Current Affairs 2017 (July)

Ram Nath Kovind elected as India’s 14th President

Former governor Ram Nath Kovind was elected as India’s 14th President. He will be only the second Dalit leader after K R Narayanan since Independence to occupy India’s highest ceremonial post.

In the final vote count, NDA nominee Kovind received 65.6% votes translating into 702,044 electoral college votes, while UPA candidate Meira Kumar managed to get 34.35% (367,314 votes). 522 MPs voted for Kovind, while 225 parliamentarians voted for Meira Kumar. In the last Presidential polls held in 2012, Pranab Mukherjee had defeated PA Sangma by over 69% votes.

About Ram Nath Kovind

Ram Nath Kovind was born on October 1, 1945, in Kanpur Dehat, Uttar Pradesh. He was an advocate by profession and had practiced in Supreme Court and Delhi High Court.

Prior to started practising the law, he had cleared Civil Services Examination in third attempt but did not join as he was selected for allied services. He had entered in active politics in 1994 when he became member of Rajya Sabha from Uttar Pradesh. He had served as an MP for two consecutive terms till 2006.

He also had served as national spokesperson of BJP. He was also former President of the BJP Dalit Morcha (1998-2002) and also President of the All-India Koli Samaj as well as the SC/ST representative at IIM-Calcutta. He also had represented India in United Nations in New York and addressed United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in October 2002. He also had worked as the private secretary of then Prime Minister Morarji Desai in 1977.

Kovind also had served as a member of the Board of Management of Dr. BR Ambedkar University, Lucknow. He was also a member of the Board of Governors of Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Kolkata. In August 2015, he was appointed governor of Bihar.

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Union Cabinet approves Phase II of BharatNet project

The Union Cabinet has extended the second phase of the BharatNet project that forms the backbone for the Union government’s Digital India initiative. The second phase aims at covering the remaining 1.50 lakh Gram Panchayats (GPS).

The approval entails a total estimated expenditure of Rs.42,068 crore for the implementation of project bankrolled from the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF).

Moreover, the Union Cabinet also has approved a modified implementation strategy of BharatNet project for providing broadband connectivity to all GPs by March 2019.

Background

The Centre is still working on completing the phase I of the project for which the deadline was March 2017. It was able to lay optical fibre in nearly one-lakh GPs, however, only about 22,000 GPs (22%) were provided Internet connectivity due to equipment procurement issues.

Key Facts

Compared with use of only underground optic fibre cable to establish connectivity in the phase I, in the phase II a mix of underground fibre, aerial fibre, radio and satellite media would be utilised to connect the remaining GPS.

The modified implementation strategy of BharatNet project will enable effective and faster implementation of various mission mode e-governance projects of the Union and state governments. It will facilitate electronic delivery of services to citizens of various e-commerce, e-governance, e-health services and e-education etc. thereby facilitating inclusive growth. 

BharatNet project

The Bharat Net Project is the new brand name of National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) which was launched in October, 2011 to provide broadband connectivity to all 2.5 Lakh gram panchayats (GPs) through optical fibre. It was renamed Bharatnet in 2015. Bharat Net is being funded through Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF).

Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF)

USOF was formed by the Central Government to help fund projects to boost connectivity in rural areas. The money for this fund comes through a ‘Universal Access Levy,’ charged from the telecom operators as a percentage of various licenses fees being paid by them.

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