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Current Affairs | Develop India Group

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?














South Africa

Saudi Arabia

South Korea


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.


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.


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 ( and Ministry of Home Affairs (

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.


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.


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 (

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 (, 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 (, 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 March, Zero Discrimination Day, UNAIDS is urging people to make some noise around zero discrimination, to speak up and prevent discrimination from standing in the way of achieving ambitions, goals and dreams.

Discrimination has many forms, from racial or religious discrimination to discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation or age, and to bullying at school or at work. In only three out of 10 countries worldwide do equal numbers of girls and boys attend upper secondary school, and people living with disabilities are nearly three times more likely to be denied health care than other people.

Zero discrimination is an integral part of UNAIDS’ vision and for this year’s Zero Discrimination Day UNAIDS is calling for zero discrimination in health-care settings. The right to health is a fundamental human right that includes access to affordable, timely and quality health-care services for all, yet discrimination remains widespread in health-care settings, creating a serious barrier to access to HIV services.

Data from 50 countries from the People Living with HIV Stigma Index show that one in eight people living with HIV report being denied health care. Around 60% of European Union/European Economic Area countries report that stigma and discrimination among health-care professionals remains a barrier to the provision of adequate HIV prevention services for men who have sex with men and people who inject drugs.

This year, UNAIDS is calling on everyone to make some noise for #zerodiscrimination. Zero Discrimination Day is an opportunity to highlight how everyone can be part of the transformation and take a stand for a fair and just society.

Virat Kohli who led Team India to 19 unbeaten Tests in the lead-up to the Test series against Australia was named as the 'Captain of the Year' at the 10th Annual ESPN Cricinfo Awards.

During the last year, India remained unbeaten in the longest format of the game, winning 9 out of 12 Tests.Stuart Broad bagged the Test Bowling performance of the year for his brilliant spell of 6/17 in the final Test against South Africa.

While Quinton de Kock bagged the ODI Batting Performance of the year for his 178 against the mighty Aussies.Englishman Ben Stokes who recently bagged a whopping contract in the IPL Auction won the Test Batting Performance of the Year for his sensation double century against South Africa earlier in 2016.

Carlos Brathwaite who recently became the Caribbean captain in the shortest format of the game bagged the T20 Performance of the year for his 10 balls 34 not out against England in the final of the ICC World Twenty20 at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata.

Young Bangladeshi teenage spinner Mehedi Hasan Miraj won the Debutant of the Year Award for his 19 wickets in the 2 match Test series against England.

A two-member expert committee which went into the Tiruvannamalai Girivalam Path Widening Project has submitted its report to the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) Southern Bench at Chennai. The Girivalam is the path taken by devotees of the famed Arulmigu Arunachaleswarar Temple in Tiruvannamalai district.

In its report, the committee indicated that the flora and fauna in the area may not be affected much by the project. It further said that the Highways Department shall undertake maintenance of the odais/channels leading to the receiving water bodies lying within 20m on either side of the road as part of the project cost.

As for the feasibility of earmarking a portion of the existing road for movement of emergency vehicles, the report says 5m wide on the left side of the road on stretches 2, 3 and 4 could be dedicated exclusively for the two-way movement of emergency vehicles.

A perusal of the report indicates that the committee has recommended that the Highways Department may be permitted to undertake its work with various conditions in all stretches of the project.

Stung by a BBC documentary questioning India's aggressive protection measures at Kaziranga national park in Assam, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) that governs all tiger reserves in the country has imposed a ban on the network and its journalist Justin Rowlatt for five years.

On February 15, BBC's South Asia correspondent Justin Rowlatt's documentary titled `One World: Killing for Conservation' on Kaziranga's rhino conservation methods came in for sharp criticism from the Union environment ministry for being "grossly erroneous". The documentary had claimed forest guards in Kaziranga had been given powers to shoot and kill anyone they think was a threat to rhinos.

In a memorandum issued on Monday evening, NTCA said BBC had failed to submit the documentary to MoEFCC and Ministry of External Affairs for obligatory previewing "in order to remove any deviations, so as to achieve a balanced and accurate exposition of the theme". It has asked chief wildlife wardens of all tiger range states and field directors of tiger reserves to disallow filming permission to BBC for five years.

Top seed Saina Nehwal came out with a stupendous performance to save two match points and then defeat reigning World Champion Carolina Marin of Spain to retain the women's singles title at the $120,000 Syed Modi International Badminton Championships in Lucknow on 26 February 2017.

In the men's final, third seed Parupalli Kashyap defeated top seed and compatriot Kidambi Srikanth to win the men's singles title. Kashyap won the match 23-21, 23-21 in 52 minutes at the Babu Banarasi Das Indoor Stadium.

World No. 3 and defending champion Saina outplayed World No. 7 Marin to win the one-hour and 19-minute marathon final 19-21, 25-23, 21-16 and clinch the Grand Prix Gold crown.

With the victory, Saina completed a hat-trick of wins against the second seeded Carolina in as many meetings between them. Also, this is Saina's first title of 2015.

There was some cheer for India after two barren days as the duo of Jitu Rai and Heena Sidhu triumphed in the 10m mixed team air pistol event of the ISSF World Cup on 27 February 2017.

However, since the mixed event is being used on a trial basis in line with IOC's aim to achieve gender equality in its 2020 Tokyo Olympics program, medals are not being awarded even though the International Shooting Sports Federation (ISSF) executive committee has ratified the recommendations.

The mixed event got its start with the 10m air rifle event at the World Cup on Saturday with China winning the gold medal over Japan.In an event where coordination plays a key role, Rai teamed up with Heena to finish ahead of Japan's Yukari Konishi and Tomoyuki Matsuda 5-3.

Slovenia's Naphaswan Yangpaiboon and Kevin Venta were placed third.

The liveability index, which would be unveiled at an urban development ministry workshop on 28 February 2017, would chart a city's progress against various standards under four categories - institutional, social, economic and physical.

The Liveability Index plans to chart a city's progress against different standards under four categories - institutional, social, economic and physical. The index will be based similar to that of international practice of rating cities.

The four categories would be divided into 15 sub-categories of standards. These 15 category indexes will come together and contribute towards a common City Liveability Index, which would then be used to rank the cities.

The sub-categories would help show the cities which areas they need to focus on to improve their rankings. This is also likely to boost urban infrastructure, according to a senior urban development ministry official.

Beginning with 100 smart cities, the liveability index would rank all Indian cities on 77 parameters including how they fare in terms of grievance redressal of citizens, pollution, availability of water and power, online citizen services, upkeep of historical buildings, increase in tourist footfalls, crime rate, extent of crimes recorded against women, children and elderly, availability of traffic surveillance system and education.

A scientific formula has been developed giving percentage weightage to the four categories of reforms. Maximum weightage (40 percent) would be given to physical infrastructure, followed by governance index (30 percent), social index (20 percent) and economic index (10 percent).

Physical infrastructure includes water, energy, waste, housing, open spaces and pollution indices. While social index includes health, education, identity, security and culture indexes. Economic index would consists of unemployment rate, annual increase in number of registered offices and commercial establishments etc.

The 100 smart cities would be the first to be ranked under the liveability index.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 1 March 2017 left on a visit to Ireland and the US. "Working westward. PM @narendramodi departs on a 2 nation, 3 city visit to Ireland & the US, will address the @UN," tweeted external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup.

On the first leg of his two-nation tour, Modi will hold discussions with Irish Prime Minister Enda to bolster economic ties between the two countries. Modi is also slated to interact with the local Indian community.

India and Ireland have traditionally had cordial and friendly relations going back to the time of our freedom movement.
In Facebook posts earlier this week, Modi had noted that his visit to Ireland would be the first by an Indian PM to Dublin in 60 years. Jawaharlal Nehru was the only Indian PM to have visited Ireland in 1949 and 1956. There have, however, been high-level visits from Ireland to India, the last one was in January 2006 when then PM Bertie Ahern was in India on a six-day visit.

He will depart for New York the same evening for the US leg of his tour. The prime minister will be in the US till September 29.

US private rocket company SpaceX has announced that two private citizens have paid to be sent around the Moon. The mission is planned for late 2018, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said, adding that the tourists "have already paid a significant deposit". "This presents an opportunity for humans to return to deep space for the first time in 45 years," he said.

The two unnamed people will fly aboard a spaceship which is set for its first unmanned test flight later this year.Mr Musk said the co-operation of America's Nasa space agency had made the plan possible.He said the two passengers "will travel faster and further into the solar system than any before them".

Mr Musk declined to reveal their identities, only saying that they knew each other and that "it's nobody from Hollywood". "Like the Apollo astronauts before them, these individuals will travel into space carrying the hopes and dreams of all humankind, driven by the universal human spirit of exploration.

"We expect to conduct health and fitness tests, as well as begin initial training later this year."

The first mission would be unmanned, and the next one - with crew - was expected in the second quarter of 2018, the billionaire entrepreneur and inventor said.

The space tourists would make a loop around the Moon, skimming the lunar surface and then going well beyond, Mr Musk said. The mission will not involve a lunar landing. If Nasa decided it wanted to be first to take part in a lunar flyby mission, then the agency would have priority, Mr Musk said.The US has not sent astronauts to the Moon since the early 1970s.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje on February 25, 2017 inaugurated a medical project Rajasthan Heart Attack Treatment programme (RAHAT), launched by a private hospital at Jaipur. 

The programme is a ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction (STEMI), a very serious type of heart attack, management telemedicines platform that captures and transmits patient's EKG along with clinical history from remote geographical locations to heart command center hub.

A team of expert cardiologists at HCC-Hub provided immediate EKG interpretation and real time STEMI guidance and management via tele-consultation by instantly recognising fatal EKG abnormalities. 

As cycling grows in popularity among Indians, Darjeeling has opened the country’s first hill station bike path, with views of the world’s highest mountains.

The route, opened by the local authority at the beginning of January, runs from near Jorebunglow, south of Darjeeling, to Chatakpur, a small eco-village resort in west Bengal. Access to the trail costs about £1.20 a head for foreigners, half that for locals.

Cycling is growing in popularity among Indians, with dedicated groups of bike lovers springing up in Delhi, Mumbai and other cities. Lalit Pradhan, park ranger for western Senchal, says the path was opened in response to growing interest from both national and foreign tourists.

Mumbai, India’s the city of dreams, has all the more reason to attract people. With 46,000 millionaires and 28 billionaires now, it’s the richest city in India. A recent report by New World Wealth, Mumbai is India’s wealthiest city with $820 billion wealth.

The total wealth held in India (as of December 2016) stood at $6.2 trillion and the country is home to 264,000 millionaires and 95 billionaires. Here’s a look at at India’s 7 richest cities:

Mumbai, India’s financial capital, is home to 46,000 millionaires and 28 billionaires with a total wealth of $820 billion.

New Delhi is home to 23,000 millionaires and 18 billionaires, with a total wealth of $450 billion. It’s India’s 2nd richest city.

Bengaluru, with 7,700 millionaires and 8 billionaires and an aggregate wealth of $320 billion, is the 3rd richest city in India.

Hyderabad is home to 9,000 millionaires and 6 billionaires, Hyderabad is 4th richest with a total wealth of $310 billion.

Kolkata is home to 9,600 millionaires and 4 billionaires and has a total wealth of $290 billion. It is India’s 5th richest city.

Pune, with a total wealth of $180 billion, has 4,500 millionaires and 5 billionaires. It thus is India’s 6th richest city.

Chennai, which is home to 6,600 millionaires with a total wealth of $150 billion, is the nations’ 7th richest city.

idisha, the parliamentary constituency of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, has now got a post office passport service centre. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan yesterday inaugurated the passport centre in Vidisha, located about 60 kms from the state capital.

“Now the residents of Raisen, Guna, Ashoknagar, Sagar, Damoh and Vidisha districts need not come to Bhopal to get a passport. The centre will work in the form of Passport Sewa Laghu Kendra (PSLK),” Chouhan said while inaugurating the centre at the Vidisha Post Office. The centre is claimed to be the country’s first post office-based passport issuing facility.

On the first day of the centre’s launch, two persons applied for passports from the facility.

About 30-35% of the annual crop yield in India gets wasted because of pests, according to P.K. Chakrabarty, assistant director general (plant protection and biosafety) of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. He said that among such pests, nematodes (microscopic worms many of which are parasites) had recently emerged as a major threat to crops in the country and they caused loss of 60 million tonnes of crops annually. He also said that such large-scale crop-loss was having an adverse effect on the agricultural biosafety which was “paramount to food security.”

“Nematodes, consisting of roundworms, threadworms and eelworms, are causing loss of crops to the tune of almost 60 million tonnes or 10-12 % of crop production every year,” said Mr. Chakrabarty. He was speaking at the XIII Annual Group Meeting of All India Co-ordinated Research Project (AICRP) on Nematodes in Cropping System in the city on Friday. “The farmers are still not fully aware about these potential crop-destroyers,” he added.

The Dean of Indian Council of Agricultural Research HS Gaur expressed his apprehension about the spread of nematode in the country. Citing the instance of a particular kind of nematode which affected plants such as potatoes and tomatoes, he said the Potato Cyst Nematode was first discovered in the Nilgiris and had now spread to various parts of the country.

India and ADB have signed USD 375 million pact for loans and grants to develop 800-km Visakhapatnam-Chennai Industrial Corridor, which is the first phase of a planned 2,500-km East Coast Economic Corridor. ADB had last September approved USD 631 million in loans and grants for the industrial corridor.

The Asian Development Bank said in a statement that it approved loans comprising a USD 500 million multitranche facility to build key infrastructure in the four main centers along the corridor -- Visakhapatnam, Kakinada, Amaravati, and Yerpedu-Srikalahasti in Andhra Pradesh.

The first tranche of USD 245 million that was signed will finance subprojects to develop high-quality internal infrastructure in 2 of the 4 nodes of the corridor -- Visakhapatnam and Yerpedu-Srikalahasti.

Another component of the approved ADB funds that the signatories signed was a USD 125 million policy-based loan that will be used for capacity development of institutions engaged in corridor management, provide support to enhance ease of doing business and for supporting industrial and sector policies to stimulate industrial development, it added.

The statement said along with the ADB loans, agreement was also signed last evening for a USD 5 million grant from the multi-donor Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund that is managed by ADB to build climate change resilient infrastructure.

Among the outputs envisaged under the USD 245 million tranche-1 loan include strengthening and widening of a 29.6-kilometer section of state highway to four lanes to improve connectivity from Kakinada Port to National Highway 16, investments in smart water management in Visakhapatnam to reduce nonrevenue water and provide continuous water supply.

The statement said tranche-1 loan will have a 25-year term, including a grace period of 5 years, a 20-year straight line repayment method at an annual interest rate determined in accordance with ADB's LIBOR-based lending facility.
Deputy Country Director of ADB's India Resident Mission L B Sondjaja said: "We estimate that by 2025, annual industrial output along the corridor will increase fourfold to USD 64 billion from about USD 16 billion in 2015 if investment opportunities are maximized over the next few years."

Manila based ADB, established in 1966, is owned by 67 members - 48 from the Asian region.

India and Germany on 24 Feb ratified a comprehensive Social Security Agreement (SSA), to come into effect from May, to improve investment flows between the two countries.

The agreement, signed on October 12, 2011, and of which instruments of ratification were exchanged, is expected to reduce the operational costs of Indian and German companies operating in either of the countries.

"The agreement establishes the rights and obligations of nationals of both countries and provides for their equal treatment and unrestricted payment of pensions even in case of residence in the other contracting state (benefits export principle).

The two countries signed an Agreement on Social Insurance on October 8, 2008, which came into force on October 1, 2009.
As per the Agreement, detached workers of the two countries were exempted from making social security contributions in either country, in case they made such contributions in their native countries.

Subsequently, on October 12, 2011, the two countries signed a comprehensive Agreement on Social Security, which included totalisation of social benefits.

The Haryana government has set up an online system for Panipat to monitor the sex ratio in the district as part of the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ programme. The system, called the sex ratio monitoring dashboard, will have the data of child sex ratio collected from all villages by the Health and Women and Child Welfare Departments every month. It will also have the data on critical villages where more attention was required towards skewed child sex ratio and steps needed to taken to set up the efforts accordingly.

The dashboard had been developed in association with National Informatics Centre as a pilot project. The dashboard is also proving to be an effective tool for enhancing ground-level coordination between the Health and Women and Child Welfare Departments. It is also proving to be an effective tool for enhancing ground-evel coordination between the Health and Women and Child Welfare Departments.

Apart from it, the Chief Minister also decided to further simplify the grievances redressal mechanism and implement new schemes, which include having a permanent cattle markets on public private partnership (PPP) mode.

India on 24 Feb. 2017 agreed to provide financial assistance to Bangladesh for the sustainable development of Sylhet, a north-eastern Bangladeshi city.Under the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed on 24 Feb., three development projects would be taken up in Sylhet.The MoU was signed by Additional Secretary of the Economic Relations Division Shah Md. Aminul Haque, Sylhet City Corporation CEO Enamul Habib and Indian High Commissioner Harsh Vardhan Shringla in Sylhet.

The signing was the follow-up of an earlier MoU which was signed by India and Bangladesh in April 2013 for the implementation of sustainable development projects in socio- economic sectors of Bangladesh, BDnews reported.Under the project in Sylhet, the Indian government will provide financial aid for the construction of a five-storey Kinder Garten and High School Building, a six-storey cleaner colony building; and for some development work in Dhupa Dighirpar area at a total cost of around Taka 240 million.

"Sylhet is an ancient city and a historically vibrant city. It had been a part of the former Assam province of India. It has been a focal point for 1971 Liberation War. Many eminent personalities of Bangladesh come from this very city. It has been a hub of commercial activities. We are proud to be associated with this city, that too in the educational field," Indian High Commissioner Shringla said.

India will carry out similar sustainable development projects for Rajshahi at the cost of Taka 210 million. A MoU has recently been signed in Rajshahi in this regard.The High Commissioner said the Indian government also sanctioned an amount of Taka 120 million for the sustainable development of Khulna city

The 89th Academy Awards are underway. As Hollywood soaks in its biggest night of the year, we bring to you all the action from the star-studded ceremony, live.

We Indians obviously have three reasons to look forward to the Oscars 2017, desi girls Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone (who is probably not attending the awards), and Dev Patel. Patel, who shot to fame with his 2009 film Slumdog Millionaire, was nominated for Best Actor In A Supporting Role for his work in Lion.

The ceremony is being hosted by Jimmy Kimmel this year, his first stint on the Academy Awards' stage. The Oscars favourite of this year is the film La La Land, which swept the Golden Globes 2017 with all seven awards in the categories it was nominated in. The film created history with 14 Academy Awards nominations this year, and it remains to be seen how many of the 14 categories Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone-starrer La La Land is able to pick up Oscars in.

The Complete list of winners of Oscars 2017

Best Picture: “Moonlight”

Actor: Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”

Actress: Emma Stone, “La La Land”

Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”

Supporting Actress: Viola Davis, “Fences”

Animated Feature: “Zootopia”

Cinematography: “La La Land”

Costume Design: “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”

Direction: Damien Chazelle, “La La Land”

Documentary Feature: “O.J.: Made in America”

Documentary Short: “The White Helmets”

Film Editing: “Hacksaw Ridge”

Foreign Language Film: “The Salesman”

Makeup and Hairstyling: “Suicide Squad”

Score: “La La Land”

Song: “City of Stars” from “La La Land”

Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

Production Design: “La La Land”

Animated Short: “Piper”

Live Action Short: “Sing”

Sound Editing: “Arrival”

Sound Mixing: “Hacksaw Ridge”

Visual Effects: “The Jungle Book”

Adapted Screenplay: “Moonlight”

Original Screenplay: “Manchester by the Sea”

Ministry of Urban Development approved development of 6 km long Bet Dwarka Darshan Circuit in Gujarat at a cost of Rs.16.27 cr under the Central Scheme Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY).

HRIDAY National Empowered Committee chaired by Shri Rajiv Gauba, Secretary (UD) has approved the circuit connecting the famous Dwarkadish Haveli and Hanuman Dandi, the only temple housing Hanumanji and his son Makardhwaj, in Dwarka district of Gujarat. There are two important water bodies along the circuit viz., Ranchod Talav and Shankhudhar Lake.

Darshan Circuit works to be taken up include development of streets and pedestrian pathways, laying of cycle tracks along beach side, plantation, provision of benches, resting spaces, changing rooms, drinking water and toilet facilities, craft and food bazar, signages, LED lighting, plazas for vending spaces etc.

Under HRIDAY launched on January 21, 2015, heritage related infrastructure development is being taken up in 12 identified cities including Dwarka-Bet Dwarka at a total cost of Rs.500 cr. so far, projects with an investment of Rs.420 cr have been approved for all 12 mission cities.

The World Trade Organization announced on 22 February 2017 that the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) has now entered into force, having surpassed the minimum requirement of 110 ratifications from members.

Ratified by 112 nations, more than two-thirds of all member nations, the deal will ease trade processes, bring down barriers to trade and enhance the capacity of the developing world to better engage with the global trading network.

The 164 member nations of the WTO account for more than 97 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP) and 96.8 per cent of global trade. Therefore, the TFA is expected to significantly change the global trade scenario with international customs practices becoming streamlined and easier trade movement being enforced.

Part of the Bali Package of decisions agreed upon in 2013, the deal is a watershed moment in the organisation's history. This represents the first time that a comprehensive decision has been arrived at through consensus among nations cutting across the major geographical and political blocs.

The landmark agreement aims to cut customs-related red tape, easing the flow of trade between countries by simplifying customs procedures, speeding up the clearance of goods, supporting cooperation among customs officials, and otherwise making it quicker and more efficient for goods to cross borders.

The four ratifications announced on Wednesday included Chad, Jordan, Oman, and Rwanda, according to the Geneva-based trade body. Together with the previous 108 ratifications received, there are now 112 WTO members which have approved the deal in their domestic legislatures and submitted their “instruments of acceptance” to the organisation.Under WTO rules, any new or revised trade agreements require approval by two-thirds of the organisation’s membership, which now numbers 164 members.

Enhancing India’s air-defence capability, Prime minister Narendra Modi-led government has given its go-ahead to Rs 17,000 crore deal for jointly developing with Israel a medium-range surface-to-air missile (MR-SAM) for the army.

The Indian security cabinet committee on security approved the procurement of 40 units of the Medium Range Surface to Air Defense Missile (MR-SAM) system, known in Israel as the Barak 8, the Mail Today paper reported, citing government sources in New Delhi.

The system is under joint development of Israel Aerospace Industries and the Defence Research and Development Organisation, India’s primary state military research and development agency.

According to sources, the air defence system will be jointly developed by the DRDO and Israeli Aircraft Industry to plug gaps in air defence, as the medium range surface to air missile can shoot down enemy aircraft, drones, surveillance aircraft and AWACS planes at the strike range between 50 km to 70 km in the sky.

Missile deal project was given approval two days back on Wednesday by PM Modi chaired Cabinet committee on security.
The approval for the deal comes ahead of a possible visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Israel later this year. 2017 marks the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

During his visit to New Delhi in November last, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin had said both countries sides had decided to "broadbase" their already close defence partnership. And the development came at the time, as last week, a division of Isareli defence ministry maintained that the Jewish nation has planned to relax its regulations on export of arms and defence equipment.

Officials claim that the MR-SAM, a land-based version of the long-range surface-to-air missile (LRSAM) for the navy, will envisage 40 firing units and around 200 missiles. India is Israel's largest buyer of military hardware and the latter has been supplying various weapons systems, missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles over the last few years but the transactions have largely remained behind the curtains.

he Government of India and the State of Sikkim signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) under the Scheme Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY) on 23 Feb. 2017, for operational improvement of the State’s Power Distribution Department. With the signing of MoU, the total number of States covered under UDAY has reached twenty-two.

Sikkim would derive an Overall Net Benefit of approximately Rs. 356 crores through UDAY by way of cheaper funds, reduction in AT&C and transmission losses, interventions in energy efficiency, etc. during the period of turnaround.
The MoU paves way for improving operational efficiency of the Power Distribution department of the State. AT&C losses and transmission losses would be brought down through compulsory distribution transformer metering, consumer indexing & GIS mapping of losses, upgrade/change transformers, meters etc., smart metering of high-end consumers, feeder audit etc., besides eliminating the gap between cost of supply of power and realisation.

The reduction in AT&C losses and transmission losses to 15% and 3.50% respectively is likely to bring additional revenue of around Rs. 328 crores.

Demand Side interventions in UDAY such as usage of energy-efficient LED bulbs, agricultural pumps, fans & air-conditioners and efficient industrial equipment through PAT (Perform, Achieve, Trade) would help in reducing peak load, flatten load curve and thus help in reducing energy consumption in the State of Sikkim. The gain is expected to be around Rs.25 crores.

While efforts will be made by the Power Distribution Department of the State to improve their operational efficiency, and thereby reduce the cost of supply of power, the Central government would also provide incentives to the State Government for improving Power infrastructure in the State and for further lowering the cost of power.

"The Central schemes such as DDUGJY, IPDS, Power Sector Development Fund (PSDF) or such other schemes of Ministry of Power and Ministry of New & Renewable Energy are already providing funds for improving Power Infrastructure in the State and additional/priority funding would be considered under these schemes, if the State/DISCOMs meet the operational milestones outlined in the scheme. Further, with improved efficiency, the State Power department would be in a better position to borrow funds at cheaper rates for Power infrastructure development/improvement in the State," reaad a government statement.

Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) has launched a mobile application on 23 Feb. 2017 for Goods and Services Tax (GST) to inform the taxpayers of the latest updates on GST. CBEC said, "In step with the Government’s Digital India initiative, the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) has launched a mobile application for Goods and Services Tax."

The Mobile Application enables taxpayers to be well informed of the latest updates on GST.  Taxpayers can also provide feedback and contact CBEC’s 24x7 helpdesk “CBEC Mitra” through a toll-free number or email, at the touch of a button, it said. 

The mobile application can be downloaded free of cost on Android platforms and iOS version will be made available shortly, CBEC said. 

Taxpayers can readily access a host of GST information such as:Migration to GST-Approach and guidelines for migrationDraft Law-Model GST Law, IGST Law and GST Compensation LawDraft Rules-Rules related to Registration, Returns, Payment, Refund and InvoiceFrequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on GSTVarious resources on GST such a videos, articles etc.Related Website LinksHelpdesk/Email Contact

Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabh unveiled ‘Mission 41K’ to save Rs. 41,000 crore on the Indian Railways’ expenditure on energy consumption over the next 10 years. This target will be achieved by taking a slew of measures which include moving 90 per cent of traffic to electric traction over diesel. Presently, this is at 50 per cent of the total rail traffic.

The ministry plans to achieve this target by doubling the current pace of electrification, Railway Board Chairman A K Mittal said in an official statement. The railways also aim to procure more and more electricity at cheaper rates through open market instead of sourcing it through DISCOMs and thereby hopes to save as much as 25 per cent on its energy expenses.
New technologies are also being explored to bring down electric consumption.

In the last Budget the railways have already set a target of generating 1000 MW of solar power and 200 MW of wind energy. Indian Railways consumed over 18.25 billion units of electrical energy for its traction and non-traction application during 2014-2015 for which it paid a total of Rs. 12,635 crore. For diesel traction it spent Rs. 18,586 crore in the same period.

The launch of this programme was undertaken at a Roundtable Discussion on Energy Initiatives of Indian Railways with external stakeholders. Among those who were present were Indian Oil Corporation, Adani Power, Reliance Power, Suzlon Energy Ltd, TERI, and CII.

Focusing on the upliftment of weakest sections of the society, Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on 22 Feb, 2017 unveiled a new train--Antyodaya Express--for the common man, with the focus on clean India. The Antyodaya Express will run on the Southern Railway line--Mumbai-Tatanagar route.

The train will provide facilities similar to that of first class. The train, equipped with luxury items such as cushioned seats, aluminium composite panels, and LED lights will facilitate the passengers in unreserved coaches.

“The facilities provided in Antyodaya coaches are similar in first class. Our government's focus is on Aam Aadmi (common man) so we launched the product with many facilities for them,” Prabhu said.

But what about the travel fare. If we get facilities similar to first class, do we need to pay similar fare or more? The fare structure is not clear yet. But, according to reports, “the fare structure will be 10-15 per cent higher than the regular fare”.

A first in general class, the train is equipped with bio-toilets for zero discharge of effluents and toilet occupation indication lights with better visibility from compartments.

Apart from modern equipment, Antyodaya also focusses on ‘Clean India’ and ‘Save Electricity’ movements as the train has LED lights and enhanced capacity dustbins.

In the Budget, It was announced that the government would launch four new passenger services. Meanwhile, two train services, Humsafar and Antyodaya have been unveiled and two others, Tejas Express and Uadaya Express, are expected to be unveiled soon.

Enthused by the response it got in Madhya Pradesh, the Centre has decided to double the capacity target to be achieved by solar parks by 2019-20. The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs on Wednesday approved reworking of the scheme for development of solar parks and ultra mega solar power projects as well as enhancing the capacity from 20,000 MW to 40,000 MW (or 40 GW) for the projects.

Will abate 55 mt of CO2

The projects will be set up with the Centre’s financial support of ₹8,100 crore. The total capacity, when operational, will generate 64 billion units of electricity annually that will lead to abatement of around 55 million tonnes of carbon-dioxide annually over its life cycle.

Briefing newspersons after the Cabinet meeting, Piyush Goyal, Minister of State (Independent Charge) for New and Renewable Energy, Power, Coal and Mines, said: “The enhanced capacity would ensure setting up of at least 50 solar parks each with a capacity of 500 MW and above in various parts of the country.”

Goyal said smaller parks in Himalayan and other hilly States, where contiguous land may be difficult to acquire in view of the difficult terrain, will also be considered.

The capacity of the solar park scheme has been enhanced after considering the demand from the States. The solar parks will be developed in collaboration with State governments/UTs.

The State governments/UTs will select the developer and also identify the land. It will then send a proposal to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE).

The developer will then be sanctioned a grant of up to ₹25 lakh to prepare a Detailed Project Report. Thereafter, Central Financial Assistance of up to ₹20 lakh/MW or 30 per cent of the project cost including grid-connectivity cost, whichever is lower, will be released as per the milestones set in the scheme.

Solar Energy Corporation India will administer the scheme under the direction of the MNRE.

The MNRE is already implementing a scheme to develop at least 25 solar parks with an aggregate capacity of 20,000 MW, which was launched in December 2014. As on date, 34 solar parks of aggregate capacity 20,000 MW have been approved and are at various stages of development.

Kailas said, “We expect solar tariffs to remain near the levels of the Rewa project.” For the 750 MW plant in Madhya Pradesh, winning bids hit a record of 2.97 per kilowatt-hour (kWh). This was the country’s first Ultra Mega Solar Power Project to call for bids.

Domestic manufacturing

Goyal said the government is also working on a policy to encourage solar equipment manufacturing. “There is considerable interest to set up solar equipment manufacturing in India. After consultation with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, the benefit of M-SIPS will also be extended to solar equipment manufacturing in India.”

The Chief Financial Officer at 8minutes Solar, Vishal Jain, said: “The nature of incentives remains to be seen. A large number of exemptions for renewable energy may lapse under the GST regime. If the government wants to encourage manufacturing, it will have to ensure that they are in addition to existing incentives.”

Union Sports Minister Vijay Goel on 22 Feb 2017 announced that the first Gramin Khel Mahotsav will be held from 25th to 31st of next month in New Delhi. Addressing a press conference in the national capital, Goel said the games will be held in five sports disciplines Athletics, Kabaddi, Kho-Kho, Volley Ball and Wrestling. He said a need has been felt to deepen the sports culture among the rural youth.

The Sports Minister said this festival will help participation of rural youth in large numbers in popular sports and encourage them to achieve excellence and adopt healthy life style.

He said these games are intended to act as a catalyst to promote sports in rural areas across the country and will be replicated in other states and union territories as well.

He said in order to capture the popular imagination and encourage the youth of Delhi to take keen interest in sports, renowned wrestlers Sushil Kumar, Yogeshwar Dutt and Geeta Phogat are being invited to participate in demonstration matches.

India’s bid for the 2019 combined World Cup for shooting has been accepted by the International Shooting Sport Federation on 21 Feb 2017. The National Rifle Association of India, which was seeking the right to host the event, was given the green light at the ISSF’s executive board meeting in New Delhi. It will be a qualifying event for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The combined World Cup will comprise of three shooting categories – shotgun, rifle, and pistol.

“Yes, India has been awarded the hosting rights of the 2019 Combined World Cup by the ISSF Executive Board,” an NRAI source was quoted as saying. “The decision to allot India the top tournament was unanimous,” he added.

The World Cup will be held in Delhi from February 22 to March 4, where a total of 50 countries will be represented by 452 athletes.

Twenty-four writers received the Sahitya Akademi Awards 2016 on 22 February, 2017. Congratulating the winners.

The award-winning poets are Jnan Pujari (Assamese), Anjali Basumatary (Bodo), Kamal Vora (Gujarati), Prabha Verma (Malayalam), Sitanath Acharya (Sanskrit), Gobindra Chandra Maji (Santali), Nand Javeri (Sindhi) and Papineni Sivasankar (Telugu).

The short story writers who won the award are Chhatrapal (Dogri), Shyam Darihare (Maithili), Moirangthem Rajen (Manipuri), Asaram Lomate (Marathe), Paramita Satpathy (Odia), Bulaki Sharma (Rajasthani), and Vannadhasan (Tamil).

The novelists are Jerry Pinto (English), Nasira Sharma (Hindi), B M Kunhi (Kannada), Edwin J F Dsouza (Konkani), and Gita Upadhyay (Nepali).

Aziz Hajini (Kashmiri) and Nizam Siddiqui (Urdu) won the award for their books on criticism, while Nrisinghaprasd Bhaduri (Bengali) won for an essay book, and Swrajbir (Punjabi) for the play.

Central Sahitya Akademi Award for Monalisa Jena

Writer Monalisa Jena has been selected for the Central Sahitya Akademi Award-2016 for Translation for her work ‘Asirbadara Ranga’. The book is translation of Assamese novel written by Arun Sharma. This was announced by the Central Sahitya Akademi on 21 Feb 2017. 

Jena, who has translated several books from English to Odia, had got the State Sahitya Akademi Award in 2007 for another Assamese translation ‘Astaraga’. 

She has edited and translated 16 contemporary Odia short stories into English that has been published in a book titled ‘Dasuram’s Script’. 

Jena said though translation in Odia literature has picked up pace, the work is happening at individual level. “The Government should intervene and make translation a movement for good literary works to reach out to a larger audience,” said Jena who has been writing for over two decades. 

The writer has published around 17 books which include ‘Indramalatira Shoka’, ‘E Sabu Dhrubamuhurta’ and ‘Nisarga Dhwani’. At present, she is translating poems by Girija Kumar Baliarsingh.

BharatQR code, the world's first interoperable payment acceptance solution, was launched today as part of efforts to move towards less-cash economy at an "insignificant cost", according to industry members. Over the past few months, the government has been aggressively pushing for higher usage of digital payment mechanisms, including launching BHIM app and increasing penetration of PoS machines. 

Developed by National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), Mastercard, and Visa, BharatQR code would require merchants to only display one QR code instead of multiple ones.

Devised on the direction set by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in September last year, it will make payments seamless for buyers as they just have to "scan to pay" for transactions instead of swiping their credit/debit cards.

QR code or Quick Response code is a two-dimensional machine-readable code made up of black and white squares and are used for storing URLs or other information. These can be read by the camera of a smartphone. 

Mastercard Country Corporate Officer (India) and Division President (South Asia) Porush Singh said the company has developed 'Masterpass QR', which was developed and created at its technology centre in Vadodara. 

A number of leading banks are already operationally ready to deploy BharatQR, including SBI, Axis Bank, Bank of Baroda, Bank of India, Citi Union Bank, Development Credit Bank, Karur Vysya Bank, HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, IDBI Bank, RBL Bank, Union Bank of India, Vijaya Bank and Yes Bank. Many other banks are at various stages of implementation.

Mobile wallet companies like Paytm have already been working with QR codes for some time. The Alibaba-backed firm has said it plans to invest Rs 600 crore in the next 10 months to further enhance its QR code-based payments solution. 
MobiKwik Chief Business Officer Vineet Singh saod the BharatQR initiative will help in further advancing the digital payments ecosystem in India. 

Shurhozelie Liezeitsu was unanimously elected by the ruling Democratic Alliance of Nagaland party to form the government after T R Zeliang had stepped down as Chief Minister on 19th Feb. Nagaland People’s Front (NPF) president Shurhozelie Liezitsu has been sworn in as the new Nagaland Chief Minister on Wednesday. Shurhozelie Liezeitsu was invited by Governor P B Acharya to form the next government after the ruling Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) unanimously elected him leader of its legislature party, earlier this week.

T R Zeliang had stepped down as Chief Minister on Sunday in the wake of violent protests that broke out when his government wanted to hold municipal elections with 33 per cent reservation for women.Various tribal groups opposed the civic elections on the ground that certain provisions of Nagaland Municipal Act framed under Article 243(T) of the Constitution allegedly infringed upon Naga tradition and customs that are protected under Article 371(A).

Shurhozelie, an eight time MLA, did not contested assembly elections in 2013 and will now have to get elected through a byelection within six months.Meanwhile, Nagaland Tribes Action Committee and Joint Coordination Committee (JCC), which spearheaded the agitation against the Zeliang-led government, have decided to call off an indefinite bandh with has paralysed the state since it implementation on January, 30.

Shurhozelie, has held the office of the Education Minister in state government and has also been associated with policy making and is credited with introducing the Compact Area Development Scheme, later named Local Area Development Fund, in Nagaland.

Shurhozelie has also authored four novels and several collections of poetry, he has also written dictionaries and books related to Tenyidie language and biographies and essays. He is also the first to have been conferred a DLit (honorary) by the Nagaland University in 2003.

The National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS), India announces organization of XIII Agricultural Science Congress at the University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), Bengaluru in collaboration with local ICAR Institutes from February 21-24th 2017. The theme of the Congress is 'Climate-smart Agriculture'.

The Academy and UAS, Bengaluru have great pleasure in inviting you to attend the Congress at Bengaluru. The Congress will provide an intellectually stimulating platform for discussing key issues related to 'Climate-smart Agriculture' in all its facets, including socio-economic empowerment of marginal farmers through technology development and policy initiatives for sustainable farming, forestry and natural resource management in tune with global climate change.

Bengaluru will be hosting the Agricultural Science Congress for the first time and is expected to attract a large number of very distinguished scientists in all concerned disciplines from across the world. In addition to agricultural scientists from across the country, entrepreneurs in agri-business, policy analysts, policy makers, financial institutions, students and above all farmers will be participating in the Congress.The Congress will also provide opportunities for the agri-input sector including seed companies, manufacturers of fertilizers, agro-chemicals, pharmaceuticals, farm laboratory & dairy equipment, insurance companies and agriculture related service providers to showcase their products and interact with their potential clientele for both generating business and promoting innovation.

The hosts, UAS Bengaluru and NAAS, New Delhi look forward to your active participation in the XIII Agricultural Science Congress and be a part of this historic event in sparking off the much needed paradigm shift in the practice of agriculture and the management of agricultural production systems in the face of climate change.

The Ahmedabad-based Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDII), an acknowledged national resource institute for entrepreneurship education, research, training and institution-building, has received the prestigious International Mercury Awards for the year 2016-17 for the best overall presentation of its 2015-2016 annual report.

Instituted by MerComm, Inc. the world's only independent awards organization, the International Mercury Awards, honor outstanding achievement in professional communications in around 80 countries, EDII Director Dr Sunil Shukla said in a release here on Monday.

EDII has not only spearheaded entrepreneurship movement throughout India, but over the years has been instrumental in generating industry-specific content and knowledge through original research, he said.

Founded in 1987, the Mercury Awards promote excellence, quality and performance in the various fields of public relations. The award entertains participation from agencies, associations, corporations, government agencies, nonprofit groups, and organizations from around 80 countries worldwide every year. Judges from the International Academy of Communications Arts and Sciences (IACAS) evaluate entries on the basis of objectivity, audience connection, use of imagination and original solutions, use of illustration and overall expression of the message
(This article was published on February 20, 2017)

With the coming of the Trump administration, it seems fate of nearly 300,000 Indian-Americans will be impacted by the President’s master immigration plan and will in a way might result in the deportation of the United States of America’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.

While Donald Trump has by way of issuing new guidance, that drastically widens the scope of enforcing federal immigration laws, laid the groundwork for potentially deporting millions of undocumented immigrants by, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued two enforcement memos related to it.

These enforcement memos issued by the Department of Homeland Security among other things, makes the deportation of illegal immigrants easier and more strict.

According to an enforcement memo “The Department no longer will exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement.” It further added, “Department personnel have full authority to arrest or apprehend an alien whom an immigration officer has probable cause to believe is in violation of the immigration laws.

”Although the emphasis of these enforcement memo is on criminal aliens, but it surely opens up the door for others as well. As a matter of fact, as per unofficial figures, Indian-Americans account for nearly 300,000 illegal aliens.

The enforcement memo states that the DHS Secretary has the authority to apply expedited removal provisions to those aliens

1. who have not been admitted or paroled into the US,

2. who are inadmissible, and who have not been continuously physically present in the US for the two-year period immediately prior to the determination of their inadmissibility, so that such aliens are immediately removed.

There are however exceptions mentioned and they are that the above conditions are applicable

1. unless the alien is an unaccompanied minor,

2. intends to apply for asylum or

3. has a fear of persecution or torture in their home country, or

4. claims to have lawful immigration status.

Apart from that the memorandum also said that when illegal aliens are apprehended they do not pose a risk of a subsequent illegal entry and returning them to the foreign contiguous territory from which they arrived which results in the pending the outcome of removal proceedings, saves the government detention and adjudication resources for other priority aliens

Air Marshal Ajit Shankarrao Bhonsle, AVSM, VSM took the oath of office and secrecy as Member, Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) on 21 Feb. 2017. The oath was administered by Prof. David R. Syiemlieh, Chairman, UPSC. He was born on 15.02.1957. He has done M.Sc., MBA and M. Phil from National Defence Academy, Defence Services Staff College, College of Defence Management and National Institute of Defence Studies, Japan. He has rich and varied experience in Command and Staff appointments during the 39 years of service in the IAF. His forte is Flying Operations, Pre-commissioning Military Training & Education, Infrastructure development, Counter Intelligence, Capacity Building of Training Institutions, Defence Civilian Personnel Management, Cyber Security and Aviation Safety. He is the recipient of two Presidential Awards:- Vishisht Seva Medal and Ati Vishisht Seva Medal.

Ms. Sujata Mehta, IFS 1980, took the affirmation of office and secrecy as Member, Union Public Service Commission. The oath was administered by Chairman, UPSC. She was born on 30.03.1957. She has done Master of Philosophy in Political Science. She served in Indian Missions in Mascow, Dhaka and at United Nations in New York. She also served on deputation to the United Nations in Gaza and New York. She served as Ambassador to Spain and as Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva before returning to Headquarters in July, 2013 as Additional Secretary and later Special Secretary. She was appointed Secretary(ER) in Ministry of External Affairs in February, 2014 and has taken charge as Secretary(West) in the Ministry on January 11, 2016

China has rolled out stricter measures to manage diplomatic vehicles as part of its move to firmly implement traffic rules following allegations of abuse of guidelines by foreign diplomats. The Provisions on Diplomatic Vehicles Management stipulates that traffic violations by diplomatic vehicles shall be subject to punishment in strict accordance with the law and due procedures, Geng Shuang, spokesperson of the foreign ministry said.

The provisions are aimed at better regulating diplomatic vehicles, including specific requirements for driving permits and compulsory purchase of third-party liability insurance of no less than one million yuan (USD 146,000).

“Different reactions from traffic violators in accidents is related to the attitude of their countries toward China,” Li Haidong, a professor with the Institute of International Relations at China Foreign Affairs University was quoted as saying by the state-run Global Times.

“Traffic violations by the holders of diplomatic passports create uncertainties for China’s security and sovereignty,” Li said. Chinese social media fiercely debated diplomatic immunity in June 2016, after Chen Lin, a journalist from Hong Kong-based Phoenix Television, made accusations that a vehicle registered to the US Embassy in Beijing had scratched her car and allegedly caused her injuries, for which she received no apology, the report said.

“Drivers of diplomatic vehicles who violate the road traffic safety law shall also be subject to the demerit point system in China. Traffic management departments have the right to siege the driving licenses when the accumulated points reach a specific level, and the driving license will be returned only when the drivers pass the road traffic safety law tests,” it said.In addition, the document stipulates, for the first time, that diplomatic vehicles in China are subject to quota controls and case-by-case approval, Geng said. As per rules the number of vehicles for official use of a mission shall not exceed the number of diplomats of the mission.

India may be able to meet all its energy requirements from resources from the Moon by 2030, said Dr Sivathanu Pillai, a professor at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). ISRO recently launched a record 104 satellites to space in a single launch.

Elaborating on ISRO's future programme plans, Pillai, who was formerly the chief of BrahMos Aerospace, said all of India's energy requirements could be met through Helium 3 mined from the Moon.

"By 2030, this process target will be met," he said while delivering the valedictory address at the three-day ORF-Kalpana Chawla Space Policy Dialogue, organised by Observer Research Foundation here on 18 Feb, 2017.

Pillai said that mining lunar dust, which is rich in Helium 3, is a priority programme for his organisation. He added that other countries are also working on this project and that there was enough Helium in the Moon to meet the energy requirements of the whole world.

He said that ISRO was planning the whole of process of mining Helium from the Moon, producing energy and transporting it back to earth.

Pillai also said that creating low cost access to the Moon and developing multi-purpose and reusable vehicles would help in a big when it comes to intra-planetary mining and space tourism.

He said that ISRO is also working on fusion energy ITER, adding that a seven-nation consortium was working on mastering fusion technology.

Lieutenant General PM Bali, director general of Perspective Planning, Indian Army, said that the launch of GSAT-7, India's first dedicated military satellite, was testimony to its outlook towards utilisation and exploitation of outer space for national security.

He said that India has now begun acknowledging the growing requirements of space technology for its national security and is beginning to put in place relevant policy and institutional frameworks.

He pointed out that at present, India possesses one of the largest constellations of communication and remote sensing satellites covering the Asia Pacific.

Lt Gen Bali also said that though India continues with a civilian orientation to its space programme, the changing regional and global realities require it to also develop military assets in space and on ground, as an emerging regional and global power.

He added that there was a need for a dedicated military space programme with adequate resources at its disposal because of "the changing realities in our neighbourhood".

Delivering a special address on "Outer Space and Strategic Stability", Lt Gen (Retd) B S Nagal felt that maintaining space stability was "very difficult" with changing warfare and space being no taboo unlike nuclear weapons.

ORF Director Sunjoy Joshi underlined the need for framing the right regulations and the innovations required to frame regulations.

He noted that transponder capacity falls far short of the increasing demand and the processes for leasing capacity from commercial satellites remains cumbersome, taking anywhere between three to nine months for gaining regulatory approvals.

"More clutter in space, greater challenges in the form of space debris, conflicts over demands for spectrum allocation and radio frequency interference. Then there remains the looming question of cyber vulnerabilities, the increasing trend towards weaponisation of cyberspace itself — all of these pose serious challenges for the governance of outer space," Joshi said.

The third ORF-Kalpana Chawla Space Policy Dialogue had discussions on 'Space Finance', 'Transponder Capacity for Broadcasting and Broadband over India', 'Collective Governance of the Global Commons', 'Derivatives Space-scoping the Downstream Applications', 'Emerging Space Actors', 'Making the Case for India's Space Policy', 'A New Frontier: Boosting India's Military Presence in Outer Space' and 'Space Sustainability and Global Governance'.

Ildikó Enyedi’s Hungarian drama “On Body and Soul” won the Golden Bear for best film at the Berlin Film Festival on 18th Feb, 2017. Set in a Budapest slaughterhouse, the tender love story follows the burgeoning romance between a shy young women and her similarly quiet older boss as the two discover that they have the same dreams at night.

The international jury, headed by Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven, handed out prizes far and wide, awarding a broad range of international works.

Senegalese filmmaker Alain Gomis’ Kinshasa-based drama “Félicité,” about a strongly independent and passionate singer in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa who is forced to raise money for her son’s operation, won the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize.

The Silver Bear Alfred Bauer prize for a feature film that opens new perspectives went to Agnieszka Holland’s murder mystery “Spoor.”

Aki Kaurismäki won the best director award for “The Other Side of Hope,” about a young Syrian refugee in Helsinki. The Finnish helmer caused some consternation for the jury and show host Anke Engelke when he declined to go on stage to accept the Silver Bear, forcing the presenters to bring the prize to his seat.

Kim Min-hee, star of Hong Sangsoo’s South Korean drama “On the Beach at Night Alone,” won the best actress Silver Bear, while Georg Friedrich won the best actor award for his performance in Thomas Arslan’s German drama “Bright Nights.”

Sebastián Lelio and Gonzalo Maza won the best screenplay award for Lelio’s Chilean drama “A Fantastic Woman,” about a woman dealing with the loss of her older, married lover, while Dana Bunescu, editor of Romanian drama “Ana, Mon Amour,” won the outstanding artistic contribution award.

Spanish director Carla Simon’s “Summer of 1993” won the first feature award, while “Ghost Hunting” by Palestinian filmmaker Raed Andoni earned the Berlinale’s newly established Glasshütte Original Documentary Award.

Of the 24 films that screened in the 67th Berlin Film Festival’s competition section, 18 vied for the top prizes, among them such international productions as Oren Moverman’s “The Dinner,” starring Richard Gere; Stanley Tucci’s “Final Portrait,” with Geoffrey Rush and Armie Hammer; Gurinder Chadha’s “Viceroy’s House”; and Volker Schlöndorff’s “Return to Montauk.”

Among the fest’s short films, Diogo Costa Amarante’s Portuguese work “Small Town” nabbed the Golden Bear, with Mexican director Esteban Arrangoiz Julien’s “Reverie in the Meadow” taking silver and Karam Ghossein’s Lebanese entry “Street of Death” winning the Audi short film award.

Speaking briefly on stage, Berlinale Director Dieter Kosslick thanked the filmmakers for striving “to save the world with poetry,” a sentiment echoed by a number of the winners.

A total of 399 films unspooled in all of the festival’s various sections. With an estimated half a million admissions and more than 300,000 tickets sold, the Berlinale is considered the largest publicly attended film festival in the world.

Social justice is an underlying principle for peaceful and prosperous coexistence within and among nations. We uphold the principles of social justice when we promote gender equality or the rights of indigenous peoples and migrants. We advance social justice when we remove barriers that people face because of gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture or disability.

For the United Nations, the pursuit of social justice for all is at the core of our global mission to promote development and human dignity. The adoption by the International Labour Organization of the Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization is just one recent example of the UN system’s commitment to social justice. The Declaration focuses on guaranteeing fair outcomes for all through employment, social protection, social dialogue, and fundamental principles and rights at work.

The General Assembly proclaimed 20 February as World Day of Social Justice in 2007, inviting Member States to devote the day to promoting national activities in accordance with the objectives and goals of the World Summit for Social Development and the twenty-fourth session of the General Assembly. Observance of World Day of Social Justice should support efforts of the international community in poverty eradication, the promotion of full employment and decent work, gender equity and access to social well-being and justice for all.

National Biodiversity Congress (NBC) 2017, one of the significant biodiversity mega events of the country, will be held here from February 22. Hosted by the Kerala State Biodiversity Board, the present edition of the biennial event comprises an array of programmes including conference, exhibition, capacity building workshops and Children's Biodiversity Congress.

As part of the programme, a National Biodiversity Conference, governed by a national advisory committee comprising biodiversity conservation experts, would be held here on 23rd and 24th February. 

The Conference aims to identify practical evidence based case studies at regional level to support the plan of action and has the focal theme "Mainstreaming Biodiversity for Sustainable Development" with four sub-themes.

A galaxy of renowned national experts in the field of biodiversity conservation has been invited to deliver keynote address and plenary lectures on a variety of key issues related with biodiversity conservation, sustainable utilisation and benefit sharing, it said.

Members of academic and research institutions, civil society, biodiversity management committees, NGO's, farmers, students, corporates and so on are expected to participate in the event, the release added.

At a time when cyber attacks are increasing, the government through its Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-in) on Tuesday launched “Cyber Swachhta Kendra” — a new desktop and mobile security solution for a secure cyber space in the country. The new solution will notify, enable cleaning and secure systems of end-users to prevent further infections.

“India today joined the distinguished club of countries that have malware-cleaning systems for the use of its citizens. As of now, we have 13 banks and internet service providers using this facility. With the expanding digital footprint in the country, I see a surge in start-ups in the area of cyber security by the end of the year,” said Union IT and Electronics Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad at the event here.“This centre will work in coordination with the internet service providers (ISPs) and Industry.

This Kendra will also enhance awareness among citizens regarding botnet and malware infection along with measures to be taken to secure their devices”, Prasad added.The minister also announced that the National Cyber Coordination Centre will be operational by June 2017.

The government also announced it would set up CERT-Ins at the state level as well.

“The government will set up 10 more STQC (Standardisation Testing and Quality Certification) testing Facilities. Testing fee for any start-up that comes up with a digital technology in the quest of cyber security will be reduced by 50 per cent. We will also empower designated forensic labs to work as the certified authority to establish cyber crime,” Prasad noted.

Part of the solution, USB Pratirodh is a desktop security solution that controls the usage of removable storage media like pen drives, external hard drives and other USB-supported mass storage devices.M-Kavach tool offers a comprehensive mobile device security solution for Android devices addressing threats related to mobile phones.

AppSamvid is a desktop solution which protects systems by allowing installation of genuine applications through white listing. This helps in preventing threats from malicious applications.The move comes at a time when over 50,300 cybersecurity incidents like phishing, website intrusions and defacements, virus and denial of service attacks have been observed in the country during 2016.

“As per the information reported to and tracked by Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), a total number of 44,679, 49,455 and 50,362 cyber security incidents were observed during the years 2014, 2015 and 2016, respectively,” Minister of State for Electronics and IT PP Chaudhary said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha earlier this month.

The Cyber Swachhta Kendra is part of the government of India’s Digital India initiative under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY).

“With the increased penetration of ICT infrastructure in our country, the threat of cyber security has become more serious and visible. There is a need to collaborate and come forth with solutions like the Cyber Swachhta Kendra in order to ensure a safe and secure cyber world for the citizens,” said Aruna Sundararajan, Secretary, MeitY.

According to Saket Modi, CEO and Co-founder of Delhi-based IT risk assessment and digital security services provider Lucideus, the launch of the Botnet cleaning centre in India is a much-needed move.

“The potential scale at which this centre can operate will clearly make this the largest in the world considering the size of the Indian internet ecosystem which has over half a billion people online and over 250 million smartphones and one billion mobile phones across the country,” Modi told IANS.

Botnets fundamentally is a programme which is automated and runs on a computing device which can be any IoT/smart device.The popular attacks that happen these days using botnets are called the Distributed Detail of Service (DDOS) attacks.

India is facing a cash currency crunch, and until the gap is met by new currency, situation will remain for most of the population. Nonetheless, thanks to the evolution of digital payments there are several ways to skip the paper currency with the help of our smartphones. Here is a list of mobile apps that can be used to making payments online, at certain offline merchants, P2P transfers, bank transfers etc. You can take your pick, and also promote the usage of such apps to help others who are dependent on making or receiving cash payments.

India aims to become cashless now. The online mode of payments has been increased, and most of us are looking for safe and secure ways of doing it. If you are also looking for the same, then this article is for you. Mobile Wallets or Digital Wallets or e-Wallet apps allow you to pay electricity bills, mobile recharge, get movie tickets and do a lot more right from your mobile. By linking your Credit or Debit Cards or Bank accounts with these e-Wallet apps, you can easily make a payment using your mobile.

Online wallets in india

1) Airtel Money: With the Airtel Money app, users can easily recharge prepaid accounts or pay postpaid bills. You can also shop online if your digital wallet has cash loaded in it. It’s also extremely safe as every transaction or payment you make requires a secret 4-digit mPin.

2) Citi MasterPass: Citi MasterPass, a free digital wallet, helps make checking out while online shopping a speedier process. Once you’ve stored all your payment and shipping details in your Citi Wallet, simply click on the MasterPass button and it will take care of the rest.

3) Citrus Pay: Citrus Pay, one of the top e-wallets in India, it offers a Citrus wallet for customers as well as payment solutions to businesses. With a strong base of 800 million customers, it has definitely earned its spot as one of the best mobile wallets in India.

4) Ezetap: Ezetap, a Bangalore based digital payment solution founded in 2011, offers business owners solutions to accept card payments via electronic devices. It also send customers e-receipts through an SMS or email.

5) Freecharge: Freecharge, one of the most famous names right now when it comes to digital payment in India, has been known to target the youth in all their promotions. With equivalent amount of coupons given for every recharge you make, it’s a great option to save while paying your bills online.

6) HDFC PayZapp: HDFC PayZapp, making digital payment in India simplified with one click payments, is one of the top online wallets in India. Users can easily compare flight and hotel tickets and even buy music or pay bills with the app. Simple connect your debit/credit card once and forget to worry about making payments.

7) ICICI Pockets: While you might find a Pocket card redundant, considering you’re opting for an e-wallet app to avoid using a card, they do have a pretty neat wallet app. It’s VISA powered and can be used on any Indian website, or to transfer money to email ids, WhatsApp contacts, and also just tap and pay your friends easily.

8) JioMoney: JioMoney, launched recently in 2016 by Jio, is a digital payment app. With JioMoney, one can receive great discounts and offers. Users can also bookmark their frequently visited retailers so shopping can be made quicker than usual.

9) Juspay: JusPay Safe is a payment browser with over 650+ transactions in a day. They offer a browser with which users can make payments quickly via cards with 2 clicks.

10) LIME: LIME, launched by AXIS in 2015, was the first mobile app in India to integrate wallets, shopping, payments, and banking. Apart from the usual features like making payments, they also let you analyze what you spend. With a cool feature that rounds up all your change and invest in a deposit and a shared wallet tool, they’ve definitely earned their spot in the top list of mobile wallets in India.

11) Mobikwik: Mobikwik is a Gurgaon based e-wallet payment system in India that helps its users store their money. Founded in 2009 by Bipin Singh and Upasana Taku, this digital wallet enables users to recharge, pay bills, and make third-party purchases with one tap.

12) MomoeXpress: MomoeXpress, a Bangalore based digital wallet in India, claims to have the fastest checkout system. Though they’re only available in Bangalore, they have a wide range of solutions they offer to residents on the city. From paying for your rickshaw ride to salons & spas, there are over 3000 outlets available at your disposal.

13) MoneyonMobile: MoneyOnMobile, authorized by the Reserve Bank of India, enables users to buy goods, products, and services from registered merchants. It’s a multilingual app that reaches remote areas of the country to millions of users making online payments available to a wide population.

14) Mswipe: Mswipe, the first mobile point-of-sales solution in India was founded in 2012. They don’t exactly offer an app, but they do provide a machine that can be attached to your mobile device to accept card payments. This may not be a digital wallet app but it does support going cashless.

15) Ola Money: Ola Money, launched in 2015, is a digital wallet in India offered by Ola. While it’s majorly being used to make payments for Ola cab rides, making cashless traveling a dream come true, it can also be used to buy groceries or flight tickets and much more.

16) Oxigen: Oxigen, a FinTech company founded in July 2004, is one of the major providers of digital payment in India. Along with making online purchases and paying bills, you can also send gift cards to your dear ones.

17) PayMate: PayMate, founded in 2006 by Ajay Adiseshann, launched PayPOS in 2012, an app for small business owners to receive payments conveniently via debit cards and credit cards and also process electronic transactions.

18) Paytm: Paytm, launched in 2010, is currently the largest mobile wallet app in India. With payments via Paytm being accepted almost everywhere, it’s hard not to simply switch to it completely. From paying mobile bills to buying movie tickets, there’s almost nothing you can’t do with Paytm.

19) PayUmoney: PayUmoney, a part of PayU India, is a free payment gateway solution for merchants to collect payments from customers via debit/credit cards or net banking, and more. They also offer SMS and email invoicing for merchants that do not have a website.

20) State Bank Buddy: State Bank Buddy, a product of State Bank of India, is an online wallet in India that’s available in 13 languages. Users (non SBI account holders too) can send money via Facebook, or to other bank accounts, book hotels or movie tickets and much more!

The Gujarat Assembly on 20 Feb. 2017 passed a bill which will empower the state government to use Aadhaar number as the sole identifier for the delivery of various subsidies and benefits in an effective and targeted manner. The Gujarat Aadhaar Bill, 2017 was passed in the absence of nearly 48 MLAs of the Congress who were suspended from the House by the Speaker.

The Gujarat Assembly on Monday passed a bill which will empower the state government to use Aadhaar number as the sole identifier for the delivery of various subsidies and benefits in an effective and targeted manner. The Gujarat Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2017 was passed in the absence of nearly 48 MLAs of the Congress who were suspended from the House by the Speaker for creating ruckus.

While presenting the bill, the deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel stated that linking the Aadhhaar number with various schemes will help the government create a credible system to authenticate the identity of actual beneficiaries.

Patel told the Assembly the Central Aadhhar Act, passed by the central government last year, empowers the state governments to introduce similar laws for targeted delivery of subsidies and benefits by linking Aadhaar number of each beneficiary.

As per the ‘Gujarat Salaries and Allowances of Members, Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the Gujarat Legislative Assembly, Ministers and Leader of Opposition Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2017’, the government has sought to introduce a uniform law to provide medical facilities to these dignitaries, as several laws are in place to regulate such facilities extended to them.Further, the legislation also sought to extend the medical facilities to former MLAs for who there was no law in place.

Under the bill, all the dignitaries and former members of the House will get medical facilities at par with the government employees as covered under the ‘Gujarat State Services (Medical Treatment) Rules, 2015’.

Two other bills — the Gujarat Panchayats (Amendment) Bill and the Gujarat Town Planning and Urban Development (Amendment) Bill — were passed on 20 Feb 2017.

On 20th Feb, 2017 Shri C K Mishra, Secretary, Health and Family Welfare launched the SAATHIYA Resource Kit including ‘Saathiya Salah’ Mobile App for adolescents, here today, as part of the Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK) program. One of the key interventions under the programme is introduction of the Peer Educators (Saathiyas) who act as a catalyst for generating demand for the adolescent health services and imparting age appropriate knowledge on key adolescent health issues to their peer groups. In order to equip the Saathiyas in doing so, the Health Ministry has launched the Saathiya Resource Kit (including ‘Saathiya Salah’ Mobile App).

Introducing the Resource Kit and the Mobile App, Shri C K Mishra said that ‘our country is home to 253 million adolescents which is largest in the world in terms of absolute numbers and when RMNCH programs were launched globally, India was the first country to add the ‘+A’ i.e. adolescent component to the RMNCH, making it today’s RMNCH+A program’. He emphasized that ‘adolescents are the critical mass of asset which in future would be the biggest dividends to the country’s economy; thereby their health and wellness are of utmost priority’. To address and cater to the health and development needs of the country’s adolescents, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare launched Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK) in January 2014. RKSK identifies six strategic priorities for adolescents i.e. nutrition, sexual and reproductive health (SRH), non-communicable diseases (NCDs), substance misuse, injuries and violence (including gender-based violence) and mental health.

The most important component and driving force of RKSK program are its Peer Educators and this resource kit has been launched to enable them to communicate with the adolescents of their community, Shri Mishra stated. He specified that the ‘kit is being launched to enable the 1.6 lakhs Peer Educators towards taking their job forward and answering all the queries in the minds of an adolescent in-spite of the plethora of media (Magazines, TV, internet etc.) available’. The Peer Educators will be trained across the country in a phased manner, ensuring optimum use of the resource kit, which is a ready source of a range of communication material specially designed to help the Peer Educator to be recognized and respected as ‘saathiya’, a good friend for the adolescents.

This Resource Kit comprises i) Activity Book, ii) Bhranti-Kranti Game iii) Question-Answer Book and iv) Peer Educator Diary. In addition to the kit is the mobile app ‘Saathiya Salah’ (downloadable from Google play-store) which acts as a ready information source for the adolescents in case they are unable to interact with the Peer Educators. The mobile app is also linked to another important piece of cost-effective information platform of a toll-free Saathiya Helpline (1800-233-1250) which will act as an e-counselor. While the short films will be played by the Peer Educators at their group meetings, the activity book and games will bring about discussion and resolve adolescent queries. Encashing on mobile technology, the shy adolescents or those unable to interact with the peer educators due to family reasons, can access the information through the free mobile app as well the toll free helpline. 

On 21 Feb, 2017 India and Rwanda have inked agreements in the fields of innovation, aviation and visa requirements. The agreements were signed in Kigali in the presence of Vice President Mohammed Hamid Ansari and Rwandan Prime Minister Anastase Murekezi during a business forum meet. Mr Ansari, who is in Rwanda on the first leg of his 2-nation visit to East Africa, also launched a India-Rwanda innovation growth programme.

The three important agreements have signed by India and Rwanda are bilateral air service agreement between two countries, an establishment of an Entrepreneurship Development Centre in Rwanda duly financed by Government of India and an agreement for exemption of visa requirements for diplomatic and service passports.

Earlier on the day, Vice President has met President of Rwanda and shared views of mutual benefits. He was also met President of the Senate of Rwanda and presented him a copy of Indian constitution. In his last part of visit of Rwanda today, Mr Ansari will address students and faculty members at University of Rwanda. Following his visit to Rwanda, Vice President will travel to Uganda, the second leg of his tour to another African country.

The Gambia has formally sworn in its new elected President, Adama Barrow, in front of a crowd of thousands including African heads of state. It was the second time he had taken the oath after his formal inauguration was delayed by the reluctance of his predecessor to leave office."This is a victory for democracy," he told a full stadium of his countrymen near the capital Banjul.

"Few people would have thought that I'd be standing here today," he said.He told the crowd that Gambian people now had the power to control their own destiny and that he was going to free political prisoners and improve press freedom.

"For 22 years, the Gambian people yearned to live in a country where our diverse tribes will be bridged by tolerance and our determination to work together for the common good," he said.

"One Gambia, one nation, one people."Mr Barrow, 51, talked of pressing economic challenges left over from the rule of his predecessor, Yahya Jammeh.

"We have inherited an economy in decline," the new president said, and promised to attract investment in the technology sector, introduce free primary education and strengthen the judiciary.

"Gambia has changed forever. The people are fully conscious that they can put a government in office as well as remove it."The president's first swearing-in was at a low-key event at the country's embassy in Senegal last month, after the lengthy power struggle forced him into exile.Crowds on Saturday had queued through the night to get a good spot inside the Independence Stadium.

Brass bands began playing ahead of the event and flags waved.Mr Barrow is only the third president in the history of The Gambia, and the celebrations also mark 52 years of the west African country's independence.

The Asian Winter Games officially got underway on 19th Feb., 2017 with an opening ceremony that united winter athletes from the world's most populous continent. The week-long 2017 Asian Winter Games open at Sapporo Dome in Japan with more than 2,000 athletes from 31 countries, including North Korea, participating.

Among the dignitaries present at Sapporo Dome were Crown Prince Naruhito, IOC vice president John Coates and Olympic Council of Asia President Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah.

With the Winter Olympics just a year and a short distance away, the continent's leading winter athletes will use the games to fine tune for Pyeongchang 2018.

The games run through Feb. 26 and feature more than 2,000 athletes from 31 countries competing in five sports, 11 disciplines and 64 events.

The Japanese government allowed North Korean athletes and officials to enter the country to take part in the Games despite Japan's entry ban on North Korean citizens.

Rajkummar Rao and Anjali Patil starrer political satire "Newton", which had its world premiere at the 67th Berlin Film Festival, has won the International Federation of Art Cinemas (CICAE) award in its Forum segment. 

Directed by Amit Masurkar, the film received a standing ovation at the festival, with a long and engaging Q and A post the screening. The jury, consisting of Spanish film composer Pedro Barbadillo, Croatian director and Pula Film Festival producer Tanja Milicic and French producer Rainer Wothe labelled "Newton" as a "wonderful" and "exceptional" film.

"This exceptional film within the rich and varied Forum selection deals with the various issues of democracy and fight for it during the elections in India. "It's modular portrayal of Indian culture, the dark humour and ironic approach as well as positive use of typical cliches in Indian society gives 'NEWTON' a unique form and style which will delight audiences in art house cinemas all over the world," the Jury said in a statement. 

The award was received by film curator Meenakshi Shedde on behalf of the director. Taking to Twitter, Rao congratulated the entire team of the film. 

There were total 43 films screened in the segment at the festival. Amit, who rose to fame after helming 2014 film.

Amit had earlier said that the movie will release in mid-2017. The movie revolves around the story of a rookie clerk on election duty in a conflict-ridden jungle of Central India, who tries his best to conduct free and fair voting.

India became the 12th largest holder of US government securities at the end of 2016, with exposure worth $118.2 billion.  However, it is slightly lower than the number in November which was at $118.7 billion.

At a time when foreign residents decreased their holdings of long-term US securities, India has became the 12th largest holder of US government securities at the end of 2016, with exposure worth $ 118.2 billion, as compared to $116.8 billion for the previous year. However, in December 2016, the country’s exposure stood slightly lower than previous month November 2016.

As per the US Treasury Department latest data, Japan remained the largest holder of government securities, with holdings worth $ 1.09 trillion, followed by China with securities to the tune of $ 1.06 trillion and Ireland was at the third place with holdings worth $ 288.2 billion. Among the BRIC, a group of five nations-Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, India is at the third place after China and Brazil in terms of exposure, while Russia held American government securities worth $86.1 billion in December 2016. 

Other nations having more holdings than India were Luxembourg ($ 223.4 billion), United Kingdom ($ 217.1 billion), Hong Kong ($ 191.4 billion), Taiwan ($ 189.3 billion) and Belgium ($ 120.4 billion). The data reflects foreign holdings of US securities collected primarily on the basis of custodial data. Foreign residents decreased their holdings of long-term US securities in December with net sales of $ 13.9 billion. 

Barren Island volcano is India’s only active one, and was dormant for 150 years before it showed signs of ‘intermittent activity’ in 1991.

The only active volcano in India, Barren Island volcano in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, is spewing ash again. Researchers from the National Institute of Oceanography said that the volcano, which was dormant for 150 years, had begun showing signs of activity in 1991.

“On the afternoon of January 23, 2017, the scientific team on board CSIR-NIO’s research ship R V Sindhu Sankalp were busy collecting sea floor samples in the Andaman Basin near the Barren volcano when it suddenly started spewing ash,” the NIO said. “Clouds were seen at the crater mouth where the smoke was bellowing out in otherwise clear sky.”

The statement added that the team, led by Abhay V Mudholkar, did not land on the volcanic island as it would have been unsafe. In the evening, the team also saw “red lava fountains spewing from the crater into the atmosphere and hot lava flows streaming down the slopes of the volcano.”

Members of the public can only visit the island after getting permission from Port Blair’s Forest Department.

Within 48 hours of breaking the world record with the launch of 104 satellites in a single mission, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on 17th Feb., 2017 produced another stellar performance. In its very first attempt, the home-grown cryogenic upper stage (C-25 D) passed the long duration endurance test at ISRO Propulsion Complex, Mahendragiri, becoming the sixth nation in the world to have mastered the complex cryogenic technology.

Cryogenic engine consisting very complex technology has been developed only by Russia, US, France, China, Japan and India.

The cryogenic stage capable of producing a thrust of 20 tonnes using a propellant loading of 25 tonnes on board is the first Indian turbo pump engine that is indigenously developed. It was conceived, designed, fabricated with the ISRO with external support of Indian industry. It draws its strength using liquid hydrogen (at 20 Kelvin temperature) and liquid oxygen (at 90 Kelvin temperature) as propellants.

The full stage was ignited and tested for 640 seconds from 5 pm like it is done during the actual flight scenario. The ISRO chairman AS Kiran Kumar told Express that the test was successful and fulfilled all the requisite parameters.

It took close to 15 years of hard work for the ISRO scientists to reach this point. The GSLV MkIII project began in October 2002 and with no reference cryogenic stage to bank on, the scientists toiled from the scratch. 

The industrial partners like Godrej, L&T and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) stood by the ISRO all along providing hardware and other critical components.

Kiran Kumar said the full duration endurance test by itself was an extremely complex task considering the fact that liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen had to be kept at their operational temperature of -2530C and -195 0C,  respectively, and they had to go from the tank to the thrust engine and all the sub-systems had to function at the right time initiating the ignition.

India Vetiver Network (INVN) has been launched at Tamil Nadu Agricultural University. Sources said that INVN is a not-for-profit scientific network to promote vetiver in India.

Vetiver has worldwide application to tackle many environmental issues like soil erosion, mitigation of soil and water pollution. The mission of INVN is environmental protection using vetiver.

Promotion of research in vetiver — identification of varieties, improved production technologies and distillation techniques.

India's space agency certainly seems to be on a trajectory to amaze. After stealing the headlines worldwide this week for launching 104 satellites with a single rocket, the Indian Space Research Organisation or ISRO has successful tested the country's largest cryogenic engine for a full 10 minutes. The engine will power its mammoth Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mark III rocket capable of propelling a 4-ton class satellites into geo-synchronous orbit - the altitude where satellites revolve in sync with the Earth's rotation.

With this final hurdle crossed yesterday at an ISRO facility in Tamil Nadu's Mahendragiri, India is all set to test the GSLV Mark III rocket which is almost 50 meters high and weighs 414 tons - equal to 75 Asian elephants. The rocket will be a successor to the GSLV Mark II which was first launched in 2001 and can carry a heavier payload than the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle or PSLV.

This engine has been developed after two decades of hard work as the technology was denied to India by Russia under pressure from the US.

The rocket engine uses liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen as fuel that are stored at minus 253 degrees centigrade and then ignited to burn at plus hundreds of degrees centigrade just a few centimetres down engine. A very complex technology, the cryogenic engine has been mastered only by Russia, USA, France, China, Japan and India.

India's space programme received international acclaim after ISRO scientists pulled off an ambitious mission three years ago to send a probe to orbit Mars that succeeded at the first attempt - and at $74 million cost less than the Hollywood space film Gravity.

Indian Coast Guard Ship ICGS AYUSH has been commissioned at Kochi on Saturday by Vice Admiral AR Karwe, Flag Officer Commanding-in- Chief, Southern Naval Command.

ICGS AYUSH is the 20th and the last in the series of 20 Fast Patrol Vessels being built by Cochin Shipyard Ltd. The ship is fitted with state-of- the-art navigational and communication equipment including Integrated Bridge System and Machinery Control System.

The ship is capable of undertaking multifarious tasks such as surveillance, interdiction, search and rescue and medical evacuation. Post commissioning, the ship will be based at Krishnapatnam, under the administrative and operational control of Commander, Coast Guard Region.

The Indian Navy's second ocean-going sailboat INSV Tarini was inducted into the Indian Navy at a formal ceremony in Goa on 18 Feb. evening. The vessel was inducted in the presence of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar.

Built by Goa-based M/s Aquarius Shipyard Pvt Ltd, INSV Tarini is a sloop, which is slated to be the platform for first Indian all-women circumnavigation of the globe expedition of the Indian Navy.

The boat is skippered by Lieutenant Commander Vartika Joshi and crew members include Lieutenant Commander Pratibha Jamwal, Lieutenant Aishwarya Boddapati, Lieutenant Patarapalli Swathi, Lieutenant Vijaya Devi and Lieutenant Payal Gupta.

The Indian Navy is operating four sailing vessels -- Tarangini, Sudarshini, Mhadei and Tarini -- capable of open ocean deployments and all the four have been built in shipyards at Goa.

The Navy is attempting to revitalise open ocean sailing and will also be inducting four 40-feet, state-of-the-art open ocean racing sail boats.

Renowned Hindi writer Surinder Verma will be awarded "Vyas Samman" for 2016, for his novel "Kaatna shami ka vriksha padma-pankhuri ki dhar se''. The K.K. Birla foundation today announced the conferment of prize on the Jhansi-born 76-year-old, who will be the 26th recipient of the award. He will be presented with Rs 3.50 lakh cash, a citation and a logo.

According to a statement by the foundation, a selection committee constituted under the chairmanship of President Dr Vishwanath Prasad Tiwari of Sahitya Akademi, decided on his name.Besides Mr Tiwari, the members of the selection committee included Mridula Garg,Professor Ramji Tewari, Professor Pandey Shashibhushan Shitanshu, Professor Rajendra Gautam and Professor Suresh Rituprana, Director of K K Birla Foundation. The honour is given for an outstanding work published in the last 10 years. Mr Verma's novel hit the stands in 2010.

He has already been decorated with the Sangeet Natak Academi and the Sahitya Akademi Samman. The renowned author has penned famous novels like "Mujhe Chand Chahiyae" and dramas like "Surya ki antim Kiran se surya ki pehle kiran tak" and "Kayde hayat".

"Vyas Committee" was founded in 1991 and writers like Dr Ramvilas Sharma, Girija Kumar Mathur, Dhraramvir Bharati, Kunwar Narayan, Kedarnath Singh and Shrilal Shukla, among others have been its early recipients.

Now, it is easier for the middle and relatively lower income group to avail and enjoy the legal services of the country. The Supreme Court has introduced the Middle Income Group Scheme.

It is a self-supporting scheme which provides legal services to the middle income group whose gross income is not exceeding Rs. 60,000 per month. 

Under the scheme, middle class people who can`t afford the expensive litigation in the Supreme Court can avail the services of the society for a nominal amount. 

The person desirous of availing the benefit of the Scheme shall have to fill up the form prescribed and accept all the terms and conditions contained therein. 

Aardram, an initiative taken up by the government in a mission mode to restructure and revamp the public health system so that government hospitals are more patient-friendly and efficient, delivering optimum level of care, was launched here on 16 Feb., 2017.

Inaugurating the programme, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the government’s primary aim was to reduce the high out-of-pocket expenditure on health in the State by upgrading the facilities and infrastructure in public health facilities, thus reducing the dependence on private health facilities. The government was seriously contemplating measures to standardise treatment procedures and the cost of care, he added.

As part of reducing the household expenditure on health, the government was also moving towards popularising generic medicines, making it available free of cost in hospitals and at much reduced prices in the open market, Mr. Vijayan, said.

Kerala, despite its achievements in the health sector, could not afford to rest on its laurels considering the changing epidemiology in the State and the fact that newer challenges like the increasing morbidity due to lifestyle diseases were emerging.

The accent should be on preventive and promotive aspects of health and the first step would be to bring back the concept of family physician. The Aardram mission would thus focus on revamping the primary health care delivery system so that the primary health centres have a more comprehensive role to play as family health centres, he added.

Presiding over the function, Health Minister K. K. Shylaja said that through Aardram, public sector hospitals would be made more attractive to people by providing patient-friendly services and making the administration processes more efficient and hassle-free.

Alongside primary care, the government was also focussing on strengthening secondary and tertiary health care delivery by improving the facilities and infrastructure in taluk/district hospitals. At least one district hospital in every district would be equipped to provide the best of care, including super speciality services, she added.

The Ministers Kadakampally Surendran, E. Chandrasekharan, and Kadannappally Ramachandran, Deputy Speaker V. Sasi and senior officials of the Health and Medical Education Department were present on the occasion.

Additional Chief Secretary (Health) Rajeev Sadanandan welcomed the gathering, while the Principal of the Government Medical College, Thiruvananthapuram, Thomas Mathew delivered a vote of thanks.

Pune will play host to India's maiden sports literature festival 'SporTale', a two-day event which will feature as many as 38 luminaries from the field of sports, media, cinema, books and photography. 

From Virender Sehwag's exploits on Twitter to stories that helped shape Virat Kohli's victorious journeys, many untold sports tales will be on the cards when the event begins here on February 21.

Sharing the inside stories of their journeys and trade will be 15 sports stars, nine sports journalists, five novelists and four cine stars.

Among those who have a connect with sports and sports biopics, three advertising gurus will also be part of the festival. Photographers who captured the iconic sporting moments through their lenses will also join in.

The man to redefine cricket ethos, Kohli will share the stage with Vijay Lokapally, the senior cricketer writer with the Hindu and author of Kohli's cricketing journey 'Driven'.

Indian sports biggest sensation Dipa Karmakar along with her coach Bishweshwar Nandi will also be present to talk about an expedition from a remote town to conquer the world and etch India's impression on global gymnastics.

On the occasions of the 40th anniversary of his first book 'Sunny Days', batting legend Sunil Gavaskar will narrate hilarious stories of his early days in cricket to another former batting great VVS Laxman.

India women produced an all-round effort to spank Bangladesh women by nine wickets in a Super Six match to qualify for the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017, in Colombo on 17 Feb., 2017. Besides India, South Africa is the other team to have secured its place in the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017.

Opting to bowl after winning the toss in the Super Six game of the ongoing ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifier, Indian eves first restricted Bangladesh women to a paltry 155 for eight in 50 overs and then chased down the target, reaching 158 for one in 33.3 overs to book a berth in the main event to be held in England in June.

The chase turned out to be a cakewalk for Indian eves with opener Mona Meshram (78 not out off 91 balls) and skipper Mithali Raj (73 not out off 87 balls) hitting fluent fifties to get over the target with consummate ease.

However, India didn’t have the best of starts to their chase losing Deepti Sharma early on. She was caught off her own bowling by right-arm off-spinner Khadija Tul Kubra.

But then came in Mithali, world’s second-highest run-getter in women’s cricket, and she and Mona hit 22 fours between them to leave Bangladesh in dissaray.

Bangladesh now have no option but to beat Sri Lanka women and surpass it’s net run-rate, in its last game to keep its World Cup aspirations alive.

Besides India, South Africa is the other team to have secured its place in the ICC Women’s World Cup 2017.
Unbeaten so far in the tournament, India will next play Pakistan in their final Super Six game on February 19 at the P Sara Oval.

Earlier, Fargana Hoque (50 off 107 balls) scored a half-century for Bangladesh women while opener Sharmin Akhter made 35 to help get past 150-run mark after being invited to bat.

For Indian women, pacer Mansi Joshi (3/25) picked up three wickets while leg-spinner Devika Vaidya (2/17) accounted for two.

Five Supreme Court judges took oath of office on 17 Feb., 2017. With the swearing-in of Justice Sanjay K Kaul, Justice Mohan Shantanagoudar, Justice S A Nazeer, Justice Navin Sinha and Justice Deepak Gupta, the total strength of the Supreme Court now stands at 28, three short of its sanctioned strength of 31.

Justice Kaul was the Chief Justice of Madras High Court; Justice Sinha was the Chief Justice of Rajasthan High Court; Justice Shantanagouder was the Chief Justice of Kerala High Court; Justice Gupta was the Chief Justice of Chhattisgarh High Court and Justice Nazeer was a judge in the Karnataka High Court.

President Pranab Mukherjee had recently signed their Warrants of Appointment.

A ‘Science Express’ train was flagged off Friday on a seven-month journey that will cover 68 stations across the country, including Agartala and Lumding in the northeast, to spread awareness about climate change.

Named ‘Science Express Climate Action Special’, with the collaborative efforts of ministries of Railways, Environment and Science and Technology, the 16-coach train will travel to Tripura and to the north bank of the Brahmaputra for the first time.Exhibits of eight coaches of the train are devoted to information, caste studies and materials related to various aspects of climate change.

The exhibitions mounted by the Environment Ministry will also showcase the underlying science, impacts, adaption activities, mitigation solutions and policy approaches in a manner that is easy to understand and interesting for not just school students but also the masses.

The focus is on what can be done at school, on roads, at home and in offices and also on the concept of lifestyle choices. A kids’ zone is set up for children from Class 4 and below to participate in fun-filled activities, game and puzzles in science, mathematics and environment.

Exhibits and activities have been put up by the Department of Science and Technology and Department of Biotechnology in the remaining eight coaches.

Since railways is focusing on clean energy, three coaches are fitted with solar panels on the roofs. The train will stop at each station for students and others to visit the exhibitions in coaches. The train will cover 68 stations ending the journey at Gandhinagar station on September 8.

The Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Shri Radha Mohan Singh on 13 Feb. 2017 spoke about National Farmer Policy of the Union Government and said that the objective of this policy is to accelerate agricultural output, develop infrastructural facilities in the villages, promote value addition, expedite the growth of agro-business, create employment in the rural areas, ensuring better livelihood status of the farmers and agriculture workers and their families, discourage migration to urban areas and face the challenges emerging out of economic liberalization and globalization.

Shri Radha Mohan Singh stated this on the inaugural function of Indian Seed Congress – 2017, in Kolkata on Feb. 13, 2017. The theme of Seed Congress is “Seed of Joy” which is very much in line with vision of this government to bring happiness and prosperity in the lives of farmers by doubling their farm income by 2022. Speaking on this occasion, Shri Singh said that on account of the strategic measures of this government, there has been enhancement in the availability of certified/quality seeds.

The availability of certified / quality seeds in the country has increased from less than 40 lakh quintal during decade of 60 to 370 lakh quintal in 2015-16. Shri Singh further said that the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers Welfare has asked the State Governments to prepare variety wise seed rolling plants to meet year wise, season wise requirements of quality seeds.

This seed rolling plant will fulfil the double purpose of improving the Seed replacement rate along with Variety replacement rate so that sustainable agricultural production and productivity could be ensured. Agriculture Minister further said that Indian Seed Market is growing fast and during the recent past, hybrid seed market of vegetables and cereals has shown remarkable growth. Shri Singh was of the view that Indian Seed Industry can emerge as a prominent industry for supplying seeds in international markets. India has great potentiality to produce hybrid seeds specially costly vegetable seeds on cheap rates as compared to the seeds of the other countries. Apart from vegetables, the hybrid seeds of maize, paddy, pearl millet and cotton may be exported to SEI and African countries in magnitude. Shri Singh further added that the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare is continuously attempting to streamline the regulatory framework in order to make it transparent, substantial and progressive.

The Minister assured the representatives present that Central Government is making all out efforts to help them to grow even more, both domestically and in the international arena. Shri Singh on this juncture said that under the able guidance of Hon’ble Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, a number of schemes have been initiated. Pradhan Mantri Gramin Sadak Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Vikas Yojana, Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana, Soil Health Scheme, Neem Coated Urea and E-National Agriculture Mandi Scheme’s aim at to bring improvement in crop productivity as well as income of the farmers. Shri Radha Mohan Singh said that the opportunities of employment have been created for the skilled men and women and the girls in the field of agriware housing, cold chain, supply chain, dairy, poultry, meat, fisheries, horticulture, agriculture mechanization as well as micro irrigation. Skill India Mission is being implemented for imparting opportunities as well as skills to the rural youth in rural areas. Agriculture Minister placed emphasis on 7 points programmes laid down by Hon’ble Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi to make the income of the farmers double.

The details thereof are as follow:

  1. Big focus on irrigation with large budgets, with the aim of “per drop-more crop”

  2. Provision of quality seeds and nutrients based on soil health of each field

  3. Large investments in warehousing and cold chains to prevent post-harvest crop losses

  4. Promotion of value addition through food processing

  5. Creation of a national farm market, removing distortions and e-platform across 585 stations

  6. Introduction of a new crop insurance scheme to mitigate risks at affordable cost

  7. Promotion of ancillary activities like poultry, beekeeping and fisheries.

The Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertilizers and Chemicals (GNFC) township in Bharuch has become country’s first ever “cashless township”, as over 10,000 residents have embraced various digital mode of payments instead of cash.

Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani today inaugurated the “cashless” GNFC township and expressed confidence that other townships in the country will follow the suit, an official release said.

“GNFC township has become country’s first cashless township. I congratulate all the residents of this township for taking this revolutionary step, which will surely encourage around 180 other such townships in the country to follow the suit and turn cashless” Rupani was quoted as saying in the release.

He further said around 10,000 residents of this township have become a role model for the entire nation by embracing digital mode of payments instead of doing transactions using cash inside the township.In the township, residents are making cashless payments at shopping centres, schools, colleges, hospital, stadium, laundry and even at tea stalls, it added.On the occasion, Union Labour and Employment Minister Bandaru Dattatreya congratulated the residents and urged others to embrace the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on digitalisation, said the release.

The Ministry of External Affairs is co-hosting the Second Gateway of India Geoeconomic Dialogue with Gateway House on 13-14 February 2017 in Mumbai. This is India’s premier geoeconomics conference on the theme "Where Geopolitics meets Business" focussed on building synergies between business and foreign policy. 

The conference will feature an inaugural dialogue where Hon’ble M.J. Akbar, Minister of State for External Affairs, will be in conversation with his counterpart, Hon’ble Md. Shahriar Alam, State Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bangladesh. There will also be keynote addresses by His Excellency Yves Leterme, former Prime Minister of Belgium, and Secretary General, International IDEA; and, by Hon’ble Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister of Law and Justice & Minister of Electronics and Information.

On February 14th, Dr. S. Jaishankar, Foreign Secretary, will be in conversation with Dr. C. Rajamohan, Director, Carnegie India. Other highlights for the 14th include a Power Dialogue with Hon’ble Piyush Goyal, Minister of Power, and panel discussions covering topics like Sovereign Funds, Global Taxation, Digital Economy, Indo-Pacific, India’s Defence-Industrial Base.

India ranked a dismal 143 in an annual index of economic freedom by a top American thinktank, behind its several South Asian neighbours including Pakistan, as progress on market-oriented reforms has been “uneven”. The Heritage Foundation in its Index of Economic Freedom report said despite India sustaining an average annual growth of about 7 per cent over the past five years, growth is not deeply rooted in policies that preserve economic freedom.

Putting India in the category of "mostly unfree" economies, the conservative political thinktank said progress on market-oriented reforms has been "uneven".

Also, India’s overall score of 52.6 points is 3.6 points less than that of last year, when India ranked 123rd.

Hong Kong, Singapore and New Zealand topped the index. Among South Asian countries, only Afghanistan (163) and Maldives (157) were ranked below India. Nepal (125), Sri Lanka (112), Pakistan (141), Bhutan (107), and Bangladesh (128) surpassed India in economic freedom.

The thinktank, however, credited Prime Minister Narendra Modi with “reinvigorating” India’s foreign policy. It said Modi, who in June 2016 made his fourth visit to the US in two years, has bolstered bilateral ties, particularly in defence cooperation.

“India has technology and manufacturing sectors as advanced as any in the world as well as traditional sectors characteristic of a lesser developed economy. Extreme wealth and poverty coexist as the nation both modernises rapidly and struggles to find paths to inclusive development for its large and diverse population,” it said.

India is a significant force in world trade, the report noted, but corruption, underdeveloped infrastructure, and poor management of public finance undermine overall development.China with a score of 57.4 points – an increase of 5.4 points compared to previous year – was placed at 111 position. The United States was ranked 17 with 75.1 points.The world average score of 60.9 is the highest recorded in the 23-year history of the index.

Forty-nine countries – the majority of which are developing countries, but also including countries such as Norway and Sweden – achieved their highest-ever index scores.

Edappadi K Palaniswami was sworn in as the 13th Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu on 16 Feb., 2017 by Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao.Palaniswami took oath first, followed by 30 ministers in four batches. The swearing in ceremony was held at Raj Bhavan around 4.30pm. This is the third ministry in the last 10 months since AIADMK won the assembly election in May 2016. Almost simultaneously, police protection given to O Panneerselvam at his official residence was withdrawn. The chief minister's emblem and beacon on his car (TN 04 AX 2345) were removed.

Palaniswami has kept the portfolios of public, police, home, finance, PWD, highways and minor ports and personnel and administrative reforms.Party presidium chairman K A Sengottaiyan is the only new face in Palaniswami's cabinet. Sengottaiyan has replaced K Pandiarajan who was the schools education minister in the Panneerselvam cabinet. Pandiarajan is the only minister who joined the O Panneerselvam camp after war broke out between OPS and party general secretary V K Sasikala.

The others ministers have retained the same portfolios:C Sreenivasan (forests), Sellur K Raju (cooperation), P Thangamani (electricity, prohibition and excise), S P Velumani (municipal administration \), D Jayakumar (fisheries), C Ve Shanmugam (law, court and prisons), K P Anbazhagan (higher education), V Saroja (Social Welfare), M C Sampath (Industries), K C Karuppanan (environment), R Kamaraj (food and civil supplies), O S Manian (handlooms and textiles), K Radhakrishnan (housing and urban development), C Vijaya Baskar (health and family welfare), R Doraikkannu (agriculture), Kadambur Raju (information and publicity), R B Udhyakumar (revenue), N Natarjan (tourism), K C Veeramani (commercial taxes), K T Rajenthra Bhalaji (milk and dairy development), P Benjamin (rural industries), Nilofer Kafeel (labour), M R Vijayabaskar (transport),M Manikandan (information and technology ), V M Rajalakshmi (adi dravidar and tribal welfare), G Baskaran (khadi and village industries board), S Ramachandran (Hindu religious and charitable endowments), S Valarmathi (backward classes and minorities welfare) and P Balakrishna Reddy (animal husbandry).

Australian scientists have mapped the molecular structure of a protein that shields superbugs from antibiotics.It could help develop new drugs for antibiotic-resistant bacteria strains, the University of Western Australia researchers said.

The protein, EptA, allows some strains to shrug off colistin, an antibiotic used when all other treatments fail.

It follows warnings that a so-called antibiotic apocalypse could be among the 21st Century's greatest threats.The new research could help create treatments to inhibit the masking protein, according to lead researcher Professor Alice Vrielink.

"We can think about the protein as being like a lock of a door and it has a specific shape," said Prof Vrielink, a molecular biologist."If we know the three-dimensional shape, we can get an idea of what the key should look like."

The research, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia and involved several other universities and organisations.

What is the health threat?

According to the World Health Organization, drug-resistant infections kill 700,000 people each year. One study has suggested antibiotic resistance will kill an extra 10 million people a year worldwide - more than currently die from cancer - by 2050 unless action is taken. Scientists have identified bacteria that resist the most common antibiotic of last resort - colistin - in locations around the world. It raises the prospect of untreatable infections.

What's new about this research?

Using a technique called X-ray crystallography, it maps the three-dimensional structure of EptA."The protein provides the ability for the bacteria to cloak itself from the immune system and from antibiotics," Prof Vrielink said."If can stop it from doing that, we de-mask the bacteria."

What comes next?

Prof Vrielink hopes the discovery will lead to a new treatment. She said it would probably involve one drug to unmask the bacteria, and an antibiotic to treat the infection."A therapeutic treatment is probably years down the road," she said."It's a long process but this is our first step towards that work."

State Bank of India, the country’s largest bank, has received Cabinet approval to merge its five subsidiaries, which will make the bank among top 50 banks in the world. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday said the Cabinet has approved the merger of the SBI   and its five associate banks — 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 ).  No decision, however, has been taken on merging Bharatiya Mahila Bank. Currently, no Indian bank features in the list of top 50 global banks.

This merger is an important step towards strengthening the banking sector through consolidation of Public Sector Banks. A formal notification in this regard is awaited from Government of India wherein the effective date of merger will be indicated.

The merged entity will create a banking behemoth, one-fourth of market share in India’s banking sector (in terms of loans and deposits), with an asset base of about Rs 40 lakh crore from Rs 23 lakh crore. This is one-fifth the size of India’s gross domestic product (GDP) and more than five times the balance sheet size of ICICI Bank — India’s largest private lender. “The merger is likely to result in recurring savings, estimated at more than Rs 1,000 crore in the first year, through a combination of enhanced operational efficiency and reduced cost of funds,” Union Cabinet said in its notification.

In a post-earnings call last week, SBI chief Arundhati Bhattacharya had said: “We are quite ready and as soon as the government notifies the final order, we will be ready to kick it off. We were planning to do it by March but again because of demonetisation it will probably mean a deferment of a quarter.” According to the merger scheme proposed by SBI in August last year, a shareholder will get 28 shares of SBI for every 10 shares in SBBJ and 22 shares of SBI for every 10 shares held in SBM/SBT. The remaining two subsidiaries are not listed.

The merger will boost the number of employees by further 64,000 employees of the subsidiaries making total employee strength of nearly 2.70 lakh from 2 lakh people across 23,000 branches. At present, SBI has about 18,000 branches, including 200 foreign offices spread across 36 countries, and about 62,900 ATMs.

The government has launched TAMRA mobile application and portal to ensure transparent award of statutory clearances for mining operations. The government has prepared an ambitious plan to put 280 mines with mineral reserves worth over Rs 10 lakh crore for bidding to increase the share of mining in Indian economy. 

TAMRA was simultaneously launched across 12 mineral rich states, through video-conferencing. 

The Mines Ministry has developed a Transparency Auction Monitoring and Resource Augmentation (TAMRA) portal and mobile application which will facilitate in expediting the clearances associated with the mining blocks and help all stakeholders to track status of statutory clearances, official sources said.

"This will be an interactive platform for all the stakeholders to compress the timelines for statutory and other clearances. Gestation period for commencing production will be minimised, the sources said.

Further, TAMRA covers block-wise, state-wise and mineral-wise information of the blocks to be auctioned, monitors various statutory clearances and highlights the additional resources generatedthrough e-auction.

In case of delay in obtaining any clearance, TAMRA will send messages to the authority concerned so that the remedial steps can be taken immediately.

The Ministry of Mines will also receive alerts generated by the portal and will facilitate in expediting clearances. The portal also enables successful bidder to give suggestions and inputs.

The most important clearances required for a mining lease are forest, environment and land acquisition. Timelines are set against each of the clearances. The portal has been developed with an objective to enhance transparency and accountability as a part of the ease of doing business in the mining sector, the sources maintained.

As per the amended Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 2015, all the mines will be put to auction. Though the MMDR Act had a saving clause under Section 10A(2)(C) for those mininglease (ML) applications approved by the Centre or in favour of which the state governments had issued letters of intent before the new Act, the last date for execution of lease deed was January 11.

Meanwhile, the state government has auctioned three mining blocks, one iron ore, one limestone and one manganese block.

Essar Steel bagged the Ghorhaburhani-Sagasahi iron ore block in Sundargarh district last year from which the state government expects revenue of nearly Rs 11,328 crore in 50 years.

This year Dalmia Cement Limited and Thriveni Earthmovers Private Limited (TEPL) won the bid for the Kottameta limestone in Malkangiri district and Lasarda-Pacheri manganese blocks in Keonjhar district respectively.

The Panel on Food Fortification and Nutrition will also review standards for all suitable food fortifying vehicles in addition to healthy dietary intake of fat, sugar and salt. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has constituted a panel to identify critical nutritional gaps in the Indian diet in general and also in specific specific target groups.The Panel on Food Fortification and Nutrition will also review standards for all suitable food fortifying vehicles in addition to healthy dietary intake of fat, sugar and salt.

The panel would include Dr Ambrish Mithal (Medanta) Dr C S Pandav and Major General (Retd) Dr R K Marwaha (AIIMS), Dr Anura Kurpad (St. John’s Medical College), Dr Yogeshwar Shukla (CSIR-Indian Institute of Toxicology Research), Prof H P S Sachdev (Sita Ram Bharatia Institute of Science and Research), Dr K M Nair (National Institute of Nutrition), Dr P Ramachandran (Nutrition Foundation of India), Dr Sumit Arora (National Dairy Research Institute) Dr Sirimavo Nair (MS University, Baroda) and Prof Harsulkar (Bharati Vidyapeeth).

Ministries of health, women and child development, biotechnology department and Indian Council of Medical Research will also be working with the panel. According to National Family Health Survey (2006-07) and the World Bank (2006), about 70 per cent preschool children suffer from iron deficiency anemia. As many as 57 per cent preschool children have sub-clinical vitamin A deficiency.World Bank (2006) figures say Iodine deficiency is endemic in 85 per cent of districts.

Folate deficiency leads to Neural Tube Defects, the most common congenital malformation in India with an incidence that varies between 0.5-8/1,000 births. It is estimated that 50-70 per cent of these birth defects are preventable. To deal with endemic nutritional deficiencies, FSSAI has launched the Food Fortification Resource Centre to promote large-scale fortification of food across India.

The IAF has formally inducted the first indigenously built Airborne Early Warning and Control System Netra developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation at the Aero India exhibition on 14 Feb. 2017. These airborne warning systems, capable of long range surveillance, are huge force multipliers. Netra is based on Embraer aircraft and three systems are to be developed.

First of these, handed over by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar to Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa, is in the Initial Operational Configuration.

It is expected to achieve Final Operational Configuration (FOC) by June. By that time, the second system would also be ready, said Dr. J Manjula Director General, Electronics & Communication Systems, DRDO.

Jamaican sprint great Usain Bolt was crowned as the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year for a fourth time while American gymnast Simone Biles won the top honour in the women’s category on Tuesday in Monaco.

Bolt pipped the likes of Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo, world tennis No. 1 Andy Murray and Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James.

Biles, who bagged four Gold medals (Team, All-around, Vault, Floor exercise) and a bronze medal in balance beam at the Rio Olympics, secured the accolade ahead of Laura Kenny, Katie Ledecky and Allyson Felix.

Laureus awards were hosted by British actor Hugh Grant, where the 23-time Olympic gold medalist, Michael Phelps won the World Comeback of the Year presented by Boris Becker. Phelps was honoured for his six-medal performance in Rio.

Premier League champions Leicester City picked up the Spirit of Sport prize, as were Chicago Cubs, who secured the World Team of the Year Award.

Formula One champion Nico Rosberg, who retired from Formula 1 post winning the Championship by defeating teammate Lewis Hamilton won the Breakthrough of the Year Award. Rachel Atherton topped off her perfect season by winning the World Action Sportsperson of the Year.

The school, Aajibaichi Shala, was started on the occasion of International Women’s Day and is the first school for grandmothers. Yogendra Bangar, with the help of Motiram Dalal Charitable Trust, started a school especially for grandmothers on 8th March 2016.

While today families encourage their daughters and even daughters-in-law to grow by gaining knowledge, there was a time when women were not allowed to step out of the house to attend schools. Yogendra Bangar is one such man who is doing a wonderful deed for women of that generation.

Like other schools, this school too has set a certain age limit for its students. To get enrolled here, a woman must have completed at least 60 years of age. 

In the Supreme Court, the hearing on Satluj Yamuna Link Canal issue has been adjourned till 22nd February as Punjab sought more time to file reply. The apex court directed Punjab to file reply by 20th February. 

Satluj Yamuna Link Canal (SARYU) or SYL as it is popularly known, is a proposed 214-kilometer (133 mi) long canal in India to connect the Sutlej and Yamuna rivers. However, the proposal met obstacles and was referred to the Supreme Court of India. It defines river water sharing between the states of Punjab and Haryana.

The canal is 85% complete with Haryana government completing its part of the Canal. It has completed 92 km of canal in its land. Haryana would benefit enormously by gaining water from Ravi-Beas from Punjab.

The dispute regarding sharing of river water emerged after Punjab was reorganised in 1966, and the state of Haryana was created. Haryana demanded 4.8 MAF out of Punjab's total 7.2 MAF share of water from the rivers, while Punjab claimed the entire quantity belonged to it. Haryana asked the Union government to intervene as no agreement could be reached. In 1976, when the country was under an internal emergency, an executive order was issued by the Union government which allocated 3.5 MAF of water to both states while Delhi received the remaining 0.2 MAF.

In order to make full use of the allocated water, a Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal was proposed. The decision was met with opposition in Punjab. Opposition groups included AISSF, Damdami Taksal, Babbar Khalsa International, Khalistan Liberation Force, and Shromani Akali Dal. The opposition to the project were mainly headed by the Damdami Taksal, led by 'Sant' Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. After coming to power in 1977, the Shiromani Akali Dal demanded that the water sharing between Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan be adjudicated by Supreme Court and filed a suit against the order of the Uniom government. The construction of canal was started in the same year by the Akali Dal government under Chief Minister of Punjab Prakash Singh Badal. The Haryana government led by Chaudhary Devi Lal provided Rs. 10,000,000 to the Punjab government for this purpose. The government later issued a notification to acquire land for the SYL canal. The construction of the canal's portion in Haryana was completed by June 1980.

After the Indian National Congress came to power in Punjab in 1980, an agreement was reached on 31 December 1981 between Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, which were all under INC rule, with Darbara Singh being the Chief Minister of Punjab and Indira Gandhi being the Prime Minister of India. Under the agreement, Punjab's share was increased to 4.22 MAF and that of Rajasthan to 8.6 MAF while the share of Haryana from the revised 17.17 MAF of water remained the same. All states withdrew their suits from the Supreme Court following the signing of agreement. On 8 April 1982, Indira Gandhi formally launched the construction of the canal at Kapoori village of Punjab in 1982. On 23 April, the Punjab government issued a white paper hailing the agreement.

Per the terms reached under Punjab accord, a tribunal was to be set up to investigate the river water claims of Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan. The Akali Dal came back to power in Punjab in October 1985 and on 5 November 1985, the newly-elected Punjab Legislative Assembly repudiated the 1981 agreement. The Ravi and Beas Waters Tribunal (also known as Eradi Tribunal after its chair V. Balakrishna Eradi) was constituted on 2 April 1986. On 30 January 1987, the tribunal upheld the legality of the agreements of 1955, 1976 and 1981. It also increased shares of both Punjab and Haryana, allocating them 5 MAF and 3.83 MAF respectively. It also noted that while the canal's portion had been completed in Haryana, the portion in Punjab wasn't and urged that it be completed expeditiously. The Akali Dal government in Punjab under Surjit Singh Barnala started the construction of the canal, which was done so by 1990.

The construction was stopped in July 1990 after a Chief Engineer associated with its construction was shot dead by militants. The canal remained uncompleted due to dispute over the issue. In 1999, Haryana filed a suit in the Supreme Court seeking construction of the canal. In 2002, the Supreme Court directed Punjab to complete the SYL canal within a year. Punjab refused to do so and petitioned for a review of the court order which was rejected. In 2004, the Supreme Court directed the Union government to get the canal completed through a central agency. The Central Public Works Department was appointed on 2 July 2004 to take over the canal work from Punjab government. However on 12 July 2004, the Punjab Legislative Assembly passed the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004 which abrogated all its river water agreements with neighbouring states. The President of India then referred this bill to the Supreme Court in the same year.

The court began hearings on the bill by the Punjab Assembly on 7 March 2016. On 15 March 2016, the Punjab Legislative Assembly unanimously passed the Punjab Satluj Yamuna Link Canal Land (Transfer of Proprietary Rights) Bill, 2016, proposing to return the land that had been taken from owners for building the SYL canal. On 18 March, the Supreme Court ordered the Punjab government to maintain status quo on the land meant for construction of the canal. On 10 November, the court gave its opinion that Punjab government's 2004 bill which terminated river water agreements was illegal. On 15 November, the government passed an executive order, denotifying the land meant for the digging of the canal and returned it to its original owners through notification issued by Punjab's financial commissioner of revenue K.B.S. Sidhu, utilising revenue powers that rests with an IAS officer. Punjab's Legislative Assembly also passed a resolution on the next day, demanding royalties for river water supplied to its non-riparian neighbors Haryana, Rajasthan and Delhi.

All of the denotified land was returned by 20 November. A status quo was however again ordered by the Supreme Court relating to the land on 30 November. It also appointed the Union Home Secretary, Punjab's Chief Secretary and the Director General of Police as receivers for submitting a report on the present status of land and other properties on the canal site by 15 December. The receivers submitted their reports as per schedule, stating in the reports that there was no fresh or deliberate damage to the canal.

India and Croatia have signed an agreement to boost bilateral trade and enhance economic cooperation.The agreement was signed by Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Martina Dalic, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Economy, Government of the Republic of Croatia, yesterday in Zagreb. 

An official statement said the present Agreement between India and Croatia would be a step in continuity as the last one expired in November 2009. Both the countries earlier signed an agreement on Trade and Economic Cooperation in September, 1994 with an aim to promote and develop bilateral trade and economic relations. India's bilateral trade with Croatia during 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16 stood at USD 148.86 million, USD 205.04 million and USD 148.44 million respectively.The statement issued by Commerce Ministry said bilateral trade during the last three years has remained stable despite global slowdown.

A health network is being created, with support of United Nations agencies, in nine countries – Bangladesh, Cote d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda – whose Governments have pledged to halve maternal and newborn deaths in health facilities by 2022. The new Network for Improving Quality of Care for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, will help countries to improve the quality of care mothers and babies receive in their health facilities and respect the patients' rights, according to a press release.

India is among nine countries that will be part of a global health network focused on improving the quality of care for new mothers and babies and strengthen national efforts to end preventable deaths of pregnant women and newborns by 2030.
The nine countries are India, Bangladesh, A Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda.

Through the new ‘Network for Improving Quality of Care for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health’, supported by World Health Organisation (WHO), UN International Children’s Fund (Unicef) and other partners, the countries will work to improve the quality of care mothers and babies receive in their health facilities, a statement from WHO said.

The Network aims to strengthen national efforts to end preventable deaths by 2030, as envisioned by the Every Woman Every Child Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health.

Countries will do that by strengthening capacity and motivation of health professional to plan and manage quality improvement, improving data collection and increasing access to medicines, supplies, equipment and clean water.

With support from the WHO, UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and partners, the Quality of Care Network will use a web-based system to build a community of health practitioners, which will develop a strategy to improve quality of care, brainstorm ideas and collect information and experiences.

The Network will also use the UN agency's eight new Standards for improving quality of maternal and newborn care in health facilitiesto improve the provision and quality of health care. These include, for example, having competent and motivated health professionals, maintaining access to clean water and equipment, and ensuring the privacy and confidentiality of patients.

“Births in health facilities have increased in the past decade,” said Dr. Costello. “Attention is now shifting from access to care to improving the quality of care so that countries can achieve the Sustainable Development Goals targets to end preventable maternal, newborn and child deaths by 2030.”

Each year, some 303,000 women around the world die during pregnancy and childbirth, and some 2.7 million babies die during the first month.

India's notoriously poor air quality causes nearly 1.1 million premature deaths every year, almost on par with China, concluded a joint report by two US-based health research institutes.But where deaths linked to air pollution in China have steadied in recent years, the rate has soared in India where smog readings in major cities routinely eclipse safe exposure levels.

India has recorded a nearly 50 percent increase in premature deaths linked to PM2.5—fine particles that lodge deep in the lungs—between 1990 and 2015, the report found."India now approaches China in the number of deaths attributable to PM2.5," said the report by the Health Effects Institute and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Anti-pollution steps in China—which jostles with India for the unenviable title of world's most polluted country—has seen the number of smog-related deaths largely stabilise since 2005.In India that number has steadily climbed from an estimated 737,400 deaths a year in 1990 to 1.09 million in 2015.

India and neighbouring Bangladesh have experienced the steepest increases in pollution since 2010 "and now have the highest PM2.5 concentrations" in the world, the report said.Pollution in New Delhi in November reached crisis levels, with crop burning, car exhaust, dust and coal plants blamed for the record smog.

The government shuttered schools and temporarily closed a coal-fired power plant as a stop gap, but experts say the energy-hungry nation will need to do more if it's to clean the air for India's 1.25 billion people.

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on 15 Feb 2017 set a new precedent when it comes to launching satellites. It has successfully launched the PSLV-37 rocket which put in to orbit a record 104 satellites from seven countries. Using the time-tested and popular Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), ISRO surpassed its personal best of sending up 20 satellites in one go. The bar, however, was previously set by Russia in 2014 when it launched 37 satellites in a single mission.

PSLV first launched the 714 kg Cartosat-2 Series satellite for earth observation, followed by the INS-1A and INS-1B, after it reached the polar Sun Synchronous Orbit. It then went on to inject 103 co-passenger satellites, together weighing about 664 kg, in pairs.

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on 15 Feb 2017 set a new precedent when it comes to launching satellites. It has successfully launched the PSLV-37 rocket which put in to orbit a record 104 satellites from seven countries. Using the time-tested and popular Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), ISRO surpassed its personal best of sending up 20 satellites in one go. The bar, however, was previously set by Russia in 2014 when it launched 37 satellites in a single mission.

PSLV-C37 / Cartosat -2 Series Satellite

India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, in its thirty ninth flight (PSLV-C37), launches the 714 kg Cartosat-2 series satellite for earth observation and 103 co-passenger satellites together weighing about 663 kg at lift-off into a 505 km polar Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO). PSLV-C37 was launched from the First Launch Pad (FLP) of Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota. This was the sixteenth flight of PSLV in 'XL' configuration (with the use of solid strap-on motors).

The co-passenger satellites comprised of 101 nano satellites, one each from Kazakhstan, Israel, The Netherlands, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and 96 from United States of America (USA), as well as two Nano satellites from India. The total weight of all these satellites carried on-board PSLV-C37 was about 1377 kg.

PSLV-C37 also carried two ISRO Nano satellites (INS-1A and INS-1B), as co-passenger satellites. These two satellites carry a total of four different payloads from Space Applications Centre (SAC) and Laboratory for Electro Optics Systems (LEOS) of ISRO for conducting various experiments.

The 101 International customer Nano satellites were launched as part of the commercial arrangements between Antrix Corporation Limited (Antrix), a Government of India company under Department of Space (DOS),  the commercial arm of ISRO and the International customers.

The space organisation had launched the Mars Orbiter Mission in 2013, for example, at a small cost of $78 million which is one-tenth of what NASA spends to develop its own mission to Mars. ISRO also successfully launched the navigation satellites to aid the development of navigation system, IRNSS which would make our country only the fifth country in the word who have an indigenously developed navigation system. ISRO, apart from its own achievement, also showcases the power and importance of the public sector in India. DRDO is another example who have been doing great work in the defence sector with its missile launches, but it has a long way to go. Similar efforts should be made by other Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) to replicate ISRO’s success.

The space organisation had launched the Mars Orbiter Mission in 2013, for example, at a small cost of $78 million which is one-tenth of what NASA spends to develop its own mission to Mars. ISRO also successfully launched the navigation satellites to aid the development of navigation system, IRNSS which would make our country only the fifth country in the word who have an indigenously developed navigation system. ISRO, apart from its own achievement, also showcases the power and importance of the public sector in India. DRDO is another example who have been doing great work in the defence sector with its missile launches, but it has a long way to go. Similar efforts should be made by other Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) to replicate ISRO’s success.

Similarly, there have been other efforts backed by the Indian government towards various innovations in technology, including Aadhaar, National Stock Exchange (NSE), National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), or National Securities Depository Limited. Interestingly, National Dairy Organisation in Karnal was the first to create an IVF buffalo and clone a buffalo, which got recognised the world over for cheap technology. While, such efforts, demonstrate that many of the PSU’s are on a good path to replicate the humongous achievements which ISRO has been managing, there is a lot that needs to be done.

There is a dire need to free public sector companies from bureaucratic control and rise above what they are generally perceived as- slothful and slow. The more they incorporate technology in their own work, the more innovations they are capable of. Additionally, the government needs to spend more on the PSU’s if it wants them to attain their true potential. ISRO is a fine example which showcases that despite the professionalism and revenues of the private sector, the public sector is also capable of great things based on path-breaking innovations.

The United States and Thailand launched the annual joint ‘Cobra Gold’ military exercises on Tuesday as Asia grapples with uncertainty over the direction of American foreign policy under U.S. President Donald Trump. The war games, typically involving days of gruelling and sometimes gruesome drills in the Thai jungle, are the largest U.S.-led military exercises in Asia. They have continued in spite of tensions over a 2014 coup in Thailand, prompting Washington to cut back on military aid and call for a return to democracy.

But the U.S. has also been wary of pushing its long-standing Southeast Asian ally into the embrace of superpower rival China. This year’s 10-day exercise kicks off under a cloud of uncertainty about the role of the U.S. in the region. It is unclear whether Trump will rollback on his predecessor’s much-trailed ‘Asia pivot’, which banked on boosting security and trade ties as a counterweight to China’s growing might. Trump’s administration is also expected to take a softer line on human rights, potentially offering some respite for the Thai junta and other authoritarian governments in the region.

Washington sent the head of the U.S. Pacific Command Admiral Harry Harris to attend the opening of Cobra Gold — the highest ranking officer to visit Thailand since the coup. Some 3,600 U.S. personnel will descend on Thailand’s Chonburi and Nakhon Ratchasima provinces for the war games, along with soldiers from Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Malaysia. The drills, which have been hosted by the U.S. and Thailand since 1980, have previously involved an array of arduous activities, including a jungle survival challenge requiring U.S. marines to drink snake blood.

U.S. embassy spokeswoman Melissa Sweeney told AFP that America was “eager to resume full cooperation with our valued Thai partners”, with some military aid suspended until democracy is restored. She said this year’s drills will focus on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.China and Indian will join for those humanitarian exercises, with more than a dozen other countries sending representatives to observe.

For the first time in the country, solar panels have been installed on an Indian warship. The survey class vessel INS Sarvekshak, attached with the southern naval command, has been fitted with 18 sheets of solar panels atop its hangar. "It took about six months to put the entire system in place. We are now using solar energy for lights and a couple of air conditioners," said Captain Rajesh Bargoti, commanding officer of the ship. The 300-watt panels generate about 5.4kW power.

By installing the 5 KW solar power system, the vessel will be able to avoid around 165kg of carbon a day, 60,225 kg of carbon a year plus 22,995 litres of diesel. “So in its 25 years of life cycle, the total carbon saved is around 15 lakh kg and 5.75 lakh litres of diesel by this innovation.

The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has planned to develop large deposits of uranium in Meghalaya that have the potential to generate substantial nuclear fuel for atomic power plants in the country, the government said.

In a written response to a question in the Lok Sabha, Jitendra Singh, Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), which looks after DAE, said it has already planned to develop the mineral resources at Domiasiat under the name of ‘Kylleng- Pdengsohiong-Mawthabah (KPM) Uranium Mining Project’.

“Uranium mineralisation in Meghalaya has been found over a large area around Domiasiat, Wahkyn, Lostoin. The project has the potential to generate substantial nuclear fuel for the atomic power plants of the country,” Singh said, adding that a detailed project report has been approved by the Atomic Energy Commission.

“Environmental clearance for this project has been obtained from the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change in December 2007. An agreement has also been signed between UCIL and the land owners of the project site in May 2007 for acquisition of land on annual lease rent basis. “Approval to execute land lease with land owners, grant of mining lease and consent for establishment has been taken up with the Meghalaya government,”.

This comes at a time when Chief Minister Mukul Sangma had asserted that the Government would not go ahead with uranium mining without the consent of people.At present, the Uranium Corporation of India Limited has uranium mining projects in Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh.

Hollywood's romantic musical La La Land won in five categories of its 11 nominations, including Best Film, Best Director for Damien Chazelle and Best Leading Actress for Emma Stone, at the 70th BAFTA Awards on Feb. 12, 2017.

The movie was also honoured for its Original Music by Justin Hurwitz and Cinematography by Linus Sandgren at the Royal Albert Hall, setting high expectations from the film's journey at the forthcoming Academy Awards, where it has 14 nominations.

Stone, who plays an aspiring actress in the movie, said La La Land was "one of the greatest working experiences of my life".

She also thanked the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) for bringing the industry together to "celebrate the positive gift of creativity, how it can transcend borders and make people feel a little less alone", reported.

Her co-star in the film, Ryan Gosling lost out the Best Leading Actor accolade to Casey Affleck's performance in Manchester By The Sea.

Nevertheless, the La La Land team had much to cheer.

Chazelle beat competition from Denis Villeneuve (Arrival), Ken Loach (I, Daniel Blake), Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea) and Tom Ford (Nocturnal Animals) for the Best Director honour.

The movie -- about a romance between a jazz pianist and an aspiring actress who chase their dreams -- also had a golden run of winning seven honours at the 74th Golden Globe Awards last month.

Baftas 2017: full list of winners

Outstanding British film

American Honey
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
WINNER: I, Daniel Blake
Notes on Blindness
Under the Shadow

EE Rising Star award

Anya Taylor-Joy
Laia Costa
Lucas Hedges
Ruth Negga
WINNER: Tom Holland

Best make up & hair

Doctor Strange
WINNER: Florence Foster Jenkins
Hacksaw Ridge
Nocturnal Animals
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Best original music

WINNER: La La Land 
Nocturnal Animals

Best costume design

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Florence Foster Jenkins
WINNER: Jackie
La La Land

Best sound

WINNER: Arrival
Deepwater Horizon
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land

Best British short animation

The Alan Dimension
WINNER: A Love Story

Best British short film

Mouth of Hell
The Party

Best editing

WINNER: Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
Nocturnal Animals

Best production design

Doctor Strange
WINNER: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Hail, Caesar! 
La La Land
Nocturnal Animals

Best documentary

WINNER: 13th
The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years
The Eagle Huntress
Notes on Blindness

Best film not in the English language

WINNER: Son of Saul
Toni Erdmann

Best adapted screenplay

Hacksaw Ridge
Hidden Figures
Nocturnal Animals

Best supporting actress

Hayley Squires (I, Daniel Blake)
Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)
Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
Nicole Kidman (Lion)
WINNER: Viola Davis (Fences)

Best animated film

Finding Dory
WINNER: Kubo and the Two Strings

Best special visual effects

Doctor Strange
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
WINNER: The Jungle Book
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Best debut by a British writer, director or producer

The Girl With All the Gifts – Mike Carey (writer), Camille Gatin (producer) 
The Hard Stop – George Amponsah (writer/director/producer), Dionne Walker (writer/producer) 
Notes on Blindness - Peter Middleton (writer/director/producer), James Spinney (writer/director), Jo-Jo Ellison (producer) 
The Pass – John Donnelly (writer), Ben A Williams (director) 
WINNER: Under the Shadow – Babak Anvari (writer/director), Emily Leo, Oliver Roskill, Lucan Toh (producers)

Best supporting actor

Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Nocturnal Animals)
WINNER: Dev Patel (Lion)
Hugh Grant (Florence Foster Jenkins)
Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)
Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)

Outstanding British contribution to cinema

Curzon Group

Best original screenplay

Hell or High Water 
I, Daniel Blake
La La Land
WINNER: Manchester By the Sea

Best cinematography

Hell or High Water
WINNER: La La Land
Nocturnal Animals

Best actor

Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge)
WINNER: Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)
Jake Gyllenhaal (Nocturnal Animals)
Ryan Gosling (La La Land)
Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic)

Best director

Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)
Ken Loach (I, Daniel Blake) 
WINNER: Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester By the Sea)
Tom Ford (Nocturnal Animals)

Best actress

Amy Adams (Arrival)
Emily Blunt (The Girl on the Train)
WINNER: Emma Stone (La La Land)
Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)
Natalie Portman (Jackie)

Best film

I, Daniel Blake
WINNER: La La Land
Manchester by the Sea

Bafta fellowship

Mel Brooks

The 59th annual Grammy Awards were held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.Adele won the top three Grammy awards on Sunday, taking home the statuettes for album, record and song of the year in a shock victory over Beyonce. Adele won all five Grammys for which she was nominated, including for her comeback album “25” and her single “Hello.” Beyonce, who had gone into Sunday’s awards show with a leading nine nominations for her “Lemonade” album, won just two.

Beyonce and Adele also had the most talked-about moments on a night marked by political statements, an emotional tribute to British pop star George Michael, and a rocking memorial to pioneering funk musician Prince.

Here is the full list of winners of  59th annual Grammy Awards:

Album of the year

25 – Adele – WINNER

Lemonade – Beyoncé

Purpose – Justin Bieber

Views – Drake

Sailor’s Guide to Earth – Sturgill Simpson

Record of the year

Hello – Adele – WINNER

Formation – Beyoncé

7 Years – Lukas Graham

Work – Rihanna

Stressed Out – Twenty One Pilots

Song of the year

Formation – Beyoncé

Hello – Adele – WINNER

I Took A Pill In Ibiza – Mike Posner

Love Yourself – Justin Bieber

7 Years – Lukas Graham

Best rap album

Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book – WINNER

De La Soul – And The Anonymous Nobody

DJ Khaled – Major Key

Drake – Views

Schoolboy Q – Blank Face LP

Kanye West – The Life of Pablo

Best urban contemporary album

Beyonce – Lemonade – WINNER

Gallant – Ology

King – We Are King

Anderson Paak – Malibu

Rihanna – Anti

Best country solo performance

Love Can Go To Hell – Brandy Clark

Vice – Miranda Lambert

My Church – Maren Morris – WINNER

Church Bells – Carrie Underwood

Blue Ain’t Your Color – Keith Urban

Best rock song

Blackstar – David Bowie – WINNER

Burn the Witch – Radiohead

Hardwired – Metallica

Heathens – Twenty One Pilots

My Name Is Human – Highly Suspect

Best pop duo/group performance

Closer – The Chainsmokers featuring Halsey

7 Years – Lukas Graham

Work – Rihanna

Cheap Thrills – Sia featuring Sean Paul

Stressed Out – Twenty One Pilots – WINNER

Best new artist

Kelsea Ballerini

The Chainsmokers

Chance the Rapper – WINNER

Maren Morris

Anderson Paak

Best pop vocal album

Adele – 25 – WINNER

Justin Bieber – Purpose

Ariana Grande – Dangerous Woman

Demi Lovato – Confident

Sia – This Is Acting

Best pop solo performance

Hello – Adele – WINNER

Hold Up – Beyoncé

Love Yourself – Justin Bieber

Piece By Piece (Idol Version) – Kelly Clarkson

Dangerous Woman – Ariana Grande

Best R&B performance

BJ The Chicago Kid – Turnin’ Me Up

Ro James – Permission

Musiq Soulchild – I Do

Rihanna – Needed Me

Solange – Cranes In the Sky – WINNER

Best R&B song

PartyNextDoor Featuring Drake – Come See Me

Bryson Tiller – Exchange

Rihanna – Kiss It Better

Maxwell – Lake By the Ocean – WINNER

Tory Lanez – Luv

Best rap performance

Chance The Rapper featuring Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz – No Problem – WINNER

Desiigner – Panda

Drake featuring the Throne – Pop Style

Fat Joe & Remy Ma featuring French Montana & Infared – All the Way Up

Schoolboy Q featuring Kanye West – That Part

Best rap/sung performance

Drake – Hotline Bling – WINNER

Beyoncé featuring Kendrick Lamar – Freedom

DRAM featuring Lil Yachty – Broccoli

Kanye West featuring Chance the Rapper, Kelly Price, Kirk Franklin & The-Dream – Ultralight Beam

Kanye West featuring Rihanna – Famous

Best R&B album

BJ The Chicago Kid – In My Mind

Lalah Hathaway – Lalah Hathaway Live – WINNER

Terrace Martin – Velvet Portraits

Mint Condition – Healing Season

Mya – Smoove Jones

Best rap song

Fat Joe & Remy Ma featuring French Montana & Infared – All The Way Up

Kanye West featuring Rihanna – Famous

Drake – Hotline Bling – WINNER

Chance the Rapper featuring Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz – No Problem

Kanye West featuring Chance the Rapper, Kelly Price, Kirk Franklin & The-Dream – Ultralight Beam

Best metal performance

Baroness – Shock Me

Silvera – Gojira

Korn – Rotting In Vain

Megadeth – Dystopia – WINNER

Periphery – The Price is Wrong

Best rock performance

Alabama Shakes – Joe (Live from Austin City Limits)

Beyoncé featuring Jack White – Don’t Hurt Yourself

David Bowie – Blackstar – WINNER

Disturbed – The Sound of Silence (Live on Conan)

Twenty One Pilots – Heathens

Best dance recording

Bob Moses – Tearing Me Up

The Chainsmokers – Don’t Let Me Down – WINNER

Flume – Never Be Like You

Riton – Rinse and Repeat

Sofi Tukker – Drinkee

Best dance/electronic album

Skin – Flume – WINNER

Electronica 1: The Time Machine – Jean-Michel Jarre

Epoch – Tycho

Barbara, Barbara, We Face A Shining Future – Underworld

Best music video

Beyonce – Formation – WINNER

Leon Bridges – River

Coldplay – Up and Up

Jamie xx – Gosh

OK Go – Upside Down and Inside Out

Best country song

Keith Urban – Blue Ain’t Your Color

Thomas Rhett – Die A Happy Man

Humble and Kind – Tim McGraw – WINNER

My Church – Maren Morris

Miranda Lambert – Vice

Best country duo/group performance

Dierks Bentley Featuring Elle King – Different For Girls

Brothers Osborne – 21 Summer

Kenny Chesney and Pink – Setting the World On Fire

Pentatonix Featuring Dolly Parton – Jolene – WINNER

Chris Young With Cassadee Pope – Think of You

The Ministry of External Affairs is co-hosting the Second Gateway of India Geoeconomic Dialogue with Gateway House on 13-14 February 2017 in Mumbai. This is India’s premier geoeconomics conference on the theme "Where Geopolitics meets Business" focussed on building synergies between business and foreign policy.

The conference will feature an inaugural dialogue where Hon’ble M.J. Akbar, Minister of State for External Affairs, will be in conversation with his counterpart, Hon’ble Md. Shahriar Alam, State Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bangladesh. There will also be keynote addresses by His Excellency Yves Leterme, former Prime Minister of Belgium, and Secretary General, International IDEA; and, by Hon’ble Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister of Law and Justice & Minister of Electronics and Information.

The UNESCO would organise the two-day Nature Fest at the Great Himalayan National Park (GNHP) at Sairopa in Kullu district on February 11 and 12.

The fest will held in collaboration with the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and would be attended by prominent conservationists, including Dr George Schaller and Dr A J T Johnsingh. A media workshop would also be held on the sidelines to discuss various aspects of environmental journalism, he said.The fest will see discussion on nature conservation in the mountains followed by panel discussion on natural and cultural heritage of the Himalayan region and heritage walk in GHNP.

GHNP was given UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2014 in recognition of its outstanding significance for bio-diversity conservation.The park protects over 1,000 plant species, including medicinal herbs, 31 mammal species and 209 bird species, as well as amphibians, reptiles and insects.Four of GHNP’s mammal and three bird species are globally “threatened”, including the musk deer and the western horned tragopan.

Thiruvananthapuram: The District Tourism Promotion Council (DTPC) is gearing up to host an International Coin Fair at Kanakakunnu Palace here from February 13 to 15. Minister for Tourism, Cooperation and Devaswoms Kadakampally Surendran will inaugurate the exhibition on February 13(Monday) at 9.30 am. The three-day exhibition will feature the collections of Justin Gilbert Lopez, who holds a Guinness world record for the largest coin collection.

Lopez, who hails from Poovar, has a collection of coins from 310 countries, even those whose claims of statehood are currently under dispute.The coins on display include those from the time of Alexander the Great, to the various Mughal, Chera, Chola emperors and Kanishka besides Persian, Roman and Islamic coins.

In addition, the coin released by Subhash Chandra Bose during the British rule and Somalian guitar-shaped coins, Princess Diana tribute coins, flower-inscribed coins, among other rare pieces, will be the major attractions. The venue will be open to the public from 9 am to 9 pm during the exhibition’s run.

The second edition of the International Spice Conference to be held at Kovalam in Thiruvananthapuram district from February 12, 2017. All India Spices Exporters Forum (AISEF) Chairman Prakash Namboodiri in a press conference today said that over 45 speakers, including international spice representatives, policy makers and end-users, from over 40 countries would participate in the three-day conference, hosted by the AISEF.

Over 800 delegates, including 250 delegates from foreign countries will take part in this conference. The three-day meet, would deliberate on effective strategies and innovative technologies to improve the livelihood of spice farmers, address spice industry challenges, food safety concern, demand supply disparity and foster sustainable growth, he said.

The central theme of the conference would be "21st Century Spic Industry-Disrupt or be Disrupted,''where the emphasis was on disruptive innovations as the keys to survive in the most difficult conditions that effect the industry from farm to market, he added.

Nestle India Limited Chairman and Managing director Suresh Narayanan will inaugurate the conference. He also informed that the AISEF was targeting to achieve the export to the tune five billion by 2021, from the current export of Rs 2.5-billion.

Why International Day of Women and Girls in Science is marked? Girls continue to face stereotypes, social and cultural restrictions as well as limiting access to education and funding for research, preventing them to explore and grow in scientific careers and reaching their full potential.

Every February 11, is International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

However, young women and girls encounter challenges every day. Many of those challenges are triggered simply by virtue of being female. These include physical and sexual violence, being kept out of school, disproportionate vulnerability to HIV infection and lack of access to property and other rights.

In many parts of the world, girls and young women continue to carry the double burden of being both young and female. They often face negative cultural attitudes and practices as well as gender- biased social and political processes that limit their opportunities and undermine their self esteem.

Moreover, girls and women shoulder the heaviest burdens of poverty and inequality as they stand on the frontlines as victims of climate change, including those of natural disasters.  Despite all the hardships and difficulties encountered by women and girls all around the world, without a doubt, they possess the collective power to change their lives, the societies and the world we live in.

Just as they solve their daily issues in their families, women are continually developing innovative, effective ways to improve their lives and even, develop their communities. By bringing together their wisdom, intelligence and creativity, young women are, indeed, leading change and innovation.

Girls continue to face stereotypes, social and cultural restrictions as well as limiting access to education and funding for research, preventing them to explore and grow in scientific careers and reaching their full potential. In fact, up to today, women remain a minority in science research and decision-making.According to a study conducted in 14 countries, the probability for female students of graduating with a Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree and Doctor’s degree in science-related field are 18%, 8% and 2% respectively, while the percentages of male students are 37%, 18% and 6%.

Observed on February 11, every year, the International Day of Women and Girls in Science recognises the critical role that women and girls play in both Science and Technology.Science and gender equality are both vital for the achievement of the internationally agreed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Over the past 15 years, the global community has made a lot of effort in inspiring and engaging women and girls in science.

India beat Pakistan by nine wickets to win the 2017 edition of the T20 Blind World Cup with the final played in Bangalore. India successfully defended their title in the T20 Blind World Cup on Sunday at M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore by beating arch-rivals Pakistan in the final by nine wickets. Incidentally, in the previous and only edition of the T20 World Cup for the visually impaired, Pakistan had been on the losing end then too.

Both teams came into the contest with a superb record during the tournament. Where India had won eight out of nine games, losing only to Pakistan, beat Sri Lanka in the semi-final by a convincing ten wicket margin to seal their place in the summit clash. Neighbours Pakistan had been going one better by winning all nine matches and they had edged England in Karnataka by massive 147 runs.

However, on the day that mattered, Pakistan batted first and put together 197/9 on the scoreboard with Badar Munir scoring 57 from 37 balls hitting eight fours and one six during the way. He enjoyed support from Muhammad Jamil, who scored 24 from 15 balls with the duo putting together 58 runs.

In India’s bowling department, Ketan Patel and Jaffar Iqbal took two wickets each, while conceding 29 and 33 runs respectively. In reply, Ajay Kumar Reddy and Prakasha Jayaramaiah gave India a commanding start and never let go of the momentum that was created early on. The duo continued to score runs at a quick rate and maintained ten runs an over run rate after both the five and ten overs. After five overs, India were 54/0 and 109/0 after ten overs.

The hosts lost Reddy for 43 when he tried to go for a run but was caught short by Israr Hassan. Up next for India was Ketan Patel who, unfortunately, retired hurt at 26. Dunna Venkatesh walked into the middle and gave Jayaramaiah good company. India crossed the line win in the 18th over in spectacular fashion – with a boundary. Jayaramaiah missed out on the century by just one run as he remained unbeaten on 99 when the winning runs were hit.

German politicians elect former foreign minister by an overwhelming majority to be the country's new president. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany's former foreign minister, has been elected as the country's new president, the 12th person to hold the largely ceremonial post in the post-war era. Steinmeier on Sunday won 931 out of 1,260 valid votes cast by the members of the Federal Assembly, which is made up of 630 federal members of parliament and an equal number of delegates from 16 states.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel congratulated Steinmeier and said she was convinced he would be an excellent president who would have the support of the vast majority of the people. A seasoned Social Democrat politician who had served as foreign minister until last month, Steinmeier had the support of Chancellor Angela Merkel's "grand coalition" of centre-right and centre-left parties.

India just opened the first school of its kind that floats proudly on Loktak Lake in Manipur. Loktak Lake, which is known as the "Lifeline of Manipur" is home to many fishermen who work tirelessly day and night to catch fresh fish. It also is a source for hydropower generation, irrigation and potable water. The area is also an important body of water for avian wildlife. The addition of the floating school was done in support of locals who live within the area that lacked proper education.

The school has been opened under the initiative undertaken by All Loktak Lake Fisherman’s Union with the support of an NGO – People Resources Development Association (PRDA). The school will not only cater to the need of the children but for the illiterate adults as well. The school will be accommodating around 25 students and two teachers from the community.

The honorarium of the volunteers will be sanction by the PRDA, under the project called ‘Empowering vulnerable local communities for sustainable development’, which is funded by Action Aid India. It is worth mentioning that the Loktak Development Authority had removed more than 700 floating huts as part of clearing the lake after the introduction of Loktak Lake (Protection) Act 2006.

Loktak lake, the largest freshwater lake in the country, has now become home to first of its kind loktak floating elementary school. Situated about 50 km from Imphal, the school has been inaugurated at Langolsabi Leikai of Champu Khangpok village in Manipur.

The Loktak Lake is referred as the “lifeline of Manipur” as it is highly productive and many lives depend on the lake for endurance. The lake is also an Important Bird Area as it’s a potential breeding site for waterfowl and is a staging site for migratory birds.

Now the Loktak Lake has added a feather to its cap by supporting the first of its kind Floating Elementary School. The school was recently inaugurated at Langolsabi Leikai of Champu Khangpok village in Manipur. It aims to provide education to drop outs students, who were rendered homeless due to the recent evacuation of phumdis.

Swachh Swasth Sarvatra (SSS) is an inter-ministerial joint initiative between the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (MDWS) and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.16 The objective of the SSS scheme is to build on two existing programmes – Swachh Bharat Mission and Kayakalp. Kayakalp is a scheme to encourage public health facilities to achieve certain standards related to cleanliness, hygiene, waste management and infection control. Under the SSS guidelines, those geographical locations will be made Open Defection Free (ODF) where public health facilities have demonstrated high standards of cleanliness.

Key activities under the SSS include:

1. Primary Health Centre (PHC) level: The activities focussing on PHCs include: (i) enabling gram panchayats where Kayakalp awarded PHCs are located to become ODF; (ii) identifying nodal institutional points between State Health Mission and counterparts in the MDWS; and (iii) training of PHC representatives.

2. Community Health Centre (CHC) level: The activities focussing on CHCs include: (i) strengthening these in ODF blocks to achieve a high level of cleanliness to meet Kayakalp criteria through a support of Rs 10 lakh to each selected CHC under National Health Mission, and (ii) facilitating their internal assessment using Kayakalp assessment to identify gaps and generate appropriate action plans.

Macroeconomy: The rate of inflation, balance of payments, current account deficit and fiscal deficit have consistently reduced since 2014. FDI inflows in 2015-16 were USD 55.6 billion, the highest for any financial year. FDI policy was liberalised in June 2016.

Macroeconomic developments: The Central Statistics Office has estimated a GDP growth of 7.1% in 2016-17, without taking into account the effect of demonetisation. In 2017-18, it is expected to be between 6.75% and 7.5%, owing to factors such as an increase in exports and higher agricultural growth. Retail inflation (change in consumer price index) for 2017-18 is expected to remain under 5%, in line with the inflation target set by the government and the Reserve Bank of India.

Financial inclusion: Over 26 crore Jan Dhan accounts have been opened and over 20 crore RUPAY debit cards have been issued to enable cashless payments.

Skill Development: The Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana has been launched with a budget outlay of Rs 12,000 crore. The scheme will train one crore youth over the next four years.

Women and Child Development: Under the Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana, which aims to empower women, over Rs 16,000 crore has been made available to Self Help Groups in 2016-17. The scheme aims to reach out to nearly five crore women.

Demonetisation: The Survey took into account factors such as agricultural sowing, indirect tax collections, real estate prices and credit growth, and stated that the impact of demonetisation on GDP is estimated to be 0.25% to 0.5%. GDP for 2016-17 is estimated to grow by 6.50% to 6.75%, (taking into account the effect of demonetisation) as against the earlier estimation of 7%. The Survey stated that going forward, measures to be taken by the government include replenishing cash shortage as soon as possible, and slowly increasing the usage of lower denomination notes and decreasing the usage of higher denomination ones.

Current Account Deficit: A lower trade deficit has resulted in the current account deficit (CAD) shrinking to 0.3% of GDP in the first half of 2016-17, as compared to 1.1% of GDP in 2015-16, and is expected to be about 1% to 1.5% of GDP in 2016-17.

GDP estimated to grow at 7.1% in 2016-17, decline from 7.9% in 2015-16 : The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country is estimated to grow at 7.1% in 2016-17.3 The GDP estimate growth for 2015-16 has been revised upward from 7.6% to 7.9%. GDP growth across economic sectors is measured in terms of Gross Value Added (GVA). GVA of the country is estimated to grow at 7% in 2016-17, as compared to 7.8% in 2015-16.4

Agriculture sector growth : The agriculture sector is estimated to grow substantially from 0.8% in 2015-16 to 4.1% in 2016-17. On the other hand, growth in the mining and manufacturing sectors is estimated to decrease by 14.1% and 3.2% as compared to 2015-16. Growth in the services sector (hotels, transport, financial services, public administration, etc.) is estimated to decrease by 0.5%, from 9.3% to 8.8%.

Retail inflation continued to decline during the third quarter of 2016-17 : The Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation (base year 2011-12) decreased from 4.2% year-on-year to 3.4% year-on-year, from October to December 2016.5 During this period, food inflation also decreased from 3.3% year-on-year to 1.4% year-on-year. The decrease in CPI inflation was mainly a result of a decrease in the prices of pulses and vegetables.The Wholesale Price Index (WPI) inflation (base year 2004-05) was also at 3.4% year-on-year in December 2016.

The 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup will be the 17th edition of the FIFA U-17 World Cup, the biennial international men's youth football championship contested by the U17 national teams of the member associations of FIFA. The tournament will be hosted by India between 6 and 28 October 2017. This will be the first time that India hosts a FIFA tournament. After the introduction of ISL, football is much recognised in India.

With just 238 days remaining for the start of the tournament, the official mascot of the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017, 'Kheleao' was on Feb 10, 2017 unveiled at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.

Nobel Prize-winning physicist Sir Peter Mansfield, who invented the MRI scanner in Nottingham, has died at the age of 83. Sir Peter was born in London in 1933. After serving in the army as a teenager for two years, he returned to study A Levels, and was accepted by Queen Mary College, University of London, to study Physics.

Sir Peter focused on Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) after gaining his doctorate. He married his wife, Jean Margaret Kibble, in September 1962, and in 1964 he became a lecturer at University of Nottingham in the Department of Physics. Sir Peter’s career led to the creation of Magnetic Resonance Imaging, the non-evasive technology, which uses a magnetic field and radio waves to form detailed images of the body, internal organs and tissue are now used to help an estimated 60 million people a year and likely to have saved many lives as a result.

In 1993 he was knighted for his service to physics, due to the huge impact of the MRI, Sir Peter was awarded a Nobel Prize in 2003.
In 2003, Nottingham City Council made Sir Peter an Honorary Freeman of the City. The honour is considered the highest the council can give.

He was also honoured in 2015 after the council and NET named a tram after him. He celebrated the honour with his wife by testing out the tram’s driver’s seat at an unveiling ceremony in October 2015.

City Council Leader, Councillor Jon Collins, said: “We are immensely proud of the life-changing and Nobel Prize winning contribution that Sir Peter Mansfield made to medical science and I’m very sorry to hear he has passed away. Nottingham showed its pride and respect for Sir Peter by making him an Honorary Freeman of the City which not only recognised his contribution to the world but also the inspiration he has provided to Nottingham people.”

A first-of-its-kind conclave in India, the National Women’s Parliament will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Pavitra Sangamam on the outskirts of Vijayawada city in Andhra Pradesh capital region Amaravati on Feb. 10, 2017. Buddhist spiritual leader the Dalai Lama will attend the inaugural session of the three-day event, themed “Empowering Women-Strengthening Democracy”, along with a host of leaders from India and abroad, according to AP Assembly Speaker Kodela Sivaprasada Rao.

The vision of NWP is to enable and encourage social, political and economic empowerment of women in all strata of the society. One of the objectives of NWP is to generate new ideas, concepts, theories and ideologies for women empowerment. The AP Legislative Assembly is organising the event and the state government is hosting it with the support of Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and Inter-Parliamentary Union among others.

The NWP would facilitate interaction between women from all backgrounds and also girl students to sensitise the society on issues like malnutrition, social security, sexual harassment, sanitation, oppression and other gender-based problems.

India and the UK signed a MoU to ease restrictions on the number of scheduled flights between the two countries, following successful talks in India this week. Limits on flights from key Indian cities including Chennai and Kolkata have been scrapped, allowing for a greater range of flights for passengers while providing a boost to trade and tourism for the UK and India. Building new links with important trading partners is a key part of the government’s plans for a Global Britain, opening up new export markets and creating jobs and economic growth. The agreement also opened all destinations in the UK for Indian carriers for code share flights, and reciprocally the UK carriers can also operate code share flights to any International Airport in India, through domestic code share arrangements.

The agreement was formally signed by Minister of Civil Aviation, Shri Pusapati Ashok Gajapathi Raju, on behalf of India and Lord Ahmad of U.K. during a visit to India where he led a delegation of British companies for the 2017 CAPA India Aviation Summit. 

Indian Civil Aviation Minister Pusapati Ashok Gajapathi Raju, said “The increase in number of flights between the UK and India is encouraging news for our businesses and tourists. We already enjoy strong ties with the UK and we welcome such continued association which in the long run will not only encourage business activity, but also people-to-people contact. I am sure that this agreement will bring direct and indirect benefits to many sectors of the economies of our two countries”. 

Tourism from India makes an important contribution to the UK economy. In 2015, there were 422,000 visits from India to the UK, bringing more than £433 million to the economy.

2017 is turning out to be the year for big literary releases. If there was excitement about Arundhati Roy's upcoming novel, then there's even more in store for bibliophiles, as publishing house Penguin Random House has now announced that they will be releasing a new book by Salman Rushdie this September, titled The Golden House.

Rushdie's book is being described as "a breathtaking new novel on a sprawling canvas". A modern-day thriller, it follows a mysteriously wealthy family from Mumbai that is desperately seeking to forget the tragedy they left behind as they feverishly reinvent themselves in New York City.

An official statement released by Penguin Random House read: "The Golden House is about where we were before 26/11, where we are today and how we got here. Here is a book that asks us — in a post-truth world — if facts and authenticity are necessarily the same thing, while never ceasing to be both resonant and entertaining." 

Meru Gokhale, editor-in-chief, Literary Publishing, at Penguin Random House India, said of the book, “This is Salman Rushdie at his finest. The Golden House is a masterclass on the confusing world we have brought upon ourselves. The book dissects the cultural and political vacuum in which a generation — whose frame of reference for globalization has increasingly been coloured by conflict — must perform an intense balancing act. It is a terrific story, told at every step of the way with originality and nimble, impeccable plotting.”

Rushdie has written 12 novels so far: Midnight's Children which won the Booker Prize (1981) and the Best of the Booker Prize (2008), Grimus, Shame, The Satanic Verses, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, The Moor's Last Sigh, The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Fury,Shalimar the Clown, Luka and the Fire of Life, The Enchantress of Florence and his recent Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights. His memoir, Joseph Anton, was published in 2012.

The Bill amends the Constitution to introduce the goods and services tax (GST). Parliament and state legislatures will have concurrent powers to make laws on GST. Only the centre may levy an integrated GST (IGST) on the interstate supply of goods and services, and imports. Alcohol for human consumption has been exempted from the purview of GST.

GST will apply to five petroleum products at a later date.The GST Council will recommend rates of tax, period of levy of additional tax, principles of supply, special provisions to certain states etc. The GST Council will consist of the Union Finance Minister, Union Minister of State for Revenue, and state Finance Ministers.

The Bill empowers the centre to impose an additional tax of up to 1%, on the inter-state supply of goods for two years or more. This tax will accrue to states from where the supply originates.

Parliament may, by law, provide compensation to states for any loss of revenue from the introduction of GST, up to a five year period.

An ideal GST regime intends to create a harmonised system of taxation by subsuming all indirect taxes under one tax. It seeks to address challenges with the current indirect tax regime by broadening the tax base, eliminating cascading of taxes, increasing compliance, and reducing economic distortions caused by inter-state variations in taxes.

The provisions of this Bill do not fully conform to an ideal GST regime. Deferring the levy of GST on five petroleum products could lead to cascading of taxes.

The additional 1% tax levied on goods that are transported across states dilutes the objective of creating a harmonised national market for goods and services. Inter-state trade of a good would be more expensive than intra-state trade, with the burden being borne by retail consumers. Further, cascading of taxes will continue.

The Bill permits the centre to levy and collect GST in the course of inter-state trade and commerce. Instead, some experts have recommended a modified bank model for inter-state transactions to ease tax compliance and administrative burden.

Budget Estimates for 2017-18 : The total expenditure in 2017-18 is targeted at Rs 85,923 crore. The revised estimate for the total expenditure in 2016-17 is Rs 83,017 crore, which is 6.1% (Rs 4,764 crore) more than the budgeted target of 2016-17. The expenditure in 2017-18 is proposed to be met through receipts (other than borrowings) of Rs 73,467 crore and borrowings of Rs 11,265 crore. Total receipts for 2017-18 (other than borrowings) are expected to be 23.3% higher than the revised estimate of 2016-17.

Budget Highlights

1. The Gross State Domestic Product of Assam for 2017-18 at current prices is estimated to be Rs 2,58,337 crore. This is 15% higher than the estimate for 2016-17.

2. Total expenditure for 2017-18 is estimated to be Rs 85,923 crore, a 3.5% increase over the revised estimate of 2016-17. In 2016-17, there was an increase of Rs 4,764 crore (6.1%) in the revised estimate over the budgeted estimate.

3. Total receipts (excluding borrowings) for 2017-18 are estimated to be Rs 73,467 crore, an increase of 23.3% over the revised estimates of 2016-17. In 2016-17, total receipts fell short of the budgeted target by Rs 7,183 crore. This is driven by reduction in tax collections and grants from centre.

4. Revenue surplus for the next financial year is targeted at Rs 2,400 crore, or 0.93% of the state Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Fiscal deficit is targeted at Rs 7,702 crore (2.98% of state GDP).

5. Departments of Health, Water Resources, and Rural Development saw increases in allocations for the year 2017-18. On the other hand, the Department of Roads and Bridges witnessed a decrease in allocation.

Policy Highlights

6. Incentives to promote industry: Government to provide up to 90% of one time expenditure incurred on capital expenses involved in setting up Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) centres in the state. Further, 100% reimbursement will be provided on stamp duty paid by BPO and information technology firms

7. Promotion of banking: Rs 5,000 each will be given to tea plantation workers who have opened bank accounts.

8. Pay Commission: The government will retrospectively implement the 7th Pay Commission’s recommendations from April 1, 2016. The estimated burden on the state is expected to be Rs 2,200 crore. First instalment of the same will be released in April 2017.

9. Rs 5 crore has been allocated to provide two-wheelers to 1,000 top-ranking girl students who pass high school in 2017.Tax exemptions

10. Hotels and lodging houses, including homestays in rural areas will be exempt from paying luxury tax.

11. 50% entertainment tax exemption to permanent multiplexes for 3 years which screen Assamese/regional film on one of the screens. Cess on green tea leaf further reduced from 15paise/kg to 10paise/kg for small tea growers.

12. Women self-help groups are exempted from stamp duty on documentation of bank loans up to Rs 2.5 lakh.

Receipts in 2017-18

13. The total revenue receipts for 2017-18 are estimated to be Rs 70,720 crore, an increase of 19.8 % over the revised estimates of 2016-17.

14. State’s own tax revenue is expected to increase by 30.4% (Rs 3,742 crore) in 2017-18 over the revised estimates of 2016-17. Tax revenue in 2016-17 (RE) is estimated to be Rs 12,328 crore, which is 19% (Rs 2,896 crore) lower than the budgeted estimates.

15. The tax to GSDP ratio is targeted at 6.2 % in 2017-18, which is higher than the revised estimate of 5.5% in 2016-17. This implies that growth in collection of taxes is expected to be higher than the growth in the economy.

16. Non-tax revenue in 2017-18 is estimated to increase by 65.4% (Rs 2,951 crore) over the revised estimates of 2016-17. This is on account of higher receipts from petroleum extraction (70% increase).

17. Grants from the centre are set to decrease by 7.6%, from Rs 22,923 crore in 2016-17 (RE), to Rs 21,170 crore in 2017-18. The other component of transfers from the centre is the state’s share in central taxes, which is estimated to increase by 35.2%, to Rs 26,015 crore in 2017-18.

Chief Minister Pema Khandu has introduced the ‘Arunachal Civil Service Awards’ for excellence in public administration.In a release, the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) informed that this has been started to encourage good governance in the state and to recognize the extraordinary services rendered by the government employees in the state.

Nominations for the awards will be considered on the basis of implementation of innovative schemes or projects, showing innovation and adaptation to meet the stakeholders’ requirement, building up perceptible system changes and institutions.It also aims to honour civil servants and government employees who make public service delivery system efficient, corruption free, including speedy and judicious execution of work. Extraordinary performance in emergent situations like floods, earthquakes etc shall also form the basis of being eligible for this award.

The awards will be given for setting high standards of leadership quality, improving employees’ motivation and setting high standards of services and continued improvement, and also acknowledge the mission mode implementation of schemes prioritized by the state and central governments.

Around 700 players from 45 countries across the globe including defending champions India will be seen vying for the top honours at the 4th Rollball World Cup to be held from February 17 to 23rd in Dhaka.

Bangladesh have invested over Rs 50 crore to set up an exclusive Rollball stadium for the event. Three-tier security arrangement is also being provided to the visitors, he said.Hailing the largest ever participation in any Asian country, Yadav, an executive committee member of the Asian Roll Ball Federation, regretted that the 13-year-old Rollball game, which has its origin in Pune, did not get any support from the government and pleaded with the Jharkhand government to host at least an Asian Championship in the state.

Among the countries who have given their consent for the World Cup are France, England, Argentina, Ecuador, Uruguay, Egypt, Iran, Denmark, Belarus, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Tanzania, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Jambia, UAE, Netherlands, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, India and hosts Bangladesh.

War-torn Somalia elected its first president in decades 8th Feb. evening, prompting street celebrations for the east African nation’s rare and successful exercise of democracy. A former prime minister who has dual Somali-U.S. citizenship, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, won the presidency after two rounds of voting by members of parliament. He beat incumbent President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who conceded and avoided the need of a third round.

The voting by parliament was largely peaceful amid extraordinary security that included a lockdown in the capital city. The election was marred, however, by corruption that included allegations of vote-buying.

The concession speech sent the new president's supporters into the streets singing and dancing, some waving Somalia flags and blowing horns. Motorists stopped and joined the jubilant crowds.

The election was conducted by members of parliament instead of voters because of threats of violence by the al-Shabab extremist group. Lawmakers held their vote in an aircraft hangar at a former air force base for added security.

Most businesses in Mogadishu, the nation's capital, were closed during the day Wednesday, and the streets were empty because of enhanced security after suspected militants fired mortar rounds Tuesday night close to the former air base.

Farmajo promised Somalis that he was going to fulfill the pledges he made during the campaign about improved security, education, democracy and the economy.

Farmajo holds degrees from the State University of New York-Buffalo and was prime minister for eight months before leaving the post in 2011, according to the Associated Press. He had lived in the United States since 1985, when he was sent there with Somalia’s foreign affairs ministry.

Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Ram Vilas Paswan on Feb. 8 congratulated Gujarat on becoming the first state in India to establish a cashless distribution of food grain. According to a release, the minister also lauded the efforts of the Gujarat government for installing the Aadhaar Enabled Payment System in 17,250 Fair Price Shops well before the Mar. 31 target date.

The beneficiaries under NFSA (National Food Security Act) will need to carry only Aadhaar cards for getting their food grain in Gujarat. This will help in establishing the identity of beneficiaries, help in stopping the leakages of grain at shop level and above all eradicate corruption in the Public Distribution System (PDS).

In a meeting with Paswan in January, state food ministers agreed to make arrangements to establish cashless system in the PDS by March 31. According to the ministry, Gujarat has taken an extra step by partnering with common service centers, a Special Purpose Vehicle of the Ministry of Electronics and IT, to offer around 30 digital services through the FPS.

Gujarat government was also trying to make provisions for monthly bus travel passes for students and payment of electrical bills through these shops.

Jovenel Moise has been sworn in as Haiti's new president, opening a new chapter in the country's history after a long-running political crisis. The 48-year-old banana exporter, who has never held political office, took the oath of office on Tuesday in a ceremony in the capital, Port-au-Prince.

The handpicked candidate of Haiti's former president, Michel Martelly, Moise initially won the first round of voting in October 2015 - but the results were subsequently annulled amid allegations of massive fraud. The elections were further postponed in October after Hurricane Matthew battered the country, killing hundreds and causing extensive damage.

Moise won a November election redo with 55 percent, vowing to stimulate the economy and create more jobs. Yet, his critics claimed he did not gain a mandate because only 21 percent of voters went to the polls. 

Dr P Raghu Ram, President, Association of Breast Surgeons of India, Director, KIMS-USHALAKSHMI Centre for Breast Diseases & CEO, Ushalakshmi Breast Cancer Foundation has been selected for the prestigious Dr B C Roy National award for ‘Outstanding service in the field of Socio Medical Relief’ for the year 2016.The Award announcement was made by Dr Jayshree Mehta, President, Medical Council of India in a letter addressed to Dr Raghu Ram dated 24 January 2017.

Dr Raghu Ram received information on being chosen for this honour precisely two years after being conferred the Padma Shri in 2015 – one of the highest civilian awards of the land. He is the youngest Surgeon from the Telugu States to have been conferred the Padma Award.

The award recognises Dr Raghu Ram’s significant contribution towards improving the delivery of Breast health care in India, and equally, creating the much needed awareness about importance of early detection of breast cancer in the Telangana & Andhra Pradesh through a number of innovative and unique initiatives, which has resulted in transforming it from a taboo (a ‘closet issue’) to a much frequently discussed one. With the aim of ensuring early detection of breast cancer amongst underprivileged women, particularly in rural India, under the auspices of Ushalakshmi Breast Cancer Foundation that he established in his mother’s name who conquered breast cancer, Dr Raghu Ram has been overseeing the implementation of South Asia’s largest population based Breast Cancer Screening Programme, which has served as a benchmark Screening Programme for the entire Country.

Impressed with the successful implementation of this large scale population based breast cancer screening Programme in the Telugu States, in April 2016, Dr Raghu Ram was handpicked by the Govt. of India and invited to be part of a high powered Steering Committee & Technical Advisory Group (TAG) set up by Ministry of Health, Govt. of India. He played a pivotal role in getting Clinical Breast Examination (CBE) incorporated into National Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines & is providing training material and guidance in implementing the Programme across the nation. Dr Raghu Ram is the only expert from South India on these prestigious National Cancer Screening Committees.

In a bid to strengthen cyber security system, the Reserve Bank (RBI) today decided to set up an inter-disciplinary panel on cyber security to examine various threats and suggest measures to deal with it. “While banks have taken steps to strengthen their defences, the diverse and ingenious nature of recent cyber-attacks necessitates an ongoing review of the cyber security landscape and emerging threats. Towards this end, an inter-disciplinary Standing Committee on cyber security is being constituted,” RBI said in a statement.
The panel will review the threats inherent in the existing or emerging technology on an ongoing basis, it said.

Besides, it will also study adoption of various security standards/protocols and also act as interface with stakeholders. The committee will suggest appropriate policy interventions to strengthen cyber security and resilience, it said. The decision has been taken based on the recommendations of the expert panel on information technology examination and cyber security headed by Meena Hemachandra.
RBI has issued guidelines to banks, mandating cyber security preparedness for addressing cyber risks.

In biggest-ever breach of debit card data, as many as 32.14 lakh cards were compromised last year. 641 customers across 19 banks were duped of Rs 1.3 crore using stolen debit card data. There are around 75 crore debit cards operational in India, of which 19 crore are indigenously developed by RuPay while the rest are Visa- and Master Card-enabled of the debit cards affected, about 26.5 lakh are on Visa and MasterCard platforms while 6,00,000 are on RuPay. The breach reportedly involved some 90 ATMs.

Several public and private sector banks recalled or blocked over 32 lakh debit cards to safeguard customers from any financial fraud.

India still has miles to go to catch up with the rest of the world in IP protections in general and improve its ranking on the International IP Index in particular. The 5th Annual International IP Index has placed India in the bottom pack at the 43rd spot out of 45 countries assessed on IP.

Out of a total of 35 points, India scored a meagre 8.75, falling remarkably behind the median score of 15.39, and average score of India's regional neighbours, 17.64.

Comparing the 2017 Index with previous reports, India’s performance has improved a little as it was ranked last or next-to-last in the previous four years.

The annual index was released on Wednesday in Washington by the United States Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Centre (GIPC).  The US heads the list, which assessed countries on patents, trademarks, copyright, trade secrets, enforcement, and international treaties.

International IP Index measuring the Magnitude of Global Counterfeiting: Creation of a Contemporary Global Measure of Physical Counterfeiting. Counterfeiting today represents a tremendous and ever-increasing global threat. Counterfeit products from goods and merchandise, tobacco products, and industrial parts to banknotes and medicines circulate across the globe. These products cause real damage to consumers, industries, and economies. This report looks at the global magnitude of physical counterfeiting – a brief overview of the state of trade-related physical counterfeiting today, the current status of measuring counterfeiting, and the methodology and results of a current estimate of trade-related physical counterfeiting from two unique angles.

The U.K.’s lower house of Parliament gave the government its approval to begin the formal process of leaving the European Union in a vote that brings Prime Minister Theresa May a step closer to triggering Brexit.

The draft law was approved by 494 votes to 122 in the House of Commons 8 Feb. evening. The bill now goes up to the unelected House of Lords with the final vote expected March 7. Once the legislation is passed by both houses, May can trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

The vote passed shortly after lawmakers from the Scottish National Party were reprimanded for singing the EU anthem. They began whistling and singing Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” after the Commons voted to reject a final amendment to the Brexit bill.
While the government stays on track to meet May’s self-imposed deadline to kick-start Brexit by March 31, the win didn’t come without concessions. Brexit Minister David Jones had to promise lawmakers a vote on the final deal with the EU to stave off a revolt from May’s own Conservative Party.

In the end, the 137-word bill was unaltered in three days of debate.

Eight countries have joined an initiative to raise millions of dollars to replace shortfalls caused by President Donald Trump’s ban on US-funded groups around the world providing information on abortion, Sweden’s deputy prime minister said. Isabella Lovin told media a conference would be held on March 2 in Brussels to kick-start the funding initiative to help non-governmental organisations.

The Netherlands announced in January the launch of a global fund to help women access abortion services, saying Trump’s “global gag rule” would cause a funding shortfall of $600 million over the next four years.Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Luxemburg, Finland, Canada and Cape Verde have all lent their support.

The global gag rule, which affects US non-governmental organisations working abroad, is one that incoming presidents have used to signal their positions on abortion rights. It was created under U.S. President Ronald Reagan in 1984.Trump signed it at a ceremony in the White House on his fourth day in office. Barack Obama lifted the gag rule in 2009 when he took office.

An HIV-positive patient for the first time underwent a successful heart surgery in China. The male patient, 58, had cardiac aortic valve calcification problem, which could only be corrected through surgery. “It was China’s first successful heart surgery on an HIV-positive patient,” said Lu Hongzhou, director of the Shanghai Center for AIDS Diagnosis and Treatment.

The male patient, 58, had cardiac aortic valve calcification problem, which could only be corrected through surgery. Sun Xiaoning, a surgeon with Zhongshan Hospital under Fudan University, said after the surgery on January 6, the patient was transferred so that HIV-related complications could be treated.“There is an occupational risk when operating on HIV-positive patients. Our team was not afraid, it was our obligation,” Sun was quoted as saying by state run Xinhua news agency.

Zhu Tongyu, director of the Shanghai Public Health Clinic Centre, said people living with HIV/AIDS are often rejected by hospitals for surgery.The centre’s AIDS Diagnosis and Treatment Centre has dedicated itself to addressing this difficulty for the past seven years. It was with the help of the centre that the patient was admitted by the hospital. The centre has helped AIDS patients get surgery ranging from orthopaedics, neurosurgery, oncology to ophthalmology.

India will host FIBA Women’s Asia Cup basketball tournament in July, Basketball Federation of India announced.The continental flagship tournament for women will be held here from July 23 to 29.India has also been given another continental level tournament — the FIBA U-16 Women’s Asian Championship — which will be held from October 22 to 28 in Hyderabad.This will be the first time since 2009 that India will host a major FIBA (International Basketball Federation) event.In 2009, the BFI was allotted the same two Championships — the 1st FIBA Asia U-16 Championship for Girls in Pune and the 23rd FIBA Asia Championship for Women in Chennai.Addressing a press conference here, BFI President K Govindaraj said, “It has been far too long for Indian fans to get to see their homegrown talent compete against the best in Asia.

Fourteen teams will compete in both the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup and the U-16 Women’s Asian Championship, with eight teams in Division A (which include new Oceania teams Australia and New Zealand) and six in lower Division B.India is in Division B in both the Senior and U-16 events.

The 2017 Australian Open was a tennis tournament that took place at Melbourne Park between 16–29 January 2017. It was the 105th edition of the Australian Open, and the first Grand Slam tournament of the year. The tournament consisted of events for professional players in singles, doubles and mixed doubles play. Junior and wheelchair players competed in singles and doubles tournaments.

The 2017 Australian Open was the 105th edition of the tournament and was held at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

Men's Singles

Switzerland Roger Federer defeated Spain Rafael Nadal, 6–4, 3–6, 6–1, 3–6, 6–3

This was a rematch of the 2009 Australian Open final, which Rafael Nadal won to become the first (and to date, only) Spaniard to win the Australian Open title; as of 2017 it remains his only title at the tournament. The final saw the two holding service for six games of the first set, whilst during the seventh game was the pivotal break of serve giving Federer the opening set. Nadal quickly broke Federer's serve in the second set steamrolling out to a lead that Federer could not overcome, giving him the second set and leveling the match at one set apiece. The third set was a rather lopsided affair seeing Nadal only secure his service game in the fourth game of the set. The fourth set started off competitively with the two holding serve, until Nadal broke in the fourth game of the set, a lead he would never surrender, evening the match at two sets apiece. The decisive fifth set commenced with a break of Federer's serve by Nadal, giving him a lead in the early going; however Nadal's serve got broken during the sixth game of the set, leveling the match a two sets and three games apiece. This would be brief as Federer won the next three games breaking Nadal's service in the eighth game of the set to allow him to successfully serve out the match in the final ninth game. This was Roger Federer's 18 Grand Slam singles title, the most ever by a man in the history of tennis, and it was his fifth Australian Open title, just one shy of the record co-held by Novak Djokovic and Roy Emerson.

Women's Singles

United States Serena Williams defeated United States Venus Williams, 6–4, 6–4

This was a rematch of the 2003 Australian Open final, where Serena Williams completed the first "Serena Slam" and her career Grand Slam, whilst Serena won five more Australian Open titles in the interim and her sister Venus had no other final appearances at the event. They each broke the others' serve twice to start the match with Venus finally holding serve in the fifth service game and her sister Serena holding her own serve in the subsequent game. The seventh game was the pivotal break of service that Serena Williams got on her sister Venus' serve, costing her the set just a mere three games later. During the second set, the two traded held service games for the first six games to start the set, whilst Venus started serving first. She would get broken again during the seventh game of the set, which eventually surrendered the match to sister Serena. This was Serena Williams' 23 Grand Slam singles title and seventh Australian Open title for her career, both being Open era records, whilst being one shy of Margaret Court's record of 24 in the history of tennis.

Men's Doubles

Finland Henri Kontinen/Australia John Peers defeated United States Bob Bryan / United States Mike Bryan, 7–5, 7–5

Women's Doubles

United States Bethanie Mattek-Sands/Czech Republic Lucie Šafářová defeated Czech Republic Andrea Hlaváčková / China Peng Shuai, 6–7(4–7), 6–3, 6–3

Mixed Doubles

United States Abigail Spears / Colombia Juan Sebastián Cabal defeated India Sania Mirza/Croatia Ivan Dodig, 6–2, 6–4

According to Surveyor General of India Swarna Subba Rao the Survey of India would soon "re-measure" the height of Mount Everest to verify doubts expressed over it in some sections of the scientific community following the major earthquake in Nepal two years ago and to help scientific studies. All the necessary approvals have been obtained for the expedition and the effort should begin in a month, he said on the sidelines of a meeting of the Geospatial World Forum.

We are sending an expedition to Mount Everest. Everest height was declared, if I remember correctly, in 1855. Many others also measured it. But height given by Survey of India, even today, is taken as the correct height. It is 29,028 ft. We are re-measuring it. Two years have passed since the major Nepal earthquake. After that, there is a doubt in the scientific community that it is shrinking. That is one of the reasons. Second reason is, it helps in scientific studies, plate movements etc.

An expedition from the Survey of India would depart for Nepal in two months to conduct the exercise that comes in the backdrop of doubts expressed by section of the scientific community about the shrinking of the towering mountain peak. Mount Everest officially stands at 8,848 metres (29,028 feet) above sea level.

The project, for which required sanctions have been obtained, would help the future scientific studies as well, Surveyor General of India Swarna Subba Rao said here on Tuesday. “We are sending an expedition to Mount Everest. Everest’s height was declared, if I remember correctly, in 1855. Many others also measured it. But the height given by Survey of India, even today, is taken as the correct height. It is 29,028 ft.

The height of Mount Everest is planned to be measured this time by two methods — using Global Positioning System (GPS) and a Ground method. “There are two methods. One is GPS. It is a survey instrument. It looks like a transistor. If you put it on the summit, say for 10 minutes, it tells you the height. That is one. “The Second is, ground method. Triangulation. We observe. The height can be calculated from ground,” he added. Rao said the measurement is being done by the two methods for better confirmation of the findings. “We are doing at the same time by both methods for better confirmation,” he added.

A deadly 7.8—magnitude earthquake struck Nepal in 2015, killing thousands of people and altering the landscape across the Himalayan nation.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley presented the Union Budget 2017-2018 in Lok Sabha on February 1, 2017. This is the fourth budget by the Narendra Modi government. Jaitley said the demonetisation move by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 8, 2016 will not have a lasting impact on the economy. Jaitley also announced that the budget allocation for welfare of women and children under various ministries will be increased to Rs 1,84,632 crore.

Jaitley also said he took immense pride in presenting a joint budget, including the Railway Budget. Railways will focus on passenger safety, capital works and cleanliness, among other issues, Jaitley said. Following the presentation of the Union budget, both Houses of Parliament will adjourn for the day.

THE Finance Minister’s General Budget 2017-2018, which, in a first, also included the Railway Budget, has not gone down well with Puneites. Commuter organisations and activists said the budget announced nothing that could cheer up the mood of lakhs of passengers who use the Indian Railways services daily.

Highlights of Union Budget 2017-18

Following are the highlights of Mr. Jaitley's Budget speech:


Demonetisation is expected to have a transient impact on the economy.It will have a great impact on the economy and lives of people .Demonetisation is a bold and decisive measure that will lead to higher GDP growth.The effects of demonetisation will not spillover to the next fiscal.

Agriculture sector

Sowing farmers should feel secure against natural calamities.A sum of Rs. 10 lakh crore is allocated as credit to farmers, with 60 days interest waiver.NABARD fund will be increased to Rs. 40,000 crore. Government will set up mini labs in Krishi Vigyan Kendras for soil testing.A dedicated micro irrigation fund will be set up for NABARD with Rs 5,000 crore initial corpus.Irrigation corpus increased from Rs 20,000 crore to Rs 40,000 crore.Dairy processing infrastructure fund wlll be initially created with a corpus of Rs. 2000 crore.Issuance of soil cards has gained momentum.A model law on contract farming will be prepared and shared with the States.

Rural population

The government targets to bring 1 crore households out of poverty by 2019.During 2017-18, five lakh farm ponds will be be taken up under the MGNREGA.Over Rs 3 lakh crore will be spent for rural India. MGNREGA to double farmers' income.Will take steps to ensure participation of women in MGNREGA up to 55%.Space technology will be used in a big way to ensure MGNREGA works.The government proposes to complete 1 crore houses for those without homes.Will allocate Rs. 19,000 crore for Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana in 2017-18.The country well on way to achieve 100% rural electrification by March 2018.Swachh Bharat mission has made tremendous progress; sanitation coverage has gone up from 42% in Oct 13 to 60% now.

For youth

Will introduce a system of measuring annual learning outcomes and come out with an innovation fund for secondary education.Focus will be on 3,479 educationally-backward blocks.Colleges will be identified based on accreditation.Skill India mission was launched to maximise potential. Will set up 100 India International centres across the country.Courses on foreign languages will be introduced.Will take steps to create 5000 PG seats per annum.

For the poor and underprivilege health care

Rs. 500 crore allocated for Mahila Shakthi Kendras.Under a nationwide scheme for pregnant women, Rs. 6000 will be transferred to each person.A sum of Rs. 1,84,632  crore allocated for women and children.Affordable housing will be given infrastructure status.Owing to surplus liquidity, banks have started reducing lending rates for housing.Elimination of tuberculosis by 2025 targeted.Health sub centres, numbering 1.5 lakh, willl be transformed into health wellness centres.Two AIIMS will be set up in Jharkhand and Gujarat.Will undertake structural transformation of the regulator framework for medical education.Allocation for Scheduled Castes  is Rs. 52,393  croreAadhaar-based smartcards will be issued to senior citizens to monitor health.

Infrastructure and railways

A total allocation of Rs. 39,61,354 crore has been made for infrastructure.Total allocation for Railways is Rs. 1,31,000 crore.No service charge on tickets booked through IRCTC.Raksha coach with a corpus of Rs. 1 lakh crore for five years (for passenger safety).Unmanned level crossings will be eliminated by 2020.3,500 km of railway lines to be commissioned this year up from 2,800 km last year.SMS-based ''clean my coach service'' is put in place.Coach mitra facility will be introduced to register all coach related complaints.By 2019 all trains will have bio-toilets.Five-hundred stations will be made differently-abled friendly.Railways to partner with logistics players for front-end and back-end solutions for select commodities.Railways will offer competitive ticket booking facility.Rs. 64,000 crore allocated for highways. High speed Internet to be allocated to 1,50,000 gram panchayats.New Metro rail policy will be announced with new modes of financing.

Energy sector

A strategic policy for crude reserves will be set up.Rs. 1.26,000 crore received as energy production based investments.Trade infra export scheme will be launched 2017-18.

Financial sector

FDI policy reforms - more than 90% of FDI inflows are now automated.Shares of Railway PSE like IRCTC will be listed on stock exchanges. Bill on resolution of financial firms will be introduced in this session of Parliament.Foreign Investment Promotion Board will be abolished.Revised mechanism to ensure time-bound listing of CPSEs.Computer emergency response team for financial sector will be formed.Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana lending target fixed at Rs 2.44 lakh crore for 2017-18.Digital India - BHIM app will unleash mobile phone revolution. The government will introduce two schemes to promote BHIM App - referral bonus for the users and cash back for the traders.Negotiable Instruments Act might be amended.DBT to LPG consumers , Chandigarh is kerosene-free, 84 government schemes are on the DBT platform.Head post office as the central office for rendering passport service.Easy online booking system for Army and other defence personnel.For big-time offences - including economic offenders fleeing India, the government will introduce legislative change or introduce law to confiscate the assets of these people within the country.

Fiscal situation

Total expenditure is Rs. 21, 47,000 crore.Plan, non-plan expenditure to be abolished; focus will be on capital expenditure, which will be 25.4 %.Rs. 3,000 crore under the Department  of Economic Affairs for implementing the Budget announcements.Expenditure for science and technology is Rs. 37,435 crore.Total resources transferred to States and Union Territories is Rs 4.11 lakh crore.Recommended 3% fiscal deficit for three years with a deviation of 0.5% of the GDP.Revenue deficit is 1.9 %Fiscal deficit of 2017-18 pegged at 3.2% of the GDP. Will remain committed to achieving 3% in the next year.

Funding of political parties

The maximum amount of cash donation for a political party will be Rs. 2,000 from any one source.Political parties will be entitled to receive donations by cheque or digital mode from donors.An amendment is being proposed to the RBI Act to enable issuance of electoral bonds .A donor can purchase these bonds from banks or post offices through cheque or digital transactions. They can be redeemed only by registered political parties.

Defence sector

The defence sector gets an allocation of Rs. 2.74,114 crore.

Tax proposals

India’s tax to GDP ratio is not favourable.Out of 13.14 lakh registered companies, only 5.97 lakh firms have filed returns for 2016-17.Proportion of direct tax to indirect tax is not optimal.Individuals numbering 1.95 crore showed an income between Rs. 2.5 lakh to Rs. 5 lakh.Out of 76 lakh individual assessees declaring income more than Rs. 5 lakh, 56 lakh are salaried.Only 1.72 lakh people showed income of more than Rs. 50 lakh a year.Between November 8 to December 30, deposits ranging from Rs. 2 lakh and Rs. 80 lakh were made in 1.09 crore accounts.Net tax revenue of 2013-14 was Rs. 11.38 lakh crore.Out of 76 lakh individual assessees declaring income more than Rs 5 lakh, 56 lakh are salaried.1.95 crore individuals showed income between Rs. 2.5 lakh to Rs. 5 lakh.Rate of growth of advance tax in Personal I-T is 34.8% in the last three quarters of this financial year.Holding period for long term capital gain lowered to two yearsProposal to have a carry-forward of MAT for 15 years.Capital gains tax to be exempted for persons holding land from which land was pooled for creation of the state capital of Andhra Pradesh.Under the corporate tax, in order to make MSME companies more viable, there is a proposal to reduce tax for small companies with a turnover of up to Rs 50 crore to 25%. About 67 lakh companies fall in this category. Ninety-six % of companies to get this benefit.The government proposes to reduce basic customs duty for LNG to 2.5% from 5%.The Income Tax Act to be amended  to ensure that no transaction above Rs 3 lakh is permitted in cash.The limit of cash donation by charitable trusts is reduced to Rs 2,000 from Rs 10,000.Net revenue loss in direct tax could be Rs. 20,000 crore.

Personal income tax

Existing rate of tax for individuals between Rs.  2.5-Rs 5 lakh is reduced to 5% from 10%.All other categories of tax payers in subsequent brackets will get a benefit of Rs 12,500.Simple one page return for people with an annual income of Rs. 5 lakh other than business income.People filing I-T returns for the first time will not come under any government scrutiny.Ten % surcharge on individual income above Rs. 50 lakh and up to Rs 1 crore to make up for Rs 15,000 crore loss due to cut in personal I-T rate. 15 surcharge on individual income above Rs. 1 crore to remain.

Union finance minister Arun Jaitley on  January 31, 2017 tabled the Economic Survey 2016-17 in Parliament budget session. The survey projects the economy to grow in the range of 6.75% to 7.25% in the next fiscal year 2017-18 in the post-demonetisation year.

The Survey’s GDP growth figure for the current fiscal is lower than 7.1 per cent the Central Statistics Office had forecast earlier this month.

Here are the highlights of the Economic Survey 2016-17 tabled in Parliament today:

1. GDP growth for next fiscal pegged at 6.75-7.5 per cent

2. Growth this fiscal to be 6.5 per cent

3. Prescribes cut in individual I-T rates, real estate stamp duties

4. Income Tax net could be widened gradually by encompassing all high income earners

5. Time table for cutting corporate tax should be accelerated

6. Tax administration could be improved to reduce discretion and improve accountability

7. Growth to return to normal as new currency comes in circulation

8. Demonetisation to affect growth rate by 0.25-0.5 per cent, but to have long-term benefits

9. GST, other structural reforms should take the trend growth rate to 8-10 per cent

10. Fiscal windfall likely from Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, low oil price

11. Farm sector to grow at 4.1 per cent this fiscal, up from 1.2 per cent last year

12. Fiscal gains from GST will take time to realise

13. Demonetisation may affect supplies of certain agricultural products like sugar, milk, potatoes and onions

14. Growth rate of industrial sector to moderate to 5.2 per cent this fiscal, from 7.4 per cent last fiscal

15. Efforts to collect taxes on disclosed and undisclosed wealth should not lead to tax harassment

16. Universal Basic Income Scheme is an alternative to plethora of state subsidies for poverty alleviation.

The survey prepared by chief economic adviser in the finance ministry Arvind Subramanian said the adverse impact of demonetisation on GDP growth will be transitional. The Economic Survey 2016-17 advocates the concept of Universal Basic Income (UBI) as an alternative to the various social welfare schemes in an effort to reduce poverty.

South China Sea disputes involve both island and maritime claims among several sovereign states within the region, namely the Nation of Brunei, the People's Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan), Malaysia, Indonesia, the Republic of the Philippines, and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. As a high proportion of the world's trade passes through the South China Sea, there are many non-claimant nations that want the South China Sea to remain as international waters, with several nations (e.g. the United States of America) conducting "freedom of navigation" operations.

The disputes include the islands, reefs and banks of the South China Sea, including the Spratly and Paracel islands, the various boundaries, including those in the Gulf of Tonkin. There is a further dispute in the waters near the Indonesian Natuna Islands which by most definitions are not part of the South China Sea. The interests of the nations include retaining or acquiring the rights to fishing areas; the exploration and potential exploitation of crude oil and natural gas under the waters of various parts of the South China Sea, and the strategic control of important shipping lanes.

In July 2016, an arbitral tribunal constituted under Annex VII of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea ruled against China's maritime claims in Philippines v. China, although it is not enforceable. China does not acknowledge the tribunal nor abide by its ruling, insisting that any resolution should be through bilateral negotiations with other claimants.

On 20 July 2011, the PRC, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam agreed to a set of preliminary guidelines which would help resolve the dispute. The agreement was described by the PRC's assistant foreign minister, Liu Zhenmin, as "an important milestone document for cooperation among China and ASEAN countries". Some of the early drafts acknowledged aspects such as "marine environmental protection, scientific research, safety of navigation and communication, search and rescue and combating transnational crime," although the issue of oil and natural gas drilling remains unresolved.

Chinese objection to Indian naval presence and oil exploration

On 22 July 2011, the INS Airavat, an Indian amphibious assault vessel on a friendly visit to Vietnam, was reportedly contacted 45 nautical miles from the Vietnamese coast in the disputed South China Sea by a party identifying itself as the Chinese Navy and stating that the ship was entering Chinese waters. A spokesperson for the Indian Navy explained that as no ship or aircraft was visible, the INS Airavat proceeded on her onward journey as scheduled. The Indian Navy further clarified that "[t]here