High Court of Gujarat on 6 May 2015 ordered shutting down of 67 sand mining units in the Gir Forest Sanctuary, the only adobe of Asiatic lions. These 67 mining units were ordered to stop operation as their leases were not renewed. The order was passed by a two-judge bench of High Court comprising Justice Jayant Patel and Justice GB Shah on a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by a Surat city-based citizen Rajkumar Sutaria. The petitioner alleged that illegal mining in the area threatened the lives of the wild animals like Asiatic lions, bears, hyneas and golden jackals.
The order came after the Gujarat forest department submitted that the 67 units would not be given ‘No Objection Certificates (NOC)’ for mining on the banks of Shetrunji River in the Gir forest Sanctuary area.
The Gir Asiatic lion sanctuary is protected as an eco-sensitive zone where no construction or development activities can take place in a radius of 10 kilo meters. But, the mining activity in the Shetrunji River had been going in the area, which threatens the existence of wildlife.
In the 2015 United Kingdom Parliamentary elections, Prime Minister David Cameron led Conservative Party has won the election. Conservative Party by winning 331 seats out of total 650 seats in House of Commons has emerged single largest party in this general election. Conservative Party received 36.9% vote share of the total national vote. With this win, David Cameron will become Prime Minister for second term. Labour Party has won 232 seats with 30.4% vote share, emerging as largest opposition party. Scottish National Party (SNP) has emerged third largest party in this election by winning 56 seats with 9% of vote share. SNP has won 56 seats of the 59 seats from Scotland.
In general elections, voting takes place in all parliamentary constituencies across the country to elect Members of Parliament (MPs) of House of Commons i.e. the lower house of Parliament. 2015 United Kingdom general election was held on 7 May 2015 to elect the 56th Parliament of the United Kingdom. In this election the voter turnout was around 66.1%.
The Institutions of higher learning in India and Russia have signed 11 Memorandum of Intents (MoIs) to establish the Network of Institutions of Higher Education. As per MoIs, leading Russian and Indian Academic Institutes will combine their efforts to train highly qualified staff for innovative economy and expand scientific, technical and technological cooperation. The establishment of a network of Indian and Russian Universities will facilitate establishment of more institutional linkages, including exchanges of faculty, researchers and students, joint research activities and scientific conferences and symposia. Among those that signed the memorandum from Indian side were IIT Bombay, Madras and Delhi and also University of Delhi, Indian Statistical Institute and Institution of Engineers. A cooperation agreement was also signed between the Department of Science & Technology in India and Russian Science Foundation, which will offer another platform for supporting joint research projects. By singing these MoIs with Russia, India seeks to accelerate her economic growth and development through a strong emphasis on technology and innovation.
Indian Army and Bank of India (BOI) on 8 May 2015 signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the Defence Salary Package. The signed MoU is a revised version of previous and first MoU which was signed in 2011 between both parties and was valid for a period of three years.
The basic features of the MoU are the same as before and are tailor made to suit the requirements of serving soldiers, pensioners and their families. Number of additional facilities are incorporated after concerted efforts. It includes the standard bundle of free and concessional services. These free services are drafts, cheque books, funds transfers to any bank in India through RTGS and NEFT, ATM cards etc. Added additional facilities also include extended Personal Accident Insurance (PAI) cover upto Rs 10 lacs from current Rs 5 lacs. PAI is for air insurance, Home Loan Insurance on Army Welfare housing Organisation (AWHO) for deaths on account of war, external aggression and terrorist attack up to Rs 50 lacs. By signing this MoU, Indian Army is hoping it will benefit a large number of serving and retired Army personnel who are having their accounts with BOI. It also seeks to provide them an opportunity to access modern banking facilities.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi released a commemorative coin to mark the birth centenary of Swami Chinmayananda Saraswati in New Delhi. Swami Chinmayananda was a renowned Hindu spiritual leader and teacher who had inspired the formation of a global nonprofit organisation called Chinmaya Mission to spread the knowledge of Advaita Vedanta. Advaita Vedanta is the nondual system of thought found in the Upanishads, which epitomise the philosophical teachings of the Vedas.
He was born as Balakrishna Menon on 8 May 1916. He was known for teaching Bhagavad gita, the Upanishads, and other ancient Hindu scriptures. Since 1951, he had spearheaded a global Hindu spiritual and cultural renaissance that popularised the religion’s esoteric scriptural texts and also taught them in English all across India and abroad. He had authored around 95 publications that mostly include commentaries on the major Upanishads and Bhagavad gita. He was also a visiting professor of Indian philosophy at several American and Asian universities. He also had conducted university lecture tours in many countries. He died on 3 August 1993 at age 77 in San Diego, California of United States.
India’s largest lender State Bank of India (SBI) has launched a RuPay Platinum debit card in association with National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI). The card initially would be issued free to customers maintaining a quarterly balance of 50,000 rupees. For the convenience of customers, this card has a special feature which is accepted at all payment channels including ATMs, point-of-sale (PoS) and eCommerce. RuPay Platinum debit card holders will also get additional benefits like 5 per cent cash back on utility bill, complimentary concierge services, personal accident death and permanent total disability insurance cover of Rs 2 lakh, complimentary airport lounge. It should be noted that, presently SBI has 19.7 crore debit cards in circulation. Of this total debit cards in circulation, 4.5 crore are RuPay cards.
Nadia district in West Bengal has won the 2015 United Nations Public Service Award in the category of improving delivery of public services for the initiative ‘Sabar Shouchagar’ It was announced by the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The award will be presented by the UN Secretary General in June 2015 in Medellin, Colombia. Nadia district is the first open defecation free district in country. The district had achieved this feat by making toilets available for all under state governments flagship programme Sabar Shouchagar. Work in regard to making the Nadia district free from open defecation was initiated in 2013. In one-and-half-years, toilets were built in 5 lakh households and over 200 cluster toilets in public places. For this project around Rs 400 crore was spent. After completion of the building toilets under the project, the percentage of people defecating in open has gone down to 0.02 per cent compared to 33.8 per cent when project was started.
President Pranab Mukherjee has appointed Retired IAS officer Achal Kumar Jyoti as the Election Commissioner. He will serve as Election Commissioner for a period of three years, i.e. till he attains the age of 65 years old (the age at which Election Commissioners demit office under the Constitution). With this appointment, the strength of three member Election Commission of India (ECI) has now gone to two.
Achal Kumar Jyoti is retired IAS officer of the 1975 batch and was former Chief Secretary of Gujarat. He had retired from active service in 2013. Earlier, he had worked as the Managing Director of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited. He also had served as Chairman of Kandla Port Trust from 1999 to 2004.
Noted Assam historian and social scientist Dr. Amalendu Guha passed away on 7 May 2015 in Guwahati, Assa, following age related ailments. He was 91. He was known for his extensive research related to the socio-economic history of North eastern state of Assam.
Dr Guha was born in Manipur in 1924 and later had migrated to Guwahati. He was a prolific writer and had written several books in English, Assamese and Bengali. His most acclaimed book was ‘Planter Raj to Swaraj: Freedom Struggle and Electoral Politics in Assam’ which was outcome of his remarkable historical research related to the socio-economic history of state. His other books are Economy and Central Asia: Movement of Peoples and Ideas from Times Prehistoric to Modern and Medieval and Early Colonial Assam: Society, Polity. Dr Guha also had composed poems both in Asomiya and Bengali. His published poetry collections were Tumaloi (Asomiya) and Luit Parrar Gatha (Bengali). He was an active member of All India Students’ Federation (AISF) and the Communist Party of India (CPI). He was also an executive member of the Indian History Congress (IHC) from 1975 to 77. He also had served as President of North East History Association (NEHA) from 1981 to 82. He was President of Indian History Congress Modern India Session in 1983.
Awards and Honours: Sahityacharya Sanman of the Asam Sahitya Sabha, Asom Prakashan Parishad Award, Pt Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar Gold Plaque of Asiatic Society, etc.
To enhance cooperation in the renewable energy sector, Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has signed memorandum of understanding (MoU) with 12 countries in past 3 years. It was announced by Union Minister of Power, Coal and Renewable Energy Piyush Goyal in a written reply to the Lok Sabha. In addition to these 12 MoUs, a letter of intend and joint declaration of intend were also signed with Egypt and Germany for this sector. Statistics of India’s Renewable energy sector In year 2014-15, the power generation from renewable energy sources was 61,780.55 million units (MUs) compared to 53,058.76 MUs in 2013-14 and 47,613.06 MUs in 2012-13. In year 2014-14, power produced from various renewable energy source include 4,598.34 MUs from solar, 33,768.21 MUs from wind, 3,159.84 from biomass, 7,959.55 from small hydel projects and 11,880.75 MUs from bagasse. India has potential of producing 8,96,602 MW from renewable energy from various sources. Of this total potential 7,48,990 MW from solar and 1,02,772 MW from wind can be produced. While, 19,749 MW from small hydro, 5,000 MW from bagase cogeneration, 17,536 MW from biomass, and 2,554 MW from waste to energy can be produced.
The book, a travelogue is an effort initiated by the lawyers of India and Pakistan to work jointly to ensure that Pakistani prisoners languishing in Indian jails are treated in accordance with the spirit of the Constitution of India. Similarly, the same treatment should be mended for the Indian prisoners on Pakistan and they should be given fair trials.
Senior IPS officer Navneet Rajan Wasan was on 7 May 2015 appointed as (DG) of Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D). He will serve the post till 30 November 2015, the date of his superannuation. The post of Director General (DG) of Bureau of Police Research and Development had been lying vacant since March 2015 following the retirement of Rajan Gupta.
Presently, Wasan is working as Special Director General in the National Investigation Agency (NIA). He is a 1980-batch IPS officer of the Andhra Pradesh cadre.
Indian Postal Service (IPoS) officer Sheuli Burman was appointed as the Chief Vigilance Officer (CVO) in the Indian Telephone Industries (ITI), Bangalore. Burman will serve the office for an initial period of three years.
Mhairi Black on 7 May 2015 became the youngest lawmaker of Britain at the age of 20. The freshly elected lawmaker is from Scotland.
She belonged to Paisley and Renfrewshire South, a constituency outside Glasgow. She defeated Douglas Alexander, Labour’s election chief and a former Cabinet minister with 17864 votes. She is a member of the Scottish Nationalist Party.
From a young age, she would march for causes as diverse as support for a Scottish parliament and opposition to the Iraq war. She made history by becoming the youngest lawmaker in UK history since the 17th century. In 1667, after being returned as knight of the shire Christopher Monck took his place in Parliament when he was just 13.
Nuclear Insurance Pool: A common insurance pool to pay for nuclear damages under the CLND Act, 2010. The term Nuclear Insurance Pool (NIP) was in news in April and May 2015 as the General Insurance Corporation of India (GIC) was collecting views from the stakeholders in the Insurance industry and Nuclear Energy sector about the creation of the NIP.
The NIP is intended to cover the liability of Nuclear Plant operators and Equipment and Material Suppliers under Civil Liability for Nuclear Damages (CLND) Act, 2010 in case of nuclear accidents. The creation of the Pool has become necessary due to the reluctance of the foreign nuclear equipment suppliers to participate in the nuclear trade with India as the CNLD Act, 2010 has imposed liability on them in case of nuclear accidents.
The GIC is given the responsibility by the Union Government for the creation of the NIP and it will be of 1500 crore rupees and the GIC will invest 750 crore rupees in it. At present, nuclear plants in India only have insurance cover for zones that are outside the area of radiation and reactors. However, the NIP will provide insurance cover for both hot zones (radiation and nuclear reactors) and cold zones (outside the reactor areas).
Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong on 7 May 2015 opened first museum Indian Heritage Centre in Little India. The museum was dedicated to Indian history. Singapore is celebrating 50 years of its independence in 2015 as well as 50 years of diplomatic relations with India.
The Government of India has presented busts of four nationalist leaders to Singapore’s Indian Heritage Centre (IHC). IHC is now open to the public. The nationalist leaders’ busts – including of Mahatama Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, Pandit Jawarhalal Nehru and Netaji Subash Chandra Bose – are displayed in IHC’s gallery on Social and Political Awakening in Singapore. The IHC is built at a cost of 16 million Singapore dollars and managed by the country’s National Heritage Board.
The four-storey building is located in the heart of Little India, and blends traditional Indian and modern architectural elements. Its thematic galleries showcase diverse stories of various groups within Singapore’s Indian community and their rich links with the global Indian diaspora.
Nepal Rastra Bank on 7 May 2015 announced to provide interest-free loans for rebuilding houses. The bank will provide interest-free loans of up to 25 lakh nepali rupees in the Kathmandu Valley and 15 lakh nepali rupees for those outside the capital for house reconstruction. Nepal Rastra Bank is the regulatory authority of the Nepalese economy.
The central bank also said the commercial banks and financial institutions could take a maximum interest of 2 per cent under home loan for such purposes. Meanwhile, Nepal’s Parliament unanimously passed a resolution committing to work together in the reconstruction work in the aftermath of the earthquake that devastated central and eastern hilly parts of Nepal.
The earthquake on 25 April 2015 and another one the following day of 7.9 and 6.7 magnitude have claimed 7765 lives and have left over 16000 injured.
It is the central bank of Nepal. It supervises the banks and financial institutions in Nepal and guides monetary policy. Nepal Rastra Bank also oversees foreign exchange rates and the country’s foreign exchange reserves and regulates the foreign exchange policy.
Muglawali village near Adi Badri: Paleo channel claimed as River Saraswati identified. Muglawali village of Yamungar district in Harayana located near Adi Badri was in news on 5 May 2015. The village came into news after district authorities claimed that they have dugged out a paleo (old) channel which resembles now inactive River Saraswati.
During digging, which was done under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNGEGS), the water was discovered from nine spots. Water found at various spots hints towards presence of a paleo channel (remnants of inactive river) and the initial study of water and sediments by a geologist hints that they are distinct from the locally available water and minerals.
It is widely believed by geologists that Saraswati used to flow from upper Himalayas and entered the plains near Adi Badri, located in the foothills of lower Shivalik mountain ranges. Digging is being done as part of excavation work of Saraswati Revival Project that started at Rullaheri village on 21 April 2015. The project was started after the decision of Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar to create a new water channel on the dry bed.
Earlier in 2006, a similar attempt towards identifying the River Saraswati route was undertaken under Project Saraswati by the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC). As part of it, ONGC had successfully drilled India’s deepest fresh-water well at a depth of about 500 metre below the ground-level near Jaisalmer in Rajasthan.
The Union Government and Asian Development Bank (ADB) on 7 May 2015 signed a 31 million US dollars loan agreement to boost water availability in selected river basins in Karnataka and ensure improved water efficiency in irrigation. The agreement was signed by Raj Kumar, Joint Secretary (Multilateral Institutions), Department of Economic Affairs on behalf of the Union Government and M Teresa Kho, Country Director of ADB in India.
ADB’s loan of 31 million US dollars will cover about 65 percent of the total project cost of 48 million US dollars with the state government of Karnataka providing the balance of 17 million US dollars. The loan is the first tranche of the Karnataka Integrated and Sustainable Water Resources Management Investment Program of 150 million US dollars, approved by ADB in 2014. The program will improve irrigation efficiency in three river basins in the state saving 1700 million cubic meters of water. This saved water could be used on an additional 160000 hectares of farmland which will further lead to increase in farm incomes by about 50 percent and benefit about 1.5 million people.
Besides, the loan will help train and certify over 200 Water Resources Department (WRD) staff in integrated water resources management and build capacities of water users cooperative societies. Through this project, Advanced Centre for IWRM (AC-IWRM) will be developed into a sub-regional accredited institute to provide certification in the field of IWRM.
The National Smart Grid Mission (NSGM) was in news on 7 May 2015 as the Union Minister of state for Power, Coal & New and Renewable Energy (IC) Piyush Goyal gave information about it in the Lok Sabha. The mission was approved by the Union Government on 27 March 2015.
The mission entails implementation of a smart electrical grid based on state-of-the art technology in the fields of automation, communication and IT systems that can monitor and control power flows from points of generation to points of consumption.
Lok Sabha on 7 May 2015 gave its nod for the Repealing and Amending Bill, 2015 which seeks to repeal 36 archaic laws either partially or entirely as they have ceased to be in force or have become obsolete. With this, the bill has been passed by both the houses of Parliament as Rajya Sabha passed the bill on 5 May 2015. Out of the 36 acts, four acts will be repealed entirely. These include The Indian Fisheries Act, 1897, The Foreign Jurisdiction Act, 1947 and The Sugar Undertakings (Taking over of Management) Act, 1978.
The remaining 32 Acts that are being repealed are amendments to principal Acts. These include amendments to the Representation of the People Act, 1951, Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, Anand Marriage Act, 1909 the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 among others.
A similar bill, the Repealing and Amending (Second) Bill, 2014 was passed by the Lok Sabha on 8 December 2014 and is lying with the Rajya Sabha. It is sought to repeal 90 laws and pass amendments to two laws. Out of 90 laws, 88 laws will be repealed completely.
The passage of The Repealing and Amending Bill, 2015 by the Parliament is in tune with the Union government’s objective of repealing the obsolete laws as they have outlived their utility. Around 1741 laws in the country have become redundant but still they are in existence. In this regard the BJP-led NDA government had identified certain Appropriation Acts that needs to be repealed. These Acts pertain to the domain of Union Finance Ministry and Railway Ministry. In lieu of this, the Appropriation Acts (Repeal) Bill, 2015 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 24 April 2015 which intended to repeal 758 Acts passed by the Parliament including Appropriation Acts [including also, Appropriation (Railways) Acts] enacted between 1950 and 2012 and 111 State Appropriation Acts enacted by the Parliament between 1950 and 1976.
Underwater explorers in Madagascar on 7 May 2015 said that they have discovered treasure belonging to the notorious 17th Century Scottish pirate captain William Kidd. The explorers, which were a joint team of UK and US archaeological research mission, brought a 50-kg silver bar to shore on the island of Sainte Marie, from wreckage of the Adventure Galley, the ship of Captain Kidd.
The bar was presented to Madagascar’s President at a special ceremony.
Captain Kidd was first appointed by the British authorities to tackle piracy but later became a ruthless criminal. He was executed in 1701 for piracy after returning from a voyage to the Indian Ocean. Besides, the US explorer Barry Clifford said that he believes there are many more such bars still in the wreck.
Earlier, a team led by Barry Clifford in 2000 during underwater investigation discovered some remains of William Kidd’s ship, Adventure Galley, including a metal oarlock, shards of Ming porcelain and bottles of rum three centuries old.
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Read Also: #Current Affairs: 7th May 2015