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अद्यतन सामयिक घटनाओं को नियमित रूप से पढ़ें (Read updated Current affairs regularly)

Read updated Current Affairs (अद्यतन सामयिकी)| Develop India Group

Fifty-six years after first Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru inaugurated the Sardar Sarovar Dam, Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated the highest embankment on a river in the country to the nation on 17 Sptember 2017.

Originally commissioned in 2006, the Sardar Sarovar Dam's height was recently raised to 138.68 metres. The increased height would enable the Sardar Sarovar Dam to store 4.73 million acre feet (MAF) of water.

The Sardar Sarovar Dam has been built on the Narmada that originates in Madhya Pradesh and passes through Gujarat and Maharashtra. The Narmada forms some portions of borders between Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, and also between Gujarat and Maharashtra before entering the Arabian Sea.

River Narmada is hailed as the lifeline of Gujarat and the Sardar Sarovar Dam with its increased height is expected to change the fortunes for the state. PM Narendra Modi decided to dedicate this mega project to the nation on his birthday, which was also celebrated as Seva Diwas by the BJP. The party hopes to reap good electoral dividends in the Gujarat Assembly elections slated for later this year.

The Sardar Sarovar Dam came up as part of the Narmada Valley Development plan. It was first conceived in the pre-Independence era in 1946. The Sardar Sarovar Dam was planned for harnessing the Narmada river water for irrigation and power generation.

After Independence, the Nehru government depended heavily on big projects as the former Prime Minister believed that mega developmental projects were crucial for rapid progress of India, which had been a colony of the industrial Britain for almost 200 years.

Inaugurating the first such mega dam at Bhakra Nangal, Jawaharlal Nehru had called it "the new temple of resurgent India." Prime Minister Narendra Modi is focusing on building a New India in five years and this dam becomes an integral part of the vision.Jawaharlal Nehru laid the foundation stone of the Sardar Sarovar Project on April 5, 1961. But, the project hit several hurdles - financial and environmental for years.

Twenty-six years after foundation stone was laid, it got environmental clearance only in April 1987 when Nehru's Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister.

India’s foreign exchange reserves topped the $400 billion mark for the first time to hit an all-time high of $400.726 billion on September 8, aided by a sharp rise in foreign currency assets, mainly huge inflows through foreign direct investments in projects and portfolio investment.After hitting the $300 billion mark in 2008, it took the country over nine years to cross the $400 billion level.

Foreign exchange reserves had earlier topped $300-billion in March 2008, months before the global financial crisis hit Indian rupee and the economy. In August 2013, the rupee plummeted to an all-time low of 68.85 against the dollar following the US Federal Reserve’s decision to roll back its stimulus programme. Raghuram Rajan, who was RBI Governor then, announced a series of measures to shore up the rupee and foreign exchange reserves, leading to a gradual strengthening of the rupee and steady build-up of forex reserves.

India is now in the sixth position in forex reserves ranking, ahead of Taiwan, Brazil and euro zone. But China is way ahead topping the table with reserves of $3,053 billion. Japan is in the second position with reserves of $1,188 billion, followed by Switzerland with $743 billion.

On Friday, the Reserve Bank of India said foreign currency assets were $376.20 billion, gold reserves at $20.69 billion, SDRs of $ 1.52 billion and $2.30 billion reserves in IMF. However, the huge reserves have not given adequate returns to the country.

The RBI’s return from foreign currency assets is now only 0.80 per — the lowest in the last 15 years — compared with 1.29 per cent in 2015-16. Its foreign currency assets are invested in various securities, other central banks and commercial banks abroad during the year ended June 2017.

The big rise in forex reserves is to due to inflows through foreign direct investment and portfolio investment in the capital market. Foreign investors pumped in Rs 42,659 crore (around $ 6.7 billion) in stocks and Rs 131,565 crore ($20.55 billion) in debt instruments in calendar 2017.

However, market analysts are expecting a slowdown in FPI inflows. While the market witnessed outflows from the stock market in August and September, FPIs are close to reaching their debt investment limit. The rise in inflows was the major reason for the appreciation of the rupee — which closed at 64.08 against dollar on Friday.

Snow leopards are no longer an endangered species; they’re now considered “vulnerable” to extinction. But scientists caution that the big cats are not out of danger, facing threats ranging from poaching to climate change.

The animals got their new designation from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), an environmental organization that keeps track of the conservation status of plants and animals. The decision was based on a new assessment that determined that snow leopard populations are still declining, but not as fast as we previously thought, says Peter Zahler, who directs the snow leopard programs at the Wildlife Conservation Society, and took part in the assessment. And it’s actually long overdue: the IUCN says that because of a miscalculation in snow leopard populations in the past, the species should have been listed as vulnerable as far back as 2008.

Though the announcement is good news, it doesn’t mean it’s time to celebrate. “Nobody is saying that snow leopards are safe and saved,” Zahler tells The Verge. “They’re not doing as badly as we thought, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re doing well.”

Snow leopards are big cat predators from Asia, where they live in cold high mountains in 12 countries, including China, India, Afghanistan, and Russia. Since 1972, the animals have been listed as “endangered” in the IUCN’s Red List, an internationally recognized standard for assessing extinction risk. To be considered endangered, species have to have global populations of fewer than 2,500 mature adults, and have a decline rate of 20 percent over 16 years.

The new assessment by several conservation organizations found that the snow leopard doesn’t meet the two key criteria, says Tom McCarthy, the executive director of the Snow Leopard Program at Panthera, a wild cat conservation organization that took part in the assessment.

Using improved methods to determine snow leopard populations, the IUCN found that there are more than 2,500 mature adults in the world, with an estimated decline rate of at least 10 percent over 23 years. (Experts now estimate there are about 4,000 snow leopards in the wild, and as many as 10,000.) The last time the snow leopard was assessed, in 2008, researchers used flawed methodology to calculate the number of mature individuals. So the animals might have been faring better for a few years now. “The species should have been listed as Vulnerable in 2008,” the IUCN says.

The Government of India has reportedly granted citizenship to Chakma and Hajong refugees after the Supreme Court asked it to expedite their requests. They, however, cannot own land and will have to apply for Inner Line Permits, the Times of India reported, citing the government.

In 2015, the apex court had directed the Centre to confer citizenship on them.

Chakmas and Hajongs had migrated from Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hill Tracts after they were displaced by the Kaptai dam project in the 1960s.

They also faced religious persecution, since they are Buddhists and Hindus.

Some one lakh Chakma and Hajong refugees are believed to staying in India.

A home ministry survey in 2010-11 had found that over 53,000 refugees had been been living in the three districts of Arunachal Pradesh.

According to TOI, a new group of 45,000 Chakmas had crossed over to Tripura from Bangladesh in 1987.

In a significant step in 2005, the Election Commission issued guidelines to include them in the electoral rolls of Arunachal Pradesh.

On 15 September 2017 India and Japan signed 15 deals in key areas, including civil aviation, trade, science and technology, and skill development.

The pact in the area of disaster risk management, entered into between the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Cabinet Office of the Government of Japan, aims to cooperate and collaborate in the field of disaster risk reduction, an official statement said.

It said the understanding in the field of skill development looks to further strengthen bilateral relations and cooperation in the field of Japanese language education in India.

The one titled 'India-Japan Investment Promotion Road Map' envisages enhanced Japanese investments in India while the 'Japan-India special programme for Make In India' is on bilateral cooperation towards infrastructure development in the Mandal Bechraj-Khoraj region in Gujarat.

There was exchange of RoD (Record of Discussions) on civil aviation under which Indian and Japanese carriers can now mount unlimited number of flights to selected cities in both countries.

There was an agreement to establish a joint exchange programme to identify and foster talented young scientists from both countries to collaborate in the field of theoretical biology.

The MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) between the Department of Biotechnology and Japan's National Institute of Advanced Science & Technology (AIST) seeks to promote research collaboration between these institutions in the field of life sciences and biotech, the statement said.

The India Japan Act East Forum, among the agreements signed, seeks to enhance connectivity and promote developmental projects in India's North Eastern region in an efficient and effective manner, it said.

There were four agreements in the field of sports, including one to facilitate and deepen international education cooperation and exchanges between both Sports Authority of India and Nippon Sport Science University, Japan. 

On 14 September 2017 Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe lay the foundation stone for India’s first bullet train project  which is expected to be completed by 2022 at an estimated cost of Rs 1.10 lakh crore.

The Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train project is likely to traverse the distance of over 500 km between the two cities in around two hours.

Japan has extended a soft loan for the ambitious project conceptualised by PM Modi. The two leaders will also hold the 12th Indo-Japan annual Summit meeting at Gandhinagar after which agreements will be exchanged.

India has been placed at 103 rank on the World Economic Forum's (WEF) Global Human Capital Index, which is topped by Norway. Among the South Asian countries, India falls behind Sri Lanka (70) and Nepal (98), and is just ahead of Bangladesh (111) and Pakistan (125).

The country has the lowest rank among the BRICS nations -- the Russian Federation is at 16th place, followed by China at 34th, Brazil at 77th and South Africa at 87th place, the WEF said. 

India stands at the bottom of the heap among the G20 nations, the report said.  

India also ranks poorly on labour force participation, due in part to one of the world's largest employment gender gaps.

However, it received solid rankings on education quality, staff training and economic complexity.  

India was on 105 position on the list last year, while the top spot was taken by Finland, pushed to second place this year. 

The Global Human Capital Index 2017 has ranked 130 countries on how well they are developing their human capital on a scale from 0 (worst) to 100 (best) across four thematic dimensions -- capacity, deployment, development and know-how -- and five distinct age groups or generations -- 0-14 years; 15-24 years; 25-54 years; 55-64 years; and 65 years and over -- to capture the full human capital potential profile of a country. 

The WEF list takes into account "the knowledge and skills people possess that enable them to create value in the global economic system" to measure the 'human capital' rank of a country. Other countries in the top 10 list are -- Switzerland (3rd), the United States (4th), Denmark (5th), Germany (6th), New Zealand (7th), Sweden (8th), Slovenia (9th) and Austria (10th).

Aiming to put in place a key maritime route connecting India with Northeast Asia and Western Pacific region Delhi is contemplating to put in place a major connectivity initiative — direct shipping link between Chennai and Vladivostok amid China’s ambitious Maritime Silk Route (MSR) connecting Asia with Africa. 

With India making concrete moves to expand its presence in Far East Russia to harness natural resources as evident through Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj’s visit to Vladivostok last week plans are in making for a maritime link connecting Chennai with the key Russian port on the Pacific.

This shipping link would enable to transfer cargo between Chennai and Vladivostok in 24 days in comparison to over 40 days currently taken to transport goods from India to Far East Russia via Europe, according to experts on the subject. 

This proposed maritime route which could be transformed into a corridor could juxtapose with Indo-Japan Pacific to Indian Ocean Corridor amid Beijing’s OBOR of which MSR is a part – virtually connecting entire SE Asia through road, shipping and rail links. 

Swaraj met top Russian Ministers from Putin’s cabinet – Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Industry Minister Denis Manturov, Natural resources Minister Sergei Donskoi and Deputy PM & President’s envoy for Far East Yury Trutnev besides governors of provinces in the region to further India’s role amid Moscow’s aim to diversify options besides China.

South Korean President and Japanese PM were present at the Far East Forum that saw senior level representation (Swaraj) from India for the first time. Few months back Russia announced visa-free entry for Indians in its Far East. 

On the occasion Swaraj also launched Russia Desk for facilitating Russian investments into India as assured by PM Narendra Modi during the annual summit in St Petersburg in June. This is the 3rd such Desk in India after Japan and Korea. Russia Desk would provide complete support service for any kind of Russian investment/ Businessmen/ from legislative to taxation; from personnel to finding right partner, according to informed officials. 

Rafael Nadal won his third US Open and 16th Grand Slam title with a one-sided victory over South Africa's Kevin Anderson in New York. The world number one powered to a 6-3 6-3 6-4 victory in Sunday's final at Flushing Meadows. The Spaniard, 31, has now won two Slams in the same year for the first time since 2013, having won the French Open in June.

Most men's Grand Slam titlesMost men's Grand Slam titlesयहां टूर्नामेंट के विजेता/रनर-अप की पूरी सूची है:-

S.No.

 Event

 Winner

 Runner-Up

1.

 Men's Singles

 Rafael Nadal                                      

 Kevin Anderson

2.

 Women's Singles              

 Sloane Stephens

 Madison Keys

3.

 Men's Doubles

 Jean-Julien Rojer / Horia Tecau

 Feliciano Lopez / Marc Lopez

4.

 Women's Doubles

 Chan Yung-jan / Martina Hingis

 Lucie Hradecka / Katerina Siniakova        

5.

 Mixed Doubles

 Martina Hingis / Jamie Murray

 Chan Hao-ching / Michael Venus

With an aim to bring nutrition to the centre-stage of the National Development Agenda, the NITI Aayog on Tuesday launched the National Nutrition Strategy, in New Delhi.

Launching the National Nutrition Strategy, the NITI Aayog called for renewed focus on nutrition. Formulated through an extensive consultative process, the Strategy lays down a roadmap for effective action, among both implementers and practitioners, in achieving our nutrition objectives. 

Leader of the Green Revolution M.S Swaminathan and H Sudarshan launched the National Nutrition Strategy, along with Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar and Member Vinod Paul.

The recently published NFHS-4 results reflect some progress, with a decline in the overall levels of under nutrition in both women and children. 

However, the pace of decline is far below what numerous countries with similar growth trajectories to India have achieved. 
Moreover, India pays an income penalty of 9% to 10% due to a workforce that was stunted during their childhood.

To address this, NITI Aayog has drafted the National Nutrition Strategy.

The nutrition strategy envisages a framework wherein the four proximate determinants of nutrition – uptake of health services, food, drinking water & sanitation and income & livelihoods – work togetherto accelerate decline of under nutrition in India. 

Currently, there is also a lack of real time measurement of these determinants, which reduces our capacity for targeted action among the most vulnerable mothers and children.

Supply side challenges often overshadow the need to address behavioural change efforts to generate demand for nutrition services. This strategy, therefore, gives prominence to demand and community mobilisation as a key determinant to address India's nutritional needs.

The Central Government has launched "Diksha Portal diksha.gov.in" for teachers on 5th September 2017. This portal was launched by Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu on the occasion of Teacher's Day.

Originally, DIKSHA portal has been created to provide digital and advance technology to teachers. The main objective of the initiation portal is to focus the whole life cycle of the teacher, from the fact that he is a student teacher till his retirement. The Ministry of Human Resource Development has also set up a slogan National Digital Infrastructure for Our Teachers Our Heroes for DIKSHA national teacher’s portal.

On the day of Teacher's Day, the National Teachers' Honor of the year 2016 provided 319 teachers. HRD Minister said that 11 lakh teachers in the country still do not meet eligibility criteria. For them we have given the last chance, they will have to qualify in the next two years. They have the last chance to qualify for a meaningful study of two years. By September 15 they will have to register about this. If they do not pass by 2019, then their job will not be there.

India and Myanmar 6 September 2017 signed 11 agreements in a range of sectors, including one on maritime security cooperation, to further strengthen their multifaceted partnership. The MoUs were signed after Prime Minister Narendra Modi held wide-ranging talks with Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.

India and Myanmar signed an MoU to strengthen maritime security cooperation. The two sides also signed an agreement for sharing white shipping information to improve data sharing on non-classified merchant navy ships or cargo ships.

The 11 MoUs also include one between the Election Commission and Union Election of Myanmar, the national level electoral commission of Myanmar. An MoU was also signed to organise cultural exchange programme for the period 2017-2020, according to a statement issued by Ministry of External Affairs. The two countries also signed agreements on cooperation between Myanmar Press Council and Press Council of India, extension of agreement on the establishment of India-Myanmar Centre for Enhancement of IT skill.

They also signed agreements to cooperate in ‘Medical Products Regulation’ and in the field of health and medicine. They also signed an MoU on enhancing the cooperation on upgradation of the women’s police training centre at Yamethin in Myanmar.
Modi arrived here on the second leg of his two-nation trip during which he travelled to southeastern Chinese city Xiamen where he attended the annual BRICS summit and held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin and other world leaders.

This is Modi’s first bilateral visit to Myanmar. He had visited the country in 2014 to attend the ASEAN-India Summit. Myanmar is one of India’s strategic neighbours and shares a 1,640-km-long border with a number of northeastern states including militancy-hit Nagaland and Manipur.

Energy Efficiency Services Limited ( EESL) , under Ministry of Power, Government of India has launched UJALA (Unnat Jyoti by Affordable Lighting for All) Scheme in the State of Melaka, Malaysia 7 September 2017. The Scheme was launched by Chief Minister of Melaka Datuk Seri Utama Ir. Hj. Idris Bin Hj. Haron. In due course of time, the successful Indian model of UJALA scheme has become a sought-after example for the different nations of the world and will now be implemented in Melaka to extend programme benefits to people of the region.

Under this scheme, each household in Melaka will get 10 high quality 9-watt LED bulbs at a cost of only RM 10, which is a special price and is almost half of what in begin offered in the market. The distribution of these LED bulb will take place from 28 numbers of Japerun in the region. These Japerun are a unique community welfare and engagement centers, which are situated across the Melakan State. Under the extensive and ever-expanding idea of UJALA, Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) plans to distribute about 1 million 9W LED bulbs, which will replace 18W CFLs.

The initiative will have the logistical assistance and facilitation support from Green Growth Asia, which is a not for profit organization. The price of each bulb will be way lesser than global average price of the LED bulbs, which still swings between 3-5 USD.

Notably, each bulb that is being provided by EESL under the UJALA scheme in Melaka comes with a 3-year free replacement warranty against any technical defects. These bulbs sent from India will be of leading brands and manufacturers like Osram, Philips along with other companies of repute.

Giving an overview of expectations from the UJALA scheme, Chief Minister of Melaka, Malaysia, Datuk Seri Utama Ir. Hj. Idris Bin Haron, said, Indias zero-subsidy UJALA programme has paved the way for a brighter future and has now travelled to our country. We will do our bit to seize the learnings of this programme and replicate the same in Malaysian State of Melaka. This will not only benefit the environment, but will also foster new avenues of economic growth in the region."

A reflection of State Governments aspirations, this inclusive scheme will positively impact the economy of the region. This programme will further improve the quality of life of the people residing in the region. With an aim to reduce the annual household electricity bills by approximately 10.22 million RM every year, households will be able to make significant monetary savings in their electricity bills.

UJALAs impact in Malaysia will bring about clean energy, contribute to climate change targets and save the already dwindling energy resources. With a fairly large switch to LED bulbs, Melaka will be able to reduce carbon emissions by around 19,000 tonnes per year. An innovative zero-subsidy model, this scheme will help reduce the subsidy burdens of the State Government. The concept of energy efficiency has strongly overcome many bottlenecks and this adoption by a Malaysian State is yet another achievement towards furthering the idea of energy efficiency to conserve the resources, money and environment.

Sh. Rajkumar Rakhra, National Programme Manager of the UJALA scheme at EESL said, It is a joyous occasion for us all that EESLs UJALA scheme has taken a new stride. Post the United Kingdom, the latest entrant is the Malaysian market. This unique model promises prosperity and Energy Efficiency Services Limited will extend all possible assistance to Melaka for reaping the benefits alike India. We will showcase our best practices from India to take UJALA scheme forward in the region."

The UJALA programme has been one of the prime achievements of Government of India in promoting and executing the concept of energy efficiency. A simple act of change of one light bulb to LED at South Block Prime Minister's office in India heralded a movement in the entire country for considering the same change. Honble Prime Minister of India Sh. Narendra Modi on January 5, 2015 had launched the world's largest and most extensive LED distribution programme, UJALA (Unnat Jyoti by Affordable Lighting for All).

In this initiative, the nodal organisation, EESL, had undertaken the task of setting up phase-wise LED distribution centers across the nation to provide people with affordable LED bulbs and energy efficient appliances. Due to bulk LED bulb procurement by EESL, a healthy competition rose among the manufacturers and this brought down the prices of LED bulbs in India from a range of about Rs. 300 - Rs.400 to about Rs. 70 per bulb. Through this journey, EESL began to majorly transform the market for energy efficient lighting in India in a mere span of only a year.

Currently, over 25-crore LED bulbs have been distributed under the UJALA scheme in India, which are resulting in 33,828 mn kWh of energy savings per year. While about 13,531 crores are being saved in energy bills of consumers per annum, about 2,74,00,887 tonnes of CO2 reduction is taking place per year. Social surveying in India had strongly indicated a public contentment with the scheme and people openly expressed their happiness after witnessing reduction in their electricity bills.

India is all set to whoosh through a tube at the speed of flight. And Andhra Pradesh will likely be the first state to do it. Elon Musk’s Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) has signed an agreement with the AP govt to connect the two cities of Vijayawada and Amaravathi. The 43km drive between the two cities takes a little over an hour. With the hyperloop, it will come down to just six minutes.

Starting October this year, the company will first conduct a six-month feasibility study to find the best possible route between the two cities. Construction begins thereafter, though the launch date isn’t known yet.

What is the hyperloop?

Hyperloop is a radical, yet untested means of travel proposed by maverick entrepreneur Elon Musk. It involves travelling in pods through a sealed pipe at speeds that could touch 1,200km/hr, making it faster than a jet aircraft. These speeds will be possible due to a largely frictionless environment, minus any physical contact or air resistance.

Tests are already underway in several parts of the world. Musk claims he has an approval to build a New York City–Washington DC hyperloop that will cut a five-hour drive to just 29 minutes!

In India, Musk’s HTT isn’t the only startup in the fray. Earlier this year, another company called Hyperloop One identified five routes for its India debut.

On its list are:

Bengaluru-to-Chennai: 334km in 20 minutes

Bengaluru-to-Thiruvananthapuram: 736km in 41 minutes

Delhi-to-Mumbai via Jaipur and Indore: 1,317km in 55 minutes

Mumbai-to-Chennai via Bengaluru: 1,102km 50 minutes

Bengaluru to Chennai: 334km in 20 minutes

In a show of solidarity with Myanmar, India today refused to be a part of a declaration adopted at an international conference here as it carried "inappropriate" reference to violence in Rakhine state from where 125,000 Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh.

An Indian parliamentary delegation, led by Speaker Lok Sabha Sumitra Mahajan, dissociated itself from the 'Bali Declaration' adopted at the 'World Parliamentary Forum on Sustainable Development' held here in Indonesia.

"This was in view of the fact that the declaration, which was to be adopted at the conclusion of the Forum, was not in line with the agreed global principles of 'sustainable development'," said a press release issued by the Lok Sabha Secretariat.

India reiterated its stance that the purpose of convening the Parliamentary forum was to arrive at mutual consensus for implementation of SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) which requires inclusive and broad-based development processes, it said.

"Therefore, the proposed reference to the violence in Rakhine state in the declaration was considered as not consensus-based and inappropriate," the release said.

The part of the declaration to which India objected spoke of the forum expressing "deep concern on ongoing violence in the Rakhine State of Myanmar, amongst others...

"The declaration went on to "call on all parties to contribute to the restoration of stability and security, exercise maximum self-restraint from using violent means, respect the human rights of all people in Rakhine State regardless of their faith and ethnicity, as well as facilitate and guarantee safe access for humanitarian assistance.

"The Indian delegation took the stance on a day Prime Minister Narendra Modi concluded his visit to Myanmar where he expressed solidarity with the government there against the "extremist violence" in the Rakhine state.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi expanded his cabinet on 3 September, inducting nine new faces and promoting four. Here is the full list of his council of ministers:

CABINET MINISTERS

1.Rajnath Singh: Minister of Home Affairs.

2.Sushma Swaraj: Minister of External Affairs.

3.Arun Jaitley: Minister of Finance; Minister of Corporate Affairs.

4. Nitin Jairam Gadkari: Minister of Road Transport and Highways; Minister of Shipping; Minister of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.

5.Suresh Prabhu: Minister of Commerce and Industry.

6.DV Sadananda Gowda: Minister of Statistics and Programme Implementation.

7. Uma Bharati: Minister of Drinking Water and Sanitation.

8.Ramvilas Paswan: Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution.

9.Maneka Sanjay: Gandhi Minister of Women and Child Development.

10.Ananthkumar: Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers; Minister of Parliamentary Affairs.

11.Ravi Shankar Prasad: Minister of Law and Justice; Minister of Electronics and Information Technology.

12.Jagat Prakash Nadda: Minister of Health and Family Welfare.

13.Ashok Gajapathi Raju Pusapati: Minister of Civil Aviation.

14.Anant Geete: Minister of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises.

15.Harsimrat Kaur Badal: Minister of Food Processing Industries.

16.Narendra Singh Tomar: Minister of Rural Development; Minister of Panchayati Raj; Minister of Mines.

17.Chaudhary Birender Singh: Minister of Steel.

18.Jual Oram: Minister of Tribal Affairs.

19.Radha Mohan Singh: Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.

20.Thaawar Chand Gehlot: Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment.

21. Smriti Zubin Irani: Minister of Textiles; Minister of Information and Broadcasting.

22.Harsh Vardhan: Minister of Science and Technology; Minister of Earth Sciences; Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

23.Prakash Javadekar: Minister of Human Resource Development.

24.Dharmendra Pradhan: Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas; Minister of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship.

25.Piyush Goyal: Minister of Railways; Minister of Coal.

26. Nirmala Sitharaman: Minister of Defence.

27.Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi: Minister of Minority Affairs.

MINISTERS OF STATE (INDEPENDENT CHARGE)

1.Rao Inderjit Singh Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Planning; Minister of State in the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers.

2.Santosh Kumar Gangwar: Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Labour and Employment.

3.Shripad Yesso Naik: Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH).

4.Jitendra Singh: Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region; Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office; Minister of State in the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions; Minister of State in the Department of Atomic Energy; Minister of State in the Department of Space.

5.Mahesh Sharma: Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Culture; Minister of State in the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

6.Giriraj Singh: Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.

7.Manoj Sinha: Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Communications; Minister of State in the Ministry of Railways.

8.Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore: Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports; Minister of State in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

9.Raj Kumar Singh: Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Power; Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.

10.Hardeep Singh Puri: Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.

11.Alphons Kannanthanam: Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Tourism; Minister of State in the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

MINISTERS OF STATE

1.Vijay Goel: Minister of State in the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs; Minister of State in the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.

2.Radhakrishnan P: Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance; Minister of State in the Ministry of Shipping.

3.SS Ahluwalia: Minister of State in the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.

4.Ramesh Chandappa Jigajinagi: Minister of State in the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.

5.Ramdas Athawale: Minister of State in the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

6.Vishnu Deo Sai: Minister of State in the Ministry of Steel.

7.Ram Kripal Yadav: Minister of State in the Ministry of Rural Development.

8.Hansraj Gangaram Ahir: Minister of State in the Ministry of Home Affairs.

9.Haribhai Parthibhai Chaudhary: Minister of State in the Ministry of Mines; Minister of State in the Ministry of Coal.

10.Rajen Gohain: Minister of State in the Ministry of Railways.

11.VK Singh Minister of State in the Ministry of External Affairs.

12.Parshottam Rupala: Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare; Minister of State in the Ministry of Panchayati Raj.

13.Krishan Pal: Minister of State in the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

14.Jaswantsinh Sumanbhai Bhabhor: Minister of State in the Ministry of Tribal Affairs.

15.Shiv Pratap Shukla: Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance.

16.Ashwini Kumar Choubey: Minister of State in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

17.Sudarshan Bhagat: Minister of State in the Ministry of Tribal Affairs.

18.Upendra Kushwaha: Minister of State in the Ministry of Human Resource Development.

19.Kiren Rijiju: Minister of State in the Ministry of Home Affairs.

20. Virendra Kumar: Minister of State in the Ministry of Women and Child Development; Minister of State in the Ministry of Minority Affairs.

21.Anantkumar Hegde: Minister of State in the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship.

22.MJ Akbar: Minister of State in the Ministry of External Affairs.

23.Niranjan Jyoti: Minister of State in the Ministry of Food Processing Industries.

24.YS Chowdary: Minister of State in the Ministry of Science and Technology; Minister of State in the Ministry of Earth Sciences.

25.Jayant Sinha: Minister of State in the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

26.Babul Supriyo: Minister of State in the Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises.

27.Vijay Sampla: Minister of State in the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

28.Arjun Ram Meghwal: Minister of State in the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs; Minister of State in the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.

29.Ajay Tamta: Minister of State in the Ministry of Textiles.

30. Krishna Raj: Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.

31.Mansukh L Mandaviya: Minister of State in the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways; Minister of State in the Ministry of Shipping; Minister of State in the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers.

32. Anupriya Patel: Minister of State in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

33.CR Chaudhary: Minister of State in the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution; Minister of State in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

34.PP Chaudhary: Minister of State in the Ministry of Law and Justice; Minister of State in the Ministry of Corporate Affairs.

35.Subhash Ramrao Bhamre: Minister of State in the Ministry of Defence.

36.Gajendra Singh Shekhawat: Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.

37.Satya Pal Singh: Minister of State in the Ministry of Human Resource Development; Minister of State in the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.

In a declaration, the BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China- South Africa) called upon all nations to adopt a comprehensive approach in combating terrorism including countering radicalisation and blocking terror financing sources.

Full text of Xiamen Declaration

Xiamen, China, 4 September 2017
 
1. We, the Leaders of the Federative Republic of Brazil, the Russian Federation, the Republic of India, the People's Republic of China and the Republic of South Africa, met on 4 September 2017 in Xiamen, China, at the Ninth BRICS Summit. Under the theme "BRICS: Stronger Partnership for a Brighter Future", we endeavor to build on our achievements already made with a shared vision for future development of BRICS. We also discussed international and regional issues of common concern and adopted the Xiamen Declaration by consensus.

2. We reiterate that it is the overarching objective and our desire for peace, security, development and cooperation that brought us together 10 years ago. BRICS countries have since traversed a remarkable journey together on their respective development paths tailored to their national circumstances, devoted to growing their economies and improving people's livelihoods. Our committed and concerted efforts have generated a momentum of all-dimensional and multi-layered cooperation fostered by the previous Leaders' Summits. Upholding development and multilateralism, we are working together for a more just, equitable, fair, democratic and representative international political and economic order.

4. Our cooperation since 2006 has fostered the BRICS spirit featuring mutual respect and understanding, equality, solidarity, openness, inclusiveness and mutually beneficial cooperation, which is our valuable asset and an inexhaustible source of strength for BRICS cooperation. We have shown respect for the development paths of our respective choices, and rendered understanding and support to each other's interests. We have upheld equality and solidarity. We have also embraced openness and inclusiveness, dedicated to forging an open world economy. We have furthered our cooperation with emerging markets and developing countries (EMDCs). We have worked together for mutually beneficial outcomes and common development, constantly deepening BRICS practical cooperation which benefits the world at large.

4. We draw satisfaction from the many fruitful results of our cooperation, including establishing the New Development Bank (NDB) and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA), formulating the Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership, strengthening political and security cooperation including through Meetings of BRICS High Representatives for Security Issues and Foreign Ministers Meetings, and deepening the traditional ties of friendship amongst our peoples

5. Recalling our Summits in Ufa and Goa, we will work together to further enhance BRICS strategic partnership for the welfare of our peoples. We commit ourselves to build upon the outcomes and consensus of our previous Summits with unwavering conviction, so as to usher in the second golden decade of BRICS cooperation and solidarity.

6. Believing in the broad development prospects of our countries and the vast potential of our cooperation, we have full confidence in the future of BRICS. We commit to further strengthen our cooperation.

-- We will energize our practical cooperation to boost development of BRICS countries. We will, inter alia, promote exchanges of good practices and experiences on development, and facilitate market inter-linkages as well as infrastructure and financial integration to achieve interconnected development. We shall also strive towards broad partnerships with EMDCs, and in this context, we will pursue equal-footed and flexible practices and initiatives for dialogue and cooperation with non-BRICS countries, including through BRICS Plus cooperation.

-- We will enhance communication and coordination in improving global economic governance to foster a more just and equitable international economic order. We will work towards enhancement of the voice and representation of BRICS countries and EMDCs in global economic governance and promote an open, inclusive and balanced economic globalization, thus contributing towards development of EMDCs and providing strong impetus to redressing North-South development imbalances and promoting global growth.

-- We will emphasize fairness and justice to safeguard international and regional peace and stability. We will stand firm in upholding a fair and equitable international order based on the central role of the United Nations, the purposes and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and respect for international law, promoting democracy and the rule of law in international relations, and making joint efforts to address common traditional and non-traditional security challenges, so as to build a brighter shared future for the global community.

-- We will embrace cultural diversity and promote people-to-people exchanges to garner more popular support for BRICS cooperation through deepened traditional friendships. We will expand people-to-people exchanges in all dimensions, encourage all fabrics of the society to participate in BRICS cooperation, promote mutual learning between our cultures and civilizations, enhance communication and mutual understanding among our peoples and deepen traditional friendships, thus making BRICS partnership closer to our people's hearts.

BRICS Practical Economic Cooperation

7. We note that against the backdrop of more solid global economic growth, enhanced resilience and emerging new drivers, BRICS countries continue to play an important role as engines of global growth. Noting the uncertainties and downside risks that persist, we emphasize the need to be vigilant in guarding against inward-looking policies and tendencies that are weighing on global growth prospects and market confidence. We call upon all countries to calibrate and communicate their macroeconomic and structural policies and strengthen policy coordination.

8. We note that practical economic cooperation has traditionally served as a foundation of BRICS cooperation, notably through implementing the Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership and initiatives related to its priority areas such as trade and investment, manufacturing and minerals processing, infrastructure connectivity, financial integration, science, technology and innovation, and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) cooperation, among others. We welcome the first report on the implementation of the Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership, and the broad package of outcomes delivered by the sectoral ministerial meetings. We commit to use all policy tools - fiscal, monetary and structural - and adopt innovation-driven development strategies to enhance resilience and potentials of our economies, so as to contribute to strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive global growth.

9. Stressing the role of enhanced trade and investment cooperation in unleashing the potential of BRICS economies, we agree to improve and broaden trade and investment cooperation mechanism and scope, with a view to enhancing BRICS economic complementarity and diversification in BRICS countries. We welcome the positive outcomes of the 7th BRICS Trade Ministers Meeting in terms of the cooperative frameworks, roadmaps and outlines on trade and investment facilitation and connectivity and enhanced policy sharing, information exchange, capacity building, through enhanced joint efforts on trade and investment facilitation, trade in services, E-commerce, IPR (in synergy with the cooperation activities among BRICS IP authorities), economic and technical cooperation, SMEs and women economic empowerment. We welcome the setting up of the BRICS E-Port Network that will operate on a voluntary basis and the establishment of the BRICS E-commerce Working Group. We also welcome China's initiative to host an International Import Expo in 2018 and encourage our business communities to actively participate in it.

10. We stress the importance of enhancing BRICS financial cooperation to better serve the real economy and meet the development needs of BRICS countries. We note the agreement by the finance ministers and central bank governors on cooperation on Public Private Partnerships (PPP), including through PPP experience exchange and application of the BRICS Good Practices on PPP Frameworks. We acknowledge the establishment of a temporary task force to conduct technical discussion on various ways of cooperation, including utilizing existing facilities of the MDBs based on national experiences, exploring the possibility of establishing a new PPP Project Preparation Fund and other options. We encourage cooperation and coordination by our accounting standards setters and audit regulators and agree to explore convergence of accounting standards and continue discussion on cooperation on auditing oversight in the area of bond issuance, so as to lay the groundwork for bond market connectivity among BRICS countries, with due regard to applicable national legislation and policies. We agree to promote the development of BRICS Local Currency Bond Markets and jointly establish a BRICS Local Currency Bond Fund, as a means of contribution to the capital sustainability of financing in BRICS countries, boosting the development of BRICS domestic and regional bond markets, including by increasing foreign private sector participation, and enhancing financial resilience of BRICS countries.

11. In order to serve the demand arising from rapid growth of trade and investment among the BRICS countries, we agree to facilitate financial market integration through promoting the network of financial institutions and the coverage of financial services within BRICS countries, subject to each country's existing regulatory framework and WTO obligations, and to ensure greater communication and cooperation between financial sector regulators. We agree to take an active part in the efforts to implement and improve International Standards on Combating Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism and Proliferation in FATF, including through cooperation among BRICS Heads of Delegation on AML/CFT, also in the context of the work of BRICS CTWG and by using other platforms and to safeguard integrity of national financial systems. We agree to communicate closely to enhance currency cooperation, consistent with each central bank's legal mandate, including through currency swap, local currency settlement, and local currency direct investment, where appropriate, and to explore more modalities of currency cooperation. We encourage the BRICS Interbank Cooperation Mechanism to continue playing an important role in supporting BRICS economic and trade cooperation. We commend the progress in concluding the Memoranda of Understanding among national development banks of BRICS countries on interbank local currency credit line and on interbank cooperation in relation to credit rating.

12. We highlight the importance of innovation as a key driver for mid and long term economic growth and global sustainable development. We commit to promote cooperation on science, technology and innovation (STI) to forge synergy in tapping new growth momentum for our five economies and continue to address the development challenges we face. We commend the selection of BRICS research and development projects under the BRICS STI Framework Program and note the launch of the 2nd call for projects. We welcome the BRICS STI Cooperation MOU and support enhanced cooperation on innovation and entrepreneurship, including by promoting technology transfer and application, cooperation among science and technology parks and enterprises as well as mobility of researchers, entrepreneurs, professionals and students. We encourage increased participation of the academia, businesses, civil society and other stakeholders in this process, and support the promotion of STI investment and cross-border investment through existing funding, institutions and platforms including the NDB. We agree to continue to work on a cooperation platform for innovation and entrepreneurship and support the implementation of the BRICS Innovation Cooperation Action Plan 2017-2020.

13. We reaffirm our commitment to BRICS industrial cooperation, including on industrial capacities and policies, new industrial infrastructure and standards, and among small, micro and medium-sized enterprises (SMMEs), so as to jointly seize the opportunities brought about by the new industrial revolution and expedite our respective industrialization processes. We encourage exploring the establishment of BRICS Institute of Future networks. We will enhance joint BRICS research, development and innovation in ICT including the Internet of Things, Cloud computing, Big Data, Data Analytics, Nanotechnology, Artificial Intelligence and 5G and their innovative applications to elevate the level of ICT infrastructure and connectivity in our countries. We will advocate the establishment of internationally applicable rules for security of ICT infrastructure, data protection and the Internet that can be widely accepted by all parties concerned, and jointly build a network that is safe and secure. We will increase investment of ICT, recognize the need to further increase investment in ICT Research and development, unleash the dynamics of innovation in producing goods and services. We encourage identification and facilitation of partnership between institutes, organizations, enterprises in the implementation of proof of concepts and pilot projects by leveraging complementary strengths in ICT hardware, software and skills through developing next generation of innovative solutions in the areas of smart cities, health care and energy efficient device, etc. We support active collaboration in implementing the BRICS ICT Development Agenda and Action Plan.

14. We reaffirm our commitment to fully implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We will also advocate equitable, open, all-round, innovation-driven and inclusive development, to achieve sustainable development in its three dimensions - economic, social and environmental- in a balanced and integrated manner. We support the important role of the United Nations, including the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), in coordinating and reviewing global implementation of the 2030 Agenda, and support the need to reform the UN Development System with a view to enhancing its capability in supporting Member States in implementing the 2030 Agenda. We urge developed countries to honor their Official Development Assistance commitments in time and in full and provide more development resources to developing countries.

15. Underlining the strategic importance of energy to economic development, we commit to strengthen BRICS cooperation on energy. We recognize that sustainable development, energy access, and energy security are critical to the shared prosperity and future of the planet. We acknowledge that clean and renewable energy needs to be affordable to all. We will work to foster open, flexible and transparent markets for energy commodities and technologies. We will work together to promote most effective use of fossil fuels and wider use of gas, hydro and nuclear power, which will contribute to the transformation toward a low emissions economy, better energy access, and sustainable development. In this regard, we underline the importance of predictability in accessing technology and finance for expansion of civil nuclear energy capacity which would contribute to sustainable development in BRICS countries. We encourage continued dialogue on the establishment of a BRICS Energy Research Cooperation Platform and urge relevant entities to continue to promote joint research on energy cooperation and energy efficiency.

16. We commit to further promote green development and low-carbon economy, in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, enhance BRICS cooperation on climate change and expand green financing. We call upon all countries to fully implement the Paris Agreement adopted under the principles of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) including the principles of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, and urge developed countries to provide financial, technological and capacity-building support to developing countries to enhance their capability in mitigation and adaptation.

17. Stressing the importance of environmental cooperation to sustainable development of our countries and the well-being of our peoples, we agree to take concrete actions to advance result-oriented cooperation in such areas as prevention of air and water pollution, waste management and biodiversity conservation. We recognize the importance of an environmentally sound technology platform and of improving urban environmental sustainability, and support BRICS joint efforts in this regard. Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa appreciate and support China's hosting of the meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2020.

18. Noting the fruitful agricultural cooperation over the past years, we recognize the unique characteristics and complementarity of BRICS countries in agricultural development and vast cooperation potential in this area. In this connection, we agree to deepen cooperation in the five priority areas such as food security and nutrition, adaptation of agriculture to climate change, agricultural technology cooperation and innovation, agricultural trade and investment, and ICT application in agriculture to contribute to stable global agricultural growth and achievement of Sustainable Development Goals. We welcome the establishment in India of the Coordination Center of BRICS Agriculture Research Platform, a virtual network which will facilitate addressing these priority areas.

19. We express concern over the challenges faced by the African continent in achieving independent and sustainable development and in wildlife conservation. We reaffirm our commitment to strengthen cooperation with Africa and help the continent to address illegal wildlife trade, promote employment, food security, infrastructure development and industrialization including through connectivity and developmental initiatives and projects. We reaffirm our strong support for African Union's implementation of its various programs under Agenda 2063 in pursuit of its continental agenda for peace and socio-economic development.

20. Keenly aware of the negative impact of corruption on sustainable development, we support the efforts to enhance BRICS anti-corruption cooperation. We reaffirm our commitment to intensify dialogue and experience sharing and support compiling a compendium on fighting corruption in BRICS countries. We further acknowledge that illegal flow of the proceeds of corruption impairs economic development and financial stability, and support enhanced cooperation in asset recovery. We support the strengthening of international cooperation against corruption, including through the BRICS Anti-Corruption Working Group, as well as on matters related to asset recovery and persons sought for corruption. We acknowledge that corruption including illicit money and financial flows, and ill-gotten wealth stashed in foreign jurisdictions is a global challenge which may impact negatively on economic growth and sustainable development. We will strive to coordinate our approach in this regard and encourage a stronger global commitment to prevent and combat corruption on the basis of the United Nations Convention against Corruption and other relevant international legal instruments.

21. Living in the era of digital economy, we are ready to use opportunities it provides and address challenges it poses for the global growth. We will act on the basis of principles of innovation, partnership, synergy, flexibility, open and favorable business environment, trust and security, protection of consumer rights in order to ensure the conditions for a thriving and dynamic digital economy, that will foster global economic development and benefit everyone.

22. We appreciate the efforts and contribution of the BRICS Business Council and Business Forum to strengthening our economic cooperation in infrastructure, manufacturing, energy, agriculture, financial services, e-commerce, alignment of technical standards and skills development. We welcome the establishment of a working group on regional aviation within the framework of the Business Council and in this connection acknowledge the Brazil's proposal on an MOU on regional aviation partnership. We encourage business communities and associations to actively participate in BRICS cooperation, and give full play to their role as trade and investment facilitation institutions in promoting mutually beneficial cooperation.

23. We recognize the importance of transformation that is taking place in the labor market and the opportunities and challenges it brings. We note with satisfaction the progress in BRICS cooperation with regard to human resources, employment and social security, fostering strong labor market information systems and networking of BRICS of Labor Research Institutes and BRICS Social Security Cooperation Framework. We welcome the achievement of a BRICS common position on governance in the future of work and agree to further strengthen exchanges and cooperation in ensuring full employment, promoting decent work, advancing poverty alleviation and reduction through skills development and achieving universal and sustainable social security systems.

24. We recognize the importance of competition protection to ensure the efficient social and economic development of our countries, to stimulate innovative processes and to provide quality products to our consumers. We note the significance of the interaction between the Competition Authorities of our countries, in particular, in identifying and suppressing restrictive business practices that are of a transboundary nature.

25. We note with satisfaction the progress made by Customs Administrations in their cooperation on trade facilitation, security and enforcement, capacity building and other issues of mutual interest, including through such mechanisms as BRICS Customs Cooperation Committee and BRICS Customs Working Group. We encourage broadened cooperation under the guiding principles of mutual sharing of information, mutual recognition of customs control, and mutual assistance in enforcement so as to boost growth and promote people's welfare. In order to strengthen mutual cooperation in customs matters, we reaffirm our commitment to finalize BRICS Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement at the earliest.

26. We adhere to the principle of utilizing outer space for peaceful purposes and emphasize the need to strengthen the international cooperation in space activities in order to use space technologies to respond to global climate change, environmental protection, disaster prevention and relief and other challenges faced by humankind. 27. Recalling the Saint-Petersburg and Udaipur Declarations of BRICS Ministers for Disaster Management and the decision to establish a BRICS Joint Taskforce on Disaster Risk Management, we underline the importance of consistent joint work of emergency services of BRICS countries aimed at building a safer future by reducing existing disaster risks, including exchange of information on best practices concerning disaster risk management and cooperation in the field of forecasting and early warning for effective response to natural and human induced disasters.

28. We note with satisfaction the progress in BRICS cooperation in such fields as audit, statistics and export credit and agree to further advance cooperation in these fields.

Global Economic Governance

29. We resolve to foster a global economic governance architecture that is more effective and reflective of current global economic landscape, increasing the voice and representation of emerging markets and developing economies. We reaffirm our commitment to conclude the IMF's 15th General Review of Quotas, including a new quota formula, by the 2019 Spring Meetings and no later than the 2019 Annual Meetings. We will continue to promote the implementation of the World Bank Group Shareholding Review.

30. We emphasize the importance of an open and resilient financial system to sustainable growth and development, and agree to better leverage the benefits of capital flows and manage the risks stemming from excessive cross-border capital flows and fluctuation. The BRICS CRA represents a milestone of BRICS financial cooperation and development, which also contributes to global financial stability. We welcome the establishment of the CRA System of Exchange in Macroeconomic Information (SEMI), and the agreement to further strengthen the research capability of the CRA, and to promote closer cooperation between the IMF and the CRA.

31. We welcome the establishment of the NDB Africa Regional Center launched in South Africa, which is the first regional office of the Bank. We welcome the setting up of the Project Preparation Fund and the approval of the 2nd batch of projects. We congratulate the Bank on the ground-breaking of its permanent headquarters building. We stress the significance of infrastructure connectivity to foster closer economic ties and partnerships among countries. We encourage the NDB to fully leverage its role and enhance cooperation with multilateral development institutions including the World Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank as well as with the BRICS Business Council, to forge synergy in mobilizing resources and promote infrastructure construction and sustainable development of BRICS countries.

32. We emphasize the importance of an open and inclusive world economy enabling all countries and peoples to share in the benefits of globalization. We remain firmly committed to a rules-based, transparent, non-discriminatory, open and inclusive multilateral trading system as embodied in the WTO. We reaffirm our commitments to ensure full implementation and enforcement of existing WTO rules and are determined to work together to further strengthen the WTO. We call for the acceleration of the implementation of the Bali and Nairobi MCM outcomes and for the WTO ministerial conference to be held this year in Argentina to produce positive outcomes. We will continue to firmly oppose protectionism. We recommit to our existing pledge for both standstill and rollback of protectionist measures and we call upon other countries to join us in that commitment.

33. Valuing the G20's continued role as the premier forum for international economic cooperation, we reiterate our commitments to the implementation of the outcomes of G20 summits, including the Hamburg Summit and the Hangzhou Summit. We call upon the G20 to further enhance macroeconomic policy coordination to minimize negative spillovers and external shocks to EMDEs. We agree to enhance coordination and cooperation under the Argentina Presidency in 2018, with an aim to make the G20 process and outcomes reflect the interests and priorities of EMDEs.

34. We reaffirm our commitment to achieving a fair and modern global tax system and promoting a more equitable, pro-growth and efficient international tax environment, including to deepening cooperation on addressing Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS), promoting exchange of tax information and improving capacity-building in developing countries. We will strengthen BRICS tax cooperation to increase BRICS contribution to setting international tax rules and provide, according to each country's priorities, effective and sustainable technical assistance to other developing countries.

International Peace and Security

35. Cognizant of the profound changes the world is undergoing and the global security challenges and threats faced by the international community, we commit to enhance communication and cooperation in international fora on issues concerning international peace and security. We reiterate our commitment to safeguarding world peace and security and to upholding the basic norms of the international law, and the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations including sovereign equality and non-interference in other countries' internal affairs.

36. We welcome the 7th Meeting of the BRICS High Representatives for Security Issues held on 27-28 July 2017 in Beijing, and commend the meeting for having discussion and deepening our common understanding on global governance, counter-terrorism, security in the use of ICTs, energy security, major international and regional hotspots as well as national security and development. We note Brazil's proposal to establish a BRICS Intelligence Forum. We welcome Chair's report to us on the proceedings of the Meeting and encourage the succeeding chairpersonships to continue this exercise. We look forward to enhancing practical security cooperation agreed upon in the above areas

37. We welcome China's hosting of the Meeting of BRICS Ministers of Foreign Affairs/International Relations in Beijing on 18-19 June 2017 at the initiative of China. Ministers exchanged views on major global political, security, economic and financial issues of common concern and on strengthening BRICS cooperation. We look forward to the upcoming meeting of Foreign Ministers on the margins of the UNGA. We welcome South Africa's offer to host the next stand-alone Foreign Ministers Meeting in 2018.

38. We recall that development and security are closely interlinked, mutually reinforcing and key to attaining sustainable peace. We reiterate our view that the establishment of sustainable peace requires a comprehensive, concerted and determined approach, based on mutual trust, mutual benefit, equity and cooperation, that addresses the causes of conflicts, including their political, economic and social dimensions. We condemn unilateral military interventions, economic sanctions and arbitrary use of unilateral coercive measures in violation of international law and universally recognized norms of international relations. We emphasize that no country should enhance its security at the expense of the security of others.

39. We reaffirm our commitment to the United Nations as the universal multilateral organization entrusted with the mandate for maintaining international peace and security, advance global development and to promote and protect human rights.

40. We recall the 2005 World Summit Outcome document and reaffirm the need for a comprehensive reform of the UN, including its Security Council, with a view to making it more representative, effective and efficient, and to increase the representation of the developing countries so that it can adequately respond to global challenges. China and Russia reiterate the importance they attach to the status and role of Brazil, India and South Africa in international affairs and support their aspiration to play a greater role in the UN.

41. We reiterate that the only lasting solution to the crisis in Syria is through an inclusive "Syrian-led, Syrian-owned" political process which safeguards the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria, in pursuance of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254(2015), and promotes the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people. We strongly support the Geneva Peace Talks and the Astana process, and welcome the creation of the de-escalation areas in Syria, which contributed to decrease the levels of violence and generate positive momentum and conditions for meaningful progress in the peace talks under the auspices of the UN. We oppose the use of chemical weapons by anyone, for any purpose and under any circumstance.

42. We reiterate the urgent need for a just, lasting and comprehensive solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in order to achieve peace and stability in the Middle East on the basis of relevant United Nations resolutions, the Madrid Principles, the Arab Peace Initiative and previous agreements between the parties through negotiations with a view to creating an independent, viable, territorially contiguous Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security with Israel. Committed to making greater contribution to such solution, we express readiness to enhance our contribution towards a just and lasting resolution of the Middle East conflict and support international efforts to promote peace and stability in the region.

43. We congratulate the people and Government of Iraq for the recovery of Mosul and for the progress achieved in the fight against terrorism and reaffirm our commitment to Iraq's sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence and our support for Iraqi government and its people. We express our concern over the situation in Yemen and urge all parties to cease hostilities and to resume negotiations supported by the United Nations. We also call on all parties directly involved in the current diplomatic crisis in the Gulf region to overcome their dissensions through dialogue and welcome the efforts of Kuwaiti mediation in this regard.

44. We strongly deplore the nuclear test conducted by the DPRK. We express deep concern over the ongoing tension and prolonged nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula, and emphasize that it should only be settled through peaceful means and direct dialogue of all the parties concerned.

45. We firmly support the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear issue and call upon all relevant parties to comply fully with their obligations and ensure full and effective implementation of the JCPOA to promote international and regional peace and stability.

46. We commend the efforts of African countries, the African Union and sub-regional organizations in addressing regional issues and maintaining regional peace and security, and emphasize the importance of collaboration between the United Nations and the African Union in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations. We support efforts towards comprehensively resolving the issues in Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, South Sudan, Somalia, Central Africa Republic and Western Sahara.

47. We strongly condemn terrorist attacks resulting in death to innocent Afghan nationals. There is a need for immediate cessation of violence. We reaffirm our support to the people of Afghanistan in their efforts to achieve "Afghan-led and Afghan-owned" peace and national reconciliation, to the ongoing international efforts, including the Moscow Format of consultations on Afghanistan and "Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process", as well as multimodal connectivity projects to promote peace and stability, to the fight against terrorism and drug-threat, and to the national reconstruction efforts by Afghanistan. We support the efforts of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces in fighting terrorist organizations.

48. We, in this regard, express concern on the security situation in the region and violence caused by the Taliban, ISIL/DAISH, Al-Qaida and its affiliates including Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, TTP and Hizb ut-Tahrir.

49. We deplore all terrorist attacks worldwide, including attacks in BRICS countries, and condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations wherever committed and by whomsoever and stress that there can be no justification whatsoever for any act of terrorism. We reaffirm that those responsible for committing, organizing, or supporting terrorist acts must be held accountable. Recalling the primary leading role and responsibility of states in preventing and countering terrorism, we stress the necessity to develop international cooperation, in accordance with the principles of international law, including that of sovereign equality of states and non-interference in their internal affairs. We reaffirm solidarity and resolve in the fight against terrorism, value the 2nd BRICS Counter-Terrorism Working Group Meeting held in Beijing on 18 May 2017, and agree to strengthen our cooperation.

50. We call upon all nations to adopt a comprehensive approach in combating terrorism, which should include countering radicalization, recruitment, movement of terrorists including Foreign Terrorist Fighters, blocking sources of financing terrorism including, for instance, through organized crime by means of money-laundering, supply of weapons, drug trafficking and other criminal activities, dismantling terrorist bases, and countering misuse of the Internet including social media by terrorist entities through misuse of the latest Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). We are committed to prevent and counter the growing spread of terrorist narratives, and to tackle all sources, techniques and channels of terrorist financing. We call for swift and effective implementation of relevant UNSC Resolutions and the FATF International Standards worldwide. We seek to intensify our cooperation in FATF and FATF-style regional bodies (FSRBs). We recall the responsibility of all States to prevent financing of terrorist networks and terrorist actions from their territories.

51. We call upon the international community to establish a genuinely broad international counter-terrorism coalition and support the UN's central coordinating role in this regard. We stress that the fight against terrorism must be conducted in accordance with international law, including the Charter of the United Nations, international refugee and humanitarian law, human rights and fundamental freedoms. We reaffirm our commitment on increasing the effectiveness of the UN counter-terrorism framework, including in the areas of cooperation and coordination among the relevant UN entities, designation of terrorists and terrorist groups and technical assistance to Members States. We call for expeditious finalization and adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) by the United Nations General Assembly.

52. We recognize the important contribution of BRICS countries to United Nations peacekeeping operations, and the importance of United Nations peacekeeping operations to international peace and security. We emphasize the need for BRICS countries to further enhance communication on peacekeeping matters.

53. We reiterate our commitment to address the world drug problem based on the United Nations drug control conventions, through an integrated, comprehensive and balanced approach to drug supply and demand reduction strategies. We stress the importance of the outcome document of the 30th Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on the world drug problem, and call for strengthening of international and regional cooperation and coordination to counter the global threat caused by the illicit production and trafficking of drugs, especially opiates. We note with deep concern the increasing links in some regions of the world between drug trafficking, money laundering and organized crime and terrorism.

54. We reiterate the need for all countries to cooperate in promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms under the principles of equality and mutual respect. We agree to continue to treat all human rights, including the right to development, in a fair and equal manner, on the same footing and with the same emphasis. We will strengthen cooperation on issues of common interests both within BRICS and in multilateral fora including the United Nations Human Rights Council, taking into account the necessity to promote, protect and fulfill human rights in a non-selective, non-politicized and constructive manner, and without double standards.

55. Keenly aware of the global security challenges faced by the international community in the area of international migration, we emphasize the growing role of effective migration regulation for the benefit of international security and development of the society.

56. We consider the UN has a central role in developing universally accepted norms of responsible state behavior in the use of ICTs to ensure a peaceful, secure, open, cooperative, stable, orderly, accessible and equitable ICT environment. We emphasize the paramount importance of the principles of international law enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, particularly the state sovereignty, the political independence, territorial integrity and sovereign equality of states, non-interference in internal affairs of other states and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. We emphasize the need to enhance international cooperation against terrorist and criminal misuse of ICTs, reaffirm the general approach laid in the eThekwini, Fortaleza, Ufa and Goa declarations in this regard, and recognize the need for a universal regulatory binding instrument on combatting the criminal use of ICTs under the UN auspices as stated in the Ufa Declaration. We note with satisfaction the progress achieved by the Working Group of Experts of the BRICS States on Security in the use of ICTs. We decide to promote cooperation according to the BRICS Roadmap of Practical Cooperation on Ensuring Security in the Use of ICTs or any other mutually agreed mechanism and acknowledge the initiative of the Russian Federation on a BRICS intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in ensuring security in the use of ICTs.

57. We believe that all states should participate on an equal footing in the evolution and functioning of the Internet and its governance, bearing in mind the need to involve relevant stakeholders in their respective roles and responsibilities. The structures that manage and regulate the critical Internet resources need to be made more representative and inclusive. We note with satisfaction the progress made by the BRICS Working Group on ICT Cooperation. We recognize the necessity to strengthen our cooperation in this area. To that end, BRICS will continue to work together through the existing mechanism to contribute to the secure, open, peaceful and cooperative use of ICTs on the basis of equal participation of the international community in its management.

58. We reiterate that outer space shall be free for peaceful exploration and used by all States on the basis of equality in accordance with international law. Reaffirming that outer space shall remain free from any kind of weapons or any use of force, we stress that negotiations for the conclusion of an international agreement or agreements to prevent an arms race in outer space are a priority task of the United Nations Conference on Disarmament, and support the efforts to start substantive work, inter alia, based on the updated draft treaty on the prevention of the placement of weapons in outer space and of the threat or use of force against outer space objects submitted by China and the Russian Federation. We also note an international initiative for a political obligation on the no first placement of weapons in outer space.

59. Priority should be accorded to ensuring the long-term sustainability of outer space activities, as well as ways and means of preserving outer space for future generations. We note that this is an important objective on the current agenda of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS). In this respect, we welcome the decision by the UNCOPUOS Scientific and Technical Sub-Committee Working Group on Long-term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities to conclude negotiations and achieve consensus on the full set of guidelines for the long term sustainability of outer space activities by 2018 to coincide with the commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the first United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE + 50).

People-to-People Exchanges

60. We emphasize the importance of people-to-people exchanges to promoting development and enhancing mutual understanding, friendship and cooperation among BRICS peoples. We agree to deepen cooperation in such fields as culture, education, science and technology, sports and health as well as among media organizations and local governments, to strengthen the third pillar of BRICS cooperation and foster a meaningful resonance of the BRICS partnership amongst its peoples.

61. We value cultural diversity as a precious asset of BRICS cooperation. We stress the role of culture and cultural diversity in promoting sustainable development, and encourage BRICS countries to engage in cultural exchanges and mutual learning to cultivate common values on the basis of diversity and sharing. We welcome the formulation of a BRICS action plan to advance practical cultural cooperation and the establishment of the BRICS Alliance of Libraries, Alliance of Museums, Alliance of Art Museums and National Galleries as well as Alliance of Theaters for Children and Young People. We look forward to the success of the BRICS Culture Festival to be held later in mid-September 2017 in Xiamen. We will continue our work on the establishment of a BRICS Cultural Council to provide the necessary platform to enhance cultural cooperation among BRICS countries.

62. We stress the importance of education to promoting sustainable economic and social development, and to strengthening BRICS partnership, and commend the positive progress in our education cooperation. We reiterate our support for BRICS University League and BRICS Network University in conducting education and research cooperation, welcome efforts to promote cooperation among educational think tanks, and exchanges among youth including by organizing youth summer camps and offering more scholarship opportunities to BRICS students. We agree to share experience and practices in realizing education-related sustainable development goals.

63. We believe in the importance of sports cooperation to popularizing traditional sports and deepening the friendship among BRICS peoples. Recalling the successful hosting of BRICS U-17 Football Tournament in Goa in 2016, we commend the success of the First BRICS Games, which was a highlight of this year's people-to-people exchanges. We encourage relevant departments to sign an MOU on sports cooperation to provide greater impetus to sports cooperation among our five countries.

64. We agree to enhance BRICS role in global health governance, especially in the context of the World Health Organization and UN agencies, and foster the development and improve the availability of innovative medical products through promotion of research and development and access to affordable, quality, effective and safe drugs, vaccines, diagnostics and other medical products and technologies as well as to medical services through enhanced health systems and health financing. We agree to improve surveillance capacity and medical services to combat infectious diseases, including Ebola, HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, as well as non-communicable diseases and encourage greater application of ICTs to improve the level of health service provision. We welcome the outcomes of the BRICS Health Ministers Meeting and High-level Meeting on Traditional Medicine, and commend the establishment of a long-term mechanism for traditional medicine exchanges and cooperation, to promote mutual learning of traditional medicines and pass them down to future generations. We welcome the decision to set up the Tuberculosis Research Network, to be presented at the First WHO Global Ministerial Conference Ending Tuberculosis in the Sustainable Development Era: A Multisectoral Response, Moscow, Russian Federation, 16-17 November 2017. We express support for the meeting as well as the First United Nations General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Tuberculosis in 2018. We commit ourselves to enhanced cooperation at international fora on health matters including at G20.

65. We reaffirm our commitment to promote a long-term and balanced demographic development and continue cooperation on population related matters in accordance with the Agenda for BRICS Cooperation on Population Matters for 2015-2020.

66. We note with satisfaction the progress in the exchanges and cooperation in various areas, including governance, film-making, media, think-tank, youth, parliament, local governments and trade union, and agree to further advance such exchanges and cooperation. We commend the first joint film production by BRICS countries and commend the success of the BRICS Film Festival, the Media Forum, Friendship Cities and Local Governments Cooperation Forum, Youth Forum, Young Diplomats Forum and Young Scientists Forum. We appreciate the successful hosting of the BRICS Forum of Political Parties, Think-Tanks and Civil Society Organizations as well as the Seminar on Governance, and will carry these good initiatives forward in the future. In this regard, we note the proposal to establish by China the BRICS Research and Exchange Fund.

67. We appreciate the important progress in BRICS institutional development and reiterate our commitment to further strengthen it to make BRICS cooperation more responsive to the changing situation. We commend China for taking measures during its Chairmanship to enhance the Sherpas' coordination role in BRICS cooperation. We instruct the Sherpas to continue their discussion concerning BRICS institutional development.

68. We recommit our strong support for multilateralism and the central role of the UN in international affairs. We commit to strengthening the coordination and cooperation among BRICS in the areas of mutual and common interests within the UN and other multilateral institutions, including through regular meetings among our permanent representatives in New York, Geneva and Vienna, and further enhance the voice of BRICS in international fora.

69. In continuation of BRICS tradition of outreach since the Durban Summit, we will hold a Dialogue of Emerging Market and Developing Countries on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the building of broad partnerships for development under the theme of "Strengthening Mutually-Beneficial Cooperation for Common Development" in promotion of BRICS Plus cooperation.

70. South Africa, Brazil, Russia and India commend China's Chairmanship in 2017 and express sincere gratitude to the Government and people of China for hosting the Ninth BRICS Summit in Xiamen.

71. China, Brazil, Russia and India extend full support for South Africa in hosting the Tenth BRICS Summit in 2018.

Senior IAS officer Rajiv Mehrishi has been appointed as the next Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India. The seasoned bureaucrat will be succeeding Shashi Kant Sharma who will be finishing his term on September 25, 2017.

He is from the Rajasthan cadre1978 batch of IAS. He has an MBA from Strathclyde Business School, Glasgow besides a BA and MA in History from St Stephen's College in Delhi. He has over 30 years of experience and has served in various key posts in both Centre as well as in Rajasthan government.

Amongst his designations, he has been Chief Secretary of Rajasthan, Principal Resident Commissioner of Rajasthan, Principal Secretary (Finance) etc. and also served as the Union Finance Secretary, Secretary (Overseas Indian Affairs) and Secretary (Fertilizers) in the CentreHe was appointed the Union Home Secretary in August 2015 and retired in July 2017.

What is a CAG and what it does?

CAG is a constitutional office formed under article 148 and is appointed by President of India by warrant under his hand for period of 6 years or up to age of 65 years, whichever earlier.

The conditions and services of CAG is all written down in the CAG (conditions and services) Act, 1953 as amended in 1971Allowances and pensions payable to or in respect of persons in that office are charged upon the Consolidated Fund of India (CFI).

Removal of CAG is very difficult and similar to removal of a Supreme Court Judge.

CAG suggests the account keeping of union and state with the approval of president.

It exercises power in relation to account of union and state or any other enterprise funded by GOI as may be prescribed by law made by parliament.

The CAG reports to the president and governors regarding the accounts of union and state respectively and then the president presents report to the parliament.

Five individuals and an organization from Indonesia, Japan, Philippines, Singapore and Sri Lanka received on Thursday the prestigious 2017 Ramon Magsaysay Award, Asia’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize.The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation honored the awardees, who collectively “advanced causes to improve lives and transform societies across Asia.”

The 2017 Magsaysay Awardees are: Yoshiaki Ishizawa, Japan; Lilia de Lima, Philippines; Abdon Nababan, Indonesia; Philippine Educational Theater Association, Philippines; Gethsie Shanmugam, Sri Lanka; and Tony Tay, Singapore.

Japanese scholar Ishizawa, led conservation efforts in Cambodia’s Angkor Wat in the 1980’s – which was then in danger of destruction – by campaigning in Japanese media and working with Cambodians.

De Lima, the first Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) Director-General, led reforms at the agency, allowing the Philippines to rise as one of the region’s top investment destinations. Despite criticisms, she streamlined PEZA’s operations by halving its 1,000-person bureaucracy and promoting a culture of transparency and honesty.

Nababan, founder of Indonesian nongovernment organization Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara or Indigenous People’s Alliance of Archipelago, was known for his advocacy affecting his country’s indigenous peoples. He worked with communities and government in legal reforms, conflict settlement and economic empowerment.

PETA was the only organization that was awarded this year. It has greatly contributed in shaping theater arts in the Philippines as a force for social change.“Its impassioned, unwavering work in empowering communities in the Philippines, and the shining example it has set as one of the leading organization of its kind in Asia,” the Foundation said.

Shanmugam, on the other hand, has devoted four decades of her life working for the Sri Lankan people displaced by war. She has worked “under extreme conditions” to rebuild war-scarred lives by providing psychosocial support and counseling to the victims.For 14 years, Tay fed the poor in Singapore through “Willing Hearts,” a volunteer-based, non-profit organization that distributes hot, packed meals daily to the poor.

The group now cooks 6,000 meals daily by 300 regular volunteers.

The Ramon Magsaysay Award, Asia’s premier prize, is now on its 59th year.

2017 Ramon Magsaysay Awardees

Winners of the 2017 Ramon Magsaysay Award pose for a picture after a briefing inside the Ramon Magsaysay headquarters in Manila, Tuesday. Abdon Nababan of Indonesia (left to right), Tony Tay of Singapore, Gethsie Shanmugam of Sri Lanka, Lilia De Lima of Philippines, Yoshiaki Ishizawa of Japan and Cecilia Garrucho, representing the winner Philippine Education Theater Association (PETA).

On August 22, Government of India announced the National Sports Award list including Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, Dronacharya Award, Arjuna Award and Dhyan Chand Award. The awards will recognise and reward excellence in sports. A total of 29 players have been selected to receive the honours from President Ram Nath Kovind at a specially organised function at the Rashtrapati Bhawan on August 29, 2017.

A large number of nominations were received for National Sports Awards-2017 this year, which were considered by the selection committees consisting of former Olympian, Arjuna Awardees, Dronacharya Awardees, Dhyan Chand Awardees, Sport Journalists/ Experts/ Commentators and sports administrators.

The selection committee for Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award and Arjuna Awards was headed by Justice C K Thakkar. The selection committee for Dronacharya Awards and Dhyan Chand Awards was headed by Pullela Gopichand.

Here's the list of awardees this year:

Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award 2017:

Devendra - Para Athlete
Sardar Singh - Hockey

Dronacharya Awards 2017

Late Dr R Gandhi - Athletics
Heera Nand Kataria - Kabaddi
GSSV Prasad - Badminton (Lifetime)
Brij Bhushan Mohanty - Boxing (Lifetime)
PA Raphel - Hockey (Lifetime)
Sanjoy Chakraverthy - Shooting (Lifetime)
Roshan Lal - Wrestling (Lifetime)

Arjuna Awards 2017

VJ Surekha - Archery
Khushbir Kaur - Athletics
Arokia Rajiv - Athletics
Prasanthi Singh - Basketball
Laishram Debendro Singh - Boxing
Cheteshwar Pujara - Cricket
Harmanpreet Kaur - Cricket
OinamBembem Devi - Football
SSP Chawrasia - Golf
SV Sunil - Hockey
Jasvir Singh - Kabaddi
PN Prakash - Shooting
A Amalraj - Table Tennis
Saketh Myneni - Tennis
Satyawart Kadian - Wrestling
Mariyappan - Para-Athlete
Varun Singh Bhati - Para-Athlete

Dhyan Chand Award 2017

Bhupender Singh - Athletics
Syed Shahid Hakim - Football
Sumarai Tete - Hockey

Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award is given outstanding performance in the field of sports by a sportsperson over a period of four yearArjuna Award is for consistency outstanding performance for four yearsDronacharya Award is for coaches for producing medal winners at International sports eventsDhyan Chand Award is for lifetime contribution to sports developmentApart from a medal and a citation, Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Awardee will receive a cash prize of Rs 7.5 lakhArjuna, Dronacharya and Dhyan Chand Awardees will received statuettes, certificates and cash prize of Rs 5 lakh each.

On August 22, Government of India announced the National Sports Award list including Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, Dronacharya Award, Arjuna Award and Dhyan Chand Award. The awards will recognise and reward excellence in sports. A total of 29 players have been selected to receive the honours from President Ram Nath Kovind at a specially organised function at the Rashtrapati Bhawan on August 29, 2017.

A large number of nominations were received for National Sports Awards-2017 this year, which were considered by the selection committees consisting of former Olympian, Arjuna Awardees, Dronacharya Awardees, Dhyan Chand Awardees, Sport Journalists/ Experts/ Commentators and sports administrators.

The selection committee for Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award and Arjuna Awards was headed by Justice C K Thakkar. The selection committee for Dronacharya Awards and Dhyan Chand Awards was headed by Pullela Gopichand.

Here's the list of awardees this year:

Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award 2017:

Devendra - Para Athlete
Sardar Singh - Hockey

Dronacharya Awards 2017

Late Dr R Gandhi - Athletics
Heera Nand Kataria - Kabaddi
GSSV Prasad - Badminton (Lifetime)
Brij Bhushan Mohanty - Boxing (Lifetime)
PA Raphel - Hockey (Lifetime)
Sanjoy Chakraverthy - Shooting (Lifetime)
Roshan Lal - Wrestling (Lifetime)

Arjuna Awards 2017

VJ Surekha - Archery
Khushbir Kaur - Athletics
Arokia Rajiv - Athletics
Prasanthi Singh - Basketball
Laishram Debendro Singh - Boxing
Cheteshwar Pujara - Cricket
Harmanpreet Kaur - Cricket
OinamBembem Devi - Football
SSP Chawrasia - Golf
SV Sunil - Hockey
Jasvir Singh - Kabaddi
PN Prakash - Shooting
A Amalraj - Table Tennis
Saketh Myneni - Tennis
Satyawart Kadian - Wrestling
Mariyappan - Para-Athlete
Varun Singh Bhati - Para-Athlete

Dhyan Chand Award 2017

Bhupender Singh - Athletics
Syed Shahid Hakim - Football
Sumarai Tete - Hockey

Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award is given outstanding performance in the field of sports by a sportsperson over a period of four yearArjuna Award is for consistency outstanding performance for four yearsDronacharya Award is for coaches for producing medal winners at International sports eventsDhyan Chand Award is for lifetime contribution to sports developmentApart from a medal and a citation, Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Awardee will receive a cash prize of Rs 7.5 lakhArjuna, Dronacharya and Dhyan Chand Awardees will received statuettes, certificates and cash prize of Rs 5 lakh each.

When we give examples of inspirations to the world, Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams who are the names which are the pride of India. Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams were the first two Indian origin women to fly to space. Here is one more rising inspiration- Jaslin Kaur Josan becomes the first Indian Sikh woman to be selected by NASA for the Mars Expedition happening in 2030. 

After Kalpana Chawla, Jasleen Kaur Josan has become the 2nd Indian Women and first Sikh women to be selected by NASA for the Mars Expedition happening in 2030. The mission called the Orion Mission will be the first man mission to the red planet and candidates were selected from around the world.

“It will likely take nine months to reach there, three months to stay there, and then another nine months to return. So it’s a 21-month mission in total”, said Jasleen Kaur. She shared that she and her family are more excited than nervous about the chance to go Mars.

The group will be the first to live and create a habitat on Mars and many people will not return. However, Jasleen is part of the two way mission where those going will return.

The 2020 mission candidates will not return back to planet Earth. An earlier mission to Mars will take place in three years from now, although this is a one-way colonization mission where the group inhabiting Mars will not be returning to Earth. Josan is part of the two-way mission which is set to happen in 2030.

After Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams now Jasleen Kaur Josan has set an example for the world to look upto and get motivated to pursue their dreams. Indians are really proud of them.

In a setback, India’s mission to launch its eighth navigation satellite, where the private sector was involved for the first time in the assembly of its spacecraft, failed on following a technical snag after a perfect lift-off of its polar rocket.

Describing the failed mission as a “mishap”, Isro chairman Kiran Kumar said the heat shield did not separate for the IRNSS 1H, a backup navigation satellite, to be put into orbit in the final leg of the launch sequence. As a result, the satellite got stuck in the fourth stage of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) C39.

The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, in its forty-first flight (PSLV-C39), will launch IRNSS-1H, the eighth satellite of the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) into a Sub-Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (Sub-GTO). The launch will take place from the Second Launch Pad (SLP) of Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota. As in the previous six launches of IRNSS satellites, PSLV-C39 will use ‘XL’ version of PSLV equipped with six strap-ons, each carrying 12 tons of propellant.

IRNSS-1H

IRNSS-1H will be launched into a sub Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (sub-GTO) with a 284 km perigee and 20,650 km apogee with an inclination of 19.2 deg with respect to the equatorial plane. After injection into this preliminary orbit, the two solar panels of IRNSS-1H are automatically deployed in quick succession and the Master Control Facility (MCF) at Hassan takes control of the satellite and performs the initial orbit raising manoeuvres using the Liquid Apogee Motor (LAM) of the satellite, thereby finally placing it in its designated slot in the inclined Geosynchronous orbit.

While IRNSS-1H joins the constellation for providing navigation services, IRNSS-1A will be used for messaging services. IRNSS 1H comes with more flexibility in service and it is compatible with the satellites, which are in orbit.

Payloads: Like its other IRNSS predecessors, IRNSS-1H also carries two types of payloads – navigation payload and ranging payload. The navigation payload of IRNSS-1H will transmit navigation service signals to the users. This payload will be operating in L5-band and S-band. Highly accurate Rubidium atomic clocks are part of the navigation payload of the satellite. The ranging payload of IRNSS-1H consists of a C-band transponder, which facilitates accurate determination of the range of the satellite. IRNSS-1H also carries Corner Cube Retro Reflectors for laser ranging.

Launch Vehicle: PSLV-C39/IRNSS-1H Mission

Type of Satellite: Navigation

Manufacturer: ISRO

Owner: ISRO

Application: Navigation

The United States approved the first gene therapy in the nation on Wednesday — a treatment that uses a patient’s own immune cells to fight childhood leukaemia. The treatment is made by Novartis and is called Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel).
This type of immunotherapy, known as a CAR-T cell therapy, was known by the term CTL019 until now.

It was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for children and young adult patients up to age 25 with a form of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

The FDA described the approval as “a historic action” that would usher “in a new approach to the treatment of cancer and other serious and life-threatening diseases,” said a statement.

Studies have shown that 83% of patients responded to the treatment, achieving remission within three months.

The treatment is not a pill or a form of chemotherapy. It uses a patient’s own immune cells, called T-cells, along with white blood cells.

These cells are removed from a patient, sent to a lab, and encoded with a viral vector, reprogrammed, and returned to the patient.

The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) on 30 August 2017 approved implementation of the first phase of recommendations of the Shekatkar Committee which pertain to the Army. These reforms involve redeployment and restructuring of approximately 57,000 posts of officers, soldiers and civilians in the Army.

Defence Minister Arun Jaitley announced that 65 of the 99 recommendations have been approved for implementation. The Ministry of Defence has already begun with the decision to close 39 military farms in a time-bound manner.These reforms will improve operational efficiency of the Army by pushing soldiers from non-operational duties to operational tasks. It will free manpower to raise new combat units and increase the strength of existing units.According to a release by the ministry, the first phase will be completed in all respects by December 31, 2019.

Aimed at enhancing combat capability and improving efficiency, these reforms are internal to the Army. Jaitley clarified that these reforms are part of an ongoing process and not related to the recently-concluded standoff with China at Doklam.

The ministry had constituted an expert committee under the chairmanship of Lt General (retd) D B Shekatkar with a mandate to recommend measures for enhancing combat capability and rebalancing defence expenditure of the armed forces with an aim to increase “teeth-to-tail ratio”.The committee submitted its report in December 2016 and was considered by the ministry. Its recommendations included far-reaching ones pertaining to higher defence organisation, restructuring and staffing of the ministry, ordnance factories and Directorate General of Quality Assurance (DGQA).

While deferring the recommendations involving itself, the ministry chose 99 recommendations which were directly concerned with the three defence services. The minister approved 65 of these recommendations, pertaining to the Army, for implementation.Sources in the ministry said that recommendations pertaining to the Air Force and Navy are still under discussion with the services and will be announced in due course. The recommendations of the Shekatkar Committee pertaining to higher defence reforms are being studied at the highest levels.When his comments were sought, Lt Gen Shekatkar said: “This is certainly a welcome step and a good beginning.

The committee made a total of 188 recommendations, out of which 99 were initially approved by the Defence Minister.

Now they have ordered implementation of 65 of those 99. I hope that in due course of time the government will not only implement the 99 but also the remaining ones. Implementation will result in significant saving of manpower, funds and infrastructure. It will improve quality, accountability and answerability.”“My only fear is that those who sit behind the files in centres of power do not scuttle this issue because of the fear of losing their own empire. These recommendations will result not only in better combat potential but also combat endurance, both of which are crucial,” he said.

In its report, the committee had warned that implementation of its recommendations cannot be selective. It had reiterated that redeployment of manpower and downsizing of some of the organisations under the ministry will have to be across the board, and ruthless, to be effective.In its release, the ministry did not mention any timeline for implementation of the remaining phases of the report. A decision on those recommendations will be closely watched, as they include creating consensus among the services and will affect the decision-making process at the ministry.

The restructuring announced Wednesday takes forward plans announced by the Army in 2015 after its internal studies whereby the teeth-to-tail ratio was to be improved. The restructuring was to be led by Army Staffing and Establishment Committee (ASEC) at Army headquarters, but those recommendations were largely incorporated in the Shekatkar Committee report.

Eminent Konkani writer Mahabaleshwar Sail has been honoured with the Saraswati Samman 2016 for his novel Hawthan.

The award comprises a cash prize of Rs 15 lakh and a citation.

The 74-year-old writer's novel was shortlisted from 22 regional language books.

Best known for his work, 'Paltadcho Munis', which inspired a film by the same name, Sail is a renowned bi-lingual writer based in Goa. He has four Marathi dramas and seven Konkani novels to his credit.

He has also written short stories and a novel in Marathi.Published in 2009, 'Hawtha' is a work of fiction presenting the cultural map of the traditional potter community of Goa.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. global nuclear watchdog, opened a uranium bank in Kazakhstan on Tuesday, a $150-million facility designed to discourage new nations from enriching the nuclear fuel. The Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) Bank in the city of Oskemen, in eastern Kazakhstan, will store up to 90 tonnes of the fuel, enough to power a large city for three years, and sell it to IAEA members if they are unable to procure it elsewhere.

“The LEU Bank will serve as a last-resort mechanism to provide confidence to countries that they will be able to obtain LEU for the manufacture of fuel for nuclear power plants in the event of an unforeseen, non-commercial disruption to their supplies,” IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said in a statement on 28 August 2017.

Countries such as Iran have said they need enrichment facilities to ensure a steady supply of fuel for nuclear power plants, and the idea behind the bank is to make such supply available without domestic enrichment.

Russia has operated a similar bank since 2010 but the one in Kazakhstan will be the first one fully owned and operated by the global nuclear watchdog.

“By hosting the IAEA LEU bank, Kazakhstan has made another contribution to strengthening the global non-proliferation regime,” Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said as he handed Amano a symbolical key to the facility at a ceremony in the Kazakh capital, Astana.

“I am confident that the IAEA LEU Bank will make a valuable contribution to international efforts to ensure the availability of fuel for nuclear power plants,” Amano said.

The IAEA said in a statement it would begin buying uranium soon, with the aim to ship it to the bank next year. The project was funded by donors, including the United States, the European Union, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Norway and the Nuclear Threat Initiative.

The Gobindobhog rice, a speciality of West Bengal’s Bardhaman district, has got the Geographical Indication (GI) status.
The region of Bardhaman (now divided into the districts of Purba and Paschim Bardhaman) is known as the Rice Bowl of Bengal mainly because of Gobindobhog rice, a speciality of the district.

The GI tag is given to a product to indicate its specific geographical location or point of origin. The tag ensures none other than those authorised are allowed to use the product name.

As a result of getting the GI tag, as the certification is also called, rice from other regions or rice of other varieties cannot be branded as ‘gobindobhog’.

Hence, the marketability of the rice would be strengthened, for the local, national and international markets, said AITC.
This variety of rice is primarily cultivated in Purba Bardhaman district, in the southern basin of the Damodar River in the Raina 1, Raina 2 and Khandaghosh blocks. Gobindobhog was cultivated in an area of 35 hectares last year, and of this, 20 hectares were spread over an area of Raina 1 and Raina 2 blocks.

The south Damodar belt has been the traditional area of gobindobhog rice cultivation. The rice has several advantages. It is cultivated late, hence not much affected by rains. It is less prone to pests. The productivity per area is high, and also the price the cultivators get.

'Gobindobhog' is a non-basmati indigenous, aromatic rice of West Bengal being grown in the state for the past 300 years. It is has short white kernels with a good cooking quality and pleasant aroma.

The rice is popular in the domestic market as well in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India is all set to launch ‘Deep Ocean Mission’ by January 2018. This will improve India’s position in ocean research field. Shri M Rajeevan, Secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences announced today.

Secretary was speaking through video conference in the workshop arranged by National Institute of Oceanography, Dona Paula. Shri M S Nagar, Member Standing Committee, Ministry of Earth Science, Dr VSN Murthy, Director, National Institute of Oceanography were also present at the inauguration of the workshop on ‘Three decades of India acquiring Pioneer Investor Status- Achievements and way forward’. India achieved a lot in the field of ocean research; still it is long way to go, said Secretary M Rajeevan on this occasion. 

The program on Poly metallic nodules was initiated at CSIR-NIO with the collection of the first nodule sample from Arabian Sea on board the first Research Vessel Gaveshani on 26 January 1981. India was the first country in the world to have been given the Pioneer Area for exploration of deep-sea mineral viz. Polymetallic nodules in the Central Indian Ocean Basin in 1987. This was based on the extensive surveys carried out by the scientists of CSIR-NIO, on several research ships leading to the allocation of an area of 150,000 sq km to the country with exclusive rights under the UN Law of the sea. 

Subsequently, Environment Impact Assessment studies for nodule mining by CSIR-NIO, development of metal extraction process by CSIR-National Metallurgical Laboratory, Jamshedpur and CSIR- Institute for Minerals and Metals Technology, Bhubaneswar and development of mining technology by National Institute of Ocean Technology, Chennai, have been taken up under the national program on Polymetallic nodules funded by Ministry of Earth Sciences. 

Based on the resource evaluation, India has now retained an area of 75,000 sq km with an estimated resource of about 100 million tons of strategic metals such Copper,Nickel, Cobalt besides Manganese and Iron. A First Generation Mine-site (FGM) with an area of 18,000 sq km has been identified. Latest technologies for extraction of metals from the minerals have also been developed under the programme. Detailed environmental data has been collected for compliance with International Seabed Authorities requirements. Besides identifying the mineral resource and developing technologies for mining and extraction, the programme has also resulted in high impact research as well as manpower development. 

 India and Germany on Monday signed an agreement on technical cooperation under the Indo-German Energy Programme – Green Energy Corridors (IGEN-GEC). The agreement was signed by India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH India on behalf of Germany. An official statement said that the main objective of this programme component is to improve the sector framework and conditions for grid integration of renewable energy.

In 2013, Germany had decided to provide concessional loans of up to 1 billion euro through KfW (German Development Bank). In addition, it had offered to lend up to 10 million euro under technical assistance in forecasting, balancing, market design, network management and demand side energy efficiency implemented by GIZ.

These contributions have been further increased in 2015 and 2016 through concessional loans of up to 400 million euro for transmission infrastructure. Germany also provides a loan of 7 million euro for training activities in the photovoltaic solar rooftop sector and energy efficiency in residential buildings under technical assistance through GIZ.

The vice president of India Venkaiah Naidu on Monday launched the National Sports Talent Search Portal, a government initiative to unearth sporting talent from every nook and corner of the country. Speaking on the occasion, Naidu said that the provision of infrastructure and training facilities and establishment of academies would be critical to India becoming a strong sporting nation.

Under the initiative, a child or his parents, teachers or coaches can upload his bio data or video on the portal. The Sports ministry will select talented players and impart training to them at Sports Authority India centres.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday made a mention of the portal launch during his 'Man ki Baat' radio programme.

"We need to create good infrastructure for sports in all states and nurture sporting talent from an early age. Across the length and breadth of the country, we need more training academies and coaching centres to turn our young men and women into sports stars and role models for succeeding generations," he said.

"Barring cricket and hockey earlier as team sports, our success in sports events is sporadic and more on account of individual effort and excellence, rather than any state patronage and encouragement. That must change. Be it Sania Mirza, PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal, PT Usha, Milkha Singh or Abhinav Bhindra, all of them did themselves and the nation proud through perseverance and tenacity," he added.

Talking about the Portal, Naidu said, "The platform of National Sports Talent Search Portal will be a game changer and enable the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports and Sports Authority of India select the best.

"This initiative will not only help in identifying the best talent, but will also provide a level playing field to all the applicants and create a competitive environment."

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 29 August 2017 paid tribute to hockey legend Major Dhyan Chand on his birth anniversary and launched the National Sports Talent Search portal. Modi said the legend’s sporting skills did “wonders for Indian hockey”.

His birthday is celebrated as National Sports Day in India.

The Prime Minister said the nation has immense sporting talent. “To harness this potential” the portal was launched, he added.

It would provide “essential direction and support to youngsters to pursue their sporting aspirations...”, Modi said, adding, “Sports is about physical fitness, mental alertness and personality enhancement.”

Since nuclear weapons testing began on 16 July 1945, nearly 2,000 have taken place. Early on, having nuclear weapons was seen as a measure of scientific sophistication or military might, with little consideration given to the devastating effects of testing on human life, let alone the dangers of nuclear fallout from atmospheric tests. Hindsight and history have shown us the terrifying and tragic effects of nuclear weapons testing, especially when controlled conditions go awry, and in light of the far more powerful and destructive nuclear weapons that exist today.

The human and environmental tragedies that are the result of nuclear testing are compelling reasons for the need to observe the International Day against Nuclear Tests – a day in which educational events, activities and messages aim to capture the world’s attention and underscore the need for unified efforts to prevent further nuclear weapons testing.
The international instrument to put an end to all forms of nuclear testing is the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), unfortunately, this has yet to enter into force.

On 2 December 2009, the 64th session of the United Nations General Assembly declared 29 August the International Day against Nuclear Tests by unanimously adopting resolution 64/35. The resolution calls for increasing awareness and education “about the effects of nuclear weapon test explosions or any other nuclear explosions and the need for their cessation as one of the means of achieving the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world.

” The resolution was initiated by the Republic of Kazakhstan, together with a large number of sponsors and cosponsors with a view to commemorate the closure of the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test site on 29 August 1991. The Day is meant to galvanize the United Nations, Member States, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, youth networks and the media to inform, educate and advocate the necessity of banning nuclear weapon tests as a valuable step towards achieving a safer world.

2010 marked the inaugural commemoration of the International Day against Nuclear Tests. Each year, since then, the day has been observed by coordinating various activities throughout the world, such as symposia, conferences, exhibits, competitions, publications, lectures in academic institutions, media broadcasts and other initiatives. 

Since its establishment, many bilateral and multilateral governmental level developments as well as broad movements in civil society have helped to advance the cause of banning nuclear tests.

Moreover, “convinced that nuclear disarmament and the total elimination of nuclear weapons are the only absolute guarantee against the use or threat of nuclear weapons,” the General Assembly designated 26 September as the “International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons", which is devoted to furthering the objective of the total elimination of nuclear weapons, through the mobilization of international efforts. First proposed in October 2013, the resolution (A/RES/ 68/32) was a follow-up to the high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament held on 26 September 2013 in the UN General Assembly. The International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons was observed for the first time in September 2014. The International Day against Nuclear Tests, together with other events and actions, has fostered a global environment with more optimistic prospects for a world free of nuclear weapons.

As the Secretary-General recognized in his message to the Conference on Disarmament, the security environment is increasingly complex, but the complexity cannot be an excuse for inaction and cynicism. Although challenges remain, especially in terms of the deteriorating international security environment along with increased military spending and a strategic tilt towards nuclear weapons, there have been visible signs of progress on various fronts in 2017. This was most apparent with the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, consensus on recommendations to the General Assembly by the Open-ended working group on the SSOD-IV, the positive environment at the first session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Review Conference on NPT, and the adoption by the UN Disarmament Commission of a consensus recommendations document after nearly two decades of inactivity.

It is the hope of the UN that one day all nuclear weapons will be eliminated. Until then, there is a need to observe International Day against Nuclear Tests as we work towards promoting peace and security world-wide. As the High Representative Ms. Izumi Nakamitsu remarked at the Annual NATO Conference on WMD Arms Control, Disarmament and Non-Proliferation on 29 May, 2017, “there is no one path to the elimination of nuclear weapons. We should continue to exert all efforts to bring about other measures to achieve and maintain a nuclear-weapon-free world.” Initiatives such as the International Day against Nuclear Tests are part of the global efforts towards a nuclear-weapon-free world.

The Indian Commodity Exchange (ICEX) launched the world's first diamond futures contracts on Monday to provide exporters with a hedging tool. India is a global diamond polishing hub where 14 out of every 15 rough diamonds in the world are polished. At the launch, the first diamond contract for delivery in November was traded at Rs 3,279/cent. One cent is the one-hundredth of a carat (ct).With over 103 registered members so far, ICEX has launched 1 ct diamond futures contract for delivery in November and followed by contracts with monthly settlements. 50 cents and 30 cents contracts will be introduced after making the initial contract successful. The 1-carat contract for expiry in November, December and January will have delivery centre at Surat.

The merger of Ahmedabad-based National Multi Commodity Exchange (NMCE) into ICEX was also announced on Monday. ICEX will soon approach the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), Ahmedabad, to initiate the merger procedure. After merger clearance, ICEX would automatically get approval for the launch of some agricultural commodities like rubber, coffee.

"The journey for diamond futures launch started over two and a half years ago with approaching several ministries to convince about the potential of this contract. With diamond not being a notified commodity, it was important for the exchange to convince the government officials about the need of such contract. Diamond was notified as a commodity for derivatives trading on online exchanges. Convincing ICEX Board was also a challenge. The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) has approved the contract after lots of consultations with the physical market intermediaries," said ICEX Managing Director (MD) and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Sanjit Prasad.

The exchange had to suspend trading in 2014 when its net worth had eroded to little above Rs 40 crore on very thin volume because of stiff competition from its peers.

"Our net worth as of today stands at Rs 121.52 crore, way above the regulatory requirement of Rs 100 crore. Following the merger of NMCE, our net worth would surpass Rs 200 crore," informed Prasad.ICEX has been polling polished diamond prices for over 8-9 months for the settlement of the contract. Polling prices from the physical market would be used as a benchmark for the settlement of the contract. Price variation would be Re 1 with an initial margin of 5 per cent on value at risk (VAR) basis.ICEX will offer HVS2 quality diamond certified by the International Institute of Diamond Grading & Research (IIDGR), a De Beers group company, and vaulting services will be offered by Malca Amit.

"It is a compulsory delivery contract. Hence, any attempt of price manipulation is associated with the fear of delivery. Thus, we do not see any risk of price manipulation by any trader or group of traders," said Prasad.

The contract has the facility to trade in one cent that can be accumulated over a period of time up to 1 ct and make it deliverable like systematic investment plan (SIP). Until the time of delivery, the trade quantity would continue to remain in an electronic account of the trader. The price displayed/traded includes delivery and transaction charges.

When asked about over dependence on one commodity and one contract, Prasad said, "Globally, an exchange is known for specific one or two commodities and [a] similar number of contracts. For example, London Metal Exchange (LME) is popular for its non-ferrous metal contract with copper being the primary commodity. Similarly, NYMEX (New York Mercantile Exchange), COMEX (Commodity Exchange), Bursa Malaysia and Multi Commodity Exchange are known for trading largely in one or two specific commodities and contracts only."

India imports rough diamond worth $19 billion and exports polished valued $24 billion annually. India caters to over 90 per cent of the world's polishing market for rough diamonds.

The Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) of the Ministry of Earth Sciences here inaugurated the Ocean Forecasting System for Comoros, Madagascar, and Mozambique at the third Ministerial Meeting of Regional Integrated Multi-Hazard Early Warning System for Asia and Africa (RIMES), held at Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, on 25 August 2017.

The ocean forecast and early warming information on high wave, currents, winds, tides, sub-surface ocean conditions cater to users like fishermen, coastal population, tourism sector, coastal defence officials, marine police, port authorities, research institutions and offshore industries of these countries.

These ocean services are aimed towards safety at the sea. The system would offer oil spill advisory services, high wave alerts, port warnings, forecast along the ship routes in addition to tsunami and storm surge warnings and help in search and rescue operations.

M. Rajeevan, Secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences, and Chair, RIMES Council, launched the system for operational use in the presence of David Grimms, President of World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Wesley Nukund, Minister for Disaster Management, Papua New Guinea, Soulaimana Kaambi, Deputy Minister, Comoros, Abdullahi Majeed, Minister of Disaster Management Maldives, Anura Priyadharshana Yapa Yapa, Minister of Disaster Management Sri Lanka, Mr. Subbaiah, Director RIMES, Dr. Balakrishnan Nair, Head, ISG, INCOIS and Director General of Metrology and Disaster Management of 48 countries of Indian and pacific Ocean region.

INCOIS is already providing these operational services to Maldives, Sri Lanka and Seychelles. The Ministerial council and the WMO lauded and placed on record the initiatives of INCOIS/India in providing the ocean forecast and early warning services to Indian Ocean countries and taking a leadership in Ocean Services in the Indian Ocean region.

“The Ocean Forecast System developed for the Indian Ocean countries and the real-time data from their territories also help to improve the ocean forecast and early warning system for Indian coast too” said Dr. Balakrishnan Nair, Head, Ocean Science and Information Services Hyderabad.

Wave surge ('kallkadal') and coastal flooding incident occurred in 28 July to 3rd August 2016 along Kerala and West Bengal were well predicted and real-time data from Seychelles were highly beneficial for predicting these incidents, as many of these remotely forced waves are originating from Southern and Western Indian Ocean, he added.

The ocean forecast and early warning services are most essential for safe navigation and operations at sea and the blue economic growth of many of these Indian Ocean rim countries and Island Nations.

Justice Dipak Misra was sworn in on 27 August 2017 as the Chief Justice of India (CJI) in a brief ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan, where he was administered the oath of office by President Ram Nath Kovind. Misra will be the 45th chief justice of the Supreme Court and have a 14-month tenure till October 2018. He takes over from chief justice J.S. Khehar.
Khehar nominated Misra last month on behalf of the collegium for consideration by the centre as the next chief justice of the country.

Born in 1953, 63-year-old Misra joined the bar in 1977 and began his judicial career at the Orissa high court as an additional judge in 1996.

Misra was then transferred to the Madras high court following which he assumed charge as chief justice of the Patna high court in 2009. He was named chief justice of Delhi high court in 2010.

In 2011, Misra was elevated to the Supreme Court, where he has been part of several noteworthy cases and judgments including the historic one on 30 July, 2015, when the apex court was opened at 3am to decide on Yakub Memon’s appeal against his execution. Memon was convicted in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case.

Misra also headed the bench that upheld the death sentence awarded in the Nirbhaya gang rape case.

He has also played an active role in the crackdown on child pornography websites.

His views on nationalism have been highlighted through his guidelines on the mandatory playing of the national anthem in theatres. Apart from all this, Misra has addressed the plight of farmers in various farmer suicide cases.

The introduction of ‘Nyaya Sanyog’ (Legal Assistance Establishments) in states to provide legal access to the poor also bears his imprimatur.

A number of challenges lie ahead. Apart from the matters pending before him, he is likely to be at the receiving end of litigations arising out of the recently passed judgment widening the scope of privacy by deeming it a fundamental right under the Constitution.

As he was chosen to be part of a three-judge bench constituted by erstwhile chief justice Khehar to hear the Ayodhya land dispute case, delivering a judgment in this matter is expected to be one of the biggest challenges before him.

Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, elaborating on the tasks ahead for the new CJI, said, “As CJI, he is likely to play a role in at least 10 appointments to the Supreme Court. He will also have to ensure that the paperless project that the court has been trying to adopt since former CJI J.S Khehar’s tenure is finally put in practice. Other than that, he has important cases like the Ayodhya dispute to address and will also be the judge before whom all new and pending cases that may arise from the privacy judgment come up.”

There are, however, a few concerns over his appointment as he is embroiled in a land allotment case in Odisha where the lease of land allotted to him was cancelled by the state government owing to irregularities in an affidavit.

He was also among those named in the suicide note of former Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Kalikho Pul, wherein corruption allegations were made.

Besides, there is the annoyance of a petition filed by Punjab MP Harinder Singh Khalsa, challenging Misra’s appointment, pending before the Delhi high court.

Signalling a significant new era in cooperation with states, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj inaugurated the country's first Videsh Bhavan, assimilating all Regional Passport Offices and allied departments under a single roof, at the Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) on 26 August 2017. 

As a first pilot project, four offices of MEA -- Regional Passport Office (RPO), Protector of Emigrants (PoE) office, Branch Secretariat and Regional Office of ICCR -- have been integrated and brought to function under one roof at the state-of-art office in BKC, said Regional Passport Officer Swati Kulkarni. 

Sushma Swaraj lit the auspicious lamp marking the inauguration of the Videsh Bhavan in the presence of Minister of State for External Affairs Gen. V.K. Singh (Retd), Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Administrator of Union Territories of Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli Praful Patel, besides other dignitaries. 

The formal inauguration by the minister on Sunday follows the shifting of the RPO from its Worli premises to the Videsh Bhavan from August 14 and merging of the Thane and Mumbai RPOs from August 21, which have already become functional.

 "The Videsh Bhavan is part of the MEA's effective management of its engagement with the Maharashtra government," said an official. 

The pilot project of the Videsh Bhavan in Mumbai is part of the central government's policy to bring together different offices of the MEA under a single roof and work closely with states as more and more Indians are going abroad for employment, education, business and tourism. 

The existing Passport Seva Kendras in Thane, Thane-II, Malad (Mumbai) and Nashik will continue to function from their existing locations but under the administrative jurisdiction of the RPO Mumbai. 

Currently, many of the 90-plus RPOs and PoEs function from rented offices and the implementation of similar Videsh Bhavans in different state capitals is expected to cut costs besides ensuring improving efficiency and speeding up the delivery of various services.

After years of wait, the Indian Army will finally get an advanced medium-range surface to air missile (MRSAM) system by 2020 which will be able to shoot down ballistic missiles, fighter jets and attack helicopters from a range of around 70 km.

The missile system will be produced by premier defence research organisation DRDO in collaboration with the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI)+ , a senior army official said.

The MRSAM system will be capable of shooting down enemy ballistic missiles, aircraft, helicopters, drones, surveillance aircraft and AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control Systems) aircraft, the official said on condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.

The current version of MRSAM is operational with the Indian Air Force and the Navy.

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has signed a Rs 17,000 crore deal with the IAI for the ambitious project.The MR-SAM, a land-based version of the long-range surface-to-air missile (LRSAM) for the Navy, will have a strike range of up 70 km, the official said.

The deal envisages 40 firing units and around 200 missiles.

"The MRSAM for Army's Air Defence is an advanced all weather, 360 degree mobile land based theatre air defence system capable of providing air defence to critical areas against a wide variety of threats in a combat zone," the official said.

The first set of missile system will be ready in the next three years, he said.

The Army has been pressing the government to enhance its aerial attack capability considering the evolving security challenges.In May, the Army successfully test fired an advanced version of the Brahmos+ land-attack cruise missile in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

The Finance Ministry has imposed a five year anti-dumping duty on Sodium Nitrite imports from China. Deepak Nitrite Ltd had filed the petition, which was also supported by Punjab Chemicals & Crop Protection Ltd, seeking sunset review investigations on Sodium Nitrite imports from China, sources said.There are two more producers of Sodium Nitrite in the country - National Fertilisers Ltd and Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilisers Limited.

Based on the recommendations of the Designated Authority in the Commerce Ministry in its final findings of its third sunset review investigations, the revenue department has imposed definitive anti-dumping duty of $ 72.95 per tonne on Sodium Nitrite imports from China.

Sodium Nitrite is an oxidising and also a reducing agent. It is a white crystalline powder mostly used in the pharmaceutical and dye industries, lubricants, lubricants, construction chemicals, rubber blowing agent, meat processing, and textiles.

The government has notified the Banking Regulation (Amendment) Act under which it can authorise the RBI to issue directions to banks to initiate insolvency resolution process to recover bad loans. The banking sector is saddled with non-performing assets (NPAs) of over Rs 8 lakh crore, of which Rs 6 lakh crore is with public sector banks (PSBs). 

Earlier this month, Parliament had approved the Act, which replaced an ordinance in this regard. 

The government in May had promulgated an ordinance authorising the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to issue directions to banks to initiate insolvency resolution process under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016. 

Following the ordinance, the RBI had identified 12 accounts each having more than Rs 5,000 crore of outstanding loans and accounting for 25 per cent of total NPAs of banks for immediate referral for resolution under the bankruptcy law. 

The loan defaulters identified by the RBI include, Essar Steel, Bhushan Steel, ABG Shipyard, Electrosteel and Alok Industries.Under the Banking Regulation (Amendment) Act, 2017, the RBI can issue directions to banks for resolution of stressed assets.The RBI can specify authorities or committees to advise banks on resolution of stressed assets.

The members on the committees will be appointed or approved by the RBI.The bulk of the NPAs are in sectors such as power, steel, road infrastructure and textiles.

The Finance Ministry on 23.08.2017 formally announced the launch of the new Rs 200 note. “The central government hereby specifies the denomination of bank notes of the value of 200 rupees,” a Gazette notification said. The notification has been issued under Section 24 of the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934, and on the recommendations of the Central Board of Directors of the RBI.

Earlier, Minister of State for Finance Santosh Kumar Gangwar told IANS that Rs 200 note, printing of which had begun, would be in circulation soon.

The move to introduce the new currency was to increase the circulation of smaller denomination notes.

Post-demonetisation, there have been reports of people facing problems in using the Rs 2,000 note as sufficient quantum of smaller denomination notes of Rs 100 and Rs 500 were not available.

India and Nepal on 24.08.2017 inked eight pacts, including on cooperation in countering drug trafficking. The pacts were signed after comprehensive talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Nepalese counterpart Sher Bahadur Deuba on strategic bilateral and regional issues.

“Had a positive meeting reviewing the gamut of our partnership,” Modi said at a joint press event with Deuba and assured him of India’s commitment towards overall growth and development of the Himalayan nation.

Deuba said Nepal would “never allow any anti-India activities from its soil”.

The two leaders also jointly inaugurated the Kataiya-Kusaha and Raxaul-Parwanipur cross border power transmission lines.

Modi identified defence and security as an important aspect of bilateral ties.

The following MoUs were signed between India and Nepal:

1. MoU for Utilisation of India's Housing Grant Component to support reconstruction of 50,000 houses

2. MoU on implementation of reconstruction package in the education sector in Nepal

3. MoU on implementation of reconstruction package in the Cultural Heritage sector in Nepal

4. MoU on implementation of reconstruction package in the Health sector in Nepal

5. MoU on agreement on cooperation in the field of standardisation and conformity assessment

6. MoU for implementation arrangement on cost sharing, schedules and safeguard issues for construction of Mechi Bridge

7. MoU on Drug demand reduction and prevention of illicit trafficking in Narcotic drugs, Psychotropic substances and precursor chemical and related matters

8. MoU between the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India and Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nepal

Earlier, India and Nepal held delegation-level talks at New Delhi's Hyderabad House to further enhancing the ties between the two sides.

Ahead of delegation level talks, Nepal's Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba held bilateral talks with his counterpart Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj respectively in the national capital.

Deuba asked Modi to "support Nepal more" for development plans and to build more trust and understanding to expand the relations between two nations.

He said Nepal has historical relations with India and his visit is to enhance the partnership for the overall development of Nepal and consolidate the relations between the two countries.

"India has played an important part in our development efforts and we request Prime Minister Modi to support us more for development plans and first to build trust and understanding to expand our relations," Deuba said even as he was accorded a ceremonial reception at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in Delhi on Thursday.

The Nepal Prime Minister also paid floral tribute to Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat on Thursday. He was accompanied by his wife Arzu Rana Deuba.

Before that, he received a ceremonial welcome and guard of honour at the courts of Rashtrapati Bhavan in Delhi.
In a special gesture, Modi received his Nepalese counterpart at his residence, in an unscheduled meeting Wednesday afternoon.

The Nepal Prime Minister, who is on a five-day visit to India, on Wednesday attended a programme in the Nepali Embassy where he addressed the Nepali community in India and business event organised by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM).

The Supreme Court on 24.08.2017 declared to right to privacy as a Fundamental right under the Constitution. A nine-judge constitutional bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar ruled that right to privacy is protected intrinsically as part of rights guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Delivering the verdict, the bench observed that privacy is protected under Article 21 and Part 3 of the Indian Constitution.

The ruling will have a bearing on 24 other cases challenging the validity of the Aadhaar scheme on the grounds of it violating the right to privacy. Others members of the bench comprising Justice J Chelameswar, Justice S A Bobde, Justice R K Agrawal, Justice R F Nariman, Justice A M Sapre, D Y Chandrachud, S K Kaul and S Abdul Nazeer also shared the same view.

Reading out the "operative portion" of the judgment, Khehar made following observations: Decision in MP Sharma case overruled. Decision in Kharak Singh case, to the extent it says Right to Privacy is not part of Right to Life, is overruled- Right to Privacy is an intrinsic part of life and personal liberty under Article 21. Decisions subsequent to the Kharak Singh case verdict which held privacy as part of right to life are correct. A number of writ petitions were tagged along with Justice K Puttaswamy’s petition on Aadhaar, which led to the constitution of this 9 Judge Bench. A slew of Senior Advocates had appeared for various parties in the case.

The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) has got the central government’s approval to raise extra budgetary resources of up to Rs 9,020 crore in FY18 through bonds. The additional funds will be used to fund 99 ongoing irrigation projects under the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana.

The Cabinet meeting, in which the decision was taken, was chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.According to an official statement, the funds raised by Nabard would ensure a lending rate of six per cent per annum.

A large number of major and medium irrigation projects taken up under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme were languishing largely due to inadequate funds.

In his 2016-17 Budget speech, the finance minister had announced the creation of a dedicated long-term irrigation fund (LTIF) in Nabard with an initial corpus of Rs 20,000 crore.

“To make the loan from Nabard attractive for the states, it was decided that the rate of interest may be kept at around six per cent by providing the requisite funds to Nabard every year from 2016-17 to 2019-20, on which the interest cost would be borne by the government of India,” the statement said.In 2016-17, Nabard disbursed a total amount of Rs 9,086.02 crore under the LTIF.

As per the reports of states and the Central Water Commission, submitted at various review meetings, 18 projects were either completed or almost completed, the statement said.

The irrigation potential utilisation was expected to be over 14 lakh hectares in 2016-17 from the 99 projects, it added.

The Union Cabinet has decided to revive the North Koel Reservoir Project, stalled since 1993, and claims it will irrigate over 40,000 hectares in some of the most backward and drought-prone regions in Jharkhand and Bihar.

However, the centre piece of the project, the Mandal dam, will be made smaller than proposed and capacity reduced by up to 85%, to accede to environmental and forest norms.

The dam threatened to submerge portions of the Betla National Park and the Palamau Tiger Reserve and in its truncated avatar will cause only “minimal” submergence of the reserve, according to an official.

The National Wildlife Boardcleared the project two months ago but imposed conditions.

A 24 MW power project that was to be part of the original design has also been scrapped.

Earlier, the Centre faced formidable challenges to clearing the Ken Betwa project that will part submerge the Panna Tiger reserve.

The project is situated on the North Koel river. The construction originally began in 1972 and continued till 1993 when it was stopped by the Bihar forest department.

The project aims to provide irrigation to 111,521 hectares of land annually in the most backward and drought prone areas of Palamu and Garhwa districts in Jharkhand and Aurangabad and Gaya districts in Bihar.

An agreement for Global Environmental Facility (GEF) Grant of USD 9.20 Million with theWorld Bank for"Efficient and Sustainable City Bus Service Project" was signed here today by Shri Rai Kumar. Joint Secretary (MI), Department of EconomicAffairs on behalf of the Government of India and Mr. Onno Ruhl, Country Director, World Bank (India) on behalf of IBRD, acting as an Implementing Agency of theGlobal Environment Facility.

Representatives from Ministry of Urban Development and State Governments of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Chandigarh (UT) were also present on the occasion. 

The total program cost is USD 113.0 million, with USD 9.20 million as grant from the GEF and USD 103.07 million from Government of India and state & city governments for funding of buses and ancillary infrastructure.

The project's development objective is to improve the efficiency and attractiveness of city bus transport and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the demonstration cities. It comprises: (i) a national capacity building component to be implemented by Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD); and (ii) city demonstration projects in the cities of Bhopal, Chandigarh, Jaipur and Mira Bhayandar. 

Melbourne has once again been named as the world’s most ‘liveable’ city for the seventh year in a row. After ranking 140 destinations each year on healthcare, education, stability, culture, environment and infrastructure, the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EUI) Liveability Index has revealed the best and worst places to live in the world.

Famed for its trendy cafes, bars and laneways, Melbourne stole the top spot once again with a near-perfect rating of 97.5 out of 100.

A first in its 15-year history, this is the first time that a city has held first place in its own right for seven consecutive years.
Closely followed by Vienna with a score of 97.4, Vancouver (97.3), Toronto (07.2) and Calgary (96.6) made up the top five.

The top 10 remained identical to last year’s line-up with Adelaide, Perth, Auckland, Helsinki and Hamburg following behind. 

While cities like Amsterdam, Reykjavik, Budapest and Singapore saw a boost in the rankings, the 2017 report said that the on-going threat of terrorism around the world had an effect on several scores.

Manchester slipped eight places to 51st in light of the heightened terror threat that followed the bomb attack at an Arianda Grande concert back in May, while Stockholm’s rating also fell after a terror attack in April.

London held on to the same position as last year at 53rd.

As for the least liveable cities, Damascus ranked worst followed by Lagos, Tripoli, Dhaka, Port Moresby and Algiers. 

According to the study, cities that scored best “tend to be mid-sized cities in wealthier countries with a relatively low population density.”

“Six of the 10 top-scoring cities are in Australia and Canada, which have, respectively, population densities of 2.9 and 3.7 people per square kilometre,” it adds.

Three of these hospitals have seen large outbreaks of C. aureus, all of which were since officially declared over by health authorities. Luckily, nobody lost their lives. In fact, no deaths have been attributed to the fungus since it was first found in the UK back in 2013. However, during these latest outbreaks, some 50 patients developed clinical infections and 27 developed blood infections, which can be life-threatening. Most of the UK cases had been detected by screening, rather than investigations for patients with symptoms.

The scary thing about the C. aureus is how fast it’s emerging, and the sheer anti-fungal resistance this thing seems to possess. It was first identified in Japan in 2009 and has spread to more than a dozen countries since. The CDC lists around 100 known instances of the fungus in nine US states so far, and a further 100 where it didn’t cause an infection.

Most people who contract the fungus don’t develop an infection or only develop a mild one. Which is very bad news for those patients because if you do, things take a sharp turn south. The fungus can be deadly if contracted by patients with weakened or compromised immune systems, but the real risk is developing an invasive infection. Over a third of those who develop an invasive infection with C. auris die, though there were no reported deaths in the UK outbreak.

Such an infection can become almost impossible to beat back with drugs because C. auris is highly resistant to a broad spectrum of anti-fungal compounds. Every case in the UK so far has shown reduced responsiveness to fluconazole, the bread-and-butter of antifungal defense. Most of them were resistant to multiple other drugs, and some are resistant to all three main classes of antifungal drugs used to treat Candida and other fungal infections.

This resistance also allows C. auris to spread through the environment and between patients with surprising ease. One in three of the UK hospitals hit by the recent outbreak reported difficulty in eliminating the fungus from their premises for more than a year. The fungus was found on “the floor around bed sites, trollies, radiators, windowsills, equipment monitors and key pads, and also one air sample.” In light of these findings, healthcare officials have implemented new protocols, such as having healthcare workers wear better protective equipment and isolating all patients colonized or infected by the fungus.

What is Candida ? Causes, Symptoms & Diagnosis

Candida albicans is an opportunistic fungus (or form of yeast) that is the cause of Candida Related Complex and many undesirable symptoms including fatigue, weight gain, joint pain, and gas.

The Candida albicans yeast is a normal part of your gut flora, a group of microorganisms that live in your digestive tract.
Most people have some level of Candida albicans in their intestines, and usually it coexists peacefully with the other bacteria and yeasts that live there. But a combination of factors can lead to the Candida albicans population getting out of control, establishing fast growing colonies and biofilms, and starting to dominate your gut.

At this point it can begin to affect your digestion, weaken your immune system, and even damage your intestinal wall, allowing its toxic byproducts to escape into your bloodstream and spread throughout your body.

Sometime during the late 1950s, a rather quirky theory started picking up steam. The idea was that the Earth’s crust, everything we live on and see at the surface, is broken up into bits and pieces that move in relation to each other. These plates lie on the lithosphere and are pushed around by upwelling mantle. Sometimes they emerge, sometimes they subduce beneath each other, but usually, they just move past each other. These are the tectonic plates.

tectonic plate

Nowadays, we know of eight major tectonic plates (with an area greater than 20 million km2), and it’s highly unlikely that we will ever discover a new one on Earth. We also know of ten minor tectonic plates (area between 1 and 20 million km2) and we’ve probably found all of them too. The rest, however, are the microplates — tectonic plates with an area less than 1 million km2 — and there’s a good chance a few of these are still lying around undiscovered.

This was reported by lead author Tuo Zhang and co-authors Jay Mishra and Chengzu Wang, all of Rice University, in a new study. They’ve discovered a new microplate off the coast of Ecuador. They’ve named it Malpelo, after an island and an oceanic ridge it contains.

The three were studying the junction between three other plates in the eastern Pacific Ocean. The plates move on the mantle, which behaves as a fluid (in geological time). Since they are all connected like puzzle pieces, when one moves, it affects all others. So researchers sometimes study the rotation speed of each object in a group of plates (the angular velocity). That’s when they realized something wasn’t alright in this case.

“When you add up the angular velocities of these three plates, they ought to sum to zero,” Gordon said. “In this case, the velocity doesn’t sum to zero at all. It sums to 15 millimeters a year, which is huge.”This meant that there was something else they weren’t considering — a misfit.

Misfits are interesting because they tell us there’s something we’re not considering in the system. So they drew data from a Columbia University database of extensive multibeam sonar soundings west of Ecuador and Colombia to look for clues, and they found the extra plate.

Describing the plateTectonic plates are often described by how they move relative to each other — whether one is ‘climbing’ over another, for instance. In this case, researchers identified a diffuse plate boundary that runs from the Panama Transform Fault eastward, to the newly discovered Malpelo plate.

“A diffuse boundary is best described as a series of many small, hard-to-spot faults rather than a ridge or transform fault that sharply defines the boundary of two plates,” Gordon said. “Because earthquakes along diffuse boundaries tend to be small and less frequent than along transform faults, there was little information in the seismic record to indicate this one’s presence.”However, things still aren’t completely clear. When they took the new plate into consideration, the angular velocities still don’t add up to zero. Sure they’re much smaller, but there’s still something extra. If this is the case, then it could mean that there’s another plate (or plates) still waiting to be discovered.

“Since we’re trying to understand global deformation, we need to understand where the rest of that velocity is going,” he said. “So we think there’s another plate we’re missing.”

After cardiac stents, the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) has capped the prices of orthopaedic knee implants. The cobalt chromium knee implant, available at over Rs 1,58,000 at hospitals, will now be available for a ceiling price of Rs 54,720. At present, such implants have a market share of 80 per cent. Implants with special metals like titanium or oxidised zirconium are priced at almost Rs 4,50,000 lakh. The new ceiling price will now be Rs 76,600. 

Highly-flexible implants are available at Rs 1,81,728 or more. Now, they will be sold at a ceiling price of Rs 56,490. Another category of surgery is revision implants, where a patient goes for a second surgery. The average maximum retail price of the revision implants is Rs 2,76,869. Now, they will be available at a ceiling of Rs 1,13,950.  

The GST may be levied over and above the ceiling price. 

The move for capping orthopaedic implants comes after the NPPA found that companies manufacturing such devices were making unethical profits. A recent report on the margins in the supply chain said that the average margin on a full set of orthopaedic implant seems to be 313 per cent. The total trade margin is essentially the maximum retail price minus the import price. 

“The government will consider invoking Section 3 (i) of the Drug Price Control Order if manufacturers do not cooperate in keeping adequate stock,” Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers Ananth Kumar said. The government had invoked this section to ensure adequate quantity of high-end stents in the market after the NPPA fixed the ceiling price for stents. 

Aeroplanes may be ejecting significant amounts of black carbon (BC) — a pollutant known to aggravate breathing disorders, upset the monsoon and quicken glacier melt — and may be depleting the ozone layer, according to a study by climate researchers from multiple institutions in the country.

Though airborne, BC is known to dissipate and settle down in a few months under the influence of rain and wind and is unlikely to travel upward of 4 km. However, a group of scientists — including from the Indian Institute of Science and ISRO’s Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre — say they now have evidence of such particles existing up to 18 km into the stratosphere and there are about 10,000 of them in every cubic centimetre.

Given the shape and location of these particles, they argue, it could only derive from emissions from aviation fuel and they pose a problem because these black carbon particles can linger long enough to provide a fertile ground for other chemical reactions that can deplete the ozone layer.

“This is the first time that any group in the world has shown that black carbon from aircraft can go to the stratosphere and affect the ozone layer,” said S.K. Satheesh, chairman, Divecha Centre for Climate Change, Indian Institute of Science. He was among the authors associated with the study, published in the peer-reviewed Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics.

The stratosphere is a stable region of the atmosphere and because BC particles absorb heat, they warm the surrounding air, become lighter and rise to greater heights by a process called ‘self lift’ and persist in the air.

The sheer volume of air travel means that the black carbon count only continues to increase. Because BC particles strongly absorb solar and terrestrial radiation and heats up the atmosphere it can upset the monsoon system. If deposited on snow, it could accelerate the heating of snow and quicken the melting of glaciers.

Moreover, when BC particles are located above highly reflective surfaces (snow or clouds), their absorption efficiency is amplified. It’s known to be one-fourth as potent as carbon dioxide in whetting global warming and ways and means to curb its emissions are increasingly part of international climate discussions.

Last year the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) launched a System of Aerosol Monitoring and Research (SAMAR) to study the concentration of black carbon in the atmosphere due to air pollution and its impact on climate. “At those heights, it is unlikely that BC would directly influence the monsoon, though it can indirectly affect it by modifying high altitude clouds,” said K. Krishna Moorthy, a co-author, also at IISc.

The government today said the merger of the five associate banks with the SBI will lead to increased capital base and availability of loan, as the Lok Sabha passed the bill approving the amalgamation.

The Lok Sabha passed the bill to repeal the SBI (Subsidiary Banks) Act 1959, State Bank of Hyderabad Act 1956 and to further amend the State Bank of India Act, 1955, following the merger of five associates with the parent SBI.

Minister of State for Finance Santosh Gangwar said that with this merger, the SBI has come in the list of top 50 banks globally and is ranked at the 45th position.

“The merger will bring about increased capital base and increased ability to give loans. Also, small banks will get access to products like mutual funds,” he said.

During the last two years, 29 crore bank accounts were opened, of which 25 per cent were zero balance accounts, he said, adding that farm loans increased from Rs 3.5 lakh crore in 2009-10 to Rs 10.65 lakh crore in 2016-17.

“We want every person to have access to banking services ...No bank branches will be closed down, rather wherever required, we will open branches,” Gangwar said.

He said the merger will help increase SBI’s scope of operation and will pose a challenge to private banks as it will work as per the requirements of the people. “The merger has been planned keeping in mind the benefit of people and going forward its benefits will be seen,” he added.

According to the statement of object and reasons of the State Banks (Repeal and Amendment) Bill 2017, after the acquisition of the subsidiary banks by SBI, the subsidiary banks have ceased to exist and, therefore, it is necessary to repeal the State Bank of India (Subsidiary Banks) Act, 1959 and the State Bank of Hyderabad Act, 1956.

Five associates and the Bharatiya Mahila Bank became part of State Bank of India (SBI) beginning April 1, catapulting the countrys largest lender to among the top 50 banks in the world. The five associates that were merged are State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur (SBBJ), State Bank of Hyderabad (SBH), State Bank of Mysore (SBM), State Bank of Patiala (SBP) and State Bank of Travancore (SBT).

Following the merger, the total customer base of SBI increased to 37 crore with a branch network of around 24,000 and nearly 59,000 ATMs across the country.

The merged entity began operation with a deposit base of more than Rs 26 lakh crore and advances level of Rs 18.50 lakh crore.

As per the bill, after the acquisition of all the subsidiary banks by the SBI, it is not necessary to retain such provisions in the State Bank of India Act, 1955.

“Therefore, certain amendments are necessary in the said Act in so far as they relate to the subsidiary banks. The amendments are consequential in nature,” it said.

SBI had 90 per cent shareholding in the State Bank of Mysore, 75.07 per cent shareholding in the State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur and 79.09 per cent shareholding in the State Bank of Travancore.

India has ratified the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol that commits countries to contain the emission of greenhouse gases, reaffirming its stand on climate action.

In a brief statement, India’s Permanent Mission to the UN said that India deposited its Instrument of Acceptance of the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol under the UN Convention on Climate Change here yesterday. With this, India became the 80th country to accept the amendment relating to the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, the international emissions reduction treaty.

“India’s acceptance reaffirms our continued commitment to climate action,” the Indian mission said in a statement. India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin—who handed over India’s Instrument—tweeted,“Maintaining momentum on Climate Change. India submits instrument of acceptance of Doha Amendment to Kyoto Protocol”.

The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which commits its Parties by setting internationally binding emission reduction targets.

The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, in December 1997 and entered into force in February 2005.

The first commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol was from 2008–2012. The Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol was adopted in Qatar in December 2012. The amendment includes new commitments for parties to the Kyoto Protocol who agreed to take on commitments in a second commitment period from January 2013 to December 2020 and a revised list of greenhouse gases to be reported on by Parties in the second commitment period, according to the UNFCCC website.

The Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi had in January given its approval to ratify the second commitment period of the international treaty.

India ranks abysmally at 43rd out of 45 countries in a global innovation index, according to a report released by US Chambers of Commerce which cited the countrys "anemic" Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) policy and patent act as challenges to innovation.

In the 5th annual International IP Index The Roots of Innovation by US Chamber of Commerces Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC), there is slight improvement in India?s performance; it was ranked last or next-to-last in the previous four years."In India, many of the same challenges to innovation remain," said David Hirschmann, president and CEO of GIPC.

India has 8.4 score as against Americas 32.6 which tops the list of 45 countries.

The United States is followed by United Kingdom (32.4), Germany (31.9), Japan (31.3) and Sweden (31).China has 14.83 points. Neighbouring Pakistan ranks 44th with 8.37 score."Although India has made incremental progress, the government needs to build upon the positive rhetoric of its IPR policy with the substantial legislative reforms that innovators need," he said.

Hirschmann said reforms can improve its reputation as a destination for doing business, foreign businesses ability to invest in and Make in India, and Indias own innovative industries.

"If Indian policymakers wish to deliver the kinds of results the Modi administration once hoped for, they can act to address issues that impact Indian innovation, such as software patentability, life sciences patents, copyright protection and enforcement, and trade secrets protection,"  Hirschmann said.In a statement, US Chambers of Commerce said in addition to its anemic Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) policy, the report cited challenges with the scope of patentability for computer-implemented inventions, Section 3(D) of the Indian Patent Act and the recent High Court of Delhi decision regarding photocopying copyrighted content.

The report said the slight improvement in India?s overall scores is largely because of a relatively strong performance on the five new indicators included in the Index and not from any actual improvements to their national IP environments.

After the Swachh Survekshan was successful in improving the sanitation coverage in urban areas by creating a healthy competition among the cities, the government will now use the same strategy to increase sanitation coverage in rural parts of India through the Swachh Survekshan Gramin.

In a first, a swachhta competition has been kickstarted in rural areas under the Swachh Bharat Mission- Gramin (SMB-G) by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation. With an aim to improve sanitation coverage and solid liquid waste management (SLWM) and to push forward government’s Clean India Mission, all the 534 districts of India will be ranked under this Swachh Survekshan. The first round of the survey was carried out between May-June 2017 by the Quality Council of India (QCI) covering 4,626 villages and it was observed that the overall toilet coverage in these areas is 62.45%.

The progress report was launched today at the National Media Centre, Delhi by the Minister for Drinking Water and Sanitation Narendra Singh Tomar in presence of several dignitaries including Secretary Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation Param Iyer, Director General of Press Information Bureau Frank Noronha and the Chairman of QCI Adil Zainulbhai.

The nation is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Quit India Movement on 9 August 2017. A number of events are being planned at organisational and local levels to mark the occasion. This year’s theme is “Sankalp se Siddhi- the attainment through resolve. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his recent Mann Ki Baat programme had called for launching the mega campaign Sankalp Se Siddhi from today.

He suggested youth, student organisations and NGOs to organise group discussions to bring forth new ideas.Prime Minister Modi termed the month of August as a month of revolution as the non-cooperation movement was launched on August 1, 1920, Quit-India movement on August 9, 1942 and on August 15, 1947 India became independent. Both Houses of Parliament will hold a special session on the occasion. Both Houses will suspend the Question Hour and Zero Hour to make way for the special session’s proceedings.

All parties are also expected to express their views on the movement, with the discussion culminating into a resolution that will be passed in order to reaffirm their commitment to the nation. The National Archives of India is organizing a special exhibition in New Delhi from today to mark the 75th year of Quit India Movement and Azad Hind Fauz.

The two big events of the Indian history will be displayed through thousands of declassified files and documents.The Quit India Movement was an important milestone in the Indian freedom struggle. Under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, people across India came together to uproot imperialism.

The Centre on August 8, 2017 cleared the file for appointment of Justice Dipak Misra as the 45th Chief Justice of India with effect from August 28, 2017.

Justice Misra, the senior most judge of the Supreme Court after the current CJI, Justice J.S. Khehar, who is retiring on August 27, 2017, will have a tenure of about 14 months till October 2, 2018.

Justice Misra was elevated to the Supreme Court on October 10, 2011. He enrolled as an advocate on February 14, 1977 and appointed an Additional Judge of the Orissa High Court in 1996. After a stint in the Madhya Pradesh High Court, he became a Permanent Judge in December 1997 before assuming charge as the Chief Justice of Patna High Court in 2009 and, later on, served as Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court.

As the current Executive Chairman of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA), Justice Misra embarked on a programme to turn State Legal Services Authorities' offices into hubs providing facilities that enable litigants under legal aid to access court documents, case status and connect to their advocates online and through dedicated phone numbers.

The facility called 'Legal Assistance Establishments' or Nyaya Sanyog will cater to poor litigants and the families of under trials languishing in jails to get quick access to justice.

The 2030 Water Resources Group (2030WRG) will help the Maharashtra Government raise $270 million from the Green Climate Fund, which will be invested in integrated watershed programmes such as Jalyukt Shivar Yojana.

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) is a new fund under the UN and is guided by the principles and provisions of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The 2030WRG is hosted by the International Finance Corporation and is a public-private-civil society collaboration for water resources reform in developing economies. Its ultimate aim is to close the gap between water demand and supply by the year 2030.

Co-Head (Asia and Middle East) of 2030WRG, Bastiaan Mohrmann, told BusinessLine that ground water was being augmented under Jalyukt Shivar Yojana but it needs to be further connected with the efficient use of water for which one needs technology and infrastructure development at the village level, where the fund will be useful. It will also be used in crop diversification and adding market linkages, he said.

Mohrmann said for raising money from the Green Climate Fund, the State Level Climate Change Committee will endorse the proposal next week, after which it would be referred to the Central Government. The approvals will be in place in early 2018 and it could take a year to get the funding, he added.

Mohrmann also said 2030WRG, along with the State Government, has also launched the Maharashtra Water Resources Multi-Stakeholder Platform, which will address critical water resources challenges in the State. The platform will be chaired by the Chief Secretary of Maharashtra.

One of the areas of work under the platform will be acceleration of water use efficiency programme in irrigated areas, along with agriculture growth and income enhancement. It will also develop public-private-community partnership models for implementation of the programmes. Viable financing solutions, including blended finance models for promoting efficient use of water, will be worked out, he said.

The three-decade old National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has been merged with another central police organisation -- the BPRD by the government recently with an aim to improve efficiency of development works related to policing.

The Union home ministry on August 4 issued an order on the merger in order to "improve administrative efficiency and optimal utilisation of resources." 

The Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD) chief Meeran C Borwankar said the merger will boost crime data collection and research efforts of the two organisations.

The BPRD Director General (DG) will be the head of the merged new entity, where the NCRB Director, an Additional DG rank post will report to the former.

"It is a constructive idea.It will give proper back up of crime collection work done by the NCRB to the research work done by the BPRD," DG Borwankar.

The NCRB was created in 1986 as the central police organisation to collect crime data, on various parameters, from across all the states of the country.

It is also implementing the ambitious crime and criminal tracking network (CCTNS).

The BPRD, created in 1970, is the national police organisation to study, research and develop on subjects and issues related to policing.

Both the organisations function under the Union home ministry.

Qatar’s Cabinet has approved a draft law making permanent residency available to some non-citizens, marking a partial shift from its reliance on its longstanding visa-sponsorship system.

The energy-rich Gulf nation said in a statement sent August 3, 2017 that the residency permits could be granted to children of Qatari women married to foreigners, people who “offered valuable services to the country” and those with special skills. As in many Arab countries, a Qatari child’s citizenship is granted based on the father’s nationality.

The residency permit gives holders similar rights as Qataris in terms of property ownership and access to generous education and health care services.

Qatar’s native population is far surpassed by foreigners holding fixed-term residency permits typically tied to a sponsoring employer.

A bill to enable exit of RBI from Nabard and increase authorised capital of the development institution six times to Rs 30,000 crore was passed by the Lok Sabha today. 

The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Amendment) Bill, 2017 also seeks to amend certain clauses in the light of reference of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) Development Act, 2006 in the proposed legislation.

Minister of State for Finance Santosh Kumar Gangwar said that the law is one of the "major step" towards doubling farmers' income by 2022. 

This is a small bill but irrespective of that, 28 members put their views on this legislation, which reflects the interest of members on agriculture related issues, he said. 

He said that as this is a short bill, suggestions made by members would be considered when the detail bill will come. 

The Banking Regulation (Amendment) Bill 2017 was passed by the lower house of the parliament on Thursday. It will replace the Non-Performing Assets Ordinance, which came into effect earlier this year.

The Banking Regulation (Amendment) Bill 2017 was passed by the lower house of the parliament on 27 July 2017. It will replace the Non-Performing Assets Ordinance, which came into effect earlier this year.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, on 31st July 2017 (Monday), had introduced a bill in Lok Sabha to amend the Banking Regulation Act 1949. The measure allows the RBI to initiate insolvency resolution process on specific stressed-assets.

The RBI would also be empowered to issue other directions for resolution, appoint or approve for appointment, authorities or committees to advise the banking companies for stressed-asset resolution.

The non-performing assets of banks have increased to more than Rs 9 lakh crore and now RBI is empowered to refer the cases to Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board. In June, RBI had identified 12 large loan defaulters who account for 25% of the total bad loans in the Indian banking system.

srael launched the country’s first environmental research satellite on Wednesday morning from a launch site in French Guiana, in a joint venture between the Israel Space Agency (ISA) and its French counterpart CNES (Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales).

The satellite took flight from South America at 4:58 a.m. Israel time, and was broadcast live on the Israel Space Agency website.

The VENµS satellite’s goal is to obtain high-resolution photographs of specific sites to track environmental issues such as desertification, erosion, pollution, natural disasters, and other phenomena linked to climate change.

The camera on the satellite takes photographs in 12 wavelengths, more than are discernible to the human eye. The high resolution — plants can be distinguished as little as five meters apart — makes possible “precision agriculture,” in which farmers would be able to accurately plan for water, fertilizer, and pesticide needs.

The satellite uses an Israeli-developed electrical propulsion system that allows it to navigate with more accuracy than older satellites.

VENµS, which stands for “Vegetation and Environment Monitoring on a New Micro Satellite,” will be able to take repeated photos of the same spot in the same light conditions (accounting for the position of the sun), allowing for more accurate tracking of changing environmental issues. This is called “heliosyncronis orbit” because it requires taking a photo of the same coordinates while the sun is in the same position. Previously, satellites have been able to provide heliosyncronis photos every 10-15 days, while the VENµS satellite will allow for comparable photographs every two days.

It is the first time that Israel is launching a satellite to focus on agricultural and ecological research. The satellite can record data about the status of the land, snow cover, foliage, forestation, agriculture, and quality of water sources, among other things.

The satellite is considered a “microsatellite,” weighing just 265 kilograms (584 pounds) with a wingspan of just 4.4 meters (14.4 feet) when the solar array is expanded. After two days, the satellite will reach its orbiting level of 720 kilometers (447 miles) above the surface of the earth.

The satellite will circle the earth 29 times in each 48-hour period and will stay in commission for 4.5 years, at which time it will move to a lower orbit. The first satellite images are expected just five hours after launch, though they will be released to researchers in November. The satellite will focus on monitoring 100 pre-chosen spots for the first 2.5 years.

The Israel Space Agency, part of the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Space, has invested NIS 5 million in research projects based on the satellite images that will be produced.

 The satellite was launched at the same time as OPTSTAT-3000, an observation satellite for the Italian military. Arianespace, a private launch systems company founded in 1980, launched both satellites. Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) built both of the satellites in Israel.

Shri Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi launches Jiyo Parsi Publicity Phase-2" in Mumbai Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Minority Affairs & Parliamentary Affairs Shri Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi today said here that the NDA Government has been working with commitment to “inclusive growth” and “Antyodaya” to ensure prosperity, security and dignity of the last person of the society.

 Addressing a large number of people from Parsi community and renowned personalities from various fields at the launch of “Jiyo Parsi Publicity Phase-2” at Mumbai, Shri Naqvi said that Parsi community has immense contribution in nation building and Parsi community has been a “role model” for other communities for its culture and traditions. The Parsi community has given so many great people who have been “architects of nation building”.

 Shri Naqvi said that even though the Parsi community is a very small minority community in India, there is no doubt that the Parsi community is one of the most liberal, aware towards education and an example of “peace and harmony”.
 Shri Naqvi said that Jamshetji Tata played a crucial role in industrial development of India; Dadabhai Naoroji and Madam Bhikaji Cama played an important role in India’s freedom struggle; Homi J Bhabha is “father of Indian nuclear programme. Field Marshall Sam Manekshaw’s service to the nation will be remembered always. Be it industry, military service, legal service, architecture or civil services, the Parsi community has always shown its talent.

Shri Naqvi said that declining population of Parsi community in India is a matter of concern. “Jiyo Parsi Publicity Phase-1” was initiated in 2013 for containing the declining trend of population of the Parsi community and reverse it to bring their population above the threshold level.

The main objective of the “Jiyo Parsi” scheme is to reverse the declining trend of Parsi population by adopting a scientific protocol and structured interventions, stabilize their population and increase the population of Parsis in India. Ministry of Minority Affairs’ scheme has two components: Medical Assistance and Advocacy/Counselling. The scheme has been successful. 101 babies have been born in Parsi community through “Jiyo Parsi” scheme.

Shri Naqvi said that Parzor Foundation was an important link between the Parsi community and the government in success of “Jiyo Parsi” scheme. And the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai; the Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP) and Federation of Zoroastrian Anjumans of India have also played a key role in this regard.

These organisations have been publicising the scheme through outreach programmes like seminars, workshops, publicity, brochures, Parsi journals and other advocacy programmes and awareness campaign.

ollowing hospitalisation of a Delhi businessman for drinking a cocktail containing liquid nitrogen this month, the Haryana government has prohibited flushing/mixing of liquid nitrogen with any drink or food article, an official said today.

Food and Drugs Administration Department's Commissioner (Food Safety) Saket Kumar said orders to this effect haved been issued under Section 34 of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, (Central Act 34 of 2006).

Mr Kumar said according to expert medical opinion, any drink or food article whose preparation involves flushing/mixing of liquid nitrogen is harmful for humans.

"Due to its low temperature, liquid nitrogen could be extremely damaging to body tissue, causing frostbite and cryogenic burning on contact. Moreover, if ingested, it could lead to severe internal damage, destroying tissues in the mouth and intestinal tract," Mr Kumar added.

He said as it evaporates, liquid nitrogen releases a large volume of gas, and could burst open the stomach if ingested in sufficiently large quantity.

A Delhi businessman ended up in a hospital with a perforated stomach after consuming the cocktail containing liquid nitrogen at a Gurugram pub.

Doctors who attended on the victim said his condition was so critical that his stomach looked like an "open book".

Since the invention of computers or machines, their capability to perform various tasks went on growing exponentially. Humans have developed the power of computer systems in terms of their diverse working domains, their increasing speed, and reducing size with respect to time.

A branch of Computer Science named Artificial Intelligence pursues creating the computers or machines as intelligent as human beings.

What is Artificial Intelligence?

According to the father of Artificial Intelligence, John McCarthy, it is “The science and engineering of making intelligent machines, especially intelligent computer programs”.

Artificial Intelligence is a way of making a computer, a computer-controlled robot, or a software think intelligently, in the similar manner the intelligent humans think.

AI is accomplished by studying how human brain thinks, and how humans learn, decide, and work while trying to solve a problem, and then using the outcomes of this study as a basis of developing intelligent software and systems.

Philosophy of AI

While exploiting the power of the computer systems, the curiosity of human, lead him to wonder, “Can a machine think and behave like humans do?”

Thus, the development of AI started with the intention of creating similar intelligence in machines that we find and regard high in humans.

Goals of AI

To Create Expert Systems − The systems which exhibit intelligent behavior, learn, demonstrate, explain, and advice its users.

To Implement Human Intelligence in Machines − Creating systems that understand, think, learn, and behave like humans.

What Contributes to AI?

Artificial intelligence is a science and technology based on disciplines such as Computer Science, Biology, Psychology, Linguistics, Mathematics, and Engineering. A major thrust of AI is in the development of computer functions associated with human intelligence, such as reasoning, learning, and problem solving.

Out of the following areas, one or multiple areas can contribute to build an intelligent system.

Sri Lanka on 29.07.2017 signed a $1.1 billion deal with China to sell a 70% stake in the strategic Hambantota Port to a state-run Chinese firm, a move that could raise security concerns in India. The government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe finalised an agreement to sell an 80% stake of the Hambantota Port's operations for $1.1 billion to China Merchant Ports Holding Company Ltd, which also has the contract for the Colombo Port.

Inaugurating the first phase of the Magumpura Mahinda Rajapakse Port at Hambantota on his birthday on November 18, 2010, Rajapakse, who was then the President of Sri Lanka, said the port, named after him, symbolised Sri Lanka’s aspiration to be part of Asia’s emergence.

The deal had been delayed by several months over concerns that the deep-sea port could be used by the Chinese Navy. Cash-rich China has invested millions of dollars in Sri Lanka’s infrastructure since the end of a brutal civil war in 2009. As part of the deal, the stake in the loss-making port has been sold to China’s state-run conglomerate China Merchant Port Holdings (CMPort).

Sri Lanka’s minister of ports and shipping Mahinda Samarasinghe and China’s envoy to Colombo Yi Xianliang were present when the Concession Agreement was signed. Under the 99-year lease agreement, CMPort is to invest up to $1.1 billion in the port and marine-related activities. “This is a very favourable agreement compared with the plan in 2014,” Samarasinghe said, referring to the original plan laid out during former president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s tenure.

The agreement was open for further amendments, he said. The deal may raise security concerns in India. According to the new deal, only Sri Lankan Navy will be responsible for security of the deep-sea port, and the port will not be allowed to become a base for any foreign navy. The new provision is seen as an attempt to allay India’s concerns over Chinese Navy’s possible presence in Sri Lanka.

The port, overlooking the Indian Ocean, is expected to play a key role in China’s Belt and Road initiative, which will link ports and roads between China and Europe. The Sri Lankan government had to face huge opposition to the deal from trade unions, who called it a sellout of the country’s national assets to China.

Last week, petroleum workers brought the country to a standstill for two days by stopping fuel distribution. They called the deal a sell out of national assets to China. But Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Friday said: “We are giving the country a better deal without any debt.”

The accumulated loss from the port was more than $300 million and the money realised from deal will set off the debts owed to China, he said. Sri Lanka’s Cabinet had on 25 July approved the transfer of stake in the port to the Chinese firm, tweaking the deal after the initial agreement sparked protests in the country. The initial 80:20 share distribution has been revised to 69.55% to CMPort and 30.45% to Sri Lanka Port Authority.

Since mid-2016, there has been both domestic and foreign opposition, notably from India, to the plan. New Delhi pushed hard to prevent it. In the event, the agreement is a drawn down version of the original December 8, 2016 Framework Agreement, with written-in terms to address India’s security concerns. While India has not commented on the new agreement, the domestic protests continue. From Tuesday through Thursday, port workers and Ceylon Petroleum workers have struck work to protest the sale of Hambantota to the Chinese, as well as the Trincomalee agreement with India.

Pakistan’s ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif on 29.07.2017 (Saturday) named former petroleum minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as the interim prime minister until his younger brother Shehbaz is elected as a member of parliament (MP) to succeed him as his eventual successor.

“I support Shehbaz Sharif after me but he will take time to contest elections so for the time being I nominate Shahid Khaqan Abbasi,” Sharif told his supporters. The decision was taken in Islamabad in a meeting headed by Sharif and attended by the top party leaders who rallied behind the Sharifs, the country’s most powerful political family.

The Supreme Court on Friday disqualified 67-year-old Sharif for dishonesty and ruled that corruption cases be filed against him and his children over the Panama Papers scandal, forcing the embattled leader out of office. The court’s ruling abruptly ended Sharif’s third tenure as prime minister and forced the party’s top leadership to find his successor. Sharif first proposed the two names for party’s formal approval.

“The parliamentary board approved the nomination by Sharif as mark of trust in him,” a party leader told PTI. But Shehbaz, the 65-year-old chief minister of Punjab, cannot immediately replace his brother as he is not an MP. Abbasi, the 58-year-old loyalist of Sharif, is expected to serve for 45 days and will resign to let Shehbaz succeed as permanent premier, party sources said.

It was decided to appoint Abbasi as interim prime minister to run the government until Shehbaz is elected as a member of parliament, they said. Pakistan has seen such arrangements in the past too. During former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf’s time, politician Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain was appointed as an interim prime minister until Shaukat Aziz, who was nominated by Musharraf, got elected by the ruling Pakistan Muslim League Quaid-e-Azam (PMLQ).

Saturday’s meeting also decided to challenge Sharif’s disqualification through a review petition in the apex court. Sharif was accorded a tremendous welcome when arrived to chair the meeting. The participants chanted the famous party slogan for Sharif: ‘dekho dekho kaun aaya, sher aaya sher aaya.’ (Look who has come, lion has come.) Lion is the election symbol of PML-N and it is frequently used by his supporters to highlight the courage of Sharif.

Addressing the PML-N’s parliamentary meeting, Sharif expressed disbelief at the grounds for his dismissal and vowed to continue to struggle for the supremacy of the Constitution. “I still do not understand the grounds for my dismissal...When I never took a salary, what would I declare,” he said, referring to the apex court’s ruling.

National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) today said it has received final approval from the Reserve Bank to function as the Bharat Bill Payment Central Unit (BBPCU) and operate Bharat Bill Payment System (BBPS). 

"Nearly 45 crore bills, which comprise electricity, telecom, DTH, water and gas, are permitted under BBPS. This initiative will provide a major push to digital payments as it is a big step forward in formalising the bill payment system in the country." 

Last year in August, eight BBPS operating units, which received in-principle approval from the RBI, took part in the pilot, it said. 

Almost after a year of running the pilot, NPCI has now received the final clearance from RBI. 

The total number of Bharat Bill Payment Operating Unit (BBPOU) certified by NPCI now stands at 24. 

The certified units include three public sector banks - Bank of Baroda, Union Bank of India and Indian Overseas Bank - 10 private lenders, five cooperative banks and 6 non-bank biller aggregators. 

At present, the bulk of transactions on BBPS are towards payment of electricity bills. 

The power sector potentially contributes to about 18 crore bills per month out of which only 10 per cent is digital. 

Minister of Science & Technology, Earth Sciences and Environment, Forests & Climate Change, Dr. Harshvardhan launched an app Sagar Vani" on the occasion of Foundation Day of Ministry of Earth Sciences in New Delhi on 27th July 2017. 

ESSO-Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) under Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) provides ocean information services for the benefit of various user communities in the country. The services are more fruitfully utilized when the advisories reaches the end user in timely manner and in user readable format. Now-a-days ICT facilities in the country are accessible to large population of the country and that plays a major role in effective dissemination of information to the end user. ESSO-INCOIS has adopted the state-of-the-art technologies and tools available in the country for the timely dissemination of Ocean Information and Advisory Services that includes Potential Fishing Zone (PFZ) advisories, Ocean State Forecast (OSF), High Wave Alerts and Tsunami early warnings. 

There are 3288 marine fishing villages and 1511 marine fish landing centres with marine fisher folk population of 3,999,214. About 37.8% (1,511,703) of marine fisher folk are engaged in active fishing. About 927,120 fishermen were involved in actual fishing either full or part time. ESSO-INCOIS is serving about 3.17 lakhs of users directly through in-house efforts as well as through the partnering organizations including NGO’s and there is yet to cover. Hence, it is necessary to target the reach of information to the 9.27 lakh involved in actual fishing either full or part time. 

Presently, the advisories are being disseminated to the stakeholders from different service sections and through various stakeholders and partners, which might cause delay in dissemination of the services. In order to effectively and timely disseminate the advisories, directly from the lab to the end user, an Integrated Information Dissemination System (IDS) named as “SAGAR VANI” has been developed by ESSO-INCOIS through the Industry M/s. Gaian Solutions Pvt. Ltd. 
The ‘Sagar Vani’ is a software platform where various dissemination modes will be integrated on a single central server.

The ‘Sagar Vani’ includes Multi Lingual SMS, Voice Call / Audio Advisory, Mobile Apps (User / Admin modules), Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), Email, GTS, Fax, Digital Display Boards, Radio / Television broadcast units, IVRS, Cloud Channels, etc. The system also has facility to provide access to various stakeholders (NGOs, State Fishery Departments, Disaster Management Authorities, etc.) so that they too will be able to further disseminate these ocean information and alerts to the user community. 

This ‘Sagar Vani’ system compares with the most advanced countries’ services in terms of speed of delivery, omni channel capabilities and diverseness of services. With this system, the services will be disseminated in local languages using advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities. For the first time in India, we are also using the power of television and cable network mediums for topical and alert dissemination services. 

The ‘Sagar Vani’ will now serve the coastal community, especially the fishermen community with the advisories and alerts towards their livelihood as well as their safety at Sea. 

Pakistan's Supreme Court has disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from holding office over allegations of corruption against him and his family that came to light through the release of the Panama Papers.

In a unanimous decision the court said Mr Sharif was disqualified for not remaining "truthful and honest" after considering evidence against him.

The court also directed the country's anti-corruption body to file corruption charges against Mr Sharif, his two sons and daughter in the next six weeks for concealing their assets.

The current case against Mr Sharif and his family dates back to 2016, when documents leaked from a Panama-based law firm indicated Mr Sharif's sons owned several offshore companies.

The massive security breach, which became known as the Panama Papers, comprised of the leak of more than 11 million documents that showed how a global industry of law firms and big banks sells financial secrecy to politicians, fraudsters and drug traffickers as well as billionaires, celebrities and sports stars.

For the first time in the United States, scientists have edited the genes of human embryos, a controversial step toward someday helping babies avoid inherited diseases.

The experiment was just an exercise in science—the embryos were not allowed to develop for more than a few days and were never intended to be implanted into a womb, according to MIT Technology Review, which first reported the news.

Officials at Oregon Health & Science University confirmed 27.07.2017 that the work took place there and said results would be published in a journal soon. It is thought to be the first such work in the U.S.; previous experiments like this have been reported from China. How many embryos were created and edited in the experiments has not been revealed.

The Oregon scientists reportedly used a technique called CRISPR, which allows specific sections of DNA to be altered or replaced. It's like using a molecular scissors to cut and paste DNA, and is much more precise than some types of gene therapy that cannot ensure that desired changes will take place exactly where and as intended. With gene editing, these so-called "germline" changes are permanent and would be passed down to any offspring.

The approach holds great potential to avoid many genetic diseases, but has raised fears of "designer babies" if done for less lofty reasons, such as producing desirable traits.Last year, Britain said some of its scientists could edit embryo genes to better understand human development.And earlier this year in the U.S., the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Medicine said in a report that altering the genes of embryos might be OK if done under strict criteria and aimed at preventing serious disease.


Expressing concern over the misuse of anti-dowry law by disgruntled wives, the Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the police cannot arrest husbands or in-laws without conducting a preliminary inquiry.

A bench comprising Justices AK Goel and UU Lalit cracked down on false dowry harassment cases and said there was a growing tendency to abuse Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code. To check this, the court ordered the formation ‘family welfare committees’ in every district that would look into all complaints. 

The apex court said the committees, comprising three members, would interact with the complainant and the accused, and submit a report to the police or a magistrate within a month. 

“Till report of the committee is received, no arrest should normally be effected. The report may be then considered by the Investigating Officer or the Magistrate on its own merit,” said the bench. It said para-legal volunteers, social workers, retired persons and “other suitable persons” can be roped in for the committees.

The bench, however, made it clear that its directions would not extend to cases of tangible injury or death. 

The judgment came during the hearing of a petition filed by one Rajesh Sharma, who had appealed against an order of the Allahabad High Court.

The Supreme Court said that while the stringent punishment under the anti-dowry law were introduced with laudable objectives, it has been exploited and can lead to harassment of the accused. An arrest without the proper safeguards would be equivalent to brushing aside the human rights of the accused, the bench said. 

It also defined the parameters for a bail, saying that pleas should be dealt with on an expeditious basis, preferably the same day the appeal is filed. 

The court said it wants to see for six months how the arrangement worked and sought a report from the National Legal Services Authority by March 31, 2018, about the need for any change in its directions. The next hearing on the matter has been scheduled for April next year.

Mass rapid transportation technologies such as hyperloop, metrino and pod taxis could soon be a reality in India after Niti Aayog cleared half-a-dozen proposals of the transport ministry exploring options to improve public transport. 

Following the go-ahead, the transport ministry has formed a six member committee, headed by a former top official of Railways, to study safety parameters associated with these technologies and global practices. 

Mass rapid transportation technologies such as hyperloop, metrino and pod taxis could soon be a reality in India after Niti Aayog cleared half-a-dozen proposals of the transport ministry exploring options to improve public transport. 

Following the go-ahead, the transport ministry has formed a six member committee, headed by a former top official of Railways, to study safety parameters associated with these technologies and global practices. 

The ministry of road transport and highways sought the approval of Niti Aayog to experiment and introduce six latest mass rapid transportation technologies. These technologies include metrino, stadler buses, hyperloop, pod taxis, hybrid buses and freight rail road. 

The new technologies are being explored as current public transportation is unable to resolve the increasing traffic crisis in the country. Besides, some of them are more cost effective than the existing ones. 

Once these safety parameters are tried and tested and the pilot run is successful, some of them including metrino, could be up for running by next year’s end. “Something like metrino (pod taxis) is almost one tenth of the cost of the metro, so there's a cost advantage as well. However, technologies such as hyperloop can take some time but we would like them to come to India,” the official said, adding land has been proposed for the hyperloop project. 

Under the hyperloop transportation mechanism, a pod-like vehicle is propelled through a near-vacuum tube connecting cities at speeds matching that of an aircraft while under the freight rail road proposal, elevated corridors would be built with rail lines where freight trucks can be placed and then they would move on rails at high speed, reducing freight time and increasing freight quantity. 

At a time when Indian jobs growth is already below what is required, the Cabinet on Wednesday approved a uniform labour code on minimum wages that makes it obligatory for all industries to pay a minimum wage to all category of employees across the country, and not just those earning less than Rs 18,000 a month as it is now. If passed by Parliament, the new law will not only affect competitiveness of trade and industry, it will affect the ability of states to attract investments on the basis of lower wage rates — the goods and services tax has already reduced their ability to offer VAT sops.

Labour is on the concurrent list, so it is not clear if states will agree to the new proposals. While the move will be popular among trade unions and those currently employed, if implemented faithfully across the country, it will add to the series of disadvantages Indian firms face and ensure more of them remain in the informal sector where policing wages is that much more difficult. As Manish Sabharwal, chairman, Teamlease, India’s largest temping agency, puts it, “we have so many problems, this is probably the last thing we need”.

The latest Economic Survey points to the fact that 78% of Indian firms employ under 50 workers and just 10% employ more than 500 — the comparable figures for China are 15% and 28%. With much smaller firms than China, India’s quality suffers as a result.

To this, add the cost of poor infrastructure — road transport, for instance, costs $7 per km versus $2.5 in China, and it takes 21 days to deliver goods from JNPT to the US east coast compared with 14 days for China.“States are expected to take into account local conditions including local cost of living and availability of skills and also the need to attract investment. All of these go together.

So, when the Centre imposes a common minimum wage, you are taking away a very valuable policymaking tool of states,” said Pronab Sen, former chief statistician of India. Sen said the move would lead to wide income disparity in India with the possibility of low-income states suffering de-industrialisation, leading to wide regional income disparity.

Brazil, which implemented a similar minimum wage law, suffered regional income disparities as a result. Which is why the Brazil Senate recently approved some major changes to that country’s labour code. Amidst some serious opposition, the Brazilian government tweaked the law to allow agreements negotiated between employers and workers, on a range of issues, to override the current labour law.

“I don’t know how they (Centre) are going to impose this, where is the machinery,” said Sudipto Mundle, member, 14th Finance Commission. Industry, especially the unorganised sector that could be affected more, could find ways around to bypass the law if economics tells them that they can’t afford, Mundle added.

If Parliament approves the code, the minimum wage will be applicable to all classes of workers, which at present, is applicable to scheduled industries or establishments in the law.

The Labour Code on Wages, 2015, will empower the central government to notify a “national minimum wage” (below which no state can fix their minimum wages) and this will be revised every two years (five years if the dearness allowance becomes part of the minimum wages).

Given India’s labour laws are already very restrictive, imposing one more condition will only make it more difficult for companies — especially smaller ones — to function efficiently.

In a major recognition of efforts by India for benchmarking international spices trade, global standards setting body Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) has accepted three Codex standards for white, green and black pepper, thyme and cumin, setting a course for universal agreement for identifying quality spices in different countries.  

The member-nations of CAC, which held the 40th session meeting during July 17-22 in Geneva, unanimously agreed on the adoption of Codex standards for the given three spices that would facilitate in setting up of a common process for standardisation of spices for their availability and global trade. 

“The Codex standards were adopted in the wake of India conducting three sessions of Codex Committee on Spices and Culinary Herbs (CCSCH) at Kochi (2014), Goa (2015) and Chennai (2017). The Chennai session succeeded in achieving this consensus. Subsequently, these drafts were placed before the CAC, and it was adopted by consensus with an overwhelming support from the member-countries,” said an official statement. 

With the standardisation of pepper, thyme and cumin, this is the first time that spices as commodities will have universal standards. 

Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said, “The adoption of the Codex standards would imply that there are now reference points and benchmarks for the member-countries to align their national standards for spices with Codex.” 

This will bring harmony to the international trade of spices by ensuring availability of good quality, safe and clean spices globally, she said. 

Besides, this will benefit the global spice trade from universal agreement for identifying high quality spices, she added. 
Sitharaman further stated that this may be a small start keeping in view the number of commodities which are line to be adopted for the process of standardisation. 

“But what is really heartening is that spices have made a definitive entry into the league of commodities having Codex standards, and India played a key role in achieving this objective,” she said. 

The Codex Alimentarius is a collection of guidelines, standards and codes for practice adopted by the CAC, which is a vital part of the joint Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and World Health Organisation (WHO) Food Standards Programme. CAC was established by WHO and FAO for protecting the consumers health and for promoting fair food trade practices. Codex standards signifies that the food is safe and of high quality, and can be traded.

For armchair astronomers and nearly everyone else watching the skies during the total solar eclipse Aug. 21, it will all be over in 2½ minutes. But a team of NASA-funded scientists chasing the moon's shadow in retrofitted WB-57F jet planes will experience the rare phenomenon for more than seven extraordinary minutes.

A team led by Amir Caspi of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo., will follow the darkness of the eclipse across the United States in two of NASA's research jets. The planes will take off from Houston and cross over Missouri, Illinois and Tennessee.

Mounted on the noses of both planes will be telescopes aimed to capture the clearest images taken to date of the sun's outer atmosphere, known as the corona. 

During a total solar eclipse, the moon completely blocks the sun, allowing the sun's corona to be seen in stark contrast to the surrounding darkness.

Scientists hope to untangle some of the mystery around why the outer layers of the sun's atmosphere are actually hotter than the layers closer to the sun.

Micro explosions on the sun's surface — known as nanoflares — could play a part in this puzzling phenomenon, and the eclipse offers a rare opportunity to observe them.

At the same time, the team expects to get thermal images of Mercury to find out how temperatures vary across the surface of the planet closest to the sun.

NASA is funding 11 projects that will allow scientists to use the eclipse to learn about the sun and its relationship to the Earth's upper atmosphere.

With an oversized hooked nose and a tiny body less than a foot long the latest undersea discovery by marine biologists is not a looker but, living at depths of 1,000 feet below the Pacific, the shark has adapted to its dim existence with the ability to glow in the dark.

The new species, Etmopterus lailae, is a member of the Lanternshark family a group of sharks that can glow in the dark and was identified by Professor of biological sciences Stephen Kajiura over a painstaking 17-year-long process to become one of only 450 known species of shark.

“You don't come across a new species all that often," Kajiura said in a press release. "A large part of biodiversity is still unknown, so for us to stumble upon a tiny, new species of shark in a gigantic ocean is really thrilling. This species is very understudied because of its size and the fact that it lives in very deep water. They are not easily visible or accessible like so many other sharks."

Kajiura and his team at the Elasmobranch Research Laboratory in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science at Florida Atlantic University did not realize that the fish they had discovered was a new species. Kajiura began working with the shark while he was still in graduate school at the University of Hawaii.

After the team submitted their findings to journal it became a possibility that in their research they had uncovered a new species never before seen in the wild. Its unique characteristics: its unusually shaped head and its bulgy nostrils allowing it to find food in its deep-sea environment set it apart. “These creatures are living in a deep sea environment with almost no light so they need to have a big sniffer to find food,” Kajiura said.

It is not entirely clear why Lanternsharks have adapted to glow in the dark. Some theories posit the ability may ensure the sharks mate with the right species while others claim the the bioluminescence is used to attract prey or camouflage them from predators.

In 2000 Kajiura was part of the team that discovered the Viper Dogfish also in Hawaii, another kind of Lanternshark. This shark has a snake-like mouth filled with crooked, jagged teeth and is another deep-sea dweller.

On 27.07.2017 Nitish Kumar took oath as Bihar Chief Minister with Bharatiya Janata Party as partner of his Janata Dal-United, within 24 hours of quitting the Grand Alliance.

This is his second innings in the last two years, after he snapped ties late on Wednesday with the Grand Alliance partners Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress, over corruption charges against Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav.

Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi administered the oath of office to Nitish Kumar at the Raj Bhavan.

Nitish Kumar sailed through the floor test on 28.07.2017 by securing 131 votes in his favour in the 243-member state assembly, but only after facing a strong new opposition that accused him of "betraying" people's mandate.

Under fire from RJD and Congress for breaking up the grand alliance and changing his partners, Kumar sought the confidence of the house on the plea that his decision to form government with BJP and its allies was in the interest of Bihar. 

He highlighted his policy of zero tolerance against corruption and focus on good governance, and said he does not need a lesson on secularism. "Secularism has to do with ideology and it is not a cover-up for corruption," Kumar told the house ahead of the trust vote, in a veiled attack on RJD leader Lalu Prasad who is presently fighting several court cases over the fodder scam. To highlight his commitment to secularism and transparency, the chief minister recalled the works undertaken by his government for the welfare of minority communities and women in the past. But the opposition tore into him, led by Lalu Prasad's son Tejashwi Prasad Yadav.

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given approval for revision of guidelines of Sovereign Gold Bonds (SGB) Scheme with a view to achieve its intended objectives. Two sets of changes have been made in the scheme:

I. Specific changes have been made in the attributes of the scheme to make it more attractive, mobilise finances as per the target and reduce the economic strains caused by imports of gold and reduce the Current Account Deficit (CAD).

II. Flexibility has been given to Ministry of Finance to design and introduce variants of SGBs with different interest rates and risk protection / pay-offs that would offer investment alternatives to different category of investors. Ministry of Finance (the issuer) has been delegated this power to amend / add to the features of the Scheme with approval of the Finance Minister to reduce the time lag between finalizing the attributes of a particular tranche and its notification. Such flexibility will be effective in addressing the elements of competition with new products of investment, to deal with very dynamic and sometimes volatile market, macro-economic and other conditions such as gold price.

Following specific changes in the scheme have been approved:

i. The investment limit per fiscal year has been increased to 4 kg for individuals, 4 Kg for Hindu Undivided Family (HUF) and 20 Kg for Trusts and similar entities notified by the Government from time to time.

ii. The ceiling will be counted on Financial year basis and will include the SGBs purchased during the trading in the secondary market.

iii. The ceiling on investment will not include the holdings as collateral by Banks and Financial institutions.

iv. SGBs will be available 'on tap'. Based on the consultation with NSE, BSE, Banks and Department of Post, features of product to emulate 'On Tap' sale would be finalised by Ministry of Finance.

v. To improve liquidity and tradability of SGBs, appropriate market making initiatives will be devised. Market makers, could be commercial banks or any other public sector entity, such as MMTC or any other entity as decided by Gol.

vi. The Government may, if so felt necessary, allow higher commission to agents.

Sovereign Gold Bond (SGB) Scheme was notified by the Government of India on November 05, 2015 after due approval of the Cabinet. The main objective of the scheme was to develop a financial asset as an alternative to purchasing metal gold. The target was to shift part of the estimated 300 tons of physical bars and coins purchased every year for Investment into 'demat' gold bonds. The target mobilisation under the scheme at Rs. 15,000 crore in 2015-16 and at Rs.10,000 crore in 2016-17. The amount so far credited in Government account is Rs. 4,769 crore.

In view of less than expected response of the investors to the scheme, and considering its bearing on CAD and consequently on overall macro-economic health of the country, it was felt necessary to make changes in this scheme to make it a success.

Freedom fighter and Gandhian K.E. Mammen died at the NIMS Hospital at Neyyattinkara here on 26 July 2017Wednesday. He was 97. He was in the forefront in the anti-liquor agitations in the State. Mammen, a bachelor, has also participated in the Quit India protest and stir against Sir C.P. Ramaswamy Iyer.

Born to K.C. Eeppen and Kunjandamma in the famous Kandathil family in 1921 on July 31, he was the sixth child among the seven children.

As a student, Mammen saw the independence rebellion closely. He became active in the freedom struggle while in college. Mammen became the President of Travancore Students Federation while studying in Arts College. He was jailed for urging students for participating in the freedom struggle at Thirunakkara, Kottayam.

C. Kesavan’s famous speech “Kozhencherry Speech”was a turning point in his life. He couldn’t complete his education in Arts College following his lashing out at Sir CP in a public meeting. Though he tried for admission in Maharajas College, he was denied admission.

Later, he completed his intermediate course from St. Thomas College, Thrissur. In 1940, he joined for graduation in Madras Christian College. But following his participation in the Quit India agitation, he was expelled from the college.

In 1943, he returned to Kerala and became active in the national movement activities. At the age of 22, Mammen shifted his residence to Thiruvalla. For a long time, the epicenter of his activities were at Thiruvalla and Kottayam.

In 1996, he came back to Thiruvananthapuram. He lived embracing Gandhian principles and thus he had no house, savings or vehicle.

Two Naval Offshore Patrol Vessels (NOPVs), built by Reliance Defence and Engineering Ltd (RDEL), were launched on Tuesday at the company’s shipyard at Pipavav in Gujarat. The two NOPVs - NS001 & NS002, are part of five warships project being built by RDEL for the Indian Navy.The two naval vessels constructed by a private player is a first in India.

Vice Admiral Girish Luthra, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Western Naval Command, termed the introduction of the two naval ships - Shachi and Shruti as a “milestone event”.

Vice Admiral Luthra said that opening up of construction of warships for the private players by the Navy is to be considered an opportunity for them whch they must make full use of.

He further said that the shipyards in the country need to be constantly upgraded with a goal to achieve international standards in productivity, quality and construction periods. 

The major role of NOPVs is to carry out surveillance of India’s vast Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in addition to the operational tasks like anti-piracy patrols, maritime security, fleet support and coastal security operations.

“The NOPVs would increase the ocean surveillance and patrolling capabilities of the Indian Navy,” the Navy said in a statement.

The arms deployment onboard the NOPVs is remotely controlled via an intelligent integrated electronic control system, it added.

The ships are inbuilt with 20,000 kW powered diesel engine and can provide a speed of 25 knots.

RDEL, a part of Anil Ambani-led Reliance Group, is the first private shipyard in the country to obtain a license for defence production and a contract for building defence ships in 2011. Besides, the company is also constructing a training ship and 14 Fast Petrol Vessels (FPVs) for the cost guards.

The company has constructed ships for several clients earlier too, including offshore support vessels for government-run ONGC, ice bulk carriers for a Norway firm, and deck cargo barges for NPCC-UAE. 

India on 25th July 2017 said the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) had no locus standi in the country's internal affairs after the 56-member body demanded that New Delhi implement the UN resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir.

At the same time, the Ministry of External Affairs​ termed the resolutions as 'misleading'.

In a statement, the MEA said it "notes with utmost regret that OIC, during its 44th Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, on July 10-11, has again adopted certain resolutions which contain factually incorrect and misleading references to matters internal to India, including the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, which is an integral part of India. India outrightly rejects all such references."

The statement further said that "the OIC has no locus standi on India's internal affairs. We strongly advise the OIC to refrain from making such references in future". 

At the OIC Contact Group on J&K meet, its Secretary General Yousef A Al-Othaimeen had highlighted OIC's activities in dealing with the question of J&K.

The OIC has 57 states as its members that include Turkey, UAE, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

This is not the first time. In April 2016 also, India had asked OIC to refrain from making statements regarding country's internal matters.

Reacting strongly, India on 15 April 2016 had termed as "factually incorrect and misleading" the references made by OIC during its 13th Summit in Turkey and had asked it to refrain from making such statements.

The then MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup had said, "We note with utmost regret that the final communique adopted at the conclusion of the 13th Islamic Summit of the Heads of State/Government of the OIC Member States held at Istanbul, Turkey on 14-15 April includes factually incorrect and misleading references pertaining to the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, which is an integral part of India. We completely reject all such references regarding matters internal to India, on which the OIC has no locus standi. We further advise the OIC to refrain from making such references in future."

Ram Nath Kovind was on 25th July 2017 elected as the 14th President of India becoming the first BJP leader and one with RSS background to occupy the Rashtrapati Bhawan. Chief Justice J.S. Khehar administered the oath of office to Kovind in the presence of outgoing President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Parliament's Central Hall.

Backed by 40 political parties, Kovind, 71, defeated the joint opposition candidate Meira Kumar in a straight fight by polling 65.65% votes with a vote value of 7,02,044. Kumar got the balance 34.35% votes with a value of 3,67,314.

Kovind will be sworn in as the 14th President of India on July 25 at a ceremony in Parliament. Chief Justice of India J S Khehar will administer the oath of office to Kovind.

Kovind received overwhelming support from across the country with his poll managers claiming to have secured 116 more votes than they had anticipated.

Of the total 4896 lawmakers eligible to cast their votes, 4851 exercised their franchise. Of these, Kovind polled 2930 votes against 1844 garnered by Kumar. As many as 77 votes were found to be invalid.

Kovind will be the second Dalit leader to occupy the top constitutional post after K R Narayanan.

The presidential election was seen as a battle of index for opposition unity as 18 parties had joined hands to take on the BJP-led NDA. It also brought out the faultlines in the opposition ranks as Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar broke ranks to vote in favour of Kovind.

Amid claims of cross-voting by the BJP, Congress leaders asserted that the opposition unity forged for the presidential election had stayed intact and Kumar had in fact polled more votes than expected in Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh.

An analysis of the result showed that Kovind had benefited by cross-voting by Congress MLAs in Gujarat, Goa and Chhatisgarh. Kovind also managed to get more votes than anticipated in several states including Maharashtra, Tripura, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Assam.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) on 24 July 2017 gave in-principle approval for sale of government's 51.11 percent stake along with management control in HPCL to ONGC, Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan has informed.

HPCL will continue as PSU after ONGC acquisition of stake, Pradhan added.

While ONGC buying HPCL will help the government meet as much as 40 percent of its target for raising Rs 72,500 crore in the current fiscal through stake sales, more deals in the oil sector including one where refiner Indian Oil Corp (IOC) buys out explorer Oil India Ltd or Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL) merges with gas utility GAIL may be in the offing.

Prior to the merger, HPCL is likely to take over Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd (MRPL) to bring all the refining assets of ONGC under one unit. ONGC currently owns 71.63 percent of MRPL while HPCL has 16.96 percent stake in it.

MRPL will be the third refinery of HPCL, which already has units at Mumbai and Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh.

Jaitley had in his Budget for 2017-18 fiscal talked about creating an integrated oil behemoth. After that oil companies were asked to give their options.

ONGC had evaluated options of acquiring either HPCL or BPCL -- the two downstream oil refining and fuel marketing companies.

It found the nation's second-biggest fuel retailer BPCL too expensive and conveyed its choice to the parent oil ministry.

BPCL has a market cap of Rs 1,01,860.56 crore and buying government's 54.93 percent would alone have entailed an outgo of about 56,000 crore.

HPCL on the other hand has a market cap of Rs 58,485.55 crore and buying government's entire 51.11 percent stake would entail an outgo of Rs 29,900 crore.

There are only six major companies in the oil sector -- ONGC and Oil India Ltd being the oil producers, IOC, HPCL and BPCL in refinery business and GAIL in midstream gas transportation business.

The rest, such as ONGC Videsh, Chennai Petroleum Corp (CPCL), Numaligarh Refinery Ltd and MRPL, are already subsidiaries of one of these six PSUs.

HPCL will add 23.8 million tonnes of annual oil refining capacity to ONGC's portfolio, making it the third-largest refiner in the country after IOC and Reliance Industries.

The aircraft carrier Gerald Ford, the U.S. Navy's latest supercarrier, is finally at sea undergoing testing. The carrier is the most expensive weapons system ever purchased and has faced a two year delay. The ship is on track for commissioning sometime later this month or early May.

Named after former president and naval aviator Gerald R. Ford, the carrier is 1,092 feet long and displaces more than 100,000 tons fully loaded. It will have a crew of 4,660—six hundred less than the previous Nimitz class, thanks to increased efficiency and automation—and carry 75 combat aircraft. In accordance with Navy tradition, the ship is currently known as PCU Gerald Ford, or "Pre-Commissioning Unit" until it is officially accepted into the fleet, whereupon it will adopt the USS prefix. Here's a video of Ford departing the shipyard.

The at-sea trials, known as Builders Sea Trials, are being conducted off the coast of Virginia by the Navy and shipbuilder Huntington Ingall Industries-Newport News Shipbuilding. The trials will likely take several weeks. Afterward the shipyard will correct any deficiencies found during the trials. Once complete, the Ford will be commissioned into the Navy. Commissioning is set for this September, barring any problems.

USS Gerald R. Ford: Inside the world's most advanced aircraft carrier!

The U.S. Navy's new aircraft carrier is the most advanced in the world, carrying more aircraft and weapons than ever before.

The USS Gerald R. Ford is $13 billion futuristic ship complete with a gigantic flight deck and a new electromagnetic system to launch aircraft. The state-of-the-art tech and operational systems mean aircraft will be able to take off faster to get to the fight quicker.

At 1,100 feet, the new Ford carrier is about the size of three football fields.

Built by Huntington Ingalls Industries, the Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) is the first new aircraft carrier design since USS Nimitz (CVN 68) – that’s the first new design in about 40 years. The Navy has ordered three of these Ford-class carriers -combined price tag approximately $42 billion – and this is the first.

Ford incorporates a slew of new technologies, including the vaunted electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS), which uses electromagnetism instead of traditional steam to launch aircraft from the flight deck. EMALS is designed to launch aircraft more gently than previous systems, extending aircraft life and allowing it to launch smaller planes, including unmanned aerial vehicles, and is part of the reason why the Navy expects the Ford to conduct 25 percent more flights a day than the older Nimitz class. EMALS has had extensive technical problems, and the first public launch in 2016 was a failure. Still, Navy officials appear confident the program is back on track.

Ford has a host of other improvements. The Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) system, which brings landing aircraft to a complete stop also faced challenges. The AAG is designed to reduce manpower and maintenance over previous arresting gear systems. The aircraft carrier's island, where the crew observe and control air operations, is smaller meaning more deck space for aircraft. The ship's redesigned electrical system can generate 104 megawatts or 250 percent more electricity than previous ships, not only to support EMALS but also possibly laser weaponry down the road. New weapon elevators can get munitions up from the hangar to the flight deck more quickly than before.

The carrier can make more than thirty knots, although like other nuclear-powered ships the true maximum speed is a closely-guarded secret. It can generate 400,000 gallons of fresh water a day and serve 15,000 meals. Four million feet of fiber optic cable are built into the hull. The ship is designed with better ergonomics and more comfortable living spaces and has better air conditioning for the hot and arid regions the ship will no doubt visit in the future.

Approximately 75 aircraft will serve at a time on the the Ford. That includes 44 strike fighters serving in four strike squadrons, typically F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets but will also include F-35C Joint Strike Fighters. The second largest complement of aircraft are 19 MH-60R and MH-60S Seahawk helicopters, which conduct everything from anti-submarine warfare to the transport of Navy SEALs. The ship also has five EA-18G Growler electronic warfare planes to jam enemy sensors and weapons, four E-2D Hawkeye airborne early warning and control planes to direct the air battle, and two C-2 Greyhound cargo aircraft for supplying the ship at sea.

Gerald Ford is the first of the Ford class of aircraft carriers. A second ship, John F. Kennedy, is under construction and a third, Enterprise will have its keel laid in 2018. Eventually the Ford class will replace all ten ships of the Nimitz class, which were built between 1975 and 2009.

The carrier is three years behind schedule, largely due to the difficulty of transitioning new technologies from test beds to fully operational equipment. The Ford cost $13 billion, not including aircraft or escorts, and another $4 billion in one-time development costs. Kennedy and Enterprise should cost a little less, as lessons from building the first ship are applied to the shipbuilding process.

India suffered a stunning collapse to lose seven wickets for 28 runs and that cost them the Women’s World Cup which England won by nine runs. In the final, India needed 229 runs to win the game and were on track with five wickets in hand at 191.

Then Shrubsole produced a stunning performance to run through the tail and help England win. She took six wickets in the final to bowl out India for 219. This is England fourth title while India failed to win their first in two attempts.

The 2017 Women's Cricket World Cup was an international women's cricket tournament that took place in England from 24 June to 23 July 2017. It was the eleventh edition of the Women's Cricket World Cup, and the third to be held in England (after the 1973 and 1993 tournaments). The 2017 World Cup was the first in which all participating players are fully professional. Eight teams qualified to participate in the tournament. England won the final against India at Lord's on 23 July by 9 runs.

India to Host Global Conference on Cyber Space 2017 – World’s Largest Conference on Cyber Space. The GCCS 2017 will take place on the 23rd and 24th of November, 2017 in Aero City, New Delhi. Multiple run-up events are planned across India and abroad to create awareness about GCCS 2017, along with 2 days of pre-event activities right before the conference.

The GCCS is taking place  outside OECD nations for the first time.

The theme for the GCCS 2017 is ‘Cyber4All: An Inclusive, Sustainable, Developmental, Safe and Secure Cyberspace’·

Themed on Cyber 4 All : An Inclusive, Sustainable, Developmental, Safe and Secure Cyberspace, the GCCS 2017 will be inaugurated by the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi. To be held in India for the first time, the two-day conference will see participation of around 2000 delegates from senior Government officials, industry leaders, academia and civil society from over 100 countries. GCCS will congregate and deliberate on issues relating to promotion of cooperation in cyberspace, norms for responsible behaviour in cyberspace and to enhance cyber capacity building. Many of these delegations will be headed at Ministerial level delegates thereby making it an important forum of global consultation of various issues of cyber space.

GCCS is a prestigious international conference that aims at encouraging dialogue among stakeholders of cyberspace, which has been taking place since 2011. Incepted in 2011 in London, GCCS witnessed a participation of 700 global delegates. It helped in setting up rules and guidelines for the editions to follow. The second conference was held in 2012 in Budapest with focus on relationship between internet rights and internet security and was attended by 700 delegates from nearly 60 countries. The third edition of GCCS was held in 2013 in Seoul with participation from 1600 delegates.

The conference built on the themes such as Economic Growth and Development, Social and Cultural Benefits, a Safe and Secure Cyberspace, Cybercrime and International Security. The fourth version GCCS 2015 was held on April 16-17, 2015 in The Hague, Netherlands. Nearly 1800 members from nearly 100 countries participated in this conference and over 60 countries participated with delegations led at Ministerial level. The conference focused on Freedom, Security and Growth in cyber space. GCCS 2015 was a program designed as high level stock taking exercise and to generate input for other ongoing processes rather than an independent norm setting initiative. The launch of Global Forum on Cyber Expertise (GFCE) was main deliverable of the conference for capacity building in cyber space. 

‘Goal of GCCS 2017 is to promote an inclusive Cyber Space with focus on policies and frameworks for inclusivity, sustainability, development, security, safety & freedom, technology and partnerships for upholding digital democracy, maximizing collaboration for strengthening security and safety and advocating dialogue for digital diplomacy’. It will be an opportunity to showcase the “Digital India” program as a positive, sustainable and scalable model for use of ICTs for addressing developmental challenges and growth opportunities. It can help provide vision of inclusive digital society for inclusive growth, education, healthcare especially for developing world. 

 The plenary sessions and other activities during GCCS 2017 will be designed around the themes of Cyber4Inclusive Growth, Cyber4DigitalInclusion, Cyber4Security and Cyber4Diplomacy. During various sessions and activities focused around these themes, GCCS 2017 will bring forth the business, empowerment and developmental potential of Cyber space for realizing  the goals of sustainable development. Cyber security will be one of the major focus areas in GCCS 2017 especially as the central government is in the process of setting up separate sector specific emergency response centres to ensure cyber security and strengthen technology infrastructure.

The conference will be an ideal forum for the exchange of ideas with global think thanks and promote closer co-operation among the international community. GCCS 2017 will be an excellent platform for Industry and its Associations, Civil Society, Academia, Governments and Think-tanks from across the world to deliberate on issues, opportunities and challenges faced in the cyber world and pave the way for a better digital future.  Indian start-ups will also get exposure to the global industry leaders and investors in GCCS 2017 to pitch their ideas through multiple seminars, side events and exhibitions.

The Ministry of Rural Development will launch a new sub-scheme under Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana – National Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NRLM) which will be named as “Aajeevika Grameen Express Yojana (AGEY)”. Replying to a question in the Lok Sabha, the Minister of State for Rural Development Shri Ram Kripal Yadav said that the main objectives of AGEY are to provide an alternative source of livelihoods to members of Self Help Groups (SHGs) under DAY-NRLM by facilitating them to operate public transport services in backward rural areas.

This will provide safe, affordable and community monitored rural transport services like e-rickshaws, 3 and 4 wheeler motorised transport vehicles to connect remote villages with key services and amenities including access to markets, education and health for the overall economic development of the area.

The Minister said that the sub-scheme will be implemented in 250 blocks in the country on a pilot basis for a period of 3 years from 2017-18 to 2019-20. The States have been informed about the number of blocks allocated to them to take up this sub-scheme in the pilot phases. One of the options proposed to be given under the sub-scheme is that the Community Based Organisation (CBO) will provide interest free loan from its own corpus to Self Help Group member for purchase of the vehicle.

The Government is implementing DAY-NRLM across the country in all States and Union Territories (except Delhi and Chandigarh). Under DAY-NRLM, till date, 34.4 lakh women SHGs have been promoted under the programme. The financial support under the programme is mainly in the form of Revolving Fund and Community Investment Funds, given as grants to the Self Help Groups (SHGs) and their federations. So far, the total amount released to SHGs is Rs. 1815 crore to about 3.96 lakh SHGs. A sum of Rs. 1088 crore has also been disbursed to 7.28 lakh SHGs as revolving Fund. DAY-NRLM also focuses on bank linkage of the institutions to enable their income The Cumulative Bank Credit mobilized for women SHGs and their federations since inception is to the tune of Rs 1.19 lakh crores.

The programme has a special focus on women empowerment including a dedicated component for promoting farm and non-farm based livelihoods for women farmers in rural areas. About 34 lakh women farmers have benefited under this programme. In addition, start-up enterprises at village levels are also supported to promote entrepreneurial activities in those areas. Projects have been sanctioned for setting up 79,814 enterprises in 5209 villages in 17 states in the country.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on 21st July 2017 formally launched a pension scheme for senior citizens with an assured return rate of eight percent, favouring efficiency with social security.

"Banks have to lend at feasible rates, while senior citizens want secure, reasonable, unfluctuating return on their investment," Jaitley said here launching the pension scheme -- Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana (PMVVY).

The PMVVY is a pension scheme announced by the government exclusively for the senior citizens aged 60 years and above, which is open for subscription between May 4, 2017 and May 3, 2018.

It provides an assured return of eight per cent per annum payable monthly (equivalent to 8.30 percent per annum effectively) for 10 years.

The scheme can be purchased offline as well as online through the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC), which has been given the sole privilege to operate this scheme.

Under the scheme, the pension returns are payable at the end of each period, during the policy term of 10 years. The frequency of payment can be monthly/ quarterly/ half-yearly/ yearly, as opted for by the subscriber.

The scheme is exempt from the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

On survival of the pensioner till the end of the policy term of 10 years, purchase price along with final pension instalment shall be payable.

Loan up to 75 percent of the subscription amount shall be allowed after three policy years (to meet the liquidity needs). Loan interest shall be recovered from the pension instalments and the principal from the claim proceeds.

The scheme also allows for premature exit for the treatment of any critical/ terminal illness of self or spouse. On such premature exit, 98 percent of the subscription amount shall be refunded.

On death of the pensioner during the policy term of 10 years, the subscription amount shall be paid to the beneficiary.
The ceiling of maximum pension is for a family as a whole, wherein the family will comprise pensioner, his/her spouse and dependants.

The shortfall owing to the difference between the interest guaranteed and the actual interest earned and the expenses relating to administration shall be subsidised by the government and reimbursed to the LIC.

Various nutritious and protein-rich food items have been developed by the DRDO for security personnel deployed at high altitude and snow-bound areas, Parliament was informed on Friday.

The major food products developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in the last three years and the current year are chicken biscuits, protein rich mutton bar, composite cereals bars, egg protein biscuits, iron and protein rich food bar, chicken katti rolls and anti-fatigue tulsi bar, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha.

"There is no food production unit in DRDO. However, after developing these products, production technologies have been transferred to various industries for bulk production," he said.

He added that development of nutritional food by DRDO for armed forces was an ongoing process based on their requirements and latest technological research in the area.

The landmark India-Japan civil nuclear agreement came into force on 20th July 2017. Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar exchanged the diplomatic notes with the Japanese envoy to India to formalise the completion of the process.

“The India-Japan Agreement for Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy entered into force on July 20, 2017 with the exchange of diplomatic notes between Dr. S. Jaishankar, Foreign Secretary and H.E. Mr. Kenji Hiramatsu, Ambassador of Japan to India,” said a statement from the Ministry of External Affairs.

The pact was signed in Tokyo during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Japan on November 11, 2016.

“This Agreement is a reflection of the strategic partnership between India and Japan and will pave the way for enhanced cooperation in energy security and clean energy. It seeks to promote full cooperation between the two countries in the development and uses of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes on a stable, reliable and predictable basis,” said the statement.

The deal is essential for bringing a network of nuclear energy cooperation for India, especially with the U.S. as prominent American nuclear companies are owned by the Japanese nuclear majors like Toshiba.

Ram Nath Kovind on 20 July 2017 was elected the 14th  President of India. Kovind, the former Governor of Bihar, has served as a BJP MP in the Rajya Sabha as well. He defeated Opposition’s Meira Kumar, a former Lok Sabha speaker, winning more than 65 percent of the votes in the Electoral College.Kovind will be the second Dalit to become the President of the country after KR Narayanan.

The returning officer, Anoop Mishra, said that Kovind received 2930 votes with a value of 7,02,044. He will be the first BJP member to be elected as the President.

“I never dreamed of this position nor was it a goal. My election to this post is a message to all those who discharge their duties with honesty and integrity,” he said, promising to uphold the Constitution of India and follow the policy of Sarve Bhavantu Sukheenaha or peace and prosperity to all.

The voting for the poll had been held on 17th July 2017.

The total number of MPs and MLAs who cast their votes was 4851, bearing a combined value of 1090300. However, with 77 votes being declared invalid — 21 from Parliament alone — the total number of valid votes was 4774, bearing a combined value of 1069358. Mr. Kovind polled 2930 of these votes — bearing a value of 702044 — and Ms. Kumar 1844 votes — with a value of 367314.

The value of each vote of an MP was 708. Among the States, each vote in Uttar Pradesh had the highest value of 208, while each vote from Sikkim had the lowest value of seven. Mr. Kovind got the highest number of votes – 335 – from U.P. and the lowest – just 1 – from Kerala.

Ms. Kumar secured the highest number of votes – 273 – from West Bengal and drew a blank in Andhra Pradesh.

Roger Federer became the first man to win Wimbledon eight times and extended his record to 19 Grand Slam titles with victory over Croatia's Marin Cilic. The Swiss third seed won 6-3 6-1 6-4 as seventh seed Cilic struggled with a blister on his left foot and broke down in tears during the second set. Federer, 35, finished the contest in one hour and 41 minutes to claim his first Wimbledon title since 2012. He becomes the oldest man in the Open era to win at the All England Club.

Garbine Muguruza defeated Venus Williams in the women's singles final of Wimbledon 2017, claiming the championship at the All England Club. The Spanish star was aggressive throughout and dominated the encounter as Williams faded in the second set. Muguruza prevailed 7-5, 6-0 as she turned on the style towards the end of the battle.

Men's Singles : Switzerland Roger Federer def. Croatia Marin Čilić, 6–3, 6–1, 6–4

Women's Singles : Spain Garbiñe Muguruza def. United States Venus Williams, 7–5, 6–0

Men's Doubles : Poland Łukasz Kubot / Brazil Marcelo Melo def. Austria Oliver Marach / Croatia Mate Pavić, 5–7, 7–5, 7–6(7–2), 3–6, 13–11

Women's Doubles : Russia Ekaterina Makarova / Russia Elena Vesnina def. Chinese Taipei Chan Hao-ching / Romania Monica Niculescu, 6–0, 6–0

Mixed Doubles : United Kingdom Jamie Murray/Switzerland Martina Hingis def. Finland Henri Kontinen/United Kingdom Heather Watson, 6–4, 6–4

The Railways on 14 July 2017 (Friday) launched the country’s first solar-powered local train here with a battery bank facility that ensures sufficient power even in the absence of sunlight.

The entire electrical need of the coaches, which includes lights, fans and information display system, will be met by the energy produced by solar panels fitted atop the coaches of the DEMU (diesel electric multiple unit) train.

Speaking at the launch at the Safdarjung railway station, Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said it was a “path-breaking leap” towards making trains more environment-friendly.

Referring to the Railways commitment to using cleaner fuels, Mr. Prabhu said it was trying to increase the use of non-conventional sources of energy.

Also, the carrier is taking on several other environment-friendly measures like using bio-toilets, water-recycling, waste disposal, CNG and LNG, and harnessing wind energy.

Normally, DEMU trains — a multiple-unit train powered by on-board engines without a separate locomotive — provide power for its passenger comfort system, i.e. lights and fans, from a diesel-driven generator.

The first rake of the train will be put in commercial service over the suburban railway system of Delhi division shortly. A route will be decided soon, said officials.

While the 1,600 horsepower train has been manufactured at the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) in Chennai, its solar system and panels have been developed and fitted by the Indian Railways Organization of Alternative Fuel (IROAF). Twenty-four more coaches will be fitted with this system within six months.

The IROAF has developed this system with a smart inverter, which optimises power generation on a moving train to cater to full load even during night hours with the help of a battery bank that ensures sufficient electricity.

The system reduces diesel consumption and the carbon signature of these commuter trains by reducing carbon dioxide generation by 9 tonnes per coach per year.

A solar-powered DEMU train with six trailer coaches will save about 21,000 litres of diesel, thereby saving ₹12 lakh every year, the Railways added.

India is ranked 116 out of 157 nations on a global index that assesses the performance of countries towards achieving the ambitious sustainable development goals (SDGs). The SDG Index and Dashboards Report produced by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and the Bertelsmann Stiftung shows that world leaders need to strengthen their joint efforts to realise the 17 global goals.

India is ranked 116th on the index with a score of 58.1, behind countries such as Nepal, Iran, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and China. Pakistan is ranked 122. 

The report said that the countries which are closest to fulfilling the goals are not the biggest economies but comparably small, developed countries. 

Sweden leads the list, followed by Denmark and Finland. Among the G7 countries, only Germany and France can be found among the top ten performers.

The United States ranks 42nd on the Index, while Russia and China rank 62nd and 71st respectively. 

Bertelsmann Stiftung chairman and CEO Aart De Geus said the report's findings show that politicians, businesses and society altogether must urgently intensify their efforts and commit themselves to this agenda. 

"SDG Index and Dashboards highlight the need for urgent action on the part of G20 countries in making sustainable development a reality both within and beyond their borders. If the world is to achieve the SDGs, all countries must take up the goals as part of their national development strategies, and ensure that they take responsibility for their impact on the rest of the world," said Jeffrey D Sachs, Director of the SDSN. 

The SDG Index and Dashboard collect available data for 157 countries to assess where each country stands in 2017 with regard to achieving the SDGs. 

The SDG Index ranks countries based on their performance across the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. 

A team of Indian scientists has reported the discovery of a previously unknown ‘supercluster’ of galaxies, some four billion light years away from Earth, and named it Saraswati. Superclusters, a group of clusters of galaxies, are the largest structures of stars, planets and other heavenly bodies in the universe, and very few of them are known.

“There are basically only four or five known superclusters of this size in the entire universe. So, our discovery is a rare find,” Shishir Sankhyayan, a PhD student at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Pune, who was part of the team of scientists that discovered the supercluster, told The Indian Express.

Besides Sankhyayan, the team had scientists from Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune, Newman College in Thodupuzha in Kerala, and National Institute of Technology, Jamshedpur, and was led by Joydeep Bagchi. Their paper is being published in the next issue of The Astrophysical Journal, the research journal of the American Astronomical Society.Galaxies are themselves made of billions of stars and planets, and a cluster typically contains several hundreds of these galaxies.

Superclusters are relatively recent finds, having been identified for the first time only in the 1980s. In fact, Somak Raychaudhury, director of IUCAA and a member of this team, is credited with finding one supercluster in 1989 when he was a PhD student in the UK.

The Milky Way galaxy, of which Earth is a very small member, is part of the Laniakea supercluster, that was identified only in 2014, a statement from IUCAA said. Sankhyayan said the Saraswati supercluster was estimated to have a mass of 2 x 1016 (twenty thousand trillion) suns, and could contain thousands of suns, besides having billions of stars, planets, other bodies, gases and dark matter.

Saraswati is estimated to be stretched over 650 million light years in distance.“Since our information is based on signals received from stars at such massive distance, we are essentially looking into the past of the universe, as light from these stars has taken about four billion years in reaching us. It is around this time, scientists believe, that dark energy, about which we know little, had begun to dominate the space in the universe. The study of Saraswati therefore is likely to offer more insight into our understanding of dark energy,” Sankhyayan said.

India will host international Theatre Olympics in 2018 for the first time. The 51-day carnival of theatre, beginning February 17 next year, will simultaneously be held in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Chennai and 10 other cities across India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to inaugurate the mega international event here in Delhi while the President of India will conclude it in Mumbai on April 8. Names of the cities, other than the five metropolis, will be finalised by a national advisory committee to be set up for detailed planning of the event.

The Theatre Olympics is an international festival that brings together productions of well-known theatre practitioners from around the world. It was established in Delphi, Greece, in 1993 at the initiative of noted Greek theatre director Theodorus Terzopoulus.

While the first country to host the Theatre Olympics was Greece in 1995, the last mega carnival of theatre was held in Poland in 2016. India will be hosting the eighth edition of the Theatre Olympics next year.

The National School of Drama (NSD) will organise the mega international event in coordination with the Union Culture Ministry.

The institute's director Waman Kendre said the NSD will soon invite applications from the theatre practitioners in India and around the world for their participation in the 2018 Theatre Olympics.“A national level committee will soon be set up for shortlisting of the groups and plays. Any one interested in taking part in the mega event can apply,” he added, while replying to a question.

Maharashtra has become the first Indian state to criminalize social boycott. The Prohibition of People from Social Boycott (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2016, prescribes up to three years in jail and maximum fine of Rs. 1 L. The law was passed by the assembly in May'16. The president gave assent on June 20. This gives life to the initiative by late rationalist Narendra Dabholkar.

With the President of India giving assent to the Maharashtra Prohibition of People from Social Boycott (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2016, Maharashtra has become the first state in the country to bring a law making social boycott a crime.

The movement, initiated by late Narendra Dabholkar, gained momentum after he was shot dead and the Maharashtra legislature passed the law unanimously in 2016.

It was pending with the central government for the President's nod. The President gave the assent on June 20, 2017.

Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS) executive president Avinash Patil said the President has signed the law following which the state published it in the gazette.

"The state government forwarded the Bill to the Centre on May 7, 2016. It needed clearances from six central ministries and a nod from the President. After the process was completed, the state government's law and justice department published it in the gazette on July 3, 2017.

Now, the law will be implemented," said Patil, adding that MANS had prepared a draft and submitted it to the state in 2015.

The new law proposes action against extra-judicial bodies like jat (caste) and community panchayats, and prescribes a maximum punishment of three years in jail. As per the law, the offence of imposing social boycott will attract a maximum punishment of 3 years in prison or a fine up to Rs 1 lakh or both.

The abetment of the offence also attracts the same punishment and fine.Mukta Dabholkar, daughter of late Narendra Dabholkar and a MANS member, told TOI, "MANS will now plan a strategy for effective execution of the law. It was a long struggle ... and we received a major setback after Dabholkar's killing. But MANS was determined to bring this law considering atrocities carried out in the name of caste".

The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Government of India, signed an institutional agreement with the Punjab State Council of Science and Technology in New Delhi  to establish India’s first Technology and Innovation Support Center (TISC) at Patent Information Centre, Punjab, under the World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) TISC program.

The objective of the TISC is to stimulate a dynamic, vibrant and balanced Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) system in India to foster creativity and innovation, thereby promoting entrepreneurship and enhancing social, economic and cultural development by establishing a network of TISCs in India. 

WIPO’s Technology and Innovation Support Center (TISC) program provides innovators in developing countries with access to local, high-quality technology information and related services, helping them to exploit their innovative potential and to create, protect, and manage their Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs).

The National Green Tribunal today passed a slew of directions to rejuvenate River Ganga, declaring as ‘No-Development Zone’ an area of 100 metres from the edge of the river between Haridwar and Unnao and prohibiting dumping of waste within 500 metres from the river.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar also declared that an environment compensation of Rs 50,000 will be imposed on anyone who dumps waste in the river. The apex environment watchdog directed all authorities concerned to complete various projects including setting up of a sewage treatment plant and cleaning drains within two years. It also said the Uttar Pradesh government should be “duty-bound” to shift tanneries within six weeks, from Jajmau in Kanpur to leather parks in Unnao or any other place it considers appropriate.

The NGT also directed the Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand governments to formulate guidelines for religious activities on the ghats of Ganga or its tributaries. The tribunal also appointed a supervisory committee, headed by the secretary of the Water Resources Ministry and comprising IIT professors and officials from UP government to oversee implementation of the directions passed in its 543- page verdict.

It also asked the committee to submit reports at regular intervals. The NGT said the concept of zero liquid discharge and online monitoring of affluents should not be applied to industrial units. It said that all industrial units falling in the catchment area of river Ganga should be stopped from indiscriminate extraction of groundwater. The tribunal had heard the arguments of the Centre, the UP government, pollution control boards and various other stakeholders for almost 18 months before reserving the judgement on May 31.

The green panel has divided the work of cleaning the river in different segments — Gomukh to Haridwar (Phase-I), Haridwar to Unnao (termed as segment B of Phase-I), Unnao to border of Uttar Pradesh, border of Uttar Pradesh to border of Jharkhand and border of Jharkhand to Bay of Bengal. It has already delivered the verdict in December 2015 with regard to first phase between Gomukh to Haridwar. The verdict came on a 1985 PIL of noted environment activist M C Mehta which was transferred to the NGT from the Supreme Court in 2014.

Indian skipper Mithali Raj has become the first player in the history of women’s ODI cricket to have crossed 6000 career runs. Mithali reached the milestone in India’s ICC Women’s World Cup 2017 match against Australia. She is now the all-time highest run-scorer in women’s cricket, surpassing the record previously held by England’s Charlotte Edwards.

Edwards scored 5992 runs in 191 matches at an average of 38.16 including nine centuries and 46 half-centuries. On the other hand, Mithali has crossed 6000 runsin 182 ODIs.

The Indian captain has a total of five centuries and 49 half-centuries to her name. She made her debut in 1999 against Ireland team scored an unbeaten hundred in the process.

The Mithali Raj-led Indian side began the tournament on a near perfect note as they clinched victories in first four matches out of the five. They defeated hosts England and followed it with wins against West Indies, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. In all the matches, Mithali has shown sublime form. She has so far scored 71, 46, 8, 53 and 0.

The one match in which she failed to score runs was the one India lost against South Africa.Earlier, in the match against Australia, India were in a spot of bother after they lost Smriti Mandhana early in the innings but a sensible partnership between Punam Raut and Mithali Raj provided them with resistance as the two compiled a partnership of over 100 runs for the second wicket.

The US, Japanese and Indian navies 10th July 2017 began the Malabar Naval Exercise-2017 aimed at achieving deeper military ties between the three nations. Malabar 2007 was the ninth Malabar exercise and was the first one to be held outside the Indian Ocean, off the Japanese island of Okinawa.

The 21st edition of the exercise, conducted ashore and at-sea, would include professional exchanges on carrier strike group operations, maritime patrol and reconnaissance operations, surface and anti-submarine warfare.

Medical operations, damage control, explosive ordinance disposal, helicopter operations and anti-submarine warfare would also take place.

The at-sea exercise includes events such as submarine familiarisation, air defence exercises, medical evacuation drills, surface ware fare exercises, communication exercise and search and rescue operations.

Taking part in the trilateral naval exercise in the Bay of Bengal would be US Ship Nimitz (CVN68), guided missile cruise USS Princeton (CG59), guided missile destroyers USS Howard (DDG83), USS Shoup (DDG86) and USS Kidd (DDG100), a Poseidon P-8A aircraft as well as a Los Angeles fast-attack submarine.

Besides, Japan Maritime Self Defence Force ships JS Izumo (DDH 183), JS Sazanami (DD1 13) along with Indian Naval Ship Jalashwa and INS Vikramaditya would participate in the joint Naval exercise, an official press release said.

Exercise Malabar is a trilateral naval exercise involving the United States, Japan and India as permanent partners. Originally a bilateral exercise between India and the United States, Japan became a permanent partner in 2015. Past non-permanent participants are Australia and Singapore. The annual Malabar series began in 1992 and includes diverse activities, ranging from fighter combat operations from aircraft carriers through Maritime Interdiction Operations Exercises.

In a stunning show of dominance, India clinched five gold to top the medal tally for first time in the history of Asian Athletics Championships, pushing China to second spot, in their most successful campaign in the continental flagship event on July 9, 2017. With 5 gold, 1 silver and 3 bronze, India ended the four-day championships on top with their highest ever medal haul of 29 medals in total. 

These include 12 golds, 5 silver and 12 bronze. India's best came way back in the 1985 Jakarta edition where they had won 22 medals including 10 golds. 

China ended this edition on second position with 8 gold, 7 silver and 5 bronze. 

India also suffered a huge setback after 800m runner Archana Yadav was disqualified, after being initially declared as the gold medal winner, for pushing Sri Lankan rival Nimali Waliwarsha Konda from behind near the finishing line. 

The gold medal was then awarded to Konda and India thus lost a yellow metal in dramatic circumstances. 

It was heptathlete Swapna Barman who gave India the first gold of the day as she collected a total of 5942 points from the seven events. 

After that Lakhsmanan Govinda took the centrestage as he grabbed his second gold of the championship by winning the men's 10,000m event in 29 minute and 55.87 seconds. 

World junior record holder javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra struggled in his initial attempts but got his touch in time to clinch the gold with a final throw of 85.23m. 

India fittingly wrapped up the championships by winning gold in the men's and women's 4x400m relay races to send the packed crowd to wild celebrations, knowing fully well that it was a historic moment with the host country topping the medal tally for the first time. 

Jinson Johnson in men's 800m and Purnima Hembram in women's heptathlon won a bronze each. 

This is the 15th edition of the report—a biannual reality check of the Indian financial system—in the past seven and a half years. It may not be a bad idea to look at how Indian banks’ health has deteriorated over the past five years, since 2012.

Those who have been hoping that the worst is behind the Indian banking industry are a disappointed lot. Going by the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) June Financial Stability Report, the risks to the banking industry’s stability have worsened.

It warns that the banking system’s gross bad loan ratio will rise to 10.2% of the total loan book in March 2018 from 9.6% in March 2017. The ratio may even jump to 11.2%. For public sector banks, the gross bad loan ratio could be as much as 14.2% by March 2018, from 11.4%.

The worsening of asset quality will hit banks’ profitability and erode capital, thereby curbing their ability to give loans to the borrowers. Without naming the banks, the report points out that the capital adequacy ratio—or capital as a percentage of a bank’s risk-weighted loan exposures —of six banks is likely to fall below 9% in a severe macro stress scenario, pulling down the industry’s capital adequacy ratio from 13.3% in March 2017 to 11.2% in March 2018.

In March 2012, only six state-owned banks had more than 3% gross non-performing assets (NPAs). They were Central Bank of India (4.8%), State Bank of India (4.5%), Uco Bank (3.5%), United Bank of India (3.4%), Oriental Bank of Commerce (3.2%) and Union Bank of India (3%).

Three State Bank of India associates too had more than 3% gross NPAs, but I am not counting them as they got merged with the parent last year.

In five years, by March 2017, gross NPAs of all state-owned banks, barring five, have been in double digits. These five banks are Vijaya Bank (6.6%), State Bank of India (6.9%), Indian Bank (7.5%), Syndicate Bank (8.5%) and Canara Bank (9.6%). Two banks now have more than 20% gross NPAs—Indian Overseas Bank (22.5%) and IDBI Bank Ltd (21.3%) and five, more than 15%. They are Central Bank of India (17.9%), Uco Bank (17.1%), Bank of Maharashtra (16.9%), Dena Bank (16.3%) and United Bank of India (15.5%). 

Apart from United Bank of India, which has been consistently showing higher NPAs, all other banks had shown modest growth in bad asset accumulation till March 2015 and a sudden jump in two subsequent years—in 2016 and 2017. This follows the RBI’s asset quality review or AQR conducted in the second half of 2015. The AQR forced the banks to recognize bad assets and set aside money or provide for them in phases till March 2017.

The story of net NPAs also rings the same bell . Between March 2012 and March 2015, it had been a progressive deterioration in asset quality for most public sector banks but the sudden spurt in bad loans happened first in March 2016 and then zoomed in March 2017. Indian Overseas Bank tops the list with 14.1% net NPAs, followed by IDBI Bank (13.2%), Bank of Maharashtra (11.8%), Dena Bank (10.7%), Central Bank of India (10.2%) and United Bank of India (10%).

How have the private banks fared? Here the graph is different—less volatile and some of the banks have either been able to contain their bad assets and even improve the asset quality in the past five years, even as a few have been showing a steady or even a sudden deterioration. For instance, the gross NPAs of Axis Bank Ltd rose from 1.1% of its loan portfolio in 2012 to 1.8% in 2016 before jumping to 5.5% in 2017. For ICICI Bank Ltd, it has been a steady rise—from 3.6% to 8.8% during this period.

On the other hand, Dhanlaxmi Bank, which saw its gross NPAs rising to 7% in 2015, has actually been able to bring it down to 4.8% in 2017. Similarly, DCB Bank Ltd and Federal Bank Ltd have brought down their gross NPAs.
In the pack of private banks, Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Bank Ltd has the highest gross NPAs at 11.2%.

Last five years’ net NPA graph of private banks is a mirror image of their gross NPAs. For Axis Bank, it rose from 0.3% in 2012 to 0.7% in 2016 and zoomed to 2.3% in 2017. The trajectory for ICICI Bank is 0.7% in 2012, 1% in 2014, 3% in 2016 and 5.5% in 2017. For Dhanlaxmi Bank, after peaking in 2014 (3.8%) it has been progressively coming down (2.6% in 2017). Similarly, DCB Bank’s net NPAs peaked at 1% of its loan book in 2015 and it has managed to contain it at 0.8% in the past two years. For J&K Bank, it has been a progressive deterioration—from 1.6% in 2015 to 3% in 2016 and, finally, 5.5% in 2017.

RBI’s worry for capital is more than justified if one looks at the quantum of net NPAs as a percentage of the banks’ net worth or capital and reserves. Overall, for public sector banks, it was 18% in 2012. Since then, it has risen to 76%. For seven banks, it has been more than 100%. Only two state-owned banks have net NPAs less than 40% of their net worth—Indian Bank (33%) and State Bank of India (37%).

The private banks are much better off than their public sector peers.

For instance, Axis Bank’s net NPAs are just about 15% of its net worth and for ICICI Bank, they are 25%.

Even the most vulnerable among the private banks with the highest level of bad assets, J&K Bank, is in far better shape than all public sector banks, barring two. Its net NPAs are 43% of its net worth.

Even though RBI is pushing the banks hard to fight it out at the insolvency court against  large loan defaulters, resolution of bad loans will be a long haul. Meanwhile, most banks need capital. Only then will they be able to resume lending.

A global treaty banning nuclear weapons was adopted at the United Nations on Friday despite opposition from nuclear powers Britain, France and the United States which said it disregards the reality of dealing with international security threats such as North Korea.

The treaty was adopted by a vote of 122 in favor with one country — NATO member The Netherlands — voting against, while Singapore abstained.None of the nine countries that possess nuclear weapons — the United States, Russia, Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel — took part in the negotiations or the vote.

Even Japan — the only country to have suffered atomic attacks, in 1945 — boycotted the talks as did most NATO countries.

Loud applause and cheers broke out in a UN conference hall following the vote that capped three weeks of negotiations on the text providing for a total ban on developing, stockpiling or threatening to use nuclear weapons.

Within hours of its adoption, the United States, Britain and France rejected the treaty and said they have no intention of joining it.

“This initiative clearly disregards the realities of the international security environment,” said the UN ambassadors from the three countries.

“This treaty offers no solution to the grave threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear program, nor does it address other security challenges that make nuclear deterrence necessary,” they said in a joint statement.

North Korea marked a worrying milestone in its drive to develop nuclear weapons when it tested its first intercontinental ballistic missile this week.

Nuclear powers argue their arsenals serve as a deterrent against a nuclear attack and say they remain committed to gradual approach to disarmament outlined in the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The decades-old NPT seeks to prevent the spread of atomic weapons but also puts the onus on nuclear states to reduce their stockpiles.

Impatience however is growing among many non-nuclear states over the slow pace of disarmament as are worries that weapons of mass destruction will fall into the wrong hands.

Delegitimizing nuclear weapons

Led by Austria, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and New Zealand, 141 countries joined in drafting the treaty that they hope will increase pressure on nuclear states to take disarmament more seriously.

Ireland, Sweden and Switzerland voted in favor as did Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Kazakhstan and many African and Latin American countries.

“We have managed to sow the first seeds of a world free of nuclear weapons,” said Costa Rica’s ambassador, Elayne Whyte Gomez, the president of the UN conference that negotiated the treaty.

The International Committee of the Red Cross hailed it as a “historic step towards delegitimizing” nuclear weapons and declared the adoption “an important victory for our shared humanity.

”Welcoming “an important step” towards a nuclear-free world, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the treaty reflects growing “awareness of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences” of a nuclear war.

Disarmament campaigners say the treaty will increase the stigma associated with nuclear weapons and have an impact on public opinion.

“The key thing is that it changes the legal landscape,” said Richard Moyes, director of the British-based organization Article 36.

“It stops states with nuclear weapons from being able to hide behind the idea that they are not illegal.”

“It is beyond question that nuclear weapons violate the laws of war and pose a clear danger to global security,” said Beatrice Fihn, director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

The treaty will be open for signatures as of September 20 and will enter into force when 50 countries have ratified it.

The UNESCO World Heritage committee on 7th July 2017 put the West Bank city of Hebron's Old Town on its list of world heritage in danger, a decision that drew outrage from Israel.

The decision was taken in Krakow, Poland, on a proposal from the Palestinian side. Israel said that the decision's wording ignored its historic links to the city. The Israeli ambassador to UNESCO left the session.

The secret vote was 12-3 with six abstentions.

The decision draws attention to the situation in Hebron, which has sites that are holy for both Jews and Muslims. It also obliges the World Heritage committee to review its situation every year. By the same decision, Hebron's Old Town was also put on UNESCO World Heritage list. 

Naftali Bennett, Israel's Education Minister, said in a statement that “Jewish ties to Hebron are stronger than the disgraceful UNESCO vote.”

Bennett, leader of the nationalist Jewish Home party, also heads Israel's national UNESCO Committee. 
The Palestinians hailed the decision.

Rula Maayah, the Palestinian Minister of Tourism, said in a statement it was a “historical development because it stressed that Hebron” and its historic mosque “historically belong to the Palestinian people.”

India is ranked a high 23rd out of 165 nations in a global index that measures the commitment of nations across the world to cybersecurity. 

The second Global Cybersecurity Index (GCI), released by the UN telecommunications agency International Telecommunication Union (ITU), said only about half of all countries have a cybersecurity strategy or are in the process of developing one and urged more countries to consider national policies to protect against cybercrime. 

India is ranked 23rd on the index with a score of 0.683 and has been listed in the "maturing" category, which refers to 77 countries that have developed complex commitments to cybersecurity and engage in cybersecurity programmes and initiatives. 

The index has been topped by Singapore with a 0.925 score. 

The report said about 38 per cent of countries have a published cybersecurity strategy and an additional 12 per cent of governments are in the process of developing one. 

"Cybersecurity is an ecosystem where laws, organisations, skills, cooperation and technical implementation need to be in harmony to be most effective," stated the report, adding that cybersecurity is "becoming more and more relevant in the minds of countries' decision makers." 

The top 10 most committed countries to cybersecurity are Singapore, United States, Malaysia, Oman, Estonia, Mauritius, Australia, Georgia, France and Canada. Russia is ranked 11th. 

In addition to showing the overall cybersecurity commitment of ITU's 193 member-states, the Index also shows the improvement and strengthening of the five pillars of the ITU Global Cybersecurity Agenda: legal, technical, organisational, capacity building and international cooperation. 

The threat is particularly worrying as in 2016, according to ITU, nearly one per cent of all emails sent were essentially malicious attacks, the highest rate in recent years. 

This year’s main G20 forum is held in Hamburg, Germany from 7-8 July 2017. As well as permanent members of the committee, the leaders of Guinea, the Netherlands, Norway, the Philippines, Senegal, Singapore, Spain and Vietnam will also be in attendance. This will be the 12th G20 summit and the first time it has been hosted by Germany. It is being hosted at the Hamburg Messe and Congress, a large convention centre which regularly hosts trade fairs.

THE G20, or group of 20, is an international meeting between heads of states, finance ministers and central bank governors from the world’s leading economies.

Which countries are G20 members?

Argentina

Australia

Brazil

Canada

China

France

Germany

India

Indonesia

Italy

Japan

Mexico

Russia

South Africa

Saudi Arabia

South Korea

Turkey

United Kingdom

United States of America

The European Union, represented by the European Council

What is the G20?

Founded in 1999 to give developing countries a more powerful voice in the global economy, the summit brings together industrialised and emerging economies.

The group makes up 85 per cent of the world’s GDP and two-thirds of its population.

When it was first started, only finance ministers and central bank governors met at G20 summits.

But a meeting was held between heads of state after the Lehman Brothers crash in 2008, which led to a global recession.
There has been a yearly meeting between G20 country leaders since. Between 2009 and 2010, when the global economy was in crisis, leaders met twice a year.

Since the first meeting in Berlin, 1999, there have been 18 G20 summits between finance ministers and central bank governors.

There have been 10 between heads of state or the government of G20 economies.

Much of G20’s work takes place on the sidelines and in informal meetings, not at the annual summit.

With the Reserve Bank of India introducing zero liability and limited liability concept, now the customer will not suffer any loss if unauthorised online banking transactions are reported within three days and the amount involved will be credited in the accounts concerned within 10-days.

The RBI has also asked its banks to make its customers to register themselves to the text message alerts and permit reporting of for electronic banking transactions through a reply to the alert message.

The draft proposal to limit customer liability in a fraudulent transaction was floated in August 2016. But now the RBI has come out with final guidelines.

A customer's zero liability will also arise in case of third party breach where the deficiency lies neither with the bank nor with the customer but lies elsewhere in the system. If the fraud is reported after seven days, the customer liability will be determined as per the bank's Board approved policy.

However, the maximum liability of a savings bank account customer will be Rs 10,000 in such cases. Whereas, in case of where the loss is due to negligence by the account holder, the customer will bear the entire loss until the unauthorised transaction is reported to the bank.

India has moved four places up to the 96th position in the FIFA World ranking released on Thursday. This is the country’s second best ranking — its previous best was the 94th position in February 1996.

India, which had been ranked 100th in the previous list released on June 1, has won two matches since the last list was published. This is also a huge confidence boost for the current squad which has moved 77 positions up from the 173rd rank on March 2015.

The Indian football team had beaten Nepal 2-0 in an international friendly on June 6 at the Andheri Sports Complex in Mumbai. A week later, the team, led by Sunil Chettri, had scored a 1-0 victory against Kyrgyz Republic at their home ground in Bangalore in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers.

The team had also scored two away-wins against Myanmar and Cambodia earlier in March.

ndia has been averaging at the 134th rank since the creation of the world ranking system. Among Asian nations, Iran leads at No. 23, one ahead of Africa’s best, Egypt.

Meanwhile, Germany tops the rankings again after the 2014 World Cup winner clinched the Confederations Cup title on Sunday. Victory by a second-string squad lifted Germany up two places, while Brazil and Argentina fell to Nos. 2 and 3, respectively.

Portugal rose to No. 4 after its third-place finish in Russia while Switzerland climbed to No. 5 after beating the Faeroe Islands to extend its perfect record in World Cup qualifiers.

Poland rose to No. 6, above the Confederations Cup runner-up Chile. Colombia, France and Belgium complete the top 10 though all fell three places.

Indian coach Constantine said: “When I took over, I had mentioned that my target was to bring India below 100. I am happy to have played a small part in this process. Kudos to the boys, the staff and a big thank you to my colleagues in AIFF for supporting us all throughout. I also need to thank Mr. Patel and Mr. Das for their trust in allowing me to do things in the manner I wanted.”

“But the present FIFA spot doesn’t mean that we have achieved much. We need to stay focused on the upcoming challenges.”

A qualification spot in the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 is what the AIFF aims at this moment. That would be India’s second AFC Asian Cup stint in eight years, the last being in Doha in 2011.

India has declared itself free from highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5N1 and H5N8) and notified the same to World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), Ministry of Agriculture said on 6 July 2017.

The country had reported outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza at various epicenters in Delhi, Gwalior (MP), Rajpura (Punjab), Hissar (Haryana), Bellary (Karnataka), Allappuzha and Kottayam (Kerala), Ahmedabad (Gujarat), Daman (Daman) and Khordha and Angul (Odisha during October, 2016 to February, 2017.

All the outbreaks of Avian Influenza (HPAI) mentioned above were notified to OIE and the control and containment operations were carried out as per the Action Plan on Preparedness, Control and Containment of Avian Influenza.

'Surveillance was carried out throughout the country and around the areas of the outbreaks since completion of the operation (including culling, disinfection and clean-up) and surveillance in the states showed no evidence of presence of Avian Influenza Virus,' the Ministry said in a statement.

'In view of the above, India has declared itself free from Avian Influenza (H5N8 and H5N1) from June 6 and notified the same to OIE,' it added.

The multiple tax slabs of the present structure of GST (Goods and Services Tax) has attracted criticism from certain quarters, given that it's not exactly 'one nation, one tax'. Currently, the goods and services are categorised under four slabs- 5, 12, 18 and 28 per cent with few items like gold and rough diamonds attracting exclusive rates. A certain section of the industry believes that it defeats the basic purpose of GST i.e. simplifying the old tax structure.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, last week while speaking to the media, clarified the rationale behind the four-slab structure. He said that the slabs have been created keeping the interests of the poor in mind. A single rate of 15 per cent for all goods and services could have been introduced as that would have generated almost the same amount of revenue. However, he was quick to add that it would have been unfair to the poorer sections of the society.

" A single-rate (15 per cent) GST would have lead to slapping tax on food items that are exempted under the existing GST structure and that would have been detrimental for the poor," the Finance Minister said.Elaborating further he said that indirect taxes like GST being regressive in nature, makes the rich and poor pay the same tax for a product or service. Thus, it was important to create separate slabs as otherwise it would mean "taxing hawai chappal (slippers) and Mercedes car under the same rate."

Election Commissioner Achal Kumar Joti has been appointed the next Chief Election Commissioner, the law ministry announced on July 4, 2017. Mr Joti will assume office on July 6, the day the incumbent Nasim Zaidi demits office.

Mr Joti is a 1975-batch former Indian Administrative Service officer of the Gujarat cadre. He will have a short tenure of around six months since he is scheduled to retire in January 2018 after attaining the age of 65.

Mr Joti joined the Election Commission on May 13, 2015. Earlier, he served as the Gujarat chief secretary under the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

On July 3, 2017 the Supreme Court permitted a woman, who is in her 26th week of pregnancy, to abort her foetus that is suffering from severe cardiac ailments. A bench of justice Dipak Misra and M. Khanwilkar said the procedure of termination of pregnancy should be carried out “forthwith” at the SSKM Hospital in Kolkata.

The direction came after the bench perused the report of the medical board and the SSKM Hospital, which advised the termination of pregnancy on the grounds that the mother would suffer “severe mental injury” if the pregnancy is continued and the child, if born alive, has to undergo multiple surgeries for severe cardiac ailments.

“Keeping in view the report of the medical board, we are inclined to allow the prayer and direct medical termination of pregnancy of petitioner no. 1 (woman),” the bench said.

The woman and her husband had approached the apex court seeking permission to abort her foetus on grounds of abnormalities which could be even fatal to her. They have also challenged the constitutional validity of section 3(2)(b) of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act which prohibits abortion of a foetus after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The apex court had earlier took on record the report of a seven-member medical board set up by the West Bengal government on its direction and asked the woman to examine the report on her health and apprise it of her stand.

The court, on 23 June, had ordered setting up of the medical board of seven doctors of the SSKM Hospital to ascertain certain aspects relating to the health of the woman and her 24-week foetus and submit a report.

The couple, in the plea, had attached a report suggesting that the foetus suffered from serious abnormalities, including cardiac issues. This report had said if the birth was allowed, the baby may not survive even the first surgery and, moreover, the foetus could be fatal to the mother as well.

The court had on 21 June sought responses from the Centre and West Bengal government on the plea. The petition has said that the woman had suffered immense mental and physical anguish after coming to know of the abnormalities on the 21st week of her pregnancy.

“This petition challenges the constitutional validity of section 3(2)(b) of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 (MTP) restricted to the ceiling of 20 weeks stipulated therein. “This challenge is to the effect that the 20 week stipulation for a woman to avail of abortion services under section 3(2)(b) may have been reasonable when the section was enacted in 1971 but has ceased to be reasonable today where technology has advanced and it is perfectly safe for a woman to abort even up to the 26th week and thereafter,” it said.

The plea has said the determination of foetal abnormality in many cases can only be done after the 20th week and, by keeping the ceiling artificially low, women who obtain report of serious foetal abnormalities after the 20th week have to suffer excruciating pain and agony because of the deliveries they are forced to go through.

“The ceiling of 20 weeks is therefore arbitrary, harsh, discriminatory and violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India,” it has said. The petition has claimed that during the examination of the foetus on May 25, the abnormalities were detected including, a combination of four impairments in the heart.

On July 3, 2017 India successfully test-fired its indigenously developed quick reaction surface-to-air short range missile from a test range along the Odisha coast. The sophisticated missile was test fired at about 11.25am from a truck-mounted canister launcher from launch complex-3 at the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur near here, official sources said.

It was the second developmental trial of the state-of-the-art missile with an aerial target. The missile has been developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and other establishments.

The first test launch of the missile was conducted on 4 June 2017 from the same base. The missile, which has a strike range of 25 to 30 km, is capable of engaging multiple targets.

Designed to be a quick reaction missile, it involves an all-weather weapon system capable of tracking and firing.

National Multi Commodity Exchange (NMCE) will merge with Indian Commodity Exchange (ICEX) creating the country's third biggest commodity exchange, both the exchanges said in a statement on July 3, 2017.

ICEX will hold a 62.8 per cent stake in the merged entity, while NMCE shareholders will own the rest, they said.

The merger has been approved by the boards of both exchanges and is expected to be completed by December, subject to regulatory approvals.

Germany survived a whirlwind assault by Chile and capitalised on a mistake by the South Americans to claim a 1-0 win in a pulsating, bad-tempered Confederations Cup football final in the Russian city of St Petersburg on July 2, 2017.

Lars Stindl scored the only goal into an empty net in the 20th minute after Chile midfielder Marcelo Diaz gave the ball away on the edge of his own penalty area.

It came completely against the run of play in a first half dominated by Chile, but the more experienced South American champions - facing a youthful, experimental German side - could find no way past a team that is effective on the counterattack.

Chile, playing with their trademark high-octane style and driven forward by another relentless display by Chile midfielder Arturo Vidal, dominated the match but were let down by poor finishing.

Despite dominating for long spells, Chile failed to turn 61 percent possession and 20 shots - compared with the Germans' eight - into goals.

Chile's frustrations were clear in the second half when Vidal squared up to Bayern Munich teammate Joshua Kimmich, who was also shoved by Gary Medel.

There was a controversial incident involving video technology in the second half when Chile defender Gonzalo Jara elbowed Timo Werner by the touchline.

Serbian referee Milorad Mazic initially missed the incident, but was alerted to it by the video assistants and then let Jara off with a yellow card instead of showing a red.

There was late drama deep in stoppage time when Germany goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen dived to push away an Alexis Sanchez free kick.

With time running out, both Vidal and substitute Angelo Sagal fired over the bar, but the German defence held firm.
The victory was a first Confederations Cup trophy for Germany who next year in Russia will be seeking back-to-back World Cup titles. 

The win could be a bad omen for Germany, however, as no team has ever won the football World Cup after lifting the Confederations Cup the year before.

Earlier on Sunday, Portugal come from behind to defeat Mexico 2-1 to earn third place.

The first ever Industry-Academia mission to accelerate biopharmaceutical development in the country was formally launched today by Union Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan here.Biopharma mission can bring major change in the healthcare technologies, he said.

'It is time for India to capitalise now on our unique strengths and overcome any hurdles to ensure success in the bio-pharmaceutical market,' Dr Vardhan said.The first ever Industry-Academia mission to accelerate biopharmaceutical development in India has been approved by the Government.

The program named Innovate in India (i3) will witness an investment of USD 250 million with USD 125 million as a loan from World Bank and aspires to create an enabling ecosystem to promote entrepreneurship and indigenous manufacturing in the sector.This Mission of the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Ministry of Science & Technology will be implemented by Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) - a Public Sector Undertaking of DBT.

The programme will specifically focus on the development of new vaccines, bio-therapeutics, diagnostics and medical devices to better address the rising burden of diseases in the country.

It will also bring isolated centres of excellence together, enhance regional capabilities and strengthen the current bio-clusters network in terms of capacities as well as quantity and quality of output.

The programme will help deliver 6-10 new products in the next five years, create several dedicated facilities for next-generation skills, and hundreds of jobs in the process.

It will provide young entrepreneurs the confidence as well as the systemic support to pursue their aspirations in biotechnological innovation, and transform India into a global hub for cutting-edge biotechnology research and development.

As a flagship program of the Government in collaboration with World Bank, it promises to boost the growth curve for domestic biopharma in India by accelerating the translation of research concepts into viable products, supporting clinical validation, enabling sustainable networks for collaboration between industry and academia, and supporting entrepreneurial ecosystem amongst many others.

Currently India has only 2.8 per cent share in the global biopharmaceutical market, the program would elevate this to 5 per cent resulting in an additional business opportunity of 16 Billion USD.

The oversight to the program would be provided by the Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee comprising of members from various Ministries; and would be supported by Program Technical Advisory Group comprising of global and national leaders from industry and academia.

The program thereby stands unique in its approach with involvement of global experts, industry leaders and World Bank in driving it and ensuring world class biomedical products are born out of the initiative.

This Mission is anticipated to be a game changer for the Indian Biopharmaceutical industry.UNI NY SB 2049.

The General Service Taxation (GST) scheme known as the Goods and Services Tax (GST) is an indirect tax throughout India to replace taxes levied by the central and state governments. It was introduced as The Constitution (One Hundred and First Amendment) Act 2017, following the passage of Constitution 122nd Amendment Bill. The GST is governed by GST Council and its Chairman is the Finance Minister of India. Under GST, goods and services will be taxed at the following rates, 0%, 5%, 12%, 18%, 28%.

The Goods and Services Tax (GST), India's biggest tax reform in 70 years of independence, was launched at midnight of 30 June 2017 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The launch was marked by a historic midnight (June 30-July 1, 2017) session of both the houses of parliament convened at the Central Hall of Parliament. The session was also attended by high-profile guests from the business and the entertainment industry the likes of industrialist Ratan Tata. It was the fifth time in the history of India’s independence when such a monumental midnight session was held there. The other four includes: the first, August 14-15, 1947, declaring India’s Independence marked by Nehru’s historic speech "Tryst with Destiny"; the second, August 14-15, 1972, celebrating the silver jubilee of India’s Independence; the third, August 9-10, 1992, celebrating 50th anniversary of Quit India Movement; and the fourth, August 14-15, 1997: celebrating the golden jubilee of India’s Independence.

Historical perspectives

The reform process in India's indirect tax regime was started in 1986 by Vishwanath Pratap Singh with the introduction of the Modified Value Added Tax (MODVAT). The Goods and services tax (GST) was first conceptualised and given a go-ahead in 1999 during a meeting between then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his economic advisory panel, which included three former RBI governors IG Patel, Bimal Jalan and C Rangarajan. Despite being an NDA govt, Vajpayee set up a committee headed by the then finance minister of West Bengal, Asim Dasgupta – a communist – to design a GST model.

The Asim Dasgupta committee was also tasked with putting in place the back-end technology and logistics (later came to be known as GSTN in 2017) for rolling out a uniform taxation regime in the country.

In 2003, the Vajpayee government formed a task force under Vijay Kelkar to recommend tax reforms. In 2005, Kelkar committee recommended rolling out GST as suggested by the 12th Finance Commission.

After the fall of NDA govt in 2004, P Chidambaram in February 2006 first mooted for a GST rollout by 1 April 2010.

However, during the entire 10 years of UPA rule, it couldn't be achieved. In 2010, with TMC routing CPI(M) out of power in West Bengal, Asim Dasgupta resigned as the head of the GST committee. Dasgupta admitted in an interview that 80% of the task had been done.

In 2014, Narendra Modi was elected in a resounding mandate by the people, and with the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha, the GST Bill – approved by the standing committee for reintroduction – lapsed. Seven months after the formation of the Modi government, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley introduced the GST Bill in the Lok Sabha. In February 2015, Jaitley set another deadline of 1 April 2016 to implement GST. In May 2015, the Lok Sabha passed the Constitution Amendment Bill paving way for GST.

Now in opposition, the Congress demanded that the GST Bill be again sent back to the Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha where it enjoyed a majority. Finally in August 2016, the Amendment Bill was passed. Over the next 15 to 20 days, 18 states ratified the GST Bill and President Pranab Mukherjee gave his assent to it.

A single GST will replace several existing taxes and levies which include: central excise duty, services tax, additional customs duty, surcharges, state-level value added tax and Octroi.

Other levies which are currently applicable on inter-state transportation of goods are also likely to be done away with in GST regime.

What is GST?

Goods & Services Tax is a comprehensive, multi-stage, destination-based tax that will be levied on every value addition.
To understand this, we need to understand the concepts under this definition. Let us start with the term ‘Multi-stage’.

Now, there are multiple steps an item goes through from manufacture or production to the final sale. Buying of raw materials is the first stage. The second stage is production or manufacture. Then, there is the warehousing of materials. Next, comes the sale of the product to the retailer. And in the final stage, the retailer sells you – the end consumer – the product, completing its life cycle.

Goods and Services Tax will be levied on each of these stages, which makes it a multi-stage tax. How? We will see that shortly, but before that, let us talk about ‘Value Addition’.

Let us assume that a manufacturer wants to make a shirt. For this he must buy yarn. This gets turned into a shirt after manufacture. So, the value of the yarn is increased when it gets woven into a shirt. Then, the manufacturer sells it to the warehousing agent who attaches labels and tags to each shirt. That is another addition of value after which the warehouse sells it to the retailer who packages each shirt separately and invests in marketing of the shirt thus increasing its value.

GST will be levied on these value additions – the monetary worth added at each stage to achieve the final sale to the end customer.

There is one more term we need to talk about in the definition – Destination-Based. Goods and Services Tax will be levied on all transactions happening during the entire manufacturing chain. Earlier, when a product was manufactured, the centre would levy an Excise Duty on the manufacture, and then the state will add a VAT tax when the item is sold to the next stage in the cycle. Then there would be a VAT at the next point of sale.

Now, Goods and Services Tax will be levied at every point of sale. Assume that the entire manufacture process is happening in Rajasthan and the final point of sale is in Karnataka. Since Goods & Services Tax is levied at the point of consumption, so the state of Rajasthan will get revenue in the manufacturing and warehousing stages, but lose out on the revenue when the product moves out Rajasthan and reaches the end consumer in Karnataka. This means that Karnataka will earn that revenue on the final sale, because it is a destination-based tax and this revenue will be collected at the final point of sale/destination which is Karnataka.

The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) has notified Congress of a possible $366.2m foreign military sale (FMS) of C-17 transport aircraft to India.

The Government of India seeks to receive one C-17 transport aircraft with four Turbofan F-117-PW-100 engines as part of the sale, which has been approved by the US State Department.

The sale also covers one AN/AAR-47 missile warning system, one AN/ALE-47 countermeasures dispensing system (CMDS), and one AN/APX-119 Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) Transponder.

India has requested precision navigation equipment, spare and repair parts, maintenance, support and test equipment, and publications and technical documentation. It also seeks warranty, quality assurance, ferry support, US Government and contractor engineering, logistics and technical support services, and other related elements of logistics and programme support.

The procurement will allow India to provide more rapid strategic combat airlift capabilities for its armed forces and improve India’s capability to meet current and future strategic airlift requirements.

The aircraft will be used for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) missions.

The Director-General of UNESCO Irina Bokova named the UAE emirate of Sharjah the World Book Capital for 2019 on Monday. According to a UNESCO statement, the city was selected because of its innovative and inclusive application, with a community-focused activity program containing creative proposals to engage the very large migrant population.

“I applaud the nomination of Sharjah as the World Book Capital as well as the efforts undertaken by the city in order to make reading available to as many people as possible, in particular the marginalized populations, as a motor for social inclusion, creativity and dialogue,” Bokova said.

With the slogan, “Read - you are in Sharjah,” the program focuses on six themes:

1. Inclusivity

2. Reading

3. Heritage

4. Outreach

5. Publishing

6. Children

Additionally, there will be a contest for young poets, workshops for creating Braille and tactile books, a conference on freedom of speech and other events.

Sharjah’s objective is to strengthen the UAE’s reading culture and generate new opportunities to meet the challenge of literary creation in the region and the rest of the Arab world.

The city will also launch Sharjah Publishing City - the first publishing and printing house in the region developed to meet the needs of companies and institutions operating in the publishing field.

Sharjah Publishing City aims to reinforce the book industry by promoting the widespread production and dissemination of publications in the Arab world.

The program will start on April, 23, 2019, on the World Book and Copyright day.

India has contributed USD 100,000 to a UN fund to help developing countries actively participate in the discussion of tax issues, becoming the first country to make the contribution, reported a national news agency. The calls for voluntary contribution to the UN Tax Fund are being made since 2006 and it is incorporated in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda which was adopted in 2015. The Addis Agenda calls for a global framework to ensure the effective mobilization of resources. It also aims to work towards sustainable development.

The UN Trust Fund for International Cooperation in Tax Matters (the UN Tax Fund) received its first financial voluntary contribution from India, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs Office for Financing for Development Office announced.

 The UN Tax Trust Fund aims to support the work of the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters (the UN Tax Committee). 

Voluntary contributions for the fund have been called for by the UN and the committee since its establishment in 2006. The call for contributions was also emphasised in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda adopted at the third International Conference on Financing for Development in 2015, the UN Department said. 

India became the first country to respond to the call with an initial contribution of USD 100,000 that will be dedicated for ensuring greater support for developing countries' participation in the sub-committee meetings of the UN Tax Committee, which are currently unfunded.

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)’s latest communication satellite GSAT-17 was Thursday (28 June 2017) successfully launched around 2.00 am by a heavy duty rocket of Arianespace from the spaceport of Kourou in French Guiana.

Configured around I-3K extended bus, the 3,477 kg GSAT-17 carries payloads in Normal C-band, Extended C-band and S-band to provide various communication services.

The satellite also carries equipment for meteorological data relay and satellite-based search and rescue services being provided by earlier INSAT satellites.According to a PTI report, the European launcher Arianespace Flight VA238 blasted off from Ariane Launch Complex No 3 (ELA 3) at Kourou, a French territory located in the northeastern coast of South America, couple of minutes delayed than the scheduled time of 2:29 hours IST.

“GSAT-17 was injected shortly after orbiting co-passenger Hellas Sat 3-Inmarsat S EAN in a flawless flight lasting about 41 minutes,” the report said.

After the successful launch of the mission, the space agency said, “GSAT-17 successfully launched by Ariane-5 VA-238 from Kourou, French Guiana.

GSAT-17 that will strengthen ISRO’s current fleet of 17 telecommunications satellites was launched into a Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO).

”The launch of GSAT-17 will be the third satellite launch by ISRO this month, the other two being the first developmental flight of GSLV MkIII and PSLV C-38 missions, both from Sriharikota spaceport.

The recent launches by the space agency were GSAT-19 satellite on June 5 and the PSLV-C38 that orbited Cartosat-2 Series satellite along with 30 co-passenger satellites on June 23 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the US as part of his three-nation tour. The US President Donald Trump hosted PM Modi at the White House on June 26 where the talked about various issues including combating terrorism and strengthening ties between the two nations. 

Here is the full statement issued by the White House:

United States and India:  Prosperity Through Partnership

President Donald J. Trump hosted Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India at the White House on June 26 for an official visit to Washington, D.C.

In marking 70 years of diplomatic relations between India and the United States, the leaders resolved to expand and deepen the strategic partnership between the countries and advance common objectives.  Above all, these objectives include combatting terrorist threats, promoting stability across the Indo-Pacific region, increasing free and fair trade, and strengthening energy linkages.  President Trump and Prime Minister Modi expressed confidence that, together, the United States and India will provide strong leadership to address global challenges and build prosperity for their citizens in the decades to come.

Democratic Stalwarts in the Indo-Pacific Region

As responsible stewards in the Indo-Pacific region, President Trump and Prime Minister Modi agreed that a close partnership between the United States and India is central to peace and stability in the region.  Recognizing the significant progress achieved in these endeavors, the leaders agreed to take further measures to strengthen their partnership.  In accordance with the tenets outlined in the U.N. Charter, they committed to a set of common principles for the region, according to which sovereignty and international law are respected and every country can prosper.  To this end, the leaders: 

  • reiterate the importance of respecting freedom of navigation, overflight, and commerce throughout the region;

  • call upon all nations to resolve territorial and maritime disputes peacefully and in accordance with international law;

  • support bolstering regional economic connectivity through the transparent development of infrastructure and the use of responsible debt financing practices, while ensuring respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, the rule of law, and the environment; and

  • call on other nations in the region to adhere to these principles.

President Trump welcomed further Indian contributions to promote Afghanistan's democracy, stability, prosperity, and security.  Recognizing the importance of their respective strategic partnerships with Afghanistan, the leaders committed to continue close consultations and cooperation in support of Afghanistan's future.

In accord with India's Think West policy, President Trump and Prime Minister Modi resolved to increase cooperation, enhance diplomatic consultations, and increase tangible collaboration with partners in the Middle East.

The leaders strongly condemned continued provocations by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), emphasizing that its destabilizing pursuit of nuclear and ballistic missile programs poses a grave threat to regional security and global peace.  The leaders called on DPRK to strictly abide by its international obligations and commitments.  The leaders pledged to work together to counter the DPRK's weapons of mass destruction programs, including by holding accountable all parties that support these programs.

Shoulder-to-Shoulder Against Terrorism

The Leaders stressed that terrorism is a global scourge that must be fought and terrorist safe havens rooted out in every part of the world.  They resolved that India and the United States will fight together against this grave challenge to humanity.  They committed to strengthen cooperation against terrorist threats from groups including Al-Qa'ida, ISIS, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, D-Company, and their affiliates.  India appreciated the United States designation of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen leader as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist as evidence of the commitment of the United States to end terror in all its forms.  In this spirit, the leaders welcomed a new consultation mechanism on domestic and international terrorist designations listing proposals.

The leaders called on Pakistan to ensure that its territory is not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries.  They further called on Pakistan to expeditiously bring to justice the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai, Pathankot, and other cross-border terrorist attacks perpetrated by Pakistan-based groups.

The leaders announced increased cooperation to prevent terrorist travel and to disrupt global recruitment efforts by expanding intelligence-sharing and operational-level counterterrorism cooperation.  They welcomed commencement of the exchange of information on known and suspected terrorists for travel screening.  They further resolved to strengthen information exchange on plans, movements and linkages of terrorist groups and their leaders, as well as on raising and moving of funds by terrorist groups.

The leaders also affirmed their support for a U.N. Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism that will advance and strengthen the framework for global cooperation and reinforce the message that no cause or grievance justifies terrorism.  They also pledged to work together to prevent proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems and to deny access to such weapons by terrorists and non-state actors.

Growing Strategic Convergence

President Trump and Prime Minister Modi pledged to deepen defense and security cooperation, building on the United States' recognition of India as a Major Defense Partner.  The United States and India look forward to working together on advanced defense equipment and technology at a level commensurate with that of the closest allies and partners of the United States.  Reflecting the partnership, the United States has offered for India's consideration the sale of Sea Guardian Unmanned Aerial Systems, which would enhance India's capabilities and promote shared security interests.

Resolving to expand their maritime security cooperation, the leaders announced their intention to build on the implementation of their "White Shipping" data sharing arrangement, which enhances collaboration on maritime domain awareness.   President Trump welcomed Prime Minister Modi's strong support for the United States to join as an Observer in the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium.  Noting the importance of the upcoming MALABAR naval exercise, the leaders determined to expand their engagements on shared maritime objectives and to explore new exercises.

As global nonproliferation partners, the United States expressed strong support for India's early membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Wassenaar Arrangement, and the Australia Group.  President Trump reaffirmed the support of the United States for India's permanent membership on a reformed U.N. Security Council.

Increasing Free and Fair Trade

The leaders committed that the United States and India -- leading engines of growth in the global economy -- should intensify their economic cooperation to make their nations stronger and their citizens more prosperous.  Noting that extensive economic and tax reforms launched in their respective countries will unlock immense economic opportunities for both countries, the leaders committed to further expanding and balancing the trade relationship and to removing obstacles to growth and jobs creation.  They also resolved to pursue increased commercial engagement in a manner that advances the principles of free and fair trade.  To this end, the United States and India plan to undertake a comprehensive review of trade relations with the goal of expediting regulatory processes; ensuring that technology and innovation are appropriately fostered, valued, and protected; and increasing market access in areas such as agriculture, information technology, and manufactured goods and services.  President Trump and Prime Minister Modi further committed to strengthening cooperation to address excess capacity in industrial sectors.  They called on their teams to find creative ways to improve bilateral trade.

Surveying United States-India energy ties and the two countries' respective energy strategies, the leaders affirmed the continued importance of their Strategic Energy Partnership and of leveraging new opportunities to elevate cooperation to enhance global energy security.  The leaders called for a rational approach that balances environment and climate policy, global economic development, and energy security needs.

President Trump affirmed that the United States continues to remove barriers to energy development and investment in the United States and to U.S. energy exports so that more natural gas, clean coal, and renewable resources and technologies are available to fuel India's economic growth and inclusive development.  Prime Minister Modi and President Trump looked forward to conclusion of contractual agreements between Westinghouse Electric Company and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India for six nuclear reactors in India and also related project financing.  Both leaders welcomed upcoming visits between India and the United States that will expand energy and innovation linkages across the energy sector and deepen cooperation, including on more efficient fossil fuel technologies, smart grids, and energy storage.  They supported financing of energy projects, including clean coal projects, by Multilateral Development Banks to promote universal access to affordable and reliable energy.

Recognizing that we are in an increasingly digital world, the leaders agreed to intensify the mutually beneficial partnership to fully harness their innovation capabilities to solve global developmental challenges.  As global partners, the United States and India resolved to further strengthen their collaboration in health, space, oceans, and other areas of science and technology.  The leaders also agreed to strengthen their cooperation to address the growing threats and challenges from malicious cyber activity and committed to work together to promote an open, interoperable, secure, and reliable cyberspace environment that supports innovation, economic growth, and commerce.

Applauding the entrepreneurship and innovation of Indians and Indian-Americans that have directly benefitted both nations, President Trump welcomed India's formal entry into the International Expedited Traveler Initiative (Global Entry program) in order to facilitate closer business and educational ties between the citizens of India and the United States.

President Trump gladly accepted Prime Minister Modi's invitation to visit India.  They look forward to working together in a spirit of friendship in the years to come.

The Trump administration is poised to declare China among the world’s worst offenders on human trafficking, US officials said Monday, putting the world’s most populous country in the same category as North Korea, Zimbabwe and Syria. 

Rex Tillerson: 'America first' means divorcing our policy from our values Read moreChina’s downgrade is to be announced on Tuesday at the state department when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson unveils the annual Trafficking in Persons Report to Congress, said the officials, who weren’t authorized to comment publicly ahead of the announcement and demanded anonymity. 

Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and senior adviser, planned to attend the ceremony. 

The determination marks the first major, public rebuke of China’s human rights record by the Trump administration, which has generally avoided direct, public criticism of Beijing while seeking its cooperation in combatting North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats. The report is likely to draw strong protest from China’s communist government. 

China will be listed under Tier 3, the ranking system’s lowest category, which applies to countries failing to meet minimum standards to prevent human trafficking or making significant improvement efforts. Other countries that have recently been on that list include Sudan, Iran and Haiti. 

In last year’s annual report, the US placed China on its “watch list” of countries that aren’t meeting minimum standards and could be downgraded to the lowest classification. The US described China as devoting “sufficient resources” to a written plan for addressing trafficking. But it said that the Asian power hadn’t increased its anti-trafficking efforts from the previous year. 

It wasn’t immediately clear what changes are leading the Trump administration to downgrade China to the lowest tier. The state department declined to confirm the designation or to comment ahead of the report’s release Tuesday, saying it “does not discuss details of internal deliberations”.

Food regulator FSSAI has come out with a draft regulation for organic food products, seeking to ensure that these food items are actually organic. Organic foods will have to comply with the provisions under the National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP) administered by the government or the Participatory Guarantee System for India (PGS-India) run by the Agriculture Ministry or any other standards notified by the food authority.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has sought public comments of the draft regulations, which has been prepared in view of rising demand for organic food products, being considered as healthy, in the country.

"Organic food products are either those grown under a system of agriculture without the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides or made from organically produced raw materials. Currently, a number of food products are being marketed as organic," the FSSAI said.

However, the regulator said that consumers do not have any way to check the authenticity of organic food products due to lack of a regulatory framework. "The draft regulation on organic food is aimed at overcoming this problem and ensuring that what is sold as organic food is really organic," FSSAI said.

The draft regulation mandates that labelling of organic foods should convey full and accurate information on the organic status of the product.

Organic food products should also carry a certification mark or a quality assurance mark given by any of the notified certification bodies.

The FSSAIs draft has exempted organic food marketed through direct sale by the original producer or producer organisation to the end consumer from verification compliance. However, this exemption does not apply to processed organic products.

The FSSAI has defined organic agriculture as a system of farm design and management to create an eco system of agriculture production without the use of synthetic external inputs such as chemicals, fertilisers, pesticides and synthetic hormones or genetically modified organisms.

Organic farm produce means the produce obtained from organic agriculture, while organic food means food products that have been produced in accordance with specified standards for organic production, as per the draft.

Nashik’s army doctor Srinivas Gokulnath and Nagpur’s doctor Amit Samarth made history on Sunday, as they became first solo finishers from the country in the Race Across America (RAAM), one of the most esteemed ultra-endurance cycling events in the world.

In the solo 18-59 age category, the 36-year-old Gokulnath finished the distance of 3070 miles (4941kms) in 11 days and 18 hours. Samarth was slightly behind him and took 11 days and 21 hours to finish the race. The riders were expected to finish the distance in 288 hours. Gokulnath finished overall 7th while Samarth was placed 8th. Another Indian rider Samim Rizvi withdrew from the race after 500 miles.

Lt Col Srinivas is an aerospace medicine specialist from Nashik and had participated in the 2016 edition of RAAM. However he failed to maintain the speed and was forced to walk out after 10 days 21 hours (2447 kms).

This year he was better prepared and after initial slow start, he picked up the speed and kept going strong throughout the route. For the first few days, he was trailing Amit Samarth by about 150 kms, but in the last stages of the race, he went all out and finished well ahead of his country mate.

Srinivas has undertaken several cycling expeditions in the recent past. He finished third in the Deccan cliffhanger cycling event held in Pune in November 2014 to qualify for RAAM. A national record of cycling 4,000km from Leh to Kanyakumari in 16 days in 2014 was the peak for him and it earned him a place in the Limca Book of Records.

Dr Amit Samarth also 36-year-old, is a MBBS and has a Master’s Degree in Public Health. His endurance background includes 10 Ironman Triathlons. His achievements comprise of more than 100 half marathons, eight full marathons and many other races. He had qualified for RAAM in 2015. He also was a crew member during RAAM 2016 for Seana Hogan- who is an ultra-cycling legend and six times solo winner at RAAM.

Samarth was supported by Scott Sports India and they provided him three world class premium carbon bikes.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has successfully launched earth observation satellite Cartosat-2 series weighing 712 kg and 30 co-passenger satellites (29 foreign, one Indian) with its rocket Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).Exactly at 9.29 am the PSLV rocket standing 44.4 metres tall and weighing 320 ton tore into the morning skies with fierce orange flames at its tail.

The 30 satellites will together weigh 243 kg and the total weight of all the 31 satellites, including Cartosat, is about 955 kg, ISRO said.The rocket will sling the satellites into a 505 km polar sun sunchronous orbit (SSO).

The co-passenger satellites comprise 29 nano satellites from 14 countries - Austria, Belgium, Britain, Chile, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, and the US as well as one Indian nano satellite.

The 29 international customer nano satellites are being launched as part of the commercial arrangements between ISRO's commercial arm, the Antrix Corporation Ltd and the international customers.

The Indian space agency had early today said propellant filling operations were under progress.The Mission Readiness Review (MRR) committee and Launch Authorisation Board (LAB) on 23 June cleared the 28-hour countdown.

The Indian nano satellite 15 kg NIUSAT belongs to Nooral Islam University, Tamil Nadu. The satellite will provide multi-spectral imagery for agricultural crop monitoring and disaster management support applications.

PSLV-C38 was launched from the First Launch Pad of Satish Dhawan Space Centre at 9.29 am, said ISRO.

This will be the 40th flight of PSLV and 17th flight ofPSLV in 'XL' configuration (with the use of solid strap-onmotors).

According to ISRO, the images sent by Cartosat satellite would be useful for cartographic, urban, rural, coastal land use, utility management like road network monitoring, water distribution, creation of land use maps, change detection to bring out geographical and man-made features and various other land information systems and geographical information system applications.

The HRD ministry has appointed a new nine-member panel, headed by space scientist Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan, to work on a New Education Policy (NEP), sources said.

The Prakash Javadekar-led HRD ministry has chosen experts and educationists from wide-ranging backgrounds to be part of the panel that is expected to recast India’s education policy.

Besides Kasturirangan, who headed India’s space agency ISRO, the panel includes former IAS officer K J Alphonse Kanamthanam. He had played a key role in helping Kerala’s Kottayam and Ernakulam districts achieve 100 percent literacy, sources said.

Ram Shanker Kureel, vice chancellor of the Baba Saheb Ambedkar University of Social Sciences, Mhow, Madhya Pradesh, who has wide experience in the field of agriculture sciences and management, has also been appointed.

Dr M K Shridhar, former member secretary of the Karnataka State Innovation Council, Dr T V Kattimani, an expert on language communication, Dr Mazhar Asif, professor of Persian at Guwahati University, and former director of education, Uttar Pradesh, Krishan Mohan Tripathi also bring a wealth of experience to the panel, the sources said.

Besides, the committee also comprises mathematician Manjul Bhargava from Princeton University and Vasudha Kamat, former vice chancellor of Mumbai’s SNDT University.

“The panel has been appointed keeping in mind that the members bring expertise related to the diverse areas of education. Significantly, the panel also reflects the diversity of the country as the members belong to different sections as well as regions,” an official said.

This diversity, the ministry hopes, would help the committee understand the varied issues that have to be kept in mind for the formulation of such a key policy document, he added.

“The panelists belong to different age groups which should be helpful as they would be able to bring experience, innovation and also global exposure which are so vital for such an important policy formulation.”

The HRD ministry had a couple of years ago formed a panel under former cabinet secretary T S R Subramanian on the New Education Policy. Sources said inputs from the Subramanian panel report would also be utilised.

Yashaswini Deswal bagged the gold in the ISSF Junior World Championship which is being held in Germany. She fired 235.9 points to clinch the gold. Behind her was Kim Woori of Korea who hit 231.8 to come second.

Pistol shooter Yashaswini Singh Deswal put up a bright performance to bag a gold in the 10m Air Pistol Women in Germany. Deswal bagged the gold in the ISSF Junior World Championship which is being held in Germany. She fired 235.9 points to clinch the gold.

This was a world record in itself. Behind her was Woori Kim of Korea who hit 231.8 to come second. At third spot was  Giulia Campostrini with 212.1 points.Earlier, in 2016, 20-year-old Yashaswini had clinched silver in the 10m air pistol event at the junior world cup at Suhl, Germany.

Meanwhile, this result adds to India’s growing list of gold medal tally. On Saturday, Anish Bhanwala also won gold in the Junior Men’s 25m Standard Pistol competition, with a world record score of 579, which helped India also bag the Team Silver in the event and prop it to second in the overall standings.

K. Srikanth wasn’t marked out for success as an under-19 badminton player — he never won a national singles title as a junior.

Five years on, the 24-year-old from Guntur, living in Hyderabad now, will be the most marked man at August’s badminton world championships after reaching three Super Series finals, and winning two: the youngest Super Series in Australia and the most popular one in Indonesia.

On 25 June 2017, when Srikanth beat Olympic and World Champion Chen Long 22-20, 21-16 to lift the Sydney crown, he propelled himself into becoming a serious contender for the Glasgow Worlds, even as he pocketed close to Rs 1 crore in prize money and awards in two weeks.

Srikanth already had the home Super Series title in 2015, and a crown in China — in fact, he debuted as champion in the superpower’s backyard beating the game’s greatest, Lin Dan. Last week, with the Indonesia Premier Super Series, he had won over the game’s most demanding fans, as he overpowered current World No 1 Son Wan Ho in back-to-back weeks.

However, beating Chen Long in a tournament final propels Srikanth into badminton’s stratosphere. Last month this day, he was just another fighter jostling at World No 24, and only India’s fourth best.

In just six weeks, he has been the biggest mover in world rankings, rising 11 places last week, and set to regain his top-5 status after this triumph.June was jotted as Saina Nehwal’s month in Indian badminton after she made three back-to-back finals in 2010.

However, June 2017 heralds the emergence of Indian men’s singles players, with Srikanth and team-mate H S Prannoy accounting for Olympic champ Chen Long in successive weeks.

Srikanth’s mettle will be truly tested over the biggies — All England crown, World Championships and Asian Games — but as far as scalps go, he has proven himself to be a world-beater in the mould of Prakash Padukone and P Gopichand. Srikanth, though, now has four Super Series titles.

Ram Nath Kovind, who has been chosen as the National Democratic Alliance's presidential nominee, was a lawyer who practised in the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court for 16 years. He first stepped into politics in 1994 when he was elected as a Rajya Sabha member from Uttar Pradesh

The Dalit leader first stepped into politics in 1994 when he was elected as a Rajya Sabha member from Uttar Pradesh. He served for two consecutive terms for 12 years till March, 2006. He represented India in the United Nations in New York and addressed United Nations General Assembly in October, 2002.

During his parliamentary tenure, Mr. Kovind emphasised on development of basic infrastructure for education in rural areas and helped in the construction of school buildings in Uttar Pradesh and Uttrakhand under MPLAD (Member of Parliament Local Area Development) Scheme. He has served as a member of several parliamentary committees, including the Parliamentary Committee on Welfare of Scheduled Castes/Tribes, Parliamentary Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment, among others.

Mr. Kovind served as a member of the Board of Management of Dr. B.R Ambedkar University, Lucknow. He was also a member of the Board of Governors of Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata.

Career

Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveils plaques for railway bridges in Bihar.jpgAfter graduating in law from a Kanpur college, Kovind had gone to Delhi to prepare for the civil services examination. He passed this exam on his third attempt. He, however, did not join as he was selected for an allied service instead of IAS and thus started practising the law.

Kovind was Central Government Advocate in Delhi High Court from 1977 to 1979 and Central Government Standing Counsel in Supreme Court from 1980 to 1993. He became Advocate-on-Record of the Supreme Court of India in 1978. Had practiced in Delhi High Court and Supreme Court for about 16 years till 1993. He was enrolled as an Advocate in 1971 with the Bar Council of Delhi.

He was elected to Rajya Sabha from the state of Uttar Pradesh during the two terms of 1994-2000 and 2000-2006.
He is a former President of the BJP Dalit Morcha (1998-2002) and President of the All-India Koli Samaj. He also served as national spokesperson of the party. On 8 August 2015 the President of India appointed him the Governor of Bihar.

The country’s low-cost Mars spacecraft completed 1,000 Earth days in its orbit on Monday (19th June 2017), well beyond its designed mission life of six months or 180 days.

“The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) completes 1,000 earth days in its orbit, today (19 June 2017) well beyond its designed mission life of six months,” the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said.

It said 1,000 earth days correspond to 973.24 Mars Sols (Martian Solar day) and the MOM completed 388 orbits. The satellite is in good health and continues to work as expected, it said, adding that scientific analysis of the data received from the spacecraft is in progress.

India had on 24 September 2014 successfully placed the spacecraft in the orbit around the Mars in its very first attempt, joining an elite club of countries with expertise in space technology. The ISRO had launched the spacecraft on its nine-month- long odyssey on a homegrown PSLV rocket from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh on 5 November 2013 and it had escaped the Earth’s gravitational field on 1 December 2013.

Citing surplus fuel as the reason, the ISRO had in March 2015 first announced that the spacecraft’s life was extended by another six months. Later in June 2015, its chairman A.S. Kiran Kumar had said it has enough fuel for it to last “many years”.

The Rs450-crore MOM was launched to study the Martian surface and mineral composition, and scan its atmosphere for methane, an indicator of life on the Red Planet. The spacecraft has five scientific instruments—Lyman Alpha Photometer (LAP), Methane Sensor for Mars (MSM), Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyser (MENCA), Mars Colour Camera (MCC) and Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (TIS).

The Mars Colour Camera, one of the scientific payloads onboard MOM, has produced more than 715 images so far, the ISRO said. During the mission, the spacecraft has gone through a communication ‘blackout’ as a result of solar conjunction from 2 June 2015 to 2 July 2015.

The ISRO had also launched MOM Announcement of Opportunity (AO) programmes for researchers in the country to use MOM data for research and development. To expand inter-planetary research, the ISRO is seeking scientific proposals for Mars Orbiter Mission-2, the government had said in November last year.

A vertical test stand was used to fasten the motor and its nozzles were pointed toward the sky for the test. It churned out sufficient thrust to lift 66 large SUVs off the ground and helped qualify the system for future missions with astronauts.

US space agency NASA’s Orion spacecraft has successfully passed a bunch of key safety tests as it prepares to take astronauts to deep space destinations like the Mars and Moon. On June 15, the abort motor for Orion Orion’s launch abort system was tested by NASA scientists, who fired the 17-foot tall motor for five seconds.

A vertical test stand was used to fasten the motor and its nozzles were pointed toward the sky for the test. It churned out sufficient thrust to lift 66 large SUVs off the ground and helped qualify the system for future missions with astronauts.

“The launch abort system is an important part of making sure our crew members stay safe on the launch pad and on their way to space,” said Robert Decoursey, manager for Orion’s launch abort system. “It takes us another step closer to proving the safety of our spacecraft as we prepare for missions beyond the moon,” Decoursey said.

On the top of the Orion crew model, the launch abort system is positioned. It will play key role in providing protection to future astronauts travelling on deep space missions in Orion. The abort motor propels the crew module away from the Space Launch System rocket in case of an emergency. It will also propel one of the three motors that will send the crew module to safe distance away from a failing rocket and orient it properly for a safe descent into the Atlantic Ocean if such a situation ever occurs.

With the analysis of the data, the researchers are just getting started, while it was verified after the test that the motor is capable of firing within milliseconds when required and can work as expected under high temperatures.Also, it was evaluated during the test that how the parachute system that ensures the crew module can safely descend to Earth performs during a scenario in which an abort while on the launch pad is necessary.

The system will customarily deploy 11 parachutes in a precise sequence to help slow the crew module down from high speeds for a relatively slow splashdown in the Pacific Ocean when Orion returns to Earth from deep space missions beyond the Moon.

However, the parachutes must also be capable of sending the crew module to safety if it were to be jettisoned off a failing rocket without time for the full deployment sequence to occur.

About NASA's Orion spacecraft

US space agency had recently announced that it is likely to delay first two missions of its Orion deep-space capsule due to technical and financial issues. Technical as well as budget challenges were cited as reason behind the delay by report of NASA’s Office of Inspector General.NASA Orion spacecraft is being developed with an aim to send astronauts beyond the orbit of the Earth and eventually move them to the red planet.

The first Orion spacecraft will be launched atop the planned Space Launch System, or SLS. As soon as it will be launched, it will become the most powerful rocket in the world. The first of the two launches is scheduled for early November 2018, and it won’t have a crew.

The second Mars mission that will carry astronauts has been planned for August 2021 at the earliest.

However, “NASA’s initial exploration missions on its Journey to Mars—EM-1 and EM-2 -- face multiple cost and technical challenges that likely will affect their planned launch dates,” the report said of the conclusions from a nine-month audit.
The report has cited the delays in the development of the service module of Orion that are provided by the European Space Agency (ESA). It also cites technical risks from the changes in the design of the heat shield of the capsule.

The report also says that there are delays in development of software for the SLS, Orion and ground systems at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Undeterred by Pakistan’s concerted attempt to block road access to Afghanistan, New Delhi and Kabul will operationalise their first air-freight corridor in the next few days.

The flight to be operated by Ariana Afghan Airlines — Afghanistan’s national carrier — will carry commodities from Kabul to Delhi and then return with Indian goods to Kabul. Initially, the plane will operate once or twice in a month, depending on the demand and supply needs.

The Ministry of External Affairs’ official spokesperson Gopal Baglay said, “The first flight (under the dedicated India-Afghan air freight corridor) is likely to operate in next couple of days and will carry Indian goods to Afghanistan and their products to India.”

The idea was discussed between the two countries during Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s visit last year.

The corridor is aimed at providing the private sector in Afghanistan with a platform to increase their exports to India. The project was also envisaged to enable traders to export Afghan products to the vast Indian market by air with minimum costs while circumventing the obstacles faced in the land route, which was denied by Pakistan.

The development assumes significance since Pakistan does not allow use of its land for trade between Afghanistan and India.

Switzerland on Friday ratified automatic exchange of financial account information with India and 40 other jurisdictions to facilitate immediate sharing of details about suspected black money, even as it sought strict adherence to confidentiality and data security.

Adopting the dispatch on introduction of the AEOI, a global convention for automatic information exchange on tax matters, the Swiss Federal Council said the implementation is planned for 2018 and the first set of data should be exchanged in 2019.

The council, which is the top governing body of the European nation, will soon notify the Indian government about the exact date from which the automatic exchange would begin.

According to, the draft notification approved by the Council in its meeting on Friday, the decision is not subject to any referendum — which means there should be no further procedural delay in its implementation.

The issue of black money has been a matter of great debate in India and Switzerland has been long perceived as one of the safest havens for the illicit wealth allegedly stashed abroad by Indians.

Today's decision follows hectic parleys between India and Switzerland for introduction of the AEOI (Automatic Exchange of Information) on tax matters under the guidance of G20, OECD and other global organisations.

The council said the proposal to introduce AEOI with India and others "met with widespread approval from the interested parties who voiced their opinions in the consultations".

"In concrete terms, the AEOI will be activated with each individual state or territory by means of a specific federal decree within the framework of this dispatch," it added.

The exchange of information itself will be carried out based on the Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement (MCAA) on the Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information, which is in turn based on the international standard for the exchange of information developed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The council said it will prepare a situation report before the first exchange of data, which is planned for autumn 2019.
"In the process, it will be checked whether the states and territories concerned effectively meet the requirements under the standard, especially those concerning confidentiality and data security.

"It is important for the Federal Council that a level playing field be created among states and that all major financial centres, in particular, be included. This year, Switzerland has introduced the AEOI with 38 states and territories, including all EU member states, and data will start to be exchanged with them in 2018," it added.

Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, the architect of German reunification, died on Friday, the mass-selling newspaper Bild reported. He was 87. Bild reported in its online edition that Mr. Kohl died in the morning in his home in Ludwigshafen, in western Germany.

World leaders are paying tribute to former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. The EU's Jean-Claude Juncker said flags would fly at half-staff in Brussels to honor a "great European."

Gorbachev, the last leader of the USSR, said Kohl was an "outstanding person" whose impact on world history would stand the test of time. According to Gorbachev, the former German chancellor "would be noted in the chronicles of our time not only because of his personal qualities, but also because he found himself at the helm of his country during a time of unprecedented turmoil" including the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Germany's longest serving post-war chancellor from 1982 to 1998, Kohl was a driving force behind the introduction of the euro currency, convincing sceptical Germans to give up their cherished deutschemark.

An imposing figure who formed a close relationship with French President Francois Mitterrand in pushing for closer European integration, Kohl had been frail and wheelchair-bound since suffering a bad fall in 2008. At home, he is celebrated above all as the father of German reunification, which he achieved after the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall.

Shortly after leaving office, Kohl’s reputation was tarnished by a financing scandal in the CDU, now led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, his protégé.

India’s current account deficit (CAD) narrowed during last fiscal due to a contraction in the country’s trade deficit.

According to data furnished by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the CAD for last fiscal narrowed to 0.7 per cent of the GDP from 1.1 per cent in 2015-16 on the back of the contraction in trade deficit.

The current account is the net difference between inflows and outflows of foreign currencies.

India’s trade deficit during the fiscal under review narrowed to $112.4 billion in 2016-17 from $130.1 billion in 2015-16.

However, the data showed that net FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) inflows in 2016-17 marginally declined to $35.6 billion from $36 billion reported during 2015-16.

India got another three-year term on ECOSOC after the General Assembly (UNGA) voted in favour of India with New Delhi garnering support of 183 out of 188 countries.With solid backing from Asian and Pacific countries, India has been re-elected to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

India got another three-year term on ECOSOC after the General Assembly (UNGA) voted in favour of India with New Delhi garnering support of 183 out of 188 countries. 

36-member ECOSOC guides United Nations’ sustainable development policies and coordinates the activities of several UN units and organisations working for development and social and economic issues.

India's electoral victory came a day after another a day earlier when Neeru Chadha was elected a judge of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in a measure of its influence at the UN.

Pakistan received just a single vote for the ECOSOC.

Japan received 185 votes, the highest number of votes for the three seats from the Asia-Pacific region, and the Philippines, 182.

India continued to climb on the Global Innovation Index (GII) 2017, emerging as the highest ranked economy in Central and South Asia, as it moved up six places to 60th among 130 nations, the latest report released on Thursday showed. Last year, India climbed up the innovation ladder to reach 66th position from 81st in 2015 – an improvement after five years of continuous drop in its ranking.

The report said that India’s rise has benefited many countries in the region. “Opportunities have emerged to leverage the rise of new East Asia Innovation Tigers, fostering deeper regional innovation networks and benefiting from the rise of India,” it said.

The report also noted India’s continual improvement in terms of investment, tertiary education, quality of its publications and universities, its information and communication technology (ICT) services exports and innovation clusters.

In a statement here, the Indian Commerce Ministry said that recognising the country’s potential to reach great heights in innovation and creativity, a task force on innovation was set up last year on the direction of Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

US authorities have arrested former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli on an extradition warrant from his country.US Marshals Service spokesman Manny Puri says Martinelli was in custody on Monday evening at a federal detention center in Miami. 

The former president was arrested earlier in the evening near his home in Coral Gables, Florida. 

He is accused of corruption and spying on opponents in Panama. 

Martinelli is expected to appear before a judge for an extradition hearing. 

The former president from 2009-2014 has denied wrongdoing and contends the case is political persecution by his successor. 

In February, prosecutors in Panama also said they were seeking international help in detaining two of his sons in relation to an alleged scheme to launder bribes from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht. 

Indian superstars Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar are among Forbes' annual list of the highest-earning entertainers in the world. SRK, 51, ranks 65th on the list, with earnings of USD 38 million, tied with singer and actress Jennifer Lopez. "King Khan continues to bank big from starring roles in Bollywood movies. He also cashes in on endorsement deals for dozens of brands most Americans have likely never heard of," Forbes said.

Salman is on the 71st spot with USD 37 million in earnings, tied with English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran. Forbes said Salman continues to produce and star in films, which earn well at the box office.

Akshay, 49 is ranked 80th on the list with earnings of USD 35.5 million, tied with musician Bon Jovi."Kumar, a king of the Bollywood box office for over a quarter of a century, mints millions through both starring and ensemble roles,". 

The list also includes American singer and icon Beyonce on the second spot with earnings of USD 105 million. Author J K Rowling, with USD 95 million, is at number three. R&B musician Drake is at the number four spot with USD 94 million. Football star Cristiano Ronaldo (USD 93 million) rounded out the top five.

Forbes said together, the world's 100 highest-paid celebrities banked a cumulative USD 5.15 billion during the June 2016 to June 2017 scoring period.? While there are 10 male actors on the ranking, not a single female movie star made the cut, Forbes said adding that women comprise just 16 per cent of the world's top-earning celebrities, "an imbalance that reflects the gender pay gap in entertainment and beyond." The 16 women on this year's list earned a cumulative USD 822.5 million.

Satyajit Ray was awarded the Legion of Honor by then French President Francois Mitterrand in 1987. And now, exactly thirty years later, Soumitra Chatterjee, arguably, the most prominent face of Ray's films, is all set to receive the prestigious award.

He counted French novelists and playwrights Honore de Balzac and Emile Zola as his inspiration while he picked iconic French filmmaker Francois Roland Truffaut as a favourite. He dedicated the award to his audiences and fans. He said the Ambassador of France to India Alexandre Ziegler will be in the city to present the honour. 

Mr. Chatterjee said Satyajit Ray remains an inspiration to him. Mr. Chatterjee had worked in 14 of Ray’s films including the Apu trilogy, Charulata and has also played the role of Feluda, the iconic detective in the film Sonar Kella.

Over 8 lakh children in India between the age group 5 and 6 years are engaged in child labour. A large percentage, over 5 lakh of these children do not attend school. Majority of these kids are engaged in family based employments, states a CRY report.

According to the report released on Saturday, Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of 2,50,672 children engaged in labour, followed by Bihar with 1,28,087 children and Maharashtra where the number stands at 82,847

Komal Ganotra, director, policy, research and advocacy CRY says, “Early childhood lays the foundation of cognitive, physical, socio-emotional development. The Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), which was introduced with the intent of providing a strong base to these children, is marred by limited reach as it covers only 50 per cent of this population. Thus many children in this age group are seen accompanying their parents to their workplace or end up living with minimal care, she adds.

There are many cases where children are forced to migrate with their parents and help them in their occupations such as working in brick kilns. High level of poverty and unemployment coupled with a lack of adequate social security net compel parents to allow their children to work, compromising with their learning, she adds.

The recent amendment in the Child Labour Act with the intent to ban engagement in any kind of labour for children under 14, allows children to work in family occupations; thus defeats the purpose of preventing these children to be exploited as labour, Ganotra says.

“Even if they are enrolled in school, the burden of school along with work forces them to drop out”, adds Ganotra.

While the decade 2001-2011 saw an overall 30% reduction (about 3.2 million) in working children in the age-group of 10-14 years, number of working children within 5-9 years increased by 0.68 million, an increase of 37% from 2001.

Navies of India and Australia will participate in bilateral maritime exercise AUSINDEX-17 this week with an aim to enhancing interoperability and cooperation between the two forces. Indian naval ships Jyoti, Shivalik and Kamorta are on a port visit to Freemantle, Australia from June 13 to 17 and will join the exercise.

Vice Admiral and Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Naval Command HCS Bisht will be also visiting Freemantle during the period.

During the harbour stay, various activities such as official calls, formal receptions on board ships which will also be open to visitors, guided tours for Indian naval personnel and professional interaction between naval personnel of the two sides, have been planned.

This would be the second edition of the exercise with the maiden one having been conducted at Visakhapatnam in 2015. The exercise is aimed at increasing interoperability and is in consonance with the growing cooperation between the two countries.

In pursuance of India's 'Act East' policy, the ships under the command of Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Fleet Rear Admiral Biswajit Dasgupta are on an overseas deployment to the South East Asia and southern Indian Ocean regions.
INS Shivalik, a muIti-role stealth frigate, INS Kamorta, an anti-submarine warfare corvette, and INS Jyoti, the fleet replenishment tanker, are a part of this venture.

"The visit of the Indian naval ships seeks to underscore India's peaceful presence and solidarity with friendly and harmonious countries towards ensuring good order in the maritime domain and to strengthen existing bonds between India and Australia," the Navy said in a statement.

In April this year, Australian Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull visited India and held bilateral talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to enhance the partnership between the two countries.

In May this year, Singapore and India held a maritime bilateral exercise SIMBEX in the disputed South China Sea. INS Shivalik, Jyoti and Kamorta were also a part of this exercise.

India's Jitu Rai andHeena Sidhu combined to clinch the gold medal in mixed team 10m air pistol event of the ISSF World Cup, beating Russia 7-6 in the final on 12 June 2017. France beat Iran by an identical score to win the bronze in the event.

Earlier, on day four of the competitions at the rifle/pistol World Cup, both Jitu and Heena narrowly missed out on making the final of the individual men's and women's 10m air pistol event, finishing 12th and 9th in their respective qualification rounds.

Only the top eight make it through to the final. Although the mixed team events are not being considered for the medal tally at the World Cup stage this year, they have been approved as medal events for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

The win augurs well for the Indian pair as this was its second World Cup gold together, having won the event in the New Delhi stage earlier this year.

China has been leading the medal tally at Gabala with six medals, including three gold.

430 athletes from 45 countries are competing for medals in the ongoing World Cup, which is the last chance for rifle and pistol shooters to qualify for the ISSF World Cup Finals.

The event will see the eight best shooters of the world compete in each Olympic discipline along with reigning Olympic and World Championship medalists and wild-cards.

Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu on Monday reiterated northeastern states’ decades old demand for a separate time zone. Leaders from the region argue that a separate time zone would increase daylight savings and efficiency.

One of the arguments that the states advance is that the early sunrise means that by the time they start their day, almost half the day has passed. This means an early sunset which requires extra use of lights in both homes, offices and public places.“We get up as early as 4 am. Several daylight hours are wasted as government offices open only at 10 am and close at 4 pm,” Khandu said.

The demand for a separate time zone has been long standing and before the current CM, former chief minister Tarun Gogoi had also raised the same issue.

What is a time zone and its significance in India?

Earth is divided into 360 vertical lines known as longitudes and a shift in every longitude gives a time difference of four minutes. Every 15 degree shift (longitudinal shift) results in a time difference of one hour. However in the event of a single time zone, like in India, with the country spread over areas wider than the one hour mark, some areas see early sunrise and sunset and the opposite extreme ends see them late.

The longitudinal difference between India’s easternmost point Kibithu in Arunachal Pradesh and the westernmost point int Gugariyana, Gujarat is is almost 30 degrees — a time difference of two hours.

What does the demand from the states mean?

The demand is essentially called daylight saving and Khandu has demanded that the northeastern states be allowed to advance their clocks by some time (0.5-1 hour approx) to save more daylight hours. The move will not mean that time will slow down. But, the perception is changed. For those living in northeastern states, a change in time would mean a delayed sunset. This will allow the citizens to make use of added daylight hours.

How early sunrise and early sunset affects life in the northeast?

Imagine that you go out for a walk in Gujarat. Chances are that even in the winter months of December or January, the sun will not set before 6:30. However, at the same time, Arunachal Pradesh and nearby areas will get dark by 4:30 pm. Some find this troubling as their social lives take a hit too. It gets dark too early. People prefer to stay inside their homes rather than go out and socialise. Productive hours at offices, mainly government offices, are usually for only 7 hours. The location of the states in the timezone means that they eat breakfast late in the day, eat dinner earlier than most. Establishments like theatres, restaurants see increased business in the summer months when there is more daylight. People tend to stay out more rather than calling it a night. Daylight saving will thus give a fillip to the economic activity in the city as well.

Positives and negatives of daylight saving?

For the most part, it benefits the people of the region. If the demand is approved, the region is expected to be put on the timezone of GMT+6 hrs. India is currently five and a half hours ahead of the greenwich prime meridian. This is the same time zone as Bangladesh.Worldwide, farmers have been the people most affected by the practice of initiating daylight saving and they have had the toughest time adapting to it. They have been, therefore, the biggest opposers as well in the US, Canada, New Zealand, Europe etc. Farmers have less time to get their wares to markets so it is an inconvenience. More so, cattle and animals have a tough time getting oriented with the new body clock requirements.

Sleeping patterns change.Coordinated tracking of time differences will be required and a huge logistical challenge will be posed to services like airlines, airports, railways, financial traders etc.Historically tested convenienceWhen the British ruled India, India’s time zones were divided into Calcutta Time Zone and Bombay Time Zone. A separate chai bagan (tea garden) time zone was raised by Khandu. This time zone is ahead of the Indian Standard Time by an hour and it was present in the British colonial era as well.

The 2017 French Open was a tennis tournament played on outdoor clay courts. It was the 116th edition of the French Open and the second Grand Slam event of the year. It took place at the Stade Roland Garros from 28 May to 11 June and consisted of events for players in singles, doubles and mixed doubles play.

Men's singles : Spain Rafael Nadal def. Switzerland Stan Wawrinka, 6–2, 6–3, 6–1

Women's singles : Latvia Jeļena Ostapenko def. Romania Simona Halep, 4–6, 6–4, 6–3

Men's doubles : United States Ryan Harrison/New Zealand Michael Venus def. Mexico Santiago González /United States Donald Young, 7–6(7–5), 6–7(4–7), 6–3

Women's doubles : United States Bethanie Mattek-Sands/Czech Republic Lucie Šafářová def. Australia Ashleigh Barty/Australia Casey Dellacqua, 6–2, 6–1

Mixed doubles : Canada Gabriela Dabrowski / India Rohan Bopanna def. Germany Anna-Lena Grönefeld / Colombia Robert Farah, 2–6, 6–2, [12–10]

Rohan Bopanna had come close to winning a Grand Slam only once when he and his Pakistani partner Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi reached the final of 2010 US Open. Other than that, there had been close shaves to the semifinals. But the duck finally ended at French Open as Bopanna won the mixed doubles title by coming back from a set down to win with Gabriela Dabrowski.

In the process, Bopanna became the fourth Indian to win a Grand Slam after Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi and Sania Mirza.

NASA has unveiled a futuristic Mars rover concept that may help the US space agency develop plans for its mission to the red planet scheduled for 2020. NASA's next robotic Mars rover is set to land on the red planet in 2020. 

The rover will search for signs of past microbial life and collect core samples for a potentially future return to Earth. The Mars rover concept vehicle was unveiled at the Kennedy Space Centre Visitor Complex in the US with a goal of inspiration and education as NASA continues developing plans for its journey to the red planet.

The visitor complex kicked off its "Summer of Mars" promotion which included former astronaut Scott Kelly. Kelly shared some of his experiences during a one-year stay aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

The Summer of Mars programme will provide a survey of NASA's studies of the red planet, said Rebecca Shireman, assistant manager of public relations for the Kennedy visitor complex. "We hope this will encourage young people to want to learn more about being a part of the effort to go to Mars," she said. 

The builders of the scientifically-themed Mars rover concept vehicle, Parker Brothers Concepts of Florida, incorporated input into its design from NASA subject matter experts. The rover operates on an electric motor, powered by solar panels and a 700-volt battery. 

The rover separates in the middle with the front area designed for scouting and equipped with a radio and navigation provided by the Global Positioning System (GPS). The back section serves as a laboratory which can disconnect for autonomous research. 

While this exact rover is not expected to operate on Mars, one or more of its elements could make its way into a rover astronauts will drive on the red planet. 

The UNCTAD report said an improved economic outlook in major economies, such as ASEAN, China and India, will boost investors' confidence. India continues to be a favourite FDI destination though tax-related concerns remain a deterrent for some foreign investors, an UNCTAD report said.

It also said that foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows to developing Asia shrank by 15 per cent to USD 443 billion in 2016, the first decline since 2012. This affected three sub-regions, with only South Asia spared. However, UNCTAD's World Investment Report 2017 said an improved economic outlook in major economies, such as ASEAN, China and India, will likely to boost investors' confidence, propping up the region's FDI prospects for 2017.

"The favourite FDI destinations remain the US, China and India," UNCTAD said, adding "Although new liberalisation efforts continue to improve the investment climate in India, tax-related concerns remain a deterrent for some foreign investors".

In South Asia, FDI inflows increased by 6 per cent to USD 54 billion. Flows to India were stagnant at USD 44 billion. FDI inflows to developing Asia are expected to increase by 15 per cent in 2017 to USD 515?billion, as an improved economic outlook in major Asian economies is likely to boost investor confidence.

In major recipients such as China, India and Indonesia, renewed policy efforts to attract FDI could contribute to an increase of inflows in 2017, it said. The foreign outflows from South Asia declined by 29 per cent to only USD 6 billion in 2016, as India's outward FDI dropped by about one third, it added.

Cross-border merger and acquisition deals have become increasingly important for foreign multinational enterprises to enter the rapidly-growing Indian market, the report said.

In 2016, there were a number of significant deals, including the USD 13 billion acquisition of Essar Oil by Rosneft (Russian Federation). The report noted that signing of a tax treaty by India and Mauritius in May 2016 "might have" contributed to reduced round-tripping FDI.

It further noted that despite a historically high number of announced greenfield projects in 2015, FDI flows to India were largely flat at about USD 44 billion in 2016, up only 1 per cent from 2015.

Foreign multinational enterprises (MNEs) are increasingly relying on cross-border M&As to penetrate the rapidly growing Indian market. Pakistan's inflows increased by 56 per cent due to significant investment in infrastructure from China in support of the One Belt One Road initiative. For the first time, China was the world's second-largest investor as FDI outflows surged by 44 per cent to USD 183 billion, a new high.

BRICS - the economic group comprising Brazil, the Russian Federation, India, China and South Africa accounted for 22 per cent of global GDP but received only 11 per cent of global inward FDI stock in 2016. FDI flows to the five BRICS countries last year rose by 7 per cent to USD 277 billion. The increase in inflows to the Russian Federation, India and South Africa more than compensated for the decline of FDI to Brazil and China.

In an official statement, NITI Aayog informed that it will work collaboratively with state machinery to prepare a blueprint of the program and achieve the objectives.

Indian government has launched a new program - SATH (Sustainable Action for Transforming Human Capital), on 10 June 2017, to trigger a transformation in the education and health sectors.

In an official statement, NITI Aayog informed that it will work collaboratively with state machinery to prepare a blueprint of the program and achieve the objectives.

The program will focus on the concerns of technical support from various states to NITI Aayog.

McKinsey & Company and IPE Global consortium will help NITI Aayog in the implementation of the program. The selections of companies were made through a bidding process.

NITI Aayog has designed a three-stage model for the program which includes ‘expression of interest, presentations by the states and assessment of commitment to health sector reforms’.

NITI Aayog has invited all states and union territories to participate in the program to which 16 states have responded so far. The program will be launched in the three selected states after signing of memorandum of understanding.

The program will monitor metrics such as incidence of malaria, density of doctors and nurses and compliance to IPHS norms to determine likelihood of success.

India has abysmally low expenditure on the health sector.

India has filed a complaint in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) against the US decision to impose high fees on temporary working visas, a move that makes Indian IT companies less competitive in that market.

India has notified the WTO that "it has initiated a WTO dispute proceeding against the US regarding measures imposing increased fees on certain applicants for L-1 and H-1B categories of non-immigrant temporary working visas into the US, and measures relating to numerical commitments for H-1B visas," the WTO said in a statement.India has time and again raised serious concerns over the issue saying the move would impact Indian IT professionals.

The statement said that according to India, the US' measure "appear to be inconsistent" with the global norms.According to India, it said, the current measures appear to be "inconsistent" with the terms, limitations and conditions agreed to and specified by the US in its commitments under the GATS (General Agreement on Trade in Services).

India has asked for consultations with the US under the aegis of the WTO to resolve the issue.

The request for consultations is the first step in a dispute at the dispute settlement system of the WTO.

Consultations give the parties an opportunity to discuss the matter and to find a satisfactory solution without proceeding further with litigation. If consultations fail to resolve the dispute, the complainant may request the Dispute Settlement Body to establish a panel of experts to study the dispute.

The US has 10 days to respond to the trade dispute filed by India.In 2010 also, India had serious objections over the US move to hike professional visa fees.Last year, US President Barack Obama had signed into law a US $1.8 trillion spending package which among other things introduces a hefty US $4,000 fee for certain categories of H-1B visa and US $4,500 for L1 visa.

Companies having more than 50 employees and having more than 50 per cent of their US employees on H-1B and L1 visas would have to pay the new fee when the next visa application session kicks off on April 1.Terming the hike under the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act as highly discriminatory, IT industry body Nasscom had said that the move would have an impact India's technology sector.

Industry chamber Ficci too had said the hike in special fee on the popular H-1B and L-1 visas for the Act will hamper the growth of the US economy and will be discriminatory for Indian IT companies.

Telangana government on Sunday launched the single-women pensions scheme across the state. Single women will be given 1,000 per month in what is being described as the first such scheme in India.

In the towns of Chinnakoduru and Nunganuru of Siddipet, irrigation minister T Harish Rao handed over pension papers to 836 women. He said, before bifurcation the then government had provided pension of only 200.

However, the TRS government is giving 1,000 pension to 36 lakh beneficiaries.

Transport minister Mahendar Reddy launched the scheme at Medchal, Vikarabad, Keesara, Rajendranagar, Chevella, Parigi and Kodangal. At a function held at the Medchal collectorate, MP Malla Reddy, MLA Sudheera Reddy and district collector M V Reddy participated.

In RR district, 13,258 single women are being given pensions. "This is a scheme that will benefit unmarried women, joginis and divorced women", the minister said.

India has been ranked 45th, down four notches from last year, in terms of competitiveness in the annual rankings compiled by IMD which saw Hong Kong topping the list. US was "pushed out" of the top three slots while Hong Kong consolidated its dominance of the annual rankings for the second year in the list compiled by the International Institute for Management Development's (IMD) World Competitiveness Center. 

Switzerland and Singapore were ranked second and third respectively, with the USA at the fourth spot -- its lowest position in five years and down from third last year. 

The Netherlands completed the top five, jumping up from eighth last year. 

Others in the top 10 list include Ireland at 6th, Denmark 7th, Luxembourg (8th), Sweden (9th) and UAE at 10th.

As India slid, China improved its position by seven places to 18th, thanks to its dedication to international trade. 

The bottom of the table, meanwhile, is largely occupied by countries experiencing political and economic upheaval. Ukraine was ranked 60th, while Brazil was placed at the 61st position and Venezuela at 63rd. 

The IMD World Competitiveness Center is a research group at IMD business school in Switzerland. It has been publishing the rankings every year since 1989. This year's list comprises 63 countries with Cyprus and Saudi Arabia making their first appearance. 

Meanwhile, for the first time this year, the IMD World Competitiveness Center also published a separate report ranking countries' digital competitiveness. 

At the top of the digital ranking is Singapore, followed by Sweden, the USA, Finland and Denmark, while the bottom five are Indonesia, Ukraine, Mongolia, Peru and Venezuela.

The world's first hybrid "aeroboat" capable of travelling on land, water, snow and sand that has been built by an Indo-Russian joint venture was unveiled in Moscow on 6 June 2017 at a start-ups event organised by Russia's state-run Skolkovo Foundation. 

The aeroboat is designed to access difficult terrain, such as flooded or marshy areas where the use of regular boats is made impossible because of shallow water, patches of dry land or by marine vegetation. 

It has been designed by IIAAT Holding, a joint venture between the International Institute for Advanced Aerospace Technologies and Indian firm Millennium Aerodynamics. 

The aeroboat is on demonstration in and around a pond in the two-day Startup Village annual event in Moscow for technology entrepreneurs and investors organised by Russia's biggest innovation fund the Skolkovo Foundation.

IIAAT Holding board member Sukrit Sharan, who is in Moscow, told IANS in an e-mail interview that they have orders for more than 25 aeroboat units from private and government buyers in India of which they have already despatched five for use in disaster management. 

While hovercrafts on average move at around 45-50 km per hour on water, aeroboats are capable of going at around 150 km or more.

According to the makers, with room for 10 passengers and one crew member, the 6.5-metre-long aeroboat can handle steep slopes and embankments, and does not require any marine infrastructure such as jetties, since it is amphibious.

Goods and Services Tax (GST) is a comprehensive tax levy on manufacture, sale and consumption of goods and services at a national level. One of the biggest taxation reforms in India — the Goods and Service Tax (GST) — is all set to integrate State economies and boost overall growth.

How Will GST Work?

In India, GST would work on dual model which will include – C-GST collected by Central Government + S-GST collected by State Government on intra-state sales. GST reform would also feature an Integrated GST (IGST) collected by Central government on inter-state sales, which is to-be divided between Central and States Government in a manner decided by the Parliament on recommendations by GST Council.By doing away with several Central and State Taxes, GST would diminish the cascading effect of tax (or double taxation, whereby the same product is taxed at the stage of manufacturing as excise, then as VAT/ sales tax on sale and so on..), which is prevalent in the current tax framework. Being a consumption-destination-based tax, GST would be levied and collected at each stage of sale or purchase of goods or services based on the existing input tax credit method. Current tax structure works on production-origin-based system i.e. goods and services are taxed differently on each stage of production.

IMPACT OF GST AND ITS IMPLICATIONS

Price reduction: Unification of different indirect taxes under GST will give boost to the existing tax-credit system, which will drive tax efficiency for manufacturers, wholesalers and also for consumers of goods. This will decrease the overall cost incurred by manufacturing sector which will reflect in various inflation indices in long-term.

GST could have a negative impact on service sector, which contributes over 50% of Indian GDP. The existing Service Tax of 15% would surge to Goods and Service Tax rate which is anticipated at 18-20%. But at the same time, in current tax framework service sector is unable to enjoy tax-credit on VAT and Sales Tax, which is likely to change in favor of service providers after GST implementation. However, this might be lost if the GST rate is higher than anticipated.

Less Compliance and Procedural Cost: The cost of collecting various taxes, maintaining big records and their respective reports by the government bodies would see a definite decrease as these taxes would come under one big umbrella of GST.

Pricing and Profitability: The resultant tax expenditure after GST bill being passed would have a direct impact on pricing and profitability of different goods and services which will vary across different sectors. Given that Margin and Price Bands would also be reexamined, decline in prices is probable, which will have direct impact on consumer demand.

Government Revenue: Despite the expected change in pricing, the government is expected to set GST @ revenue neutral rate, so there might be no significant change in Government Revenue.

Cash Flow: Goods and Service Tax is set to boost cash flows through the removal of concept of excise duty. Being a consumption-based tax, GST would now be collected at the time of sale/supply over current tax predicament of tax being collected at the production/removal of goods.

Redress Location Bias: This would enable uniformity through states and would not let investors discriminate states on basis of tax advantage. The only thing that would drive investor’s capital will be profitability, cash flows, and performances promoting smaller businesses and entrepreneurship without location bias.

Uniform Per Capita Taxation: As mentioned above, Goods and Service Tax being destination-based consumption tax would allow poverty stricken states like Bihar to increase its tax revenue. As GST would be paid to states where the consumption of goods takes place, the states’ tax revenue would be driven by population (more the population, more the consumption) rather than number of businesses/industries. This would ultimately even out the tax per capita of each state.

Fight Tax Evasion: Another perk of being destination based system, Goods and Service Tax Framework would ideally reduce tax evasion by large extent and promote use of bills and invoices.

The Uttar Pradesh state government has decided to replace textbooks meant for Uttar Pradesh Secondary Education Board with those published by the National Council of Education Research and Training (NCERT), with an aim to bring the curriculum of UP Board at par with the CBSE.

This decision to introduce NCERT books will be implemented from the academic year 2018-19. The board instructed district inspectors of schools (DIoS) to inform all principals of schools under their jurisdiction about the changes in the syllabus.
UP Board has also made several new additions in the syllabus, including new topics like GST and its implications.

Key highlights of the decision:

1. NCERT textbooks will be made compulsory from Class 9 to Class 12

2. All subjects will have NCERT books except subjects like Krishi (agriculture) for both High School and Intermediate Levels and Vyavsayik (business studies) for Intermediate levels

3. These 2 subjects will continue to have UP Board textbooks as there are differences between the syllabi of these subjects between the UP Board and the CBSE

4. Class 10 and Class 12 students who will write their exams in the year 2019 will become the first batch of students to face the exams under the new system

In Uttar Pradesh, millions of students appear for the Class 10 and Class 12 exams conducted by the UP Board every year. Last year, the figure was 32.6 lakh for high school exams and 29.2 lakh for intermediate exams. In the state, over 35 lakh students study in and around 23,900 government aided and unaided schools that are affiliated with the UP Board. Meanwhile, results of both Class 10 and Class 12 board exam 2017 will be declared on June 9.

Decks have been cleared by the Union Ministry of Law and Justice to extend the term of Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi, India's top law official, for another term.

The terms of Additional Solicitor General’s (ASG) and Solicitor General’s have also been extended.

The Attorney General, along with the Solicitor General and Additional Solicitor General, represents the government in various courts and tender legal advice on complex issues.

AG Rohtagi's three year term was expiring on June 11 but has now been extended for another term.

As per the notification issued on Saturday, the tenure of all legal officers have been extended after taking their consent.

Rohtagi played a crucial role in defending government’s most pitched policy of aadhaar’s linkage with income tax returns and other related schemes and made his best efforts not to get a stay on the entire process.

This case also weighed strongly for his continuance at the top court.

uring all vacation bench hearings, Rohtagi has willingly accepted briefs of all the cases which are falling much after expiry of his term.

However, notification remained silent on whether the tenure of Additional Solicitor General Neeraj Kishan Kaul has been extended or not.

According to sources, he had already informed the Law Ministry that he won’t be able to continue with his present role.

Terms of five other ASGs, Maninder Singh, Tushar Mehta, P S Narasimha, ASG P S Patwalia and Pinky Anand, have been extended too.

Ministry is also considering names of other senior advocates as two posts of ASGs are lying vacant following the elevation of one ASG as Justice L Nageswara Rao at the top court.

The report is a joint product of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN/DESA), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the five United Nations regional commissions (Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA)).

The mid-year update of the World Economic Situation and Prospects 2017 confirms the projections made in the World Economic Situation and Prospects 2017 in January 2017 of a modest recovery in global growth for 2017-2018. Helped by a moderate recovery in trade and investment, world gross product is expected to expand by 2.7% in 2017 and 2.9% in 2018. While this marks a notable acceleration compared to 2016, growth in many regions remains below the levels needed for rapid progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Average growth of 4.7% in 2017 and 5.3% in 2018 is forecast for Least Developed Countries (LDCs), well below the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target of at least 7 per cent GDP growth. Under the current growth trajectory and assuming no changes in income inequality, nearly 35% of the population in LDCs, highly-indebted poor countries and countries in fragile and conflict affected situations may remain in extreme poverty by 2030.

About 31% of the world’s “multidimensionally poor” children live in India, according to a new report by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), a poverty reduction project grounded in economist Amartya Sen’s ‘capability approach’.

“In terms of countries, fully 31% of the 689 million poor children live in India, followed by Nigeria (8%), Ethiopia (7%) and Pakistan (6%),” noted the survey, titled ‘Global Multidimensional Poverty Index [MPI], 2017’. OPHI is an economic research centre at the Oxford University, led by Professor Sabina Alkire, and the study is based on a survey conducted among 103 countries.

A “multidimensionally poor” child is one who lacks at least one-third of ten indicators, grouped into three dimensions of poverty: health, education and standard of living. The health dimension comprises indicators such as nutrition, child mortality, and education. Under standard of living are indicators such as access to cooking fuel, improved sanitation, safe drinking water, electricity, flooring, and asset ownership.

In terms of the number of such multidimensionally poor children as a proportion of the total population, India stood 37th among 103 countries. Out of India’s 217 million (21.7 crore) children, 49.9% were multidimensionally poor. However, the survey pointed out that the data for India were “somewhat outdated”, being based on the Indian Human Development Survey of 2011-2012.

As for the intensity of poverty, the average percentage of deprivation in terms of the 10 MPI categories was highest in Sub-Saharan Africa, where multidimensionally poor children were “simultaneously deprived” in 58% of the indicators. Sub-Saharan Africa was followed by the region described as the Arab States (53%). South Asia occupied the third spot, with children deprived in 49% of the MPI indicators.

Describing the findings as “deeply disturbing”, the director of OPHI Sabina Alkire said, “This is a wake-up call to the international community which has adopted the global Sustainable Development Goals and takes seriously Goal 1, the eradication of poverty in all its forms and dimensions.”

Ganeshan Neelakanta Iyer, the only assigned competition manager of International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), has become the first Indian to be nominated as a member of the Umpires and Referees Committee (URC).

Following the AGM of the world table tennis body early this week, the Board of Directors of various committees met on the sidelines of the ongoing World Championships and handpicked the best in the business for the job. Ganeshan’s term as URC member is for a period of two years and can be extended.

In another first, Ganeshan has also been recommended as the Technical Commissioner from the Asian Continent to ITTF and his term will be for a period of four years. Ganeshan is also the chairman of the South Asian Federation technical committee and a member of the Technical Committee of the Commonwealth Table Tennis Federation.

The 2017 Global Peace Index finds that the world became more peaceful in the last year, however, over the last decade it has become significantly less peaceful.The 2017 GPI provides a comprehensive analysis on the state of peace. It shows that amidst continuing social and political turmoil, the world continues to spend enormous resources on creating and containing violence but very little on peace.

The key to reversing the decline in peace is through building Positive Peace – a holistic framework of the key attitudes, institutions and structures which build peace in the long term. The 2017 GPI finds:

The world slightly improved in peace last year but has become less peaceful over the last decade There has been a decline in militarisation over the past three decades Globally, the economic impact of violence on the economy is enormous Current peacebuilding spending focused on building peace is well below the optimal level Falls in Positive Peace make countries susceptible to populist political movements Most of the nations in the GPI became more peaceful over the last year. 93 countries improved while 68 deteriorated.

Over the longer run however, there has been an increase in ‘peace inequality’, with most countries having only small increases in peacefulness, while a handful of countries have had very large deteriorations in peace.

Iceland remains the most peaceful country in the world, a position it has held since 2008. It is joined at the top of the index by New Zealand, Portugal, Austria, and Denmark, all of which were ranked highly in the 2016 GPI. There was also very little change at the bottom of the index. Syria remains the least peaceful country in the world, followed by Afghanistan, Iraq, South Sudan, and Yemen.

India experienced a slight improvement in peace, rising four places in the GPI to rank 137, according to figures released today in the annual Global Peace Index (GPI). This improvement was due to improvements in the indicators measuring violent crime, UN peacekeeping funding and imports of weapons.  

The report further revealed that the levels of global peace improved overall in 2017, despite a notable deterioration in the US and European political unrest. As per the report, since last year 93 countries recorded higher levels of peace while 68 deteriorated, resulting in an improvement in world peace.

The improvement was mainly driven by lower levels of state-sponsored terror – extra-judicial killings and torture - and the prior withdrawal of military forces from Afghanistan. The 11th edition of the index, published by international think-tank Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), captures the impact of political polarisation in the US stemming from the divisive 2016 Presidential Elections. Despite improvements in Canada, the growing intensity of internal conflict and declining level of trust in government saw the US fall 11 places to 114th, resulting in North America recording the largest drop of any region.  

Steve Killelea, Founder and Executive Chairman of the IEP commented: “While the true extent of such significant political polarity in the US will take years to be fully realised, its disruptive influence is already evident. Increasing inequality, rising perceptions of corruption, and falling press freedoms have all contributed to this substantial deterioration in the US and an overall decline in peace in the North America region.”

Former union minister and BJP MP Prof (Dr) Ram Shankar Katheria on Wednesday was appointed as the chairman of the National Commission for Schedule Caste (NCSC), filling up the vacancy eight months after Congress leader PL Punia's term came to an end last October.

President Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday approved the appointments of Katheria and four others to assist the chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC), giving each of them a tenure of 3 years with effect from the date they assume respective charges, said the ministry of social justice and empowerment in an official statement.

A BJP MP from Agra, Katheria was dropped from union council of ministers last July after controversy erupted over his alleged forged post-graduation and graduation mark-sheets. He was also accused of giving hate speech early last year. Katheria had denied all these allegations. 

L Murugan will be vice chairman while K.Ramulu, Dr Yogendra Paswan and Dr. (Ms) Swaraj Vidwan members of the constitutional body, said the government.

The next  SCO Summit will take place in Astana in June 2017, President Nursultan Nazarbayev has announced it at the enlarged meeting of the SCO heads of state.  

“With a great sense of responsibility Kazakhstan assumes a high mission of chairmanship in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization this year. We intend to continue the large-scale work carried out by the Uzbek side and contribute to the development and strengthening of the Organization, increasing its role and weight in the world,” said Nazarbayev.

The President noted that strengthening of regional security, development of economic cooperation as well as transit and transport potential, deepening of cultural and humanitarian ties are the top priorities of Kazakhstan’s presidency in the Organization.  

Upon conclusion of the speech, the Head of State informed that Kazakhstan’s chairmanship in the SCO will end with a final summit of the member-countries’ leaders and is scheduled for June 8-9, 2017 in Astana. N.Nazarbayev invited all the attendees of the meeting to Kazakhstan next year. 

Haryana police sub-inspector from Hisar Anita Kundu, 29, on 21 May 2017 made history by becoming the first Indian woman to climb Mount Everest from the China side. Chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar confirmed the achievement and congratulated Kundu on his Twitter account.

“Congratulations to Haryana’s Anita Kundu for becoming the first Indian woman to climb Mt. Everest from the China side. More power to you!” tweeted the CM.Kundu had started climbing the Everest from the China side on April 11, but had lost contact with outside world on April 26, leaving her family members worried. It was informed on Saturday night that she was only 1,100 feet away from the peak, which she scaled to hoist the Indian tricolour on May 21, 2017.

This was her second attempt to climb the Everest from the China side after she had to return back midway two years ago due to bad weather.
She had earlier scaled the Everest from Nepal side in May 2013.

Congratulations poured in for the mountaineer on social media from people of all walks of society. Congress national spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said, “Haryana’s daughter makes country proud once again by becoming first Indian to climb Everest from both China and Nepal side.”

India has surpassed China to secure the top position among 30 developing countries on ease of doing business, according to a study that cited India’s rapidly expanding economy, relaxation of FDI rules and a consumption boom as the key drivers. The 2017 Global Retail Development Index (GRDI), now in its 16th edition, ranks the top 30 developing countries for retail investment worldwide and analyses 25 macroeconomic and retail-specific variables.

India’s rapidly expanding economy, easing of foreign direct investment (FDI) rules and a consumption boom are the key drivers for India’s top ranking in the GRDI. The GRDI, titled ‘The Age of Focus’, ranks China in second place. Despite its slower overall economic growth, the market’s size and the continued evolution of retail still make China one of the most attractive markets for retail investment. “The study is unique in that it not only identifies the markets that are most attractive today, but also those that offer future potential,” said the management consulting firm A T Kearney in a statement.

India’s retail sector has been growing at an annual rate of 20 per cent. Total sales surpassed the USD 1 trillion-mark last year and the sector is expected to double in size by 2020. Rapid urbanisation and a growing middle class with higher income levels is driving up consumption across the country, the consultancy group said.

The government’s continued support to relax FDI regulations in key areas of the retail sector have provided further boost to its growth, it noted.

In the past year, the government has allowed 100 per cent foreign ownership in B2B e-commerce businesses and for retailers that sell food products. India’s retail sector has also benefited from the rapid growth in e-commerce. It is projected to grow 30 per cent annually and reach USD 48 billion by 2020. Retailers have been quick to seize the opportunity with 86 per cent of e-commerce dominated by pure-play online retailers in 2016.

On 5 June 2017 Qatar slammed the decisions of six nations to sever ties with it, saying they were 'unjustified' and aimed to put Doha under political 'guardianship'. 

The United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Egypt and the Maldives announced they will be joining Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and withdrawing their diplomatic staff from Qatar, over claims that the country supported Islamist groups, earlier on Monday.

The diplomatic broadside threatens the international prestige of Qatar, which is set to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. It has for years presented itself as a mediator and power broker for the region's many disputes. Emirates, Etihad Airways, Air Arabia, FlyDubai and Saudi Arabian Airlines have suspended all flights to Qatar, after the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain said they would cut all air, land and sea links with Qatar within 24 hours.

'The measures are unjustified and are based on false and baseless claims,' the Qatari foreign ministry said in a statement, referring to the steps taken by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

'The aim is clear, and it is to impose guardianship on the state. This by itself is a violation of its (Qatar's) sovereignty as a state,' Qatar added.

As organizers work to plan the upcoming 2022 World Cup in Qatar, a FIFA spokesperson refused to comment to MailOnline when asked if the event would be moved.  

'FIFA is in regular contact with the Qatar 2022 Local Organising Committee and the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy handling matters relating to the 2022 FIFA World Cup,' the spokesperson said. 'We have no further comments for the time being.'

On World Environment Day, India has 499 reasons to cheer: 313 species of animals and 186 of plants have been discovered from various areas of the country last year.

Animal Discoveries 2016, New Species and Records , brought out by the Zoological Survey of India on Monday, and Plant Discoveries 2016 , by the Botanical Survey of India, bring the glad tidings.

Of the new animal species, 258 are invertebrates and 55 vertebrates. As many as 97 species of insects, 27 of fish, 12 species of amphibians, 10 of Platyhelminthes, nine of Crustacea and six of reptiles have been discovered and described by the scientists. There are 61 species of moths and butterflies (order Lepidoptera) and 38 of beetles (Coloeptera).

ZSI Director Kailash Chandra said most of the new species were from the four biological hotspots of the country — the Himalayas, the northeast, the Western Ghats and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Animal Discoveries 2016 says that for the first time, the number of animal species in the country, including protozoa, has crossed one lakh — 1,00,693 is the exact count.

Till last year, India was home to 97,514 species of animals.

Plant Discoveries 2016 says that along with 186 new species, scientists have discovered seven new genera, four subspecies and nine new varieties from India, taking the number to 206.

The publication lists 113 new records from India.

The geographical distribution of the new plant species reveals that most discoveries were made in the Western Ghats (17%), followed by the Eastern Himalayas (15%), the Western Himalayas (13%), the Eastern Ghats (12%) and the west coast (8%).

Ananya Vinay, a 12-year-old Indo-American girl, on Friday won the prestigious Scripps National Spelling Bee, taking home a USD 40,000 cash prize after correctly spelling "marocain" to become the 13th consecutive winner from the community.

A sixth-grader from Fresno, California, Ananya won the spelling competition after competing for 12 hours and spelled 35 words correctly. 

Her rival was Rohan Rajeev, another 14-year-old Indian- American student from Oklahoma, misspelled the word 'marram' which is a coarse grass found on sandy beaches. Ananya's victory underscores the overwhelming dominance of Indian-Americans in the annual intense competition. "Congratulations to our 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee Champion, Ananya Vinay. 

What a fantastic performance!,"the National Spelling Bee's official account tweeted. "She played to win and win she did. Ananya Vinay takes home the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee Champion title and trophy," it said. 

More than 11 million youngsters aged between six and 15 from all 50 US states, US territories such as Puerto Rico and Guam and countries such as Japan and Jamaica had entered the nerve-racking competition.

Ananya and Rajeev were the last two standing of the initial 291 spellers. 

Ananya captured the 90th championship title by correctly spelling "marocain", which is a dress fabric made from silk or rayon, during the 36th round of the annual competition held at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in suburban Washington. 

"It's like a dream come true, I'm so happy right now. I just focused on my word and tried to spell it right," said Ananya upon receiving the winner's trophy. 

In a post-victory interview, Ananya told reporters she was able to recognise one of the final words as it had been mentioned in her social studies book. 

"You can find words in interesting places," she was quoted as saying by the 'USA Today'.

Ananya is the 13th consecutive Indian-American winner of the competition and the 18th of the past 22 winners with Indian heritage, a run that began in 1999 with Nupur Lala's victory, which was featured in the documentary "Spellbound." 

Ananya honed her skill in highly competitive national bees that are limited to Indian-Americans, the North South Foundation and the South Asian Spelling Bee, although she did not win either. 

Ananya's victory broke the Bee's three-year streak of ending in a tie. She wins USD 40,000 in cash, a trophy and other prizes, the report said. 

Asked about her competitor, Rohan, Ananya said, "It was interesting to go back and forth for so many rounds". 

The annual contest opened on Tuesday with a record 291 spellers from across the country and the globe. 

The field was narrowed to 40 finalists on Wednesday, based upon two oral rounds of spelling and the results of a written spelling and vocabulary test. 

By yesterday afternoon, just 15 spellers were still standing and went on to compete for the championship whose final rounds were broadcast live. 

The National Bee is a high-profile, high-pressure endurance test as much as a nerd spelling match and spellers spend months preparing for it.

India successfully launched its communication satellite GSAT-19 with its brand new and heaviest Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-Mark III D-1 on Monday evening.

In a copy book style developmental flight, the most powerful ever rocket of the national space agency ISRO slung the satellite in a geosynchronous transfer orbit GTO.

From the GTO, the satellite would be taken up to its final geostationary orbit through remote maneuvering, which is the usual practice. 

The rocket blasted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, precisely at 5.28 p.m. with the satellite weighing 3136 kg during lift off. 

With a strong deep growl, it rose into the sky breaking free from the second launch pad. 

After about 16 minutes, the 43.43 metre tall rocket, nick named as "fatty boy," injected the satellite in space.The ISRO Chairman A.S.Kiran Kumar termed the momentous occasion as historic and congratulated the scientists. 

Meanwhile President and Prime Minister have congratulated ISRO for successful launch of GSLV - Mark III carrying GSAT-19 satellite. 

In a tweet message to ISRO Chairman A.S. Kiran Kumar, the President said the nation is proud of this significant achievement. 

He said the GSLV-Mk III is the heaviest rocket ever made by India and is capable of carrying the heaviest satellites made till date. 

In a tweet, Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended his congratulations to the dedicated scientists of ISRO for the successful launch. 

The satellite GSAT-19 has an intended life span of 10 years. It is a multi-beam satellite carrying Ka and Ku band forward and return link transponders. 

It also has an experimental payload called the geostationary radiation spectrometer-GRASP, to monitor and study the nature of charged particles in space and the influence of space radiation on satellites. 

The GSLV-Mk III is a three stage rocket. The first stage is fired by two strap-on motors filed with solid fuel. The second stage uses the liquid fuel and the third is the cryogenic upper stage, named as the C25, which is powered by the highly complex indigenous cryogenic engine, CE20. 

The number 20 denotes the 20-ton thrust it generates for the rocket to reach the intended height with the heavy mass on board. 

The ISRO had flown a similar rocket without the cryogenic engine but with 3.7-tonne payload in 2014 mainly to test its in-fight structural stability and its aerodynamics. 

Based on the collected data with the experimental flight, suitable improvements were made in the rocket by optimising its design features for the developmental flight today with the crucial cryogenic engine. 

The resounding success of the first ever developmental flight of the 4-ton class GSLV Mark III D-1 is hailed as an epoch making event for the national space agency ISRO. 

It brings the nation yet another step closer towards achieving the goal of total self reliance in satellites launch capacity.

When the rocket makes perhaps a couple of development flights more followed by a few demonstration flights, it would enable India to have three classes of launch vehicles. The polar satellite launch vehicle PSLV has already established itself as one of the world's most reliable workhorse of its class. 

The 2-ton class GSLV Mark II, also known as the "naughty boy," has witnessed four consecutive successful missions including the las month's South Asia satellite launch. 

The latest and more complex GSLV Mark III, popularly known as the "fat boy," would help cater to the 4-ton class heavy communication satellite launches. The next goal may be for developing vehicles meant for satellites weighing 6-ton or more, which have a stronger demand globally. 

Indian shuttler B Sai Praneeth lifted his maiden Grand Prix gold title by posting a come- from-behind victory over Indonesian Jonatan Christie in the men's singles final of the USD 1,20,000 Thailand Open in Bangkok on 4 May 2017.

The third seeded Indian prevailed 17-21 21-18 21-19 over the fourth seeded Indonesian in a contest that lasted an hour and 11 minutes.

This is Praneeth's second consecutive title win, following the Singapore Open victory. He had reached the finals of Syed Modi International in January at Hyderabad, where he lost to Sameer Verma.

Praneeth, ranked 24 in the world, did not have an ideal start in the final as he went down in the opening game.

The Indonesian opened up a 3-0 lead but Praneeth soon caught up with him at 4-4 and it was a close battle till 7-7 before Christie broke free to maintain a slender edge.

At one stage, the Indonesian shuttler was leading 14-11 but Praneeth kept breathing down his neck and made it 14-14 with three straight points.

After another couple of close points, Christie found himself 18-17 up and quickly sealed off the opening game with three points on the trot.

Making a brilliant comeback in the second game, Praneeth surged ahead 5-0 and then 9-3 but failed to maintain his huge lead as his opponent won six successive points to make it 9-9.

Thereafter, it was a neck-and-neck battle till 15-15 before the Indian took a slight two-point lead at 17-15.

Leading 17-16, Praneeth managed to bag three more points to move ahead 20-16. Although he wasted two game points, he eventually won it 21-18.

In the decider, Christie broke away at 2-2 to open up a 7-2 lead and then to 8-3. However, the Indian slowly made his way up with five consecutive points to reduce the margin to 7 -8.

Finally Praneeth caught up with him at 9-9 and what followed was a keenly contested affair with none of the shuttlers sparing an inch to each other.

At 17-17, Praneeth won two crucial points to take a 19-17 lead but only to concede the advantage.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi returned to New Delhi after completing a successful four-nation tour to Germany, Spain, Russia and France. India signed several agreements during this visit of the Prime Minister. Trade and investment, counter terrorism and climate change were some of the key issues that the Prime Minister discussed with the leaders of the four countries. He also addressed the plenary session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in Russia.

Prime Minister Modi's final stop in his 4-nation European tour was Paris where he met France's newly elected President Emmanuel Macron. Describing Paris agreement as a shared heritage of the world and protection of environment an article of faith for Indians.

PM Modi said it is the world's collective responsibility to save Mother Earth. The two leaders not only echoed each other’s sentiments on climate protection, they also vowed to fight terrorism and in a touching gesture. PM Modi and President Macron jointly paid tributes to Indians who died for France.

Extending support to India's fight against terrorism, French President Emmanuel Macron said that India and France will continue their cooperation in the field of defence and maritime security.

On the issue of climate change, Prime Minister Modi said that conserving the environment is a matter of faith for India and thanked France for standing shoulder to shoulder in the drawing up of the Paris Climate Deal and the International Solar Alliance - a brainchild of India and France.

President Macron accepted Prime Minister Modi's invitation to participate in a meeting in India to take forward the International Solar Alliance.

Prime Minister Modi expressed confidence that France would play a leading role in the European Union after Brexit.

Calling for a strong India-France relations, PM Modi called “Be it trade and technology, innovation and investment, energy, education and enterprise, we want to give a boost to India-France ties.” 

 NASA is set to launch on Saturday a sounding rocket which will release blue-green and red artificial clouds.The launch of the Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket testing a new deployment system to support space studies was originally scheduled for May 31, but it was delayed due to poor weather conditions.

The launch window on Saturday from from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility is 4:26 - 4:41 a.m. EDT ( 1:56-2.11 p.m India time), the US space agency said.

"Clear skies are required at one of the ground stations to view blue-green and red artificial clouds that will be produced as part of the test. These artificial clouds may be seen from New York to North Carolina," NASA said.

The rocket will eject 10 canisters about the size of a soft drink can between 10 to 20 km from the rocket's main payload, and these containers will release the vapour between 4 and 5.5 minutes after launch.The development of the multi-canister or ampule ejection system will allow scientists to gather information over a much larger area than previously allowed when deploying the vapour just from the main payload.

The Ministry of Rural Development has selected Vizianagaram as one among the 17 districts across the nation for the MGNREGA annual award for effective implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act during 2015-16.

The award would be presented at the Mahatma Gandhi NREGA Sammelan to the district programme coordinator and District Collector on June 19 in New Delhi.

District Collector Vivek Yadav said this at a press conference on Saturday. He said a selection committee at the Centre had selected the district for the award after field verification.

Detailing the achievements, he said the district had generated works for 3,61,668 households in 2015-16 and disbursed ₹483.42 crore as wages with an average of 106.

Over 5,000 farm ponds, 240 rain water harvesting structures, and 440 water shed works were executed. In addition, 3,427 minor irrigation tanks were de-silted and restored to their original capacity, he said.

Further, Mr. Yadav said using MGNREGA convergence grants, 154 fish- breeding units and an equal number of vegetable pandals, besides fodder production, sericulture, and development of horticulture in 5,000 acres of land were taken up.

While appreciating people’s representatives, DWMA officials and other functionaries, the Collector said the material component that remained unused for the past few years was now being used for bridging the developmental gaps through convergence works, which include CC roads, NTR Jala Siri, energised bore-wells, plantation, and construction of IHHLs under Swachh Andhra Pradesh. The State had been utilising 16% of the nation’s MGNREGA funds, he added.

NASA is set to launch the world's first mission devoted to studying rapidly spinning neutron stars, the densest objects in the universe.The US space agency plans to launch the Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer, or NICER, aboard SpaceX CRS-11, a cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station, now rescheduled to be launched aboard a Falcon 9 rocket on Saturday.The SpaceX cargo resupply mission was earlier scheduled for launch on Thursday. The launch was aborted due to bad weather.

About a week after its installation aboard the International Space Station as an external attached payload, this one-of-a-kind investigation will begin observing neutron stars - objects containing ultra-dense matter at the threshold of collapse into black holes, NASA said.

The mission will focus especially on pulsars? those neutron stars that appear to wink on and off because their spin sweeps beams of radiation past us, like a cosmic lighthouse.NICER will also test ? for the first time in space? technology that relies on pulsars as navigation beacons.

"The timing of this launch is apropos," said Keith Gendreau, a scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland who led the mission's development.Because of their extreme nature, neutron stars and pulsars have engendered a great deal of interest since their existence was theoretically proposed in 1939 and then discovered in 1967.

Soon after the 50th anniversary of British astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell's discovery on July 25, the NICER team should have collected enough data "to make a little bit of a splash," added NICER Deputy Principal Investigator Zaven Arzoumanian.Neutron stars and pulsars are the remnants of massive stars that, after exhausting their nuclear fuel, exploded and collapsed into super-dense spheres.Just one teaspoonful of neutron star matter would weigh a billion tonnes on Earth.

"The nature of matter under these conditions is a decades-old unsolved problem," Gendreau said."Theory has advanced a host of models to describe the physics governing the interiors of neutron stars. With NICER, we can finally test these theories with precise observations," Gendreau said.

Ganeshan Neelakanta Iyer, the only assigned competition manager of International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), has become the first Indian to be nominated as a member of the Umpires and Referees Committee (URC).

Ganeshan Neelakanta Iyer, the only assigned competition manager of International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), has become the first Indian to be nominated as a member of the Umpires and Referees Committee (URC). Following the AGM of the world table tennis body early this week, the Board of Directors of various committees met on the sidelines of the ongoing World Championships and handpicked the best in the business for the job. Ganeshan’s term as URC member is for a period of two years and can be extended.

In another first, Ganeshan has also been recommended as the Technical Commissioner from the Asian Continent to ITTF and his term will be for a period of four years. Ganeshan is also the chairman of the South Asian Federation technical committee and a member of the Technical Committee of the Commonwealth Table Tennis Federation.

Soil Health Card, a revolutionary scheme, was initiated for farmers and it has made a huge difference to farming and farm produce. It has helped in increasing the productivity and reduced the cost of production. Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi had inaugurated the scheme on February 19, 2015, in Suratgarh, Rajasthan.

Soil Health Card provides information to farmers on nutrient status of their soil along with recommendations on appropriate dosage of nutrients for improving soil health and its fertility. This also gives farmers information about the nature of the soil. And post recommendations, the farmers use fertilisers and other chemicals accordingly. 

This reduces cost and increases production. In the first two-year (2015-17) of the Soil Health Card scheme, 2.53 million samples were collected and so far 93 percent samples have been tested. About 14 crore Soil Health Cards are being created by the State Governments and till May 31 it has been distributed among 8 crore farmers.

In the next three months, the rest of the farmers will receive their Soil Health Cards. So far, the country has yielded positive results from Soil Health Card. 

The response from farmers of 136 districts of 16 states is as follows: 

1. Consumption of nitrogen fertilisers has decreased and the consumption of phosphorus potash and micronutrients has increased.

2. There has been 16 to 25 percent reduction in the cost of paddy farming and 10 to 15 percent reduction in pulses and oilseeds farming.

3. There has been 10 to 25 percent increase in the production of paddy, 10 to 15 percent in the production of coarse cereals, 10 to 30 percent in pulses, and 35 to 66 percent in the production of oilseeds.   

Ireland's governing Fine Gael party elected Leo Varadkar as its new leader on Friday, choosing the gay, 38-year-old son of an Indian immigrant to succeed Enda Kenny as prime minister in a striking sign of the country's rapid social change.

Varadkar, 38-year-old son of an Indian immigrant, succeeds Enda Kenny as prime minister in a striking sign of the country's rapid social change.

Varadkar overcame ministerial colleague Simon Coveney as expected, winning an overwhelming majority among the centre-right party's lawmakers who hope the straight-talking Dubliner can lead them to third successive term for the first time.

Bar an unexpected development, Varadkar will be voted in as prime minister when parliament next sits on June 13 and become the once-staunchly Catholic country's first openly gay premier and the youngest person ever to hold the office.

His election marks another chapter in the social change that has swept through the country of 4.6 million people that only decriminalised homosexuality in 1993 but became the first country to adopt gay marriage via a popular vote in 2015. It also shows another face of modern-day Ireland.

Varadkar's father Ashok, who like his son is a doctor, was born in Mumbai in India. He met his wife Miriam, an Irish nurse, in England in the 1970s before moving to Ireland where Varadkar was born.

The generational shift from Kenny, 66, who led the party for 15 years and has been prime minister since 2011, will likely be matched with Varadkar's cabinet choices.

Paschal Donohoe, 42, is expected to be promoted to finance minister, replacing the retiring Michael Noonan.Varadkar's opponents, who hope his blunt style will prove a liability rather than an asset to Fine Gael, were quick to claim that the current social protection minister -- who recently led a campaign against "welfare cheats" -- would move the government to the right.

India and Russia have linked 5 pacts after extensive talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin during the Prime Minister's visit to Russia.

Agreements between the countries:

1. An agreement on cultural exchanges for a period of two years (2017-2019) has been signed between the two nations.

2. An agreement for the construction of the third stage of the Kudankulam NPP (KK5 & KK6) along with the Credit Protocol has been signed between NPCIL and ROSATOM.

3. An agreement between the Federal Service for Intellectual Property (Rospatent) and the Council of India on Scientific and Industrial Research has been signed to provide access to Rospatent experts to the Indian Digital Library of Traditional Knowledge (TKDL).

4. Contract between JSC (Russian Railways) and the Ministry of Railways on the preparation of the justification for the implementation of the high-speed service at the Nagpur-Secunderabad section has been signed.

5. Memorandum of cooperation between ALROSA Joint Stock Company and the Council for the Promotion of the Export of Precious Stones and Jewellery of India has been signed.

Other deals between India and Russia:

1. India and Russia have agreed to hold the first tri-Services exercises, named 'Indra-2017', this year.

2. Both the countries have also decided to  begin joint manufacturing of frigates and co-production of Kamov-226 military helicopters.

3. Of all the agreements, the agreement on setting up of Units 5 and 6 of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP) in Tamil Nadu with the Russian help was a much-awaited agreement.

4. The reactors will be built by India's Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) and Russia's Atomstroyexport Company, which is a subsidiary of Rosatom. Rosatom is the regulatory body of the Russian nuclear complex. The two units will have a capacity to produce 1,000 MW of power.

An 'Action Plan' has also been devised for speeding up the bilateral cooperation in all fields by the two countries.

NASA is set to launch the world's first mission to the Sun next year, that will explore our star's atmosphere and answer questions about solar physics that have puzzled scientists for over six decades. "This is the first time NASA has named a spacecraft for a living individual," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. 

The spacecraft, about the size of a small car, is loaded with technological breakthroughs that will solve many of the largest mysteries about our star, including finding out why the Sun's corona is so much hotter than its surface. 

Parker Solar Probe will travel through the Sun's atmosphere, closer to the surface than any spacecraft before it, facing brutal heat and radiation conditions - and ultimately providing humanity with the closest-ever observations of a star, NASA said. 

To perform these unprecedented investigations, the spacecraft and instruments will be protected from the Sun's heat by a 4.5-inch-thick carbon-composite shield. 

The spacecraft is set to be launched during a 20-day window that opens on July 31, 2018 from NASA's Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. 

"The solar probe is going to a region of space that has never been explored before," said Parker, Professor at the University of Chicago in the US. 

"It is very exciting that we will finally get a look. One would like to have some more detailed measurements of what is going on in the solar wind. I am sure that there will be some surprises. There always are," Parker said. 

In the 1950s, Parker proposed a number of concepts about how stars - including our Sun - give off energy. 

He called this cascade of energy the solar wind, and he described an entire complex system of plasmas, magnetic fields and energetic particles that make up this phenomenon. 

Parker also theorised an explanation for the superheated solar atmosphere, the corona, which is - contrary to what was expected by physics laws - hotter than the surface of the Sun itself. 

Many NASA missions have continued to focus on this complex space environment defined by our star - a field of research known as heliophysics. 

"Parker Solar Probe is going to answer questions about solar physics that we have puzzled over for more than six decades," said Parker Solar Probe Project Scientist Nicola Fox, of the Johns Hopkins University.

Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF) recently signed an agreement with Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for fodder acreage assessment using satellite observation and space technology.

GCMMF markets its products under the brand name of Amul.

Important features of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU):

1. ISRO will help in identification between food crops and fodder crops at village level

2. The space agency will also locate suitable areas of current fallows and cultivable wastelands at village level for green fodder cultivation, GCMMF said in a release, according to PTI.

3. Amul and Space Applications Centre (SAC), ISRO, had earlier carried out a joint pilot that revealed that using remote sensing to assess green fodder availability for dairy livestock at district and village level through remote sensing is feasible

4. Fodder acreage estimation would act as a decision making tool for monitoring and planning of fodder development activities by the stakeholders in the dairy sector, the release stated

Currently, Amul procures around 150 lakh litres of milk daily from around 35 lakh milk producer members from over 18,500 villages.

Benefit for Amul

The milk producer farmers of Gujarat will get benefit of fodder cultivation by using this technology."The development and growth of dairy animals are highly associated with the scope of availability of fodder from cultivable land, forest, pastures and grazing lands, which are crucial input for enhancing milk production and for survival of the bovine population," said R S Sodhi, GCMMF Managing Director.

Union Public Service Commission declared the final results of civil services examination 2016 on its official website on May 31, 2017. Karnataka girl Nandini KR has topped the examination. Nandini belongs to the OBC category. She qualified the examination with Kannada Literature as her optional subject. She is civil engineering graduate from MS Ramaiah Institute of Technology in Bangalore.

Anmol Sher Singh Bedi has secured the second position followed by Gopalkrishna Ronanki, Saumya Pandey, Abhilash Mishra and Kothamasu Dinesh Kumar.

As many as 1,099 candidates have been recommended for various government services. There are 220 other candidates in the waiting list.

The civil services examination is conducted by the UPSC annually in three stages-- preliminary, main and interview -- to select officers for the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS) and Indian Police Service (IPS) among others.

PTI quoted the topper saying she always wanted to be an IAS officer. In the 2015 also, Delhi girl Tina Dabi had topped the exam.

In 2015, Delhi’s Tina Dabi had topped the exam.

As many as 180 successful candidates will be appointed in the IAS, 45 in the IFS, 150 in the IPS and 834 in other central group A and B services.

Among the successful candidates, 500 belong to the general category, 347 to the Other Backward Class category followed by 163 from Scheduled Castes and 89 from Scheduled Tribe categories.

Civil services Results 2016

Preliminary exam was conducted on August 7 last year.

In all, 11,35,943 candidates applied for preliminary exam but only 4,59,659 candidates actually appeared. Following the preliminary exam, 15,452 candidates qualified for appearance in the written (main) examination that was held in December, 2016.

Only 2,961 candidates qualified for the personality test.

Among the successful 1099 candidates, 846 are males and 253 females. They also include 44 physically handicapped candidates (22 orthopedically handicapped, seven visually challenged and 15 hearing impaired).

Female candidate Nandini KR topped the exam. She belongs to OBC category. She qualified the examination with Kannada Literature as her optional subject. She is civil engineering graduate from MS Ramaiah Institute of Technology in Bangalore.

Anmol Sher Singh Bedi, overall rank second but topper among male candidates. He is computer science graduate from BITS, Pilani.

Among the top 25 candidates comprise of 18 men and seven women.

Civil Services Examination, 2016- Highlights 

The final results of Civil Services Examination (CSE), 2016 has been declared today. The following are the highlights of the result: 

Ø   The Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination, 2016 was conducted on 7th August, 2016. 11,35,943 candidates applied for this examination, out of which 4,59,659 candidates actually appeared. 15,452 candidates qualified for appearance in the Written (Main) Examination held in December, 2016. Of these, 2,961 candidates qualified for the Personality Test conducted in March-May, 2016. 

Ø   A total of 1099 candidates (846 men and 253 women) including 44 Physically Handicapped candidates (22 Orthopedically Handicapped; 07 Visually Challenged and 15 Hearing Impaired) have been recommended by the Commission for appointment to various Services. 

Ø   A female candidate Ms. Nandini K.R. (Roll No. 134810) has topped the Civil Services Examination, 2016. She belongs to OBC category. She qualified the examination with Kannada Literature as her optional subject. She has graduated with BE (Civil Engg) degree from M.S. Ramaiah Institute of Technology, Bangalore. 

Ø   Shri Anmol Sher Singh Bedi (Roll No. 561724) is the topper among male candidates securing overall second rank. He has graduated with B.E. degree in Computer Science from BITS, Pilani. 

Ø   The top 25 candidates comprise of 18 men and 07 women. 

Ø   Educational qualification-wise the top 25 candidates comprise candidates belonging to Engineering; Sciences; Economics and Forestry background graduating from premier Institutions of the country such as IITs, NIT, ISM, BITS Pilani, VIT, MSRIT, DCE, DU, Anna University etc. 

Ø   Optional subjects of the top 25 candidates in the examination ranged from Animal Husbandry & Vet. Science, Anthropology, Economics, Elect. Engg, Geography, History, Mathematics, Political Science & International Relations, Public Administration, Psychology and Kannada & Telugu Literature.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will soon introduce currency notes of one rupee denomination, the central bank confirmed in a press release on May 30, 2017.

The notes, which have already been printed by the Government of India, are legal tender under the Coinage Act, 2011.

The existing currency notes in this denomination in circulation will also continue to be legal tender, the RBI stated.

The new note will have an overall colour scheme of pink and green on the obverse and reverse, in combination with other colours. The note will have the bilingual signature of Shaktikanta Das, Secretary, Ministry of Finance. It will contain the words ‘Government of India’ and ‘भारत सरकार’  and have the replica of the new one rupee coin with the ‘₹’ symbol of 2017.

‘सत्‍यमेव जयते’, the words printed on all of India’s currency notes, will be featured as well.The surrounding design of the note consists of a picture of ‘Sagar Samrat’, the oil exploration platform in Maharashtra. An inset letter in capitals, ‘L’ will also be printed on the note. Apart from this, the Ashoka Pillar, a hidden number ‘1’ and the hidden word ‘भारत’ will be printed on the note.

Following demonetisation, which was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year in November, the RBI has released two other currency notes of the Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 denominations. Both were introduced to curb the circulation of fake currency.

Apart from this, the central bank withdrew Rs 1,000 notes and the older version of the Rs 500 note from circulation.The Rs 2,000 note has a picture of Mangalyan, which is the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Mars Orbiter Mission. It also has a Swachh Bharat logo with the slogan. The Rs 500 currency note has the image of Red Fort printed on it.

Amitabh Bachchan is the brand ambassador of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and as a part of the campaign, he launched the Darwaja Band initiative on May 30, 2017. The new campaign has been launched to promote the use of toilets and change the habit of men who defecate in open.

Mr. Bachchan was joined by chief minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis. One of the senior government officers involved in the program said, “Darwaja Band stands for shutting the door on open defecation. Darwaja Band stands for shutting the door on open defecation”. Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma is also a part of the campaign and will soon be seen spreading awareness among women to use toilets, a problem which is prevalent in rural areas.

Before the launch, Sr. Bachchan posted a series of Tweets in support of the campaign. One of the Tweets read, “India has vowed to end open defection. Spread the message of cleanliness through Darwaza Band & support Swachh Bharat..I do!!” The campaign will be published and rolled out on various platforms including TV, radio as well as print advertisements.
A statement released from the government reads, “Behaviour change has been the focus of Swachh Bharat Mission, which is being pursued through a countrywide comprehensive IEC (Information-Education-Communication) programme”.

On 29th May 2017 India and Fiji signed an agreement that provides for stepping up defence and security ties including in defence production and military training. The deal was signed after defence minister Arun Jaitley held extensive talks with his Fijian counterpart Ratu Inoke Kubuabola during which they also agreed to deepen cooperation in maritime security sphere.
“The two ministers also discussed expanded defence partnership in maritime security between both the countries, and naval cooperation was identified as an area of promise,” the defence ministry said.

It said the MoU on defence cooperation envisages several areas of cooperation including in defence industry, military training and humanitarian assistance and disaster management.

Kubuabola was given a Tri-Services guard of honour at the lawns of South Block.

Earlier, the visiting minister laid a wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti.

Earlier in the day, Kubuabola visited the Western Naval Command in Mumbai.

Satyabrata Rout, a professor from the Department of Theatre Arts, S N School of Arts and Communication, University of Hyderabad (UoH) has been awarded Sangeet Natak Akademi Puraskar for the year 2016.

According to a release issued here on May 29, 2017, Rout has developed "a unique method of teaching and practising direction and design, which has been achieved through a long and continuous work experience with eminent theatre practitioners and scholars''.

He was one of the pioneers of ‘visual theatre’ in India, and has ‘Scenography: An Indian Perspective’. He has directed a number of plays, participated in national and international theatre festivals and conducted numerous theatre workshops across the globe.

The Sangeet Natak Akademi Puraskar (Akademi Award) is an award given by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, India’s National Academy of Music, Dance & Drama.

India and Spain today signed seven agreements, including on cyber security and technical cooperation in civil aviation, during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the European country. The agreements were signed after Prime Minister Modi held wide-ranging talks with Spanish President Mariano Rajoy at the Moncloa Palace in the Spanish capital. 

The two sides agreements on transfer of sentenced persons and visa waiver for holders of diplomatic passports. Five MoUs were signed between the two countries on cooperation in organ transplantation, cyber security, renewable energy, civil aviation and one between India's Foreign Service Institute and Diplomatic Academy of Spain. 

Modi, the first Indian prime minister to visit Spain since 1988, praised the Spanish president saying under Rajoy's leadership the country has undergone economic reforms "which is also the biggest priority of my government." Spain is India's seventh largest trading partner in the European Union. Two-way trade totalled USD 5.27 billion in 2016. 

Modi encouraged Spanish infrastructure, tourism, energy and defense companies to invest in priority sectors in India, saying "It's a great time for Spanish companies to invest in India."

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) announced its result for class 12th on May 28, 2017. Raksha Gopal of Amity International School Noida topped the board exam by securing 99.6% in class 12th.

Raksha Gopal, a student of Amity International School in Noida, topped with 498 out of 500, followed by Bhoomi Sawant of DAV Chandigarh with 497 and Aditya Jain and Mannat Luthra of Bhawan's Chandigarh with 496 each.

Speaking about her strategy to top the tuff exams, Raksha said her aim was not getting the top grade rather her aim was to do well in the exams. Her teachers helped her a lot by giving her test papers and solving her doubts, and her parents were very happy for her achievement, she added.

Bhumi Sawant De from DAV Public School Chandigarh stood second with 99.4% and Aditya Jain from Bhawan Vidyalaya Chandigarh tied third with Mannat Luthra at 99.2%. Earlier, HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar after getting CBSE exams result information spoke to the toppers and congratulated them.

Over 10.20 lakh students who had appeared for the 2017 Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) Class XII examinations this year found out their fates on Sunday, with the results being announced. The highest pass percentage was seen in the CBSE's Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram) region, with 95.62% of the students who appeared for the examinations passing. The Chennai region came in second with 92.60%, followed by Delhi with 88.37% pass percentage. Students in the Delhi region fared slightly better than in 2016, when the pass percentage was 87.01%.

The number of students who passed the examinations fell from 83.05% in 2016 to 82.02% this year, according to a statement by the CBSE. The exams, held between March 9 and April 29, covered 10,673 schools at 3,504 exam centres. A total of 63,247 students and 10,091 students scored above 90% and 95% respectively.

Like previous years, girls out-performed boys, with 87.5% pass percentage as opposed to boys' 78%. A total of 2,449 differently-abled students appeared for the exams and 86.69% passed.

WannaCry malicious software has hit Britain’s National Health Service, some of Spain’s largest companies including Telefónica, as well as computers across Russia, the Ukraine and Taiwan, leading to PCs and data being locked up and held for ransom.

The ransomware uses a vulnerability first revealed to the public as part of a leaked stash of NSA-related documents in order to infect Windows PCs and encrypt their contents, before demanding payments of hundreds of dollars for the key to decrypt files.

The co-ordinated attack had managed to infect large numbers of computers across the health service less than six hours after it was first noticed by security researchers, in part due to its ability to spread within networks from PC to PC
The ransomware has already caused hospitals across England to divert emergency patients – but what is it, how does it spread and why is this happening in the first place?

What is ransomware?

Ransomware is a particularly nasty type of malware that blocks access to a computer or its data and demands money to release it.

How does it work?

When a computer is infected, the ransomware typically contacts a central server for the information it needs to activate, and then begins encrypting files on the infected computer with that information. Once all the files are encrypted, it posts a message asking for payment to decrypt the files – and threatens to destroy the information if it doesn’t get paid, often with a timer attached to ramp up the pressure.

How does it spread?

Most ransomware is spread hidden within Word documents, PDFs and other files normally sent via email, or through a secondary infection on computers already affected by viruses that offer a back door for further attacks.

What is WannaCry?

The malware that has affected Telefónica in Spain and the NHS in Britain is the same software: a piece of ransomware first spotted in the wild by security researchers MalwareHunterTeam, at 9.45am on 12 May.

Less than four hours later, the ransomware had infected NHS computers, albeit originally only in Lancashire, and spread laterally throughout the NHS’s internal network. It is also being called WanaCrypt0r 2.0, Wanna Decryptor 2.0, WCry 2, WannaCry 2 and Wanna Decryptor 2.

How much are they asking for?

WannaCry is asking for $300 worth of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin to unlock the contents of the computers.

Who are they?

The creators of this piece of ransomware are still unknown, but WannaCry is their second attempt at cyber-extortion. An earlier version, named WeCry, was discovered back in February this year: it asked users for 0.1 bitcoin (currently worth $177, but with a fluctuating value) to unlock files and programs.

How is the NSA tied in to this attack?

Once one user has unwittingly installed this particular flavour of ransomware on their own PC, it tries to spread to other computers in the same network. In order to do so, WannaCry uses a known vulnerability in the Windows operating system, jumping between PC and PC. This weakness was first revealed to the world as part of a huge leak of NSA hacking tools and known weaknesses by an anonymous group calling itself “Shadow Brokers” in April.

Is there any defence?

Yes. Shortly before the Shadow Brokers released their files, Microsoft issued a patch for affected versions of Windows, ensuring that the vulnerability couldn’t be used to spread malware between fully updated versions of its operating system. But for many reasons, from lack of resources to a desire to fully test new updates before pushing them out more widely, organisations are often slow to install such security updates on a wide scale.

Who are the Shadow Brokers?

Were they behind this attack?In keeping with almost everything else in the world of cyberwarfare, attribution is tricky. But it seems unlikely that the Shadow Brokers were directly involved in the ransomware strike: instead, some opportunist developer seems to have spotted the utility of the information in the leaked files, and updated their own software accordingly. As for the Shadow Brokers themselves, no-one really knows, but fingers point towards Russian actors as likely culprits.

Will paying the ransom really unlock the files?

Sometimes paying the ransom will work, but sometimes it won’t. For the Cryptolocker ransomware that hit a few years ago, some users reported that they really did get their data back after paying the ransom, which was typically around £300. But there’s no guarantee paying will work, because cybercriminals aren’t exactly the most trustworthy group of people.

There are also a collection of viruses that go out of their way to look like ransomware such as Cryptolocker, but which won’t hand back the data if victims pay. Plus, there’s the ethical issue: paying the ransom funds more crime.

Prime Minister of Mauritius Pravind Kumar Jugnauth is on a three day visit to India. This is his first port of call after assuming office and India laid out a red carpet welcome to make it a truly historic and memorable first visit. 

Apart from announcing a 500 million USD line of credit, India offered unconditional cooperation in the key area of maritime security in the Indian Ocean region. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured Mauritius of continued Indian support in other important sectors including skill development and human resource development.

Prime Minister of Muaritius Pravind Jugnauth had extensive delegation level talks with Indian PM Narendra Modi. At the conclusion of the talks, both the countries inked four important agreements in the field of education, maritime security, marine science and technology.

In the joint press statement that followed, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated India's resolve to work closely with the country which shares unique historical and cultural ties with us.

PM Modi on the occasion India also announced a USD 500 million line of credit to Mauritius.

On his part, Mauritian Prime Minister Jugnauth also stressed upon the cultural ties that bind the two nations together. He further stated that in recent times the defense and security ties have also seen an upward shift. He also said that police officers in Mauritius have immensely benefited by the training they undertook in India. 

Mauritius once again confirmed its support for the permanent seat for India at the United Nations Security Council. 

Besides the agreements, the two nations also decided to increase cooperation in a number of areas including trade and investment. PM Modi also laid emphasis on cooperation in skill development during the talks. 

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj also met Mauritian Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth and discussed ways to deepen bilateral cooperation in various areas including trade and investment.

During the meeting, Swaraj said there was scope to expand bilateral ties in a range of areas.

Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth was accorded Ceremonial Reception at the forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhavan earlier on Saturday. Speaking on the occasion, the visiting Prime Minister said that his visit to India will take relationship between both the nations to a new heights. 

The visiting Prime Minister later visited Rajghat and paid tributes to the father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi.

The Orange City has become India's first city to have electric mass mobility system. It will have a fleet of 200 electric vehicles including taxis, buses, e-rickshaws and autorickshaws, all of which will be fully owned by cab aggregator Ola. Road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari, along with Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, inaugurated India's first multi-modal electric vehicle project at the Nagpur Airport Complex on 26 May 2017.

“Electric mass mobility ecosystem in Nagpur will bring about a transformational change in automotive and transportation landscape in the country," Gadkari said at the launch of the project.

The state government is providing various subsidies or the electric mobility scheme, he said. Maharashtra has become the first state in the country to provide various incentives to e-taxis. “In support of his initiative, we have waived VAT, road tax and registration for all electric vehicles and we look forward to building Maharashtra as a model state for others to emulate in the future,"Fadnavis said.

The pilot project will commence with a 200-strong fleet, including 100 of Mahindra's new e2o Plus vehicles.

Ola has invested more than Rs 50 crore in electric vehicles and charging infrastructure, starting with 50 plus charging points across four strategic locations in Nagpur.

“Large-scale adoption of electric vehicles can bring the monumental change that we urgently need, and in this endeavour we launched the 100% EV nation by 2030 mission,"Gadkari said. The state government plans to gradually ramp up the operations of electric taxis in all major cities of Maharashtra.

Construction began in Chile on Friday on the European Extremely Large Telescope, which when completed will be the world's largest optical telescope, some five times larger than the top observing instruments in use on May 26, 2017.

The size of the ELT has the potential to transform our understanding of the universe, say its backers, with its main mirror that will measure some 39 meters (43 yards) across.

Located on a 3,000 meter-high mountain in the middle of the Atacama desert, it is due to begin operating in 2024.

Among other capabilities, it will add to and refine astronomers' burgeoning discoveries of planets orbiting other stars, with the ability to find more smaller planets, image larger ones, and possibly characterize their atmospheres, a key step in understanding if life is present.

“What is being raised here is more than a telescope. Here we see one of the greatest examples of the possibilities of science,” said Chilean President Michelle Bachelet in a speech to mark the beginning of construction at the site.

The dry atmosphere of the Atacama provides as near perfect observing conditions as it is possible to find on Earth, with some 70 percent of the world's astronomical infrastructure slated to be located in the region by the 2020s.

The ELT is being funded by the European Southern Observatory, an organization consisting of European and southern hemisphere nations. Construction costs were not available but the ESO has said previously that the ELT would cost around 1 billion euros ($1.12 billion) at 2012 prices. ($1 = 0.8949 euros).

The First India-Commonwealth SME Trade Summit that is scheduled for 30th and 31st of May is to be held in New Delhi. The city will be witnessing over three hundred business delegations from India and from across the Commonwealth countries coming together to explore and extend trade and investment relations. 

The event in being supported by Ministry of Commerce & Industry. The Summit is being organized in association with the India –Commonwealth SME Association (ICSA):  a joint initiative of the Commonwealth Secretariat, London and India’s three premier industry bodies: Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and industry (FICCI), Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Federation of Indian Micro and Small and Medium Enterprises (FISME). 

The key themes of the two day summit include topics on strengthening the Intra-Commonwealth trade, Brexit and impact and facilitation in services. Also discussions on other key areas including innovation and technology, e-commerce and collaboration in research and development are to take place between the Indian and Foreign stakeholders from government bodies and industries. 

High level discussions on policy making are to take place in the Summit. A Commonwealth SME cooperation strategy and framework is likely to be structured as an outcome of the discussions in the summit. 

The participants are keenly looking at the Business to Business meetings between trade partners. There will be pitching of trade ideas and agreements to facilitate bilateral business opportunities. 

Indian side will involve key officials from the government including the MSME Secretary K.K Jalan, Commerce Secretary Rita Teaotia, heads and members of the Industry bodies FICCI, CII and FISME. 

Also eminent personalities from international organizations including the World Trade Organization (WTO), ICSA will be present at the two day summit.

In order to promote entrepreneurship in the country, the Government of India has amended the definition of a Start-up which includes increase in age of start-up, no requirement of letter of recommendation and potential of job and wealth creation.

The following significant changes have been made to the definition of Start-ups –

(a) Age of Start-up increased: Taking into account the long gestation period by Start-ups to establish, an entity shall be considered as a Start-up up to seven years from the date of its incorporation/ registration (from earlier 5 years). However, in the case of Start-ups in the Biotechnology sector, the period shall be up to ten years from the date of incorporation/ registration.

(b) No Letter of Recommendation required: No letter of recommendation from an incubator/industry association shall be required for either recognition or tax benefits.

(c) Potential of Job and Wealth Creation: The scope of definition has been broadened to include scalability of business model with potential of employment generation or wealth creation.

Startup India was launched by the Government of India on 16th January, 2016 to build a strong eco-system for nurturing innovation and Startups in the country to drive economic growth and generate large scale employment opportunities.

As a constant endeavour to facilitate the Start-up ecosystem, the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) has been holding extensive consultations with stakeholders.

The changes are an effort to ensure ease of starting up new businesses to promote the Start-up ecosystem and build a nation of job creators instead of job seekers.

Home Ministry has made Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) the authority to grant manufacturing licence for arms, ammunition and defence items.

Home Ministry has said in a notification that all applications for manufacturing defence items will be processed by the DIPP.
Till date Home Ministry used to grant the licenses.

The secretary, DIPP has been delegated the powers to grant the licence by home ministry on May 27, 2017.

“Power to grant manufacturing license in respect of the category of arms and ammunition and defence items as per columns (2) and (3) of Schedule to the said Notification has been delegated to Secretary, DIPP,” said an official statement.

“All the interested Entrepreneurs/ Industries/Companies are requested to apply in Form A-6 of Arms Rules2016 in 15 copies along with details and enclosures as mentioned in the Arms Rules2016 to the Senior Development Officer (Industrial License), Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Industrial Licensing Section, Udyog Bhawan, New Delhi,” the statement added.

A copy of the Arms Rules 2016 is available on the websites of Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (www.dipp.gov.in) and Ministry of Home Affairs (www.mha.nic.in).

The tenth edition of the Indian Premier League has finally come to an end, and the deserving Mumbai Indians have won the tournament for a record third time in the history of the competition. For the Rising Pune Supergiant, it was a heartbreaking moment, as the Supergiant could not quite rise through to the top on the most crucial of occasions, coming home short by just one run.

The packed crowd, though got what they deserved  40 overs of excitement, entertainment, quality cricket and commitment. All these factors were there quite evident on the pitch where Mumbai Indians and Rising Pune Supergiant squared up. In the end, it did not even matter for the Supergiant as they lost the nail-biter.

Man of the Match – Krunal Pandya– The all-rounder was probably the best player on the pitch by a fair margin, and being on the winning team certainly helped his case for the Man of the Match trophy. Pandya scored a vital 47, although he could not contribute with a wicket in their defence.

Most Valuable Player: (Ben Stokes- Rising Pune Supergiant) 

The most valuable player (MVP) of the tournament went to Rising Pune Supergiants’ English all-rounder Ben Stokes, who has been one of the key pillars of strength for the side from Pune scoring 316 runs and picking up 12 wickets in the tournament.

Orange Cap:(David Warner- Sunrisers Hyderabad)

The Orange Cap for the leading run-scorer in the tenth edition of the IPL goes to Sunrisers Hyderabad’s David Warner, who amassed over 641 runs in the tournament.

Purple Cap:(Bhuvaneshwar Kumar- Sunrisers Hyderabad)

The Purple Cap for the leading wicket-taker in the tenth edition of the IPL was earned by David Warner’s teammate and Sunrisers Hyderabad’s opening bowler Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, who has picked up 26 wickets. He thus became the first bowler to win two back to back Purple caps.

Most Sixes award :(Glenn Maxwell- Kings XI Punjab)

The most sixes award was handed over to Kings XI Punjab’s Glenn Maxwell for hitting the most number of sixes in the tenth edition of the IPL – 26.

Emerging Player: (Basil Thampi- Gujarat Lions) 

The Emerging Player of IPL 10 went to Gujarat Lions’ young fast-bowler Basil Thampi, who has bowled his hearts out in the tournament picking up 11 wickets. He impressed one and all despite the fact that his team couldn’t progress beyond the league stages.

Fastest fifty: (Sunil Narine- Kolkata Knight Riders)

Sunil Narine of Kolkata Knight Riders was awarded the fastest fifty for his swashbuckling knock against the team with the wooden spoon Royal Challengers Bangalore which came off just 15 balls.

Fairplay Award: The Gujarat Lions team won the fair play award for their outstanding display of sportsmanship on the field.

The 68-year-old moderate cleric, Hassan Rouhani, who spearheaded a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers got a resounding re-election victory on Saturday. In Tehran and across Iran, there were jubilant scenes as thousands of Rouhani supporters took to the streets, singing and dancing. Rouhani put civil liberties at the heart of his campaign, and he pointedly thanked reformist former president Mohammed Khatami, banned from appearing in the media since the 2009 protests, in his acceptance speech.

'The era of extremism is over'

Rouhani also pushed boundaries over the past fortnight with his veiled criticism of the country's conservative-dominated judiciary and security services, telling supporters: "We've entered this election to tell those practising violence and extremism that your era is over."

"The Iranian people want to live in peace and friendship with the rest of the world, but will not accept any threat or humiliation," Rouhani said on state television."The message of our people has been very clearly expressed. The Iranian people have chosen the path of engagement with the world, far from extremism," he said on state television.

"Our people have declared to neighbouring countries and the whole region that the path to ensuring security is the reinforcement of democracy and not relying on foreign powers," he added.

According to Rudaw, Rouhani said, "(Iran) Is prepared to extend its relations with the world based on mutual respect and own national interest... You are one nation, have one state, want one president who can be the president of all people, and serve all people."

Rouhani's open policies

Rouhani has presented himself as the candidate of change and social freedoms, attacking his opponents as "extremists" whose "era is over". His first term saw a groundbreaking 2015 deal with world powers that ended many sanctions and a 13-year standoff over Iran's nuclear programme.

He also brought a more technocratic approach to the economy and tamed runaway inflation. But critics said he massively oversold the economic benefits of the nuclear agreement, and there were fears that continuing stagnation and high unemployment would hurt his re-election bid. His supporters hope another resounding victory will give him more leverage to ease social restrictions and release activists and opposition leaders jailed after mass protests in 2009.

Rouhani's extensive backroom experience, cultivated as a protege to the late revolutionary power-broker Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, puts him in a strong position to negotiate with more conservative forces in the judiciary and security forces.

On 19th May 2017 GST Council finalised a four-tier structure for taxation of services, 5, 12, 18 and 28 per cent, in line with what has been done for goods. While education, healthcare and third tier railway travel will be exempt from GST, goods transport and cab aggregates will attract a 5 per cent tax. Hotels and restaurants depending on their services will attract different tax rates. Business class travel by airlines will attract 12 per cent tax.

Telecom and financial services will attract 18 per cent GST, which is the standard rate for services.

Peak rate will apply on 5 services

Meanwhile, a peak rate of 28 per cent will be charged on five services including five star hotels, cinema and horse race betting.

The Finance Ministry will soon upload the final list of taxes on services.

Finance minister Arun Jaitley however stressed that consumers will not have to pay any extra tax and the impact will be non-inflationary.

Revenue secretary Hasmukh Adhia said companies will now get input tax credit for goods and services so the effective tax rate will be lower than the headline rate.

He also warned companies from hiking prices as they will be monitored under the anti-profiteering clause.
Tax on e-commerce has been fixed at 1 per cent.

The next GST Council meeting is on June 3 in New Delhi.

Chitale committee on Desiltation  of Ganga has recommended a slew of measures which include study of reach wise sediment transport processes along with establishing annual sediment budgets to guide de-silting activities, Preparation of annual reports (Sand registry) describing the previous de-silting/ dredging activity and a technical institute may be entrusted to conduct the sediment budget, morphological and flood routing studies that would examine and confirm the necessity of the de-silting of the reach under consideration. The committee was constituted in July 2016 by the Ministry of Water Resources River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation to prepare guidelines for desiltation of river Ganga from Bhimgauda (Uttarakhand) to Farakka (West Bengal).

Shri Madhav Chitale (Expert Member, NGRBA) was appointed as Chairman of the committee. The other members of the committee were: Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation, Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change and Dr. Mukesh Sinha, Director, Central Water and Power Research Station, Pune. The committee was asked to establish difference between desilting and sand mining and also to establish need for desilting for ecology and e-flow of the river Ganga. 

The committee in its report says erosion, sediment transport and siltation are very complex phenomena. It is impossible to apply a “one-size-fits-all‟ approach to sediment management and control, because the issues involved are frequently very regionally-specific. Local factors such as topography, river control structures, soil and water conservation measures, tree cover, and riparian land-use or land disturbance (for example agriculture, mining, etc.) can have a large impact on sediment loads in rivers. River control structures (such as reservoirs), soil conservation measures and sediment control programmes can cause downstream sediment loads to decrease, while factors such as land disturbance (clearing of vegetation, for example) or agricultural practices can cause increased sediment loads.

At the same time, indiscriminate de-siltation works may result into more harm to ecology and environment flow. Thus, there is a need to evolve Guidelines, better broad principles, which should be kept in mind while planning and implementing de-silting works. According to the report erosion, sediment transport and siltation in large rivers like Ganga are very complex phenomena and their estimation has inherent limitations and uncertainties. A reconnaissance of Main River Ganga on Google earth map reveal that different reaches are in a dynamic equilibrium phase. Sedimentation is mainly seen downstream of Bhimgauda barrage and near the confluences of tributary rivers with Ganga. The discharge congestion, large scale sediment deposition and its negative effects are mainly seen downstream of the confluence of Ghagra and beyond. The river flood plain drastically widens beyond the confluence of Ghagra and is estimated to be around 12 to 15 kms. The committee says though de-siltation works can improve hydraulic performance of the river and this itself can justify undertaking de-siltation, these have no direct role in improving environment flow in the river. On the other hand, indiscriminate de-silting or sand mining would cause adverse impacts on river e-flow. Recognizing the importance of sediment transport in rivers, following basic principles of siltation in rivers should be kept in mind while considering de-siltation works: 

1. Catchment Area Treatment and Watershed Development works, along with good agricultural practices and river bank protection/anti-erosion works, are necessary to reduce silt inflow into the river system and must be undertaken in a comprehensive way. 

2. Erosion, movement and deposition of sediment are natural regulating functions of river and Sediment equilibrium of river should be maintained.

3. Rivers should be provided with sufficient flood plains (lateral connectivity) without any hindrance to the flow.

4. Instead of “keeping the silt away”, strategy to “giving the silt way” should be adopted.

In specific reference to de-siltation works in river Ganga, in addition to MoEF&CC Sand Mining Guidelines, which are statutory in nature, and the GSI Guidelines, the committee has suggested following Guidelines; 

1.      River Ganga tends to achieve equilibrium on its own given the hydrology, sediment and natural bed and bank disposition. It is necessary to provide the river sufficient areas of flood plain and lakes along the river to moderate the flood level. Any encroachment of flood plain, reclamation of lakes or disconnection of lakes from river should be avoided; rather adjoining lakes/depressions may be de-silted to increase their storage capacities. The de-silting of lakes, etc., should be in such a manner that the sediment continuity is maintained and should not lead to head cut that creates safety issues for the river crossings, water intakes or river training works locally, downstream or upstream.

2.      Upstream reaches of natural constriction works, like barrages/bridges, etc., tend to get silted leading to wandering of river. Possibly river training, cut-off developments and provision of extra water way near the constrictions could be tried after proper assessment without impacting the morphology of river elsewhere. The area freed from the development in the form of oxbow lakes should be used for flood moderation rather than reclaiming it for other purposes. 

3.      In case where constriction is causing large scale siltation, de-siltation along the preselected channel to deepen and attract the flow could be tried to guide the main course of flow. The dredged material may be dumped along the alternate channel which was to be closed to avoid bank erosion. Care shall be taken to develop stable channel which do not affect the flow either on upstream or downstream. Efforts should be made to provide silt continuity along the weirs and barrages. 

4.      Embankments, spurs and river training measures provided to protect the banks should not encroach upon the flood plains and delink the lakes, flood plains and other riverine environment from the river. 

5.      The proposed de-silting of any river reach need to be justified bringing out clearly the flooding caused due to siltation along with technical comparisons of the alternative flood mitigation measures with “do nothing” or “proposed de-silting/ dredging” being other options. It should invariably be associated with sediment flux studies and morphological studies to confirm no significant adverse effect on downstream or upstream reach of the river including the safety and effectiveness of river crossings, water intakes, existing river bank / flood protection measures etc. 

6.      De-silting of the confluence points, especially with huge silt carrying tributaries, such as Ghagra, Sone, etc., may be necessary to make confluence hydraulically efficient. 

7.      Reservoirs in main river Ganga and its tributaries, particularly in upper reaches, should be operated in such a manner that first floods, having high silt load, are allowed to pass through without storage and river flows in later phases of the monsoon are only stored for use during non-monsoon season. This would require quantitative long term forecast with decision support system to be established for optimum reservoir operations. 

8.      Agricultural practices along the river flood plains should be such that it does not disturb the passage of flood by increasing the resistance to flow causing aggradations. 

9.      River morphological studies should be carried out to initiate in-stream channel improvement works. It shall be ensured that the head cut induced upstream should automatically de-silt the reach. The headcut induced should progress upstream slowly so that the flora and fauna will have sufficient time to re-adjust its habitat. 

10.  The proposal should also contain environmentally acceptable and practically feasible silt disposal plan. River gravels/sands/silts could be used gainfully in construction works, including housing, roads, embankment and reclamation works. Under no circumstances, disposal should create any contamination of the water bodies, harmful to the flora and fauna existing adjacent to the disposal sites. It should also be ensured that disposed material should not come back into the river again.

11.  In view of specific issues being raised about siltation in front of the Farakka Barrage, it is suggested that the shoals formed may be de-silted/dredged by taking care of the river training works around it. The sediment removed may be used for re-grading the Farakka Feeder Canal or may be used for strengthening the existing embankments around the barrage pond. Sediment sluicing may be incorporated to maintain sediment continuity from upstream to downstream reaches after carrying out necessary studies. The de-silting / dredging works of the barrage pond shall not cause any structural problem to the barrage by excessive erosion on the downstream. In view of this the dredging shall be restricted only up to original bed level or higher. 

12.  Feasibility of introducing an arrangement need to be studied to pass the incoming sediment safely to downstream of the dams/ barrage structures to maintain the sediment equilibrium. It shall also be ensured that the concentrated sediment flux passed downstream will not create any major morphological changes on the downstream reaches. 

13.  Any bridges across River Ganga which are causing large afflux (more than 1% of normal depth) should be modified to reduce the afflux, which in turn will also reduce the sediment deposition and erosion of banks on the upstream. 

14.  The dredging/de-siltation/mining activities may result into some adverse impacts, i.e., (a) River bed degradation; (b) Bank erosion; (c) Channel widening; (d) lowering of water surface elevations in the river channel; (e) lowering of water table elevations adjacent to the river; (f) a reduction in the structural integrity of bridges, pipelines, jetties, barrages, weirs, foundations supporting high tension lines, existing bank protection works and other manmade structures; and (g) a loss of environmental values resulting from (a) through (e). Restrictions as presented in Appendix IV of this Report need to be enforced before planning and executing any dredging/ de-silting / mining activities. These restrictions may be modified only after proper study and monitoring the effects of dredging / de-silting / mining. 15.  The Ganga Flood Control Commission, a sub-ordinate office of Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation and secretariat and executive wing of Ganga Flood Control Board, headed by Union Minister of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation with the Chief Ministers of Ganga river basin States and Member, NITI Ayog (erstwhile Planning Commission) may be entrusted with additional mandate to carry out necessary studies with regard to sediment management in river Ganga and incorporate sediment management strategies in their comprehensive plans prepared for all sub-basins of river Ganga. These integrated plans could serve as base documents for Central, State and District Level Authorities for considering proposals for environment clearances for works related to river Ganga.

The fourth highest mountain in the world Mt Lhotse has recorded the first summit in 3 years. According to reports Indian climber Debasish Biswas and a woman climber from New Zealand successfully climbed 8516 meter high Mt Lhotse on Tuesday after a team of Sherpas fixed the route to summit. 

John Snorri Sigursson (Iceland) and Cian O Brolchain (Ireland) also climbed at Mt. Lhotse. John and Cian became the first mountaineer from their respective countries to summit Mt Lhotse. 

An avalanche above the icefall section in 2014 and the devastating earthquakes in 2015 restricted the world climbers from making summit on Mt Lhotse. 

Meanwhile with the opening of a climbing route to Mt Everest on Monday, climbers from across the globe continuing their final summit to the roof of the world. 

In the first summit of this year 14 climbers scaled highest peak of the world on Monday. 35 climbers made it to Mt. Everest on Tuesday morning. 

According to Tourism Department 373 fee-paying climbers have received permits to make an attempt on the world’s highest peak this spring. This is the highest number of climbing permits issued for Everest during a single season.

Two South Indian States - Kerala and Tamil Nadu - secured first and second rankings for the second year in a row while poll-bound Gujarat gained two positions rising from five in 2016 to three in 2017 in public affairs index (PAI) in governance in States.

Karnataka slipped from third position in 2016 to fourth in 2017 while Maharashtra stood fifth (4th in 2016) in governance indicators.

There was no change in the last four positions among large States. Like in the previous year, Bihar (18th), Jharkhand (17th), Odisha (16th) and Assam (15th) are at the bottom of the table in PAI, a latest survey of think-tank Public Affairs Centre (PAC), Bengaluru, has revealed.

The survey was based on 10 themes, 26 focus subjects and 82 indicators. Among 12 small States (population less than two crore), Himachal has wrested the first rank, followed by Goa and Mizoram. Delhi slipped from third position in 2016 to 9th position in 2017. Meghalaya (12th), Arunachal Pradesh (11th) and Jammu Kashmir (10th) are at the bottom of the table.

Punjab is the best performer among all States in the category of essential infrastructure. Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat secured second, third and fourth positions, respectively.

In human development, Kerala, Maharshtra, and Punjab are top of the table while Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Assam are the worst performers, the report said.

Kerala, Assam and Madhya Pradesh secured top three ranks in implementation of social protection policies, while Telangana, Haryana and Punjab are lagging in execution of various State and Central government schemes.

The PAI said that women and children continued to be the most vulnerable section of the society. In the category of women and children, Kerala topped the list followed by Odisha and Karnataka while Jharkhand, Haryana and Maharashtra are poor performers.

Tamil Nadu secured first rank in maintaining law and order, delivery of justice and environment categories and secured last rank in transparency and accountability in the administration.

Telangana is the best performer in fiscal management while its neighbour Andhra Pradesh is the poor performer and secured last rank.

In the category of economic freedom, BJP-ruled Gujarat secured top rank while Nitish Kumar-ruled Bihar secured the last rank.

Former Chief Justice of India M.N. Venkatachaliah released the report in the presence of former Karnataka Lokayukta N. Santosh Hegde, PAC Director G. Gurucharan and former Chief Secretary of Rajasthan C.K. Mathew.

The report was based on a wide range of themes such as essential infrastructure, support to human development, social protection, women and children, crime, law and order, delivery of justice, environment, transparency and accountability, fiscal management and economic freedom.

India has climbed up to twenty-sixth position in World Bank's electricity accessibility ranking in the current year from 99th spot in 2014, Power Minister Piyush Goyal has said. "Our ranking has improved to 26 position from 99. So, it is truly very redeeming feature and satisfying for me that Prime Minister's vision particularly to take electricity to every home, particularly to make electricity access very easy, particularly to make energy affordable is being furthered very rapidly," the minister said in London.

He also exuded confidence that by 2019, three years ahead of its original schedule, the government would able to take power to every household. He said that the government was closely working with the states to see that electricity was made available on tap.

Elaborating on energy access to all, the minister said at the Vienna Energy Forum, held on May 11, everyone was actually impressed about India that has actually led the global efforts by its action to address the challenge of the planet change.

The focus there was more about energy access. Across Vienna energy forum, everyone praised that India has actually led the global efforts by its action to address the challenge of planet change.

International investigators hunted Saturday for those behind an unprecedented cyber-attack that affected systems in dozens of countries, including at banks, hospitals and government agencies, as security experts sought to contain the fallout.

The assault, which began Friday and was being described as the biggest-ever cyber ransom attack, struck state agencies and major companies around the world—from Russian banks and British hospitals to FedEx and European car factories.

The assault, which began Friday and was being described as the biggest-ever cyber ransom attack, struck state agencies and major companies around the world—from Russian banks and British hospitals to FedEx and European car factories."The recent attack is at an unprecedented level and will require a complex international investigation to identify the culprits," said Europol, Europe's police agency.Europol said a special task force at its European Cybercrime Centre was "specially designed to assist in such investigations and will play an important role in supporting the investigation".The attacks used ransomware that apparently exploited a security flaw in Microsoft operating systems, locking users' files unless they pay the attackers a designated sum in the virtual currency Bitcoin.

Images appeared on victims' screens demanding payment of $300 (275 euros) in Bitcoin, saying: "Ooops, your files have been encrypted!"Payment is demanded within three days or the price is doubled, and if none is received within seven days the files will be deleted, according to the screen message.But experts and government alike warn against ceding to the hackers' demands.

"Paying the ransom does not guarantee the encrypted files will be released," the US Department of Homeland Security's computer emergency response team said."It only guarantees that the malicious actors receive the victim's money, and in some cases, their banking information.

Experts and officials offered differing estimates of the scope of the attacks, but all agreed it was huge.

Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at the Helsinki-based cyber security company F-Secure, told AFP it was the biggest ransomware outbreak in history, saying that 130,000 systems in more than 100 countries had been affected. He said Russia and India were hit particularly hard, largely because Microsoft's Windows XP—one of the operating systems most at risk—was still widely used there.

French police said there were "more than 75,000 victims" around the globe, but cautioned that the number could increase "significantly".

The virus spread quickly because the culprits used a digital code believed to have been developed by the US National Security Agency—and subsequently leaked as part of a document dump, according to researchers at the Moscow-based computer security firm Kaspersky Lab.Microsoft said the situation was "painful" and that it was taking "all possible actions to protect our customers".

It issued guidance for people to protect their systems, while taking the highly unusual step of reissuing security patches first made available in March for Windows XP and other older versions of its operating system.Europe worst hitUS software firm Symantec said the majority of organisations affected were in Europe, and the attack was believed to be indiscriminate.The companies and government agencies targeted were diverse.In the United States, package delivery group FedEx said it was "implementing remediation steps as quickly as possible," while French carmaker Renault was forced to stop production at sites in France, Slovenia and Romania.

Russia's interior ministry said some of its computers had been hit by a "virus attack" and that efforts were underway to destroy it. The country's banking system was also attacked, although no problems were detected, as was the railway system.Germany's rail operator Deutsche Bahn said its station display panels were affected. Universities in Greece and Italy also were hit.

China's network information safety working group sent a warning to universities about the cyber-attack and the National Internet Emergency Center suggested that users update Windows security patches.

Shanghai's Fudan University received reports that a large number of school computers were infected with the virus.Accidental 'kill switch'Kaspersky said it was "trying to determine whether it is possible to decrypt data locked in the attack—with the aim of developing a decryption tool as soon as possible.

"On Saturday, a cyber security researcher told AFP he had accidentally discovered a "kill switch" that could prevent the spread of the ransomware.The researcher, tweeting as @MalwareTechBlog, said registering a domain name used by the malware stops it from spreading, though it cannot help computers already affected."If you have anything to patch, patch it," the researcher said in a blog post.

"Now I should probably sleep."A hacking group called Shadow Brokers released the malware in April claiming to have discovered the flaw from the NSA, Kaspersky said."Unlike most other attacks, this malware is spreading primarily by direct infection from machine to machine on local networks, rather than purely by email," said Lance Cottrell, chief scientist at the US technology group Ntrepid.

G7 finance ministers meeting in Italy vowed to unite against cyber crime, as it represented a growing threat to their economies and should be tackled as a priority. The danger will be discussed at the G7 leaders' summit next month.In Britain, the attack disrupted care at National Health Service facilities, forcing ambulances to divert and hospitals to postpone operations.

"There will be lessons to learn from what appears to be the biggest criminal cyber-attack in history," Interior minister Amber Rudd said."But our immediate priority as a government is to disrupt the attack, restore affected services as soon as possible, and establish who was behind it so we can bring them to justice."

Bengaluru teen Arjun Maini is all set to become the third Indian to have a taste of a Formula One car as the 19-year-old has been announced as a development driver for Haas F1 team.

Maini will conduct simulator work alongside his GP3 Series racing campaign. Maini has been mentored and managed by former F1 driver Karun Chandhok.

Maini, who will also be present at race weekends with the team, said that he was delighted to be associated with the American F1 team.

Despite missing the start of the 2016 GP3 Series, Maini ended the year tenth overall with a best finish of second position.

Maini earned his first title in 2007 when he won the Rotax Mini Max National Championship. Numerous wins and podiums followed before Maini began the transition to open-wheel machines. He won the 2013 Formula BMW Super Six Series in Asia and finished second overall in the 2014 BRDC Formula 4 championship with four wins, 10 podiums, five poles and six fastest laps.

In 2015, Maini competed in the Toyota Racing Series New Zealand and finished fourth in the standings with two wins, five podiums, three poles and two fastest laps – a performance that led him to GP3 in 2016.

A new series of Index of Industrial Production (IIP) and Wholesale Price Index (WPI) will be released on 19 May 2017 in a bid to bring greater accuracy and improved synchronisation among such data sets, in turn leading to better policies. The new IIP and WPI series will be released by Chief Statistician of India and Secretary, Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation, T.C.A.Anant, and Secretary, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Ramesh Abhishek, according to an official statement.

The base year for the IIP and the WPI will be 2011-12 and not the current 2004-05. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) and the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and gross value addition also have 2011-12 as the base year.

The common base year is expected to reduce discrepancies and making it easier to draw comparisons. The new series of IIP will include technology items such as smart phones, tablets, LED television and tablets.

According to the report of the ‘Working group for development of methodology for compilation of the all India IIP,’ the new item basket for IIP will include “809 products, re-grouped into 521 item groups,” 55 products from the mining sector and treating electricity as a single product.

There is more than one reason for frequent recasting of the base year for IIP in India, the working group said, adding that the reasons include that the classification system for industries and products has undergone a fundamental transformation. The new WPI series will include toys and games as a separate group.

“No child should die in the country from Vaccine Preventable Diseases” is the Goal & Commitment of our government. We stand committed to reducing child deaths and providing a healthier future to our children.” Shri J P Nadda, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare stated this as he announced the introduction of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) in the Universal Immunization Programme (UIP) of the country in a function at Mandi.

Terming this as an historic moment and an exemplary step in India’s immunization programme, the Union Health Minister added that the Government is committed to reducing morbidity and mortality in children. Strengthening routine immunization is an essential investment in India’s children and will ensure a healthy future of the country, he noted.

PCV protects children against severe forms of pneumococcal disease, such as pneumonia and meningitis. Currently, the vaccine is being rolled out to approximately 21 lakh children in Himachal Pradesh and parts of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in the first phase. This will be followed by introduction in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan next year, and eventually be expanded to the country in a phased manner. Shri Kaul Singh Thakur, Minister of Health, Government of Himachal Pradesh, Shri Ram Swaroop Sharma, Member of Parliament, Mandi, Himachal Pradesh and Shri Sanjeeva Kumar, Additional Secretary, Health, were also present at the function.

Reiterating the commitment of Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi to save lives of children against vaccine preventable diseases, Shri Nadda said that the Government has taken notable steps in the direction of total immunisation. Under Mission Indradhanush, so far, more than 2.6 crore beneficiaries have been immunized. From 1% annual increase in coverage of Full Immunization, Mission Indradhanush has resulted in a 6.7 % annual expansion in the immunization cover. “The immunization programme started with providing protection against 6 vaccine preventable diseases, it will now offer protection to our children from 12 diseases,” Shri Nadda said.

The Health Minister further said that all these vaccines were available in the private sector for many years, not only in India but also across the world. “While these vaccines in the private sector were accessible to only those who could afford them, by making them available under the UIP, the government is ensuring equitable access to those who need them the most, the underprivileged and underserved,” Shri Nadda added.

“Pneumonia kills more children under five years of age in India than any other infectious disease. The pentavalent vaccine which was scaled up in all states under the UIP by 2015 protects against Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) pneumonia. Now, the introduction of PCV in the UIP will reduce child deaths from pneumococcal pneumonia. It will also reduce the number of children being hospitalized for pneumonia, and therefore reduce the economic burden on the families and the health cost burden on the country,” The Health Minister elaborated.

The Health Minister informed that the ICT-based Patient Satisfaction System (PSS) “Mera Aspataal / My Hospital” for implementation in public and empanelled private hospitals, is envisaged to empower the patient by seeking his / her views on quality of experience in a public healthcare facility. He further said that the Free Drugs Services Initiative, universal screening for non-communicable diseases for all people above 19 years to be rolled out shortly in select 100 districts in the first phase, the Free Diagnostics Services Initiative, the District Hospital Strengthening support, roll out of comprehensive primary health care, and Quality Assurance Programme - all represent initiatives intended to reduce fragmentation of care, improve quality of care and reduce out of pocket expenses.

Shri Kaul Singh Thakur, Minister of Health, Government of Himachal Pradesh, stated that PCV is a very important for children as it will provide protection cover to all the children below 5 years of age from pneumonia and meningitis. Shri Kaul thanked Shri J P Nadda for launching the PCV from Mandi Himachal Pradesh. “This vaccine will support efforts of the state government in further bringing down the child mortality,” he added.

To raise awareness about PCV, Shri Nadda also unveiled the communication material comprising TV and radio spots, posters, banners, etc. at the event. The Ministry has planned an extensive awareness campaign so that maximum number of people can avail these services.

Pneumococcal disease is the leading cause of vaccine-preventable deaths in children under five years of age globally and in India. India accounts for nearly 20% of global pneumonia deaths in this age group. In 2010, pneumococcal pneumonia accounted for approximately 16% of all severe pneumonia cases and 30% of pneumonia related deaths in children under- five years of age in India. Introducing PCV, therefore, will substantially reduce disease burden in the country.

Tejas, the Light Combat Aircraft today successfully demonstrated an Air-to-Air Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missile firing capability by releasing Derby Air-to-Air BVR missile in RADAR guided mode. The missile launch was performed in Lock ON after Launch mode for a BVR target in the look down mode and the target was destroyed. 

The objective of the test was to assess the Derby integration with aircraft systems on-board Tejas including the aircraft avionics, fire-control radar, launchers and Missile Weapon Delivery System and to verify its performance.

The test was conducted on a Manoeuvrable Aerial Target at the Interim Test Range (ITR), Chandipur. The sensors at ITR also tracked the target and missile. 

A safe separation was followed by missile guidance towards RADAR acquired target. The flawless launch was demonstrated with all on-board systems performing satisfactorily and the missile scored a direct hit on the target with complete destruction of it.

The test firing achieved all its planned objectives. The Derby firing is a major step towards clearing BVR capabilities on LCA aircraft for FOC.

The forex reserves touched a fresh life-time high of $375.71 billion after rising by $2.985 billion in the week to May 5, 2017. Expressed in US dollar terms, FCAs include the effects of appreciation/depreciation of non-US currencies, such as the euro, pound and the yen, held in the reserves. After remaining stable for past few weeks, gold reserves rose by $569.9 million to $20.438 billion, the central bank said.

The special drawing rights with the International Monetary Fund decreased marginally by $0.4 million to $1.459 billion. The country’s reserve position with the Fund, too, declined by $58.4 million to $2.288 billion.

Almost all countries in the world, regardless of the size of their economy, hold significant foreign exchange reserves. More than half of all foreign exchange reserves in the world are held in U.S. dollars, the most traded global currency. The British pound sterling (GBP), the Eurozone's euro (EUR), the Chinese yuan (CNY) and the Japanese yen (JPY) are also common foreign exchange currencies. Many theorists believe that it's best to hold foreign exchange reserves in currencies not immediately connected to one's own, to further distance it from potential shocks; this has, however, become more difficult as currencies have become more interconnected. Currently, China holds the world's largest foreign exchange reserves, with more than 3.5 trillion of assets held in foreign currencies (mostly the dollar).

Foreign exchange reserves are traditionally used to back a nation's domestic currency. Currency – in the form of a coin or a banknote – is itself worthless, merely an IOU from the issuing state with the assurance that the value of the currency will be upheld. Foreign exchange reserves are alternate forms of money to back that assurance. In this respect, security and liquidity are paramount for a useful reserve investment. 

However, foreign reserves are now more commonly used as a tool of monetary policy, especially for those countries who wish to pursue a fixed exchange rate. Retaining the option to push reserves from another currency into the market can give a central lending institution the ability to exert some control over exchange rates. It is theoretically possible for a currency to be completely "floating," that is, completely open and subject to exchange rates. In this situation, it would be possible for a nation to hold no foreign exchange reserves. However, this is very rare in practice. Since the breakdown of the Bretton Woods system in 1971, countries have accumulated greater stores of foreign reserves, in part to control exchange rates.

Definition 'Foreign Exchange Reserves

'Foreign exchange reserves are reserve assets held by a central bank in foreign currencies, used to back liabilities on their own issued currency as well as to influence monetary policy.

The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) has decided to share online scores of candidates taking competitive exams. This is part of the government's proposal to boost hiring by the private sector. The publicly available scores will act as a useful database to other employers to enable them to identify good, employable candidates, UPSC has said.

The Commission has decided to disclose information like marks obtained and educational qualifications of candidates who appeared in the final stage of examination (interview) but were "not recommended", it said. These details will be linked to the Integrated Information System for Public Recruitment Agencies -- a dedicated website being developed by the National Informatics Centre (NIC).

UPSC will be making a provision in the application form so candidates can either opt in or out of the disclosure scheme.

The central government had last year approved a Niti Ayog proposal to make scores and ranking of candidates in recruitment examinations available through a portal for increasing access of the unemployed to job opportunities. The move had come after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said in March last year said that scores of candidates taking competitive examinations will be shared with prospective employers to help them choose quality talent.

Results of government entrance examinations for engineering and medical colleges are already being used by private colleges for admissions. As per the NIC proposal, each recruiting agency will develop its own web page. Details like name, date of birth, category (whether SC, ST or physically handicapped) educational qualifications, total marks obtained in the written examination and interview based on which merit is formed, address, e-mail id and mobile number for only those candidates who have appeared in the final stage of examination but were not recommended will be made online for other recruitment agencies. 

A five-judge Constitution bench of Supreme Court began its hearing on a plea that the triple talaq and nikah halala violated Muslim women's rights to equality and dignity, and are not protected by the right to profess, practice and propagate religion under Constitution's Article 25(1). The Constitution bench comprising Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar, Justice Kurian Joseph, Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman, Justice Uday Umesh Lalit and Justice S Abdul Nazeer are expected to hear the matter for seven days. The five judges belong to five different faiths.

The Supreme Court would examine whether triple talaq is fundamental to Islam and also whether the practice is part of the enforceable fundamental rights as guaranteed in the Constitution.

The Supreme Court made it clear that it is not going to hear the issue of polygamy in the triple talaq case. The hearing will go on for seven days.

Triple Talaq is a form of oral divorce practiced in India, where the husband declares his intent to divorce the wife by speaking the word Talaq three times. The Supreme Court of India described it as the "worst form of marriage dissolution". The custom is banned in Muslim-majority countries Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

On 8 December 2016, the Allahabad High court in a ruling, has observed that the practice of 'Triple Talaq' is unconstitutional and violates the rights of Muslim women.

The practice has faced opposition from various Muslim women. Some of them have filed PIL in Supreme Court of India against the practice terming it as "regressive". The petitioner has asked for scrapping of section 2 of the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937, terming it against the Article 14 of the Constitution. A havana was organised by All India Hindu Mahasabha in Aligarh on 14 April 2017, which was attended by two Muslim women, who claim to be the victims of Triple Talaq.

The Bharatiya Janata Party led Government of Uttar Pradesh is constituting a high level committee of ministers, representatives of Muslim women’s organisations and women who have been given talaq to address the issue.

Support

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) defends the practice. In April 2017, citing a report prepared by Muslim Mahila Research Kendra in coordination with Shariah Committee for Women, AIMPLB has claimed that Muslims have a lower rate of divorce compared to other religious communities, countering the argument that Muslims have highest number of divorce in the country due to the practice of Triple Talaq.

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) is a non-government organisation constituted in 1973 to adopt suitable strategies for the protection and continued applicability of Muslim Personal Law in India, most importantly, the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act of 1937, providing for the application of the Islamic Law Code of Shariat to Muslims in India in personal affairs.

Measures

AIMPLB issued a code of conduct in April 2017 regarding talaq in response to the controversy over the practice of Triple Talaq. It also warned that those who divorce for reasons not prescribed under Shariat will be socially boycotted in addition to calling for boycott of those who use Triple Talaq recklessly and without justification. In addition, it also stated that it should be delivered in three sittings with a gap of at least one month each.

"Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has confirmed his participation in UN Vesak Day celebrations which will be conducted in Sri Lanka this year," Minister of Justice and Buddha Sasana Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe said, the Colombo Page reported.

The UN Vesak Day will be observed in Sri Lanka to mark the birth, enlightenment and passing away of the Buddha who founded Buddhism.

This is the first time Sri Lanka has been given the opportunity to host this festival.

Many world leaders have been invited to the first ever United Nations' Vesak Day celebrations to be held in in Sri Lanka on May 12 this year.

Over thousand representatives from India, China, Japan, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, Tibet, Bhutan, Mongolia and other countries where Buddhism is practiced are expected to participate in the event.

Ahead of Prime Minister Modi's visit, Indian Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar is paying a visit to Sri Lanka from February 18 to 20, during which a wide range of bilateral issues will be discussed.

On May 10, 2017 Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the integrated case management system of the Supreme Court in the presence of the Chief Justice of India. The system will help litigants access data and retrieve information online and will be a step towards a paperless Supreme Court.

Speaking on the occasion, PM Modi said that accepting technology can't happen if only some people are keen on it. "The scale has to be larger. E-governance is easy, effective and economical. It is also environment-friendly. Paperless offices will benefit the environment," he said.

Stating that the need of the hour is to focus on application of science and technology, Modi said, "Let us create a mass movement to provide legal aid to the poor."

The Prime Minister also said that the impact and influence of artificial intelligence is going to increase. Space technology is also becoming important.

The Chief Justice of India Jagdish Singh Khehar said he proposes to integrate the system with all the 24 high courts and the subordinate courts.

It will help usher transparency, reduce manipulation and help the litigant know about the progress of the case on a real time basis, he said.

Every central and state government department will know if they have been made party to the case and help them prepare accordingly.

The court fee and process fee will be calculated online, which will help the litigant about the cost involved. Justice Khehar said it will help the Bar and not increase its workload.

ormer India captain Jhulan Goswami has surpassed Australian Cathryn Fitzpatrick to become the leading wicket-taker in Women's One-Day International (ODI) cricket, taking her haul to 181 wickets from 153 outings.

The 34-year-old pacer took three wickets against hosts South Africa during the ongoing Women's Quadrangular Series to achieve the landmark.

With 271 International wickets (Tests, ODIs and T20I), Goswami, who was once the fastest bowler in women's cricket has been the mainstay of India women bowling unit since her debut in 2002.

Goswami is also the all-time leading wicket-taker in women's cricket. After winning the ICC Women's Cricketer of the Year 2007 she captained India. She was conferred with the Arjuna Award in 2010, and the Padma Shri two years later.

Goswami is no mug with the bat as well and averages 25.72 in Tests and has two fifties to her name. In ODIs, the Bengal-born girl has 919 runs to her name.

India has been unanimously elected as the President of the UN-Habitat, an organ of the United Nations’ Organisation (UNO) that promotes socially and environmentally sustainable human settlements across the world, after 10 years. UN-Habitat reports to the United Nations General Assembly. 

Further to today’s election, Minister of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation Shri M.Venkaiah Naidu will chair the four day meeting of the 58 member Governing Council of UN-Habitat in Nairobi, Kenya from today. Shri Naidu will preside over the deliberations of the Governing Council of UN-Habitat for the next two years.  Since the UN-Habitat came into being in 1978.

It is only the third time that India has been  elected to lead this important organization after 2007 and 1988.  

As an inter-governmental policy making and decision making body, the Governing Council of UN-Habitat seeks to promote integral and comprehensive approach to human settlements, assist the countries and regions in addressing human settlement problems and strengthen cooperation among all countries on human settlement issue.  

The theme of the 26th Meeting of the Governing Council to be chaired by Shri M.Venkaiah Naidu from today  is “Opportunities for effective implementation of the New Urban Agenda” with focus on inclusive, sustainable and adequate housing for a better future and planning and  financing sustainable urbanization and integrated human settlements. The New Urban Agenda was adopted by the world community at Quito, Ecuador last year.

India’s first integrated bio-refinery for renewable fuels and chemicals has been inaugurated by the country’s minister for road transport, highways and shipping, Nitin Gadkari. Implemented by Indian process and project engineering company Praj Industries, the new facility will play a vital role in accelerating the country’s ethanol blending program.

The new advanced bio-refinery boasts integrated production capability of one million litres a year of ethanol from a variety of biomass. The plant, located in Pune, India, is built on Praj’s proprietary platform technology, enfinity, which allows the manufacture of ethanol from a range of agri-waste.

“Our country is paving its way toward greater energy self-reliance”, said Gadkari at the inauguration ceremony. He stressed the Indian government’s dedication to fostering the biofuel industry.

“It is heartening to see indigenous innovation emerging from Praj Industries yet again. Today I witnessed India’s first 2nd generation bio-refinery demonstration plant and my belief in India’s capability in technology development as compared to the Western countries, has strengthened manifold.” Gadkari enthused.

“Biofuel is not only cost-effective, but also a pollution-free import substitute of Rs 7 lakh crore. Our government has initiated dialogues between my ministry, Petroleum Ministry and Renewable Energy ministry to present a comprehensive blueprint and is now with the Prime Minister for consideration. There are multiple benefits that can accrue to the government, farmers, industries and consumers.”

Emmanuel Macron has won the French presidential election, defeating his opponent Marine Le Pen.Mr Macron won by 66.06% to 33.94% to become, at 39-years-old, the country's youngest president.

Emmanuel Macron has never tried to be president before.He used to be a banker, before becoming an economic advisor for the current president Francois Hollande.He then got the job of economic minister, which is more senior government role, in 2014.

Despite being a minister for the Socialist party, in April 2016, he set up his own political movement called En Marche!. This means 'On the move!' in French.Many people did not agree with what he was doing and became cross with him.He ended up resigning from the government in August. He said it was "a new step in [his] battle and to build a project... that isn't compatible with being in government".

During the election campaign, there were certain things Emmanuel Macron promised to achieve if he became president, including:

1. More renewable energy

2. Companies should pay less corporation tax

3. There should be fewer people who don't have jobs

4. Children under 15 should be banned from using mobile phones in school

5. People shouldn't have to pay for glasses or hearing aids

South Asia Satellite or GSAT-9, termed India's technology largesse from the sky to the peoples of the region, was flown into space on a GSLV rocket at 4.57 p.m. on May 5, 2017. In a televised teleconference with Prime Minister Narendra Modi soon after the launch, leaders of the six benefiting nations hailed the gesture as a new face of cooperation in space for common good of the neighbourhood.

War-ravaged Afghanistan alone does not share a border with India. Its Prime Minister Ashraf Ghani said, “If cooperation through land is not possible, we can be connected through space.”

The 2,230-kg communication spacecraft will support communication, broadcasting and Internet services, disaster management, tele-medicine, tele-education, weather forecasting in a region that is geographically challenging, economically lagging with limited technological resources, they echoed in their addresses.

The spacecraft and the launch are estimated to have cost India around ₹450 crore. Its applications touch everyday life and the neighbours use its applications free of charge.

About 17 minutes after the launch, GSAT-9/ South Asia Satellite carrying 12 Ku band transponders was put into a temporary oval orbit on the GSLV-F09 rocket from Sriharikota in coastal Andhra Pradesh. Indian Space Research Organisation later said the major phases of the flight took place as planned.

South Asia Satellite now orbits Earth in an oval orbit 169 km at the nearest and 36,105 km at the farthest, “with an orbital inclination of 20.65 degrees with respect to the Equator.”

The orbit will be made circular through manoeuvres from the Master Control Facility in Hassan in Karnataka.

Soon after it was released from the last stage of the rocket, GSAT-9's two solar arrays opened out automatically and its engineers at the MCF took charge of the satellite. It will start working after all its instruments are switched on and tested in the coming days.

Common goals

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted the launch immediately. He congratulated ISRO on achieving a flawless lift-off and said the launch fulfills India’s promise of July 2014 of a regional satellite. “With this launch we have started a journey to build the most advanced frontier of our partnership. With its position high in the sky, this symbol of South Asian cooperation would meet the aspirations of economic progress of more than 1.5 billion people in our region and extend our close links into outer space.”

Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, The Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka, along with India, “will together achieve effective communication; better governance, better banking and better education in remote areas;more predictable weather forecasting, land monitoring and efficient resource mapping; linking people with top end medical services through tele-medicine; and a quick response to natural disasters.”

Apart from Dr. Ghani, Sheikh Hasina Wazed of Bangladesh; Tshering Tobgay of Bhutan; and Pushpa Kamal Dahal of Nepal; and Presidents Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom of The Maldives and Maithripala Sirisena of Sri Lanka took part in the teleconference.

Vice-President M. Hamid Ansari congratulated the space agency on the launch and enabling cooperation through space.

India's first private sector small arms manufacturing plant was today inaugurated here which will supply world class weapons to the armed forces in sync with the country's defence indigenisation programme. The plant, a joint venture between India's Punj Lloyd and Israel Weapon Systems, will produce four products -- X95 carbine and assault rifle, Galil sniper rifle, Tavor assault rifle and Negev Light Machine Gun (LMG).

The facility was thrown open by Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. 

The commissioning of the plant comes ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's upcoming visit to Israel during which a number of mega defence deals are likely to be sealed. 

India is the largest buyer of Israel's military hardware and the latter has been supplying various weapon systems, missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles over the last few years but the transactions have largely remained behind the curtains. 

Speaking on the occasion, Michel Ben-Baruch, Head of SIBAT, Israel Ministry of Defence said his country will continue to support transfer of technology to India for defence production. 

Union Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj and Gwalior MP, Narendra Singh Tomar was also present on the occasion.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval for re-structuring the schemes of the Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MoFPI) under new Central Sector Scheme – SAMPADA (Scheme for Agro-Marine Processing and Development of Agro-Processing Clusters) for the period 2016-20 coterminous with the 14th Finance Commission cycle. 

SAMPADA with an allocation of Rs. 6,000 crore is expected to leverage investment of Rs. 31,400 crore, handling of 334 lakh MT agro-produce valuing Rs. 1,04,125 crore, benefit 20 lakh farmers and generate 5,30,500 direct/indirect employment in the country by the year 2019-20.

The objective of SAMPADA is to supplement agriculture, modernize processing and decrease agri-waste. SAMPADA is an umbrella scheme incorporating ongoing schemes of the Ministry like Mega Food Parks, Integrated Cold Chain and Value Addition Infrastructure, Food Safety and Quality Assurance Infrastructure, etc. and also new schemes like Infrastructure for Agro-processing Clusters, Creation of Backward and Forward Linkages, Creation/Expansion of Food Processing & Preservation Capacities. 

The SAMPADA is a comprehensive package to give a renewed thrust to the food processing sector in the country. It includes new schemes of Infrastructure for Agro-processing Clusters, Creation of Backward and Forward Linkages and Creation/Expansion of Food Processing & Preservation Capacities aim at development of modern infrastructure to encourage entrepreneurs to set up food processing units based on cluster approach, provide effective and seamless backward and forward integration for processed food industry by plugging gaps in supply chain and creation of processing and preservation capacities and modernization/ expansion of existing food processing units. 

The implementation of SAMPADA will result in creation of modern infrastructure with efficient supply chain management from farm gate to retail outlet. It will not only provide a big boost to the growth of food processing sector in the country but also help in providing better prices to farmers and is a big step towards doubling of farmers’ income. It will create huge employment opportunities especially in the rural areas. It will also help in reducing wastage of agricultural produce, increasing the processing level, availability of safe and convenient processed foods at affordable price to consumers and enhancing the export of the processed foods.  

Background: Food Processing Sector has emerged as an important segment of the Indian economy in terms of its contribution to GDP, employment and investment. During 2015-16, the sector constituted as much as 9.1 and 8.6 per cent of GVA in Manufacturing and Agriculture sector respectively. 

The manifesto of NDA Government stresses upon incentivizing the setting up of food processing industry for providing better income for the farmers and creating jobs. Various measures have been taken by the government to give a boost to the food processing sector. With these measures food processing sector has grown at 7 per cent. In order to arrest post-harvest losses of horticulture & non-horticulture produce, the Ministry has accorded approval to 42 Mega Food Parks and 236 Integrated Cold Chains for creation of modern infrastructure for the food processing along the value chain from the farm to the market. Out of 42 Mega Food Parks, 8 are operational. Of this, 6 Mega Food Parks have been made operational during the last 3 years. Another 4 Mega Food Parks are targeted for operationalization in next three months. Similarly, out of 236 Cold Chains, 101 Cold Chains have been sanctioned recently in March, 2017. 100 Cold Chains have become operational. Of which, 63 Cold Chains have been made operational during last 3 years. 

Government has taken various other measures to boost food processing sector as follows:

(a) To provide impetus to investment in food processing and retail sector, govt. has allowed 100% FDI in trading including through e-commerce, in respect of food products manufactured and / or produced in India. This will benefit farmers immensely and will create back – end infrastructure and significant employment opportunities.

(b) The govt. has also set up a Special Fund of Rs. 2000 crore in NABARD to make available affordable credit at concessional rate of interest to designated food parks and agro processing units in the designated food parks.

(c) Food and agro–based processing units and cold chain infrastructure have been brought under the ambit of Priority Sector Lending (PSL) to provide additional credit for food processing activities and infrastructure thereby, boosting food processing, reducing wastage, create employment and increasing farmers’ income.

Indore in Madhya Pradesh is India’s cleanest city while Gonda in Uttar Pradesh is the dirtiest, according to the ‘Swachh Survekshan-2017’, announced by the government on May 4, 2017. The survey results announced by Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said while Indore is the cleanest city in India, Bhopal gets the second position in the cleanliness ranking of 434 cities.

The ‘Swachh Survekshan-2017’ ranked Gonda as the dirtiest city and Bhusawal in Maharashtra stands second-last in the ranking.

Gujarat has the maximum of 12 cities among the top 50 clean cities, closely followed by Madhya Pradesh with 11 and Andhra Pradesh with eight.

Uttar Pradesh accounted for half of the bottom 50 cities in the cleanliness ranking.

In around two years from now, the Chenab river in Jammu and Kashmir will be spanned by the world’s highest railway bridge that is expected to be 35 metres taller than the Eiffel Tower. The massive arch-shaped structure, being constructed at a cost of around Rs1,100 crore in hostile terrain, will use over 24,000 tonnes of steel and will rise 359 m above the river bed.

Designed to withstand wind speeds of up to 260 km per hour, the 1.315 km long “engineering marvel” will connect Bakkal (Katra) and Kauri (Srinagar).

The bridge forms a crucial link in the 111-km stretch between Katra and Banihal, which is part of the Udhampur- Srinagar-Baramulla rail link project.

Slated to be completed by 2019, it is expected to become a tourist attraction in the region. There will also be a ropeway in the bridge for inspection purposes.

Once completed, it will surpass the record of the Beipan river Shuibai railway bridge (275 m) in China.

Steel was the material of choice to construct the humongous structure as it is more economical and able to resist temperatures of -20 degrees Celsius and wind speeds of above 250 kmph.

The railways will also install sensors on the bridge to check the wind velocity: as soon as the wind speed exceeds 90 kmph, the signal on the track will turn red, preventing train movement.

In order to enhance safety and security, the bridge will be made of 63mm thick special blast-proof steel as the Jammu and Kashmir region is prone to frequent terror attacks.

The concrete pillars of the bridge will be designed to withstand explosions and painted with a special corrosion- resistant paint, which lasts for 15 years.

According to the plan, a ring of aerial security will be provided to safeguard the bridge. An online monitoring and warning system will be installed on the bridge to protect the passengers and train in critical conditions.

Footpaths and cycle trails will be built adjacent to it. It is expected to contribute to the economic development of the state and help in improving accessibility.

On May 2, 2017 Madhya Pradesh became the first state to announce shifting of its financial year format to January-December from the present April-March cycle. A decision to this effect was taken during the state cabinet meeting.

The decision comes close on the heels of Prime Minister Narendra Modi making a pitch for shifting the fiscal year to January-December period during NITI Aayog’s governing council meet in the national capital recently.

“The state cabinet in its meeting chaired by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan today decided to shift the fiscal year January to December. So, now the budget session of the next FY would be held in December-January,” state Public Relations Minister Narottam Mishra told reporters after the cabinet meeting.

When asked about the ongoing fiscal 2017-18, the minister said that the state government would try to finish the current budget proceedings by December this year.

“We would try to finish the current fiscal by December this year. So the next budget would either be presented in December this year or January next year,” he added.

Addressing the states during NITI Aayog governing council meeting on April 23, Modi had said, “In a country where agricultural income is exceedingly important, budgets should be prepared immediately after the receipt of agricultural incomes for the year“.

He had said there have been suggestions to shift the financial year from January to December. Changing the financial year format to January-December would mean shifting the tax assessment year, changes in infrastructure, specially at the company level.

Odisha’s capital city, Bhubaneswar, the first Indian city has won Pierre L’enfant Planning Excellence and Achievement Awards-2017 instituted by the American Planning Association. The association selected five excellence award recipients, which will be honoured at an awards luncheon at the association’s National Planning Conference in New York on May 8.

The number one, smart city Bhubaneswar received this award for good and advanced town planning and engaging its residents in the planning process. Notably, the American Planning Association honours comprehensive planning efforts and inspiring individuals to recognize outstanding community plans, planning programs and initiatives, public education efforts, and individuals for their leadership on planning issues.

In a tweet message, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has expressed his happiness on becoming the first Indian city to receive Pierre L’enfant Planning Awards-2017.

Among modern medicine's achievements, one of the most dramatic has been a steep reduction in infant mortality. Yet, even today, there are exceptions. Babies born prematurely often have to battle to stay alive. Our best technology isn't enough.

Scientists recently took a small step towards changing that. A team of doctors from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia was successfully able to bring eight premature lambs to full term in an artificial womb outside their mother’s body. Researchers dubbed the fake womb a “Biobag,” a good term to describe what’s basically a big plastic bag equipped with a circulation system and filled with a liquid that mimics amniotic fluid.

After being born at just over half their gestation period—the equivalent for a human baby would be 22 weeks—the lambs spent up to four weeks in Biobags before being transferred to ventilators.

According to the researchers’ paper, which was published this week in Nature Communications, extreme prematurity is the leading cause of neonatal mortality in the developed world—more than a third of infant deaths in the US are due to prematurity. Even when preemies survive, they often end up battling complications related to underdeveloped organs.
More specifically, premature babies most often have respiratory problems related to their lungs being forced to transition from liquid to air ventilation before they’re ready. An artificial womb like the Biobag allows the lungs and other organs to continue developing more closely to the way they would inside a mother’s body.

Obviously, though, a plastic bag is a far cry from a uterus, no matter how many advanced systems it’s outfitted with. During pregnancy, a mother’s blood flows to her baby, giving the baby oxygen and clearing its lungs of carbon dioxide. This isn’t an easy process to re-create, not least because the blood pressure has to stay within a narrow range to avoid damaging the baby’s heart.

To clear these significant hurdles, researchers connected the lamb fetus’s umbilical blood vessels to an apparatus that oxygenated them. The baby’s heartbeat was able to power blood flow, eliminating the need for an external pump.
Besides the oxygenator, the Biobags have two other crucial components: continuous fluid exchange and an umbilical cord connection. Each Biobag is a single-use, closed, sterile environment, with liquid continuously flowing out of the bag to be purified—just as a mother’s kidneys would do during pregnancy.

Finally, the research team developed a new technique to connect umbilical cord vessels to an external nutrient source.

The baby lambs that spent several weeks in the Biobags were compared to lambs born by C-section at full term, and the differences in crucial organs like lungs and brain were minimal.

"These results are superior to all previous attempts at extracorporeal support of the extreme premature fetus in both duration and physiologic well-being," according to the paper.

Lambs and humans are, of course, not the same, and this project’s success doesn’t mean Biobags will necessarily work for human babies. But that’s the direction the team is planning to take their research.

"We believe that the animal data that we have reported in this manuscript really supports translating our system into a clinical therapy for human babies," according to Emily Partridge, a researcher Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Besides helping bring preemies to full term in a way that’s healthier for them, Biobag-type technology could be used to treat babies whose mothers have an insufficient placenta or to correct congenital heart or lung issues. In general, the technology offers a way to help premature babies without causing additional health risks to mothers.

It doesn’t end there, though. The authors of the paper state that their system “offers an intriguing experimental model for addressing fundamental questions regarding the role of the mother and placenta in fetal development.”

Could the mother one day be removed from the equation altogether (after providing an egg, that is)? Is that a desirable scenario, or would it render one of the most intimate parts of life too sterile and impersonal?

It will be years or even decades before we find out, but women who have had complicated pregnancies or agonizing deliveries—or those who simply didn’t enjoy being pregnant—will welcome advancements in a technology that would free them from being nature’s vessel of life. It would pack a serious punch to gender equality, too.

The centenary of Mahatma Gandhi’s first Satyagraha in India is being marked this April. It was undertaken in the erstwhile undivided Champaran district in northern Bihar. He went there in April, 1917 on learning about the abuses suffered by the cultivators of the district, forced into growing indigo by British planters/estate owners. ‘The Champaran tenant’, informs Gandhi, ‘was bound by law to plant three out of every twenty parts of his land with indigo for his landlord’. This system was called Tinkathia. Agrarian issues rarely formed the part of the political discourse in those days. Even Gandhi was reluctant to commit himself to task in the beginning. But he was so thoroughly persuaded by Rajkumar Shukla, an indigo cultivator from Champaran that he decided to investigate into the matter.

Gandhi’s plan was to carry out an extensive inquiry in the district and demand action based on its findings. It was barely two years that he had returned from his two decade long residence in South Africa. He went to Champaran in his personal capacity, revealing nothing of his association with Indian National Congress. By his own admission, Gandhi was on a humanitarian rather than a political mission to Champaran. Nobody recognized him in the district, located in northern end of Bihar, bordering Nepal. It was practically shielded from the political currents in the rest of India. The local authorities like the Chairman of the Planters Association, Commissioner of Tirhut Division and Police Superintendent did not find his visit welcome. They unsuccessfully tried to dissuade Gandhi from undertaking his inquiry. But Gandhi determinedly began his work from the house of Babu Gorakh Prasad in Motihari, headquarters of the district.

While he making a spot visit to a village on an elephant back, a common transport in rural Bihar then, he was served with a court summon. He had been charged with violating Section 144 of Cr. PC. Gandhi received the summons without demur, but refused to leave Champaran. The announcement of his inquiry had already captivated the imagination of the peasants. His popularity skyrocketed as the news of his prosecution broke. On April 18, 1917 when Gandhi appeared in Motihari Court, he found 2000 local people accompanying him. The magistrate was thrown into a tizzy, and wanted to defer the trial. But to his surprise, Gandhi wanted to plead guilty. Gandhi read out a statement, and excerpt from which reads- “As a law abiding citizen my first instinct would be, as it was, to obey the order served on me. But I could not do so without doing violence to my sense of duty to those for whom I have come. I feel that I could not just now serve them only by remaining in their midst. I could not, therefore, voluntarily retire. Amid this conflict of duties, I could only throw the responsibility of removing me from them on the Administration………I have disregarded the order served upon me not for want of respect for lawful authority, but in obedience to the higher law of our being, the voice of conscience”.

Morocco and Cuba have restored 37-year-old broken diplomatic ties weeks after the private visit of Morocco’s King Mohamed VI to Havana. Ambassadors of the two countries to the United Nations signed a memorandum of understanding on 21 April 2017 in New York to reestablish diplomatic ties.

Cuba’s Foreign Ministry confirmed in a statement that: “Guided by the mutual will to develop friendly relations, the two governments agreed to reestablish ties as well as political, economic and cultural cooperation.”

Morocco cut ties with Cuba in 1980 after the latter’s recognition of Western Sahara and support for the Polisario Front. Cuba has since trained several Saharawis.

Morocco annexed Western Sahara , a former Spanish colony in 1975 and fought the Polisario Front. It considers the mineral-rich territory as its “southern provinces” and has proposed wide-ranging autonomy.

The UN brokered a cease-fire in 1991 and established a peace keeping mission to monitor and help prepare a referendum on the the territory’s future which has never taken place.

Polisario Front insists on self-determination through a referendum for the local population which is estimated at between 350,000 and 500,000.

Mahatma Gandhi NREGS has reached a new milestone today by geotagging one Crore assets and putting them in public domain. The scale of rural assets created under MGNREGA is very large. Since the inception of the programme in financial year 2006-07, about 2.82 Crore assets have been created under the programme. On an average, about 30 Lakh Assets are created annually which includes a variety of works such as water harvesting structures, plantations, rural infrastructure, flood control measures, individual assets for sustainable livelihood, community infrastructure and so on. The process of geotagging is going on and all assets under MGNREGS will be geotagged. Special focus is being given to geotag Natural Resource Management works especially the water related works. 

GeoMGNREGA is a unique endeavor of the Ministry of Rural Development in association with National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), ISRO and National Informatics Centre. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed by Ministry of Rural Development with NRSC on 24th June 2016 for geo-tagging the assets created under MGNREGS in each gram panchayat. Strength of Space technology has been leveraged. 

Pursuant to the signing of MoU, training manuals were developed in consultation with NRSC. Training was imparted to around 2.76 Lakh personnel across the country with the help of National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj (NIRD&PR). The training programme was conducted in the last week of August, 2016. The geotagging exercise started from 1st September, 2016. One Crore assets have been geotagged and put in public domain in the last seven months. It is expected that the exercise will lead to greater transparency and ensure accountability at field level. 

On Tuesday, April 18th, President Donald J. Trump signed an Executive Order aimed at strengthening and enforcing his “Buy American, Hire American” agenda.

President Trump visited Snap-on Tools in Kenosha, WI to tour the facility and deliver remarks highlighting his Administration’s commitment to helping American workers. The President told those in attendance, “I am proud to announce that we are about to take bold new steps to follow through on my pledge to buy American and hire American.”

The President’s Executive Order sends a clear message to the world, that his presidency will always defend American workers, American jobs, and American interests. Speaking to the many Wisconsin residents and Snap-on Tools employees, President Trump declared that “the policy of our government is to promote the use of American-made goods and to help ensure that American labor is hired to do the job.”

The President was joined by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Senator Ron Johnson, and his Chief of Staff and Kenosha native Reince Priebus. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Education Secretary DeVos also joined the President at Snap-on Tools.

President Trump is committed to fighting for American workers all across the country, and this Executive Order is one more step toward fulfilling that commitment. “We believe American projects should be made with American goods.”

On April 10, 2017, the Pulitzer committee released its 101st class of winners. The Pulitzer, which honors America’s strongest journalistic and creative work, is usually chosen from a pool of finalists selected by experts in each category (the Pulitzer jury) and then narrowed down to a single winner by the Pulitzer board.

But the board is not bound to the finalist list created by the jury; that’s just a recommendation. In fact, some years the Pulitzer board has declined to pick a winner at all for certain categories. It is, in other words, a finicky selection process that can lead to some out-of-nowhere choices.

This year’s winners included some head scratchers (okay, Peggy Noonan!), some long-overdue victories (good for you, Hilton Als!), and a few no-brainers (congrats on a pretty fantastic year, Colson Whitehead!), all of which to say that it was pretty standard for the Pulitzers.

The full list of winners is below :

Journalism Public service: New York Daily News and ProPublica, for Sarah Ryley’s series on NYPD-led evictions

Breaking news: Staff of the East Bay Times, for their coverage of the Ghost Ship fire

Investigative reporting: Eric Eyre of the Charleston Gazette-Mail, for his coverage of the West Virginia opioid epidemic

Explanatory reporting: International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, McClatchy and Miami Herald, for the Panama Papers

Local reporting: Staff of the Salt Lake Tribune, for their coverage of sexual assault at Brigham Young University

National reporting: David A. Fahrenthold of the Washington Post, for his coverage of the question of Donald Trump’s philanthropy

International reporting: Staff of the New York Times, for reporting on Vladimir Putin’s efforts to project Russia’s power abroad

Feature writing: C.J. Chivers of the New York Times, for his feature on a Marine’s life after the war

Commentary: Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal, for her coverage of the election season

Criticism: Hilton Als of the New Yorker, for his theater reviews

Editorial writing: Art Cullen of the Storm Lake Times, for his coverage of Iowa’s corporate agricultural interests

Editorial cartooning: Jim Morin of the Miami Herald, for his political cartoons

Breaking news photography: Daniel Berehulak, freelancer, for his photography of government assault on drug dealers and users in the Philippines

Feature photography: E. Jason Wambsgans of the Chicago Tribune, for his photo essay on a child who survived a shooting in Chicago

Arts and lettersFiction: The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead

Drama: Sweat, by Lynn Nottage

History: Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971, by Heather Ann Thompson

Biography: The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between, by Hisham Matar

Poetry: Olio, by Tyehimba Jess

General nonfiction: Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, by Matthew Desmond

Music: Angel’s Bone, by Du Yun

The Pulitzer Prize is an award for achievements in newspaper, magazine and online journalism, literature, and musical composition in the United States. It was established in 1917 by provisions in the will of American (Hungarian-born) Joseph Pulitzer who had made his fortune as a newspaper publisher, and is administered by Columbia University in New York City. Prizes are awarded yearly in twenty-one categories.

On April 2, 2017 Prime Minister Narendra Modi iagurated the newly-inaugurated Chenani-Nashri tunnel in Jammu and Kashmir+ as a symbol of development which will ensure the progress of the state in social and economic spheres.

Calling the 9.2-km long all-weather tunnel+ as "world class" and matching global standards, PM Modi advocated the environment-friendly aspects of the Chenani-Nashri tube. He said every attempt to preserve the environment and the Himalayas was made while building the tunnel.

Chenani-Nashri Tunnel, also known as Patnitop Tunnel, is a road tunnel in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir on NH 44 (former name NH 1A before renumbering of all national highways). The work was started in 2011 and has been inaugurated on 2 April 2017 by Prime minister Sh. Narendra Modi. It is India's longest road tunnel with a length of 9.28 km (5.8 mi). It is the first tunnel in the country with a fully integrated tunnel control system. The tunnel reduces the distance between Jammu and Srinagar by 30 km and cut travel time by two hours. The all-weather tunnel bypasses snowfall and avalanche prone areas in winter at places like Patnitop, Kud, and Batote that obstruct NH 44 every winter and cause long queues of vehicles - sometimes for days at length.

Lok Sabha has passed Constitution 123rd Amendment Bill, 2017 which looks to give established status to National Commission for Backward Classes. The bill was passed by the house with 360 MPs voting in support and 2 against the bill.

Original text for 123rd Constitutional Amendment Bll click here

The Constitution 123rd Amendment Bill tries to roll out the accompanying improvements: It looks to embed another article 338B in the constitution which accommodates NCBC, its sythesis, order, capacities and different officers. Embed another article 342-A which enables the president to tell the rundown of socially and instructively in reverse classes of that state/union domain. If there should be an occurrence of a state, president will make such warning after meeting with the Governor. Under a similar article, it is recommended that parliament by making a law can incorporate or avoid the classes from the focal rundown of in reverse classes.

The legislature had made a Commission for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes by means of a determination in 1987. It was given sacred status by passing Constitution (65th amendment) Act, 1990, prompting production of National Commission of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (NCSCST) in 1992. By means of the Constitution (89th Amendment) Act, 2003; the NCSCST was part into two unique commissions viz. NCSC and NCST by embeddings Article 338-A.

NCSC was ordered to investigate the grievances and grumblings of in reverse classes moreover. Be that as it may, in 1992, the Supreme Court in Indra Sawhney case had guided the administration to make a perpetual body to engage, look at and suggest the consideration and rejection of different Backward Classes with the end goal of advantages and insurance. Towards this, the parliament passed National Commission for Backward Classes Act in 1993 and constituted the National Commission for Backward Classes as a statutory body. As of now, this body is dependable to investigate the incorporation and rejection of in reverse classes as it were.

To shield the interests of these classes all the more viably, there was a need to give established status to NCBC. For this reason, the above said revision has been presented and gone in Lok Sabha. The bill will now should be passed in Rajya Sabha to end up act. Since the National Commission for Backward Classes Act, 1993 winds up noticeably unimportant once this bill turns into a demonstration; Lok Sabha has additionally passed a different bill to nullification that demonstration.

“Antimicrobial resistance is a serious threat to global public health that requires action across all government sectors and society and is driven by many interconnected factors. Single, isolated interventions have limited impact and coordinated action is required to minimize the emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance.” 

Pledging to work on "mission mode", 11 ministries on 19th April 2017 came together to develop an action plan to combat antimicrobial resistance (AMR), and proposed setting up of a national authority to monitor the condition.

The 11 ministries, including health, environment, agriculture and food, and public distribution, adopted the 'Delhi Declaration' and pledged to take steps to ensure strengthening of monitoring and regulatory frameworks on the use and sale of antimicrobial medicines for human and animals.

Briefing the reporters after an inter-ministerial meeting on AMR, Health Minister JP Nadda said strategies will be worked out to promote rational use of antibiotics among people, animal, food and agriculture sectors, besides curbing their use for boosting growth in animals.

The declaration called upon all stakeholders including the UN, WHO, FAO and other UN agencies, civil society organisations to support the development and implementation of the national and state action plans on AMR, and initiating activities to raise awareness and knowledge about it.Stating that AMR needs to be addressed comprehensively under 'One Health Approach', Nadda said the action plan has been prepared through extensive national consultations with various stakeholders.

"In alignment with global action plan, India's action plan has objectives of enhancing awareness, strengthening surveillance, improving rational use of antibiotics, reducing infections and promoting research,” he said.

"This is a landmark occasion. We are ready with a blueprint that meets global expectations. The challenge now is in its efficient implementation through a coordinated approach at all levels of use of antibiotics," he added.

Nadda urged all state governments to develop state-specific action plans and assured them of all possible assistance.Speaking on the occasion, Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Anil Madhav Dave stated that his ministry is conscious of the AMR threat and will contribute in every possible way.

The declaration also called for investments for AMR activities, research and innovations with focus on development of new antibiotics, innovations in diagnostics and vaccines."Recognise that spread of AMR is negating many 20th century achievements, particularly reduction in illness and death from infectious diseases, and note with concern that without effective one health and other multi-sectoral cooperation and action, AMR is predicted to cause millions of death worldwide," the declaration said.

The Government of India has extended the ceasefire with two Naga armed groups, National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Reformation (NSCN-R) and National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Neakpao-Kithovi (GPRN/NSCN) till April 27, 2018.

The decision was taken during a meeting between the Union Home Ministry officials and the Ceasefire Supervisory Board of both the Naga armed factions in New Delhi. "A ceasefire is in operation between the Indian government and NSCN-R and also between the government and NSCN-NK. It was decided to extend the suspension of operation with NSCN-R and NSCN-NK for a further period of one year with effect from April 28, 2017," said an official statement.

The Union Home Ministry team was headed by Satyendra Garg, Joint Secretary (North East), while the NSCN-R was led by Imlongnuski Chang and GPRN/NSCN by Jack Zhimomi, both supervisors of respective Ceasefire Supervisory Board.
Meanwhile, in a statement, the NSCN (IM) informed that its Cease-fire Review Committee met with the Government of India on Monday, discussing and reviewing "important issues." "After minute discussions and thorough deliberations, decisions were made in an accommodative spirit," stated the press release, and that the meeting concluded with a "very progressive result."

The meeting was chaired by Rina Mitra, Special Secretary (Internal Security) and attended, from the GoI, by Satyendra Garg, Joint Secretary (Home) Northeast In-charge, A. Radha Rani, Deputy Secretary (NE.III), Gurbachan Singh, Additional Director (IB), A.K. Mishra, senior Joint Director (IB), Northeast In-charge, D.K Pathak, Chairman CFMG, Maj. Gen. Sanjay Gupta, IGAR (North), Brig. D.S. Rana, DGMO and others, it said. 

What End Of Ceasefire Means For India And Naga Rebel Group NSCN(K) ?

S S Khaplang (L) addressing a joint rally of different separatist outfits at a camp in Myanmar's Sagaing Division
It may sound strange but the Indian government has had a ceasefire agreement with Myanmarese Naga rebel leader S S Khaplang since 2001. Reason: he heads a faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland or NSCN(K) which is active in at least three states in Northeast India. After years of stalemate, both sides thought it prudent to suspend operations and explore the possibility of a negotiated settlement. But even after 14 years, there was precious little that was achieved through talks except the annual ritual of the ceasefire extension.

On 27 March 2015, two senior representatives of NSCN(K) -- Wangtin Naga and P Tikhak --emerged from a meeting near Dimapur in Nagaland with a sense of unease. Their conversation with government officials was serious and it focused on the renewal of the ceasefire between the two sides. The duo were told in no uncertain terms about New Delhi's unhappiness over the conduct of their chief who had not only firmed up an alliance with separatist insurgent outfits from Assam and Manipur but also allowed them to set up camps and training facilities in the Naga-inhabited areas in Myanmar's Sagaing Division.

The delegates were trying to find a middle ground and they reiterated their commitment to peace and negotiated settlement. But Khaplang would not budge an inch and he responded with a statement reiterating his resolve to fight for the independence of India's Northeast and the Naga-inhabited areas in Myanmar. The ceasefire was called off and the two representatives who apparently enjoyed a close rapport with the chief were soon expelled from the organisation. This was the third instance when senior leaders based in Nagaland have parted ways from the chief following differences. Earlier, general secretary N Kitovi Zhimomi and commander-in-chief Khole Konyak were expelled on the grounds of "anti-party activities."

So is it finally the end of the road for Khaplang and the Indian government? Will this incident engender another round of bloody clashes in Nagaland as has happened whenever outfits have split earlier? There were massacres in the aftermath of the Shillong Accord in 1975 and when the NSCN was divided in 1988. More recently, the split between Khaplang and Kitovi had also fuelled gun battles four years ago.

For the uninitiated, insurgency in Nagaland began in 1947 when the Naga National Council (NNC) raised the banner of revolt and demanded independence. NNC was sidelined after the formation of the NSCN in 1980 which was also brought a section of Myanmarese Nagas headed by Khaplang into the organisation. But NSCN was divided eight years later into the Khaplang and Isak-Muivah factions. In 1997, ceasefire was declared between the government and the Isak-Muivah group and dialogue initiated for a negotiated settlement. Five years later, Khaplang followed suit by declaring cessation of hostilities with the government which led to an agreement. But unlike NSCN(IM), New Delhi has not engaged Khaplang in a dialogue since he is based in Myanmar.

At the heart of the recent episode is perhaps the difficult task of hammering out a common minimum programme for the Nagas in Myanmar and India. Social, economic and political conditions are vastly different in the two regions as are the respective governments' approaches to resolving the issues and demands raised by the insurgent groups. Efforts at combining the agendas of groups on both sides of the border had failed earlier and it was bound to fail again. Khaplang has come to an understanding with the Tatmadaw (Myanmar's armed forces), even securing permission to host his allies from the Northeast. He enjoys freedom and autonomy to run his own government. But such a scenario is difficult to imagine in India's Northeast.

If a senior NSCN(K) functionary is to be believed, Khaplang's decision to withdraw from the ceasefire seems to have been well planned. He saw greater benefits in snapping ties with the Indian government and getting closer to the Myanmarese army and the separatist outfits from India's Northeast that have camps in that region. NSCN(K) is part of the United Front of nine outfits that was formed four years ago with the goal of securing independence of the Northeast and Naga region in Myanmar. Efforts are also on to form a government-in-exile with a moving capital.

Naypyidaw (the capital of Myanmar) is aware of these developments but prefers to turn a blind eye because it feels that befriending the Nagas would be more profitable. A ceasefire agreement was concluded with NSCN(K) in April 2012 and this happens to be one of the very few written accords with insurgent groups by the army. Not only have hostilities come to an end but the Nagas have refused to be drawn into any alliance of insurgent groups in Myanmar against the army (the Kachin Independence Army had approached the NSCN-K several times for a coalition).

The Nagas have also accepted some demands of the army like allowing Naga children to be taught Myanmarese in some villages. In addition, the generals are conscious of the rich mineral deposits in the Naga region -- these can only be exploited in an ambience of peace and understanding with the NSCN(K). Gold mining takes place quite close to Khaplang's headquarters in Taga where the rebels and the army have stakes.

This apart, China's interest in this region cannot be ignored. Its involvement with these insurgent outfits is covert but much deeper than New Delhi would imagine. Top functionaries of some of these groups have been given asylum in China. When I visited these camps more than three years ago, I was further convinced about the big neighbour's intention to convert this zone into its sphere of influence. Recent developments in Myanmar have greatly disturbed Beijing, especially Naypyidaw's move to draw closer to the US and India. No wonder, the Chinese armed forces has actively started assisting the United Wa State Army in the hills of Shan state with sophisticated weaponry that include armoured personnel vehicles. It is a message to Naypyidaw that it would be willing to go to any extent to retain its hold over the country for strategic and commercial interests.

New Delhi, of course, will have to continue with its policy of engaging Myanmar irrespective of Naypyidaw's policy towards the rebels. The neighbouring country is central to the Look East Policy and its huge reserves of gas and oil would be crucial for India's increasing energy needs. Naypyidaw knows this very well and it seems to be in a win-win situation.

You probably haven’t heard of the winner of this year’s UNESCO Peace Prize. In the past, the award, officially called the Félix Houphouet-Boigny Prize, has been granted to internationally renowned figures including Nelson Mandela, Yasser Arafat, and Shimon Peres. This year, for the first time ever, the award goes to a mayor: 56-year-old Giusi Nicolini, mayor of a small Italian island that’s home to about 6,000 people.

The Felix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize is intended to honour living individuals and active public or private bodies or institutions that have made a significant contribution to promoting, seeking, safeguarding or maintaining peace, in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations and the Constitution of UNESCO. 

The Prize was established in 1989 by a resolution supported by 120 countries and adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO at its 25th session. It is in line with the philosophy of UNESCO’s founders who, in the preamble to the Organization’s Constitution, solemnly declare that: “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.”

The General Conference of UNESCO conferred on the Prize the highly symbolic name of Félix Houphouët-Boigny, the "Sage of Africa". In his lifetime, President Félix Houphouët-Boigny appointed intuitu personae Mr Abdou Diouf, former President of the Republic of Senegal, Patron of the Prize, and Mr Henri Konan Bédié, former President of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, Sponsor of the Prize.

In establishing this Prize, the General Conference of UNESCO wanted to reaffirm its commitment to peace and dialogue between cultures and civilizations. It desired to endow itself with a significant instrument so as to encourage and honour all those who contribute to bringing about a world of greater mutual support and human fellowship.
In order to achieve the objectives of the Prize in favour of peace, an International Commission for Peace Research was also set up by UNESCO. Composed of eminent figures, this Commission is engaged in an in-depth study on peace, conflict resolution and dialogue among civilizations and cultures.

India has made a quarter-million-dollar contribution to the UN programme for helping countries to hold elections and develop their electoral systems. Eenam Gambhir, a First Secretary in India’s Mission to the UN, presented the cheque to Kyoko Shiotani, Chief of the Office of the Under-Secretary-General at the UN Department of Political Affairs, on April 18, 2017.

This is the second Indian contribution of $250,000 to the programmes for electoral assistance and capacity building. The first was made in 2012.

Through the Election Assistance Division set up in 1991, the UN has helped over 100 countries with their elections. The division principally provides technical assistance for organising and conducting elections. But it has also sent observers to ensure the integrity of elections at the request of the General Assembly or the Security Council, and even organised elections in Cambodia and Timor-Leste.

You can’t squeeze blood from a stone, but wringing water from the desert sky is now possible, thanks to a new spongelike device that uses sunlight to suck water vapor from air, even in low humidity. The device can produce nearly 3 liters of water per day for every kilogram of spongelike absorber it contains, and researchers say future versions will be even better. That means homes in the driest parts of the world could soon have a solar-powered appliance capable of delivering all the water they need, offering relief to billions of people.  

There are an estimated 13 trillion liters of water floating in the atmosphere at any one time, equivalent to 10% of all of the freshwater in our planet’s lakes and rivers. Over the years, researchers have developed ways to grab a few trickles, such as using fine nets to wick water from fog banks, or power-hungry dehumidifiers to condense it out of the air. But both approaches require either very humid air or far too much electricity to be broadly useful.

To find an all-purpose solution, researchers led by Omar Yaghi, a chemist at the University of California, Berkeley, turned to a family of crystalline powders called metal organic frameworks, or MOFs. Yaghi developed the first MOFs—porous crystals that form continuous 3D networks—more than 20 years ago. The networks assemble in a Tinkertoy-like fashion from metal atoms that act as the hubs and sticklike organic compounds that link the hubs together. By choosing different metals and organics, chemists can dial in the properties of each MOF, controlling what gases bind to them, and how strongly they hold on.

Over the past 2 decades chemists have synthesized more than 20,000 MOFs, each with unique molecule-grabbing properties. For example, Yaghi and others recently designed MOFs that absorb—and later release—methane, making them a type of high-capacity gas tank for natural gas–powered vehicles.

In 2014, Yaghi and his colleagues synthesized a MOF that excelled at absorbing water, even under low-humidity conditions. That led him to reach out to Evelyn Wang, a mechanical engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, with whom he had previously worked on a project to use MOFs in automobile air conditioning. After synthesizing the new zirconium-based MOF, dubbed MOF-801, Yaghi met Wang at MIT and said, “Evelyn we have to come up with a water-harvesting device.” She agreed to give it a shot.

The system Wang and her students designed consists of a kilogram of dust-sized MOF crystals pressed into a thin sheet of porous copper metal. That sheet is placed between a solar absorber and a condenser plate and positioned inside a chamber. At night the chamber is opened, allowing ambient air to diffuse through the porous MOF and water molecules to stick to its interior surfaces, gathering in groups of eight to form tiny cubic droplets. In the morning, the chamber is closed, and sunlight entering through a window on top of the device then heats up the MOF, which liberates the water droplets and drives them—as vapor—toward the cooler condenser. The temperature difference, as well as the high humidity inside the chamber, causes the vapor to condense as liquid water, which drips into a collector. The setup works so well that it pulls 2.8 liters of water out of the air per day for every kilogram of MOF it contained, the Berkeley and MIT team reports today in Science.

“It has been a longstanding dream” to harvest water from desert air, says Mercouri Kanatzidis, a chemist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, who wasn’t involved with the work. “This demonstration … is a significant proof of concept.” It’s also one that Yaghi says has plenty of room for improvement. For starters, zirconium costs $150 a kilogram, making water-harvesting devices too expensive to be broadly useful. However, Yaghi says his group has already had early success in designing water-grabbing MOFs that replace zirconium with aluminum, a metal that is 100 times cheaper. That could make future water harvesters cheap enough not only to slake the thirst of people in arid regions, but perhaps even supply water to farmers in the desert.

For centuries, some observers have claimed that shooting stars or meteors hiss as they arc through the night sky. And for just as long, skeptics have scoffed on the grounds that sound waves coming from meteors should arrive several minutes after the light waves, which travel nearly a million times faster. Now, scientists have proposed a theory to explain how our eyes and ears could perceive a meteor at nearly the same time. The hypothesis might also explain how auroras produce sound, a claim made by many indigenous peoples living at high latitudes.

Meteors release huge amounts of energy as they disintegrate in the atmosphere. They also produce low frequency radio waves that travel at the speed of light. Some scientists have suggested that those radio waves produce the sound that accompanies meteors. The waves can cause everyday objects—including fences, hair, and glasses—to vibrate, which our ears pick up as sound between 20 and 20,000 Hertz. This phenomenon, called electrophonics, is a well-known principle: “The conversion from electromagnetic waves to sound waves … is exactly how your radio works,” says Colin Price, an atmospheric scientist at Tel Aviv University in Israel and co-author of the new study. “But in this case nature provides the conversion between electromagnetic waves and acoustic waves.”

But nailing down that scenario isn’t easy. Reports of noisy meteors are relatively scarce—there were only 40 last year, according to the American Meteor Society (AMS). And because most of these “hearings” have been made by amateur sky watchers, it’s difficult to find audio recordings to back them up. “[We’ve] never had [a recording] cross our path,” says David Meisel in Geneseo, New York, executive director of AMS. Moreover, a key question remains to be answered: How do the meteors produce low-frequency radio waves in the first place?

Now, Price and Michael Kelley, a physicist at Cornell University, have developed a model to answer that question. As a meteor streaks through Earth’s atmosphere, it ionizes the air around it, splitting it into heavy, positively charged ions and lighter, negatively charged electrons. The ions follow the meteor, whereas the electrons are deflected by Earth’s magnetic field. That separation of positive and negative charges in the meteor’s wake produces a large electric field that drives an electrical current. And it’s that current that launches the radio waves, Price and Kelley hypothesize in an upcoming issue of Geophysical Research Letters. The size of the meteor and its speed through the atmosphere would control the frequency of the radio waves, they predict.

Earlier this year, another research team presented a different hypothesis to explain how meteors make sound. That team proposed that visible light from a meteor heats up materials such as hair and glasses, which then vibrate and produce sound waves. But this theory requires a “huge” light source, Price says. Only meteors as bright as the full moon could emit enough light to produce such sound waves. But according to the new theory, all meteors generate radio waves that can produce sound, some of which our ears are capable of picking up.

Price and Kelley suggest that their model might also explain reports of “clapping” sounds accompanying auroras, the colorful light displays created when charged particles from the sun collide with molecules in Earth’s atmosphere at high latitudes. These sounds feature prominently in stories of native peoples of the northern United States, Greenland, and Canada, but they have largely been dismissed by scientists.

Manduca sexta moths dine solely on nectar, but the sugary liquid does more than fuel their bodies. The insects convert some of the sugars into antioxidants that protect the moths’ hardworking muscles, researchers report in the Feb. 17 Science.

When animals expend a lot of energy, like hawk moths do as they rapidly beat their wings to hover at a flower, their bodies produce reactive molecules, which attack muscle and other cells. Humans and other animals eat foods that contain antioxidants that neutralize the harmful molecules. But the moths’ singular food source — nectar — has little to no antioxidants.

So the insects make their own. They send some of the nectar sugars through an alternative metabolic pathway to make antioxidants instead of energy, says study coauthor Eran Levin, an entomologist now at Tel Aviv University. Levin and colleagues say this mechanism may have allowed nectar-loving animals to evolve into powerful, energy-intensive fliers.

Scientists have created a new superfluid that has a negative mass, meaning that if it's pushed to the right, it accelerates to the left and vice versa. The bizarre behavior may sound like a freakish violation of nature, but it is a phenomenon that physicists have seen hints of before.

However, this is the first time that negative mass has been demonstrated without ambiguity in a lab, said Han Pu, a theoretical physicist at Rice University who was not involved in the new research.

The newly created material with negative mass is a type of Bose-Einstein condensate, in which individual atoms move as one object, the scientists wrote in the new study.

The new findings could hold clues to the behavior occurring in the heart of ultracold neutron stars, which also act as superfluids, said study co-author Michael Forbes, a physicist at Washington State University.

Negative mass

One of the first things that students learn in high school physics is that force is equal to mass times acceleration, or F= m*a. Called Newton's second law of motion, the equation dictates what everyone experiences daily: If you push an object (barring other forces at play), it accelerates away from you.

Yet, for a long time, scientists have known that — theoretically, at least — there are certain conditions in which acceleration could be negative.

Supercool atoms

In the new study, which was published April 10 in the journal Physical Review Letters, Forbes and his colleagues eliminated this uncertainty. They cooled rubidium atoms to near absolute zero (minus 459.67 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 273.15 degrees Celsius) while the atoms were squished inside a tiny horizontal tube.

At these bone-chilling temperatures, the atoms move glacially slow, and their motion is correlated such that the material made up of the rubidium atoms acts more like a wave than a particle. In essence, it is as if the collection of supercool atoms behaves as one particle.

Then, the researchers shined lasers at the tube, which changed the state of the atoms inside. Based on the angle of the laser, it pushes the particles either one way or the other. Next, the researchers opened up the ends of the tube holding the atoms. Normally, the laser light would push the cloud of atoms to expand outward toward the ends of the tube. But in this instance, a shock wave built up on one side of the cloud, causing the cloud of atoms to contract away from the wave.

That's because the effective negative mass of the system here is inertial mass, which dictates how an object accelerates in response to an applied force; in this instance the study simply means that in certain narrow, dynamic conditions, the sign on the mass term in the equation is flipped. But energy is still conserved and the gravitational mass of the system, meaning the amount of gravitational pull the atom cloud exerts and experiences, has not changed. So Newton's law of universal gravitation, which describes the gravitational attraction between two masses, has not been violated.

Because the gravitational mass of the Bose-Einstein condensate is still positive,  the individual atoms in the material are still pulled together by gravity. So if the same experiment were flipped so it were in a vertical tube, the force of gravity could cause the atom cloud to fall toward the floor and expand, just as ordinary intuition would expect.

Scientists say they have detected an atmosphere around an Earth-sized planet for the first time. They have studied a world known as GJ 1132b, which is 1.4-times the size of our planet and lies 39 light years away.

Their observations suggest that the "super-Earth" is cloaked in a thick layer of gases that are either water or methane or a mixture of both.The study is published in the Astronomical Journal.

Discovering an atmosphere, and characterising it, is an important step forward in the hunt for life beyond our Solar System. But it is highly unlikely that this world is habitable: it has a surface temperature of 370C.

Dr John Southworth, the lead researcher from Keele University, said: "To my knowledge the hottest temperature that life has been able to survive on Earth is 120C and that's far cooler than this planet."

The discovery of planet GJ 1132b was first announced in 2015. It lies in the Vela constellation in the southern hemisphere.While it is a similar size to Earth, the star it orbits is much smaller, cooler and dimmer than our Sun.

Using a telescope at the European Southern Observatory in Chile, the researchers were able to study the planet by watching how it blocked some of the light of its host star as it passed in front of it.

The observations of planet GJ 1132b suggest that it has a thick atmosphere containing either steam and/or methane.

US scientists are set to send aerosol injections 20km up into the earth’s stratosphere in the world’s biggest solar geoengineering programme to date, to study the potential of a future tech-fix for global warming.

The $20m (£16m) Harvard University project will launch within weeks and aims to establish whether the technology can safely simulate the atmospheric cooling effects of a volcanic eruption, if a last ditch bid to halt climate change is one day needed.

Scientists hope to complete two small-scale dispersals of first water and then calcium carbonate particles by 2022. Future tests could involve seeding the sky with aluminium oxide – or even diamonds.

Janos Pasztor, Ban Ki-moon’s assistant climate chief at the UN who now leads a geoengineering governance initiative, said that the Harvard scientists would only disperse minimal amounts of compounds in their tests, under strict university controls.

Geoengineering advocates stress that any attempt at a solar tech fix is years away and should be viewed as a compliment to – not a substitute for – aggressive emissions reductions action.

But the Harvard team, in a promotional video for the project, suggest a redirection of one percent of current climate mitigation funds to geoengineering research, and argue that the planet could be covered with a solar shield for as little as $10bn a year.Some senior UN climate scientists view such developments with alarm, fearing a cash drain from proven mitigation technologies such as wind and solar energy, to ones carrying the potential for unintended disasters.

Kevin Trenberth, a lead author for the UN’s intergovernmental panel on climate change, said that despair at sluggish climate action, and the rise of Donald Trump were feeding the current tech trend.

Natural alterations to the earth’s radiation balance can be short-lasting, but terrifying. A 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption lowered global temperatures by 0.5C, while the Mount Tambora eruption in 1815 triggered Europe’s ‘year without a summer’, bringing crop failure, famine and disease.

A Met Office study in 2013 said that the dispersal of fine particles in the stratosphere could precipitate a calamitous drought across North Africa.

Frank Keutsch, the Harvard atmospheric sciences professor leading the experiment, said that the deployment of a solar geoengineering system was “a terrifying prospect” that he hoped would never have to be considered. “At the same time, we should never choose ignorance over knowledge in a situation like this.

Stratospheric controlled perturbation experiments (SCoPEX) are seen as “critical” to this process and the first is planned to spray water molecules into the stratosphere to create a 1km long and 100m wide icy plume, which can be studied by a manoeuvrable flight balloon.

If lab tests are positive, the experiment would then be replicated with a limestone compound which the researchers believe will neither absorb solar or terrestrial radiation, nor deplete the ozone layer.

Bill Gates and other foundations are substantially funding the project, and aerospace companies are thought to be taking a business interest in the technology’s potential.

The programmme’s launch will follow a major conference involving more than 100 scientists, which begins in Washington DC today.

Solar geoengineering’s journey from the fringes of climate science to its mainstream will be sealed at a prestigious Gordon research conference in July, featuring senior figures from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Oxford University.

Pasztor says that most scientific observers now see the window to a 1.5C warmed world as “practically gone” and notes that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations will continue rising for many decades after the planet has reached a ‘net zero emissions’ point planned for mid-late century.

But critics of solar radiation management approach this as a call to redouble mitigation efforts and guard against the elevation of a questionable Plan B.

The UK has now started the formal process of leaving the EU, but scientists say they have evidence of a much earlier "Brexit". They have worked out how a thin strip of land that once connected ancient Britain to Europe was destroyed.

The researchers believe a large lake overflowed 450,000 years ago, damaging the land link, then a later flood fully opened the Dover Strait. The scars of these events can be found on the seabed of the English Channel.

More than half a million years ago, in the midst of an Ice Age, a land bridge connected Dover in the South of England to Calais in northern France.Immediately to the north of it, was a huge glacial lake, which had formed at the edge of an ice sheet that covered much of Europe.The researchers believe that this lake started to overflow, sending vast amounts of water crashing over the land bridge.

The evidence for this was found at the bottom of the English Channel.Decades ago, engineers who were surveying the seabed for the Channel Tunnel, discovered a series of mysterious large underwater holes.Now further scrutiny has revealed that they were most likely caused by the lake overspill.

The researchers believe the lake started to overflow about 450,000 years ago, which would have seriously weakened the land bridge.But they think a second catastrophic flood that took place about 150,000 years ago would have destroyed it altogether.

British scientists exploring an underwater mountain in the Atlantic Ocean have discovered a treasure trove of rare minerals. Their investigation of a seamount more than 500km (300 miles) from the Canary Islands has revealed a crust of "astonishingly rich" rock. Samples brought back to the surface contain the scarce substance tellurium in concentrations 50,000 times higher than in deposits on land.

Tellurium is used in a type of advanced solar panel, so the discovery raises a difficult question about whether the push for renewable energy may encourage mining of the seabed.The rocks also contain what are called rare earth elements that are used in wind turbines and electronics.

Known as Tropic Seamount, the mountain stands about 3,000m tall – about the size of one of the middle-ranging Alpine summits – with a large plateau at its top, lying about 1,000m below the ocean surface.

Using robotic submarines, researchers from the UK's National Oceanography Centre found that the crust is dark and fine-grained and stretches in a layer roughly 4cm thick over the entire surface of the mountain.

A study led by Dr Daniel Jones, also at the NOC, reviewed evidence of seabed exploration and found that in the wake of mining many marine creatures would be likely to recover within a year but that few would return to their previous levels even after two decades.

Another study focused on tiny organisms on the floor of the Pacific Ocean in a region known as the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, which stretches in a belt south of Hawaii.

Pankaj Advani, 16-time world champion, won his seventh Asian title by defeating Sourav Kothari 6-3 in an entertaining final of the Asian Billiards Championship on 14th April 2017. The first session saw Kothari run away with a 3-1 lead before the interval.

Advani, taking full advantage of the break, regrouped and came out all guns blazing to win the next frames on the trot to win his sixth Asian Billiards and seventh overall Asian championship.

The other title being 6-red snooker which he won last year. The ace cueist left the spectators here awestruck with the sterling comeback he produced when it mattered most.

Advani had gotten the better of Kothari in the group stages with a 4-0 scoreline. However, the final was a different contest.

Advani was left looking for answers to Kothari’s form in the first four frames. Kothari made breaks of 68, 100 and 99 to lead by two frames yo in session one. Advani changed gears after the half hour intermission and came back to the table on a mission. He opened the proceedings with breaks of 92, 102 and 81, not letting his opponent score a single point.

After the 4-3 lead, Advani gave Kothari a chance to make a comeback but after being away from the table for over 25 minutes, he could only muster up a thirty break to only bring Advani back to end the frame and be one away from the title.

After the win, Advani said: “ I’m on seventh heaven since it’s my seventh Asian championship. This is a comeback title for me. I’ve come back to win this after five years and in the final I came back from 1-3 to win the next five frames on the trot to clinch the title.”

Advani now returns home to Bangalore for four days to switch to snooker before taking off for Doha to compete in the Asian Snooker Championship which begins on the April 22.

Asian Billiards Championship final: Pankaj Advani defeated Sourav Kothari 6-3 54-101(68), 89(84)-100(100), 100 (76)-9, 58-101(99), 100(92)-0, 102(102)-0, 100(81)-0, 100-42, 101(67)-0.

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has said that for the first time in Indian Railways' history, Habibganj station in Bhopal has been handed over to a private firm to be operated by it. The station building will be developed in line with airport terminals, he added. However, Prabhu clarified that trains at the station will still be run by the Railways.

As per reports coming in, Habibganj Railway station in Bhopal has been decided to hand over to private firms for running daily operations and maintenance.

Earlier this year, reports emerged that beautification of 23 railway stations would be done by private companies, but now, Railways has decided to handover complete operations as well.

Interestingly, Railways has now allowed freight trains to be run by private companies; and analysts are saying that trains would be too offered to private firms to run and maintain.

Despite setbacks and opposition from both state governments and the judiciary, the central government is not ready to give up the proposal to set up an all India service for recruitment of judges modeled on the Indian Administrative Service and the Indian Police Service.

The idea was officially endorsed five years ago when a committee of the secretaries of various central government departments approved setting up a All India Judicial Service similar to the IAS, IFS, IPS and so on.

Recruitment to the AIJS would be through an all Indian recruitment exam like the Civil Services Examination. At present, judges and magistrates are recruited by the high courts of the respective states.

It is expected that the move will also help improvement the representative character of the judiciary and make it more transparent.

At present, the judiciary in India is drawn overwhelmingly from regions and social groups that have traditionally had a higher representation in the legal profession. As such, many communities that are not present in the legal profession in large numbers due to economic and social reasons, are thinly represented in the judiciary as well. This, it is feared, impacts the representative nature of this crucial arm of the government.

“The All India Judicial Service, however is a laudable idea, which will help bring in fresh talent in the process of judicial appointment and will also give opportunity for representation of deserving candidates from the inadequately represented community in the higher judiciary,” law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said this week.

The Indian democracy is built on the principle that people from all regions, social classes, linguistic divisions and religions are to be given fair representation in the government. But the proposal was opposed or ignored by most high courts and state governments.

The center, however, is in no mood to give up, and is expected to be taken up for consultation this year at a conference of chief justices of various high courts.

So far, only 10 of the 24 high courts of India — Allahabad, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Manipur, Meghalaya, Orissa, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Tripura — have given a positive response to the center on the proposal to set up the All India Judicial Service. Nine have opposed the idea while five have not given any response.

The government was not able to sell the idea at the Chief Justices Conferences held in 2013 and 2015.

Seven state governments have also opposed the formation of the service, while eight have favored the idea. The states in opposition are Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Punjab.
Those that have showed willingness to examine the proposal are Maharashtra, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Manipur, Orissa, Uttarakhand, Haryana and Mizoram.

Some of the high courts are worried that the AIJS is being set up to facilitate the interference of the executive wing of the government into the judicial wing.

For example, the members of the Indian Administrative Service and Indian Police Service are largely controlled by the executive branch of the central government even when they are deputed to state governments.

As such, even those High Courts that are open to the idea of recruiting judges through an AIJS have therefore insisted that the administrative control of the ‘lower’ judiciary has to remain with the respective High Court of the states.

The Indian state is to some extent modeled on the American system under which the government is split into three vertical and independent wings — a legislature that creates laws, an executive that implements them and a judiciary that resolves disputes in their application.

Both the executive and the legislative branches — particularly those of the central government — have clashed with the judiciary on several matters and sought to influence it.

Under the constitution, the Supreme Court of India has the power to nullify and modify the actions of the executive brand if it finds them to be against the law.
Similarly, it has the right to abrogate any law created by the legislature if it finds the new rule to be not in consonance with the stated intent of the law, or if it find it inconsistent with a higher law — such as a fundamental right given in the constitution.

The judiciary, particularly the Supreme Court, has been using these powers more and more in recent times, making both the legislative wing and the executive wing uncomfortable.

Indian judiciary also addresses the issue of ‘absence’ of laws, where it steps in to create new laws when it detects a lacuna on the part of the legislature to create the rules required to implement a government policy or constitutional provision.

This was demonstrated in case of relocation of liquor shops away from highways — a stated central government policy.
Irked over the inaction of state governments to create laws to relocate liquor shops away from highways despite multiple letters from the center, the Supreme Court stepped in and created a new rule closing such liquor shops from this month.

Such actions — where courts go beyond resolving disputes on the application of laws to creating new laws via public interest litigation — have also irked the legislature.

Due to these disputes, many observers of politics fear the executive and legislative branches — which are joined at the hip in the British model of democracy — may be trying to make the judiciary more ‘pliable’ by ascribing a role for themselves in the recruitment of judges.

A similar effort at increasing its role in the recruitment of judges to the ‘higher judiciary’ — High Courts and the Supreme Court — was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2015.

Nepal and China will hold the first-ever joint military exercise from April 17 with a special focus on combating terror and disaster management, the Nepal Army announced Thursday.The 10-day-long military drill that will last till April 26 is being organised by the two countries as part of their preparedness against terrorism that has posed as a serious security threat globally, it said.

The military exercise named ‘Sagarmatha Friendship-2017’ will also focus on common interests like disaster management. Sagarmatha is the Nepali name of Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak, that is bordering between Nepal and China.

Although Nepal has been holding joint military exercises with other countries including India and the United States, this is the first time Nepal is holding such an exercise with China, which is increasingly expanding his presence in the land-locked country.

“The exercise will be conducted within the framework of Nepal’s foreign and security policy is part of Nepal’s aims to expand its military relationship with neighbouring and friendly countries on a bilateral as well as multi-lateral basis,” said a statement by the Nepal army.

Nepal had proposed joint military exercises with China with the focus on disaster management during Chinese Defence Minister General Chang Wanquan’s official visit to Nepal on March 24.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 14 April 2017 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.

Any citizen without access to smartphones, Internet, debit or credit cards will be able to transact digitally through the BHIM-Aadhaar platform.”

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.

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.

“The new upgrade is aligned to facilitate government’s initiative of launching customer referral bonus and merchant incentive schemes. We have added more regional languages, enhanced user experience and security features for wider acceptance and usage of the BHIM app,” said A.P. Hota, managing director and chief executive of National Payments Corporation of India.

Three new languages—Punjabi, Marathi and Assamese—have gone live on the app. This development was reported earlier by Mint on 24 January (bit.ly/2kbqHky).

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.

The GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb, nicknamed MOAB, or 'Mother of All Bombs', is a 21,600 pound, GPS-guided munition that is America's most powerful non-nuclear bomb. It's a weapon that justifies the use of the word 'terrifying' to describe its power and marks a deadly ramping up of America's military initiative abroad. Almost 20 feet long, it truly is the queen of the so-called 'bunker busters'.

The MOAB has been used once in combat, in a 13 April 2017 strike against ISIS forces in Afghanistan. Several news organizations called it the largest conventional bomb ever used in combat, but the 22,000-pound Grand Slam earthquake bombs dropped during World War II may have been even heavier.

Deployed from as high as 20,000 feet, the MOAB races to the ground at supersonic speed before slamming its way toward a hardened target through layered subterranean defenses such as native rock, reinforced concrete, and steel plates.
The 11-tonnes of TNT warhead then bursts about 6 feet (1.8 meters) above the ground.

In 2007, Russia tested a thermobaric weapon nicknamed the "Father of All Bombs"; the weapon is claimed to be four times as powerful as the MOAB.

MOAB was first tested with the explosive tritonal on 11 March 2003, on Range 70 located at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. It was again tested on 21 November 2003.

Since 2003, the MOAB has been manufactured at the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant in McAlester, Oklahoma.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi conveyed to Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina his hopes for an "early solution" to the Teesta waters dispute. But West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee may prove to be a hard nut to crack. Water is a state issue, so a deal cannot be inked without the state CM's approval. Here are ten points that explain what the dispute is about.

The Teesta river originates in Sikkim and flows through West Bengal as well as Bangladesh. India claims a share of 55 percent of the river's water.

Bangladesh wants a higher share than it gets now. Currently, its share is lower than that of India's.Negotiations on how to share the water have been going on since 1983.

A 2011 interim deal - that was supposed to last 15 years - gave India 42.5 percent of the Teesta's waters and gave Bangladesh 37.5 percent. Banerjee opposed this deal so it was shelved and remains unsigned. In fact, she was scheduled to accompany the then PM Manmohan Singh to Bangladesh to sign that deal in 2011, but cancelled the trip.

Bangladesh wants 50 percent of the Teesta's waters between December and May every year, because that's when the water flow to the country drops drastically. "The historical flow of the river at Rangpur is 5,000 cusecs, but we're getting only 500 cusecs of water now. This has affected farmers whose standing crops are withering away and also fishermen who are facing loss of livelihood," said a Bangladeshi expert to TOI a couple of years ago.

India says it has its own compulsions. "Not enough water is flowing into the Teesta to meet our irrigation needs. We have to increase the area under irrigation in North Bengal to boost agricultural production. We will achieve our target of bringing in 1.5 lakh acres of farmland," said the then West Bengal irrigation minister Rajib Banerjee, three years ago.The river is Bangladesh's fourth largest transboundary river for irrigation and fishing. The Teesta's floodplain covers 2,750sq km in Bangladesh. Of the river's catchment - an area of land where water collects - 83 percent is in India and 17 percent is in Bangladesh.

That means more than one lakh hectares of land across five districts in Bangladesh are severely affected by withdrawals of the Teesta's waters in India, said the Observer Research Foundation. These five Bangladesh districts then face acute shortages during the dry season, it added.Banerjee has in the past countered the above line of argument citing the amount of Teesta waters India already gives Bangladesh. "When we need a certain quantity of water to maintain our Kolkata Port and fulfil the need of farmers, water is released from Teesta and Farakka barrages to Bangladesh sacrificing the state's interest" she said in 2013.

Hydropower on the Teesta .is another point of conflict. There are at least 26 projects on the river mostly in Sikkim, aimed at producing some 50,000MW.

Banerjee yesterday proposed sharing the waters of other rivers, like the Torsa river. As north Bengal is completely dependent on the Teesta, she said, rivers like the Torsa, which are closer to the border of India and Bangladesh, are good options. The Torsa, in fact, has connectivity with Bangladesh's Padma river. The West Bengal CM proposed that the two countries set up a commission to ascertain the level of water flowing through the Torsa and the quantum of water that can be shared.

Loans extended under the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana (PMMY) during 2016-17 have crossed the target of Rs 1,80,000 crore for 2016-17. Sanctions currently stand at Rs 1,80,087 crore with final data still awaited from some of the smaller non-banking lenders.

Of this amount, Rs 1,23,000 crore was lent by banks while non-banking institutions lent about Rs 57,000 crore. Data compiled so far indicates that the number of borrowers this year were over 4 crore, of which over 70% were women borrowers. About 20% of the borrowers were from the Scheduled Caste category, 5% from the Scheduled Tribe category, while other backward classes accounted for almost 35% of the borrowers.

The achievements of both public sector banks and private banks have been extremely encouraging. The robust growth in bank loans to unfunded and underfunded segments is an indication of the emergence of this category of borrowers as a key driver of demand for credit.

The Union Budget has announced a target of Rs. 2.44 lakh crore for Mudra Loans during 2017-18. There would be a special focus within the Mudra Scheme on convergence with other government schemes, deepening connect with borrowers and meeting credit requirements of trainees completing skilling course.

Mudra Loans are available for non-agricultural activities upto Rs. 10 lakh and activities allied to agriculture such as dairy, poultry, bee keeping etc, are also covered. Mudra’s unique features include a Mudra Card which permits access to working capital through ATMs and card machines. Evaluation studies show that banks have been proactive in identifying and disbursing loans to first time borrowers, thereby weaning them away from money lenders. Borrowers particularly value three attributes of Mudra Loans, viz, non-insistence on guarantor or collateral, simple documentation and quick processing.

On 13th April 2017 Haryana launched Operation Durga to ensure women safety in the state, under which the police caught at least 72 eve-teasers on its first day. The Chief Minister's Flying Squad formed 24 teams to catch offenders from all districts of Haryana for their alleged involvement in crimes against women.

Operation Durga, an initiative launched by the Haryana Government, is a good step for the betterment of society and for women safety. I request the people to not waste their precious time and to focus on their work, studies, etc. The main focus of this drive is on the youth as these days they are distracted and this is a good way to get them back to track,? retired principal of a college said.

The team includes woman personnel, nine sub-inspectors of police, 14 assistant sub-inspectors, six head constables and 13 constables, besides other police officers from each district.

The teams visited different public places like schools, colleges, bus stands and railway stations and nabbed persons involved in committing crimes against women.

Earlier, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath ordered all the district administrators to ensure women safety in the state. Director General of Police Uttar Pradesh (DGP) Javeed Ahmad then launched ?Anti-Romeo squads? to keep a check on eve-teasing in public areas.

The Central Board (EPF) under the chairmanship of Union Minster of State for Labour and Employment (Independent Charge) Bandaru Dattatreya held its 217th special meeting in New Delhi. In pursuance to the policy of the government for optimum use of information technology for efficient service delivery and widening the reach of EPF benefits, Dattatreya launched Aadhaar Seeding Application.

The EPFO has developed this Aadhaar seeding application with support of the Common Service Centers (CSC) and CDAC. The CSCs are ICT enabled front end service delivery points at the village level for delivery of government and private services. With the implementation of Aadhaar Seeding Application, now a Provident Fund member or a pensioner can walk in any of the field offices of EPFO or CSC outlets with UAN & Aadhaar and seed the Aadhaar with the UAN.

The Board has recommended a proposal of extending minimum assured benefit of Rs 2,50,000 on death of EDLI member. Provisions have also been recommended in EDLI Scheme for Loyalty cum life benefit to members on superannuation on completion of 58/60 years of age/total and permanent disablement with minimum 20 years of contributory service as a pilot project for two years. Thereafter the scheme will be reviewed.

The Central Board also took note of the fact that EPFO has enrolled 49,39,929 workers during 01.01.2017 to 31.03.2017.It should be noted that Aadhaar card is not only mandatory for people who are taking benefits from different government policies but it is also meant for people who belongs to middle class families.

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 July 1 2017. 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.

These bills were passed in Rajya Sabha on April 6 and by Lok Sabha on March 29. 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 May 18-19. 

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. 

The Ministry of Food Processing Industries released a draft National Food Processing Policy to provide a framework for the growth and development of the food-processing industry. 42 The draft Policy aims to create infrastructure in the food processing sector, reduce wastages, and ensure availability of nutritional balanced foods. Key features of the policy include: Single window clearance system:

An entire state can be declared as a single zone with a single window clearance system for project clearances. An e-platform for the same may to be created within a specific period of time.

Land allotment: A facility for leasing land for food processing should be set up. Ceiling on land lease should be raised or abolished. Land should be allotted to Mega Food Parks on a priority basis.

Tax incentives: Infrastructure projects under Mega Food Parks maybe exempted from stamp duty. Further, VAT/SGST can be refunded to food processing units.

Separate department to promote food processing: Each state may set up an independent department to handle matters related to food processing. The department would focus on improving ease of doing business and investments in the sector.

Food processing clusters: Food processing clusters can be developed based on a particular commodity. The commodities will be based on the production strengths of the respective areas. A comprehensive strategy should be developed for the development of value chain in each cluster.

State Essential Services Maintenance Act to be amended: To declare the food processing industry as an essential service, states should make amendments to their respective State Essential Services Maintenance Act. The Act provides for the maintenance for certain essential services.

The Supreme Court banned the sale of vehicles that are not compliant with Bharat Stage IV (BS IV) fuel from April 1, 2017.

This would be applicable to all two wheeler, three wheeler, four wheeler, and commercial vehicles.

The Court also directed all vehicle registering authorities under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 to not register vehicles that do not comply with BS IV fuel standards from April 1, 2017, unless these vehicles were sold before March 31, 2017.

As compared to BS III fuel, BS IV fuel has lesser emissions of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxide, and sulphur oxide.

Bharat stage emission standards (BSES) are emission standards instituted by the Government of India to regulate the output of air pollutants from internal combustion engines and Spark-ignition engines equipment, including motor vehicles. The standards and the timeline for implementation are set by the Central Pollution Control Board under the Ministry of Environment & Forests and climate change.

The standards, based on European regulations were first introduced in 2000. Progressively stringent norms have been rolled out since then. All new vehicles manufactured after the implementation of the norms have to be compliant with the regulations.

Since October 2010, Bharat Stage (BS) III norms have been enforced across the country. In 13 major cities, Bharat Stage IV emission norms have been in place since April 2010[3] and It's enforced for whole country from April 2017.

In 2016, the Indian government announced that the country would skip the BS-V norms altogether and adopt BS-VI norms by 2020.

The phasing out of 2-stroke engine for two wheelers, the cessation of production of Maruti 800 & introduction of electronic controls have been due to the regulations related to vehicular emissions.

While the norms help in bringing down pollution levels, it invariably results in increased vehicle cost due to the improved technology & higher fuel prices. However, this increase in private cost is offset by savings in health costs for the public, as there is lesser amount of disease causing particulate matter and pollution in the air.

Exposure to air pollution can lead to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, which is estimated to be the cause for 6.2 lakh early deaths in 2010, and the health cost of air pollution in India has been assessed at 3% of its GDP.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare released the National Health Policy, 2017.18 The last National Health Policy was released in 2002.

The objective of the Policy is to improve the health status of all age groups by expanding: (i) preventive, (ii) promotive, (iii) curative, (iv) palliative, and (v) rehabilitative services provided through the public health sector. The key features of the Policy include: Investment in health:

The Policy proposes a target of 2.5% of the GDP as the public health expenditure. Further, the Policy advocates allocating major proportion (two-thirds or more) of resources to primary care followed by secondary and tertiary care. General taxation will remain the predominant means for financing care.

Public Health Management Cadre: The Policy proposes creation of Public Health Management Cadre in all states. States could decide to place these public health managers, with medical and non-medical qualifications, in cadre streams related to directorates of health.

Access to healthcare services: The Policy regarding provision to healthcare services proposes: (i) free primary care by the public sector, and (ii) strategic purchase of secondary care hospitalisation and tertiary care services from both public and the non-government sector.

Strategic purchasing refers to the government acting as a single payer. The order of preference for strategic purchase by the government with regard to secondary and tertiary care would be public sector hospitals followed by not-for profit private sector and then commercial private sector in the underserved areas.

Private sector involvement: The Policy proposes certain measures to encourage greater participation by the private sector. These include: (i) preferential treatment in collaborating with private hospitals for Central Government Health Scheme (covers the healthcare needs of central government employees and members of their families), and (ii) non-financial incentives like skill upgradation to the private sector hospitals/practitioners for providing public health services.

The Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2016 was passed by Parliament. The Bill amends the Enemy Property Act, 1968. Previously, five similar Ordinances amending the 1968 Act had been promulgated in 2016.

The last Ordinance was scheduled to lapse on March 14, 2017. The central government had designated some properties belonging to nationals of Pakistan and China as ‘enemy property’ during the 1962, 1965 and 1971 wars. It vested these properties in the Custodian of Enemy Property, an office of the central government.

The 1968 Act regulates these enemy properties. The Bill was passed with some amendments that were recommended by the Select Committee that examined the Bill. Key features of the Bill as passed include:

Retrospective application: The Bill is deemed to have come into force on January 7, 2016, the date of promulgation of the first Ordinance. However, several of its provisions will be applicable from the date of commencement of the 1968 Act.

Vesting of property: The 1968 Act allowed for vesting of enemy property with the Custodian, after the wars with Pakistan and China. The Bill amends the Act retrospectively from 1968 to clarify that, even in the following cases these properties will continue to vest with the Custodian: (i) the enemy’s death, or (ii) if the legal heir is an Indian. It also adds a provision to state that ‘vesting’ will mean that all rights, titles and interests in such property will be with the Custodian.

Jurisdiction of courts: The Bill bars civil courts and other authorities from entertaining disputes related to enemy property. However, it allows a person aggrieved by an order of the central government to appeal to the High Court, if the person wishes to claim that the concerned property is not enemy property. Such an appeal will have to be filed within 60 days (extendable up to 120 days).

The central government has decided to merge the Bharatiya Mahila Bank (BMB) with the State Bank of India (SBI).

Earlier in February 2017, the Cabinet had approved the acquisition of five of its subsidiary banks by the SBI.

According to the Ministry of Finance, in the three years since its establishment, the BMB has dispensed lesser loans to women and has a lower number of exclusive women branches, as compared to SBI. The administrative and managerial costs of the BMB, to reach the same coverage, are higher than SBI. A merger of the two banks would allow for providing a larger volume of loans to women through SBI.

The Union Cabinet approved proposals related to the Fund of Funds for start-ups which pertain to:

(i) investment into start-ups through Alternate Investment Funds (AIFs), and

(ii) proportion of operating expenses which may be met from the Fund.

The Fund was established in June 2016 with a corpus of Rs 10,000 crore. It aims to make contributions to other investment funds which extend financial support to start-ups.

AIFs will be required to invest twice the amount invested from the Fund in a start-up.

AIFs include private equity funds and infrastructure funds.

The operating expenses related to carrying out due diligence, legal and technical appraisal, and convening meetings of the Venture Capital Investment Committee, among others, will be met out of the Fund. This expenditure will be capped at 0.5% of the commitments made to AIFs.

The Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2017 was introduced in Lok Sabha. It seeks to amend the Customs Act, 1962, the Customs Tariff Act, 1975, the Central Excise Act, 1944, the Finance Act, 2001, the Finance Act, 2005, and repeal provisions of few Acts. Key features of the Bill include:Customs Act, 1962 Furnishing information to proper officer:

The Bill adds a provision that requires several persons and entities to furnish information to a proper officer (customs officer) under the Act.

Such persons and entities include: (i) income tax and state GST authorities, (ii) Reserve Bank of India, (iii) banks and financial institutions, (iv) stock exchanges and depositories (v) state electricity boards, (vi) Registrar of Companies, (vii) Registrar and Sub-registrar under the Registrar Act, 1908,(viii) registration authority under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, and (ix) Post Master General. The manner in which the information will have to be furnished will be notified by the government.

The proper officer may serve a notice if the information is not furnished within the specified time. Further, the officer may impose a fine after 30 days of serving the notice.

The fine will be of Rs 100/day, until the information is furnished.Customs Tariff Act, 1975.

Levy of IGST on imports: Goods imported will be liable to pay the Integrated Good and Service Tax (IGST).

IGST will be levied on the aggregate of value of the imported goods, customs duty levied under the Act, and any other amount chargeable under any law.

Levy of GST Compensation Cess on imports: Goods imported will be liable to the GST Compensation Cess.

The Cess will be levied on the aggregate value of the imported goods, customs duty levied under the Act, and any other amount chargeable under any law.

Central Excise Act, 1944 : Levy of Excise Duty: Currently, central excise duty is levied on various excisable goods including tobacco, petroleum products, rubber, oils, and vehicles. This is proposed to be changed to levy duty only on certain kinds of: (i) petroleum products such as motor spirit, high speed diesel, aviation turbine fuel, and (ii) tobacco products.

These goods on which the excise duty was levied were mentioned in the Central Excise Tariff Act, 1985. These will be moved to the Fourth Schedule of the 1944 Act. Note that the 1985 Act is proposed to be repealed under the Central Goods and Services Tax Bill, 2017.

The Finance Bill, 2017 was passed by Parliament with certain amendments.5,6 It was introduced in Lok Sabha alongside the presentation of the Union Budget. Key features of the Bill include:

1. Income tax: The income tax rate for individuals with income between Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 5 lakh will be reduced from 10% to 5%. An additional surcharge of 10% will be levied on individuals with income between Rs 50 lakh and Rs one crore.

2. Limit on cash transactions: Cash transactions above Rs two lakh will not be permitted: (i) to a single person in one day, (ii) for a single transaction (irrespective of number of payments), and (iii) for any transactions relating to a single event.

3. Political funding: Contributions to political parties may be made through a new mode called electoral bonds. These bonds will be issued by banks, for an amount paid through cheque or electronic means. Further, the 7.5% cap on percentage of profits that a company may give to parties has been removed. Companies would no longer be required to disclose the name of parties to which donations were made.

4. Aadhaar mandatory for PAN and Income Tax: It will be mandatory for every person to quote his Aadhaar number after July 1, 2017 for: (i) applying for a Permanent Account Number (PAN), or (ii) filing Income Tax returns.

5. Terms of service of Tribunal members: Currently, terms of service of Chairpersons and other members of Tribunals, Appellate Tribunals and other authorities are specified in their respective Acts. The Finance Bill permits the centre to make rules to determine the qualifications, and appointments, among other terms of service for members of 19 Tribunals.

6. Replacing some Tribunals: Eight Tribunals have been replaced, and their functions transferred to existing Tribunals. For example, the functions of the Competition Appellate Tribunal will be carried out by the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal.

Four Bills related to Goods and Services Tax (GST) were passed by Lok Sabha. These Bills include the Central Goods and Service Tax (CGST) Bill, 2017, the Integrated Goods and Service Tax (IGST) Bill, 2017, the Union Territory Goods and Service Tax (UTGST) Bill, 2017, and the Goods and Service Tax (Compensation to States) Bill, 2017.2,3,4 The Bills levy the: (i) CGST on intra-state supply of goods and services, (ii) IGST on inter-state supply of goods and services, (iii) UTGST on supply of goods and services in union territories, and (iv) provide compensation to states for any loss of revenue, following the implementation of GST. Key features of the Bills include:

1. Tax rates: The GST Council, constituted under the 101st Constitutional Amendment, will recommend the tax rates with respect to CGST, IGST and UTGST. The tax rates for CGST will not exceed 20%. The tax rate of IGST will not exceed 40%. In addition, a cess will be levied on certain goods and services to compensate states for revenue loss.

2. Exemptions from GST: The centre may exempt certain goods and services from the purview of GST through a notification. This exemption will be based on the recommendations of the GST Council.

3. Apportionment of IGST revenue: The IGST collected will be apportioned between the centre and the state where the goods or services are consumed. The revenue will be apportioned to the centre at the CGST rate, and the remaining amount will be apportioned to the consuming state.

4. Registration of taxpayers: Every person with a turnover exceeding Rs 20 lakh will have to register in every state in which he conducts business. This threshold will be Rs 10 lakh for special category states (i.e. Himalayan and North-Eastern states). A person may have multiple registrations for different business verticals in a state.

5. Filing tax returns: Every taxpayer will have to self-assess and file tax returns on a monthly basis by submitting: (i) details of supplies provided, (ii) details of supplies received, and (iii) payment of tax. In addition to the monthly returns, an annual return will have to be filed by each taxpayer.

6. Compensation to states on loss of revenue: The compensation amount will be calculated using revenue collections in 2015-16 as the base year. A compounded growth rate of 14% per annum over the base year will be assumed. A cess may be levied in order to provide the compensation.

7. Prosecution and appeal: For offences such as mis-reporting of: (i) goods and services supplied, and (ii) details furnished in invoices, a person may be fined, imprisoned, or both, by the CGST Commissioner. Such orders can be appealed before the Goods and Services Tax Appellate Tribunal, and further before the High Court.

The much-awaited winners' list of the 64th National Film Awards was announced on Friday morning. Sonam Kapoor -starrer 'Neerja', which was directed by Ram Madhvani, was declared as the Best Hindi Feature Film. Akshay Kumar bagged the Best Actor award for his act in 'Rustom' while Ajay Devgn -directed 'Shivaay' won the award for Best VFX. Sonam Kapoor also got a Special Mention for her performance in 'Neerja'.

Over 300 films vied for the honours this year. The process to choose the best from Indian cinema began in mid-March. Filmmaker Priyadarshan was the chairperson of the jury in feature films category, while nationally acclaimed cinematographer and writer Raju Misra was the chairperson in non-feature category.

The list of 64th National Film Award winner

Feature Films Awards

Best Actor - Akshay Kumar (Rustom)

Best Actress - Surabhi Lakshmi (Minnaminungu)

Best Director - Rajesh Mapuskar (Ventilator)

Best Film on Social Issues - 'Pink'

Best Supporting Actor - Manoj Joshi (Dashkriya)

Best Supporting Actress - Zaira Wasim (Dangal)

Best Debut Film of a Director - Deep Chaudari (Alifa)

Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment - 'Sathamanam Bhavathi'

Best Stunt Choreography - Peter Hein (Pulimurugan)

Best Children's Film - 'Dhanak' (Hindi)

Best Child Artist - Adhish Praveen (Kunju Daivam), Saj (Noor Islam), Manohara (Railway Children)

Best Male Playback Singer - Sundara Iyer (Joker)

Best Female Playback Singer - Iman Chakraborty (Praktan)

Best Screenplay (original) - Syam Pushkaran (Maheshinte Prathikaaram)

Best Screenplay (adapted) - Sanjay Krishnaji Patel (Dashakriya)

Best Editing - Rameshwar S. Bhagat (Ventilator)

Best Special Effect Award: 'Shivaay'Sound Designer - Jayadevan (Kaadu Pookkunna Neram)

Best Production Design - 24

Best Costume Designer - Sachin (Cycle)

Best Environmental film including agriculture - The Tiger Who Crossed The Line

Best Make-up Artist - MK Ramakrishna

Best Music Direction - Babu Padmanabha (Allama)

Special Mention

Kadvi Hawa (Hindi)

Mukthi Bhavan (Hindi)

Majirathi Keki (Assamese)

Neerja - Sonam Kapoor

Special Jury Award for Mohanlal for Pulimurugan, Janatha Garage and Munthirivallikal Thalirkkumbol

Best Feature Films in Regional Languages

Madipur (Tulu)Joker (Tamil)

Wrong Side Raju (Gujarati)

Pelli Choopulu (Telugu)

Dashakriya (Marathi)

Bisarjan (Bengali)

On April 5, 2017 India and Malaysia signed seven MoUs, including one on setting up a fourth generation technology park in Andhra Pradesh, as the two countries decided to intensify cooperation in countering terrorism and radicalisation.

The accords were signed after wide-ranging talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak during which they also agreed to step up defence and security cooperation between their two nations.

The other MoUs relate to air services, sports, setting up of a urea and ammonia manufacturing plant, exchange of palm oil technology, mutual recognition of educational qualification and human resource development.

Mr Razak, who is on his third visit to India since becoming the Prime Minister in 2009, complimented PM Modi on bold economic reforms and congratulated India on high economic growth.

‘’History binds us together. Indian languages, culture and food are popular in Malaysia. I am a fan of Indian films, especially after my visit to Chennai,’’ he said at a brief media interaction with PM Modi after the agreement-signing ceremony.

On his part, Mr Modi said the decisions taken by the two sides today would drive the strategic partnership between the two countries to a new level. Referring to the bilateral defence relationship, the Indian leader noted that the two countries were cooperating in training and capacity building, maintenance of equipment and military hardware and disaster response.

He also hailed as inspirational the Malaysian PM’s leadership in countering terrorism and radicalisation. ‘’We agreed on a shared vision to enhance our strategic partnership. A vision that prioritises an action-oriented approach,’’ he added.

Mr Modi said the two countries had agreed to further strengthen their strategic partnership to shape an effective response to common concerns and challenges.

Meanwhile, the India Malaysia CEO Forum, which also had its meeting today, emphasised the need for public and private sector investments from both sides in the identified sectors and called for conclusion of a balance Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement at an early date.

Scientists have identified a soil fungus, which uses enzymes to rapidly break down plastic materials, an advance that could help deal with waste problem that threatens our environment. Humans are producing ever greater amounts of plastic — much of which ends up as garbage. Since plastic does not break down in the same way as other organic materials, it can persist in the environment over long periods of time.

Now, researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences have found an unexpected solution to the growing plastic problem in the form of a soil fungus.

Attempts to deal with plastic waste through burying, recycling, incineration or other methods are variously unsustainable, costly and can result in toxic by-products, which are hazardous to human health.

Researchers argue that we urgently need to find new, safer and more effective ways to degrade waste plastics. The team found the plastic-eating fungus living in a rubbish tip in Islamabad, Pakistan.

The researchers took samples of soil and various pieces of rubbish in hopes of finding an organism that could feed on plastic waste in the same way that other fungi feed on dead plant or animal material.

Aspergillus tubingensis is a fungus, which ordinarily lives in the soil. In laboratory trials, the researchers found that it also grows on the surface of plastics.

It secretes enzymes onto the surface of the plastic, and these break the chemical bonds between the plastic molecules, or polymers.

Using advanced microscopy and spectroscopy techniques, the team found that the fungus also uses the physical strength of its mycelia — the network of root—like filaments grown by fungi — to help break apart the polymers.

The NIRF (National Institutional Ranking Framework) India Ranking 2017 has been released on April 4, 2017 by the HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar at a press conference in Delhi. Talking about the overall top ranker, the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore has obtained the first position among all colleges in India.

The methodology draws from the overall recommendations broad understanding arrived at by a Core Committee set up by the Ministry of Human Resources Development, to identify the broad parameters for ranking various universities and institutions.

Last year, over 3000 private and public institutions had participated in the 'India Rankings 2016'. Separate list for each stream such as management, engineering, pharmacy etc has been released.

The Indian Defense Acquisition Council (DAC) has approved purchase of Barak surface-to-air missiles for the navy among other proposals for an estimated $132 million.

The new missiles are urgently needed to replace the current ones which have completed their shelf life. The procurement of Barak missiles was approved with a categorisation of “Buy Global” under the option clause from Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd.

India’s sole aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya carried out the maiden test of the newly installed Barak short range surface-to-air missile last month.Barak 8 is an Indian-Israeli surface-to-air missile (SAM), designed to defend against any type of airborne threat including aircraft, helicopters, anti-ship missiles, and UAVs as well as cruise missiles and combat jets out to a maximum range of 70 km.

However, the missile has been increased to a maximum range of 90 km following "range upgrade discussions" between India and Israel during November 2014.

The other deals include procurement of expendable Bathy thermograph systems for the Navy to detect temperature changes under water through the foreign military sales route from the US and procurement of equipment to counter mines in the sea, a repeat order, worth ₹311 crore ($47 million).

The government is weighing the option of permitting overseas retailers to open stores for selling ‘Made in India’ products only as it looks to relax the norms for multi-brand retail for attracting more funds and generating more jobs. Although the current foreign direct investment policy permits overseas players to hold 51% stake in an Indian retail company, the BJP in its election manifesto had opposed foreign investment in the retail segment.

The government is considering permitting foreign supermarket players to open retail stores but only for sale of ‘Made in India’ products. Although the current foreign direct investment (FDI) policy permits overseas players to hold 51% stake in an Indian retail company, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in its election manifesto had opposed foreign investment in the retail segment.

So far, only one foreign player, Tesco, has received approval for opening stores under the multi-brand retail policy. The previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had cleared the proposal. The FDI policy also imposes several conditions for foreign players like mandatory sourcing of goods from MSMEs and a certain percentage of investment in the back-end infrastructure. These conditions have acted as constraints for foreign retailers.

However, if they would be allowed to retail ‘Made in India’ goods in the country, these mandatory rules may not be imposed on them, sources added. Opening the retail sector, the government last year permitted 100% FDI in domestic trading of food products. Processing minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal has recently indicated that the government is actively considering a proposal to allow FDI in non-food items, along with food products, under the multi-brand retail policy and a decision may be taken ahead of the mega world food event here in November.

The move assume significance as the government is also expected to announce relaxations in the FDI policy in more sectors, including single brand retail. The easing of the policy will be on the lines of the announcements made by finance minister Arun Jaitley in the budget for 2017-18.

The government last year relaxed FDI norms in over a dozen sectors, including defence, civil aviation, construction and development, private security agencies, real estate and news broadcasting. The government is also considering a proposal to increase FDI limit in print media to 49% from 26%.

Besides, a proposal to allow 100% FDI through automatic route in single brand retail is also under consideration with a view to attracting more global players. Foreign investments are considered crucial for India, which needs around $1 trillion to overhaul its infrastructure such as ports, airports and highways to boost growth.

Foreign investments will help improve the country’s balance of payments situation and strengthen the value of the rupee against global currencies, especially the US dollar. FDI inflows into India firmed up by 22% to $35.85 billion during April-December 2016.

The government on 25 March 2017 argued for a plan for sustainable development balancing the need to protect the environment and continued growth at the third World Conference on Environment organized by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in New Delhi. Finance minister Arun Jaitley pointed out that the Indian society was at a “critical juncture” with challenges like pulling out 25-30% of population from below the poverty line, urbanization, creation of physical infrastructure across the country.

Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi took the example of the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms introduced 25 years ago. He highlighted that these regulations disabled creation of appropriate infrastructure around the coasts, making neighbouring countries like Thailand, Vietnam more tourism friendly than India.

Chief justice of India J.S. Khehar, however, countered this by saying that courts interfered only when industrialisation was allowed without adequate measures to protect the environment. He added that the issue of the environment ought not to be seen as a competition, referring to the issue of tourism and the CRZ norms.

President Pranab Mukherjee, on the other hand, said that there was no “inherent contradiction between environmental protection and developmental requirement if we can check our lust for appropriation beyond our requirement.”

Even the Constitution of India, clearly states that it is the duty of the state to ‘protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country’. As the citizen of India we are duty bound to ‘protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife’. Reference to the environment has also been made in the Directive Principles of State Policy as well in the interpretation of the Fundamental Right to life. Thus, it can be safely adduced that right to a clean and healthy environment, as has been held by the Supreme Court, is one of the basic tenets of a civilized society.

India is playing a significant role in fighting against these global threats. The Government of India has recently set a target for renewable energy generation of 175 Gigawatt by 2022.  By 2030, 40% of our installed capacity will be based on non-fossil fuel.

Senior citizens, living below the poverty line, will now get for free assistive devices like hearing aids and wheelchairs under the government's Rs 477 crore scheme which is set to be rolled out next week.The proposed 'Rashtriya Vayoshri Yojna' will be launched at a camp in Andhra Pradesh's Nellore district on March 25 by Union Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thaawarchand Gehlot and Information and Broadcasting Minister M Venkaiah Naidu. A similar camp will be organised on March 26 in Madhya Pradesh's Ujjain district.

"The aim of the scheme is to bring the older people from the economically weaker sections into active life and build an aged-friendly society by providing them with devices to maintain near normalcy in morbidity," said a senior official in the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

The government has set a target of distributing assistive living devices among 2,000 identified beneficiaries for free in each camp, he added.

The Minister, in December last year, had written to all the chief ministers to identify the beneficiaries in those districts," the official said.

The devices to be distributed among the beneficiaries will be of high quality and conform to the standards laid down by the Bureau of Indian Standards. 

He said that to avail the facilities under the scheme, a beneficiary should be of at least 60 years and will have to be certified by competent authority as a person living below the poverty line.

According to the official, the department had suggested three names for the scheme out of which the Prime Minister's Office has given nod to 'Rashtriya Vayoshri Yojna'.

The scheme aims to address the disabilities like low vision, hearing impairment, loss of teeth and locomotor disability.
The beneficiaries will get walkers, crutches, wheelchairs, tripods, spectacles, hearing aids and dentures among others.

There are 10.38 crore senior citizens in the country as per the Census of 2011 and 5.2 per cent of them suffer from some sort of old age-related disability."It is projected that the number of senior citizens will increase to around 173 million by 2026," the official added.

French mathematician Yves Meyer was awarded the 2017 Abel Prize for his work on wavelets, a mathematical theory with applications in data compression, medical imaging and the detection of gravitational waves.

Meyer, 77, will receive 6 million Norwegian krone (about £600,000) for the prize, which recognises outstanding contributions to mathematics and is awarded by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.

The Abel Prize has been awarded annually since 2003 and was last year won by Briton Andrew Wiles for his work on solving Fermat’s Last Theorem. It is considered by many to be a maths equivalent of the Nobel Prize, which has no prize for mathematics.

The Norwegian Academy released the following biography of Meyer this morning, written by Philip Ball, which explains his work in an accessible way. I’m reprinting it here in full.

Yves Meyer, professor emeritus at the École normale supérieure Paris-Saclay in France, proves that, in contrast to what F. Scott Fitzgerald said about American lives; in mathematics a life can indeed have a second act, and perhaps even several more. Having made important contributions in the field of number theory early in his career, Meyer’s boundless energy and curiosity prompted him to work on methods for breaking down complex mathematical objects into simpler wavelike components – a topic called harmonic analysis. This led him in turn to help construct a theory for analysing complicated signals, with important ramifications for computer and information technologies. Then he moved on again to tackle fundamental problems in the mathematics of fluid flow.

That tendency to cross boundaries was with him from the start. Born on 19 July 1939 of French nationality, he grew up in Tunis on the North African coast. “The Tunis of my childhood was a melting pot where people from all over the Mediterranean had found sanctuary,” he said in a 2011 interview. “As a child I was obsessed by the desire of crossing the frontiers between these distinct ethnic groups.”

India has marginally improved its position to 87th place on a global energy architecture performance index, but ranks among the worst for pollution, a survey showed on March 22, 2017. India has some of the lowest scores in the EAPI for CO2 emissions from electricity production and PM2.5 levels (117th and 123rd, respectively). 

Switzerland topped the annual list released by Geneva- based World Economic Forum (WEF) and was followed by Norway, Sweden, Denmark and France in the top five. India's rank improved three places from 90th last year. 

According to the findings, the world's biggest energy consumers struggle to take leading positions on the index as they grapple with inherent challenges of their large, complex energy systems and are outperformed by more nimble economies.

Regarding India, the WEF said it is gradually improving its performance on the index, but faces an uphill battle to increase energy access and security (95th). 

The study further said that India, just like China, boasts of a strong score on the indicator for diversification of import counterparts (5th), but its energy system continues to face some significant challenges, particularly in environmental sustainability (109th). Bahrain is ranked the lowest at 127th.

The report, developed in collaboration with Accenture Strategy and launched today at the European Commission, ranked 127 countries based on their ability to provide energy across three dimensions of the 'energy triangle'.

Being compiled since 2013, the Energy Architecture Performance Index (EAPI) is a composite index that focuses on tracking specific indicators to measure the energy system performance of 127 countries. It has 18 indicators defined across the three sides of the 'energy triangle' -- economic growth and development, environmental sustainability, and energy access and security. 

The Centre is contemplating an institutional mechanism to improve safety in India’s 5300-odd dams. Currently, guidelines in this regard are not effectively enforced by the States. The new law, which has been vetted by the Union Law Ministry and will now go to the Union Cabinet for approval, proposes a Central authority and State-level bodies that will enforce regulation. Dam and project proponents falling short could face a fine, though they are unlikely to face imprisonment.

There are around 4900 large dams in India and several thousand smaller ones. About 300 are in various stages of construction. However, large reservoirs and water storage structures, in the past few decades, are not seen as a model of safety. Kerala, for instance, continues to fight with Tamil Nadu over threats posed by the Mullaperiyar dam on the river Periyar. More recently, the Chennai floods of 2015, due to unusually-heavy winter rains, were thought to have been compounded by an unprecedented release of water from the Chembarambakkam dam into the Adyar River. In 2014, an unscheduled release of water from the Larji hydroelectric project into the Beas river drowned 25 students from Hyderabad.

According to a Water Ministry official familiar with the dam safety bill, recent analysis of the state of India’s dams found that half of them did not meet contemporary safety standards. “This does not mean the dams are unsafe, but that we have much stricter safety criteria now than we did when these dams were built 50 or 100 years ago,” the official told The Hindu.
The safety criteria include increasing the spillway (a design structure to ease water build-up) and preventing ‘over-topping’ in which the dam overflows and causes it to fail. The 1979 Machchu dam failure in Morbi, Gujarat, is estimated to have killed at least 25,000.

Bill Gates is the number one richest for the fourth year in a row, and the richest person in the world for 18 out of the past 23 years. He has a fortune of $86 billion, up from $75 billion last year. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos had the best year of any person on the planet, adding $27.6 billion to his fortune; now worth $72.8 billion, he moved into the top three in the world for the first time, up from number five a year ago.

Warren Buffett had the second-best year, and the biggest gain since Donald Trump was elected president in November 2016. His $14.8 billion jump in 12 months was enough for him to grab back the number two spot from Amancio Ortega, founder of Spanish clothing chain Zara. Ortega’s fortune was up $4.3 billion since last year, but he still fell to fourth in the world, unable to keep up with the outsize gains of others.  

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg moved up to number five for the first time, after his fortune rose $11.4 billion in 12 months. Meanwhile Carlos Slim Helu of Mexico, once the world’s richest man, fell to number six, the first time he’s been out of the top five in a dozen years.

It was a record year for the richest people on earth, as the number of billionaires jumped 13% to 2,043 from 1,810 last year, the first time ever that Forbes has pinned down more than 2,000 ten-figure-fortunes. Their total net worth rose by 18% to $7.67 trillion, also a record. The change in the number of billionaires -- up 233 since the 2016 list -- was the biggest in the 31 years that Forbes has been tracking billionaires globally. Gainers since last year’s list outnumbered losers by more than three to one.   

There were 195 newcomers. Mainland China had the most new ten-figure fortunes with 76. The U.S. was second with 25. Notable newbies include Patagonia sportswear founder Yvon Chouinard; Viking Cruises founder Torstein Hagen of Norway; U.S. hedge fund tycoon Cliff Asness and two of his partners; and John and Patrick Collison, Irish citizens who cofounded San Francisco-based Stripe, which enables online payments. John Collison, age 26, is now the world’s youngest self-made billionaire, just two months younger than Snapchat’s Evan Spiegel. The Collisons are two of just four self-made billionaires in their 20s (the other two are the Snapchat cofounders). There are 56 billionaires under age 40, down from 66 last year, after some aged out and others dropped below the $1 billion mark.
New Australian billionaire Manny Stul may not be a familiar name yet, but his popular Shopkins, grocery-inspired plastic collectibles with names like Kris P. Lettuce and Posh Pear, are a huge hit with American kids.

Norway has emerged as the world’s happiest country, out of the 155 countries, in the World Happiness Report 2017 which was released to coincide with the United Nations’ International Day of Happiness on 20 March 2017.

India ranked a lowly 122 on a list of the world's happiest countries, dropping four slots from last year and coming behind China, Pakistan and Nepal. Norway ranks as the happiest country in the world, according to The World Happiness Report 2017, which ranks 155 countries by their happiness levels.

Nations such as China (79), Pakistan (80), Nepal (99), Bangladesh (110), Iraq (117) and Sri Lanka (120) fared better than India on the ranking.

The rankings are based on income and life expectancy figures, along with how people rate social support, personal freedom, corruption and generosity. Together it is used to generate a happiness score from 1 to 10. Other factors by which 155 countries were measured in the annual World Happiness Report are: inequality, life expectancy, GDP per capita, public trust (i.e. a lack of corruption in government and business), and social support.

"The World Happiness Report continues to draw global attention around the need to create sound policy for what matters most to people -- their well-being," said Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network that produced the report. "As demonstrated by many countries, this report gives evidence that happiness is a result of creating strong socialfoundations. It's time to build social trust and healthy lives, not guns or walls. Let's hold our leaders to this fact," he said.

Rounding out the rest of the top ten in order were Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Finland, Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden. The US ranked 14th, dropping down one spot from last year, the report said. Despite recent declines in oil prices, oil-rich Norway still moved into the top spot, illustrating once more that high happiness depends on much more than income, it said.

This year the report gives special attention to the social foundations of happiness, including happiness at workplace. "People tend to spend the majority of their lives working, so it is important to understand the role that employment and unemployment play in shaping happiness," said Professor Jan-Emmanuel De Neve of the University of Oxford. He said research reveals that happiness differs considerably across employment status, job type, and industry sectors.

"People in well-paid roles are happier, but money is only one predictive measure of happiness. Work-life balance, job variety and the level of autonomy are other significant drivers," De Neve said.

The report also highlights the personal factors affecting happiness, saying "in rich countries the biggest single cause of misery is mental illness."

The World Happiness Report 2017 looks at trends in the data recording how highly people evaluate their lives on a scale running from 0 to 10. The rankings, which are based on surveys in 155 countries covering the three years 2014-2016,reveal an average score of 5.3 (out of 10).

In a historic ruling, the Uttarakhand High Court on Monday recognised river Ganga as the 'first living entity of India'. Besides Ganga, which is one of the largest rivers in India and considered to be the holiest river and holds a high place in the mythology of India, similar status has been given to river Yamuna, the tributary of Ganga. Recognising a river as a living entity means granting it the same legal rights as a human being.

The new status means if someone pollutes rivers Ganga and Yamuna, the law will see it equal to harming a human being.
The court also ruled the government to form a Ganga Administration Board for cleaning and better maintenance of the river.

Earlier in the month, the court came heavily down upon the Union and Uttarakhand state government for doing "nothing concrete" to clean the river.

The court slammed them for wasting efforts on reviving a lost river Saraswati but not taking efforts on maintaining Ganga which if given proper attention will once again flow in its full glory. "The Ganga should be saved for the generations to come," the court added.

The Executive Committee of the National Mission for Clean Ganga had recently approved 20 projects - 13 of which are in Uttarakhand - worth Rs 1,900 crore to be swiftly implemented in Uttarakhand, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.

Earlier last week, a similar ruling was passed out in New Zealand when their parliament passed a bill declaring 145km long Whanganui River as a living entity, becoming the first river in the world to be legally recognised as a living entity and was granted the same rights as a human being.

On 20.03.2017 the Union Cabinet approved four legislations required to implement the goods and services tax (GST), allowing for their introduction in parliament this week. The government hopes to complete the legislative work for this biggest reform of the indirect tax regime in the ongoing budget session so that it can be rolled out from July 1, 2017.

"The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved the four GST related bills -- The Central Goods and Services Tax Bill 2017 (The CGST Bill), The Integrated Goods and Services Tax Bill 2017 (The IGST Bill), The Union Territory Goods and Services Tax Bill 2017 (The UTGST Bill) and The Goods and Services Tax (Compensation to the States) Bill 2017 (The Compensation Bill)."

The bills were approved last week by the GST Council, a body of centre and states empowered to take decisions in respect of GST.

The bills are likely to be introduced as money bill, ensuring they do not get stalled in the Rajya Sabha where the NDA government does not have the numbers. 

The GST Council has approved a four-tier tax slabs of 5, 12, 18 and 28% within an overall cap of 40%. In addition, a cess will be levied on demerit goods like luxury cars, aerated drinks and tobacco products. The CGST Bill sets the tax regime for the levy of GST on intra-state supply of goods or services or both by the central government. IGST Bill deals levy of GST on inter-state supply of goods or services or both by the central government. 

Similarly, the UTGST Bill provides for levy of GST on intra-UT supply of goods and services in the Union Territories without legislature. The Compensation Bill provides for compensation to the states for loss of revenue due to GST for a period of five years. 

All state assemblies will have to separately approve the state GST legislation before this one-nationone-tax regime can be rolled out. 

The government is all set to come up with the country's first-of-its-kind dictionary which aims to bring uniformity in sign languages used by hearing and speech impaired people across the nation. 

The Indian Sign Language (ISL) dictionary, which is being developed by the Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre (ISLRTC), has so far compiled 6,032 Hindi and English words and their corresponding graphic representation of the signs which are used in daily life.

The dictionary is being developed in both print and video format. "A comprehensive Indian Sign Language Dictionary is the need of the hour to facilitate communication between the hearing and speech impaired and create a basic database for further policy making," Union Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thaawarchand Gehlot said.

"Presently, the sign languages in a diverse country like India vary from region to region. Because of this, people from a region face difficulty in communicating with those in the other region," he said at the inauguration of a two-day national conference titled 'Empowering Deaf through Indian Sign Language'. This dictionary will help bridge the communication gap.

Awanish K Awasthi, the joint secretary in the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment said once the dictionary is compiled, around 50 lakh hearing impaired people and 20 lakh speech impaired people in the country will get an uniform language.

"It will contain graphic representations of popular signs used by the hearing impaired and will also include regional variations. Apart from that, it will have legal, technical and medical terms," Awasthi said. "It will promote the use of sign language for hearing impaired students at schools and colleges.

It will also enable government officials, teachers, professionals, community leaders and the public at large to learn and use sign language," he said. The government is also developing a directory of interpreters as the hearing and speech impaired people mostly depend on them to communicate. "It will enable the public utility organisations like banks, hospitals, airports, courts and others to utilise the services of interpreters," Awasthi said.

The Large Hadron Collider has discovered new sub-atomic particles that could help to explain how the centres of atoms are held together. The particles are all different forms of the so-called Omega-c baryon, whose existence was confirmed in 1994.Physicists had always believed the various types existed but had not been able to detect them - until now.

The discovery will shed light on the operation of the "strong force", which glues the insides of atoms.The centres of atoms consist of particles called neutrons and protons. They in turn are made up of smaller particles called quarks, which have unusual names.

Those inside neutrons and protons are called "Up" and "Down". These quarks are held together by the nuclear strong force.

Physicists have a theory called quantum chromodynamics for how the nuclear strong force works but using it to make predictions requires very complex calculations.

The Omega-c baryon is in the same family of particles as the neutron and proton, but it can be thought of as a more exotic cousin. It too is made up of quarks but they are called "Charm" and "Strange", and they are heavier versions of the Up and Down quarks.

Since the Omega-c particle's discovery, it was thought that there were heavier versions. Its bigger brothers and sisters if you like. Now, physicists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (Cern) have found them. They believe that by studying these siblings, they'll learn more about the workings of the nuclear strong force.

Dr Greig Cowan, of the University of Edinburgh, UK, who works on the LHCb experiment at Cern's LHC, said: "This is a striking discovery that will shed light on how quarks bind together. It may have implications not only to better understand protons and neutrons, but also more exotic multi-quark states, such as pentaquarks and tetraquarks."Prof Tara Shears, of Liverpool University, who also works on the experiment, said: "These particles have been hiding in plain sight for years, but it has taken the exquisite sensitivity of the LHCb to bring them to our attention."

On 18 March 2017 the government said the RBI has been authorised to conduct field trials of plastic notes of Rs 10 that have a longer life span. In a written reply in the Lok Sabha, Minister of State for Finance Arjun Ram Meghwal said "it has been decided" to conduct a field trial with plastic banknotes at five locations of the country. 

He further said plastic notes are expected to last longer than cotton substrate based banknotes. Over the years, central banks across the world have been exploring different solutions like plastic notes and other developments in banknote substrates for extending the life cycle of banknotes. 

The minister also said an inter-disciplinary Standing Committee on Cyber Security has been constituted to review the threats inherent in the existing and emerging technology and suggest appropriate policy interventions to strengthen cyber security and resilience.

India and Russia on 17 March 2017 signed two long-term support agreements for the Sukhoi Su-30MKI combat aircraft fleet, which is the mainstay of the Indian Air Force (IAF). Pacts were also signed for maintenance and life-cycle support for other Russian-origin platforms, such as Mi-17 helicopters, MiG-29K aircraft, INS Vikramaditya and T-90 tanks.

The agreements were signed by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) with United Aircraft Corporation and United Engine Corporation.

The pacts provides for an upgraded schedule for delivery of spares from Russia for these jets, local manufacturing of parts and a proposed logistics hub for the fighter jets in Bengaluru by HAL.

“With regard to maintenance and life-cycle support, it is our endeavour that most of the components and spare parts required for maintaining the platforms, which have been procured from Russian companies, are manufactured by Indian companies through technology transfer or through joint ventures with Russian companies, so that the serviceability of the platforms is improved and we do not lose critical time in repairing and maintaining equipment,” said Defence Minister Arun Jaitley.

The Su-30MKI was designed and developed by Russia’s Irkut Corporation, specifically for India. The licensed production of the aircraft takes place at HAL’s facility in Nashik, Maharashtra.

The objective of having long-term supply agreements between the Russian OEMs and Indian Armed Forces or platform manufacturers is to ensure licensed production and to firm up modalities for Indian companies to manufacture some of the spare parts and components under the ‘Make in India’ initiative.

This will be done through technology transfer or joint ventures between India and Russian companies.

In a bid to benefit small farmers in India and globally, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) would work together on crop improvement and agronomy programmes for grain legumes and dryland cereals.

ICAR and ICRISAT, recently signed an agreement in New Delhi, in which climate smart crops, smart food and digitalisation of breeding database were identified as some of the core areas of research.

ICAR director general Dr Trilochan Mohapatra said that the collaboration will benefits Indian farmers and they are committed to achieve real impact through the partnership with continuous monitoring by both sides.

He said other areas of focus over the next three years include - integrating systems modelling tools for upscaling climate resilient agriculture, developing genetic and genomic resources of finger millet and enhancing genetic gains for priority traits.

Meanwhile, ICRISAT director general Dr David Bergvinson said that dryland cereals and grain legumes are branded as smart foods – good for consumers, farmers and the planet as they diversify farming systems and help smallholder farmers adapt to climate change.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj informed the Lok Sabha that the government had also made voluntary contributions to the tune of Rs 22 crore to international organisations, including UN agencies, in the last financial year.

India's contribution to the United Nations rose 55 percent to Rs 244 crore in 2015-16 compared with the previous fiscal, the government said.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj informed the Lok Sabha that the government had also made voluntary contributions to the tune of Rs 22 crore to international organisations, including UN agencies, in the last financial year.

The country contributed Rs 244 crore to the UN last fiscal compared with Rs 157 crore in 2014-15.

"For the period 2016-18, India's Scale of Assessment for the UN's Regular and Peacekeeping budgets has been fixed at 0.737 percent and 0.1474 per cent, respectively," Swaraj said in reply to questions.

Each UN member is required to contribute to the organisation's Regular and Peacekeeping budgets. These obligatory contributions are calculated based on a member's relative 'capacity to pay', she said.

This is defined through a scale of assessment that takes into account the member country's Gross National Income relative to the Global Gross National Income, adjusted further for the level of its national external debt and low per capita income, she added.

For Peacekeeping budget, Swaraj said, "since all permanent members of the Security Council bear special responsibilities for the maintenance of international peace and security, they must contribute additional amounts".

The government does not have details on which projects the UN spends the contributions made by India, Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh said during Question Hour.

UN officials are exempt from taxation on the salaries and emoluments paid to them.

5th time Member of Parliament from Gorakhpur Constituency, Yogi Adityanath (born Ajay Singh; 5 June 1972) is new chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. He is a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Member of Parliament who has represented Gorakhpur in the Lok Sabha (lower house of the Indian Parliament) since 1998.

Adityanath is the Mahant or head priest of the Gorakhnath Mutt, a Hindu temple in Gorakhpur, following the death of his spiritual "father," Mahant Avaidyanath in September 2014. He is also the founder of the Hindu Yuva Vahini, a social, cultural and nationalist group of youth who seek to provide rightist Hindu platform.

Yogi Adityanath comes from a Rajput family. He completed his Bachelor’s Degree in Science from H.N.B. Garhwal University, Srinagar (Garhwal), Uttarakhand.

Adityanath was the youngest member of the 12th Lok Sabha at 26. He has been elected as an MP from Gorakhpur to the Lok Sabha in the 1998, 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014 elections. He is the successor to former Hindu Mahasabha president Mahant Avaidyanath at the Gorakhnath temple. He holds a B. Sc. from the H.N.B. Garhwal University in Srinagar, Uttarakhand.

Currently he is Mahant of Guru Gorakhnath Temple, following the death of Mahanth Aavaidyanath on 12th Sept 2014. Yogi Adityanath was made Peethadheshwar of Gorakhnath Temple amid traditional rituals of the Nath sect on 14th Sept 2014.

Scientists in India have uncovered a pair of 1.6 billion-year-old fossils that appear to contain red algae, which may be the oldest plant-like life discovered on Earth.Until now, the oldest known red algae was 1.2 billion years old. It was published  in the journal PLOS Biology.

The material structurally resembles red algae, embedded in fossil mats of cyanobacteria inside a 1.6 billion-year-old phosphorite, a kind of rock, found in Chitrakoot region in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Scientists used x-rays to observe regularly recurring platelets in each cell, which they believe are parts of chloroplasts, the organelles within plant cells where photosynthesis takes place.

Scientists often debate the question of when complex life began on Earth, but they generally agree that large multicellular organisms became common about 600 million years ago. This discovery could lead experts to rewrite the tree of life.

The Union Cabinet, on Wednesday, approved the National Health Policy 2017, which puts forward a concrete framework for universal healthcare and aims at providing affordable healthcare. In a welcoming move, the policy suggests directives with a clear focus on addressing and tackling non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including screening, prevention, financing and patient care. The Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD) lauds the Government of India for prioritizing measures to effectively address the growing burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

Appreciating the Healthy Ministry and its emphasis on creating awareness about NCDs, Aman Gupta, Country Representative, PFCD said, “In context of this rising disease burden, finding sustainable solutions take precedence, with realistic policy intervention, efficient surveillance, robust healthcare financing systems and strengthening of the existing healthcare systems at the heart of it. We are looking forward to an effective implementation of this policy which should also be feasible and scalable. If done with a right approach, these guidelines will be instrumental in addressing the growing disease burden and in providing accessible and affordable healthcare to all”.

Highlighting that the policy rightfully includes provisions and recommendations spelt out in SANKALP, -- the national blueprint released by Partnership to Fight Chronic Diseases (PFCD) in 2015, Dr Kenneth E. Thorpe, Chairman, PFCD said that “The announcement of the National Health Policy is a clear indication of the government’s long-term commitment to find sustainable solutions to address the growing burden of NCDs as well as the recognition of the socio-economic impact of NCDs on the country.”

Additionally, Dr. Thorpe added, “The National Health Policy 2017 is certainly a step in the right direction. It encompasses the relevant provisions to ensure quality healthcare to the people of this country through greater investment in health, organization and financing of healthcare services, emphasis on prevention of diseases and promotion of good health through capacity building, financial protection and progressive assurance for health.” The blueprint had a three-tiered roadmap of strengthening the health care system and setting up of primary health care centres, innovative mechanisms for healthcare financing, policy and surveillance. Dr Kenneth E. Thorpe is also the Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Health Policy at Emory University, the Chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management in the Rollins School of Public Health, and a former Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services (1993–1995).

The salient features of the health policy that need mention are - initiative to include health insurance programmes to tackle the lack of fiscal buoyancy, upgrading the district and public health centres, training of health personnel that will be deployed in rural areas, enhancing the knowledge base required for better health, digitising health records and investment in research. It also aims to ensure availability of 2 beds per 1000 population distributed in a manner to enable access within golden hour. It envisages providing larger package of assured comprehensive primary health care through the ‘Health and Wellness Centers’ and denotes important change from very selective to comprehensive primary health care package which includes care for major NCDs, mental health, geriatric health care, palliative care and rehabilitative care services. The policy advocates allocating major proportion (two-thirds or more) of resources to primary care.

An Indian-American teen has won the top award, worth $250,000, in the oldest and most prestigious science and math competition in the US, for her research on preventing death of neurons due to brain injuries or neurodegenerative diseases.

Indrani Das, a 17-year-old resident of New Jersey, and four other Indian-origin students were among the top ten finalists to be honoured at the annual Regeneron Science Talent Search Awards Gala for their research projects demonstrating exceptional scientific and mathematical ability.

Forty finalists took home more than $1.8 million in awards. A contributor to neuron death is astrogliosis, a condition that occurs when cells called astrocytes react to injury by growing, dividing and reducing their uptake of glutamate, which in excess is toxic to neurons.

In a laboratory model, Das showed that exosomes isolated from astrocytes transfected with microRNA-124a both improved astrocyte uptake of glutamate and increased neuron survival.Arjun Ramani, an 18-year-old student from Indiana won the third place honours worth $150,000 for blending the mathematical field of graph theory with computer programming to answer questions about networks.

Typically, these questions require statistical comparisons to hundreds or thousands of random graphs, a process that can take a relatively long time.He developed an algorithm that greatly accelerated the process by reducing the time required to generate these graphs.

An algorithm based on levels of metabolites found in a blood sample can accurately predict whether a child is on the Autism spectrum of disorder (ASD), based upon a recent study. The algorithm, developed by researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, is the first physiological test for autism and opens the door to earlier diagnosis and potential future development of therapeutics.

"Instead of looking at individual metabolites, we investigated patterns of several metabolites and found significant differences between metabolites of children with ASD and those that are neurotypical. These differences allow us to categorize whether an individual is on the Autism spectrum," said Juergen Hahn, lead author, systems biologist, professor, and head of the Rensselaer Department of Biomedical Engineering.

"By measuring 24 metabolites from a blood sample, this algorithm can tell whether or not an individual is on the Autism spectrum, and even to some degree where on the spectrum they land."Big data techniques applied to biomedical data found different patterns in metabolites relevant to two connected cellular pathways (a series of interactions between molecules that control cell function) that have been hypothesized to be linked to ASD: the methionine cycle and the transulfuration pathway.

The methionine cycle is linked to several cellular functions, including DNA methylation and epigenetics, and the transulfuration pathway results in the production of the antioxidant glutathione, decreasing oxidative stress.Autism Spectrum Disorder is estimated to affect approximately 1.5 percent of individuals and is characterized as "a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The physiological basis for ASD is not known, and genetic and environmental factors are both believed to play a role. People with ASD "may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people." According to the CDC, the total economic costs per year for children with ASD in the United States are estimated between $11.5 billion and $60.9 billion. Research shows that early intervention can improve development, but diagnosis currently depends on clinical observation of behavior, an obstacle to early diagnosis and treatment. Most children are not diagnosed with ASD until after age 4 years.Hahn's research, titled "Classification and Adaptive Behavior Prediction of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder based upon Multivariate Data Analysis of Markers of Oxidative Stress and DNA Methylation," appears today in PLOS Computational Biology, an open access journal published by the Public Library of Science.

In the article, Hahn describes an application of Fisher Discriminant Analysis - a big data analysis technique - to data from a group of 149 people, about half on the Autism spectrum. Deliberately omitting data from one of the individuals in the group, Hahn subjects the dataset to advanced analysis techniques, and uses the results to generate a predictive algorithm. The algorithm then makes a prediction about the data from the omitted individual. Hahn cross-validated the results, swapping a different individual out of the group and repeating the process for all 149 participants.

His method correctly identified 96.1 percent of all neurotypical participants and 97.6 percent of the ASD cohort.

The Minister of Commerce and Industry, Nirmala Sitaraman, launched the Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme (TIES) on March 15, 2017. Through this scheme, the government intends to plug gaps in trade infrastructure and facilitate forward and backward linkages for traders.

Spearheaded by the Commerce Secretary, the committee, appointed to oversee sanctioning of projects under the scheme, comprises of officials from among other ministries as well. Senior members from DGFT, DIPP, NITI Aayog, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Development of North-East Region will form the 10-member committee.

This new initiative, which will commence on April 1 2017, proposes to ease the burden of traders who bear unnecessary costs due to lack of infrastructure in areas like cold storage or cargo handling facilities at ports.

Only projects which can establish a direct link to the benefit of export industries would be financed under the scheme. Integrated check posts, border haats, trade promotion centres, export warehousing, customs checkpoints, and last mile connectivity projects will be given preference. The funding will be shared equally among the Centre and states, except in the north-eastern region, where the Centre will bear upto 80% of the costs.

“The idea of this scheme is to address those gaps in infrastructure which are not addressed by any other scheme. It will help to ensure smoother movement of export cargo and also ensure quality standards and certification,” Commerce Secretary Rita Teaotia said.

The budget has commissioned a total amount of Rs. 600 crore for the scheme, spread over three years in installments of Rs. 200 crore. Ending in the fiscal year 2019-20, the scheme will spend 5% of its budgetary allocation in review and monitoring operations.

The Minister said that the scheme would also undertake maintenance operations for completed projects, for which a pay-and-use mechanism will be deployed. The project monitoring role will be assigned to a professional agency on a national/regional level. Rajasthan and Karnataka, the two states that Sitaraman mentioned, have already proposed projects under the scheme. 

For individual projects, the financial aid from the scheme is capped at 20 crore. Other financers of the projects will be considered by the committee in the process of approval.

Former footballer Nongthombam Biren Singh took oath on March 16, 2017 as Manipur Chief Minister along with eight members of his new cabinet, as the BJP takes charge of another state in the north-east. Like in Goa, the BJP has been generous with ministerial posts for the allies that has helped it reach a majority in the state.

Y Joykumar Singh of the National People's Party (NPP) is Manipur's new Deputy Chief Minister. Of the seven others who were sworn in today, only one is from the BJP.

Biren Singh, a former Congressman who joined the BJP only in October last year, was sworn in as Chief Minister at 1.30 pm today along with his council of ministers. Before joining politics the 56-year-old was a national level footballer who was part of a Durand Cup winning Border Security Force team in 1981.

The BJP moved swiftly in Manipur and Goa to tie-up with small regional parties and independent legislators though in both states it had fewer seats than the Congress.

Ally National People's Party, whose four legislators are supporting the BJP in Manipur, has two ministers in the new Biren Singh cabinet including Deputy Chief Minister Joykumar Singh.

Another ally Naga People's Front has three new ministers; the Lok Jan Shakti Party's lone MLA is a minister and even Thounaojam Shyamkumar Singh, who defected from Congress took oath.

The Congress, which has won the most seats, 28, could not gather the support of three more legislators to make the 31-seat majority mark.

The Congress' Okram Ibobi Singh was the Chief Minister of Manipur for the last 15 years.

The Manohar Parrikar-led coalition government in Goa won the floor test in the legislative assembly on 16 March 2017 by getting 22 votes to 16 in the 40-member Goa assembly, one more than the simple majority figure of 21.

One MLA was made the speaker for the trust vote and did not vote while one Congress legislator walked out during the floor test against his own party. Congress MLA Vishwajeet Rane walked out during the floor test and later submitted his resignation to the protem speaker. Rane, son of Congress veteran Pratapsinh Rane who himself won his 11th term as an MLA in the Goa assembly elections, also resigned as a Congress member. He said he would re-contest from Valpoi constituency.

Apart from the Bharatiya Janata Party’s 13 MLAs, Parrikar also got support from three legislators of Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), three legislators of Goa Forward party (GFP), two independents, and Nationalist Congress Party’s lone member Churchill Alemao.

Before the floor test began, Rane told reporters that the delay caused by the Congress leadership in staking claim to form the government had demoralized the people of Goa. 

A triumphant Parrikar told reporters at a press conference later that the BJP was always confident of winning the trust vote. “The Congress did not have the numbers ever. Today’s floor test was a voluntary vote for us. No MLA was hidden in a hotel or anything,” Parrikar said. The Goa chief minister, who earlier this week resigned as the defence minister and made some deft moves in Goa to stitch together a BJP-led coalition, said “all eyes in India were on this floor test”.

The floor test was ordered by the Supreme Court after the Congress party in Goa filed a petition on 13 March challenging Goa governor Mridula Sinha’s decision to appoint a BJP-led government.

Parrikar was sworn in on 14 March along with eight other ministers.

The chief minister said after winning the trust vote that portfolios would be announced on 18 March. Ministers from MGP and GFP are likely to get important portfolios. In the 40-member Goa assembly, the BJP won 13 seats in the recent elections and later received support from 9 others.

The Congress won 17 seats and emerged the single largest party but never staked claim to form the government. On Thursday morning itself, it became clear that the BJP would sail through the trust vote as the MGP and GFP leaders reiterated their support to the BJP.

Congress leader Capt. Amarinder Singh was sworn in as the Punjab Chief Minister on 16th March 2017. At the Raj Bhavan, Governor V.P. Singh Badnore administered the oath of office and secrecy to Capt. Amarinder Singh and seven Cabinet Ministers and two Ministers of State.

Senior Congress leaders, including the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, attended the ceremony. Speculation on Navjot Singh Sidhu becoming the Deputy Chief Minister ended after he was given the portfolio of local government, tourism and cultural Affairs. The CM will look after general administration, personnel, home affairs and justice and vigilance.

Cabinet Minister Brahm Mohindra has been given health and family welfare, research and medical education and parliamentary Affairs. Manpreet Singh Badal will handle finance, planning and employment generation. Forests and welfare of SCs and BCs will be looked after by Sadhu Singh Dharamsot. Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa has been put in charge of rural development and panchayats and water supply and sanitation. Rana Gurjit Singh will handle irrigation and power. Charanjit Singh Channi has been allotted technical education and industrial training. Aruna Chaudhary, Minister of State (Independent Charge), has been assigned higher education and school education. Razia Sultana is the other Minister of State (Independent Charge), who will handle PWD (B&R), social security and development of women and children.

Congress leader Capt. Amarinder Singh was sworn in as the Punjab Chief Minister on Thursday. At the Raj Bhavan, Governor V.P. Singh Badnore administered the oath of office and secrecy to Capt. Amarinder Singh and seven Cabinet Ministers and two Ministers of State.

Senior Congress leaders, including the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, attended the ceremony. Speculation on Navjot Singh Sidhu becoming the Deputy Chief Minister ended after he was given the portfolio of local government, tourism and cultural Affairs. The CM will look after general administration, personnel, home affairs and justice and vigilance.

Cabinet Minister Brahm Mohindra has been given health and family welfare, research and medical education and parliamentary Affairs. Manpreet Singh Badal will handle finance, planning and employment generation. Forests and welfare of SCs and BCs will be looked after by Sadhu Singh Dharamsot. Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa has been put in charge of rural development and panchayats and water supply and sanitation. Rana Gurjit Singh will handle irrigation and power. Charanjit Singh Channi has been allotted technical education and industrial training. Aruna Chaudhary, Minister of State (Independent Charge), has been assigned higher education and school education. Razia Sultana is the other Minister of State (Independent Charge), who will handle PWD (B&R), social security and development of women and children.

Fifty new Kendriya Vidyalayas (KVs) will be established across the country to provide quality education to around 50,000 students with the Cabinet giving a go ahead to the project. The schools, which will be set up under the civil/defence sector for classes 1 to 5, will “provide quality education to approximately 50,000 students in addition to around 12 lakh students already studying in present KVs,” an official statement said.

The new KVs for which 650 regular posts will be created, will “address the educational needs of eligible students with high quality standards and will play a role of pace—setting educational institutions in the districts concerned,” it said.

By providing a common syllabus and system of education, the KVs are intended to ensure that the children of government employees do not face education disadvantages while their parents are transferred from one location to another.

The schools have been operational for over fifty years.

At least 4-acre of land is required in a city and beyond that in other areas for setting up of a Kendriya Vidyalaya.
Other norms include concentration of 500 employees in defence or Central government and minimum potential enrollment of 200 children for classes I to IV.

The total project cost based on Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS) norms for the proposed 50 new KVs is Rs. 1,160 crore.

Women’s voices are still missing from the executive branches of governments and parliaments worldwide, slowing achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the United Nations agency tasked with supporting gender equality today said at the launch of a visual representation of women’s political empowerment.

The number of women Heads of State or Heads of Government fell from 19 to 17 since 2015, and progress in the number of women in parliament continues to be slow, according to the Women in Politics Map launched today by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and UN Women.

The Union, established in 1889, is the focal point for world-wide parliamentary dialogue and works for peace and co-operation among peoples and for the firm establishment of representative democracy. The IPU supports the efforts of and works in close cooperation with the UN on relevant objectives.

IPU data shows that the global average of women in national parliaments increased just slightly from 22.6 per cent in 2015 to 23.3 per cent in 2016. The number of female Speakers of the House, however, is up to the highest so far, with 53 out of 273 posts.

She noted that some women also experience pushback from men, including physical violence, taunting and bullying; while the media sometimes focuses too much on women’s physical attributes rather than their experiences and political platforms.

“In 2016, we saw confirmation of a trend we had been seeing, when it comes to representation of women in parliament, there is progress but the progress is excruciatingly slow. At this rate, it will take 50 years to reach 50-50 parity,” Mr. Chungong told the press. “This is a warning signal; we have to do something about this.”

Regional snapshot of women’s political power

Regionally, women’s representation in the Americas made the most significant gains, according to a press release from UN Women.

Women’s participation in parliaments rose to 25 per cent from 22.4 per cent in 2015, even as the region saw a drop in Heads of State with the Presidents of Brazil and Argentina leaving office.

Female ministers in Africa saw a decline in numbers, after years of steady growth. About 19.7 per cent of the region’s ministerial posts are held by women.

In Asia, women hold 11 per cent of ministerial posts, led by Indonesia whose Government is comprised of 25.7 per cent women.

Among the Arab States, 9.7 per cent of senior executive posts are held by women, led by Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates, at 23.1 per cent and 26.7 per cent, respectively.

In Europe, the total percentage stood at 22.5 per cent. A surprise came from the Nordic countries which have traditionally led the global stage in politics, but whose number of female ministers fell by more than six per cent to 43.5 per cent.

Builders can be made liable for the safety of the structure, as per the new national building code proposed by the Centre to be followed by the states. The revised code was unveiled by Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan here today. The code has been prepared by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) under the aegis of the Consumer Affairs Ministry.

The code is voluntary in nature but the states can incorporate them in their building bylaws.

"The code contains provisions on use of new/innovative materials and technologies and on prefabricated construction techniques that can give fillip to speedier construction to meet the objectives of Housing for All by 2022".

Apart from making builders liable, the revised code has made necessary changes keeping in view the requirement of modern buildings. 

For example, the code specifies fire and life safety norms for high rise buildings and a proper horizontal evacuation system in high-rise hospitals and public buildings. 

It also provides for universal accessibility for senior citizens and differently abled citizens besides encouraging use new building material and alternative smart technologies.

The salient features of the revised code are norms for solar energy utilisation, inclusion of modern lighting technique including LED, updated provision on piped gas supply in houses and hospitals, solid waste management and rain water harvesting, besides high speed lifts for tall buildings.

For ease of doing business, the revised code has a detailed provision for streamlining the approval process in respect of different agencies in the form of an integrated approval process through single window approach thereby avoiding separate clearances from various authorities. 

On 15 March 2017 the government unveiled a new scheme that will finance infrastructure creation to boost exports. The Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme, which will be implemented from April 1, will have budgetary allocation of Rs 600 crore for three years with annual outlay of Rs 200 crore.

The scheme will provide assistance for setting up and upgrade of infrastructure projects with “overwhelming export linkages” such as border haats, land customs stations, quality testing and certification labs, cold chains, trade promotion centres, dry ports, export warehousing and packaging, special economic zones, ports and airports. 

The scheme will help meet infrastructure funding needs of states after an earlier scheme, Assistance to States for Creating Infrastructure for Development and Growth of Exports, was stopped. 

Central and state government agencies, export promotion councils, commodities boards and apex trade bodies will be eligible for financial support under the scheme and will be known as implementing agencies. Proposals of these implementing agencies for funding will be considered by an empowered committee chaired by the commerce secretary. 

Union cabinet gives approval to the revised MoU between India, Bangladesh for establishing Border Haats to promote well-being of marginalised sections of society dwelling in remote areas.

“The Union cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has given its approval to the revised Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and Mode of Operation (MoO) between India and Bangladesh for establishing Border Haats on India-Bangladesh border,” an official statement said.

The Union cabinet has given ex-post-facto approval to MoU with Bangladesh for Mode of Operation of Border haats signed in 2010. Border haats will be established after identification of locations in consultation with Bangladesh and concerned States. Border haats promote traditional system of marketing of local produce through local markets on currency/ barter basis.

According to the statement, Border Haats aim at promoting the well-being of the people dwelling in remote areas across the borders of two countries by promoting traditional system of marketing the local produce through local markets.

These measures help improve economic well-being of marginalised sections of society, it added.

Currently, four border haats are operational, two each in Meghalaya and Tripura. These were established and operationalised under the MoU and Mode of Operation of Border Haats signed between Bangladesh and India on 23 October 2010. Subsequently, an Addendum to Mode of operation of Border Haats was also signed on 15 May 2012.

The Revised MoU and Mode of Operation will provide a legal framework for establishment and operationalisation of additional border haats, it added.

A high powered committee of the National Security Council, headed by former home secretary Madhukar Gupta, 15.03.2017 presented its report on India-Pakistan border to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi.

The Ministry of Home Affairs had constituted a committee under the chairmanship of former home secretary Madhukar Gupta in April 2016, for strengthening border protection and addressing the issue of gaps and vulnerability in border fencing along the India-Pakistan border.In its report, the committee has made a detailed study through discussions on threat perception, field visits and discussions with stakeholders.

The committee has made a several recommendations regarding border protection on India-Pakistan border.The mandate of the committee was to study all types of gaps in fencing and all other vulnerabilities in the International Border and to suggest comprehensive approach to fix these gaps in fencing and other vulnerabilities on interim and permanent basis.

For the third year in a row, Hyderabad has emerged as the best city in terms of living standards among Indian cities globally, according to Mercer’s Quality of Living rankings 2017. However, Hyderabad fell by five places to 144 in this year’s rankings from 139th rank last year due to decreased power supply and water availability. Delhi for the second straight year hit the lowest score among Indian cities for living standards.

Both Hyderabad and Pune (145) ranked higher for the quality of living than the country’s traditional business centers Mumbai and New Delhi, which have been ranked at 154 and 161, respectively, by the report.

Pal noted that Indian cities that have been part of the survey have not made much progress on the quality of living scale since last year. The only exception is Chennai, whose score has marginally improved mainly on account of public transport, including buses and a recently expanded two-line metro system, and improved availability of expat housing.

Globally, Vienna topped again for the 8th time in a row for the quality of living. Rest of the top 10 spots are mostly filled by European cities. Zurich is in second place, with Munich (4), Dusseldorf (6), Frankfurt (7), Geneva (8), Copenhagen (9), and Basel, a newcomer to the list, in 10th place. The only non-European cities in the top ten are Auckland (3) and Vancouver (5). The highest ranking cities in Asia and Latin America are Singapore (25) and Montevideo (79), respectively.

Mercer’s survey also included a city infrastructure ranking that assesses each city’s supply of electricity, drinking water, telephone and mail services, and public transportation as well as traffic congestion and the range of international flights available from local airports. Singapore topped the city infrastructure ranking, followed by Frankfurt and Munich both in 2nd place. Amongst Indian cities, Mumbai is ranked the highest at 141, followed by Kolkata (149) and Pune (151), while Bangalore was rated the lowest (177) by the report.

The world’s first fluorescent frog has been discovered near Santa Fe in Argentina. Scientists at the Bernardino Rivadavia Natural Sciences Museum in Buenos Aires made the discovery by accident while studying the pigment of polka-dot tree frogs, a species common across the continent.

Rare 'cave squeaker' frog seen in Zimbabwe for first time in 55 years Read moreIn normal light the frog appears to have a dull, mottled browny-green skin with red dots, but under UV light it glows a bright fluorescent green.

Fluorescence – the ability to absorb light at short wavelengths and re-emit it at longer wavelengths – is uncommon in creatures that live on land.

The translucent frog was found to use a combination of lymph and glandular emissions to fluoresce.

The researchers, who published their discovery on 13 March in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that the trait enhanced the brightness of the frog by 19-29% depending on the level of ambient light in its surroundings.

The compound causing the blue–green glow of the polka-dot tree frog was not previously thought to exist in vertebrates and its discovery has excited researchers.

The discovery opens up the possibility that other amphibians may be able to fluoresce, particularly those with translucent skin similar to that of the tree frog.

Recognizing the potential and possibilities in the fisheries sector, Government of India has envisaged a program named ‘’Blue Revolution’’ to unlock the country’s latent potential through an integrated approach. The Blue Revolution, in its scope and reach, focuses on creating an enabling environment for an integrated and holistic development and management of fisheries for the socio economic development of the fishers and fish farmers. Thrust areas have been identified for enhancing fisheries production from 10.79 mmt (2014-15) to 15 mmt in 2020-21.

Greater emphasis will be on infrastructure with an equally strong focus on management and conservation of the resources through technology transfer to increase in the income of the fishers and fish farmers. Productivity enhancement shall also be achieved through employing the best global innovations and integration of various production oriented activities such as: Production of quality fish seeds, Cost effective feed and adoption of technology etc. 

Fish Fingerling production is the single most important critical input visualised to achieve fish production targets under the Blue Revolution. We need to establish more hatchery to produce Fry/PL required for different categories of water bodies. Barring few States that’s to in terms of fry (15-20 mm size), all States are in need of Fingerling production (standard size 80-100 mm). Use of High Yielding Verities of brooders is another significant aspect to be addressed on priority. 

The Department has identified 20 States based on their potential and other relevant factors to strengthen the Fish Seed infrastructure in the country. This program with a total expenditure of about Rs. 52000 lakh will facilitate the establishment of hatcheries and Fingerling rearing pond to ensure the fish production of 426 crores fish fingerling, 25.50 crores Post Larvae of shrimp and crab in the country. This will converge in the production of 20 lakh tonnes of fish annually and will benefit about 4 million families. The implementation of this program will supplement the requirement of stocking materials in the country up to a large extent, which is a much needed input to achieve the enhanced fish production. 

Britain’s Parliament has told Prime Minister Theresa May she can file for divorce from the European Union. She will send the formal letter by the end of March. Then comes the hard part the arguments, the lawyers, the squabbles over money.
What is the E.U. and why is Britain leaving?

The E.U. is a bloc of 28 nations sharing relatively open borders, a single market in goods and services and for 19 nations a single currency, the euro. Britain joined in 1973 but has long been a somewhat reluctant member, with a large contingent of euroskeptic politicians and journalists regularly railing against regulations imposed by the E.U.’s headquarters in Brussels.

Former Prime Minister David Cameron offered voters a referendum on E.U. membership, and in June 2016 they voted by 52%-48% to leave.

The bill passed by Parliament late March 13, 2017 authorises the British government to invoke Article 50 of the E.U.’s Lisbon Treaty, which says a member state may “notify the European Council of its intention” to leave the bloc.

Later this month, Ms. May is expected to send the notification in a letter to Council President Donald Tusk and then announce the news, probably to Parliament.

That sets a clock ticking — Article 50 says that two years from the moment of notification, “the Treaties shall cease to apply” and Britain will no longer be an E.U. member.

The timing of Article 50 was up to Britain. What happens next is up to the E.U.

Mr. Tusk says that that once E.U. officials get Britain’s notification, they will respond within 48 hours, offering draft negotiating guidelines for the 27 remaining member states to consider. Leaders of the 27 nations will then meet to finalise their negotiating platform; if Article 50 is triggered this week, the meeting will be on April 6, 2017.

Substantial talks may have to wait until after France’s two-round April-May election for a new President. Another hiccup could be Germany’s September election, which will determine whether Chancellor Angela Merkel gets another term.

What is the most pressing issue?

Britain’s vote to leave the E.U. has meant uncertainty for 3 million E.U. citizens living in the U.K., and 1 million Britons who reside in the 27 other nations of the bloc. Both sides agree that providing a guarantee that they will be able to stay where they are is a top priority.

What will be the main conflicts?

The first major battle is likely to be about money. The E.U. says Britain must pay a hefty divorce bill of up to €60 billion ($64 billion), to cover E.U. staff pensions and other expenses the U.K. has committed to. Britain hasn’t ruled out a payment, but is sure to quibble over the size of the tab.

There’s also likely to be friction over Britain’s desire to have free trade in goods and services with the bloc, without accepting the E.U.’s core principle of free movement of workers. Britain has said it will impose limits on immigration, and so will have to leave the E.U.’s single market and customs union. That makes some barriers to trade seem inevitable.

When will it be over?

Under the terms of Article 50, Britain will cease to be an E.U. member in March 2019. But E.U. negotiators warn it could take two years just to settle the divorce terms; agreeing a new relationship between the U.K. and the E.U. could take years longer. If the rest of the E.U. agrees, the two-year negotiating period can be extended, with Britain still in the E.U. Or, the two sides could agree on a transitional period.

There’s also a chance Britain could walk away early without a deal if it thinks talks are going nowhere.

Is Brexit a one-way ticket?

The British government has said firmly that it will not backtrack on Brexit. But it’s unclear whether Article 50 is legally reversible. Former British ambassador to the E.U. John Kerr, who wrote Article 50, says “it is not irrevocable. You can change your mind while the process is going on.”

Lee Chong Wei won his fourth All England Open Badminton Championships crown on Sunday and changed his mind about it being his 13th and last visit to badminton’s oldest championship.

After swatting aside first-time finalist Shi Yuqi of China 21-12, 21-10, Chong Wei said he will return to defend the title of his favorite tournament.

Before the event, he said this would be his last All England, then almost didn’t make it. He tore a cruciate ligament in his left knee on Feb. 4 when he slipped on court mats in training, and wasn’t cleared until nine days before the tournament.

He still played in pain and with the knee heavily strapped and yet, despite all the pre-tournament drama, sliced through his draw — dropping just one game.

No. 10-ranked Shi knocked out Chong Wei’s great nemesis, Lin Dan, in the semifinals. He won his maiden Superseries final in Paris in October. But he’d been well beaten in his two previous matches with Chong Wei and never looked like hurting the Malaysian in this final.

Chong Wei outmaneuvered Shi, made him scramble, and smashed winners to his left and right. He was behind only once, by a point early. He won five straight points for 18-10 and an air of inevitability enveloped the final.

Late in the second, Shi earned a net kill to trail 18-10 but rolled right over his right ankle and needed strapping. Two unforced errors gave Chong Wei match point, and the latter took it with a smash winner to Shi’s forehand.

His fourth All England title tied him with countrymen Wong Peng Soon and Eddy Choong, who won theirs in the 1950s when the All England was the unofficial world championship.

Chong Wei didn’t retire after the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, where he won a third straight silver medal, to fulfil his dream of a world championship with his Olympic chance gone.

He’d suggested the worlds in Glasgow in August would be his swansong, but at 34 and on a less-than-perfect knee, he remains a formidable opponent who will play on next year.

Punjab got the better of Railways by a 2-1 margin in a Group B final round league match of the 71st Santosh Trophy football tournament, on March 13, 2017.

Punjab, who led by 1-0 at half time, scored through a brace from Rajbir Singh (16th, 61st) while Railways pulled one back through Rajesh Soosanayakam in the 59th minute.

The match which was devoid of any spirit as play was confined to midfield for most part of the match.

Punjab, who looked better side, enjoyed edge in the midfield with Rajbir Singh constantly threatening the rival defence.

Rajbir first had a chance to put his team ahead in the 14th minute but his shot was saved by rival keeper Akhil Kumar.

After persistant efforts, Punjab took the lead in the 16th minute.Harshdeep Singh floated the ball from a flag kick and Rajbir neatly headed in to put his team ahead 1-0 at half time. Railways, who failed to make constructive moves in the first half, came with occasional foray in the second half and restored parity in the 59th minute when Rajesh Soosanayakam, who received the ball from Dipankar Das on top of the box, send a low shot that beat rival keeper Paramjit Singh.

However, Railways joy was short lived as Rajbir scored his seconfd goal of the day two minutes later with a shot from inside the box after receiving a cross from Harjinder Singh.

NTPC BSE 1.37 % started power generation from India’s largest floating solar power plant at Kayamkulam in Kerala, on March 10, 2017. The 100 kWp floating solar generation plant, largest of its kind in India, was indigenously developed as a part of ‘Make In India’ initiative, at Rajiv Gandhi Combined Cycle Power Plant (RGCCPP) in Kerala’s Kayamkulam district, the company said in a statement. 

Solar panels mounted on floating boards that hold them in place saves land usage and has been found to be efficient than the ones installed on land. 

These floating platform were indigenously developed by NTPC Energy Technology Research Alliance, the R&D arm of NTPC LtdBSE 1.37 %, in collaboration with Central Institute of Plastic Engineering & Technology (CIPET), Chennai and a patent has been applied for.

The system was installed by Swelect Energy Systems Ltd, Chennai with support from NETRA & NTPC Kayamkulam station in a short span of 22 days.

Hyperloop is a proposed mode of passenger and freight transportation that would propel a pod-like vehicle through a near-vacuum tube at more than airline speed. The alpha version of the proposal, published on the SpaceX website, describes design claims of the system, as well as its function. The pods would accelerate to cruising speed gradually using a linear electric motor and glide above their track using passive magnetic levitation or air bearings. The tubes could also go above ground on columns or underground, eliminating the dangers of grade crossings. It is hoped that the system will be highly energy-efficient, quiet and autonomous.

The concept of high-speed travel in tubes has been around for decades, but there has been a resurgence in interest in pneumatic tube transportation systems since the concept was reintroduced, using updated technologies, by Elon Musk after 2012, incorporating reduced-pressure tubes in which pressurized capsules ride on an air cushion driven by linear induction motors and air compressors.

The outline of the original Hyperloop concept was made public by the release of a preliminary design document in August 2013, which included a suggested route running from the Los Angeles region to the San Francisco Bay Area, paralleling the Interstate 5 corridor for most of its length. Preliminary analysis indicated that such a route might obtain an expected journey time of 35 minutes, meaning that passengers would traverse the 350-mile (560 km) route at an average speed of around 600 mph (970 km/h), with a top speed of 760 mph (1,200 km/h).

Hyperloop One

Hyperloop One was incorporated in 2014 and has built a team of 200 engineers, technicians, welders and machinists to build the world's first commercial Hyperloop system. It has raised more than US$160 million in capital from investors including DP World, Sherpa Capital, Formation 8, 137 Ventures, Caspian Venture Capital, Fast Digital, GE Ventures and SNCF.

Hyperloop One Executive Chairman Shervin Pishevar, a venture capitalist with strong connections to Elon Musk, is one of the two co-founders, along with Josh Giegel, a lead engineer for Musk's SpaceX. Even though Elon Musk has no business association with Hyperloop One, there are many other connections to Musk throughout the company. David Sacks is on the board of directors and he worked under Musk at PayPal.

On May 11, 2016 Hyperloop One conducted the first live trial of Hyperloop technology, demonstrating that its custom linear electric motor could propel a sled from 0 to 110 miles an hour in just over one second. The acceleration exerted approximately 2.5 G on the bogie. The bogie was stopped at the end of the test by hitting a pile of sand at the end of the track because Hyperloop One has not yet designed the brakes for the system.

In July 2016, Hyperloop One released a preliminary study that suggested a Hyperloop connection between Helsinki and Stockholm would be feasible, reducing the travel time between the cities to half an hour. The construction costs were estimated by Hyperloop One to be around €19 billion (US$21 billion at 2016 exchange rates).

In November 2016, Hyperloop One disclosed that it has established a high-level working group relationship with the governments of Finland and the Netherlands to study the viability of building Hyperloop proof of operations centers in those countries. Hyperloop One also has a feasibility study underway with Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority for passenger systems in the UAE. Other feasibility studies are underway in Russia, Los Angeles and Switzerland.

In order to bring in more sensitivity and respect towards widows, the Madhya Pradesh government has announced that widows in the state will be referred to as "Kalyani's" in all official documents.

In line with the Prime Minister's call to use the word 'Divyang' instead of 'Viklang' while referring to a person with physicsl disabilities, the Madhya Pradesh government has announced that widows in the state will be referred to as "Kalyani's" in all official documents and welfare related schemes.

Meanwhile, political parties cutting across party lines have welcomed the decision of the state government.

The state govt has stressed on the point of empowerment of women and also called for the portrayal of widows in a positive light.

Indian Institute of Technology-Madras has won the 2017 IEEE Spectrum Technology in the Service of Society Award for its solar-direct current (DC) inverter system. The system, developed using micro grid technology, converts in-home power distribution from 230V Analog Current to 48V DC to directly power appliances and devices. The system is also equipped to tap rooftop solar power, making it the most energy efficient solution for homes and offices, according to a press release.

It was developed by Centre for Decentralised Power Systems at IIT-M. The system consists of DC solar generation, DC power-line, DC appliances and battery. Currently, the system has been deployed in 4,000 off-grid homes in Jodhpur and Jaisalmer in Rajasthan and is being deployed in around 7,200 homes in Assam. The inverter system has been installed in villages in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

With energy efficiency becoming a mantra, many offices and homes are using DC to power devices and appliances using existing AC power-lines. This requires an AC to DC converter, which adds to the losses, cost and unreliability. So solar-DC is a viable and cost-effective solution for powering homes in remote off-grid areas, due to its reliability, affordability and its operation without dependency on grid.

The IEEE Spectrum Technology in the Service of Society Award is presented to the company/institution voted by IEEE Spectrum editors as having developed the technology that has the potential to benefit mankind.

The Election Commission (EC) finished vote counting on March 11, 2017 for assembly election results in five states, including Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stormed back to power in Uttar Pradesh after a gap of 15 years, winning a landslide victory in an election.

Here’s the final tally of seats in the assembly elections in the five states:

Uttar Pradesh : The counting of votes for the 403 seats in Uttar Pradesh (UP) assembly elections 2017 saw a historic landslide verdict in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies in 403-member UP assembly won 312 seats.

Samajwadi Party : 47

Bahujan Samaj Party : 19

Apna Dal (Soneylal) : 9

Indian National Congress : 7

Rashtriya Lok Dal : 1

Uttarakhand : The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has won a majority with 56 seats in the 70 seat-Uttarakhand assembly, ousting the Congress led by chief minister Harish Rawat. Indian National Congress won only 11 seats.

Punjab : Congress won 77 seats in the 117-member Punjab assembly with Amarinder Singh as its chief ministerial nominee, only one short of the 78 needed for a two-thirds majority.

Goa : The counting of votes for the 40 seats in Goa assembly elections 2017 show a close contest between the Congress and BJP, while other smaller parties such as the Goa Forward Party and Maharashtrawadi Gomantak (MGP) also making inroads.

Manipur : The Congress won 28 seats, but the BJP is hot on its heels with 21 wins and neither party is yet assured of a majority.

Legal challenges against President Donald Trump's revised travel ban mounted on March 10, 2017 as Washington state said it would renew its request to block the executive order. 

It came a day after Hawaii launched its own lawsuit, and Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said both Oregon and New York had asked to join his state's legal action.

Washington was the first state to sue over the original ban, which resulted in Judge James Robert in Seattle halting its implementation around the country.

Ferguson said the state would ask Robart to rule that his temporary restraining order against the first ban applies to Trump's revised action.

Trump's revised ban bars new visas for people from six predominantly Muslim countries: Somalia, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya and Yemen. It also temporarily shuts down the U.S. refugee program.

Unlike the initial order, the new one says current visa holders won't be affected, and removes language that would give priority to religious minorities. 

In China, scientists have assembled four synthetic yeast chromosomes, making it the second country after the US capable of designing and building eukaryotic genomes.The findings were published in today's edition of journal Science, marking a step closer to building synthetic life.

Xinhua news agency reported that researchers with Tianjin University,Tsinghua University and BGI-Shenzhen have constructed the synthetic active chromosomes through exactly matching the synthetic genome with the designed sequence for the first time.

In 2010, the US scientists succeeded in implanting a synthetic genome in a prokaryotic bacterium, marking the first step in chemical synthesis of living organisms.

The new effort is part of a larger project to redesign and reengineer yeast chromosomes, called the Synthetic Yeast Genome Project, which several research institutes participated in, including those in China and the United States. Brewer's yeast has long served as an important research model because their cells share many features with human cells, but are simpler and easier to study.

According to the researchers, synthetic biology will provide solutions to global problems, including energy shortages and pollution.

For example, with development in technology, modified brewer's yeast with synthetic chromosomes will help produce food and energy of various kinds and lower cost through fermentation one day.

India's first lunar probe - the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft - which was considered lost, is still orbiting the Moon. NASA scientists have found the satellite, using a new ground-based radar technique. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, using a new interplanetary radar technology, has spotted India's Chandrayaan 1, which has been out of radio contact since August 2009.

"Finding LRO was relatively easy, as we were working with the mission's navigators and had precise orbit data where it was located. Finding Chandrayaan-1 required a bit more detective work because the last contact with the spacecraft was in August 2009."

"Although the interplanetary radar has been used to observe small asteroids several million miles from the Earth, researchers were not certain that an object of this smaller size as far away as the moon could be detected, even with the world's most powerful radars," the press note added.

Optical telescopes are unable to search for small objects hidden in the bright glare of the moon.

Chandrayaan-1, India’s first moon mission, was launched on October 22, 2008. It was successfully placed in a polar orbit around the moon on November 8, 2008. The Moon Impact Probe was placed on the moon on November 14, 2008, and with this India became the fourth country to touch the moon.

Analysing the soil collected by the impact probe, Indian scientists found evidence of the existence of water on the moon. The mission was expected to last for two years; however, after 312 days, it had to be closed, as the station lost track of the spacecraft on August 29, 2009.

Finding a dormant spacecraft around the moon is difficult, since its orbital path could have varied over time, or even crashed on the moon. JPL's calculations suggest that Chandrayaan-1 is still circling some 200 km above the lunar surface, but it was generally considered "lost."

As Chandrayaan-1 is in a polar orbit around the moon, the scientists aimed the radar at a location above the moon’s north pole and waited for the satellite to pass the radar beam. "Chandrayaan-1 was predicted to complete one orbit around the moon every two hours and 8 minutes.

Something that had a radar signature of a small spacecraft did cross the beam twice during four hours of observations, and the timings between detections matched the time it would take Chandrayaan-1 to complete one orbit and return to the same position above the moon’s pole," the press note said. Seven more readings over the next three months confirmed that it is indeed Chandrayaan.

India's second moon mission Chandrayaan-2 is expected to be launched at the end of 2018.

NASA’s ‘Europa Clipper’ set to launch in the 2020s will probe the habitability of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa. When the mission was still in the conceptual phase, it was informally called Europa Clipper, but NASA has now adopted that name as the formal title for the mission.

The moniker harkens back to the clipper ships that sailed across the oceans of Earth in the 19th century.

Clipper ships were streamlined, three-masted sailing vessels renowned for their grace and swiftness. These ships rapidly shuttled tea and other goods back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean and around the globe.

The mission plan includes 40 to 45 flybys, during which the spacecraft would image the moon’s icy surface at high resolution and investigate its composition and the structure of its interior and icy shell.

Europa has long been a high priority for exploration because it holds a salty liquid water ocean beneath its icy crust.

The ultimate aim of Europa Clipper is to determine if Europa is habitable, possessing all three of the ingredients necessary for life: liquid water, chemical ingredients, and energy sources sufficient to enable biology.

“During each orbit, the spacecraft spends only a short time within the challenging radiation environment near Europa. It speeds past, gathers a huge amount of science data, then sails on out of there,” said Robert Pappalardo, Europa Clipper project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

The mission is being planned for launch in the 2020s, arriving in the Jupiter system after a journey of several years.

While India may be ahead of the United States (which gives its women employees 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave), our Maternity Bill leaves out a large section of women in the unorganized sector and that's a colossal setback.

On Thursday, Parliament cleared the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill 2016, an improvement on the original Act that was passed on December 12, 1961. The bill aims at providing working women maternity leave and selective benefits, before and after the birth of their child.While the original Act laid down that expecting mothers would be provided 12 weeks of paid leave, the amended Act (http://bit.ly/2mrZxcs), pushes the number of weeks to 26.

The Act is expected to benefit at least 1.8 million women. It catapults India on the world map as one of the countries with a relatively progressive and sensitive view towards working mothers who need maternity leave and benefits. India will now rank third, pitched right behind Canada (50 weeks) and Norway (44 weeks), in terms of the number of weeks a country provides for paid maternity leaves.In fact, it is even far ahead of the United States, a country where the women’s rights movement originated back in 1848.

However, even in 2017, the country gives its women employees 12 weeks of leave – that too, unpaid. The maternity leave in the United States comes under the overarching umbrella of the 1993 legislation called the Family and Medical Leave Act (http://bit.ly/2en7FnI), where employees can take leave for a wide ambit of reasons – from vacation to sickness and pregnancy.

“Pregnancy disability leave or maternity leave for the birth of a child would be considered qualifying FMLA leave for a serious health condition and may be counted in the 12 weeks of leave so long as the employer properly notifies the employee in writing of the designation.

” I would have apprehensions of using the term ‘pregnancy disability leave’, but let’s not go off tangent.

India’s Maternity (Amendment) Bill is a landmark bill in comparison. It also entitles women who legally adopt a child below the age of three months, as well as “commissioning mothers” to have a paid leave for a duration of 12 weeks.

A commissioning mother can be described as a biological parent who uses her eggs to have children through surrogacy. In addition, the Act also lays down every company with 50 or more employees to provide a creche facility.

In a bid to make transactions through e-wallets safer and strengthen the grievance redressal mechanism for consumers, government has released a set of guidelines for wallet firms. The draft Information Technology (Security of Prepaid Payment Instruments) Rules 2017 which have been released for public consultation by the ministry of electronics and IT cover an entire spectrum such as protecting consumer information, especially financial data. 

The Rules mandate that each Prepaid Payment Instruments (PPI) company or wallet firm will have a privacy policy posted on its website. It will also have to appoint a chief grievance officer, the contact details of whom will have to be prominently displayed on the website. 

The grievance officer will have to "act upon" any complaint within 36 hours and "close" it in a month's time. The draft also mandate that companies have enough safeguards in place to avoid any hacking attacks and if there is one, it is to be swiftly reported to the government agencies. 

"Every e-PPI issuer shall have in place and publish on its website and mobile applications the privacy policy and the terms and conditions for use of the payment systems operated by it in simple language, capable of being understood by a reasonable person," said the draft. It added that the policy should include details such as consumer information collected, its uses, period of retention of information, purposes for which information can be disclosed and to whom especially with law enforcement agencies.

It should also have details on security practices and procedures, name and contact details of the grievance redressal officer along with mechanism for grievance redressal. 

On Mrch 8, 2017 the Cabinet approved the signing of a protocol amending an agreement between India and Belgium for avoidance of double taxation and prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income.

The amendment in the protocol will broaden the scope of the existing framework of exchange of tax related information between the two countries, which will help curb tax evasion and tax avoidance.

The decision regarding this was taken in a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Earlier, the government had revised the double taxation avoidance agreement with Mauritius and is in the process of amending pacts with Singapore and other nations.

India is revising these pacts to check abuse of tax treaty.

Scientists of CSIR-National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) in Visakhapatnam are an ecstatic lot. They have found three new canyons forming a major canyon system in the depths of Bay of Bengal close to Kovvada in Srikakulam district. The finding has been evading them since the last 50 years, and for the first time they have clearly mapped the ocean floor between Visakhapatnam and Srikakulam by sending over 32 high density beams to the depths of the sea.

“Canyon systems are generally formed by flow of river water into the sea and they could be as old as the river system, which is close to 23 million years. But what makes our find interesting is that we could locate and clearly map a new system in the Bay of Bengal off the coast of Visakhapatnam and after nearly five decades,” said the acting director of NIO S. Prasanna Kumar.

The last canyon systems off the Visakhapatnam coast were discovered in 1963 by American geologist E.C. LaFond of U.S. Navy Electronics Laboratory, who was carrying out marine studies at Andhra University. The data was collected on board research ship Anton Bruun.

Prof. LaFond then discovered three canyon systems between Viskhapatnam and a few kilometres north of Bheenumipatnam and they were named as Andhra after Andhra University, Mahadevan after Prof. Mahadeven, who is considered to be the father of Geology in India, and Krishna after the then Vice-Chancellor of AU Prof. V.S. Krishna, said V.S.N. Murty, scientist in-charge of NIO-Visakhapatnam.

According to P.S. Rao, Chief Geologist on board RV Sindhu Sankalp, the new canyon system is very huge and probably formed by the river Kandivalasa. The depth of the canyon varies from about 90 metres from the starting point to about 2,500 metres at the deepest point, and it extends to about 50 to 70 km deep into the sea and the width varies from 50 metres to two km.

As per the findings, the depth is more than the Grand Canyon, which is about 1,857 metres, said Dr. Prsanna Kumar.

Eminent Konkani writer Mahabaleshwar Sail has been honoured with the Saraswati Samman 2016 for his novel 'Hawthan'.
The 74-year-old writer's novel, published in 2009, was shortlisted from 22 books written in as many languages.

The selection for the award, given every year for an outstanding literary work written in any Indian language by an Indian citizen and published during the last 10 years, is made by a jury presided by former chief justice A S Anand.

The award carries a cash prize of 15 lac and a citation.

Hailing from Sadashivgad in Uttara Kannada, Goa-based Sail is a renowned bi-lingual writer who has four Marathi dramas and seven Konkani novels to his credit.

He has also written five short stories and a novel in Marathi. His book 'Hawthan' is a well-researched work of fiction presenting the cultural map of the traditional potter community of Goa. It has been translated into English as 'Kiln' and into Kannada as 'Aavige'.

The previous recipients of the Saraswati Samman, instituted by K K Birla Foundation, include former Union minister M Veerappa Moily, S L Bhyrappa, K Aiyappa Panickar, Vijay Tendulkar, Padma Sachdev and Harivansh Rai Bachchan.

India, which has already phased out 47,693 of ODP is all set to not only achieve the compliance target of the second phase by 2020 but also work for expediting transition to low Global Warming Potential (GWP) and non-ODS technologies.The successful implementation of HPMP-I has already resulted in phaseout of 341.77 ODP tonne of HCFCs.

Announcing the launch of HCFC Phase-out Management Plan Stage-II, Union Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave urged the industry to develop unique products to carve out a niche for India at the global level, and said companies must invest a part of their income into research and development (R&D) and do some out-of-the-box thinking.

After launching the HCFC Phase-out Management Plan Stage-II here, Mr Dave said the phase-out of HCFCs in the second stage would be addressed through technology conversions at enterprises in the polyurethane foam sector, air conditioning manufacturing sector, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning (RAC) servicing centres.He said India was committed to ensuring the smooth transition of these enterprises to new technologies and values the interest of MSMEs the most.

He said keeping in view large number of MSMEs being addressed in the foam sector, an action plan would be developed for adoption of appropriate strategy to ensure minimal dislocation in the sector.He said by 2016, India had already phased out 47,693 tonne of ODP. Mr Dave said the strategy for HPMP stage-II should reflect national context, priorities, national policies and country driven. It should be based on developing a strengthened and proactive partnership between government and industry, should take lessons learnt from functioning of institutional arrangements and operational mechanisms in implementation of ODS phase out in past.

It should also integrate and build upon existing infrastructures and introduce new mechanisms as needed and be dynamic and evolving and open for revisions and adaptation according to evolving situation, he said. The baseline of HCFCs consumption for the country was 1608.20 ODP tonne against which the reduction target of the protocol is to be achieved for compliance. Whereas, the 1691.25 ODP tonne was the starting point which had to be phased out of consumption.

The accelerated phase out scheduled of HCFC has a target of 35 percent reduction in consumption from the baseline of 1608.20 ODP tonne by 2020.The successful implementation of HPMP-II has already resulted in phase out of 341.77 ODP tonne of HCFCs.The stage-II period ranging from 2017 to 2020 would focus on converting foam manufacturing facilities and air conditioning manufacturing facilities where HCFC was being used and where non-HCFC, zero ODP and low GWP technologies could be used. Under HPMP-II, India has secured 44.1 million USD from the Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol for phasing out 8,190 MT or 769.49 ODP tonne of HCFC consumption between 2017 to 2023, in order to meet the compliance targets under Montreal Protocol for 2020.

More than 400 enterprises, including 300+ Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in the foam manufacturing sector and six large air-conditioning manufacturing enterprises will be supported under HPMP-II for conversion from HCFCs to non-HCFC technologies.The HPMP II also provides for promotion of energy efficiency, development building codes integrating HCFC phase out issues, cold chain development with non-HCFC alternatives and development of standards for new non-ODS and low GWP alternatives, while transitioning away from HCFCs. It is expected that there would be a net direct CO2-equivalent emission reductions of about 8.5 million metric tonne annually from 2023.

It also specifically focusses on the MSME sector in foam manufacturing. Adequate attention has also been given to synergize the Refrigeration and Servicing (RAC) servicing sector trainings under HPMP II, with the Skill India Mission, in order to multiply the impact of skilling and training. According to estimates, nearly, 16, 000 service technicians will be trained under HPMP-II. Under the Montreal Protocol, the accelerated phase out of HCFCs is underway with a phase out of HCFCs by 2030.

The HPMP Stage-I has been already implemented in the country and has successfully met all the ODS phase-out targets, including those of HPMP Stage-I.

The Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) celebrated its 20th Anniversary when Indonesia, as the current Chair of IORA, hosted the first ever IORA Leaders' Summit on 7 March 2017 in Jakarta under the theme "Strengthening Maritime Cooperation for a Peaceful, Stable, and Prosperous Indian Ocean". In a historic first, the Summit brought together the Leaders of the 21 IORA Member States and its 7 Dialogue Partners as well as other special invitees including the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. Member States issued the Jakarta Concord - Promoting Regional Cooperation for a Peaceful, Stable and Prosperous Indian Ocean - which sets out a vision for a revitalized and sustainable regional architecture. The Summit is a game-changer for regional cooperation and a demonstration of Member States and Dialogue Partners commitment to the Indian Ocean region.

Jakarta is hosting the IORA Summit for the first time, which officially launched its journey in 1997, with the theme 'Strengthening Maritime Cooperation for a Peaceful, Stable, and Prosperous Indian Ocean.'

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has joined the Leaders' Summit of IORA on its 20th anniversary along with leaders of 18 other nations.

IORA member states

Australia, Bangladesh, Comoros, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mozambique, Oman, Seychelles, Singapore, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, the UAE and Yemen.

Dialogue partners

China, Egypt, France, Germany, Japan, UK and US.

Nepali Army and Indian Army started a joint military exercise, named Surya Kiran XI, in Pithoragarh of Indian state of Uttarakhand on March 07, 2017. As many as 664 personnel — 314 from Nepal and 350 from India — are taking part in the eleventh edition of Indo-Nepal military exercise, which will conclude on March 20.The infantry battalion-level drill will focus on skills required for natural disaster management, counter-insurgency and jungle warfare, according to the Nepali Army.

The joint military exercise is conducted every year, alternatively in India and Nepal. The Surya Kiran X was held in Saljhandi of Dang last year.
 
This sort of military exercise will strengthen the friendly relation between Nepal and India since ancient times and build up understanding between the ranks and file of two armies, the Nepali Army said in a statement.

Surya Kiran aims at promoting military relations while increasing interoperability in conducting joint counter insurgency operations in mountainous terrain, according to the Indian Army.

Both armies stand to benefit mutually from each other’s experience in fighting insurgency, environmental conservation, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) etc., a statement issued by Indian army said.

Present iteration of the joint military exercise is being conducted under the aegis of Panchshul Brigade in Surya Command, the Indian Army said.

The Commonwealth is launching an initiative to help member states tackle domestic violence, which it said remained a “stubborn stain” on communities, disproportionately impacting women.

The “Peace in the home” programme will include toolkits to help governments across the Commonwealth involve multiple agencies — such as schools, doctors and hospitals, as well as government — and law enforcement agencies to work together effectively, and will help countries highlight and share details of initiatives that had been particularly successful at dealing with domestic violence.

There will also be a mentoring programme for women, and an initiative to address the issue of violence around elections and politics. The programme, which is being launched on Women’s Day, will continue through till 2018, when there is expected to be an accord on ending domestic violence in the Commonwealth.

“When we understand that 38% of women murdered globally were killed by an intimate partner, this should shock us all into action,” Baroness Patricia Scotland, who took over as Commonwealth Secretary General last year, said in a statement. “The Commonwealth initiative will build a coalition of governments, businesses, human rights institutions, civil society and individual citizens to choral our efforts to address domestic violence.”

She added that the secretariat would also launch an initiative to map the economic cost of domestic violence in Commonwealth countries, as well as focus on strengthening laws protecting women and girls across the group.

She pointed to the legal resource book on domestic violence — setting out what constitutes violence against women and the intersection of national and international human rights laws — piloted by the Secretariat in East Africa last year, and said that there were plans to roll it out across the rest of the Commonwealth.

Baroness Scotland has made tackling violence against women, which the UN estimates one in three women has suffered from in one form or another, a priority since taking office. She has set the aim of seeing domestic violence in member states fall by “double digit percentages”.

Seeking to ensure transparency in granting clearances to projects in earmarked coastal areas in the country, the environment ministry on Wednesday turned digital by launching a dedicated website for managing the affairs of India's coastal regulation zone (CRZ).

Terming the move a key component of "ease of doing business" in India, the environment minister Anil Madhav Dave said the web portal would "promote efficiency, transparency and accountability in grant of CRZ clearances.

"The coastal stretches of seas, bays, estuaries, creeks, rivers and backwaters, which are influenced by tidal action (in the landward side) upto 500 metres from the High Tide Line (HTL) and the land between the Low Tide Line (LTL) and the HTL, are demarcated as 'Coastal Regulation Zone' (CRZ) where the government imposes restrictions on setting up and expansion of industries or other projects. Any project can come up in such areas only after getting mandatory clearances from the ministry and local authorities.

The Portal, launched by Dave, is a web-based system for obtaining clearances required from the ministry under the CRZ by the project proponents. The system is based on web architecture, similar to the existing systems in place for according environmental and forest clearances. It can be accessed through the ministry's website.

The Union cabinet on Monday approved India’s accession to the Customs Convention on International Transport of Goods under cover of TIR Carnets (TIR Convention).

The convention is an international transit system under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) to facilitate seamless movement of goods within and among the parties to the Convention.

Currently, there are 70 parties to the convention, including the European Union. Compliance with the convention will help India boost trade with the Central Asian Republics and other Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), particularly using ports in Iran.

The move will remove the need for inspection of goods at intermediate borders and physical escorts en route shall be eliminated due to reciprocal recognition of customs controls. The movement of goods under the TIR can be allowed by checking only the seals and the external conditions of the container, reducing border delays, transport and transaction costs. This will result in increased competitiveness and growth for the trade and transport sectors.

Exposure to environmental pollutants kills 1.7 million children under the age of five each year, according to two reports released on Monday by the World Health Organization (WHO). Worldwide, more than one in four deaths among children under the age of five are attributable to environmental hazards such as indoor and outdoor air pollution, contaminated water, and poor sanitation, the WHO reports.

The first report finds that some of the most common causes of death among young children — diarrhea, malaria, and pneumonia — can be prevented through providing access to safe water and clean cooking fuels, and other efforts to reduce environmental risks. The second report details the impact that exposure to polluted environments has had on child mortality.

“A polluted environment is a deadly one — particularly for young children," WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said in a statement. "Their developing organs and immune systems, and smaller bodies and airways, make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water."

According to the second WHO report, 570,000 children under the age of five die every year from respiratory infections linked to indoor and outdoor air pollution, and second-hand smoke; 361,000 die every year from diarrhea, because of poor sanitation, hygiene, and limited access to safe drinking water; and 270,000 die during their first month from conditions that could have been prevented through improved sanitation, access to safe water, and reduced air pollution.

Another 200,000 deaths from malaria could have been prevented through mosquito control and safer water management, the report finds.

The WHO reports detail the long-term effects that environmental pollution can have on childrens’ health, as well. Children exposed to air pollution and second-hand smoke have an elevated risk of developing pneumonia and chronic respiratory problems, such as asthma. Increasing volumes of electronic waste from disposed smartphones and other devices can expose children to toxins linked to reduced intelligence, lung damage, and cancer, the WHO says. The volume of so-called e-waste is expected to reach 50 million metric tonnes by 2018 — a 19 percent increase from 2014.

In 2013, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the WHO’s cancer arm, classified outdoor air pollution as a carcinogen for humans, reporting links to lung and bladder cancer. In September 2016, the WHO said that more than 90 percent of the world’s population lives in areas where air pollution exceeds levels considered safe for humans.

Climate change has heightened risk factors, as well; rising temperatures and CO2 levels has led to increased pollen counts, which is linked with asthma prevalence among young children. Between 11 and 14 percent of children under the age of five currently suffer from asthma-related symptoms, and 44 percent of those cases are attributable to environmental factors, the WHO says.

To mitigate these risks, the WHO has called on governments to reduce indoor and outdoor air pollution, protect pregnant women from second-hand smoke, and provide safe water and sanitation.

The Trade Mark Rules, 2017 have been notified and have come into effect from 06th March, 2017. These Rules, which replace the erstwhile Trade Mark Rules 2002, will streamline and simplify the processing of Trade Mark applications.

Some salient features of the revamped Rules are as follows: 

Number of Trade Mark (TM) Forms have been reduced from 74 to 8.

To promote e-filing of TM applications, the fee for online filing has been kept at 10% lower than that for physical filing. 
Based on stakeholders feedback, the fees for Individuals, Start-ups and Small Enterprises have been reduced from that proposed in the draft Rules i.e. only Rs 4,500 as against Rs 8,000 for e-filing of TM applications proposed at the draft stage. 

Modalities for determination of well-known trademarks have been laid out for the first time.

The provisions relating to expedited processing of an application for registration of a trade mark have been extended right upto registration stage (hitherto, it was only upto examination stage). 

Over all fees have been rationalized by reducing the number of entries in Schedule I from 88 to just 23. 

Modalities for service of documents from applicants to the Registry and vice-versa through electronic means have been introduced to expedite the process; e-mail has been made an essential part of address for service to be provided by the applicant or any party to the proceedings so that the office communication may be sent through email. 

Hearing through video conferencing has been introduced. 

Number of adjournments in opposition proceedings has been restricted to a maximum of two by each party, which will help dispose off matters in time. 

Procedures relating to registration as Registered User of trademarks have also been simplified. 

It may be recalled that the examination time for a TM application has already been brought down from 13 months to just 1 month in January 2017; this is despite a stupendous 35% jump in TM filings in 2015-16 vis a vis the previous year. The new Rules should give a boost to the Intellectual Property Regime in India. 

The Central government has launched the first ever across-the-river survey in the Ganga to determine the population of aquatic life, including that of endangered Gangetic dolphin.

The survey will create a baseline scientific data for the Centre to take suitable measures to improve the quality of the river water, the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) has said.The first leg of the census was launched on March 1 from Narora in Uttar Pradesh to Bijnor (covering distance of nearly 165 km) to establish the number of the national aquatic animal.

The survey in the Allahabad to Varanasi stretch (close to 250 km) is expected to be launched this week.

A study to figure out fish species’ composition in the 2,525 km river has also been kick-started from Harshil in Uttarakhand.

The authority is conducting the survey through Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) under the Namami Gange programme.A specialist in the area, Sandeep Behera, NMCG consultant (Biodiversity Centre), noted with concern the disappearing of Gangetic dolphins, one of the four freshwater dolphins in the world, from the river stretch in Narora to Kanpur due to pollution.

Hence, the Wildlife Institute of India has been roped in to coordinate with the forest departments of Ganga basin states of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. Besides, eight NGOs involved in bio-monitoring activities have also joined the study.During the survey conducted in Uttar Pradesh between October 5 and 8, 2015, as many as 1,263 dolphins were sighted in the 350-km stretch of the Ganga and its tributaries in the state.

That census, a collaborative effort by the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department and the WWF-India and supported by the NMCG, was done under the state government’s “My Ganga, My Dolphin” campaign in 2015.According to that study, stretches downstream Varanasi counted 269 dolphins and in the 125-km stretch upstream of Fatehpur 175 dolphins.

The stretches of the Ganga’s tributaries Ghaghra, Rapti, Gandhak and Chambal have recorded an increase in their population while the Ramsar site Brijghat to Narora has recorded a decrease.

Once known for deaths due to malnutrition, Odisha has of late shown some good progress in all nutrition indicators.
For the first time in the last 16 years, the State’s Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) has come down to 40 per thousand live births, which is below the national average of 41.

With 56 points, the State has scored highest point in reducing the IMR in the country. Other nutrition indicators like underweight (0-5 years) and stunting have also seen a declining trend while post-birth health indicators like breast feeding, exclusive breastfeeding and complementary feeding have increased significantly compared to the national average.

Producing the State’s health card before mediapersons here on Thursday, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said Odisha achieved a sharp increase in institutional deliveries, family planning and ante-natal care of mothers.

The West Bengal government gave official status to Kurukh language, listed as an endangered language by the UNESCO, to mark the International Mother Language Day, which is observed to mark the language movement in the then East Pakistan in 1952.

Announcing this at a function to celebrate the day, state Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that official recognition would also be given to Rajbangshi/Kamtapuri language spoken in parts of north Bengal.

She said that around 16 lakh Oraon people spoke Kurukh language in Bengal and that the language had been identified as a vulnerable language in the UNESCO's list of endangered languages. 

Marking the movement in Bangladesh in 1952 for recognition of Bengali as an official language when it was part of Pakistan, February 21 has been recognised as the International Mother Language Day by the United Nations.

In what can be termed as the Indian Navy's significant milestone in enhancing its "sub-surface" warfare prowess, an anti-ship missile was today successfully test-fired for the first time from an indigenously built Kalvari class submarine.

The weapon was fired from the submarine, the first of India's six Scorpene-class submarines built under the Project 75, and it "successfully hit" a surface target during the trial in the Arabian Sea.

All the six diesel-electric attack submarines will be equipped with the anti-ship missile, which has a proven record in combat, the defence ministry said, noting these missiles would provide the vessels the ability to neutralise surface threats at extended ranges.

The submarines, designed by French naval defence and energy company DCNS, are being built by Mazagon Dock Limited in Mumbai.

The Kalvari class submarine has superior stealth and can use guided weapons such as torpedoes and tube-launched anti-ship missiles on enemy subs from the surface or underwater.  Besides warfare, its varied functions will include intelligence gathering, mine laying and area surveillance etc.

The second Kalvari class submarine was launched in Mumbai in January this year in the presence of Union Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre.

Six such Scorpene-class submarines are being built in Mumbai as part of the government's extensive plans to modernize the Indian Navy.

The 13th edition of the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) summit, an inter-governmental regional grouping of 10 countries to be held in Islamabad on March 1, will focus on regional connectivity.

The forum would help in deciding ways to increase cooperation in areas such as trade, energy, tourism, economic growth and productivity.

Most member states have confirmed participation in the summit. The adviser said initiatives for educational, scientific exchange and cultural exchange within the ECO will also be discussed.

The ECO Vision 2025 is expected to be formulated and adopted during the summit.

It is aimed at reviewing the ECO's state of affairs, in the light of changing global and regional circumstances.

The ECO was formed in 1985 by Pakistan, Iran and Turkey. It now also includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

The 10th International Conference on Theory and Practice of Electronic Governance (ICEGOV2017) will take place in New Delhi, India, between 7  and 9 March 2017. The conference is organized under the patronage of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India by the National e-Governance Division (NeGD), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the United Nations University Operating Unit on Policy-Driven Electronic Governance (UNU-EGOV) as the founder and coordinator of the ICEGOV series. Previous ICEGOV conferences took place in Macau (2007), Cairo (2008), Bogotá (2009), Beijing (2010), Tallinn (2011), Albany (2012), Seoul (2013), Guimarães (2014), and Montevideo (2016).

Conference Theme

Knowledge Societies empower citizens to use the facilities available through digital infrastructures to have the freedom to live their lives in the manner they want to live. Governments, civil society and private enterprises often see their role as enablers of the knowledge society by providing needed services, support and products.

Governments have overwhelmingly adopted digital means to ignite and sustain this empowerment. Responding to social, economic, political and other pressures, they use digital technology to innovate their policies, processes, structures and interactions with partners and citizens alike, and institutionalize such innovations over time. Four waves of Digital Government innovations emerged:

1) Digitization – improving internal government operations and delivering better public services,

2) Transformation – facilitating administrative and institutional reform in government,

3) Engagement – engaging citizens and non-state actors in policy- and decision-making processes and

4) Contextualization – supporting policy and development goals in specific sectors and localities.

Focused on creating conditions for self-governance and self-development on the local, sectorial and national levels, the Contextualization stage of Digital Government is directly relevant to Knowledge Societies.

Digital Government policymakers and researchers face the challenge of ensuring that the global digitalization trend leads to transformation and empowerment, and finally to positive, sustained development outcomes. The challenge entails a wide range of issues  and this call-for-papers highlights many of them. The main purpose of ICEGOV2017 is to explore how Digital Government can lead to Digital Empowerment, considering the development of locally-appropriated Knowledge Societies as the means and the end to such empowerment.

The Assam Cabinet’s decision to introduce Sanskrit as a compulsory subject till Class VIII has evoked sharp criticism from students organisations and opposition political parties in the State.

The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) has criticised the decision to make Sanskrit compulsory instead of promoting Assamese in schools.

Moreover, there can be no compromise with the teaching of Assamese in schools and the language has to be a part of the syllabus in the State, he added.

Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) also alleged that the move was a “well-orchestrated conspiracy are being micro managed and monitored from Nagpur (the RSS headquarters)”.

The State government was preparing to “recruit Sanskrit teachers from outside since the State now lacks the required strength but we won’t allow teachers from outside the State to be recruited in our schools.

The FIDE Women's World Chess Championship will take place from February 10 – March 5 2017 in Tehran, Iran. 

The knock-out tournament will have the participation of some of the world’s top players, including the former Women’s World Champions Alexandra Kosteniuk (Russia), Anna Ushenina (Ukraine), Zhu Chen (Qatar), and Antoaneta Stefanova (Bulgaria), the current Women’s World Rapid and Blitz Champion Anna Muzychuk, the winner of the FIDE Grand Prix Series 2015-2016 Ju Wenjun (China), the three-time Russian champion and two-time European Champion Valentina Gunina and other leading grandmasters. 

The first five rounds consist of mini-matches of two games with 90 minutes per 40 moves plus 30 minutes for the rest of the game with bonus 30 seconds per each move. The final match consists of four games. 

Harika Dronavalli had valiantly fought 64 top woman chess players in the world in Tehran, and put up a creditable performance. Too bad she is not a cricketer. If she were, the entire city would have surely been waiting for her arrival at the airport. But she is a chess player. World class for sure, but not a cricketer! She collects her baggage, comes to the arrival section, hugs her proud parents and goes back home without the slightest of furore.

Chess is a sport often underestimated by the spectators. Seeing two people hunched over a board with 64 squares and moving 32 wooden pieces gives an impression of a laid-back sport which requires only brain power. Ask any top player and you will realise that nothing can be farther from the truth. Chess is a sport that demands extreme levels of physical fitness, training and dedication. The twelfth world champion Anatoly Karpov, while playing his World Championship match against Garry Kasparov in 1984, lost eight kilograms because of the stress. Clearly, the games took a toll on his health.

Everyone will have experienced discrimination of some kind during their lives; however, non-discrimination is a human right. Equally, states and individuals have a legal obligation not to discriminate.

This year, on 1 Ma