Odisha gets Rs 3,548 cr for development projects in mineral-rich areas

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The Odisha government has received Rs 3,548 crore under the District Mineral Foundation (DMF) Trust Fund to carry out development works in mineral bearing areas in the state, a top official said on Sunday.

The total amount allocated for projects, schemes and works sanctioned for funding out of the DMF was Rs 1,862 crore. The DMF collection in the mineral-rich districts of Angul, Jajpur, Jharsuguda, Keonjhar and Sundargarh comes to about Rs 3,414 crore.

The Chief Secretary directed the officials to identify and build up a shelf of projects at least three times of the annual accrual in the DMF Fund under high priority and other priority areas indicated in the Odisha District Mineral Foundation Trust rules. The high priority items include drinking water, health, education, women and child welfare, and nutrition while the other priority items include infrastructure, electricity and irrigation.

The meeting was attended by senior officials including the development commissioner and principal secretaries and secretaries of finance, steel & mines and other key departments.

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Moody’s upgrades India’s sovereign rating after 14 years

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US credit rating agency Moody’s raised India’s sovereign rating to Baa2 from its lowest investment grade of Baa, while changing the outlook for the country’s rating to stable from positive. Since 2004, Moody raised the sovereign rating for the first time ignoring a haze of short-term economic uncertainties to bet on the nation’s prospects from a raft of policy changes by the government.

The revision of sovereign rating of India came after a gap of 14 years.

The rating agency simultaneously upgraded India’s local and foreign currency issuer rating to Baa2 from Baa3. The ‘Baa3’ rating was the lowest investment grade, just a notch above ‘junk’ status.

The upgrade of the rating is based on the Indian government’s “wide-ranging programme of economic and institutional reforms. The credit rating agency expected that continued progress on economic and institutional reforms will, over time, improve India’s high growth potential and its large and stable financing base for government debt, and will likely contribute to a gradual decline in the general government debt burden over the medium term.

According to Moody’s, reforms which are taken place in India have significantly decreased the risk of a sharp increase in debt, even in potential downside scenarios. Those implemented reforms to date will progress the government’s purpose of improving the business climate, stimulating foreign and domestic investment, enhancing productivity, and ultimately fostering strong and sustainable growth.

According to Moody’s, GST and demonetisation have undermined growth over the near term, however, it looks forward to real GDP growth to moderate to 6.7 percent in the fiscal year 2017-18. But, as disruption fades, and with the help of recent government initiatives to support SMEs and exporters with GST compliance, real GDP growth will rise to 7.5 percent in 2018.

As per Moody’s, though the high Indian debt burden remains a constraint on the country’s credit profile, its longer-term growth potential is notably higher than most other Baa-rated sovereign economies.

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Union Cabinet approves increase in carpet area of houses under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana

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The Union Cabinet on 16 November 2017 approved the increase in the carpet area of houses eligible for interest subsidy under the Credit Linked Subsidy Scheme (CLSS), which is a part of Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban).

Highlights:
• It approved the increase in the carpet area in the Middle Income Group (MIG) I category of CLSS from the existing 90 square metre to up to 120 square metre.
• It increased the carpet area in respect of MIG II category of CLSS from the existing 110 square metre to up to 150 square metre.
• These changes will be effective from 1 January 2017, the date the CLSS for MIG became effective.

The Credit Linked Subsidy Scheme (CLSS) for Middle Income Group covers two income segments in the MIG- Rs 600001 to Rs 1200000 (MIG-I) and Rs 1200001 to Rs 1800000 (MIG-II) per annum.  In the MIG-1, an interest subsidy of 4 per cent is provided for loan amounts up to Rs 9 lakh while in MIG-2, an interest subsidy of 3 per cent is provided for loan amount of Rs 12 lakh. Housing loans above 9 lakh and 12 lakh are at non-subsidized rates. The CLSS for MIG is currently effective up to 31 March 2019.

The Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs is implementing the Credit Linked Subsidy Scheme under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban).

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Union Health Ministry introduces Daily Drug Regimen for treatment of Tuberculosis

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The Union Ministry of Health and  Family Welfare on 17 November 2017 launched Daily Drug Regimen for treatment of Tuberculosis (TB) across the country under The Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP). Earlier, the Health Ministry was providing the treatment of tuberculosis thrice weekly, however it has now decided to change the treatment strategy for TB patients from thrice weekly to daily drug regimen using fixed dose combinations (FDC) for treatment.

The move is aimed at bringing the transformation in the approach and the intensity to deal with this disease which accounts for about 4.2 lakh deaths every year. The daily FDC anti-TB drugs will be made available to private pharmacy or at private practitioners to dispense to TB patients who seek care in private sector, depending upon the convenience of patient. The Health Ministry will also make anti-TB drugs available to all major hospitals, IMA, IAP and other professional medical associations to expand the access to daily FDC to all TB patients. Under this treatment strategy, Ethambutol will be given in continuation for all patients on daily basis along with fixed dose combination (FDC) tablets to reduce the pill burden (as against separate 7 tablets previously) for children.

As per WHO Global TB Report 2017, the incidence of TB has reduced from 28.2 lakh to 27 lakh over the last one year, which is a testimony of anti TB drive by Union Government.

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Qaumi Ekta Week to be observed from 19-25 November 2017

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The ‘Qaumi Ekta Week’ also known as National Integration Week will be observed all over the country from the 19 to 25 November 2017.   The weeklong event will be observed with an aim to foster and reinforce the spirit of communal harmony, national integration in the nation.

Here are the week long programmes that will be observed during Qaumi Ekta Week:

19 November 2017: It will be observed as National Integration Day and programmes like meetings, symposia and seminars will be organized to emphasize the themes of secularism, anti-communalism and non-violence.

20 November 2017: It will be observed as Welfare of Minorities Day.

21 November 2017: It will be observed as Linguistic Harmony Day. Programmes like Special literary functions and Kavi Sammelans will be organized to enable people of each region to appreciate the linguistic heritage of other parts of India.

22 November 2017: It will be observed as Weaker Sections Day and meetings and rallies will be organized to highlight programmes which help SCs/STs and weaker sections through distribution of surplus land to landless labourers.

23 November 2017: It will be observed as Cultural Unity Day and cultural functions will be organized to present the Indian tradition of unity in diversity and for promoting cultural conservation and integration.

24 November 2017: It will be observed as Women’s Day. On this day, the importance of Women in Indian Society and their role in development of nation-building will be highlighted.

25 November 2017: It will be observed as Conservation Day and several meetings and functions will be organized to emphasise the growing need for awareness and action to conserve the environment.

The ‘Quami Ekta Week’ or National Integration Week helps to highlight the inherent strength and resilience to withstand actual and potential threats to the spirit of communal harmony. The National Foundation for Communal Harmony (NFCH), an autonomous organisation under the Ministry of Home Affairs, organises Communal Harmony Campaign along with the Qaumi Ekta Week and observes the Communal Harmony Flag Day on 25 November.

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World Toilet Day observed globally

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The World Toilet Day was observed across the globe on 19 November 2017 with the theme ‘Wastewater’.  The day aims to inspire action to tackle the global sanitation crisis. The Sustainable Development Goals, especially SDG 6, aim to reach everyone with sanitation by 2030 and almost half the proportion of untreated wastewater, increasing recycling and enabling safe re-usage.

Sanitation systems are either non-existent or ineffective for billions of people around the world, which is consequently undermining the progress of health and child survival.Almost 4.5 billion people in the world live without a proper household toilet that safely disposes of their waste.
To enable a better living environment, the human waste needs to be properly contained, transported, treated and disposed of in a safe and sustainable way.
In addition to the profound impact that improved sanitation has on health and living conditions, safely-managed wastewater has massive potential as an affordable and sustainable source of energy, nutrients and water.

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Madras HC bans photographs of living persons on sign-boards and banners

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The Madras High Court on 24 October 2017 banned the use of photographs or pictures of living persons on banners, flex boards and sign-boards across the state of Tamil Nadu. The court stated in its ruling, “If at all any permission is given by the authority concerned for erecting banners, flex boards, sign-boards, the authority concerned shall ensure that the photographs/pictures of such persons, who are alive, shall not be depicted by way of those banners, flex boards, sign-boards.

Justice S Vaidyanathan passed the order while hearing a PIL filed by B Thirulochana Kumari, a resident of Rani Anna Nagar, who had appealed to the court to direct the Chennai Corporation and the city commissioner of police to remove political party banners and flags that were put up in front of her property. Kumari in her petition stated that a person named Mathi had put up a party flag in front of her property in April and on her objection, she was allegedly threatened by party workers. She then reportedly approached the Chennai Corporation and the police, who refused to file her complaint. While the flag post was removed later, a signboard and party flag were put up at the same spot. As the hearing proceeded, the concerned government departments however, agreed to remove the banners and flags from the front of Kumari’s property and ensure that such an act is not allowed in private residences in the future.

The directions of the court include:
– To ensure that the photographs or pictures of the persons, who are sponsoring such banners, shall also not be depicted.
– To send a circular in the same regard to all office-bearers of the wards of the town panchayat, panchayat union, municipality and corporation.
The ban would imply no more hoardings carrying publicity material of political parties or actors with images of living personalities in public spaces. This applies to random flex boards erected by individuals as well.

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CVC to develop ‘Integrity Index’ to rank govt depts on anti-corruption measures

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The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) will rank and give a score to the central government organisations on anti- corruption measures being taken by them. The rationale behind this move is to make systematic change through the tool of Integrity Index. In order to make that systematic change the CVC has decided to develop the Integrity Index-based on bench-marking of internal processes and controls within an organisation as well as management of relationships and expectations of outside stakeholders.

These rankings and scores will be based on essential drivers of vigilance with long term efficiency, sustainability and profitability of public organizations. It will promote working with Integrity in public organizations. The CVC is working on Research-based approach for creating an integrity index which will help various organizations.  IIM-Ahmedabad has been engaged to develop the Integrity Index and 25 other organizations have been selected for development of the Integrity Index.

The 25 organisations are the Indian Oil Corporation Ltd, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited, NTPC Ltd, Eastern Coalfields, Western Coalfields, Steel Authority of India Limited, Punjab National Bank, Syndicate Bank, National Highways Authority of India and Railways Ministry, among others.

The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), Bharat Heavy Electricals (BHEL), Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL), Delhi Development Authority (DDA), South MCD, Food Corporation of India (FCI) and National Mineral Development Corporation are also among the initially selected organisations.

The main objectives to establish Integrity Index:

1.Define what constitutes Integrity of Public Organizations
2.Identify the different factors of Integrity and their inter-linkages
3.Create an objective and reliable tool that can measure the performance of organizations along these above factors
4.Validate the findings over a period of time to improve upon the robustness of the tool that measures Integrity
5.Create an internal and external ecosystem that promotes working with Integrity where public organizations lead the way.

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Nicaragua signs Paris Climate Agreement, leaving the US and Syria behind

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Central American country Nicaragua on 23 October 2017 signed the Paris Agreement on climate change, leaving the United States and Syria as the only two countries holing out to sign this global climate pact. As per Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega, the Paris Agreement is the only international mechanism that offers the conditions to face global warming and its effects. Previously, Nicaragua refused to sign the agreement on the grounds that it did not require to combat global warming.

President Donald Trump on 1 June 2017 withdrew the United States from the landmark 2015 Paris agreement to fight climate change. Trump stated that the Paris accord will undermine the US economy, cost US jobs, weaken American national sovereignty and put the country at a permanent disadvantage to the other countries of the world.

The United States was one of 195 nations that had agreed to the accord in December 2015.

An agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Paris agreement deals with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance. The language of the agreement was negotiated by representatives of 195 countries at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in Paris and adopted by consensus on 12 December 2015. The Paris Climate Agreement sets measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to prevent temperatures rising by more than two degrees. Till June 2017, 195 UNFCCC members have signed the agreement, 148 of which have ratified it.

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