Daily Currents Affairs on 4th March 2015

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Union Government launches website Shipping Samvad

  • Union Ministry of Shipping, Road Transport & Highways on 3 March 2015 launched a website Shipping Samvad.
  • It was launched by Union Minister of Shipping, Road Transport & Highways Nitin Gadkari in New Delhi.
  • Website’s objective is to invite innovative ideas and suggestions from general public and experts related to Indian maritime sector for improvements in the ports, shipping and inland waterways sector.
  • The ideas and suggestions submitted by public and experts will be further examined for implementation by Ministry of Shipping.
  • The workable ideas and suggestions received through website will be published on this website. Union Ministry of Shipping will also select the best five contributions in the year.
  • Apart from this, Ministry will also upload the draft policies and new initiatives from time to time on the website for the valuable suggestions and feedback from the citizen.
  • It will also help Ministry of Shipping in bringing transparency and blue revolution in the country.
  • It will engage the experts and common public in the development of Shipping, Ports and Inland Waterways in India and will provide impetus to the Ministry of Shipping in its efforts.

RBI cuts repo rate by 25 basis points to 7.5 per cent

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on 4 March 2015 has cut down repo rate by 25 basis points to 7.5 percent from 7.75 percent, with immediate effect. However, RBI has kept the cash reserve ratio (CRR) unchanged at 4 percent.
  • It is the second change in rates by 25 basis points since January 2015. With this change, RBI is signaling that it was convinced by the fiscal consolidation measures announced in the Budget.
Why RBI Cuts the Rate :-
  • Disinflation is occurring as per the RBI norms set in January 2014 and at a faster pace than it was envisaged earlier.
  • Fiscal consolidation measures announced by Union Government in the Union Budget 2015-16.
  • Lower international energy prices and Union Governments intent to shift from spending on subsidies to spending on infrastructure.
  • Also the better target mechanism of government through direct transfers to further reduce subsidies through direct transfers.
  • Government’s decision of cooperative federalism that will transfer significantly larger amount to the states.
  • Thus devolving responsibility for funding central programmes as it will make state budget deficits narrower and the general fiscal deficit will be lower.

Three South Asian women selected for International Women of Courage Award 2015

Three South Asian women have been selected for the prestigious International Women of Courage Award for the year 2015 by the United States.
  • Captain Niloofar Rahmani - Afghanistan Air Force.
  • Nadia Sharmeen - Journalist and women’s rights activist from Bangladesh.
  • Tabassum Adnan - founder of Khwendo Jirga from Pakistan.

They will receive the prestigious award in the presence of US First Lady Michelle Obama in Washington DC on 10 March 2015.

President gives assent to Maharashtra Animal Preservation Amendment Bill, 1995

Recently, President Pranab Mukherjee gave his assent to the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Bill, 1995. It received assent nearly after 19 years it was passed by State Assembly in 1995.
  • This bill amends Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act 1976 and bans slaughter of bulls and bullocks in the state.
  • As per the provisions of new Act, anyone found to be selling beef or in possession of it can be jailed for 5 years and fined Rs 10,000.
  • However, this Act allows slaughter of water buffaloes, which provides carabeef that is generally considered as an inferior quality meat.
  • In 1995, the bill was passed by the BJP-Shiv Sena coalition government in the State Assembly. However, it was reserved by then Governor for Presidential assent under Article 201 of Constitution.
  • Prior to law, slaughter of bulls and bullocks was allowed based on a fit-for-slaughter certificate under Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act of 1976.
  • It should be noted that slaughter of cows was previously banned in the state under schedule 5 of the Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act of 1976.

Airtel and China Mobile inks MoU for evolving technologies and equipment procurement

  • Indian telecom giant Bharti Airtel and world’s largest telecom operator China Mobile have signed a partnership memorandum of understanding (MoU) to work jointly on evolving high technologies like 4G, 5G and procuring telecom devices and equipment.
  • The MoU was signed by China Mobile Chairman Xi Guohua and Bharti Airtel founder and Chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal.
  • Both telecom giants will work together TD-LTE (Time division-Long-term evolution) technology.
  • They will cooperate on products development and standards, promoting growth in a robust ecosystem to accelerate the commercialization of TD-LTE and evolving technologies like 4.5G/5G.
  • Both companies will also work towards shaping up a joint strategy for procurement of devices that include Wifi devices, smart phones, data cards, LTE Consumer Premise Equipments (CPE’s) and Universal SIM (USIM).

Lok Sabha passes Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2015

  • Lok Sabha on 4 March 2015 passed the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2015. It was passed by voice vote and replaces ordinance promulgated in this regard.
  • The proposed amendments in the bill aim to bring improvements and revisions in the existing laws relating to insurance business in India.
  • In this regard it seeks to remove archaic provisions and incorporate modern day practices emerging in a changing dynamic environment, which includes private participation.
  • Hikes Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) cap in the insurance sector to 49 percent from present 26 percent.
  • Establishment of Life Insurance Council and the General Insurance Council. They will act as self-regulating bodies for the insurance sector.
  • Allows PSU general insurers to raise funds from the capital market. It also provides for increased penalty to deter multilevel marketing of insurance products.
  • Imprisonment of up to 10 years for selling policies without registration with the insurance regulator.
  • Prohibits an insurer from challenging the life insurance policy on any ground after a period of three years of selling it.
  • It should be noted that the hike in FDI of insurance sector has potential to attract up to 7-8 billion US dollars from overseas foreign investors.

Parliament passes Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2015

  • Parliament has passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2015. It was passed by Rajya Sabha on 4 March and earlier by Lok Sabha on 2 March 2015.
  • This bill will replace an ordinance promulgated in this regard and amend the Citizenship Act, 1955.
  • The Bill mergers of Person of Indian Origin (PIO) and Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) schemes.
  • It also adds that the Union government may notify that Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) cardholders shall be considered to be Overseas Citizen of India card holder.
  • It also provides 30-day break to person who applies for Indian citizenship if they have to leave India for some time.
  • It gives power to Union government to cancel the OCI card obtained by the spouse of an Indian citizen if the marriage is dissolved by a court or the spouse enters into another marriage even while the first marriage has not been dissolved.

Lok Sabha passes Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill, 2015

  • Lok Sabha on 4 March 2015 passed the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill, 2015. This bill will replace the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) second ordinance, 2014.
  • The bill has provisions for allocation of coal mines through a transparent bidding process i.e e-auction.
  • The e-auction of coal blocks will ensure the continuity in coal mining operations and promoting optimum utilization of coal resources.
  • Bill also facilitate e-auction of coal blocks for private companies for captive use and allot mines directly to state and central Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs).

Renowned ornithologist K.S. Lavkumar Khachar passes away

  • Renowned ornithologist and environmentalist K.S. Lavkumar Khachar passed away in Rajkot, Gujarat. He was 84.
  • As environmentalist he had a long association with the environmental conservation intuitions like Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) India.

About K.S. Lavkumar Khachar
  • Khachar was educated at Rajkumar College in Rajkot and belonged to the erstwhile princely family of Jasdan from Gujarat.
  • He had organized and led several environmental education activities in Gujarat especially conservation work in the Gulf of Kutch islands and Gir forest, famous for Asiatic Lions.
  • In 1984, he had served as director of the Nature Discovery Centre of the Centre for Environment Education (CEE).
  • In 1981, he had authored and produced book Sixty Indian Birds along with RS Dharmakumarsinhji.
  • For his pioneering work in ornithology and on the Nanda Devi National Park, he has been conferred with prestigious Salim Ali-Loke Wan Tho Lifetime Award for Excellence in Ornithology. In 2004, he was also awarded the Venu Menon Lifetime Achievement Award.