Current Affairs 7TH JUNE 2015 TO 13TH JUNE, 2015
DEBROY PANEL: MAKE TRAIN SERVICES VIABLE
The much-awaited Bibek Debroy committee report on the restructuring of Indian Railways has laid down a five-year roadmap to evolve a statutory rail regulator, scrap the Rail Budget and make room for more players in an “open access” regime which turns the Railways into just another train-service provider in the country. The panel on restructuring of the Indian Railways, headed by Mr. Debroy, submitted its final report on June 12, 2015. The committee has set a five-year timeframe for implementing its recommendations and has suggested doing away with the Railway Budget. Improving accountability, decentralizing power and setting up an independent regulator are the key elements for the restructuring of Indian Railways, NITI Aayog member Bibek Debroy noted. Instead of an aggressive approach as was seen in the interim report submitted in March for comments, the final report, presented to Railway Ministry on Friday, calls for more gradual changes. The report makes the existence of an independent, quasi-judicial Railway Regulatory Authority of India a prerequisite in five years for reforms like un-bundling and restructuring of Railways. He said even if the projects were taken up for fulfilling social objectives, they needed to be accounted for and clearly quantified and funded out of the Budget. On the independent regulator, Mr. Debroy said the recommendation was to set it up statutorily and not executively. The committee wants the regulator to be independent and the regulator to be accountable to Parliament. The committee wants the regulator to be outside the clutches of Rail Bhavan with a separate budget. The Ministry would set only policies. Once the changes of the first five years are implemented, including the resolution of the social costs issue, the Railway Budget should be phased out, the report said adding that the government should take the entire burden of social cost borne by Railways by way of subsidy. Pushed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the high-level committee was formed in September to restructure the Railways and suggest ways for resource mobilization. After the receipt of the final report, the Railway Board is to submit a report on it to the Prime Minister.
NUCLEAR INSURANCE POOL SET UP MIGRANT RESOURCE CENTRE LAUNCHED IN CHENNAI
The Union government has launched an insurance pool of Rs. 1,500 crore, mandatory under the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act to offset the financial burden on foreign nuclear suppliers in case of an accident. Making the announcement on June 13, 2015, Union Minister of State in the Department of Atomic Energy Jitendra Singh stated tht several projects such as the long-pending Gorakhpur Haryana Anu Vidyut Pariyojna held up in the absence of the pool were now expected to move forward. l Clauses in the Act, which give the operator the right to legal recourse and allow it to sue the suppliers in case of any accident, were seen as being a major hindrance to the growth of the nuclear industry. l These concerns led to the formation of the Indian nuclear insurance pool. R.K. Sinha, Secretary in the Department of Atomic Energy, said this would be a solution for suppliers’ concerns about liability from nuclear risks. l Under the pool, nuclear operators’ liability and suppliers’ special contingency insurance policies will be offered. l The pool has been set up by General Insurance Corporation of India and 11 other non-life insurers, including New India, Oriental Insurance, National Insurance and United India Insurance, from the public sector, apart from private insurance companies. l General Insurance Corporation (GIC), the fund operator, noted that a shortfall of Rs. 600 crore was met when a domestic insurance company chipped in with Rs. 100 crore more. Remaining gap of Rs. 500 crore was filled in by the British Nuclear Insurance Pool. l This will address the concern of the suppliers such as the Gorakhpur Haryana project and also of foreign players. Now we have a policy for the entire nuclear industry of the country.
MIGRANT RESOURCE CENTRE LAUNCHED IN CHENNAI
The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA), Government of India and the Government of Tamil Nadu have set up a Migrant Resource Centre (MRC) in Chennai, which will be functional from June 12, 2015. The MRC will provide to intending migrants and overseas Indian workers, information, guidance, advise and counselling on all aspects of overseas employment including legal and regulatory requirements; documentation and procedures; policies; and problems faced while working aboard etc. The MRC in Chennai is the fourth such MRC in India set-up by MOIA. The MRC will support the following functions: l Disseminate information on safe and legal migration. l Disseminate information about status of Recruiting Agents and other service providers. l Register and respond to complaints/ grievances within the redressal forum of MOIA l Offer counseling support (walk in or telephone and email support) The first Migrant Resource Centre (MRC) was established by MOIA in 2008 in Kochi, Kerala, followed by fully functional MRCs in Hyderabad (Telengana & Andhra Pradesh), Gurgaon (Haryana) and Chennai (Tamil Nadu).
NJAC MAKES JUDICIARY MORE INDEPENDENT
Turning the arguments on the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) on its head and countering the views aired by Union Law Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda recently, the government of Madhya Pradesh, the first State to respond on the issue in the Supreme Court, has said that the new law makes the judiciary more independent and powerful in selection of judges than before. The State, represented by senior counsel K.K. Venugopal, said the NJAC, in reality, “dilutes” the role of the executive in the selection of judges. In his 15-page written submissions before a five-judge Constitution Bench on June 12, 2015 Mr. Venugopal argued that the collegium system and the 1993 judgment, which ushered it in, ceased to exist with the 99th amendment incorporating the NJAC in the Constitution. He said the touchstone to test if the NJAC was encroaching on, or emasculating, judicial independence was comparing it with the original Article 124 of the Constitution. A constitutional amendment should be tested on the Article which it sought to replace, not a court judgment. The original Article 124, as devised by the Constitution- [ 6 ] Weekly Current Affairs 7th June 2015 to 13th June, 2015 www.ias100.in makers, only afforded the Chief Justice of India the role of a “consultee”.
Decisive voice In fact, the government was the “decisive voice” in judicial appointments. If, therefore, the 99th amendment is examined in the background of the original Constitution, what would be apparent is that the judicial wing, which had only a consultative status, has now been elevated to that of a participant in the decision-making process itself. Out of the six members [in the NJAC], three of them belong to the judicial wing, and therefore, the judicial wing has primacy in the matter of appointments, Mr. Venugopal submitted. The Centre has consistently maintained that the judiciary has only parity and no primacy in judicial appointments. Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi noted that “predominantly”, the job of selecting judges was that of the executive. The government’s top law officer submitted in the Supreme Court that the concept of judicial independence kicked in only after a judge started office. It did not include the manner in which judicial appointments were made. The Law Minister said judges should not feel left out merely because they did not enjoy primacy in numbers in the six-member NJAC, consisting of the Chief Justice of India, two senior-most judges, the Union Law Minister and two eminent persons. Mr. Gowda too is reported to have said that independence of the judiciary began after judges were chosen. Madhya Pradesh argued that the three judges on the NJAC had “a power of veto which can be exercised if the other members together seek to push through a candidate, who, according to the judges, is not an appropriate candidate for appointment.” From a decisive role in judicial appointments under the original Article 124, he argued, the government’s presence in the NJAC had been diluted to just one representative — the Law Minister. With the two eminent persons personifying a “fair reflection of society”, he said the NJAC took away judicial appointments from the exclusive domain of the executive under the original Article 124 and threw it open to diverse views, with the judicial wing predominating. NJAC could only be a dramatic improvement so far as the judiciary is concerned in regard to their status in the appointment process of judges, Mr. Venugopal submitted. About National Judicial Appointments Commission The National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, 2014 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on August 11, 2014 by the Minister of Law and Justice, Mr. Ravi Shankar Prasad. The bill was passed by Lok Sabha on August 13, 2014 and by Rajya Sabha on August 14, 2014. The Bill has been introduced in conjunction with the Constitutional (121st Amendment) Bill, 2014, which establishes the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC).The Bill provides for the procedure to be followed by the NJAC for recommending persons for appointment as Chief Justice of India and other Judges of the Supreme Court (SC), and Chief Justice and other Judges of High Courts (HC).
Reference to Commission for filling up of vacancies l When a vacancy arises in the SC or HCs, the central government will make a reference to the NJAC. l Existing vacancies will be notified to the NJAC within thirty days of the Act entering into force. l When a vacancy arises due to the completion of term, a reference will be made to the NJAC, six months in advance. l For vacancies due to death or resignation, a reference must be made to the NJAC within thirty days of its occurrence.
INS VIKRANT UNDOCKED
India, on June 10, 2015, crossed a major milestone in defence shipbuilding when the maiden indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant was undocked on completion of structural work at the Cochin Shipyard. The carrier is slated for induction in end-2018. Vikrant, weighing about 22,000 tonnes now, will continue to be outfitted for over a year and a half now before the basin and sea trials begin ahead of delivery. Almost 90 per cent of works below the fourth deck, all underwater works, is over. Major equipment has gone in. Cabling, piping, electrical works, heat and ventilation works will take place now. Delivery of systems and components for the aviation complex designed by the Russian Nevoske design bureau is expected anytime now. The undocking is part of the second phase of work on the carrier, which is expected to be complete by 2017, when the basin trials will get under way.
AGREEMENT ON PROPOSED CONSTITUTION FRAMEWORK IN NEPAL
Nepal’s main political parties have reached agreements on several disputed issues – federal structure, form of governance, electoral and judicial systems – that could lead to the drafting of a muchdelayed constitution in the Himalayan nation. The agreement was signed in the capital Kathmandu by leaders of the four main political parties – leaders of the ruling Nepali Congress (NC), the main opposition Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)and two other major political parties in the Constituent Assembly. l The agreement says Nepal would have eight federal states. l A special commission will be formed to decide on the exact borders of the states, while their names will be decided by the state assemblies when they are elected. l Nepal will continue with its current system of national governance which includes executive Prime Minister and ceremonial President. l To conduct elections to local bodies which were held for the last time in 1997. l The final draft of the constitution, which must be approved by a two-thirds parliamentary majority, is expected to be ready by July 2015. Background Partisan political fighting has delayed an agreement on the constitution, which was initially supposed to have been drafted by 2010. The parties were unable to agree on the number of states, their formation and their names. Some of the political parties had insisted that the states had to be based on the ethnic groups represented in the area while others wanted them based on geographical terrain. An attempt by the governing parties earlier this year to present a draft of the constitution at the constituent assembly ended in a violent protest inside the assembly hall, where opposition members broke chairs and desks, and threw microphones and shoes at the speaker. The protest spilled into street protests and a nationwide general strike. The four parties that signed the agreement have many more votes than the two-thirds of a majority in the 601-seat assembly that are needed to approve the draft. A constitution was supposed to have been written by the Constituent Assembly that was elected in 2008 following the end of a 10-year Maoist insurgency and the overthrow of the centuries-old monarchy. But the assembly was driven by infighting and never finished its work. The current assembly was chosen in 2013, but has faced the same problem. Since the country was hit by earthquakes in April and May that killed more than 8,700 people, both the government and opposition have been under pressure to resolve the constitution crisis.
AFRICAN LEADERS SIGNED TRIPARTITE FREE TRADE AREA (TFTA)
26 African nation leaders signed free trade pact to create a common market that would span half the continent from Cairo to Cape Town. The Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) deal, which must still be fine-tuned and ratified, caps five years of talks to set up a framework for preferential tariffs to ease the movement of goods in an area home to 625 million people. l It could have an enormous impact on African economies, which account for only about two percent of global trade despite strong growth. l Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan were among those who signed the pact at a summit in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. l But hurdles remain, with the timeline for bringing down trade barriers yet to be worked out and the deal needing ratification in national parliaments within two years. World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said that with the launch of the TFTA “Africa has made it clear that it is open for business.” [ 8 ] Weekly Current Affairs 7th June 2015 to 13th June, 2015 www.ias100.in Bolster intra-regional trade l The deal will integrate three existing trade blocs — the East African Community, the Southern African Development Community and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) — whose countries have a combined gross domestic product of more than $1 trillion (885 billion euros). l The geographical area covers the Cape (of Good Hope) to Cairo. The agreement paves the way for a continental free trade area that will combine the three biggest regional communities. l The deal would create a “borderless economy” that would rank 13th in the world in terms of GDP. l Members of the three blocs range from relatively developed economies such as South Africa and Egypt to countries like Angola, Ethiopia and Mozambique, which are seen as having huge growth potential. l The establishment of TFTA will bolster intraregional trade by creating a wider market that would increase investment flow and will enhance regional infrastructure development. l The TFTA has been widely welcomed by world business leaders, with experts pointing out that only 12 percent of Africa’s trade is between countries on the continent. ‘One trade regime’ l In 2013, the UN Conference on Trade and Development said Africa must focus on creating more space for the private sector to play an active role if it is to boost intra-continental trade. l Africa’s growth in the past 15 years has outstripped global GDP expansion by nearly three percentage points. l Egypt itself expected to export about $5 billion worth of goods in the next five years to TFTA countries. l Companies would benefit from an improved and harmonized trade regime, which would reduce costs by eliminating overlapping trade rules.
3,800-YEAR-OLD STATUETTES FOUND IN PERU
Researchers in Peru have discovered a trio of statuettes; they believe were created by the ancient Caral civilization some 3,800 years ago. l The mud statuettes were found inside a reed basket in a building at the ancient city of Vichama in northern Peru, which is today an important archaeological site. l They were probably used in religious rituals performed before breaking ground on a new building. l Two of the figures, a naked man and woman painted in white, black and red, are believed to represent political authorities. l The third, a women with 28 fingers and red dots on her white face, is believed to represent a priestess. l The research team, led by archaeologist Ruth Shady, also unearthed two mud figurines of women’s faces wrapped in cloth and covered with yellow, blue and orange feathers. l The Caral civilization emerged some 5,000 years ago and lived in Peru’s Supe Valley, leaving behind impressive architecture including pyramids and sunken amphitheater.
CHINA CONDUCTS FOURTH TEST OF WU-14 VEHICLE
The Chinese People Liberation Army (PLA) has conducted another test launch of its new hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) amid escalating tensions with the US over the disputed South China Sea. l Dubbed WU-14, the weapon performed manoeuvres that demonstrated its ability to penetrate missile defence systems. l It is the fourth test of the missile in the last 18 months. l Previous trials of the missile were carried out in January, August, and December 2014. l The latest trial, conducted in western China, involved extreme manoeuvres by the high-speed strike weapon. l Chinese military analysts interpreted the trial as a response to a recent flight of a US P-8 maritime surveillance aircraft over the South China Sea. l However, the Chinese Defence Ministry said in a statement: “The scheduled scientific research and experiments in our territory (are) normal, and those tests are not targeted at any country and specific goals.” About Wu-14 nuclear delivery hypersonic vehicle l Capable of travelling up to ten times the speed of sound, at approximately 7,680mph, the WU- 14 is a nuclear delivery vehicle designed to defeat national missile defences that are currently able to counter ballistic missiles and warheads with predictable trajectories. l Hypersonic glide vehicles could render existing US missile defence systems less effective and potentially obsolete. l Designed to be less susceptible to anti-ballistic missile countermeasures than legacy re-entry vehicles, the WU-14 is likely to be fitted to various Chinese ballistic missiles, including the DF-21 medium-range missile, as well as the DF- 31 and DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missiles. l The proposed move is expected to extend the missiles’ ranges from 2,000km to 3,000km, and 8,000km to 12,000km, respectively.
US BECOMES WORLD’S BIGGEST OIL PRODUCER, SURPASSES SAUDI ARABIA
The United States has overtaken Saudi Arabia as the world’s biggest oil producer in 2014 while India has recorded the highest growth in energy consumption among major economies. l The US produced 15.9% more oil in 2014 at 11.6 million barrels of oil per day to topple Saudi Arabia’s 11.5 million bpd production, according to BP Plc’s Statistical Review of World Energy l Russia with 10.8 million bpd oil production was placed third. l The US surpassed Russia as the world’s largest producer of oil and gas, producing 1,250.4 million tons of oil and oil equivalent natural gas in 2014. l This compared with Russia’s 1,062 million tons of oil equivalent. l US shale revolution helped it overtake Saudi [ 1 0 ] Weekly Current Affairs 7th June 2015 to 13th June, 2015 www.ias100.in Arabia as the world’s biggest oil producer and surpass Russia as the world’s largest producer of oil and gas. l On the consumption side, world primary energy consumption slowed markedly, with growth of just 0.9% in 2014, a lower rate than at any time since thes late 1990s (other than in the immediate aftermath of last decade’s financial crisis). l Chinese growth in consumption slowed to its lowest level since 1998 as its economy rebalances away from energy intensive sectors, though China remained the world’s largest growth market for energy. l India, however, posted a 7.1% rise in energy consumption, the fastest among major economies and second only to Algeria’s 8.4% expansion. l It consumed 637.8 million tons of oil and oil equivalent natural gas, coal, nuclear energy, hydro electricity and renewable energy. l This consumption was dwarf in comparison to 2972.1 million tons of oil equivalent energy consumed in China and 2298.7 million tons in the US. l It was also lower than Russia’s 681.9 million tons but more than Japan’s 456.1 million tons oil equivalent energy consumption. l While India’s oil production declined 1.3% at 895,000 bpd, consumption rose 3% to 3.8 million bpd. l Though India is heavily dependent on imports to meet its oil needs, it is self-sufficient in refining capacity, housing a total capacity of 4.3 million bpd, fourth largest in the world behind the US (17.79 million bpd), China (14.09 million bpd) and Russia (6.3 million bpd).
FIRST INDIA-CHINA YOGA COLLEGE AT YUNNAN MINZU UNIVERSITY, CHINA
Minister of State for External Affairs Gen (Retd) VK Singh inaugurated a Yoga College set up by India in China’s Yunnan Minzu University in Kunming city. l Yoga which has become immensely popular in China in recent years has got the official nod when Premier Li Keqiang took part in a YogaTai Chi event along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi here during Modi’s visit last month. l An MOU to set up a Yoga college along with Indian teachers in Yunnan University was signed during Modi’s visit for the first time to bring standards to thousands of Yoga teachers and institutions mushrooming all over China. l The college will provide certificate courses. Indian Council of Cultural Relations, (ICCR) will provide two teachers to the university. l China has permitted events to celebrate the first anniversary of UN Yoga Day on June 21 all over the country besides an international Yoga Festival near Chengdu in which a number of Indian teachers will participate. l India is organising a week long international Yoga conference in Chengdu from June 17 to 21 to mark the International Yoga Day. l Also Yoga events are being held in all cities in China to mark the day.
CHINA LAUNCHED FREIGHT TRAIN SERVICE CONNECTING EUROPE
China launched a freight train service between its city Harbin and Europe, opening a new trade route to Europe covering a distance of nearly 10,000 kms. The train left Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang province, carrying 49 containers of domestic goods such as electronic products and auto parts worth $3 mn from northeast and north China. l During the 9,820-km-long travel, the train will pass Russia and Poland before reaching its destination of Hamburg, Germany. l During the 9,820-km-long travel, the train will pass Russia and Poland before reaching its destination of Hamburg, Germany. l The train will run once a week and each single trip will take 15 days. l It will transport goods from China, the Republic of Korea and Japan as well as European countries such as Germany, Poland, France, Spain and Italy. l HAO Logistics Co., Ltd, is the joint venture partner in the service. l Several Chinese cities, including Chongqing, Chengdu, Changsha, Hefei, Yiwu and Suzhou, have launched similar freight train services to Europe.
INDIA & WORLD
INDIA AND NETHERLANDS SIGNED A MOU FOR DEVELOPMENT OF VACCINES
A Memorandum of Understanding was arrived at between India and Netherlands for development of vaccines. The MoU signed under ‘Make in India’ initiative of Government of India will enable the Bharat Immunologicals and Biologicals Corporation Ltd (BIBCOL), a Central PSU under Department of Biotechnology, to develop Measles – Rubella vaccine at its plant at Chola, Bulandshahr, U.P. Translational Vaccinology (INTRAVACC) a government-based institute of the Netherlands will extend technical support for the development of vaccine. The MoU was signed in the August presence of the Prime Minister of The Netherlands Mark Rutte during his visit to New Delhi. INTRAVACC, an institute which is part of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport of the Netherlands, is internationally renowned for vaccine development and has a long history in technology transfer. The cooperation will result in large scale production Measles-Rubella and other needed vaccine of high quality in Bulandshahr, U.P. and save hundreds of thousands of children from the dreaded disease in the country. In the post polio eradication era, the focus shall be on elimination / control of other vaccine preventable diseases such as measles and rubella. This important collaboration between BIBCOL and INTRAVACC will pave the way for manufacture of high quality affordable vaccines, beginning with Measles and Rubella vaccine, and then take on the production of the other needed vaccines for the Immunization Programmes of India and other developing countries in the world. The ‘Make in India’ is a critical initiative for promoting access to health technology beyond the borders of India. Making India ‘Polio Free’ Bharat Immunologicals and Biological Corporation Limited (BIBCOL), Bulandshahar, UP is a Central Public Sector Unit, under the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science & Technology, Government of India. BIBCOL was established as a PSU in 1989, with the aim to achieve self-sufficiency for the nation with respect to production and supply of high quality polio vaccine and other biologicals. It has supplied billions of doses of oral polio vaccine to India’s immunisation programme and has played a major role in making India ‘polio free’. Under the ‘Make in India’ initiative of the Government, BIBCOL has embarked on journey to acquire technology and production capabilities for production of MeaslesRubella vaccine with the support of Department of Biotechnology.
CABINET NOD TO MOTOR PACT WITH THREE SAARC NATIONS
The Cabinet on June 10, 2015 approved the signing of a motor vehicles pact between India and three other nations of the SAARC grouping — Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal on June 15, which will enable seamless transit of passenger and cargo vehicles among these nations. Following the nod, Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari will visit Bhutan where the pact is scheduled to be signed by transport ministers of the participating nations. The Cabinet has approved signing of the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicle Agreement for the Regulation of Passenger, Personal and Cargo Vehicular Traffic amongst BBIN. The agreement will be signed at the BBIN Transport Ministers meeting in Thimpu, Bhutan. Signing of the BBIN pact will promote safe, economical efficient and environmentally sound road transport in the sub-region and will help each country in creating an institutional mechanism for regional integration. BBIN countries will be benefited by mutual cross border movement of passenger and goods for overall economic development of the region. The people of the four [ 1 2 ] Weekly Current Affairs 7th June 2015 to 13th June, 2015 www.ias100.in countries will benefit through seamless movement of goods and passenger across borders. Each party will bear its own costs arising from implementation of this agreement, the statement added. A meeting of Secretaries of Transport of the BBIN countries was organised by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highway (MoRTH) in February 2015 to discuss and finalise the draft of the BBIN pact, which is similar to the SAARC Motor Vehicle Agreement (MVA) draft with minor changes. Earlier, the Cabinet had approved a proposal to sign the SAARC MVA during the SAARC Summit in Kathmandu in November 2014. Unfortunately, it could not be signed due to reservations of Pakistan. The SAARC declaration at the Kathmandu Summit in November 2014 also encouraged member states to initiate regional and sub-regional measures to enhance connectivity. Accordingly, it was considered appropriate that a sub-regional BBIN pact may be pursued, it added. Meanwhile, an official statement said Gadkari will be visiting Bhutan on June 14 to sign the landmark BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement for the regulation of passenger, personal and cargo vehicular traffic amongst four SAARC countries.
PETER VARGHESE: INDIA-JAPAN-AUSTRALIA FORUM NOT ANTI-CHINA
India, Japan and Australia discussed concerns over Chinese reclamation in the South China Sea, and hoped a “code of conduct” would be agreed to between China and the ASEAN countries to calm tensions in the region. Australia’s top diplomat Peter Varghese, in Delhi for the first India-JapanAustralia high-level trilateral talks, revealed that it’s the pace and the scale of China’s reclamation which is causing some anxiety in the region. At the recently concluded Shangri-La dialogue in Singapore, Defence officials from across the world sparred over the issue, as U.S. Defence Secretary Ashton Carter accused China of amassing 2,000 acres in the seas, more than ever in history and of causing regional tensions by its actions. While India has made no comment so far on the reclamation, the government has voiced concerns several times on what it sees as China’s restrictions on freedom of movement. Mr. Varghese denied that the trilateral meeting in Delhi at this time could be considered an anti-China front. India and Australia also kicked off discussions on their first bilateral naval exercises in Perth. Mr. Varghese meet NSA Ajit Doval in Delhi, and as Australia’s key trade and economic negotiator is expected to hold several meetings in Delhi at Commerce Ministry and DIPP. Business environment Mr. Varghese said despite a change in the business environment in the past year, the Modi government has been unable to clear several roadblocks to investment as yet. In particular, Mr. Varghese expressed concern over the legal hurdles for Australian mining giant Rio Tinto after the Odisha government decided to scrap a joint venture with it, putting its plans for iron-ore projects in jeopardy. In Odisha, both the Centre and State are yet to give clearances. The regulatory burden is seen by companies in Australia as excessive, and also the interpretation varies, so what we are looking for is certainty and simplicity. The Australian Foreign Secretary sounded more hopeful on clearing the impasse over the IndiaAustralia nuclear deal, where administrative arrangements have been held up over differences on fuel-tracking that was announced by Prime Ministers Modi and Abbott in August 2014. While India insists on IAEA-inspections only, the Australian government is legally obliged to track all Australian-origin nuclear material (AONM).
WORLD DAY AGAINST CHILD LABOUR
The International Labour Organization (ILO) launched the World Day Against Child Labour in 2002 to focus attention on the global extent of child labour and the action and efforts needed to eliminate it. Each year on 12 June, the World Day brings together governments, employers and workers organizations, civil society, as well as millions of people from around the world to highlight the plight of child labourers and what can be done to help them. Around the world, large numbers of children are engaged in paid or unpaid domestic work in the home of a third party or employer. These children can be particularly vulnerable to exploitation. Their work is often hidden from the public eye, they may be isolated, and they may be working far away from their family home. Stories of the abuse of children in domestic work are all too common. www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  World Day 2015 calls for: l Free, compulsory and quality education for all children at least to the minimum age for admission to employment and action to reach those presently in child labour; l New efforts to ensure that national policies on child labour and education are consistent and effective; l Policies that ensure access to quality education and investment in the teaching profession. l 2015 Theme of World Day Against Child Labour is ‘NO To Child Labour-YES To Quality Education’.
CODE OF CONDUCT IS IN PLACE, FOCUS ON LAC CLARIFICATION
The Special Representatives of India and China are engaged in a lengthy process of negotiations to define the final frontiers between the two countries. India’s reassertion on the need to clarify the Line of Actual Control (LAC) follows observations by Huang Xilian, a senior official in the Asia department of the Chinese foreign ministry that India and China had “tried to clarify (the LAC) some years ago but we encountered some difficulties which led to even complex situation”. On the contrary, the Chinese official seemed to favour the expansion of the “code of conduct” along the borders. But countering this observation, the sources said that the code of conduct has already been fully elaborated in the CBM protocol along the LAC that was signed by the two sides on April 11, 2005. The wide ranging protocol covers all the conceivable contingencies that may arise and ways to address them. For instance the protocol — a detailed elaboration of the 1996 CBM accord — limits the size and orientation of military exercises along the LAC, details the protocol that needs to be followed in case of an alleged air intrusion, including a flag meeting within 48 hours of the incident, and prescribes a code of conduct in case of an eventuality of eye-ball to eye-ball military contact in the LAC area. The Chinese side was committed to LAC clarification in the documents signed between September 1993 to November 2006, but for some “explicable’ reason have not endorsed the process on paper since 2008. 1996 Accord The LAC clarification process had fully commenced following the 1996 CBM accord where there was an agreement to exchange maps indicating the respective perceptions of the two sides regarding the entire alignment of the LAC as soon as possible. The Middle Sector process of clarification was broadly completed, but problems arose in clarifying the Western Sector. According to an understanding that had been previously reached, the Eastern Sector clarification was to subsequently commence, but the entire process has since been stalled.
INDIA, BANGLADESH EXCHANGE 1971 MEMORIES
Besides restoring and opening vital connectivity for more productive relations, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trip to Dhaka, seen as historic, brought back memories of the 1971 war of liberation. When the people of the then East Pakistan were fighting the Pakistan Army, India stood with its eastern neighbour in its quest for Independence. During Mr. Modi’s trip, he and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina exchanged significant articles that are a throwback to 1971. Mr. Modi presented Ms. Hasina a memento depicting the helm of INS Vikrant , the Indian naval ship which played a major role in the war. He handed over an audio recording of the historic speech of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, founding father of Bangladesh, at Brigade Maidan in Kolkata on February 6, 1972, and a set of DVDs of parliamentary debates and a transcript of the Land Boundary Agreement. Ms. Hasina gave Mr. Modi a photograph of the signing of the historic instrument of surrender of the 93,000 Pakistani military men to the IndiaBangladesh Joint Command in Dhaka on December16, 1971. She handed over a map of the Indian Special Economic Zone in Bangladesh and a replica of the 1,320-MW Maitree Super Thermal Power Project at Rampal. INS Vikrant played the most crucial part in shortening the war, cutting off the reinforcements sent from the then West Pakistan to the East by policing the Bay of Bengal. For its stellar performance, the ship was awarded with two Maha Vir Chakras and 11 Vir Chakras. Mr. Modi received the Bangladesh Liberation [ 1 4 ] Weekly Current Affairs 7th June 2015 to 13th June, 2015 www.ias100.in War Award on behalf of the former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. At the award ceremony, Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid declared that the country would honour every Indian soldier who made the supreme sacrifice in the war. During Mr. Modi’s visit, India and Bangladesh pushed for stronger bilateral ties and agreed on greater regional connectivity for the development of South Asia. The two countries signed pacts covering areas such as blue economy and maritime cooperation in the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. A memorandum of understanding was signed on the use of the Chittagong and Mongla ports by India.
IREDA AWARDED MINIRATNA STATUS
Indian Renewable Energy and Development Agency (IREDA) has been awarded the Mini Ratna (Category-I) status by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE). The status was bestowed to the organisation with a view to provide greater financial autonomy and delegation of powers in its operations in line with guidelines of Department of Public Enterprise (DPE). l IREDA is a pioneering financial institution dedicated for financing of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in the country. l Since its inception in 1987, IREDA has been the mainstay in financing clean energy projects which have positive impact on environment, thereby working towards the sustainable development of the nation. l The unstinted and pro-active efforts being made by the organisation have enabled the commercialisation of renewable energy sector in India. l The organisation was created as non-banking financial institution in Schedule C and was upgraded as Schedule B in the year 2010 and now a ‘Mini Ratna’ PSU. l IREDA has been a profit making company since its inception and has made noteworthy progress during 2014-15 and earned profit after tax of `295 crore, registering a growth of over 22 per cent compared to the financial year 2013-14, with cumulative loan sanctions of `30,818 crores. l The company is planning to raise tax free green bonds to provide low-cost funds for renewable energy projects. Financial Autonomy Various PSUs have been awarded additional financial autonomy. These companies are “public sector companies that have comparative advantages”, giving them greater autonomy to compete in the global market so as to “support them in their drive to become global giants”. The level of financial autonomy is currently divided into three categories: l Maharatna l Navratna l Miniratna CPSEs (itself divided into Category I & Category II) Eligibility criteria and benefits of financial autonomy There are multiple factors and criteria for granting ‘ratna’ status. Awarding of this status entitles the company boards to perform investments up to a limit (depending on the status) without seeking government permission. Major criteria of awarding status are as follow: History of financial autonomy status Financial autonomy was initially awarded to nine PSUs as Navratna status in 1997. In 2010, the government established the Maharatna status, which raises a company’s investment ceiling from Rs. 1,000 crore to Rs. 5,000 crore. The Maharatna firms can now decide on investments of up to 15 per cent of their net worth in a project; the Navaratna companies could invest up to Rs 1,000 crore without explicit government approval.
STRATEGIC DEBT RESTRUCTURING SCHEME BY RBI
The Reserve Bank of India has provided banks, which are struggling to cope with a mountain of bad debt, new ammunition to deal with defaulting companies. The banking regulator issued new norms for Strategic Debt Conversion (SDR) which will give lenders the right to convert their outstanding loans into a majority equity stake if the borrower fails to meet conditions stipulated under the restructuring package. Allowing loan conversion will now be a precondition for all debt restructuring deals. l If the borrower fails to meet milestones, they would have the option to convert part or whole of the debt into equity. l A decision on invoking the SDR by converting debt into equity should be taken within 30 days after a review of the account. l It should be approved by 75% of the creditors by value and 60% of creditors by number, RBI said. l Further, the lenders must approve the SDR conversion package within 90 days after taking such a decision. l Post conversion, all lenders should together own 51% or more of the company’s equity. l RBI’s new norms come in the backdrop of a huge surge in bad loans in the banking system. l A report by ICRA said the gross non-performing assets, or bad loans, may rise to 5.9% of total advances this fiscal versus 4.4% last year. l A joint lenders forum (JLF) should closely monitor a company’s performance and appoint a suitable professional management. l Also, lenders should divest equity holdings of the company to new promoters as soon as possible. l According to the norms of RBI, the new management should not have any links to the old promoters.” l New promoter should not be a person/entity/ subsidiary/associate, etc (domestic as well as overseas), from the existing promoter/promoter group. l Banks should clearly establish that the acquirer does not belong to the existing promoter group. l The new promoter has to acquire the entire 51%. l However, if foreign investment is limited to less than 51%, the new promoter should own at least 26% of the paid-up equity capital or up to the applicable foreign investment limit. l On divestment of banks’ holding in favour of a new promoter, the asset classification of the account may be upgraded to ‘standard’. l The equity shares acquired and held by banks under the scheme shall be exempt from the requirement of periodic mark-to-market. l The formula for conversion of debt into equity will be different from existing norms laid down by the Securities & Exchange Board of India ( Sebi) for banks. l The price of debt to equity conversion will capped either at the market value of the borrowing company (if it is listed) or the book value as per the latest balance sheet (for unlisted firms). l Share conversion cannot happen at below par (i.e.- less than the face value of Rs 10). Also, the pricing formula, in case of banks taking over a company by converting debt to equity, would be exempt from Sebi’s Substantial Acquisition of Shares and Takeovers and Issue of Capital and Disclosure Requirements Regulations, 2009. Conversion of debt into equity will also be exempted from regulatory ceilings on capital market exposures, investment in para-banking activities and intra-group exposure.
DRAFT FRAMEWORK ON ISSUANCE OF RUPEE LINKED BONDS OVERSEAS
Reserve Bank proposes to expand the scope of issuance of Rupee linked bond overseas by the international financial institutions as also permit Indian corporates, eligible to raise external commercial borrowings (ECB), issue such bonds with an appropriate regulatory framework. Accordingly, a framework is proposed to be put in place for issuance of Rupee linked bonds overseas. Banks incorporated in India will not have access to these bonds in any manner whatsoever. Indian Corporates: Indian corporates eligible to raise ECB are permitted to issue Rupee linked bonds overseas. The corporates which, at present, are permitted to access ECB under the approval route will require prior permission of the Reserve Bank to issue such bonds and those coming under the automatic route can do so without prior permission of the Reserve Bank. l The bonds may be floated in any jurisdiction that is Financial Action Task Force (FATF) compliant. l The subscription, coupon payments and redemption may be settled in foreign currency. The proceeds of the bonds can be parked as per the extant provisions on parking of ECB proceeds. l Amount and average maturity period of such bonds should be as per the extant ECB guidelines. The call and put option, if any, shall not be exercisable prior to completion of applicable minimum average maturity period. l The coupon on the bonds should not be more than 500 basis points above the sovereign yield of the Government of India security of corresponding maturity as per the FIMMDA yield curve prevailing on the date of issue. l End use restrictions will be as applicable under the extant ECB guidelines. l For USD-INR conversion, the Reserve Bank’s reference rate on date of issue will be applicable. International Financial Institutions: International Financial Institutions of which India is a shareholding member intending to deploy the entire proceeds of the issuance in India shall not require prior permission for the issuance of Rupee bonds overseas irrespective of amount of issuance. In other cases, where an International Financial Institution (of which India is a member) wishes to retain the freedom to deploy the issue proceeds in any member country shall require prior permission from the Reserve Bank / Government of India. Hedging: Any investor in these bonds will be eligible to hedge both the foreign currency risk as well as [ 1 8 ] Weekly Current Affairs 7th June 2015 to 13th June, 2015 www.ias100.in credit risk through permitted derivative products in the domestic market. The investor can also access the domestic market through branches of Indian banks abroad or branches of foreign bank with Indian presence. Such hedging contracted with banks abroad on a back to back basis with AD category-I banks in India will be as per the procedure outlined in A. P. (DIR series) Circular.
CCEA APPROVED PROJECTS IN MADHYA PRADESH AND TELANGANA
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) approved two road projects, one in Madhya Pradesh and another in Telangana. The projects will be executed under the flagship road building programme National Highways Development Project (NHDP) at a cost of Rs 4,721 crore. Madhya Pradesh Project l Approval for development of the four laning of the Guna-Biaora and Biaora-Dewas section of National Highway — 3 in Madhya Pradesh with an estimate cost of Rs 2,815.69 crore. l This will be done under the NHDP Phase-IV in design, build, finance, operate and transfer basis in BOT mode. l The cost is estimated to be Rs 1,081.9 crore for Guna-Biaora, including land acquisition, resettlement and rehabilitation and other preconstruction activities. The total length of the road will be approximately 93.5 km. l The total cost for Biaora-Dewa section will be about Rs 1,733.79 crore, including cost of land acquisition, resettlement and rehabilitation and other pre-construction activities. The total length of the road will be approximately 141.26 km. The main object of the project is to expedite the improvement of infrastructure in Madhya Pradesh and also in reducing the time and cost of travel for traffic, particularly heavy traffic, plying between Guna-Biaora-Dewas, which are major cities of Madhya Pradesh. Telangana project CCEA approved “development of the four laning of the Yadgiri- Warangal section of National Highway — 163 in Telangana.” l This work will be under the NHDP Phase-IV. l The approval is on engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) basis. “The cost is estimated to be Rs 1,905.23 crore, including cost of land acquisition, resettlement and rehabilitation and other pre-construction activities. The total length of the road will be approximately 99 km.” l After completion of the project, the whole stretch from Hyderabad to Warangal would be four-laned. The main object of the project is to expedite the improvement of infrastructure in Telangana and also in reducing the time and cost of travel, particularly in case of heavy traffic plying on the Yadgiri-Warangal sector.
INDIA LOSES POULTRY CASE AGAINST UNITED STATES AT WTO
India lost a long-pending dispute over poultry imports from the US at the World Trade Organization (WTO)’s dispute settlement body. In its ruling, the appellate body said India violated international trading norms by not allowing import of poultry products from the US. The WTO had also stated India’s import prohibition did not meet international standards and was not based on a scientific risk assessment. Therefore, the dispute settlement body concluded, India violated WTO’s agreement on sanitary and phytosanitary measures. l India had blocked the import of American poultry products fearing the spread of bird flu in the country in 2007. l On March 6, 2012, the US had dragged India to the WTO. l India had informed the dispute settlement body the primary reason for restricting the entry of various agricultural products from the US was because it was concerned about the spread of the Avian influenza. l This was done by the ministry of commerce and industry at the behest of the animal husbandry department. l The measures were taken under the Indian Livestock Importation Act, 1898. l European Union, Australia, China, Japan, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Vietnam, Argentina and Brazil subsequently joined as www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  third parties in the dispute. l Removal of import restrictions by India could give a $300-million boost to American poultry exports. l India would need to remove the restrictions at the earliest according to the WTO ruling. l Failure to do so could lead to trade sanctions by US.
INTEREST RATE FUTURES: RESERVE BANK GUIDELINES
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI), released its final guidelines for 6-year and 13-year cash-settled Interest Rate Futures (IRF) on Government of India Securities with residual maturity of 4-8 years and 11-15 years, respectively. l The present notification amends the Interest Rate Futures (Reserve Bank) Directions, 2013. l Besides, the RBI has also changed the residual maturity for the existing 10-year cash-settled IRF to 8-11 years from 9-11 years. l This would provide market participants greater choice and flexibility to hedge their interest rate risk across different tenors. l Cash settled IRF on 10-year Government of India (GoI) Security, launched on the stock exchanges in January 2014, has received an encouraging response. Interest Rate Futures An Interest Rate Futures contract is “an agreement to buy or sell a debt instrument at a specified future date at a price that is fixed today.” The underlying security for Interest Rate Futures is either Government Bond or T-Bill. Exchange traded Interest Rate Futures on NSE are standardized contracts based on 10-Year Government of India Security (NBF II) and 91-day Government of India Treasury Bill (91DTB).
ADANI, RELIANCE INK MOUS FOR POWER GENERATION IN BANGLADESH
Two leading Indian power firms will build several plants in Bangladesh to produce up to 4,600 megawatts of electricity to ease the country’s prolonged power crisis. l Adani Power Limited of India and Reliance Power Limited of India signed separate memorandums of understanding with state-run Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB). l Reliance Power and BPDB signed MoU to develop four units of power plants to produce 3,000 MW of electricity with a cost of $3 billion. The plants will burn natural gas. l Adani Power will set up two, coal-fired plants with a total capacity of 1,600 MW that will cost more than $1.5 billion. l It would take 13 months to complete construction of the plants after final agreements had been reached. Scenario in Bangladesh l Bangladesh produces 7,000 MW of electricity but demand far exceeds supply, with a daily deficit of up to 1,500 MW. l The government unveiled a 2.95 trillion taka ($38 billion) budget for fiscal 2014/15, stepping up spending on key sectors to tackle power shortages that are crimping economic growth and deterring investment. l Spending on development needs such as power and transport will rise about 40 per cent from the current fiscal year to 263 billion taka ($3.4 billion), while overall spending will increase 23 per cent in the year from July 1. l Bangladesh also planned to more than double its electricity imports from India to 11,000 MW by 2017 from 5,000 MW now.
ANTI-DUMPING DUTY ON STEEL IMPORTS FROM CHINA, MALAYSIA AND SOUTH KOREA
The finance ministry imposed anti-dumping duty for certain stainless steel products imported from China, Malaysia and South Korea, which marks the first decisive move to stem the inflow of such products amid a hue and cry by the domestic steel industry battling sluggish market sentiments and strained margins. l The duty on has been imposed on hot rolled (HR) flat products of stainless steel grade with all its variants originating from China at $309 per tonne $316 a tonne from Malaysia and from Korea at $180 a tonne. l The commerce ministry had earlier this year said that the home-grown stainless steel [ 2 0 ] Weekly Current Affairs 7th June 2015 to 13th June, 2015 www.ias100.in industry has sustained “material injury due to such dumped imports” and that definite measure was required to stop it. l The duty has been levied for five years. Apart from glut of imports from China, stainless steel industry is plagued with imports from countries like Malaysia, Korea and Japan under the Free Trade Agreement. Apart from this ISSDA has also complained to the government on issue of abuse of India–Malaysia comprehensive economic cooperation agreement (CECA). In this case, stainless steel cold rolled flat products from Malaysia are being imported in India through preferential tariff benefit. The Indian Stainless Steel Development Association had also written to ministry of international trade and industry, Malaysia to probe into the misuse of CECA. The domestic stainless steel industry has started showing signs of being a sick industry, as excessive imports threatened the huge investments and resulted in underutilization of capacities. The surge in imports can be mainly attributed to China. Many stainless steel players have either approached BIFR (Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction) or are under capital debt restructuring mechanism. Anti-Dumping Duty It is duty imposed by government on imported products which have prices less than their normal values or domestic price. Usually countries initiate anti-dumping probes to check if domestic industry has been hurt because of a surge in below-cost imports. Anti-Dumping Duty is imposed under the multilateral WTO regime and varies from product to product and from country to country. In India, anti-dumping duty is recommended by the Union Ministry of Commerce, while the Union Finance Ministry imposes it.
RS 6,000 CRORE INTEREST-FREE LOAN TO SUGAR MILLS
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has given nod to provide soft loans of Rs 6,000 crore to sugar mills to help them clear part of their Rs 21,000-crore dues to farmers. This payment is going to be made directly to farmers’ bank accounts, through the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana to the extent possible. l The government would not charge any interest on the loan for a year, itself bearing the burden of about Rs 600 crore. l These loans will be provided only to those units that have cleared at least 50 per cent of their outstanding arrears by June 30. l Mills have not been able to make payments to farmers because of low domestic prices and high production and the cane arrears have reached Rs 21,000 crore. The government has mandated that banks will obtain from sugar mills a list of farmers, with bank account details and the extent to which cane dues are to be paid. The idea is to make direct transfer of dues to the bank accounts of farmers on behalf of sugar mills. Subsequent balance, if any, would then be credited into account of the mill concerned. Sugar Production in India l India’s sugar production is estimated to cross 28 million tonnes in the 2014-15 marketing year (October-September), against 24.3 million tonnes the previous year. l The total annual demand is pegged at only 24 million tonnes. l The cost of raw material was more than that of the end product, and sugar prices had fallen to Rs 22 a kg from Rs 34. Other CCEA Decisions Union Cabinet also expressed concern over rising prices of pulses and decided to import it in a large quantity to augment supply. It also asked states to take action against hoarders. The rise in prices of pulses could be gauged from the fact that while the wholesale price indexbased inflation remained in the negative for a sixth month in April, the prices of pulses during the month rose 15.38 per cent over a year earlier. Similarly, retail inflation for pulses in April stood at 12.52 per-cent, against 5.11 per-cent general inflation. Among other decisions, CCEA approved continuation of urea production from Madras Fertilizers Ltd (MFL), Mangalore Chemicals and Fertilizers (MCF) and Southern Petrochemical Industries Corporation (SPIC) using naphtha as feedstock, to ensure smooth supply of urea in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka. This would have otherwise been stopped, as the pipelines to convert these plants to gas-based ones are yet to be laid. The total requirement for Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala is 2.3 million tonnes, and the annual production from these three units comes to 1.5 mt per year.”
RBI ALLOWS NRIS TO SUBSCRIBE CHIT FUNDS
The Reserve Bank has given permission to nonresident Indians (NRIs) to invest in chit funds on non-repatriation basis without any ceiling, a move that will encourage flow of capital into the country. However, the subscription to the chit funds should be brought in through normal banking channel, including through an account maintained with a bank in India. l Earlier in May 2000, non-residents were barred from investing in a company or firms engaged in the business of chit fund. l The Registrar of Chits or an officer authorised by the State Government may permit any chit fund to accept subscription from NRIs on nonrepatriation basis.
SECOND BORDER HAAT OPENS IN TRIPURA
With the market officially open for the public, the second border haat began operations at the Indo-Bangladesh border at Kamalasagar in the Sipahijala district of Tripura. l The border haat was jointly inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina via video conferencing from Dhaka. l Initially it will facilitate bilateral trade of 16 shortlisted locally produced goods. l These goods include agricultural and horticultural crops, spices, minor forest products excluding timber, fish and dry fish, dairy and poultry products, cottage industry items, wooden furniture, handloom and handicraft items. l Twenty five vendors from both countries will be able to sell their produces within the five kilometer radius of the haat on market day, which will be observed on every Thursday. l No local taxes would be imposed on the items to be sold in the haats and currencies of both the countries will be accepted. l The border market is expected to provide basic livelihood opportunities to more than thousands of marginal income families and small traders along these border areas of both the countries, reduce smuggling and increase people-to-people contact. l Altogether four border haats are scheduled to be constructed in Tripura. First border haat in Tripura l The first border haat was opened at South Tripura’s Srinagar in January, 2015. l The objective of the haat was to provide livelihood opportunities to about 1,000 families that live along the border l Also, to help small traders from both countries. l India spent Rs 2.4 crore to build the border haat.
PROBE AGAINST INDIAN IT GIANTS TCS, INFOSYS BY USA The U.S.
government has opened an investigation against two of the biggest Indian outsourcing companies for possible violations of H1B visa rules. The Department of Labour has opened the investigation against Tata Consultancy Services and Infosys for “possible violations of rules for visas for foreign technology workers under contracts they held with an electric utility Southern California Edison”. The power company had recently laid off more than 500 technology workers amid claims that many of those laid off were made to train their replacements who were immigrants on the temporary work visas brought in by the Indian firms. The move by the Labour Department comes days after the NYT had reported that hundreds of employees at entertainment giant Walt Disney were laid off and replaced with Indians holding H1B visas. About 250 Disney employees were told in late October last year that they would be laid off and many of their jobs were transferred to immigrants on H1B visas brought in by an outsourcing firm based in India. The layoffs are “raising new questions about how businesses and outsourcing companies are using the temporary visas, known as H1B, to place immigrants in technology jobs in the United States.” H-1B Visa The H-1B is a non-immigrant visa in the United States under the Immigration and Nationality Act, section 101(a)(15)(H). It allows U.S. employers to [ 2 2 ] Weekly Current Affairs 7th June 2015 to 13th June, 2015 www.ias100.in temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. If a foreign worker in H-1B status quits or is dismissed from the sponsoring employer, the worker must either apply for and be granted a change of status to another non-immigrant status, find another employer (subject to application for adjustment of status and/or change of visa), or leave the U.S. The regulations define a “specialty occupation” as requiring theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge in a field of human endeavor including but not limited to biotechnology, chemistry, architecture, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, social sciences, medicine and health, education, law, accounting, business specialties, theology, and the arts, and requiring the attainment of a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent as a minimum (with the exception of fashion models, who must be “of distinguished merit and ability”). Likewise, the foreign worker must possess at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent and state licensure, if required to practice in that field. H-1B workauthorization is strictly limited to employment by the sponsoring employer. The duration of stay for H-1B visa holders is three years, extendable to six years. An exception to maximum length of stay applies in certain circumstances.
SCIENCE & TECH
STANFORD SCIENTIST DEVELOP WATER BASED COMPUTER
Manu Prakash, who amazed the world in 2014 by building a paper microscope, has now come up with a computer that works by moving water droplets. Prakash is an assistant professor of bioengineering at Stanford University and he has developed the water computer with the help of two of his students. He was born in Meerut, India.“Prakash has devised a system in which tiny water droplets are trapped in a magnetic field. When the field is rotated or flipped, the droplets move in precise direction and distance. This became the basis of the computer clock, which is an essential component of any computer. Computer clocks are responsible for nearly every modern convenience. Smartphones, DVRs, airplanes, internet – without a clock, none of these could operate without frequent and serious complications. Nearly every computer program requires several simultaneous operations, each conducted in a perfect step-by-step manner. A clock makes sure that these operations start and stop at the same times, thus ensuring that the information synchronizes.“The results are dire if a clock isn’t present. It’s like soldiers marching in formation: If one person falls dramatically out of time, it won’t be long before the whole group falls apart. The same is true if multiple simultaneous computer operations run without a clock to synchronize them, Prakash explained. The reason computers work so precisely is that every operation happens synchronously; it’s what made digital logic so powerful in the first place. The study describing the water computer has all the technical details of the way this computer works. A simple-state machine including 1-bit memory storage (known as “flip-flop”) is also demonstrated using the above basic building blocks. The current chips are about half the size of a postage stamp, and the droplets are smaller than poppy seeds, but Katsikis said that the physics of the system suggests it can be made even smaller. Combined with the fact that the magnetic field can control millions of droplets simultaneously, this makes the system exceptionally scalable. Prakash said the most immediate application might involve turning the computer into a highthroughput chemistry and biology laboratory. Instead of running reactions in bulk test tubes, each droplet can carry some chemicals and become its own test tube, and the droplet computer offers unprecedented control over these interactions. From the perspective of basic science, part of why the work is so exciting, Prakash said, is that it opens up a new way of thinking of computation in the physical world. Although the physics of computation has been previously applied to understand the limits of computation, the physical aspects of bits of information has never been exploited as a new way to manipulate matter at the mesoscale (10 microns to 1 millimeter).
INDIA’S FIRST FACILITY TO TEST MICRO-AIR VEHICLES
India’s Rs 80 crore national Micro Air Vehicle (MAV) programme to design and develop MAV has got a boost with the setting up of a Micro Air Vehicle Aerodynamics Research Tunnel in the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) campus in the city — the first of its kind in India to test fixed- , flapping- and rotary-wing MAVs in the 500 mm (50- cm) wingspan category. The Union home ministry is planning to technologically beef up internal security to fight terror and naxalism within the country’s borders through low-intensity, contained conflicts. And it is looking at MAVs for the purpose due to which the MAV programme was kick-started. The national programme is a joint initiative of Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO), Department of Science and Technology, Centre for Science and Industrial Research (CSIR), NAL, private industries and academia. A few products have already been developed by DRDO laboratories along with the private industry, like the autonomous Unmanned [ 2 4 ] Weekly Current Affairs 7th June 2015 to 13th June, 2015 www.ias100.in Air Vehicle, Netra, which featured in the Bollywood movie, 3 Idiots. This has already been inducted by Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Border Security Force (BSF). Similarly, NAL has also developed three MAVs: Black Kite, Golden Hawk and Pushpak. The Black Kite — a 300mm wingspan fixed wing autonomous MAV with an endurance of 30 minutes — has an autopilot system developed indigenously.
SPECIAL SEARCH MODE FOR 2G PHONE NETWORK FOR INDIA, BRAZIL
Google has launched a new lite mode of Google search engine for India and Brazil. The feature will be rolled out in India soon and expected to open pages much faster, yet consume 80% less data than the traditional search engine. The new lite mode has been developed by keeping the 2G network speed in mind. Before launching, Google tested the feature in Indonesia, where the network speed is similar to India.Google explained the new light pages load four times faster than the traditional webpages and hence consume 80% less data, and penetrate 50% faster connection than before. In India, around 200 million people access Internet through smartphones and a majority of them still prefer 2G network due to affordable tariffs. In 2G network, a consumer usually gets 10KB/s speed in good network conditions, while in poor network coverage, it goes down to 2-3KB/s. The feature is currently limited to Android smartphones. Google has not said anything about the availability of the feature on smartphones running on other platforms.
SOUTH KOREAN ROBOT WINS THE BATTLE
South Korean boffins carried home the $2- million top prize after their robot triumphed in a disaster-response challenge inspired by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdown in Japan. Team KAIST and its DRC-Hubo robot took the honour ahead of Team IHMC Robotics and Tartan Rescue, both from the United States, at the DARPA Robotics Challenge after a two-day competition in California. The runners-up win $1 million and $500,000, respectively, in a field of more than 20 competitors. But it is about more than just the money, with the teams also winning the kudos of triumphing after a three-year robotics contest organised by the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which commissions advanced research for the U.S. Defence Department. Over the two days, each robot had two chances to compete on an obstacle course comprising eight tasks. Golden Hawk is a fixed-wing MAV. The two prototypes developed by NAL are based on conventional and the blended wing. That apart citybased National Design and Research Forum (NDRF) is also involved in the research and development MAV’s in the 300 mm to 1000 mm class.
NASA TO PREDICT DESTRUCTIVE SOLAR STORMS NASA
scientists, including one of Indian-origin, have developed a new model that can help predict solar geomagnetic storms – which can cause telecommunication disruptions and power outages – 24 hours in advance. Solar geomagnetic storms may be caused by a giant cloud of solar particles, called a coronal mass ejection (CME), aligned in the opposite direction of the Earth’s magnetic field. If a CME is aligned in the same direction as Earth’s – that is, pointing from south to north – the CME will slide by without much effect. Presently, scientists don’t have much advance notice of how a CME’s magnetic fields are arranged. They can only measure the fields as the CME passes over satellites close to Earth. What we have now is effectively only a 30 to 60 minute heads up of a CME’s configuration before it hits Earth’s magnetosphere,” said Neel Savani, a space scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Savani has described a new model to measure the magnetic field configuration significantly further ahead of time. The model is now undergoing testing, but if it’s robust, then scientists might finally have a tool to predict a CME’s magnetic configuration from afar. This means forecasters could give utility grid and satellite operators a full 24-hour advance warning to protect their systems – crucial time to protect their assets. Savani made use of NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory to observe the magnetic fields of the initial eruption on the Sun. www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  In the past, using such data to predict which direction the CME’s magnetic fields point has not been very successful. However, Savani realised that earlier attempts simplified the eruptions too much, assuming they came from a single active region – the magnetically complex spots on the Sun that often give rise to solar eruptions. Savani’s new method is able to incorporate the complex reality of CMEs having foot points in more than one active region. There are no tools to measure the magnetic fields once a CME has moved away from the Sun, but scientists do have ways of watching how the clouds expand, twist and grow as they race into space. Both NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO, and the joint ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO, provide these observations using coronagraphs, which can focus in on the CME’s progress by blocking the bright light of the Sun. By watching how the CME moves and changes in these coronagraphs, Savani’s model tracks how the initial eruption evolves over time. Ultimately, the model can describe how the CME will be configured as it approaches Earth, and even which parts of the CME will have magnetic fields pointed in which direction.
WORLD’S FIRST SKULL-SCALP TRANSPLANT PERFORMED
In a major breakthrough in transplant surgery, U.S. doctors at the MD Anderson Cancer Centre and Houston Methodist Hospital have successfully performed the world’s first skull-scalp transplant on a 55-year-old man who suffered a large head wound from cancer treatment. James Boysen, a software developer from Austin, received the craniofacial tissue transplant at the same time as a kidney and pancreas transplant at Houston Methodist Hospital in surgeries that lasted nearly a day. Boysen had a series of cancers of the scalp and skull that were treated with various surgeries and radiation that left him with a large wound that was all the way down to his brain. Boysen had a kidney-pancreas transplant in 1992 to treat diabetes he has had since age five and has been on drugs to prevent organ rejection. The immune suppression drugs raise the risk of cancer, and he developed a rare type — leiomyosarcoma. Radiation therapy for the cancer destroyed part of his head, immune suppression drugs kept his body from repairing the damage, and his transplanted organs were starting to fail.
ECOLOGY & ENVIRONMENT SONGBIRD MAY BE EATEN TO EXTINCTION
A bird that was once one of the most abundant in Europe and Asia is being hunted to near extinction because of Chinese eating habits, according to a study published on June 9, 2015. The population of the yellow-breasted bunting (Emberiza aureola) has plunged by 90% since 1980, all but disappearing from eastern Europe, Japan and large parts of Russia. Following initial population declines, China in 1997 banned the hunting of the species, known in the country as the “rice bird”. However, millions of these birds, along with other songbirds, were still being killed for food and sold on the black market as late as 2013, said the study. It said consumption of these birds has increased as a result of economic growth and prosperity in east Asia, with an estimate in 2001 claiming 1m buntings were consumed in China’s southern Guangdong province alone. The birds breed north of the Himalayas and spend their winters in warmer southeast Asia, passing through eastern China where they have been hunted for more than 2,000 years, according to the conservation group BirdLife International. At their wintering grounds, they gather in huge flocks at night-time roosts, making them easy prey for trappers using nets. The songbird, which nests on the ground in open scrubs, is distinctive for its yellow underparts. The paper in Conservation Biology drew parallels between the migratory bird and the North American passenger pigeon, which became extinct in 1914 due to industrial-scale hunting. Yellow-breasted buntings have since 2013 been classified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as an “endangered” species due to rapid population decline from trapping outside their breeding grounds.
INDIA RICHER BY 349 NEW SPECIES
At a time when plants and animals are under threat across the world, nature lovers and conservationists in India have 349 reasons to feel happy. Scientists and taxonomists of the country have discovered 349 new species of flora and fauna in the past one year — 173 species and genera of plants and 176 species of animals. The list of new discoveries by the Botanical Survey of India (BSI) and the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), both headquartered in Kolkata, were released on the World Environment Day on June 5, 2015. Of the new plants, some of the significant findings include nine new taxa of wild Musa (bananas), four species of black plum (jamun), three species of wild gingibers and 10 species of orchids. Rich Biodiversity According to scientists of the BSI, the Western Ghats accounted for 22 per cent of the new discoveries, while the Eastern Himalayas and the north-eastern States each accounted for 15 per cent of the species found. In Arunachal Pradesh alone, 25 species of seed plants were discovered. At the ZSI, 176 new species were added to the list of animals of India. These include 93 species of insects, seven species of collembolans, 12 species each of arachnidan and crustacean and one species of mollusca. Interestingly, two species of reptiles have also been located for the first time in the country — one in Tamil Nadu and another in Madhya Pradesh. As in the previous year, insects outnumbered other animal groups this year also. But surprisingly, a large number of amphibians and fish made it to the list with 24 and 23 new species respectively. While most of the new species of amphibians were discovered from the Western Ghats, majority of fish species were from north-east India. Scientists of both BSI and ZSI agreed that the Western Ghats and the northeast are biodiversity hotspots where most new species were found. Apart from the new species, the BSI has also added 105 new records and ZSI 61 ‘new records.’ Animals and plants that are found elsewhere in the world but have been spotted in India for the first time are called ‘new records.’ In 2014, 614 new species of plants and animals — 366 plants and 248 animals — were discovered. It is natural that with every passing year, the number of new discoveries will decrease. In India, 96,891 species of animals and 47,791 species of plants have been recorded so far. What are Biodiversity hotspots? Biodiversity hotspots were first identified as areas rich in endemic plants and containing a high diversity of species. Their ecosystem was suffering the threats of outsiders and with time, lost most of their original habitat. Today, we are more specific with the identification of hotspots as we apply two specific criteria in their definition. First, a specific territory must contain a minimum of 1,500 species of vascular plants, equalling to more than 0.5% of the world’s total plant species as endemics. Second, it has to have lost at least 70 percent of its original habitat. What are vascular plants? They are a category of high plant that assures the circulation of nutrients such as water, mineral and photosynthetic product. They have vascular tissues that allow them to reach larger size. They conduct the water and nutrients from bottom to top, and end up in transpiration, absorption or conduction. In this way, vascular plants assure great productivity to the ecosystem. The term endemics mean that the species is unique to the ecological area and it won’t be found elsewhere due to geographical isolation, such as an island.
INDIA’S ONLY DOUBLE COCONUT TREE ARTIFICIALLY POLLINATED
Scientists at the Indian Botanical Garden in West Bengal’s Howrah district have carried out artificial pollination of the only double coconut tree in India, which bears the largest seed known to science. One of the rare and globally threatened species of palm, the double coconut ( Lodoicea maldivica ) tree was planted at the botanical garden in 1894 and the artificial pollination is a result of decades of work by scientists of the Botanical Survey of India (BSI), Kolkata. The tree took almost a hundred years to mature and when it started flowering, we started looking for this particular palm species in this part of world. We collected some pollen from palms from Sri Lanka but could not successfully pollinate it. Finally, with the help of pollen from another tree in Thailand, the pollination process was successful, BSI Director Paramjit Singh noted. Longest Surviving Palm The Double Coconut tree not only bears the largest seed known to science — weighing around 25 kg — but this unique species is also the longest surviving palm which can live for as long as 1,000 years. The palm tree also bears the largest leaf among palms and one leaf can thatch a small hut. Successful pollination means that we can have another Lodoicea maldivica in the country. In fact we have two fruits and it might take them another couple of years to mature, noted S.S. Hameed, BSI scientist who has been working on the pollination project since 2006. This species of palm is diecious (where male and female flowers are borne on different plants). Fortunately at the Botanical Garden, we had the female plant which can fruit and produce seeds. The Indian Botanical Garden which serves as the repository 12,000 trees from 1,400 different species is careful in nurturing the palm. The palm tree is located in the large palm house of the Botanical Garden which has the largest collection of palms in South East Asia with around 110 palm species. This rare tree can be found in only two of the 115 Seychelles islands and is also called Coco de Mer (coconut of the sea).
IREA: RENEWABLE ENERGY TARGETS QUADRUPLE GLOBALLY IN 10 YEARS
Renewable energy targets are now a “defining feature” of the global energy landscape with developing economies leading its adoption, the International Renewable Energy Agency has said. A total of 164 countries have adopted at least one type of renewable energy target, up from just 43 countries in 2005, according to the Renewable Energy Target Setting which was launched on the sidelines of IRENA’s ninth Council meeting. Renewable energy targets have emerged as a popular mechanism to set national and regional economies on the path towards a more secure and [ 2 8 ] Weekly Current Affairs 7th June 2015 to 13th June, 2015 www.ias100.in sustainable energy future. They provide an important signal to the industry and can help align stakeholders by creating a clearer, common vision for the development of the energy sector, IRENA Director-General Adnan Z Amin noted on June 10, 2015. Renewable energy targets are now a defining feature of the global energy landscape,” IRENA said, adding that developing and emerging economies are leading the adoption of targets, accounting for 131 of the 164 countries with renewable energy targets. The majority of countries focus on the electricity sector – 150 countries has renewable electricity targets – but commitments in other sectors are also on the rise. The number of countries setting targets for the heating/cooling sector increased from two countries in 2005 to 47 currently. Similarly, renewable transport targets have more than doubled from 27 countries in 2005 to 59 today. Governments are increasingly adopting renewable energy targets to meet multiple objectives including energy security, environmental sustainability and socio-economic benefits. The rapid growth of targets is just one more signal of the world’s ongoing shift towards renewable energy and away from fossil fuels. In order to be seen as credible by investors and society and to provide a reliable trajectory for the future evolution of the energy mix, renewable energy targets need to be accompanied by a clear strategy and backed by specific policies and measures, the report added. About International Renewable Energy Agency l The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) is an intergovernmental organization to promote adoption and sustainable use of renewable energy. l It was founded in 2009 and its statute entered into force on 8 July 2010. l It has two governing structure: IRENA Assembly which takes decisions at macro level and gives policy guidance and IRENA Council is main governing body and is responsible for implementing various decisions of assembly. l Members: In total it has 140 Members. l India is one of the 33 Permanent and founder members of IRENA. l The agency is headquartered in Abu Dhabi. l The Director-General of IRENA is Adnan Amin, a national of Kenya.
HYBRID DEVICE: COMBINES SOLAR, WIND ENERGY
In an enterprise which could bring hybrid renewable energy to Indian rooftops, WindStream Technologies, a U.S.-based renewable energy technologies manufacturer, has launched its trademark product – SolarMill, at its newly inaugurated facility in Maheshwaram mandal of Ranga Reddy district on June 10, 2015. The prototype of the portable device consists of three vertical axis wind turbines fixed beneath one or more photovoltaic panels, to produce 2.5KW of renewable energy. The turbines need a minimum wind speed of two metres per second for generation. Based on the climatic conditions, wind speeds and local needs, the devices may be integrated seamlessly. A solar and wind analysis will be done before arriving at the combination of solar and wind components. The devices are designed to work in both on-grid and off-grid environments, hence, are suitable for mini or micro grids in remote locations, Venkat Kumar Tangirala, president of WindStream Technologies India & South Asia said. A 50,000-sq ft production facility in Maheshwaram will soon begin to roll out the products in large numbers. Thousand units are likely to come out next week, Dan Bates, president and CEO of the company, informed. Besides claiming that this is the first fully integrated hybrid renewable energy device, the company also cites lowest cost per installed watt (35 sq ft for one kilowatt), flexibility between battery and inverter, and easy plug-in facility to attach two devices as its USPs. The appliance is designed for 25 years durability, and comes with a five-year warranty. It is presently priced at about Rs.1.32 lakh per KW. So far, 10 to 15 installations of SolarMill across India account for 10 to 20 KW power generation. However, several more installations are in the pipeline, among them a pilot from Indian Railways to power its unmanned level crossings. The company seeks to expand production to north India, and other districts of Telangana. While the focus is not on exports now, the products may be shipped to Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Indonesia in the coming days, Mr. Bates informed. The company may also begin manufacture of one more product – TowerMill in India, which could power www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  the telecom towers. Telangana Industries Minister Jupally Krishna Rao formally inaugurated the manufacturing facility and launched the product. He promised complete support for setting up production units in all the 10 districts of the State.
MANGROVE DENUDATION SCAR ON SANCTUARY
Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary, Odisha, a major coastal eco-system and home to one of India’s biggest estuarine crocodile habitats, is witnessing an alarming denudation in large tracts of mangrove vegetation. Such is the pattern that these saline blank formations in several forest blocks of Bhitarkanika have turned into a management challenge for forest officials and ecologists alike. Physical evidence gathered from the mangrove forest division has revealed that such denudation (or saline blank formations) have been noticed in Bhitarkanika forest block which is measured at 1700 acre. The denuded patches, spotted in Mathadia, could be over 30 acres in this block alone. Across many of the 15 forest blocks, such blank formations are being reported lately, causing an alarm among the ecologists. Mangroves are not just the lifeline for the unique eco-system which is home to a rich flora and fauna, but also act as an environment cushion for the coastlines. The denudation has been noted among the Avicennia and Excoecaria species, popularly known as Bani and Guan. The saline denuded patches could be caused in the upper elevated zones due to inadequate inundation which leads to hyper salinity. The excessive salinity creates a blank formation over a period of time as the existing vegetation dies. Though mangrove species are saline-tolerant, inadequate inundation leaves a salt crust on the embankments which leads to gradual withering away of the mangrove vegetation, experts pointed out. Most mangrove species have a salinity resistance that ranges from five ppt to 35 ppt. Only Avicennia marina species can tolerate up to 70 ppt salinity. In Bhitarkanika’s forest blocks, the Avicennia marina species are found surviving amidst the infestation of weed species. A major threat for the mangrove species is apparently the saline embankments created by government departments which hinder the inundation process. To protect the human habitations against tidal ingression, these embankments are slowly proving a disaster for the mangrove ecosystem. Such saline blank formations were reported in past too and creation of fish bone channels helped in several blocks. In Kantiakhai, near Wheeler Islands, fishbone channels were created to allow the tidal inundation. Similarly, in Ranahansua near Habilikhati, restoration measures were also taken. Alternatively these blanks can be managed to be converted into meadows to augment forage for herbivores which will minimise crop raiding which is now a menace. The Forest Survey of India-2013 report had pointed out a drop in mangrove cover in the State by nine square km over 2011 – from 222 sq km to 213 sq km. In Kendrapara district alone, where most of Bhitarkanika is located, the drop was by four sq km while in Bhadrak, it was two sq km. What is Mangrove vegetation? The mangrove flora of the world is represented by about 65 species. Since there is little confusion about the true mangroves and the mangrove associates, it is difficult to give the exact number of mangrove species in the world. If the vivipary and breathing roots were taken into consideration, there would be 55 species in the world (Chapman 1970). Most of the species are strongly represented in South East Asia and the Eastern coast of Africa. Mangroves are defined as assemblages of salt tolerant trees and shrubs that grow in the intertidal regions of the tropical and subtropical coastlines. They grow luxuriantly in the places where freshwater mixes with seawater and where sediment is composed of accumulated deposits of mud. The floral diversity of mangroves in India is great. The Indian mangroves are represented by approximately 59 species (inclusive of some mangrove associates) from 29 families. Of the 59 species, 34 species belonging to 21 families are present along the west coast. There are a few species of which are indigenous to the west coast, e.g., Sonneratia caseolaris, Sueda fruticosa, Urochondra setulosa etc. The East coast of India and the Andaman and Nicobar islands show a higher species diversity as well as unique distribution of mangrove flora. The east coast is represented by 48 species belonging to 32 genera.
MOU FOR CLEAN GANGA MISSION
National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) and Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan (NYKS) signed a 5-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on June 8, 2015 in presence of Uma Bharti, Union Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Minister and established a long-term partnership for the involvement of youth in the abatement of pollution and conservation of the river Ganga. The MoU is signed with the objective to involve youth in awareness creation, public outreach activities, afforestation drive for medicinal plants and native tree species, promoting sanitation and construction of toilets in rural and urban areas, educating people for tackling pious refuse entering into the river, removal of floating solid waste, promotion of Bio Agriculture & clean village. Uma Bharti stated that this is a historic occasion to foster Ganga cleaning by way of involving the youth of this country. Under this partnership the youth volunteers from Nehru Yuva Kendra will plant different kinds of saplings of medicinal plants, trees and fodder crops right from Gangotri upto Ganga Sagar. For this purpose a volunteer corp will also be established. The volunteers will also work for the cleanness of Ganga. The Minister expressed hope that this MoU will go a long way to create awareness about the importance of sanctity of our rivers. About National Mission for Clean Ganga NMCG is an autonomous society of Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation for the implementation of the projects under National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA). NMCG is the planning financing, monitoring and coordinating body at the Centre and being supported by suitable State level Programme management groups (SPMGs) for the purpose of achieving the twin objectives of NGRBA – effective abatement of pollution and conservation of the river Ganga by adopting a comprehensive river basin approach. For this purpose, NMCG is empowered to take all necessary actions that may be necessary or incidental for the achievement of the objectives. About Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan (NYKS) is an autonomous organization under the Government of India, Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, to oversee working of the Nehru Yuva Kendras. Nehru Yuva Kendras were established in the year 1972 with the objective of providing rural youth avenues to take part in the process of nation building as well providing opportunities for the development of their personality and skills. NYKS is the largest grassroots level voluntary organization; one of its kind in the world. It channelizes the power of youth who are in the age group of 13-35 years on the principles of voluntarism, self-help and community participation. The core strength of NYKS is a network of 2.95 Lakh village level Youth Clubs across India with an enrolment of about 8.35 million volunteers in the age group of 13-35 years. Taking leverage from the strong network of youths of NYKS across India, National Mission for Clean Ganga seek its support to implement activities at local level that will encourage public participation and additionally, assist in restoring the health of Ganga river.
WORLD’S FIRST ‘FEELING’ PROSTHETIC LEG FITTED The world’s first artificial leg capable of simulating the feelings of a real limb and fighting phantom pain was unveiled by researchers in Vienna on June 8, 2015. The innovation is the result of a two-fold process, developed by Professor Hubert Egger at the University of Linz in northern Austria. Surgeons first rewired remaining foot nerve endings from a patient’s stump to healthy tissue in the thigh, placing them close to the skin surface. Six sensors were then fitted to the foot sole of a lightweight prosthesis, and linked to so-called stimulators inside the shaft where the stump sits. Every time Mr Rangger takes a step or applies pressure, the small sensor devices send signals to the brain. In a healthy foot, skin receptors carry out this function but they are obviously missing here. However, the information conductors – the nerves – are still present, they’re just not being stimulated. The sensors tell the brain there is a foot and the wearer has the impression that it rolls off the ground when he walks. All things considered, the procedure is a very simple one given the results. This is not the first time the Austrian scientist has caused a stir with his research. In 2010, he presented a mind-controlled prosthetic arm, which the user directed with motor neurons previously connected to the lost limb. For the artificial leg, the principle remains the same except that the process works in reverse: information is guided from the prothesis to the brain, rather than the other way around. In addition to increasing balance and safety, the prosthesis provides another remarkable function: it has helped eradicate the excruciating pain. The advantage of the “feeling prosthesis” is that the brain once again receives real data and can stop its frantic search. At the moment, a high-tech foot model costs between €10,000 (£73,000) and €30,000. Earlier Austrian scientist presented a mindcontrolled prosthetic arm or bionic hand which allowed the amputee to feel sensations from their fingers.
INDIA SCRAPS IMPORT DUTIES ON AIDS DRUGS
India has scrapped customs import duties for drugs and test kits used to treat AIDS in an effort to cut prices across the country, as it struggles to cope with an ongoing shortage in its national program to fight the disease. More than a third of India’s 2.1 million HIV/AIDS patients depend on getting their daily antiretrovirals for free from staterun distribution centres, but many of them have been facing shortages or stock outs for months. The notice put out by the Central Board of Excise and Customs recently intends to make it cheaper to import raw materials that are used to make antiretrovirals under the national program, BB Rewari of the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) noted. Currently, US firm Mylan Inc and India’s Aurobindo Pharma supply AIDS drugs to the government program. The exemption applies to certain first-line and second-line antiretroviral drugs used to treat adults and children, as well as to certain diagnostic kits and equipment that are used by NACO. He added the drugs under exemption make up roughly 95 per cent of the antiretrovirals used by India’s AIDS patients under the national program. The exemption, which will remain in effect until March 2016, is the national AIDS control department’s latest effort to deal with a chronic shortage of HIV/AIDS drugs at home, even though Indian companies are some of the world’s major suppliers of AIDS drugs. Local firm Cipla Ltd made headlines in 2001 by making antiretrovirals for Africa for under $1 a day. The AIDS control program has been in disarray for months after the government changed the way over $1.3 billion in federal funds were distributed, [ 3 2 ] Weekly Current Affairs 7th June 2015 to 13th June, 2015 www.ias100.in according to data. Construction of clinics in rural areas has been delayed and many health workers have quit. AIDS drugs sold on the open market are expensive, so in an effort to make those more affordable, the government is likely to add more AIDS drugs under price control by including them in the national list of essential medicines, people involved in the process told Reuters in April. National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) National AIDS Control Organisation is a division of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare that provides leadership to HIV/AIDS control programme in India through 35 HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Societies. In 1986, following the detection of the first AIDS case in the country, the National AIDS Committee was constituted in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. As the epidemic spread, need was felt for a nationwide programme and an organisation to steer the programme. In 1992 India’s first National AIDS Control Programme (1992-1999) was launched, and National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) was constituted to implement the programme. Objective The objective of NACP-I (1992-1999) was to control the spread of HIV infection. During this period a major expansion of infrastructure of blood banks was undertaken with the establishment of 685 blood banks and 40 blood component separation. Infrastructure for treatment of sexually transmitted diseases in district hospitals and medical colleges was created with the establishment of 504 STD clinics. HIV sentinel surveillance system was also initiated. NGOs were involved in the prevention interventions with the focus on awareness generation. The programme led to capacity development at the state level with the creation of State AIDS Cells in the Directorate of Health Services in states and union territories. During NACP-II (1999-2006) a number of new initiatives were undertaken and the programme expanded in new areas. Targeted Interventions were started through NGOs, with a focus on High Risk Groups (HRGs) viz. commercial sex workers (CSWs), men who have sex with men (MSM), injecting drug users (IDUs), and bridge populations (truckers and migrants). The package of services in these interventions includes Behaviour Change Communication, management of STDs and condom promotion. The School AIDS Education Programme was conceptualised to build up life skills of adolescents and address issues relating to growing up. All channels of communication were engaged to spread awareness about HIV/AIDS, promote safe behaviours and increase condom usage. Voluntary counselling and testing facilities were established in healthcare facilities to promote access to HIV counselling and testing. The interventions for prevention of parent to child transmission were also started. Free antiretroviral therapy was initiated in selected hospitals in the country. Development of indigenous vaccine and research on microbicides are some initiatives in HIV research. Apart from this, some policy initiatives during NACP-II included National AIDS Prevention and Control Policy, National Blood Policy, a strategy for Greater Involvement of People with HIV/AIDS and National Rural Health Mission. A National Council on AIDS chaired by the Prime Minister and consisting of 31 ministries, seven chief ministers, civil society representatives, positive people’s network and private sector organisations was constituted with the following objectives: l To mainstream HIV/AIDS issue in all ministries and departments by treating it as a development challenge and not merely a public health problem. l To provide leadership to mount multi-sectoral response to combat HIV/AIDS in the country with special reference to youth, women and the workforce.
ROBOT CAN BEAT CANCER
A 54-year-old person with stomach cancer used to take tablets to get over the pain. But they became less effective over time, with his body developing resistance. Chennai based Dr. Madhan Kumar used Maxio, a robot, to deliver the medicine precisely to the nerve root where the pain originated. The treatment was done in five minutes, faster than the conventional method that uses continuous X-ray imaging. The old method carries a risk of damage to motor and sensory nerves that could lead to paralysis. The patient can now carry on with his routine, which was not possible when he was on painkillers, as they used to cause drowsiness, constipation and blurred vision. www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  Robotics is a big boon, noted Dr. Kumar, a 36- year-old senior consultant at Chennai’s Global Hospitals Group. The robot that helped him perform complex procedures has been developed by Chennai-based start-up Perfint Healthcare. In the past year, Perfint’s robots have helped treat over 1,500 patients around the world. The eight-year-old firm, founded by three former employees of GE Healthcare, has done something very few start-ups can aspire to do — innovate in the field of medical technology. Its product managed to enter developed markets such as Germany and Australia. In 2014, the U.S. health regulator Food and Drug Administration gave Perfint its approval to sell Maxio there. One million new cancer cases are diagnosed in India each year, and this number is projected to jump to 1.7 million by 2035.
NEWS IN BRIEF
Mani Ratnam A prestigious museum of New York will honour Mani Ratnam with a special tribute, which it said has been “long overdue” for the “important filmmaker”. Mani Ratnam, 59, will make a rare appearance at the Museum of the Moving Image for the tribute from July 31 to August 2 during which Roja , Bombay and Dil Se will be screened. The museum described him as “that rarest of film directors” who is “capable of making exquisitely crafted, hugely entertaining, yet intelligent and provocative films on a range of social and political issues”. The series is titled “Politics as spectacle: the films of Mani Ratnam”. Richard Pena, Director-Emeritus, New York Film Festival, and Professor of Film Studies at Columbia University, noted that a “New York tribute to this important filmmaker is long overdue”. “The false dichotomies — art vs commercial cinema, entertainment vs political filmmaking — disappear when one sees how easily Mani Ratnam is able to combine aspects of all of them. Bimal Roy One-and-a-half months before the end of his term as Director of the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), scientist Bimal Roy, who was conferred Padma Shri in 2015, has been unceremoniously removed. In an order issued by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Dr. Roy has been accused of “indiscipline” and the communication expresses apprehension that he may indulge in acts of “administrative and financial impropriety.” He has been replaced by director-designate Sanghmitra Bandyopadhyay, who was supposed to take charge of Institute on August 1, 2015. Dr. Bandyopadhay, a Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar awardee, who takes over as the Director of the ISI is the first woman to lead the Institute. M.K. Sharma ICICI Bank on June 9, 2015 appointed M. K. Sharma as the non-executive Chairman of the Board for a period of five years, in place of K. V. Kamath. Mr. Kamath would shortly step down from the Board consequent to his nomination as the first President of the New Development Bank. The appointment of the new non-executive Chairman is subject to the prior approval of the Reserve Bank of India and would be effective July 1, 2015, or the date of receipt of RBI approval, whichever is later, ICICI Bank stated. Mr. Sharma is an independent director of several leading companies and has been a member of Government committee. He was an independent Director on the Board of ICICI Bank for eight years from 2003 to 2011. RC Tayal Senior IPS officer RC Tayal has been appointed as the new chief of the elite counter-terror force National Security Guard (NSG). An official order was issued on June 9, 2015 after the Union Home Ministry cleared his name for the post. The 1980-batch Assam-Meghalaya cadre officer is at present serving as the Special Director General in paramilitary CRPF and is heading its formation in Jammu and Kashmir. He is expected to serve as NSG DG till August next year when he is scheduled for superannuation. The post fell vacant after incumbent chief JN Choudhury retired on May 31. Hailing from Haryana, Tayal has earlier served as an Additional DG in the Sashastra Seema Bal during his stint at the centre. NSG was raised in 1984 as a federal contingency force with a specific aim to undertake counter-terror and counter-hijack operations and it was later tasked to protect high-risk VVIPs. K V Chowdary The former chairman of Central Board of Direct Taxes, K V Chowdary, has been appointed the Central Vigilance Commissioner and senior-most NEWS MAKERS www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  information commissioner, Vijai Sharma, has been named the new Chief Information Commissioner. A retired Indian Revenue Service officer, Mr Chowdary had been working as the adviser to the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team, which is probing black money cases.“Mr Sharma, a former Environment Secretary, has been working as an Information Commissioner in the Central Information Commission since 2012.“ Srivari Chandrasekhar Senior scientist Srivari Chandrasekhar has been appointed Director of the CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT), Hyderabad , a premier research institute of the Central Government. Chandrasekhar was named to the top post by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his capacity as President of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), which functions under Union Ministry of Science and Technology. Chandrasekhar joined IICT in 1986 as a Junior Research Fellow and grew up to the level of Chief Scientist in 2010. Since then he has been leading one of the largest groups at the IICT, Natural Products Chemistry. “He has made significant contributions in diverse areas of organic chemistry with a special emphasis on chiral chemistry, total synthesis of biologically active natural products and pharmaceutical products, the release said. The distinguished scientist has developed technologies for synthesis of latest anti-tuberculosis drug bedaquiline; anti-tumor and abortive drug mesoprostol and drug for treatment of schizophrenia asenapine, among others. “ Dick Costolo Twitter Inc Chief Executive Officer Dick Costolo abruptly announced he was stepping down on June 11, 2015 amid increasing scrutiny of the company’s slow user growth and inability to attract advertisers at the same rate as its competitors. Costolo will be replaced by co-founder Jack Dorsey on an interim basis. Twitter has had a number of shake-ups in its management. Co-founders Jack Dorsey and Evan Williams both served as CEOs of the company before Costolo, and Costolo has overhauled much of his management team over the past year. Costolo has agreed to cancel all of his remaining unvested equity in Twitter after July 1, 2015. Princess Cristina Spain’s King Felipe VI has issued a decree stripping his sister Princess Cristina of her title as Duchess of Palma, the palace announced on June 11, 2015, as the royal sibling faces tax evasion charges in a scandal that has embarrassed the monarchy. The Official Journal of the state will tomorrow [Frida]) publish a royal decree by which His Majesty the King will revoke the use of the title of Duchess of Palma de Mallorca by Her Royal Highness the Infanta Cristina. Cristina (49) stands accused of taking part in tax evasion by her husband, the former Olympic handball player Inaki Urdangarin. Manabi Bandyopadhyay India’s first transgender college principal Manabi Bandyopadhyay is set to become the vice chairperson of West Bengal’s first Transgender Development Board, the ruling Trinamool Congress announced in its official website on June 9, 2015. The 13-member panel, headed by State Minister for Women and Child Development and Social Welfare Shashi Panja will comprise two officials from Dr. Panja’s department, transgender communities and NGOs working with the communities. Issues related to sex reassignment surgery (SRS) will be one of the priorities of the committee. Ms. Bandyopadhyay, who was appointed as the principal of Krishnanagar Women’s College in Nadia district, West Bengal. Announcing the formation of the Board in March, Dr Panja had emphasised that the State was the first to constitute a board for development and not just for the welfare of transgenders. Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra already have transgender welfare boards, the website stated. AWARDS Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowships Musicologist S.R. Janakiraman, film-maker M.S. Sathyu, classical singer Vijay Kichlu and musician Tulsidas Borkar have been chosen for the prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi fellowships for the year 2014. Akademi ratnas, or fellowships, and awards for 2014 were decided by the General Council of the Sangeet Natak Akademi, also known as the National Academy of Music, Dance and Drama, at its meeting in New Delhi on June 10, 2015. [ 3 6 ] Weekly Current Affairs 7th June 2015 to 13th June, 2015 www.ias100.in The fellowship of the Akademi is considered a rare honour and restricted to a small group at a given time. At present, there are 40 fellows. The General Council also selected 36 artists from the fields of music, dance, theatre and puppetry for the Sangeet Natak Akademi Awards (Akademi Puraskar) for the year 2014. Nine eminent artists in the field of music — Ashwini Bhide Deshpande, Ustad Iqbal Ahmed Khan and Nath Narelkar for Hindustani vocal; Pandit Nayan Ghosh (tabla) and Ronu Majumdar (flute) for Hindustani instrumental music; Neyveli Santhanagopalan for Carnatic vocal; T.A. Kaliyamurthy (Thavil), Sukanya Ramgopal (Ghatam) and Dwaram Durga Prasad Rao (violin) for Carnatic instrumental music — have bagged awards. In the field of dance, Adayar Janardanan (Bharatanatyam), Uma Dogra (Kathak), Amusana Devi (Manipuri), Vedantam Radhesyam (Kuchipudi), Sudhakar Sahoo (Odissi), Anita Sharma (Sattriya), Jagru Mahto (Chhau), Navtej Singh Johar (contemporary dance) and Varanasi Vishnu Namboothiri (music for Kathakali) have been selected. The eight theatre persons chosen for awards were: Asgar Wajahat, Surya Mohan Kulshreshtha, Chidambar Rao Jambe, Debshankar Haldar, Ramdas Kamath, Amod Bhatt, Manjunath Bhagwat Hostota and Amardas Manikpuri. For their contribution to traditional/folk/tribal music/ dance/theatre and puppetry, eight artistes have been selected. They are: Puran Shah Koti, K. Kesavasamy, Kalamandalam Ram Mohan, Reba Kanta Mohanta, Abdul Rashid Hafiz, K. Shanathoiba Sharma, Ramdayal Sharma and Thanga Darlong. Director, playwright and writer Akshara K.V. and musician Indudhar Nirody will receive awards for Overall Contribution/Scholarship to Performing Arts. The honour of Akademi fellow carries a purse of Rs. 3,00,000, and Akademi awards Rs.1,00,000. Forbes list of World’s Richest Athletes Cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni is among Forbes magazine’s 100 highest-paid athletes in the world, the only Indian sportsman on the list. The list has been topped again by American boxer Floyd Mayweather and includes golfer Tiger Woods, tennis star Roger Federer and Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo. Dhoni has been ranked 23rd on the list of The World’s Highest Paid Athletes 2015, dropping a notch from his ranking of 22 last year. Dhoni’s total earnings stood at $31 million, including amounts from salary/ winnings at $4 million and endorsements worth $27 million. The 33-year-old cricketer retired from Test cricket at the end of 2014, but remains India’s skipper at the One-Day International and T20 levels. He led India to the semifinal round of the 2015 cricket World Cup before suffering a loss to eventual champion Australia, and in May the Chennai Super Kings went to the IPL final for the sixth time in his eight years as team captain, Forbes said. Top ten World’s Highest-Paid Athletes 2015 are: 1. Floyd Mayweather (Boxing) from US: $ 300 million. 2. Manny Pacquiao (Boxing) from Philippines: $ 160 million 3. Cristiano Ronaldo (Football) from Portugal: $ 79.6 million 4. Lionel Messi (Football) from Argentina: $73.8 million 5. Roger Federer (Tennis) from Switzerland: $67 million 6. LeBron James (Basketball) from US: $64.8 million 7. Kevin Durant (Basketball) from US: $54.1 million 8. Phil Mickelson (Golf) from US: $50.8 million 9. Tiger Woods (Golf) from US: $50.6 million 10. Kobe Bryant (Basketball) from US: $49.5 million In this edition of list only two women athletes made to the list they are Maria Sharapova (Tennis) from Russia. She was placed at 26th rank with total earnings of $ 31 million. Serena Williams (Tennis) from US. She was placed at 47th rank with total earnings of $ 6 million.““ IIFA Awards 2015 The 16th edition of International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) was concluded on Jun 7, 2015, after three days of entertainment and fun, saw a galaxy of stars regaling their umpteen fans in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur. Vishal Bharadwaj’s ‘Haider’ swept the award function with as many as six awards and ‘Queen’ and ‘2 States’ too were awarded. www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  List of winners are: l Best Film: Queen l Best Director: Rajkumar Hirani – PK l Best Actor in a Leading Role: Shahid Kapoor – Haider as Haider Meer l Best Actress in a Leading Role: Kangana Ranaut – Queen as Rani Mehra l Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Riteish Deshmukh – Ek Villain as Rakesh Mahadkar l Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Tabu – Haider as Ghazala Meer. l Best Performance in a Negative Role: Kay Kay Menon for ‘Haider’ l Best Story: Vikas Bahl, Chaitally Parmar, Parvez Shaikh for Queen l Best Debut: Male: Tiger Shroff for ‘Heropanti’ l Best Debut: Female: Kirti Sanon for ‘Heropanti’ l Outstanding Contribution: Subhash Ghai l Woman of the Year: Deepika Padukone l Best Regional Film: Lai Bhaari (Marathi) l Best Performance in a Comic Role: Varun Dhawan for ‘Main Tera Hero’ l Best Playback Singer- female: Kanika Kapoor for ‘Baby doll’ from ‘Ragini MMS2’ l Best Playback Singer- male: Ankit Tiwari for Galliyaan from ‘Ek Villian’ l Best Music: Shankar Ehsaan Loy for ‘2 States’ l Best Debut Direction: Sajid Nadiadwsla for ‘Kick’ & Umang Kumar for ‘Mary Kom’ l Best Costume Designing: Dolly Ahluwalia for ‘Haider’ l Best Sound Mixing: Debajit Changmai for ‘Haider’ l Best Action: Parvez Shaikh and Andy Armstrong for ‘Bang Bang’ l Best Choreography: Ahmed Khan for Jumme Ki Raat for ‘Kick’ l Best Screenplay: Vikas Bahl, Chaitally Parmar, Parveez Shaikh for ‘Queen’ l Best Dialogue Award: Abhijat Joshi and Rajkumar Hirani for ‘PK’ l Best Background Score: Vishal Bhardwaj for ‘Haider’ l Best Cinematography: Binod Pradhan for ‘2 States’ l Best Editing: Anurag Kashyap and Abhijit Kokate for ‘Queen’ l Special Effects (Visuals): Reupal Rawal from Prime Focus for ‘Kick’ l Best Production Design: Subrata Chakraborty and Amit Ray for ‘Haider’ l Best Sound Design: Shajith Koyeri ‘Haider’ l Best Song Recording: Eric Pillai for the song Teri Galiyaan for ‘Ek Villian’ ICC Hall of Fame Former West Indies bowling great Wes Hall was on June 12, 2015 inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame. Hall received his commemorative cap from fellow West Indian legend and ICC Cricket Hall of Famer, Courtney Walsh, during the lunch break on the opening day of the second cricket Test between the West Indies and Australia at the Sabina Park. Hall is the fourth cricketer this year to be inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame after Betty Wilson, Anil Kumble and Martin Crowe, who were inducted earlier this year during the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup. Out of 80 players in total, West Indian now have 18 cricketers who have been given this prestigious award for their contribution to the sport. Sant Namdev National Award Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal was on Jun 10, 2015 was conferred the prestigious 14th Sant Namdev National Award- 2015 for promoting peace, communal harmony and universal brotherhood at a function organised in Pune by the Sarhad foundation. This award was bestowed upon Badal by Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis in the presence of the organisers of the Sarhad foundation.“ “Expressing gratitude to the organisers for this coveted honour, the chief minister thanked the ‘Sarhad’ organisation for this prestigious award. Badal said though he had received several awards in different fields during the past, but this award has a very unique significance for him, because it was being given for work in a field which was the ‘dearest and most important’ field in his life. The chief minister said he has always rated peace and communal harmony as sacred goals and tasks of his life. He has ever sought inspiration from the life and philosophy of our great Gurus, saints and seers for the accomplishment of these cherished tasks. [ 3 8 ] Weekly Current Affairs 7th June 2015 to 13th June, 2015 www.ias100.in The chief minister said it was a matter of great pride and satisfaction for him that the people Punjab have always endorsed his firm commitment and concerted efforts to foster mutual goodwill, brotherhood, amity and religious tolerance in the society. M N Buch Former bureaucrat M N Buch, who was widely regarded as the architect of modern Bhopal, passed away on June 7, 2015 evening following a brain stroke. He was 80. He received Padma Bhushan in 2011 for his services to the nation. He has held several import portfolios, including Education Secretary in Gujarat, Chairman of the Kandla Port Trust, Executive Director of the Gujarat State Fertilizer Company and the Managing Director of the Gujarat Small Industries Corporation. Dr. Buch took voluntary retirement from the government service after serving as Gujarat’s Chief Secretary in 1984, and founded the NGO, the National Centre for Human Settlements and Environment, Bhopal. Dasaradhi Rangacharya Dasaradhi Rangacharya, legendary Telugu writer, passed away in Hyderabad, Telangana after a brief illness. He was 87. He had written number of books highlighting the life and agony of the people at the grass roots level especially in the then Telangana region. His novels Chillara Devullu (The Lesser Deities)-1969, Moduga Poolu (Fire Flowers)-1971 are well known for influencing Telugu people against oppression by the rulers. He also had translated all four Vedas, Ramayana and Mahabharata into Telugu. His autobiography was Jeevanayanam. He was awarded Sahitya Academy award for Chillara Devullu. He had actively participated in fight against the Nizam’s autocratic rule and also took part in the Telangana Armed Struggle till Hyderabad was liberated in Operation Polo. Nek Chand Nek Chand, creator of the iconic Rock Garden who has amazed people for decades with his unique sculptures made from waste, died on June 12, 2015 at a hospital in Chandigarh following cardiac arrest. The 90-year-old architectural autodidact had been ailing and was admitted to a private hospital for the past few days. The Padma Shri awardee, whose 90th birthday was celebrated by the Chandigarh Administration and the City residents on December 15, had millions of fans across the globe. Working as a roads inspector of the Public Works Department in Punjab from 1951, Nek Chand had quietly built his magical kingdom clearing a little forest patch near the famous Sukhna lake, Chandigarh, to create a small garden. Waste like broken crockery, electrical fittings, glass bangles, bathroom tiles, wash basins and bicycle frames were used to make mosaic sculptures of men, women, animals and gods. The iconic Rock Garden, inaugurated in 1976, is now spread over an area of forty acres and more than 2.5 lakh people from India and abroad visits it every year with the annual revenue generated from ticket sales around Rs 1.8 crore. Sir Christopher Lee Sir Christopher Lee, the veteran actor and star of many of the world’s biggest film franchises, has died on June 8, 2015 aged 93. The English-born actor, who made his name playing Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster in the Hammer horror films, appeared in more than 250 movies. He was best-known for his villainous roles – including Scaramanga in James Bond and evil wizard Saruman in The Lord of the Rings. The actor’s other credits include The Wicker Man and Star Wars. Sir Christopher also worked with director Tim Burton on five films including Sleepy Hollow (1999) and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005). Burton described him as “an enormous inspiration”. He was knighted in 2009 for services to drama and charity and was awarded a Bafta fellowship in 2011. Dasaradhi Rangacharya Dasaradhi Rangacharya, 87, a well-known poet and writer who minced no words in expressing his resentment with the autocratic rule of the Nizam breathed his last at a hospital in Hyderabad on June 8, 2015. OBITUARY www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  The reputable writer who also participated in the Telangana Armed Struggle against the draconian rule of the Nizam was rushed to a hospital after his condition deteriorated and passed away while undergoing treatment. ART & CULTURE 3,800-year-old statuettes found in Peru Researchers in Peru have discovered a trio of statuettes they believe were created by the ancient Caral civilization some 3,800 years ago, the culture ministry revealed on June 9, 2015. The mud statuettes were found inside a reed basket in a building at the ancient city of Vichama in northern Peru, which is an important archaeological site. The ministry said they were probably used in religious rituals performed before breaking ground on a new building. “Two of the figures, a naked man and woman painted in white, black and red, are believed to represent political authorities. The third, a women with 28 fingers and red dots on her white face, is believed to represent a priestess. The research team, led by archaeologist Ruth Shady, also unearthed two mud figurines of women’s faces wrapped in cloth and covered with yellow, blue and orange feathers. “The Caral civilization emerged some 5,000 years ago and lived in Peru’s Supe Valley leaving behind impressive architecture including pyramids and sunken amphitheaters. “ Shifting of Tipu’s armoury begins Preliminary work on shifting the 18th century armoury belonging to Tipu Sultan’s period at Srirangapatna has begun. The 900-tonne historical armoury, made of lime mortar and bricks, has been hampering the work on track-doubling between Bengaluru and Mysuru, as it bisects the alignment of the second track. Consequently, the Railways invited tenders and awarded the contract to a U.S.-based company, Wolfe Pvt. Ltd. for shifting the armoury. The basic work on the shifting began on June 10, 2015. The Rs. 13.66-crore project is expected to be completed by March 2016. The U.S. firm and the New Delhibased PSL Company have jointly drawn up a plan for shifting the armoury. The monument will be shifted to a new site with technical support from the National Design and Research Forum, and the consent/supervision of the Archaeological Survey of India and the National Monuments Authority. The Department of State Archaeology, Heritage and Museums had identified a new place about 100 metres away from the existing location for the monument. Shifting of the monument is a Herculean task. The project was scheduled to be completed in nine months. However, the duration may extend up to at least 12 months, depending on the time taken for digging, lifting and moving the monument to another location. Statuettes open a window to ancient Peru Researchers in Peru have discovered a trio of statuettes they believed were created by the ancient Caral civilisation some 3,800 years ago, the Peruvian Culture Ministry revealed on June 9, 2015. The mud statuettes were found inside a reed basket in a building in the ancient city of Vichama in northern Peru. The Ministry said they were probably used in religious rituals performed before breaking ground on a new building. Two of the figures, a naked man and woman painted in white, black and red, are believed to represent political authorities. The third, a woman with 28 fingers and red dots on her white face, is believed to represent a priestess. The research team also unearthed two mud figurines of women’s faces wrapped in cloth. Film on Godse banned A Pune court prohibited the release of an underproduction film on Nathuram Godse, the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi, in response to a civil suit alleging that it may “incite people on communal lines”. The order was passed by civil magistrate K.M. Pingle ex-parte, as the defendants did not appear before the court despite notices to them. Hemant Patil, an activist, had filed the suit seeking a ban on the film being produced by the Akhil Bhartiya Hindu Mahasabha. The film, with a working title is Desh Bhakt (patriot) Nathuram Godse, was slated for release on January 30, but it has not yet hit the theatres. Wajid Khan, Mr. Patil’s lawyer, said the defendants failed to appear on five occasions. So the court passed the order ex-parte (in the absence of one of the parties). MISCELLANEOUS [ 4 0 ] Weekly Current Affairs 7th June 2015 to 13th June, 2015 www.ias100.in The suit said Mahasabha’s general secretary Munna Kumar Sharma had been quoted by the media as saying that “the film would show that Nathuram Godse, the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi, was a patriot while Gandhi was anti-Hindu”. U.S. regulator to Test Noodles After being banned in India on health concerns, Maggi noodles manufactured by Swiss giant Nestle in India has come under the scanner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USFDA), which has taken samples of the instant food brand for testing. Besides selling in India, Nestle India exports Maggi noodles to the U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, Singapore and Kenya, as per the global website of the Swiss multinational giant. Cyclone Ashobaa Cyclone Ashobaa is bringing its first rain to Oman as residents hope the storm will not live up to its name. This storm is, however, at the lower end of the intensity scale. At its peak, Ashobaa will just become the equivalent of a category one hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. Conditions at sea will turn rough bringing big waves to the coasts of Oman, Iran, Pakistan and India. Low-lying harbours are often badly affected by storm surges brought in by tropical cyclones. This time the forecast surge, or sea level rise, is less than one metre. The Oman Meteorological Department is rightly playing down fears that Ashobaa could grow into another Gonu. Gonu was a devastating cyclone in 2007 and the most intense on record in the Arabian Sea. The eye of the cyclone looks like crossing the Omani coast somewhere between Masirah Island and the town of Sur. Ashobaa will then quickly dissipate leaving thunderstorms behind. NCR gets 3 more districts The sprawl of the National Capital Region (NCR) just got bigger as the nod has been given for the inclusion of Muzaffarnagar district of Uttar Pradesh and the Jind and Karnal districts of Haryana as part of the conurbation. Urban Development Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu announced the decision for including the three districts in NCR after chairing a meeting on June 9, 2015 of the National Capital Region Planning Board (NCRPB) in New Delhi. Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, ministers of Delhi and Rajasthan governments, and senior officials of the Uttar Pradesh government were present in the meeting. Mr. Naidu said that a committee has been appointed to look into the demands for the inclusion of more areas in NCR. The Union minister said that before including any area, the view of the particular state government will also have to be taken. He added that a representation had come for the inclusion of Mathura in NCR, which has now been referred to the committee and also to Uttar Pradesh government. The decision to include Jind and Karnal was taken earlier, it was kept in abeyance as there was a thinking that the addition of new districts to NCR should not be allowed till their infrastructure reached a certain level. Referring to another important issue related to ‘Mangar Bani’, a forest area in the Aravalis along the Gurgaon-Faridabad highway, Mr. Naidu said the state government had decided to demarcate a 500 metre buffer zone around it. He added that all NCR states had been asked to expeditiously designate Special Conservation Zones. However, there was a practical problem in that some satellite images in old records do not reflect the present status on the ground. Where records show a forested area, buildings maybe have been come up, Naidu said. He added that while the records may show 20 per cent of the area of Delhi under forests, it may not be so in reality and has to be verified. SPORTS Mumbai Mayor’s Cup International Open Chess Tournament Martyn Kravstiv of Ukraine won the Mumbai Mayor’s Cup international open chess tournament in Mumbai on June 9, 2015. The third seed was crowned champion after he defeated India’s K. Priyadarshan in the tenth and final round. The win took his tally to eight points, the same as Georgian Luka Paichadze, who had an inferior tiebreak score. The third and fourth places were taken by Nguyend Du Hoa of Vietnam and Alexander Zubov of Ukraine, who scored 7.5 points each. R.R. Laxman and Priyadarshan, who were among the www.ias100.in www.ias100.in  joint leaders going into the last round, finished tied for places fifth to 15th, after logging seven points apiece. ITF Women’s Tennis Tournament Sowjanya Bavisetti, in partnership with Ai Wen Zhu of China, won the doubles title with a 7-6(8), 0-6, 10-7 victory over Ao Gai and Yuqi Sheng of China in the final of the $10,000 ITF women’s tennis tournament in Anning, China, on June 11, 2015. It was a commendable effort in the final as the Chinese pair had put out the top seeds Yuan Xin and Xiaodi You of China in straight sets in the semifinals. 20th USIC World Railway Games Indian Railways beat France 3-1 in the tennis final of the 20th USIC World Railway Games at Nuremberg recently. It was sweet revenge for India as it had lost the final to France in the last edition in 2011. The final results: India bt France 3-1 (Uday Kumar Reddy bt Louis Monterro 2-6, 6-3, 11-9; Saurav Sukul lost to Thibualt Brouart 6-4, 5-7, 8- 10; Nitten Kirrtane bt Cyril Thiery 6-2, 6-4; PC Vignesh bt Christophe Nguyen 7-6(9), 7-5). Indonesia Open Badminton Titles Japanese rising star shuttler Kento Momota upstaged Denmark’s defending champion and third seed Jan O. Jorgensen in the men’s singles final, while Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon clinched the women’s singles title at the $800,000 Indonesia Open Superseries Premier in Jakarta on June 7, 2015. World No.9 Momota upset world No.2 Jorgensen with a 16-21, 21-19, 21-7 victory in an hour and six minutes to pocket $60,000 million at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium. This was the 20- year-old’s second victory in a Superseries event. Incidentally, the 2012 world junior champion’s first win came this year at the Singapore Open. In the women’s singles final, former world champion and world No.6 Ratchanok beat Japan’s world No.35 Yui Hashimoto 21-12, 21-10 in 42 minutes. Meanwhile South Korea’s Ko Sung Hyun and Shin Baek Choel beat China’s Fu Haifeng and Zhang Nan 21-16, 16-21, 21-19 in 53 minutes to win the men’s double title. In the women’s singles final, China’s Tang Jinhua and Tian Qing defeated Indonesia’s Nitya Krishinda Maheswari and Grysia Polii 21-11, 21- 10 in 45 minutes. The mixed doubles title went to Xu Chen and Ma Jin, who beat Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei 21- 17, 21-16 in 45 minutes in an all-Chinese final. India’s campaign ended following Parupalli Kashyap’s loss to Momota in the semi-final. 21st Asian athletics championships Vikas Gowda was far away from his season’s best but still retained his men’s discus throw title at the 21st Asian athletics championships in Wuhan, China on June 6, 2015. There was more joy for India with Lalita Babar winning the 3,000m steeplechase, her maiden Asian gold. G. Lakshmanan took the men’s 10,000m silver to add to the 5,000m bronze he had won earlier. With Iran’s Ehsan Hadadi, the 2012 London Olympics silver medallist who completed a hattrick of Asian Games titles in Incheon last year, not in the best of form and fitness this season — he had a ‘no-mark’ against his name here — Gowda had it easy though he was not anywhere close to his 65.75m which came in the USA in April. Miles behind was Kuwait’s Eisa Zankawi with a 61.57 for silver. Jinson Johnson (1:51.55s) booked a berth in the men’s 800 final as the seventh fastest while Dharambir Singh, the country’s quickest this year, entered the 200m as third fastest qualifier with 20.87s. Bahrain’s Nigeria-born Kemi Adekoya, clocked a world-leading time of 54.31s to win gold in the women’s 400m hurdles. Anu Raghavan missed a medal while finishing fourth in the women’s 400m hurdles in a personal best 57.79s. Indian Basketball Players Association Started The Indian Basketball Players Association (IBPA) officially started its functioning with an inaugural meeting held at the Indian Medical Association hall in New Delhi. The meeting was attended on June 7, 2015 by some of the well known basketball legends of the country. The list included several Arjuna awardees, Dhyan Chand awardees, Asian all-star player, former Indian captains and a number of international and national players. The members nominated Sajjan Singh as the president, while Jayasankar Menon, former Asian All Star Basketball player, will be the general [ 4 2 ] Weekly Current Affairs 7th June 2015 to 13th June, 2015 www.ias100.in secretary and Ashok Sharma, national player and FIBA commissioner, will be the treasurer, according to a release. Abbas Moontaisar will be the chairman, while Manmohan Singh and Suman Sharma will be vice chairmen. Sajjan welcomed this noble initiative to promote basketball but cautioned all the members of IBPA not to end up into politics of any kind. UEFA Champions League title FC Barcelona rode goals from Ivan Rakitic and Luis Suárez, and an injury-time clincher by Neymar Jr to claim the 2014/15 UEFA Champions League title on June 6, 2015 at the Olympiastadion in Berlin, Germany. The victory gives FC Barcelona their fourth Champions League title in the last 10 years after 2006, 2009 and 2011 triumphs — their fifth in team history — and an unprecedented second treble, adding a layer of reinforced concrete to the Catalans’ already rock-solid status as a dynasty for the ages. While annual modifications to any top-tier squad are inevitable, a steady core of players — led by the Argentinian virtuoso Lionel Messi — has anchored the Catalan club during a run of footballing dominance the likes of which has never been witnessed before. Over the past decade Barça have scooped up titles at a prolific pace with an astounding haul of 24 major trophies in six different competitions. Canadian Grand Prix 2015 Lewis Hamilton took a controlled victory in the Canadian Grand Prix, fending off team-mate Nico Rosberg. The Mercedes drivers circulated at the front throughout an unusually uneventful race as Williams’s Valtteri Bottas beat Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen to third. After Hamilton led comfortably through the first part of the race, Rosberg came at him after their sole pit stops, but the world champion was never under threat. Hamilton’s fourth win in seven races extends his drivers’ championship points advantage to 17. The win helps to make up for Hamilton’s disappointment in the last race in Monaco, where he lost a dominant victory as a result of a strategic error by the team.