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Current Affairs: 1st May 2015

Category : All, Current Affairs · by May 2nd, 2015

1- Union Cabinet approved the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill, 2015

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.

Key Provisions of the bill

  • Establishment of the National Compensatory Afforestation Fund (CAF) and the State CAFs to credit amounts collected by Union Territory Administrations and State Governments to compensate loss of forest land diverted for non-forest purpose.
  • Constitution of National Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) to manage and utilise amounts credited to the National CAF.
  • Constitution of State CAMPA in each State and Union Territory to manage and utilise the amounts credited to the State CAFs.
  • Establishment of a Monitoring Group to assist the National CAMPA in monitoring and evaluation of activities undertaken from amounts released from the National CAF and State CAFs.

Importance of the bill

  • The proposed legislation would bring the CAF within broader focus of both Parliament and State Legislatures and in greater public view, by transferring them to non-lapsable interest bearing funds, to be created under public accounts of the Union of India and each State.
  • It will also ensure expeditious utilization of accumulated unspent amounts available with the ad hoc Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA), which presently is of the order of 38000 crore rupees.
  • Further, it would also ensure fresh accrual of compensatory levies and interest on accumulated unspent balance, which will be of the order of approximately 6000 crore rupees per annum, in an efficient and transparent manner.
  • Utilization of these amounts will facilitate timely execution of appropriate measures to mitigate impact of diversion of forest land, for which these amounts have been realised.
  • Apart from mitigating the impact of diversion of forest land, utilisation of these amounts will also result in creation of productive assets and generation of huge employment opportunities in rural areas, especially in backward tribal areas.

2- India, Afghanistan released Joint Statement

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.

Details of the Joint Statement

  • The two nations agreed to patiently and systematically work towards strengthening of the India Afghanistan Strategic Partnership, with a clear focus on the long term relationship between the two countries.
  • Both the countries reviewed the progress made in the implementation of all areas of cooperation envisaged under the strategic partnership agreement
  • The Prime Minister assured the President of Afghanistan of India’s abiding support for Afghanistan’s ongoing crucial transitions-political, economic and security, for the decade of 2015-24 and beyond.
  • The two nations agreed that they will not allow their territories to used against any other country
  • The two nations expressed determination to work together, along with the international community, to combat and defeat the scourge of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
  • President Ghani expressed satisfaction on the steps taken by India to promote business links and trade between the two countries and India’s decision as a fourth party to join the recent PATTTA (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan Trade and Transit Agreement) negotiations that would allow the arrangement to contribute in a meaningful manner to the vision of wider regional economic integration.
  • Afghanistan also welcomed the Indian stewardship of the Trade, Commerce and Investment Confidence Building Measures (TCI-CBM) under the Afghan-led Heart of Asia process whose activities remain focused on showcasing Afghanistan’s potential and its unique location at the Heart of Asia.
  • The two leaders agreed to work towards a more liberalized business visa regime for all businesses, including large, medium and small-size enterprises.
  • The two leaders agreed to work closely with the Government of Iran to make Chahbahar port a reality, and a viable gateway to Afghanistan and Central Asia.
  • The two leaders agreed to work together for their shared goal of bringing reforms to the UN system and PM Modi thanked President Ghani for Afghanistan for supporting and co-sponsoring the G-4 resolution on UN reforms, including the expansion of the UN Security Council in the 70th year of the UN.
  • Both the leaders also agreed to sign the following documents within three months of the visit. The documents include:

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

 3- Maulana Wahiduddin Khan conferred with Sayyidina Imam Al Hassan Ibn Ali Peace Award

khichdi, blog,current affairs, general,knowledge, ias, ips, civil, services, CSAT,pre, ies, general studies, GS, mains, competitive, entrance, bank, PO, IBPS, current, affairs, may, 2015, blog, study, material, CSAT, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan conferred with Sayyidina Imam Al Hassan Ibn Ali Peace Award

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

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.

4- Prannoy Roy honoured with the RedInk Lifetime Achievement Award 2015

khichdi, blog,current affairs, general,knowledge, ias, ips, civil, services, CSAT,pre, ies, general studies, GS, mains, competitive, entrance, bank, PO, IBPS, current, affairs, may, 2015, blog, study, material, CSAT, Prannoy Roy honoured with the RedInk Lifetime Achievement Award 2015

Prannoy Roy

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.

Other Awardees

  • Journalist of the Year Award: Sreenivasan Jain of NDTV for his consistent investigative work epitomized in his series Truth versus Hype.
  • Impact Editor of the Year Award: Arnab Goswami, Editor-in-Chief of Times Now for his ability to capture eyeballs and expand audience reach with his News Hour show.
  • News Start-Up of the Year Award: News website Scroll.in for scaling up its influence rapidly as an alternative source of news and features.
  • Other than these, awards were also presented in the categories of crime, politics, courts, health, environment and science. As many as 24 journalists were awarded along with Prannoy Roy, Sreenivasan Jain, Arnab Goswami and Scroll.in.

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.

5- China’s NDRC released new action plan One Belt, One Road initiative

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.

Scope of the plan

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.

Benefits to China

  • The infrastructure projects proposed as part of the Belt and Road—many of which would run through some of China’s poorest and least developed regions—could provide stimulus to help cushion the effects of the deepening slowdown of China.
  • The Belt and Road will improve China’s internal economic integration and competitiveness and spur more regionally balanced growth.
  • The construction is intended to help make use of China’s enormous industrial overcapacity and ease the entry of Chinese goods into regional markets.
  • The plan would strengthen China’s importance as an economic partner for its neighbors and, potentially, enhance Beijing’s diplomatic leverage in the region.
  • Increased investment in energy and mineral resources, particularly in Central Asia, could also help reduce China’s reliance on commodities imported from overseas, including oil transiting the Strait of Malacca.

Comment

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.

6- Rubella eradicated from North and South America region

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.

How rubella was eradicated from the region?

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.

 About Rubella

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.

7- Argentine Parliament passed a law to compensate victims of Jewish centre attack

 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.

8- Union Ministry of Corporate Affairs launched Form-INC-29 for easier establishment of companies

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.

 Features of Form-INC-29

  • Through the form, organisations can apply for company name, Director Identification Number (DIN) and registration of company.
  • In the form, along with the company’s name, applicants are required to furnish the details about significance of abbreviated or coined word in the proposed name.
  • The applicants has to declare that the proposed name is not offensive to any section of people and also not in violation of the provisions of Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950.

Comment

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.

9- Pakistan court sentenced 10 men to 25 years in jail for attacking Malala Yousafzai

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.

10- Nadia in West Bengal became the first open defecation-free (ODF) district of India

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.

11- Lok Sabha passed the Finance Bill, 2015

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:

  • Promoters of foreign real estate investment trusts were exempted from paying Minimum Alternate Tax (MAT) on the notional gains arising from shares of a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to a business trust in exchange of units allotted by that trust.
  • Foreign companies including Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIs) are exempted from paying MAT on any interest, royalty or fees for technical services including incomes earned on investments in Government and other fixed income securities.
  • Diluted tax proposals applicable to sovereign wealth funds which plan to relocate to India, in case they are floated by foreign government.

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.

12- Indian Coast Guard (ICG) held Theera Veta defence exercise in Arabian Sea

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.

Comment

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.

13- Former Gujarat assembly speaker Barjorji Pardiwala passed away

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.

14- Microsoft named its next Web Browser as Edge

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.

Key Features of Edge Web browser

  • It will feature new inking function, which allows users to draw or scribble directly on a Web page. It works with finger or stylus and offers pen as well as highlighter with option to choose the color for it.
  • Microsoft’s personal assistant service Cortana will be integrated to the new browser in order to enhance the user experience.
  • It will allow users to save pages for offline reading. The reading lists thus created by a user will get synced to be accessed across multiple devices.
  • It will exhibit a new tab page that will show information on recently opened tabs, favourites, new apps, etc.

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.

Highlights of the meeting

  • It discussed robust institutional mechanisms for effective implementation of the mission.
  • It prepared guidelines and process chart to work on the subject.
  • It decided to recommend measures for technological support, including solid waste management in rural and urban areas.
  • It decided to constitute a working group headed by NITI Aayog’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) to study the best practices showing alternative methods and best technology.
  • It examined the need of sending some members to other countries to study sanitation practices
  • Technologies from other countries would also be imported and modified to suit the country’s requirements.

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.

16- Telecom operators slashed roaming call rate by upto 40%, SMS by upto 75%

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.

17- Union finance Ministry exempted MAT for foreign investors

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.

Minimum Alternate Tax

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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