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November 2017 National Affairs

  • Only ‘Made in India’ equipment for BharatNet: Govt
    The government on 12th November said that after the telecom revolution in India, the BharatNet project will be the biggest user of ‘Made in India’ equipment, “ruggedised” to suit the Indian rural conditions. 

    Both the fibre and the Gigabit-capable Passive Optical Networks (GPON) equipment are fully made in India with C-DOT (Centre for Development of Telematics technology

    No foreign companies will be allowed in the future as well, that it will be all ‘Made in India’ equipment — GPON, optical line terminals, and optical network terminal — for broadband connections. 

    Companies working for the BharatNet project include Paramount, Sterlite and Tejas. Telcos Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio, Vodafone India and Idea have also expressed interest in providing last-mile connectivity on BharatNet infrastructure

    The first phase of BharatNet is on track and will be completed by December, which will then connect one lakh gram panchayats (around three lakh villages). And, once the second phase is also complete (by March 2019), the project will contribute a lot to the country’s growth

    Kerala, Karnataka and Haryana have already achieved BharatNet connectivity. A 10 per cent increase in Internet usage in India will lead to a 3.3 per cent increase in GDP. That means around Rs. 4.5 lakh crore can be potentially added to GDP once this network reaches all institutions and individuals on completion of phase-II

    “In the first phase, the project has done around 1 lakh km per year and that means in the last three years it has been done done 3 lakh km. This means 10 per cent fibre footprint to the country per year through BharatNet

    India is laying around 250 km of fibre per day, but to complete the BharatNet project by 2019 the government needs to lay 500 km per day. 

    The government is also investing in setting up Wi-Fi hotspots through which it expects to cover 100 million citizens by 2020. Currently, India has around 36,000 Wi-Fi spots. There will be two-three hotspots per gram panchayat. It is expected this project to be complete by 2018. 

    A memorandum of understanding will be signed with seven States — Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Jharkhand — on 13th November for implementation of BharatNet phase-II. 

  • Government launches BharatNet phase 2 project
    To provide high-speed broadband service in all Gram Panchayats by March 2019, government on 13th November launched its second and final phase of BharatNet project. It will be implemented at an outlay of around 34 thousand crore rupees. 

    Department of Telecommunications (DoT) signed MoUs with states for the implementation of the second phase of BharatNet. Under this phase, broadband connectivity will be provided in remaining 1.5 lakh Gram Panchayats in the country. 

    Broadband infrastructure on Optical Fibre network has been made available in more than one lakh Gram Panchayats as part of BharatNet Phase-1 and by December this year, all these Panchayats will be operational on the BharatNet infrastructure. Almost 90 thousand installations have been completed and broadband services are expected to commence in 80 thousand Gram Panchayats soon. 

  • Lucknow most polluted city in the country
    In Uttar Pradesh, pollution level on 14th November reached at dangerous mark in almost all major cities while state capital Lucknow was most polluted city in the country. 

    As per central pollution control board's report, pollution level in Lucknow was 484 AQI on 14th November which was highest in the country, making it difficult for people to breath in state capital. 

    Many other cities were also in top ten polluted cities of the country. As per the report pollution lavel in Ghaziabad was 467AQI, in Noida it was 410 AQI, in Varanasi 400 AQI, and in kanpur it was 448 AQI, on 14th November. 

  • Delhi Cabinet nod for doorstep delivery of public services
    Government services will soon be available at the doorsteps of Delhi residents with the State Cabinet approving a proposal in this regard on 17th November. 

    Giving details of the scheme, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said the scheme would enable citizens to get government services at their doorstep just with a call to the call centre. 

    No citizen of Delhi will have to stand in queues to get their job done for the 40 services listed under the scheme on the day of the rollout in the next two-three months. 

    The Doorstep Delivery of Public Services aims to extend government services beyond counter at citizens’ residence through mobile sahayaks at a pre-fixed facilitation fee and a pre-scheduled date and time through the call centre. 

    The mobile sahayak shall collect any physical documents, if required, for availing the said service and deposit the same with the concerned department. 

  • India sets Guinness World Record by cooking 918 kg khichdi
    A three day World Mega Food India event concluding in New Delhi on 4th November with India setting a Guinness world record by cooking 918 kg khichdi, a traditional multi-grain dish. 

    The global food event was aimed at transforming the food economy and realizing the vision of doubling of farmers’ income by establishing India as a preferred investment destination and sourcing hub. 

    This was the first time that India hosted such an event for the food processing sector to strengthen its position as a global food factory. 

    Around two thousand participants from 30 countries, nearly 50 global CEOs and representatives of all state governments participated in the event. 

    Germany, Japan and Denmark were the partner countries. Chef Sanjeev Kapoor showcased Indian and foreign cuisines using Indian ingredients, flavours and fragrances to celebrate India's rich cultural heritage. 

    Inaugurating the event, Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited foreign investors to be a part of India's exciting growth journey in food processing sector. 

  • Indian Army launches Joint Training Node in Shillong
    Aiming to host foreign armies in joint exercises, the Indian Army on 4th November launched an independent and fully-integrated Joint Training Node (JTN) at Umroi cantonment in Shillong. The JTN is the first of its kind in eastern command and is different from other joint training centres in Belgaum, Varangte and Bakloh. The concept was envisaged keeping in mind the conducive weather terrain offering optimal training environment, and has been developed at par with training centres of leading armies of the world. The JTN is ready to host the Bangladesh Army, and exercises with Myanmar and Chinese armies are planned for next year. 

    The Army has chosen the Umroi cantonment for the JTN keeping mind its proximity to Guwahati and the Shillong airports. He said, the JTN will pave away for projecting the states of Meghalaya and Assam on the world map of foreign armies. 

  • Railways launches world's tallest rail bridge on Katra Banihal section over Chenab River
    Work on erecting the foundation pillars of the Chenab Bridge – designed as the world's tallest rail bridge connecting the critical Katra-Banihal section of the Udhampur Srinagar Baramulla Rail Line (USBRL) project – has been completed. In the presence of new Railway Board (Engineering) member MK Gupta on 6th November, the challenging task of putting up the steel arch was inaugurated. 

    At three-hundred-fifty-nine metres above the river bed, the Chenab Bridge will approximately be five times higher than Delhi's Qutub Minar and 35 metres higher than the Eiffel tower. Once complete, the all-weather train journey from Jammu to Srinagar will be completed in approximately five and a half hours – dashing across the Chenab River at a design speed of 100 kilometres/hour. The torturous and bone-jangling road journey between the two cities takes an excruciating 12 hours. 

  • IMA declares ‘public health emergency state’ in Delhi
    In view of the deteriorating air quality of the capital, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) on 7th November declared ‘public health emergency state’ in Delhi. IMA president Dr K K Aggarwal requested people to avoid stepping out and asked schools to remain closed

    The medical body also requested Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to cancel Delhi Half Marathon scheduled for November 19. The city saw a sharp fall in air quality with various places, including India Gate and Rajpath, enveloped in thick smog. 

    The city’s air saw a huge rise in air pollutants – PM2.5, PM10 — which was counted at 452 and 336, respectively. As per the international standards, the permissible range for PM2.5 is 25. 

  • Rajnath Singh reviews development plans for nine islands
    From promoting the tuna fishing industry in Lakshadweep to the joint use of Shibpur Naval air station in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on 8th November reviewed the concept development plans and detailed master plans for the holistic development of nine islands by the Island Development Agency (IDA). The nine include four in Andaman and Nicobar Islands (Smith, Ross, Long, Avis) and five part of Lakshadweep (Minicoy, Bangaram, Thinnakara, Cheriyam, Suheli). 

    The project piloted by NITI Aayog aims to implement development based on a sustainable approach to build a thriving maritime economy of the islands. 

    This was the second IDA meeting and Singh expressed satisfaction at the progress to identify and execute infrastructure and connectivity projects. 

  • Central Cabinet approves appointment of 2nd National Judicial Pay Commission 
    Union Cabinet ON 10th November approved appointment of second National Judicial Pay Commission for Subordinate Judiciary in the country. The Commission will be chaired by Justice (Retd) P.Venkatrama Reddi and will make its recommendations to the states preferably within 18 months. 

    It will examine the present structure of emoluments and conditions of service of Judicial Officers in the States and Union Territories. 

    The Commission also aims at making the pay scales and conditions of service of Judicial Officers uniform throughout the country. 

    The Cabinet also approved the creation of National Testing Agency (NTA) as an autonomous and self-sustained premier organization to conduct entrance examinations for higher educational institutions. Other examinations will be taken up gradually after the NTA is fully geared up. 

  • Home Ministry sets up two new divisions to deal with radicalisation and cyber crime
    The Union Home Ministry, as part of an administrative rejig, has formed two new divisions to exclusively deal with emerging security challenges such as radicalisation and cyber crime. 

    The two divisions called Counter-Terrorism and Counter-Radicalisation (CTCR) and the Cyber and Information Security (CIS) also encompass merger of some of the Ministry's existing divisions. 

    The CTCR wing, which is basically modified version of the Home Ministry's internal security-II division, will focus on tracking and assessing the online reach of global terrorist outfits and devising strategies to counter their propaganda. The CIS division will monitor online crimes and threats, including cyber fraud and hacking, and suggest ways to minimise and fight them. 

    The need for a counter-radicalisation division and policy was felt as Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh was keen that the problem should be solved from the base. 

    The Ministry's judicial division and centre-state divisions are also being rolled into one, as are international cooperation and public grievances divisions. The Home Ministry will continue to have 18 divisions, each headed by a joint-secretary level officer. 

  • Parliamentary panel to examine operational preparedness of armed forces
    A parliamentary panel will examine the operational preparedness of the armed forces and review the accidents involving strategic defence assets. 

    The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence, headed by BJP MP B C Khanduri, will also assess the procurement policy relating to defence equipment. 

    According to a Lok Sabha bulletin the issue of preparedness of the armed forces is likely to be discussed in the next meeting of the panel

    The committee has also decided to "critically review" the accidents involving strategic defence assets and look into the quality of ration given to the forces especially in border areas. 

  • Apex court to set up Constitution Bench to hear pleas against Aadhaar
    The Supreme Court has said, a constitution bench will be set up to hear a clutch of petitions challenging the Centre's decision to make Aadhaar mandatory for availing various services and government welfare schemes. A bench, comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said that the larger bench will commence hearing on these petitions in the last week of November this year. 

    Recently, a nine-judge Constitution bench had held that the Right to Privacy was a Fundamental Right under the Constitution. Several petitioners challenging the validity of Aadhaar had raised the issue that the scheme was violative of privacy rights. 

  • Govt should ratify UN convention for extraditing criminals from foreign countries: Law Commission
    The Law Commission has said the government should ratify a UN convention to tide over difficulties in extraditing criminals from foreign countries due to the absence of a law preventing harsh treatment by authorities. 

    It also said that a bill should be introduced in Parliament to amend various laws to prevent torture by government officials, in case the government decides to ratify the UN convention on torture and other inhuman treatment. 

    The draft 'Prevention of Torture Bill, 2017' proposes "stringent punishment" to perpetrators to curb the menace of torture and to have a deterrent effect on acts of torture. The punishment could extend up to life imprisonment and include a fine. 

    The report submitted to the law ministry said the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 require amendments to accommodate provisions regarding compensation and burden of proof. 

    It recommended an amendment to section 357B to incorporate payment of compensation, in addition to the payment of fine provided in the Indian Penal. 

    The report also said, an effective mechanism must be put in place to protect victims of torture, complainants and witnesses against possible threats, violence or ill treatment. 

    The Commission recommended the State own the responsibility for injuries caused by its agents on citizens. In July this year, the Centre had asked the panel to examine the issue of ratifying the convention after a writ petition was filed in a court. 

  • India tops list of new tuberculosis cases in 2016
    India has topped the list of seven countries, accounting for 64 per cent of the over 10 million new tuberculosis (TB) cases worldwide last year. 

    According to the Global TB Report 2017 released by WHO, India was followed by Indonesia, China, Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria and South Africa. 

    The report said, an estimated 1.7 million people died from TB last year, including nearly 4 lakh people who were co-infected with HIV, recording a drop by 4 per cent as compared to 2015. 

    It also said, India along with China and Russia accounted for almost half of around 5 lakh multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) cases registered in 2016. 

  • Supreme Court favours setting up special courts to deal with criminal cases involving politicians
    The Supreme Court on 1st November favoured creation of special courts to exclusively deal with criminal cases involving politicians and their speedy disposal, saying such a move would be in the interest of the nation. 

    Hearing a bunch of petitions, the apex court directed the Centre to place before it a scheme in this regard within six weeks. 

    It asked the Centre about the 1,581 cases involving MPs and MLAs, as declared by the politicians at the time of filing of their nominations during the 2014 elections, and the details of how many of them have been disposed of within one year as per its directions passed in 2014. 

    A bench comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Navin Sinha made the remarks after the Centre said decriminalisation of politics has to be done. 

    Additional Solicitor General Atmaram Nadkarni, representing the Centre, told the bench that the government is not averse to setting up of special courts for quick and early disposal of criminal cases involving politicians. 

    He said, recommendations of the Election Commission of India and the Law Commission favouring life-time disqualification of politicians convicted in criminal cases was under the active consideration of the Centre. 

    The bench directed the Centre to place before it the scheme for setting up of such special courts and also indicate the amount of funds that could be earmarked for the purpose. 

    The apex court asked the government to place these details before it within six weeks and fixed the matter for hearing on December 13. 

    The top court was hearing petitions seeking to declare the provisions of the Representation of People (RP) Act, which bar convicted politicians from contesting elections for six years after serving jail term, as ultra vires to the Constitution. 

  • Delhi government needs Lieutenant Governor's nod, observes Supreme Court
    The Supreme Court 2nd November observed that the Delhi government requires the Lieutenant Governor's nod to govern the national capital. The court indicated that the Lieutenant Governor did appear to have the last word according to the constitution and the elected government would have to operate within this framework. The court however said, the city's administrative head also cannot sit on files beyond a reasonable period. 

    The observations came on a petition by the AAP government against a court verdict that held the Lieutenant Governor was the national capital's boss. 

    The five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, and consisting of Justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan said, law is very clear at present that LG partially enjoys delegated powers of President and partially he has to work in aid and advice of council of ministers. If there is a difference of opinion, then he may refer the matter to the President for early resolution. 

    The AAP government had in February told the Supreme Court that it has exclusive executive powers on matters within the ambit of the Legislative Assembly and neither the Centre nor the President or the Lieutenant Governor can encroach upon these. 

    It had said that the constitution has given a face and identity to a government in Delhi with Article 239AA and the executive decisions taken and implemented by it cannot be reversed by the Lieutenant Governor.The matter will next be heard on 7th November. 

  • Border Roads Organisation builds world’s highest motorable road in Ladakh
    In a major feat, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has constructed the world’s highest motorable road in Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir, passing through Umlingla Top at a height of over 19,300 feet. The feat was achieved under Project Himank of the organisation. 

    Being close to Hanle, the 86km long strategic road connects Chisumle and Demchok villages, located 230 Kms from Leh. These villages are very near from the Indo-China border in eastern sector. 

  • Tribal farmers in Rajasthan take pledge to preserve indigenous practices
    Hundreds of farmers from the tribal belt of southern Rajasthan took a pledge to preserve their indigenous agricultural practices and stop using chemical fertilisers and pesticides in their fields at a massive “tribal conclave” organised in Banswara earlier this week. The event laid focus on sustainable farming through rain-fed agriculture and safeguarding of forest, land and seeds. 

    The conclave was held at the historic Tripura Sundari temple in Umrai village of Banswara district to consolidate the findings of a fortnight-long Janjatiya Kisan Swaraj Yatra taken out as an outreach tour in the Vagad region, comprising Banswara and Dungarpur districts, last month. Farmers taking part in the yatra, which covered 101 villages, claimed their inalienable right on natural resources. 

    Tribal farmers addressing the conclave threw light on their struggle for self-reliance by applying their indigenous knowledge to agricultural practices in order to reap their benefits. The samples of soil, seeds and water from different tribal areas and the local produces, including fruits and vegetables, especially attracted the participants. 

    The nutritional value of vegetables such as rajan, dhimada, jhumka, arri and ragi, grown in the Vagad region, was highlighted on the occasion through their display, while the farmers were asked to make use of minor foograins such as kuri, kodra, bati, baota, kang, cheena, hama, hamli and gujro, which are on the verge of extinction. 

    The main organisers of the yatra and the conclave were Banswara-based Vaagdhara group and the Revitalising Rainfed Agriculture (RRA) Network. Vaagdhara secretary Jayesh Joshi said there was a need to promote the natural rain-fed agricultural techniques which could save the uncultivated nutritious food and make tribal farmers self-sufficient.
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