Current Affairs 31ST MAY 2015 TO 6TH JUNE, 2015
TN MOVES SUPREME COURT AGAINST KARNATAKA FOR POLLUTING RIVERS
The Tamil Nadu government on June 5, 2015 moved the Supreme Court, accusing the State of Karnataka for dumping untreated sewage and industrial effluents in the Cauvery and Pennaiyar rivers, considered life-giving water sources for Tamil Nadu. In a suit for permanent and mandatory injunction, the government blamed Karnataka for “gross dereliction of duty as a welfare State under the Constitution” by denying the people of Tamil Nadu the right to access clean water. Its inaction has become a threat to lives and crops in Tamil Nadu, the government’s suit, filed by advocate B. Balaji and re-settled by State Advocate General A.L. Somayaji, contended. The State has sought the right to claim damages from Karnataka for discharging polluted water into Tamil Nadu. The State government has made the Union also a party in the suit, saying it failed in its legal and constitutional duty to ensure that Karnataka complied with its social obligation and responsibility to comply with the prescribed standards before letting effluents into rivers. The Tamil Nadu government said no attempt was made by Karnataka to set up effluent treatment plants, reverse osmosis systems or drainage facilities to purify the polluted water discharged into the rivers. Pinpointing the rapidly industrialising and highly populated Bengaluru as a major source of water pollution, Tamil Nadu said Karnataka’s capital city was growing at an astronomical rate and the projected population would be more than one crore by 2020, leaving the rivers even dirtier. The suit quotes Karnataka’s own Minor Irrigation Minister as saying that around 889 million litres of sewage water enters Tamil Nadu through the Pinakini and South Pennar river courses and the remaining sewage water flows to Cauvery through the Arkavathi river on a daily basis into Tamil Nadu.
GOVERNMENT LAUNCHES JAL KRANTI ABHIYAN
Union minister for water resources Uma Bharti on June 5, 2015 launched a Jal Kranti Abhiyan in Jaipur aimed at turning one water stressed village in each district of the country into a water surplus village. On the occasion Bharti assured Rajasthan for full support of the Centre in solving its water problems. Under the campaign a village with acute water scarcity will be selected as ‘Jal Gram’ on a pilot project. For the identified village a comprehensive integrated development plan will be framed and several water conservation activities will be launched. Minister pointed out that as pilot project, activities will be run in one water stressed village in each 672 districts in the country. l Activities proposed for Jal Gram include rain water harvesting, recycling of waste water, micro irrigation for water use efficiency and mass awareness program. l A cadre of local water professional ‘Jal Mitra’ too will be created and they will be given training to create mass awareness. l The progress of the campaign will be reviewed after one or one and a half year. The campaign would continue till the objective of solving water problems in every house and farm is resolved. l The Jal Kranti Abhiyan will be celebrated across the country during 2015-16 to consolidate water conservation and management through a holistic and integrated approach. Bharti assured Rajasthan that her ministry would make all efforts in resolving its water scarcity issues. She informed that parts of state will be benefited from Pancheshwar multi-purpose project. Another project Sharda-Yammuna link too is in fast track. For the long pending demand of linking of Prabati-Kalisindh-Chambal, minister said she will talk to the Madhya Pradesh government.“For the www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  inter-state water disputes with Punjab and Haryana Bharti mentioned that a board has been formed where chief secretary of each state and official of her ministry will present a workable plan.
PACT WITH WORLD BANK FOR TN URBANISATION PROJECT
The Centre has signed a deal with the World Bank for a $400 million loan for an urban development project in Tamil Nadu. The loan and project agreements for World Bank (IBRD) aid of $400 million for Tamil Nadu Sustainable Urban Development Project were signed between the government of India, Tamil Nadu and World Bank on June 3, 2015. The loan pact was signed by Raj Kumar, joint secretary, department of economic affairs, ministry of finance and Onno Ruhl, country director, World Bank (lndia). The size of the project is $600 million, of which $400 million would be financed through the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The project’s objective is to improve urban services in urban local bodies of Tamil Nadu. The project will support improvement in services including water, sewerage, municipal solid waste, urban transportation, sewerage management and storm water drainage.
WORLD BANK APPROVES LOAN FOR J&K FLOOD RECOVERY
Multi-lateral lender World Bank June 3, 2015 approved $ 250 million loan for Jhelum and Tawi Flood Recovery Project for reconstruction of floodaffected public infrastructure in Jammu & Kashmir. It will also strengthen the capacity of state government to respond and better manage natural disasters in future, World Bank said in a release. The project will be funded by credit from World Bank’s concessionary — International Development Association (IDA). The loan has a maturity of 25 years, including a 5 year grace period. A continuous spell of rains in September 2014 had caused Jhelum, Chenab and Tawi rivers, their tributaries and many other streams to flow above the danger mark which had severely affected livelihoods in the state. Due to the unprecedented heavy rainfall, the catchment areas, particularly low lying ones, were flooded for more than two weeks, while Jhelum breached its banks at several places. This region is highly vulnerable to natural disasters that can push millions into poverty. In addition to reconstruction, which includes reconstruction of roads, bridges and public infrastructure, the project will also help the region be better prepared for the future. The challenge is to build smarter, so that they do not undermine the fragile eco-system. It will incorporate lessons from previous national and global post-disaster recovery projects to ensure that recovery is targeted, effective and more resilient to future disasters. The recovery project will focus on 20 districts — Anantnag, Baramula, Budgam, Bandipora, Ganderbal, Kupwara, Kulgam, Pulwama, Shopian, Srinagar, Jammu, Samba, Kathua, Reasi, Doda, Kishtwar, Ramban, Poonch, Rajauri and Udhampur. It will help rebuild damaged public buildings — hospitals, schools, higher education buildings, fire stations, and selected block and district offices. The project will also focus on disaster risk mitigation and strengthen the capacity of government entities in managing disaster risk. It will help in enhancing preparedness, and achieving resilient recovery through preparation of a Hydro —Meteorological Resilience Action Plan.
PINAKA MARK-II ROCKET SUCCESSFULLY TEST-FIRED
An advanced version of the indigenously developed Pinaka Mark-II rocket was successfully test-fired from Army’s Chandan firing range near Pokhran using a multi-barrel launcher. Pinaka Mark-II trials were successfully tested in Pokhran field firing range near Indo-Pak border. Target was successfully hit in Keru area which was situated 55 km from the firing point. Jointly developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Indian Army, this multi-barrel rocket launcher has high operational mobility, flexibility and accuracy as the major characteristics, which give the weapon an edge in modern artillery warfare for the Indian Armed Forces. The ongoing developmental trials at Pokhran range in western Rajasthan by Army and scientists of DRDO was to test the advance stage of development of Pinaka Mark-II weapon system with upgraded version of software. The development and trials will continue and  Weekly Current Affairs 31st May 2015 to 6th June, 2015 www.ias100.in the rocket is expected to enter service any time now. Pinaka-I has already been inducted into the Army and was also put into field testing for assessing its capability during the Kargil war. Its quick reaction time and high rate of fire gives an edge to the Army during low-intensity warlike situation. The system is capable to incorporate several types of warheads. Pinaka Mark-II rocket with a range of more than 60-km is capable of acting as a force-multiplier and was developed to supplement artillery guns and is currently passing through a phase of testing, pointed out the Defence ministry.
GOVT. ISSUES CONTROVERSIAL LAND ORDINANCE FOR THIRD TIME
Less than a week before it was to lapse on June 4, the Union Cabinet re-promulgated the controversial land acquisition ordinance a third time on May 31, 2015. Chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Cabinet gave its approval to amend the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Ordinance, 2015. The decision drew sharp criticism from the Congress, which dubbed it as “breach of the farming community’s trust”. Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the Cabinet had recommended re-promulgation “to ensure continuity” so that “farmers did not suffer”. The changes in the Act will ensure better compensation as well as rehabilitation and resettlement benefits to farmers in lieu of their land acquired compulsorily by the government. The Cabinet’s recommendations will be sent to President Pranab Mukherjee for approval. A watered-down version of the Bill, passed during the UPA regime, has been cleared by the Lok Sabha. But it is stuck in the Upper House where the BJP-led NDA does not have the requisite numbers. The ordinance, promulgated twice since December, is now with a 30-member joint parliamentary panel. While the 2013 law necessitated the consent of 80 per cent of land owners for land acquisition private projects and consent of 70 per cent for public-private partnership (PPP) projects, the present Bill exempts five categories from the purview of the Act. The 2013 Act also required that a social impact assessment be conducted to identify the affected families and calculate the impact when their land was acquired, which has been done away with. l The land ordinance, promulgated twice since December 2014, is now with a 30-member joint parliamentary panel l A watered-down version of the Bill has been cleared by the Lok Sabha l But it is stuck in the Upper House where the BJP-led NDA does not have the numbers.
GOVT. UPGRADES 29 CITIES FOR HRA, TRANSPORT ALLOWANCE
The Union Cabinet on May 30, 2015 approved upgradation of 29 cities and towns on the basis of 2011 population census for providing higher house and transportation allowance to central government employees. Communications and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad revealed that the Cabinet has approved reclassification/upgradation of certain cities/towns on the basis of Census 2011 for the purpose of granting House Rent Allowance (HRA) and Transport Allowance to central government employees. l The revised classification of cities would be effective from April 1, 2014 and cost the exchequer approximately Rs 128 crore for 2014- 15. l One the basis of the census, 2 cities – Pune and Ahmedabad – have been upgraded to ‘X’ class from ‘Y’ and 21 cities to ‘Y’ from ‘Z’ for the purpose of HRA. l These 21 cities are Nellore, Gurgaon, Bokaro Steel City, Gulbarga, Thrissur, Malappuram, Kannur, Kollam, Ujjain, Vasai-Virar City, Malegaon, Nanded-Waghala, Sangli, Rourkela, Ajmer, Erode, Noida, Firozabad, Jhansi, Siliguri and Durgapur. l That apart, six – Patna, Kochi, Indore, Coimbatore and Ghaziabad – have been advanced to ‘Specified Higher Class’ from ‘Other Places’ for the purpose of transport allowance. l So far, the Census 2001 has been used for deciding the HRA and transport allowance of central government officials posted in these towns and cities. l The existing qualifying threshold of population for HRA classification is 50 lakh and above for www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  X, 5-50 lakh for Y and below 5 lakh for Z class cities. l Transportation allowance is payable at ‘higher rates’ in 13 specified cities classified earlier as ‘A-1’ and ‘A’ (those with a population of 20 lakh and above) and ‘lower rates’ for the rest. l The cities and towns are classified as X, Y and Z for the purpose of HRA and 13 specified cities classified as A-1, A and Other Places for transportation allowance.
SC: STATES MUST CLEAR THE WAY FOR BIG ROAD PROJECTS
Endorsing the need for better connectivity, the Supreme Court has signalled to the States to help the National Highways Authority of India overcome obstacles to big road projects rather than wilt under local pressures and concerns which hinder the work. A Vacation Bench made the observation on a plea by the Rajasthan government expressing “helplessness” in removing obstructions to widening of the Delhi-Jaipur highway.
GOVT. CLEARS RS 4,318 CR TO CONSTRUCT TRUNK INFRASTRUCTURE PM
Narendra Modi government on May 30, 2015 approved Rs 4,318.28 crore for constructing roads and basic amenities at two industrial regions in Gujarat and Maharashtra under the DelhiMumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) project. The Cabinet Committee, chaired by Narendra Modi, has approved the construction of trunk infrastructure components of Phase-1 of the Dholera Special Investment Region (DSIR) in Gujarat and Phase-1 of the Shendra Bidkin Industrial Area (SBIA) in Maharashtra under the DMIC Project. These projects are likely to be completed in three to four years. The total cost of the DSIR project is estimated to be about Rs 2,784.83 crore, which will be invested by DMIC Trust as equity in the city/node SPV, an official statement said. l For this region, the trunk infrastructure components are — roads and services, ABCD building complex, water and sewage treatment plant and common effluent treatment plant. l The total cost of the SBIA project is 1,533.45 crore and the trunk infrastructure components under this project include road and utility services, rail over bridges, sewage and common effluent treatment plant, solid waste management and district administrative building for SBIA. l According to the statement for the DSIR project, as per the institutional and financial structure approved by the government, the land for the project will be contributed by the state government as their equity. l The value of land brought by the state government would be the equity contribution of the state government. l The development of trunk infrastructure in Phase-1 of SBIA is proposed to commence in 2015-16 and is likely to be completed by 2017-18. l The primary objective of developing the activation area is to trigger developmental activities in DSIR and attract local and global investments, said the statement. l This activation area has been selected due to maximum concentration of government land, which will facilitate the early take off of various infrastructure components in DSIR, it added. l The region has been planned over an extensive area 920 sq km encompassing 22 villages of Dhandhuka and Barwala Taluka in Ahmedabad District. l This node is strategically located near the industrial cities of Vadodara, Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Surat and Bhavnagar urban agglomerations. l DMIC Development Corporation, with the support and partnership of the Government of Gujarat, plans to create an economically and socially balanced new-age city with world class infrastructure and high quality-of-life standards and sustainability in the urban form. l The primary objective of developing the project area is to trigger developmental activities in SBIA and attract local and global investments. l This area shall also help in building confidence in market bringing the effort of the past halfa-decade to fruition. l About the SBIA project, it said a node and city level SPV has been formed as a joint venture between central and Maharashtra government under the name ‘Aurangabad Industrial Township Ltd’. The share of centre through DMIC Trust is 49 per cent and the remaining 51 per cent is held by Maharashtra through Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation. l The SBIA masterplan area of 84.17 sqkm is further split into two parts…Investment in the development of trunk infrastructure is essential for the creation of a greenfield smart industrial city, it said. l It added that development of the SBIA as a manufacturing hub will generate a series of direct and indirect benefits through enhancement of GDP, establishment of manufacturing industries and generation of significant employment. l India’s ambitious USD 90 billion DMIC project is aimed at creating mega industrial infrastructure along the Delhi-Mumbai Rail Freight Corridor, which is under implementation. Japan is giving financial and technical aid for the project, which will cover six states totalling 1,483 km. l The project is being implemented jointly by central government and respective state governments. l Eight investment areas or industrial regions have been identified for development in the first phase of DMIC across six states of Gujarat, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
INLAND WATERWAYS BILL TO BE TABLED IN PARLIAMENT
A Bill to develop an additional 101 inland waterways will be tabled in the winter session of Parliament, Minister of Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Nitin Gadkari, revealed on June 2, 2015. India currently has five inland waterways while only three are operational. Mr. Gadkari said this has been a neglected sector due to lack of focus and policy measures. India is in the last position in the world in this sector. Promotion of waterways is a priority for Modi government as it is a cheaper mode of transportation as compared to roads and railways. The government has so far declared only five river stretches as waterways. l The government is aiming to reduce traffic burden from roads and promote water transportation where the cost is barely 50 paise a km in comparison to Re 1 by railways and Rs 1.5 a km through roads. l Inland waterways comprising rivers, lakes, canals, creeks and backwaters extend about 14,500 km across the country. However, potential of this mode of transport has not been fully exploited so far. l The government has already decided to launch PM Jal Marg Yojna and projects for setting up dry and satellite ports, besides converting riverways into waterways. l The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) has also signed a pact with Odisha government, Paradip Port and Dhamra Port to develop commercially viable stretches of National Waterway 5. l In the National Waterway-5, East Coast Canal has been integrated with Brahmini river and Mahanadi delta rivers (588 km). l Also a project to develop National Waterways -4, Sholinganallur-Kallapakkam stretch of South Buckingham Canal has been sanctioned. l The National Waterways – 1, 2 & 3 have been made operational. l Five of the river-stretches, which have been declared as National Waterways, include Ganga-Bhagirathi- Hooghly river system (Allahabad-Haldia-1,620 km); the Brahmaputra (Dhubri-Sadiya-891 km); West Coast Canal (Kottapuram-Kollam) along with Udyogmandal and Champakara Canals-(205 km); KakinadaPuducherry canals along with Godavari and Krishna rivers (1,078 km) and East Coast Canal integrated with Brahmani river and Mahanadi delta rivers (588 km).
US REMOVED CUBA FROM TERROR BLACKLIST TO STRENGTHEN TIES WITH CUBA
The US has removed Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, a move that would be crucial in restoring diplomatic ties between the two countries after 54 years of frozen relations. The US State Department announced the move in a statement after diplomats from the two countries held high-level talks aimed at reopening embassies in Havana and Washington DC, respectively. The countries agreed to further discussions on conditions for improving relations. Re-establishing relations with Cuba has been a top priority of President Barack Obama since December, when he announced his plans to reopen embassies. He has since met – and shaken hands with – Cuban President Raul Castro. Earlier this week, the countries re-established banking ties, seen as an important hurdle in improving relations. Cuban diplomats previously were required to deal only in cash when visiting the US. Although dropping Cuba from the US terror list was a necessary step to improve relations, the trade embargo and travel restrictions remain in place. Even if the countries re-open embassies, the trade embargo can only be thrown out by US Congress.
SOUTH KOREA AND CHINA SIGNED BILATERAL FREE TRADE AGREEMENT
China and South Korea have officially signed a free trade agreement after three years of negotiations. The agreement was finalized over six months ago, in November 2014. On the sidelines of the APEC meeting in Beijing, Xi and Park announced that negotiations had been completed on a deal expected to eventually eliminate tariffs on 90 percent of the goods traded between China and South Korea. The FTA is expected to enter into force later this year, once both legislatures have approved it. l This FTA is a “monumental event” that will “not only lead to a new leap in trade relations between the two countries but also bring practical benefits to the people of both countries.” l Seoul’s trade ministry estimates that the deal will boost China-South Korea trade to over $300 billion a year, up from $215 billion in 2012. l It’s also projected to lift South Korea’s GDP by roughly 1 percent over the next ten years. l China, meanwhile, is expected to see its GDP rise by 0.3 percent during the same time frame thanks to the FTA. l The two sides are expected to begin negotiation over removing barriers to the service sector in 2017. l China is already South Korea’s largest trading partner, and Seoul expects this deal to produce unique dividends on par with the size of the overall trade relationship. l The FTA with South Korea is also China’s largest such deal in terms of the trade volume affected. l FTA with South Korea shows China “has accepted and opened its market to international norms.” l China also wants to finalize a trilateral FTA linking itself, South Korea, and Japan; the China-South Korea FTA is a useful building block in that effort. l Beijing hopes to finish negotiations this year on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a trade agreement linking the 10 ASEAN member countries with China, South Korea, Japan, India, Australia, and New Zealand. l RCEP is often read in direct opposition to the United States’ push for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
PRESIDENT OBAMA SIGNED USA FREEDOM ACT 2015 INTO LAW US
president Barack Obama has signed into law legislation ending spy agencies’ bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records, reversing a national security policy that had been in place since shortly after the September 11 attacks in 2001. l The Senate passed the USA Freedom Act by a vote of 67-32. l The measure replaces a program in which the National Security Agency swept up data about Americans’ telephone calls — including telephone numbers and dates and times of calls, but not content — with a more targeted system. l It also shifts responsibility for storing the data to telephone companies, allowing authorities to access the information only with a warrant from a secret counter-terror court that identifies a specific person or group of people suspected of having ties to terrorism. Analysis l The USA Freedom Act was a bill worked up by Republicans in the wake of revelations by Edward Snowden. l What the USA Freedom Act does, apart from ending this phone retention and collection system, is to keep in place some of the other aspects of the Patriot Act that security agencies did want to hang on to. l Those include the ability to be able to wire tap suspected terrorists as they change mobile phones without having to go back to a court. l That’s not a controversial surveillance method. l It has the support of the security agencies, of the White House, even of civil liberties groups who saw this Act as their best chance to get rid of the worst aspects of the Patriot Act.
MERS CLAIMS TWO LIVES IN SOUTH KOREA The Middle
East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) has claimed two lives in South Korea and infected 25 people in two weeks. The World Health Organization (WHO) puts the total number of global MERS cases at 1,161 with at least 436 related deaths. WHO, however, has not recommended travel or trade restrictions on South Korea. MERS is caused by a coronavirus from the same family as the one that triggered the 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). However, MERS has a much higher death rate than SARS and there is no cure or vaccine at present. Though the health agency assures that there has been no human-to-human spread of the virus in South Korea, the government has placed 700 people in isolation, fearing possible infection. The deceased include a 58-year-old woman, who came into contact with South Korea’s first MERS patient, and a 71-year-old man. According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, South Korea has reported the third-highest number of MERS cases after Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Precautionary measures in place l Schools have been reportedly shut down for a week as a precautionary measure across the country while automobile giant Hyundai has urged its employees to avoid travelling to the Middle East. l Tourists, particularly from China, have cancelled their travel plans to South Korea. China also reported its first MERS case last week. It was a South Korean man, who tested positive after breaking voluntary house quarantine and flew to Hong Kong before travelling to mainland China. Chinese authorities fear it will cause the virus to spread. l MERS was first identified in human beings in 2012. l As per WHO data, the death rate from MERS has been 38 per cent. Compared to this, the death rate from SARS was 9-12 per cent.
THE RULE OF LAW INDEX, 2015
The World Justice Project (WJP) Rule of Law Index provides original, impartial data on how the rule of law is experienced by the general public in 102 countries around the globe. The WJP Rule of Law Index 2015 relies on over 100,000 household and 2,400 expert surveys to measure how the rule of law is experienced in practical, everyday situations by ordinary people www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  around the world. Performance is assessed using 44 indicators across 8 categories, each of which is scored and ranked globally and against regional and income peers: Constraints on Government Powers, Absence of Corruption, Open Government, Fundamental Rights, Order and Security, Regulatory Enforcement, Civil Justice, and Criminal Justice. The WJP Rule of Law Index is the most comprehensive index of its kind and the only to rely solely on primary data. The Index’s scores are built from the assessments of local residents (1,000 respondents per country) and local legal experts, ensuring that the findings reflect the conditions experienced by the population, including marginalized sectors of society. New data for 2015 l Updated scores and rankings for 102 countries across 8 primary rule of law indicators and 47 sub-factors. l Data-app: In-depth country data featured on a standalone site for quickly accessing, comparing, and downloading WJP Rule of Law Index data. l Changes over time: Country profiles feature changes in rule of law adherence over time. l New global insights: Global insights into impunity, open government, policing perceptions, and more. l Additional countries: New to the WJP Rule of Law Index — Belize, Costa Rica, and Honduras. In context of India According to the Index, India’s overall rule of law performance places it in the third position out of six countries in the South Asian region, 10th out of 25 among lower middle income countries, and 59th out of 102 countries worldwide. The top overall performer in the WJP Rile of Law Index 2015 was Denmark while in the South Asia region, the top performer was Nepal. India’s performance for criminal justice places it at 44 rank globally, Number 1 in South Asia and number 4 among lower middle income countries. The surveys analysed whether the criminal investigation and adjudication system is effective, whether it was impartial and free of corruption and whether the rights of the accused were protected. In stark contrast, the corresponding ranking in civil justice for India is 88 globally, third in South Asia and 19th among lower middle income countries. The survey looked at accessibility to civil justice, which inlcudes general awareness of available remedies, availability and affordability of legal advice and representation, and absence of
excessive or unreasonable fees and hurdles. It also asks if the civil justice system is free of discrimination and corruption and whether it is subject to unreasonable delay. Four dimensions India ranks high in the category of Open Government, placing it 37th globally and at three among lower middle income countries. The open government index uses four dimensions to measure government openness — publicised laws and government data, right to information, civic participation and complaint mechanisms. The country performs worst however, in the category of order and security, placing at 90 worldwide, fourth in South Asia and 20 among lower middle income countries. The measures used for this category are absence of crime; absence of civil conflict, including terrorism and armed conflict; and absence of violence as a socially acceptable means to redress personal grievances. Driving down India’s score are the perceptions of corruption, of the effectiveness of the civil justice system, the regulatory enforcement environment and the criminal justice system, all of which reflect that less than half of the respondents showed faith in these systems’ ability to deliver justice. India did comparatively better in people’s minds in terms of government freedom.
INDIA & WORLD
INDIA- BANGLADESH INK 22 KEY AGREEMENTS
India and Bangladesh on June 6, 2015 inked as many as 22 agreements, including on curbing human trafficking, smuggling of fake currency and setting up an Indian Economic Zone, to boost bilateral ties, memorandums of understanding on economic cooperation, trade and investment, security, infrastructure development, education, science and technology, IT and culture. The agreements were signed on the first day of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s maiden visit in the presence of other leaders, including Bangladeshi premier Sheikh Hasina and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. l The agreements included on extending a $2 billion Line of Credit to Bangladesh, and on India using the Chittagong and Mongla ports. l Exchange of Instruments of Ratification of 1974 Land Boundary Agreement and its 2011 Protocol; Exchange of letters on Modalities for implementation of 1974 Land Boundary Agreement and a renewed Bilateral Trade Agreement were inked during Modi’s two-day visit. l Agreements on two key bus services were also reached, including the Kolkata-Dhaka-Agartala route that will benefit the commuters by reducing travel time by nearly one-third. l Another Dhaka-Shillong-Guwahati route was also flagged off by the three leaders. l Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) on Prevention of Human Trafficking; Prevention of Smuggling and Circulation of Fake Currency notes; and setting up an Indian Economic Zone were also reached by the two sides. US$ 2 billion line of credit l In another key development, a Memorandum of Understanding for Extending a New Line of Credit (LoC) of US$ 2 billion by India to Bangladesh was signed. l A renewed Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade besides an Agreement on Coastal Shipping between Bangladesh and India were among the other deals reached. Inland Water Transit and Trade l The countries also agreed on extension of Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWTT) with the provision of automatic renewal. l This is in line with the proposed amendment to the Bangladesh-India trade agreement. The PIWTT will be automatically renewed after five years. l It was also agreed between the countries that a draft agreement for the regular movement of passengers and cruise vessels would be shared by India with Bangladesh through diplomatic channel. l Bangladesh gave a go-ahead to using Pangaon International Container Terminal, with two other ICTs in Bangladesh, as the Port of Call by cargo vessel operator. l Bangladesh has requested that Farraka and Bandel on National Waterway (NW) – 1 may be declared as a Port of Call. l But before committing to them, a round of internal consultation is required, which has been communicated to them. India offered to extend marine training to the personnel in Bangladesh. The agreements are as follows: 1. Exchange of Instruments of Ratification of 1974 Land Boundary Agreement and its 2011 Protocol 2. Exchange of letters on Modalities for implementation of 1974 Land Boundary Agreement and its 2011 Protocol 3. Bilateral Trade Agreement (renewal) 4. Agreement on Coastal Shipping between Bangladesh and India 5. Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (renewal)  Weekly Current Affairs 31st May 2015 to 6th June, 2015 www.ias100.in 6. Bilateral Cooperation Agreement between Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) and Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) on Cooperation in the field of Standardization 7. Agreement on Dhaka-Shillong-Guwahati bus service and its Protocol 8. Agreement on Kolkata-Dhaka-Agartala Bus Service and its Protocol 9. Memorandum of Understanding between Coast Guards 10. Memorandum of Understanding on Prevention of Human Trafficking 11. Memorandum of Understanding on Prevention of Smuggling and Circulation Fake Currency Notes 12. Memorandum of Understanding between Bangladesh and India and for Extending a New Line of Credit of $2 billion by government of India to government of Bangladesh 13. Memorandum of Understanding on Blue Economy and Maritime Cooperation in the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean 14. Memorandum of Understanding on use of Chittagong and Mongla ports 15. Memorandum of Understanding for a Project under IECC (India Endowment for Climate Change) of SAARC 16. Memorandum of Understanding on Indian Economic Zone 17. Cultural Exchange Programme for the years 2015-17 18. Statement of Intent on Bangladesh-India Education Cooperation (adoption) 19. Agreement between Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company Limited (BSCCL) and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) for leasing of international bandwidth for internet at Akhaura 20. Memorandum of Understanding between University of Dhaka, Bangladesh and Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, India for Joint Research on Oceanography of the Bay of Bengal 21. Memorandum of Understanding between University of Rajshahi, Bangladesh and University of Jamia Milia Islamia, India 22. Handing over of Consent Letter by Insurance Development and Regulatory Authority (IDRA), Bangladesh to Life Insurance Corporation (LIC), India to start operations in Bangladesh.
DUTCH EXPERTISE FOR COASTAL ROAD PROJECT
The Dutch government is all set to share its environment-friendly reclamation technology with the Maharashtra government to execute the State’s much-hyped and pending coastal road project in www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  Mumbai. The State government on June 6, 2015 signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the government of Netherlands for the same. Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte were present on occasion. It is well known that the Netherlands is a global expert in creating land and infrastructure in the sea. The coastal road project would be an integrated project which will include Metro line, existing fishing villages and green spaces. The project, which proposes a 35-km-long coastal road from Nariman Point in South Mumbai to Versova in the western suburbs, is estimated to cost Rs. 9,000 crore. However, Mr. Fadnavis noted that the cost may be revised as the project was delayed. While it is yet to get environmental clearance, it is speculated that the decision will be announced recently. Combining the coastal road project and the proposed Nariman Point-Bandra-Seepz Metro III involves a new road meandering along the coast and touching it where road and Metro connections need to be made to the existing infrastructure. The Netherlands’ water experts have been working in various parts of the world.
INDIA – NETHERLANDS TO FIGHT TERRORISM
India and the Netherlands will collaborate on fighting terror and cyber crime and have decided to set up a joint working group on counter terrorism, which will hold its first meeting on June 19. This was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 5, 2015, after his meeting with Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte who is in India on a two-day visit. PM Modi noted that both countries agreed that they stand to benefit from closer bilateral and multilateral collaboration in areas of countering terrorism and extremism. Cyber crime l The two nations, which are keen to forge an alliance to fight terror and cyber crime, are also looking to increase bilateral trade and will sign as many as 18 agreements for water management, infrastructure development, defence and maritime cooperation. l The Netherlands is part of the group of countries led by the United States that is helping to break the fighting power of the IS terrorist organisation; it has deployed military trainers to help Iraqi and Kurdish armed forces, personnel and F-16s for air strikes. l s. l The visiting Dutch delegation offered its expertise in flood waters control and for cleaning the river Ganga under the ‘Namami Gange programme.’ Defence, infrastructure cooperation l India’s economy is growing faster than China, and though it has its challenges, there is scope for the Netherlands and India to work together. Right now our trade is at six billion Euros and over 200 Dutch companies are already working, but the Netherlands are looking at possibilities in other areas, Mr. Rutte said. l The Netherlands which has supported New Delhi’s bid for permanent membership of a reformed United Nations Security Council is also looking at collaboration with India in the defence sector and infrastructure development, particularly in Mumbai. l India, which is the fifth largest source of investments for the Netherlands, for its part has announced e-visas for Dutch visitors to give tourism as fillip. l The two countries will sign agreement on manufacturing of dredgers in India at the Cochin shipyard, on manufacturing of measles and rubella vaccine with transfer of technology, and collaborate on developing coastal roads and metro lines in India, borrowing Dutch expertise.
INDIA AND BELARUS INK SIX AGREEMENTS
India and Belarus on June 3, 2015 decided to work together on defence and security issues as President Pranab Mukherjee met his Belarusian counterpart and agreed on a 17-point road map aimed at strengthening mutual trust and confidence. The President, who arrived Minsk on a two-day visit, was accorded a ceremonial welcome at the majestic Palace of Independence by Belarusian President A.G. Lukashenko. India and Belarus inked six agreements, including a Roadmap for India-Belarus Cooperation. During the talks, the President discussed a host of issues, including increasing trade ties, besides boosting co-operation in mining, education and heavy machinery. The two Presidents witnessed signing of several agreements and Memorandums of Understandings, including agreements between the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and the Ministry of Finance, the Bureau of Indian Standards as well as between the Prasar Bharati and the National State Television. l The agreements included the road map for strengthening mutual trust and having a strong commitment to develop multifaceted and long term co-operation. l The two countries will work for full implementation of the MoU on defence-related technical cooperation and to develop a legal framework for security cooperation. l The road map will enhance high-level and Ministerial contact, optimise the structure of trade, increase trade turnover, create favourable conditions for enhanced direct investment and promote practical cooperation between financial institutions. l A protocol amending the agreement between the two sides for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to Taxes on Income and on Property (Capital) of September, 27, 1997. l A MoU was inked between Bureau of Indian Standards and Belarus’ State Committee for Standardization on cooperation in the field of standardization and information support, and another MoU between Prasar Bharati and the National State Television and Radio Company of Belarus (Belteleradiocompany) for cooperation on broadcasting. l Both sides also inked a MoU on cooperation between the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and Belurusian ministry of finance and a MoU between India’s textiles ministry and the Belarusian State Concern for Manufacturing and Marketing of Light Industry Goods ‘Bellegprom’. l The roadmap seeks to further strengthen and intensify bilateral political, defence, trade and economic exchanges, cultural relations and people-to-people contacts as well as enhanced cooperation in international forums. Science & technology cooperation l Under the agreement, the two countries will enhance coordination in science and technology, energy sector, metals and mining, potash fertilizers, give boost to raw material in textile sector, extend cooperation by Belarus in modernisation of public electric transport system in India, agriculture and agro procession. l Exchange of students and promotion of tourism also figured in the agreements. l This is the first presidential visit from India to Belarus, a landlocked East European country. l The Belarus President had visited India twice in 1997 and 2007. l During his visit, Mr. Mukherjee unveiled a statue of Mahatma Gandhi at the Belarusian State University where he was awarded an honorary degree.
INDIA JOINS THE MULTILATERAL COMPETENT AUTHORITY AGREEMENT ON AUTOMATIC EXCHANGE OF INFORMATION
India joined the Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement on Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information on June 3, 2015, in Paris, France, alongwith Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Indonesia and New Zealand. The Declaration to comply with the provisions of the MCAA was signed by Mohan Kumar, Ambassador of India to France, in a signing ceremony held in Paris. Earlier, fifty-one countries/jurisdictions had joined the MCAA on October 29, 2014 in Berlin and Switzerland became the fifty-second country to join the MCAA on November 19, 2014. Ghana and Seychelles joined the MCAA on May 14, 2015. With six countries joining the MCAA on June 3, 2015, the total number of countries/jurisdictions agreeing to exchange information automatically in accordance with MCAA has gone to sixty. Ninety-four countries have committed to exchange information on an automatic basis from 2017 onwards as per the new global standards on automatic exchange of information, known as Common Reporting Standards (CRS) on Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI). The new global standards are very wide in scope and oblige the treaty partners to exchange wide range of financial information after collecting the same from financial institutions in their country/ jurisdictions including information about the ultimate controlling persons and beneficial owners of entities. www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  For implementation of these standards in India and with a view to provide information to other countries, necessary legislative changes have been made through Finance (No. 2) Act, 2014, by amending section 285BA of the Income-tax Act, 1961. Necessary rules and guidelines are being formulated in consultation with financial institutions. AEOI based on CRS, when fully implemented, would enable India to receive information from almost every country in the world including offshore financial centres and would be the key to prevent international tax evasion and avoidance and would be instrumental in getting information about assets of Indians held abroad including through entities in which Indians are beneficial owners. This will help the Government to curb tax evasion and deal with the problem of black money.
INDIA- US INK NEW DEFENCE FRAMEWORK ACCORD
India and US on June 3, 2015 inked the second ten-year Defence Framework Agreement to further strengthen strategic and Defence ties between the two nations. They also agreed to jointly develop and manufacture Mobile Electric Hybrid Power Sources and the Next Generation Protective Ensembles (suites) to shield soldiers from radiation in case of Nuclear or biological warfare. These two agreements were signed by visiting US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter and his Indian counterpart Manohar Parrikar after nearly two hours of one-on-one and delegation-level talks. The two also decided to expedite discussions on cooperation in manufacturing fighter jet engines and aircraft carriers in India in joint collaboration. As regards the Defence Framework Agreement, the first pact was signed by then Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee and his US counterpart Donald Rumsfeld in 2005. l The new Framework agreement provides avenues for high level strategic discussions, continued exchanges between armed forces of both countries, and strengthening of defence capabilities. l The Framework also recognises the transformative nature of the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI). l DTTI includes mini unmanned aerial vehicle and surveillance modules for the C-130 transport aircraft. l In addition, building on the areas of agreement during President Obama’s visit to India in January 2015, Parrikar and Carter agreed to expedite discussions to take forward cooperation on jet engines, aircraft carrier design and construction, and other areas. l The two sides also agreed to pursue codevelopment and co-production projects that will offer tangible opportunities for American defence industries to build defence partnership with the Indian industries including in manufacturing under ‘Make in India’. l The two further agreed to continue their efforts to enhance bilateral cooperation in areas of mutual interest, such as maritime security and knowledge partnership in the field of defence. l The two ministers also reviewed the existing and emerging regional security dynamics.
INDIA – SWEDEN BILATERAL STRATEGIC TALKS
India and Sweden on June 1, 2015 agreed to re-start the bilateral strategic dialogue after a gap of four years besides finding ways for investment by the Nordic country in India’s defence sector under the ambitious ‘Make in India’ initiative. This was conveyed to President Pranab Mukherjeeby Swedish Prime Minister Stefen Lofven who called on him along with his Cabinet colleagues. It was agreed that the two countries would restart their strategic dialogue between the two National Security Advisers. Swedish Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist would be in India for two days beginning June 10 during which he would explore the possibility of engaging with New Delhi in the defence sector. With changed Foreign Direct Investments rules and the ‘Make in India’ campaign, it is expected that the Swedish government would look for India as a manufacturing base, he said. During the meeting, the Prime Minister also shared the view that in a reformed United Nations Security Council, Sweden believed that India had credentials to be a part of it.
COMPANIES (AMENDMENT) ACT, 2014 NOTIFIED
The Union Ministry of Corporate Affairs on 27 May 2015 notified the Companies (Amendment) Act, 2014 in the Official Gazette. The act received the assent of the President of India in early May 2015. Sixteen amendments pertaining to winding up of companies, board resolutions, bail provisions and utilisation of unclaimed dividends have been incorporated into the Act by amending the Companies Act, 2013. Following are few important provisions of the amendment: l It seeks to simplifying bail provisions. For instance, except in various issues of serious frauds, normal Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) provisions would apply. l To maintain the confidentiality of the board resolutions, the relevant amendment now prohibits public inspection of board resolutions filed in the registry. l The paid-up capital criteria have been scrapped while threshold limits for various transactions for getting shareholders nod has now been stipulated. l Specific punishment for deposits accepted, a condition that was left out in the Companies Act, 2013 inadvertently. l Corporate are exempted from the need to get shareholders’ nod in the case of related party transactions valued lower than 100 crore rupees or 10 percent of net worth. Earlier corporate were required to get shareholders permission for party transactions valued more than 10 crore rupees. l Transactions between holding companies and wholly owned subsidiaries are exempted from the requirement of approval of non-related shareholders.
RBI RELEASED DRAFT GUIDELINES ON NET STABLE FUNDING RATIO FOR BANKS
Reserve Bank of India released draft guidelines on implementation of net stable funding ratio (NSFR) in Indian banks. l NSFR is defined as the amount of available stable funding (ASF) relative to the amount of required stable funding (RSF). l The NSFR promotes resilience over a longerterm time horizon by requiring banks to fund their activities with more stable sources of funding on an ongoing basis. l ASF is defined as the portion of capital and liabilities expected to be reliable over a year. l RSF for an institution is “a function of the liquidity characteristics and residual maturities of the various assets held by that institution as well as those of its off-balance sheet (OBS) exposures,” RBI said in a statement on its website. l The NSFR will have to be a minimum 100% on an ongoing basis, the draft guidelines stated. However, the RBI may require an individual bank to adopt a higher ratio to reflect its funding and liquidity risk profile, after a supervisory assessment. l The NSFR requirement would be binding on banks from 1 January 2018. l Banks are required to have the required systems in place for such calculation and monitoring. l The NSFR as at the end of each quarter, starting from December 2017, should be reported to the RBI within 15 days from the end of the quarter. l The NSFR promotes resilience over a longerterm time horizon by requiring banks to fund their activities with more stable sources of funding on an ongoing basis. The Basel committee on banking supervision had issued the final rules on NSFR in October 2014, the banking regulator had noted in its monetary policy announcement on 7 April. The Reserve Bank has already started phasing in implementation of the Liquidity Coverage Ratio (LCR) from January 2015 and is committed to the scheduled implemen-tation of NSFR from January 1, 2018 for banks in India.
NCDEX LAUNCHED ‘GOLD NOW’ PLATFORM FOR FORWARD CONTRACTS IN GOLD
The National Commodity & Derivatives Exchange (NCDEX) has launched ‘Gold Now’, an online forward trading channel facilitating buying and selling of the metal, for the benefit of jewellers. l This platform proposes to allow delivery of gold originating from domestic refineries through recycling. l Gold Now will offer bullion in 1-kg and 100- gram forward contracts for six centres with daily delivery facility through T+1 and T+2 settlement system. l The cities where delivery will be available are Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Delhi, Kochi, Hyderabad and Chennai. Launch of the Gold Now will help the bullion and jewellery industry improve its efficiency. The exchange has approved four domestic refineries for delivery of gold on its newly launched platform. They satisfy the stringent financial, technical and customer due-diligence standards the exchange. About a week ago, NCDEX had introduced a gold premium polling mechanism for arriving at the settlement price of its gold futures contract.
HIKE IN SERVICE TAX TO 14 PERCENT BECAME OPERATIONAL
People will have to shell out more while using mobiles, eating out and travelling as the service tax rate goes up to 14 percent. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his Budget had proposed to raise service tax from 12.36 percent (including education cess) to 14 percent. l The proposal takes effect from June 1. l The tax is levied on all services, expect a small negative list. l Some of the key services that will attract higher tax and hence become costlier are: railways, airlines, banking, insurance, advertising, architecture, construction, credit cards, event management and tour operators. l Mobile operators and credit card companies have already started sending messages to subscribers conveying the increase in service tax rate which will have a bearing on the bills. l Fares for First Class and AC classes in passenger trains, besides freight charges, will go up by 0.5 percent from June 1. Currently, 3.7 percent service tax is levied on train fares for AC Class, First Class and freight. This will go up to 4.2 percent from June which means the rise is only 0.5 percent. Jaitley had proposed to raise the service tax rate to 14 percent to facilitate a smooth transition to the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime, which the government wants to roll out from April 2016. Once implemented, GST will subsume service tax, excise and other local levies. Education cess, which is levied on service tax, will be subsumed in the service tax rate with effect from June 1. Although the Budget also proposed a 2 percent Swachh Bharat cess on selected services, the government is yet to come out with a notification in this regard.
NEW BANK NOTE PAPER LINE UNIT INAUGURATED
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had inaugurated the new bank note paper line of 6,000 tonnes capacity and also flagged off the first consignment of Rs 1,000 bank note paper made indigenously to Currency Note Press at Nashik. The government will also set up two more units of paper mills of 12,000 tonnes capacity at Security Paper Mill in Hoshangabad (Madhya Pradesh) to produce large denomination currency notes domestically. l The New Security Paper Mill in Hoshangabad will give India indigenously produced currency note paper and will prove to be a major step toward Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ initiative. l The mill would produce 6,000 tonnes of paper on which currency notes of denominations — Rs 10, Rs 20, Rs 50, Rs 100, Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 — will be printed. l Earlier, the paper to print high denomination currency was imported. l The new facility will would ensure huge savings on foreign exchange. l A New Security Paper Mill through a joint venture has been established at Mysore in Karnataka. l Earlier, the Hoshangabad facility produced paper for printing of currency notes of smaller denominations only.
CSO RELEASED PROVISIONAL ESTIMATES OF NATIONAL INCOME FOR FY 2014-15
l In terms of GDP, the rates of Gross Fixed Capital Formation (GFCF) at current and constant prices during 2014-15 are estimated at 28.7 percent and 30.0 percent, respectively, as against the corresponding rates of 29.7 percent and 30.7 percent, respectively in 2013-14. Sector-wise Growth l The sectors registering growth rate of over 7.0 percent in 2014-15 are ‘trade, hotels, transport, communication and services related to broadcasting’, ‘financial, real estate and professional services’, ‘electricity, gas, water supply & other utility services’, ‘public administration, defence and other services’ and manufacturing. l The growth in the ‘agriculture, forestry and fishing’, ‘mining and quarrying’ and ‘construction’ is estimated to be 0.2 per cent, 2.4 per cent and 4.8 per cent respectively. l The third advance estimates of crop production released by the Ministry of Agriculture show a decline of 2.3 percent in food grain production in 2014-15 to 251.12 million tonnes (MT) as against 257.07 MT in second advance estimates. l The growth of ‘mining &quarrying’ is estimated at 2.4 percent, as against the Advance Estimate (AE) growth of 2.3 percent. l The growth of ‘manufacturing’ sector is estimated at 7.1 percent, as against the AE growth of 6.8 percent. The performance of corporate performance in manufacturing sector has also been taken into account. l The ‘Trade, hotels, transport, communication and services related to broadcasting sectors’ have registered a growth of 10.7 percent in 2014-15 as against 8.4 percent in the AE. l The sector, ‘financial, real estate and professional services’, has shown a growth rate of 11.5 percent during 2014-15 as compared to growth rate of 13.7 per cent in the AE. l The sector ‘public administration, defence and other services’ has shown a growth rate of 7.2 percent in the PE, as against the growth rate of 9.0 per cent in the AE. stone was laid by then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in December 2011. l The project has been completed at a cost of Rs 495 crore. The Central Statistics Office (CSO) on 29 May 2015 released the provisional estimates (PE) of national income for the financial year (FY) 2014-15 both at constant (2011-12) and current prices.As per it, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at constant prices in the FY 2014-15 will grow at 7.3 percent while at current prices it is expected to grow at 10.5 percent. Besides, CSO also released the quarterly estimates (QE) for the fourth quarter (January – March) of 2014-15. At constant prices, in Q4 GDP is estimated to grow at 7.5 percent while at current prices it is estimated to grow at 7.7 percent. Findings l In absolute terms, Real GDP (at constant prices) in FY 2014-15 is expected to grow to 106.44 lakh crore rupees. l In 2014-15, real Gross Value Added (GVA), that is, GVA at basic constant prices is estimated at 98.27 lakh crore rupees and growth rate is estimated at 7.2 percent. l The gross national income is estimated to have risen by 7.3 percent during 2014-15, in comparison to the growth rate of 6.8 percent in 2013-14. l The per capita net national income in real terms (constant prices) during 2014-15 is estimated to have attained a level of 74104 rupees as against 69959 rupees in FY 2013-14 (RE). l The growth rate in per capita income in real terms is estimated at 5.9 percent during 2014- 15 as against 5.4 percent during 2013-14. l India’s annual per capita or average income (in current prices) in 2014-15 stood at 87748 rupees from 80388 rupees in 2013-14. l The wholesale price index (WPI), in respect of the groups, food articles, manufactured products, electricity and all commodities, has risen by 6.1 per cent, 2.4 per cent, 5.7 per cent and 2.0 per cent, respectively during 2014-15. l The consumer price index has shown a rise of 6.4 per cent during 2014-15. The provisional estimates of GDP for the FY 2014-15 vindicate the growth projection for Indian economy by various world bodies like IMF, World Bank amongst others. According to these bodies, India is set to become the world’s fastest growing major economy in the world, overtaking China’s 7.3 percent growth. Further, at 125.4 lakh crore rupees (2.02 trillion US dollars as on March 2015) India’s GDP at current prices has officially crossed the 2 trillion US dollars mark making it the world’s 10th largest economy. However, despite the current slowdown, at 10.3 trillion US dollars China’s economy is five times bigger than India, while the USA remains the world’s largest economy at 17.4 trillion US dollars. Further, experts have pointed out that there were anomalies in the data as manufacturing shows an estimated growth of 7.1 percent for 2014-15, which under the index of industrial production (IIP) data for factory output was 2.3 percent.
RBI TO INTRODUCE PPI FOR MASS TRANSIT SYSTEMS
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Thursday proposed to introduce a separate category of semiclosed Prepaid Payment Instruments (PPI) for Mass Transit System (PPI-MTS). l The PPI-MTS can be used within the mass transit systems and will have a minimum validity of six months from date of issue. l Such PPIs will be re-loadable instruments subject to an outstanding limit of Rs.2,000 at any point of time, RBI suggested in a draft circular for public comments. l PPI for mass transit systems, which handle a large number of small value cash payments, will facilitate the migration to electronic payments in line with the country’s vision of moving to a less-cash society, the RBI added. The RBI has been receiving requests from various segments, including providers of mass transit services, such as, metro train and road transport services, indicating the need for PPIs catering to the requirements of this segment to enhance commuter convenience.
VIJAY KELKAR PANEL TO RECAST PPP MODEL
The government named former finance secretary and economist Vijay Kelkar to head a panel that will recast the model of infrastructure development in which the government partners private firms. Union finance minister Arun Jaitley, in his budget speech, had announced the committee after stating that the current model was not robust enough to reduce risk for the private companies to increase investment in infrastructure—a challenge that the government faces. He had advocated increased public spending and promised to look into ways to resolve issues hampering the so-called public-private-partnership (PPP) model. Jaitley had said in the budget speech that the PPP mode of infrastructure development has to be revisited and revitalized. The major issue involved is rebalancing of risk. In infrastructure projects, the sovereign will have to bear a major part of the risk without, of course, absorbing it entirely. l India is one the largest PPP markets with over 900 projects at various stages of development. l The 2014-15 economic survey said the stock of stalled projects at the end of December stood at Rs.8.8 trillion, or 7% of India’s gross domestic product (GDP). l The existing PPP framework and business environment are not conducive for PPP model to flourish. l The Kelkar committee will review the PPP policy and suggest a better risk-sharing mechanism between private developers and the government after analysing such projects in different sectors and the existing framework of risk-sharing. l It will also propose design changes to contractual arrangements of the PPP in line with the review and international best practices and suggest measures to improve capacitybuilding in government for implementation of the PPP projects. l The committee will consult various stakeholders in the private sector, government sector, legal experts, banking and financial institutions and academia. l Sharmila Chavaly, joint secretary at the department of economic affairs, will be the committee secretary. l The committee will submit a report in three months. Other members include Rajasthan chief secretary C.S. Rajan, chairman and managing director of Indian Infrastructure Finance Co. Ltd S.B. Nayar, director general of National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) Shekhar Shah, managing director of corporate banking group of State Bank of India P. Pradeep Kumar, managing director of Infrastructure Development Finance Co. (IDFC) Vikram Limaye, lawyer Sudipto Sarkar, retired Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officer P.S. Behuria, and a representative of the transport ministry, who is yet to be named. This is step in the right direction looking to address, among other things, the two key issues affecting the PPP model: the risk allocation framework and capacity building to implement it. Government departments have been hesitant to take bold measures thus far, but the Kelkar committtee with industry representatives with the right background will be able to help. There are still many areas where PPP has to be mainstreamed—namely urban development, water sanitation, transportation, health education and skills.
CASE LODGED AGAINST NESTLE INDIA IN UP ON ITS PRODUCT MAGGI
A case was lodged against Nestle India in a local court of Uttar Pradesh over safety standards of its Maggi product, while actors Amitabh Bachhan, Madhuri Dixit and Preity Zinta have also been separately dragged to the court for promoting the ‘two-minute’ noodles brand. While the case against Nestle India and five others was filed by the UP food regulator FSDA (Food Safety and Drug Administration), a local advocate filed a separate case against the three cine personalities. The case has been lodged against the company’s Nestle Nagal Kalan Industrial Area unit (Haroli, Una in HP), Delhi-based Nestle India Limited, an Easy Day outlet in Barabanki and the Delhi-based parent firm Easy Day, as also against and their FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) managers, Mohan Gupta and Shabab Alam, Pandey said. The FSDA had found monosodium glutamate and lead in excess of the prescribed limit in Maggi samples tested by it. The FSDA had collected the samples from the Easy Day store in Barabanki and had sent the consignment for testing, which showed that the quantum of lead present was 17 times more than the stipulated limit, which is considered hazardous. The Union Consumer Affairs Ministry has also asked the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India to look into the matter while Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said yesterday that a class action suit can also be initiated in the matter if a complaint is lodged in this regard with the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC).
PRESIDENT GIVES ASSENT TO RE-PROMULGATION OF LAND ORDINANCE FOR 3RD TIME
The controversial land ordinance was repromulgated for the third time with President Pranab Mukherjee giving his assent not with standing opposition protests over the measure. The Union Cabinet, at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had decided to repromulgate the ordinance, insisting it was necessary for maintaining continuity and providing a framework to compensate people whose land is acquired. The ordinance will now have to be laid before both Houses of Parliament and shall cease to operate at the expiration of six weeks from the date of reassembly if it is not converted into law. The President has given assent for the re-promulgation of the ordinance. l The ordinance has been promulgated for the third time . l Cabinet gave its nod for re-promulgation of land acquisition ordinance with 9 changes. l It is the 13th executive order of the NDA government since it came to power in May last year. l The move came despite vehement protests by Congress whose vice president Rahul Gandhi termed the measure as reflecting the “amazing hurry” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to “grab” land from the farmers. Article 123 of Constitution gives legislative power to President. He can issue ordinances when Parliament is in recess, i.e., not in session if there is urgent need to have a law on some urgent public matter. The promulgated ordinance has similar effect to an act of parliament. However, every ordinance must be laid and approved by both houses of the parliament within 6 weeks from the reassembling. If not placed and approved by both houses of the parliament after reassembling it becomes invalid or lapses.
LIC GETS CLEARANCE TO DO BUSINESS IN BANGLADESH
Bangladesh has granted permission to the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) to run its business, making it the second foreign insurance company to operate in the country. The Indian state-owned insurance giant was allowed to start operations as a joint venture entity to be called LIC Bangladesh Ltd with a paid up capital of Taka 1 billion (USD 1=Tk 80) under a decision taken by the Bangladesh regulator Insurance Development and Regulatory Authority (IDRA). l LIC will hold half of the amount while the rest would be owed by its Bangladeshi partners raising the amount from the capital market and local entrepreneurs. l The approval came nearly two years after the IDRA rejected a LIC proposal seeking to launch its business in Bangladesh with a paid up capital of Tk 300 million. l LIC has been in the insurance business for six decades and is worth over 15,000 billion Indian rupees and it became the second foreign insurance agency after the US-based MetLifeALICO, which too operate in Bangladesh as a branch office instead of being a joint venture registered company. l Apart from the two state-run insurance companies, Bangladesh currently has 60 insurance companies in private sector, 43 of them being general and 17 life. l Beyond India, the LIC currently operates in Nepal, Sri Lanka and Singapore.
SECOND BI-MONTHLY MONETARY POLICY STATEMENT 2015-16 ANNOUNCED
Reserve Bank of India (RBI) cut repo rate by 25 bps on 2 June 2015, easing policy for a third time this year, in a move that was widely expected as policymakers try to put the improving economy on a firmer footing. The Reserve Bank of India lowered the repo rate to 7.25 percent, as predicted by 35 of 48 analysts polled. India released data showing its economy outpaced China by growing 7.5 percent in the March quarter, but many economists suspect a new method used to count gross domestic product overstated the improvement. Full statement by RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan: Monetary and Liquidity Measures On the basis of an assessment of the current and evolving macroeconomic situation, it has been decided to: l reduce the policy repo rate under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) by 25 basis points from 7.5 per cent to 7.25 per cent with immediate effect; l keep the cash reserve ratio (CRR) of scheduled banks unchanged at 4.0 per cent of net demand and time liabilities (NDTL); l continue to provide liquidity under overnight repos at 0.25 per cent of bank-wise NDTL at the LAF repo rate and liquidity under 14-day term repos as well as longer term repos of up to 0.75 per cent of NDTL of the banking system through auctions; and l continue with overnight/term variable rate repos and reverse repos to smooth liquidity. Consequently, the reverse repo rate under the LAF stands adjusted to 6.25 per cent, and the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate and the Bank Rate to 8.25 per cent. Assessment 1. Since the first bi-monthly monetary policy statement of 2015-16 issued in April 2015, incoming data suggest that the global recovery is still slow and getting increasingly differentiated across regions. In the United States, the economy shrank in Q1 owing to harsh weather conditions, the strength of the US dollar weighing on exports and a decline in non-residential fixed investment. In the euro area, financial conditions have eased due to the European Central Bank’s (ECB) quantitative easing and a depreciating euro. There has, however, been some moderation in composite purchasing managers’ indices (PMI), economic sentiment and consumer confidence in April. In Japan, growth surprised on the upside in Q1, supported by private demand as business spending boosted inventories and personal  Weekly Current Affairs 31st May 2015 to 6th June, 2015 www.ias100.in consumption. For most emerging market economies (EMEs), macroeconomic conditions remain challenging due to domestic fragilities, exacerbated by bouts of financial market turbulence. China continues to decelerate in spite of monetary easing. The recent firming up of crude prices has reduced headwinds to growth for some energy exporters, while increasing them for importers. Even absent a decisive economic recovery or adverse geopolitical shocks, oil prices appear to be volatile. 2. Global financial markets have also been volatile, with risk-on risk-off shifts induced by changing perceptions of monetary policies in the advanced economies. Global currency markets continue to be dominated by the strength of the US dollar, with the G3 currencies reflecting the asynchronicity of their monetary policy stances. Volatility in global bond markets has increased with a number of factors at play: unwinding of European assets by investors due to the Greek crisis; rapidly changing expectations around the Fed’s forward guidance; sharp movements in crude prices; and market corrections due to changes in risk tolerance. 3. As anticipated, the Central Statistics Office has revised downwards its estimate of India’s gross value added (GVA) at basic prices for 2014-15 by 30 basis points from the advance estimates. Domestic economic activity remains moderate in Q1 of 2015-16. Agricultural activity was adversely affected by unseasonal rains and hailstorms in north India during March 2015, impinging on an estimated 94 lakh hectares of area sown under the rabi crop. Reflecting this, the third advance estimates of the Ministry of Agriculture indicate a contraction in foodgrains production by more than 5 per cent in relation to the preceding year’s level. Successive estimates have been pointing to a worsening of the situation, with the damage to crops like pulses and oilseeds – where buffer foodstocks are not available in the central pool – posing an upside risk to food inflation. For the kharif season, the outlook is clouded by the first estimates of the India Meteorological Department (IMD), predicting that the southwest monsoon will be 7 per cent below the long period average. This has been exacerbated by the confirmation of the onset of El Nino by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. 4. What is clear is that contingency plans for food management, including storage of adequate quantity of seeds and fertilisers for timely supply, crop insurance schemes, credit facilities, timely release of food stocks and the repair of disruptions in food supply chains, including through imports and de-hoarding, need to be in place to manage the impact of low production on inflation. Inflation control will also be helped by limiting the increase in agricultural support prices. 5. Industrial production has been recovering, albeit unevenly. The sustained weakness of consumption spending, especially in rural areas as indicated in the slowdown in sales of twowheelers and tractors, continues to operate as a drag. Corporate sales have contracted. The disappointing earnings performance could have been worse if not for the decline in input costs. Capacity utilisation has been falling in several industries, indicative of the slack in the economy. While an upturn in capital goods production seems underway, clear evidence of a revival in investment demand will need to build on the tentative indications of unclogging of stalled investment projects, stabilising of private new investment intentions and improving sales of commercial vehicles. In April, output from core industries constituting 38 per cent of the index of industrial production declined across the board, barring coal production. The sustained revival of coal output augurs well for electricity generation and mining and quarrying, going forward. There is some optimism on gas pricing and availability. The resolution of power purchase processes has to be expedited and power distribution companies’ financial stress has to be addressed on a priority basis. Some public sector banks will need more capital to clean up their balance sheets and support lending as investment revives. 6. Leading indicators of services sector activity are emitting mixed signals. A pick-up in service tax collections, sales of trucks, railway freight, domestic air passenger and air freight traffic could augur well for transport and communication and trade. On the other hand, the slowdown in tourist arrivals, railway traffic and international air passenger and freight traffic could affect hotels, restaurants and some constituents of transportation services adversely. The services PMI declined in April www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  2015, mainly on account of slowdown in new business orders. Community and personal services are likely to be held back by the ongoing fiscal consolidation. 7. In April, retail inflation measured by the consumer price index (CPI) decelerated for the second month in a row, supported by favourable base effects [of about (-) 0.8 per cent] that moderated the rise in the price index for the fourth successive month. Food inflation softened to a contra-seasonal four-month low, with the impact of unseasonal rains yet to show up. Vegetables inflation continued to ease, along with that of other sub-groups such as cereals, oil, sugar and spices. On the other hand, protein items, especially milk and pulses, continued to impart upward inflationary pressures. 8. Fuel inflation rose for the fourth successive month to a twelve-month high, driven by prices of electricity and firewood. Inflation in these components was accentuated by base effects – the recent price uptick coming on top of muted increases a year ago. Inflation excluding food and fuel rose marginally. House rent, education, medical and transport expenses were among the major drivers of inflation in this category. Rural wage growth, although still moderate, picked up. Inflation expectations remain in high single digits, although they may adapt further to current low inflation. Yet, both input and output price pressures remain muted as reflected in the Reserve Bank’s industrial outlook survey. Purchasing managers’ indices also corroborate these developments. 9. Liquidity conditions eased in April 2015 after the tightness in the second half of March 2015 on account of advance tax outflows and financial year-end behaviour of banks. The Reserve Bank’s liquidity management operations were reversed in view of the improvement in liquidity conditions through April. During May, however, rapid increases in currency in circulation and a build-up of government balances resulted in liquidity conditions tightening again. Accordingly, fine tuning operations of varying tenors were conducted, besides the regular overnight repo at fixed rate and 14-day variable rate repo auctions. These injections helped meet the frictional liquidity requirements. In May, the average daily net liquidity injected through LAF fixed rate repos, besides regular 14-day variable rate repos, additional variable rate repos and MSF, was ?1031 billion as compared with ?819 billion in April. As a result, weighted average money market rates shadowed the policy rate. Longer term interest rates, particularly gilts, hardened in early May on international cues but eased in the second half of the month, particularly after the issuance of the new benchmark bond. 10. Merchandise export growth has weakened steadily since July 2014 and entered into contraction from January 2015 through April, with a recent shrinking of even volumes exported. The deterioration in export performance affected economies across Asia as global demand fell and the fall in commodity prices impacted terms of trade for commodity exporters. From December 2014 onwards, merchandise import growth also turned negative, led by a sharp decline in the volume of oil imports as inventory build-up by refineries subsided. Gold imports spiked in the month of March and remained elevated in April owing to festival demand and regulatory relaxations. Notably, the volume of imports has been recording increases, despite the value decline. Given these developments, the reduction in the current account deficit resulting from the sharp decline in oil prices has begun to reverse, though the size of the deficit is expected to be contained to about 1.5 per cent of GDP this year. Net exports are, therefore, unlikely to contribute as much to growth going forward as they did in the past financial year. Consequently growth will depend more on a strengthening of domestic final demand. While portfolio and direct foreign investment flows were buoyant during 2014-15, with net foreign direct investment to India at US$ 36.6 billion and net portfolio inflows at US$ 41 billion, the year 2015-16 has begun with net portfolio outflows in the wake of a reduction in global portfolio allocations to India. Foreign exchange reserves are around US$ 350 billion, providing a strong second line of defence to good macroeconomic policies if external markets turn significantly volatile. Policy Stance and Rationale 11. Banks have started passing through some of the past rate cuts into their lending rates, headline inflation has evolved along the projected path, the impact of unseasonal rains has been moderate so far, administered price  Weekly Current Affairs 31st May 2015 to 6th June, 2015 www.ias100.in increases remain muted, and the timing of normalisation of US monetary policy seems to have been pushed back. With low domestic capacity utilization, still mixed indicators of recovery, and subdued investment and credit growth, there is a case for a cut in the policy rate today. 12. Yet, of the risks to inflation identified in April, three still cloud the picture. First, some forecasters, notably the IMD, predict a belownormal southwest monsoon. Astute food management is needed to mitigate possible inflationary effects. Second, crude prices have been firming amidst considerable volatility, and geo-political risks are ever present. Third, volatility in the external environment could impact inflation. Therefore, a conservative strategy would be to wait, especially for more certainty on both the monsoon outturn as well as the effects of government responses if it turns out to be weak. With still weak investment and the need to reduce supply constraints over the medium term to stay on the proposed disinflationary path (to 4 per cent in early 2018), however, a more appropriate stance is to frontload a rate cut today and then wait for data that clarify uncertainty. Meanwhile banks should pass through the sequence of rate cuts into lending rates. 13. Assuming reasonable food management, inflation is expected to be pulled down by base effects till August but to start rising thereafter to about 6.0 per cent by January 2016 – slightly higher than the projections in April. Putting more weight on the IMD’s monsoon projections than the more optimistic projections of private forecasters as well as accounting for the possible inflationary effects of the increases in the service tax rate to 14 per cent, the risks to the central trajectory are tilted to the upside (Chart 1). Projection of CPI-Combined inflation (y-o-y) for 2015-16. 14. Reflecting the balance of risks and the downward revision to GVA estimates for 2014- 15, the projection for output growth for 2015- 16 has been marked down from 7.8 per cent in April to 7.6 per cent with a downward bias to reflect the uncertainties surrounding these various risks (Chart 2). Quarterly projection of growth in GVA at basic prices (y-o-y) for 2015-16. 15. Strong food policy and management will be important to help keep inflation and inflationary expectations contained over the near term. Furthermore, monetary easing can only create the enabling conditions for a fuller government policy thrust that hinges around a step up in public investment in several areas that can also crowd in private investment. This will be important to relieve supply constraints and aid disinflation over the medium term. A targeted infusion of bank capital into scheduled public sector commercial banks, especially those that implement concerted strategies to clean up stressed assets, is also warranted so that adequate credit flows to the productive sectors as investment picks up. 16. The third bi-monthly monetary policy statement will be announced on August 4, 2015.
INDIA JOINS MULTILATERAL COMPETENT AUTHORITY AGREEMENT ON AUTOMATIC EXCHANGE OF INFORMATION India joined the Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement on Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information on 3rd June, 2015, in Paris, France, along with Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Indonesia and New Zealand. On our behalf, the Declaration to comply with the provisions of the MCAA was signed by Mr. Mohan Kumar, Ambassador of the Republic of India to France, in a signing ceremony held in Paris. l Earlier, fifty-one countries/jurisdictions had joined the MCAA on 29th October, 2014 in Berlin. l Switzerland became the fifty-second country to join the MCAA on 19th November, 2014. l Ghana and Seychelles joined the MCAA on 14th May, 2015. l With six countries joining the MCAA on 3rd June, 2015, the total number of countries/ jurisdictions agreeing to exchange information automatically in accordance with MCAA has gone to sixty. l Ninety-four countries have committed to exchange information on an automatic basis from 2017 onwards as per the new global standards on automatic exchange of information, known as Common Reporting www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  Standards (CRS) on Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI). The new global standards are very wide in scope and oblige the treaty partners to exchange wide range of financial information after collecting the same from financial institutions in their country/ jurisdictions including information about the ultimate controlling persons and beneficial owners of entities. For implementation of these standards in India and with a view to provide information to other countries, necessary legislative changes have been made through Finance (No. 2) Act, 2014, by amending section 285BA of the Income-tax Act, 1961. Necessary rules and guidelines are being formulated in consultation with financial institutions. AEOI based on CRS, when fully implemented, would enable India to receive information from almost every country in the world including offshore financial centres and would be the key to prevent international tax evasion and avoidance and would be instrumental in getting information about assets of Indians held abroad including through entities in which Indians are beneficial owners. This will help the Government to curb tax evasion and deal with the problem of black money.
SCIENCE & TECH
PLUTO’S MOONS ARE IN A CHAOTIC RHYTHM NASA’s
Hubble space telescope has provided the first glimpse of Pluto’s moons that wobble unpredictably, tumbling in absolute chaos. It means if you lived on one of Pluto’s moons, you might have a hard time determining when, or from which direction, the sun will rise each day. Hubble has provided a new view of Pluto and its moons revealing a cosmic dance with a chaotic rhythm. When the New Horizons spacecraft flies through the Pluto system in July, NASA will get a chance to see what these moons look like up close and personal. Comprehensive analysis of the data shows that two of Pluto’s moons, Nix and Hydra, wobble unpredictably.
LARGE HADRON COLLIDER RESTARTS
Scientists on June 3, 2015 hailed a “new era” in their quest to unravel more mysteries of the universe as the world’s biggest particle smasher started experiments with nearly doubled energy levels in a key breakthrough. The tests at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) came after a sweeping two-year revamp of the collider and will help scientists to study fundamental particles, the building blocks of all matter, and the forces that control them. New Physics During its next run, researchers will look for evidence of “new physics” and probe “supersymmetry” — a theoretical concept informally dubbed Susy; seek explanations for enigmatic dark matter and look for signs of extra dimensions. This latest collisions of 13 teraelectonvolts (TeV) followed a muscling of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), used in 2012 to prove the existence of the Higgs Boson — which confers mass and is also known as the God particle. Particle beams have now travelled in both directions, inside parallel pipes, at a whisker below the speed of light. CERN said everything went according to plan at the giant lab, a 27- km ring-shaped tunnel straddling the French-Swiss border. During what it dubbed as its “Season Two”, the LHC will in the course of the next three years strive to fill gaps in the so-called “Standard Model” — the mainstream theory of how the visible Universe was created but which does not explain dark matter. Big unknowns Physicists are frustrated by the existing Standard Model of particle physics. It describes 17 subatomic particles, including 12 building blocks of matter and 5 “force carriers” – the last of which, the Higgs boson, was finally detected by the LHC in 2012. In order to explain several baffling properties of the universe, things beyond the Standard Model have been proposed – but never directly detected. These include dark energy, the all-pervading force suggested to account for the universe expanding faster and faster. And dark matter – the “web” that holds all visible matter in place, and would explain why galaxies spin much faster than they should, based on what we can see. A theory called supersymmetry proposes additional particles, as yet unseen, that might fill in some of these gaps. But no experiment, including the LHC, has yet found evidence for anything “supersymmetrical”. Even the familiar and crucial force of gravity is nowhere in the Standard Model.
CHINA DEVELOPS FIRST FACIAL RECOGNITION ATM
Chinese researchers have successfully developed the first automated teller machine (ATM) with facial recognition technology to reduce the risk of theft. The developers include Tsinghua University and Tzekwan Technology, a Hangzhou firm in eastern China’s Zhejiang province that provides security protection for financial transactions. The technology will curb ATM-related crimes. www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  China currently relied mostly on imported ATM technology, but the new machine, which combines high-speed banknote handling, improved counterfeit-bill recognition and facial recognition, was wholly Chinese. The product had passed the authorities certification and would soon be available on the market. The news come a week after the state launched its “Made in China” campaign, which aims to transition the mainland from a manufacturing hub for low-end goods to high-quality products within the next 10 years. l Cash machines using fingerprint authentication have sprung up in countries like Chile and Colombia. l These biometrics ATMs are not being used by some countries, such as the United States, because of privacy concerns and its high cost. l The new ATM’s are expected to connect with the country’s banks and public security networks, which guarantees that only cardholders withdraw money, even if someone else knows the password. Other Features l Apart from the Traditional password or PIN access funds with a card, facial recognition would be added layer of identification. l To further increase the security, ATM would be linked to banks and local police offices. l New ATM comes with enhance counterfeit bill recognition and high-speed bank note handling. l This is also China’s first independently produced ATM ever. l Imported technology forms the backbone for other ATM’s in China, whereas this version is totally Chinese based. l The new high tech ATM purportedly identifies and verifies multiple currencies more accurately than the world average ATM by above 20%. l The prototypes of such cash vending machines have been worked on for many years by the likes of Hoyos Labs, Security plus Federal Credit Union In Baltimore, though the facial recognition ATM is being recognised as first of its kind.
ECOLOGY & ENVIRONMENT
JUNE 5: WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY
World Environment Day (WED) is the United Nations’ principal vehicle for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the environment. Over the years it has grown to be a broad, global platform for public outreach that is widely celebrated by stakeholders in over 100 countries. It also serves as the ‘people’s day’ for doing something positive for the environment, galvanizing individual actions into a collective power that generates an exponential positive impact on the planet. The WED theme this year is “Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care.” The well-being of humanity, the environment, and the functioning of the economy, ultimately depend upon the responsible management of the planet’s natural resources. And yet, evidence is building that people are consuming far more natural resources than what the planet can sustainably provide. Many of the Earth’s ecosystems are nearing critical tipping points of depletion or irreversible change, pushed by high population growth and economic development. By 2050, if current consumption and production patterns remain the same and with a rising population expected to reach 9.6 billion.
GANGA WILL BE POLLUTION-FREE BY OCTOBER 2016
River Ganga will show first signs of being pollution-free by October 2016 and the first project on inter-linking of rivers (Ken-Betwa) will take off within a year, Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti revealed on June 4, 2015. She said the “Namami Gange” project had been delayed as the Centre decided to bear the entire funding, instead of asking States to give a matching grant, and thus had to re-work its financial plans and approvals. A sum of Rs. 12,000 crore has been set aside for the project. The minister stated that the river was connected with the livelihood of 50 crore people and the entire economy of populous States such as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh were dependent on it. The government would have to enact a law or bring a policy that would ensure sustainability of pollution-free Ganga. Ground water management The Centre would send teams of young entrepreneurs abroad to study river and ground water management and how to do more irrigation from less water. The teams would be sent to Israel, Australia and the United Kingdom. Ms. Bharti said the government was aware of lowering of ground water levels and was working on better management.
ZSI: HALF OF MAMMALS FACE HABITAT LOSS
The Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) has published a book containing a consolidated documentation and listing of all the scheduled or protected species of mammals found in India. It is important to note that India is home to 428 species of mammals out of which more than 60 per cent — about 251 species — are under protected or Scheduled categories of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, Gaurav Sharma, scientist of ZSI noted. The book, An Identification Manual for Scheduled Mammals of India , provides detailed information on scheduled mammals, their status as per IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red list of Threatened Species. The 428 species of mammals in India contribute to about 8 per cent of the total mammal species found in the World. About 50 per cent of mammalian fauna of India have shrunk in their distributional range due to various anthropogenic pressures. Already four mammal species — Cheetah, Banteng, Sumatran Rhinoceros and Javan Rhinoceros — are extinct in India. The publication assumed greater significance www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  vvvvv particularly in view of the fact that the country was celebrating World Environment Day on June 5, Director of ZSI K. Ventakaraman emphasised that except a few flagship species there was very little known about many mammals. Out of the 251 Schedule mammals species listed under the India Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and documented in the publication, about 180 fall under the “lesser-known” category, and very little information is available about their habitat, behaviour, and population. Around 78 species of mammals are included in Schedule I of Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, implying that highest priority is placed on the conservation of these animals in the country. While the Schedule I mammals constitute well known species like tiger, elephant and Indian rhinoceros, “lesser known” species such as clouded leopard, snow leopard, gaur, desert cat, Niligiri tahr, swamp deer, sloth bear and Tibetan, sand fox are also included in the list. The book also lists the mammals that fall in the “Critically Endangered” category of the IUCN. These animals are: pygmy hog, Malabar civet, large rock rat and kondana rat. As per the IUCN status 29 mammals (such as, Chinese Pangolin, fishing cat, Gangetic dolphin, golden langur, hispid hare etc.) in the country come under the “endangered” category. What is IUCN? IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges. IUCN’s work focuses on valuing and conserving nature, ensuring effective and equitable governance of its use, and deploying nature-based solutions to global challenges in climate, food and development. IUCN supports scientific research, manages field projects all over the world, and brings governments, NGOs, the UN and companies together to develop policy, laws and best practice. The IUCN’s headquarters are located in Gland, near Geneva, in Switzerland. IUCN is the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organisation, with more than 1,200 government and NGO Members and almost 11,000 volunteer experts in some 160 countries. IUCN’s work is supported by over 1,000 staff in 45 offices and hundreds of partners in public, NGO and private sectors around the world. IUCN has official Observer Status at the United Nations General Assembly What does IUCN do? Conserving biodiversity is central to the mission of IUCN. We demonstrate how biodiversity is fundamental to addressing some of the world’s greatest challenges such as climate change, sustainable development and food security. To deliver conservation and sustainability at both the global and local level, IUCN builds on its strengths in the following areas: l Science – 11,000 experts setting global standards in their fields, for example, the definitive international standard for species extinction risk – the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™. l Action – hundreds of conservation projects all over the world from the local level to those involving several countries, all aimed at the sustainable management of biodiversity and natural resources. l Influence – through the collective strength of more than 1,200 government and non-governmental Member organizations, IUCN influences international environmental conventions, policies and laws.
TULSI GENOME MAP DECODED
Indian scientists have sequenced the full genome of tulsi in a research effort they say is intended to yield pathways to new medicines from this medicinal herb revered for centuries by several systems of medicine. The researchers in a government laboratory in Lucknow and a private genome sequencing centre in Bangalore have generated a draft sequence of the 386 million genetic alphabets that make up the full genome of Ocimum sanctum, the botanical name for tulsi. In their three-year-long research effort, the scientists have also identified over 53,480 proteincoding genes in the tulsi genome. Some of these genes are believed to play key roles in the biosynthesis of the myriad biochemicals in the plant promoted in traditional medicine as a herb that can fight infections and inflammation, protect people from diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, help wounds heal and ease painful and spasomodic conditions. Tulsi is the first medicinal herb from the family named Lamiaceae – whose members also include mint, oregano, and rosemary – to have its genome sequenced. The genome sequence will allow scientists to study the biochemical pathways involved in the synthesis of medicinal compounds such as phenylpropanoids and terpernoids found in tulsi as well as look for new pharmacologically-active compounds in the herb. Ancient Indian text Charak Samhita mentions tulsi as a remedy for common ailments. Five years ago, a team of pharmacologists reviewed modern scientific studies on Tulsi and listed several leads — extracts of the plant have been shown promise through anti-diabetic, antifungal, anti-microbial, cardioprotective, and analgesic [pain-relieving] properties. The Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plant (CIMAP) researchers notd that the genome sequence will help decipher how modifications of the basic phenylpropanoids and terpenoids occur within the plant, leading to new knowledge about minor as yet unidentified pharmacological compounds and their therapeutic actions. Several compounds produced during the biosynthetic pathway may have their own medicinal properties which scientists hope to explore. So the genes involved in these pathways will tell about the nature of biochemical reactions and how the medicinal properties emerge. ‘Holi basil’ or ‘Tulsi’ is rich in phenylpropanoids, terpenoids and their derivatives, and many of these are implicated for different therapeutic activities. The availability of the genome sequence now opens the possibility to identify genes involved in producing therapeutic molecules and to produce them in vitro. This will also facilitate identification of not yet identified genes involved in the synthesis of important secondary metabolites in this plant. Specific pathway related genes identified or mined in this genome could be used for the production of secondary metabolites following synthetic biology approaches. The development of molecular tools and genomic resources will accelerate molecular breeding and ultimately the utility of Holy basil in medical community.
GOVT. LAUNCHES IAP HEALTHPHONE PROGRAMME
Union Minister of Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi launched the Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP) HealthPhone programme in Delhi on June 02, 2015. The programme is the world’s largest digital mass education programme for addressing malnutrition in women and children. This programme has been launched by the Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP) in partnership with the Ministry of Women and Child Development, UNICEF and supported by Vodafone India. This programme aims to tackle the challenge of malnutrition in mothers and children across India. Maneka Gandhi stated that it is an innovative initiative that will reach out to the masses specially the rural females. The idea of paying an incentive for watching these videos is really unique and encouraging. She hoped that it will make a difference in generating awareness about the issues related to health and malnutrition at a large scale. The problem of malnutrition in India is a wellknown fact and the Government has been taking various steps to address this through a number of programmes. Malnutrition is partly an issue of lack of means of nutrition and partly lack of knowledge about proper method of nutrition. The Ministry of Women and Child Development through its ICDS programme has been providing supplementary nutrition to the pregnant and lactating mothers as well as children up to the age of six years.
MERS RESPIRATORY ILLNESS CLAIMS TWO LIVES IN S KOREA
The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) has claimed two lives in South Korea and infected 25 people in two weeks. The World Health Organization (WHO) puts the total number of global MERS cases at 1,161 with at least 436 related deaths. WHO, however, has not recommended travel or trade restrictions on South Korea. MERS is caused by a coronavirus from the same family as the one that triggered the 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). However, MERS has a much higher death rate than SARS and there is no cure or vaccine at present.“Though the health agency assures that there has been no human-to-human spread of the virus in South Korea, the government has placed 700 people in isolation, fearing possible infection. According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, South Korea has reported the third-highest number of MERS cases after Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. MERS was first identified in human beings in 2012. As per WHO data, the death rate from MERS has been 38 per cent. Compared to this, the death rate from SARS was 9-12 per cent, according to the US National Library of Medicine.
BRAIN DIRECTLY CONNECTED TO IMMUNE SYSTEM
Researchers have found that the brain is directly connected to the immune system by vessels previously thought not to exist. The discovery could have profound implications for diseases from autism to Alzheimer’s to multiple sclerosis. The brain is like every other tissue connected to the peripheral immune system through meningeal lymphatic vessels. The discovery was made possible by the work of Antoine Louveau, a postdoctoral fellow in Prof. Kipnis’ lab. The vessels were detected after Mr. Louveau developed a method to mount a mouse’s meninges — the membranes covering the brain — on a single slide so that they could be examined as a whole. After noticing vessel-like patterns in the distribution of immune cells on his slides, he tested for lymphatic vessels and found them. As to how the brain’s lymphatic vessels managed to escape notice all this time, Prof. Kipnis described them as “very well hidden” and noted that they follow a  Weekly Current Affairs 31st May 2015 to 6th June, 2015 www.ias100.in major blood vessel down into the sinuses, an area difficult to image. The unexpected presence of the lymphatic vessels raises a tremendous number of questions that now need answers, both about the workings of the brain and the diseases that plague it, researchers said.
ONE-FIFTH OF FOOD SAMPLES ADULTERATED
With the favourite Indian noodle brand Maggi found containing high levels of lead and monosodium glutamate, there is a fear that a good portion of the food we buy from stores might be unfit for consumption. The Annual Public Laboratory Testing Report for 2014-15 brought out by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) stated that of the 49,290 samples of food items it tested, 8,469, nearly one-fifth, were found adulterated or misbranded. Lack of information There is no information on food samples tested in States such as West Bengal. In New Delhi, though 148 food samples tested were found violating norms, there is no information on whether any measures were taken against the companies that manufactured or sold the product. There is also no information on what the tested samples were of and if any preventive steps were taken when they were found to be adulterated. Fewer convictions However, convictions were secured in only 1,246 cases. Many food adulteration cases never reached the conviction stage. The report shows that Rs. 6.9 crore in penalties was collected from errant agencies. Data from only 14 States are available in the report. The FSSAI is a public authority, formed under the Food Safety and Standard Act, 2006, mandated to ensure that food is safe for consumption. By available data, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu were found to have the largest sample of food items violating safety standard norms. However, the number of cases reaching conviction in these States is not encouraging. l In Tamil Nadu, where over 1,047 cases of adulterated food samples were found, only 203 reached conviction. l In Madhya Pradesh, the respective figures were 1,412 and 418. In Maharashtra, 75 of 1,162 cases reached conviction. l In Uttar Pradesh, 1,223 samples were found violating safety norms, but only 83 reached conviction. By the 2006 Act, all cases of food adulteration and misbranding are punishable.
NEWS IN BRIEF
Sepp Blatter Sepp Blatter resigned as FIFA president on June 2, 2015 in the face of a U.S.-led corruption investigation that has plunged world soccer’s governing body into the worst crisis in its history. Blatter, 79, announced the decision at a news conference in Zurich, six days after the FBI raided a hotel in the city and arrested several FIFA officials and just four days after he was re-elected to a fifth term as president. Shanti Swaroop Kandala Shanti Swaroop Kandala, a second-year Ph.D. scholar at the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering of the IIT, Hyderabad, was among the 32 selected from 104 universities across 14 countries to design a mission to land astronauts on an asteroid, extract resources from it and demonstrate the usage of the raw materials. Mr. Kandala was the lone Indian student at the Caltech Space Challenge, an international student space mission design competition organised at the California Institute of Technology. The two teams formed from among the 32 participants were to produce a viable mission design for the Asteroid Redirect Mission, the next mission of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) of NASA. Every team member had a specific role, and Mr. Kandala was responsible for presenting the engineering aspect of the mission, which included launching the various modules along with new technologies for a multipurpose docking module, a robotic arm and a life-supporting system. R. Seshasayee Infosys Ltd. on June 6, 2015 announced that the company’s board had approved the appointment of R. Seshasayee as Non-Executive Chairman of the Board with immediate effect. A release from the company said K.V. Kamath would step down from his position as Chairman of the Board and as an Independent Director of the Company, consequent to his nomination as President of the BRICS bank, New Development Bank. Mr. Seshasayee has been an Independent Director on the Company’s Board since January 2011 and is the chairperson of the Audit Committee. Mr. Seshasayee’s other board positions include Non-Executive Vice Chairman of Ashok Leyland Ltd. and Chairman of IndusInd Bank Ltd.
Ameenah Gurib-Fakim Prominent scientist Ameenah Gurib-Fakim was sworn as president of Mauritius on June 05, 2015, becoming the first women to hold the ceremonial position in the Indian Ocean island nation. GuribFakim, 56, is the first female president of the island, which gained independence from Britain in 1968 and replaced Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state in 1992. Gurib-Fakim replaced Kailash Purryag.“Gurib-Fakim is currently director of the Mauritius-headquartered Centre for Phytotherapy Research (CEPHYR), which carries out research on plants for use in cosmetics, nutrition and therapy.“Mauritius is one of the richest, and least corrupt, countries in Africa, a middle-income nation of some 1.3 million people with a per capita GDP of just over $9,000 (7,200 euros). Once dependent on sugar exports, the island has built up a strong outsourcing and financial services sector, and an important tourism industry. An alumni of the universities of Exeter and Surrey in Britain, she is also the chair of organic chemistry at Mauritius University, and has worked with the World Bank and other international institutions. Syed Asif Ibrahim Former Intelligence Bureau director Syed Asif Ibrahim was on June 5, 2015 appointed as Special Envoy for counter-terrorism and extremism. Ibrahim’s role will be to help the Narendra Modi government in evolving strategies to deal with radicalisation of youths in India due to rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and security challenges in Af-Pak region.
The appointment of 62-year-old Ibrahim as Special Envoy in the National Security Council Secretariat was approved by Appointments Committee of Cabinet (ACC). He will be in the rank of Secretary to the government and will hold the post for a period of three years or until further orders. The 1977 batch IPS officer of Madhya Pradesh cadre, who had retired as Intelligence Bureau Director in December 2014, is considered an authority on issues involving the minority community and is said to have good contacts in West Asian states. Sundaram Ravi Ending an 11-year wait, Sundaram Ravi on June 4, 2015 became the first Indian after S Venkataraghvan to be inducted in the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) Elite Panel of Umpires following an annual review and selection process. New Zealand’s Chris Gaffaney and Ravi were promoted from the International Panel of Umpires to the Elite Panel, replacing Kiwi veteran Billy Bowden and the retiring Steve Davis. The Elite Panel of Umpires for 2015-2016 will be: Aleem Dar, Kumar Dharmasena, Marais Erasmus, Chris Gaffaney, Ian Gould, Richard Illingworth, Richard Kettleborough, Nigel Llong, Sundaram Ravi, Paul Reiffel, Rod Tucker and Bruce Oxenford. Ravi has umpired in six Tests, 24 ODIs and 12 T20Is, since making his international debut in Visakhapatnam in December 2011 in an ODI between India and the West Indies. Ravi was the recipient of the BCCI’s Best Umpire in Domestic Cricket Award, for 2010-11 and 2011-12 season. Ravi Shastri Former Indian skipper Ravi Shastri has been named as the interim coach of Team India during the tour of Bangladesh starting June 10, confirmed BCCI. B Arun will be the bowling coach, Sanjay Bangar will be the batting coach and R Sridhar will be the fielding coach. The Shastri wore different hats in the past with the Indian team and BCCI. Recently, Shastri played the role of Team India Director during tour of Australia and ICC cricket World Cup 2015. And now the former India all-rounder will be coaching ‘Men in Blue’ in the upcoming tour of Bangladesh, where India will play one Test and three One-Day Internationals (ODI). Meena Hemchandra The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has appointed Meena Hemchandra as the executive director who would be in charge of department of banking supervision. She will also be in charge of department of non-banking supervision and department of co-operative banking supervision. “RBI’s executive director Chandan Sinha, who was incharge of these departments will now be in charge of department of information technology, department of payment and settlement system, foreign exchange department and financial markets regulations departments- including market intelligence. The appointment of Meena Hemchandra comes as a vacancy for the post was created after G Padmanabhan retired on May 31 this year. RBI has 11 executive director in charge of various departments. JP Rajkhowa Former IAS officer Jyoti Prasad Rajkhowa was sworn in as the Governor of Arunachal Pradesh on June 1, 2015. Appointed on May 12, the 1968-batch officer has served as the chief secretary of Assam before his superannuation from service. Rajkhowa will take over from his duties from Lt. Gen Nirbhay Sharma, who has been shifted to Mizoram. Harriette Thompson A 92-year-old cancer survivor entered the record books on May 31, 2015 by becoming the oldest woman to finish a marathon. Harriette Thompson of Charlotte, North Carolina, completed Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon in San Diego in 7hr 24min 36sec. Muhammadu Buhari Muhammadu Buhari has been sworn in as Nigeria’s president, promising to bring “increased prosperity” to Africa’s most populous country. Mr Buhari, a former military ruler, has taken over from Goodluck Jonathan, who had been in office since 2010. He is the first opposition figure to win a presidential election in Nigeria since independence in 1960. He vowed to tackle ‘head on’ the issues of corruption and the insurgency from militant Islamist group Boko Haram.
Philipose G Pynumootil Rear Admiral Philipose G Pynumootil on June 1, 2015 took over as Assistant Chief of Naval staff (Air). An alumnus of the Lawrence School, Lovedale, and the National Defence Academy, he was commissioned in the Indian Navy on January 1, 1986. A rotary wing pilot, he has flown extensively during Operation Pawan, Sri Lanka, and Operation Restore Hope, Somalia. Prior to taking over his current appointment, he served as the Principal Director of Aircraft Acquisition. The Flag officer has commanded the 1241 RE corvette, INS Nashak, the missile corvette INS Kirpan and the Guided Missile Frigate INS Brahmaputra, besides doing a tenure as Executive Officer of the Guided Missile Destroyer INS Delhi. Asian Athletics Association President’s Award Scam-tainted Suresh Kalmadi has been conferred with the Asian Athletics Association President’s award for his contribution towards the development of athletics in the continent at the AAA award ceremony in Wuhan, China. Kalmadi, who was jailed and later released on bail in connection with the 2010 Commonwealth Games scam, served as president of AAA for 13 years from 2000 to 2013 and was also credited with the introduction of top events like Asian Grand Prix series, Asian Indoor Championships and Asian All Star Meet, besides other competitions. He was named Life President of the AAA in its council meeting in Jakarta in March for his contribution for Asian athletics. Athletics Federation of India President Adille Sumariwala received the award on behalf of Kalmadi from AAA President Dahlan Al-Hamad of Qatar at the function held in Wuhan, China, ahead of the start of Asian Athletics Championships. Al-Hamad had defeated Kalmadi in the presidential elections of the AAA in Pune in 2013. Friends of Bangladesh Liberation War Award Bangladesh has honoured former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for his outstanding support for the country’s independence from Pakistan in 1971 when he was a Lok Sabha member. Bangladesh has handed over Vajpayee’s “Friends of Bangladesh Liberation War Award” to Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Bangladesh from June 6. Mr. Vajpayee, who is unwell, could not visit Bangladesh to receive the honour. Foreign Ministry of Bangladesh has pointed out that from the very beginning of the Liberation War (in 1971), Mr. Vajpayee took a firm stand in favour of Bangladesh’s independence… as the then president of Bharatiya Jana Sangh and Lok Sabha member, he mobilised campaign at home and in international arena for the rights of Bangladesh’s people. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also approved a proposal to honour the families of the members of Indian armed forces for sacrificing their lives for the cause of Bangladesh’s independence. Freedom of Expression prize Former security contractor Edward Snowden won a Norwegian prize for freedom of expression Jun 2, 2015 and received yet another invitation to leave his exile and receive the award in person. The Norwegian Academy of Literature and Freedom of Expression stated that the 31-year old fugitive had won the Bjornson Prize — named after a Norwegian Nobel literature laureate — “for his work protecting privacy and for shining a critical light on US surveillance of its citizens and others.” Snowden, a former analyst at the US National Security Agency, has lived in exile in Russia since 2013 after revealing mass spying programmes by the United States and its allies. The US administration has branded him a hacker and a traitor who endangered lives by revealing the extent of the NSA spying program. The academy requested assurances from the Norwegian government that Snowden would not be extradited to the US if he travelled to Norway to receive the 100,000 kroner ($12,700, 11,500 euros) prize money in person on September 5. Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2015 Ali Smith has won the 2015 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction for her novel ‘How To Be Both’. The £30,000 (around $50,000 CAD) award honours the best fiction in the U.K. written by women – regardless of nationality. A novel about the versatility of art, ‘How to be both’ spans some 600 years and tells two distinct AWARDS  Weekly Current Affairs 31st May 2015 to 6th June, 2015 www.ias100.in stories: that of a Renaissance artist in the 15th century and a teenager coming of age in the present day. The award has been around since 1996, and Baileys became the title sponsor in 2013. Past winners include Ann Patchett, Lionel Shriver, Zadie Smith, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Canadians Anne Michaels and Carol Shields. OBITUARY Irwin Rose Irwin Rose, a biochemist who shared the 2004 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovering a way that cells destroy unwanted proteins the basis for developing new therapies for diseases such as cervical cancer and cystic fibrosis has died. He was 88. Rose, along with Israelis Aaron Ciechanover and Avram Hershko, won the Nobel for discovering how plant and animal cells marked old and damaged proteins with a “kiss of death” molecule — the polypeptide ubiquitin. The proteins are then chopped to pieces. Hemant Sonawala Hemant Sonawala, one of the founders of the country’s IT industry and chairman of Hinditron Group, passed away on May 30, 2015 at the age of 78. Sonawala was one of the founders of the domestic IT industry, having started Hinditron way back in 1966 and its computer division in 1971. He was also the founder of Digital Equipment India, which later became a part of HP India in 1988. Digital Equipment India was the first technology IPO in India. “Sonawala was associated with the Computer Society of India, the IEEE, NASSCOM, Indo American Chamber of Commerce and Ficci. The Hinditron Group is engaged in IT, scientific instrumentation and tele-communication services. Hiroshi Koizumi Hiroshi Koizumi, a Japanese actor who appeared in several early Godzilla films, has died at the age of 88. He died in Tokyo on May 31, 2015 from pneumonia. Koizumi played the human lead in 1955’s Godzilla Raids Again, the sequel to Toho Studio’s first Godzilla film, which was released the previous year. He went on to appear in a string of monster films, including Mothra, Godzilla vs The Thing and Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster. Koizumi’s other Godzilla films included Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla (1974), The Return of Godzilla (1984) and Godzilla: Tokyo SOS (2003). His other credits included 47 Samurai in 1962, which also starred Toshiro Mifune, and 1963 war film Attack Squadron. ART & CULTURE Cultivation of paddy threat to Hampi monuments Cultivation of paddy and sugarcane pose a threat to the conservation of the historical Hampi group of monuments, says UNESCO in its “State of Conservation” report on the World Heritage Site. Though the recently-published report commends the Hampi World Heritage Area Management Authority (HWHAMA) – which manages the site – for progress in numerous issues, it flags irrigation for water-intensive agriculture, traffic close to the site and seasonal flooding of the Tungabhadra as challenges. The threat of agriculture, explains archaeologists, is water-logging that weakens the foundation of minor monuments situated on farm land. There have been incidents of monuments sinking or damage caused due to dampness and wetness. The HWHAMA had, in their submission to the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO in February, expressed the same concern and had even chalked out a broad plan involving awareness on sustainable practises to protect monuments and artefacts that might be lying buried in the area. The UNESCO report, however, praises the efforts of the authority in clearing debris from the collapsed Anegundi bridge. It must be remembered that construction of the bridge had put the site in the “danger” category between 1999 and 2006. MISCELLANEOUS Government Launches Khoya Paya Website A web portal to be used as social medium for people to share information about missing children was launched on May 2, 2015 by the Union www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  government. Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi and Information and Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad jointly launched the website ‘Khoya-Paya’, a platform for citizens to report children sighted as abandoned or lost.““Any parent whose child is missing can update information on this portal which will be shared with the cops and authorities in real time. Anyone in the country can also update information on any missing children they are aware of.“There are approximately 70,000 children who are reported missing every year. Jharkhand tops the list of states which see cases of missing children and those of child trafficking. These children mostly end up working as child labour in big cities or are thrown into sex trade. In almost all these cases, the families of such children are extremely poor, illiterate and can’t even afford three meals a day. Using the Internet is out of the question for them. The people who can help them, on the ground and with this website, are either NGOs which are already overburdened, or cops who are mostly indifferent. The real challenge on the ground perhaps is to change attitudes. SPORTS French Open Title Top-seed Serena Williams recovered from a second-set wobble to beat Lucie Safarova and win her third French Open title. The 6-3, 6-7, 6-2 win also sealed Williams’ 20th grand slam, a feat that looked difficult after illness had prevented her from practising on the eve of the final. The American looked completely out of sorts during her three-set semi-final win over Swiss outsider Timea Bacsinszky. Safarova had reached the final after beating former winner Ana Ivanovic 7-5, 7-5 to become the first female Czech player in 34 years to reach the French Open final. Safarova looked down and out as she trailed 4-1 in the second set. However, she rallied back to lead 5-4 but Williams showed her class to win three games in a row to serve for the match. Safarova was not finished yet. She broke Williams and forced the second set into a tie-break before winning it to square the match. But Williams came back strongly in the deciding set and won the last six games to win the claycourt major for the third time after her 2002 and 2013 titles. After winning the Australian Open earlier this year, Williams is in contention to become the first female tennis player since Steffi Graf in 1988 to win a calender grand slam. Men’s Singles Stan Wawrinka defeated Novak Djokovicin the final, 4–6, 6–4, 6–3, 6–4, to win his first French Open and second Grand Slam title. Women’s Singles Serena Williams won her third French Open title and 20th major overall, defeating first-time Grand Slam finalist Šafárová in the final, 6–3, 6– 7(2–7), 6–2. This win also gave Williams her third Career Grand Slam. Women’s Doubles Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Šafárová won their second consecutive Grand Slam title, defeating Casey Dellacqua and Yaroslava Shvedova in the final, 3–6, 6–4, 6–2. Men’s Doubles Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo went on to win the title, defeating Bob and Mike Bryan in the final, 6–7(5–7), 7–6(7–5), 7–5. Mixed Doubles Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Mike Bryan won the title, defeating Lucie Hradecká and Marcin Matkowski in the final, 7–6 (7–3), 6–1. Australian Open Badminton World No 1 Chen Long was taken to three games before downing Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen to win the Australian Open badminton superseries final Sydney on June 1, 2015. The Chinese star defeated world number nine Axelsen 21-12, 14-21, 21-18 in one hour and 17 minutes. Chen now leads Axelsen 4-0 in their tournament meetings. Chen had reached the men’s final after beating 10th-ranked Tian Houwei 21-14, 21-19 in an allChinese semifinal. Women’s singles Spain’s world number three Carolina Marin took the women’s singles in a tight contest with China’s sixth-ranked Wang Shixian 22-20, 21-18 in just under an hour. It was a big week for the Spaniard, who beat  Weekly Current Affairs 31st May 2015 to 6th June, 2015 www.ias100.in South Korea’s world number seven Sung Ji-Hyun 21-13, 21-14 to reach final after losing to India’s Saina Nehwal in last year’s tournament decider. Final Results: Men: Chen Long (Chn) bt Viktor Axelsen (Den) 21-12, 14-21, 21-18. Women: Carolina Marin (Esp) bt Wang Shixian (Chn) 22-20, 21-18. Antalya Archery World Cup Archer? Deepika Kumari stuns world number 8, Chang Hye Jin, on May 31, 2015 to win bronze medal in Women’s Recurve event at Antalya Archery World Cup. Deepika beat the South Korea in straight sets 6-2 (26-25, 29-26, 26-28, 28-27) to stamp her authority. Earlier, the 20-year-old archer put up a brave fight in the semi-finals but was denied a place in the final by Olympic gold medallist Ki Bo Bae of Korea. Deepika was the only Indian who made it to the last four as veteran Dola Banerjee, Satbir Kaur and Snehal Divakar all lost in the first round in individual women’s recurve competition. The former world number one began the tournament with a resounding 6-0 victory over Christine Bjerendal of Sweden. The ninth seed then thrashed Anastasia Pavlova of Ukraine 7-3 and edged past American La Nola Pritchard 6-5 to reach the pre-quarters. After beating Kaori Kawanaka of Japan 6-4, the in-form Indian archer defeated Taipei’s Shih-Chia Lin 7-3 to set up a meeting with multiple Olympic and World Championships gold medallist Korean Ki Bo Bae. However, with a 4-6 loss to Bae, the Indian set her eyes on the bronze medal against second-seeded Hye Jin Chang of Korea. And eventually Deepika beat her to win the bronze in Turkey. In the Antalya 2015 recurve women’s event Misun Choi (KOR) and Bo Bae Ki (KOR) won gold and silver respectively. 21st Asian athletics championships Vikas Gowda was far away from his season’s best but still retained his men’s discus throw title at the 21st Asian athletics championships in Wuhan, China on June 6, 2015. There was more joy for India with Lalita Babar winning the 3,000m steeplechase, her maiden Asian gold. G. Lakshmanan took the men’s 10,000m silver to add to the 5,000m bronze he had won earlier. With Iran’s Ehsan Hadadi, the 2012 London Olympics silver medallist who completed a hattrick of Asian Games titles in Incheon last year, not in the best of form and fitness this season — he had a ‘no-mark’ against his name here — Gowda had it easy though he was not anywhere close to his 65.75m which came in the USA in April. Miles behind was Kuwait’s Eisa Zankawi with a 61.57 for silver. Jinson Johnson (1:51.55s) booked a berth in the men’s 800 final as the seventh fastest while Dharambir Singh, the country’s quickest this year, entered the 200m as third fastest qualifier with 20.87s. Bahrain’s Nigeria-born Kemi Adekoya, clocked a world-leading time of 54.31s to win gold in the women’s 400m hurdles. Anu Raghavan missed a medal while finishing fourth in the women’s 400m hurdles in a personal best 57.79s.