President Ram Nath Kovind called upon students of the Indian Institutes
of Technology (IITs) to turn entrepreneurs to create jobs and give back to
society in their own way.
“Through your enterprise, you shall become creators of economic values
and jobs. Being an IITian, you should aspire to achieve the best not only
for yourself and your families, but also for the society and for nation at
large,” he said.
The President advised students not to hesitate taking up worthy
challenges in their careers.“You, in IITs, are fortunate to receive
world-class education. There is a moral obligation to pay back and help
those who are less privileged in whichever manner the individual prefers,”
The President also expressed happiness over progress made by the IITs.
Spiritual route to spur Tourism
In a bid to spur domestic travel, the government plans to promote
religious tourism in the country, said Minister of State for Tourism K.J.
Plans are also afoot to popularise yoga and Ayurveda among millennials,
as part of efforts to reach out to people across the globe and get “millions
of more people to India.”
The government is now investing in creating infrastructure around
The number of domestic tourist visits in 2017 stood at about 1.8
billion, up about 12% from the over 1.6 billion in the previous year.
The government has already approved two projects — Swadesh Darshan
Scheme, wherein infrastructure will be built around places of tourist
interest under the umbrella of 15 themes such as Buddhist Circuit, Krishna
Circuit, Spiritual Circuit, Ramayana Circuit and Heritage Circuit.
Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Augmentation Drive or PRASAD
scheme that focuses on the development and beautification of identified
The government has approved allocation of about Rs. 7,000 crore for
about 90 projects under the two schemes.
The Tourism Ministry recently launched ‘Yogi of the Racetrack’, a
minute-long advertisement on yoga, that received more than 11.5 million hits
in a week.
Six more similar advertisements on topics, including Ayurveda, will be
released soon. “The whole idea is to storm the world with what the true
essence of India is.”
Foreign tourist arrivals in 2017 stood at over 10 million, a growth of
15.6% over 8.8 million such arrivals in 2016. This resulted in foreign
exchange earnings of $ 27.6 billion last year, a growth of 20.8% over 2016.
The Minister said that to boost tourism, the attitude of citizens should
Tribal schemes revisited: Kerala
In the long term, the department had issued directions to all field
officers of the MGNREGS to take urgent steps to identify tribal families and
issue them job cards.
The meeting decided to prepare an action plan for taking up development
work in land owned by tribal families or in tribal hamlets to be implemented
during the 2018-19 financial year.
It was reported at the meeting that there were wage arrears to be paid
to the tribal people and on this basis, the field officers have been
directed to take the necessary steps to clear the arrears.
It was decided to provide wages to tribal families for taking up
cultivation in their own land.
The MGNREGS officials have been asked to provide them job days in
convergence with the Agriculture Department for cultivation in their own
land in accordance with the approved package of practice.
The meeting also decided to take up construction of tanks, including
silpaulin-lined tanks, to meet their drinking water requirements and
construction of roads to tribal hamlets.
This would be done in convergence with the Forest Department. According
to sources in the Rural Development Department, steps will be taken to
ensure that all tribal families are given job cards.
For tribal women, skill training will be given in masonry work, building
blocks construction, etc under Kudumbasree and they will be utilised for
construction of houses under the LIFE Mission.
The efforts to push the work under the MGNREGS could run into trouble if
panchayats in the tribal areas have failed to upload the completion reports
of all works undertaken up to 2016-17 on the MGNREGS portal and have failed
to complete geo-tagging of commissioned work.
The labour budgets of such erring panchayats would not get approval of
the Central government. The figures of actual achievements in the tribal
areas would be revealed only when this process was over, they said.
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena lifted the island-wide state
of emergency that he imposed on March 6 to contain spiralling anti-Muslim
violence in the central highlands.
Earlier in March, Sinhalese groups carried out a series of targeted
attacks against the Muslim-owned mosques, shops and homes in Kandy located
in the Central Province.
The death of a Sinhalese driver, who succumbed to injuries caused by
four Muslim youth in a road-rage incident, is said to have triggered the
The ensuing anti-Muslim violence claimed at least two lives and injured
many, in addition to causing loss worth millions to Muslim traders.
Locals in the area accused the police of inaction. The government had to
summon the Army to tackle tensions.
Police said they have arrested nearly 200 suspects, including a key
suspect associated with a hard-line Sinhala Buddhist organisation who has in
the past posted messages attacking Muslims on social media.
Following the violent episodes, the government banned social media
networks, including Facebook, WhatsApp and Viber that authorities said
contributed to an escalation in tensions.
The services were restored last week, amid growing criticism over the
government’s apparent inability to monitor or act upon online hate speech.
Syria’s war crisis
Turkey’s flag was flying in Syria’s Afrin after Turkish troops and
Ankara-backed rebels chased out Kurdish militia forces to seize control of
In a major victory for Ankara’s two-month operation against the Kurdish
People’s Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria, Turkey-led forces pushed
into Afrin apparently unopposed, taking up positions across the city.
The advance came as Syria’s civil war entered its eighth year this week
with heavy fighting on two fronts — around Afrin and in the rebel enclave of
Eastern Ghouta near Damascus.
Hundreds have been killed and thousands forced from their homes by the
ferocious assault in Ghouta, where Russian-backed forces loyal to President
Bashar Al-Assad are battling to retake the last rebel enclave outside the
Around 2,50,000 civilians had left in recent days after pro-Ankara
fighters all but surrounded the city, fleeing southwards to territory still
held by the YPG or controlled by the Syrian regime.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that Turkey-backed fighters had
taken control of the city centre at 8:30 a.m. (0530 GMT).
Mr. Erdoğan has said that the operation could move on to other
Kurdish-controlled areas of northern Syria.
Residents said it appeared that YPG units had withdrawn from the city
without a fight. Officials with the Kurdish militia could not be immediately
reached for comment.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 280 civilians
have been killed since the campaign began on January 20 — including 16 at a
The Observatory said that more than 1,500 Kurdish fighters had been
killed since the start of the offensive on January 20, most of them in air
strikes and artillery fire.
More than 400 pro-Ankara rebels have also been killed, it said. The
Turkish military says 46 Turkish soldiers have died.
Association of power producers accuse RBI
The Association of Power Producers has accused the RBI of overruling the
Parliamentary standing panel on power and key ministries with its February
12 circular that ended all the existing loan restructuring mechanisms and
voted for the insolvency code to resolve stressed assets.
The association has also sought a special dispensation from the Reserve
Bank saying their defaults are caused mostly by non-payment/delayed payments
by state discoms and regulatory delays coupled with poor coal supplies by
In a March 12 letter to the RBI, the association has requested Governor
Urjit Patel to exclude the power sector from the purview of the new rules.
Indirectly accusing the central bank of overruling the House panel on
energy and the views of the Union power and coal ministries.
The issue of stressed assets was discussed... with developers, bankers,
regulators, and officials of power and coal ministries by the Parliamentary
Standing Committee on Energy.”
“Every effort should be made to see that the projects with huge
investment do not become NPAs for want of marginal financial infusion or
adjustment in the way of making working capital available for passing on the
interest variable to the stressed asset,” it said.
IOC, BPCL for Gas authority
State-owned Indian Oil Corp (IOC) and Bharat Petroleum Corp. Ltd (BPCL)
may buy 26% stake each in gas utility GAIL India Ltd., paying the government
over Rs. 20,000 crore each to become integrated energy firms.
Following Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s February 2017 Budget
announcement aimed at creating integrated oil majors, IOC and BPCL had
submitted separate proposals to buy the Centre’s 54.89% stake in India’s
biggest gas marketing and transportation firm, GAIL.
A top source said the government was not looking at an actual merger of
oil companies but only transfer of its ownership to a cash-rich PSU. At
closing price of Rs. 440.85 a share for GAIL on BSE, the Centre’s stake is
worth close to Rs. 41,000 crore.
In January, Oil and Natural Gas Corp bought out the government’s 51.11%
stake in refiner Hindustan Petroleum Corp. Ltd. for Rs. 36,915 crore.
The source said IOC and BPCL too could follow the same model and split
the government’s stake equally among themselves.
GAIL would become their subsidiary. IOC and BPCL would get to appoint
one director each on the GAIL board.
The source said the Centre had so far not taken any view on the
proposals made by IOC and BPCL.