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Current Affairs for 20 March 2016
March 20, 2016

Senior officials have been assigned a new Key Result Area (KRA) — to personally resolve 10-30 public grievances a week — a move that could be construed as a strategy to sensitise officials and improve public perceptions of the NDA government.

Following a rap from Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the abysmal handling of public grievances in some departments, the Cabinet Secretariat has issued a fresh order asking the Secretaries of all departments, involved an interface with the public at large, to personally address 10 individual problems in their domains every week. Officers of the rank of Additional Secretary and Joint Secretary have been tasked with resolving 20 and 30 citizen complaints a week respectively.

This new KRA has been added to e-Samiksha, an IT-based governance platform through which the Prime Minister monitors and can red-flag the performance of the Ministries on different targets.

Top priority has been given to this directive, with the Prime Minister expected to review it from this month’s Pro-Active Governance and Timely Implementation (PRAGATI) meeting, where he interacts with Central government Secretaries and the Chief Secretaries of the States and assesses the progress based on inputs from e-Samiksha and other sources, including the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.



Pramod Kumar, an associate professor at Delhi University’s Aurobindo College, has been appointed as the new Registrar and will take over from Bhupinder Zutshi on March 21.

After two months of controversial developments over an event on campus against the hanging of Parliament Attack convict Afzal Guru, Mr. Zutshi will be demitting office on March 31. However, he will continue to teach in the university.

Speaking to The Hindu about his appointment, Mr. Kumar said: “I have already been informed of my selection and I will join office from Monday.”

On being asked about joining the position at such a controversial time, he said: “I am a JNU alumni and I understand the university pretty well. I am sure I will be able to handle things.” Mr. Kumar’s name was selected by a three-member panel. “I had applied some four to five months back. I was called for an interview and now I have been informed of my selection for the post,” Mr. Kumar added. He holds an M.Phil and PhD from School of Environmental Sciences in JNU and was teaching Chemistry in Shri Aurobindo college.



Veteran peasants’ leader and former CPI MLA Biswanath Sahu passed away at his residence at Badakusasthali village in Ganjam district in Odisha late on Friday night at age of 91 years.

According to his son, Bighneswar Sahu, ailments related to advanced age were behind his father’s death. The body was carried to Bhubaneswar on Saturday morning, where leaders of various social organisations and political parties paid their last tributes. Mr. Sahu was cremated in Puri. Despite age and other physical problems, Biswanath was a peasants’ activist till last years of his life.

He was twice elected MLA from Chatrapur Assembly constituency of Odisha in 1977 and 1981 as CPI candidate. He had also held post of State president of farmers’ wing of CPI in Odisha. Apart from it he was active in social work through association with various organisations throughout the State.

He had got attracted towards Leftist ideology from his young days. He had become member of the Communist Party in 1946 and had never strayed to any other political fold.

CPI general secretary Sudhakar Reddy has also condoled his death, CPI sources said.


Under the Army’s Mission Olympics, 10 soldiers have till now qualified for the Rio Olympics to be held in August.

“The Army has laid out a roadmap for maximum qualifications for the Rio Olympics with the aim of ‘finishing strong’ at the podium with medals for the country,” the Army said in a statement.

“The training of the qualified sportspersons is being carried out through a scientific approach at the Army Sports Institute, Pune, and the Army Marksmanship Unit, Mhow, among other institutions,” it said.

According to the official statement, 10 Army soldiers have qualified for the 2016 Olympics.

Naib Subedar Jitu Rai has won the quota for shooting in the 50m Air Pistol category. During the 51st ISSF World Championship in Granada, Spain, he qualified for Rio by winning the silver medal. The Gorkha Regiment soldier is now training at Mhow. Besides Rai, two more Army soldiers have booked the berth for various shooting events.

Hav Sandeep Singh from the Jat Regiment has been selected for the 50-km walk. Hav Nitender Singh Rawat from the Kumaon Regiment, Hav Kheta Ram from the Jat Regiment and Hav Gopi T. from the Regiment of Artillery have been selected for Athletics full marathon category. They are training at the Army Sports Institute in Pune.



An Indian student is the winner of the first Noor Inayat Khan Prize for 2016, the London-based Noor Inayat Khan Memorial Trust announced on Saturday.

Geetakshi Arora, a post-graduate student of the South Asia Institute at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, won the prize — which consists of £1,000 and a certificate — for her dissertation on “Goddess Myths in Graphic Novels: Reimagining Indian Feminity”.

The Trust awards the annual prize to a post-graduate student from SOAS, University of London, working in the area of gender studies and South Asian history.

Of Indian descent, Noor Inayat was a secret agent in the Second World War, who was sent to Nazi-occupied Paris in 1943 from where she worked as a wireless operative sending intelligence reports to the Allies. Though betrayed to the Gestapo, tortured and ultimately killed at the Dachau concentration camp, she defied her captors to the very end.



Seeking to attract more foreign investment, the government has relaxed FDI norms for the insurance sector by permitting overseas companies to buy 49 per cent stake in domestic insurers without prior approval.

Currently, up to 26 per cent FDI is permitted through the automatic approval route. For FDI up to 49 per cent, the approval of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board is required.

There are 52 insurance companies operating in India, of which 24 are in the life insurance business and 28 in general insurance.

During April-December 2015, FDI into the country grew by 40 per cent to $ 29.44 billion.



Dredging at Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), India’s biggest container port, has helped the port receive larger vessels, easing the problem of congestion.

Currently, the port with a draft of 14 metres (tidal) is capable of receiving ships that can carry 11,000 containers and on April 1, a ship with 13,900 containers will call on the port reflecting the greater draft capacity.

Earlier, ships carrying only 8,000 containers could be received at JNPT due to draft restrictions. Union Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari said, “Don’t think it is an April Fool joke. It is a fact. On April 1, 2016 JNPT will receive a ship that will carry 13,900 containers. The JNPT Chairman will announce further details in due course.”

Meanwhile, JNPT and the Shipping Ministry are also working with the Maharashtra government and Railway Ministry for the early commissioning of a rail link between Manmad and Indore that will drastically bring down container traffic movement time from the present 12 to 13 days from Mumbai to Delhi to one or two days.



As part of its Mission Resurge, Chennai Port Trust has introduced a dedicated Roll-on-Roll-off (RoRo) service to Colombo in a bid to improve its export volumes, according an official.

m.v. Maria India RoRo vessel carried a consignment of 67 trucks of Ashok Leyland to Colombo in its maiden service. Talking to The Hindu, B. Vimal, Chennai Port Traffic Manager, said: “It will be a monthly RoRo service to Colombo and Ashok Leyland has agreed to increase the number of trucks once it gets patronage. Traffic congestion has been brought down. The concession offered by the port for coastal movement worked in our favour and thus Ashok Leyland decided to use our port.”

Sri Lanka is one of the key export markets for Ashok Leyland and the company has established a strong presence in the island nation. The company has set a five-year target of achieving 25-30 per cent of volumes from exports.

There is already heavy competition between Chennai Port and Kamarajar Port in car exports. Together, they handle four lakh vehicles per annum. For years, Chennai Port was leading in car exports.

Last year, Kamarajar Port exported over two lakh cars and trucks replacing Chennai Port. Currently, Hyundai is the major customer for Chennai Port exporting over one lakh cars per annum.



London Olympic bronze medallist Yogeshwar Dutt silenced his doubters by winning the 65kg freestyle gold medal in the Asian Olympic qualifying event at Astana, Kazakhstan, and clinching an Olympic quota place in style on Saturday.

The 33-year-old, who overcame Amit Dhankar in a tough fight in the selection trials at Sonepat, defeated North Korean Ju Sing Kim 8-1 before outsmarting Vietnamese Xuan Dinh Nguyen by fall (12-2).

Meanwhile, Rahul Aware (57kg), who lost 0-10 to eventual champion Rei Higuchi of Japan in the semifinals, had to be content with a bronze medal.



World champion Lewis Hamilton scorched to his 50th career pole position at the Australian Grand Prix on Saturday as Formula One’s new-look qualifying format fizzled out in an embarrassing anti-climax.

Hamilton picked up where he left off in the last championship season of 10 wins and 11 poles as he destroyed his rivals, including Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg, to front the grid for Sunday’s season-opening race in Melbourne.

The three-time champion led almost throughout as he progressively improved his lap time over the three qualifying stages to clock a best time of one minute 23.837 seconds.

He will start inside Rosberg on the grid with the Ferrari pair Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen unable to match his blistering pace and both starting off the second row.

But the new elimination qualifying format petered out with Vettel, Raikkonen and Rosberg not bothering to improve their times in the final minutes.

Manor Racing’s Pascal Wehrlein was the first man eliminated under the new knock-out qualifying format, which whittles down the field at 90-second intervals.

He was followed by his Indonesian team-mate Rio Haryanto, who went into qualifying with a three-place grid penalty for his pit lane crash in final practice.

Hamilton went quicker, clocking 1:25.351 — nearly a second faster than last year’s pole time — to clinch his place in the second phase of qualifying as the field began to thin.