National Current Affairs
April 2nd Week 2015 Current Affairs
Category : National Current Affairs
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1) Union Cabinet approves release of additional installment of DA and DR.

  • The Union Cabinet gave its nod to release an additional installment of Dearness Allowance (DA) to Central Government employees and Dearness Relief (DR) to pensioners.
  • The approved additional installment of DA/DR is at the rate of six percent increase over the existing rate of 107 percent with effect from 1 January 2015. This decision is going to benefit 48 lakh government employees and 55 lakh pensioners.
  • Decision in this regard was taken in Union meeting chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in accordance with the accepted formula based on the recommendations of the 6th Central Pay Commission.
  • With this Central Government employees as well as pensioners are entitled for DA/DR at the rate of 113 percent of the basic pay with effect from 1 January 2015.
  • This decision will have combined impact on the exchequer on account of both DA and DR will be of the order of 6762.24 crore rupees per annum and 7889.34 crore rupees in the Financial Year 2015-16. FY 2015-16 will be for a period of 14 months from January 2015 to February 2016.
2) Union Cabinet gives nod to Real Estate Regulation Bill to curb malpractices in real estate sector.
  • The Union Cabinet approved amendments to the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill, 2013 to protect the interests of consumers and curb the malpractices in the real estate sector.
  • Decision in this regard was taken by Union Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
  • The bill seeks to create a uniform regulatory mechanism across the country and enhance the growth of construction sector.
  • It also ensures to bring transparency and accountability in the real estate sector to access capital and financial markets essential for its long term growth.
Facts about Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill, 2013:
  • Regulates transactions in real estate projects between the promoters and buyers.
  • Establishes state level regulatory authorities called Real Estate Regulatory Authorities (RERAs) and tribunals called Real Estate Appellate Tribunals to settle disputes.
  • Promoters and real estate agents must register project details with RERAs who intend to sell any plot, apartment or building.
  • All information for registered projects must be disclosed on website of the RERA. It will include details of promoters, land status, layout plan, schedule of execution and status of various approvals.
  • The bill enforces the contract between the developer and buyer and fast track the mechanism to settle disputes.
  • 50% of the amount collected from buyers for a project must be maintained in a separate bank account and must only be used for construction of that project.
  • The Bill was initially introduced in Rajya Sabha by then UPA-2 government led by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. It was only applicable for residential real estate and is still pending in Rajya Sabha.
3) TRAI recommends 112 as single emergency number for India.
  • Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has proposed ‘112’ as a single emergency number that can be used all across the country including for police, fire and ambulance departments.
  • This emergency number will be similar to the ‘911’ an all-in-one emergency service in the United States.
  • At present, for emergency disaster management different numbers for different emergencies such as 100 for police, 101 for fire and 102 for ambulance are in existence.
  • TRAI has suggested that existing emergency numbers can be retained as secondary numbers and the calls made to them be re-routed to ‘112’. After time being, once a call to the secondary numbers significantly reduces, they can be withdrawn gradually.
  • Callers seeking help in emergency can dial ‘112’ from mobile or landline phones even when outgoing facility has been debarred or the service temporarily suspended. TRAI also has proposed SMS-based access for the emergency services.
  • The regulator also has recommended setting up of Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) – a call centre through which all calls to ‘112’ will be routed.
  • Depending upon type of emergency, PSAPs will send police, fire, medical and other emergency response services.
4) Union Government issues revised norms for disaster relief.
  • Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has issued orders on revision norms with respect of the centrally notified disasters. These disasters include tsunami, earthquake, floods, cyclones, drought, hailstorm, etc.
Facts about revised norms:
  1. Norms related to various aspects of response and preparedness like ex-gratia to the kin’s in case of loss of lives, disability and livelihoods have been revised.
  2. Permitted State governments to use upto 10% of allocation of the State Disaster Relief Fund (SDRF) on equipment. On capacity building, maximum of 5% of SDRF allocation can be spent.
  3. State Governments also can use upto 10% of their SDRF allocation on local disasters. In this case the State Executive Committees have to work out the criteria and modalities.
  4. Procedure for adjustment of available balances under SDRF is simplified while releasing assistance from the National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF) in case of severe disasters.
  5. Automatic annual updation of the norms by reference with the movement of wholesale price index (WPI) is also enabled.
5) Union Government allows pharmaceutical companies to hike rates of 509 essential medicines.
  • Union government has allowed pharmaceutical companies to hike rates of 509 essential medicines by 3.84 per cent. The new prices will be effective from 1 April 2015.
  • In this regard, National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) has issued a notification under Drug Price Control Order (DPCO), 2013 in line with the wholesale price index of 2014.
  • These essential medicines are used for treating various ailments like hepatitis B and C, diabetes, and cancer.
  • Presently, Union government regulates prices of a total of 348 essential medicines based on the simple average of all medicines in a particular therapeutic segment with sales of more than 1 per cent.
  • Union government also regulates prices of all other medicines and pharma companies are allowed to hike prices of such drugs by only up to 10 per cent in a year.
  • DPCO, 2013 was notified by the Union government with an effect from May 2014. It has replaced the 1995 order that regulated prices of only 74 bulk drugs and covers 680 formulations.

6) Union Government suspends Greenpeace India’s registration for 6 months.

  • Union government has suspended the registration of Greenpeace India, a non-profit environmental organization for six months with immediate effect.
  • Decision in this regard was taken by Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) after Greenpeace India had prejudicially acted against the public interests and economic interests of the country.
  • As per MHA, Greenpeace India has used its funds received from foreign sources for unauthorised purposes and has violated the rules mentioned Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), 2010.
  • If Greenpeace India fails to make a satisfactory presentation to the Union government in this regard, its licence may be cancelled permanently.
  1. Government’s action against the Greenpeace came in the wake of the Intelligence Bureau’s (IB’s) report on foreign funding of NGOs.
  2. In the IB report, it had charged the Greenpeace and other lobby groups for preventing economic growth of country by campaigning against mining, power projects and genetically modified food.
  3. Security agencies also have alleged that nearly 200 foreign donors were indulged in money laundering under the garb of donating money to some of these organisations.
7) NGT directs Real Estate Sector to check air pollution due to dust emanating from construction sites.
  • National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed Real Estate Sector in the Delhi and National Capital Region (NCR) to check air pollution caused by dust emanating from construction sites.
  • The ruling was given by NGT bench headed by Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar.
About NGT’s ruling:
  1. Ordered to stop to all construction activity in the NCR immediately which do not follow rules stipulated in the 2010 guidelines of Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF).
  2. Directed developers to provide masks to every workers working on the construction site or engaged in loading and unloading of building materials.
  3. Directed every owner and builder to put tarpaulin sheets around area of construction so the material does not disperse through air.
  4. Trucks or vehicles carrying construction material and debris must be fully covered.
  5. Banned builder and owner from throwing construction material particularly sand on the roads or inside colonies.
  6. Any developer if found violating these orders, shall be liable to pay a fine of 50 thousand rupees.
  7. In this regard, NGT has directed all concerned authorities to take appropriate measures in order to ensure follow and implement all these directions.

8) Union Home Ministry notified Governors (Allowances and Privileges) Amendment Rules, 2015.

  • Union Home Ministry notified amendments to the Governors (Allowances and Privileges) Rules, 1987 and named these rules as Governors (Allowances and Privileges) Amendment Rules, 2015.
  • The rules were notified after President Pranab Mukherjee exercising his powers conferred under Section 13 of the Governors (Allowances and Privileges) Rules, 1982 amended the Governors (Allowances and Privileges) Rules, 1987.
  • The amendment notifies 18-set of rules to regulate any foreign visit or domestic visit outside the State by the Governors.
Main highlights of the amended rules:
  1. The Governors can leave the state for a private visit to a foreign country or within India only after receiving the due approval of the president except in emergent or extraordinary circumstances.
  2. The requests for permission to travel outside the state will have to be sent to president secretariat anywhere between two weeks (for domestic visit) and six weeks (for foreign visit) before the date of travel.
  3. It bars Governors to stay in their respective states for at least 292 days in a year.
  4. The Governor can’t undertake such visits even under any emergent or extraordinary circumstance. In such cases, the Governors will have to provide details of the circumstances and compelling reasons why it was not possible to obtain prior permission.
  5. The intimation to the president secretariat in emergency circumstances shall be given as soon as the programme is finalized.
  6. It also says that the duration of visits in extraordinary circumstances cannot exceed 20 percent of the days in calendar years. 
9) National Judicial Appointment Commission Act, 2014 comes into force.
  • Union Government has brought into force the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act, 2014 along with the 99th Constitutional Amendment Act, 2014.
  • With this new law the collegium system to appoint members to the higher judiciary has come to an end. Now President will appoint judges in the Supreme Court (SC) and 24 High Courts (HCs) in consultation with the NJAC.
Facts of NJAC Act, 2014:
  1. Composition of NJAC.
  2. As per Article 124A, NJAC is a 6 member constitutional body. Consisting of
  3. Chairman: Chief Justice of India (CJI).
  4. Members: Two senior most Judges of the Supreme Court, the Union Minister of Law and Justice and two eminent persons.
  5. Two eminent persons will be nominated by committee led by Prime Minister of India, the CJI, and the Leader of the Opposition in the House of the People.
As per 124B, functions of NJAC are:
  • Recommend persons for appointment as CJI, Judges of SC, Chief Justices and other Judges of High Courts.
  • Recommend transfer of Chief Justices and other Judges HCs from one HC to another HC.
About Collegium system:
  1. Previously, under the collegium system, five top judges of the Supreme court recommended transfer and elevation of judges to Supreme Court and High Courts.
  2. It came into existence in 1993 after a Supreme Court judgement.
10) Ministry of Home Affairs renames Visa on Arrival scheme to e-Tourist visa.
  • Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has renamed Tourist Visa on Arrival-Electronic Travel Authorization scheme (TVoA-ETA) to e-Tourist Visa.
  • With this ambiguities faced by foreign tourists especially by scheme’s nomenclature VoA, presuming that they would be granted visa on arrival upon landing will be removed.
  • MHA move comes after some of Indian embassies had requested to change the nomenclature of the scheme.
  • A committee of officers from the External Affairs Ministry, MHA and Bureau of Immigration also had suggested renaming the scheme.
  • Foreign tourists were confused with Visa on Arrival (VoA) scheme as other countries allowed tourist to land and then get visa.
About E-Tourist Visa Scheme:
  1. E-Tourist Visa Scheme is a pre-authorization of Visa to foreigners that being given prior to travel.
  2. Under the scheme, a foreign tourist is required to apply for a visa online by uploading his photograph and passport and also paying his visa fee online.
  3. Then visa authorities will process his application and send him an electronic travel authorization, or simply e-visa, via e-mail within 72 hours.
  4. TVoA-ETA was launched in November 2014. It had enabled Electronic Travel Authorization to 44 countries at nine airports across India.
11) BSF launches nationwide tele-medicine programme for troops.
  • Border Security Force (BSF) launched nationwide satellite-based tele-medicine programme for its troops.
  • The programme will address medical and health-related problems of its troops deployed in far-flung frontier areas and difficult regions in the hinterland in case of an emergency or illness.
Facts about Tele-medicine programme:
  1. It will be operated and hosted from the BSF’s Kadamtala-based composite hospital in Siliguri, West Bengal.
  2. The full-time team of doctors at hospital will be connected with BSF posts along the Indo-Pak and Indo-Bangla frontiers.
  3. The hospital has been equipped with required technology including satellite phones and the VSAT platform to host the programme.
  4. BSF’s anti-Naxal operations units in Chhattisgarh and Odisha will also be linked with the same facility.
12) Union Government forms task force to expedite work on inter-linking of rivers.
  • Union Government constituted a task force on interlinking of rivers in the country.
  • The Task Force will be chaired by former Secretary of Ministry of Water Resources. B.N. Navalawala and comprises experts and senior officials.
Terms of References of Task Force:
  1. Take up all issues related to expediting the work on interlinking of rivers in the country.
  2. Consider alternative plans in case of infeasible links in the present National Perspective Plan (NPP) apart from examining the existing links which are laid out as per the NPP under both Himalayan and Peninsular components.
  3. Facilitate interlinking of intra-basin and intra-state Rivers, along with that of inter-state and inter-basin links.
  4. Recommend time schedules for completing feasibility studies of all the river links along with implementation schedule.
  5. Suggest different means of funding mechanisms for the interlinking of rivers project.
  6. Provide guidance norms of appraisal for individual projects in respect of economic viability, environmental impacts, socio-economic and preparation of resettlement plans.
  7. Device suitable mechanisms in order to bring speedy consensus among the states.