20, December 2017


  • It is an exercise by armed forces being conducted in the deserts of Rajasthan to evaluate the capability of the armed forces to strike deep into enemy territory in an integrated air-land battle.
  • Unique in scope and scale, the exercise being conducted in battle like conditions, aims at fine tuning surveillance and destruction mechanisms to support precision strikes and manoeuvres by network enabled forces. With emphasis on joint operations, the exercise would test robust sensor to shooter grids by employing a vast array of surveillance and air assets networked with land based strategic and tactical vectors.

  1. Amendments to Companies Act

Source: The Hindu

The Rajya Sabha has passed the Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2017. It was adopted by the Lok Sabha in July this year. The Bill provides for more than 40 amendments to the Companies Act, 2013.

Highlights of the Bill:

  • The amendment seeks to strengthen corporate governance standards, initiate strict action against defaulting companies and help improve ease of doing business in the country.
  • The major changes include simplification of the private placement process; rationalization of provisions related to loans to directors; replacing the requirement of approval of the central government for managerial remuneration above prescribed limits by approval through special resolution of shareholders and aligning disclosure requirements in the prospectus with the regulations made by Sebi (Securities and Exchange Board of India).
  • The Bill also provides for maintenance of register of significant beneficial owners and makes offence for contravention of provisions relating to deposits as non-compoundable.
  • It also provides for stringent penalties in case of non-filing of balance sheet and annual return every year, which will act as deterrent to shell companies. This would facilitate ease of doing business, and result in harmonization with Sebi, RBI (Reserve Bank of India) and rectify certain omissions and inconsistencies in the existing Act.

  1. Central Road Fund (Amendment) Bill, 2017

Source: The Hindu

The Lok Sabha has passed the Central Road Fund (Amendment) Bill, 2017. The Bill seeks to amend the Central Road Fund Act, 2000, through which the cess levied and collected on high speed petrol and diesel is distributed for development of rural roads, national highways, railways, state roads and border area roads.


Highlights of the Bill:

  • Inclusion of inland waterways: The Bill defines national waterways as those that have been declared as ‘national waterways’ under the National Waterways Act, 2016. Currently, 111 waterways are specified under the 2016 Act.
  • Utilisation of fund: Under the 2000 Act, the fund can be utilised for various road projects including: (i) national highways, (ii) state roads including roads of inter-state and economic importance, and (iii) rural roads. The Bill provides that in addition to these the fund will also be used for the development and maintenance of national waterways.
  • Powers of central government: Under the Act, the central government has the power to administer the fund. The central government will make decisions on the: (i) investments on national highways and expressways projects, (ii) raising funds for the development and maintenance of national highways, and rural roads, and (iii) disbursement of funds for national highways, state roads and rural roads.  The Bill provides that central government will make all the above decisions for national waterways as well.
  • Allocation of cess: Under the Act, the cess on high speed diesel oil and petrol is allocated towards different types of roads. The Bill seeks to decrease the allocation of cess towards the development and maintenance of national highways from 41.5% to 39%.  It allocates 2.5% of the cess towards the development and maintenance of national waterways.

Central Road Fund:

  • The Central Road Fund was established by the government as per the Central road fund act 2000 to fund the development and maintenance of National Highways, State Highways and Rural roads.
  • In order to mobilise the fund, the Central Road Fund Act 2000 proposed to levy and collect by way of cess, a duty of excise and duty of customs on petrol and high speed diesel oil. The fund is utilised for the development and maintenance of National highways, State roads, Rural roads and for provision of road overbridges/under bridges and other safety features at unmanned Railway Crossings.

  1. Blockchain technology

Source: The Hindu

The West Bengal government is planning to introduce the blockchain technology to protect its documents from cyberattacks.

Key facts:

  • The state government’s proposed Cyber Security Centre of Excellence would be entrusted to execute the new ‘blockchain’ mechanism at various departments.
  • The cyber security centre will bring the best in academic, law enforcement and other sections under one roof for the best practices to counter cyber crimes.
  • The centre will also conduct research and development on cyber crimes for which the state government will partner with private firms.


  • Recently, computers at some offices of the West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Limited were crippled by ‘WannaCry’ virus, a global ransomware. Ransomware is a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid.


Blockchain is an online ledger of digitally recorded transactions which is encrypted in the form of blocks, each of which is connected by a network of computers.

  1. Methanol Economy Fund

Source: The Hindu

Niti Aayog is planning to set up a Methanol Economy Fund worth Rs 4,000-5,000 crore to promote production and use of the clean fuel.

  • The government think-tank is aiming at generation of the fuel by converting high ash content coal into methanol and such a plant is expected to be set up by Coal India.
  • Niti Aayog plans to move a Cabinet note soon on the methanol economy and the plans to set up production plants. It expects that two plans can be commissioned in the next 3-4 years.

Methanol as an alternative fuel:

  • Methanol is a promising fuel as it is clean, cheaper than fossil fuels and a good substitute for heavy fuels. India imports methanol from Saudi Arabia and Iran at present. Across the world, methanol is emerging as a clean, sustainable transportation fuel of the future.
  • Methanol can be blended with gasoline in low-quantities and used in existing road vehicles, or it can be used in high-proportion blends such as M85-M100 in flex-fuel or dedicated methanol-fueled vehicles. Technology is also being commercialized to use methanol as a diesel substitute.

Why Methanol?

  • Methanol can be used as an energy producing fuel, transportation fuel and cooking fuel, cutting down India’s oil import bill by an estimated 20% over the next few years. Unlike CNG, using methanol as a transportation fuel would require minimal alteration in the vehicles.
  • Methanol is a clean-burning fuel that produces fewer smog-causing emissions — such as sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter — and can improve air quality and related human health issues.
  • Methanol is most commonly produced on a commercial scale from natural gas. It can also be produced from renewable sources such as biomass and recycled carbon dioxide.
  • As a high-octane vehicle fuel, methanol offers excellent acceleration and power. It also improves vehicle efficiency.



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