day-long interactive workshop for Sowa Rigpa Practitioners in Leh. 

  • Government to link 22,000 rural markets to Electronic National Agriculture Market (e-NAM) portal
    The Centre announced that 22,000 rural markets would be linked to the Electronic National Agriculture Market (e-NAM) by 2020 as part of its drive to double the income of farmers. 

    Addressing the "AgriVikas 2018" in Bhubaneswar, Union Minister of State for Agriculture Gajendra Singh Shekhawat said these 22,000 rural markets or haats will be upgraded to Gramin Agricultural Markets and linked with the e-NAM to enable farmers sale directly to potential buyers. 

    The e-NAM is a pan-India electronic trading portal, a network of the existing Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) mandis to create a unified national market for agricultural commodities. 

    The portal provides a single window service for all APMC related information and services. 

  • President summoned Rajya Sabha from 18th July 2018
    The President has summoned the Rajya Sabha to meet on the 18th July, 2018 at New Delhi. Subject to exigencies of business, the Session is scheduled to conclude on the 10th August, 2018. 

  • Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensemble of Mumbai declared as a World Heritage Property by UNESCO
    In yet another landmark achievement, India’s nomination of the "Victorian and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai” has been inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. The decision was taken at the 42nd session of the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO at Manama in Bahrain on 30th June. As recommended by the World Heritage Committee, India accepted the renaming of the ensemble as “Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai”. 

    India has been successful in securing the inscription of the "Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai”on UNESCO's World Heritage List under Criteria (ii) and (iv) as defined in the UNESCO's Operational Guidelines. 

    This makes Mumbai city the second city in India after Ahmedabad to be inscribed on the World Heritage List. In the past 5 years alone, India has managed to get inscribed seven of its properties/sites on the World Heritage List of UNESCO. India now has overall 37 World Heritage Inscriptions with 29 Cultural, 07 Natural and 01 Mixed sites. While India stands second largest in number after China in terms of number of World Heritage properties in ASPAC (Asia and Pacific) region, it is overall sixth in the world. 

  • Trains to have 100 per cent vacuum bio- toilets by March, 2019
    Railway Minister Piyush Goyal has said, the target of replacing bio-toilets with vacuum bio-toilets in trains will be achieved 100 percent by March, 2019. According to the Minister, some 500 vacuum bio-toilets have been ordered and once the experiment is successful, all the 2.5 lakh toilets in the trains will be replaced with vacuum bio-toilets. 

    He said, to compete with the airlines, replacing the bio-toilets with the latest version was one of the plans the national transporter had for upgrading its amenities. 

    Mr Goyal said, the vacuum toilets will be odour-free and the tracks will be cleaner. He said, it will cut down water usage by 1/20th and have much lesser chances of getting blocked. 

  • BJP pulls out of alliance with People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Jammu and Kashmir
    In a major development, Bharatiya Janata Party pulls out of alliance with PDP in Jammu and Kashmir; recommends imposition of Governor's rule in the state; chief minister Mehbooba Mufti submits her resignation letter. 

    The BJP on 19th June pulled out of its alliance with Mehbooba Mufti's People's Democratic Party (PDP) in Jammu and Kashmir. 

    Mehbooba Mufti resigns: The BJP's decision to end the coalition leaves Mufti with just 28 out of Jammu and Kashmir's 87 elected seats. Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti submitted her resignation to Governor NN Vohra. 

  • World’s first International Centre for Humanitarian Forensics launched in Gujarat
    The world's first International Centre for Humanitarian Forensics was launched at Gandhinagar in Gujarat on 20th June. It is a joint venture of the Regional delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross in India, Bhutan, Nepal and the Maldives and also Gujarat Forensic Science University. 

    Inaugurating the Centre, Additional Chief Secretary (Home) in the Gujarat government, MS Dagur said, the state has always taken a lead in implementing innovative ideas. He said, the establishment of the Centre is again another move in this direction. 

    The launch of the Centre was followed by an International Symposium on Humanitarian Forensics. Over the next two days, international experts will participate in the symposium and discuss issues in the area of humanitarian forensics. Speakers from India, Ireland, Germany and Sri Lanka will speak at the symposium. 

  • Jammu and Kashmir Governor Narinder Nath Vohra takes charge in J&K, reviews security situation
    Jammu and Kashmir Governor N.N. Vohra took over the reins of the administration in Jammu and Kashmir on 20th June, a day after coalition partners Peoples Democratic Party and the BJP parted ways. 

    He reviewed security preparedness in the militancy-hit State. 

    N.N. Vohra issued the proclamation to impose Governor’s rule under Section 92 of the Constitution of J&K, immediately after getting the President’s approval. He placed the Legislative Assembly under suspended animation. 

    The Governor called for cohesive action to enforce constant vigil on the International Border and the Line of Control, effectively maintain internal security and ensure the safety of the people, sensitive establishments and installations. 

  • PM Narendra Modi inaugurates YO1 nature center in New York
    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated a nature center in New York on the International Day of Yoga and asserted that he was hopeful that the ancient Indian physical and mental practice can become a binding force for the world. 

    PM Narendra Modi inaugurated the 'YO1 Nature Cure Center' in the Catskills area of New York through a video link on the occasion of 4th International Day of Yoga. The Indian Consulate General here said YO1 is a "large Indian investment" in New York and will contribute to wellness of New Yorkers. 

    The centre has been built as a state-of-art facility and will be a wellness destination that will offer therapies based on ancient Indian Yoga and Pranayam. It will provide employment to at least 500 people and indirect employment to more than 1,500 people. The United Nations General Assembly in December 2014 had declared that June 21 would be observed as International Day of Yoga every year. 

  • Election Commission registers Kamal Haasan's party Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) 
    Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM), floated by actor Kamal Haasan, was on 22nd June registered as a political party by the Election Commission and it would receive the registration documents early next week. Election Commission said the documents filed by Kamal Haasan have been processed and the registration granted. 

    The party will get the relevant documents early next week, but the formal letter was sent. Kamal Haasan had in February launched his political party Makkal Needhi Maiam (people justice centre). 

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi lays foundation stone of new Vanijya Bhawan in New Delhi
    Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 22nd June laid the foundation stone of Vanijya Bhawan at Delhi's Akbar road. Once ready, the new building will house the Department of Commerce. The Prime Minister expressed confidence that the construction of Vanijya Bhawan will be completed before December 2019. He added that earlier, construction pace was tardy, but now construction is completed in a pre-determined time frame and full accountability is fixed. PM Narendra Modi also said that speedy completion of various works shows the government's commitment. 

    The Prime Minister asserted that the current government does not believe in misleading the country. He urged the people to start working from “Silos to Solutions”. He also said that technology has eased ways of doing business, and this is going to grow in the years to come. 

  • Plastic ban in Maharashtra: Environment Minister Ramdas Kadam
    As the Maharashtra government is set to enforce the ban on a variety of plastic items, announced in March, Environment Minister Ramdas Kadam said errant manufacturers will face a strong action, but common people and small traders will not be harassed. 

    On March 23, the state government imposed a ban on manufacturing, use, sale, distribution and storage of plastic materials such as one-time-use bags, spoons, plates, PET and PETE bottles and thermocol items. The government gave three months for the disposal of existing stocks. 

    The fine for the first-time and second-time offenders will be Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000, respectively. A third violation will attract a fine of Rs 25,000 and a jail term for three months. Ramdas Kadam reiterated that 80 per cent of banned plastic items are manufactured in Gujarat and smuggled to Maharashtra. 

    The empowered committee of the government, dealing with the ban, will discuss this issue and an exemption might be given if Ganesh Mandals give an undertaking that these items will be later handed over to the municipal corporation for disposal. 

  • Dalit women in India die younger than upper caste counterparts: Report
    Dalit women in India die younger than upper caste women, face discrimination in accessing healthcare and lag behind on almost all health indicators. 

    While violence against Dalits may be the main form of discrimination visible to the outside world, there are many other ways in which caste prejudice manifests itself, one of them being health. This is borne out by recent data from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS). 

    For Dalits, who make 16.6% of the total population, health inequalities are the result of both past and ongoing discrimination, including limited educational opportunities, high health risk occupations they are forced to take up, discrimination in access to land, employment, housing and other resources. 

    In all counts, they do worse than the national average: 
    Anemia: According to the recent data from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), among the women in the age group 25-49 who have anaemia, 55.9 % are Dalits. The national average among Indians is 53%. Even though anaemia is a widespread problem faced by women in India, for Dalit women the problem is compounded. 

    Life expectancy: The average age of death for Dalit women is 14.6 years younger than for higher caste women, according to the report, Turning promises into action: gender equality in the 2030 Agenda, which cites a finding from the Indian Institute of Dalit Studies in 2013. According to that finding, the average age at death for Dalit women was 39.5 years against 54.1 years for higher-caste women. 

    Access to healthcare: Under Indian law, it is a punishable offence to refuse to admission to hospital, dispensary, etc on the basis of “untouchability.” Still in 2016, the nursing staff of the Puranpur community health centre in Uttar Pradesh allegedly refused to admit a pregnant Dalit woman. The woman delivered the baby unassisted and the child died a few hours after being born. This wasn’t the only case. Dalits are refused admission to hospitals, or access to health care and treatment. In a number of cases those who are admitted receive discriminatory treatment. 

    According to the NFHS data, among Dalits, 70.4 % of women reported problems with accessing healthcare when they knew they are sick. Among the reasons cited, getting permission to go to the hospital facility, or distance to the health facility, or money were stated as the reasons. 

    Institutional and in-home deliveries: Among Dalits, 52.2 % women in the age group 15-49 years had a live birth in the presence of a doctor in the preceding five years. For the upper castes it is 66.8%.

    Nutritional status of Dalit women: One in four women among the Dalits in the 15-49 age bracket are undernourished according to their Body Mass Index (BMI), while one in six women among upper castes have a similar nutritional profile. 

    The NFHS finding backs up a 2015 Lancet report ‘Health and the Indian caste system’, by Paul Kowal and Sara Afshar, which says at least three factors are associated with how the caste system affects health—genetics, early environment, and opportunities due to social mobility. 

  • CBI approaches Interpol seeking Red Corner Notice against Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi in the Punjab National Bank fraud case
    CBI has approached Interpol seeking Red Corner Notice against absconding jewellers Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi in the Punjab National Bank fraud case. The agency has written to the Interpol in this regard. The red corner notice is the closest instrument to an international arrest warrant. 

    Recently, the CBI had filed charge sheets against Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi and others in the Punjab National Bank fraud case. 

    In January, Nirav Modi had flown out of the country before the bank lodged a complaint with CBI and ED seeking action against him and others in connection with over 13 thousand crore rupees bank fraud. 

  • Indian Railways launched ‘SUBHADRA VAHINI’ at Visakhapatnam for the security and protection of Women
    With the inspiration of ‘Beti Bacho-Beti padao’ programme being initiated by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, East coast Railways, Waltair Division has launched ‘SUBHADRA VAHINI’ programme for the security and protection of Women. 

    Waltair Division, Divisional Railway Manager, Mukul Saran Mathur has formally launched this programme on 11th June at Visakhapatnam Railway Station. A 32 member- women team consisting of RPF police and TC women employees will monitor the security of the women passengers in Trains and Railway stations in the division. 

  • Indian Medical Association (IMA) launches awareness drive on sexual health
    The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has launched a nationwide movement to eradicate the social taboo associated with sexual health. 

    Dr. Ravi Wankhedkar, the IMA national president, stressed the importance of the initiative and said that sex still being a taboo, doctors across India needed to break all the barriers and clinical inertias. 

    This is the first-of-its-kind initiative launched by the IMA for over three-and-a-half lakh doctors to motivate them to dispel the taboo associated with this subject. 

    Education must be imparted at school to dispel the taboo associated with this subject. Increasing awareness among schools and colleges by various means will also be a part of this agenda. 

    The plan of action of this initiative is to hold pan-India educational programmes and also adopt schools and colleges to educate one and all -- students, teachers and parents -- by holding lectures, seminars, symposia, conferences and dialogues. 

    As a pilot project, a 12-month fellowship programme in clinical sexology has also been started for doctors who are MD and above and proposes to start similar courses for MBBS doctors with at least five years of experience. 

  • Government added 10 Iconic sites in 3rd phase of its flagship project of Swachh Iconic Places
    The government has added ten Iconic sites in third phase of its flagship project of Swachh Iconic Places (SIP) under Swachh Bharat Mission. 

    The sites are Raghavendra Swamy Temple of Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh, Hazardwari Palace of Murshidabad, West Bengal, Brahma Sarovar Temple of Kurukshetra, Haryana, Vidur Kuti in Bijnor and Nagvasuki Temple of Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh and Mana village in Chamoli and Kanvashram in Uttarakhand. 

    Besides, Pangong Lake in Leh-Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir, Ima Keithal of Imphal in Manipur, Sabarimala Temple of Kerala. 

    Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation in a statement said, these sites have joined the 20 iconic places selected under Phase- I and II where special sanitation work is underway. 

    The first phase was launched in 2016 while the second in 2017. Speaking at the launch of the third phase of the project in Mana village in Uttarakhand, Drinking Water and Sanitation Secretary, Parameswaran Iyer said under it, the government will take up initiatives like improved sewage infrastructure, drainage facilities, installation of sewage treatment plant, improved sanitation facilities and water vending machines. 

    He also added that solid and liquid waste management set-up, structure restoration, roads maintenance, lighting arrangements, beautification of parks, better transport facilities in approach and access areas will also be taken up at the main sites. 

  • NITI Aayog to launch Composite Water Management Index
    NITI Aayog has come up with the Composite Water Management Index in view of limitations on availability of water resources and the rising demand for water. 

    The index is a useful tool to assess and improve performance in management of water resources. It is an attempt to inspire States and Union Territories towards efficient and optimal utilization of water followed by recycling. The index can provide useful information which can be utilized to formulate and implement strategies for better management of water resources. 

    Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation Minister Nitin Gadkari will release the Index in New Delhi. 

  • India rejects UN report on human rights violation in Kashmir
    India on 14th June rejected the report by the Office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in Kashmir. 

    According to the External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, it is fallacious and questioned the intent in bringing out such a report. The spokesperson said, it is a compilation of unverified information and seeks to build a false narrative. 

    Mr Raveesh Kumar said, the report violates India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. He stated that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and Pakistan is in illegal and forcible occupation of a part of the Indian state through aggression. 

    India has repeatedly called upon Pakistan to vacate the occupied territories. The incorrect description of Indian territory in the report is misleading and unacceptable. There are no entities such as Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. 

    India said, the authors have ignored the pattern of cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan and territories under its illegal control. Cross-border terror is aimed at suppressing the will of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, disrupting its social fabric and undermining India’s integrity. 

    The MEA said, India's protest and views have been conveyed strongly to the Office of the High Commissioner for UN Human Rights. India expressed its deep concern regarding individual prejudices being allowed to undermine the credibility of a UN institution. 

  • Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu lays foundation stone for Septage Management System in Itanagar
    Indian Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu laid the foundation stone for Septage Management System and Storm Water Drainage System for Itanagar City under AMRUT Scheme at Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh on 16th June. 

  • Asia's first 13 'Blue Flag' beaches to be developed in India
    Environment-friendly, clean and equipped with amenities of international standards for tourists, 13 Indian beaches will soon get the Blue Flag certification. 

    These beaches of Odisha, Maharashtra and other coastal states will be the first in not just India, but in Asia, to get the Blue Flag certification. The Indian beaches are being developed by the Society for Integrated Coastal Management (SICOM), an environment ministry's body working for the management of coastal areas, according to the Blue Flag certification standards. 

    Project Head of SCIOM Arvind Nautiyal said that to make the beaches environment and tourist-friendly in accordance with the Blue Flag standards, a beach has to be plastic-free and be equipped with a waste management system. 

    They also have to ensure availability of clean water for tourists, have amenities of international standards for tourists and be equipped with facilities for studying environmental impact around the beach, he said. 

    Arvind Nautiyal was speaking at a five-day conference, which was organised to commemorate the World Environment Day, about making the beaches pollution free. He said that according to the Blue Flag standards, a beach has to strictly comply with 33 environment and tourism related conditions. There is not a single Blue Flag beach in Asia so far, he added. 

    The Blue Flag beach standards were established by Copenhagen-based Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) in 1985. The Blue Flag programme, which requires 33 standards in four areas to be met to make beaches environment-friendly, first started from Paris. Within the next two years, almost all beaches in Europe were accorded the Blue Flag certification. This campaign spread outside Europe, to South Africa, in 2001. 

    Asia remains untouched by it till date. The environment ministry started a pilot project to develop the Indian beaches according to the Blue Flag standards in December 2017. 

    This project has two main aims. Firstly, to improve the aquatic habitat by cleaning the growing pollution and garbage in the Indian beaches. Secondly, to develop ecological tourism with constant progress and development of tourist facilities. 

    According to ministry sources, Chandrabhaga beach of Odisha's Konark coast was the first to complete the tag certification process. It will be awarded the honour on the World Environment Day on June 5. Maharashtra's Chiwla and Bhogave beaches are also being made a part of this initiative. Apart from these, one beach from Puducherry, Goa, Daman and Diu, Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar Islands each has been chosen as Blue Flag beach. 

  • Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan receives LNG KANO from Russia's Gazprom at Dahej in Gujarat
    Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on 4th June received LNG KANO, the first long term LNG cargo from Russia's Gazprom at Dahej in Gujarat. Mr. Dharmendra Pradhan said that the arrival of cargo marks a milestone in India-Russia energy ties and has built another strong bridge of bilateral friendship. 

    According to Dharmendra Pradhan, long term LNG contract between Gail India and Gazprom for supply of 2.85 MMTPA of LNG not only adds a new dimension in the hydrocarbon engagement between India and Russia, it also diversifies India’s energy sourcing and is a significant boost to our energy security. 

    The Minister said that India has big scope of gas market and Gujarat is the example of it. He added, Gujarat’s energy basket has gas portion of 26% against 6-8% nationwide. He said, Gas based energy is cheaper, environment friendly and convenient. 

    This is the 3rd long term supply contract by Gail India this year resulting in availability of additional gas for India. LNG sourced gas will be used to develop the natural gas market in India and increase the contribution of Natural gas to 15% in India’s energy basket. 

  • Women and Child Development Ministry proposes amendments in Indecent Representation of Women Act (IRWA) – 1986
    Women and Child Development Ministry has proposed amendments in Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act (IRWA)- 1986 keeping in mind the recent technological advancement in the field of communications. 

    The Ministry has proposed amendment in definition of term advertisement to include digital and electronic forms or hoardings, or through SMS and MMS. It has also suggested creation of a Centralised Authority under the aegis of National Commission of Women. 

    This Authority will have representatives from Advertising Standards Council of India, Press Council of India, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and one member having experience of working on women issues. 

    It will be authorized to receive complaints or grievances regarding any programme or advertisement broadcast or publication and examine all matters relating to the indecent representation of women. 

    Currently, the Act prohibits indecent representation of women through advertisements, publications, writings, paintings, figures or in any other manner. 

    Since the enactment of the Act, technological revolution has resulted in the development of new forms of communication like Internet, multi-media messaging, cable television and applications including Skype, WhatsApp and Instagram. 

    In view of this, it has been decided to widen the scope of the law to cover such forms of media on one hand and to strengthen the existing safeguards to prevent indecent representation of women. 

  • Two-day conference of Governors commences at Rashtrapati Bhavan
    The two-day Conference of Governors and Lt. Governors commenced on 4th June at Rashtrapati Bhavan with the inaugural address of President Ram Nath Kovind. This is the 49th such Conference held in Rashtrapati Bhavan and the second Conference presided over by President Ram Nath Kovind. 

    Addressing the conference President Ram Nath kovind said that Central focus of this year's Conference has been to sensitize about programmes being implemented for the benefit of fellow citizens to hold an in depth discussion on these programmes. 

    The President added that government of India has decided to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi over a 24-month period commencing October 2, 2018. This Conference has an entire session dedicated to discussing the commemoration of the 150th birth anniversary of the Father of the Nation. 

    President also asked governors to provide the necessary impetus and inspiration to universities. 69% of all universities in the country come under the purview of state governments. About 94% of students enrolled for higher education study in these universities. 

    He added that 115 Aspirational Districts, across various states, have committed themselves to speedy development. 

  • Government forms 3 key panels for museum of Prime Ministers Project
    In a major push towards setting up a unique museum in Delhi on the 'Prime Ministers of India', the Culture Ministry has formed three high-powered panels that will work to implement the project. 

    Of the three committees, one will focus on project implementation, while the other two will concentrate on choice and development of content for the one-of-its-kind museum. 

    The Ministry has been planning to set up a modern museum that will tell the story of all the Prime Ministers of the country at the premises of the iconic Teen Murti Estate, which was the official residence of first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. 

  • Uttar Pradesh government prepares to implement One Nation One Election formula in state
    Uttar Pradesh government has prepared a report to implement One Nation One Election formula in the state. A high level seven member electoral reform Committee headed by State Government Spokesperson and Health minister Sidharth Nath Singh submitted its report to the Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in this regard. The Committee has suggested that the formula can be implemented in two phases. 

    The State Government had set up a seven-member electoral reform committee in the month of April 2018 to look at the possibility of having simultaneous elections in the state and having a common electoral roll for all elections. 

    The committee was also asked to explore possibility to link the electoral roll to Aadhaar. Mr Adityanath said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has started a campaign for all elections to be held at the same time so that five years are not spent only on elections. 

    The Chief Minister said, polls of state governments, Lok Sabha and bypolls at different times hamper development due to the model code of conduct being in place and deployment of election staff and security personnel. 

  • Centre not to file counter-affidavit on Article 35A
    The Centre has decided not to file any “counter-affidavit” on Article 35A, which has been challenged in the Supreme Court through a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition. 

    Article 35A allows the Jammu and Kashmir legislature to decide the “permanent residents” of the State, prohibits a non-State resident from buying property in the State and ensures reservation in employment for residents. The Supreme Court has scheduled further hearing for August 6. 

    Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and the former Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, had objected to any tinkering with the provision. 

    Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal informed the court in 2017 of the Centre’s decision not to file any counter-affidavit. The Supreme Court gave an order stating the same. The official said the Centre would stick to the order, though it was an interim one. 

    On July 17, 2017, the court recorded: “Learned Attorney General, representing the Union of India, states that a conscious decision has been taken not to file any counter-affidavit in this case because the issues, which are raised for adjudication, are pure questions of law.” 

    Article 35A was incorporated into the Constitution by an order of the then President Rajendra Prasad on the advice of the Jawaharlal Nehru Cabinet in 1954. It grants a special status to Jammu and Kashmir. 

    The Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order followed the 1952 Delhi Agreement between Nehru and the then Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Sheikh Abdullah, which extended Indian citizenship to the ‘State subjects’ of Jammu and Kashmir. 

  • India records 22-per cent reduction in maternal mortality ratio since 2013
    India has registered a significant decline in Maternal Mortality Ratio, MMR recording a 22-per cent reduction in such deaths since 2013. 

    According to the Sample Registration System (SRS) bulletin released, the MMR has declined from 167 in 2011-2013 to 130 in 2014-2016. 

    According to a Health Ministry statement, every day 30 more pregnant women are now being saved in India as compared to 2013. The MMR is defined as the proportion of maternal deaths per one lakh live births. 

  • Approval for implementation Solar PV (Photo Voltaic) Application Programme
    The Cabinet has approved the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) Continuation Programme (Phase 6) and funding of thirty PSLV operational flights under the Programme. 

    The Programme will also meet the launch requirement of satellites for Earth observation, Navigation and Space Sciences. This will also ensure the continuity of production in Indian industry. 

    The total fund requirement is six thousand 131 Crores rupees and includes the cost of thirty PSLV vehicles, essential facility augmentation, Programme Management and Launch Campaign. 

    The PSLV Continuation Programme - Phase 6 will meet the demand for the launch of satellites at a frequency up to eight launches per year, with maximal participation by the Indian industry. All the operational flights would be completed during the period 2019 to 2024. 

  • Centre formulates Atal Bhujal Yojana to address criticality of ground water resources
    Centre has formulated an Atal Bhujal Yojana to address the criticality of ground water resources in a major part of the country. According to the Water Resource Ministry, the scheme proposal has already been recommended by the Expenditure Finance Committee and the Ministry will be seeking Cabinet approval for the project. World Bank has approved six thousand crore rupees for this scheme. 

    The scheme aims to improve ground water management in priority areas in the country through community participation. 

    The priority areas identified under the scheme fall in Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. These States represent about 25 per cent of the total number of over-exploited, critical and semi-critical blocks in terms of ground water in India. 

    The Ministry said, funds under the scheme will be provided to the states for strengthening the institutions responsible for ground water governance, as well as for encouraging community involvement for improving ground water management to foster behavioural changes that promote conservation and efficient use of water. 

  • Election Commission launches its online RTI Portal
    The Election Commission of India has launched its online RTI Portal. The portal - rti.eci.nic.in will facilitate applicants seeking information under the Right to Information Act. There is online facility to make payment for requisite fees under the RTI Act. 

    The portal also facilitates online reply to applications and also for making first appeal and reply thereto. There will be timely notification alerts to the RTI applicant via SMS and E-Mail. 

    The portal also can be accessed on the Home Page of the Commission’s website - eci.nic.in by clicking on Online RTI. The offline mode of applications will also simultaneously continue. 

  • Home Minister Rajnath Singh announces setting up of new border battalions
    The Home Minister also interacted with the people displaced due to shelling along the border and reviewed the condition of the border people. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh visited R.S. Pura Sector along the Indo-Pak International Border in Jammu. 

    He took stock of the prevailing security situation in wake of escalated tension along the border and subsequent shelling during ceasefire violations. 

    The Home Minister also interacted with the people displaced due to shelling along the border and reviewed the condition of the border people. 

    Earlier, the Union Home Minister announced new measures to beef up security in border areas including setting up of nine new Border battalions, in which 60% locals will be given preference. 

    He said this after meeting various delegations including representatives of 'Gujjar' community in Kupwara in Jammu and Kashmir. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and MoS PMO Jitendra Singh were also present. 

  • Groundwater in 16 States found to be contaminated by uranium
    Aquifers in as many as 16 States in the country are contaminated by uranium, whose presence in drinking water has been linked to chronic kidney disease by several studies, a recent study has shown. More importantly, uranium doesn’t figure on the list of contaminants monitored under the Bureau of Indian Standards’ drinking water specifications. 

    The main source of this contamination is natural, but groundwater depletion by extensive withdrawal of water for irrigation and nitrite pollution due to the excessive use of nitrogenous fertilisers may be exacerbating the problem, said the study. 

    The study was carried out by a team of researchers led by Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University in the US. 

    The team, which also included experts from the Central Ground Water Board, the Rajasthan government’s Ground Water Department and Gujarat Water Resources Development Corporation, analysed groundwater samples from 226 locations in Rajasthan and 98 in Gujarat. 

    The WHO has set 30 parts per billion as the provisional safe drinking water standard for uranium. The study appeared in a recent issue of the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters. 

    The scientists, who analysed data from 68 previous studies of groundwater geochemistry in Rajasthan, Gujarat and 14 other states, also found the problem is widespread in many aquifers in 26 districts in northern States such as Punjab and Haryana as well as some districts in southern and eastern States. 
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