Govt to set up a National Institute of Inter-Faith Studies in Punjab

The Centre will set up a first-of-its-kind institute of Inter-Faith Studies in Punjab to promote brotherhood and diversity as part of the year-long activities to commemorate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, Union minister Mahesh Sharma said Monday.

The activities will begin from November 23 and go on for a year, the Union Culture minister said, adding the decision was taken at a meeting of the National Implementation Committee (NIC) headed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh earlier this month.

The government will also develop Sultanpur Lodhi in Punjab where Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, is believed to have spent most of his life.

The area will be developed as a heritage city incorporating ‘Pind Babe Nanak Da’. A high powered telescope will be installed in Indian territory to view Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan where the first Sikh guru spent his last days, Sharma said.

The year-long event will also include religious activities like Kirtan, Katha, Prabhat pheri, langar and educational activities such as seminars, workshops, and lectures.

The Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee, which is the apex religious body of the Sikhs, will be the knowledge partner for the event, he said.

Chairs in the name of Guru Nanak will be set up in the UK and Canada.

An international seminar will also be organized in Delhi. Commemorative coin and postage stamps will be released by the Department of Economic Affairs, the Ministry of Finance and the Department of Posts.

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Kerala to rein in trans-fat in eatery foods

The Health Department and the Food Safety wing are joining hands to launch an initiative to enforce dietary guidelines, involving the reduction of Trans fatty acids (TFAs), salt and sugar in commercially available foods in the State.

The initiative, with technical support from the World Bank, WHO and the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), is being launched as unhealthy diet is pushing up metabolic syndrome and premature deaths due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) among Keralites.

The initiative, with technical support from the World Bank, WHO and the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), is being launched as unhealthy diet is pushing up metabolic syndrome and premature deaths due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) among Keralites.

Latest estimates put the prevalence of metabolic syndrome (MS) in Kerala between 24-33%, indicating that one in three or four persons — predominantly women — have this condition.

Metabolic syndrome (MS) is a cluster of metabolic abnormalities — high blood pressure, high blood sugar, abdominal obesity, abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels — that occur together, raising the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

Trans fatty acids (TFAs) or Trans fats are the most harmful type of fats which can have much more adverse effects on our body than any other dietary constituent. These fats are largely produced artificially but a small amount also occurs naturally. Thus in our diet, these may be present as Artificial TFAs and/ or Natural TFAs.

Artificial TFAs are formed when hydrogen is made to react with the oil to produce fats resembling pure ghee/butter.

In our diet, the major sources of artificial TFAs are the partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (PHVO)/vanaspati/ margarine while the natural TFAs are present in meats and dairy products, though in small amounts.

Harmful effects:

TFAs pose a higher risk of heart disease than saturated fats. While saturated fats raise total cholesterol levels, TFAs not only raise total cholesterol levels but also reduce the good cholesterol (HDL), which helps to protect us against heart disease. Trans fats consumption increases the risk of developing heart disease and stroke.

It is also associated with a higher risk of developing obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, infertility, certain types of cancers and can also lead to compromised fetal development causing harm to the yet to be born baby.

TFA containing oils can be preserved longer, they give the food the desired shape and texture and can easily substitute ‘Pure ghee’. These are comparatively far lower in cost and thus add to profit/saving.

WHO recommends that trans fat intake is limited to less than 1% of total energy intake and has called for the total elimination of TFAs in global food supply by 2023. FSSAI has proposed to limit TFA limit in foods to 2% and eliminate trans fats from foods by 2022.

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Hookah bars permanently banned in Punjab as President Ram Nath Kovind okays Bill

Hookah bars have been permanently banned in Punjab as President Ram Nath Kovind has given assent to a Bill from the state to check use of tobacco. Punjab is the third state in the country after Gujarat and Maharashtra where hookah bars or lounges were banned through law.

The President has given assent to the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply, and Distribution) (Punjab Amendment) Bill, 2018 recently, a Home Ministry official said.

The Punjab assembly had passed the Bill in March. The objective of bringing the law is to check the use of tobacco in various forms and prevent diseases caused by the use of tobacco products.

Hookah bars are establishments where people share ‘sheesha’ from a ‘hookah’ which is placed at each table or a bar. The hookah has a long pipe for smoking that passes smoke through a container of water to cool it.

Smoking of hookah increases health risks includes exposure to toxic chemicals that are not filtered out by the water, and also the risk of infectious disease like tuberculosis resulting from sharing a hookah, another official said.

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Government approves 3 proposals under Nirbhaya Fund; 1023 Fast Track Courts to be set up

The Empowered Committee of Officers under Nirbhaya Fund, under the Chairmanship of Secretary, Women and Child Development Ministry on November 16, 2018, three proposals under the Nirbhaya Fund including setting up of 1023 Fast Track Special Courts.

Setting up of 1023 Fast Track Special Courts

The Committee approved the proposal of the Department of Justice under Ministry of Law and Justice to set up 1023 Fast Track Special Courts (FTSCs) to dispose of pending cases of rape and POCSO Act across the country.

The project was approved with a total financial outlay of Rs 767.25 crores.

In the First phase, 777 FTSCs will be set up in 9 states and in the second phase, 246 FTSCs will be set up.

Procurement of forensic kits for sexual assault cases

The Committee approved the proposal of Union Ministry of Home Affairs for procurement of forensic kits for sexual assault cases to kickstart usage of such kits in States.

These kits will be used through Training of Trainers (TOTs), capacity building or training for forensics in sexual assault cases and strengthening of State Forensic Science Laboratory (FSLs).

The proposal was approved with a total financial implication of Rs 107.19 crore.

Setting up a video surveillance system at 50 Railway Stations

The Committee approved the proposal from Konkan Railway Corporation Limited for setting up a video surveillance system at 50 Railway Stations with a total Project cost of Rs 17.64 crore.

The funding will be utilized for surveillance hardware and accessories, local connectivity equipment and power supply devices.

In-principle approval for state wise vehicle tracking platform

Apart from these three proposals, the committee gave in-principle approval to the proposal of the Union Ministry of Road Transport and highways for C-DAC for customization, deployment, and management of state wise vehicle tracking platform for safety and enforcement.

Nirbhaya Fund

The Nirbhaya Fund was announced in 2013 Union Budget by the government with a corpus of Rs 1000 crore. This fund was created to support the initiatives taken by the government and NGOs working towards protecting the dignity and ensuring the safety of women in India.

The government, in April 2015, made the Women and Child Development Ministry (WCD) as the Nodal Agency for the Nirbhaya Fund replacing the Home Ministry.

To approve the funds under the Nirbhaya fund, a committee was constituted which comprised officials from various ministries, including women and child development, home affairs, road transport, and railways.

Between 2013 and 2017, the corpus of Nirbhaya Fund grew to Rs 3100 crore.

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India’s First Elephant Hospital Opens In Mathura

India’s first specialized hospital for elephants was on Friday formally opened by Agra Divisional Commissioner Anil Kumar at Farah block’s Churmura village.

The unique medical centre offers wireless digital X-ray, laser treatment, dental X-ray, thermal imaging, ultrasonography, hydrotherapy and quarantine facilities.

Located close to the elephant conservation and care centre, the hospital is designed to treat injured, sick or geriatric elephants and is equipped with a medical hoist for lifting elephants, as also an elephant restraining device with a dedicated indoor treatment enclosure for long duration medical procedures.

An observation deck will allow veterinary students and interns to observe and learn about elephant’s behaviour and treatment from a safe distance.

The Wildlife SOS established the first elephant conservation and care centre in 2010 and is currently looking after 20 elephants requiring specialised treatment.

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Maternity leave: govt. for incentive scheme

In a bid to encourage employers, especially in the private sector, to implement the extended 26-week maternity leave law, the Labour Ministry plans to refund them for seven weeks’ worth of wages for women workers with a wage ceiling up to ₹ 15,000 per month. The Ministry is in the process of getting budgetary approvals for the ₹400 crore incentive scheme, according to an official statement.

In March 2017, the Centre amended the Maternity Benefit Act to increase paid maternity leave from 12 to 26 weeks for all women employees in establishments employing ten or more people. However, while implementation of the provision was good in the public sector, it was poor for those with the private sector or contract jobs.

There is also a widespread perception that private entities are not encouraging women employees because if they are employed, they may have to provide maternity benefit to them, particularly 26 weeks of paid holiday. Therefore, the extended maternity leave has become a deterrent for female employees who are asked to quit or retrenched on flimsy grounds before they go on maternity leave.

The Maternity Benefit Act:

The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, applies to establishments employing 10 or more than 10 persons in factories, mines, plantation, shops & establishments, and other entities.

The main purpose of this Act is to regulate the employment of women in certain establishments for certain period before and after childbirth and to provide maternity benefit and certain other benefits. The Act was amended through the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017.

The amendment has brought in major changes to the law relating to maternity benefits. These are:

It extends the period of maternity benefit from 12 weeks to 26 weeks of which not more than eight weeks can precede the date of the expected delivery. This exceeds the International Labour Organisation’s minimum standard of 14 weeks and is a positive development. However, a woman who has two or more surviving children will be entitled to 12 weeks of which not more than six weeks can precede the date of the expected delivery.

Women who legally adopt a child below the age of three months or a “commissioning mother” will be entitled to maternity benefit for 12 weeks from the date on which the child is handed over to her. A commissioning mother is defined as a biological mother who uses her egg to create an embryo implanted in another woman.

It gives discretion to employers to allow women to work from home after the period of maternity benefit on mutually agreeable conditions. This would apply if the nature of work assigned to the woman permits her to work from home

It requires establishments having 50 or more employees to have a crèche facility, either separately or along with common facilities. Further, employers should allow the woman to visit the crèche four times a day, which “shall also include the interval for rest allowed to her.”

It introduces a provision which requires every establishment to intimate a woman at the time of her appointment of the maternity benefits available to her. Such communication must be in writing and electronically.

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NITI Aayog Constitutes Himalayan State Regional Council

NITI Aayog has constituted the ‘Himalayan State Regional Council’ to ensure sustainable development of the Indian Himalayan region. The Council has been constituted to review and implement identified action points based on the Reports of five Working Groups, which were established along thematic areas to prepare a roadmap for action.

Recognizing the uniqueness of the Himalayas and the challenges for sustainable development, Five Working Groups were constituted by NITI Aayog on June 2, 2017.

About the Council:

The Himalayan State Regional Council will be chaired by the Dr. VK Saraswat, Member, NITI Aayog and will consist of the Chief Secretaries of the Himalayan States as well as the Secretaries of key Central Ministries, senior officers of NITI Aayog as well as special invitees.

The Council has been constituted to review and implement identified action points based on the Reports of five Working Groups, which were established along thematic areas to prepare a roadmap for action.

The Himalayan States Regional Council will be the nodal agency for the Sustainable development in the Himalayan Region which consists of the twelve States namely Jammu &Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura, two districts of Assam namely Dima Hasao and KarbiAnglong and Darjeeling and Kalimpong in West Bengal.

The terms of reference of the Council states that it shall monitor the implementation of action points for Central Ministries, Institutions and 12 Himalayan State Governments in Indian Himalayan Region which include river basin development and regional cooperation, spring mapping and revival across the Himalayas in phased manner for water security; develop, implement and monitor tourism sector standards as well as bring policy coherence, strengthen skill & entrepreneurship with focus on identified priority sectors, among other action points.

Recognizing the uniqueness of the Himalayas and the challenges for sustainable development, Five Working Groups were constituted by NITI Aayog on June 2, 2017. The five thematic reports were released by the NITI Aayog in August 2018 and framed the action points for the Terms of Reference of the Council constituted.

These Working Groups were tasked with preparing a roadmap for action across five thematic areas namely:

  • Inventory and Revival of Springs in the Himalayas for Water Security
  • Sustainable Tourism in Indian Himalayan Region.
  • Shifting Cultivation: Towards Transformation Approach.
  • Strengthening Skill & Entrepreneurship (E&S) Landscape in the Himalayas.
  • Data/Information for Informed Decision Making.
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NITI Aayog, UNICEF Announce 72-hour Tinkering Hackathon For School Children

NITI Aayog’s Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) and UNICEF India, have come together this Children’s Day, to provide an open platform to young children of India, to contribute towards sustainable development. The awards were presented to the top six most innovative solutions from across the country, which was shortlisted through the Atal Tinkering Marathon.

On October 2 last year, AIM’s Atal Tinkering Labs (ATL) had launched a six month long nationwide challenge called the Atal Tinkering Marathon, across six different thematic areas, namely, clean energy, water resources, waste management, healthcare, smart mobility, and agri-technology. The objective was to encourage students to observe community problems and develop innovative solutions.

With a vision to ‘Cultivate one Million children in India as Neoteric Innovators’, Atal Innovation Mission is establishing Atal Tinkering Laboratories (ATL) in schools across India.

The objective of this scheme is to foster curiosity, creativity, and imagination in young minds; and inculcate skills such as design mindset, computational thinking, adaptive learning, physical computing etc.

AIM will provide grant-in-aid that includes a one-time establishment cost of Rs. 10 lakh and operational expenses of Rs. 10 lakh for a maximum period of 5 years to each ATL.

Schools (minimum Grade VI – X) managed by Government, local body or private trusts/society can set up ATL.

Atal Tinkering Labs have evolved as epicenters for imparting these ‘skills of the future’ through practical applications based self-learning.

Bridging a crucial social divide, Atal Tinkering Labs provide equal opportunity to all children across the spectrum by working at the grassroots level, introducing children to the world of innovation and tinkering.

As the world grapples with evolving technologies, a new set of skills have gained popular acceptance and have come to be in high demand. For India to contribute significantly during this age of rapid technological advancement, there is an urgent need to empower our youth with these ‘skills of the future’.

Equipped with modern technologies to help navigate and impart crucial skills in the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the ATLs are at the vanguard of the promoting scientific temper and an entrepreneurial spirit in children today.

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Cabinet approves setting up of Central Tribal University of Andhra Pradesh

The Union cabinet approved setting up of ‘Central Tribal University of Andhra Pradesh’. It will be established in Relli village of Vizianagaram District.

The proposed university will come up after necessary amendment in the Central Universities Act, Law and Justice Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said.

“The ‘Central Tribal University of Andhra Pradesh’ will be set up in Relli village of Vizianagaram District as provided under the Thirteenth Schedule to the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014.

“Cabinet has also approved the provision of funds of Rs 4.2 billion for the first phase expenditure towards the establishment of the Central Tribal University,” the government said in its statement.

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Govt approves mechanism for sale of enemy shares worth Rs 3,000 cr; proceeds to be used for development

The government approved a mechanism for sale of enemy shares which at the current price is estimated at around Rs 3,000 crore.

According to Enemy Property Act, 1968, “Enemy property” refers to any property belonging to, held or managed on behalf of an enemy, an enemy subject or an enemy firm.

The decision, taken by the Union Cabinet, will lead to monetization of movable enemy property lying dormant for decades and the proceeds will be used for development and social welfare programmes, an official statement said.

A total number of 6,50,75,877 shares in 996 companies of 20,323 shareholders are under the custody of Custodian of Enemy Property of India (CEPI).

Total shares, known as “enemy shares numbering 6,50,75,877 worth Rs 3,000 crore, are lying unutilized because enemy property act includes movable and immovable property, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said after the Cabinet meeting.

Of these companies, 588 are functional/ active companies, 139 of these are listed with remaining being unlisted.

The decision will lead to monetization of movable enemy property lying dormant for decades and the proceeds will be used for development and social welfare programmes.

Total shares, known as “enemy shares numbering 6,50,75,877 worth Rs 3,000 crore, are lying unutilized because enemy property act includes movable and immovable property. Of these 996 companies, 588 are functional/ active companies, 139 of these are listed with remaining being unlisted.

When wars broke out between India and China in 1962, and India and Pakistan in 1965 and 1971, the central government took over properties of citizens of China and Pakistan in India under the Defence of India Acts. These Acts defined an ‘enemy’ as a country that committed an act of aggression against India, and its citizens.

The properties of enemies in India were classified as enemy property. The properties included land, buildings, shares held in companies, gold and jewelry of the citizens of enemy countries. The responsibility of the administration of enemy properties was handed over to the Custodian of Enemy Property, an office under the central government.

Enemy properties Act:

After the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965, the Enemy Property Act was enacted in 1968, which regulates such properties and lists the custodian’s powers.

The government amended the Act in the wake of a claim laid by the heirs of Raja Mohammad Amir Mohammad Khan, known as Raja of Mahmudabad, on his properties spread across Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

The government has vested these properties in the Custodian of Enemy Property for India, an office instituted under the Central government.

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