Govt to set up ₹2,000 cr fund for development of agri market
- The Central Government has proposed to liberalise the export of agricultural commodities as it sets an annual export target of $100 billion as against the current export value of $30 billion
- Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who presented the Union Budget 2018-19 in Parliament, said latest testing facilities would be set up in 42 mega food parks in the country to screen and enhance the quality of exported products.
- The Finance Minister also proposed to double the budgetary allocation for the Ministry of Food Processing to Rs 1,400 crore as the sector was growing at an average annual rate of 8 per cent.
- He also revealed plans to establish specialised agro-processing financial institutions to aid the growth of the sector.
- Also planned a Rs 2,000-crore fund for developing and upgrading agricultural marketing infrastructure, 22,000 rural haats and 585 agricultural mandis.
Credit for agricultural activities increased to ₹11 lakh cr
- The institutional credit for agricultural activities has been increased from ₹10 lakh crore to ₹11 lakh crore for the FY 2018-19, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced while presenting this year’s budget in the Parliament on Thursday. Jaitley also announced that the Grameen Agricultural Market (GRAM) will provide farmers a means to sell directly to buyers.
Govt allots ₹56k cr for SC welfare, ₹39k cr for ST welfare
- Presenting the Union Budget 2018 in Parliament, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has announced ₹56,619 crore for SC welfare and ₹39,135 crore for ST welfare. Every block with more than 50% ST population and at least 20,000 tribal people will have an ‘Ekalavya’ model residential school by 2022.
₹14.3 lakh crore to be spent for rural infrastructure: Govt
- Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that the government has allocated ₹14.3 lakh crore to be spent for rural infrastructure. He said every block with more than 50% ST population and at least 20,000 tribal people will have a model residential school by 2022. He added social security will be provided to aged, widows, and orphaned children.
Govt announces ₹10,000 crore for fisheries and aqua-culture
- Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has ₹10,000 crore for the fisheries and aqua-culture and animal husbandry fund, during his Budget speech today. He also said that Kisan credit cards will be extended to fisheries and animal husbandry farmers. He added that exports for agriculture commodities will be liberalised.
Ujjwala scheme expands ambit to take 8 cr poor women for LPG
- Finance minister Arun Jaitley has raised the target of beneficiaries under Ujjwala scheme to 8 crore, besides proposing lowering female employees’ provident fund contribution to 8 per cent for the first three years.
- While presenting the Union Budget 2018 in Parliament, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced that eight crore poor women will be provided with free LPG connections under the Ujjwala scheme.
- The Minister added that the Saubhagya scheme will provide power to four crore families and that the government will spend ₹16,000 crore on this scheme.
Govt to contribute 12% as EPF
- Government will now contribute 12% of employee provident fund to the new employees in all sections for the next 3 years.
- EPF Act will be amended to reduce contribution of women to 8% from 12% with no change in employer’s contribution.
- This would effectively mean women employees will be able to get a higher take home pay.
President’s monthly salary to go up from ₹1.5 lakh to ₹5 lakh
- While presenting the Union Budget 2018, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday announced that the President’s monthly salary will be increased to ₹5 lakh from the earlier ₹1.5 lakh. Further, the Vice President’s monthly salary will be increased to ₹4 lakh from ₹1.25 lakh. The government has proposed a law to automatically revise MPs’ salaries every 5 years.
Sushma Swaraj leaves on a 2-day Kathmandu visit
- In an effort to strengthen bilateral relations with the neighbouring country, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has left for Kathmandu for two days during which she will hold talks with the Nepalese leadership.
Punjab government bans sale of Endosulfan, other insecticides
- Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh today approved a ban on the sale of Endosulfan and 19 other insecticides reported to be harmful for human beings as well as from the environmental sustainability and economic viability aspects.
- Acting on the recommendations of the Registration Committee, Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), and the Punjab State Farmers’ Commission (PSFC), the chief minister, who also holds the agriculture portfolio, gave his nod to the ban, to be effective from February 1.
Maharashtra govt approves new wildlife sanctuary at Ghodazari
- The Maharashtra government has approved Ghodazari in Chandrapur district as a new wildlife sanctuary in the state. The decision was taken at the 13th meeting of the Maharashtra State Board for Wildlife, chaired by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
- The sanctuary, in the North East of Tadoba, will include 159 sq km of Brahmapuri forest.
- The proposal for road widening and strengthening of National Highway 8 outside SGNP was also approved at the meeting.
Maharashtra government to give sanitary pads to 7 lakh girls at Rs 5 a pack
- The Maharashtra government has launched a scheme to make a pack of sanitary pads available to 7 lakh girls studying in government schools for a subsidised price of Rs 5.
- It intends to increase the percentage of usage of sanitary pads to 75 % from the current 17 % in rural Maharashtra.
- The state cabinet has approved a proposal to launch, Asmita (meaning dignity) — a scheme to make sanitary pads available to girls aged between 11 and 19.
India slips to 42nd place on EIU Democracy Index; US at 21st
- India has slipped to 42nd place on an annual Global Democracy Index amid “rise of conservative religious ideologies” and increase in vigilantism and violence against minorities as well as other dissenting voices.
- While Norway has again topped the list, followed by Iceland and Sweden, compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), India has moved down from 32nd place last year and remains classified among “flawed democracies”.
- The index ranks 165 independent states and two territories on the basis of five categories: electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, the functioning of government, political participation and political culture. The list has been divided into four broad categories — full democracy, flawed democracy, hybrid regime and authoritarian regime.
- The US (ranked 21), Japan, Italy, France, Israel, Singapore, and Hong Kong have also been named among ‘flawed democracies’.
India may grow 7.2-7.5% in H2
- India is expected to register a growth rate of 7.2-7.5 per cent in the second half of the current fiscal and is on way to becoming the 5th largest economy of the world.
- While unveiling the Budget 2018-19, he said, India has grown on an average of 7.5 per cent in the first three years of the current government and has become a USD 2.5 trillion economy.
- India has already become 7th largest economy of the world, he said, adding that it is expected to become 5th largest economy soon.
- GDP growth in first quarter of 2017-18 had moderated to 5.7 per cent, the lowest in the three years. In the second quarter, it recovered to 6.3 per cent.
Government to merge 3 general insurance companies, list subsequently
- As part of divestment of public sector entities, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today said the government will merge three general insurance firms into one and subsequently list the entity on stock exchanges.
- Three public sector general insurance companies — National Insurance Co Ltd, United India Assurance Co Ltd and Oriental India Insurance Company — will be merged into a single insurance company and be subsequently listed.
- As part of divestment of stake in its general insurance firms, the government diluted stakes in New India Assurance Co Ltd and and General Insurance Corporation of India last year.
Venezuela Announces Whitepaper and Pre-Sale of Its Oil-Backed Cryptocurrency Petro
- Venezuela’s president Nicolás Maduro has announced the pre-sale of his country’s national oil-backed cryptocurrency, the petro. In addition, he has presented and signed the official petro’s whitepaper and unveiled the Petro Container for mining the new currency.
- The cryptocurrency, named “petro”, will have a great impact on the country’s economy.
- The launch of the cryptocurrency is aimed at reviving the country from the biggest financial crisis in its history.
Google Assistant adds Hindi language support for India (sort of)
- Technology giant Google has added Hindi language support for its digital assistant for users on Allo messenger in India. The feature can be enabled by setting “English (India)” as the primary language on Android phones.
- Google Assistant then translates the Hindi voice commands to English and displays the answer in Hindi on the screen.
Third Scorpene-class submarine INS Karanj launched
- The Indian Navy has launched the third Scorpene class submarine Karanj. Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba’s wife Reena Lanba launched the submarine, which has been constructed by shipbuilder Mazagon Dock Limited.
- The new submarine is named after the earlier Kalvari class INS Karanj, which was decommissioned in 2003.
- Six Scorpene class submarines are being built under Project 75 by the Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDSL), Mumbai, under a $3.75 billion technology transfer signed in October 2005 with the Naval Group of France.
A hill on Mars is named after Kalpana Chawla
- NASA named seven hills on planet Mars after the seven crew members, including India-born astronaut Kalpana Chawla, of the Space Shuttle Columbia who lost their lives while returning from their mission.
- The crew died when the space shuttle disintegrated on re-entering Earth’s atmosphere on February 1, 2003. “The Columbia crew…made the supreme sacrifice in the name of exploration,” announced NASA.
Surendra Kumar new Chief Electoral Officer of Odisha
- The Election Commission of India (ECI) has appointed senior IAS officer Surendra Kumar as the new Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of Odisha. Kumar will replace D N Gupta.
- Kumar, a 1993 batch IAS officer is currently serving as the principal secretary in ST and SC Welfare Department with additional charge as the Principal Secretary of Information & Public Relations (I&PR) Department of Odisha government.
National ‘A’ Chess Tourney for the Blind from Feb 3
- The 13th edition of the ‘AICFB National A Chess Championship for the visually challenged’ will be held in Mumbai from February 3 to 11.
- The championship is being organised by the All India Chess Federation for the Blind (AICFB)
- There will be a selection of Indian team for the forthcoming ‘World Team Chess Championship’ in July 2018.
- Total 14 players have been selected to take part in the prestigious tournament on the basis of their performance in the National ‘B’ Chess tournament.
- The winner will be crowned as India’s ‘National Blind Chess Champion’ for 2018.