Current Affairs on 5th March 2015

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Maharashtra government scraps 5% education quota for Muslims

  • Maharashtra government has scrapped 5 per cent job quota for Muslims in the state.
  • In this regard Devendra Fadnavis led BJP-Shiv Sena government has released a Government Resolution (GR). The GR also states that an ordinance to provide 5 per cent job quota had lapsed on December 2014.
  • Thus, this GR nullifies the previous notification issued by the previous NCP-Congress government granting 5 per cent reservation to Muslims.
  • In June 2014, then Congress-NCP government had approved a 16 per cent reservation for Marathas and 5 per cent for Muslims just ahead of the October 15 Assembly polls.
  • This reserved quota was given through two separate categories, namely the Educationally and Socially Backward Category (ESBC) for Marathas, as well as a Special Backward Class (Muslims) segment for the Muslims based on findings of Justice Sachar Committee.
  • However in November 2014, Bombay High Court had stayed this state government’s reservation quota complying with the Supreme Court’s 50 per cent fixed reservation cap.
  • Later, state government had challenged the decision of the High Court in the Supreme Court, but the SC refused over rule the interim decision of the High Court.

India and Spain sign agreement on Mutual Protection of Classified Information

  • India and Spain have signed an agreement on Mutual Protection of Classified Information. This agreement provides the framework for enhanced cooperation in the defence sector between both countries.
  • Mutual Protection of Classified Information is a primary pact that a country agrees to before embarking on deeper talks on defence cooperation.
  • The agreement was signed by visiting Spanish Defence Minister Pedro Moremes and his Indian counterpart Manohar Parrikar.
  • Spanish delegation has evinced a clean interest in participating in the Make-in-India initiative especially in the defence sector of Indian government. Spanish companies are interested to become part in India’s P75I project under six conventional submarines will be built.
  • Apart from this agreement, both countries also have agreed to work on enhancing bilateral defence cooperation.

Reliance Infrastructure acquires Pipavav Defence

  • Anil Ambani-led Reliance Infrastructure has acquired Pipavav Defence and Offshore Engineering in an all-cash deal.
  • The acquisition will be done by Reliance Infrastructure, along with its wholly owned subsidiary Reliance Defence Systems Pvt Ltd.
  • Reliance Infra will first invest Rs 819 crore to acquire 17.66 per cent stake from the promoters and subsequently an additional 26 per cent stake at Rs 1,266 crore.
  • While, Anil Ambani will take over as chairman of Pipavav Defence with full management control.
  • Reliance Infra with this acquisition has joined a growing list of Indian companies entering the defence sector in a big way.
  • Pipavav Defence has an order book of Rs 12,000 crore and has technology tie-ups with global defence companies. Its global defence technology tie-ups include Sembcorp Marine of Singapore, Sweden’s SAAB, France’s DCNS, Singapore’s Sembcorp Marine and JSC Zvyozdochka and Rosoboron Export of Russia.
  • Pipavav Defence also has one of the world’s largest Greenfield infrastructure facilities in Gujarat spread across 841 acres, with 210 acres of fully developed water-front land and 250 acres developed for shipbuilding.

CCEA gives nod to extend PDS Kerosene, Domestic LPG Subsidy Scheme and Freight Subsidy Scheme

  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has given its nod to extend the PDS Kerosene and Domestic LPG Subsidy Scheme, 2002 for a period of one year that is up to 31st March, 2015.
  • This decision was taken by CCEA meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
  • CCEA also gave its nod to extend Freight Subsidy Scheme, 2002 which is for far-flung areas for the same period.
  • This extension comes after both the schemes ended on 31 March, 2014 and to help Oil Marketing Companies to reduce its under-recovery.
  • Under the PDS Kerosene and Domestic LPG Subsidy Scheme, Union Government was providing a subsidy 82 paise per litre on PDS Kerosene and 22 rupees 58 paise per 14.2 kg. LPG cylinder.
  • CCEA also approved six projects in the 5 States under various phases of National Highways Development Project. The 5 states are Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
  • These approved projects are of a total length of 712 kilometres and will cost around 12,646 crore rupees. Union Government is going borne the expenditure incurred on these projects.
  • Approved projects will convert the existing two-laning highway projects into high quality four-laning highway projects.
  • These projects seek to catalyze the economic development in these regions along the corridors of these highways.

Sri Lankan Government suspends China port city project in Colombo

  • Sri Lanka’s newly elected government on 5 March 2015 has temporarily suspended constriction work of China’s ambitious port city project in Colombo with immediate effect.
  • The decision was taken in Cabinet meeting chaired by Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe based upon the Interim Report submitted by a cabinet sub-committee.
The committee was appointed by the Sri Lankan Government to review the project. The Interim Report had alleged that this mega real estate deal with China was signed 
  1. Without cabinet approval.
  2. Without following procedures.
  3. Implemented without relevant approvals from the concerned institutions.
About Colombo Port City project
  • Colombo Port City project is the single-largest foreign direct investment in Sri Lanka worth 1.5 billion dollar. The project was inaugurated in September 2014, by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
  • China is expecting that this project will play a key role in its ambitious Maritime Silk Road Project.
  • Then President of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapaksa had signed the deal with China to reclaim 233 hectares of land from the sea to build a port city on a 99-year lease.
  • As part of the project, Chinese company was to develop commercial and entertainment hub which include shopping malls, water sports, golf, hotels, apartments and marinas.

Kathmandu-Varanasi-Kathmandu bus service flagged off

  • Nepal and India on 5 March 2015 launched a direct bus service linking cultural cities Kathmandu and Varanasi.
  • Kathmandu-Varanasi-Kathmandu bus service was launched under the ambit of Motor Vehicle Agreement between India and Nepal signed during 18th SAARC Summit.
  • Kathmandu-Varanasi-Kathmandu bus service seeks to promote religious tourism and people-to-people contact between both countries by connecting the two religious cities.
  • This bus service will connect Kathmandu’s Pashupatinath Temple with Varanasi’s Kashi Vishwanath Temple as both shrines are considered important pilgrimage sites by Shiva worshippers all around the world
  • Route of bus service- It will take the Bhairahawa-Gorakhpur route and cover about 600 km distance in 12 hours.
  • This is the second direct bus service between Nepal and India after the one linking Kathmandu and New Delhi.
  • Earlier in November 2014 during the 18th SAARC Summit Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Nepal’s Prime Minister Sushil Koirala had jointly launched the direct bus service between Kathmandu and the New Delhi.
  • Nepal and India are also planning to establish a direct bus service to link Kathmandu and Patna in future.

Sunil Sabharwal re-nominated as Alternate Executive Director at IMF

  • Sunil Sabharwal, an independent Indian-American investor has been re-nominated as Alternate Executive Director at International Monetary Fund (IMF).
  • He was re-nominated to key post at IMF by US President Barack Obama. In this regard, President Obama has forwarded his decision to re-nominate Sabharwal to the US Senate.
  • For first time he was nominated Alternate Executive Director at IMF in April 2014.
About Sunil Sabharwal
  • Sabharwal was born in 1964 in New Delhi and later moved to Budapest, Hungary.
  • He graduated from The Ohio State University and post-graduated from the London Business School.
  • He had worked at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development as Principal Banker from 1992 to 1996.
  • Then he moved at GE Capital and held several positions including Managing Director from 1997 to 2003.
  • Sabharwal was also Senior Vice President of Strategic Investments at First Data Corporation/Western Union from 2003 to 2006. Since 2006, he has been an independent investor in the payments sector.
  • From 2011 to 2013, he was the Chairman of the Board of Ogone, a European ecommerce payment services company.