Current Affairs of March 2018

The theme of National Science Day being observed on 28 February 2018Science and Technology for a Sustainable Future
The Indian gymnast who has become the first Indian to win a medal in an individual event at the Gymnastics World Cup by claiming a bronze medal in the women’s individual vault eventAruna Budda Reddy
The railway station in Jaipur (NorthWestern Railways) which has become the first non-suburban station to be entirely run by womenGandhinagar
The Indian Air Force pilot who has become the first woman to fly a MiG-21 fighter aircraft (from Jamnagar Air Force base)Avani Chaturvedi
The venue of 6th India Region Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference held from 16 to 19 February 2018Patna
The joint military exercise between special forces of Indian and Indonesian Army being held at Bandung from 19 Feb to 04 March is namedGaruda Shakti
The venue of National Banana Festival held from 17 to 21 February 2018 with the focal theme ‘Conserving diversity, Preserving Identity, Promoting Value Addition’Kalliyoor, Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala)
The new President of South Africa (fifth) who has taken over following the resignation of Jacob ZumaCyril Ramaphosa
The CPN-UML candidate who has been appointed the new Prime Minister of Nepal by its President Bidya Devi BhandariKP Sharma Oli
The theme of 8th Theatre Olympics to be held for the first time in India at Red Fort, DelhiFlag of Friendship
The Indian long-distance swimmer who has become the first Indian (and 9th in the world) to swim across the Cook Strait (between North and South islands of New Zealand)Rohan More
The PepsiCo Chairperson and CEO who has been appointed to the International Cricket Council as its first female independent directorIndira Nooyi
The former Prime Minister of Bangladesh who has been sentenced to 5 years jail in a corruption caseBegum Khaleda Zia
The Indian cricketer who has become the first woman cricketer to claim 200 wickets in one-day internationals (She achieved this landmark when she took the wicket of Laura Wolvadaart of South Africa)Jhulan Goswami
World’s most powerful rocket launched by SpaceX from Kennedy Space Centre near Cape Canaveral, Florida and carrying Elon Musk’s Tesla roadster is namedFalcon Heavy
The veteran Kathakali artiste (Padma Bhushan – 2011) who passed away on 06 February 2018Madavoor Vasudevan Nair
The State which has launched door-to-door DASTAK campaign against Acute Encephalitis Syndrome and Japanese EncephalitisUttar Pradesh
The sanctuary in Andhra Pradesh where the first of its kind Pelican Festival 2018 was held on 04 February 2018Atapaka Bird Sanctuary
The American badminton player who has won the India Open 2018 Women’s Singles title defeating Indian player PV Sindhu in the finals at Siri Fort Indoor Stadium, New DelhiZhang Beiwen
The veteran filmmaker who has been chosen for the V Shantaram Lifetime Achievement Award of the Mumbai International Film Festival 2018Shyam Benegal
The Magahi language writer who has been awarded the Bhasha Samman by the Sahitya AkademiShesh Anand Madhukar
The new Director General of Sports Authority of IndiaNeelam kapur
The partner nation for 32nd Surajkund International Crafts Mela being held in Faridabad, Haryana from Feb 02 to 18Kyrgyzstan
The theme State for 32nd Surajkund International Crafts Mela being held in Faridabad, Haryana from Feb 02 to 18Uttar Pradesh
The four major rivers in Jammu and Kashmir which have been declared National Waterways by the Union GovernmentJhelum, Chenab, Indus and Ravi

SpaceX launches Falcon Heavy

US space flight company SpaceX on February 6, 2018  launched the world’s most powerful operational rocket ‘Falcon Heavy’ into the space. The Falcon Heavy blasted off from the Kennedy Space Centre at Cape Canaveral, Florida, United States.

About Falcon Heavy
• The Falcon Heavy was launched from the same NASA launch pad that was the base for the Apollo Moon missions of the 1960s and 1970s.

• With a total of 27 Merlin engines, it’s capable of generating more than 5 million pounds (2.3 million kg) of thrust at liftoff, which is equal to about eighteen 747 aircraft.

• The rocket can lift a total weight of 64 tons into the orbit, which is just the double of the lift capacity of the operational vehicle ‘Delta IV Heavy’, that too at a far lower cost of about USD 90 million per launch, in comparison to USD 350 million for Delta IV Heavy.

• The Falcon Heavy, on the whole, equals the strength of three Falcon 9 rockets of SpaceX.

• Three cores or boosters make up the first stage of Falcon Heavy. The side boosters are connected to the centre of the core at its base and at the vehicle’s interstage.

• The two side boosters are both flight-tested. One of the boosters launched the Thaicom 8 satellite in May 2016 and the other supported the CRS-9 mission in July 2016.

• Falcon Heavy’s second stage will attempt to place the Roadster car into a precessing Earth-Mars elliptical orbit around the sun.

2018 Commonwealth Games medal table

RankCGAGoldSilverBronzeTotal
1 Australia (AUS)*805959198
2 England (ENG)454546136
3 India (IND)26202066
4 Canada (CAN)15402782
5 New Zealand (NZL)15161546
6 South Africa (RSA)13111337
7 Wales (WAL)10121436
8 Scotland (SCO)913244
9 Nigeria (NGR)99624
10 Cyprus (CYP)81514
Total (43 CGAs)275276289840

2018 Under-19 Cricket World Cup

Held in – New Zealand

Held from – 13 January to 03 February 18

Winners – India (4th title)

Runners-up – Australia

Player of the series – Shubman Gill

Most runs – Alick Athanaze (West Indies)

Most Wickets – Anukul Roy, Qais Ahmed, Faisal Jamkhandi (14 wickets)

Participants – Australia, Bangladesh, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Afghanistan, Kenya, Canada, Papua New Guinea, Ireland (16)

Chennai Open 2018

Held in – Chennai

Singles title winner – Jordan Thompson (Australia)

Singles title runner-up – Yuki Bhambri (India)

Doubles title winners – Sriram Balaji and Vishnu Vardhan (India)

Doubles title runners-up – Cem Ilkel (Turkey) and Danilo Petrovic (Serbia)

Death of actress Sridevi

Born – 13 August 1963

Death – 24 February 18

First film – Kandan Karunai (Tamil) at the age of 4

Padma Shri – 2013; Order of Afghanistan – 1991 for Khuda Gawah

Indu Malhotra, first senior woman advocate to become SC Judge

In a first, senior advocate Indu Malhotra is set to become the first woman lawyer to be appointed as Supreme Court Judge.

The Union Law Ministry has reportedly cleared her name for the position. With the decision, Malhotra will be the first woman lawyer to be directly appointed from the Bar as a Judge in the Apex Court. She is expected to be sworn into the new position on April 27, 2018.

Significance

• Since Independence, only six women judges have been appointed to the Supreme Court.

• In fact, in the first 39 years of the Supreme Court, no woman judge was appointed to it.  

• In 1989, Justice Fathima Beevi was appointed as the first woman judge of the Supreme Court.

• The other woman judges appointed to the top court in subsequent years include Justice Sujatha Manohar, Justice Ruma Pal, Justice Gyan Sudha Misra and Justice Ranjana Desai.

• At present, the Supreme Court has only one woman Judge- Justice R Banumathi.

About Indu Malhotra

• Indu Malhotra is a senior counsel practicing in the Supreme Court of India for the past 30 years.

• In 2007, Malhotra had become the only second woman to be appointed as a senior advocate by the apex court, three decades after Leila Seth achieved the feat.

• Malhotra, a renowned arbitration expert, has appeared in various domestic and international commercial arbitrations.

• In December 2016, she was appointed as a member of the High-Level Committee (HLC) in the Ministry of Law and Justice by the Union Government to review Institutionalization of Arbitration Mechanism in India.

• She recently authored an exhaustive and illuminating commentary on the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 published by Thomson Reuters.

• She has also been empanelled as an Arbitrator with several Institutional Arbitration bodies like Indian Council of Arbitration (ICA), Delhi International Arbitration Centre (DAC) and ASSOCHAM.

• She was also appointed Amicus Curiae (impartial advisor to the court in a particular case) by different benches of the Supreme Court in various matters. Recently, she was appointed as an amicus for the restoration of Jaipur as a heritage city.

2018 Union Budget

The 2018 Union Budget was presented by the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, on 1 Feb 2018. This is the first budget after the introduction of prominent reforms in the Indian economy, such as the Goods and Services Tax implementation, mega PSU bank recapitalisation, and dynamic fuel pricing.

The key features of the Union Budget 2018 are as described below:

    • Fiscal situation – In 2018-19, the government is aiming for fiscal deficit target of 3.3% of the GDP.
    • Agriculture – The main points highlighted in the segment of agriculture were as follows:
      • The government resolves to increase the income of farmers to double the current value and hike the minimum support price (MSP) for Kharif crops to 1.5 times the value of production. The government will provide the right prices to farmers in case they receive lower market prices than the MSP.
      • Organic farming and cluster development model for agriculture will be encouraged.
      • Allocation of Rs.500 crore is provided to Operation Green.
      • Agricultural segments of bamboo farming, fisheries, and animal husbandry will be encouraged.
      • Rs.11 lakh crore will be offered as credit to the farming sector.
 
  • Rural – The main points highlighted in the rural segment were as follows:
    • Gas connections will be introduced in the households of 6 crore rural women.
    • Rs.16,000 crore has been set aside for the Pradhan Mantri Saubhagya Yojana. This would provide free electricity to 4 crore rural households.
    • The Swachh Bharat Mission will be extended to offer 2 crore toilets to rural houses.
    • Under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, 51 lakh houses will be constructed in the rural areas.
    • Loans for women’s self-help groups has increased to Rs.75,000 crore.
    • For housing, livelihood, and infrastructure projects in the rural areas, the government has allocated a total amount of Rs.14.34 lakh crore.
  • Health and Education – The main points highlighted were as follows:
    • Focus will be on incorporating technology into education.
    • By the year 2022, every block that houses more than 20,000 tribals and over 50% scheduled tribes will witness the inauguration of an Eklavya school.
    • The government will shift to a structure wherein universal health coverage will be offered to citizens.
    • Proposal for 2 new schools of infrastructure and planning has been laid down.
    • To reduce brain drain, top performers from leading engineering schools will be selected and given an opportunity to study at IIScs and IITs.
    • 60 crore bank accounts will be brought under the Jan Dhan Yojana.
    • There is a proposal for the allocation of Rs.1 lakh for the overall strengthening of the education sector in the country.
    • At least one medical college will be present for three parliamentary constituencies.
    • There is an allocation of Rs.52,719 crore for the welfare of the scheduled castes in the country.
  • Industry – The provisions under this section are as follows:
    • The Finance Minister has set aside Rs.3,794 crore as industry subsidy and capital support for the Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector.
    • Excise cut on fuel has been announced.
  • Railways – The reservations for this sector include the following:
    • The total capital expenditure that is set for the Indian Railways comes up to Rs.1,48,528 crore.
    • The infrastructure of some railway stations will be revamped, with escalators making an entry in all stations with footfall of 25,000 passengers.
    • All trains will be installed with CCTV cameras and WiFi connectivity.
    • Allocation for Bengaluru Metro is Rs.17,000 crore and that for Mumbai rail network is Rs.11,000 crore.
  • Taxation – The highlights of this segment are as follows:
    • There will not be any changes to the income tax rates for individuals in the salaried class.
    • Salaried taxpayers will have standard deduction of Rs.40,000.
    • Long-term capital gains will be taxed at 10% for investments that are above Rs.1 lakh. Short-term capital gains tax will remain at 15%.
    • Tax exemption limit has been raised to Rs.50,000 on interest income for bank deposits of senior citizens. Exemption limit for income from post office schemes and bank FDs will be 10%.
  • Infrastructure – The reservations in the infrastructure realm are as follows:
    • 10 key tourist spots in the country will be elevated to the level of iconic tourist destinations.
    • “Pay as you see” system will be introduced in relation to toll payments on highways.
    • An outlay of Rs.5.35 lakh crore has been announced for phase 1 of the Bharatmala project.
  • Trade – The provisions under this sector include the following:
    • Hike in customs duty on televisions and mobile phones has been announced to promote the Make in India initiative.
    • Imports will be imposed a 10% social welfare surcharge.
  • Employment – The government will ensure the contribution of 12% of salary of fresh employees towards the Employee Provident Fund scheme for 3 years. The contribution of women in this regard has been decreased to 8% for the first 3 years.
  • Defence – The total outlay for this sector is Rs.2.95 lakh crore. The Finance Minister said that there will be a boost in the defence manufacturing segment to promote the Make in India initiative.
  • Technology – The Digital India programme will receive an allocation of Rs.3,073 crore. Up to 5 lakh WiFi connections will be installed to provide broadband coverage to 5 crore citizens in the rural parts of the country. The amount allocated for this purpose is Rs.10,000 crore. The government also looks to prevent the circulation of cryptocurrencies.
  • Finance, markets, and insurance – The government will encourage angel investors and venture capital financing. Large corporations will have to meet one-fourth of their debt requirements from bond markets. National Insurance Co., Oriental Insurance Co, and United India Assurance Co. will undergo a merger to form one listed entity.
  • Aviation – Capacities of airports will be increased to 5 times the current value. The UDAN scheme will ensure that 64 airports across the length and breadth of the country will be connected through air to boost low cost flying.
  • Miscellaneous – The subsidy for food has been hiked to Rs.1.69 lakh crore in 2018-19. The emoluments of MPs may see an increase on the basis of index to inflation.

Union Budget 2018 Expectations

Being the last Union Budget of the BJP led NDA government, before commencement of the 2019 general elections, the nation eagerly awaits a series of unpredicted as well as expected changes.

Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley is all set to roll out the final full budget of the BJP government on February 1st 2018. The Budget of 2018 primarily encompasses two main components:

  • The first part of it mainly deals with various outlays and schemes for the already existing sectors
  • The second part concentrates on the aspects of direct and indirect taxes

As the era of indirect taxes and a nationalist bourgeoisie pre-Independence decade come to a screeching halt, the nation cheers for the single unified tax regime that has come as a boon to its people. This year’s Union Budget is supposed to focus on factors surrounding petroleum and electricity, that still remain outside the scope of GST.

Union Budget of 2018 Comes at a Crucial Point in Time

The current year’s budget session has arrived at a very crucial time since the Modi government made two very important financial decisions in the previous years. Demonetisation and GST implementation have both put tremendous pressure on the entire outcome of the Union Budget of 2018.

Time of Commencement of the Union Budget

The Union Budget session this year will commence from January 29th 2018, while its first phase will materialise between January 29 to February 9 2018. Post the first session, the second session of the Budget can be expected to surface between March 5 and April 6 2018. Between the space of time of the two sessions, it will be expected from the standing committees to clear all budgetary proposals. The session is expected to start at 9 am in the morning with Arun Jaitley presiding over the entire meeting.

The Agro-Sector is Expected to Benefit from the Union Budget of 2018

The Indian economy’s backbone is its agro-sector, that provides employment to more than 50% of the total manpower in India and makes a 20% contribution to the country’s GDP. The Union Budget of 2018 can be easily considered a revolutionary change in terms of rural initiatives and agricultural policies. The Government of India, post the budget release, is expected to increase its focus on agrarian growth, market reforms and to effectively ensure that farmers get their due for the produce of the year.

In order to double a single farmer’s income in India, there are a couple of things that must act as sine qua nons after the Budget has been released:

  • The dairy sector must be at par with the agricultural sector. Since there is a 30% percent contribution from animal husbandry and the dairy sector to the country’s total GDP, the dairy sector must be allocated more funds during the Budget session where attractive schemes and stratagems are brought into action. This, in turn will lead to an overall growth of the Indian people. Like the agricultural sector, the dairy sector must also be exempted from tax for increased profit.
  • Vegetables, fruits and other dairy products have the potential to grow 3-4 times at once. Hence, the focus on these elements must be increased in order to generate more produce. To cope with the challenges of the future, the Indian Government must invest in an infrastructure for processing milk to assist in increasing farmers’ income.
  • To make sure that the agricultural sector is growing in a holistic manner, the government needs to integrate a few components efficiently. An amalgamation of agrarian norms, less regulation of non-farm incomes and a substantial promotion of rural employment schemes and policies are sure to upgrade the operations of the rural sector by a great amount.
  • The agricultural sector is expected to attract increased outlays in terms of budgeting. Multiple reforms such as the “Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana”, electronic trading facilities are sure to aid in reviving the rural sector, comprehensively.

Maternity Scheme Boost is Improbable

As per the Union Budget of 2018, the Maternity Benefit Programme is particularly less likely to make the cut in the current year. The Ministry of Women and Child Development has evidently not sought after any increase in the amount of money received by pregnant and lactating mothers on the birth of the first child. Even though it is considered the need of the hour by many, this sector is improbable to get a fiscal cut this year.

Taxpayers’ Expectation from the Finance Minister Regarding the Union Budget of 2018

A collection of expectations and grievances have been claimed to grab the Finance Minister’s attention.

  • Making the NPS a tax free entity: Unlike the Budget of 2017, taxpayers of this era are hoping to get a significant cut in the NPS scheme since the tax treatment of this corpus is a major deterrent. If the scheme adapts features of the EEE, taxpayers will most likely make a shift and invest their savings in the NPS scheme.
  • Allowance of deduction on interests paid for home loans for properties that are still under construction: There must be an enhancement in the Rs.2 lakh cap on the interest benefits pertaining to home loans. Rs.2 lakh interest indicates a Rs.22 lakh loan, whereas in India a basic two-bedroom apartment/flat costs much more than that.
  • An increment in the least exemption limit: Many taxpayers hold the belief that Provident Fund, as an entity must be a separate element for taxation purposes, without any limits per se. Subtracting the entity of PF from Section 80C of the Income Tax Act will in turn allow taxpayers to invest and optimally utilise the Section (80C).
  • Term Increment for Deduction of Taxes on Education Loans: At present, if you are paying interests on an education loan, you can claim its deduction only for eight fiscal years. In order to stay at par with home loans, this time period must be increased to the full tenure of the loan. Additionally, the buffer period (period in which an individual is expected to pay off the loan) must be scrutinised and thereby increased to 18 months, instead of 6 months.
  • Pensions must be rendered tax-free: For retired senior citizens not having any other source of income, except pension, the entire amount must be rendered tax-free! If there is an increase in the interest rate for savings schemes pertaining to senior citizens, it will hugely benefit them in the long run.

Being the last budget of the BJP government, the nation has set extremely high hopes from the Finance Minister!

Highlights of the Union Budget 2017

The 2017 Union Budget mainly focussed on the following themes:

  • The farming sector
  • Youth
  • Rural population
  • Healthcare for the poor and underprivileged
  • Public services
  • Infrastructure
  • Financial sector
  • Fiscal management
  • Speedy accountability
  • Honest tax administration

The highlights of the budget are as detailed below:

Agriculture:

  1. A sum of Rs.10 lakh was allocated to the welfare of farmers. This also had 60 days of interest waiver benefits.
  2. The National Bank for Agriculture & Rural Development (NABARD) fund was hiked to Rs.40,000 crore.
  3. The government initiated the set up of mini labs for testing the soil in Krishi Vigyan Kendras.
  4. NABARD also received a micro irrigation fund with an initial corpus of Rs.5,000 crore.
  5. There was increase in reservations for the irrigation corpus and the dairy industry.

Rural population:

  1. The government aimed at bringing 1 crore families out of poverty by the year 2019.
  2. More than Rs.3 lakh crore was allocated for rural developments. The government also took steps to ensure the increased participation of women in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
  3. The government initiated the creation of 1 crore houses for the poor and set the scene for rural electrification projects.

Youth:

  1. An amount of Rs.1,84,632 crore was set aside for the welfare of children and women.
  2. The government proposed to set up a Skill India mission to maximise the potential of the youngsters in the country.
  3. Steps were also taken to create 5,000 new PG seats each year.

Highlights of the Union Budget 2016

The Union Budget 2016 laid focus on the following segments:

  1. Tax
  2. Social initiatives
  3. Personal finance
  4. Health
  5. Education
  6. Infrastructure and investments
  7. Agriculture
  8. Energy
  9. Banking

The budget was marked by the following provisions:

Health:

  1. A new health protection scheme was introduced with a cover of up to Rs.1 lakh per family.
  2. Senior citizens received additional cover of Rs.30,000 for healthcare needs.
  3. Pradhan Mantri Jan Aushadhi Yojana was reinforced with the opening of 300 new generic drug stores.

Education:

  1. A new scheme was introduced that would focus on getting Rs.500 crore for the promotion of entrepreneurship among the Scheduled Castes and Tribes.
  2. 10 private and 10 public sector educational institutions were elevated to offer world-class facilities.
  3. Rs.1,700 crore was set aside for the creation of multi-skill development centres.
  4. 62 new Navodaya Vidyalayas were opened to offer premium educational facilities to the youth.
  5. Plans were made to upskill 1 crore youngsters under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana.

Infrastructure and investments:

  1. Rs.27,000 crore was set aside for work on roadways.
  2. Proposal was made to create new greenfield ports on the eastern and western coasts of the country.
  3. Proposal was made for 100% foreign direct investment towards the marketing of food products that were produced and sold in India.

Highlights of the Union Budget 2015

The 2015 Union Budget focussed mainly on the following sectors:

  • Taxation
  • Agriculture
  • Infrastructure
  • Education
  • Defence
  • Tourism
  • Renewable energy
  • Welfare schemes
  • Gold
  • Financial sector

The budget is notable for the following recommendations:

Agriculture:

  1. Rs.25,000 crore was set aside for the Rural Infrastructure Development Bank.
  2. The target for farmer’s credit was Rs.8.5 lakh crore.
  3. Rs.5,300 crore was allocated to support Micro Irrigation programme.

Education:

  1. A proposal was made to set up AIIMS in Jammu and Kashmir, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, and Assam.
  2. Setting up of PG Institute of Horticulture in Amritsar was proposed.
  3. Funds were allocated to set up a university that would specialise in disability studies in Kerala.
  4. Proposal was made to set up IIM in Andhra Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.

Infrastructure:

  1. Allocation of Rs.70,000 crore was made for the infrastructure segment.
  2. Allocation of Rs.150 crore was made for the establishment of the Atal Innovation Mission. This would optimise the expertise of researchers and entrepreneurs to foster innovations in science and technology.
  3. The government proposed to establish 5 ultra mega power projects, each generating 4,000 MW of power.