National News- Daily Digest: 9 Key Updates
1. Cabinet clears proposal to build 10 atomic reactors
The Union Cabinet approved the proposal to construct 10 indigenous pressurised heavy water nuclear reactors with a total capacity of 7,000 MW.
The decision comes against the backdrop of recent troubles for India’s international collaborations in nuclear projects. While the U.S. deal involving Toshiba Westinghouse for six 1000 AP reactors is floundering after Westinghouse filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the deal with French company Areva for reactors in Jaitapur remain mired in negotiations over costing.
These 10 plants would create ₹70,000 crore worth of business for domestic manufacturers and generate about 33,400 job.
2. NTRO now under Intelligence Act
The National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), which reports to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the National Security Advisor (NSA) will now have the same “norms of conduct” as the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW).
NTRO will be listed under The Intelligence Organisations (Restriction of Rights) Act, 1985, a demand being made by the organisation for over a decade now.
The Act prevents employees of a notified agency from forming unions/associations, puts restrictions on the employee’s freedom of speech, bars any communication with the press, or publishing a book or other document without the permission of the head of the intelligence organisation.
Both IB and R&AW have on earlier occasions opposed the inclusion of any other organisation in the list of monitoring agencies under the Act.
3. Vizag billed the cleanest rail station
The Visakhapatnam railway station is the cleanest, followed by Secunderabad and Jammu Tawi, among the 75 major stations in the country. The findings are a part of a third party survey on station cleanliness carried out by the Quality Control of India (QCI). Darbhanga in Bihar is the dirtiest among these major stations classified as A1.
The QCI evaluated cleanliness at 407 railway stations’ parking, main entry area, main platform and waiting room. Passenger feedback was also factored in. A round-the-clock control room was set up and images were geo-tagged to monitor the progress, according to the Indian Railways.
The survey is part of its ‘Swachh Rail’ campaign.
4. Trujet gets clearance for UDAN flights
Hyderabad-based Turbo Megha Airways’ Trujet became the first airline to receive an Air Operator Certificate (AOC) under the scheduled commuter operator category. The move will enable the airline to operate flights under the Centre’s UDAN scheme for regional connectivity. Trujet is one of five airlines to have won bids to operate on 128 routes connecting 70 airports under the scheme.
5. Cabinet clears coal linkage policy ‘Shakti’ to end India Inc’s fuel woes
The Cabinet approved a long-awaited coal linkage policy, in a breather to the thermal power sector.
Named Shakti or the Scheme to Harness and Allocate Koyla (Coal) Transparently in India, it aims to auction long-term coal linkages to power companies. It is expected to revive 30,000 Mw of power plants in the country, which are awaiting fuel supply.
Major beneficiaries in the private sector are Reliance Power, Adani Power, Lanco Infratech, GMR Energy, DB Power, CESC and KSK Energy. With this policy, the government also aims to reduce dependence on imported coal.
Under the policy, coal linkages would be awarded to designated state-owned power distribution companies (discoms). These, in turn, would assign linkages to state or central power generation companies via allocation, and through auction to private units.
The Independent Power Producers (IPPs) participating in the auction will bid for discounts on the existing tariff and this would be adjusted from the gross coal bills. The power requirement of a group of states can be aggregated; procurement of power on tariff-based bidding would be by a designated agency. Linkages would be earmarked for such agencies.
6. Telecom Ministry sets up panel to look into industry
The Ministry of Communications has set up an inter-ministerial group (IMG) to look in ailing financials of the telecom sector, which also will look into the policy reforms and strategic interventions for the sector.
The IMG will submit its recommendations in three months. The IMG includes various officials of the Department of Telecommunications, Department of Financial Services, Department of Economic Affairs and Department of Revenue.
The terms of the IMG are to examine issues affecting viability and repayment capacity in telecom sector and furnish recommendations for resolution of stresses assets at the earliest. It will also look into the policy reforms and strategic interventions for the sector, and invite nominees from telecom sector and financial institutions.
The industry – including operators and their bodies – had stated the sector was bleeding with a debt at about Rs. 8,00,000 crore, annual interest payment of telcos at about Rs. 78,000 crore and financials such as EBITDA of telcos down to around Rs. 50,000 crore.
The operators were also seeking deferred payment of spectrum charges to 18 years from the present eight years.
7. Joint HADR Exercise Commences At Naval Station Karwar
The Indian Navy’s three-day annual joint Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) exercise began in Karnataka’s Karwar city.
This year’s edition, code-named ‘Karavali Karunya’ which means assistance to the coast of Karnataka, will see the armed forces and central and state government agencies working together towards providing relief in a post-tsunami scenario in bid to validate disaster management plans individually and collectively.
The exercise is planned in two phases; phase one for actions to be taken prior the tsunami hitting the coast, and phase two involving actions to be taken after it has hit and devastated the coast.
The exercise will also involve a static display showcasing modern high-tech equipment to manage the aftermath of a tsunami, which includes helicopters from the Indian Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard, and a simulated clean-up and operationalisation of a harbour post the tsunami.
8. Bilateral Exercise Between Indian & Republic Of Singapore Navy Simbex-17 Commences
As part of ‘SIMBEX-17’, the ongoing Bilateral Naval Exercise between Navies of the Republic of Singapore and India, Indian Naval Ships Shivalik, Sahyadri, Jyoti and Kamorta and one P8-I Maritime Patrol and Anti-Submarine Warfare Aircraft are participating.
SIMBEX is an acronym for “Singapore-India Maritime Bilateral Exercises”. This year’s edition of SIMBEX-17 being held in the South China Sea would be the 24th in the series and is aimed to increase interoperability between the RSN and IN as well as develop common understanding and procedures for maritime security operations. The scope of the current exercise includes wide-ranging professional interactions during the Harbour Phase scheduled from 18 May to 20 May and a diverse range of operational activities at sea during the Sea Phase to be held from 21 May to 24 May. The thrust of exercises at sea this year would be on Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), integrated operations with Surface, Air and Sub-surface forces, Air Defence and Surface Encounter Exercises.
9. ISRO, NASA to jointly inspect ‘oldest civilization’ site in Haryana
Teams of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the United States and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) would inspect the excavation being carried out at an archaeological site in Haryana’s Fatehabad district to verify claims of it being the oldest civilization in the world. Archaeologists have recovered artifacts pre-dating the Harappan Civilisation from the site, located in village Kunal in Fatehabad district.