Current Affairs 5TH JULY 2015 TO 11TH JULY, 2015
INDIGENOUS AAKASH MISSILE INDUCTED IN IAF
The indigeniously-developed supersonic surfaceto-air missile “Akash” that can target aircraft upto a distance of 30 km, was on July 10, 2015 formally inducted in the Indian Air Force by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar in Gwalior. The missile system can target aircraft upto 30 km away, at altitudes upto 18,000 metres. It has the capability to neutralise aerial targets like fighter jets, cruise missiles and air-to-surface missiles. “IAF has given an initial contract for eight squadrons of Akash defence system. Each squadron has two firing units with four launchers. Each launcher has a capacity to fire three missiles in quick succession. The Akash system has been developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)and Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) is the production agency. The missile, having a speed three times faster than that of sound, can hit eight targets at a time. Akash has already been deployed by IAF at its bases in Gwalior, Hashimara, Tejpur, Jorhat and Pune. The deployment started in 2013. It is pertinent to note that Akash is the first made-in-India missile system and is a hallmark of sustained and focused jointmanship between DRDO, BEL, private sector and more importantly the IAF. Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, who formally received the ‘key’ of the Akash system from Parrikar, said that a total of 27 missiles had been fired after inking of the contract, to ascertain the serviceability of the system in various conditions and a high success rate had been achieved. He said that plans were afoot in the IAF for procurement of additional Akash systems. Akash is a potent supersonic mobile multidirectional, multi-target point, area Air Defence system that can simultaneously engage multiple air targets using sophisticated multi-function phased array radars. The advanced ECCM (Electronic Counter Counter Measures) features provide secure communication links with other Air Defence Command and Control networks to handle the counter electronic warfare scenario. Indigenous development of Akash system has given impetus to the defence industrial base of the country and generated business of more than Rs 20,000 crore. Akash is the outcome of successful partnership between DRDL, the nodal lab in DRDO, along with 13 other DRDO labs, 19 Public Sector Units, 5 Ordinance Factories, 3 National Laboratories, 6 academic institutions and more than 265 private industries across the country. The surface-to-air missile, prepared using 92 per cent of indigenous machinery, can be transported anywhere via road, water or air transport. The missile can track a target 100 km away and hit the enemy’s helicopter, plane or drone from a 25-km distance. The missile’s radar, developed by BEL, has been named “Rajendra Rada”.
VILLAGES WITH IB TO BE DEVELOPED ON PRIORITY
All villages located within 10 km of the international border will be developed on a priority basis with special emphasis on promotion of sports activities and rural tourism. This was decided by the Home Ministry in consultation with Union Ministries like Rural Development, Sports, Health and Family Welfare and HRD. While the sports activities include rock climibing, river rafting, forest tracking, special initiatives will be taken for development of goshala, fishery ponds etc. A fresh guideline has also been issued by the Home Ministry saying that the Border Area Development Programme (BADP) has been extended to cover all the villages which are located within the 0-10 km of the international border. Priority will be given to those villages located within 0-10 km from the international border and within that the villages identified by the Border Guarding Forces (BGF) shall get upper-most priority. The funds under BADP are provided to the www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  states as a 100 per cent non-lapsable special central assistance. The programme is supplemental in nature and the budget allocation for the financial year 2015-16 is Rs.990 crore. The list of schemes permissible under BADP has been expanded to include schemes and activities relating to swatchhta aabhiyan, skill development programmes, promotion of sports activities in border areas, promotion of rural tourism/ border tourism; protection of heritage sites. Construction of helipads in remote and inaccessible hilly areas, which do not have road connectivity, skill development training to farmers for use of modern or scientific technique in farming, organic farming are some other areas to be given emphasis. Provision for third party inspection and quality control mechanism under Home Ministry for random inspections of BADP schemes by independent monitors (Individual/ Agency) to be designated as National Quality Monitors has been made. It has been provided that the state governments shall have the monitoring of BADP schemes by the existing district-level monitoring/ vigilance committee where local Members of Parliament and MLAs are represented. Special/specific area schemes such as composite development of at least one village of sizeable population surrounded by five-six or more villages close to the border as model village, swachh bharat abhiyan, construction of toilets in schools, public places particularly for women, warehouses for food grains and fodder in hilly areas particularly in snow-bound areas of Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, E-chaupals, agrishops, mobile media vans etc. have been made. About Border Area Development Programme Border Area Development Programme (BADP) has been implemented in 367 border blocks of 104 border districts in 17 states. The main objective of BADP is to meet special developmental needs and wellbeing of the people living in remote and inaccessible areas situated near the international border and to saturate the border areas with the entire essential infrastructure through convergence of central/state/ BAD/local schemes and participatory approach. BADP was started in 1986-87 for balanced development of border areas in Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Gujarat and Rajasthan and subsequently it was extended to all the land borders.
RASHTRIYA AVISHKAR ABHIYAN: TO DEVELOP SCIENTIFIC TEMPER AMONG SCHOOL CHILDREN
Former President of India, Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam, launched the Rashtriya Avishkar Abhiyan (RAA) on July 9, 2015 in New Delhi. While launching the Abhiyan, Dr. Abdul Kalam focused on developing the spirit of innovation and experimentation among students. He further laid stress on four qualities of uniqueness: Great Aim, Quest of Knowledge, Hard Work, and Perseverance. Highlight of Rashtriya Avishkar Abhiyan l Rashtriya Avishkar Abhiyan is a unique concept developed by the Ministry of Human Resource Development that aims to inculcate a spirit of inquiry, creativity and love for Science and Mathematics in school children. l Union Minister for Human Resource Development, Smriti Irani, highlighted the fact that RAA is an initiative by Ministry of HRD to encourage students to learn sciences beyond the classrooms. l It is an effort to take forward the Prime Minister’s vision of Digital India, ‘Make in India’ and ‘Teach in India’. l She also emphasized the fact that more and more women should be encouraged to participate in the field of science and technologies. l She talked of efforts made by INTEL for nurturing scientific temper among girl students. l She also mentioned Google India’s initiative of Code to Learn Contest which will enable students to learn in the Google campus and announced that Phase II of RAA will be launched in January, 2016 for higher education under which model science labs will be established in all districts of the North Eastern States. l Under Rashtriya Avishkar Abhiyan, government schools will be mentored by Institutes like IITs/ IIMs/ IISERs and other Central Universities and reputed organisations through innovative programmes, student exchanges, demonstrations, student visits, etc to develop a natural sense of passion towards learning of Science and Maths.
ENTIRE NAGALAND DECLARED AS ‘DISTURBED AREA’
The Centre has declared entire Nagaland as a “disturbed area” as it finds that a “dangerous condition” prevails in the State and armed forces should assist the civil administration in maintaining law and order. In a gazette notification, the Home Ministry said it was of the opinion that the whole of Nagaland is in such a disturbed or dangerous condition that the use of armed forces in aid of civil power is necessary. Now, therefore, in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 3 of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958, the Central government hereby declares that whole of the said State to be a disturbed area for a period of one year with effect from June 30, 2015 for the purpose of the Act, Joint Secretary in the Home Ministry Shambu Singh said in the notification. The decision came almost a month after NSCNK, the dominant Naga rebel group, attacked an army convoy in Manipur’s Chandel district and killed 18 soldiers.
WORLD BANK: MNREGA WORLD’S LARGEST PUBLIC WORKS PROGRAMME
India’s rural employment guarantee programme MNREGA has been ranked as the world’s largest public works programme, providing social security net to almost 15 per cent of the country’s population, World Bank has said. India is among the five middle-income countries running the world’s largest social safety net programmes, said a World Bank Group’s report ‘The State of Social Safety Nets 2015′. World Bank Group’s report stated that the world’s five largest social safety net programmes are all in middle-income countries (China, India, South Africa and Ethiopia) and reach over 526 million people, it added. The combined spending on social safety nets in 120 developing countries amounted to about $329 billion between 2010 and 2014. India’s Mid-day meal scheme has been classified as biggest school feeding programme benefiting 105 million beneficiaries. The top honours for public works programme went to MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Gurantee Act) with 182 million beneficiaries or 15 per cent of India’s population. The World Bank ranked the Janani Suraksha Yojna with 78 million beneficiaries as the top-most social security programme with conditional cash transfers. Also, it ranked the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme as the secondlargest unconditional cash transfer social security progamme in the world. The World Bank Group and the ILO share a vision of social protection for all, a world where anyone who needs social protection can access it at any time, said Jim Yong Kim, World Bank Group President and Guy Ryder, Executive Director, ILO, in their joint statement. The report further stressed on the need to improve the efficiency of social safety net programmes by strengthening countries’ capacity to target, integrate, administer, and evaluate social protection programmes, such as social and beneficiary registries. Well-designed programs are cost-effective, costing countries only between 1.5 per cent and 1.9 per cent of GDP – far less than most government spending on fuel subsidies. It also said that the safety net programmes must be more efficient and effective to close the coverage gap.
UNIFORM CIVIL CODE UNDERLINE
The Supreme Court on July 6, 2015 directed that unwed mothers can get birth certificates issued for their biological children merely by furnishing an affidavit to this effect. In the present case, the legal battle for the woman, a Christian, started in 2011 when the local Guardian Court rejected her application under the Guardians and Wards Act after she refused to part with the father’s details or name. Under Section 11 of the Act, a mother applying for sole guardianship needs prior consent of the biological father. Section 19 goes further to say that a mother cannot be the sole guardian if the father is alive and fit. Her appeal in the Delhi High Court was dismissed for the same reason. In fact, the High Court even reasoned that her status as a single mother could only be determined after hearing from the father too. In its judgment, the Supreme Court acknowledged www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  that the “predominant legal thought across the world and in some statutes in India” is that a mother is best suited to care for her child. The court further made this a strong case for ushering in a Uniform Civil Code. Christian unwed mothers in India are disadvantaged when compared to their Hindu counterparts, who are the natural guardians of their illegitimate children by virtue of their maternity alone. It would be apposite for us to underscore that our Directive Principles envision the existence of a Uniform Civil Code, but this remains an unaddressed constitutional expectation.
UN NOTES PROGRESS ON MDGS, BUT SAYS CHALLENGES REMAIN FOR INDIA
India has made notable progress towards realising the Millennium Development Goals, including of reducing poverty by half and securing gender parity, but the achievements across the goals vary, a major UN report has revealed. India has already achieved the target of reducing poverty by half by official estimates and is close to doing so by international estimates. It has already achieved gender parity in primary school enrolment and is likely to reach parity in secondary and tertiary education also by 2015, revealed the report on Millennium Development Goals released by the United Nations Economic and Social Communication for Asia-Pacific (UN-ESCAP). While India is on track to achieving the hunger targets, it remains home to one quarter of the world’s under-nourished population and nearly a third of world’s underweight children, the report said. India also has nearly a third of the world’s food insecure people, it added. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon had released a 2015 report on Millennium Development Goals on July 6, 2015. Noted economist and member, NITI Aayog, Bibek Debroy, along with Nagesh Kumar, Head, UN-ESCAP, and Rebecca Tavares released the MDG report and AsiaPacific MDG report in New Delhi on July 7, 2015. The report revealed that while India is on track to achieving gender parity at all levels of education, women’s literacy rates lag behind that of men, indicating poorer learning outcomes for the fairer sex. Securing opportunities for women and ensuring their empowerment remain major development challenges. India on track in cutting poverty India has halved its incidence of extreme poverty, from 49.4% in 1994 to 24.7% in 2011 ahead of the deadline of 2015 set by the United Nations, showed the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Report 2015. The report set the limit for extreme poverty as those living on $1.25 or less a day. However, this reduction in poverty is still less than that achieved by several of India’s poorer neighbours. Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh have each outstripped India in poverty reduction over comparable time periods. While the report stated that India is on-track to achieving the hunger targets, it still remains home to one quarter of the world’s undernourished population, over a third of the world’s underweight children, and nearly a third of the world’s foodinsecure people The report is especially important because it marks the deadline by which the MDG should have been achieved. India has already achieved 11 out of 22 parameters in the report—spanning issues like education, poverty, health, and education— and is on track to achieve one more by the end of 2015.
INDIA MAKING TARDY CHANGE ON MATERNAL MORTALITY
Though India has halved its incidence of extreme poverty, it is categorised as making ‘slow’ progress on the other 10 parameters including maternal mortality, access to sanitation etc., according to the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Report 2015. India hasn’t done that badly on the poverty goals. It hasn’t even done that badly on the education MDGs. The gross enrolment rate in almost every State you can think of is more than one. You can point towards the quality of education and the high drop-out rates, but at least one is getting them to school, said member of NITI Aayog Dr Bibek Debroy at the release of the report. India’s pace of progress on the povertyreduction goal seems relatively slower than its neighbours in some part also due to the significantly bigger size and greater diversity. While there are pockets of good performance, there are also sections that fare very poorly, and this brings the national [ 8 ] Weekly Current Affairs 5th July 2015 to 11th July, 2015 www.ias100.in average down, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) South and South-West Asia Head Nagesh Kumar noted. India was still lagging on several health parameters such as maternal mortality, infant mortality and basic sanitation. Although the infant mortality rate fell drastically from 88.2 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 43.8 in 2012, the annual progress on this has been slow. The same can be said for the maternal mortality rate, which fell from 560 per lakh live births in 1990 to 190 in 2013. Dr Debroy also noted that these health indicators must be looked at carefully since many were interconnected. Suppose no infant dies, then you have many malnourished children that have survived. What does that do to the ‘underweight children’ parameter? One should not make quick conclusions on the basis of such parameters. Fall in Co2 emission On the environment front, India is one of the few countries that has reduced its carbon dioxide emissions in relation to its GDP. India emitted 0.65 kg of carbon dioxide per $1 of GDP in 1990, which fell to 0.53 kg in 2010.
DRAMATIC DROP IN NUMBER OF UNDERFED CHILDREN: UNICEF
Despite remarkable improvements in child nutrition over the last decade in India, some States, such as Gujarat, have struggled to reduce the numbers of underweight and stunted children, new data showed. In October and November 2014, the nationallevel findings of the Rapid Survey on Children (RSOC), a sample survey of over one lakh households conducted by the UNICEF. Those numbers showed that both child stunting and the number of underweight children had fallen to a historic low — from 48 per cent in 2004-05 to 39 per cent in 2013-14 in the case of stunting and from 42.5 per cent to 30 per cent in the case of.
INS TEG TO CONTINUE SURVEILLANCE OPERATIONS IN EEZ
A stealth frigate of the Indian Navy, INS Teg, is currently on a two-month long deployment in the South Indian Ocean with an aim to provide surveillance support in the region. This is in keeping with India’s national objective of ensuring a secure and stable regional environment to allow unhindered economic and social development, not just in India, but also in the entire Indian Ocean Region. The Indian Navy, while shouldering its security responsibilities, is committed to these objectives and has been contributing in capacity building and capability enhancement of friendly foreign countries as and when requested by them. “INS Teg is scheduled to visit Port Louis, Mauritius from 13 – 17 Jul and 23 – 26 Jul 15. During the deployment, the ship will undertake joint patrolling and surveillance operations with the Mauritian National Coast Guard ships. The joint patrolling is aimed at preventing piracy and illegal fishing and would help reinforce maritime security in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Mauritius. In addition, INS Teg would also assist local authorities in providing assistance in terms of logistics and medical support to the outer islands of Agalega and St Brandon. The Indian Navy has been deploying ships to Mauritius bi-annually since 2009 to assist in patrolling the vast EEZ of the country. These deployments have facilitated varied professional interactions with the Mauritian NCG, which have fostered seamless maritime interoperability between the two maritime nations and helped develop a strong bond of friendship and mutual trust that underpin Indo-Mauritian partnership. These visits also reinforce the cultural and ethnic ties of the two countries and are a testimony to the joint commitment towards maritime security in the region. It may be recalled that the ship reached Port Victoria, Seychelles on 26 Jun 15 as part of its mission to carry out joint EEZ surveillance in the Seychellois EEZ in areas selected Numbers of stunted and underweight children fall www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  by Seychelles Coast Guard, with SCG personnel embarked onboard till 09 Jul 15. The ship also carried items required for maintenance of SCG ships. A technical team of the ship also provided necessary assistance for minor defect rectification on various SCG ships. Additionally, the ship’s team also visited the Missionaries of Charity Old Age Home at Anse Etoile and interacted with the inmates as well as provided medical support and other assistance. The visit also coincided with Seychelles’ National Day celebrations on 29 Jun 15, in which a 25-man marching contingent and Naval Band participated in the prestigious annual military parade. This deployment added another chapter to the strong defence and maritime cooperation between India and Seychelles. INS Teg is a state-of-the-art guided missile frigate of the Indian Navy and is based at Mumbai. With a displacement of 4000 tons and speed of 30 knots, she is armed with the latest weapons and is capable of accomplishing a wide variety of missions.
SRI LANKA’S PRESIDENT DISSOLVED PARLIAMENT
Sri Lanka’s president dissolved parliament in an effort to consolidate power and push through political reforms. To elect a new parliament fresh elections will be held on 17 August. The election will come eight months ahead of the scheduled date in April 2016. However, the President had promised to dissolve the parliament on April 23 of this year at the conclusion of 100 days of his new government. He held the decision back to implement his reforms – both constitutional and electoral. Mr Sirisena appointed a minority government headed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe after defeating Mahinda Rajapaksa in the January presidential election. The President, Maithripala Sirisena, needed parliamentary support to push through reforms he had promised, including limits on the powers of the executive presidency. Although the constitutional reform in the form of 19th Amendment was approved in late April, the electoral reforms or the 20A ran into a snag as political parties failed to reach consensus on the ideal system of elections to replace the current proportional representation system. The timing of the parliamentary elections is also important. The United Nations Human Rights Council is expected to release a report in September on human rights abuses during the final phase of the war against the Tamil insurgency in 2009. The report could affect an attempt by Sirisena’s predecessor, Mahinda Rajapaksa to stage a comeback. But Rajapaska’s supporters believe if the report criticises him for war-time abuses, it might actually help him with Sri Lanka’s majority Sinhalese community. He will be seen to be standing up to foreigners trying to interfere in the small island nation. One of Sri Lanka’s key parties, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), is split between Sirisena and Rajapaksa. For the moment, political analysts say, the split has given the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) an edge in the election. The dissolution came ahead of no-confidence motions against Wickremesinghe and finance minister Ravi Karunanayake, and a parliamentary committee report on a alleged bond scam under the new government.
50 NATIONS SIGN AGREEMENT ON CHINA-LED AIIB
50 Founding countries signed on an agreement providing the legal framework for the China-led USD 100 billion multilateral Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) which is being seen as a rival to the US and Europe-dominated banking institutions. l The 60-article agreement specified each member’s share as well as governance structure and policy-making mechanism of the bank, which is designed to finance infrastructure in Asia. l Australia was the first country to sign the agreement, followed by 49 other members. l Seven more countries are due to sign by the end of the year. l India was among the 50 founding countries that signed the agreement. l The AIIB will have authorised capital of USD 100 billion, and Asian countries will contribute to up to 75 per cent of the total capital. l Each member will be allocated a share of the quota based on their economic size, according to the agreement. l China, India and Russia are the three largest shareholders, taking a 30.34 per cent, 8.52 per cent, 6.66 per cent stake, respectively. l Their voting shares are calculated at 26.06 per cent, 7.5 per cent and 5.92 per cent. l China will have 26.06 per cent of the voting rights within the multilateral institution, giving it a veto in some key decisions despite its insistence it will not have such powers. www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  l The AIIB is designed to finance infrastructure construction in the continent. l The AIIB, which will have billions of dollars to lend, is expected to go into operation later this year. l AIIB will uphold high standards and follow international rules in its operation, policymaking and management to ensure efficiency and transparency. l The US and Japan, which oppose the AIIB, are the most prominent countries not to join. l The establishment of the new financial institution is seen as a diplomatic win for China, the world’s second largest economy. l The AIIB was proposed by President Xi Jinping in October 2013. l A year later, 21 Asian nations, including China, India, Malaysia, Pakistan and Singapore, had signed an agreement to establish the bank, which will be headquartered in Beijing. l The AIIB is seen as a rival to the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.
GREECE: THE FIRST DEVELOPED NATION TO DEFAULT ON AN IMF PAYMENT
Greece slipped deeper into its financial abyss after the bailout program it has relied on for five years expired. The country failed to repay a loan due to the International Monetary Fund. l With its failure to repay the roughly 1.6 billion euros (US$1.8 billion) to the IMF, Greece became the first developed country to fall into arrears on payments to the fund. l The last country to do so was Zimbabwe in 2001. l After the expiry of Greece’s international bailout, the country lost access to billions of euros in funds. l At the same time, Greece has said it will not be able to make a payment of 1.6 billion euros ($1.8 billion) to the IMF. l With its economy teetering on the brink, Greece suffered its second sovereign downgrade in as many days when the Fitch ratings agency lowered it further into junk status, to just one notch above the level where it considers default inevitable. l The agency said the breakdown of negotiations “has significantly increased the risk that Greece will not be able to honour its debt obligations in the coming months, including bonds held by the private sector.”
GREEK PM CALLS REFERENDUM ON BAILOUT TERMS
The Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras has call for a referendum on the bailout accord that international creditors have proposed to keep the debt-stricken country afloat. Tsipras’s leftist-led government had decided a package of austerity measures proposed by the country’s creditors – made in a last-ditch effort to avert default – would be put to popular vote. l Greeks would be asked whether they wanted to accept or reject excoriating tax hikes and pension cuts that the EU, ECB and International Monetary Fund have set as a condition to release desperately needed bailout funds. l Greece’s current rescue programme, already extended once, expired on 30 June. l The Greek parliament, in an emergency step, would convene so that the referendum could be called in line with the constitution. l The recipient of €240bn in bailout funds – the biggest rescue programme in global financial history – Greece has seen its economy contract by more than a quarter, unemployment soar and poverty levels rise precipitously under the weight of draconian budget cuts and tax increased demanded by creditors.
US SUPREME COURT RULED AGAINST EPA’S LIMIT
A divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled against federal regulators’ attempts to limit power plant emissions of mercury and other hazardous air pollutants. It’s a blow to U.S. efforts to inspire other countries to control their emissions as they approach Paris talks on a new global climate treaty in 2016. l The challenge was brought by industry groups and 21 Republican-led states, which argued that the regulations were too costly for coal miners, businesses and consumers. l The case is the latest in a string of attacks against the Obama administration’s actions to [ 1 2 ] Weekly Current Affairs 5th July 2015 to 11th July, 2015 www.ias100.in use the Clean Air Act to rein in pollution from coal-burning power plants. l The rules began to take effect in April, but the court split 5-4 along ideological lines to decide that the Environmental Protection Agency failed to take their cost into account when the agency first decided to regulate the toxic emissions from coal- and oil-fired plants. l The EPA did factor in costs at a later stage when it wrote standards that are expected to reduce the toxic emissions by 90 per cent. l They were supposed to be fully in place next year. l The issue was whether health risks are the only consideration under the Clean Air Act. l In the case of mercury, the costs of installing and operating equipment to remove the pollutants before they are dispersed into the air are hefty — $9.6 billion US a year. l But the benefits are much greater, $37 billion to $90 billion annually. l The savings stem from the prevention of up to 11,000 deaths, 4,700 nonfatal heart attacks and 540,000 lost days of work. l Mercury accumulates in fish and is especially dangerous to pregnant or breastfeeding women, and young children, because of concern that too much could harm a developing brain. l The case now goes back to lower courts for the EPA to decide how to account for costs. l The EPA said it is reviewing the court’s decision and will determine any appropriate next steps. l More than 70 per cent of power plants already have installed controls to comply with the rules,. l EPA is readying rules expected to be released sometime this summer aimed at curbing pollution from coal-burning power plants that is linked to global warming. l States have already challenged those rules even before they are final, and Congress is working on a bill that would allow states to opt out of any rules clamping down on heat-trapping carbon dioxide.
MAJOR POWERS, IRAN EXTEND INTERIM DEAL
The Iranian interim nuclear accord originally scheduled to close by the end of this month was extended until July 10. The extension will allow for more time to negotiate the terms of a final deal. This could be the tipping point for oil prices. l A preliminary agreement was reached two months ago, but since then it had appeared not enough progress was made. The market had expected an extension. l “The P5+1 and Iran have decided to extend the measures under the Joint Plan of Action to allow more time for negotiations to reach a long-term solution on the Iran nuclear issue. l The so-called “P5+1” are the six major powers negotiating with Iran—Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States. l U.S. officials suggested that significant backtracking by Tehran’s negotiators may need several more days of discussions to resolve. Joint Plan of Action on the Iran nuclear issue On November 24, 2013, Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) reached an interim deal on Iran’s nuclear program. The agreement, or Joint Plan of Action, required Iran and the P5+1 countries to take specific steps over six-months while negotiators worked on a comprehensive deal. Implementation of the interim agreement began on January 20, 2014 and was to last through July 20, 2014. However, negotiators announced on July 19 that the talks would be extended through November 24. The parties agreed to extend the provisions of the six-month interim deal through that date, and added additional commitments for Iran and the P5+1 to undertake during that period. On November 24, 2014, Iran and the P5+1 announced a second extension that would leave the obligations from the interim agreement in place and add some additional measures. Under the extension, the parties agreed to reach a political agreement within four months and then complete the necessary technical annexes by June 30. The following chart tracks the progress made by each side on the specific tasks spelled out in the Joint Plan of Action. The additional commitments from both extensions are listed separately, below the obligations of the original agreement. During the announcement of the second extension on November 24, 2014, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said both Iran and the P5+1 have implemented their commitments from the Joint Plan of Action and there have been no violations of the agreement. In total, the obligations have frozen Iran’s nuclear program and rolled back the most proliferation-sensitive elements. In return, Iran is receiving limited sanctions relief and access to frozen assets. The full text of the Joint Plan of Action is available here. The White House factsheet on implementation is available here and the European Union factsheet is available below. Iranian Actions Status: l By January 20, halt production of near-20% enriched uranium hexafluoride gas (UF6) and commit to only enrich up to 5%. Completed – According to the January 20 IAEA report, Iran had halted enrichment to 20% UF6. l By January 20, disable the configuration of the centrifuge cascades Iran has been using to produce 20% enriched UF6. Completed – According to the January 20 IAEA report, Iran had ceased operating its interconnected centrifuges enriching to 20% UF6. The February 20 IAEA report said that Iran is now using the four cascades at Fordow to enrich uranium to 5%. l On January 20, continue conversion of half of its stockpile of near-20% uranium hexafluoride [ 1 4 ] Weekly Current Affairs 5th July 2015 to 11th July, 2015 www.ias100.in gas (UF6) into uranium oxide powder as working stock for fabricating fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor. Completed – According to the July 20 IAEA report, Iran completed the process of converting half of its stockpile of 20% enriched UF6 gas (~104 kg) to uranium oxide powder. l On January 20, begin dilution of half of its stockpile of 20% UF6 to no more than 5% enriched UF6 and complete dilution by April 20. Completed – According to the April IAEA report, Iran completed the dilution of half of its stockpile of 20 percent-enriched uranium. l Continue only its safeguarded research and development practices, including its current enrichment research practices, which were not designated for accumulation of the enriched uranium. Completed – In the February 20 IAEA report, the agency verified that Iran was continuing its safeguarded research and development practices at Natanz and was not using the research to accumulate uranium as it tested advanced models. By April 20, provide the IAEA with: l Plans for nuclear facilities. Completed – Iran submitted details on site selection for 16 nuclear power plants to the IAEA, its initial plans for 10 future enrichment sites, and a light water reactor. l Descriptions of buildings located on nuclear sites. Completed. l The scale of operations for each location. Completed. l Information on uranium mines and mills. Completed – According to the May 23 IAEA report, Iran has visited the Gchine Mine, the Saghand Mine and the Ardakan Uranium production plant. l Information on source material. Completed – Iran provided the IAEA with information about source material on April 20, according to the May 23 IAEA report. l Submit an updated Design Information Questionnaire (DIQ) for the reactor at Arak (IR-40). Completed – Iran submitted at updated DIQ on the reactor to the IAEA on February 12, according to the agency’s Feb. 20 report. l Take steps to conclude a safeguards approach with the IAEA for the Arak reactor. Completed l Allow daily IAEA inspector access at Fordow and Nantanz, including scheduled and unannounced inspections and access to surveillance information on a daily basis. Completed – As of the February 20 IAEA report, the IAEA was able to install surveillance measures at Natanz and Fordow to facilitate daily monitoring and came to an agreement regarding the facilitation of daily access. (Prior to the Joint Plan of Action, the IAEA had accessed Fordow on a weekly basis, and Natanz on a biweekly basis.) l Allow the IAEA to conduct monthly inspections of the heavy water reactor at Arak and associated facilities. Completed – The IAEA was able to make its first monthly visit and access the heavy water reactor on Feb. 12, according to the agency’s Feb. 20 IAEA report. (Prior inspections were conducted at the reactor once every three months, and other facilities at the site were not included.) l Provide information to allow the IAEA inspectors managed access to: l Centrifuge assembly workshops. Completed – The IAEA was able to visit the facility between February 3-7. l Centrifuge rotor production. Completed. l Workshops and storage facilities. Completed l Uranium mines and mills. Completed. l Provide figures that will allow the IAEA to verify that centrifuge production will be dedicated to the replacement of damaged machines. Completed – The IAEA has had access to Iran’s centrifuge workshops and facilities. l Cap the size of the 5% enriched UF6 stockpile. Completed – The November 24 IAEA report on implementation of the Joint Plan of Action noted that Iran’s stockpile of UF6 gas was 7,400 kg, below January’s level of 7,560 kg. Iran Will Refrain From the Following Actions Status: l Refrain from installing a reconversion line to reconvert uranium oxide powder to 20% UF6. Complying – The January 20 IAEA report said that Iran does not have a reconversion line in place. l Refrain from reprocessing or constructing a facility capable of reprocessing materials. www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  Complying – In a January 18 letter to the IAEA, Iran said it will not engage in reprocessing or construct a reprocessing facility over the six months of the deal. The January 20 IAEA report confirmed that no reprocessing is taking place at the Tehran Research Reactor or MIX facility. l Refrain from making any further advances of its activities at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant. (This includes not installing new centrifuges and not feeding UF6 into the roughly half the centrifuges at Natanz that are installed but not yet enriching uranium.). Complying – The IAEA verified in the February 20 report that Iran has not made any further advances and no new centrifuges are enriching uranium. l Refrain from making any further advances of its activities at Fordow. (This includes not installing new centrifuges, not feeding UF6 into the three quarters at Fordow that are installed but not yet enriching uranium, and not interconnecting the cascades.) Complying – The IAEA verified that Iran has not made any further advances and no new centrifuges are enriching uranium. l Replacing existing centrifuges only with centrifuges of the same type. Complying – As of the February 20 IAEA report, the agency did not report any violation of this restriction, and surveillance has been set up to monitor any changes. l Refrain from commissioning the heavy water reactor at Arak. Complying – The February 20 IAEA report said that Iran had not conducted any activities to further the Arak reactor. l Refrain from transferring fuel or heavy water to the Arak reactor. Complying – The February 20 IAEA report said that Iran had not conducted any activities to further the Arak reactor. l Refrain from testing additional fuel or producing more fuel. Complying – The February 20 IAEA report said that Iran had not manufactured or tested any reactor fuel, and the number of fuel rods produced remains at 11. l Refrain from installing any additional reactor components at the Arak site. Complying – The February 20 IAEA report said that Iran had not conducted any activities to further advance the Arak reactor. l Limit centrifuge production to those needed to replace damaged machines. Complying – The IAEA has regular managed access to centrifuge assembly workshops. l Refrain from constructing any new locations for enrichment. Complying – In a January 18 letter to the IAEA Iran said it would not pursue any new uranium enrichment sites during the six months of the agreement. P5+1 Actions Status l Pause efforts to reduce Iran’s crude oil sales, allowing Iran’s current customers to purchase their current average amounts of crude oil, including the EU prohibition on providing insurance for vessels carrying Iranian oil. Complying – In a January 20 press release, the EU Council of Foreign Ministers announced the suspension of sanctions preventing the insurance of vessels. However, not enough time has passed to determine if Iran’s current oil customers are importing at their current average amounts. l Enable the repatriation of $4.2 billion of Iranian revenue held abroad on the following schedule: Feb. 1: $550 million – Completed** l Iran received its first installment as scheduled on February 1. These funds were released from Japan. March 1: $450 million (half of the dilution of the 20% stockpile of UF6 complete) Completed** – IAEA Director General Amano confirmed that half of the dilution was completed on time in his remarks to the IAEA Board of Governors on March 3. l March 7: $550 million. Completed** l April 10: $550 million. Completed** l April 15: $450 million (dilution of the entire stockpile of 20% UF6 complete). Completed** l May 14: $550 million. Completed l June 17: $550 million. Completed l July 20: $550 million. Completed l Suspend US sanctions on Iran’s petrochemical exports and associated services.* Completed – In a January 20 statement, the White House announced that the United States would begin suspending sanctions. l Suspend US sanctions on Iran’s import and export of gold and precious metals as well as sanctions on associated services.* Completed – In a January 20 statement, White House announced that the United States would begin suspending sanctions. [ 1 6 ] Weekly Current Affairs 5th July 2015 to 11th July, 2015 www.ias100.in l Suspend U.S. sanctions on Iran imports of goods and services for its automotive manufacturing sector. Completed – In a January 20 statement, White House announced that the United States would begin suspending sanctions. l Suspend EU sanctions on Iran’s petrochemical exports and associated services.* Completed – In a January 20 press release, the EU Council of Foreign Ministers announced the suspension of sanctions. l Suspend EU sanctions on Iran’s import and export of gold and precious metals as well as associated services. Completed – In a January 20 press release, the EU Council of Foreign Ministers announced the suspension of sanctions. l License the supply of spare parts and services for safety of flight for Iranian civil aviation and associated services. Completed – In a January 20 statement, White House Press announced that the United States would begin suspending sanctions. On April 4, Boeing confirmed that it received a license from the Treasury Department for exporting spare aircraft parts. l License safety related inspections and repairs in Iran for Iranian civil aviation sector as well as associated services. Completed – In a January 20 statement, White House Press secretary said that the United States would begin suspending sanctions. l Establish a financial channel to facilitate humanitarian trade for Iran’s domestic needs using Iranian oil revenue held abroad: l food and agricultural products v medicine, medical devices, and medical l expenses incurred abroad v Iran’s UN dues v tuition payments to universities and colleges for Iranian students studying abroad. v Completed – l Increase the EU authorization thresholds for transactions for non-sanctioned trade to an agreed amount. Completed – In a January 20 press release, the EU Council of Foreign Ministers increased by tenfold the thresholds for authorizing financial transfers. P5+1 Will Refrain From the Following Actions Status l Not pass new nuclear-related UN Security Council sanctions. Complying – There have been no new UN Security Council resolutions sanctioning Iran. l Not pass new EU nuclear-related sanctions. Complying – On December 16, the EU Council of Foreign Ministers committed not to impose any further sanctions on Iran during the implementation of the Joint Plan of Action. l Not impose new U.S. nuclear-related sanctions. Complying – A bill introduced in the U.S. Senate (S1881) would impose further sanctions on Iran, but it has not yet been voted on. Iranian Actions ( to be completed as part of the extension before Nov. 24, 2014) Status l Convert 25 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium powder from oxide form to fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor. Completed – According to the IAEA’s monthly progress report, Iran completed the conversion. l Convert the stockpile of uranium enriched to less than 2 percent (about 3 metric tons) to natural uranium l Completed – According to the November 2014 quarterly IAEA report, Iran completed blending down the tails. P5+1 Actions ( to be completed as part of the extension before Nov. 24, 2014) Status l Enable the repatriation of $2.8 billion dollars in frozen Iranian oil revenues held abroad. Completed – Iran received $2.8 billion in repatriated funds. Iranian Actions ( to be completed as part of the extension before June 30, 2015) Status l Convert 35 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium powder from oxide form to fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor. In Progress – According to the Feb. 19 IAEA report, Iran has converted 32 kg since July 24, 2014. l Expand IAEA access to centrifuge production facilities to double the current frequency and allow for no-notice or “snap” inspections. Complying l Limit research and development on advanced centrifuges that move the machines to the next level of development including: www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  v Iran cannot pursue semi-industrial-scale operation of the IR-2M, and without that Iran does not have the confidence to mass-produce this type of centrifuge, which would be necessary in any breakout scenario. v Iran cannot feed the IR-5 with uranium gas, the next step in its development. v Iran cannot pursue gas testing of the IR-6 on a cascade level, the next step in its development. v Iran cannot install the IR-8 at the Natanz Pilot Plant, without which Iran cannot move beyond mechanical testing and into gas testing. *(While most of this pre-existed the extension – – the extension helps plug the gaps and ensure that all models of Iran’s advanced centrifuges cannot move to the next phase of testing.) Complying – The IAEA has regular access to the research and development area for advanced centrifuges at Natanz and has noted no violations as of December. l Forgo any other forms of enrichment, including laser enrichment. Complying P5+1 Actions ( to be completed as part of the extension before June 30, 2015) Status l Enable the repatriation of $700 million dollars per month in frozen Iranian oil revenues held abroad. Complying. “Sanctions on Associated Services” means any service, such as insurance, transportation, or financial, subject to the underlying U.S. or EU sanctions applicable, insofar as each service is related to the underlying sanction and required to facilitate the desired transactions. These services could involve any non-designated Iranian entities. While the funds have been released, there are reported difficulties in transfering portions of the funds to Iranian banks. It is unclear what portion of the funds remain to be transfered.
CUBA FIRST TO ?ELIMINATE MOTHER-TO-BABY HIV TRANSMISSION
Cuba has become the first country to eliminate the transmission of HIV and syphilis from mother to baby, the World Health Organisation has announced. According to the WHO’s director general, Margaret Chan, “it is one of the greatest public health achievements possible” and an important step towards an Aids-free generation. l Over the past five years, Caribbean countries have had increased access to antiretroviral drugs as part of a regional initiative to eliminate mother-to-child transmission. l HIV and syphilis testing for pregnant women and their partners, caesarean deliveries and substitution of breastfeeding have also contributed to the breaking of the infection chain. l It is estimated that each year 1.4 million women living with HIV become pregnant. l Untreated they have a 15-45% chance of transmitting the virus during pregnancy, labour or breastfeeding. l The risk drops to just over 1% if the mother and baby are treated with antiretrovirals. l Globally, more than 35 million adults and children are living with HIV but the infection rate has slowed significantly, with 2.1 million becoming HIV positive in 2013, down from 2.9 million in 2005, according to UN Aids data. l Scientists have said eradicating Aids is feasible if HIV prevention continues to grow, even if there is no cure. l The reduction in infection rates in Cuba is seen as a major breakthrough in the campaign to rid the world of the virus. l Incidence of syphilis transmission is close behind with 1 million pregnant woman worldwide infected. l This can be eliminated with simple treatments such as penicillin during pregnancy. l In 2013, only two babies were born with HIV in Cuba, and only five born with congenital syphilis. l According to the WHO, the number of children born every year with HIV has almost halved since 2009, to 240,000 in 2013.
CHINA PASSES NEW NATIONAL SECURITY LAW
China has passed a wide-ranging national security law expanding its legal reach over the internet and even outer space as concerns grow about ever-tighter limits on rights. Since Xi Jinping came to power, the ruling Communist party has overseen a crackdown on activists, while unrest [ 1 8 ] Weekly Current Affairs 5th July 2015 to 11th July, 2015 www.ias100.in related to the mainly Muslim region of Xinjiang has worsened and spread. l The NPC standing committee passed the law by 154 votes to none with one abstention. l The legislation is extensive and couched in general terms, with few exact details such as the sentences for violators. l The practice, which leaves the authorities ample room for interpretation, is common in China, with the government issuing detailed regulations later. l The law vows to “protect people’s fundamental interests”, including “sovereignty, unification, territorial integrity … (and) sustainable development”. l It declares both cyberspace and outer space to be part of China’s national security interest, along with the ocean depths and polar regions, where Beijing has been extending its exploratory activities. l The text requires key internet and information systems to be “secure and controllable”, potentially raising concerns for foreign technology companies. l The new law provided a legal foundation for “the management of internet activities on China’s territory and the resisting of activities that undermine China’s cyberspace security”. l The new national security legislation does not apply to Hong Kong under the “one country, two systems” principle that gives the former British colony extensive autonomy. l But it mentions the territory, along with Macau. l China can pressurize Hong Kong, to enact its own security law. l A security bill put forward by the territory’s government in 2003 sparked a large protest, with 500,000 people taking to the streets, before the authorities scrapped the measure. Beijing has repeatedly clashed with Washington over cyberspying and is embroiled in longstanding territorial rows in the East China Sea with Japan, and in the South China Sea with several other countries.
NEW EBOLA CASES FOUND ONCE AGAIN IN LIBERIA
A Liberian woman died of Ebola in a hospital in Monrovia shortly after being admitted, becoming the sixth confirmed case of the virus since it resurfaced last month after a seven-week lull. The victim from Montserrado County, which contains Monrovia, is thought to be linked to the other five cases from neighboring Margibi County, where the disease reemerged. Her detection raised fears that the infection may be spreading in a new area of the country. l More than 11,200 people have died from Ebola since the epidemic began in December 2013. l Liberia was declared Ebola-free on May 9 but reported a new case nearly two months later. l Health officials say the virus probably remained latent in the country during that period and could have been reactivated by a survivor, via sexual transmission.
INDIA & WORLD
INDIA, KAZAKHSTAN SIGN FIVE KEY AGREEMENTS
India and Kazakhstan on July 8, 2015 inked five key agreements including a defence pact to enhance military cooperation and a contract for supply of uranium. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev decided to actively engage in the fight against terrorism and extremism. PM Modi, who held restricted as well as delegation-level talks with Mr. Nazarbayev, noted that they also agreed to work closely to expand bilateral trade by addressing structural impediments between India and hydrocarbon-rich Kazakhstan. Both nations have shared perspectives on many international issues, including regional peace, connectivity and integration; reforms in the United Nations; and, combating terrorism, the Prime Minister said at a joint press event in Astana with Mr. Nazarbayev. Noting that the defence and security cooperation was an important dimension of strategic partnership between the two countries, Mr. Modi stated that both countries want to make it stronger, including in defence manufacturing. Both countries welcome the new Memorandum of Understanding on defence cooperation. The MoU would further widen the scope of bilateral defence cooperation including regular exchange of visits, consultations, training of military personnel, military — technical cooperation, joint exercises, special forces exchanges and cooperation in U.N. peacekeeping operations. Welcoming the signing of a contract between NC “KazAtomProm” JSC and Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) for a renewed long-term supply of natural uranium to India to meet its energy requirements, Mr. Modi noted that Kazaksthan was one of the first countries with which we launched civil nuclear cooperation through a uranium purchase contract. Both countries are pleased to have a much larger second contract now. They intend to expand cooperation in other minerals, as well. A joint statement ‘Tej kadam’ was also released after talks which said the leaders noted the rising challenge posed by terrorism in their immediate region. They agreed to continue their active engagement in the fight against terrorism and extremism including exchange of information. In this context, they highlighted the importance of regular inter-agency consultations and meetings of the Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism. The Leaders also called for early conclusion of the UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. Observing that Kazakhstan was India’s biggest economic partner in the region, Modi stated that our relations are modest, compared to our potential. We will work together to take economic ties to a new level. The other pacts included Treaty on Transfer of Sentenced Persons, human resources, cultural exchanges and capacity building. Modi said in his vision for India’s relations with Central Asia, Kazakhstan will play a “critical role”. Congratulating the people of Kazakhstan on Astana Day, the 550th Anniversary of the Kazakh Khanate and the 20th Anniversary of the Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Modi underlined the growing political and economic role of Kazakhstan, which contributes to stability and development in the region. Modi thanked Nazarbayev for supporting the UN resolution on the International Day of Yoga and its first successful organisation on 21 June 2015 in Kazakhstan. Expressing concern at the slow progress on the UN Security Council reform, the leaders called for concrete outcomes to be achieved in the 70th anniversary year of the UN and reaffirmed their commitment to Intergovernmental Negotiations (IGN) to comprehensively reform the Security Council including expansion in both categories of membership. premier Karim Massimov on July 7, 2015 launched the first exploratory drilling of the Satpayev oil block by India’s OVL and KazMunaiGaz. The two leaders launched the drilling through live video conferencing. ONGC Videsh Ltd. (OVL) — the overseas arm of state-run ONGC — had in 2011 picked up 25 percent stake in the Satpayev oil block in the North Caspian Sea. ONGC Videsh has committed to investing $400 million in exploration in the block. It will also pay $80 million to Kazakhstan’s KazMunaiGas as a one-time assignment fee. OVL paid $13 million as a signing amount for a 25 percent stake in Satpayev in 2011. The Satpayev oil block is an offshore field in the Northern Caspian sea, with potential reserves estimated at 1.8 billion barrels. India is to conduct a feasibility study on importing crude oil and gas from Kazakhstan either through a pipeline or as liquid natural gas in ships. The hydrocarbons can be brought first to Iran via the Caspian Sea and transported across the country through a pipeline. The opening of the Iran-TurkmenistanKazakhstan railway link is also being explored to transport oil and gas to India. The rail corridor could eventually be linked to the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), which is set to connect Mumbai with St. Petersburg. The Iran, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan railway line was inaugurated on December 3, 2014. The railway line includes 140 km in Kazakhstan and 85 km in Iran. Agreed in 2007 and under construction since 2009, the route opens up a direct rail connection between the three countries to the east of the Caspian Sea. The railway line is expected to carry transit traffic between Central Asia and the Persian Gulf, as well as oil and agricultural produce.
INDIA, UZBEKISTAN INK PACTS TO BOOST COOPERATION
On his first visit to Central Asian countries, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on July 6, 2015 held talks with Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov on key bilateral and regional issues including the situation in Afghanistan as the two countries inked three pacts to boost cooperation between their foreign offices and in the field of culture and tourism. Mr. Modi, who arrived Tashkent in the Uzbek capital on the first leg of his eight-day visit to Central Asia and Russia, was received at the airport by his counterpart Shavkat Miromonovich Mirziyoyev and was accorded a ceremonial welcome. Mr. Modi and Mr. Karimov discussed ways to enhance strategic, economic and energy ties apart from reviewing key regional issues including the situation in Afghanistan.
INDIA TO BECOME FULL MEMBER OF SCO
India was on July 10, 2015 accepted as a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a six-member regional grouping, to which Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered to work in combating terror and boosting trade by easing barriers. India, which has had an observer status for the past 10 years, theoretically, India will become the full member of SCO after completion of certain process by 2016. Though the procedure of commitment for becoming full member has started but there is still one full year of waiting to fulfil all the criteria. The Beijing-based SCO currently has China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan as members. Along with India, the process to include Pakistan as a member was initiated at Ufa, Russia. India has been conferred full membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) along with Pakistan at the recent Ufa summit. Macro-Regional Cooperation l While the SCO started as a regional organization focusing on number of speci?c regional issues, now its activities are even reaching to the macro-regional scale. l SCO’s agenda has expanded to include an economic, security and socio-political issues and concerns. l The SCO is steadily becoming multi-lateral structure and gained experience settling key issues related to state sovereignty and territorial integrity. l Russia and China are the two main stakeholders of SCO. The SCO’s increasing number of observer states and dialogue partners shows its importance as a mechanism of regional and even macro-regional cooperation. l Presently, SCO is even capable of resolving pressing security issues and gaining importance within the region. Over the last few years there has been huge increase in non-traditional and cross-border crime such as increase in the terrorist and separatist activities, drug trafficking and in the illegal immigration in the whole region. l Now-a-days SCO started to focus more on the regional peace and stability issues. l The SCO is now concentrating on fighting the unholy trinity of terrorism, radicalism and separatism and also focussing on to create a network of regional relationships. SCO’s decision for further expansion and India’s willingness for becoming full member matches well. l India’s economic growth, potential younger generation and its growing political in?uence can become asset for the growth of SCO. India in turn recognizes the benefits of full membership for fighting the evils of terrorism and extremism in cooperation with other SCO members. l India will be extremely keen to support the SCO’s role in stabilizing Afghanistan. l The SCO is expected to offer solutions to emerging security and politico-economic challenges in the region. l Since the SCO’s inception, member states have undertaken serious efforts to make SCO a successful organisation. l After getting success in making this organisation a significant regional organisation and by solving regional activities, the SCO has now decided to expand further within the Organisation. l Full membership in SCO will help India to fight against terrorism and extremism and build an atmosphere for boosting trade by easing barriers.
REPORT: 2.5 LAKH MILLIONAIRES IN INDIA IN 2014
The number of dollar millionaires in India in 2014 rose to 2.5 lakh from 1.96 lakh in 2013, an increase of 27 per cent, according to a recent report. The report also predicted that India will have 4.37 lakh millionaires by 2018, and potentially double that number by 2023. Terming the next 10 years as ‘India’s decade’, the report by Wealth X released on July 8, 2015 noted that the nation also has a young, welleducated population with high levels of entrepreneurship and business ownership, underpinned by a well-developed legal system that in turn would help in wealth creation. The report attributed this rise in millionaires and conspicuous consumption to “renewed economic optimism and performance, further propelled by the election of a new, reformist government.” India in sixth place Emerging markets such as India and South Africa would see their millionaire populations swell in the coming decade, the report by Wealth X released on July 8, 2015 noted. India had the 14th largest millionaire population in the world in 2013- 14, with the U.S., Japan, China and the U.K. leading the pack. However, other reports show that India does far better when it comes to ultra high net worth (UHNW) individuals — those with a net worth of more than $30 million. A Wealth X and UBS report showed that India had 8,595 UHNW individuals in 2014, with wealth amounting to $1.01 trillion. This places India 6th in the global rankings. Significantly, the number of UNHW individuals in India grew by 9.5 per cent in 2014, and their wealth grew by 8.3 per cent. This is higher than the global growth rates of 6 per cent and 7 per cent in the number and wealth of UHNW individuals, respectively. An analysis of the number of billionaires per country shows that the number of billionaires in India is not commensurate with its relatively smaller GDP compared to countries like the U.S. and China. In 2014, India had 53.3 billionaires per trillion dollars of GDP, more than 2.5 times the figure in 2009. This number was 30.3 for the U.S. and 15.3 for China in 2014.
Stark inequality Apart from highlighting the growing affluence of the ultra-rich in India, these numbers, when combined with data on per capita income [ 2 2 ] Weekly Current Affairs 5th July 2015 to 11th July, 2015 www.ias100.in and the findings of the recently-released Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) in India, underscore the stark inequality prevalent in India. The World Bank’s most recent data showed that India’s gross national income per person rose to $1,610 (around Rs. 1 lakh) a year during 2014 from $1,560 the previous year. This was likely driven by the increase in wealth of a few individuals rather than an overall increase in income levels. While the number of millionaires increased steadily, the SECC found that most of rural India still languished in poverty — the highest paid member of 74.5 per cent of rural households in India earned less than Rs. 5,000 (around $79) per month.
INDIA, US INK PACT ON SHARING ACCOUNT INFO
In a step towards curbing overseas tax evasion and black money, India and the U.S. signed an inter-governmental agreement to implement the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) at New Delhi on July 9, 2015. The agreement, signed by Revenue Secretary Shaktikanta Das and U.S. Ambassador to India Richard Verma, makes it obligatory on the part of the two nations to exchange information on offshore accounts of each other’s citizens in their respective territories. Signing the agreement with the US to implement FATCA is a very important step to tackle offshore tax evasion, Mr. Das noted. It is hoped that the exchange of information on an automatic basis would deter tax offenders. Mr. Verma stated that the signing of this agreement is an important step forward to combat tax evasion. U.S.-India FATCA Under FATCA, foreign financial institutions in the U.S. will have to provide information about Indian account holders to the U.S. government’s Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which will forward the information to the Indian government. The Indian government will provide similar information to the IRS. This automatic exchange of information is scheduled to begin on September 30, 2015. For example, the State Bank of India will have to provide information regarding the investments by any U.S. citizen, even NRIs, to the Indian revenue authorities in a prescribed format regularly. The Indian government will then forward that information to the IRS. The government in December got the go-ahead of the Special Investigation Team on black money to sign international treaties that included confidentiality clauses, an issue that had until then prevented India from agreeing to FATCA. Recently, India joined 59 countries in the Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement on the Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information. This agreement obliges signatories to exchange a wide range of financial information among themselves periodically and automatically. U.S. in talks with other nations The U.S. government enacted FATCA in 2010 to obtain information on accounts held by US taxpayers in other countries. As of now, the U.S. has such agreements with more than 110 jurisdictions and is engaged in related discussions with many other jurisdictions. Financial institutions such as banks, brokerages or mutual funds that do not comply with this agreement will face a 30 per cent withholding tax on all payments from the U.S.
$100-BN FOREX POOL PACT INKED, INDIA’S SHARE AT $18 BILLION
The central banks of the BRICS countries have signed an operating agreement on a $100 billion foreign exchange reserve pool that is being set up by the grouping’s five member nations to help each other “in case of any problems with dollar liquidity”. The $100 billion pool aims to protect BRICS member states from currency volatility shocks. India will chip in with $18 billion. The agreement was signed on July 7, 2015 in Moscow after the meeting of the finance ministers and heads of the central banks of BRICS, the Central Bank of Russia (CBR) said in a statement. The document contains a detailed description of the procedures that are carried out by the central banks of BRICS nations — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — within the currency reserve pool, defines their rights and duties. It will come into force on July 30, 2015 CBR chief Elvira Nabiullina was quoted. She added that several other documents would be adopted to regulate the operation of governing bodies — the governing council and the standing committee. China will make the biggest contribution to the pool: $41 billion. India, Russia and Brazil will donate www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  $18 billion each, while South Africa’s investment will be $5 billion. Technically, the money will remain on the banks’ balance sheets and will be unlocked as soon as any of the BRICS member states ask for help. In May, Russian President Vladimir Putin had ratified a deal to establish a $100 billion foreign currency reserve pool for the BRICS group. In July 2014, the five nations signed the document on a reserve currency pool worth over $100 billion as well as $100 billion BRICS Development Bank. The goal of the pool is to give BRICS member states opportunity to provide each other financial assistance in case of problems with their balance of payments. The BRICS summit in Ufa, Russia, was kicked off on July 8, 2015.
INDIA – RUSSIA FOR NUCLEAR COOPERATION
India and Russia reviewed their bilateral relations as Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 8, 2015 at Ufa, Russia. Foreign secretary S Jaishankar said in a briefing after the 90-minute interaction between the two leaders that energy sector cooperation was a key area for rebooting the engagement, including nuclear engagement and hydrocarbons. The nuclear cooperation includes building on negotiations to sign advance contract for the design of the third and fourth reactor units to come up at the Kudankulam site in Tamil Nadu. A contract for the design (of the third and fourth power units) has been under negotiation. Russia, in accordance with an intergovernmental agreement of 1988 and the supplement to it, signed in 1998, is building the Kudankulam NPP, the first 1,000 MWe unit of which was connected to the national grid in 2013. It is now operating under the one-year warranty maintenance period, which will last until the end of 2015. In 2014, the Russian Federation and India had signed a general framework agreement on the construction of the second phase (the third and fourth power units) of the nuclear power plant, and in December – the documents permitting the start of construction work.
MODI’S 10-POINT INITIATIVE FOR BRICS
Pitching for closer cooperation and coordination among BRICS nations– Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa –Prime Minister Narendra Modi on July 9, 2015 proposed a 10-point initiative that includes India hosting the first trade fair for the grouping and establishing research centres for railways and agriculture. Calling it ‘Das Kadam: Ten Steps for the Future’, Modi put forward new initiatives for the BRICS grouping that is formed by major emerging economies. Modi’s suggestions were presented amid the adoption of common Economic Cooperation Strategy adopted at Ufa by the world’s five growing economies at this Summit. He said this strategy, which includes a number of social initiatives, was a milestone in BRICS 2015 evolution. This Strategy was the brainchild of Russia, host for the current BRICS Summit the BRICS Economic Cooperation Strategy is aimed at creating a framework for easier trade between the BRICS developing markets. It is the first comprehensive document of its kind and introduces entirely new areas of cooperation such as physical, institutional and people-to-people connectivity. At the Plenary session, the Prime Minister noted that the challenges that the world is faced with are for every country. It’s important to have consensus, collaboration and cooperation between all major nations. The Brics summit formalised the $100 billion New Development Bank and a currency reserve pool worth another $100 billion. The proposed initiatives for the BRICS include a trade fair, a Railway Research Centre, cooperation among supreme audit institutions, a Digital Initiative and an Agricultural Research Centre. They also include State/Local Government’s Forum, cooperation amongst cities in field of Urbanisation, BRICS Sports Council and Annual Sports Meet, a film festival and the first major project of NDB to be in field of Clean Energy. Also, every country should obey international rules and norms, the Prime Minister said at the BRICS meet which was attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and South African President Jacob Zuma besides Chinese President Xi Jinping. The Contingency Reserve Arrangement to facilitate intra-group trade in members’ local currencies assumes even more importance in the context of the Greek bailout crisis that along with China’s stock market plunge has revived the spectre of weaker economic growth.
Customs arrangement among the BRICS Nations would be a major step in boosting trade, Modi said. At the summit the five countries also signed an agreement on creating a joint BRICS website, which will act as a virtual secretariat of the group. The Central Banks of the five countries have also signed cooperation agreements with the New Development Bank. The BRICS deliberations on the current global political and economic situation were reflected in the Ufa Declaration adopted at the end of the Summit. The BRICS bloc noted the fragile recovery of global growth and also said they were “concerned about potential spillover effects from the unconventional monetary The PM also proposed that as part of the sports cooperation, an annual football event, especially under 15, could be held every year. He suggested that India could host the football event next year. Modi further proposed a BRICS film festival and film awards, which he said would give a boost to film-making and people-to-people contact. Seeking united approach to fight terror, Modi noted that we should speak in one voice against terrorism, without distinction and discrimination between groups and countries, sponsors and targets. India will be the next chair of BRICS for 11 months beginning February 2016. Das Kadam: 10 Steps for the Future Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi’s Proposals at BRics 2015 CHINA PROPOSES NEW STRATEGIC FRAMEWORK policies of the advanced economies”. The Ufa declaration also asserted that “the NDB (New Development Bank” shall serve as a powerful instrument for financing infrastructure investment and sustainable development projects in the BRICS and other developing countries and emerging market economies”. With regard to BRICS, Modi said that it is an “important pillar” in the world of challenges. Modi, in his address to the BRICS Business Council and the plenary, proposed that the five countries should host an annual trade fair and that India could host the inaugural fair in 2016. India will host the BRICS summit in 2016.
CHINA PROPOSES NEW STRATEGIC FRAMEWORK
policies of the advanced economies”. The Ufa declaration also asserted that “the NDB (New Development Bank” shall serve as a powerful instrument for financing infrastructure investment and sustainable development projects in the BRICS and other developing countries and emerging market economies”. With regard to BRICS, Modi said that it is an “important pillar” in the world of challenges. Modi, in his address to the BRICS Business Council and the plenary, proposed that the five countries should host an annual trade fair and that India could host the inaugural fair in 2016. India will host the BRICS summit in 2016. There is a sense of new energy and enthusiasm in India-China ties following the talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and China’s President Xi Jinping in Ufa, the venue of the seventh summit of the Brazil-Russia-India, China-South Africa (BRICS) grouping, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar noted on July 9, 2015. The wide canvas covered during the 90-minute talks included the boundary question, confidencebuilding measures, issues of maintaining peace and tranquillity along the border and more meeting points at the border. The clarification of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and the passage of the Pakistan-China economic corridor through disputed territory in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) have emerged as the two impediments hampering the full development of India-China ties. Mr. Jaishankar said India’s bid for a permanent seat in a reformed U.N. Security Council and the Nuclear Suppliers Group membership also came up for discussion. Key points l President Xi proposed Sino-Indian collaboration within a new strategic framework, which has the emerging markets and developing countries at their focal points. l President Xi stressed that China and India should make joint efforts to push a new institutional framework of global relevance, which includes the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB), along with firming up their partnership within the emerging market framework. l Regarding the harmonisation of China’s connectivity initiative with the Indian one, Chinese diplomats have already advocated the fusion of China’s Belt and Road project with New Delhi’s “Act East” policy. l In Ufa, President XI singled out the BCIM project — also called the Kolkata to Kunming economic corridor — as a priority undertaking between the two countries. l Following talks with President Xi, Prime Minister Modi reached out directly to Chinese audiences with his posts on Sina Weibo, a typically Chinese social media platform. l Meeting between both leaders was very comprehensive and several issues were discussed, both about India-China ties and global affairs. l Both of them were strongly committed to taking India-China ties to new heights and committed to increase their economic, cultural and peopleto-people relations.
INDIA CAN TAKE ON CHINA ONLY IF IT FOCUSSES ON QUALITY
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ongoing visit to the five Central Asian nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan is expected to give a fillip to trade between India and these countries, despite China having forged deep trade links in the region. While Indian officials admit that trade with the Central Asian region, despite a huge demand for generic drugs, leather, expertise in telecommunication, exploration and food processing capabilities, has been abysmally low, experts are optimistic that India can take on China. Secretary West in the Ministry of External Affairs Navtej Sarna recently pointed out that the PM’s visit will focus on enhancing trade, which is “not impressive,” but Dr. Amiya Chandra, joint director general of foreign trade in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry says India can compete with China if it focuses on quality instead of quantity, improves credit line and takes trade disputes seriously. Dr. Chandra, who has recently published a book ‘India-Central Asia Relations,’ focussing on the economic dimensions of the India-Central Asia relations, said India can still make up for the trade deficit, if it focuses on delivering quality goods. There is a lot of resentment against poor quality goods in the Central Asian markets. For India to step in will require a paradigm shift; we need to focus on Q-to-Q, which is moving from quantity to quality, Dr. Chandra explained. “Liberal” extensions He also suggested enhancing the credit line to the Central Asian nations to match the “liberal” extensions from China, government-to-government agreements, zero tolerance for complaints of trade malpractices and immediate response to trade disputes, as measures to improve ties with the region that holds strategic importance for India. According to Dr. Chandra between 2000 and 2014, trade between India and the Central Asian republic was mere 0.1 per cent of India’s overall trade. He pointed out that despite trade increasing sharply during 2013-14 to reach US$ 1,238 million, it is only with Kazakhstan that bilateral trade has grown.
INDIA AND US SIGNS INTER GOVERNMENTAL AGREEMENT
Shaktikanta Das, Revenue Secretary of India and Richard Verma, U.S. Ambassador to India signed an Inter Governmental Agreement (IGA) on July 9, 2015 to implement the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) to promote transparency between the two nations on tax matters. The agreement underscores growing international cooperation to end tax evasion everywhere. The United States and India have a long standing and close relationship. This friendship extends to mutual assistance in tax matters and includes a desire to improve international tax compliance. The signing of IGA is a re-affirmation of the shared commitment of India and USA towards tax transparency and the fight against offshore tax evasion and avoidance. Signing the IGA with U.S. to implement FATCA, is a very important step for the [ 2 6 ] Weekly Current Affairs 5th July 2015 to 11th July, 2015 www.ias100.in Government of India, to tackle offshore tax evasion. It reaffirms the Government of India’s commitment to fight the menace of black money. It is hoped that the exchange of information on automatic basis, regarding offshore accounts under FATCA would deter tax offenders, would enhance tax transparency and eventually bring in higher equity in to the direct tax regime which necessary for a healthy economy. Ambassador Verma, who signed on behalf of the United States, stated that the signing of this agreement is an important step forward in the collaboration between the United States and India to combat tax evasion. FATCA is an important part of the U.S. Government’s effort to address that issue. FATCA is rapidly becoming the global standard in the effort to curtail offshore tax evasion. To date, the United States has IGAs with more than 110 jurisdictions and is engaged in related discussions with many other jurisdictions. The United States enacted FATCA in 2010 to obtain information on accounts held by U.S. taxpayers in other countries. It requires U.S. financial institutions to withhold a portion of payments made to foreign financial institutions (FFIs) who do not agree to identify and report information on U.S. account holders. As per the IGA, FFIs in India will be required to report tax information about U.S. account holders directly to the Indian Government which will, in turn, relay that information to the IRS. The IRS will provide similar information about Indian account holders in the United States. This automatic exchange of information is scheduled to begin on 30th September, 2015. Both the signing of the IGA with U.S. as well as India’s decision to join the Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement (MCAA) on 3rd June, 2015 are two important milestones in India’s fight against the menace of black money as it would enable the Indian tax authorities to receive financial account information of Indians from foreign countries on an automatic basis. New Initiative Promoting Energy Access through Clean Energy India and the United States of America signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Cooperation to Establish the PACESetter Fund – A fund to support the Promoting Energy Access Through Clean Energy (PEACE) track of the U.S.- India Partnership to Advance Clean Energy (PACE) to accelerate the commercialization of off-grid clean energy through early-stage grant funding grants to develop and test innovative products, systems, and business models The MoU was signed by Upendra Tripathy, Secretary, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy from Indian side and by Richard Verma, United States Ambassador to the Republic of India from USA side on 30th June, 2015 at New Delhi. The Government of India and the United States of America have announced the launch of a new initiative “Promoting Energy Access through Clean Energy (PEACE)”. This ambitious cooperation is a new tract under the U.S.-India Partnership to Advance Clean Energy (PACE), a flagship initiative on Clean Energy that combines the resources of several U.S. agencies and GOI Ministries. This has also been listed in the Joint Statement during the visit of President of USA to India in January, 2015. India-U.S. corpus of about Rs.500 Million ($8 Million U.S. Dollars) have been drawn on 50:50 sharing basis. Under this, a Steering Committee comprising the Secretary of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy and the United States Ambassador to India, and three representatives from each side has been constituted. It was agreed to cooperate through technical and commercial innovation and the advancement of clean energy in off-grid space.
INDIA AND SOUTH AFRICA: BILATERAL ISSUES DISCUSSED
A delegation from South Africa led by the Home Minister, Malusi Nkanyezi Gigaba called on the Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh, on July 8, 2015. Addressing the delegation, the Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh recalled that India’s relationship with South Africa began to strengthen when Mahatma Gandhi started his Satyagraha. There have been friendly ties between both the countries and enhanced cooperation in diverse areas, including in commercial and economic relations. Shri Rajnath Singh said that there is substantial potential for growth of trade and tourism given the mutual business interests that exist between India and South Africa. He underscored that the issue of immigration and visa plays an important role in meaningful transformation of any cooperative efforts between two countries in these areas, he added. The Union Home Minister noted that the Government of India is committed to have www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  meaningful cooperation between both the countries so that challenges faced on many fronts can be adequately addressed. India adopts a holistic approach that ensures ‘zero tolerance’ towards terrorism and it is committed to combating terrorism and extremism and to ensure that perpetrators of terrorist acts, their masterminds and conspirators are brought to justice. Rajnath Singh said that India and South Africa are active members of several international groups, such as the “India-Brazil-South Africa” (IBSA) Dialogue Forum and the “Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa” (BRICS) initiative. These international groupings, play an increasingly important role in promoting closer coordination and greater understanding on global issues between our countries. The Union Home Minister said historically, politically, commercially and culturally, South Africa is an important partner of India. Both the countries should be able to build a stronger and more effective international arena, not only for the safety and prosperity of our own communities, but for greater global peace and stability. The South African Home Minister, Malusi Nkanyezi Gigaba in his response showed interest in E-Tourist Visa, Border Management and Visa facilitation agreement. He mentioned that South Africa is keen to promote tourism and business between the two countries and would recommend business visa with multiple entry for a period of 10 years on the basis of reciprocity. He also highlighted about the steps being taken in South Africa from security point of view for checking the cases of visa through fraudulent documents and measures being taken to tighten the security environment in the country. The issues of protection of children from abuse, unveiling of statue of Nelson Mandela in India in 2016, repatriation of criminals and drug traffickers were also discussed in the meeting. Both sides also reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen and enhance the existing bilateral cooperation in the fields of economic development, internal security, border management, passport, visa and immigration in addition to other areas of cooperation.
INDIAN RAILWAYS, ARMY AMONG WORLD’S BIGGEST EMPLOYERS: STUDY
According to WEF study, two Indian organisations— Army and Railways—are among the world’s biggest employers, together employing a whopping 2.7 million people. Few major findings of research published by the World Economic Forum l The Indian Railways is ranked at the eighth place in the list of world’s biggest employers. l Immediately after Indian Railways in the 8th rank with 1.4 million staff is the Indian Armed Forces with 1.3 million people. l The US Department of Defence is the world’s biggest employer which claims over 3.2 million employees on its roster. l Second is People’s Liberation Army (the Chinese military) with 2.3 million. l US supermarket giant Walmart with 2.1 million workers is at third position. l McDonald’s is the 4th biggest employer with 1.9 million employees, however, as the majority of its restaurants are franchises, this figure falls to 4,20,000 when they are excluded. l UK’s National Health Service was ranked at the 5th place, with 1.7 million employees, followed by state-run China National Petroleum Corp. with 1.6 million. l Another Chinese company, the State Grid Corp. of China was ranked 7th with 1.5 million. l Hon Hai Precision Factory (better known as the electronics manufacturer Foxconn) comes in at 10th place with 1.2 million people.
UNION CABINET NOD ONLINE NATIONAL AGRICULTURE MARKET
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has given its approval to a Central Sector Scheme for Promotion of National Agricultural Market through Agri-Tech Infrastructure Fund (ATIF). l The Department of Agriculture & Cooperation (DAC) will set it up through the Small Farmers Agribusiness Consortium (SFAC) by creation of a common electronic platform deployable in selected regulated markets across the country. l An amount of Rs. 200 crore has been earmarked for the scheme from 2015-16 to 2017-18. l It includes provision for supplying software free of cost by DAC to the States and Union Territories (UTs) and for cost of related hardware/infrastructure to be subsidized by the Government of India up to Rs. 30 lakh per Mandi (other than for private mandis). l The target is to cover 585 selected regulated markets across the country, with the following break-up: v 2015-16: 250 mandis v 2016-17: 200 mandis v 2017-18:135 mandis l 585 regulated markets across the country will be integrated with the common e-platform to provide farmers and traders with access to opportunities for purchase/ sale of agricommodities at optimal prices in a transparent manner across the country. l Private markets will also be allowed access to the e-platform thereby enhancing its outreach. l The Scheme is applicable on All-India basis and there is no State wise allocation under the Scheme. l Desirous States would be required to meet the pre-requisites in terms of carrying out necessary agri-marketing reforms. l SFAC will be the lead agency for the development of the National e-Market by the Ministry of Agriculture, and they will select a service provider through open bidding.
An appropriate common e-market platform will be set up that would be deployable in the selected 585 regulated wholesale markets in States/UTs desirous of joining the e-platform. l The SFAC will implement the national e-platform in three phases during 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18. l DAC will meet expenses on software and its customisation for the States and provide it free of cost to the States and UTs. l DAC will also give grant as one time fixed cost subject to the ceiling of Rs.30 lakh per Mandi for related equipment/infrastructure in the 585 regulated mandis, for installation of the e-market platform. l Big private mandis will also be allowed access to the e-platform for purposes of price discovery. However they will not be supported with any funds for equipment / infrastructure. l For integration with the e-platform the States/ UTs will need to undertake prior reforms in respect of: (i) a single license to be valid across the State, (ii) single point levy of market fee and (iii) provision for electronic auction as a mode for price discovery. l Only those States/UTs that have completed these three pre-requisites will be eligible for assistance under the scheme. The e-marketing platform should promote reform of the agricultural marketing sector and apart from promoting free flow of agri commodities across the country and should result in greater farmer satisfaction as prospects for marketing of his produce would be significantly enhanced. He will have improved access to market related information and better price discovery through a more efficient, transparent and competitive marketing platform, which gives him access to a greater number of buyers within the State and from outside, through transparent auction processes. It would also increase his access to markets through warehouse based sales and thus obviate the need to transport his produce to the mandi. Background: Following successive Budget announcements of 2014 and 2015 on setting up an “Agri-Tech Infrastructure Fund” and on National Market respectively, DAC formulated the scheme for Promotion of National Agriculture Market through Agri-Tech Infrastructure Fund (ATIF). Integration of agri-markets across the country through the e-platform is seen as an important measure for overcoming challenges posed by the present agri-marketing system namely – fragmentation of State into multiple market areas each administered by separate APMC, multiple levy of mandi fees, requirement for multiple license for trading in different APMCs, licensing barriers leading to conditions of monopoly, poor quality of infrastructure and low use of technology, information asymmetry, opaque process for price discovery, high level of market charges, movement controls, etc. The need to unify markets both at State and National level is, therefore, clearly the requirement of time, in order to provide better price to farmers, improve supply chain, reduce wastages and create a unified national market through provision of the common e-platform.
UNION CABINET GIVES NOD TO PMKSY In order to reduce the farm sector’s dependence on the monsoon, the Centre approved a central scheme for providing irrigation facilities to every village by converging the ongoing schemes being implemented by various ministries. l The ‘Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY)’ was cleared at the Union Cabinet meeting headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. l The proposal on PMKSY was put forward by the Agriculture Ministry. l The new scheme assumes importance as 65 per cent of the total 142 million hectares of cultivable farmland in the country is still not covered by irrigation. l The PMKSY aims to ensure access to some means of protective irrigation to all agricultural farms in the country to produce ‘per drop more crop’, thus bringing much desired rural prosperity. l The scheme, with a Budget allocation of Rs. 1,000 crore for this fiscal, proposes to provide flexibility and autonomy to states in the process of planning and executing projects for ensuring water to every farm. l It would also ensure that district and state [ 3 0 ] Weekly Current Affairs 5th July 2015 to 11th July, 2015 www.ias100.in irrigation plans are prepared on the basis of agro-climatic conditions and sources of availability of water in that region. l PMKSY also seeks to promote extension activities relating to ‘on farm water management and crop alignment’ for farmers and grassroots level field functionaries. l The state agriculture department would be the nodal agency for implementation of PMKSY projects. l There would also be an inter-ministerial National Steering Committee (NSC) for periodic review of the same. l PMKSY funds would be given to states as 75 per cent grant by the Centre and the remaining 25 per cent share would be borne by the state government. l For the north-eastern region and hilly states, the funding pattern would be 90:10. A number of central schemes to augment irrigation coverage are operational. However, the goal of bringing irrigation water to every village farm was still far from reality, primarily due to the fragmented approach followed by existing schemes. The PMKSY intends to focus on ‘end-to-end solutions’ in the irrigation supply chain by implementing the new programme in a “project mode” with decentralised state-level and execution.
INDIA’S SEAFOOD EXPORTS TOUCH ALL TIME HIGH
Seafood exports from India touched an all-timehigh of Rs 33,441.61 crore for the year 2014-15, recording a growth of 11 per cent over the previous year. India exported a record one million tonnes of sea food fetching a foreign exchange of $5.5 billion in the last fiscal, the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA). l The volumes at 10,51,243 tonnes showed a growth of 7 per cent. l In dollar terms the export value stood at $5.51 billion, up by 10 per cent year-on-year. l Frozen shrimps continued to be the flagship product in the seafood exports accounting for a share of 34 per cent in quantity and 67 per cent in dollar value of the total exports. l Frozen fish was the second largest exported item accounting for a share of 29 per cent in quantity and 11 per cent in dollar value. l Almost 75 per cent of the exported items came from the aquaculture farms and while the rest was contributed by the sea catch. l Vannamei grown in aquaculture farms was the main item under shrimps. l Of the overall seafood export, shrimps comprised 3,57,505 tonnes valued around $3.7 billion. l The increase in exports has been achieved despite problems in the world market like depreciation of Euro, weak economic condition in China and devaluation of Yen . l The supply from South East Asian countries also improved during the year resulting in the continuous drop in the prices of shrimp, the principle commodity of Indian seafood export basket. l USA was the largest buyer of seafood products with 26 per cent share followed by South East Asia with 25.7 per cent share. l European Union took the third position with 20 per cent. l Among the ports, Pipavav in Gujarat came first in seafood exports in quantity while Vizag in Andhra Pradesh bagged the top position among the ports in value. Encouraged by the performance of seafood sector, MPEDA has set an export target of $6.6 billion for the current fiscal. According to Leena Nair, the country would focus on diversification and value addition in the current year in marine products. Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA), is the nodal agency for promotion of export of marine products from India. About MPEDA India and its highly promising seafood industry needed an organisation to spearhead the market promotion of Indian seafood products abroad and to tap the enormous fishery potential of India. This need led to the formation of the Marine Products Export Promotion Council (MPEPC) by the Government of India in September 1961. MPEPC played the role of promoting and developing export of marine products and subsequently seafood export promotion has become an integral part of policy frame works of the Government of India. After its formation, MPEPC studied and comprehended the India’s marine exports sector www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  that convinced the Government to implement policies for the advancement of marine products trade. In the early 70s, a study conducted by MPEPC found that only 25% of the total freezing capacity and 13% of the canning capacity were being utilized. Immediately thereafter Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT) conducted a survey on ‘India’s Export Potential of Marine Products’, under the aegis of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and USAID (Export Promotion Division). Both the studies, directly and indirectly pointed to the need for creating a strong organisation capable of catering to the all round development of the seafood industry including production, processing, export and marketing. Based on the studies Government of India established The Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) on 20th April 1972 by an Act of the Parliament. The MPEPC subsequently went into voluntary liquidation and all the staff members got absorbed into the MPEDA on 24th August 1972. MPEDA was given the mandate to promote the export of seafood from the country. It was also envisaged that this organisation would take all actions to develop and augment the resources required for promoting the exports of “all varieties of fishery products known commercially as shrimp, prawn, lobster, crab, fish, shell-fish, other aquatic animals or plants or part thereof and any other products which the authority may, by notification in the Gazette of India, declare to be marine products for the purposes of (the) Act”. The Act also empowered MPEDA to take all measures required for ensuring sustained, quality seafood exports from the country. Anticipating increased raw material requirements, the Act has given MPEDA the responsibility of not only developing deep sea fishing but also aquaculture. MPEDA was also given the authority to prescribe for itself any matters which the future might require for protecting and augmenting the seafood exports from the country. It was also empowered to carry out inspection of marine products, its raw material, fixing standards and specifications, training, regulating as well as take all necessary steps for marketing the seafood overseas. Based on the recommendations of MPEDA, Government of India notified new standards for fishing vessels, storage premises, processing plants and conveyances. MPEDA’s focus is primarily on five areas namely Capture Fisheries, Aquaculture, Processing Infrastructure & Value Addition, Quality Control & Market Promotion. A glance at the roles and responsibilities of MPEDA l Registration of infrastructural facilities for seafood export trade. l Collection and dissemination of trade information. l Promotion of Indian marine products in overseas markets. l Implementation of schemes vital to the industry by extending assistance for infrastructure development for better preservation and modernised processing following quality regime. l Promotion of aquaculture for augmenting export production through hatchery development, new farm development, diversification of species and up gradation of technolog l Promotion of deep-sea fishing projects through test fishing, joint ventures and up gradation & installation of equipments to increase the efficiency of fishing. 1. Market promotional activities and publicity. l To carry out inspection of marine products, its raw material, fixing standards and specifications, training, regulating as well as to take all necessary steps for maintaining the quality of seafood that are marketed overseas. l Impart trainings to fishermen, fish processing workers, aquaculture farmers and other stake holders in the respective fields related to fisheries. l Conduct research and development for the aquaculture of aquatic species having export potential through Rajiv Gandhi Center for Aquaculture (RGCA). l Conduct extension and awareness activities, trainings etc through Network for Fish Quality Management and Sustainable Fishing (NETFISH) & National Centre for Sustainable Aquaculture (NaCSA). l To prescribe for itself any matters required for protecting and augmenting the seafood exports from the country in the future. Structure of MPEDA MPEDA functions under the Ministry of Commerce, Government of India and acts as a coordinating agency with different Central and State Government establishments engaged in fishery [ 3 2 ] Weekly Current Affairs 5th July 2015 to 11th July, 2015 www.ias100.in production and allied activities. The functions of MPEDA are guided by an Authority and three Standing Committees of MPEDA viz, Executive Committee, Technical Committee and Export Promotion Committee. The MPEDA’s activities are implemented through the plan schemes of the Authority under six major heads viz, Market Promotion, Capture Fisheries, Culture Fisheries, Processing infrastructure & value addition, Quality control and Research and development.
BSNL LAUNCHES MOBILE WALLET SERVICE ‘SPEED PAY’
State-run operator BSNL launched a pre-paid card linked mobile wallet service which would allow its customers to transfer money, pay for services as well as withdraw cash of up to Rs 1 lakh. l The wallet service, Speed Pay, allows a customer to load money even if he does not have a bank account. l The money loaded in the mobile wallet can be transferred to a bank account and even withdrawn at bank branches or at BSNL outlets. l BSNL has launched the service in partnership with IT company Pyro. l There will be 1 per cent transaction charge if money from wallet is transferred by a person to other bank accounts or a there is cash withdrawal. l There are no other charges for other services. l Daily cash withdrawal limit is Rs 5,000 and for full Know Your Customer compliant person it is Rs 1 lakh. l Pyro has partnered with money transfer technology firm Visa which enables Speed Pay card holder to purchase goods both offline and online, like a debit card, where Visa based transactions are accepted. l At present top up facility is available across 1,000 BSNL outlets in Andhra Pradesh and in three months we will expand it to 45,000 outlets in AP. l BSNL Speed Pay card service will be available in Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu by the end of September. BSNL also launched entertainment service BSNL Buzz in partnership with Celltick. The service will also deliver location based information services in seven languages– Hindi, English, Bengali, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada and Telugu.
UNION GOVERNMENT HIKED NATIONAL FLOOR-LEVEL MINIMUM WAGE
The National Floor Level Minimum Wage (NFLMW) has been increased to Rs. 160 per day from the existing Rs. 137 effective from July 1 this year. l While reviewing the movement of CPI-IW (Consumer Price Index Numbers for Industrial Workers) during April 2014 to March 2015 over the period April 2012 to March 2013, it was observed that the average CPI-IW has risen from 215.17 to 250.83. l The rise in CPI-IW prompted the government to hike the NFLMW. l The NFLMW was last revised from Rs.115 to Rs.137 per day in July 2013.
AIRBUS, MAHINDRA GROUP INK MOU
Airbus Helicopters and Mahindra Defence, a part of Mahindra Group, have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to form a joint venture to produce helicopters in India and jointly bid for defence contracts in India under the government’s Make in India programme. l The tie-up is in line with the intent to develop an indigenous industrial ecosystem dedicated to helicopters. l The joint venture will be dedicated to supplying the Indian Armed Forces with Made-in-India, state-of-the-art helicopters of high reliability, quality and safety standard based on combatproven platform. l The proposed joint venture aims to become the first private Indian helicopter manufacturer under the ‘Make in India’ initiative. l This will create hundreds of high-tech jobs locally and lead to a flow of cutting edge technologies to India should it be selected in the government helicopter tenders Both companies would get into discussions to www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  finalise the formation of the joint venture which would act as the prime contractor for India’s military helicopter tenders, including the reconnaissance and surveillance helicopter, the Naval utility helicopter and the Naval multi-role helicopter procurement programmes. Airbus Helicopters Airbus Helicopters (formerly Eurocopter Group) is the helicopter manufacturing division of Airbus Group. It is the largest in the industry in terms of revenues and turbine helicopter deliveries. Its head office is located at Marseille Provence Airport in Marignane, France, near Marseille. The main facilities of Airbus Helicopters are at its headquarters in Marignane, France and in Donauwörth, Germany, with additional production plants in Brazil, Australia, Spain and the United States. The company was renamed Airbus Helicopters on 2 January 2014 LITERACY
RATE: RECENT NSSO SURVEY
According to recently released NSSO survey literacy rate in rural areas was pegged at 71 per cent last year, compared to 86 per cent in urban areas, while among the age group of seven years and above, male literacy rate was found higher than the female literacy rate. Few major findings: l Among the age group of seven year and above, the male literacy rate was registered at 83 per cent vis-a-vis the female literacy rate of 67 per cent. l In the rural areas, nearly 4.5 per cent of males and 2.2 per cent of females completed education level of graduation and above, while in urban areas 17 per cent of males and 13 per cent of females completed this level of educatio. l Literacy rate among age group of seven years and above in the country was 75 per cent. l In rural areas, it was 71 per cent compared to 86 per cent in urban areas. l Adult literacy (age 15 years and above) rate in India was around 71 per cent compared to 86 per cent in urban areas. l For adults, literacy rate in rural areas was lower than that in urban areas. l In rural areas, adult literacy rate was 64 per cent compared to 84 per cent in urban areas. l No significant difference between rural and urban India existed in terms of distance for physical access to primary schooling. l In both rural and urban areas, nearly 99 per cent households reported availability of primary school within 2 kms from the house. l For accessing educational institutions providing higher level of learning, say upper primary or secondary, a lower proportion of households in rural areas compared to that in urban areas reported existence of such facilities within 2 kms. l Nearly 86 per cent of rural households and 96 per cent of urban households reported upper primary schools within a distance of 2 kms from the house while nearly 60 per cent of rural households and 91 per cent of urban households reported secondary schools at such a distance. l The proportion of persons having completed higher level of education (graduation and above) was more in the urban areas than in the rural areas. l In the rural areas, nearly 4.5 per cent of males and 2.2 per cent of females completed education level of graduation and above, while in the urban areas 17 per cent of males and 13 per cent of females completed this level of education. l In rural areas, majority of the students were attending government institutions predominantly up to higher secondary levels, whereas a completely different picture was observed in urban areas. l In rural areas, 72 per cent of the students at primary level, 76 per cent at upper primary level and 64 per cent at secondary and higher secondary level attended government institutions. l In urban areas, 31 per cent at primary level, 38 per cent at upper primary level as well as secondary and higher secondary level, attended government institutions. l Average expenditure per student incurred and/ or to be incurred during the current academic session was nearly Rs 6,788 for general education, Rs 62,841 for technical/ professional (except vocational) and Rs 27,676 for vocational course. At primary level, expenditure per student in urban areas was Rs 10,083, more than four times than that in rural areas, pegged at Rs 2,811. l Average expenditure on technical education in private aided and unaided institutions varied between nearly 1.5-2.5 times of that in government institutions. l Nearly 46 per cent of expenditure for general education and 73 per cent of the expenditure for technical education was on course fee. l For students pursuing general courses, 15 per cent was spent on private coaching as against 3 per cent for students pursuing technical/ professional education (including vocational). l Nearly 6 per cent of rural households and 29 per cent of urban household possessed computer. l Among households in the country, with at least one member aged above 14 years and above, nearly 27 per cent had internet access in the survey year, 2014. l The proportions were 16 per cent among rural household and 49 per cent of urban households. l Among persons of age 14-29 years, nearly 18 per cent in rural areas and 49 per cent in urban areas were able to operate a computer. The details are part of a survey on ‘Social Consumption: Education’ during the National Sample Survey (NSS) 71st Round, January to June 2014, conducted by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. The survey covered entire country with samples taken from 36,479 households in rural areas and 29,447 in urban areas from 4,577 villages and 3,720 urban blocks, it said.
DATES FOR COMPLIANCE WINDOW UNDER BLACK MONEY ACT
The Central Government has notified the 30th day of September, 2015, as the date on or before which a person may make a declaration in respect of an undisclosed asset located outside India under the compliance provisions of the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015 (‘Black Money Act’). Last Date by which a Person must pay the Tax and Penalty in Respect of the Undisclosed Foreign Assets so Declared shall be the 31st December, 2015. This is in tune with the announcement made by the Union Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitley, in his Budget Speech this year, that a comprehensive new law to deal with black money stashed away abroad would be enacted. l The Bill to enact the proposed new law was passed by the Parliament in its Budget Session. l The Bill received Presidential assent and became law on 26th May, 2015. l The Act provides for separate taxation of undisclosed foreign income and assets. Stringent penalties and prosecution, including rigorous imprisonment up to ten years and penalty equal to three times of the tax have been prescribed for violation. l The Act also provides a compliance window for a limited period to persons who have undisclosed foreign assets which they have not disclosed for the purposes of Income-tax so far. Features of the compliance window: l Those availing the one-time ‘compliance window’ would be required to pay a tax of 30 per cent and a penalty of a similar amount. l Under the new black money law, which would come into force from April 1, 2016, the penalty would be much higher at 90 per cent, in addition to a 30 per cent tax on undisclosed foreign assets, while such persons would also face criminal prosecution with a jail term of up to ten years.
SCIENCE & TECH
PSLV C-28 LAUNCHES FIVE SATELLITES
In the heaviest commercial launch since its inception, the Indian Space Research Organisation’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) on July 10, 2015 launched five satellites, weighing 1,440 kg for a United Kingdom-based company. Lifting off from the First Launch Pad of Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh, PSLV C-28 launched three identical mini satellites of the Disaster Monitoring Constellation (DMC) commercial Earth Observation Satellites, along with two smaller satellites technology demonstrators — CBNT-1 and De-OrbitSail— for Surrey Space Technology Limited into the intended orbits, some 19.21 minutes later. These five satellites were launched as part of the agreement entered into between DMC International Imaging (DMCii), a wholly owned subsidiary of Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL), UK and Antrix Corporation Limited, the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), a government of India Company under the Department of Space (DOS). This was the twenty ninth consecutively successful flight of PSLV. Successful mission ISRO chairman A.S. Kiran Kumar termed it an extremely successful mission. Since it was a challenge for the ISRO to accommodate 3-metre high satellites into the existing payload structure of PSLV, the national space agency had specially designed a circular launch adapter and a triangular deck for this launch. The DMC satellites would eventually be fine tuned into the 647-km Sun Synchronous Orbit. The launch marked the 30th successful mission of PSLV, also known as ISRO’s ‘workhorse.’ The national space agency had used the XL version for the ninth time. The three mini DMC satellites have been designed for providing simultaneous spatial resolution and high temporal resolution for earth observation. PSLV was launched on July 10 in its heaviest ‘XL’ version with six strap-on motors of the first stage. This flight was unique since for the first time, the ‘XL’ version of PSLV was used to launch foreign payloads exclusively. Till now, the lighter ‘core alone’ version of PSLV has been used to launch foreign payloads exclusively. PSLV has successfully launched 45 satellites for customers from abroad including five UK satellites launched on July 10. Through 29 successful flights during 1994-2015 period, PSLV has launched a total of 77 satellites with a total mass of 32.04 tons, of which 4.64 tons (about 14%) comprises 45 satellites for customers from abroad. The vehicle has repeatedly proved its reliability and versatility by successfully launching satellites into a variety of orbits including polar Sun Synchronous, Geosynchronous Transfer and Low Earth orbits thereby emerging as the workhorse launch vehicle of India. After a 62.5 hour smooth count down, the 320 ton PSLV-C28 lifted off from the First Launch Pad (FLP) at SDSC SHAR at 2158 hrs (9:58 pm) IST with the ignition of its first stage. The important flight events included the ignition and separation of strap-ons, separation of the first stage, ignition of the second stage, separation of the payload fairing at about 118 km altitude after the vehicle had cleared the dense atmosphere, second stage separation, third stage ignition and third stage separation, fourth stage ignition and fourth stage cut-off. Once in proper orbit, the three DMC3 satellites were successfully deployed about 18 minutes after lift-off in quick succession. Following this, the 7 kg Nanosatellite De-OrbitSail and the 91 kg Microsatellite CBNT-1 were also successfully deployed. Advantages of Satellites To be positioned with a separation of 120 degree between them, all the three satellites, each weighing 447 kg, are aimed at capturing any target on the [ 3 6 ] Weekly Current Affairs 5th July 2015 to 11th July, 2015 www.ias100.in Earth’s surface every day and are expected to help in surveying resources, environment and urban infrastructure, besides its primary aim of monitoring disasters. While the 91-kg CNBT-1 is an optical earth observation technology demonstration micro satellite built by SSTL, the seven-kg De-OrbitSail from the Surrey Space Centre is an experimental nano satellite for demonstration of large thin membrane sail and drag deorbiting using this sail. The PSLV had earlier launched 40 satellites for 19 countries. This successful commercial launch of PSLV further underscores the country’s capability in launch vehicle technologies ANTRIX TO SEND 28 SATELLITES Antrix Corporation, the commercial arm of ISRO, has already signed service contracts for launching 28 satellites for various countries in the next two years. The satellites vary from nano, micro and normal, which can be launched by a PSLV rocket. Of the 28, the next launch would be before the end of 2015 for Singapore, Antrix Corporation chairman and managing director V.S. Hegde revealed. Antrix which recorded over Rs. 1,600 crore revenue during 2013-14, got a revenue of Rs. 1,850 crore during 2014-15. While the cost for launching smaller satellites would be calculated on its weight (cost per kg), Antrix would follow different norms in case of big satellites.
About Antrix Corporation Antrix Corporation Limited (ACL), incorporated on 28 September 1992 (under the Companies Act, 1956) is a wholly owned Government of India Company, under the administrative control of Department of Space (DOS). ACL is the commercial arm of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO); and, responsible for promotion and commercial exploitation of the products and services emanating from the Indian Space Programme. In the year 2008, the Company was awarded ‘MINIRATNA’ status. The major areas of business activities of ACL, currently, are: l Provisioning of communication satellite transponders to Indian users; l Providing satellite launch services to international customers; l Marketing of data from Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) satellites to international customers; l Building and marketing of satellites and satellite sub-systems for international customers; l Building of satellites and establishing associated ground infrastructure for Indian users; l Mission support services for foreign satellites.
SUNITA WILLIAMS SELECTED IN NASA’S FIRST COMMERCIAL CREW
Indian-American astronaut Sunita Williams is among four astronauts who have been selected by NASA for commercial flights to the International Space Station (ISS) from US soil. They will work closely with company-led teams to understand their designs and operations as they finalise their Boeing CST-100 and SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft and operational strategies. Sunita Williams, Robert Behnken, Eric Boe and Douglas Hurley will be trained for commercial spaceflights that will return American launches to US soil and further open up low-Earth orbit transportation to the private sector, the US space agency said. Williams, a US Navy captain, received her commission in the Navy in May 1987 and became a helicopter pilot, logging more than 3,000 flight hours in more than 30 different aircraft. NASA chose Williams for the astronaut programme in 1998. She spent a total of 322 days in space and currently holds the record for total cumulative spacewalk time by a female astronaut (50 hours and 40 minutes). She now ranks sixth on the alltime US endurance list and second all-time for a female astronaut. The Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts with Boeing and SpaceX each require at least one crewed flight test with at least one NASA astronaut on board. To meet this requirement, the companies must also provide the necessary training for the crew to operate their respective vehicles. NASA is extensively involved with the companies and reviews their training plans. The selections are the latest major milestone in the Obama administration’s plan to partner with the US industry to transport astronauts to space, create good-paying American jobs and end the nation’s sole reliance on Russia for space travel.
EMUDHRA LAUNCHES ESIGN SERVICES
eMudhra Limited, a leading certifying firm in the country for digital signatures, on July 8, 2015 launched eSign services. eSign is an online electronic signature service which can facilitate an Aadhaar holder to digitally sign a document within seconds. The signatures generated by eSign are legally valid and secure under the Information Technology Act, 2000, the company said. As part of the Digital India Vision, Prime Minister launched eSign services in the country on July 1. eSign can “revolutionise” the way business and governance is conducted in the country and pave the way for a digital transformation into a paperless environment, eMudhra said in a statement. The firm which claims to be the first to start eSign services has also launched eMlocker – eMudhra’s Digital Locker. By using eMlocker along with eSign, one can store documents such as PAN cards, Aadhaar cards, electricity bills or any other documents electronically. One can also sign and attest them using eSign and send to anybody, it said. Commenting on the development, eMudhra Limited Chairman V Srinivasan said that the Government’s digital India initiative is transformational and eMudhra is proud to be the first eSign service provider in the country as part of this vision. eMudhra’s eSign and eMlocker will bring a paperless revolution in India. The eMlocker can be accessed at www. emlocker.com. Initially, its service are free for the users for unlimited number of document downloads and uploads with free eSign.
PASHU POSHAN: MOBILE APP FOR DAIRY FARMERS
On the lines of the soil health card that indicates to a farmer lack of nutrients in the field, the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) has launched a mobile phone application that will recommend the right kind of feed to cattle owners. This will not only boost a farmer’s income but also help raise the milk yield, NDDB said as Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh launched the WhatsApp named “Pashu Poshan” in New Delhi. The application, which will be available on both web and android platforms, can be accessed by registering with the INAPH portal (http://inaph. nddb.coop). The government is moving towards digitisation. The application will benefit dairy farmers across 14 States who will get information about balanced and nutritious diet for their cattle.
C-DOT TO LAUNCH BROADBAND PRODUCTS
C-DOT, the premier R&D institute of the Department of Telecommunications, Govt. of India, has developed indigenous technologies attuned to the sensitive needs of Indian landscape aim at the digital convergence of rural and urban India with a vast potential for building the citadels of “Digital India”. The following four products have launched by Minister of Communication & IT, Ravi Shankar Prasad on 6th July the Digital India week as observed during 1st- 7th July 2015. 1. Long Distance Wi-Fi System 2. Solar Powered Wi-Fi System 3. 100Gbps OFC Link 4. C-DOT Next Generation Network in MTNL Network 1. Long Distance Wi-Fi System: C-DOT’s Long Distance WiFi Solution is an allencompassing, versatile wireless platform that is capable of extending WiFi & IP connectivity to the remote and inhospitable terrains of India in a costeffective and power-efficient manner. The product is capable of providing 100Mbps broadband speed to users of distant locations. C-DOT’s Long Distance WiFi differentiates itself with the following unique attributes as wireless connectivity: l Direct Optical Fibre at WAN interface, which enables high speed connectivity with consistent bandwidth. l Mesh technology, which makes connectivity possible even where direct Line of Sight (LoS)is not present. This shall prove effective in its deployment to NE India where connectivity and hilly terrain remains a challenge. l Support to link redundancy in case of failure of one radio/link. l This technology is backed by robust operations, management & maintenance software [ 3 8 ] Weekly Current Affairs 5th July 2015 to 11th July, 2015 www.ias100.in Provisioned with a solar powered green energy source, this solution can utilize enabling the seamless WiFi access over long distances in an efficacious manner. 2. Solar Powered Wi-Fi System : Solar Wifi operates in license exempt bands of 2.4 & 5.8GHz. The solution is specifically designed for outdoor environments, inaccessible terrains, where there is no guarantee for continuous power.The system is designed to work in variable input volatages and in harsh conditions. It can also be used for Backhaul link for Wi-Fi hot spots, cellular base stations and base station controllers, ATMs, Database servers etc. Also the solution is well suited to extend last mile wireless connectivity beyond Panchayat which are being connected to C-DOT developed Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON) technology forming the backbone of Bharatnet -The National Optical Fiber Network (NOFN), 3. 100 Gbps OFC Link : Keeping in view the ever increasing demand for superior bandwidth, high speed and power efficiency in the fiercely compes a versatile mini 100G OTN (Optical Transport Network) platform based on the latest standards offering the ease of being deployed in both Greenfield networks and existing OTN(Optical Transport Network) environments. Capable of supporting a distance of upto 50 Km without an amplifier, its uniquely designed system and management interfaces with clearly defined performance monitoring features make it ideally suited to the current market trends. 4. C-DOT Next Generation Network (NGN) in MTNL Network C-DOT’s cost-effective NGN solution addresses the need of the changing telecom scenario and enables TELCOs to make a smooth transition from legacy TDM (Time Division Multiplexing) technology to advance VoIP Telecom technology. The technology has various components of hardware and software and they are all indigenously designed by C-DOT. In fact , a successful trial of the developed live network has been done for 1000 landline connections of legacy PSTN technologies to C-DOT’s IMS-compliant NGN technology. With this successful trial, MTNL can think of launching various services ( voice, video and data) through various access based on IP. Also, it now possible to migrate its existing 3.5 million landline subscribers of MTNL to IP based network. These uniquely architected indigenous solutions can play a catalytic role in fulfilling the objective of holistic digital empowerment resulting in the creation of a knowledge economy as envisaged under the flagship mission, “Digital India” – A prorgamme to transform into digitally empowered society and knowledge economy. Hon’ble MoC&IT will launch C-DOT products designed and developed to take Broadband to every nook and corner of India. These products are essential infrastructure for broadband connectivity and enabler to facilitate delivery of services.
ASTRONOMERS: PHILAE’S COMET MAY HOST ALIEN ‘LIFE’
Astronomers proposed a novel explanation on July 6, 2015 for the strange appearance of the comet carrying Europe’s robot probe Philae through outer space: alien microscopic life. Many of the frozen dust ball’s features, which include a black crust over lakes of ice, flat-bottomed craters and megaboulders scattered on the surface, were “consistent” with the presence of microbes. Observations by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta comet orbiter has shown that 67P/ Churyumov-Gerasimenko is not to be seen as a deep-frozen inactive body, but supports geological processes, Max Wallis of the University of Cardiff said in a statement issued by the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS). In fact, the comet racing towards the Sun at a speed of 32.9 kilometres per second, could be more hospitable to micro-life than our Arctic and Antarctic regions. Wallis and his colleague Chandra Wickramasinghe of the Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology, presented their theory to a meeting of the RAS in Llandudno, Wales. They pointed to Rosetta’s detection of complex organic material, which gave the comet its surprisingly super-dark and low-reflecting surface, as “evidence for life.” Furthermore, they noted that 67P’s gas ejections started at distances from the Sun too far away to trigger surface sublimation. This implied that micro-organisms under the comet’s surface had been building pockets of high pressure gases that crack overlying ice and vent organic particles. The observed features are all consistent with a mixture of ice and organic material that consolidate www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  under the Sun’s warming during the comet’s orbiting in space, when active micro-organisms can be supported, said the statement. Micro-organisms could use liquid water to colonise the comet — infiltrating cracks in the ice and snow during warmer periods when the cosmic wanderer is nearer the Sun. Organisms containing anti-freeze salts are particularly good at adapting to these conditions and some could be active at temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees Celsius. Sunlit areas of the comet already approached this temperature in September 2014, when it was about 500 million kilometres from the Sun, and emitting weak jets of gas. Comets follow elliptical orbits around the Sun, and warm as they draw closer, causing a process of solid-to-gas transformation called sublimation, which is what gives them their spectacular tails. As 67P approaches its closest point to the Sun, about 185 million km on August 13, the microorganisms should become increasingly active. And hopefully Rosetta and Philae will catch some of the action live. What are Comets? Comets are frozen balls of dust and ice left over from the Solar System’s formation some 4.6 billion years ago, and scientists hope that unraveling their makeup may provide insights into Earth’s own creation. One theory is that they smashed into our infant planet, providing it with precious water and the chemical building blocks for life.
ECOLOGY & ENVIRONMENT MEETING ON ESA IN WESTERN GHATS
Union Minister of State of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar has convened a meeting of environment and forest ministers of the six states home to the Western Ghats on July 7, 2015. More than a year after Javadekar asked the states to submit reports following a “ground-truthing” exercise to assess the recommendations made by the K Kasturirangan committee to declare about 37% of the areas in the Western Ghats as an Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA), Maharashtra is yet to submit the report. Javadekar met Environment and Forest Ministers of the states falling under the Western Ghats region–Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. According to a press release, the meeting will review the progress of physical demarcation of the ESA and will discuss the further course of action for the protection and conservation of the Western Ghats. ““The release stated that based on the requests received from some of the state governments of the region, the ministry had decided to give an opportunity to state governments of Western Ghats region to undertake the demarcation of Ecologically Sensitive Area within their jurisdiction by physical verification and submit their proposals to the Ministry by June 30. Kerala has already undertaken such an exercise and submitted its report, it added. The previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had on March 10, 2014 issued a notification declaring the ESA based on the recommendations of the Kasturirangan committee. The move had been hotly protested by environmentalists who believed the recommendations to be a dilution of those made by the panel headed by renowned environmentalist Madhav Gadgil. The main focus of the meeting was to conserve the biodiversity of the Western Ghats region, while providing adequate opportunities for livelihood security of the local people in the broad paradigm of ESA which is not just about regulation of development but is intimately linked to positive promotion of environment-friendly and socially inclusive development. The meeting comes after the Environment Minister had earlier asserted that the Centre will consult all the stakeholders concerned before taking any decision on the Kasturirangan Committee report. The 10-member high-level working group (HLWG), headed by Kasturirangan, was constituted to examine the Western Ghats ecology expert panel report (WGEEP) prepared under the leadership of eminent ecologist Madhav Gadgil. The Ministry had published a draft notification in Gazette of India on March 10, 2014 under the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 for declaring ESA in the Western Ghats in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The identified ESA represents a continuous band of natural vegetation, extending over a distance of about 1,500 km along the west coast of the country, the statement said. The concept of ESA provides a mechanism to conserve biologically diversity of an area while allowing for sustainable development to take place. Western Ghats is a global biodiversity hotspot harbouring many species of flowering plants, fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals and invertebrates. It also supports a population of approximately fifty million people and includes areas of high human population density.
SAHARA WAS ONCE HOME TO WORLD’S LARGEST LAKE
Mega-Chad, the largest freshwater lake around 6,000 years ago, dried up in a few centuries. The Sahara desert contained the world’s largest freshwater lake until it evaporated in just a few hundred years, a new study has found. Researchers from the University of London used satellite images to map abandoned shore lines around Palaeolake Mega-Chad, and analysed sediments to calculate www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  the age of these shore lines, producing a lake level history spanning the last 15,000 years. At its peak around 6,000 years ago, Palaeolake Mega-Chad was the largest freshwater lake on Earth, with an area of 3,60,000 square km. Presently Lake Chad is reduced to a fraction of that size, at only 355 square km. The drying of Lake Mega-Chad reveals a story of dramatic climate change in the southern Sahara, with a rapid change from a giant lake to desert dunes and dust, due to changes in rainfall from the West African Monsoon, researchers said.
REPORT: NEW HIV INFECTIONS DOWN BY 49% IN S ASIA
New HIV infections have fallen by 49 per cent in Southern Asia, said the final report on Millennium Development Goals released by the United Nations Economic and Social Communication for Asia-Pacific (UN-ESCAP). According to the report, new HIV infections worldwide fell by approximately 40 per cent between 2000 and 2013 while over 6.2 million malaria deaths have been averted between 2000 and 2015. Crediting the MDGs for their effective role in combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, the report said that the tuberculosis (TB) incidence rate has also been falling in South Asia. Globally, tuberculosis prevention, diagnosis and treatment interventions saved an estimated 37 million lives between 2000 and 2013. The report revealed that under-five mortality rate in South Asia has fallen by 60 per cent or more since 1990 and the maternal mortality ratio declined by more than 55 per cent between 1990 and 2013. The MDG report reassured that goal setting can lift millions of people out of poverty, empower women and girls, improve health and well-being, and provide vast new opportunities for better lives. On the poverty front, by the year 2011, Asia had met the target of halving the proportion of people who live in extreme poverty. The report highlights that since 1990, the extreme poverty rate has been reduced by 66 per cent and 84 per cent in Southern Asia and South-Eastern Asia, respectively. While Southern Asia faces the greatest hunger burden, with about 281 million undernourished people, Eastern Asia and South-Eastern Asia have reached the hunger target. China alone accounts for almost two thirds of the total reduction in the number of undernourished people in the developing regions since 1990. For primary education, the report stated that gender parity has been reached in both primary and secondary education with Southern Asia witnessing an impressive progress. In 1990, only 74 girls were enrolled in primary school for every 100 boys in this subregion. Presently, 103 girls are enrolled for every 100 boys. However, in Southern Asia, an estimated 57 per cent of out-of-school children will never go to school, the report said. On the subject of gender equality, the report said that women’s share of wage employment has continued to grow in Asia. However, in Southern Asia, women’s participation rate in the labour market is one-quarter to one-third of men’s rate. Between 2000 and 2015, the proportion of seats held by women in single or lower houses of national parliament increased from 7 per cent to 18 per cent in Southern Asia. A significant progress has been metered with regards to water and sanitation. Since 1990, the proportion of the population without access to improved drinking water has been cut in half in Southern Asia. Nonetheless, nearly one-fifth of all people using unimproved sources live in South Asia. Even as the proportion of population using an improved sanitation facility has increase by 25 percentage points since 1990 in Southern Asia, more than half of population in the region still lacks access to improved sanitation.
GENES ASSOCIATED TO BRAIN TUMOUR IDENTI
Researchers have identified a new family of genes responsible for the growth of tumours in a wide spectrum of high-grade brain cancers. The study could lead to new therapies to treat aggressive brain tumours. With these new genetic findings, researchers planed to develop targeted therapeutics that will one day be used treat patients with high grade brain tumours and increase their survival. High grade brain tumours, known as gliomas, are difficult to treat and most patients treated for primary gliomas develop into secondary gliomas, www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  which are almost always fatal. Any given tumour can harbour a variety of different combinations of mutations. Despite advances in radiation and chemotherapy, there are currently no effective curative regimens for treatment for these diverse tumours. The researchers first modelled high grade brain tumours from resident stem cells inside the brain, using a cutting edge method of rapid modelling that can create up to five distinct tumour models within 45 minutes. After effectively modelling high grade brain tumours, they identified the Ets (E26 transformation-specific) family of genes as contributors to glioma brain tumours. These Ets factors function to regulate the behaviour of tumour cells by controlling expression of genes necessary for tumour growth and cell fate, and when expression of the Ets genes is blocked, researchers may be able to identify and strategise novel treatment therapies.
STUDY: CARDIOVASCULAR RISK FACTORS ON THE RISE IN ASIA
Cardiovascular risk factors like hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes appear to be on the rise in Asia, particularly Japan, researchers revealed. Using data from earlier studies and examining a health programme launched by the Japanese government, the researchers found many risk factors in the Japanese population remain unchanged or even worsened over more than a decade. In Japan and China, there is an increasing incidence of hypertension and is completely different than the US where rates of hypertension did not change. Many risk factors in the Japanese population remain unchanged or even worsened over more than a decade. Cardiovascular disease deaths in Japan have increased and the prevalence of risk factors is expected to increase as the Japanese population continues to age, said guest editor Masafumi Kitakaze in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. On the other hand, there has been an overall decline in coronary artery disease-related mortality in the US and Europe. This decline has been attributed to reductions in risk factors and the promotion of treatments. Data collection on patients, not only in Japan but in Asia and around the world, is key to understanding the status of cardiovascular disease and determining the future direction of care. By combining data collection with clinical trials, the cardiovascular community can continue to develop new treatments and improve outcomes for patients. Focusing attention and research efforts on these parameters for varied cardiovascular disease will help better understand how to improve treatment for patients across the globe.
IIM: HEAT-RELATED DEATHS DOUBLE IN URBAN INDIA BY 2080
Heat-related mortalities will witness a two-fold increase in urban areas of India by 2080, a study done by the Indian Institute of ManagementAhmedabad (IIM-A) predicts. The IIM study titled as ‘Predicted increase in heat- related mortality under climate change in urban India’ also asked the Indian policy-makers to plan and respond to the challenge of climate change in the country, which recorded more than 2000 deaths in summer this year. The study, which is based on data collected from 52 Urban centres, revealed that the mortality is projected to increase 71 to 140 per cent in the late 21st century. Researcher found that increase in heat-related mortality will overshadow decline in the cold-related mortality (winter season). Moreover, urban areas of Delhi, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Mumbai and Kolkata are projected to experience the highest absolute increase in heatrelated mortality in 2080s. India and other developing countries are at higher risk due to high population and low preparedness. Mortality associated with recent heat waves in Indian cities such as Ahmedabad and Delhi highlight the current vulnerability that is likely to increase in the future, said the study. However, studies that assess future temperature related health impacts are largely absent in India. This is important given that temperatures may increase by 3.3 degree Centigrade to 4.8 degree Centigrade by 2080s relative to pre-industrial times under changing climate. This is the first attempt to show that the urban India is projected to experience high mortality from the future warming. These findings underscored the need for Indian policy makers to anticipate, plan and respond to the challenge of climate change. Across the different zones studied, researchers found that maximum percentage increase in the [ 4 4 ] Weekly Current Affairs 5th July 2015 to 11th July, 2015 www.ias100.in mortality impacts of climate change, it causes. The study warns the towns and smaller cities of today will burgeon into urban areas with million plus populations in the future as a consequence of urbanisation, which may lay an impact on health of the people. It said the developing countries are more vulnerable as impacts may not only be higher in absolute terms, but also because, they lack resources to mount a coherent adaptation response. The study stressed for greater emphasis on public health and policy coordination across sectors. Health system strengthening is needed in urban India to address current and future climate change related health challenges. heat-related mortality is expected in the cold zone and hot and dry zone. This may be because people in the colder areas may not acclimatise to warmer temperatures. Similarly, increased temperatures in the zones that are hot and dry may enhance population susceptibility given that physiological limits of human temperature tolerance may be breached. The real mortality impact of the projected climate in urban areas in India is likely to be significantly higher than that analyzed in this study. The 52 urban areas represent about 13 per cent (157 million people) of the Indian population. The remaining population that resides in smaller towns, cities, and rural areas, which are also vulnerable to
ORAL CHOLERA VACCINES: CAN END DREADFUL DISEASE IN BANGLADESH
It is a sigh of relief for Bangladesh, where oral cholera is an endemic disease, as a vaccine called Shanchol which is given as part of routine health services has been tagged safe and will protect children and adults from severe cholera. The findings lend support to the use of the vaccine in routine mass vaccination programmes to help to control cholera in endemic countries. The study showed that even with moderate vaccination coverage, cases of severe lifethreatening cholera were reduced by nearly 40 per cent. Over one billion people are estimated to be at risk of cholera in more than 50 countries where it is endemic and around 2.8 million cases and 91,000 deaths occur every year in endemic regions. Author Dr. Firdausi Qadri said that their findings showed that a routine oral cholera vaccination programme in cholera-endemic countries could substantially reduce the burden of disease and greatly contribute to cholera control efforts. The vaccine is cheap; two doses cost 3.7 US dollars, around a third of the price of the other licensed vaccine Dukoral. She added that the key to control cholera was clean water and adequate sanitation, which half the developing world lack, but this remained a rather difficult reality for the world’s poorest nations as well as those affected by climate change, war and natural disasters. According to World Health Organisation, in India 6,76, 651 cases were reported from 2000 to 2004 and there was a 24 per cent increase in the number of cases during these years.
CORTISTATIN A: MAY REDUCE HIV POTENCY
Researchers have discovered that supplementing existing antiretroviral therapy with a natural compound can reduce the potency of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), thereby halting the progression of AIDS. HIV-infected patients remain on antiretroviral therapy for life because the virus survives over the long-term in infected dormant cells. Interruption of current types of antiretroviral therapy results in a rebound of the virus and clinical progression to AIDS. The results highlighted an alternative approach to current anti-HIV strategies,” said lead researcher Susana Valente, at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in the US. In the study, the researchers have detailed that unlike other antiretroviral therapies, a natural compound called Cortistatin A reduces residual levels of virus from the HIV-infected dormant cells, establishing a near-permanent state of latency and greatly diminishing the virus capacity for reactivation. Prior treatment with Cortistatin A significantly inhibits and delays viral rebound in the absence of any drug. Our results suggest current antiretroviral regimens could be supplemented with a Tat inhibitor such as Cortistatin A to achieve a functional HIV-1 cure, reducing levels of the virus and preventing reactivation from latent reservoirs, researchers noted. For the study, the researchers isolated cells from nine HIV-infected participants being treated with antiretroviral drugs. They found that treatment with the natural molecule reduced viral reactivation by an average of 92.3 percent.
MINISTER MOOTS MISSION MODE FOR POPULATION STABILISATION
On the occasion of World Population Day Minister for Health & Family Welfare, J P Nadda, mooted the idea of taking up the task of population stabilisation in the country by adopting a Mission Mode approach, where focussed and targeted work in taken up in those states where the figures have been high. The Health Minister stated that special efforts can be considered to stabilise population by concentrating on those states which contribute the maximum to the country total. The Health Minister stated that the issue of population can be seen through two lenses. One is to view it as an issue and the other is to consider the large proportion of the young population as an asset and harness its dividend. The country’s current population at 1.21 billion continues to pose several challenges, especially regarding delivery of affordable, accessible and quality services to the numerous people. He however, also applauded the fact that population has shown a decline since 2011 and the country is very close to achieving the replacement level fertility rate of 2.1 by the year 2010. Nadda stated that the achievements of NHM towards population stabilisation have been significant, and also in terms of provisioning of health services to a large number of people. The Health Minister added that strategies to stabilise population are critical to development for any country. He also stated that the topic of the reproductive rights and needs of women in emergencies is contextual, and the half day long workshop with the presence of several experts in the field of healthcare will result in several thoughtful discussions and deliberations.
UN: WORLD’S POOREST NEED $160 A YEAR TO END HUNGER
Just $160 per year for each person living in extreme poverty would eradicate world hunger by 2030, the United Nations said on July 10, 2015, recommending the money should be delivered through both cash transfers and “pro-poor” investments. Eliminating hunger is one of the UN`s sustainable development goals (SDGs), new objectives set to replace the eight expiring UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The SDGs will be finalised in September, but U.N. officials said member states have identified 17 goals and 169 targets. The second goal targets hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity. Director general of the UN`s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) noted that if we adopt a `business as usual` approach, by 2030, we would still have more than 650 million people suffering from hunger. The new report, prepared by FAO, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD), comes ahead of a major international conference on financing for development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The UN wants cash transfers to “eliminate hunger immediately” by bringing people up to the World Bank`s poverty line of $1.25 per day. It estimates this would cost $116 billion per year, $75 billion of which would go to rural areas. To ensure the drop in hunger is sustainable, “pro-poor” investments of $151 billion per year are needed in areas such as irrigation, infrastructure and credit facilities on top of cash transfers, the U.N. said. The total sum the U.N. says is needed each year is $267 billion. Given that this is more or less equivalent to 0.3 percent of the global GDP, I personally think it is a relatively small price to pay to end hunger, Graziano da Silva noted. Though much progress has been made in recent years, nearly 800 million people worldwide do not have enough to eat. Most live outside cities.
VIT C LOWERS RISK OF HEART DISEASES
\A new research has found that high concentration of vitamin C in the blood attained by eating fruits and vegetables is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and early death. The research conducted by University of Copenhagen and Herlev and Gentofte Hospital showed that among other supplements, vitamin C from fruits and vegetables helps build connective tissue which supports and connects different types of tissues and organs in the body and protects cells and biological molecules from the damage. The researchers examined the data of 100,000 [ 4 6 ] Weekly Current Affairs 5th July 2015 to 11th July, 2015 www.ias100.in people and their intake of fruit and vegetables as well as their DNA and observed that those who had highest intake of fruit and vegetables had a 15 percent lower risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and a 20 percent lower risk of early death compared with those who very rarely eat fruit and vegetables. On the other hand, they linked the reduced risk was related to high vitamin C concentrations in the blood from the fruit and vegetables. Researchers said that they will continue their work to determine which other factors, combined with vitamin C, have an impact on cardiovascular disease and death.
SUPER GRAPHENE CAN HELP TREAT CANCER
Chemotherapy treatment usually involves the patient receiving medicine through an intravenous catheter. These catheters, as well as the equipment attached to them, are treated with a silver coating which is antibacterial, preventing bacterial growth and unwanted infections during a treatment. Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s (NTNU) Department of Physics are now studying what happens when different drugs come in contact with this silver coating. They wanted to find potential problem sources in the tubes used in intravenous catheters. An interaction between the coating and the drugs was one possibility. Chemotherapy drugs are active substances, so it isn’t hard to imagine that the medicine could react with the silver. Researchers used X-ray photoemission spectroscopy (XPS) to look at the surface chemistry of one of the most commonly used chemotherapy drugs, 5-Fluorouracil (5-Fu), and the interaction between it and the type of silver coating found in medical equipment. They found that the antibacterial silver coating actually breaks down the drugs. Not only does this reduced the effect of a chemotherapy treatment, but it also creates hydrogen fluoride, a gas that can be harmful both to the patients and to the medical equipment. Reactions between chemotherapy drugs and other substances that the drugs come in contact with have never been studied like this before. It has always been assumed that the drugs reach the body fully intact. The group continued their studies with the XPS instrument, now examining how the same chemotherapy drugs reacted with graphene. Graphene is a non-reactive substance, and is sometimes referred to as a magical material that can solve any problem. So the researchers thought that it might be a good combination with the chemotherapy drugs. The drugs did not react with the graphene, researchers found. According to researchers, Graphene has already been suggested as a coating for medical equipment, and it should be possible to create thin layers of graphene designed for this use. This research has produced valuable information about the interaction between chemotherapy drugs and other substances that the medicine is in contact with. The researchers hope that the work will contribute to making cancer treatment more effective.
EBOLA-HIT COUNTRIES SEEK BILLIONS FOR RECOVERY AT UN
The presidents of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone approached to the United Nations on July 10, 2015 hoping to raise USD 3.2 billion to put their countries firmly on course for recovery from Ebola. More than 11,200 people have died in West Africa from the world’s worst outbreak of the virus, with a few new cases uncovered in Liberia recently after the country had been declared Ebola-free. New infections in Sierra Leone and Guinea have fallen dramatically amid indications that the epidemic is largely under control. At the UN conference chaired by SecretaryGeneral Ban Ki-moon, the leaders have presented their recovery plans for the next two years and seek international pledges of financial aid. It’s all in an effort to get the countries to receive the resources they need to go to zero, stay at zero and recover, said David Nabarro, the UN’s coordinator for the Ebola crisis. Zimbabwe’s 91-year-old President Robert Mugabe attended as chair of the African Union along with Guinea’s leader Alpha Conde, Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone. Liberia, the hardest-hit country, and Sierra Leone have seen modest gains made after years of war wiped out during the epidemic that brought their countries to the brink. Legions of health care workers died from Ebola and field hospitals built at the height of the crisis have since closed, leaving health systems struggling.
NEW METHOD TO DEVELOP MORE EFFICIENT DRUGS
Scientists have developed a new approach to develop highly-potent drugs which could overcome current shortcomings of low drug efficacy and multi-drug resistance in patients. The study identified a new mechanism of targeting multi-subunit complexes that are critical to the function of viruses, bacteria or cancer. Thus the mechanism will reduce or possibly even eliminating their resistance to targeted drugs. Efficacy is the key in drug development, said researchers. Inhibiting multi subunit targets works similar to the series-circuit Christmas decorating light chains; one broken bulb turns off the entire lighting system. By targeting RNA, this method allows for killing or disabling the RNA or protein without requiring the inhibition of multiple pathways that might be used by the organism to remain active and viable. Using this method, a single subunit targeting to the target RNA or protein subunits that is unique and assenting for the organism, the organism will be disabled or die and thus, no longer able to cause disease. One of the vexing problems in the development of drugs is drug resistance. This study has identified a new mechanism of efficiently inhibiting biological processes that are critical to the function of the disease-causing organism, such that resistance is minimized or eliminated.