Current Affairs 12TH APRIL 2015 TO 18TH APRIL, 2015
TOURIST VISA ON ARRIVAL SCHEME RENAMED
The Union Home Ministry has decided to rename the tourist visa-on-arrival scheme as ‘etourist visa’ scheme. The step is aimed at avoiding inconvenience to foreign tourists who, misled by scheme’s nomenclature, would fly into India presuming that they would be granted visa on arrival upon landing. It has been observed that the name of the scheme is creating confusion among tourists. Tourist presumed as if the visa is being granted on arrival. However in present system the pre-authorisation of visa to foreigners is being given prior to travel. The ministry also referred to the requests it had received from some Indian embassies for a change in nomenclature of the scheme. A committee of officers from the home ministry, external affairs ministry and Bureau of Immigration recently suggested renaming of ‘tourist visa on arrivalelectronic travel authorization (TVoA-ETA) scheme’ as ‘e tourist visa’ (eTV) scheme, keeping in mind the application process and purpose of the scheme. Under the ‘tourist visa on arrival-electronic travel authorization scheme’, a foreign tourist was required to apply for a visa online by uploading his photograph and passport and also paying his visa fee online. The visa authorities would then process his application and send him an electronic travel authorization, or simply e-visa, via e-mail within 72 hours. Stating that visa on arrival scheme in other countries allowed tourist to land and then get visa, a senior home ministry official said the nomenclature of the ‘TVoA-ETA’ scheme in India was misleading. TVoA-ETA facility can now be availed by tourists from 44 countries landing at nine airports across India. Around 1.10 lakh visas have been granted under the scheme so far.
NATIONAL JUDICIAL APPOINTMENTS COMMISSION ACT, 2014
The Government notified the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act, 2014 and the Constitution (Ninety-ninth Amendment) Act, 2014 for bringing in a change in the existing system for appointment of Judges in Supreme Court and High Courts. Two Bills titled ‘The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty First Amendment) Bill, 2014′ and ‘The National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, 2014′ were passed unanimously by the LokSabha and RajyaSabha. Subsequently these Bills were ratified by the required number of State legislatures before getting the President’s assent. The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty First Amendment) Bill, 2014 enacted as the Constitution (Ninety Ninth Amendment) Act and the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act, 2014 were published in Gazette of India on 31st December 2014. Both the Acts were to come into force on such date as the Central Government would notify them in the Official Gazette. Accordingly, in exercise of the powers conferred by sub-section (2) of section 1 of the Constitution (Ninety-ninth Amendment) Act, 2014, the Central Government appoints the 13th day of April, 2015, as the date on which the said Act shall come into force. The Constitution (Ninety Ninth Amendment) Act, 2014 provides for the composition and the functions of the proposed NJAC. The Acts provide for a transparent and broadbased process of selection of Judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts by the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC). The NJAC would be chaired by the Chief Justice of India as in the earlier collegium system. The NJAC membership would include two senior most Judges of the Supreme Court, the Union Minister of Law and Justice, two eminent persons to be nominated by a committee of the Prime Minister of India, the Chief Justice of India, and the Leader of the Opposition in the House of the People, or if there is no Leader of the Opposition, then the Leader of the single largest Opposition Party in the House of www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  the People. With a view to ensuring that the composition of the National Judicial Appointments Commission is inclusive, the Act provides that one of the eminent persons shall be nominated from amongst persons belonging to the Scheduled Caste, the Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, Minorities or Women. The NJAC will frame its own regulations.
GOVERNORS (ALLOWANCES AND PRIVILEGES) AMENDMENT RULES, 2015
A new set of rules to regulate official visits of Governors outside their States, mandating prior permission from the President and putting a cap of 73 days in a year as the duration of such visits, has been notified by the Union Home Ministry. INFO-CRUX: l Amending the Governors (Allowances and Privileges) Rules, the MHA on February 10, 2015 issued a notification stating that all outstation visits of Governors will require prior approval of the President. In normal course, any communication in this regard has to be forwarded to the President’s Secretariat at least seven days in advance. l The notification, which seeks to discourage Governors’ visit to the home State, says that copies of all the communications soliciting the approval of the President for visits should also be endorsed to the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Home Minister. l In case of official visits, the notification provides that without prior intimation to the President’s Secretariat, the Governor cannot undertake such visits even under any emergent or extraordinary circumstance. l The Governors have to seek permission from the President for private visits within India at least two weeks in advance, except in exceptional circumstances. l Communications pertaining to private visits abroad have to be made at least six weeks in advance and except in extraordinary circumstances, Governors cannot undertake any out-station visit without prior approval. l In case of visits due to extraordinary circumstances, the Governors have to intimate the President’s Secretariat as soon as the programme is finalised, providing details of the compelling reasons why it was not possible to obtain prior permission. l Once the schedule for the visit is approved, it cannot ordinarily be revised. However, in extraordinary circumstances, the President’s Secretariat has to be intimated about it before Governor’s departure from the State.
INTERNATIONAL PAKISTAN AND RUSSIA TO HOLD FIRST-EVER JOINT MILITARY EXERCISE
Pakistan and Russia will hold first-ever joint military exercise as part of their enhanced defence cooperation, in a sign of increasing bonhomie between the Cold War-era adversaries. The agreement was reached during a meeting in Moscow between Pakistan Defence Minister Khawaja Asif and his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu. They also agreed to enhance cooperation in both defence industry and military training. They also reached a consensus that a multi-polar world would ensure peace and balance in international relations. Pakistan and Russia last year signed a military cooperation agreement to deepen their defence ties and vowed to translate their relationship in “tangible” terms during the first-ever visit of a Russian defence minister in 45 years. Russian Defence Minister Shoigu’s visit last November to Pakistan came at a very critical juncture as US-led NATO forces drawdown from Afghanistan. Russia lifted embargoes on providing defence supplies to Pakistan and currently the two sides are working on different options to increase the ties in the defence field.
TURKEY LAUNCHES CONSTRUCTION OF FIRST NUCLEAR POWER PLANT
Turkey launched the construction of its first nuclear power plant, a controversial $20 billion project slammed by ecologists. The project is strongly backed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as part of his plan to make Turkey one of the world’s top ten economies. The nuclear power station, in Akkuyu in Mersin province on the shores of the Mediterranean is being built, like Iran’s first nuclear power plant, by Russia’s nuclear agency Rosatom. It is the first of three nuclear power plants Turkey currently plans to build to reduce its dependence on importing energy from exporters like Russia and Iran. A second plant is due to be built by a FrenchJapanese consortium in the Black Sea city of Sinop while a third plant whose location is yet to be finalised is also planned. The power station is expected to be completed by 2020 and will have four power units with a capacity of 1200 MW each. The launch of the power plant comes two weeks after Turkey suffered its most serious nationwide power cut in 16 years which exposed the shortcomings of its energy system.
OBAMA NOMINATES INDIAN-AMERICAN SHAMINA SINGH TO KEY POST US
President Barack Obama has nominated Indian-American businesswoman Shamina Singh to the board of directors of a federal agency The Corporation for National and Community Service which is charged with strengthening communities and fostering civic engagement through service and volunteering. The Corporation for National and Community Service engages more than five million Americans in service through its core programmes – Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and the Social Innovation Fund. She is nominated to top most post by United States President Barack Obama for term of four year i.e. till October 2019. A founding board member for Indian American Leadership Incubator (IALI), Singh is currently executive director of the MasterCard Centre for Inclusive Growth, a position she has held since December 2013. Singh is also the global director of Government Social Programmes, MasterCard’s Public Private Partnerships group, a position she www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  has held since February 2013. From 2011 to 2013, she was senior advisor to MSLGROUP.Previously, she served as vice president of government and public affairs at Nike, Inc from 2010 to 2011. Prior to that, Singh served as COO for global community development at Citigroup, Inc. from 2005 to 2010. From 2004 to 2005, she was deputy director for America Votes. In 2003, she served as a senior adviser to US house Democratic Party leader Nancy Pelosi. Singh was executive director for the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders from 1999 to 2001. She was Congressional Liaison for the Office of Congressional Affairs at the Department of Labour from 1998 to 1999, Senior Legislative Advocate for the Service Employees International Union from 1995 to 1998, and Campaign Associate for the Ann Richards for Governor Committee from 1993 to 1994.
WORLD BANK RELEASED MIGRATION AND DEVELOPMENT BRIEF
The latest issue of the World Bank’s Migration and Development Brief states that Growth in global remittances, including those to developing countries, will slow sharply this year due to weak economic growth in Europe, deterioration of the Russian economy and the depreciation of the euro and rubble. Officially recorded remittances to the developing world are expected to reach $440 billion in 2015, an increase of 0.9 percent over the previous year. Global remittances, including those to high income countries, are projected to grow by 0.4 percent to $586 billion. The 2015 remittance growth rates are the slowest since the global financial crisis in 2008/09. Nonetheless, the number of international migrants is expected to exceed 250 million in 2015, and their savings and remittances are expected to continue to grow. The slowdown in the growth of remittances this year will affect most developing regions, in particular Europe and Central Asia where flows are expected to decline by 12.7 percent in 2015. The positive impact of an economic recovery in the U.S. will be partially offset by continued weakness in the Euro Area, the impact of lower oil prices on the Russian economy, the strengthening of the US dollar, and tighter immigration controls in many remittance source countries. The top five migrant destination countries continue to be the United States, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Russia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The top five remittance recipient countries, in terms of value of remittances, continue to be India, China, Philippines, Mexico and Nigeria. The global average cost of sending $200 held steady at 8 percent of the value of the transaction, as of the last quarter of 2014. Despite its potential to lower costs, the use of mobile technology in crossborder transactions remains limited, due to the regulatory burden related to combating money laundering and terrorism financing, says the Brief. International remittances sent via mobile technology accounted for less than 2 percent of remittance flows in 2013, according to the latest available data. In addition to sending money to their families, international migrants hold significant savings in their destination countries. ‘Diaspora savings’ attributed to migrants from developing countries were estimated at $497 billion in 2013, the latest data available. “Total remittances in 2014 reached $583 billion. This is more than double the ODA in the world. India received $70 billion, China $64 billion, the Philippines $28 billion. With new thinking these mega flows can be leveraged to finance development and infrastructure projects,” said Kaushik Basu, World Bank Chief Economist and Senior Vice President. He pointed out, “Israel and India have shown how macro liquidity crises can be managed by tapping into the wealth of diaspora communities. Mexican migrants have boosted the construction sector. Tajikistan manages to nearly double its consumption by using remittance money. Migrants and remittances are clearly major players in today’s global economy.” In a special analysis on leveraging migration for financing development, the Brief estimates that as much as $100 billion in migrant savings could be raised annually by developing countries by reducing remittance costs and migrant recruitment costs, and mobilizing diaspora savings and philanthropic contributions from migrants. Future inflows of remittances can be used as collateral to facilitate international borrowings by national banks in developing countries. Remittances can also facilitate access to international capital markets by improving sovereign ratings and debt sustainability of recipient countries. [ 8 ] Weekly Current Affairs 12th April 2015 to 18th April, 2015 www.ias100.in Because remittances are large and more stable than many other types of capital flows, they can greatly enhance the recipient country’s sovereign credit rating, thus lowering borrowing costs and lengthening debt maturity, says the Brief. In a recent development, rating agencies have started accounting for remittances in country credit ratings, but given data difficulties, there is still room for further improvement. And, the joint World Bank-IMF low-income country Debt Sustainability Framework now includes remittances in evaluating the ability of the countries to repay external obligations and their ability to undertake non-concessional borrowing from other private creditors. South Asia region The South Asia region is projected to receive $120 billion in remittances 2015, at a slower growth pace of 3.7 percent, compared with 4.5 percent the previous year. Large scale construction activities and fiscal expansion in the GCC countries, which account for 60 percent of remittances to South Asia and improving economic prospects in the United States will continue to support inflows to the region. Partly due to the appreciation of the rupee, growth in remittances to India, the world’s largest recipient, slowed to 0.6 percent in 2014 (from 1.7 percent in 2013), amounting to $70 billion. In contrast, remittances soared to Pakistan (by 16.6 percent), Sri Lanka (9.6 percent) and Bangladesh (8 percent). Remittances are extremely important for several countries in the region: in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh, remittances exceeded 6 percent of GDP in 2013, according to the latest available data. Growth in remittances to the region is expected to pick up to $126 billion in 2016 and $132 billion in 2017.
RUSSIA LIFTED BAN ON DELIVERY OF S-300 MISSILE SYSTEM TO IRAN
Russia has lifted a ban on supplying Iran with a sophisticated air defence missile system. Delivery of the S-300s was cancelled in 2010 after the UN imposed sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme. But the Russian president gave the go-ahead after Tehran struck an interim deal with world powers to curb nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief. The US and Israel have criticised the news. l The $800m (£545m) contract to deliver the system was heavily criticised at the time by Israel and the US, who feared it could be used to protect Iranian nuclear sites from air strikes. l The S-300 is a surface-to-air missile system that can be used against multiple targets including jets, or to shoot down other missiles. l Russia has stopped producing the model specified under the original contract and has instead offered an upgrade. l Russia was one of six major world powers to reach an outline agreement with Iran over its nuclear programme. Raja Rajeshwari becomes New York’s first Indian American judge Chennai born Raja Rajeswari, who came to America when she was 16, has become the first person of Indian descent to be named as a criminal court judge in New York City. Rajeswari, 43, an assistant district attorney at the Richmond County District Attorney’s office, who was nominated to the bench by Mayor Bill de Blasio, formally assumed her new office Tuesday. Rajeswari, who has worked at the district attorney’s office for 16 years, has been the deputy chief of the Special Victims Unit for more than four years. Besides her legal acumen Rajeswari is an accomplished Bharat Natyam and Kucchipudi dancer who continues to perform at Indian events and temples with her troupe from the Padmalaya Dance Academy, named after her mother, Padma Ramanathan. Currently, there are two male judges of Indian descent in civil court settings – Jaya Madhavan on the New York City Housing Court in Bronx County, and Anil C. Singh of New York County Supreme Court, 1st District.
INDIA & WORLD A JOINT STATEMENT FOR A NEW BEGINNING
A joint statement titled “New Vigour, New Steps” was issued by the Indian Prime Minister Modi and his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper, in order to elevate their bilateral relations to a strategic partnership. Modi’s visit to Canada is the first by an Indian Prime Minister in 42 years. INFO-CRUX: l India and Canada signed MoU covering the fields of uranium, visas, terrorism, foreign investment promotion and protection, CanadaIndia comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA) free-trade deal, culture and people-to-people ties, regional and global issues and others. l Economy, Trade and Investment agreementtwo nations signed MoU on Cooperation in Rail Transportation between India’s Ministry of Railways and Transport Canada, dealing with technical cooperation which based on reformed India-Canada economic and financial relationship. l Civil-Nuclear Cooperation- Agreement signed between the Department of Atomic Energy of the Government of India and Cameco of Canada for long-term supply of uranium to India to meet its energy needs. l In the field of Energy-both countries agreed to further collaboration in areas such as energy efficiency and innovation, oil and gas development, exchange of regulatory best practices, renewable energy, and nuclear energy. l Education and Skills Development- they welcomed the Canada’s partnership in the Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN) of India to enable Canadian researchers to cooperate in learning, research and teaching in select Indian educational institutions. l Science, Technology, Innovation, and SpaceBoth countries agreed to convene biennial meeting of the 5th Canada-India Joint Science and Technology Cooperation Committee in June 2015. l Culture and People-to-People Ties- they signed MoU on Cultural Cooperation between Canada and India was renewed and Canada’s proposal to hold the Year of Canada in India in 2017.
INDIA, BELARUS TO ENHANCE TIES
India and Belarus agreed to enhance their bilateral ties, especially in the field of trade and economy.India also discussed regional and international issues of mutual interests with Belarus which is a land-locked country in Eastern Europe bordering Russia during the meeting of Belarus Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.The two Ministers discussed bilateral issues including high level political engagement, trade and investment, science and technology, defence, energy and culture. India and Belarus enjoy friendly and mutually beneficial relations in various fields.
INDIA-GERMANY TO STRENGTHEN STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP
The Prime Minister of India and the Federal Chancellor of Germany, met in Hannover and Berlin to exchange views on upgrading and further strengthening our Strategic Partnership. They viewed each other’s development as mutually reinforcing and offering significant opportunities for expanding cooperation between the two countries. The common objective was to encourage greater synergies between German engineering, experience in sustainable development, innovation and skills, and the new opportunities available in India and through ‘Make in India’, ‘Clean India’, ‘Digital India’ and other initiatives towards achieving economic growth and sustainable development. India’s participation as Partner Country at Hannover Messe 2015 is a welcome expression of our common desire to strengthen this cooperation. The Strategic Partnership between the two countries is entering a new and more intensive phase. In order to strengthen this cooperation, they agreed to encourage their respective Ministries/ Departments to take proactive steps to advance our collaboration in the following areas: 1. Manufacturing: Utilize the momentum generated by India’s participation in the Hannover Messe to foster stronger ties between business and industry on both sides in order to support India’s ‘Make in India’ initiative. Greater investments, a positive investment climate and technology partnerships are crucial for the success of India’s ‘Make in India’ initiative. 2. Skill Development: Expand existing IndoGerman cooperation through new initiatives, including a road-map for enhancing employability of trainees and apprentices by strengthening industry involvement in Skills Development, as in the German dual system. 3. Urban Development: Strengthen the bilateral cooperation through the establishment of a working group on urban development. Support development of urban planning and infrastructure in India, including (a)cooperation in the development of new areas of collaboration and mutual benefit in the development of smart cities in India; (b) Setting up peer-to-peer network of Municipalities for direct collaboration; and (c) Assistance in the area of affordable housing. 4. Environment: Strengthen the bilateral cooperation through the establishment of two working groups in the areas of water and waste management. 5. Railways: Support for the modernization of the railway infrastructure including setting up of semi high-speed and high-speed railways and training and skill development of personnel in the rail sector starting with signalling and telecommunications and a high-speed rail system. 6. Cleaning of Rivers: Following the completion of the Ganga Scoping Mission in October 2014 by Germany, develop cooperation on Ganga River rejuvenation strategies, capacity support for urban sanitation, setting up of standards, approaches to industrial pollution and innovative financial models. 7. Renewable Energy: Support India’s proposed objective of 175GW of renewable energy by 2022 through technical and financial support for developing comprehensive solar rooftop and green energy corridor projects in India. 8. Education: Promote closer educational exchanges, including through setting up of an International Center for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences, strengthening collaboration between universities in India and Germany through the Indo German Strategic Partnerships in Higher Education program, and enhancing the exchange of scientists between both countries, e.g. in the framework of India’s GIAN initiative. 9. Language: Support the respective programs and efforts in India and Germany to broaden knowledge of each other’s languages among the youth in accordance with the national policy of each country. 10. Science and Technology (S&T): Both sides declared their intent to promote closer R&D Cooperation in science, technology and innovation, in particular through extending the tenure of the bi-national Indo-German Science & Technology Center in India with appropriate resources, the cooperation arrangement between Ministry of Earth Sciences, India and Helmholtz Association, Germany for Institutional collaboration in the area of Earth Sciences, and understanding between National Council of Science Museums in India and Leibniz Association, Germany on closer cooperation in science communication.
5TH SAARC HEALTH MINISTERS MEET
The 5th meeting of SAARC Health Ministers held at New Delhi adopted the “Delhi Declaration on Public Health Challenges”. INFO-CRUX: l The SAARC Member States account for nearly a quarter of the world population and face similar or even same challenges in the field of public health, prevention of diseases and providing better quality of life for citizens. l The members agreed to cooperate for combating mental disorders, including autism and neurodevelopment disorders, through a multipronged approach encompassing a Mental Health Policy, a life cycle approach to address the needs of such individuals throughout life, sharing of innovations in the field of Mental Health Promotion, diagnosis and management and exchange of best practices and experiences amongst SAARC Member States; l To extend cooperation amongst the Member States for capacity development of human resources in public health and clinical medicine; l To attach high priority to combat anti-microbial resistance, on prevention, systems of infection control, correct prescription and consumption practices, access to antibiotics, R&D and impact of antibiotic use in agricultural and animal husbandry sectors, while also carrying out assessment of the financial and other resources required therefore; l To enhance regional collaboration and partnership in health research among SAARC countries by identifying the nodal technical officers from respective health/medical research councils/units/departments, to provide list of scientists, researchers, investigators from each country to develop and undertake joint collaborative research projects in the prioritized areas, to provide the list of laboratories ready to offer training / exchange of expertise with other member states and to organize Research Methodology Workshops; l To cooperate in improving the standards, certification and regulatory mechanisms for drugs and pharmaceuticals with a view to promoting availability of quality, safe, efficacious and affordable medicines in all SAARC Member States.; l To promote access to medicines including, if necessary, through the use of TRIPS flexibilities and encourage to take steps to promote these in the bilateral and regional trade agreements in order to protect public health interest; l To cooperate in the field of traditional systems of medicines, including by encouraging visits of experts, organization of symposia, promotion of courses on traditional medicine under [ 1 2 ] Weekly Current Affairs 12th April 2015 to 18th April, 2015 www.ias100.in international fellowships or country support programmes, up-gradation of educational standards, quality assurance and standardization of drugs, improving the availability of medicinal plant materials, research & development, awareness generation, etc.; l To holding of annual meetings of the Technical Committee on Health and Population Activities to facilitate intra-regional cooperation and implementation of decisions taken in the earlier meetings of SAARC Health Ministers.
INDIA AND FRANCE SIGNED 20 MOUS AND AGREEMENTS TO GIVE NEW IMPETUS TO BILATERAL CO-OPERATION
India and France signed 20 Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) and Agreements to give new impetus to bilateral co-operation between the two nations. These agreements are Defence and Nuclear Energy, Space, Economic relations, Railways, Energy, Tourism, Science and Technology, Skill Development and Ayurveda. Agreement of Defence and Nuclear Energy – MoU between L&T and AREVA- under this MoU aims at cost reduction by increasing localization, to improve the financial viability of Jaitapur project. Pre-engineering agreements (PEA) between NPCIL and Arevat Agreement of Space- MoU between on Megha Tropiques, MOU for Ka-band propagation experiment over Indian tropical region and Programme between ISRO and French National Centre for Space Studies (CNES). Agreement of Sports- The MoU envisages cooperation and exchange of experiences in the fields of sports medicine, management and coordination of sports federations and establishment of National Institute of Sports in India based on French model of INSEP. Agreement of Economic Relations- MoU on cooperation in the field of renewable energy and it cover as solar, wind, bio-energy, tidal and wave energy sectors. Agreement of Railways- Railway protocol between Indian Ministry of Railways and French National Railways (SNCF).
BHEL, RUSSIAN FIRM INK PACT FOR SET UP POWER PLANT IN KAZAKHSTAN
State-owned power equipment maker BHEL has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with a Russian company INTMA, to set up a gasbased power project in Kazakhstan. The MoU will further help BHEL in consolidating its presence in the CIS countries. Primarily engaged in manufacturing of power plant equipment like gas turbines, steam turbines, hydro turbines and boilers, BHEL has robust experience in construction of power plants in India and overseas. BHEL is currently executing 23 major projects in 16 countries and has a presence in more than 75 countries. INTMA is one of the leading general Engineering Procurement and Construction contractors (EPC) in Russia and Kazakhstan, with wide experience in industrial construction, renovation of facilities, automation and other energy related sectors. The MoU aims to set forth a path to combine the BHEL’s competence in design and manufacturing of power plants and INTMA’s strength in handling EPC contracts so as to bid and execute projects of mutual interest in Russia and Kazakhstan.
INDIA AND FRANCE AGREE TO 17 TERMS INCLUDING STALLED NUCLEAR PROJECT
India and France signed 17 agreements, including the stalled nuclear project in Jaitapur in Maharashtra, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi held wide-ranging talks with French President Francois Hollande. An MoU was signed between Larsen and Tubro and AREVA aimed at cost reduction by increasing localisation, to improve the financial viability of the Jaitapur project. The agreement will also enable transfer of technology and development of indigenous nuclear energy industry in India. MoU was also signed between Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and French National Centre for Space Studies (CNES) on the Indo-French Megha Tropiques satellite which was launched on board the Indian launch vehicle PSLV on October 12, 2011. The MoU shall extend by two more years, the joint project for sharing and use of data from the satellite. Under space cooperation, an agreement was also signed between ISRO and CNES. The agreement proposes cooperation in the areas of satellite remote sensing, satellite communications and satellite meteorology among others. An MoU on cooperation between the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports and French Ministry of Sports, Youth Affairs, Public Education and Community Life was also signed that envisages cooperation and exchange of experiences in the fields of sports medicine and institutional cooperation. The two countries also signed agreements increasing bilateral cooperation in the economic sector. An MoU on cooperation in the field of renewable energy between the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) and France’s Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy was signed that will help establish the basis for cooperation and relationship to encourage and promote technical bilateral cooperation on new and renewable energy issues on the basis of mutual benefits and reciprocity. A Railway protocol between Indian Ministry of Railways and French National Railways (SNCF) was also inked, seeking to establish cooperation between Indian and French Railways for semi-high speed rail and station renovation. Other agreements signed were in the fields of energy, culture, tourism, conservation, Ayurveda, skill development and science and technology.
MHA RENAMES TOURIST VISA ON ARRIVAL SCHEME AS ETOURIST VISA
The Ministry of Home Affairs has decided to change the name of the scheme ‘Tourist Visa on Arrival-Electronic Travel Authorization’ to ‘e-Tourist Visa’ (eTV) (from April 15, 2015). The extension of the scheme to more countries and airports will be in a phased manner, in order to avoid any confusion. Government of India had launched ‘Tourist Visa on Arrival enabled by Electronic Travel Authorization’ (TVoA-ETA) on 27th November, 2014 to 44 countries at nine airports to facilitate short duration international travellers. Since the launch of the scheme, one lakh ten thousand (1,10,000) Visas have been issued by Government under this scheme. It has been observed that the name of the scheme (TVoA-ETA) is creating confusion among tourists. Tourists presumed as if the Visa is being granted on arrival, however in present system the pre-authorization of Visa to foreigners is being given prior to travel. Ministry of Home Affairs had also received the requests of name change from some Indian embassies. A committee of officers from Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of External Affairs and Bureau of Immigration (BoI) was formed for formulation of new name for the scheme. A contest was also conducted on mygov.in inviting suggestions on the name of the scheme. Keeping in view the application process and purpose of the scheme, the committee had suggested e-Tourist Visa (eTV) as the appropriate new name for the scheme.
OIL INDIA’S WIND ENERGY PROJECTS IN GUJARAT, MADHYA PRADESH
Oil India, the nation’s second largest state-owned oil explorer, today said it has commissioned a 54 MW wind energy project in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. Saddled between the two states, the project is split between a 16 MW capacity plant at Patan in Gujarat and a 38 MW at Chandgarh in Madhya Pradesh. The project costs Rs 439 crore – – Rs 126.5 crore for the Gujarat side and Rs 312.45 crore for the Madhya Pradesh location. With this, OIL’s installed renewable energy capacity (commercial wind energy and solar energy projects) stands at an impressive 126.60 MW. The Project, fully funded by OIL, is being run by Gamesa Wind Turbines, Chennai, who are the project developers.
SOUTH ASIA, NOW THE FASTEST-GROWING REGION IN THE WORLD
Driven by a strong expansion in India, coupled with favorable oil prices, economic growth in South Asia is expected to accelerate. The region is among the greatest global beneficiaries from cheap oil, as all countries in it are net oil importers. In the last quarter of 2014 South Asia was already the fastestgrowing region in the world, a World Bank report said. According to the twice-a-year South Asia Economic Focus report, regional growth is projected to steadily increase from 7 percent in 2015 to 7.6 percent by 2017 through maintaining strong consumption and increasing investment. Given India’s weight in regional Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the projections reflect to a large extent India’s expected growth acceleration, driven by business-oriented reforms and improved investor sentiment. The decline in oil prices has been reflected in the domestic prices of oil products to different extents across the region. The pass-through exceeded 50 percent for most oil products in Pakistan, but was nil in Bangladesh. Together with favorable food prices, cheaper oil has contributed to a rapid deceleration of inflation. South Asia went from having the highest inflation rate among developing regions to having the lowest in barely one year. In March 2013, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) of the region had increased by 7.3 percent year-on-year, compared to 1.4 percent in March 2015. External vulnerabilities have receded, the report shows. Current account balances are strong in most countries.
WEF RELEASED A REPORT TITLED URBAN DEVELOPMENT RECOMMENDATIONS FOR INDIA UNDER FUDS INITIATIVE
The World Economic Forum (WEF) report said India needs more than $640 billion investments between 2012 and 2031 to deliver basic infrastructure for the country’s growing urban population. According to it India needs a “stable policy framework” to bring in private investments for developing urban infrastructure which faces a fund shortage of $110 billion. The report titled ‘The Future of Urban Development and Services Initiative: Urban Development Recommendations for the Government of India’ has been prepared by WEF in collaboration with consultancy firm Accenture. Highlights of the Report l With 410 million city dwellers, India has the world’s second largest urban population is forecast to almost double to 814 million between 2014 and 2050. l There is an estimated “$110 billion funding gap that could hinder India’s ability to provide basic urban infrastructure and services to its rapidly growing urban population. l There is a need to create a stable policy framework for private investment in urban infrastructure. l Once the right conditions for investors have been created, the Government of India needs to look at the various tools available such as publicprivate partnerships to enable investments in strategic infrastructure and urban development. l Integration of spatial planning at all governmental levels and creating institutions to stimulate capacity building and attract talent to grow businesses. l The primary goal of spatial planning should be to integrate housing, strategic infrastructure and urban infrastructure, and improve national and local governance in the context of urban development. l Indian government has sought to foster urban development by introducing legislation such as the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act. l Besides, various other initiatives such as creation of five industrial corridors and launch of ‘Make in India’ and the 100 Smart Cities programmes, have been started.
SCIENCE & TECH
TRAI: INDIA RANKS 113TH IN WIRELESS BROADBAND PENETRATION
The telecom regulator has called for an almost complete overhaul of the structure put in place by the government for connecting the country. India ranks 113th in wireless broadband penetration, 125th in fixed broadband, 75th in terms of household penetration in developing markets and is among the 42 least connected countries in the world, according to the report by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). In the wireless or mobile broadband segment, India is ranked at 113th with a penetration of 3.2 per 100 inhabitants. According to the report, in ICT (information and communications technology) access, use and skills, India ranks 129th, behind countries like Sri Lanka (116), Sudan (122), Bhutan (123) and Kenya (124). TRAI said the reason for the dismal state of broadband in India cuts across the entire ecosystem for connecting the country. These include issues related to the treatment of spectrum; infrastructure (including towers, optical fibre and back haul spectrum) as well as right of way (RoW) issues. TRAI has released a draft of recommendations on what needs to be done to fix broadband. A recent study found that doubling of broadband speeds increases national economic output by 0.3%. These include an incentive to operators of fixedline broadband networks in the form of an exemption from paying a fee on the revenue they earn for five years. TRAI called for a complete revamp of the multi-institutional structure that’s overseeing the building of a National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN). The telecom regulator said the multi-layered decision-making structure for NOFN had hamstrung the project. NOFN, a project initiated in 2011, is estimated to have connected less that 10% of the targeted gram panchayats (village councils) so far. The project aims to connect 250,000 village councils by the end of 2016, but has missed its target of completing the roll-out in the first 50,000 Panchayats by March 2015. TRAI suggestions l TRAI suggested that the wireless planning and coordination wing of the department of telecommunications, which is the custodian of all wireless radio waves in the country, be converted into an independent statutory body reporting to Parliament or any other existing statutory body. l The implementation of spectrum audits to check for unused spectrum across all organizations including the railways, defence forces and national broadcaster Doordarshan, in the next six months. l India has 40% of the spectrum that any other country has. There are only two ways to fix this: either by making more spectrums available or by using it far more efficiently. l The regulator said the present use of spectrum available with government agencies should be reviewed to identify areas where spectrum can be reframed. l TRAI also said the government should not delay issuing the guidelines for spectrum trading and sharing, suggesting that a decision be taken by July. l It also recommended that cable operators be allowed to resell bandwidth acquired from licensed Internet services providers and that cable services in smaller cities and towns be digitized in a time-bound manner. l On problems regarding RoW, the regulator called for the creation of an online singlewindow clearance system. RoW is a right to place wires above and below both public and private property to digitally connect any area l On satellite communication, TRAI has suggested that the licensor, regulator and operator functions be separated to conform to international practices of free markets, so as to make availability of broadband using VSAT
MARS MIGHT HAVE TRANSIENT LIQUID WATER
After finding strong evidence supporting the presence of lake, river and glacier once upon a time on Mars, scientists have now found indirect evidence to support the presence of transient liquid water brine (very salty water) on Mars. The brine is likely to be present in the uppermost 5 cm of the Mars soil from sunset to sunrise during winter and for shorter windows of time during other seasons. At night, some of the water vapour in the atmosphere condenses as frost. Calcium perchlorate salt, which is globally present on Mars, absorbs the frost and forms brine by reducing the freezing temperature of water. The inference of transient liquid water on the red planet was based on the analysis of relative humidity, air temperature, and ground temperature data collected by Curiosity from the Gale Crater over one full Martian year. Probably low to support life The authors stated that the water activity and temperature are probably low to support any form of terrestrial life. Also, the transient nature of water is not conducive for the replication and metabolism of terrestrial micro-organisms. Since the data collected by Curiosity is from the equator, the driest and warmest region of the red planet, the possibility of abundant brines in other regions of the planet is high due to greater atmospheric water content in the form of humidity and lower temperature. The presence of brine also affects the solubility of other salts in the uppermost 15 cm of soil. Data collected by Curiosity suggest a two-layer model — a drier uppermost layer several centimetres thick and a wetter layer beneath. The average depth of the transition from a dry uppermost layer to a wet layer beneath it is 17 cm. About Curiosity With its rover named Curiosity, Mars Science Laboratory mission is part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, a long-term effort of robotic exploration of the red planet. Curiosity was designed to assess whether Mars ever had an environment able to support small life forms called microbes. In other words, its mission is to determine the planet’s “habitability.”? Curiosity is a robotic rover exploring Gale Crater on Mars. Curiosity was launched from Cape Canaveral on November 26, 2011 and landed on Aeolis Palus in Gale Crater on Mars on August 6, 2012. The Bradbury Landing site was less than 2.4 km from the center of the rover’s touchdown target after a 563,000,000 km journey. The rover’s goals include: investigation of the Martian climate and geology; assessment of whether the selected field site inside Gale Crater has ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life, including investigation of the role of water; and planetary habitability studies in preparation for future human exploration. Curiosity design will serve as the basis for a planned Mars 2020 rover mission. In December 2012, Curiosity? two-year mission was extended indefinitely.
SFC SUCCESSFULLY TEST-FIRED AGNI-III MISSILE
India successfully test-fired nuclear weaponscapable Agni-III ballistic missile from the Wheeler Island off Odisha coast on April 16, 2015. Although the missile has a strike range of more than 3,000 km, it was tested for a lesser range, in this mission. The surface to surface missile was launched by the personnel of Strategic Forces Command (SFC) from a mobile launcher as part of regular training exercise for the user. It was picked up randomly from the production lot and test fired. The SFC is tasked with handling strategic weapons systems. After the command for auto-launch was given, the two-stage solidpropelled missile took off on a flight of 1,200 seconds and homed onto the pre-designated target area in the Bay of Bengal with accuracy. Defence Research and Development Organisation revealed that it met all the mission objectives. Various parameters and trajectory of the 17- meter tall missile were tracked and monitored in real time by radars along the east coast, as also by the telemetry and electro-optical systems. Two [ 1 8 ] Weekly Current Affairs 12th April 2015 to 18th April, 2015 www.ias100.in down-range ships near the impact point recorded the terminal event. Agni-III is one of the sophisticated and accurate missiles of its class and has already been inducted into armed forces. It is capable of carrying a payload weighing 1.5 tonnes to a distance of more than 3,000 km.
Agni series of ballistic missiles The Agni series of ballistic missiles was developed under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme of the DRDO. The Agni missile family consists of three deployed variants. The Agni-I, Agni-II and Agni-III are in service with the Indian Army. Agni-IV, the fourth in the Agni series of missiles, has completed all trials successfully by January 2014. A new intercontinental ballistic missile variant, the Agni-V, is also being developed and is expected to enter service by 2014-15. The missile is considered one of the most accurate strategic ballistic missiles of its range class in the world. The two-stage ballistic missile has a diameter of 2m. The first-stage booster weighs around 32t and is made of advanced carbon composite materials, while the second-stage booster weighs 11t and is made of iron-based steel alloy. The missile can support a range of warhead configurations and a total payload of 2,490kg for a range of 4,500km.
ROSETTA MISSION: COMET 67P MAY NOT BE MAGNETISED
Researchers of the Rosetta Mission have made a sensational discovery — the comet 67P/ Churyumov-Gerasimenko may not have a magnetic field. This discovery is important because it calls into question some of the theories of formation of structures, such as our solar system, in which magnetic field is crucial to the formation of clumps of matter which later grew to become large celestial bodies. When the Rosetta mission arrived at its destination, floating in sync with the comet 67P, it dropped a Lander, Philae, which contained instruments for measuring various parameters on the comet, including its magnetic field. Philae was supposed to anchor itself, by means of some harpoons, to the surface of the comet on landing. However, this mechanism failed, and it bounced off the surface a couple of times to land some distance away, following a complex path. This turned out to be scientifically beneficial to the scientists who were looking at the magnetometer measurements from Philae and from the Rosetta spacecraft. They could collect precise magnetic field measurements at the four points where Philae made contact and at a range of heights. The strength of the magnetic fields measured did not increase systematically as the point of observation moved closer to the comet’s nucleus. This rules out the possibility that the nucleus of the comet carries any magnetism. Instead, the observed value is consistent with there being an external source of magnetism, namely the solar wind and interplanetary magnetic field near the comet nucleus. These findings of Philae were complemented by measurements made by Rosetta at the same time, thereby adding weight to the conclusions. About Rosetta Mission Rosetta launched in 2004 and arrived at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on 6 August 2014. It is the first mission in history to rendezvous with a comet, escort it as it orbits the Sun, and deploy a Lander to its surface. Rosetta is an ESA mission with contributions from its member states and NASA. Rosetta’s Philae Lander is provided by a consortium led by DLR, MPS, CNES and ASI. The European Space Agency’s unprecedented mission of cometary exploration is named after the famous ‘Rosetta Stone’. This slab of volcanic basalt – now in the British Museum in London – was the key to unraveling the civilisation of ancient Egypt.
ECOLOGY & ENVIRONMENT
U.N. REPORT: INDIA 5TH BIGGEST GENERATOR OF E-WASTE
India is the fifth biggest producer of e-waste in the world; discarding 1.7 million tonnes (Mt) of electronic and electrical equipment in 2014. The UN report has warned that the volume of global ewaste is likely to rise by 21 per cent in next three years. The ‘Global E-Waste Monitor 2014’, compiled by U.N.’s think tank United Nations University (UNU), on April 20, 2015 revealed that at 32 per cent, the U.S. and China produced the most ewaste overall in 2014. India is behind the U.S., www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  China, Japan and Germany. Most e-waste in the world in 2014 was generated in Asia at 16 Mt or 3.7 kg per inhabitant. The top three Asian nations with the highest ewaste generation in absolute quantities are China (6.0 Mt), Japan (2.2 Mt) and India (1.7 Mt). The top per capita producers by far are the wealthy nations of northern and western Europe, the top five being Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark, and the U.K. The lowest amount of ewaste per inhabitant was generated in Africa (1.7 kg/inhabitant). The continent generated 1.9 Mt of e-waste in total. In 2014, people worldwide discarded all but a small fraction of an estimated 41.8 Mt of electrical and electronic equipment — mostly end-of-life kitchen, laundry and bathroom equipment like microwave ovens, washing machines and dishwashers. While only 7 per cent of e-waste last year was made up of mobile phones, calculators, personal computers, printers, and small information technology equipment, almost 60 per cent was a mix of large and small equipment used in homes and businesses, such as vacuum cleaners, toasters, electric shavers, video cameras, washing machines, electric stoves, mobile phones, calculators, personal computers and lamps.
RISE OF SOLAR POWER IN MORE STATES
Gujarat and Rajasthan are at the forefront of solar power development in the country, other states are also making rapid progress in harnessing energy from sun. Presently, Gujarat and Rajasthan account for over 50 per cent of India’s gridconnected solar energy capacity additions. However, states such as Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra are also catching up fast, supported by their solar programmes. As of February 2015, total installed capacity of solar power was 3,383 MW, constituting 10 per cent of total installed renewable power capacity in the country. Gujarat contributed 949 MW and Rajasthan’s installed capacity was 902 MW. Madhya Pradesh has added 500 MW, while Maharashtra’s commissioned solar power capacity was 334 MW. Other states, that have added more than 100 MW in solar, include Andhra Pradesh (237 MW), Punjab (120) and Tamil Nadu (112 MW). The country has achieved more than its targets in grid solar and off-grid solar under the Phase-1 (2010-2013) of Solar Mission. Against the target of 1100 MW of grid solar power, 1686 MW of projects (including large plants, rooftops and distribution grid plants) were commissioned. The Government of India has set an ambitious target of adding 100,000 MW by 2022. The plan would include: l Firstly, large scale deployment of rooftop projects under both net metering and feed in metering to achieve 40,000 MW of capacity till 2022. l Secondly, the Government would lay emphasis on grid connected projects to achieve 40,000 MW by 2022. For this, Solar parks have been set up in Gujarat and Rajasthan, and others have been planned in over 15 states. l Thirdly, the Centre would focus on large scale projects (100 MW minimum.) to generate the remaining 20,000 MW capacity.
HEALTH & NUTRITION GM BACTERIA CAN TREAT CANCER
Recently a new study has claimed that genetically modified Salmonella — bacteria that causes severe food poisoning — can be used to kill cancer cells. There has long been interest in using genetically engineered microbes to target and destroy cells within solid tumours. For years, researchers have known that certain strains of bacteria, including Salmonella enterica, can kill cancer cells. Specifically Salmonella enterica Serovar Typhimurium has been shown to not only colonise solid tumours, but also to exhibit an intrinsic antitumour effect. However, in order to use Salmonella as a weapon against cancer in humans, researchers must find a balance between allowing it to kill the cancer and be safe for the patient. The bacteria, commonly known for causing severe food poisoning, can lead to sepsis and death in humans. In the study, the researchers focused on modifying the lipopolysaccharide structure (LPS) of the Salmonella strain to make the bug less toxic. LPS, found in the outer membrane of bacteria, is one of the major inducers of sepsis, a life-threatening infection. Researchers used genetic engineering to delete genes involved in the synthesis of the LPS, and then tested various modified Salmonella strains to see how they performed in test tube studies with human cancer cells and in tumour bearing mice. They identified a particular mutant strain that was the most effective at killing cancer cells and shrinking tumours, and also unable to cause disease. However, this mutant strain was less able to colonise the tumours, although being most effective in killing tumour cells when getting there. To address this problem, the researchers then added another genetic modification, an inducible arabinose promoter. The modification allowed the Salmonella to be injected in the mouse in a form that would not harm normal, healthy cells, was effective at colonising tumours, and after entering cancer cells, would turn toxic. This transition from a benign, invasive Salmonella that doesn’t hurt normal cells to the toxic type occurs very rapidly in the tumour due to the very rapid growth and cell division that occurs when Salmonella enters a tumour. In a normal cell, Salmonella grows very slowly, dividing once or twice in a 24-hour period, but in a tumour, the bacteria divide every hour. The investigational therapy would probably be used in conjunction with chemotherapy and radiation therapy, once it gets to human trials.
NEWS IN BRIEF NEWSMAKERS
Vikram Patel Under the TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world, Goa- based psychiatrist Dr Vikram Patel has found place. He is also a Professor of International Mental Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Patel has been among the authors of the series published in The Lancet that had made a strong case for India to set up an integrated national health system by 2020. Patel was also among the principal investigators of a trial conducted at Goa and widely published in international journals about the effective manner in which lay persons were involved in taking care of patients with depression and anxiety disorders. A co-founder of Sangath, a mental health research NGO based in Goa, Patel’s research focuses on how to bring better mental health care to low-resource communities, where around 90% of people affected by mental illness go untreated because psychiatrists are in such short supply. He also carries out research on chronic diseases which seeks to integrate mental health care with that for other chronic diseases, and on using health innovations in improving access to and quality of care. Prof Patel was the founding and Joint Director of the Centre for Global Mental Health, a partnership between the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Kings Health Partners. The TIME 100 list describes Prof Patel as a ‘wellbeing warrior’ and includes a tribute from Dr Barbara Van Dahlen, a psychologist and the founder of Give an Hour, a network of volunteer mental-health professionals, as well as the Campaign to Change Direction. Malala Yousafzai Asteroid 316201has been named after Malala Yousafzai, the youngest person to win a Nobel Peace prize.It was done by Amy Mainzer, an astronomer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The asteroid lies in the main belt between Mars and Jupiter and was discovered by Mainzer which gives her the right to name it. The formal name of the asteroid is 2010 ML48 or 316201 Malala. Born in 1997 in Pakistan, Malala became an activist for women’s education rights as a child. In 2009 she started blogging for BBC about how it is to live with the Taliban presence and their threats. She did not reveal her identity and wrote under the name GulMakai. However, her identity was made public by the year end, and in 2011 Malala was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize and won the Pakistan National Youth Peace Prize. The Taliban, reacting to this, issued a warrant of death threat against Malala. On October 9, 2012 a Taliban gunman shot her in the head while she was going back to home from school. This incident resulted in Malala getting support from all over the world, and she also gave a speech at the United Nations in 2013. She has written an autobiography, ‘I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban’ as well. Yousafzai also received the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought by the European parliament in October 2013. She got nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 and at 17 years of age became the youngest person to ever win the prize. Stanislav Gross Stanislav Gross, who became the Czech Republic’s youngest prime minister in July 2004, died recently. Born in Prague, Gross worked for the state – owned rail company, training as a driver. After the Velvet Revolution in 1989 he joined the Social Democratic party (CSSD), rising to head of its youth wing and entering parliament in 1992.He eventually became chairman of the party, and in 2000 he was named interior minister in Milos Zeman’s government, and subsequently deputy prime minister under Vladimir Spidla. He became premier OBITUARY [ 2 2 ] Weekly Current Affairs 12th April 2015 to 18th April, 2015 www.ias100.in at the age of 34 but resigned nine months later after weeks of a crisis sparked by a scandal over the financing of his luxury apartment, which appeared to have been bought thanks to loans the origins of which were unclear. Surya Bahadur Thapa Former Nepal Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa passed away recently. Thapa served as Prime Minister of Nepal for five terms, under three different Kings, in a politcal career spanning more than 50 years. Thapa started his political career by executing “underground student movement” in 1950. In 1958, he was elected to the Assembly and became Chairman of the Advisory Council. In 1959, he was elected to the Upper House. In 1966, he was appointed Prime Minister under the modified constitution of Nepal. He was responsible for expanding the coverage of the Constitution of 1962 and promulgated 2nd amendment to make it people-oriented. In 1994 mid-term election, Thapa was democratically elected to the House of Representatives from his home town. Elected Prime Minister of Nepal for the third time by the House of Representatives, Thapa led a coalition government in October 1997. Gunter Grass The writer Günter Grass, who broke the silences of the past for a generation of Germans, has died recently. His last public appearance was on 28 March, at the premier of a stage version of the Tin Drum at the Thalia theatre in Hamburg. His literary work won him recognition early across the world, as witnessed not least by his Nobel prize. His novels, short stories, and his poetry reflect the great hopes and fallacies, the fears and desires of whole generations. Grass found success in every artistic form he explored – from poetry to drama and from sculpture to graphic art, but it wasn’t until publication of his first novel, The Tin Drum, in 1959 that he found the international reputation which brought him the Nobel prize for literature 40 years later. Grass was born in the Free City of Danzig in 1927. Conscripted into the army in 1944 at the age of 16, he served as a tank gunner in the Waffen SS, bringing accusations of betrayal, hypocrisy and opportunism when he wrote about it in his 2006 autobiography, ‘Peeling the Onion’. AWARDS/HONOURS Hevesy Medal Award 2015 Professor Susanta Lahiri, Chemical Sciences Division, Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Kolkata, received the Hevesy Medal Award 2015 for his outstanding contributions to heavy ion induced radioisotope production, tracer packet technique, converter targets, and green chemistry. The other person to also win the award this year is Professor Kattesh V. Katti of the Centre for Radiological Research, University of Missouri, Columbia. This premier international award named after George de HEVESY, the 1943- Chemistry Nobel Laureate, for his work on the use of isotopes as tracers in the study of chemical processes, is given to an individual in recognition of excellence through outstanding, sustained career achievements in the fields of pure as well as applied nuclear and radiochemistry, in particular applications to nuclear analytical chemistry. Prof. Lahiri, also a professor at Homi Bhabha National Institute, published nearly 180 papers in peer-reviewed journals such as Physical Review. He is a co-creator of super heavy element 117. Prof. Lahiri’s association with research activities in radioanalytical chemistry has profound significance in terms of realising no-carrier added separation of high specific activity radiotracers for clinical applications. Lahiri and his team made nano particles of gold by a low-cost technique that requires the least amount of chemicals. It is truly a green chemistry project. In the process, they used minuscule amount of radioactivity which triggers radiolysis, which like a chain reaction, expands the radiolysis, and ultimately nano particles are formed. COMMITTEES/COMMISSIONS Task Force on Interlinking of Rivers The Centre constituted a task force comprising experts and senior officials to forge a consensus among states for the speedy implementation of the interlinking of rivers in the country. The task force would be chaired by BN Navalawala, adviser to the Gujarat Chief Minister on water resources development and former union secretary (water resources). Other members of the group are Sriram Vedire, adviser in the Ministry of Water Resources, www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation; Prodipto Ghosh, former secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests; AD Mohile, former chairman, Central Water Commission (CWC); M Gopalakrishnan, former member, Central Water Commission and Virag Gupta, advocate. Key points: l The task force will discuss all issues for expediting the work on interlinking of rivers in the country. l Apart from examining the existing links that are laid out as per the National Perspective Plan under both Himalayan and Peninsular components, it will also consider alternative plans in place of infeasible links in the present plan. l The group will facilitate interlinking of intrastate and intra-basin rivers along with that of inter-state and inter-basin links. l It will recommend the time schedules for the completion of feasibility studies and detailed project reports of all links, implementation schedule of all links and also suggest on various means of funding mechanisms for the interlinking of rivers. l The group will provide guidance on norms of appraisal of individual projects in respect of economic viability, socio-economic, environmental impacts and preparation of resettlement plans. Committee to allow Migrants to Vote To facilitate NRIs to cast their votes from abroad, the Election Commission has set up a committee of senior officers to consider whether electoral laws can be changed to empower voters who have migrated to other States within the country. It is under consideration whether inter-State migrant voters could retain their names on the electoral rolls of their native places, and also, if they could cast their votes through mechanisms such as postal ballot. Under the present law, a person can be enrolled only at the place he is residing. A migrant has to get himself enrolled in the new place.A relaxation of this law would prove beneficial to cadre-based parties in keeping their vote bank intact, especially in States such as Kerala and Tamil Nadu where many youths are migrating to other States for jobs. The committee was set up despite scepticism about the need to amend the Representation of the People Act. The poll body was responding to a notice issued by the Supreme Court on January 12, 2015, on a plea made by UAE-based doctor Shamsheer V.P., represented by senior advocate Dushyant Dave and advocate Haris Beeran, demanding electoral reforms to allow inter-State migrants the voting privileges like postal ballot, which is accorded to government servants. As per the commission, a person who migrated can be considered “ordinarily resident” in his new place even without owning or possessing a house there. It said the law was reasonable as it is now. TERMINOLOGY Net Neutrality What’s net neutrality? It is the principle that all traffic on the Internet must be treated equally by Internet service providers. Those advocating Net neutrality believe all bits of data are equal, and, therefore, should not be discriminated on the basis of content, site or user. This has largely been the default mode since Internet started. The chaos about net neutrality: First, India’s top telecom company Bharti Airtel, towards the end of last year, decided to charge subscribers extra for use of apps such as Skype and Viber. These apps compete with the voice and messaging services of telecom providers, and are even cheaper. There was uproar, after which Airtel stayed its decision, saying it would wait for regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) Consultation Paper on Regulatory Framework for Over-the-top (OTT) services. Then, Facebook brought to India internet.org, a preselected bouquet of Web sites offered free to subscribers of Reliance Communications. There was not much controversy then. Who benefits from net neutrality & How? Every Internet user and new ventures benefit from net neutrality. In fact, one of the key reasons for start-ups to have come up in a big way in recent decades is the openness of the Internet. The Internet has reduced transaction costs and levelled the playing field. A start-up can come up with an app today, and can immediately attract a global audience. The likes of Google and Facebook could have struggled to grow if the Internet had not been open. [ 2 4 ] Weekly Current Affairs 12th April 2015 to 18th April, 2015 www.ias100.in The need to think about regulating the Internet: Essentially because the telecom companies do not like the way the apps are riding on their networks for free. The companies complain that voice-calling and messaging apps are cannibalising their business. On top of all this, it is they who have to invest billions in getting access to spectrum and build networks as also adhere to regulations. Is this an issue in India alone? No. The Federal Communications Commission just recently voted for what is seen as strong Net neutrality rules. This is to ensure Internet service providers neither block, throttle traffic nor give access priority for money. Europe is trying to correct a 2013 proposal for Net neutrality, in which privileged access was allowed to ‘Specialised Services.’ This was vague and threatened Net neutrality. Chile last year banned zero-rated schemes, those where access to social media is given free to telecom subscribers. SPORTS Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis won WTA Family Circle Cup SaniaMirzacreated history by becoming the first female tennis player from India to achieve the world number one rank in doubles, following her stupendous title win at the WTA Family Circle Cup with partner Martina Hingis, in Charleston. The top-seeded Indo-Swiss pair blew away the challenge of Casey Dellacqua and DarijaJurak 6-0 6-4 in the lop-sided final of the US $731,000 clay court event. Sania took 470 points from the win to take her tally to 7965 as she jumped past Italy’s Sara Errani (7640) and Roberta Vinci (7640) to sit atop the ranking table. Before Sania, only Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhuapthi had achieved the top rank when they dominated men’s doubles circuit in the last 90s. Sania is also first female player from the country to win Grand Slam tournaments. It is Sania’s third successive title win with Hingis and they have not lost as a single match since joining forces in March. They won trophy in Indian Wells, which was their first tournament together and followed up that with win in Miami. Sania and Hingis have lost only three sets in 14 matches, spread over three tournaments.