Current Affairs 10TH MAY 2015 TO 16TH MAY, 2015
AMENDMENTS TO CHILD LABOUR (PROHIBITION & REGULATION) AMENDMENT BILL, 2012
The Union Cabinet on May 13, 2015 approved a complete ban on employment of children below 14 years, except for some family businesses, entertainment and sports activities, while raising the punishment for violations to up to three years of jail. The Cabinet has given its approval for moving official amendments to the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012. The Official Amendments along with the Amendment Bill 2012 proposes to make the following salient amendments to the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986:
- Employment of children below 14 years prohibited in all occupations and processes and age of prohibition of employment linked to age under Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009. However, an exception has been made: l where the child helps his family or family enterprises, which is other than any hazardous occupations or processes set forth in the Schedule, after his school hours or during vacations; l where the child works as an artist in an audio visual entertainment industry, including advertisement, films, television serials or any such other entertainment or sports activities except the circus, subject to such conditions and safety measures, as may be prescribed and provided that such work does not affect the school education of the child. The Cabinet has approved the proposal for prohibition of employment of a child below 14 years However, while considering a total prohibition on the employment of child, it would be prudent to also keep in mind the country’s social fabric and socio-economic conditions. In a large number of families, children help their parents in their occupations like agriculture, artisanship etc. and while helping the parents, children also learn the basics of occupations. Therefore, striking a balance between the need for education for a child and the reality of the socio-economic condition and social fabric in the country, the Cabinet has approved that a child can help his family or family enterprise, which is other than any hazardous occupation or process, after his school hours or during vacation. Also, an exception has been made for a child working as artist in an audio-visual entertainment industry, except the circus, provided that the school education of the child is not affected.
- A new definition of adolescent has been introduced in the CLPR Act and employment of adolescents (14 to 18 years of age) has been prohibited in hazardous occupations and processes. These provisions would go a long way in protecting adolescents from the employment not suitable to their age.
THE BENAMI TRANSACTIONS (PROHIBITION) AMENDMENT BILL, 2015
The Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Bill, 2015 was introduced in Lok Sabha on May 13, 2015 which aims at curbing the generation of black money. The Bill seeks to amend the Benami Transactions Act, 1988. The Act prohibits benami transactions and provides for confiscating benami properties and the Bill provides for prosecution and aims to act as a major avenue for blocking generation and holding of black money in the form of benami property, especially in real estate. The government had in Budget 2015-16, announced that it would come out with a new and more comprehensive Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Bill. The Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act was earlier enacted in 1988, but the rules under that Act could not be formulated due to inherent infirmities in it. Following this, in 2011 the government introduced in Parliament a Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Bill, which proposed replacing the 1988 Act. The Bill was referred to the Standing Committee on Finance for examination, which submitted its report in June 2012. However, the Bill lapsed with the dissolution of 15th Lok Sabha.
SC: FREE SPEECH IS NOT AN ABSOLUTE RIGHT
Noting that free speech is not an absolute right, the Supreme Court on May 14, 2015 held that poetic licence does not mean having nationally revered figures like Mahatma Gandhi mouth obscene words. The apex court revealed in its judgment that when the name of Mahatma Gandhi is alluded to or used as a symbol speaking or using obscene words, the test of “contemporary community standards” of what is vulgar and obscene language becomes applicable with more vigour. A Bench of Justices Dipak Misra and P.C. Pant set these standards while considering the plea of Devidas Ramachandra Tuljapurkar, who was charged with publishing the “obscene” Marathi poem titled Gandhi Mala Bhetala (I Met Gandhi) in which the Mahatma is a character. The poem was published in 1994 in an in-house bank magazine. Limitations under Constitutional Parameters The verdict said freedom of speech and expression has to be given a broad canvas, but it is also subject to inherent limitations within the constitutional parameters. Here, Justice Misra wrote in the judgment, the author uses historically respected persons as a medium to mouth obscene words. Hence, creativity melts into insignificance and obscenity emerges to the surface.
NAMAMI GANGE SCHEME: RS. 20,000-CRORE BUDGET APPROVED
The Cabinet approved the flagship “Namami Gange” programme, which integrates the efforts to clean and protect the River Ganga in a comprehensive manner. The programme has a budget outlay of Rs. 20,000 crore for the next 5 years. The amount was a significant four-fold increase over the expenditure allocated to the task of cleaning the Ganga over the past 30 years. The Union Cabinet, chaired by Mr. Modi, approved the flagship programme which integrates the efforts to clean and protect the Ganga river in a comprehensive manner. The programme has a budget outlay of Rs. 20,000 crore for the next five years, the statement said, adding that it marks a significant increase over the expenditure in the past 30 years. The Centre has incurred an overall expenditure of approximately Rs. 4,000 crore visa-vis Ganga rejuvenation since 1985. In order to push the efforts for the Ganga’s clean-up, the statement said that the Centre will www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  now take over 100 per cent funding of various activities/projects under this programme. Marking a major shift in implementation, the government is focusing on involving people living on the banks of the river to attain sustainable results.
GOVERNORS APPOINTED FOR FOUR STATES
President Pranab Mukherjee on May 12, 2015 appointed Governors for four States, bringing down the number of Governors who had been holding the additional charge of more than two States for the past few months. Droupadi Murmu, former Odisha Minister, has been appointed Governor of Jharkhand, whereas J.P. Rajkhowa has been given the gubernatorial post of Arunachal Pradesh. Tathagata Roy, former president of the BJP’s West Bengal unit from 2002 to 2006 and member of the party’s national executive, has been made the Governor of Tripura; whereas V. Shanmuganathan has been appointed Governor of Meghalaya. Lieutenant General (Retd.) Nirbhay Sharma, Governor of Arunachal Pradesh, has been transferred and appointed Governor of Mizoram for the remainder of his term.
THE UNDISCLOSED FOREIGN INCOME AND ASSETS BILL, 2015 PASSED BY PARLIAMENT
The Lok Sabha on May 11, 2015 passed The Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets (Imposition of Tax) Bill, 2015, after the government once again turned down the Opposition’s demand for referring the new piece of legislation to a standing committee; this time on the premise of urgency to have a deterrent law for those “secreting” their income and assets abroad. Rajya Sabha passed the bill on May 13, 2015. The Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha on March 20, 2015 by the Minister of Finance, Mr. Arun Jaitley.
SC DIRECTS APPOINTMENT OF 3-MEMBER OMBUDSMAN
The Supreme Court improvised on the N.R. Madhava Menon Committee’s recommendations to direct the government to appoint a three-member ombudsman body of persons with “unimpeachable integrity” to monitor and redress violations of the guidelines against publishing of photographs of political leaders, ministers or prominent persons in government advertisements.. The Bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and N.V. Ramana disagreed with the panel’s suggestion for a separate performance audit of compliance with these advertisement guidelines, to be conducted on Ministries, departments and agencies. It observed that the government has an inbuilt mechanism machinery for redress and audit. The verdict also mentioned that governments need not patronise media houses, especially during elections. It said the Centre and the States should maintain the concept of fairness and even dispensation to all media and publishing establishments while giving government ads for publication.
INTERNATIONAL WHO DECLARES LIBERIA FREE OF EBOLA VIRUS TRANSMISSION
The World Health Organization declared that the outbreak of the horrific disease in Liberia — one of the three West African hotspots in history’s largest Ebola outbreak— has ended 14 months after it officially began. Interruption of transmission is a monumental achievement for a country that reported the highest number of deaths in the largest, longest, and most complex outbreak since Ebola first emerged in 1976. At the peak of transmission, which occurred during August and September 2014, the country was reporting from 300 to 400 new cases every week. During August and September 2014, the capital city Monrovia was the most effected from West Africa’s outbreak with gates locked at overflowing treatment centres, patients dying on the hospital grounds, and bodies that were sometimes not collected for days. Though the capital city was hardest hit, every one of Liberia’s 15 counties eventually reported cases. At one point, virtually no treatment beds for Ebola patients were available anywhere in the country. Factors that contributed to success: A number of factors contributed to the success of Liberia’s Ebola response: The first decisive factor was the leadership shown by President Sirleaf, who regarded the disease as a threat to the nation’s “economic and social fabric” and made the response a priority for multiple branches of government. Her swift and sometimes tough decisions, frequent public communications, and presence at outbreak sites were expressions of this leadership. Second, health officials and their partners were quick to recognize the importance of community engagement. Health teams understood that community leadership brings with it well-defined social structures, with clear lines of credible authority. Teams worked hard to win support from village chiefs, religious leaders, women’s associations, and youth groups.
OUSTED EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT MOHAMMED MORSI SENTENCED TO DEATH
Egypt’s first freely elected leader, ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, was sentenced to death over a mass prison break during the 2011 uprising that eventually brought him to power. The www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  ruling applies to another 120 people, and is the latest in a series of mass death sentences handed down since the military overthrew Morsi nearly two years ago. The sentence will likely further polarize Egypt which is grappling with an Islamist insurgency that has intensified since Morsi’s overthrow. Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, was ousted by the military in July 2013 after days of mass street protests by Egyptians demanding that he be removed because of his divisive policies. His overthrow triggered a government crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood movement, to which he belongs, in which hundreds of people have died and thousands have been imprisoned. In May 2014, Morsi’s successor, the former military chief Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, secured a landslide victory in Egypt’s presidential elections. Before sentencing, Morsi was already serving a 20-year term on charges linked to the killing of protesters outside a Cairo presidential palace in December 2012.
UNITED NATIONS ADOPTS RESOLUTION TO STRENGTHEN RELIEF EFFORTS IN NEPAL
The UN has adopted a resolution, led and cosponsored by India, calling the international community to urgently assist Nepal and help rebuild the country following the devastating earthquake that killed more than 8,200 people. The resolution was adopted by consensus at the United Nations on Friday during a special 193- member General Assembly session. The UN appealed once again to the world body to help raise USD 423 million over the next three months to meet essential needs of Nepal earthquake survivors. (The appeal is currently only 14 per cent funded). Ban Ki-moon called on the international community to rally in support of the country and invest for the long haul so that it can sustain itself as it recovers and rebuilds from a devastating earthquake. India had taken the lead in negotiating the resolution on Nepal that was co-sponsored by 65 other nations including Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, China, Germany, Japan, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, UK and the US.
VATICAN RECOGNISED PALESTINE AS STATE
Vatican recognised Palestine as State in the Holy See-Palestine Joint Statement. The Joint Statement titled Bilateral Commission of the Holy See and the State of Palestine was released after the Plenary Session held in Vatican on a Comprehensive Agreement following on the Basic Agreement signed on 15 February 2000. The Basic Agreement of 2000 deals with essential aspects of the life and activity of the Catholic Church in Palestine. T he Vatican had been officially referring to Palestine as a state following the Pope’s visit to the Holy Land in 2014 but the joint statement is the first legal document to be negotiated between the two. Now official diplomatic recognition has been given in the final version of the official joint statement of the Vatican and Palestine. In it, the Holy See edited the initial wording from PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) to “State of Palestine.”
CANADA SETS CARBON EMISSIONS REDUCTION TARGET OF 30% BY 2030
Canada has announced it will commit to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, an ambitious target made possible in large part by the success of the provinces in reducing their own emissions. There will also be new rules to control emissions from an electricity sector that is burning more natural gas, and new standards to limit emissions from the chemical sector, including from nitrogen fertilizers. The federal government is also counting on low oil prices to keep industrial development — and its related emissions — lower.
INDIA & WORLD
SWITZERLAND TO JOIN INDIA’S FIGHT AGAINST BLACK MONEY
Committing its support to India’s fight against black money, Switzerland on May 14, 2015 revealed that its Parliament will soon consider changes in laws to look into the possibility of sharing information in cases being probed on the basis of stolen data of Swiss bank accounts. To consider providing “administrative assistance” to foreign countries, which would include India, in such cases, a proposal would be moved in the Swiss Parliament in the second half of this year, Switzerland’s Economic Affairs Minister Johann N. Schneider Ammann stated that in New Delhi. Mr. Ammann, who is on a three-day visit to India, said Switzerland is sensitive to the fact that the issue of black money is very important for India and needs to be resolved. Switzerland has decided to follow international standards, including those framed by OECD, in sharing information and providing assistance to foreign countries probing such cases. Mr. Ammann said the Swiss government is committed to resolve this issue and the Federal Council, the apex decision making body in Switzerland (equivalent to Cabinet in India), has decided to provide a “clarification” to the Parliament on legal situation on administrative assistance in cases of stolen data.
24 AGREEMENTS INKED BY INDIA & CHINA India and China on May 14, 2015
signed a record 24 agreements in key sectors, including in railways and education in Beijing. Protocol for setting up Consulates-General at Chengdu and Chennai besides a MoU on consultative mechanism for cooperation in trade negotiations were among the 24 agreements signed in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang in Beijing. An action plan between the Indian Railways and China National Railways on enhancing cooperation in the railway sector was also signed. A MoU on education exchange programme and ‘Space Cooperation Outline’ were also signed. Other key agreements are on developing China India think-tanks, maritime cooperation and ocean sciences. Four agreements were signed on sisterstate and sister-city relations between Karnataka and Sichuan province; Chennai and Chongqing; Hyderabad and Qingdao; and Aurangabad and Dunhuang.
TRIPURA – DHAKA TO RESUME STALLED BUS SERVICE
Bus service between Agartala and Dhaka which was stalled due to continued political violence in Bangladesh , would resume soon. R.M. Malakar, Managing Director of Tripura Road Transport [ 1 4 ] Weekly Current Affairs 10th May 2015 to 16th May, 2015 www.ias100.in Corporation (TRTC) stated that arrangements have been made to restart the service from May 15. The bus named ‘Maitri’ (Friendship) would run twice a week – Monday and Friday. The bus would complete journey to Dhaka in four hours after it starts at 12 noon from TRTC terminus. On Tuesday and Saturday the bus would return with passengers from Dhaka. He said the fare has now been fixed at Indian Rupees 180 per passenger. Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) has recently recommenced suspended operation. It is running a bus for two days of a week. Dhaka – Agartala Bus service which was launched in 2003 had been disrupted a number of times due to political instability and violence in the neighbouring country. TRTC’s older service bus Maitri was attacked and burnt in 2012 by an irate mob, but fortunately passengers escaped unhurt.
TAJIKISTAN NEEDS INDIA TO STEP UP INVESTMENTS
Tajikistan Foreign Minister has paid a five-day visit to India. Tajikistan Foreign Minister Aslov Sirojidin Muhridinovich met his counterpart Sushma Swaraj on May 12, 2015. He stated that his country is happy to learn about India’s indication to join the Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan Trade and Transit Agreement as the fourth partner. Pakistan is yet to accede to India’s inclusion in the agreement. The agreement, when finalised, will make trade easier between India and Tajikistan. His comments came in response to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reference to India’s willingness to join the trade coalition, made during the recent visit of Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani. Mr. Modi had said India joining the agreement would allow the arrangement to contribute in a meaningful manner to the vision of wider regional economic integration.
INDIA-CHINA TRADE DEFICIT RAISES 34% TO $48 BILLION
Trade deficit between India and China increased about 34 per cent to USD 48.43 billion in 2014-15 from USD 36.21 billion in the previous fiscal, Parliament was informed on May 13, 2015. India’s concern on the rising deficit has been discussed with China at various fora, including the highest level of leadership of the two countries, Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said to the Rajya Sabha. In order to boost exports and address the widening trade deficit with China, the government has taken a number of initiatives to identify specific product lines with export potential, actively taking up issues relating to tariff and non-tariff barriers in bilateral meetings and institutional dialogues. According to provisional figures, in 2014-15, India’s exports to China stood at USD 11.95 billion while imports were USD 60.39 billion. India has consistently sought greater market access for India’s exports to China, especially in fields like pharmaceuticals, agriculture bovine meat and IT services. The minister noted that there are three land customs station on India-China border — Gunji (Uttarakhand), Sherathang/Nathu-La (Sikkim) and Shipki-La/Namgia (Himachal Pradesh).
PM INAUGURATES INDIA’S LARGEST BLAST FURNACE PLANT IN BURNPUR
Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated the modernised and expanded IISCo Steel Plant of Steel Authority of India to the nation. The revamped plant in Burnpur is spread across 953 acres. It is the fifth integrated steel plant of SAIL and is equipped with the latest green technologies with zero emission. Also, it will help SAIL in achieving the target of enhancing production capacity to 50 million tonnes by 2025. l SAIL, spent Rs 16,000 crore to expand the plant’s capacity to 2.9 million tonnes per annum from 0.85 million tones. l Sail would make fresh investments of more than Rs 40,000 crore by 2025 to expand its two steel units in the state. l This investment will be part of its plan to more than double overall capacity to 50 million tones. l The modernization will help India in attaining the target of producing 300 million tonnes of steel by 2025 to meet industry demand. l IISCo was once the bluest of blue-chip companies and its shares were traded on the London Stock Exchange in the 1960s. l It was taken over by the government in 1972 and made a unit of SAIL in 1978 as part of a nationalisation drive.
MIDC SIGNS MOU WITH SIDBI TO RAISE RS 200-CRORE FUND FOR MSMES
The Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) has entered into an agreement with SIDBI Venture Capital Ltd. to provide easy finance to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) for their growth. Accordingly, both the MIDC and Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) Venture Capital have jointly created funds to the tune of Rs 200 crore to provide immediate finance to the MSMEs. Of the total amount, the MIDC has contributed Rs 75 crore, while SIDBI has provided the remaining Rs 125 crore. The signing of memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the two is part of the state government’s decision to provide easy loan to MSMEs while going for expansion, product development and other business purposes. MIDC CEO Bhushan Gagrani and Ananta P Sarma, MD and CEO of SIDBI Venture Capital Ltd., signed the MoU in the presence of chief minister Devendra Fadanvis and state industries minister Subhash Desai.
PM LAUNCHES THREE SOCIAL SECURITY SCHEMES
The Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi launched three ambitious Social Security Schemes pertaining to the insurance and pension sector. This is be a path breaking initiative towards providing affordable universal access to essential social security protection in a convenient manner linked to auto-debit facility from the bank account of the subscriber. The two insurance schemes launched, namely Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana (PMSBY) and Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana (PMJJBY) would provide insurance cover in the unfortunate event of death by any cause / death or disability due to an accident, whereas the pension scheme, Atal Pension Yojana (APY), would address old age income security needs. The convenient delivery mechanism of the schemes is [ 1 6 ] Weekly Current Affairs 10th May 2015 to 16th May, 2015 www.ias100.in expected to address the situation of very low coverage of life / accident insurance and old age income security products in the country. PMSBY offers a renewable one year accidental death cum disability cover of Rupees Two Lakh (Rupees One Lakh for partial permanent disability) to all savings bank account holders in the age group of 18 to 70 years for a premium of Rs. 12/- per annum per subscriber. The scheme would be offered / administered through Public Sector General Insurance Companies (PSGICs) or other General Insurance companies willing to offer the product on similar terms on the choice of the Bank / RRB / Cooperative Bank concerned. PMJJBY on the other hand offers a renewable one year life cover of Rupees Two lakh to all savings bank account holders in the age group of 18 to 50 years, covering death due to any reason, for a premium of Rs.330/- per annum per subscriber. The scheme would be offered / administered through LIC or other Life Insurance companies willing to offer the product on similar terms on the choice of the Bank / RRB / Cooperative Bank concerned.
CABINET GIVES NOD TO 5% DISINVESTMENT IN NTPC & 10% IN INDIAN OIL CORPORATION
The government will sell its 10 per cent stake in blue-chip Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) and 5 per cent in power producer NTPC to mop up about Rs 13,600 crore in this fiscal’s first disinvestment approval. The approvals are part of Rs 41,000 crore disinvestment target for the current financial year. Buoyed by diesel price deregulation, the government is looking at selling stake in Indian’s largest fuel retailer IOC for the second time in 13 months. Sale of 24.27 crore shares, or 10 per cent stake, in IOC would mop up close to Rs 8,000 crore at current market price. A total of 41.22 crore shares, or 5 per cent, in NTPC could fetch Rs 5,600 crore to the exchequer at current rates. The government had last sold stake in NTPC in February 2013. A decision to stake sale in IOC and NTPC was taken at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), headed by Prime Minister.
RBI ADVISED ALL PUBLIC SECTOR BANKS TO APPOINT INTERNAL OMBUDSMAN
The Reserve Bank of India has advised all public sector banks and some private sector and foreign banks to appoint an internal ombudsman. The internal ombudsman would be designated Chief Customer Service Officer (CCSO), it has stated. The CCSO should not have worked in the bank in which he/she is appointed as CCSO. The Reserve Bank has taken this initiative to further boost the quality of customer service and to ensure that there is undivided attention to resolution of customer complaints in banks. While all public sector banks will have to appoint a Chief Customer Service Officer, the private sector and foreign banks which have been asked to appoint the Chief Customer Service Officers (Internal Ombudsman) are ICICI Bank Ltd., www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  HDFC Bank Ltd., Axis Bank Ltd., Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd., IndusInd Bank Ltd., Standard Chartered Bank, Citi Bank N.A. and HSBC Ltd. These banks have been selected on the basis of their asset size, business mix, etc.
LOK SABHA APPROVED NEGOTIABLE INSTRUMENTS (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2015
The Lok Sabha on 13 May 2015 passed the Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) Bill, 2015. The bill intends to amend the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881. l The Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) Bill, 2015 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on May 6, 2015. The Bill seeks to amend the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881. The Act defines promissory notes, bills of exchange, cheques and creates penalties for issues such as bouncing of cheques. l The Act specifies circumstances under which complaints for cheque bouncing can be filed. However, the Act does not specify the territorial jurisdiction of the courts where such a complaint is to be filed. The Bill amends the Act to state that cases of bouncing of cheques can be filed only in a court in whose jurisdiction the bank branch of the payee (person who receives the cheque) lies. l If a complaint against a person issuing a cheque has been filed in the court with the appropriate jurisdiction, then all subsequent complaints against that person will be filed in the same court, irrespective of the relevant jurisdiction area. l If more than one case is filed against the same person before different courts, the case will be transferred to the court with the appropriate jurisdiction. l The Bills also amends the definition of ‘cheque in the electronic form’. Under the Act, it was defined as a cheque containing the exact mirror image of a paper cheque and generated in a secure system using a digital signature. The definition has been amended to mean a cheque drawn in electronic medium using any computer resource and which is signed in a secure system with a digital signature, or electronic system.
RAJYA SABHA PASSED THE COMPANIES (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2014
The Companies (Amendment) Bill 2014 was passed by voice vote by the Rajya Sabha. Sixteen amendments were made to the Companies Act of 2013, pertaining to winding up of companies, board resolutions, bail provisions and utilisation of unclaimed dividends. The amendments were necessitated as there have been complaints from companies about the problems ever since the law was enacted in 2013. The Lok Sabha had passed the Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2014, in December last year.
SCIENCE & TECH EARTHQUAKES UNVEIL DEEP ROCK STRUCTURE
Scientists have found a towering rock structure deep under East Asia by using 3-D supercomputer simulations of data from 227 earthquakes that hit the region during 2007-2011. The finding could throw light on the fate of the subducted continental plates beneath the Tibetan Plateau, known as ‘the roof of the world,’ which rises about 5km above sea level. Researchers stated that the work may also help find hidden hydrocarbon resources, and more broadly it could help explore the Earth under East Asia and the rest of the world. Researchers combined seismic records from thousands of stations for each earthquake to produce scientifically accurate, high-resolution 3-D tomographic images of the subsurface beneath immense geological formations. Like a thrown pebble generates ripples in a pond, earthquakes make waves that can travel thousands of miles through the Earth. A seismic wave slows down or speeds up a small percentage as it travels through changes in rock composition and temperature. The scientists mapped these wave speed changes to model the physical properties of rock hidden below ground. Researchers found that beneath the Tibetan plateau, the world’s largest and highest plateau, there is a sub-vertical high velocity structure that extends down to the bottom of the mantle transition zone. The bottom of the transition zone goes to depths of 660 kilometres. Three-dimensional geometry of the high velocity structure depicts the lithosphere beneath the plateau, which gives clues of the fate of the subducted oceanic and the continental parts of the Indian plate under the Eurasian plate.
FIRST TIME NASA PROBE SPOTS PLUTO’S FAINTEST KNOWN MOONS NASA’s
New Horizons spacecraft has for the first time photographed Kerberos and Styx — the smallest and faintest of Pluto’s five known moons, capturing its first-ever family portrait of the Pluto system. New Horizons, which is speeding toward a historic flyby of Pluto on July 14, took the images detecting Kerberos and Styx with its most sensitive camera, the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), from April 25 to May 1, 2015. Following the spacecraft’s detection of Pluto’s giant moon Charon in July 2013, and Pluto’s smaller moons Hydra and Nix in July 2014 and January 2015, respectively, New Horizons is now within sight of all the known members of the Pluto system. New Horizons is now on the threshold of discovery. Kerberos and Styx were discovered in 2011 and 2012, respectively, by New Horizons team members using the Hubble Space Telescope. Styx, circling Pluto every 20 days between the orbits of Charon and Nix, is likely just approximately 7 to 21 kilometres in diameter, and Kerberos, orbiting between Nix and Hydra with a 32-day period, is just approximately 10 to 30 kilometres in diameter. Each is 20 to 30 times fainter than Nix and Hydra. Detecting these tiny moons from a distance of more than 55 million miles is amazing, and a credit to the team that built our LORRI long-range camera and John Spencer’s team of moon and ring hunters, revealed New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute.
CHANDRAYAAN-2 TO BE READY FOR LAUNCH BY 2017
Preparations for Chandrayaan-2, the second lunar exploration mission of the country, is progressing well and is expected to be ready for launch by 2017, Anil Bhardwaj, Director, Space Physics Laboratory, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), has revealed on May 11, 2015. [ 2 0 ] Weekly Current Affairs 10th May 2015 to 16th May, 2015 www.ias100.in The ambitious mission involving complex technologies comprised releasing of an orbiter, a lander and a rover. This will also be the first-ever soft landing (landing which does not result in the destruction of the payload vehicle) by any Indian spacecraft on an astronomical body. The lander was planned to touch down in the polar region of the moon, which would also be the first such attempt by any nation. This ambitious project would be another landmark in the history of the country’s space ventures. Stating that the first-ever solar orbiter mission of the country Aditya – L 1, to study the solar corona, would also be ready for launch by the end of 2017 or early 2018, this would be the maiden attempt by the nation to reach the Lagrangian point 1 (L1) between the Earth and Sun.
ROSETTA SPACECRAFT BEGINS TO LISTEN OUT FOR PHILAE CONTACT
The European Rosetta spacecraft began to listen out for its robotic lander amid hopes that the cometriding probe may soon have enough solar power to wake from hibernation. The Philae lander has not been heard from since its batteries ran out three days after its dramatic and bouncy landing on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in November. The lander touched down on the comet exactly where mission controllers had planned, but when anchoring harpoons failed to fire, Philae bounced off the surface twice and finally came to a rest against a cliff face that cast a shadow over its solar panels. Hibernation Unable to recharge its batteries, Philae went into hibernation. But as the comet speeds towards the sun, mission controllers hope that the probe might receive enough sunlight to awaken and call its orbiting mothership. Scientists at the European Space Agency switched on Rosetta’s receivers in case the probe stirs to life in the coming days. Until May 17, the lander will be in sunlight twice a day when the Rosetta spacecraft is overhead and able to pick up its signals.
RUSSIAN ROCKET CARRYING MEXICAN SATELLITE CRASHES
A Proton-M carrier rocket carrying a Mexican satellite malfunctioned and crashed in Siberia soon after launch on May 15, 2015. The third stage of the rocket carrying the MexSat-1 communications satellite suffered a problem about 500 seconds after launch from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The cause of the accident, which meant the satellite was not put into orbit, was not immediately established. The final stage of the Proton could still have contained a few tonnes of heptyl, a highly toxic rocket propellant, when it came down in the Chita region of Siberia.
ECOLOGY & ENVIRONMENT
NEW CATFISH SPECIES DISCOVERED
Scientists from the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) have discovered a new species of catfish, Glyptothorax senapatiensis, in the Chindwin river drainage in Senapati district of Manipur. The people of the region have been having the six-cm-long freshwater fish as food for long, calling it Ngapang. ZSI scientist revealed that it is a small but edible fish with high nutritional value and a lot of oil content. The fish has a thoracic adhesive apparatus that helps it cling on to the rocky riverbed in mountains against strong currents. All Glyptothorax-genus fish have this characteristic. Scientists stated that the Northeast has a rich aquatic biodiversity, with 361 of the 816 fish species found in India present there. Several important species of catfish, a diverse group of ray-finned fish with prominent barbells resembling cat whiskers, are found there.
A VICTIM OF E-WASTE CRIME
A report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) revealed that much of the 40 million tonnes of electronic waste produced around the world — old smartphones, TVs, laptops and obsolete kitchen appliances — finds its way illegally to Asia and Africa every year. Close to 90 per cent of the world’s electronic waste — worth nearly $19 billion — is illegally traded or dumped each year, to destinations half way across the world. While the European Union the U.S. and Japan are the primary origins of e-waste shipments, China, India, Malaysia and Pakistan are the main destinations. In Africa, Ghana and Nigeria are the biggest recipients of e-waste. Destination India Illegal trade is driven by the relatively low costs of shipment and the high costs of treatment in the developed countries. Quoting an U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study, the UNEP report stated that exporting e-waste to Asia worked out 10 times cheaper than processing it in within these countries. The Indian subcontinent has turned into an important destination for European waste. This goes beyond e-waste to include household waste, metals, textiles and tires — which are exported to India and Pakistan, noted the report “Waste Crimes, Waste Risks: Gaps and Challenges in the Waste Sector.” There is a significant trade in compressors to Pakistan. These should be depolluted prior to export, but waste operators seeking to avoid expense often omit this step.
STATE’S ACTION PLAN ON CLIMATE CHANGE APPROVED
The Gujarat State Climate Change Action Plan 2015-2020 has finally got the Centre’s nod. The plan had been submitted in August 2014. Gujarat which had set up a much-hyped Asia’s first climate change department is among the last states to get approval from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). Modi as the Gujarat CM had set up the department which is now almost defunct. In the action plan, the state government proposes to invest more than Rs 21,000 crore to create environment-friendly water resource management, public health projects, forest and environment improvement projects, agriculture improvement projects and a number of studies in the next five years — 2015 to 2020. The plan suggests radical changes in the government functioning in nine sectors — agriculture, water resource management, healthcare, forest and biodiversity, renewable energy, coastal infrastructure, urban development, vulnerable community, green jobs.
INDIA WAY BEHIND ON WHO HEALTH TARGETS
India has met only four of ten health targets under the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), and has made next to no progress on another four, according to new data from the World Health Organisation. The deadline for achieving MDGs runs out this year. The WHO’s annual World Health Statistics for 2015 were released in Geneva on May 13, 2015. The report finds that globally, life expectancy at birth has increased by six years for both men and women since 1990. By the end of this year if current trends continue, the world will have met global targets for turning around the epidemics of HIV, malaria and tuberculosis and increasing access to safe drinking water. It will also have made substantial progress in reducing child undernutrition, maternal and child deaths, and increasing access to basic sanitation. Infant mortality The report revealed that progress in child survival worldwide is one of the greatest success stories of international development, the WHO revealed, and pre-term birth complications have replaced neo-natal complications and disease as the biggest source of mortality for children under the age of five. Since 1990, child deaths have almost halved — falling from an estimated 90 deaths per 1000 live births to 46 deaths per 1000 live births in 2013. Yet the world will not achieve the MDG target of reducing the death rate by two-thirds. Less than one-third of all countries has achieved or is on track to meet this target by the end of this year. The top killers of children aged less than 5 years are now: pre-term birth complications, pneumonia, birth asphyxia and diarrhoea.
NEW TREATMENT FOR DIABETES IN OFFING
Australian researchers have discovered a link between protein intake and improved control of blood glucose in mice, opening the way for potential new treatments for diabetes in human beings. Lead researcher Stefan Broer of Australian National University (ANU) stated that the findings show mice, with a reduced capacity to digest and absorb protein, are highly efficient at removing glucose from blood after a meal. This is precisely what individuals with diabetes fail to do. This research has significant potential for the design of new drugs to treat type 2 diabetes. Prof.
NEW ADVANCED INFRARED IMAGING TECHNIQUE
A new advanced imaging technique developed by an Indian-origin scientist that uses infrared light, instead of chemical stains, to scan tissue samples can enable fast and broad diagnostic assessments. Using a combination of advanced microscope imaging and computer analysis, the new technique can give pathologists and researchers precise information. The study was led by Rohit Bhargava, University of Illinois professor of bioengineering and member of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology. Any sample can be analysed for desired stains without material cost, time or effort, while leaving precious tissue pristine for downstream analyses. To study tissue samples, doctors and researchers use stains or dyes that stick to the particular structure or molecule they are looking for. Staining can be a long and exacting process, and the added chemicals can damage cells. Doctors also have to choose which things to test for, because it’s not always possible to obtain multiple samples for multiple stains from one biopsy.
WORLD NOW HAS A BILLION SMOKERS
New research on global addictive disorders has found that almost five per cent of the world’s adult population (240 million people) has an alcohol use disorder and more than 20 per cent (one billion people) smoke tobacco. The report estimates the number of people injecting drugs at around 15 million worldwide. The “Global Statistics on Addictive Behaviours: 2014 Status Report” shows that there are huge regional differences in use of addictive drugs. The heaviest drinkers are in Eastern Europe where 13.6 litres of alcohol is consumed per head of population each year, followed by Northern Europe at 11.5 litres. Central, Southern and Western Asia have the lowest consumption at 2.1 litres. Eastern Europe also has the most smokers at 30 per cent of adults, closely followed by Oceania at 29.5 per cent, Western Europe at 28.5 per cent, and Africa at 14 per cent.
RESEARCHERS MAP EVOLUTION OF EBOLA IN SIERRA LEONE
Chinese researchers have detected increased genetic diversity in Ebola virus collected in Sierra Leone, providing an insight into how the virus has evolved. Wu-Chun Cao and his colleagues from the State Key Laboratory of Pathogen and Biosecurity, Beijing, China, carried out a large-scale genetic study on the Ebola virus. They analysed 175 Ebola virus genome sequences collected from five districts in Sierra Leone during September to November 2014, following a rapid growth of the outbreak, according to the research paper published in Nature.