National News- Daily Digest: 8 Key Updates

1. 100 pc paper trail voting planned in Gujarat, Himachal elections

The Election Commission of India has decided to link all Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) with Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines in the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections, scheduled to be held towards the end of this year. This decision was taken sometime back and orders for the new machines have been placed. VVPAT machines produce a printout of the vote cast using an EVM. The printout is deposited in a box and can be used to resolve any dispute regarding the election.

2. From President and Prime Minister down: lal batti is off

The Union Cabinet decided to ban the use of red beacons on all VIP vehicles, including those of the President, Vice-President and Prime Minister, from May 1. Emergency services, like ambulances and fire brigade, will be allowed to use blue beacons.
Rule 108 (I) and 108 (II) of the Motor Vehicles Act, which allow central and state governments to permit red beacons for dignitaries, would be scrapped.

3. PHFI loses FCRA licence for lobbying

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has cancelled the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) licence of the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), the country’s largest public health advocacy group. The NGO has been barred from receiving foreign funds on the ground, among others, that it used foreign contributions to lobby parliamentarians, the media and the government on tobacco control issues, which “is prohibited under the FCRA.”
4. Trump’s new order: Indian IT sees red as H-1B visa window gets smaller

An executive order signed by US President Donald Trump (Indian time) to protect American industry, has also targeted Indian information technology services firms, who depend on H-1B visas to send engineers to work on projects to the US. Trump has directed his top administration officials – the Secretaries of State, Labor and Homeland Security along with the Attorney General= to suggest reforms, so that the H-1B visas are given to the most skilled or highest paid beneficiaries. The move by Trump will help Silicon Valley-based entities such as Google, Facebook and Oracle to take advantage of the programme to get more engineers from India to work on projects back home. At the same time, it is expected to hurt outsourcing companies majors here, such as Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Infosys and Wipro, which traditionally have used the H-1B visa programme to send engineers to work on projects at customer locations in America.

5. Centre clears way for Indian firms to merge with foreign companies

Paving the way for a broader Merger and Acquisition (M&A) landscape, the Centre has allowed Indian companies to merge with companies abroad. However, such outbound mergers will be allowed only with the prior approval of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Indian companies will now be able to merge into foreign companies based in Mauritius, the Netherlands, Singapore, UK, US, Abu Dhabi, DIFC (Dubai) and UAE.
While explicitly allowing Indian companies to merge with companies abroad, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs has also reaffirmed the existing legal position of allowing foreign companies to merge with Indian firms here through a scheme of arrangement (inbound mergers).
The erstwhile Companies Act 1956 had no specific provision allowing Indian companies to go for outbound mergers. Only inbound mergers (foreign companies merging into Indian companies) were allowed under this law, which was replaced by the new Companies Act, 2013.

6. Telangana to spend Rs. 1,000 cr on rabi paddy procurement

The Telangana government will be spending about Rs. 1,000 crore for purchase of paddy in the rabi season. Though severe drought hit several districts, the government expects good arrivals of paddy this season.
Majority of farmers went for paddy this season, shifting from other summer crops, encouraged by good rains in September-October 2016. The procurement of rabi paddy has begun in the State this month.
The government expects 25 lakh tonnes of additional paddy from the two seasons, taking the total paddy production to about 56 lakh tonnes as against 30.50 lakh tonnes last year. It is estimated that the State could achieve a total food grain production of 90 lakh tonnes for the 2016-17 agriculture year, over 40 lakh tonnes more than the previous year.

7. ISRO, DKZP to map assets of gram panchayats

Dakshina Kannada Zilla Panchayat (DKZP), in association with ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) and the Moodbidri-based Alva’s Institute of Engineering and Technology, have come forward to map the assets of all the gram panchayats of Mangaluru taluk. Mangaluru taluk will be the first one in the state to be part of the Bhuvan Panchayat project of the Centre.
Around 270 public assets of 56 gram panchayats of Mangaluru taluk will be spatially mapped by the representatives of panchayat raj institutions under this project.

8. Army to induct more Pinaka systems

Adding fire power to its artillery, the Indian Army is looking to induct eight indigenously developed Pinaka multi-barrel rocket launcher systems. The Pinaka system is designed and developed by two private entities, the Tatas and Larsen and Toubro, in association with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
The Defence Acquisition Council cleared a RFP (Request for Proposal) last November for six additional regiments at a cost of Rs. 14,633 crore. The Indian Army currently operates two regiments of the Pinaka, combat proven and used in the Kargil conflict, that can fire up to 12 missiles in 44 seconds.

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