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National Current Affairs August 1st Week 2017
Author : Admin
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National Current Affairs August 1st Week 2017

1. SC bans use of five heavy metals in firecrackers.

 
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The Supreme Court has imposed ban on use of five harmful heavy metals like lithium, antimony, mercury, arsenic and lead in the manufacturing of firecrackers as they cause air pollution.

The SC order came on a 2015 petition filed by three Delhi children who had requested the apex court to intervene to regulate the use of crackers and fireworks during festivals like Diwali.

The apex court held that it is the responsibility of the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) to ensure compliance of ban order particularly in Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu where there are large number of firecracker manufacturers. It also asked CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) and PESO to make collaborative efforts for setting up of standards with regard to air pollution caused by the bursting of fire-crackers.

About Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO)

PESO is the apex department to control and administer manufacture, storage, transport and handling of explosives, petroleum, compressed gases and other hazardous substances in India. It functions under the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), Ministry of Commerce and Industry. It is headed by Chief Controller of Explosives and is headquartered at Nagpur, Maharashtra.
 
2. 19th RCEP Trade Negotiating Committee Meeting held in Hyderabad.
 
19th RCEP Trade Negotiating Committee Meeting held in Hyderabad
 
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The 19th round of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Trade Negotiating Committee (TNC) meetings and other related meetings were held in Hyderabad, Telangana.

Besides, the 19th round of TNC, parallel meetings were also held by the three main Working Groups on Trade in goods, services and investment. Working Groups in other areas like electronic commerce, Intellectual Property, Legal and Institutional Issues etc. also had held their meetings.

Key takeaways of 19th round

All RCEP Participating Countries (RPCs) agreed that RCEP agreement has immense potential to deliver on new economic opportunities including job creation that are much needed in today’s uncertain world. India held that RCEP can offer a forward looking alternative in face of growing protectionism in world.

RPCs also expressed shared commitment to work collectively and in cooperative manner to progress the negotiations in an accelerated way and achieve a comprehensive, modern, high-quality and mutually beneficial agreement that balances and addresses sensitivities and aspirations of participating countries.

About Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)

RCEP is a proposed comprehensive regional economic integration agreement (mega Free Trade Agreement) amongst the 10-ASEAN countries (Brunei, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam) and its six Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) partners, viz. Australia, New Zealand, India, China, Japan and Korea.

RCEP negotiations were formally launched at 2012 ASEAN Summit in Cambodia. RCEP is viewed as an alternative to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposed trade agreement that includes several Asian and American nations but excludes China and India.

Till 2017, RCEP member states accounted for a population of 3.4 billion people with a total GDP (in terms of PPP) of $49.5 trillion, approximately 39% of the world’s GDP (combined GDPs of China and India makes up more than half that amount).
 
3. Government constitutes Committee to study issues related to data protection.
 
Government constitutes Committee to study issues related to data protection
 
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The Union Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MEITY) has constituted an expert Committee to study and identify key data protection issues and recommend methods for addressing them.

The ten-member committee will be headed by Supreme Court Judge (retired) Justice B N Srikrishna and comprise of members from government, academia and comprise of members from government, academia and Industry.
 
Terms of Reference of Committee

The committee will study and identify key data protection issues and recommend methods for addressing them.  It will also suggest a draft Data Protection Bill.

It is seen that protection of data and keeping personal data of citizens secure and protected is expected to provide big boost to Digital economy of the country. The government’s decision to focus on data protection comes on the back of a wave of privacy and data breaches– from corporates such as McDonalds, Reliance Jio and Zomato to government agencies that have leaked the personal data and Aadhaar of over 100 million citizens.
 
4. Government launches e-RaKAM portal.
 
Government launches e-RaKAM portal
 
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The Union Government has launched e-Rashtriya Kisan Agri Mandi (e-RaKAM) portal to provide a platform for farmers to sell agricultural produce.

e-RaKAM is a first of its kind initiative that leverages technology to connect farmers from the smallest villages to the biggest markets of the world through internet.e-RaKAM is a digital initiative that aims to bring together the farmers, PSUs, civil supplies and buyers on a single platform to ease the selling and buying process of agricultural products. It has been developed by state-run-auctioneer MSTC Limited and CRWC (Central Railside Warehouse Company) Limited.

Under this initiative, e-RaKAM centres are being developed throughout the country in a phased manner to facilitate farmers for online sale of their produce. The farmers will be paid through e-Payment directly into their bank accounts under the e-RaKAM initiative.
 
5. Parliament passes Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill, 2017.
 
Parliament passes Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill, 2017
 
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Parliament has passed the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill, 2017 with Rajya Sabha approving it. Lok Sabha had passed it earlier.

The Bill amends the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE), 2009 by extending the deadline for teachers to acquire the prescribed minimum qualifications for appointment.

In the parent Act, provision to possess minimum qualifications by teachers was relaxed for a period not exceeding five years (till March 2015) in case state does not have adequate teacher training institutions or sufficient number of qualified teachers.The amendment bill gives last chance to inadequately qualified teachers as on March 31, 2015, working after enactment of the RTE Act, 2009 to acquire minimum qualifications within a period of four years (till March 31, 2019) to hold their jobs as teachers.

The RTE Act, 2009 envisages free and compulsory elementary education to every child in the age group of 6-14 years. The amendments to RTE Act, 2009 will enable the in-service untrained elementary teachers to complete their training and ensure that all teachers at the elementary level have certain minimum standard of qualifications in order to maintain the standard of teaching quality.
 
6. Arvind Panagariya resigns as Vice-Chairman of NITI Aayog.
 
Arvind Panagariya resigns as Vice-Chairman of NITI Aayog
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Arvind Panagariya (64) has resigned as Vice Chairman of NITI (National Institution for Transforming India) Aayog and announced to return to academics in US.

He resigned after his public service leave for two years from the Columbia university, where he is professor of Indian Political Economy did not receive extension. He was appointed as the as Vice Chairman of NITI Aayog in January 2015 and held cabinet minister rank.

Before joining Niti Aayog, he was a professor at Columbia University and chief economist at the Asian Development Bank (ABD). He has also worked for the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Trade Organisation (WTP), and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTD) in various capacities.

He has earned PhD in economics from prestigious Princeton University. He has written around 10 books and the latest was India: The Emerging Giant published in 2008. He was honoured with Padma Bhushan in 2012.

 7. Union Cabinet clears proxy voting for NRIs.

 
Union Cabinet clears proxy voting for NRIs
 
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The Union Cabinet has cleared a proposal to extend proxy voting to Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) and overseas Indians. Currently, only service personnel are permitted to vote through proxy.To make proxy voting for NRIs a reality, government is going to introduce bill to amend the Representation of People Act.

This decision will enable nearly 16 million NRIs to cast vote their in Indian elections (assembly and Lok Sabha elections) by appointing proxies residing in their constituencies. Overseas electors will have to appoint a nominee afresh for each election — one person can act as proxy for only one overseas voter. Government (Election Commission) will frame suitable rules and guidelines to make this move effective soon.

Need for Proxy Voting

Currently, Indian voters residing abroad can only cast their votes in their respective constituencies where they are registered. This regulation is seen as restrictive as only a few thousand Indians living overseas have registered themselves as voters (maximum from Kerala). Of these, barely anyone has travelled to the country to exercise his or her franchise during the elections.

Expert committee Recommendation

An expert committee in the Election Commission of India (ECI) working on the issue in 2015 had forwarded the legal framework to the Union Law ministry to amend electoral laws to allow overseas Indians use proxy voting.

According to rough estimates, there are about 1 crore Indians settled abroad, of which 60 lakh may be within eligible voting age. By granting them proxy voting rights, 

NRIs will be able to exercise franchise during elections and also need not to spend foreign currency to come to India during elections. Moreover, this decision will also enable NRIS and overseas Indian to considerably sway in election results, especially in states such as Punjab, Kerala and Gujarat where a number of expats hail from.

8. Cabinet approves MoU to set up BRICS Agriculture Research Platform.
 
Cabinet approves MoU to set up BRICS Agriculture Research Platform
 
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The Union Cabinet has approved for a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed among India and various BRICs countries for establishment of the BRICS Agriculture Research Platform (BRICS-ARP).

The BRICS-ARP will promote sustainable agricultural development and poverty alleviation through strategic cooperation in agriculture to provide food security in the BRICS member countries.

 

BRICS Agriculture Research Platform (BRICS-ARP)

 


BRICS-ARP will serve as a global platform for science-led agriculture-based sustainable development for addressing the issues of world hunger, under-nutrition, poverty and inequality (between farmers’ and non-farmers’ income) and enhancing agricultural trade, climate resilient agriculture and bio-security. It will further intensify cooperation among BRICS countries in agricultural research policy, science and technology, innovation and capacity building, including technologies for small-holder farming in the BRICS countries.

The establishment of BRICS-ARP was proposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the 7th BRICS Summit held in July 2015 at Ufa, Russia. MoU on establishment of this platform was signed by the foreign Ministers of BRICS countries in the 8th BRICS Summit held in October, 2016 at Goa, India.
 
9. Lok Sabha passes two key bills for implementation of GST in J&K.
 
Lok Sabha passes two key bills for implementation of GST in J&K
 
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The Lok Sabha has passed the Central Goods and Services Tax (Extension to Jammu and Kashmir) Bill, 2017 and the Integrated Goods and Services Tax (Extension to Jammu and Kashmir) Bill, 2017.

The two bills will replace the ordinances promulgated earlier in this regard to complete rolling out GST regime the Himalayan State.

The first bill provides for the extension of the Central Goods and Services Tax (CGST) Act, 2017 to J&K and the other also provides for the extension of the Integrated Goods and Services Tax (IGST) Act, 2017 to J&K.

The Central government earlier had promulgated ordinances to make the Central GST and Integrated GST (IGST), which deals with inter-state commerce, applicable to all states. However, provisions of these Central laws were not applicable to J&K unlike the rest of India, as the state is having a special constitutional status. Under this different constitution procedure, President Pranab Mukherjee had promulgated two ordinances regarding the introduction of the GST in J&K.
 
10. Union Cabinet approves MoU between India and Spain on cooperation in renewable energy.
 
Union Cabinet approves MoU between India and Spain on cooperation in renewable energy
 
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The Union Cabinet has approved Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Spain on India-Spain Cooperation in renewable energy. The MoU was signed in May 2017 at Spain.

The MoU aims at strengthening bilateral cooperation between both countries with the exchange of expertise and networking of information in field of in renewable energy.

Under the MoU, both sides will establish the basis for a cooperative institutional relationship to encourage and promote bilateral cooperation on new and renewable energy issues on the basis of mutual benefit equality and reciprocity. The MoU also envisages establishing a Joint Working Committee (JWG) to review, monitor and discuss matters relation to areas of cooperation.
 
11. Indian Army develops Humraaz app for soldiers to track promotions, postings.
 
Indian Army develops Humraaz app for soldiers to track promotions, postings
 
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The Indian Army has developed Humraaz mobile application through which serving soldiers can track details like postings and promotions. The app will also enable soldiers to view their monthly salary slips, Form 16 and also download them.

The Humraaz mobile app has been developed in-house by the Army. For security reasons, its installation has been linked to verification of Aadhar details. On installing the app, serving soldiers will be verified with the Army database over National Information Centre (NIC) cloud and they will get a one-time-password (OTP) on their registered mobile number. For accessing the app, soldiers have to link their latest mobile number to their Aadhar number.
 
12. Maharashtra Government launches two online portals MahaDBT, MahaVASTU.
 
Maharashtra Government launches two online portals MahaDBT, MahaVASTU 
Maharashtra Government has launched two online portals MahaDBT and MahaVASTU to streamline the process of direct benefit transfer (DBT) and to bring in more transparency in construction sector.With this, Maharashtra became first state in the country to launch such a system that will provide direct benefits with Aadhaar authentication.

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MahaDBT portal:

It is an Aadhaar-authenticated electronic mechanism that will enable direct transfer of benefits for over 40 schemes currently implemented by state’s various departments. It is based on Union Government’s DBT scheme and Aadhaar will be mandatory to claim benefits through this portal. It will help to speed up transfer of benefits and ensure transparency by minimising human intervention.

MahaVASTU portal:

It is an online building permission management system, through which construction approvals will be sanctioned with full transparency. It will bring all building permissions online in all municipal councils of the state.
 
13. Parliament passes IIIT (Amendment) Bill, 2017.
 
Parliament passes IIIT (Amendment) Bill, 2017
Parliament has passed the Indian Institutes of Information Technology (Amendment) Bill, 2017 after the Rajya Sabha approved it. The Lok Sabha has already passed it. The Bill amends the IIIT Act, 2014. 

The IIIT Act, 2014 declares certain Institutes of Technology as institutions of national importance. It aims to develop new knowledge in information technology and provide manpower of global standards for the information technology industry.

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Appointment of Director: The Bill modifies the composition of the search-cum-selection committee which recommends names to the central government for the appointment of the Director of an IIIT. Further, it replaces the Director of an IIIT with the Director of an Indian Institute of Technology.

Appointment of Assistant Professor and other above posts:  The Bill permits the Board of Governor of Institutes to appoint Assistant Professors and all the posts above that level as well.

Incorporation of an institute:  It declares the Indian Institute of Technology, Design and Manufacturing (ITDM), Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh as an institution of national importance. Further it adds ITDM, Kurnool to the Schedule of the parent Act which consists of other institutions of national importance.

14. India’s first private missile production facility unveiled in Hyderabad.

India’s first private missile production facility unveiled in Hyderabad
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It is 51:49 joint venture between India’s Kalyani Group and Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defence Systems Ltd. It has been established line with the ‘Make in India’ initiative and Government’s policy to encourage private sector participation in defence production.

KRAS aims to be a one-stop solution provider to locally re-design, develop, re-engineer and manufacture various land and airborne products and systems in India. It has invested in designing, developing and manufacturing of weapon systems including Spike Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) systems and remote weapon systems.

Besides, it will develop a wide range of advanced capabilities that include command control and guidance, remote weapon systems, electro-optics, precision guided munitions and system engineering for system integration. It will be supplying defence equipment to the Indian Army and also export to South East Asian countries.

The plant would employ more than 300 engineers and provide indirect employment to 1,000 people. The localisation content of the plant is 90% and most of the vendors are in and around Hyderabad.
 
15. Government proposes to set up 14 new AIIMS hospitals under PMSSY.
 
Government proposes to set up 14 new AIIMS hospitals under PMSSY
 
The Union Government has proposed to establish an additional 14 new AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Science) under various phases of Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY) in different parts of the country.

It was announced by Union Health Minister JP Nadda while replying to supplementaries in Lok Sabha on AIIMS and related healthcare system in India.Besides, Lok Sabha was also informed that under the national programme for prevention and control of cancer, diabetes, cardio-vascular diseases and strokes, Government is going to the establish 20 state cancer institutes and 50 tertiary care cancer centres in different parts of the country.

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Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY) was announced in 2003. Its objectives are correcting regional imbalances in the availability of affordable/reliable tertiary healthcare services and augment facilities for quality medical education in the country. It establishes 

AIIMS in various regions of India apart from different government colleges. It is funded from different centrally sponsored schemes relating to creating infrastructure on health.
 
16. HeliTaxi services from Bengaluru Airport to Electronic City launched.
 
HeliTaxi services from Bengaluru Airport to Electronic City launched
 
Thumby Aviation, a private helicopter service provider, and Bangalore International Airport Ltd (BIAL) have partnered to launch HeliTaxi services from Bengaluru Airport.The helicopter service will initially be launched from Bengaluru Airport to Electronic City and gradually expanded to other parts of the city.

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Jayant Sinha, Minister of State for Civil Aviation, speaking after launching the service said the government is working towards making the convenience of air travel accessible to as many Indians as possible.”

Karnataka minister for large, medium industries and infrastructure R. V. Deshpande welcomed the initiative and said “Bengaluru is on the growth path, there is a need to lay a strong foundation for improving connectivity to the airport”.
 
17. First Meeting of Japan-India Coordination Forum held in New Delhi.
 
First Meeting of Japan-India Coordination Forum held in New Delhi
 
the Japanese Ambassador to India, Mr. Kenji Hiramatsu. Senior Officers of the Ministry of Home Affairs, External Affairs, Department of Economic Affairs, and line Ministries of Government of India including Road Transport & Highways, Agriculture, Power besides Resident Commissioners of the eight States of the NER participated in the meeting. 

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The Japanese delegation included Mr. Kenko Sone, Minister, Economic Affairs, Embassy of Japan, besides representatives from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) and Japan Foundation.

Priority areas of cooperation identified by Indian side including Connectivity and Road Network Development, especially inter-State roads & major district roads; Disaster Management; Food Processing; Organic Farming and Tourism were discussed in the meeting.
 
Secretary, DoNER, Shri Naveen Verma said regular meetings of the Forum would not only enhance Assistance by JICA but also promote B2B and people to people contacts.
 
18. India signs loan agreement with AIIB for Financing of US$ 329 million for Gujarat Rural Roads Project.
India signs loan agreement with AIIB for Financing of US$ 329 million for Gujarat Rural Roads 

Project
The Loan and Project Agreements for Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) lending of US$ 329 million for Gujarat Rural Roads Project have been signed between the Government of India/ Government of Gujarat and the AIIB today on 04.08.2017 at New Delhi.
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The Loan Agreement was signed by Shri Sameer Kumar Khare, Joint Secretary (MI), Department of Economic Affairs(DEA), Ministry of Finance on behalf of the Government of India and Dr. D.J. Pandian, Vice President and Chief Investment Officer, AIIB, on behalf of the AIIB. The Project Agreement was signed between Shri A.K. Patel, Chief Engineer (Panchayat) and Additional Secretary, Roads & Building Department, Government of Gujarat on behalf of the Gujarat State Government and Dr. D.J. Pandian signed the Project Agreement on behalf of the AIIB.
 
The objective of the project is to improve the rural road connectivity and accessibility (by providing all weather road connectivity) to 1,060 villages in all the 33 districts in Gujarat state benefiting about 8 million people. The project will also benefit the service providers such as public transport operators, educational institutions, hospitals, local markets and traders.
 
The project consists of following two main components:
 
Constructions and Up-gradation of Non-Plan Roads (NPRs): A total of 5000 km of NPRs will be constructed under this component. Besides, it is also envisaged to construct – missing links (last mile connecting to the road network); missing structures (culverts and small bridges); approach roads to educational institutions; and upgrade/ construct roads passing through tribal areas.

Up-gradation of Planned Roads: It is envisaged to upgrade existing earthen and metal roads to black top roads, resurfacing of village roads and other district roads, up-gradation of bridges to prevent flooding and subsequent isolation of flooded villages during monsoon season and widening of village roads and other district roads to ease traffic congestion.
 
19. Indian Railways signs first EPC contract to speed up electrification.
 
Indian Railways signs first EPC contract to speed up electrification
 
With the aim of boosting its ‘Mission Electrification’ plan, Indian Railways signed its first Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contract with L&T for large electrification projects on Friday. The contract valuing Rs 1,050 crore for electrification of 781 route kilometres (RKM) was awarded by Central Organisation for Railway Electrification (CORE) and Konkan Railways.

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“For faster execution of Railway Electrification projects, Indian Railways has changed from Business as usual (BAU) approach and entrusted new electrification works not only to Railway PSUs like Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL), Indian Railway Construction Company (IRCON) and Rail India Techno Economic Service (RITES) but also to Power Grid Corporation India Limited (PGCIL),” the ministry of railways said in a statement.

The contract was awarded for electrification of Delhi Sarai Rohilla – Rewari and Alwr – Bandikui – Jaipur – Phulera – Ajmer (353 rkm) section at a cost of Rs 594 crore and Roha – Verna (428 rkm) of Konkan Railway at a cost of Rs. 456 crore. Also, eight agreements were also exchanged between Zonal Railways and Public Sector Undertakings for 1,735 rkm of electrification projects valuing Rs 1,746 crore.

This comes on the heels of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) stating in its audit report on ‘Electrification Projects in Indian Railways’ that the Indian Railways lost savings to the tune of Rs 3,006 crore on account of delays in execution 21 railways electrification projects out of 29 projects which were examined. 

 

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