National Current Affairs February 2016

National Current Affairs February 2015 for Competitive Exams

Shyam Benegal Headed Panel to Revamp Censor Board

  1. The Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry on January 1, 2015 constituted a committee, headed by the film-maker Shyam Benegal, to suggest measures to help Board members understand the nuances of film certification.
  2. The committee is asked to interpret the provisions of Cinematograph Act, 1952 and Cinematograph (Certification) Rules, 1983. Other Members of the Committee are Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Bhawana Sorrfaaya, Piyush Pandey,Nina Gupta.
  3. The previous UPA government had set-up a panel headed by Mukul Mudgal, former Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, to recommend good certification processes and measures to revamp the CBFC and the nine regional Boards.

$ 50 Million Loan to Fund Education of Minorities

1) The Union government and the World Bank signed a $ 50 million credit agreement on December 31, 2015 for ‘Nai Manzil’ Scheme aimed at helping young people from minority communities complete their education and improve their employment opportunities.

2) India’s demographic dividend can be harnessed only if all young people from all sections of society are equipped with the education and skills needed to make them productive , members of the economy.

3) According to the World Bank, around 20% of those between 17 and 35 years of age from minority groups such as Muslims, Parsees, Jains, Buddhists, Christians, and Sikhs are out of the labour force in India.

Full Implementation of DAVA Project to Check Fake Drugs Export

1) The Ministry of Commerce on December 31, 2015 said that Drug Authentication and Verification Application (DAVA) project, when fully implemented, the export of fake or spurious drug from the country will not be possible and in case it happens it would be easily traceable.

2) DAVA project, launched on June 29, 2015, created an integrated platform for implementation of the track and trace system both for exports and domestic markets of drugs and pharmaceuticals. It is now in the pilot stage and will be subsequently made mandatory for all pharmaceutical exports from India.

3) The project has won the 2015 eASIA Award under Trade Facilitation category as announced by Asia Pacific Council for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (AFACT) in Tehran. In 2014-15, India’s pharmaceutical exports grew by 2.63% to $ 15.34 billion.

Cabinet’s Nod for India-Australia Civil Nuclear Cooperation Deal

1) The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi took note of the administrative arrangements for implementing the India-Australia Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement on December 30, 2015 that came into force on November 13, 2015.

2)  This will bolster energy security by supporting the expansion of nuclear power in India. In this regard an agreement was signed between two countries in September, 2014 to sell uranium as a nuclear fuel for peaceful power generation.

3)  India and Australia had been talking on the Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement from 2012 as Australia had lifted the long-standing ban on selling uranium to energy-starved India. As of now, India has nuclear energy agreements with 11 countries and imports uranium from France, Russia, Kazakhstan and Canada.

National Biotechnology Development Strategy 2015-20 Unveiled

1)  The Union Minister for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, Dr. Harsh Vardhan unveiled the National Biotechnology Development Strategy 2015-20 on December 30, 2015 at New Delhi, which aimed to establish India as a world-class bio-manufacturing hub.

2) The strategy intends to launch a major mission, backed with significant investments, for the creation of new biotech products, create a strong infrastructure for R&D and commercialisation, and empower India’s human resources scientifically and technologically.

3) The key elements would be implemented in collaboration and partnership with Other Ministries, Departments, State governments and international agencies for Making India ready to meet the challenge of achieving $ 100 billion.

Union Government Approved Financial Aid to 3 Drought-hit States

1)  To improve the drought situation and restore if back to normal, the Union government has approved a financial aid of 7 6794 crore for the States of Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.

2) These States have been badly affected by drought in the year 2015 due to deficit rainfall. The government has approved Rs. 3100 crore for Maharashtra, Rs. 1672 crore for Chhattisgarh and Rs. 2022 crore for Madhya Pradesh.

3) In early December, Maharashtra government also h announced a relief package worth 7 10512 crore for more than 15000 drought-affected villages across 14 districts of Marathwada and Vidarbha areas.

Ministry of Women and Child Development Launched e-Office

1) The Ministry of Women and Child Development launched e-office by digitising more than 12000 files on December 28, 2015. It is a step which will help provide transparent, efficient and time-bound services to the public.

2) In the new system, a file will take only 4 to 5 days for processing as compared to 30 to 40 days earlier and it will also be possible to locate the point at which it is held up. The e-office will also result in better accountability and will ultimately result in higher manpower efficiency.

3)  The e-office will result in substantial reduction of processing time which will directly impact the delivery mechanism of the ministry, both for the State governments as well as related civil society organisations.

Centre gave Nod for Four Greenfield Airports

1) The Centre has given its clearance for four greenfield airports on December 28, 2015, three in Andhra Pradesh and an international airport at Dholera in Gujarat. The international airport at Dholera in Ahmedabad is expected to reduce the air traffic load at the existing Ahmedabad airport.

2) The clearance has been given for Bhogapuram airport in Andhra Pradesh which is about 40 km from Visakhapatnam and one airport each in Nellore and in Kurnool districts through the public-private partnership route. These two are likely to be no-frills airports.

3)  The completion of each of the projects could take up to six years at least with land acquisition taking up to three years and another three years being spent on the construction of each.

Health Minister Announced 4 IT-based Initiatives for Citizen-centric Health Services

1) Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare JP Nadda, announced four new IT-based initiatives on Good Governance Day (i.e., December 25, 2015), to mark the birth anniversary of Bharat Ratna Madan Mohan Malaviya and birthday of Bharat Ratna Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The four initiatives are

i) Kilkari It is an audio-based mobile service that delivers weekly audio messages to families about pregnancy, child birth and child care. The 72 messages would reach the targeted beneficiaries from the 4th month of pregnancy until the child is i one year old.

ii) Mobile Academy The application has been developed through which about 9000000 ASHAs will be trained using mobile services. This will aid in enhancing their inter-personal skills. Once registered, ASHAs can access the 240-minute course via their mobile phones.

iii) A Dedicated Toll Free Number 1800116666, with a call centre is [ being started to provide round the clock support for patient counselling and treatment support services. This initiative is i being started in the States of Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh and Delhi.

iv) M-Cessation This will be an IT-enabled tool to help tobacco users to quit tobacco. Built on a helpline concept, it will register beneficiaries on the basis of a missed call. The counselling would be done through a two-way SMS process.

Government Brought 376 Drugs under New List of Essential Medicines

1) The Health Ministry has drawn up the revised National List of Essential Medicines (NELM) on December 24, 2015 which has seen the number of medicines go up to 376 from 348 in the earlier list prepared in 2011.

2) There are a few new additions in the list but a number of drugs have been taken off as well, according to industry sources.

3) The NLEM is a dynamic list and reviewed every three years to include or exclude drugs as relevant to the newest medical innovations and aligned to the current market competition.

4) The government had constituted a core committee under the chairmanship of VM Katoch, former Secretary of Department of Health Research for review and revision of the NLEM 2011. The committee submitted its report on December 9, 2015.

Agriculture Ministry Launched Two Mobile Apps for Farmers

1) In a bid to let farmers harvest the best of mobile technology, the Agriculture Ministry on December 23, 2015 launched two mobile apps for farmers at New Delhi as part of the week-long celebrations of birth anniversary of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Ch. Charan Singh.

2) The mobile apps Crop Insurance would help the farmers not only to find out complete details about insurance cover available in their area but also to calculate the insurance premium for notified crops, coverage amount and loan amount in case of a loaned farmer.

3) The other app AgriMarket could be used by the farmers to’ get the prices of crops in the market within 50 km radius of the device and other markets in the country.

CCEA Approved Rs. 3000 Crore Scheme for Fisheries Sector

1) The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has given its approval for implementation of an umbrella scheme on December 22, 2015 for integrated development and management of fisheries at an outlay of ? 3000 crore, for a period of 5 years.

2) The Central Sector Scheme covers development and management of inland fisheries, aquaculture, marine fisheries including deep sea fishing, mariculture and all activities undertaken by the National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB) towards realisng ‘Blue Revolution’.

Lok Sabha Passed the Payment of Bonus (Amendment) Bill, 2015

1) The Lok Sabha passed a bill on December 22, 2015 that allow two-fold hike in the wage ceiling for calculating bonus to Rs. 7000 per month for factory workers, applicable to establishments with 20 or more workers.

2) The bill enhances the monthly bonus calculation ceiling to Rs. 7000 per month from the existing Rs. 3500. It also seeks to enhance the eligibility limit for payment of bonus from Rs. 10000 per month to Rs. 21000 per month.

3) The benefit under the Payment of Bonus (Amendment) Bill, 2015, are to be applicable from April, 2014. This increase in wage ceiling and bonus calculation ceiling was an assurance given by the Centre after the strike of central trade unions on September 2, 2015.

Union Cabinet Approved Revised Cost Estimates of Salma Dam Project

1)The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has approved the reconstruction and completion of Salma Dam Project in Afghanistan on December 22, 2015 at the Revised Cost Estimates (RCE) of Rs. 1775.69 crore.

2)  The project is scheduled to be completed by June, 2016. M/s. WAPCOS, a central Public Sector Unit under the Ministry of Water Resources, is executing the project. The completion of this project will address the energy requirements and irrigation needs of Western Afghanistan.

3) Situated on the upper reaches of Hari Rud River in Herat province, Salma Dam project involves construction of a 107.5 m high earth and rock—fill dam and a 42 MW power House with three units of 14 MW each. It also has a provision for releasing water for irrigation of 75000 hectares of land.

Stricter Standards Notified for Coal Based Thermal Power Plants

1) The Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change has notified the revised standards for coal-based Thermal Power Plants in India on December 22, 2015, with the primary aim of minimising pollution.

2) The new standards are aimed at reducing emission of PM10 (0,98 kg/MWh), sulphur dioxide (7.3 kg/MWh) and oxide of nitrogen (4.8 kg/MWh), which will in turn help in bringing about an improvement in the Ambient Air Quality (AAQ) in and around thermal power plants.

3) Limiting the use of water in thermal power plant will lead to water conservation (about 1.5 M3/MWh) as thermal power plant is a water-intensive industry. This will also lead to a reduction in energy requirement for drawl of water.

Parliament Passed Juvenile Justice Bill, 2015

1) The Rajya Sabha passed the landmark Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill 2015 on December 22, 2015. The Bill was earlier passed by the Lower House of the Parliament, Lok Sabha on May 7 and will become an Act with the Presidential approval.

2) Under Section-15, special provisions have been made to tackle child offenders committing heinous offences in the age group of 16-18 years.

3) The Juvenile Justice Board has been given the option to transfer cases of heinous offences by such children to a Children’s Court (Court of Session) after conducting preliminary assessment.

4) The provisions provide for placing children in a ‘place of safety’ both during and after the trial till they attain the age of 21 years after which an evaluation of the child shall be conducted by the Children’s Court.

5) After the evaluation, the child is either released on probation and if the child is not reformed then the child will be sent to a jail for remaining term.

Union Defence Ministry Launched New ‘Make in India’ Website

1) A new ‘Make in India’ website, has been launched by the Union Ministry of Defence, Manohar Parrikar in New Delhi on December 21, 2015, with an aim to make defence acquisition process simpler.

2) The website has been launched in line with Union governments ambitious goal of creating a level playing field with more transparency in defence sector procurement. The target is to provide modern equipment to the armed forces in a timely manner.

3) The website also provides the latest news and notification regarding various aspects of the defence production involved with the Make in India campaign. The new Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) aimed to have 40% of defence procurement under Make in India initiative from the current 30%, raising it to 70% indigenisation in the next 5 years.

India’s First Retrofitted Electric Bus Flagged-off

1) The prototype of India’s first retrofitted electric bus was showcased on December 21, 2015 at New Delhi. This is the first time that a diesel bus has been converted into a battery operated electric bus as pollution in Delhi has become rampant.

2) The converted buses are part of a pilot project of Central Institute of Road Transport (CIRT). The project will demonstrate the government’s commitment to reduce vehicular pollution while opting for strong environment friendly mobility solutions.

3) The prototype has been developed by KPIT, Pune with consultations from CIRT. The technology has been wholly developed in India. Ten more buses are proposed to be retrofitted for use by State Transport Undertakings by March, 2016.

Rajya Sabha Passed SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Bill

1) The Rajya Sabha unanimously passed the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill through a voice vote on December 21, 2015 along with two Bills on supplementary demands for 2015-16. The bill was first passed in Lok Sabha in August, 2015 and later in Rajya Sabha in December, 2015.

2) The bill seeks to amend parent law i.e., The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and aimed to prohibit the commission of offences against members of the SCs and STs and adds provisions for establishing special courts for the trial cases of such offences and the rehabilitation of victims.

3) The new bill added new chapter dealing with the rights of victims and witness. It mentions that it shall be the duty of the State to make arrangements for the protection of victims and their dependents and the witnesses.

Union Cabinet gave Nod to Amend Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950

1) The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given a nod to approve the introduction of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order Amendment Bill, 2015 in the Parliament on December 17, 2015.

2) The Bill seeks to amend the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950, in order to modify the list of Scheduled Castes in five States, i.e., Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Kerala, Odisha and West Bengal.

3) The Bill also modifies the Central List of Other Backward Classes of three states, i.e., Chhattisgarh, Haryana and Kerala. According to Article-341 of the Constitution of India, certain privileges/concessions are provided to the members of Scheduled Castes.

50th Edition of the All-India DG/IG of Police Conference

1) Prime Minister Narendra Modi has inaugurated the 50th edition of All-India conference of Directors General of Police (AICDGPs) at Dhordo in white Rann of Kutch region near Bhuj, Gujarat near the India-Pakistan border on December 18, 2015.

2) Apart from all the DGPs and IGs of all the States and Union Territories, heads of National Investigation Agency (NIA), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Investigation Bureau (IB) narcotics department and various police training academies attended. DGs and IGs of paramilitary forces like Border Security Force (BSF), Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) were also attended.

3) Among other issues, ways to thwart attempts by IS to spread its base in the country. Police Reforms, Radicalisation, Social Media’s effect on Law and Order, security. Disaster management, Women Safety and tourist police, Inter-state police coordination etc were discussed.

4) The conference was organised by the Intelligence Bureau (IB). Last year, the conference was held at Guwahati (Asom) in November, 2014.

Lok Sabha Passed Arbitration and Reconcilliation Amendment Bill, 2015

1) The Lok Sabha has passed the Arbitration and Reconciliation (Amendment Bill), 2015 by voice vote on December 17, 2015.

2) The Bill seeks to make the arbitration process more investor-friendly, cost effective and suitable for expeditious disposal of cases.

3) The Bill will also facilitate in making India a hub of international commercial arbitration.

4) The President had promogulated an ordinance for amending the earlier prevalent act, the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 related and for matters connected there with or incidental thereto.

5)  As per the bill Mandatory for arbitrators to settle disputes within 12 months. This period can be extended by 6 months only by a Court on sufficient cause.

6) The Union Cabinet had approved promulgation of this ordinance on October 21, 2015 and had recommended the same to the President.

Policy Framework for Underground Coal Gasification

1) The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has approved a policy framework for development of Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) in coal and lignite bearing areas in the country on December 16, 2015. Development of UCG is envisaged to provide for energy security.

2) The UCG is a method of extraction of energy from coal/lignite resources which are otherwise regarded as uneconomical to work through conventional mining methods.

3) A policy on the lines broadly similar to the existing policy for Coal Bed Methane (CBM) development on revenue sharing basis will be adopted for offering the blocks through competitive bidding.

4)  An Inter-Ministerial Committee under the Ministry of Coal with members from concerned Ministries will be responsible for identification of the areas, deciding about blocks to be put to bidding or awarding them to PSUs on nomination basis.

Government gave in-Principle Nod to Google’s Project Loon

1) The Union Minister for telecom and IT Ravi Shankar Prasad after met Google’s newly-appointed chief Sundar Pichai in New Delhi on December 16, 2015, said that the government was in principle agreeable to pilots of Google’s Project Loon.

2) Prasad had also proposed a partnership with State-run BSNL for Project Loon. Under the project Loon, Google has proposed to provide internet connectivity in hard to access areas of the country from balloons floating at a height of 20 km using LTE or 4G technology.

3) The project has run into some rough weather in the country, with at least three Central Ministries i.e., defence, home and civil aviation and the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) having raised technical and security concerns over the project.

Supreme Court Banned Registration of New Diesel SUVs, Luxury Cars in Delhi

1) In a landmark ruling aimed at curbing the alarming pollution level in Delhi, the Supreme Court banned the registration of all diesel SUVs and luxury cars with engine capacity of 2000 cc or more on December 16, 2015 in the entire National Capital Region till March 31, 2016.

2) The top court also ruled that all trucks not bound for Delhi will not be allowed to enter the capital through National Highways 1 and 8. Those carrying goods for Delhi will have to shell out a steep environment compensation charge (ECC) i.e., ? 2600 for big trucks and ? 1400 for light commercial vehicles.

3) The Supreme Court has also asked all the private cabs operating in the city to convert to Compressed Natural Gas or CNG by March 1, 2016. In a relief to the ordinary commuters, the Court exempted small diesel cars from the ambit of its order.

Lok Sabha Passed ‘Atomic Energy Bill 2015’

1) The Lok Sabha passed the landmark ‘Atomic Energy (Amendment) Bill, 2015’ on December 14, 2015. The bill was passed with a voice vote from both treasury as well as opposition benches. It will now be referred to Rajya Sabha for ratification.

2) The Bill seeks to amend the Atomic Energy Act of 1962, thus paving the way for Atomic Energy Units, including Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) to enter into joint-ventures with other Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) and government sector companies.

3) The amendment is a true homage to the legacy of Homi Bhabha, the founding father of India’s nuclear programme and also a vindication of Homi Bhabha’s vision for use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

4) The amendment will enable the nuclear expansion programme to move at a fast track and place India as a front-line nation in the world arena.

Justice LN Reddy to Head Judicial Committee on OROP

1)Justice (Retd.) L. Narasimha Reddy, former Chief Justice of Patna High Court, will head the Judicial Committee which will look into the implementation of One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme. It was officially announced on December 14, 2015.

2) The Committee has been given a six-month deadline for submission of its recommendations. The Terms of Reference for the Committee shall be to examine and make recommendations on references received from the Central government on various issues concerning the scheme announced by the government in November, 2015.

3)  These include measures for the removal of anomalies that may arise in the implementation of the OROP as notified by the government on November 7, 2015. The Committee will also look into any other matter referred by the Central government on implementation of the OROP or related issues.

India Ranked 130th in Human Development Index

1) India continued to rank low in the Human Development Index (HDI), but climbed five notches to the 130th rank among 188 countries in 2014 in Human Development Report 2015 released on December 14, 2015 by the United Nations Development Programme.

2) India’s HDI value for 2014 is 0.609, which puts the country in the medium human development category on account of rise in life expectancy and per capita income. Between 1980 and 2014, India’s HDI value increased from 0.362 to 0.609, an increase of 68.1% or an average annual increase of about 1.54%.

3) Norway topped followed by Australia and Switzerland. As per the report, the HDI rank of Bangladesh and Pakistan was 142 and 147, respectively. Among the BRICS nations, India was ranked lowest.

Supreme Court Asked Government to Make Functional Organised Crimes Investigating Agency

1) The Supreme Court directed the Ministry pf Home Affairs on December 9, 2015 to make functional by December 1, 2016 the Organised Crimes Investigating Agency, which will probe human trafficking cases across the country.

2) A bench led by Justice Anil R. Dave, Justices Madan B. Lokur and Kurian Joseph asked the Women and Child Development Ministry to complete the consultation process in six months for drafting a comprehensive legislation to deal with issues like prevention, rescue and rehabilitation of the victims of trafficking for commercial and sexual exploitation.

3) The WCD Ministry set-up a panel headed by its Secretary on November 16, 2015 to deliberate upon a new legislation and informed the Court that consultation has to begin soon.

Lok Sabha Passed Bill to Amend Indian Trusts Act

1) A-Bill to amend the ‘archaic’ Indian Trusts Act, 1882, that will provide greater autonomy to trustees and allow them to invest trust funds in securities notified by the government, was passed by the Lok Sabha with voice vote on December 9, 2015.

2) The 1882 Act was considered as a ‘relic of the colonial past’. Section-20 and 20A needed to be amended to allow trustees to invest trust funds in securities and bonds notified by the government.

3)  The new Bill would give greater autonomy and flexibility to trustees in deciding on investment on trust money.

4) Section-20 deals with the investment of trust money and restricts the trustees to investing only in the prescribed securities, including promissory notes, debentures, stock or other securities of any State government or Central government or of the United Kingdom of Britain and Ireland.

5) Section-20A lists the limits of the power of the trustee to purchase redeemable stock at a premium.

6)  In December, 2014, Cabinet had approved the amendments to enable the Central government to notify securities or class of securities for investment by trusts.

India Health Report: Nutrition 2015 and Global Nutrition Report

1) ‘India Health Report: Nutrition 2015’ and ‘Global Nutrition Report’ ‘Made in India : Good Nutrition for All: Implications of the Global Nutrition Report and the India Health Report for Nutrition Security in India were released by Union government on December 10, 2015.

2) These reports has been prepared by Transform Nutrition Consortium that analyses the current situation with nutrition at the national and state level in India. They are jointly organised by Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

3) According to the report, the country meets two of the eight targets set by World Health Organisation (WHO). Infant health has improved in India.

4) At present, around 64.9% infants, aged under five months, are exclusively breastfed. Around 63% of mothers in India, who have children aged under 36 months, have received three or more antenatal checkups.

Cabinet Approved Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill, 2015
1) The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill, 2015 on December 9, 2015, as reported by the Select Committee of Rajya Sabha.

2) The Bill will now be taken up for consideration and passing by the Parliament. The Bill is a pioneering initiative to protect the interest of consumers, promote fair play in real estate transactions and to ensure timely execution of projects.

3) The Bill provides uniform regulatory environment to ensure speedy adjudication of disputes and orderly growth of the real estate sector.

4) It will boost domestic and foreign investment in the Real Estate sector and help achieve the objective of government of India to provide ‘Housing for AIT by enhanced private participation.

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Updated: March 2, 2016 — 4:55 pm

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