Home Current Affairs CURRENT AFFAIRS; MONTHLY BULLETIN ; APRIL 2015 - PART - 2
CURRENT AFFAIRS; MONTHLY BULLETIN ; APRIL 2015 - PART - 2
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Wednesday, 17 June 2015 04:22

PART - 2

 

 

 

CURRENT NATIONAL AFFAIRS

 

UNION MINISTER OF COMMERCE & INDUSTRY UNVEILED FOREIGN TRADE POLICY 2015-2020

Union Minister of Commerce & Industry on 2 April 2015 unveiled Foreign Trade Policy (FTP) 2015-2020. The policy was unveiled by Minister of State for Ministry of Commerce & Industry Nirmala Sitharaman at Vigyan Bhawan, Delhi.

The new five year Foreign Trade Policy, 2015-20 provides a framework for increasing exports of goods and services as well as generation of employment and increasing value addition in the country, in keeping with the Make in India vision of Prime Minister.

The focus of the new policy is to support both the manufacturing and services sectors, with a special emphasis on improving the ease of doing business.

The release of Foreign Trade Policy was also accompanied by a FTP Statement explaining the vision, goals and objectives underpinning India's Foreign Trade Policy, laying down a road map for India’s global trade engagement in the coming years.

The FTP Statement describes the market and product strategy and measures required for trade promotion, infrastructure development and overall enhancement of the trade eco system. It seeks to enable India to respond to the challenges of the external environment, keeping in step with a rapidly evolving international trading architecture and make trade a major contributor to the country’s economic growth and development.

Highlights of the FTP 2015-20

• In the new policy FTP2015-20, two new schemes Merchandise Exports From India Scheme (MEIS) and Services Exports From India Scheme (SEIS) were introduced.

• MEIS is for export of specified goods to specified markets and SEIS is for increasing exports of notified services.  Duty credit scrips issued under MEIS and SEIS and the goods imported against these scrips are fully transferable. For grant of rewards under MEIS, the countries have been categorized into 3 Groups, whereas the rates of rewards under MEIS range from 2% to 5%. Under SEIS the selected Services would be rewarded at the rates of 3% and 5%.

• Measures have been adopted to nudge procurement of capital goods from indigenous manufacturers under the EPCG scheme by reducing specific export obligation to 75% of the normal export obligation. This will promote the domestic capital goods manufacturing industry.

• Such flexibilities will help exporters to develop their productive capacities for both local and global consumption. Measures have been taken to give a boost to exports of defense and hi-tech items.

• At the same time e-Commerce exports of handloom products, books/periodicals, leather footwear, toys and customized fashion garments through courier or foreign post office would also be able to get benefit of MEIS.

• These measures would not only capitalize on India's strength in these areas and increase exports but also provide employment.

• In order to give a boost to exports from Special Economic Zones (SEZs), Government has now decided to extend benefits of both the reward schemes (MEIS and SEIS) to units located in SEZs.  It is hoped that this measure will give a new impetus to development and growth of SEZs in the country.

• Trade facilitation and enhancing the ease of doing business are the other major focus areas in this new FTP.

• One of the major objectives of new FTP is to move towards paperless working in 24x7 Environment.

• Recently, the government has reduced the number of mandatory documents required for exports and imports to three, which is comparable with international benchmarks.  Now, a facility has been created to upload documents in exporter/importer profile and the exporters will not be required to submit documents repeatedly.

• Government has also simplified various Aayat Niryat Forms, bringing in clarity in different provisions, removing ambiguities and enhancing electronic governance.

• Manufacturers will now be enabled to self certify their manufactured goods in phases, as originating from India with a view to qualifying for preferential treatment under various forms of bilateral and regional trade agreements.

• This Approved Exporter System will help these manufacturer exporters considerably in getting fast access to international markets.

• A number of steps have been introduced for encouraging manufacturing and exports. The steps include a fast track clearance facility for these units, permitting them to share infrastructure facilities, permitting inter unit transfer of goods and services, permitting them to set up warehouses near the port of export and to use duty free equipment for training purposes.

 

20TH LAW COMMISSION SUBMITTED REPORT ON ELIMINATING DISCRIMINATION AGAINST LEPROSY-AFFECTED PERSONS

20th Law Commission headed by Justice (retd) Ajit Prakash Shah on 7 April 2015 submitted the Report No 256 titled Eliminating Discrimination Against Persons Affected by Leprosy to the Union Ministry of Law and Justice.

In the report, the Law Commission has recommended immediate repeal, amendment or modification of certain specific provisions in the laws applicable to leprosy-affected people in order to make their application more amenable to the present-day developments in the treatment of Leprosy.

Main recommendations

  • An infection of Leprosy affecting either spouse should not by itself constitute a ground for divorce, annulment of marriage or separation as provided in the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, Special Marriage Act, 1954 and Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956.
  • The use of the term leper under State beggary prevention laws is derogatory and contributes to the stigma associated with the disease and hence such a term should be removed from the statute book and all government records.
  • The term Leprosy-cured defined in The Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995 and Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2014 needs to either be removed or broadened to cover all categories of Persons affected by Leprosy. In its present form it does not cover Persons affected by Leprosy who are undetected or undergoing treatment.
  • Recommends doing away with the restrictions on eligibility of Persons affected by Leprosy to stand for civic posts as required under various State Municipality and Panchayat Raj legislations.
  • It recommends repealing of The Lepers Act, 1898 in entirety and amending The Legal Services Act, 1987 and The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.
  • It recommends the enactment of legislation under Article 253 of the Constitution of India that promotes the social inclusion of Persons affected by Leprosy and their family members through affirmative action.

Status of Leprosy in India

Leprosy or Hansen’s disease is one of the oldest known diseases. It is triggered by the causative agent Mycobacterium Leprae, a bacillus which was first discovered by a Norwegian doctor, Gerhard Armauer Hansen in 1873.

In 2014, India had the largest number of new Leprosy cases globally (58%). From 2005 till 2014, the National Leprosy Eradication Programme (NLEP) has recorded a rate of 1.25 to 1.35 lakh new cases every year, a majority being children, who are threatened with isolation and discrimination at a very young age.

Multi-Drug Therapy (MDT), recommended by the WHO in early 1980s, comprises of powerful drugs such as Rifamipicin, Clofazimine and others in combination with Dapsone. Through Multi-Drug Therapy more than 15 million persons have been cured in last two decades in India.

 

UNION GOVERNMENT LAUNCHED HUMAN RESOURCE AND SKILL REQUIREMENT REPORTS FOR 24 PRIORITY SECTORS

Union Ministry for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship launched the Human Resource and Skill Requirement reports across 24 sectors in India. The report will serve as the baseline for all skill development initiatives being planned across the country.

According to the findings of the reports, the incremental human resource requirement across these 24 sectors is nearly 109.73 million whereby the top 10 sectors account for about 80 percent of requirements.

Further, nearly 460 Million people will Require Up-Skilling/Re-Skilling.

The reports also gives an insight on the quantitative side of human resource requirement in each of the sectors and has also led to useful qualitative findings in terms of highlighting key job roles in the sector, existing skill gaps in the sectors, key interventions required to map supply and demand, etc.

The reports were commissioned by National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) and authored by consulting firm KPMG.

The objective of these skill gap reports was to understand the sectorial and geographical spread of skill requirements that exist.

The figures have been estimated on the basis of extensive stakeholder engagement including small, medium and large enterprises in every sector as well as Sector Skill Councils (SSCs), training providers in the skills space and academia.

The skill gap studies provide a granular data on the skill gaps for two time periods- 2013-17 and 2017-22

These reports will be used for the implementation of the recently announced Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY); for State Skill Missions, and for various other skill initiatives being planned across the country.

 

PRIME MINISTER NARENDRA MODI INAUGURATED INDIA’S HEALTHCARE PORTAL

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 24 April 2015 inaugurated India’s Healthcare Portal at the SAAARC Trade Mart in the Global Exhibition on Services, in ITPO, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi.

The portal is an authentic and dynamic information source which can effectively be used by any treatment seeker/potential medical tourist from across the globe.

At present, the portal covers 124 accredited medical facilities which include 93 medical centres, 30 Ayurveda and Wellness centres and 1 special category centre. 74 facilities are located in Tier I cites and the rest are in Tier II cities. The Healthcare Portal can be seen at www.indiahealthcaretourism.com

About the Healthcare Portal

• The Healthcare Portal was developed by the Department of Commerce, Union Government and the Services Export Promotion Council (SEPC)

• The portal is a comprehensive one-point information site and covers hospital-related and travel-related information on India

• The medical facilities on the Healthcare Portal are locatable by easy to search options by location, medical specialty, key procedures, language options available in hospitals and their certifications.

• The key medical and wellness procedures done by these institutions are highlighted.

• It also provides associated details like costs relating to treatment in hospitals in India, travel and visa formalities, last-mile connectivity, tariff options on stay, benefits of treatment in India, advance information on preparatory aspects in seeking medical care and others


INS TARANGINI DEPARTED FOR LOKAYAN-2015

INS Tarangini, the Sail Training Ship of Indian Navy, on 27 April 2015 left Kochi for Lokayan 2015. The theme for Lokayan -15 is Taking for a Broader Reach.

The Ship was flagged off by Vice Admiral Sunil Lanba, PVSM, AVSM, the flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern naval Command in a departure ceremony conducted at the naval base, Kochi.

As part of Lokayan-15, Tarangini will be on an eight month voyage through Europe and will participate in the annual Tall Ship Races and other events organised under the aegis of Sail Training International. During these eight months the ship will travel approximately 17 thousand miles under sails.

This year’s Tall Ship Races will be conducted primarily off the coast of United Kingdom, Norway, Denmark, Germany and Netherlands. About 300 Sail ships of various sizes from all over the world are expected to participate in this year’s events.

Tarangini forms a part of Class A Sail Ships, the largest of the sailing fleet. During this voyage, the Indian trainees would also get an opportunity to sail on foreign vessels as part of exchange of trainees.

INS Tarangini is a three masted barque built in Goa Shipyard Ltd and commissioned on 11 November 1997, is manned by 6 officers, 40 sailors and 30 trainees.


UNION CABINET APPROVED ATAL MISSION FOR REJUVENATION AND URBAN TRANSFORMATION (AMRUT) OF 500 CITIES

Union Cabinet on 29 April 2015 approved the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) of 500 cities with an outlay of 50000 crore rupees over the next five years (2015-16 to 2019-20).

Besides, the Cabinet also approved the Smart Cities Mission with an outlay of 48000 crore rupees.

The two missions have twin objectives of meeting the challenges of growing urbanization in the country in a sustainable manner as well as ensuring the benefits of urban development to the poor through increased access to urban spaces and enhanced employment opportunities.

Main Features of AMRUT

Purpose: To develop civic infrastructure in 500 cities and towns having population of one lakh and above. The mission also includes some cities situated on stems of main rivers, a few capital cities, important cities located in hilly areas, islands and tourist areas.

Implementation: Implementation is linked to promotion of urban reforms such as e-governance, constitution of professional municipal cadre, credit rating of urban local bodies, energy and water audit and citizen-centric urban planning among others.

In this regard, a reform matrix with timelines would be circulated by the Union Government to States in the Guidelines of the mission.

Approach: The mission adopts a project based approach to ensure basic infrastructure services relating to water supply, sewerage, transport and development of green spaces among others.

States given more freedom: Under this Mission, States get the flexibility of designing schemes based on the needs of identified cities and in their execution and monitoring.Further in a significant departure from Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), now the states will only submit State Annual Action Plans (SAAPs) to the Union for broad concurrence based on which funds will be released. Under JNNURM, Union Government used to appraise even individual projects.

Funding: 50000 crore rupees will be spent under the mission over next five years. Central assistance will be to the extent of 50 percent of project cost for cities and towns with a population of up to 10 lakh and one-third of the project cost for those with a population of above 10 lakh.

Central assistance will be released in three installments in the ratio of 20:40:40 based on achievement of milestones indicated in SAAPs.

10 percent of budget allocation will be given to States/Union Territories (UTs) as an incentive based on achievement of reforms during the previous year.

Uncompleted projects under JNNURM: Central assistance will be extended under AMRUT to the projects sanctioned under JNNURM but not completed. JNNURM projects relating to urban development sanctioned during 2005 -2012 and achieved physical progress of 50 percent availing 50 percent of central assistance released and those sanctioned during 2012-2014 will be supported till March 2017. Accordingly, 102 and 296 projects respectively will get Central support for balance funding to complete these projects.

How AMRUT differs from Smart Cities Mission?

Though the two missions are interrelated in the sense that AMRUT seeks to lay a foundation to enable smaller cities and towns to eventually grow into smart cities, they differ in the following ways:

While Smart Cities Mission focuses on a select larger urban areas, the AMRUT mission is intended to improve infrastructure in small cities having population of one lakh and above and towns of special importance only.

While Smart Cities Mission adopts area based approach focusing on improving amenities in a specific area of a larger city, the AMRUT mission adopts functional based approach focusing on improving the delivery of services in the designated towns and smaller cities.


UNION CABINET APPROVED SMART CITIES MISSION WITH AN OUTLAY OF 48000 CRORE RUPEES

The Union Cabinet on 29 April 2015 gave its nod for Smart Cities Mission with an outlay of 48000 crore rupees over the next five years (2015-16 to 2019-20).

Besides, the Cabinet also approved the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) of 500 cities with an outlay of 50000 crore rupees over the next five years.

The aim of these two missions is to make urban areas more livable and inclusive besides driving the economic growth.

Features of Smart Cities Mission

Purpose: To build 100 smart cities across the country by promoting smart solutions for efficient use of available assets, resources and infrastructure with the objective of enhancing the quality of urban life and providing a clean and sustainable environment.

Focus: The focus of the mission will be on core infrastructure services like Adequate and clean Water supply, Sanitation and Solid Waste Management, Efficient Urban Mobility and Public Transportation, Affordable housing for the poor, power supply, robust IT connectivity, Governance, especially e-governance and citizen participation, safety and security of citizens, health and education and sustainable urban environment.

Selection Criteria: Smart City aspirants will be selected through a City Challenge Competition intended to test the ability of the cities to achieve the mission objectives. Each state will shortlist a certain number of smart city aspirants as per the norms to be indicated by the Union Government and they will prepare smart city proposals for further evaluation for extending Central support.

Funding: While, each selected city would get central assistance of 100 crore rupees per year for five years a cumulative amount of 48000 crore rupees allocated for the mission

Implementation: Smart City Action Plans will be implemented by Special Purpose Vehicles (SPV) to be created for each city and state governments will ensure steady stream of resources for SPVs.

Approach: The mission adopts area based approach consisting of retrofitting, redevelopment, pan-city initiatives and development of new cities. Under Retrofitting, deficiencies in an identified area will be addressed through necessary interventions as in the case of Local Area Plan for downtown Ahmedabad. Redevelopment enables reconstruction of already built-up area that is not amenable for any interventions, to make it smart, as in the case of Bhendi Bazar of Mumbai and West Kidwai Nagar in New Delhi. Pan-city initiatives could be interventions like Intelligent Transport Solutions which benefit residents by reducing commuting time.


CURRENT INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

 

IRAN AND P5+1 GAVE NOD FOR NUCLEAR AGREEMENT JOINT COMPREHENSIVE PLAN OF ACTION (JCPOA)

Iran, the P5+1 and the European Union (EU) on 2 April 2015 conceded on a framework agreement called as Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) intended to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

The agreement was reached at Lausanne's Beau-Rivage Palace hotel in Switzerland.

The informal framework agreement will be used as the basis for evolving the final draft of JCPOA by 30 June 2015.

P5+1 include all the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) viz., the US, the UK, France, China and Russia plus Germany.

What Iran will do under the Agreement?

• Iran will use only the facility at Natanz to enrich uranium.

• Iran will reduce about two-thirds of its installed centrifuges (equipment used to enrich uranium) from 19000 to 6104, with only 5060 of these will be used for enriching uranium for 10 years.

• Iran will not use its advanced centrifuges, such as the IR-2, IR-4, IR-5, IR-6, or IR-8 models, to produce enriched uranium for at least 10 years. Iran will only engage in limited research and development with these advanced centrifuges.

• The centrifuges that are no longer in use will be placed in IAEA-monitored storage and be used only as replacements.

• Iran will not enrich uranium over 3.67 percent for at least 15 years.

• Iran would reduce its current stockpile of 10000 kg of Low-Enriched Uranium (LEU) to 300 kg of 3.67 pecent LEU for 15 years.

• Iran will not use the nuclear facility at Fordow, near the city of Qom, for the purpose of uranium enrichment for at least 15 years. It will be converted as a research centre meant for peaceful purposes. In addition, no fissile material will be allowed at the facility.

• Iran will redesign and rebuild a heavy water research reactor in Arak, based on a design that is agreed to by the western powers, so that it will not be used to produce weapons-grade plutonium and support only peaceful research.

• Iran will provide regular access to the International Automic Energy Agency (IAEA) to its nuclear programme supply chain including uranium mines and mills and the enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordow to prevent diversion to a secret programme.

• Iran will also implement the Additional Protocol of the IAEA, providing the IAEA greater access and information regarding its nuclear programme, including both declared and undeclared facilities.

• A dedicated procurement channel for Iran’s nuclear programme will be established to monitor and approve, on a case by case basis, the supply, sale, or transfer to Iran of nuclear-related and dual use materials and technology.
What Iran will get under the Agreement?

• The sanctions imposed by the US, the EU and the UN will be lifted in phases depending upon the progress made by Iran in implementing its commitments under the agreement.

• In case of the US the nuclear related sanctions will be lifted once the IAEA verified that Iran has taken all the key nuclear-related steps provided by the agreement. However, sanctions related to terrorism, rights abuses and ballistic missiles will remain in place.

 

SRI LANKA AND PAKISTAN SIGNED SIX AGREEMENTS

Sri Lanka and Pakistan on 6 April 2015 signed six agreements. The signing of the agreement was witnessed by the Pakistan Prime Minsiter Nawaz Sharif and Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena at the PM House in Islamabad.

The six agreements pertained to advancing cooperation in disaster management, sports, shipping, socio-economic development, education and narcotics control.

The list of six agreements signed between Sri Lanka and Pakistan

  • Cooperation between Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission and Atomic Energy Authority of Sri Lanka
  • Agreement on cooperation against illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances
  • Academic cooperation agreement on exchange and collaboration between National Defence University of Pakistan and Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies of Sri Lanka
  • Mutual cooperation in shipping business between Pakistan National Shipping Corporation(PNSC) and the Ceylon Shipping Corporation Ltd (CSCL)
  • Collaboration in the field of Sports
  • Cooperation on disaster management

Sri Lankan President Sirisena is on a three day visit to Pakistan and this is Sirisena’s first visit to Pakistan since he assumed the charge of President of Sri Lanka in January 2015.

The two heads of states during their meeting discussed ways to enhance bilateral cooperation in various fields while focusing mainly on trade. Regional and international issues of mutual interest were also part of the discussions.

Comment

The chief among the six agreement signed was the agreement on atomic energy. Even though Pakistan and Sri Lanka have traditionally enjoyed strong ties, particularly over defence, but the signing of agreement on atomic energy with Pakistan one month after the signing of agreement on nuclear cooperation with India highlights the focus which the new regime in Sri Lanka is putting on build its first nuclear plant.

Pakistan has three operational nuclear plants which generated a total of around 740 MW of power. It has also begun work on building two more nuclear plants, including a 2200-megawatt station that is being built along the Arabian Sea coast at Paradise Beach, 40 kilometres west of Karachi with the help of Chinese assistance.

 

INDIA AND USA SIGNED MEMORANDUM OF COOPERATION (MOC) ON TRANSPORTATION

Union Road Transport and Highways minister Nitin Gadkari and US Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx on 8 April 2015 signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) in New Delhi for deepening partnership in the area of transport between the two countries.

Importance of MoC

• It will enable India to make use of world’s latest technology available with the USA for projects like developments of waterways and multi-modal hub.

• It aims to foster cooperative work on key issues of mutual interest for all modes of transportation and coordinating public and private sector resources and expertise to advance safe, secure, efficient and integrated transportation systems.

• It covers areas like highway transportation, urban transportation, safety and environmental protections, vehicle and behavioral safety, fuel efficiency, rail transportation, maritime shipping and intermodal transportation.


SOCIAL PROGRESS INDEX 2015 RELEASED BY SOCIAL PROGRESS IMPERATIVE

Social Progress Index (SPI) 2015 was released by the US-based non-profit organisation Social Progress Imperative on 8 April 2015. On population-weighted basis, the SPI score for the whole world stands at 61 and at 64.39 when SPI scores are based on simple average of countries.

The SPI 2015 ranks 133 countries in terms of social progress from highest to lowest which are classified into six tiers from Very High Social Progress to Very Low Social Progress. These 133 countries cover 94 percent of the world’s population.

Along with these 133 countries, the SPI 2015 also provides data for 28 countries with partial data. This brings coverage to a total of 99 percent of the world’s population.

India with a score of 53.06 is ranked 101st and is placed in the Low Social Progress Group. In 2014, India with a score of 50.24 was ranked 102 out of 132 countries.

Main Highlights of the SPI 2015

  • On a population-weighted basis, the world scores 68.33 in Basic Human Needs, 66.45 on the Foundations of Wellbeing dimension and 48.23 on the Opportunity dimension. Creating opportunity remains a goal that many nations fail to achieve.
  • On a simple average basis, the world scores 70.82 in Basic Human Needs, 67.68 on the Foundations of Wellbeing dimension and 52.03 on the Opportunity dimension. Once again creating opportunity sees a drop in score despite the fact that developing countries have a smaller weight under this approach.
  • Ten countries in the world have been ranked as Very High Social Progress Countries as these countries generally have strong performance across all three dimensions. The average dimension scores for this tier are: Basic Human Needs is 94.77, Foundations of Wellbeing is 83.85, and Opportunity is 83.07.
  • As with most high-income countries, the top 10 countries score lowest on Ecosystem Sustainability and Health and Wellness.
  • Nearly all of the top 10 are relatively small countries, with only Canada having a population greater than 25 million.
  • The top three countries in the world on Social Progress are Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland with closely grouped scores between 88.36 and 87.97.
  • Canada is the only country among the G7 countries that has been ranked in top ten on SPI 2015
  • Under the High Social Progress Countries tier, there are 21 countries. This group includes a number of the world’s leading economies in terms of GDP and population, including the remaining six members of the G7: the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, the United States, France, and Italy. The average dimension scores for this tier are: Basic Human Needs is 90.86, Foundations of Wellbeing is 77.83, and Opportunity is 73.82
  • The third tier of Upper Middle Social Progress Countries comprises of 25 countries.  This group reveals that high GDP per capita does not guarantee social progress. Average scores for this tier are: Basic Human Needs is 80.66, Foundations of Wellbeing is 73.52, and Opportunity is 57.73.
  • The fourth tier Lower Middle Social Progress Countries comprises of 42 countries. The average dimension scores for this tier are: Basic Human Needs is 72.34, Foundations of Wellbeing is 66.90, and Opportunity is 47.14
  • Under the Low Social Progress Countries tier, there are 27 countries which include many Sub-Saharan African countries. The average dimension scores for this tier are: Basic Human Needs is 50.03, Foundations of Wellbeing is 58.01, and Opportunity is 38.35.
  • Under the Very Low Social Progress Countries tier, there are 8 countries. The average dimension scores for this tier are: Basic Human Needs is 38.46, Foundations of Wellbeing is 48.55, and Opportunity is 26.05.
  • The lowest three countries in the world on Social Progress are Afghanistan, Chad, Central African Republic.

SPI 2015 and BRICS countries

Among the BRICS countries, Brazil at 42nd rank leads the pack with a score of 70.89 and India with a score of 53.06 is placed at 101 position and is the worst country in terms of social progress. The other countries of BRICS and their ranks are: South Africa (63rd), Russia (71st) and China (92nd).

SPI 2015 and SAARC countries

Among the SAARC countries, Sri Lanka at 88th rank leads the pack with a score of 60.10 and Afghanistan with a score of 35.40 is placed at 131 and is the worst country in terms of social progress. The other countries of SAARC and their ranks are: Nepal (98) Bangladesh (100), India (101) and Pakistan (122).

SPI 2015 and India

  • India falls into the Low Social Progress group with a score of 53.06 was ranked 101st.
  • India has low scores common to lower-middle income countries, but shows particular weakness in Health and Wellness and Tolerance and Inclusion.
  • India's score 58.87 on Basic Human Need, 57.38 on Foundations of Well-being dimension and 42.93 on Opportunity dimension

What is Social Progress Index?

This index is based on the writings of Amartya Sen, Douglass North, and Joseph Stiglitz and it is an aggregate index of 54 social and environmental indicators that capture three dimensions of social progress: Basic Human Needs, Foundations of Wellbeing, and Opportunity. The Index measures social progress strictly using outcomes of success, not how much effort a country makes.

 

INDIA ELECTED TO FOUR UNITED NATIONS AGENCIES

India was elected to four important United Nations (UN) agencies on 8 April 2015. These agencies are United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Food Program (WFP), Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ) and the Governing Council of UN-Habitat.

India was elected to these bodies at the Coordination and Management Meeting (CMM) of UNECOSOC (the United Nations Economic and Social Council) held at the UN headquarters in New York, USA.

India was elected by acclamation, which is a form of election that doesn’t use a ballot.

Results of Elections

• India, along with thirteen other nations, was elected to the Executive Board of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for a three year period starting from January 2016.

• India was re-elected to the Executive Board of the World Food Programme (WFP) along with five other nations for a two year period starting from January 2016.

• India was elected to the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ) along with nineteen other nations for a three year period starting from January 2016. Some of the nations that were elected to CCPCJ included Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia Austria, France, Sweden and the United States.

• India was re-elected to the Governing Council of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) along with thirteen other nations for a three year period starting from January 2016.

Significance of India’s election to UN bodies

• India has a 100 percent record of winning the UNECOSOC elections. For instance, in the first week of April 2015, India was re-elected to the 47-nation UN Human Rights Council for the period of 2015-17. In October 2014, India was re-elected to ECOSOC by garnering the maximum number of votes in the Asia-Pacific group. 
• These continuous wins at various UN bodies highlights the fact that India’s role as an important and influential global power is now recognised by a vast majority of the UN membership.


UNESCO RELEASED 2015 EFA GLOBAL MONITORING REPORT

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in the first week of April 2015 released the 2015 EFA Global Monitoring Report titled Education for All 2000-2015: Achievements and Challenges.

The report presents the achievements and challenges with respect to six EFA goals and eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the two most important frameworks in the field of education.

It also explains possible determinants of the pace of progress and identifies key lessons for shaping a post-2015 global education agenda.

Main Highlights of the Report

Goal 1 – Early childhood care and education

Expanding and improving comprehensive early childhood care and education, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children

  • Despite a drop in child mortality rates of nearly 50%, 6.3 million children under the age of 5 died in 2013 from causes that are mostly preventable.
  • Progress in improving child nutrition has been considerable. Yet globally, one in four children is still short for their age – a sign of chronic deficiency in essential nutrients.
  • In 2012, 184 million children were enrolled in pre-primary education worldwide, an increase of nearly two-thirds since 1999.

Goal 2 – Universal primary education

Ensuring that by 2015 all children, particularly girls, children in difficult circumstances and those belonging to ethnic minorities, have access to and complete free and compulsory primary education of good quality

  • The primary school net enrolment ratio was 84% in 1999 and is estimated to reach 93% in 2015.
  • Net enrolment ratios improved significantly, rising at least 20 percentage points from 1999 to 2012 in 17 countries, 11 of which were in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • While some increases in enrolment ratios are evident, nearly 58 million children were out of school in 2012, and progress in reducing this number has stalled.
  • By the 2015 deadline, one in six children in low and middle income countries – or almost 100 million – will not have completed primary school

Goal 3 – Youth and adult skills

Ensuring that the learning needs of all young people and adults are met through equitable access to appropriate learning and life skills programmes

  • Reflecting improved transition rates and higher retention rates, the lower secondary gross enrolment ratio increased from 71% in 1999 to 85% in 2012.
  • Participation in lower secondary education has increased quickly since 1999.
  • Inequality persists in the transition from primary to secondary school.
  • A majority of the 94 low and middle income countries with information have legislated free lower secondary education since 1999. Of these, 66 have constitutional guarantees and 28 enacted other legal measures.

Goal 4 – Adult literacy

Achieving a 50 per cent improvement in levels of adult literacy by 2015, especially for women, and equitable access to basic and continuing education for all adults

  • There are about 781 million illiterate adults. The rate of illiteracy dropped slightly, from 18% in 2000 to an estimated 14% in 2015, which means the Dakar target of halving illiteracy was not achieved.
  • Only 17 out of the 73 countries with a literacy rate below 95% in 2000 had halved their illiteracy rate by 2015.
  • Progress has been made towards gender parity in literacy but is not sufficient. All 43 countries where fewer than 90 women for every 100 men were literate in 2000 have moved towards parity, but none of them will have reached it by 2015.

Goal 5 – Gender equality

Eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005, and achieving gender equality in education by 2015, with a focus on ensuring girls’ full and equal access to and achievement in basic education of good quality

  • At the primary level, 69% of the countries with data are expected to have reached gender parity by 2015. Progress is slower in secondary education, with 48% projected to be at gender parity in 2015.
  • Progress in tackling severe gender disparity has been made. Between 1999 and 2012, the number of countries with fewer than 90 girls enrolled in primary school for every 100 boys fell from 33 to 16
  • Amongst out-of-school children, girls are more likely than boys never to enrol in school (48% compared with 37%), while boys are more likely to leave school (26% compared with 20%). Once enrolled, girls are more likely to reach the upper grades.

Goal 6 – Quality of education

Improving all aspects of the quality of education and ensuring excellence of all so that recognized and measurable learning outcomes are achieved by all, especially in literacy, numeracy and essential life skills

  • Pupil/teacher ratios declined in 83% of the 146 countries with data at the primary education level. In one-third of the countries with data, however, less than 75% of primary school teachers are trained up to national standards.
  • At the lower secondary education level, 87 of the 105 countries with data have a pupil/teacher ratio below 30:1.
  • In 1990, 12 learning assessments were conducted according to national standards, but by 2013 the number had increased to 101.

EFA and India

  • India increased its net enrolment ratio as GNP per capita improved, suggesting a more equitable distribution of economic gains
  • In India, monitoring of financing allocations and funding delivery to implement the Right to Education (RTE) found that funds were not allocated on time because of banking delays, and did not always reach schools. There were significant regional disparities in funding delivery:
  • Low-fee private schools have proliferated in urban slums in India, Kenya and Nigeria
  • In India, the RTE and the main EFA programme, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, created opportunities for people with disabilities to be included in mainstream schools.
  • Two out of three countries where lower secondary education was not compulsory in 2000 had changed their legislation by 2012, including India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Pakistan.
  • In India, the Pratham Open School of Education aims to reach young girls and women who have been marginalized from the education system
  • India and Turkey have closed gender gaps in primary and lower secondary education
  • In India, girls’ enrolment increased after a school latrine construction effort in the early 2000s

About Dakar Goals

Dakar Goals or Education for All goals was established in 2000 at the World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal.  The UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD), launched in 2005, urges countries to rethink education, curricula and teaching practice in ways that complement the drive to achieve EFA.

 

INDIA AND FRANCE SIGNED 20 MOUS AND AGREEMENTS TO GIVE NEW IMPETUS TO BILATERAL CO-OPERATION

India and France signed 20 Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) and Agreements on 10 April 2015 to give new impetus to bilateral co-operation between the two nations.

The two nations signed agreements covering the fields of Defence and Nuclear Energy, Space, Economic relations, Railways, Energy, Tourism, Science and Technology, Skill Development and Ayurveda.

The MoUs and Agreements were signed during visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to France between 9 April and 12 April 2015.

Defence and Nuclear Energy

• MoU between L&T and AREVA: The MoU aims at cost reduction by increasing localization, to improve the financial viability of Jaitapur project. It will also enable transfer of technology and development of indigenous nuclear energy industry in India.

• Pre-engineering agreements (PEA) between NPCIL and Areva: It was signed with an aim to bring clarity on all technical aspects of the plant so that all parties (AREVA, Alstom and NPCIL) can firm up their price and optimize all provisions for risks still included at this stage in the costs of the project.

Space
• MoU between on Megha Tropiques: The MoU seeks to extend the sharing and use of data from the Megha Tropiques satellite by 2 more years. The satellite, a joint project between ISRO and CNES, was launched aboard Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) on 12 October 2011

• MOU for Ka-band propagation experiment over Indian tropical region:It envisages cooperation between ISRO, CNES and ONERA for implementation of the project concerning Ka-band propagation experiment over Indian tropical region.

• Programme between ISRO and French National Centre for Space Studies (CNES): It proposes cooperation in the areas of Remote sensing, satellite communications and satellite meteorology; space sciences and planetary exploration amongst others.

Sports
• MoU on Cooperation in Sports: The MoU envisages cooperation and exchange of experiences in the fields of sports medicine, management and coordination of sports federations and establishment of National Institute of Sports in India based on French model of INSEP.

Economic Relations

MoU on cooperation in the field of renewable energy: It seeks to encourage and promote technical bilateral cooperation on new and renewable energy issues. It would cover solar, wind, bio-energy, tidal and wave energy sectors.

Railways
• Railway protocol between Indian Ministry of Railways and French National Railways (SNCF): The Protocol seeks to establish cooperation between Indian and French Railways for semi-high speed rail and station renovation.

Energy
• Guarantee Agreement with AFD Financing of Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL): The Agreement seeks to finance Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL)

Culture, Heritage Conservation, Tourism, People-To-People Contacts

Administrative Arrangement in the field of Cultural Heritage: The Administrative Arrangement between the Indian Ministry of Culture and French Ministry of Culture and Communication envisages cooperation in the field of cultural heritage, through training of Indian heritage conservation professionals at the Institute National du Patrimoine (INP).

• Letter of Intent (LoI)on Tourism: Seeks to increase cooperation in tourism sector between India and France and promote sustainable bilateral tourism between the two countries The LoI also seeks to facilitate twinning of sites having historical, natural and cultural significance in India and France for promoting them as tourist destinations.

• Letter of Intent (LoI) between the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and National Institute of Preventive Archaeological Research (INRAP):The LoI envisages collaboration on preventive archaeology projects, initiatives to disseminate culture and promote archaeology, training programmes for specialists of ASI and deployment of expertise, in particular, in the field of underwater archaeology.

• MoU between School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi and National Architecture Institute in Paris, France: It envisages cooperation to undertake joint planning and geographical studies in India and France and training of local counterparts in modern urban and regional planning.

• MoU between Indian Heritage Cities Network Foundation (IHCN) and Association Nationale des Villes et Pays d’Art et d’Histoire et villes a secteurs sauvegardés et protégés (ANVPAH): It envisages cooperation in the fields of sustainable development, urban planning, heritage conservation and up-gradation of basic services.

• Volontariat International en Entreprise (VIE) scheme: The scheme offers Indian Visa for 12 months renewable once for a period of 12 months for 250 French students and a ‘second residence permit’ of 12 months for the Indian students in France following the 12 months already granted.

• Letter of Intent on Ayurveda between Ministry of Ayush and University of Strasbourg: It allows both the parties to strengthen their relationships and cooperation in the area of Ayurveda education and research and conducting joint workshops/conferences on Ayurveda as complimentary medicine in France

Skill Development

• MoU between National Skill Development Agency (NSDA), India and the National Commission for Vocational Qualifications (Commission Nationale de la Certification Professionnelle – CNCD): The agreement will facilitate exchange of information and knowledge about maintenance of qualification registers through information exchanges, visits and other suitable meetings.

Science and Technology

• MoU on cooperation in the field of Science & Technology: For cooperation between the two countries in the areas of applied mathematics, physics, Information & communication technology, water resources and environment, life sciences amongst others and establishment of Virtual Joint Laboratories, and establishment of Joint Research Centres.

• MoU on Collaboration for establishment of a National Institute of Marine Biology and Biotechnology in India: The proposed MoU seeks to establish a National Institute of Marine Biology and Biotechnology in India, with a Hub and Spoke network of laboratories spanning India’s marine regions from the Andaman to Lakshadweep.

Apart from this, India also agreed to buy 36 multi-role Combat Aircraft Rafale fighter jets in a flyway condition. Prime Minister Modi during his visit to France also gifted a painting titled Tree of Life, reflecting traditional societal respect for nature in India to the French President Francois Hollande.

The Tree of Life, with multiple roots and branches like a banyan tree, is a motif for a tree’s benevolence, fruit, seeds, shelter, healing, procreation and regeneration faculties that sustain life and clean the environment.


WORLD BANK RELEASED MIGRATION AND DEVELOPMENT BRIEF

World Bank on 13 April 2015 released Migration and Development Brief. In 2014, India continued to be highest recipients of remittance.

The top five remittance recipient countries, in terms of value of remittances, continue to be India, China, Philippines, Mexico and Nigeria.

The top five migrant destination countries continue to be the United States, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Russia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Report said that the remittances to the developing world are expected to reach 440 billion US dollar in 2015, an increase of 0.9 percent over the year 2014. Global remittances, including those to high income countries, are projected to grow by 0.4 percent to 586 billion US dollar.

The 2015 remittance growth rates are the slowest since the global financial crisis in 2008-09. Nonetheless, the number of international migrants is expected to exceed 250 million in 2015, and their savings and remittances are expected to continue to grow.

The slowdown in the growth of remittances in 2015 will affect most developing regions, in particular Europe and Central Asia where flows are expected to decline by 12.7 percent in 2015.

The positive impact of an economic recovery in the U.S. will be partially offset by continued weakness in the Euro Area, the impact of lower oil prices on the Russian economy, the strengthening of the US dollar, and tighter immigration controls in many remittance source countries.

The global average cost of sending 200 US dollar held steady at 8 percent of the value of the transaction, as of the Quarter 4 (Q4) of 2014. Despite its potential to lower costs, the use of mobile technology in cross-border transactions remains limited, due to the regulatory burden related to combating money laundering and terrorism financing.

International remittances sent via mobile technology accounted for less than 2 percent of remittance flows in 2013.

In addition to sending money to their families, international migrants hold significant savings in their destination countries. Diaspora savings attributed to migrants from developing countries were estimated at 497 billion US dollar in 2013.


DELHI DECLARATION ON PUBLIC HEALTH CHALLENGES ADOPTED AT 5TH SAARC HEALTH MINISTERS MEET

The 5th meeting of SAARC Health Ministers was held on 8 April 2015 in New Delhi. The meet ended with the adoption of Delhi Declaration on Public Health Challenges.

The declaration focuses on issues common to member nations of South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). These issues include universal health coverage, improving health regulatory systems, preparedness for emerging and re-emerging diseases and the challenges posed by antimicrobial resistance and non-communicable diseases.

Main highlights of the Delhi Declaration

  • Agreed to strengthen cooperation on mutually agreed agreements for prevention and control of infectious diseases and for sharing of information in accordance with international health regulations
  • Agreed to strengthen capacities for surveillance and monitoring of disease, rapid response and expanding diagnostic facilities
  • Resolved to strengthen cooperation to promote availability and effective coverage of affordable vaccines including pentavalent vaccine and to also strengthen our response to make SAARC region polio free
  • Agreed to take appropriate coordinated action which may be required to be adopted by the Member States for prevention and control of Hepatitis which is a major public health issue in the region;
  • Called upon the Member States to maintain the momentum of actions under the Regional Strategy on HIV/AIDS, to achieve the 90-90-90 HIV treatment target 2020 and to rapidly reduce new HIV infection and AIDS related deaths including from tuberculosis, with a view to ending AIDS by 2030
  • Welcomed the proposed SAARC Supra-national Reference laboratory for TB and HIV/AIDs, being established in Kathmandu
  • Agreed to cooperate for combating mental disorders, including autism and neuro-development disorders, through a multi-pronged approach encompassing a Mental Health Policy and a life cycle approach
  • Agreed to extend cooperation amongst the Member States for capacity development of human resources in public health and clinical medicine
  • Agreed to attach high priority to combat anti-microbial resistance and impact of antibiotic use in agricultural and animal husbandry sectors
  • Decided to enhance regional collaboration and partnership in health research among SAARC countries
  • Agreed to cooperate in improving the standards, certification and regulatory mechanisms for drugs and pharmaceuticals with a view to promoting availability of quality, safe, efficacious and affordable medicines in all SAARC Member States
  • Agreed to cooperate in the field of traditional systems of medicines
  • Agreed to holding of annual meetings of the Technical Committee on Health and Population Activities to facilitate intra-regional cooperation and implementation of decisions taken in the earlier meetings of SAARC Health Ministers

Earlier SAARC Health Ministers were held in Maldives in 2012, Dhaka in April 2006, Islamabad in 2005 and New Delhi in 2003.

 

INDIA-GERMANY RELEASED JOINT STATEMENT TO STRENGTHEN STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP

India-Germany Joint Statement was released on 14 April 2015 with an aim to upgrade and further strengthen the Strategic Partnership between the two countries.

The Joint Statement was released after the meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Hannover and Berlin. PM Narendra Modi is on a three-day visit to Germany.

As part of the statement, the two nations agreed to take proactive steps to advance collaboration in the areas of manufacturing, skill development, urban development, environment, railways, cleaning of rivers, language and science & technology.

Details of Joint Statement

Manufacturing: Utilize the momentum generated by India’s participation in the Hannover Messe 2015 to foster stronger ties between business and industry on both sides in order to support India’s Make in India initiative.

Skill Development: Expansion of existing Indo-German cooperation through new initiatives, including a road-map for enhancing employability of trainees and apprentices by strengthening industry involvement in Skills Development, as in the German dual system.

Science and Technology (S&T): Both sides declared their intent to promote closer R&D cooperation in science, technology and innovation, in particular through extending the tenure of the bi-national Indo-German Science & Technology Center in India.

Urban Development: Strengthen the bilateral cooperation through the establishment of a working group on urban development. Support development of urban planning and infrastructure in India, including
a) Cooperation in the development of new areas of collaboration and mutual benefit in the development of smart cities in India

b) Setting up peer-to-peer network of Municipalities for direct collaboration

c) Assistance in the area of affordable housing

Railways: Support for the modernization of the railway infrastructure including setting up of semi high-speed and high-speed railways and training and skill development of personnel in the rail sector starting with signalling and telecommunications and a high-speed rail system.

Education: To promote closer educational exchanges, including through setting up of an International Center for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences, strengthening collaboration between universities in India and Germany through the Indo German Strategic Partnerships in Higher Education program, and enhancing the exchange of scientists between both countries within the framework of India’s GIAN initiative.

Language: To support the respective programs and efforts in India and Germany to broaden knowledge of each other’s languages among the youth in accordance with the national policy of each country.

Environment: Strengthen the bilateral cooperation through the establishment of two working groups in the areas of water and waste management.

Cleaning of Rivers: Following the completion of the Ganga Scoping Mission in October 2014 by Germany, develop cooperation on Ganga River rejuvenation strategies, capacity support for urban sanitation, setting up of standards, approaches to industrial pollution and innovative financial models.

Renewable Energy: Support India’s proposed objective of 175GW of renewable energy by 2022 through technical and financial support for developing comprehensive solar rooftop and green energy corridor projects in India.

Besides, the two nations also agreed to strengthen their efforts towards carrying on negotiations for an ambitious EU India Free Trade Agreement with a view to its early conclusion.

Both sides also explored ways of expanding dialogue on security issues and foreign policy. Towards this, they welcomed the proposed visits of India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to Germany and visit of Defence Minister of Germany to India before the Inter-Governmental Consultations.


IMF RELEASED WORLD ECONOMIC OUTLOOK APRIL 2015 UPDATE

International Monetary Fund (IMF) on 14 April 2015 released World Economic Outlook (WEO) April 2015 Report. The report is titled Uneven Growth: Short-term and Long-term Factors.

Global growth is forecasted at 3.5 percent in 2015 and 3.8 percent in 2016 which is in line with forecasts made in the January 2015 WEO Update. Also the global growth rate in 2015 is broadly same as it was in 2014.

Growth in advance economies will rebound

•Global growth in 2015 will be driven by a rebound in advanced economies supported by the decline in oil prices.

•In advanced economies, growth is projected to strengthen in 2015 relative to 2014, but in emerging market and developing economies it is expected to be weaker.

•Growth in the United States is projected to exceed 3 percent in 2015–16. Domestic demand will be supported by lower oil prices, more moderate fiscal adjustment, and continued support from an accommodative monetary policy stance.

•Report projected that after a disappointing 2014, a weaker Chinese Yen and lower oil prices are expected to lead to a pickup of growth in Japan.

Emerging and developing economies will slow

•Growth forecasts for most emerging and developing economies (with the important exception of India) are slightly worse. Growth is projected to slow from 4.6 percent in 2014 to 4.3 percent in 2015. This reflects a variety of factors.

•Oil price declines will sharply slow growth for oil exporters, especially those that also face difficult initial conditions —for example, geopolitical tensions in the case of Russia.

•The Chinese authorities’ emphasis on reducing vulnerabilities from recent rapid credit and investment growth will likely cause a further slowdown in investment, particularly in real estate.

•Latin America’s outlook will continue to weaken due to lower commodity prices. Brazil’s outlook is also affected by a drought, tighter macroeconomic policies, and weak private sector sentiment.

•Growth in low-income countries as a group, however, has stayed high. Growth is expected to slow only slightly to 5.5 percent in 2015, from 6 percent in 2014, and then to rebound in 2016, partly thanks to increased external demand from advanced economy trading partners.

Raising growth still a priority

•In many advanced economies, accommodative monetary policy remains essential to support economic activity and lift inflation expectations.

•In many emerging market and developing economies, there is only limited macroeconomic policy space to support growth.

•In oil importing countries lower oil prices will reduce inflation pressure and external vulnerabilities, and in economies with oil subsidies, the lower prices may provide room to strengthen fiscal positions.
•Oil exporting countries, on the other hand, have to absorb the terms-of-trade shock and face greater fiscal and external vulnerabilities.

•Emerging market and developing economies also have an important structural reform agenda. These economies can reap productivity gains by easing limits on trade and investment, removing infrastructure bottlenecks and improving business conditions.

Projection about India

•India’s growth is projected to strengthen from 7.2% in 2014 to 7.5 % in 2015 and 2016.

•For the first time since 1999, India’s growth rate may eclipse China’s and there is increasing divergence in the growth paths of the two countries.

•India is trying to shift from consumption to investment led growth at a time when China is going opposite way.


INDIA AND CANADA SIGNED NUCLEAR AGREEMENT ON SUPPLY OF URANIUM

India and Canada on 15 April 2015 signed a nuclear agreement on supply of uranium to India. The agreement was signed between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

PM Modi is on a three-day official visit to Canada, which is the first bilateral visit by an Indian Prime Minister in 42 years.

What is the agreement?

As part of the agreement, Canadian Cameco Corporation will supply 7.1 million pounds of uranium concentrate to India till 2020. The deal is worth 350 million US dollars. The uranium will be sourced from Cameco’s operations in northern Saskatchewan.

Cameco Corporation, the World's largest uranium producer, will make first deliveries in late 2015 and the pricing will be based on the market price for uranium, which is published price at the time of delivery.

Why it is of importance to India?

The uranium agreement is part of deal that took effect in 2013 and it is of great importance to India strategically and economically.

At present, India is the fourth largest consumer of energy in the world and it uses nuclear power for three percent of its electricity. However, under the planned Energy Revolution, India hopes to increase that number to 25 percent by 2050.

Besides, the uranium agreement signifies a new era of bilateral co-operation between India and Canada which turned frosty after India first conducted the test of nuclear bomb in 1970s leading to Canada banning exports of uranium and nuclear hardware to India.

Further, it reflects a new level of mutual trust and confidence between the two countries.


TIME MAGAZINE RELEASED LIST OF 100 MOST INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE IN THE WORLD

Time Magazine on 16 April 2015 released a list of 100 most influential people in the world. The list was topped by American rapper and singer Kanye Omari West.

The oldest person on the list is Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi, who at 88 finds himself the steward of the Arab world's youngest democracy.

For the third straight year, Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai, 17, is the youngest person on the list.

The list includes four Indian-origin persons namely Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chanda Kochhar, Managing Director and CEO of ICICI Bank, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, and Vikram Patel, co-founder of the NGO Sangath.

Chanda Kochhar has been described as a banker with vision and reach. She has brought India's largest private bank a global vision and impressive returns, while also reaching out to the nation's masses with branches in remote villages where banks simply didn't exist.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is billed as the turnaround artist who is setting Microsoft up for greatness again. Changes that once would have been considered blasphemous -- releasing open-source software, building on iOS and Android and even making Windows free in some cases -- are turning Microsoft around.

Vikram Patel, co-founder of the NGO Sangath and the Centre for Global Mental Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, is described as a Well-being warrior. He helps spread the simple yet profound idea of mental health for all. He provides hope that mental illness and trauma make us neither weak nor unworthy of love and respect.


UN RELEASED A REPORT TITLED GLOBAL E-WASTE MONITOR 2014

United Nations (UN) on 19 April 2015 released a report titled Global E-Waste Monitor 2014. The report has been compiled by the United Nations University (UNU), the UN’s think tank. The report offers a wealth of insights into the location and composition of the world’s fast-growing e-waste problem.

As per the report, in the year 2014 volume of e-waste is estimated around 41.8 million metric tonnes (Megatonnes – Mt) and it is expected to rise by 21 percent to 50 million Mt in 2018.

Also, e-waste contained 52 billion US dollars in resources, large volumes of toxic material out of which most is not collected for recovery or treatment.

Main Highlights of the Report

• The US and China produced the most e-waste overall in 2014 at 32 percent. India came in fifth, behind the US, China, Japan and Germany.

• The top per capita producers by far are the wealthy nations of northern and western Europe, the top five being Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark, and the UK.

• The lowest amount of e-waste per inhabitant was generated in Africa (1.7 kg/inhabitant). The continent generated 1.9 Mt of e-waste in total.

• Most world e-waste in 2014 was generated in Asia: 16 Mt (3.7 kg per inhabitant).

• The highest per inhabitant e-waste quantity (15.6 kg/inhabitant) was generated in Europe; the region (including Russia) generated 11.6 Mt.

• The lowest quantity of e-waste was generated in Oceania (0.6 Mt), however, per inhabitant the e-waste generated was nearly as high as Europe’s (15.2 kg/inhabitant)

• In 2014, only 7 per cent of e-waste was made up of mobile phones, calculators, personal computers, printers, and small information technology equipment

• Almost 60 per cent was a mix of large and small equipment used in homes and businesses, such as vacuum cleaners, toasters, electric shavers, video cameras, washing machines, electric stoves, mobile phones, calculators, personal computers, and lamps

• The e-waste generated in 2014 contained an estimated 16500 kilotons of iron, 1900 kilotons of copper, 300 tonnes of gold (equal to 11% of the world’s total 2013 gold production), as well as silver, aluminum, palladium plastic and other resources with a combined estimated value of 52 billion US dollar.

• Toxins in that e-waste, meanwhile, include 2.2 Mt of lead glass, 0.3 Mt of batteries, as well as mercury, cadmium, chromium and 4400 tonnes of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbon (CFCs).

• Health problems associated with such toxins include impaired mental development, cancer, and damage to liver and kidneys.

• In 2014, approximately 4 billion people were covered by national e-waste legislation (though not all laws cover the full range of e-waste and are not all enforced).

Comment
The global e-waste problem is escalating and it is mainly driven by the rising sales and shortening life cycles of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) EEE is essentially, any device with a battery or an electric cord.

On the one hand, e-waste constitutes a valuable urban mine, that is, it is a large potential reservoir of recyclable materials. On the other, the hazardous content of e-waste constitutes a toxic mine that must be managed with extreme care.


WORLD BANK ESTABLISHED POLLUTION MANAGEMENT AND ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH PROGRAM

World Bank on 18 April 2015 established Pollution Management and Environmental Health (PHEM) program. The program was officially launched on Global Citizen 2015 Earth Day in Washington, D.C.

The 45 million US Dollar PMEH program will initially run from 2015 to 2020 and focus primarily on air quality management in countries facing rapid urbanization and strong needs for pollution abatement measures, but also tackle water and land pollution.

In particular, the program will focus on air quality management in five major urban areas in India, China, Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa.

The PMEH program was backed by a new multi-donor trust fund. It was builds upon the knowledge of World Bank experts as well as internal and external stakeholders and partners to achieve three objectives:

•Support countries to significantly reduce air, land and water pollution levels through pollution management planning and investment to improve health,

•Generate new knowledge on pollution and its health impacts in urban, rural and marine areas,
•Promote awareness on this issue among policymakers, stakeholders and the public

Pollution contributes to the preventable deaths of an estimated 9 million people each year - most of them in developing countries.

An estimated 7 million people were killed by diseases related to indoor and outdoor air pollution alone in 2012 according to the World Health Organization

Comment
The World Bank has been committed in providing support to countries most severely impacted by pollution. Between 2009 and 2014, World Bank commitments (IBRD/IDA) to pollution management and environmental health totaled approximately 5 billion US dollar, with results spanning air pollution reduction in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, disposing safely of persistent organic pollutants in five countries in Africa, to easing pollution in China’s rivers.


INDIA, JAPAN SIGNED ACTION AGENDA FOR INVESTMENT AND TRADE PROMOTION

India and Japan on 30 April 2015 signed an action agenda for India-Japan investment and trade promotion and Asia-Pacific economic integration in New Delhi.

It was signed by Commerce Minister of India Nirmala Sitharaman and Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yoichi Miyazawa.

The action agenda contains five items, which can help in furthering the trade relations between India and Japan. The five agenda points in the action agenda are:

• Development of selected townships in India as Japanese industrial townships.

• Promotion of investment and infrastructure development.

• Further development and cooperation in information technology.

• Enhancing cooperation in strategic sectors.

• Asia-Pacific economic integration.

Besides, the Japanese Minister also said that the investments by Japan into Indian companies will double in next 5 years.

 

SEYCHELLES BECAME 161ST MEMBER OF WTO

Seychelles on 26 April 2015 became the 161st member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). With this, Seychelles archipelago of 90000 inhabitants became one of its smallest members.

Besides, Seychelles is also the 33rd government to accede to the rules-based multilateral trading system through Article XII negotiations since the WTO was established in 1995.

This approval by WTO ended the 20-year long wait of the country for becoming a member of WTO, as the country was negotiating its accession terms since 31 May 1995.

Seychelles had applied for WTO membership on 31 May 1995 and its accession was approved by the WTO members on 10 December 2014. The Protocol of Accession was signed by Pierre Laporte, former Minister of Trade, Finance and Investment of Seychelles and WTO Director‑General Roberto Azevedo.

 

ECONOMICS / BUSINESS / CORPORATE NEWS

 

ECONOMICS NEWS

 

UNION GOVERNMENT LAUNCHED FAME-INDIA SCHEME TO BOOST ELECTRIC, HYBRID VEHICLE SALES

Union Government on 1 April 2015 launched Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric vehicles (FAME) – India Scheme.

The scheme was launched with an aim to boost sales of eco-friendly vehicles in the country. It is a part of the National Mission for Electric Mobility.

The scheme envisages providing 795 crore rupees support till 2020 for the manufacturing and sale of electric and hybrid vehicles.

Characteristic Features of FAME – India Scheme

  • It envisages providing demand incentives to electric and hybrid vehicles from two wheelers to buses in range of 1800 rupees to 66 lakh rupees
  • Focus areas of the scheme will be technology development; demand creation; pilot projects; and charging infrastructure
  • Depending on technology, battery operated scooters and motorcycles will be eligible demand incentives ranging between 1800 rupees to 29000 rupees
  • In three-wheeler the incentives will range from 3300 rupees and 61000 rupees
  • In four-wheeler segment incentive ranges from 13000 rupees and 1.38 lakh rupees
  • In case of Light Commercial Vehicles (LCV) incentive ranges from 17000 rupees to 1.87 lakh rupees
  • In case of buses the incentive ranges from 34 lakh rupees to 66 lakh rupees
  • The Department of Heavy Industries will be nodal department for the scheme.

Implementation of the Scheme

The scheme will be implemented in phases with fund allocations of 260 crore rupees and 535 crore rupees for the first two years respectively. The funds will be spent on technology platform (including testing infrastructure) demand incentives, charging infrastructure, pilot projects and operations.

In the first phase, the scheme will be implemented over a two year period between 2015-16 and 2016-17. The government will review the implementation of the scheme in first phase after 31 March 2017.

The future allocation will depend on the outcome and experience gained during the period.

National Electric Mobility Mission Plan

Union Government launched the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) 2020 in 2013. NEMMP aims to achieve national fuel security by promoting hybrid and electric vehicles in the country. There is an ambitious target to achieve 6-7 million sales of hybrid and electric vehicles year on year from 2020 onwards.

Government aims to provide fiscal and monetary incentives to kick start this nascent technology. With the support from the Government, the cumulative sale is expected to reach 15-16 Million by 2020.


UNION GOVERNMENT LAUNCHED FAME-INDIA SCHEME TO BOOST ELECTRIC, HYBRID VEHICLE SALES

Union Government on 1 April 2015 launched Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric vehicles (FAME) – India Scheme.

The scheme was launched with an aim to boost sales of eco-friendly vehicles in the country. It is a part of the National Mission for Electric Mobility.

The scheme envisages providing 795 crore rupees support till 2020 for the manufacturing and sale of electric and hybrid vehicles.

Characteristic Features of FAME – India Scheme

  • It envisages providing demand incentives to electric and hybrid vehicles from two wheelers to buses in range of 1800 rupees to 66 lakh rupees
  • Focus areas of the scheme will be technology development; demand creation; pilot projects; and charging infrastructure
  • Depending on technology, battery operated scooters and motorcycles will be eligible demand incentives ranging between 1800 rupees to 29000 rupees
  • In three-wheeler the incentives will range from 3300 rupees and 61000 rupees
  • In four-wheeler segment incentive ranges from 13000 rupees and 1.38 lakh rupees
  • In case of Light Commercial Vehicles (LCV) incentive ranges from 17000 rupees to 1.87 lakh rupees
  • In case of buses the incentive ranges from 34 lakh rupees to 66 lakh rupees
  • The Department of Heavy Industries will be nodal department for the scheme.

Implementation of the Scheme

The scheme will be implemented in phases with fund allocations of 260 crore rupees and 535 crore rupees for the first two years respectively. The funds will be spent on technology platform (including testing infrastructure) demand incentives, charging infrastructure, pilot projects and operations.

In the first phase, the scheme will be implemented over a two year period between 2015-16 and 2016-17. The government will review the implementation of the scheme in first phase after 31 March 2017.

The future allocation will depend on the outcome and experience gained during the period.

National Electric Mobility Mission Plan

Union Government launched the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) 2020 in 2013. NEMMP aims to achieve national fuel security by promoting hybrid and electric vehicles in the country. There is an ambitious target to achieve 6-7 million sales of hybrid and electric vehicles year on year from 2020 onwards.

Government aims to provide fiscal and monetary incentives to kick start this nascent technology. With the support from the Government, the cumulative sale is expected to reach 15-16 Million by 2020.


PRIME MINISTER LAUNCHED MUDRA BANK UNDER PM JAN DHAN YOJANA TO FUND SMALL ENTREPRENEURS

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 8 April 2015 launched the Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency Ltd. (MUDRA) Bank to fund the small entrepreneurs.

The Bank was launched under the ambitious Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY). The bank will provide credit of up to 10 lakh rupees to small entrepreneurs and act as a regulator for Micro-Finance Institutions (MFIs).

It was set up through a statutory enactment. It would be responsible for developing and refinancing all Micro-finance Institutions (MFIs) which are in the business of lending to micro / small business entities engaged in manufacturing, trading and service activities.

The concept of MUDRA Bank goes beyond credit only approach and offers a credit plus solution for these enterprises spread across the country.

The role of MUDRA Bank

  • Lay down policy guidelines for micro enterprise financing business
  • Registration of MFI entities
  • Accreditation/rating of MFI entities
  • Lay down responsible financing practices to ward off over indebtedness and ensure proper client protection principles and methods of recovery
  • Development of standardised set of covenants governing last mile lending to micro enterprises
  • Promoting right technology solutions for the last mile
  • Formulating and running  a Credit Guarantee Scheme for providing guarantees to the loans/portfolios which are being extended to micro enterprises
  • Support development & promotional activities in the sector
  • Creating a good architecture of Last Mile Credit Delivery to micro  businesses under the scheme
  • It would partner with State/Regional level coordinators to provide finance to Last Mile Financiers of small/micro business enterprises.

Products offered by MUDRA Bank

The bank will initially offer products like Shishu, Kishor and Tarun to differentiate the stage of growth and funding needs of the beneficiary entrepreneur.

  • Shishu will cover loans up to 50000 rupees
  • Kishor will cover loans above 50000 rupees and up to 5 lakh rupees
  • Tarun will cover loans above 5 lakh rupees and up to 10 lakh rupees

Background

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had proposed the creation of a Micro Units Development Refinance Agency (MUDRA) Bank, with a corpus of 20000 crore rupees and credit guarantee corpus of 3000 crore rupees during the presentation of Union Budget 2015-16 on 28 February 2015.


WORLD BANK RELEASED SOUTH ASIA ECONOMIC FOCUS REPORT

World Bank on 13 April 2015 released South Asia Economic Focus report. The report has projected the economic growth of South Asia for the year 2016 and 2017.

As per the report, economic growth of the region will increase from 7 percent in 2015 to 7.6 percent by 2017. This increase in the forecast of growth rate has been possible primarily due to decline in oil prices and it could be achieved by maintaining strong consumption and increasing investment.

The region is among the greatest global beneficiaries from cheap oil, as all countries in it are net oil importers. In the Quarter 4 (Q4) of 2014 South Asia was already the fastest-growing region in the world.

Projection for India

The report projected a GDP growth rate of 8 per cent for India by 2017. In India, GDP growth is expected to accelerate to 7.5 per cent in fiscal year 2015-16. It could reach 8 per cent in FY 2017-18, on the back of significant acceleration of investment growth to 12 per cent during FY 2016 to FY 2018.

The report highlighted that India has already taken encouraging steps to decouple international oil prices from fiscal deficits and to introduce carbon taxation to address the negative externalities from the use of fossil fuels. The challenge will be to stay the course in the event of oil price hikes – something that may well happen in the medium term.

Region Wise Projection

Afghanistan
Report highlighted that Afghanistan can increase the GDP growth rate from 2.5 percent in 2015 to 5.0 percent in 2016. For achieving this growth, Afghanistan should pave a way towards successful political transition which needs to be supplemented by a stable security environment as well as by adequate management of the current fiscal crisis. Agriculture and services are likely to be the key drivers of growth in the immediate future.

Bangladesh
Growth in 2015 is now projected at 5.6 percent. However, a recovery driven by strong domestic demand is possible. It will require a continuation of single-digit inflation, an improved investment climate, and above all political stability.

Bhutan
Economic activity in Bhutan is expected to gain momentum with real GDP growing at 6.7 percent in 2015, driven by new hydropower construction and innovative tourism measures such as Visit Bhutan 2015.

Nepal
The GDP growth will remain in the 4.5 to 5 percent range. The fact that consumption remains the country’s main growth driver leaves it vulnerable to a slowdown in remittance growth. To improve its growth performance the country needs to boost infrastructure development to support private sector investment.

Pakistan
In Pakistan a gradual recovery to around 4.6 percent growth by 2016 is aided by low inflation, and fiscal consolidation. Further progress depends on tackling key growth constraints including frequent power cuts, a cumbersome business environment, and low tax revenue.

Sri Lanka

GDP growth is expected to decline to 6.9 percent in 2015 due to slowing construction activity. This trend is partially set off by consumption growth thanks to increased public sector wages and higher disposable income. With competitiveness remaining a challenge, the new government is reassessing the previous investment-led growth model.

 

WEF RELEASED A REPORT TITLED URBAN DEVELOPMENT RECOMMENDATIONS FOR INDIA UNDER FUDS INITIATIVE

World Economic Forum (WEF) on 13 April 2015 released a report titledUrban Development Recommendations for India under the Future of Urban Development and Services (FUDS) Initiative. The report has been written in collaboration with Accenture.

The report highlights the importance of wider private-sector participation to bridge the urban infrastructure and services funding gap of 110 billion US dollars, which is widening due to India’s rapid urban population growth.

The WEF in its report has made three recommendations on urban development which the Government of India can take so as to foster inclusive growth in urban India. These recommendations are:

Integrate spatial planning at all governmental levels: The primary goal of spatial planning is to integrate housing, strategic infrastructure and urban infrastructure, and improve national and local governance in the context of urban development.

Create a stable policy framework for private investment in urban infrastructure: This emphasizes on creating right conditions for the investors and foster public-private partnerships to enable investments in strategic infrastructure and urban development.

Create institutions to stimulate capacity building and attract talent to grow businesses: Private sector participation requires creation of institutions that will help the private sector in increasing the quality of white collar service jobs and attracting investment in manufacturing capacity.  It also emphasizes on need for interdisciplinary collaboration in the area of urban development.

Status of urban development in India

India with an urban population of 410 million is the world’s second largest urban population and its urban population is forecasted to almost double to 814 million between 2014 and 2050.

However, the urbanization rate of India is relatively low at 32 percent. As a result, India is witnessing accelerated migration from rural areas to cities. This in turn is leading to inadequate access to basic urban infrastructure and services facilities to urban population.

Towards this, Government of India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is making some efforts. These include among others introduction of 100 Smart Cities initiative, launch of Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY) and Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission).

For all this, India needs an investment of more than 640 billion US dollars between 2012 and 2031 to deliver basic urban infrastructure to this growing urban population.

About FUDS Initiative

The WEF Future of Urban Development and Services (FUDS) Initiative serves as a partner in transformation to cities around the world as they seek to address major urban challenges and transition towards smarter, more sustainable cities in this rapidly urbanizing world. The FUDS Initiative works collaboration with local partners.

The report on India is the third in the FUDS Initiative. The first two presented the results of the initiative’s engagement with three Chinese cities: Tianjin, Dalian and Zhangjiakou.


INDIAN ECONOMY TO GROW AT 7.5 PER CENT IN 2015: MOODY'S

Global Rating Agency Moody's on 17 April 2015 forecasted that Indian economy will grow at 7.5 percent in 2015. This growth rate is marginally higher compared with 7.2 percent in 2014.

As per the report, India's economy is on a cyclical upswing and forward-looking indicators suggest domestic demand is gathering momentum.

Also, low inflation has enabled the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to cut interest rates by 50 basis points easing pressure on the private sector.

Lower rates as well as the government's infrastructure and disinvestment programs should provide a boost to domestic-oriented industries.

On the issue of foreign investment, it said that though foreign investment in India has been weak because of significant red tape and taxes but government is taking encouraging steps to reduce these burdensome regulations to entice more foreign investment.

On the disinvestment front, it said the government has begun selling public sets as it plans to raise 70000 crore rupees in fiscal 2015-2016.

However, lower government spending is a downside risk to forecast over the coming year because if revenues fall short, the government is expected to cut expenditure to meet its 3.9 percent deficit target for 2015-2016.

The growth projections come soon after Moody’s on 9 April 2015 had revised India’s sovereign ratings outlook to positive (Baa3) from stable. Another ratings agency, Fitch, had reaffirmed its stable outlook on India.

Earlier on 14 April 2014, International Monetary Fund (IMF) in its World Economic Outlook April 2015 update projected that India will overtake China as the fastest growing emerging economy in 2015-16 by clocking a growth rate of 7.5 percent, helped by its recent policy initiatives, pick-up in investments and lower oil prices.

Also, World Bank in its South Asia Economic Focus report released on 13 April 2015 projected that Indian economy will grow at 7.5 percent in 2015-16 and could reach 8 percent in 2017-18.

 

BUSINESS NEWS

 

Reserve Bank of India has approved ING Vysya-Kotak Mahindra merger. The acquisition will make Kotak Mahindra fourth largest private sector lender in the country, with a total business of ₹2.25 lakh crore.

Telecom major Bharti Airtel has launched an open marketing platform—Airtel Zero—that will allow customers to access a variety of mobile applications for free while the data charges will be paid by the application providers. Akin to the established concept of toll-free voice calling, Airtel Zero will allow everyone from big marketers to small-time application developers to make parts or their entire mobile app free for customers – thus reviving interest of dormant customers, attracting new potential users and increasing retention.

India’s leading online marketplace Snapdeal has acquired mobile transactions platformFreeCharge in a cash-cum-stock deal for an undisclosed amount to become an m-commerce firm.

IndusInd Bank Ltd has decided to buy Royal Bank of Scotland’s diamond and jewellery financing business in India and the related deposit portfolio.

Finnish network equipment maker Nokia has agreed to buy Alcatel-Lucent in an all-share transaction that values the smaller French rival at 15.6 billion euros ($16.58 billion). The takeover will help the companies a better take on mobile leader Ericsson of Sweden, and cut costs amid weak growth prospects in the telecom gear industry. The combined firm will have a global wireless market share of 35 percent, second only to Ericsson with 40 percent, and ahead of China’s Huawei at 20 percent.

Iconic business leader Ratan Tata has acquired a stake in Chinese handset maker Xiaomi, the first investment by any Indian in the smartphone maker. He has already made personal investments in homegrown e-commerce players like Snapdeal, Urban Ladder, Bluestone and Cardekho.Com. He has also invested in mobile commerce firm Paytm.

French IT services company Capgemini will buy US-based IGATE Corp for $4 billion cash in a deal that will make North America its biggest market. IGATE, a technology and services company headquartered in New Jersey with 2014 revenues of $1.3 billion, double-digit growth, and a 19% operating margin, is to be acquired for $48 a share.

The new web browser in Windows 10 is called Microsoft Edge.

 

CORPORATE NEWS

 

RBI APPROVED THE AMALGAMATION OF ING VYSYA BANK WITH KOTAK MAHINDRA BANK

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on 1 April 2015 sanctioned the scheme of amalgamation of ING Vysya Bank Ltd. with Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd. The Scheme will come into force with effect from 1 April 2015.

With this sanction, all branches of ING Vysya Bank will function as branches of Kotak Mahindra Bank with effect from 1 April 2015.

The Scheme was sanctioned in exercise of the powers contained in Sub-section (4) of Section 44A of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949.

This approval of RBI for the merger deal would create Kotak as the country’s fourth largest private sector lender after HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank and Axis Bank in terms of market capitalisation.

Also, the deal is the first major bank takeover since Bank of Rajasthan was amalgamated with the ICICI Bank on 13 August 2010.

About the Kotak and ING Vysya merger

Kotak Mahindra Bank’s shareholder approved the amalgamation of ING Vysya Bank on 20 November 2014. As per the deal

• 725 shares of Kotak will be swapped for every 1000 share of ING Vysya at a share exchange ratio of 0.725 : 1

• ING Vysya including its business and branches will be merged into Kotak

• Kotak will issue shares to ING Vysya shareholders

• All shareholders (that of Kotak and ING Vysya) participate thereafter in the (merged) Kotak business

On 23 February 2015, the 15000 crore rupees merger deal received approval from the Competition Commission of India (CCI).

ING Vysya Bank is an old private sector bank that was set up in 1930 whereas Kotak Mahindra Bank is a new private sector bank that came into existence in 2003.

Uday Kotak is the Vice-Chairman and Managing Director of the Kotak Mahindra Bank.

 

CII AND EUROPEAN BANK FOR RECONSTRUCTION AND DEVELOPMENT (EBRD) SIGNED MOU TO DEEPEN PARTNERSHIP

Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) on 6 April 2015 signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to deepen partnership between Indian companies and the bank in those countries where the bank has operations.

It was signed by the CII Director General Chandrajit Banerjee and EBRD Vice-President Phil Bennett at a session on Inclusive Business: The Way Forward as part of the National Conference and Annual Session 2015 held by the CII in New Delhi.

Under the MoU, the EBRD countries of operations would benefit from the transfer of skills from world-class Indian companies. On the other hand, EBRD will be sharing its strong local knowledge with Indian companies that are either moving into the EBRD regions for the first time or which want to expand their operations in those countries.

The bank has already made 1 billion US dollar investment together with Indian companies and the MoU will help to utilize huge untapped potential in the Indian private sector.

About European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)

The bank was established in 1991 to support transition to market economies of socialist economies in Eastern Europe and the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).It is owned by 64 countries, the European Union and the European Investment Bank.

Suma Chakrabarti, an Indian origin British civil servant, has been the President of the bank since 2012.


DENA BANK INKED MOU WITH LIFE INSURANCE CORPORATION

Dena Bank on 6 April 2015 signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) of India to provide insurance cover to all Aadhaar-linked savings account holders of the bank in the age group of 18 to 50 years.

The insurance cover will be provided under the Prime Minister’s Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana (PMJBY) scheme. The scheme will come into effect from 1 June 2015.

Features of the PMJBY Scheme

• Risk of 2 lakh rupees will be covered in case of death

• A premium sum of 330 rupees per annum will be auto-debited to the account holder’s account

• As per the terms of risk coverage, a person has to opt for the scheme every year

The bank said that people who join the scheme before completing 50 years can continue to have the risk of life cover up to the age of 55 years.


RAJASTHAN AND VEDANTA GROUP SIGNED A MOU TO IMPROVE 3056 ANGANWADI CENTRES IN FIVE DISTRICTS

State Government of Rajasthan and Hindustan Zinc, a Vedanta group company on 8 April 2015 signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to improve 3056 anganwadi centres in five districts. The selected five districts are Udaipur, Chittorgarh, Bhilwara, Rajsamand and Ajmer.

The anganwadi centres will be improved in five years under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) which will benefit around 90000 children in these five districts.

As per the MoU signed

• About one thousand centres will be converted into model anganwadis in 5 years, that is, 200 anganwadis a year would be converted into model Anganwadis.

• The centres will be renovated and provided with uniform, child-friendly toilets, water filters, play materials, story painting on inside wall and others

• They will get new utensils and smokeless stoves in the kitchen.


BHEL AND RUSSIAN FIRM INTMA INKED MOU TO SET POWER PLANT IN KAZAKHSTAN

Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) and Russian company INTMA on 15 April 2015 signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to set up a gas-based power project in Kazakhstan.

According to the MoU, the two parties will endeavour to assist each other in the implementation of the deal.

The MoU aims to set forth a path to combine the BHEL's competence in design and manufacturing of power plants and INTMA's strength in handling EPC contracts so as to bid and execute projects of mutual interest in Russia and Kazakhstan.

This MoU will have BHEL to further its presence in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries.

About Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL)

BHEL is an integrated power plant equipment manufacturer and one of the largest engineering and manufacturing company of its kind in India. BHEL that in 2013 attained Maharatna status manufactures power plant equipment like gas turbines, steam turbines, hydro turbines and boilers. It also has robust experience in construction of power plants in India and overseas.

At present it is executing 23 major projects in 16 countries and has presence in 76 countries.

Indiana Chapter of the National Tooling and Machining Association (INTMA)

INTMA is one of the leading general Engineering Procurement and Construction contractors (EPC) in Russia and Kazakhstan. It carries a wide experience in industrial construction, renovation of facilities, automation and other energy related sectors.


KPMG ELECTED LYNNE DOUGHTIE AS FIRST WOMEN CEO AND CHAIRMAN

Accounting giant KPMG on 22 April 2015 elected company veteran Lynne Doughtie as its Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chairman. She is the first women to be elected to this position.

She was elected by KPMG partners for a five-year term which will start in July 2015.

She will succeed John Veihmeyer, who has served as Chairman and CEO since 2010 and simultaneously as Global Chairman of KPMG International since February of 2014.

Currently, she leads KPMG’s Advisory business and she has been at the company for three decades. She started at KPMG in 1985 as an auditor. Most recently, she led the firm’s US consulting branch, which has grown at 17% annual rate since she took over in 2011.

KPMG is one of the world’s leading professional services firms, and the fastest growing Big Four accounting firm in the United States.


SPORTS NEWS IN BRIEF

 

UNION SPORTS MINISTRY SIGNED MOU WITH IIFCL TO SUPPORT TOP SCHEME FOR BADMINTON

Union Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports (MYAS) on 31 March 2015 signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with India Infrastructure Finance Company Limited (IIFCL) to support Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOP) Scheme for Badminton sport.

Under the MOU, IIFCL shall contribute 30 crore rupees to the TOP Scheme under its initiatives for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). IIFCL have contributed 10 crore rupees so far.

Activities that will be taken as part of the MoU

  • To provide customized training and coaching to TOP Scheme Athletes at institutes/centers having world class facilities under the guidance of renowned coaches,
  • To provide world class equipment to TOP Scheme Athletes,
  • To ensure the availability of high quality support staff for the benefit of TOP Scheme Athletes, including but not limited to, physiotherapists and sports psychologists; and
  • To ensure that appropriate support whatever required, including but not limited to medical, nutrition and physiological support, is made available to the TOP Scheme Athletes during the Term.

Union Sports Ministry initiated the TOP Scheme under the NSDF.  The scheme envisages identification of athletes who are potential medal winners in Olympics and providing support to them for preparation for Olympics.

The National Sports Development Fund (NSDF) was established by the Union Sports Ministry with the objective of promotion of sports in general and specific sports disciplines and individual sports persons in particular for achieving excellence at the National and International level.


BRENDON MCCULLUM CONFERRED WITH SIR RICHARD HADLEE MEDAL FOR 2014-15

New Zealand cricket team captain Brendon McCullum on 1 April 2015 was conferred with the Sir Richard Hadlee Medal for 2014-15. McCullum won the award for his remarkable performance both as a player and the captain during the 2014-15 season.

The highest cricketing honour of New Zealand was presented to him during the New Zealand Cricket (NZC) Awards presentation ceremony held in New Zealand’s capital Auckland.

List of New Zealand Cricket Awards 2014-15 winners

Sir Richard Hadlee Medal - Brendon McCullum

International Women's Player of the Year - Suzie Bates

Redpath Cup (batting) - Kane Williamson

Winsor Cup (bowling) - Trent Boult

ANZ Twenty20 International Player of the Year - Kane Williamson

ANZ ODI Player of the Year - Kane Williamson

ANZ Test Player of the Year - Kane Williamson

Domestic Cricketer of the Year (men) - Andrew Ellis

Domestic Cricketer of the Year (women) - Amy Satterthwaite

Best Sutcliffe Award - Ross Dykes

Brendon McCullum performance in 2014-15

• He scored double Test Century against Pakistan in Sharjah in November 2014 and in the process scored the fastest test century by a New Zealander.

• He was the first New Zealander to score 1000 Test runs in a calendar year in the test against Sri Lanka at Hagley Oval in Christchurch where he also scored another captain’s knock of 195. Overall, he scored 1164 runs in the season.

• Under his leadership the team registered the successful test season, claiming five Test wins.

• He scored an ODI century against Sri Lanka in the lead up the ICC Cricket World Cup and was selected as the captain of the ICC tournament team.

• He successfully lead the team to their first ever ICC Cricket World cup final in March 2015 in which Australia won by 7 wickets.

• Overall McCullum has scored 5451 runs in 89 Tests and 5808 runs in 248 ODI matches.

Earlier in February 2015, he was named as the New Zealand sportsman of the year and became the first cricketer to win the title since 1991.


SANIA MIRZA AND MARTINA HINGIS WON 2015 MIAMI OPEN WOMEN'S DOUBLES TITLE

Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis, the Indo-Swiss women pair of Tennis, on 5 April 2015 won the Miami Open Tennis women's doubles title. In the title clash played in Miami, Florida, the duo defeated the Russian pair of Elena Vesnina and Ekaterina Makarova, 7-5, 6-1.

This was second consecutive team title for the Indo-Swiss pair. Earlier on 21 March 2015, Mirza and Hingis had won the Indian Wells Open.

Beside this, world number one Novak Djokovic of Serbia won the Men's Singles trophy of Miami Open. In the final clash, he defeated Andy Murray of Scotland 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-0. This was Djokovic's fifth Miami Open trophy.


NOVAK DJOKOVIC AND SERENA WILLIAMS WON THE 2015 MIAMI OPEN TENNIS SINGLES TITLES

Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams won the 2015 Miami Open Men’s and women’s singles titles of the  respectively at Crandon Park Tennis Center in Miami, Florida.

Novak Djokovic of Serbia on 5 April 2015 beat the third seeded Andy Murray of Britain 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-0 to win his fifth Miami Open title.

In doing so, Djokovic became the first player to win at Indian Wells and Miami back-to-back for three consecutive years.

With this win, Djokovic and Murray have combined to win eight of the past ten Miami Open men’s titles.

Serene Williams of the US on 4 April 2015 defeated the twelfth seed Suarez Navarro of Spain 6-2, 6-0 to secure the title for eighth time.

With this win, Williams has won 66 singles titles, one behind Billie Jean King of the US.

Earlier, she recorded her 700th career match win in the quarter-finals by defeating Sabine Lisicki of Germany.

At present, both Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams are placed at the top spots in men’s and women’s singles rankings respectively.


RAJEEV SHUKLA APPOINTED AS CHAIRMAN OF IPL GOVERNING COUNCIL

Rajeev Shukla on 6 April 2015 was re-appointed as the chairman of the Indian Premier League's (IPL) Governing Council by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

His appointment came just a day before the opening ceremony of the IPL-8 in Kolkata.

Former Union Minister and Congress leader Shukla was the IPL chairman till 2013 when he resigned from the post in the aftermath of the IPL spot-fixing scandal.

Sourav Ganguly was a new entrant to the IPL Governing Council while the senior national selection committee led by Sandeep Patil was retained for another season. Team India Director Ravi Shastri also remained in the IPL Governing Council.

Other inclusions in the Governing Council include

• Head the Marketing Committee – Chetan Desai of Goa

• Chairman of the Technical committee – Anil Kumble

• Head the powerful finance committee - Jyotiraditya Scindia

• In-charge of the Tours and Programmes Committee - Gokaraju Gangaraju of Andhra Pradesh

• Head of the Media Committee - Biswarup Dey, the treasurer of the Cricket Association of Bengal

• Affiliations Committee head - Anurag Thakur

• Chair the Constitution Review Committee – BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya


DRONAVALLI HARIKA WON BRONZE IN WORLD WOMEN'S CHESS CHAMPIONSHIP

Indian Grandmaster Dronavalli Harika on 6 April 2015 won Bronze medal along with Swedish Grandmaster Pia Cramling in the World Women’s chess championships held at Sochi, Russia.

In the semi-final clash, Harika lost to Mariya Muzychuk of Ukraine. She got 20000 US dollars for the Bronze medal finish.

The last-four finish helped Harika a place in the Women's Grand-prix for the next World championship cycle.

World Women Chess Championship was won by Mariya Muzychuk of Ukraine. She defeated Russian Natalija Pogonina by 2.5 to 1.5 points in the four-game final. While Muzychuk won 60000 US dollars, Pogonina bagged 30000 US dollars.


INDIAN FOOTBALL TEAM CLIMBED TO 147 POSITION IN FIFA/COCA-COLA RANKINGS

Indian men’s football team climbed 26 places to occupy the 147th position in the April edition of the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking out of 209 football playing nations or regions.

The rankings were released on 9 April 2015 by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).

Indian team could improve its position due to its commendable performance in two matches against Nepal held in March 2015.

India defeated Nepal 2-0 and drew 0-0 in those matches which were held as part of 2018 World Cup Qualifiers Round One.

The present improvement of 26 positions is the third biggest for India since the FIFA rankings started in 1993. The previous two biggest were 29 and 30 places in October 1993 and February 1996 respectively.

Among the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) countries, India is at third spot behind Afghanistan (135) and Maldives (141).

The top five countries/regions in the FIFA rankings are

Germany (1)

Argentina (2)

Belgium (3)

Colombia (4)

Brazil (5)

The bottom five countries/regions in the FIFA rankings are

Eritrea (205)

Somalia (206)

Djibouti (207)

Cook Islands (208)

Anguilla (209)


SANIA MIRZA AND MARTINA HINGIS WON WTA FAMILY CIRCLE CUP

Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis, the top-seeded Indo-Swiss pair of Tennis on 12 April 2015 won the 731000 US dollar WTA Family Circle Cup doubles title. In the title clash played at Charleston in the United States, the duo defeated Australian-Croatian pair of Casey Dellacqua and Darija Jurak 6-0, 6-4.

This was third consecutive team title for the Indo-Swiss pair. Earlier, they won the Miami Open Tennis women's doubles title on 5 April 2015 and Indian Wells Open title on 21 March 2015.

With this win, Sania Mirza also became the first female tennis player from India to achieve the world number one rank in doubles. Sania is also first female player from the country to win Grand Slam tournaments.

Before Sania, only Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhuapthi had achieved the top rank when they dominated men's doubles circuit in the last 1990s.


NEW ZEALAND WON SULTAN AZLAN SHAH CUP MEN’S HOCKEY TOURNAMENT BY DEFEATING AUSTRALIA

New Zealand on 12 April 2015 won the 2015 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup men’s hockey tournament. In the final clash played at the Sultan Azlan Shah Stadium in Ipoh, Malaysia, New Zealand defeated World Champions Australia 3-1.

New Zealand’s win was steered by three saves from goalkeeper Devon Manchester.

New Zealand won the title for only the second time since the inception of Sultan Azlan Shah Cup competition in 1983. New Zealand’s first victory came in 2012 against Argentina.

On the other hand, Australia had won the cup in 1983, 1996, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2011, 2013 and 2014.

Earlier, India defeated South Korea 4-1 in a penalty shootout to clinch the Broze medal (third position). This is the first major win for India in Hockey since it won the Gold medal of Hockey at the Incheon Asian Games 2014 defeating Pakistan in the final.

In another game for fifth position playoff, Canada defeated Malaysia 3-1 in the penalty shootout after both teams were tied at 4-4 in regulation time.

Sultan Azlan Shah Cup Snapshot

• Champion: New Zealand

• Runner up: Australia

• Third Place: India

Best Player: Andy Hayward of New Zealand

• Fair Play Award (Raja Ashman Shah Trophy): Canada

• Top scorer: Jamie Dwyer of Australia with 7 goals

• Best Goalkeeper: Devon Manchester of New Zealand

• Man-of-the-match: Mark Knowles of Australia

About Sultan Azlan Shah Cup

The Sultan Azlan Shah Cup is an annual international men's field hockey tournament held in Malaysia. It began in 1983 as a biennial contest. The tournament became an annual event after 1998, following its growth and popularity. The tournament is named after the ninth Yang di-Pertuan Agong (King) of Malaysia, Sultan Azlan Shah, who was an avid fan of field hockey.


SACHIN TENDULKAR ELECTED AS MEMBER OF LAUREUS SPORTS ACADEMY

Indian batting legend Sachin Tendulkar on 15 April 2015 was elected as member of prestigious Laureus Sports Academy. He was named as member at the 16th Laureus World Sports Awards ceremony in Shanghai, China.

He was elected along with retired Chinese professional basketball player Yao Ming. With this, the total number of members of Laureus Sports Academy reached 52.

Kapil Dev and Rahul Dravid are the other Indian cricketers to have received this recognition.

Besides, former FC Barcelona and Spain star Carles Puyol was named as the Laureus Ambassador.

The Laureus World Sports Academy is a unique association of 52 of the greatest living sporting legends, under the chairmanship of Edwin Moses. The Academy Members act as global ambassadors for Laureus, volunteering their time to support the work of the Foundation.

Laureus , established in 2000, is a non-political international charity that works to improve the lives of young people around the world through the use of sport. The first Patron of Laureus was Nelson Mandela.


NOVAK DJOKOVIC WON MONTE CARLO MASTERS TITLE OF TENNIS

Novak Djokovic of Serbia on 20 April 2015 won his second Monte-Carlo Masters title of Tennis. In the final clash played at Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Djokovic defeated Tomas Berdych of Czech Republic 7-5, 4-6, 6-3.

With this win, 27-year-old Djokovic also became the first player to sweep the opening three ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events of a season. The previous two titles were won at Indian Wells and Miami.

This was 17th straight win for the world No.1 and a 23rd Masters Crown in total, which equals with Roger Federer for second on the titles list.

List of Leading Masters 1000 winners

• 27 titles: Rafael Nadal

• 23 titles: Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer

• 17 titles: Andre Agassi

• 11 titles: Pete Sampras

• 9 titles: Andy Murray


NEERAJ KUMAR APPOINTED AS CHIEF ADVISER OF ANTI-CORRUPTION & SECURITY UNIT OF BCCI

Former Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar was on 20 April 2015 appointed as chief adviser of the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s (BCCI) Anti-Corruption & Security Unit (ACSU). He will have a term of one year, that is, till 2016.

Kumar succeeded Ravi Sawant.

His appointment was made during Governing Council Meeting of the Indian Premier League (IPL) chaired by IPL chairman Rajeev Shukla in New Delhi.

Neeraj Kumar is a 1976 batch IPS officer of the AGMU cadre. Earlier, he has served as the Delhi Police commissioner for 13 months i.e. from June 2012 to July 2013.

In 2013, Delhi Police under Kumar's leadership arrested cricketer S Sreesanth along with domestic spinners Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandila for allegedly getting involved in spot-fixing during the sixth edition of the IPL.


WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO DEFEATED BRYANT JENNINGS TO DEFEND HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE OF BOXING

Wladimir Klitschko of Ukraine on 25 April 2015 successfully defended his world heavyweight boxing title for the 18th time in a row. At Madison Square Garden in New York, Klitschko defeated his American challenger Bryant Jennings with a lopsided 12-round unanimous point decision.

Two judges saw it 116-111 for Klitschko, while the third made it 118-109 for the champion.

The 39-year-old Klitschko has not lost since he was stopped in the fifth round by Lamon Brewster in a WBO title fight on 10 April 2004 in Las Vegas.

This was first fight for Klitschko since knocking out previously unbeaten Kubrat Pulev in November 2014. It was also his first bout outside Europe since he took the WBO title from Sultan Ibragimov on 23 February 2008 at Madison Square Garden.


INDIA WON A GOLD AND A BRONZE AT 2015 ASIAN INDOOR ROWING CHAMPIONSHIP

India won a Gold and a Bronze at the 2015 Asian Indoor Rowing Championship. The championship was held from 25 April 2015 to 26 April 2015 in Pattaya, Thailand.

Dushyant Singh and Succha Singh Tomar won the gold in the 2000m men’s light weight pair category, clocking 6:26.50.

In the 2000m men’s open-pair event, Om Prakash and Rajesh Verma settled for a bronze with a timing of 6:22.50.

This is the first time the Indians were competing in an indoor event.

National Coach Ismail Baig accompanied the team. FISA Umpire Rupam Karmakar officiated from India.


INDIA CROWNED CHAMPIONS FOR THE FIRST TIME AT 22ND PRESIDENT'S CUP BOXING TOURNAMENT

India was crowned champions at the 22nd President’s Cup Open International Boxing Tournament on 27 April 2015. This is for the first time that India was crowned champions at the President’s Cup which was held at Palembang, South Sumatra, Indonesia.

India finished the tournament on top with 33 points that included 4 Gold and 1 Bronze. Mongolia was placed second in the tournament.

The Gold for India in women’s category was won by Shamjetsabam Sarjubala and Pinki Jangra in the 48 kg and 51 kg category respectively. Sarjubala, a World Championships silver-medallist, defeated Russian pugilist Iseva Joya while Pinki defeated Mongolia's Nandintsetseg to win the Gold.

In the men’s category, the Gold was won by Rakesh Kumar and Harpal Singh in 69 kg and 75 kg category respectively. Rakesh defeated Hiroaki Kinjo of Japan while Harpal defeated Jee Deok-Seong of Korea to win the Gold.

The Bronze was won by Manish Kumar in the 60kg category after he lost to Mongolia's Dorjnyambuu Otgondalai in the semifinals.

More than 130 boxers from 30 countries participated in the tournament.


RAILWAYS WON 5TH SENIOR MEN’S NATIONAL HOCKEY CHAMPIONSHIP

Railway Sports Promotion Board (RSPB) on 28 April 2015 won 5th Senior Men’s National Hockey championship 2015. In the final match played in Pune, Maharashtra, Railways defeated Uttar Pradesh Hockey (UPH) by 5-3.

In the Position match, Air India Sports Promotion Board (AISPB) defeated Hockey Gangpur-Odisha by 5-3 to finish at 3rd position in the tournament.

Individual Awardees

• Best Goalkeeper: Arpit Choudhary (Jharkhand)

• Best Defender: Amit Rohidas (Railways)

Best Mid-fielder: Jasjit Singh (Railways)

• Best Forward: Lali Upadhyay (Uttar Pradesh)

• Promising player of the Championship: Vikramjit Singh (Punjab)

• Promising player from Maharashtra: Akash Chikte (Goalkeeper)

 

IN BRIEF

India has been elected to four key subsidiary bodies of the United Nations’ agency on economic and social issues, continuing its impressive record of winning elections at the world body. India was elected by acclamation, a form of election that does not use a ballot, to the subsidiary bodies of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It was also elected, along with 13 other nations, to the Executive Board of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for a three-year term beginning January 2016, and re-elected to the Executive Board of the World Food Programme for the 2016-2018 term along with five other nations. It was also among the 20 nations to be elected to the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ) for a three-year term, beginning January 2016. India also got re-elected to the Governing Council of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) for the term 2016-2019.

India has a low rank of 101 among the 133 countries measured for their social progress, even below some immediate neighbours such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka, indicating the level of meeting basic human needs and well-being, among other factors. Conducted by Social Progress Imperative, a US-based non-profit organisation set up in 2012, the index is seen as a measure of relationship between income inequality and social progress by using the commonly deployed Gini coefficient on income inequality. Norway is on the first rank, while the US is placed at rank 16th.

“Operation Rahat” was launched by India to evacuate its nationals from Yemen. India pulled out 5,600 people from the worn-torn country.

The Houthis are followers of the Shia Zaidi sect, the faith of around a third of Yemen’s population. Officially known as Ansarallah (the partisans of God), the group began as a movement preaching tolerance and peace in the Zaidi stronghold of North Yemen in the early 1990s. After some protests pitted it against the government, the group launched an insurgency in 2004 against the then ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh that lasted till 2010. Their opponents view them as a proxy of Shia Iran. The group is hostile to the United States but has also vowed to eradicate al-Qaeda. They participated in the 2011 Arab Spring inspired revolution in Yemen that replaced Saleh with Abdrahbu Mansour Hadi.

World Autism Awareness day is observed on April 2.

A Minor planet, which was one among 6,50,000 such astral bodies in space has named after India’s chess cahampion Viswanathan Anand, as ‘4538 Vishyanand.’ It all began when Michael Rudenko, a committee member of Minor Planet Center, was invited to name this planet. Rudenko, being Chess enthusiast, named it after the five-time world chess champion.

The World Health Day (WHD) 2015 was observed on 7 April 7 with the World Health Organization setting this year’s theme as “From farm to plate, make food safe”, in a bid to bring focus on growing global burden of food borne diseases while also underscoring the need for coordinated cross-border action across the entire food supply chain.

Mission Indradhanush is the flagship programme of the Union government to ensure immunisation of children and pregnant women. It will cover diseases such as diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, measles and hepatitis B.

Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency (MUDRA)) Yojna, launched under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, will provide much-needed financial access to MSMEs, promote growth of small businesses, help boost the country’s GDP and create jobs. In due course, after the Parliament passes the law, it will be converted into a bank. MUDRA will focus on the 5.75 crore self-employed who use funds of ₹11 lakh crore and provide jobs to 12 crore people. The roles envisaged for the proposed MUDRA (Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency) Bank include laying down policy guidelines for micro enterprise financing business as well as registration of MFIs, their accreditation and rating.

The Art in Island in the Philippines’s capital Manila uses three dimensional replicas of paintings and is rightly dubbed the planet’s “first-ever selfie museum”. The museum not only encourages its visitors in selfie-taking in the premises, they are also invited to touch, play with, and climb on the paintings and sculptures.

Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT), as India’s first smart city coming up at Gandhinagar is called, will double up as a financial hub, with tax and other breaks to lure banks, brokerages and other businesses. Developed in partnership with IL&FS Engineering and Construction, it aims to compete with India’s own financial capital of Mumbai as well as overseas rivals like Dubai and Singapore.

Internet.org is a partnership between social networking service company Facebook and seven mobile phone companies (Samsung, Ericsson, MediaTek, Microsoft, Opera Software, Reliance and Qualcomm) that aims to bring affordable Internet access to everybody by increasing affordability, increasing efficiency, and facilitating the development of new business models around the provision of Internet access. It aims to provide internet access to a limited portion of the internet for free, included a total of 37 websites or apps other than Facebook. However, according to many critics, the initiative violates net neutrality. Following large-scale protests against breach of net neutrality, several partners of the Indian internet.org program bailed out of the program.

India is the fifth biggest producer of e-waste in the world, discarding 1.7 million tonnes (Mt) of electronic and electrical equipment in 2014, according to the ‘Global E-Waste Monitor 2014’, compiled by UN think tank United Nations University (UNU). USA and China produced the most e-waste overall in 2014. Japan and Germany were third and fourth, respectively, in the list. Most e-waste in the world in 2014 was generated in Asia, at 16 Mt or 3.7kg per inhabitant. The top three Asian nations with the highest e-waste generation in absolute quantities are China (6.0Mt), Japan (2.2Mt) and India (1.7Mt).

A Japanese maglev that is the fastest passenger train in the world has broken its own speed record. Operator JR Central said the train reached 603 kmph in a test run, surpassing its previous record of 581 kmph set in 2003. The train travelled for about 2 km at a speed exceeding 600 kmph. The Maglev Test Line, near Mount Fuji about 80 km west of Tokyo, is developing technology for use on a future link between Tokyo and Osaka. The magnetic levitation trains hover above rails, suspended by powerful magnets.

World Malaria Day is observed on April 25. World Malaria Day was instituted by WHO Member States during the 2007 World Health Assembly and is celebrated on 25 April each year. It is an occasion to highlight the need for continued investment and sustained political commitment for malaria control and elimination. The theme for the 2013-2015 campaign is “Invest in the Future. Defeat malaria”.

India has set-up a dedicated mission in Jakarta for dealing with the 10-member ASEAN bloc.

National Panchayati Raj day is observed on April 24.

‘Operation Maitri’ was rescue and relief operation in Nepal by Indian Armed Forces in the aftermath of the 2015 Nepal earthquake.

International Dance Day is observed on April 29. Initiated in 1982 by the International Dance Committee of the UNESCO International Theatre Institute, International Dance Day commemorates the birthday of Jean-Georges Noverre, a distinguished choreographer that brought about significant reforms in ballet production.

Punjab National Bank has become the first bank to start Sukanya Samriddhi Scheme accounts. Sukanya scheme is only open to girls below 10 years. For 2015, the government allowed a grace period of one year so even girls up to 11 were eligible. The scheme also has a longer tenure and partial withdrawals are allowed only after the child turns 18 or gets married. A parent or legal guardian can open a Sukanya account in the name of a girl. To open an account, one needs to submit a copy of the birth certificate of the child, address proof and identity proof.

Vishwanathan Anand is not the first Indian to have a planet named after him—‘Vishyanand’. Indians are no strangers to having planetary bodies named after them and these whiz kids have had their own planets for a while now: At 16, Hamsa Padmanabhan had a minor planet 21575 named ‘Hamsa’ after her; NASA named a minor planet (5178 No CD4) after Kerala zoology professor Sainudeen Pattazhy for his environmental research and campaigns, including red rain and health hazard of mobile phone towers; In 2010, Vishnu Jayaprakash, then a Chennai Class XII student of Chettinad Vidyashram demonstrated a microbial fuel cell that runs on cow dung and inexpensive graphite electrodes. The minor planet named after him is called 25620 Jayaprakash; When Anish Mukherjee and Debarghya Sarkar were only 16 years old, they noticed the large scale bottle tampering rampant in India. They took the idea of auto-disposable syringes—which, once used, cannot be used again—and implemented that for one-time use bottle cap. Their design enabled customers to know if the the bottle had been tampered with. For this, planet 2000 AH52 was renamed 25629 Mukherjee; for his contribution to electrical and mechanical engineering, 25630 Sarkar (previously 2000 AT53) is named after Debarghya Sarkar; Planet 25636 Vaishnav was named after Hetal Vaishnav for her contribution to the environment; After Akshat Singhal found how annoying it was to index documents in a computer, he developed a system to automatically categorise documents, and also find relations between them, using artificial intelligence. The planet named after him, 12599 Singhal, is in the same region of planets that has 8749 Beatles, 2001 Einstein and 7000 Curie; Madhav Pathak has changed the conventional Braille slate, making writing easier for the visually impaired. For this, he has 12509 Pathak named after him.

 

SHORT ANSWER QUESTIONS (SAQ’S)

• To boost sales of eco-friendly vehicles in the country, the Union Government on 1 April 2015 launched - Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric vehicles (FAME), India Scheme

• The face of India’s anti-tobacco campaign, died on 1 April 2015 at her native village in Bhind district of Madhya Pradesh - Sunita Tomar

• Massive air and sea operation to evacuate over 4000 Indians from Yemen - Operation Raahat

• Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 27 March 2015 launched a campaign that seeks to extort the better off sections of society to forego their liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) subsidy - Give it Up 

• 12-year-old Muslim girl who in March 2015 won the first position at the Shrimad Bhagwad Gita Champion League - Mariyam Asif Siddiqui

• One of the top mountaineers of India, who died on 4 April 2015 on Andes Mountains in South America, between Argentina and Chile - Malli Mastan Babu

• The Supreme Court (SC) of India on 6 April 2015 asked the Union Government to re-examine an Act to make it more stringent at least in cases pertaining to heinous crimes like rape and murder - the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000

• The Supreme Court (SC) of India on 6 April 2015 said that divorced Muslim women are entitled to seek maintenance from their ex-husbands under - Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

• Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on 7 April 2015 recommended the establishment of - Integrated Emergency Communication and Response System (IECRS) in the country.

• President of India, Pranab Mukherjee on 9 April 2015 appointed a person as the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) - Dr. Nasim Zaidi

• Union Home Ministry on 10 April 2015 notified amendments to the Governors (Allowances and Privileges) Rules, 1987 and named these rules as - Governors (Allowances and Privileges) Amendment Rules, 2015

• The recipient of the Mahavir Chakra and hero of 1971 Indo-Pak war, who died on 11 April 2015 in Dehradun, Uttarakhand at the age of 82 - Lt General (retd) Hanut Singh

• Myanmar Government and 16 ethnic rebel groups signed a draft nationwide cease-fire agreement aimed at - ending more than 65 years of civil unrest and armed conflict in the country. 

• Prime Minister of Peru who was sacked after she lost the vote of confidence in Congress over alleged domestic spying - Ana Jara

• The US court that on 3 April 2015 ruled that Yoga taught in San Diego County schools does not violate religious freedom - California Appeals Court

• Person who was appointed as the seventh Prime Minister of Peru on 2 April 2015 - Pedro Cateriano Bellido

• 15-year-old Indian-origin schoolboy in the United Kingdom, who on 12 March 2015 was awarded with the 500 pounds Institute of Physics (IOP) Prize - Pratap Singh

• The University of Cape Town (UCT) of South Africa on 8 April 2015 voted to remove a statue of British colonialist from the campus - Cecil Rhodes

• A painting that was gifted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to French President Francois Hollande during his visit to France from 9 April to 12 April 2015 was titled as - Tree of Life

• Nobel laureate German novelist Gunter Grass died on 13 April 2015 in Luebeck was famous for his novel - The Tin Drum

• The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) imposed a monetary penalty of five lakh rupees on 16 Central Co-operative Banks (CCBs) for non-adherence of - the Know Your Customer and Anti-Money Laundering guidelines.

• The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) sanctioned the scheme of amalgamation of two banks and they are - ING Vysya Bank Ltd. with Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd.

• The cheap meal scheme that will provide highly subsidised food to urban poor at an expense of 5 rupees in Odisha – Aahar

• Capital city of Andhra Pradesh will be named as – Amaravathi

• Person who on 4 April 2015 was sworn-in as the 16th Governor of Mizoram - Keshari Nath Tripathi

• Village of southern Rajasthan's Rajsamand district that embraces daughters and has created a tradition of planting 111 trees every time on the birth of a girl child - Piplantri

• Uttar Pradesh Government on 8 April 2015 conferred Sahitya Shiromani Samman on noted Hindi poet - Gopal Das Neeraj and Uday Pratap Singh.

• Tamil novelist, short story writer and literary critic who died in Chennai on 8 April 2015 - Jayakanthan 

• State Government of Haryana on 13 April 2015 decided to accord status equivalent to a Cabinet Minister on – Baba Ramdev 

• Name of the Minor Planet between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter that was named after India’s first chess grandmaster, Vishwanathan Anand - 4538 Vishyanand

• The Indo-Swiss women pair of Tennis that on 5 April 2015 won the Miami Open Tennis women's doubles title - Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis

• Person who on 6 April 2015 was re-appointed as the chairman of the Indian Premier League's (IPL) Governing Council by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) - Rajeev Shukla

• Indian State that on 7 April 2015 won the 2014-15 Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy played at the KIIT Cricket Stadium, Bhubaneshwar – Gujarat

• Former Australian cricket captain and legendary commentator who died in Sydney on 10 April 2015 after fighting a long battle with skin cancer - Richie Benaud

• The top-seeded Indo-Swiss pair of Tennis that on 12 April 2015 won the 731000 US dollar WTA Family Circle Cup female doubles title - Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis

• This country on 12 April 2015 won the 2015 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup men’s hockey tournament by defeating World Champions Australia – New Zealand

• The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change on 7 April 2015 proposed a three colour-based coded system to re-classify industries based on pollution potential - Red, Orange and Green.

• Rare bird that was sighted by two Mumbai-based professionals and keen amateur birders at the Narara Marine National Park near Jamnagar in Gujarat - Grey Hypocolius (Hypocolius ampelinus

• The spiders belonging to the Thomisidae family in the first week of April 2015 were named after Telangana state as - Telangana crab spider (Thomisus telanganensis)

• City that on 9 April 2015 was awarded the title of Global Earth hour Capital 2015 after it won the Earth Hour City Challenge (EHCC) of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) – Seoul city, the capital and largest metropolis of South Korea

• Indian city that was named as the National Earth Hour Capital 2015 on 9 April 2015 - Thane in Mumbai, Maharashtra

• Union Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation on 14 April 2015 constituted a Task Force on Interlinking of Rivers (ILR) under chairmanship of - BN Navalawala

• The 45-day long annual fishing ban in the territorial waters of Eastern Coastal Zone of the country including Andaman & Nicobar Islands was enforced on - 15 April 2015

• Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on 14 April 2015 decided to rename Tourist Visa on Arrival-Electronic Travel Authorization scheme (TVoA-ETA) as - e-Tourist Visa (eTV) scheme

• India-Germany Joint Statement was released on 14 April 2015 with an aim to - upgrade and further strengthen the Strategic Partnership between the two countries

• Woman who 15 April 2015 was sworn in as the first lady judge of the Sikkim High Court - Meenakshi Madan Rai

• Former Prime Minister of Nepal, who died on 15 April 2015 in Gurgaon, Haryana at the age of 87 - Surya Bahadur Thapa

• India and Belarus on 15 April 2015 agreed to enhance their bilateral ties especially in the field of - trade and economy.

• Indian batting legend Sachin Tendulkar on 15 April 2015 was elected as member of prestigious Laureus Sports Academy along with retired Chinese professional basketball player - Yao Ming.

• Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) and Russian company INTMA on 15 April 2015 signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to set up a gas-based power project in - Kazakhstan. 

• Pakistan and a country on 16 April 2015 agreed to hold their first-ever joint military exercises as a part of their enhanced defence cooperation - Russia

• Indian-origin person who on 16 April 2015 was honoured with the White House Champions of Change - Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella

• The US State, who’s House of Representatives on 16 April 2015 voted to make Andrew Jackson's Bible as the official book - Tennessee

• Artist of the Miniature Painting titled Guru Nanak Dev which was gifted to Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 15 April 2015 - Virendra Bannu, a Jaipur-based artist

• World Haemophilia Day was observed globally on 17 April 2015 with theme - Building a family of support 

• 17 April was chosen as a day to observe Hemophilia day in 1989 to honor the founder of WFH, whose birthday falls on the same date - Frank Schnabel

• The State that on 18 April 2015 decided to discontinue the colonial-era practice under which police guard of honour was given to ministers and top officials by terming it as a waste of time and resources - Maharashtra

• Andhra Pradesh (AP) government on 17 April 2015 entered into a MoU with a company to replace the existing streetlights in 13 municipalities with LED lights and maintain them for seven years – IISL

• In a bid to wean people away from addiction to liquor, the Kerala Government on 19 April launched a project named - Subodham

• The first woman who climbs the 8850 metre (29035 feet) Mount Everest summit twice in a week - Chhurim Sherpa

• Three Indian race walkers, who qualified for 2016 Rio Olympics on 19 April 2015 are - Khushbir Kaur, Manish Rawat and Sandeep Kumar

• The State Government of Maharashtra on 17 April 2015 constituted a taskforce on - agriculture development and poverty alleviation 

• Communist Party of India (Marxist) CPI (M) on 19 April 2015 unanimously elected a person as the fifth general secretary of the party - Sitaram Yechury

• The East Bengal Club cricketer who died on 20 April 2015 due to an injury sustained during a Cricket Association of Bengal's senior one-day knock-out match at the age of 20 - Ankit Keshri

• A new species of Gecko, a type of lizard usually found in warm climates was spotted by researchers from the Osmania University in Hyderabad at - the ruins of the World Heritage Site of Hampi in Karnataka

• Former Governor of Assam and three-time Chief Minister of Odisha who died on 21 April 2015 in Tirupati - Janaki Ballabh Patnaik

• Cricketer who was appointed as the Ambassador of Africa T20 Cup which was announced by Cricket South Africa (CSA) on 21 April 2015 - former Proteas paceman Makhaya Ntini 

• Eminent historian with specialization in British Imperial, Indian and global history and his works covered the 18th and 19th century India and British imperial history who died on 20 April 2015 in Chicago due to heart attack - Professor Christopher Alan Bayly

• International Mother Earth Day was observed globally on 22 April 201 with the theme - It’s our turn to lead. 

• Japanese bullet train Maglev on 21 April 2015 created a new world speed record of 603 kilometer per hour (kmph) in a test run near - Mount Fuji.

• The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) on 21 April 2015 accorded final approval to a national park as India's 48th Tiger Reserve - Rajaji National Park, Uttarakhand

• State that on 21 April 2015 inaugurated the excavation work on the Rs 50-crore Saraswati Revival Project at Rolaheri village in Yamunanagar district of Haryana - Haryana

• Bangladesh on 22 April 2015 won the three-match One Day International (ODI) Series against Pakistan in Dhaka by 3-0 and this was Bangladesh's first series whitewash against - an Asian Test-playing nation.

• Mobile application launched on 22 April 2015 by Railway Ministry for paperless unreserved tickets - utsonmobile

• The Union Sports Ministry on 22 April 2015 suspended the recognition of an organisation- Paralympic Committee of India (PCI)

• The high level committee that was constituted by Bihar Government to consider demand of hike in pay for fixed pay teachers will be headed by - Chief Secretary Anjani Kumar Singh

• The fourteenth edition of Indo-French Naval Exercise that started 23 April 2015 off the coast of Goa is christened as - VARUNA-15

• Union Government on 22 April 2015 rolled out an online system for submission and processing of the Long Term Visa (LTV) applications by the eligible - Pakistani nationals

• Russia on 23 April 2015 signed a series of framework agreements on economic and energy co-operation with – Argentina 

• World Malaria Day (WMD) was observed on 25 April 2015 with theme - Invest in the Future. Defeat Malaria

• Union Government on 24 April 2015 allowed Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) to invest five percent of its corpus in - Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs).

• The eight-member Special Investigation Team (SIT) that was constituted by AP government to probe the Chittoor firing case in which 20 people were killed in Seshachalam forest area of Chittoor district will be led by - Ravishankar Ayyanar, an IPS officer from Andhra Pradesh cadre. 

• Indian on 27 April 2015 launched a relief and rescue Operation in earthquake hit Nepal is named as - Maitri

• Indian Bank that on 23 April 2015 won the Asian Banker Achievement Award 2015 for Technology Implementation in the category of Best Outsourcing Project (New Bank) - Bharatiya Mahila Bank (BMB) Ltd

• Heavyweight boxer, who on 25 April 2015 successfully defended his world heavyweight boxing title for the 18th time in a row by defeating his American challenger Bryant Jennings - Wladimir Klitschko of Ukraine

• Indian-origin scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who on 26 April 2015 won the prestigious 2015 Heinz Award in the Technology, the Economy, and Employment category - Sangeeta Bhatia

• The first African-American woman who on 27 April 2015 was sworn-in as the United States' 83rd Attorney General to serve as the nation’s top law enforcement official - Loretta Lynch 

• Union Government on 27 April 2015 cancelled the licences of around 9000 NGOs for violation of - Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), 2010.

• Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 25 April 2015 conferred the 50th Jnanpith Award on - eminent Marathi litterateur Bhalchandra Nemade

 

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 17 June 2015 08:47
 

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