The Union Cabinet on 29 April 2015 gave its nod for introduction of the Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) Bill, 2015 in the Parliament. The objective of the legislation is to provide for institutional mechanism, both at the Centre and in each State and Union Territory, to ensure expeditious utilization of amounts realised in lieu of forest land diverted for non-forest purpose.
India and Afghanistan on 28 April 2015 released a Joint Statement to take bilateral relations to a higher level. The Joint statement was released after meeting of Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, the President of Afghanistan with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Mohammad Ghani was on a visit to India from 27 April to 29 April 2015. This was the first visit of Ghani to India after assuming the Presidency in September 2014 at the invitation of President Pranab Mukherjee.
a) Extradition Treaty between India and Afghanistan
b) Agreement on Transfer of Sentenced Persons between India and Afghanistan
c) Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) in Criminal Matters
d) Bilateral Treaty for Mutual Legal Assistance in Civil and Commercial Matters between India and Afghanistan
e) Motor Vehicles Agreement for the Regulation of Passenger, Personal and Cargo Vehicular Traffic between India and Afghanistan
f) MOU on Visa free entry for holders of diplomatic passports
Noted Islamic scholar and activist Maulana Wahiduddin Khan was on 30 April 2015 conferred with the Sayyidina Imam Al Hassan Ibn Ali Peace Award in Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan is known for his knowledge and efforts in keeping peace, that make him one of the most respected scholars. The 90-year-old Maulana has also authored several books and articles on Islam. Maulana Wahiduddin is an Islamic spiritual scholar who has adopted peace as the mission of his life and is known for his Gandhian views as he considers non-violence as the only method to achieve success. He has authored over 200 books on Islam, prophetic wisdom, spirituality and peaceful co-existence in a multi-ethnic society. His most recent book is The Prophet of Peace: The Teachings of Prophet Muhammad. He has received many awards including Demiurgus Peace International Award; the Padma Bhushan in January 2000, India’s third highest civilian honour; the National Citizen’s Award presented by Mother Teresa and the Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhavana Award in 2009.
Prannoy Roy, the Executive Co-chairman of NDTV, was on 30 April 2015 conferred with the Redink Lifetime Achievement Award 2015 at a function in Mumbai. The awards were presented by the Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu.
The RedInk Lifetime Achievement Award was instituted in 2010 by the Mumbai Press Club to encourage good, ethical journalism that impacts people and society. It comprises of a trophy and a citation.
China’s top economic planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), on 28 March 2015 released a new action plan One Belt, One Road initiative. The initiative will establish new routes linking Asia, Europe and Africa.
It has two parts, a new Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) linking China to Europe that cuts through mountainous regions in Central Asia; and the Maritime Silk Road (MSR) that links China’s port facilities with the African coast and then pushes up through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean Sea.
The word Belt is referred as a planned network of overland road and rail routes, oil and natural gas pipelines, and other infrastructure projects that will stretch from Xi’an in Central China, through Central Asia, and ultimately reach as far as Moscow, Rotterdam, and Venice. While Road is its maritime equivalent, that is, a network of planned port and other coastal infrastructure projects that dot the map from South and Southeast Asia to East Africa and the northern Mediterranean Sea.
The scope of the initiative will extend well beyond infrastructure construction. It also includes efforts to promote greater financial integration and use of the Renminbi, Chinese Currency, by foreign countries.
The plan will further extent to create an Information Silk Road linking regional information and communications technology networks, and lower barriers to cross-border trade and investment in the region, among other initiatives.
New regional institutions, such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and New Silk Road Fund (NSRF) are also designed in part to complement and support the Belt and Road’s development.
Chinese president Xi Jinping has made the program a centerpiece of both his foreign policy and domestic economic strategy. Initially billed as a network of regional infrastructure projects, this latest release indicates that the scope of the Belt and Road initiative has continued to expand and will now include promotion of enhanced policy coordination across the Asian continent, financial integration, trade liberalization, and people-to-people connectivity.
China’s efforts to implement this initiative will likely have an important effect on the region’s economic architecture—patterns of regional trade, investment, infrastructure development—and in turn have strategic implications for China, the United States, and other major powers.
North and South America on 27 April 2015 became the first regions of the world to eradicate rubella, also known as German measles. These regions were declared free of endemic transmission of rubella and congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) after no home grown cases were reported in five years.
The last endemic cases registered in the region were in Argentina and Brazil in 2009. The declaration of elimination was made by an international expert committee during a meeting at the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO). With the eradication of rubella and CRS from Americas region, the total number of vaccine-preventable disease that has been eliminated from this region has gone up to four. Earlier in 1971, the region became the first in the world to eradicate Smallpox and in 1994 it became the first to eradicate Polio.
These regions were able to eradicate rubella through its mass vaccination campaign which started 15-year ago in 2000. They used vaccination against Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) throughout the Western Hemisphere. As a result, some 250 million adolescents and adults in 32 countries and territories were vaccinated against rubella between 1998 and 2008 and the last endemic (local origin) cases of rubella and CRS were reported in the Americas in 2009.
Rubella is an infection caused by the rubella virus. The virus, spread by sneezes or coughs, can lead to serious birth defects if contracted by pregnant women. It usually starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body. The disease is threat mainly for pregnant women, as if they get contracted of the disease during the first three months of pregnancy, then the rubella virus can cause congenital rubella syndrome. This can lead to a multitude of problems like miscarriage and birth defects such as blindness, deafness, or heart defects.
Argentine parliament on 30 April 2015 passed a law to compensate the victims of an attack on AMIA Jewish cultural centre in Buenos Aires more than 20 years ago. As per the law, relatives of those who died will receive a one-off payment similar to that awarded to victims of Argentina’s 1976-1983 military dictatorship, and a 1992 attack on the Israeli embassy, in which 29 people died and 200 were injured.
Jewish cultural centre in Buenos Aires, Argentina was bombed on 18 July 1994 in which 85 people were killed and hundreds were wounded. It was Argentina’s deadliest bombing ever. However, so far no one was brought to justice for the attack. On the one hand, prosecutors have accused Iran of involvement and since 2006 and the Argentinean courts have demanded the extradition of eight Iranians for the bombing. On the other hand, Tehran denies involvement in the attack. Argentina is home to a Jewish community of 200000, the largest in Latin America and sixth in the world outside Israel.
The Union Ministry of Corporate Affairs on 1 May 2015 launched Form-INC -29 to make the process of establishing new companies smoother for entrepreneurs. The Form-INC-29 is an integrated electronic application form and can be used alternatively in the place of filling five separate e-Forms to set up a new company.
Introduction of the Form-INC-29 is in tune with the Union Government’s intention to improve the ease of doing business in India and there by attracting the necessary investments into the economy. As per recent Ease of Doing Business Index of the World Bank, India is at the 142nd position among the 189 countries in the world.
Pakistan court on 30 April 2015 sentenced 10 men to 25 years in jail for attacking education activist and Nobel Peace Laureate Malala Yousafzai in 2012.
The group was tried in an anti-terrorist court and the exact charges against them were unclear, though 25 years imprisonment is considered a life sentence. All the 10 men belonged to the Pakistan Taliban but the chief suspect did not figure among those sentenced.
She was 15 when she was shot in the head on board her school bus in Swat Valley northwest of the capital, Islamabad in 2012. Now, Malala lives in the United Kingdom (UK) where she received treatment after the attack. She is unable to return to her homeland because of Taliban threats to kill her and her family.
Addressing the UN in 2013 she told the assembly that books and pens scare extremists and called for education for all. In 2014, she became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for her campaigning work.
Nadia district of West Bengal was on 30 April 2015 declared as the first open defecation-free (ODF) district in India. Nadia district could achieve this feat due to its collaborative effort with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Bank aimed at construction of toilets across the district.
Incidentally, in order to eliminate open defecation from the rural landscape of the state, the Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee formally launched the Mission Nirmal Bangla (MNB) on 30 April 2015 and declared the day as Nirmal Bangla Diwas to mark the occasion.
The mission is akin to the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) in its objectives which was launched on 2 October 2014 with the objective of ensuring cleanliness in all the 4041 statutory cities and towns of the country by 2 October 2019 which marks the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
The Lok Sabha on 30 April 2015 gave its nod for the Finance Bill, 2015 through voice vote. The bill deals with the income side (basically tax proposals) of the Union Government for the financial year 2015-16 as proposed in the budget which was introduced in the Parliament on 28 February 2015.
The Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha, the sole authority in taxation matters, after the Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley moved as many as 41 official amendments which among others include:
The above amendments are intended to attract much needed foreign capital to sustain the growth momentum and reach double digit Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth target in the years to come, as envisaged by the 2015-16 budget.
Indian Coast Guard (ICG) from 28 April to 29 April 2015 held a security exercise, Theera Veeta, in the Arabian Sea. The exercise was intended to augment the preparedness of the security agencies in protecting the porous maritime borders of Kerala, Lakshadweep, Minicoy Islands and Mahe (part of Puducherry) from external attacks. The exercise was conducted by the ICG from its Operation room at Kochi and Kavaratti and monitored from the Joint Operation Centre (JOC) located at the Kochi Naval base.
In the two day exercise, along with the ICG, Indian Navy, Coastal Police and other central and state/Union Territory (UT) police agencies were involved.
Theera Veta is a periodical exercise conducted by the security agencies in order to assess and augment the defence preparedness against security related threats to the off shore economic assets like oil wells and mineral rich areas in India’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and coastal population.
Former Gujarat assembly speaker Barjorji Pardiwala passed away on 30 April 2015 due to age-related illness at a private hospital in Ahmedabad. He was 86.
Pardiwala was also a renowned lawyer in Valsad. Pardiwala joined the lawyer’s bar at Valsad town of Gujarat in 1955 and practiced the law for more than 40 years. He also contested election successfully as an Indian National Congress candidate from Valsad assembly constituency and was made the speaker of the seventh state assembly for period from December 1989 to March 1990. He was the father of Gujarat High Court Justice J B Pardiwala.
Microsoft, American multinational technology company, on 29 April 2015 announced Edge as its next Web Browser’s name at the Build Developer Conference held at San Francisco in California, USA. Earlier, Microsoft had called it as Project Spartan; a code name given by the company. The browser is intended to replace the Internet Explorer (IE) in future.
15- First meeting of Sub-Group of CMs on Swachh Bharat Mission held in New Delhi
The first meeting of the Sub-Group of Chief Ministers on Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) was held on 30 April 2015 at NITI Aayog in New Delhi. The meeting was chaired by Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh N Chandrababu Naidu who is the convener of the sub group.
As per the term of reference, the sub-group will examine the financial requirements for the comprehensive implementation of SBM and suggest measures for meeting budgetary needs. It will also examine models of private sector participation in the SBM and suggest ways to substantially improve participation of private sector and civil society organisations for effective implementation of the programme. The final report on Swachh Bharat would be submitted to the Union Government by end of June 2015.
Four major telecom operators of India, namely Airtel, Vodafone, Idea and Reliance Communication on 30 April 2015 slashed their roaming call rates by upto 40 percent and SMS rates by upto 75 percent.
This reduction in national roaming tariff will be effective from 1 May 2015. This rate revision was made after Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on 9 April 2015 reduced maximum or ceiling rate for national roaming calls and SMSes. Accordingly, telecom companies were allowed to only charge maximum 1.15 rupees per minute for STD calls on roaming and 80 paise per minute for local calls. Earlier, the STD roaming charge was 1.50 rupees per minute and local call charge were 1 rupee.
On the other hand, National SMS ceiling rate was reduced to 38 paise from 1.50 rupees and 25 paise for local SMS instead of 1 rupee.
Union finance Ministry on 30 April 2015 exempted Minimum Alternate Tax (MAT) for foreign investors. During the Finance Bill debate in Parliament, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that MAT would not be applicable on foreign companies’ earning from capital gains on securities, royalty, fee on technical services and interest.
However, MAT would not be applicable on sale of units of real estate investment trusts (REITs). Further, the exemption would apply only in those cases where the normal tax rate is below 18.5 percent.
The issue between foreign investors and the government cropped up in 2014-15 when the tax department started sending notices to FIIs to cough up MAT.
Total 68 notices were sent to FIIs for their past capital gains up to 31 March 2015 creating a huge uproar. The government has been trying to soothe the foreign institutional investors, who turned net sellers for the first time since April 2014.
MAT is a way of making companies pay minimum amount of tax. It is applicable to all companies except those engaged in infrastructure and power sectors. Income arising from free trade zones, charitable activities, investments by venture capital companies are also excluded from the purview of MAT.
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Read Also: Current Affairs: 30th April 2015