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Evening News Digest: 08 Nov 2018

India elected Member of ITU Council for 4-year term

India has been elected as a member of the International Telecommunications Union-ITU Council for another four-year term from 2019 to 2022. The elections to the Council were held during the ongoing ITU Plenipotentiary Conference 2018 at Dubai. 

By securing 165 votes, India ranked third among the 13 countries elected to the Council from the Asia-Australasia region, and eighth among the 48 countries elected to the Council globally.

The ITU has 193 member states who elect representatives to the Council.

ITU

ITU is a specialized United Nations body that is responsible for tackling the concerns related to information and communication technology.

The ITU is active in areas including broadband Internet, latest-generation wireless technologies, aeronautical and maritime navigation, radio astronomy, satellite-based meteorology, convergence in fixed-mobile phone, Internet access, data, voice, TV broadcasting, and next-generation networks.

It is based in Geneva, Switzerland.

UN issues Diya stamps to celebrate Diwali

The UN Postal System has issued two stamps with diyas in celebration of Diwali as "the quest for the triumph of good over evil".

The stamps are in the $1.15 denomination, which is the basic rate for international air mail letters.

They are sold in sheets with 10 stamps and stickers and a large picture of the UN headquarters lit up for Diwali.

Indian city Ayodhyaya has made it into the Guinness World Records when more than 300000 diyas were simultaneously lit during Diwali festival.

West Bengal govt decides to set up boards for Namasudra, Matua communities

West Bengal government has decided to set up development boards for the Matua and Namasudra communities. 

The names of the two boards will be West Bengal Namasudra Welfare Board and West Bengal Matua Welfare Board. 

Namsudra Community

Namsudra caste is a recognized as a Scheduled Caste in the state of West Bengal, Assam and Tripura.

Election Commission sets up ‘Sangwari’ polling booths in Chhattisgarh

The Election Commission has set up ‘Sangwari’ polling booths in various constituencies of Chhattisgarh to encourage women voters to exercise their franchise in the Assembly elections. 

Sangwari

In Chhattisgarhi dialect, ‘Sangwari’ means friend. These women friendly booths will be manned by all-female staff including presiding officers, supervisors and security personnel. 

Chhattisgarh has about One crore 85 lakh electorates. Out of this, more than 92 lakh are females. The state has 90 constituencies and assembly elections are scheduled to be held in two phases on November 12th and 20th. 

Chhattisgarh

Chhattisgarh is a central Indian state surrounded by Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Telangana.

Recently, Election Commission of India has asked the Odisha government to seal borders with Chhattisgarh in order to ensure free and fair elections.

RBI relaxes ECB norms for infrastructure creation

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has liberalised External Commercial Borrowing (ECB) norms for infrastructure creation in consultation with the government.

The move comes amid concerns surrounding the availability of funds following a liquidity squeeze and the difficulties being faced by non-bank lenders, especially those facing asset liability issues due to heavy reliance on short term funding for long term assets. This, along with defaults by infra lender IL&FS, has hurt the credit markets.

A notification said the minimum average maturity required for the ECBs in the infrastructure space raised by eligible borrowers has been reduced to three years from earlier five years. 

Additionally, the average maturity requirement for mandatory hedging has been reduced to five years from earlier ten years.

What is External Commercial Borrowing?

ECB is a basically a loan availed by an Indian entity work from a non-resident lender. It is a loan availed of from non-resident lenders with a minimum average maturity of 3 years.

ECBs are being permitted by the Government as a source of finance for Indian Corporate for expansion of existing capacity as well as for fresh investment. For infrastructure sector companies, there is an overall ceiling of $20 billion.

ECB can be converted into equity shares at the Foreign Exchange Rate applicable on the date of swap agreement.

Bajwa shoots historic skeet gold at Asian Shotgun Championship

In the 8th Asian Shotgun Championship in Kuwait, Angad Vir Singh Bajwa has won a gold with a world record score in the men's skeet final. He became the first Indian skeet shooter to win a continental or world level event.

India's 10m rifle mixed team pairing of Elavenil Valarivan and Hriday Hazarika also struck gold with a junior world record score.

They finished with a score of 502.1, which is a World and Asian Junior record in the event. 

Proposed Ganga bill bans ports, jetties

Central government has banned the construction of jetties, ports or permanent hydraulic structures in Ganga unless permitted by Ganga Rejuvenation Authority.

The legislation, formally called the National River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Conservation and Management) Bill, 2018, proposes to create a management structure that will supervise the health of the 2,500-kilometre long Ganga which, the draft Bill defines, as ‘India’s national river.

National River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Conservation and Management) Bill, 2018

The bill will be presented in Winter Session of the Parliamnet.

The bill proposes restriction on the activities on the banks of Gangs to ensure ecological flow of the river.

It was long demanded by activists that dams in upper stretches of the river obstructs the river’s flow and finally government has included this point in the bill.

It becomes unclear how the restriction will work as government is also developing National Waterways Project-1 (River Ganga) from Haldia to Varanasi with technical and financial assistance of World Bank.

The waterways project involves creating permanent and movable terminals that require dredging and frequent de-slitting to ensure that minimum river depths for the smooth movement of vessels. So this becomes unclear how the government is planning to achieve what said in the bill.

Centre’s model construction workers’ welfare scheme released

Central government has released model construction worker’s welfare scheme for the consideration of states.

In the final version of the scheme, there is no mandatory pension benefits in the final version of the Centre’s Model Construction Workers welfare scheme. It is contrast to earlier suggestion which asked for 20% of the construction cess to be kept aside for retired workers.

Instead of providing a uniform scheme, Central government has asked the state governments to decide pension scheme as per their financial capacity.

How it came?

In March 2018, Supreme Court directed the central government to frame a model scheme to address the issues of health, education, social security and pension for the construction workers. It also said that more than Rs 37,400 crore have been collected for the benefit of construction workers, but ostensibly only about Rs. 9,500 crores have been utilized for their benefit. 

BOCW Act 1996

The Building And Other Construction Workers Welfare Cess Act, 1996. The Act provides for levy and collection of cess on the cost of construction incurred by employers with a view to augmenting the resources of the Building and Other Constructions Workers Welfare Board.

The major source of funds to the Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board is the collection of cess at the rate of 1% of the construction cost incurred by the employer under the Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Cess Act.

However, it failed to meet its purpose.

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