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JULY 2013

Latvia gets approval to join Eurozone
July 15th, 2013
The small Baltic nation of Latvia has been given approval from its European partners to
become the 18
th
member of the eurozone from 2014.
The ECOFIN council which is composed of the Economics and Finance Ministers of the
European Union’s 28 member states has given nod to the country’s euro
membership. It had been a long journey for the former Soviet state since it entered the
EU in 2004.
Why Latvia intends to join Eurozone?
Latvia is hopeful that entering the eurozone will bring with it the country a number of
benefits like lowere interest rates, lower currency conversion costs and increased
foreign investment.
What are the challenges ahead for Latvia for joining Eurozone?
Latvia came out from a crisis in 2008-09 to become the EU’s fastest-growing economy,
having recorded GDP growth of more than 5% consecutively in both 2011 and 2012.
However, Latvian leadership has a major challenge of convincing the people of the
benefits of joining the eurozone. There is a widespread skepticism and distrust in the
public on the positives of Euro as their new currency as they have witnessed the crisis
of Greece and Cyprus and not long ago the Euro was also on the verge of disintegrating.
Hazem el-Beblawi is Egypt interim Premier
July 15th, 2013
Liberal economist Hazem el-Beblawi has been appointed as Egypt’s interim Prime
Minister by Egypt’s interim President Adly Mansour. The President has also appointed
Nobel-laureate Mohamed ElBaradei as Deputy President with responsibility for foreign
affairs.
Mr. Mansour who was appointed to the post after a recent military coup overthrew
President Mohamed Morsy has declared that changes would be made to the
Constitution, which would be put to referendum, paving the way for parliamentary
elections early in 2014.
India clarifies views to Sri Lanka on 13th Amendment
July 15th, 2013
Indian National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon has clearly voicedIndia’s view on
the 13
th
Amendment of Sri Lanka’s Constitution emphasizing on the need for Colombo
to fulfill its commitment to India and the international community regarding the same.
Sri Lanka has also shared the development being taking place towards the
implementation of the 13
th
Amendment. It has formed a Parliamentary Select
Committee (PSC) to reach a consensus on the implementation of the 13th Amendment.
The PSC, which was constituted in June 2013, presently has 19 members, all from the
ruling coalition — United People’s Freedom Alliance — led by the Sri Lanka Freedom
Party.
Sri Lankan President has explained the practical problems in devolving land and police
powers to the provinces of a small country such as Sri Lanka and stressed that the
structure that is implemented should apply and be acceptable to all parts of the country.
The President also urged India to encourage the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) to
participate in the PSC and said the government was committed to taking the process
forward despite obstacles.
Challenges before PSC:
Despite all efforts of the PSC, there is still a cynicism as some politicians doubt over the
PSC’s ability to arrive at a fair decision on the 13th Amendment. The United National
Party (UNP), the main Opposition led by Ranil Wikremesinghe, has not nominated its
representative to the PSC as yet. The TNA, an amalgam of Tamil parties which has
significant support base in the primarily Tamil-speaking north of Sri Lanka, has opposed
the PSC. The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) in the ruling alliance, which has been
in favor of implementing the 13th Amendment in its original form, is not part of the PSC,
either.
What is the 13
th
Amendment of Sri Lanka’s Constitution?
The Thirteenth Amendment (13A) to the Constitution of Sri Lanka is amendment
to the Constitution of Sri Lanka which created Provincial Councils in Sri Lanka.This also
made Sinhala and Tamil as the official language of the country and English as link
language.
Background:
 Signed on July 29, 1987 b/w India and Sri Lanka.
 The Indo-Sri Lanka Accord is also known as the Rajiv-Jayewardene Accord, after
its architects — Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and President J.R. Jayewardene.
 On November 14, 1987 the Sri Lankan Parliament passed the 13
th
Amendment
to the 1978 Constitution of Sri Lanka and the Provincial Councils Act No 42 of 1987
to establish provincial councils.
EC mulls over to deploy EVMs with VVPAT
July 15th, 2013
The Election Commission (EC) is cogitating on the option of deployingElectronic
Voting Machines (EVMs) with Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) in
some constituencies as it will deal with the herculean task of conducting Legislative
Assembly polls in Delhi,Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Mizoram before
the end of 2013. To implement this, the EC will have to amend the rules relating to EVMs
and this has to be done by the Law and Justice Ministry based on the recommendations
of the Commission.
What is Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) or Verified Paper Record
(VPR)?
Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) or Verified Paper Record (VPR) is a
method of providing feedback to voters using a ballotless voting system. A VVPAT is
intended as an independent verification system for voting machines designed to allow
voters to verify that their vote was cast correctly, to detect possible election fraud or
malfunction, and to provide a means to audit the stored electronic results. VVPAT was
jointly developed by Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) and Bharat
Electronics Limited (BEL) and the model had already undergone field trials twice. After
the improvement made in the VVPAT, a voter who exercises his vote through the ballot
unit of the EVM can physically see the printout of the vote cast by him. The name of the
candidate, his/her election symbol and his/her serial number in the ballot will be
displayed in the printout, although this cannot be taken home by the voter.
Study reveals congenital anomalies linked to consanguine marriages
July 12th, 2013
A study conducted in the U.K. throws light over the suspicion those marriages b/w blood
relations might lead to health issues for the child. The study, in a detailed analysis of the
issue involving over 11,000 children, born out of consanguineous marriages, revealed
congenital anomalies in 386 of them. This figure of 3% is in contrasts with the 1.6% in
children born of out of non-blood-relations unions. The researchers termed the babies
analyzed under the study as “Born in Bradford” to obtain these results. Bradford is a
small area in the UK where Pakistani Muslims constitute 16.8 per cent of the population.
A close knit group, they practice consanguinity; 75% of them marry first cousins.
What can be the possible defects in babies born through consanguine
marriages?
These babies could have a multiplicity of congenital problems. Heart problems top the
list, followed by nervous disorders, limb anomalies and so forth.
Why problems occur in babies born through consanguine marriages ?
The problem in such close relative marriages surfaces when one of the partners carries
a defect in any of the genes associated with some form of illness. When a person
marries within the community with one who may also have such a family defect, the
child inherits two copies of this faulty gene, and thus has the defect. But when a person
marries outside the community, he/she bring in genes from a much larger gene pool,
and the odds that the child will inherit the problem reduce remarkably.
Scientists identify molecular mechanisms causing glaucoma
July 12th, 2013
In an important finding, scientists have identified two molecular level mechanisms that
lead to glaucoma.
What is Glaucoma?
It is often referred to as a silent eye disease is the second most common cause of
blindness in the world. It is an eye disease that causes progressive damage to the optic
nerve at the point where it leaves the eye to deliver information to the brain.
Causes of Glaucoma:
Besides old age, several risk factors cause it — family history, ethnic background, high
intra-ocular pressure and high blood pressure. Long-term usage of steroids could also
cause the disease.
Ocular hypertension (increased pressure within the eye) is the most important risk
factor in most glaucomas.
Why Glaucoma is a more serious disease than Cataract?
Unlike in cataract, which is the leading cause for blindness, loss of vision caused by
glaucoma cannot be regained by therapeutic intervention.
What are the findings for Glaucoma?
Scientists at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), who studied the
molecular mechanism of glaucoma in collaboration with L.V. Prasad Eye Institute,
Hyderabad, found that mutations in certain genes are primarily responsible for
glaucoma. Besides, environmental factors too contribute. One of the mutated genes
causing glaucoma was OPTN which codes for protein optineurin. OPTN was one of the
genes associated with glaucoma where intra-ocular pressure was not involved. An
alteration in this gene (M98K) was earlier associated with glaucoma only in South Asian
population. This alteration induces cell death in retinal ganglion cells.
Scientists have also enhanced the understanding of the process of autophagy, which
was essential to maintain healthy cells. For instance, they were able to check cell death
by blocking the enhanced activity of autophagy using chemical inhibitors.
How the findings on Glaucoma can help?
Understanding the molecular mechanism would go a long way in devising strategies for
treating and preventing further damage. Scientists believe that by arresting ganglion
cell death, further damage can be arrested and residual vision saved even after the
onset of glaucoma.
Note: While Cataract is the leading cause of blindness in India, Glaucoma is
fourth main cause.
TAPI project: Countries agree on setting up a Company for its execution
July 12th, 2013
Countries involved in the TAPI pipeline project- India, Pakistan,Afghanistan and
Turkmenistan have agreed to establish a company for execution of the proposed project.
They are expected to give it shape to by September 2013.
Asian Development Bank (ADB) has been appointed as legal-technical consultant, and
it will soon identify a company which will drive the project. The company will be from a
neutral country.
A protocol has also been inked in which the parties fixed the decision on the need to
prepare founding documents and the registration of the TAPI Ltd. India has already
approved setting up of a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to build the TAPI gas pipeline as
the multinational firms did not come forward to build the project.
Great Barrier Reef in ‘poor’ health, admits Australia
July 12th, 2013
As per the report released by the Environment Ministry of Australia, the conditions at
the Great Barrier Reef were “poor” as it faces UNESCOthreats to downgrade its
heritage status over concerns about pollution and development.
What has been the major cause of decline in Great Barrier Reef’s health?
The report shows that the reef’s health has declined since 2009 due to cyclones and
floods, despite progress on reducing agricultural runoff.
Despite decrease in nitrogen (by 7%); pesticides (by 15%); sediment (by 6%); and
pollutants key to outbreaks of devastating crown-of-thorns starfish that prey on corals
(by 13%), the reef is in trouble.
As per the report, intense flooding in 2010-2011 followed by powerful cyclone Yasi had
badly damaged the world’s largest coral reef, degrading water quality and depleting
overall cover by 15% and full recovery of the reef will take decades.
A study published in 2012 had revealed that coral cover had more than halved due to
storms, predatory starfish outbreaks and bleaching linked to climate change over the
past 27 years. Intense tropical cyclones were responsible for much of the damage,
accounting for 48%, with the coral-feeding starfish linked to 42%.
It is noticeable that UNESCO has warned to downgrade the reef’s world heritage
status to declare it at-risk in 2014 if there is no significant action on rampant coastal
and resources development seen as a danger to its survival.
Study reveals congenital anomalies linked to consanguine marriages
July 12th, 2013
A study conducted in the U.K. throws light over the suspicion those marriages b/w blood
relations might lead to health issues for the child. The study, in a detailed analysis of the
issue involving over 11,000 children, born out of consanguineous marriages, revealed
congenital anomalies in 386 of them. This figure of 3% is in contrasts with the 1.6% in
children born of out of non-blood-relations unions. The researchers termed the babies
analyzed under the study as “Born in Bradford” to obtain these results. Bradford is a
small area in the UK where Pakistani Muslims constitute 16.8 per cent of the population.
A close knit group, they practice consanguinity; 75% of them marry first cousins.
What can be the possible defects in babies born through consanguine
marriages?
These babies could have a multiplicity of congenital problems. Heart problems top the
list, followed by nervous disorders, limb anomalies and so forth.
Why problems occur in babies born through consanguine marriages ?
The problem in such close relative marriages surfaces when one of the partners carries
a defect in any of the genes associated with some form of illness. When a person
marries within the community with one who may also have such a family defect, the
child inherits two copies of this faulty gene, and thus has the defect. But when a person
marries outside the community, he/she bring in genes from a much larger gene pool,
and the odds that the child will inherit the problem reduce remarkably.
Scientists identify molecular mechanisms causing glaucoma
July 12th, 2013
In an important finding, scientists have identified two molecular level mechanisms that
lead to glaucoma.
What is Glaucoma?
It is often referred to as a silent eye disease is the second most common cause of
blindness in the world. It is an eye disease that causes progressive damage to the optic
nerve at the point where it leaves the eye to deliver information to the brain.
Causes of Glaucoma:
Besides old age, several risk factors cause it — family history, ethnic background, high
intra-ocular pressure and high blood pressure. Long-term usage of steroids could also
cause the disease.
Ocular hypertension (increased pressure within the eye) is the most important risk
factor in most glaucomas.
Why Glaucoma is a more serious disease than Cataract?
Unlike in cataract, which is the leading cause for blindness, loss of vision caused by
glaucoma cannot be regained by therapeutic intervention.
What are the findings for Glaucoma?
Scientists at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), who studied the
molecular mechanism of glaucoma in collaboration with L.V. Prasad Eye Institute,
Hyderabad, found that mutations in certain genes are primarily responsible for
glaucoma. Besides, environmental factors too contribute. One of the mutated genes
causing glaucoma was OPTN which codes for protein optineurin. OPTN was one of the
genes associated with glaucoma where intra-ocular pressure was not involved. An
alteration in this gene (M98K) was earlier associated with glaucoma only in South Asian
population. This alteration induces cell death in retinal ganglion cells.
Scientists have also enhanced the understanding of the process of autophagy, which
was essential to maintain healthy cells. For instance, they were able to check cell death
by blocking the enhanced activity of autophagy using chemical inhibitors.
How the findings on Glaucoma can help?
Understanding the molecular mechanism would go a long way in devising strategies for
treating and preventing further damage. Scientists believe that by arresting ganglion
cell death, further damage can be arrested and residual vision saved even after the
onset of glaucoma.
Note: While Cataract is the leading cause of blindness in India, Glaucoma is
fourth main cause.
TAPI project: Countries agree on setting up a Company for its execution
July 12th, 2013
Countries involved in the TAPI pipeline project- India, Pakistan,Afghanistan and
Turkmenistan have agreed to establish a company for execution of the proposed project.
They are expected to give it shape to by September 2013.
Asian Development Bank (ADB) has been appointed as legal-technical consultant, and
it will soon identify a company which will drive the project. The company will be from a
neutral country.
A protocol has also been inked in which the parties fixed the decision on the need to
prepare founding documents and the registration of the TAPI Ltd. India has already
approved setting up of a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to build the TAPI gas pipeline as
the multinational firms did not come forward to build the project.
Great Barrier Reef in ‘poor’ health, admits Australia
July 12th, 2013
As per the report released by the Environment Ministry of Australia, the conditions at
the Great Barrier Reef were “poor” as it faces UNESCOthreats to downgrade its
heritage status over concerns about pollution and development.
What has been the major cause of decline in Great Barrier Reef’s health?
The report shows that the reef’s health has declined since 2009 due to cyclones and
floods, despite progress on reducing agricultural runoff.
Despite decrease in nitrogen (by 7%); pesticides (by 15%); sediment (by 6%); and
pollutants key to outbreaks of devastating crown-of-thorns starfish that prey on corals
(by 13%), the reef is in trouble.
As per the report, intense flooding in 2010-2011 followed by powerful cyclone Yasi had
badly damaged the world’s largest coral reef, degrading water quality and depleting
overall cover by 15% and full recovery of the reef will take decades.
A study published in 2012 had revealed that coral cover had more than halved due to
storms, predatory starfish outbreaks and bleaching linked to climate change over the
past 27 years. Intense tropical cyclones were responsible for much of the damage,
accounting for 48%, with the coral-feeding starfish linked to 42%.
It is noticeable that UNESCO has warned to downgrade the reef’s world heritage
status to declare it at-risk in 2014 if there is no significant action on rampant coastal
and resources development seen as a danger to its survival.
Experts highlight potential of cassava as biofuel crop
July 12th, 2013
Experts participating in the International Conference on Tropical Roots and Tubers
organized by the Central Tuber Crops Research Institute (CTCRI) and the Indian
Society for Root Crops (ISRC) have highlighted the evolving potential of cassava as
feedstock for the production of bioethanol as fuel.
What is Cassava?
Cassava is a crop cultivated in tropical and subtropical
regions for its edible starchy, tuberous root, a major source of carbohydrates. It is
the third-largest source of food carbohydrates in the tropics, after rice and
maize. Cassava is a major staple food in the developing world, providing a basic diet for
over half a billion people. It is one of the most drought-tolerant crops, capable of
growing on marginal soils. Nigeria is the world’s largest producer of cassava.
How “Cassava” can be used as a bio-fuel?
Cassava has a high energy content, low maintenance and ability to grow under a wide
range of climatic conditions, cassava. All these qualities render it a potential for
production of bio-ethanol. The technology for cassava alcohol, patented by the CTCRI
in the 1980s, requires refinement for commercial scale production.
Bioethanol based on the lignocellulosic residue of cassava and sweet potato could be
combined with starch-based options to make biofuel production cost effective. The high
productivity of cassava crop in Indiawould make production of bioethanol cost-
competitive. The step to bring comparatively less fertile land in the semi-arid areas
ofMaharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and high rainfall regions in the north-eastern region
under cassava cultivation would ensure supply of raw material for ethanol production.
Tagore Award to be conferred on Zubin Mehta
July 12th, 2013
Zubin Mehta, western classical music conductor of Indian-Parsi origin, will be
honored with the Tagore Award for Cultural Harmony 2013 in recognition of his
outstanding contribution to cultural harmony. He has been unanimously chosen for this
by a four-member jury — led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and comprising Chief
Justice of India Justice Altamas Kabir, Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma
Swaraj and former Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi.
Membership of MPs, MLAs to be disqualified on date of criminal conviction:
Supreme Court
July 12th, 2013
In a major ruling the Supreme Court held that charge-sheeted Members of Parliament
and MLAs, on conviction for the offences, will be immediately disqualified from holding
membership of the House without being given three months time for appeal, as was the
case before.
The court struck down as ultra vires Section 8 (4) of the Representation of the People
Act that allows convicted law makers a three-month period for filing their appeal to the
higher court and to get a stay of the conviction and the sentence. However, the court
clarified, the ruling will be prospective and those who had already filed appeals in
various High Courts or the Supreme Court against their convictions would be exempt
from it.
What does “Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act” say?
Section 8 of the RP Act deals with disqualification on conviction for certain offence: A
person convicted of any offence and sentenced to imprisonment for varying terms
under Sections 8 (1) (2) and (3) shall be disqualified from the date of such conviction
and shall continue to be disqualified for a further period of 6 years since his release. But
Section 8 (4) of the RP Act gives protection to MPs and MLAs as they can continue in
office even after conviction if an appeal is filed within 3 months.
Why this ruling?
The order is a result of three PILs filed by Lily Thomas, the organization Lok Prahari and
SN Shukla, saying Section 8(4) of RPA was leading to criminalization of politics.
Australia starts operating MWA telescope to explore universe origins
July 12th, 2013
Taking a major step towards the ambitious Square Kilometre Array (SKA)
astronomy project, Australia has switched on a test telescope named Murchison
Widefield Array (MWA) to explore the origins of the universe.
What is Murchison Widefield Array (MWA)?
Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) is a low-frequency radio telescope operating at the
remote outback site that will host the SKA. The array will help in exploring the origins of
the universe, in understanding the interaction b/w the Earth and the Sun, give early
warning of destructive solar flares and study our galaxy and other galaxies. The
telescope consists of 2,048 dipole antennae, arranged into 128 “tile” clusters, about
100 km west of Meekathara in the deep radio silence of Australia’s remote red-sand
desert.
Square Kilometer Array
Objectives of SKA
SKA will assist answer fundamental questions about the origin and evolution of the
universe, and whether it contains life beyond our planet. SKA will be able to survey the
sky more than 10,000 times quicker than any other existent telescope. SKA’s primary
computer will have the processing power equivalent to 100 million PCs.
Why SKA is so big?
A larger telescope can pick up weaker signals and produce sharper images. The
resolving power of a telescope is determined by the ratio of size to wavelength of
radiation being collected. A typical optical telescope has a diameter of a few million
times the wavelength of visible light. The application of this type of relationship with the
SKA, which is designed to work with wavelengths measured in meters, would require a
plate of thousands of kilometers wide. The SKA is special because of its size. The design
calls for around 3,000 individual receivers arranged rather like a spiral galaxy, with
most of the telescopes concentrated in an inner core, and the rest arranged into a set
of arms up to 3,000km (about 2,000 miles) long. Fibre-optic cables will link each of
these dishes to a central processing area, where supercomputers will stitch their data
together. When it is fully up and running (by 2024, assuming no big delays), the SKA
will be more than 50 times more sensitive than any other radio telescope, and able to
survey the sky thousands of times faster.
SKA Consortium:
Project is under Britain-based consortium which
includes Canada, China, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom as well
as Australia and South Africa. The project has its headquarters in Manchester, UK. The
members are:
1. Australia: Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research
2. Canada: National Research Council
3. China: National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences
4. Italy: National Institute for Astrophysics
5. New Zealand: Ministry of Economic Development
6. South Africa: National Research Foundation
7. The Netherlands: Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research
8. United Kingdom: Science and Technology Facilities Council
IBM and SKA
IBM is designing a computer which will digest twice as much information every day as
the entire internet, sifting through radio waves from space in an effort to unravel the
origin of the universe.
The machine will be attached to a 1,900 square mile array of telescope antenna, and
will be built to 'suck in' in radio telescope data which will 'see' 13 billion years into the
past, back to the dawn of the universe and the Big Bang. The machine will be millions
of times more powerful than the fastest PCs today - and will deal with 100 times more
information than the output of the Large Hadron Collider.
IOR countries to pursue open regionalism to stimulate growth
July 10th, 2013
Trade and industry ministers of Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation
(IORARC) member nations agreed to promote trade within the grouping to encourage
economic cooperation and development in the strategic Indian Ocean region. India
(Gurgaon) and Mauritius co-hosted the first economic and
businessconference under the theme of “Deepening Economic Linkages for
Balanced, Inclusive & Sustainable Growth”.
They decided to encourage “open regionalism” and reconcile trade practices in line
with international norms and lower trade barriers. The group also agreed to build on the
complementarities and identify key growth sectors.
The members also expressed concern over the debilitating global economic
environment and how low rates of growth in advanced economies have affected
developing economies through slower international trade and lesser FDI inflows and
urged member nations to adopt measures, consistent with their WTO obligations to
boost growth and development in the region.
What is IORARC?
IORARC is Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IORARC) is an
association of 20 member countries. The group came into being in March 1995 in
Mauritius. Through it pass some of the most important energy transport routes from
Middle East to South-East and East Asia, and securing these routes has become a global
priority.
Who are the 20 members?
The IOR-ARC, which is the only pan-Indian ocean grouping, has 20 members, namely
Australia, Bangladesh, Comoros, India, Indonesia, Iran,Kenya, Malaysia, Madagascar,
Mauritius, Mozambique, Oman,Seychelles,Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania,
Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.
And there are six dialogue partners, namely China, Egypt,France,Japan, and
Britain, and the United States, and two observers, namely, the Indian Ocean Research
Group and the Indian Ocean Tourism Organization.
Objectives of IORARC:
1. To promote sustainable growth and balanced development of the region and
Member States
2. To focus on those areas of economic cooperation which provide maximum
opportunities for development, shared interest and mutual benefits
3. To promote liberalization, remove impediments and lower barriers towards a
freer and enhanced flow of goods, services, investment, and technology within the
Indian Ocean rim.
What was India’s point at this conference?
India called for a common maritime security enforcement regime and liberal visa
regimes to boost trade and investment. India looked for deeper relationships with the
member nations and intends to play an enhanced role on the high seas to boost trade
without militarising the region.
RBI allows asset financing NBFCs to access ECB market
July 10th, 2013
As per a notification by the Reserve Bank of India which reviewed theExternal
Commercial Borrowing (ECB) policy, Non-BankingFinance Companies (NBFCs)
categorized as Asset Financing Companies (AFCs) by the RBI have been allowed to
access the ECB market.
The access is subject to certain conditions, including availing of ECB under the
automatic route with minimum average maturity of 5 years to finance import of
infrastructure equipment for leasing to infrastructure projects. Besides, NBFC-AFCs
availing of ECB throughForeign Currency Bonds (FCB) will be allowed to raise capital
only from markets, subject to regulations by the host country complaint with Financial
Action Task Force (FATF) guidelines. Such ECBs can be availed up to 75% of owned
funds of NBFC-AFCs, subject to a maximum of $200 million or its equivalent per
financial year.
ECBs by AFCs above 75% of their owned funds will be considered under the approval
route and currency risk of such ECBs is required to be fully hedged. NBFC-Infrastructure
Finance Companies (IFCs) are allowed to access ECB for on-lending to infrastructure
sector both under automatic and approval routes.
First IVF baby born using NGS technique
July 10th, 2013
The first IVF baby named Connor Levy was born in the US who has undergone an
embryo selection using Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) technique, which was
developed to read whole genomes quickly and cheaply to select healthy embryos
having no chromosomal abnormalities.
Though on this occasion scientists only looked at chromosomes — the structures that
hold genes — the falling cost of whole-genome sequencing means doctors could soon
read all the DNA of IVF embryos before choosing which to implant.
How this technology can help?
The chances of an embryo having the wrong number of chromosomes rise with the
mother’s age, and potentially with the father’s. Most of the time, embryos with
abnormal chromosomes fail to implant. Those that do are usually miscarried. The
portion that survive are born with genetic disorders, such as Down’s syndrome.
Next-generation sequencing could enable IVF clinics to determine the chances of
children developing diseases. This technology can prevent this by reading the genome
of the embryo and telling which are with defective chromosomes or possessing the risk
of future genetic diseases thus aiding in selection of healthy embryo for further
development through IVF.
Government notifies Food Security Ordinance 2013
July 10th, 2013
The National Food Security Ordinance, 2013, which entitles 67% of the population to
receive subsidized grains from the government every month, has been notified by the
Union Government.
The Ordinance has been introduced to implement the Food Security Bill which
envisages providing 5 kg of rice, wheat and coarse grains at Rs 3, Rs 2, Rs 1 per kg,
respectively, every month to three-fourths of rural population and half the urban
population in the country.
The scheme would require more than 61 million tonnes of foodgrain and is expected to
cost the government about Rs 1,25,000 crore. The plan proposes to continue the
Antyodaya Anna Yojna through which government provides poor households 35 kg
foodgrain per household per month at subsidized prices of Rs 1-3 per kg. The ordinance
puts the responsibility of implementation and monitoring of the scheme under the
Targeted Public Distribution System on the States. It gives them 6 months to set up the
systems to implement the scheme.
IIFA Awards 2013 Winners
July 10th, 2013
The winners of the 14
th
IIFA Awards 2013 (International Indian Film Academy)
under various categories were declared at an event held at Macau. The award winners
and their respective categories are as follows:
· Best Actress: Vidya Balan for Kahaani
· Best Actor: Ranbir Kapoor for Barfi.
· Best Film: Barfi and the film also bagged 9 awards in technical category-
Best Cinematography (Ravi Varman I.S.C.), Best Background Score (Pritam), Best
Screenplay (Anurag Basu and Tani Basu), Best Production Design (Rajat Poddar), Best
Song Recording (Eric Pillai), Best Sound Design (Shajith Koyeri), Best Sound Mixing
(Debajit Changmai), Best Costume Designing (Aki Narula and Shefalina) and Best
Make-Up (Uday Serali).
· Best Action and Best Dialogue: Gangs of Wasseypur
Best Editing: Kahaani (Namrata Rao)
· Best Choreography: Ganesh Acharya for Agneepath.
· Best Special Effects : Ek Tha Tiger
Mohamed ElBaradei is the interim PM of Egypt
July 10th, 2013
Former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed
ElBaradei who is also the liberal opposition leader in Egypthas been named as Egypt’s
new Prime Minister to head a caretaker government. ElBaradei leads an alliance of
liberal and left-wing parties, the National Salvation Front.
Baradei and the IAEA were jointly honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.
ElBaradei also played a key role in recent politics in Egypt, particularly the 2011
uprising which dethroned President Hosni Mubarak, and in the 2013 revolution that
ousted President Mohamed Morsi.
Andy Murray becomes the first Briton in 77 Years to clinch Wimbledon Men’s
Single title
July 10th, 2013
Andy Murray of Britain created history when he defeated Serbian star player Novak
Djokovic at Center Court of London to become the first Briton in 77 years to win the
Men’s Singles Title at Wimbledon 2013. Earlier he was Fred Perry, who won his
last Championship in 1936.
Winners of other formats at Wimbledon:
· Mixed Doubles – Final: Daniel Nestor of Canada and Kristina Mladenovic
of France.
· Girls’ Doubles – Championship – Final : Barbora Krejcikova and
Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic
· Boys’ Singles Championship – Final: Gianluigi Quinzi of Italy
· Boys’ Doubles Title – Final: Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis of
Australia.
· Wheelchair Gentlemen’s Doubles Title – Final: Shingo Kunieda of
Japan and Stephane Houdet of France.
· Wheelchair Ladies’ Doubles Title – Final: J. Griffioen and A. Van Koot
of Netherlands.
· Sr. Gents Invitation Doubles – Final: Pat Cash and Mark Woodforde of
Australia.
· Ladies’ Invitation Doubles – Final: L. Davenport of USA and Martina
Hingis of Switzerland.
· Gentlemen’s Invitation Doubles – Final: Thomas Enqvist ofSweden
and Mark Philippoussis of Australia.
RBI defines term ‘control’, notifies FDI guidelines
July 7th, 2013
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has notified Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) guidelines
pending for past four years as Press notes 2 and 3 of the Department of Industrial Policy
and Promotion will be used to ensure that foreign direct investments comply with FDI
ceilings and other norms.
The Press note also defines the term ‘control’ or ‘ownership’ of a
company. As per the notification:
 A company is considered as ‘controlled’ by resident Indian citizens if the
power to appoint a majority of the directors on its board is held by Indian companies
and citizens.
 A company is considered as ‘owned’ by resident Indians if more than 50 per
cent of the equity is held by the entities in India.
 If over 50% of the equity of a company is held by a non-resident Similarly, it
would be a foreign company.
 As regards investments made b/w February 13, 2009 and the date of publication
of the notification, Indian companies are required to intimate, within 3 months, the
detailed position where the issue of shares or downstream investment is not in
conformity with the regulatory framework now being prescribed.
Note: The recent notification by the RBI has come amidst debate over control of Jet
Airways post-UAE’s Etihad buying stake. Various ministries and department including
the market regulators Securities and Exchange Board of India have raised concerns
about the ultimate control of Jet once the deal with Etihad goes through.
Two HIV infected show no sign of disease after Bone marrow transplants
July 7th, 2013
In an exciting development for the scientists and people living with AIDS/HIV, two men
became free of HIV infection after bone marrow transplants and are not under Aids
drugs treatments for several months without any sign of the virus returning. The two
men, who had longstanding HIV infections, were given bone marrow transplants in
Boston because they were suffering from cancers of the blood. Tests showed that as
their own cells were replaced by cells from the bone marrow donor, the virus in their
blood steadily dropped to undetectable levels.
Although the results are sanguine for all, scientists are not calling it completely cured
case as the virus is notorious to hide itself and remain at low levels but remain capable
of becoming active. To be sure of anything, scientists will have to follow-up the cases for
at least one year to understand the full impact of bone marrow transplant.
What if the idea works?
Even if the bone marrow transplant shows positive results there will be challenges in
making it available for everyone in need. Besides, this method also has a high mortality
rate of 15-20% and the patient has to take drugs to suppress their immune system
thereafter. But the experiences of the two men will teach scientists a great deal more
about how to combat the virus.
Saudi Arabia extends ‘Nitaqat’ deadline to November 3, 2013
July 7th, 2013
Giving some relief to Indians in Saudi Arabia who are facing trouble in adjusting to the
changes in the employment opportunities introduced by the ongoing “Nitaqat”
(naturalisation) legislation being implemented by the Labour Ministry of the Kingdom,
King Abdullah has extended the deadline for implementing the legislation from July 3 to
November 3, 2013. This decision would give some more time to Indian expatriates to
either find a new employment or return home.
The extension of time limit would help the Indian workers — most of them who would
become jobless as employers now have to compulsorily implement 10% reservation in
jobs for locals — return to their homeland hassle-free without getting arrested or
penalized.
What is Nitaqat?
The Nitaqat is a new policy being placed by the Saudi government in order to reduce the
unemployment rate among Saudi citizens. This policy makes it mandatory for Saudi
Companies to reserve 10 percent of jobs for Saudi nationals.
Why Saudi Arabia is implementing such a policy?
Saudi Arabia’s economy depends heavily on the existence of a large proportion of
expatriates working for various establishments in the private and public sector.
However, unlike the other states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Saudi Arabia
has large number of unemployed citizens, which creates a state of resentment among
those citizens.
As per estimates, the unemployment rate among Saudi nationals has reached 12%.
More than 6.5 million non-Saudis are working in the private sector of the Kingdom
compared to 7,00,000 Saudis.
“Joint Sea-2013”: China-Russia’s largest-ever naval drill
July 7th, 2013
China and Russia are together conducting their largest-ever joint naval exercise named
“Joint Sea-2013” in the Sea of Japan, a further sign of the broad-based progress in
relations b/w the former Cold War era rivals. Those participating in the drill include
eighteen surface ships, one submarine, three airplanes, five ship-launched helicopters
and two commando units. The drills will cover anti-submarine warfare, close
manoeuvring, and the simulated take-over of an enemy ship.
China has long been a key customer for Russian military equipments, but only in the
last decade have their militaries started training jointly. The naval drills are to be
followed by another round of anti-terrorism joint drills in Russia’s Ural Mountain region
of Chelyabinsk.
Edward Snowden gets asylum offer from Venezuela, Nicaragua
July 7th, 2013
Defying the US warnings to countries to not extend asylum to Snowden arguing that he
is wanted on charges of espionage and leaking classified information, two Latin
American countries – Venezuela and Nicaragua – offered asylum to Edward Snowden
who disclosed the US clandestine electronic surveillance programme.
Snowden, who first fled to Hong Kong, is currently stranded at the Moscow airport
transit. The CIA whistleblower Snowden had applied for asylum in more than two dozen
countries, including India. The request was denied by India and majority of the
countries.
But announcements by presidents of Nicaragua and Venezuela offering asylum could be
viewed as a big disappointment for the US, which had been asking countries not to
grant Snowden an asylum and he be returned to the country.
R. Chandrasekhar appointed as NASSCOM President
July 7th, 2013
The National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM), has
appointed R. Chandrasekhar (60), the former Secretary Department of
Telecommunications (DoT), as its president. Chandrashekhar will take over current
Nasscom President Som Mittal, whose tenure ends in January 2014. Mr. Chandrasekhar
is a 1975 batch IAS officer from Andhra Pradesh and as the Secretary of DoT drew
policies around licensing, spectrum management, National Broadband Plan and the
National Telecom Policy 2012, among others.
Military coup in Egypt removes Morsy
July 7th, 2013
The recently elected Islamist President of Egypt Mohamed Morsy has been removed
from power in a military coup staged under the leadership of General Abdel Fattah
al-Sisi, head of Egypt’s armed forces who issued a declaration suspending the
Constitution and appointing the head of the constitutional court as interim head of
state.
Gen. al-Sisi called for presidential and parliamentary elections, a panel to review the
Constitution and a national reconciliation committee that would include youth
movements. The road map had been agreed to by a range of political groups. Earlier,
the top generals summoned civilian political leaders to an emergency meeting to
discuss a new interim government while moving tanks toward the presidential palace
and restricting Morsy’s travel. The military’s intelligence service had banned any
travel by Morsy and senior Islamist aides, including the Muslim Brotherhood’s
supreme guide, Mohamed Badie, and his influential deputy, Khairat el-Shater.
This move from army has led to violent protests by the supporters of Muslim
Brotherhood and Mohamed Morsy.
Chief Justice Adly Mansour declared interim President of Egypt
July 7th, 2013
The Chief Justice of Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court, Adly Mansour has taken
over as the interim President of the nation’s hours after the military ousted Islamist
President Mohammed Morsy and launched a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, the
group from which Mr. Morsy belongs.
The supreme leader of the Brotherhood, Mohammed Badie has also been arrested. Mr.
Morsy who a year ago became Egypt’s first freely elected President, has been held in
an unknown location since the generals removed him.
The Brotherhood has announced it would boycott the new military-sponsored political
process and called on its supporter to restrain themselves and not to use violence.
Parveez Rasool is the first J&K cricketer in Team India
July 7th, 2013
Parveez Rasool (24) created history by becoming the first cricketer fromJammu and
Kashmir to be named in the Indian team as the selectors chose to rest captain
Mahendra Singh Dhoni and four other key players for the upcoming ODI tour of
Zimbabwe. The all-rounder has got the nod in the 15-member squad for the five-match
ODI series to be held from July 24 to August 3 at Harare and Bulawayo.
Cabinet passed Ordinance to implement Food Security Bill
July 7th, 2013
In order to implement the Food Security Bill, the cabinet unanimously approved an
ordinance regarding the same. The Food Security Bill guarantees food entitlements to
two-thirds (67%) at highly subsidized rates.
The bill envisages providing 5 kg of rice, wheat and coarse grains at Rs 3, Rs 2, Rs 1 per
kg, respectively, every month to three-fourths of rural population and half the urban
population in the country.
The scheme would require more than 61 million tonnes of foodgrain and is expected to
cost the government about Rs 1,25,000 crore. The plan proposes to continue the
Antyodaya Anna Yojna through which government provides poor households 35 kg
foodgrain per household per month at subsidized prices of Rs 1-3 per kg.
Many are of the view that the programme will burn a hole in government’s pocket
whereas research agency Crisil estimates that the Food Security Bill could generate
additional savings of around Rs 4,400 this year for each below-poverty-line (BPL)
household, which begins to purchase subsidised food. As per the agency, these savings
equals around 8% and 5% of the annual expenditure of a rural and urban household.
Himachal Pradesh becomes country’s first ‘smoke-free’ State
July 6th, 2013
Himachal Pradesh has been declared the first “smoke-free” State in the country
in compliance with Section 4 of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act
(COTPA), 2003. The State has achieved 85.45% compliance with the relevant
parameters. The State government intends to eliminate tobacco products and has hiked
taxes on bidis and cigarettes from 11 and 18% to 22 and 36%, respectively in the
2013-14 Budget.
What is the scope COTPA 2003?
 The Act is applicable to all products containing tobacco in any form i.e.
cigarettes, cigars, cheroots, bidis, gutka, pan masala (containing tobacco) khaini,
mawa, mishri, snuff etc. as detailed in the Schedule to the Act.
 The Act extends to the whole of India including the state ofJammu and Kashmir.
What does Section 4 of COTPA provide for?
Section 4: Prohibition Of Smoking In Public Places
The Government of India passed new rules on May 30, 2008 for effective realization of
the objectives of smoke free environments as stipulated under the Indian law.
 No person shall smoke in any public place
 “Public Place” means any place to which the public have access, whether as
of right or not, and includes auditorium, hospital buildings, railway waiting room,
amusement centres, restaurants, public offices, court buildings, work places,
shopping malls, cinema halls, educational institutions, libraries, public conveyances
and the like which are visited by general public but does not include any open space.
 Mandates display of board containing the warning “No Smoking Area- Smoking
Here is an Offence”
 Hotels & Restaurants should ensure physical segregation of smoking and
non-smoking area. Hotels having thirty rooms or a restaurant having seating
capacity of thirty persons or more and in the airports, a separate provision for
smoking area or space may be made.
FIIs withdraw $5.6 billion from debt market in June 2013
July 6th, 2013
Past June 2013 was quite unfortunate for Indian currency and Indian debt market as it
saw a historic outflow of FIIs to the tune of $5.6 billion which was the highest ever
withdrawal in the market’s history. A weak rupee diminishes the returns earned by
FIIs. The exit meant net FII investment in the Indian debt market turned negative in
the first half of calendar 2013, with outflows of $1.8 billion.
The pull out shattered the inflow trend of the first five months of this year when FIIs had
pumped in $3.9 billion. The net inflow in calendar 2012 was $5.9 billion. It was not only
the debt market which plunged, FIIs also pulled out $1.8 billion from the equity market.
Their net investment in equities, however, remained positive at $13.5 billion. Markets
worldwide have been affected by the US Federal Reserve’s announcement that it will
gradually withdraw its quantitative easing strategy, which has served its purpose.
What is the current status?
Indian investors fear that foreign inflows into the market will be hit if the US stimulus
comes to an end. At the end of June, the cumulative FII investment in India’s debt
market was at $31.7 billion, while the equity exposure was $139.5 billion. A total of
1,753 FIIs are registered with market regulator SEBI for transacting in the country’s
market, with the number of registered sub-accounts pegged at 6,404.
Telefonica launched world’s first Firefox OS smartphone
July 6th, 2013
Spanish broadband and telecommunications provider Telefonica has launched the
world’s first smartphone with the Firefox Operating System (OS) to compete with
devices running Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS.
The ZTE Open smartphone are being offered in Spain for 69 euros (about $90) and
will soon be available in several Latin American countries.
Features:
The ZTE Open smartphone is equipped with a 3.5-inch 480x320p touchscreen, a 3.2MP
camera, 256MB RAM and 512MB flash memory enhanced with a 4GB microSD card that
comes as part of the package. It is fully integrated with Facebook and the Spain-based
social network Tuenti.
Ghaziabad, Allahabad most polluted in Uttar Pradesh: Survey
July 6th, 2013
In a recent survey conducted by Delhi-based Centre for Science andEnvironment
(CSE) it was found that Ghaziabad and Allahabad are the two most air polluted cities in
Uttar Pradesh. As per the survey:
 Pollutants of the size of 10 micron was found in Ghaziabad, Allahabad, Kanpur
and Bareilly, which was four times the acceptable size of particulates in urban areas.
 Air pollution levels were thrice as high as the prescribed limits in Lucknow,
Firozabad, Agra, Mathura, Khurja, Saharanpur, Moradabad and Gajraula.
 Unnao has come out as the cleanest air quality despite a heavy presence of
tanneries in the town.
 Nitrogen-di-oxide pollutant is found to be increasing dangerously in Meerut,
Gorakhpur, Ghaziabad and Kanpur. It is the highest in Meerut and lowest in Rae
Bareilly.
 Khurja and Ghaziabad have dangerous levels of sulphur-di-oxide mixed in the
air.
 The presence of multi-pollutants was found in cities like Mathura, Khurja and
Ghaziabad.
 The leading cause of pollution was found to be the manifold increase in the
number of vehicles.
 The growing use of diesel was a major contributor to the growing air pollution
levels. The emissions were leading to serious ailments and diseases like cancer.
India establishes IPv6 Test Lab
July 6th, 2013
Telecommunication Engineering Centre (TEC) which is the technical arm of
Department of Telecommunications, Ministry of Communications & IT has set up an
Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6) Lab which has been approved by the IPv6 Ready
Logo Committee under IPv6 Forum, an International body. By doing this,India has
entered the club of select group of nations which includeEurope, USA, Japan, China and
Taiwan having IPv6 Ready Logo test lab facilities. Other
What will IPv6 test lab do?
As the world has moved on from addressing scheme IPv4 to the new IPv6 scheme it was
imperative to have such a lab to encourage service providers, content providers and the
customer premises equipment vendors to move to IPv6 address implementation.
Establishing a testinginfrastructure was also stipulated in the National
Telecommunication Policy -2012. TEC will play an instrumental role in the
Interoperability and testing of IPv6 products as a major piece of the India IPv6 Strategy
roadmap announced by the India Government in building the New Internet
infrastructure as inter-operability creates genuine end-user confidence in new
technologies.
Father of Mouse: Douglas Engelbart passed
July 6th, 2013
Douglas C. Engelbart, a technologist who ideated the computer mouse and laid
out a vision of an Internet decades before others brought those ideas to the mass
market, passed away.
It was in 1968 when he first showcased his idea to an audience of 1,000 leading
technologists in San Francisco, Engelbart, a computer scientist at the Stanford
Research Institute, demonstrated a cubic device with two rolling discs called an “X-Y
position indicator for a display system.”
Engelbart also displayed, in real-time, the image and voice of a colleague 30 miles away.
That was the first videoconference. And he explained a theory of how pages of
information could be tied together using text-based links, an idea that would later form
the bedrock of the Web’s architecture.
In 2000, Engelbart was given prestigious accolades including the National Medal of
Technology and the Turing Award. At the same time, he grappled with his fade into
obscurity even as technology entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates built fortunes
off of the personal computer and became celebrity billionaires by realizing some of his
early ideas.
Engelbart worked at teaching position at the University of California, Berkeley. He later
took a job at SRI and during this period developed the design for a desktop mouse. SRI
later licensed the technology for $40,000 to Apple, which released the first commercial
mouse with its Lisa computer in 1983.
Man-made factors to blame Uttarakhand Floods: Environmentalists
July 6th, 2013
The devastating floods of Uttarakhand which ravaged the region by killing thousands
and leaving hundreds of other stranded has more man-made factors and less natural
cause behind it. As per Environmentalists the uncontrolled development and poor
disaster planning has aggravated flood damage.
How is it a man-made disaster?
As per experts indiscriminate development in hill towns and along rivers has blocked
the natural flow of water and exacerbated flood damage. They place the blame on
successive governments who have prioritized large scale infrastructure construction
and neglected disaster prevention. The unbridled growth of tourism accompanied with
proliferation of roads, hotels, shops and multistory housing in ecologically fragile areas
and above all mushrooming hydroelectricity dams that disrupt water balances are the
underlying causes of this catastrophe. It was not unprecedented that Uttarakhand
region witnessed such heavy rainfalls as the records show that Uttarakhand has
recorded single-day rainfall in excess of 400mm several times, including 450mm in
1995 and 900mm in 1965. Cloudbursts, floods and rapid swelling of fast-flowing rivers
aren’t uncommon. But this time the floodwaters, loaded with tens of thousands of
tonnes of silt, boulders and debris from dam construction, found no outlet. The routes
they took in the past, including ravines and streams, were blocked with sand and rocks.
The waters deluged towns and villages, submerging some buildings under several feet
of mud, asphyxiating life.
It is highly probable that the floods were exacerbated by Glacier Lake Outbursts
Floods (GLOFs) which inundated the Kedarnath temple. GLOFs, or the explosive
bursting of glacier lakes, are thought to be a result of human-induced climate change,
which is causing rapid melting of glaciers in the Himalayas, themselves warming at
twice the global rate.
Lack of an early warning system, effective evacuation plans and a responsive disaster
management system added to the calamity. Modestly priced radar-based technology to
forecast cloudbursts would have saved lives. But it wasn’t installed.
There was failure on the level of local governance too. Sloppy, unregulated construction
of roads and bridges was permitted on crumbling, landslide-prone ridges and steep
slopes, overlooking the region’s delicate geology and high earthquake vulnerability.
Large scale deforestation and construction of hundreds of buildings in the flood plains of
rivers have taken place. Riverbeds were recklessly mined for sand. As construction
debris accumulated, land contours and flows of streams and rivers changed.
Indiscriminate construction of hydroelectric dams was the biggest mistake. These
involve drilling huge tunnels in the hills by blasting rocks, placing enormous turbines in
the tunnels, destroying soil-binding vegetation to build water channels and other
infrastructure, laying transmission lines and carelessly dumping excavated muck. Many
dams have been built on the same river so close to one another that they leave no scope
for its regeneration.
Russia to send Olympic torch to space
July 6th, 2013
Russia who will be hosting 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi has announced to send
an unlit Olympic torch into space.
The Russian Federal Space Agency will take the torch to the Soyuz TMA-11M manned
spaceship in early November 2013 as part of the four-month torch relay. Once it
reaches space, Russian cosmonauts Sergei Ryazansky and Oleg Kotov will take the
Olympic torch on a spacewalk. It will be first event of its kind.
Marion Bartoli clinches Wimbledon 2013Women’s Singles title
July 6th, 2013
French tennis player Marion Bartoli defeated German Sabine Lasicki to win the
women’s Singles category of Wimbledon tournament played in London.
Marion Bartoli is a top-10 French professional tennis player. She has won one singles
major; seven other Women’s Tennis Association singles titles and three doubles titles.
Fact Box: National Cyber Security Policy (NSCP) 2013 Of India
July 5th, 2013
India launches National Cyber Security Policy 2013 to secure cyber space
The government has announced a National Cyber Security Policy 2013 which aims to
address the threats emanating from the cyber world. The Policy proposes to:
 Set up different bodies to tackle various levels of threats, along with a national
nodal agency, to coordinate all matters related to cyber security.
 Create a National Critical Information InfrastructureProtection Centre
(NCIIPC), which will act as a 24×7 centre to battle cyber security threats in
strategic areas such as air control, nuclear and space. It will function under the
National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), a technical intelligence
gathering agency controlled directly by the National Security Adviser in the Prime
Minister’s Office.
 The current agency, Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT), will
deal with all public and private infrastructure.
 Create a workforce of around 500,000 trained in cyber security.
 Provide fiscal benefits to businesses to adopt best security practices.
 Set up testing labs to regularly check the safety of equipment being used in the
country.
 Create a cyber ecosystem in the country, developing effective public-private
partnerships and collaborative engagements through technical and operational
cooperation.
 Building indigenous security technologies through research.
Curb sale of adulterated milk: Supreme Court to State govts
July 5th, 2013
Expressing concern over the sale of adulterated milk in the country, theSupreme Court
has directed the governments of Haryana, Rajasthan,Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and
Delhi to file their response stating what action they are taking to curb the menace of
milk adulteration, after the Centre submitted that it is for the state governments to take
action on the issue.
The direction from the court came during a hearing on a PIL filed by a group of citizens
led by Swami Achyutanand Tirth of Uttarakhand, who have alleged that synthetic and
adulterated milk and milk products are prepared using urea, detergent, refined oil,
caustic soda and white paint, which, according to studies, are “very hazardous” to
human life and can cause diseases like cancer.
The court would later on expand the ambit of the PIL to include all the states in the
country on the issue.
According to a survey conducted by Food Safety and Standards Authority of India
(FSSAI):
 Over 68% of milk in the country does not conform to the standards set by the
FSSAI.
 Over 68% of the “non-conforming” milk was found in urban areas, 66% of
which was loose milk.
 Most common ways of adulteration was found to be the addition of water, and
the main reason for deviation from the standards was addition of glucose and
skimmed milk powder. It had also found that some samples contained detergent.
 Over 83% of the non-conforming milk in rural areas was found to be loose milk.
U.N. peacekeeping forces to take over from French troops in Mali
July 3rd, 2013
United Nations peacekeeping force will take over from African troops in conflict-scarred
Mali. A 12,600-strong force will take over security duties from French troops who
entered Mali in January 2013. Francehad sent troops to the country to recapture two
key towns from al-Qaeda linked Islamists holding Mali’s north. The move was backed
by the UN.
The majority of his soldiers will be Africans already stationed in Mali butChina has
offered to supply more than 500 troops, its biggest contribution to U.N. peacekeeping.
Other nations including Sweden,Bangladesh and Norway will also contribute their
troops in the UN forces. The U.N. mission is due to play a significant role in presidential
polls announced for July 28, 2013.
Supreme Court: If a cheque from joint a/c bounces, liability is on person
signing cheque
July 3rd, 2013
The Supreme Court has held that in case of issuance of cheque from joint accounts, only
the person who signs the cheque can be prosecuted in a cheque bouncing case under
Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act. The other joint account members
cannot be held culpable unless the cheque has been signed by them also. As per the
apex court, the proceedings filed under Section 138 cannot be used as an arm twisting
tactics to recover the amount allegedly due from the appellant.
The court clarified that the culpability attached to dishonour of a cheque can, in no case
except in case of Section 141 of the N.I. Act (offences by companies), be
extended to those on whose behalf the cheque is issued. This Court reiterates that it is
only the drawer of the cheque who can be made an accused in any proceeding under
Section 138 of the Act.
Distinguishing Individual and Company:
The court distinguished b/w individuals and companies and held that Section 141 of the
N.I. Act is an instance of specific provision that in case an offence under Section 138 is
committed by a company, the criminal liability for dishonor of a cheque will extend to
the officers of the company. In case of the company, the officers of the company, who
are accountable for the acts done in the name of the company, can be made accused for
the acts which result in criminal action being taken against the company.
Fact Box: IRNSS-1A
July 3rd, 2013
ISRO successfully launches IRNSS-1A: India’s first navigation satellite
Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has successfully launched IRNSS-1A on
PSLV C 22 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. It was for
the first time ISRO has launched an India satellite at almost midnight taking into
account the orbit and inclination at which the satellite will be injected into the space and
the season of launch. Total seven satellites of the IRNSS constellation will be launched
and the full constellation will be up during 2014 timeframe. The entire IRNSS satellite
constellation will compromise of three satellites geostationary orbits and four in inclined
geosynchronous orbits, of which IRNSS-1A is the first one.
Factbox: IRNSS-1A
 IRNSS expands to Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System.
 India’s first dedicated Indian Navigation Satellite System and has a life span of
around 10 years.
 Placed in an inclined geosynchronous orbit at 55 degree East longitude with
an inclined orbit of 29 degrees with respect to the equator.
 Positioned at 36,000 Kms altitude.
 It is intended to provide terrestrial, aerial and marine navigation services and
help in disaster and fleet management.
 To provide accurate position information service for terrestrial (cars, goods
transport, buses) aerial (flights) and maritime (shipping) navigation for users in
India as well as neighbouring regions extending up to 1,500 km from India’s
borders/boundaries, which will be its primary service area.
It will provide two types of services:
1 Standard Positioning Service (SPS) for all users
2 Restricted Service (RS), an encrypted service provided only to authorized users.
Applications of IRNSS:
Terrestrial, aerial and marine navigation, disaster management, vehicle tracking and
fleet management, integration with mobile phones, precise timing, mapping and
geodetic data capture, terrestrial navigation aid for hikers and travelers, and visual and
voice navigation for drivers.
Fact Box: INS Trikand (F51)
July 3rd, 2013
Indian Navy inducts INS Trikand (F51)
Indian Navy has further expanded it arsenal by inducting Russian built guided-missile
stealth frigate INS Trikand. It is the last of the six stealth frigates ordered from Russia.
The Navy had earlier inducted three 4,000-tonne Talwar-class stealth frigates
( Talwar, Trishul and Tabar) from Russia in 2003-2004. India went on to buy
another three (Teg, Tarkash and Trikand) under a $1.15 billion contract inked in
2006.
Factbox: INS Trikand
 INS Trikand (F51) is a Talwar class frigate of the Indian Navy.
 The Talwar class –A class of frigates designed and built by Russia for the Indian
Navy.
 Equipped with state-of-the-art combat suite: Supersonic 290-km BrahMos
missile system, Shtil advanced surface-to-air missiles, upgraded A-190 medium
range gun, electro-optical 30-mm close-in weapon system and anti-submarine
weapons such as torpedoes and rockets and advanced electronic warfare system.
‘Trebovanie-M‘:
 A combat management system which integrates weapons and sensors to enable
the ship to simultaneously neutralize multiple surface, sub-surface and air threats.
 Innovative features to reduce its radar, magnetic and acoustic “signatures” to
ensure it is relatively difficult to detect by enemy radars.
 Capable of speeds in excess of 30 knots
Note: India is also building its own stealth frigates. Three Shivalik-class frigates, built
at Mazagon Docks (MDL), have already been inducted by the Navy. There is a
programme called Project-17A of over Rs 50,000 crore which is under consideration
which plans to construct seven advanced stealth frigates, with all weapon and missile
systems under the hull for a lower radar “signature”. The project will be shared b/w
MDL at Mumbai and Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE) at Kolkata.
India imposes ban on testing of cosmetics on animals
July 2nd, 2013
In a remarkable decision intended to prevent cruelty to animals, Indiahas decided to
ban the testing of cosmetics and its ingredients on animals. This has made India the
first country in South Asia to impose such a ban.
The decision was taken at a meeting of the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS)
Cosmetics Sectional Committee, chaired by the Drugs Controller General of
India and is in line with the European Union’s stand. The step follows appeals from
various quarters, including that from the National Advisory Council Chairperson Sonia
Gandhi and campaigner for animal rights Maneka Gandhi and the People for the Ethical
Treatment of Animals (PETA), to prevent cruelty to animals.
What is the ban?
Any cosmetic product which performs animal testing will face action as per provisions of
the Drugs and Cosmetics Act and the Animal Cruelty Act. Infringement of the
Drugs and Cosmetics Act by any person or corporate manager or owner is liable for
punishment for a term which may extend from 3-10 years and shall also be liable to fine
which could be Rs.500 to Rs.10,000, or with both.
The law also makes it mandatory to use modern non-animal alternative tests, replacing
invasive tests on animals. It implies that any manufacturer interested in testing new
cosmetic ingredients or finished products must first get the approval from India’s
regulator Central Drug Standards Control Organization. A manufacturer will be
given approval to test only after complying with the BIS non-animal standards.
Animal Testing Status:
Companies around the world are switching to effective, modern non-animal tests and
more than 1,200 companies have already given up animal-testing methods. But many
still are carrying out with the same old procedures of subjecting animals to painful
tests.
Railway launches SMS facility for ticket booking
July 2nd, 2013
Indian Railway has launched a new pilot service which makes it possible for the 80% of
the population that owns mobile phones. The service doesn’t even involves any use of
Internet by the customer.
IRCTC has INTRODUCED a number of options to buy tickets without having to access
the Internet. Besides the short code 5676714, one can even send an SMS to 139 or the
Airtel Money system *400# or the system powered by Pyro where one needs to have a
BSNL SIM card enabled with Java computer language.
It will not be necessary to carry a hard copy of the ticket while travelling — the SMS
confirmation will be valid proof. The facility allows for ticket cancellation as well. To
make use of any of these options, you have to get your mobile number registered with
IRCTC. Each SMS will cost Rs. 3 and as the project is being launched on a pilot basis,
mobile service providers have dispensed with agent charges for now. These charges as
and when imposed would be the same one pays to other agents, including online
charges.
The new technology will also ease the pressure on Internet ticketing as 45% of tickets
are booked through Internet. It would also put an end to fleecing by touts.
Government to set up 51 low-cost airports
July 2nd, 2013
The Union government has decided to construct 51 new low-cost airports to provide
fillip to civil aviation sector and enhance air connectivity to Tier-II and Tier-III cities.
Apart from the low-cost airports, the government has decided grant new
international airport status to Bhubaneswar and Imphal at a cost of Rs 20,000
crore.
The 51 cities which have been chosen for the project are:
Andhra Pradesh: Vijayawada, Nellore, Kurnool, Kadapa, Nizamabad, Tirupati,
Anantapur and Karimnagar
1 Jharkhand: Dhanbad, Bokaro and Hazaribagh
2 Bihar: Muzaffarpur, Chapra and Sasaram
3 Punjab: Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Firozpur
4 Uttar Pradesh: Agra, Allahabad, Moradabad, Saharanpur, Meerut, Aligarh, Bijnor,
Muzaffarnagar and Azamgarh
5 Arunachal Pradesh: Tezu, Bomdila and Along
6 Assam: Silchar, Jorhat and Tezpur
7 Madhya Pradesh: Gwalior, Singrauli, Burhanpur, Khandwa, Jabalpur, Sidhi and
Shahdol
8 Rajasthan: Ajmer, Kota, Bhilwada and Alwar
9 Maharashtra: Kolhapur, Nasik, Jalgaon, Solapur and Amarawati
10 Odisha: Brahmpur, Rourkela and Kendujhar
Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS): NASA launches satellite to
study Sun’s atmosphere
July 2nd, 2013
The U.S. space agency NASA launched a satellite to uncover the secrets of the Sun’s
lower atmosphere. NASA’s Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) was
launched aboard an Orbital Sciences Pegasus XL rocket off the California coast.
About IRIS mission:
Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) is a $182 million mission which
will continue for two years.
It aims to observe the movement of solar material. It will try to know how it gathers
energy and heats up as it makes its way through a mysterious region in the sun’s
lower atmosphere. IRIS will help in knowing not only the causes the ejection of solar
material, including solar wind, but also solar eruptions that can disrupt human
technology.
What is this mysterious region?
This is a region b/w the sun’s photosphere and corona where most of the sun’s
ultraviolet emission is generated, which impact the near-Earth space environment and
Earth’s climate.
British Government gives go ahead to ‘three-parent baby’
July 2nd, 2013
The UK government has given approval to the controversial IVF technique that would
lead to the creation of babies with three parents. If the proposal is passed by its
parliament then Britain would become first country to allow this technique. The decision
has invited criticism from different calling it unethical, unnecessary and unsafe.
What is a ‘Three-Parent Baby?
It is a baby born with the genetic contribution (DNA) from three people. It is done
through IVF technique which involves taking the nucleus of one egg (first female) and
inserting it into the cytoplasm of another egg (second female) which has had its nucleus
removed, but still contains mitochondrial DNA, and then fertilizing the hybrid egg with
a sperm (third person). The purpose of the procedure is to remove a nucleus from a cell
with defective mitochondria and place it in a donor cell with healthy mitochondria,
which after fertilisation will contain a nucleus with genetic material from only the two
parents.
How would this technique help?
As per experts, this method will give a choice to women with mitochondria disorders to
bear children free from such diseases. These are caused by mutated mitochondria —
tiny structures that supply power to human cells — and are passed from a mother,
through the egg, to her child. It is said to affect one in every 6,500 babies. The
technique will help combat genetic problems that can cause rare and debilitating
conditions affecting the heart, muscles and brain.
Multidrug-resistant TB stock declines to alarming level
July 2nd, 2013
Even as the government is trying to tackle the stock-out situation for
anti-tuberculosis paediatric drugs, a new problem has surfaced. Stocks of
second-line medicines like Kanamycin, an injectible drug used for treating
multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB have dipped alarmingly. Currently, there is stock only
for two and a half months.India is among the few countries with a high burden of MDR
TB.
The Prime Minister’s Office has asked the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare
(MoHFW) for clarification on the availability of drugs.
The Central TB Division (CTD) called an emergency meeting to find the way forward to
extenuate the crisis. Manufacturers of paediatric drugs, prolongation pouches and
streptomycin have been identified and the ministry is hopeful of getting supplies to
states by the end of July. States with a lower disease burden have been asked to
transfer drugs to those with a higher burden facing extreme shortage of drugs.
Why this lapse?
The shortage of drugs was due to procurement failures and delays at the level of the
government of India. It also confirmed stock-out of paediatric doses, Rifampicin (the
key drug to treat TB), streptomycin injection as well as diminishing stockpiles of
Kanamycin injections and other first line drugs. The emergency procurement of
paediatric drugs was delayed by six months and the orders had just been placed.
As for Kanamycin, emergency procurement of over 400,000 vials, done with the
support of the Geneva-based Global Drug Facility (GDF) through WHO’s intervention
had not reached the country because of delays in processing orders, payments and the
ministry not issuing the necessary customs duty clearance on time.
Surge in the cases of Leptospirosis
July 2nd, 2013
A rise in the number of cases of leptospirosis has been reported in Thiruananthapuram
even as the district is focusing its efforts on curbing the dengue fever. Dengue has
eclipsed the fact that the incidence of leptospirosis has been on the rise in all districts of
the state after the rain began.
What is Leptospirosis?
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease caused by bacteria Leptospira that affects both
humans and animals. Humans become infected through direct contact with the urine of
infected animals or with a urine-contaminated environment. The bacteria enter the
body through cuts or abrasions on the skin, or through the mucous membranes of the
mouth, nose and eyes. Person-to-person transmission is rare. The disease has also
been known to trigger abortions in cattle.
How does the transmission take place?
Leptospirosis is transmitted by the urine of an infected animal and is contagious as long
as it is still moist. Although rats, mice, and moles are important primary hosts, a wide
range of other mammals including dogs, deer, rabbits, hedgehogs, cows, sheep,
raccoons, opossums, skunks, and certain marine mammals are able to carry and
transmit the disease as secondary hosts.
What are the symptoms?
In the early stages of the disease, symptoms include high fever, severe headache,
muscle pain, chills, redness of the eyes, abdominal pain, jaundice, haemorrhages in the
skin and mucous membranes, vomiting, diarrhea, and rash.
Who are most vulnerable?
Although the disease can occur to anyone who comes in contact with the urine of
infected with Leptospira, its prevalence is seen in cleaning workers, manual labourers
and farm workers are most vulnerable. The number of infection increases in rainy
season as people wade through waters contaminated with garbage and animal excreta
which contain the bacteria.
How is it controlled?
To counter leptospirosis vulnerable sections are put on Doxycycline prophylactic
treatment. Care is taken to distinguish the disease from other diseases like Malaria and
Dengue as these too show similar symptoms and spread in the same season.
EU agrees talk to Serbia for open membership
July 2nd, 2013
The leaders of the European Union have agreed to open membership negotiations with
Serbia by January at the latest, in acknowledgment of its efforts to improve ties with
seceded Kosovo. The step indicates EU inclination toward embracing once-troubled
countries in the Balkans.
Presidents and Prime Ministers from the 27 EU nations also welcomed Croatia’s
upcoming accession as the bloc’s 28th member. In the two-day summit held in
Brussels the EU agreed on seven-year, €960-billion budget. The EU leaders also
announced negotiations for closer relations with Kosovo, a possible step on the way to
membership talks.
Serbia and Kosovo:
Kosovo, a former province of Serbia, declared independence in 2008. Serbia has never
recognized the sovereignty of Kosovo, which is considered by Serbia’s nationalists to
be the cradle of the country’s medieval statehood and religion. However, Kosovo has
been recognised by over 90 countries including the U.S. and 22 of the EU’s 27
members. In April 2013 a vital agreement was reached b/w Serbia and Kosovo when
they decided to normalize relations and end years of acrimony.
Croatia enters European Union
July 2nd, 2013
Croatia was added into the European Union (EU) on July 1, 2013 making the total
number of member states in the EU to 28. Croatia is the second country from the
once war-torn former Yugoslavia to enter the bloc. It negotiated with the EU for more
than 6 years after the bloc agreed to embrace it.
Croatia which is struggling with its economic woes has joined the EU amid concerns
whether the country is fully prepared to face the fierce competition of the open market.
The economy has been battered by the ongoing financial crisis and owing to structural
weaknesses that yet need to be addressed by reforms.
From this event Croatia is hopeful that it will help to lift many people out of poverty and
modernzse the economy. Croatia will also receive funds from the EU to build roads,
clean up the environment and increase research and development.
However, there are concerns that tough EU competition will shut down or buy out parts
of the national economy. There is concern about whether EU membership will lure
immigrants seeking work, which could put the reeling labour market under even more
pressure.
India-UK decide to develop Economic Corridor together
July 2nd, 2013
India and United Kingdom have decided to collaborate to develop the
Bangalore-Mumbai Economic Corridor (BMEC)project in close association with
private companies from Britain.
Both sides have agreed to examine and evolve the modalities and content of this
project through mutual discussions and work out a roadmap for a possible partnership
in this area.
In addition to this, India has also offered to UK, investment or partnership opportunities
in the National Manufacturing and Investment Zones (NIMZs). . NIMZs are proposed to
be developed as green field industrial townships and benchmarked against the best
manufacturing hubs in the world.
The new National Manufacturing Policy aims to create 100 million jobs and increase the
share of manufacturing in India’s Gross Domestic Product from 16% now to 25% by
2022.
Fact Box: White Label ATMs
June 29th, 2013
RBI gives nod to Muthoot Finance to set up White Label ATMs
Indian gold loan company Muthoot Finance Ltd has obtained the RBI’s in-principle
approval to set up the white label ATMs,as the government seeks to take financial
services to the remote regions of the country.
What are White Label ATMs?
ATMs set up and run by non-banking entities are called White Label ATMs (WLAs).
Earlier, only banks were allowed to establish and operate ATMs. RBI had allowed the
company under the guidelines it released in June 2012 which set certain minimum net
worth and obligation for permitting independent non-banking firms to operate such
ATMs, as per three different schemes.
The Muthoot Finance has been given approval as per Scheme A under which Muthoot
Finance will set up WLAs, a minimum of 1,000 WLAs have to be installed in the first year;
a minimum of twice the number of WLAs installed in the first year have to be installed
in the second year; and a minimum of three times the number of WLAs installed in the
second year have to be installed in the third year.
What is the purpose of this move?
The fundamental objective of permitting non-banks to operate WLAs is to enhance the
penetration of the machines in semi-urban and rural areas, where bank-run ATMs are a
few or none. The move is in line to the governments objective of achieving financial
inclusion.
Train service linking Banihal in Jammu to Qazigund in Kashmir launched
June 29th, 2013
PM Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi flagged off the first train
connecting Banihal in Jammu region with Qazigund in Kashmir Valley.
It was the first train to pass through 11 km tunnel through Pir Panchal Range.
About Banihal-Qazigund Rail Service:
The 18-km Banihal-Qazigund section, which includes an 11-km long Pir Panchal
Range tunnel, the country’s longest, reduces the 35 km distance to 18 km. It has
been constructed at a cost of Rs 1,691 crore. The Udhampur-Banihal section is
expected to be completed by 2017 connecting the Valley to the rest of the country
round-the-year without any hindrance. The Banihal-Baramulla -Banihal train will make
five trips daily beginning from June 27, 2013.
Train service is already operational within Kashmir Valley on the 118-km-long route b/w
Qazigund and Baramulla in north Kashmir.
Pir Panchal Tunnel:
It is 11-km tunnel b/w tunnel Banihal-Qazigund section. It is the longest tunnel in the
country and has been constructed using New Austrian Tunnelling Method, which has
been used for the first time on such a large scale in India. This method optimises the
tunnel design by mobilising the inherent ground strength in adopting a curved section,
providing primary support system immediately after excavation and monitoring the
ground behaviour while allowing it to develop its inherent strength. The tunnel also has
a 3 metre wide road for maintenance and emergency rescue and relief operations. The
tunnel has been made water-proof by providing continuous PVC membrane b/w
primary and secondary lining.
US to provide $150,000 for Uttarakhand flood relief via USAID
June 29th, 2013
US secretary of state John Kerry reached out to India over theUttarakhand disaster on
Sunday as the US announced $150,000 through the United States Agency for
InternationalDevelopment (USAID) to non-governmental organizations working in
the most-affected areas.
About USAID:
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID)is the United
States federal government agency primarily responsible for administering civilian
foreign aid. USAID seeks to “extend a helping hand to those people overseas
struggling to make a better life, recover from a disaster or striving to live in a free and
democratic country.” USAID’s stated goals include providing “economic,
development and humanitarian assistance around the world in support of the foreign
policy goals of the United States”. It operates in Africa, Asia, Latin America and
Europe.
Obama nominates James Comey as next FBI director
June 29th, 2013
The US President Barack Obama nominated James Comey as the next FBI (Federal
Bureau of Investigation) Director. James Comey has been a registered Republican and
former Justice Department official under President George W. Bush. The US senate is
yet to confirm his nomination. He is likely to take charge from the outgoing Robert
Mueller who held the post since 2001.
India: World’s 3rd most attractive FDI destination
June 29th, 2013
As per the World Investment Report 2013 by the United Nations Conference on Trade
and Development (UNCTAD), India is world’s third most attractive destination for
investment by Transnational Corporations (TNCs) during 2013-15. In the survey based
on responses of 159 companies, India has been positioned after China and United
States. Thus India has retained its previous ranking. As per UNCTAD the top five
countries in attracting FDI are:
1 China
2 United States
3 India
4 Indonesia
5 Brazil
As per the report, developing countries make up four of the top five host economies. Six
of the top 10 prospective host countries also come from the developing world, with
Mexico and Thailand appearing for the first time.