The Prime Minister ShriNarendraModi, today dedicated the Bogibeel bridge in Assam, to the nation. The bridge, which spans the River Brahmaputra between Dibrugarh and Dhemaji districts of Assam, is of immense economic and strategic significance for the nation.
At a massive public meeting in KarengChapori, on the northern bank of the Brahmaputra,the Prime Minister also flagged off the first passenger train passing through the bridge.
The strategic bridge, which connects Dibrugarh district on the river’s south bank in Assam to Dhemaji district on the north bank, would not only improve the livelihoods of millions of people in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, Mr.Modi said, but would also serve as a boon to the defence forces.
The project was conceived by the Rail India Technical Economic Services in 1973, and the foundation stone was laid by former Prime Minister H.D. DeveGowda in January 1997.
Speaking on the occasion, the Prime Minister paid homage to the famous Assamese singer DeepaliBorthakur, who passed away recently. He also paid homage to many other famous and historical figures from the State, who have brought laurels for the State and the country in various fields.
He greeted the people on the occasion of Christmas. He said that today is the birth anniversary of former Prime Minister, ShriAtalBihari Vajpayee, and is also celebrated as "Sushaasan Divas" or "Good Governance Day".
Environment ministry says leopard poaching in nation on the rise
At least 260 leopards were poached in the country between 2015 and 2018, with Uttarakhand accounting for 60 cases and Himachal Pradesh reporting another 49, according to information given to Parliament by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
Of this, 64 cases of leopard poaching were recorded in 2015, 83 in 2016, 47 in 2017 and 66 till October 2018, the data tabled in the LokSabha earlier this month show.
Central Indian States like Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh also recorded a high number of cases of leopard poaching in the past four years, at 25 and 21 respectively. Poaching of leopards was reported by 19 States including Assam and West Bengal in the east, Punjab in the West and Telangana and Tamil Nadu in the south.
Wildlife organisations, however, estimate leopard poaching to be at a much higher level based on the seizures of body parts. According to the Delhi based Wildlife Protection Society of India, 163 cases of poaching and seizures of body parts were recorded in 2018, an increase from 159 in 2017.
Experts point out that since leopards live in close proximity to human habitation and are found all across the country, the cases of leopard poaching too are spread countrywide with a significant number of such incidents not showing up in government records. There are also several incidents of leopard deaths on account of road kills, particularly in States such as Maharashtra and Karnataka.
NCLT made recoveries faster in 2018
Tasked with helping recover unpaid corporate loans, the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) has helped resolve insolvency and bankruptcy proceedings involving more than Rs. 80,000 crore in 2018. The kitty is expected to swell beyond Rs. 1 lakh crore in 2019 with several big-ticket default cases pending.
Plans are afoot to further strengthen the NCLT by increasing the number of judges and benches, and providng adequate infrastructure to fast-track the process, according to government officials.
The new year will not only test the mettle of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), but also of the NCLT and its appellate body NCLAT, as several high-profile cases need to be resolved Essar Steel (involving over Rs. 80,000 crore) and Bhushan Power & Steel (about Rs. 45,000 crore due to its lenders) are just a few, experts said.
In 2018, more than Rs. 80,000 crore was recovered from various corporate debtors, who had defaulted on payments, under the IBC through various insolvency proceedings at the NCLT and the NCLAT, Corporate Affairs Secretary InjetiSrinivas said.
As per estimates, the IBC has helped address stressed assets worth Rs. 3 lakh crore directly or indirectly since the new law came into force in December 2016.
Weakness of Indian rupee led to higher FPI outflows
For the Indian equity markets, year 2018 will end as the worst in terms of foreign money outflows since 2008 when markets across the globe were reeling under the sub-prime crisis and Lehman Brothers filed for the largest bankruptcy in history.
In the Indian context, 2018 would also be only the third such year in the last decade when foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) would end a calendar year as net sellers of Indian shares.
Foreign investors, who have always been looked upon as the prime drivers of any bull run in the Indian equity market, have been net sellers at almost $4.8 billion or Rs. 33,344 crore during the current calendar year, till date.
There was also heightened volatility globally due to the concerns related to the trade war between U.S. and China that made investors stay away from the emerging market pack, including India. The bubble kind of situation in the mid-cap and small-cap segments at the start of the year also led to profit booking from such investors.
Meanwhile, most market participants believe that the potential losses this year have been largely mitigated due to the strong buying support, especially in index constituents, from domestic institutional investors such as mutual funds and the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC).
Russia has expanded its economic sanctions on Ukraine, adding more than 250 people and businesses to a blacklist first announced at the start of November.
According to a decree by Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev in Moscow, 245 individuals and seven companies, mostly in the energy and defence sectors, were sanctioned by Moscow.
Relations between Moscow and Kiev have deteriorated since a pro-Western government came to power after the 2014 revolt against a pro-Russian leader, and outbreak of war in eastern Ukraine.
A total of 567 individuals and 75 Ukranian companies now face Russian economic sanctions, which put a freeze on any assets they have in Russia.
Koreas all set to reconnect road and rail links
A South Korean delegation left for North Korea today to attend a groundbreaking ceremony for reconnecting roads and railways across the divided peninsula despite stalled denuclearisation talks.
A nine-car special train carrying some 100 South Koreans, including officials and five people born in the North, was seen leaving Seoul railway station early in the morning for a two-hour journey to the North's border city of Kaesong.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and the North's leader Kim Jong Un had agreed to hold the ceremony by the end of the year when they met at their third summit in Pyongyang in September.
Concerns arose that the train and other materials being brought into the North for the ceremony could breach various sanctions imposed on Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons programme, but the UN Security Council reportedly granted a waver for the event.
::SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY::
Reclaimed asphalt pavement developed for laying roads
Two IIT Hyderabad professors and their graduate students have come up with an innovative material to lay roads which reduces cost, is environmentally friendly and also stronger than asphalt roads. This material reclaimed asphalt pavement (RAP) uses a mix of fly ash (a coal-combustion by-product) with reclaimed asphalt concrete. It reduces use of virgin asphalt by about 30%.
Further, the material has also been tested on sections of the road built as “part of the State highway (SH 2213) connecting Nuzvid and Mylavaram [in Andhra Pradesh] designed for a traffic of 1,213 commercial vehicles per day,” SireeshSaride, the Principal Investigator of the project said.
Reclaimed asphalt concrete is by itself not strong enough to lay roads with. Among the several additives that have been tried out to bolster its strength are limestone and industrial waste such as fly ash.
In the method used by the researchers, fly ash is treated with sodium hydroxide, an alkali, before adding it to the RAP material. The treatment converts the fly ash into geopolymer that binds the RAP particles thereby rendering it stronger.
Creating higher amount of geopolymer around the RAP particles lead to less voids in the matrix, which will reduce the permeability of water through the matrix.
PV Sindhu loses in premier badminton league
P V Sindhu suffered a shocking loss to Sung Ji Hyun but defending champions Hyderabad Hunters still looked on course for a win with a 3-1 lead over Chennai Smashers in the Premier Badminton League.
In the women's singles match, Ji Hyun Sung got the better of Olympic and World Championship silver medallist Sindhu 15