Current Affairs- February,2015:
17 Agreements signed between India and France during PM Narendra Modi’s visit
India and France on 11 April 2015 signed 17 agreements in various fields during Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi’s visit to France.They were signed in presence of Indian PM and his counterpart French President Francois Hollande after they had held wide-ranging talks in Paris.
Some of key agreements signed are
- MoU between Larsen and Tubro and AREVA-It aims at improve the financial viability of the Jaitapur Nuclear plant project by reducing cost by increasing localization.
- It will also enable France to transfer of technology to India for development of indigenous nuclear energy industry in India.
- Pre-engineering agreements (PEA) between NPCIL and Areva-It intends to bring clarity on all technical aspects of the plant.
- It will help all parties including AREVA, Alstom and NPCIL to fix their price and optimise all provisions for risks (still included at this stage) in the costs of the project.
- MoU between CNES and ISRO on Megha Tropiques satellite-It extends MoU for two more years of joint project for sharing and use of data from the satellite.
- The satellite was launched in October 2011 on board of Indian launch vehicle PSLV.
- MOU between ISRO, CNES and ONERA-It proposes cooperation in the areas of satellite remote sensing, satellite communications and satellite meteorology and others field.
- MoU between Union Sports Ministry and French Ministry of Sports-It envisages cooperation and exchange of experiences in the fields of sports medicine and institutional cooperation.
- Railway protocol between Union Railways Ministry and French National Railways (SNCF)
It seeks to establish cooperation between Indian and French Railways for semi-high speed rail and station renovation.
Other agreements signed between both nations in the fields of economy, energy, culture,tourism, conservation, Ayurveda, skill development and science and technology.
BHEL, Russian firm INTMA ink MoU to set up power plant in Kazakhstan
Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with a Russian company INTMA to set up a gas-based power project in Kazakhstan.
The MoU aims set combined path to execute projects of mutual interest in Russia and Kazakhstan. In this regard, BHEL’s competence in design and manufacturing of power plants will play important role and INTMA’s strength in handling engineering procurement and construction contractors (EPC) contracts will implement the projects.
7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal
A high-intensity earthquake of magnitude 7.8 on the Richter scale had struck central Nepal between its capital Kathmandu and the city of Pokhara on 25 April 2015.Earthquake’s epicenter was 80 kilometers east of Pokhra near Kathmandu.
It had a depth of only 11 kilometers (7 miles) i.e. in geological terms it was a shallow depth.Earlier, Nepal had suffered its worst recorded earthquake in 1934. It was measured 8.0 and had destroyed the cities of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan. This earthquake in Nepal may have occurred because of two converging tectonic plates, the India plate and the overriding Eurasian plate.
India, Japan ink action agenda to boost trade, investment
India and Japan have signed a Five-point action agenda to increase bilateral trade and investment between the two nations.
The action agenda was signed between Japan’s Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry Yoichi Miyazawa and Minister of State (independent charge) for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman.
The five-point agenda includes
- Development of selected townships in India as Japanese industrial townships.
- Promotion of investment and infrastructure development.
- Further development and cooperation in IT sector.
- Enhancing cooperation in strategic sectors.
- Asia-Pacific economic integration.
Seychelles becomes 161st member of World Trade Organisation
Seychelles, an archipelago of 90000 inhabitants became the 161st member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). It is one of the smallest nations among the WTO members.
This approval by WTO ended Seychelles 20-year long wait to become a member of WTO since it had applied for WTO membership in May 1995.
Nasim Zaidi appointed as Chief Election Commissioner
President Pranab Mukherjee on 9 April 2015 appointed the senior most Election Commissioner (EC), Dr. Nasim Zaidi as the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC).
He will succeed incumbent CEC HS Brahma, who retires on 19 April 2015 after attaining age 65. Dr Zaidi will have tenure of two years i.e. till he attains the age of 65 in July 2017.
National Judicial Appointment Commission Act, 2014 comes into force
Union Government has brought into force the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act, 2014 along with the 99th Constitutional Amendment Act, 2014.In this regard, notification to effect from 13 April 2015 was issued by the Union Law Ministry.
With this new law the collegium system to appoint members to the higher judiciary has come to an end. Now President will appoint judges in the Supreme Court (SC) and 24 High Courts (HCs) in consultation with the NJAC.
Composition of NJAC
As per Article 124A, NJAC is a 6 member constitutional body. Consisting of
Chairman-Chief Justice of India (CJI).
- Members-Two senior most Judges of the Supreme Court, the Union Minister of Law and Justice and two eminent persons.
- Two eminent persons will be nominated by committee led by Prime Minister of India, the CJI, and the Leader of the Opposition in the House of the People.
Union Cabinet approves lowering of age of Juveniles from 18 to 16 years for heinous
Union Cabinet has approved lowering of age of juveniles from eighteen to sixteen years for heinous crimes.The cabinet also approved to introduce Amendment to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2014.
This amendment will propose and add special provisions to tackle heinous offences like murder and rape committed by juveniles in the age group of 16-18 years.The proposed bill will amend the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000. The parent Act clearly defines and classifies offences as serious, petty and heinous and defines differentiated processes for each classified category.
India’s rescue operation in quake-hit Nepal named as Operation Maitri
Indian Army has named the rescue and aid to Nepal ‘Operation Maitri’ or friendship which was aftermath of 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal. This operation will involve number of Indian military aircraft and choppers along with bus services through road route.
Along with them more than 1000 trained personnel of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) will also take part in this operation.Under the operation, a Multi-National Coordination Centre (MNCC) has been set up. In addition, for relief operations Headquarters has been established in PPO Pokhra. Since the launch of operation more than 1000 Indian citizens have been safely flown from Nepal.
Person in News
Gulshan Rai takes charge as India’s first cyber security chief
Gulshan Rai on 1 April 2015 took charge as India’s first cyber security chief under the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) as Special Secretary for cyber security.Prime Minister Narendra Modi in March 2015 had created this new post in PMO and had appointed Rai as its head.Prior to this appointment, he was Director-General Computer Emergency Response Team(CERT) at the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY).
Novelist Siddhartha Gigoo wins 2015 Commonwealth Short Story Prize in Asia region
Novelist Siddhartha Gigoo has won 2500 pounds 2015 Commonwealth Short Story Prize in Asia region for his novel Umbrella Man.
With this win he will compete with the other four regional winners for the 5000 pounds grand prize which will be announced in London on 8 September 2015.
Raja Rajeswari, first Indian-American woman judge of New York
Ms. Raja Rajeswari became the first Indian-born woman to be appointed a judge in New York City. She was sworn-in as a criminal court judge in New York by Mayor Bill de Blasio along with 27 other judges.
They were appointed as judges earlier to the Family Court, Criminal Court, and Civil Court, which are part of the New York State Unified Court System.
Science & Tech
Newly discovered Spider named after Telangana state
Newly discovered spiders of Thomisidae family have been named as Telangana crab spider (Thomisus telanganensis) i.e. after Indian state of Telangana.
These spiders were discovered by G.B. Pravalikha and Chelmala Srinivasulu, wildlife and taxonomy researchers from the Zoology Department of Osmania University at an expedition at Nagnur in Karimnagar district of Telangana.
Asteroid 316201 named after Malala Yousafzai
Asteroid 316201 was named as ‘316201 Malala’ after the youngest Nobel laureate and girls’ education campaigner Malala Yousafzai.
The asteroid was named after her by Amy Mainzer, astronomer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, United States under the International Astronomical Union rules.
In 2010, Mainzer had discovered the asteroid which was known as 316201. As a discoverer of the asteroid she had owned the rights to name it.
New species of Geckos discovered at Hampi in Karnataka
A new species of a gecko was spotted at the ruins of the World Heritage Site of Hampi in Karnataka. It was named as Cnemaspis adii after a young herpetology researcher Aditya Srinivasulu from Hyderabad, Telangana.It was spotted by the researchers from the Osmania University in Hyderabad.
Cnemaspis adii gecko is similar to a type of lizard usually found in warm climates. It belongs to the family of day geckos which are characterized by round pupils unlike regular geckos which have vertical pupils.
Three super-Earths orbiting nearby star discovered
Scientists have discovered three planets orbiting a nearby star named HD 7924 that is only 54 light-years away.
These planets were discovered by Automated Planet Finder (APF) Telescope located at Lick Observatory in California and W M Keck Observatory, Hawaii.
They were traced out using the Doppler technique and the APT made crucial measurements of the brightness of HD 7924 to assure the validity of the planet discoveries.
Each of the discovered planets has mass 7 to 8 times that of Earth and complete their orbit’s in just 5, 15, and 24 days around HD 7924.
Railway Ministry launches mobile app for paperless unreserved tickets
The Railway Ministry has launched ‘utsonmobile’, a mobile application for paperless unreserved tickets.The application service was launched by Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu in New Delhi.
This application will allow its passenger to buy a ticket on the move and to board the train with the ticket secured on his mobile phone in digital format, without any need for printing the ticket.Initially, it has been launched as a pilot project and cover 15 stations in Southern Railway.
50th Jnanpith Award conferred on Marathi litterateur Bhalchandra Nemade
50th Jnanpith Award was conferred on eminent Marathi litterateur Bhalchandra Nemade on 25 April 2015.
He was presented award comprising of 11 lakh rupees and a citation plaque and a bronze replica of Saraswati by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a function in Parliament House Complex in New Delhi.His novel, Kosala, written in 1963 is considered as a path breaking in Marathi literature.
Veteran Australian Cricket legend and former Captain Richie Benaud passes away
Ace Indian shooter Jitu Rai on 12 April 2015 won a bronze medal in the 10m air pistol event at the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup in Changwon, South Korea.
Sania Mirza becomes first Indian female tennis player ranked World No.1 in Women’s Doubles
Sania Mirza on 12 April 2015 created history by becoming the first Indian female tennis
player to achieve the world number one rank in doubles category.
She achieved this feat after winning WTA Family Circle Cup along with her Swiss partner Martina Hingis.
New Zealand wins Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament 2015
New Zealand has won the 24th edition of Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament 2015 for second time.
Earlier, New Zealand had won the Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament in 2012. It is third time Australia came as runner-ups position in tournament (1999, 2006 and 2015).
Parliament passes Regional Rural Banks (Amendment) Bill, 2014
Parliament has passed Regional Rural Banks (Amendment) Bill, 2014. It was first passed in Lok Sabha on December 22, 2014 and later in Rajya Sabha on April 28, 2015.This bill amends Regional Rural Banks Act, 1976 and aims to strengthen the Regional Rural Banks (RRBs) and deepen their financial inclusion.
- Authorised capital:This amendment bill increases the authorised capital of each Regional Rural Bank (RRB) from Rs 5 crore to Rs 2000 crore divided into Rs 200 crore of fully paid share of Rs 10 each.
- As per the parent Act the Rs 5 crore share capital of RRBs is split into 5 lakh shares of Rs 100 each.
- Issued capital:It also provides that the authorised capital issued by any RRB’s shall not be reduced below Rs 1 crore and shares in all cases to be fully paid up shares of Rs 10 each.
- Shareholding:The Bill allows RRBs to raise capital from sources other than the central and state governments, and sponsor banks.
- Board of directors:The Bill adds provision that any person who is a director of an RRB is not eligible to be on the Board of Directors of another RRB.
- It also mentions that directors will be elected by shareholders based on the total amount of equity share capital issued to such shareholders.
- Tenure of directors:The bill raises the tenure of directors to 3 years from existing 2 years.The Bill also states that no director can hold office for a total period exceeding six years.
National Institute of Electronics and Information Technology inks MoU with Snapdeal
National Institute of Electronics and Information Technology (NIELIT) on 23 April 2015 signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with e-commerce giant Snapdeal to roll out digital marketing courses.
The MoU aims at helping small and medium enterprises/businesses and artisans who want to take the online route to become entrepreneurs.
Snapdeal by being a knowledge partner will provide inputs on the course and will facilitate industry interactions for the participants.
To begin with, the course will be launched in six centres across India. They are Srinagar, New Delhi, Calicut, Chennai Aurangabad and Kolkata.
PM Narendra Modi launches MUDRA Bank to provide credit to small entrepreneurs
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 8 April 2015 launched Micro Units Development Re-finance Agency (MUDRA) Bank in New Delhi.MUDRA Bank will act as a regulator for ‘Micro-Finance Institutions’ (MFIs) involved in manufacturing, trading and service activities to promote their growth.
The Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana will be the main support system for the bank and will be the part of Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI).
The MUDRA bank was proposed in Budget 2015-16 by Union Government with an initial corpus of 20,000 crore rupees. Apart from this, 3,000 crore rupees also has been earmarked as credit guarantee corpus.
MUDRA Bank will provide financing on 3 stages- Shishu, Kishore and Tarun.
- Shishu is first stage in which loan cover upto Rs 50,000 will be given to a business entity at start of business.
- Kishore is second stage in which loan cover ranging from Rs 50,000 to Rs 5 lakh will be given.
- Tarun is the third stage in which loan cover up to Rs. 10 lakh will be given.
Union Government launches FAME-India scheme to boost electric, hybrid vehicle sales
Union Government on 1 April 2015 launched Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric vehicles (FAME) – India Scheme.The scheme was launched as part of the National Mission for Electric Mobility to boost eco-friendly vehicles sales in the country.
- The overall scheme is proposed to be implemented over a period next 6 years i.e. till 2020.
- It envisages providing Rs 795 crore support till 2020 for the manufacturing and sale of electric and hybrid vehicles.
- It will be implemented in phases. The Phase-1 will be implemented over a two year period in FY15-16 and FY16-17.
- Based on the outcome and experience from the Phase-1, it will be reviewed for implementation after 31 March 2017. Then appropriate fund will be allocated for future.
- Four focus areas of scheme-Technology development, Pilot Projects, Demand Creation and Charging Infrastructure.
ISRO successfully tests indigenous cryogenic engine with four-tonne capacity
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on 28 April 2015 successfully tested an indigenous cryogenic engine.The powerful version of the cryogenic engine was tested successfully at ISRO’s propulsion complex at Mahendragiri in Tirunelveli district of TamilNadu. A team headed by Director D Karthikesan had led the testing.This engine will allow launch vehicles to carry satellites of up to capacity of four tonnes in geostationary orbit. It will also give boost to India’s interplanetary probes and manned space missions.
Indian Army conducts Akraman–II defense exercise in Rajasthan
Indian Army on 26 April 2015 conducted a major exercise ‘Akraman-II’ in Rajasthan.The exercise was conducted by the Chetak Corps, a part of South Western Command based in Bhatinda, Punjab.
The exercise aimed to test a new generation of weaponry and platforms which are employed in the desert region to provide ‘real time battle and situational awareness’ to its commanders.In this exercise more than 300 Combat Vehicles including Main Battle Tanks,Long Range Artillery Guns participated along with 10,000 troops.
India and France begin naval exercise ‘Varuna’
10-day naval exercise ‘Varuna’ between India and France began on 23 April 2015 off the Goa coast.
It is the fourteenth edition of this naval exercise which will host of naval assets of both countries and will conclude on 3 May 2015.This exercise will include the entire gamut of various maritime operations from aircraft carrier operations, maritime interdiction operations, anti-submarines warfare exercises to multi-ship replenishment exercise.
INS Visakhapatnam, stealth destroyer of Indian Navy launched
Indian Navy’s new stealth destroyer named INS Visakhapatnam was launched on 20 April 2015 at the Mazgaon Docks Ltd (MDL) in Mumbai, Maharashtra.
Visakhapatnam is the Kolkata-class warship and the first of P15-B stealth destroyers which is designed indigenously and fitted with advanced features. It is the largest destroyer
Odisha Government launches Aahar scheme
Odisha Government on 1 April 2015 launched ‘Aahar’- cheap meal scheme for providing subsidised food to urban poor.It was launched by Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik at the Capital Hospital in Bhubaneswar on the occasion the foundation day of the state i.e.Utkala Dibasa.
Facts about Aahar- cheap meal scheme
- It aims at providing meal at Rs. five to the urban poor.
- In the first phase scheme was launched simultaneously in five cities of state including Bhubaneswar, Rourkela, Cuttack, Berhampur and Sambalpur.
- The subsidised meals will be provided at four crowded places each in these five cities to people visiting urban areas for various work
India’s first IFSC becomes operational at GIFT City in Gujarat
India’s first International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) became operational at Gujarat International Finance Tec (GIFT) City in Gandhinagar district of Gujarat.It became operational after Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley unveiled the rules and regulations for this global financial hub.
Key facts of IFSC rules and regulations
- Aim at creating a vibrant IFSC on the lines of those in Dubai and Singapore.
- They also seek to check the flight of trading in rupee and Indian securities to such offshore financial hubs.
- These rules will allow companies incorporate outside India to raise money in foreigncurrencies by issuance and listing of their equity shares on stock exchanges within the IFSC.
- They will also allow individual and institutional investors from India and abroad, including NRIs to trade.
- Allows foreign and Indian stock exchanges to set up separate bourses within IFSC as subsidiaries.
- Relaxes capital and other requirements for some time in order to facilitate exchanges, clearing corporations and depositories to set shop in the IFSC.
- Allows alternative investment funds and mutual funds that have set up in the IFSC to invest in the securities listed there.
Kerala government launches Subodham project to end liquor, drug abuse
Kerala government has launched Subodham, a major campaign in a bid to wean people away from addiction to liquor, drug and other substance abuse.It was launched by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Art of Living Foundation founder Sri Sri Ravishankar. This project is also state government’s first step towards ‘Punarjani 2030 Project’, an initiative to completely eradicate the menace of substance abuse.
- Subodham project aims to free one lakh people in the state each year from alcoholaddiction, through systematic, comprehensive awareness campaigns.
- It also aims to achieve the ambitious target of making the state totally alcohol free over the next 10 years.
- The project is supported by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund(UNICEF).
Assam awarded as Best e-Panchayat state on National Panchayati Raj Diwas
State of Assam has been awarded as the Best e-Panchayat state on 25 April 2015 on the occasion of National Panchayati Raj Diwas by PM Narendra Modi.
Apart from this award, 8 Panchayat Raj Institutes of state also received Rajiv Gandhi Panchayat Shasaktikaran award.These panchayat raj institutes are – Agomoni Anchalik Parishad, Morigaon Zila Parishad, Ketri Gaon Panchayat, Mayong Gaon Panchayat, Boitamari Anchalik Parishad, Halakula Gaon Panchayat, Chandrapur Gaon Panchayat and Baghara Gaon Panchayat.
NGT bans burning of waste in Delhi NCR
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has ordered a complete ban on burning of any kind of garbage, leaves, plastic waste and rubber in the open in Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR).
This decision of NGT bench headed by its chairperson Swatanter Kumar comes in line with a series of orders to control air pollution in the Delhi- NCR and on an application by a person identified as Vardhaman Kaushik.
In this regard, NGT also has directed authorities to levy a fine of Rs 5,000 on anyone found burning such material in the open.
April 1 : Orissa Day
April 5 : Natinal Meritime Day
April 7 : World Health Day
April 11 : National Safe Motherhood Day
April 13 : Jallianwallah Bagh Massacre Day (1919)
April 14 : B.R. Ambedkar Remembrance Day
April 18 : World Heritage Day
April 22 : World Earth Day
April 23 : World Books Day
April 24 : National Panchayati Raj Diwas
April 25 : World Malaria Day