National Current Affairs
March 4th Week 2015 Current Affairs
Category : National Current Affairs
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1) Union Government reconstitutes SEAC-II in Maharashtra.

  • Union Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change (MoEFCC) has reconstituted the second State Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC) in Maharashtra.
  • The reconstituted SEAC-II will assess projects falling in category 8 of the schedule of (Environment Impact Assessment) EIA notification 2006 in the Mumbai metropolitan region and Konkan division in Maharashtra.
  • SEAC-II will have seven members and will be headed by retired IAS officer Johny Joseph as Chairman. The term of the chairman and members of the committee will be till October 2016.
  • The state government will provide all logistic support and financial to the SEAC-II.
2) India Railways launches RuPay pre-paid debit card service.
  • Indian Railways has launched RuPay pre-paid debit card service for the railway passengers.
  • The service was launched by Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) in collaboration with the Union Bank of India (UBI) and the National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI).
Key facts:
  1. By using RuPay pre-paid cards, passengers now can book their tickets, do shopping and pay service bills.
  2. Initially the service will be available only for booking rail tickets and later on facility of shopping and bill payments will be upgraded.
  3. These cards will be made available from UBI offices or through IRCTC online.
  4. The cardholder can have a loading limit of Rs. 10,000 with partial Know Your Customer (KYC) detail or with full KYC detail of Rs. 50,000 loading limit.
  5. For every month, first five transactions done per card for purchase of train tickets through IRCTC will be free. Subsequent transaction after free usage limit, customer will be charged extra Rs. 10 per transaction.
  6. For first six months no transaction charges will be levied from the customers for usage of these services.
3) Union Government sanctions Rs. 2,000 crore relief for drought affected areas in Maharashtra.
  • Union Government sanctioned 2,000 crore rupees as a relief package for the areas affected by drought in Maharashtra in the year 2014.
  • Decision in this regard was taken at high-level committee meeting of National Disaster Management headed by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. The amount has been sanctioned by the Committee under National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF).
  • The relief package was sanctioned by the high level committee proposal after they had examined the inputs of the central team which visited the drought affected areas of the State. The sanctioned amount is four times higher than the amount of nearly 500 crore rupees sanctioned in the year 2013.
  • In the year 2014, due to poor Monsoon many parts of Maharashtra state were affected from severe drought conditions which in-turn had severe impact on the crop yields and drinking water supply.
4) Section 66 A of IT Act unconstitutional and untenable: Supreme Court.
  • The Supreme Court (SC) struck down the Section 66A of the Information and Technology Act 2000 calling it unconstitutional and untenable.
  • SC in its ruling held that Section 66A interferes with freedom of speech and expression envisaged under Article 19 of Constitution of India and also hit the root of two cardinal pillars of democracy liberty and freedom of expression.
  • This verdict was given by SC bench comprising of Justices J. Chelameswar and R.F. Nariman on bunch of petitions filed in the wake of misuse of the penal provision by government authorities.
5) Union Government approves 17 Mega Food Parks for food processing across the country.
  • Union Government has approved 17 mega food parks for food processing across the country. It was announced by Union Cabinet Minister of Food Processing Harsimrat Kaur Badal.
  • Out of these 17 food parks, 7 parks have been allotted to state agencies whereas 10 to private players in 11 states.
  • These food parks will attract more investment in the concerned states and generate employment opportunities.
  • It will also benefit five lakh farmers who are suffering due to lack of storage and proper transport system.
  • These projects would help create infrastructure in rural areas in the line of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet project Make in India.

6) Union Government launches Twitter Samvad for direct communication between Government and citizens.

  • Union Government has launched a new digital platform ‘Twitter Samvad’ in association with social networking giant Twitter.
  • The digital platform was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on during his meeting with Twitter Chief Executive Dick Costolo.
About Twitter Samvad:
  1. The service aims to boost the nation’s e-governance plans and facilitate direct communication between leaders, government agencies and citizens.
  2. Twitter Samvad is based on a digital platform provided by an Indian company ZipDial which was recently acquired by Twitter.
  3. Through this platform a set of curated Tweets from the Twitter handled accounts of the government and the leaders will be delivered to mobile-phone users every day across the country as text messages.
  4. The service will also play important role during emergencies by helping government agencies to share live updates, even time-sensitive information on law and order or rescue.
7) PM Narendra Modi launches PRAGATI platform for redressal of grievances.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched Pro-Active Governance and Timely Implementation (PRAGATI) platform.
  • PRAGATI is a multi-purpose and multi-modal platform aimed at addressing grievances of common man.
  • It also aims at simultaneously monitoring and reviewing important Union government programmes and projects as well as projects flagged by State Governments.
  • It is an innovative project in e-governance and good governance and accountability with real-time presence and information exchange among the key stakeholders.
Features of PRAGATI:
  1. Designed in-house by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) team with the help of National Informatics Center (NIC).
  2. Uniquely bundles three latest technologies including Digital data management, geo-spatial technology and video-conferencing.
  3. Three-tier system that brings PMO, Union Government Secretaries, and Chief Secretaries of the States at one stage. Thus, offers a unique combination in the direction of cooperative federalism.
  4. Prime Minister can directly discuss the issues with the concerned Central and State officials with full information and latest visuals of the ground level situation.
  5. The system will work on strengthen and re-engineer the data bases of Centralized Public Grievance Redress And Monitoring System (CPGRAMS) along with Project Monitoring Group (PMG) and the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.
8) NITI sub-panel forms group on Central schemes.
  • A sub-panel of the NITI Aayog comprising chief ministers of various states decided to constitute a working group to suggest ways to make the centrally sponsored schemes (CSSs) more result oriented.
  • The panel headed by Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has been constituted to recommend a funding pattern of CSSs as the states’ share in central taxes has been increased to 42 per cent from 32 per cent following the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission.
  • The working group to be headed by Niti Aayog CEO Sindhushree Khullar.

9) Commemorative Postage Stamp release on Engineers India Limited (EIL).

  • Department of Posts, Ministry of Communications & IT has brought out a Commemorative Postage Stamp on Engineers India Limited (EIL).
  • Commemorative Postage stamp on Engineers India Limited (EIL) has been released by the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi during the Urja Sangam- 2015 organized by Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi.
  • Engineers India Limited (EIL) is celebrating its Golden Jubilee in 2015. Established in 1965, EIL has been providing engineering consultancy and services principally focused on the oil and gas and petrochemical industries.
10) Government to Invest 10 Billion US$ in the Chip Manufacturing Facilities Coming up in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh.
  • The first Indian Electronics Expo organized by Electronics and Computer Software Export Promotion Council (ESC) in New Delhi, Secretary, Department of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India Shri RS Sharma, revealed that the government would be investing US $10 billion in the chip manufacturing facilities coming up in Gujarat and UP.
  • India would also be investing US $400 million in developing an Indian version of micro-processor.
  • China undoubtedly is the major producer of electronic goods in the world.
  • Chairman, ESC Shri Vinod Sharma, observed that India’s electronics hardware production should increase at least by 10 fold to catch up with the demand and to meet the target of achieving zero import by 2020.
  • The expo is attended by over 125 delegates from 26 countries. More than 30 Indian companies are displaying their electronics hardware products at the two-day expo.
11) Govt. to go ahead with GST Bill.
  • When the second half of the budget session begins on April 20, the Modi Government intends to go ahead with the Constitutional Amendment Bill on the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
  • The government introduced the Bill in the Lok Sabha during the Winter Session.
  • Addressing investors at an energy conclave, Urja Sangam, the Minister said the Centre was trying to create an investment-friendly environment, both in terms of taxation and ease of doing business. ``Investment has to be both domestic and international and for that we have to open our doors ... But merely by opening doors, investments won’t come``, Mr. Jaitley said, explaining that the government was taking steps for creating a conducive environment for investments.
12) IAEA for more autonomy to India’s nuclear regulatory board.
  • India has a “strong commitment to safety” but the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) needs more independence and separation from the government, the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency said after completing a 12-day review of India’s nuclear safety standards.
  • The IAEA’s review report that was completed as its Director General Yukiya Amano visited Mumbai, Delhi and Rajasthan Atomic Power Station (RAPS) also called for the Indian government to allow more on-site inspections at the nuclear power plants (NPPs) under international safeguards.
  • According to a release from the IAEA in Vienna, six preliminary suggestions were given at the end of the review which were accepted by the Indian agency.
  • The chairman of the AERB, S.S. Bajaj, was quoted as saying, “AERB is committed to pursuing the improvements suggested by the mission towards further strengthening the regulatory framework.”
13) Union Government gives nod to AWACS project.
  • Union Government gave its approval to build crore strategic project of next-generation Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS).
  • Decision in this regard was taken by Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.
  • DAC gave its nod for two AWACS, which includes buying two Airbus A330s, worth 5,113 crore rupees. Airbus was the lone bidder for the programme.
Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) Project:
  1. AWACS or eyes in the sky can detect incoming aerial threats like hostile fighters, drones and cruise missiles from 400-km away.
  2. It has capability to penetrate longer distances within enemy territory by way of radars and electronic warfare systems without venturing into the region physically.
  3. The project will involve mounting indigenous 360-degree coverage active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars on Airbus A-330 wide-body jets.
  4. Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) will develop the AWACSs. Apart from this, DAC also cleared the purchase of mine ploughs for T-90 tanks at Rs. 710 crore and 30 weapon locating radars at Rs. 1,605 crore besides others.
14) Port Blair Magnetic Observatory inaugurated to monitor seismic activities.
  • The Union Minister of Science and Technology and Earth Sciences Dr. Harsh Vardhan inaugurated Port Blair Magnetic Observatory (PBMO) at Shoal Bay No.8 in Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  • The observatory has been set up by the Indian Institute of Geomagnetism (IIG) under the Multi-Parametric Geophysical Observatories (MPGO) initiated by the Union Ministry of Science and Technology and Earth Sciences.
  • The IIG is a leading institute of the country actively engaged in basic and applied research in Geomagnetism and allied areas of Geophysics, Atmospheric and Space Physics and Plasma Physics.
  • The first regular magnetic observatory in the country was established in 1841 and became autonomous in 1971.
15) Nine agricultural products from north-east India accorded GI registration tag.
  • Nine organic and exotic agricultural products from Northeast India were accorded geographical indication (GI) registration tag.
  • GI tag will help to protect these exclusive special local crops and pave way for better branding and marketing of these products both in domestic and international Market.
Geographical Indication (GI) accorded products are:
  1. Assam Karbi Anglong Ginger.
  2. Assam Tezpur Litchi.
  3. Meghalaya Khasi Mandarin.
  4. Sikkim Large Cardamom.
  5. Mizoram Bird Eye Chilly.
  6. Manipur Kachai Lemon.
  7. Tripura Queen Pineapple.
  8. Arunachal Orange.
  9. Nagaland Tree Tomato.
  10. Union Government owned North Eastern Regional Agricultural Marketing Corporation Limited (NERAMAC) had played important role in getting GI registry. North Eastern Council (NEC) provided the financial support to this initiative.
16) Union Government amends guidelines for financial support to PPP in infrastructure.
  • Union Government approved amendments to the Public Private Partnerships (PPP) guidelines. The approved amendments seek to enhance financial support to projects in infrastructure sector.
  • Decision in this regard was taken by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Amendments approved:
  1. Change in the definition of a Private Sector Company in the guidelines for financial support to PPP in Infrastructure under the Viability Gap Funding (VGF) Scheme.
  2. The definition of a Private Sector Company means a company which is not a Government Company.
  3. In this case Government company is defined as any company in which more than 51 per cent of the paid-up share capital is held by the Union Government or State(s) Government or partly by Union Government and partly by State Government (s).
  4. It also includes a company which is a subsidiary company of such a Government company.
  5. This decision was taken to remove any ambiguity in interpretation of the term Private Sector Company in order to align it with the definition of Government Company defined under Section 2 (45) of the Companies Act, 2013.