1. Home Minister Amit Shah meets 24 member delegation from J&K’s Apni Party
• Home Minister Amit Shah met a 24 member delegation from Jammu and Kashmir’s Apni Party led by Altaf Bukhari in New Delhi today. He assured them that the NDA Government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi will take all steps for the overall development of Jammu and Kashmir. Mr Shah expressed confidence that visible changes will be seen on the ground in the next few months. He emphasised that there is no intention of the government for demographic change in the region and all such talks have no basis at all. He said that government will work with all sections of society to realize the hopes of statehood for Jammu and Kashmir at an early opportunity.
• Allaying the apprehensions of the delegation on restrictions, Mr Shah said all decisions on relaxations are based on ground realities and not due to any pressure. The Home Minister assured the delegation that Jammu and Kashmir will have a better domicile policy than other states in the country and said that a reasonable Economic Development Policy will be drafted soon after widespread consultation. He emphasised that there is no discrimination in implementation of central laws in Jammu and Kashmir and interests of all sections will be taken care of.
• The Home Minister said that soon an industrial policy will be announced for rapid economic development and a Land Bank has already been created. On the issues of reservation, he said that a Commission will be set up soon and reiterated that no injustice will be done to Gujjars, nomads and other communities.
2. Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board issues advisory to foreigners not to visit Shrine for 28 days after landing in India
• In view of the outbreak of Coronavirus, Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board has taken necessary precautionary measures. The Shrine Board issued an advisory to the NRIs and foreigners and other visitors not to visit the Shrine for 28 days after landing in India. The domestic visitors having symptoms like cough, heavy fever and breathing problems have been advised to reschedule or postpone their visit to the Holy Shrine. The advisory is being dispersed on the Multipurpose Audio System throughout the track from Katra to Bhawan.
• Additionally, mandatory and complete thermal scanning of all the pilgrims at Tarakote, Banganga and Helipad has been ensured. The cleaning of all the establishments of the Board with disinfectants, at least four times a day is being done. The congregation points like Queue Complexes, Waiting Halls, Accommodations, Atka Area are regularly sanitized with disinfectants.
• Shrine Board CEO, Ramesh Kumar, said that dedicated Yatri Help Desks have been set up at Railway Station Katra, Helipad, Enquiry and Reservation at Niharika Complex wherein Self Declaration Forms have been mandated for the pilgrims visiting from the affected countries. He said that all the doctors and paramedics in the Shrine Board have been properly trained and sensitized to adopt necessary precautionary measures for the pilgrims showing Coronavirus like symptoms.
• To safeguard the staff and pilgrims, sufficient number of personal protection equipments like masks, gloves, sanitizers etc have been arranged and issued to different units of the Board.
3. Centre starts registration for Pradhan Mantri Kisan Maan-Dhan Yojana
• Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare has initiated today the process of registration for the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Maan Dhan Yojana (PM-KMY), the old-age pension to all Small and Marginal Farmers in the country as per the first hundred-day target given by the Prime Minister.
• Union Minister for Narendra Tomar said that around 418 farmers have registered their names with Common Service Centres in different states during the first hour of the launch at 11 am today and the process is expected to pick up in due course of time.
• The scheme would be formally inaugurated as per the convenience of Prime Minister Narendra Modi shortly, he said while speaking to media persons in New Delhi today.
• The Minister said the target for the Prime Minister’s Kisan Yojana has been fixed at reaching out to 10 crore farmers this year and the remaining farmers will be covered in due course of time.
• Over 5.86 crore farmers have been paid the first instalment while 3.39 crore farmers have been paid the second instalment of the annual financial support of 6,000 rupees depending on the time of registration, he added.
• Under the PM-KMY, a new Central Sector Scheme, a monthly pension of 3,000 rupees will be provided to the eligible farmers with up to two acres of land-holding on attaining the age of 60years.
• It is a voluntary and contributory pension scheme for the farmers in the entry age group of 18 to 40 years. The farmers will have to make a monthly contribution ranging from 55 to 200 rupees depending on their age of entry in the Pension Fund till they attain the age of 60 years.
• The Central Government will also make a contribution of an equal amount in the fund. The spouse is also eligible to get separate pension of 3,000 rupees per month upon making separate contributions to this fund. The beneficiary could also opt-out of the scheme after a minimum period of five years of regular contribution.
4. Centre aims to cover entire nation under ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ scheme
• Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Minister Ram Vilas Paswan has said that Centre aims to cover almost every part of the country under ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ scheme by 1st June next year.
• Mr Paswan said the pace of the scheme will be determined by the computerization of the Public Distribution System. He was speaking on the occasion of the formal inauguration of pilot cluster scheme for implementation ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ scheme in New Delhi.
• Ration card portability, the pilot project of ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’, has been formally launched by the Minister between Andhra Pradesh – Telangana and Gujarat – Maharashtra. Mr Paswan also reviewed the distribution of ration under the scheme through video conferencing.
• Intra-state portability of ration card is already there in seven states, including Haryana, Rajasthan Punjab, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala and Tripura and by 1st January next year, inter-state portability of card will be implemented in these states.
5. PM Modi calls upon SAARC countries to work together to meet the challenge of Coronavirus
• Prime Minister Narendra Modi today proposed the creation of a COVID 19 emergency fund based on voluntary contribution from SAARC nations. He said India can start with an initial offer of 10 million dollars for this fund. Mr Modi said India is assembling a Rapid Response Team of doctors and specialists, along with testing kits and other equipment. They will be on stand-by to be placed at SAARC nation’s disposal, if required. Leading India at the video conference of all SAARC member countries to chalk out a common strong strategy to fight COVID-19 in the region, Mr Modi said India had set up an Integrated Disease Surveillance Portal to better trace possible virus carriers and the people they contacted. This Disease Surveillance software could be shared with SAARC partners. Prime Minister Modi said SAARC nations could create a common Research Platform to coordinate research on controlling epidemic diseases within South Asian region. The Indian Council of Medical Research can offer help coordinating such an exercise.
• Mr Modi said SAARC countries must prepare together, act together and succeed together in dealing with the COVID 19 situation. In his opening remarks at the video conference of all SAARC member countries to chalk out a common strong strategy to fight COVID-19 in the region, Mr Modi said sharing perspectives is most valuable as it cannot be predicted with certainty how the situation will unfold despite best efforts. He said so far SAARC region has fewer than 150 cases but there is a need to remain vigilant as the region is home to one fifth of humanity.
• Sharing India’s experience of combating the spread of the virus so far, the Prime Minister said “prepare but do not panic” has been the guiding mantra. He said India was careful to not underestimate the problem but also to avoid knee jerk reactions. He said India started screening entry into the country from mid January itself while also increasing restrictions on travel. He said the step by step approach has helped avoid panic. Mr Modi highlighted that there were increased public awareness campaigns on TV and social media and special efforts were made to reach out to vulnerable groups.
• Mr Modi also stated that diagnostic capabilities were increased. He said within two months, India moved from one major facility for pan India testing to more than 66 such labs and developed protocols for each stage of managing this pandemic. He said nearly 1400 Indians have been evacuated from different countries. He said a protocol has been built for such evacuations including carrying out testing by India’s mobile teams deployed abroad.
• In his concluding remarks, Prime Minister Modi said that we have to fight this battle together and we have to win it together. He said, our neighbourhood collaboration should be a model for the world. Mr Modi also assured that India will do its best for its neighbours. He said, we should identify nodal experts from each of our countries and they can have a similar video-conference one week from now, to follow up on our discussions.
• Sharing his thoughts, Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih welcomed Mr Modi’s suggestion of setting up a COVID Emergency Fund. He said the situation requires shared response at an unprecedented scale to contain the virus.
• Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapakse thanked Prime Minister Modi for offering assistance like testing kits to regional countries. He said the biggest challenge is to stop the virus from spreading within Sri Lanka. He said in view of this, Sri Lankan President has banned tourists entering the country. He emphasised the need for South Asia to share ideas and best practices in order to face up to the challenge of the rapid spread of the virus.
• Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani welcomed various new initiatives suggested by Prime Minister Modi and suggested all countries to keep a close focus on the next months on the evolving situation. He said there is a need for a common cooperative framework to fight the pandemic of COVID 19.
• Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina thanked Prime Minister Modi for bringing back 23 students of her country from Wuhan. Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli noted the importance of pooling collective wisdom to devise a sound and effective strategy to combat the virus.
• Prime Minister of Bhutan Dr. Lotay Tshering welcomed the setting up of COVID Relief Fund and acknowledged the contribution of health care professionals in combating the virus. State Minister of Health, Pakistan Dr. Zafar Mirza observed that his country shares the common regional concerns on the virus. He said that while hoping for the best, they also have to prepare for the worst. Earlier, Mr Modi had expressed desire that the leadership of SAARC nations should chalk out a strong strategy to fight Corona virus.
6. President Kovind gives assent to National Medical Commission Bill
• President Ram Nath Kovind has given his nod to National Medical Commission Bill 2019.
• The move came after Parliament passed the bill in the just-concluded session. The Bill seeks to repeal the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956.
• It has provisions to set up the National Medical Commission which will frame policies for regulating medical institutions and medical professionals and assess the requirements of healthcare-related human resources and infrastructure.
• Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan hails the NMC Act as historic and milestone in the medical education sector.
• Addressing a press conference in New Delhi yesterday, Dr Harsh Vardhan said, the rules will be framed and the NMC will be constituted within six months.
• He said, the NMC Act is progressive legislation which will reduce the burden on students and bring down costs of medical education.
7. SC upholds homebuyers status of financial creditors
• Supreme Court today upheld amendments to the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), giving the status of financial creditors to homebuyers.
• A bench headed by Justice R F Nariman, which disposed of a batch of over 180 petitions filed by various builders, said the RERA act which regulates the real estate sector should be read harmoniously with the amendments made in the IBC and in case of conflict the code will prevail.
• The bench said only genuine homebuyers can invoke insolvency proceedings against the builder and asked the Centre to file an affidavit taking the corrective measures.
8. Unnao rape case: Delhi court frames charges against accused Kuldeep Sengar
• A Delhi court today framed charges against Kuldeep Sengar, accused in the Unnao rape case.
• The court has framed charges under various sections of IPC and other relevant sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.
• District Judge Dharmesh Sharma also framed charges against Sengar’s accomplice Shashi Singh for allegedly kidnapping the minor girl, who is presently admitted in AIIMS, Delhi.
• The CBI had yesterday told the court that Sengar and his brother assaulted the father of the girl and framed him in an Arms Act case, in collusion with three state police officials and five others.
9. Commerce and Industry Minister to Lead Delegation to Vladivostok
• The Union Minister of Commerce and Industry and Railways, Piyush Goyal, will leada delegation of Chief Ministers of States and business representatives to Vladivostok in the Russian Far East, to explore investment opportunities and strike close partnerships with the Far East provinces.
• The delegation includes Chief Ministers of Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh and an official from the State of Assam. The Chief Ministers of States will be accompanied by business delegations who will engage with officials and businessmen from the provinces in Russia’s eastern most territory.
• The Commerce and Industry Minister’s visit is a precursor to the visit of the Prime Minister, Narendra Modito Vladivostok in early September for the 5th edition of the Eastern Economic Forumwhere he will be the chief guest for the 20th edition of the Forum.It is an international forum held every year in Vladivostok, Russia, to support the economic development of Russia’s Far East region and to expand international cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region.
• This visit by Piyush Goyal will set the stage for further strengthening of bilateral ties betweenthe two countries and also see major announcements on collaborative projects for the economic success of theFar East region of Russia.
• India is looking to gain from the investment-friendly Russian stance in the natural resource-rich region, which includes significant incentives and tax breaks allowing Indian investments and labour for projects. Indian entities are already engaged in key sectors like power, coal, oil and gas, and this visit by India’s Commerce and Industry Minister, along with the delegation, will increase India’s footprint in the region further.
• The delegation includes more than 125 representatives from business stakeholders, who will interact with Russian counterparts on opportunities in the mining and processing of diamond and other rare metals, railways, agriculture, fisheries and food processing, oil and gas, forestry and timber, coal and power, ceramics, tourism, ship building, technical education, healthcare, and pharma sectors and Ayurveda.
• Commerce and Industry Minister will also explore new areas of cooperation and ensure that India’s participation at the Eastern Economic Forum is meaningful.Thedelegationaccompanying Piyush Goyalwill identify and scope out and work on potential areas of business collaboration in this region of Russia. Russia’s Far East offers an important area for use of India’s skilled man power to develop the region that is vast and under populated.
• Russia ranks first in the world for oil and natural gas production, exports of steel, primary aluminum and nitrogen fertilizers. Russia is also the largest in terms of reserves of tin, zinc, titanium, niobium, nickel, iron ore, drinking water, natural gas, wood, diamonds and silver.
• Russia has the longest railways in the world -the Trans-Siberian Railway is the longest railway in the world of 87,157 kilometers.
• It is hoped that this visit of Piyush Goyal will mark the beginning of the process where both countries move away from a buyer-seller relationship to one where there is technology transfer,Make in India, job creation and content creation in India.
10. Government for promoting private industry investment in defence sector
• Raksha Mantri Shri Rajnath Singh has voiced government’s desire to encourage private industry investment in defence sector while also strengthening defence PSUs and Ordnance Factory Board (OFB). Addressing CEOs of top Defence and Aerospace companies at a roundtable with the theme ‘Make in India in Defence Industry’ here today, Shri Rajnath Singh said defence companies have huge opportunities in contributing to domestic market in addition to exports.
• Raksha Mantri said the strategic partnership model has been notified to establish defence manufacturing infrastructure and supply chain through which Indian companies could choose a partner through a competitive and transparent process. He added that FDI policy in defence sector has been liberalised.
• Regarding the offset processing, Shri Rajnath Singh said the Ministry has set up an end-to-end offset processing portal through which proposals of value USD 1.5 billion were processed. Entry barriers for MSMEs were also reduced and this resulted in doubling of defence licenses issued from 215 in 2014 to 440 in 2019.
• Raksha Mantri said the Defence Investor Cell established a year ago in the Ministry has processed nearly 550 queries and grievances.
• While highlighting various measures initiated by the government to encourage defence exports, Shri Rajnath Singh urged the industry to work towards increasing exports to friendly countries. He said export procedure has been simplified and defence procurement procedure was revised in 2016 to encourage indigenous design, development and manufacture.
• Raksha Mantri said self reliance in defence sector would not be possible without development of indigenous technology and called for steps to develop related technologies within the country. He said there is greater possibility now because the contribution of digital technologies in defence sector is on the upswing and India has strong capabilities to develop such technologies where startups have a significant role to play.
• Shri Rajnath Singh said the Indian defence industry’s production was Rs 80,000 crore in 2018-19 of which Rs 16,000 crore was the contribution from the private sector.
• Raksha Mantri said our nation is confidently scaling new heights based on strong political leadership strengthened by strategic economy. He called for a multi-pronged approach to achieve the aim of ‘Make in India’.
• Earlier, in his welcome address, Secretary (Defence Production) Dr. Ajay Kumar said the roundtable has been organised to obtain views and suggestions from the industry to further improve the systems and procedures in the defence sector.
11. Over 5 lakh Rohingya refugees get identity cards in Bangladesh
• More than 5 lakh Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh have been issued identity documents by the UNHCR.
• The UNHCR said the bio-metric, fraud-proof cards are being issued jointly by Bangladeshi authorities and UNHCR to all verified refugees over the age of 12. These cards will help in establishing and safeguarding the right of Rohingya refugees to return to their homes in Myanmar.
• The current registration exercise began in June 2018 and it is scheduled to be completed during the last quarter of the current year.
• UNHCR’s Bio-metric Identity Management System (BIMS) captures bio-metric data, including fingerprints and iris scans, which secure each refugee’s unique identity as well as other important information such as family links.
• According to UNHCR, Bangladesh has more than 9 lakh Rohingya refugees out of which close to 7 lakh 50 thousand refugees arrived after August 2017 fleeing Rakhine province of Myanmar amid violence and military crackdown. Bangladesh claims to have 11 lakh Rohingya refugees in the country.
12. Typhoon Lekima
• China has issued its top warning for coastal areas of Zhejiang province ahead of a strong typhoon.
• Heavy rain is expected in Zhejiang, Shanghai and nearby provinces today before Typhoon Lekima hits land tomorrow morning.
• Parts of northern Taiwan closed offices and suspended classes at schools today as the storm passed northeast of the island.
• The red China issued is the most serious in its four-tired system, prompting authorities to prepare evacuations, suspend train and air travel and require vessels to return to port.
13. India, Bangladesh to set up committee for optimum utilisation of water resources
• India and Bangladesh have agreed to set up a Joint Technical committee for optimum utilisation of Ganges water as being received by Bangladesh under the Ganga Water Sharing Treaty 1996.
• After the Secretary-level meeting in Dhaka yesterday, both the countries also agreed to prepare a framework for interim water-sharing agreement for eight rivers including Feni, Gumti and Teesta. Both the countries also discussed issues related to pollution of trans boundary rivers.
• The Secretary-level meeting was held after a gap of more than 8 years. It is an important step in enhancing bilateral cooperation in the water resources sector between India and Bangladesh.
• Water Resources Secretary Upendra Prasad Singh led the Indian delegation in the talks while the Bangladesh side was led by his counterpart Kabir Bin Anwar.
• The Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna mega-basin is the second largest hydraulic region in the world.
• Within this basin, fifty-four rivers cross the border between upstream India and downstream Bangladesh.
14. Nepal: Reconstruction of 380 earthquake-affected sites completed
• In Nepal reconstruction of 380 earthquake affected cultural and heritage sites have been completed. More than 2.12 billion Nepali rupees spent on reconstruction of 96 World Heritage monuments and 284 other archaeological and cultural sites.
• According to National Reconstruction Authority of Nepal’s CEO Sushil Gyewali, after significant progress in the reconstruction of private houses the authority has given top priority to reconstruction of archaeological and cultural heritage sites.
• Over 150 heritage sites are scheduled to be reconstructed in the current financial year. Besides the Government of Nepal many other countries including India, China, USA, Switzerland, Sri Lanka and Japan are providing financial assistance for the reconstruction of quake-affected heritage monuments.
• A total 891 sites of archaeological and cultural importance were damaged in Nepal due to devastating earthquake in 2015.
15. Coronavirus pandemic: Kiren Rijiju, IOA delegation’s visit to Tokyo for Olympic preparation cancelled
• The visit of a high-powered delegation comprising Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju and top Indian Olympic Association (IOA) officials to Tokyo later this month to look into India’s logistical preparedness for the Olympics has been put on hold in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr. Rijiju tweeted, the visit was scheduled for 25th to 29th of this month but will now happen at a later date which is yet to be decided.
• Besides Rijiju, the other members of the delegation included IOA President Narinder Batra, Secretary General Rajeev Mehta, Boxing Federation of India President Ajay Singh, Sports Secretary Radhey Shyam Julaniya and Sports Authority of India Director General Sandip Pradhan.
• More than 70 Indian athletes have so far qualified for the Tokyo Olympics and the IOA is expecting the number to touch at least 125 before the Games.
• The coronavirus outbreak has led to speculation over the fate of the Olympics this year. The International Olympic Committee, however, has insisted that the Games will be held as scheduled in July-August.