Current Affairs 21ST JUNE 2015 TO 27TH JUNE, 2015
URBAN DEVELOPMENT AND HOUSING SCHEMES
Launching flagship programmes for urban development and housing on June 25, 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi not only sought to give more powers to the States but also called for giving residents the mandate to decide how urban areas should emerge. At the launch of the Housing for All, Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and Smart Cities schemes, he said it was the first time that residents were being challenged to formulate a development vision for their cities. The competitive mechanism would end the top-down approach and lead to people-centric urban development. Under AMRUT, 500 cities are targeted for development. The Smart Cities scheme will target development of 100 cities over five years and Housing for All envisages construction of two crore houses in urban areas in seven years. AMRUT, which replaces the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, will give the States and the Union Territories the liberty and flexibility in formulation, approval and execution of projects. The major common provisions incorporated in the guidelines of the new schemes include objective criteria for selection of cities and allocation of funds. Under the Smart City scheme launched, each selected city will be provided Central assistance of Rs. 100 crore a year. Under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), allocation of funds will be as per urban population and the number of cities and towns in each State or Union Territory. Under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana in urban areas, the allocation will be based on the number of urban poor and slum dwellers. To avoid delays and non-completion of projects on account of lack of resources, the States and the Union Territories will now be required to indicate firmly resource tie-ups under State-level action plans. Consultations with urban citizens have been made mandatory to ensure need-based and bottomup planning of projects. State-level action plans for convergence with other Central and State government schemes for resource maximisation, PPP models for resource mobilisation and involvement of members of Parliament and Assemblies in formulation and monitoring of projects are also included in the revamped schemes. . Under AMRUT, projects without availability of land and clearances will not be included in the Mission. Funds will have to be transferred to urban local bodies within seven days. Cities will be chosen under the Smart Cities Mission through a two-stage competition. In the first stage, each State and Union Territory will rank all their cities based on a set of criteria and nominate the top scorers as per the indicated number of potential smart cities for participation in Stage 2 of the competition. Women’s empowerment has been made a component of the Housing for All scheme that envisages houses for all by 2022. Ownership of houses will be in the name of women or jointly with the husband. The average Rs. 1-lakh grant for a house to be provided by the Centre can be used by the States for slum redevelopment projects to make them viable. About AMRUT The Mission Providing basic services (e.g. water supply, sewerage, urban transport) to households and build amenities in cities which will improve the quality of life for all, especially the poor and the disadvantaged is a national priority. An estimate of the funds required over a 20 year period, at 2009-10 prices, was made by the High Powered Expert Committee (HPEC) during 2011. The Committee estimated that Rs. 39.2 lakh crore was required for creation of urban infrastructure, including Rs. 17.3 lakh crore for urban roads and Rs. 8 lakh crore for services, such as water supply, sewerage, solid waste management and storm water drains. Moreover, the requirement for Operation and Maintenance (O&M) was separately estimated to be Rs. 19.9 lakh crore. Learnings from the earlier Mission have shown that infrastructure creation should have a direct impact on the real needs of people, such as providing taps and toilet connections to all households. This means that the focus should be on infrastructure creation that has a direct link to provision of better services to people and this was explicitly stated by the President of India in his speeches to the Joint Sessions of the Parliament on 9 June, 2014 and 23 February, 2015. Therefore, the purpose of Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) is to (i) ensure that every household has access to a tap with assured supply of water and a sewerage connection; (ii) increase the amenity value of cities by developing greenery and well maintained open spaces (e.g. parks); and (iii) reduce pollution by switching to public transport or constructing facilities for nonmotorized transport (e.g. walking and cycling). All these outcomes are valued by citizens, particularly women, and indicators and standards have been prescribed by the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) in the form of Service Level Benchmarks (SLBs). However, the pursuit of better outcomes will not stop with the provision of taps and sewerage connections to all (universal coverage). Other benchmarks will be targeted following a step-by-step process after achieving the benchmark of universal coverage. Such a gradual process of achieving benchmarks is called “incrementalism”. This does not mean that other SLBs are less important, but that in the incremental process SLBs are achieved gradually according to National Priorities. In the case of urban transport the benchmark will be to reduce pollution in cities while construction and maintenance of storm water drains is expected to reduce, and ultimately eliminate, flooding in cities, thereby making cities resilient. Earlier, the MoUD used to give project-byproject sanctions. In the AMRUT this has been replaced by approval of the State Annual Action Plan once a year by the MoUD and the States have to give project sanctions and approval at their end. In this way, the AMRUT makes States equal partners in planning and implementation of projects, thus actualizing the spirit of cooperative federalism. A sound institutional structure is the foundation to make Missions successful. Therefore, Capacity Building and a set of Reforms have been included in the Mission. Reforms will lead to improvement in service delivery, mobilization of resources and making municipal functioning more transparent and functionaries more accountable, while Capacity Building will empower municipal functionaries and lead to timely completion of projects.
INS TEG FOR SURVEILLANCE
As part of India’s deepening maritime security cooperation with Indian Ocean littoral nations, INS Teg a stealth frigate of the Indian Navy which is on a two-month long deployment in the South Indian Ocean has docked at Port Victoria in Seychelles on June 26, 2015. This is part of its mission to carry out joint surveillance in the Seychelles Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in areas selected by Seychelles Coast Guard, with SCG personnel embarked onboard. This is in keeping with India’s national objective of ensuring a secure and stable regional environment to allow unhindered economic and social development, not just in India, but also in the entire Indian Ocean Region, the Navy said in a statement. Defence cooperation The defence cooperation between the two nations includes cooperation in the field of training, hydrography and Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA). India had provided fast attack craft and Dornier aircraft to Seychelles as part of its capability enhancement. INS Teg is also carrying items required for maintenance of SCG ships and will provide assistance for “minor defect rectification on various SCG ships”. The visit coincides with the Seychelles National Day on June 29 and a 25-man marching contingent and Naval Band will participate in the annual military parade. The Navy has in the recent past significantly scaled up capacity building and capability [ 6 ] Weekly Current Affairs 21st June 2015 to 27th June, 2015 www.ias100.in enhancement of friendly foreign countries in addition to undertaking joint and co-ordinated antipiracy patrols. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has laid strong emphasis on “comprehensive cooperation” in the Indian Ocean region (IOR) as a way to counter growing Chinese activity in the region and position India as the ‘net security provider’ in the IOR. In his visit to Seychelles in March 2015 as part of a three-nation tour in the region, Mr. Modi called Seychelles a “vital” partner in the neighbourhood and called upon the nation to become a full partner in the maritime security cooperation between India, Maldives and Sri Lanka. India is setting up Coastal Surveillance Radar Systems in several IOR states which will eventually be integrated into India’s coastal monitoring network.
CHILD LABOUR RISES BY 53 % IN URBAN INDIA
At a time when Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi has supported the controversial amendment to the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act which allows children under 14 years of age to work in family-run enterprises, a recently-concluded analysis by Child Rights and You (CRY) revealed that there has been a significant increase in working children in the age group of 5- 9 years. Working children between 5-9 years increased by 37 percent. Compiling data from the 2001 and 2011 census, the report states that in urban areas while the number of working girls rose by 240 per cent, it increased by 154 per cent for working boys. Overall, there has been a 53 per cent increase in child labour in urban India, while there is a drop of about 29 per cent in rural areas. Society is largely to blame for the increase in working children in urban areas as most of the children work as domestic helps, chairperson of the West Bengal State Commission of Protection of Child Rights Ashokendu Sengupta said. Child labour in urban India increased by over 50 percent between 2001 and 2011, a report by NGO CRY said, highlighting the links to the rise in migration. This increase in urban child labour could be attributed to increased migration, including seasonal migration for employment as well as trafficking of unaccompanied minors, director, policy and research, CRY. An analysis of the census data by CRY (Child Rights and You) said child labour in urban areas in the country increased by 53 percent over 2001-2011. The report was released in June 2015 ahead of the World Day Against Child Labour. Five Indian states – Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra – harbour the majority of working children. These states account for more than 55 lakh child workers. This is of utmost concern especially since enforcement machinery is primarily based in urban regions and the implementation of child protection structures is stronger in urban India. This increase in urban child labour could be attributed to increased migration including seasonal migration for employment as well as trafficking of unaccompanied minors, Ganotra said.
CABINET NOD FOR SIX NEW IIMS
The Union Cabinet on June 244, 2015 cleared the proposal for the setting up of six new Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) in the country, which will start offering courses from the coming academic session. The new IIMs will be located at Visakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh), Bodh Gaya (Bihar), Sirmaur (Himachal Pradesh), Nagpur (Maharashtra), Sambalpur (Odisha) and Amritsar (Punjab). Each institute will start with an intake of 140 students for the post-graduate course, the flagship programme of the IIMs, admission for which will be through Common Aptitude Test (CAT) exam. It is expected that the annual intake will increase to reach a level of 560 students by the end of seven years, an official release from the government said.
INDIA STRETCHES INTO THE RECORD BOOKS
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 21, 2015 led India in breaking the Guinness World Record (GWR) for the largest number of people doing yoga at one venue — the stately Rajpath which he called “Yogpath” — on a day when 192 countries celebrated the first International Day of Yoga. And, foreigners helped India clock a second record — that of the largest number of foreign www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  nationals in a single yoga lesson with participation from 84 countries. When he stepped up to address the gathering of yoga practitioners lined up on Rajpath — which has for 65 years been associated with the Republic Day parade showcasing the mosaic that is India — Mr. Modi’s first words were: “Had anyone ever even thought that Rajpath could become Yogpath?” On the dais with him were leading yoga practitioners including Baba Ramdev and the ViceChancellor of the Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda University, Swami Atmapriyananda. In his brief statement, Mr. Modi said this was not just a day-long celebration but the beginning of an era to peace and harmony.
GOVT. DECIDES TO BUILD JP MEMORIAL IN BIHAR
A day ahead of the 40th anniversary of Emergency, the Union Cabinet on June 24, 2015 took a decision to build a national memorial in the Chapra district of Bihar to honour the Jayaprakash Narayan. His “call for a Sampoorna Kranti [Total Revolution] for upholding and defending civil liberties at a very critical juncture in the postindependence history of India,” the government stressed in a press statement, “ushered a new democratic movement for India and contributed to strengthen the roots of democracy.” Earlier, the Cabinet approved the Culture Ministry’s proposal to set up a National Memorial at Lala Ka Tola, Sitab, Diara, District Chhapra (Saran) in Bihar — the birth place of Lok Nayak Jayaprakash Narayan.
NATHU LA OPENS FOR KAILASH MANSAROVAR YATRA
Forty Indian pilgrims, bound for the Kailash Mansarovar pilgrimage has, on June 21, 2015, crossed over from the Nathu La pass that links Sikkim and Tibet, inaugurating a new route that expands connectivity between the two countries. The establishment of the new route is the result of the consensus reached between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the former’s visit to India in September 2014. Border trade between the two countries through the Nathu La pass is booming. In the shops of Yadong(China), the Chumbi valley town, a mere 31 km from Nathu La, Indian products ranging from India manufactured Nescafe coffee, candies, and posters of Shahrukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai are freely available. The Ambassador did not rule out the possibility of expanding the Nathu La route as an important economic artery between India and China, supplementing the ambitious Bangladesh-ChinaIndia-Myanmar (BCIM) economic corridor. China’s ambitious Qinghai-Tibet railway, which is part of an elaborate railway system which has been connected to Europe, has already reached Xigatse, not too far from the Indian border. Chinese officials have been quoted as saying that this rail track can be extended to Nepal, and onwards to Patna, where it can be hooked to the Indian railway system.
LOWER RANK IN CORRUPTION INDEX HELPED INDIA
India came first in the Baseline Profitability Index helped by its improved ranking in the Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index — in 2014, the country was at the 85th position out of 175 countries as compared to its ranking of 94 out of 177 countries in 2013. The calculation of the BPI is an imperfect exercise fraught with assumptions, Daniel Altman, its creator, says. “For example, how does a survey about perceptions of corruption translate into likelihoods of having to pay bribes, and how big might those bribes be?” he wrote when he first introduced the index. In 2014, the average BPI score across all countries was 0.99; this year it is 1.03 — meaning the expected returns over the next five years are about three-quarters of a per cent higher a year.
SOLAR ENERGY IN INDIA: RAJASTHAN BECOMES NO. 1
Gujarat, which remained the undisputed leader in solar energy generation till recently in the country, has finally been left behind by its close rival Rajasthan, and given the number of projects in the pipeline, the desert state is likely to retain the honour for quite some time to come. According to data released by the Union ministry of new and renewable energy in June 2015, Rajasthan has grabbed the number one position in the country with an installed capacity of 1,167 megawatt against Gujarat’s 1,000MW. An avid proponent of solar energy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was probably one of the few leaders who as the chief minister of Gujarat foresaw the potential of solar power and the state always remained at the top as the largest generator of the green energy. On the other hand, Rajasthan had all the natural advantages for solar such as abundant barren land and high solar radiation in the country, but it failed to live up to its potential in the absence of investor-friendly policy and the government’s aggressive promotion of the sector. Gujarat, under Modi, was one of the few states which spotted the opportunity early on and accordingly, it brought out a solar policy in 2009. Many power developers flocked to the state and made substantial investments even as the cost of generating solar power then was more than Rs 17 per unit against Rs 4 required to generate same amount of power from thermal sources. Many investors liked Gujarat’s solar policy at that time and made huge investments in the state during 2009-11. But after that the dynamics of the sector changed dramatically. Cost of solar power generation crashed to Rs 6 per unit owing to the plunge in the price of solar photo-voltaic panels. That’s why, today there is a strong competition among states to attract investment in the sector. While Rajasthan is leveraging its natural advantages with a proactive policy, Gujarat’s solar sector needs to reinvent itself to catch up with the neighboring state, said Suman Kumar, president of Rajasthan Solar Association. Kumar said that Rajasthan is poised to become an export hub for solar energy in the country as many companies, in order to meet their renewable power purchase obligation, are looking to put up plant in the state under the open access system, which will allow them to draw power at their desired locations. In the last one year, Rajasthan government has inked agreements with private players to develop solar parks with a cumulative capacity of 26,000 MW. Once fully operational, these parks can attract investments worth more than Rs 1.50 lakh crore. The state has also signed MoUs with power developers like SunEdison, Adani Enterprises, Reliance Power and Azure Power that will require about Rs 85,000 crore for generating 14,000 MW solar power. Rajasthan has the highest solar radiation in the country. Solar energy requires lot of land, which the state has in plenty. We have tried to capitalize on these advantages in the state’s new solar policy announced in 2014. There is a strong lineup of projects which will be developed in the near future, said B K Doshi, managing director of Rajasthan Renewable Energy Corporation. National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) is already in the process of commissioning 680 MW in the state. Besides, Reliance Power and Sun Edison are set to put up 800 MW capacity plants in Rajasthan for BSES. Top five states in India are (in terms of installed capacity) (i) Rajasthan : 1047 MW (ii) Gujarat : 1000 MW (iii) Madhya Pradesh : 563 MW (iv) Maharashtra : 363 MW (v) Andhra Pradesh : 247 MW
AP INKS MOU WITH AUSTRALIAN FIRM FOR MINING
Andhra Pradesh on June 24, 2015 signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with an Australian firm for beneficiation, the process to separate the required mineral from extracted ore and remove the unusable part, of low-grade iron ore. AP Mining Development Corporation (APMDC) and NSL Mining Resources India Pvt. Ltd., a subsidiary of Australia’s NSL Consolidated Ltd. inked the MoU for low-grade iron ore from reserves in Kurnool and Kadapa. The MoU was signed during Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu’s meeting with an Australian delegation led by Steven Ciobo, parliamentary secretary to the Australian trade and investment minister. They discussed areas of collaboration in infrastructure, mining, agro-processing, fisheries, skill development, financial services and opportunities in the capital region. Naidu invited Australian delegates to take part in Sunrise AP Global Investment Summit that will be held in October in Visakhapatnam. Ciobo invited the chief minister and his team to visit Australia to understand their expertise and sign agreements based on the state’s interest.
NAWAB ZOO AND AZAD BIRD SANCTUARY IN U.P.
In a historic decision, the Samajwadi Party government of UP has renamed the Lucknow Prani Udyan, popularly known as Lucknow Zoo, as “Nawab Wajid Ali Shah Prani Udyan, Lucknow,” making it the first official move — since Independence — to name a monument after a Nawab of Oudh, or Avadh (roughly corresponding with Central Uttar Pradesh). Nawab Wajid Ali Shah was the last Nawab of Oudh before the province was annexed by the British under the policy of Doctrine of Lapse in 1856. He was banished to Matia Burj in Bengal. Another first was the decision to rename the Nawabganj Bird Sanctuary in Unnao district after revolutionary freedom fighter Chandra Shekhar Azad. The bird sanctuary will now be known as “ Shaheed Chandra Shekhar Azad Pakshi Vihar, Nawabganj.” Though Chandra Shekhar Azad was born in Alirajpur district in Madhya Pradesh (July 23, 1906), his father, Sitaram Tiwari, belonged to Badarka village in Unnao district. It was on account of his parental ties with Unnao district that the bird sanctuary has been named after him. These decisions were taken at a Cabinet meeting presided over by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Akhilesh Yadav on June 23, 2015. The Lucknow Zoo was established in 1921 and was named after England’s Prince of Wales as “Prince of Wales Zoological Gardens.”
GOVT. NOD FOR REVISED COST ESTIMATE OF FREIGHT CORRIDOR
Paving the way for the speedy delivery of goods across the country, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) on June 24, 2015 approved the revised cost estimate of Rs. 81,459 crore for the Eastern and Western Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC) Project. While announcing the Cabinet’s decision, Information and Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the revised estimate includes Rs. 73,392 crore of construction costs and Rs. 8,067 crore of acquisition costs. However, this does not take into account the cost of the 534 km Sonnagar-Dankuni section, which is to be implemented through a Public Private Partnership. Freight corridor will cut cost The Eastern and Western Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC) Project will significantly reduce transportation cost and benefit power plants, mines, ports, and boost trade and industry. The Eastern DFC is expected to carry around 153 million tonnes of cargo by 2021-22. This is set to increase to 251 million tonnes by 2036-37. The Western DFC is projected to carry 161 million tonnes by 2021 and 284 million tonnes by 2036. The Western DFC starts from JNPT Mumbai and passes through Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, and terminates at Dadri in Uttar Pradesh. The total length will be about 1,500 km. The Eastern DFC starts from Sahnewal near Ludhiana in Punjab and passes through Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand and terminates at Dankuni in West Bengal. The total length is about 1,856 km. The Cabinet had in February 2008 approved the construction of the freight corridor. According to the website of the Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India (DFCCI), the Western DFC has secured a loan of 645.173 billion yen (around Rs.45,434 crore) from the Japan International Cooperation Agency. The Eastern DFC has secured a loan of $2.725 billion (around Rs.17,327 crore) from the World Bank, according to the website. It shows that 75 per cent of the 4,807 hectares of land needed for the Eastern DFC has already been acquired, while 85 per cent of the 5,860 hectares needed for the Western DFC has been acquired so far.
INDIA RANKED BEST FOR INVESTMENT
A ranking of destinations for attractiveness to foreign investors has placed India at the top among 110 countries. China has secured the 65th position and the U.S. is at the 50th. In the 2014 index, India was at the sixth position and Hong Kong was number one. The ranking is based on an index for baseline profitability that assumes that three factors affect the ultimate success of a foreign investment: how much the value of an asset grows; the preservation of that value while the asset is owned; and the ease of repatriation of proceeds from selling the [ 1 0 ] Weekly Current Affairs 21st June 2015 to 27th June, 2015 www.ias100.in asset. The index combines measures for each of these factors into a summary statistic that conveys a country’s basic attractiveness for investment. Investment guidance Where exactly should they [investors] put their money? The Baseline Profitability Index (BPI) is back for its third year with some answers, and Narendra Modi’s India is the place to start, wrote Daniel Altman, creator of the index and an Adjunct Professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business, in the Foreign Policy magazine. “…economic growth alone doesn’t determine the returns to investing abroad; you have to worry about things like financial stability, physical security, corruption, expropriation by government, exploitation by local partners, capital controls, and exchange rates as well. Putting all of these factors together gives a better idea of how big the return will be when it finally reaches your pocket,” he wrote. The big story in the BPI in 2015 is “India coming out on top, with growth forecasts up, perceptions of corruption down, and investors better protected following the election of a government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.” High returns A high ranking indicates high returns and improving economic institutions. The index, thus, compares how local policies and conditions affect the same investment in different countries. Or how the value of the principal and the return will change depending only on where the investment is made. Local factors can erode profits. These include payment of bribes and kickbacks, the risk of which is compared across countries using the Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, a measure for the perceived levels of publicsector corruption worldwide. In 2014, the country was at the 85th position out of 175 countries as compared to its ranking of 94 out of 177 in 2013. World Bank index BPI calculation also uses an index of investor protection compiled by the World Bank. In 2014, the average BPI score across all countries was 0.99; this year it is 1.03 — meaning the expected returns over the next five years are about three-quarters of a per cent higher a year. The calculation of the BPI is an imperfect exercise fraught with assumptions, Mr. Altman said. For example, how does a survey about perceptions of corruption translate into likelihoods of having to pay bribes, and how big might those bribes be?” he wrote when he first introduced the index.
WORLDWIDE DISPLACEMENT HITS ALL-TIME HIGH
Wars, conflict and persecution have forced more people than at any other time since records began to flee their homes and seek refuge and safety elsewhere, according to a new report from the UN refugee agency. UNHCR’s annual Global Trends Report: World at War, released said that worldwide displacement was at the highest level ever recorded. Few Important Findings l The number of people forcibly displaced at the end of 2014 had risen to a staggering 59.5 million compared to 51.2 million a year earlier and 37.5 million a decade ago. l The increase represents the biggest leap ever seen in a single year and the situation was likely to worsen still further. l Globally, one in every 122 humans is now either a refugee, internally displaced, or seeking asylum. If this were the population of a country, it would be the world’s 24th biggest. l Since early 2011, the main reason for the acceleration has been the war in Syria, now the world’s single-largest driver of displacement. l Every day last year on average 42,500 people became refugees, asylum seekers, or internally displaced, a four-fold increase in just four years. l Syria is the world’s biggest producer of both internally displaced people (7.6 million) and refugees (3.88 million at the end of 2014). l Afghanistan (2.59 million) and Somalia (1.1 million) are the next biggest refugee source countries. l Almost nine out of every 10 refugees (86 per cent) are in regions and countries considered economically less developed. The UNHCR report detailed how in region after region, the number of refugees and internally displaced people is on the rise. In the past five years, at least 15 conflicts have erupted or reignited: eight in Africa (Côte d’Ivoire, Central African Republic, Libya, Mali, northeastern Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and this year in Burundi); three in the Middle East (Syria, Iraq, and Yemen); one in Europe (Ukraine) and three in Asia (Kyrgyzstan, and in several areas of Myanmar and Pakistan). Few of these crises have been resolved and most still generate new displacement and in 2014 only 126,800 refugees were able to return to their home countries — the lowest number in 31 years. Meanwhile, decades-old instability and conflict 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 37.5 Million 42.7 39.5 Million Million The number of people displaced by war has reached a staggering new high 42.0 Million 43.3 Million 43.7 Million 42.5 Million 45.2 Million 51.2 Million 59.5 Million in Afghanistan, Somalia and elsewhere means that millions of people remain on the move or – as is increasingly common – stranded for years on the edge of society as long-term internally displaced or refugees. One of the most recent and highly visible consequences of the world’s conflicts and the terrible suffering they cause has been the dramatic growth in the numbers of refugees seeking safety through dangerous sea journeys, including on the Mediterranean, in the Gulf of Aden Half of all refugees are children The Global Trends report detailed that in 2014 alone 13.9 million people became newly displaced – four times the number of the previous year. Worldwide there were 19.5 million refugees (up from 16.7 million in 2013), 38.2 million were displaced inside their own countries (up from 33.3 million in 2013), and 1.8 million people were awaiting the outcome of claims for asylum (against 1.2 million in 2013). Most alarmingly, however, it showed that over half the world’s refugees are children.With huge shortages of funding and wide gaps in the global regime for protecting victims of war, people in need of compassion, aid and refuge are being abandoned. Europe (up 51%) Conflict in Ukraine, a record 219,000 Mediterranean crossings, and the large number of Syrian refugees in Turkey – which in 2014 became the world’s top refugee-hosting nation with 1.59 million Syrian refugees at year’s end – brought increased public attention, both positive and negative, to questions to do with refugees. In the EU, the biggest volume of asylum applications was in Germany and Sweden. Overall, forced displacement numbers in Europe totaled 6.7 million at the end of the year, compared to 4.4 million at the end of 2013, and with the largest proportion of this being Syrians in Turkey and Ukrainians in the Russian Federation. Middle East and North Africa (up 19%) Syria’s ongoing war, with 7.6 million people displaced internally, and 3.88 million people displaced into the surrounding region and beyond as refugees, has alone made the Middle East the world’s largest producer and host of forced displacement. Adding to the high totals from Syria was a new displacement of least 2.6 million people in Iraq and 309,000 newly displaced in Libya. Sub-Saharan Africa (Up 17%) Africa’s numerous conflicts, including in Central African Republic, South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo and elsewhere, together produced immense forced displacement totals in 2014, on a scale only marginally lower than in the Middle East. In all, sub-Saharan Africa saw 3.7 million refugees and 11.4 million internally displaced people, 4.5 million of whom were newly displaced in 2014. The 17 per cent overall increase excludes Nigeria, as methodology for counting internal displacement changed during 2014 and it could not be reliably calculated. Ethiopia replaced Kenya as the largest refugee-hosting country in Africa and the fifth largest worldwide. Asia (up 31%) Long one of the world’s major displacement producing regions, the number of refugees and internally displaced people in Asia grew by 31 per cent in 2014 to 9 million people. Continuing displacement was also seen in and from Myanmar in 2014, including of Rohingya from Rakhine state and in the Kachin and Northern Shan regions. Iran and Pakistan remained two of the world’s top four refugee hosting countries. Americas (up 12%) The Americas also saw a rise in forced displacement. The number of Colombian refugees dropped by 36,300 to 360,300 over the year, although mainly because of a revision in the numbers of refugees reported by Venezuela. Colombia continued, nonetheless to have one of the world’s largest internally displaced populations, reported at 6 million people and with 137,000 Colombians being newly displaced during the year. With more people fleeing gang violence or other forms of persecution in Central America, the United States saw 36,800 more asylum claims than in 2013, representing growth of 44 per cent.
WORLD REFUGEE DAY For years, many countries and regions have been holding their own Refugee Days and even Weeks. One of the most widespread is Africa Refugee Day, which is celebrated on 20 June in several countries. The UN General Assembly, on 4 December 2000, adopted resolution 55/76 where it noted that 2001 marked the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, and that the Organization of African Unity (OAU) had agreed to have International Refugee Day coincide with Africa Refugee Day on 20 June. The General Assembly therefore decided that 20 June would be celebrated as World Refugee Day. www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  Refugees A refugee is someone who fled his or her home and country owing to “a well-founded fear of persecution because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion”, according to the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention. Many refugees are in exile to escape the effects of natural or human-made disasters. Developing countries host four-fifths of the world’s refugees. The 48 Least Developed Countries provide asylum to 2.3 million refugees. Asylum seekers Asylum seekers say they are refugees and have fled their homes as refugees do, but their claim to refugee status is not yet definitively evaluated in the country to which they fled. Internally Displaced Persons Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are people who have not crossed an international border but have moved to a different region than the one they call home within their own country. Stateless Persons Stateless persons do not have a recognized nationality and do not belong to any country. Statelessness situations are usually caused by discrimination against certain groups. Their lack of identification — a citizenship certificate — can exclude them from access to important government services, including health care, education or employment. Returnees Returnees are former refugees who return to their own countries or regions of origin after time in exile. Returnees need continuous support and reintegration assistance to ensure that they can rebuild their lives at home. Facts and Figures By the end of 2011: l An estimated 43.3 million people worldwide were forcibly displaced due to conflict and persecution. l Among refugees and people in refugee-like situations, children constituted 46 per cent of the population. l 876,100 individual applications for asylum or refugee status were submitted in 171 countries or territories. l The number of internally displaced persons, benefitting from UNHCR’s protection and assistance activities, was 15.5 million. l UNHCR identified some 3.5 million stateless people in 64 countries. However, the actual number of stateless persons worldwide was estimated at up to 12 million. Source: Protecting Refugees and the Role of UNHCR.
SRI LANKA AND CHINA MILITARY EXERCISE SILK ROUTE 2015
China and Sri Lanka concluded their second-ever joint military exercise. l Exercise Silk Route 2015, likely named so for its concordance with China’s Maritime Silk Road initiative, in which Sri Lanka is a partner, incorporated a 43-member Chinese People’s Liberation Army contingent and soldiers from the Sri Lankan army. l The Sri Lankan Army’s Commando Regiment and Special Forces participated in the exercises. l The exercise demonstrates the continuing deepening of security ties between Beijing and Colombo, despite the election of a new government in Sri Lanka in January which appeared to be less receptive to Chinese influence on the island that the previous government, which was led by Mahinda Rajapaksa. l The Ministry’s statement noted a focus on primarily tactical exercises, including on “weapon handling, VVIP protection study, live firing, lane firing, sniper firing, body protection drills, backup vehicle movement and training, body protection formation, ambush drills, reconnaissance techniques, skill firing, special mission planning, combat tracking techniques, situation training exercise, jungle warfare and basic battle skills, vehicle ambush drills, aircraft and building option training, etc.” China’s growing relationship with Sri Lanka has caused concern in New Delhi, which perceives any Chinese military activity in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) as a prelude to encirclement. When Maithripala Sirisena came to power in a surprise election victory over Rajapaksa, it appeared that Sri Lanka may reevaluate its relationship with China. Sirisena’s campaign manifesto contained some particularly damning passages toward China, including one where he criticized the previous government’s handling of contracts that were awarded to Chinese firms: “The land that the White Man took over by means of military strength is now being obtained by foreigners by paying ransom to a handful of persons,” his manifesto noted. In his first six months in office, however, Sirisena has remained cordial with Beijing, despite freezing some development projects and reviewing contracts awarded by the previous government. In fact, as Silk Route 2015 came to a close, reports emerged that Sri Lanka was actively looking to substitute Chinese funding and investment with other sources. This development would mesh with another statement Sirisena had made on foreign policy in his election manifesto. He noted a desire to have balanced and well-diversified foreign relations: “Equal relations will be established with India, China, Pakistan and Japan — the principal countries of Asia while improving friendly relations with emerging Asian nations such as Thailand, Indonesia, and Korea without distinction.” The current reality of Sri Lanka-China relations is, of course, somewhere between abandonment and a complete pivot from Colombo’s side. The Sirisena government is also overseeing a potential period of great political change domestically in Sri Lanka, including reform that could lead to a return for Mahinda Rajapaksa as prime minister–a position that has been strengthened under recent reforms by the Sirisena government. If Rajapaksa return to the fore in Sri Lankan politics, it is expected that things will pick up with China.
TALIBAN CAPTURE DASHT-E-ARCHI IN NORTHERN AFGHANISTAN
This year, the withdrawal of foreign forces and a reduction in U.S. air strikes have allowed Taliban fighters, who ruled Afghanistan with an iron fist from 1996 to 2001, to launch several major attacks in important provinces. A district in the northern province of Kunduz fell to the Taliban this week. Officials said the militants were able to take over when urgently needed reinforcements failed to arrive. The Taliban captured Dasht-e-Archi district a day after hundreds of militants fought their way to the centre of the adjacent district of Chardara. In another major attempt, Taliban suicide bomber and six gunmen attacked the Afghan parliament as lawmakers met to consider a new defence minister, and another district in the volatile north fell to the militants as they intensified a summer offensive. The brazen assault on the symbolic centre of power, along with territorial gains elsewhere, highlight how NATO-trained Afghan security forces are struggling to cope with worsening militant violence. Fighting has spiraled since the departure of most foreign forces from Afghanistan at the end of last year. The insurgents are pushing to take territory more than 13 years after U.S.-led military intervention toppled them from power. Meanwhile, all lawmakers were safe. A woman was killed and around 30 civilians were wounded in the attack.
AUSTRALIA TO JOIN CHINA LED AIIB
Australia will join the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) as a founding member and contribute $930m (£455m, €639m, US$718m) to become its sixth-largest shareholder. l Joining the AIIB presents Australia with great opportunities to work with the neighbours and largest trading partner to drive economic growth and jobs. l The AIIB will work closely with the private sector, paving the way for Australian businesses to take advantage of the growth in infrastructure in the region. l Australia will contribute A$930m to the bank over the next five years, making it the sixthlargest shareholder. l Australia stated that it was now confident that China “will ensure that there is appropriate transparency and accountability in the bank”. l AIIB’s Articles of Agreement signing ceremony will be held in Beijing on 29 June. Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) l In October 2014, representatives of 21 Asian nations convened in Beijing to inaugurate the AIIB, which is focused on providing funding to infrastructure projects within Asia. The bank was initially capitalised with $50bn. www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  l A total of 57 countries across the globe have joined the AIIB as its prospective founding members. l Britain became the first major Western country to apply to become an AIIB founding member, and was followed by major European nations including France, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Austria. l The decision of the countries, most of which are close allies of the US, came despite warnings from the US over the AIIB’s governance and environmental standards. l The US and Japan are the major economies that have stayed out of the institution. l The China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is expects to begin operations by the end of 2015. l Unlike existing global lending bodies such as the World Bank, in which the United States has a dominant role and also the power to veto, the AIIB will give the Asian nation no such privilege. Instead, all members will participate in the decision-making process so as to achieve win-win results. l China will be the largest shareholder in the AIIB, followed by India. l China is expected to take a 25-30% stake in the $100bn bank. l China’s share will be less than 30%. India will have a stake between 10-15%. l Asian countries will account for 72-75% of the bank, which is said to be rivalling the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank in the region. l European and other nations will own the rest. World Bank View l Western-dominated international finance institutions, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), have spoken in favour of the China-led initiative, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). l The World Bank has welcomed its new rivals – the China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the New Development Bank (NDB) established by the Brics nations – saying the banks can coordinate to help reduce poverty in the global economy. l World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said both AIIB and NDB could be the World Bank’s strong allies in the economic development of poor countries and emerging markets. l If the world’s multilateral banks, including the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the New Development Bank, can form alliances, work together, and support development that addresses these challenges, all will benefit – especially the poor and most vulnerable. l The World Bank’s readiness to work with the AIIB and NDB comes as it targets to end extreme poverty by 2030 and boost shared prosperity among the poorest 40% in low- and middle-income countries. l At present, an estimated 12% people of the 7.3 billion world population are living in extreme poverty, compared to 36% of 5.2 billion population in 1990, according to the World Bank. l United Nations defines extreme poverty as “a condition characterised by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information.” l In order to eradicate poverty, more financing is needed in the areas of infrastructure, energy, and water, and the new international banks may fill in the gaps. l According to an estimate the world needs an additional US$1 to 1.5tn dollars every year to be invested in infrastructure – roads, bridges, railways, airports, and energy plants.
FIRST SPECIES OF YETI CRAB FOUND IN ANTARCTICA
The first species of Yeti crab from hydrothermal vent systems in Antarctica, has been discovered by a team of British scientists. l Named after world-renowned British deep-sea and polar biologist professor Paul Tyler, the species Kiwa Tyleri belongs to an enigmatic group of squat lobsters known as Kiwaidae. l The species occurring at extremely high densities exceeds 700 specimens per square metre. l The Antarctic Yeti crab is trapped in its warmwater hydrothermal vent site by the cold polar waters of the surrounding deep-sea. l The species has adapted to this very limited sized habitat – of a few cubic metres in volume [ 1 6 ] Weekly Current Affairs 21st June 2015 to 27th June, 2015 www.ias100.in – by living in highly-packed densities and by relying on bacteria they grow on their fur-like setae for nutrition. l Yeti crab is famous for its body, which is densely covered by bristles – known as setae – and bacteria, giving it a fur-like appearance. l Kiwa Tyleri’s appearance allows it to harvest the dense bacterial mats, which overgrow the surfaces of vent chimneys, on which it depends for food from the chemosynthetic bacteria. l For most of its life, Kiwa Tyleri is trapped within the warm water environment of the vent chimney. l The species is unable to move between vent sites because of the hostile, low temperature (about zero degrees Celsius), polar environment in between. l Crabs and lobsters, which are a characteristic of the global oceans, show an extremely low species number in polar seas. l Hydrothermal vent systems found in the Southern Ocean, therefore, present a unique warm-water refuge to Yeti crabs.
COUNTRY-WISE EMISSIONS OF CLIMATE-DAMAGING GREENHOUSE GASES
As the global community gears up for the crucial Paris climate summit, the World Resources Institute (WRI) — a global research organization — has come out with its latest analyses of the country-wise emissions of climate-damaging greenhouse gases. The WRI analysis is based on data from its Climate Analysis Indicators Tool (CAIT) that has recently released its emission figures for the year 2012. It also came out with details as how the various economic sectors have contributed to the overall emission. According to the figures: l The largest emitters contribute a majority of global emissions as the top 10 emitters contribute over 72% of global greenhouse gas emissions (excluding land use change and forestry). l On the other hand, the lowest 100 emitters contribute less than 3%. l Per capita emissions are still distributed unequally, with the per person emissions still vary among the top 10 emitters, with the United States’ per capita emissions eight times that of India. l The analysis also shows that emission sources vary by country. l While the energy sector dominates, industrial emissions in China contribute more than 3% of global emissions and new data from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) indicate that agriculture contributes a notable share of Brazil’s and Australia’s emissions. l Six of the top 10 emitters are developing countries. l China contributes approximately 25% of global emissions, making it the top emitter. l India, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico and Iran are also contributing relatively large shares of global emissions as their economies grow. l Developing countries like China, Mexico and Brazil are way ahead of India in terms of their per capita contribution to the overall emissions. l India despite being the fourth largest carbon emitter continues to be far behind the other three top big emitters in terms of per capita emission and, this is the reason why a section within the government in India has time and again argued not to compare the country’s action with that of the Chinese goal. l Though the data, released by the WRI, cannot be used as an excuse by India for not acting against its emission, such figures will certainly give the country an upper hand while negotiating for a global climate deal. India invariably uses the ‘per capita’ yardstick while insisting on more comprehensive actions from rich nations. l While universal climate action is necessary, significant mitigation actions are needed by the largest emitters, taking into account that they have different capacities to do so. l The energy sector is the dominant source of greenhouse gas emissions and it contributes more than 75% of global emissions. l A rapid transformation of the energy sector by 2050, as the G7 (top rich countries) suggested in their recent announcement, is necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. l Mitigation policy options that countries pursue should align with their national circumstances.
JAPAN LOWERS VOTING AGE TO 18
Japan’s parliament passed a bill to lower the voting age from 20 to 18, adding 2.4 million new voters to the nation’s current voting population of 104 million. The legislation will come into effect in time for next year’s upper house election. The passage of the bill follows a law passed last year lowering the voting age to 18 in 2018 for national referendums on the Constitution. l The last time Japan’s voting age was revised was in 1945, when the voting age was lowered from 25 to 20, and women were given the right to vote. l The new law puts Japan in line with nearly 90% of the world’s countries in setting the minimum voting age at 18. l It remains to be seen how the change will affect Japan’s elections and policies. Politicians have long courted older voters with generous pension benefits, ballooning the national debt as Japan rapidly ages. l But younger voters have stayed away from the polls in recent years. l Less than 33% of those in their 20s exercised their right to vote in last year’s general election in December. l In contrast, voter turnout for those in their 60s and over 70 were 68% and 60%, respectively.
INDIA & WORLD
CHINA, INDIA FAST-TRACK BCIM ECONOMIC CORRIDOR PROJECT
China and India are adding fresh momentum to the establishment of the Bangladesh-China-IndiaMyanmar (BCIM) economic corridor, which is expected to develop gradually before more ambitious goals are achieved. Chinese officials acknowledge that unlike in the past, when it was perceived to be dragging its feet, India is now showing enthusiasm over the project, which will link Kolkata with Kunming, the capital of China’s Yunnan province, passing through Myanmar and Bangladesh, with Mandalay and Dhaka among the focal points. The focus on linking provinces and States — in this case, Yunnan and West Bengal — seems to have given a new impulse to galvanising the plan. The main artery of the 2,800-km, K (Kolkata)- 2-K (Kunming) corridor is nearly ready. A stretch of less than 200 km, from Kalewa to Monywa in Myanmar, needs to be upgraded as an all-weather road. High Speed Corridor China is keen to establish a high speed rail link between Kunming and Kolkata as part of its efforts to revive the ancient silk route, traversing through Myanmar and Bangladesh. The proposal, which found a mention at the recently held Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) meet in Kunming, seeks to give a boost to the Bangladesh-China-IndiaMyanmar (BCIM) multi-model corridor project initiated by China. The high speed corridor would help the economies of Myanmar and Bangladesh as well, said Li Ji Ming, vice secretary of Yunnan provincial government while indicating funding from multilateral bodies such as Asian Development Bank. The 2800 kilometer rail route could be a critical component for the BCIM corridor that seeks cross border trade and flow of people. China has pledged $40 billion for the silk route, having a trade potential of USD 132 billion. China has been endeavouring for a revival of the silk route with a visionary plan to establish wide ranging connectivity from Kunming to Kolkata. Yunnan enjoys crucial geographical location, involving in GMS and BCIM regional cooperation. It is one of the major provinces engaged in construction of China-Indo-China peninsula economic corridor and BCIM economic corridor. As part of efforts to strengthen connectivity, Ming said Shandong Airlines would start flight services between Kunming and New Delhi from July 2015. Currently Kunming, capital of Southwest China’s Yunnan province, is only connected to Kolkata.
INDIA, S. AFRICA RENEW SC & TECH COOPERATION PACT
South Africa and India have renewed an agreement to extend cooperation in the field of social innovation, astronomy, agriculture, biotechnology and indigenous knowledge systems for the next three years. Relations between the two sides in science and technology dates back to 1995, when they signed a bilateral agreement. The instrument to implement this agreement is a programme of cooperation, which is renewed every three years. The Fourth Programme of Cooperation was signed during the 10th Joint Committee meeting on Science and Technology Cooperation, which was attended by senior officials from both countries recently. Deputy Director-General of South Africa’s International Cooperation and Resources Daan du Toit said that India, as an emerging market economy and a prominent player in the Asia-Pacific region, was an important strategic partner and played a significant role in South-South cooperation. This was evident in the establishment of the India-Africa Partnership in 2008, which aims to strengthen ties between the two emerging markets. South Africa values India’s support for science, www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  technology and innovation capacity building in Africa. Through our bilateral cooperation, South Africa and India are joining forces to put science, technology and innovation to work to advance global sustainable development, he said. Head of International Bilateral Cooperation in India’s Department of Science and Technology Dr Arabinda Mitra said India valued its historical partnership with South Africa. Through science and technology cooperation, both countries stand to benefit by addressing societal challenges and contributing to economic growth, Mitra said. This year marks 20 years of successful science and technology cooperation between South Africa and India, during which 74 joint research projects have been undertaken in areas such as biotechnology, information science, astronomy, food science, technologies for rural applications, indigenous knowledge systems, nanotechnology, and renewable energy. More than 220 South African researchers have received funding totalling 36 million Rand under the project.
INDIA, BRAZIL OPPOSE U.S. AT WTO
Switzerland and the U.S. have begun a campaign at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to not renew a moratorium on ‘non-violation complaints and situations’ for intellectual property rights that expires at the end of the year. Intellectual property laws are governed internationally by the Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement. The moratorium first came into being in 1995, when the WTO was born and has survived by way of several extensions. A non-violation and situation complaint can be raised against a WTO member when it undertakes a certain action which, while not violating WTO rules itself, denies another member an expected benefit by nullifying or countering another action or policy required by the WTO. Introducing subsidies to undo the effect of lowered tariffs would be an example of an action that could potentially attract a non-violation complaint. A proposal to continue the moratorium has been submitted by Brazil on behalf of a group of 19 countries that includes India and China. If the proposal is successful, the moratorium will continue after 2015, preserving the status quo. If unsuccessful, however, it opens the door to a new world of possibilities and litigation as far as intellectual property is concerned. Section 3(d) of the India Patents Act (1970) is likely to be a target of complainants, according to the Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society. This section of the Act defines what an invention is, and has been interpreted by the Indian Patent Office to deny patents for drugs such as Sovaldi, a hepatitis C drug by Gilead Sciences, and Glivec, a cancer drug by Novartis. The denial of these patents has significant benefits for access to affordable medication in India. It also has implications for the revenues of multinational pharmaceutical companies and their incentives to innovate.
INDIA’S AID FOR NEPAL’S RECONSTRUCTION PROGRAMME
India on June 25, 2015 pledged USD one billion in assistance to quake-ravaged Nepal for its massive reconstruction programme, asserting that it will strongly stand behind the Nepalese government which is seeking to “wipe the tears” of every Nepali. The announcement was made by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj during an international donors’ conference in Kathmandu, Nepal. Swaraj hoped that a “stronger, united and more confident Nepal will rise” from the debris of destruction. She said one fourth of the USD one billion assistance will be grant and it will be over and above India’s existing bilateral developmental assistance of another USD one billion over the next five years which takes the total assistance to USD 2 billion. Swaraj conveyed India’s deep and abiding commitment to rebuilding of Nepal and highlighted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi ensured a prompt rescue and relief operation within six hours of the 7.9-magnitude April 25 quake. I convey to you the deep and abiding commitment of the Government and 1.25 billion people of India and the personal commitment of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to stand shoulder to shoulder with you as you seek to wipe the tears of every Nepali, Swaraj said. There has been an overwhelming outpouring of sympathy, support and solidarity with Nepal and people in India “opened their hearts” to come to the country’s assistance. The International Conference on Nepal’s Reconstruction has been [ 2 0 ] Weekly Current Affairs 21st June 2015 to 27th June, 2015 www.ias100.in organised by the Nepalese government to raise funds for rebuilding the country devasted by a powerful earthquake that struck exactly two months back on April 25, killing about 9,000 people and injuring around 23,000 others besides flattening over five lakh houses. This pledge is over and above our existing bilateral developmental assistance of another one billion US dollars over the next five years, forty per cent of which would be Grant,” she said. The conference was attended by several countries, including China, Britain, Norway, Japan, Sri Lanka, the European Union besides the UN, World Bank and Asian Development Bank.
INDIA – THAILAND TO SIGN DOUBLE TAXATION AVOIDANCE TREATY
India and Thailand will sign a double taxation treaty and an MoU for setting up an Ayurveda Chair in one of the Thai Universities during the three-day visit of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj beginning on June 27, 2015. The Minister will be the guest of honour at the inaugural ceremony of the 16th World Sanskrit Conference, where she will deliver her speech in Sanskrit. Over 600 scholars from 60 countries will participate in the five-day conference. Ms. Swaraj will co-chair India-Thailand Joint Commission meeting during which the two countries will sign a double taxation avoidance treaty and exchange instruments of ratification on the extradition treaty signed between them in 2013. Ms. Swaraj will also meet Indian business leaders and hold interaction with academicians. She will meet Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thai government Gen Tanasak Patimapragorn. She will have an audience with Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, a scholar of Sanskrit and Royal Patron of the World Sanskrit Conference. Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani will attend the concluding ceremony of the conference on July 2.
INDIA MOVES TO RESET TIES WITH IRAN
India has begun to reset its ties with Iran, notwithstanding the uncertainty surrounding the negotiations between the Persian Gulf nation and the P5+1 (the U.K., China, France, Russia and the U.S.; and Germany) as the June 30 deadline for clinching a nuclear agreement draws near. After cutting down oil imports from Tehran in the recent past following sanctions, India is now keen on pushing for connectivity with Iran, which will pave the way for its entry into Afghanistan and the Central Asian region. An inter-government memorandum of understanding signed in May for the development of the Chabahar Port in Iran, a recent visit by Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar for Foreign Office discussions, and the impetus being given to the North-South Transport Corridor are perceived as attempts to mend ties. New Delhi has also ignored cautionary voices from the U.S. not to rush into doing business with Iran till it firms up the nuclear deal with it. After its meeting on June 12, members of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) reviewed the status of the dry run study between India, Iran and Russia via the Caspian Sea, a follow-up meeting to further streamline work related to the corridor has been scheduled for July. The international transport corridor across Nhava Sheva (Mumbai) through Bandar Abbas (Iran) to Astrakhan (Russia) and Baku (Azerbaijan) is expected to substantially reduce cargo transport time between India and Central Asia and Russia. Experts, however, pointed out that India must look beyond trade and economic ties. Aftab Kamal Pasha, www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  Professor at the Centre for West Asian Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, said India must vigorously pursue relations with Iran with an eye on possible cooperation to fight the emerging terror groups in Central Asia. The disturbing developments in Afghanistan, the penetration of militants into Central Asia, and the continued expansion of IS in Iraq, all necessitate better IndiaIran ties, he said. Former diplomat M. K. Bhadrakumar pointed out that India would need to work doubly hard to undo the damage caused by toeing the U.S. line. He said despite the sanctions, India should not have allowed its relations with Iran to decline. There has to be a political outreach by India. If Australia could visit Iran, why not India? Before the sanctions, economic ties between India and Iran were growing exponentially, he explained.
BCIM CORRIDOR: PROVIDE ACCESS TO SEA FOR NE STATES
In Kunming, the leafy International Regional Cooperation Office of Yunnan, is at the centre of the plans to develop the BCIM corridor. In a freewheeling conversation, its Deputy Director-General Jin Cheng said India is upgrading the road segment between Silchar in Assam and Imphal in Manipur. From the West Bengal capital, the corridor will head towards Benapole, a border crossing town in Bangladesh. After passing through Dhaka and Sylhet, it will re-enter the Indian territory near Silchar in Assam. The rest of the passage will be connected with Imphal and then pass through the India-built Tamu-Kalewa friendship road in Myanmar. Mandalay will be the next focal point of the corridor before the road enters Yunnan, after crossing Lashio and Muse in Myanmar. The Chinese stretch extends from Ruili before reaching Kunming through Longling and Dali. The central corridor can be connected with two supplementary passages to the north and the south. Starting from Kunming, the northern passage heads towards Myitkyina, capital of Kachin state in Myanmar, before extending to Ledo in Assam. After crossing Dibrugarh and Guwahati, this road enters northern Bangladesh and joins the central corridor inside the country, before reaching Kolkata. At present, this route is problematic because it enters a small portion of Arunachal Pradesh over which India and China have a territorial dispute. Besides, a part of this stretch is insurgency-prone, and therefore unsafe. Starting from Kunming, the southern corridor enters Bangladesh through Myanmar, with one branch heading towards the Cox Bazar port, while the other rejoins the central corridor in Dhaka. The Chinese official pointed out that the BCIM corridor would be incomplete without drawing Mizoram into the framework through the Kaladan multimodal transit transport project. Under this plan, Mizoram would be connected with Myanmar’s port of Sittwe, through the Kaladan River, and the passage will provide all the landlocked north-eastern States access to the sea. Mr. Jin acknowledged that one of the strategic factors driving the corridor was reduction of reliance on the Straits of Malacca, militarily dominated by the U.S.
REPORT: INDIA LEADS FDI IN S ASIA WITH 34 BILLION INVESTMENT IN 2014
India leads regional inflow of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in South Asia accounting for $ 34 billion investment during 2014 and the upward trend is likely to continue this year also, according to a UN report which placed China as the world’s largest FDI recipient. FDI inflows to the country (India) surged by 22 per cent to about $ 34 billion improving its position to 9th top host country for FDI in 2014, over its rank of 15th in 2013, the UNCTAD’s World Investment Report 2015 said . India is likely to maintain an upward trend in 2015 as economy recovery gains ground, the report added. FDI inflows to South Asia rose to $ 41 billion in 2014, primarily owing to good performance by India, it said. In terms of the sectoral composition of FDI flows, manufacturing is likely to gain strength, as policy efforts to revitalise the industrial sector are sustained, including, for instance, the ‘Make in India’ initiative launched in mid-2014,” the report said. The top five recipients in South Asia of FDI inflows were India, followed by Iran, Pakistan and Bangladesh ($ 2 billion each) and Sri Lanka ($ 1 billion). In the UN report, Asia is divided into three sub-regions: East and South East Asia, West Asia [ 2 2 ] Weekly Current Affairs 21st June 2015 to 27th June, 2015 www.ias100.in and South Asia. According to the report, China became the world’s largest recipient of FDI ($ 129 billion) toppling the US ($ 92 billion). However, global FDI inflows fell by 16 per cent to $ 1.23 trillion in 2014, mostly because of the fragility of the global economy, policy uncertainty for investors and elevated geopolitical risks and new investments were also offset by some large divestments, it said. The groups of countries negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and Trans-Pacific Partnership saw their combined share of global FDI inflows decline. Asia overall bucked the global trend with historically high levels of inward FDI to developing economies at $ 681 billion marking a 2 per cent rise. Among the top 10 FDI recipients in the world, five are developing economies.“India was also the biggest investor in outward FDI in South Asia with $ 9.8 billion marking an increase of 486 per cent over 2013. However, India does not figure in the first top 20 countries for FDI outflows. There was an abnormal decrease (in outward FDI investment in India) in 2013 because of macroeconomic uncertainties when some of the Indian MNCs divested. The figures are now back on track but still lower than figures (of outward FDI investment) in 2009, 2010 and 2011, said Guoyong Liang, UNCTAD Asia head of the Investment Division. The US had the largest outward flow of FDI ($ 337 billion) followed by Hong Kong-China ($ 142 billion) and China ($ 116 billion).
MAHARASHTRA GOVERNMENT GIVES NOD TO IT & ITES POLICY 2015
The Maharashtra state cabinet gave its nod for the new policy that aims at an investment of Rs 50,000 crore along with employment generation to the tune of 1 million jobs. The policy is aimed at doubling the exports in IT-enabled services from the current Rs 50,000 crore to Rs 1 lakh crore. The cabinet also gave the nod for allocation of Rs 25 crore for the current year for effective implementation of the policy. l This is the fourth IT policy in this field, after the 1999, 2003 and 2009 policies. l The information technology sector will be able to create integrated IT townships as well as start rural BPOs with the new ITES (Information Technology Enabled Services) policy in place. l The sector will now enjoy an FSI (Floor Space Index) of 3, up from the current 2, while setting up companies, in addition to many other benefits. l The new policy has simplified the procedures with crystal clear definition of IT-enabled services. The definition by the Central Board for Direct Taxes for IT-enabled services was accepted by the state government while framing the policy. l The concept of integrated IT townships has been introduced in this policy with minimum area of 10 hectares (25 acres). l For making the state competitive vis-a-vis Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, the new policy provides more FSI for ITES, and that for integrated townships global FSI would be given, which means there is no restriction on using the FSI. l For starting rural BPOs, subsidy up to Rs25 lakh will be provided, in addition to help from the state government, for training of 50 people from the local villages. l In the field of animation and gaming, the new policy will provide waiver of entertainment tax to animation films which complete 50% of animation work in Maharashtra. l Similarly, films with special effects and VFX will be provided with 50% subsidy with a cap of Rs2.5 crore. l Government will be providing incentives for attracting investments in data centres. l If investors start an IT-enabled services industry and later misuse the benefits, heavy penalty, to the tune of 0.3% of the investment per day, would be imposed. l The new policy has clearly stated the negative, as to what kind of activities, including malls and theatres, are not allowed in the IT-enabled services premises. l The building houses and selling those in the plots availed for IT-enabled services won’t be allowed either and stringent measures will be adopted to deal with such cases. l The ITES will be provided with benefits in stamp duty, electricity bills, property tax on par with residential rates, electricity supply at industrial rate, and benefits in VAT. l Presently, Maharashtra ranks second in the country for the exports of IT & ITES after Karnataka. l The policies in 2003 and 2009 resulted in generating employment of 7.48 lakh, with an export of Rs 3.24 lakh crore. It also resulted in creating 465 private and 37 public sector IT parks along with 748,000 direct jobs.
INDIA EMERGES AS THIRD LARGEST FDI SOURCE FOR UNITED KINGDOM
The UK has maintained its position as the number one destination for FDI in Europe after attracting a record number of projects from over 70 countries including India, bringing in the largest financial value and associated jobs over the past year. The annual investment figures from UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) for 2014-15 show: l Britain attracted 1,988 FDI projects – 12 per cent more compared to 2013-14, estimated to have brought with them almost 85,000 new [ 2 4 ] Weekly Current Affairs 21st June 2015 to 27th June, 2015 www.ias100.in jobs and 23,000 safeguarded jobs across the UK. l Investment from India increased by 65 per cent, making it the UK’s third largest source of FDI accounting for over 9,000 new and safeguarded jobs. l The UK’s strong performance during 2014 has seen the country’s inward FDI stock – the value of accumulated FDI in the UK – break the 1 trillion pound-level for the first time. l This is the highest in Europe and the third in the world after the United States and China. l FDI into the UK came from more than 70 countries, including the world’s leading emerging markets. l The US remains the largest source of inward investment, with a total of 564 projects in 2014/ 15, followed by France (124 projects). l There was also evidence of a strengthening relationship with China with 112 projects, including 13 from Hong Kong, in 2014-15 resulting in almost 6,000 new and safeguarded jobs.
ASCI LAUNCHES MOBILE APP TO CURB MISLEADING ADVERTISEMENTS
In a bid to address misleading advertisements, the Advertising Standard Council of India (ASCI) launched its consumer complaint mobile application – ASCIonline, to provide consumer complaint services on a mobile app besides providing the facility online. According to ASCI chairman, Narendra Ambwani, “One of the goals of ASCI is to provide convenient access for lodging complaint and hence this launch of mobile app.” The mobile app is currently available on android and iOS platforms. l Today mobile devices are more widely used compared to desktops. l With growing use of smartphones, consumers want apps to put power of doing transactions in their pocket. l ASCIonline Mobile App is consumer friendly and can be freely downloaded. l It will be very useful in tracking the status of the complaints which a person has registered on ASCI portal with the help of the App. Key features of ASCIOnline: Lodge complaint: Lodge complaints by simply providing advertisement details and objection. Users can also attach the files like image or video or YouTube link of that advertisement. History: Check the history of all previously registered complaints with the latest status and all other details. Complaint Tracking: Simply track the status of the complaints by providing the tracking code of the complaint. Manage profile: Manage profile and contact details. Push Notifications: Receive the automatic push notifications when status of your complaint gets changed. No need to Login/Logout: It’s always on and connected. Advertising Standard Council of India (ASCI) Like other countries around the world, India too has a self-regulatory organization (SRO) for advertising content – The Advertising Standards Council of India, ASCI founded in 1985. The three main constituents of advertising industry viz advertisers, advertising agencies and media came together to form this independent NGO. The aim of ASCI is to maintain and enhance the public’s confidence in advertising. Their mandate is that all advertising material must be truthful, legal and honest, decent and not objectify women, safe for consumers – especially children and last but not the least, fair to their competitors ASCI’s team consists of the Board of Governors, the Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) and its Secretariat. ASCI has 12 members in its Board of Governors, four each representing the key sectors such as Advertisers, advertising agencies, media and allied professions such as market research, consulting, business education etc. The CCC currently has about 21 members: 9 are from within the industry and 12 are from the civil society like well-known doctors, lawyers, journalists, academicians, consumer activists, etc. The CCC’s decision on complaint against any ad is final. ASCI also has its own independent Secretariat of 5 members which is headed by the Secretary General. There is no other non governmental body in India which regulates the advertising content that is released in India. If an ad that is released in India seems objectionable, a person can write to ASCI with their complaint. This complaint will be www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  deliberated on by the CCC after providing due process to advertiser to defend the ad against the complaint and depending on whether the ad is in alignment with the ASCI code and law of the land, the complaint is upheld or not upheld and if upheld then the ad is voluntarily either withdrawn or modified. In 2007, the Government of India amended the Cable TV Network Rules’ Advertising Code by which ads which violate ASCI code cannot be permitted on TV. Almost all professional fields have selfregulatory bodies governing their activities. For the advertising fraternity, until 1985 there was none. Due to this there was a lot of false, misleading and offensive advertising. This led to consumers losing faith in advertising and hence resenting it. It was decided that if this continued it would not take time for statutory regulations such as censorship to be imposed on advertising content. In 1985, the ASCI adopted a Code for SelfRegulation in Advertising. With the introduction of the code, the aim is to promote honest and decent advertising and fair competition in the industry. It will also ensure the protection of consumer interests and the all concerned with the ad industry – advertisers, media, advertising agencies and others who help in the creation or placement of advertisements. As the fraternity starts accepting the code, it will result in fewer false claims, fewer unfair advertisements and increased respect for advertisers.
EPFO MAKES UAN MANDATORY FOR ALL EMPLOYERS UNDER ITS PURVIEW
Retirement fund body EPFO notified an order to make Universal Account Number (UAN) mandatory for all employers covered under the Employees Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1952. l The government was considering the proposal to make UAN mandatory for availing of benefit of the scheme. l The UAN facility was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in October last year. l The deadline for completing the formalities is August 25 after which action will be taken under the powers given to us by the Employees Provident Funds Scheme, 1952, and other applicable laws for failure to comply with the order. l The UAN remains portable throughout the lifetime of an employee and they don’t have to apply for PF transfer claims at changing jobs. l It is even more beneficial for workers in the construction sector, who often change their contractor after short span of time and take up new jobs after fining one contract. l Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) had issued over four crore UANs to employers across the country in July last year. l These UANs were then provided to workers and the process of seeding these accounts with KYC details like PAN, Bank Account and Aadhaar started. l At present, as many as 56.34 lakh workers have activated their portable PF account numbers. l All subscribers have to activate their UAN themselves by logging into the account. l After the due process, as many as 2.8 crore UANs are ready for activation but these many account holders have not provided their bank account details as per the EPFO website. l There are additional 1.71 crore UANs which were made ready for activation by subscribers who had provided banks accounts details. l The bank account details are necessary for using UAN for various claims including PF withdrawals. However, those subscribers who have UAN but not provided bank account details can activate their UAN and access it online.
SEBI EASES LISTING, FUND-RAISING NORMS FOR START-UPS
In a major boost for start-ups, capital markets regulator SEBI relaxed its regulations for them to list and raise funds through a dedicated platform on domestic stock exchanges, rather than going overseas. Under the new norms approved by SEBI’s board: l The stock exchanges would have a separate institutional trading platform for listing of startups from the new age sectors, including ecommerce firms, while the minimum investment requirement would be Rs 10 lakh. l For their listing, SEBI has relaxed the mandatory lock-in period for the promoters and other pre- [ 2 6 ] Weekly Current Affairs 21st June 2015 to 27th June, 2015 www.ias100.in listing investors to six months, as against three years for other companies. l Besides, the disclosure requirements for these companies have also been relaxed. l At least 25 per cent of their pre—issue capital would need to be with institutional investors for technology start-ups, while this requirement would be 50 per cent for companies from other areas. Indian start-up space is very vibrant and the country is ranked number five as far as start-ups are concerned. More than 3,100 start-ups are there in the country and a large number of M&As have also happened. However, most of these start-ups were thinking of listing outside, so a very special provision for start-ups has been made . Under the new norms, 75 per cent shares can be reserved for institutional investors, while allocation can be on discretionary basis for such investors. For noninstitutional categories, it will be on proportional basis. SEBI has also provided for reclassification of promoters as public investors provided they let go their entire special rights, including voting powers, and do not own more than 10 per cent stake. However, an outgoing promoter can serve as a CEO or hold other senior positions for up to three years if the same is approved by the company’s board.
NSE TO BEGIN OVERNIGHT INVESTMENT FACILITY
Country’s top stock exchange NSE has introduced an overnight liquid transaction facility on its web-based Mutual Fund platform. l The facility will enable traders, especially small investors, to invest even for a single night in liquid funds. l A similar product was introduced last month by BSE. l The exchange has seen daily transactions worth Rs 400-500 crore in the product so far. l Exchange is now introducing an order entry functionality which shall allow the participants to place purchase and redemption orders simultaneously in liquid schemes. l This facility will only be available on Mutual Fund Service System ( MFSS) web-based platform and in physical mode only. l Participants shall be allowed to enter overnight orders in liquid scheme between 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. l The exchange would provide a separate window to place overnight orders on the webbased platform. l Under the new facility, all liquid schemes allowed by respective asset management companies ( AMC) would be available for placing orders. l Participants shall enter the subscription and redemption order simultaneously in overnight liquid order entry window. l Mutual Fund Service System (MFSS) is an online order collection system provided by NSE to its eligible members for placing subscription or redemption orders.
DRAFT PROPOSALS FOR FACILITATING ELECTRONIC TRANSACTIONS
The finance ministry has issued draft proposals for facilitating electronic transactions that are aimed at bringing transparency in the economy and promoting cashless payments. Its objective is to improve the ease of conducting transactions for individuals and cut costs of managing cash. The decision, once implemented, will also go a long way in reducing tax avoidance that is rampant because of cash payments. By facilitating electronic transactions, the government will be able to build a transactions history which will in turn help customers in getting loans easily and will help in financial inclusion. E-transactions are defined as transactions in which the customer authorizes the transfer of money through electronic means, and the funds flow directly from one account to another. It aims to replace the use of cash by providing necessary incentives to use e-transactions. To give this initiative a major boost, the ministry is also planning to offer income tax benefits to consumers for paying a certain portion of their expenditure through electronic means. Tax benefits could be provided to merchants for accepting electronic payments, e.g. an appropriate tax rebate can be extended to a merchant if at least say 50% value of the transactions is through electronic means. Alternatively, 1-2% reduction in value added tax could be considered on all electronic transactions by the merchants.” www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  Here are 6 ways that electronic payments will save individuals money: l At present, there is a Merchant Discount Rate (MDR) of 0.75% on Debit Card transactions upto Rs.2000 and 1% on all transactions above Rs.2000. The possibility of reduction in the MDR and the rationalization of the distribution of the MDR across different stakeholders will be examined. l Income tax benefits to consumers and merchants, including a 1-2% reduction in value added tax on all transactions, is under consideration. l The government could also levy a cash handling charge on transactions greater than a specified level. This is aimed at pushing people towards using their debit or credit cards to make payments. l High value transactions, like more than Rs. 1 lakh, could be mandated only through electronic means. l Currently, banks have to report transactions of over Rs 2 lakh made via credit cards. This limit may be increased to Rs 5 lakh or more. l Currently, the telecom companies are levying an Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) charge of Rs. 1.50 per transaction for mobile banking/payments. To enhance adoption of mobile banking/payment, the USSD charges could be examined and rationalized.” The ministry has invited comments and suggestions on these draft guidelines and the deadline for the same is June 29, 2015, 5 pm.
MUMBAI INTER-BANK OFFER RATE (MIBOR)
The Board of Financial Benchmarks India Pvt Ltd (FBIL) has decided to take over the administration of the overnight Mumbai Inter-bank Offer Rate (Mibor) benchmark (so far being published by the National Stock Exchange) as a first step in the process of taking over responsibility of benchmark setting over a period of time. Mibor is currently calculated everyday by the NSE as a weighted average of inter-bank offer (lending) rates of a group of 30 banks. FBIL, which is a three-way joint venture between Fixed Income, Money Market and Derivatives Association of India (76 per cent stake), Foreign Exchange Dealers Association of India (14 per cent) and Indian Banks’ Association (10 per cent), will bring out the new benchmark — FBIL Overnight Mumbai Interbank Outright Rate (FBILOvernight Mibor). FBIL-Overnight Mibor will adopt a benchmark based on trade weighted inter-bank call money transactions on the Clearing Corporation of India Ltd’s Negotiated Dealing System-Call platform. The new benchmark will apply on a prospective basis to contracts that have trade dates on or after Wednesday. As the new benchmark will be based on actual deals in the inter-bank call money market as against the current practise of polled rates, the FBILOvernight Mibor benchmark it will bring more credibility and integrity in the financial markets as well as the real sector. FBIL proposes to take over administration of foreign exchange benchmarks and other Indian Rupee interest rate benchmarks over a period of time after careful examination of the methodology and utility to the financial markets in consultation with the stakeholders. There will be periodic review of the benchmark methods to ensure that they are robust and conform to the best governance standards.
SCIENCE & TECH
MOM COMPLETES 100TH ORBIT AROUND MARS
The Indian Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) completed its 100th orbit around Mars on June 22, 2015. It is also gradually coming out of the blackout it had entered earlier this month, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has said. The payloads on the spacecraft are to be restarted in a few weeks. They were last operated on May 27 to put the spacecraft in an autonomous mode. MOM remains healthy and all its payloads are performing satisfactorily, ISRO said. The Mars Colour Camera has taken 405 frames so far. The spacecraft’s health data is now being received,” ISRO said, and added that the orbiter now had an elliptical orbit of 474 km and 71,132 km from the red planet. Since early June, the Mars Orbiter Mission and Mars were moving behind the sun as viewed from the earth. Two-way signals were disrupted by solar activities. Launched from Indian spaceport of Sriharikota on November 5, 2013, MOM reached the red planet in September 2014 and has outlived its planned mission life of six months in a Martian orbit.
NASA TO BEAM ISS ASTRONAUTS’ VIEW
NASA is sending Microsoft’s virtual reality headset to the International Space Station (ISS) to beam back to the Earth what astronauts see in space. NASA and Microsoft are teaming up to develop Sidekick, a new project using commercial technology to empower astronauts aboard the ISS. A pair of the tech giant’s devices called HoloLens is scheduled to launch on SpaceX’s seventh commercial resupply mission to the station on June 28. HoloLens and other virtual and mixed reality devices are cutting-edge technologies that could help drive future exploration and provide new capabilities to the men and women conducting critical science on the International Space Station. The goal of Sidekick is to enable station crews with assistance when and where they need it.
LASER BEAMS MAY CONTROL PATH OF LIGHTNING
Scientists found how to use lasers to guide electric discharges and steer them around obstacles, a finding that may allow humans to control the path of lightning. Lightning dart across the sky in a flash, and even though we can use lightning rods to increase the probability of it striking at a specific location, its exact path remains unpredictable. At a smaller scale, discharges between two electrodes behave in the same manner, streaking through space to create electric arcs where only the start and end points are fixed. Using the Advanced Laser Light Source (ALLS) facility, researchers from the INRS Energie Materiaux Telecommunications Research Centre in Quebec, found a way to guide electric discharges, and even steer them around obstacles, through the clever use of lasers. Electric arcs have long been used in technologies such as combustion engines, pollution control applications, lighting, machining and micromachining. Potential applications may multiply with the ability to precisely control the path they take, researchers said. A first step in this direction has been made and research into the new possibilities and parameters for guiding electric arcs promises to spark researchers’ creativity. Researchers demonstrated an electric charge follow a smooth path along a straight or parabolic trajectory. Experimental figures show how different shaped lasers give discharges distinct properties and trajectories. By combining beams, it is even possible to achieve an S-shaped trajectory, with all other kinds of trajectory achievable in principle. Professor Roberto Morandotti wanted to determine whether the self-healing properties of certain shapes of laser beams (such as Airy and Bessel beams) could be put to use in these new experiments. This attribute means that a laser beam, whose intensity peak is blocked by an obstacle, can reconstruct itself once past the object, researchers said. The team placed an object between the two electrodes and observed that the discharge leapt over the obstacle, without damaging it, and returned to its laser guide on the other side.
FLEXIBLE ‘SKIN-LIKE’ COLOUR DISPLAY DEVELOPED
Indian-American researcher Debashis Chanda from University of Central Florida (UCF) has developed a nature-inspired technique for creating the world’s first full-colour, flexible thin-film reflective display. A fully flexible colour display inspired by chameleon skin has been developed by a team in Florida. Its creators stated that it could be used to alter soldiers’ camouflage instantly, allow normal clothes to change colour, or create lowpowered e-reader screens. The colour change is achieved by applying different voltage levels to the display. The team has been given a $300,000 (£190,000) grant to develop the technology further. One create a surface which absorbs some light, and reflects the remaining light, Prof Debashis Chanda, of the University of Central Florida said. By adding the ability to selectively absorb different colours, the remaining amount of light creates the different colour perception. He said the technology was some way off being a commercially available product, as he wanted to refine it further. Prof Chanda stated that the amount of voltage needed to power the display was low enough to be safe. Your pocket has a cell phone – having a tiny battery is not really too much of a danger. A tiny battery will be able to power this process. Stretchable and flexible Previous attempts at creating similar technology produced displays that could produce only a limited colour palette. Prof Chanda said his technology was the first to offer the full RGB colour model – red, green and blue. The design of the display had been inspired by nature, he said. All manmade displays – LCD, LED, CRT – are rigid, brittle and bulky. But you look at an octopus, they can create colour on the skin itself, covering a complex body contour, and it’s stretchable and flexible. The display is extremely lightweight – thinner than a human hair. Simply put, if someone at a wedding reception is wearing the same dress as you, the technology can help you switch yours to a different colour in the blink of an eye. All manmade displays like LCD and LED are rigid, brittle and bulky. But you look at an octopus. He can create colour on the skin itself covering a complex body contour and it is stretchable and flexible, said professor Chanda. That was the motivation: Can we take some inspiration from biology and create a skin-like display? Chanda was able to change the colour on an ultra-thin nano-structured surface by applying voltage. The new method does not need its own light source. Rather, it reflects the ambient light around it. Traditional displays like those on a mobile phone require a light source, filters and a glass plates. But animals like chameleons, octopuses and squids are born with thin, flexible, colour-changing displays that do not need a light source – their skin. Chanda’s display is only about few microns thick, compared to a 100-micron-thick human hair. Such an ultra-thin display can be applied to flexible materials like plastics and synthetic fabrics. The research has major implications for existing electronics like televisions, computers and mobile devices that have displays considered thin by today’s standards but monstrously bulky in comparison. The potentially bigger impact could be whole new categories of displays that have never been thought of. This is a cheap way of making displays on a flexible substrate with full-colour generation.
ECOLOGY & ENVIRONMENT
AIR POLLUTION KILLS 3.2 MILLION PEOPLE ACROSS THE WORLD EVERY YEAR
Air pollution kills more people every year than Aids and malaria combined, warns new research. Scientists said meeting global air quality guidelines could prevent 2.1 million deaths per year. They developed a global model of how changes in outdoor air pollution could reduce health problems, including heart attack, stroke and lung cancer. And their findings reveal outdoor particulate air pollution results in 3.2 million premature deaths each year – more than the combined impact of HIVAids and malaria. By meeting the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) particulate air quality guidelines, the team of environmental engineering and public health researchers estimated 2.1 million early deaths could be prevented. The new study is the first detailed analysis of how improvements in particulate air pollution worldwide would yield improvement in health, and where those improvements would occur. The researchers looked at outdoor air pollution from particulate matter (PM) smaller than 2.5 microns which can enter deep into the lungs. Breathing PM is associated with increased risk of heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular disease; respiratory illnesses such as emphysema; and cancer. PM pollution comes from fires, coal power plants, cars and lorries, plus agricultural and industrial emissions. In low-income countries, PM also comes from burning coal, wood, crop waste and animal dung for cooking and heating, and from open burning rubbish. Lead author Doctor Joshua Apte, of the University of Texas, said: ‘We wanted to determine how much cleaner different parts of the world would need to be in order to substantially reduce death from particulate matter. The researchers believed our model could help in designing strategies to protect public health. they said, worldwide, most people live in areas with PM concentrations far above WHO’s air quality guideline of 10 micrograms per cubic metre, with some parts of India and China experiencing levels that exceed 100. Confirming the researchers’ expectations, the study demonstrated major potential to reduce mortality from PM in the world’s most polluted regions. But one of the study’s unexpected findings was that cleaning air in less polluted parts of the world, including Western Europe, can have as much health benefit as similar measures taken in the most polluted areas.
STUDY WARNS NOISY ROADS AT RISK OF EARLY DEATH
Living in an area with noisy road traffic may reduce life expectancy as well as increase the risk of strokes, scientists have warned. The research led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, in partnership with Imperial College London and King’s College London, found a link between long-term exposure to road traffic noise and deaths, as well as a greater risk of stroke, particularly in the elderly. Researchers analysed data for 8.6 million people living in London between 2003 and 2010. They looked at levels of road traffic noise during the day (7 a.m. to 11p.m.) and at night (11 p.m. to 7 a.m.) across different postcodes, comparing the data to deaths and hospital admissions in each area for adults (aged 25 and over) and the elderly (aged 75 and over). Deaths were four per cent more common among adults and the elderly in areas with daytime road traffic noise of more than 60 decibel (dB) compared with areas with less than 55 decibel (dB). The researchers said the deaths were most likely to be linked to cardiovascular disease. They said this could be due to increased blood pressure, sleep problems and stress from the noise Adults living in areas with the noisiest daytime traffic (more than 60dB) were 5 per cent more likely to be admitted www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  to hospital for stroke compared to those who lived in quieter areas (less than 55dB). For the elderly, this increase in risk rose to 9 per cent. Night time noise (55-60 dB) from road traffic was also associated with a 5 per cent increased stroke risk, but only in the elderly. Road traffic noise has previously been associated with sleep problems and increased blood pressure, but our study is the first in the UK to show a link with deaths and strokes, said lead author Dr Jaana Halonen from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. These findings contribute to the body of evidence suggesting reductions in traffic noise could be beneficial to our health. However, our study does raise important questions about the potential health effects of noise in our cities that need further investigation, Hansell said.
BLUE MORMON: MAHARASHTRA’S STATE BUTTERFLY
Maharashtra has become the first State in the country to have a ‘State butterfly.’ The BJP-led government has declared the Blue Mormon (Papilio polymnestor) as the State butterfly. The decision was taken at a meeting of the State Wildlife Board in Mumbai on June 21, 2015. The Blue Mormon is a large, swallowtail butterfly found primarily in Sri Lanka and India, mainly restricted to the Western Ghats of Maharashtra, South India and coastal belts. It may occasionally be spotted in the Maharashtrian mainland between Vidarbha and Western Maharashtra. It is reportedly the second largest butterfly found in India, just smaller than the southern birdwing. “No State in India has ever declared a State butterfly and the species has been one of the most neglected,” said a statement from the office of State Forest Department Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, explaining the rationale behind the announcement. Easily identifiable, the Blue Mormon boasts exquisite velvet-like black wings with bright blue spots.
CLEANER AIR COULD SAVE 1.4 MILLION LIVES IN INDIA, CHINA: STUDY
“Improving air quality could prevent up to 1.4 million premature deaths per year in polluted countries such as China and India, a new study has found. The study also warned that with no changes in air pollution, deaths per capita from air pollution would increase 20 to 30 per cent during the next 15 years in India and China. The researchers found that meeting the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) particulate air quality guidelines could prevent 2.1 million deaths per year related to outdoor air pollution worldwide. Joshua S Apte of the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas Austin and his team looked at outdoor air pollution from particulate matter (PM) smaller than 2.5 microns. Those particles can enter deep into the lungs. Breathing PM is associated with increased risk of heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular disease; respiratory illnesses such as emphysema; and cancer. The study used the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation’s Global Burden of Disease 2010 database; estimates of PM concentrations derived from ground-based measurements, satellite observations and air pollution models; and WHO’s air quality guidelines. Worldwide, most people live in areas with PM concentrations far above WHO’s air quality guideline of 10 microgrammes per cubic metre, with some parts of India and China experiencing levels that exceed 100. The study demonstrated major potential to reduce mortality from PM in the world’s most polluted regions. One of the study’s unexpected findings was that cleaning air in less polluted parts of the world, including in North America and Western Europe, can have as much health benefit as similar measures taken in the most polluted areas. The study determined that meeting WHO’s air quality guidelines could prevent up to 1.4 million premature deaths per year in polluted areas such as China and India. Meeting WHO guidelines in clean regions could reduce premature deaths from outdoor pollution by more than half a million deaths per year. Another important finding is that because of ageing populations, health risks in many countries will increase even if pollution levels are constant. The study found that with no changes in air pollution, deaths per capita from air pollution would increase 20 to 30 per cent during the next 15 years in India and China. If also accounting for population growth, the increase in deaths would be even greater if those countries experience no change in air pollution, researchers said.
MOBILE APP TO AID CLEAN GANGA MISSION
The Centre on June 22, 2015 launched a mobile application, where the public can upload pictures of pollution sources of the Ganga river for further action by the authorities concerned. Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti launched Bhuvan Ganga Mobile Application and web portal after signing of an MoU between the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) and the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), ISRO to effectively plan and monitor the Centre’s flagship Clean Ganga Mission in New Delhi, a statement said. Bhuvan Ganga portal is an exclusive web portal deployed in ISRO Bhuvan’s geoportal with all geospatial layers related to river Ganga. It will be used as a tool to support decision making and planning for the Clean Ganga Mission. Bhuvan Mobile App is a user-friendly android based application to enable public to collect and report information on various pollution sources that affects the water quality of river Ganga. This mobile app will provide a platform for crowd sourcing to monitor pollution in river Ganga and enable decision makers to prioritise interventions. The first version of the app is available for download in the Bhuvan Ganga web portal (http:/ /bhuvan.nrsc.gov.in/ganga), the statement added. The statement also said that the objective of the MoU is to utilise the geospatial and crowd-sourcing technologies for pollution monitoring in river Ganga. T V S N Prasad, Mission Director, NMCG and P G Diwakar, Deputy Director, Remote Sensing Applications Area, NRSC, ISRO signed the MoU. Speaking on the occasion, Bharti said ISRO’s participation in the Clean Ganga Mission is need of hour. She emphasised on focusing the key issues related with the cleaning of river Ganga as per the situation demanded, the statement added.
TREATMENT FOR PNEUMONIA
Drug firm Jubilant Life Sciences has received approval from the US health regulator to market generic levofloxacin tablets, used to treat various infections including pneumonia. The company has received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) to market generic version of Levaquin tablets in strengths of 250 mg and 500 mg in the American market, the firm said in a statement. The drug is used to treat adults with infections such as pneumonia, bacterial sinusitis, chronic bronchitis, skin and skin structure infections, chronic bacterial prostatitis, urinary tract infections and inhalational anthrax. WHO:
INSECTICIDES LINDANE AND DDT LINKED TO CANCER
The insecticide lindane, once widely used in agriculture and to treat human lice and scabies, causes cancer and has been specifically linked to non-Hodgkin lymphoma, the World Health Organization said on June 23, 2015. The WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) also said that DDT, or dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, probably causes cancer, with scientific evidence linking it to nonHodgkin lymphoma (NHL), testicular cancer and liver cancer. In a review of various agricultural chemicals, IARC’s specialist panel said it had decided to classify lindane as “carcinogenic to humans” in its Group 1 category, DDT as “probably carcinogenic to humans” in its Group 2A class, and the herbicide 2,4-D as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” in its Group 2B. It said epidemiological studies did not find strong or consistent increases in risk of NHL or other cancers from 2,4-D exposure, but there was strong evidence it induces oxidative stress, a process that can damage cells in the body, and moderate evidence it can suppress the immune system. Lindane, which since 2009 has been banned or restricted in most countries under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, was previously used extensively for insect control in agriculture. An exemption to the ban allows it to be used as a second-line treatment for lice and scabies. IARC said high exposures to lindane have previously been reported among agricultural workers and pesticide applicators. Large epidemiological studies of agricultural exposures in the United States and Canada showed a 60 percent increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in those exposed to lindane, report said. DDT was introduced for the control of insectborne diseases during World War II and was later applied widely to eradicate malaria and in agriculture. Although most uses of it were banned from the 1970s, IARC cautioned that DDT and its breakdown products are “highly persistent and can be found in the environment and in animal and human tissues throughout the world”. Exposure to DDT still occurs, mainly through diet, it said, adding that DDT is still used, mainly for malaria control in parts of Africa, although under very strict conditions. Since it was introduced in 1945, 2,4-D has been widely used to control weeds in agriculture, forestry and urban and residential settings. IARC said occupational exposure to 2,4-D can occur during manufacturing and application, and people in the general population can be exposed through food, water, dust, or residential application, and during spraying. What is Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants? The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods, become widely distributed geographically, [ 3 4 ] Weekly Current Affairs 21st June 2015 to 27th June, 2015 www.ias100.in accumulate in the fatty tissue of humans and wildlife, and have harmful impacts on human health or on the environment. Exposure to Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) can lead to serious health effects including certain cancers, birth defects, dysfunctional immune and reproductive systems, greater susceptibility to disease and damages to the central and peripheral nervous systems. The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants was adopted by the Conference of Plenipotentiaries on 22 May 2001 in Stockholm, Sweden. The Convention entered into force on 17 May 2004. Given their long range transport, no one government acting alone can protect its citizens or its environment from POPs. In response to this global problem, the Stockholm Convention, which was adopted in 2001 and entered into force in 2004, requires its parties to take measures to eliminate or reduce the release of POPs into the environment. Objective As set out in Article 1, the objective of the Stockholm Convention is to protect human health and the environment from persistent organic pollutants.
AIDS VACCINE CANDIDATE SUCCESSFULLY ‘PRIMES’ IMMUNE SYSTEM IN ANIMAL MODELS
New research led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) and The Rockefeller University showed that an experimental vaccine candidate can stimulate the immune system to block HIV infection in mice. The new candidate has the potential to inform immunization strategies against AIDS for humans. The effort to develop a vaccine against HIV has so far struggled to elicit antibodies that can effectively fight off different strains of the fast and extensively mutating virus. The Science study was co-led by Burton; William Schief, TSRI Professor and IAVI NAC Director, Vaccine Design; and TSRI Professor David Nemazee. The Cell study was co-led by Schief and Michel Nussenzweig of The Rockefeller University. The researchers’ long-term goal is to design a vaccine that prompts the body to produce antibodies that bind to HIV and prevent infection by many if not all of the virus’ variants. HIV mutates more rapidly into new strains than most other viruses and has an unprecedented ability to evade detection by the immune system. The researchers believed that a successful AIDS vaccine will need to consist of a series of related, but slightly different virus proteins (immunogens) to train the body to produce broadly neutralizing antibodies against HIV – a twist on traditional vaccination schemes, in which a person is exposed to the same immunogen multiple times. In the new studies, the scientists tested an immunogen called eOD-GT8 60mer, a protein nanoparticle designed to mimic a critical part of the HIV envelope protein and to bind and activate B cells to produce antibodies needed to fight HIV. The eOD-GT8 60mer was developed in the Schief lab and tested in mouse models engineered by the Nemazee lab to produce human-like antibodies. The researchers showed that immunization with eOD-GT8 60mer produced antibody “precursors” with some of the traits necessary to recognize and block HIV infection, suggesting that eOD-GT8 60mer could be a good first step in a series of immunizations against HIV. In the Cell paper, researchers used the same eOD-GT8 60mer immunogen but a slightly different mouse model. A concurrent study also in Science, which included researchers from Amsterdam University, Weill Cornell Medical College, TSRI and IAVI, showed engineered immunogens also triggered broadly neutralizing antibody immune responses in rabbit and monkey models. About IAVI The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) is a global not-for-profit organization whose mission is to ensure the development of safe, effective, accessible, preventive HIV vaccines for use throughout the world. Founded in 1996, IAVI works with partners in 25 countries to research, design and develop AIDS vaccine candidates. The organization also conducts policy analysis and serves as an advocate for the AIDS vaccine field. It supports a comprehensive approach to addressing HIV and AIDS that balances the expansion and strengthening of existing HIV prevention and treatment programs with targeted investments in the design and development of new tools to prevent HIV. IAVI is dedicated to ensuring that a future AIDS vaccine will be available and accessible to all who need it. IAVI’s work is made possible by generous support from many donors including: the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark; Irish Aid; the Ministry of Finance of Japan in partnership with The World Bank; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands; the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD); the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID), and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
NEWS IN BRIEF
Steffi Graf Tennis legend Steffi Graf was on Jun 23, 2015 appointed the Ayurveda brand ambassador of Kerala. Details of her remuneration and other terms weren’t made public but talks in this regard had been going on for some time. With this deal the government, feels that it can overcome the after-effects of recent ban on liquor to an extent. The ripple effect of liquor ban had earlier hit the thriving tourism sector. The Kerala tourism department was given sanction to sign an agreement with Graf to become Ayurveda brand ambassador as part of the department’s ‘Visit Kerala Scheme’. The tourism department had already held discussions and reached an agreement with the German former World number one tennis player, who had bagged 22 Grand slam single titles. The 46-year-old Graf, who retired in 1999, married former World number one men’s tennis player Andre Agassi in October 2001. Kerala’s Ayurveda, an ancient system of health care which is famous for its holistic effect on body and mind, attracts a large number of people from the country and abroad every year. Mata Amritanandamayi Mata Amritanandamayi, Chancellor of Amrita University, will deliver the keynote address during the coming conference at the United Nations on technology and sustainable development in July 2015. The chancellor will address the first programme on July 8, which will include a series of events at the UN titled ‘Skills and technology accelerating rapid transformation.’ According to a release, faculty from the University will later present research work they have undertaken in collaboration with renowned universities such as Cambridge, EPFL, Monash, the National University of Singapore, Oxford, Stanford and Twente. At the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI), a global initiative that aligns institutions of higher education with the U.N. in furthering the realisation of the purposes and mandate of the U.N. through activities and research in a shared culture of intellectual social responsibility, an online portal created by the University would also be inaugurated. The portal would encourage discussions and collaborations among university researchers worldwide on technology for global sustainable development. Zaheer Abbas Former Pakistan captain Zaheer Abbas was appointed the ICC president, on day three of the apex cricket body’s Annual Conference week. Mr. Abbas began his one-year term and thanked the ICC Board and the Full Council for confirming his nomination. ICC Chairman N. Srinivasan, congratulated Mr. Abbas on his appointment and said that Zaheer’s outstanding career as a stylish, right-handed batsman is reflected in his remarkable record with 108 first-class hundreds and more than 7,500 international runs. Mr. Zaheer, 67, has played 78 Tests and 62 ODIs from 1969 to 1985, in which he scored 5,062 and 2,572 runs respectively. He also played in the 1975, 1979 and 1983 ICC Cricket World Cups and captained Pakistan in 14 Tests and 13 ODIs. With 108 centuries, Mr. Abbas is the only Asian batsman to score a series of first-class centuries, as he finished his 22-year career with 34,843 runs. The ICC has 105 members. The Full Council includes 37 associate members, five affiliate member representatives and 10 full members. The ICC Chairman and ICC Chief Executive are also part of the Full Council but don’t have voting rights. Kumar Sangakkara Sri Lanka’s batting great Kumar Sangakkara , 37, on June 27, 2015 ended speculation about his future saying he will retire during the home series against India in August. NEWS MAKERS www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  The left-hander said he would play two of the three Tests against India to be played in Sri Lanka in August. The exact dates and venues have not yet been announced. Sangakkara will also miss the third and final Test of the ongoing series against Pakistan. Tom Holland Tom Holland, 19, best known for starring in Billy Elliot the Musical , will play Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man, in the next film of the popular franchise. Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios chose him after a worldwide casting search. Spider-Man , to be directed by Cop Car helmer Jon Watts, will hit theatres in IMAX and 3D on July 28, 2017. Earlier, the superhero was played by Tobey Maguire in the Spider-Man films and Andrew Garfield in the reboot series The Amazing Spider-Man. Bobby Jindal The U.S. appeared to move one step closer towards the possibility, however remote, of having its first ever Indian-American president when Louisiana Governor Piyush “Bobby” Jindal (44) made his 2016 campaign announcement on Twitter on June 24, 2015. Mr. Jindal, who is the son of immigrants from Punjab state in India, is considered a strong social conservative whose hopes for the Republican presidential nomination will rest upon his appeal amongst evangelical voters and his reputation as a “man of idea.” His actions would appear to reflect this determination and he is said to have already travelled multiple times to early-primary states and spent nearly 45 per cent of his days outside of his home state in 2014. Mr. Jindal, who was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University and rose rapidly through Louisiana’s state government to become the state’s Secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals at age 24, has also been elected twice to Congress before he entered the Governor’s office in 2008. Sachin Tendulkar India’s legendary batsman Sachin Tendulkar has been voted the ‘Best Test player’ of the 21st century in an online poll conducted by Cricket Australia’s website. The former India skipper got the highest number of votes to emerge on top of the list of the 100 best Test players since 2000, in a poll conducted by cricket.com.au. Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara received the second highest votes, followed by Adam Gilchrist of Australia in the third position. Currently the ‘Icon’ of Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise Mumbai Indians, Tendulkar earned 23 per cent of votes, with more than 16,000 fans participating in the survey. Sangakkara got 14 per cent votes after CA released the top-100 Test players’ list since 2000 on its website.““Tendulkar, who retired from international cricket in 2013 after playing his 200th Test, is the lone Indian player to be figuring in the top-10 list, while there are four Australian, three South African and two Sri Lankan cricketers. The 42-year-old Tendulkar, who is the only batsman to have hit 100 international centuries, holds the record for highest run scorer in both Tests and One-Day Internationals. The Poll result: 1. Sachin Tendulkar (Ind) 23%, 2. Kumar Sangakkara (SL) 14%, 3. Adam Gilchrist (Aus) 13%, 4. Ricky Ponting (Aus) 11%, 5. Jacques Kallis (SA) 11%, 6. AB de Villiers (SA) 10%, 7. Shane Warne (Aus) 9%, 8. Glenn McGrath (Aus) 5%, 9. Muttiah Muralitharan (SL) 3%, 10. Dale Steyn (SA) 1%. AWARDS Sangita Kalanidhi’ Award Vocalist Sanjay Subrahmanyan — one of the foremost south Indian classical vocalists — will receive the coveted ‘Sangita Kalanidhi’ award of The Music Academy 2015. He will preside over the 89th annual conference of the Academy to be held between December 15, 2015 and January 1, 2016. Following the recognition, 47–year–old Sanjay Subrahmanyan will join the galaxy of great musicians such as Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar, Musiri Subramania Iyer, Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer, Semmangudi R. Srinivasa Iyer, G.N. Balasubramaniam, M.L. Vasanthakumari and M. Balamuralikrishna who were awarded the title before they turned 50. As an artiste who made a mark in his early performing years, Mr. Subrahmanyan is known for his high-energy and consistently crowd-pulling shows. His music stands out in its uncompromising classical content. His novel interpretations of several lesser-known ragas and his particular interest in engaging with Tamil compositions won him critical [ 3 8 ] Weekly Current Affairs 21st June 2015 to 27th June, 2015 www.ias100.in acclaim over the years. Mr. Subrhamanyan, a chartered accountant by training, chose to become a full-time musician 2000. The Sangita Kala Acharya awards will go to vocalist Mysore Nagamani Srinath and percussionist T.H. Subashchandran. Nagaswaram artiste Seshampatti Sivalingam and veena artiste Kamala Aswathama will get the T.T.K. awards. The ‘Musicologist’ award will go to Gowri Kuppusamy and the Pappa Venkatramaiah award for violin will be given to M.S. Mani. Noted dancer Alarmel Valli will be conferred the Natya Kala Acharya award on January 3 on the occasion of the inauguration of the dance festival. Bal Sahitya Puraskar The Sahitya Akademi, on June 24, 2015, announced the Bal Sahitya Puraskar for year 2015, in which five novelists, four writers of short stories, and three authors of poetries, among others, have been awarded for their contribution to children’s literature. Instituted by the Sahitya Akademi, the award comprises Rs 50,000 and a casket containing an inscribed copper plaque and a citation. Tiren Boro (Bodo), Sowmya Rajendran and Nivditha Subramaniam (English), Ramnath G Gawade (Konkani), Ramdeo Jha (Maithili) and Mukti Upadhyay ‘Baral’ (Nepali) have been awarded for their novels, the Akademi said in a statement. Those who have been awarded for their short stories are Nayeem Kashmiri (Kashmiri), Thokchom Thouyangba Meitei (Manipuri), Krishna Kumar ‘Ashu’ (Rajasthani) and Janardhan Hegde (Sanskrit). Tara Chand Kalandri (Dogri), Srikanta Saren (Santali) and Sella Ganapathi (Tamil) have been awarded for their poetry collections. Bano Sartaj (Urdu) has been honoured for her book on a one act play. Eli Ahmed (Assamese) and Kartik Ghose (Bengali), among others, have been honoured with the Bal Sahitya Puraskar 2015 for their contribution to Children’s Literature. Colombia’s Highest Civilian Award Spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has been conferred with Colombia’s highest civilian award for his contribution to peace issues around the world, particularly in the Latin American country. Fabio Raul Amin Saleme, President of the House of Representatives, Congress of Colombia presented ‘Orden de la Democracia Simon Bolivar’ award to Sri while highlighting his achievements in peace matters through his foundation, The Art of Living.“Even amidst a 50-year-old conflict, the South American country of Colombia salutes the power of peace. A passionate resolve to work on restoring peace in its country echoed through the corridors of the Colombian Parliament as the President of the House bestowed the country’s highest civilian award on Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Art of Living said. The award is in recognition of his peace work around the world, with special reference to his work in Colombia through his foundation. Reaffirming his commitment to a violence-free and stress-free world, Sri dedicated the award to those who are working for non-violence. When the conflict is between justice and peace it is a humongous task to reconcile the two. Only a spiritual dimension can ease the situation, said the spiritual leader who has worked in conflict zones across the world. Mr Saleme also made special mention of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s programmes, which have taught meditation and the Sudarshan Kriya to thousands of people in Colombia and to millions around the world. Through this institution (The Art of Living), many have found an antidote to the stress they are undergoing daily, by practicing yoga and breathing techniques. Queen’s Young Leaders award Three Indians including two women have won the inaugural Queen’s Young Leaders award in the UK for “taking the lead in transforming the lives of others and making a lasting difference in their communities”. Ashwini Angadi, 26, Devika Malik, 24, and Akshay Jadhao, 27, from India are among 60 others who received the Queen’s Young Leaders award from the British monarch at a gala ceremony in Buckingham Palace. Queen’s Young Leaders award was set up by Queen Elizabeth II to recognise exceptional young people from across the Commonwealth. It was launched by her grandchildren Prince William and Harry last year. Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust present the award to recognise young people from across the 53 countries of the Commonwealth who are “taking the lead in transforming the lives of others and making a lasting difference in their communities”.“Angadi was awarded for using her own experiences as a visually impaired student to lobby for more braille and audio books. She runs www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  Belaku Academy in Bengaluru, offering education to disabled students from rural areas.“Jadhao, won for his efforts in launching education and skills courses in the rural farming region of Vidarbha, Maharashtra. Devika Malik, an international para-athlete, was chosen for her Wheeling Happiness Foundation which promotes inclusion, raises funds for disabled people and promotes better accessibility and equality for those with disabilities.“While the award does not come with any cash incentive, it offers each of the winners a year-long mentoring opportunity through an online course. VK Krishna Menon award Benni Joseph Mavelil, a UK-based non-resident Indian philanthropist has been chosen for the VK Krishna Menon award in recognition of his outstanding professional and altruistic achievements, contributions and services to the community and wider multicultural society. Mr Mavelil, President of the UK Knanaya Catholic Community, will receive the award at a function in London hosted by the VK Krishna Menon Institute later this year, Dr Cyriac Maprayil, Executive Director of the institute said in a statement. “What impressed us most was Benni Joseph’s practical approach to problems thrown up by the social imbalances of the society we live in and the most favourable reactions of the people he has served and continues to serve with such selfless devotion,” Mr Maprayil said. Mr Mavelil is originally from Kerala and has been living and working in the UK for over a decade. The VK Krishna Menon award is given to outstanding Indian patriots who have served in the Diaspora and also distinguished themselves in various fields including science, literature, business, politics, diplomacy and philanthropy. ‘Bhasha Samman’ awards Three scholars have been awarded the prestigious Sahitya Akademi ‘Bhasha Samman’ for contribution to classical and medieval literature in various languages. K Meenakshi Sundaram has been selected for contributions to Classical and Medieval Literature (Southern) for year 2013 while Acharya Munishwar Jha has been recognised for Classical and Medieval Literature (Eastern) for the year 2014, the Akademi informed in a statement on June 25, 2015. Charu Chandra Pande and Mathuradutt Mathpal have been jointly recognised for their work towards the enrichment of Kumauni, a language not recognised by the Akademi. The ‘Bhasha Samman’ carries a cash prize of Rs 1,00,000, an inscribed copper plaque and a citation. In case of joint winners, the prize money is equally shared between the winners. The award will be presented to them by the President of the Sahitya Akademi at a special function to be held later. Meenakshisundaram, born in 1925, is an authority on Cilappatikaram, an ancient Tamil epic, and has written scholarly essays on Tirukkural and made rich contribution to medieval literature. Acharya Munishwar Jha, born in 1928 an eminent scholar, teacher and educationist, and a former vicechancellor of Kameshwar Singh Darbangha Sanskrit University in Bihar, has made valuable contribution in the area of Sanskrit literature for which he was honoured with the Presidential Award in 2006. He has to his credit over more than a dozen books in Hindi, English, Maithili and Sanskrit. Among which Vidyapati Vanmaya (Maithili), Tapasa Kavi Vidyapati (Maithili), BhuParikramanam (Sanskrit) among others. He also worked on a project on Maithili Bhashaki, Evolution and Reconstruction of the Maithili Language. Charu Chandra Pande, born in 1923 in Uttarakhand has worked extensively on Kumauni language and has published Sej Gumani, Eco Farms Hills (in English), Chhodo Gulami Khitab and Angwal. Mathuradutt Mathpal, born in 1942, in Uttarakhand is a poet, teacher and Kumauni scholar. He has published Aang Aang Chichail Haigo (poetry), Mook Geet (a book based on famous Kumauni poet Pandit Kripal Dutt Joshi) among with translation of many poems in Hindi. Praful Bidwai Praful Bidwai, a veteran journalist, author and anti-nuclear activist has died in the Netherlands after choking on a piece of meat while having dinner. He was 65. The Delhi-based activist was attending a conference in Amsterdam on June 23, 2015. He also wrote a number of books, including the ‘1999 New Nukes: India, Pakistan and Global Nuclear Disarmament’ His latest book on the crisis in the OBITUARY [ 4 0 ] Weekly Current Affairs 21st June 2015 to 27th June, 2015 www.ias100.in Indian Left was due to be released this year. After working as a senior editor for the Times of India for several years, Mr. Bidwai became a freelance commentator, writing for publications in India and abroad. He also wrote a regular column for Frontline and Hindustan Times for several years. Sister Nirmala Sister Nirmala, who succeeded Nobel laureate Mother Teresa as the superior-general of the Missionaries of Charity, died in Kolkata on June 23, 2015. She was 81. Sister Nirmala Joshi was born in 1934 in Ranchi, Jharkhand, in Hindu family. She had joined the Missionaries of Charity in 1976 after she had dedicated herself to the service of the poor after getting inspired by the work of Mother Teresa. Sister Nirmala was elected as Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity six months before Mother Teresa’s death (September 5, 1997). She had played important role expanding the organisation’s reach by opening centres in 134 countries including in Afghanistan, Israel and Thailand. Her term as Superior General of Missionaries of Charity had ended on 25 March 2009. She was succeeded by German-born Sister Mary Prema Pierick, M.C. She was bestowed with the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian award in 2009 for her services to the nation. Nazar Singh Nazar Singh, a great-grandfather from Sunderland, who at 111 was believed to be Europe’s oldest man, died in India on the eve of Father’s Day (June 21, 2015), after travelling over to spend time with family. He had recently celebrated his birthday, sending pictures back to Britain that showed him marking the event with a pint of lager and a whisky chaser. Born on 8 June 1904, Singh lived through the great depression, two world wars, and the independence and partition of India. He moved to England in 1965, living first in Walsall, West Midlands, where he worked in a foundry, then retiring to the north-east in 1989, living with one of his nine children. Singh was born on a farm in Punjab where he helped his family grow sugar cane, cotton, corn, wheat and later chilli, peanuts, potatoes and rice. His age was never confirmed by Guinness World Records and he had no birth certificate. But he was sent a letter by the Queen on his 100th birthday, and every subsequent birthday. James Horner James Horner, celebrated composer of musical scores for several smash-hit movies, including Titanic and Avatar , died on June 22, 2015 in a plane crash at the age of 61. Hollywood trade magazine Variety reported the composer died when his private aircraft crashed in Santa Barbara, California. Horner won two Oscars for his work on Titanic — one for its theme song My Heart Will Go On , performed by Celine Dion, and another for the film’s score. He won Oscar nominations for the musical scores of several other box-office hits, including Apollo 13, Braveheart and Field of Dreams. His first nomination came in 1986, for the sci-fi horror film Aliens. Horner’s most recent Oscar nomination was for another sci-fi epic, James Cameron’s 2009 blockbuster Avatar. With expansive and emotive soundscapes, Horner’s scores carried films to their climax and accompanied top actors as they delivered some of their most moving performances. Tender kisses in The Amazing Spider-Man, grand battles in Troy and moments of stirring drama in A Beautiful Mind were all set up by Horner’s hand. American film touchstones of the 1990s such as Patriot Games, Searching for Bobby Fischer andJumanji were also composed by Horner. Shashi Bala Former Indian women hockey captain Shashi Bala and her son were killed in a road accident in Punjab on June 21, 2015. Bala made her international debut in 1987 and was a member of the national team in the 1998 FIH Women World Cup in the Netherlands. She was captain of the Indian team during the 1997 FIH Women World Cup qualifier held in Harare, Zimbabwe. Dileep Singh Bhuria Senior BJP leader and Lok Sabha MP from Madhya Pradesh Dileep Singh Bhuria, one of the prominent tribal faces of the party, passed away after a brief illness at a hospital in Gurgaon on June 24, 2015. He was 71. Mr Bhuria started his political career with Congress and first made it to Parliament from Jhabua, a tribal-dominated district in Madhya www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  Pradesh which he made his pocket-borough in 1980 when Indira Gandhi swept back to power at the Centre. He won Jhabua Lok Sabha seat five times consecutively – from 1980 to 1996. Born on June 19, 1944, Mr Bhuria began his legislative stint in the state in 1972 when he was elected MLA from Petlawad seat in Jhabua district. He served as National SC/ST Commission Chairman during the Vajpayee government. Mr Bhuria also joined Gondwana Gantantra Party for a brief period. China unveils 800-year-old Buddha statue Chinese experts have completed restoration of an 800-year-old Buddha statue, famous for its 1,000 hands, located in the country’s southwest province after seven years. The restoration of the important landmark in Dazu County in Sichun province had begun in 2008 and was completed at a cost of about 60 million yuan (US $9.8 million). Visitors could now see a new appearance of the “Qianshou Guanyin”, a statue with 1,000 hands in southwestern Chongqing Municipality, state-run Xinhua news agency reported. It is the largest restoration project on the statue, which underwent repairs at least four times in history. Workers restored 830 hands and 227 instruments using one million gold foils while consolidating the dated pieces of the statue and thoroughly cleaning it. The project is expected to help the Qianshou Guanyin keep glowing for at least 50 years, said Zhan Changfa, a researcher of the Chinese Academy of Cultural Heritage, who is in charge of the project. The statue, 7.7 metres high and 12.5 metres wide, was carved during the Southern Song Dynasty (1127 to 1279). It is a masterpiece among thousands of individual rock carvings in the grottoes in Dazu. The carvings date back as early as the Tang Dynasty (618-907). They were listed as major World Heritage sites by UNESCO in 1999. Over the centuries, the sculpture’s colour had faded with some of the gold foils peeling off and cracks appeared. Heritage authorities will continue to monitor the statue’s condition and take timely measures to prevent damage and pass its beauty to the next 800 years, said Tong Mingkang, deputy head of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, at a ceremony marking the completion of restoration on June 13, 2015. 11 Indian firms in Forbes list As many as 11 Indian companies, including Avanti Feeds Ltd., and Borosil Glass Works, are ranked among top 200 Asia Pacific corporations in Forbes Asia’s ‘Best Under A Billion’ list. The list covers public companies with annual revenue of $5 million to $1 billion, Forbes said, adding that they should also have positive net income and should be publicly traded for at least a year. With 11 companies, India was ranked fourth after South Korea. The Indian firms are Byke Hospitality, Caplin Point Laboratories, Centum Electronics, Kaveri Seed, Kitex Garments, NGL FineChem, Orbit Exports, Premco Global and Vakrangee. Typhoon Kujira to hit China’s Hainan More than 40,000 people have been evacuated from China’s southern island of Hainan ahead of the expected landfall of the year’s first typhoon on Jun 22, 2015, although it should help ease a severe drought. Typhoon Kujira will sweep over the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea before hitting land somewhere between Wanning on Hainan and Zhanjiang in neighboring Guangdong province, bringing strong wind and heavy rain, Xinhua news agency said. The typhoon is expected to weaken gradually after reaching land. But it added the typhoon should help ease Hainan’s worst drought in more than half a century, which has affected about a third of the island, a place China likes to style as its answer to Hawaii or Phuket. Typhoons are common at this time of year in the South China Sea, picking up strength from the warm waters and dissipating over land. Over 2,000 NGOs face crackdown as Govt. cancels licences The government has cancelled the licences of over 2,000 Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) across the country, which would prevent them from receiving foreign funds. According to reports, licences of 964 NGOs ART & CULTURE MISCELLANEOUS [ 4 2 ] Weekly Current Affairs 21st June 2015 to 27th June, 2015 www.ias100.in were cancelled in Maharashtra, followed by 740 in Uttar Pradesh and 614 in Karnataka. The licences of 88 NGOs were also cancelled in Tamil Nadu. The decision to cancel the registration of these entities under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act was taken by the Union Home Ministry after the NGOs allegedly failed to submit their annual returns and in view of other anomalies. EUROPEAN TEAM CHAMPIONSHIPS Host nation Russia regained their title from defending champions Germany at the European Team Championships in Cheboksary, which concluded on June 20, 2015. They ended the weekend with 368.5 points, 22 more than Germany with France further back in third. Germany pushed Russia all the way, though, and started off the second day with victories from Richard Ringer in the 3000m and Christina Schwanitz in the shot put. Ringer sprinted away from the field on the last lap to win in 8:34.35, while Schwanitz dominated the shot as expected, throwing 19.82m to finish more than a metre in front of Russia’s Irina Tarasova. But Russia responded by scoring maximum points in four other individual events. After two rounds of the long jump, just the count-back record separated the top three jumpers as Darya Klishina, Olga Sudareva and Sosthene Moguenara all jumped 6.79m. Klishina then sailed out to a season’s best of 6.95m (1.6m/s) in the next round, while Sudareva produced a PB of 6.86m with her final leap. World bronze medallist Sergey Shubenkov was a convincing winner of the 110m hurdles, clocking a season’s best of 13.22 to finish 0.2 in front of European indoor champion Pascal Martinot-Lagarde. World indoor champion Maria Kuchina was tied with European champion Ruth Beitia in the high jump as they both went clear at 1.97m on their first attempt. But Kuchina then popped over 1.99m while the Spaniard failed two attempts at that height and one at 2.01m. Russia’s other individual victory of the day came from Anna Shchagina in the 1500m. She won by exactly one second in 4:15.22 with Norway’s Karoline Bjerkeli Grovdal taking second place. The hosts ended the day with victory in the women’s 4x400m, clocking 3:24.98 to win comfortably over their rivals. Snooker World Cup India settled for a bronze medal after narrowly missing the final berth of the snooker World Cup in Wuxi (China) on June 21, 2015. Up against a seasoned Scotland side, India, comprising 12-time world champion Pankaj Advani and Aditya Mehta, went down 4-3 in the best-of-seven semifinal match. Scotland, which had defeated host and defending champion China ‘A’, consisted of heavyweights in four-time world champion John Higgins and top snooker player Stephen Maquire. This is India’s best finish in the competition. Austrian Grand Prix Nico Rosberg showed his championship potential by overtaking pole sitter Lewis Hamilton on the first turn to win the Austrian Grand Prix in style on June 21, 2015. The German driver, runner-up to his Mercedes team-mate in last year’s Formula One championship, took an aggressive inside line to shoot past Hamilton heading into the first turn in an eventful race featuring a heavy crash between Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso and several more retirements. Rosberg’s third win this season took his career tally to 11, and cut Hamilton’s overall lead to 10 points.He likes the Red Bull Ring, where he won from third on the grid last year. It was a frustrating day for defending champion Hamilton, who received a five-second penalty for incorrectly leaving the pit lane. Squash in fray for 2020 Olympics inclusion Squash’s Olympic prospects received a boost after it featured in the list of eight disciplines to be considered for inclusion in the 2020 Olympics, drawn up by the Olympic organising committee in Japan which is about to make its final recommen-dation to the International Olympic Committee in September. The inclusion comes after the sport failed to make the cut when the Programme for the Tokyo Olympics was discussed at the IOC Congress in Buenos Aires in 2013. Highlighting the long and rich tradition of the sport in Japan, president of the World Squash Federation, Mr. N. Ramachandran expressed his gratitude to the organisers and said the sport would add to the richness of the quadrennial event. SPORTS www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  Gerry Weber Open Roger Federer showed he is ready for Wimbledon by defeating Italy’s Andreas Seppi 7-6 (1), 6-4 on June 21, 2015 to claim his record eighth Gerry Weber Open title. Despite not replicating the free-flowing tennis of previous rounds, Federer dug deep to win big points. He broke the 45th-ranked Seppi for the first time at the fifth attempt in the decisive moment of his 10th Halle final. The 17-time Grand Slam winner sealed his 15th title from 20 finals on grass and his 86th career title from 130 finals overall. Lleyton Hewitt is next on grass with eight titles. Straight after extending his record haul of titles at Halle — Russia’s Yevgeny Kafelnikov is next with three — Federer said he was happy with his play. Seppi was in the final after Kei Nishikori withdrew from their semifinal with a calf injury – – and Gael Monfils pulled out of the quarterfinal with a knee problem — but the Italian showed no apparent lack of match fitness. Seppi missed three break points in the first set, including two set points that Federer defended with two successive aces. Norway Chess 2015 title A quick but frustrating draw for Viswanathan Anand proved enough for Veselin Topalov to claim the Norway Chess 2015 title in Stavanger, Norway, on June 26, 2015. All the expectations of a thrilling battle for the title between the two leading players of the elite field came to naught once Topalov managed a safe position arising out of the Queen’s Gambit Declined. The 18-move draw gave Topalov the title with 6.5 points, half a point ahead of Anand. Later, Hikaru Nakamura defeated Levon Aronian to match Anand’s tally and took the third spot. But in the biggest surprise result of the competition, Jon Ludvig Hammer upstaged World champion Magnus Carlsen in the battle between two home players. Hammer, playing as the host’s choice in the 10-player event, scored his only victory of the competition after Carlsen erred more than once in judgement in this 34-move battle. Final standing: 1. Topalov, 2-3. Anand, Nakamura, 4. Giri, 5-6. Caruana, Vachier-Lagrave, 7-8. Carlsen, Grischuk, 9-10. Aronian and Hammer. India Bangladesh ODI Series India salvaged some pride with an emphatic 77-run victory over Bangladesh in the third and final ODI at the Sher-e-Bangla National stadium in Mirpur, Bangladesh, on June 24, 2015. Asked to bat on a dry track and with the possibility of bowling in rain-affected conditions, India posted a massive 317 for six in 50 overs backed by solid displays from its batsmen. Then it was the turn of India’s battle-hungry bowlers who dismissed Bangladesh for 240. Suresh Raina’s fine all-round show helped the side immensely. The win saved the World Cup semifinalist from a humiliating ‘Banglawash’, though it lost the series 2-1. India’s commendable fight back was a tremendous confidence-booster for a side, demoralised after two comprehensive defeats and an unprecedented series-loss to a lower-ranked team. The visitors seemed to have solved to some extent the riddle of teen left-arm pacer Mustafizur Rahman, who had single-handedly destroyed the Indian batting line-up with his deadly cutters. World Railway Championship, 2015 In The 20th USIC- Tennis (World Railways) Championship held at Nuremberg, Germany from 31st May, 2015 to 6th June, 2015, Indian Railway Team defeated France by a margin of 3-1 in the finals and won USIC Tennis Championship 2015. Last time the Indian Railway Tennis Team had won Silver Medal during last USIC Tennis Championship held in 2011 as well. In another event in 20th USIC –Volleyball (World Railways) Championship held at Gomel, Belarus from 10th June 2015 to 17th June 2015, Indian Railway Team defeated Russian team in the finals and won USIC Volleyball Championship 2015. Last time, Indian Railway Volleyball Team had won Bronze Medal during the USIC Championship held in 2011. About USIC USIC (Union Sportive Internationale des Cheminots) is an international railways sporting association with members from various countries. The purpose of USIC is to encourage the practice of amateur sport among railway employees in all over the world a spirit of comradeship and in accordance with the Olympic ideal and to develop among them a spirit of loyalty, tolerance and democracy. Halle Open Roger Federer won the Halle Open for a recordextending eighth time on June 21, 2015 by beating [ 4 4 ] Weekly Current Affairs 21st June 2015 to 27th June, 2015 www.ias100.in Italy’s Andreas Seppi 7-6, 6-4 in a successful warmup on grass for Wimbledon. For Federer, the defending champion, it was his fourth title of the year after victories in Istanbul, Dubai and Brisbane and took his career total to 86. The Swiss No1 seed, who has won the Wimbledon title seven times, saved two set points on his serve when he trailed 5-4 in the first set. He levelled for 5-5 in what was his 10th final appearance in Halle and then crushed the Italian in the tie-break, losing only one point, to take the first set. Seppi, who reached his second final of the year after Gaël Monfils and the No2 seed Kei Nishikori retired in his two previous matches, earned another break opportunity at 2-2 but he sent a backhand into the net. vvvvv Under-20 World Cup Football Nemanja Maksimovic scored late in extra time to give Serbia a surprise 2-1 win over Brazil on June 20, 2015 in the final of the Under-20 World Cup. The match seemed headed for a penalty shootout when Serbia counterattacked in the 117th minute and Stefan Ilic combined with Andrija Zivkovic to put Maksimovic in behind the defense and he calmly slotted his low shot past goalkeeper Jean. The victory, and Serbia’s first title as an independent nation, owed much to goalkeeper and captain Pedrag Rajkovic who pulled off a series of saves to repeatedly deny Brazil the victory. Brazil entered the final having gone 502 minutes without conceding a goal but that ended 70 minutes into the final when Stanisa Mandic swept home Maskimovic’s cross at the far post to give Serbia.