- Northeast India’s sixth and largest Information Technology (IT) hub was inaugurated here on 24th April to boost employment and e-governance besides to export software technology.
- Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, accompanied by IT and Education Minister Tapan Chakraborty and Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) Director General Omkar Rai inaugurated the IT hub, set up at a cost of Rs 50 crore.
- Sarkar said that this IT hub would help to create employment opportunities for the IT educated youths and to further extend the e-governance to the door step of people.
- Rai said that it would help the state to bring famous IT companies of India to set off their business and services taking the facilities of this newly set-up IT hub.
- According to Rai, the STPI, under the union Ministry of Electronic and Information Technology, shared technological knowledge with the state government to set up this hub, sixth of its kind in northeast India and largest such hub in the region.
- Noting people are getting various certificates and documents from their panchayats or blocks concerned through the e-district scheme, he said that over 30 lakh people, or 80 per cent of the state’s 37 lakh, are now using mobile phones leading to an IT boom.
- Principal Secretary, Industries and Information Technology, M. Nagaraju said that in the new IT hub, ready-to-use incubation space would be available for start-up companies, aspiring entrepreneurs, Indian and multi-national companies as per their requirements.
Centre Clears 3,000 Crores For VVPATs, Vote Machines With Paper Receipts
- The next general election in 2019 will be conducted entirely with new electronic voting machines that print a paper receipt for each vote cast.
- Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced on 19th April that the centre is releasing 3174 crores for 16 lakh odd machines to BEL ECIL, and will be ready by September 2018, as needed by the Election Commission.
- The decision comes as opposition parties have attacked the machines currently in use as being vulnerable to rigging.
- In 2013, the Supreme Court said that the Election Commission must introduce the new machines called VVPATs (machines with Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail) in phases.
- The court said that the 2019 national election must be run entirely with these upgraded machines, but the Election Commission has been warning that it is running out of time to place orders for VVPATs.
- Last week, the Supreme Court asked the Election Commission and the centre to explain the delay in switching to VVPATs which function like this: when a button is pushed to choose a candidate on a voting machine, a slip of paper shows the party symbol of the candidate selected. The receipt is visible to the voter for a few seconds before it drops into a sealed box.
What happened in the past?
- Opposition parties including Mayawati’s BSP have asked the top court to order that only VVPATs are used in all elections; if that is not feasible, they want India to return to using ballot papers.
- Their case was filed after the BJP’s outsized victory in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand in March, where they allege voting machines were gamed in favour of the BJP.
- The Election Commission has firmly rejected the accusations and said that in May, it will hold a hackathon to prove that the voting machines in use cannot be manipulated.
- Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal who was the first opposition leader to suggest that machines had been rigged to help the BJP – he said this was the only explanation for his Aam Aadmi Party falling well short of winning February’s election in Punjab.
- Mr Kejriwal said that next week’s municipal corporation election in Delhi should either be conducted with VVPATs or ballot paper, but was turned down by the Election Commission.
Disabled People Exempted From Standing During National Anthem In Movie Halls
- The Supreme Court has exempted six categories of disabled people from standing when the national anthem is played in theatres.
- These include people suffering from cerebral palsy, Parkinson disease, muscular dystrophy and other categories of disability.
- In November the Supreme Court had made it mandatory to play national anthem in movie halls before every screening with the image of the national flag displayed on the screen.
- Delivering the order, the SC had observed that standing up for the national anthem in movie halls will “instil a sense of committed patriotism and nationalism” in people’s minds.
- It had later clarified people need not stand up if the national anthem was played as part of the film. The verdict had however resulted in a number of people who refused to stand up for the national anthem being physically attacked by fellow movie goers.
B.N.Mohapatra takes over as new Financial Commissioner
- B.N.Mohapatra has been appointed as the new Financial Commissioner (FC) (Railways) and ex-officio Secretary to the Government of India and has taken over the charge on 17/04/2017.
- Prior to this posting, Mohapatra was posted as Additional Member/ Finance since 01.11.2016.
- An officer of Indian Railway Accounts Service (IRAS) of 1980 examination batch, Mohapatra completed his post graduation in Political Science and graduation in LLB.
- During his career, Mohapatra has worked on various higher and middle level management posts on the Indian Railways like DRM/ Tinsukhia, NFR, Assistant General Manager (AGM) on East Coast Railway.
- In Railway Board he has worked in various directorates like Pay Commission, Establishment, Expenditure and Accounts as Executive Director and Advisor.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 14th April launched the BHIM-Aadhaar platform—a merchant interface linking the unique identification number to the Bharat Interface for Money mobile application—at Nagpur on the 126th birth anniversary of Dr B.R. Ambedkar.
- The new interface will enable customers to make payments using a merchant’s biometric-enabled device. The merchant merely has to download the BHIM app on his smartphone and link the device to an Aadhaar biometric reader.
- To avail of this service, a customer has to first link his bank account to his Aadhaar number.
- To make a payment, all he has to do is select the bank’s name and enter the Aadhaar number.
- His fingerprint will serve as the password to authenticate the transaction.
- To start with, no transaction fee will be levied on either the merchants or customers to encourage adoption of the new digital payment service, especially in small towns and rural India.
- The government statement said 27 major banks had already tied up with 300,000 merchants for accepting payments using BHIM-Aadhaar.
- It went on to add that all public sector banks have been instructed to go live with Aadhaar Pay.
- In his speech, Modi said that the time is not far when premise-less and paperless banking will become part of people’s lives. He announced two new incentive schemes for the BHIM app—cashback (for merchants) and referral bonus (for customers). The schemes will start from 14 April and end on 14 October, he added.
- Under the referral bonus scheme, an individual will earn Rs10 for every new referral made—i.e., educating another person or merchant about the BHIM app and ensuring that they carry out three transactions using the same.
- Under the cashback scheme, merchants can earn up to Rs300 per month for transactions made using BHIM.
- An updated version of BHIM (version 1.3) is available on Android and ioS.
- Several new features have been added to its interface such as new languages, the option to block unwanted collection requests and pay by scanning QR (quick response) codes.
- Three new languages—Punjabi, Marathi and Assamese—have gone live on the app.
- According to Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union minister for electronics and information technology, 20 million people have downloaded BHIM so far, and payments worth Rs823 crore have been made. The app was launched on 30 December.
- It was one of several measures aimed at promoting digital transactions in the aftermath of the 8 November demonetization of high-value banknotes, which triggered a nationwide cash crunch.
ASCI lays down rules on celebrity endorsements
- From now on, celebrities will be held responsible for the claims made in ads in which they appear.
- The council puts the onus on the advertiser and the advertising agency to ensure that celebrity brand endorsers are aware of ASCI codes.
- Magical charms and pseudoscience-based products that are the staples of teleshopping channels will almost certainly fall afoul of ASCI’s guidelines.
- Some of these products are promoted by has-been Bollywood actors and TV actors.
- Most of these ads violate the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, which prohibits the promotion of a charm of any kind alleged to possess miraculous powers for or in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of any disease in human beings.
- The Act also prohibits the promotion of products that claim to cure baldness and change skin colour.
- Jitender Dabas, chief strategy officer, McCann Worldgroup India, agrees: “Teleshopping ads must stop because they sell all kind of absurd products and celebrities should not endorse them.”
- Still, Dabas says it is unfair to expect a celebrity to know the technical details of a product.
- Pan masala (mouth fresheners made from betel leaf, areca nut, and which sometimes include tobacco) ads came in for special attention from the regulator, which specifically said in the new guidelines that celebrities should refrain from promoting any product that by law requires a health warning on its packaging or advertisement.
- Most pan masala brands are endorsed by popular Bollywood stars including Ajay Devgn (Vimal Pan Masala), Shah Rukh Khan (Pan Vilas), Govinda (Paan-E-Shahee) and Sunny Leone (Shilajeet pan masala). The future of endorsements for such products may now be in jeopardy.
UP CM Adityanath Removes Reservation For SC, ST, OBC Candidates For Pvt Medical Colleges
- Yogi Adityanath government has made a move to ban caste-based reservation quota for SC, ST, OBC in private medical and dental colleges. The newly appointed chief minister just passed an order to remove quota for SC, ST and OBC in medical colleges in the state. After the moral policing of the anti-Romeo squad and the meat ban, this move comes as a huge step forward
- The UP government has passed an order to introduce English as a compulsory subject right from the nursery and a compulsory foreign language for all the school-going kids. They also plan to teach self-defence to every girl student in UP.
Why was caste based reservation introduced?
- Caste-based reservations, when introduced in India, were originally meant for a larger good. With the inhuman atrocities meted out to a certain section of the society, there was an urgent need to bring them back to the mainstream and give them their rightful place.
- While reservations helped provide them with an opportunity to better their position in the social fabric, it gradually became an opportunity to just bag a good job.
- Reservation of seats in engineering and medical colleges on the basis of caste has led to a dilution of education. Institutions that produce future engineers and doctors should have nothing but merit as a criterion of admission.
- At a time when politicians have shied away from banning reservation for fear of backlash, the UP’s government’s move to ban it in medical colleges is a huge step towards quality education.
- Of all professions, the medical profession is one that should be kept out of caste-based politics and we’re glad it’s finally happening.
President Pranab Mukherjee gives assent to 4 supporting legislations on GST
- President Pranab Mukherjee has given assent to four key legislations on goods and services tax (GST), paving the way for the roll out of one-nation-one-tax regime from 1 July.
- The legislations were: The Central GST Act, 2017, The Integrated GST Act, 2017, The GST (Compensation to States) Act, 2017, and The Union Territory GST Act, 2017, officials said on 13th April.
- These bills were passed in Rajya Sabha on 6 April and by Lok Sabha on 29 March.
- The GST, the biggest taxation reform since Independence, will subsume central excise, service tax, Value Added Tax (VAT) and other local levies to create an uniform market.
- The Central Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017, provides for the levy of the Central Goods and Services Tax by the Centre on the supply of goods and services within the boundary of a state.
- Whereas, the Integrated GST Act deals with the levy of Integrated Goods and Services Tax by the Centre on inter-state supply of goods and services.
- The Goods and Services Tax (Compensation to States) Act, provides for compensation to the states for the loss of revenue arising on account of implementation of the Goods and Services Tax.
- The Union Territory GST Act makes a provision for levy and collection of tax on intra-state supply of goods, services or both by the Union Territories.
- The GST rates are to be discussed by the GST Council headed by finance minister Arun Jaitley on 18-19 May.
- Jaitley had in Rajya Sabha last week said that the GST Council, comprising finance ministers of Union and states, had agreed to take a decision on bringing real estate within the ambit of the new tax regime within a year of its roll out.
- The GST Council will also take decisions regarding inclusion of petroleum products and alcohol in the GST network, one by one, in the foreseeable future.
- As regards Jammu and Kashmir, the finance minister had said the law will not apply there because of Article 370 that gives special status to the state.
- Jammu and Kashmir will have to legislate its own law and integrate with the GST regime, Jaitley had said.
Petrol, diesel prices to change every day from May 1, trial run in five cities
- Petrol and diesel prices will change every day in sync with international rates, much like it happens in most advanced markets.
- State-owned fuel retailers Indian Oil Corp (IOC), Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd (HPCL), which own more than 95% of nearly the 58,000 petrol pumps in the country, will launch a pilot for daily price revision in five select cities from May 1 and gradually extend it across the country.
- Petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan indicated that the government has encouraged market-based pricing of fuels.
- A pilot for daily revision of petrol and diesel price will be first implemented in Puducherry, Vizag in Andhra Pradesh, Udaipur in Rajasthan, Jamshedpur in Jharkhand and Chandigarh, he said.
- State fuel retailers currently revise rates on the 1st and 16th of every month based on average international price of fuel in the preceding fortnight and currency exchange rate.
- Instead of using fortnightly average, pump rates will reflect daily movement in international oil prices and rupee- US dollar fluctuations.
- Daily price change will remove the big leaps in rates that need to be effected at the end of the fortnight and consumer will be more aligned to market dynamics.
- While petrol price was freed from government control in June 2010, diesel rates were deregulated in October 2014. Technically, oil companies have freedom to revise rates but often they have been guided by political considerations.
- Rates differ by only a few paise between pumps of the three state fuel retailers. Unbranded petrol at IOC pumps in Delhi costs Rs 66.29 per litre, while the same at BPCL pumps in the city is priced at Rs 66.37 a litre. HPCL pumps sell for Rs 66.48 per litre.
- Unbranded diesel at IOC pumps in Delhi costs Rs 55.61, Rs 55.66 at BPCL outlets and Rs 55.69 a litre at HPCL pumps.
- Petrol price was last revised downward by Rs 3.77 a litre on April 1 and diesel rates were cut by Rs 2.91. This was the first revision in two-and-half-months as oil firms did not change prices during assembly elections in five states, including Uttar Pradesh and Punjab
India and Australia sign six pacts
- A pact to significantly expand counter-terror cooperation was among six agreements India and Australia inked on Sunday as the two countries called for strong action against those financing and providing sanctuary to terror groups.
- The agreements were signed after talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull. The two leaders decided to significantly expand their ties in several key areas including defence, trade, energy and education.
- The relaxed body language of the two Prime Ministers clearly reflecting the thaw in ties between the two nations. Australian PM Malcom Turnbull, who is on a four day visit to India, held hour long talks with PM Modi at the national capital’s Hyderabad House.
- The discussions also veered around energy with Turnbull saying that Australia is ready to supply uranium to India as soon as possible.
- The two countries had signed a civil nuclear cooperation three years ago but the actual supply has not yet commenced in the absence of any commercial contract.
- Australia will support for India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and also for Australia Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement, the two export control regimes.
- Both countries agreed share common interests in ensuring maritime security and the safety of sea lines of communication.
- They have also recognised importance of freedom of navigation and overflight, unimpeded lawful commerce, resolving maritime disputes by peaceful means, in accordance with international law, including UNCLOS. Defence:
- Both countries agreed to remain strongly committed to the breadth of their defence ties and recalled the Special Forces Bilateral Exercise conducted in October 2016.
- They agreed that the bilateral maritime exercise first held in the Bay of Bengal in 2015 will be repeated off Western Australia in the first half of 2018.
- They took decision for first bilateral Army-to-Army exercise to take place in 2018. They also agreed to look forward to the inaugural secretaries’ defence and foreign affairs dialogue in the ‘2+2’ format as a new mechanism to build on the deep strategic partnership.
The MoU’s signed by India and Australia
- MoU on Cooperation in Sports.
- MoU on Cooperation in the field of Health and Medicine.
- MoU on Cooperation in the field of Environment, Climate and Wildlife.
- MoU for Promotion and Development of Cooperation in Civil Aviation Security MoU on Cooperation in Combatting International Terrorism and Transnational Organized Crime.
- Implementation arrangement between ISRO and Geoscience Australia on Cooperation in Earth Observation and Satellite Navigation.
Malala Yousafzai made youngest UN Messenger of Peace
- Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai has been made the youngest ever UN Messenger of Peace.
- The 19-year-old, who is doing her A-levels and has an offer from a top UK university, will take the role with a special focus on girls’ education.
- In 2012 Ms Yousafzai was nearly killed by the Taliban for campaigning for girls’ rights to education.
- UN Messengers of Peace are selected from the fields of art, literature, science, entertainment, sports or other fields of public life.
- Other messengers have included Muhammad Ali, George Clooney, Michael Douglas, Leonardo DiCaprio, Stevie Wonder and Charlize Theron.
United Nations Messenger of Peace
- United Nations Messenger of Peace is a title bestowed by the United Nations to “distinguished individuals, carefully selected from the fields of art, music, literature and sports, who have agreed to help focus worldwide attention on the work of the United Nations.”
- The messengers are initially chosen for a period of three years; although three of the current twelve messengers, Michael Douglas, Jane Goodall, and Yo-Yo Ma have served for more than ten years.
- The Messengers of Peace scheme was instigated in 1997 as a central addition to the system of UN goodwill ambassadors and honorary ambassadors, which has been run by the different UN agencies since 1954, when UNICEF appointed Danny Kaye as its first goodwill ambassador
- Whilst the goodwill and honorary ambassadors mainly promote the work of the UN agency they are ambassador for, the messengers of peace are intended to promote the work of the United Nations in general and are appointed directly by the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
Lok Sabha passes bill for constitutional status to backward classes commission
- The Lok Sabha on 10th April passed a constitutional amendment which introduces a National Commission for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes in the Constitution, despite opposition parties claiming certain clauses affected the federal structure of the country.
- The National Commission for Backward Classes Bill 2017 to repeal the 1993 law was also passed.
- This is the first step towards making the backward classes commission a constitutional body.
- The amendment envisages a five-member panel with several duties, including investigating and monitoring matters regarding safeguards provided for the socially and educationally backward classes, inquiring into specific complaints regarding deprivation of rights and safeguards, advising on their socio-economic development, and submitting reports on the working of the safeguards.
- The constitutional amendment also empowers the President to specify communities which would fall under backward class for states and union territories, in consultation with the concerned governor.
- Minister for social justice and empowerment T.C. Gehlot assured the lower house that there would not be any violation of the state commission’s powers. None of the powers of the commission are going to be taken away or weakened in anyway, he said.
AICTE all set to release model exam format
- The All-India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) has set the ball rolling for the provision of a model examination format to technical education institutions to test the students’ understanding of concepts and skills, as part of a slew of reforms finalised recently by the technical education regulator.
- The final exams being conducted by the institutions shall test the understanding of the concepts and the skill — rather than the subject knowledge
- A model exam format would be prepared and shared with the institutions and the technical universities for suitable adoption. This aspect would be reviewed at the time of approval.
- Curricula will also be revised annually, the AICTE has resolved.
- Every affiliating technical university shall constitute subject-wise industry consultation committee (ICC) with the mandate of examining the existing curriculum and for making suitable changes in the curriculum every year.
- This process shall be completed in the month of December each year for the courses to be offered in the coming academic year.
- Each institution, while applying for approval, shall certify completion of this process, which will be mandatory,” the resolution says.
- Teachers in technical institutions will also be required to mandatorily undergo an annual online refresher course to ensure better quality in teaching.
- Heads of institutions will also have to undergo leadership training.
- Every teacher in each of the technical education disciplines shall mandatorily undergo an annual refresher course delivered through SWAYAM portal, encapsulating all the major advances in the field of their study.
- Online courses would also be prepared and delivered through the SWAYAM platform for improving the pedagogical techniques of the teachers.
- The participation in the courses by at least 50% of the faculty would be a mandatory condition for approval of the institution
- Similarly, there should be leadership training to the heads of the institutions once in 2 years. These trainings would also be hosted through the SWAYAM platform.
- This apart, there will be compulsory student induction training to ensure the brushing up of fundamental concepts and required linguistic skills.
Prasar Bharati moots global news platform to counter ‘anti-India’ narrative
- To challenge the “anti-India” narrative in foreign media and to report events from the country’s perspective to global audiences, public broadcaster Prasar Bharati is planning to launch a high-tech platform.
- The Prasar Bharati board had approved a report for the creation of a new web-based platform in addition to AIR and Doordarshan, whose primary focus is domestic audience.
- The report has now been forwarded to Information and Broadcasting Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu.
Possible Venus ‘twin’ discovered
- Astronomers, using NASA’s Kepler space telescope, have discovered a Venus-like planet orbiting a dim star that is one-fifth the diameter of our Sun and is located 219 light years away from the earth.
- The newly found planet is only slightly larger than Earth, and it tightly embraces its low-temperature star called Kepler-1649, encircling it every nine days.
- The tight orbit causes the flux of sunlight reaching the planet to be 2.3 times as great as the solar flux on Earth. For comparison, the solar flux on Venus is 1.9 times the terrestrial value.
- The discovery will provide insight into the nature of planets around M dwarf stars, by far the most common type in the universe.
- While such stars are redder and dimmer than the Sun, recent exoplanet discoveries have revealed instances in which Earth-sized worlds circle an M dwarf in orbits that would place them in their star’s habitable zone.
- However, such worlds may not inevitably resemble Earth, with its salubrious climate. They could just as well be analogues of Venus, with thick atmospheres and scalding temperatures.
- The study of planets similar to the Venus analogue Kepler 1649b is “becoming increasingly important in order to understand the habitable zone boundaries of M dwarfs
- There are several factors, such as star variability and tidal effects, that make these planets different from Earth-sized planets around Sun-like stars
- It is said that Venus is Earth’s sister planet, but in many ways it is not a close sibling.
- Despite being the same size as Earth, and only 40% closer to the Sun, its atmosphere and surface temperature are wildly different from our own.
- If we wish to find life on other Earth-sized worlds, we should get to know the territory.
Twenty Two Agreements Signed by India – Bangladesh
- In a bid to give boost to their ties, India and Bangladesh on 8th April inked nearly two dozen pacts in strategic areas of defence and civil nuclear cooperation after “productive” talks between their Prime Ministers.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi held extensive discussions with his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina on ways to strengthen the strategic partnership between the two countries.
- He also announced a new line of concessional credit of $4.5 billion for the implementation of projects in Bangladesh.
- Announcing an additional line of credit of $500 million to Bangladesh for military supplies, Mr. Modi said it will be driven by the requirement of that country.
- However, much-delayed pact on the Teesta water sharing remained elusive for the two sides. Admitting that the pact was “important” for India-Bangladesh ties, Mr. Modi assured India’s commitment to the issue.
- The Teesta deal was set to be signed during the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Bangladesh in September, 2011 but was postponed at the last minute due to objections by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
- Teesta water is crucial for Bangladesh especially in the leanest period from December to March when the water flow often temporarily comes down to less than 1,000 cusecs from 5,000 cusecs.
Cabinet approves closure of Mahatma Gandhi Pravasi Suraksha Yojana
- The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 5th April approved closure of the Mahatma Gandhi Pravasi Suraksha Yojana (MGPSY) which was set up in 2012 to address the social security-related issues of the Emigration Check Required (ECR)-category workers going abroad for employment to the ECR countries.
- The subscription under the MGPSY was very low and no new subscription was received for more than a year.
- Closure of the scheme will, therefore, obviate the avoidable recurring administrative and record-keeping expenditure.
Mahatma Gandhi Pravasi Suraksha Yojana
- Mahatma Gandhi Pravasi Suraksha Yojana (MGPSY) was a special social security scheme for overseas Indian workers on a temporary work permit in the Emigration Check Required (ECR) countries.
- This main motto of this scheme was helping the workers to save money for their retirement, their return to India and provides life insurance cover against natural death during the period of coverage.
- The Scheme considers a co-contribution of Rs 1000 by Government to overseas Indian workers who save Rs 4000 per annum so that on return to India, an MGPSY subscriber could utilize these savings for return and resettlements purposes.
- It provided home and a life insurance cover of Rs 1 Lakh for workers.
- Indian Workers Resource Centre or IWRC was the support center fo Indian workers in the UAE while Bank of Baroda was the official banking partner of the scheme to enroll the workers.
Rajnath Singh to inaugurate the web portal “Bharat ke Veer”
- The Union Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singh will inaugurate the web portal and mobile application named “Bharat ke Veer”.
- The portal is an IT based platform, with an objective to enable willing donors to contribute towards the family of a brave-heart who sacrificed his/her life in line of duty. The Minister of State for Home Affairs Shri Kiren Rijiju and actor Akshay Kumar will also participate in the function.
- The site “Bharat ke Veer” will be available on web portal as well as mobile application.
- The amount so donated will be credited to the account of ‘Next of Kin’ of those Central Armed Police Force/Central Para Military Force soldiers.
- This domain allows anyone to financially support the brave-hearts of his/her choice or towards the “Bharat Ke Veer” corpus.
- This website is technically supported by National Informatics Centre (NIC) and powered by State Bank of India.
- To ensure maximum coverage, a cap of 15 lakh rupees is imposed and the donors would be alerted if the amount exceeds, so that they can choose to divert part of the donation to another braveheart account or to the “Bharat Ke Veer” corpus.
- “Bharat Ke Veer” corpus would be managed by a committee made up of eminent persons of repute and senior Government officials, who would decide to disburse the fund equitably to the brave-heart’s family on need basis.
- India has signed a weapons deal with Israel for nearly $2 billion in what’s being described as the “largest defence contract” ever signed by the military exporting giant.
About the Agreement
- The deal will provide India with an advanced defence system of medium-range surface-to-air missiles, launchers and communications technology, the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries said in a statement yesterday.
- The “mega” missile agreement is “considered to be the largest defense contract in Israel’s defense industries’ history”, the company said, stressing that some components will be assembled in India, in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s push to reduce reliance on costly imports.
- The Israeli firm will also supply a naval defence system including long-range surface-to-air missiles for India’s first aircraft carrier, which is still under construction.
India – Budget – Defence
- PM Modi’s government has raised the limit on foreign investment in the defence sector and encouraged tie-ups between foreign and local companies under a ‘Make in India’ campaign.
- India – the world’s largest defence importer – has been investing tens of billions in updating its Soviet-era military hardware to counter regional rivals China and Pakistan.
- Israel is a top weapons exporter, with sales last year surging to $ 6.5 billion. India is a top market for its arms, as New Delhi has turned increasingly away from traditional ally Russia for its military hardware.
- President Reuven Rivlin, who is said to have discussed the deal with Indian leaders during his trip to India early this year, congratulated Weiss on the “historic” deal terming it truly “exceptional”.
- Weiss responded calling it a “truly remarkable achievement” and “a wonderful gift for the upcoming festival (Passover)” to be celebrated next week.
- Israel s willingness to share technology and form joint ventures with Indian companies to develop and manufacture military equipment supporting the “Make in India” initiative is said to have been well received in New Delhi.
About the Missile
- In the case of MRSAM, an advanced air and missile defence system that provides protection against a variety of aerial threats, the technology is said to have been jointly developed by IAI and DRDO in collaboration with Rafael and IAI s Elta division.
- Indian companies such as BEL and L&T are said to have also participated in the project.
- MRSAM’s current version is operational with the Indian Air Force, Indian Navy and Israel Defence Forces (IDF).
- The system includes an advanced phased-array radar, command and control, mobile launchers and missiles with advanced RF seekers.
- The Union government on Wednesday approved setting up Rail Development Authority (RDA), an independent regulator to recommend passenger and freight fares and set service level benchmarks.
- The Authority, with an initial corpus of Rs. 50 crore, will have a Chairman along with three members with a fixed term of five years and it can engage experts from relevant areas.
- The Chairman of the Authority can be from the private sector and will be selected by a committee chaired by the Cabinet Secretary, a Railway Ministry official said. The Authority will soon be set up through an executive order, the official added.
- In Budget 2017, the National Democratic Alliance government made a record allocation of Rs1.3 trillion for the Indian Railways, with gross budgetary support of Rs55,000 crore.
- Part of the radical rethinking on improving the transportation architecture, the government did away with the separate railway budget, merging it in the Union budget presented on 1 February.
- The cabinet also approved a number of pacts to be signed between India and Bangladesh during the upcoming visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina beginning Friday.
- One of the pacts is to launch regular passenger river cruise services between India and Bangladesh, the government said in a statement.
- A top Railway Ministry official said the RDA will only be a recommendatory body and the final decisions on setting fares will be made by the Railway Ministry.
- Tariff Determination: RDA will frame principles, recommend tariffs, principles for classification of commodities, frame principles for social service obligation and guidelines for track access charges on dedicated freight corridors.
- Ensuring fair play: It will ensure level-playing field for all stakeholders. It will propose modifications and send suggestions or advisory notes on investment in railways. It will also make suggestions regarding policies for private investment to ensure reasonable safeguards to PPP investors to ensure level playing field and resolve disputes regarding future concession agreements.
- Setting standards: It will help to set efficiency and performance standards and disseminate information in line with global best practices and benchmarking. It will also collect, analyse and disseminate information and statistics concerning the rail sector. Composition: It will have a Chairman and three members with a fixed term of five years. Moreover, it will be allowed to engage experts from various fields.