Government launches Swajal Scheme in 115 Aspirational districts
• Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation launched Swajal Scheme in 115 Aspirational districts of India to provide clean drinking water.
• It will involve outlay of Rs 700 crores through flexi-funds under existing National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) budget.
• Swajal is community owned drinking water scheme or programme for sustained drinking water supply.
• The 90 percent of project cost is borne by the Union Government and remaining 10 percent is contributed by beneficiary community.
• The operations and management of the project is taken care by the local villagers.
• The Union Government had selected 115 backward (aspirational) districts for rapid transformation by 2022 in line with Government’s vision to create ‘New India’.
• These 115 backward districts include 35 districts affected by Left Wing Extremists (LWE) violence, 55 districts just affected by LWE and another 15 including districts in Jammu and Kashmir and northeast affected by terrorism.
Task Force constituted to examine feasibility of Steel Plants in Andhra Pradesh and Telengana
• A Task Force was constituted by the Steel Ministry to examine the feasibility of setting up steel plants in Andhra Pradesh and Telengana by any interested parties at Bayyaram and Kadapa.
• The task force comprises of representatives from the Central Government, State Government and Central Public Sector Enterprises under the Ministry of Steel.
• It was constituted in October 2016 and has held series of meetings since then which were attended by the representatives of the State Governments of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana as well.
• The relevant data for preparation of the feasibility reports based on realistic assumptions is to be shared by the State Governments with MECON (CPSE under Ministry of Steel) entrusted with the task.
Naval Women Mountaineers Summit held at Mount Deotibba
• An all women Naval mountaineering team led by Lt Cdr Kokila Sajwan summited Mount Deotibba in June 2018.
• Mount Deotibba is the second highest peak (6001M) in the Pir-Panjal range in Himachal Pradesh. It is considered to be a difficult peak to summit.
• The team was led by Lt Cdr Kokila Sajwan and includes Lt Cdr Nanadini Dam Roy, Lt Cdr Seema Chaudhary, Lt Cdr Pooja Sharma, Lt Cdr Rekha Shree, Lt Cdr Rashu Tyagi, Lt Saino Wilson, Lt Chamm Kumari, Surg Lt Himwant Kaur, Lt Surbhi Sharma, Lt Shristi Thakur, Lt Vipasha Sharma, Lt Kritika Sharma as other team members.
• The team started the trek from the road head (Bara Hazari) to the base camp at an altitude of 4250 mtrs through Chikka and Seri.
Indian, US experts discuss Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement
• A team of specialists from the US held talks with Indian counterparts to negotiate text of Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), a foundational military communications agreement.
• The meeting was held as part of preparations for 2+2 dialogue between foreign and defence ministers of India and US which is scheduled to be held in Washington in July 2018.
• India was not keen on signing two foundational agreements — COMCASA and Basic Exchange; and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA) after it had signed military logistics agreement with US in 2016.
• COMCASA is one of three foundational agreements that guide US high technology cooperation in defence sector with other countries. Other two agreements are Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) and BECA.
Russia successfully launches Glonass-M satellite
• Russia successfully launched Glonass-M positioning satellite on board of Soyuz-2.1b carrier rocket from the Plesetsk space centre in Mirny, Arkhangelsk Oblast.
• The satellite is part of GLONASS (Russian acronym for Global Navigation Satellite System) Network which provides real-time positioning data for surface, sea and airborne objects around globe.
• It was built by Reshetnev Information Satellite Systems (formerly NPO-PM).
• It has design life of 7 years which is higher than that of previous generation of Glonass satellites.
• It has two deployable solar arrays which provide 1600 watts of electrical power.
• The heart of the satellite is Caesium atomic clock that provides accurate timing reference needed to generate navigation data.
Dhanush artillery gun clears final trials
• The indigenously upgraded artillery gun Dhanush successfully completed final user trials and is ready for induction into the Indian Army.
• During third and final phase of user exploitation firings conducted at Pokhran field firing range, six Dhanush guns were fired in battery formation with 301 rounds each.
• With this test, Dhanush artillery gun has been tested in all terrains
• Dhanush is upgraded version of Swedish 155-mm Bofors howitzers, which India procured in the mid-1980s.
• It has been developed by Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), Kolkata, based on requirements of Indian Army and manufactured by Jabalpur-based Gun Carriage Factory (GCF).
• Its armament system comprises a barrel, muzzle brake, breech mechanism and recoil mechanism to fire 155 mm calibre ammunitions. It has strike range of 38 kilometres with accuracy and precision.
• It provides greater fire power, depending on type of ammunition used.
• It also has night firing capability in direct fire mode.
SAARC Development Fund to launch Social Enterprise Development Programme
• The SAARC Development Fund (SDF) announced to launch the Social Enterprise Development Programme (SEDP) as part of its social window.
• The programme aims to identify and build social enterprises by using mix of grants and concessional returnable capital.
• It intends to fund 80 enterprises across the 8 SAARC member states - Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
• The SAARC Development Fund (SDF) was established by heads of all eight SAARC member states during 16th SAARC summit at Thimphu, Bhutan in April 2010. Its Governing Council comprises finance ministers of these eight countries.
• The Fund is successor of South Asian Development Fund (SADF), which was launched in 1996 by merging two existing facilities called SAARC Fund for Regional Projects (SFRP) and SAARC Regional Fund.
Seychelles denies joint project with India to develop naval base
• Seychelles President Danny Faure, ahead of his state visit to India, denied to undertake India-Seychelles joint project to develop naval base at Assumption Island of Seychelles.
• He also stated that Seychelles will develop military facilities at the island on its own.
• India had signed 20 years agreement in 2015 during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Seychelles.
• India was keen to develop the naval base at the Assumption Island due to its key strategic location in the western periphery of Indian Ocean with an aim to expand its presence in the region where China has been trying to enhance its military presence.
• However, after the signing of agreement, opposition leaders in Seychelles came out openly against agreement with India.
• Assumption Island is a small island situated southwest of Seychelles main and largest island of Mahe. It is situated very close to Mozambique Channel from where much Indian Ocean maritime routes pass.
Nuclear Suppliers Group plenary meeting held in Jurmala
• The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) plenary meeting took place in Jurmala, Latvia after Latvia assumed chairmanship of NSG for 2018-19. With this, Latvia became first Baltic state to chair the NSG.
• NSG member states continued discussions on issue of technical, legal and political aspects of participation of non-NPT States.
• NSG continues to consider all aspects of implementation of the 2008 Statement on Civil Nuclear Cooperation with India (or NSG waiver for India) and discussed NSG relationship with India.
• There was no development for considering India’s membership. India had applied for NSG membership at 2016 Seoul plenary session, but it was objected by few member countries of NSG including China.
• NSG members reconfirmed their commitment to UN Security Council resolutions which reaffirm that North Korea will immediately abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programmes in complete, verifiable and irreversible manner.
Peggy Whitson retires as NASA’s record-breaking spacewoman
• NASA’s record-breaking spacewoman, Peggy Whitson announced her retirement as astronaut less than a year after returning from her last and longest spaceflight.
• During her career, she spent a total of 665 days in space — more than any other NASA astronaut, and record for women worldwide.
• Her last spaceflight lasted close to 10 months, spanning 2016 and 2017.
• Whitson joined NASA as researcher in 1986 and became an astronaut in 1996.
• She had flown three missions aboard International Space Station (ISS): Expedition 5 in 2002; Expedition 16 in 2008 and her longest stint in space from November 2016 through September 2017, which spanned Expeditions 50, 51 and 52.
• She had commanded Expedition 51, becoming the first woman to lead an ISS mission twice.
• She is world’s most experienced female spacewalker with 10 under her spacesuit belt with record-setting total time of 60 hours and 21 minutes.
• She is the first woman to command International Space Station (ISS), holding the position twice.
• She is the first and only woman to serve as chief of NASA’s male-dominated astronaut corps from 2009 to 2012.
Government approves financial assistance of Rs 5.5 lakh per family to Refugees settled in J&K
• The Union Government approved financial assistance amounting to Rs. 5.5 lakh per family to West Pakistan Refugees (WPRs).
• It will benefit 5764 families of WPRs settled in Jammu and Kashmir and will be effective from June 2018.
• The amount of Rs. 5.5 lakh per family will be deposited in bank accounts of eligible beneficiaries based on authentication by State Government.
• For smooth implementation of the scheme, the State Government will also appoint Nodal Officer for this scheme.
• Full expenditure for this scheme will be borne by Central Government.
Japan adopts plan to allow more foreign workers to work
• Japan’s Cabinet adopted an economic plan to allow more foreign workers to work in the country.
• This proposal will help the country to make up for its declining workforce.
• In recent times, number of foreign workers in Japan has nearly doubled to 1.28 million.
• Under the plan, Japan will relax visa requirements in sectors facing severe labour shortages such as agriculture, nursing care, construction and transport.
• It will create new five-year visa category for non-professional foreign workers.
• The non-professional foreign workers will be allowed to stay in Japan for only up to five years as visitors, not as immigrants.
• They will be not allowed to be accompanied by their family members.