- Himachal’s pong wetlands nest 1.1 lakh birds
- Over 110,000 feathered guests of 107 species were recorded in a census in Himachal Pradesh’s Pong Dam wetlands, officials said. Among them the bar-headed goose, the common coot and the northern pintails are the prominent species.
- During the two-day census of waterfowl species — birds that depend on water bodies for roosting and feeding — that concluded two days back, 110,203 birds were spotted in the Pong Dam wetlands, one of the biggest man-made wetlands in northern India.
- The largest influx is of the bar-headed goose (38,530), common coot (12,632), northern pintail (9,470), common teal (9,284) and common pochard (7,764).
- The common shelduck (22), sarus crane (eight), osprey (seven), black-bellied tern (two) and the greater white-fronted goose (73), which are rarely observed in Indian wetlands have also been recorded at the Pong wetlands, he said.
- The other noticeable species were the great crested grebe, greylag goose, red crested pochard, ferruginous pochard, common merganser, Eurasian spoonbill, greater white fronted goose, garganey, water pipits and the gull billed pipits.
- In the last census conducted at the Pong wetlands in the last week of January last year, around 127,200 waterfowls from 93 species were recorded. Among them, greater flamingoes, a common migratory species in India’s coastal areas, were recorded for the first time there.
- The Pong Dam wetlands have been emerging as their preferred wintering ground.
- Listed under Schedule IV of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, the global population of the bar-headed geese is believed to be around 130,000, wildlife experts say.
- The bar-headed geese can be spotted in marshy areas along the reservoir like Nagrota Suriyan, Nandpur Batoli, Chatta, Jambal and the Rancer island, say wildlife officials.
- The Pong wetlands, some 250 km from Himachal Pradesh’s capital, Shimla, and 190 km from Chandigarh, are home to many native birds like the red jungle fowl, large Indian parakeet, Indian cuckoo, bank mynah, wood shrike, yellow-eyed babbler, black ibis, paradise flycatcher, crested lark and the crested bunting.
· India Slips to 42nd Place On EIU Democracy Index, Norway Tops
- India slipped to 42nd place on an annual Global Democracy Index according to the data compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). India has moved down from 32nd place last year.
- The top 5 Countries in the list are
New Zealand and
- The index ranks 165 independent states and two territories on the basis of five categories: electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, the functioning of government, political participation and political culture.
- The list has been divided into four broad categories- full democracy, flawed democracy, the hybrid regime and authoritarian regime.
- North Korea is ranked the lowest at 167th, while Syria is a notch better at 166th place.
· India Joins Ashgabat agreement
- India joined Ashgabat Agreement on the establishment of an International Transport and Transit Corridor between the Iran, Oman, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
- The agreement was signed in 2011, which envisages facilitation of transit and transportation of goods between Central Asia and the Persian Gulf.
- According to the External Affairs Ministry, the accession to the Agreement would diversify India’s connectivity options with Central Asia and have a positive influence on its trade and commercial ties with the region.
- Union Budget 2018: Key takeaways and sector-wise highlights
- Finance Minister Arun Jaitley delivered the current government’s fifth and last full financial budget (Budget 2018 for the fiscal year 2018-19) amid subdued economic growth, challenging fiscal situation and farm distress.
Here are the key highlights from the Union Budget 2018:
- Economy firmly on course to achieve high growth of 8%
- GDP growth at 6.3% in the second quarter of 2017-18 signals turnaround of the economy
- Growth in the second half likely to remain between 7.2% to 7.5%
Agriculture and Rural Economy
- MSP for all unannounced Kharif crops increased to 150%
- Institutional credit for agri-sector increased to Rs.10 lakh crore in 2017-18
- Fisheries, aquaculture and animal husbandry corpus at Rs.10,000 crore
- New scheme Operation Greens with an outlay of Rs 500 Crore
- Govt to develop and upgrade existing 22,000 rural haats
- Agri-Market Infrastructure Fund with a corpus of Rs.2000 crore
- Allocation for Ministry of Food Processing doubled to Rs.1400 crore
- Loans to Self Help Groups (SHG) of women to increase to Rs.75,000 crore by March 2019.
- Increased allocation of National Rural Livelihood Mission to Rs 5750 crore
- Under Ujjwala Scheme distribution of free LPG connections will be given to 8 crore poor women
- Housing for All by 2022 – more than one crore houses to be built by 2019 in rural areas
Education, Health, and Social Protection
- Estimated budgetary expenditure on health, education and social protection at Rs.1.38 lakh crore
- Ekalavya Model Residential School to be set up for tribal children
- Investments for research & infra in premier educational institutions at Rs.1 lakh crore in next 4 years
- Allocation on National Social Assistance Programme at Rs. 9975 crore
- NHPS to cover over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families (approximately 50 crore beneficiaries)
- NHPS to provide coverage up to 5 lakh rupees per family per year for hospitalisation
- Rs 1200 crore for the National Health Policy, 2017 – additional Rs.600 crore for TB patients
- 24 new Government Medical Colleges and Hospitals
Medium, Small and Micro Enterprises (MSMEs) and Employment
- Major thrust for Medium, Small and Micro Enterprises (MSMEs) – allocation at Rs. 3794 crore
- Target of Rs.3 lakh crore for lending under MUDRA Yojana
- 70 lakh formal jobs to be created this year
- Govt to make 12% contribution of new employees in the EPF for all the sectors for 3 years
- Outlay of Rs.7148 crore for the textile sector
- Increase budgetary allocation on infrastructure for at Rs.5.97 lakh crore
- To develop 10 prominent tourist sites into Iconic Tourism destinations
- 35000 kms road construction in Phase-I at an estimated cost of Rs.5,35,000 crore
- Railways Capital Expenditure pegged at Rs.1,48,528 crore
- 4000 kilometers of electrified railway network slated for commissioning
- Work on Eastern and Western, dedicated freight corridors
- Over 3600 km of track renewal targeted in current fiscal
- Redevelopment of 600 major railway stations
- Mumbai’s local train network to have 90 kilometers of double line tracks at Rs.11,000 crore cost
- 150 km of additional suburban network planned for Mumbai
- Suburban network of 160 km at for Bengaluru metropolis
- To expand airport capacity more than five times to handle a billion trips a year
- Regional connectivity – 56 unserved airports and 31 unserved helipads to be connected
- To establish unified authority for regulating all financial services
- NITI Aayog to initiate a national program to direct efforts in artificial intelligence
- Department of Science & Technology to launch Mission on Cyber-Physical Systems
- Allocation doubled on Digital India programme to Rs 3073 crore
- To set up 5 lakh wifi hotspots to provide net-connectivity to five crore rural citizens
- Rs. 10000 crore for creation and augmentation of telecom infrastructure
- Development of two defence industrial production corridors.
- Allocation of Rs 2.95 lakh crore to defence sector.
- To revise emoluments to Rs.5 lakh for the President
- Rs 4 lakhs for the Vice President
- Rs.3.5 lakh per month to Governor
- Pay for Members of Parliament – law for automatic revision of emoluments every 5 years
- 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi- Rs.150 crore for commemoration programme
- Budget Revised Estimates for Expenditure at Rs.21.57 lakh crore
- Revised Fiscal Deficit estimates at 3.5% of GDP
- To bring down Central Government’s Debt to GDP ratio to 40%
Jaitley announces ‘world’s largest healthcare programme’
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced two new initiatives under the Ayushman Bharat Programme in the Union Budget 2018.
- Under the programme, Mr. Jaitley announced a new flagship National Health Protection Scheme, providing a health insurance cover of ₹5 lakh a family per annum.
- The scheme will cover 10 crore vulnerable families, with approximately 50 crore beneficiaries.
- Mr. Jaitley also announced the creation of health and wellness centres, which will “bring healthcare closer to home”.
- These centres, 1.5 lakh in number, will provide free essential drugs and diagnostic services. A sum of Rs. 1200 crore had been allocated for this.
· Thirty Second Surajkund International Crafts Mela Begins
- The 32nd Surajkund International CraftsMela begun in Faridabad, Haryana.
The Mela is organized by the Surajkund Mela Authority and Haryana Tourism in collaboration with Union Ministries of Tourism, Textiles, Culture and External Affairs.
The 17-day cultural extravaganza will see a spectacular showcase of regional and international crafts, handlooms, traditions along with some mouth-watering multi-cuisine food for the visitors.
This year Uttar Pradesh is the theme state and Kyrgyzstan is the Partner Nation.
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