Current Affairs Current Affairs - 4 March 2015 - Vikalp Education

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Current Affairs - 4 March 2015

Five Indian women on Forbes billionaire list

  • Five Indian women have made it to the Forbes list of the world's billionaires that saw a record number of women this year, although they still account for just about 11 per cent of the total.

    The number of Indian women in this year's list witnessed an increase over last year, when only two Indian women were included on the Forbes billionaire list.

    Globally also the number of women in the coveted rich list reached a record high. Of the total 1,826 billionaires, 197 are women, up from 172 in 2014; but women still account for just a small percentage -- 11 per cent of the total.

    Among Indian women, Savitri Jindal & family was ranked 283 on the list with a networth of USD 5.3 billion in 2015, up from USD 4.9 billion in 2014. After a 3-year decline Savitri Jindal's O.P. Jindal group, which she chairs, has revived.

    Indu Jain who chairs media conglomerate Bennett Coleman & Co, was placed at the 603 rank globally. Her networth stands at USD 3.1 billion.

    Meanwhile, after a three year hiatus, Anu Aga regained her billionaire status on a jump in shares of engineering firm Thermax, in which she owns 62 per cent. Anu Aga was ranked 1,312 on the list with a fortune of USD 1.5 billion.

    Others on the list include Vinod Gupta ranked 1,533 with a fortune of USD 1.2 billion. Wife of Qimat Rai Gupta, who died in November 2014, debuts on the Forbes Billionaires List after shares of Havells India rose 74 per cent in the past year, spurred by rising profits.

    Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, the founder of Biocon -- India's largest publicly traded biopharma firm which she built from a garage startup into a maker of drugs for diseases such as cancer and diabetes -- was placed at the 1,741 rank with a fortune of USD 1 billion.

    Globally, Christy Walton, who inherited a stake in retailer Wal-Mart, retained the title of world's richest woman at USD 41.7 billion, followed by Liliane Bettencourt, the principal heiress to the L'Oreal cosmetics fortune in the second place with USD 40.7 billion.

    The third richest woman is Alice Walton (USD 39.4 billion), daughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton and sister-in -law to Christy Walton.

    Forbes, noted that many of the women among the billionaires ranks inherited their wealth from either their husbands or their fathers, while just 29 of the 197 women are self-made billionaires.

‘Shipping Samvad’ launched
  • Union Minister of Shipping, Road Transport & Highways Shri Nitin Gadkari launched a website “Shipping Samvad” here today. The objective of the website is to invite innovative ideas and suggestions from general public and experts related to Indian maritime sector for improvements in the shipping, ports and inland waterways sector. The ideas and suggestions submitted through this portal will be further examined for implementation by Ministry of Shipping and the workable ideas and suggestions will be published on this website. The Ministry of Shipping will also select the best five contributions in the year. 

    The Ministry will also upload the draft policies/new initiatives from time to time on the portal for the valuable suggestions/feedback from the citizen. This will help Ministry of Shipping in bringing transparency and blue revolution in the country. The initiative is meant to engage the experts and common public in the development of Shipping, Ports and Inland Waterways in India and will provide impetus to the Ministry of Shipping in its efforts.

Gorilla origins of two AIDS virus lineages confirmed: Study
  • Two of the four known groups of human AIDS viruses originated in western lowland gorillas in Cameroon, scientists said.

    The virus that causes almost all the cases of AIDS worldwide, called HIV-1, has jumped species to infect humans on at least four separate occasions, generating four HIV-1 lineages—groups M, N, O, and P, Xinhua reported on Monday.

    Previous research has found that groups M and N originated in geographically distinct chimpanzee communities in southern Cameroon, but the origins of groups O and P remained uncertain.

    The new study, published in the U.S. journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, conducted a comprehensive survey of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) infection in African gorillas.

    The scientists screened faecal samples from western lowland gorillas, eastern lowland gorillas, and mountain gorillas in Cameroon, Gabon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda for the presence of SIVs that are thought to be the precursors of HIV-1.

    They identified four field sites in southern Cameroon where western lowland gorillas harbour SIVs.

    “Viral sequencing revealed a high degree of genetic diversity among the different gorilla samples,” said co-author Professor Beatrice Hahn of Pennsylvania University in a statement. “Two of the gorilla virus lineages were particularly closely related to HIV—1 groups O and P. This told us that these two groups originated in western lowland gorillas.”

    Martine Peeters of the University of Montpellier in France, who led the study, said the finding is critical to gauge future human infection risks. “From this study and others that our team has conducted in the past, it has become clear that both chimpanzees and gorillas harbour viruses that are capable of crossing the species barrier to humans and have the potential to cause major disease outbreaks,” Mr. Peeters added.

    HIV-1’s four known groups have had very different outcomes in humans. Group M gave rise to the AIDS pandemic, infecting more than 40 million people worldwide by spreading across Africa and throughout the rest of the world.

    Groups N and P, at the other extreme, have only been found in a few individuals from Cameroon. But group O, although not as widespread and prevalent as group M, has nonetheless infected about 100,000 people in Africa.

    Another virus type, called HIV—2, also causes AIDS, but is endemic only in West Africa.

Revision of National Health Policy
  • The health status of the population especially that of rural population requires improvement. However, the condition of the health services in rural areas of the country has improved after the launch of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). 

    As per National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) 2004-05, the health worker density in rural areas is 11.74 per 10,000 populations while in urban areas, the density is 40.46 per 10,000 populations. As per the 2011 National Health Profile, there are 1, 60,862 hospital beds in rural areas out of the total 7, 84,940 hospital beds available in the country. 

    Public health being a state subject, the primary responsibility to provide health care facilities lies with the state governments. To address the healthcare challenges, particularly in rural areas, the NRHM was launched in 2005 to supplement the efforts of the State/UT governments to provide accessible, affordable and quality healthcare. The NRHM has now been subsumed under the National Health Mission (NHM) as its sub-mission, along with National Urban Health Mission (NUHM) as the other sub-mission. 

    Under NRHM, high focus States that are economically and socially backward and have poor health indices are provided with higher per capita allocation as compared to rest of the states. Further, within the States, to ensure equitable healthcare and to bring about sharper improvements in health outcomes, a systematic effort to effectively address the intrastate disparities in health outcomes has been undertaken. At least 25% of all districts in each state have been identified as “High Priority Districts” based on a composite health index. All tribal districts which are below the state’s average of composite health index have also been included as high priority districts. These districts receive higher per capita funding, enhanced monitoring and focused supportive supervision, and are supported to adopt innovative approaches to address their special healthcare challenges. 

    Under NHM, financial support is provided to States to strengthen their health care systems including support for infrastructure, equipment, human resource and other resources based on the requirements posed by the States in their Programme Implementation Plans. Besides the support for medical human resource, support is also provided for programme managers, finance managers and accountants, data managers etc for effective programme implementation. 

Defence Organisation Under the Purview of RTI
  • Right to Information Act, 2005 is applicable to any authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted by or under the Constitution of India; by any other law made by Parliament; by any other law made by State Legislature; by notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government and includes (i) anybody owned, controlled or substantially financed; (ii) non-Government Organization substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government. Further, no provisions of the RTI Act shall apply to the intelligence and security organizations specified in the second schedule of the Act, being organizations established by the Central Government or any information furnished by such organizations to that Government provided that the information pertaining to the allegations of corruptions and human rights violations shall not be excluded. Two organizations of the Ministry of Defence namely, Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and Border Roads Development Board (BRDB) are placed in the second schedule of the RTI Act, 2005. 

    As per available information, no notice of Supreme Court regarding applicability of RTI Act on Defence organizations has been received.

Mukesh Ambani Richest Indian For 8th Yr Globally
  • Among The 90 Indians On The Forbes Rich List 2015, Ambani (39th Globally) Is Closely Followed By Pharma Tycoon Dilip Shanghvi (44th Rank With $20 Bn Networth) And Azim Premji

    New York : Mukesh Ambani has retained his position as the richest Indian for the eighth year in a row with a networth of USD 21 billion, while moving up one place on the global rich list that has been topped once again by software czar Bill Gates, reports PTI.

    Among the 90 Indians on the Forbes Rich List 2015, published on Monday, Ambani (39th globally) is closely followed by pharmaceuticals business tycoon Dilip Shanghvi (44th rank with networth of USD 20 billion) and Azim Premji (48th with USD 19.1 billion). Gates with a networth USD 79.2 billion tops Forbes Rich List. This is for the 16th time in the past 21 years the software czar is topping the list.  He is followed by Mexico’s Carlos Slim Helu at the second and legendary American investor Warren Buffett at the third place.

     Announcing the list, Forbes said ranks of the world’s wealthiest defied global economic turmoil and expanded yet again, yielding a record 1,826 billionaires with an aggregate networth of USD 7.05 trillion, up from USD 6.4 trillion a year ago.

    Indians on the list include Shiv Nadar (66th; USD 14.8 billion), Hinduja Brothers (69th; USD 14.5 billion) Lakshmi Mittal (82nd; USD 13.5 billion), Kumar Mangalam Birla (142nd; USD 9 billion), Uday Kotak (185th; USD 7.2 billion), Gautam Adani (208th; USD 6.6 billion), Sunil Mittal (208th; USD 6.6 billion) and Cyrus Poonawalla (208th; USD 6.6 billion).

    Anil Ambani with a networth of USD 4 billion is ranked 418th in the list.  “The total includes 290 newcomers, 71 of whom hail from China,” Forbes said.

    Alibaba’s Jack Ma and three other Chinese are among the the biggest gainers and figure among 50 richest on the list.

    Other Indians on the list include Desh Bandhu Gupta (USD 5.8 billion), Savitri Jindal (USD 5.3 billion), Micky Jagtiani (USD 5.2 billion), Adi Godrej (USD 4.8 billion), Jamshyd Godrej (USD 4.8 billion), Shashi and Ravi Ruia (USD 4.5 billion), Subhash Chandra (USD 4.2 billion) and Benu Gopal Bangur (USD 4.1 billion).

    Forbes said the entrepreneurship is thriving globally and 1,191 members of the list are self-made billionaires, while just 230 inherited their wealth.

     The biggest gainer in terms of wealth is Warren Buffett with an addition of over $14 billion to his wealth, taking his total to $72.7 billion. Larry Ellison, ranked 5th with networth of $54.3 billion, is another big winner. Christy Walton, who inherited a stake in retailer Wal-Mart, has retained the title of world’s richest woman.

New frontier in TB diagnosis
  • WASHINGTON: Easy-to-obtain oral swab samples can significantly improve diagnosis of tuberculosis (TB), new research has found. 

    Detecting the disease with a simple oral swab "could be a game changer for TB control because it could make diagnosis cheaper and easier," said Gerard Cangelosi, professor at the University of Washington. 

    Diagnosing TB conventionally involves collecting and testing a person's sputum - thick, gluey mucus coughed up from the lungs. 

    Working with sputum samples is challenging due to the material's "horribly gloppy" nature, as Cangelosi called it. 

    Sputum can hide pathogens from pathologists because it is difficult to dislodge bacteria from within the mucus' milieu, the study noted. 

    In search of a viable alternative to sputum samples, the scientists swabbed the mouths of 20 healthy individuals and 20 TB patients. 

    Samples from patients with confirmed TB were taken in a clinic in South Africa. The control samples were taken from healthy individuals in Washington state. 

    Lisa Jones-Engel , a research scientist at the University of Washington National Primate Research Center, advised the study team in applying the oral-swab method to human disease. 

    The researchers detected TB in oral swabs taken from 18 of the 20 confirmed patients. None of the samples from healthy volunteers tested positive. 

    Previous efforts to test for TB in materials other than sputum, such as blood, urine or exhaled breath, have been limited by much lower accuracy, with detection rates typically below 50 percent, the study featured in the journal Scientific Reports, pointed out.

Deeply hurt, won't allow telecast of Nirbhaya documentary, says Rajnath Singh
  • Zee Media Bureau
    New Delhi: There is outrage and anger after excerpts of an interview of a December 16 gang-rape convict came into public domain. The interview was taken for a BBC documentary and was to be telecast later this week. However, the government has advised media not to telecast the same and the Delhi Police have also secured a restraining order from a court against telecast of the interview.
    Live updates:
    • Will let the BBC also know about restraining order, they should not run the documentary. We will also work to block the content that is on the Internet - Bassi
    • Prima facie, nothing wrong in granting conditional permission. We don't investigate why an interview was given; we investigate whether content was unlawful in nature - Bassi
    • Content of documentary will be examined and action will be taken accordingly, says Delhi Police Commissioner BS Bassi
    • Airing of documentary would be contempt of court; broadcasting would be against I&B broadcast code - Rathore
    • Conditional interview permission was given by previous government. This entire documentary is against the programming code of I&B Ministry - Rajyavardhan Rathore
    • Separately, Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore says the problem with the documentary is with its language that appears to incite violence against women.
    • Women MPs walk out of Rajya Sabha and later meet Chairman Hamid Ansari.
    • Amid uproar in Rajya Sabha, Home Minister Rajnath Singh says he will get the entire matter investigated and fix responsibility.
    • While I would agree with Javed Akhtar ji that there are men who have views like rapist, there are also men who abhor it - Nirmala Seetharaman
    • The question is how those people got the permission to shoot the documentary - Ambika Soni
    • I don't want any more assurances, I want to know what actions are being taken - Jaya Bachchan
    • Good that this documentary was made. Now we will know how many people are there who think like that rapist - Javed Akhtar
    • Ali Anwar asks, “Why has the rapist not been hanged till now?” Rajnath replies, “This is court's decision, I can't say anything on that.”
    • Will ensure interviews inside jails are not allowed in future and such incidences don't recur - Rajnath
    • I am surprised about the circumstances in which such orders (to shoot the documentary) were given - Rajnath
    • I was deeply hurt by this when I came to know about it yesterday. I spoke to authorities and made sure all steps taken to stop the broadcast - Rajnath
    • Government won't allow anyone to leverage this tragedy - Rajnath
    • It has come to notice that on March 8, 2015, BBC 4 is going to telecast this documentary.
    • Our government condemns the incident of 2012. The government has taken necessary action and secured a court order restraining telecast of film - Rajnath
    • It was noted the film shown was unedited version and not edited. They were required to take approval from Tihar Jail authorities before telecast but did not so - Rajnath
    • Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh is making a suo motu statement in the Rajya Sabha
    • I expressed my anger that such criminals were allowed to give an interview. Such criminals being given even five minutes under the sun is wrong, says Congress leader Ambika Soni
    • Rajya Sabha adjourns briefly following uproar with Opposition demand for action against Tihar Jail authorities for allowing interview of December 16 gang-rape convict
    • We don't need your crocodile tears - Jaya Bachchan to Treasury Benches
    • Also, we will inform the House whatever action the government takes - Naqvi
    • Home Minister has taken cognizance of the issue, rest assured we will take strict action against those who were at fault - Naqvi
    • MoS MA Naqvi says the government is trying to find out how this interview happened
    • I want the government to take action and report to this House - Kurien
    • The convict is now justifying his crime. This is unbelievable - Kurien
    • The question is not about BBC, the interview happened in this country - Kurien
    • Notice reserved but I agree, interview should not have happened - Kurien
    • The matter is sensitive, says Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman PJ Kurien
    • Parliament convenes
    • Senior JD(U) leader KC Tyagi has given a notice to debate the Nirbhaya documentary issue in the Rajya Sabha

Nobel Peace committee demotes controversial chairman
  • The committee, which said the former Norwegian prime minister would remain as a committee member, gave no reason for its decision.
    However the renowned diplomat had drawn sharp criticism shortly after becoming committee chairman in 2009 for awarding the prestigious Nobel to newly elected US President Barack Obama.
    The move stunned the world and the recipient alike, as Obama had been in office less than nine months and the United States was waging simultaneous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
    A year later, the committee also drew Beijing's ire for handing the prize to jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, a move that effectively put Norway-China relations on ice.
    And in 2012 Jagland became the face of a body that handed the award to the increasingly unpopular European Union for its commitment to "peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights", a decision mocked by commentators and former Nobel laureates alike.
    After six years at the helm of the high-profile committee, Jagland will be replaced by current deputy head, Kaci Kullmann Five, the organisation said.
    "There was broad agreement within the committee that Thorbjoern Jagland was a good chair for six years," Kullman Five told reporters.
    "In keeping with tradition, I will not comment on or report what was said during the meeting," she added.
    A former leader of Norway's Labour Party who has served as prime minister, foreign minister and speaker of parliament, Jagland spent much of his career years trying to bolster support for Norway to join the EU.
    The Norwegian Nobel committee is made up of five members appointed by parliament but claims total independence in its decision making.
    Today's announcement means the committee will be steered by a majority of right-wing politicians.

China weighs impact of UN terror convention on ties with Pak
  • A day after backing an India- sponsored move to bring about a comprehensive UN convention against terrorism, a guarded China today skirted questions about its likely impact on ties with close ally Pakistan which is accused of supporting terror groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba.
    Asked about the impact of China's backing to the proposed Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) on relations with Pakistan, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a media briefing that Beijing's decision was part of its willingness to cooperate with the international community on the issue of terrorism.
    In a guarded reply, Hong said foreign ministers of Russia, India and China (RIC) had held in-depth exchanges at their meeting here yesterday on issues of common interest including crackdown on terrorism.
    "On this issue China's stand is consistent and clear. We are willing to carry out cooperation with the international community under principles and purposes of UN charter and other basic norms governing international relations to safeguard peace stability security of whole world," he said without mentioning Pakistan.
    China along with Russia came out in support of the (CCIT), an India-backed resolution which is pending in the UN for the past 19 years.
    Seen as a rebuff to Pakistan, a joint statement issued by RIC foreign ministers called for early conclusion of negotiations on the CCIT.
    "The ministers reiterated that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations committed by whomever, wherever, and for whatever purposes, is a threat to international peace and security, a grave violation of human rights and a crime against humanity," it said.
    "The ministers reiterated that there can be no ideological, religious, political, racial, ethnic, or any other justification for acts of terrorism. They underlined the need to bring to justice perpetrators, organisers, financiers and sponsors of terrorist acts," it said.
    Thanking her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told a joint press conference here after the RIC ministers' meeting that the CCIT calls for comprehensive steps to curb terrorism.
    "RIC foreign ministers have an understating that we can conclude this at the earliest. I thank both of them for accepting this proposal," she said.

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National Events

Cannot ‘close doors’ to Telangana’s plea on Krishna water disputes says SC

    • The Supreme Court 0bserved that it cannot “close its doors” on newly-formed Telangana’s plea for a fresh look at the inter-State sharing of Krishna river water, even as Karnataka, one of the beneficiary States, strongly objected to the re-opening of the five-decade-old dispute.
    •  Telangana has filed a fresh petition in the Supreme Court, contending that its interests were not represented before the Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal – II. It sought total re-consideration of the Tribunal’s final award in December 2010 as it concerned only Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.
    •  It said Telangana, which came into existence only on June 2 this year, did not get an opportunity to raise its “independent grievances”.
    • In August this year, the Supreme Court had prima facie recognised Telangana’s status as an “affected” State with a voice of its own.

SC directed to complete Prosecution of account holders by March 31

    •  The Supreme Court directed the Centre to complete prosecution of black money holders abroad under the Income Tax Act by March 31, 2015.
    •  A Bench of Chief Justice H.L. Dattu and Justices Madan B. Lokur and A.K. Sikri gave this direction to the Centre after senior counsel Anil Divan, appearing for petitioner Ram Jethmalani, said the defaulters and evaders whose names had been disclosed to the SIT would be off the hook if the income tax proceedings were not completed by then.
    •  Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said the Income Tax Act had been amended to extend the period of limitation for launching prosecution.
    •  He said if prosecution could not be completed by the deadline, the law would be suitably amended or appropriate orders passed. He said some people had accepted that they had accounts in foreign banks and paid tax. Proceedings against others were pending.

India a moderate-performing country: report

    •  India has been named a moderate-performing country in combating climate change with Australia being the worst, according to a report released at climate negotiations.
    •  India was ranked 31. “India climbs five places and continues to profit from the very low level of per capita emissions, but overall CO2 emissions have risen constantly over the past five years to about 40 per cent,” said the Climate Change Performance Index 2015 report by Germanwatch and Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe.
    •  Australia was the worst performing industrial country in terms of climate change in 2014. The report by two NGOs said the poor ranking was due in part to policy changes made by the current coalition government.

N. Srinivasan must keep off BCCI meetings: SC

    •  The Supreme Court questioned the “rationale” behind N. Srinivasan stepping aside as BCCI president but attending its meetings as Tamil Nadu Cricket Association president.
    •  “You even attend the meeting of the working committee of the BCCI to delay the BCCI elections.
    •  We understand your passion for the game, but don’t be so passionate,” Justice T.S. Thakur told Mr. Srinivasan’s counsel Kapil Sibal.

RS agree for 49% FDI in insurance

    •  Chairman of the Rajya Sabha Select Committee Chandan Mitra tabled the report on the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2008, recommending a hike in FDI in insurance sector from 26 to 49 per cent.
    •  The report, carrying dissent notes from four of the 15 members, incorporated Congress party’s demand for a composite cap on such investments
    •  The dissenting parties include the Samajwadi Party, Trinamool Congress, Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Janata Dal (United). These parties are opposed to further opening of the insurance sector to foreign investment.
    •  The Union Cabinet that met late in the evening approved the incorporation of amendments suggested by a Parliamentary select panel in the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2008.
    •  Following the Cabinet’s approval, the Bill is expected to come up for consideration and passage in the Rajya Sabha next week.

Modi talked with Putin, discussed defence, energy

    •  Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to further boost cooperation between the two strategic partners in crucial sectors like defence, energy and trade at a time when Russian economy was facing Western sanctions.
    •  Mr. Putin, who arrived, is likely to push for enhancing supply of military hardware to India as well as expansion of bilateral economic engagement in a range of areas.
    •  It is the first annual summit meeting between Mr. Putin and Mr. Modi. The two leaders had met on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Brazil in July and during the G-20 summit in Australia last month.
    •  “The bond between the people of Russia & India is very strong. Our nations have stood by each other through thick and thin,” the Prime Minister said in another tweet.
    •  In his talks with Mr. Modi, both in restricted and delegation level formats, Mr. Putin is likely to seek deeper economic engagement with India with an aim to minimise impact of sanctions against Russia by the US and its Western allies over the Ukraine issue.

RS finalised its Draft report on Insurance Bill

    •  The Rajya Sabha Select Committee finalised its draft report on the Insurance Bill. The report will be tabled in the House, committee chairman Chandan Mitra told.
    •  The Bill seeks to raise foreign direct investment in insurance joint ventures from 26 to 49 per cent. The committee has given time for notes of dissent, if any, to be submitted.
    •  The Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Trinamool Congress are likely to oppose the report. The other two parties which may differ are the Samajwadi Party and the Janata Dal (United).
    •  The Select Committee has 15 members. It is expected that with the three BJP members, three Congress and one member each from the AIADMK, Shiromani Akali Dal and Biju Janata Dal on board, the report will be adopted by majority vote.

States rejected Centre’s GST Bill

    •  The States have rejected the draft Bill for the Goods and Services Tax (GST), dealing a major blow to the Centre’s resolve to roll it out at the earliest.
    •  The Centre-States stalemate has put a question mark over whether the government will be able to introduce the GST Constitution Amendment Bill during the ongoing Winter Session of Parliament.
    •  Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said in the Lok Sabha last month that he would introduce this Bill during the session. The GST rollout has missed several deadlines in the absence of a Centre-States consensus.
    •  At a meeting of the Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers, the States opposed the draft Bill and its proposal to extend the GST to petroleum goods and entry tax.
    •  “Consensus eludes the Centre and the States on the three main issues of compensation, petrol tax and entry tax,” Empowered Committee Chairman Abdul Rahim Rather told presspersons.
    •  He said the Empowered Committee would not support the Centre’s Bill unless it conceded the States’ three demands. The GST will subsume all excise and service taxes.
    •  The States want compensation from the Centre for the revenues they will lose over five years from the shift to the GST regime. They want a clause on the compensation to be inserted into the Bill, Mr. Rather said.
    •  The Centre’s proposed draft does not have such a provision at present. “We were surprised to know that the Centre has only agreed to one of our recommendations,” said Mr. Rather.

NGT stays MoEF clearance for phase 1 of mini-hydel project

    •  The National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) south zone has stayed the clearance given by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) for phase 1 of a mini-hydel power project.
    •  The project was proposed by Sri Maruthi Power Gen (India) Pvt. Ltd., in the reserve forests of Kaginahare and Kenchanakumari in Sakleshpur taluk. The State government had forwarded the project proposal to the MoEF, despite clear opposition from the Forest Department in Karnataka.
    •  Prashanth Y., a wildlife conservation enthusiast of Bengaluru, had moved the tribunal challenging the MoEF’s clearance for the controversial project.
    •  The NGT, in its order dated November 20, stated, “The tribunal is satisfied that a prima facie case is made out for granting an order of interim stay of phase 1 clearance issued by MoEF”, and posted the next hearing on the matter for January 21, 2015. Justice M. Chockalingam and expert member R. Nagendran gave this ruling.
    •  The Karnataka government had sent the proposal in February 2014 for diversion of 10.6897 ha of forest land in favour of the private company to generate 18.9 MW of power.
    •  Dipak Sarmah, the then Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, had recommended rejection of the proposal. However, Forest Minister B. Ramanath Rai and Chief Minister Siddaramaiah are said to be in favour of the project.

Better to ‘Make in India’ primarily for India: Raghuram Rajan

    •  Reserve Bank Governor Raghuram Rajan cautioned the government on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ mantra, suggesting that India would have to look for regional and domestic demand for growth — to make in India primarily for India.
    •  Dr. Rajan said that at this stage, an exports-push strategy for growth would be ineffective; as the industrial world stagnated, many emerging markets were rethinking their export-led growth model, he said. He was delivering the Bharat Ram Memorial Lecture.
    •  “There is a danger when we discuss ‘Make in India’ of assuming it means a focus on manufacturing, an attempt to follow the export-led growth path that China followed … But the world as a whole is unlikely to be able to accommodate another export-led China,” Dr. Rajan said.
    •  Since the global economy was still weak, he argued, it would be much less likely to be able to absorb a substantial additional amount of imports in the foreseeable future.
    •  “Export-led growth will not be as easy for India as it was for the Asian economies that took that path before.”
    •  He also cautioned the Modi government against picking a particular sector such as manufacturing for encouragement, simply because it had worked well for China.

Govt. introduced Bill in LS to amend companies law

    •  The government introduced a Bill in the Lok Sabha to amend the companies law to provide stringent punishment for illegal money pooling activities, among other things.
    •  The Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2014, introduced by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, proposes as many as 14 changes in various provisions of the new companies law, which was passed by the previous UPA regime.
    •  The Bill proposes punishment for illegal money pooling activities, amid rising instances of people getting duped by such fraudulent schemes.

Lok Sabha passes coal mines bill, 2014

    •  The government assured the Lok Sabha that Coal India Ltd., would not be denationalised. “We are in fact strengthening it,” said Union Minister of State for Coal Piyush Goyal while steering The Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill, 2014, through the Lower House with a voice vote.
    •  Though some Opposition parties made out a case for referring the Bill to the Departmental Standing Committee, their resistance to the draft legislation petered out by the time the discussion was wrapped up.
    •  The Opposition strategy appeared to be to force the Bill to a Select Committee in the Rajya Sabha, where it has the strength to do so; using the Lok Sabha merely to voice their reservations, particularly on the end use clause which has “left a door open for discretion.”
    •  With the Opposition questioning the government’s haste in pushing the Bill without scrutiny, Mr. Goyal said such “alacrity” was needed owing to the Supreme Court order cancelling allocation of 204 coal blocks.
      Electricity amendment Bill focuses on renewable energy
    •  The Electricity Amendment Bill 2014, introduced in the Lok Sabha, lays strong emphasis on promoting renewable energy generation in the country while also aiming at increasing accountability and transparency in the functioning of regulatory bodies.
    •  For the first time, the Bill, introduced by Power Minister Piyush Goyal, proposes to make it mandatory for any company establishing lignite and coal-based thermal power plants, to generate renewable energy.
    •  While the amount of renewable energy to be generated by such plants will be decided later, the Bill proposes it to be not less than 10 percent of the total installed capacity of a thermal plant.
    •  The Planning Commission had in March 2011, constituted a working group on power sector reforms. The group had recommended several amendments to the Electricity Act 2003.

Government pushes historic GST tax reform

    •  The Government took the first step towards switching to a Goods and Service Tax (GST) regime by introducing The Constitution (122nd Amendment) Bill in the Lok Sabha amid demands for referring it to a Departmental Standing Committee.
    •  Though in favour of GST, Trinamool Congress opposed the introduction as some concerns of West Bengal were not addressed and the AIADMK followed suit citing irregularities and lacunae.
    •  Introducing the Bill, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley pointed out that the issue had been discussed by a Standing Committee in the past and was non-committal on the Opposition demand.
    •  Assuring MPs that he “would not rush through” the Bill, he indicated that the Government was prepared to wait till the next session to get it passed.
    •  Later, briefing mediapersons, he said in his “personal view” the Bill does not need to be referred to a Standing Committee as it had already gone through the process. He added that the Government was hoping to roll it out in April 2016.
    •  Flagging key issues of concern, Mr. Jaitley said: “Service tax is entirely the Centre’s domain now. It is going to be shared with States. Places like Maharashtra, from where one-third of the national service tax comes, will benefit.

State Cabinet approved draft CRDA Bill

    •  The State Cabinet approved the draft Capital Regional Development Authority (CRDA) Bill with four changes. The Bill will be tabled in the Assembly on December 19.
    •  Besides giving nod to the changes in CRDA Bill, the meeting chaired by Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu also discussed the Debt Redemption Scheme and the strategy to be adopted in the Assembly.
    •  The Cabinet approved transfer of assets and liabilities of Vijayawada-Guntur-Tenali-Mangalagiri Urban Development Authority to the CRDA. The Chief Minister will be chairman of the 14-member CRDA and the Municipal Administration Minister vice chairman.
    •  The CRDA will have Rs. 1000 crore as development fund and Rs. 250 crore as working capital. A detailed master plan for the capital region will be ready in six months.
    •  It is learnt that the Cabinet also approved increase in retirement age of teachers in aided colleges from 58 years to 60 years and from 60 years to 62 years in the universities.
    •  Another important decision taken by the Cabinet is to allow intra-State sale of paddy and also allow export to other States if farmers themselves pay Central Sales Tax.
    •  The Cabinet which discussed various issues during the four-hour meeting approved proposals to fill 4,000 field assistant posts under MNREGA and 6,000 posts in Panchayat Raj departments.

New maritime policy in a month says N. C. Naidu

    •  Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu announced that a new maritime policy to develop the 974-km coastline in the State would be unveiled in a month, saying that the move would give a fillip to industrialisation.
    •  He was speaking on ‘Andhra talks business’ at the CEO and investors’ conclave organised by the Fortune India, in partnership with the State government at Hotel Novotel. Over 100 CEOs, investors and top officials attended the programme.
    •  The session began with the launch of 2014 edition of Fortune India 500 mega issue by Mr. Naidu, along with Managing Director & CEO of ABP Pvt. Ltd D.D. Purkayastha and Fortune India editor D.N. Mukerjea.
    •  Mr. Naidu said the government was developing the State into a mega trade and logistic hub, benchmarked against the business-friendly countries like Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and Dubai and outlined plans to transform AP into a gateway to South East Asia.
    •  He said efforts were on to develop ports at Ramayapatnam, Nakkapalli, Kalingapatnam and other locations and mega cities at Visakhapatnam and Vijayawada. He also referred to fast-track growth focus in five grids viz. power, gas, water, road and fibreoptic.
    •  “In AP, we want internet connection of 15-20 megabyte per second in every household in three years,” he said, adding that IT development would be the backbone of industrialisation.
      India successfully test fires GSLV Mark-III India moved forward in rocket technology with the successful flight testing of its heaviest next generation rocket and the crew module.
    •  Precisely at 9.30 a.m., the 630-tonne Geo
    • synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-Mark III (GSLV Mark-III), standing 43.43-metre tall, freed itself from the second launch pad and with a reverberating deep throated roar, rose into the sky.
    •  With a thick orange flame at its tail, the expendable rocket ascended towards the heavens with one way ticket as its design life span is just around five minutes.
    •  The Rs.155-crore mission has twin purposes. The main purpose is to test the rocket’s atmospheric flight stability with around four tonne luggage.
    •  The second and incidental objective is to study the re-entry characteristics of the crew module — called Crew Module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment — its aero braking and validation of its end-to-end parachute system.
    •  According to an Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) official, it will be of the size of a small bedroom and can accommodate two to three people.
    •  Just over five minutes into the flight, the rocket spat out the giant cup cake shaped 3.7-tonne crew module at an altitude of 126 km.

States to get relief on GST Bill

    •  Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will seek the Cabinet’s nod for the 122nd Constitutional Amendment Bill on the Goods and Services Tax.
    •  The GST will subsume into one levy all indirect taxes imposed by the Centre and the States. These include entry tax. The Minister also proposes to extend the GST to all petroleum products and real estate transactions.
    •  At its last meeting, the Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers had by consensus rejected the Centre’s draft Constitutional Amendment Bill and its proposal to bring petroleum goods and entry tax within the GST ambit.
    •  The States have consistently demanded that the GST regime exclude real estate transactions and stamp duties. On these issues, the Finance Ministry’s new draft Bill does not reflect the Empowered Committee’s position.
    •  The Ministry has, however, inserted into its draft Bill a provision guaranteeing compensation to States for losses of revenues owing to the transition to the GST.

India is third on black money list says report

    •  As India continues its pursuit of suspected black money stashed abroad, an international think-tank has ranked the country third globally with an estimated USD 94.76 billion (nearly Rs 6 lakh crore) illicit wealth outflows in 2012.
    •  Russia is on the top with USD 122.86 billion, followed by China at the second position (USD 249.57 billion) in terms of the quantum of black money moving out of a country for 2012 — the latest year for which these estimates have been made.

Ancient university near Nalanda was founded during Kushan period

    •  Excavation near the ancient Nalanda Institution, Art and Culture department secretary Anand Kishore said, showed that foundation of ‘Tiladhak University’ was laid during the Kushan period in first century AD and not the Gupta period.
    •  This indicates that the Buddhist mahavihara found at the site may be older than the mahavihara at Nalanda and Vikramshila, director of State Archaeology Atul Kumar Verma, who is leading the excavation, said.
    •  The site came into light when the former Bihar Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar, toured the area in 2009. Mr. Kumar, seeing the prospect of its historical importance, had directed Art and Culture department to begin excavation.
    •  The site is located 33 km west of Nalanda University and the Mahavihara in Ekangalsarai block of Nalanda district, the former Chief Minister’s native place.
    •  Chinese Traveller Hsuan-Tsang referred to this mahavihara as “Tilakakiye” in the 7th Century. Literature discovered has confirmed its identity as “Tiladhak” or “Tiladhakay.”
    •  However, officials said that according to Calcutta University’s S. Sanyal, who studied four monastery seals found during excavation, the mahavihara’s name is “Sri Prathamshipur mahaviharey bhikshu sanghas.”

Telangana decided to declare Dec.26 as public holiday

    •  Government of Telangana has issued an order declaring December 26 as a public holiday. Hitherto, it was an optional holiday only.
    •  Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao referred to Boxing Day (December 26) being declared as a public holiday when he addressed the gathering after laying the foundation stone for the ‘Christian Bhavan’.
      Govt. employees under Lokpal Act have to disclose deposits in foreign banks
    •  Amending the rules for voluntary disclosure of assets and liabilities by government employees under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has effected some changes in the form, making it mandatory for them to disclose deposits in foreign banks.
    •  The deadline has been extended by four months from December 31. “Details of deposits in the foreign bank (s) to be given separately,” states the DoPT order, adding that government employees have to file statements of movable property separately for self, spouse and dependent child.
    •  While investments above Rs.2 lakh have to be reported individually, amounts below that can be reported together. Apart from cash and bank balance, government servants would now be required to also reveal details of other movable assets including furniture, fixtures, antiques, paintings and electronic equipment.
    •  However, this only if the total current value of any particular asset in any particular category exceeds two months' basic pay or Rs. 1 lakh.
    •  Another order amending the previous Lokpal and Lokayuktas (Removal of Difficulties) Order, 2014, gives six months more to the government to make further amendments to the rules formulated thereunder.
    •  While the government intends to make all the declarations public, many government officials have expressed concern that the information on their assets could be misused. The latest order does not have any provision ensuring secrecy of the disclosures made.

15 States ratified the National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill

    •  The National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) may soon become active with Union Law Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda saying that 15 States had ratified the Constitution (121st Amendment) Bill, 2014, giving Constitutional status to the Commission.
    •  “I have received information that 15 States have ratified the Bill. Now the Rajya Sabha has to receive authenticated letters from the States, after which the Bill will be sent to the President for assent,” Mr. Gowda told .
    •  The NJAC Bill, passed by Parliament in August, had to be ratified by at least half the State legislatures before it got the Constitutional status.
    •  The NJAC, once it came into existence, is expected to usher in transparency in judicial appointments in the highest courts and end the highest judiciary’s two-decade-old grip over appointments of judges through the collegium system.
    •  It further would restore an equal role for the executive in higher judicial appointments. Mr. Gowda said he could not be able to give a time frame within which the commission would start work, but said there were judicial vacancies in the Supreme Court and the High Courts.
    •  Law Ministry statistics show there are 349 vacancies of judges in 24 High Courts and three in the Supreme Court as on November 10, 2014.
    •  The number of pending cases as on December 31, 2013, in the 24 High Courts is 4,462,705. In the Supreme Court, 45,108 cases have been disposed of, while 65,970 are pending as on June 30, 2014.
    •  Once the commission is in place, the government has to within 30 days, intimate the vacancies of judges to the Supreme Court and the High Courts. Vacancies to come up within the next six months should also be intimated to the commission in advance.
    •  The NJAC has the Chief Justice of India (CJI) as chairperson and two senior-most judges of the Supreme Court as members, apart from the Union Law Minister and two eminent personalities, of which one of them would be nominated from among the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes, minorities, Other Backward Classes or women.
      Committee set up to make suggestions on amendments to 2006 Act
      • Offering a ray of hope to professional course seat aspirants in the State, the committee set up by the government to look into the possible amendments to the Karnataka Professional Educational Institutions (Regulation of Admission and Determination of Fee) Act, 2006, has suggested that more seats should go to the government’s share.
      • The committee has also reportedly drawn attention to the fact that meritorious students should not be affected by a possible high fee structure as individual colleges will have separate fee structures depending on various parameters.
      • These suggestions were placed during a preliminary meeting. The committee is headed by Chief Secretary Kaushik Mukherjee.
      • The probability of the Common Entrance Test (CET) being restricted to admissions to government institutions and there not being a common fee structure for colleges have been among the major concerns about the Act in its present form.
      • Higher Education Minister R.V. Deshpande told that the Act does not have the provision to extend the CET for admissions to private institutions. “We have to find a way out,” he said.
      • Mr. Deshpande also said the government had convened meetings with private college representatives and those from minority institutions on January 3 after which the final modalities would be decided.

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