Current Affairs 28TH JUNE 2015 TO 4TH JULY, 2015
PRADHAN MANTRI KRISHI SINCHAYEE YOIANA
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has given its approval to a new scheme the “Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana” (PMKSY). It will have an outlay of Rs. 50,000 crore over a period of five years (2015-16 to 2019-20). The allocation for the current financial year is Rs. 5300 crore. Major objective of the PMKSY l The major objective of the PMKSY is to achieve convergence of investments in irrigation at the field level, expand cultivable area under assured irrigation (Har Khet ko pani), improve on-farm water use efficiency to reduce wastage of water, enhance the adoption of precision-irrigation and other water saving technologies (More crop per drop), enhance recharge of aquifers and introduce sustainable water conservation practices by exploring the feasibility of reusing treated municipal based water for peri-urban agriculture and attract greater private investment in precision irrigation system. l The scheme also aims at bringing concerned Ministries/Departments/Agencies/Research and Financial Institutions engaged in creation/ use/recycling/potential recycling of water, brought under a common platform, so that a comprehensive and holistic view of the entire “water cycle” is taken into account and proper water budgeting is done for all sectors namely, household, agriculture and industries. l The programme architecture of PMKSY aims at a ‘decentralized State level planning and execution’ structure, in order to allow States to draw up a District Irrigation Plan (DIP) and a State Irrigation Plan (SIP). DIP will have holistic developmental perspective of the district outlining medium to long term developmental plans integrating three components namely, water sources, distribution network and water use application of the district to be prepared at two levels – the block and the district. All structures created under the schemes will be geotagged. l The programme will be supervised and monitored at the national level by an InterMinisterial National Steering Committee (NSC) under the Chairmanship of the Prime Minister with Union Ministers of all concerned Ministries. l A National Executive Committee (NEC) is to be constituted under the Chairmanship of the Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog to oversee programme implementation, allocation of resources, inter ministerial coordination, monitoring and performance assessment, addressing administrative issues etc. l At the state level the scheme is to be administered by a State Level Sanctioning Committee (SLSC) to be Chaired by the Chief Secretary of the respective States. l The committee will have all authority to sanction the project and also monitor the progress of the scheme. l At the district level their shall be a district level implementation committee for ensuring last mile coordination a the field level. l It is expected that PMKSY will provide convergence to existing schemes of water management, thus bringing efficiency to the use of water. Other farmer friendly initiatives In 2014, the Government of India has taken several farmer friendly initiatives. These, amongst other things, include the following: l A new scheme has been introduced to issue a Soil Health Card to every farmer. Soil Health Management in the country is being promoted through setting up of soil and fertilizer testing laboratories. 34 lakh soil samples has been collected and analysis is continuing. l A new scheme for promoting organic farming www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  “Pramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana” has been launched to promote organic farming. l A dedicated Kisan Channel has been started by Doordarshan to address various issues concerning farmers. l Government is also encouraging formation of Farmer Producer organizations. l Assistance to farmers, as input subsidy, has been increased by 50 percent in case of natural calamities. l Norms have been relaxed to provide assistance from previous norm of crop loss of more than 50 percent to 33 percent to farmers afflicted by natural calamities. l Minimum Support Price (MSP) for various Kharif crops has been increased. Bonus of Rs.200 per quintal has been announced for pulses. Area coverage under pulses has increased over the last year.
SOCIO ECONOMIC CENSUS: OVER A THIRD OF RURAL INDIA STILL ILLITERATE
The Socio Economic and Caste Census 2011 (SECC) released on July 3, 2015 has found that 36 per cent of the 884 million people in rural India are illiterate. This is higher than the 32 per cent recorded by the Census of India 2011. Of the 64 per cent literate rural Indians, a more than a fifth have not even completed primary school. The SECC also found that only 5.4 per cent of rural India has completed high school with a mere 3.4 per cent having graduated from college. This poor state of rural education is reflected in the fact that 23.5 per cent of rural households had no adults above the age of 25 who are literate – one of the categories of deprivation measured by the SECC. The performance within States is hugely varied, with an alarming 47.6 per cent of rural Rajasthan is remaining illiterate, compared to 9.3 per cent in Lakshadweep and 11.4 per cent in Kerala. Delhi the best Delhi performs the best when it comes to percentage of its rural population that has completed graduate studies – at 9.6 per cent, its performance is almost thrice as good as the national average. These numbers reiterate the poor quality of education being provided in rural India and the high drop-out rate, as brought up repeatedly by the Annual State of Education Report (ASER) in rural India by Pratham. According to ASER, 96 per cent of children aged 6-14 are enrolled in schools, but the fact that 36 per cent of rural Indians are illiterate points towards poor education quality, a high drop-out rate, or both. Nearly 19 per cent of India’s rural population in 2011 lacked at least one of seven socio-economic parameters used to estimate deprivation that include source of income, the presence of an able and literate adult and quality dwelling. The first socio-economic and caste census in India since 1934, the Socio Economic and Caste Census 2011 (SECC), was released on July 4, 2015. Among the crucial findings of the exercise, conducted by the Ministry of Rural Development, was that about 30 per cent of rural households are landless and derive a major part of their income from manual, casual labour. The second most common form of deprivation was literacy with close to a quarter – 23.5 per cent — of rural households having no literate adults above the age of 25. Over 48 % of rural population is female A little more than 48 per cent of the Indian rural population is female, according to the Socio Economic and Caste Census 2011 (SECC) released on Friday. This is in keeping with the rural gender ratio found in the Census of India 2011. Marking the first all-India Census to be released since the Supreme Court recognised transgenders as the third gender in 2014, the SECC found that transgenders comprise 0.1 per cent of India’s rural population. Andaman & Nicobar islands, West Bengal, Gujarat, Odisha and Mizoram have the highest proportions of transgenders. The Census also found that 41.6 per cent of rural Indians were unmarried, 40 per cent are currently married and 3.5 per cent are divorced. Daman and Diu lead the country in the proportion of their rural population that has remained unmarried — at 55.9 per cent, this is far higher than the national average. Chandigarh, on the other hand, has only 23.2 per cent of its population that has never married. Puducherry and Kerala have the highest proportion of widows, at 6 % and 5.5 % respectively. The average household in rural India has close to five members, and only 12.8 per cent of them are headed by women. Lakshadweep bucks this trend, with over 40 per cent of its rural households headed by women. Cellphones outnumber landlines in rural India Nearly 28 per cent of rural households in India still do not have access to a phone, whether landline or mobile, finds the Socio Economic and Caste Census, 2011. Only 11 per cent of these households have a refrigerator. The census finds that the number of mobilephone connections far exceeds that of landlines in rural India. Sixty-eight per cent of households own only a mobile phone, one per cent own only a landline phone, and 2.7 per cent own both. The census provides an insight into transport facilities in villages, showing that only 20.6 per cent of households own “motorised two/three/fourwheelers or motorised fishing boats requiring registration”. Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh perform abysmally when it comes to rural consumption of items measured in the census. A whopping 71 per cent of Chhattisgarh’s rural population, for example, does not have a phone. This number is 65.3 per cent for Odisha and 51.9 per cent for Madhya Pradesh. The proportion of these States’ rural populations with a refrigerator is very low — only around a third of the national average. The highest-paid members in an overwhelming 90.8 per cent of rural households in Chhattisgarh earn less than Rs. 5,000 a month, which may explain the low consumption. This proportion is 87.8 per cent in Odisha and 83.5 per cent in Madhya Pradesh, against the national average of 74.5%. The census found that only 3.62 per cent of rural households across the country have a Kisan Credit Card with a credit limit of Rs. 50,000 or more.
INDIA IS NOW A $2-TRILLION ECONOMY
India’s GDP crossed the $2-trillion mark in 2014, according to data released by the World Bank in Washington on July 1, 2015. After taking 60 years to reach the $1-trillion mark, India added the next trillion in just seven years. The World Bank data also showed that India’s gross national income per person rose to $1,610 (around Rs. 1 lakh) a year during 2014 from $1,560 the previous year. An analysis found that it would take India a little more than a decade to rise from its current ‘lower middle income’ category to the ‘upper middle income’ level. India’s growth rate, at 7.4 per cent in 2014, makes it the fastest growing major economy along with China’s, which is a whopping $10.4 trillion in size. The Indian economy, at $2.06 trillion, has almost doubled in size since the financial crisis hit the country in 2008, and has more than quadrupled from the start of this millennium. Despite its increase in per capita gross national income (GNI), India has remained in the ‘lower middle income’ category ($1,046-$4,125). Using the World Bank’s data, it was extrapolated from India’s average annual growth rate over the last decade — of 8.9 per cent — and found that it would become an ‘upper middle income’ country ($4,126- $12,735) in 2026, a little more than a decade from now. This will put it in the category China occupies now. China, however, with a per capita GNI of $7,380 and an average annual growth of 15.6 per cent, will leave the ‘upper middle income’ category by 2018 to become a ‘high income’ country like the U.S., the U.K., Germany and Japan. It will take India till 2039 to reach that level, at the assumed growth rate. The World Bank’s data on gross national income per capita — the total value added by all producers within the country, plus income received from citizens working abroad, divided by the population of the country — show Bangladesh, Kenya, Myanmar, Tajikistan, Mongolia, Paraguay, Argentina, Hungary, the Seychelles and Venezuela have shifted their income categories for the better. For example, Bangladesh, Kenya, Myanmar, and Tajikistan are now ‘middle income’ countries from being ‘low income’ nations. The latest data show that in terms of this indicator, the world’s economic geography has changed a lot. In 1994, 56.1 per cent of the world’s population — 3.1 billion people — lived in the 64 low-income countries. In 2014, this was down to 8.5 per cent, or 613 million people living in 31 countries. Over the last one year itself, four nations crossed over to the lower-middle income category.
PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE RECOMMENDS DOUBLING OF MPS’ SALARY
A parliamentary committee has recommended a steep hike in the salaries and allowances of Members of Parliament. The Joint Committee on Salaries and Allowances of Members of Parliament, headed by BJP MP Yogi Adityanath, has sought doubling of the salary of MPs from the existing Rs. 50,000 per month, increasing the pension of exMPs from Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 35,000, and doubling the daily allowance of members when Parliament is in session, from Rs. 2,000 to Rs. 4,000. In addition, it has sought facilities for “companions” in place of “spouses”, as many MPs are single. The panel has also responded positively to the ex-MPs, who appeared before the panel, and requested that their companions be also allowed to travel First Class on trains. Currently, companions and spouses are only entitled to second class tickets. The panel has also recommended that ex-MPs be permitted to travel economy class by air five times a year. Sitting MPs are allowed to fly executive class around three dozen times a year. Since MPs rank higher than the Cabinet Secretary in protocol, the panel suggested their privileges should match their status and also include healthcare benefits for married children of MPs. The changes suggested come in the wake of a memorandum signed by 40 MPs cutting across party lines seeking an enhancement of all emoluments. They had said that they wanted their salaries to be at least on a par with Secretaries to the Government of India.
CABINET NOD FOR ONLINE NATIONAL AGRICULTURE MARKET
The government on July 1, 2015 approved the setting up of an online national agriculture market that will provide more options to farmers for selling their produce. A decision in this regard was taken at a meeting of the Union Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The proposal on the creation of a National Agriculture Market has been approved by the Cabinet. Currently, farmers are restricted to selling their produce at mandis or market committees that charge various taxes on producers. l An online platform would be set up wherein farmers will be able to sell and buy fruits, vegetables and other produce from across the country. l An agency would be set up to oversee online trading and to ensure that transactions take place smoothly. l It will also focus on creating godowns and facilitating transportation of the farm produce after the online trade. l The move is expected to give choice to farmers to sell the farm produce both in physical mandis or online platform. l The freer access to sell via online trade is likely to boost their incomes and improve availability, moderating price rise.
NATIONAL SKILL DEVELOPMENT MISSION
The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, on July 1, 2015 gave its approval for the institutional framework for the National Skill Development Mission in keeping with the commitment made during the Budget Speech for 2015-16. l The National Skill Development Mission will provide a strong institutional framework at the Centre and States for implementation of skilling activities in the country. l The Mission will have a three-tiered, high powered decision making structure. l At its apex, the Mission’s Governing Council, chaired by the Prime Minister, will provide overall guidance and policy direction. l The Steering Committee, chaired by Minister in Charge of Skill Development, will review the Mission’s activities in line with the direction set by the Governing Council. l The Mission Directorate, with Secretary, Skill Development as Mission Director, will ensure implementation, coordination and convergence of skilling activities across Central Ministries/ Departments and State Governments. l The Mission will also run select sub-missions in high priority areas. l Further, the National Skill Development Agency (NSDA), the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) and the Directorate of Training will function under the overall guidance of the Mission. l The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) provides a natural home for the Mission, organically linking all three decision making levels and facilitating linkages to all Central Ministries/Departments and State Governments. Need of Skill creation The majority of India’s vast population is of working age. Urgent and effective action to Skill India is needed to capture the demographic potential of India’s youth. Based on data from the 68th Round of NSSO, it is estimated that only 4.69 percent of India’s total workforce has undergone formal skill training, compared with 52 percent in the USA, 68 percent in the UK, 75 percent in Germany, 80 percent in Japan and 96 percent in South Korea. Despite efforts to hasten and scale up skilling through the creation of the National Skill Development Fund (NSDF) in 2009, the launch of the NSDC in the same year, and creation of the NSDA in 2013, progress to date has been sporadic. India continues to face a skilling challenge of vast proportions. Based on the Census 2011 and NSSO (68th Round) data, it is estimated that 104 million fresh entrants to the workforce will require skill training by 2022, and 298 million of the existing workforce will require additional skill training over the same time period. Acknowledging the formidable scale of this challenge, the government has notified the creation of the first dedicated Department of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship on 31st July, 2014, which became a full-fledged Ministry on 9th Nov, 2014, with NSDA, NSDC and NSDF under its purview. Further, the Training and Apprenticeship verticals, comprising of the entire network of Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) and Apprenticeship Training schemes, were transferred from the Ministry of Labour and Employment to Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) on 16th April, 2015. These changes have paved the way for a new skilling ecosystem, with closer coordination across the public and private sectors.
SCHEME FOR PROMOTION OF NATIONAL AGRICULTURAL MARKET THROUGH AGRI-TECH INFRASTRUCTURE FUND
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has given its approval to a Central Sector Scheme for Promotion of National Agricultural Market through Agri-Tech Infrastructure Fund (ATIF). The Department of Agriculture & Cooperation (DAC) will set it up through the Small Farmers Agribusiness Consortium (SFAC) by creation of a common electronic platform deployable in selected regulated markets across the country. An amount of Rs. 200 crore has been earmarked for the scheme from 2015-16 to 2017-18. This includes provision for supplying software free of cost by DAC to the States and Union Territories (UTs) and for cost of related hardware/infrastructure to be subsidized by the Government of India up to www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  Rs. 30 lakh per Mandi (other than for private mandis). The target is to cover 585 selected regulated markets across the country, with the following break-up: 2015-16: 250 mandis 2016-17: 200 mandis 2017-18:135 mandis 585 regulated markets across the country will be integrated with the common e-platform to provide farmers and traders with access to opportunities for purchase/ sale of agri-commodities at optimal prices in a transparent manner across the country. Besides, private markets will also be allowed access to the e-platform thereby enhancing its outreach. The Scheme is applicable on All-India basis. There is no State wise allocation under the Scheme. However, desirous States would be required to meet the pre-requisites in terms of carrying out necessary agri-marketing reforms. SFAC will be the lead agency for the development of the National e-Market by the Ministry of Agriculture, and they will select a service provider through open bidding. An appropriate common e-market platform will be set up that would be deployable in the selected 585 regulated wholesale markets in States/UTs desirous of joining the eplatform. The SFAC will implement the national e-platform in three phases during 2015-16, 2016- 17 and 2017-18. DAC will meet expenses on software and its customisation for the States and provide it free of cost to the States and UTs. DAC will also give grant as one time fixed cost subject to the ceiling of Rs.30 lakh per Mandi for related equipment / infrastructure in the 585 regulated mandis, for installation of the e-market platform. Big private mandis will also be allowed access to the e-platform for purposes of price discovery. However they will not be supported with any funds for equipment/ infrastructure. For integration with the e-platform the States/ UTs will need to undertake prior reforms in respect of (i) a single license to be valid across the State, (ii) single point levy of market fee and (iii) provision for electronic auction as a mode for price discovery. Only those States/UTs that have completed these three pre-requisites will be eligible for assistance under the scheme. The e-marketing platform should promote reform of the agricultural marketing sector and apart from promoting free flow of agri commodities across the country and should result in greater farmer satisfaction as prospects for marketing of his produce would be significantly enhanced. He will have improved access to market related information and better price discovery through a more efficient, transparent and competitive marketing platform, which gives him access to a greater number of buyers within the State and from outside, through transparent auction processes. It would also increase his access to markets through warehouse based sales and thus obviate the need to transport his produce to the mandi. Need to unify markets Following successive Budget announcements of 2014 and 2015 on setting up an “Agri-Tech Infrastructure Fund” and on National Market respectively, DAC formulated the scheme for Promotion of National Agriculture Market through Agri-Tech Infrastructure Fund (ATIF). Integration of agri-markets across the country through the e-platform is seen as an important measure for overcoming challenges posed by the present agri-marketing system namely – fragmentation of State into multiple market areas each administered by separate APMC, multiple levy of mandi fees, requirement for multiple license for trading in different APMCs, licensing barriers leading to conditions of monopoly, poor quality of infrastructure and low use of technology, information asymmetry, opaque process for price discovery, high level of market charges, movement controls, etc. The need to unify markets both at State and National level is, therefore, clearly the requirement of time, in order to provide better price to farmers, improve supply chain, reduce wastages and create a unified national market through provision of the common e-platform.
WORLD BANK $650-MN LOAN TO EASTERN FREIGHT CORRIDOR The World Bank has approved a $650 million debt funding for a part of the eastern arm of the ambitious Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC) project on July 1, 2015. The loan, which comes with a 22- year maturity period, is expected to help in faster and more efficient movement of raw materials and [ 1 0 ] Weekly Current Affairs 28th June 2015 to 3rd July, 2015 www.ias100.in finished goods between the northern and eastern regions. The Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor is to be 1,840 km long, from Ludhiana to Kolkata. The World Bank is supporting the EDFC as a series of projects in which three sections with a total route length of 1,146 km will be implemented. The third tranche of the World Bank loan EDFC 3 approved will help build the 401 Km LudhianaKhurja section spanning Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab. The Project will help increase the capacity of these freight lines by raising the axleload limit from 22.9 to 25 tons and enable speeds of up to 100 km per hour.“Implementing the Dedicated Freight Corridor program will provide India the opportunity to create one of the world’s largest freight operations. The corridor, which will pass through states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, will benefit from the new rail infrastructure, bringing jobs and much-needed development to some of India’s poorest regions, said Onno Ruhl, World Bank Country Director in India. Moving freight from road to rail will also reduce the carbon footprint of freight by 2.25 times. The World Bank board had in 2011 approved the first tranche of the loan of $975 million for the 343 Km Khurja-Kanpur section (EDFC1) already under implementation. So far, the Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation (DFCC) has awarded contracts worth $700 million for this section. Compensation has been awarded for about 95% of the 1,410 hectare of land being acquired from 29,253 affected farmers. The Bank had in April 2014 approved the second tranche of the loan of $1.1 billion for EDFC2 which covers 402 km from Kanpur to Mughal Sarai. Under EDFC2, civil works contract for around $800 million have been awarded and contracts worth $240 million for establishing rail systems are under procurement. High-speed dedicated freight corridors The eastern and western arms of the DFC project are expected to help India increase the railways’ transportation capacity by building highcapacity and high-speed dedicated freight corridors along the Golden Quadrilateral. Currently, the rail routes connecting the quadrilateral between Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata account for 16% of the railway network’s length but carry more than 60% of India’s total rail freight. India’s road transport has advanced more rapidly than railways and now accounts for about 65% of the freight market and 90% of the passenger market. Apart from efficiency improvements, the DFCC project is also expected to contribute in reducing Green House Gas (GHG) emissions. The government is also planning to set up 7 integrated manufacturing clusters using EDFC as the backbone. These clusters will be set up with an investment of around $1 billion on either side of EDFC.
PM LAYS FOUNDATION STONE OF IARI, JHARKHAND
Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled foundation stone of Indian Agriculture Research Institute-Jharkhand at Barhi, District Hazaribagh, Jharkhand on June 28, 2015. PM Narendra Modi said that amid rising population and increasingly fragmented land-holdings, the need of the hour for the nation is a second green revolution without any delay, which could only happen in eastern India. The Prime Minister also called upon farmers to raise the level of pulses production in the country, to help make India self-sufficient in pulses. Invoking former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri’s call “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan,” Narendra Modi asked every farmer to try and grow pulses on a part of his land. He also mentioned steps being taken by the Union Government for the pulses sector. He said pulses were an important part of the diet of the common man. The Prime Minister said he was happy to note that a large number of people from South Bihar were present at the function, because the Institute whose foundation was being laid would serve that region as well. The Prime Minister said Indian agriculture has been lagging in several areas including inputs, irrigation, value addition and market linkages. He said the Union Government was committed to modernizing Indian agriculture and making it more productive. He said this required proper allocation of resources and training. Noting that population was rising and land holdings are getting fragmented, the Prime Minister emphasised the need to enhance productivity to ensure the nation’s food security as well as ensure good income for farmers.
Towards this end, the Prime Minister said www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  proper research was required in all agro climatic zones of the country. This would ensure best results, as well as greater acceptability among farmers. He said this required the spread of agricultural research and education in various regions. The Prime Minister said the need of the hour was a second green revolution, without any delay, in eastern India. He said that the Union Government was therefore committed to the development of this region. He mentioned the setting up of fertiliser plants, which would ensure proper availability of fertilisers in the region. Narendra Modi mentioned the Government’s programme to provide soil health cards to all farmers. This too, he mentioned, could provide a source of employment to youth, through soil testing laboratories. The Prime Minister said animal husbandry and fisheries were equally important for the agriculture sector. He laid stress on the importance of raising productivity in the dairy sector. He said the Government had decided to pay special attention to the dairy sector in Jharkhand. He suggested that one district in each state could be developed as a honey producing district. He also mentioned the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana, to provide adequate irrigation to farmers. Recalling his mantra of per drop, more crop, the Prime Minister said micro irrigation helped raise productivity and incomes for farmers. IARI-Jharkhand IARI-Jharkhand is being established in a sprawling campus of 1000 acres of land in village Goriya Karma with a mission to achieve inclusive agricultural growth through Integrated Farming Systems (IFS) approach and multi-disciplinary research. The institute will attract the cream of post graduate and doctoral students from all over India and abroad to conduct region specific research. The major regional challenges will be addressed through prioritized thrust areas of research, integrated with post-graduate education and extension programs. It will help usher in Evergreen Revolution for productive, profitable and sustainable agriculture ensuring total prosperity in the eastern region. This would also develop ancillary industries for rural employment and economic empowerment.
CENSUS DATA ON DISABLED POPULATION RELEASED
The Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India has released data on disabled population by type of disability, type of households and sex – 2011. The data gives the number of households having disabled persons by type of households including normal, institutional and houseless households. The disabled persons living in different type of households are further crossclassified into eight different disabilities i.e. seeing, hearing, speech, movement, mental retardation, mental illness, any other and multiple disability for India/States/UTs. The data released shows 207.8 lakh households having disabled persons in the country constituting 8.3 percent of the total households. Out of the total households having disabled persons, about 99 percent households are normal households, 0.4 percent is institutional and 0.2 percent is houseless households. Total households having disabled persons show an increase of 20.5 lakhs, from 187.3 lakhs in 2001 to 207.8 lakhs in 2011 (6.2 lakhs in rural and 14.3 lakhs in urban). Normal households increased by 2,02,4495, institutional households by 8,370 and houseless households by 13,560 during the decade 2001-11. Disabled persons in normal households increased by 48,19,382, institutional households by 65,895 and houseless households by 22,948 during the said decade.
NSSO SURVEY: LITERACY RATE AT 71% IN RURAL INDIA, 86% IN URBAN
Literacy rate in rural areas was pegged at 71% last year, compared to 86% in urban areas, while among the age group of seven years and above, male literacy rate was found higher than the female literacy rate, according to NSSO survey released on June 30, 2015. Among the age group of seven year and above, the male literacy rate was registered at 83% vis-avis the female literacy rate of 67%, an official statement said. Similarly, it was found in the rural areas, nearly 4.5% of males and 2.2% of females completed education level of graduation and above, while in urban areas 17% of males and 13% of females completed this level of education, it added. The details are part of a survey on ‘Social [ 1 2 ] Weekly Current Affairs 28th June 2015 to 3rd July, 2015 www.ias100.in Consumption: Education’ during the National Sample Survey (NSS) 71st Round, January to June 2014, conducted by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. The survey covered entire country with samples taken from 36,479 households in rural areas and 29,447 in urban areas from 4,577 villages and 3,720 urban blocks, it said. According to its findings, literacy rate among age group of seven years and above in the country was 75%. In rural areas, it was 71% compared to 86% in urban areas. Adult literacy (age 15 years and above) rate in India was around 71%. For adults also, literacy rate in rural areas was lower than that in urban areas. In rural areas, adult literacy rate was 64% compared to 84% in urban areas. No significant difference between rural and urban India existed in terms of distance for physical access to primary schooling. In both rural and urban areas, nearly 99% households reported availability of primary school within 2 kms from the house, the survey said. For accessing educational institutions providing higher level of learning, say upper primary or secondary, a lower proportion of households in rural areas compared to that in urban areas reported existence of such facilities within 2 kms, it added. Nearly 86% of rural households and 96% of urban households reported upper primary schools within a distance of 2 kms from the house while nearly 60% of rural households and 91% of urban households reported secondary schools at such a distance, it revealed. The proportion of persons having completed higher level of education, say, graduation and above, was more in the urban areas than in the rural areas. In the rural areas, nearly 4.5% of males and 2.2% of females completed education level of graduation and above, while in the urban areas 17% of males and 13% of females completed this level of education.
SC: CAN’T DISCLOSE MEDICAL BILLS OF JUDGES UNDER RTI
The Supreme Court on July 2, 2015 refused a plea under the Right to Information Act to disclose public money spent by serving and retired Supreme Court judges on medical expenses, said it would be an unwarranted intrusion into their privacy. A three-member Bench led by Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu said allowing such RTI requests would open a Pandora’s box and lead to an invasion of the judges’ personal rights. Prashant Bhushan, who represented noted RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal, said the court’s refusal to reveal the public money spent on their medical bills would set a bad precedent and show to the world that it is “one set of rules for judges and another set of rules for others”. Mr. Agrawal was challenging an order passed by the Delhi High Court on April 17, 2015, holding that medical bills of retired and serving judges of the Supreme Court are exempted information under the RTI Act and cannot be disclosed to the public. Medical reimbursements of judges are paid out of the Consolidated Fund of India.
CONFRONTING THE CRISIS OF GLOBAL GOVERNANCE REPORT
The Commission on Global Security, Justice & Governance (GSJG) released the Confronting the Crisis of Global Governance report at Hague. The report put forwards a series of proposals aimed at reforming the United Nations (UN). The commission was co-chaired by former US Secretary of State and Ambassador to the United Nations Madeleine K. Albright and former Nigerian Foreign Minister and UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim A. Gambari. The Commission offers pragmatic reforms using new tools and networks to build better global institutions and a new global ethic, with the aim of focusing policymakers, opinion leaders, and international civil society on the need for more dynamic and creative global solutions to looming global challenges. Responding to new threats and opportunities requires that we overcome the deepseated divisions driving the present crisis of global governance, which will take time. With the launch of this Report, a concerted effort will begin to promote these and related global governance innovations, looking toward and continuing through the UN’s seventy-fifth anniversary in 2020. Three major challenges and opportunities for global governance First, in fragile states and regions, large gaps in security, justice, and governance are readily identified but hard to fill. Despite a surge of UN peacekeeping and stability operations begun at the turn of the millennium, coping with state fragility and violent conflict remains as complicated and costly as ever, and billions of US dollars are spent annually in the quest for sustainable peace. Multiple, concurrent, and recurring intrastate conflicts, exploited by international terrorist and criminal organizations, have reversed the declining trends in political violence witnessed since the end of the Cold War. In 2014 alone, the number of refugees increased by 2.1 million to record levels, and the number of persons internally displaced by armed conflict grew by 5.2 million, another unfortunate record. At the same time, the growing roles of women, civil society organizations, and businesses, whose voices are amplified through modern communications technologies, offer new opportunities for effective peace-building, governance renewal, and transformational justice. Responding to these threats, challenges, and opportunities, the Commission’s recommendations include: l Create next-generation UN conflict mediation and peace operations capacity: build responsive capacity to provide experienced mediators, including a greater proportion of women, for crisis and conflict prevention and peacebuilding; build capacity to deploy civilian, police, and military personnel to meet urgent peacekeeping requirements; build a new cadre of experienced personnel to serve as Heads of Mission and members of mission senior management teams; beyond transitional justice, invest in transformational justice; and coordinate activities closely with and materially support regional actors and local civil society, with particular attention to inclusion of women in peace processes. l Strengthen the Responsibility to Prevent, Protect, and Rebuild: invest in early-warning capabilities and Responsibility to Protect (R2P) action plans for an approach to atrocities prevention that involves all UN agencies and programs; embed UN mission monitors in all forces participating in R2P implementation; and set concrete, achievable goals for all international actors seeking to prevent, react to, and rebuild after mass atrocities. l Second, with each successive report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the need to take extraordinary and decisive action addressing the causes and impact of climate change becomes more evident and urgent, as does the need for new, more productive approaches to meeting climate challenges, including greater public-private collaboration. A steady rise in emissions of greenhouse gases globally is heating the atmosphere and the oceans, melting polar and glacial ice, and raising sea levels and ocean acidity to the detriment of sea life and human security alike. The changing climate strikes hardest at those with the least capacity to adapt, other than to move. The IPCC projects the number of climate change refugees at 100 million in 2025 and 150 million in 2050. Humanity’s impact on the global climate is ever more clear, but its response has yet to address the deep injustices created by too little adaptation support for such vulnerable populations. As the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) look toward the Twenty-First Conference of the Parties in Paris, many are hopeful that a binding climate agreement can emerge, but others are also concerned that it will remain elusive. Mitigating and adapting to climate change globally may well require a new understanding of what constitutes security and justice in the twenty-first century. Responding resolutely yet creatively to this quintessential global governance challenge, the Commission makes the following major recommendations: l Innovate climate governance: facilitate new kinds of engagement between the UNFCCC and other international regimes, subnational authorities, and civil society and business groups; establish an International Carbon Monitoring Entity, a Global Climate Action Clearinghouse, and a Climate Engineering Advisory Board to review all experiments involving atmospheric modification; and define a global goal for climate adaption comparable to the 2 degrees Centigrade atmospheric warming target set for climate change mitigation. l Develop a green technology licensing facility within the Green Climate Fund: harness privatesector innovation for climate mitigation and adaptation, especially in support of vulnerable populations in developing countries. Third, economic and technological globalization have created a hyperconnected global economy with significant benefits for many but worsened economic inequalities for others, as well as new threats to global economic stability and to public, corporate, and personal security. The US financial crisis of 2008 and 2009 spread throughout the global financial system, caused bank losses of more than US$4.1 trillion, and drove global unemployment up by thirty million. National and regional economies remain vulnerable to capital flight, billions of US dollars-equivalent are lost annually to illicit financial flows, and connectivity facilitates novel kinds of crime, espionage, and intellectual property and natural resource theft. But three billion people (and climbing) can access the Internet, contributing—along with other means of modern communication—to an explosive growth in global trade. Expanding access to new technologies and participation in the global economy has the potential to lift tens of millions of people out of abject poverty and to advance the Post-2015 Development Agenda, creating a more secure and just world. In response to these inherent risks and opportunities, the Commission offers the following recommendations: l Establish a G20+ within a new framework for global economic cooperation to avert financial shocks and deliver on the Post-2015 Development Agenda: enhance G20-UN Bretton Woods institutional coordination to prevent the spread of cross-border financial shocks, promote inclusive economic reform, and foster the equitable growth necessary for achieving the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals. l Develop a global network of cybercrime centers and increase Internet access in the Global South through enhanced capacity-building: bolster the global response to cyber attacks through INTERPOL and national Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERTs), and increase Internet access and cybersecurity in the Global South through multiple initiatives, including the International Telecommunications Union’s Connect 2020 Agenda and the promotion of cyber hygiene. A practical and integrated reform approach, underscoring and closely linking security and justice concerns, enables progress on all three global issues, as well as a better appreciation for key cross-cutting issues such as gender, migration, and anticorruption. When managed effectively, the hyperconnected global economy provides tools that can empower international and local responses to the special needs of fragile and conflict-affected environments. So can new communications technologies and the Big Data revolution help to unleash human creativity and collective action for addressing the climate crisis. At the same time, our small, dense, interconnected world cannot prosper if more than a billion www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  inhabitants fail to cross a basic threshold for a safe, dignified life, or if rising sea levels, extreme drought, powerful floods and storm surges, trafficking gangs, and networks of violent extremists threaten the security, well-being, and survival of millions. A coherent set of global governance reforms to better promote just security requires innovating and streamlining global institutions and engaging critical regional organizations, local authorities, the business community, and civil society across generations more effectively. Repeated failures to reform within the UN and other entities deepen the global governance crisis with implications for security and justice. Advancing progress requires a strong grasp of the impediments to previous reform efforts. In particular, these include: (i) a lack of political will to change, particularly among powerful countries or within entrenched bureaucracies; (ii) poor design and advocacy for a specific policy or institutional reform; and (iii) limited skill and effort invested in sustaining a reform program through to completion. By helping mobilize pressure for global (intergovernmental) institutional reforms while serving as resourceful partners for global institutions with fresh perspectives, nonstate, regional, and local actors are an integral part of still nascent network governance. To succeed in the twenty-first century, the United Nations and other global institutions must extend their traditional convening role for Member States to include innovative ways to engage these increasingly influential actors. Seizing the opportunities for improved global governance, though cognizant of the risks and challenges to reform, the Commission makes the following recommendations: l Establish the UN Global Partnership: give a greater voice to underrepresented policy issues, such as women’s rights, migration, and training a modern workforce, through new social compacts and a new hub and online platform whereby the entire UN system can tap into the expertise of civil society and the business community. l Expand UN Security Council membership and nontraditional engagement: create more opportunities for countries, regional organizations, local authorities, and nonstate actors to contribute to peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding, while increasing the Council’s representative legitimacy and restraint in the use of the veto. l Establish a UN Peacebuilding Council: transform the Peacebuilding Commission into a Council—similar to the Human Rights Commission’s transformation in 2005—with new coordination authorities, new financial and knowledge resources, and a new focus on prevention, including through “peacebuilding audits.” l Strengthen and more fully use the International Court of Justice: expand acceptance of the World Court’s jurisdiction and make use of its authoritative advisory opinions in innovative ways. l Enhance the working relations between the UN Security Council, International Criminal Court, and UN Human Rights Council: support sustained dialogue, sanctions to enforce judgments and arrest warrants, and leverage the Human Rights Up Front initiative’s systemwide conflict analysis and recommended early actions in response to large-scale human rights abuses. l Launch the UN Parliamentary Network: establish a parliamentary advisory body for the UN General Assembly to raise greater awareness and participation in UN governance, consistent with other networks in place for the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, and regional organizations. l An effective strategy for reform requires smart coalitions of like-minded states and non-state actors to mobilize and sustain support for change. The ideas, networks, resources, and leadership skills of all actors with something to contribute need to be assessed, cultivated, and harnessed at the earliest stage of initiatives to reform global governance, including from governments, civil society groups, the business community, regional organizations, and local authorities. Three examples emblematic of these features are the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, and the international effort to adopt R2P as a global norm. l Clear interim milestones, backed up by wellhoned communications, monitoring, and coordination tools, are also important to success. In particular, the Commission recommends [ 1 6 ] Weekly Current Affairs 28th June 2015 to 3rd July, 2015 www.ias100.in investing in a hybrid approach that taps into the strengths of two major avenues to global governance reform designed to overcome deepseated divisions in the international community: l Reform Through Parallel Tracks acknowledges that different kinds of multilateral reform negotiations will require different negotiating forums and will proceed at different speeds. In doing so, it can facilitate a careful sequencing of reforms based on criteria such as urgency, political feasibility, and cost. l Marking the UN’s seventy-fifth anniversary in 2020 with the culmination of a multistakeholder and formal multilateral negotiation on global institutional reforms, a World Conference on Global Institutions could serve as a rallying point for smart coalitions and simultaneously generate political momentum for multiple, urgent global reforms. Every effort should be made to engage the voices and ideas of civil society at the most local level, as well as under-represented groups, in the lead-up to the World Conference. l When security and justice are recognized as jointly pivotal to global governance, today’s most urgent challenges can be overcome. Just security can inform a practical reform program that innovates our global institutions, laws, policy tools, and relationships. Leaders from all countries, including from powerful states and emerging global actors, have a particular responsibility to ensure that the United Nations and other global institutions continue to inspire, safeguard human rights, and give even the most vulnerable people a reason for hope. Guaranteeing security and justice for all peoples and nations is the practical and moral imperative of our time. Just security is intended to enable humanity not only to survive but to thrive with dignity, offering the basis for a new global ethic and new direction for global governance.
CHINA AND AUSTRALIA FORMALLY SIGN FREE TRADE AGREEMENT
China and Australia have signed a trade agreement that is set to increase market access for Australian beef and wine exporters while boosting Chinese carmakers and electronics producers who wish to sell their goods to Australians. l There is an investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) clause, which grants foreign companies the right to sue governments for breaching commitments in such agreements. l Access has been granted to Chinese citizens under labour market provisions. l It is the highest degree of liberalisation of all the FTAs China has so far signed with any economy. l It removes barriers to Australian agricultural exports across a range of products, including beef, dairy, lamb, wine, horticulture and seafood. l It will give duty-free entry for 99.9% of Australia’s resources, energy and manufacturing exports within four years. l Australian services providers, financial, education, health and aged care will have new access to China’s services sector, a sector that is already the largest contributor to China’s GDP and is set to drive economic growth in coming years. l For China, this agreement liberalises the screening threshold for Chinese private sector investment in Australia and it puts Chinese businesses in the same position as those of our other major trading partners. l Both governments concluded negotiations on the free trade agreement (FTA) in 2014, but it was formally signed in Canberra now. l The full text of the agreement will be subject to an inquiry by parliament’s joint standing committee on treaties, paving the way for parliament to consider amendments to relevant legislation. l The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) raised concerns that the deal would “make it much easier for employers to bring in Chinese workers without having to advertise jobs to local workers”.
BEIJING-BACKED ELECTION REFORM PACKAGE REJECTED BY HONG KONG
Hong Kong lawmakers rejected a Beijing-backed political reform package as pro-democracy legislators united to vote down a contentious electoral roadmap that has sparked mass protests. l Just eight lawmakers cast their vote in support of the package, while 28 lawmakers voted www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  against it, including all 27 pan-democrats. l The bill needed the support of two-thirds of the city’s 70-strong legislature in order to pass. l Although the Hong Kong government’s plan would have given all residents the right to vote for the chief executive for the first time in 2017, it adhered to a Beijing ruling that candidates must be vetted by a loyalist committee. Changes Proposed by China In 2007, China said it would allow Hong Kong residents to vote for the chief executive in the 2017 election. In August 2014, China’s legislature proposed changes to the electoral process, which prompted mass demonstrations in the city. (I) Current Process: The chief executive, Hong Kong’s leader, is elected to a five-year term with a simple majority vote by an election committee of 1,200 people. (II) Beijing’s Proposal for 2017 Election: Each candidate must be endorsed by more than half of the members of the nomination committee, which will appoint up to three candidates. People can then cast their vote for the chief executive.
COUNTRY REPORTS ON TERRORISM 2014
The Department of State of USA released Country Reports on Terrorism 2014 which delineated violence caused by terrorist activities across the world during 2014. According to the report, in 2014, nearly 33000 people were killed in almost 13500 terrorist attacks around the world. That’s up from just over18000 deaths in nearly 10000 attacks in 2013. Main Observations of the Report l Iran’s continued support for terrorist activity across the Middle East, mostly through its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force. l Iran sponsors terrorist groups Hezbollah in Lebanon, several Iraqi Shia militant groups, Hamas and the Palestine Islamic Jihad. l Iran is a “serious threat” facing the U.S. and its allies, even though the U.S. is negotiating with the country to ensure its nuclear program is exclusively peaceful. l The Obama administration has emphasized the fact that the nuclear negotiations are separate from other geopolitical matters dealing with Iran. l Terrorist attacks worldwide increased 35 percent and fatalities increased 81 percent over the previous year. l Seventy-eight percent of fatalities took place in five countries: Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria. l Attacks were largely at the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group. l Boko Haram, militant group based in Nigeria, raised the number of terror acts by more than a third, nearly doubled the number of deaths and nearly tripled the number of kidnappings. l There were 20 attacks that killed more than 100 people each in 2014, compared to just two in 2013. l Among the 20 mass casualty attacks in 2014 were the December attack by the Pakistani Taliban on a school in Peshawar that killed at least 150 people, and the June attack by ISIL fighters on a prison in Mosul, Iraq, in which 670 Shia prisoners died. l Terror attacks took place in 95 countries in 2014, but were concentrated in the Middle East, South Asia, and West Africa. l There has been rise in the number of so-called lone wolf attacks in the West and the use of more extreme methods of violence by fighters to repress and frighten communities under their control. l India continued to be a major target for a range of terrorist groups; in 2014, around 400 people were killed as a result of terrorist attacks in India. l Ineffective implementation of anti-money laundering (AML) and counterterrorist financing (CFT) laws, especially with regard to criminal convictions. Viewpoint on Iran While Iranian support for terrorist activities is no surprise (Iran has been considered a state sponsor of terrorism since 1984), the report’s release comes at a time of nuclear agreement between the U.S. and other world powers and Iran. The international community aims to reach a deal that restricts Iranian nuclear activity in exchange for relief from crippling economic sanctions. But such a deal would only remove sanctions related to nuclear activity – no human rights or terrorism sanctions would be lifted. Opponents of the nuclear negotiations point to Iran’s terrorist activity and continued human rights violations, like the imprisonment of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, as proof the Islamic Republic is an untrustworthy partner. They say that if sanctions are lifted Iran would use what could potentially be billions of dollars in oil revenue to further fund terrorism and destabilize the region. But the administration has insisted that “no deal is better than a bad deal,” and its philosophy will be to “distrust but verify.” The report also took a subtle dig at the Iranian role in countering the Islamic State group. While both the U.S. and Iran are threatened by the organization’s spread in Iraq and Syria, the Islamic Republic is not formally part of the international coalition fighting the Islamic State group. The U.S. and Iran instead coordinate behind the scenes through the Iraqis, but the report insinuated Iran was taking outsize credit for victories against the extremists. “Iran used Iraqi Shia militants and high profile appearances by Qods Force officials on the front lines of Iraq to claim credit for military successes against ISIL and to belittle coalition airstrikes and U.S. contributions to the Government of Iraq’s ongoing fight against ISIL,” the report accuses. Country Reports on Terrorism Country Reports on Terrorism is an annual report published by the United States Department of State. In 2005 it replaced the Patterns of Global Terrorism report, which had been released since 1985. The report is published in accordance with Title 22, Section 2656(f) of the United States Code, which requires the Secretary of State to submit to Congress an annual report on terrorism.
PITCAIRN ISLAND PASSED LAW TO ALLOW SAME-SEX MARRIAGE
Pitcairn Island, a tiny speck in the Pacific that is inhabitated by just 48 people, has passed a law allowing same-sex marriage, but has no gay couples wanting to wed. l First settled in 1790, Pitcairn is a British Overseas Territory that has some legal autonomy and is often considered the world’s smallest country by population. l Islanders are descended from the mutineers of the British navy vessel Bounty and their Tahitian companions. l The change was suggested by British authorities after England, Wales and Scotland legalised same-sex marriage last year. l The law change was unanimously approved by the local council. Pitcairn Group of Islands, are a group of four volcanic islands in the southern Pacific Ocean that form the last British Overseas Territory in the Pacific. The four islands – Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie, and Oeno – are spread over several hundred miles of ocean and have a total land area of about 47 square kilometers (18 sq mi). Only Pitcairn, the second largest island measuring about 3.6 kilometers (2.2 mi) from east to west, is inhabited. The islands are inhabited by the descendants of the Bounty mutineers and the Tahitians (or Polynesians) who accompanied them, an event retold in numerous books and films. This history is still apparent in the surnames of many of the islanders. With only about 48 inhabitants, originating from four main families, Pitcairn is the least populous national jurisdiction in the world. The United Nations Committee on Decolonization includes the Pitcairn Islands on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.
CHINESE VERSION OF BHAGAVAD GITA
Bhagavad Gita, a sacred ancient Indian scripture, has made its debut in China after its Chinese version was released during an international yoga conference being held in the Communist nation. Translated by professor Wang Zhu Cheng and Ling Hai of Zhejiang University in Shanghai and published by Sichuan People’s Publications, the book was launched at a function attended by eminent yoga teachers from India who had converged at Dujiangyan in southwestern Sichuan province to attend the Yoga Festival. The book was released by Indian Ambassador to China Ashok K Kantha. l The foreword for the book was written by K Nagaraj Naidu who was till recently the consulate general at the Indian Consulate in Guangzhou. l Ancient Buddhist scriptures are well known in China as they made their way from the times of Huen Tsang journey to India in the 7th century. l This is perhaps the first time a well known Hindu ancient religious text has been published in China. l Last year, scholars from India and China published an Encyclopaedia on the age-old cultural contacts between the two countries, tracing back their history to over 2000 years. l About 21 eminent yoga teachers are providing training to about 700 yoga enthusiasts from all over China under the first India-China (Chengdu) International Yoga Festival.
OPERATION EU NAVFOR MED AGAINST MIGRANT-TRAFFICKERS
The European Union (EU) launched a naval operation against human traffickers in the Mediterranean. l The mission titled “EUNAVFOR Med” is aimed at identifying, capturing and seizing vessels used or suspected of being used by migrant smugglers or traffickers. l EUNAVFOR Med will run for 12 months. l The first phase is to focus on surveillance and assessing human smuggling and trafficking networks in the southern central Mediterranean. l The second stage of the operation is to search and, if necessary, apprehend suspicious vessels. l The third phase would dispose of the vessels, and arrest traffickers and smugglers. l The European Council will assess when to move beyond the first step, taking into account a UN mandate and the consent of the coastal states concerned. l The cost of the operation is estimated at 11.82 million Euros (about $13 million).
AUSTRIA FILES LEGAL COMPLAINT AGAINST UK
Austria has filed a legal challenge at the European court of justice against EU-granted state subsidies for a new nuclear power plant in Britain. It argued that subsidies are there to support modern technologies that lie in the general interest of all EU member states and this is not the case with nuclear power. The Hinkley Point C project is in breach of European law and risks distorting the energy market. The announcement came days after an alliance of 10 German and Austrian energy companies filed a legal challenge at the ECJ against Hinkley Point. The Disputed Deal l Britain would help fund the construction of two reactors in south-west England. l As part of the agreement, the British government would guarantee an elevated 35- year fixed electricity rate to EDF, the French energy group, which would be in charge of the building the plant. l Initially forecast to cost £16bn, EU officials estimate the project will require £24.5bn. l Despite opposition from activists and several member states, the European commission approved the project in October after Britain modified funding plans for the deal. l Opponents see Hinkley Point as an unnecessary show of support for nuclear energy when the use of renewables, such as wind and solar power, is beginning to take hold. l The EU commission insists the choice of energy source, no matter how controversial, is strictly up to member states. l EU member Austria has no nuclear power stations.
INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON NEPAL’S RECONSTRUCTION
The International Conference on Nepal’s Reconstruction concluded in Kathmandu, with the country securing funding commitment of around US$4.4 billion from nations and agencies for recovery and reconstruction in the aftermath of earthquakes. 300 delegates from around 60 countries and agencies took part in the conference. l The total funding commitment expressed during the conference was almost 66 per cent of the country’s total recovery and reconstruction needs of $6.7 billion. l Almost all of the countries and agencies that pledged financial assistance for Nepal said the money should reach the people — especially rural — truly affected by the quakes. l There was a call for maintain of transparency by the government while spending the pledged funds. l Of the total commitment secured today, around $2.2 billion was in the form of grants and another $2.2 billion was in the form of loans. l Of the funding commitments made during the conference, the biggest (approximately $1 billion) came from India, which has expressed interest to support areas, such as agriculture, housing, roads and transport, electricity, health, education, cultural heritage and disaster risk reduction. l China, pledged financial assistance of RMB 3 billion (approximately $489.53 million, or Rs 48.95 billion) for a period of 2016 to 2018. All of this assistance would be provided in the ‘form of grant’. l With this, Chinese assistance for Nepal — including funds extended last year and this year — will reach RMB 4.7 billion. l Japan pledged financial assistance of $260 million, while the US and the UK expressed commitment to extend $130 million and $110 million, respectively. l The European Union pledged grant assistance of around $112 million. l Multilateral lending agencies that have been continuously supporting Nepal also made generous commitment during the conference. l The Asian Development Bank pledged to extend $600 million, the World Bank pledged to provide $500 million and the International Monetary Fund expressed commitment to extend $50 million. l A portion of funds pledged by the multilateral agencies were previously allocated for Nepal but were not used. l Among others, countries like Germany, Switzerland, Norway, South Korea, Finland, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan also pledged financial assistance to Nepal.
US SUPREME COURT GAVE NOD TO OBAMACARE SUBSIDIES
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that federal subsidies under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) could be made available to individuals in States, even if those States did not set up their own insurance “exchanges.” The decision was based on a 6-3 opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, and joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy and liberal justices on the Bench. The challenge facing the Court in the case of King v. Burwell was to determine whether it was legal for 6.4 million people in the 37 States using the federal marketplace to receive health-insurance subsidies even though those States did not create insurance marketplaces for such individuals to purchase their policies. Affordable Care Act (ACA) The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), commonly called the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or colloquially Obamacare, is a United States federal statute signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010. Together with the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act amendment, it represents the most significant regulatory overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965. The ACA was enacted to increase the quality and affordability of health insurance, lower the uninsured rate by expanding public and private insurance coverage, and reduce the costs of healthcare for individuals and the government. It introduced mechanisms like mandates, subsidies, and insurance exchanges. The law requires insurance companies to cover all applicants within new minimum standards and offer the same rates regardless of pre-existing conditions or sex. In 2011 the Congressional Budget Office projected that the ACA would lower both future deficits and Medicare spending. On June 28, 2012, the United States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the ACA’s individual mandate as an exercise of Congress’s taxing power in the case National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius. However, the Court held that states cannot be forced to participate in the ACA’s Medicaid expansion under penalty of losing their current Medicaid funding. Since the ruling, the law and its implementation have continued to face challenges in Congress and federal courts, and from some state governments, conservative advocacy groups, labor unions, and small business organizations. Now in the case King v. Burwell, the Supreme Court affirmed that the law’s federal subsidies to help individuals pay for health insurance are available in all states, not just in those which have set up state exchanges.
US SC LEGALIZED SAME-SEX MARRIAGE NATIONWIDE
The U.S. Supreme Court delivered a historic victory for gay rights, ruling 5 to 4 that the Constitution requires that same-sex couples be allowed to marry no matter where they live. l There were 14 states where same-sex couples were not allowed to marry. l The decision was said to be given on the basis of the fundamental right to marry and the equality that must be afforded gay Americans. l It wasn’t until 2012 that Obama declared that same-sex couples should be able to marry. l The first legally recognized same-sex marriages in the United States took place just 11 years ago, the result of a Massachusetts state Supreme Court Decision.
INDIA & WORLD
INDO – MAURITIUS JOINT COMMITTEE MEETING ON HYDROGRAPHY
The IXth Hydrographic Committee meeting was held at Port Louis, Mauritius, from June 29 to July 1, 2015. The Indian delegation was headed by Vice Admiral SK Jha, Chief Hydrographer to the Government of India. In addition, to reviewing various ongoing hydrographic projects, the Admiral also interacted with the senior Government functionaries including the President, Prime Minister, Cabinet rank Ministers and the Commissioner of Police, Mauritius Police Force to appraise them of the strong bilateral cooperation and also to share their views on developing Mauritius as a ocean based economy. The Government of Mauritius was particularly appreciative of the stellar work being undertaken by the Indian Naval Hydrographic team based at Mauritius since 2013 and the extensive survey being undertaken by Indian Naval hydrography ships. A significant outcome of this bilateral meeting was the renewal of the existing Memorandum of Understanding on hydrographic cooperation for the next five years. The MoU would pave way for continued cooperation between the two countries and assist Mauritius in further consolidating its hydrographic organisation. India and Mauritius have shared strong maritime bonds over the years with myriad areas of mutual cooperation. Hydrography has emerged as one of the strongest pillars of this bilateral engagement and has been a significant source of capacity and capability building for Mauritius. Whilst, the Indian Navy has been rendering hydrographic assistance to Mauritius since the 1990s, it is through a landmark MoU inked in 2005 that the two countries formalized the mechanism of hydrographic cooperation which included periodic survey by Indian Naval ships to chart the vast Mauritian EEZ and various capacity building measures including setting up of a Mauritian hydrographic unit and skill development of Mauritian hydrographers. Since 2005, the two countries have periodically reviewed the progress and charted a future course of action through conduct of a Joint Indo – Mauritian committee meeting on hydrography, hosted alternately by the two Governments.
INDIA, THAILAND INK AGREEMENT ON AVOIDING DOUBLE TAXATION India and Thailand on June 29, 2015 exchanged the Instruments of Ratification of the extradition treaty and also an agreement for the avoidance of double taxation after talks in Bangkok between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Thai Deputy Prime Minister Gen. Tanasak Patimapragorn. The two leaders also reviewed the bilateral ties during the Seventh Thailand-India Joint Commission meeting. Sushma Swaraj, who is on a two-day visit to Thailand, inked a treaty to provide the legal framework for seeking extradition of fugitive offenders, including those involved in terrorism, transnational crimes, economic offences etc. The treaty provides for the extradition of any person who is wanted for trial or for the imposition or enforcement of a sentence by one contracting state and is found in the territory of the other contracting state. This will help both countries in expedited extradition of fugitives. This treaty will further strengthen the relationship between law enforcement agencies by providing a firm legal basis for their bilateral cooperation, said an official statement. Both sides also inked an MoU on establishment of the Nalanda University. By signing this agreement, Thailand joined other East Asian Summit (EAS) countries in the establishment of the university. Both sides also inked an agreement for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to taxes on income, so as to promote economic cooperation between two countries. The two countries also inked an MoU on the establishment of the ‘Academic Chair’ in ayurveda, according to which the Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences will set up a Chair at Rangsit University in Thailand to undertake academic and research activities in ayurveda.
INDIA SIGN AGREEMENT ON CHINA-LED AIIB I
ndia was among the 50 founding countries that signed an agreement on June 29, 2015 providing the legal framework for the China-led $100 billion multilateral Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) which is being seen as a rival to the US and Europe-dominated banking institutions. The 60-article agreement specified each member’s share as well as governance structure and policy-making mechanism of the bank, which is designed to finance infrastructure in Asia. The delegates from 50 founding countries gathered at the Great Hall of the People for the signing ceremony. Australia was the first country to sign the agreement, followed by 49 other members. Seven more countries are due to sign by the end of the year. For India, Ambassador Ashok Kantha signed the document. The AIIB will have authorised capital of $100 billion, and Asian countries will contribute to up to 75% of the total capital. Each member will be allocated a share of the quota based on their economic size, according to the agreement. China, India and Russia are the three largest shareholders, taking a 30.34%, 8.52%, 6.66% stake, respectively. Their voting shares are calculated at 26.06%, 7.5% and 5.92%,” state-run Xinhua news agency reported. China will have 26.06% of the voting rights within the multilateral institution, giving it a veto in some key decisions despite its insistence it will not have such powers. The AIIB is designed to finance infrastructure construction in the continent. The AIIB, which will have billions of dollars to lend, is expected to go into operation later this year. China’s Finance Minister Lou Jiwei said the AIIB will uphold high standards and follow international rules in its operation, policy-making and management to ensure efficiency and transparency. After signing the agreement, representatives of prospective founding members will take the agreement back to their respective countries for legal adoption processes, the Chinese Finance Ministry said. The US and Japan, which oppose the AIIB, are the most prominent countries not to join. The establishment of the new financial institution is seen as a diplomatic win for China, the world’s second largest economy. The AIIB was proposed by President Xi Jinping in October 2013. A year later, 21 Asian nations, including China, India, Malaysia, Pakistan and Singapore, had signed an agreement to establish the bank, which will be headquartered in Beijing. The AIIB is seen as a rival to the World Bank and Asian Development Bank. Meanwhile, World Bank president Jim Yong Kim today welcomed the signing of the articles of agreement by the founding members of the China-led $100- billion Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
INDIA – MALDIVES RELATION
Recently, India’s relations with the Maldives have been under considerable strain over the Maldivian government’s actions against former President Mohamed Nasheed. Prime Minister Narendra Modi cancelled his visit to the island neighbour in March 2015 at the last minute. And in June, he extended Ramzan greetings to leaders of all Muslim countries in the SAARC region, but notably ignored Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen. Even so, with the possibility of a U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Presidential statement censuring the Maldives, India is caught in a familiar bind, between its own disapproval of the Maldivian government’s undemocratic moves and its resistance to action against a sovereign neighbour — much like it was some years ago over the situation in Sri Lanka. Court strictures The latest stand-off has been sparked by U.N. [ 2 4 ] Weekly Current Affairs 28th June 2015 to 3rd July, 2015 www.ias100.in High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein’s statement against the Maldives Supreme Court for passing strictures and threatening imprisonment of members of the Maldives Human Rights Commission for submitting a report to the UNHRC. Imposing such extraordinary and broad restrictions on the Human Rights Commission, including on their engagement with international organisations, is completely unacceptable, Mr. Al Hussein said. We have long been concerned about the deeply flawed role of the judiciary in the Maldives, including in the case against former President Nasheed. UNHRC President Joachim Rücker also raised the matter at the council’s meeting on June 26, leading to speculation that the next step would be a presidential statement at the end of the current session on July 3. In a letter to Delhi-based Asian Human Rights Centre Director Suhas Chakma on the issue, Mr. Rücker wrote that he will continue to closely follow this case, continue the dialogue with the government of the Maldives, as Member State of the U.N. Human Rights Council, and stand ready to take appropriate actions within his mandate. Mr. Chakma said the statement was “unprecedented” and showed how the U.N. body is seized of events in the Maldives, adding that a presidential statement would lead to a resolution on the Maldives during the UNHRC’s September session, much like Sri Lanka faces. Diplomatic overdrive Nervous about the developments, the Maldivian government has been in diplomatic overdrive, with President Yameen visiting China and Germany in June, while Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon spoke with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to apprise them of the latest government moves regarding Mr. Nasheed, who has been convicted on “terror charges,” but has now been moved to house arrest pending his clemency appeal, as well as 18 “new human rights legislations” passed by the government. On June 25, the government also allowed human rights group Amnesty International to visit Mr. Nasheed in incarceration. In a statement on June 26, Ms. Maumoon said Ms. Swaraj had “welcomed the positive developments in the Maldives”. While the MEA made no official comment on the conversation, the government does not seem convinced yet that the Maldives government is making moves in the desired direction. In a break from its normal stand of not commenting on internal matters, India had criticised the trial against Mr. Nasheed, as well as an alleged assault on him by police forces outside court on February 23. However, sources concede that if there is international action against the Maldives, India will have to rethink its stand. Maldives is, after all, a neighbour in the Indian Ocean region, with close ties despite the recent strain. Indian officials also closely watched President Yameen’s visit to Pakistan in May, and don’t want to concede any more ground either to Islamabad or to Beijing.
INDIA AND USA SIGN AGREEMENTS TO STRENGTHEN COOPERATION IN HEALTH SECTOR
India and the United States of America (USA) signed Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) on Cooperation on Cancer Research, Prevention, Control and Management and Collaboration in Environmental and Occupational Health and Injury Prevention and Control, and a Letter of Intent (LoI) on Antimicrobial Resistance Research. The MoU for cooperation on cancer research prevention, control and management was signed between the National Cancer Research Institute of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Department of Health Research, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology and National Cancer Institute of the National Institute of Health and Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), USA. The MoU intends to strengthen the collaboration on the following: l Promotion and development of cooperation in the fields of clinical cancer research and patient care delivery; l Infrastructure development, training, and capacity building; l Collaboration in cancer research including basic, translational and survivorship research, epidemiology, prevention, diagnosis, screening, treatment and control; l Direction of increased collaboration between appropriate Centers of Excellence and Institutions in both countries, as recommended by the Participants; and Assessment and application of new and cost effective cancer diagnostic technologies for public health benefits, and the translation of technologies for global health. The second MoU was signed between the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, Department of Health and Human Services of the USA and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Department of Health Research, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Collaboration in Environmental and Occupational Health and Injury Prevention and Control. The MoU aims to further the cooperation in the fields of environmental and occupational health and injury prevention and control research, education and training, infrastructure development, and capacity-building for their reciprocal and mutual benefit. The main areas of cooperation include, but are not limited to, the following: l The prevention of illness related to toxic chemicals and hazardous substances; l The development and use of improved tools, technologies and methods for enhancing environmental and occupational public health, and injury prevention efforts, including surveillance; l Public health effects of ambient and indoor air pollution including a focus on exposures associated with burning of solid fuels for cooking and heating; l The prevention of illness and injury related to hazards at the workplace and related research; l Planning, preparedness, and response for chemical releases and radiation events; l Research into the environmental and occupational causes of illnesses, including the assessment of exposure to, and disposal of, industrial and chemical waste materials; l Use and application of biomonitoring and biomarkers in environmental and occupational health; l Prevention efforts and research related to access to water, water quality, sanitation, and hygiene as related to their environmental health impacts; l The public health effects of urbanization and the built environment; l Impact of climate variability and climate change on health; and l Public health approaches for injury prevention and control including the areas of road safety, burn injuries and unintentional injury.
PATENT FILING IN INDIA: CGPDTM REPORT
The Controller-General of Patents, Designs and Trademarks (CGPDTM) have recently released its annual report on Patent filing in India. l Maharashtra (2,892) filed the most patents during the year 2013-14. l The other top 5 states in the number of patents filed are: Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Delhi and Andhra Pradesh. l Patent filings from various entities in Karnataka have shot up by 40 per cent in a year, pushing the State to the second spot nationally. l With 1,639 applications during 2013-14, Karnataka ranks just behind Maharashtra. l Karnataka’s status in intellectual property (IP) has been steadily climbing over the past two years. l Across India, the five patent offices received 42,674 applications that year. While 4,227 patents were granted, barely 43 per cent were examined or disposed of. l The Bengaluru-based Samsung R&D Institute (84); Infosys (83); Wipro Ltd (59); and Samsung India Software Operations Pvt. Ltd. (66) are top filers among infotech companies. l The Indian Space Research Organisation (12), the Indian Institute of Science (32) and Siddaganga Institute of Technology, Tumakuru, (24) figure among the top-10 scientific bodies and institutions. l A recent report by IBEF lists Chinese company Huawei’s plan to invest $170 million in an R&D campus in Bengaluru. It mentions similar plans from Xiaomi and Twitter. l As for geographic indications or GIs, Karnataka, with 32 registrations, holds the largest number followed by Tamil Nadu with 24.
CCEA CLEARS ENHANCED FREIGHT CORRIDOR COST
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved the revised cost estimate of Rs 81,459 crore for the Eastern and Western Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC) Project, including land costs and financing plan. The revised cost estimate comprises construction cost of Rs 73,392 crore. l The project is being created for the exclusive movement of freight, which would spur economic growth. l The 1,839-km Eastern DFC from Ludhiana to Dankuni is estimated to cost Rs.26,674 crore. l The 1,499-km Western DFC from Dadri to Jawaharlal Nehru Port will involve an expenditure of Rs.46,178 crore. l Earlier, in March 2008, the CCEA had given its approval for the implementation of the Eastern and Western DFC projects with an expenditure of over Rs.28,181 crore having so far been incurred on the same. l The approval for the revised cost estimate was essential for proceeding with project implementation and entering into commitments. l The land acquisition cost for the project will be Rs.8,067 crore. This excludes the cost of the 534-km Sonnagar-Dankuni section proposed to be implemented through the public-private partnership (PPP) route. l Of the total requirement of Rs.81,459 crore for the DFC projects, Rs.76,143 crore is needed during project construction, as the railway ministry needs to pay the finance ministry interest of Rs.5,316 crore during construction of the Western DFC after a moratorium period of 10 years. l For DFC, Rs.52,347 crore would flow as debt from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and World Bank. l Equity requirement from railway ministry (including land) for the project is Rs.23,796 crore. l The entire western corridor is being funded by JICA while the eastern corridor from Mughalsarai to Ludhiana is being funded by the World Bank.
NOD TO SUPPLY IRON ORE TO JAPAN, SOUTH KOREA To help utilise surplus production of iron ore in the country, the Union cabinet approved the supply of 3.8 million tonne (mt) to 5.5 mt of high grade Indian iron ore per year till March 2018, primarily from the mines of the National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC), by Metals and Minerals Trading Corporation of India to Japanese and South Korean steel mills. In this regard, the cabinet cleared a proposal to renew the long-term agreement with Japanese and South Korean steel mills that has been in place for the last four to five decades. These agreements will help continue this relationship and strengthen Indo-Japanese collaboration in several areas of mutual interest, including technology transfer, joint venture and investment. The cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, also gave its approval for signing of a memorandum of cooperation (MoC) between the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) and the Japan Patent Office (JPO), to establish a framework for bilateral cooperation in the field of industrial property (IP). The emphasis of the MoC is on capacity building, human resource development and awareness generation. The offices will implement a biennial action plan comprising cooperation projects and activities principally, on information sharing on IP protection systems and practices, cooperation in the area of examination — including utilisation of the examiner-exchange programme — cooperation in the scheme of the patent cooperation treaty, assistance in developing IP infrastructure, capacity building and awareness building for the general public. APPROVAL TO SET UP SIX NEW IIMS The Cabinet approved the setting up of six new Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), taking the tally to 19. l The new IIMs, one each in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and Punjab, will commence their first academic session from 2015-16. l These IIMs will begin functioning from assigned temporary campuses and shift to their permanent sites after construction is completed. l Each Institute will start with an intake of 140 students in the post-graduate programme (PGP) courses.
INDIA LEADS FDI IN SOUTH ASIA: UNCTAD REPORT
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. l 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. l India is likely to maintain an upward trend in 2015 as economy recovery gains ground. l FDI inflows to South Asia rose to $ 41 billion in 2014, primarily owing to good performance by India. l 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. l 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). l In the UN report, Asia is divided into three sub-regions: East and South East Asia, West Asia and South Asia. l According to the report, China became the world’s largest recipient of FDI ($ 129 billion) toppling the US ($ 92 billion). l 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. l 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. l Among the top 10 FDI recipients in the world, five are developing economies. l 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. l 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. l The US had the largest outward flow of FDI ($ 337 billion) followed by Hong Kong-China ($ 142 billion) and China ($ 116 billion).
SECI RENAMED AS RENEWABLE ENERGY CORPORATION OF INDIA
The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, gave its approval to the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) to apply to the Registrar of Companies for (i) converting it into a Section 3 company under the Companies Act, 2013 (No,18 of 2013); and (ii) renaming it as the Renewable Energy Corporation of India (RECI). The major impact of the decision will be:- (i) SECI will become a self-sustaining and selfgenerating organization. (ii) SECI will engage itself in owning solar power plants generating and selling power and in other segments of solar sector activities, including manufacturing of solar products and materials, (iii) SECI will become RECI after change of its name and then will take up development of all segments of renewable energy namely, geothermal, off-shore wind, tidal etc. apart from solar energy. Section 8 of the Companies Act, 2013 [earlier Section 25 of the Companies, Act 1956] provides for formation of companies with charitable, objects. Under this provision, the commercial aspect of a business entity and its growth is completely prohibited. In comparison for a Section 3 company the object is not limited, and is mainly for commercial activities which will facilitate growth of the company. It therefore, means that a Section 8 company can only engage in activities of promotion of commerce, art, science, sports, education, research, social welfare, religion, charity etc., but not commercial activity leading to trade, buying and selling etc. resulting in profit and distribution of dividend. The Government has also decided to enlarge the scope of the activities of SECI to cover all renewable energy sources, with a view to provide a comprehensive and optimized solution for generation of renewable energy integrating various renewable energy sources. The generation profile of solar, wind and small hydro have complementarities and generating power from these sources are likely to be more uniform. This will also reduce stress on transmission and distribution networks, resulting in better grid management. Considering this aspect, the Government has allowed the change of name from “Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI)” to “Renewable Energy Corporation of India (RECI)”. Background After approval of the Government, the SECI was registered as a Section 25 Company under the Companies Act, 1956 (now under Section 8 of the Companies Act, 2013) on 20.09.2011. SECI has initiated various activities for setting up of solar power plants as also for the promotion and commercialization of solar energy technologies, with long term perspective of assuming the role of a solar power developer. For the first time, SECI made a profit of about 12 crore during the last financial year and has become a networth positive PSU. It is also expected to make a profit of around 300 crore this year.
RBI EXTENDS DEADLINE TO EXCHANGE PRE-2005 CURRENCY NOTES
Reserve Bank of India extended the deadline for exchanging pre-2005 currency notes of various denominations, including of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000, by six months till December 31, 2015. The earlier deadline was expiring on June 30. l The notes can be exchanged for their full value. l All pre-2005 notes continue to remain legal tender. www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  l The rationale behind the move to withdraw banknotes printed prior to 2005 is to remove them from the market because they have fewer security features compared with banknotes printed after 2005. l A majority of old banknotes have been withdrawn through bank branches. l Over 164 crore pre-2005 currency notes of various denominations, including of Rs 1,000 were shredded in regional offices of Reserve Bank in 13-month period ending January. l The face value of the shredded currency notes was around Rs 21,750 crore. l As many as 86.87 crore pieces of Rs 100, 56.19 crore pieces of Rs 500 and 21.75 crore pieces of Rs 1,000 were shredded. In March 2014, RBI had announced all currency notes issued prior to 2005 will be withdrawn from circulation. Banks were told to exchange any number of notes for both customers and noncustomers. Earlier, RBI had set a deadline of July 1 for exchanging the notes, after which banks would exchange the notes only for their customers and non-customers had to furnish proof of identity and residence. But subsequently this deadline was extended to January 2015 and again to 30 June, 2015. l It is easy to identify pre-2005 notes, as they do not have the year of printing on the reverse side. In the notes issued after 2005, the year of printing is visible at the bottom of the reverse side. l Post-2005 notes have added additional security features and help curbing the menace of fake currency. l In its March circular, RBI had also told banks to stop re-issue of pre-2005 series notes over the counters/through ATMs. l The RBI says on its website that coins in the denomination of 1 paise, 2 paise, 3 paise, 5 paise, 10 paise, 20 paise and 25 paise have been withdrawn from circulation with effect from June 30, 2011 and are, therefore, no more legal tender. l Even bank notes of Rs 1, 2 and 5 continue to be legal tender, though these denominations have been coinised and their printing has been discontinued.
INDIAN BANKS CAN BORROW FROM GLOBAL INSTITUTIONS
The Reserve Bank of India had decided to allow banks to borrow from global multilateral financial institutions for general banking business. l The objective is to make the funding process easier. l No approval of RBI is required for borrowing from global multilateral financial institutions. l However, such borrowings should not be for capital augmentation. l Such borrowings would be subject to the applicable prudential norms. With a view to providing greater flexibility in seeking access to overseas funds, it has now been decided to permit AD Category-I banks to borrow from international/multilateral financial institutions without approaching Reserve Bank for a case-bycase approval. Such institutions include international/ multilateral financial institutions of which Government of India is a shareholding member or which have been established by more than one government or have shareholding by more than one government and other international organizations.
INDIA BECOMES MOST ‘ATTRACTIVE INVESTMENT DESTINATION’
According to a ranking of destinations for attractiveness to foreign investors India has become the favorite among 110 countries. l China has secured the 65th position and the U.S. is at the 50th. In the 2014 index. l 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 asset. The index combines measures for each of these factors into a summary statistic that conveys a country’s basic attractiveness for investment. 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. 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. 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. 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.
RBI RELEASED FINANCIAL STABILITY REPORT
The Reserve Bank of India released its Financial Stability Report (FSR), the 11th issue of its bi-annual publication. The report states the easing global crisis and strong macro-economic fundamentals in the domestic market, including increased FDIs in the past year offer India a “reasonable degree of resilience” to fight uncertainties, but poor asset quality of banks and managing expectations are key challenges for regulators and the government. Main Findings of the Report l There has been a significant improvement in the macroeconomic environment, and going forward, economic performance is expected to be better. l Relatively stronger macroeconomic fundamentals in terms of growth, inflation, and current account and fiscal deficits provide a reasonable degree of resilience to Indian financial system. l Gross non-performing assets (NPAs) in the banking system have grown to 4.6% at the end of March this year from 4.5% in September 2014, while stressed advances including standard restructured loans have risen to 11.1% from 10.7%. l The rising NPA situation hasn’t bottomed out yet, and the FSR warns that asset quality deterioration is likely to continue for a few more quarters. l State-run lenders are still trailing the private sector banks in asset quality, with stressed advances at 13.5% as against 4.6% for the private sector banks. l Under the baseline scenario, the RBI report estimates that public sector banks’ gross NPAs will rise to 5.7% by the end of March 2016. l The corporate sector’s declining debt repayment capability is also adding to the banks’ woes. l On a sectoral level, mining, iron & steel, textiles, infrastructure and aviation sectors contributed the most to asset quality stress, with such advances at 17.9%. l While risks to the banking sector have moderated marginally since September 2014, concerns remain over the continued weakness in asset quality and profitability. l Stress tests for the banking sector indicate the gross NPAs may increase marginally to 4.8% in the July-Sep quarter of the current fiscal before improving to 4.7% by the March 2016 quarter. l Further deterioration in asset quality can “adversely affect the health of the banking system”. l When tested, stress levels of top ten banks identified as systemically important are higher than the average for the system and therefore their performance will need to be “closely monitored”. l If the macroeconomic conditions were to deteriorate, the gross NPAs could climb up to 5.9% by March 2016. l While capital ratios for the banking system have improved marginally, the state-run banks have continued to record lower CRAR (capital to risk weighted assets ratio). l The state-run banks may have to bolster their provisions further to improve the expected losses in case the economic condition deteriorates any further Focusing on governance and management processes, along with a re-orientation of business strategies will help improve the performance of state-run banks in the long-run. Agricultural insurance l Price pressures arising from possible sub-normal monsoon remains a significant risk to food and headline inflation. l An immediate focus is required on agricultural insurance due to frequent natural calamities and its imapct mostly on small and marginal farmers. l It cited a need to strengthen the link between the derivatives market and the psysical market, mainly for agricultural commodities. l In the securities market, the FSR flagged concerns over the rapid rise in algorithm trading, saying this highlights the need for caution. l Flagging the high leverage within the corporates as a concern area, the report said this can hinder monetary policy transmission as corporates may not be able to benefit from falling interest rates due to high debt on their books. l India’s macroeconomic factors like growth, inflation, current account and fiscal deficits might cushion the impact of external global crisis; however, in the absence of effective international monetary policy coordination, there can be no room for complacency. The FSR report is published by a sub-committee of Financial Stability and Development Council. The sub-committee, headed by the RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan, has representations from heads of other financial market regulators like the Sebi, Irda, FMC and the PFRDA apart from the Chief Economic Advisor to the Finance Ministry and the Finance Secretary, among others.
SCIENCE & TECH
DIGITAL INDIA PROGRAMME
Prime Minister launched the “Digital India Week” to empower citizens with the use of IT on July 1, 2015 in New Delhi. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi described cyber-related risks as a global threat of “bloodless war,” and called upon the nation’s IT community to serve the entire world by building credible cyber-security systems. The Prime Minister also exhorted the captains of India’s IT industry to boost production of electronic devices and goods in the country, as part of the “Make in India” initiative, to reduce dependence on imports. Narendra Modi noted that, it was not enough for India to say that it is an ancient civilization, and a country of 125 crore with favourable demography. He said modern technology needs to be blended with these strengths. The Prime Minister reiterated his Government’s resolve to not allow the Digital Divide to become a barrier between people. He outlined his vision of e-governance and mobile governance, where all important Government services are available on the mobile phone. The PM said that the Digital India initiative was aimed at improving the lives of the common man. He said that India may have missed the Industrial Revolution, but will not miss the IT revolution. The first day of the “Digital India Week” saw top industry houses pledging investments worth Rs 4.5 lakh crore in various technology ventures that can potentially add 1.8 million jobs. The campaign is as much an invitation to domestic and foreign companies as a promise to improve systems, remove bureaucratic sloth and reduce red-tape that often delays processes and decision-making, and encourage start-up enterprises. Modi also announced a slew of digital programmes — digital lockers to store documents, e-Sign using Aadhaar, e-Hospital systems, National Scholarship Portal, Centre of Excellence on Internet on Things (IoT) and a high-speed digital highway — that aims to make government services more efficient, easily accessible and hassle-free. Digital India Programme The Digital India programme is a flagship programme of the Government of India with a vision to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy. The journey of e-Governance initiatives in India took a broader dimension in mid 90s for wider sectoral applications with emphasis on citizencentric services. Later on, many States/UTs started various e-Governance projects. Though these eGovernance projects were citizen-centric, they could make lesser than the desired impact. Government of India launched National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) in 2006. 31 Mission Mode Projects covering various domains were initiated. Despite the successful implementation of many e-Governance projects across the country, e-Governance as a whole has not been able to make the desired impact and fulfil all its objectives. It has been felt that a lot more thrust is required to ensure e-Governance in the country promote inclusive growth that covers electronic services, products, devices and job opportunities. Moreover, electronic manufacturing in the country needs to be strengthened. In order to transform the entire ecosystem of public services through the use of information technology, the Government of India has launched the Digital India programme with the vision to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy. e-Kranti : National e-Governance Plan 2.0 The national level e-Governance programme called National e-Governance Plan was initiaited in 2006. There were 31 Mission Mode Projects under National e-Governance Plan covering a wide range of domains, viz. agriculture, land records, health, education, passports, police, courts, municipalities, commercial taxes, treasuries etc. 24 Mission Mode Projects have been implemented and started delivering either full or partial range of envisaged services.
Vision Areas of Digital India The Digital India programme is centred on three key vision areas: l Digital Infrastructure as a Core Utility to Every Citizen l Governance and Services on Demand l Digital Empowerment of Citizens Digital Infrastructure as a Utility to Every Citizen l Availability of high speed internet as a core utility for delivery of services to citizens l Cradle to grave digital identity that is unique, lifelong, online and authenticable to every citizen l Mobile phone & bank account enabling citizen participation in digital & financial space l Easy access to a Common Service Centre l Shareable private space on a public cloud l Safe and secure cyber-space Governance & Services on Demand l Seamlessly integrated services across departments or jurisdictions l Availability of services in real time from online & mobile platforms l All citizen entitlements to be portable and available on the cloud l Digitally transformed services for improving ease of doing business l Making financial transactions electronic & cashless l Leveraging Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) for decision support systems & development Digital Empowerment of Citizens l Universal digital literacy l Universally accessible digital resources l Availability of digital resources/services in Indian languages l Collaborative digital platforms for participative governance l Citizens not required to physically submit Govt. documents/certificates Programme Management Structure The Programme management structure for the Digital India prorgamme as endorsed by the Union Cabinet is as follow: A. For effective management of the Digital India programme, the programme management structure would consists of a Monitoring Committee on Digital India headed by the Prime Minister, a Digital India Advisory Group chaired by the Minister of Communications and IT and an Apex Committee chaired by the Cabinet Secretary. The structure has the needed secretarial/ monitoring/ technical support and appropriate decentralization of power and responsibility to ensure effective execution of the various projects/components by the implementing departments/teams. B. Key components of the Programme Management structure would be as follows: a. Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) for programme level policy decisions. b. A Monitoring Committee on Digital India under the Chairpersonship of Prime Minister which will be constituted with representation drawn from relevant Ministries/Departments to provide leadership, prescribe deliverables and milestones, and monitor periodically the implementation of the Digital India Programme. c. A Digital India Advisory Group headed by the Minister of Communications and IT to solicit views of external stakeholders and to provide inputs to the Monitoring Committee on Digital India, advise the Government on policy issues and strategic interventions necessary for accelerating the implementation of the Digital India Programme across Central and State Government Ministries/Departments. The composition of the Advisory Group would include representation from the Planning Commission and 8 to 9 representatives from States/UTs and other Line Ministries/ Departments on a rotational basis.
VOYAGER: GOOGLE EARTH GETS NEW SET OF FEATURES
Google has released new features for Google Earth, which has turned 10. According to engadget.com, a desktop feature called Voyager is designed to help the users pick out and explore new imagery from around the world. These are organised into five categories: Street View, Earth View, 3D cities, Satellite imagery updates, and Highlight tour. Street view will show some of the best locations [ 3 4 ] Weekly Current Affairs 28th June 2015 to 3rd July, 2015 www.ias100.in to explore at street level, while Earth View will highlight some of the best landscapes as seen from space. Also, new satellite imagery provides a map of some of the newest overhead location photos, and 3D cities show of some of the best renderings of cities and towns. The highlight tour will give access to surface top locations from thousands in Voyager’s database. Image collection Moreover, the Earth View image collection is also getting a sizeable update. Google announced that it will expand the library to include more than 1,500 stunning landscapes from around the globe. Users can add these to new tabs in Chrome via Google’s own extension or make them their wallpaper by downloading from the new Earth View Web gallery.
EXTRA SECOND ADDED ON 30TH JUNE
This time, the leap second will be added at the end of 30 June 2015, making it that much longer than other days. The sequence of time will read like this: 30 June 2015 23 hours-59 minutes-59 seconds 30 June 2015 23 hours-59 minutes-60 seconds 1 July 2015 00 hours-00 minutes-00 seconds Note that normally, we would have gone straight from the first to the third time point. The decision for this addition was taken by the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS), an international body that tracks small changes in the earth’s rotation and declares time changes accordingly. It is based in Paris. Earth’s rotation is gradually slowing down a bit, so leap seconds are a way to account for that, explained Daniel MacMillan of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. From 1972, when leap seconds were first implemented, there have been 25 additions of leap seconds. They are always added on 30 June. Before 1972, adjustments were made in a different way. A day lasts 86,400 seconds. That is the case, according to the time standard that people use in their daily lives – Coordinated Universal Time, or UTC. This is calculated using atomic clocks which are very precise. The cesium clock is accurate to one second in 1,400,000 years. However, the mean solar day – the average length of a day, based on how long it takes Earth to rotate – is about 86,400.002 seconds long. That’s because Earth’s rotation is gradually slowing down a bit, due to a kind of braking force caused by the gravitational tug of war between Earth, the moon and the sun, according to NASA. Scientists estimate that the mean solar day hasn’t been 86,400 seconds long since the year 1820 or so. This difference of 2 milliseconds, or two thousandths of a second – far less than the blink of an eye – hardly seems noticeable at first. But if this small discrepancy were repeated every day for an entire year, it would add up to almost a second. Strictly speaking, there are other forces at work making the length of each individual day varies in an unpredictable way. These include seasonal and daily weather variations, dynamics of the Earth’s inner core, variations in the atmosphere and oceans, groundwater, and ice storage, and oceanic and atmospheric tides. Atmospheric variations due to El Nino can cause Earth’s rotation to slow down, increasing the length of day by as much as 1 millisecond, or a thousandth of a second. Scientists monitor how long it takes Earth to complete a full rotation using an extremely precise technique called Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI). These measurements are conducted by a worldwide network of stations, with Goddard providing essential coordination of VLBI, as well as analyzing and archiving the data collected. In India, the leap second was added by scientists at the Time and Frequency Standards Laboratory (TFSL) to atomic clocks after 05:29:59 as the Indian Standard Time (IST) is ahead of the Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) by 5 and half hours. UTC is the advanced version of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). TFSL is the nation’s official time keeper and located at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in New Delhi.
ITU DEFINES 5G AS SPEED OF 20 GBPS
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has agreed to a definition for 5G communications networks. The definition that it has agreed to specifies that the future 5G networks will have speeds of at least 20 Gbps. The ITU also clarified its plan to commercialize 5G networks by 2020. www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  The 5G network standards set forth by the ITU have been standardized globally and a Korean ministry official said that the agreement on the standard will be approved internationally. With data speeds of at least 20 Gbps, users will be able to download one UHD movie in ten seconds. 5G networks will also be able to provide speeds of over 100 Mbps average data transfer to over a million Internet of Things devices within a square kilometer range. The official name for 5G technology is IMT- 2020, which is a sequential name that follows the IMT-2000 name for the third generation 3G network and IMT-Advanced for the fourth generation network. While the plan is to have the network commercialized by 2020, the first major demonstration of the technology will come in 2018. ITU planned to have a demonstration network in place in time for the 2018 Winter Olympic games in PyeongChang. KT will show off 5G tech at the games as the official sponsor. Distribution of the international spectrum for the 5G network will start in 2019.
ECOLOGY & ENVIRONMENT
ZSI MONITORING CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACT ON SUNDARBAN ANIMALS To measure the effect of climate change on the flora and fauna of Sundarbans, the Zoological Survey of India has set up monitoring bases inside the mangrove forests. There are 25 plots in the five islands of Bali, Gosaba, Basanti, Sagar and Satjelia where the bases have been set up to measure the diversity and population index of mangroves, crabs and snails. The monitoring process is an ongoing one and experts are sent to the spot to collect data about their population and species. ZSI will also take photographs and prepare a GPS map of their habitat. ZSI will prepare a baseline data of biodiversity. As time passes by the reasearchers will be able to know whether there is any change in the flora and fauna of the region or not. The monitoring bases have so far been established in the buffer zone of the mangrove forest. They have taken permission from the state forest department to start more such centres inside the core area of the tiger reserve. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Sundarbans is an archipelago of more than a hundred islands, famous for its mangrove forests and several endangered species like the Royal Bengal Tiger, Ganges and Irawadi dolphins. The islands are hit hard by constant land erosion and salinity due to rising sea levels. The ZSI is monitoring the impact on animals while the Botanical Survey of India will monitor the flora. Under a project funded by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, they have also started monitoring insect pollination on eight major mangrove species of the region. As a result of various factors including the use of chemical pesticides, climate change, pollution, etc, the number of pollinators has been on a decline in many parts of the world. A number of fruits, nuts and vegetables are pollinated by bees. Pollination by insects like bees, beetles, butterflies, moths, etc are taking place, but we do not know who are the biggest pollinators. They are helping us in conserving our plant species, project in-charge scientist Bulganin Mitra said. Conservation of pollinators is important from the view point of food security and protection of our forests. It is a three-year monitoring project which will help them prepare a database of insect pollination in the mangroves of Sundarbans.
STUDY: LOSS OF POLAR BEAR HABITAT IS IMMINENT
About a third of the world’s polar bears could be in imminent danger from greenhouse gas emissions in as soon as a decade, a U.S. government report showed. U.S. Geological Survey said scientific models don’t bode well for polar bear populations across the world. Greenhouse gases are blamed for the climate warming that’s reducing polar bears’ summer sea ice habitat. Scientists saw no rebound in population in the projections that stretched to the year 2100. The scientific models attempted to predict the effects on polar bear populations under two scenarios — one in which greenhouse gas emissions stabilised, and the other in which they continued unabated. Under either scenario, the bears in the Alaska, Russia and Norway group with an estimated population of about 8,500 would start to be affected in either 2025 or 2030, said lead author Todd Atwood, an Alaska-based USGS research wildlife biologist. Polar bears use sea ice for feeding, mating and giving birth. When the ice retreats in the summer, polar bears are forced to the land. A study found the land-based food would not help it adapt to the loss of sea ice. USGS didn’t predict specific number declines and instead projected whether a population would see a decrease. That’s not to say we’ll lose polar bears completely, but we think that they’ll be at a greatly decreased distribution, Atwood said.
ONLINE SYSTEM FOR GREEN CLEARANCE OF STATE PROJECTS LAUNCHED
Union Environment and Forests Ministry on July 2, 2015 launched a Web portal for green clearance of smaller projects of states to cut delay and ensure transparency in their approval. Until now, there was an online system for giving environment, forest and coastal regulation zones clearances for category ‘A’ projects related to industry, thermal power, infrastructure, river valley and mining across the country. Environment Minister Prakash Javdekar stated that the decision will help states avoid instances of missing files. He informed 19 states have embraced the system which will help them give environment, forest and wildlife clearances and added remaining ones are expected to join the league soon. The ministry started giving permissions online for projects taking place on forest land (‘A’ category) in 2014. Its benefit was that project plans could be submitted from anywhere, anytime. This avoided delay and instances of files going missing. Hence, similar process is being initiated at state-level for ‘B’ category – small projects – which are cleared by states, minister said. ‘A’ category projects are the ones which require approval from Centre, while those falling in ‘B’ category are dealt at state-level. In states, environment approvals are issued by State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) and State Environment Assessment Committee (SEAC). Both the committees will now work online – a process, which he said, is in line with Narendra Modi government’s good governance call. The minister said personnel at state-level will be trained in handling the system this month and August to ensure they become familiar with the process. He said the Centre has given approvals to over 1,000 projects using the online system over the last one year. The ministry has received applications and a majority of them have been decided. There are 1,400 applications for forest approvals which are also being considered on merit. On the other hand, merit increased by the process and the environmental conditions are applied. This will ensure not only ease of doing business, but compliance and also ensuring right environmental conditions for projects. Ashok Lavasa, Secretary for Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, said the department is now targeting to bring all clearances required and hazardous substances management rules online. Representatives of nine states including those from Maharashtra, Gujarat, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Manipur, and Punjab took part in the session.
GREENHOUSE GASES: INDIA FOURTH BIGGEST EMITTER
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. It shows 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. 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.“However, developing countries like China, Mexico and Brazil too are way ahead of India in terms of their per capita contribution to the overall emissions. 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. 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. Per capita emissions are still distributed unequally, it said, pointing out that the per person emissions still vary among the top 10 emitters, with the United States’ per capita emissions eight times that of India. According to the figures, 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). On the other hand, the lowest 100 emitters contribute less than 3%. 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, said the WRI in its document, carrying info-graphs on country-wise emission data. It showed the energy sector is the dominant source of greenhouse gas emissions. It contributes more than 75% of global emissions. 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, it said. The analysis also showed that emission sources vary by country. 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. Mitigation policy options that countries pursue should therefore align with their national circumstances, the WRI suggested while sharing and analyzing those figures. Six of the top 10 emitters are developing countries. According to the data, China contributes approximately 25% of global emissions, making it the top emitter. India, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico and Iran are also contributing relatively large shares of global emissions as their economies grow.
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. Named after worldrenowned British deep-sea and polar biologist professor Paul Tyler, the species Kiwa Tyleri belongs to an enigmatic group of squat lobsters known as Kiwaidae. “The species occurring at extremely high densities exceeds 700 specimens per square metre. The Antarctic Yeti crab is trapped in its warmwater hydrothermal vent site by the cold polar waters of the surrounding deep-sea. The species has adapted to this very limited sized habitat – of a few cubic metres in volume – by living in highlypacked densities and by relying on bacteria they grow on their fur-like setae for nutrition, said lead author Sven Thatje from the University of Southampton. Yeti crab is famous for its body, which is densely www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  covered by bristles – known as setae – and bacteria, giving it a fur-like appearance. 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. For most of its life, Kiwa Tyleri is trapped within the warm water environment of the vent chimney. The species is unable to move between vent sites because of the hostile, low temperature (about zero degrees Celsius), polar environment in between. Crabs and lobsters, which are a characteristic of the global oceans, show an extremely low species number in polar seas. Hydrothermal vent systems found in the Southern Ocean, therefore, present a unique warm-water refuge to Yeti crabs.
ELEPHANT POPULATION RISES IN ODISHA
Despite the death of 231 elephants in the past three years in Odisha, their population in the state has increased to 1,954 this year from the 1,930 recorded in the 2012 census. The 2015 Elephant Census report released by Forest and Environment Minister Bikram Keshari Arukh on June 29, 2015 revealed that this had happened in spite of the man-animal conflict and scores of jumbo deaths. As per the census, 341 elephants were identified as tuskers and 1,096 as cow elephants. Some 490 of them were below five years old. The census carried out in 44 forest divisions engaged 5,600 people. The elephant population had shown a positive growth in 26 divisions and a negative growth in 14 divisions. 213 jumbos died from 2012-13 to May 2015. While 49 died due to disease, 20 died due to poaching and five were poisoned. Fourteen elephants were deliberately and nine accidentally electrocuted. Thirteen others were hit by trains and vehicles.
CHOLERA DEATHS IN S. SUDAN RISE
At least 29 people have died in a cholera outbreak in war-torn South Sudan with thousands more at risk of infection, the United Nations said on July 3, 2015. A total of 484 cholera cases, including 29 deaths — six of them children under five — had been reported by the end of June, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said. Up to 5,000 children under age five are at risk of dying from cholera unless urgent action is taken to contain this threat, it said in a statement. Cholera is particularly dangerous for young children as it causes rapid and severe dehydration due to excessive diarrhoea and vomiting. The World Health Organization and aid workers are carrying out cholera vaccination campaigns. South Sudan’s health ministry declared a outbreak of the diarrhoeal disease on June 23, when the number killed hit 18. The outbreak is believed to have begun in early June in crowded UN bases in the capital Juba and then spread to other parts of the city. Over 1,40,000 people have sought shelter in UN camps across the country during 18 months of civil war. WHO: CUBA BECOMES FIRST NATION TO ELIMINATE MOTHER-TO-CHILD HIV Cuba on June 30, 2015 became the first country in the world to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis, the World Health Organization said. Eliminating transmission of a virus is one of the greatest public health achievements possible, said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan. This is a major victory in our long fight against HIV and sexually transmitted infections, and an important step towards having an AIDSfree generation. Universal health coverage, improved access to tests and increased attention to maternal care were credited with the success, defined by health authorities as fewer than 50 cases of mother-tochild transmission of syphilis or HIV per 100,000 live births. A small number of cases are allowed to persist, despite the certification, because antiretroviral treatment to prevent mother-to-childtransmission of HIV is not 100 percent effective. Rather, WHO and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) define the milestone as “a reduction of transmission to such a low level that it no longer constitutes a public health problem.” Health authorities have been working in Cuba since 2010 to ensure early access to prenatal care, HIV and syphilis testing for both pregnant women and their partners, treatment for women who test positive and their babies, caesarean deliveries and substitution of breastfeeding, said a WHO statement. Cuba’s success demonstrates that universal access and universal health coverage are feasible and indeed are the key to success, even against challenges as daunting as HIV, said PAHO Director Carissa Etienne. Cuba’s achievement provides inspiration for other countries to advance towards elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis. Each year, 1.4 million women living with HIV around the world become pregnant. Left untreated, they have a 15 to 45 percent chance of passing the virus to their children during pregnancy, labor, delivery or breastfeeding. But the risk of transmission is just over one percent if antiretroviral medicines are given to both mothers and children. The number children born annually with HIV was 400,000 in 2009. By 2013, the number was down to 240,000 in 2013. But intense effort is needed to meet the global target of less than 40,000 new child infections per year by 2015, health authorities said. It shows that ending the AIDS epidemic is possible and we expect Cuba to be the first of many countries coming forward to seek validation that they have ended their epidemics among children, said Michel Sidibe, executive director of the United Nations AIDS agency. www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  POTENTIAL NEW HIV THERAPY A research team led by Weill Cornell Medical College scientists has discovered a way to limit replication of the most common form of HIV at a key moment when the infection is just starting to develop. The study has shed light on a potential new element of human immunity against HIV-1 and could provide a powerful new strategy – perhaps as part of an HIV vaccine – to limit the severity of the disease, which affects 35 million people worldwide and for which there is no cure. Transmitted through bodily fluids, the HIV-1 virus thrives by infecting and destroying key immune cells, known as CD4 T cells that ordinarily would mount an effective defense against the virus and initiate the antiviral activity of other immune cells. Scientists have long known that a substance produced by CD4 T cells called Interleukin-21 (IL-21) plays an important role in the immune system by activating immune cells that specialize in killing viruses like HIV-1 and driving the production of antibodies that attack them. But it was unclear how IL-21 might affect the early stages of HIV-1 infection that allows the virus to grow and spread unabated soon after a person is exposed. An analysis of the results suggested that IL-21 not only jump-starts the immune system but also thwarts the HIV-1 virus from replicating during a critical, early window of its development, when it is concentrated in one location and hasn’t yet started to spread throughout the body. This study highlights components of the human immune system that are capable of mounting an antiviral response and driving intrinsic resistance to HIV-1. The reduction in viral load is due to the cascade of events initiated by IL-21, one of the proteins that CD4 T cells produce to help carry out their immune function. The investigators found that IL- 21 instructs CD4 T cells to increase the amount of a small RNA molecule. That molecule, microRNA- 29 (miR-29), inhibits the replication of HIV-1, limiting the amount of virus produced from infected cells. FIRST-EVER POTENTIAL TREATMENT FOR MERS IDENTIFIED Scientists have for the first time identified two promising drug candidates to prevent and treat the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) disease. Researchers discovered and validated two therapeutics that show early promise in preventing and treating the disease, which can cause severe respiratory symptoms, and has a death rate of 40 per cent. This therapeutics is the first to succeed in protecting and treating animal models of the MERS virus, researchers said. While early, this is very exciting, and has real potential to help MERS patients, said lead researcher, Matthew B Frieman, from the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM). They hoped that clinical study will progress on these two antibodies to see whether they can eventually be used to help humans infected with the virus. The two antibodies, REGN3051 and REGN3048, showed an ability to neutralise the virus. The research, done in collaboration with Regeneron, a biopharmaceutical company based in Tarrytown, New York, used several of the company’s proprietary technologies to search for and validate effective antibodies targeting the virus. MERS was first discovered in 2012 in Saudi Arabia. It appears that the disease spread to humans from camels, who may themselves been infected by bats, researchers said. Research has shown that it is similar to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS); both are caused by Coronaviruses, both cause respiratory problems, and both are often fatal. This work relied on Regeneron’s VelociGene technology to create partially humanised mice that can be infected with MERS. Mice are typically not susceptible to MERS. This new mouse model will significantly boost our ability to study potential treatments and help scientists to understand how the virus causes disease in people, researchers said. The South Korean outbreak began in May 2015 when a traveller returned from Saudi Arabia, and infected many people before officials realised he had the disease. So far, around 180 people have been infected in South Korea, and nearly 30 have died. What is MERS? Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) is a viral respiratory disease caused by a coronavirus (MERS-CoV) that was first identified in Saudi [ 4 2 ] Weekly Current Affairs 28th June 2015 to 3rd July, 2015 www.ias100.in Arabia in 2012. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause diseases ranging from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). MERS-CoV primarily causes fever, cough and shortness of breath. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Pneumonia is common, and sometimes it may cause injury to organs, such as the kidneys. Treatment for MERS-CoV is directed at relieving symptoms and includes rest, fluids, pain relievers and oxygen therapy in severe cases. About 30 percent of people with MERS-CoV have died. Transmission from animals to humans It is not yet fully understood how people become infected with MERS-CoV, which is a zoonotic virus. It is believed that humans can be infected through direct or indirect contact with infected dromedary camels in the Middle East. Strains of MERS-CoV have been identified in camels in several countries, including Egypt, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Where has MERS occurred? The following 26 countries have reported cases of MERS: l In 2012: Germany, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom; l In 2013: France, Germany, Italy, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom; l In 2014: Algeria, Austria, Egypt Greece Iran Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Oman Qatar Saudi Arabia Turkey, United Arab Emirates United States, Yemen; l To date in 2015 China, Germany, Iran, Oman, Philippines, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, United Arab Emirates. The latest information on cases can be found at LOW DOSE RADIATION MAY CAUSE INCREASE IN LEUKAEMIA Exposure to ionizing radiation at high doses causes cancer. But there is uncertainty at low doses typically received by radiation workers and patients undergoing diagnostic radiation procedures. To reduce this uncertainty, any study must include a very large number of exposed individuals over a long period of time. Such a landmark study of 3,08,297 radiation workers employed in France, the UK and U.S., published online in The Lancet Haematology, (June 21, 2015) provided strong evidence of positive association between protracted low-dose radiation exposure and leukaemia. In the WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) coordinated study, they used the radiation dose due to external exposure to individual workers who wore dose measuring devices during their service. The study followed them up to 60 years after exposure. The average annual dose was 1.1 mGy. The Nature on June 30, 2015 stated that the study has now provided the strongest support yet for the idea that long-term exposure to low-dose radiation increases the risk of leukaemia, although the rise is only minuscule. The finding will not change existing guidelines on exposure limits for workers in the nuclear and medical industries, because those policies already assume that each additional exposure to low-dose radiation brings with it a slight increase in risk of cancer. The health risk of low-dose radiation is really very tiny, but the public is very concerned. It is a solid, unusually large study of individuals exposed to very low doses of ionizing radiation. The study drew flak for some of its limitations In his comments published on line in Nature , Dr Mohan Doss Associate Professor, Fox Chase Cancer Center , U.S., pointed out that the authors did not take into consideration the increase in medical radiation dose (e.g. from CT scans) that occurred during 1944-2005, the period of the study. The annual per capita medical dose increased from 0.25 mSv in the 1960s, 0.5 mSv in 1980, and 3 mSv in 2006. They have ignored medical radiation dose, which would be larger than the occupational dose (or be of similar magnitude). Therefore, their conclusion should be dismissed. According to United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, overall, natural background variation is shown to vary by a factor of 13. Ideally, the researchers must compute radiation dose for each individual worker. Obviously this is virtually impossible. Conclusions drawn from epidemiological studies involving tiny doses suffer from this inescapable limitation. The present study questions the existence of a threshold dose. As the absolute risk is very small, it is unnecessary to search for a threshold. www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  Scare mongers may use the study. A specialist may appreciate the nuances; the lay public will not realize that the rise in risk is only minuscule. For instance, scientists estimated that each accumulation of 10 mSv of exposure raises a worker’s risk of leukaemia by 0.002 per cent. Thus far, scientists are not able to clearly draw the dose response relation in the low dose region of a few mSv to a few tens of mSv. In any case, this limitation is not serious in view of the low risk. With the available knowledge, the stakeholders which include scientists on either side of the aisle will have to take decisions based on acceptable risk as is the case in any activity. vvvvv [ 4 4 ] Weekly Current Affairs 28th June 2015 to 3rd July, 2015 www.ias100.in NEWS IN BRIEF NEWS MAKERS Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Saudi Arabia’s billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal on July 1, 2015 pledged his entire $32-billion fortune to charitable projects over the coming years. The prince said in a statement that the philanthropic pledge will help build bridges to foster cultural understanding, develop communities, empower women, enable youth, provide vital disaster relief and create a more tolerant and accepting world. The donation will be allocated according to a well-devised plan throughout the coming years, he said, but stressed there was no time limit for the donation to be spent. Alwaleed said he would head a board of trustees tasked with spending the funds, adding the pledge would still be used after his death for humanitarian projects and initiatives. The magnate belongs to the Saudi royal family and is a nephew of King Abdullah, who died on January 23. In the conservative Muslim kingdom, Alwaleed, who holds no government rank, is unusual for his high profile and periodic comments about economic issues. Sania Mirza Twenty-eight-year-old Sania Mirza has become the first woman tennis player from India to be topseeded in the Wimbledon or for that matter, any Grand Slam championship. Ms. Mirza, incidentally, is playing her 15th year at Wimbledon. She won her first major title there in 2003 at the first junior Grand Slam, in the girls’ doubles category. Sania’s best at Wimbledon in women’s doubles has been the semi-final appearance with partner, Vesnina. It also means she is now a member of the ‘Last-four Club’ in Wimbledon and enjoys certain privileges for a lifetime, including use of a special locker etc. The only Indians top-seeded in a Grand Slam earlier were Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi in the 1999 French Open edition men’s doubles. Viswanathan Anand Five-time World champion Viswanathan Anand has regained his No. 2 spot in the world chess ranking. According to the latest rating list released by the world chess governing body FIDE, the Indian, who was ranked No. 3 in June, has 2816 Elo points, an increase of 12. Reigning champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway continues to be World No. 1, despite losing a whopping 23 points. Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria is ranked No. 3. The best-ranked Indian after Anand is Pendyala Harikrishna, at No. 25. In the women’s section, India’s Koneru Humpy is ranked No. 3 with 2589 points. World champion Hou Yifan of China remains the World No. 1 with 2676 points. India’s Dronavalli Harika is ranked No. 15. Another Indian, Padmini Rout, is the World No. 43. The top 10: Men: 1. Magnus Carlsen (Nor); 2. Viswanathan Anand (Ind); 3. Veselin Topalov (Bul); 4. Hikaru Nakamura (US); 5. Fabiano Caruana (US). Women: 1. Hou Yifan (Chn); 2. Judit Polgar (Hun); 3. Koneru Humpy (Ind); 4. Nana Dzanigdze (Geo); 5. Ju Wenju (Chn). Katy Perry Pop star Katy Perry has been ranked as the world’s highest paid female entertainer and biggest money making musician in a poll. Perry, 30, comes in at number three overall on the list and is beaten only by boxers Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao after their record breaking fight in June 2015, reported Forbes. C Ramakrishnan Tata Motors, India’s biggest auto maker, elevated its chief financial officer C Ramakrishnan to group CFO while also providing him an extention of two years. Ramakrishnan who turned 60 got appointed as Tata Motors group chief financial officer with effect from today, a note from the Mumbai-based company stated.“The CFOs of all Tata Motors www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  subsidiaries like Jaguar Land Rover, Daewoo to name a few will now report to Ramakrishnan. He will continue as Chief Financial Officer and Key Managerial Personnel for Tata Motors Limited, added the statement. The retirement age for executive directors in Tata Group is 65 while for non-executive directors it is 70.“Chandrasekaran Ramakrishnan has been the CFO of Tata Motors since 2007 and was one of the senior executives to bring Jaguar Land Rover under the company’s fold in 2008. He took over from Praveen Kadle, executive director (finance and corporate affairs) who moved to Tata Capital. Byron Wake A 15-year-old boy in the UK who used a hypodermic syringe to insert a microchip under the skin on his hand may have become Britain’s youngest ‘cyborg’ – part-human, part machine. Byron Wake, from Martock in Somerset, can now unlock his mobile phone and operate some Bluetooth devices with a wave of his hand. Wake is one of an estimated 10,000 people worldwide to have had the chip implanted. The chip is the size of a grain of rice and is encased in ‘bio-safe’ glass. Wake ordered it from the US and ignored advice to have it inserted by a doctor. He said that there had been no problems with the chip so far, apart from a slight ache after injecting it. The xNT chip emits a low-power radio signal that can perform simple functions such as unlocking a mobile or opening a door. Wake will be reviewing the chip for Dangerous Things, a US company that raised the finance to produce them through the crowd-funding website Indiegogo. Kevin Warwick, who became the world’s first cyborg when he had a chip implanted in 1998, has given Wake his backing. The professor, who is deputy vice-chancellor of research at Coventry University, said there were no risks to microchip implants. Dr Anup K Pujari Dr Anup K Pujari IAS joined as Secretary MSME on July 1, 2015. He succeeded Madhav Lal who superannuated on June, 30 2015. Before joining the Ministry of MSME, Dr. Pujari was holding the charge of Secretary, Mines. “Born in 1956, Pujari is a post-graduate from the University of Boston, and a Doctorate in Economics. Pujari has served the Central and Karnataka Govt. in various capacities. AWARDS G.D. Birla Award Professor Sanjeev Galande has been chosen for the G.D. Birla Award for Scientific Research for 2014, the K.K. Birla Foundation announced on July 1, 2015. He is Professor and Team Leader at the Centre of Excellence in Epigenetics of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune. The award, instituted in1991, seeks to recognise research by Indian scientists aged below 50 and living and working in India. It carries a cash prize of Rs. 2.5 lakh. Prof. Galande, born in 1967, obtained his Ph.D in Biochemistry from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, in 1996. As a postdoctoral fellow at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (1996- 2001), he studied the role of MAR-binding proteins in tumour genesis. Joining the IISER in 2010, he established the epigenetics centre and assembled a team to study the evolution of epigenetic mechanisms using multiple model systems. World Food Prize 2015 Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, the founder of Brac, the largest non-governmental organisation on the planet, has been awarded the 2015 World Food prize for his “unparalleled” work on reducing poverty in Bangladesh and 10 other countries. Abed established Brac – formerly known as the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee – in 1972 as a relief operation to help the country recover from its war of independence with Pakistan and the destruction wrought by a tropical cyclone. The organisation’s focus soon switched to finding new ways to tackle poverty and empower women socially and economically, and it is estimated to have brought nearly 150 million people out of poverty since its foundation. Presently, it has a staff of 110,000 and works in 11 countries: Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Pakistan, t h e P h ilip p in e s , S r iL a n k a , L ibe r ia , S ie r r a Leone, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Haiti. Dr MS Swaminathan, chair of the World Food prize selection committee and the first World Food prize laureate in 1987, described Abed as a “strategic thinker, and a man with a future vision”. He also praised the NGO for its constant innovation and bold use of funding. [ 4 6 ] Weekly Current Affairs 28th June 2015 to 3rd July, 2015 www.ias100.in The World Food Prize is the most prominent global award for individuals whose breakthrough achievements alleviate hunger and promote global food security. Great Immigrants: The Pride of America Award Four Indian-Americans, including top US attorney Preet Bharara, are among 38 distinguished personalities who have been honoured with this year’s prestigious “Great Immigrants: The Pride of America” award. Among other Indians honoured with the top annual award by the prestigious New York-based Carnegie Corporation are Rakesh Khurana, Dean of Harvard College and Marvin Bower Professor of Leadership and Development; Madhulika Sikka vice president, executive editor, Mic and Abraham Verghese, eminent physician, professor and author. The 38 immigrants honoured this year come from more than 30 countries around the world and represent leadership in a wide range of professions. Other notable honorees include Nobel Prize-winning Biochemist of Israeli origin Arieh Warshel, German-origin Nobel Prize-winning Neuroscientist Thomas Sudhof, Pakistani-American immigration attorney Rabia Chaudry, Colombianorigin actress Sofia Vergara among others. Global Confederation for Higher Education Associations for Agriculture and Life Sciences World Agriculture Prize Indian-American professor R. Paul Singh has been named as the 2015 Global Confederation for Higher Education Associations for Agriculture and Life Sciences World Agriculture Prize laureate. The award was announced at the annual GCHERA conference, recently at the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik, Jounieh, Lebanon. The award will be formally presented on September 20, 2015 during a ceremony at Nanjing Agricultural University, Jiangsu Province, China. Prof. Singh is a distinguished professor emeritus who has held dual appointments in the departments of Biological and Agricultural Engineering and of Food Science and Technology at the University of California, Davis. Singh earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering at India’s Punjab Agricultural University, then a master’s degree and Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Michigan State University, respectively. He joined the UC Davis faculty one year later in 1975. Singh is known for a body of research in areas such as energy conservation, freezing preservation, post-harvest technology and mass transfer in food processing. His research on airflow in complex systems helped design innovative systems for the rapid cooling of strawberries, and his studies on food freezing led to the development of computer software that is used to improve the energy efficiency of industrial freezers. Under a NASA contract, his research group created food-processing equipment for a manned mission to Mars. He has helped establish and evaluate food-engineering programs at institutions throughout the world, including in Brazil, India, Peru, Portugal and Thailand. OBITUARY Matti Makkonen Matti Makkonen, known as the father of short message service (SMS), passed away on July 3, 2015 at the age of 63 following serious illness. A Finnish national, Makkonen, developed the idea of sending messages via mobile networks. Pitching the original idea for SMS in 1984, while working as a civil servant, over a pizza at a telecoms conference in Copenhagen, he disliked the moniker ‘father of SMS’. His work is widely regarded as being critical to its success, though he never received any money from the invention, never applying for a patent. But it was only on December 3 in 1992 that the first text message was sent. Always pointing out that he did not invent the technology single-handedly, he saw SMS as a “joint effort” between many people (Communications researcher Friedham Hillebrand developed the 160- character format in 1985, for example). But much of the initial credit belongs to him. Yevgeny Primakov Former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, whose career included journalism, diplomacy and spycraft, has died at age 85. The Kremlin said on June 26, 2015 that President Vladimir Putin has offered condolences to Primakov’s family. The cause of death wasn’t immediately known. Primakov had deep experience in the Middle East, where he worked as a correspondent for the Soviet daily Pravda, and both Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and Mr. Putin used him as point man www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  to try to head off wars with Iraq. As Premier, he sought but failed to prevent NATO from bombing Yugoslavia in the war over Kosovo. But Primakov was more influential at home, and in 1999 was widely seen as a likely successor to Boris Yeltsin as President, before being undermined by negative television coverage orchestrated by supporters of Mr. Putin. ART & CULTURE Vijayanagar inscription found An inscription dating back to the times of the Vijayanagar Empire has been found at a temple at Kandavara village in Kundapur taluk of Udupi district. T. Murugeshi, Associate Professor in Ancient History and Archaeology, MSRS College, Shirva, said that the inscription dates back to the times of the Vijayanagar ruler Krishnadevaraya. The epigraph was originally built into the sanctum sanctorum of Ulluru Kartikeya Temple in Kandavara. The inscription was brought out during the renovation of the temple and installed on its outer premises. He said there were 30 lines written in Kannada on the rectangle stone slab. The writing mentioned in the inscription correspond to 1509 AD. This date also corresponds to the first year of Krishnadevaraya’s reign. Inter-State mobile number portability Mobile services provider, including Airtel and Vodafone, on July 2, 2015 announced roll out of nation-wide mobile number portability (NMNP) on July 3 that will allow users to keep their existing cell phone numbers while shifting between States. Presently, users can change their operator while retaining the same number only in the same State or telecom circle. NMNP will enable people shifting location, across circles, to retain their number either with the same operator or by shifting to a different operator. The government had fixed July 3 as the deadline for a national rollout of NMNP. Bharti Airtel said customer requests to port within its network will be processed in 24 hours and while the request is being processed, they can avail free incoming on roaming.