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♦ Cabinet nod for ₹10,000-crore Gaganyaan human space mission
- The Union Cabinet on Friday approved the Gaganyaan project, under which a three-member crew would be in space for at least seven days, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said.
- The project will cost ₹10,000 crore, he said at a press conference in New Delhi.
- The Gaganyaan project was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Independence Day speech this year. He had said the mission will be undertaken by 2022.
- India has already inked agreements with Russia and France for assistance in this project.
♦ Foundation stone of 11 projects for Yamuna rejuvenation laid
- A total of 11 projects have been taken up by National Mission for Clean Ganga to conserve River Yamuna in Delhi. Most of the projects are for sewerage infrastructure.
- The current sewage generation for Delhi city is about 327 crore liters per day against the existing treatment capacity of 276 crore liters per day.
- Since 1993 action plan has been made to clean Yamuna but not much improvement has been seen since then.
- The central government has taken up 11 projects under Namami Gange Programme by National Mission for Clean Ganga to conserve river Yamuna in Delhi so that ecosystem is preserved in the Yamuna. Most of the projects are for the sewerage infrastructure.
- The government launched YAP-III with JICA assistance in Delhi at an estimated cost of Rs 1,656 crore. Delhi Jal Board is the executing agency for these projects.
- A total of eight sewerage infrastructure projects in Delhi under YAP-III include the creation of 56.4 crore litres per day Sewerage Treatment Plants capacity at Okhla, rehabilitation of 38.6 crore litres per day Sewerage Treatment Plants capacity; rehabilitation of trunk sewer and Rising main of 35 km length in Kondli and Rithala zones.
- Under the plan, 3 drainage systems, STP plants of 950 MLD capacity, Rs. 65 crore reservoir in Chhatarpur and Rs. 2.5 crore STP in 9 different places are being set up.
♦ Govt approves amendments to POCSO Act
- The government on Friday approved amendments to the POCSO Act 2012, to bring punishments for sexual assaults against boys on par with those against girls, including the provision of death penalty when a child is under 12-years-old.
- Following the outrage over gangrapes in Unnao and Kathua earlier this year, the government had brought an Ordinance in April and followed it by passing a Bill in Parliament during Monsoon Session. The Bill was introduced to amend the Indian Penal Code to provide death penalty for gangrape of a girl under 12 years, and 20 years in jail to death penalty for rape of a girl under 12 years, among others.
- Provisions were also added to provide imprisonment for the rest of one’s natural life for gangrape of a girl under 16 years, while rape of a girl in the same age bracket would be punishable with jail of 20 years up to life imprisonment.
- However, the absence of changes to Prevention of Child Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), 2012, which deals with sexual crimes against both girls and boys, meant that similar crimes committed against boys carried lighter punishment as those committed against girls. The latest set of changes approved by the Union Cabinet address these anomalies.
♦ GST evasion worth ₹38,896 crore detected during April-Oct
- The government has detected GST evasion worth ₹38,896 crore in 6,585 cases in the April-October period of 2018-19, Parliament was informed on Friday.
- Minister of State for Finance Shiv Pratap Shukla said while central excise evasion of ₹3,028.58 crore in 398 cases was unearthed during the seven-month period, service tax evasion of ₹26,108.43 crore was detected in 3,922 cases.
- Customs evasion was detected in 12,711 cases involving ₹6,966.04 crore and Goods and Services Tax (GST) evasion worth ₹38,895.97 crore was unearthed in 6,585 cases, he said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha.
- The total amount of evasion in indirect taxes (GST, service tax, excise and customs) during April-October adds up to about ₹75,000 crore.
- During the seven-month period, the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) recovered evasion worth ₹9,480 crore in GST, ₹3,188 crore in service tax, ₹1,600.84 crore in customs and ₹383.5 crore in central excise, Mr. Shukla said.
♦ PM Modi says Rupay cards to be launched in Bhutan to improve people to people contacts
- Prime Minister added that India will contribute 4500 crore rupees for Bhutan’s 12th Five Year Plan. He further said India will continue to support Bhutan in its development. He hoped that under Dr Lotay’s leadership, Bhutan will continue its progress.
- Prime Minister of Bhutan said India has been supporting Bhutan for development related activities. He said PM Modi has assured support to the Bhutanese traders who have been affected by the implementation of Goods and Services Tax. Both leaders also discussed the entire spectrum of bilateral relations and explored new opportunities to further strengthen them.
- Dr Tshering arrived in New Delhi yesterday on a three-day visit to India. His visit takes place during the Golden Jubilee year of the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between the two countries. He was accorded ceremonial reception at the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan this morning.
- Earlier the visiting dignitary also paid homage to Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat. Later, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj called on Dr Tshering.
- This is the Bhutanese Prime Minister’s first visit abroad after assuming office. He will call on President Ram Nath Kovind and Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu later today.
- Prime Minister Modi said, collaboration in space science is a new dimension in India-Bhutan relations. He said,ground station being built by ISRO in Bhutan will soon be ready. The station will help Bhutan get benefits from South Asian satellite.
♠Vocabulary (The Hindu)♣
- VILIFY (VERB): (बदनाम करना):criticize
Synonyms: damn, malign
Antonyms: praise, laud
Example: She was vilifying Aman.
- ORCHESTRATE (VERB): (क्रमबद्ध करना):organize
Synonyms: arrange, set up
Antonyms: disperse, divide
Example: They will orchestrate the meeting for you.
- LOUT (NOUN): (गंवार):boor
Synonyms: brute, slob
Antonyms: gentle, mild
Example: He is a lout person.
- STEREOTYPED (ADJECTIVE): (मंद):banal
Synonyms: dull, hackneyed
Antonyms: fresh, new
Example: It was a stereotyped movie.
- DELINEATE (VERB): (चित्रित करना):describe; outline
Synonyms: define, depict
Antonyms: distort, confuse
Example: It is very difficult to delineate this chapter in few words.
- ABSURD (ADJECTIVE): (बेतुका):inconsistent with reason, logic or common sense.
Synonyms: idiotic, illogical
Antonyms: logical, sensible
Example: What an absurd idea !
- ABASEMENT (NOUN): (मानहानि):A low or downcast state.
Synonyms: abjection, humiliation
Antonyms: praising, commendable
Example: Every disaster brought my brother into an attitude of abasement.
- PREVARICATE (VERB): (छलकपट करना):belie
Synonyms: cavil, con
Antonyms: be honest, tell truth
Example: US ministers continued to prevaricate on the issue.
Battle for Dhaka
Demands by the Opposition in Bangladesh for the resignation of the Chief Election Commissioner just four days ahead of the December 30 parliamentary election reflect the bitter divisions that have undermined the credibility of government agencies. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party, the main constituent of the Opposition Jatiya Oikya Front, claims that 9,200 of its activists have been arrested since the election schedule was announced. The country has seen a spike in political violence, mainly targeting the Opposition. The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina denies the allegations and blames the BNP for violence. Last week, Mahbub Talukdar, an election commissioner, said there was no level playing field between the ruling Awami League and the Opposition. In a report published on December 22, Human Rights Watch said that “arrests and other repressive measures… have contributed to a climate of fear”. Ever since democracy was restored in 1990-91, election seasons have been tumultuous. In the past when the BNP was in power, it had refused to step down after its tenure ended. In 1996, the Awami League led mass movements for elections, while in 2006 a military-backed caretaker government postponed the election, which was finally held in December 2008. Since then, Ms. Hasina has held power.
This time, she is seeking re-election with a formidable record in government. During the last 10 years the economy has seen a relatively high growth rate, hitting 7.8% last fiscal. Bangladesh also improved on social indicators over the past decade. While the Sheikh Hasina government takes credit for this as well as its tough stand on Islamist militancy, it faces criticism for its authoritarian turn. The passing of the Digital Security Bill and the crackdown on student protests in Dhaka drew flak even from Awami League supporters. On the other side, the Opposition is trying to channel the resentment towards the government. Khaleda Zia, BNP leader and a former Prime Minister, is disqualified from contesting as she is in prison for corruption, and the Opposition has brought in Kamal Hossain, a jurist who was a minister in Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s government, to lead the alliance. But the Opposition’s tacit alliance with the Jamaat-e-Islami, the militant Islamist party whose registration with the Election Commission was revoked after a 2013 court ruling, has been alarming. BNP workers too have been involved in violent incidents. For the Awami League, the election should have been an opportunity to break with the history of violence and seek the mandate based on its performance. But its increasing tendency to use force against the Opposition and the violence by its party activists have already marred the election process.
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