Current Affairs for CDS/NDA/SSB/AFCAT from 1st march to 7th march 2015
UGC GIVES TIME TO REMOVE DEFICIENCIES
In a relief to seven ‘C’ category deemed univer- sities, UGC has given them one more year to rectify their deficiencies failing which they could face the possibility of de-notification. These universities were identified from among 41 ‘C’ category deemed universities by an expert panel as they lacked the requisite infrastructure and faculty strength.
After detailed deliberations, UGC decided to give them a final opportunity for rectifying their deficiencies within a maximum period of one year and submit the compliance report within that time, failing which recommendation for the de- notification of their status would be made to HRD Ministry. The Supreme Court, which has been monitoring the case, had directed UGC to inspect eight such universities which were said to be lacking in terms of the criteria for deemed universities.
The apex court had last year directed UGC to examine all the reports of the 41 deemed universities and advise the central government. These univer- sities had gone to Supreme Court after they were put in the ‘C’ category in 2009 by the Tandon Committee. Upon Supreme Court’s direction, a committee was set up under UGC vice chairperson H. Devaraj which heard all the 41 deemed univer- sities separately.
The universities, which were examined on nine parameters, scored poorly in several of them. Some of the parameters were conformity to the provisions of the UGC Act and UGC guidelines, aspects of governance, quality of and innovation in teaching- learning process, research output, doctoral and other research degree programme, faculty resour- ces, admission processes and award of degrees
VISA ON ARRIVAL EXTENDED TO 150 COUNTRIES
The government is all set to extend the facility to 150 countries in a phased manner, after tasting success in scaling up the number of foreign tourists through visa on arrival-enabled electronic travel authorisation for 43 countries.
The Tourism Ministry was allocated Rs.1,573 crore in the 2015-16 fiscal as against the revised estimate of Rs.1,182.99 crore for the previous fiscal. The Culture Ministry has got Rs.2,169 crore for the
next fiscal as against Rs.2,159 crore in the last financial year. Resources have been provided to start work for nine heritage sites including churches and convents of old Goa, Hampi (Karnataka), Elephanta Caves (Mumbai), Kumbalgarh and other hill forts of Rajasthan, Rani ki Vav at Patan in Gujarat, Leh Palace in Ladakh, Varanasi temple town in UP, Jallianwala Bagh at Amritsar and Qutub Shahi tombs in Hyderabad.
Sansad Gram Yogna
SAGY is a rural development programme broadly focusing upon the development in the villages which includes social development, cultural development and spread motivation among the people on social mobilization of the village community. The programme was launched by the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi on the birth anniversary of Jayaprakash Narayan, on 11 October 2014.
Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana was initiated to bring the member of parliament of all the political parties under the same umbrella while taking the responsibility of developing physical and institu- tional infrastructure in villages and turn them into model villages. Under this scheme, each member of parliament needs to choose one village each from
the constituency that they represent, fix parameters and make it a model village by 2016. Villages will be offered smart schools, universal access to basic health facilities and Pucca housing to homeless villagers.
Participatory planning exercise for identifying peoples’ needs and priorities in an integrated manner.
Converging resources from Central Sector and Centrally Sponsored Schemes and also other State schemes to the extent possible.
Repairing and renovating existing infrastruc- ture to the extent possible.
Strengthening the Gram Panchayats and peoples’ institutions within them
Promoting transparency and accountability.
THE CITIZENSHIP (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2015
The Parliament passed a bill to amend the Citizenship Act to bring parity between provisions for Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) and Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cardholders. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2015 was introduced in Lok Sabha by the Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs, Haribhai Partibhai Chaudhary on February 27, 2015. The Bill amends the Citizenship Act, 1955.
INFO-CRUX: The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2015
The Citizenship Act, 1955 regulates the acquisition and determination of citizenship after commencement of the Constitution. It provides for citizenship by birth, descent, registration, naturalisation and by incorpora- tion of territory. In addition, it provides for renunciation and termination of citizenship under certain circums-tances. It also contains provisions regarding registration of Overseas Citizens of India and their rights.
Citizenship by registration and naturalisation: The Act allows a person to apply for citizenship by registration or naturalisation if they fulfil certain qualifications. For example, a person may apply for citizenship by registration if they or their parents were earlier citizens of India, and if they resided in India for one year before applying for registration. Similarly, a person may apply for a certificate of naturalisation if they have resided in India or have served a government in India for a period of 12 months immedi- ately preceding the date of application. The Bill allows the central government to relax the requirement of 12 months stay or service if special circumstances exist. Relaxation up to 30 days may be permitted.
Overseas Citizen of India cardholders: The Act outlines certain qualifications for registering a person as an Overseas Citizen of India. The Bill provides certain additional grounds for registering for an Overseas Citizen of India card. These are: (i) a minor child whose parent(s) are Indian citizens; or (ii) spouse of foreign origin of an Indian citizen or spouse of foreign origin of an Overseas Citizen of India cardholder subject to certain conditions; or (iii) great-grandchild of a person who is a citizen of another country, but who meets one of several conditions (for example, the great- grandparent must be a citizen of India at the time of commencement of the Constitution or any time afterwards). An Overseas Citizen of India is entitled to some benefits such as a multiple-entry, multi-purpose life-long visa to visit India.
INSURANCE LAWS (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2015
The Lok Sabha had passed the Insurance Bill to increase foreign investment limit in local insurers to 49 percent from 26 percent. The Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2015, seeking higher foreign equity participation in Indian insurance companies, was first introduced in Rajya Sabha in 2008 but non concurrence amongst parties stalkled its passage since.
The passage of the Bill thus paved the way for major reform related amendments in the Insurance Act, 1938, the General Insurance Business (Nationalization) Act, 1972 and the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) Act, 1999. The Insurance Laws (Amendment) Act 2015 to be so enacted, will seamlessly replace the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2014, which came into force on 26th December 2014.
The Amendment Act will remove archaic and redundant provisions in the legislations and
incorporates certain provisions to provide Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) with the flexibility to discharge its functions more effectively and efficiently. It also provides for enhancement of the foreign investment cap in an Indian Insurance Company from 26% to an explicitly composite limit of 49% with the safeguard of Indian ownership and control.
The amended law will enable capital raising through new and innovative instruments under the regulatory supervision of IRDAI. Greater availability of capital for the capital intensive insurance sector would lead to greater distribution reach to under / un- served areas, more innovative product formulations to meet diverse insurance needs of citizens, efficient service delivery through improved distribution technology and enhanced customer service standards.
WEBSITE ‘SHIPPING SAMVAD’ LAUNCHED
The Union Minister of Shipping, Road Transport & Highways launched a website “Shipping Samvad” with the objective to invite innovative ideas and suggestions from general public and experts related to Indian maritime sector for improvements in the shipping, ports and inland waterways sector. The ideas and suggestions submitted through this portal will be further examined for implementation by Ministry of Shipping and the workable ideas and suggestions will be published on this website. The Ministry of Shipping will also select the best five contributions in the year.
The Ministry will also upload the draft policies/new initiatives from time to time on the portal for the valuable suggestions/feedback from the citizen. This will help Ministry of Shipping in bringing transparency and blue revolution in the country.
NATIONAL ELECTORAL ROLL PURIFICATION AND
The Election Commission of India has launched National Electoral Roll Purification and Authentication Programme (NERPAP) throughout the country with the prime objective of bringing a totally error free and authenticated electoral roll.
During the programme, EPIC data of electors will be linked with Aadhar data of UIDAI for the purpose of authentication. NERPAP will focus on improving image quality of electors along with sorting issues like corrections of errors etc.
Electors have been provided the facility to feed their respective Aadhar number through sms, email, mobile application and National Voters Service Portal (NVSP) using web services through election commission website.
Electors can also feed Aadhar number by making a call at 1950 to state call centres or by submitting the details of Aadhar number and EPIC number in a hard copy of duly filled up Form along with photocopy of both the documents, namely EPIC and Aadhar card.
Besides, collection and feeding of Aadhar will also be done by Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) by organizing Special Camp, Voter Facilitation Centres, e-Seva centres and Citizen Service Centres authorised by the DEOs. Booth Level Officers (BLOs) will also collect the details of electors during door to door survey.
To ensure maximum public participation, nationwide special camps will be organized by the Electoral Registration Officer on 12.04.2015. The National Electoral Rolls Purification and Authentication Programme (NERPAP) will be launched in the Union Territory from March 9.
Under NERPAP, facility has also been provided for voluntarily Disclosure of Multiple Entries by the Voters. The electors with multiple registrations in electoral roll(s) are advised to fill Form-7 for deletion of their names from the places except where they ordinarily reside. The electors may submit Form-7 through Web Portal of NVSP or at EROs Facilitation Centres /Special Camps/ Other Centres such as E-Seva, CSC and so on
DAC APPROVED BUYING OF 38 PILATUS TRAINER AIRCRAFT FOR IAF
The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has agreed to the purchase of 38 additional Pilatus basic trainer aircraft for the Indian Air Force and nominated state-run Goa Shipyard Limited (GSL) to manufacture 12 specialised mine counter- measure vessels (MCMVs) for Rs 32,000 crore.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar chaired the DAC meeting which deferred a decision on purchasing at least 15 US-2i amphibious aircraft from Japan and no decision was taken on the bid by Airbus-Tata consortium to replace the ageing Avro transport aircraft fleet of the Indian Air Force. On the trainer aircraft for the IAF, the DAC decided exercise the option clause for the deal signed signed in 2012. The original contract for 75 aircraft had the option clause of buying 50 per cent under same terms and conditions for three
years, ending May 2015.
The IAF has so far inducted 59 Pilatus aircraft. The Air Force had calculated a requirement of 181 basic trainer aircraft (BTA) out of which 90 were supposed to be bought off the shelf and 91 made in India. However, the former government decided to go for a 75-aircraft contract in the first phase in 2012 with a 50 per cent follow-on clause, that would be 38 planes.
According to Defence sources, the remaining requirement of the IAF (some 78 planes) will be met by the HAL which will supply its indigenously developed HTT-40. Adequate orders will be given to the HAL to make the development commercially viable. The Defence Ministry, in November last year, scrapped the Rs 2,700-crore deal for acquiring two minesweeper ships from a South Korean firm after it was found that there were violations of tender conditions by agents. The DAC has now nominated GSL to build 12 MCMVs under a project that will cost Rs 32,000 crore, defence sources said. The shipyard has already invested about Rs 500
crore in setting up infrastructure for this order and will tie-up with a foreign firm if needed. The DAC is the apex decision-making body of the Defence Ministry.
CHINA KICKS OFF SILK ROAD INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECT
China on 28 February 2015 has launched a massive Silk Road infrastructure project worth $79.8 billion US dollar in the northwest province of Gansu as part of its ambitious Silk Road plan. The project has been launched as a part of China’s ambitious Silk Route plan and will facilitate exchange of trade and tourism between China and central Asian Countries. Though the province of Gansu does not share its borders with any central Asian countries, it will be an important stretch of the Silk Road Economic Belt.
The development project aims to improve the connectivity of the existing transportation network by adding more than 60,000 kilometers of road, including 4,070 km expressways in six-year.
The province is also expected to build 12 civilian airports in the next six years, and thus expanding
the reach of its air service to 82 per cent of the province’s population.
It also launched a 40 billion US dollar fund backed by the country’s foreign reserves to support infra- structure building in countries along the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
The Silk Road projects involved a maze of roads and ports connecting Asia, Europe and Africa. The project would revive the ancient trade route by building a wide network of new silk roads on land and seas to enhance global connectivity. The projects were expected to revive China’s trade links specially its sagging exports besides globally enhancing its sphere of influence. India has been invited to take part in the Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar (BCIM) and the Maritime Sill Road (MSR). India said that it will selectively back the initiative
EGYPTIAN COURT DECLARES HAMAS A ‘TERRORIST ORGANIZATION’E
An Egyptian court has declared the Palestinian movement Hamas a terrorist organization. The decision follows an Egyptian court’s ban on the Izza-Din al-Qassam Brigades, an armed wing of Hamas, in January. Authorities accused the group of smuggling weapons into the country to provide assistance to Islamists fighting against the current government.
Egypt has for many years been the main mediator between Israel and Hamas and helped reach agreements on ceasefires – including a truce last August that stopped the war in Gaza, which is ruled by Hamas. However, relations soured after the ousting of Mohamed Morsi, who was backed by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Hamas was created in 1987 with the declared aim to liberate Palestine from Israeli occupation and to establish an Islamic state. The military wing of Hamas has been launching attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians using suicide bombings and rocket strikes. The organization began taking part in politics in 2004. In 2005, Hamas won 91 places of 118 in municipal elections. In 2006, it won a majority in the Palestinian parliament. Hamas is recognized as a terrorist organization by various countries, including Israel, the US, Canada, and Japan.
SUNIL SABHARWAL RE-NOMINATED AS ALTERNATE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AT IMF
Sunil Sabharwal, an independent Indian- American investor has been re-nominated as the Alternative Executive Director at International Monetary Fund (IMF), by the US President Barack Obama. He was first nominated for Alternative Executive Director of IMF in April 2014.
Sunil Sabharwal was born in 1964 to an Indian father and Hungarian mother in India and later moved to Budapest, Hungary. He graduated from The Ohio State University and post-graduated from the London Business School. From the year 2011 to 2013, he was the Chairman of the Board of Ogone, a European e-commerce payment services company, whose headquarter are in Brussels and Belgium.
He held several positions at GE Capital, even as the Managing Director from 1997 to 2003. Sabharwal worked as Principal Banker at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Develop- ment from 1992 to 1996.
FORBES BILLIONAIRE LIST 2015
American business magazine Forbes released its annual list featuring richest people in the world on March 2, 2015. As per Forbes, there are a record 1826 billionaires in the world, which shows an increase of 181 in the past 12 months.
Bill Gates has been able declared the richest person on the planet with a net worth of $79.2 billion US dollars. He has been holding this title for 16 of the past 21 years.
90 Indians were able make their place in Forbes annual list. Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), Mukesh Ambani with net worth of 23.6 billion US dollars, became the richest man in India for the eighth consecutive year and moved one step ahead globally (rank 39th).
SRI LANKA TEMPORARILY SUSPENDED COLOMBO PORT CITY PROJECT OF CHINA
Sri Lanka’s newly elected government on temporarily suspended constriction work of China’s ambitious port city project in Colombo with immediate effect. Colombo has since asked CCCC to halt construction until the Sri Lankan government completes a probe into alleged wrong- doing in the awarding of the contract. Sri Lankan government has alleged that the previous administration ignored environmental rules and did not follow proper procedures in approving the project. The Interim Report also shows that this mega deal with China was signed without following procedures and cabinet approval. “Colombo Port City project is the single-largest foreign direct investment in Sri Lanka worth 1.5 billion dollar. Former President of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapaksa had signed the deal with China to reclaim 233 hectares of land from the sea to build a port city on a 99-year lease. As part of the project, Chinese company was to develop commercial and entertainment hub which include shopping malls, water sports, golf, hotels, apart- ments and marinas.
billion US dollars. He has been holding this title for 16 of the past 21 years.
90 Indians were able make their place in Forbes annual list. Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), Mukesh Ambani with net worth of 23.6 billion US dollars, became the richest man in India for the eighth consecutive year and moved one step ahead globally (rank 39th).
The suspension represents a major blow for the project, which China was holding up as a shining example of its bid to build a Maritime Silk Road. . The project was inaugurated in September 2014, by Chinese President Xi Jinping. Beijing has staunchly defended the project, saying it received all necessary government approvals.
Sri Lanka’s hesitation over the Colombo Port City project does not mean an end to Sri Lanka- China cooperation. China is too important a partner, especially economically, for Colombo to completely turn away from. The waffling over the project’s fate makes it clear that Sirisena’s government does not want to alienate China, but neither is it willing to back down from key concerns over the structure of the deal.
The main sticking point was the deal to cede ownership of the land to China. Sri Lanka has identified that issue as an infringement on national sovereignty. It is assumed that Sri Lanka might agree to move forward with this flagship project in exchange for relief from previous loans issued by China.
INDIA & WORLD
INDO-SPAIN AGREEMENT ON MUTUAL PROTECTION OF CLASSIFIED INFORMATION
Mutual Protection of Classified Information is a primary pact that a country agrees to before embarking on deeper talks on defence cooperation. India and Spain have signed an agreement on Mutual Protection of Classified Information. This agreement provides the framework for enhanced cooperation in the defence sector between both countries. The agreement was signed by visiting Spanish Defence Minister Pedro Moremes and his Indian counterpart Manohar Parrikar.
The Spanish side evinced keen interest in participation in the Make-in-India initiative in
defence sector. Both sides agreed to continue to work for enhancing bilateral defence cooperation. They also exchanged views on a wide range of issues concerning bilateral defence cooperation and issues of regional and global security.
According to Defence sources, this is the primary pact a country agrees to before embarking on deeper talks on defence cooperation. Spain has over the years acquired expertise in various fields of defence sector. The Spanish companies are interes- ted in being part of the P75I, a project under which India plans to build six conventional submarines.
KATHMANDU-VARANASI-KATHMANDU BUS SERVICE INAUGURATED
Nepal and India launched a direct bus service between Kathmandu and Varanasi, linking the two prominent cities – home to Pashupatinath and Kashi Vishwanath temples.
The regular Kathmandu-Varanasi-Kathmandu bus service was flagged off from near Dashrath Stadium in Kathmandu and would cover about 600 kilometres distance during its journey of about 12 hours. The Nepalese registered ceremonial bus will follow the route Kathmandu-Bhairahawa- Sunauli-Azamgarh-Varanasi.
The bus service is expected to enhance people to people contact and further strengthen ties
between people of India and Nepal. It is also likely to have a positive impact on the tourism industry as both Kathmandu and Varanasi are popular tourist destinations. The service is being started under the ambit of Motor Vehicle Agreement between India and Nepal which was signed between the two countries during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Kathmandu for SAARC Summit in November last year. Another regular bus service operated by Uttar Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (UPSRTC) from Varanasi to Kathmandu through the same route was also flagged-off from Varanasi.
CII SIGNED AGREEMENT WITH NUS
As per World Bank Report, apex industrial association, CII (Confederation of Indian Industry) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore (NUS) to help in improving India’s rating on ease of doing business and bring it amongst the top 50 countries from the present 142nd slot.
The MoU was signed during the CII conference on ‘Make in India: Focus North’ organised as part of CII’s Northern Region’s Annual Regional
meeting. According to Lim Thuan Kuan, high commissioner, Republic of Singapore, addressing the issue of ease of doing business is crucial for accelerating growth and job creation. Singapore, which is ranked first in ease of doing business is happy to work with CII to take forward the state level dialogue on ease of doing business.
INDIA ADOPTS FLEXIBLE INFLATION TARGETING
In a historic monetary policy overhaul, the finance ministry and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) have agreed to put in place a monetary policy framework to focus on flexible inflation targeting, something the central bank has been pressing for in view of inflation targeting. Presently, Union Government and RBI give inflation estimates and do not set targets.
As per this agreement government has set a target for RBI to bring down the Consumer Price Index (CPI)-based inflation – below six per cent by January 2016 and four per cent from 2016-17, with a band of plus/minus two per cent. These are in line with the recommendations of a panel headed by RBI Deputy Governor Urjit Patel. The panel was set up to suggest ways to reform India’s monetary policy. According to the agreement, if RBI fails to meet the target, it will report to the government with the reasons for the failure to achieve the target and will propose remedial actions, and will estimate the time period within which the failed target could be achieved. As per the agreement, this Monetary Policy Framework will be monitored by the RBI and it is binding on Union Government to take proactive measures for price control.
RBI CUTS REPO RATE BY 25 BASIS POINTS TO 7.5 PER CENT
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) lowered its policy repo rate by 25 basis points to 7.5 percent. It is the second change in rates by 25 basis points since January 2015.
The move comes on the back of easing inflation and when certain sectors of the economy are still weak and also there has been global trend towards monetary easing. RBI had introduced its own targets a year ago and the cut comes just days after the government and the central bank agreed to formally adopt inflation targeting.
RBI latest decision has been made after having taken an additional year to meet a fiscal deficit target of 3 percent of gross domestic product.
INDIA AND SPAIN JOIN HANDS FOR DEFENCE COOPERATION
India and Spain signed an agreement on ‘Mutual Protection of Classified Information’ to provide the framework for enhanced cooperation in the defence sector. The two sides have agreed to provide framework for enhanced bilateral cooperation in the areas of defence, development and technology cooperation. The Agreement was signed by the Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and his Spanish counterpart Pedro Morenes Eulate. The Spanish delegation evinced a clean interest in participating in the Make-in-India initiative of the
government in the defence sector and of the Project P75I, a project under which India plans to build six conventional submarines for Indian Navy.
This is a primary pact that a country agrees to before embarking on deeper talks on defence cooperation.
The Diplomatic relations between India and Spain were established in 1956 with the opening of Spanish Embassy in New Delhi followed by concurrent accreditation of our High Commissioner
One of the reasons behind the rate cut is the occurring Disinflation as per the RBI norms set in January 2014 and at a faster pace than it was envisaged earlier. The rate cut appeared to give a seal of approval for the government 2015/16 budget and fiscal consolidation measures announced by Union Government. The recently-released GDP estimates based on base year 2011-12 by Central Statistical Office (CSO) signals towards a recovering economy. Also, because of lower international energy prices the Union Government has intent to shift from spending on subsidies to spending on infrastructure. The subsidies have further reduced because of the better target mechanism of government through direct transfers to London as Ambassador to Spain in 1958. The first resident Ambassador of India to Spain was appointed in 1965. The first ever State visit from India to Spain was paid by then President Pratibha Devi Singh Patil in April 2009. The first ever State visit from Spain to India was paid by His Majesty King Juan Carlos I in October 2012. Agreement on Trade and Economic Cooperation in 1972 was first Agreement signed between India and Spain. Spain is the 12th largest investor in India.
RELIANCE INFRA ACQUIRES PIPAVAV DEFENCE
Anil Ambani-led Reliance Infrastructure (RInfra) has agreed to purchase 18% stake from the promoters of debt-laden Pipavav Defence and Offshore Engineering (PDOE), Nikhil and Bhavesh Gandhi, at a valuation of Rs 819 crore. Reliance Defence Systems, a subsidiary of Reliance Infrastructure, will also make an open offer to acquire another 26%. If the open offer is successful, the Reliance Group will have to fork out Rs 1,263 crore for a 26% stake, taking the total acquisition cost to Rs 2,082 crore. The acquisition is the first significant consolidation move among Indian business houses who are drawing up plans to enter the sector after the Narendra Modi government allowed foreign companies to own up to 49% in defence equipment manufacturers as part of a strategy to woo investment. The acquisition will be done by Reliance Infrastructure, along with its wholly owned subsidiary Reliance Defence Systems Pvt Ltd. Mahindra & Mahindra and the Hero group were also in the running for Pipavav.
Pipavav Defence has one of the world’s largest infrastructure facilities — spread over 841 acres of land in the Gulf of Cambay, Gujarat, including 250 acres developed to shipbuilding. The infra- structure is capable of building submarines and aircraft carriers on the back of a technological alliance with Swedish defence company SAAB. It has an order book of Rs 12,000 crore and has technology tie-ups with global defence companies. Its global defence technology tie-ups include Sembcorp Marine of Singapore, Sweden’s SAAB, France’s DCNS, Singapore’s Sembcorp Marine and JSC Zvyozdochka and Rosoboron Export of Russia.
BHARTI AIRTEL, CHINA MOBILE TIE UP FOR EVOLVING MOBILE TECHNOLOGY
Bharti Airtel has entered into a strategic collaboration with China Mobile under which the two companies will work towards the growth of the LTE (long term evolution) ecosystem and evolving mobile technology standards. A Memo- randum of Understanding (MoU) was signed by China Mobile chairman Xi Guohua and Bharti Airtel chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal. China Mobile and Airtel will cooperate on standards and products development, and promoting a robust ecosystem to accelerate the commercialization of TD-LTE and evolving 4.5G/5G technologies. Airtel and China Mobile will also work towards shaping up a joint strategy for procurement of devices that include Mifi, smart phones, data cards, LTE CPEs and USIM. India and China account for nearly third of all the mobile subscribers globally. This partnership will provide a major platform for development and deployment of 4G and future mobile technology standards. The strategic collaboration aims to bring together the largest mobile operators from the world’s two largest mobile markets – China and India. China Mobile and Airtel are also among the founding members of the Global TD-LTE (Time division-Long term evolution) initiative.
SCIENCE & TECH
WORLD’S FIRST ALL-ELECTRIC SATELLITES BLASTS OFF
A Space Exploration Technologies rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on March 1, 2015 to put the world’s first all-electric communications satellites into orbit. Perched on top of the rocket was a pair of satellites built by Boeing and owned by Paris-based Eutelsat Communications and Bermuda-based ABS, whose majority owner is the European private equity firm Permira.
Eutelsat and ABS shared satellite manufacturing and launch costs, a business arrangement spurred by technological innovation. The satellites launched were outfitted with lightweight, all-electric engines, rather than conventional chemical propulsion systems, to reach and maintain orbit. That enabled
two spacecraft to be launched aboard one medium- sized Falcon 9 rocket. The disadvantage of electric propulsion is that it will take the satellites months, rather than weeks, to reach their operational orbits about 35,800 km above Earth, high enough to appear virtually parked over a particular part of the globe.
Eutelsat’s spacecraft will become part of a 35- member network providing a range of mobile, internet, video and other communications services. The new satellite expands the company’s reach into the Americas. ABS, which currently has six satellites, will position its new spacecraft to also serve customers in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
ORBITER RECORDS ALBEDO ON MARS
India’s Mars Orbiter Mission has recorded the albedo on the Martian surface, in its attempt to study the atmospheric characteristics and the possible presence of methane in the Red Planet. ISRO noted that the Methane Sensor for Mars (MSM) on board the Orbiter recorded the albedo (fraction of solar energy reflected from the surface
of celestial bodies back into space) of Mars while attempting to measure the reflectance in 1.65 micron.
This is the first time the measurement of albedo is being recorded in the reflectance level of 1.65 micron. The data recorded would be studied and it can also help in finding out whether methane is present in Mars.
DAWN SPACE PROBE: FIRST TO ORBIT A DWARF PLANE
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has become the first mission to achieve orbit around a dwarf planet. The spacecraft was approximately 61,000 km from Ceres when it was captured by the dwarf planet’s gravity on March 6, 2015. Dawn space probe is the first NASA exploratory mission to use ion propulsion to enter orbits.
Since its discovery in 1801, Ceres was known as a planet, then an asteroid and later a dwarf planet. Now, after a journey of 4.9 billion km and 7.5 years, Dawn calls Ceres, home. In addition to being the first spacecraft to visit a dwarf planet, Dawn also has the distinction of being the first mission to orbit two extraterrestrial targets. From 2011 to 2012, the spacecraft explored the giant asteroid Vesta, delivering new insights and thousands of images from that distant world. Ceres and Vesta are the two most massive residents of our solar system’s main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
The most recent images show Ceres as a crescent, mostly in shadow because the spacecraft’s trajectory put it on a side of Ceres that faces away from the sun until mid-April. When Dawn emerges from Ceres’ dark side, it will deliver ever-sharper images as it spirals to lower orbits around the planet. The German Aerospace Center, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Italian Space Agency and Italian National Astrophysical Institute are international partners on the mission team.
What is dwarf planet?
According to the International Astronomical Union, which sets definitions for planetary science, a dwarf planet is a celestial body that:
Orbits the sun.
Has enough mass to assume a nearly round shape.
Has not cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.
The main distinction between a dwarf planet and a planet is that planets have cleared the path around the sun while dwarf planets tend to orbit in zones of similar objects that can cross their path around the sun, such as the asteroid and Kuiper belts. Dwarf planets also are generally smaller than the planet Mercury.
MARS: SEA LARGER THAN ARCTIC OCEAN
The US space agency NASA revealed that ancient Mars was likely to have possessed a primitive ocean that held more water than the Earth’s Arctic Ocean. Perhaps about 4.3 billion years ago, Mars would have had enough water to cover the entire surface in a liquid layer about 137 metres deep. More likely, the water would have formed an ocean occupying almost half of Mars’ northern hemisphere, in some regions reaching depths greater than1.6 km. In all, the red planet’s early ocean would have contained 20 million cubic km of water, but since then, 87 per cent of that water has been lost to space.
The new findings were based on six-year observations of two slightly different forms of water in Mars’ atmosphere using the most powerful telescopes on Earth including the W. M. Keck Observatory on Hawaii. By comparing the ratio of “heavy” water containing deuterium, a heavier form of hydrogen, with regular water, scientists believed that Mars must have lost a volume of water 6.5 times larger than the amount trapped in the present polar caps.
An early ocean on Mars containing the lost water would have covered 19 per cent of the planet’s surface. By comparison, the Atlantic Ocean occupies 17 per cent of the Earth’s surface. Based on the surface of Mars currently, a likely location for this water would be in the Northern Plains, which has long been considered a good candidate because of the low-lying ground.
ECOLOGY & ENVT.
EU formally adopts climate change targets
“The EU has formally adopted climate change targets for December 2015 Paris conference including a 40 percent cut in emissions by 2030. The targets were agreed on by leaders of the 28 European Union member states at a summit in October 2014, but the confirmed benchmarks have now been officially sent to the UN on March 6, 2015.
Europe is the first continent to send its contribution, as was asked by the United Nations. The offer of the EU, which is responsible for nine per cent of global emissions of greenhouse gases, was sent to the UN secretariat. Countries have until March 31 to announce their commitment to cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
The EU, which when taken together is the world’s biggest economy, said it will cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent compared to 1990 levels. The United States, which accounts for 12 percent of global emissions, announced its intention to reduce them by 26-28 percent in 2025 compared with their level in 2005. China has set a target date of about 2030 for its emissions to peak.
WHO: ANNUAL VACCINATION TO FIGHT SWINE FLU
The World Health Organisation has stated that annual vaccination is the most effective solution for combating seasonal influenza infections such as swine flu, which has killed more than 1,200 people this year in India. It is recommended that people get a flu vaccine even during seasons when drifted viruses are circulating.
It is because vaccination can prevent some infections and can reduce serious ailments that can lead to hospitalisation and death. The flu vaccine has been designed to protect against three or four influenza viruses and some of these viruses may circulate later in the season, the WHO said in a report.
On the growing number of influenza cases around the world, WHO said that during 2014-15, influenza appears to be widespread and relatively severe in many parts of the world mainly because of an antigenic drift in influenza A (H3N2) viruses in the community leading to a mismatch between the Influenza A virus (antigen) in the current northern hemisphere flu vaccine and those circulating in the community.
As a consequence, the northern hemisphere seasonal flu vaccines are slightly less effective than in previous years. The problem is emphasised in North America and parts of Europe, where predominantly the influenza A virus is circulating this season.
In India, the predominant influenza virus circulating this season is not the A (H3N2) but the A (H1N1) pdm09 or swine flu. Fresh casualties have driven the swine flu toll past the 1,200-mark while more than 23,000 cases of the disease have been reported in the country. The nationwide toll from swine flu stands at 1,239 while the state-wise data shows Gujarat to be the worst affected with more than 300 casualties. According to the Union Health Ministry, as on March 4, the number of those who have contracted the disease has reached 23,153.
Kewal K Sharma
Kewal K Sharma 1983 batch IAS officer has been appointed as Delhi chief secretary. At present, Sharma is the chief secretary of Goa. Sharma has done civil engineering from Regional Engineering College, University of Kashmir. Before becoming the Goa chief secretary, he served as advisor to the Union Territory administrator, Chandigarh, from 2011 to 2014. He has also served in Arunachal Pradesh, National Capital Territory of Delhi and Chandigarh, as well as in the Union ministry of urban development.
Kannan Ramesh, a 49-year-old Indian- origin lawyer has been appointed as a Judicial Commissioner to Singapore’s Supreme Court bench for two years. He will assume the position from
May 22. Ramesh will step down as managing partner of law firm Tan Kok Quan Partnership and also from other positions including being a member of Singapore Academy of Law’s Law Reform Committee and local teleco M1 board.
Ramesh graduated from the National University of Singapore in 1990 and was appointed senior counsel in 2012. As senior counsel, Ramesh recently represented church finance manager Sharon Tan in ongoing City Harvest trial, which is over the financial management of a leading church group.
The Judicial Commissioner post was created in 1986 to get senior counsels from the private practices to sit on the bench and help clear backlog of Supreme Court cases. With Ramesh’s appoint- ment the Supreme Court will have 13 judges, 10 judicial commissioners and five senior judges.
Senior Congress leader and Kerala Assembly Speaker G Karthikeyan died recently.
Karthikeyan had entered into politics through Kerala Students Union, the student outfit of Congress. He had been the state president of KSU and Youth Congress before becoming the vice- president of Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee. He had been elected to the state assembly in 1982, 1991, 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011. In Congress government headed by A K Antony in 1995, Karthikeyan had been power minister. He had served as civil supplies minister in the Congress government in 2001.When the Congress returned to power in 2011 assembly elections, Karthikeyan was elected as the Speaker.
Former Bihar Chief Minister and senior JD(U) leader Ram Sundar Das died recently due to age- related problems.
Das was Chief Minister of Bihar as the head of the Janata Party government in 1979. He had defeated Ram Vilas Paswan in the Hajipur (SC) Lok Sabha seat in 2009, but in the parliamentary polls last year, had lost to the latter. Das had a long track record of social work and always endeavoured for the welfare of the poor and downtrodden of the society.
KS Lavkumar Khachar
Eminent ornithologist and naturalist K.S. Lavkumar Khachar died in Rajkot.
Khachar belonged to the erstwhile princely family of Jasdan in Gujarat, worked closely with another stalwart of the field, the late Salim Ali, and had a long association with the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) India.The late ornithologist was a prominent member of the Delhi Bird Club. Throughout his life and career, Khachar worked to spread awareness about ornithology, nature and wildlife conservation. He organized and led several environmental education activities in Gujarat and other states. His key contributions to preserving India’s ecological heritage include conservation work in the Gulf of Kutch islands and Gir forest. Khachar was among the pioneers of nature conservation in the country. He was also involved in organizing nature education camps in the Hingolgadh Nature Education Sanctuary in Jasdan,
which was created by the Jasdan royal family. He also used to organize nature camps in Manali where he inspired hundreds of others to take up nature and wildlife conservation and bird watching.
Padmanabhaswamy Temple not on list of heritage sites
Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, which gained worldwide attention following the unearthing of treasure in its vaults, has failed to find a place among the heritage sites identified for restoration and renovation in the Union Budget. The temple does not figure among the eight sites, for which funds were earmarked in the budget. The Padmanabhapuram palace in Kanyakumari, Muzris heritage project, and the Edakkal caves in the State failed to find a place on the list.
Preserving rare Arabic manuscripts
With the Ministry of Minority Affairs agreeing to sanction Rs. 13 crore, Dairatul Maarif, the ancient institute devoted for preservation of rare Arabic manuscripts, has got a new lease of life.
Funds will be released under the Government of India scheme ‘Hamari Darohar’, which aims at preserving the rich heritage of minority communities in the context of Indian culture. The funds would be sanctioned over the next few years in instalments.
Dairatul Maarif was established in 1888 during the reign of the 6th Nizam, Mir Mahboob Ali Khan, with the objective of procuring, transcribing, collating, editing and publishing rare Arabic manuscripts of prominent scholars belonging to the classical era of Islam. Over the years, the Institute has published books covering a wide range of subjects such as interpretation of the Quran, traditions, history, philosophy, Sufism, metaphysics, medicine, surgery, mathematics and others. Vice- President, Hamid Ansari, was among the many dignitaries to visit Dairatul Maarif.
International Women of Courage Award
Three South Asian women have been selected for the prestigious International Women of Courage Award for the year 2015 by the United States. They are: Captain Niloofar Rahmani from Afghanistan Air Force, Nadia Sharmeen- Journalist and women’s rights activist from Bangladesh and Tabassum Adnan- founder of Khwendo Jirga from Pakistan. These women were selected for the award for their demonstrating exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights and gender equality. They will receive the prestigious award in the presence of US First Lady Michelle Obama in Washington DC on 10 March 2015.
International Women of Courage Award
It was establish in 2007 on March 8 i.e. International Women’s Day.
Presented by- United States Department of State annually.
Presented to- Women around the world who have shown leadership, courage, resourcefulness and willingness to sacrifice for the others, especially
for better promotion of women’s rights.
Since the inception, 86 women from more than 50 different countries including India have been
honoured with this award.
Indian recipients- Nirbhaya “fearless” victim of Delhi gang rape (2013), Ms. Laxmi -acid attack victim (2014).
Fulbright Nehru Distinguished Chair
Dr Rahul Jindal, a top Indian-American physician has been selected for the prestigious Fulbright-Nehru Distinguished Chair to India.
The Ahmedabad-based HL Trivedi Institute of Transplantation Sciences will host Dr. Rahul Jindal for the duration of the chair, a media release said yesterday. The Institute performs about 400 kidney transplants in a year and has developed innovative transplant tolerance models. Dr. Jindal is Professor of Surgery and Global Health at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. A leading US surgeon, Jindal was also presented with a prestigious immigrant award of the US government in 2013, in recognition of his
Golf: Harendra wins Golconda Masters
India’s Harendra Gupta won the inaugural Golconda Masters golf championship and Rs. 6 lakhs, edging past Delhi’s Shamim Khan at the Hyderabad Golf Club course. The play-off was necessitated since Harendra and overnight leader Shamim Khan finished with similar scores of 15- under-265.
The Chandigarh golfer, who notched up scores of 67, 65, 66, 67 to clinch the title, showed his class with birdies on the fifth, sixth and seventh, and an eagle on the ninth to draw level with Shamim, who had two birdies till that moment. Harendra revelled with some excellent chip-putts on the fifth, sixth and seventh, and even sunk an 18-footer on the ninth. Chandigarh’s Sujjan Singh and Sri Lankan Anura Rohana were tied for third-place at 10-under-270 while Gaganjeet Bhullar was 15th in final placings with five-under-275.
Durban to host 2022 Commonwealth Games
South African city Durban is set to be the host city of the 2022 Commonwealth Games (CWG) as the lone contender for the quadrennial, 71-member multisport event. The 600-page bid book will be handed to Commonwealth Games Federation officials during a brief mid-day ceremony at the official residence of the London Lord Mayor. South Africa has proposed a 12-day Games starting from July 18, birthday of late president Nelson Mandela.South Africa has successfully hosted the football, rugby union and cricket World Cup tourna-
ments. Bidding for the Commonwealth event is seen as a possible dress rehearsal for a 2024 or 2028 Olympics bid. Glasgow hosted the 2014 Commonwealth Games and the 2018 edition is scheduled for the Australian Gold Coast.
Nadal wins at Argentina Open
Spanish top seed Rafael Nadal defeated local player Juan Monaco to win the Argentina Open, lifting his first title in 2015. Nadal defeated Monaco in a match that lasted one hour and 27 minutes with a score of 6-4, 6-1. While the Spaniard broke the Argentine on four out of nine occasions the former did not face a break point on his own serve. The Spanish tennis star now has collected 65 titles to rise to the fifth position in the Open Era for the most titles. He now stands behind Jimmy Connors (109), Ivan Lendl (94), Roger Federer (84) and John McEnroe (77).
The world number four, nine-times French Open champion, got the first break in the seventh game after a finely weighted chip that landed well out of Monaco’s reach put him 30-15 up and took it when the Argentine netted a service return. Nadal wrapped up the rain-interrupted set in 45 minutes. It had stood at 1-1 after 14 minutes when the players had to come off court for nearly an hour before play could resume. He was too good for the 2007 tournament winner and former world number 10, who is also looking to regain his best form after a lean spell, breaking serve three more times for a comfortable victory in one hour and 26 minutes