Current Affairs 19TH JULY 2015 TO 25TH JULY, 2015
GOVERNMENT LAUNCHES DEENDAYAL UPADHYAYA GRAM JYOTI YOJANA
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on July 25, 2015 launched the ‘Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana’ (DDUGJY) in Patna, Bihar, for power sector reforms in rural areas with a view to ensuring round the clock electricity supply to farmers and rural households. Modi said that development is the panacea for all problems related to poverty and unemployment. The DDUGJY Scheme approved by the Union Government draws its inspiration from the similar pioneering scheme implemented by the Government of Gujarat. This scheme will enable to initiate much awaited reforms in the rural areas. The new power scheme focuses on feeder separation (rural households and agricultural) and strengthening of sub-transmission and distribution infrastructure, including metering at all levels in rural areas. The scheme is one of the flagship programmes of the Power Ministry and will facilitate 24×7 supply of electricity. The earlier scheme for rural electrification, Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY), which was launched by previous UPA government, has been subsumed in the new scheme as its rural electrification component. Under this scheme, an Agriculture intensive state like Bihar shall benefit from works of feeder separation. Thousands of kilometres of new lines shall be laid and hundreds of new substations have been planned. The implementation of this scheme shall ensure the improvement in agricultural productivity and electrification of all the households. An Overview Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY): The rural agricultural and non-Agriculture consumers (domestic and non-domestic load) of the country are generally serviced through the local distribution network. Many rural areas of the country face insufficient electricity supply, consequently the distribution utilities are forced to resort to load shedding, thus affecting the power supply to both Agriculture and non-Agriculture consumers. The demand of power in rural areas is increasing day by day due to changing consumer base, improving living standards for which augmentation of rural infrastructure needs to be regularly undertaken. The investment in the distribution network is low due to bad financial health of the distribution companies. Therefore in order to augment the reliability and quality of supply distribution network needs to be strengthened. To improve the commercial viability of power distribution, there is need for metering of all categories of the consumers Keeping in view the above problems, Ministry of Power, Government of India has launched Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana for rural areas having following objectives: l To provide electrification to all villages l Feeder separation to ensure sufficient power to farmers and regular supply to other consumers l Improvement of Sub-transmission and distribution network to improve the quality and reliability of the supply l Metering to reduce the losses The major components of the new scheme are: l feeder separation; l strengthening of sub-transmission and distribution network; l Metering at all levels (input points, feeders and distribution transformers); l Micro grid and off grid distribution network & l Rural electrification – already sanctioned projects under RGGVY to be completed. The scheme has an outlay of Rs 76,000 crore www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  for implementation of the projects under which the Centre shall provide grant of Rs 63,000 crore. l A total of Rs 14,680 crore worth projects have already been approved out of which projects amounting to Rs 5,827 crore have been approved for Bihar state. Benefits from the scheme l All villages and households shall be electrified l Increase in agriculture yield l Business of Small and household enterprises shall grow resulting into new avenues for employment l Improvement in Health, Education, Banking (ATM) services l Improvement in accessibility to radio, telephone, television, internet and mobile etc l Betterment in social security due to availability of electricity l Accessibility of electricity to schools, panchayats, hospitals and police stations etc l Rural areas shall get increased opportunities for comprehensive development
INDIA RANKS 12TH IN TERMS OF NUCLEAR POWER GENERATION
There are thirty one countries including India in the world which generate electricity from nuclear source. According to the data published in May 2015, by Power Reactor Information System (PRIS) of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), India ranked at 12th position in terms of power generation. However, it stood at 6th position in terms of number of reactors in operation countrywise, globally. The current installed nuclear power capacity is 5780 MW, which is expected to increase to 10080 MW on progressive completion of projects under commissioning/construction by 2019. The Government has accorded financial sanction and administrative approval for Gorakhpur Haryana Anu Vidyut Pariyojana (GHAVP) Units – 1&2 (2X700 MW) and Kudankulam Units- 3&4 (2X1000 MW) with a total capacity of 3400 MW. These projects are being prepared for launch in the current year. In addition, one Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor of 500 MW capacity at Kalpakkam, Tamil Nadu is at advanced stage of commissioning. Construction of two more Fast Breeder Reactors (FBR 1&2) of 600 MW capacity each at Kalpakkam, Tamil Nadu is also planned. More nuclear power projects based both on indigenous technologies and with international cooperation are planned in future. India has signed Nuclear agreements with USA, France, Russia, Namibia, Mongolia, Republic of Korea, Argentine Republic, United Kingdom, Republic of Kazakhstan, Canada, Sri Lanka and Australia. India is open to negotiation with other friendly countries who seem to have potential to make contribution to India’s nuclear energy programme.
GOVERNMENT CONSTITUTES ‘ALL INDIA COUNCIL OF SPORTS’
The Union Government has constituted ‘All India Council of Sports’. The council will be an advisory body for the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. While the advice rendered by the council will be duly considered by the government, it will not be binding and obligatory on the government. The council may organize national, international conferences, seminars, symposia etc, for promotion of sports and games in the country. The Council will be headed by a President in the rank of Minister of State and will include four Members of Parliament, Sports personalities, coaches, sports experts, sports administrators, DG SAI, DG NADA, Vice Chancellor of LNIPE, officials from Sports Ministry, representatives from National Sports Federations, Indian Olympic Association, corporate bodies and NGOs. Appointments of the President and members of the Council other than ex-officio members shall be made by the Government. The Council will meet from time to time, at least once in a quarter, and deliberate on matters relating to the promotion and development of sports and games in the country. The Council will have the aims and objectives as indicated below: l popularizing sports amongst the youth as a way of life; l increasing outreach of sports to rural and tribal areas, areas affected by Left Wing Extremism (LWE), North East and Jammu & Kashmir; l implementation of policies for promotion of sports and games in the country; l matters relating to promotion of inclusiveness in sports with special focus on women, differently-abled, tribals etc; l preventing drug abuse in sports, fraud of age and sexual harassment of women in sports; l bringing professionalism, transparency and good governance in functioning of National Sports Federations; l ways and means to raise resources for the promotion of sports and games in the country; l promotion of sports sciences and sports medicine; l augmenting sports infrastructure and ensuring its proper utilization; l matters relating to participation and performance of sportspersons and teams in international sporting events; l issues arising out of match fixing and other malpractices in competitive sports; and l ways and means to promote indigenous games in the country l early identification of sports talent and nurturing of the identified talent; l Integration of sports in educational curriculum in schools, colleges and universities; l Welfare measures for sportspersons; l issues and matters specifically referred to the Council by the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports.
N-POWER OUTPUT TO INCREASE
Nuclear power generation in India which is currently at 5,780 MW from 21 operational reactors is expected to increase to 10,080 MW on progressive completion of projects under commissioning/ construction by 2019, the government informed Parliament on July 22, 2015. The government in July 2014 had announced tripling of the then existing capacity of 4,780 MW in the next ten years (by 2024). A capacity of 1,000 MW has already been added with the start of commercial operation of Unit-1 at Kudankulam in December 2014. In addition, one Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor of 500 MW capacity at Kalpakkam is in advanced stage of commissioning while approvals have been accorded for several other projects. To facilitate import of reactors from foreign countries, an Indian Nuclear Insurance Pool (INIP) of Rs 1500 crore was launched on June 12, 2015 by General Insurance Corporation of India to provide insurance cover to the liability as prescribed under Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act 2010. This information was given by Minister of State for Atomic Energy Jitendra Singh in the Lok Sabha.
SC QUASHES CENTRE’S REVIEW PLEA ON OBC STATUS FOR JATS
The Supreme Court on July 21, 2015 quashed the review pleas of Narendra Modi government and Jat lobbies seeking to declare the Jat community as socially and economically backward class to grant them OBC reservation. A bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi dismissed the plea filed by them seeking review of its verdict by which it had declared the Centre’s decision to grant OBC status to JAT community as unconstitutional. The Supreme Court in March had struck down the Centre’s controversial decision to grant Jat community reservation in jobs and educational institution, terming it as a reflection of “negative” and “retrograde” governance. The UPA government’s decision to grant OBC status to the Jat community on the eve of the 2014 general elections had drawn strong reactions from other backward class communities which viewed the move as vote bank politics. The NDA government had defended the UPA’s decision in the Supreme Court. The SC had noted that they cannot agree with the view taken by the government that Jats in the nine states in question are a backward community so as to be entitled to inclusion in the central lists of other backward classes. The view taken by the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) to the contrary is adequately supported by good and acceptable reasons which furnished a sound and reasonable basis for further consequential action on the part of the Union government, said Justice Gogoi, who authored the judgment for the bench. “NCBC had in its report advised the government against grant of OBC status to Jats, saying the community was not socially and educationally backward to be entitled to a share in 27% OBC quota in jobs and admission to educational institutions. It had also said the community was adequately represented in armed forces, government services and educational institutions. On March 4 last year, the Centre had granted OBC status to Jats of Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand besides the districts of Bharatpur and Dholpur in Rajasthan. It had rejected the NCBC’s suggestions, saying it “did not adequately take into account the ground realities”. The court also rejected the Centre’s stand justifying reservation on the ground that Jats were granted OBC status by many states 10 years ago. It pulled up the government for reopening the issue on the basis of outdated and antiquated data a decade later during which the country had progressed. “The necessary data on which the exercise has to be made has to be contemporaneous. Outdated statistics cannot provide accurate parameters for measuring backwardness for the purpose of inclusion in the list of other backward classes. This is because one may legitimately presume progressive advancement of all citizens on every front, i.e. social, economic and education,” the bench had said. “Any other view would amount to retrograde governance. Yet, surprisingly, the facts that stare at us indicate a governmental affirmation of such negative governance inasmuch as decade-old decisions not to treat the Jats as backward, arrived at on due consideration of the existing ground realities, have been reopened, in spite of perceptible all round development of the nation,” it had said. The court also had said the government decision was primarily based on educational backwardness while the earlier apex court order had categorically held that backwardness contemplated by Article 16(4) was social backwardness. It had said the advice tendered by NCBC was ordinarily binding on the government and it could be “overruled/ ignored only for strong and compelling reasons which would be expected to be available in writing”.
SURAKSHIT KHADYA ABHIYAN LAUNCHED
Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Ram Vilas Paswan, launched the Surakshit Khadya Abhiyan, a countrywide campaign on July 21, 2015 to create mass awareness and capacity building for safe and hygienic food. Launching the campaign, minister said that the Surakshit Khadya Abhiyan initiative is extremely important and very relevant for all stakeholders, especially consumers. He said “food safety is an inseparable part of food security and no nation can guarantee food security if food in not completely safe. Food borne diseases which have severe health and economic consequences, both developed and developing countries can be prevented by food safety practices only”. Paswan said that the initiative complements the widely popular multimedia campaign of his Ministry under the brand name of “Jago Grahak Jago” which empowers the consumers of its rights and demands. The campaign planned by CII and its partners including Consumer Organization VOICE, and National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI), is an effort towards building a culture of food safety in the country. Under the campaign, nationwide sensitisation sessions on cleaning, hygiene & sanitation for safe food, Walkathons and Media dissemination programmes for Consumers, Street Food Industries will be organized across the country.
PM LAUNCHES NATIONAL CAREER SERVICE PORTAL
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched National Career Counselling Portal as part of an endeavour to modernize all government-run employment exchanges. The National Career Counselling Portal, which is being set up under the National Career Service (NCS) project, aims at transforming all the government-run employment exchanges. The web portal will act as a one-stop platform for both job seekers and job providers where registration can be done online. These exchanges will be called National Career Counselling Centres. Apart from searching and applying for jobs on the portal, candidates can also avail career-related counselling by either visiting these centres or through its helpline numbers. l The portal aims to bring on board around 20 million job seekers already registered with employment exchanges across India. It also aspires to bring 900,000 establishments and companies on the portal. l Currently, more than 44.7 million job seekers [ 8 ] Weekly Current Affairs 19th July 2015 to 25th July, 2015 www.ias100.in are registered with India’s 956 employment exchanges. l According to official data, out of 44.7 million job seekers at least 26.88 million are men and women below the age of 29. l The main stakeholders for the NCS would include v Unemployed candidates seeking jobs v Students seeking career counselling v Candidates seeking vocational / occupational guidance v Illiterate, under-privileged sections of society, blue-collar workers seeking placements and guidance v Persons with different abilities (PWDs), ex-servicemen, veterans / senior citizens, etc. v Employers seeking suitable candidates The NCS will offer registration for job aspirants and employers for free, but to avoid misuse, the labour ministry will ask job seekers to link their Aadhaar number when registering with the website. The companies and organisations need to submit their society registrations or company registration certificate copies while getting empanelled on the job portal. There are about 982 employment exchanges in India and, in the first phase, the government has planned to modernise and transform 100 of these, for which a sum of Rs 190 crore has been allocated. The employment exchanges will also serve as counselling centres, so apart from searching and applying for jobs on the portal, candidates can also avail career-related counselling by either visiting these centres or through helpline numbers. Thus, the NCS will provide variety of services including registrations for jobseekers and employers, job posting, career counselling, aptitude assessment, job matching, information on availability of courses at educational institutions, training providers, guidance on self-employment and entrepreneurship etc. All central government ministries and departments and state-run enterprises will be persuaded to post their job vacancies through it. The skill development and entrepreneurship ministry and the ministry of small and medium enterprises will be key partners of this initiative.
SC: NO CITIZEN OR INSTITUTION HAS A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT TO AFFILIATION OR RECOGNITION
The Supreme Court on July 23, 2015 held that though citizens have a right to establish institutions to impart medical and technical education, they enjoy no fundamental right to recognition or affiliation of their institutions. A Bench of Justices M.Y. Eqbal and Arun Mishra clarified the legal position while dismissing writ petitions filed by Kerala-based D.M. Wayanad Institute of Medical Sciences and others. The petitioners had approached the Supreme Court against the decisions of the Medical Council of India and the Central Government to refuse to recommend renewal of permissions for admitting students for MBBS course at their institute for the academic year 2015-16 following adverse inspection reports. “From a bare reading of the provision contained in Article 19(1)(g) it is evidently clear that the citizens have been conferred with the right to practice any profession or carry on any occupation, trade or business, but such right is subject to the restriction and imposition of condition as provided under Article 19(6) of the Constitution,” the Bench said. Fundamental right The Bench quoted from a 1993 judicial case judgment to point out that “education has always been treated in this country as religious and charitable activity and making it commercial is opposed to the ethos, tradition and sensibilities of this nation. A citizen of this country may have a right to establish an educational institution but no citizen, person or institution has a right, much less of fundamental right, to affiliation or recognition”.
SC JUDGE SEEKS CLARITY ON CONSTITUTIONAL ROLE OF CJIT
A Supreme Court judge has asked the government whether the Chief Justice is actually the ‘Chief Justice of India’ or the ‘Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India’, triggering a debate. The question came from Justice Kurian Joseph, one of the five judges on the Constitution Bench deciding the crucial issue whether the political class, through the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC), should be given an equal role in the appointment of judges, including the Chief Justice of India. The query, during the final NJAC hearing, stems from the inconsistency in the way the Constitution identifies the Chief Justice in two different places. In Schedule 3 of the 65-year-old Constitution, which deals with ‘Forms of Oath and Affirmations’, the Chief Justice takes oath as the ‘Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India’. But under Article 124 of the Constitution, the President’s Warrant of Appointment identifies him as the ‘Chief Justice of India’. Responding to a query from Supreme Court Judge, Justice Kurian Joseph on whether the Chief Justice is actually the ‘Chief Justice of India’ or the ‘Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India’, Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi said he would look into the question. Senior advocate Fali Nariman said the matter required serious thought. The question quintessentially delves into the basic constitutional identity of the Chief Justice – is he the Chief Justice of the institution of the Supreme Court of India and a ‘first among equals’ among the Supreme Court judges. Or, is he the Chief Justice of the Republic of India, representing the entire judiciary of the country? Oath of office Legal experts noted that the confusion lies in the fact that the Constitution does not provide a separate oath for the Chief Justice as in the case of the President under Article 60 and the VicePresident in Article 69. All judges in the Supreme Court take a common oath prescribed in Schedule 3 of the Constitution, which begins as “I, A.B., having been appointed Chief Justice (or a Judge) of the Supreme Court of India…” Former Additional Solicitor General and senior advocate Bishwajit Bhattacharya said there was no ambiguity and there was hardly a need to administer a separate oath for the Chief Justice. “When he takes oath as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, he also takes on the constitutional identity of the Chief Justice of India,” he said. Mr. Bhattacharya, who has challenged the NJAC Act, said Justice Joseph may be subtly pointing out to the government that the Chief Justice of India is part of the basic structure of the Constitution under Article 124, and the new NJAC law has relegated him to one among six members of the Commission.
GOVT. TO AMEND LAND BILL
The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, approved on July 21, 2015 a proposal to amend the Land Bill to give flexibility to the States to frame their own laws for land acquisition, a demand various Chief Ministers aired at the July 15 meeting of the Governing Council of NITI Aayog. To help break the impasse on the Bill, the Cabinet decided on adding a provision to enable the States to frame and pass their own laws. So if a State decides to include in its law consent of landowners and those dependent on the land and a social impact assessment before acquisition, it will be free to do so. Mr. Modi, at a meeting of National Democratic Alliance partners, admitted that the amendments to the Land Acquisition Act, 2013, had not gone down well with the people and made his government look anti-farmer. The Shiv Sena and the Shiromani Akali Dal had expressed reservations on many of the provisions of the draft Bill. At the NITI Aayog meeting, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal stressed the importance of the landowners’ consent and social impact study, and demanded that the decision to include these or not in the law be left to the State governments. The rethink in the government comes even as a Joint Parliamentary Committee is examining the draft Bill. In the next meeting the Secretaries of the departments/Ministries of Legal Affairs, Rural Development and Industrial Policy and Promotion and top Railway officials, who did a no-show at the July 16 meeting, will present the government’s views on the draft Bill as well as respond to the complaints and grievances of individuals and organisations. The proposed enabling provision will be introduced under Section 254 (2) of the Constitution that allows the States to frame and pass specific laws on a Union Act. At present, 78 laws are in use in various States on the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, all passed by them under Section 254 (2). If the government succeeded in pushing the Bill through after adding this new provision, then the BJP-ruled States of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan could take the lead. “The enabling provision is aimed at encouraging cooperative federalism among the States… Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan will move quickly to use it to complete the land acquisition for key projects such as the industrial corridors that could then be showcased … in this way, these States will be able to enhance their attractiveness to other States.”
UNSC ADOPTED RESOLUTION ENDORSING IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL
The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution establishing a monitoring system for Iran’s nuclear programme and considering the “eventual removal” of all nuclear-related sanctions against the country. By doing so, the Council endorsed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which is described as the “culmination” of diplomatic efforts by the so-called E3+3 – China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States – and Iran, “to reach a comprehensive, long-term and proper solution to the Iranian nuclear issue.” Urging full implementation on the timetable established in the JCPOA, the Security Council indeed called upon all Members States, regional organizations and international organizations to support the implementation of the JCPOA. l Under the “historic” agreement, concluded in Vienna on 14 July, Iran reaffirmed “that it will under no circumstances ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons.” l The Council’s adoption of the current resolution triggers the JCPOA coming into effect in 90 days. l The enforcement of the JCPOA will establishes procedures that will facilitate the action plan’s implementation, enabling all States to carry out their obligations contained in the Agreement. l The resolution provides for the eventual removal of all nuclear-related sanctions against Iran and guarantees that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will continue to verify Iran’s compliance with its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA. l The United Nations Security Council requests the Director General of the IAEA “to undertake the necessary verification and monitoring of Iran’s nuclear-related commitments for the full duration of those commitments under the JCPOA.” l According to the resolution, the Council will consider the termination of sanctions after it receives an IAEA report that verifies Iran has implemented a series of nuclear-related measures. l By the resolution, the Security Council also decided that “on the date ten years after the JCPOA Adoption Day,” as defined in the agreement, “all the provisions of this resolution shall be terminated,” and none of the previous resolutions “shall be applied.”
JAPANESE CABINET APPROVED DEFENCE WHITE PAPER 2015
The cabinet of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe approved the 2015 defense white paper compiled by the Ministry of Defense entitled “Defense of Japan 2015.” The approval came after a week-long delay due the Liberal Democratic Party’s demand for the document to name additional examples of China’s “one-sided” maritime actions, such as the construction of an offshore gas platform in the East China Sea. l China’s naval ambitions and its overall maritime activities remain Japan’s top national security concern. l Beijing’s activities take up a third of a section in the 429-page white paper discussing Tokyo’s security concerns and trends. l According to the report, “China, particularly over maritime issues, continues to act in an assertive manner, including coercive attempts at changing the status quo, and is poised to fulfill its unilateral demands without compromise”. l The white paper notes that Japan has repeatedly lodged protests with China’s unilateral development and urged it to stop the construction work. l The paper highlights that China is “routinely” dispatching vessels around the waters of the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. l The paper calls Chinese activities in the South China Sea a “coercive attempt” to advance its maritime claims. l China is believed to be promoting the construction of infrastructures including a runway and port on parts of the reefs. l The report calls these actions “high-handed” and stresses that it raises “concerns among the international community.” l Interestingly, the report also stresses that there has been some progress in improving ties between the two countries. l It highlights that both countries have been working on setting up an emergency hotline to prevent unintended conflicts at sea. l Other concerns highlighted in the publication include North Korea’s missile program, the threat of hybrid warfare, and the growing danger posed by terrorism. l According to the white paper “The risk of terrorism has been on the increase in developed countries and our country is not immune from it.” In particular the paper discusses Chinese actions in the East and South China Seas warning that Beijing’s activities “could trigger contingencies.” For example, China has been building an offshore gas platform in the East China Sea since June 2013, despite both sides unable to agree on a maritime boundary between their two exclusive economic zones. Also, the publication stresses that “activities by Chinese naval and air force aircraft, which apparently gather information about Japan, have been observed frequently.” Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force had to make 464 flights in 2014 (an increase of 49 flights in comparison to 2013) to identify or intercept Chinese military aircraft close to Japanese airspace According to the paper, “Beijing has been continuing activities seen as high-handed to alter the status quo by force and has attempted to materialize its unilateral claim without making compromises.” In addition, the publication notes the “opaqueness” of China’s defense budget. “Coupled with a lack of transparency in terms of military and security affairs, China’s military development is of concern to the regional and international community, including our country.” China responded earlier this month to Japan’s concerns after details of the paper were leaked to the press. China said that its relevant activities are in waters within China’s jurisdiction beyond any dispute. The protests by Japan are groundless, and China does not accept the unreasonable request of Japan. China also dismissed Japan’s concerns over China’s defense budget, noting that “the increase is consistent with China’s robust economic growth.”
WTO MEMBERS TO CUT TARIFFS ON $1 TRILLION WORTH IT PRODUCTS
World Trade Organization (WTO) members met in Geneva to struck a deal to add more than 200 products to the list of goods covered by zero-tariff and duty-free trade. In value terms, the deal cuts tariffs on 1 trillion US dollar worth of information technology (IT) products, which is equal to global trade in iron, steel, textiles and clothing combined. l The agreement will update the WTO’s 18-yearold Information Technology Agreement (ITA) and will add more than 200 products to the list of goods covered by zero-tariff and dutyfree trade. l Through this agreement more than $100 billion of U.S. exports alone would be covered and it will also support up to 60,000 additional jobs. l ITA’s expansion is highly beneficial for the American workers and businesses that design, manufacture and export state-of-the-art technology and information products, ranging from MRI machines to semiconductors to video game consoles. l The trade covered in this agreement is comparable to annual global trade in iron, steel, textiles and clothing combined. l Technology manufacturers like General Electric Co, Intel Corporation, Texas Instruments Inc, Microsoft Corp and Nintendo Co are among companies expected to benefit from the deal. l Additional duty-free products include computer software and software media, video game consoles, printer ink cartridges, GPS devices, medical devices such as MRI machines and next generation semiconductors, etc. l By removing this costly tariffs,it is expected to give global economy boost to $ 190 billion. l Negotiators will still have to sort out some technical details December, 2015 when WTO members are due to meet in Nairobi, Kenya.
GREEK PARLIAMENT APPROVES NEXT PHASE IN BAILOUT REFORMS
Greece’s Pm won a crucial vote on a third bailout programme for the debt-stricken nation after the European Central Bank infused cashstarved Greek banks with further emergency liquidity. A total of 230 MPs backed the economic reforms programme demanded by Greece’s creditors, while 63 voted against the plan. A new bailout programme will provide as much as 86 billion euros in loans for Greece, tiding it over for the next three years. But the stringent terms attached to the package have divided the ruling leftwing Syriza party and raised fears of political instability. At least a third of the governing party vehemently opposed the measures, and advocated for a euro exit and a return to the drachma. l The vote clears the way for Greece to begin formal talks with its lenders on a three-year package of loans that could be worth 86 billion euros. l Athens was thrown further emergency assistance when the European Central Bank (ECB) increased liquidity for Greek lenders ahead of the crucial vote. l The ECB’s governing council agreed to raise the cap on emergency assistance for the country’s fragile banking system by 900 million euros and the move was immediately received with relief. l Greek banks, newly opened after three weeks of enforced closure, have become a weather vane for normality in a country whose close brush with bankruptcy has kept it on the frontline of Europe’s debt drama. l The decision – the second such injection of emergency funds since late June – will allow Greece’s cash machines to keep operating as the tourist season gathers pace, despite the continued imposition of capital controls across the banking sector. l The ceiling on funds was previously set at 89.5 billion euros. Background The EU Summit on 12 July 2015 gave in principle approval to a bailout package worth between 86 billion euro to Greece subject to approval of following legislative measures by the Greece Parliament. l Streamlining of the Value Added Tax (VAT) system and the broadening of the tax base to increase revenue l Upfront measures to improve long-term sustainability of the pension system as part of a comprehensive pension reform programme l Safeguarding of the full legal independence of the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) l Full implementation of the relevant provisions of the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union l Introducing quasi-automatic spending cuts in case of deviations from ambitious primary surplus targets after seeking advice from the Fiscal Council and subject to prior approval of the lending institutions.
CHINESE FIRMS BAG 1401 CONTRACTS WORTH $37.6BN ALONG SILK ROAD IN 2015
According to the recent released data, Chinese companies have signed 1,401 project contracts worth $37.6 billion in countries along its Silk Road initiative in the first half of this year, nearly half of combined overseas contract value. The contracts were worth $37.6 billion, up 16.7 per cent year on year, and accounting for 43.3 per cent of contracts in the period. l Chinese companies signed overseas project contracts worth $86.7 billion in the first six months, representing an increase of 6.9 per cent year on year. l In March this year, China’s President Xi Jinping said he hoped its annual trade with the countries involved in Beijing’s plan to create a modern Silk Road would surpass $2.5 trillion [ 1 4 ] Weekly Current Affairs 19th July 2015 to 25th July, 2015 www.ias100.in in a decade. l Under the so-called “One Belt, One Road” initiative, China aims to create a modern Silk Road Economic Belt and a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road to boost trade and extend its global influence. l Hungary last month signed an agreement with China officially joining Beijing’s ambitious Silk Road network. l Hungary becomes the first European country to join China’s “One Belt, One Road” project. The Silk Road could be the second China-led project in recent months to attract a flurry of EU participation. l Russia has already promised to link its new Eurasia Economic Union with China’s Belt and Road. l The Silk Road connected China and Europe from around 100 B.C. l The 4,000-mile road linked ancient Chinese, Indian, Babylonian, Arabic, Greek and Roman civilizations. l A new map unveiled by Xinhua shows the Chinese plans for the Silk Road run through Central China to the northern Xinjiang from where it travels through Central Asia entering Kazakhstan and onto Iraq, Iran, Syria and then Istanbul in Turkey from where it runs across Europe cutting across Germany, Netherlands and Italy. l The maritime Silk Road begins in China’s Fujian and ends at Venice, Italy. l The network would include building railways, highways, oil and gas pipelines, power grids, Internet networks, maritime and other infrastructure links. l Earlier in 2014, China announced a $40 billion Silk Road Fund to strengthen connectivity in the Asia-Pacific region. l China’s Xinjiang province will host fifty-five cities from 17 countries, including Britain, Germany, Russia and France, for a Silk Road development forum. l The “Silk Road Economic Belt Cities Cooperation and Development Forum” will be held from July 23 to 25 in the regional capital of Urumqi.
TUNISIA’S PARLIAMENT ADOPTS NEW ANTI-TERROR LAW
Tunisia’s parliament overwhelmingly approved legislation allowing the death penalty for those convicted on terrorism charges after Islamist militant attacks that killed dozens of foreign visitors in the past few months. l In June, a gunman killed 38 mostly British tourists in the Tunisian seaside city of Sousse. l In March, two gunmen killed 21 foreign tourists and a policeman at Tunis’s Bardo Museum. l Both attacks were claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group. l MPs approved the bill by a margin of 174-0 with 10 abstentions after three days of debate and it was hailed as an “extraordinary effort” to make the North African country a safer place. l Human Rights Watch had criticized the bill, which also eases arrests of suspects, saying it “would open the way to prosecuting political dissent as terrorism, give judges overly broad powers, and curtail lawyers’ ability to provide an effective defense”. l The bill, which had been debated in parliament for years but put forward after the Sousse attack, will replace a law from 2003 which then-president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, toppled in a popular uprising in 2011, had used to crush dissent. l The new “law against terrorism and money laundering” permits the death penalty for terrorism-related offences such as killings of foreign visitors or someone enjoying “international protection”, a reference to diplomats. l Tunisia has undergone a largely peaceful transition to democracy since its 2011 popular uprising. But its army has been fighting a rise in Islamist militancy. l Tunisia is especially concerned about militants entering from adjacent Libya, where Islamic State has established a toehold amid chaos caused by two rival governments battling for control, leaving a security vacuum. l Tunisia has started building a wall and trench along the insecure 168 km (105 miles) of its frontier with Libya. l The Sousse gunman obtained training with militants in Libya before carrying out his attack.
BRICS BANK OPENS IN SHANGHAI
The New Development Bank (NDB) of the BRICS countries launched business in Shanghai on 21 July, 2015 and will soon set up a hotline with the new China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. l NDB is a new member and partner to the global development system. NDB’s support for infrastructure construction will effectively ease the bottleneck that has constrained emerging and developing nations for long and will offer support for their economies’ upgrade and growth. l The BRICS Bank will work closely with the China-led AIIB, as was announced through the Ufa communique at the close of the 7th BRICS Summit in Russia earlier in July. l The NDB with about $50 billion in capital to invest in public infrastructure will compete with institutions where the US has considerably more influence—organizations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. l The agreement was signed by the bloc’s five members — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — on 15 July 2014 during the sixth BRICS summit. l The bank has an initial authorized capital of $100 billion. l Its initial subscribed capital of $50 billion will be equally shared among the founding members. l It will have a three-tier governance structure — a board of governors, a board of directors, a president and vice presidents. l As agreed by the five countries, the first chair of the board of governors has been nominated by Russia, the first chair of the board of directors by Brazil, and the first president by India. l Kundapur Vaman Kamath from India is the New Development Bank’s first President. l An African regional center of the bank will be based in Johannesburg, South Africa. l China, with $4 trillion in foreign exchange reserves, is pushing for the growth of its own multilateral bodies, including the AIIB, the BRICS Bank and a bank for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, but also seeking to strengthen its voice at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
CHINA TO JAPAN: DON’T LIGHTEN RESPONSIBILITY FOR WAR CRIMES
Beijing has urged Tokyo not to lighten responsibility for its World War II aggression. China-Japan ties are at an all-time low owing to what China and South Korea say is Japan’s lack of remorse for its war-time atrocities. l China is eager to see a planned statement by Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe marking the 70th anniversary of the war’s end. l Abe has, up until now, declined to acknowledge specific wartime atrocities that have been highlighted by human rights groups, such as the case of so-called “comfort women”. l The euphemism refers to as many as 20,000 Asian women, many from China and the Korean peninsula, who were forced into prostitution at Japanese military brothels. l China has repeatedly implored Japanese leaders to more forcefully apologize for the injustices suffered by comfort women. l Abe’s reluctance to do so has prompted Chinese President Xi Jinping and South Korean President Park Geun Hye to refuse individual meetings with Abe. l China has earlier urged Japan to “make a clean break with militarism” and build trust with its neighbours after Abe last year honoured more than 1,000 convicted war criminals as “martyrs” who laid the foundations for modern Japan. l China and Russia are also preparing for the upcoming visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to China to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, or what is known as the victory of China’ s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti- Fascist War. l Chinese President Xi Jinping and his BRICS counterparts from India and South Africa, Pranab Mukherjee and Jacob Zuma earlier in May attended a grand military parade held in Moscow to mark the 70th anniversary of Russian victory in World War II.
US, CUBA RESTORE TIES, OPEN EMBASSIES AFTER 54 YEARS
Cuba and the United States formally renewed diplomatic ties on 20 July 2015, as embassies reopened in their respective capitals, a powerful move toward burying decades of enmity between the Cold War foes. A foreign policy legacy for President Barack Obama, the historic turnaround between two bitter foes has come about at breakneck pace, in just a matter of months since the two sides agreed to bury the hatchet and work together as equals. The shift came after Washington acknowledged that its policy of trying to affect change in tightly controlled communist Cuba through isolation and trade restrictions had failed, and that engaging Havana directly was a better way to nudge it towards democracy and prosperity. l The rapprochement was announced on December 17, as Obama and his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro agreed to end their countries’ estrangement and put them on track towards a full normalisation of ties. l After a series of negotiations in Havana and Washington, the restoration of diplomatic relations has come about just seven months later. l But both nations have cautioned that this is only a beginning, warning that overcoming decades of very bad blood is not easy. l The United States “wants to move beyond a Cold War-era approach to one of constructive engagement as a way to support and empower the Cuban people. l Cuba needs the United States as an economic engine for its troubled economy and hopes to attract new foreign investment and human capital to update its socialist model, but without undergoing political reform.
SYRIA BACKS PUTIN’S PROPOSAL OF REGIONAL ALLIANCE AGAINST ISIL
Amid renewed IS gains in Syria supported the recently-proposed Russian initiative on forming a regional alliance to battle the militant Islamist group. l In June, Putin reaffirmed Russia’s support of the Syrian government and said that Syria must unite with neighboring countries in order to combat ISIL. l Putin has expressed his country’s readiness to facilitate dialogue between countries in the region, including Turkey and Saudi Arabia to eke out a regional anti-terror coalition. l Both Saudi Arabia and Turkey are staunch backers of the rebel groups fighting against President Assad of Syria. l Russia has generally encouraged Persian Gulf countries to step up and do more on their own to promote regional security, particularly in Syria, but such talk has largely remained just talk. l It’s unclear whether this case will be different but for Russia to propose such a coalition that group Syria and Saudi Arabia together indicates bolder plans. l Meanwhile, Syrian Foreign Minister al-Moallem stressed that his country still considers countering terrorism as the top priority in the path for ending the Syrian conflict. l The four-and-a-half-year conflict in Syria is estimated to have killed more than 200,000 people and displaced millions. l US is also backing rebels seeking to oust President Assad of Syria.
BRICS BANK’S 1ST LOAN TO BE ISSUED IN YUAN
The BRICS New Development Bank will name its first investment in April 2016 and the first loan will be issued in Yuan not dollar. The first president of the Bank, Kundapur Vaman Kamath said in Shanghai that the new lender will work closely with the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. l This would aid China’s attempts to diminish the dollar’s dominance in global trade and finance. www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  l China is also pushing for the International Monetary Fund to endorse the Chinese yuan as a global reserve currency alongside the dollar and euro. l The paid-in reserves are planned to be denominated in each country’s currency. l The Chinese renminbi is also expected to replace the dollar at the BRICS Bank, especially for projects in Asia. Yuan Vs. RMB: Understanding The Difference The Chinese currency has often been in news for various reasons. One of the most debated issues has been China’s mercantilist policy of artificial undervaluation of its currency against the US dollar to give its exports an “unfair” price advantage. There has been a consensus among economists that the Chinese currency has been undervalued by about a 15 percent – 40 percent for many years. However, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently stated that the Chinese currency is no longer undervalued against the US dollar, considering the renminbi’s recent appreciation. The Chinese currency has never been close to being considered an international currency because of the rigid controls exercised by the Chinese government. However, there has been much change. According to Standard Chartered Bank, the usage of renminbi has expanded by 21-fold since 2010, and the currency has appreciated by 25 percent against the US dollar over the past 10 years. Standard Chartered also predicts that 28 percent of the international trade to be denominated in RMB by the year 2020. The renminbi recently made it to the list of top five most used currencies, leaving behind the Australian and Canadian dollars, and it is expected to be a part of the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights (SDR) after another round of screening in November 2015. SDR is an international reserve asset that the IMF created as a supplement to member countries’ official reserves. Renminbi or Yuan While speculations about China “holding the value” of its currency have started to fade and Beijing is looking at the internationalization of its currency, one question continues to perplex many – does China have two official currencies? Is it the yuan (¥) or the renminbi (RMB or CNY) or both? According to a research, “China’s currency is officially called the ‘renminbi.’ The yuan is the unit of account.” The Chinese currency was officially named “renminbi,” which means “the people’s currency” in Mandarin, when it was first issued in December 1948 with the establishment of the People’s Bank of China. Though the official abbreviation is “CNY”, the abbreviation as “RMB” is very common too. Yuan is also referred to as “kuài” in spoken Chinese. “Yuan” is the unit of account which means that the currency is denominated in 1 yuan, 2 yuan, 5 yuan, 10 yuan, 20 yuan, 50 yuan, or 100 yuan, though the paper money also comes in smaller denominations like fen and jiao. One yuan = 10 jiao = 100 fen. Some popular analogies given to explain the difference between yuan and renminbi are drawn from British pound sterling and pound or Federal Reserve notes and US dollar. Any expression of price is always in dollar, pound, or yuan and not Federal Reserve notes, sterling, or renminbi. So the price of any commodity or transaction would be $120, £100 or ¥150. A statement by The People’s Bank of China will make the usage of renminbi and yuan amply clear, “In April, RMB settlement of cross-border trade in goods, cross-border trade in services and other current account terms, outward FDI [foreign direct investment] and inward FDI amounted to 481.6 billion, 57.5 billion, 20 billion and 80.3 billion yuan, respectively.” Thus, while the bank talks about settlement of renminbi (RMB), the values are denominated in yuan. The Chinese currency is growing in full force, especially as Beijing seems to be particularly interested in making its currency a part of the SDR pool. It has been doing a lot to back its currency, including promoting free-usage of renminbi.
INDIA & WORLD
VISA RULES RELAXED FOR PAK MINORITY PILGRIMS
Hindus and Sikhs from Pakistan, visiting India on a group pilgrim visa, will no longer have to report to the police. The Home Ministry announced on July 24, 2015 that it had streamlined the procedure as the minority communities are facing problems while visiting India. “Relaxation has also been granted to facilitate their entry and stay in India,” a statement said. Under the revised guidelines, each group will have 50 people and a leader. The individual members will not be required to report to the Foreigners Registration Officer (FRO). The group leader alone will have to report to the FRO at each place of visit within 24 hours of arrival.
INDIA, SINGAPORE: KEY AGREEMENT TO BOOST MARITIME COOPERATION
India and Singapore on July 21, 2015 signed an agreement on sharing white-shipping information to enhance maritime cooperation between the two navies as visiting Navy chief Admiral RK Dhowan held talks with top defence officials in Singapore. Admiral Dhowan, who is on his maiden visit to Singapore from July 20-23, called on Singapore’s Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen. He also held talks with Chief of Defence Force Lt-Gen Ng Chee Meng and Chief of Navy Rear-Admiral (RADM) Lai Chung Han after inspecting a Guard of Honour at Ministry of Defence.“ He visited the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN)’s Information Fusion Centre and the Changi Naval Base, where he and RADM Lai signed a Technical Agreement (TA) on sharing whiteshipping information, which will enhance maritime information sharing between the two navies, said the Ministry of Defence in a statement. Whiteshipping refers to commercial shipping information about movement of cargo ships. The RSN and the Indian Navy conduct the Singapore-India Maritime Bilateral Exercise (SIMBEX) together annually and this year’s SIMBEX, held in May, was the 22nd in the series. Both navies also interact regularly through highlevel visits, dialogues, joint military training, courses and other professional exchanges. Following Dr Ng’s official visit to India in August 2014, both defence establishments agreed to strengthen defence relations under the ambit of an enhanced defence partnership this year. “This would allow both sides to explore new areas of cooperation for mutual benefit,” said the statement. Admiral Dhowan’s introductory visit underscores the warm and longstanding defence relations between Singapore and India, which have strengthened over the years since the signing of the Defence Cooperation Agreement in 2003, it said.
INDIA, JAPAN AND U.S. CAN SHAPE CHINA’S PEACEFUL RISE
Coordination among India, Japan and the U.S. on security cooperation and economic ties are essential because they can fundamentally talk about how they can “shape China’s rise in a peaceful way”, said Nicholas Szechenyi, Deputy Director and Senior Fellow – Japan Chair at the Centre for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS). India has unique interests with China, as does Japan and as does the U.S. They may not always align completely, but fundamentally if we are going to encourage China’s rise in a way that favours regional stability, I think this element of regional coordination among likeminded states is critical. Therefore India, Japan and U.S. have an important role to play,” Mr. Szechenyi noted. www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  The Japanese Cabinet on July 21, 2015 approved a defence white paper for 2015 which sounded alarm over China’s “one sided maritime activities” in the South China Sea. China’s land reclamation in South China Sea has increased tensions in the resource rich region which is contested by several nations. On the Japanese white paper and their reinterpretation of the constitution, Mr. Szechenyi said the “collective self-defence” by Japan was defensive in posture meant to deter an aggression. On India’s role, Mr. Szechenyi pointed that Japan is set to join India and the U.S. in the Malabar maritime exercises in the Bay of Bengal and it is a sign of increased engagement and good way to “express shared interests”.
ECONOMY GOVERNMENT EXTENDED INTEREST SUBVENTION SCHEME
The government extended the interest subvention scheme to make banks advance crop loans of up to Rs. 3 lakh at the rate of 7 per cent. The Union Cabinet gave its approval for the continuation of interest subvention by public sector banks, private sector commercial banks, regional rural banks, cooperative banks and NABARD to enable them to provide short-term crop loans of up to Rs. 3 lakh to farmers at 7 per cent a year during 2015-16. l Interest subvention will be provided to small and marginal farmers with Kisan Credit Cards for loans against negotiable warehouse receipts post-harvest at 7 per cent per annum interest for six months. l The Cabinet decided to provide relief to farmers affected by natural calamities, where the interest subvention of 2 per cent will continue to be available to banks for the first year on the restructured amount. l The Cabinet gave the go-ahead for a creation of a Central agriculture university in Samastipur in Bihar with an outlay of Rs. 295 crore. l For 2015-16, the target of agriculture credit has been raised to Rs 8,50,000 crore, from Rs 8,00,000 in 2014-15. The Cabinet also extended the Modified Special Incentive Package Scheme by five years and expanded the scope of the programme to cover 15 new product categories. l The move will tie in with the government’s “Make in India” and “Digital India” initiatives. l The demand for electronics in India is expected to reach $400 billion by 2020. l The electronics sector has the potential to attract $100 billion in investment and provide jobs to 28 million people. l The new product categories in the package scheme include smart cards, consumer appliances (such as washing machines, refrigerators, air conditioners), electronic product design, optical fibres and Internet of Things products. l The scheme has been extended for a period of five years beyond July 26, 2015. l The extension of the scheme is a big boost towards making India a global destination for electronics manufacturing. In another decision, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs also approved a proposal for restructuring the Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) project, which is aimed at protecting and conserving the coastal environment. Proposed by the Environment Ministry, the committee gave its approval to the restructuring the project, which includes revising the cost estimate from Rs. 1,155.6 crore to Rs. 1580.1 crore.
BEE SIGNED AGREEMENT WITH RECPDCL
An Agreement for operationalization of Partial Risk Guarantee Fund for Energy Efficiency (PRGFEE) to support energy efficiency projects by addressing credit risk barriers faced in financing Energy Service Companies (ESCOs) has been signed between Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) and the REC Power Distribution Company Ltd. (RECPDCL) on behalf of consortium between RECPDCL, REC Ltd. & Energy Efficiency Services Ltd (EESL) last week. Partial Risk Guarantee Fund for Energy Efficiency (PRGFEE) l PRGFEE is an innovative financing mechanism under Framework for Energy Efficient Economic Development (FEEED), which is one of the initiatives under National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency. l This fund has been constituted by Bureau of Energy Efficiency and Ministry of Power, Government of India.
PIPAVAV DEFENCE INKS PACT WITH RUSSIAN FIRM TO REFIT SUBMARINES
In a significant step for the country’s ‘Make in India’ program, Pipavav Defence and Offshore Engineering Company (PDOC) signed an agreement with JSC Ship Repairing Centre Zvyozdochka, Russia, for Medium Refits and Life Certification of 877 EKM Submarines in India. l It marks the first instance of the refit of submarines being considered for the private sector in India. l Under the agreement, Zvyozdochka will provide complete technical assistance and support to the JV, including for the enhancement of infrastructure at the PDOC facilities, training of engineers, and the like. l PDOC technicians will also be closely associated with the first refit to be carried out in Russia. l The indicative value of work planned to be undertaken by the proposed JV is around Rs.11,000 crore. l The skills and experience developed by the JV will position PDOC favourably for undertaking similar work for large submarine forces of similar class deployed by countries such as Algeria, Vietnam and Iran, with potential additional revenues of about Rs.20,000 crore. l Refit and modernisation of submarines is an ongoing need for our Blue Water Navy. l Zvyozdochka is the premier ship repairing centre in Russia. l It has undertaken upgradation/refurbishment of more than 120 submarines and 90 warships.
LUPIN ACQUIRES US PHARMACEUTICAL FIRM GAVIS
In its fifth foreign acquisition within 18 months, Lupin would acquire US based generic drugs firm GAVIS for $880 million to boost its presence in the US, the company’s biggest market (it accounted for 45 per cent of Lupin’s revenue last year). This is the largest acquisition by any Indian pharmaceuticals company in the US, where Lupin is sixth in terms of market share. l The company had entered a “definitive agreement to acquire privately-held GAVIS Pharmaceuticals LLC and Novel Laboratories Inc, subject to certain closing conditions, in a transaction valued at $880 million, cash-free and debt-free”. l The deal, finalised through a competitive bidding process, is likely to be closed in the third quarter of this year. l Lupin will fund the acquisition through cash reserves of $100 million and a bridge loan. l According to the analysts, the acquisition is expensive as GAVIS recorded sales of $96 million in FY14, Lupin is paying 9.2 times the annual revenue for the acquisition. l GAVIS has a tremendous pipeline and a strong history of compliance with the US FDA. l Its revenue is projected to grow three times by 2018. l GAVIS will accelerate Lupins entry into the niche product market and it will help it getting a foot in local pharma manufacturing in the US. l The acquisition accelerated Lupin’s entry into niche areas such as controlled substances and dermatology. l The acquisition is also of great importance because US is the world’s largest pharmaceuticals market. l In FY15, the company’s revenue from the US increased 12 per cent to $891 mn, even as the US generic drugs market grew only mere 4.5 per cent. US based generic drugs firm GAVIS l GAVIS, which has 250 employees, specialises in the formulation, development, manufacturing and sales of niche pharmaceuticals products. l Currently, it has 66 abbreviated new drug application filings pending with the US FDA and a pipeline of 65 products under development. l GAVIS’s New Jersey-based manufacturing facility will be Lupin’s first manufacturing site in the US.
7 INDIAN COMPANIES AMONG WORLD’S 500 LARGEST COMPANIES
Seven Indian companies, including Reliance Industries and Tata Motors, are among the world’s 500 largest companies, according to a list compiled by Fortune. The Indian companies on the 2015 Fortune Global 500 list are Indian Oil ranked 119 on the list, with revenues of about USD 74 billion, Reliance Industries (158) with revenues of USD 62 billion, Tata Motors with revenues of USD 42 billion (254), State Bank of India with revenues of USD 42 billion (260), Bharat Petroleum with revenues of USD 40 billion (280), Hindustan Petroleum with revenues of USD 35 billion (327) and Oil and Natural Gas with revenues of USD 26 billion (449). l The world’s 500 largest companies generated USD 31.2 trillion in revenues and USD 1.7 trillion in profits in 2014. l This year’s Fortune Global 500 employ 65 million people worldwide and are represented by 36 countries. l The list has been topped by Walmart, which retained its top spot. It is followed by Chinese petroleum refining giant, Sinopec Group on the second spot, Netherlands- based Royal Dutch Shell (3), China National Petroleum (4) and Exxon Mobil (5). l The US is home to 128 of the 500 global companies, including Apple (15), JP Morgan Chase (61), IBM (82), Microsoft (95), Google (124), Pepsi (141), Intel (182) and Goldman Sachs (278). l China has close to 100 companies on the list, including Bank of China (45), China Railway Engineering (71) and China Development Bank (87). l While Indian Oil, Reliance, Bharat Petroleum, Hindustan Petroleum, and Oil and Natural Gas slipped in rankings from the previous year, Tata Motors and SBI improved in rankings. l Companies are ranked by total revenues for their respective fiscal year ended on or before March 31, 2015. l Revenue figures include consolidated subsidiaries and reported revenues from discontinued operations, but exclude excise taxes.
MCX TO PARTNER CME GROUP FOR INTERNATIONAL EXCHANGE
Multi Commodity Exchange of India Limited (MCX) has signed a memorandum of understanding with the US-based CME group, which runs the world’s largest chain of exchanges in derivatives products, for a study on setting up operations in the International Finance Service Centre at the Gujarat International finance Teccity (GIFT) near Ahmedabad. l The MoU will include establishment of a joint working group to explore opportunities to develop and market new products and services for the US and Indian markets, as well as collaboration on customer education. l MCX and CME also announced the extension of a licensing agreement that allows MCX to settle rupee-denominated oil and gas contracts at CME’s prices. l The arrangement that was ending in June was one of the reasons for the success of these contracts on MCX. l The expertise of CME supplements MCX’s efforts in identifying and providing products to small and medium enterprises that cannot participate in international exchanges. l The relationship of MCX and CME holds particular significance in the forthcoming new liberalized and stronger-governed era of commodities markets under the purview of SEBI. l CME has been trying to buy stakes in Indian exchanges, including MCX, for many years. l If the two companies decide to set up joint operations, it will be CME’s first big venture in an Indian exchange.
IRDA SETS UP 3 COMMITTEES TO REVIEW INSURANCE REGULATIONS
The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) have constituted three committees for review of regulations in insurance sector. It came as a response to recently passed Insurance Act. These three committees are formulated to regulate Insurance sector in areas of life insurance, general insurance and re-insurance that also includes registration of foreign offices of reinsurers. Ever since the Insurance Act has been approved there was a need to review and revise existing regulations in insurance sector, these committees are the formed to fulfil the same motive. l The life insurance committee will specifically work for the regulations in areas like liabilities, assets and solvency margin and appointed actuary. l The general insurance committee will specifically work for the regulations in areas like claim reserving and appointed actuary. l Reinsurance committee will specifically work for the regulations on the issues relating to registration of branches of foreign reinsurers among others. These committees mandatorily have to submit report within one month to the Member-Actuary of IRDAI. Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill 2015 l The Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill 2015 passed in March, paved the way for major reform related amendments in the Insurance Laws. l The objective of the amendment was to remove outdated and redundant provisions in the legislations. l It also aims to provide Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India flexibility to discharge its functions more effectively and efficiently. l It enhanced the foreign investment cap in an Indian Insurance Company from 26% to an explicitly composite limit of 49% with the safeguard of Indian ownership and control.
FORMER SEBI CHIEF SETS UP TRUST FOR NON-EXECUTIVE DIRECTORS
With the new companies Act putting more responsibilities on non-executive directors, former Sebi chief M Damodaran has set up a trust to address various issues and challenges faced by such individuals. l Non-executive Directors In Conversation Trust (NEDICT) would have five chapters in major cities of India and is the first such institution set up for the purpose of addressing specific requirements of non-executive directors, especially independent directors. l Some of the major concerns that non-executive directors have are lack of role clarity, increasing liabilities under the new companies Act, absence of domain knowledge, inadequacy of financial literacy and inadequate compensation. l Besides, non-executive directors are concerned over absence of timely information, crowding out of important items and spectre of class action suits, among others. l With a view to protect the interests of the stakeholders, the lawmakers have significantly increased the liabilities of persons responsible for the affairs of the company. l The consequent increase in the liabilities have left the non-executive directors exposed to the risk of litigation and penal consequences without adequate safeguards, as per the assessment by the trust. l The trust would also provide a database of directors which can be accessed by companies. l Besides Damodaran, Anup S Shah Law firm managing partner Anup S Shah is also a trustee on board NEDICT which will have a managing committee comprising five members.
RBI TIGHTENS NORMS FOR CREDIT CARD BILLING
The Reserve Bank asked banks to levy any late payment penalty on credit card customers, or report them to credit information companies, only if the payment has been due for more than three days. l The number of ‘days past due’ and late payment charges should be, however, computed from [ 2 4 ] Weekly Current Affairs 19th July 2015 to 25th July, 2015 www.ias100.in payment due date mentioned in the credit card statement. l The banks can treat a credit card as nonperforming asset if the ‘minimum amount due’ has not been paid within 90 days from the due date. l A non-performing asset is one when it ceases to generate income for the bank and in this case, the cardholder’s account will become nonperforming i.e. the customer will not be able to credit into or debit from the bank. About Credit Card l A credit card is a payment card which allows the cardholders to pay for their goods and services few times after they have purchased anything. l In credit card accounts, the amount spent is billed to the card users through a monthly statement with a definite due date for repayment. l Customers have the option of either to pay full payment or a fraction of it and roll over the balance to the subsequent month’s billing cycle. l Different companies give their customers different time periods to pay their amount after using their credit card based on the credit card policy taken by the customer.
SCIENCE & TECH STEPHEN HAWKING LAUNCHES BIGGEST-EVER SEARCH FOR ALIEN LIFE
British cosmologist Steven Hawking on July 20, 2015 launched the biggest-ever search for intelligent life in the universe in a 10-year, $100-million (143- million-euro) project to scan the heavens. The Breakthrough Listen project, backed by Russian Silicon Valley entrepreneur Yuri Milner, will be the most powerful, comprehensive and intensive scientific search ever undertaken for signs of extraterrestrial intelligent life. The project will use some of the biggest telescopes on Earth, searching far deeper into the universe than before for radio spectrum and laser signals. We are launching the most comprehensive search programme ever, said Milner. Breakthrough Listen takes the search for intelligent life in the universe to a completely new level. He said the scan would collect more data in one day than a year of any previous search, tracking the million closest stars, the centre of the Milky Way and the 100 closest galaxies. We should not read too much into the lack of confirmed signals, said the former physics student, who is named after Yuri Gagarin, the first man in outer space. Earth’s telescopes would be able to detect a signal from similarly-advanced technology sent from the centre of the Milky Way. A signal from Andromeda, the nearest major galaxy, would need only the power of two times the Three Gorges Dam in China to reach Earth. The project will use some of the biggest telescopes on Earth, searching far deeper into the universe than before for radio spectrum and laser signals. The initiative is allied with the Breakthrough Message project, an international competition to create digital messages that represent humanity. The programme will be 50 times more sensitive than previous searches, and cover 10 times more of the sky, experts said. It will scan at least five times more of the radio spectrum, and 100 times faster, while in tandem undertake the deepest and broadest-ever search for optical laser transmissions. The initiative was launched on the 46th anniversary of the first manned Moon landing. It is allied with the Breakthrough Message project, an international competition to create digital messages that represent humanity. There is no commitment to send any messages into space, and the project should spark discussion about whether humans should be sending messages at all out into the void.
CHINA LAUNCHES TWO SATELLITES AS IT BUILDS GPS RIVAL
China successfully launched two new satellites into space on July 25, 2015 as it builds a homegrown satellite navigation system to rival the US’s Global Positioning System. A rocket carrying the satellites was launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwestern Sichuan province at 8:29 pm (1229 GMT), the official Xinhua news agency said. They were sent into their preset orbits by a Long March-3B/Expedition-1 carrier rocket 3.5 hours after the launch, the center said. The satellites are the 18th and 19th launched by China as it develops its domestic navigation system Beidou, or Compass. They take the total number launched this year to three. Beidou is currently centred on the Asia Pacific region but is slated to cover the whole world by 2020. The successful launch marks another solid step in building Beidou into a navigation system with global coverage, the satellite launch centre said. Expedition-1, or Yuanzheng-1, is an independent aircraft installed on the carrier rocket with the ability of sending one or more spacecraft into different orbits in space. The successful launch marks another solid step in building Beidou into a navigation system with global coverage. The two satellites will join the 17th one, which was launched in March 2015, in the mission of testing a new type of navigation signaling and inter-satellite links, [ 2 6 ] Weekly Current Affairs 19th July 2015 to 25th July, 2015 www.ias100.in and also provide navigation services as a part of the network, the center said. This launch was the 206th flight of China’s Long March carriers. Beidou — named after the Chinese term for the plough or Big Dipper constellation — was announced in 2012, joining the US’s GPS, Russia’s GLONASS and European Union’s Galileo. It is already used by several Asian countries including Laos, Pakistan and Thailand. The new satellites will be deployed in “testing a new type of navigation signalling and inter-satellite links” as well as providing navigation services, Xinhua said. The Beidou system is currently used for civilian services such as navigation and messaging, as well as in the transportation and weather forecasting sectors. It also has military applications. China launched the first satellite for Beidou in 2000. The Beidou system began providing positioning, navigation, timing and short message services to civilian users in China and surrounding areas in the Asia-Pacific in December 2012. The system has been gradually put into use in extended sectors including transportation, weather forecasting, marine fishing industry, forestry and telecommunications.
INDIA EARNS $100 MILLION LAUNCHING 45 FOREIGN SATELLITES
India has earned about USD 100 million launching 45 foreign satellites till date and revenue from its commercial space missions is poised to grow with another 28 foreign satellites planned to be put into orbit between 2015 and 2017. This information was given by Science and Technology Minister Jitendra Singh in the Lok Sabha on July 22, 2015 while providing details of revenue earned by Antrix — the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) — from launch of foreign satellites. Antrix has signed agreements for launching 28 satellites of six countries — Algeria, Canada, Germany, Indonesia, Singapore and the US during 2015-17. Until now, 45 satellites from 19 countries have been launched by the ISRO and the income generated through this amounts to around 17 million USD and 78.5 million Euros(85 million USD). Singh also informed that the government has sanctioned 15 smaller PSLV launchers worth Rs 3,090 crore which would be built during 2017-2020. He elaborated on the initiation of chalking out a roadmap for the country’s space programmes in addressing short-term and long-term areas. On other issues, Singh said the expenditure on the ground system of the proposed SAARC satellite project will be borne by the regional bloc countries while India will bear the expenses on its building and launching. “While the cost towards building and launching a satellite will be met by the government of India, the cost towards ground system is expected to be sourced by respective SAARC countries,” Mr. Singh said. The objective of this project is to develop a satellite for the SAARC region that enables a full range of services to all our neighbours in the areas of telecommunications and broadcasting applications like television, DTH, tele-education and disaster management,” he added. Incidentally, India has maintained that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious SAARC satellite project was a “gift” by the country to its neighbours.
INDIA TEST-FIRES INDIGENOUS CRYO ENGINE FOR 800 SECONDS
India’s GSLV-Mark III project aimed at carrying four-tonne payloads, including future manned missions, has got a boost with ISRO successfully test-firing on ground CE-20, the first indigenous high-thrust cryogenic rocket engine for more than its full duration. ISRO on July 20, 2015 confirmed that the test was conducted at the ISRO Propulsion Complex at Mahendragiri in southern Tamil Nadu for 800 seconds, which is 25% more than the burn duration of the engine during flight. On April 28 this year, ISRO did the first full-duration ground test of the engine, for 645 seconds. ISRO revealed that the next step would be highaltitude tests by simulating low pressure atmospheric conditions on ground to see how the engine behaves. After the tests we will go in for the stage assembly. GSLV-Mk III is expected to make its first flight by the end of 2016, ISRO said. India has so far used six of the seven cryogenic engines procured from Russia and needs indigenous engines to fly GSLVs to propel its future space missions. India had developed an indigenous cryogenic stage called CE-7.5 with an engine thrust of 7.5 tonnes. Compared to this, CE-20 will have a www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  higher thrust of 19 tonnes and will be capable of carrying satellites that weigh up to four tonnes. The first flight of a GSLV with the indigenous CE-7.5 cryogenic engine on December 25, 2010 was a failure, but on January 5, 2014 GSLV-D5 (Mk II) used the engine to successfully put in orbit communication satellite GSAT-14 which weighed 1,982kg. Cryogenics, the science of very low temperatures, has remained a tricky affair for rockets scientists across the world. A cryogenic engine uses hydrogen as fuel, stored at minus 253 degrees Celsius and liquid oxygen as oxidizer at minus 183 degrees Celsius. The engine design was totally in-house effort with experts from different fields like fluid dynamics, combustion, thermal, structural, metallurgy, fabrication, rotor dynamics, control components, etc working together. The fabrication of major subsystems of the engine was carried out through Indian industries. Assembly and integration of the engine and testing were carried out in ISRO Propulsion Complex (IPRC), a unit of ISRO, the organisation said in a statement. The recent successful endurance hot test of the first high thrust cryogenic engine was the tenth test. The performance of the engine closely matches with the pre-test prediction made using the in-house developed cryogenic engine mathematical modelling and simulation software. Prior to engine realisation, a series of subsystem level tests were carried out to independently evaluate the design of major subsystems like the turbo pumps, thrust chamber, gas generator and flow control components. The USSR (later Russia) and the US were pioneers in this section of rocketry, later mastered by China, Japan and the European space agency.
KEPLER-452B: AN EARTH-LIKE PLANET FOUND BY NASA NASA
scientists have identified a “close cousin” to Earth that’s orbiting a sun-like star and might harbour life. Scientists on the hunt for extraterrestrial life have discovered “the closest twin to Earth” outside the solar system, NASA announced on July 23, 2015. Working off four years’ worth of data from the Kepler space telescope, researchers from NASA , the Seti Institute and several universities announced the new exoplanet along with 12 possible “habitable” other exoplanets and 500 new candidates in total. The new planet, named Kepler 452b, is “the closest twin to Earth, or the Earth 2.0 that we’ve found so far in the dataset”, said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s mission directorate. “This is the first possibly rocky, habitable planet around a solar-type star,” said Jeff Coughlin, a Seti scientist. All 11 previously discovered exoplanets of a similar size and orbit travel around stars that are smaller and cooler than the sun. “It is the closest thing that we have to another place that somebody might call home,” said Jon Jenkins, a NASA scientist. The planet is like Earth’s older, bigger first cousin. The research suggested 452b has five times the mass of Earth, is about 1.5bn years older, and has a gravity about twice as powerful as our own. About 1,400 light years away, Kepler 452b orbits a star similar to our sun, and at about the same distances as Earth orbits the sun, meaning it has a similar length year and exists in the “habitable zone” where liquid water can exist on a planet. Jenkins said they suspect the planet is rocky, likely with active volcanoes, and has a thicker atmosphere with greater cloud cover than the Earth. But although 452b has more in common with Earth than any exoplanet yet discovered, its star is 1.5bn years older, 4% more massive and 20% brighter than our own. As stars age they grow in size and energy, casting more heat at the objects in their orbit. The new planet consequently receives 10% more energy than the Earth, meaning it could provide a glimpse into a burning, waterless future on Earth, the scientists said. “Kepler 452b could be experiencing now what the Earth will undergo more than a billion years from now,” said Doug Caldwell, a Seti Institute scientist on the Kepler mission. If Kepler 452b is indeed a rocky planet its location “could mean that it is just entering a runaway greenhouse phase of its climate history. Its ageing sun might be heating the surface and evaporating any oceans. The water vapor would be lost from the planet forever.” The scientists also found 11 other possible exoplanets that might be less than twice the Earth’s diameter and orbiting in habitable zones. Seven candidates appear to orbit solar-type stars, Coughlin said. Time will tell if they stand the tests. The discovery “takes us one step closer to understanding how many habitable planets are out [ 2 8 ] Weekly Current Affairs 19th July 2015 to 25th July, 2015 www.ias100.in there”, said the Kepler mission scientist. Coughlin said that sifting through the catalog will help astronomers “determine the number of small, cool planets that are the best candidates for hosting life”. The Kepler telescope can find possible planets by detecting tiny changes in the brightness of stars as planets pass between them and Earth. The researchers will have to use other techniques, such as looking for shifts in the motion of other suns, to verify the nature of the objects. Of the 4,661 exoplanet candidates catalogued by the Kepler mission, 1,028 have been confirmed. Eleven of those are confirmed exoplanets less than twice Earth’s size and in the habitable zone of their stars. The first exoplanet orbiting a distant star was discovered in 1995. The Kepler space telescope identifies possible planets by observing periodic dips in the brightness of stars as planets pass before them, in the same way the moon causes an eclipse on Earth. However, confirmation of their true planetary status requires observations by other instruments, typically looking for slight shifts in the motion of the host suns. In 2017 NASA plans to launch the successor to the Kepler mission, a survey satellite that searches the nearest solar systems for exoplanets. Grunsfeld said that with increasingly powerful telescopes and satellites, scientists may someday be able to “make the first primitive maps of an Earth-like planet”, including details of “whether they have oceans, clouds, perhaps even seasons”. Planet 452b is among more than 500 new entries listed in the Kepler team’s latest catalog of exoplanet candidates released recently. Kepler identifies potential planets by looking for periodic blips against the brightness of stars _ some 150,000 stars to be exact. Of those 500-plus new potential planets, 12 are less than twice Earth’s diameter and also orbiting in the so-called habitable zone of their star, also known as the just-right Goldilocks zone. Kepler 452b is the first of those 12 to be confirmed as a true planet. Altogether, the catalog now includes 4,696 exoplanet candidates. Slightly more than 1,000 of them 1,030 are confirmed to be planets.
SOYUZ ROCKET LAUNCHES TOWARDS ISS
Three astronauts aboard a Soyuz spacecraft successfully launched towards the International Space Station on July 23, 2015 after a two-month delay caused by a Russian rocket failure. The spacecraft blasted off on schedule from Russia’s Baikonur cosmodrome in the barren Kazakh steppe at 2102 GMT, carrying cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, US astronaut Kjell Lindgren and Kimiya Yui of Japan. As the Soyuz TMA 17M rocket surged skywards from the launch pad, the fire from the boosters set the inky night sky aglow. Russian officials breathed a sigh of relief, with the space agency Roscosmos said in a statement that the third stage of the Soyuz rocket separated on time and the crew were “feeling well.” All eyes were trained on the launch after Russia was in May forced to delay the astronauts’ departure because a supply ship had crashed back to Earth following a rocket failure. The three astronauts were originally scheduled to travel to the orbiting lab in late May but Russia put all space travel on hold after the failure of the unmanned Progress freighter taking cargo to the ISS in late April. The doomed ship lost contact with Earth and burned up in the atmosphere. The failure, which Russia has blamed on a problem in a Soyuz rocket, also forced a group of astronauts to spend an extra month aboard the ISS. The team said they had faith in the Russian space programme, adding that the delay had given them extra time to prepare for their 163-day space mission. The trio said they were Star Wars fans and had chosen the R2-D2 robot, a key character in the film series, as a zero-gravity indicator for their mission.
CHINA SUCCESSFULLY TESTS NEW CARRIER ROCKET
China has successfully tested the power system of a fifth generation carrier rocket scheduled for flight in 2016 carrying twice the capacity of the payload by the present carrier. Development of the rocket, the fifth-generation Long March-5 launch vehicle of the Long March family, has entered a “runoff” phase, according to the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence. The rocket will have a payload capacity of 25 tonnes to low Earth orbits, or 14 tonnes to geostationary transfer orbit, about twice the current capacity. The would-be capacity will be equivalent to that of mainstream carrier rockets now in use www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  around the world. The rocket will serve the final chapter of China’s three-step – orbiting, landing and returning – lunar program and the building of manned space stations, state-run Xinhua news agency reported on July 25, 2015. The Long March rocket family has completed more than 200 missions since 1970, when a Long March-1 rocket sent China’s first satellite, Dong Fang Hong 1, or “the East is Red”, into Earth orbit.
DRISHTI: INDIGENOUS VISIBILITY MEASURING SYSTEM INSTALLED AT AIRPORT
Sophisticated instruments, indigenously designed and developed by CSIR-National Aerospace Laboratories (CSIR-NAL), Bengaluru called as – DRISHTI, have now been made fully operational at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi. They are used for reporting the runway visual range, which is a critical parameter for safe landing and take-off of aircraft in poor visibility conditions (2000 meters). Drishti transmissometers have been installed at this airport recently, as a part of the first phase installation of 20 such systems in 10 airports across the country. The CAT III B IGI Airport, New Delhi, is now the first Airport in the country to have 10 indigenous systems operating in all its three runways. Earlier, a milestone was achieved in the field of aviation safety, when CSIR-NAL and India Meteorological Department (IMD) signed a partnership agreement to jointly execute a mega project for installation of nearly 70 Drishti systems, at various Airports of the country. The Drishti field site system is completely designed and fabricated at CSIR-NAL. IMD has established the dual mode “Landline” and “Wi-Fi” communication along with multiple displays at Air Traffic Control Room and Approach Radar Room. The development of ‘Drishti Integrated Visibility Software’ by CSIR-NAL, wherein the data from all the Drishti systems of all the runways of IGI Airport can be viewed on a single screen at ATC has eased out computer and instruments congestion at ATC and would aid the MET officer to easily report visibility data to pilots. The Drishti system is very cost-effective and is a mandatory system required at all airports as per International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and World Meteorological Organisation (WMO). The complete system is engineered in such a way to enable easy installation and maintenance. Another advantage of this indigenous system is that CSIR-NAL can do the health monitoring of the system through web enabling from Bengaluru itself. This drastically reduces the cost of maintenance, which is exorbitant in case of imported systems.
ECOLOGY & ENVIRONMENT STATE GOVTS. TO TAKE UP ARTIFICIAL BREEDING OF GREAT INDIAN BUSTARD
Under an integrated collaborative effort, the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) along with the state governments of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra will soon undertake an artificial breeding programme for the Great Indian Bustard (GIB), one of the critically endangered flying bird species in the world, to boost the population of the species, the MoEFCC said. Once spread across the length and breadth of the country, the population of GIB, scientifically referred to as Ardeotis Nigriceps, is now concentrated in the three western states of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra. The operations to artificially breed GIBs will commence next year and take place across the three states, the MoEFCC said, adding that the eventual release of the bird from captivity to semi-captivity will initially take some time. The first initiative, as part of the programme, will be to establish a captive stock of the bird, which will lay eggs. This will be followed by hatching of the eggs, which would then go on to become chicks. The chicks would then be reared to become adults, which again after mating in captivity, will lay eggs before being released in semi-captivity,” the official said, describing the nature of breeding. Technical expertise for the breeding programme would be provided by Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII), an autonomous institution of the MoEFCC. Explaining the nuances of technical expertise being offered by WII, the ministry said that the institute will provide expertise in planning, conserving, breeding, hatching of egg to bird and the species’ release from captivity to semicaptivity. Scientific information related to the ecology of the species, its physiology, functional dynamics and behavioural aspects will also be given by the institute. The initial expenditure for the programme would be around Rs 8-9 crore, this would be followed by efforts by respective state governments in preparing conducive habitat like arid and semiarid grasslands. A forest department oin the Gujarat government said that land has been identified to undertake the artificial breeding programme in Kutch district of Gujarat. Though the GIB, as per International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world’s largest global environmental organisation, is built to survive in harsh weather conditions, they have been exterminated from almost 90 per cent of their former range owing to loss of habitat and poaching. Amongst one of the largest flying bird species found in the world today, GIB can easily be distinguished by its black crown on the forehead contrasting with the pale neck and head. The birds generally nest and breed during September and November. Standing a metre in height and weighing nearly 15 kilos, the Great Indian Bustard was once found in large number across the grasslands of India and Pakistan, but is now restricted to small and isolated fragments of the remaining habitat. The grasslands of Abdasa and Mandvi talukas of Kutch district in Gujarat support some of its population. The other sanctuary with the species includes Naliya in Kutch. Its number in Gujarat is less than 100 while, its national count is in the range of 200-300. The Gujarat government had, in June 2013, initiated satellite tracking of GIB under the aegis of WII to understand the movement of this rare bird and its preferred habitat. WII had, in June 2013, initiated satellite tracking of GIB to understand the movement of this rare bird and its preferred habitat. GIB is listed in Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act of India, 1972, and its global trade is prohibited. Concerned over its rapidly deteriorating population, the Union government had prepared a recovery programme in 2012, for three species of bustard – Great Indian Bustard, Bengal Florican and Lesser Florican.
MAHARASHTRA: SCHEME FOR DEVELOPMENT OF VILLAGES AROUND TIGER RESERVES
Maharashtra Cabinet on July 24, 2015 approved Shyamaprasad Mukherjee Jan Van Vikas Scheme, aimed at comprehensive development of villages in the buffer zones of tiger reserves and around them. Its objectives are to reduce the man-animal conflict and achieve sustainable development of these villages. The scheme had been proposed by Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, who also holds finance portfolio, in the annual budget this year. He said the scheme aims at reducing the dependence of villagers on the forest. The scheme will seek to boost the supplementary businesses to farming activities and create alternative employment possibilities in these areas. The scheme will be launched on project basis from 2015-16 to 2019-2020. The villages in the buffer zones of ‘Project Tiger’ are not expected to be rehabilitated and they are usually dependent on the forest for firewood, cattle food, grazing and employment. This puts excessive burden on the forests, thereby degrading them, Mungantiwar said.
JAPAN PLEDGES TO CUT EMISSIONS BY 26% BY 2030
Japan, the world’s sixth biggest greenhouse gas polluter, has pledged to cut emissions 26 per cent from 2013 levels by 2030 under a plan to be submitted to the UN, a target observers judged inadequate to avert calamitous global warming. That commits the source of 2.65% of global emissions to steeper reductions than the US (18-21 per cent) and EU (24 per cent) over the same period. But the target was criticised by analysts in May as being less ambitious than it appeared, due to the choice of baseline. The country’s emissions have soared since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster prompted a shift to coal and gas for power generation. Measuring from 2005, the target amounts to a 25.4 per cent cut. In order to achieve this goal, nuclear energy, deeply unpopular and offline since the 2011 tsunami-induced Fukushima disaster, must provide about 20-22 per cent of electricity production by 2030. Renewable electricity production, including hydro power, would be expanded to 22-24 per cent of the total from 11 per cent for the year to March 2014, according to documents posted on the website of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and other official reports. Japan is ready to help set up “a fair and practical framework” involving all major greenhouse gas emission countries. Japan became the 19th party, including the 28-member EU bloc, to submit a carbon-cutting pledge to the United Nations ahead of a November 30-December 11 conference in Paris that must finalise a world climate pact. The goal is to hold warming to 2C above pre-industrial levels, but it looks unlikely that pledges made this year will achieve that goal. A roster of national emissions curbs will support the agreement, which must take effect from 2020 with the goal to limit average global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels. Greenpeace called the pledge “one of the weakest targets of any industrialised nation” – pointing out it would amount to a mere 18 per cent reduction by 2030 over Japan’s 1990 emissions. The EU’s target is 40 per cent from 1990 to 2030. l The Climate Action Tracker, a science-based tool to analyse countries’ climate efforts, has described the 26-per cent target as inadequate and said Japan could reach it almost without taking any further action. l Japan’s network of nuclear reactors, which once provided a quarter of the country’s power, was switched off after the Fukushima accident, when reactors went into meltdown after their cooling systems were flooded. As a result, the nation relied much more heavily on coal-fired power stations – among the worst emitters of planet-warming greenhouse gases. l On Japan’s own count, total greenhouse gas emissions in 2013 amounted to some 1.4 billion tonnes. l The global total is now about 50 billion tonnes per year, of which China, the United States and Europe account for about half. l According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a 2°C pathway requires greenhouse gas cuts of 40-70 per cent by 2050 compared to levels in 2010 – and to zero or below by 2100.
WORLD’S FIRST MALARIA VACCINATION APPROVED The world’s first malaria vaccine has received a green light from European drugs regulators who recommended it should be licensed for use in babies in Africa who are at risk of the mosquito-borne disease. The shot, called RTS,S or Mosquirix, would be the first licensed human vaccine against a parasitic disease and could help prevent millions of cases of malaria in countries that use it. The vaccine was developed by British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in partnership with the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative. Recommendations for a drug licence made by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) are normally endorsed by the European Commission within a couple of months. Mosquirix, also part-funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will also now be assessed by the World Health Organisation, which has promised to give its guidance on when and where it should be used before the end of this year. Malaria killed an estimated 584,000 people in 2013, the vast majority of them in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 80 percent of malaria deaths are in children under the age of five. Andrew Witty, GSK’s chief executive, said EMA’s positive recommendation was a further important step towards making the world’s first malaria vaccine available for young children. “While RTS,S on its own is not the complete answer to malaria, its use alongside those interventions currently available such as bed nets and insecticides would provide a very meaningful contribution to controlling the impact of malaria on children in those African communities that need it the most,” he said in a statement. Enormously significant Global health experts have long hoped scientists would be able to develop an effective malaria vaccine, and researchers at GSK have been working on RTS,S for 30 years. Hopes that the shot would be the final answer to wiping out malaria were dampened when trial data released in 2011 and 2012 showed it only reduced episodes of malaria in babies aged 6-12 weeks by 27 percent, and by around 46 percent in children aged 5-17 months. EMA’s recommendation is that the shot should nevertheless be licensed for use in babies in the full age range covered in the trials – from 6 weeks to 17 months. Some malaria specialists have expressed concern that the complexities and potential costs of deploying this first vaccine when it only provides partial protection make it less attractive and more risky. However, Joe Cohen, a GSK scientist who has led the development of Mosquirix since 1987, said he had no doubt the vaccine could significantly reduce the toll of sickness and death caused by the malaria among African children. GSK has promised it will make no profit from Mosquirix, pricing it at the cost of manufacture plus a 5 percent margin, which it will reinvest in research on malaria and other neglected tropical diseases. They have been advised to work with a price tag of around $5 per dose, which would bring the cost of a recommended four-dose immunization to $20.
INDIAN RESEARCHERS COOK UP LOW-FAT GHEE
Scientists in India have developed a low-fat version of ghee that cuts the cholesterol content by 85 percent in a move that could give a much-needed boost to fitness levels. Ghee, a form of clarified butter, is a staple of Indian cooking and also used in traditional medicines and as an offering during religious festivals. But with studies showed three-quarters of Indians have high levels of bad cholesterol, or triglycerides, dairy scientists have been working on creating a healthier form of ghee without affecting the taste. “Using a chemical process Scientists have removed the cholesterol content by up to 85 [ 3 4 ] Weekly Current Affairs 19th July 2015 to 25th July, 2015 www.ias100.in percent,” R. K. Malik, a director at the National Dairy Research Institute, said. The taste, colour everything remains the same. It`s just that the cholesterol comes down. Malik said the institute would sell the technology commercially on a non-exclusive basis to interested businesses. The NDRI inked a deal with a leading dairy company based in the eastern Indian state of Bihar for the low cholesterol ghee.
FSSAI DRAFTS SAFETY NORMS TO REGULATE FOOD AND HEALTH SUPPLEMENTS
Food safety regulator FSSAI has come out with quality and safety norms to regulate food or health supplements, nutraceuticals, functional and dietary foods and has sought public comments on the same. At present, India does not have any kind of regulatory guidelines for approval and monitoring of such products. The official notification of these norms will check counterfeit products and encourage stakeholders to invest in this fastgrowing industry. According to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the draft regulations have been framed for manufacture and sale of — food or health supplements, nutraceuticals, foods for special dietary uses, foods for special medical purpose, functional foods and novel food. Comments will be accepted during the next 60 days. The norms will come into effect from the ensuing January 1 or July of the year, it said. As per the norms, FSSAI said, “No person shall manufacture, pack, sell, offer for sale, market or otherwise distribute or import any food products referred to in these regulations unless they comply with the requirements laid down in these regulations.” The formulation of the foods should be based on sound medical or nutritional principles and supported by validated scientific data, wherever required. FSSAI also said that no hormones or steroids or psychotropic ingredients should be added in these foods. The labels should clearly mention the purpose, the target consumer group and the physiological or disease conditions which they address, apart from the specific labelling requirements as mentioned against each type of food. The labels, accompanying leaflets/or other labelling and advertising of all types of foods, referred to in these regulations, should provide sufficient information on the nature and purpose of the food as well as detailed instructions and precautions for their use, it said. A food, which has not been particularly modified in any way but is suitable for use in a particular dietary regimen because of its natural composition, should not be designated as “Food Supplements” or “Special Dietary” or “Special Dietetic” or by any other equivalent term, it added. FSSAI noted that the Food Authority may suspend or restrict the trade of such foods as have been placed in the market that are not clearly distinguishable from foods for normal consumption nor are suitable for their claimed nutritional purpose, or may endanger the human health. The Food Authority may, at any time, ask a food business operator manufacturing and selling such special types of foods to furnish details regarding the history of use of nutrients added or modified and their safety evaluation. According to Assocham-RNCOS recent paper, nutraceuticals, dietary supplements and functional foods market in India is estimated to grow from the current USD 5.6 billion to USD 12.1 billion in the next five years.
NEWS IN BRIEF
Mahendra Singh Dhoni India’s most successful ODI captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has beaten football superstars Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to secure the ninth place as the world’s “most marketable athlete” by the London School of Marketing. The 34-year-old was ranked below world number one tennis player Novak Djokovic, with Swiss tennis ace Roger Federer topping the Top 20 list. Former world number one golfer Tiger Woods was named as the second most marketable sportsperson, while Rory McIlroy came in sixth. Dhoni also surpassed the likes of Maria Sharapova, Usain Bolt, Neymar, Floyd Mayweather and Andy Murray. R.K. Pachauri Nobel laureate and climate scientist R.K. Pachauri was on July 23, 2015 removed as the Director-General of TERI by its governing council. At a meeting in Bengaluru, the top decision-making body named Ajay Mathur, currently the DirectorGeneral of the Bureau of Energy Efficiency of the Central Government, as its new Director-General. He will take over after he is relieved from his current position. Accused of sexual harassment by a junior colleague in February 2015, Mr. Pachauri was found guilty of misconduct by the organisation’s Internal Complaints Committee in May. According to the official statement, the current leadership of TERI was discussed at the GC meeting in Mumbai in September 2014. Jitan Ram Manjhi Days after former Bihar Chief Minister and Hindustani Awam Morcha leader Jitan Ram Manjhi announced his party’s alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Centre accorded Z-plus security to him. The move comes ahead of the upcoming Assembly elections in Bihar. Mr. Manjhi, a staunch opponent of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, NEWS MAKERS will be given round-the-clock security by the Central Reserve Police Force only in Bihar. Around 40 CRPF personnel would be deputed. Mr. Manjhi, who was staying put at the official residence of the Bihar Chief Minister in Patna, recently moved to another accommodation. Ajay Mathur Ajay Mathur, director-general of the bureau of energy efficiency, has been appointed as the new DG of TERI. Mr Mathur has served in leadership positions at the World Bank as director, interim secretariat, Green Climate Fund in Bonn, and in the private sector in India. The governing council of TERI, at its meeting held in Bangalore, took a decision to appoint Ajay Mathur as director- general of Teri. Mr Mathur will take up his new responsibilities as soon as he is in a position to do so, subsequent to being relieved from his current responsibilities by the Government of India after a brief period of transition. Amelie Mauresmo “France`s tennis legend Amelie Mauresmo was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame on July 19, 2015 but unable to travel to the ceremony because she’s expecting her first child in early August. Joining the 36-year-old Frenchwoman were David Hall of Australia, a six-time Paralympic medalist, and Nancy Jeffett, elected in the contributor category. Mauresmo, who is now Andy Murray’s coach, won the Australian Open and Wimbledon in 2006 and spent 39 weeks at No. 1 in the WTA rankings. She won 25 singles titles and was a silver medalist at the 2004 Athens Olympics. She is third French women tennis player to win a Grand Slam title in the Open Era. Others are Mary Pierce and Marion Bartoli. Her professional tennis career spanned more than fifteen years and had officially retired from in December 2009. Besides Amelie Mauresmo, 6 time Paralympic [ 3 6 ] Weekly Current Affairs 19th July 2015 to 25th July, 2015 www.ias100.in medallist David Hall of Australia was also induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.““Bhanu Pratap Sharma Health and Family Welfare Secretary Bhanu Pratap Sharma was given additional charge of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India ( FSSAI), Chairperson, for three months. Sharma, a 1981 batch IAS officer of Bihar cadre, will hold the additional charge for three months beyond July 3 or till the appointment of a regular incumbent, an order issued by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) said. In another order, IFoS officer S S Negi has been appointed as Director General (Forests) and Special Secretary in Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. Negi, a 1980 batch Indian Forest Service (IFoS) officer of Himachal Pradesh cadre, will replace S S Garbyal who retires on July 31, the order said. He is presently working as Additional Director General (Forests) in the Ministry. Maurice Obstfeld Maurice Obstfeld, an economic adviser to Barack Obama, was on July 20, 2015 appointed as Chief Economist of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) with effect from September 8, 2015. Obstfeld will succeed outgoing IMF economist Olivier Blanchard. Maurice Obstfeld will be responsible for handling the IMF’s huge, troubled rescue programs for Greece and Ukraine while keeping a close eye on the slowdown in the global economy. Maurice Obstfeld is a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. However, he was on leave from Berkeley since mid-2014 to serve on the White House Council of Economic Advisers. He is known around the globe for his work on international economics and is considered as one of the most influential macro-economists in the world. Obstfeld has written two influential textbooks on International Economics, one with Nobel Prize winner and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. Ram Sewak Sharma The newly appointed chairman of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, Ram Sewak Sharma, will take charge on August 10 following government’s approving his request for early retirement. His superannuation is due in October this year. A 1978 batch IAS officer of the Jharkhand cadre, Sharma is serving as secretary of Department of Electronics and IT and has been selected as new chairman of the TRAI for three years. He succeeds Rahul Khullar who retired on May 14. A tech savvy official, Sharma has played key role in implementing Aadhaar project and designing the roadmap for government’s Digital India programme. He is credited to have designed key digital services such as digital locker and for swift execution of schemes to push electronics manufacturing in the country. His appointment comes at a time when all eyes are on TRAI for its recommendation on net neutrality over which both the regulator and a panel appointed by the telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad have drawn flak from public. The principle of net neutrality calls for equal treatment to be accorded to all internet traffic, without discrimination or priority for any person, entity or company. Nalini Sengupta Nalini Sengupta, a veteran mountaineer, will have the honour of a Himalayan peak named after her. Ms. Sengupta, a sexagenarian who has scaled several summits, has earned fame after trekkers of the Giripremi Mountaineering Institute in Pune conquered Peak 5260 in the Hamta Pass region of the Himalayas and decided to name it Mount Nalini, to salute her efforts to inculcate the thrill of mountaineering in youngsters since 1970. Rahat Fateh Ali Khan Pakistani singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan is learnt to have agreed to appear before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to record his statement in connection with the seizure of $ 1.24 lakh from him and his associates at Delhi airport in 2011. The ED will serve fresh summons on the noted singer seeking his appearance by August 6, to ensure that his statement is recorded as part of the probe into alleged violation of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), which deals with civil offences. Mr. Khan and his 16-member troupe were detained by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence after they were allegedly found carrying undeclared $ 1.24 lakh in violation of FEMA rules. Introduced to Bollywood in 2002, Mr. Khan bagged the Filmfare Award for the best male playback singer for “Dil To Bachcha Hai Ji” in the movie Ishqiya in 2011. www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  AWARDS ICAR award Prime Minister Narendra Modi on July 25, 2015 presented The Hindu’s senior journalist Gargi Parsai with the prestigious Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) award. Ms. Parsai, an Associate Editor, was conferred the Chaudhury Charan Singh Award for excellence in Journalism in Agricultural Research and Development-2014. The award-winning journalist has been writing on crucial subjects of agriculture, food security, water resources and rural development for over two decades. She has also been reporting on politics and Parliamentary affairs. In a career spanning 37 years, Ms. Parsai has brought to light various issues relating to farm research and development, environment and food sector that have made a difference. She is the winner of the Prem Bhatia Award in Journalism, FAO Award for Best Writing and is among the Women of the Millennium. Ms. Parsai represented India in a Press Fellowship in the United States and was invited by former Prime Minister Deve Gowda for her views on agrarian crisis. American Book Awards Carlos Santana, Marlon James and Naomi Klein are among the winners of the 36th annual American Book Awards, which celebrate diversity in publishing. Santana and co-authors Ashley Kahn and Hal Miller were cited on July 20, 2015 for the memoir The Universal Tone. James won the award for his nearly 700-page novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings, based in part on the attempted assassination of Bob Marley. Klein won for the environmental work This Changes Everything — Capitalism vs. The Climate. Poet Anne Waldman, whose books include The Iovis Trilogy, was honoured for lifetime achievement. More than a dozen recipients were announced for the awards, which have no individual categories. The awards are presented by the Before Columbus Foundation, a non-profit educational and service organisation founded in 1976 by authorplaywright Ishmael Reed. PATA award Kerala Tourism has bagged this year’s Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Awards for its Muziris Heritage Project in the ‘Heritage & Culture’ category. The award, sponsored by the Macau Government Tourism Office (MGTO), was bestowed on the Muziris Heritage Project for its conservational aspect, uniqueness and impact on local community. There were 269 entries from 83 organisations and individuals worldwide for this year’s award, the highest number since 2007. The awards will be presented on September 8, 2015 at PATA Travel Mart at Bangalore. Over 800 industry executives will attend the award ceremony. First Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela Prize Helena Ndume of Namibia and Jorge Sampaio of Portugal received the first-ever Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela Prize at the UN Headquarters in New York on July 24, 2015. The prize was established in June 2014 by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) to recognize the achievements of those who dedicate their lives to the service of humanity by promoting the UN purposes and principles. Ndume, a female ophthalmologist, has been treating blindness and eye-related illnesses in Namibia and throughout the developing world. Sampaio, the former president of Portugal from 1996 to 2006 and also the former mayor of Lisbon from 1989 to 1995, has been awarded for his contribution to his country. UN Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, in a message to the awarding ceremony, expressed gratitude to the two laureates for helping to advance the mission of the United Nations, stressing that both ” are recognized for their commitment to social justice and their actions to empower suffering people.” “As we reflect on Mandela’s legacy, leadership and life, we must also commit to making a difference through individual and collective actions that promote positive change in our communities and our world,” said UNGA President Sam Kutesa at the event. The UNGA set up the Nelson Mandela Prize as a tribute to the late South African leader, known for his legacy of reconciliation, political transition and social transformation. This event was also part of the annual commemoration of Nelson Mandela [ 3 8 ] Weekly Current Affairs 19th July 2015 to 25th July, 2015 www.ias100.in International Day, which is observed on July 18 every year. Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize Historian Ramachandra Guha has been awarded with the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize in the academic category. The Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize, established in 1990 by the Japanese city of Fukuoaka, recognises outstanding achievements by individuals or groups in preserving and creating the unique and diverse cultures of Asia. The prize will be conferred upon the historian on September 17 in Fukuoka International Congress Center in Japan, following which the awardees will be deliberating lectures at high-schools and universities across the city. Guha, who is best known for his book, ‘India After Gandhi’ is slated to speak on “Gandhi, India and the World” at the event. “The aim is to foster and increase awareness of the value of Asian cultures as well as to establish a framework within which Asians can learn from and share with each other,” Masanao Nakazono, Deputy Mayor Fukuoka City said at the function. In his acceptance speech, Guha expressed gratitude to Krishna Das, former editor at Economic and Political Weekly (EPW). He also thanked Anjan Ghosh, his professor at Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata and his cousin and former historian Dharma Kumar. The Fukuoka Prize is offered in three categories viz. Grand prize, Academic prize and Arts and Culture prize. The Grand Prize this year went to Thant MyintU from Myanmar and the Arts and Culture Prize was won by Vietnamese fashion designer Minh Hanh. Other Indian Fukuoka Prize winners include sitar maestro Ravi Shankar, danseuse Padma Subrahmanyam, historian Romila Thapar, sarod player Amjad Ali Khan, social and cultural critic Ashis Nandy, post colonial studies scholar Partha Chatterjee, environmental activist Vandana Shiva and contemporary artist Nalini Malani. The Royal Society’s Copley Medal Nobel prize winner Peter Higgs has joined the ranks of Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein by winning the world’s oldest scientific prize, the Royal Society’s Copley Medal, for his pioneering work on the theory of the Higgs boson, which was discovered in 2012. 86-year-old Higgs received the Copley Medal for his fundamental contribution to particle physics with his theory explaining the origin of mass in elementary particles, confirmed by the experiments at the Large Hadron Collider. The Copley medal was first awarded by the Royal Society in 1731, 170 years before the first Nobel Prize. It is awarded for outstanding achievements in scientific research and has most recently been awarded to eminent scientists such as theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, DNA fingerprinting pioneer Alec Jeffreys and Andre Geim, for his discovery of graphene. Modern physics suggests that matter consists of a set of particles that act as building blocks and that between these particles lie forces that are controlled by another set of particles. A fundamental property of the majority of particles is that they have a mass. In 1964, Higgs proposed a theory about the existence of a particle that explains why these other particles have a mass. At the same time, yet separately, Francois Englert and Robert Brout proposed the same theory. The existence of the Higgs boson was confirmed by two experiments carried out at the Large Hadron Collider in 2012. The Nobel Prize in Physics 2013 was awarded jointly to Higgs and Englert. As well as the Copley Medal, the Royal Society has announced all of the recipients of its awards, medals and prize lectures. The scientists receive the awards in recognition of their achievements in a wide variety of fields of research. Madrid International Film Festival Indian Roots of Tibetan Buddhism by filmmaker and conservator Benoy K. Behl has won the Best Documentary Producer Award at the Madrid International Film Festival. The film, produced by the External Publicity Division of the External Affairs Ministry, was in competition against around a 100 films from 50 countries. An eminent art historian and filmmaker who began his career as a photographer, Behl has made 130 documentary films in the past but this is the first film that he has ever entered in an international film festival. The film has already won awards at the Bioscope Global Film Festival in Delhi where he won the Best Documentary Award and another in Noida where the film won the award of Best Script Writer. www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  Behl’s films are regularly screened in universities and museums around the world. They have also been screened on Doordarshan’s National and DD Bharati channels. Another film made by Behl Yoga: An Ancient Vision of Life was screened in 50 countries on 21 June, World Yoga Day. His photographic exhibitions on Yoga were also held by Embassies and High Commissions of India in 20 countries around the world. The Indian Roots of Tibetan Buddhism traces its history from the vast universities of Eastern India, which had hundreds of teachers and students who came from across India and from the many countries of Asia and Buddhist philosophy. The greatest of these was at Nalanda. The scholars of Nalanda made outstanding contributions to numerous fields of study. The many acharyas or great masters at Nalanda, authored hundreds of treatise in various fields; on philosophy, metaphysics, psychology, logic, medicine, astrology, arts, literature and other subjects. The films are shot extensively in Tibet, Kalmykia in European Russia, Ladakh, Spiti, Arunachal Pradesh, Nalanda, Bodhgaya, Sarnath and Karnataka Behl is the director and the narrator of these films. P.R. Chari One of India’s most well-known proponents of nuclear disarmament, P.R. Chari, passed away in New Delhi on July 24, 2015. He was 79. Mr. Chari, a former officer of the Indian Administrative Services, served two terms in the Defence Ministry, and was also a former Director of the Institute of Defence and Strategic Analysis (IDSA) from 1975- 1980. Both the assignments would have involved adopting a more “hawkish” position on India’s strategic doctrine. Mr. Chari was also closely associated and even related to K. Subrahmanyam, India’s strategic guru who was a supporter of the nuclear programme. Dr. Subrahmanyam also preceded and succeeded Mr. Chari at IDSA. However, in his writings Mr. Chari took an opposite view to Dr. Subrahmanyam and most other strategic thinkers of his time, advocating instead on the need for India to give up nuclear weapons. “Later he came to accept India’s nuclear bomb and pushed for India’s membership to nuclear regimes like MTCR, Wassenar arrangement, Australia group and the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which is what the government is doing now,” recalls disarmament scholar Vidya Shankar Aiyar, who was an associate. After his retirement in 1992, Mr. Chari, who took up fellowships at Harvard University and the University of Illinois, took to writing extensively on the subject of disarmament. R.S. Gavai The former Bihar and Kerala Governor and senior Republican Party of India (RPI) leader R.S. Gavai died in a private hospital on July 25, 2015 after a prolonged illness. He was 86. Mr. Gavai, an OBITUARY agriculturist and avid wrestler, had been a member of Maharashtra Legislative Council for 30 years from 1964. He was the Deputy Chairman of the Council from 1968 to 1978 and Chairman from 1978 to 1984. Mr. Gavai, who led the Gavai faction of the RPI, was elected to the Lok Sabha from Amravati in 1998. He was appointed Governor of Bihar in 2006 and shifted to Kerala in 2008. EL Doctorow EL Doctorow, critically acclaimed author of the novels Ragtime and Billy Bathgate, has died of complications from lung cancer in New York. He was 84. He was known for works which re-imagine the American experience, placing fictional characters in recognisable historical contexts. In a 50-year career, Doctorow published 10 novels, a stage drama, two books of short fiction and numerous essays. Tom Moore Artist Tom Moore, who gave life to the teen angst of Archie and his Riverdale pals from 1953 to the late 1980s, has died of lung cancer in El Paso, Texas. The El Paso Times, Moore began his cartooning career while serving in the U.S. Navy. Moore got caught drawing a caricature of his captain, but instead of getting in trouble, he got an assignment as staff cartoonist. His talent led him to a decadeslong career illustrating for Archie, as well as Under Dog and Mighty Mouse comics. Moore kept up with the Archie character even after his retirement, and was pleased when some [ 4 0 ] Weekly Current Affairs 19th July 2015 to 25th July, 2015 www.ias100.in of his work was displayed at the El Paso Museum of Art in 1996. Olaf Pooley British actor-writer Olaf Pooley, best known for playing Cleric on “Star Trek”, has died. He was 101. Pooley had a recurring role as Professor Eric Stahlman in “Inferno”, the fourth and final serial of the seventh season of TV series “Doctor Who”. He is the oldest actor to have appeared in both franchises. His notable West End theatre career included Chorley Bannister in the original cast of Noel Coward’s “Peace in Our Time”, as well as roles in “Twelve Angry Men”, “The Tempest” and “Othello”. ART & CULTURE Conakry named World Book Capital for 2017 Conakry, the capital of the Republic of Guinea, has been named World Book Capital for 2017. The decision was made by an international committee of experts during a meeting at UNESCO’s Headquarters in Paris. The selection committee singled out Conakry “on account of the quality and diversity of its programme, in particular its focus on community involvement” as well as “for its well-structured budget and clear development goals with a strong emphasis on youth and literacy”. While welcoming the quality of all applications received by UNESCO for the title of World Book Capital 2017, the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, endorsed the Committee’s decision to designate Conakry World Book Capital for 2017. In congratulating Conakry, the DirectorGeneral said, “Books, learning and reading are key to human life. The strong investment of the Republic of Guinea in promoting books and literacy bears witness to a clear vision of culture and education as drivers of development and recovery, and UNESCO is determined to support these efforts.” The World Book Capital is selected every year by the international organizations that represent the three major sectors of the book industry: the International Publishers Association (IPA), the International Booksellers Federation (IBF) and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA). The year starts on 23 April, World Book and Copyright Day, and brings together the city’s publishers, writers and book industry to promote and celebrate books and reading over the next 12 months. Conakry is the 17th city to be designated World Book Capital, after Madrid (2001), Alexandria (2002), New Delhi (2003), Antwerp (2004), Montreal (2005), Turin (2006), Bogota (2007), Amsterdam (2008), Beirut (2009), Ljubljana (2010), Buenos Aires (2011), Yerevan (2012), Bangkok (2013), Port Harcourt (2014) Incheon (2015) and Wroclaw (2016) . Americas were peopled under 23,000 years ago Native American ancestors reached the New World in a single, initial migration from Siberia no more than 23,000 years ago, only later differen-tiating into today’s distinct groups, DNA research revealed. Most scientists agreed the Americas were peopled by forefathers who crossed the Bering land and ice bridge which connected modern-day Russia and Alaska in Earth’s last glacial period. And it is known through archaeological finds that humans were already present in the Americas 15,000 years ago. But there was a long list of outstanding questions. When did the migration take place? In one or several waves? And how long did these early pioneers spend in Beringia — the thenraised land area between Asia and America? Analysis of Native American and Siberian DNA, present-day and ancient, sought to fill in some of the blanks with two studies carried simultaneously in the journals Science and Nature. The first, led by the Centre for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen and published in Science, found there was only one initial migration, no more than 23,000 years ago. MISCELLANEOUS Two Anglo-Indians nominated to Lok Sabha Actor George Baker, who had unsuccessfully contested the 2014 Lok Sabha polls as a BJP candidate from West Bengal, and Richard Hay, a professor of economics from Kerala, were nominated as members of the Anglo-Indian Community to the Lok Sabha on July 23, 2015. The President has nominated Mr Baker and Professor Hay as members of the Anglo-Indian Community to the Lok Sabha, a Home Ministry statement said. Mr Baker, who has acted in several Assamese www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  and Bengali movies since 1970s, had joined BJP in 2014 and unsuccessfully contested on a party ticket from Howrah in West Bengal. Baker’s most notable film was ‘Chameli Memsaab’ (Assamese and Bengali) which won national film award in 1975.“Professor Hay teaches economics in various academic institutes in India as well as abroad. Himachal HC bans buffalo, bull fights The Himachal Pradesh High Court has imposed a complete ban on all types of buffalo and bull fights in the hill State, stating that it is against the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960. A Division Bench of Justices Dharmchand Chaudhary and Tarlok Chauhan, which imposed the ban , termed them a severe brutality against the animals. The court order said all animal fights, involving bulls or buffaloes, birds, roosters or dogs are against the Act. A PIL petition was moved by People for Animals NGO in Kasauli in 2013, seeking implementation of the Supreme Court judgment prohibiting bull fights in Tamil Nadu. The petitioner had sought to do away with the century-old practice during the village fairs in Himachal Pradesh. SPORTS US Powerlifting Championships A 20-year old Indian-American Amitoj Chhabra won the junior title at the latest United States Powerlifting Association National Championships in Las Vegas. Chhabra, a 2013 Galena graduate, competed in the 198-pound weight class, a drop of about 20 pounds from his normal weight, the local Reno Gazette Journal reported. He lifted a total of 1,383 pounds. Son of a Punjabi father and a Nepali mother, Chhabra squatted 485 pounds, bench pressed 325 and deadlifted 573 at the competition which was held at the Golden Nugget Casino in Las Vegas. He has added 100 pounds to his deadlift in the year 2014. Chhabra, who began powerlifting in December 2013 and began competing in May 2014, is training with Adam Lauritzen of Silverback Strength and Conditioning in Reno. World Junior Golf title Young Indian golfer Shubham Jaglan etched his name into history book by clinching his second successive title at the IJGA World Stars of Junior Golf event in Las Vegas. The 10-year-old prodigy, son of a milkman from rural Haryana, brought home a score of 106 in three rounds to win by five strokes, ahead of two Americans Justin Dang and Sihan Sandhu and Thailand’s Pongsapak Laopakdee for the Boys 9-10 years category title at the Angel Park. Jaglan had triumphed by one stroke at the Junior World Golf Championships after scoring a three-day total of seven-under 179 at the Welk Resort Fountain Course in California. Former golfer Nonita Lall Qureshi has been training Shubham since he was seven-years old. He was five years old when he started golf, practicing in an agricultural field. He has already won over 100 tournaments. Eden Gardens to host ICC World T20 2016 final The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced the venues that will host the men’s and women’s ICC World T20 2016. The big-ticket event will be played in India from 11th-3rd April, 2016. While the Eden Gardens in Kolkata will host the event finale, Bengaluru, Chennai, Dharamshala, Mohali, Mumbai, Nagpur and New Delhi will be the venues for the matches.