Daily GK Update 26th February 2016, Important Current Affairs

1. E-Tourist Visa Scheme extended to 37 more countries
E-Tourist Visa Scheme extended to 37 more countries
i. The Union Government has extended e-Tourist Visa Scheme to 37 more countries. With this, the total count of countries under the scheme will become 150.
ii. The new countries included in e-Tourist Visa scheme are Austria, Albania, Botswana, Brunei, Bulgaria, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Comoros, Cote d’lvoire, Cape Verde,  Czech Republic, Croatia, Eritrea, Denmark, Gabon, Greece, Guinea, Gambia, Ghana,  Madagascar, Malawi, Iceland, Lesotho, Liberia, San Marino, Moldova, Namibia, Romania, South Africa, Swaziland, Switzerland, Senegal, Serbia, Slovakia, Trinidad & Tobago, Tajikistan, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

2. Lok Sabha passes Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2016

i. Lok Sabha has passed Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2016 to grant voting rights to people who became citizens of India following the exchange of enclaves between India and Bangladesh.
ii.  The bill seeks to amend the Representation of the People Act (RPA), 1950 and the Delimitation Act, 2002. These Acts regulate allocation of seats to the Lok Sabha and state legislatures and delimitation (fixing boundaries) of parliamentary and state assembly constituencies.

3. Rajendra Singh appointed as DG of Coast Guard

i. The Union Government has appointed Rajendra Singh as the Director General (DG) of Indian Coast Guard (ICG), country’s coastal protection force. With this appointment, Rajendra Singh becomes first DG of ICG from its own internal cadre since it was set up in 1978. 
ii. So far this top post was only held by officers who were commissioned in the Indian Navy. He will replace Vice Admiral HCS Bisht who has been promoted as the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval Command.

4. Union Government appoints 3 Information commissioners of CIC

i. The Union Government has appointed three Information Commissioners at the Central Information Commission (CIC). They were administered the oath of office by Chief Information Commissioner Radha Krishna Mathur. 
ii. With their induction, for the first time CIC has full strength i.e. the total number of Information Commissioners including the CIC has gone up to 11. Their appointments have been made for a term of five years or till they turn 65.

5. Highlights of the Railway Budget 2016-17

Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on 25 February 2016 presented the Railway Budget 2016-17 in the Parliament. This was the the second railway budget for Suresh Prabhu and third rail budget of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led NDA government.
Highlights of the Railway Budget 2016-17

Below are the highlights of this Budget:
Theme of the Budget:
  • ‘Chalo, Milkar Kuch Naya Karen’ for overcoming challenges – Reorganize, Rejuvenate, Restructure Indian Railways
  • Three pillars strategy: Nav Arjan – New revenues, Nav Manak – New norms, Nav Sanrachna – New Structures.
Railway Fares
  • No new hike in passenger fares and Freight fares. Promised to bring down freight rates and double non-tariff revenue for the ailing national transport.
New Initiatives 
  • For the unreserved passenger: (i) Antyodaya Express superfast unreserved service.
  • (ii) Deen Dayalu unreserved coaches with potable water facility and higher number of mobile charging points.
  • For the reserved passenger: (i) Humsafar: Fully air-conditioned service with an optional service for meals.
  • (ii) Tejas: It will operate at speeds of 130 kmph and above and shall showcase the future of train travel in India. It will offer onboard services such as local cuisine, entertainment, WiFi, etc.
  • (iii)UDAY (Utkrisht Double-Decker Air-conditioned Yatri) Express: Overnight double-decker express on the busiest routes. Potential to increase carrying capacity by almost 40%.
  • (iv) SMART (Specially Modified Aesthetic Refreshing Travel) Coaches: These coaches are designed to ensure higher carrying capacity and provision of new amenities including automatic doors, bio-vacuum toilets, bar-code readers, water-level indicators, accessible dustbins, ergonomic seating, vending machines, improved aesthetics, LED lit boards for advertising, entertainment screens, PA system.
  • Cleanliness: SMS service ‘Clean my Coach’, ranking of A1 and A railway stations based on periodic third party audit and passenger feedback, Awareness campaigns.
  • Waste segregation and recycling centres, additional 30,000 bio-toilets etc.
  • Catering and stalls at stations: IRCTC will manage catering services in a phased manner; explore possibility of making catering services optional, build local ownership and empowerment. Railway is extending e-catering to all rail stations. IRCTC will make available local cuisine of choice, hygienic food. Travelling mothers, Children’s menu, baby foods, baby boards will be made available.
  • Women Quota: 33 per cent sub-quota for women will be provided under all reserved categories. Railways will also increase the quota of lower berths for women and senior citizens
  • Rail Mitra Sewa: Strengthening the existing services for enabling passengers to book battery operated cars, porter services, etc.
  • Expanding Sarathi Seva in Konkan Railway to help the disabled and old passengers.
  • Ticketing: Capacity of e-ticketing system has been enhanced from 2000 tickets per min to 7,200 per min Railway introduces 1,780 ticket-vending machines. e-ticket facility for foreign debit, credit card holders
  • Mobile Applications: Integrating all facilities into two mobile apps that will deal with ticketing issues and for receipt and it will also redressal of complaints and suggestions.
  • Pilgrimage centres: The provisions of passenger amenities and beautification on stations at pilgrimage centres including will be undertaken on priority basis. Aastha circuit trains will connect important pilgrim centres.
  • High Speed Rail: From Mumbai to Ahmedabad will be undertaken with the assistance of the Government of Japan. Prime benefit would be providing technology advancements and new manufacturing capability.
  • Entertainment: Invite FM Radio stations for providing train borne entertainment. Extension of ‘Rail Bandhu’ in all regional languages to all reserved classes of travellers.
  • Rationalising the tariff structure: Tariff policy will be revived to evolve a competitive rate structure, signing long term tariff contracts customers using pre-determined price escalation principles with key freight.
  • Building terminal capacity: Developing Rail side logistics parks and warehousing in PPP mode, TRANSLOC (Transport Logistics Company of India) will develop 10 goods sheds in 2016-17.
  • India’s first rail auto hub will be inaugurated in Chennai. Rail University will come at Vadodara, Gujarat.
  • Development of cold storage facilities on vacant land near freight terminals in which local farmers and fisherman will be given preferential usage of the facility.
  • Nurturing customers: Appointing key Customer Managers to liaison major freight stakeholders. Each Zonal Railway will develop customer commitment charter indicating service level commitments of Indian Railways.
  • Travel Insurance to passengers: Optional travel insurance will be offered for rail journeys at the time of booking.
  • Process Improvements: (i) Finalization of EPC projects standard document to implement at least 20 projects in 2016-17. In future, endeavouring all works valuing above Rs. 300 crore through EPC contracts.
  • (ii) Contracts based on performance output parameters in order to review service contracts to integrate them outcome focused and simpler.
  • (iii) Leveraging technology for project management, using latest drone technology and Geo Spatial based satellite technology for remotely reviewing the physical progress across major projects. GPS-based digital display in coaches for showing upcoming stations.
  • (iv) System-wide Information Technology integration through innovative partnership models.
  • Rail Development Authority: It will be established as statutory body to enable fair pricing of railway services and promote competition, protect customer interests and determine efficiency standards.
  • Tourism: (i) Indian Railways will partner with State Governments for operating tourist circuit trains, promotion of tourism through UNESCO world heritage Railways and Railway museums.
  • (ii) To spread awareness about our National Animal, the Tiger, complete packages including train journey, safaris and accommodation to cover the wildlife circuit comprising Kanha, Pench and Bandhavgarh will be offered.

6. ISRO gears up for launch of India’s first solar mission Aditya-L1
i. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is set to launch the country’s first solar mission called Aditya-L1. It was announced by Union Minister of State (MoS) in PMO Jitendra Singh in the Lok Sabha. 

About Aditya-L1 mission

ii. As part of the mission, Aditya-L1 satellite will be placed in an orbit about 15 lakh kilometres from the earth in a halo orbit around the L1 Lagranian point. It will be launched by using the PSLV XL. 
iii. Its primary objective will be to study the solar corona and the chromosphere in different wavebands, dynamic nature of the sun’s outer most layers, and collect data about Coronal Mass Ejections (CME). 
iv. The mission is a joint venture between ISRO and physicists from various institutes including Indian Institute of Astrophysics (Bengaluru), Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, (Mumbai) and Inter University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (Pune).

7. India losses solar case against US at WTO

i. India has lost solar case against United States at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for in breaching of international trade rules. 
ii. In this regard, WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) ruled that India’s domestic content requirement for National Solar Mission (NSM) discriminated against imported solar technology.
iii.  The DSB ruled that India domestic content requirement lacked domestic manufacturing capacity in solar cells and modules and there was risk of a disruption in imports.

8. Goverdhan Mehta awarded Germany’s Cross of the Order of Merit

i. Chemical scientist and well-known researcher Goverdhan Mehta has been conferred with Germany’s prestigious Cross of the Order of Merit (Bundesverdienstkreuz) Award.
ii.  The award was bestowed upon him by Achim Fabig, German Consul General in Chennai, Tamil Nadu.

9. India and UK Institutions signed agreements for collaboration in Crop Sciences

i. Union Ministry of Science and Technology and a consortium of top UK research institutions signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for establishment of a joint India-UK collaboration programme in crop science.
ii. It was agreed by all the parties on the importance of crop science as an area of enormous potential for scientific collaboration, and of great importance for global food security in India and beyond.

10. Italy approved Gay Civil Union’s Bill

i. In Italy, Senate proved a bill recognising civil unions for same-sex and heterosexual couples. The motion was approved by a 173-71 vote.
Italy approved Gay Civil Union’s Bill
ii. The text maintains provisions including the right to a residence permit for foreign partners and to take a same-sex partner's name. 
iii. However, it removed the provision that would have allowed gay adoptions and other clauses.


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