Current Affairs 26TH JULY, 2015 TO 1ST AUGUST, 2015
U.N.: INDIA WILL BE WORLD’S MOST POPULOUS COUNTRY IN 2022
In seven years, India will surpass China to become the world’s most populous country and will have 1.7 billion residents by 2050, new projections from the United Nations showed. Experts, however, caution that India might be lowering its fertility at a faster rate than what the U.N.’s projections indicate. The 2015 revision to the U.N.’s World Population Projections was released on August 1, 2015. The world population reached 7.3 billion as of mid-2015, adding approximately one billion people in the past 12 years. The world population, however, is growing slower now; 10 years ago, the growth rate was 1.24 per cent a year, while today, it is growing by 1.18 per cent, or approximately, an additional 83 million people annually. It will take 15 years to add the next billion people, taking the world population to 8.5 billion in 2030. By 2050, the world will have 9.7 billion people and 11.2 billion by 2100. As a region, Africa will have its population — propelled to a large extent by Nigeria which will be the third largest populated country in the world in 2050 overtaking the United States — grow the fastest. The population of 48 countries, most of them in Europe and including Japan, will in contrast shrink between 2015 and 2050. The median age of the global population — that is, the age at which half the population is older and half is younger — is 29.6. About onequarter (26 per cent) of the world’s people are under 15 years of age, 62 per cent are aged 15 to 59, and 12 per cent 60 or above. India is younger than the world; the median age is a full three years younger and 28.8 per cent are under the age of 15, while just 8.9 per cent are 60 or over. By 2050, India will have aged significantly, and the share of people over 60 will be twice as big, while the median age will be 37.3. China’s population will start declining by the 2030s, while India’s is projected to decline only after 2069 when its population is around 1.75 billion. However, demographic experts say the U.N.’s projections may not be keeping pace with the speed at which India is reducing its fertility. As of 2013, India’s Sample Registration System (SRS) — the official source of fertility statistics, which come from the Registrar-General’s office — said the total fertility rate (average number of children per woman) was down to 2.3. However, the U.N. projects a rate of 2.34 for 2015-20. By the SRS rates, India could reach replacement fertility levels — when every woman has just enough children to replace the parents on average — by 2020, but the U.N. projections would see this happening around a decade later. As of mid-2015, India had 1.31 billion people. Eleven States have already achieved replacement fertility levels. GOVERNMENT APPROVES CONSUMER PROTECTION BILL, 2015 The Cabinet on July 29, 2015 approved the Consumer Protection Bill, 2015, which seeks to replace the 29-year-old Consumer Protection Act, 1986, and proposes setting up a regulatory authority to curb unfair trade practices. The new Bill seeks to create a Consumer Protection Authority modelled on the lines of the US and European countries for fast-tracking redressal of consumer grievances. The consumer affairs ministry has introduced the Bill in the ongoing Monsoon Session of Parliament. Key Features l The Bill has a provision for product liability and provides enough powers to the regulatory authority to recall products and cancel licences if any consumer complaint affects more than one individual. l For speedy disposal of consumer court cases, the Bill seeks to provide ‘mediation’ as an alternative route to resolve disputes and also suggests simplified judicial process to ensure inexpensive justice. www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  l The Bill provides for stringent penalty, including life imprisonment in certain cases, and sufficient provisions for protecting e-retail consumers. l The key features of the new Bill include establishment of an executive agency Central Consumer Protection Authority, which will protect and enforce the rights of consumers. l The decision comes against the backdrop of emergence of complex products and services in the era of growing e-commerce business in India has rendered consumers vulnerable to new forms of unfair trade and unethical business practices. l The authority will intervene when necessary to prevent consumer detriment arising from unfair trade practices and to initiate class action, including enforcing recall, refund and return of products.
CABINET CLEARS CHANGES TO GST BILL
The Union Cabinet on July 29, 2015 cleared the changes suggested by the Rajya Sabha Select Committee recently to the proposed GST Constitutional Amendment Bill, which included giving States full five-year compensation for any revenue loss due to the introduction of the goods and services tax and exempting stock transfers within group companies from the 1 per cent additional tax on inter-State supplies. The Select Committee has agreed to almost all the provisions in the GST Bill, but had suggested a few amendments, which the Cabinet cleared along with several other decisions. Infrastructure fund Apart from the decision on the GST Bill, the Cabinet approved the setting up of a Rs 20,000- crore National Infrastructure and Investment Fund proposed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the Union Budget for 2015-16. Protecting consumers In addition, the Cabinet approved the Consumer Protection Bill 2015, which envisages a regulatory authority to curb unfair trade practices, along the lines of those in place in the U.S. and Europe for the fast-tracking of consumer grievances. Anti-hijacking Bill Finally, the Union Cabinet approved amendments to the Anti-Hijacking Bill, 2014, which looks to give the government more teeth in dealing with hijacking incidents involving Indian aircraft. The Cabinet’s approval of these amendments comes after the Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha in December 2014 and then referred to a Parliamentary Standing Committee, which recommended the amendments.
EXPERT GROUP TO CLASSIFY CASTE INFORMATION
Amid political uproar over the unreleased data from the Socio Economic and Caste Census 2014, government on July 28, 2015 said that more than 8.19 crore errors had been detected in the data of which 1.45 crore faults continue to exist. A total of 8,19,58,314 errors have been found in caste particulars and all States and Union Territories have been informed for rectification of these errors. The States have rectified 6,73,81,119 errors. However, 1,45,77,195 errors remain, a Home Ministry statement said. Maharashtra with 69.1 lakh errors in the census data tops the list. Currently, there are 13.9 lakh errors in data from Madhya Pradesh, 11.6 lakh errors for West Bengal, 7.2 lakhs for Rajasthan, 5.4 lakh for Uttar Pradesh, 2.9 lakhs for Karnataka, 1.4 lakhs for Tamil Nadu, which were yet to be rectified. On July 3, the government withheld the castebased data from the first Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) released in eight decades. Union Rural Development Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh had brushed aside suggestions that government avoided giving the caste count in the SECC 2014 report due to political reasons ahead of the Bihar polls. However, Opposition parties alleged that government was “hiding the truth from the country” by not releasing the data of SC, STs, Backward Class, Minority and Upper Class so as to “minimise the quota for reserved classes cleverly in future.” The Home Ministry statement said the government had reviewed the SECC, and 46,73,034 distinct caste names had been found. “These include caste/sub-caste names, synonyms, surnames, clan/ [ 6 ] Weekly Current Affairs 26th July 2015 to 1st August, 2015 www.ias100.in gothra names, phonetic variations, sections, subgroups etc. These will have to be classified by experts,” it said. The government noted that data relating to socio-economic features of households in rural areas was released by the Ministry of Rural Development on July 3. The Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, however, did not release any data relating to urban areas. The Prime Minister has announced the formation of an expert group to classify the caste information under the chairmanship of Arvind Panagariya, Vice-Chairperson, NITI Aayog.
CENTRE RETURNS CONTROVERSIAL GUJARAT BILL
The controversial Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime (GCTOC) Bill, 2015, has been sent back to the State following an objection by the Information Technology (IT) Ministry. The Home Affairs Ministry, which sent the Bill for an inter-ministerial consultation, returned it with the objections raised by the IT Ministry. This means the Bill will not be sent for Presidential assent and cannot become law yet. Any Bill passed by an Assembly on issues contravening Central laws needs Presidential assent. The Gujarat House passed the Bill again on March 31, 2015 after it was rejected thrice by two former Presidents — the late A.P.J. Abdul Kalam in 2004 and Pratibha Patil in 2008 and 2009. The Bill was first introduced as the GUJCOC Bill in 2003 — when Narendra Modi was Chief Minister — with provisions like increasing the period to file charge sheet from 90 to 180 days and strict conditions for granting bail to an accused.
KOCHI: INDIA’S FIRST HARBOUR DEFENCE SYSTEM
The naval harbour at Kochi has become the first in the country to get a top-notch defence system — which will enable operators to foresee, and respond to, surface and sub-surface threats to vital assets along the harbour and warships in the quay. The Integrated Underwater Harbour Defence and Surveillance System (IUHDSS), a state-of-theart automated system capable of detecting, identifying, tracking and generating warning for surface and underwater threats, was commissioned by Vice-Admiral Sunil Lanba, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Southern Naval Command, on July 31, 2015. The system, comprising a cluster of coastal surveillance radars, high-power underwater sensors and diver detection sonars, was designed by Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) ELTA. In other harbours too Besides Kochi, naval harbours at Mumbai, Visakhapatnam and Port Blair are slated to be equipped with the system as a force protection measure. The multi-agency Joint Operations Centre (JOC), set up at these places to coordinate coastal security operations, will receive real-time images relayed by these sensors and the command and control of the operations launched in response to threats will vest with the coastal defence Commanders-in-Chief – Flag Officers Commanding-in-Chief of the three naval commands and the Commander-in-Chief of the Andaman and Nicobar joint services command. The project is said to cost around Rs 270 crore. Similar coastal defence systems are deployed at 150 locations across the world. In India, the decision to cast a network of electro-optical sensors, thermal imaging sensors, radar and high-definition underwater sensors around naval jetties was taken in the aftermath of 26/11 with a view to strengthening security around the coast and highvalue naval assets. The IUHDSS, along with the specialised Sagar Prahari Bal, would help augment security of the coast around the naval installations in Kochi. “The system was contracted by the Integrated Headquarters of Ministry of Defence in 2012. The www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  system will operate under the control of the Naval Officer-in-Charge (Kerala),” a defence communication said. The multi-agency Joint Operations Centre (JOC) set up in coastal States to coordinate coastal security operations. The IUHDSS will relay images to the multi-agency Joint Operations Centre (JOC). The multi-agency Joint Operations Centres (JOC) at these naval locations, there is already the specialised Sagar Prahari Bal ensuring security of vital naval installations and assets stationed along the coast. The underwater sensor network will help neutralise asymmetric sub-surface threats. Integrated Harbour Defence l Kochi naval harbour gets India’s first IUHDSS l System capable of detecting surface and underwater threats to installations and warships at quay l Project designed by Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) ELTA l To be replicated at Mumbai, Vizag, Port Blair l Real-time images to be relayed to joint Operations Centre (JOC) at Naval Base l Naval Officer In-Charge Kerala (NOIK) to control the system
SURFACE-TO-AIR MISSILE TO BE TESTED IN ISRAEL
The long-range surface-to-air missile being developed with Israel will go in for national trials for the Navy once it is tested in Israel in October 2015, with production following “definitely next year”. “The LR-SAM is almost ready for trials from a ship. A few trials were over and a few more are on. The Indian trial will be held once the October trial in Israel is over, said V. Udaya Bhaskar, Chairman & Managing Director of the public sector Bharat Dynamics Ltd (BDL), Hyderabad. The missile, said to reach targets of up to 70 km, is being developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation and Israel Aerospace Industries for the Navy over the last five years. An Army version is being ground tested and an Air Force variant is in the works, both as medium-range or MR-SAMs. “The Services require them in large numbers. If the trials are successful we may start producing in numbers possibly from late this year. It will be definitely in production from next year,” Mr. Udaya Bhaskar said. It was ramping up its facilities in a big way for increasing the number of new and ongoing missile programmes. The requirement of the LR/MR-SAM from the Services would almost match the order of the Akash medium-range mobile-launched SAM. The Akash programme started in 2011 had matured over the last three years and had been delivered supplies for eight IAF squadrons. Half of the Army’s requirement for two regiments was done. Orders from the two Services amount to around Rs. 19,000 crore.
SCHEME FOR DEVELOPMENT OF PARTICULARLY VULNERABLE TRIBAL GROUPS
Ministry of Tribal Affairs has revised the Central Sector Scheme known as “Development of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs)”, w.e.f. 1st April, 2015, under which the Ministry will provide 100% financial assistance through State Governments for activities including housing, land distribution and land development, agricultural development, animal husbandry, construction of link roads, installation of nonconventional sources of energy or other innovative activity, for the comprehensive socio-economic development of PVTGs, based on Conservationcum-Development (CCD) Plan prepared by the concerned State Governments on the basis of assessment of their requirements. Under the Scheme, priority is accorded for their protection and improvement in terms of the social indicators like livelihood, health, nutrition and education, so as to decrease their vulnerability. “At present there are 75 tribal groups identified and categorized as Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs), (earlier known as Primitive Tribal Groups) located in the States/UT of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, WestBengal and Andaman & Nicobar Islands. About Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups Particularly vulnerable tribal groups (PVTGs) is a government of India classification created with the purpose of enabling improvement in the conditions of certain communities with particularly [ 8 ] Weekly Current Affairs 26th July 2015 to 1st August, 2015 www.ias100.in low development indices. The Dhebar Commission (1960-1961) stated that within Scheduled Tribes there existed an inequality in the rate of development. During the fourth Five Year Plana sub-category was created within Scheduled Tribes to identify groups that considered to be at a lower level of development. This was created on the basis of the Dhebar Commission report and other studies. This sub-category was named “Primitive tribal group”. The features of such a group include a preagricultural system of existence, that is practice of hunting and gathering, zero or negative population growth, extremely low level of literacy in comparison with other tribal groups. Groups that satisfied any one of the criterion were considered as PTG. At the conclusion of the Fifth Five year plan, 52 communities were identified as being a “primitive tribal group”, these communities were identified on the basis of recommendations made by the respective state governments. At the conclusion of the Sixth Five year plan 20 groups were added and 2 more in the Seventh Five year plan, one more group was added in the eighth five-year plan, making a total 75 groups were identified as PTG. The 75th group recognised as PTG were the Maram in Manipur in 1993-94. No new group was declared as PTG on the basis of the 2001 census. In 2006 the government of India proposed to rename “Primary tribal group” as “Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group”.
DELHI GOVERNMENT NOTIFIES WITNESS PROTECTION PROGRAMME
The Delhi government on July 31, 2015 notified its witness protection programme called the Delhi Witness Protection Scheme 2015; it lays down steps to protect the identity of witnesses. Among the steps suggested are prohibiting the publication or revealing, in any manner, directly or indirectly, the name, address and other particulars which may lead to the identification of a witness; changing the identity of a witness; relocating the person, facility for in-camera proceedings and ‘live link’, in which a witness can depose without coming to court. Other measures to protect witnesses will include taking steps so that an accused is not able to confront the witness or monitor the person’s calls and emails and changing the phone number of the witness or providing him or her with an unlisted number. Installing security devices at the person’s home, guarding the person’s residence, providing escort vehicles to the witness will be some of the other measures for protection. A member secretary or the Officer on Special Duty (OSD) of the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DLSA) will be the competent authority to approve who can be accorded protection under the programme. Delhi was the first state to notify the scheme and that it would serve as an example for others. The scheme will be under the DLSA. And once a court passes an order, police will have to abide by it. A police officer of the rank of assistant commissioner or deputy commissioner will prepare a report on the threat being faced by a witness offered protection under the programme. Depending on the threat, there will be three categories of witnesses. These will include: Category A: Witness and family members face threat to life during investigation or after that; Category B: Threat to safety, reputation or property of the witness or his family during investigation; and Category C: Threats of moderate nature and harassment. The government has established a witness protection cell under the Delhi Police, which will be headed by an assistant commissioner of police (ACP) or deputy commissioner of police (DCP). There will be a witness protection fund, which will get funds from budgetary alllocations, fines deposited in court and donations or contributions from institutions and individuals.
WORKING GROUP CONSTITUTED FOR RE-DRAFTING OF THE NATIONAL SPORTS DEVELOPMENT CODE OF INDIA
Transparency and good governance in the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and in various sports federations of the country is of paramount importance for development of sports in India. For this purpose, the Government had issued various instructions from time to time and several initiatives were taken. All the orders/notifications/ instructions/circulars issued till 2001 were www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  amalgamated with necessary modifications, into one comprehensive Code titled National Sports Development Code of India (NSDCI), 2011 which came into force with immediate effect from 31-01- 2011. Since then a lot of developments have taken place in sports sector necessitating more accountability and transparency in the functioning of the sports bodies. Hence, further amendments to the various provisions of NSDCI need to be reexamined and bring about suitable amendments to relevant provisions of the NSDCI. To facilitate holding of consultations and prepare a revised draft of the NSDCI, it has been decided to constitute a Working Group. The composition of the Working Group is as follows:- The terms of reference of the Working Group shall be as follows: l To examine the existing NSDCI from both sports governance and legal angles and finetune/revise the same with the purpose of making it more precise and succinct. l To make specific recommendations on preparation of Electoral College and streamlining of State/District bodies. l To make any other recommendations, as deemed fit. The Committee shall submit the revised draft of the NSDCI within three months.
INDIA TO SURPASS CHINA BY 2022 TO BECOME WORLD’S MOST POPULOUS
Towards 11 billion Projected population growth World Africa Asia Europe Latin America/Caribbean 12.5 10.0 7.5 5.0 2.5 0 2015 2030 2050 2100 Source: UN constant until the 2030s, after which it is expected to slightly decrease. India will remain the most populous the country in the world till 2100, according to the report. According to the forecast issued in 2013, India was expected to surpass China’s population by 2028 but the latest report predicts that India will overtake its Asian rival six years early by 2022. The report said India will remain the most populous country in the world in 2050 with a population of 1. 7 billion. It also projected that India will continue to have the largest population size in the year 2100 even though its population will decline slightly from 1.7 billion in 2050 to 1.66 billion by the end of the 21st Century. The current world population of 7.3 billion is expected to reach 8.5 billion by 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100. The report said during 2015-2050, half of the world’s population growth is 1,250 2,500 2,000 1,500 1,000 750 500 250 million 2015 2030 2050 2100 India China Nigeria Pakistan DRC Source: UN expected to be concentrated in nine countries – India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania, US, Indonesia and Uganda – listed according to the size of their contribution to the total growth. India is expected to remain a relatively young country in the decades going forward. Its median age in 2015 is 26.6 years and this would grow to 31.2 years in 2030, 37.3 years in 2050 and 47 years in 2100. In comparison, China’s median age will be 43.2 years in 2030, 49.6 years in 2050 and 51.1 years by the end of the century. The US will have a median age of 40 years in 2030, 41.7 years in 2050 and 44.7 years in 2100. India’s life expectancy at birth will also improve over the next decades, growing from 71.7 years in 2025-2030 to 75.9 years in 2045- 2050 and 84.6 years in 2095-2100.
EU BANS MARKETING OF AROUND 700 GENERIC MEDICINES
Around 700 generic medicines have been banned from marketing by the European Union over alleged manipulation of clinical trials which was conducted by GVK Biosciences, an Indian pharmaceutical research company. According to Germany’s drug regulator, the Federal Institute for Medicines and Medical Products, the ban will be applicable to all 28 member nations. It will come into effect on August 21. GVK Biosciences, vehemently denying the allegations, offered to conduct fresh studies of the medicines involved at its own cost.
KAZAKHSTAN BECOMES 162ND WTO MEMBER
After an almost 20-year wait and lengthy negotiations, Kazakhstan, the largest economy in Central Asia, is finally on the verge of completing its accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and becoming the organisation’s 162nd member state. On 27 July 2015 the WTO’s general council formally approved Kazakhstan’s accession and the terms of its entry. The rest of the formalities are now subject to ratification by Kazakhstan’s parliament, a step due to be completed by 31 October 2015. Kazakhstan will become a full member 30 days after it notifies the WTO of this ratification. The decision is widely welcomed in Kazakhstan, particularly as the country’s economy is currently experiencing difficulties due to the dramatic fall in global oil prices and the economic slump in Russia, Kazakhstan’s key regional trade partner, following recent sanctions imposed by the West. WTO membership is expected to stimulate the economy by opening Kazakhstan up to foreign investments by further liberalising its trade regime and integrating the country into the global economy. Kazakhstan’s participation in the Eurasian Customs Union (ECU), formed in 2010 along with Russia and Belarus, significantly complicated and delayed its negotiations with the WTO as Kazakhstan’s diversion towards its fellow ECU members resulted in new trade restrictions and extended tariff schedules vis-à- vis other trading partners. By joining the ECU and largely adopting Russia’s tariffs, Kazakhstan’s tariff rates have seen a major increase on thousands of tariff lines, which led to an almost 80% increase in the average external tariff by 2011. Reconciling the newly adopted tariffs with the pre-ECU tariffs negotiated under bilateral market access agreements with WTO members proved to be a lengthy and difficult process. Kazakhstan’s accession to the WTO shall provide for greater access to the global trading system, higher standards and effective regulations, as well as ensure fair competition and market access for local goods and services to both new and established markets. However, as for any transitional economy, WTO membership brings not only many benefits but also major challenges for certain industries and local market groups. Kazakhstan is no exception and the country’s agriculture and FMCG sectors are expected to suffer the most. The oil-rich economy is currently overly dependent on extractive industries, with petroleum accounting for more than 60% of Kazakhstan’s exports, thus leaving most other industries highly vulnerable to potential competition with foreign manufacturers and suppliers. A more positive benefit is that WTO accession and the resulting access to key export destinations and inbound foreign investment will become important contributors to the successful diversification of Kazakhstan’s economy. In particular, the competitiveness of Kazakhstan’s businesses, especially in sectors outside of the extractive industries, will depend on the ability to efficiently source and import inputs as well as export final or intermediate products. About Kazakhstan Kazakhstan is a country in Central Asia, with [ 1 2 ] Weekly Current Affairs 26th July 2015 to 1st August, 2015 www.ias100.in a minor part west of the Ural River and thus in Europe. Kazakhstan is the world’s largest landlocked country by land area and the ninth largest country in the world. It has borders with (clockwise from the north) Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, and also adjoins a large part of the Caspian Sea. The capital is Astana, where it was moved from Almaty in 1997. Kazakhstan was the last of the Soviet republics to declare independence following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991; the current President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, has been leader of the country since then.
PAKISTAN RECEIVES CSF TRANCHE OF $336 MILLION DOLLARS
Pakistan received some $336 million from the United States for its ongoing role in combating a Taliban insurgency in neighbouring Afghanistan. The injection of cash, which comes as the Taliban steps up its annual summer offensive launched in April, has helped Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves reach a fresh high of about $19 billion. Regular payments to Pakistan under the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) programme began in 2001 when Pakistan joined the US-led coalition in Afghanistan as a “frontline ally”. Pakistan provides use of its air bases and other facilities in exchange for the reimbursements. The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) in a one-line press note said it had received a total of $336.8 million under the CSF programme, which is the first tranche of a $1.5 billion for the current fiscal year ending June 2016. Pakistan has received a total of $13 billion in CSF payments since the programme began. US-led NATO forces ended their combat mission in Afghanistan in December, leaving local forces to battle militants alone, but a 13,000-strong residual force remains for training and counter-terrorism operations. The Afghan government meanwhile conducted its first face-to-face talks with Taliban cadres on July 7 in a Pakistani hill station, aimed at ending the 14-year insurgency. But despite the willingness to engage in talks there has been no let-up in militant attacks, which are taking a heavy toll on civilians. Almost 1,000 civilians were killed in the conflict during the first four months of this year, a sharp jump from the same period last year, according to the United Nations.
PROJECT GOOGLE LOON: SRI LANKA INKS MOU WITH GOOGLE
Google’s ambitious Project Loon, which aims to provide free internet through a network of highaltitude balloons, is to be launched in Sri Lanka. A deal between Sri Lanka’s government and Google, signed on 28 July, will see free LTE connections made available across the country by March 2016, making it the first country in the world to have universal internet access. Since forming in 2011, with the ambition of providing 100% geographic internet coverage, Project Loon has put its balloons through millions of miles of tests in order to optimise coverage. Project leader Nick Cassidy visited Sri Lanka to sign the agreement with the government that will see the entire country covered by the 3G “floating cell towers”. In a few months every person and every device on the island will be covered by 3G. Service providers will enter in to agreements with ‘floating cell towers’ that will be shared bringing down transmission costs leading to further reductions in cost of service provision. This will give more space for them to improve technology, content and service. The agreement will provide a huge boost to the effort of creating a knowledgebased highly competitive social market economy . Project Loon Project Loon is a research and development project being developed by Google X with the mission of providing Internet access to rural and remote areas. The project uses high-altitude balloons placed in the stratosphere at an altitude of about 32 km to create an aerial wireless network with up to 3G-like speeds. It was named Project Loon, since Google itself found the very idea of providing internet access to the remaining 5 billion population unprecedented and “crazy.” The balloons are maneuvered by adjusting their altitude to float to a wind layer after identifying the wind layer with the desired speed and direction using wind data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Users of the service connect to the balloon network using a special Internet antenna attached to their building. The signal travels through the balloon network from balloon to balloon, then to a ground-based station connected to an Internet service provider (ISP), then onto the global Internet. The system aims to bring Internet access to remote and rural areas poorly served by existing provisions, and to improve communication during natural disasters to affected regions. Key people involved in the project include Rich DeVaul, chief technical architect, who is also an expert on wearable technology; Mike Cassidy, a project leader; and Cyrus Behroozi, a networking and telecommunication lead.
UNSC FAILED TO ADOPT PROPOSAL TO CREATE TRIBUNAL ON CRASH OF MALAYSIAN AIRLINES FLIGHT MH17
The United Nations Security Council was unable to adopt a new resolution today following Russia’s negative vote on a measure that would have established an international tribunal to prosecute persons responsible for the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which crashed on 17 July 2014 in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine. Malaysia’s Minister of Transport, Liow Tiong Lai, introduced the draft resolution. The resolution was vetoed by Russia. China and Venezuela abstained and the remaining 11 members of the Council voted in favour. If one of the Council’s five permanent members casts a negative vote on a resolution, the text cannot be adopted. The resolution would have urged the earliest possible finalization of the ongoing international technical investigation into the cause of the crash, in which 298 people died, and the criminal investigation. It would have requested Member States to work together in the Joint Investigation Team to continue to keep the Council fully and regularly informed of the progress of its. The statute of the proposed “International Criminal Tribunal for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17” was annexed to the draft. Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was a scheduled international passenger flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur that crashed on 17 July 2014 after being shot down, killing all 283 passengers and 15 crew on board. The Boeing 777-200ER airliner lost contact about 50 km from the Ukraine–Russia border and crashed near Torez in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, 40 km from the border. The crash occurred during the battle in Shakhtarsk Raion, part of the ongoing war in Donbass, in an area controlled by the Donbass People’s Militia. According to American and German intelligence sources, the plane was shot down by pro-Russian insurgents using a Buk surface-to-air missile (SA-11) fired from the territory which they controlled. The Russian government blamed the Ukrainian government. The Dutch Safety Board is currently leading an investigation into the incident and issued a preliminary report on 9 September 2014; a final accident report is expected in October 2015. An independent analysis by Bellingcat of open-source evidence indicated that Russian-backed separatists were in control of a Buk missile launcher on 17 July and transported it from Donetsk to Snizhne. US sources attributed the downing to a missile fired from separatist-controlled territory, with their judgement based on sensors that traced the path of the missile, analysis of shrapnel patterns in the wreckage, voice print analysis of separatists’ conversations in which they claimed credit for the strike, as well as photos and other data from social media sites. Preliminary evidence from the ongoing Dutch investigation has concluded that the plane was most likely downed by a Russian unit that was probably manned by a Russian crew, though other possibilities have not yet been ruled out. In August 2015, possible BUK missile parts were found at the crash site by a joint investigation team comprising representatives of the Netherlands, Ukraine, Malaysia, Australia, the UK, US and Russia.
NEPAL BANNED ANIMAL SACRIFICE AT GADHIMAI FESTIVAL
Nepalese temple authorities have announced that they will end a centuries-old Hindu tradition of mass animal slaughter that attracts hundreds of thousands of worshippers. The festival, held once every five years, sees hordes of devotees from Nepal and India flock to a temple in the Himalayan nation’s southern plains to sacrifice thousands of animals in the hope of appeasing the Hindu goddess of power, Gadhimai. The practice of ritual sacrifice has a long history in Nepal, with devotees offering goats and buffaloes to gods during major festivals in the hope of finding health and happiness. Some 2.5 million worshippers sacrificed an estimated 200,000 animals during the [ 1 4 ] Weekly Current Affairs 26th July 2015 to 1st August, 2015 www.ias100.in most recent instalment of the Gadhimai festival held in November 2014 in the village of Bariyapur near the Indian border. Animal rights activists applauded the decision, which came after years spent lobbying temple authorities and the Nepal government in a campaign that attracted support from celebrities including British actress Joanna Lumley and French movie legend Brigitte Bardot.
RUSSA-TURKEY GAS PIPELINE DEAL ADVANCES
Russia’s plan to build a new $15 billion pipeline to Turkey has advanced with the draft intergovernmental agreement being sent by Moscow to the Turkish. Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed the project after the European Union blocked Russia’s planned $45-billion South Stream link. Russian energy giant Gazprom would build the new link to Turkey instead as it looks for routes to bypass Ukrainian pipelines from 2020. An intergovernmental agreement on the project’s first line with a capacity of 15.75 bln cubic meters has been sent to Turkey. The “phased negotiations” shows Gazprom is near to starting an alternative project across the Black Sea, linking Russia with Turkey. Gazprom plans the new link to include four parallel lines with total capacity of as much as 63 billion cubic meters per year, one of which would supply Turkey. About 16 bln cubic meters will be given to Turkey. The rest would feed the EU through a network stretching into Greece and on into central Europe. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has also given the go-ahead on joining the pipeline from Russia to Europe via Turkey and Greece. Russian and Greek Energy Ministers, Alexander Novak and Panagiotis Lafazanis signed a memorandum on construction of the extension of the Turkish Stream gas pipeline in Moscow last month.
CHINA, RUSSIA PLAN JOINT NAVAL DRILLS
China’s defense ministry has announced new naval drills with Russia to be held for eight days beginning August 20. The exercises will be held in Peter the Great Bay, an inlet in the Sea of Japan near the China-Russia border. The drills, which follow a similar joint exercise in the Mediterranean in May, are designed to “to improve China and Russia’s capacity in coping with maritime security threats. Navies of the two countries will join forces to simulate anti-submarine combat, air defense and other relevant missions. The announcement comes amid tension between Beijing and Washington about China’s claimed jurisdiction over about 2 million square kms of the 3.55 million square kms South China Sea territory. China accused the US of double standards regarding its criticism of China’s construction projects on a series of islands in the South China sea. China expresses its serious concern over US activities to militarize the South China Sea region. China, the Philippines, Vietnam and other nations lay contesting claims to these waters, but Beijing exercises jurisdiction. In 2013, US ally the Philippines filed a complaint with the Arbitral Tribunal questioning the validity of China’s “nine-dash” territorial claim, a demarcation on official Chinese maps that envelops virtually the entire South China Sea. On July 14, 2015, China reiterated its position of not participating in the South China Sea arbitration process initiated by Philippines at the Hague-based Tribunal.
INDIA & WORLD
E-VISA FACILITY FOR CHINESE TOURISTS
The electronic tourist visa facility for Chinese nationals announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May has rolled out from July 30, 2015 onwards. Along with the citizens of China, the etourist visa facility will also be offered to the nationals of Hong Kong and Macao. Brushing aside concerns raised by intelligence agencies, Mr. Modi, during his visit to China announced that the e-tourist visa facility would be offered to Chinese nationals. Mr. Modi had made the announcement notwithstanding frequent issuance of stapled visas by China to people from Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. India had in 2014launched e-tourist visa facility (which was earlier called ‘tourist visa on arrival enabled by electronic travel authorisation’) for more than 40 countries, including the U.S. The scheme was later extended to 36 more countries with effect from May. Under the e-visa scheme, an applicant receives an email authorising him or her to travel to India after it is approved and he or she can travel with a print-out of this authorisation. On arrival, the visitor has to present the authorisation to the immigration authorities who would then stamp the entry into the country. The number of foreign tourists availing themselves of the e-tourist visa facility has increased by over 700 per cent in May as compared to the same period last year.
LBA: INDIA, BANGLADESH TO EXCHANGE 162 ENCLAVES
As India and Bangladesh have exchanged 162 adversely-held enclaves on Jul 31, 2015, midnight, New Delhi termed it as a “historic” day which will mark the resolution of a complex issue that has lingered since independence. Bangladeshi enclaves in India and Indian enclaves in Bangladesh shall stand physically transferred to the other country with effect from the midnight of July 31. “July 31 will thus be a historic day for both India and Bangladesh. The day marks the resolution of a complex issue that has lingered since independence,” a statement issued by the External Affairs Ministry said. There are 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh and 51 Bangladeshi enclaves in India which are to be exchanged pursuant to the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement and 2011 Protocol and instruments of ratification of which were exchanged during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh on June 6-7, 2015. It also marked the day from which enclave residents on both sides of the border will enjoy the benefits of nationality of India or Bangladesh, as the case may be, and thus access to civic services, education, health-care and other facilities provided by the two Governments to their respective nationals. Following Modi’s visit to Dhaka, much work has gone into ascertaining the nationality options of the enclave residents. The Registrar General of India, Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics and District Magistrate, Cooch Behar and Deputy Commissioners of Lalmonirhat, Panchagarh, Kurigram and Nilphamari worked systematically and in a coordinated fashion to collect the options from the residents. The actual option taking exercise was carried out by 75 teams operating in the enclaves in India and Bangladesh from July 6-16, 2015. 30 observers from Indian and Bangladesh governments were also present in the enclaves during this survey period. Data from this joint exercise is now being verified by the Registrar General of India and Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics. After successfully completing the exercise of ascertaining nationality options of enclave residents, the ground has been prepared for the movement of residents who exercise the option of moving from an Indian enclave to Indian mainland Both governments are working closely together to facilitate trouble-free movement of these residents before the stipulated date of November 30, 2015. Other steps with regard to implementation of the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement and 2011 Protocol are underway in accordance with agreed modalities between governments of India and Bangladesh. According to an estimate, around 37,000 people are living in Indian enclaves in Bangladesh while 14,000 people are staying in Bangladeshi enclaves in India. The Centre has already sanctioned a Rs 3,048-crore package for rehabilitation of the people affected by the exchange of enclaves under the LBA implementation. Between July 31, 2015 and June 30, 2016, the entire process, including physical exchange of enclaves and land parcels in adverse possession along with boundary demarcation, is expected to be completed. India and Bangladesh will print, sign at plenipotentiary level and exchange the strip maps of un-demarcated sectors. Both governments will facilitate “orderly, safe and secure passage” to the enclave dwellers along with their “personal belongings and movable property” to Bangladesh or India through proper “travel documents”, according to a letter exchanged by the two countries. India and Bangladesh have also outlined the modalities of a complex process of settlement of immovable property. The dwellers will have to provide “details of the records and specifications of immovable property” to the local district administration.
BHEL SIGNS AGREEMENTS IN KAZAKHSTAN FOR POWER PROJECTS
In order to enhance its presence in the Central Asia and explore new business opportunities, BHEL has signed three strategic agreements with Kazakh companies during the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Kazakhstan. The first MoU was signed with JSC Samruk Energy, the national power utility of Kazakhstan having a major share in the Kazakh power sector. Both companies will work together on the projects of mutual interest. BHEL has also signed an MoU for comprehensive co-operation in the energy sector for design and construction of power plants and CHP (combined heat and power plants) with KUS, one of the largest utility companies in the Kazakh power sector operating in power generation; heat production; transmission; sale of heat and electricity, etc. KUS is owned by the Ordabassy Group, total assets of the group is estimated at more than $9 billion. Third MoU was signed by BHEL with Kaznex Invest, the national export and investment agency of Kazakhstan (working under the Ministry of Investments and Development of Kazakhstan), for co-operation in executing projects in Kazakhstan. BHEL has been rapidly increasing its focus on the CIS region having successfully executed orders in Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. Over the last few years, Kazakhstan has emerged as the cornerstone of BHEL’s CIS operations with its regional office being located in Almaty. Five BHEL make gas turbine generators (42 MW each) are already installed at the Tengizchevroil complex in Atyrau.
ADB, CENTRE INK $300 MILLION LOAN PACT FOR NUHM
Manila-headquartered Asian Development Bank (ADB) on July 28, 2015 inked USD 300 million loan pact with the government to support the National Urban Health Mission (NUHM). The NUHM is aimed at improving health status of the country’s urban population. “The loan — Supporting National Urban Health Mission — will be ADB’s first health project in India and reinforce ongoing government efforts under the NUHM to develop health systems in urban areas that can deliver quality health services that reach the urban poor and vulnerable,” ADB said in a statement. “The programme’s due attention to achieving convergence across key sectors that affect urban health, and to actively involve urban local bodies in planning and delivery of urban health services, is commendable,” said Raj Kumar, Joint Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Finance Ministry, who signed the agreement on behalf of the government. “The use of ADB’s results-based lending modality will strengthen NUHM systems and overall results orientation, while allowing states the flexibility they need to pursue targets that they need locally,” said M Teresa Kho, Country Director of ADB’s India Resident Mission. Kho signed the agreement on behalf of ADB. www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  The signatories to the loan also signed the accompanying capacity building technical assistance of USD 2 million, financed by the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction. India is urbanising rapidly, bringing a massive growth of urban poor. Disparities in health status between the poor and non-poor in urban areas are large, due to the adverse living conditions of the urban poor and their limited access to good basic health services, ADB said. There are few preventive and primary health services in urban areas, while millions of people are faced with poverty every year due to high costs related to healthcare. The loan from the ADB’s Ordinary Capital Resources has a 20-year, term including a grace period of five years, and an interest rate to be determined in accordance with ADB’s LIBOR-based lending facility. Established in 1966, ADB is comprised of 67 members, of which 48 are from the region. In 2014, ADB assistance totalled USD 22.9 billion, including co-financing of USD 9.2 billion.
CABINET APPROVED NATIONAL INVESTMENT AND INFRASTRUCTURE FUND
The Union Cabinet approved creation of a Rs 20,000-crore National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF), a sort of sovereign fund, for development of infrastructure projects, including the stalled ones. The NIIF is being established with an aim to maximise “economic impact” mainly through infrastructure development in commercially viable projects, both green field and brown field, “including stalled projects”. The fund could also consider funding nationally important projects in the manufacturing sector. The initial authorised capital of NIIF would be Rs 20,000 crore, which will be raised from time to as decided by the Finance Minister. The government would contribute 49% of the subscribed capital of NIIF. The Fund would also solicit equity participation from strategic anchor partners. The contribution of the government to the NIIF would enable it to be seen virtually as a sovereign fund and is expected to attract overseas sovereign/quasi sovereign/ multi-lateral/bilateral investors to co-invest in it. The Fund was proposed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his Budget 2015-16. Domestic pension and provident funds and national small saving fund may also provide funds to NIIF. NIIF may utilise the proceeds of the monetised land and other assets of Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) for infrastructure developments.
MAHARASHTRA TO DEVELOP SIX SOLAR CITIES
The Maharashtra government has put in place a comprehensive plan to simultaneously develop six solar cities and implement solar capacity addition of 7,000 MW in the state. The Centre has shortlisted Nagpur, Aurangabad, Thane, KalyanDombivli, Nanded and Shirdi for development as solar cities. These are part of 55 solar cities to be developed across the country and have been selected based on the population and other criteria. The state government has prepared a blueprint in this regard and hopes to develop six solar cities through central and state funding. The government also recently announced capacity addition of 14,400 MW through renewable energy sources in a bid to meet the increasing power demand in the state. Of the 14,400 MW, nearly 7,500 MW is proposed to be added through solar, 5,000 MW through wind and rest from other sources including co generation, industrial waste. www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  Of the 7,500 solar capacity, 5,000 MW will be developed on build operate transfer (BOT) basis while 2,500 MW through public private participation (PPP) or based on engineering procurement construction (EPC) basis. The civic bodies and district administration will soon set up an independent smart city cell and solar city stakeholders committee. They will take necessary decisions with regard to rebate in property tax & in electricity tariff though distribution utilities to the users of solar water heaters especially in the domestic sector. The civic bodies will amend building bylaws for making use of solar water hearing systems mandatory in certain category of buildings. The civic bodies of these six cities will take necessary decisions to adopt renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency measures. As far as solar capacity addition is concerned, the government will attract private investment to develop 5,000 MW on BOT model. The power from the proposed solar projects will be procured through competitive bidding. This apart, 2,500 MW will be developed jointly by the state undertakings MahaGenco or by MahaVitaran with private developers under the PPP model or through EPC basis. The government proposed to promote development of 1 MW solar plants and solar parks in industrial areas, townships and irrigation canals. Further, solar projects of 250 kW will also be encouraged. Land for proposed solar capacity addition will be provided through deemed non agricultural approvals and these projects would not need nod from the state pollution control board.
3RD PHASE E-AUCTION OF FM RADIO
HT Media, Entertainment Networks India Ltd, Reliance Broadcast Network Ltd, Mathrubhumi Printing and Publishing Co, Rajasthan Patrika, Music Broadcast Ltd and Sun TV Group were among the key participants in the first batch of private FM radio auctions. The government allowed 26 bidders to participate in the third phase of the auctions. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said the cumulative winning provisional price of bids stood at Rs.395 crore for 78 radio channels in 54 cities. The aggregate reserve price for these channels was about Rs.375 crore. In the first batch of Phase III, the government has put a total of 135 channels in 69 cities up for auction. From the first batch alone the government expects to earn Rs. 550 crore. The ongoing auction is a Simultaneous Multiple Round Ascending (SMRA) e-auction where the bids keep rising till supply matches demand.
CCI IMPOSES RS. 420 CRORE FINE ON HYUNDAI
The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has imposed a penalty of Rs 420 crore on Hyundai for anti-competitive practices in the sale of its spare parts through authorised dealers alone. In August, 2014 CCI had imposed penalties of Rs 2,554 crore on 14 carmakers for failure to make spare parts available in the open market. Most companies have secured individual stays on the CCI order and haven’t paid the fine. In an order dated 27 July, 2015 Hyundai was directed to deposit Rs 420 crore within 60 days. The amount is two per cent of the three-year average turnover of Hyundai. In February 2013, the company had secured a stay on CCI proceedings from the Madras High Court. That stay was lifted early in 2015 and Hyundai was asked to participate in a CCI investigation. However, CCI was asked not to pass an order till the court gave a final order. While Tata Motors was imposed a fine of Rs 1,346 crore, a Rs 471-crore fine was imposed on Maruti in August, 2014. Two other carmakers, Reva and Premier, were also found to be adopting in similar practices, though these companies weren’t penalised. It was also found that Hyundai charged a high mark-up, ranging from 28 per cent to 644 per cent, on spare parts due to lack of a ‘competitive structure’. Also, these companies made warranties null and void if the vehicle was repaired by any entity other than an authorised service centre. In August 2014, CCI had imposed penalties amounting to Rs 2,554 crore on 14 other carmakers in the same case. Those charged of failing to sell spare parts in the open market included Honda Siel, Fiat, Volkswagen, BMW, Ford, General Motors, Hindustan Motors, M&M, Maruti Suzuki, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan Motors, Skoda, Tata Motors and Toyota Kirloskar Motors. About Competition Commission of India (CCI) CCI quasi-judicial statutory body whose [ 2 0 ] Weekly Current Affairs 26th July 2015 to 1st August, 2015 www.ias100.in predecessor was the MRTPC (Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission). It was established 2003 as per the provisions of The Competition Act, 2002 and became fully functional only by 2009. It was established with an aim to eliminate anti-competitive practices that adversely affect competition in different industries/areas and protect interests of consumers and ensure freedom of trade and also to give opinions to statutory authorities.
HERO MOTOCORP TO BUY ASSETS OF BANKRUPT US COMPANY
Hero MotoCorp, India’s largest two-wheeler manufacturer, will acquire certain tangible and intangible assets of its US-based bankrupt partner Erik Buell Racing (EBR) for $2.8 million (Rs 18 crore). Hero MotoCorp’s US subsidiaries HMCL NA and HMCL Americas have signed a settlement in this regard with the receiver appointed by the Circuit Court, Wisconsin, US. The deal is a positive for Munjal familypromoted Hero MotoCorp as nearly half a dozen projects of the Indian company have faced uncertainty following the closure of EBR’s operations in April when the US company filed for bankruptcy protection. The deal would help Hero MotoCorp’s in-house research and development teams to accelerate development of certain consulting projects, including the projects EBR was executing for the company. In 2013, the Delhi-based company had picked up a 49.2 per cent stake in EBR for $25 million (Rs 150 crore). The two companies had been working together for a year on research and development prior to the stake buy. Through EBR, besides developing products for the domestic market including electric- and diesel-powered twowheelers, Hero had also been gunning a foray into the US market, something no Indian manufacturer has done with the exception of Eicher Motorsowned Royal Enfield. Some of the next-generation products were dependent on EBR’s input to move ahead. EBR’s knowledge of developing high-speed performance bikes was the pivot for Hero’s interest in the company. Hero was keen on tapping the EBR’s technology to counter the increasing shift of rivals Bajaj Auto and TVS Motor towards highend bikes. Bajaj tied up with Austria’s KTM and successfully launched products above 200cc. TVS will follow suit later in 2015, riding on its partnership with Germany’s BMW.
WORLD’S FIRST DIAMOND EXCHANGE AT SINGAPORE
The world’s first physically settled diamonds trading exchange, which is being set up in Singapore, will go live in September, 2015. Diamonds are usually traded bilaterally and there is no organised place for the same. While retailers or jewellers buy diamonds from those who polish it, consumers usually buy it from the retailers. The Singapore Diamond Investment Exchange Pte Ltd (SDiX) is being set up by Alain Vandenborre, an entrepreneur who has a controlling stake in SDiX. Alain Vandenborre has also co-founded the Singapore Freeport (now Le Freeport Management). SDiX has equity investment from Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund Temasek Holdings’ fullyowned subsidiary Vertex Venture Holdings and International Enterprise Singapore (IE Singapore), the government agency promoting international trade. The exchange will provide investors an opportunity to invest in diamonds with transparent pricing. SDiX will be a first-of-its-kind business-toconsumer (B2C) platform for physically settled diamonds. The exchange will have standardised lots of diamonds. All diamonds listed on the SDiX will be graded by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) with custodial services being provided by Malca-Amit – a global wealth management logistics company. United Overseas Bank is the initial approved settlement bank. SDIX also plans to launch forward trading and futures trading in diamonds in 2017. The diamonds that will be traded on the exchange will be round, fluorescence-absent high-quality ones with standard lots. Large single diamonds and brown, green or milky diamonds will not be traded. Initially, trading window will be open for four hours, which will be Asia-centric. Trading Procedure A seller will have to deposit diamonds according to standardised lots, after graded and certified by the GIA, in the dedicated physical vaults – one operated by Malca-Amit in Singapore Le Freeport and the second one operated by Malca-Amit within the Bharat Diamond Bourse at BKC Mumbai. www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  Brokers will have to keep security deposits, based on which their trading limits will be decided. They will also have to collect money from buyers and deposit it with the exchange. Trade will be settled in T+3 cycle (three business days after the transaction date). Around 25 several large Indian diamond companies are ‘pioneer members’ for the launch, comprising ‘approved suppliers’ and ‘broker members’. They include Paragon Diamonds, Kiran Gems, SRK, Hari Krishna Exports, Rosy Blue, Sheetal Group, Leo Schachter Diamonds, K P Sanghvi, Kapu Gems and UOB Kay Hian, representing participation across six countries – Singapore, India, Hong Kong, the US, Belgium, and the UK. While many of these companies will be suppliers, buyers will consist of jewellers, retailers and even investors who could be high net worth individuals and corporates. TITAGARH WAGONS BUYS ITALY-BASED FIREMA TRASPORTI Titagarh Wagons announced acquisition of Italy-based Firema Trasporti to foray into metro coach and high-speed train manufacturing. The transaction entails transfer of technology, all tangible and intangible assets and some liabilities relating to ongoing orders. This acquisition, will increase Titagarh Wagons order book from Rs 875 crore by addition of euro 220 million to total above Rs 2,400 crore. The company has been acquired through an SPV Titagarh Firema Adler registered in Milan, Italy, in which Titagarh holds a 90 per cent stake and balance 10 per cent by Adler Plastics.
KALYANI GROUP PARTNERS WITH ISRAEL’S RAFAEL TO MAKE SPIKE MISSILE
In a move that will further deepen India-Israel strategic cooperation, Rafael of Israel and India’s Kalyani Group are forming a manufacturing Joint Venture (JV) to produce Spike Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGM) in India and Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) will be the system integrator. Spike is a third generation, fire-and-forget, manportable, anti-tank missile. In all, about 40,000 missiles are required to equip the Army’s 382 infantry battalions and 44 mechanised regiments. In October, 2014 the Defence Acquisition Council chaired by then Defence Minister Arun Jaitley had cleared the Spike ATGM deal worth Rs. 3,200 crore deal for 8,000 plus missiles, 300 plus launchers and requisite transfer of technology to an Indian firm. The U.S. had lobbied hard for its Javelin missiles with offer of joint development and production of next generations missiles for use by both countries. The companies are in talks with the Telangana government to procure land to set up a manufacturing facility in Hyderabad as BDL’s missile unit is located there.
GM TO INVEST $1 BN IN TALEGAON BY 2020
General Motors, the world’s second-largest automaker, plans to invest $1 billion in India by 2020. The announcement follows the company’s decision to invest $5 billion in global growth markets like Brazil, China, Mexico and India. The fresh investment will be used primarily to expand the capacity at the Talegaon plant from 130,000 units a year to 220,000 by 2025. The company had invested $1 billion in the country since 1996, when the Halol (Gujarat) plant was set up, but its Indian operations remained marred by losses. GM, India’s eighth-largest automaker also announced its plan to shut its Halol plant and expand capacity at the Talegaon facility in Maharashtra. The Halol unit had earlier faced labour unrest on two occasions — first, in 2010, when workers went on a strike that lasted three days; and second in March 2011, when their strike went on for six weeks. The proposed expansion is for exports, for which Talegaon has good infrastructure and ecosystem. GM has a market share of 1.8 per cent in India and is the eighth-largest player here. The new investments would create 12,000 new jobs for GM and its suppliers in India. Despite expansion at Talegaon, the company’s India capacity will decline from 280,000 at two plants to 220,000 at one after restructuring. Operations at the Halol plant, which has a capacity of 110,000 units a year, will be stopped from the second half [ 2 2 ] Weekly Current Affairs 26th July 2015 to 1st August, 2015 www.ias100.in of 2016. This plant employs 1,100 workers. General Motors Company General Motors Company, commonly known as GM, is an American multinational corporation headquartered in Detroit, Michigan, that designs, manufactures, markets and distributes vehicles and vehicle parts and sells financial services. General Motors produces vehicles in 37 countries under thirteen brands: Alpheon, Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Cadillac, Holden, HSV, Opel, Vauxhall, Wuling, Baojun, Jie Fang, UzDaewoo.
SEBI CANCELS SAHARA’S MUTUAL FUND LICENCE
The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) cancelled Sahara Asset Management Company (AMC) certificate of registration and has granted five months to transfer the AMC to a new sponsor and Sebi-approved AMC. In a 22-page order which is applicable with immediate effect, SEBI whole-time member Prashant Saran stated that Sahara’s AMC did not fulfil the criteria of ‘fit and proper’ to carry out the business of a mutual fund. SEBI has ordered the fund house to neither take any new subscription from the investors nor levy any penalties on the systematic investment plans (SIP) and systematic transfer plans (STP) to investors for not depositing the installments. According to the data from Association of Mutual funds in India (AMFI), total assets under management of the fund house at the end of June quarter stood at R134.29 crore. In February, the capital markets regulator had cited similar reason to reject Sahara AMC’s renewal application for registration as portfolio manager. SEBI has directed SAMCPL to transfer its business to another SEBI registered portfolio manager within 30 days or allow clients to withdraw the securities and funds in its custody at the option of the client.
SCIENCE & TECH MICROSOFT LAUNCHES WINDOWS 10
Microsoft has announced that Windows 10, the company’s new operating system, will be available from July 9, 2015 as a free upgrade or with new PCs and tablets. The phone version of the OS will arrive at a later time. Windows 10 includes features such as Cortana, Microsoft’s voice-based smart assistant, an Xbox app for gaming and a Microsoft Edge, a new web browser that replaces Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Windows 10 marks the return of the Start menu in an avatar similar to the one we’ve seen in Windows 7 and earlier releases. It retains Windows 8’s Live Tiles showing streaming updates on app icons. Windows 10 also comes with enhancements to Windows Defender and SmartScreen to help safeguard against viruses, malware and phishing, in addition to Windows Hello, which offers a fast, secured, password-free way to log in with face recognition. Windows 10 supports voice, pen and gesture inputs for natural interaction with PCs and allows users to switch between apps and multitask with Snap and Task View. Windows 10 includes builtin apps like Photos; Maps; Microsoft’s new music app, Groove; and Movies & TV (coming to India in the coming months) for entertainment and productivity options. A Microsoft Phone Companion app enables iPhones, Android or Windows phones to work with Windows 10 devices. The OS also includes Office Mobile apps for Windows 10 tablets which will be available in the Windows Store for tablets with 10-inch or lower size screens. Microsoft claims that the operating system is the most secure version of Windows ever – Windows 10 is delivered as a service and kept automatically up-to-date with feature and security updates. Windows 10 includes built-in enterprise grade security, so customers can replace passwords with more secure options, protect corporate data and corporate identities, and run only the software they trust, says Microsoft. Windows 10 will be available on a broad range of devices, including PCs, tablets, phones, Raspberry Pi, Xbox One, HoloLens and more — with more than 2,000 devices or configurations already in testing as per Microsoft. Six popular existing Indian apps such as Zomato, BookMyShow, Jabong, Gaana and Mobikwik, among others, will be available as Universal Windows Apps very soon as well. FACEBOOK LITE: COMPRESSED VERSION OF FACEBOOK LAUNCHED To cast its net wider than the 125 million Indians who are already accessing the world’s largest social networking site, Facebook has unveiled a new version of its application called Facebook Lite — a compressed version of the application. The idea is to expand the reach of Facebook to a much wider audience, especially those who do not necessarily use high-end smart phones or have slow data connections. Facebook Lite, the application size is less than 1 MB at 430 KB, against the full version’s size of 30 MB. It is much lighter, consumes much less data and performs much faster. The application contains most of the core features of regular application such as News Feed, status updates, photos and notifications. Other features such as videos and direct replies to individual comments are still workin-progress. One billion people across the world are on the slower 2G network; in India, the figure is 874 million or roughly 80 per cent of the total subscriber base in the country. The company developed the application after much market research in the hinterlands of the country to understand the issues being faced by people while accessing Facebook. Apart from the regular features of the application, the Lite version will give users the option of choosing the quality of the pictures (lower resolution pictures means faster loading and less data usage) along with integrating Facebook messenger in the application, which was not the case earlier. [ 2 4 ] Weekly Current Affairs 26th July 2015 to 1st August, 2015 www.ias100.in
A ROBOT IN SINGLE-MINDED PURSUIT OF PICKING THINGS UP
Toyota’s new robot that glides around is devoted to a single task — picking things up. It doesn’t have other tricks in its repertoire, except for a computer panel on its head for surfing the Internet. A person can also access the robot from another computer and use it like a camera phone. Kouichi Ikeda, its engineer, is serious about using it to help around regular homes. First, people with disabilities, and then for the elderly in general. Picking up is especially challenging for people with spinal disorders and other ailments that hamper the ability to stoop down and grab, he said. “Although it can only do one simple task of picking up, it’s already making disabled people quite happy. We’re just getting started, but eventually we want it to enter people’s homes,” Mr. Kouichi said at an exhibition of health-care technology in Yokohama, southwest of Tokyo. Nearly 40 per cent of Japan’s population will be 65 or older by 2060, and with the rest of the developed world and some developing nations following that track, Toyota is banking on the demand for robot helpers to grow. “People feel more comfortable asking a robot to pick up after them than asking a human helper,” said Tadashi Hatakenaka, manager and engineer at the Yokohama Rehabilitation Centre. A robot like HSR is also ideal to replace service dogs, which go through special training to help people with various disabilities, including those who use wheelchairs, have balance issues or may be prone to seizures, he said. Toyota came up with the basic concept model for HSR in 2012. The revamped model, announced recently, is ready to enter universities, research facilities and businesses from next year, in partnerships to develop more applications, so the robot can enter homes as quickly as possible. One drawback is cost. Mass production is needed for the price to come down. Toyota declined to give the current price. Ikeda showed how HSR can be controlled relatively easily by tapping on a tablet device, to fetch a TV remote-controller. The 135-cm-tall robot has several cameras, including two on its head that look like its eyes, and sensors on its body. It scoots quietly around in all directions. Unlike those of the robotic arms at autoassembly plants, HSR’s grip and bumps are designed to be soft so they can’t hurt anyone. But it can pick up items weigh up to 1.2 kg. There was no attempt to make its design cute, like the Pepper childlike robot that recently went for sale in Japan from Japanese Internet company Softbank Corp. MUSK, HAWKING URGE BAN ON MILITARY ROBOTS Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, along with hundreds of Artificial Intelligence researchers and experts, are calling for a worldwide ban on socalled autonomous weapons, warning that they could set off a revolution in weaponry comparable to gunpowder and nuclear arms. In a letter unveiled as researchers gathered at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on July 26, 2015, the signatories argued that the deployment of robots capable of killing while untethered to human operators is “feasible within years, not decades.” If development is not cut off, it is only a matter of time before the weapons end up in the hands of terrorists and warlords, they said. Unlike drones, which require a person to remotely pilot the craft and make targeting decisions, the autonomous weapons would search for and engage targets on their own. Unlike nuclear weapons, they could be made with raw materials that all significant military powers could afford and obtain, making them easier to mass-produce, the authors argued. The weapons could reduce military casualties by keeping human soldiers off battlefields, but they could also lower the threshold for going to battle. If any major military power pushes ahead with A.I. weapon development, a global arms race is virtually inevitable, and the endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow. Experts have warned that AI weapon development would lead to a global arms race, lowering the threshold for going to battle. A military robot in the Terminator movies that are set in dystopian world ruled by an AI system called Skynet. Musk, the head of SpaceX, has raised warnings about Artificial Intelligence before, calling it probably humanity’s “biggest existential threat.” www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  Hawking, the physicist, has written that while development of Artificial Intelligence could be the biggest event in human history, “Unfortunately, it might also be the last.” They said Artificial Intelligence “has great potential to benefit humanity in many ways.” Proponents have predicted applications in fighting disease, mitigating poverty and carrying out rescues. An association with weaponry, though, could set off a backlash that curtails its advancement.
SALt LAMP: RUNS FOR 8 HOURS ON WATER AND SALT
A new cost effective lamp that burns for eight hours at a time, running on nothing but a glass of water and two tablespoons of salt has been developed by a start-up in the Philippines. The Sustainable Alternative Lighting or SALt lamp will also be able to generate enough energy to charge a smartphone through a USB cable, while also lighting up the room. The lamp works with a galvanic cell battery, which consists of an electrolyte solution – the salt and water – and two electrodes. When the electrodes are placed in the electrolyte, the energy generated kicks an LED light into gear. The battery will work for eight hours a day for six months, which is a considerable upgrade from the constant refills required by paraffin lantern, the developers said. Use the ocean-water to power up your lamp and it will give you eight hours of running-time, the SALt team said on its website. The team said the lamp is safe as there are no materials and components inside the lamp that may cause fire accidents. It hopes to get the lamp on the market by 2016. “There are over 7,000 islands in the Philippines and most of these islands do not have access to electricity. We want to eliminate the sustaining cost in areas that rely on kerosene/battery powered lamps and candles as their main source of lighting,” the SALt team said. And to provide a more efficient light source for people who use lamps and candles as an alternative source of lighting. vvvvv [ 2 6 ] Weekly Current Affairs 26th July 2015 to 1st August, 2015 www.ias100.i
ECOLOGY & ENVIRONMENT
INDIA UNDER PRESSURE TO DECLARE EMISSION TARGETS Ahead of the UN climate summit in Paris in December 2015, India is under growing pressure to announce its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), containing emission reductions targets, at the earliest date. On July 28, 2015, top French climate ambassadors Laurence Tubiana and Nicholas Hulot met with ministers, including Union Environment and Forests Minister Prakash Javadekar, to discuss India’s progress on determining its contributions ahead of the Paris summit. Both the U.S. and French negotiators are keen that India makes some sort of announcement when Prime Minister Narendra Modi travels to the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September. The negotiators said they are hopeful that most of the climate agreement text would be ready by October. “We are looking forward to India for leadership on the climate action front,” said Ms. Tubiana, special representative of Laurent Fabius, the French minister of foreign affairs and international development, for the Paris Climate 2015 conference (COP21). While France cannot impose the domestic commitment of various countries – each country will have to commit to its own set of goals for reducing global warming, so as to maintain the global temperature rise to within 2 degrees celcius, In March 2015, the European Union announced its INDCs of at least a 40 per cent domestic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990 levels by 2030. India is yet to make its contributions clear. The government said the visiting French negotiators that India’s current priority is to give access to energy to about 300 million people, which cannot be achieved without the use of coal. Switching to a low-carbon economic model for developing countries like India would require access to cheap capital by way of climate financing. The G20 summit happening in Turkey in November, a little ahead of the Paris summit, might be a good forum to discuss some of the climatefinancing related issues, Ms. Tubiana said. 15 GHARIALS IN BEAS BELT TO BOOST TOURISM Punjab government announced that 15 Gharials will be released in the Beas belt as part of its plan to make it a habitat of the species. The state government is trying to make Beas Belt, near Harike Patan, a habitat of Gharials – the last surviving species of the family Gavialidae – which will promote the area as a major tourist destination. Experts from World Wide Fund for Nature (WWFN), an NGO have planned to release Gharials in February-March 2016 near Karmowal village which has ample water bodies with sand banks thereby making it suitable for being developed as habitat for the species. They will be kept under close watch that more Gharials will be released depending upon the success of the initial phase. Harike Patan water bodies have 15 Dolphins, besides having various varieties of Wild Boars, Cat and Fish making this region a perfect site for promoting and developing wildlife. NEW FROG SPECIES DISCOVERED IN GOA Wildlife researchers on July 29, 2015 announced in Panaji that a species of frog discovered in South Goa’s Netravali forest sanctuary has been named after State Range Forest Officer Prakash Salelkar as ‘Indirana Salelkari’. “Indirana Salelkari, a newly discovered species of leaping frog, is from Netravali in Goa, India. The species can be distinguished from its congeners by a combination of morphological characters,” according to a research paper authored by Nikhil Modak, Neelesh Dahanukar, Ninad Gosavi and Anand D Padhye. www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  The frog was discovered at Netravali and has been named after Netravali Range Forest Officer Prakash Salelkar. After a species of caecilians (legless amphibians) were named after Range Forest Officer Paresh Porob, Salelkar is the second Range Forest Officer to be recognised by the scientific community for their contribution to conservation of wildlife. Goa’s Western Ghats lie at the confluence of the Northern and the Southern Ghats and thus are unique. It is not a surprise that new species are being discovered from the state. Already a few species of caecilians, a spider, one dragonfly and few herbs have been discovrered from the state. The research paper states that the frog was found in a farmhouse in the Netravali forest area of South Goa. During field surveys in the Goa region of the Western Ghats, we came across a population of Indirana frogs found to be morphologically and genetically different from other known species of the genus. ROYAL BENGAL TIGER COUNT FALLS RAPIDLY The tiger population in Bangladesh has declined sharply to 106 from 440 in 2014, according to a survey. The loss of habitat, unchecked wildlife poaching, animal-human conflict in the forest and lack of forest management are the main reasons behind the rapid fall in the tiger population, said experts. The year-long survey ended in April was based on footage from hidden cameras and found the number of tigers between 83 and 130. Bangladesh’s Forest conservator Dr. Tapan Kumar Dey said more scientific method was used in the new census, which found only 106 big cats in the Sundarbans. The new tiger census project was carried out under ‘Strengthening Regional Cooperation for Wildlife Protection in Asia Project’ with financial support from the World Bank. The BangladeshIndia Joint Tiger Census Project conducted the tiger census examining some 1,500 images and footprints of tigers taken from the Sundarbans through camera trapping and found the horribly low figure of tigers. Wildlife experts said the methodology applied in the new tiger census is better rather than pug marks used in the past. There are apparently 74 tigers on the Indian side of the Sundarbans, the mangrove forest that stretches for nearly 4,000 miles across both countries. One of Bangladesh’s top tiger experts, Dr. Monirul H Khan, said the 2004 census that used pugmarks to count tigers was not actually a reliable and scientific method.