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Current Affairs - 16 August 2018


PM healthcare scheme from Sept. 25,  In Independence Day address, Modi also announces manned space mission

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday announced not just the launch date for his ambitious health insurance scheme, the Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Abhiyan (PMJAA), but also permanent commission for women officers on short service commission in the uniformed services and plans for a manned space mission.
  • The PMJAA, touted as the world’s largest healthcare scheme, aims to provide a cover of ₹5 lakh per family annually, benefiting more than 10 crore poor families. It will be launched on September 25.
  • India will send a “son or daughter” to space with the national flag in hand by 2022, the Prime Minister said.
Kerala reels under its worst floods

  • A resurgent monsoon brought Kerala to its knees with the State tottering under the worst floods in its history.
  • As many as 24 were killed in rain-related incidents during the day and several missing, as the withering broadside unleashed by the monsoon rocked the State from one end to the other.
  • 35 dams and barrages had to be opened to let out water from fast-filling reservoirs.
  • People residing along the banks of the Periyar were alerted to the possibility of flash floods, and evacuation procedures were in place.
  • Panic gripped the downstream areas of the Mullaiperiyar dam after the water level rose to the capacity mark of 142 ft, cutting off the State highway connecting Kottayam with Kattappana, the headquarters of Idukki district.
  • Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan held an emergency review meeting with top officials at the government secretariat here in the morning and later spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the phone, seeking more men and material to help the State tide over the unprecedented floods.
London police recover 12th century icon stolen from Nalanda museum 
  • A ‘priceless’ 12th century bronze Buddha statue that was stolen from Bihar 57 years ago has been returned by British police to the Indian High Commission in London.
  • The statue that was stolen from the Archaeological Survey of India site museum in Nalanda, along with 13 others in 1961, was identified at a trade fair in London in March this year by Lynda Albertson of the Association for Research into Crimes Against Art and Vijay Kumar of the India Pride Project — a volunteer-based, crowd-sourced project that works to track down and return stolen heritage.
  • The case was taken over by the Metropolitan Police’s Art and Antiques Unit, which was reinstituted recently after its detectives had been seconded to the investigation into the Grenfell Tower fire here last year.
  • The Archaeological Survey of India helped confirm the icon’s identity.
Odisha CM launches health scheme for 70 lakh families
  • Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik launched Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana, a health for all scheme, on the the occasion of the 72nd Independence Day
  • The scheme provides health assurance coverage to 70 lakh families, covering more than 70% of the State’s population, said Mr. Patnaik in his speech 
  • It may be recalled that the Odisha government had rejected the National Health Protection Scheme as it covered much lesser number of people in Odisha by adopting the 2011 census. The State government went ahead with its own scheme with a coverage of up to ₹5 lakh per year per family. The amount is ₹7 lakh per family with women members.
Raje unveils welfare steps, extends milk scheme, State to celebrate September as ‘nutrition month’
  • Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje unveiled a slew of welfare measures, including extension of the Annapurna milk scheme for schoolchildren, allocation of funds for new infrastructure and interest subsidy on farmers’ loans, after unfurling the national tricolour at the Independence Day function
  • September would be celebrated as a “nutrition month”, when awareness about health and nutritional aspect of food would be spread in both urban and rural areas.
  • The free milk distribution in schools for the students of Classes I to VIII along with the midday meals will be extended from three days to all days in the week.
Malayalam poet Chemmanam Chacko dies
  • Noted Malayalam poet and Sahitya Akademi awardee Chemmanam Chacko died in Kakkanad 
  • Chacko, 92, had been undergoing treatment for age-related ailments for quite sometime. 
India, China Armies meet in Ladakh
  • Amid continuing transgression by China at Demchok in eastern Ladakh, the Armies of India and China held a ceremonial Border Personnel Meeting to mark India’s Independence Day.
  • The meeting was held at Chushul-Moldo and Daulat Beg Oldie. The Indian delegations were led by Brigadier V.K. Purohit and Colonel Anil Kumar Sharma, and the Chinese delegations by Senior Colonel Wang Jun Xian and Lieutenant Colonel Li Ming Ju.
  • However, not far from the venues, a stand-off has been going on in Demchok since early July when Chinese troops intruded 300 metres into the Indian territory and pitched tents.
Centre may relax NRC 
  • The Centre is mulling the relaxation of guidelines for migrant workers and labourers from other States who were not included in the final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam that was published on July 30.
  • Under the revised standard operating procedure (SOP) prepared by the Centre that was filed in the Supreme Court a day ago, the nearly 40 lakh applicants not included in the final draft would get time till November 28 to file claims and objections. 
  • Earlier, the process of claims and objections was to be done from August 30 to September 28. 
  • The court had asked the Centre to prepare a detailed SOP last week. 
  • The Centre informed the court that biometric details of the 40 lakh applicants will be recorded, and after the publication of the final NRC, legal residents of the country will be given Aadhaar numbers.
Assam rejected move to shrink area under AFSPA
  • According to a parliamentary standing committee report tabled in Parliament last month, the Centre wanted to reduce the areas under the Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) in Assam but the State government did not concur.
  • The parliamentary committee headed by former Union Finance Minister and senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram in its report tabled on July 19 said that with an improvement in the security situation in most northeast States, “the government should consider gradually reducing the area under AFSPA, especially in the States of Assam and Meghalaya”.
  • Under Section 3 of the AFSPA, it can be invoked in places “where the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary”.
  • AFSPA empowers the Army and Central forces personnel deployed in “disturbed areas” to kill anyone acting in contravention of the law, arrest and search any premises without a warrant and provide cover to forces from prosecution and legal suits without the Centre’s sanction.
Modi’s big-ticket announcement is Ayushman Bharat

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announced in his Independence Day address that the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Abhiyaan, also known as Ayushman Bharat or the National Health Protection Mission (AB-NHPM), will be launched on September 25.
  • The government-sponsored health insurance scheme will provide free treatment for up to ₹5 lakh a family a year in any government or empanelled private hospitals all over India. Meant to help the poor and the economically deprived, the scheme will be available for 10.74 crore beneficiary families and about 50 crore Indian citizens.
Permanent commission will  lift the morale of women 
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday announced in his Independence Day address that women officers in the military would get permanent commission on a par with their male counterparts.
  • Permanent commission exists for women in select areas in the military. However, Mr. Modi’s speech makes it clear that the government wants to expand these categories.
  • The Army is the most reluctant in granting it. While women are given commission in all arms and services other than infantry, mechanised infantry, armoured and Artillery, permanent commission is currently limited to education, legal branches apart from medical and dental services. These two streams were opened for permanent commission in all three services in 2011.
  • Many women officers have taken the legal route demanding permanent commission, and in April, the government told the Supreme Court that it was open to it. The contours of implementation are being finalised by the Defence Ministry, an official source said.
  • Going by the official figures available in March, the Army has 1,561 women officers, the Air Force 1,594 and the Navy 644.
  • So far, women officers are recruited mostly on short service commission for 14 years, which means they are not eligible to get pension.
With human space flight, India to push frontiers

  • Gaganyaan, the human space flight programme green-flagged and set for 2022 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is highly doable, Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation K. Sivan said.
  • V.R. Lalithambika, a specialist in advanced launcher technologies, will helm the project as Director of the Human Space Flight Project.
  • The mission is estimated at ₹9,000 crore. Most of the critical technologies and hardware required for the project are ready or have been demonstrated by its centres. ISRO would now stitch them up into a complete project and present a comprehensive project report to get a formal approval of the government, Dr. Sivan said. 
  • When it achieves the mission, India would be the fourth nation to circle Earth after the Soviets, the Americans and the Chinese. In 1984, India’s first astronaut Wing Commander (retd.) Rakesh Sharma orbited Earth as part of a Soviet mission.

NTPC to set up unit for coal mining
  • State-run power giant NTPC will soon set up a subsidiary to handle its coal mining operations and also plans to enter commercial coal mining after meeting its requirement, an official said.
  •  The power sector behemoth also has a plan to list the coal subsidiary subsequently on stock exchanges.
RJio begins registration for 1Gbps broadband service
  • After 4G mobile services, Reliance Jio on Wednesday started registration for optical fibre based fixed-line broadband service through which it has claimed to offer a download speed of one gigabit per second.
  • At present, major rivals of Jio offer download speed up to 100 megabit per second for about ₹1,000 per month for home users.
  • Jio claims to offer about 10 times more speed than rivals to home users. 
  • Jio’s entry in mobile services led to free voice call for the first time, and data prices dipped by more than 95% since the time it commenced services. 
Tea exports to China, Pak. rise, Drop in exports to Russia
  • India shipped larger quantities of tea to two neighbouring countries — China and Pakistan — in the first half of 2018, when overall tea exports increased to 112.1 million kg, from 107.1 million kg in the year earlier period.
  • According to data with the Tea Board, total earnings between January and June 2018 was ₹2,177.1 crore, against ₹2,091.8 crore a year earlier, although the unit (per kg) price of the commodity was marginally lower both in rupee and dollar terms this year.
  • Exports to China, where India has been planning to take a delegation, rose to 4.4 million kg valued at ₹77.1 crore in the first half, from 3.7 million kg and ₹64.7 crore a year earlier.
  • India was able to score an increase in exports to Pakistan too — to 7.2 million kg from 4.8 million kg, valued at ₹66.7 crore against ₹52.1 crore. Unit price, however, fell from ₹108 per kg to ₹92.8 per kg this year.
  •  Exports to Iran, a high value market, too rose from 10.9 million kg to 12.1 million kg.
  • Exports dropped to India’s single largest market — Russia, as also the CIS countries — which together imported 28.7 million kg against 31.2 million kg.

Ajit Wadekar passes away
  • Ajit Wadekar, who deployed his famous spinners to devastating effect and recorded historic series wins in the West Indies and England in 1971, passed away here on Wednesday. He was 77.
  • Failing health had restricted his movement and Wadekar was hospitalised in July too.

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