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MHA lists out reasons for cancelling Greenpeace licence: The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has
cited several reasons for cancelling the registration of Greenpeace India under the Foreign Contribution Regulation
Act (FCRA). One of them is payment of annual salary of around 56,951 Euros to international activist Greg Muttitt.
While Greenpeace has maintained that Muttitt, author of ‘Fuel on the Fire: Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq’, was
on a valid work permit to India, the government said the NGO concealed the information and it chanced upon his salary
slip during an inspection. The MHA order of September 2 said that this was a violation of Section 33 of FCRA, 2010.
The cancellation of FCRA permit of Greenpeace India effectively means that the NGO can no longer receive foreign
funds and would have to depend on domestic contributions for its operations.

Govt to wind up 115-yr old natural calamity trust IPNCT: Government has decided to wind up 115-year-old
natural Indian People’s Natural Calamity Trust (IPNCT) and transfer the balance corpus fund of Rs 91 lakh to the
Prime Minister’s Relief Fund. The Indian People’s Natural Calamity Trust (IPNCT) was created by former Ruler of Jaipur
in 1900 with an objective to provide relief to the people during famine. The Trust is being administered under the
chairmanship of Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh with 27 nominated members and two officers. The Agriculture
Ministry said in a release on September 3, 2015 that since its last meeting held in August 1995, the Trust has no
significant activity except giving donations through PM Relief Fund in case of natural disasters 

PM releases digital version of Ramcharitmanas musical recorded by AIR: Describing ‘Ramcharitmanas’
as a great work which imbibes the “essence of India”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 31, 2015 released the
digital version of a musical production on the epic recorded by All India Radio in New Delhi. Minister for Information
and Broadcasting Arun Jaitley and Chairman Prasar Bharati Board A Suryaprakash were present on the occasion.

DBT-Pan IIT Centre for Bioenergy launched: The Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Ministry of Science
and Technology, Government of India launched the “DBT-Pan IIT Centre for Bioenergy”, a virtual Centre spread across
5 Indian Institutes of Technology; Bombay, Kharagpur, Guwahati, Jodhpur, and Roorkee and coordinated by IIT Bombay
signing a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) on September 3, 2015. The first virtual centre for collaborative research
will focus on the thematic areas of research in advance bio-fuel technologies. The MoA was signed between DBT and
the participating 5 IITs on Sep 3, 2015 in presence of Prof. K Vijay Raghavan, Secretary DBT. 

Number of scholarships doubled under National Talent Search Scheme: Number of scholarships under
National Talent Search Scheme will be doubled to 2000 from existing 1000. This was announced by the Union Minister
of Human Resource Development Smriti Irani at the 55th Foundation Day celebration of the NCERT in New
Delhi on September 1, 2015. 

3-member panel submits report on FTII situation to Govt: A three-member committee constituted by
the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to examine the “ground situation” at Film and Television Institute of India
(FTII) submitted its report on September 1, 2015. The report was submitted by Registrar of Newspapers for India (RNI)
DG S M Khan, who headed the committee, to officials in the I&B Ministry. The Information and Broadcasting Ministry
had formed the committee in August to assess the ground situation at Pune FTII, after students had gheraoed director
Prashant Pathrabe in his office over “assessment” process. FTII has been witnessing an over two month long students’
protest after the name of actor Gajendra Chauhan was announced as the institute chairman. 

HAL completes hot & high altitude trials of LCH at Leh: The hot and high-altitude trials of
indigenously designed and developed attack chopper Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) has been successfully carried out
at Leh recently, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited said in Bengaluru on September 3, 2015. The seasonal trials - including
cold weather trials carried out at Leh during February 2015 - have been completed as part of the certification process.
The flight trials at Leh have established hover performance and low speed handling characteristics of the helicopter
under extreme weather conditions at different altitudes (3,200 to 4,800m). “LCH is the first attack helicopter to
land in Forward Bases at Siachen,” HAL Chairman and Managing Director Suvarna Raju said. 

Keep death sentence only for terror-related offences – Law panel: The Law Commission, in a report
released on August 31, 2015, recommended India abolish the death penalty, with the exception of terror-related offences,
saying that sending a convict to the gallows has lost its relevance as a deterrent to curb heinous offences. Making
an exception for terrorism, it noted that “a concern is often raised that abolition of death penalty for terrorism
related offences and waging war (against India), will affect the national security”. “It (capital punishment is deterrent)
is a myth. It is no deterrence. It has lost its relevance as deterrent,” said Justice (retd.) A.P. Shah while releasing
the report on his last day as the Chairman of the Law Commission.

National Nutrition Week: Govt to focus on child malnourishment: The Women and Child Development
Ministry has decided to intensify its efforts in battling malnourishment among children as it prepares to observe
National Nutrition Week from September 1 to 7. To be celebrated with the theme of ‘Better Nutrition: Key to Development’,
National Nutrition Week 2015 will be marked by organising state-level workshops, lectures, exhibitions and showcasing
films on the importance of nutrition. 

Kutiyattam exponent Guru Kidangoor Rama Chakyar passes away: Guru Kidangoor Rama Chakyar, an eminent
Kutiyattam exponent, passed away on September 2, 2015 at Vallachira, Thrissur, Kerala. Born in 1927 in Kottayam,
Kerala, Kidangoor Rama Chakyar, was particularly well known for his performances of ManthrankamKoothu in the Annamanada
temple; he performed in the temple for more than six decades. He also taught Kutiyattam for a number of years at
Kerala Kalamandalam. His work was documented by the Sanskrit University, Kalady. For his outstanding work as a teacher
and performer, Rama Chakyar was honoured by Kerala Kalamandalam, the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi and the Sangeet
Natak Akademi Award (2004). 

India, Mauritius ink deal over stock exchanges: The National Stock Exchange of India (NSE) has signed
a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Stock Exchange of Mauritius (SEM) for co-operation between the two exchanges,
an official statement said in Mumbai on September 3, 2015. The statement said the objectives of the tie-up was to
foster a deeper and more strategic relationship between the two institutions, facilitating the development of channels
for knowledge sharing and developing mutual synergies for the growth and development of SEM and NSE.

India pledges Rs.4,500 crore project aid to Bhutan: India on September 2, 2015 pledged Rs.4,500
crore of project assistance to close neighbour Bhutan. The assistance for Bhutan’s 11th Five Year Plan (July 2013-June
2018) was decided at the Fourth Annual India-Bhutan Development Cooperation Talks held in New Delhi. The annual Development
Cooperation Talks are the umbrella mechanism for discussing India’s bilateral developmental assistance to Bhutan.

Islamic State ‘blows up Palmyra funerary towers’: Jihadist militants from Islamic State (IS) have blown
up three funerary towers at the ancient city of Palmyra, Syria’s antiquities authorities confirmed on August 29,

They included the Tower of Elahbel, built in AD103 and one of the best-preserved. The multi-storey sandstone monuments,
standing outside the city walls in an area known as the Valley of the Tombs, belonged to rich Palmyrene families.
Their demolition comes only days after IS blew up Palmyra’s two main temples.

The group, which captured the UNESCO World Heritage site from government forces in May, has previously destroyed two
Islamic shrines - those of a Shia saint and Sufi scholar - near Palmyra, which they described as “manifestations
of polytheism”.

The Valley of the Tombs, in the hills to the south and west of the ruins of the Greco-Roman city, contains a series of
funerary towers of various sizes. The towers were divided into compartments, or loculi, into which sarcophagi were
placed before being sealed with slabs of stone carved with an image of the deceased and painted in lively colours.
The Tower of Elahbel was among the most prominent. It was four storeys high and could purportedly accommodate up
to 300 sarcophagi.

Satellite images confirmed reports that IS had destroyed the Temple of Bel, which the UN Educational, Scientific, and
Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) said was one of the most important religious edifices of the 1st Century in the East.

In July, the jihadist group blew up the smaller Temple of Baalshamin and beheaded the archaeologist who looked after
the site for four decades, Khaled al-Asaad, after he reportedly refused to reveal where treasures had been hidden.

UNESCO’s Director General Irina Bokova has said the systematic destruction of Palmyra constitutes a “war crime” and called
on the international community to stand united against IS efforts to “deprive the Syrian people of its knowledge,
its identity and history”.

IS has ransacked and demolished several similar ancient sites that pre-date Islam in Iraq. The sale of looted antiquities
is nevertheless one of the group’s main sources of funding. It has also been accused of destroying ancient sites
to gain publicity.

The Syrian authorities removed hundreds of statues and priceless objects before IS overran Palmyra, among them the carved
images found in the funerary towers.

Puerto Rico declares Spanish as official language: The Puerto Rican Senate has approved a bill declaring
Spanish as the first official language of the country, relegating English to second position, the media reported
in capital San Juan on September 4, 2015. In 1993, a law was passed recognising both Spanish and English official
languages for the country. The new bill proposes to establish Spanish as the first official language making its use
compulsory in executive, legislative and judicial matters, and thus repeal Law 1-1993 which put both languages on
an equal footing.

UK rolls out world’s first Meningitis B vaccination programme: Britain on September 1, 2015 became
the first country to implement a vaccination programme for all newborn babies against meningitis B, which is fatal
in one in 10 cases. Campaigners hope the vaccine, which will be given to babies at two, four and 12 months old, will
prevent up to 4,000 cases by 2025. It is billed as the world’s first nationwide publicly-funded programme against
the infection. Bacterial Meningitis, which includes Meningitis B, accounts for 170,000 deaths globally every year,
according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Obama to rename tallest US peak as ‘Mount Denali’: After decades of controversy, the name of Mount
McKinley, the tallest mountain in North America, has been changed back to its original native Alaskan, Denali. The
20,237ft (6,168m) peak was named by a gold prospector in 1896 after he heard that William McKinley had been nominated
to become the US president. US President Barack Obama announced the change on August 31, 2015 ahead of a three-day
visit to Alaska to highlight climate change. The new name Denali translates as High One or Great One and is used
widely by locals. McKinley was the 25th president of the United States. He was assassinated early in his second term
in 1901. 

First Dane in space arrives at ISS: The first Dane in space arrived on September 4, 2015 at the International
Space Station (ISS) as part of a three-man team after an unusually long voyage from Earth. Danish astronaut Andreas
Mogensen is accompanied by Russian cosmonaut Sergei Volkov and Aidyn Aimbetov from Kazakhstan. The trio blasted off
aboard a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur cosmodrome on September 2. They joined six astronauts already in space, bringing
the total number of people on the ISS to nine. Volkov is expected to remain in orbit until March 2016, along with
Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko and US astronaut Scott Kelly who are already aboard the ISS. Accompanied by veteran
Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, first-time flyers Aimbetov and Mogensen will return to Earth after 10 days on
the station. Russia is the only country still sending its own craft to the ISS after NASA ended its space shuttle
programme in 2011 and turned to private firms to fly supply missions there.

President confers National Sports and Adventure Awards 

President Pranab Mukherjee conferred National Sports and Adventure Awards at a ceremony held at Rashtrapati Bhawan in
New Delhi on August 29, 2015.  Winners are:

  • Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ranta 2015: Sania Mirza (Tennis)
  • Dronacharya Awards 2015: Naval Singh (Athletics-Para-sports), Anoop Singh (Wrestling), Harbans Singh (Athletics-
    Lifetime), Swatantar Raj Singh (Boxing- Lifetime), Nihar Ameen (Swimming-Lifetime)

  • Dhyan Chand Awards 2015: Romeo James (Hockey), Shiv Prakash Mishra (Tennis), T.P.P. Nair (Volleyball)
  • Arjuna Awards 2015: Naib Subedar Sandeep Kumar (archery), M.R. Poovamma (athletics), Kidambi Srikanth Nammalwar
    (badminton), Mandeep Jangra (boxing), Rohit Sharma (cricket), Dipa Karmakar (gymnastic), Sreejesh P.R. (hockey),
    Manjeet Chhillar (kabaddi), Abhilasha Shashikant Mhatre (kabaddi), Sawarn Singh (rowing), Anup Kumar Yama (roller
    skating), Jitu Rai (shooting), S. Sathish Kumar (weightlifting), Bajrang (wrestling), Babita Kumari (wrestling),
    Yumnam Sanathoi Devi (wushu) and Sharath M. Gayakwad (para-swimming).

  • Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award 2014: Arunima Sinha: Land Adventure, Jot Singh: Land Adventure, Wg.
    Cdr. Paramvir Singh: Water Adventure, Lt. Col. (Retd.) Satyendra Verma: Air Adventure, Col. (Retd.) Satish Chander
    Sharma: Life Time Achievement

  • Maulana Abul Kalma Azad (MAKA) Trophy 2014-15: Punjabi University, Patiala was conferred with Maulana Abul
    Kalam Azad Trophy for the year 2014-15.

  • Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar 2015 (category: winner): Identification and nurturing of budding/young talent:
    Directorate General of Military Training; Encouragement to sports through Corporate Social Responsibility: Coal
    India Limited; Employment of sportspersons and sports welfare measures: Haryana Police; Sports for Development:
    Sports Coaching Foundation, Hyderabad

Santoor exponent Bhajan Sopori wins Radhakrishnan award: Noted Santoor exponent Bhajan Sopori was
on September 4, 2015 conferred the ‘Dr S Radhakrishnan Memorial National Teacher and Media Award’ in New Delhi for
his contribution in the field of music and culture. Sopori, a Padma Shri and Sangeet Natak Akademi award recipient,
was part of as many as 60 professionals, who were felicitated for their “outstanding contribution” in their respective
areas of work on the eve of Teachers’ Day. The 66-year-old instrumentalist was felicitaed in an event organised by
an association of freelance journalists and writers at the Constitution Club.

India wins UNESCO award for conserving major temple in Kerala: India has won the top UNESCO prize ‘Award
of Excellence’ 2015 for the remarkable conservation efforts of the majestic Sree Vadakkunnathan Temple in Kerala,
the UN body announced in Bangkok on September 1, 2015. The Award of Excellence in Cultural Heritage Conservation
for Sree Vadakkunnathan Temple, Thrissur, Kerala was given at the Asia Pacific Heritage Awards. Sdaring Xieng Thong
Temple in Luang Prabang, Laos, won the Award of Merit.

RBI proposes formula to calculate Base Rate: To bring in uniformity among banks for calculation
of base rate and for effective transmission of policy rates, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on September 1, 2015
proposed a formula to calculate the base rate for lending. RBI suggested banks to consider marginal cost of funds
to calculate individual lending rates. RBI said that it would implement these proposals with effect from April 1,
2016. The components of Base Rate will include cost of funds, negative carry on CRR/SLR, un-allocable overhead costs
and average return on networth. At present, banks follow different methodologies for computing their Base Rate. While
some use the average cost of funds method, some have adopted the marginal cost of funds while others use the blended
cost of funds (liabilities) method. 

FMC to be merged with SEBI from September 28: The government on September 2, 2015 notified the merger
of commodities market regulator Forward Markets Commission (FMC) with SEBI with effect from September 28. “Forward
Contracts Regulation Act (FCRA) 1952 gets repealed and Regulation of Commodity Derivatives Market will shift to Securities
and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) under Securities Contracts Regulation Act (SCRA) 1956 with effect from 28th September,
2015,” the Finance Ministry said in a statement. A unified regulator for commodities and capital markets will help
streamline monitoring of commodity futures trading and curb wild speculations. In the wake of a Rs 5,500-crore payment
crisis at the National Spot Exchange Ltd, FMC was brought under Finance Ministry in 2013. Currently, there are three
national and six regional bourses for commodity futures in the country.

New policy for idle oil & gas blocks announced: The government will auction 69 small and marginal oil
and gas blocks - surrendered by state-owned ONGC Ltd and Oil India - to private firms on a revenue-sharing model
with full marketing and pricing freedom.

“The fields hold 89 million tonnes of oil and gas resources which are worth Rs 70,000 crore at current prices. The 69
fields will be clubbed into clusters and offered for bidding within three months,” oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan
said after a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs in New Delhi on September 2, 2015.

The CCEA, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, approved the auction of these fields that state-owned firms claimed
were uneconomical to develop because of the subsidy they had to bear for oil marketing PSUs for selling fuel below

The successful bidders of these fields would have the freedom to sell crude oil or natural gas at market-determined prices
without any government interference. Moreover, under the new dispensation, companies will be given the right to sell
gas to any customer and not according to a government-allocation policy as was the practice. Other than crude oil
and gas, the firms will be free to commercially exploit unconventional resources such as shale oil and gas, if they
find any, in these fields.

Analysts said the government’s move would evoke interest from global small and medium energy exploration firms that are
technologically sound. With the slump in global crude prices, rigs and other exploration services are cheaper now
and the timing is apt for exploration firms to enter the fields whose potential has already been established.

In the new regime, the companies will have to indicate the revenue they will share with the government at different stages
of production as well as at different rates. The bidding will take place on two parameters - 80 per cent on revenue
sharing and 20 per cent on appraisal and development wells.

For revenue-sharing, the bidders will have to quote two rates - lower revenue point and higher revenue point, which will
be determined based on production and price of the hydrocarbon. In other words, there will be a revenue-sharing matrix
over the life cycle of the field, which will be directly proportionate to output levels and price. The government
has not kept a fixed revenue share because it will not protect the Centre’s interest in case of any windfall gain.

While no cess will be charged from these fields, for crude oil production, the royalty has been marked at 12.5 per cent
for onshore, 10 per cent for shallow water and 5 per cent for the first seven years for deep and ultra-deep water
fields. For gas fields, the royalty rates are 10 per cent for onshore and shallow water and 5 per cent for deep and
ultra deep water.

The contract would be for 20 years, which could be extended by another 10 years based on the life cycle of the fields.
Of the 69 fields, 36 are offshore and another 33 are onshore fields. ONGC and Oil India will also be allowed to bid
for these fields. The fields are located in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and Nagaland.

The government has determined fixed timelines to commence production from these fields - three years for onland, four
years for shallow water and six years for deepwater fields. If explorers fail to meet the deadlines, the fields would
be taken back.

Over 300 cities identified for Housing for All scheme: The government has identified over 300 cities and
towns across nine states for implementing its Housing for All scheme, an official statement from the housing and
urban poverty alleviation ministry said in New Delhi on August 30, 2015. Under the Housing for All initiative, two
crore houses are targeted to be built for the poor in urban areas by 2022.

The selected cities and towns are in Chhattisgarh (36 cities/towns), Gujarat (30), Jammu and Kashmir (19), Jharkhand
(15), Kerala (15), Madhya Pradesh (74), Odisha (42), Rajasthan (40) and Telangana (34). 

The states that have so far agreed to implement the mandatory reforms are Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat,
Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Odisha, Rajasthan, Telangana and

Within two months of the launch of the Housing for All (Urban) Mission, 15 States have signed Memorandum of Agreement
(MoA) with the Ministry of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation committing themselves to implement six mandatory
reforms essential for making a success of the housing mission in urban areas. The six reforms include the following:

  • Doing away with the requirement of separate Non Agricultural Permission (NAP) in case land falls in the residential
    zone earmarked in the Master Plan of city or town;

  • Preparing or amending Master Plans earmarking land for Affordable Housing;
  • Putting in place a single-window-time bound clearance system for layout approvals and building permissions;
  • Doing away with approvals below certain built up area/ plot size in respect of Economically Weaker Sections and Low
    Income Groups;

  • Legislating or amending existing rent laws on the lines of the Model Tenancy Act circulated by the Ministry of HUPA
    ; and

  • To provide additional Floor Area Ratio (FAR)/Floor Space Index/Transferable Development Rights (TDR) and relax density
    norms , for slum redevelopment and low cost housing.

Gains from online gaming to be disclosed under black money law: Persons using e-wallets or virtual
cards and earning money through online gaming or poker hosted by websites in foreign countries will be required to
disclose such income under the black money compliance window, which ends on September 30. 

In its second set of 27 FAQs issued in September 2015, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has said the e-wallet
or virtual card is similar to a bank account and therefore “the valuation and declaration of an e-wallet account
may be made as in the case of a bank account”. 

CBDT was responding to a query whether persons maintaining e-wallet or a virtual card account online on a website hosted
in a foreign country is required to make a declaration under the new black money law. The e-wallet and virtual cards
are often used to play online games and pokers. 

In the case of undisclosed overseas bank accounts, a person is required to submit the details of credit since the opening
of the account and pay 60 per cent tax and penalty to take advantage of the 90-day compliance window ending September

If the person is unable to obtain the statement of bank accounts since its opening, the FAQs said he can make a declaration
on the basis of the “best estimate”. 

Clarifying on concerns raised by IT professionals, the FAQs said the non-residents who receive pension for the period
of employment in a foreign country, will have to disclose the accretions in accounts from the date of becoming a
resident in India. 

The Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act provides for tax and penalty of 120
per cent and a jail term of up to 10 years for holding undisclosed foreign assets. It offers a 90-day compliance
window to escape the harsh punishment by declaring the assets and paying 60 per cent tax and penalty.

Investment products should have no upfront commissions: Panel:  A government appointed panel has suggested
complete phase out of upfront commissions on investment products like insurance, mutual funds and pensions. The report
of the nine - member Committee headed by former Finance Secretary Sumit Bose was posted on the website of the Finance
Ministry in September 2015. 

Observations made in the report include the following:

  • A recurring complaint about the three investment products -- insurance, mutual funds and pensions -- has been their
    inability to increase their reach to Indian households. Consumer interests will be served by more transparent
    disclosures that enable consumers to understand products, compare them, and consequently choose those that serve
    their interests.

  • Upfront commissions in investment products and investment portion of bundled products skew seller behaviour and cause
    mis-selling and churning. These should be phased out completely. Upfront commissions for pure mortality should
    continue since selling pure life cover is relatively difficult.

  • Retail financial products must have product structures that allow costs and benefits to be easily understood by a
    retail investor. Costs for similar functions across product categories should be the same. There are three basic
    functions that a financial product serves - protection, investment and annuity.

  • In all products, including closed-end and open ended products, other than pension products, the choice of withdrawal
    should remain with the investor. The regulator should determine a surrender cost that the investor may bear in
    such products. The cost of surrender should be reasonable. The remaining money should belong to the exiting investors.

  • Product disclosure should be such that a customer can very clearly understand what it costs and what the benefits
    are. Returns should be disclosed as a function of investment and should disclose the e Internal Rate of Return
    (IRR) of the product.

  • Returns should not be pegged to a third number. For example, returns should not be shown as a percentage of sum assured.
    NAV should reflect the value of investment which would allow the consumers to take the point to point NAV and
    arrive at net investment returns.

Govt launches Sahaj, online release of new LPG connections: Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra
Pradhan on August 30, 2015 launched Sahaj, the online release of new liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) connections, through
the portal mylpg.in. Sahaj will enable customers to register for new LPG connections online and make online payments
for them.

Telecom regulator, TRAI proposes compensation to consumers for calls drops: Telecom Regulatory Authority
of India, TRAI on September 4, 2015 proposed that service providers should compensate mobile subscribers for call
drops and poor quality of services. The Telecom regulator released a paper, stating that  any call which gets dropped
within five seconds would not be charged, and in case a call gets dropped any time after five seconds, the last pulse
of the call should not be included for the purpose of charging. TRAI Chairman Ram Sewak Sharma, said that call drops
is a problem faced by consumers so they should be directly compensated. Telecom regulator also floated a consultation
paper seeking public view on the proposal.

Govt raises import tariff on gold to USD 369: The government on September 1, 2015 raised the import
tariff value on gold to USD 369 per 10 grams taking strong cues from the global market. The tariff value on silver
was however reduced to USD 471 per kg. In the second fortnight of August, the import tariff value on gold was USD
363 per 10 grams and on silver it was USD 499 per kg. The import tariff value is the base price at which the customs
duty is determined to prevent under-invoicing. The change in tariff value of the metals has been notified by the
Central Board of Excise and Customs. Gold is the second-largest import item for India after petroleum. Higher gold
import bill adversely affects the country’s current account deficit, which occurs when value of import of goods and
services is more than exports.

Govt releases Rs 194 cr for Smart City Mission: Government has released 194 crore rupees to 96 cities
under Smart City Mission for preparation of city plans. An official release said on September 3, 2015, Urban Development
Ministry has sanctioned the money at the rate of two crore rupees each of the 96 cities. Of the 98 smart city firmed
up so far,  funds will be sanctioned soon by the Home Ministry for Delhi and Chandigarh. One city each from Jammu
and Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh are still to be identified for inclusion in the Smart City Mission.  

Govt extends time for non-loanee farmers to insure kharif crops: The Government on September 3,
2015 extended deadline for those farmers who have not taken loan to insure Kharif crops under the National Agricultural
Insurance Scheme, NAIS, till September 15. According to the Agriculture Ministry, under NAIS the deadline to insure
2015 Kharif crop for loan availed farmers is till 30th of September, while for those who have not taken loan it was
till 31st of July, now being extended to 15th September. The extension will benefit farmers in states which had low
rainfall or late rain and delayed planting. The sowing of Kharif crops begins with the onset of southwest monsoon
from June. So far, more than 80 per cent of the total farm area has been sown, but in some states, planting has got
delayed due to poor rains.  

Regional workshop on smart cities for 10 northern states, Gujarat launched: Union Minister for Urban
Development Venkaiah Naidu inaugurated the regional workshop on smart cities for ten northern states and Gujarat
in New Delhi on September 3, 2015. This is the first of three such workshops being organized before the smart city
nominees and respective states begin the important work of preparation of city level smart city plans. Other workshops
will be organized in Hyderabad and Kolkata. The workshop will focus on how to prepare the smart city plan, to involve
the citizens and leveraging on the unique cultural and economical identity of the city. The event was attended by
Mayors and concerned officials from eleven states and union territories.  

Diamond Jubilee celebrations of EEPC held: The President of India Pranab Mukherjee inaugurated the
Diamond Jubilee celebrations of the Engineering Export Promotion Council (EEPC) at Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi on September
3, 2015. The President complemented EEPC for having become the largest organization of its kind with over 13,000
members out of whom 60% are SMEs after having started its journey with only 40 exporters at a time when India’s engineering
exports were all of 10 million US dollars. He pointed out that exports from India crossed US$70 billion in 2014-15.
Engineering is the leading segment of Indian industry and overseas shipments from this sector account for over 22%
of India’s total merchandise exports. The engineering sector accounts for 25% of India’s total factories in the organized
sector and contributes around 35% of total output in the country, being the highest foreign exchange earner. Anupam
Shah is Chairman of EEPC. 

Infosys launches solutions for small finance, payments banks: Infosys on September 2, 2015 launched
two new financial products for the Indian market that will help it tap the multi-million dollar opportunity in the
newly announced payments banks segment. The two products -- Finacle Payments Bank and Finacle Small Finance Bank
solutions -- are part of EdgeVerve Systems, the product subsidiary of Infosys, the country’s second largest software
services firm.

India to join Better Than Cash Alliance: India is joining the UN-based ‘Better Than Cash Alliance’,
which promotes transition from cash to digital payments to reduce poverty and drive inclusive growth, the government
said on September 1, 2015. The Better Than Cash Alliance is a partnership of governments, companies, and international
organisations that accelerates the transition from cash to digital payments in order to reduce poverty and drive
inclusive growth. Government’s new relationship with the Alliance complements its own financial inclusion programme,
Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana (PMJDY), which has been instrumental in bringing many families into the formal financial

Centre launches Smart Mobility Card: To enable seamless travel by different metros and other transport
systems besides retail shopping and purchases, the Centre launched a Smart National Common Mobility Card (NCMC) model
on September 1, 2015. The card will do away with the need to carry separate cards for banking and transit requirements.
The card is ‘EMV Open Loop Card with stored value based model. 

Odisha renames Wheeler Island as Abdul Kalam Island: The Odisha government on September 4, 2015
renamed the Wheeler Island in Bhadrak district as Abdul Kalam Island. “It’s a humble tribute to the People’s President.
The Wheeler Island will henceforth be named as Abdul Kalam Island,” Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said in Bhubaneswar.
APJ Abdul Kalam had passed away at 83 in Meghalaya in July. Patnaik recalled that the state’s former Chief Minister
Biju Patnaik allotted the Wheeler Island to the Ministry of Defence on the request of Dr Kalam in the year 1993.
The island was named after an English commandant Lieutenant Wheeler. The first successful land-to-land test of the
Prithvi Missile was conducted from the mainland and it landed on the then uninhabited ‘Wheeler Island’ on November
30, 1993.

National film, television institute to be set up in Arunachal: A National Film and Television Institute
and Animation will be set up in Arunachal Pradesh considering its high potential and scenic beauties, Union Minister
Jitendra Singh said on September 3, 2015. Singh told Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Nabam Tuki in New Delhi  that
considering the high potential of the state and its scenic attributes, the government has sanctioned the film institute
in the state. This came amidst ongoing controversy in Pune’s Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) where
students have been protesting over the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as Chairman. 

Megha-LAMP launched in Meghalaya: Chief Minister Mukul Sangma launched the Meghalaya Livelihood
and Access to Markets Project (Megha LAMP) aimed at providing market linkages to farmers and improve their earnings
in Shillong on September 3, 2015. He said the project would create infrastructure for 55 primary markets, enhance
rural connectivity for village clusters and producers through creating 250 km of eco-friendly roads, 20 bridges and
10 ropeways across the target areas. The project with a budget is 174 million USD, is being implemented as a part
of the state’s flagship program, the Integrated Basin Development and Livelihoods Programme (IBDLP) and assisted
by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). 

Postal dept savings scheme for male child launched: The Department of Posts launched a savings scheme
in Tamil Nadu for the male child on the lines of the successful Sukanya Samriddhi Account scheme in Chennai on September
4, 2015. The proposal to create the ‘Ponmagan Podhuvaippu Nidhi scheme was in the backdrop of requests from the public
that a scheme similar to the Sukanya Samriddhi Account scheme be created. As per the scheme, an account for children
below 10 years can be opened through a guardian while children above 10 years can open the account individually.
The interest for the current year is 8.7 per cent and interest earned would be exempted from income tax. Minimum
deposit would be Rs 100 and the maximum be Rs 1.50 lakh. 

Government announces One Rank One Pension Scheme for ex-Servicemen 

The Government has announced the One Rank One Pension scheme for the Ex-Servicemen. This was announced by the Defence
Minister Manohar Parrikar in New Delhi on September 5, 2015. The following is the statement of the Defence Minister: 

“Government of India respects its Defence Forces and Ex-Servicemen for their valour, patriotism and sacrifices. The Government
is proud of their devotion to duty and bravery. Our forces, besides vigilantly and gallantly defending the nation,
have displayed exemplary standards of courage and bravery in natural calamities, law and order situations and other
difficult circumstances. 

The issue of “One Rank One Pension” (OROP) has been pending for nearly four decades. It is a matter of deep anguish that
the various governments remained ambivalent on the issue of OROP. In February 2014, the then Government stated that
OROP would be implemented in 2014-15, but did not specify what OROP would be, how it would be implemented or how
much it would cost. An estimated Rs. 500 crore provided for OROP in the budget presented in February 2014 by the
then government was not based on any thorough analysis. It is pertinent to mention that the then Minister of State
for Defence in 2009 had, in reply to a question, informed Parliament that there are administrative, technical and
financial difficulties in implementing OROP. It is for these reasons that the present government took some time to
fulfil its promise.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has, on various occasions, reiterated the Government’s commitment to implement OROP for
Ex-Servicemen under military pension. As stated above, the previous government has estimated that OROP would be implemented
with a budget provision of a mere Rs. 500 crore. The reality, however, is that to implement OROP, the estimated cost
to the exchequer would be Rs. 8,000 to 10,000 crore at present, and will increase further in future. 

The Government held extensive consultations with experts and Ex-Servicemen. The main argument for OROP is that the Defence
personnel retire early and thus are not able to get the benefits of serving till normal retirement age. Despite the
huge fiscal burden, given its commitment to the welfare of Ex-Servicemen, the Government has taken a decision to
implement the OROP. 

In simple terms, OROP implies that uniform pension be paid to the Armed Forces personnel retiring in the same rank with
the same length of service, regardless of their date of retirement. Future enhancements in the rates of pension would
be automatically passed on to the past pensioners. This implies bridging the gap between the rate of pension of current
and past pensioners at periodic intervals.

Under this definition, it has been decided that the gap between rate of pension of current pensioners and past pensioners
will be bridged every 5 years. 

Under the OROP Scheme:

  • The benefit will be given with effect from 1st July, 2014. The present government assumed office on 26th May, 2014
    and therefore, it has been decided to make the scheme effective from a date immediately after.

  • Arrears will be paid in four half-yearly instalments. All widows, including war widows, will be paid arrears in one

  • To begin with, OROP would be fixed on the basis of calendar year 2013.
  • Pension will be re-fixed for all pensioners retiring in the same rank and with the same length of service as the
    average of minimum and maximum pension in 2013. Those drawing pensions above the average will be protected.

  • Personnel who voluntarily retire will not be covered under the OROP scheme.
  • In future, the pension would be re-fixed every 5 years.

It is estimated that the expenditure on arrears alone would be ten to twelve thousand crores of rupees.  Apart from the
fact that the previous government had provided for only Rs. 500 crore in the budget, it is noteworthy that the Koshiyari
Committee had accepted the estimate of Rs. 235 crore as additional financial burden to implement OROP. The present
government has accepted OROP in true spirit without being constrained by these inaccurate estimates.

OROP is a complex issue. A thorough examination of interests of retirees of different periods and different ranks is
needed. The inter-service issues of the three Forces also require consideration. This is not an administrative matter
alone. Therefore, it has also been decided that a One Member Judicial Committee would be constituted which will give
its report in six months. 

Ministry of Defence will soon issue detailed Government Order.” 

Law Commission set to be reconstituted: The process of appointing new chairman and members of the Law Commission
was set in motion on September 9, 2015 with the Union Cabinet approving reconstitution of the body which advices
government on complex legal issues. 

With the approval of the Union Cabinet, the Law Ministry would now constitute the 21st Law Commission as the three-year
term of the 20th panel ended on August 31. The Law Ministry is in the process of shortlisting names of retired judges
to head the 21st law panel. The names shortlisted could include some high court chief justices who retired in the
recent past. 

The 20th Law Commission headed by former Delhi High Court Chief Justice A P Shah had given a report on its last day,
recommending abolition of death penalty, except in cases of terror and waging war against India. The report was opposed
by one sitting member and two government appointees, who are ex-officio members of the body. It had also submitted
two reports on electoral reforms. 

With the Cabinet approving the reconstitution of the panel, it now seems that government has put on hold its plan to
make it into a permanent body either by a resolution of Cabinet or an Act of Parliament. The Commission is reconstituted
every three years and is headed by a retired Supreme Court judge or former Chief Justice of a High Court. The Commission
was first constituted in 1955 and is re-constituted every three years. The various Law Commissions have been able
to make important contribution towards the progressive development and codification of laws of the country. Law Commissions
have so far submitted 262 reports, a statement issued on the Cabinet decision said.

National web portal for apprenticeship training launched: Human Resource Development Minister Smriti
Irani on September 10, 2015 launched the national web portal for promotion of a national apprenticeship scheme. The
scheme, which provides opportunities for practical training, is for graduates, diploma holders and 10+2 pass vocational
certificate holders. The objective is to ensure seamless connectivity with all stakeholders, including students,
establishments and technical institutions across the country for transparent administration through e-governance.
It will also be a multilingual platform which currently engages with the user in Marathi, Bengali, Tamil and Hindi.
A logo and a slogan "Sashakt Yuva, Samarth Bharat" was also released for the portal.

International Film Festival for persons with disabilities in December: As part of its efforts to
create awareness about issues facing the differently-abled, the government would soon organise an International Film
Festival for persons with disabilities. A first-of-its-kind initiative by the Centre, the three-day International
Film Festival For Persons with Disabilities is being jointly organised by the Union Ministry of Social Justice and
Empowerment and the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) in Delhi from December 1 to 3. The festival will
be dedicated to promoting awareness about and appreciation of the lives, stories and artistic expressions of differently-abled
people. This announcement was made on September 6, 2015

GSAT-6 successfully positioned in orbital slot: India's latest communication satellite GSAT-6 has
been successfully positioned in its orbital slot. Indian Space Research Organization, ISRO, said the positioning
took place on September 6, 2015 after carrying out four drift arresting manoeuvers. ISRO had successfully launched
GSAT-6, having an indigenous cryogenic engine, on-board GSLV-D6 rocket from the spaceport at Sriharikota on August
27. After the launch, ISRO had performed successive orbit raising operation of the satellite. The mission life of
the satellite is nine years. 

INS Vajrakosh commissioned at Karwar: Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar commissioned INS 'Vajrakosh',
the latest establishment of the Indian Navy, in Karwar on September 9, 2015. Karwar is poised to emerge as the Indian
Navy's premier base on the Western seaboard in the not too distant future. Some of the vital naval assets are planned
to be based there. Naval units operating out of Karwar are required to be equipped with specialised armaments and
missiles. These sophisticated missiles and ammunition require special storage facility and specialised servicing
facilities. INS Vajrakosh will have all the required infrastructure and is going to be manned by specialists to meet
these requirements.

E-version of Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi launched: Information and Broadcasting Minister Arun
Jaitley on September 8, 2015 launched the electronic version of the Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (CWMG), which
document the leader's life from 1884 till his demise on January 30, 1948. The minister also announced that the Hindi
version of CWMG would be digitised soon. The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi took about 38 years in the making
(1956-1994). They are a series of 100 volumes, running into over 55,000 pages, intricately connected across the series,
as an integrated whole.

Australia approves uranium sale to India: A key Australian parliament panel has overridden expert
criticism to back a nuclear deal inked with India last September under which energy-starved New Delhi can import
uranium from Canberra, triggering relief in the foreign policy establishment here after months of tense waiting. 

The treaties panel of the Australian parliament on September 8, 2015 tabled a report stating that it "supports" the nuke
deal, and "recommends that binding treaty action be taken," 11 months after it was tasked with reviewing the pact.
The panel did recommend six procedural demands Australia make of India before exporting uranium, but these requirements
are minor compared to Canberra's earlier insistence that New Delhi allow it to track the use of fuel even after export. 

Australia is home to the world's largest known deposits of uranium - 30 per cent of the globe's total reserves. And for
India, getting Australia to agree to a workable nuclear deal has for years been the touchstone of bilateral relations.
The pact was inked last September, during Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott's visit to India. But under Australian
law, every international treaty needs ratification from Parliament, and that stamp of approval is based on recommendations
of the treaties panel.

To import Australian uranium, India needs to satisfy two domestic procedures, under the recommendations of the treaties
committee. But one of them - a separation of civilian and military nuclear facilities - has already been completed
by India. And New Delhi has already drafted a law for the second - the creation of an independent nuclear watchdog.

The panel has also recommended other steps for its own government, including a suggestion that Canberra devote diplomatic
effort to nudge Delhi towards accepting the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

India low on inclusive growth, development: World Economic Forum

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has ranked India globally towards the lower end on most of the parameters indicative of
inclusive growth and development, although the country fares much better on the scale business and political ethics.

India has mostly been ranked in the bottom half of the 38 countries that make up lower middle income bracket, in the
first such global rankings issued by the Switzerland-based think tank. 

Areas where India ranks low include fiscal transfers, where it ranks 37 out of 38, on "tax code" at 32nd, and 36th on
social protection. Another area that policymakers in India would need to prioritise improvement would be "Asset building
and entrepreneurship", especially in the sphere of "Small business ownership", where India ranks at the bottom at
38th place. 

India demonstrates leadership in other areas like corruption and rents, where it comes 8th. The country ranks 12th in
business and political ethics, while it ranks 11th on the "Financial intermediation of real economy investment pillar",
which is an indicator of the fact that money invested in the economy generally gets directed towards productive uses.

Ranking countries in terms of their per capita income levels, the World Economic Forum found that most countries are
missing major opportunities to reduce income inequality, which is also the case with India.

"Our message is unequivocally that leaders must pursue economic strategies that are at the same time pro-growth and pro-labour,"
WEF, which organises the noted economic conclave in Davos, Switzerland, said while releasing the report in Geneva
on September 7, 2015.

The new study, conducted over the last two years, seeks to identify the various ways policymakers can drive economic
growth and equity at the same time - and assesses them on their relative success in implementing them.

The first WEF Inclusive Growth and Development Report covering 112 economies presents a new framework for assessing countries'
efforts to foster economic growth that raises the living standards of entire societies.

Bilateral maritime exercise between India, Australia starts at Visakhapatnam: The inaugural Bilateral
Maritime Exercise between India and Australia, AUSINDEX-15 is being conducted off the East Coast of India from September
11 to September 15 at Visakhapatnam. The exercise is aimed at strengthening professional interaction, both in harbour
and at the sea. It would be a start for attaining interoperability between the two navies. Both navies have a mutual
interest in promoting peace and prosperity in the Indian Ocean and this is a natural progress of our Navy-to-Navy
relationship, given the shared maritime security interests. The exercise started with a Harbour Phase encompassing
briefings and practical demonstrations along with professional interactions. This would progress to a sea phase which
would include fleet manoeuvres, gun firings as well as coordinated anti-submarine exercises. The AUSINDEX would be
a biennial event intended to strengthen maritime cooperation between the nations and further the ability to undertake
regional joint and combined operations such as Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief.

G20 meeting of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors held in Ankara 

World's 20 big economies, including India, have called for moving towards market-determined currency rates and resisting
competitive devaluation. A communiqué, issued at the end of the two-day meeting of the G20 Finance Ministers and
Central Bank Governors in Turkish capital Ankara on September 5, 2015, said that the grouping will also resist all
forms of protectionism. The communiqué did not name China but it came against the backdrop China's recent devaluation
of yuan that triggered shocks in the global economy. It added that G20 expects that monetary policy tightening is
possible in some advanced economies.

The G20 leaders also pledged to act decisively to shore up stuttering global growth. They said, global growth is falling
short of expectations, despite strengthening activity in some economies. International Monetary Fund Managing Director
Christine Lagarde said worldwide growth remained too moderate and uneven. She said most indicators, including trade
and investment, are too weak. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Cevdet Yilmaz said the issue would be discussed at the
G20 leaders summit in Antalya in November. 

India favoured greater mobility of skilled professionals besides increased movement of goods and capital opining that
it would help the developed nations that are having issues of aging population. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said
that the efforts for goods movement and capital liberalisation should be complemented by skilled labour mobility.
This will be of considerable help to countries that are having demographic challenges due to ageing populations.
Jaitley said that it would also address the requirement of skilled professionals in the developed countries. Finance
Minister Arun Jaitley along with Reserve Bank Governor Raghuram Rajan participated in the two day event.

Child mortality rates plunge by more than half since 1990 – UN report

Child mortality rates have plummeted to less than half of what they were in 1990, but it is not enough to meet the Millennium
Development Goal (MDG) of a two-thirds reduction over the past 15 years, according to a new report released on September
9, 2015 by a number of United Nations agencies.

According to Levels and Trends in Child Mortality Report 2015, released by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World
Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank Group, and the Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and
Social Affairs (DESA), under-five deaths have dropped from 12.7 million per year in 1990 to 5.9 million in 2015.

This is the first year the figure has gone below the 6 million mark. However, new estimates in the report indicate that
although global progress has been substantial, 16,000 children under five still die every day.

The report notes that the biggest challenge remains in the period at or around birth. A massive 45 per cent of under-five
deaths occur in the neonatal period – the first 28 days of life. Prematurity, pneumonia, complications during labour
and delivery, diarrhoea, sepsis, and malaria are leading causes of deaths of children under five years old. Nearly
half of all under-five deaths are reportedly associated with under-nutrition.

Yet, the UN study highlights how most child deaths are easily preventable by proven and readily available interventions.
It says the rate of reduction of child mortality can speed up considerably by concentrating on regions with the highest
levels – sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia – and ensuring a targeted focus on newborns. Care around the time of childbirth
including simple affordable steps like ensuring early skin-to-skin contact, exclusive breastfeeding and extra care
for small and sick babies can save thousands of lives every year.

The report also shows that a child’s chance of survival is still vastly different based on where he or she is born. Sub-Saharan
Africa has the highest under-five mortality rate in the world with 1 child in 12 dying before his or her fifth birthday
– more than 12 times higher than the 1 in 147 average in high-income countries.

In the past 15 years, the region has overall accelerated its annual rate of reduction of under-five mortality to about
two and a half times what it was from 1990 to 2000. Despite low incomes, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Liberia, Madagascar,
Malawi, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, Uganda, and Tanzania have reportedly all met the MDG target.

Mukherjee presents Saakshar Bharat Awards 2015 

President Pranab Mukherjee presented the Saakshar Bharat Awards 2015 at the International Literacy Day Celebrations organized
by the HRD Ministry in New Delhi on September 8, 2015. As many as 11 Saakshar Bharat Awards were presented to States,
Districts, Blocks, Gram Panchayats, State Resource Centre (SRC) and Jan Shikshan Sansthan (JSS) for best performance
in the field of adult education and skill development. 

President presents Gandhi Peace Prize 2014 to ISRO: President Pranab Mukherjee presented the Gandhi
Peace Prize for the year 2014 to Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) at a function organized at Rashtrapati
Bhavan on September 9, 2015. The award was received by A. S. Kiran Kumar, Chairman, ISRO on behalf of the organization.
The Gandhi Peace Prize was instituted by the Government of India in 1995 on the occasion of the 125th birth anniversary
of Mahatma Gandhi. This annual award is given to individuals and institutions for their contributions towards social,
economic and political transformation through non-violence and other Gandhian methods. The Award carries an amount
of Rupees one crore in cash, a plaque and a citation. 

Govt. announces schemes to tap the idle reserves of gold 

The Union Cabinet on September 9, 2015 approved two schemes to tap the idle reserves of gold in the country and discourage
customers from buying the yellow metal. While a sovereign bond plan will be an alternative to buying physical gold,
a monetisation scheme will offer interest on the yellow metal deposited in banks. In India, around 1,000 tonnes of
gold are consumed every year, most of which is imported. Gold imports grew 10.47 per cent to $2.42 billion in May.
Estimates suggest temples and households may be holding up to 20,000 tonnes of the metal.

Sovereign Gold Bond Scheme

The gold bonds will offer interest rates linked to the international rate for gold borrowing. For easy and wide access,
the government plans to market the bonds through post offices and various brokers and agents.

The bonds will be issued in denominations of 5 grams, 10 grams, 50 grams and 100 grams. The tenor of the bonds could
be for a minimum of 5-7 years to protect investors from short-term volatility in prices.

A person can buy up to 500 grams in a year. Bonds will be only offered to Indian citizens and institutions, while the
securities will be traded on exchanges to allow early exit for investors.

The appreciation in gold's value, if any, will accrue to the investor when the bonds are sold. If the value depreciates,
the investor has to bear the loss as he would in the case of physical gold.

Key points of Gold Bond Scheme

- Bonds to be issued on payment of rupees and denominated in grams of gold

- They will  have a sovereign guarantee

- Issuing agency to pay distribution costs and commission to intermediaries. These will be reimbursed by the government

- Scheme restricted to resident Indian entities

- The cap on bonds per annum no more than 500 grams per person

- Rate of interest to be decided by government, based on market conditions

- Bonds in dematerialised and paper form

- Denominations of 5, 10, 50, 100 grams of gold

- Price may be drawn from reference rate of the central bank towards the scheme

- The tenor of the bonds for five-seven years

- Bonds can also be used as collateral for loans

- Bonds to be easily sold and traded on exchanges

- Capital gains tax same as that for physical gold for individuals

- Capital gains tax to adjust for inflation

- On maturity, redemption in rupee amounts alone

- Interest rate to be calculated on value of gold at investment

- Principal amount to be redeemed at the then price of gold

- If price has since fallen, depositor can roll-over the bond for three or more years

Gold Deposit Scheme

Under the gold monetisation scheme, a certificate will be issued giving the net value of the gold deposited after factoring
in the impurities and the weight. The tenure of the deposits could be short (1-3 years), medium (5-7 years) or long
term (12-15 years).

Banks could melt the gold and sell it to jewellers, or keep it as reserves or turn them into coins for sale.

While the interest rates on short-term deposits will be decided by banks and denominated in grams of gold, the interest
rate on medium and long-term deposits will be decided by the government in consultation with the RBI from time to
time and paid in rupees.

The government will create a reserve fund to bear the risks arising out of variations in gold prices. Analysts said the
interest rate was likely to be 1-2 per cent.

Key points of Gold Deposit Scheme

- Minimum amount of gold set at 30 grams

- The 331 designated centres to test and collect gold from customers

- Gold can be in any form, bullion or jewellery

- A Gold savings account to be opened by customers

- Account to be denominated in grams of gold

- Centres to transfer gold to refiners

- Refiners to keep the gold in ware-houses unless banks want to hold themselves

- Refiners to be paid a mutually-decided fee by banks

- Customer will not be charged.

- Scheme available for short-, medium-, long-term periods

- Lock-in period can be broken with penalty

- Interest rate for short-term deposits to be decided by banks

- For medium- and long-term deposits, interest rate to be decided by government

- Interest rate to be denominated and payable in rupees, based on gold value

- Redemption of short-term deposits in cash or in gold; fractional quantity to be paid in cash

- Redemption of medium and long-term deposits only in cash

- Deposited gold can be utilised for auctioning, Central bank's gold reserves, coins, lending

- Tax exemptions will also be extended as applicable

- Gold reserve fund to be created based on borrowing cost interest rate paid

- For jewellers, a gold metal loan account can be opened, denominated in grams of gold

- Gold mobilized under short-term option to be provided to jewellers on loan

- Delivery of physical gold for jewellers once sanctioned.

Bose panel wants agency fees phased out to curb mis-selling

The high-powered Sumit Bose committee, set up by the finance ministry in 2014 to recommend measures to curb mis-selling
of financial products and rationalising distribution incentives, has called for a complete phase out of any upfront
fees for agents. The report that was submitted to the finance ministry in September 2015. 

Observations made in the report include the following:

Any upfront commissions in any investment products and the investment portion of any bundled products skew seller behaviour
and lead to mis-selling and churning, therefore these should be phased out completely 

The system of incentives should align the interest of the three parts of the market -- the manufacturer, the advisor/distributor
and the customer. 

High upfront commissions lead to pushing of those products which get the agent higher fees, and this leads to mis-selling
and therefore upfront commissions in investment products should be phased out.  

Upfront commissions for pure mortality products may continue since selling pure life cover is relatively difficult. 

Also special incentives may be given to the distributors when they have to reach out to a specific consumer segment under
any mandatory provision, for instance insurance cover in rural areas. 

For investment products, and investment portion of bundled products, commissions should move to an all trail model which
should be either maintained at specific levels or should keep declining as the product matures. 

IRDAI asks insurers to maintain policies in electronic form

Sector regulator IRDAI has asked insurers to maintain all records of policies and claims in electronic form for easy
retrieval and compliance with various regulations. 

"Every insurer shall maintain a record of every policy issued and a record of every claim made...In electronic form irrespective
of maintenance in any other form," IRDA said in a notification on September 10, 2015. 

Notifying IRDAI (Maintenance of Insurance Records) Regulations, 2015, the regulator said the system of maintenance in
electronic format should have necessary security features. 

To ensure safety of data, the records including those held in electronic mode, pertaining to all the policies issued
and all claims made in India shall be held in data centres located and maintained in India only. 

"Every insurer should ensure that the records held are organised in such a manner as may be required for business use
and easy retrieval so as to support policyholder service and compliance with the various laws, regulations, circulars,
guidelines and such other regulatory framework as applicable from time to time," it said. 

With regard to the storage of records in electronic form, it said that insurers should maintain privacy and security
of policyholder data, handling virus, vulnerability issues, security of hardware and software and backups, disaster
recovery and business continuity and data archival. 

"Every insurer should within 90 days from the date of notification of these regulations, file with the Authority, their
board approved policy on maintenance and storage of such records," it said. 

Where such a policy undergoes change, the same should be filed with the Authority, within 30 days from the date of such
revision by the board, it added.

Policy to set up wind power projects off coastline approved

In a push for cleaner renewable energy sources, the government on September 9, 2015 approved a policy for setting up
wind power projects in sea alongside the nearly 7,600-km coastline. 

The National Offshore Wind Energy Policy allows development of wind farms in India's exclusive economic zone. It will
also allow research work in Indian waters. 

The policy aims at allocating offshore wind energy blocks to developers for installing turbines that can generate electricity
from wind. 

Under the policy, there will be energy mapping of the country, and locations with high potential will be identified.
After that, the government will seek required approval from various departments like space, defence and shipping,
before finally putting these projects for bidding. 

The Cabinet authorised the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy and the National Institute of Wind Energy to start allocating
blocks offshore for wind developments. 

"The development would help the country in moving forward towards attaining energy security and achievement of the National
Action Plan on Climate Change targets," an official statement read. 

Although offshore wind is often the most talked about part of the wind sector, today it represents about 2 per cent of
global installed capacity. In 2014, 1,713 megawatts of new offshore capacity was added, bringing the total to 8,759

More than 91 per cent (8,045 MW) of all offshore wind installations can be found in European waters -- mainly in the
North Sea (5,094.2 MW), Atlantic Ocean (1,808.6 MW) and in the Baltic Sea (1,142.5 MW). 

Preliminary assessments along the 7,600-km long Indian coastline have indicated prospects of development of offshore
wind power. 

The policy, which will help the country move forward towards attaining energy security, is expected to provide a level-playing
field to all investors/beneficiaries, domestic and international. All the processes would be carried out by NIWE. 

The policy will be applicable throughout the country, depending on offshore wind potential availability. 

India has achieved significant success in the onshore wind power development, with over 23 GW of wind energy capacity
already installed and generating power. 

India targets 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022, which includes 100 GW of solar, 60 GW of wind power, 10 GW
of biomass-fired power and 5 GW of small hydro power. 

According to the statement, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy will be the nodal ministry for use of offshore areas
within EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) of the country. 

Moreover, National Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE) will be the nodal agency for development of offshore wind energy in
the country to carry out allocation of offshore wind energy blocks, coordination and allied functions with related
ministries and agencies, it said. 

The approval paves the way for offshore wind energy development including setting up of offshore wind power projects
and research and development activities in waters, in or adjacent to the country, up to the seaward distance of 200
nautical miles (EEZ of country) from the baseline.

Kalraj Mishra launches support cell 'SWAYAM' for women entrepreneurs: Union Minister for Micro,
Small and Medium Enterprises Kalraj Mishra launched 'SWAYAM', a support cell for women entrepreneurs to seek proposals
for starting enterprises by them through the use of social media in in New Delhi on September 11, 2015. He was speaking
at the event organised by FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO). To provide support to the new and existing women entrepreneurs,
FLO has created a consultancy and mentorship cell 'SWAYAM' across India. FLO works with the main aim to promote entrepreneurship
and professional excellence to women. It plays an important role of connecting women entrepreneurs to the right service
providers. FLO president Archana Garodia Gupta said that the objective of SWAYAM is to link FLO women as mentors
to women entrepreneurs in 15 locations pan India.

Govt launches online certificate programme for exporters & importers: The Commerce Ministry
on September 9, 2015 launched an online certificate programme for exporters and importers. The programme 'Niryat
Bandhu @ Your Desktop' would enable exporters and importers to learn the essentials of trading. The certificate programme
was launched by Commerce Secretary Rita Teaotia under the Niryat Bandhu Scheme of the Directorate General of Foreign
Trade (DGFT). The objective of the scheme is to reach out to the new and potential exporters and mentor them through
orientation programmes and counselling sessions so that they can get into international trade and help in boosting
exports. The first course with a capacity of 60 participants would begin from October. It is planned to have a similar
programme every month for a batch of 60 participants. 

Govt tightens norms for import, transport of Ammonium Nitrate: Tightening norms for import and transportation
of Ammonium Nitrate, misused for terror activities, government has said that its shipments will be allowed in "bagged
form only" and its movement within the country must be accompanied by armed guards with GPS vehicles. "Ammonium Nitrate
is to be imported in bagged form only irrespective of the quantity in each bag on the deck of any importing vessel
and packed at the point of origin," said the Home Ministry in a memorandum in September 2015. While the fertiliser
industry consumes part of Ammonium Nitrate, the main user is the construction sector where the chemical is used for
blasting. There have been growing concerns over the misuse of the chemical. 

Govt to import additional 5,000 tonnes of Tur dal to check prices: The Government has decided to
import an additional quantity of five thousand tonnes Tur Dal to increase its availability and control prices of
pulses. In a press release on September 11, 2015 Food and Consumer Affairs Ministry said, the decision was taken
in a high level committee meeting chaired by the Secretary, Consumer Affairs. Import of ten thousand tonnes of Tur
and Urad Dal is already in the pipeline and the first consignment will reach by September 23. The Committee directed
the agencies like MMTC and NAFED to get in touch with States and also with SAFAL to supply imported dals through
retail outlets. The long term strategy to increase availability of essential commodities and moderate prices were
also discussed in the meeting.  

Bodh Gaya to be developed into spiritual capital–PM Modi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 5,
2015 announced that Bodh Gaya, which is considered the birthplace of Buddhism, would be developed as a spiritual
capital of the Buddhist world. Modi said this in his address at the concluding ceremony of a three-day International
Buddhist conclave at Bodh Gaya, about 110 km from Patna. Delegates from 47 countries, including former Sri Lankan
President Chandrika Kumaratunga, attended the event.

National organ transplant body to be formed in Kerala: The National Organ and Tissue Transplant
Organisation (NOTTO) will be formed in Kochi by the Centre, Union Minister for Science and Technology Harsha Vardhan
said on September 8, 2015. Vardhan also handed over the Centre of Excellence in Organ Transplants award to Amrita
Institute of Medical Sciences at a function organised in Kochi. NOTTO will act as an apex centre for coordination
and networking for procurement and distribution of organs and tissues, and registry of organ and tissue donation
and transplant in the country.

Jaitley announces Karunya scheme's achievement: Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley attended a function
in Kochi on September 10, 2015 to celebrate the achievement of Kerala government's Karunya Benevolent Fund, launched
to finance treatment expenses of poor people from the revenue earned from its Karunya lottery. Jaitley announced
the achievement of the Karunya Benevolent Fund which has distributed Rs 800 crore to 1,11,111 beneficiaries at the
function to be inaugurated by Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy. State finance minister K M Mani is the Chairman
Karunya Benevolent Fund. Launched in 2012, the fund is providing financial assistance to under-privileged people
suffering from acute ailments like cancer, haemophilia, kidney and heart diseases and for palliative care. The amount
for the health scheme is raised through the Karunya lottery started in October 2011.

Project 'Kaliru' to reduce man-animal conflicts launched in Coimbatore: Tamil Nadu Forest Minister
M S M Anandan launched "Project Kaliru" aimed at bringing down man-animal conflict and related issues like damage
and property loss due to elephant attacks in the Forest Division in Coimbatore on September 11, 2015. Under the project,
measures would be taken to reduce the incidents of man-animal conflicts in the fringe area of forests in the division,
where wild elephants visit frequently. In order to identify and decide on the adequate solatium to the loss of crop
in the farmers' land an "e-compensation" scheme was also launched by the Minister. 

J&K govt launches state-sponsored scheme for girl child: Jammu and Kashmir government on September
7, 2015 approved a state-sponsored social assistance scheme for girl child 'Ladli Beti' which will be implemented
in six districts with low child sex ratio. The 'Ladli Beti' will be implemented in six selected districts - Kathua,
Jammu, Samba, Budgam, Pulwama and Anantnag - exhibiting low and declining child sex ratio. Under the scheme, the
state government will contribute Rs 1,000 per month towards the birth of every girl child with effect from April
1, 2015 for the next 14 years. Upon reaching the age of 21, the girl child would receive a sum of Rs 6.5 lakh. Only
those girl child, born to parents with annual income from all sources less than Rs 75,000 per annum, shall be eligible
for the benefits under the scheme. 

Punjab to give facelift to Lala Lajpat Rai's village: To commemorate the 150th birth anniversary
of leading freedom fighter Lala Lajpat Rai, the Punjab government on September 10, 2015 announced that his birthplace
in the state's Moga district would be given a complete facelift. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal announced a complete
facelift of Dhudike village, the birth place of Rai, in Moga at a cost of Rs. 14.39 crore. This includes construction
of auditorium and installation of astroturf in the hockey stadium at the Lala Lajpat Rai Government College (LLRGC).
Lala Lajpat Rai, popularly known as "Punjab Kesari", had led protests against the British rule during the freedom
movement. During once such in 1928, he and other protestors were baton charged by the British forces in Lahore. He
died later due to injuries sustained in the incident.

Only 10% NGOs have filed financial details with government – CBI to SC

Less than ten per cent of over 30 lakh NGOs functioning across the country have submitted their returns or their balance
sheets and other financial details to the authorities, CBI has informed the Supreme Court. The dismal picture was
presented by the CBI to the apex court on the basis of the income-expenditure statement of a total of 30,81,873 NGOs
in 26 states and seven Union Territories. A fresh affidavit by CBI maintained that approximately 9.33 per cent of
the registered NGOs met the criteria of filing the returns. 

The latest report by the agency came eight months after the last affidavit filed in January when it had submitted that
out of 23,95,579 NGOs in 21 states, approximately 2,43,955 of them had filed their balance sheets with the authorities
and, in seven UTs, of the 73,213 NGOs, only 50 had submitted their returns. 

At that time, only 10.24 percent of the registered NGOs in the country had complied with the prerequisite of providing
balance sheets and other financial details. 

When the matter came for hearing on September 18, 2015 before a bench of Chief Justice H L Dattu and Justice Amitava
Roy, CBI said it would require another couple of months to compile all the information as it was expecting more information
from some state governments. 

The CBI asked the bench to pass some order to the governments of Karnataka, Odisha and Telangana to furnish all the information
as per previous directions. 

It said that out of the total 30,81,873 NGOs, 290873 have filed their annual returns and Karnataka, Odisha and Telangana
have so far only provided the names and number of the voluntary bodies registered in the respective states without
furnishing information about the balance-sheets.

Multi-dose diclofenac banned to save vultures

 The Centre on September 18, 2015 banned the sale of multi-dose vials of common painkiller diclofenac over its reported
misuse in the veterinary sector, which resulted in vultures deaths.

Acting on a recommendation from the Environment Ministry, the Health Ministry banned the sale of diclofenac vials containing
more than one dose, said an Environment Ministry official. Only single-dose vials will now be available in medicine

Though use of diclofenac to treat cattle was banned in 2006, the ministry fears multi-dose vials available in the market
for human use could be widely misused for veterinary purpose. This, in turn, has a severe impact on the country’s
vulture population.

Populations of three vulture species declined markedly in the Indian subcontinent since the mid-1990s as they were killed
after ingesting diclofenac. The Bundelkhand region continues to be one of the problem areas.

The scavenger birds ingest the drug when feeding on carcasses of domesticated ungulates treated with the drug shortly
before death. 

Diclofenac is harmless to cattle, but fatal for vultures. Studies have shown the drug causes kidney and liver failure
in them. All the vulture species are now endangered.

A 2011 Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) study showed the proportion of cattle carcasses in India contaminated with
diclofenac declined by over 40 per cent between 2006 and 2008 after the ban. The drug’s concentration in the carcasses
also came down.

Another BNHS report in 2007 showed the population of oriental white-backed vultures in India dropped by an average of
more than 40 per cent per year from 2000 to 2007, and 99.9 per cent since 1992 to just about 11,000.

The populations of long-billed and slender-billed Vultures also fell about 97 per cent over the same period, to around
45,000 and 1,000, respectively, in 2007. 

A new research by conservationists from Cambridge University, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and BNHS documented
signs of change. 

FSSAI proposes ban on sale of nutraceuticals as medicines

Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, FSSAI has proposed a ban on the sale of health supplement products as medicines.
Under the draft regulations published in official gazette, the FSSAI said, the companies cannot claim that their
nutraceuticals and health supplement products are of therapeutic and curative value.

Every package of food or health supplements will be required to display prominently on the label Food or Health Supplement
and Not For Medicinal Use. The FSSAI has also framed regulations for products based on Ayurveda, Sidhha, Unani and
other traditional health systems.

The regulator has proposed to fix the permissible limits of various ingredients used in the products, which are based
on traditional health systems. The regulations will be finalised after receiving comments from all stakeholders on
the draft note. 

50 days extra work under MGNREGA for drought-hit areas

People in drought-hit areas will get additional 50 days of work under the MGNREGA scheme due to monsoon deficit in various
parts of the country. At present, 100 days of work is provided to rural job card holders under the Mahatma Gandhi
National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). The decision was taken in Cabinet meeting on September 16, 2015
after monsoon deficit widened beyond 15 per cent across the country. 

“The Cabinet has given its ex-post facto approval to provide an additional 50 days of unskilled manual work in the financial
year, over and above the 100 days assured to job card holders, in such rural areas where drought or natural calamities
have been notified,” Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters after the meeting. 

Other relief measures announced by the government include the following

  • Diesel subsidy scheme for farmers to help save standing crops.
  • Enhanced ceiling on seed subsidy to compensate the farmers in the drought affected districts for the additional expenditure
    incurred in the re-sowing.

  • Appropriate input support measures to rejuvenate water-stressed horticulture crops in drought-hit areas.
  • Assistance for additional interventions for production of fodder for mitigating adverse impact of drought on livestock
    in drought-hit blocks.

  • Flexible allocation under Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana and other centrally sponsored schemes.
  • Crop contingency plan has been put in place for 600 districts.

Institutions signing MoU with foreign partners need HRD ministry nod: All major Central educational
institutions will now have to take the HRD Ministry’s approval for signing MoUs with foreign partners in case the
agreements have financial implications on the government.  “Institutions coming under the MHRD should seek prior
approval of the Ministry before signing MoU with foreign institutions in case it has financial implications on the
Government of India,” the PMO order said in September 2015. The order further said the decision for mandating the
approval was taken as the PM had expressed his displeasure about the practice of institutions delaying the process
of taking the post facto approval. “It is being noticed that cabinet notes on MoUs are being brought before the Cabinet
for its post facto approval or information after considerable delay from the date of signing of such MoUs. 

Cabinet approves Shyama Prasad Mookerjee RURBAN Mission: The Union Cabinet on September 16, 2015
approved a scheme to spur social, economic and infrastructure development in rural areas. The government has earmarked
over 5,000 crore rupees for the scheme named as Shyama Prasad Mookerjee Rurban Mission. According to Communication
and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, under this mission, 300 Gramin clusters that will include Gramin Panchayat and
nearby villages will  be developed with an expenditure of over 5,000 crore rupees. The Cabinet also gave approval
for 150 days employment per household under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in the drought
hit areas of the country. 

Bharat Heavy Dynamics test fires indigenous anti-tank missile: Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) officially
announced in Hyderabad on September 15, 2015 that it had successfully test-fired an indigenously developed second
generation, 2.8 km range, anti-tank guided missile called Amogha-1. The test firing was carried out on September
10 at Babina Army Range in Madhya Pradesh. 

10 schools recognised as ‘Changemaker Schools’: Ten schools across the country, have been recognised
as ‘Changemaker Schools’ for bringing new approaches to education that would enable students to enhance development
in the society. The schools, said to have institutional characteristics were recognised at a 2-day conclave ‘Ashoka
Changemaker Schools’ held in New Delhi in September 2015. The schools have been shortlisted after a survey conducted
on 60 schools across 30 cities in the country. The initiative has been started by Ashoka Foundation which has Nobel
Laureate Kailash Satyarthi associated with it. The 10 schools which have been recognised are Digantar Vidyalaya (Jaipur)
Riverside School (Ahmedabad) R N Poddar School (Mumbai), KCT Vidyaniketan (Pune), TVS Academy (Hosur), Vidyodaya
School (Gudalur), Headstart Learning Centre, (Chennai), Uday Community School (Sawai Madhopur), Muni International
School (Delhi) and The Heritage School (Gurgaon) to enable all students to become changemakers. 

Like-Minded Developing Countries on climate change issues meet in Delhi: A two-day meeting of negotiators
of Like-Minded Developing Countries (LMDC) was organised in New Delhi on September 14-15, 2015. The meeting was convened
to take stock of the climate change negotiations under the UNFCCC and provide a perspective of the LMDC on the way
forward. Negotiators from 13 nations participated in the meeting of LMDC. The nations include Argentina, Bolivia,
China, Cuba, El Salvador, Ecuador, Iran, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Malaysia, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia and India. Environment
Minister Prakash Javadekar called for protecting the long-term interest of developing countries, based on the principles
of equity and CBDR (Common but Differentiated Responsibilities).

Nepal’s Constituent Assembly endorses new constitution

In a landmark step to culminate a prolonged transition after Nepal became republic in 2008, the country’s Constituent
Assembly on September 16, 2015 endorsed a much-awaited new constitution of Nepal. The constitution-making body endorsed
the constitution bill with an overwhelming two-thirds majority. 

The latest progress on constitution promulgation has marked a major step forward for democracy in Nepal, providing the
Nepali people a great hope for a stable and prosperous country which faced a devastating earthquake on April 25 and
ensuing aftershocks.

Chairman of the Constituent Assembly Subhas Nembang made a final announcement in this regard after 507 out of total 601
lawmakers voted on the new constitution bill. The new constitution, consisting of 308 articles and nine annexes,
has secured a secularism and federal democratic republic. Nepali President Ram Baran Yadav is scheduled to unveil
the Constitution on September 20 in Kathmandu.

This is the first full-fledged constitution in the Himalayan nation. Earlier, the country got an interim constitution
in 2007 following the people’s movement in 2006 that toppled the 240-year monarchy. Nepali parties started work on
the new constitution in 2008. In September 2015, the Constitution Assembly began a voting process on the promulgation
of the constitution bill after the major parties expressed commitment to bring the new statute at the soonest.

2000-yr-old Ashoka Stupa restored in remote China

A 2000-year-old lost Stupa, one of the 19 built with Lord Buddha’s relics sent by Emperor Ashoka to China, has been renovated
and restored with religious rites by an Indian monk in the remote Tibetan town Nangchen, making it a symbol of the
advent of Buddhism from India to China.

The renovated Stupa and Ashoka pillar along with a huge golden statue of Buddha was consecrated by Gyalwang Drukpa, the
spiritual head of Drukpa lineage of Buddhism based in Ladakh, on September 15, 2015 in China’s Qinghai province,
located adjacent to Tibet Autonomous Region.

Legend has it that over 2,500 years ago, Buddha’s disciples retrieved one skull bone, two scapulas, four teeth and 84,000
pearl-like sariras (relics) after Lord Buddha’s body was cremated.

According to Buddhist records, Emperor Asoka collected all of Sakyamuni’s sarira, stored them in pagoda-shaped shrines
before sending them to different parts of the world.

China is believed to have received 19 of them including the one in Nangchen but most of them have collapsed due to natural
wear and tear as well as negligence.

Japan allows its military to fight abroad for first time since WW-II: Japan’s Parliament passed
contentious security bills into law on September 19, 2015, in a move that could see Japanese troops fight abroad
for the first time in 70 years. The approval at the Upper House loosens post-World War II constraints on use of force
by the military to its own self-defence only. The legislation, passed by the more powerful lower house in July, sparked
debate about whether the nation should shift away from its pacifist ways to face growing security challenges. The
law will allow the military to defend Japan’s allies even when the country isn’t under attack, work more closely
with the U.S. and others. They will also be able participate more fully in international peacekeeping. 

Japan warns tourists on Mount Aso after eruption: Japan on September 14, 2015 warned tourists to
keep away from popular Mount Aso after it began belching smoke and ash into the air, the latest eruption in one of
the world’s most volcanically active countries. Authorities issued their third-highest alert and cancelled more than
a dozen flights after the huge volcano on the southwestern main island of Kyushu shot a column of ash several thousand
metres (a few thousand feet) into the clear sky. The 1,592-metre (5,253-foot) Mount Aso is a popular tourist spot.
There are scores of active volcanoes in Japan, which sits on the so-called “Ring of Fire”, a volatile tectonic zone
that records a large proportion of the world’s earthquakes. 

Bank of Maharashtra launches soil and water health card for farmers: In a bid to help farmers increase
soil productivity by appropriate use of fertilisers, Bank of Maharashtra has launched a soil and water health card
which will help them ascertain the nutrient status of their farm lands. The PSU bank is the only bank providing such
facility and has already disbursed 500 cards in Bhigwan, Pune through Mahabank Agriculture Research and Rural Development
Foundation. The bank along with Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilisers is analyzing soil samples at its Soil Testing
Lab in Bhigwan. (September 13, 2015)

SEBI to absorb FMC staff: Market Regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has decided
to absorb the existing staff of commodities regulator Forward Markets Commission (FMC). SEBI has also created a separate
Commodity Cell and has set up new departments for regulation of commodities derivatives market.  The FMC, which has
been regulating commodities markets since 1953, will merge with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI)
on September 28, 2015 to create a unified market regulator.  

SEBI to enforce tighter disclosure norms: Capital Market regulator SEBI has warned listed companies
that any delay in filing “material information” beyond the 24-hour timeframe will have to be explained. The move
is aimed at bringing more transparency in the business affairs of the company. Under the norms, the listed entity
will have to inform to the stock exchange of all events which are material, all information which is price-sensitive
and/or have bearing on performance/operation of the listed firm within 24 hours. However, decisions related to the
board meeting will have to be disclosed within 30 minutes. SEBI said every listed company is required to update material
developments on a regular basis pertaining to the disclosures made till the event is resolved/closed. (September
16, 2015). 

Pradhan Mantri Khanij Kshetra Kalyan Yojana (PMKKKY) launched 

 The Central Government on September 17, 2015 announced the launch of the Pradhan Mantri Khanij Kshetra Kalyan Yojana
(PMKKKY). This is a new programme meant to provide for the welfare of areas and people affected by mining related
operations, using the funds generated by District Mineral Foundations (DMFs). Minister of Mines and Steel Narendra
Singh Tomar said, PMKKKY is a revolutionary and unprecedented scheme of its kind, which will transform the lives
of people living in areas which are affected directly or indirectly by mining. 

The scheme aims at mitigating the adverse impacts due to mining operation on the environment and  health and ensuring
long-term sustainable livelihoods for the affected people in mining areas. In a statement, Mines Ministry  said,
60 per cent of the funds will be spent on high priority areas including drinking water supply, health care, sanitation,
education and  skill development of the affected people. Besides, the rest of the  funds will be spent on making
roads, bridges, railways, waterways projects, irrigation and alternative energy sources. 

The government has also notified the rates of contribution payable by miners to the District Mineral Foundations, DMFs.
Mining companies will have to contribute 30 per cent of the royalty payable by them to DMFs in case of  mining leases
executed before January 12, 2015 and 10 per cent of the royalty where mining leases are granted after this date.
The funds generated by the District Mineral Foundations will be spent on implementation of the scheme.

Centre to hold mines auction on behalf of states

In a bid to fast-track mineral extraction, the Centre will conduct auction of mines bearing minerals such as iron ore,
bauxite and limestone on behalf of states for the first phase starting November 2015. This information was given
by Mines Secretary Balvinder Kumar to the media on September 16, 2015. Of the mineral-bearing states, only Maharashtra,
Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan will conduct their own auctions as they have moved ahead with their respective auction

In phase I, the 12 mineral-producing states have identified 80-90 blocks that will go under the hammer by November. This
was made possible after the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2015, was passed in March
2015, which stipulates auction as the only means to allow extraction of iron ore and other minerals.

“The Centre s three agencies MECON, MECL and MSTC will aid the Centre in the auction process. MECON will be the transaction
advisor and will conduct location survey, differential GPS study as well as do the documentation. The government’s
mineral exploration arm, Mineral Exploration Corporation Ltd (MECL), will prepare survey reports for the mines to
be auctioned, and the metal scrap trading PSU MSTC will ready the auction platform

This arrangement is only for phase I. No decision has been made for phase II, where states have identified around 96
blocks, which will be taken up once phase I gets over. 

UIDAI shifted to IT Ministry from Niti Aayog 

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which issues Aadhaar cards, has been shifted to the administrative
control of the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology from Niti Aayog. The decision to shift UIDAI
from Niti Aayog, which has replaced Planning Commission, has been taken keeping in mind the government’s ambitious
‘Digital India’ programme as the Aadhaar numbers are being linked with several services. The issuance of Aadhaar
cards, started by the then UPA government, has come under the scrutiny of the Supreme Court which recently held that
the card would not be mandatory for availing benefits of government’s welfare schemes. 

The Cabinet Secretariat has amended Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961 and put it under Department
of Electronics and Information Technology (DeITy), Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, a notification
issued by the government said on September 18, 2015. Earlier, UIDAI was the part of Planning Commission. Niti Aayog
is headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as its chairperson. Aadhaar is a 12-digit individual identification number
issued by UIDAI.

Modi launches nationwide power development scheme from Varanasi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched
the Rs.45,000 crore nationwide Integrated Power Development Scheme (IPDS) in his parliamentary constituency of Varanasi
on September 18, 2015. This will ensure 24-hour power supply to every house. The city will get Rs 572 crore for the
project that aims at underground cabling of power lines, cutting line losses and many other things. Modi urged people
to put LED bulbs in their houses so that electricity bills can be slashed, and there is more illumination. The prime
minister said his government was committed to bringing power to every village and every household in India by 2022,
when the nation celebrates the 75th year of attaining freedom.

Mosquito Terminator to check breeding along rail tracks: To curb mosquito breeding, a special train
called Mosquito Terminator was pressed into service in New Delhi to spray insecticides along the railway tracks of
Delhi Ring railway. Northern Railway along with Municipal Corporation of Delhi jointly put the “Mosquito Terminator”
into action to check mosquito breeding in the water bodies along railway tracks in Delhi area. The special train
will cover other areas of NCR region till October 10. There will be two rounds of spraying each week to cover the
peak mosquito breeding season.  (September 16, 2015)

Rivers Godavari and Krishna formally linked: Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu
on September 16, 2015 formally interlinked the waters of the Rivers Godavari and Krishna at the Ibrahimpatnam Ferry
village, which is located about 20-kilometers from Vijayawada. The linking of these two major rivers will facilitate
usage of about 80 TMC of the 3,000 TMC of Godavari waters that goes waste into the sea every year for irrigating
the often drought-hit delta region of River Krishna. The interlinking of the river waters fulfills a long cherished
dream of farmers of the Krishna and Guntur Districts.

National Health Profile-2015 released

The National Health Profile (NHP)-2015, prepared by the Central Bureau of Health Intelligence (CBHI), was released by
the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on September 22, 2015.

The E-book (digital version) of the annual document, which has been prepared for the first time, was also released. The
National Health Profile covers demographic, socio-economic, health status and health finance indicators, along with
comprehensive information on health infrastructure and human resources in health. CBHI has been publishing National
Health Profile every year since 2005. This is the 11th edition. Speaking at the launch, Health Minister J. P. Nadda,
Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, said compiled data would enable the policymakers to make evidence-based
policies and aids effective implementation of various schemes. 

The National Health Profile highlights substantial health information under six major indicators:

  • Demographic indicators giving information about population statistics and vital statistics
  • Socio-economic indicators which gives the information on Education, Social Indicators, Economic indicators, Employment,
    Housing and Amenities, Drinking Water and Sanitation

  • Health Status Indicators which provide information about the incidence and prevalence of common Communicable and
    Non-Communicable Diseases, Reproductive and Child Health according to States/UTs and a short overview of National
    Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardio-vascular Disease and Stroke (NPCDCS)

  • The Health Finance provides an overview of Public Expenditure on Health, Household Out of Pocket Expenditure on Health,
    Health Coverage and Insurance, External Assistance to Government for Health Sector Programmes and Public Expenditure
    on Health with International Comparison along with Explanatory notes on Health Data.

  • The section on Human Resources provides an overview of availability of manpower working in the Health Sector
  • Health Infrastructure provides details of Medical and Dental Colleges, AYUSH Institutes, Nursing Courses and Paramedical
    Courses, Admissions to BDS and MDS Courses.

Govt. to provide facilities to disabled under Accessible India Campaign

Union Minister for Social Justice & Empowerment Thawarchand Gehlot said on September 24, 2015 said that the government
will give all possible facilities to Persons with Disabilities under its national flagship campaign ‘Accessible India
Campaign’ (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan). Starting from Mumbai, the programme will be initially implemented in 50 big cities
across the country. The campaign will audit accessibility issues pertaining to government buildings among other things. 

The Minister was speaking at the inauguration of “Accessible India Campaign Workshop” in Mumbai. Gehlot said amongst
many initiatives an artificial limb programme with a sanctioned fund of Rs. 286 crore will also be implemented soon
and the government would issue universal identity cards within one and half year. He also said that the categories
of differently abled persons will be increased from present 7 to 19 categories to cover the maximum extent of disabilities. 

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis while speaking on the occasion said though laws focusing on differently
able have been enacted suitable infrastructure and facilities have not been created. He assured full support from
his government in initiating the campaign.  

Mars Orbiter Mission completes a year in orbit

Mars Orbiter spacecraft marked the first year of its life around the red planet on September 24, 2015.

After successfully completing one year of the mission life around Mars, now a large data set has been acquired by all
five payloads of MOM.

On this occasion, the Space Applications Centre, (ISRO), Ahmedabad, has brought out a Mar Atlas which contains a compilation
of images acquired by Mars Colour Camera (MCC) and results obtained by other payload results in a form of scientific

The images from MCC have provided unique information about Mars at varying spatial resolutions. It has obtained Mars
Global data showing clouds, dust in atmosphere and surface albedo variations, when acquired from apoapsis at around
72000 km.

High resolution images acquired from periapsis show details of various morphological features on the surface of Mars.
Some of these images have been showcased in this atlas. The images have been categorized depending upon the Martian
surface and atmospheric processes.

Mars is one of the closest celestial objects to the Earth and it has attracted humans towards itself since the time immemorial.
A large number of unmanned orbiters, landers and rovers have been launched to reach Mars since early 1960s. These
missions had provided large amount of data on various scientific aspects of the Mars.

Rajnath Singh releases graphic booklet on battle of Sardar Post 

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on September 24, 2015 released a graphic booklet depicting the valour and sacrifice
of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel during the epic battle of Sardar Post at Rann of Kutch in the
1965 lndo-Pak War. The comic book is first in the series of ‘Shaurya Gaathas’ (valour stories) that the country’s
largest paramilitary force will publish to honour the courage and bravery of its troops in various combat theatres
including the Left Wing Extremism operations.

On April 9, 1965, at the Sardar Post in the Rann of Kutch, two companies of CRPF stood their ground and repulsed the
attack of a full-fledged Pakistani Infantry brigade inflicting heavy casualties. The retaliation by the CRPF men
was such a profound shock to the Pakistani Army that they left behind 34 dead bodies including those of two officers.
Four Pakistani soldiers were taken as prisoners. Six CRPF men made supreme sacrifice for the cause of the nation. 

Singh lauded the role of CRPF at Hot Springs in Ladakh and at other places in maintaining the safety and security of
the country. Appreciating the courage and sacrifice of CRPF personnel, Singh said that has been a 35 percent reduction
in incidents in the Left Wing Extremism (LWE) affected states due to the brave efforts of the CRPF personnel.

Swavlamban Health Insurance Scheme launched for persons with disabilities (PwDs): An MoU was inked
between The Trust Fund for Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities and The New India Assurance Company Limited,
on September 21, 2015 to launch Group Mediclaim Policy for empowerment of persons with disabilities – “Swavlamban
Health Insurance Scheme”. The Trust Fund is managed by Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. The scheme has
been designed to deliver comprehensive cover to the beneficiary as well as his family (PwD, Spouse & up to two
children), has a single premium across age band and can be availed by PwDs aged between 18 years and 65 years with
family annual income of less than Rs. 3,00,000 per annum. The scheme also ensures coverage of any pre-existing condition
and a health Insurance cover up to Rs. 2,00,000 per annum as family floater. 

Foreign companies exempted from MAT retrospectively from 2001

The government on September 24, 2015 said it would amend income tax laws to exempt foreign companies from MAT retrospectively
from 2001.

Under the latest decision, foreign companies, irrespective of whether they belong to a country with which India has a
Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement, have been exempted from the minimum alternate tax (MAT) on profits from April
2001 if they do not have a place of business in India, a finance ministry statement said.

The provisions of Section 115JB of the income tax act will not apply to foreign companies with effect from April 1, 2001
if they are resident of a country with which India has a Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) and they do not
have a permanent establishment in India.

In case the companies belong to countries with which India does not have a DTAA, the MAT exemption will apply if they
are exempted from registration under Section 592 of the Companies Act 1956, or Section 380 of the Companies Act 2013.
Under these sections, firms are exempted from registration if they do not have a “place of business” in India.

Earlier in September 2015, the government had exempted foreign institutional and portfolio investors from the payment
of MAT on the capital gains made by them before April 1, 2015. Budget 2015-16 had already exempted FIIs/FPIs from
paying the levy on gains made after April 1. The cut-off of April 2001 had been decided as India signed most of its
critical double taxation avoidance treaties on or after 2001.

The latest MAT relief could have a bearing on the Castleton Investment case, which is before the Supreme Court now and
scheduled for hearing in September. In the Castleton ruling, the Authority for Advance Rulings had held that since
the MAT provisions under the Income Tax Act 1961 did not make a distinction between Indian and foreign companies,
the tax was applicable to foreign companies.

Delhi’s air worst among 381 cities – World Bank

The latest World Bank report on leveraging urbanisation in South Asia has identified “air pollution” as a big challenge
for major cities in the region, including Delhi. While Delhi is the worst among 381 cities from developing countries,
19 of the 20 most polluted cities are from South Asia, the report said quoting the recent findings of World Health
Organisation report on ambient air pollution. 

The report also mentions how for the “very poorest in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan, under-five mortality is
higher in urban areas than in rural settings”. 

Referring to the WHO report with regard to the level of Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5 in the ambient air in cities, the
World Bank said that of all the sources of congestion associated with the growth of cities, one of the most serious
for health and human welfare is ambient air pollution from vehicle emissions and the burning of fossil fuels by industry.
High concentrations of fine particulate matter, especially that of 2.5 microns or less in diameter (PM 2.5), which
can penetrate deep into the lungs, increases the likelihood of asthma, lung cancer, severe respiratory illness, and
heart disease. 

UN adopts ambitious post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals

The ambitious UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that aim to end poverty, hunger, assure gender equality, and build
a life of dignity for all over the next 15 years, were adopted in New York on September 25, 2015 as global leaders
including Prime Minister Narendra Modi descended on the world body’s headquarters on the historic occasion. 

The 193-member General Assembly adopted the new framework, “Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”,
composed of 17 goals and 169 targets to wipe out poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate change over the next
15 years. 

The new development agenda, arrived at after months and years of intense negotiations, was adopted as world leaders,
heads of global financial institutions and other dignitaries headed to the UN headquarters for its landmark 70th
anniversary session. 

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described the agenda as “a clarion call” to “share prosperity, empower people’s livelihoods,
ensure peace and heal our planet for the benefit of this and future generations”. 

Among the ambitious 17 goals to be adopted by the UN for the next 15 years is complete poverty eradication, zero hunger,
quality education, gender equality, sustainable cities and communities and clean water and sanitation. 

Officials have forecast 2015 as “a watershed year” for the UN for having reached an agreement that will “change the paradigm
about development” while “leaving no one behind” and giving a boost to a global climate change accord later this

Pope Francis, on his maiden visit to the US, made a historic address to the General Assembly during a tour timed for
the global gathering. Celebrities such as pop star Shakira and footballer David Beckham, both Goodwill Ambassadors
of the UN Children’s Fund, made appearances to preview the importance of the global goals. 

The three-day UN Sustainable Development Summit kicked off on September 25 with a record number of world leaders attending
including PM Modi as well as heads of multilateral bodies like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund
(IMF). The summit opened with a screening of the film ‘The Earth From Space’ and was followed by a call to action
by female education advocate and youngest-ever Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai along with youth representatives as
torch bearers to a sustainable future.

Govt. to disburse Rs. 1.22 lakh crore loan under MUDRA by March

 The government has set a target of disbursing Rs 1.22 lakh crore loan to micro and marginal businesses under MUDRA scheme
by the end of the current fiscal. A statement to this effect was made by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on September
25, 2015 while launching a week long credit campaign under Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana (PMMY) with an aim to provide
credit to small scale entrepreneurs. 

Addressing the media after inaugurating the Mudra Mega Credit Camp in New Delhi, Jaitley said, unorganised sector provides
employment opportunities to 11 crore people in the country and PMMY will help in funding them via banks in an organised
manner. Loans have been disbursed through PMMY to 37 lakh persons so far in 2015-16. 

The Government has started PMMY to provide job opportunities through self employment to different sections of society
in the country and there is a need to create awareness among people to take benefit of the scheme as it will boost
economic activity in market. The Finance Minister also disbursed loan to beneficiaries under the scheme.

The Mega credit campaigns are being conducted all over the country by banks from September 25 and will continue upto
October 2. MUDRA Ltd has been established with an initial corpus of Rs 5,000 crore to provide capital to all banks
seeking refinancing of small business loans under Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana. Under the scheme, so far over twenty
four thousand crore rupees have been distributed to the beneficiaries. Of them, 52 per cent are Women and about 50
per cent new Enterprises. The scheme covers three categories, Shishu, upto Rs 50 thousand Kishore between Rs 50,000
to Rs 5 lakh and under Tarun category loans between Rs 5 to Rs 10 lakh are covered.  

Facebook rebrands Internet.org as Free Basics: Social networking giant Facebook on September 25,
2015 said that it was rebranding its free internet sharing platform Internet.org to Free Basics which would help
distinguish between the broader Internet.org initiative, and the app and website that currently provide access to
Free Basic services. Currently, the Internet.org website has been moved to Free Basics in India and the site says
that only Reliance SIM card holders can access the site and its services.

Rajasthan approves quotas for economically, special backward classes 

The Rajasthan assembly on September 22, 2015 passed two bills, providing reservation in educational institutions and
government jobs to economically backward classes and special backward classes including Gujjars. The two bills --
reservation to economically backward classes and special backward classes -- bring the total reservation in the state
to 68 percent. The state government plans to include both these bills in the ninth schedule of the Constitution.

Rajasthan Economically Backward Classes (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutions in the State and of Appointments
and Posts in Services under the State) Bill, 2015, passed by voice vote in the state assembly, specifically defines
“Economically Backward Classes” as people not included in any other category of reservation. The bill provides for
the reservation of seats in educational institutions in the state and of appointments and posts in the services under
the state in favour of the economically backward classes to the extent of 14%. 

Conceding a long standing demand of Gujjars, the Rajasthan state assembly also passed by voice vote the Rajasthan Special
Backward Classes (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutions in the State and of Appointments and Posts in
Services under the State) Bill, 2015. Special backward classes include castes such as Gujjars, Banjara, and Gadiya
Lohar, among others. The reservation in respect of the annual permitted strength for admission into educational institutions
and courses in the state and for appointments and posts in the services under the state for special backward classes
shall be five percent.

Maharashtra to launch mental health scheme to curb farmers suicides: In the wake of rising cases
of farmers’ suicides, Maharashtra Government has decided to launch a mental health scheme aimed at bringing down
the number of deaths due to the agrarian crisis. A government resolution issued in Mumbai on September 24, 2015 said
an advance of Rs 7.6 crore has been sanctioned for implementation of the special assistance scheme to curb farmers’
suicides.  The scheme will be known as ‘Prerana Project- Farmers’ Mental Health Service Programme’. It envisages
roping in accredited social health activists (ASHA) community health workers in efforts to reduce farmers’ suicides.
As many as 628 farmer suicides have been reported so far this year in the Marathwada region, which has experienced
the most deficient rainfall in the entire country. 

Historic accord signed between Nyishi and Apatani tribes: Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Nabam
Tuki o September 20, 2015 witnessed the historic signing of accord at Ziro between the Nyishi and Apatani communities
here and hailed it as ushering in “a new era of peaceful co-existence” in the state. The accord was signed at a conglomeration
of hundreds of members of both the communities as well as members of various community-based organisations from across
the state.

Grant citizenship to Chakma, Hajong tribals in 3 months–SC: The Supreme Court has directed the Centre
and Arunachal Pradesh government to grant citizenship within three months to Chakma and Hajong tribals who had migrated
from Bangladesh in 1964-69 and were settled in Arunachal Pradesh, saying they cannot be discriminated in any manner
pending formal conferment of rights of citizenship. Their status also stands duly acknowledged in the guidelines
of the Election Commission of India. The apex court said that Chakmas have a right to be granted citizenship and
it is even “recognised by judicial decisions that they cannot be required to obtain any Inner Line permit as they
are settled in Arunachal Pradesh.” (September 19, 2015)

Mukhyamantri Yuva Swavlamban Yojana launched in Gujarat: The Gujarat Government on September 24,
2015 announced a Mukhyamantri Yuva Swavlamban Yojana for meritorious students of the non-reserved categories. Chief
Minister Anandiben Patel said that all the students, who secure 90 percentile in 12th Standard and whose annual family
income is below Rs. 4.50 lakh are eligible to get various benefits like 50 percent waiver of fee, scholarships, hostel
expenses etc. Meritorious students pursuing his Medical and Engineering and other higher studies will get 50 percent
assistance with maximum limit of Rs.2 lakh per year under this scheme. 

Importance of Astrostat 

So far, ISRO satellite missions were either applications oriented or scientific in nature. For instance, the first Indian
satellite Aryabatta was a scientific satellite, followed by scientific satellite missions like SROSS and Youthsat.
Besides, IRS-P3 and GSAT-2 carrying on board piggyback scientific experiments. Chandrayaan-I and Mars Orbiter Mission
(MoM) explored the Moon and Mars respectively. MoM releases images once in every two-and-half days.

In contrast to the satellites launched by India so far, Astrostat is the first one that is dedicated to space observation
and unlocking the mysteries of the universe.

India has ground-based telescopes such as the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope near Pune and the Indian Astronomical Observatory
in Ladakh. However, without a space telescope, scientists so far relied on the telescopes operated NASA and the European
Space Agency to study ‘radiation bands’ that carry information about neutron stars, newly born or exploding stars
and the spiralling hot gases around black holes. Now, Indian scientists can use the indigenous Astrosat for their
research. It will help in understanding high energy processes in binary star systems containing neutron stars and
black holes, estimate magnetic fields of neutron stars and study star birth regions and high energy processes in
star systems lying beyond the galaxy.


Astrosat carries four X-ray payloads, one UV telescope and a charge particle monitor.  Apart from ISRO, four other Indian
institutions – Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Inter-University Centre
for Astronomy and Astrophysics and Raman Research Institute – were involved in the payload development. Two of the
payloads are in collaboration with Canadian Space Agency and University of Leicester

Southwest Monsoon ends with 14 per cent deficit:

Under the influence of the El-Nino phenomenon, the Southwest monsoon ended with a deficiency of 14 per cent this year
with around 55 per cent of the country receiving “normal” rainfall. The official period for the Southwest Monsoon
season in India is between June 1 and September 30. 2014 also the monsoon reported a deficiency of 12 per cent. 

“We are satisfied that our Long Range Forecast have turned out as per our prediction. This was for the first time that
we made a prediction of more than 10 per cent deficiency,” IMD Director General Laxman Singh Rathore said on September
30, 2015. IMD had made a forecast of 88 per cent “deficient” rainfall with plus or minus 4 per cent. 

This year’s rainfall was particularly marred by the El-Nino phenomenon. Country wise, Northwest India has recorded a
deficiency of 17 per cent, followed by 16 per cent in Central India, 15 per cent in Southern Peninsula and 8 per
cent in East and North-east India. 

The season this year witnessed rainfall, which started with excess rainfall for the first month, but ended with a deficiency
in the remaining three months. The monsoon, which hit the Kerala coast a tad late on June 5, four days after the
official onset of rainy season in India. June saw 16 per cent excess rain this season. However, July witnessed deficiency
of 16 per cent. It further grew to 22 and 24 per cent for August and September respectively. 

With weak monsoon, food grain production is also projected to drop by 1.78 per cent to 124.05 million tonnes in the 2015-16
kharif season due to poor monsoon and drought-like situation in some states like Karnataka. Food grain output was
126.31 million tonnes (MT) in the kharif (summer) season of the 2014-15 crop year (July-June). 

As the season ended with a deficit, as on September 23, ninety-one major water reservoirs monitored by the Central Water
Commission (CWC) filled to the extent of only 62 per cent to its total capacity of 253.388 billion cubic meter (bcm).

PM’s interaction through PRAGATI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 30, 2015 chaired his
sixth interaction through PRAGATI - the ICT-based, multi-modal platform for Pro-Active Governance and Timely Implementation.
The Prime Minister reviewed in particular, the progress of development of solar energy parks in 17 States across
the country. He exhorted States to work proactively towards creating conducive policy frameworks to enable speedy
implementation of solar power projects. The Prime Minister also reviewed the progress of implementation of National
Food Security Act, 2013 and Aadhar card enrolment, across the country, and emphasized speedy implementation so that
citizens can avail the benefits of these initiatives.

US museum to return rare ‘stolen’ artworks to India

An American art museum will return to India four allegedly stolen rare artworks purchased from disgraced US-based Indian
art dealer Subhash Kapoor, who is under probe for running an international smuggling racket. The Toledo Museum of
Art (TMA) in the US state of Ohio said on September 29, 2015 it will return the artworks, including a bronze sculpture
and carved stone. 

The four objects to be returned to India are: a stone stele of Varaha Rescuing the Earth (acquired in 2001); a previously
announced return of a nearly 1,000-year-old bronze sculpture of the Hindu god Ganesha described as being from Tamil
Nadu (acquired in 2006).

Two more include: an 18th century patterned gold with enamel pandan box, described as being of Mughal origin (acquired
in 2008); and Rasikapriya from the Samdehi Ragini, an 18th-century watercolour with gold on paper (acquired in 2010).

UN adopts new Global Goals, charting sustainable development by 2030 

The 193-Member United Nations General Assembly on September 25, 2015 formally adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable
Development, along with a set of bold new Global Goals, which Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hailed as a universal,
integrated and transformative vision for a better world. 

“The new agenda is a promise by leaders to all people everywhere. It is an agenda for people, to end poverty in all its
forms – an agenda for the planet, our common home,” declared Ban at the UN Sustainable Development Summit that started
on September 25 and ended on October 4.

The new framework titled ‘Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’ is composed of 17 goals
and 169 targets to wipe out poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate change over the next 15 years. 

The Goals aim to build on the work of the historic Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which in September 2000, rallied
the world around a common 15-year agenda to tackle the indignity of poverty.

The Summit opened with a full programme of events, including a screening of the film The Earth From Space, performances
by UN Goodwill Ambassadors Shakira and Angelique Kidjo, as well as call to action by female education advocate and
the youngest-ever Nobel Laureate, Malala Yousafzai along with youth representatives as torch bearers to a sustainable

The adoption ceremony was presided over by Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen and Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta
Museveni, who stressed the successes of the MDGSs and the need for the full implementation of the new Agenda.

General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft called the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development “ambitious” in confronting
the injustices of poverty, marginalization and discrimination. 

Iceland says it killed 184 whales in 2015

Iceland announced on October 1, 2015 that 155 fin whales and 29 minke whales were killed in its hunting season in 2015,
in defiance of calls to end the practice. These figures, provided by the ministry of agriculture and fisheries in
capital Reykjavik, were within the government’s 2015 hunting quotas of 171 fin whales, the second largest animal
after blue whales, and 275 of the smaller minke whales. 

Iceland and Norway are the only nations that openly defy the International Whaling Commission’s 1986 ban on hunting whales.
Japan has used a legal loophole in the ban that allows it to continue hunting the animals in order to gather scientific
data -- but it has never made a secret of the fact that the whale meat from these hunts often ends up on dining tables.

Iceland’s continued whaling has drawn criticism from several other countries as well as from environmental and animal
groups. Icelandic whalers caught 137 fin whales and 24 minkes in 2014, according to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation

According to Icelandic media, the Icelandic whaling body Hvalur continues the hunt as a matter of principle, despite
millions of euros (dollars) of losses incurred each year. It subsidises the industry thanks to its involvement in
other fisheries activities.

NASA captures Pluto’s moon Charon in stunning detail

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has returned the best colour and the highest resolution images yet of Pluto’s largest
moon, Charon, which show a surprisingly complex and violent history. 

The image combines blue, red and infrared images taken by the spacecraft’s Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera
(MVIC); the colours are processed to best highlight the variation of surface properties across Charon. 

Charon’s colour palette is not as diverse as Pluto’s; most striking is the reddish north polar region, informally named
Mordor Macula. 

Charon is 1,214 kilometres across. The image resolves details as small as 2.9 kilometres. At half the diameter of Pluto,
Charon is the largest satellite relative to its planet in the solar system. 

Charon’s cratered uplands at the top are broken by series of canyons, and replaced on the bottom by rolling plains. The
scene covers Charon’s width of 1,214 kilometres and resolves details as small as 0.8 kilometres. 

Another image shows the details of a belt of fractures and canyons just north of the moon’s equator. This great canyon
system stretches more than 1,600 kilometres across the entire face of Charon and likely around onto Charon’s far
side. Faults and canyons on its surface indicate a titanic geological upheaval in Charon’s past. 

A composite of enhanced colour images of Pluto and Charon highlights the striking differences between Pluto and Charon.
The colour and brightness of both Pluto and Charon have been processed identically to allow direct comparison of
their surface properties, and to highlight the similarity between Charon’s polar red terrain and Pluto’s equatorial
red terrain. (October 2, 2015)

Bill Gates and UN say malaria could be eradicated by 2040: Malaria could be wiped out by 2040, despite
the lack of an effective vaccine, previous failed attempts to eradicate the disease and drug resistance problems,
the United Nations and Microsoft founder Bill Gates said in a report released on September 29, 2015. Gates and Ray
Chambers, the UN secretary-general’s special envoy for malaria, said getting rid of the parasitic disease could ultimately
save 11 million lives and provide $2 trillion in economic benefits. Gates’ foundation has been one of the major donors
to malaria eradication programs. The report calls for a doubling of the money spent on malaria by 2025 and new ways
to control the mosquitoes that spread the disease. Past attempts to get rid of malaria have failed; the World Health
Organization and partners had targeted the end of 2015 for cutting cases to “near zero.” About 500,000 children are
killed by malaria every year. Despite a regulatory approval recommendation for the world’s first malaria vaccine,
the shot only protects about one third of children. Resistance to many malaria drugs has been detected and more than
a third of people at risk have no protective bed nets.

Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar award 2015 announced

The government on September 26, 2015 announced the recipients of prestigious Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar award, considered
to be a coveted science honour in the country. The Ministry of Science and Technology announced 11 awards in seven
different fields. 


In Biological Science category, Balasubramanian Gopal of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore and
Rajeev Kumar Varshney of International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) were chosen for
the coveted award. 

Jyotiranjan Srichandan Ray from the Physical Science Laboratory, Ahmedabad was chosen from the field of Earth, Atmosphere, Ocean and Planetary Sciences while Yogesh Joshi from IIT Kanpur was selected for the awards in the field of Engineering Sciences

In the field of Mathematical Sciences, Ritabrata Munshi from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR),
Mumbai and K Sandeep from TIFR Centre for Applicable Mathematics, Bangalore bagged the award. 

Vidita Vaidya from the TIFR Mumbai bagged the award from the Medical Science category. 

In the Physical Sciences category, Bedangadas Mohanty from the National Institute of Science Education and Research,
Bhubaneshwar and Mandar Deshmukh from the TIFR Mumbai were selected. 

D Srinivasa Reddy from CSIR’s National Chemical Laboratory, Pune and Pradyut Ghosh form the Indian Association for the
Cultivation of Science, Jadavpur were selected for the award in the category of Chemical Sciences

Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Award is named after the founder Director of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research
(CSIR), the late Sir Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar. The prize is given each year for outstanding contributions to science
and technology. It is also a recognition of outstanding Indian work in science and technology. Any India citizen,
overseas citizen of India (OCI) and persons of Indian origin (PIO) working in India engaged in research in any field
of science and technology up to the age of 45 years as reckoned are eligible for the award.

RBI reduces repo rate by 0.5% in fourth bi-monthly monetary policy 

Reserve Bank Governor Raghuram Rajan on September 29, 2015 cut interest rate cut by 0.5% to boost the economy and bring
down cost of home, consumer and industry loans. While the RBI action will benefit borrowers, it will also lead to
reduction in deposit and savings rate. The government also disclosed that it will review the interest rate on small
savings, PPF and Post Office deposits, to bring them in line with market. In its fourth bi-monthly monetary policy
for the current fiscal, RBI cut benchmark repurchase (repo) rate from 7.25 per cent to 6.75 per cent, lowest in four-and-half-years.
Heeding to clamour from government as well as industry, Rajan effected the fourth cut in repo rate in 2015 on back
of moderating inflation and favourable global commodity and oil prices.

Rajan justified the reduction saying consumer inflation was likely to be at 5.8 per cent, below the 6 per cent target
for January. The focus should now shift to bringing inflation to around 5 per cent by March 2017, he said, adding
that RBI will be vigilant for signs of monetary policy adjustments that are needed to stick to the “deflationary

RBI lowered its economic growth forecast for the current fiscal to 7.4 per cent from its previous projection of 7.6 per
cent. Government and industry welcomed the RBI decision and nudged banks to transmit the benefit to borrowers to
boost investments and economy. 


  • Reduction of the policy repo rate (short-term lending rate to banks) under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF)
    by 50 basis points from 7.25 percent to 6.75 percent with immediate effect.

  • No change in the cash reserve ratio (CRR) of scheduled banks from four percent of net demand and time liability (NDTL).

Base rate calculation guidelines for banks by Nov-end: Reserve Bank on September 29, 2015 said it
will issue guidelines by November-end for banks to calculate the base rate on the basis of marginal cost of funds.
To ensure effective transmission of its policy rate decisions by banks, the RBI on September 1 had proposed a uniform
methodology for computation of their base lending rates on the basis of marginal cost of funds. Many banks currently
follow average cost of funds or ‘blended cost of funds (liabilities) method’ for calculating the base rate, while
a few already take into account the proposed measure of ‘marginal cost of funds’. “Guidelines will be issued by end-November
2015,” the central bank said. While the RBI had reduced short-term lending rate by 0.75 per cent during January-June
2015, the median base lending rates by banks fell only about 30 basis points despite easy liquidity conditions. 

RBI considering implementation of report on UCBs: The RBI said on September 29, 2015 that the recommendations
of the Gandhi Committee on Urban Cooperative Banks will be considered for implementation during the second half of
2015-16. The committee has given suggestions on permissible business lines, appropriate size, conversion of UCBs
into commercial banks and licensing of new UCBs. 

RBI to promote card usage in smaller towns: In efforts to move towards a cashless society, the Reserve
Bank on September 29, 2015 said it will come out with a concept paper on promoting electronic payments, especially
in smaller towns, by November-end. “With growing financial inclusion, there are concerted efforts to enhance the
use of technology and move towards a ‘less-cash’ society. “In order to promote electronic payments and use of cards
for transactions, the Reserve Bank will put in the public domain a concept paper for proliferation of card acceptance
infrastructure in the country, especially in the tier III to tier VI centres, by end-November 2015,” it said. 

Banknotes with new numbering pattern issued: The RBI said on September 29, 2015 it has issued Rs
100, Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denomination banknotes with a new numbering pattern with ascending order of the size of
the numbers from left to right. Further, with a view to making identification of banknotes easier for visually challenged
persons, the process for introduction of additional identification marks has been initiated and is being introduced
in Rs 100, Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. 

Foreign portfolio investor limits in G-Secs hiked

Foreign Portfolio Investors (FPI) will be offered an additional investment limit of Rs. 1,20,000 crore in Government
securities in a phased manner by March 2018. As on date, the FPI limit for G-Sec investments is Rs. 1,53,500 crore.

Foreign portfolio investments will be denominated in rupees instead of dollars and the cap will be raised in phases to
5 per cent of outstanding debt by March, 2018, the RBI said on September 29, 2015.

The RBI plans to issue a circular outlining details of the medium term framework separately. The framework seeks to have
a more predictable regime for FPI investment in India.

Meeting a long pending demand of state governments, the RBI also unveiled separate investments limits for FPIs in state
development loans (SDL) in a phased manner (at two per cent of outstanding stock) unlocking an additional limit of
about Rs. 50,000 crore by March 2018.

Each tranche would entail an increase in limits to the extent of Rs. 13,000 crore for G-sec (Rs. 7,500 crore for long-term
investors and Rs. 5,500 crore for others) and Rs. 3,500 crore for SDL which will be open to all investors.

The increase in limits will be announced every half year in March and September and released every quarter. However,
for the current fiscal, limits would be increased in two tranches — October 12, 2015 and January 1, 2016.

The existing requirement of investments being made in G-sec (including SDLs) with a minimum residual maturity of three
years stays.

20 entities get RBI nod for financial grant from DEA Fund

The RBI on October 1, 2015 released the names of 20 entities that have been approved by the DEA Fund Committee for registration
for seeking financial assistance from the Depositor Education and Awareness Fund. These 20 entities have been selected
out of 90 applications received for registration. 

The selection process involved a scrutiny by an internal team of the Reserve Bank followed by an assessment of the applications
by the DEA Fund Committee, which inter alia has three external members. The applicants have been selected on the
basis of their meeting the minimum eligibility criteria, track record and evaluation of the work done by them in
the field of depositor education, consumer awareness, consumer protection and the like. 

The Depositor Education and Awareness Fund Scheme, 2014, is predicated on transfer of bank deposits and other credit
balances that have remained unclaimed for more than 10 years. It envisages grant of financial assistance to applicants
selected on the basis of proposals intended to promote depositor interests. 

The entities that have been approved include Voluntary Organisation in Interest of Consumer Education Society (New Delhi),
Xavier Labour Relations Institute (Jamshedpur), MONEYLIFE Foundation (Mumbai), SAMARPIT- Centre for Poverty Alleviation
and Social Research (Bilaspur) and MOTHER (Bhubaneswar).

DIPP notifies automatic FDI route for white label ATMs

Foreign investors would now be able to invest up to 100 per cent equity in white label ATM operations with the government
notifying the regulations for the same on October 1, 2015. White labelled ATMs are set up by private non-bank companies
that own and operate their own brand of ATMs. Currently, there are over 1.82 lakh ATMs operated by 54 public, private
and foreign banks in the country. 

The companies seeking to set up such ATMs would have to follow certain conditions. Any non-bank entity intending to set
up WLAs should have a minimum net worth of Rs 100 crore as per the latest financial year’s audited balance sheet,
which is to be maintained at all times. 

In case the entity is engaged in any other 18 Non-Banking Finance Companies (NBFC) activities, then the foreign investment
in the company setting up WLA shall also have to comply with minimum capitalisation norms for foreign investments
in NBFC activities. 

National Offshore Wind Energy policy released

The winners of the offshore wind energy blocks will lose their contracts if they fail to start commercial production
within a specified time frame from date of signing the contract. This has been stipulated in the National Offshore
Wind Energy Policy.

The policy, to be notified shortly, has authorised the National Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE) to conduct the auction.
The policy was approved by the Cabinet last month and the details have been put up on the Ministry of New & Renewable
Energy’s website on October 1, 2015.

Oil & gas exploration firms, sea-bed mining firms and others who have existing leases on offshore blocks can participate
in installation of wind farms on their existing acreages. However, such lease holders would need to route their proposals
through NIWE, which will be nodal agency for development of offshore wind energy.

The blocks will be leased out through an international competitive bidding mechanism which is yet to be finalised. NIWE
will also be the sole facilitator for obtaining clearances and no-objection certificates for such offshore blocks.

“NIWE will enter into contract with the successful bidder/the developer of offshore wind energy power project and collect
lease fee from the developer during survey, construction and operation phases,” the policy states.


PM kicks off MUDRA Yojana, free LPG connections in Jharkhand 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 2, 2015 inaugurated distribution of loans under MUDRA Yojana and free LPG connections
to families that are below poverty line in Jharkhand beginning with Dumka. 

Under MUDRA Yojana, loans of Rs 26,000 crore would be distributed among 42 lakh people, including 20 lakh women across
the country. Handing over the first instalment of Rs 10,000 to five men and women, he said it was a loan and not
a grant. The loan would have to be repaid with nominal interest, he said and advised beneficiaries to take them in
instalments to minimise interest. MUDRA Yojana (Micro Units Development & Refinance Agency) would benefit over
one lakh people in Jharkhand where Rs 212 crore would be distributed. 

Inaugurating the distribution of free LPG connections to BPL families in the state, the Prime Minister said 31 lakh people
across the country had given up LPG subsidy which had enabled 18 lakh BPL families get free LPG connections. One
lakh BPL families in Jharkhand would also get free LPG connection. .

Bengal submits application for rosogolla GI tag

West Bengal has submitted the application for a (Geographical Indication) GI tag for the rosogolla to stake claim on
the sugary delicacy and beat Odisha. The state government disclosed that it filed an application for GI on September

The syrupy, soft spongy balls of Indian cottage cheese, the rosogollas, have virtually unleashed a war between two Indian
states. Both Odisha and West Bengal have entered the fray to stake their claim on the famed dessert. The Odisha government
plans to counter Bengal’s claim as the birthplace of rosogolla.

Bengal is claiming that Nabin Chandra Das had introduced the sweet in 1868, while the Odisha government said the tradition
of offering rosogolla by Lord Jagannath to Goddess Laxmi on the day of Niladri Bije (the day when the deities return
to their abode after the annual Rath Yatra) is at least 300 years old indicating it was much older than the 150-year
history of Bengal’s rosogolla. Bengal claims to have prepared a detailed dossier on its origins based on evidence
from Das family and historian Haripada Bhowmik. 

2nd phase of Mission Indradhanush imminisation programme launched

Buoyed by the success of the first phase of ‘Mission Indradhanush’, the government on October 5, 2015 launched second
phase of the ambitious immunisation programme focussing on 352 districts and assured the states of full support for
achieving the targets. Union Health Minister J P Nadda said his Ministry aims to achieve full immunisation of more
than 90 per cent children by 2020. 

‘Mission Indradhanush’ aims at fully immunising more than 89 lakh children who are either unvaccinated or partially vaccinated
and those who have not been covered during routine immunisation for various reasons. The Mission aims to immunise
them against seven life-threatening but vaccine-preventable diseases -- diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, tuberculosis,
polio, measles and hepatitis-B. 

In the second phase, 352 districts have been selected including 279 mid-priority districts, 33 from North-East states
and 40 districts from the phase one, where large number of missed-out children were detected. 

The second phase will commence from October 7 for a week. This will be followed by week-long intensified immunisation
drives for three consecutive months starting from November 7 and December 7, 2015 and January 7, 2016. The Health
Ministry will seek to reach an estimated 45 lakh children who have never received vaccines or remain partially- immunised
in the second phase. 

The campaign will revisit the 40 districts because they did not meet even 50 per cent of their target population during
the first phase. 

Mountain states legislators to come under one banner 

Legislators of the 11 mountain states of India will come under one banner to look into multiple issues related to the
mountains and the people living there, it was decided on October 9, 2015. “It is resolved by all elected members
from many Indian mountain states that they would come under the banner of GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations
to Benefit the Environment)-IMI (Integrated Mountain Initiative) Pan Himalayan Legislators’ Forum,” a resolution
adopted at the conclusion of the fourth Sustainable Mountain Development Summit (SMDS-IV) in Itanagar, stated. 

The theme of the summit, inaugurated by Arunachal Chief Minister Nabam Tuki, was ‘Disaster Risk Reduction, Mountain Agriculture
and Forest’. Tuki said that these Mountain states are poorly represented in the Parliament and emphasized the creation
of a separate Ministry for Himalayan states 

Sponsored by GLOBE India and IMI, this year’s edition was hosted by the Sustainable Development Forum Arunachal Pradesh
(SDFA) in the northeastern state’s capital. The mountain states comprise Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalya,
Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura (northeastern states), Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. 

AYUSH undertakes campaign to prevent poor hygiene diseases: The AYUSH Ministry has undertaken an
initiative on the lines of Swachh Bharat campaign to prevent and treat diseases related to poor hygiene and sanitation,
Union minister Shripad Naik said on October 7, 2015. “The AYUSH Ministry has tried to take forward the Swachh Bharat
Abhiyan by initiating a Swasthya Raksha Programme so as to protect and promote health for preventing, identifying
and treating the diseases related to poor hygiene and sanitation,” the AYUSH minister said. Naik said the programme
is being implemented by the eleven institutes of the Central Council of Research in Homoeopathy (CCRH). He was speaking
after inaugurating D P Rastogi Central Research Institute for Homoeopathy in Noida. CCRH has also adopted five villages
and thousands of people have already benefited under the Swasthya Raksha Programme. He also released IEC material
including a poster and a pamphlet on ‘Swasthya Rakshan Karyakram’.

Govt. approves formation of Indian Skill Development Service: The Government on October 7, 2015
approved the formation of the Indian Skill Development Service (ISDS), a Group ‘A’ service of the technical cadre
of the Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship (MSD&E). It was earlier called the Directorate General
of Employment & Training under the Ministry of Labour Employment. The decision was taken at a meeting of the
Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“Barefoot” technicians for better execution of MGNREGA works: The Government has decided to train
10,000 young “barefoot” technicians in the basic concepts of civil engineering and involve them in planning, doing
layout, measuring and supervising MGNREGA works in 2,500 most backward blocks across India. A Bare Foot Technician
is an educated person, identified from the local SC/ST MGNREGA worker households and specially trained in civil engineering
concepts, using the customized training modules. Union Minister for Rural Development Birender Singh in New Delhi
on October 6, 2015 that better training and skills development will not only contribute to creation of durable and
good quality works but also more sustainable maintenance of assets. It will also provide employment and will give
horizontal and vertical mobility to these young women and men especially to those from vulnerable sections of society. 

At 17,600 ft DRDO inaugurates new R&D centre in Chang La: The DRDO on October 3, 2015 inaugurated an
Extreme Altitude Research Centre at Chang La in Jammu and Kashmir at 17,600 feet above mean sea level. It has been
established by Defence Institute of High Altitude Research (DIHAR), Leh, a constituent establishment of Defence Research
and Development Organisation (DRDO). The centre, 75 km off Leh town towards Pangong Lake, is poised to be the world’s
highest terrestrial R&D centre in the cold desert of Ladakh, where the temperature goes as low as -40 degrees
Celsius during extreme winter months coupled with reduced atmospheric pressure and humidity besides high wind velocity
and UV radiation. The centre was inaugurated by DRDO chief S Christopher, who highlighted its utility for Research
& Development work in frontal areas of food and agriculture and bio-medical sciences for wellbeing of the soldiers
deployed in high-altitude cold desert. 

Migration, an engine of economic growth: World Bank

The World Bank, in its 2015/2016 Global Monitoring Report, has said migration is presently a permanent feature of the
global economy and could be an engine of growth.

In the report, the institution’s President Jim Yong Kim on October 8, 2015 said the migrant crisis in Europe will prove
to be good for the world economy.

The report was released prior to the World Bank Group-International Monetary Fund annual meetings that were held in Lima,
capital of Peru, from October 9 to 11, 2015. 

Subtitled “Development Goals in an Era of Demographic Change”, the report came as a jarring counterpoint to the attitude
of many developed countries who see migration as something to be fought off.

From fiery rhetoric among Republican presidential candidates in the US to attack ads placed by the Danish government
in Lebanese newspapers, migrants are often treated as pariahs that leech off dwindling public resources.

Kim rubbished this viewpoint, saying “if countries with ageing populations can create a path for refugees and migrants
to participate in the economy, everyone benefits. Most of the evidence suggests that migrants will work hard and
contribute more in taxes than they consume in social services”.

According to the World Bank’s analysis, the core evidence of this statement came from the difference in working-population
percentages between developing and developed economies.

Its findings showed the share of global population of working age has peaked at 66 percent and is now dropping.

The report said the share of the elderly will double to 16 percent of the global population by 2050 while the number
of children will remain steady.

Therefore, in many wealthier nations, a demographic imbalance threatens to bankrupt social services and public resources.

The nations that provide the vast majority of migrants, however, are comprised of “young, fast-growing populations that
can expect to see their working-age populations grow significantly”.

“At the same time, more than three-quarters of global growth is generated in higher-income countries with much-lower
fertility rates, fewer people of working age, and rising numbers of the elderly,” Kim said.

Sneezing monkey among 200 new species discovered in Himalayas

A snub-nosed monkey that sneezes when it rains, a walking fish and a jewel-like snake are among more than 200 new species
discovered in the fragile eastern Himalayas, according to a new report by WWF released in Thimpu on October 5, 2015. 

A report on wildlife in Nepal, Bhutan, the far north of Myanmar, southern Tibet and north-eastern India by The World
Wildlife Fund said that discoveries in the past five years including 133 plants, 26 species of fish, 10 new amphibians,
one reptile, one bird and one mammal. Some of the most striking discoveries include a vibrant blue dwarf ‘walking’
snakehead fish, which can breathe atmospheric air and survive on land for up to four days, although moving in a manner
much clumsier than a slithering snake. 

The report details an unfortunate monkey whose upturned nose leads to a sneeze every time the rain falls. The snub-nosed
monkey - or “Snubby” as they nicknamed the species - from locals in the remote forests of northern Myanmar, who said
it was easy to find when it was raining because it often got rainwater in its upturned nose, causing it to sneeze.
To avoid the problem, snubby spend rainy days sitting with their heads tucked between their knees. 

These discoveries show that there is still a huge amount to learn about the species that share our world. WWF said the
discovery of 211 new species from one of the most biologically rich regions of the world is a celebration of the
amazing gift of nature. With discovery, comes the important responsibility to continue protecting and caring for
these precious gift that this world has been blessed with. 

WWF is supporting countries in the region to develop “green” economies that value nature and the services it provides
to millions of people living in the fragile Eastern Himalayas.

Nobel Prizes 2015 announced

Winners of the Nobel Prizes 2015 were announced in October 2015. Winners are:

The Nobel Prize in Physics 2015 went to Takaaki Kajita and Arthur B. McDonald “for the discovery of neutrino oscillations,
which shows that neutrinos have mass”

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2015 was awarded to Tomas Lindahl, Paul Modrich and Aziz Sancar “for mechanistic studies
of DNA repair”

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2015 was won by William C. Campbell and Satoshi Ōmura “for their discoveries
concerning a novel therapy against infections caused by roundworm parasites” & Youyou Tu “for her discoveries
concerning a novel therapy against Malaria”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2015 was awarded to Svetlana Alexievich “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering
and courage in our time”

The Nobel Peace Prize 2015 went to National Dialogue Quartet “for its decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic
democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011”

The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2015 has not been awarded yet. It will be
announced on October 12.

RBI’s e-Kuber be used for account settlement under GST: The Empowered Committee of State Finance
Ministers has recommended that the RBI’s core banking solution e-Kuber be used for consolidating and settlement of
accounts under the GST system. The three reports of the Empowered Committee, pertaining to registration, payment
process and refunds in the Goods and Services Tax (GST), suggested that internet banking, over the counter payment
and NEFT and RTGS should be extensively used to facilitate payments. E-Kuber has been developed by RBI as a core
banking solution, which ensures integrated payment and receipt mechanism. (October 7, 2015)

Project for speedy payments of crop insurance claims launched 

“KISAN”, a project for better assessment of crop yields that would help in speeding up payments against crop insurance
claims by farmers was launched in New Delhi on October 5, 2015.

“The project envisages use of space technology and geoinformatics technology along with high resolution data from drone-based
imaging for improvement in yield estimation needed for crop insurance programme,” said Minister of State for Agriculture
Sanjeev Kumar Balyan, according to an agriculture ministry release.

Crop insurance are usually calculated on the basis of crop cutting experiments, often leading to delays in settlements
due to problems in getting timely and accurate data, he added.

The pilot study was proposed to be launched in one district each of Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra
during the ongoing Kharif season of this year and two districts each of these states during Rabi season of 2015-16.
Balyan said the project would be extended to other parts of the country once the pilot study was successful.

The minister also launched an Android-based app that would provide real time data of hailstorms which would help the
government to fast assess the damage to standing crops.

Funds for National Watershed Management Project approved

The Union Cabinet on October 7, 2015 approved the National Watershed Management Project (NWMP) which will be a component
of the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayi Yojana (PMKSY) to ensure access to irrigation for every farm and efficient
use of water (Per Drop More Crop), Union Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari said. 

The total outlay of the project (Neeranchal National Watershed Project) which is done with the World Bank’s assistance
is Rs.2142 crore. The government’s share is Rs.1071.15 crore (50%) and the rest is the loan component from the bank.
The project will be implemented in nine states of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh,
Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan and Telangana. 

The objective is to bring about institutional changes in watershed and rain-fed agricultural management practices in
the country. The project will also build systems which will ensure watershed programmes and rain-fed irrigation management
practices are better focussed, and more coordinated and have quantifiable results. These systems will also devise
strategies for the sustainability of improved watershed management practices in the areas, even after the withdrawal
of project support.

The programme will lead to reducing surface runoff of rainwater, increasing recharge of ground water and better availability
of water in rain-fed areas resulting in incremental rain-fed agriculture productivity, enhanced milk yield and increased
cropping intensity through better convergence related programmes in project areas.

The erstwhile ‘Integrated Watershed Management Programme (IWMP)’ was implemented since 2009-10 by the Department of Land
Resources (DoLR), for supporting watershed development in 28 states. From 2015-16 onwards, the IWMP will be implemented
as the Watershed Component of PMKSY.

Khattar govt to launch ‘Food Net’ programme: Haryana government will soon launch “Food Net”, a new
programme to ensure transparency and plug leakage and diversion of farmers’ produce. Launching the automation of
Fair Price Shop in Panchkula on October 9, 2015, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said, these shops would
be linked to the ‘Food Net’ programme, under which, entire details right from sowing of seeds by the farmers to the
storage of produce would be recorded, thus leaving no space for its diversion. “The aim of automation of Fair Price
Shop is to ensure the distribution of ration to the real beneficiaries under the Food Security Act in a transparent
manner,” the Chief Minister said. Fair Price Shops would be provided with Point Sales Device (POSD), having biometric
system allowing the real beneficiary to get ration without any delay. The POSD would also generate electronic slip
mentioning details of the beneficiaries, like rate and quantity of ration delivered. Thereafter, the beneficiary
would receive an SMS alert within two minutes. 

Bengal to get India’s first dolphin reserve: India’s first community reserve to protect the endangered
Gangetic river dolphins will come up in West Bengal, the state’s Chief Wildlife Warden West Bengal and Principal
Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) said in Kolkata on October 9, 2015. It would be set up in the Hooghly River
and the methodology to develop the community reserve is being chalked out by a separate committee. According to a
World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) factsheet, the Ganges River dolphin inhabits the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli-Sangu
river systems of Nepal, India, and Bangladesh. Once found in thousands, there are fewer than 2,000 Gangetic dolphins
left in the country in the entire distribution range along the Ganga and Brahamaputra river system. It was declared
as the National Aquatic Animal in 2010.

Operation Valsalya to track missing children in Kerala: Taking a serious view of the increase in
the number of children missing in the state, the Kerala government has launched a programme to trace, rescue and
reunite the little ones with their family. Titled as “Operation Valsalya”, the state government’s ambitious programme
is envisaged to be implemented on the lines of the much acclaimed ‘Operation Smile’ project in Ghaziabad. According
to police statistics, as many as 69 children have been kidnapped or abducted across the state till June 2015. While
116 children had been kidnapped in the state in 2014, the number was 136 in 2013 and 147 in 2012. 

Nilgiris Mountain Rail museum opened at Mettupalayam station: Some of the oldest locomotives and
coaches used for Nilgiris Mountain rail were exhibited at the Rail Museum, which opened on October 7, 2015 at the
Mettupalayam railway station, some 40 kms from Coimbatore. Set up by Salem Division of Southern Railway, the Museum
has photographs and artefacts of the Nilgiris Mountain Rail, running on Mettupalayam-Coonoor-Udhgamandalam section,
and got Heritage Status, some decade ago. On display is the first locomotive, which pulled the train in 1899 and
manufactured by Swiss Locomotive and Machine Works, Zurich. 

SC Bench strikes down NJAC Act as ‘unconstitutional and void’

Declaring that the judiciary cannot risk being caught in a “web of indebtedness” towards the government, the Supreme
Court on October 17, 2015 rejected the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act and the 99th Constitutional
Amendment which sought to give politicians and civil society a final say in the appointment of judges to the highest

“It is difficult to hold that the wisdom of appointment of judges can be shared with the political-executive. In India,
the organic development of civil society, has not as yet sufficiently evolved. The expectation from the judiciary,
to safeguard the rights of the citizens of this country, can only be ensured, by keeping it absolutely insulated
and independent, from the other organs of governance,” Justice J.S. Khehar, the presiding judge on the five-judge
Constitution Bench, explained in his individual judgment.

The Bench in a majority of 4:1 rejected the NJAC Act and the Constitutional Amendment as “unconstitutional and void.”
It held that the collegium system, as it existed before the NJAC, would again become “operative.” Justice J. Chelameswar
was the dissenting judge.

Every judge on the Bench, comprising Justices J. Chelameswar, Madan B. Lokur, Kurian Joseph and A.K. Goel, has written
separate judgments explaining the debate, reasonings and individual conclusions they arrived at about the NJAC and
the Constitutional Amendment. The entire bulk of the series of judgments and orders run to about 1,000 pages.

The Bench admitted that all is not well even with the collegium system of “judges appointing judges”, and that the time
is ripe to improve the 21-year-old system of judicial appointments. Justice Khehar scheduled further debate for November
3 on bettering the working of the collegium system.

Govt to develop 78 lighthouses pan-India as tourist spots

Enthused by a higher tourist footfall at historic lighthouses of Mahabalipuram and Cannanore, the government has decided
to develop 78 more such structures across India in PPP mode in the first phase to unlock their rich history and heritage. 

India has 189 lighthouses dotting its 7,517-km vast coast line, including the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay
of Bengal and Lakshadweep Islands in the Arabian Sea. Steeped in rich maritime heritage, each lighthouse has its
own story to tell and has tremendous tourism potential to be tapped. 

“The Ministry of Shipping, along with the Directorate General of Lighthouses and Lightships (DGLL), has drawn up an ambitious
programme to develop 78 lighthouses in the country as centres of tourism in the first phase under public private
partnership (PPP),” an official statement said on October 13, 2015. 

The identified lighthouses are in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Lakshadweep, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry,
Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal and Andaman and Nicobar. 

The land adjacent to these lighthouses can have hotels, resorts, viewing galleries, maritime museums and heritage museums,
adventure sports facilities, thematic restaurants, souvenir shops, LASER shows, spa and rejuvenation centres, amphitheatres
and allied tourism facilities to attract tourists, subject to viability and clearances. 

DGLL has already invited requests for qualification (RFQ) from prospective and potential developers for eight lighthouses
at Aguada (Goa), Chandrabhaga (Odisha), Mahabalipuram, Kanyakumari and Muttom (Tamil Nadu), Kadalur Point (Thikkodi,
Kerala), Kanhoji Angre and Sunk Rock (Maharashtra) and Minicoy (Lakshadweep). 

An expression of interest (EoI) has also been issued by DGLL for another 70 lighthouses. 

Traditionally, lighthouses have been beacons of navigation for mariners for centuries, but of late these are transforming
into major tourist destinations. The world over, lighthouses attract tourists with their scenic and serene surroundings
and rich maritime heritage.

Govt notifies revised Guidelines for Governing Adoption of Children: Ministry of Women and Child
Development on October 14, 2015 notified the revised ‘Guidelines for Governing Adoption of Children. The revised
guidelines coupled with the new IT enabled adoption system - CARINGS, provide a transparent process of adoption under
which all the child care institutions of the country have been brought into an integrated system. The Ministry has
also simultaneously started country-wide workshops to enable child care institutions to understand the new guidelines
and work under the new IT environment. While releasing the new guidelines, ministry clarified that the earlier guidelines
of 2011 also provided that single parents can adopt a child and these provisions have been retained in the 2015 guidelines.

India-Bangladesh land boundary agreement: Citizenship given to 14,864 people 

The Union Home Ministry has approved citizenship to 14,864 people who chose to stay in India following exchange of adversely-held
enclaves with Bangladesh under the landmark land boundary agreement. This was disclosed by the Home Ministry on October
13, 2015. 

India and Bangladesh exchanged 162 adversely-held enclaves at the stroke midnight of July 31-Aug 1 this year, just over
a month after the signing of an enabling document between the two countries during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s
visit to Dhaka in June this year to implement the historic land boundary agreement passed by Indian parliament. 

The exchange of enclaves ended one of the world’s most complex border disputes that had lingered for seven decades as
a result of the legacy British colonial rule. 

111 Indian enclaves measuring 17,160 acres became part of Bangladesh territory while 51 Bangladesh enclaves measuring
7,110 acres became Indian territory. 

According to an estimate, around 37,000 people were living in Indian enclaves in Bangladesh while 14,000 people were
staying in Bangladeshi enclaves in India. 

The grant of citizenship by the Union Home Ministry to the 14,864 people brought to an end their being stateless citizens
without access to civic services, education, health-care and other facilities provided by the two governments to
their respective nationals. 

A survey was jointly carried out by the two countries to ascertain the citizenship choice of the residents of the enclaves
from July 6-16, 2015. 

Indian and Bangladeshi authorities are working together to facilitate trouble-free movement of the residents as per their
citizenship options before the stipulated date of November 30, 2015. 

Between July 31, 2015 and June 30, 2016, the entire process, including physical exchange of enclaves and land parcels
in adverse possession along with boundary demarcation, is expected to be completed.

Implementation of Kaladan Multi Modal Transit Transport Project at revised cost approved

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 14, 2015 gave its approval for the Revised Cost
Estimate (RCE) of Rs.2904.04 crores for the Kaladan Multi Modal Transit Transport Project in Myanmar. 

The project will provide an alternate access route to the North-Eastern region of India and contribute towards the region’s
economic development. Being a key connectivity project, it will promote economic, commercial and strategic links
between India and Myanmar. 

The Kaladan Multi Modal Transit Transport Project was jointly identified by the India and Myanmar to create a multi-modal
mode of transport for shipment of cargo from the eastern ports of India to Myanmar as well as to the North-Eastern
part of India through Myanmar. This project, which will connect Sittwe Port in Myanmar to the India-Myanmar border,
is expected to contribute to the economic development of the North-Eastern States of India, by opening up the sea
route for the products. 

The project also provides a strategic link to the North-East, thereby reducing pressure on the Siliguri Corridor. In
the absence of an alternate route, the development of this project not only serves the economic, commercial and strategic
interests of India, but also contributes to the development of Myanmar, and its economic integration with India.
Since the project is of political and strategic significance, it was decided to execute it through India’s grant
assistance to Myanmar. 

Following preparation of the Detailed Project Reports (DPR) for the waterways component comprising Port and Inland Waterways
Terminal (IWT) in April 2003 and the road component in March 2005, M/s RITES Limited, a Public Sector Undertaking
under the Ministry of Railways, suggested a waterway route from Sittwe Port to Kaletwa (225 kms) along the Kaladan
River and thereafter a roadway from Kaletwa to the India-Myanmar border (62 kms). The Cabinet approved the project
at a cost of Rs. 535.91 crores in its meeting held in March 2008

China operationalises biggest dam on Brahmaputra in Tibet

China on October 13, 2015 operationalised the USD 1.5 billion Zam Hydropower Station, the largest in Tibet, built on
the Brahmaputra river, which has raised concerns in India over the likelihood of disrupting water supplies. Located
in the Gyaca County, Shannan Prefecture, the Zam Hydropower Station also known as Zangmu Hydropower Station, harnesses
the rich water resources of Brahmaputra known in Tibet as Yarlung Zangbo River, a major river which flows through
Tibet into India and later into Bangladesh. The dam considered to be the world’s highest-altitude hydropower station
and the largest of its kind will produce 2.5 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity a year. 

China seeks to ally Indian fears saying that they are the run-of-the-river projects which were not designed to hold water.
The dams also raised concerns in India over China’s ability to release water in times of conflict which could pose
serious risk of flooding. An Indian Inter-Ministerial Expert Group (IMEG) on the Brahmaputra in 2013 said the dams
were being built on the upper reaches and called for further monitoring considering their impact on the flow of waters
to the lower reaches. The IMEG noted that the three dams, Jiexu, Zangmu and Jiacha are within 25 kms of each other
and are 550 kms from the Indian border.

 India has been taking up the issue with China for the past few years. Under an understanding reached in 2013, Chinese
side agreed to provide more flood data of Brahmaputra from May to October instead of June to October in the previous
agreements river water agreements in 2008 and 2010. Also India is concerned that if the waters are diverted, then
projects on the Brahmaputra, particularly the Upper Siang and Lower Subansiri projects in Arunachal Pradesh, may
get affected.

FAO unveils State of Food and Agriculture report

Nearly a billion people worldwide still live on less than USD 1.25 a day and a smart combination of social assistance
and measures to boost farm output is key to reducing that figure, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)
said on October 13, 2015. 

In its 2015 “State of Food and Agriculture” report, the Rome-based agency said that while the number of people living
in extreme poverty (below the USD 1.25 threshold) has declined substantially in recent years, huge pockets of misery
persist across the globe.  “Poverty and malnutrition remain unconscionably high in many parts of the world, and rural
people who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods find it particularly hard to break the cycle of poverty,”
the report concludes. 

While big advances in the fight against extreme poverty have been made in East Asia, the Pacific and South Asia, almost
no headway has been recorded in sub-Saharan Africa, where almost half the population is extremely poor. Lying behind
that state of affairs, the report argues, is the African rural poor’s continuing reliance on agriculture for their
livelihoods and the high share of their expenditure that goes on food. That and the evidence from elsewhere indicate
that social protection and agricultural development can be powerful allies in the battle to alleviate poverty and

The report cites Brazil, Ethiopia, India, Mexico and South Africa as examples of countries where social assistance-based
programmes have yielded results and notes that poverty incidence remains highest where these are the least developed.
“Most countries, even the poorest, can afford social protection programmes that could be of significance in the fight
against poverty,” the report notes, while recognising that financing them may force governments into difficult spending
choices in the absence of donor assistance. 

According to FAO, social protection helped lift up to 150 million people out of extreme poverty in 2013 alone. “Social
protection allows households to increase and diversify their food consumption,” often through their own increased
production, the report notes, adding that programmes targeted at women had particularly good results by stopping
the vicious circle of maternal and child malnutrition being perpetuated through the generations. 

Social protection for the rural poor also stimulates investment in agricultural production by promoting savings as well
as through its positive impact on nutrition, health and education. 

The report argues strongly that measures to give the rural poor great financial assistance do not reduce work effort
or foster a dependency culture.

Nanjing massacre files in Memory of the World Register

China on October 10, 2015 welcomed UNESCO’s inscription of documents related to the massacre of civilians in Nanjing
city by Japanese troops in WW-II on UN Memory of the World Register despite firm opposition from Japan. 

“China will ensure these valuable documents are protected and circulated, and make them play a positive role in remembering
history, cherishing peace, looking into the future and safeguarding human dignity,” said the Chinese Foreign Ministry

UNESCO on October 9 listed the documents related to the massacre known as the “Rape of Nanjing”, saying the inscription
marks an “international recognition and consensus” of records that have been distorted by the Japanese right wing. 

Inscription of the dossier into the UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register, created to preserve significant and endangered
documents, was announced on the website of the UN’s scientific and cultural body. 

Japan lashed out at UNESCO, saying that it is “extremely regrettable that a global organisation that should be neutral
and fair entered the documents in the Memory of the World register, despite the repeated pleas made by the Japanese

The files show the atrocities of Japanese troops in China, who killed 3,00,000 Chinese civilians and unarmed soldiers
from December 13, 1937 to January of 1938, state-run Xinhua news agency reported. 

Japan’s foreign ministry questioned the authenticity of the documents even as Beijing rejected Tokyo’s protest, saying:
“Nanjing Massacre is a severe crime committed by Japanese militarism during World War II and is a historical fact
recognised by the international community.” 

China says the files meet the evaluation criteria of Memory of the World Register, especially for authenticity and completeness,
and the submission complied with UNESCO rules. It added that Japan should regain trust from the international community
with concrete action.

World’s first automated mass-crowd count performed

Researchers have used computers to scan aerial photographs and conduct the world’s first automated mass-crowd count. 

Researchers at the University of Central Florida said that counting large-scale crowds has been a long, tedious process
involving people examining aerial photographs one at a time. 

Until now, each photograph had to be divided into sections and the examiners counted the number of heads per inch. 

But now, UCF’s Center for Research in Computer Vision has created software that promises to automate the process and
cut down the time dramatically, from up to a week to 30 minutes, giving organisers critical information when planning
for events or responding to emergencies. 

The software was tested in September. Thousands of demonstrators along a 5 km stretch of Barcelona were calling for the
independence of the Catalonia province from Spain. Using the new software, 67 aerial images of different sections
were analysed. 

The software programme came up with a total count for each of the images within 30 minutes. The images and calculations
were then sent to Pompeu Fabra University in Spain for reviewing the data. Using UCF results for the images, they
concluded the count for the entire crowd at about 530,000. 

The researchers claimed that automated computer analysis of such large-scale and dense crowds has never been done before.
(Washington, October 16, 2015)

Myanmar inks peace pact with ethnic rebels: The Myanmar government on October 15, 2015 signed a
peace accord with eight of the 15 ethnic armed groups in a ceremony in capital Naypyidaw that was attended by India
along with other five “international witnesses”. Apart from India, which was represented by National Security Advisor
Ajit Doval, other international representation was from China, Japan, Thailand, the United Nations and the European
Union. The ceasefire pact with eight ethnic minority armies is seen as a step towards ending decades of civil war
though the move has weakened by the refusal of several other rebel groups to join the agreement. The truce was a
key goal of President Thein Sein ahead of November elections. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s special envoy for northeast
R N Ravi and former Mizoram chief minister Zoramthanga were also present on the occasion. Zoramthanga, a former rebel
leader, was involved in the peace deal and had travelled earlier to Myanmar and Thailand where he held talks with
both Myanmarese rebel groups and the government as a go-between.

African nation issues stamp on Durga: Reflecting an international interest in the Indian festival
of Navratri and Durga Puja, an African island nation on October 15, 2015 issued a special stamp on Goddess Durga.
Adorned with special features like velvet effect and Swarovski element, the limited edition collectors’ stamp was
launched by Sao Tome and Principe, an African Island country near the Equator, said numismatist Alok Goyal who has
the sole selling rights for the stamps. The stamp, having a face value of 86,000 Dobra, currency unit of the Portuguese-speaking
country, shows a picture of ‘Sherawali Maa’ sitting atop a tiger. Only 1500 pieces of this stamp have been issued

Deposits in PMJDY accounts now exceed Rs.25,000 crore

 Deposits in accounts opened under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) have now exceeded Rs. 25,000 crore which
has come to the banks as low cost deposits. The accounts that can be opened under PMJDY are Basic Savings Bank Deposit
Accounts (BSBDA) which can be with zero balance as per Reserve Bank of India guidelines. However, it has been noticed
that good amount of deposit has been made in these accounts. This was stated in a press note issued by the Ministry
of Finance on October 13, 2015. 

As on October 7, 2015, the deposits collected stood at Rs.25146.97 crore. The PMJDY accounts having balances in them
also now exceed 60% and the zero balance accounts have reduced to less than 40%. Major banks who have contributed
to this achievement are State Bank of India  (Rs. 2989.18 crore), United Bank of India  (Rs.2644.77 crore), Oriental
Bank of Commerce ( 2104.70 crore), Bank of Baroda (Rs.1771.42 crore), and UCO Bank  (Rs.1178.17 crore).

PMJDY– a National Mission on Financial Inclusion was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Independence Day
Speech 2014 and formally launched by him on August 28, 2014 with the main objective of covering all households with
at least one bank account per household across the country. 

Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana to continue till December end

The government-sponsored Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) has been extended till December 31, after which a call
will be taken on its future.  

RSBY, launched by labour and employment ministry in April 1, 2008, was envisaged to provide health insurance coverage
to below poverty line families. Its beneficiaries are entitled to hospitalisation coverage of up to Rs 30,000 for
most of the diseases. 

Here, the government has even fixed package rates for hospitals for a large number of interventions. Pre-existing conditions
are covered from day one and there is no age limit.

As on March 31, 2015, there were 36.3 million active smart cards under the scheme and 9.7 million total hospitalisation
cases, according to data from RSBY website.

The coverage extends to five members of a family which includes the head of household, spouse and up to three dependents.
Beneficiaries need to pay only Rs 30 as registration fee, while Central and state governments pay the premium to
the insurer.

The new RSBY scheme is likely to be managed by special bodies created by state governments and no private insurer will
be involved in this process.

As per a recent World Bank report, health insurance coverage in India is expected to cross 630 million people or 50%
of the population by 2015. Further, data from the General Insurance Council showed that standalone health insurers
saw the highest growth at 42.1% from April to July this fiscal over last fiscal with premiums of Rs 1,066.69 crore.

NHB gives nod to 6 new entities to become housing finance companies 

The National Housing Bank (NHB) has granted permission to six new entities to become housing finance companies. These
six companies are Supreme Housing Finance, Nivara Home Finance, Khush Housing Finance Private, Bajaj Housing Finance
Capri, Global Housing Finance Pvt Ltd and Hinduja Housing Finance Ltd, NHB said in a release on October 10, 2015. 

The total number of HFCs registered with NHB is 72 now. “New HFCs aim to focus mainly on the affordable housing finance
segment and are likely to cater the housing loan needs of the EWS/LIG segment, contributing to achieving the goal
of housing for all by 2022,” said NHB. 

Recently, RBI allowed banks to give home loans up to 90 per cent of the value of the property that cost below Rs 30 lakh.
Earlier, the facility was available only in cases where the cost was up to Rs 20 lakh. This will benefit those who
plan to purchase properties in the range of Rs 20-30 lakh.

“Unlock the Power of Your Credit Score”, co-authored by retail bankers Arun Ramamurthy, Gaurav Wadhwani and Aman Kapoor,
provides insights into the basics of credit and its active management. 

Govt to import additional 2,000 ton of pulses 

Government will import another 2,000 ton of pulses as part of its efforts to bring down prices, Commerce Minister Nirmala
Sitharaman said on October 14, 2015. This will be in addition to 5,000 ton lying at the ports and another 2,000 ton
of pulses that are in transit. She said that the government is trying to ease the prices of pulses but globally there
is limited stock of pulses and prices are also high. She further said that Price Stabilisation Fund should encourage
states to lift pulses stocks from ports. 

Retail prices of tur dal today rose up to Rs 181 per kg in most parts of the country, as against Rs 85 per kg in the
year-ago period, as per the data maintained by the Consumer Affairs Ministry. Similarly, urad dal prices have increased
up to Rs 187 per kg from Rs 99 per kg in the said period. Much of the increase was seen in these two dals, while
the increase in prices of moong dal and gram were moderate. Pulses prices have risen unabated for the past few months
due to a fall in domestic output by about 2 million tonnes (mt) to 17.20 mt in 2014-15 crop year (July-June) due
to deficient monsoon last year and unseasonal rains. 

Besides imports, the government has taken several measures to check price rise. It has imposed restrictions on holding
of pulses stocks beyond a ceiling and taken action against hoarders and blackmarketeers.

Kaya Kalp to develop plan to reduce train mishaps

The Ratan Tata-headed Kaya Kalp committee, set up to transform the state-run rail network, on October 14, 2015 decided
to develop an action plan to reduce the recurring train mishaps, amid concerns over human errors and large-scale
vacancies of safety-related posts. 

The committee, while examining the data on type of accidents and causes, decided to meet again on November 6 to “work
towards developing an action plan in this regard”. Besides taking into account the rolling stocks in operations,
the panel is also understood to have examined the recruitment process, given that over 1.5 lakh safety-related posts
were vacant at present. Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has earlier emphasised on a ‘zero accident mission’ with a
definite time frame. 

The meeting was the third in the series. The first Kaya Kalp meeting was held in May in which Tata had suggested an incentive-driven
mechanism for employees resolving problems faced by the public transporter through innovative ideas. The second one
on August 25 examined the performance and social responsibility of the public transporter. 

Kaya Kalp, the new innovative council of Railways, had been set up by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu to recommend innovative
methods and processes for the improvement, betterment and transformation of the state-run rail network. Besides two
senior railway officials, National Federation of Indian Railwaymen general secretary M Raghavaiah and All India Railwaymen’s
Federation general secretary Shiv Gopal Mishra are members of the Kaya Kalp council.

WPI inflation marginally up at (-)4.54% in Sept

WPI inflation rate edged up marginally to (-)4.54 per cent in September with pulses, vegetables and onion turning costlier
even as the overall deflationary trend persisted for 11th month in a row. 

Inflation in food articles inched up to 0.69 per cent in September, from (-)1.13 per cent in August. Onion and pulses
turned costlier with inflation at 113.70 per cent and 38.56 per cent respectively during September, as per official
data released on October 14, 2015. The rate of price rise in vegetables was at (-)9.45 per cent as against (-)21.21
per cent in August. 

Inflation rate in fuel and power segment was (-)17.71 per cent, while that in manufactured products was (-)1.73 per cent
in September. Besides pulses and onion, the food items which became dearer in September were eggs, meat and fish
(2.02 per cent), milk (2.16 per cent) and wheat (3.34 per cent). However, potato inflation was low at (-)57.34 per

The Wholesale Price Index-based inflation was (-)4.95 per cent in August. It has been in the negative zone since November.
In September 2014, inflation was 2.38 per cent. The inflation data for July has been revised to (-)4.0 per cent,
as compared to provisional estimates of (-)4.05 per cent. 

The Reserve Bank mostly tracks the Consumer Price Index- based inflation for its monetary policy decisions. The CPI or
retail inflation for September rose to 4.41 per cent, from 3.74 per cent in the previous month. The rise in retail
inflation as well as the marginal upward movement of wholesale inflation is unlikely to have a bearing on the monetary
policy of RBI. The central bank has signalled that it would wait for sometime before cutting interest rates. In September
2015h, RBI had reduced interest rates by more than expected 0.50 per cent and said it expects CPI inflation to reach
5.8 per cent in January 2016.

September retail inflation rises to 4.41%: India’s retail inflation based on the consumer price index (CPI) for
September increased to 4.41 percent, from 3.74 percent recorded for the previous month, on the back of higher food
prices, official data showed on October 12, 2015. The CPI for September 2014 was at 5.63 percent. Rural inflation
in the month in question was higher at 5.05 percent, over the urban CPI at 3.61 percent, according to data released
by the ministry of statistics. Overall food inflation was higher in September, at 3.88 percent compared to 2.20 percent
in August. September’s rural food inflation rate was 4.05 percent as compared to 3.45 percent for urban.

Green India Mission Plans of 4 states approved 

The second meeting of National Executive Council (NEC) of the National Mission for a Green India (GIM) held in New Delhi
recently, approved the Perspective Plans & Annual Plan of Operations (APOs) submitted by four States - Mizoram,
Manipur, Jharkhand and Kerala. This was state din a press note issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests
on October 12, 2015. 

The Perspective Plans of all four States, with a total financial outlay of Rs. 90,202.68 lakh for a Plan period of 5
to 10 years were approved, along with APOs of Rs.11, 195.32 lakh for this financial year. The total forest and non-forest
area taken up in these four States under GIM during the total plan period will be 1,08,335 hectares (ha) out of which
81,939 ha will be improving the density of existing forests and 16,396 ha will be new areas. For the current financial
year, it will be 28,250 ha and 7,827 ha respectively. 

Approval has been granted for alternative energy devices such as biogas, solar devices, LPG, biomass-based systems and
improved stoves for 27,032 households for the current financial year and 81,233 households for the total plan period.
This will help in reducing pressure on forests, gaining carbon benefits, along with health and other associated benefits. 

GIM, one of the eight Missions outlined under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), acknowledges the influence
that forests have on environmental amelioration though climate change mitigation, food security, water security,
biodiversity conservation and livelihood security of forest dependent communities. The mission hinges on decentralized
participatory approach involving grass root level organizations and community in planning, decision making, implementation
and monitoring with emphasis on landscape approach and convergence with complementary schemes and programmes for
better coordination in developing forests and their fringe areas in a holistic and sustainable manner. 

The meeting, held on October 9, 2015, was attended by the members of NEC, inter-ministerial experts, Mission Director,
Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCFs) and State nodal officers from four States. The meeting was chaired
by Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change (MoEFCC), Ashok Lavasa. 

Railways to launch Alternate Train Accommodation Scheme, Vikalp

Waitlist passengers will soon be able to get confirmed accommodation as the Ministry of Railways said on October 15,
2015 that it has decided to launch a scheme called Alternate Train Accommodation Scheme, Vikalp from November 1.
It will benefit those passengers, who book their tickets through internet. 

The scheme will be launched on a pilot project basis for six months on the Delhi-Lucknow and Delhi-Jammu sections of
Northern Railway only on Mail or Express trains. Based on the feedback, the scheme would be provided on PRS and also
on other sectors. 

To avail the service the passengers with waiting list can opt for confirmed accommodation in alternate trains. No extra
charges would be taken from passenger or any refund would be provided for difference of fare. The scheme would be
applicable to all waiting list passengers, irrespective of booking quota and concession. Passengers opting for Vikalp,
who remain fully waitlisted after charting, will only be considered for allotment in the alternate train. The passenger
allotted alternate accommodation can travel in the alternate train on authority of original ticket. 

Waitlisted passengers of original train shall not be allowed to board the original train, if allotted alternate accommodation 

Article 370 beyond amendment, repeal or abrogation–J&K HC 

Jammu and Kashmir High Court on July 12, 2015 ruled that Article 370, granting special status to the state, has assumed
place of permanence in the Constitution and the feature is beyond amendment, repeal or abrogation. The Court also
said that Article 35A gives protection to existing laws in force in the State. 

A division bench ruled in a 60-page judgement that Article 370 though titled as ‘Temporary Provision’ and included in
Para XXI titled ‘Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions’ has assumed place of permanence in the Constitution.
The bench said, the Article is beyond amendment, repeal or abrogation, in as much as Constituent Assembly of the
State before its dissolution did not recommend its Amendment or repeal. 

The Court said Jammu and Kashmir, while acceding to Dominion of India, retained limited sovereignty and did not merge
with Dominion of India, like other Princely States. It said, the state continues to enjoy special status to the extent
of limited sovereignty retained by it.  

1,263 dolphins sighted in Ganga & tributaries

As many as 1,263 dolphins have been sighted in 3,350 km stretch of Ganga and its tributaries in Uttar Pradesh starting
from the barrage in Kanpur. The dolphin census, a collaborative effort by Uttar Pradesh Forest Department and WWF-India
supported by National Mission for Clean Ganga, was done under the ‘My Ganga, My Dolphin’ 2015 campaign of the UP

According to the census, stretches downstream Varanasi registered 269 dolphins and the 125 km stretch upstream of Fatehpur
saw 175 dolphins. Stretches of Ghaghra, Rapti, Gandhak, Chambal recorded an increase whereas Ramsar site Brijghat
to Narora recorded a decrease, the census said on October 10, 2015. 

Under the campaign, 3,350 kilometres was surveyed by 21 teams and local communities of the Ganga, Yamuna, Chambal, Ken,
Betwa, Son, Sharda, Geruwa, Gahagra Gandak and Rapti in 32 stretches led by Divisional Forest Officers, 23 NGOs and
community volunteers between October 5 and 8. 

“Besides mapping the population and distribution of Gangetic dolphins, emphasis was laid on sensitising local communities
on Ganga dolphins, its importance and the steps needed to eliminate the threats,” Sanjeev Saran, Principal Secretary
(Forests), said.

President gives Sangeet Natak Akademi awards: Doyen of Indian theatre M S Sathyu, eminent vocalists S R
Jankiraman, Vijay Kumar Kichlu and Harmonium player Tulsidas Borkar were on October 23, 2015 awarded coveted Sangeet
Natak Akademi fellowship by President Pranab Mukherjee. Along with them, 35 other noted personalities from various
disciplines of dance, drama and music were conferred Akademi awards for 2014 by the President in New Delhi. The Akademi
Awards carries purse money of Rs one lakh in cash, a Tamrapatra and an Angavastram. Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowships
(Akademi Ratna Sadasyata) and Sangeet Natak Akademi Awards (Akademi Puraskar) are recognised as the most coveted
national honours bestowed on performing artists as well as teachers and scholars in the field of performing arts. 

RBI invites application for bill payment services

The Reserve Bank on October 20, 2015 invited applications from entities engaged in bill payments and desirous to operate
as Bharat Bill Payment System Operating Units. 

The Bharat Bill Payment System (BBPS) will be an authorised payment system operated by National Payment Corporation of
India (NPCI), RBI said in a notification. 

To begin with, under BBPS the BBPOUs (Bharat Bill Payment System Operating Units) will function as entities facilitating
collection of repetitive payments for everyday utility services, such as electricity, water, gas, telephone and Direct-to-Home

The scope of bills covered under the BBPS would gradually be expanded to include other types of repetitive payments. 

Entities currently engaged in such bill payment activities and desirous of continuing the activity are mandatorily required
to apply for authorisation to RBI under the Payment and Settlement Systems (PSS) Act 2007. 

Banks desirous of becoming BBPOUs will be required to submit a copy of the approval of their Board for undertaking this
activity along with a letter seeking one time approval from the Department of Payment and Settlement Systems of the

The request letters from banks will be accepted till close of business on November 20, 2015. To enable entities dealing
with such payments to become part of the BBPS, the authorisation window would be re-opened at an appropriate time
in future. 

BBPS will provide an accessible and interoperable bill payments environment, bill payments at billers’ own collection
points will continue to be available to customers. 

For non-bank entities, guidelines will be issued for in-principle authorisation to join BBPS. 

Those which have applied for authorisation but do not presently meet the eligibility criteria will be given one-time
extension up to December 31, 2016 to meet the eligibility criteria. Further, they can continue to engage in bill
payments activities during this period. If, however, such entities fail to meet the eligibility criteria by December
31, 2016, they will be required to become agents of the existing BBPOUs or exit the business of bill payments by
May 31, 2017. 

In November 2014, RBI had released guidelines for implementation of BBPS under Payment and Settlement System.

Finance Ministry reviews progress made after PSBs’ reform plan Indradhanush 

The Indradhanush package was announced on 14th August, 2015 for transforming Public Sector Banks (PSBs) through a bottoms-up
approach. It represents the most comprehensive reform effort undertaken since banking nationalisation in 1970. The
framework mainly comprised of appointments, Banks Board Bureau (BBB), capitalization plan, destressing, empowerment,
framework of accountability and governance reforms among others. 

A high-level meeting was held on October 21, 2015 under the Chairmanship of the Minister of State for Finance Jayant
Sinha which was attended among others by the Secretary, Department of Financial Services, Anjuli Chib Duggal, senior
officials from the Ministry of Finance and Chairmen and Managing Directors of various PSBs. Banks were requested
to give the progress on different subjects post Indradhanush. The next ‘Gyan Sangam’, proposed to be held in January
2016, was also discussed.

Following subjects were specifically discussed:

Growth: The issue of poor asset quality was discussed. The banks clarified that the problem may continue for two to three
quarters before their situation improves. Banks were advised to make judicious use of their capital. 

Governance and Board: Various issues related to board and governance were discussed in detail. These included the board
structure and issues relating to appointment of directors, functioning of board level committees and other measures
to improve the decision making process of the board. Risk management practices were also discussed.

Compliance: The meeting also deliberated on the issue of having robust compliance policies and the need to have requisite
checks in place to detect any violations, along with strong alarm and signalling systems. The issue of human intervention
in compliance related issues was also discussed and it was deliberated as to how to make it completely system driven.
The recent developments relating to Bank of Baroda were also discussed and banks were exhorted to have system in
place to prevent such incidents. 

Non-core assets: The issue of non-core assets and whether disposing them off is in commercial interest of the banks to
improve capital adequacy was discussed. Discussions also covered existing foreign branches of PSBs. How can best
value be realised from such investments and possible role of the Government was also taken up.

Ordinances on arbitration, commercial benches promulgated

Two ordinances aimed at creating commercial benches in select high courts and amending a law on arbitration for speedy
settlement of high value business disputes were promulgated on October 23, 2015. Once the Winter Session, likely
to commence after November 19, starts, the government will have to seek Parliament’s approval for the ordinances
within 42 days/six weeks or else these will lapse.


President Pranab Mukherjee has signed the ordinances to amend the Arbitration and Conciliation Act and bring into force
the Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts Bill, 2015. 

For speedy settlement of commercial disputes, the Cabinet had in August cleared a bill to amend the Arbitration Act to
fix a timeline for arbitrators to resolve cases. The bill was not introduced in Parliament. 

Under the proposed amendments to the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, an arbitrator will have to settle a case
within 18 months. However, after the completion of 12 months, certain restrictions will be put in place to ensure
that the arbitration case does not linger on. 

The amendments to the law come amid keenness of the government to attract the greater foreign investment. Certain foreign
companies were said to be hesitant to do business in India because of the long-drawn litigations. The Prime Minister
has been stressing on steps to promote ease of doing business in India. 

Commercial benches

The bill on creating commercial benches in select high courts was pending before a Parliamentary panel which had been
given three extensions to give its report on the bill. The Committee has been given time till November 30 to submit
its report on the bill. 

With the ordinance on the bill coming into force, all pending suits and applications relating to commercial disputes
involving a claim of Rs one crore and above in the high courts and civil courts will be transferred to the relevant
Commercial Division or Commercial Courts as the case may be. 

Commercial Divisions are to be set up in those high courts which are already exercising ordinary original civil jurisdiction
such as Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta, Madras, and Himachal Pradesh high courts. 

Commercial Divisions will exercise jurisdiction over all cases and applications relating to commercial disputes. The
Commercial Division shall have territorial jurisdiction over such area on which it has original jurisdiction. 

Commercial Courts which will be equivalent to district courts are to be set up in states and Union Territories where
the high courts do not have ordinary original civil jurisdiction. 

Urban Development Ministry clears first batch of AMRUT projects for 89 cities 

The Ministry of Urban Development has approved the first batch of state level Action Plans under Atal Mission for Rejuvenation
and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) aimed at enabling water supply as per the norm and providing water supply and sewerage
connections to all urban households. An inter-ministerial Apex Committee of AMRUT chaired by Secretary (Urban Development)
cleared plans worth Rs.2,786.28 cr in this regard for 89 cities in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan
on October 21, 2015. 

This is for the first time that the Urban Development Ministry approved state level plans unlike the past practice of
appraising and approving individual projects. 

The approved Action Plans have a total of 143 projects in 89 AMRUT cities in these 3 states. These include 47 schemes
relating to ensuring water supply connections and augmenting water supply and 31 projects for expanding sewerage
network services in identified cities and towns. The rest pertain to storm water drains, urban transport and green
spaces and parks. 

Sewerage projects got a lion share of Rs.1,471.07 crore followed by Rs.1,225 crore for water supply related schemes. 

The Apex Committee of AMRUT approved State Annual Action Plans (SAAP) for the three states for 2015-16. Gujarat proposed
SAAP entailing an investment of Rs.1,204.42 crore followed by Rajasthan -Rs.919 crore and Andhra Pradesh proposing
an investment of Rs.662.86 crore. 

Under the SAAP approved, Gujarat will take up sewerage projects in 25 AMRUT cities at a cost of Rs.916 crore and water
supply schemes in 11 cities with an investment of Rs.233.65 crore. 

Rajasthan will take up sewerage schemes in 6 cities at a cost of Rs.555 crore and water supply projects in 10 cities
at a cost of Rs.344 crore. 

Andhra Pradesh will focus on water supply in 26 AMRUT cities at a cost of Rs.646.29 crore and provision of green spaces
and parks in 30 cities at a cost of Rs.16.57 crore. 

Under AMRUT, Central Government will provide an assistance of 50% of project cost for cities with a population of up
to 10 lakhs each and one third of project cost for cities with a population of above 10 lakhs each. Rest of the project
cost has to be borne by the states and urban local bodies. As per these norms, central assistance for the approved
projects in three states comes to Rs.1,356.23 crore. 

The Apex Committee approved SAAP of the three states after scrutiny of Plans proposed by the states. SAAP of each state
is an integration of all city level Service Level Improvement Plans (SLIP) of all Atal Mission cities in respective
states. City level SLIP is formulated based on detailed assessment of gaps in the availability of infrastructure
pertaining to water supply, sewerage network services, storm water drains, urban transport etc. 

Ensuring water supply of 135 litres per capita per day in urban areas besides providing water supply and sewerage connections
to all urban households is the national priority, which Atal Mission seeks to achieve. 

The states made a detailed presentation on implementation of a set of 11 reforms including time lines for the same. 

Konkan Railway to set up tunnel technology institute in Goa

Konkan Railway would establish a tunnel technology institute at Goa’s Margao town, to enable training for the technology
hitherto unavailable in the country, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said in Panaji on October 19, 2015. The proposed
institute, a first in the country, would be named ‘George Fernandes Institute of Tunnel Technology’, after former
Railway Minister George Fernandes, who is said to be the driving force behind the Konkan Railway. The announcement
was made by the Railway Minister during the ongoing celebrations to mark the Silver Jubilee of Konkan Railway. 

Dependence on foreign experts so far has resulted in high consultancy and training cost for the technology, the training
for which has been necessitated by increasing urbanization and the need of better rail and road connectivity to remote
and tier-2 cities, the Railway Minister said. The training imparted at the institute would be specially adapted to
suit the geology of Indian subcontinent. 

As per an estimate, in India, about 1500 km of tunnels exist, while 1000 km of tunnels are under construction and another
2000 km of tunnels are in planning stage. These include tunnels for railways, metro rails, roadways, hydroelectricity,
water, sewerage and irrigation. 

The Konkan Railway has constructed more than 117 km of tunnels since its inception, with 22 km of them built in Jammu
and Kashmir. All 11 tunnels of Mumbai-Pune Expressway aggregating to about 11 km were constructed by the Konkan Railway,
besides construction of an irrigation tunnel in Andhra Pradesh. This experience of its engineers would be assimilated
and a knowledge Depository would be created. 

The objectives of the institute would be a depository of knowledge, experience and data for tunnels and underground structures,
to provide training of tunnel technology and consultancy services for tunnels and underground construction.

PM lays foundation stone for Andhra’s new capital: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 22, 2015
laid the foundation stone of Andhra Pradesh’s new capital Amaravati at Uddandarayunipalem village in Guntur district.
Union Ministers M Venkaiah Naidu, Ashok Gajapathi Raju and Nirmala Sitaraman, AP and Telangana Governor E S L Narasimhan
and Chief Ministers of AP and Telangana N Chandrababu Naidu and K Chandrasekhar Rao, respectively, were among those
present on the occasion of ‘shilanyas’ in the village, about 40 kms from Vijayawada, the commercial hub of the state.
Amaravati was once the seat of power of Satavahana rulers. As per a call given by Chandrababu Naidu, soil and water
from 16,000 villages in the state and prominent pilgrim centres in the country have been brought to the capital region
to be used in the construction of the capital city. Singapore government agencies have prepared the master plans
for the three-layered capital -- seed capital, capital city and capital region.

Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports constitutes All India Council of Sports

The Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports has constituted ‘All India Council of Sports’, headed by Prof V.K. Malhotra,
being its President in the rank of Minister of State. Among the sportspersons in the council are Sachin Tendulkar,
MP (Rajya Sabha), P.T. Usha (Athletics), Limba Ram (Archery), N. Kunjarani Devi (Weightlifting), I.M. Vijayan (Football),
P. Gopichand (Badminton), Baichung Bhutia (Football), Uday Shankar, CEO Star India and Vishwanathan Anand (Chess).

Among the officials in the council are Director General, Sports Authority of Gujarat, Secretary (Sports), Government
of Madhya Pradesh, Secretary (Sports), Government of Assam, President/Secretary General, Indian Olympic Association,
Secretary, Department of Sports, Government of India, Director General, Sports Authority of India, Director General,
National Anti-Doping Agency, Vice Chancellor, Lakshmibai National Institute of Physical Education (LNIPE) and Joint
Secretary, Department of Sports, Government of India. Secretary, Sports Authority of India is Member Secretary of
the Council. Other members of the Council will be nominated in due course. 

The Council will be an advisory body for the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports and will advise the Ministry on matters
relating to the promotion and development of sports and games in the country. It will work for popularizing sports
amongst the youth as a way of life; increasing outreach of sports to rural and tribal areas, areas affected by Left
Wing Extremism (LWE), North East and Jammu & Kashmir; implementation of policies for promotion of sports and
games in the country; matters relating to promotion of inclusiveness in sports with special focus on women, differently-abled
and tribals.

It will also suggest measures for preventing drug abuse in sports, fraud of age and sexual harassment of women in sports;
bringing professionalism, transparency and good governance in functioning of National Sports Federations; ways and
means to raise resources for the promotion of sports and games in the country; promotion of sports sciences and sports
medicine; augmenting sports infrastructure and ensuring its proper utilization.

Its other focus areas will include matters relating to participation and performance of sportspersons and teams in international
sporting events; issues arising out of match fixing and other malpractices in competitive sports; ways and means
to promote indigenous games in the country, early identification of sports talent and nurturing of the identified
talent; integration of sports in educational curriculum in schools, colleges and universities; Welfare measures for

The Council may organize national, international conferences, seminars, symposia etc., for promotion of sports and games
in the country. It will meet from time to time, at least once in a quarter, and deliberate on matters relating to
the promotion and development of sports and games in the country. 

National Tribal Advisory Council set up 

Government has decided to set up National Tribal Advisory Council under chairmanship of the Prime Minister for real time
monitoring of various tribal development programmes and schemes in the country. 

“A National Tribal Advisory Council under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be set up for real time
monitoring of the ongoing programmes and schemes aimed at welfare of tribal people and development of tribal areas.
The Council will meet once or twice a year,” Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram said while addressing the conference
of principal secretaries of tribal welfare from various states in New Delhi on October 29, 2015. 

Oram also stressed on effective community participation in various tribal development activities. On the rights of tribals,
Oram said states need to expedite proposals for declaration or rationalisation of scheduled areas by making them
co-terminus with the tribal sub-plan areas. States should also safeguard against sale of land to non tribals. Under
Forest Rights Act, states need to take steps for vesting of forest rights, both in individual capacity as well as
for the community as a whole.

Centre takes steps to speed up affordable housing schemes

Officials of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (MHUPA) met the representatives of other Ministries
— Finance, Defence, Culture, Civil Aviation, Environment and Forests and Climate Change — on October 28, 2015 to
set up a system through which affordable housing projects are cleared at a faster pace.

At present, the government is battling a housing deficit of 18.78 million units and 95 per cent of it is required for
the economically weaker population which lives in and around the urban centres.

The Centre is already in talks with 20 States, urging them to “reduce stamp duties, registration and conversion fee”
so that the housing stock for the poor and low-income people is quickly filled across 989 cities.

Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu said on October 27 that “considerable progress” had been made to set up “single
window” clearance mechanism. Addressing an audience at a day-long workshop on affordable housing in New Delhi, Naidu
said 140 lending agencies had signed Memoranda of Understanding with the Central nodal agencies such as the National
Housing Bank and the Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO) for extending financial support to housing
projects under the Credit Linked Subsidy component of the Urban Housing Mission.

These agencies include 54 scheduled commercial banks, 63 housing finance corporations, 16 regional rural banks and 7
cooperative banks.

So far, the main hurdle in filling the housing stock is shortage of land in urban areas, stringent land use regulations,
inadequate infrastructure to support more housing neighbourhoods, rising costs of construction material, insufficient
financing, restricted mortgage financing and rent control laws. The ministry aims to build two crore houses in urban
areas by 2022.

Govt. limits surrogacy to ‘infertile Indian couples’

Making it clear that India will not be a baby farm for “foreigners,” the Centre told the Supreme Court on October 28,
2015 that it did not support rent-a-womb commercial surrogacy and would make such exploitation of women and children
wombs punishable under the law.

The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said surrogacy would be “altruistic” and not commercial, and limited
to “infertile Indian married couples and not to foreigners.”

“The Government of India does not support commercial surrogacy as a policy stand and also the scope of surrogacy is limited
to Indian married infertile couples only and not to foreigners,” the Ministry said in an affidavit filed before the
Supreme Court. This provision, it said, would be part of The Assisted Reproductive Techniques (Regulation) Bill,
2014, which was currently doing the rounds among the States for comments.

The Ministry was silent on whether the new law limited surrogacy only to “married couples” or would go further and allow
single parents to have and raise surrogate children. It said the paramount goal of the new law was to protect surrogate

The Ministry further said that it was against the import of human embryo for surrogacy purposes.

Women fighter pilots to be commissioned in IAF by June 2016: The induction of women as fighter pilots
in the Indian Air Force was cleared on October 24, 2015 by the government in a landmark move for the armed forces
which have so far dithered over combat role for women. As per the plan, the first women pilots would be selected
from the batch which is presently undergoing flying training at Air Force Academy. After successful completion of
ab-initio training, they would be commissioned in the fighter stream in June 2016. Thereafter, they would undergo
advanced training for one year and would enter a fighter cockpit by June 2017. The air force currently has about
1,500 women on its rolls of which 94 are pilots (helicopter and transport aircraft) and 14 navigators. With this
decision to open up induction of women in the fighter stream, women have become eligible for induction in all branches
and streams of the IAF. The IAF is presently inducting women in the Transport and Helicopter stream of the flying
branch, Navigation, Aeronautical Engineering, Administration, Logistics, Accounts, Education and Meteorology branches.

First Scorpene class submarine Kalavari set afloat: Kalavari, the first of Scorpene class submarines being
manufactured at Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd (MDL), was set afloat in the Mumbai naval dockyard on October 29, 2015,
setting the stage for its sea trials, and eventual commissioning on schedule in September 2016. Scorpene submarines
are 67 meters long, 6.2 meters wide and have 1,550 tonnes displacement. The state-of-art features of the Scorpene
include superior stealth and the ability to launch an attack on the enemy using precision-guided weapons. The attack
can be launched with torpedoes, as well as tube launched anti-ship missiles, underwater or on surface. Designed to
operate in all theatres including the tropics, the submarines can undertake multifarious missions including anti-surface
warfare, anti-submarine warfare, intelligence gathering, operations by special forces and mine laying etc.

Financial assistance under the Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi enhanced: Financial assistance under the Rashtriya
Arogya Nidhi (RAN) to designated Central Government hospitals and institutes, has been increased to five lakh from
existing two lakh rupees. A Health Ministry release said on October 26, 2015 that the assistance will be given in
cases where emergency surgery is to be conducted. The RAN was set up in 1997 to provide financial assistance to patients,
living below poverty line prescribed from time to time and who are suffering from major life threatening diseases
related to heart, liver, kidney and cancer cases. 

India-Africa Forum Summit organised in Delhi

The third India-Africa Forum Summit was organised in New Delhi from October 26 to 29, 2015. Heads of States and Representatives
of all 54 African countries participated. The 4-day summit addressed the key challenges faced by Africa, which includes
food, health and environmental security. India hopes to create conditions that stimulate trade and investment flows
between India and African countries.

The two sides reinforced their partnership on the global platform and deepen security cooperation including on maritime
security and countering terrorism. External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said this was the first time
that India had invited all countries of Africa. Earlier summits were based on a limited number of participation.
He expressed hope that the summit will be a new direction to India’s engagement with Africa.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a series of bilateral meetings with visiting African leaders in New Delhi on October
28. The meetings took place a day before the third India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS). He held talks with President
of Benin Dr Boni Yayi, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Zimbabwe
Robert Mugabe, President of Ghana John Mahama, Swaziland King Mswati III and Presidents of Uganda, Guinea, Djibouti
and Prime Minister of Lesotho. Prime Minister also held talks with Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, the chairperson of
African Union Commission. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had on October 27 held a host of bilateral meetings
with her counterparts from Africa where she pitched for permanent seat to India in the United Nations Security Council

India and Africa Forum on October 29 adopted a Delhi Declaration 2015 and India Africa Framework for Strategic Cooperation
at the conclusion of the summit. The Declaration called for continued collaboration in the field of peace and security.
It also spoke of strengthening of UN counter terrorism mechanism and enhancing cooperation and coordination to combat
terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. The India Africa Framework for Strategic Cooperation reaffirmed strong
commitment to work together for a comprehensive Reform of the United Nations system, including its Security Council,
to make it more regionally representative, democratic, accountable and effective. Africa and India agreed to support
establishment of Small and Medium Enterprises and Medium and Small Industries to promote employment creation and
income generation for people of both sides. It stressed on ensuring access to affordable and quality medicines and
treatment, particularly generic medicines.

In his address Modi assured 41 Heads of State and Government and hundreds of senior officials from 54 African countries
that India will extend all possible assistance to them including in areas of defence, security, trade and infrastructure
development. India announced a concessional credit of USD 10 billion to Africa in the next five years and a grant
assistance of USD 600 million which includes an India-Africa Development Fund of USD 100 million and a Health Fund
of USD 10 million. 

New Delhi will give high priority to increase trade and investment flows between India and Africa and will make trade
more balanced. Modi pledged to ensure full and collective implementation of the duty free accesses extended to 34

Modi said the biggest outcome of the Summit is renewed friendship, deepened partnerships and stronger solidarity. He
said India and African countries have agreed that the Summit will be held of every five years. Modi said India and
Africa must speak in one voice in pushing for reform of UN Security Council. He had cautioned that the United Nations
ran the risk of becoming irrelevant unless it adjusted to the changing world. He also called for concerted efforts
to deal with the threat of terrorism.

Earlier on October 25, inaugurating India-Africa Editors Forum in New Delhi, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj
said that the relationships between African and Indian media must be placed on the bedrock of grass-roots empowerment. 

Govt. to revise e-Tourist Visa application fee 

The Government on October 30, 2015 decided to revise the e-Tourist Visa application fee for different countries from
3rd of next month. The fees are in four slabs of 0, 25, 48, and 60 dollars. The Ministry of Home Affairs in a statement
said, the revision of visa fee has been done on the principle of reciprocity. It said, bank charges have also been
reduced of the e-Tourist Visa fee.

Out of 113 countries included in e-Tourist Visa scheme, 60 dollars has been fixed for five countries - Mozambique, Russia,
Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States. As many as 86 countries come under the 48 dollar slab, while visitors
from Japan, Singapore and Sri Lanka will have to pay 25 dollars as visa application fee. Zero visa fee has been decided
for 19 countries including Argentina, Jamaica, Mauritius, Papua New Guinea, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, and Uruguay.

Those holding e-Tourist Visa can enter India through 16 designated airports. Since the launch of the scheme on November
last year, more than 3 lakh and 40 thousand e-Tourist Visas have been issued till now.

Global response ‘keeps door open’ to limit temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius – UN report

If the countries want to save the world from adverse impacts of temperature rise, they — mainly the big polluters like
China, US and European Countries - will have to scale up their emission cut targets substantially in coming years. 

An unprecedented worldwide effort is underway to combat climate change, building confidence that nations can cost-effectively
meet their stated objective of keeping global temperature rise to under 2 degrees Celsius, the United Nations said
on October 30, 2015.

A new report issued by the secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) assesses the collective
impact of over 140 national climate action plans, called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions or INDCs, and
says that together, they can dramatically slow global emissions into the atmosphere.

INDCs will form the basis of the agreement expected to be reached at the 21st Conference of the Parties to
the UNFCCC (COP21), to be held in Paris, France starting at the end of November.

Christiana Figueres, UNFCCC Executive Secretary, said that these INDCs – or national climate action plans – represent
a clear and determined down payment on a new era of climate ambition from the global community of nations. Governments
from all corners of the Earth have signalled through their INDCs that they are determined to play their part according
to their national circumstances and capabilities. If countries fully implement their INDCs, these plans together
will begin to make a significant dent in the growth of greenhouse gas emissions.

The report captures the overall impact of national climate plans covering 146 countries as of 1 October. This comprises
119 separate INDCs from 147 Parties to the UNFCCC, including the EU, a single Party representing 28 countries. In
the past month, more INDCs have been submitted, and UNFCC says submissions are likely to continue.

Meanwhile, the 146 plans include all developed nations and three quarters of developing countries under the UNFCCC, covering
86 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions – almost four times the level of the first commitment period of the
Kyoto Protocol, the world’s first international emission reduction treaty that required emissions cuts from industrialized

One of the key findings is that the INDCs will bring global average emissions per capita down by as much as 8 per cent
by 2025 and 9 per cent by 2030.

The INDCs have the capability of limiting the forecast temperature rise to around 2.7 degrees Celsius by 2100, by no
means enough but a lot lower than the estimated four, five, or more degrees of warming projected by many prior to
the INDCs.

According to UNFCCC, the report does not directly assess implications for temperature change by the end of the century
under the INDCs because information on emissions beyond 2030 is required. But other independent analyses have, based
on a range of assumptions, methodologies and data sources, attempted to estimate the impact of the INDCs on temperature
leading to a range of average estimates below, at or above 3 degrees Celsius.

In addition, UNFCCC noted that all analyses deliver more or less similar emission levels in 2025 and 2030 and all confirm
that the INDCs, if fully implemented, are an important advance on previous scenarios.

“Backed by financial support for developing countries, a clear long-term destination of climate neutrality in the second
half of the century and a ratcheting up of ambition in a structured, transparent and timely way, the INDCs provide
an inspiring part of what will become the Paris package,” Figueres added.

China condemns US ship’s passage near disputed islands in South China Sea: China on October 27,
2015 condemned a US ship’s passage near disputed islands in the South China Sea as illegal and a threat to their
country’s sovereignty. The guided missile destroyer USS Lassen breached the 12-nautical mile zone China claims around
Subi and Mischief reefs in the Spratly archipelago. The US has confirmed the operation took place, apparently as
part of its Freedom of Navigation programme. China’s Foreign Ministry said Beijing would resolutely respond to any
country’s deliberately provocative actions. The operation is a challenge to China’s claims over the artificial islands.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry summoned the US Ambassador to protest over the move. Several countries in the East Asia
region, including the Philippines and Japan, welcomed the move.

UNDP appoints twin Chinese pandas as its image ambassadors: China on October 24, 2015 showed 13
baby pandas, including six sets of twins, born this year to the public for the first time in Chengdu city while the
UNDP appointed twin panda cubs as its image ambassadors. The little pandas appeared at “Discovering Twin Cubs”, jointly
arranged by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding to
call on panda fans and people across the world to protect wild animals and plants such as pandas. Less than 2,000
pandas live in the wild, mostly in the provinces of Sichuan and Shaanxi. There are around 400 in captivity. Giant
pandas have a very low fertility rate. 

World Polio Day observed: World Polio Day was observed on October 24, 2015. According to UNICEF,
there have been 51 cases of wild polio virus globally since the beginning of 2015, compared with 242 wild polio cases
for 2014. Nigeria was removed from the list of polio endemic countries in September 2015, having successfully interrupted
transmission of wild poliovirus. In India there have been no cases of polio-induced paralysis for four years. 

Interest on masala bonds to attract 5% withholding tax

The Finance Ministry has clarified that interest income on rupee-denominated offshore bonds, or masala bonds, of Indian
companies will attract a withholding tax of 5 per cent.

“In the case of non-resident investors, it is clarified that withholding tax at the rate of 5 per cent, which is in the
nature of a final tax, would be applicable in the same way as it is applicable for offshore dollar-denominated bonds,”
a Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) release said on October 29, 2015.

The tax treatment of such bonds is now at par with that of external commercial borrowings and domestic corporate bonds.

Further, any capital gains from rupee appreciation between the dates of issue and redemption against the foreign currency
in which the investment is made will be exempt from tax.

The CBDT said amendments to the Income-Tax Act, 1961 to this effect will be included in the Finance Bill 2016. The clarification
on the tax structure of such bonds is expected to give a boost to the fund-raising plans of domestic companies.

In September, the Reserve Bank of India had allowed Indian companies to issue rupee-denominated, or masala bonds, in
overseas markets.

On October 27, Housing Development Finance Corporation received an in-principle approval from its board to raise $750
million through these bonds but said it was awaiting clarity on the tax structure.

RBI allows NRIs to subscribe to National Pension System

To enable Indians living abroad to access old age income security, Reserve Bank on October 29, 2015 allowed non-resident
Indians (NRIs) to subscribe to the National Pension System (NPS). 

“It has now been decided, in consultation with the Government, to enable National Pension System (NPS) as an investment
option for NRIs under FEMA, 1999,” RBI said in a notification. 

NRIs may subscribe to the NPS governed and administered by the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA),
provided such subscriptions are made through normal banking channels and the person is eligible to invest as per
the provisions of the PFRDA Act, it said. 

The subscription amounts shall be paid by the NRIs either by inward remittance through normal banking channels or out
of funds held in their NRE/FCNR/NRO account. 

The RBI, however, said there will be no restriction on repatriation of the annuity/accumulated savings. 

NPS was launched on January, 1 2004 with the objective of providing retirement income to all the citizens. NPS aims to
institute pension reforms and to inculcate the habit of saving for retirement amongst the citizens. 

Initially, NPS was introduced for the new Government recruits (except armed forces). With effect from May 1, 2009, NPS
has been provided for all citizens of the country, including the unorganised sector workers, on voluntary basis.

Centre announces draft aviation policy

The centre on October 30, 2015 announced draft aviation policy that aims to improve regional connectivity, bring down
fares for short-haul flights and facilitate higher foreign investment. The government has also drawn up plans to
boost air cargo, maintenance, repair and overhaul activities through tax incentives and favourable policies.


  • Open sky for countries beyond 5,000 km radius from New Delhi
  • Increase in FDI cap from 49% to above 50% to be considered in 2020
  • 5/20 Rule: Uncertainty remains as three ways considered: keep it, scrap it or replace it with credit-based system
  • Development of airports to be encouraged through PPP mode
  • Fares to be capped at Rs 2,500 per hour flying on regional airports
  • Proposal to levy 2% cess on tickets and use collection to fund airlines’ losses if they fly to remote areas; 80%
    funds to flow from Centre, rest from states

  • Airlines can use contract staff for ground handling operations

A two per cent cess has been proposed on all domestic and international tickets to fund a new regional connectivity scheme,
which seeks to create a pool for the purpose of viability gap funding (VGF). The government plans to revive 476 airstrips/airports
in the country, of which 75 are in use. No-frills airports would be built at a cost of Rs 50 crore, depending on
the demand in the sector. Scheduled commuter airlines would get viability gap funding (VGF), which would be indexed
to jet fuel prices and inflation. The VGF would be shared by the centre and states in 80:20 ratios. 

The policy lists a slew of tax incentives for airlines and maintenance works. It has proposed hiking FDI in domestic
airlines to over 50 per cent in open skies policy, which is 49 per cent at present. Under open skies policy, overseas
airlines can operate unlimited number of flights into and out of India. This allow India to enter reciprocal agreements
with South Asian neighbours and countries beyond 5,000 km. This will result in unlimited flights to and from Europe
and the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation).

The policy proposes to put service tax at zero to promote Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul, MRO facility in order to
develop India as an MRO hub in Asia. It also seeks to revive under-served airstrips and build no-frills airports
at a cost of 50 crore rupees under Regional Connectivity Scheme. The Policy proposes two per cent levy on all domestic
and overseas tickets for funding the Scheme. Another proposal is to cap fare at 2,500 rupees for one-hour flight
under regional connectivity scheme.

Minister of State for Civil Aviation, Mahesh Sharma said the aim is to make flying available to the country’s middle-class.
The policy proposes separate regulations for helicopters from the first of April, 2016. Centre will support growth
of helicopters for remote area connectivity, intra-city movement, tourism, law enforcement, disaster relief and medical

However, the government has decided to seek more comments from stakeholders before taking a final call on 5/20 norms
- whereby local airlines can fly overseas only when they have five years operational experience and at least a fleet
of 20 aircraft. Fledgling airlines like Vistara and AirAsia have been seeking abolition of this rule, which prevents
domestic airlines from flying abroad before they have completed five years of operations and own 20 aircraft.

Other policy reforms which has been envisaged are greater de regulation, transparency and e governance, aviation education
and skill building, and promotion of sustainable aviation practices. The policy is open to comments from the industry
and various stakeholders before being finalised.


Taxpayer friendly measures -- eSahyog and PAN camps -- launched

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on October 27, 2015 launched two taxpayer friendly measures -- eSahyog and PAN camps --
with a view to streamlining the taxation procedure. “The objective of the I-T department is to make life as easy
as possible for the assessee and difficult only for those who consciously evade and avoid taxes,” he said while launching
the twin initiatives of Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) in New Delhi. 

The e-Sahyog is aimed at reducing compliance cost, especially for small taxpayers. It is to provide an online mechanism
to resolve mismatches in I-T returns of taxpayers whose returns have not been selected for scrutiny, reducing the
need for the taxpayer to physically appear before tax authorities. In the pilot project, 91,000 tax payers have been
identified, under which the assesses will be informed by SMS and email about the mismatch and then he will have to
log in to e-filing portal to see the mismatch. 

The PAN camps are aimed at expanding the coverage of number of people through Permanent Account Number (PAN). While 23
crore PAN card have been issued, only 5 crore people file income tax returns. The expansion of Number of PAN card
holders would help the government implement the budget proposal of mandatory quoting of PAN for cash transaction
of Rs 1 lakh. The CBDT inaugurated 43 PAN camps on October 27. 

“These initiatives of the Department are expected to significantly reduce the burden of compliance on taxpayers and enhance
the taxpayer satisfaction,” the statement added. Jaitley further said that over Rs 70,600 crore has been paid as
refund so far in current fiscal. The tax department has already started a pilot project of using e-mails for sending
notices, getting replies as well as carrying out tax assessments in an attempt to make sure taxpayers do not have
to visit I-T offices physically in smaller cases.

Govt offers incentives to push exports

The government on October 30, 2015 announced additional sops for exporters to prop up falling shipments, which are showing
no signs of revival in the face of a continuing slowdown in global demand.

The Commerce Ministry has expanded the current incentive schemes for exporters to include more products, markets and,
in some cases, also increased the incentive amount.

Textile items, pharmaceuticals, surgical instruments, herbals, project goods, auto components, telecom, computer, electrical
and electronics products and railway transport equipment are among products that will now get incentives for exports
to all countries under the existing Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (MEIS). The MEIS, announced in the Foreign
Trade Policy earlier this year, fixed incentives for various items at 2 per cent, 3 per cent and 5 per cent of the
value of exports.

The current revision introduces 110 new tariff lines and increases rates or country coverage or both for 2,228 existing
tariff lines.

Items that now qualify for higher incentives are mostly from the small sector and include industrial machinery, ready-made
garments, cashew, IC Engines, machine tools, parts and machinery for dairy, agriculture, food processing, textiles,
paper, hand tools used in agriculture /horticulture/forestry, safety razors and blades. Other items include all type
of locks, reinforced safes, strong boxes and doors, safe deposit lockers, flexible tubing, pilfer-proof caps for
packaging and bicycle parts.

Exports in April-September 2015-16 fell 17.63 per cent to $132.93 billion compared to the same period last year. The
decline was across all the major sectors, including petroleum goods, ready-made garments, electronics, engineering
goods, gems & jewellery, chemicals, leather and agricultural products.

India to introduce Euro-VI fuel by 2020 to reduce pollution 

India plans to shift to Euro-VI emission compliant petrol and diesel by 2020 to cut carbon pollution, Oil Minister Dharmendra
Pradhan said on October 29, 2015.  He was addressing a workshop on ‘Carbon Emission Management’ in New Delhi. 

“We already have BS-III, equivalent to Euro-III specifications, across the country and BS-IV, in major cities which will
shortly be extended to the entire country. A revised Auto Fuel Policy is in the offing which will lead to introduction
of BS-VI fuels by 2020,” he said. Oil refineries will need to invest Rs 80,000 crore in upgrading petrol and diesel
quality to meet cleaner fuel specifications by 2020. 

Currently, BS-IV auto fuels are being supplied in whole of northern India covering J&K, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal
Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Delhi, parts of Rajasthan and western UP. The rest of the country has BS-III grade fuel. From
April 1, 2016, all of Goa, Kerala, Karnataka, Telangana, Odisha, Union Territories of Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar
Haveli and Andaman & Nicobar will get BS-IV fuel. The rest of the country will get supplies of BS-IV fuel from
April 1, 2017. 

To reduce pollution and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, use of gas as transport fuel (CNG) in cities is being encouraged.
India, he said, has pledged to improve the carbon emission intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35 per cent by 2030 from
2005 level and to create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent through
additional forest and tree cover by 2030.

Ancient temples in Karnataka’s Mandya district unearthed

A recent find of five temple complexes at the remote village of Artipura in Mandya district of Karnataka further establishes
existence of Western Ganga rulers over South Karnataka region, besides throwing light on the earlier Jain identity.

ASI’s “scientific clearance” in the discovery of temple complexes at Chikkabetta has also brought to light Artipura’s
history that thrived earlier to the Shravanabelagola references.

Artipura is a small village 20 km south east of Maddur and five km east of Kokkare Bellur in Mandya district. It consists
of two hills of local origin — Shravanabetta and Chikkabetta — towards the east of the village that come under the
Centrally protected site of the Bangalore circle of ASI.

The study exposes the remains of the five temple complexes with two phases of constructions – both brick and stones.
“The main objective was to find if Artipura’s archaeological findings at Shravanabetta and Chikkabetta were incipient
to the development that culminated at Shravanabelagola. The presence of Bahubali at Shravanabetta at Artipura is
“more rudimentary” which, according to Dr. I.K. Sharma, is earlier to the establishing of the famous Bahubali of
Shravanabelagola,” said ASI (Bengaluru Circle) Superintending Archaeologist T. Arun Raj, who led the discovery.

The basement of the brick temples found at Chikkabetta of Artipura are seen to be plastered with lime where various shapes
of moulded bricks were used in the construction. The stone platforms were topped with sockets for installing pillars.

Four carved pilasters with Jain tirthankaras and goddesses on eight panels are seen exposed with sockets at the base.
The stone architectural detailing includes the first tirthankara, Adinatha, which is said to belong to the Hoysala

Maharashtra launches Panipuravatha Sanjivani Yojana for drought-hit farmers: Maharashtra Government
will launch an amnesty scheme for power bills of water supply schemes to provide relief to farmers in drought-hit
areas. After a cabinet meeting on October 28, 2015, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis informed that the Panipuravatha
Sanjivani Yojana will be implemented on the lines of Krishi Sanjivani Yojana. This Yojana will be launched with retrospective
effect from July this year and added that there will be no criteria. 


NGT asks states to take steps to check crop burning

Worried over high pollution level and thick smog engulfing the national capital, the National Green Tribunal on November
4, 2015 asked Delhi and four northern states to notify steps to check the menace of crop burning and imposed a fine
on farmers indulging in such activities. The states which have been asked to issue notifications are Punjab, Haryana,
Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi. 

Observing that it was a serious issue which contributed to global warming and environmental pollution, the green panel
imposed fines ranging from Rs 2,500 to Rs 15,000 on farmers indulging in burning of agricultural residues and asked
the state governments to issue notification to curb burning of crop residues. 

“The burning of agriculture remains is a serious issue contributing towards global warming and the environmental pollution.
You all are putting the life of people and children at danger and they are getting sick. You cannot allow them to
suffer,” a bench headed by NGT chairperson Swatanter Kumar said. 

The panel’s observation came after the counsel for petitioner submitted that on November 3, the website of Delhi Pollution
Control Committee (DPCC) had shown that the particulate matter (PM) in Delhi stood at 460 mg per cubic metres, as
against a maximum of 60 mg, and the percentage of carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide was also on higher side. 

The bench then asked the counsel to check the website in the court room and recorded that at 12:45 hours on November
4, PM was 275mg and both carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide continued to remain on the higher side of the prescribed

“Global warming is having its own effect. The month of September has been the hottest month in 136 years. Crop burning
is expected to be one of the most serious contributors to pollution and the ecology, besides vehicular emission,
dust and burning of other materials,” the bench said. 

It noted that Delhi and the four states have been not been able to provide proper incentives to the farmers which could
prevent agricultural residue burning. “This is the menace which ought to be resolved by prevention and control mechanism,
which could be beneficial to the farmers,” the panel said.

NGT bars construction on Ganga banks in Uttarakhand: The National Green Tribunal on November 5, 2015 barred construction
of buildings 200 metres along the banks of the Ganga in Uttarakhand till further orders to protect pollutants from
being discharged into the river. “We direct that no corporation, authority or panchayat shall grant permission for
construction of building, houses, hotels or any structures within 200 metres of shore of river Ganga at the highest
flood line without prior approval from the tribunal,” a bench headed by NGT chairperson Swatanter Kumar said. The
panel’s direction came on a petition filed by advocate M C Mehta who suggested that in Western countries rivers are
protected from pollution by creating a buffer zone on the banks where no construction is allowed. Mehta contended
that rapid unregulated constructions were being carried out by sim ply taking clearances from village panchayats,
which are not expert bodies. 

Birth anniversary of Sardar Patel observed as Rashtriya Ekta Diwas 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 31, 2015 paid homage to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, on his birth anniversary. The
Prime Minister recalled Sardar Patel’s initiatives as Mayor of Ahmedabad during the 1920s, including a campaign for
cleanliness, and a proposal for 50 percent reservation for women. 

Modi outlined a new scheme “Ek Bharat, Shresth Bharat” on the occasion. Under this scheme, two states would undertake
a unique partnership for a period of one year. The year would be marked by cultural and student exchanges, which
would give an opportunity to the people of these two states to understand and come closer to each other. He said
that each year, one state should connect to any one state in India. Suppose Haryana as a state decides to connect
with Tamil Nadu for year 2016, then students in Haryana schools will be taught at least 100 sentences of Tamil language.
They will be taught one song in Tamil. There can be food festival, tours of people of Haryana to Tamil Nadu and vice
versa. In year 2017, Haryana would connect to any other state and in 2018 another state. This will bring understanding
about India’s unity and diversity. 

The Prime Minister also paid homage to former Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi, on her death anniversary. Modi administered
the pledge to the assembled gathering, and flagged off the “Run for Unity.” 

Mizoram, Meghalaya have least gender gap– McKinsey Global Institute

Mizoram and Meghalaya are the two states in the country with the least gender gap, according to McKinsey Global Institute’s
(MGI) “The Power of Parity: Advancing Women Equality in India” report released in November 2015. In contrast, Assam,
Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Uttar Pradesh have been grouped as India’s bottom five states on gender parity
by MGI. 

The report, which analysed 15 gender equality indicators across 95 countries in an attempt to quantify the economic potential
of closing the gender gap around the world, used a new score -India Female Empowerment Index or Femdex -based on
a subset of 10 of the 15 indicators for which data are available at the state-level.

Observations made in the report include the following:

The top five states account for just 4% of the country’s female working-age population, while the bottom five comprises
a much larger 32%. Indian women face extremely high inequality on two of three dimensions -physical security and
autonomy (sex ratio at birth and intimate partner violence). They face high inequality on the third, child marriage.

Gender inequality in India is high or extremely high on three dimensions -gender equality in work, legal protection and
political voice, and physical security and autonomy -and medium to high on the fourth dimension of essential services
and enablers of economic opportunity.

In terms of gender equality in work, just Meghalaya and Mizoram show parity. In case of gender equality in physical security
and autonomy, Himachal scores highest. Indian women face high or extremely high inequality on all five indicators
related to work: labour-force participation rate, professional and technical jobs, unpaid care work, wage gap and
leadership positions.

CCMB scientists prove genomic basis of Ayurveda

The ancient Indian knowledge of Ayurveda medicine has molecular basis. A team of scientists at the Centre for Cellular
and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad, has conclusively proved the genomic basis of Ayurveda, said C. Mohan Rao,
Director of CCMB on November 4, 2015.

The findings have been published in the journal ‘Nature’ on October 29. The six-year research project collected blood
samples from over 3,400 people in the age group of 20–30. Ayurvedic physicians screened them, and the same set of
people were also screened by AyuSoft software, developed by C-DAC, Bengaluru. 

Isolation of DNA and genomic studies were carried out using Affymetrix 6.0 SNP chip. When the data was plotted, it fell
into three groups, establishing the molecular basis for ancient Ayurvedic classification of three ‘doshas/prakritis’
or biological energies/humors found in the human body, namely Vata, Pitta and Kapha.

Mohan Rao said that these studies should eventually lead to establishing Ayurveda on sound footing along with modern

Research project IMPRINT India launched

President Pranab Mukherjee on November 5, 2015 launched ‘IMPRINT India’ — a pan-IIT and IISc joint initiative — to develop
a roadmap for research aimed at solving engineering and technology challenges. It aims to identify areas of immediate
relevance to society requiring innovation, direct scientific research into identified areas, ensure higher funding
support for research into these areas and measure outcomes of the research effort with reference to impact on the
standard of living in the rural/urban areas.

IMPRINT India will focus on 10 themes which will be coordinated by one institution.  IIT Kharagpur will look at health
care as well as computer science and ICT, while IIT Kanpur will look at advance materials, and water resources and
river systems. IIT Roorkee will focus on sustainable urban design. IIT Madras will look at defence as well as manufacturing,
while IIT Bombay will focus on nano-technology hardware and energy security. Apart from this, IISc Bangalore will
look at environmental science and climate change.

National Tribal Crafts Mela ‘Aadishilp’ started in Delhi: Union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram
inaugurated National Tribal Crafts Mela Aadishilp in New Delhi on November 2, 2015. Oram said his ministry will provide
more and more such platforms for tribal artisans so that they can sell their products directly to the consumer without
middlemen. Organised by Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India Ltd. (TRIFED), ‘Aadishilp’ will
be open till November 11, 2015. Unique and exquisite tribal artefacts of more than 90 tribal artisans from all over
the country are being exhibited in this Exhibition. 

Punjabi now third language in Parliament of Canada: Punjabi, Canada’s third most common language,
has now attained the same status in the country’s new Parliament after English and French following the election
of 20 Punjabi-speaking candidates to the House of Commons. Twenty-three Member of Parliaments of South Asian-origin
were elected to the House of Commons, Parliament of Canada on October 19 parliamentary elections. Among the newly-elected
Punjabi-speaking MPs, 14 are males and six are females. Ontario elected 12, British Columbia four, Alberta three
and one is from Quebec. According to Statistics Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey, 430,705 Canadians identified
Punjabi as their mother tongue, making it the third most common language after English and French.  The 430,705 native
Punjabi speakers make up about 1.3 per cent of Canada’s population. The 20 Punjabi-speaking MPs represent almost
six per cent of the House of Commons.

S. China Sea row cancels ASEAN joint statement

Differences over the South China Sea forced countries from Southeast Asia, along with China and the United States, to
cancel a joint statement at a meeting of Defence Ministers of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) nations
in Kuala Lumpur on November 4, 2015. 

Diplomats from the region said that China did not want even a factual statement on the South China Sea to be included
in the joint declaration scheduled for the end of the gathering. The meeting was split between countries that agreed
with China and those that strongly disagreed, including Australia, Japan and the United States. China maintains that
its territorial claims in the South China Sea must be discussed with individual countries that also have claims.
It has consistently opposed efforts to have conflicting claims discussed in a regional setting like ASEAN. 

US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter on November 3, 2015 told his Chinese counterpart General Chang Wanquan that US will
continue to operate in South China Sea. Carter asserted that America will fly, sail and operate wherever international
law allows. This was the first-high level meeting between the two countries after US sent its naval war ship in South
China Sea within the 12 miles of the disputed island chain claimed by China. Pentagon said that during the discussion,
the Defence Secretary identified two security issues still affecting US-China relations - tensions in the South China
Sea and disagreements in cyberspace.

3-D printing method to make embryonic stem cells

Scientists have developed a 3-D printing method capable of producing highly uniform ‘blocks’ of embryonic stem cells.
These cells -- capable of generating all cell types in the body -- could be used as the ‘Lego bricks’ to build tissue
constructs, larger structures of tissues and potentially even micro-organs.

The results of the research were published in the journal Biofabrication on November 4, 2015. Researchers said that the
growth is controlled. The grown embryoid body is uniform and homogenous, and serves as a much better starting point
for further tissue growth.

The researchers, based at Tsinghua University, Beijing, China, and Drexel University, Philadelphia, USA, used extrusion-based
3-D printing to produce a grid-like 3-D structure to grow embryoid body that demonstrated cell viability and rapid
self-renewal for 7 days while maintaining high pluripotentcy.

The researchers hope that this technique can be developed to produce embryoid body at a high throughput, providing the
basic building blocks for other researchers to perform experiments on tissue regeneration and/or for drug screening

Archaeologists uncover 2,300-year-old theatre on Cyprus

An Australian archaeological team in Cyprus has uncovered a theatre dating from 300 BC, the oldest structure of its kind
yet unearthed on the Mediterranean island, the antiquities department said in Nicosia on November 6, 2015. 

The structure was used as a venue for performance and spectacle for over six-and-a-half centuries from c 300 BC until
its final destruction in the earthquakes of AD 365. 

Excavations at the site of the Hellenistic-Roman theatre of Nea Paphos, on Cyprus’ southwestern coast, were conducted
by the Australian Archaeological Mission from the University of Sydney. 

The Australian team has been excavating at the UNESCO World Heritage site for two decades. 

In September the team conducted a geo-mapping survey of the ruins of the town’s Roman colonnades. 

Excavations immediately to the south of the theatre revealed a Roman paved road, approximately 8.4 metres (28 feet) wide,
which was the main traffic thoroughfare to access the theatre, the antiquities department said. 

The existence of this road also confirms that ancient Nea Paphos was laid out on a typical Hellenistic grid plan. The
discovery of numerous fragments of granite columns on the theatre site (over 30 to date) confirms the importance
of the paved road. 

The columns are made from granite from quarries in Troad in Turkey and reflect Roman trade in monumental architectural

The ancient theatre was recorded for the first time using pole photography and photogrammetric programs which stitched
together over 2,000 individual high resolution photos. (November 6, 2015)

World Economic Forum’s India summit organised

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley opened the World Economic Forum’s India summit in New Delhi on November 4, 2015, an event
that saw participation of more than 250 stakeholders and leaders, including Union Ministers. The theme of the meet
was ‘Delivering Growth in the New Context’. WEF, along with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), hosted the
National Strategy Day on India on November 3-4, 2015. 

Minister of State for Power, Coal, New and Renewable Energy Piyush Goyal gave away Social Entrepreneur of the Year (SEOY)
– India 2015 award to Poonam Bir Kasturi of Daily Dump, Bangalore on November 3, 2015 for her outstanding contribution
towards society. The Minister also gave certificates to all finalists namely Ashraf Patel of ‘Pravah and Community-
the Youth Collective (CYC)’, Prema Gopalan of ‘Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP) Group of Ventures and Suparna Gupta of
‘Aangan Trust for their positive contribution towards the society. All four ventures are building large-scale movements,
through behavior change and collaborations with unusual allies. The India Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award celebrates
leading social entrepreneurs and their ventures that implement innovative, practical and sustainable solutions to
address poverty and the lack of basic services and resources in ‘Bottom of the Pyramid’ and ultra-poor communities
(i.e. health, education, job creation, water, clean energy and access to information and technology). 

Besides Goyal, summit was attended by Urban Development, Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation as well as Parliamentary
Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu, Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra
Fadnavis, among others. ICICI Bank MD and CEO Chanda Kochhar, Cargill India Chairman Siraj Azmat Chaudhry, Hindustan
Power Chairman Ratul Puri, National Skill Development Agency Chairman Subramanian Ramadorai, Jubilant Bhartia Group
Founder and co-Chairman Hari Bhartia, Hindustan Construction Company Chairman and MD Ajit Gulabchand, also participated.

Participants deliberated on forces of change in India in the context of five of WEF’s global challenges -- agriculture
and food security, environment and resource security, employment, skills and human capital, long-term investing,
infrastructure and urban development and financial inclusion. The WEF said that India’s continued economic growth
relies on the continued success of its efforts to address challenges of sustainable urbanisation, social inclusion,
clean energy access and infrastructure deficit.

Ground Zero Summit 2015 starts in New Delhi

Ground Zero Summit 2015–Asia’s Foremost Information Security Summit is being organised in New Delhi from November 5 to
8, 2015. The Summit is the largest collaborative platform in Asia for cybersecurity experts and researchers to address
emerging challenges and demonstrate cutting-edge technologies. The Summit brings hackers and information security
experts from all over Asia under one roof. It showcases indigenous products and ingenious brains working in the field
of information security to the world. Ground Zero Summit (G0S) is being organized by the Indian Infosec Consortium
(IIC), which is an independent not-for-profit organization formed by leading cyber experts. The theme for the Summit
is Digital India Securing Digital India. 

Census data on commutes released

Over a fifth of non-agricultural workers in India commute to work on foot, followed by commutes by cycle, moped or motorcycle
and bus, new data from the Census shows. Fewer than three per cent take cars or vans, and over half travel less than
five kilometres.

The office of the Registrar General of India on November 12, 2015 released data on commutes for the 200 million working
Indians who are neither employed in agriculture nor in household industries. The data show that nevertheless, nearly
a third of these workers do not commute, meaning that they live in or adjacent to their workplaces. Commuting for
work is even less common among women workers — 45 per cent of women do not commute for work — and higher in rural
than in urban areas.

Among those 140 million workers who commute for work, the distances tend to be quite small. A quarter of commuters travel
less than 1 km to work, and another third travel between two and five km. Just 30 million people travel more than
10 km to work, and just 17 million of them have a commute over 20 km. Women commute shorter distances on average
than men; the largest category of women commuters travels less than 1 km, while for men, the largest category travels
two to five km.

A 2005 World Bank study of commuting in Mumbai found that the poor travelled shorter distances than the non-poor. Planning
in most Indian cities does not take into account the realities of commuting, the experts said. Among those who do
have to travel for work, one-third commutes on foot, says the Census data

Boeing P-8I dedicated to the nation 

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on November 13, 2015 dedicated the Boeing P 8 I (Poseidon Eight India) Long Range Maritime
Patrol aircraft to the nation at INS Rajali, Arakkonam, India’s premiere Naval Air Station, about 70 Km off Chennai.
The ceremony was attended by the Chief of Naval Staff Admiral RK Dhowan, and Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Eastern
Naval Command Vice Admiral Satish Soni. 

Parrikar praised the fact that, even in the short phase of trials and testing, the P-8I aircraft had achieved a number
of operational milestones which includes participation in the search effort for Malaysian Airlines Flight MH 370,
the first successful firing of air launched Harpoon Block II missile in the world, torpedo firing and active participation
in major naval exercises. 

The P-8I aircraft is a variant of the P-8A Poseidon aircraft that Boeing developed as a replacement for the US Navy’s
ageing P-3 fleet. Indian Navy became the first international customer for the P-8 aircraft with the conclusion of
the nearly US $ 2.1 billion contract in January 2009 for a total of eight aircraft. The first aircraft arrived in
India in May 2013 and as of date; all eight aircraft have been inducted into the Indian Navy and are fully integrated
into its operations. 

The P-8I aircraft is equipped for long range anti-submarine warfare, anti -surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance
and reconnaissance in support of broad area, maritime and littoral operations. Its communication and sensor suite
includes indigenous equipment developed by defence PSUs and private manufacturers. With its high speed and high endurance
of about 10 hours, the aircraft is capable of thrusting a punitive response and maintaining a watch over India’s
immediate and extended areas of interest. 

The aircraft are based at INS Rajali, and are operated by Indian Naval Air Squadron 312A under the command of Commander
Venkateshwaran Ranganathan. 

National Conference on ICT in School Education held

The edNEXT - National Conference on ICT in School Education was organised at New Delhi on November 7, 2015 The event
showcased various ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) based initiatives in School Education. During
the Conference, e-Pathshala, Saaransh, and National Programme on School Standards and Evaluation Framework (Shala
Siddhi) were launched by Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani. All these are web portal/ mobile app. 

E-Pathshala, a web portal which hosts educational resources for Students, Teachers, Parents, researchers and educators,
is available through especially developed mobile app interface on Android, IOS and windows platforms for wider access
and contains textbooks and other e-books as E-Pub 3.0 and Flipbooks in English, Hindi and Urdu. 

Shaala Siddhi is a comprehensive instrument for school evaluation which enables the schools to evaluate their performance
in more focused and strategic manner to facilitate them to make professional judgement for continuous improvement.
The web-portal of the framework will help all schools to assess themselves and the results can be seen by all enabling
them to provide feedback. The initiative has already been successfully piloted in four districts of Tamil Nadu. 

Saransh is a tool which allows the schools to identify areas of improvement in students, teachers and curriculum to facilitate
and implement change. The platform is presently available for classes 9th to 12th and provides a comprehensive overview
of standard 10th performance since 2007 and standard 12th performance since 2009 till the current academic session.
Presently, results of CBSE are available on this portal/app. 

The event also showcased other ICT initiatives including the IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system to monitor the daily
implementation of Mid-Day Meal scheme and Shaala Darpan, an integrated platform to address all academic and administrative
requirements of schools, teachers, parents and students. 

IISc makes Indian debut in top 100 world university ranking

The Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore broke India’s poor ranking spell by making a debut in the world’s top
100 universities for engineering and technology. IISc made its entry at 99th spot in a list that remains dominated
by US institutions with Stanford, CalTech and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the top three positions
in the ‘Times Higher Education (THE) Ranking for Engineering & Technology’ on November 12, 2015. 

“This year’s stand out success story has to be India, making its debut in this prestigious engineering and technology
ranking, which represents the top few per cent of world universities for these subject disciplines. 

“Whether you look at high tech sectors such as IT or aerospace engineering or more traditional fields such as steelmaking,
India’s engineering and technology prowess is highly visible the world over in the shape of companies based in India
or run by people born in India, such as Google and Microsoft, Infosys and Wipro or Tata and Mittal,” said the Times
Higher Education World University Rankings. 

THE has singled out the year as one of Asian progress, with the US holding 31 positions - down from 34 last year - while
Asia holds 25 positions in the Top 100, up from 18 last year. Asian universities occupied six positions in the Top
30 this year, with Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan and India all improving their representation, while Singapore and
Hong Kong maintained theirs.

Pakistan hands over 2000 acres to China in Gwadar port city 

Pakistan and China on November 12, 2015 kicked off their ambitious USD 46 billion economic corridor project with Beijing
acquiring over 2,000 acres of land in restive Balochistan to develop the strategic Gwadar port, providing the Communist-giant
an opening to the Arabian Sea. The two countries have signed a deal to acquire the usage rights to more than 2,000
acres of land for a Chinese company. 

The Gwadar port city will get linked to China’s Kashgar city in Xinjiang through a network of roads and oil pipelines.
It is a major project under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, (CPEC). India has objected to the CPEC as it passes
through the Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). China defends the project saying it is a commercial venture aimed at
improving livelihoods of local people. 

China’s National Development and Reform Commission signed a lease agreement with the Pakistani government that will see
the government of Baluchistan province in southwestern Pakistan provide land as part of the CEPC which links western
China to the Arabian Sea. The contract will enable state-owned China Overseas Port Holding Co Ltd, to build an international
airport, a free trade area, and a maritime service company in the port with full authority to handle the port’s operations. 

Gwadar, on the shores of the Arabian Sea in Pakistan’s western province of Balochistan, has strategic importance in terms
of its location between South and Central Asia and the Middle East as it is situated at the mouth of the Persian
Gulf and close to several important sea routes like the Straits of Hormuz, through which 20 per cent of the global
oil shipments pass. 

China is expected to invest USD 1.62 billion in the Gwadar project, including construction of an expressway linking the
harbour and coastline, a rail link, breakwater and other nine projects expected to be completed in three to five

India has 17.5 crore bank accounts: India has witnessed surge in number of bank accounts between
2011 and 2014. Bank account penetration have increased from 35 per cent to 53 in the country. This was revealed in
a report of the Global Findex in November 2015. In terms of numbers, it stands at 17.5 crore bank accounts. Pradhan
Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana, started in 2014, gave a special fillip to opening up of bank accounts and large number of
people from excluded population opened accounts in various banks. The government had launched the Jan Dhan scheme
in August 2014 for comprehensive financial inclusion with the goal of opening a bank account for every household.

Raghuram Rajan appointed vice chairman of BIS Board: Reserve Bank Governor Raghuram Rajan has been
appointed vice chairman of the board of the Bank for International Settlements, India’s central bank said in a statement
on November 10, 2015. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, BIS fosters international cooperation amongst central
banks with a view to ensuring global monetary and financial stability. The BIS board meets at least six times a year.
The BIS board includes US Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney and Bank of Japan
Governor Haruhiko Kuroda. Rajan joined the BIS Board of Directors in December 2013. BIS Board Chairman Jens Weidmann
welcomed Rajan in his new role and thanked him for his continued service to the Bank. The Board of Directors elects
a Chairman and a Vice-Chairman from among its members each for a three-year term. 

Government relaxes FDI norms across 15 sectors

The Centre on November 10, 2015 announced ‘Big Bang’ Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) reforms, easing norms across 15
sectors including defence, banking, construction, single brand retail, broadcasting and civil aviation. The move
is aimed at boosting the investment environment and attracting more foreign capital to the country.

For facilitating faster approvals on most of the proposals, the government also raised the threshold limit of approval
by Foreign Investment Promotion Board from the earlier Rs.3,000 crore to Rs.5,000 crore. As per the extant policy,
FIPB considers foreign investment proposals of inflow up to Rs.3,000 crore and those above that limit are placed
for consideration of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs.

The crux of these reforms is to further ease, rationalise and simplify the process of foreign investments in the country
and to put more and more FDI proposals on automatic route instead of Government route where time and energy of the
investors is wasted.

For the sake of ease of doing business, the Industry Ministry will soon consolidate all FDI related instructions contained
in various notifications & press notes and prepare a booklet so that the investors do not have to refer to several
documents of different time-frames.

The official release said refining of foreign investment norms in construction is to facilitate the construction of million
houses for poor. It added that opening up of the manufacturing sector for wholesale, retail and e-commerce is aimed
at motivating industries to Make In India and sell it to the customers here instead of importing from other countries.

Main sectoral changes in the FDI regime:

Construction sector: The struggling construction sector will be a major beneficiary as radical changes in FDI
norms have been brought in to boost demand for steel, cement and spur economic activity, ultimately with an aim to
help build 50 million affordable houses for the poor. Several conditions have been removed including the area restriction
of floor area of 20,000 square metres in construction development projects and minimum capitalisation of $5 million
which needed to be brought in within six months of the commencement of business. Also, foreign investors have been
allowed to exit and repatriate their investment under automatic route before the completion of the project provided
they complete a lock-in period of three years. The condition of lock-in-period would not apply to hotels and tourist
resorts, hospitals, special economic zones (SEZs), educational institutions, old age homes and investment by NRIs.

Defence: Foreign investment up to 49 per cent has been allowed under automatic route from the earlier government
approved route. Proposals for foreign investment in excess of 49 per cent will be considered by FIPB. Portfolio investment
and foreign venture capital investment, which were restricted to 24 per cent, have now been hiked to 49 per cent
and that too through the automatic route. To ensure that ownership and control remain in Indian hands, Government
approval will be required in case of infusion of fresh foreign investment within the permitted automatic route level,
resulting in change in the ownership pattern or transfer of stake by existing investor to new foreign investor.

Broadcasting: In terrestrial Broadcasting FM (FM Radio), and in up-linking of ‘News & Government route Current
Affairs’ TV Channels FDI upto 49 per cent is allowed through the FIPB route (from the earlier 26 per cent), while
100 per cent FDI is allowed through the automatic route in up-linking of Non-’News & Current Affairs’ TV Channels.
100 per cent FDI is also allowed (up to 49 per cent automatic route and beyond that through government route) in
teleports, direct to home, cable networks, mobile TV, headend in the sky broadcasting service and cable networks.

Banking: In private sector banking, the government has brought in a composite cap by removing the sub-limits for
FDI and FII, thereby allowing FIIs/FPIs/QFIs to invest up to the sectoral limit of 74 per cent provided there is
no change of control and management of the investee company. The existing foreign portfolio limit of 49 per cent
was coming in the way of fund raising plans of private sector banks such as Yes Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank and Axis
Bank. The new rule will give the banks and investors considerable flexibility in raising funds and investing respectively.

Plantations: The government also decided to plantation activities namely; coffee, rubber, cardamom, palm oil tree
and olive oil tree plantations also for 100 per cent foreign investment under automatic route. As of now, only tea
plantation was open to foreign investment.

NRIs: Investment by companies/trusts/partnerships owned & controlled by NRIs on non-repatriation basis will
now be treated as domestic investment.

e-commerce: Manufacturers have been allowed to sell their product through wholesale and/or retail, including through
e-commerce without Government approval.

Retail: Though the BJP-led government stayed away from any mention of multi-brand retail so as to protect the
interests of their key vote bank of small traders, it has announced easing of several conditionalities for single
brand retail trade (SBRT) and e-commerce. It has now been decided that in case of state of art and cutting edge technology,
sourcing norms (that 30 per cent of value of goods will have to be purchased from India) can be relaxed subject to
Government approval. The government also permitted entities who have been granted permission to undertake SBRT, to
do e-commerce. The government has eased FDI policy conditionalities for Single Brand Retail Trading, besides permitting
100 per cent FDI in duty free shops. Also, a single entity will be permitted to undertake both the activities of
single brand retail trading and wholesale with the condition that conditions of FDI policy on wholesale/cash &
carry and SBRT have to be complied by both the business arms separately. Currently, wholesale/cash & carry trader
cannot open retail shops to sell to the consumer directly.

LLPs: 100 per cent FDI in LLPs (Limited Liability Partnerships) has been permitted under automatic route.

Aviation: Regional Air Transport Service will be eligible for foreign investment up to 49 per cent under automatic
route. Under the present FDI policy, foreign investment up to 49 per cent is allowed only in Scheduled Air Transport
Service/ Domestic Scheduled Passenger Airline. 

Foreign equity caps of certain sectors lifted: Foreign equity caps in non-Scheduled Air Transport
Service, Ground Handling Services, Satellites-establishment and operation and Credit Information Companies have now
been increased from 74 per cent to 100 per cent. Further, sectors other than Satellites- establishment and operation
have been placed under the automatic route.

Other changes in rules: No government approval is required for investment in automatic route by way of swap of

Extension of Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems Project approved

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has given its approval to the proposal
of the Ministry of Home Affairs for a major revamp of the Crime and Criminals Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS)
Project and has decided to implement Integrated Criminal Justice System (ICJS) by integrating CCTNS with E-Courts.
E-prisons, Forensics and Prosecution- the key components of the criminal Justice System. This will ensure quick data
transfer among different pillars of criminal justice system, which will not only enhance transparency but also reduce
processing time. This project is now fully aligned with the vision of the smart policing and Digital India of the
Government of India. Police-Citizen interface will undergo a major shift with the implementation of this project,
as a number of services will be enabled through citizen portal. This was stated in a press note issued by the Ministry
of Home Affairs on November 18, 2015. 

The Government has decided to fast track the implementation and complete the implementation of the CCTNS project by March
2017 including implementation of ICJS. Major new components included as part of the revamped project are Integrated
Criminal Justice System (ICJS), Citizen Portal having interfaces with various e-Governance projects like Aadhaar,
National Population Register, Vaahan Project of the Ministry of Surface Transport, National Emergency Response System
Project etc. 

To keep pace with changing scenario, the cabinet also decided to approve in principle design of next phase of CCTNS Project
so that additional functionalities not yet implemented may also be included and police functioning in the country
is fully computerized. The total outlay for the project is Rs. 2000 crore, and also includes Operation & Maintenance
phase for additional five years up to March 2022. 

Crime and Criminals Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS) Project will interconnect about 15000 Police Stations and additional
5000 offices of supervisory police officers across the country and digitize data related to FIR registration, investigation
and charge sheets in all Police Stations. This would lead to development of a national database of crimes and criminals.
In the last one year significant outcomes have been achieved which is evident from the fact that more than 11600
Police Stations in the country are entering 100 percent FIRs through CCTNS software and more than 26 Lakh FIRs have
been registered through CCTNS in last one year alone. 

The Full implementation of the Project with all the new components would lead to a Central citizen portal having linkages
with State level citizen portals that will provide a number of citizen friendly services. These include services
like Police Verification for various purposes including passport verification, reporting a crime including cyber-crime
and online tracking of the case progress, online reporting of grievances against police officials, accessing Victim
Compensation Fund and legal services etc. 

The project will enable National level crime analytics to be published at increased frequency, which will help the policy
makers as well as lawmakers in taking appropriate and timely action, it will also enable Pan-India criminal/accused
name search in the regional language for improved inter-state tracking of criminal movement. 

Indian Art History Congress in Coimbatore from Nov 21: About 70 scholars and intellectuals from
across India will showcase their research in art at the 24th session of the Indian Art History Congress in Coimbatore
from November 21, 2015 as part of World Heritage Week. The three-day event is jointly organised by the local chapter
of INTACH, Kumaraguru College of Technology and IAHC.  The theme of the Congress is ‘Dimensions of Tribal and Folk
Art of India, Past and Present’. Former RBI Governor C Rangarajan will be the chief guest and will release IAHC publications,
while president of ‘Dastkari Haat Samity’ Jaya Jaitley will inaugurate the Congress.

Centre to develop Nagaland’s Doyang Lake for birdwatchers: The Centre will develop the Doyang Lake in Nagaland,
famous for the world’s longest travelling raptors, Amur falcons, as an eco-tourism spot. Amur falcons come to Doyang
every year in huge numbers to roost during their flight from Mongolia to South Africa, making this scenic part of
India’s northeast a birdwatchers’ paradise. The lake area had drawn the attention of conservationists when two falcons
tagged with satellite devices in 2013 to understand their migratory behaviour -returned twice after taking rounds
from Mongolia to South Africa via Nagaland. Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar, who visited the region
after reports of the return of the two raptors, on November 16, 2015 announced the decision to develop Doyang for
birdwatchers across the world to have a wonderful and rare sight of the unique raptors. 

UK joins hand with govt to develop 3 smart cities in India: The British Government has selected
two cities of Maharashtra and one from Madhya Pradesh for developing them as ‘Smart City’, British High Commissioner
in India informed on November 20, 2015. The cities in Maharashtra include Pune and Amravati and Indore in Madhya
Pradesh. UK would assist in efforts to develop these cities as smart cities for improved traffic, better education,
and infrastructure after preparing a master plan in near future. 

India showcases confluence of cultures with Sangam festival in Sri Lanka: Six months long festival
of India in Sri Lanka was inaugurated in Colombo on November 19, 2015 with a mosaic of Indian classical dance performances.
The festival was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Sri Lanka in March 2015. The theme
of the Festival is “Sangam: a confluence of cultures of India and Sri Lanka”. The inaugural event, “Nrityarupa”,
was performed on the occasion. Nrityarupa was conceived by Sangeet Natak Akademi and has included six dance forms
- Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Odissi, Manipuri, Kathakali and Chhau. The festival will continue for the next six months.
Among the major events planned for the festival are- participation of Indian authors and a performance by singer
Sonam Kalra at the Galle Literary Festival in January; a musical performance in Colombo on the occasion of Republic
Day; and two exhibitions, one on Digital India and one on legacy of Cricket, in February next year.

1,000-year-old Chola-era Shiva-Parvati idol recovered in US: A historic Chola-era bronze sculpture
of Shiva and Parvati (860 -1279 CE), stolen from a temple in India and smuggled into the United States by notorious
Indian art dealer Subhash Kapoor, has been recovered from a university in Indiana. Kapoor had sold the some 1,000-year-old
idol to David Owsley Museum of Art at Ball State University, concealing the true identity of the artefacts. The bronze
idol is now under the custody of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)
and would be repatriated to India along with six other sacred Chola bronzes recovered by HSI, said an official release
on November 19, 2015. Kapoor is currently in custody in India awaiting trial for allegedly looting tens of millions
of dollars’ worth of rare antiquities from several nations. In the past eight months, two domestic museums, the Honolulu
Museum, the Peabody Essex, and one major collector have partnered with HSI to surrender illicit cultural property
stemming from Kapoor.

G-20 to combat terrorism, tackle uneven global economic growth unitedly

G-20 leaders have decided to tackle global uneven economic growth and reaffirmed their commitment to fight terrorism
unitedly. In a communique released at the end of the two-day G-20 summit at Antalya in Turkey on November 16, they
noticed that risks and uncertainties in financial markets still remain and observed that geopolitical challenges
are increasingly becoming a global problem. 

However, the G-20 has reaffirmed its earlier goal of achieving two percent additional GDP growth by 2018. On Climate
Change, it reiterates its commitment to limit global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius above current levels,
as mentioned in the Lima Call for Action. The communique favours an ambitious, fair and balanced outcome in the Conference
of Parties CoP-21 meet to be held in Paris on the issue. 

The leaders have reinstated their faith on the World Trade Organisation as the backbone of the multilateral trading system
and have urged to fully implement the Bali Package that aims at lowering global trade barriers. To tackle the problem
of transferring profits to tax havens, the G-20 has developed a package under the “Base Erosion and Profit System”
project. It urges the automatic exchange of tax-related information system to come into force by 2018.

The document also calls for intolerance to corruption and deny safe havens to illegally acquired wealth. It notes that
the ongoing refugee crisis is a global concern and seeks to encourage global contribution in managing the crisis.
Seeking early implementation of the International Monetary Fund’s governance reforms, the communique endorses global
food security measures. On the remittance front, it seeks to reduce the charges for people to send money back home
to five percent.

The G-20 final communique accommodates several concerns India have been raising in various multilateral forums for long.
Being the largest recipient of remittances, Prime Minister Narendra Modi insisted on lowering the charges and its
inclusion in the document is considered a positive development. The passage on tax evasion is an area of comfort
as collective movement under the “Base Erosion and Profit Shifting” project has been included to plug the loopholes.
The notes on trade, labour, infrastructure and corruption also reflect the viewpoints of India. In a separate statement,
the G20 leaders have condemned terrorism and resolved to choke terror funding, share information and take action
for better border management.

China to host next G20 summit in Hangzhou: China will host the 2016 G20 Summit in Hangzhou city, best known for
its scenic West Lake, on September 4-5, President Xi Jinping announced in Antalya on November 16, 2015. Its theme
will be “Building an innovative, invigorated, interconnected and inclusive world economy”, Xi said. China will take
over the presidency of the G20 on December 1. 

APEC summit concludes in Manila 

The two-day Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting concluded in Manila on November 19, 2015
with the 21-member economies issuing a joint declaration focused on inclusive economic growth. The theme of the event
was “Building Inclusive Economies, Building a Better World: A Vision for an Asia-Pacific Community”. The Declaration
issued at the end of the event outlines new commitments for APEC members to take forward over the coming year to
build inclusive economies; foster micro, small and medium enterprises’ participation in regional and global markets;
build sustainable and resilient communities; invest in human capital development; and enhance the regional economic
integration agenda. 

Pointing out that global growth is uneven and continues to fall short of expectation, the leaders said risks and uncertainties
remain in the global economy, including inadequate demand growth, financial volatility, and structural problems weighing
on actual and potential growth.

They also committed to deepen their financial markets, mitigate risks and foster micro, small and medium enterprises’
(MSMEs) participation in regional and global markets.

The economies also vowed to build sustainable and resilient communities, make urbanisation work for growth, invest in
human capital development and enhance the regional economic integration agenda through strengthening collaboration
and supporting the work of the APEC and its other regimes.

In the declaration, the leaders also called for increased international cooperation and solidarity in the fight against
terrorism since Russia and France just survived through terror attacks recently and China on November 19 confirmed
that the Islamic State killed a Chinese national. “Under the shadow cast by the terrorist attacks in Paris, Beirut,
and against Russian aircraft over the Sinai, and elsewhere, we strongly condemn all acts, methods, and practices
of terrorism in all their forms and manifestations,” said the declaration. We will not allow terrorism to threaten
the fundamental values that underpin our free and open economies,” the declaration added.

In a separate statement, the leaders also vowed to continue to work closely to strengthen the rules-based, transparent,
non-discriminatory, open and inclusive multilateral trading system. The document said that the early entry into force
of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), which was approved as part of the 2013 Bali Package achieved at the
ninth WTO Ministerial Conference, would make a significant contribution to the sustainability of global trade and
highlight the value of the WTO to its stakeholders around the world. “In this regard, we recognise the leadership
of APEC Economies, with more than half of them having ratified the TFA to date. We call upon the remaining APEC Economies
to do so as soon as possible,” it said.

The APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting was held on November 18-19 and the annual meeting next year will be held in Peru.

RBI nod must for investors picking up more than 5% stake in a private bank

In a bid to have greater scrutiny over banking ownership, the Reserve Bank of India on November 19, 2015 said that new
investors who buy over 5 per cent shares or convertible debt of a private sector bank will have to get the central
bank’s approval.

Existing promoters will also have to take the RBI’s approval if they intend to increase their holding to beyond 10 per
cent in the bank.

All shareholders having 5 per cent or more of the paid-up share capital of a bank would have to give an annual declaration
on their ‘fit and proper’ status.  If in the bank’s assessment any major shareholder is not ‘fit and proper’, it
will have to immediately furnish the requisite information to the Reserve Bank.

An existing major shareholder, who already has the approval of the Reserve Bank to have a major shareholding in a bank,
will not be required to obtain prior approval for fresh incremental acquisition of shares if the proposed aggregate
holding is up to 10 per cent. However, the major shareholder will have to furnish the details of the source of funds
for such incremental acquisition and obtain ‘no objection’ from the concerned bank.

Seventh central pay commission submits report

The seventh central pay commission has recommended a 23.55 per cent increase in the cumulative earnings of serving and
retired central government employees, saddling the Union government with a bill of Rs 1.02 lakh crore in the next
financial year. 

The figure of 23.55 per cent covers the increases in pay, allowances and pension. The gratuity ceiling will be enhanced
to Rs 20 lakh from Rs 10 lakh. It will be raised by 25 per cent whenever dearness allowance goes up by 50 per cent.

7th Pay panel report at a glance

Recommended date of implementation is January 1, 2016


  • Recommended date of implementation is January 1, 2016
  • Minimum monthly pay set at Rs 18,000
  • Maximum monthly pay Rs 2.25 lakh (apex scale), Rs 2.50 lakh (Cabinet secretary and equivalent)
  • Pay bands, grade pay abolished, new pay matrix designed
  • Rate of annual increment retained at 3%
  • Performance-related pay recommended for all categories


  • Total financial impact for FY2016-17: Rs 1.02 lakh crore
  • Impact on FY17 Union Budget: Rs 73,650 crore; Impact on Rail Budget: Rs 28,450 crore
  • Overall increase in pay, allowances, pensions: 23.55 per cent
  • Increase in pay: 16%; Increase in allowances: 63%, Increase in pension: 24%
  • Expenditure-GDP ratio to be impacted by 0.65% points vs 0.77% for 6th Pay Commission


  • Military service pay increased across board
  • Short-service commission (SSC) officers exit at 7-10 years, with terminal gratuity equivalent of 10.5 months
  • SSC officers entitled to a fully-funded one year Executive Programme/M. Tech
  • Revised formulation for lateral entry/resettlement of defence forces personnel
  • Parity recommended between field and headquarters staff for similar functions
  • Systemic change in cadre review for Group A officers recommended


  • Recommends abolishing 52 allowances altogether
  • Another 36 allowances abolished as separate identities, but subsumed in existing allowances
  • Allowances relating to risk and hardship to be governed by the proposed Risk and Hardship Matrix
  • HRA recommended to be paid at the rate of 24%, 16%, 8% of new basic pay for class X, Y and Z cities, respectively
  • HRA to be revised to 27%, 18%, 9% respectively, when DA crosses 50%, and further revised to 30%, 20%, 10% when DA
    crosses 100%

  • Emphasis placed on simplifying the process of claiming allowances


  • Substantial increase for central govt employees’ group insurance schemes’ monthly deduction and insurance amount
  • Introduction of a Health Insurance Scheme for employees and pensioners recommended


  • Revised OROP-type pension formulation for civil, defence and paramilitary employees
  • Enhancement in the ceiling of gratuity from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 20 lakh
  • Recommends reverting to a slab-based system for disability element
  • Revision of rates of lump sum compensation for next of kin to be applied uniformly to defence, civil, paramilitary

  • Paramilitary personnel to be accorded martyr status in case of death in line of duty
  • Strong pension grievance redressal mechanism recommended

The pay commission, headed by Justice A.K. Mathur, submitted the 900-page report to Union finance minister Arun Jaitley
on November 19, 2015. A secretariat headed by the expenditure secretary will study the report before the government
takes the final decision.

The recommendations of the pay commission will come into force after the government accepts them. Usually, governments
do not reject the proposals. The current recommendations are slated to be effective from January 1, 2016. The changes
will cover not only the 47 lakh serving central government employees and 52 lakh pensioners but also defence personnel.
They will also have a cascading effect on employees of PSUs, autonomous bodies and universities.

Without calling it one-rank one-pension (OROP), the pay panel recommended a revised pension formulation for central government
employees, including paramilitary personnel, and for defence staff who will retire before January 1, 2016. The commission
has sought to extend an olive branch to the security forces currently agitated over OROP by addressing key grievances
of the various uniformed services. 

The Union budget will have to set aside Rs 73,650 crore and the railway budget Rs 28,450 crore to meet the pay increase
if the government accepts the recommendations without any change.

The existing system of grade pay and pay band has been done away with in favour of a pay matrix.

The introduction of a health insurance scheme for serving employees and pensioners has been recommended.

The monthly deduction under the Central Government Employees Group Insurance has been raised from Rs 120 per month to
Rs 5,000 and insurance cover from Rs 1.2 lakh to Rs 50 lakh at the senior-most level. For the lowest pay grade, it
has been raised from Rs 30 per month to Rs 1,500 and the cover hiked from Rs 30,000 to Rs 15 lakh.

All postal pensioners should be covered by the Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) and postal dispensaries merged
with the CGHS.

Central government employees can now borrow up to Rs 25 lakh for buying a home. Earlier, the limit was Rs 7.5 lakh. However
all non-interest-bearing advances will be abolished.

The commission has proposed denial of increments to those who do not meet benchmarks under a career progression system
or for promotion in the first 20 years of service. It has also recommended the introduction of performance-related
pay for all categories of central employees, based on annual performance appraisals and other guidelines.

Consolidated monthly pay packages of Rs 4.50 lakh and Rs 4 lakh have been recommended for chairpersons and members, respectively,
of regulatory bodies.

The pension of retired government officials should not be deducted from their consolidated pay and the consolidated pay
package should be raised by 25 per cent and dearness allowance by 50 per cent, the commission said.

5 states to take up 131 Affordable Housing projects under Housing for All Mission

Ministry of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation (HUPA) on November 18, 2015 approved construction of 2,28,204 houses
for urban poor in five states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Rajasthan for which the central
government will provide an assistance of Rs.3,231 crore. 

The inter-ministerial Central Sanctioning and Monitoring Committee (CSMC) of the HUPA approved the housing projects after
detailed presentations by respective states. Of the houses approved, 2.17 lakh were for Economically Weaker Sections
(EWS) under Affordable Housing in Partnership (AHP) and Beneficiary led Construction components of the Prime Minister’s
Awas Yojana (PMAY). The rest are for Low Income Groups. Under these two components, central assistance @ Rs.1.50
lakh per each house will be provided. 

Andhra Pradesh has been sanctioned 1,93,147 houses in 37 cities followed by Gujarat with 15,580 houses in 4 cities, Telangana
- 10,290 in 10 cities, Rajasthan-6,255 in 10 cities, and Tamil Nadu-2,932 houses in 5 cities. 

In the light of the experience of implementation of housing projects in the past, this time around the Ministry of HUPA
has ensured availability of land for all the proposed projects with respective state governments providing land as
their share of Affordable Housing in Partnership. 

Under PMAY, 2 crore houses for urban poor are to be built by the year 2022 under which the central government will provide
assistance in the range of Rs.1.00 lakh to Rs.2.33 lakh depending upon the model followed. 

Govt authorizes NHAI to pay compensation to concessionaires in case of delays: The government has
authorized National Highways Authority of India to pay rationalized compensation to concessionaires in case of delays.
The decision was taken by the Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs on November 18, 2015. Briefing media in New Delhi
after the meeting, Power Minister Piyush Goyal said, the approval relates to languishing highway projects under Build
Operate and Transfer mode. The CCEA also approved revised cost estimate for construction of rail-cum-road Bridge
across River Ganga at Munger in Bihar.

Rs 242 crore AMRUT plan to address water logging in 25 cities in 5 states: Taking steps to tackle
the problem of water logging, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Odisha and Mizoram propose to invest Rs 242 crore
in construction of storm water drains for discharging flood waters in 25 cities in these states. The works would
be undertaken under Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) action plans for 2015-16, according
to a statement by the Urban Development Ministry on November 17, 2015. The five states account for 82 Atal Mission
cities. Other mission cities would be covered in subsequent years. Under Atal Mission, construction of storm water
drains has been prioritised after provision of basic infrastructure relating to water supply and sewerage connections.
Central assistance to the extent of 50 per cent of project costs will be extended to cities with a population of
below one million each and one-third of project cost if the population is above ten lakhs. Many metro cities including
Delhi, Mumbai and now Chennai have been faced with the problem of water logging following heavy rains.

Cabinet approves research proposal for Genome valley: The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister
Narendra Modi on November 18, 2015 approved the proposal of the Department of Health Research in the Ministry of
Health and Family Welfare for setting up of a National Resource Facility for Bio-medical Research (NARF) at Genome
Valley in Hyderabad by the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR). The estimated project cost is Rs. 338.58 crores
and the resource center is expected to be functional by 2018-19. The institution will be the first of its kind for
quality laboratory animals for basic and applied biomedical research in the country. The objective is mainly to facilitate
research in medical colleges, research and academic institutions, universities and Biotech/Bio-pharma companies.
The facility will also provide training facilities for personnel in the specialized areas in the field of biomedical

Intel launches initiative for digitisation of Indian villages: Intel on November 18, 2015 launched a centre
in a Telangana village under a new initiative aimed at working with the governments of various states to create a
blueprint for digitisation of rural India. The first such Digital India Unnati Kendra under the initiative “Ek Kadam
Unnati Ki Aur” has come up in Nadimpalle village in Mahbubnagar district. It will be used to create the framework
for the Telangana model digital village. Besides providing various citizen services under the Telangana government’s
e-panchayat programme, the centre will provide devices, relevant local content and training for citizens thereby
creating opportunities for development and empowerment. Intel has roped in Micromax, HP, Snapdeal and Shweta Computers
and Peripherals as partners for the initiative.

SBI to soon launch wallet app ‘Batua’ for feature phone users: After launching a mobile wallet app,
‘SBI Buddy’, for smartphone users, State Bank of India will soon come out with a similar software tool for customers
with feature phones.  The soon-to-be launched mobile wallet app will be called ‘Batua’. (November 16, 2015)

IRCTC to run Desert Circuit, Heritage Circuit tourist trains: Mini-ratna PSU Indian Railway Catering
and Tourism Corporation Limited (IRCTC) will launch two semi-luxury train services in December which will showcase
India’s deserts and heritage. The premium train services, Desert Circuit and Heritage Circuit, will start from New
Delhi on a five-day odyssey. Desert Circuit will traverse Rajasthan’s Jaisalmer and Jaipur while Heritage Circuit
will touch Varanasi, Khajuraho and Agra. Desert Circuit packages range from Rs.20625 to Rs.36900 while Heritage Circuit
packages are priced between Rs.18290 and Rs.35900. The packages include 3-star hotel accommodation, intercity transfers,
all meals, sightseeing, English/Hindi speaking guides and travel insurance among others. This information was given
by A.K. Manocha, chairman and MD, IRCTC on November 19, 2015.

Measures for rehabilitation of Kashmiri migrants approved

Union Cabinet on November 18, 2015 decided to provide State Government jobs and transit accommodations in the Kashmir
Valley for the rehabilitation of Kashmiri migrants. Briefing reporters in New Delhi, Minister of State in the PMO
Dr. Jitendra Singh said additional 3000 jobs in the state government will be provided to the migrants with financial
assistance from the central government. 

He said 6,000 transit accommodations will also be provided to Kashmiri migrants in the valley. The Cabinet also approved
hiking the monetary relief to migrants from hilly areas of Jammu at par with Kashmiri Pandits. Now, they will get
monetary assistance of Rs 2500 up per head per month from existing Rs 400. 

As many as 62,000 Kashmiri Pandit migrants’ families are registered with the government, out of which 39,000 stay in
Jammu, 19,000 in Delhi and remaining in other parts of the country. The decision comes close on the heels of the
Prime Minister’s announcement 80,080 crore rupees package early this month for J&K for various projects.

Foundation stone of 1st mega food park in Telangana laid: Union Food Processing Minister Harsimrat
Kaur Badal on November 16, 2015 laid the foundation stone of the first mega food park in Nizamabad district of Telangana.
The mega food park promoted by Smart Agro Food Park Pvt Ltd would cost 108.95 crore and will be set up in 78 acres
at Lakkampally and Chimrajpally village in Nizamabad. The Centre has sanctioned two more mega food parks to be set
up in Khammam and Mahboobnagar districts in the state. The Nizamabad mega food park will have a strong backward linkage
and three Primary Processing Centres will be set up at Medchal, Medak and Nalgonda. On completion, the park will
have multi commodity storage capacity of 5,000 tonnes, raw material warehouse facility, finished goods warehouse
unit, grain silos with capacity of 5,000 tonnes and deep freeze unit for 500 tonnes and turmeric processing unit
with a capacity of 20 tonnes per day besides a modern food testing lab. 

Another first for Assam, now a mobile clinic for elephants: A mobile clinic for elephants was launched
in Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary in Morigaon district in Assam on November 14, 2015. The clinic will be treating both
elephants in the sanctuary and the ones domesticated, free of cost. Funding for the clinic will be provided by state-run
Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council and a Netherlands-based non-governmental organisation, The Asian Elephants Foundation.
Often getting elephants down for treatment is not easy and also the cost for their treatment can be very high, this
mobile clinic seeks to put an end to such problems. In order to solicit the services of the clinic people will only
need to make a call and the clinic will reach their doorstep.

Interceptor missile engages simulated target over sea

India’s ballistic missile defence system received a boost on November 22, 2015 after an upgraded version of the indigenously
developed interceptor missile was successfully launched against an electronically simulated target missile over the
Bay of Bengal.

Immediately after receiving signals from the radars, the upgraded interceptor missile, AAD (Advanced Air Defence), lifted
off at 9.40 a.m. from the A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Island to destroy in endo-atmosphere the incoming missile.

Conditions similar to the launch of a target missile from Balasore were simulated and upon receiving its coordinates,
the interceptor, travelling at supersonic speed, engaged the “virtual target” in mid-flight at an altitude of 15

Missile technologists of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) equipped the upgraded AAD with composite
rocket motor casings. Informed sources said this would enable the missile to carry a bigger warhead, reduce the cost
and facilitate faster production of the missile.

The previous trial of the upgraded AAD failed in April 2015 when the missile plummeted into sea within seconds of lift-off.

India plans to deploy a two-tiered ballistic missile defence system to protect important cities and vital installations
from enemy attack.

The first phase of the system seeks to destroy incoming enemy missiles of 2,000-km range, while the second phase envisages
killing incoming missiles of more than 2,000 km.

With this mission, the DRDO has conducted 11 interceptor missile tests. While eight of the missions were in endo-atmosphere,
the rest were in exo-atmosphere. Nine of the missions have been successful.

Agni-I test fired successfully: India successfully test-fired its in indigenously developed nuclear capable surface-to-surface
ballistic missile Agni-I from Dr Abdul Kalam Wheeler Island off the Odisha coast at 10.02 am on November 27, 2015.
The user trial of the missile was carried out by the Strategic Forces Command of Indian Army. Senior officials of
the Indian Army and Tessy Thomas, Director of Agni Project were among those present during the user trial. Agni-I
is the first missile of the Agni series powered by both solid and liquid propellants and can travel at a speed of
2.5 km per second and destroy targets nearly 700 km away. It was first test-fired on January 25, 2002. Agni-I can
be blasted off from both road and rail mobile launchers. The missile weighs around 12 tonnes and can carry both conventional
and nuclear payload of about 1000 kg. 

Prithvi II test fired successfully: India on November 26, 2015 successfully test-fired the indigenously developed
nuclear capable Prithvi-II surface-to-surface missile with a strike range of 350 km as part of a user trial by the
army from the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur in Odisha. The missile test was carried out from a mobile launcher
from launch complex-3 at around 1210 hrs. Prithvi-II missile weighs about 4,600 kg is capable of carrying 500 kg
to 1,000 kg of warheads. It has the ability to dodge enemy missiles. Prithvi-II has been designed to operate with
both liquid and solid fuels and is capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear payloads.

DRDO-Israel developed long range missile flight tested successfully

The Long Range Surface to Air Missile (LRSAM), jointly developed by the Israel Aerospace Industry and Defence Research
and Development Organisation (DRDO), was successfully flight tested from the Israel Naval Platform for the first
time on November 26, 2015 even as the DRDO claimed that the missile successfully engaged the incoming target.

All the sub systems of the missile performed as predicted and achieved the desired goal of hitting the incoming target.
The dual propulsion system and other safe arm mechanism for the solid propulsion system were designed and developed
by DRDO and the Defence Research Development Laboratory. 

The DRDO said that the test from the Israel Naval Platform had achieved a major milestone in proving the missile system
with complete ground support equipment. The missile configuration was the same for both LRSAM/MRSAM and further operational
flight trials would be conducted shortly from the Indian Naval Platform before induction into the armed forces.

Media campaign on Hepatitis-B awareness launched 

J.P. Nadda, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare launched a media campaign on Hepatitis-B in Mumbai on November
23, 2015. The Minister said that Hepatitis-B vaccination would be made part of the ambitious Indradhanush programme
and a coverage of 60-90% would be achieved in the next couple of years. The drive will aim to create awareness about
Hepatitis-B and its vaccine through campaigns led by UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Amitabh Bachchan. 

In India, approximately 10 lakh children, on an annual basis, run the lifetime risk of developing chronic Hepatitis infections,
leading to life-threatening issues including liver cancer, liver failure and a possibility of premature death. Despite
continuous efforts, only 65% children in India had access to all vaccines during the first year of their life. 

Bachchan said that Hepatitis B can be present in our blood streams for years and go undetected, only to strike with a
vengeance when you least expect it. Having been a patient himself, the actor said he was happy to associate with
Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and UNICEF India to narrate his story to the Indian population to create awareness
about this cause. 

5th edition of language festival Samanvay begins 

The fifth edition of Indian Languages Festival - Samanvay 2015 began at the India Habitat Centre in New Delhi on November
26, 2015. The central theme of the four day event “Insider/Outsider: Writing India’s Dreams and Realities” will focus
on a thematic exploration of ‘Insider/Outsider’ in the contemporary socio-political and cultural context of the country. 

Tamil writer Perumal Murugan’s novel “Madhorubhagan” would be honoured with the fourth ILF Samanvay Bhasha Samman. Also
eminent Malayalam poet and translator Attoor Ravi Varma would be felicitated for winning the debut Vani-Samanvay
Distinguished Translator Award. 

Performances lined up for the festival include ‘Soul of the Mountain songs’ from Tibetan singers, Jeet Thayil’s band
‘Still Dirty’, a Carnatic music concert by T M Krishna and a closing performance comprising the last choreographic
performance by late dancer Chandralekha. 

Book launches at the festival include “Atmospheric Embroidery” by Meena Alexander, the Tamil translations of Saba Naqvi’s
book “In Good Faith: A Journey in Search of an Unknown India” of Mo Yan’s “Change” and “Tinka Tinka Tihar”. Other
book launches include “Like a Pinprick to My Heart” by Shujy Dutta and “Andal: The Autobiography of a Goddess.” 

“Vaigai” a food plaza is set to offer delicacies from West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu besides
a Chaat festival and a festival of food from Old Delhi.

Lok Sabha adopts resolution committing to uphold Constitution: The Lok Sabha on November 27, 2015
adopted a resolution affirming commitment to the principles and ideals of the Constitution and resolve to uphold
and maintain its sanctity and supremacy. The resolution was adopted at the end of the two day special sittings of
the House on commitment to India’s constitution to commemorate 125th birth anniversary celebrations of Dr B R Ambedkar.
November 26 was observed as the Constitution Day. The resolution read out by the Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said, the
House resolved to protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of the country and its democratic, socialist and secular
character. The House also resolved to maintain transparency, probity and accountability in public life and dedicate
itself to equality and social justice and contribute to the task of building a strong republic.

‘Bharat Ko Janiye’ online quiz launched for Indian diaspora: With an aim to create awareness about
India’s rich cultural heritage and its diversity, External Affairs (MEA) Minister Sushma Swaraj on November 25, 2015
launched the ‘Bharat Ko Janiye’, an online quiz program for the Indian diaspora. The “Bharat Ko Janiye” quiz is targeted
for the Indian diaspora youth across the globe. With this quiz program, the ministry would like to help the diaspora
youth and NRIs to learn and understand the culture, history and the development of their ancestral country. The Quiz
is open for both PIOs and NRIs between the age group of 18 - 35 years. The winners of the Final Round will be felicitated
during the Pravasi Bharati Divas event at New Delhi to be held from 8th to 10th January 2016.

ASEAN-India Summit organised in Kuala Lumpur

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that terrorism has emerged as a global challenge affecting all countries, and stressed
on enhanced co-operation at the regional and international level by adopting the Comprehensive Convention on International
Terrorism. Addressing ASEAN-India Summit in Kuala Lumpur on November 21, 2015, Modi announced a line of credit to
the tune of one billion US dollar to promote projects that support physical and digital connectivity between India
and ASEAN countries. Modi said special emphasis will be given to partnership with Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. 

Both ASEAN countries and India agreed to enhance the economic and trade ties upto 100 billion dollar by 2020. Prime Minister
said India intends to create a Project Development Fund to encourage manufacturing hubs in these countries. ASEAN
is India’s fourth largest trading partner. India is, in turn, the sixth largest trade partner for ASEAN. Trade between
India and ASEAN stood at US$ 76.52 billion in 2014-15. India’s exports to ASEAN were US$ 31.81 billion and India’s
imports from ASEAN were US$ 44.71 billion. The ASEAN-India economic integration process has got a fillip with the
creation of the ASEAN-India Free Trade Area in July 2015, after the entry into force of the ASEAN-India Trade in
Services and Investment Agreements. Negotiations on a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement
involving the 10 ASEAN countries and its 6 FTA partners including India have seen some breakthroughs and are expected
to be concluded in 2016.

The ASEAN-India Strategic Partnership has acquired further momentum after the enunciation of the ‘Act-East Policy’ by
the Prime Minister at the 12th ASEAN-India Summit in Myanmar in November 2014. 

India reiterated its stand on South China Sea dispute. Prime Minister said all maritime disputes should be resolved through
peaceful dialogue and felt that Right of Passage and access to resources should be maintained under the 2002 declaration.

Modi also addressed the crucial ASEAN-Business Summit. Assuring that the ease of business in India undergone a see-change
during the past few months, Prime Minister invited business community of the ASEAN region to come and witness the
winds of change prevails in the country. While giving a count about the proactive measures that the government has
taken for economic growth as well as social development he said the economic indicators of the country witnessed
considerable improvement. 

Modi unveils Swami Vivekananda’s statue in Malaysia: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 22,
2015 unveiled a 12-ft bronze statue of Swami Vivekananda in Malaysia. Addressing a gathering at the unveiling of
Swami Vivekananda’s statue here at the Ram Krishna Mission in Kuala Lumpur, Modi said it was Swami Vivekananda who
first gave the concept of ‘One Asia’ that ASEAN and the East Asia Summits are talking about. He said in tackling
the two biggest problems facing the world -- climate change and terrorism -- truth is essential. Modi said when conflicts
end terrorism will end. The statue was a gift from a Belur Math devotee in India. The statue was made by Anil Kumar
Ghosh from Kolkata, The Ramakrishna Mission was set up in Malaysia in 2001. 

ASEAN adopts declaration on community growth to 2025

Leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Kuala Lumpur on November 22, 2015 adopted a declaration
on the bloc’s growth to 2025, mapping out a plan for further regional integration and community building efforts.

The declaration, titled “Kuala Lumpur Declaration on ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together,” is one of the key documents
issued at the end of a two-day summit, which has drawn leaders from ASEAN’s 10 member-states and their dialogue partners
-- China, South Korea, Japan, India, New Zealand, Australia, the US and Russia.

ASEAN leaders welcomed the formal establishment of the ASEAN Community, agreeing that this declaration as well as the
community vision 2025 - the ASEAN Political-Security Community Blueprint 2025, the ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint
2025 and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Blueprint 2025 - constitute the ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together.

The EU-style regional ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) envisages a single market with a free flow of goods, capital and
skilled labour across borders in the highly competitive economic region. It will integrate Southeast Asia’s diverse
economies, a region with 620 million people and a combined gross domestic product of $2.4 trillion.

The leaders decided that ASEAN member-states, its organs and bodies shall implement the ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together
in a timely and effective manner, in accordance with the purposes and principles of the ASEAN Charter.

ASEAN ministers, secretary-general and other organs and bodies are tasked with mobilising resources needed to implement
ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together, said the declaration. The ASEAN secretary-general is directed to monitor and
report the progress of implementation to the ASEAN summit annually, it added.

Established in 1967, ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand
and Vietnam.

The imminent establishment of ASEAN Community on December 31, 2015 has been hailed as a milestone in the bloc’s decades-long
efforts to integrate and cohere.

10th East Asia Summit (EAS) organised 

The 10th East Asia Summit (EAS) was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on November 22, 2015. It was chaired by
the Prime Minister of Malaysia Najib Razak and attended by the Heads of State/Government of ASEAN Member States,
Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, the Russian Federation and the United States of America.
Leaders took stock of the achievements of the EAS over the last decade and deliberate on its future, with a view
to strengthening it and making it more effective. The Leaders will also discuss matters of regional and international
concern including terrorism, irregular migration, etc.

The East Asia Summit is the premier leaders-led forum in the region and has a significant role in the strategic, geopolitical
and economic evolution in East Asia. Apart from the 10 ASEAN Member states, East Asia Summit Members include India,
China, Japan, Republic of Korea, Australia, New Zealand, United States and Russia. In the ten years since its inception
in 2005, the EAS has become a key forum for addressing geo-strategic and geo-political issues in the Asia Pacific.
India is a founding member of the East Asia Summit and our Prime Ministers have participated consistently in all

The East Asia Summit this year has a special significance as it marked the 10th anniversary of the East Asia Summit process.
All EAS members including India remain committed to strengthening the East Asia Summit and making it more effective
for dealing with current challenges.

Finance Minister reviews the Financial Performance of Public Sector Banks 

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that the Public Sector Banks (PSBs) asked the bankers to get rid of their past
scars of Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) and clean-up their balance sheet at the earliest .He also assured them full
support of his Government in this regard. He said that the Government will take necessary policy corrective measures
wherever required. Jaitley was addressing the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of the Public Sector Banks (PSBs) in
New Delhi on November 23, 2015 while chairing the Quarterly Review Meeting of the PSBs.

The meeting was attended among others by the Minister of State for Finance, Jayant Sinha, Deputy Governor, RBI Mundra,
Secretary (Financial Services) Anjuli Chib Duggal, as well as Secretaries of various other Ministries of Government
of India along with senior officers of the Ministry of Finance.

The following key issues were discussed:

Financial Performance

PSBs discussed various steps being taken to improve credit growth. The issue of passing on the benefit of rate cut was
also discussed, with the PSBs noting that their base lending rates had been reduced consequent upon the rate reduction
announced by the Reserve Bank. There was a detailed and free flowing discussion on ways to develop core competence
and niche banking. The issue of asset quality was discussed in detail and banks described measures being taken to
improve asset quality and profitability with special focus on non-interest income. The institutional measures being
taken to assist Banks in reducing NPAs were also discussed.

While acknowledging that a part of the stress with the banking sector has to do with certain sectors, the Finance Minister
expressed hope that the reforms announced in the power sector will relieve the problems with the distribution companies.
He also added that the highways sector has started moving, and that the bankers at the meeting suggested measures
to improve the situation in the beleaguered steel sector.

The gross NPAs of public sector banks were at 6 per cent at the end of June, up from 5.2 per cent in March. According
to RBI data, stressed asset, that is gross NPA plus standard restructured advances, as a percentage of gross advances
moved up to 11.1 per cent as on March 2015 as compared to 9.2 per cent two years ago. Public sector banks share a
disproportionate burden of these stress.

Bankers who attended the meeting highlighted six sectors that were facing maximum stress --iron and steel, textile, power,
sugar, aluminium and construction. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI), in its financial stability report, also cited
five sub-sectors that were undergoing maximum stress, which are infrastructure, iron and steel, textiles, mining
(including coal) and aviation. According to the RBI data, these five sub-sectors had 52 per cent of total stressed
advances of all commercial banks as of June 2014, whereas in the case of PSBs it was at 54 per cent.

The government is also in the process of framing a bankruptcy code — aimed to tackle wilful default and a draft paper
was recently released. Regarding the issue of wilful defaulters Jaitley said that the lenders have the required powers
and autonomy to deal with them and that the bankruptcy law, when passed, will increase the banks’ abilities to get
failed creditors to exit. The government is planning to table the Bankruptcy Bill in the winter session of the Parliament.

Agricultural credit

The meeting took stock of the sectoral profile of the total domestic credit flow of Rs.48.25 lakh crore upto September,
2015 and noted that 58% of the agricultural credit target for the year had been achieved. Jaitley urged the banks
to achieve the target of 20% growth in disbursement and 15% growth in number of accounts and also attempt to even
out regional disparity in such loans. The banks briefed the meeting about various efforts that they are taking in
the sector.

Educational loan

The Finance Minister reviewed the progress made by banks in activating the Vidya Lakshmi Portal, which is a first-of-its-kind
portal providing a single window facility for students to access information and apply for educational loans provided
by Banks as well as Government scholarships. Banks were requested to enter early into the required agreement to take
advantage of new credit guarantee scheme.

Housing Sector

While noting good growth at 18.69% in housing loans, PSBs were also strongly encouraged to achieve growth in priority
sector housing loans, which are intrinsically secure loans and which are required to provide a stimulus to overall
growth. All bankers reiterated their commitment to focus on these loans.

Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana

The meeting dwelt at length on ways to increase the impact of the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana. Jaitley urged the banks
to accelerate disbursements as PSBs were expected to achieve a potential of at least Rs 70,000 crore during the current
financial year. It was noted that the State-wise targets allocated by the banks needed to be reviewed, keeping in
view not only the population size, but also the business potential of the state. The financial literacy outreach
was being designed to cover both pre-loan familiarization training and post loan disbursal guidance regarding the
credit process, repayments schedules and MSME related facilities.

At the end, Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha distributed trophies and certificate to the winners in the category
of best banks and best bank branch in order to recognise the best performers who made Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana
(PMJDY) a successful scheme.

NPCI to act as central unit under Bharat Bill Payment System

The Reserve Bank on November 24, 2015 granted an in-principle approval to National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI)
to function as the Bharat Bill Payment Central Unit (BBPCU) under BBPS, an integrated bill payment system. 

Bharat Bill Payment System (BBPS) is an integrated bill payment system to function as a tiered structure for operating
bill payment system in India with a single brand image, providing convenience of ‘anytime anywhere’ bill payment
to customers. 

The present scope of BBPS will include utility bill payments such as electricity, water, gas, telephone and Direct-to-Home
(DTH).  As the central unit, NPCI will set necessary operational, technical and business standards for the entire
system and its participants, and also undertake clearing and settlement activities. Based on the experience, this
would be extended to include other types of repetitive payments like school/ university fees, municipal taxes, etc.
in future. The operating units under the payment system will function as entities facilitating collection of bills
or repetitive payments. 

RBI had invited applications for authorisation/approval to function as operating unit from non-banks and banks. The last
date for receipt of such applications or approval requests was November 20, 2015 which was extended to December 18,

RBI had received 12 applications for authorisation from non-bank entities and 18 requests for approval from banks for
operating as a BBPOU. RBI said it would continue to receive further applications for authorisation or approval as
operating units till close of business on December 18, 2015. In November 2014, RBI had issued guidelines for setting
up the Bharat Bill Payment System (BBPS).  As per the guidelines, it was indicated that NPCI will function as BBPCU
and there could be multiple Bharat Bill Payment Operating Units-BBPOUs (Operating Unit) under BBPS.

Govt plans to set up $1 bn private equity fund for renewable energy

Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar has said that India is taking a leadership role
in COP21 Paris and the summit will take forward the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Interacting
with the Twitterati through Talkathon programme organised by Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in New Delhi
on November 27, 2015, Javadekar said, it is the moral responsibility of every nation in the world to ensure the future
generations a healthy planet. 

Participating in the programme, Power Minister Piyush Goyal said, India has been a responsible user of fossil fuels and
it is taxing carbon more than any other country in the world. He said, Government is planning a 1 billion dollar
private equity fund for renewable energy sector and it will be initially seeded by Government companies. Goyal said,
economies of the west have moved their energy requirements to other countries and west needs to be more conscious
about energy waste. 

The Minister informed that India is aiming at ramp up renewable energy by 5 times. He said, government is seeking to
collect 4 billion dollars per year in 3 to 4 years for clean energy fund. He said, using LED bulbs alone will reduce
peak load requirements by 22 thousand Megawatt and in the coming three and half year India is going to replace 770
million and 350 million streetlight with LED bulbs.

Goyal said, Energy Efficiency Programme of Government will save 40 thousand crore rupees annually. He said, India is
supportive of all the Research and Development efforts done globally for clean technology. Mr Goyal said, with falling
prices and technological innovations, Government is confident of meeting 1.75 lakh Mega Watt of renewable energy
targets by 2022.

He added that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will launch the International Solar Alliance on 30th of this month along with
French President François Hollande. Talkathon is an initiative that connects the virtual space with the physical
world. Under the platform, participants in the social media space can post questions on Twitter, which will be answered
by the guests in real-time.

Bengal Govt launches Sishu Aloy to promote Early Childhood Care and Education in the state: To promote
Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), the West Bengal government on November 27, 2015 launched ‘Shishu Aloy’
initiative in Rudrapur of Howrah district’s Domjur, besides 20 other districts in the state. With the mission to
make the children ‘school-readiness’, the state government has set a target of setting up 1.16 lakh Sishu Aloys in
the state. The centres are also meant for building the capacity of supervisors and Anganwadi workers. The government
said the Shishu Aloys are advanced Anganwadi centres where children will be prepared for schools. They will get food
as soon as reaching Sishu Aloys and also while leaving, with proper care about their nutrition need. Children will
also get medical assistance. The WCD & SW department through the Directorate of ICDS and technical support from
UNICEF, has contributed to the conceptualisation and development of the ECCE curriculum.

Silchar-Lumding broad gauge rail line inaugurated: Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu on November 21,
2015 inaugurated the landmark Silchar-Lumding broad gauge rail line in Assam. Prabhu flagged off a passenger train
from New Delhi via video-conference. The rail line brings Assam’s underdeveloped but strategically important Barak
Valley on the broad gauge map. The minister said it will accelerate development as it is the lifeline of Barak Valley
and Tripura, Manipur and Mizoram. The regular passenger train service began from November 23. Minister of State for
Railways Manoj Sinha and the Union minister for Sports and Youth Affairs Sarbananda Sonowal were present at Silchar
railway station for the flagging-off ceremony. Sinha said that the Lumding-Silchar line is a milestone for connectivity
in the northeast region and one of the largest gauge conversion projects of Indian Railways. It cost around Rs. 3,
500 crore. The Lumding-Silchar Gauge Conversion Project under the Northeast Frontier Railway was sanctioned in 1996-97
and was declared a National Project in 2004.-

Asia’s largest cattle fair begins in Bihar: Asia’s largest cattle fair at Sonepur in Bihar began
on November 23, 2015 with a call to adapt the event into a big tourist attraction. The cattle fair is held annually,
beginning on Kartik Poornima, at Sonepur in Saran district, about 30 km from Patna. The fair ground is an extensive
500 acres of land near the confluence of the Ganga and Gandak rivers. Cows, buffaloes, oxen, goats, horses, donkeys,
monkeys, rabbits, bears, cats and guinea pigs are traded at the fair. Boat rides and free elephant rides at the fair
have become very popular among the visitors.

Mizoram to be developed as ‘bamboo state’: Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Development
of North Eastern Region (DoNER), Jitendra Singh addressing a press conference at Aizawl, Mizoram on November 23,
2015 said that the government is committed to develop Mizoram as the Bamboo State of India. Singh said the state
was blessed with very high production of bamboo, which can be turned into a major source, not only for furniture
but also for paper supply to the rest of the country. The Minister said he had already initiated an effort to reinforce
Bamboo Development Board of India.  

India State of Forest Report released

India’s forest and tree cover has increased by 5, 081 sq km. While the total forest cover of the country has increased
by 3, 775 sq km, the tree cover has gone up by 1, 306 sq km. According to the India State of Forest Report (ISFR)
2015 released in New Delhi on December 4, 2015, the total forest and tree cover is 79.42 million hectare, which is
24.16 percent of the total geographical area. The total carbon stock in the country’s forest is estimated to be 7,
044 million tonnes, an increase of 103 million tonnes, which is an increase of 1.48 in percentage terms over the
previous assessments. 

Speaking after releasing the India State of Forest Report 2015, Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change,
Prakash Javadekar said that the increase in the carbon stock is an assurance to the negotiators at COP 21 that India
remains committed to increase the carbon sink. The increase in the carbon stock is in line with the INDC targets.
The INDC target for forestry sector envisages creation of additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3.0 billion tonnes of

The Report states that the majority of the increase in forest cover has been observed in open forest category mainly
outside forest areas, followed by Very Dense Forest. While Open Forest area has increased by 4, 744 sq km, which
is 9.14 per cent of the geographical area, the area under Very Dense Forest has increased by 2, 404 sq kms, which
is 2.61% of the geographical area. About 40 per cent forest cover is in 9 big patches of 10, 000 sq km and more.
The increase in total forest cover also includes an increase in the mangrove cover. 

Complementing the states for the increase in forest cover of the country, Javadekar has said that the Government is committed
to take necessary steps to ensure that the forest cover goes up from 24 per cent to 33 per cent of the total geographical

The maximum increase in forest cover has been observed in Tamil Nadu 2, 501 sq km, followed by Kerala 1, 317 sq km and
Jammu & Kashmir 450 sq km. Madhya Pradesh has the largest forest cover of 77, 462 sq km in the country, followed
by Arunachal Pradesh, with a forest cover of 67, 248 sq km and Chhattisgarh 55, 586 sq km. Mizoram, with 88.93 percentage
of forest cover has the highest forest cover in percentage terms, followed by Lakshadweep with 84.56 per cent. The
ISFR 2015 states that 15 States/Union Territories have above 33 per cent of the geographical area under forest cover.
Out of these, 7 States/Union Territories Mizoram, Lakshadweep, Andaman & Nicobar Island, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland,
Meghalaya and Manipur have more than 75 per cent forest cover, while 8 states Tripura, Goa, Sikkim, Kerala, Uttarakhand,
Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Chhattisgarh and Assam have forest cover is between 33 percent to 75 percent. 

The India State of Forest Report 2015 is the 14th report in the series. It is based on interpretation of LISS III sensor
data of indigenous Resourcesat II satellite. The satellite data interpretation is followed by extensive and rigorous
verification on the ground. 

Centre to amend 2 laws to meet climate goals

India will amend the Electricity Act and the Energy Conservation Act in order to achieve the efficiencies that it has
pledged to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Paris.

Tightening the use of energy across industry and other sectors would need rules under specific laws, and the government
intends to do introduce these. The previous instance when India undertook a similar measure was for the Montreal
Protocol when it issued the Ozone Rules to prevent the release of substances that affect the ozone layer, notably

Explaining India’s approach to the Paris conference on December 2, 2015, the official spokesperson, Ajay Mathur, Director
General, Bureau of Energy Efficiency, said ambitious targets on energy efficiency would have to be accompanied by
rules and implementation.

H said that coal would continue to be used in the basket of energy options to provide balancing to make up for a dip
in generation by renewables such as solar and wind. However, the national choice for growth would compulsorily have
to been green, because even the best energy use performance in Europe by Denmark could not be India’s goal, due to
the sheer per capita requirements of energy.

Saving certificates: India’s companies, particularly in the cement and steel sectors, have also been able to achieve
globally reckoned energy efficiencies. Under the Perform, Achieve, Trade (PAT) scheme for industries that was in
force until March 2015, trading of the energy savings certificates by those industries that achieved a surplus would
start in January 2016.

The Indian group at CoP21 also released the results of an evaluation by the Carbon Disclosure Project for 20 select companies,
the India Energy Efficiency report 2015, which showed that various actions in the areas of operational efficiency,
smart and green buildings, energy efficient products and strategic initiatives produced massive savings. While Indian
Oil Corporation cut 575,119 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent and saved $140.3 million, Tata Steel achieved 1,031,340
tonnes CO2e emissions reduction and savings of $66 million.

Mathur said India would continue to work for an equitable agreement for all countries and take the path that would confine
global temperature rise to under 2 degrees Celsius.

Power of remission can’t be exercised suo motu by governments – SC

The Supreme Court on December 2, 2015 held that States cannot exercise statutory power to remit sentences of convicts,
tried under central laws and probed by central agencies like CBI without consulting the Union government. Settling
the constitutional issues that had arisen out of the Tamil Nadu government’s decision to set free the convicts in
the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, the apex court said that though the states have power to grant remission, they
cannot exercise it suo motu.

A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu also said that the Centre will have primacy in granting
remission to convicts in cases registered under the central law and probed by central agencies like the CBI. The
bench referred to a three-judge bench the factual and legal aspects of grant of remission to convicts in the Rajiv
Gandhi assassination case.

The apex court had on February 20, 2015 stayed Tamil Nadu government’s decision to release three convicts -- Murugan,
Santhan and Peraarivaalan, whose death sentence had been commuted to life term by it. The court had later also stayed
the release of four other convicts saying there were procedural lapses on part of the state government. 

Lok Sabha passes bill to replace Bureau of Indian Standards

The Lok Sabha on December 3, 2015 passed a bill that provides for establishing Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) as the
National Standards Body of India and enable the government to bring more products, systems and services under ambit
of standardisation. In his reply to the debate on the Bureau of Indian Standards Bill, 2015, Consumer Affairs, Food
and Public Distribution Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said that the government did not want an “inspector raj” but there
will be investigations in case of complaints.

The bill, which was passed by voice vote, seeks to replaces the Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986 and to empower the
central government to authorize any other agency having necessary accreditation for the purpose of conformity assessment
against Indian standards.

It seeks to allow multiple types of conformity assessment schemes in tune with global best practices and enable mandatory
hallmarking of precious metal articles. Its objective is to prevent misuse of standard mark and “provide for compounding
of offences and also make certain offences cognizable”.

Accessible India Campaign launched 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Accessible India Campaign (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan) on December 3, 2015 on the
occasion of International Day of Persons with Disabilities and presented National Awards for Empowerment of Persons
with Disabilities. The Accessible India Campaign is aimed at achieving universal accessibility for persons with disabilities.
The campaign will increase accessibility of buildings, transport system, and enhance usability of information and
communication services for people with disabilities. 

The first International Film Festival for Persons with Disabilities was organised in New Delhi from December 1-3. The
3-day festival showcased forty feature films, documentary films and short films on disabilities from various countries,
including ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’ and ‘Margarita With A Straw’.

An Indian-American techie Pranav Desai has been appointed as advisor to the ‘Accessible India’ campaign (Sugamya Bharat
Abhiyan) launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 3, 2015 to make transport, public spaces and information
and communication technology accessible to differently-abled people. Desai, a polio survivor, is vice president with
a Global IT Services Company and had played a key role in inclusion of issues related to specially-abled people in
the ruling BJP’s Vision 2020 document and its election manifesto. Desai was appointed advisor to the ‘Accessible
India’ campaign by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. 

UGC proposes to launch world’s largest internet language site ‘Bharatvani’: UGC, the apex body tasked
with maintenance of standards in higher education, has proposed an all-inclusive and interactive portal, the largest
internet language site in the world, where knowledge in all Indian languages will be collected and disseminated.
In a letter to Vice Chancellors in November 2015, UGC has asked all universities and colleges to share digitised
and non-digitised material in various languages available with them for the ambitious ‘Bharatvani’ project. This
project is being launched to accommodate and strengthen the oral tradition by disseminating and presenting the unwritten
vernaculars, country’s classical literature in different languages, develop e-content and present the country’s linguistic
diversity in cyberspace. According to the Census of India, 2001 there are 122 scheduled and non-scheduled languages
and 234 mother tongues.

Injectable vaccine to prevent re-emergence of polio launched: An injectable vaccine to prevent re-emergence
of polio was launched today by the government and it will be administered in addition to polio drops to double the
protection from the deadly virus which has chances of coming back. The Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) will be introduced
in the routine immunisation programme of the government to do away with the risk of re-introduction of the disease.
Health Minister JP Nadda said that though India was certified polio-free on March 27, 2014, the battle against polio
is not over yet. In the first phase, the IPV injection is being introduced in six states -- Assam, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh,
Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab. However, the children will continue to receive OPV (polio drops) dose under routine
immunisation and in pulse polio campaigns till they are 5 years of age. 

Govt releases postage stamp to mark centenary year of Zoological Survey of India: The center has
released a commemorative postage stamp to mark the Centenary year of Zoological Survey of India. The stamp was released
by Communication and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, in the presence of Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar in
New Delhi on December 3, 2015. 

Sarangi maestro Ustad Sabri Khan dies at 88: Award-winning sarangi player Ustad Sabri Khan died
at the age of 88 in New Delhi on November 30, 2015. Hailing from the Sainia Gharana, he was initiated into Sarangi-playing
by his grandfather, Ustad Haji Mohammed Khan, and later continued his training under his father Ustad Chajju Khan.
He was honoured with numerous awards like Sangeet Natak Akademi and the Padma Shree award (1992) besides the Padma
Bhushan (2006) for his contribution to the classical music. Khan had performed in many countries abroad. He had also
played a duet with legend Yehudi Menuhin and had been a visiting professor to the University of Washington.

Agreement with Japan to avoid double taxation: The Cabinet on December 3, 2015 gave its nod to amend
the double taxation avoidance convention (DTAC) between India and Japan. The new agreement will facilitate exchange
of information on tax matters, including bank information, and information without domestic tax interest. There is
also a provision for sharing any information received from Japan with to respect of a resident of India with other
law enforcement agencies. According to the agreement, India and Japan can lend assistance to each other in collection
of revenue claims and for exemption of interest income from taxation in the source country, with respect to debt-claims
insured by the government or government-owned financial institutions.

Climate Change Summit starts in Paris, International Solar Alliance launched 

India has called upon developed nations to leave carbon space for developing countries to accommodate their developmental
needs. Speaking during the launch of India International Solar Alliance at the ongoing Paris Climate Summit on December
1, 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said New Delhi has set up an ambitious goal for cutting carbon fossil energy. 

“We have set ambitious targets by 2030, we will reduce emissions by 33-35% per cent of 2005 levels, and produced 40 per
cent of our power from non- fossil fuels. We will achieve it by expanding renewable energy - for, example, by adding
175 Gigawatts of renewable energy generation by 2022. We will enlarge our forest cover to absorb at least 2.5 billion
tonnes worth of carbon dioxide. We are reducing dependence on fossil fuel through levies and reduction in subsidies.”

Modi and French President Francois Hollande launched the International Solar Alliance to globally promote clean energy.
It is an Alliance of 121 countries situated near and in between Tropic of Cancer and Capricorn. 

The launch event was held on the side-lines of the 21st Conference of Parties (CoP 21) to the United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change which began on November 30, 2015. During his plenary address at the conference, Modi
urged developed countries to fulfill their responsibility to make clean energy available, affordable and accessible
to all in the developing world. 

“We also need a strong Agreement on Adaptation and Loss and Damage. Developed countries must fulfill their responsibility
to make clean energy available, affordable and accessible to all the developing world. This is in our collective
interest. So, we look to the developed countries to mobilize 100 billion US Dollars annually by 2020 for mitigation
and adaptation in the developing countries.”

Paris Pact on water and climate change signed; India to contribute $20 mn: Paris Pact on water and climate change
adaptation was announced on December 3, 2015. Under this agreement a broad coalition of 280 organisations have agreed
on how to make water system adaptable to climate change. Various stakeholders have agreed to make river basins, lakes,
aquifers and deltas more resilient to climate change and reduce human interference with oceans. Signed by almost
all countries, commitments of over one billion dollars were made. India also agreed to contribute 20 million dollars
to build climate resilience through improved groundwater management. Climate changes, coupled with unsustainable
use of water, are causing widespread impacts on societies and economies, creating droughts, floods and warming which
affect all water systems and trigger negative and often fatal impacts.

CHOGM organised in Malta

The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2015, also known as CHOGM 2015, was held in Malta from 27 to 29 November,
2015. Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena handed the position of Commonwealth Chair-in-Office to Maltese Prime
Minister Joseph Muscat at the meeting. This was the 24th meeting of the heads of government of the Commonwealth
of Nations. 

The Commonwealth meeting was held immediately prior to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. The Commonwealth
conference accordingly held a special session on climate change and global sustainability. The summit, being held
in the aftermath of the November 2015 Paris attacks and growing conflict with ISIL, also addressed terrorism and
security issues and the European migrant crisis, as well as economic and trade issues. 

Major happenings at CHOGM include the following:

Britain to host next Commonwealth summit in 2018: Britain will host the next Commonwealth summit,
in 2018, Downing Street announced on November 28.  The next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), staged
every two years and bringing together leaders from the 53-country organisation, was due to be held in Vanuatu in
2017. However, the tiny Pacific island nation was battered by Cyclone Pam in March 2015, which badly damaged much
of its infrastructure. The 2019 CHOGM is due to be held in Malaysia. Queen Elizabeth is head of state of 16 of the
53 Commonwealth countries, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Jamaica. 

NATO invites Montenegro to join, angering Russia 

The Brussels-based NATO on December 2, 2015 invited Montenegro to become the 29th member of the US-led military alliance,
defying Russia’s warnings it would have to respond to what it branded a threat to its security. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg,
announcing the move at a meeting of the alliance’s foreign ministers in Brussels, insisted the “historic” invitation
to Montenegro was no one else’s business and “not directed at anyone”. 

Russia quickly said it would be forced to react to NATO’s expansion eastward, with the invitation to the small Balkan
country adding to bad blood between Moscow and the West over a host of issues including Ukraine. US Secretary of
State John Kerry meanwhile played down any threat to Russia from NATO, which has responded to the Ukraine conflict
with a military upgrade to reassure nervous ex-Soviet states they need not fear a more assertive Russia. 

Montenegro, a Balkans country of just over 600,000 people, won its independence in 2006 following the bloody break-up
of what was Yugoslavia and the end of a federation with Moscow’s long-time ally Serbia. Its army has 2,000 soldiers,
and it has contributed 25 soldiers to the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan since 2010. Russia has traditionally been
a close ally of Montenegro and several thousand Russians live there, but relations have soured since Montenegro joined
EU-led sanctions against Russia over Ukraine.

Philippines rejects China’s claims on South China Sea at The Hague: The Philippines has refuted
China’s claims over islands in the South China Sea, during week-long proceedings at an arbitration court in The Hague.
China is boycotting the session, saying disputes over territories in the South China Sea should be settled by the
parties concerned. A government delegation from the Philippines wrapped up its oral arguments at the Permanent Court
of Arbitration on November 30, 2015.

Its members reportedly said China’s claim that it historically owns the islands is groundless. The delegates argued that
China’s position is in breach of the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea. The court has asked China to present a
written counter-argument by January 1st. A ruling could be delivered sometime next year.

Japan resumes whaling, fleet sails to Antarctic Ocean: Japanese whaling ships have departed for
this year’s Antarctic hunt, despite international opposition. The ships left from the port of Shimonoseki in south-western
Japan. It says its whaling programme is for scientific research. But in 2014 the International Court of Justice ruled
that its Antarctic hunt did not qualify as scientific and should cease. Japan’s Fisheries Agency said on November
30, 2015 that it has taken into account the ICJ’s ruling and this year aims to catch only 333 Antarctic minke whales,
about one-third of previous targets. Several nations which brought the ICJ case against Japan have voiced their dismay
at the resumption of the hunts, as have environmental activists.

China to host 2016 G-20 summit: China will host the 2016 Group of Twenty, G-20, summit in the eastern
city of Hangzhou from September 4 to 5, and formally takes over the Presidency of G20 on December 1, 2015. The G20
Presidency rotates annually among its members. To ensure continuity, the presidency is supported by a troika made
up of the current, immediate past and next host countries. In 2015, the members of the troika are Turkey, Australia
and China. Last year’s G20 summit was held in Brisbane, Australia, and this year’s summit was in Antalya, Turkey
in November. Hangzhou, a famous historical and cultural city, is a hub of innovation and vitality. With a population
of nearly 8.9 million, it is the capital and largest city of Zhejiang Province.

RBI eases overseas borrowing rules for local companies

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on November 30, 2015 put its stamp of approval on a more liberalised external commercial
borrowing (ECB) norms and allowed Indian companies to raise rupee resources from overseas lenders without incurring
currency risks. The new norms will be effective 1 April, 2016.

Such rupee-denominated bonds are getting issued in large numbers and are a hit with Japanese retail investors. Once Indian
companies start raising rupee resources from abroad, more such bonds will be issued and would help to make the domestic
currency more internationalised.

For ECBs in foreign currency, the central bank raised the limit for small value ECBs with minimum average maturity of
three years to $50 million from the existing $20 million. For ECBs of more than $50 million, the minimum maturity
period should be five years.

The all in cost for such ECBs has been reduced 50 basis points from what was allowed earlier. For long term ECBs though,
the all in cost is 50 basis points higher. For rupee-denominated ECBs, the rate will be commensurate with the prevailing
market conditions.

Apart from usual lenders like banks, such rupee resources can now be borrowed from sovereign wealth funds, pension funds
and insurance companies, according to the final guidelines on ECB norms by the central bank.

The liberal approach, with fewer restrictions on end uses, and higher all-in-cost ceiling will help for, in RBI’s words,
“long term foreign currency borrowings as the extended term makes repayments more sustainable and minimises roll-over
risks for the borrower”.

Such an ECB policy as a means to attract foreign funds “will continue to be a major tool to calibrate the policy towards
capital account management in response to evolving macro-economic situation,” the central bank said, adding the guidelines
will be reviewed after one year based on the experience and evolving macro-economic situation.

NRLM interest subvention to reach 100 more districts

The Cabinet has approved some critical changes in key rural development programmes, which would enable targeted intervention
for faster poverty reduction.

According to an official statement released after a Cabinet meeting on December 3, 2015, interest subvention under the
National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) has been extended to 100 more districts, along with the allocation of funds
under the Himayat programme. Besides, Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana has been made flexible to enable
swift disbursal.

On NRLM, the Cabinet approved the extensive use of the database generated by the newly released socio economic caste
census (SECC) for rural areas for targeted reduction of poverty and convergence with other schemes. The NRLM will
use the SECC data to undertake planning for poverty-free Panchayats involving Panchayati Raj institutions and self-help
group (SHG) of households.

Under the interest subvention scheme, women SHGs availing loans up to Rs 300,000 from banks are charged seven per cent
interest per annum; they also get additional interest subvention of three per cent for timely repayment, bringing
down their effective rate of interest to four per cent per annum.

On the Himayat programme, the Cabinet has approved the existing cap of Rs 235.30 crore on the total outlay to be replaced
with a demand-based allocation and target within the overall Budget provision of NRLM. The scheme will be funded
entirely by the Central government.

Masala bonds

Masala bonds are debt instruments issued by Indian corporates for raising money from overseas investors. Before masala
bonds, corporates have had to rely on avenues such as external commercial borrowings or ECBs. The challenge with
the likes of ECBs is the entity raising money is faced with a currency risk - they have to be raised and repaid in
dollar terms. 

Masala bonds remove the current fluctuation risk associated with ECBs for the issuing corporate. They are rupee-denominated
bonds issued to overseas buyers. This is how it is different from other instruments. With a masala bond, a corporate
could issue Rs. 10 billion worth of bonds with the promise of paying back Rs. 11 billion in one year. After one year,
the Indian corporate needs to pay back the dollar equivalent of Rs. 11 billion. The currency risk is with the investor.

The Reserve Bank of India has issued guidelines allowing Indian companies, non-banking finance companies (HDFC, India
Bulls Housing Finance are examples of such companies) and infrastructure investment trusts and real investment trusts
(investment vehicles that pool money from various investors and invest in infrastructure and real estate sectors)
to issue rupee-denominated bond overseas. The rules put the issue limit to $750 million and also has a pricing cap
for various tenures of issue. 

The Finance Ministry has cut the withholding tax (a tax deducted at source on residents outside the country) on interest
income of such bonds to 5 per cent from 20 per cent, making it attractive for investors. Also, capital gains from
rupee appreciation are exempted from tax.

Govt floats idea of country’s first gold exchange: The Centre on December 1, 2015 floated an idea
of a gold exchange, a transparent platform where jewellers can buy and sell the precious metal locally instead of
depending on the international market. Shaktikanta Das, Secretary Department of Economic Affairs Ministry of Finance,
said that it’s a platform where those who have surplus gold can sell it to those in requirement. Das was addressing
the third India International Bullion Summit organised by Indian Bullion & Jewellery Association in Mumbai. 

70% of farm households own less than a hectare: NSSO

The National Sample Survey Office on December 4, 2015 released data from its 2013 sample survey of 35,200 households
in 4,529 villages across the country. India had over 90 million agricultural households — households which owned,
leased or operated land and made at least Rs 3,000 per year from agricultural activities — with over 460 million
persons in all, the survey found, making up 58 per cent of all rural households. Uttar Pradesh alone had a fifth
of India’s agricultural households, while the southern states had the smallest shares. The survey found that OBCs
constitute over 45 per cent of all agricultural households.

– The average agricultural household from Punjab earned over five times its counterpart in Bihar.

– Agricultural households make just Rs 6,400 per month from all sources

About 70 per cent of agricultural households owned less than one hectare of land, and just 13 per cent owned more than
two hectares. Most Scheduled Caste households had very small land holdings. “These results underline the fact that
India is a land of marginal and small agricultural households,” the report said. Farmers in West Bengal, Jharkhand,
Bihar and Kerala were most likely to have very small land holdings, with around 90 per cent of households in these
States owning less than one hectare.

On average, agricultural households earn just Rs 6,400 per month from all sources. Over 60 per cent of their income comes
from cultivation, 22 per cent from wage employment and the rest from livestock and other sources. While all agricultural
households derived part of their income from other sources, households with the smallest landholdings were most dependent
on wage employment.

Govt halts subsidy on CFL to encourage LED-based solar lights 

Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has decided to stop the subsidy on CFL-based solar lighting system so as to encourage
the use of the LED version. “The ministry has stopped providing central financial assistance to CFL-based solar lighting
system and the same will be available to LED-based solar lighting system”, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy said
in a circular on December 1, 2015. Under the Domestic Efficient Lighting Programme (DELP), the government has already
distributed about 3.27 crore LED bulbs through power distribution companies. 

State-run Energy Efficiency Services Ltd (EESL) is procuring LED bulbs for distribution under the DELP scheme. It has
been able to procure LED bulbs for Rs 73 per piece as of June, down from Rs 310 in February 2014, a reduction of
over 75 per cent. Experts say that LED has many advantages over the CFL as it is environment friendly and has longer
life. The mercury content in the CFL makes its disposal difficult. 

Under DELP, the government wants to replace all incandescent bulbs sold in India with LED bulbs. This will result in
reduction of 20,000 MW load, energy savings of 105 billion KWh and Green House Gas (GHG) emissions savings of 80
million tonnes every year. The annual saving in electricity bills will be Rs 40,000 crore, considering an average
tariff of Rs 4 per kWh.

India plans to construct 6 new fast breeder nuclear reactors: India is planning to construct six
more fast breeder nuclear reactors (FBRs) over next 15 years. These will be in addition to country’s first 500-MegaWatts
Prototype FBR set up at Kalpakkam, near Chennai, that is expected to become critical by April 2016. This was stated
by P Chellapandi, who is the Chairman and Managing Director of Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Limited BHAVINI.
Speaking to the media on sidelines of an International Conference, organised by Nuclear Fuel Complex in Hyderabad
on December 1, 2015, Chellapandi said that BHAVINI will seek government sanction for construction of two 600 MW reactors
at Kalpakkam after one year of successful operation of its Prototype FBR. 

Govt to develop 3 major inland ports in UP, WB and Jharkhand: Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari said
in Kolkata on December 1, 2015 that, the government has decided to develop three major inland ports at Varanasi of
UP, Sahebganj of Jharkhand and Haldia of West Bengal to accord highest priority to the development of Inland Waterways
in the country as it has the lowest cost of transportation. He was addressing a special session on ‘Enhancing Connectivity
across Eastern India - Key to Economic Growth’ organized by the MCC Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Later the Minster
inaugurated development initiatives of Kolkata Port Trust at Haldia Dock Complex and Kolkata Dock system through
Video conferencing.   

Sanofi Pasteur launches injectable inactivated polio vaccine: Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines division
of Sanofi, on December 4, 2015 announced launch of ShanIPV, an injectable inactivated polio vaccine (IPV). Telangana
Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao launched the vaccine in Hyderabad. ShanIPV would be manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur’s
affiliate Shantha Biotechnics in Hyderabad. ShanIPV is a trivalent inactivated, injectable polio vaccine. Sanofi
Pasteur and Shantha would provide majority of vaccine doses needed for the introduction by the end of 2016. All vaccines
(both Imovax Polio of Sanofi Pasteur and ShanIPV of Shantha) would be delivered in India through UNICEF. “In line
with the WHO’s Global endgame strategy, India is introducing one dose of IPV at 14 weeks of age. IPV is to be given
in addition to the existing oral polio vaccine. This introduction is a critical step towards achieving a polio-free
world by 2019 to meet the Global Polio Eradication Initiative Endgame Strategic Plan,” Shantha Biotechnics said in
the release. India was declared a polio-free nation in 2014.

Nucleus launches digital payment solution ‘PaySe’: Financial technology solutions provider Nucleus
Software on New Delhi on December 2, 2015 launched its offline digital cash solution ‘PaySe’ that allows users to
conduct transactions using digital currency. PaySe -- which is a play on the phrase ‘pay securely’ and denotes ‘cash’
in Hindi language -- aims to address the challenges faced by banks and microfinance institutions in making basic
banking services accessible to the unbanked. 

Electricity generating bicycle launched in Uttarakhand: An eco-friendly power-generating bicycle
that can meet a rural household’s electricity needs for 24 hours was unveiled in Dehradun on December 3, 2015. After
one hour of pedalling, the stationary bicycle can produce enough electricity to run a rural household for a day,
including running lights, a small fan and charging a cell phone. Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat unveiled
the bicycle that is manufactured by Indian-American entrepreneur and philanthropist Manoj Bhargava saying it will
prove to be a boon not only for the remote hill areas of the state but for people all over the country who don’t
have access to power. Noting that at least 500 villages in the remote hill areas of the state suffer from paucity
of electricity, Rawat said the power generating bicycle will prove to be highly useful for small middle-class families
and households. Priced low so that more and more people can afford it, production of the bicycle will start soon,
Bhargava said.


India struggling to cut malnutrition rates: reports

Two reports released on December 10, 2015, one at the global level and the other India-specific, say the country is on
track to meet only two (under-five overweight and exclusive breastfeeding rates) of the eight global targets for
reducing malnutrition by 2030. 

The latest data show that 39% of children under five in India are short for their age (stunted). The two States that
had the worst stunting rates in 2005-06 — Uttar Pradesh and Bihar — have made the least progress over the 2005-2014
period, noted the Global Nutrition Report, the first of its kind to be released. The global rate is 24%. 

The India Health Report (IHR), 2015, offers a critical analysis of nutrition at the national and State levels. The IHR
compared nutrition levels among children in 28 States and Delhi. The report focussed on the topic of child stunting
and malnutrition. Even with recent impressive improvements, India’s stunting problem represents the largest loss
of human potential in any country in human history. If the population of stunted children in India were a single
country, it would be the ninth largest country in the world. Even more worrisome, the problem of under-nutrition
in India now coexists with the problem of over-nutrition and associated non-communicable diseases for a different
segment of the population. 

The Global Nutrition Report notes an increase in the number of countries on track to meet global nutrition targets, and
encourages countries to establish specific and time-bound targets for malnutrition reduction that are consistent
with the new Sustainable Development Goals. National targets should help accelerate progress and promote accountability.
The GNR points to India’s improved performance in reducing its high burden of malnutrition. 

The “India Health Report: Nutrition 2015” and “Global Nutrition Report” were released by Union Health Minister JP Nadda
and WCD Minister Maneka Gandhi at a function jointly organized by Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and the
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), in New Delhi on December 10, 2015. 

India to set up 8 new ecological observatories 

India will set up eight new ecological observatories, as compared to just one at present, including in the Himalayas
and Western Ghats, to map the long-term impacts of climate change, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar has said.
“We will be putting up 8 new observatories in eight different biomes. We have fortunately tremendous diversity in
India. We have 17 per cent of world’s population, 17 per cent of cattle population but we have only 2.5 per cent
of world’s landmass but still we have eight per cent of biodiversity in India,” Javadekar said while launching the
Long Term Ecological Observatories (LETO) Programme. 

A key feature of LETO is that it will cover all the major biomes of the country from Western Himalayas to Western Ghats,
Eastern Himalayas to Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Central India to the Sunderbans and from Jammu and Kashmir to Rajasthan
and Gujarat. India has been doing long-term ecological monitoring only at one place in the country a 50 hectare plot
at Mudumalai which has been monitored for over the past 30 years by Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.

The long-term scientific monitoring of the natural landscapes of the country, its waters, forests, grasslands, mammals,
birds, herpetofauna, fishes, insects and traditional human socio-ecological systems, at representative sites will
be carried out under a multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional framework. The focus would be to pick up signals
and patterns of how changes in climate are affecting natural and closely associated human systems of agriculture
and pastoralism. 

Centre to set up 100 more flood forecasting stations: The Central Water Commission (CWC) has said
that it will set up 100 more flood forecasting stations across the country. In a statement, the CWC said that 40
flood forecasting stations would come up in the states of Arunachal Pradesh (3), Himachal Pradesh (1), Kerala (2),
Rajasthan (12), Sikkim (8) and Tamil Nadu (14) during the current five-year plan. In addition to this, 60 more flood
forecasting stations will be set up in other states that already have flood forecasting stations to cover their uncovered
areas. The Central Water Commission (CWC) has, inter-alia, been entrusted with flood forecasting activities in India.
For this purpose, a network of 878 stations on major rivers and their tributaries has been set up. The Ministry of
Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation had launched new flood forecasting website e-Surface Water
Information System (“e-SWIS”) during the flood season of 2014, which has facilitated timely forecast dissemination
through email/SMS. (December 9, 2015)

Bill to fast track nuclear power projects introduced in Lok Sabha: A bill to amend the Atomic Energy
Act and facilitate setting up of new nuclear projects in the country was introduced in the Lok Sabha on December
7, 2015. It was introduced by Minister of State for Atomic Energy and Space Dr Jitendra Singh. The amendment has
been brought to facilitate the fast expansion of nuclear power and its generation. The bill will also enable Nuclear
Power Corporation of India to enter into joint ventures with other public sector undertakings for civil nuclear power

Parrikar becomes first Indian defence minister to visit PACOM: Manohar Parrikar has visited the
US Pacific Command headquarters in Hawaii, becoming the first-ever Indian Defence Minister to visit the key facility
in a sign of deepening of military ties between the two strategic partners. The US Pacific Command in a statement
described Parrikar’s visit as a “milestone” event during which he held meetings with the PACOM Commander Admiral
Harry B Harris. Parrikar later met US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter at the Pentagon on December 10. This was his
first visit to the US as the Indian Defence Minister.

 ‘Heart of Asia’ Conference ends with pledge to tackle terror 

The fifth Heart of Asia Conference on Afghanistan ended in Islamabad on December 9, 2015 with a commitment from member
states to address the menace of terrorism and to foster close economic cooperation to stabilise the war-torn country.
Leaders and ministers from 14 member countries, including External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, 17 supporting
nations and officials of 12 organisations attended the two-day meet that adopted the Islamabad Declaration which
also called on all Afghan Taliban groups to enter into peace talks. Pakistan’s advisor on foreign affairs Sartaj
Aziz and Afghan foreign minister Salahauddin Rabbani announced the declaration at the joint press conference. 

India will host the next ministerial conference of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process in 2016. The Heart of Asia-Istanbul
Process was launched in 2011 and includes Pakistan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan,
Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and the UAE. The conference began on December 8 with the meeting
of senior officials of the participating nations.

Swaraj met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani ad Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the Conference.
She also disclosed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Pakistan to attend the SAARC Summit likely to be
held in September 2016.

World’s first anti-dengue vaccine approved: The Mexican government on December 10, 2015 approved
the use of world’s first anti-dengue vaccine which is designed to protect people in the 9-45 age group from nine
to 45 years from all four subtypes of the virus. Called Dengvaxia, the vaccine has been developed by France-based
Sanofi Pasteur and is the result of an extensive clinical development programme running for almost two decades. While
dengue affects nearly 400 million people in endemic areas, mostly in tropical and subtropical countries in Latin
America and Asia, India saw one of the worst outbreak of the deadly disease this year with 32 deaths recorded in
New Delhi alone till October.

Parliament passes Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) Bill

A bill providing for filing of cheque bounce cases at the place where a cheque is presented for clearance and not the
place of issue, was approved by Parliament with Rajya Sabha passing it on December 7, 2015 without debate. The bill
passed by Lok Sabha on August 6 in the Monsoon Session seeks to replace an ordinance which was re-promulgated earlier.
Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha moved the Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) Bill, 2015 for passage. 

The amendments in the Negotiable Instruments Act will have implications for over 18 lakh cheque bounce cases pending
in various courts, Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha said while piloting the Negotiable Instruments (Amendment)
Bill 2015. 

The amendment, which enables filing of cheque bounce cases in the place where the cheque was presented for clearance
or payment and not the place of issue, seeks to overturn a Supreme Court ruling which said the cases have to be initiated
where the cheque-issuing branch was located. 

There are an estimated 18 lakh cheque bounce cases across the country, of which about 38,000 are pending in High Courts. 

The amendment provides that cases of bouncing of cheques can be filed only in a court in whose jurisdiction the bank
branch of the payee (person who receives the cheque) lies. 

If a complaint against a person issuing a cheque has been filed in the court with the appropriate jurisdiction, then
all subsequent complaints against that person will be filed in the same court, irrespective of the relevant jurisdiction

Agriculture Census 2010-11 released

Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers Welfare released Agriculture Census 2010-11 (Phase-II) on December
9, 2015.  

As per Agriculture Census 2010-11, total number of operational holdings were estimated as 138.35 million. The total operated
area was 159.59 million hectare. The average size of the holding has been estimated as 1.15 hectare. The average
size of holdings has shown a steady declining trend over various Agriculture Censuses since, 1970-71.

The Size Group wise percentage of number and area of operational holdings are given in the following table. 


Percentage of number of operational holdings to total

Percentage of area operated to total

Marginal (below 1.00 hectare)



Small (1.00 - 2.00 hectares)



Semi-medium (2.00 - 4.00 hectares)



Medium (4.00 - 10.00 hectares)



Large (10.00 hectares & above)



The Gross Cropped Area (GCA) was estimated at 193.76 million hectare.

The nine States, viz., Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab,
and West Bengal together account for about 78 per cent of the Gross Cropped Area in the country.

Out of the total 64.57 million hectare Net Irrigated Area, 48.16 percent is accounted by Small and Marginal holdings,
43.77 percent by Semi-medium & Medium holdings and 8.07 percent by large holdings. 

The Cropping Intensity as per Agriculture Census 2010-11 works out to 1.37. 

For 96.95 per cent of operational holdings, entire operated area was located within the village of residence.

Among various sources of irrigation, Tube-wells was main source of irrigation followed by canals.

All India level, during 2010-11, the proportion of net irrigated area to net area sown was 45.70 percent.

Agriculture Census in India is conducted at five yearly intervals for collection of information about structural aspects
of agricultural holdings in the country. The basic statistical unit for data collection is ‘Operational Holding’.
The reference year for the present Census was Agriculture Year 2010-11 (July-June). Agriculture Census data is collected
in three phases. During Phase-I, data is collected on primary characteristics such as number and area of operational
holdings. In Phase-II, detailed data is collected on sample basis from 20 per cent villages covering characteristics
such as tenancy, land use, irrigation, cropping pattern, dispersal of holding etc. During Phase-III, generally referred
to as Input Survey, data is collected on pattern of use of inputs. 

The concept of agricultural operational holdings does not include those holdings which are not operating any agricultural
land and are engaged exclusively in livestock, poultry and fishing etc. 

Cabinet approves amendments to National Waterways Bill 

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 9, 2015 gave its approval to carry out official
amendments in “The National Waterways Bill, 2015”. The amendments are based on the recommendations of the Department
related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture and comments of State Governments. It
provides for enacting a Central Legislation to declare 106 additional inland waterways, as the national waterways.
After the inclusion of 106 additional inlands waterways to the existing five national waterways, the total number
of national waterways goes upto 111. 

The number of waterways to be declared as new National Waterways is now proposed as 106 and adding the existing NWs,
the total number of National Waterways in the bill goes up to 111. The following changes have been effected in the
original list of 101 waterways that was introduced with the National Waterways Bill 2015, in May 2015:- 10 waterways
of Kerala have been omitted, 17 waterways have been merged with the existing waterways and 18 waterways (5 Karnataka,
5 Meghalaya, 3 Maharashtra, 3 Kerala, 1 each from Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan) have been added, thus, making a total
of 106 waterways that have been finalized for declaration as new National Waterways in addition to the 5 existing
waterways. In order to carry out these changes, an official amendment to the National Waterways Bill, 2015 will have
to be moved in the Lok Sabha in the current Session of Parliament. 

Declaration of the above additional 106 waterways as National Waterways would not have any immediate financial implications.

Cabinet approves Real Estate (Development and Regulation) Bill 

The Union Cabinet on December 9, 2015 approved the Real Estate (Development and Regulation) Bill, incorporating the changes
suggested by a select committee of the Rajya Sabha.

The bill now makes the penal interest rate identical for realtors and property buyers in case of defaults. Besides, 50
per cent of the payments by home buyers shall be kept in a separate account to be used solely for the specific project.

The select committee had recommended that the bill - which seeks to set up a regulator for the realty sector to bring
in some transparency and protect house buyers - be amended so that realtors face penal interest on a par with home
buyers. Realtors pay between 2 per cent and 4 per cent interest on money received in case of delays in handing over
flats or houses, but home buyers pay between 16 per cent and 18 per cent on default.

Similarly, to protect home buyers, the panel wants most of the money paid by home buyers to be put in an escrow account,
which can be used only for that project.

The bill, which sets up state level regulatory authorities called Real Estate Regulatory Authorities (RERAs), also makes
it compulsory for realtors to be registered with the regulator. Promoters cannot book or offer these projects for
sale without registering them.

Real estate agents dealing in these projects also need to register with the regulator.

The bill also establishes state level tribunals called Real Estate Appellate Tribunals. These tribunals will hear appeals
against the decisions taken by the regulators.

Cabinet approves measures to increase production of pulses 

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) on December 9, 2015 approved creation of buffer stock of pulses to deal
with wide fluctuation in prices of pulses and check food inflation. The buffer stock will be in place this fiscal
itself. As per decision, about 50 thousand tonnes of pulses will be procured from the kharif crop and one lakh tonne
from the arrivals of current rabi crop. Procurement will be done at market prices through Food Corporation of India,
NAFED and Small Farmers’ Agribusiness Consortium. The procurement will be done at market price above Minimum Support
Price (MSP) out of the Price Stabilisation Fund.

The CCEA also decided to import pulses depending on the requirement through Ministry of Commerce. If the prices fall
below MSP, procurement will be made at MSP under Price Support Scheme of Department of Agriculture. The Ministry
of Agriculture has identified lack of availability of new varieties of seeds as an important hindrance in increasing
productivity of pulses. Steps will also be taken to expand the scope of National Food Security Mission from 2016-17
so that additional interventions for increasing production of pulses may be initiated. 

Bill on commercial courts introduced in the Lok Sabha

A bill which enables creation of commercial divisions in high courts and commercial courts at the district level was
introduced in the Lok Sabha on December 7, 2015. Law Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda introduced The Commercial Courts,
Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts Bill, 2015.

According to the bill, the commercial courts shall be constituted at district level except for the territory over which
any high court is having ordinary original civil jurisdiction.

The commercial divisions shall be set up in those high courts which are already exercising ordinary original civil jurisdiction
such as Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta, Madras, and Himachal Pradesh High Court. The commercial division shall have territorial
jurisdiction over such area on which it has original jurisdiction. 

The minimum pecuniary jurisdiction of such commercial courts and commercial division is proposed as one crore rupees.

The Law Commission of India, in its 253rd report, had recommended setting up of commercial courts, commercial divisions,
and commercial appellate divisions in the high courts for disposal of commercial disputes of specified value.

Govt to import 10,000 tonnes of pulses to check prices: The government on December 11, 2015 decided
to import 10,000 tonnes of pulses for buffer stock and extend zero import duty on chickpeas and masoor till September
2016 as part of its steps to boost local supply and check prices. The government will soon float tenders for 5,000
tonnes each of tur and urad dals. These decisions were taken at a high-level committee meeting chaired by Cabinet
Secretary P K Sinha, that reviewed prices of pulses and other essential commodities. Recently, the Cabinet Committee
on Economic Affairs (CCEA) approved creation of a buffer stock of pulses by procuring 1.5 lakh tonnes at market price
and the stock would be used to check spurts in retail rates. 

IIB launches ROHINI to ease inefficiencies in claim settlements: Insurance Information Bureau of
India (IIB) has launched the Registry of Hospitals in Network of Insurance (ROHINI) to ease inefficiencies in claim
settlements. It has close to 35,000 hospitals which have been provided with a 13 digit hospital identity number.
R Raghavan, chief executive officer of IIB said the health insurance industry in India is close to Rs 20,000 crore
(including government schemes). “However, there is no credit credible registry of hospitals for the benefit of the
stakeholders involved in the health insurance industry. ROHINI would be credible source of information on hospitals,”
he said. Talking on the sidelines of this event in Mumbai, Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India
(IRDAI) chairman T S Vijayan said that this will enable insurers to get access to authentic and de-duplicated registry.
(December 8, 2015)

PAHAL-Guinness world record certificate given to PM Modi: Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan
presented the certificate received from Guinness Book of World Records to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi
on December 5, 2015. The certificate is in recognition of PAHAL as the largest cash transfer programme in the world.
Government of India launched the `PAHAL’ Scheme in 54 districts of the country on November 15, 2014 and in remaining
districts of the country on 1st January, 2015. LPG consumers who join the PAHAL scheme will get the LPG cylinders
at market price and receive LPG subsidy (as per their entitlement) directly into their bank accounts. The “PAHAL”
scheme has been acknowledged by the Guinness Book of World Records for being the largest cash transfer program (households)
with 12.57 crore households receiving cash transfer as of June 30, 2015. As on December 3, 2015, 14.62 crore LPG
consumers have joined the PAHAL scheme and are receiving the subsidy directly into their Bank Accounts.    

NGT bans registration of new diesel-run vehicles in Delhi: In a significant interim measure to curb
alarming pollution level, the National Green Tribunal on December 11, 2015 ordered that diesel-run vehicles will
not be registered in Delhi and there will be no renewal of registration of such vehicles which are more than 10-year-old.
 The green panel also questioned Delhi government’s odd-even formula for vehicles to check pollution in the national
capital, saying it may not achieve the desired purpose. A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar
directed Centre and state governments to consider not to buy any diesel vehicles for their departments. In April
2015, the green panel had held that all diesel vehicles which are more than 10 years old would not be permitted to
ply in Delhi-NCR. 

NGT bans use of plastic from Gomukh to Haridwar along Ganga: The National Green Tribunal, NGT on
December 10, 2015 banned the use of plastic of any kind from Gomukh to Haridwar along Ganga with effect from February
1, 2016 while slapping a penalty of 5,000 rupees per day on erring hotels, dharamshalas and ashrams spewing waste
into the river. It also banned camping activity in the entire belt of Kaudiyala to Rishikesh on the banks of river
Ganga in Uttarakhand till the regulatory regime comes into force but permitted the adventure sport rafting with immediate
effect. Besides the plastic ban, the Tribunal also prohibited throwing of any municipal waste, construction and demolition
wastes into Ganga and its tributaries. The green bench further held that all the seriously polluting industries which
are operating without consent from Uttarakhand Environment Protection and Pollution Control Board shall be closed
with immediate effect.

‘Municipalika 2015’ organised in Jaipur: More than 1,000 delegates from all over India and abroad
attended the 13th International Conference and Exhibition on Sustainable Habitat and Smart Cities -- Municipalika
2015 that was organised in Jaipur from December 9 to 12, 2015. The event was inaugurated by Rajasthan Chief Minister
Vasundhara Raje. A large number of urban and housing sector officials, representatives of urban local bodies from
300 cities, international delegates from several countries and private industry, and professionals attended the three-day
event which had thematic sessions, technical sessions, and a ‘Open House Citizen’s Interface’. Canada was the partner
country for the event. At the event, initiatives like ‘100 Smart Cities’, 500 cities under AMRUT (Atal Mission for
Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation), Swachh Bharat Mission, Housing-for-All Scheme, Digital India, and HRIDAY
(National Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana) Scheme featured in the academic sessions.

Kilkari voice message scheme to be launched in Rajasthan: In Rajasthan, to bring down infant mortality
rate and maternal mortality rate, Kilkari voice message scheme will be launched by health department from December
24. The state government plans to launch the scheme in ten high profile districts. Under the scheme pregnant women
registered with Maternal Child Tracking System will be informed through mobile phone about pre and postnatal examination,
institutional delivery, child immunization and health checkup. Registered women or her relatives will receive seventy
two voice messages for seventy weeks. Along with this government is also starting Mobile Academy Application for
ASHA workers to regularly update them about various health schemes. (December 10, 2015)

Sangai festival held in Manipur to promote culture, adventure tourism: The annual Sangai festival
was held in Manipur from November 21 to 30, 2015. The festival showcased the state’s rich cultural heritage, bio-diversity
and ethnicity. The annual festival aims to promote Manipur as a world class tourism destination by showcasing art,
culture, theatre, eco-adventure opportunities, sports and natural beauty. The ten-day long cultural extravaganza,
known earlier as Manipur Festival, was renamed Manipur ‘Sangai Festival’ in 2010 to popularize ‘Sangai’ - a rare
species of deer found in the state. The Asian Sangai film festival and Asian theatre festival were also organised
as part of the festival.   

PSLV-C29 puts six Singapore satellites into orbit

In yet another launch of text book precision, the Indian Space Research Organization ISRO on December 16, 2015 put six
satellites from Singapore into the near earth circular orbits successfully, using its workhorse Polar Satellite Launch
Vehicle PSLV-C29. After its take off from the first launch pad of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota,
it hurled all the customer payloads one after the other within 21 minutes, as planned. 

The satellites included the earth observation payload TeLEOS-One, meant for disaster monitoring and urban planning with
the operational lifespan of over five years. It is the first such satellite to be inserted into orbit by the city-state
of Singapore. 

Besides, the TeLEOS-1, PSLV-C29 carried two micro and three nano-satellites, developed by Nanyang Technological University,

The other satellites launched by PSLV-C29 are: Microsatellite VELOX-CI, weighing 123 kgs, for research in “tropical environmental
monitoring”. It carries three payloads -- Communications Payload, GPS Experimental Payload and Fault Tolerant Payload. 

Nano-satellite -- Athenoxat-1 has been launched for remote sensing, while Kent Ridge-1 carries two primary payloads --
Medium resolution VNIR Hyperspectral Camera and Short Wave Infrared Hyperspectral Camera. 

The fifth one - “Galassia” - carries two payloads -- one for measuring the total electron count in the ionosphere (the
outer region of Earth’s atmosphere) above Singapore and the other is to acquire “quantum correlation data in space”.

This is the 32nd flight of the PSLV, and the 31st successful one. It continues to garner a significant pie of international
launch market in its class of low-earth and polar synchronous satellites. The commercial arm of the ISRO, known as
ANTRIX, a mini-ratna company, is coordinating the customer payload launches. With PSLV-C29, the PSLV has so far launched
57 foreign satellites belonging to over 20 countries.                                                         

India has demonstrated its capability in launching 2.5 tonne variants of payloads into geo-stationery orbits as well,
using the GSLV. Once it passes the demonstration stage, it is also expected to join the PSLV to attract a sizable
global launch market and enhance India’s space cooperation with the global community.  

Government of India signs MoU to establish three IIITs 

The Central Government on December 12, 2015 signed Memorandum of Understanding and documentation for establishing three
Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIITs) at Ranchi, Nagpur and Pune. These IIITs are operated on a Public-Private-Partnership
(PPP) mode with participation of state government and industry, apart from the Central Government. 

IIIT-Ranchi will operate from the Old Judicial Academy in the Administrative Training Institute, Ranchi admitting 120
students for the year 2016-17 through JEE 2016 examination. The partners for IIIT-Ranchi - the TCS and Tata Motors
have committed participation in developing curriculum which is required by the industry. The institution will be
mentored by NIT-Jamshedpur.

IIIT-Nagpur will be set up in the BMIT Campus (temporary campus) with the participation of M/s ADCC Infocad and TCS.
Government of Maharashtra has identified 88 acres of land for setting up a permanent campus. The BNIT will be the
mentor institution. It has proposed to admit 120 students in the CSE and ECE branches in 2016 through JEE-2016

IIIT-Pune will be set up in the Siddhant Engineering College (temporary campus) and the permanent campus will be constructed
at Chakan for which the State Government has identified 100 acres of land. The industry partners are M/s Hubtown
Mumbai and M/S Roltas have agreed to develop the curriculum suitable to the industry. The Institute will start functioning
under the mentorship of COE Pune and 120 students will be admitted in 2016 through JEE-2016.

With this, the total number of IIITs in the PPP mode has gone up to 16, leaving 4 more to be set up for which scheduled
has been fixed in the month of January 2016.

R.K. Mathur appointed as new CIC: The Government on December 18, 2015 confirmed the appointment
of R. K. Mathur, a 1977 batch IAS officer as the new the Chief Information Commissioner. The government had initiated
a process of having a selection for the appointment of CIC. Meeting of selection committee was held under the chairmanship
of Prime Minister and in presence of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and leader of largest Opposition party in Lok
Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge. Recommendations by them were sent to President for approval. The 62-year-old Mathur, a
retired IAS officer of Tripura cadre, was made Defence Secretary for a fixed two-year term on May 28, 2013. Mathur,
who did his graduation from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur and post-graduation from IIT, Delhi, has held
various positions in his cadre state and at the Centre.

India-OPEC dialogue held in New Delhi: The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC has
said that it does not expect the present low crude oil prices to continue beyond a year. Speaking at the India-OPEC
dialogue in New Delhi on December 15, 2015, Secretary-General of OPEC Abdalla Salem El-Badri said investment in exploration
and production has come down by 130 billion dollars, which means fresh supplies of crude oil will not come in the
future years. He said, OPEC will not cut production, but low prices will result in supplies from non-OPEC countries
coming down by 400,000 barrels a day by next year. Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan said,
India has conveyed to OPEC its need for reasonable and responsible pricing of oil. 

United Nations Climate Change Conference organised in Paris

The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 21 or CMP 11 was held in Paris, France, from November 30 to December
12, 2015. It was the 21st annual session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the 1992 United Nations
Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 11th session of the Meeting of the Parties to
the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

The conference negotiated the Paris Agreement, a global agreement on the reduction of climate change, the text of which
represented a consensus of the representatives of the 196 parties attending it. The agreement aims to keep the rise
in global temperatures “well below” 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial times to the end of this century and “endeavour
to limit” them even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius

Highlights of the Paris Agreement: 

• To keep global temperature increase “well below” 2C and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5C

• To review progress every five years 

• $100bn a year in climate finance for developing countries by 2020, with a commitment to further finance in the future

The Agreement, which is partly legally binding and partly voluntary, is the first to commit all countries to cut carbon
emissions. The agreement will become legally binding if joined by at least 55 countries which together represent
at least 55 percent of global greenhouse emissions. Such parties will need to sign the agreement in New York between
April 2016 and April 2017, and also adopt it within their own legal systems (through ratification, acceptance, approval,
or accession).

The gathered countries agreed that they would try to peak their global emissions soonest possible with developed countries
doing so before others do. But collectively they would ensure that in the second half the century the net greenhouse
gas emissions turn to zero. In this too the developed countries would have to put more effort than others and the
developing countries’ would get latitude to ensure poverty eradication. 

The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) found place in the agreement ensuring that the developed
world would still be taking the lead and that the burden on the developing world to fight climate change would not
be more onerous than that of the developed world.

The agreement commits developed countries to contribute at least $100 billion a year from 2020 onwards for adaptation
and mitigation efforts of developing countries. But this is not legally binding on them. It is similarly unclear
on clean energy technology sharing and transfer — key concerns of developing nations such as India.

SCO heads of governments meeting held in China 

A two-day meeting of the heads of governments of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) was organised in Zhengzhou
city in China on December 14-15, 2015. During the two-day meeting, heads of government from the SCO members - China,
Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan discussed cooperation in trade, investment, finance, transportation
and culture. Anti-terrorism was high on the agenda. Many SCO member states are close to areas where the Islamic State
(IS) extremist group has been conducting terrorist attacks. 

Minister of State for External Affairs Gen V K Singh represented India at the event. Presided over by Premier Li Keqiang
the meeting was also attended by Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Kazakhstan’s Prime Minister Karim Masimov,
Kyrgyz Prime Minister Temir Sariyev, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Tajik Prime Minister Qohir Rasulzoda,
and First Deputy Prime Minister of Uzbekistan Rustam Azimov. 

India and Pakistan which are SCO observers are due to join as regular members. The 15th SCO summit held in the Russian
city of Ufa in July 2015 formally approved a proposal to admit India and Pakistan as regular members. India, Pakistan,
Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia participated in the meeting as observers. 

Attendees also included representatives from international organisations, including the UN Economic and Social Commission
for Asia and the Pacific, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building
Measures in Asia. 

President Xi Jinping met government leaders of SCO member states on the sidelines of the meeting.

India ranks 130 in Human Development Index: UNDP

India continued to rank low in the Human Development Index (HDI), climbing just one notch to the 130th rank in the latest
UNDP report on account of rise in life expectancy and per capita income. 

India ranked 130 among 188 countries in Human Development Report 2015 released on December 14, 2015 by the United Nations
Development Programme (UNDP). The ranking is for the year 2014. 

India’s HDI value for 2014 is 0.609, which puts the country in the medium human development category, positioning it
at 130 out of 188 countries and territories. 

Norway topped followed by Australia and Switzerland. As per the report, the HDI rank of Bangladesh and Pakistan was 142
and 147, respectively. Among the BRICS nations, India was ranked lowest. Other countries in the group are Brazil,
Russia, China and South Africa. 

The HDI is an average measure of basic human development achievements in a country. It is a summary measure for assessing
long-term progress in three basic dimensions of human development -- a long and healthy life, access to knowledge
and a decent standard of living. 

India’s life expectancy at birth increased to 68 years in 2014 from 67.6 in the previous year and 53.9 in 1980. 

Gross National Income (GNI) per capita was USD 5,497 in 2014 up from USD 5,180 in 2013 and USD 1,255 in 1980. India’s
GNI per capita increased by about 338 per cent between 1980 and 2014. 

Women win local municipal councils seats for first time in Saudi Arabia: In Saudi Arabia, 17 women
won seats on local municipal councils for the first time in the country on December 13, 2015, after the kingdom lifted
its ban on women taking part in elections. Many women candidates ran on platforms that promised more nurseries to
offer longer daycare hours for working mothers, the creation of youth centres with sports and cultural activities,
improved road conditions and overall greener cities. The municipal councils are the only government body elected
by Saudi citizens. The Councils do not have legislative powers, but these advise authorities and help oversee local
budgets. Around 7,000 candidates, among them 979 women, were competing for 2,100 seats across the country. The two
previous rounds of voting for the councils, in 2005 and 2011, were open to men only.

Allow mobile banking registration at ATMs: RBI to banks

The Reserve Bank on December 17, 2015 asked all the National Financial Switch (NFS) member banks to make changes in ATM
switches by March 2016 to help customers register for mobile banking services. 

The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) has developed the mobile banking registration service/option on the
National Financial Switch (NFS) and the service is ready to be deployed on ATMs of all the NFS member banks. 

“In view of the above, all the banks participating in NFS should carry out necessary changes in their respective ATM
switches and enable the capability of customer registration for mobile banking at all their ATMs latest by March
31, 2016,” RBI said in a notification. 

Besides, the RBI asked banks that they should also strive to facilitate customer registration for mobile banking through
other channels including internet banking, IVR, phone banking. 

It said customer registration is important pre-requisite for offering mobile banking services and the banks should use
multiple channels to create awareness among their customers regarding mobile banking services and options available
for customer registration. 

The RBI said India has high mobile density and it is focusing to encouraging banks to leverage on the mobile channel
for widening the access to banking services. 

“Irrespective of whether the services are offered through SMS, USSD or application channels, customer registration for
mobile banking is critical,” RBI said. The RBI said there is a need for simplification of procedure and greater degree
of standardisation in procedures relating to registering of customers for mobile banking.

Lok Sabha passes arbitration bill by voice vote

The Lok Sabha on December 17, 2015 passed by a voice vote the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, 2015, which
aims to make the country more investor-friendly.

The bill, which seeks to amend the Arbitration and Conciliation Act of 1996, was introduced in the Lok Sabha on December
3 by Law and Justice Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda.

Suggestions made by a parliamentary committee and the Law Commission were taken into consideration while preparing it,
Gowda said, adding that the government was working to update the country’s legal system.

While under the existing law, a principal civil court or a high court with original jurisdiction is the relevant court
for handling arbitration matters, the bill makes the high court the relevant court for international arbitration.

As per the Arbitration and Conciliation Act of 1996, interim orders of a court, order of an arbitral tribunal and appealable
orders only applied to matters where the place of arbitration was India.

Under the new bill, these provisions will also apply to international commercial arbitrations even if the place of arbitration
is outside India. This will apply unless the parties agreed otherwise.

Under the existing act, if any matter brought before a court is a subject of an arbitration agreement, parties will be
referred to arbitration.

The bill says this power of referral is to be exercised by a court even if there is a previous court judgment to the
contrary. The court must refer the parties to arbitration unless it thinks that a valid arbitration agreement does
not exist.

LS passes bill for setting up commercial benches in select HCs 

The Lok Sabha on December 16, 2015 cleared a long-pending measure to set up commercial benches in select high courts
to settle high value commercial disputes as part of the government’s ease of doing business in India initiative. 

The Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts Bill, 2015 was passed by
voice vote. 

Law Minister D V Sadananda Gowda moved a clutch of official amendments to bring clarity in the bill which seeks to replace
an ordinance issued on October 23. 

In Clause 10 to the Bill, the words, ‘Commercial Appellate Division’ will be substituted by the words, ‘Commercial Division’.
Law Ministry said it was a “typographical error”. 

Another amendment deals with first proviso to Clause 7 to clarify that it will also be applicable to the pending cases. 

The legislation provides for transfer of all pending suits and applications relating to commercial disputes involving
a claim of Rs one crore and above in the high courts and civil courts to the relevant Commercial Division or Commercial
Courts as the case may be. 

Commercial Divisions are proposed to be set up in those high courts, such as Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras High
Court and the one in Himachal Pradesh, which are already exercising ordinary original civil jurisdiction. 

Highlights of the Supreme Court’s order to curb air pollution

Diesel-run SUVs, high-end private cars with 2000CC and above engine not to be registered in NCR-Delhi till March 31,

All taxis like OLA, UBER to move to CNG by Mar 1, 2016. 

Non-Delhi bound vehicles not to enter from NH-8 linking Jaipur to Delhi and NH-1 connecting Punjab, Haryana and other
northern states to Delhi via Kundli border. 

100 per cent hike of Environment Compensation Charge (ECC) to be levied on commercial vehicles entering Delhi. 

Light duty vehicles carrying goods to pay Rs 1400, instead of Rs 700, and three-axle vehicles Rs 2,600, instead of 1,300
as ECC for entering Delhi. 

Passenger vehicles, ambulances and vehicles carrying essential commodities like food stuffs and oil tankers for Delhi
exempted from ECC. 

Vehicles bearing registration numbers of year 2005 or earlier not to enter Delhi. 

Advertisements to inform commercial traffic of bypass routes and the imposition of the ECC imposed by the court. 

Delhi govt to immediately repair pavements and procure requisite vacuum cleaning vehicles for use on Delhi roads expeditiously
but not later than April 1, next year. 

UP, Haryana and Rajasthan to ensure that commercial traffic for destinations other than Delhi use alternative routes. 

Enforcement agencies to strictly enforce CPCB norms by putting curtains and other devices at construction sites. 

No municipal waste to be burnt.

Explore use of GM seeds with adequate safeguards: Expert panel

An expert panel under NITI Aayog has floated a set of ideas, including exploring use of genetically-modified seeds and
minimum crop support price (MSP) reforms, for broader discussion. 

“India should explore selective use of transgenic seed varieties with necessary safeguards in areas where conventional
technology is not yielding the much-needed gains like pulses and oil seeds,” stated a paper based on inputs of an
agriculture taskforce set up under NITI Aayog and headed by its Vice-Chairman Arvind Panagariya on December 15, 2015. 

All these options are being explored in order to revive the farm sector growth and the sector’s contribution to Indian
economy with an ultimate aim to bring India back on a high growth trajectory. 

The taskforce has invited comments from various stakeholders like states, the general public, farmers and traders. 

According to the paper, the BT cotton in India and many more GM seeds elsewhere in the world proved the potential use
of GM technology by giving a boost to productivity in agriculture. Transgenic seed varieties can also help in addressing
adverse effects of pesticides on human health and environment, food safety, abiotic stresses and vitamin and nutrient
deficiencies in diets. 

MSP reforms

On MSP reforms, it said, one possible way to keep a check on prices falling below threshold level is to adopt the system
of Price Deficiency Payment (PDP). While MSP may still be used for need-based procurement, the remainder of the produce
may be covered under PDP. 

Under PDP, in case the price of a commodity falls below a threshold level, the government will compensate the farmers
up to a certain level like up to 10 per cent of the benchmark cost. 

The paper said that to start with, cotton may be adopted as a test crop for a pilot case in select districts of leading

Land leasing laws for DBTs

Similarly, it also advocated putting in place land leasing laws for use of direct benefit transfer of subsidies to farmers. 

Currently, land is tilled by tenants and the government ends up providing subsidy to land owners under the proposed move,
an expert explained. 

According to the paper, NITI Aayog should prepare “model land leasing Acts” that can be used by various states to reform
their existing land lease provisions and Acts keeping in view the differences in existing laws, land tenure systems
and special circumstances of hilly states. 

Once this Act is in place, the paper said, a mechanism based on Aadhaar authentication can be devised to provide relief
to farmers in distress. 

The paper also suggested accelerated replacement of seeds and payment of direct fertiliser subsidy to farmers.

Lok Sabha passes Atomic Energy (Amendment) Bill-2015 

Lok Sabha on December 14, 2015 passed a bill that will allow state-run NPCIL to have collaboration with other PSUs in
the nuclear field even as the government allayed the fears that it will facilitate FDI into the sector or allow participation
of a private company in atomic power production. 

The Atomic Energy Amendment Bill 2015 proposes to amend the 1962 Atomic Energy Act to change the definition of “government
company” in the Act with a view to expand its scope by including such joint venture companies as may be formed between
NPCIL and other PSUs, according to the statement of object and reasons. 

At present, only two Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) -- Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and Bhartiya
Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Limited (BHAVINI), which are under the administrative control of Department of Atomic Energy,
operate nuclear power plants in the country. 

Minister of State for PMO Jitendra Singh, who holds the portfolio of atomic energy, said the Department of Atomic Energy
(DAE) already has proposals from NALCO and Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) for a joint-venture and the amendment in
the Act will enable to go ahead with them. 

In response to questions on Civil Liability Nuclear Damage Act 2010 (CLND), the minister said there has been “absolutely
no compromise” on the safety of the people and a National Nuclear Insurance Pool has been created to deal with any
sort of exigency, which includes seeking property damage upto 10 years and personal damage up to Rs 20 years. 

Food security: India to strongly pitch for finding permanent solution at WTO meeting

Backed by several developing countries, India will strongly pitch for finding a permanent solution to the food security
issue at the WTO meeting of 160 trade ministers, in Kenyan Capital Nairobi from December 15 to 18, 2015. During the
four-day meet, India will also raise the issue of evolving mechanism to protect poor farmers from surge in imports. 

Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the focus of deliberations will include issues relating to continuance
of the Doha negotiating mandate; finding a permanent solution to the issue of public stock holding for food security
and special safeguard measures. The negotiations, launched at the Qatari capital in 2001 and known as the Doha Round,
has missed several deadlines for conclusion due to wide differences over the issue of giving protection to poor farmers
and the extent to open the markets for industrial goods.

However, experts are a little apprehensive about the positive outcome from this meeting as the rich nations are keen
to abandon old issues and negotiate new matters such as government procurement and investments.

Google to bring Loon to India soon, power 100 wi-fi stations

Technology giant Google on December 16, 2015 said it hopes to soon start tests for its Project Loon in India, which aims
to bring affordable Internet access. “Project Loon will launch balloons in the sky to help reach out to rural areas,”
Google CEO Sundar Pichai said at the Google for India event in New Delhi. 

The government holds the view that the project would come in the way of mobile transmission. “The proposed frequency
band to be used in the Loon Project of Google is being used for cellular operations in India and it will lead to
interference with cellular transmissions,” Union Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had said in a written reply
to the Rajya Sabha on December 11. 

Google, under its Project Loon, is using big balloons floating at a height of 20 kilometres above earth surface for transmission
of Internet services. It has already tested this technology in New Zealand, California (the US) and Brazil. 

As per Google, each balloon can provide connectivity to a ground area about 40 kms in diameter using a wireless communications
technology called LTE, or 4G. 

To use LTE or 4G, Project Loon partners with telecom companies to share cellular spectrum so that people will be able
to access the Internet everywhere directly from their phones and other LTE-enabled devices. 

Google uses solar panel and wind to power electronic equipment in the balloon throughout the day.

Google will also power 100 railway stations in India with wi-fi connectivity by December next year. The first station
that will go live in January 2016 will be Mumbai Central. 

SBI’s new debit cards to have EMV chip & pin security: Country’s largest lender SBI will issue
EMV chip and pin based debit cards to its new customers to ensure enhanced secure transactions. EMV chip and pin
feature protects against skimming and card transaction frauds. “All SBI customers opening accounts with the bank
hence forth will receive this EMV chip and pin-based debit cards. Existing customers can also request for upgrading
their card by visiting their home branch against payment of nominal fee”, the bank said in a statement on December
12, 2015. With this, SBI said, it has become the first large bank to issue 100 per cent EMV cards compliant with
RBI’s directive on Security and Risk Mitigation Measures for Card Present and Electronic Payment Transactions. The
latest offering will allow consumers to transact securely at Point of Sale terminals. 

2016 South Asian Games mascot ‘Tikhor’, logo unveiled 

“Tikhor”, a one-horned rhino, was unveiled as the mascot of the 12th South Asian Games, along with its logo in Guwahati
on December 13, 2015 in the presence of Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and
Meghalaya Sports Minister Zenith Sangma. Guwahati and Shillong will jointly host the Games from February 6 to 16,

Anand Khasbardar of Kolhapur and Abhijeet Krishna of National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), Patna, won the
respective contests for designing the mascot and the logo. The logo and the mascot of the Games were selected from
around 450 entries each, according to the sports ministry. 

The logo has eight petals representing the countries participating in the 12th South Asian Games. The petals are seen
to be moving in a clockwise direction showing the positive spirit of the games. The traditional Gamosa (flowered
cotton scarf) has been introduced in the logo to promote the tradition of the region and to connect the Games with
the local people. The logo has been designed to capture the essence of the games which is Peace, Prosperity and Progress.
Peace is symbolised with the similarity given to all petals in terms of shape and size. About 4,500 sport persons
and officials from eight countries are expected to participate in 23 disciplines at the Games.

Rajya Sabha passes nine bills in winter session

Hit by protests throughout the winter session, the Rajya Sabha managed to pass only nine bills during this session that
began on November 26, with a bulk going through on December 23, 2015, the last day of the session.

The bills passed by the Rajya Sabha are:

The Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) Bill: The bill seeks to amend the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881. The
Act defines promissory notes, cheques and specifies penalties for bouncing of cheques, and other violations.

The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill: The bill amends the Scheduled
Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. The new offences added to the act under the
Bill include garlanding with footwear, compelling to dispose or carry human or animal carcasses, or do manual scavenging,
abusing SCs or STs by caste name in public, attempting to promote feelings of ill-will against SCs or STs or disrespecting
any deceased person held in high esteem, and imposing or threatening a social or economic boycott.

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill - It provides for the trial of those between the age
of 16 & 18 years as adults for heinous offences. Also, anyone between the age of 16 & 18 who commits a less
serious offence may be tried as an adult if he is apprehended after he attains the age of 21.

The Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts Bill - It enables
the creation of commercial divisions in high courts, and commercial courts at the district level.

The Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill - The bill replaces an ordinance. Under the Act, the relevant
court for all arbitration matters would be a principal civil court or high court with original jurisdiction. The
ordinance modified this to state that in the case of international arbitration, the relevant court would only be
the high court having original ordinary jurisdiction.

The Atomic Energy (Amendment) Bill - The bill proposes to amend the Atomic Energy Act, 1962. The Act empowers
the central government to produce, develop, control, and use atomic energy. Under the Act, a government company is
one in which at least 51 percent of the paid-up share capital is held by the central government. The bill expands
this definition to include companies where the whole of the paid up share capital is held by one or more government
company and whose articles of association empower the central government to constitute its Board of Directors. This
provision will allow for the formation of joint ventures between Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited and other
government companies.

The Payment of Bonus (Amendment) Bill - The bill amends the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965. The Act provides for the
annual payment of bonus to employees of certain establishments (including factories and establishments employing
20 or more persons). Under the Act, bonus is calculated on the basis of the employee’s salary and the profits of
the establishment. The legislation would make more workers eligible for bonus with retrospective effect from 2014-15
by raising their monthly pay eligibility limit to Rs 21,000 from Rs 10,000. The legislation also enhance monthly
bonus calculation ceiling to Rs 7,000 per month from Rs 3,500.

The Appropriation Bills - These are money bills, which the Rajya Sabha returned to the Lok Sabha. The Rajya Sabha
has limited power with money bills. Even if it does not return a bill to the lower house, it is deemed as passed
by both houses in 14 days.

Apart from these, the house referred The Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2013 to a Select Committee of the
Rajya Sabha and the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2015, was referred to a Joint Select Committee of Parliament.

Parliament passes tough law for juvenile crimes including rape

The Parliament has passed a bill which allows juveniles between 16 and 18 years of age to be tried as adults for serious
crimes like rape or murder. At present, those under 18 can be sentenced to a maximum of three years in a reform facility.
The Juvenile Justice (Amendment) Bill, 2015, lowers the age of a legally defined juvenile from 18 to 16 in the case
of heinous crimes.

The move to change the law gathered momentum after the youngest convict in the notorious 2012 Delhi gang rape was recently
released from detention. The parents of the victim were among those campaigning to change the law. 

The Juvenile Justice Bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha on December 22, 2015. The bill was approved by the Lok Sabha
in May 2015. It will now have to be signed by the president to become law – which is a mere formality. The new law
will not apply to the youngest 2012 rapist, but it will be used in future cases involving juvenile offenders above
16 years.

Government figures reveal that the number of juvenile crimes have been increasing - last year, 38,565 cases were registered,
including many cases of rapes, murders and acid attacks.

The supporters of the new law say tougher punishment will act as a deterrent. However, critics say that India is a signatory
to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which mandates that all children under the age of 18 be treated equally,
and say the new law will violate the convention.

Jyoti Singh, a 23-year-old physiotherapy student, died after being brutally raped by five men and one minor on a moving
bus in 2012. The attack sparked a huge public outcry and forced the authorities to introduce tough new laws to deal
with crimes against women. Four adult convicts in the case are appealing against death sentences. A fifth died in
prison. But the youngest of her attackers, who was 17 at the time of the crime, was sentenced to three years and
released recently. 

During his trial in a juvenile court, there were calls to try him as an adult and protests were held against his release.
Since his release, the rapist has been housed with a charity because of fears over his safety. On December 21, the
Supreme Court dismissed an appeal to stop his release, saying it “shared” the concern of most citizens but its hands
were “tied” by the law.

Govt announces 4 IT-based initiatives on Good Governance Day 

Health Minister J P Nadda announced four new IT-based initiatives on Good Governance Day to mark the birth anniversary
of Bharat Ratna Atal Bihari Vajpayee on December 25, 2015. Nadda announced this during the launch of the AIIMS OPD
Transformation Project in New Delhi. 

The first initiative is Kilkari which will be an audio-based mobile service that delivers weekly audio messages to families
about pregnancy, child birth and child care.

A new mobile-based application, Mobile Academy, has been developed through which about 90 lakh ASHAs will be trained. 

The Revised National TB Control Programme has been made more patient-centric. A dedicated toll free number, 1800-11-
6666, with a call centre is being started to provide round the clock support for patient counselling and treatment
support services. The initiative is being started in Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh and Delhi. 

Nadda also announced an M-Cessation initiative which will be an IT-enabled tool to help tobacco users to quit tobacco.

CBSE launches mobile app for e-learning material for students: The Central Board of Secondary Education
(CBSE) on December 25, 2015 rolled out its latest mobile application E-CBSE for providing e-learning material for
students and teachers. The new app was jointly launched by Union Minister for Urban Development M Venkaiah Naidu
and HRD Minister Smriti Irani in the presence of the CBSE Chairman Y S K Seshu Kumar. E-CBSE is an endeavour to enrich
the student and the teacher communities by providing various learning and teaching resources to supplement and compliment
curriculum transactions. This is in addition to the resources available for students provided by NCERT.

PM flags off first prototype electric bus for MPs: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 21,
2015 flagged off first prototype electric bus for Members of Parliament. Modi handed over the key of lithium-ion-powered
battery bus to Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan at a function in Parliament House. Speaking on the occasion, Prime
Minister said battery powered bus is another initiative of government’s Make in India campaign. He said the negative
impact of environment is felt across the globe. Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari said lithium battery used in this
bus has been developed by the ISRO and is very economical.

Priyanka Chopra lends support to campaign against anaemia: Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra will
go on a nationwide tour to spread awareness on fighting anaemia among adolescents, through a short movie. The actress
was in the national capital on December 23, 2015 to launch the nationwide Weekly Iron and Folic Acid Supplement (WISF)
awareness campaign along with Health Minister J.P. Nadda. Through the initiative, free pills would be distributed
to teenagers across the country to eradicate nutritional anaemia among adolescents. A short video featuring Priyanka
was also released. The actress is also UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.

16th India-Russia Annual Summit held

Prime Minister of India, Mr. ​Narendra Modi went on his first official bilateral visit to Moscow on December 23-24, 2015
for the 16th India-Russia​ ​Annual Summit. During his two-day visit, Modi held talks with President Vladimir Putin,
covering a wide range of sectors which included defence and nuclear cooperation. 

The two nations inked 16 deals ranging from joint helicopter manufacture and Indian development of components for Russian
nuclear reactors to oil and gas exploration and an easier visa regime for businesspersons from the nations to travel
to each other’s countries.

Putin gifted to the Indian Prime Minister an 18th century sword from Bengal and a page from Mahatma Gandhi’s
diary containing his handwritten notes. PM Modi laid a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier - a World War II
monument just outside the Kremlin.

Agreements signed & issues discussed 

Foreign policy issues 

Breaking India’s month-long silence on the Turkish downing of a Russian military jet, Modi on December 24 clearly aligned
New Delhi with Moscow’s position, publicly calling the incident “unfortunate” and emphasising that it occurred “in
Syria.” Ankara insists it shot the plane -which resulted in the death of a Russian pilot - in Turkish airspace, a
claim Russia dismisses. The Indian Prime Minister insisted he shared a global worldview with Putin, including on
the solution to Syria’s four-year-long civil war that has spawned the Islamic State terror group. 

Modi also backed Russia’s insistence that the removal of the Bashar al Assad regime not be made a precondition for the
resolution of the Syrian crisis. Russian President said Moscow would welcome an enhanced Indian role in world affairs.

Putin emphasised to Modi that Russia maintained its support for India’s permanent membership to the UN Security Council
(UNSC). “Few countries are as deserving as India of permanent membership to an expanded UNSC” Putin said. 

Tie-ups in defence sector 

India and Russia on December 24 inked the single biggest deal for joint development of defence equipment New Delhi has
witnessed since Modi came to power promising domestic military manufacture as a key component of his strategic policy.
The intergovernmental agreement on manufacture of Kamov 226 helicopter in India is the first project for a major
defence platform under the Make in India mission.

Reliance Defence Limited and Russia’s leading developer and manufacturer of air defence missile systems AlmazAntey, have
decided to work jointly on the entire range of AD missile and radar systems that are required for the Indian defence
forces, it was announced in Moscow on December 24. The two sides identified the AD missile systems, including the
TOR-1M missile programme, radars and automated control systems as areas of partnership under the Make in India as
well as the offset policies of the Indian defence ministry. Reliance Defence Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of
Reliance Infrastructure Limited. 

Agreements for cooperation in oil & gas sector signed 

Indian companies have for years now been increasing their investments in Russia’s oil and gas sector. 

ONGC Videsh Limited (OVL) and Rosneft on December 24 signed an Agreement of Confirmation of successful completion of
the first stage of the USD 1.268 billion acquisition of 15% stake in Russia’s second biggest oil field of Vankor
by the Indian firm. The document was signed by OVL Managing Director Narendra K Verma and Rosneft Chairman of the
Management Board Igor Sechin. Rosneft and OVL also signed a Memorandum of Understanding for cooperation for geologic
survey, exploration and production of hydrocarbons onshore and on the continental shelf of the Russian Federation. 

Also New Delhi inked a key pact with Moscow that will give Indian firms access to Russia’s continental shelf in the Arctic
Ocean for exploring and hunting for minerals, oil and gas.

On December 24, Essar completed the process of selling 49 per cent of stock it held in a Russian field to Russian oil
and gas major Rosneft. Russian giant Gazprom agreed, in a separate deal, to a long-term supply of liquefied natural
gas to India. 

PM visits National Crisis Management Centre in Moscow 

Modi visited EMERCOM –the National Crisis Management Centre (NCMC) in Moscow. The Prime Minister was given an overview
of the actual functioning and real-time monitoring operations of the Centre. The capabilities of the Centre to monitor
threats to human life and property, including natural disasters, both within and beyond Russia’s borders, and its
global sphere of cooperation were highlighted. The NCMC is a multilevel coordination centre designed to provide inter-agency
coordination, and alerting people about the threat of emergency situations. The capabilities of the NCMC include
state of the art real time monitoring, data collection, analysis and modelling. It uses global navigation satellite
systems and global monitoring technologies based on remote sensing. 

MoU between Prasar Bharati, Digital Television Russia signed 

Public broadcaster Prasar Bharati and top Russian pay TV programmer Digital Television Russia (DTR) have inked a pact
for joint production and exchange of TV programs and related services. The two partners signed a Memorandum of Understanding
(MoU) on December 24, 2015. This alliance will focus on high-quality production, marketing and distribution of content
related to art, culture, trade & science, research and technology among others. It will also open up great opportunities
in the field of news-exchange and of setting up a joint venture to explore the possibilities of commercial cooperation
in area of broadcasting. DTR is Russia’s leading programmer in basic and premium subscription television channels.

Govt clears proposal for re-construction of dam in Afghanistan: A proposal to reconstruct a dam
in Afghanistan with revised cost estimates of Rs 1,775.69 crore was cleared by Government on December 22, 2015. Located
on the upper reaches of Hari Rud River in Herat province, Salma Dam project involves construction of a 107.5 metre
high earth and rock - fill dam and a 42 MW power House with three units of 14 MW each. It also has a provision for
releasing water for irrigation of 75,000 hectares of land. The dam is expected to lead to the overall economic development
of the western region of Afghanistan and generate goodwill for India in Afghanistan. The project is scheduled to
be completed by June 2016. WAPCOS, a central Public Sector Unit under the Ministry of Water Resources, is executing
the project.   

China-backed AIIB formally established in Beijing

China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in which India is a founder member along with other 56 countries
was formally established in Beijing as the Articles of Agreement took effect on December 25, 2015. 

Articles of Agreement outline the financial share of each founding member as well as rules for policymaking, governance
structure and business and operational systems for the bank. 

The bank’s establishment came after 17 funding members of the AIIB, which account for just over 50 per cent of its share
capital, ratified the agreement on the bank. 

With authorised capital of USD 100 billion and subscribed capital of USD 50 billion, AIIB, based in Beijing, will invest
in sectors including energy, transportation, urban construction and logistics as well as education and healthcare. 

China, India and Russia are the three largest shareholders, taking a 30.34 per cent, 8.52 per cent, 6.66 per cent stake
respectively in the newly-formed bank. Their voting shares are calculated at 26.06 per cent, 7.5 per cent and 5.92
per cent. 

Based on the shareholding, India is expected to get the post of the Vice President. China has already nominated its former
Finance Minister Jin Liqun as the first President of the Bank, which is addition to the BRICS Development Bank, headed
by eminent Indian banker K V Kamath. 

China said that the establishment of the AIIB marks a milestone in the reform of global economic governance system. The
AIIB will be operational after board of directors and executive council meet for the first time. The meetings are
slated to run from January 16 to 18 in Beijing. The bank’s president will be officially appointed and the management
team will be in place at the meetings. 

As its name suggests, the AIIB will finance infrastructure -- airports, mobile phone towers, railways and roads -- in
Asia. There is a yawning infrastructure funding gap in Asia. The ADB pegged the hole with about USD eight trillion
between 2010 and 2020. While both the ADB and World Bank focus on a broad range of development programs including
agriculture, education and gender equality, the AIIB will concentrate on infrastructure alone. The International
Monetary Fund, World Bank and ADB have all welcomed the AIIB initiative and see room for collaboration. The AIIB
is expected to offer loans to the first batch of projects in mid-2016.

RBI unveils Financial Stability Report

The Financial Stability Report has cautioned banks against loaning to highly leveraged corporates and said that default
by just top three borrowers can result in 13 per cent losses. 

The report also noted the contribution of large borrowers to the total bad loans and restructured accounts, which crossed
11.3 per cent of the system, is a whopping 87 per cent as of September quarter, up from 78.2 per cent a year ago. 

“Corporate sector vulnerabilities and the impact of their weak balance sheets on the financial system need closer monitoring,”
Reserve Bank Governor Raghuram Rajan, who is also the Financial Stability and Development Council Chairman said in
the foreword to the report. 

The report, which was released on December 23, 2015, has analysed the current trends in debt servicing capacity and leverage
of weak companies till the September quarter using a select sample of 2,368 non-government non-finance (NGNF) listed

The report identified engineering, steel and cement companies as the biggest worry areas. 

The analysis shows 4,635 (23.8 per cent) public limited companies and 61,557 (24.1 per cent) private limited companies
are weak. Their debt to equity ratio declined from 3 in 2012-13 to 2.2 in 2013-14 in the case of public limited companies
and to 1.4 from 1.5 in the case of private limited companies. 

The proportion of bank borrowings in total borrowings was about 49 per cent for public limited companies and 43 per cent
for private limited companies. The share of bank borrowings of the weak public limited companies constituted 32.1
per cent of total bank borrowings of the group. 

Similarly, the report noted that the share of bank borrowings of weak private limited companies out of total bank borrowings
of all private limited companies stood at 32.5 per cent in 2013-14.

In case of public limited companies, the share of bank borrowings of leveraged weak companies in total bank borrowings
was 22.6 per cent and for private limited companies this was 22.8 per cent. 

In case default by weak NGNF companies could be about 10.4 per cent of total bank credit, while it could be about 7.3
per cent in case of assumed default by leveraged weak NGNF firms. 

The credit extended by scheduled commercial banks to all NGNF companies was about 32.4 per cent of total bank credit
as at end March 2014. However, a portion of bank credit to these companies could already be a part of the existing
stressed advances (non-performing advances or restructured standard advances) of banks. 

According to the report, the gross non-performing advances of banks rose to 5.1 per cent as of the September quarter
from 4.6 per cent in March 2015. Banks’ net NPAs as a percentage of the total net advances increased to 2.8 per cent
as of September from 2.5 per cent in March. 

“While adverse economic conditions and other factors related to certain specific sectors played a key role in asset quality
deterioration, one of the possible inferences could be that banks extended disproportionately high levels of credit
to corporate entities / promoters who had much less ‘skin in the game’ during the boom period,” the report said.

Number of financial inclusion accounts touch 19.52 crore: RBI

The Reserve Bank on December 23, 2015 said banks, mostly state-run ones, opened a whopping 19.52 crore accounts under
the government’s financial inclusion drive till the first week of December. 

“As on December 9, 2015, 195.2 million accounts have been opened and 166.7 million RuPay debit cards have been issued
under the Prime Minister’s Jan Dhan Yojana, which was launched on August 28, 2014,” the central bank said in its
half-yearly report on the operations and performance of scheduled commercial banks. 

The report said most of these accounts are in rural areas, thus considerably increasing banking penetration, and a significant
number of banking outlets -- a whopping 91 per cent -- operate in branchless mode via business correspondents or

To further strengthen financial inclusion drive and raise penetration of insurance and pension coverage, the government
launched social security and insurance schemes -- Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Suraksha
Bima Yojana and the Atal Pension Yojana in May 2015. 

The RBI report said as many as 92.6 million beneficiaries have been enrolled under the Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana
and 29.2 million have been enrolled under Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana, while 1.3 million account holders
have been enrolled under Atal Pension Yojana, as of December 16, 2015. 

The report also said the number of debit cards is much higher than credit cards. While in 2012, there were 6.3 credit
cards for every 100 debit cards, the number declined to 3.8 in 2015. State-run banks, which command over 72.3 per
cent of market share, maintained a lead over private sector and foreign banks in issuing debit cards. As on March
31, 2015 around 83 per cent of debit cards were issued by state-run banks, while around 80 per cent credit cards
have issued by private sector banks (57.2 per cent) and foreign banks (22.4 per cent).

No deadline for resolving complaints by Banking Ombudsman: RBI

There is no time limit for resolution of complaints under Banking Ombudsman scheme, aimed at seeking redressal of customers’
common complaints against banks, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said on December 22, 2015. 

The revised 2006 Banking Ombudsman scheme, applicable to all commercial banks, regional rural banks and scheduled primary
cooperative banks, provides a forum to customers to seek redressal of their complaints relating to credit cards,
house loans, promises given by the banks’ sales agents and delay in delivery of services.

“No time limit is specified for resolution of complaint under Banking Ombudsman Scheme, 2006,” the central bank said
in reply to an RTI query filed by Press Trust of India. It said the number of complaints pending for resolution as
on December 13, 2015 was 9,508. 

As per RBI’s annual report 2014-15 on the scheme, a total of 88,438 complaints were handled during the fiscal. Of these
84,660 were disposed off. Interestingly, 87 awards were issued by the Banking Ombudsmen during the year. As many
as 82,052 and 75,183 complaints were handled during 2013-14 and 2012-13, respectively. Of these, 78,745 and 69,704
were disposed off. 

There are 15 Banking Ombudsmen across the country. The Reserve Bank of India had first introduced the Banking Ombudsman
scheme in 1995 to provide an expeditious and inexpensive forum to bank customers for resolution of their complaints
relating to deficiency in banking services. 

The bank customers can also complain about non-payment or any inordinate delay in payments or collection of cheques towards
bills or remittances by banks. Non-acceptance of small denomination notes and coins or charging of commission for
acceptance of small denomination notes and coins by banks, can also be complained about as per the revised scheme.

Jan Dhan Yojna – 19.52 crore accounts opened till first week of December: The Reserve Bank has said
banks opened a whopping 19.52 crore accounts under the Prime Minister’s Jan Dhan Yojana till the first week of December.
In its half-yearly report on the operations and performance of scheduled commercial banks released on December 24,
2015, RBI said most of these accounts are in rural areas. The report said, as on December 9, 166.7 million RuPay
debit cards have been issued. It also said as many as 92.6 million beneficiaries have been enrolled under the Pradhan
Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana and 29.2 million under Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana. 13 lakh account holders
have been enrolled under Atal Pension Yojana, as on December 16.

Disburse 8.7% interest on Special Deposit Scheme for 2015-RBI: The Reserve Bank of India on December
23, 2015 asked public sector banks and government accounts department to disburse interest of 8.7 per cent to account
holders of Special Deposit Scheme (SDS) 1975 for calender year 2015. “We advise that interest for the calendar year
2015 may be promptly disbursed to the SDS account holders at 8.7 per cent per annum from 1st January 2015 to 31st
December 2015,” RBI said in a notification. SDS was introduced in July 1975 for the benefit of non-government provident,
superannuation and gratuity fund for a period of ten years. Subsequently, the scheme is being extended from time
to time. With effect from April 1, 2013 and until further orders, SDR bear interest at 8.7 per cent per annum.

Mobile apps ‘AgriMarket Mobile’, ‘Crop Insurance’ launched  

Two mobile apps were launched for the farmers by Union Agriculture & Farmers Welfare Minister Radha Mohan Singh on
December 23, 2015 in New Delhi.

Mobile app “Crop Insurance” will help the farmers not only to find out complete details about insurance cover available
in their area but also to calculate the insurance premium for notified crops, coverage amount and loan amount in
case of a loaned farmer. Mobile apps “AgriMarket Mobile” can be used by the farmers to get the market prices of crops
in the mandi within 50 km radius of the device and other mandis in the country.

Releasing the apps said that Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare is organising “Kishan Jai Vigyan Week” to
celebrate birth anniversary of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Charan Singh, from December 25. Launching of mobile apps
was part of the week long celebrations. 

Singh said the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare is making efforts to make available all relevant and timely
information to the farmers and other stake holders so as to create a conducive environment for raising farm productivity
and income to global levels. It is in this direction that an ambitious project known as National e-Governance Plan
in agriculture (NeGP-A) has been launched. Besides providing hardware up to the block levels offices in all States/UTs,
the project also includes development of 12 clusters of services (with over 65 discrete websites/applications).

The Minister said that out of these 36 applications and web portals have already been rolled out and are in use by different
departments and other stakeholders across Centre and States/UTs. Some of these are mKisan, Farmers Portal, Insurance
Portal, Nowcast, Plant Quarantine Information Systems, revamped Agmarknet and Kisan Knowledge Management System etc.
The project also includes making these services available through multiple delivery channels like web based, through
Touch Screen Kiosks, SMS, USSD and mobiles.  

Internet penetration in rural India is still abysmally low, however number of mobiles with the farmers and in hinterlands
is rising at a very fast pace. He said that Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare has therefore decided to
make all its existing and future services available through mobile platforms. mKisan portal of the ministry has been
a resounding success in this regard.  Today we have approximately 2 crore farmers registered with us for receiving
SMS advisories which are being sent by officers and scientists across all States/UTs, ICAR, IMD and Agriculture Universities.

The Minister also said that the Government will launch new crop insurance scheme next month which would aim speedy disposal
of claims with very less premiums.

Ministry of Agriculture will celebrate Jai Kisan Jai Vigyan week from December 23 to 29, 2015.

Features of the mobile apps launched on December 23 are:-

Crop Insurance Mobile app

Government of India spends huge amounts in extending crop insurance to the farmers so as to provide them relief in case
of unforeseen eventualities. Crop insurance is extended by both public and private insurance companies.  States/UTs
nominate insurance companies to extend insurance cover for different crops in districts/blocks.  There is also a
specific period during which farmers can avail this facility.  Due to administrative and technical reasons much of
this information is not able to reach to the farmers well in time to take advantage of these schemes.  This Crop
Insurance mobile app can be used to find out complete details about cover available but also to calculate the Insurance
Premium for notified crops based on area, coverage amount and loan amount in case of a loanee farmer. It can also
be used to get details of normal sum insured, extended sum insured, premium details and subsidy information of any
notified crop in any notified area.

AgriMarket Mobile App

Farmers sometimes have to suffer losses due to distress sales in absence of correct market information. They can take
an informed decision based on information about the ongoing prices in markets around them as to which market they
should take their produce for selling.  This App has been developed with an aim to keep them abreast with crop prices
around them. AgriMarket Mobile App can be used to get the market price of crops in the markets within 50 km of the
device’s location. This app automatically captures the location of person using mobile GPS and fetches the market
prices of crops in those markets which fall within the range of 50 km. There is another option to get price of any
market and any crop in case person does not want to use GPS location. The prevailing prices are fetched from the
Agmarknet portal.

Both these apps have been developed in house by IT Division of the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers
Welfare and can be downloaded from Google Store or mKisan portal (http://mkisan.gov.in/Default.aspx).  There is a
provision that if any State desire to convert these mobile applications in their local language, they can easily
do so by simply providing the names of few keywords in their language.  Then this application will be prepared in
that language very easily and uploaded on the play store. 

Thermal plants to cut emissions by 40% by 2017

Beginning 2017, thermal power plants across India will have to cut particulate matter emissions by as much as 40 per
cent and reduce their water consumption by nearly a third, according to rules notified by the Union Ministry of Environment
and Forests and Climate Change on December 22, 2015.

India’s thermal power plants, which are significantly dependent on coal, and have been described as among the most serious
sources of pollution.

The government recently said it plans to scale down its dependence on coal from the current 61 per cent to 57 per cent
by 2030, even as it ramps up its total electricity generation capacity from the existing 260 GW to around 800 GW.
By that year, the contribution of renewable energy — solar, wind and biogas — to total electricity generation is
projected to grow to 29 per cent from the current 12 per cent.

The norms rule that coal plants should restrict particulate matter emissions to no more than 30 mg/cubic metre; sulphur
and nitrous oxides to 100 mg and mercury to 0.03 mg respectively. 

The Ministry has said that power plants in India would be expected to adhere to new norms based on their vintage. Plants
established between 2003 and 2016 would have to halve particulate matter emissions but those built after 2017 must
make more dramatic changes.

CVC, Natgrid get access to blackmoney related info from FIU

The Central Vigilance Commission and National Intelligence Grid (Natgrid) have been given access to information on blackmoney
and money laundering related transactions from Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).

Both the CVC and Natgrid are new entrants to the list of 18 other organisations including RAW and IB that are empowered
to seek details from the FIU on dubious financial transactions, as per an official order on December 20, 2015.

FIU is tasked with collecting, analysing and disseminating information related to financial transactions suspected to
be blackmoney or proceeds of crime.

The move is aimed at strengthening the country’s efforts to check blackmoney, corruption and other financial crimes.
The central government decided to allow access to CVC and Natgrid to information available with FIU “in the public

The Natgrid, which is still in nascent stage, will collect crucial data from various central security and intelligence
agencies. The project is likely to be completed sometime next year.

The FIU shares information with Enforcement Directorate (ED), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Reserve Bank of
India (RBI), Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), National Investigation Agency (NIA), Central Economic
Intelligence Bureau (CEIB) and chief secretaries of state governments, among others.

The Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team on blackmoney is also one of the notified organisations which
can seek information from the FIU, an independent body reporting directly to the Economic Intelligence Council (EIC)
headed by the Finance Minister.

I-T Deptt to launch Project Insight to curb black money: The Income Tax department will implement
‘Project Insight’ from 2016 which will monitor high value transactions, with a view to curbing the circulation of
black money, the Finance Ministry said on December 22, 2015. ‘Project Insight’ has been initiated by the Department
for data mining, collection, collation and processing of such information for effective risk management with a view
to widening and deepening tax base, Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha said in a written reply in the Rajya
Sabha. Permanent Account Number (PAN) being the unique identifier is used by the Income Tax department to link and
analyse various transactions relating to the tax payers. The income tax law mandates quoting of PAN for specified
transactions above a threshold including purchase of immovable and movable property, bank deposits and other financial

BTI Payments installs 3,000 white label ATMs: ATM and point of sale terminal handling firm BTI Payments
on December 21, 2015 said it has completed installations of 3,000 white label ATMs (WLA) in India ahead of its schedule.
BTI Payments Private Ltd is a joint venture between BANKTECH Group and ICICI Ventures. Covering 150 districts and
over 2,700 villages, BTI touches over five million rural customers each month through its Automated Teller Machines
(ATMs) and Point of Sale (PoS) terminals. Established in Sydney, Australia in 1991, The BANKTECH Group, parent company
of BTI Payments, manages ATM and PoS terminals in Australia, India, Hong Kong, New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates.

AP enacts law; no money lending without license now: In the wake of the call money racket issue
that rocked the state in recent weeks, Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly on December 21, 2015 passed a bill aiming
to regulate the private money lending business. The Andhra Pradesh Money Lenders Bill provides that money lending
cannot be done without a license, and the government may, from time to time, specify the maximum rate of interest
chargeable by money lenders for any local area. As per the act, accounts of money lenders shall be audited at least
once a year and punishment for charging a rate of interest higher than that shown in the account is up to one year
and may extend up to three years. Call money racket refers to harassment and exploitation of borrowers by private
money lenders who provide easy loans ‘on telephone call’. As many as 188 persons were arrested in connection with
the racket in the state after it surfaced earlier this month, CM Naidu had said on December 18.

Punjab launches ‘Sampooran Gramin Vikas’ initiative for development of villages: In order to make
the state and private universities, a partner in the overall development of the state, the Punjab Chief Minister
Parkash Singh Badal on December 22, 2015 embarked ‘Sampooran Gramin Vikas’ program under which the universities gave
concurrence to adopt 150 villages to give fillip to its progress. A decision to this effect was taken in a high level
meeting of the Chief Minister with the Vice Chancellors of the 19 universities of the state held at Chandigarh. The
experts of these universities would undertake socio-economic survey of these villages to prepare a suitable plan
for their development. While formulating the plan thrust would be given to education, healthcare and vocational education.
As per the guidance of the university, government would try to implement these schemes for the wellbeing of people.

Haryana launches online service BISWAS for new water, sewer connections: Haryana government launched
the online citizen service ‘BISWAS’ that allows online application for new water and sewer connections and online
payment of water and sewer bills in Chandigarh on December 25, 2015. The Billing Information System for Water and
Sewer (BISWAS) scheme is a significant one under which all prescribed fees would be payable online. People residing
in urban areas would greatly benefit from this scheme as they would not have to visit the department. 

Committee set up to Review Wage Structure of Gramin Dak Sevaks 

A one man Committee to examine the wage structure, service conditions, etc. of the Gramin Dak Sevaks in the Department
of Posts has been constituted by the Government of India. This was stated in a press note issued by the Ministry
of Communications & Information Technology on January 1, 2015.

Kamlesh Chandra, Retired Member of Postal Services Board, will constitute the Committee. The Committee will be assisted
by Shri T.Q. Mohammad, a Senior Administrative Grade Officer, who will act as Secretary to the GDS Committee. The
Committee will go into the service conditions of Gramin Dak Sevaks and suggest changes as considered necessary. The
terms of reference of the Committee will include the following:-

  • To examine the system of Branch Post Offices, engagement conditions and the existing structure of wage and enrolments
    paid to the Gramin Dak Sevaks and recommend necessary changes;

  • To review the existing Services Discharge Benefits Scheme/other social security benefits for the Gramin Dak Sevaks
    and suggest necessary changes;

  • To review the existing facilities/welfare measures provided to the Gramin Dak Sevaks and suggest necessary changes;
  • To examine and suggest any changes in the method of engagement, minimum qualification for engagement as Gramin Dak
    Sevaks and their conduct and disciplinary rules, particularly keeping in view the proposed induction of technology
    in the Rural Post Offices.

The Department of Post has 2.6 lakh Gramin Dak Sevaks. All these GDSs will come under the purview of GDS Committee.

National Development Council 

The National Development Council, set up on 6 August, 1952 by an executive order of the government, served as “the highest
decision-making authority” in the country on development matters. One of the most significant of its decisions was
the creation (as part of the Gadgil-Mukherjee exercise) of “special category” of States, and the criteria for determining
whether a State could receive the status and related financial support from the Centre.

It was on recommendations of the Administrative Reforms Commission that the NDC was reconstituted and its functions redefined
on October 7, 1967.

Initially, it comprised the Prime Minister, the Chief Ministers of all States and the members of the Planning Commission.
In the first meeting of the NDC held on 8-9 November 1952, its first chairman and India’s first Prime Minister Pandit
Jawahar Lal Nehru stated that the NDC is essentially a forum for “intimate cooperation” between State governments
and the Centre for all the tasks of national development.

The reconstituted NDC comprised of the Prime Minister, all the Union Cabinet Ministers, the Chief Ministers of all States
and Union Territories and the Members of the Planning Commission. The Delhi Administration is represented in the
Council by the Lt. Governor and the Chief Executive Councillor, and the remaining Union Territories by their respective

In the reconstituted Council, the Secretary of the Planning Commission acted as Secretary to the NDC. In all, 56 meetings
of the NDC have been held, the last being on 22nd October 22, 2011 to consider the approach to the 12th Plan. The
50th meeting of the NDC, held on December 21, 2002, was chaired by the then Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh.

Cabinet approves MoU on the Conservation of Migratory Birds of Prey 

The Union Cabinet on December 30, 2015 gave its approval to sign Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) on the Conservation
of Migratory Birds of Prey in Africa and Eurasia, also called the ‘Raptor MOU’ with the Convention on Conservation
of Migratory Species (CMS). With the signing of this MOU, India will become the 54th signatory to the MOU. 

The MOU seeks willingness of the signatory Range States for working for conservation of the raptor species and their
habitats. An action plan has been formulated which primarily envisages the conservation action for Raptor species.
The Raptors MoU extends its coverage to 76 species of birds of prey out of which 46 species including vultures, falcons,
eagles, owls, hawks, kites, harriers, etc. also occur in India. 

Considering that the Raptor MOU is also in conformity with the provisions of the existing Wild Life (Protection) Act,
1972, wherein the birds have been accorded protection, India would gain domain knowledge which would be helpful in
effectively managing the habitats of these Raptors, including concerted trans-boundary efforts for conservation through
interaction with other range countries by signing of the MOU with the CMS. Pakistan and Nepal are the other neighbours
who are signatories to this MOU. 

The CMS or Bonn Convention, under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), aims to conserve migratory
species throughout their range. India had become a party to the CMS since 1st November 1983. 

Govt launches national biotechnology programme

The government on December 30, 2015 launched a national programme which aims to turn India into a biotechnology hub and
the sector into a USD 100 billion industry with focus in areas of healthcare, food and nutrition, clean energy and

The National Biotechnology Development Strategy 2015-2020 programme which was launched by the Department of Biotechnology
under the Ministry of Science and Technology is aimed at ensuring strategic and focused investment in building human
capital by setting up a Life Science and Biotechnology Education Council which will spearhead the initiative. 

Under the programme, which was unveiled by Minister of Science and Technology Harsh Vardhan, research will be intensified
in the field of vaccines, human genome, infectious and chronic diseases, crop science, animal agriculture and aqua
culture, food and nutrition, environmental management and technologies for clean energy. 

The mission is also backed with significant investments to boost creation of new biotech products, creating a strong
infrastructure for research and development, commercialization, and empowering human resources scientifically and

A major component of the programme will be training of work force and this includes dual degree programmes which will
cover both the aspect of core science and business applicability. It will also focus on enhancing research opportunities
in basic, disciplinary and inter-disciplinary sciences, foster global and national alliances. Through the programme,
the DBT also wants to create a technology development and translation network across India with global partnership,
including five new clusters, 40 biotech incubators. 

Tele-evidence & CSIC facility inaugurated at PGIMER, Chandigarh: Union Health Minister J P Nadda
on December 30, 2015 launched tele-evidence facility for recording evidences through video conference, country’s
first such facility which has been started at Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER)
in Chandigarh. Nadda also formally launched the online appointments for new and re-visiting patients and also inaugurated
the Central Sophisticated Instruments Cell (CSIC) at the institute. 

Indo-French military exercise Shakti-2016 to be held in January:  Indo-French joint military training
exercise named ‘Exercise Shakti-2016’ will be held in Mahajan Field Firing Ranges in Rajasthan’s Bikaner in January
2016 which will be focused on counter terrorism operations in backdrop of semi-urban terrain under United Nations
Mandate. This is the third edition in the series of bilateral exercises under this banner. A contingent of French
Army personnel will arrive at Bikaner in a few days to participate in this exercise, Defence Spokesperson Lt Col
Manish Ojha said on January 1, 2016. The joint training would focus on high degree of physical fitness, tactical
drills, techniques and procedure. A comprehensive training programme for a period of two weeks has been worked out
for achieving the same. The exercise would be conducted in two phases, namely combat conducting and tactical training
and validation exercise.

Cabinet approves pact on waste recycling with SINTEF of Norway: The Union Cabinet on December 30, 2015
approved the signing of MoU between SINTEF, Norway and Central Public Works Department for cooperation in the development
of human resource capacity building and scientific research in the field of recycling of construction and demolition
waste in India. Construction industry in India generates about 10-12 million tons of waste annually. There is a huge
demand of aggregates in the housing and road sectors but there is significant gap in demand and supply, which can
be reduced to a certain extent by recycling C&D waste. While some of the items like bricks, tiles wood, metal,
etc. Are re-used and recycled, concrete and masonry, constituting about 50 per cent of the C&D waste is not currently
recycled in India.

Cabinet approves construction of 69 bridges for Trilateral Highway in Myanmar: The Cabinet on December
30, 2015 approved the construction of 69 bridges including approach roads on a major road section of the Trilateral
Highway in Myanmar at a cost of Rs 371 crore. Government said the project will impart all weather usability to the
Tamu-Kyigone-Kalewa road section which is also part of the route for the proposed Imphal-Mandalay bus service. It
will improve connectivity between India and Myanmar and facilitate movement of goods and traffic. “The Government
of Myanmar has started work on constructing two bridges, on its own, as these bridges needed urgent attention. As
a result, construction of the balance 69 bridges will be undertaken under Government of India’s assistance,” an official
release said. 

Guinea declared Ebola-free: The World Health Organisation on December 29, 2015 declared the end
of the Ebola outbreak in the West African nation of Guinea, two years after the beginning of the epidemic. The disease
killed 2,536 people in Guinea, and a further 9,000 in neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone. Liberia was declared
Ebola-free by the WHO in September, and Sierra Leone in November. A major concert will be held later in capital Conakry
to celebrate the end of Ebola. President Alpha Conde has doubled the health budget since winning re-election in October.
A country is declared Ebola-free after 42 days without a single new case since the recovery of the last Ebola patient.

RBI committee on medium-term path on financial inclusion submits report

A Reserve Bank of India (RBI) committee on financial inclusion has suggested that the government should transfer cash
directly to persons instead of giving subsidies, and should replace interest subvention on agriculture loans with
affordable universal crop insurance scheme.

The committee on medium-term path on financial inclusion, headed by RBI executive director Deepak Mohanty, on December
29, 2015 also recommended linking credit accounts with unique identification number, or Aadhaar number, and share
information with credit information companies to enhance stability of the credit system and improve access. The committee
was set up in July 2015.

Direct cash transfer will help in better targeting of subsidies 

The committee opined that the most efficient way for an effective financial inclusion is direct cash transfer.

Presently, the government gives interest rate subvention of two per cent for short-term crop loans of up to Rs 3 lakh.
Another three per cent subvention for prompt repayment lowers the effective cost further. Payments towards such subvention
have increased rapidly over time. From less than Rs 2,500 crore in subvention in 2006, government’s subvention in
2016 is projected to be above Rs 12,500 crore.

Actual cultivators are not always the landowners and hence such subventions do not even reach them. The land owners,
being the recipients of the subventions, turn into money lenders. The committee said that agricultural credit must
flow to the actual cultivator for which tamper-proof digitisation of land records was a must.

The scheme is for short-term crop loans, and as a result it discriminates against long-term loans and thereby, does not
incentivise long-term capital formation in agriculture, which is essential to boost productivity. The committee added
that any subsidised credit increases the chance of misuse.

India mainly subsidises fertiliser, irrigation, power and credit, but the subsidy leads to vast leakages. For example,
the fertiliser subsidy, which increased from Rs 18,500 crore in 2005-06 to an estimated Rs 73,000 crore in 2015-16
is not financially sustainable in the long run.

“Subsidising farmers by reducing the price of inputs could ultimately be regressive, i.e., rich households could benefit
more from the subsidisation than their poorer counterparts,” and panel said and hence, recommended that the government
should simply transfer cash to farmers equivalent to the fertiliser subsidy. Similarly, cash transfer can be tried
to address problems in the irrigation sector and instead of charging “abnormally low electricity tariffs” for agricultural
use, equivalent cash can be transferred into beneficiaries’ accounts.

According to the Agriculture Census (2010-11), 85 per cent of India’s 138 million farming holdings are small and marginal
farmers who hold less than five hectares of lands. These groups are heavily dependent on private money lenders, even
as those with 10 hectares of land holding have banking facility to tap.  

Mandatory crop insurance

The committee recommended that a mandatory crop insurance scheme covering all crops should be introduced starting with
small and marginal farmers with a monetary ceiling of Rs 2 lakh. Farmers will have to pay a nominal premium to get
this insurance and the balance could come from government subsidy. “The government can phase out the agricultural
loan interest subvention scheme and plough back that allocation into the crop insurance subsidy,” the panel said.
Heavy use of technology, like satellite images for crop mapping and assess damage, could make the insurance scheme
more efficient. Satellite imagery can be used for ‘crop mapping’ and to assess damage.

Including more women in the financial inclusion fold

The panel suggested stepping up efforts to include more women in the financial inclusion fold. The All-India Debt and
Investment Survey (AIDIS) suggested that interest rates paid by female household head are, on average, higher than
those paid by male household heads. Still, in India, the financial gender disparity is as high as 20 percentage points.

The report states that mobile phones are the way forward for inclusion. Public sector banks account for only 14 per cent
of the total mobile banking transactions worth Rs 270 billion, suggesting there is significant room for market players
to grow. An eco-system should be developed where full-service banks, regional banks, non-banking finance companies,
semi-formal financial institutions, as well as the newly-licensed payments banks and small finance banks, could work
together for effective inclusion.

Launch of Sukanya Shiksha scheme

To include more women, and with the government’s emphasis on the welfare of girl child, the panel recommended that a
new welfare scheme, called Sukanya Shiksha that can be jointly funded by the central and state governments, be formed.
The government has a small savings scheme called Sukanya Samriddhi for girl child. The proposed Sukanya Shiksha scheme
“will link education with banking habits by crediting a nominal amount, in the name of each girl child belonging
to the lower income group who enrols in middle school. This would make it incumbent on the school and the lead bank
and its designated branch to open a bank account for social cash transfer. This scheme can also have the benefit
of lowering school dropout rates and empower the girl child,” the panel recommended.

Credit guarantees for MSEs

Similarly, multiple guarantee agencies can be floated to provide credit guarantees in niche areas for micro and small
enterprises (MSEs) and a system could be introduced for unique identification for all MSME borrowers and sharing
of such information with credit bureaus.

Committee set up to revitalise the PPP model for infra projects submits report

Easier funding and amending the anti-corruption law to make allowances for genuine errors by officials topped the recommendations
of an expert committee looking at ways to revitalise the public-private partnership (PPP) model of infrastructure
development. The committee was led by former Finance Secretary Vijay Kelkar. The report, which was made public by
the government on December 28, 2015, was submitted to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on November 19.

Underlining the need to rebuild PPP capacity, the report called for setting up the ‘3PI’ as a Centre of Excellence in
PPPs to enable research and roll out activities to build capacity, and support more sophisticated models of contracting
and dispute redress mechanisms. Jaitley had first proposed the setting up of the ‘3P India’ to mainstream PPPs in
Union Budget 2014-15 with an allocation of Rs. 500 crore.

Cutting debt servicing costs

The committee called for moving away from a transaction-based relationship to one focussed on improved service delivery
and suggested Deep Discount or Zero Coupon Bonds for low-cost and long-term funding. “These will not only lower debt
servicing costs in an initial phase of project but also enable authorities to charge lower user charges in initial
years,” said the report, which called for divesting equity in completed projects to help fund new ones.

“Monetisation of viable projects that have stable revenue flows after EPC (engineering, procurement, construction) delivery
may be considered,” it noted, while proposing to restrict the number of lenders in a consortium.

Renegotiation clause

Significantly, the Kelkar panel favours a review of next-generation PPP contracts to allocate and manage risks by including
an ex-ante provision for a renegotiation framework in the bid document itself. The report called for a provision
to renegotiate contracts in case of new risks, and a faster dispute resolution mechanism.

It has suggested that model concession agreements be issued only when 80 per cent of the land for a project has been

Noting that infrastructure PPP projects span over 20 years and a developer often loses bargaining power on various issues
such as tariffs, the report said the private sector must be protected through an “Obsolescing Bargain” by independent

Sector-specific interventions

The report called for sector-specific interventions, such as encouraging the PPP model in green-field and brownfield
projects, setting up an independent tariff regulatory authority for the Railways to help it tap PPP opportunities,
electronic tolls in new highway projects and addressing power sector loans.

The report proposed that regulators of pension, insurance and long-term funds should be encouraged to allow investments
in PPP Special Purpose Vehicles with a lower than ‘AA’ rating if developers access credit guarantee instruments.

RBI modifies norms for credit to overseas subsidiaries of companies

The RBI on December 31, 2015 modified norms for banks to extend credit facilities to overseas step-down subsidiaries
of Indian corporates to finance the projects undertaken abroad. 

The Reserve Bank has reviewed its 2007 instructions permitting banks in India to extend funded and/or non-funded credit
facilities to step-down subsidiaries of the overseas arms of Indian companies and come out with modified norms. 

“Banks may extend funded and/or non-funded credit facilities to the step-down subsidiaries of Indian companies including
to those beyond the first level, to finance the projects undertaken abroad,” the modified norms said. 

The immediate overseas subsidiary of the Indian company, the RBI added, must be directly controlled by the Indian parent
company through any of the modes of control recognised under the Indian Accounting Standards. In addition, the Indian
parent company must directly hold a minimum 51 per cent of its shareholding. 

The RBI also asked the banks to make an additional provision of two per cent, in addition to country risk provision applicable
to all overseas exposures, against standard assets representing all exposures to step-down subsidiaries.

Postal Department’s payment bank to start from March 2017: India Post will launch its payment bank by March 2017,
Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said in New Delhi on December 28, 2015. As many as 40 international financial
conglomerates, including World Bank and Barclays, have shown interest to partner with Postal Department for the payment
bank, Prasad said. The Reserve Bank has granted in-principle approval to 11 applicants, including Postal Department,
in August to set up payments banks.   

Government extends tax residency rule deadline

A deadline for comments on the draft guidelines to determine the tax residency of a foreign company has been extended
to January 9, 2016.

The government felt the need to determine a company’s place of effective management due to lack of detail in the Income
Tax Act leading to the possibility of tax avoidance.

“Representations requesting for extension of the last day for submitting comments and suggestions, have been received
and considered,” according to a government statement announcing the extension of the deadline for comments on the
issue, earlier slated for January 2.

The Place of Effective Management (POEM) of a company, as the concept was called, was introduced in the Finance Act,
2015 to determine the tax residency of a foreign company.

The draft guidelines for what defines a company’s place of effective management, released on December 23, defines the
POEM as “a place where key management and commercial decisions that are necessary for the conduct of the business
of an entity as a whole are, in substance made.”

“Section 6(3) of the Income-tax Act, 1961, prior to its amendment by the Finance Act, 2015, provided that a company is
said to be resident in India in any previous year, if it is an Indian company or if during that year, the control
and management of its affairs is situated wholly in India. This allowed tax avoidance opportunities for companies
to artificially escape the residential status under these provisions by shifting insignificant or isolated events
related with control and management outside India,” according to draft guidelines issued by the Central Board of
Direct Taxes.

Horticulture output outpaces foodgrains by 10% in 2014-15

Country’s horticulture production has surpassed foodgrains output by over 10 per cent at 283.47 million tonnes for the
third straight year in 2014-15 despite poor monsoon and unseasonal rains. 

Foodgrains output in 2014-15 crop year (July-June) fell by 3.2 per cent to 257.07 million tonnes due to 12 per cent deficit
rains and unseasonal rains during February-March. 

Horticultural crops comprise of fruits, vegetables, flowers, plantation crops, spices and aromatics, while foodgrains
basket contains wheat, rice, coarse cereals and pulses. 

“India witnessed the shift in area from foodgrains towards horticultural crops over last five years... The production
of horticultural crops has outpaced the production of foodgrains since 2012-13,” according to the book ‘Horticultural
Statistics at a Glance 2015’ released by Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said in New Delhi on December 31,

The area under horticultural crops has increased by about 18 per cent in past five years but expansion of area under
foodgrains crops was only 5 per cent in the said period. 

According to the provisional data, production of horticultural crops in 2014-15 has increased to 283.47 million tonnes
from 277.35 million tonnes in the previous year. 

Of total horticultural crops, production of vegetables was 168.3 million tonnes, flowers at 88.81 million tonnes, plantation
crops at 17.13 million tonnes, flowers at 3.23 million tonnes and spices at 3.16 million tonnes in 2014-15. 

On export front, grapes occupies the premier position in exports, followed by banana and mango. Even exports of fresh
vegetables have been on the rise. 

The final data of horticultural crops for 2014-15 crop year would be released later.

Allocation for rooftop solar power installations hiked to 5,000-crore 

In a boost to India’s rooftop solar programme, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs on December 30, 2015 scaled
up the budget for grid connected solar rooftop systems to Rs. 5,000 crore from Rs. 600 crore. This will be utilised
over the next five years up to 2019-20 under the National Solar Mission and support installation of 4,200 MW of rooftop
solar power systems.

“The capital subsidy of 30 per cent will be provided for general category States and Union territories and 70 per cent
for special category States including North Eastern States of Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu &
Kashmir and Lakshadweep, Andaman & Nicobar Islands. There will be no subsidy for commercial and industrial establishments
in the private sector since they are eligible for other benefits such as accelerated depreciation, custom duty concessions,
excise duty exemptions and others,” an official statement said.

This capacity of 4,200 MW will come up through residential, government, social and institutional sectors and aim to create
a market for rooftop solar systems, build the confidence of consumers and enable balance capacity through market
mode to achieve the target of 40,000 MW by 2022.

Between 2012-13 and May 2015, Rs. 582.50 crore had been sanctioned under the Grid Connected Rooftop and Small Solar Power
scheme. Of this, Rs. 9.28 crore has been released so far, according to data on the Ministry of New & Renewable
Energy website.

Earlier this year, the Centre had revised the targets of the National Solar Mission to 100,000 MW by 2022 from the earlier
target of 20,000 MW. Out of the total target, 40,000 MW is to come through grid connected solar rooftop systems.

So far, 26 States have notified their regulations to provide net metering/gross metering facilities to support grid-connected
solar rooftops installations. Such systems can generate power at about Rs. 6.50 a unit, which is cheaper than the
diesel genet based electricity generation.

Amended Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme for textiles industry approved

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on December 30, 2015 approved
the introduction of Amended Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme (ATUFS) in place of the existing Revised Restructured
Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme (RR-TUFS) for technology upgradation of the textiles industry.

The new scheme specifically targets employment generation and export by encouraging apparel and garment industry, which
will provide employment to women in particular and increase India’s share in global exports.

Promotion of Technical Textiles, a sunrise sector, for export and employment, and promoting conversion of existing looms
to better technology looms for improvement in quality and productivity, and encouraging better quality in processing
industry and checking need for import of fabrics by the garment sector.

The amended scheme would give a boost to ‘Make in India’ in the textiles sector, and it is expected to attract investment
to the tune of one lakh crore rupees, and to create over 30 lakh jobs.

A budget provision of Rs.17,822 crore has been approved, of which Rs. 12,671 crore is for committed liabilities under
the ongoing scheme, and Rs. 5,151 crore is for new cases under ATUFS.

All cases pending with the Office of Textile Commissioner, which are complete in all respects, will be provided assistance
under the ongoing scheme and the new scheme will be given prospective effect.

The Office of Textile Commissioner (TXC) is being reorganised, and such offices will be set up in each state. Officers
of the TXC shall be closely associated with entrepreneurs for setting up the industry, including processing proposals
under the new scheme, verifying assets created jointly with the bankers and maintaining close liaison with the State
Government agencies.

The implementation of the scheme would be executed and monitored online under iTUFS, launched in April 2015.

Under the new scheme, there will be two broad categories - apparel, garment and technical textiles, where 15 percent
subsidy would be provided on capital investment, subject to a ceiling of 30 crore rupees for entrepreneurs over a
period of five years; and remaining sub-sectors would be eligible for subsidy at a rate of 10 percent, subject to
a ceiling of Rs.20 crore on similar lines.

The Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme was introduced by the government in 1999 to facilitate new and appropriate technology
for making the textile industry globally competitive and to reduce the capital cost for the textile industry.

National Conference of Dalit Entrepreneurs organised: The National Conference of Dalit Entrepreneurs
was organised by the Dalit Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DICCI) at Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi. The event
was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 29, 2015. He presented five business excellence awards
to Dalit entrepreneurs. Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Thaawar Chand Gehlot was also present on
the occasion.

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