1- Indian Railways inks MoU with LIC for Rs 1.5 lakh crore investments in rail infrastructure
Indian Railways on 11 March 2015 inked an MoU with Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) to raise Rs 1.5 lakh crore for financing the development of its various commercially viable infrastructure projects.
The MoU was signed by Financial Commissioner (Railways) Rajalakshmi Ravikumar and LIC Chairman SK Roy in presence of Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and the Minister of Railways Suresh Prabhu.
Under the MoU
- State-run insurance giant LIC will provide a Financial Assistance of Rs 1.5 lakh crore to Indian Railways for developing infrastructure.
- From the Financial Year 2015-16 the financial assistance will be made available by LIC for over a period of 5 years as part of its commercial decision.
- The investment will be done in the form of bonds issued by various railway entities such as Indian Railways Finance Corporation (IRFC).
- There will be a 5 year moratorium in interest and loan repayment. The rate will be linked to 10-year benchmark plus 10 basis points.
With the Financial Assistance from LIC, the cash-strapped Railways will be able to augment its resources for speedier execution of projects.
2- India’s literacy rate rose to 72.98 % in 2011: Union Government
India’s literacy rate
Union government has announced that India’s literacy rate has risen to 72.98%. It was informed by Union Minister Human Resource Development (HRD) Smriti Irani while replying to the supplementaries in the Lok Sabha.
Union governments reply informed that
- As per population census 2011, the number of illiterates have declined to 28.27 crore from 30.41 crore in 2011 in the country.
- Country’s literacy rate has risen to 72.98 per cent in 2011 compared to 64.84 per cent in 2001.
- The literacy rate in the country has risen after launching of flagship schemes like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyanin 2001-02, enforcement of the Right of children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act 2009 and Saakshar Bharat programme.
Government also informed that under the centrally sponsored scheme- Saakshar Bharat for Adult Education and Skill Development, the promotion of adult literacy with special focus on women, SCs, STs, minorities and other disadvantaged groups was undertaken in rural areas of 410 districts.
The Saakshar Bharat Scheme’s objective is to raise the literacy level to 80 per cent and reduce the gender gap by the end of XII Five Year plan i.e. by the end of 2017.
3- Attorney General is a public authority and comes under RTI: Delhi High Court
Delhi High Court
Delhi High Court in its ruling has held that Attorney General of India comes under the ambit of Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005.
This ruling reversed the previous decision of the Central Information Commission (CIC) which had held that Attorney General does not come under RTI Act.
Delhi High Court held that
- Attorney General is not merely a lawyer for the government, but is a constitutional authority. This is because functions performed by the AG under Article 76 (2) of the Constitution of India are in the nature of public functions.
- So the office of Attorney General is a public authority and comes under the ambit of section 2(h) of the RTI Act.
The decision was given by Delhi High Court bench headed by Justice Vibhu Bakhru while hearing on two separate pleas filed by RTI activists Subhash Chandra Agarwal and RK Jain. In one plea, the petitioners had challenged the CIC ruling and urged the court to declare AG office answerable to RTI Act.
In 2012, CIC bench had ruled that the Attorney General of India is only a person and cannot be considered an authority under the RTI Act.
4- Five sick PSUs to be closed down: Union Government
Union Government has announced that 5 sick public sector undertakings (PSUs) will be closed.
It was announced by Union Heavy Industries Minister Anant Geete while replying to a question in the Lok Sabha. The 5 sick PSU that will be closed include HMT and its three units, Hindustan Shipyard. Government also announced that while closing these PSUs, their employees will be provided with very good VRS package.
In the reply, the Minister also announced that there are total 65 units in the list of sick PSUs as of March 31, 2014.
Government also has declared Air India and MTNL as sick PSU units as per the criteria after they have incurred losses worth 50 per cent or more of their average net worth during past four years.
According to the loss figures tabled in Lok Sabha
- Air India has accumulated losses of Rs 5,388 crore in 2013-14. Rs 5,490 crore in 2012-13 and Rs 7,559 crore in 2011-12 respectively.
- MTNL had showed profit of Rs 7,820 crore in year 2013-14. But in the previous years it has incurred losses of 5,321 crore rupees and 4,109 crore rupees.
- Hindustan Shipyard has reported losses of Rs 859 crore, Rs 551 crore and Rs 462 crore in past 3 years.
5- Highlights of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Seychelles
Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Seychelles as part of three-nation tour for cementing strategic partnership with island courtiers of Seychelles, Maldives and Sri Lanka.
Narendra Modi is first Prime Minister to visit Seychelles in 34 years. Previously, late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had visited the country in 1981.
- Both nations agreed to set up joint working group to promote ocean based economy i.e. on Blue Economy. In this regard, India committed to provide all help to Seychelles.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi also announced free visa on arrival (VoA) and free visas for three months facility to the citizens of Seychelles.
- Four agreements and MoUs were signed between both the countries. They were signed in the fields of renewable energy, hydro graphic survey, electronics navigation and infrastructure development at the island of Seychelles.
- These agreements and MoU’s were signed by Secretary (West) Navtej Sarna from Indian side in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President of Seychelles James Alix Michel.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi also inaugurated a Coastal Surveillance Radar system (SSRS). The surveillance system has set up in Seychelles with the help of India.
- India also announced to provide 2nd dossier aircraft to the island nation to enhance maritime security.
6- Lok Sabha passes Amendment Land bill along with 9 new amendments
Lok Sabha has passed The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015. The bill was passed by voice vote along with incorporated 9 new amendments moved by Union government.
The amendment bill replaces the ordinance promulgated in this regard and seeks to amend the RFCTLARR Act, 2013.
Key provisions of Amendment Bill
- The Bill creates five special categories of land use. They are 1. Rural infrastructure, 2. Affordable housing, 3. Defence, 4. Industrial corridors, 5. Infrastructure projects including Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects where the Union government owns the land.
- Removes the Consent Clause (CC) of 80 per cent of land owners for private projects and that of 70 per cent of land owners for PPP projects in case of acquiring land for above five categories from parent Act.
- Removes of Social Impact Assessment (SIA) clause for 5 categories from parent Act which is done to identify those affected and from the restrictions on the acquisition of irrigated multi-cropped land.
- The provisions for compensation, rehabilitation, and resettlement under 13 central Acts are in consonance with the LARR Act.
9 new incorporated amendments are
- Social infrastructure removed from an exempted category.
- Land cannot be acquired industrial corridor above 1 km on both sides railway line or Highways.
- Government must ensure that land acquired is bare minimum required for the project before issuing acquiring notification.
- Survey must be conducted by appropriate government in case of wasteland including arid land and maintain a record.
- Land acquired for private hospitals, educational institutions will be not considered for public purpose.
- At least 1 member of affected family of a farm labourer will be compulsory employed.
- Hearings will be carried out by Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation Authority in district where acquisition takes place.
- Court can take cognizance of offence under CrPC.
7- Kumar Sangakkara creates record by scoring four consecutive ODI centuries
Sri Lankan cricketer Kumar Sangakkara became first batsman to score four consecutive one-day international (ODI) centuries in a Cricket World Cup.
He achieved this feat by hitting 4th century by scoring 124 runs in a match against Scotland in the Pool A of ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 in Hobart, New Zealand.
Previous three consecutive centuries of Kumar Sangakkara are
- First century-Scored 105 runs against Bangladesh at Melborune Cricket Ground on 26 February 2015.
- Second century-Scored 117 runs against England at Westpac Stadium, Wellington on 1 March 2015.
- Third century-Scored 104 runs against Australia at Sydney Cricket Ground on 8 March 2015.
Previously, many batsmen had registered 3 consecutive ODI centuries along with Kumar Sangakkara. They are Ross Taylor (New Zealand), Quinton de Kock (South Africa), Zaheer Abbas (Pakistan), Herschelle Gibbs (South Africa), Saeed Anwar (Pakistan), AB de Villiers (South Africa).
8- Parliament passes Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2015
Parliament has passed the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2015. It was first passed in Lok Sabha on 3 March 2015 and later in the Rajya Sabha on 11 March 2015.
The Bill seeks to amend the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 and replace the ordinance promulgated in this regard. The ordinance was promulgated in January 2015 after the bill was not able to pass in the winter session of Parliament.
Key provisions of Amendment Bill
- It brings e-carts and e-rickshaws under ambit of the parent Act, so they can ply on roads across the country.
- The Bill defines E-carts and e-rickshaws as special purpose battery powered vehicles with power up to 4000 watts and having 3 wheels. Bill mentions that these vehicles can be used for carrying goods or passengers.
- It also mentions that these vehicles should be manufactured, equipped and maintained in accordance with specifications as prescribed by Union government.
- The Bill exempts drivers of e-rickshaw and e-cart from the requirement of learner’s licence to drive.
- The Bill gives powers to Union government to make Rules on the specifications for e-carts and e-rickshaws, and the conditions and manner for issuing driving licenses.
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