PM Modi inaugurates ‘Maitri Setu’ between India and Bangladesh

 2021 witnessed the inauguration of a number of infra development projects aimed at improving connectivity. On March 9, the Maitri Setu, a 1.9 km double-lane bridge built over the River Feni that flows between the Indian boundary in Tripura and the neighbouring Bangladesh, was inaugurated. Built at a cost of 133 crore by National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd. the bridge is set to become the "Gateway of Northeast" and boost trade and commerce between the two countries.

On November 16, PM Modi inaugurated the 341 km-long Purvanchal Expressway connecting western and eastern UP, which is expected to boost the economic development of the eastern areas. Built at a cost of 22,497 crore, and over 3 years from 2018, the Expressway among other things boasts a 3.2 km airstrip that would enable landing and take-off of the IAF fighter planes in an emergency.

On December 29, the Union Territory of Ladakh got the world's highest motorable road at Umling La Pass at an altitude of over 19,000 feet. The 52-km long road, built under the BRO'S Project Himank, connects remote villages in eastern Ladakh. The road, close to the LAC, is not just strategically important enabling easier movement of military vehicles and troops, but will also play a role in boosting tourism and the socio-economic conditions of the people in the region.

Besides, several development projects were launched in Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh and other States.

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CDS Bipin Rawat, wife, 11 others killed in helicopter crash in Tamil Nadu

Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat, his wife Madhulika Rawat and 11 others, including his staff, the pilot and crew, lost their lives in an Indian Air Force chopper crash on December 8. There were 14 people on board. The hi-tech Mi-17V5 helicopter was en route to the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, from Sulur on the day it crashed near Coonoor in the Nilgiris district in Tamil Nadu close to the destination. A tri-service inquiry into the crash was ordered by the IAF headed by Air Marshal Manvendra Singh, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief Training Command. Group Captain Varun Singh, the lone survivor of the crash, also succumbed to injuries on December 15. Gen Rawat assumed office as the country's first CDS or tri-service chief on January 1. 2020.

Gen Rawat, who was appointed as CDS in January 2019, was on a visit to Defence Services Staff College, Wellington to address the faculty and student officers of the staff course.

Rawat arrived in Coimbatore from Delhi on Wednesday morning. An IAF Mi-17V5 helicopter with the CDS took off from the Air Force station in Sulur in Coimbatore, and crashed at Katteri, which was about 10 km from the helipad where he was to land. TV visuals showed the chopper in flames after the crash, with local people rushing to the spot to put out the fire. The IAF said that an inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the cause of the accident.

Gp Capt Varun Singh SC, Directing Staff at DSSC with injuries is currently under treatment at Military Hospital, Wellington, said a tweet by IAF. Soon after reports of the crash came in, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh held an urgent meeting with the Ministry of Defence officials. Singh subsequently briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi. At 6.03 pm, the IAF confirmed the passing away of Gen Rawat through its official twitter handle.

Subsequently, a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security was presided over by the Prime Minister. Besides the PM, Defence Minister, Home Minister Amit Shah and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, the meeting was attended by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.

Credit : Business Line

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Who is Miss Universe of India 2021?

India's Hamaaz Sandhu made history on December 13 when she was crowned Miss Universe 2021 at the 70th edition of the beauty pageant held in Eilat, Israel, beating contestants from 80 countries 21 years after India last brought home the title. Harnaaz became the third Indian to win the title, after Sushmita Sen (1994) and Lara Dutta (2000). The Chandigarh-based actor-model, who is pursuing her master's degree in public administration, was crowned by her predecessor Andrea Meza of Mexico, winner of the pageant in 2020.

This year's competition marks the second Covid-era Miss Universe pageant. Israel's borders were set to open to vaccinated tourists ahead of the main event this year, which would have allowed thousands of fans to attend.

But with the emergence of the new Omicron variant, the Israeli government shut its borders to foreigners two weeks before the competition, throwing travel plans and preparations into chaos. One contestant, Miss France, tested positive for the virus upon landing in Israel and had to quarantine -- getting out just in time for the preliminary competition on Friday.

The pageant was also wrapped in another layer of political controversy, with some critics and countries calling for boycotts -- as with previous international events hosted in Israel.

The South African government withdrew its support and called on Mswane to drop out, citing Israeli treatment of Palestinians, calling it "apartheid," a charge Israel has vehemently denied. But Mswane -- with the backing of the Miss South Africa organization -- chose to travel to Israel and compete.

Other figures, including Miss Israel, Noa Cochva, responded with a common refrain heard from pageant organizers and contestants: Miss Universe should not be about politics.

Israel was one of the first countries to begin vaccinating its population and had reached a high vaccination rate by May this year, when the country was approached about hosting the December competition, according to a spokesperson from Israel's Ministry of Tourism.

Credit : CNN 

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Union Cabinet clears bill to scrap three farm laws

After 16 months of protests by farmers on the different borders of Delhi, three contentious farm laws were repeated by the Centre on November 29. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a television address on November 19 had apologised to the farmers and announced that the laws would be repealed. Both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha passed the Farm Laws Repeal Bill 2021 without debate on the first day of the winter session of Parliament on November 29.

Subsequently, the farmers ended their mass protests and started returning to their homes from December 12. The farmers had been protesting for over a year demanding the repeal of the three laws - The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act. The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act.

Earlier, it was reported that the Centre would introduce one "comprehensive" bill to repeal the farm laws. An official brief of The Farm Laws Repeal Bill, 2021 will reportedly be available later on Wednesday. The Union Agriculture Ministry had finalized the bill after consultations with the PM's office (PMO).Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar will reportedly table the bill in the Lok Sabha.

Laws can be repealed in two ways: through an ordinance or legislation. The government has to move a bill in Parliament to repeal the three contentious farm laws. All three farm laws can be repealed through a single legislation, which has to be passed by both Houses of Parliament before receiving Presidential assent. Usually, bills titled Repealing and Amendment are introduced for this purpose.

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Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award renamed after hockey legend Dhyan Chand

The Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, the country's highest sporting honour, was renamed after hockey legend Major Dhyan Chand by the Prime Minister on August 6. PM Modi said he had been getting many requests from citizens to name the Khel Ratna Award after Major Dyan Chand. "Major Dhyan Chand was among India's foremost sportspersons who brought honour and pride for India. It is fitting that our nation's highest sporting honour will be named after him,” PM Modi tweeted.

The government's decision comes a day after Indian men's hockey team ended the 41-year wait for an Olympic medal when it defeated Germany 5-4 and secured first hockey medal for the country since the Moscow Olympics in 1980.

The women's hockey team too performed admirably and just missed out on a medal when it lost to Great Britain 3-4 and finished 4th earlier in the day.

The change came at a time when India's hockey teams (both men's and women's) had captured the imagination of the nation with their splendid performance at the Tokyo Olympics. The award, launched in 1992, comprises a medallion, a certificate, and a cash prize of 25 lakh. In this context, it is significant to note that Dhyan Chand won three Olympic golds for the country and his birthday (August 29) is being celebrated as National Sports Day.

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