Current Affairs 17TH MAY 2015 TO 23RD MAY, 2015
LAW PANEL: JOINT CUSTODY FOR MINORS IN DIVORCE CASES The Law Commission has recommended that any minor involved in a divorce case be placed in joint custody of both parents to remove the anomaly of superiority of one parent over the other. Pitching for the removal of superiority of one parent over the other, the Law Commission on May 22, 2015 recommended joint custody of minors to both parents in case of a divorce, saying Indian custody laws must change with the times. The commission’s recommendations assume significance as in India the idea of shared parenting is still new to custody jurisprudence. Neither the father nor the mother of a minor can, as of a right, claim to be appointed by the court as the guardian unless such an appointment is for the welfare of the minor, it said in its report submitted to the Law Ministry. It recommended removal of preference for the father as the natural guardian under Hindu law and favoured granting both parents equal legal status with respect to guardianship and custody. The draft law also empowers courts to fix an amount specifically for child support to meet the basic living expenses of the child. The commission’s recommendations on custody laws assumes significance because in India, the idea of shared parenting is still new in the field of custody jurisprudence. The report includes detailed guidelines to help courts, parents and other stakeholders arrive at the best arrangement to serve the welfare of the child. The report recommended the review of current laws dealing with custody and guardianship and legislative amendments to the Guardians and Wards Act and the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act. Need of Amendments.
NERS TO SAVE WOMEN IN DISTRESS
With an aim to make the police immediately respond to any call by a woman in distress anywhere in India, the Centre invited offers from IT service providers to implement the National Emergency Response System (NERS) project. It will revolutionalise the current Police Response systems which are limited to a city and different cities use different systems and only a handful of cities use technology in any form. The idea of NERS was envisaged during Congress led UPA government’s regime as a response to Delhi gang rape case of December 2012 but was yet to be implemented. Quite close to the 911 number system of US, the NERS is designed to have at least one Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) in each state. The PSAP is a call center where all calls originating in that state will land and will be answered. The Call Taker will evaluate the emergency situation and forward the case to a Call Dispatcher who will dispatch the nearest available Police Personnel. The IT enabler system will automatically detect caller’s location if call is coming from landline, mobile apps and sensors. Union home ministry is working with department of telecom (DoT) to ensure that the www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  GPS location of the mobile caller is also pushed directly to the NERS for a quick response.
BEING MAOIST IS NOT A CRIME : HIGH COURT
The High Court of Kerala has held that being a Maoist is of no crime, though the political ideology of the Maoist will not synchronise with our constitutional polity. The police cannot detain a person merely because he is a Maoist, unless the police form a reasonable opinion that his activities are unlawful. The court ordered the State to pay a compensation of Rs.1 lakh and Rs.10,000 as cost to the petitioner Shyam Balakrishnan from Wayanad in the case. In his judgment on May 21, 2015, Justice A. Muhamed Mustaque held that “if the Maoist organisation is a proscribed organisation under the law, activities of the Maoist organisation can be interfered. If the individual or organisation abhors and resorts to physical violence, the law agency can prevent or take action against the individual or organisation.”
SC PANEL SETS DEADLINE TO STATES ON ROAD SAFETY
The Supreme Court’s Road Safety Committee, set up to check lax implementation of road laws, gave the State governments time till June 30 to enforce 13 directions issued by it, including removal of roadside ads and posters which obstruct or distract drivers and a total ban on alcohol sale on national and state highways. The committee, headed by retired Supreme Court judge Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan, was formed on April 22, 2014 by the apex court on the basis of a PIL to measure and monitor the implementation of road safety laws in the country. The Justice Radhakrishnan committee states that 1,37,572 persons have been killed in 2013 according to statistics from the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. It said India has one percent of total vehicle population in the world and a staggering 10 percent road accident related deaths. Justice Radhakrishnan met media person on Friday to discuss the work of the committee, which has asked the Transport Ministry to introduce regulations for Automatic Headlights On (AHO) on two-wheelers and uniform crash test requirements for all category of vehicles so that no discrimination is made by the manufacturers between the base model and higher models in the provision of safety features.
NITI AAYOG WEB SITE WITH BLOGS SECTION LAUNCHED
The Government launched the NITI Aayog Web site on May 18, 2015 with a blogs section that will have articles, field reports, work in progress and opinions by officials. The Government had replaced the Planning Commission with NITI Aayog on January 1. Thereafter, it had archived the website of the Commission in the first week of January. Dr N Arvind Panagariya, Vice-Chairman, NITI Aayog, launched the beta version NITI Aayog Web site. The Web site can be accessed on http:// www.niti.gov.in.
The portal will provide details of the constitution, functions and current activities of the NITI Aayog. The Web page will also have reports www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  prepared by the Aayog in its initial stages. The Web site also has a unique feature — NITI Blogs, which will incorporate articles, field reports, work in progress, and opinions by NITI officials. The designing of the Web site took a little longer than usual because it would have a wider target audience as it would be a platform for states, experts, citizens and stakeholders where they can share their views on different issues and see others’ perspectives. The Aayog has been mandated to serve as a policy think-tank for the central as well as state governments and has the Prime Minister as its Chairperson.
SHAH PANEL: TO REVIEW MAT DEMAND ON FIIS
The finance ministry on May 20, 2015 constituted a committee of three members to look into the applicability of Minimum Alternate Tax (MAT) on foreign institutional investors (FIIs) before April 2015. The committee is headed by A P Shah, chairman of the Law Commission of India. The other members are Ashok Lahiri, former chief economic advisor and Girish Ahuja, former associate professor of commerce at Shri Ram College of Commerce, University of Delhi. The government has asked the committee to report as soon as possible. To begin with, the committee will examine the matter relating to levy of MAT on FIIs for the period prior to April 1, 2015. The committee will also examine all the related legal provisions, judicial/ quasi-judicial pronouncements and other such relevant aspects as it may consider appropriate. The government was caught on the wrong foot after the income tax department had sent notices to FIIs making MAT demands for the period between 2007-08 and 2014-15. The total tax demand as informed to Parliament was Rs 602 crore. The finance ministry has asked tax officers to not send any fresh notices making tax demand till the committee gives its report.
EU AGREE TO ESTABLISH NAVAL FORCE TO TACKLE MIGRANT CRISIS EU
ministers have approved plans to establish a naval force to combat people-smugglers operating from Libya. The aim is to launch the operation next month, with a headquarters in Rome under an Italian admiral. The EU is struggling to cope with a surge in illegal migrants from Africa and the Middle East crossing the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe. The UK is playing the lead role at the UN Security Council in drafting a resolution that would give the EU a legal basis for using military force against people traffickers. There would be three phases in the naval operation, which would be: l
Intelligence gathering on smugglers l
Inspection and detection of smugglers’ boats
Destruction of those boats
More than 1,800 migrants have died in the Mediterranean in 2015. That is a 20-fold increase on the same period in 2014. Disrupting the peoplesmuggling networks is part of a wider EU plan for tackling the migration crisis. The European Commission has urged EU states to adopt national quotas for housing migrants, to ease the pressure on Italy, Greece and Malta. The EU also aims to tighten co-operation with migrant transit countries in Africa, to make it easier to send economic migrants home. Too many irregular migrants with no right to asylum manage to stay in Europe.
GLOBAL ENERGY SUBSIDIES TO HIT US $ 5.3 TRILLION THIS YEAR: IMF REPORT
International Monetary Fund (IMF) in its recent report titled ‘Act Local, Solve Global’ has voiced alarm about energy subsidies across the world, which are expected to reach $5.3 trillion in 2015, more than government health spending. l According to IMF, the figures were among the largest negative factors for economic growth it had ever estimated, piling up adverse effects on efficiency, growth and inequality. l The report estimated that this year’s energy subsidies represent 6.5 percent of the global economy, likely exceeding government health spending across the world. l Long an opponent of energy subsidies, the IMF defines them as the difference between the amount of money consumers pay for energy and its “true costs”, plus a country’s normal value-added or sales tax rate. l In addition to what is required to produce and distribute energy, the “true costs” include environmental effects like carbon emissions that lead to global warming and the health effects of air pollution. l According to the Fund, China is by far the largest spender on energy subsidies, at $2.3 trillion a year, followed by the United States at $699 billion and Russia at $335 billion. l The report said that overall energy subsidies had more than doubled since 2011, the year covered by a similar IMF report in 2013. l The IMF explained that more than half of the increase was due to more precise evidence of the damaging effects of energy consumption on air quality and health, such as premature deaths.
COHERENT NAVIGATIONS ACQUIRED BY APPLE
Tech giant Apple has acquired Global Position System (GPS) firm Coherent Navigation to improve its mapping capabilities. Coherent Navigation’s technology will be used by Apple to significantly enhance its Apple Maps product which is struggling to provide accurate location information. l Coherent Navigations is a company focused on hyper-accurate GPS and its navigation system provides accurate location information to within a few centimeters. l The company also specializes in high-precision www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  GPS technogy, which combines standard GPS data with data from the Iridium satellite communications constellation for pin point accuracy. l In 2012 Apple Maps was phased out by Google Maps which had attracted a wide range of audience to their service. l The acquisition is also part of a series of maprelated technology deals made by Apple in recent years. l Earlier, Apple acquired mapping start-ups Embark, HopStop.com and BroadMap. l All of these mapping start-ups were acquired by Apple in order to create its own alternative to Google Maps for the mapping feature on its devices.
ISIS MILITANTS TAKE CONTROL OF SYRIA’S ANCIENT CITY OF PALMYRA ISIS
take full control of ancient Syrian city in first direct victory over government troops – with fears they will now ‘destroy everything’. l Terror group have seized almost all of the UNESCO World Heritage site l Syrian state TV said government forces had secured safe exit for residents l First time ISIS has claimed city directly from Syrian army and allied forces The city is home to a UNESCO World Heritage site, including ancient temples and colonnaded streets, which previously attracted thousands of tourists. The group is notorious for demolishing archaeological treasures since declaring a ‘caliphate’ last year straddling Iraq and Syria. The militants see such sites as targets because of their desire to wipe out all traces of ‘non-Islamic’ history and what they regard as the idolatrous antiquities, icons and carvings they have. l The head of the UN cultural agency, Irina Bokova, also warned that the fighting in Palmyra was ‘putting at risk one of the most significant sites in the Middle East’. l Hundreds of statues and artefacts from Palmyra’s museum have been transferred out of the city, according to Abdulkarim, but many others – including massive tombs – could not be moved. l Last week, it emerged that a band of Monuments Men had come together to help hide its 2,000-year-old artefacts as ISIS laid siege to the city. l In a nod to the George Clooney film of the same name which was released last year, the men rushed to hide and bury museum pieces and stood guard over the ruins. History of Palmyra l Palmyra was once the seat of Queen Zenobia, who ruled over the Palmyrene empire in the 3rd century. l She expanded its reach, conquering, expelling and then beheading the Roman prefect in Egypt. l Zenobia ruled over Egypt until 271, when she was defeated and taken as a hostage to Rome by Emperor Aurelian. l The queen claimed descent from the Macedonian kings of Egypt and was a descendent of Cleopatra. l The ancient city of Palmyra stood on a caravan route at the crossroads of several civilisations and its 1st and 2nd century temples and colonnaded streets mark a unique blend of Graeco-Roman and Persian influences.
UNSC ADOPTS RESOLUTION IN STEMMING MISUSE OF SMALL ARMS
The United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution urging stronger cooperation in stemming the “illicit transfer, destabilizing accumulation and misuse” of small arms and light weapons, underlining the suffering they caused to civilians. l The Council adopted the resolution by a vote of nine in favour to none against, with six abstentions. l The text recognizes the importance of preventing the illicit transfers and sales of weapons and ammunition, including small arms and light weapons, to armed groups and criminal networks that target civilians and civilian objects. l It identifies a wide range of areas in which international cooperation could be bolstered, recognizing the importance of well-targeted and monitored sanctions regimes, appropriate UN peacekeeping mandates, effective reintegration and demobilization programmes and security sector reform in that regard. l In the resolution, the members of the Council advocate the establishment or strengthening, as appropriate, of subregional and regional mechanisms for cooperation, coordination and information sharing, particularly crossborder customs cooperation and information exchange networks “in order to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit transfer, the destabilizing accumulation and misuse of small arms and small arms.” l The Security Council also considers it necessary that Member States put in place, if it does not exist, laws, rules and administrative procedures to allow them to effectively control the production of small arms and small arms within their jurisdiction and the export, import, transit or retransfer of such weapons.
IRELAND BECOMES FIRST COUNTRY TO LEGALISE GAY MARRIAGE BY POPULAR VOTE
Ireland became the first nation to approve samesex marriage by a popular vote, sweeping aside the opposition of the Roman Catholic Church in a resounding victory for the gay rights movement and placing the country at the vanguard of social change. With the final ballots counted, the vote was 62 percent in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage, and 38 percent opposed. More than 60 percent of the 3.2 million eligible voters cast ballots, and only one district out of 43 voted the measure down. Ireland decriminalized homosexuality only in 1993, the church dominates the education system, and abortion remains illegal except when a mother’s life is at risk. But the influence of the church has waned amid scandals in recent years, while attitudes, particularly among the young, have shifted.
FIVE MAJOR BANKS FINED 5.7 BILLION US DOLLARS ON FOREX BENCHMARK RATES MANIPULATION CHARGES
Five of the world’s largest banks, including JPMorgan Chase & Co and Citigroup Inc, were fined roughly $5.7 billion, and four of them pleaded guilty to U.S. criminal charges over manipulation of foreign exchange rates. A fifth bank, UBS AG, will plead guilty to rigging benchmark interest rates. l U.S. banks JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup will pay $550 million and $925 million in criminal fines, respectively, as part of their guilty pleas. l British banks Barclays Plc will pay $650 million in criminal penalties and Royal Bank of Scotland Plc $395 million. l Each will plead guilty to one felony count of conspiring to fix prices and rig bids for U.S. dollars and euros in the foreign exchange spot market. l Euro dollar traders at four of the banks described themselves as members of “The Cartel” and used an electronic chat room and coded language to manipulate exchange rates to increase profits, the Justice Department said. l The $5.7 billion total includes $1.6 billion in fines separately imposed by the U.S. Federal Reserve on the five banks. l Separately, the Fed fined Bank of America Corp $205 million for unsound practices in foreign exchange. l Barclays also will pay an additional $1.3 billion to settle with the New York State Department of Financial Services, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority. l As part of the agreement, Barclays will fire eight bank employees involved with rigging foreign exchange rates. FIVE MAJOR BANKS FINED 5.7 BILLION US DOLLARS ON FOREX BENCHMARK RATES MANIPULATION CHARGES l In addition, Barclays will pay a $60 million criminal penalty for violating an earlier nonprosecution agreement with the Justice Department to resolve a probe of the manipulation of the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, and other benchmark interest rates. l Swiss-based UBS will separately plead guilty to manipulating Libor and other benchmark interest rates. It will also pay a $203 million criminal penalty for breaching a 2012 nonprosecution agreement with the Justice Department over Libor.
18-NATION MILITARY EXERCISE KICKS OFF IN JORDAN
Jordan has kicked off a two-week military exercise with some 10,000 participants from 18 countries, many members of a U.S.-led military coalition against the Islamic State group, which controls much of neighboring Iraq and Syria. The kingdom is hosting the “Eager Lion” drill for the fifth year, but amid dramatically different circumstances. Since the last drill, IS has seized large areas of Syria and Iraq and is seen as a threat to the stability of Jordan, a Western ally. The drill will include responses to conventional and unconventional threats, including border security.
INDIA & WORLD MODI RETURNS FROM THREE-NATION TOUR
Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived back in New Delhi on May 19, 2015 after his six-day, threenation tour that took him to China, Mongolia and South Korea. Mr. Modi, who left on May 14, 2015, spent three days in China. He visited Xi’an, Beijing and Shanghai, and held talks with the Chinese leadership. He went to Mongolia on May 17, becoming the first Indian Prime Minister ever to visit the northeast Asian country. He was in South Korea on May 18- 19, during which he held talks with President Park Gyeun-hye and a number of agreements were inked.
INDIA & S KOREA SIGNS 7 AGREEMENTS
India and South Korea on May 18, 2015 inked seven agreements in Seoul, including on avoidance of double taxation and formalising consultations between National Security Councils of the two nations, to boost bilateral ties. The agreements were signed after Prime Minister Narendra Modi held talks with South Korean President Park Geun-hye in Seoul. The India-South Korea Double Taxation Avoidance Convention signed in 1985 has been revised with a view to avoiding the burden of double taxation on taxpayers in the two countries. The two nations also agreed to cooperate in audio-visual co-production. The agreement in this regard is being signed under the provisions of IndiaSouth Korea Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) and would enable coproduction of films, animation and broadcasting programmes. The pact would enable opportunities for collaboration between Indian and Korean film industries, and facilitate collaboration and exchange. The two nations also signed an MOU for cooperation between the National Security Council Secretariat of India and the Office of National Security of South Korea. This would formalise consultations between National Security Councils of the two countries in a number of areas. Another MOU was signed between the Ministry of Power and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy of South Korea on cooperation in the field of electric power development and new energy industries. The agreement envisages cooperation in areas such as renewable energy, smart grids and power information and technology, transmission and distribution of electric power, energy efficiency and storage system.
INDIA-SINGAPORE BILATERAL NAVAL EXERCISE
Indigenously-built guided missile stealth frigate INS Satpura and anti-submarine corvette INS Kamrota participated in SIMBEX-15, a bilateral naval exercise with Singapore. SIMBEX-15 was held between May 23-26, 2015. The frigate and corvette was on operational [ 1 6 ] Weekly Current Affairs 17th May 2015 to 23rd May, 2015 www.ias100.in deployment in the South China Sea and south Indian Ocean. The annual bilateral exercise SIMBEX started in 1999. Since its inception, SIMBEX has grown in tactical and operational complexity. It has transcended the traditional emphasis on anti-submarine warfare to more complex maritime exercises involving various facets of naval operations such as air defence, air and surface practice firing, maritime security and search and rescue. Representing the Republic of Singapore Navy was the ship Supreme and submarine Archer along with maritime patrol aircraft and fighter aircraft. Along with Satpura and Kamrota, Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance Anti Submarine (LRMRASW) aircraft P 8I was also participated in the exercise.
INDIA-MONGOLIA STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP
At the invitation of Prime Minister of Mongolia Chimediin Saikhanbileg, Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid a state visit to Mongolia from May 16 to May 18, 2015. Prime Minister Modi held bilateral discussions with Prime Minister Ch Saikhanbileg. The two Prime Ministers underscored the significance of the visit in the backdrop of the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Mongolia and India. It is the first ever visit by an Indian Prime Minister marking the dawn of a new era in Mongolia-India relations. They further noted with satisfaction the continued development of bilateral relations in the framework of a comprehensive partnership based on deep civilizational, historical, spiritual and cultural linkages, common democratic traditions and shared desire for regional as well as international peace and stability. Given the shared desire to remain trusted partners, the two Prime Ministers pledged to further consolidate India-Mongolia comprehensive partnership, and agreed to elevate the level of the comprehensive partnership to a Strategic Partnership that is conducive to the common cause of the international community for peace and prosperity, and aligned with the collective interests of our two countries and our peoples.
JAPAN UNVEILS $110 B PLAN TO FUND ASIA INFRASTRUCTURE
Japan unveiled a plan on May 20, 2015 to provide $110 billion in aid for Asian infrastructure projects, as China prepares to launch a new institutional lender that is seen as encroaching on the regional financial clout of Tokyo and its ally Washington. The amount of Japanese funds, to be invested over five years, tops the expected $100 billion capitalisation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the Beijing-sponsored lender scheduled to begin operations next year. The plan, announced by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a symposium of Asian officials and experts, represents a 30 per cent increase over Tokyo’s past infrastructure funding. Japan said it wants to focus on ‘high quality’ [ 1 8 ] Weekly Current Affairs 17th May 2015 to 23rd May, 2015 www.ias100.in aid, for example, by helping recipients tap its expertise in reducing pollution while building roads and railways. That’s an implicit contrast with the AIIB, whose projects Washington has sa id m ay no t ad eq uat ely sa feg ua rd t he environment.
UNION GOVERNMENT ALLOCATED 5000 CRORE FOR DEVELOPMENT OF AYUSH
The government has allocated Rs 5,000 crore for the growth of Department of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy) and launched an independent National AYUSH Mission aimed at capacity building for the sector. l For creating awareness about Ayurveda, the Ministry is also considering to observe Ayurveda Day. l The National AYUSH Mission has been launched aiming capacity building for the sector. l The mission will try to ensure creation of a centre of excellence for Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy independently. l India and China use largest number of medicinal plants in the world. l Traditional Chinese medicines have seen easy acceptance across the globe, but the Indian Ayurvedic medicines, which have seen a 25 per cent rise in its sales in the last ten years, the highest such increase in the world, are yet to gain global acceptance. l Unlike other medicinal systems, Ayurveda advocates restoration of health and prevention of disease more than cure of disease. l Ayurveda is quite popular, being practised throughout the country, including tribal and remote areas where other modes of therapies are not readily available. l Though it does not have an elaborate organised structure, it plays a major role in meeting the healthcare needs of a large section of India.
UNION GOVERNMENT SANCTIONS 30 NEW COLD STORAGE PROJECTS
The Food Processing Ministry took a step further the number of integrated cold storage facilities in the country which currently has a shortfall in handling capacity for at least 29-30 million tonnes (mt) of milk and dairy products, fruits and vegetables, fish and marine produce and cereals. l Harsimrat Kaur Badal, the Food Processing Minister, announced the sanctioning for 30 new cold storage units. l In total, there are 138 such facilities now sanctioned as part of the Integrated Cold Chain project. l In its first year, the Ministry has operationalised 14 cold chain projects. Food wastage is a huge issue and we need to have a zero-tolerance approach with the population rising each year and the land available for cultivation shrinking. If availability increases with reduced wastage, it will curb inflation. The 30 new units are expected to attract investment of Rs. 470 crore with Ministry grants amounting to Rs. 275 crore. There is a need to handle 61 mt of produce annually but India only have a capacity for 31 mt so far. There’s a lot of work to be done. This sector is a huge employment generator even for unskilled workers. It can play a pivotal role for uplifting farmers who face huge challenges. With regard to mega food parks, of the 17 sanctioned projects, two were already operational while a third would be in a few days. l The Integrated Cold Chain project was launched in 2008 but between then 2014, only two were operationalised. l The Government estimates the food processing sector to be growing at 8.4 per cent and comprised 13 per cent of factory employment in 2012-13.
DRAFT GOLD MONETIZATION SCHEME
The Finance Ministry published a draft on the Gold Monetization Scheme that the finance minister had spoken about during the recent budget. The big idea behind gold monetization is that India produces almost no gold and imports massive amounts of it — up to a thousand tons a year — this leads to a big trade deficit, and if there were some way to channelize the idle gold lying with households and temples etc. that would go a long way in helping this hole. The objectives of the Gold Monetization scheme are: l To provide a fillip to the gems and jewellery sector in the country by making gold available as raw material on loan from the banks. l To be able to reduce reliance on import of gold over time to meet the domestic demand. The scheme requires a vast set-up of infrastructure for facilitating easy and secure handling of gold. For this reason, it may be possible to launch it initially only in selected cities. Over time, as the infrastructure for assaying and refining of gold develops, the scheme can be extended to other cities. The draft outl
SEBI NOTIFIES NORMS FOR MUTUAL FUNDS MANAGING OFFSHORE MONEY
Simplifying norms for domestic funds to manage offshore pooled assets, the capital market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) has dropped the ‘20-25 rule’, which required a minimum of 20 investors and a cap of 25 per cent on investment by an individual, for funds from low-risk foreign investors. According to the existing norms, a fund manager managing a domestic scheme is allowed to manage an offshore fund, subject to three specific conditions. l The first requires the investment objective and asset allocation of the domestic scheme and of the offshore fund to be the same. l The second condition requires at least 70 per cent of the portfolio to be replicated across both the domestic scheme and offshore fund. www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  vvvvv l The third condition, being considered most stringent by the industry, requires the offshore fund should be broad-based with at least 20 investors with no single investor holding more than 25 per cent of the fund corpus.
SCIENCE & TECH
INDIA’S FIRST SPACE OBSERVATORY READY FOR TESTS
A fully assembled Astrosat, India’s first space observatory, is ready for intensive tests before its launch around October. The Indian Space Research Organisation pointed out on May 19, 2015 that the 1,650-kg spacecraft would orbit Earth equatorially at 650 km and study distant stars, galaxies, black holes and other cosmic objects. Recently, the spacecraft was fully assembled and switched on. All the six payloads and sub-systems are integrated into the satellite. Mechanical fit checks of the satellite with the PSLV [polar satellite launch vehicle] payload adaptor were performed successfully. Astrosat would be the first such satellite to scan simultaneously the sky in most of the frequency spectra from ultraviolet to optical and low- and high-energy X-ray bands. Although previous national satellites carried small astronomy-related devices, Nothing on this scale, with a dedicated satellite, has been done before at ISRO. It should be of immense benefit to ISRO scientists, who have depended on inputs from other agencies and sources like the Hubble [US-European space telescope]. In the coming days, Astrosat will undergo a host of environmental tests — electromagnetic interference, electromagnetic compatibility, thermal vacuum, vibration and acoustics and so on. Later, the satellite will be shipped to the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, for launch. ISRO developed the six payloads in partnership with the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai; the Indian Institute of Astrophysics and the Raman Research Institute, Bengaluru; and the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune. Two payloads were developed with the Canadian Space Agency and the University of Leicester, U.K.
CABINET APPROVAL TO PSLV CONTINUATION PROGRAMME
The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on May 21, 2015 has given its approval for Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) Continuation Programme of fifteen operational flights of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle PSLV-C36 to PSLV-C50. The PSLV continuation Programme will enable the launch of satellites required for Earth Observation, Navigation and Space Sciences along with the possibility of clinching commercial launch service contracts. The total fund requirement is Rs. 3090 crore and includes the cost of fifteen PSLV vehicles, Programme Elements, Programme Management and Launch Campaign. The PSLV Continuation Programme will meet the demand for the launch of satellites at a frequency of four to five launches per year, with a greater focus on enhancing the level of participation by the Indian industry. All the fifteen operational flights would be completed during the period 2017- 2020. Presently, PSLV operational flights, which were sanctioned in 2008, are being utilized to meet the satellite launch requirements. The operationalisation of PSLV has made the country self-reliant in the launching capability of satellites for earth observation, disaster management, navigation and space sciences. The PSLV Continuation programme will sustain this capability and self-reliance in the launching of similar satellites for national requirements.
ASTRA SUCCESSFULLY TEST-FIRED FROM SUKHOI-30 MKI
The indigenously-developed beyond visual range air-to-air missile, Astra was successfully launched from Su-30 MKI fighter jet in two developmental trials conducted at the Integrated Test Range, Chandipur, Odisha on May 20, 2015. In the first trial, the supersonic missile was released when the fighter jet was performing a “very high-g manoeuvre”. In the second trial, the manoeuvre was higher than in the first exercise. A Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) missile technologist noted that extreme conditions were simulated for the missile’s launch in both the trials when it was released at very low and very high altitudes. DRDO scientists plan to conduct another trial to prove the long range capability of the missile. With these tests, seven developmental trials were conducted and the missile is expected to be inducted by 2016 after few more tests, including pre-induction trials. Once inducted, India would join select group of nations which possess this kind of stat-of-the-art weapon. The first state-of-the-art air-to-air missile developed and validated by DRDO. It is one of the most modern, stand-off beyond visual range air-toair missiles (BVRAAM) and can be launched from different altitudes. The 3.8-metre tall Astra is a radar homing missile and one of the smallest weapon systems developed by DRDO. It can reach up to 110 km when fired from an altitude of 15 km, 44 km when launched from an altitude of eight km and 21 km when fired from sea level. Various laboratories of the DRDO, including the missile complex at Hyderabad, CEMILAC and DGAQA collaborated with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and the Indian Air Force in developing Astra.
ECOLOGY & ENVIRONMENT
207 GIANT TORTOISES TO BE RELEASED IN GALAPAGOS
Administrators at Ecuador’s Galapagos National Park said 207 giant tortoises will be released in June 2015 on the island of Santa Fe, where the native tortoises died out more than 150 years ago. The tortoises to be set loose on June 5, 2015 by the park directors and the Galapagos Conservancy group belong to the species Chelonoidis hoodensis. Native to the Galapagos island of Espanola, the Chelonoidis is morphologically and genetically similar to the original Santa Fe tortoise. The aim of the initiative is to establish a breeding population that fulfils a function in the ecosystem. Once the tortoises are introduced, a key part of this project is to assess changes in the ecosystem resulting from the presence of these chelonians, and to evaluate the interaction between the tortoises and the island’s land iguanas, particularly in the use of shared resources like food. The tortoises to be released on Santa Fe range in age from four to 10 and have been raised in captivity. Around 40 of the tortoises will be equipped with a GPS device that will relay data on their movements and activities. Pirates and whalers depleted the population of tortoises in the archipelago, leaving only 15 individuals that allowed park management and the Charles Darwin Foundation to start a breeding programme. The eradication in 1971 of the goats that had been introduced to the islands contributed greatly to the recovery of the ecosystem. The Galapagos Islands, located about 1,000 km west of the coast of continental Ecuador, were declared a World Natural Heritage Site in 1978.
LAW TO PUNISH GANGA POLLUTERS
The government has proposed a law penalising pollution of the Ganga. At least four drafts have been received by the Ministry of Water Resources and the proposal is in its final stages. One of the drafts is based on suggestions made by the IIT Consortium while others are from institutions and individuals. The Ministry of Water Resources, Environment and Forests, Law and Urban Development are the key ministries involved in drafting the law. Already, based on directions from the Green Tribunal, the government has issued notices to all 118 Urban Local Bodies and 687 grossly polluting industries to come up with Action Plans on setting up sewerage infrastructure and Sewerage Treatment Plants. A conference will be soon convened with District Magistrates to give a push to the programme. About 501 million litres per day (MLD) of untreated waste is discharged from industries and 4000 MLD from municipalities. The Rs. 20,000 crore Namami Gange project is spread over five years and covers 41 tributaries of Ganga. Rs. 7272 crore has been set aside for interventions in existing, defunct projects while Rs. 12,728 crore has been allocated for new initiatives. This is a four-fold increase since the new government came to power. Since 1985, Rs. 4168.55 crore has been spent on cleaning the river.
DRIEST PLACE ON EARTH FOUND IN ATACAMA DESERT
Researchers have discovered the driest location on Earth in the Atacama Desert in Chile – and they were surprised to find some bacteria living there, according to NASA’s Astrobiology magazine. The site is reported to be as dry as Mars. The site is called Maria Elena South (MES). Research scientists stated that the team discovered that MES has a mean atmospheric relative humidity (RH) of 17.3 percent and a soil RH of a constant 14 percent at a depth of one meter. This soil value matches the lowest RH measurements taken by the Mars Science Laboratory at Gale Crater on Mars, establishing the fact that conditions at the site are as dry as those found recently on the Martian surface. This discovery has toppled the Yungay region as the driest area of the hyper-arid Atacama desert, with conditions close to the so-called “dry limit” for life on Earth. Several academic papers have been published reporting on the extraordinary characteristics of the Yungay site and its relevance to astrobiologists as an analogue of conditions on Mars. However, following a more systematic search of the desert, a Chilean research team has now found that MES is “much drier” than Yungay. “Remarkably, the team found a number of viable bacterial species in the soil profile at MES using a combination of molecular dependent and independent methods, unveiling the presence of life in the driest place on the Atacama Desert reported to date.
NEW SPECIES OF FISH FOUND IN WESTERN GHATS
A new species of fish has been discovered in the Kudremukh National Park (KNP) in Karnataka by a team of experts and researchers from the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) in Bengaluru. The newly discovered species, now named Pethia striata, belongs to the family Cyprinidae, which includes the delicious common carp (a food fish), the aquarium goldfish and the zebrafish, a much studied model organism for genetics. The new species was named Pethia striata due to the distinct striations or stripes along the sides of the body. It is a relatively small fish of about 3- 4cm in length. During the breeding season, the males exhibit a striking red coloration, while the females are coloured a muted greenish-grey. The species is currently thought to be endemic to the Western Ghats, and has been observed in only two streams (the Mudba and the Turad) of the Tunga river basin.
INDIA RANKS 24TH IN THE 1ST ENVIRONMENTAL DEMOCRACY INDEX
India has ranked 24th out of 70 countries in the first Environmental Democracy Index that is topped by Lithuania and evaluates nations’ progress in enacting laws to promote transparency, accountability and citizen engagement in environmental decision making. Lithuania, Latvia, Russia, the US, South Africa, the UK, Hungary, Bulgaria, Panama and Colombia are the top 10 nations in the list launched by Washingtonbased World Resources Institute (WRI) and Access Initiative on May 20, 2015. The index evaluates environmental democracy [ 2 6 ] Weekly Current Affairs 17th May 2015 to 23rd May, 2015 www.ias100.in in 70 countries, including 75 legal and 24 practice indicators, based on recognised international standards.
INDIA SET TO BECOME WATER SCARCE BY 2025
Although India is set to become water scarce country by 2025 due to demand-supply mis-match, the water sector is expected to see investment of $13 billion from overseas players in the next few years, a new study has revealed. With increasing household income and increasing contributions from the service and industrial sectors, the water demand in the domestic and industrial sectors increasing substantially, said a study conducted by EA Water, a leading consulting firm in water sector. Nearly 70 per cent of country’s irrigation and 80 per cent of domestic water use comes from groundwater, which is rapidly depleting. However, overseas players from Canada, Israel, Germany, Italy, United States, China and Belgium see big investment opportunity worth $13 billion in the domestic water sector. The industry is expected to receive Rs. 18,000 crore in the next three years, the report pointed out. The report stated that the country provides huge opportunities across the spectrum in infrastructure development for water supply and wastewater management. The industrial market is going to be the big opportunity till 2020, with growth in wastewater recycling and industrial water treatment. Maharashtra is emerging as a hub for the water sector. Over 12 international companies have already set up design and engineering centres in Mumbai and Pune.
“KAYAKALP”- AN INITIATIVE FOR AWARD TO PUBLIC HEALTH FACILITIES
The Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, J. P. Nadda launched “Kayakalp”-an initiative for awards to public health facilities on May 15, 2015 . The Health Minister also released the Swachchta Guidelines for Public Health Facilities. The Health Minister stated that the “Kayakalp” initiative will encourage every public health facility in the country to work towards standards of excellence to help the facilities stay clean and hygienic. This does not apply only to physical cleanliness, but to develop and put in place systems and procedures for activities such as bio-waste disposal or protocols etc. The initiative towards total “Swacchta” in public health facilities is aimed towards building confidence of the users in public health facilities, provide quality service and encourage team work. The Health Minister invited various stakeholders, people, NGOs, voluntary organisations etc., to participate in this endeavor and share the responsibility for cleanliness of the health facility. This initiative will provide an opportunity and incentive to strengthen intersectoral coordination in improving health systems at the state level.
REPURPOSED ANTIBIOTIC SHOWS PROMISE
By tweaking the antibiotic spectinomycin, researchers have successfully boosted its effectiveness against six drug-resistant bacteria that cause common respiratory and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The antibiotic spectinomycin was originally developed to treat gonorrhoea. The tweaked drug, tested in vivo and on mice, produced excellent results. Once clinical testing is completed, the repurposed antibiotic can prove to be a boon to public health. The results are published on May 21, 2015 in the journal Science Translational Medicine. [ 2 8 ] Weekly Current Affairs 17th May 2015 to 23rd May, 2015 www.ias100.in In its old form, the antibiotic is very safe for use but it lacks the necessary antibacterial activity against many bacterial pathogens. As a result, in the U.S., spectinomycin has not been used to treat gonorrhoea since 2005. While more and more pathogens are showing greater resistance against drugs, the pipelines for new drugs are far from keeping up with them. Repurposing old drugs against these pathogens is therefore very encouraging. Researchers modelled the spectinomycin’s binding site in the bacterial ribosome and later tweaked the drug’s structure so it could bind to the ribosomes of a variety of bacteria. By substituting a benzyl molecule, they created six compounds that form a new class of antibiotics that they called aminomethyl spectinomycins. These were found to be effective against common respiratory tract pathogens — Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, Legionella pneumophila, and Moraxella catarrhalis — as well as the sexually transmitted bacteria — Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Chlamydia trachomatis.
Rome Masters Tennis Top seed Serbian Novak Djokovic won his fourth Rome Masters Tennis title on May 17, 2015. In the summit clash, Djokovic defeated Roger Federer of Switzerland 6-4, 6-3. With this win, Djokovic earned prize money of 628100 US dollar and 1000 Emirates ATP Rankings points. On the way to his fourth Roman crown, the 27-year-old faced only one break point during the match. This was the fifth title of the season for Djokovic, the other titles are the Australian Open (defeated Andy Murray), the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells (defeated Roger Federer), the Miami Open (defeated Andy Murray) and the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters (defeated Tomas Berdych). Italian Tennis Open Russian Maria Sharapova won the women’s singles of Italian Open for the third time on May 17, 2015. She defeated Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro by 4-6 7-5 6-1. The Italian Open title was held in Rome, Italy. The Italian Open is the most prestigious red clay tennis tournament in the world after the French Open. Fourth Italian Open Top seed Novak Djokovic warmed up for the French Open with a comprehensive 6-4, 6-3 victory over Roger Federer to claim his fourth Italian Open title on May 17, 2015. In the absence of seven-time champion Rafael Nadal, ousted in the quarterfinals, the Serbian produced a near flawless performance on centre court to defend his title and hand Federer his fourth final defeat in Rome. The Spaniard has won only one title on the surface this year, at Buenos Aires, and been beaten by Italian Fabio Fognini, Andy Murray, Djokovic and Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka in recent tournaments. Djokovic, meanwhile, has brought his game to boiling point this week to claim his fifth title of the season and take his head-to-head record over the Swiss ace to 21-18. Shanghai IAAF Diamond League Ace India discus thrower Vikas Gowda won a bronze medal in the second leg of the prestigious SPORTS IAAF Diamond League series on May 17, 2015. The 31-year-old Gowda hurled the disc to a distance of 63.90m, which he achieved in his fifth and penultimate attempt to finish third behind 2013 World Championships silver medallist Piotr Malachowski (64.65m) of Poland and Robert Urbanek (64.47m), also of Poland. National record holder Gowda, the 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medalist and Asian Games silver medal winner, will pocket USD 4000 for the third-place finish, besides earning one Diamond League point. The United States-based Indian has a season’s best of 65.75m, which he achieved at La Jolla in California, while his national record stands at 66.28m. He is yet to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, for which the qualifying standard is 66m. In 2014, Gowda had finished overall fourth in the Diamond League Series by collecting two points by virtue of finishing second in the Doha leg and had pocketed USD 3,000 prize money. ITF women’s Tennis Tournament Third seed Sharrmadaa Baluu beat seventh seed Sowjanya Bavisetti 6-2, 6-3 in the final of the $10,000 ITF women’s tennis tournament here on May 22, 2015. It was the second singles title at this level for the 21-year-old Sharrmadaa who had won her maiden title on grass in Lucknow in 2011, when her name could be spelt a lot easier. She has seven doubles titles to her credit, including two in partnership with Sowjanya. England’s Player of the Year Award Yorkshire batsman Joe Root has been elected England Cricketer of the Year for 2014-15 by British sports journalists, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) announced on May 18, 2015. The 24- year-old has scored 1,135 Test runs at an average of nearly 95 over the past 12 months, including four scores of 149 and over, and also hit three ODI centuries. Root, recently appointed vice-captain of England’s Test team, overcame competition from a [ 3 4 ] Weekly Current Affairs 17th May 2015 to 23rd May, 2015 www.ias100.in shortlist including James Anderson, Moeen Ali and Gary Ballance to win the award for the first time. Charlotte Edwards was named England Women’s Cricketer of the Year for the second consecutive year and also received a silver cap to mark her 200th match as captain against New Zealand in February. Edwards led England Women to one-day series wins over India and New Zealand and Twenty20 series successes against South Africa and New Zealand. Lancashire’s right-arm seamer Saqib Mahmood won the England Development Programme Cricketer of the Year award, while Luke Sugg from England’s Visually Impaired team was named Disability Cricketer of the Year.