National Current Affairs
National Current Affairs March 3rd week 2016
Category : National Current Affairs
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1) Union Government and Jammu & Kashmir Government signed MoU on UDAY Scheme.

  • Union Government and Jammu & Kashmir Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) under the Scheme Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY) for operational and financial turnaround of the State’s Power Distribution Department.
  • The main aim for signing the MoU is to restructure high interest rate of the total discom debt thereby improving financial condition of State Discom. With this, J&K became the ninth state to sign MoU with the combined DISCOM debt around 1.94 lakh crore rupees.
  • An overall net benefit of approximately 9800 crore rupees would accrue to the State by opting to participate in UDAY, by way of savings in interest cost, reduction in Aggregate Technical and Commercial (AT&C) and transmission losses, interventions in energy efficiency, coal reforms etc. during the period of turnaround.
About UDAY:
  1. The Scheme UDAY was launched by the Union government on 20 November 2015 to ensure a sustainable solution to enable the distribution utilities across the country to break out of a long standing debt of almost 4.3 Lakh crore rupees.
2) Over Rs. 1 lakh crore disbursed under MUDRA Yojana.
  • Loans worth Rs. 1.09 lakh crore have been given to small entrepreneurs under the Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana.
  • Under Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana, which was launched in April last year, loans between Rs. 50,000 and Rs. 10 lakh are provided to small entrepreneurs.
  • The Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency Ltd (MUDRA) focuses on the 5.75 crore self-employed who deploy funds totaling Rs. 11 lakh crore and provide jobs to 12 crore people.
  • The banking sector has been allocated an overall disbursement target of about Rs. 1.22 lakh crore during 2015-16 for MUDRA loans.
3) Union Government launches FCI’s Depot Online System.
  • Union Government has launched Depot Online System of state run Food Corporation of India (FCI) to bring transparency and minimise storage losses of foodgrains.
  • It was launched by Union Food and public Distribution Minister Ram Vilas Paswan in New Delhi as part of Digital India initiative of Union Government.
Highlights of Depot Online System:
  1. The system will help real time monitoring of FCI operations and enhance transparency and efficiency.
  2. The project is being implemented in the FCI owned 553 depots and subsequently FCI hired godowns will be also brought under the ambit of the project later.
  3. The system will bring automation of the entire process from entry and exit of foodgrains at FCI depots.
4) Punjab Government notifies swine flu under Epidemic Disease Act.
  • Punjab Government has notified swine flu (H1N1) under the Epidemic Disease Act to prevent the spread of disease in the state.
  • Health and Family Welfare Department of state has issued notification based on recommendations of state advisory committee headed by Dr. D. Behera.
Important Points of the Circular:
  1. All government and private hospitals in state will have to inform the Health Department about a case of ILI (Influenza like Illness) having chronic diseases.
  2. Such medical cases should be treated as early as possible and proper guidelines of the government should be followed.
  3. All hospitals within state will have to keep suspected as well as confirmed cases (patients) of swine flu in isolation in order to contain the spread of the disease.
  4. For all the patients infected by swine flu, treatment will be provided free of cost as recommended by the Government.
5) Railways ties with ISRO for route surveys.
  • The Railway Ministry has signed an agreement with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to leverage space technology for providing passenger information in all trains, map railway assets and help survey new route alignments.
  • Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha also requested ISRO to conduct a study to find ways to ensure smooth rail traffic during the foggy season.
  • At present, Indian Railways uses space technology to provide connectivity to passenger reservation counters, unreserved ticketing system in remote areas, and emergency communication using satellite phones during disaster.
6) WHO suspends TB drugs from Svizera Labs on quality concerns.
  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) has suspended the approval of tuberculosis drugs made by India’s Svizera Labs, a major supplier to developing countries, following an investigation into standards.
  • The United Nations agency, which acts as a drug watchdog in markets lacking robust local regulation, had suspended all TB products made at Svizera’s Mumbai site because manufacturing standards and quality management were unreliable.
  • The move is a fresh blow for India`s pharmaceuticals industry, which supplies cheap generic medicines to countries worldwide but has been tarnished by a series of quality problems in recent years, denting confidence in its products.
  • It also said independent experts should retest batches of medicine already on the market and it might be necessary to recall supplies depending on the outcome of those tests.
7) Airbus to setup pilot training centre in India.
  • Airplane maker Airbus SAS will set up a pilot and maintenance training centre in the National Capital Region at a cost of $40 million for the first phase, to support India’s need for new Airbus pilots.
  • The proposed investment in a training centre is a key strategic Airbus initiative in line with the country’s Skill India programme launched in 2015 by the Indian government to develop a wide range of advanced competencies.
  • This new centre will be fully owned by Airbus Group India with training to be delivered by Airbus’s specialized training instructors.
  • The new center will accelerate the pace of training to help match the A320neo deliveries to India.
  • With 81 million trips, India’s domestic aviation market grew at over 20.3% during January-December 2015, the highest growth rate recorded in the world.
8) Ford Foundation taken off from Govt. watch list.
  • The Indian government has quietly taken US non-profit Ford Foundation off its watch list. The move comes only days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi heads to the US to meet with President Barack Obama at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington later this month.
  • The Ministry, on the basis of a report sent by the Gujarat government last year, had put the international non-governmental organization Ford Foundation on the ``watch list``, citing concern to ``national security``.
  • The Gujarat government report had said that the organisation funded the “anti-India” activities of Citizens for Justice and Peace and Sabrang Trust run by Teesta Setalvad, activist.
  • The order means that banks will no longer require the Ministry’s clearance to process the foreign funds coming from the foundation to any Indian bank account.
9) Government cuts PPF interest rate to 8.1% and KVP interest rate to 7.8%.
  • The government has slashed interest rates payable on small savings including Public Provident Fund and Kisan Vikas Patra (KVP) in a bid to align them closer to market rates.
  • The interest rate on Public Provident Fund (PPF) scheme will be cut to 8.1 per cent for the period April 1 to June 30, from 8.7 per cent, at present. Similarly, the interest rate on KVP will be cut to 7.8 per cent from 8.7 per cent.
  • While the interest rate on post office savings has been retained at 4 per cent, the same for term deposits of one to five years has been cut.
  • The popular five-year National Savings Certificates will earn an interest rate of 8.1 per cent from April 1 as against 8.5 per cent, at present.
  • Apart from these Sukanya Samriddhi Account will see interest rate of 8.6 per cent as against 9.2 per cent and Senior citizen savings scheme of five-year would earn 8.6 per cent interest compared with 9.3 per cent.
10) SC allows photos of governor, CM, ministers in ads.
  • The apex court bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi allowed the publication of photos of governor, chief minister and ministers of departments concerned while modifying their earlier order by which the court had permitted photos of president, prime minister and Chief Justice of India only in the government ads.
  • The centre and the states of Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka had moved the court seeking the review of its earlier order, contending that it was contrary to the federal structure of the country.
  • Before in the verdict Calling it an “antithesis to democracy” to let political functionaries develop “personality cult” at the cost of public money, the Supreme Court ruled that photographs of only the President, Prime Minister and Chief Justice of India can be published in newspapers and other media, including the Internet.

11) Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched Kisan Suvidha mobile app.

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched ``Kisan Suvidha`` mobile application for farmers.
  • It will provide information on subjects such as weather, market prices, seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and agriculture machinery.
Key points about Kisan Suvidha Application:
  1. To operate this app farmer should own a smart phone and should register his or her Mobile Number and enter details of the state, district and block or sub-district. The information will be available in Hindi and English.
  2. A tap on the weather button shows details of temperature, humidity, wind and rainfall for the current day and the forecast for the next five days.
  3. The market price button shows latest price of all crops traded in a mandi or registered agriculture market of the particular district a farmer belongs to.
  4. Farmers can also access names and mobile numbers of input dealers selling pesticides, seeds, fertiliser and machinery, dealers of the produced grains and crops and their market prices, agro advisories, plant protection, IPM Practices etc.
  5. The app also incorporated with unique features like extreme weather alerts and market prices of commodity in nearest area and the maximum price in state as well as in India. It was added to empower farmers in the best possible manner.
12) Union Government bans repeat animal testing of drugs.
  • The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has scrapped repeat tests on animals for drugs which already have been approved by other countries.
  • In this regard, the ministry has amended Schedule Y of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945.
  • According to new rules there is no need for repeat tests on animals for new drug registrations if complete data from similar toxicity experiments already exists for drugs approved abroad.
  • However, no permission will be required to conduct clinical trial intended for academic purposes in respect of approved drug formulation.
  • The amendments come after repeated appeals by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India and Union Women & Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi.
13) FENI is now Goa’s Heritage Spirit.
  • Goa government classified the country liquor, Feni as Heritage Spirit of Goa. Feni is the form of spirit produced exclusively in the coastal state.
  • Feni is the first liquor product in the country to obtain such status and got its Geographical Indication (GI) certification in 2000.
  • It used in various cultural traditions, cuisines and is well known for its medicinal value also.
  • Hence, the Government proposed not categorize it as country liquor as it is presently defined under the Goa Excise Duty Act, 1964 and proposed to bring an amendment to the Act.
About FENI:
  1. Feni is a brew made from coconut or cashew fruits and is synonymous with the Goan ethos and identity.
  2. There are two types of feni; cashew feni and coconut feni, depending on the original ingredient.
  3. Feni is classified as a “country liquor”, and is therefore not allowed to be sold outside the state of Goa.
  4. The word feni is derived from the Sanskrit word phena (“froth”); this is thought to be because of the bubbles that form a light froth when the liquor is shaken in a bottle or poured into a glass.
14) Union Government unveils Model Building Bye-Laws, 2016.
  • The Union Government has unveiled a Model Building Bye-Laws, 2016 for granting permission for construction of buildings.
  • It was released by the Union Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu in New Delhi. It seeks to provide an online single window framework for approval process.
  • Model Building Bye-Laws, 2016 intends to improve ease of doing business regarding issuance of construction permits.
  • The time limit for all kinds of single window approvals is 30 days and if it is not done by the concerned agencies within this time-frame then it will be deemed as approved.
  • Different set of environmental conditions are provided for each category of building ranging from 5000 square meters to 1.5 lakh square meters.
15) Govt launches mobile app `Pusa Krishi`.
  • Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh launched a new mobile app ‘Pusa Krishi’.
  • It will help the farmers to take the technology to farm fields.
  • The mobile app was launched at the valedictory session of the three-day `Krishi Unnati Mela`.
  • The app will provide farmers with information related to new varieties of crops developed by Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR).
16) Govt sets up panel to look into `jewellers` demand.
  • The Union Ministry of Finance constituted a Sub-Committee under the aegis of the High Level Committee (HLC) to review issues related to excise duty.
  • The committee headed by former Chief Economic Advisor Dr. Ashok Lahiri and review excise duty imposed on different jewellery articles in Budget 2016-17.
  • The proposed tax will be applicable on all articles of jewellery except for silver jewellery, other than those studded with diamond, ruby, emerald or sapphire.
17) Report of the committee on Taxation E-Commerce submitted to Union Government.
  • A Committee on Taxation of e-commerce constituted by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) to examine the business models for e-commerce submitted its report to Union Government.
  • Government of India and taken into consideration in the preparation of Finance Bill, 2016.
  • The Report provides the view of the Committee on issues related to taxation of e-commerce and recent international developments in this area.
  • The Committee included officers of the CBDT, representatives from the industry, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India and tax experts. The 8-member committee was headed by Akhilesh Ranjan, Joint Secretary (FT&TR-I), CBDT, Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance.
18) Centre introduces new norms for plastic waste disposal.
  • Union Environment Ministry announced new Plastic Waste Management Rules to curb over 6000 tonnes of uncollected plastic waste generated daily by industries.
  • Rules related to usage and production of plastic to be more stringent as to bring in more eco friendly society.
  • Rules related to plastic waste management to give thrust on plastic waste minimization, source segregation, recycling, involving waste pickers, recyclers and waste processors in collection of plastic waste.
Key aspects of the new rules:
  1. Rural areas have been included and Gram Panchayats were given responsibility.
  2. Responsibility of waste generators is being introduced and also ban of plastic carry bags thinner than 50 microns.
  3. Manufacturing and use of non-recyclable multi-layered plastic to be phased out in two years.
  4. The Plastic Waste Management (PWM) Rules 2016 are will replace the Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules 2011.
19) Karnataka develops mobile app to monitor rural employment scheme.
  • A mobile application developed by the Karnataka Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department has drawn the attention of the Union government.
  • The App, titled ‘MGNREGA M-platform,’ helps officials monitor the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, and allows the beneficiaries to monitor progress at every stage.
  • The mobile phones of around 6,000 gram panchayats receive data from the department’s central servers. The data is tagged to the phone number of the PDO attached to each GP.
20) Government amends Atal Pension Yojana.
  • Government has amended Atal Pension Yojana (APY) to give an option to the spouse to continue to contribute for balance period on premature death of the subscriber.
  • After the death of both the subscriber and the spouse, the nominee of the subscriber shall be entitled to receive the pension wealth, as accumulated till age of 60 years of the subscriber.
  • The spouse of the subscriber shall be entitled to receive the same pension amount as that of the subscriber until the death.
Atal Pension Yojana (APY):
  1. To address the longevity risks among the workers in unorganized sector and to encourage the workers in unorganized sector to voluntarily save for their retirement, the Government had launched Atal Pension Yojana (APY).
  2. Under APY, each subscriber, on completion of 60 years of age, will get the guaranteed minimum monthly pension, or higher monthly pension, if the investment returns are higher than the assumed returns for minimum guaranteed pension.
21) IKEA donates Rs. 92 crore for safe water projects in India, Indonesia.
  • The World Bank estimates that 2% of communicable diseases in India are linked to unsafe water and the lack of hygiene practices, and 50% of India’s population continues to practice open defecation.
  • Swedish furniture retailing giant IKEA will contribute 12.4 million euro (Rs. 92.84 crore) to provide safe water and sanitation to one million people in India and Indonesia through Water.Org on the occasion of the World Water Day (March 22).
  • About IKEA
  • Ikea is a multinational group of companies that designs and sells ready-to-assemble furniture (such asbeds, chairs and desks), appliances and home accessories.
  • The company is known for its modern architectural designs for various types of appliances and furniture, and its interior design work is often associated with an eco-friendly simplicity.
  • The company is responsible for approximately 1% of world commercial-product wood consumption, making it one of the largest users of wood in the retail sector.


22) India Post releases customised `My Stamp` on HAL.

  • India Post released a customised commemorative stamp on HAL in recognition of the company’s 75 years services to the nation.
  • It is the first time India Post is coming out with customised ‘My Stamp’ and HAL is the first organisation to have it.
  • The tag line ‘HAL: the force behind the forces’ for its Platinum Jubilee logo aptly represents HAL’s contribution to the nation’s defence forces.
23) Punjab Assembly passes Agriculture Indebtedness Bill.
  • The Punjab Vidhan Sabha passed the Punjab Settlement of Agriculture Indebtedness Bill.
  • The bill, aimed at providing “fair and expeditious settlement of agriculturists’ debt-related disputes”.
  • There is no ceiling on interest rate that can be charged by private moneylenders.
  • Once the Act is notified, all pending cases of dispute between the creditor and debtor will be transferred to the district forums having judicial powers.
24) MoEFCC notifies new environment standards for Gensets.
  • The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change (MoEFCC) for the first time notified new environment standards for Gensets running on various kinds of fuels including LPG, petrol and diesel in various cities.
  • The primary aim of the new standards for Gensets is to control air and noise pollution emanating from the operation of Gensets.
  • These standards were recommended by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) after consultations with industries and other stakeholders.
Highlights of Notification:
  1. These standards will control the air and noise emission profile across different category of Gensets.
  2. The manufacturers of Gensets are required to obtain the certification for engine products by empaneled agencies which help in regulating the unorganised sector.
25) Self regulatory code for industry to protect consumers against misleading advertisements and counterfeit products.
  • Department of Consumer Affairs under the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Industry Association for effective redressal of consumer complaints.
  • Under the MoU, the Industry Association comprising ASSOCHAM, CII, DICCI, FICCI and PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry will implement six-point agenda to address consumer complaints.
The MoU will broadly cover the following areas under six-point agenda:
  1. Initiating advocacy action against unfair trade practices and preventing fake.
  2. Earmarking of Corporate Social responsibility (CSR) funds for consumer awareness and protection activities.
  3. Partnering with the National Consumer Helpline and State Consumer Help lines for grievance redressal.
  4. Launching joint consumer awareness, education and training programmes under the ``Jago Grahak Jago``.
  5. The six-point agenda will cover three priority areas, namely.
  6. Redressal of consumer grievances.
  7. Enhancement of consumer awareness.
  8. Protection and action against misleading advertisements, fake and counterfeit products.
26) Cabinet approves Udaan scheme till 2019-20.
  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has given its approval for extension of time period of the "Special Industry Initiative for J&K" (SII J&K) Udaan scheme till 2019-20. Initially, the time period of Udaan was up to 2015-16.
  • Udaan provides exposure to the youth of Jammu and Kashmir to the best of corporate India to the rich talent pool available in the State.
  • So far, 67 leading corporates have partnered with National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) under Udaan with a commitment to train youth from the state covering Organized Retail, Banking, Financial Services, IT, ITES, Infrastructure, Hospitality etc.
  • It is expected that the target of the scheme, to train and enhance employability of 40,000 graduates, post graduates and three year engineering diploma holders, will be achieved by 2019-20.
  • Udaan is a national integration scheme with the goal to mainstream J&K youth with rest of the country. The scheme not only provides skill enhancement and job opportunity but also leads to counter - radicalization and weaning away youth of Jammu and Kashmir from militancy.
27) PMs of India, Bangladesh commission internet, power supply.
  • Prime Ministers of India and Bangladesh commissioned international gateway of internet service in Agartala and supply of 100MW power to Bangladesh from Tripura.
  • Power and telecommunication ministers in their PMOs when two bilateral projects launched.
  • The commissioning of 10GBPS bandwidth import and 100 MW electricity from south Tripura’s 726MW Palatana gas based project a historic one and a day to celebrate friendly relations between two neighbours.
  • BSNL is hiring 10GBPS internet bandwidth at a cost of Rs 7.2 crores per year, but there is an arrangement to provide more bandwidth.
28) 10 more States to come under food security scheme.
  • All states going to implement the NFSA have made provisions for online allocation of food grains.
  • As many as 10 States are set to implement National Food Security Act (NFSA) from April 1, taking the total number of States covered under the subsidized food.
  • In the last two years, the Centre and the States have worked for digitization, linking ration cards with Aadhaar, computerization of PDS shops and supply chain network, which are required to implement the act nationally.
  • 24.18 crore ration cards in the country, almost 99 per cent have been digitized while 48 per cent have been linked with Aadhaar cards.
29) Government proposal to accede to the Ashgabat Agreement.
  • The government has approved a proposal to accede to the Ashgabat Agreement, a move that will further strengthen trade ties between India and the Eurasian region.
  • The Agreement is an international transport and transit corridor facilitating transportation of goods between Central Asia and the Persian Gulf.
  • This would synchronise with India`s efforts to implement the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) for enhanced connectivity.
  • India`s intention to accede to the Ashgabat Agreement would now be conveyed to the Depository State (Turkmenistan).
30) India, France sign MoU for construction of six nuclear reactors.
  • India and France have signed an MoU for the construction of six nuclear reactors at Jaitapur in Maharashtra, two months after the two countries decided to conclude the techno-commercial negotiations for the project by the year end.
  • The two-day visit of a high-level delegation of Electricite de France (EDF - French public utility) to Mumbai for holding discussions with National Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) on the construction of the plants.
  • Asserting that both industrial parties were working on the "Make in India" aspect of the Jaitapur project, this will be carried out through industrial partnerships, and joint ventures between Indo-French manufacturers for cost- effective and time-bound localisation in India.
  • The Jaitapur nuclear power project, proposing a nuclear power plant of 9900 MW, consists of 6 European Pressurised Reactors (EPR) of 1650 MW each.