03, March 2017

1.#WeAreEqual campaign- a social media campaign
Source: PIB

  • Initiated by The Ministry of Women and Child Development has initiated
  • It is targeted at raising awareness about gender discrimination
  • The campaign will culminate into the celebration of International Women’s Day marked by the prestigious Nari Shakti Award ceremony, in which the Hon’ble President will honour individuals and institutions for their exemplary contribution to women’s empowerment

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2.NMCG Signs MoU with Rotary India for the Success of Namami Gange
Source : PIB

National Mission for Clean Ganga under Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation signed an MoU with Rotary India in New Delhi

  • Rotary India will support clean Ganga mission through their ‘WASH in Schools’ program in various schools
  • The program includes the implementation of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene services in the targeted government schools and sensitizing all the stakeholders including school children, teachers, school management communities and communities etc. on practicing positive health behaviours for improving awareness on sanitation
  • This will be achieved through an integrated learning environment and enabling children to serve as agents of change for their siblings and communities at large
  • Rotary India has planned to undertake WASH in Schools programme in 20,000 Government Schools

Benefit:

  • The MoU will pave the way for integrating the theme of Ganga Rejuvenation with Rotary’s program of WASH which is to be undertaken in government schools and communities located along the river Ganga in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand and Nadia District of West Bengal and other states where Rotary has a strong presence
  • It will undertake activities and campaigns to create awareness in schools and communities about Ganga rejuvenation and thereby reducing the pollution flowing into the river
  • The MoU shall remain in force for two years

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3.India to attend Lahore meet on Indus Waters Treaty
Source: The Hindu

India has reportedly accepted an invitation to attend the next meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) to be held in Lahore in March

The move came after two months of diplomatic negotiations, with World Bank officials playing mediator in encouraging Pakistan to extend the invitation and for India to accept

A look at the two major hydro electric projects- Kishenganga and Ratle- in Jammu and Kashmir may be taken up in the meeting.

Kishanganga issue:

  • It is an $864 million dam which is part of a run-of-the-river hydroelectric scheme that is designed to divert water from the Kishanganga River to a power plant in the Jhelum River basin.
  • It is located 5 km north of Bandipore in Jammu and Kashmir, India and will have an installed capacity of 330 MW. Construction on the project began in 2007 and is expected to be complete in 2016.
  • Construction on the dam was temporarily halted by the Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration in October 2011 due to Pakistan’s protest of its effect on the flow of the Kishanganga River (called the Neelum River in Pakistan).
  • In February 2013, the Hague ruled that India could divert a minimum amount of water for power generation.

Ratle Hydroelectric Plant:

  • It is a run-of-the-river hydroelectric power station currently under construction on the Chenab River, downstream of the village of Ratle in Doda district of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The project includes a 133 m (436 ft) tall gravity dam and two power stations adjacent to one another.

About PIC:

  • Permanent Indus Commission is a bilateral commission of officials from India-Pakistan, created to implement and manage goals of Indus Waters Treaty.
  • Under the treaty, it is required that India and Pakistan meet every financial year. The Indus Commission is the first step for conflict resolution.
  • If an agreement cannot be reached at the Commission level, the dispute is to be referred to the two governments. If the governments too fail to reach an agreement, the Treaty provides an arbitration mechanism. The last meeting of the commission was held in July 2016.

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4.Pakistan returns to SAARC, gets Secretary General post
Source: The Hindu

After months of difficulty posed mainly by India, Pakistan succeeded in getting its official elected to the post of the Secretary General of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)

The success for Pakistan was backed by all members, including India, which made the selection consensus-based

Administrative, not diplomatic: Officials at the SAARC secretariat, however, said the election was of administrative nature and diplomatic intent should not be read in it

Earlier: India had opposed holding of the 19th SAARC summit in Islamabad in November 2016 following the terror strike in Uri

About Secretary General SAARC:

The Secretary–General of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, is the head of the SAARC Secretariat, which is headquartered in Kathmandu, Nepal. The Secretary-General is appointed for a three-year term by election by a council of Ministers from member states. The Secretary-General is assisted by eight deputies, one from each nation, who also reside in Kathmandu.

SAARC:

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is an economic and geopolitical organisation of eight countries that are primarily located in South Asia or the Indian subcontinent.

Member states:  Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

Observer status: Australia, China, the European Union, Iran, Japan, Mauritius, Myanmar, South Korea and the United States.

The SAARC Secretariat is based in Kathmandu, Nepal.

  • The combined economy of SAARC is the third largest in the world in the terms of GDP (PPP) after the United States and China and fifth largest in the terms of nominal GDP.
  • SAARC nations comprise 3% of the world’s area and contain 21% (around 1.7 billion) of the world’s total population and around 9.12% of the global economy as of 2015.
  • India makes up over 70% of the area and population among these eight nations.
  • The SAARC policies aim to promote welfare economics, collective self-reliance among the countries of South Asia, and to accelerate socio-cultural development in the region.
  • The SAARC has also developed external relations by establishing permanent diplomatic relations with the EU, the UN (as an observer), and other multilateral entities.

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5.Public procurement needs to be opened up
Source : The Hindu

Public procurement in India should gradually be opened up in a fair manner. To ensure greater competition. Also, privatisation of public assets has to be done keeping in mind the country’s socio-economic needs and objectives by

Public procurement (PP):

  • Procurement by government/its agencies for their own consumption and not for commercial resale
  • PP in India is estimated to be about 30% of the country’s GDP, with sectors such as defence, railways and telecom — having state-owned enterprises — accounting for a major portion of it
  • The recent CCI orders imposed penalties on some cement companies for rigging bids for supply of cement to the government, as well as on firms for bid rigging of tenders floated by Indian Railways for procurement of ‘brushless DC fans’
  • These regulatory orders are with an aim to ensure greater competition in India’s public procurement

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6.A weapon-locating radar for the Army
Source : The Hindu

Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) recently handed over three of its products for induction into the Indian Army.

The products are namely

  • Weapon Locating Radar (WLR) called SWATHI
  • NBC Recce vehicle
  • NBC Drugs.

SWATHI :

  • developed by DRDO’s Electronics & Radar Development Establishment (LRDE)
  • Provides quick, automatic and accurate location of all enemy weapons like mortars, shells and rockets firing within its effective zone of coverage and simultaneously handles multiple projectiles fired from different weapons at different locations.
  • Swati can also direct artillery response based on the incoming enemy fire
  • The weapon includes 81mm or higher calibre mortars, 105mm or higher calibre shells and 120mm or higher calibre free flying rockets.
  • The WLR has been a critical requirement of the Army, and in the aftermath of the Kargil conflict, it had to be imported from the U.S. in 2002 to fill critical needs
  • Swati has a range of 50 km which brings all artillery guns presently in service worldwide under its coverage
  • The WLR was pressed into service on the LoC last year during the flare-up in hostilities after the surgical strikes .It played a major role in suppressing the heavy artillery fire from Pakistan
  • Thus, WLR has two roles to perform i.e. Weapon Location Mode for enemy Artillery and Direction of Own artillery Fire (DOOAF) Mode for our own Artillery.

NBC Recce Vehicle Mk-1:

  • Is developed by Vehicles Research & Development Establishment (VRDE) for carrying out post event recce of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Contaminated areas.
  • It is capable of collecting solid and liquid samples of biologically contaminated areas, mark the nuclear and chemical contamination zone and transfer the recce data speedily to support formations.
  • On successful development of NBC RV Mk-I in association with DL, Jodhpur, the equipment was approved for induction into the Services.

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7.‘Kalvari’ test-fires anti-ship missile
Source : The Hindu

Kalvari, the first of the Scorpene submarines being built in India, successfully conducted its maiden test-firing of an anti-ship missile in the Arabian Sea

The missile fired was a French SM-39 Exocet anti-ship missile

Kalvari is presently in an advanced stage of user trials and is scheduled to be commissioned into the Navy very soon

However, the submarines are still without a heavy weight torpedo, their primary weapon

This missile launch is a significant milestone, not only for the Kalvari, which is the first in a series of Scorpene class submarines being built in

India, but also in enhancing the Indian Navy’s sub-surface warfare capability

P-75: Six Scorpene submarines are being built under P-75 by Mazgaon Docks Limited (MDL) with technology transfer from France

All the submarines will be equipped with this anti-ship missile

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8.Revitalising a language-Kurukh
Source : The Hindu

  • An endangered tribal language of the Dravidian family, is set to get a new lease of life in West Bengal. It is spoken by the Oraon tribal community who live in Dooars. The language was given official status in the State last month.
  • While most of the tribal languages in the State have their origins in the Austro-Asiatic and Tibeto-Barman families, Kurukh is an exception
  • The only example of a tribal language having its origin from the Dravidian family is Malto, which is not spoken in West Bengal, but in the Rajmahal hills of Jharkhand
  • The Santhali, Munda and Hoe languages belong to the Austro-Asiastic family, while the languages spoken by the Lepcha, Tamang and Bhutia tribes of the Darjeeling hills were of the Tibeto-Burman group
  • The language is marked as being in a “vulnerable” state in UNESCO’s list of endangered languages.
  • Jharkhand has recognised Kurukh as a language, and students can write their school final examination in its script
  • The decision to allow students to write their school final examination in Kurukh was taken by the Jharkhand government in February 2016
  • In 2003, the State officially recognised the language and its script
  • Kurukh script reflects the socio-cultural aspects of the tribal community. The script is called Tolong Siki. It resembles that of any Dravidian language.
  • According to the 2001 census report (the latest official data on language-speakers), the language is spoken by about 17 lakh persons.
  • Since the Oraons are in different States, many members of the community picked up languages like Hindi and Bengali.

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9.NGT fixes norms for camping along Ganga
Source : The Hindu

The National Green Tribunal has prohibited all camping activity on beaches along the Ganga which fall within 100 meters from the middle of the river during lean season flow from Shivpuri to Rishikesh, a hub for eco-tourism and river rafting.

  • The Bench relied on various studies by Uttarakhand and the Wildlife Institute of India which said that of the total 56 beaches, 33 were recommended for camping while 23 were out of bounds.
  • Out of the 33 sites recommended for beach camping, 3 fall entirely outside the restriction of 100 meters imposed by the Tribunal in various cases, 8 sites are wholly within 100 meters while the remaining 22 sites are partially within 100 meters and partially outside 100 meters.
  • The Bench has directed that the management plan prepared by the State government with regard to beach camping be implemented while noting how authorities allowed large number of defaulters included people carrying weapons, drinking on the beaches and even raising permanent/concrete structure at the camping sites.

About the National Green Tribunal (NGT):

NGT has been established under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010 for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources.

Members:

  • Chairman: serving or retired Chief Justice of a High Court or a judge of the Supreme Court of India. (is the administrative head of the tribunal, also serves as a judicial member).
  • Sanctioned strength( the act allows for up to 20 of each): currently, 10 expert members and 10 judicial members
  • Selection: Members are chosen by a selection committee (headed by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court of India) that reviews their applications and conducts interviews.
  • The Judicial members are chosen from applicants who are serving or retired judges of High Courts.
  • Expert members are chosen from applicants who are either serving or retired bureaucrats not below the rank of an Additional Secretary to the Government of India (not below the rank of Principal Secretary if serving under a state government) with a minimum administrative experience of five years in dealing with environmental matters. Or, the expert members must have a doctorate in a related field.

Function:

  • The tribunal deals with matters relating to the enforcement of any legal right relating to environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property.
  • The Tribunal is not bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but shall be guided by principles of natural justice.
  • The Tribunal’s dedicated jurisdiction in environmental matters shall provide speedy environmental justice and help reduce the burden of litigation in the higher courts.
  • The Tribunal is mandated to make and endeavour for disposal of applications or appeals finally within 6 months of filing of the same.

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10.Half of India-Bangladesh border fenced
Source : The Hindu 

BSF to go in for cameras and lasers on riverine stretches; aim is to curb infiltration and smuggling of cattle and currency

Shared border:

  • Length of the shared border b/w India & Bangladesh = 4093 Km.
  • The border runs along West Bengal for 2,216.7 km, Assam 263 km, Meghalaya 443 km, Tripura 856 km and Mizoram 318 km.

Issue: Fencing of Indo-Bangla Border

Aim of fencing: The aim of the project is to curb infiltration and smuggling of cattle and fake Indian currency notes. Land acquisition has surfaced as a major hurdle in the fencing project.

Backdrop:
Illegal migration: In the early 1980s thousands of Bangladeshis illegally moved to neighboring Indian states in search of land and employment. By 1982 the steady influx of Bangla speakers sparked a major ethnic backlash in the Indian state of Assam, leading to the slaughter of thousands of non-Assamese.
Construction of a fence: In order to satisfy Assamese public opinion, the governments of Indira and Rajiv Gandhi promised to stem illegal immigration, and in order to do so began construction of a barbed-wire fencing along the Indo-Bangladeshi border in the area. In the mid- and late 1980s
Phased construction: In order to prevent illegal immigration and other anti-national activities from across the border, the Government of India had sanctioned the construction of border roads and fencing in two phases

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11.GST levy may go up to 40%, 4-slab structure to remain
Source : The Hindu

The GST levy may go up to 40% after the GST Council proposed raising the peak rate in the Bill to 20%, from the current 14%, to obviate the need for approaching Parliament for any change in rates in future

The 4-tier rate structure decided last year will stay the same.

The Centre plans to introduce in Parliament the Central GST (CGST) Bill in the forthcoming session beginning March 9.

After it is ratified, the states will introduce the State GST (SGST) Bill in their respective legislative Assemblies.

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