1. India, Jordan ink 12 pacts to boost defence ties

India and Jordan on Thursday signed a framework defence agreement which envisages a whole range of possibilities from defence acquisitions by Jordan to defence exercises and closer security cooperation.
India and Jordan signed 12 agreements after the highlevel talks, covering areas as diverse as mass media, health, culture and tourism. But the area of interest for both countries is clearly defence and security.

King Abdullah, who is himself a trained para-trooper and a Sandhurst alumni, inspected the Indian-made Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) at Palam, and reviewed an anti-terrorism demonstration by NSG at Manesar. During the discussions, both countries reiterated their support for the Palestine cause

Jordan has already asked for assistance for its massive refugee population which include 1.3 billion Syrians, as well as Iraqis and Palestinians. Last year, India gave a cash donation of $2 million, but this year, it will be giving $5 million in vaccines and medicines to Jordan.

2. India, Russia, Bangladesh sign tripartite pact for civil nuclear cooperation 

In a landmark development India for the first time signed a tripartite agreement on February 29 with foreing partners — Russia & Bangladesh — for civil nuclear cooperation.

Nuclear Power Cooperation of India Limited (NPCIL) will play a key role in building a nuclear power plant on foreign soil with the proposed supply of equipment and material for the power station being built by Russia in Bangladesh. The agreement was signed in Moscow on Thursday by Deputy Director General of Rosatom (Russia’s Alex civil nuclear body) Nikolay Spassky, Ambassador of Bangladesh in Russia S.M. Saiful Hoque and Indian Ambassador to Russia Pankaj Saran.

Rosatom is constructing nuclear power plant in Bangladesh on a turnkey contract basis. India, having experience in building its nuclear power stations and operating the Kudankulam Plant, built with Russian assistance, showed interest in participating in a Russian project in Bangladesh.

3. Economic fugitive Bill okayed

Following an outrage over economic offenders like Nirav Modi, Vijay Mallya and others looting banks and then fleeing the country, the Union Cabinet today cleared the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018, to be introduced in Parliament allowing confiscation of such offenders’ property

The Cabinet also cleared the setting up of the National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA), which will be an oversight body for the auditing profession and will have jurisdiction over all listed companies and large unlisted companies.

The cases where the total value involved in economic offences, such as fraud or loan defaults, is Rs 100 crore or more will come under the purview of this Bill. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said this had been done to prevent overcrowding so that only the big cases were taken up under this law.

Jaitley said the Bill would be tabled in Parliament for approval in the second half of the Budget session beginning March 5.

The inherent regulatory role of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI), as provided for in the Chartered Accountants Act, 1949, will continue in respect of its members in general and specifically with respect to audits pertaining to private limited companies, and public unlisted companies below the threshold limit.

4. NBA calls for plan to manage import of exotic fish

Expressing concern over the increase in the import of ornamental fishes to the country, which is posing a threat to India’s native fish populations, the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) has urged the government to come up with quarantine facilities at major seaports and airports.

The government of India has only approved the import of 92 species of ornamental fish but the number of ornamental fish species being imported and in trade is somewhere between 200-300.

  • Dr. Meenakumari i, Chairperson, NBA, said the huge market for Invasive Alien Species (IAS) is turning out to be major threat to India’s aquatic biodiversity.

Under the Centre for Biodiversity and Policy and Law (CEBPOL), the NBA is trying to bring out a national list of IAS. So far, no attempt has been made by any scientific organisation to have a national IAS list across different categories like terrestrial plants, aquatic plants, inland fisheries, marine organisms, insects and microbes

  • The list will be put made available on a public platform and will be communicated to different Ministries and stakeholders. CEBPOL is a bilateral collaboration between the Indian and Norwegian governments, and focuses on biodiversity policies and laws.

5. Mastering the seas

Seven decades ago, historian-diplomat, K M Panikkar presciently observed, “That China intends to embark on a policy of large scale naval expansion is clear enough… with her bases extending as far south as Hainan, China will be in an advantageous position…”

  • No one paid attention to Panikkar because just weeks before Independence, India was busy with the 1947 Asian Relations Conference, where Jawaharlal Nehru articulated his grand vision of India’s role in emerging Asia — an idealistic dream, in which a “non-violent” India .On the other hand,China had set two basic objectives that it would attain “great power” status via the nuclear-weapon route; and that it would brook no rival for leadership of Asia.
  • Panikkar’s prophecy came true in 2000, when China started construction of its southern-most naval base at Yulin, on Hainan Island. This is a maritime hub created for the PLA Navy (PLAN) to exercise sea control and power projection across the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

New Delhi has, very sensibly, resisted the urge to invoke an “Indian Monroe Doctrine” and attempt regime-change in Male through military action. Its forbearance is bound to be rewarded. Alarmist reports about possible PLAN “gunboat diplomacy” need to be viewed against the geographic reality that a Chinese warship would take 8-10 days to cover the 3,500 miles from Yulin to Male.

  • Against this backdrop, India’s recent agreement with Oman providing access, for “military use and logistical support” in the new Port of Duqm, has raised hopes that India is, belatedly, strengthening its maritime posture in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

China has been releasing defence white papers every two years. Beijing has built a powerful navy that will soon overtake the US navy in numbers, lagging behind only in capability. New Delhi, on the other hand, has shown no tangible signs of strategic thinking or long-term security planning, as evident from a total absence of defence white papers or security doctrines to date.

The IOR strategic agenda may be soon taken out of India’s hands as the chairmanship of two important bodies, the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) devolves on the UAE and Iran respectively.

6. Government readies social security scheme for 50 crore workers

The labour ministry has proposed a comprehensive social security system to provide retirement, health, oldage, disability, unemployment and maternity benefits to 50 crore workers in the country, a month after the government announced the National Health Protection Scheme announced in the Budget. The plan is to implement the scheme in three phases over 10 years, after which the government hopes to make it universal. The scheme will be implemented in four tiers with the government wholly financing the cost for people below the poverty line. The first phase of the scheme will cost Rs 18,500 crore
The first phase will see all workers getting the bare minimum, which includes health security and retirement benefits. The second phase will see unemployment benefits being added to it while in the third phase, other welfare measures can be added.

  • The 50 crore beneficiaries will be classified into four tiers.
  • The first tier will comprise destitute and people below poverty line who cannot contribute for their security and hence the cost will be entirely borne by the government under tax-based schemes.
  • Workers in the unorganised sector who have some contributory power but are not self-sufficient may be covered under the subsidised schemes in the second tier.
  • The third tier of beneficiaries will include those who either by themselves or jointly with their employers can make adequate contribution to the schemes, so as to be self-sufficient while the fourth tier will comprise comparatively affluent people who can make their own provisions for meeting the contingencies or risks as they rise.

7. Assam’s Bodoland Territorial Council draws flak for land transfer policy 

The Bodoland Territorial Council has drawn flak for its stand on land transfer, with several organisations saying the council is biased against non-tribals.

Bodoland People’s Front (BPF)-led Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) had said on January 12 that no person can sell land in the BTC area to a non-tribal person without the permission of the BTC authority. The BTC area in Assam, the sixth scheduled area under the Constitution, has a sizeable non-tribal population.
The BPF is a partner in the BJP-led government in Assam.
Encroachment of land and forest in tribal areas is a sensitive issue. In 2003, the Central government had come up with BTC, or the Bodoland Territorial Administration Districts (BTAD), the sixth schedule arrangement under the Constitution, to pacify those demanding a separate state.

The BTC arrangement was done after the political accord with the erstwhile militant outfit Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT), following which BLT cadres joined the political mainstream.

8. Benefits Of Electorial Boards

Will bring substantial Transparency in political donations against the present system of contributions in the election funding mechanism

  • NON DISCLOSURE of reciepents will ensure people are free to donate to any political party of their choice
  • WILL REINFORCE the idea of moving away from a cash system towards a clean money which cheque system could not achieve
  • 15 days between buying and selling will ensure they don’t turn into a parallel economy
  • HOW MUCH funding comes, what kind of funding it is and where it will be spent will be known clearly.

9. Colourful and happy holi

Do’s and Don’ts

Before

  • Moisture the skin
  • Wear loose clothes
  • Avoid contact lenses

After

  • Wash off the colour as soon as possible
  • Don’t use harsh soap or shampoo
  • Don’t use kerosene,Petrol and sprits to remove stains.
  1. Purple- Chromium Iodide ,Asthma allergies
  2. Black-Lead oxide, disorientation and kidney problems
  3. Red-Mercuric Sulphide,Skin irritation and vision related problems
  4. Blue-prussian Blue, Skin Allergies
  5. Silver-Aluminium Bromide , Skin, Eye and Lung irritation

10. War and peace: on Kabul’s peace proposal with the Taliban

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s offer of talks with the Taliban is the most comprehensive peace proposal to have come from Kabul since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Speaking at the Kabul Process, a two-day security conference in the city with more than 20 countries including India represented, Mr. Ghani promised to recognise the Taliban as a political party, called for confidence-building measures and asked them to recognise the Kabul regime and the constitution. The Taliban was told to open an office in Kabul; passports and freedom of travel were offered to those involved in negotiations. This is not the first official attempt to make peace with the Taliban.

In July 2015, Taliban and Afghan government representatives held talks in Pakistan. But the talks collapsed when it emerged that Taliban leader Mullah Omar had died two years earlier. Ever since, the Taliban has stepped up its violent campaign, killing thousands. This time the difference is that the Afghan government has come up with a seven-point plan of engagement with the Taliban

After more than 16 years of war, the Afghan government is helplessly watching the Taliban spread its influence across rural areas. In the east, the Islamic State has gained ground. Taliban  knows it cannot capture the city as long as the Americans remain committed to the Afghan government’s security. Therefore, both sides have an incentive to break the stalemate and try direct negotiations for a way out.

If the Taliban accepts Mr. Ghani’s proposal, that could set the stage for a constructive engagement between the militants and the government, and provide hope for some much-needed relief to the war-hit Afghan people.

11. At 7.2%, growth picks up pace in third quarter

  • India overtakes China as fastest growing economy
  • India’s economy grew 7.2% in the three months ended December 31, the fastest pace in five quarters, regaining its status as the world’s fastest-growing major economy.
  • The recovery was led by a revival in investment demand, which registered a 12% growth.
  • Based on the fiscal third-quarter, the full year’s growth has been revised upwards to 6.6%. If this growth rate is realised, the size of the Indian economy is projected to grow to $2.6 trillion by the end of March.
  • Significantly, gross fixed capital formation — an indicator of investment demand in the economy — also registered a sharp increase of 12%.
  • Private final consumption expenditure grew 5.6%, while government final consumption expenditure rose 6.1%.

12. What’s hobbling the global effort to save the tiger?

In November 2010, the first “Tiger Summit” in St Petersburg, Russia, endorsed a Global Tiger Recovery Programme aimed at reversing the rapid decline of tigers, and doubling their numbers by 2022. India was one of the 13 tiger range countries that participated in the gathering, at which leaders committed to “drawing up action plans to strengthen reserves, crack down on poachers and provide financial assistance to maintain a thriving tiger population”.

  • A rapid survey across 112 tiger conservation areas in 11 range countries has now shown that at least a third of these areas are at severe risk of losing their tigers due to poor management. Three of the 13 countries, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia have lost all their tigers.

At the time of the St Petersburg Summit, the World Bank’s The Global Tiger Initiative had estimated wild tiger populations at 1,200-1,650 in India, 450-700 in Indonesia, 400 in Bangladesh, 350 each in Nepal and Russia, 300-500 in Malaysia, 250-500 in Thailand, about 100 in Myanmar, 70-80 in Bhutan, 40-50 in China, 50 in Laos, 10-50 in Cambodia, and fewer than 30 in Vietnam. Tigers roamed at least 25 countries at the beginning of the 20th century; their numbers had since declined by 97%, the Summit estimated.

  • Three-quarters of the surveyed sites had insufficient staff and lacked adequate management infrastructure, a crippling blow to efforts to stop poaching, manage community relations, and ensure safe havens for tigers and other wildlife. Only 16 of 112 sites had intelligence-driven anti-poaching processes in place.

13. Financial Inclusion Gathers Strength

Significant Increase in the Number of Deposit accounts caused largely due to Jan Dhan Initiative.

  • Number of life insurance policies at 34 crore are also fairly low as compared with 165 crore deposit accounts
  • Kerala moved to the top spot with a inclusix score of 90.9
  • Sharp increase in no. of credit accounts across regions, MFI contribute too.

Keywords

  • Envisages: form a mental picture of
  • Reiterated: say something again or a number of times
  • Purview: the scope of the influence or concerns of something.
  • Pertaining: be appropriate, related, or applicable to.
  • Forbearance: patient self-control
  • Affluent:  wealthy.
  • Regime: a system or ordered way of doing things.

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